Almost All Old Princeton All the Time

The new issue of Credo Magazine is out and it is dedicated almost entirely to the bi-centennial of Princeton Theological Seminary. Here’s an excerpt from Christopher Cooper:

While the Princeton theologians did not oppose the possibility of revival and welcomed them on occasion, they believed that it was neither the common, best, nor desirable mode available for the advancement of the Christian religion. Princeton’s Charles Hodge, for instance, pointed out several problems with revival. First, revivals tend to produce pastors and lay people who envision conversion as always sudden and sensible. Such revivalists take it for granted that children grow up unconverted and in need of the drama of a revival experience in order to enter the Christian fold. According to Hodge, such a scheme does not allow for the more regular, scriptural, and desirable method of Christian nurture. Under this system, parents immerse their children in prayers, catechesis, and Christian encouragement, so that they may be quietly, although no less supernaturally, converted without the pomp and circumstance of revival.

Second, Hodge argued that revivals generate an unscriptural form of piety that makes the exercise of strong emotions essential to true religion and worship. Such an opinion produces unstable Christians whose religious stability is gauged by their emotional state. This approach also demeans the ordinary means of grace that are given by God not to foster great emotional highs that are inevitably followed by lows, but to serve as a more constant encouragement to Christian pilgrims.

Hodge pointed out that revivals are, by their very nature, extraordinary occasions and are not meant to be relied upon by pastors and laypersons to whom God has given the task of parental nurture and pastoral ministry. Likewise, pastors today ought not to rely upon revival or the vestiges of revivalism, but would do well to instill within themselves confidence in the ordinary means of pastoral ministry and into their congregants a sense of responsibility for the nurture and edification of their children.

And in case readers are wondering, Old Lifers do make an appearance in this issue.

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242 thoughts on “Almost All Old Princeton All the Time

  1. “Such an opinion produces unstable Christians whose religious stability is gauged by their emotional state.” I’ve known some of those folks over the years…

    This post explains a lot about the musical choices that most evangelical churches make these days.

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  2. Chris Cooper: Princeton’s Charles Hodge, for instance, pointed out several problems with revival. First, revivals tend to produce pastors and lay people who envision conversion as always sudden and sensible. Such revivalists take it for granted that children grow up unconverted and in need of the drama of a revival experience in order to enter the Christian fold.

    RS: I guess I always thought that all children were born dead in sins and trespasses and indeed must be born again by the grace of God. The “drama of a revival experience” demonstrates a need to distinguish between revival and revivalism.

    Chris Cooper: According to Hodge, such a scheme does not allow for the more regular, scriptural, and desirable method of Christian nurture. Under this system, parents immerse their children in prayers, catechesis, and Christian encouragement, so that they may be quietly, although no less supernaturally, converted without the pomp and circumstance of revival.

    RS: I would agree that children need to be immersed, but that is for a different day. “Pomp and circumstance of revival” again shows a great need to distinguish between true revival and revivalism. Do we know of one example in all of Scripture where children were converted in the way that Coopper through Hodge asserts?

    Chris Cooper: Second, Hodge argued that revivals generate an unscriptural form of piety that makes the exercise of strong emotions essential to true religion and worship.

    RS: Without getting into the distinctions that are needed to talk about emotions, I don’t that that strong emotions are essential to true religion and worship not to mention true revival, but perhaps to revivalism. I heard a professor who loved the Southern Presbyterian theologians argue that Hodge was a rationalist of some sort. Maybe that explained his revulsion to all things feeling.

    Chris Cooper: Such an opinion produces unstable Christians whose religious stability is gauged by their emotional state. This approach also demeans the ordinary means of grace that are given by God not to foster great emotional highs that are inevitably followed by lows, but to serve as a more constant encouragement to Christian pilgrims.

    RS: Revivalism does those things, but not true revival.

    From Accounts of Religious Revivals in the United States, written around 1819. It was gathered from the accounts of the ministers of the churches, from Synods, from Conventions, and from Associations.

    Acworth N.H.
    Nothing has appeared like a revival in this town until 1814…At the first communion after his consecration, sixteen offered themselves to the church. Immediately after this, instances of individual conviction made their appearance in different parts of the society and one and another were made to rejoice in God. A solemn and strict attention was paid to the word preached, and the good work progressed gradually until Sept 1816. In which time about sixty were added to the church. Every seat in the house of God was filled, not with drowsy inattentive hearers, but with awakened immortals, hanging on the lips of the speaker with almost breathless attention; looking, as if their everlasting all depended on the proper improvement of a single sermon…[speaking of the school there] They began to discover a greater relish of the scriptures. In searching for the answers to their questions, they felt an increasing desire to know more of the lively oracles of divine truth. Every vacant moment when relieved from their other school exercises, the bible was taken up.

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  3. Darryl:

    I read Charle Chauncey’s first-hand observations and firm and fair rebuttals to Whitefield’s trespassory invasions with theological torts to parishes, families, good order, decency and discipline. I knew he predates the august Dr. Charles Hodge, but Chauncey’s work (c.1743) was a good read on the Enthusiasts.

    Thanks for the continuing call for orderly, intelligent, calm, decent and deliberative piety with “that old Bible,” our august confessions, and our involvement with the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

    Again, time for a re-tour of Chauncey.

    It’s on http://www.books.google. “Seasonable Thoughts” at: http://books.google.com/books?id=N84CAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=charles+chauncey+seasonable+thoughts&source=bl&ots=YYWFssw0Nl&sig=Bxl06T40B-PQ3qP95o9pz1Z_vQ8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eyQXUM-jLIik8AT90oDQAg&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=charles%20chauncey%20seasonable%20thoughts&f=false

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  4. Richard – I’ve appreciated your hard work on this site. May I ask what kind of church you attend? Are you a minister or church officer? I think you really contend for the truth.

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  5. Erik, can you imagine the work it takes to push back on Richard’s semi-revivalism in favor of Reformation?

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  6. Richard Smith wrote:

    “Do we know of one example in all of Scripture where children were converted in the way that Coopper through Hodge asserts?”

    GW: Do we know of one example in all of Scripture where the children of believers are dramatically converted (in line with the expectations of promoters of revival), and outside of ordinary covenant nurture and the ordinary means of grace administered by the church?

    The Evangelist Timothy seems to have been one scriptural example of a child coming to faith through the ordinary covenant nurture/means of grace paradigm: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV)

    Regards,

    Geoff Willour

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  7. It’s interesting that my father, a staunch roman catholic, can sit there and enjoy and sing along with the old revivalist songs and hymns from the middle to late 1800’s and early 1900’s, many of which made their way into bluegrass, and enjoin in the sing-song and heartfelt sincerity and at the same time be adverse to the doctrinal statements in the WCF. The revivalism of america gave way to a lot of people being able to answer the question; ‘Are you a christian?’ with; ” I am today’.

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  8. Sean, it may have to do with the shared theology, piety, and practice. Both Roman and revivalist systems can be construed as “a personal encounter with the risen Christ.” Roman Christians routinely ask Jesus into their hearts, read their Bibles privately and pray. They even invented the “still, small voice” and quiet time (aka “spiritual discipline”). The question may be, Why so much animosity on the parts of revivalists for Roman Christians when there is so much shared piety?

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  9. Zrim,

    It’s a fair question. To the extent one’s faith consists primarily in what’s going on within me, whether formally considered or conveyed by means of religious practice, there does seem to be a lot of amenable translation between the two. You think of the suggestions given to Luther by his Roman mentors in his crisis, sounds like something out of a home fellowship gathering.

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  10. Sean, the question on animosity still remains though. Maybe Richard could chime in, but one theory is that it seems to owe to the revivalist skepticism (disdain?) for ritual and institutional faith. Given confessionalist esteem of these, it may account for the revivalist claim that Protestants haven’t reformed enough.

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  11. I can’t let Charles Chauncy be promoted here without a comment.

    He was socially conservative, yes, but theologically liberal, arguing for universalism, paving the way for unitarianism, serving as one of the architects of New England’s dismantling of Calvinism.

    Chauncy was opposed to the Awakening chiefly because he was a rationalist–through and through–and he denied the power of the Spirit working in and through the Word more broadly and ended up differing from a number of the claims of Scripture.

    Chauncy’s “Old Light” stand was not analgous to the Old Side men among the Presbyterians, who were doctrinally orthodox, though opposed to the Awakening. Chauncy, as conservative as he was in temperment, betrayed orthodoxy altogether.

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  12. I highly appreciate this post, having personally been the victim of revival-focused teaching that had a low respect for the ordinary covenantal grace through which a child grows up in the knowledge of God. Such focus on revival, being inherently Arminian by nature, encourages doubt rather than any form of assurance. Furthermore, due to the tendency of such revival teachings to focus upon the most dramatic cases of horrible sinners being changed into God-fearing Christians, living in sin itself gains a weird allure. I often struggled with what I sometimes now characterize as ‘Youth Pastor Syndrome’ where I imagined that in order to be able to counsel someone living in open unrepentant sin, I myself would greatly benefit from having done the same. Only it was even worse because I had an understanding of assurance being based upon this radical transformational revival experience. Such was an experience that I could not honestly have because, though quite sinful in the way that children are, I grew up progressively repenting of sins in the “boring” run-of-the-mill fashion that I have now come to realize is central to the Christian life. Though my experience was that of a covenant child my teaching often discouraged me and assailed me with doubts of my own sincerity. Add that to the fact that I have never been of an excitable personality and you have a recipe for a constant struggle with doubt, not due simply to the difficult circumstances that life presented, but due to the very teaching I heard in church. It is only by the grace of God that even this was used to my good. However, simply because God can use abusive teaching to drive His children to reliance upon Him and to the study of His word does not make that abusive teaching right. Indeed, 2 Timothy 3:14-15 is an excellent section of scripture to consider when thinking on this topic. Quiet, sensible, ordinary grace… it is really quite extraordinary. What need do we have for anything “more” than that?

    My estimation of so-called revivals is that, like it or not, they are friends of the Arminian heresy. No matter how they get covered in wool, the wolf shows through. The implication is that men need to choose to revive themselves through a focus on heightened emotion, heightened attention to the idea of revival, or other such vain works. Ah, but that is apparently how you trust God in such systems; by grasping after the heels of revival rather than simply to trust God to cause His people to drink of the refreshing water of life presented to them in the ordinary means of grace through His church.

    God leads His sheep to water and makes them drink. Any work of God where the church grows suddenly in sincere converts or where those in the church grow all the more to love the ordinary means of grace is a joyous working of God’s Holy Spirit according to the pleasure of His own will, but it is not because the Reverend Joe Schmoe focused on revival, thereby causing God to revive his congregation.

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  13. Geoff Willour quoting Richard Smith: “Do we know of one example in all of Scripture where children were converted in the way that Coopper through Hodge asserts?”

    GW: Do we know of one example in all of Scripture where the children of believers are dramatically converted (in line with the expectations of promoters of revival), and outside of ordinary covenant nurture and the ordinary means of grace administered by the church?

    RS: The only people that we know that were converted are those that heard the Word and God gave them new life. Many of those were Gentiles. We do know this, however, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born from above to enter the kingdom. Jesus told the apostles themselves (in different ways, Mat 18:3 as an example) that they must be turned and become like children to enter the kingdom. We know that the promises of Acts 2 were for the children of believers, but what were those promises and what was “the condition” for receiving those promises?

    37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

    RS: The promise of receiving the Holy Spirit (not charismatic type of thing) was for the people hearing, their children, and for all who were far off and for as many as the Lord would call to Himself. The promise of the Holy Spirit was given to the elect of God and that included the elect children.

    40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

    GW: The Evangelist Timothy seems to have been one scriptural example of a child coming to faith through the ordinary covenant nurture/means of grace paradigm: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV)

    RS: How old was Timothy when he became a believer? It would appear that Paul considered himself the spiritual father of Timothy whose biological father was a Greek. If Timothy’s mother was a believing Jew, then how long was she a believer in Christ and so raise him in the New Covenant pattern? Again, I simply don’t see any evidence in the NT of people coming to faith as covenant children.

    Acts 16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,

    1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord,

    1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

    1 Timothy 1:18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,

    2 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

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  14. Zrim,

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s chick publications fault. The confessional reformed really do amount to a third option between magisterium oversight raised to the level of scriptural authority apart from scriptural warrant on one side and ‘solo’ scriptura on the other. One pope or a thousand. Based on the breadth of the ‘deposit’ that the magisterium is superintending to maturity, and the buffet style of compliance both sides exercise, you could say they both are making it up as they go along. But, then I’m in the PCA where in some presbyteries the bishop of rome is considered a credible authority for protestant deference and in those same presbyteries the pope is in New York.

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  15. Luke Walkup: I highly appreciate this post, having personally been the victim of revival-focused teaching that had a low respect for the ordinary covenantal grace through which a child grows up in the knowledge of God.

    RS: Well, here we go again. No one is a victim of revival-focused teaching, though one can be a victim of revivalism-focused teaching. Revival is seeking the face of God, depending on His sovereignty to do as He pleases, and seeking for Him to glorify His name in convicting sinners of their sin and to regenerate the elect according to His pleasure in the covenant of grace (imaging forth the eternal covenant). Now, what is this ordinary covenantal grace which a child grows up in the knowldege of God? There is no ordinary grace but all grace is supernatural and to the praise of the glory of His grace. All who are elect will be born again of glorious grace. The knowledge of God is eternal life (John 17:3) and one has to be born of God and not just born of believers. Esau was a child of the covenant as well.

    Luke Walkup: Such focus on revival, being inherently Arminian by nature,

    RS: No, true revival is of the sturdiest of Reformed (calvinistic) theology and nature. It stresses the sovereignty of God and of His will in regeneration. Revivalism is done by Arminians and Pelagians. True revival has occurred in church after church and they were true Calvinists and as such they were true children of the covenant.

    Luke Walkup: encourages doubt rather than any form of assurance.

    RS: Well, if one is trusting in a covenant without being born of the will of God, they should doubt. True assurance will only come to those who are born of God.

    Luke Walkup: Furthermore, due to the tendency of such revival teachings to focus upon the most dramatic cases of horrible sinners being changed into God-fearing Christians, living in sin itself gains a weird allure.

    RS: It is not revival teaching that focuses on that, but revivalism teaching. True Calvinists know that all people are horrible sinners and that includes those who thing of themselves as children of the covenant. People are such horrible sinners by birth and by nature that they must be born again and born of God whether they are children of believers or not.

    Luke Walkup: I often struggled with what I sometimes now characterize as ‘Youth Pastor Syndrome’ where I imagined that in order to be able to counsel someone living in open unrepentant sin, I myself would greatly benefit from having done the same. Only it was even worse because I had an understanding of assurance being based upon this radical transformational revival experience.

    RS: A false understanding of assurance is not a good thing, but it is not the fault of Calvinists who believe in true revival.

    Luke Walkup: Such was an experience that I could not honestly have because, though quite sinful in the way that children are, I grew up progressively repenting of sins in the “boring” run-of-the-mill fashion that I have now come to realize is central to the Christian life.

    RS: Then you did not grow up realizing the true nature of sin. If any child begins to understand the true nature of sin, it is not a boring run-of-the-mill type of things. Sin is also of the spiritual variety and those who have the Spirit convicting them become worse in their own eyes rather than better. Our pride, our selfishness, our doing things out of love for self are sin.

    Luke Walkup: Though my experience was that of a covenant child my teaching often discouraged me and assailed me with doubts of my own sincerity. Add that to the fact that I have never been of an excitable personality and you have a recipe for a constant struggle with doubt, not due simply to the difficult circumstances that life presented, but due to the very teaching I heard in church. It is only by the grace of God that even this was used to my good. However, simply because God can use abusive teaching to drive His children to reliance upon Him and to the study of His word does not make that abusive teaching right. Indeed, 2 Timothy 3:14-15 is an excellent section of scripture to consider when thinking on this topic. Quiet, sensible, ordinary grace… it is really quite extraordinary. What need do we have for anything “more” than that?

    RS: How about the new birth which is absolutely necessary to enter the kingdom?

    Luke Walkup: My estimation of so-called revivals is that, like it or not, they are friends of the Arminian heresy.

    RS: Then your estimation needs to be changed. Revivalism is not just friends, it is at best Arminian heresy. True revival teaching is very centered upon the God of all glory and sovereignty. Well, now I will really stick my foot in it. Are you so sure that your views of the covenant are not as consistent with Arminianism as revivalism is? True Calvinism declares that God is gracious to whom He will be gracious. Are you so sure that you view of the covenant is not friends with the view that God is friends with all those who are born of believers and attend church?

    Luke Walkup: No matter how they get covered in wool, the wolf shows through. The implication is that men need to choose to revive themselves through a focus on heightened emotion, heightened attention to the idea of revival, or other such vain works.

    RS: True revival is that God alone can bring true revival because He alone is true life.

    Luke Walkup: Ah, but that is apparently how you trust God in such systems; by grasping after the heels of revival rather than simply to trust God to cause His people to drink of the refreshing water of life presented to them in the ordinary means of grace through His church.

    RS: But again, how is trusting God to send revival because of what you have done much different than trusting Him to send grace because of what you have done in an outward covenant?

    Luke Walkup: God leads His sheep to water and makes them drink. Any work of God where the church grows suddenly in sincere converts or where those in the church grow all the more to love the ordinary means of grace is a joyous working of God’s Holy Spirit according to the pleasure of His own will, but it is not because the Reverend Joe Schmoe focused on revival, thereby causing God to revive his congregation.

    RS: But wouldn’t a sovereign God who works through prayer work in Reverend Schmoes heart to give him a thirst for the glory of God and so seek Him for revival?

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  16. Erik Charter: Richard – I’ve appreciated your hard work on this site. May I ask what kind of church you attend?

    RS: You may

    Erik Charter: Are you a minister or church officer?

    RS: Yes

    Erik Charter: I think you really contend for the truth.

    RS: Thanks for that. I attend a RPCNA church though I am a Covenantal and Calvnistic Baptist. Zrim tells me that I cannot be Reformed and Baptist, so I have changed my name to protect his sensitivites. I have been a pastor in the past, but I have not found a local church that could put up with strong Calvinism. Weak Calvinism just means an Arminian is confused with what he really is. Some might say that my Calvinism was not as big a problem as my obnoxious sense of humor and rotten puns. They may have a point. By the way, I have also appreciated your posting.

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  17. Zrim,

    Something about perfectionism and the QIRC fits the bill as well. One guys QIRC vs. The other guys QIRC. Nobody likes tension, it’s uncomfortable. I’m not a big fan myself, I feel like Peter half the time; ‘Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life………..’ We’re stuck, in our conviction. Not exactly a Fanny Crosby hymn.

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  18. Richard, what Geoff asked for was an example from Scripture of a dramatic conversion experience in line with the expectations of promoters of revival (of children or otherwise), not of ordinary conversion. All you provided are examples of the latter.

    And I don’t see how Jesus saying one must be born from above and become as a little child makes the case for a dramatic conversion. Obviously no anti-revivalist would disagree with Jesus, but how Spirit wrought conversion props up revival-o-sity isn’t clear.

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  19. Sean, why do I always envision Tweety Bird’s mother when I see the name Fanny Crosby? But a regular feature of the semi-revivalists case is exactly that: the subjectivism of the 2GA was bad subjectivism, and the 1GA was good subjectivism. Which just seems like wiping a dirty nose with an oily rag. Something about planks and eyes also comes to mind.

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  20. Zrim,

    I don’t know, but I do too. What is that? I don’t know if mine’s as specific as Tweety’s mom but there’s something to it.

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  21. Zrim: Richard, what Geoff asked for was an example from Scripture of a dramatic conversion experience in line with the expectations of promoters of revival (of children or otherwise), not of ordinary conversion. All you provided are examples of the latter.

    RS: Not so, sir. What I said is just below:
    RS (old comment disputed by Zrim): The only people that we know that were converted are those that heard the Word and God gave them new life. Many of those were Gentiles. We do know this, however, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born from above to enter the kingdom. Jesus told the apostles themselves (in different ways, Mat 18:3 as an example) that they must be turned and become like children to enter the kingdom. We know that the promises of Acts 2 were for the children of believers, but what were those promises and what was “the condition” for receiving those promises?

    RS (present): My position is that the only conversions we have recorded are those who heard the Word and God gave them life. In other words, whether children or not the only ones we know about are those God gave life to. My example from Acts 2 had to do with the fact that the promise of the Holy Spirit was to the elect as well. The example from Matthew 18:3 is also a text that speaks of the work of God in the soul.

    Zrim: And I don’t see how Jesus saying one must be born from above and become as a little child makes the case for a dramatic conversion. Obviously no anti-revivalist would disagree with Jesus, but how Spirit wrought conversion props up revival-o-sity isn’t clear.

    RS: But I don’t believe in revival-o-sity so I don’t want to prop it up. What I am arguing is that each person, whether from a believing family or not, must be born from above. You can think of that as a dramatic conversion, but that is not the point that I am trying to make. Whether child or adult a person must be born again. I would not argue that it has to be dramatic, but if it is that is no argument that it is not authentic. I also don’t believe that God can dwell in people and that they cannot tell that something is different. I am not saying that they must know the day or hour or even month, but at some point a person should know that something is different in them. If the Gospel is the power of God to save, then can it be that the power of God in a person is not seen by that person or others at some point?

    GW also said this: “The Evangelist Timothy seems to have been one scriptural example of a child coming to faith through the ordinary covenant nurture/means of grace paradigm.” My argument is that a child will only come to faith by the new birth paradigm and the new birth is not ordinary in any sense. John 1:12-13 says this: “12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

    RS: All those that received Christ were those who believed in His name. Why did they believe? Not because they were born to a certain group of parents, not because they were born according to the will of their father nor the will of any person (including their own), but because of the will of God. “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED” is true of two covenantal children. It is not because Jacob was better or Esau was worse, but because God chose. It was not because Jacob willed or ran, but because God chose. It was not because Isaac chose, but because God chose. No one comes to faith (whether a child or an adult or whether from believing parents or non-believing parents) according to anything but the sovereign mercy and grace of God.

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  22. Richard, so no biblical precedent for dramatic conversion. That would seem to suggest that dramatic conversions are more causes for skepticism than relatively uncritical acceptance, which is what confessionalism does. But semi-revivalism reverses that and views ordinary conversions with skepticism.

    To wit, you say that while believers don’t necessarily have to know the day or hour or even month of their conversion, “at some point a person should know that something is different in him.” But if conversion is a life long process of mortification of the flesh and vivification of the spirit, and if most covenantal children can and do say that they cannot recall ever not believing, then a point on a continuum makes little sense and seems more a way of hedging things in favor of semi-revivalism. Sure, a believer should know that something is different about him, but confessionalism would rather say that it was the sign and seal objectively applied by God in his baptism (unbelievers don’t do that), not his inner subjective experience.

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  23. I appreciate this post. I’ve spent the past few years as a refugee living in the South. I’ve sat through two church membership classes at PCA churches. Both membership classes asked those in attendance to share the moment of their conversion. I’ve never heard such a thing asked in a Presbyterian church. We should expect that the normal means of covenant membership is through birth into covenant families, catechesis, and partaking of the means of grace. If these are present in the covenant community, I see no reason for them to be overshadowed with the shallow, introspective spirituality of the revival experience. But in many parts of the country, we will probably never escape our Edwards-Finney “heritage.”

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  24. Richard Smith said:

    “RS: All those that received Christ were those who believed in His name. Why did they believe? Not because they were born to a certain group of parents, not because they were born according to the will of their father nor the will of any person (including their own), but because of the will of God. “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED” is true of two covenantal children. It is not because Jacob was better or Esau was worse, but because God chose. It was not because Jacob willed or ran, but because God chose. It was not because Isaac chose, but because God chose. No one comes to faith (whether a child or an adult or whether from believing parents or non-believing parents) according to anything but the sovereign mercy and grace of God.”

    GW: Richard, I confess I am befuddled as to why the comments in my original post drew forth this response from you. I agree with everything you say above, and so would every informed and well-catechized confessionalist. We confessionalists affirm the need for the sovereign regeneration of spiritually dead sinners and the reality of God’s decree of unconditional election. And while we believe that God ordinarily chooses to administer His covenant of grace in line of successive generations in accordance with His covenant promises revealed in Scripture (hence our emphasis on covenant nurture in the believing household and the ordinary means of grace), that does not mean that covenant children are automatically or necessarily saved simply by virtue of being born into a covenant household (just as it does not mean that children born to unbelieving families will automatically and necessarily be damned simply by virtue of being born to an unbelieving household). Nor does it mean that elect covenant children come to believe “because they were born to a certain group of parents”, and especially not because they are somehow “better” than children born outside the covenant (on the contrary, in themselves elect covenant children are just as inherently sinful and totally depraved as their reprobate counterparts). Rather, they come to believe ultimately because they are elect, proximately because in God’s gracious providence they are brought up in an environment where they are exposed to those means of grace that God ordinarily uses to bring His elect to faith in Christ and to keep them in that faith, especially the means of the Word (“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”). “Covenant nurture” involves diligently exposing our covenant children to the faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word, and catechizing them in the truths of God’s Word (including the truths concerning such things as election, effectual calling, faith, repentance, justification, sanctification, etc.), all in the fellowship of the visible church. Thus elect covenant children come to faith by hearing and believing the Word, just as elect persons born outside the covenant community who come to faith later in life come to that faith by hearing and believing the Word.

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  25. Zrim: Richard, so no biblical precedent for dramatic conversion. That would seem to suggest that dramatic conversions are more causes for skepticism than relatively uncritical acceptance, which is what confessionalism does.

    RS: Nope, didn’t say that. If the conversions at Pentecost were not dramatic, I am not sure what are. Then the conversions in Acts. Let us not forget some of the conversions in the Gospels. They are all over the place.

    Zrim: But semi-revivalism reverses that and views ordinary conversions with skepticism.

    RS: I am not sure there is such a thing as an ordinary conversion, but saying that does arouse skepticism. There is no such thing as an ordinary conversion since there is no such thing as an ordinary God who takes dead sinners and breathes life into them by grace. There is no such thing as an ordinary conversion because the non-ordinary God raises them from the dead and that is not ordinary. There is no such thing as an ordinary conversion because God declares those sinners just based on His grace alone and dwells in those people.

    Zrim: To wit, you say that while believers don’t necessarily have to know the day or hour or even month of their conversion, “at some point a person should know that something is different in him.”

    RS: Correct.

    Zrim: But if conversion is a life long process of mortification of the flesh and vivification of the spirit, and if most covenantal children can and do say that they cannot recall ever not believing, then a point on a continuum makes little sense and seems more a way of hedging things in favor of semi-revivalism.

    RS: Conversion is not a life long process but a person is converted when God turns them and makes them little children (Mat 18:3). Repentance is a life long process, but conversion is not. At some point a person is a child of the devil and then at some point God raises that person from the dead and they become a child of the living God.

    WCF: Chapter X Of Effectual Calling
    I. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call,[1] by His Word and Spirit,[2] out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ;[3] enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God,[4] taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh;[5] renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good,[6] and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ:[7] yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.[8]

    II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man,[9] who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit,[10] he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.[11]

    Zrim: Sure, a believer should know that something is different about him, but confessionalism would rather say that it was the sign and seal objectively applied by God in his baptism (unbelievers don’t do that), not his inner subjective experience.

    RS: You may rather say that, but that does not make it so. The Scriptures and the WCF are quite clear. A soul must be regenerated and there must be a real change. If a covenantal child cannot remember a point not believing, that may not be the point at all. All people are born dead in sins and trespasses and all people must be born again and made alive in Christ Jesus by the mere sovereign grace of God. Did the child know that s/he was born dead in sins with a wicked heart that hated God? Did the child know that s/he must truly be turned by God? The Israelites wanted to trust in the fact that they were born in the covenant too. But what did Jesus tell Nicodemus? You must be born again. Who must do it? The Spirit blows where He will.

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  26. Bob: I appreciate this post. I’ve spent the past few years as a refugee living in the South. I’ve sat through two church membership classes at PCA churches. Both membership classes asked those in attendance to share the moment of their conversion. I’ve never heard such a thing asked in a Presbyterian church. We should expect that the normal means of covenant membership is through birth into covenant families, catechesis, and partaking of the means of grace.

    RS: So Nicodemus would have expected a normal means of covenant membership into a covenant family and being taught the Scriptures and teaching of the Rabbis. What was he told? You must be born again.

    Bob: If these are present in the covenant community, I see no reason for them to be overshadowed with the shallow, introspective spirituality of the revival experience.

    RS: Israel was also a covenant community, but that did not mean that very many of them were the elect of God. Why do you think that being part of the covenant community overshadowed their day of Pentecost when many cried out to be saved?

    Bob: But in many parts of the country, we will probably never escape our Edwards-Finney “heritage.”

    RS: Edwards was a real Calvinist and Finney was a real Pelagian. I can only hope that the teaching of Edwards would spread and awaken those asleep in Zion within their covenant communities (he did get in some hot water over that one). If you think Edwards and Finney share the same heritage, then you don’t understand Edwards.

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  27. Alan D. Strange: I can’t let Charles Chauncy be promoted here without a comment.
    He was socially conservative, yes, but theologically liberal, arguing for universalism, paving the way for unitarianism, serving as one of the architects of New England’s dismantling of Calvinism.

    Chauncy was opposed to the Awakening chiefly because he was a rationalist–through and through–and he denied the power of the Spirit working in and through the Word more broadly and ended up differing from a number of the claims of Scripture.

    Chauncy’s “Old Light” stand was not analgous to the Old Side men among the Presbyterians, who were doctrinally orthodox, though opposed to the Awakening. Chauncy, as conservative as he was in temperment, betrayed orthodoxy altogether.

    RS: Thank you for your comments on this.

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  28. GW: Richard, I confess I am befuddled as to why the comments in my original post drew forth this response from you. I agree with everything you say above, and so would every informed and well-catechized confessionalist. We confessionalists affirm the need for the sovereign regeneration of spiritually dead sinners and the reality of God’s decree of unconditional election. And while we believe that God ordinarily chooses to administer His covenant of grace in line of successive generations in accordance with His covenant promises revealed in Scripture (hence our emphasis on covenant nurture in the believing household and the ordinary means of grace), that does not mean that covenant children are automatically or necessarily saved simply by virtue of being born into a covenant household (just as it does not mean that children born to unbelieving families will automatically and necessarily be damned simply by virtue of being born to an unbelieving household).

    RS: Let me just say that not all confessionalists would agree with you, or perhaps I should say that not all appear to agree with you in reality. In this context (the board here) at times covenant nurture versus a “dramatic” conversion is at odds with what I wrote. I think of a dramatic conversion as God taking a sinner and changing them in His effectual call and regeneration. It is a dramatic change in which dead sinners are brought to life and children of the devil are made children of the living God. It is not necessarily dramatic in all the externals and the process God leads the soul in can be over a period of time. But at some point the soul is dead and then at another point it is alive with the glory of God. At one point the soul hates God and at another point it loves God. There are dramatic changes in the soul.

    Your writing came in the context of Hodge being quoted as against revival and his preference for parental nurture. While few would be against parental nurture, my argument is that a parent cannot nurture a child into becoming a child of God. No matter what a child is taught regarding manners, outward civility, and all the things of religion, each person must be born again by the sovereign work of God in the heart. When Hodge speaks against revival, I read or hear him saying things in the background that perhaps you don’t. During the Great Awakenings here in America and in revivals in Scotland, England, and Wales the teaching of the new birth was important and vital. George Whitefield preached hundreds of times on the new birth. It seems to me that Hodge is denigrating that type of thing and seems to trade (almost) the new birth teaching for the nurture teaching. Jesus told Nicodemus that the soul MUST be born again to enter the kingdom, not that it must nurtured to enter the kingdom. It seemed to me that you were agreeing with Hodge (as I interpreted him). That is the background of my response and so I was and am trying to defend the idea of the glorious new birth as an act of the sovereign grace of God in all cases and not just some.

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  29. Richard, so are you saying that if someone’s awareness of their trust in Christ is not extraordinary they should doubt their faith? You insist that conversion is not ordinary. All of this interest in experience sort of takes attention away from Christ and puts it in self.

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  30. Richard, I can’t speak for all Oldlifers, but I agree with Geoff. At issue may be covenant children. Because you don’t believe in infant baptism (I think I saw that here), you may view all non-church members as children of the devil. But that’s a problem for confessionalists who view our children as children of God who need to own their adoption. If you believed in non-communicant church membership, you might see the value of ordinary accounts of coming to faith.

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  31. When “covenant children” own their adoption, is it “covenantal adoption” they are accepting or is it “decretal adoption” to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit?

    Romans 9:4– “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”

    Ephesians 1:5– “God predestined US for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

    Galatians 4:4– “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

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  32. Richard Smith wrote: “It is a dramatic change in which dead sinners are brought to life and children of the devil are made children of the living God. It is not necessarily dramatic in all the externals and the process God leads the soul in can be over a period of time. But at some point the soul is dead and then at another point it is alive with the glory of God.”

    GW: Richard, I think the issue here is your use of the word “dramatic.” I (and other confessionalists) would agree that regeneration (and the conversion that results from it) is indeed “dramatic” in the sense that it is a supernatural miracle of God performed upon the soul of a spiritually dead sinner involving the raising of that sinner from spiritual death to newness of life in Christ. At the same time, our personal experience of the effects of that miracle of sovereign grace are not always “dramatic” in the sense of having a dramatic personal conversion experience. Some of God’s elect are brought to Christ in dramatic ways (like Paul the persecutor of the church encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus). Others are brought to Christ through a process that looks a lot more “ordinary” and a lot less glorious to the outward eye (such as Lydia, whose conversion experience is described in very simple, “ordinary” and undramatic language: “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Acts 16:14b, ESV).

    I think the concern among us confessionalists is not to hide from our covenant children the truth that “you must be born again” (i.e., that regeneration is necessary for salvation). The concern is that our covenant children not be made to feel like they have to have a dramatic personal conversion experience in order to be assured of their regeneration. Saving faith and repentance unto life are necessary for salvation. A dramatic personal conversion experience is not. While some covenant children do not come to faith until later in life (like Nicodemus), and while some (those not elected, like Esau) never come to faith; the norm and ideal we expect in a faithful covenant household is for our covenant children to grow up never remembering a time when they did not repent of sin, trust in and love the Lord Jesus. Scripture tells us of one such “covenant child” who was filled with the Holy Spirit (and hence, by implication, regenerated) even from his mother’s womb, John the Baptist. John was no doubt raised in an environment of faith and covenant nurture, and having been regenerated from his earliest days we would not expect him to have had a dramatic conversion experience. Likewise, treating our covenant children as if they are only really “little pagans” and pressuring them to think that they are not saved unless and until they have a dramatic personal conversion experience only tends to minister to doubt, not to faith. Instead, confessionalists view their children as Christian children until they prove otherwise, and in their catechesis they instruct their children to repent and believe and to bear the fruit of such faith from their earliest years. On the other hand, the revivalist impulse tends to pressure covenant children to manufacture a dramatic conversion experience so as to feel like they are “really” in (which, ironically, in the end can actually tend toward a false profession of faith, or at the very least spiritual burnout).

    The revivalist insistence upon a dramatic personal conversion experience clearly manifests a “theology of glory” and tends to the hype and hokum that are so prevalent in the Christian world today; whereas the confessional route of covenant nurture and the ordinary means of grace is more in line with a theology of the cross. It insists that our great God ordinarily chooses to do dramatic things (like the miracle of the new birth) in the context of the seemingly ordinary and mundane (like the ordinary word and sacrament ministry of the church and daily covenant nurture in the Christian household). The confessional route comes with less outward fanfare — fewer “bells and whistles” if you will — than does the revivalist route, and that in itself makes it suspect in the eyes of modern American evangelicalism (with its addiction to the “dramatic” and to hyped up spirituality). But in the end I believe it is the slow but God-ordained path of daily discipleship which both glorifies God and is good for the soul.

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  33. D. G. Hart: Richard, so are you saying that if someone’s awareness of their trust in Christ is not extraordinary they should doubt their faith? You insist that conversion is not ordinary. All of this interest in experience sort of takes attention away from Christ and puts it in self.

    RS: I resist the ordinary language to the things of God and you resist the extraordinary language. Anything that God does in salvation is not ordinary, though I am sure I would resist some of the implications that go along with extraordinary. I would argue that a person that has the living God dwelling in them should have something about them that they cannot fully explain. Christians are new creatures and they are different. If it is Christ in the person working and doing, then the interest is in Christ and not in self. At least that is the way it should be, though it is not the way it is in many cases.

    1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

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  34. D. G. Hart: Richard, I can’t speak for all Oldlifers, but I agree with Geoff. At issue may be covenant children. Because you don’t believe in infant baptism (I think I saw that here), you may view all non-church members as children of the devil.

    RS: Yes, I am a covenantal and calvinistic Baptist. I view all non-believers or all non-regenerate people as children of the devil because all people are either of the seed of the women or of the seed of the serpent.

    D.G. Hart: But that’s a problem for confessionalists who view our children as children of God who need to own their adoption.

    RS: So does a child become a child of God by agreeing that they are adopted? Does it depend on their choice? Does being a child of a believer make salvation then to be their choice but the children of unbelievers have to be sovereignly regenerated? What happens to the covenant child who does not own his or her adoption. Does that mean that the person was adopted but no longer is?

    D.G. Hart: If you believed in non-communicant church membership, you might see the value of ordinary accounts of coming to faith.

    RS: Perhaps you are right, but at the moment I still see each act of God in saving sinners as greater than the original creation of all things.

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  35. Geoff Willour: I think the concern among us confessionalists is not to hide from our covenant children the truth that “you must be born again” (i.e., that regeneration is necessary for salvation). The concern is that our covenant children not be made to feel like they have to have a dramatic personal conversion experience in order to be assured of their regeneration. Saving faith and repentance unto life are necessary for salvation.

    RS: I suppose one difference might be in the last sentence. When people see that they are dead in sin and childen of wrath, one would think that things would not always be so calm with them. As with the covenant children in Acts 2, once they saw their sin they became alarmed. So I would see repentance as involving spiritual sins as well as outward ones, and something religious kids are quite wicked in their pride and self-righteousness.

    GW: A dramatic personal conversion experience is not. While some covenant children do not come to faith until later in life (like Nicodemus), and while some (those not elected, like Esau) never come to faith; the norm and ideal we expect in a faithful covenant household is for our covenant children to grow up never remembering a time when they did not repent of sin, trust in and love the Lord Jesus.

    RS: From my view we have one man converted while on his deathbed. That is nothing we want to set out as a norm. We also have one child regenerated in the womb, but that was through quite extraordinary circumstances surrounding it all. I am not sure that should be a standard or norm. At this point I cannot reconcile the NT with having people (as a norm) who don’t recall a time that they did not repent and trust Christ.

    GW: Scripture tells us of one such “covenant child” who was filled with the Holy Spirit (and hence, by implication, regenerated) even from his mother’s womb, John the Baptist. John was no doubt raised in an environment of faith and covenant nurture, and having been regenerated from his earliest days we would not expect him to have had a dramatic conversion experience. Likewise, treating our covenant children as if they are only really “little pagans” and pressuring them to think that they are not saved unless and until they have a dramatic personal conversion experience only tends to minister to doubt, not to faith.

    RS: But what if they are not regenerate and they are treated as if they are? Wouldn’t that lead to a false faith and deceived people? However one views the dramatic personal conversion experience, all people are born dead in sins and trespasses and every single one born of a woman must be born again. That act of comes only as a work of the sovereign work of God. I would think that as many revivalists have fallen into a terrible error and push people to make a decision rather than look to Christ alone, so it is possible to tone down the language enough to make people think that as long as they are children of believers (how do they know that?) and are outwardly moral then they must be saved. I see as great a danger on one side as the other.

    GW: Instead, confessionalists view their children as Christian children until they prove otherwise,

    RS: If you heart a choking sound, that was me. Wouldn’t it be more biblical (and safer) to teach them that they are lost and in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ until they prove otherwise?

    GW: and in their catechesis they instruct their children to repent and believe and to bear the fruit of such faith from their earliest years. On the other hand, the revivalist impulse tends to pressure covenant children to manufacture a dramatic conversion experience so as to feel like they are “really” in (which, ironically, in the end can actually tend toward a false profession of faith, or at the very least spiritual burnout).

    RS: There is certainly a middle position here. Not all who don’t believe in covenant children will assert that a dramatic conversion experience must be manufactured, though that is rampant along with many other errors.

    GW: The revivalist insistence upon a dramatic personal conversion experience clearly manifests a “theology of glory” and tends to the hype and hokum that are so prevalent in the Christian world today; whereas the confessional route of covenant nurture and the ordinary means of grace is more in line with a theology of the cross.

    RS: One, there is a difference between those who believe in a sovereign God who revives people and His Church apart from hype and hokum from the typical revivalist mentality.

    GW: It insists that our great God ordinarily chooses to do dramatic things (like the miracle of the new birth) in the context of the seemingly ordinary and mundane (like the ordinary word and sacrament ministry of the church and daily covenant nurture in the Christian household). The confessional route comes with less outward fanfare — fewer “bells and whistles” if you will — than does the revivalist route, and that in itself makes it suspect in the eyes of modern American evangelicalism (with its addiction to the “dramatic” and to hyped up spirituality). But in the end I believe it is the slow but God-ordained path of daily discipleship which both glorifies God and is good for the soul.

    RS: I wouldn’t argue against a path of daily discipleship, but simply think that your method is dangerous when it assumes that children are converted rather than that they are not before regeneration. I don’t think that seeking God to revive people and His Church has bells and whistles along with fanfare, but instead it is done with broken hearts seeking the face of God. It expects to see evidence of regeneration that will result in hearts that love God in truth and that is the sign it looks for.

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  36. Richard, technically creation and redemption rely on God making something out of nothing. But providence is God’s superintendence of all things. And providence is fairly ordinary and routine. You seem to be missing that God is at work in the ordinary as much as the extraordinary. And you don’t seem to be able to account for the experience of saints like Timothy and Isaac who had no dramatic conversion experience. God uses secondary causes as much to bring us to faith as supernatural ones. You can’t be saved without the supernatural. You can’t be human and not have the secondary causes. Faith comes by hearing (natural body) the word (natural tongue).

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  37. D. G. Hart: Richard, ordinary goes more with the virtue of humility, extraordinary goes with pride.

    RS: I would think that the more ordinary thing is pride, but humility is a spiritual act which is beyond the ordinary. Remember, humility is necessary for faith and grace.

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  38. D. G. Hart: Richard, technically creation and redemption rely on God making something out of nothing.

    RS: Without arguing ex nihilo or ex nihilo nihilo fit, creation did not come in spite of sin and hatred toward God. In redemption God starts with sinners who hate Him and are opposed to Him and He makes them into lovers of Him and holiness.

    D.G. Hart: But providence is God’s superintendence of all things. And providence is fairly ordinary and routine. You seem to be missing that God is at work in the ordinary as much as the extraordinary.

    RS: I hope I don’t miss those things.

    D.G. Hart: And you don’t seem to be able to account for the experience of saints like Timothy and Isaac who had no dramatic conversion experience.

    RS: I was unaware of any Scripture that gives an account of the conversions of Timothy and Isaac.

    D.G. Hart: God uses secondary causes as much to bring us to faith as supernatural ones. You can’t be saved without the supernatural. You can’t be human and not have the secondary causes. Faith comes by hearing (natural body) the word (natural tongue).

    RS: I don’t deny that there are secondary causes in the sovereign hand of the first cause, but that the grace that saves is not ordinary. A faith that saves is not a faith in secondary causes, but in the One who alone can bring life to the soul in effectual calling.
    Chapter X Of Effectual Calling
    II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man,[9] who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit,[10] he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.[11]

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  39. Richard – Are you a Reformed Baptist? Once one is Reformed I don’t understand how they don’t embrace covenant theology and infant baptism. In my mind being Reformed means you embrace the idea that God is the key actor in salvation from beginning to end. I think Reformed Baptists are hedging on this point by not recognizing the validity of infant baptism.

    I was essentially a Reformed (5 point Calvinist) Baptist for 20+ years…

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  40. Richard Smith:
    “I have been a pastor in the past, but I have not found a local church that could put up with strong Calvinism.”

    Me:
    Strong Calvinism… yet denying infant baptism, simultaneously trying to claim to be covenantal, and holding to some confusedly undefined view of revival? It seems to me that the adjective you were looking for was incoherent rather than strong. If my theory holds, then your use of the wrong adjective makes all the more sense.

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  41. No, in terms of Romans 9, it’s an either or. Notice the “nots”.

    Romans 9: 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

    6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For NOT all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and NOT all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is NOT the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

    I hope nobody here is saying that there is an either or between being paedobaptist or else endorsing RS’s brand of assurance by experimental internal introspection. Even though I did have a “crisis” when I found out I was an Arminian dead in my sins and then repented of Arminianism and became ashamed of it, it had nothing to do with what I thought was going on in my “soul” and everything to do with the power of God’s gospel causing me to hear about that righteousness without which there is no gospel.

    Not all credobaptists are the same; and not all who sign Reformation Confessions actually believe what they say about justification and adoption.

    The Canons of Dordt, 1:9—Election was not founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause or condition on which election depends…Therefore election is the fountain of every good.

    Romans 9–NOT all who are descended, NOT the children of the flesh

    Doug Wilson: “Special election IS covenantal election for those who by grace persevere. For those who fall away, covenantal election devolves into reprobation.”

    It is one thing to disagree about invisible church and visible churches, but it is another to make the condition of “election” God’s grace causing us to do works of faith. John Frame does a disservice to the gospel when he jumps back and forth between the two “elections”.

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  42. The new “ordained servant” out today has a good warning against “the federal vision”(which is of course often against federal imputation!)

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=318&cur_iss=Y

    Christian preaching from the Old Testament story line becomes diverted from “fleeing to Christ our redeemer from the curse and righteousness unto life” to warnings about apostasy from grace which, unbeknownst to them, are about the law. Unwittingly, new covenant saints then are placed under the strains of the law and the pulpit defaults to “working on our sanctification” coupled with threats of cursing for disobedience. Using the same OT texts in a proper Christocentric fashion will orbit us back to Christ and his finished work… as grounds for the new covenant. Such will rivet us to Christ through refreshing faith in Him rather than the smothering fray with the tar baby of personal progress
    under duress.”

    “Contrary efforts to reduce this law-grace antithesis/contrast to a continuum or combination blur: first, the crucial point of discontinuity between the two administrations, then, what Christ has
    actually achieved for us in fulfilling the law, and consequently, the sight of and rest of faith by those seeking closure with God. A swinging continuum is NOT how Calvin conceived of the redemptive
    historical program regarding law and grace. By retaining the antithesis Calvin magnifies Christ work in dispatching the law as a covenant of works, and clarifies our response as one of faith not of
    law/works. If you muddle the law, you will muddle the gospel. That is the tragic truth, not only of the past, but of the present assortment of muddling models whether they come from Barth, Federal Vision, or even a Reformed journal.”

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  43. This whole argument has to take into account all the elements of the Gospel from election to glorification. It has to take into consideration the priorities of the Gospel too, ie., does the forensic union of imputation take priority over the mystical union of the Spirit? What has logical priority- imputaion or mystical union by the Spirit? Should we be focusing on the “transformative” change that takes place “in” a person by the Spirit or should we be focusing more on what took place at the atonement by the work of Christ. And is “transformative” a proper word to use for the Spirits work? Another question that no one wants to focus on is what is God the Fathers role in bringing salvation to the individual human agent? What does Romans 6 mean by being “baptized” into Christ? Is there water there in Romans 6 or is that God the Father baptizing into Christ by legal imputation?

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  44. Erik, see what I mean about the work it takes to push back on Richard’s semi-revivalism in favor of Reformation? But he’s got the lion’s share of American Protestantism on his side.

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  45. Richard,

    Does the caterpillar really turn into the butterfly by the Spirit’s work of regeneration? Does imputation take place before regeneration or after regeneration? Does imputation cause a hearing of the Gospel and faith?

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  46. McMark, I’m not exegete so take what I say with a grain of salt. But didn’t Paul participate in both elections? In other words, if Jews are to be saved, don’t they fit both? And since Christianity is partly an ethnic religion — in the sense of baptizing children — then I see some doubleness going on.

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  47. Well, we don’t agree about the baptizing infants thing. In my original post, I agreed that the two elections thing certainly applies to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. But “the federal vision” mono-covenantalists flatten the covenants so that there is very little discontinuity in redemptive history and thus still two “adoptions” in the new covenant. As much as I want to argue that this is consistent paedobaptism, I know that not all paedobaptists are alike. Some paedobaptists are new side revivalists, not that much different from RS.

    Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Chapter 20, Section 12:

    ” EVERYONE admits that it is a blessing to be born in a Christian, instead of in a heathen land. It is no less OBVIOUSLY true that it is a blessing to be within the pale of the Church and not cast out into the world. It is good to have the vows of God upon us…. It is good to be of the number of those to whom God has made a special promise of grace and salvation. It is a great evil to be ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.’ Therefore those parents sin grievously against the souls of their children who neglect to consecrate them to God in the ordinance of baptism. Do let the little ones have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life, even if they afterwards choose to erase them.”

    1. I am not “Reformed”. “Reformed” people believe in infant baptism
    2. But I do believe that Christ died only for the elect and that Christ’s death will save all the elect.
    3. Many who are “Reformed” do not agree with that doctrine, and most of those who do still don’t think it’s the gospel. They are snobs who think that what they know about election is the cherry on the top of their sundaes, that which sets them apart from other Christians.
    4. Most (not all) “Reformed baptists” I know are neonomians, legalists, big on law who have very little to say about grace for sinners after they are Christians.

    The “theology of glory” vs “theology of cross” can be an shortcut way of saying that there are some things we don’t like. But I deny that finding out that I was an Arminian who did not know or believe the gospel means I somehow have a “revivalist” theology of glory. My conversion was about being delivered to a different doctrine (Romans 6), not about something you could see about me or in me.

    If I were to say that I became internally infused with a new disposition and then became basically a non-sinner, well THAT is a theology of glory (something I don’t like).

    To say I was born a Christian and was never an Arminian, well, that is not something I know about, so i don’t need to put it in the “glory” or “cross” boxes….

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  48. Erik Charter: Richard – Are you a Reformed Baptist?

    RS: Zrim has forced me to call myself a covenantal and calvinistic Baptist.

    Erik Charter: Once one is Reformed I don’t understand how they don’t embrace covenant theology and infant baptism.

    RS: I do accept covenant theology, but I also think that in the New Covenant we don’t see anyone in the covenant but the elect (Jer 31:31ff; Heb 8). In the eternal covenant God the Father agreed to send the Son and the Son agreed to come to save the elect. All those in this covenant will know God the Father, so that leaves all that do not know God out of the covenant. Since there is not one shred of evidence in the NT of an infant being baptized and certainly not one command to do so, followers of the Regulative Principle don’t baptize them. Yes, I just threw a few provocative thoughts out there.

    Erik Charter: In my mind being Reformed means you embrace the idea that God is the key actor in salvation from beginning to end. I think Reformed Baptists are hedging on this point by not recognizing the validity of infant baptism.

    RS: To the contrary, at least speaking of myself, we do embrace the fact that God is the key Actor in salvation from beginning to end. God started with the eternal covenant and the only ones in the New Covenant are the elect. I would say that those who practice paedobaptism are hedging at this point because there is no evidenced in the NT of the continuing validity of infants being part of the New Covenant.

    Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

    Galatians 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

    RS: In the two passages above we see some important points. A true Jew (spiritual Jew) is one that is circumcised inwardly and is done by the Holy Spirit. Then we see that a person must belong to Christ to actually be a descendant of Abraham (child of faith).

    Erik Charter: I was essentially a Reformed (5 point Calvinist) Baptist for 20+ years…

    RS: Aaarrgghhh, they got to you. Sigh. Did they take you to a car wash that has those huge drying machines to dry you out and reverse your baptism?

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  49. Luke Walkup: Richard Smith:
    “I have been a pastor in the past, but I have not found a local church that could put up with strong Calvinism.”

    Luke Walkup: Strong Calvinism… yet denying infant baptism, simultaneously trying to claim to be covenantal, and holding to some confusedly undefined view of revival?

    RS: Well, tell you what, show me one place in the NT where an infant was baptized or where it is commanded that they are baptized and then we will talk. You could also show me where infants are said to be in the New Covenant. Until then, I will continue to think of you as confused. As for being confused on revival, if you desire for churches not to have the life of God in any greater degree than what they have now, then have at it.

    Luke Walkup: It seems to me that the adjective you were looking for was incoherent rather than strong. If my theory holds, then your use of the wrong adjective makes all the more sense.

    RS: Your theory will not hold any more water than you use to baptize with. Until people come to the realization that only the elect can possibly be in the New Covenant and share in those eternal promises of God, they will continue to be confused about many things. How can the doctrine of election be true if infants can be in the covenant and then get out? Maybe some of those FV guys are more consistent with their views than you would like for them to be. If you want consistency, then what does it mean for an infant to be in the New Covenant, considered to be converted until s/he proves otherwise, and then be able to get out? What does that do for the doctrines of regeneration and perseverance?

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  50. Zrim: Erik, see what I mean about the work it takes to push back on Richard’s semi-revivalism in favor of Reformation? But he’s got the lion’s share of American Protestantism on his side.

    RS: Zrim, you are very, very mistaken. I have virtually no share of American Protestantism on my side. I speak of the kind of revival that was practiced in the past by the Puritans and early Americans, which is to say it would be denied by the lion’s share of American Protestantism. I tell people that they must ask God for mercy and He is not obligated to give it to them. No, very few in our day believe that. You continue to mistake me for something else.

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  51. D. G. Hart: Richard, you are confusing God and experience. God’s grace is extraordinary. A person’s experience of it may be (and often is) ordinary.

    RS: I hear you and understand why you say that, but I guess I continue to be unclear on it. God’s grace is never ordinary and a person that realizes it as grace does not consider it to be ordinary. However, that is not the same thing as people going into various trances and have ecstatic experiences. When grace becomes ordinary, we have no longer understood grace. But if you are using that word in reference to secondary causes, that still does not make the grace of God ordinary nor does it mean that the effect of the grace is ordinary. It must means that God uses secondary causes to carry out His purposes.

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  52. John Yeazel: Richard, Does the caterpillar really turn into the butterfly by the Spirit’s work of regeneration?

    RS: No caterpillars are elect that I know of. However, regenerate sinners are created anew and ” in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:24). Those who had no spiritual capacity now have one. Those who hated God now love Him. Those who were children of the devil are now the children of God.

    John Yeazel: Does imputation take place before regeneration or after regeneration?

    RS: Logically after, but perhaps simultaneously.

    John Yeazel: Does imputation cause a hearing of the Gospel and faith?

    RS: No, a new heart and the work of the Spirit alone can do those things.

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  53. Richard Smith said: “I wouldn’t argue against a path of daily discipleship, but simply think that your method is dangerous when it assumes that children are converted rather than that they are not before regeneration. I don’t think that seeking God to revive people and His Church has bells and whistles along with fanfare, but instead it is done with broken hearts seeking the face of God. It expects to see evidence of regeneration that will result in hearts that love God in truth and that is the sign it looks for.”

    GW: You have misunderstood my position. I certainly do not assume that covenant children are “converted” before they are regenerated, nor have I ever advocated decisional regeneration (at least not since I became Reformed). Like all who are confessionally Reformed, I believe that regeneration precedes conversion, whether that regeneration occurs in the life of an elect person in childhood or later in life. What we confessionalists “assume” about the baptized covenant child in good standing in the church is the same thing that we assume about communicant church members in good standing: in the judgment of charity we assume that they are regenerate, and hence in a converted state, until such time as they manifest signs of an unregenerate nature. This approach is “dangerous” only if it neglects to also preach the gospel (along with its external call to repentance and faith) to those within the covenant community. But I would assert that, far from being “dangerous”, this covenantal approach actually takes seriously God’s covenant promise to be God to us and to our children after us in their generations (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14b; etc.). Furthermore, it is the approach the apostles took in their assessment of church members. For example, consider how Paul dealt with the troubled Corinthian church. On the one hand, in the judgment of charity (i.e., assuming the best about their spiritual state and taking their profession of faith at face value), he addressed the Corinthians as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2, ESV). On the other hand, due to all the troubles, divisions, carnality, etc., in that church, Paul also urged the members of the Corinthian church to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves…” (2 Cor. 13:5, ESV). Paul assumed the best about the Corinthians, but also issued appropriate pastoral warnings and a call to godly self-examination as circumstances required.

    Or consider the approach of the author of Hebrews to the Jewish Christians who were being tempted to go back to Judaism. On the one hand, in the judgment of charity he assumes the best about them and addresses them (in line with their Christian profession) as “holy brothers” who “share in a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1, ESV). On the other hand, he issues stern warnings against apostasy (Heb. 6, Heb. 10, etc.) and urges them to persevere in their profession of faith. I suggest we in the church today should follow the example of Paul, the author of Hebrews, and other biblical writers in what we “assume” about and how we address both adult communicant members and baptized covenant children in the church. Or would you likewise consider the approach of these biblical authors to be as “dangerous” as you allege my proposed approach to be?

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  54. Geoff Willour: Richard Smith said: “I wouldn’t argue against a path of daily discipleship, but simply think that your method is dangerous when it assumes that children are converted rather than that they are not before regeneration.

    GW: You have misunderstood my position.

    RS: Rats, did that again.

    GW: I certainly do not assume that covenant children are “converted” before they are regenerated, nor have I ever advocated decisional regeneration (at least not since I became Reformed). Like all who are confessionally Reformed, I believe that regeneration precedes conversion, whether that regeneration occurs in the life of an elect person in childhood or later in life. What we confessionalists “assume” about the baptized covenant child in good standing in the church is the same thing that we assume about communicant church members in good standing: in the judgment of charity we assume that they are regenerate, and hence in a converted state, until such time as they manifest signs of an unregenerate nature.

    RS: Well, maybe I was not totally mistaken. What are manifest signs of an unregenerate nature? I argue for manifest sighs of regenerate folks and people pile on me for that. Are the signs obvious to many others, just to the one that is unregenerate, or to elders…?

    GW: This approach is “dangerous” only if it neglects to also preach the gospel (along with its external call to repentance and faith) to those within the covenant community. But I would assert that, far from being “dangerous”, this covenantal approach actually takes seriously God’s covenant promise to be God to us and to our children after us in their generations (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14b; etc.).

    RS: Regarding Gen 17:7 , Galatians 3:29 says that “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” So a person must belong to Christ in order to be the seed of Abraham and therefore heirs of the promise. Abraham had a physical seed which was Israel, but now he has a spiritual seed. How do we know that our physical seed is in fact the spiritual seed of Abraham?

    Regarding Acts 2:39, the promise of the Holy Spirit is also made to all who are far off who repent and believe.

    Regarding I Cor 7:14b, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” So the unbelieving spouse is made holy by the other spouse. So do you consider unbelieving spouses to be in the covenant as well? In the covenant with Abraham it did not matter if one believed or not, what mattered was if one was connected to Abraham. So would you baptize unbelieving adult children of a new believer since one believing spouse makes the child holy and in the covenant? I am using that as an example. Perhaps, then, the issue in I Cor 7:14 is on whether the children are legitmate rather than they can be baptized.

    GW: Furthermore, it is the approach the apostles took in their assessment of church members. For example, consider how Paul dealt with the troubled Corinthian church. On the one hand, in the judgment of charity (i.e., assuming the best about their spiritual state and taking their profession of faith at face value), he addressed the Corinthians as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2, ESV). On the other hand, due to all the troubles, divisions, carnality, etc., in that church, Paul also urged the members of the Corinthian church to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves…” (2 Cor. 13:5, ESV). Paul assumed the best about the Corinthians, but also issued appropriate pastoral warnings and a call to godly self-examination as circumstances required.

    Or consider the approach of the author of Hebrews to the Jewish Christians who were being tempted to go back to Judaism. On the one hand, in the judgment of charity he assumes the best about them and addresses them (in line with their Christian profession) as “holy brothers” who “share in a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1, ESV). On the other hand, he issues stern warnings against apostasy (Heb. 6, Heb. 10, etc.) and urges them to persevere in their profession of faith. I suggest we in the church today should follow the example of Paul, the author of Hebrews, and other biblical writers in what we “assume” about and how we address both adult communicant members and baptized covenant children in the church. Or would you likewise consider the approach of these biblical authors to be as “dangerous” as you allege my proposed approach to be?

    RS: I would just say they were not talking about children. In writing a letter to a church one can certainly write to them as saints, but in the rest of the letter Paul set out other things very clearly. For example, I Cor 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” So while he addressed the church as a whole, he also got rather specific about who were not truly believers. So I guess we don’t see eye to eye on what Paul really did in his letter.

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  55. John Yeazel: Does imputation take place before regeneration or after regeneration?

    RS: Logically after, but perhaps simultaneously.

    John Yeazel: Does imputation cause a hearing of the Gospel and faith?

    RS: No, a new heart and the work of the Spirit alone can do those things.

    This is much more significant than you think it is Richard- but that is for another day; have to go

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  56. Richard, care to amend your suggestion that I have “forced you call yourself a covenantal and calvinistic Baptist”? I don’t recall saying much more than credo-baptism isn’t Reformed.

    And when I say semi-revivalism has the lion’s share of American Protestantism’s favor, I mean John Piper has more fans than Old Life has readers. Is that really controversial? When I read you, I simply don’t see much that American Protestants would take issue with. You privilege experiential faith over institutional religion, conversion before sacrament, and relationship before creed. You have previously called emphasis of Word and sacrament a function of spiritual laziness, something both American cult and culture would readily applaud.

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  57. Zrim: Richard, care to amend your suggestion that I have “forced you call yourself a covenantal and calvinistic Baptist”? I don’t recall saying much more than credo-baptism isn’t Reformed.

    RS: It was at the outhouse and the discussion there. The word “forced” was meant in good humor in one sense, but you did use the force of argumentation. That was not meant in a negative way, just that you had convinced me that it might be more appropriate to go in a different direction with what I called myself. At least it might be more correct in your view of history. In my view those who are Calvinistic and Baptist just extended the Reformation to cover the sacraments since Luther and Calvin did not reform those very much.

    Zrim: And when I say semi-revivalism has the lion’s share of American Protestantism’s favor, I mean John Piper has more fans than Old Life has readers. Is that really controversial?

    RS: Yes, but I am not a fan of Piper and I doubt that those who love him would love me. I abhor many of the things that go along with what he does. Yes, abhor.

    Zrim: When I read you, I simply don’t see much that American Protestants would take issue with. You privilege experiential faith over institutional religion, conversion before sacrament, and relationship before creed. You have previously called emphasis of Word and sacrament a function of spiritual laziness, something both American cult and culture would readily applaud.

    RS: Well, maybe you are not reading quite right. Most people hate the doctrine of election and of a definite atonement. I am also speaking of those who claim it in their creed. I still don’t think you understand what I am saying, but maybe that is meant to be. It is true that I would agree that one must have Christ work in them before they are converted (experience means gaining knowledge by practice). It is also true that I belief conversion is an act of God and that it happens apart from the sacraments. It is also true that people can have a creed they go by and use that to hide their empty hearts. However, you are taking my statement out of context about Word and sacrament. I said that if all a person did was to go to church on Sunday, affirm the creed, listen to a sermon, and take the sacrament, then that person is spiritually lazy. But again, “if that is all a person does” is a rather important part of the sentence.

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  58. “RS: Regarding Gen 17:7 , Galatians 3:29 says that “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” So a person must belong to Christ in order to be the seed of Abraham and therefore heirs of the promise. Abraham had a physical seed which was Israel, but now he has a spiritual seed. How do we know that our physical seed is in fact the spiritual seed of Abraham?”

    GW: OK, I’ve enjoyed this interaction, but this has got to be my last post for the day (since I’ve got other things to do with my time today). Brother Richard, I would argue that Gal. 3:29 was just as true in OT times as it is today in NT times. The fact that the true seed of Abraham is a spiritual seed (i.e., true believers united by faith to The Seed, Jesus Christ) is not just a New Testament reality. On the contrary, the true seed of Abraham have “always” been those who by grace come to belong to Christ/Messiah through God-given faith (as Paul teaches in Rom. 9:6-9 – where he says that even in OT times not all who were of the physical stock of Israel were true Israel). But this truth does not cancel out the equally biblical truth that God ordinarily chooses to use the covenant family in the administration of His covenant of grace, nor does it cancel the validity of applying the sign of the covenant to “all” children of professing believers, whether or not we can supposedly perceive signs of election and/or regeneration in them. Both Ishmael and Esau were covenant children who received validly-administered circumcision and were brought up in an environment of covenant nurture. But neither of them was a true child of Abraham (spiritually-speaking), for neither of them were children of the promise (Rom. 9:8). (They were “in the covenant” for a time in terms of its external administration, but not “in the covenant” in the ultimate sense of being spiritually and savingly united to Christ the Seed.) Yet that fact did not in any way nullify the validity of their circumcision. Likewise, in our new covenant situation, the fact that not every child born to professing believers is elect (and hence not all are “children of promise”) does not thereby invalidate the biblical practice of applying the sign of the covenant (in our case, baptism) to “all” the children of professing believers (just as the presence of Ishmaels and Esaus in the covenant community in OT times did not invalidate the practice of infant circumcision). “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29, ESV)

    For an excellent explanation and defense of this position against the Reformed Baptist view, I would recommend Herman Hanko’s book “We & Our Children: The Reformed Doctrine of Infant Baptism” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformed Free Publishing Association; 1981; 119 pages). In it Dr. Hanko reviews and critiques Reformed Baptist author David Kingdon’s book “Children of Abraham.” (Please note: Professor Hanko is Protestant Reformed, so as an OPCer I would not agree with or endorse every position he takes. Nevertheless I think he makes an excellent case for the historic Reformed practice of infant baptism; his book was a major influence to me during my seminary days in moving me from a baptist to a paedobaptist position on the issue of the proper subjects of baptism.)

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  59. Richard, re the “forced” comment, thanks. If my vote counts for much, I’d prefer you use your latest comment to characterize my influence in the future as having “convinced you that it might be more appropriate to go in a different direction with what you call yourself.” Call me a prig, but the F-word is just ugly.

    You also say this: “It is also true that I belief [sic] conversion is an act of God and that it happens apart from the sacraments. It is also true that people can have a creed they go by and use that to hide their empty hearts. However, you are taking my statement out of context about Word and sacrament. I said that if all a person did was to go to church on Sunday, affirm the creed, listen to a sermon, and take the sacrament, then that person is spiritually lazy. But again, ‘if that is all a person does” is a rather important part of the sentence.’”

    This is the sort of sentiment I mean when I say semi-revivalism enjoys wider favor. You pit real conversion and the sacraments, something modern spirituality affirms and historical confessionalism opposes—the latter sees conversion and sacrament going hand in hand. Are there extraordinary exceptions to the ordinary general rule? There always are. But a good rule of thumb is that exceptions do not make rules.

    You then describe the elements and activities that institutional Christianity esteems as the means of grace and say that anybody who participates in these things is spiritually lazy instead of spiritually vigorous. Again, a basic viewpoint that modern spirituality affirms and historical Protestant confessionalism opposes—the latter actually sees spiritual arrogance in anything that would undermine the ordinary means of grace God has ordained.

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  60. Zrim: Richard, re the “forced” comment, thanks. If my vote counts for much, I’d prefer you use your latest comment to characterize my influence in the future as having “convinced you that it might be more appropriate to go in a different direction with what you call yourself.” Call me a prig, but the F-word is just ugly.

    RS: Ugly words? Well, if you were as ugly as I am you wouldn’t be so concerned about ugly words.

    Zrim: You [RS] also say this: “It is also true that I belief [sic] conversion is an act of God and that it happens apart from the sacraments. It is also true that people can have a creed they go by and use that to hide their empty hearts. However, you are taking my statement out of context about Word and sacrament. I said that if all a person did was to go to church on Sunday, affirm the creed, listen to a sermon, and take the sacrament, then that person is spiritually lazy. But again, ‘if that is all a person does” is a rather important part of the sentence.’”

    Zrim: This is the sort of sentiment I mean when I say semi-revivalism enjoys wider favor. You pit real conversion and the sacraments, something modern spirituality affirms and historical confessionalism opposes—the latter sees conversion and sacrament going hand in hand. Are there extraordinary exceptions to the ordinary general rule? There always are. But a good rule of thumb is that exceptions do not make rules.

    RS: What do you mean by “conversion and sacrament going hand in hand” just above? Are you saying that the new birth comes to souls in baptism?

    Zrim: You then describe the elements and activities that institutional Christianity esteems as the means of grace and say that anybody who participates in these things is spiritually lazy instead of spiritually vigorous. Again, a basic viewpoint that modern spirituality affirms and historical Protestant confessionalism opposes—the latter actually sees spiritual arrogance in anything that would undermine the ordinary means of grace God has ordained.

    RS: I would protest at this point. I don’t think that Calvin and Luther would agree with you on this, and even more important the Scripture does not. We are to do far more that just do those things on Sunday. Christianity is a force of life in the soul and it comes out on more than Sunday. We are to be zealous and repent. Concerning Jesus John 2:17 tells us that “His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”” Romans 12:11 tells us to be “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Titus 2:14 tells us that Christ died “to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” My position on this does not undermine the means of grace, but it says that Christ demands more from His people. However, what He demands He provides.

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  61. Richard, all I mean is that Christian parents should believe God who marked their kids as members of his covenant at the font will bring the same along in covenantal nurture to respond in faith and then join us at the table. The point is that all the way through, faith and sacraments are necessarily tied to each other. Why is this such a problem? My guess is that as a conversionist you fear sacerdotalism. But to a confessionalist mind, conversionism and sacerdotalism are two sides of the same skewed coin.

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  62. Zrim: Richard, all I mean is that Christian parents should believe God who marked their kids as members of his covenant at the font will bring the same along in covenantal nurture to respond in faith and then join us at the table.

    RS: By why do you believe God marks the kids of believers as members of His covenant at the font? This is what I would see as inconsistent with the doctrine of election, definite atonement, the eternal covenant, and the New Covenant. John 1:12-13 is quite clear about the new birth in relation to a person’s blood line (family) or the will of anyone but that of God.

    Zrim: The point is that all the way through, faith and sacraments are necessarily tied to each other. Why is this such a problem?

    RS: Because it is not taught in the Bible.

    Zrim: My guess is that as a conversionist you fear sacerdotalism.

    RS: Fear for those involved in it.

    Zrim: But to a confessionalist mind, conversionism and sacerdotalism are two sides of the same skewed coin.

    RS: Very interesting, but I am not sure why the proclamation that you must be born again and God must do this by sovereign grace is still lumped with so many other folks into conversionism.

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  63. Richard, it’s not really a paedo-credo debate. What I am saying about the baptism of children can be said of adults as well. The point is that the sacraments are efficacious. They affirm the faith the Word previously creates. Belgic 33 says that “…our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge his good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our faith.”

    And so it’s not that “the proclamation that you must be born again and God must do this by sovereign grace” is a problem for confessional Calvinists. It’s the conversionist undermining of the sacraments to do what the confessions (expositions of the Bible) say they do. They nourish and sustain faith. Which makes your assertion that it’s not taught in the Bible that faith and sacraments are necessarily tied together astonishing, to say the very least. What could you possibly be talking about?

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  64. Zrim: Richard, it’s not really a paedo-credo debate. What I am saying about the baptism of children can be said of adults as well. The point is that the sacraments are efficacious. They affirm the faith the Word previously creates. Belgic 33 says that “…our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge his good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our faith.”

    And so it’s not that “the proclamation that you must be born again and God must do this by sovereign grace” is a problem for confessional Calvinists. It’s the conversionist undermining of the sacraments to do what the confessions (expositions of the Bible) say they do. They nourish and sustain faith. Which makes your assertion that it’s not taught in the Bible that faith and sacraments are necessarily tied together astonishing, to say the very least. What could you possibly be talking about?

    RS: Well, we could start with the Lord’s Supper. It is mentioned when Jesus instituted it and then in I Corinthians 10 and 11. Yet grace and the Gospel are mentioned in far more places than that while grace and the Gospel are not mentioned in I Cor 10 and 11. As far as faith and the sacraments being tied together, I was speaking of coming to faith while being baptized or while taking the Supper. It is in that sense that I don’t see faith and the sacraments as being tied together.

    What it seems to me is that the Sacraments came to be overly stressed in Roman Catholicism and that was one part that the Reformers did not deal with enough. They retained many of the teachings of Rome which are not consistent with the rest of the teachings of Protestantism. Rome taught that original sin was washed away in infant baptism and people really and truly received Christ in a literal way in taking the Sacrament. However, these things are not consistent with sovereign grace which is only given at the mere pleasure of God.

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  65. Richard, confessionalism ties the creation of faith to the Word and the affirmation of that previously created faith to the sacraments. It is not sacerdotal. When you say that the Reformers didn’t reform on the sacraments enough you’re showing your evangelical hand, such that when confessionalism points believers to their baptisms instead of their conversions for assurance you mistake it for unreformed sacerdotalism. But while they certainly don’t save, the sacraments just as certainly affirm. They point the sinner to Christ outside him. Pointing to one’s conversion within only drives the sinner to himself. You keep invoking Luther against confessional Protestantism (!), but on this point Luther was all about Christ outside and would have nothing of the introspective impulse of conversionism.

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  66. Zrim: Richard, confessionalism ties the creation of faith to the Word and the affirmation of that previously created faith to the sacraments. It is not sacerdotal. When you say that the Reformers didn’t reform on the sacraments enough you’re showing your evangelical hand, such that when confessionalism points believers to their baptisms instead of their conversions for assurance you mistake it for unreformed sacerdotalism.

    RS: But my primary argument is that the Bible does not point anyone to look back to their baptism. I would also say one should not point people to their conversions for assurance, but instead to Christ and what He has done and what He is doing.

    Zrim: But while they certainly don’t save, the sacraments just as certainly affirm. They point the sinner to Christ outside him.

    RS: But do you have Jesus or Paul doing this? Where did that teaching originate?

    Zrim: Pointing to one’s conversion within only drives the sinner to himself.

    RS: But I don’t say one should do that.

    Zrim: You keep invoking Luther against confessional Protestantism (!), but on this point Luther was all about Christ outside and would have nothing of the introspective impulse of conversionism.

    RS: I wouldn’t be quite so sure about that. Does Christ give us understanding of the Scriptures from the outside or from the inside?

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  67. “RS: But my primary argument is that the Bible does not point anyone to look back to their baptism. I would also say one should not point people to their conversions for assurance, but instead to Christ and what He has done and what He is doing.”

    GW: The main thrust of Zrim’s point was that the sacraments (like the Word which they outwardly signify and seal) point us away from themselves to the objective work of Christ as the basis for our assurance. Word and sacrament point the sinner to Christ and His work outside of us for assurance. Conversionism points sinners inward to their personal experience of conversion. (Often conversionists question the validity of one’s conversion or spiritual state if one has not had a “dramatic” enough personal conversion experience).

    While I know there are nuances amongst our Baptist brethren in how they understand the meaning of baptism, it seems to me that ultimately it all boils down to this: For Baptists baptism means “I have decided to follow Jesus.” For confessional Paedobaptists baptism means “By His grace God has washed me clean from sin through the blood of Christ and renewed me by His Holy Spirit.” For Baptists baptism is what I do for God (my public confession of faith in Christ before the church). For confessional Paedobaptists baptism is an outward sign and seal, not primarily of my faith, but of what God has done for us in Christ. The Baptist view fits in well with Arminianism (though obviously not all Baptists are Arminian), since one must decide to “follow Chist in the waters of baptism” before one can receive the “ordinance” of baptism and be joined to the church. On the other hand, the confessional Paedobaptist view fits in well with Calvinism, since the sign of baptism is applied to infants who are completely helpless, totally dependent, and who are incapable of deciding for Christ (which is a wonderful picture of what we are all like before sovereign grace renews us: all of us are spiritually helpless and dead in sin and thus incapable of deciding for Christ before God in sovereign grace regenerates us.)

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  68. geoff: For Baptists baptism means “I have decided to follow Jesus.” For confessional Paedobaptists baptism means “By His grace God has washed me clean from sin through the blood of Christ and renewed me by His Holy Spirit.”

    mark: I notice that you still have a “me” in the second sentence of your either/or. I think a lot of paedobaptists would disagree that water baptism says anything about “me” or any individual. If it’s an “objective” witness to the righteousness, the death of Christ, why would you need to go beyond that to speculate about if Christ’s death was for the person being watered? Why not simply saying that it’s a sign that Christ died for “us”, even if the person being watered is not part of the “us”?Even if the person’s name has been written by God in the book of “covenantal election”, why speculate about if that person was really one for whom justice demands that they be justified because Christ died for them in particular. Circumcision wasn’t a sign that all who were circumcised were to be forgiven of their sins and given eternal life. So when you say “me”, you fall into the revivalist idea that what the church does is about individual humans instead of only about God’s work. Maybe you aren’t Reformed enough yet.

    Sarcasm alert.

    geoff: For Baptists baptism is what I do for God (my public confession of faith in Christ before the church). For confessional Paedobaptists baptism is an outward sign and seal, not primarily of my faith, but of what God has done for us in Christ.

    mark: The “not primarily” is kinda of having your cake and also eating it. Who’s the us? If not all who are watered as infants, then who? if the us includes some who are not watered as infants, then who? Is the us all humans? Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

    Geoff: The Baptist view fits in well with Arminianism (though obviously not all Baptists are Arminian), since one must decide to “follow Chist in the waters of baptism” before one can receive the “ordinance” of baptism and be joined to the church. On the other hand, the confessional Paedobaptist view fits in well with Calvinism, since the sign of baptism is applied to infants who are completely helpless,

    mark: I suppose the best way to extend this logic is to say that no individual should decide which denomination or congregation they want to be part of, so each individual should simply be assigned to a particular “church” and not allowed to either decide to join it or to leave it. Better yet would be a national Constantinian church where the entire idea of individual deciding would be left out, because any concession to individual conscience “fits in well” with free will and the idea of human autonomy.
    When you tell people there is ordinarily no salvation outside of the church, then you need to tell people what church “ordinarily” is.

    As for the idea of watering infants who are born to at least one believing parent, that surely fits in well with the idea of an universal atonement that’s potentially ineffectual. If there are some who are covenantally elect but not decretally elect, perhaps the decree is based on God causing some of the covenantally elect to decide to unite themselves to Christ’s death so that it will work for them. And the idea of “at least one believing parent” puts you back into the old revivalist mode of deciding who is a believer by if they attend church enough, so it would be better if you did not limit the watering only to those with believing parents, but instead watered all children of any parents who received the trinitarian ritual from Roman Catholic and/or Arminian churches.

    You see, this is all about deciding who the “us” is. And one more thing, I would be careful in watering pagan adults who come from parents without trinitarian baptism. Because you see, such a “baptism” is at best a plan B, an inferior ceremony, since it’s now too late for the ritual to show the helplessness of the person watered, and you might fall into the idea that adult baptism is a different kind of baptism than infant baptism, and that would be bad.

    t

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  69. Geoff Willour: The main thrust of Zrim’s point was that the sacraments (like the Word which they outwardly signify and seal) point us away from themselves to the objective work of Christ as the basis for our assurance. Word and sacrament point the sinner to Christ and His work outside of us for assurance. Conversionism points sinners inward to their personal experience of conversion. (Often conversionists question the validity of one’s conversion or spiritual state if one has not had a “dramatic” enough personal conversion experience).

    RS: But I don’t think this is correct, though it may work that way for some. I note that you use “Word and Sacrament” language and with Calvin I don’t think there is power in the Sacrament, but in the preached Word that goes along with it. However, let us not forget the Holy Spirit in this as well. I would argue that Word and Spirit is more important than Word and Sacrament. If one things of Word and Spirit, even when one takes the Sacrament, then one has to look beyond what just happened outside a person in history. One actually eats the break and drinks the contents of the cup and they go to the inner person. What Christ did has to be applied to my inner man by the Spirit as I cannot apply it myself. So surely it is not totally wrong to just accept the facts of history (what Christ did outside of me) and ask if He has made me a new creation and if He has ask that I may receive more of Christ by faith, though Eph 3:16ff instructs us that the Spirit must strengthen our inner man so that we may receive Christ by faith.

    GW: While I know there are nuances amongst our Baptist brethren in how they understand the meaning of baptism, it seems to me that ultimately it all boils down to this: For Baptists baptism means “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

    RS: I don’t think this is accurate with those who are more calvinistic. For example, my view of baptism is that it is a covenant concept (New Covenant).

    GW: For confessional Paedobaptists baptism means “By His grace God has washed me clean from sin through the blood of Christ and renewed me by His Holy Spirit.”

    RS: Is this true of infants as well?

    GW: For Baptists baptism is what I do for God (my public confession of faith in Christ before the church).

    RS: It may be a public profession before God, but it is nothing one does for God. I might add that with your group baptisms are done in public as well.

    GW: For confessional Paedobaptists baptism is an outward sign and seal, not primarily of my faith, but of what God has done for us in Christ.

    RS: But where does faith come from? For calvinistic Baptists part of what Christ has done is to purchase the work of the Spirit who regenerates and gives faith as a gift.

    GW: The Baptist view fits in well with Arminianism (though obviously not all Baptists are Arminian), since one must decide to “follow Chist in the waters of baptism” before one can receive the “ordinance” of baptism and be joined to the church.

    RS: But this does get at the meaning of why people are baptized in one sense. It is not a matter of whether a person has decided to follow Christ as such, but whether God has commanded that person to be baptized or not. Also involved is the definition of a church and of what it means to be in Christ. I would say that a church is the body of Christ, but that one has to be in union with Christ in order to be in Christ. I would also say that if one is in Christ, one cannot be taken out of Christ. On the other hand, it appears that non-Baptists do believe that one can be in a church and can be taken out of Christ. In that sense, then, your view sounds more like Arminianism to me. I would also say that this has some influence on the view of the atonement. Your view sounds like all are covered in Christ until they decide to leave the covenant. Again, that sounds like Arminianism.

    GW: On the other hand, the confessional Paedobaptist view fits in well with Calvinism, since the sign of baptism is applied to infants who are completely helpless, totally dependent, and who are incapable of deciding for Christ (which is a wonderful picture of what we are all like before sovereign grace renews us: all of us are spiritually helpless and dead in sin and thus incapable of deciding for Christ before God in sovereign grace regenerates us.)

    RS: True enough that before one can believe one is spiritually helpless and dead in sin. But the only NT examples we know of (other than the one of John the Baptist) are those who are born from above and have a believing heart so that they believe. In His sovereign grace God makes them alive because they have been purchased by Christ, so baptism reflects that. But does your view mean that those receiving baptism have been purchaed by Christ? Matthew 28 commands that disciples be baptized. While it cannot be that infants are disciples, disciples are commanded to be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Surely that implies that God now owns the person baptized, that person has His name upon him or her, has been purchased by Christ, and that the Spirit has regenerated the person and dwells in him or her. That is a picture of sovereign grace and it is what some Baptists like myself believe. I am not convinced that your view is in accordance with Matthew 28.

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  70. Richard Smith:
    Well, tell you what, show me one place in the NT where an infant was baptized or where it is commanded that they are baptized and then we will talk.

    My Response:
    Do you observe the Lord’s Day? Do you hold services on the seventh day of the week or the first day of the week? What verse in the Bible explicitly teaches that the Sabbath was changed from the seventh day to the first day of the week?

    Show me one place in the NT where it is commanded that we are to worship on Sunday now instead of on the Jewish Sabbath?

    Or what about the trinity? Where is the trinity explicitly explained in the way that we teach it?

    The fact is, in order to teach these doctrines, you have to use hermeneutics and actually do a little think work. You have to put 2 and 2 together. The same is true with infant baptism. Scripture reveals it, however, you try to deny the teaching like so many deny other sound teaching. You like to muddy the waters and say, “did God really say that?” just because it wasn’t spelled out in mind-numbingly exact pronouncement.

    Given that you apparently spend little time on anything in life but the Old Life Theological Society blog and given that you already consider yourself “informed” on baptism, I’ll not bore you with the covenantal promise at pentecost being for the believers there and for their children, or with Christ’s instruction for the little children not to be hindered from coming to him, or with Paul’s own parallel between the old sign of the covenant in circumcision (which was done when an infant was eight days old) and the new sign of the covenant that is baptism, or with the baptism of households, or with the holiness of the covenant child even when only one parent believes. After all, you would just type up mountains of words in response to such things and I’d hate to waste your time.

    Ultimately, a basic grasp on hermeneutics is needed on the issue of baptism so these things are likely a scattered disarray of verses to the Baptist, just as 2 and 2 are scattered to a child’s mind until the child gains a better grasp of arithmetic.

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  71. Richard, you ask whether we have Jesus employing the sacraments to point the sinner away from himself and to Jesus. I’m puzzled. Isn’t that the whole point of the upper room institution of the Supper?

    You also want to say that Word and Spirit is the better taxonomy over Word and sacrament. But Reformed confessionalism already understands that the Spirit is involved in both Word and sacrament (using both as the means by which sinners are pointed to Christ).

    So it seems to me that conversionism is a fairly unmediated spirituality, which again, is something that resonates well with modern sensibilities that want persons to be freed from the restrictions and trappings of institutions, creeds, confessions, authority, offices, and sacraments. But from a confessionalist point of view, these are all actually benefits of God’s ordination because they help to prop up the weaknesses and failings of sinful creatures. Again, Belgic 33: “We believe that our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge his good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our faith.”

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  72. Of course, if there had been no “national church”, you might have decided on your own to join an OP church but then we wouldn’t have the Westminster Confession or the Synod of Dordt:

    SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 9. This purpose, proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforeward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell; so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there never may be wanting a Church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of christ;
    which will stedfastly love and faithfully serve Him as its Savior (who, as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down His life for them upon the cross); and which will celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.

    REJECTION OF ERRORS
    The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:

    SECOND HEAD: PARAGRAPH 2. Who teach: That it was not the purpose of the death of Christ that He should confirm the new covenant of grace through His blood, but only that He should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish with man such a COVENANT as He might please,
    whether of grace or of works.

    For this is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant that is a new covenant …” and that “it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. (Heb 7:22; 9:15, 17).”

    SECOND HEAD: PARAGRAPH 4. Who teach: That the new covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by faith, in as much as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved,
    but in the fact that God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of faith, regards faith itself and the OBEDIENCE OF FAITH, ALTHOUGH IMPERFECT, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace.

    For these contradict the Scriptures, being: “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Rom 3:24-25).” And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole Church.

    mcmark: I love antithesis. It shines some clarity on catholic consensus.

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  73. Dordt is an interesting “development” in the Western tradition.

    Lee Gatiss, For Us and Our Salvtion, Latimer, 2012, p77–“The Synod of Dordt’s rejection of Arminianism was. we might say, predestined, because straightforwardly Arminian delegates were not permitted to vote, although they were allowed to speak and their views had a full hearing.”

    Vatican 2 on universal atonement
    Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 1965,
    1:22—“By his incarnation the Son of God has UNITED Himself in some fashion with every man….All this holds true not only for Christians but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For since Christ died for all men (Romans 8:32), we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God OFFERS to man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”

    (Genke and Gumerlock), Gottschalk, Tome to Gislemar, in reference to II Peter 2:1 —“Christ bought them by the sacrament of baptism, but did not suffer the cross, undergo death, or shed his blood for them.”

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  74. Richard Smith,

    You write;” But my primary argument is that the Bible does not point anyone to look back to their baptism.”

    Romans 6:3-4

    “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

    So from this you get that baptism is a purely symbolic act that we are not directed to look back to? I guess you totally disagree with Calvin’s children catechism?


    Calvin’s children’s catechism, dating from 1538-9, he writes the following questions and answers:

    “My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?

    Yes, my father.

    How is this known to you?

    Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  75. Sean,

    I’m not sure if “Geneva” even believes Calvin on the sacraments anymore. See Dr. David Ander’s post “How John Calvin Made me Catholic” over at Called to Communion. Plus, I’m not sure what coming home would mean. Which denomination is home?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  76. Since there is no difference between one covenant and another, and no difference between law and gospel, I wonder why water should be applied only to infants with one believing parent. Why not place the covenantal claim on all upon Constantine rules. Doug Wilson explains:

    “When many individuals in a culture have received the mark of baptism, the presence of this obligation works its way out into the cultural assumptions held in common by all. And this is how a culture can come to be very wicked, and yet (to use O Conner’s phrase) Christ-haunted. Oddly, many unbelivevers have a better sense of this than we do. They know that a claim of Christ rests on them–they feel the weight of it. They want to ignore this claim, but it still presses on them.” Doug Wilson, Mother Kirk, Canon Prsss, Idaho, p98)

    Transformation and preservation of culture by “common guilt”.

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  77. Jeremy Tate: Richard Smith, You write;” But my primary argument is that the Bible does not point anyone to look back to their baptism.”

    JT: Romans 6:3-4

    “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

    RS: The point of Romans 6:3-4 is not for people to look back at their water baptism and so know that they are saved. Aside from whether this is water or Spirit baptism, it is speaking in newness of life.

    JT: So from this you get that baptism is a purely symbolic act that we are not directed to look back to? I guess you totally disagree with Calvin’s children catechism?

    …Calvin’s children’s catechism, dating from 1538-9, he writes the following questions and answers:

    “My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?
    Yes, my father.

    How is this known to you?
    Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    RS: Yes, I strongly disagree with that.
    Acts 8:13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.”

    Later on, however, : Acts 8:23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

    RS: Simon was also baptized but was not a converted man. Being baptized in water does not mean that a person is converted to Christ, but only from dryness to wetness.

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  78. Richard, you’re doing an awful lot to reduce the efficacy of baptism. This isn’t uncommon for credo-baptists, but it is odd for those who raise baptism to such heights and identify themselves sacramentally. If baptism is sufficient to divide–and I agree it is–one would think it does more than convert one from dry to wet. Heavens to Murgatroyd.

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  79. “Aside from whether this is water or Spirit baptism, it is speaking in newness of life.”

    Romans 6: 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, JUST AS Christ WAS raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we TOO would walk in newness of life.
    5 For if we have been united with him in a death LIKE HIS, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self WAS crucified with him in order that the body of sin would be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who HAS DIED HAS BEEN JUSTIFIED from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that CHRIST, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over HIM 10 For the death HE died HE died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must CONSIDER yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

    The catholic tradition would say BOTH water and Spirit, but the tradition is wrong. The baptism of Romans 6 is NEITHER by the Spirit, or with the Spirit, or with water. God the Father is the one counts the elect to be legally united to Christ’s death. As Paul says in the last chapter of Romans, some of you were “in Christ” before I was.

    So the question becomes “what is newness of life”? And the answer is not regeneration. I know this because understanding Romans 6 depends on understanding Christ’s death. Christ’s death was not a regeneration. Christ ‘s death was a satisfaction to law (for imputed sins) so that Christ, having died once, is now justified, free from the accusations of the law. If those who are justified are joined to Christ’s death, they are joined to that death which frees them from guilt, and it is freedom from the accusations of the law which Romans 6:14 defines as the reason ‘sin shall not have dominion over you.”

    Our death is a “death like his”. What was his death like? It was not a future daily dying, which becomes part of the basis of. present justification. Christ’s death was a full and complete satisfaction of the law, which means that the law is NOT a covenant of “works of faith” for those who united to Christ’s death. Works of any kind, before or after justification, are excluded as that which gives us “newness of life”.

    Even though there is no water in Romans 6, water is a sign of law curse, legal judgment, which points to “baptism” into Christ’s death. The death Christ died He died to sin.

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  80. Richard,

    If you don’t mind my asking, what perspective are you coming from? You have stated that you “strongly disagree” with Calvin’s sacramental theology, do you still consider yourself Reformed? In what sense?

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  81. Zrim: Richard, you’re doing an awful lot to reduce the efficacy of baptism.

    RS: No, I am just making an effort to keep others from thinking of it as efficacious. The Bible does not speak of baptism of having the efficacy that so many say. That type of thinking is a holdover from Rome and its effort to give salvation to those it has a hold on. They alone can baptize you and take away your original sin. They alone can give you the grace of Christ to dwell in you. They alone can perform last rites in an effort to wash away sin since your last confession. They alone can do masses for you after you die to deliver you from Purgatory. It ends up being salvation by Roman Catholicism alone. Instead, it is by Christ alone and His grace alone.

    Zrim: This isn’t uncommon for credo-baptists, but it is odd for those who raise baptism to such heights and identify themselves sacramentally.

    RS: The identification of one as a Baptist can mean that one believe that Christ alone saves His elect and only the elect have the right to be baptized in the New Covenant. So it is more of a proclamation as to election and who is to receive the sign than anything else.

    Zrim: If baptism is sufficient to divide–and I agree it is–one would think it does more than convert one from dry to wet. Heavens to Murgatroyd.

    RS: What does baptism have the efficacy to do? After all, Paul thanked God that he had not baptized but a certain few. If baptism has a lot of efficacy to it, would Paul have thanked God that he had not baptized but a very few? Then he specifically says that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the Gospel. Baptism has no part of the Gospel and the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. So I simply don’t see the efficacy of baptism in these things.

    I Cor 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
    15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.
    16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
    17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
    18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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  82. Jeremy T: Richard, If you don’t mind my asking, what perspective are you coming from? You have stated that you “strongly disagree” with Calvin’s sacramental theology, do you still consider yourself Reformed? In what sense?

    RS: I am a covenantal and calvinistic Baptist, which still does not get at the whole issue. I do strongly disagree with the quote that you gave from Calvin because the quote is not biblical. Many people are baptized and are not converted, so being baptized does not mean a person is converted. I am Reformed in the sense that I follow the Reformers in the five sola’s and their soteriology. I simply don’t think that Calvin and Luther reformed the sacraments, but instead they more or less accepted those from Rome. Indeed there was change, but not a real reform from that. But the Luther of Bondage of the Will declared the glory of a free and sovereign grace that cannot be earned on the basis of any performance or deed. It is a grace that cannot be moved apart from God Himself. The Bible speaks much of grace and very little of the Sacraments. So I would argue that I emphasize the grace of the one and only sovereign God and speak little of the sacraments like the Bible does.

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  83. Richard,

    Quite frankly I have to go back to Calvin every time we teach the sacraments because it hasn’t been done better since. Richard, you realize the more you remove the form from the substance you sound gnostic. We only propound two sacraments anyway, which gives you the proportion of word to sacrament you are wanting to emphasize. We get this done by virtue of few in number not little in efficacy. And yes, I know what the RCer’s are claiming in baptism and eucharist.

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  84. RS: The identification of one as a Baptist can mean that one believe that Christ alone saves His elect and only the elect have the right to be baptized in the New Covenant. So it is more of a proclamation as to election and who is to receive the sign than anything else.

    John Y: So who decides if one is really elect and can receive baptism? And what are the conditions of being baptized, ie., both belief in what Christ did and the evidences that Jonathan Edwards articulated in his writings (which Richard thinks are biblically accurate)? How does one avoid conditionalism in Richard’s view?

    This is why I lean towards McMarks interpretion of Romans chapter 6 (neither water or spirit baptism but God imputing the elect into the death and resurrection of Christ)- it puts to death both Roman Catholocism and Richard’s Edwardianism.

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  85. sean: Richard, Quite frankly I have to go back to Calvin every time we teach the sacraments because it hasn’t been done better since. Richard, you realize the more you remove the form from the substance you sound gnostic.

    RS: I understand it may appear that way, but I don’t think it is that way in reality. I simply don’t see the Scripture teaching that the Sacraments are efficacious in and of themselves, but as opposed to that Paul seemed to distance himself from baptism when he asserted that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the Gospel. So that tells me that for Paul the preached Gospel is what God uses to bring people to Christ and he was distancing himself from baptism in terms of efficacy. I say that because of the text itself: I Cor 1: 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

    RS: It is the word of the cross that is the power of God unto salvation and I cannot see anything else that adds to or contributes to salvation.

    Sean: We only propound two sacraments anyway, which gives you the proportion of word to sacrament you are wanting to emphasize. We get this done by virtue of few in number not little in efficacy. And yes, I know what the RCer’s are claiming in baptism and eucharist.

    RS: If you claim an efficacy in baptism, then what efficaciousness are you claming for it? If it does not wash away sin, then what does it do? If it does not guarantee salvation, then what does the baptism do in terms of efficacy?

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  86. John Yeazel: So who decides if one is really elect and can receive baptism? And what are the conditions of being baptized, ie., both belief in what Christ did and the evidences that Jonathan Edwards articulated in his writings (which Richard thinks are biblically accurate)? How does one avoid conditionalism in Richard’s view?

    RS: By reading the Bible and striving to follow it. If God dwells in sinners, which is part of the New Covenant, then there is evidence of Himself in them. The conditionalism you fear is not subjectivism, but instead looking for the obective marks of God in the soul. When a believer truly loves, that is God in the soul being manifested. If that sounds weird to you, read I John 4. The one who truly loves abides in God and God abides in him. The whole book of I John was written (5:13) so that “these things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” The book of I John gives us a lot of information about what type of things are evidence if a person has eternal life or not. A body that has life has evidence of life, so a soul that has eternal life (Christ Himself and the Spirit of Christ working) also has evidence of that eternal life. The Bible gives it. You can call them conditions if you want, but I would simply look at them as evidences of the life of God in the soul.

    7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
    8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
    9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
    10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
    14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
    15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
    16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
    17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

    John Y: This is why I lean towards McMarks interpretion of Romans chapter 6 (neither water or spirit baptism but God imputing the elect into the death and resurrection of Christ)- it puts to death both Roman Catholocism and Richard’s Edwardianism.

    RS: You are hanging a lot on one interpretation of one passage.

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  87. Berkhof, p. 452, Systematic Theology:

    “It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.”

    ” Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation- a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”

    God’s imputing Christ’s righteousness to us causes a “circumcised heart and the work of the Spirit. Faith is the result of Christ’s indwelling which happens at the same time as the Spirits indwelling. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness has logical priority to the Spirit’s indwelling. Galatians chapter 4 tells us that because you are sons (imputation of righteousness) you receive the gift of the Spirit. 2 Peter 1:1- To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, ie., faith as a result of the imputation. Romans 8:10- But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (logical priority of the imputed righteousness). It is because of the imputed righteousness that the Spirit gives life. And, as McMark stated, the life and newness of life is because we are not under the curse of the Law anymore- guilt for our sin and disobedience is done away with for the elect (past, present and future sins). Now this is really good news!! Not the conditional good news of Richard and Roman Catholocism.

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  88. Richard, your denial of the efficacy of the sacraments reads like some form or another of memorialism.

    You asked: “If you claim an efficacy in baptism, then what efficaciousness are you claiming for it? If it does not wash away sin, then what does it do? If it does not guarantee salvation, then what does the baptism do in terms of efficacy?”

    Belgic 34 says, in part:

    In this way he signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.
    This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharoah, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.

    So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies– namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works.

    So baptism does wash away sin, insofar as it visibly signifies what is invisibly done spiritually by the Spirit. And in so doing, while it certainly doesn’t save, it fills believers with all comfort and true assurance. This is not unreformed ex opere operato. This is real presence, which is to say the Spirit is at work in the administration of the sacraments, which is to say truly present, edifying his people by using the visible signs and seals to point us to the work of Christ.

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  89. You still did not answer my question of who decides if one is elect and can receive baptism Richard. And how does one go about decided if someone is really elect or not?

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  90. was typing fast with fangs and claws. I am still reeling over the fact that Richard was questioning whether I was really converted or not according to the evidences that he deems appropriate. So, if you would’nt baptize me Richard could I go to McMarks church and have that church baptize me.

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  91. No wonder no one can stomach your “strong” Calvinism Richard- you take away the good news of the Gospel with your doctrine of the Holy Spirit and sanctification.

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  92. John Yeazel wrote: “God’s imputing Christ’s righteousness to us causes a “circumcised heart and the work of the Spirit. Faith is the result of Christ’s indwelling which happens at the same time as the Spirits indwelling. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness has logical priority to the Spirit’s indwelling. Galatians chapter 4 tells us that because you are sons (imputation of righteousness) you receive the gift of the Spirit.”

    GW: John, help me out here. No doubt you would agree that we are justified by (the instrumental means of) faith in Christ alone, right? That is to say, faith in Jesus Christ is the instrumental means by which God legally imputes (credits to our account) the perfect righteousness of Christ (that righteousness which serves as the legal ground and basis of our justification and hence our title to heaven). Would you not agree that this justifying faith is the result, not the cause, of being regenerated by the Holy Spirit (or, to use OT language, being “circumcised in heart”)? Would you not agree that first we (who in ourselves are spiritually dead in sin) must first be born again (regenerated, spiritually resurrected, circumcised in heart) before we can savingly believe upon Christ for justification? And if you deny this and instead believe that the logical order is faith > justification > regeneration/ circumcision of heart, then do you not realize this is an Arminian view, not a Reformed one?

    Please forgive me if I’ve misread or misunderstood your comments. Clarification is appreciated.

    Regards,

    Geoff W.

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  93. Richard says: “Since there is not one shred of evidence in the NT of an infant being baptized and certainly not one command to do so, followers of the Regulative Principle don’t baptize them. Yes, I just threw a few provocative thoughts out there.”

    Erik: If baptism replaces circumcision I think that the NT writers would have made it explicit if believers were not supposed to baptize their children.

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  94. John Y: Berkhof, p. 452, Systematic Theology:
    “It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.”

    ” Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation- a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”

    John Y: God’s imputing Christ’s righteousness to us causes a “circumcised heart and the work of the Spirit. Faith is the result of Christ’s indwelling which happens at the same time as the Spirits indwelling. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness has logical priority to the Spirit’s indwelling.

    RS: Quoting from Monergism.com: “In the Reformed camp, the ordo salutis is 1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30). In other words, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does not cause a a circumcised heart. “Election is the superstructure of our ordo salutis, but not itself the application of redemption. Regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit which brings us into a living union with Christ, has a causal priority over the other aspects of the process of salvation.”

    John Y: Galatians chapter 4 tells us that because you are sons (imputation of righteousness) you receive the gift of the Spirit. 2 Peter 1:1- To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, ie., faith as a result of the imputation. Romans 8:10- But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (logical priority of the imputed righteousness). It is because of the imputed righteousness that the Spirit gives life. And, as McMark stated, the life and newness of life is because we are not under the curse of the Law anymore- guilt for our sin and disobedience is done away with for the elect (past, present and future sins). Now this is really good news!! Not the conditional good news of Richard and Roman Catholocism.

    RS: John Y, if you cannot see the difference between what I am saying and Roman Catholicism, I am not sure how to respond to you very well other than to say it is very sad. Believe it or not, what I am saying to you in this context is in line with the history of Reformed theology. Read carefully the Westminster Larger Catechism and notice the order in it.

    Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
    A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.[269]

    Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
    A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace,[270] whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband;[271] which is done in their effectual calling.[272]

    RS: Note that the elect have a spiritual and mystical union with Christ wherein they are really and inseparably joined to Christ. When is this done? It is done in their effectual calling.

    Q. 67. What is effectual calling?
    A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace,[273] whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto)[274] he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit;[275] savingly enlightening their minds,[276] renewing and powerfully determining their wills,[277] so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.[278]

    RS: Effectual calling and regeneration are at the very least tied together. But remember, union with Christ happens (according to the WLC) in effectual calling.

    Q. 68. Are the elect only effectually called?
    A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called:[279] although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word,[280] and have some common operations of the Spirit;[281] who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.[282]

    Q. 69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
    A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification,[283] adoption,[284] sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.[285]

    Q. 70. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners,[286] in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight;[287] not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them,[288] but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them,[289] and received by faith alone.[290]

    RS: Notice the order of the WLC. It is effectual calling/regeneration and then union with Christ. Then there is justification.

    Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?
    A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified;[291] yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son,[292] imputing his righteousness to them,[293] and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith,[294] which also is his gift,[295] their justification is to them of free grace.[296]

    Q. 72. What is justifying faith?
    A. Justifying faith is a saving grace,[297] wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit[298] and Word of God,[299] whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition,[300] not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel,[301] but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin,[302] and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.[303]

    RS: A soul cannot be united to Christ apart from faith and yet regeneration must happen for faith to occur. But there is no imputation of the righteousness of Christ to anyone that is not regenerate and who is not united to Christ. The WLC is my basic position. It is not the position of Rome.

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  95. Zrim: So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies– namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works.

    So baptism does wash away sin, insofar as it visibly signifies what is invisibly done spiritually by the Spirit. And in so doing, while it certainly doesn’t save, it fills believers with all comfort and true assurance. This is not unreformed ex opere operato. This is real presence, which is to say the Spirit is at work in the administration of the sacraments, which is to say truly present, edifying his people by using the visible signs and seals to point us to the work of Christ.

    RS: In other words, God responds to what is being done by human hands and gives grace when human hands carry out the application of water. Sorry, but I cannot see that as pure grace which does not respond to what human beings do, but instead is God acting of Himself and for Himself.

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  96. John Yeazel: You still did not answer my question of who decides if one is elect and can receive baptism Richard. And how does one go about decided if someone is really elect or not?

    RS: Since baptism is something a church should do to true believers (the command of Jesus in Matthew 28 was to baptize disciples), a person would certainly need to be convinced himself and then have a credible profession and confession to the elders in the church.

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  97. John Yeazel: was typing fast with fangs and claws. I am still reeling over the fact that Richard was questioning whether I was really converted or not according to the evidences that he deems appropriate. So, if you would’nt baptize me Richard could I go to McMarks church and have that church baptize me.

    RS: I didn’t realize that I was questioning your conversion. Unless a person is clearly and obviously denying the Gospel of grace alone, I wouldn’t think that would be appropriate in an internet situation. I was attempting to speak in an objective way, and upon going back, I still cannot see where I questioned your conversion in a direct way.

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  98. John Yeazel: No wonder no one can stomach your “strong” Calvinism Richard- you take away the good news of the Gospel with your doctrine of the Holy Spirit and sanctification.

    RS: Sorry you see it that way. Christ purchased the Holy Spirit for His people and sanctification is His gift to His people. Holiness is not so much as against His people, but it is for them that they may share in His holiness. Holiness is a great and glorious thing by which the glory of God shines through His people.

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  99. Erik Charter: Richard says: “Since there is not one shred of evidence in the NT of an infant being baptized and certainly not one command to do so, followers of the Regulative Principle don’t baptize them. Yes, I just threw a few provocative thoughts out there.”

    Erik: If baptism replaces circumcision I think that the NT writers would have made it explicit if believers were not supposed to baptize their children.

    RS: But why do you “demand” that they make this explicit? Remember, we have a different covenant and a different High Priest. Could it be that baptism does not replace circumcision, but instead circumcision was a picture to teach us that the people needed a new or circumcised heart? In the NT, then, all who are in Christ have circumcised hearts and that happens when a person is placed into Christ.

    Colossians 2:9-14 speaks of this, but the circumicision spoken of there is one done without hands. The baptism, then, is one that is done without hands. So instead of the NT being silent about not baptizing infants, it just instructs us on those who are in the New Covenant.

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  100. Geoff,

    You understood me right and I do not agree with those who are saying that the Arminians say the same thing. That is the argument that is coming out of Westminster in Philadelphia too. I say there is a lot of confusion on when the imputation of Christ righteousness takes place (before or after regeneration- actually, I think they occur at the same time but the imputation of righteousness takes logical priority or else it is not a justification of the ungodly). I do not believe that someone is justified without the work of the spirit and faith. But it is the imputation of righteousness which is the cause of regeneration and faith. The effectual call are better words than regeneration because regeneration implies an ontological change of substance in the human agent. Horton comes close to saying the same thing but because the confessions say what Richard showed them to say he kind of vascillates back and forth on the issue.

    Horton does think highly of Bruce McCormack’s argument in his essay “What is at Stake in the Justification Debates” and critiques the essay in his book COVENANT AND SALVATION. McCormack says this about the issue:

    “I think it is accurate to say that there are no hotter topics in Protestant theology today, than the themes of theosis, union with Christ, the de Lubacian axiom ‘the Eucharist makes the church,’ etc……In the process, the churches are slowly coming under the influence of a concept of ’participation’ in Christ that owes a great deal to the ancient Greek ontologies of pure being…..In truth, forensicism (rightly understood!) provides the basis for an alternative theological ontology to the one presupposed in Roman and Eastern soteriology. Where this is not seen, the result has almost always been the abondonment of the Reformation doctrine of justification on the mistaken assumption that the charge of a ‘legal fiction’ has a weight, which in truth, it does not.”

    I learned this from McMark over a period of about 8 months dialoging with him. It took me a long time to see what he was saying but I think he is right. He has thought about it longer than I have and can defend it better than I.

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  101. sean: Richard, See Zrim’s comment on Belgic 34.

    RS: Sean, I think I gave a short answer to that already. While I really, really like most of the Belgic Confession, this is one of those places that I think it contradicts itself in articles 21-23. I simply see the vast majority of the NT given to preaching the Gospel and urging people to Christ for salvation or sanctification by grace alone. For the moment, I cannot see the efficacy of the sacraments as being of such importance when the NT places the importance on preaching and of bowing in submission to grace in the soul.

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  102. Erik Charter: Richard says: “Since there is not one shred of evidence in the NT of an infant being baptized and certainly not one command to do so, followers of the Regulative Principle don’t baptize them. Yes, I just threw a few provocative thoughts out there.”

    Erik: If baptism replaces circumcision I think that the NT writers would have made it explicit if believers were not supposed to baptize their children.

    RS: Erik, I was going to add something to my first post to you on this and then was sidetracked. Below are two questions and answers from the WLC that I fully agree with.

    WLC, Q.31, With whom is the covenant of grace made?
    A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

    RS: The covenant of grace was made with Christ and in Him all the elect of His seed. Okay, so the covenant is with Christ and all the elect. That is what I am trying to assert. If the covenant of grace is with Christ and all the elect, then what does it mean for infants to be in the covenant and then out of the covenant?

    WLC, Q.32, How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
    A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.”

    RS: To those who are elect in the covenant of grace God promises and gives His Holy Spirit who works faith in them along with all other saving graces. So if only the elect are in the covenant of grace and it is to the elect that God makes these promises, I am not sure why all infants of believers are presumed to be in this covenant. It seems to be that the writers of the NT are not silent about those to be baptized, and at this point the WLC is not silent about those in the covenant of grace. As a Baptist in that sense, I cannot see how we are authorized to baptize anyone until God shows them to be in His covenant of grace.

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  103. RS: Sorry you see it that way. Christ purchased the Holy Spirit for His people and sanctification is His gift to His people. Holiness is not so much as against His people, but it is for them that they may share in His holiness. Holiness is a great and glorious thing by which the glory of God shines through His people

    John Y: I don’t know about the statement Christ “purchased” the Holy Spirit for his people. The Holy Spirit comes to the elect because of the imputed righteousness to the elect which Christ won by his perfect law keeping. Christ righteousness then becomes our righteousness after the imputation. I too think holiness is a great and glorious thing but you think it is worked into us by the Holy Spirit making us Holy. I think holiness and sanctification is a result of the imputation of righteousness even as we remain simul iestus et peccator. We are perfectly holy and righteousness while remaining sinful in our bodies. Romans 8:10- But if Christ is in you (imputation of righteousness), although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.” We receive the Spirit because of the imputation of righteousness even though we remain sinful in our bodies.

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  104. John Yeazel : You understood me right and I do not agree with those who are saying that the Arminians say the same thing. That is the argument that is coming out of Westminster in Philadelphia too. I say there is a lot of confusion on when the imputation of Christ righteousness takes place (before or after regeneration- actually, I think they occur at the same time but the imputation of righteousness takes logical priority or else it is not a justification of the ungodly). I do not believe that someone is justified without the work of the spirit and faith. But it is the imputation of righteousness which is the cause of regeneration and faith. The effectual call are better words than regeneration because regeneration implies an ontological change of substance in the human agent. Horton comes close to saying the same thing but because the confessions say what Richard showed them to say he kind of vascillates back and forth on the issue.

    RS: John, please go back and carefully read what Geoff Willour said. He says a lot in a short space, but it really is good. Note also the order of things in salvation as listed below.

    In the Reformed camp, the ordo salutis is 1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30)

    In the Arminian camp, the ordo salutis is 1) outward call 2) faith/election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification.

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  105. John Yaezel wrote: You understood me right and I do not agree with those who are saying that the Arminians say the same thing…I do not believe that someone is justified without the work of the spirit and faith. But it is the imputation of righteousness which is the cause of regeneration and faith.”

    GW: Thanks, John, for the clarification. But for further clarification (since I’m new to this particular debate) let me ask: Wouldn’t the implication of your position be that “faith is by justification” rather than the biblical-reformational view that “justification is by faith”? I think we would agree that Christ’s righteousness alone serves as the meritorious ground and basis of our justification, and that all aspects of our salvation are grounded solely in God’s gracious action in Christ. But from my vantage point you seem to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand you (correctly) affirm that our justification cannot take place apart from the work of the Spirit and faith. On the other hand, you seem to say that we must be justified before we can be regenerated and thus exercise faith in Christ. Unless there are some nuances that I’m missing, that sounds to me like a plain contradiction. What am I missing here, brother? And how does your position comport with the historic Reformed (and reformational) view that we sinners are justified “by” (the instrumental means of) faith (a faith wrought in the hearts of sinners by the work of the Holy Spirit)?

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  106. Like I said, McMark can defend the position better than I but I will a make an attempt to answer your inquiries. First of all, Richard does not listen to anyone closely who disagrees with him. Union with Christ has to be defined carefully. There are 3 different unions with Christ. There is the decretal union, the forensic union and the mystical union by the Holy Spirit (which Richard and the confessions want to call the “real” union- like the decretal union and forensic union are not “real.”). The Arminians do not think that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (baptized by God into Christ- Romans 6:3) is what starts the whole process of effectual call rolling. They think that their own faith is what starts the process. From what I understand McMark telling me is that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the elect person is what causes them to hear the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is then given along with the gift of faith and the effectual call. Then the person is justified. It is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness which causes the receiving of the Spirit, faith, repetance and justification. If the effectual call occurs before the imputation it is no longer the justification of the ungodly. So, it is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (the forensic union) which occurs first in logical priority even though the imputation of righteousness, effectual call and justification occur simultaneously.

    I find it odd that Richard uses the confession to bolster his own point of view when he wants but disregards the confessions view of the sacraments. A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

    So, I am objecting to Richards view of the logical order of the ordo salutis and his view about evidences of justification and conversion. I never said that his view and the Catholic view were the same. The Catholics reject imputation altogether and then view sancfication as grace being ontological infused into the human agent until they have enough infusion of grace to be considered justified. Richard has a hard time listening to others.

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  107. Richard – I think you (and other Reformed Baptists) err in a way similar to how Roman Cathlolics err. You want certainty in areas where it you cannot demand certainty. They look to history to find certainty, Baptists look to baptism to find certainty. Baptists say we cannot baptize infants because we do not know if they are a Christian until they make a profession of faith. But all kinds of people make profession of faith, are baptized, and then go on to abandon the faith and live like pagans. What are we to make of their baptism? I think the Federal Vision guys make the same error – “Well, if we tell people they are saved by faith in what Christ has done for them they might take it for granted and not live right so let’s tell them they are saved not by faith, but by faithfulness. We need to see it to know they’re saved.” When David’s infant son died David was confident that “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David knew God and trusted Him and had faith he would be with his son again after death. As Reformed people we can have a similar trust in Christ for our own salvation and the salvation of our children. Will it always happen for every child? No. Can we guarantee it? No. Will circumcision guarantee it? No. Will baptism guarantee it? No. But we have hope that if we trust in Christ and if they trust in Christ it will all work out in the end.

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  108. Geoff said: “Unless there are some nuances that I’m missing, that sounds to me like a plain contradiction. What am I missing here, brother? And how does your position comport with the historic Reformed (and reformational) view that we sinners are justified “by” (the instrumental means of) faith (a faith wrought in the hearts of sinners by the work of the Holy Spirit)?”

    John Y: Do you see how I avoided the contradiction? It is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (the forensic union) which results in the giving of the Spirit (the mystical union), faith and effectual call. The end result is justification. It is the forensic union which calls into existence that which did not exist before (the ungodly becomes godly by the forensic righteousness imputed). The forensic has priority over the mystical union of the Spirit. However, the elect need the decretal union, the forensic union and the mystical union to be considered justified.

    So, it is the forensic union which brings the benefits of Christ” work to the elect. The mystical union is the seal and deposit which guarantees the elects heavenly inheritance and seals his salvation (Eph. 1:4; 4:30). The Spirit enables the elect to continue to see, believe, trust and hope in Christ and his work for the elect. The Spirit illumines the mind and reassures the elect that he is part of the new creation in Christ (part of the family of God). The Spirit does not make us Holy- it is the forensic union which makes us Holy.

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  109. Erik Charter: Richard – I think you (and other Reformed Baptists) err in a way similar to how Roman Cathlolics err. You want certainty in areas where it you cannot demand certainty. They look to history to find certainty, Baptists look to baptism to find certainty.

    RS: Interesting comment.

    Erik Charter: Baptists say we cannot baptize infants because we do not know if they are a Christian until they make a profession of faith. But all kinds of people make profession of faith, are baptized, and then go on to abandon the faith and live like pagans. What are we to make of their baptism?

    RS: I cannot speak for others, but I don’t think that is the motivation. I think what I am saying is that in the New Covenant he only people in that covenant are the elect and the promises of the covenant are only to the elect. There is no certainty when a person is baptized that the person is of the elect, but I can say with certainty that if one baptizes all the infants of the many churches they will baptize many of the non-elect. I am concerned that the claim that these people are in the covenant and have the promises of God make Him to look untruthful and as if He is waiting on them to make a decision.

    Erik Charter: I think the Federal Vision guys make the same error – “Well, if we tell people they are saved by faith in what Christ has done for them they might take it for granted and not live right so let’s tell them they are saved not by faith, but by faithfulness. We need to see it to know they’re saved.” When David’s infant son died David was confident that “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David knew God and trusted Him and had faith he would be with his son again after death. As Reformed people we can have a similar trust in Christ for our own salvation and the salvation of our children. Will it always happen for every child? No. Can we guarantee it? No. Will circumcision guarantee it? No. Will baptism guarantee it? No. But we have hope that if we trust in Christ and if they trust in Christ it will all work out in the end.

    RS: I don’t think that I look for certainty and I think I am fairly certain that I don’t fall into the FV error. I do think it has to do with the idea of who is in the covenant and what that means. I am not concerned that those with true faith will take it for granted and just like like the devil, because it is God who will keep them persevering in the faith.

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  110. John Yeazel: Like I said, McMark can defend the position better than I but I will a make an attempt to answer your inquiries. First of all, Richard does not listen to anyone closely who disagrees with him.

    RS: You sound like my wife. But if you mean by listen closely that I have to agree, then no. Disagreement is a good thing and helps people to discover truth.

    John Yeazel: So, I am objecting to Richards view of the logical order of the ordo salutis and his view about evidences of justification and conversion.

    RS: I hate to disappoint you but the ordo salutis was not mine. I thought that I mentioned that I was quoting it from monergism.com I might add that it is really just what the Reformed have thought for a long time. Since you like Horton, read what he says at the site below.

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/questions/horton/union.html

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  111. Richard – In the Old Testament God commanded all Israelite men (many of who were presumably not elect) to be circumcised. Why would it be inconsistent for Him to command believing parents to baptize their children? (some of whom are presumably not elect). I just don’t think there is anything we can do to try to make the invisible church and the visible church one (which is in essence what I see the Roman Catholics & the Federal Vision guys doing). Arminians don’t struggle with this since they don’t believe in election. I’ll say it again – being a Reformed Baptist makes one an oddball. But I still like you!

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  112. Erik Charter: Richard – In the Old Testament God commanded all Israelite men (many of who were presumably not elect) to be circumcised. Why would it be inconsistent for Him to command believing parents to baptize their children? (some of whom are presumably not elect).

    RS: True enough that He did that in the Old Testament, but it was the Old Covenant. We are now under a New Covenant, so it does not seem strange that things are different. For example, if a man in your church married a woman with adult children who were not believers and yet they wanted to be baptized, would you baptize them? In the Old Covenant they would be circumcised. In the Old Testamnt the covenant was with the physical seed of Abraham, but now that the physical seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made (Christ) has come, there is now a spiritual seed of Abraham. So many of the promises of the OT were to the physical seed, but now the promises are to the spiritual seed.

    Erik Charter: I just don’t think there is anything we can do to try to make the invisible church and the visible church one (which is in essence what I see the Roman Catholics & the Federal Vision guys doing). Arminians don’t struggle with this since they don’t believe in election. I’ll say it again – being a Reformed Baptist makes one an oddball. But I still like you!

    RS: I confess that I am guilty of being an oddball. You still like me? I just may have to come to Des Moines someday and teach you about the Baptist way. I know, you were one for 20 yrs. Any resturants around there serve gluten free, dairy free, egg free, corn free, high fructose sugar free, and corn syrup free food?

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  113. Richard,

    I already said that Horton vascillates on the issue and that I do not agree with the ordo in that monergism link. I explained why I believe what I do. There are a lot more scriptures I could appeal to once the forensic union is given priority over the mystical union. The forensic rocks the mystical tweets.

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  114. Richard,

    I think what I am saying is that in the New Covenant he only people in that covenant are the elect and the promises of the covenant are only to the elect. There is no certainty when a person is baptized that the person is of the elect, but I can say with certainty that if one baptizes all the infants of the many churches they will baptize many of the non-elect.

    It is true that only believers partake of the essence of the covenant. No paedo-baptist denies that. But the question is: Does the covenant, in its administration, embrace the children of believers?

    I am concerned that the claim that these people are in the covenant and have the promises of God make Him to look untruthful and as if He is waiting on them to make a decision.

    But the promises are to believers and their children, as many as the Lord our God will call (even if the call does not ultimately prove to have been effectual). Abraham is the father of the faithful and the covenant embraced all his children, yet some of them, e.g., Ishmael and Esau, etc. were ultimately cast out. New Testament Christians are grafted into the same olive tree in place of the natural branches that were cut off for their unbelief, but if they do not hold fast to the promise by faith, they too are threatened with being cut off. Doesn’t this suggest that there is an administration of the covenant distinct from the essence? Or do you not hold to the perseverance of the saints?

    We are now under a New Covenant, so it does not seem strange that things are different. For example, if a man in your church married a woman with adult children who were not believers and yet they wanted to be baptized, would you baptize them?

    The principle is one of parental authority, so adult children would not be candidates for baptism or church membership apart from a credible profession of faith.

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  115. David R. quoitng Richard: “I think what I am saying is that in the New Covenant he only people in that covenant are the elect and the promises of the covenant are only to the elect. There is no certainty when a person is baptized that the person is of the elect, but I can say with certainty that if one baptizes all the infants of the many churches they will baptize many of the non-elect.”

    David R: It is true that only believers partake of the essence of the covenant. No paedo-baptist denies that. But the question is: Does the covenant, in its administration, embrace the children of believers?

    RS: Remember, we are speaking of the covenant of grace and/or the New Covenant. I know you know that, but simply trying to point out that the administration will be different in the New Covenant.

    Daivd R quoting RS: “I am concerned that the claim that these people are in the covenant and have the promises of God make Him to look untruthful and as if He is waiting on them to make a decision.”

    David R: But the promises are to believers and their children, as many as the Lord our God will call (even if the call does not ultimately prove to have been effectual). Abraham is the father of the faithful and the covenant embraced all his children, yet some of them, e.g., Ishmael and Esau, etc. were ultimately cast out.

    RS: The promise (New Covenant) was to those who would repent and be baptized and the promise was of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Holy Spirit was a promise to regenerate all of the spiritual seed of Abraham. The Old Covenant is to the physical seed of Abraham and so a physical birth was enough

    David R: New Testament Christians are grafted into the same olive tree in place of the natural branches that were cut off for their unbelief, but if they do not hold fast to the promise by faith, they too are threatened with being cut off. Doesn’t this suggest that there is an administration of the covenant distinct from the essence? Or do you not hold to the perseverance of the saints?

    RS: I do hold to God’s work in keeping His people persevering, but that is part of the New Covenant promise. The Old Covenant did not have that promise. So at this point, though I will admit to being thick between the ears at times, I don’t see the physical seed of believers as being the same as the physical seed of Abraham. A believer is the spiritual seed of Abraham so I am not sure how that is passed on to a physical seen when the spiritual seed comes not by physical descent by the grace of God and the promise of the Father to Christ.

    David R quoting RS: We are now under a New Covenant, so it does not seem strange that things are different. For example, if a man in your church married a woman with adult children who were not believers and yet they wanted to be baptized, would you baptize them?

    David R: The principle is one of parental authority, so adult children would not be candidates for baptism or church membership apart from a credible profession of faith.

    RS: But all the men of the household of Abraham (even slaves or servants) were circumcised because they were of the household of Abraham. So if an adult child lives in the same home of the parents and wants to be baptized because s/he desires the blessing of the covenant, why wouldn’t that be permissible from the principles of baptism simply replacing circumcision? Something has changed.

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  116. Richard – You are welcome in Des Moines any time. I do not know of any Reformed Baptist churches in central Iowa. Plenty of Evangelical Baptists, though.

    I don’t think we would baptize adult children. When I joined a URC we did baptize my two youngest. I think the older of the two was 7. My 11-year-old had been baptized in an E-Free church (as a believer). I have had one since joining and he was baptized as a ute (as Joe Pesci would say…)

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  117. mark: Perhaps I should make a couple of comments, but I don’t plan to waste any time repeating myself to RS, since he has never listened before and I have no reason to think he would now. Simply pasting in some texts and then assuming that those texts say what you think they
    obviously mean is not really dialogue.

    Q. 70. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in
    them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

    RS: Notice the order of the WLC. It is effectual calling/regeneration and then union with Christ. Then there is justification.

    mark: First, be clear that nobody here is denying that regeneration comes before faith. Only if you have decided that all credobaptists are Arminians (and no paedobaptists are Arminians!) , would you assume that differences about the subjects of baptism inherently says something about the priority of regeneration to faith. The question is rather about the priority of the imputation
    of Christ’s righteousness. Does God justify the ungodly, or does God justify the regenerate?

    I think there can be differences of opinion about this between people who believe the gospel. But nobody should assume that there has been one and only one Reformed view of the
    order. To think that your view is “the Reformed view” simply betrays ignorance of the history of the debate.

    Second, notice how RS assumes that the order of the question topics proves some kind of logical order in the application of salvation. But of course that begs the question. RS quotes answer 70 and assumes that it speaks to his concern about the priority between imputation and regeneration. But the answer does not address that concern. The answer does deny that the basis of justification is ANYTHING WROUGHT IN THEM.

    We all agree that regeneration is wrought in us, and we all probably even agree that the order we are debating is not temporal but logical. In other words, all these benefits come together, so the discussion is about the basis of justification. On this question, answer 70 denies that the imputation of righteousness is based on regeneration.

    I am not saying of course that this decides for us the question about if regeneration is before imputation. If it has not been quoted yet, somebody will surely trot out the Calvin quotiation used by Torrance and Gaffin in every essay—“as long as He is outside us”, in an attempt to say that “union” with the person must become before “union with the legal benefits” Of course most of the folks on one side won’t even say “union with the legal benefits” or “union with the death” or “union with the righteousness”. They will say that “union” is first, and that justification is one result of that, all the time assuming they know what “real union” is.

    And to be fair, somebody on my side of things will quote Berkhof (I think John Y already has) and fair warning, my Bavinck quotation is coming up. Even though I concede that the majority view is that faith comes before imputation, nothing in answer 70 speaks to that. I certainly agree that
    justification is received by faith, and that regeneration is wrought within before faith. But my point, along with folks like Boehl, McCormack, and Horton is about righteousness first being RECEIVED BY IMPUTATION. Texts like II Peter 1:1 and Romans 5:11, 17 certainly suggest that, and I have rehearsed the arguments, but RS has never bothered to listen to them, because he already knows what’s obvious.

    Third, for the sake of completeness, as a guest among the Reformed, I try to avoid debates about water baptism, and what I am concerned about here is the meaning of texts like Romans 6 and II Cor 5:15-21 and Galatians 3:4, and the conclusions are not in the least predetermined by one’s view on the nature or subjects of water baptism (nor should one side call the other “gnostic”, as if some of us were denying creation, incarnation, and bodily resurrection)

    Also I don’t care to discuss now the history of the distinction between regeneration and effectual calling (John Murray makes much of it, Gaffin and Horton question it), or the distinction between justification and adoption. I do think it’s important to remember that imputation is not itself the righteousness. Christ obtained the righteousness. God imputes the righteousness. God transfer the value of Christ’s work to the elect, and on the basis of that righteousness God declares the elect to be just. Before justification, the elect are not Christians,. Before the righteousness is imputed ,the elect are not justified.

    Fourth, I think it’s possible in theory for those who teach regeneration and faith before imputation to make it clear that righteousness is not given on the basis of regeneration and faith. But to do this, we need to be careful to define what we mean by “instrumental condition” or “instrumental cause”. Faith is whose “instrument”? A lot of folks use the phrase as if it the meaning were self-evident. Not all have thought too much about “fourfold causes”. Is faith the sinner’s instrument? Is faith God’s instrument? Or is it possibly 100% human instrument and also at the same time 100% divine instrument?

    It’s bedtime: Bavinck: “It is not we who approach the judgment of God, with the sincerity of our faith, in order to receive there the forgiveness of our sins; God does not sit in judgment by himself in
    heaven to hear the parties and to pronounce sentence, a representation which is according to Comrie, too anthropomorphic and unworthy of God. God Himself comes to us in the gospel. The foundation of faith lie outside ourselves in the promise of God; whoever builds thereupon shall not be ashamed.

    “It is possible for us to conceive of faith at the same time as a receptive organ and as an active force. If justification in every respect comes about after faith, faith becomes a condition, an
    activity, which must be performed by man beforehand, and it cannot be purely receptive. (mark: according to the “federal version”, there is no difference between faith and works of faith after faith)

    Bavinck: “But if the righteousness, on the ground of which we are justified, lies wholly outside of us in Christ Jesus, then faith is not a “material cause” or a “formal cause.” Faith is not even a condition or instrument of justification, for it stands in relation to justification not as, for example, the eye to
    seeing or the ear to hearing. Faith is not a condition through which we receive this benefit, but
    it is the acceptance itself of Christ and all his benefits, as He presents Himself to us through word and Spirit, and it includes therefore also the consciousness, that He is my Lord and I am his
    possession. Faith is therefore not an instrument in the proper sense, of which man makes use in order to accept Christ.”

    This faith forms a contrast to the works of faith (infused righteousness, obedience, love)
    the moment these are to any degree viewed as the ground of justification, as forming as a whole or in part that righteousness on the ground of which God justifies us; for that is Christ and Christ
    alone; faith itself is not the ground of justification and thus also neither are the good works which come forth from it.”

    BAVINCK , Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, Vol. IV

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  118. from Clair David from his essay, “Systematics, Spirituality and the Christian Life”, in the volume The Pattern of Sound Doctrine.

    p276– “Did they intend to say that people could be regenerate unbelievers, in the sense that they became regenerate years before becoming believers? It sounded that way.But when the theologians had discussed the order of salvation, they were thinking of a logical sequence, not an experiential one. Since one is truly dead in sin, of course he must first be brought to life before anything else can happen.But that does not mean that new life could be present before faith was exercised. It definitely was not intending to send the message that before you even begin thinking about trusting Christ, you need to first determine that you are able to.The order,which in its original form in Romans 8 was intended to provide encouragement during persecution and suffering, had been turned on its head, twisted, and had become a threatening word: don’t you dare try to trust Christ until you’re sure you have a transformed heart.”

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  119. John Owen: “1. Regeneration doth not in order of time precede the soul’s interest in the forgiveness that is with God, or its being made partaker of the pardon of sin. I say no more but that it doth not precede it in order of time, not determining which hath precedence in order of nature. Faith is the radical grace which we receive in our regeneration, for it is by faith that our hearts are purified in the hand of the great purifier, the Spirit of God, I place these two together, and shall not dispute as to their priority in nature; but in time the one doth not precede the other.

    2. It is hence evident, that an assurance of being regenerate is no way previously necessary unto the believing of an interest in forgiveness. When convinced persons cried out, “What shall we do to be saved?” the answer was, “Believe, and ye shall be so.” “Believe in Christ, and in the remission of sin by his blood,” is the first thing that convinced sinners are called unto. They are not directed first to secure themselves that they are born again, and then afterward to believe; but they are first to believe that the remission of sin is in the blood of Christ, and that “by him they may be justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law.” Nor upon this proposition is it the duty of men to question whether they have faith or no, but actually to believe. (Owen, Volume 6, pages 597-598.)

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  120. Richard,

    RS: Remember, we are speaking of the covenant of grace and/or the New Covenant. I know you know that, but simply trying to point out that the administration will be different in the New Covenant.

    Right, I was speaking of the covenant of grace, which (as you point out) is differently administered under the NC (the age of fulfillment) than it was under the OC (the age of type and shadow), yet it is essentially the same covenant in both dispensations, with essentially the same membership. As to its essence, its members are the regenerate, but as to its administration, those who profess the true religion and their children.

    The Old Covenant is to the physical seed of Abraham and so a physical birth was enough

    I’m not sure what you can mean by this, since I’m sure you realize that spiritual seed of Abraham existed under the Old Covenant too. Certainly it’s true that the promises of the covenant were limited to one family under the OC, whereas under the NC, they embrace all the families of the earth. And certainly the NC age is preeminently the age of the Spirit. But as you realize, there were children of the promise (and not just of the flesh) in OC times too. And if what you’re saying is true, then how can circumcision be said to be a sign and seal of the righteousness that is by faith? Shouldn’t it merely be a sign of descent from Abraham?

    I do hold to God’s work in keeping His people persevering, but that is part of the New Covenant promise. The Old Covenant did not have that promise.

    By way of clarification, are you saying that OT believers like Abraham and David had no promise that they would persevere?

    So at this point, though I will admit to being thick between the ears at times, I don’t see the physical seed of believers as being the same as the physical seed of Abraham.

    Well, Paul speaks of those who are merely the physical seed of Abraham as natural branches who are cut off. And likewise he says those who are merely the physical seed of believers will also be cut off. Same olive tree, and same reasons for being cut off under both dispensations.

    A believer is the spiritual seed of Abraham so I am not sure how that is passed on to a physical seen when the spiritual seed comes not by physical descent by the grace of God and the promise of the Father to Christ.

    Well, it’s true that physical descent carries no guarantees, but neither does God ordinarily effect regeneration apart from the use of means, and one of the primary means He uses is covenant nurture from one generation to the next.

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  121. Sorry, I guess I botched the formatting. I’ll try it again the old fashioned way….

    RS: Remember, we are speaking of the covenant of grace and/or the New Covenant. I know you know that, but simply trying to point out that the administration will be different in the New Covenant.

    David R: Right, I was speaking of the covenant of grace, which (as you point out) is differently administered under the NC (the age of fulfillment) than it was under the OC (the age of type and shadow), yet it is essentially the same covenant in both dispensations, with essentially the same membership. As to its essence, its members are the regenerate, but as to its administration, those who profess the true religion and their children.

    RS.The Old Covenant is to the physical seed of Abraham and so a physical birth was enough

    David R: I’m not sure what you can mean by this, since I’m sure you realize that spiritual seed of Abraham existed under the Old Covenant too. Certainly it’s true that the promises of the covenant were limited to one family under the OC, whereas under the NC, they embrace all the families of the earth. And certainly the NC age is preeminently the age of the Spirit. But as you realize, there were children of the promise (and not just of the flesh) in OC times too. And if what you’re saying is true, then how can circumcision be said to be a sign and seal of the righteousness that is by faith? Shouldn’t it merely be a sign of descent from Abraham?

    RS: I do hold to God’s work in keeping His people persevering, but that is part of the New Covenant promise. The Old Covenant did not have that promise.

    David R: By way of clarification, are you saying that OT believers like Abraham and David had no promise that they would persevere?

    RS: So at this point, though I will admit to being thick between the ears at times, I don’t see the physical seed of believers as being the same as the physical seed of Abraham.

    David R: Well, Paul speaks of those who are merely the physical seed of Abraham as natural branches who are cut off. And likewise he says those who are merely the physical seed of believers will also be cut off. Same olive tree, and same reasons for being cut off under both dispensations.

    RS: A believer is the spiritual seed of Abraham so I am not sure how that is passed on to a physical seen when the spiritual seed comes not by physical descent by the grace of God and the promise of the Father to Christ.

    David R: Well, it’s true that physical descent carries no guarantees, but neither does God ordinarily effect regeneration apart from the use of means, and one of the primary means He uses is covenant nurture from one generation to the next.

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  122. mark mcculley: Perhaps I should make a couple of comments, but I don’t plan to waste any time repeating myself to RS, since he has never listened before and I have no reason to think he would now. Simply pasting in some texts and then assuming that those texts say what you think they
    obviously mean is not really dialogue.

    RS: Mark, until you can demonstrate from Scripture that your word is authoritative and/or that the people you quote (in or out of context) are authoritative, I am not under obligation to believe what you say just because you say it. Throw in the fact that the major confessions also don’t agree with what you are saying, then try to understand that someone would have to move from their believing that the confessions are for the most part very accurate to believing what you say against them and (in my view) the Bible.

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  123. Mark McCulley:

    Q. 70. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in
    them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

    Mark quoting RS: Notice the order of the WLC. It is effectual calling/regeneration and then union with Christ. Then there is justification.

    mark: First, be clear that nobody here is denying that regeneration comes before faith. Only if you have decided that all credobaptists are Arminians (and no paedobaptists are Arminians!) , would you assume that differences about the subjects of baptism inherently says something about the priority of regeneration to faith. The question is rather about the priority of the imputation
    of Christ’s righteousness. Does God justify the ungodly, or does God justify the regenerate?

    RS: God justifies the ungodly, but regeneration does not make a person godly.

    McMark: I think there can be differences of opinion about this between people who believe the gospel. But nobody should assume that there has been one and only one Reformed view of the
    order. To think that your view is “the Reformed view” simply betrays ignorance of the history of the debate.

    RS: Not exactly. It is the view of the the major confessions. I would not argue that no one in history before you has ever believed what you say, but it has not been a major view.

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  124. McMark: Second, notice how RS assumes that the order of the question topics proves some kind of logical order in the application of salvation. But of course that begs the question. RS quotes answer 70 and assumes that it speaks to his concern about the priority between imputation and regeneration. But the answer does not address that concern. The answer does deny that the basis of justification is ANYTHING WROUGHT IN THEM.

    RS: But remember I also gave other parts of WLC and the ordo salutis.
    WLC Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?

    A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace,[270] whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband;[271] which is done in their effectual calling.[272]

    Q. 67. What is effectual calling?

    A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace,[273] whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto)[274] he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit;[275] savingly enlightening their minds,[276] renewing and powerfully determining their wills,[277] so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.[278]

    Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

    A. Justifying faith is a saving grace,[297] wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit[298] and Word of God,[299] whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition,[300] not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel,[301] but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin,[302] and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.[303]

    Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

    A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it,[304] nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification;[305] but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.[306]

    McMark: We all agree that regeneration is wrought in us, and we all probably even agree that the order we are debating is not temporal but logical. In other words, all these benefits come together, so the discussion is about the basis of justification. On this question, answer 70 denies that the imputation of righteousness is based on regeneration.

    I am not saying of course that this decides for us the question about if regeneration is before imputation. If it has not been quoted yet, somebody will surely trot out the Calvin quotiation used by Torrance and Gaffin in every essay—”as long as He is outside us”, in an attempt to say that “union” with the person must become before “union with the legal benefits” Of course most of the folks on one side won’t even say “union with the legal benefits” or “union with the death” or “union with the righteousness”. They will say that “union” is first, and that justification is one result of that, all the time assuming they know what “real union” is.

    RS: For you to prove your position, as far as I can see, you will have to prove that a person can have the righteousness of Christ without having Christ. Regeneration precedes faith at least logically, and indeed one could never have a spiritual faith apart from the spiritual nature given in regeneration. But we receive Christ Himself through faith. So can one have the righteousness of Christ before having Christ? It appears to me that Westminster says that we have the righteousness of Christ when we have Christ Himself.

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  125. McMark: And to be fair, somebody on my side of things will quote Berkhof (I think John Y already has) and fair warning, my Bavinck quotation is coming up. Even though I concede that the majority view is that faith comes before imputation, nothing in answer 70 speaks to that. I certainly agree that justification is received by faith, and that regeneration is wrought within before faith. But my point, along with folks like Boehl, McCormack, and Horton is about righteousness first being RECEIVED BY IMPUTATION. Texts like II Peter 1:1 and Romans 5:11, 17 certainly suggest that, and I have rehearsed the arguments, but RS has never bothered to listen to them, because he already knows what’s obvious.

    RS: Indeed you have rehearsed some arguments, but I believe Scripture (yes, as I see it) and Westminster. Why is it so bad that I don’t believe what you are saying? I believe that the Westminster view is what is obvious, obviously.

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  126. McMark: Also I don’t care to discuss now the history of the distinction between regeneration and effectual calling (John Murray makes much of it, Gaffin and Horton question it), or the distinction between justification and adoption. I do think it’s important to remember that imputation is not itself the righteousness. Christ obtained the righteousness. God imputes the righteousness. God transfer the value of Christ’s work to the elect, and on the basis of that righteousness God declares the elect to be just. Before justification, the elect are not Christians,. Before the righteousness is imputed ,the elect are not justified.

    RS: Christ Himself is our righteousness. There is no objective thing out there called the righteousness of Christ, but it is Christ Himself who earned it as the Federal Head for His people. This righteousness cannot be obtained apart from having Christ Himself. Here is a major difference between your view and the Westminster view. You think of the righteousness of Christ as a value that can be separated from Christ and given to people. Westminster sees the righteousness of Christ as inseperable from Christ and so a person must have Christ to be declared righteous. At least that is how I am reading you. This is why Westminster states the importance of union with Christ both legally and mystically. One must be married to Christ in order for what is His to be imputed to the one that must have righteousness to be saved. Westminster is not arguing that people are declared just apart from the righteousness of Christ, but that the way (only way) one obtains the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is to be one with Christ.

    McMark: Fourth, I think it’s possible in theory for those who teach regeneration and faith before imputation to make it clear that righteousness is not given on the basis of regeneration and faith. But to do this, we need to be careful to define what we mean by “instrumental condition” or “instrumental cause”. Faith is whose “instrument”? A lot of folks use the phrase as if it the meaning were self-evident. Not all have thought too much about “fourfold causes”. Is faith the sinner’s instrument? Is faith God’s instrument? Or is it possibly 100% human instrument and also at the same time 100% divine instrument?

    RS: “The reason that it is by faith is in order that it may be by grace” (Rom 4:16). Faith is the instrument that God gives in regeneration (makes an unbelieving soul a believing soul) and yet the human soul must receive when strengthened by the Spirit to do so. But again, faith receives Christ Himself who is the righteousness of God. It is impossible to please God without faith and yet if the imputed righteousness comes before faith one has to believe that God is pleased with people before they have faith.

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  127. McMark: It’s bedtime: Bavinck: “It is not we who approach the judgment of God, with the sincerity of our faith, in order to receive there the forgiveness of our sins; God does not sit in judgment by himself in heaven to hear the parties and to pronounce sentence, a representation which is according to Comrie, too anthropomorphic and unworthy of God. God Himself comes to us in the gospel. The foundation of faith lie outside ourselves in the promise of God; whoever builds thereupon shall not be ashamed.

    RS: Absolutely correct.

    McMark quoting Bavinck: It is possible for us to conceive of faith at the same time as a receptive organ and as an active force. If justification in every respect comes about after faith, faith becomes a condition, an activity, which must be performed by man beforehand, and it cannot be purely receptive. (mark: according to the “federal version”, there is no difference between faith and works of faith after faith)

    RS: But a perfect righteousness is also a condition of entering heaven. God provides that condition Himself, which is grace. So faith can be considered a condition for salvation as long as God Himself gives faith as a gift of grace. This still does not do away with the concept of faith as the activity of the soul in receiving. Faith, as the way the soul receives grace, must receive Christ by that faith as there is no other way to receive Christ. So recieving Christ by faith who is our righteousness is no problem at all. This is the view of Westminster. However, boil it down, the soul receives Christ by faith and He is our righteousness. We must also remember that Christ purchased the Holy Spirit for His people who applies the work of Christ to the soul.

    McMark quoting Bavinck: “But if the righteousness, on the ground of which we are justified, lies wholly outside of us in Christ Jesus, then faith is not a “material cause” or a “formal cause.” Faith is not even a condition or instrument of justification, for it stands in relation to justification not as, for example, the eye to seeing or the ear to hearing. Faith is not a condition through which we receive this benefit, but it is the acceptance itself of Christ and all his benefits, as He presents Himself to us through word and Spirit, and it includes therefore also the consciousness, that He is my Lord and I am his possession. Faith is therefore not an instrument in the proper sense, of which man makes use in order to accept Christ.”

    RS: However, apart from faith no one can please God. So there is nothing in man that can please God until man has faith. This faith is a work of God’s grace in the soul and it is not pleasing to God apart from its being united to Christ. It is Christ that pleases God. Bavinck virtually admits that one has to have faith to receive Christ since it is faith that receives Christ. While he does not like the word “condition” as is clear, one must have faith in order to receive Christ. I am also not sure what the problem is in calling it a condition since God Himself fulfills the condition as a free gift of grace. One condition of entering heaven is that our sins be punished in a way consistent with perfect justice. God fulfilled that condition in Christ. One condition of entering heaven is a perfect righteousness. God has fulfilled that condition as well. Bavinck appears to be trying to escape the notion of faith as a work, which it is not the work man, so since it is a work of God there is no need to do gymnastics to avoid calling it a condition.

    McMark quoting Bavinck: This faith forms a contrast to the works of faith (infused righteousness, obedience, love) the moment these are to any degree viewed as the ground of justification, as forming as a whole or in part that righteousness on the ground of which God justifies us; for that is Christ and Christ alone; faith itself is not the ground of justification and thus also neither are the good works which come forth from it.”

    RS: I am not sure the point here. Of course faith (which is unity with Christ and the way Christ is received) itself is not a ground of justification., Of course the works that true faith produces are not the ground of justification. Of course Christ Himself is the only ground of justification which shows why He Himself is our righteousness and we cannot have a value of righteousness given to us apart from having Christ Himself.

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  128. David R. quoting RS: Remember, we are speaking of the covenant of grace and/or the New Covenant. I know you know that, but simply trying to point out that the administration will be different in the New Covenant.

    David R: Right, I was speaking of the covenant of grace, which (as you point out) is differently administered under the NC (the age of fulfillment) than it was under the OC (the age of type and shadow), yet it is essentially the same covenant in both dispensations, with essentially the same membership. As to its essence, its members are the regenerate, but as to its administration, those who profess the true religion and their children.

    RS: I am not convinced that the OC and the NC are of the same administration. Even men like John Owen had a hard time with that. Some see the OC as a reissuing of the covenant of works which was used to set forth the covenant of grace in contrast.

    David R quting RS: The Old Covenant is to the physical seed of Abraham and so a physical birth was enough

    David R: I’m not sure what you can mean by this, since I’m sure you realize that spiritual seed of Abraham existed under the Old Covenant too. Certainly it’s true that the promises of the covenant were limited to one family under the OC, whereas under the NC, they embrace all the families of the earth. And certainly the NC age is preeminently the age of the Spirit. But as you realize, there were children of the promise (and not just of the flesh) in OC times too. And if what you’re saying is true, then how can circumcision be said to be a sign and seal of the righteousness that is by faith? Shouldn’t it merely be a sign of descent from Abraham?

    RS: Issac was considered a child of promise in the OC. But now all believers are children of promise, so Isaac was a type (so to speak). The elect are children of promise.
    Gal 4:28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.
    30 But what does the Scripture say? “CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

    Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

    RS: Romans 9 sets this out fairly clearly (in my view). At the present time not all are Israel who are descended from Israel and it is not the physical children who are reall children of the promise, It is not the childfen of the flesh of Israelites or of believers who are children of God, but is is the children of promise who are the descendants of Abraham. How do we know that a child is a child of promise or is a descendant of Isaac? It is only when a person is regenerate and has true faith.

    David R quoting RS: I do hold to God’s work in keeping His people persevering, but that is part of the New Covenant promise. The Old Covenant did not have that promise.

    David R: By way of clarification, are you saying that OT believers like Abraham and David had no promise that they would persevere?

    RS: I would not argue that they had a specific promise that they would persevere, but since God imputed the righteousness of Christ to them the promise is at least implicit. The NC is different in that God has promised He would dwell in His people and cause them keep His commandments.

    David R: RS: So at this point, though I will admit to being thick between the ears at times, I don’t see the physical seed of believers as being the same as the physical seed of Abraham.

    David R: Well, Paul speaks of those who are merely the physical seed of Abraham as natural branches who are cut off. And likewise he says those who are merely the physical seed of believers will also be cut off. Same olive tree, and same reasons for being cut off under both dispensations.

    RS: He did speak of that, but I can’t see the application of that as directly to the present point. He was encouraging the Gentiles as a whole not to be arrogant toward the Jews.

    David Quoting RS: A believer is the spiritual seed of Abraham so I am not sure how that is passed on to a physical seen when the spiritual seed comes not by physical descent by the grace of God and the promise of the Father to Christ.

    David R: Well, it’s true that physical descent carries no guarantees, but neither does God ordinarily effect regeneration apart from the use of means, and one of the primary means He uses is covenant nurture from one generation to the next.

    RS: I would not argue against the nurture from one generation to the next, but giving the sign of the spiritual promise of God (that He would give them His Holy Spirit who works regeneration and applies Christ in that promise) to those that we know that many are not children of Isaac seems to be contrary to the NC.

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  129. Richard, you think McMark divides X’s righteousness from Christ himself. But you seem to separate the two yourself by not seeing Christ himself in X’s righteousness, as if someone who has X’s righteousness needs to say in addition that he has Christ himself. Until I started thinking about the union arguments, I never thought that with justification I didn’t have Christ. But then came the unionists to tell me that justification is only one part of Christ, the benefits, something — not always clear, but I certainly felt inadequate and needed greater sanctification (as if my wife wasn’t already reminding me of that without the help of the unionists). I don’t know where you stand on the union question, but to the extent that I’ve read your exchange with McMark, I get a sense again of how the stress on the ordo undermines the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness received by faith alone. Paul is pretty darned clear on that. The ordo stuff is pretty speculative.

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  130. RS quoting David R: Right, I was speaking of the covenant of grace, which (as you point out) is differently administered under the NC (the age of fulfillment) than it was under the OC (the age of type and shadow), yet it is essentially the same covenant in both dispensations, with essentially the same membership. As to its essence, its members are the regenerate, but as to its administration, those who profess the true religion and their children.

    RS: I am not convinced that the OC and the NC are of the same administration. Even men like John Owen had a hard time with that. Some see the OC as a reissuing of the covenant of works which was used to set forth the covenant of grace in contrast.

    David R: The question of whether the MC is a republication of the covenant of works is beside the point. We’re speaking here of the covenant of grace, which transcends both dispensations (which was held to by all Reformed, including Owen), not of the question of the relationship of the Mosaic covenant to the covenant of grace (concerning which there were differences among the Reformed).

    RS: Romans 9 sets this out fairly clearly (in my view). At the present time not all are Israel who are descended from Israel and it is not the physical children who are reall children of the promise, It is not the childfen of the flesh of Israelites or of believers who are children of God, but is is the children of promise who are the descendants of Abraham.

    David R: The passage you quoted teaches sovereign election. No disagreement on that. But that is also beside the point.

    RS: How do we know that a child is a child of promise or is a descendant of Isaac? It is only when a person is regenerate and has true faith.

    David R: I suppose the unstated implication you are wanting to draw is that only those who are regenerate and have true faith should receive the covenant sign. But (1) that is not a necessary inference from anything you’ve quoted, and (2) neither you nor I know who is regenerate and has true faith and we won’t know till the last day.

    RS quoting David R: Well, Paul speaks of those who are merely the physical seed of Abraham as natural branches who are cut off. And likewise he says those who are merely the physical seed of believers will also be cut off. Same olive tree, and same reasons for being cut off under both dispensations.

    RS: He did speak of that, but I can’t see the application of that as directly to the present point. He was encouraging the Gentiles as a whole not to be arrogant toward the Jews.

    David R: This is the crux of the issue, so it’s crucial that you see the application to the question at hand. Let’s take a look at Paul’s olive tree metaphor. First of all, the tree is rooted in the Abrahamic promise. The root (Abraham) is holy and therefore the branches are also (Paul argues in v. 16). Is he speaking of sovereign election/regeneration here? No, because some of those holy branches will be broken off (which of course isn’t possible of the regenerate). Thus there is a holiness (i.e., covenant membership) apart from the question of electing grace. You will probably respond, “Well sure, that was true of Old Testament Israel where the entire nation was set apart. But in the NT, only the regenerate are holy.” Really? Let’s see what Paul says: “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree …” Notice, the wild branches become part of the same olive tree, and the holiness of the root extends to all these grafted-in branches too. Yet (Paul continues), “you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” Apart from faith, these holy grafted-in branches will be broken off, just like the natural ones. Why doesn’t Paul say of these Gentiles that by unbelief they will prove that they only seemed to be grafted in, but that in fact they never really were? It’s because membership in the covenant of grace works the exact same way in NT times as it did in OT times. The olive tree (covenant membership) isn’t limited to the elect (though ultimately, all but the elect will be “broken off”). Rather, the olive tree includes Abraham and his children—the natural branches (whether or not they’re elect), and believers and their children—the grafted branches (whether or not they are elect). Make sense?

    RS: I would not argue against the nurture from one generation to the next, but giving the sign of the spiritual promise of God (that He would give them His Holy Spirit who works regeneration and applies Christ in that promise) to those that we know that many are not children of Isaac seems to be contrary to the NC.

    David R: But as we’ve seen, if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if you are grafted into the rich root of the olive tree, then the shoots that you bring forth are also holy, even though they might conceivably be broken off in the future on account of unbelief.

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  131. RS: For you to prove your position, as far as I can see, you will have to prove that a person can have the righteousness of Christ without having Christ. Regeneration precedes faith at least logically, and indeed one could never have a spiritual faith apart from the spiritual nature given in regeneration. But we receive Christ Himself through faith. So can one have the righteousness of Christ before having Christ? It appears to me that Westminster says that we have the righteousness of Christ when we have Christ Himself.

    mark: I know I should ignore this. But let me make it quick and as clear as I can.

    Answer on sentence one: For you to prove your position, it would seem just as fair to say, you would have to prove that a person can have Christ without having the righteousness of Christ. You keep denying an order in order to establish an order. You continue to deny a priority in order to assert a priority. Even though none of us denies an “union by election” so that only the sins of the elect were ever imputed to Christ, we all agree that there is an individual “union” in history. Romans 16–some were “in Christ” before Paul was.

    As there was no election into Christ but election in Christ from the beginning, even so there is no such thing as having Christ first and apart from His imputed righteousness. I assert this negative. RS keeps begging the question when he disagrees and asserts the contrary. Prove that any person has Christ apart from Christ’s righteousness.

    Second sentence: Regeneration does precede faith, and nobody on this thread has denied the order. So why are you bringing it up again? The debate concerns your idea that you can have Christ before you have Christ’s righteousness imputed. To have faith is to have Christ Himself, and how can we have either Christ or faith without Christ’s righteousness? If we could obtain Christ and faith apart from Christ’s righteousness, why would we need His righteousness?

    Only Arminians say that faith precedes regeneration, and when they say that, we tend to ask them—if you can faith before regeneration, what do you need the regeneration for? In parallel, if you could have Christ “really in your soul” before and apart from being legally placed into Christ’s death, why then would you even need to be legally placed into Christ’s death?

    Third sentence: yes, I have agreed many times that we receive Christ by faith. See John 1:12, 13. But I have also said that we receive Christ passively by imputation, and talked about texts like Romans 5:11, 17 (the children of Adam received guilt by imputation) and II Peter 1:1, where faith is not given to get righteousness, but rather faith is given because of righteousness. But you keep saying things we agree with, and ignoring the details where we disagree. if neither of us is claiming to be the pope here, why not discuss the particulars? Why not show me once that you have taken the time to know what I am saying, even if you don’t agree with it?

    Fourth question. See question one. Can we have Christ IN US before we are IN Christ? Can we have Christ changing our disposition even while we continue to be guilty sinners, still dead in sins? Can Christ live in a person who has no legal right to even approach God?

    Fifth question: Certainly we have the righteousness of Christ when we have Christ, because if God has not yet imputed us with Christ’s righteousness, then we don’t have Christ yet but are still without Christ. it’s the old “deny the order to assert an order” trick again. Deny the priority of justification in order to insist on justification as a result of something more real like infusion and indwelling and experience.

    The New England theology sounds pious. It says: let’s don’t talk about the benefits, let’s talk about the person. Let’s don’t talk about the righteousness now, that’s for later, for now let’s talk about the sovereignty and grace. The New England theology says—let’s talk about the atonement now, but let’s don’t get election mixed up into the atonement right now.

    The New England theology is not non-partisan about order. If we can talk first about Christ and the gospel, without talking about the atonement (the righteousness obtained) and justification (the righteousness imputed), then we can keep talking about Christ and the gospel without ever talking about the atonement and justification. But the Apostle’s Creed is not enough gospel.

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  132. rs: “Christ Himself is our righteousness. There is no objective thing out there called the righteousness of Christ, but it is Christ Himself who earned it as the Federal Head for His people. ”

    mark: At first you remind me of NT Wright (“it’s not a gas”) but on second thought, your denial is more like Osiander’s. I commend to you Calvin’s responses to Osiander in the Institutes. . If there is no objective merit to Christ’s work of obedience, then Christ presumably could have skipped the cross and entered directly and personally into our hearts. You say Christ earned “it”, but if it’s not an objective thing, then what is “it”?

    Romans 1:16– “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall
    live by faith.'”

    the RS gloss. For in the gospel, there is this person and that person has this history but that history does not result in an objective thing called “the righteousness” because you see it’s the person who
    is revealed….

    Romans 3: 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

    the RS gloss. But now Christ Himself has been revealed, and He Himself is the priority, so this means that there is no objective thing called “the righteousness of God”. I mean, first you get faith to get it, but the it you then get it is not an objective thing which itselfcould be the real difference between life and death before God….

    Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

    the RS gloss. I don’t deny that God counted righteousness to David, or that this meant “not counting David’s sins against him”, but let’s not think that this “righteousness” and the not counting are
    “objective things”, The righteousness which God counts is only a means to an end, and really not even that, “it” is only a result of a real relationship that David had with Christ in his heart, because we need to remember not to give the priority to the benefits, even when we have fallen into sin big time, the pious thing to do is to focus on Christ Himself and not on something objectively done in time and space, obtained in the past, and then “transferred” (like a thing) to us as if it were merit points, without which we would have no hope. I don’t deny that Christ earned something of course but I do deny that this something is an objective “out there” commodity which has legal value….

    Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

    RS gloss. Of course it’s important to have knowledge, but we have to know that knowing a person is not like knowing an objective thing like the value of something a person did. And in the case of “the
    righteousness of God”, it’s not an objective thing we can know about from hearing the gospel, so we need to know Christ before we can know about it, and indeed if we know Christ, then we won’t be trying to establish our own righteousness. And you don’t need to know anything positively objective about the righteousness of God in order to stop trying to build your own righteousness. I mean, if you know that righteousness is not a thing that really counts as the legal gatekeeper between you and Christ, you will stop worrying about righteousness all together, yours or God’s!

    II Peter 1: 1 Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

    RS gloss: This needs to be reversed. We get righteousness by faith. And our faith is not in the righteousness of Christ, as if the object of faith were some objective commodity that belonged to Christ instead of Christ Himself If we are spiritual, we don’t want what Christ has because we want Christ personally. Some say that the righteousness of Christ is the means we get Christ, but they have it backwards since the truth is we must get Christ before we get the righteousness. And having Christ in your soul is the important reality. Because then Christ in you is no longer out there as merely some object of faith. He Himself is the righteousness, and He is not an objective thing, so Jeremiah 23 means that His righteousness is not an objective thing….

    RS: the only way one obtains the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is to be one with Christ.

    mark: which being translated means—- being imputed with the righteousness, obtaining the righteousness that Christ obtained is NOT THE WAY TO BE ONE WITH CHRIST. This is RS begging the question again. He thinks “union with Christ” is not legal but real and personal. He
    sometimes agree that there is a “legal aspect” but only to then disagree that “union” has anything to do with legal placement into Christ’s death.

    Of course RS is not the only one to want an “union with Christ” apart from Christ’s righteousness which then permits those thus united to then be imputed with such righteousness. Some
    give the priority to sacramental “union”. Some give the priority to “experience” which is not about an “objective thing”.

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  133. D. G. Hart: Richard, you think McMark divides X’s righteousness from Christ himself. But you seem to separate the two yourself by not seeing Christ himself in X’s righteousness, as if someone who has X’s righteousness needs to say in addition that he has Christ himself.

    RS: But that is exactly what I am not saying. I am saying that it is only if one has Christ and is in uinion with Christ that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to that person. One can make a distinction between the two, but there is no separation.
    1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

    D.G. Hart: Until I started thinking about the union arguments, I never thought that with justification I didn’t have Christ. But then came the unionists to tell me that justification is only one part of Christ, the benefits, something — not always clear, but I certainly felt inadequate and needed greater sanctification (as if my wife wasn’t already reminding me of that without the help of the unionists). I don’t know where you stand on the union question, but to the extent that I’ve read your exchange with McMark, I get a sense again of how the stress on the ordo undermines the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness received by faith alone. Paul is pretty darned clear on that. The ordo stuff is pretty speculative.

    RS: The ordo stuff, however, shows some very important things. My stance on the union with Christ is one thing that McMark does not agree with. The soul must be united to Christ in order for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to the sinner. That is one thing that McMark does not like. He wants to make an objective value of the righteousness of Christ (which has to be obtained apart from having Christ) the reason we are born again, which is why the ordo stuff was brought in. My argument is that there is regeneration which is necessary to have faith, but one cannot have Christ and please God apart from faith. So McMark’s argument that we can have an objective value of the righteousnes of Christ apart from Christ falls to the ground.

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  134. If you would allow me to interrupt, I wish somebody would clear up a couple of things:

    1. Whether you realize it or not, those of you who are arguing for “old light” confessionalism (which I would think more aptly called anti-pietism) seem hell-bent on disallowing any call for conversion to be genuine. Earlier in the conversation (before all the ordo salutis chaos), everyone [contra Richard] seemed to want dull, perfunctory, laissez-faire “conversions” pronounced as ok, as long as the “believer”–no matter how hesitantly–partook of the proper sacraments. This is exactly the attitude that resulted in the half-way covenant shenanigans in early New England. Over and over again, Richard hammered away at the notion that he wasn’t calling for dramatic conversion, revivalism, or experientialism at all…to no avail. How in the world can one understand the imponderable gravity of sin or the extraordinary gratuity of grace in an “ordinary” way? If it is “ordinary,” one hasn’t comprehended them in any authentic sense. That was Richard’s point. Varying personalities may well respond to this extraordinary nature of God’s largess in a broad range of emotions. Still, the event is similar to Isaiah’s experience in the Temple (at least abstractly) and the proper reaction is similar to his: I am undone!

    I say this as one who has no dramatic testimony and couldn’t tell you the year of my conversion, let alone the day. (I thought I was supposed to have a “liver shiver,” but could never drum one up!) Nevertheless, I do know that anyone who speaks lackadaisically of his or her conversion is talking about something other than a genuine conversion. You all seem to have an anti-emotionalism borne of a fear of scotching justification (much like many early Lutherans ventured into demonstrable anti-nomianism to protect the Doctrines of Grace). There is such a thing as Reformed Pietism, you know (especially among the Puritans and the Dutch Further Reformation). I recommend some of the warmer forms of Calvinism to you frozen chosen. An emotional response to being forgiven an unpayable debt is nothing but natural, and invariably deep. (On the other hand, the manipulative nature of much of revivalism’s emotion is quite unnatural and often superficial.)

    2. For the life of me, I have never understood the paedobaptist tenet that infant baptism is a better picture of salvation’s being “all of God.” I guess those who come to faith later in life (and have no choice but credobaptism) are receiving God’s second best because they had some “say so” in the matter. Are you people daft? No one who comes to genuine repentance has any control, any sovereignty over the process. That’s Reformed thought through and through! (You guys are listening to too many Roman Catholic arguments.) The issue is not that one has not done anything, but that one has not done anything to receive the gift of faith.

    3. Unlike Richard, I am a sacramentalist and a receptionist at that: the faith of the recipient is imperative (and unlike Lutherans, I do not believe in infants having any faith to speak of). At the very least, in the New Testament, adult baptism is normative. I would not, however, call myself a Baptist. There’s a whole ethos there, a prevailing milieu that I just cannot identify with.

    At any rate, I have enjoyed the conversation and thought I’d pipe up. Richard seems to have borne it well, but he must feel lonely here. By the way, there is a Reformed Baptist church plant (called the Damascus Road, I believe) just north of Des Moines in Polk City. And there might still be a church affiliated with the Founders Movement in Pleasant Hill, east of town.

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  135. mark mcculley quoting RS: For you to prove your position, as far as I can see, you will have to prove that a person can have the righteousness of Christ without having Christ. Regeneration precedes faith at least logically, and indeed one could never have a spiritual faith apart from the spiritual nature given in regeneration. But we receive Christ Himself through faith. So can one have the righteousness of Christ before having Christ? It appears to me that Westminster says that we have the righteousness of Christ when we have Christ Himself.

    mark: I know I should ignore this. But let me make it quick and as clear as I can.

    Answer on sentence one: For you to prove your position, it would seem just as fair to say, you would have to prove that a person can have Christ without having the righteousness of Christ.

    RS: No, not at all. My position is very clear on this. There is no having Christ without having the righteousness of Christ and there is no having the righteousness of Christ without having Christ. One cannot have one without the other because there is no separation between the two.

    McMark: You keep denying an order in order to establish an order. You continue to deny a priority in order to assert a priority. Even though none of us denies an “union by election” so that only the sins of the elect were ever imputed to Christ, we all agree that there is an individual “union” in history. Romans 16–some were “in Christ” before Paul was.

    As there was no election into Christ but election in Christ from the beginning, even so there is no such thing as having Christ first and apart from His imputed righteousness. I assert this negative. RS keeps begging the question when he disagrees and asserts the contrary. Prove that any person has Christ apart from Christ’s righteousness.

    RS: But that is exactly what I am arguing against. So why would I argue that? I have been trying to show you that one cannot have the righteousness of Christ apart from having Christ. I am not sure how you have confused the argument at this point.

    McMark: Second sentence: Regeneration does precede faith, and nobody on this thread has denied the order. So why are you bringing it up again? The debate concerns your idea that you can have Christ before you have Christ’s righteousness imputed. To have faith is to have Christ Himself, and how can we have either Christ or faith without Christ’s righteousness? If we could obtain Christ and faith apart from Christ’s righteousness, why would we need His righteousness?

    RS: No, the debate is how you cannot have sinners regenerated on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ which you asserted. My position is that regeneration is not based on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because one must be regenerated before faith (logically) which is necessary to have Christ. Since one cannot have the righteousness of Christ without having Christ, it is evident that the imputed righteousness of Christ is not the basis for regeneration (your argument).

    McMark: Only Arminians say that faith precedes regeneration, and when they say that, we tend to ask them—if you can faith before regeneration, what do you need the regeneration for? In parallel, if you could have Christ “really in your soul” before and apart from being legally placed into Christ’s death, why then would you even need to be legally placed into Christ’s death?

    RS: Why are you separating these two things? There is no need to do so. It is in having Christ Himself that one is legally placed into Christ. In Christ and in Christ alone are all spiritual blessings.

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  136. McMark: Third sentence: yes, I have agreed many times that we receive Christ by faith. See John 1:12, 13. But I have also said that we receive Christ passively by imputation, and talked about texts like Romans 5:11, 17 (the children of Adam received guilt by imputation) and II Peter 1:1, where faith is not given to get righteousness, but rather faith is given because of righteousness. But you keep saying things we agree with, and ignoring the details where we disagree. if neither of us is claiming to be the pope here, why not discuss the particulars? Why not show me once that you have taken the time to know what I am saying, even if you don’t agree with it?

    RS: At this point you have evidently not understood what I have been saying, though I thought it was as clear as day. In fact, you are virtually accusing me of the thing I was defending against you (that the righteousness of Christ and Christ Himself cannot be separated). I have interacted with the II Peter 1:1 passage in the past. I said (and still say) “the faith” that is spoken of is not the faith of an individual, but is more of like a body of belief. This is seen even more clearly in the book of Jude which has a lot in common with II Peter: Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

    However, if it is speaking of an individual faith, it is not clear that speaking of an imputed righteousness is the point of that passage. Christ has purchased the Holy Spirit by His righteousness who applies the work of Christ to His people. But it does not have to mean (and does not appear to be even close to meaning) that because of the righteousness of Christ imputed that sinners are given faith. Philippians 3:9 “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” Here is a clear teaching on how one receives the righteousness of God. It is on the basis of faith.

    Regarding the passage in Romans, all that are born in Adam are born sinners. He acted for them and because He acted for them they are guilty because of their link to him. But as for the righteousness of Christ, it is only when sinners are born again that they are united to a different Head, that is, Christ.

    McMark: Fourth question. See question one. Can we have Christ IN US before we are IN Christ? Can we have Christ changing our disposition even while we continue to be guilty sinners, still dead in sins? Can Christ live in a person who has no legal right to even approach God?

    RS: Of course not. Christ is in all those who are in Him.

    McMark: Fifth question: Certainly we have the righteousness of Christ when we have Christ, because if God has not yet imputed us with Christ’s righteousness, then we don’t have Christ yet but are still without Christ. it’s the old “deny the order to assert an order” trick again. Deny the priority of justification in order to insist on justification as a result of something more real like infusion and indwelling and experience.

    RS: I have no real idea what you are talking about at this point. My position is that there is a real justification that is not based on infusion or (at least in your conception) experience. I have asserted that many times.

    McMark: The New England theology sounds pious. It says: let’s don’t talk about the benefits, let’s talk about the person. Let’s don’t talk about the righteousness now, that’s for later, for now let’s talk about the sovereignty and grace. The New England theology says—let’s talk about the atonement now, but let’s don’t get election mixed up into the atonement right now.

    RS: What period of New England theology says that? The doctrine of election and the doctrine of the atonement are inseperable in reality. So what does this have to do with our discussion now?

    McMark: The New England theology is not non-partisan about order. If we can talk first about Christ and the gospel, without talking about the atonement (the righteousness obtained) and justification (the righteousness imputed), then we can keep talking about Christ and the gospel without ever talking about the atonement and justification. But the Apostle’s Creed is not enough gospel.

    RS: Again, what does this have to do with our discussion? Of course one cannot talk about the Gospel (at least for very long) without talking about the atonement and talking about justification without talking about imputed righteousness.

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  137. McMark quting RS: the only way one obtains the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is to be one with Christ.

    mark: which being translated means—- being imputed with the righteousness, obtaining the righteousness that Christ obtained is NOT THE WAY TO BE ONE WITH CHRIST. This is RS begging the question again. He thinks “union with Christ” is not legal but real and personal. He
    sometimes agree that there is a “legal aspect” but only to then disagree that “union” has anything to do with legal placement into Christ’s death.

    Of course RS is not the only one to want an “union with Christ” apart from Christ’s righteousness which then permits those thus united to then be imputed with such righteousness. Some
    give the priority to sacramental “union”. Some give the priority to “experience” which is not about an “objective thing”.

    RS: McMark, I responded with a longer note and then it would not post. Let it suffice to say that my argument is that YOUR position requires that a person can have the imputation of the righteousness of Christ before a person has Christ Himself. My position is that a person cannot have the righteousness of Christ apart from Christ Himself. You are wasting a lot of time and effort by not reading carefully. I do not deny a legal union with Christ, but I don’t separate a legal union from the actual union. You want to assert that I give priority to experience which is not an objective thing (in your world). One, I have repeatedly said to you that this is false. Two, an experience is an objective thing in the proper context and with the proper definitions. For example, a man hits you with an iron pipe. You experience getting hit with an iron pipe and you experience pain. Your getting hit with an iron pipe is an objective fact and your pain is an objective fact as well. Your experience of pain is subjective in the sense that you are gaining knowledge of pain by experience. Be very careful about attacking all forms of experience and sneering at it. Distinguishing and separating objective reality from experience may not be what you really want to do. It may sound good in bashing those that differ from you, but if you want some sort of objective reality apart from some sort or experience of it you could never know about that objective reality.

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  138. rs: Why are you separating these two things? There is no need to do so. It is in having Christ Himself that one is legally placed into Christ. In Christ and in Christ alone are all spiritual blessings.

    mark: no, you don’t get it. Again, you deny any “separation” only to immediately go on to your own “separation”. By separation, neither of us is saying that a person can temporally have Christ without the righteousness. And yet you are the one making the “distinction” between “union” and “justification”. I am saying that “union” is “justification”, that there is no such a thing as some “union” which is not legal. After you call this my “separating”, you immediately separate ” having Christ Himself” from then (logically) “one is legally placed into Christ”. But there is no such sequence, and you have not proven it but assumed it.

    Having Christ is having Christ’s righteousness. “Unionists” have introduced the separation and the sequence, because they don’t want the “union” itself to be legal. And as I said before, there are various motives for this, some of them having to do with sacraments, others having to do with a “second justification” based on works. In your case, I think, it’s simply because you think the new birth should have the emphasis over atonement and justification in the gospel.

    mark: Romans 5:11, 17 (the children of Adam received guilt by imputation)

    rs: Regarding the passage in Romans, all that are born in Adam are born sinners. He acted for them and because He acted for them they are guilty because of their link to him. But as for the righteousness of Christ, it is only when sinners are born again that they are united to a different Head, that is, Christ.

    mark: that is begging the question. All humans (Christ excepted) are born guilty in Adam. The texts then show the analogy to Christ’s obedience, but Rs will not allow it. Even though we don’t
    have to become corrupt to get imputed with Adam’s guilt, RS just knows that we have to get born again to get imputed with Christ’s righteousness. But of course this is the very question in dispute,
    which it doesn’t even seem that RS understands. RS assumes that “reconciliation” is new birth, not justification. But the text teaches that reconciliation is the “free gift of righteousness”

    Romans 5:11 we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now RECEIVED reconciliation.

    Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    Yes, we have to make a distinction (not a separation in time) between the new birth and justification. I think we all agree on that, unless we are Roman Catholics. But the question is—which has the logical priority, which becomes practically which has the emphasis most of the time? RS keeps assuming that the new birth is in order to justification, despite the evidence of Galatians (because you are sons, Spirit, rather than because Spirit, sons), even going to the point of denying that the faith given through Christ’s righteousness is given to individuals II Peter 1:1). Does God justify the ungodly? Or does God justify the born again?

    Clair Davis 270–”Just what is the connection between forgiveness and change? Roman Catholicism had suggested that being forgiven depended on your heart attitude. Grace was a divine fudge-factor, the giving of more credit for a little change than it deserved.”

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  139. Richard, but McMark is not saying that you can have Christ’s righteousness apart from Christ. What he seems to be saying and with this I agree — if you have Christ’s righteousness you have Christ. You put the words in a different order — if you have Christ you have Christ’s righteousness. Are both sentences saying the same thing, or is the insertion of if making one clause dependent on the other.

    If you want to talk about having Christ before having Christ’s righteousness, then you need to ask how can a sinner have righteousness. I get it why regeneration precedes faith. I also believe that too much precision in these matters leads to speculation.

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  140. Geoffrey Paxton—The disastrous mixing of the righteousness of Christ and the regeneration and inner renewal of the believer so often starts in the revivallist’s tent. That which takes place in the believer (faith) is accorded a place alongside of that which took place for the believer (the doing and dying of Jesus Christ). Faith is given the same rank as that which took place in Palestine. Faith is given a specific weight of its own. Instead of the gospel controlling faith, faith controls the gospel.

    The content of the gospel is dictated by faith instead of the content of faith being dictated by the gospel. Instead of God rewriting man’s history in Jesus Christ, man now rewrites the history of God in his existential saving appropriation.

    Faith takes its value from its Object. In Luther and Calvin’s day some taught that faith may be said to justify because it is “fashioned by love.” . The Roman Catholics attribute justification to love, because they CANNOT IMAGINE THAT FAITH CAN EXIST WITH SIN. Where does this end but with the abolition of the promise and a return to the law? If faith receives the forgiveness of sins on account of love, the forgiveness of sins will always be unsure, for we never love as much as we should. In fact, we do not love at all unless our hearts are sure that the forgiveness of sins has been granted to us.

    Let us consider, for example, the honored “testimony meeting” within revivalism. More often than not, the focus of these testimonies is “what God is doing in my life.” So often our rationale is that this will “encourage faith.” But where does the Bible say this? Does not the Bible say that faith comes by hearing and hearing the message of Christ? (Rom. 10:17). If that which creates and sustains faith is objective to faith, why do we turn our eyes and the eyes of other Christians to something subjective?

    If forgiveness is outside the believer and the ground of acceptance is outside the believer, the focus of faith is also outside the believer. God saves us and turns us inside out. The testimony of the Bible, which the Reformers rediscovered, is that the power of God lies in the gospel.

    http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XXXVI/36-3.htm

    mark: notice the deep thoughts of those who say: Talking about order is foolish, I don’t talk about order, your order is wrong…..

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  141. Eric, the complaints about conversion from me are two-fold. One, conversion to Edwards means something different from conversion to Calvin or Ursinus. One is a dramatic experience, the other is a life-long process. See Heidelberg 88-90. I wish experimental Calvinists would acknowledge the change in terminology. They may be right. Then again, the sixteenth c. may have had a point.

    Second, the sixteenth c. may have been more circumspect about knowing the operations of the Spirit on the soul. I object to the kind of introspection that an emphasis on experience produces. Experiences come and go. That’s fine. But making an experience a test of some kind of assurance, or holiness, or zeal seems to be like building a house on sand. For that reason, I’d rather take comfort from Christ than looking to see whether I really really really feel that I take comfort from Christ.

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  142. Calvin, 3/11/4—But the most satisfactory passage on this subject is that in which he declares the sum of the Gospel message to be reconciliation to God, who is pleased, through Christ, to receive us into favor by not imputing our sins, (2 Cor. 5: 18-21.) Let my readers carefully weigh the whole context. For Paul shortly after adding, by way of explanation, in order to designate the mode of RECONCILIATION, that Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us, undoubtedly understands by reconciliation nothing else than justification. Nor, indeed, could it be said, as he elsewhere does, that we are made righteous “by the obedience” of Christ, (Rom. 5: 19,) were it not that
    we are deemed righteous in the sight of God in him and not in ourselves.

    8. Osiander holds in regard to the mode of receiving Christ, that by the ministry of the external word the internal word is received; that he may thus lead us away from the priesthood of Christ, and his office of Mediator, to his eternal divinity.

    It would be incongruous to say that that which existed naturally from eternity was made ours. But granting that God was made unto us righteousness, what are we to make of Paul’s interposed statement, that he was so made by God? This certainly is peculiar to the office of mediator, for although he contains in himself the divine nature, yet he receives his own proper title, that he may be distinguished from the Father and the Spirit.

    Jehovah, when made of the seed of David, was indeed to be the righteousness of believers, but in what sense Isaiah declares, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” (Isa. 53: 11.) Let us observe that it is the Father who speaks. He attributes the office of justifying to the Son, and adds the reason, – because he is “righteous.” Christ justified us by his obedience to the
    Father; and, accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him.

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  143. D. G. Hart: Richard, but McMark is not saying that you can have Christ’s righteousness apart from Christ. What he seems to be saying and with this I agree — if you have Christ’s righteousness you have Christ. You put the words in a different order — if you have Christ you have Christ’s righteousness. Are both sentences saying the same thing, or is the insertion of if making one clause dependent on the other.

    RS: The issue goes back to Mark’s assertion that the imputed righteousness of Christ is the basis for regeneration. In other words, the righteousness of Christ is legally imputed to a person so that they can be regenerated. My point is that if that is true, that would be separating Christ from the righteousness of Christ which cannot be done. That is why I was trying to show that a person must be regenerate (logically) before faith and faith is necessary to have Christ. It is Mark’s position that requires the separation of the two.

    D.G. Hart: If you want to talk about having Christ before having Christ’s righteousness, then you need to ask how can a sinner have righteousness. I get it why regeneration precedes faith. I also believe that too much precision in these matters leads to speculation.

    RS: But again, it is Mark that wants a person to have the imputed righteousness of Christ before the person is regenerated. I was and am arguing that the righteousness of Christ and Christ Himself cannot be separated and one has both when one is united to Christ. I am still not sure how this got turned around on me. Again, Mark’s position separates the imputation of the righteousness of Christ apart from Christ Himself. I am arguing against that.

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  144. mark mcculley Quoting rs: Why are you separating these two things? There is no need to do so. It is in having Christ Himself that one is legally placed into Christ. In Christ and in Christ alone are all spiritual blessings.

    mark: no, you don’t get it. Again, you deny any “separation” only to immediately go on to your own “separation”. By separation, neither of us is saying that a person can temporally have Christ without the righteousness. And yet you are the one making the “distinction” between “union” and “justification”. I am saying that “union” is “justification”, that there is no such a thing as some “union” which is not legal. After you call this my “separating”, you immediately separate ” having Christ Himself” from then (logically) “one is legally placed into Christ”. But there is no such sequence, and you have not proven it but assumed it.

    RS: I think you need to quit drawing out implications and assigning those to me. Of course I believe that when one is united to Christ one is justified. I am also not arguing against a legal imputation, bit am arguing against one that is also not actual. I argue for both. I don’t separate having Christ Himself from being legally placed into Christ. I have been saying or intending to say that this cannot be a legal happening apart from a real happening. In other words, the legal and the reality are one.

    McMark: Having Christ is having Christ’s righteousness. “Unionists” have introduced the separation and the sequence, because they don’t want the “union” itself to be legal. And as I said before, there are various motives for this, some of them having to do with sacraments, others having to do with a “second justification” based on works. In your case, I think, it’s simply because you think the new birth should have the emphasis over atonement and justification in the gospel.

    RS: But I have been arguing against the separation that your position necessarily implies for the point, allow me to scream, the righteousness of Christ cannot be separated from Christ Himself. Again, of course the union is legal but it is also mystical as the WCF says. My assertion of two things does not mean that I deny one or emphasize one over the other. Where in the world do you get the idea that I emphasize the new birth over the atonement and justification? You are dreaming up implications and imputing them to me.

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  145. mark: Romans 5:11, 17 (the children of Adam received guilt by imputation)
    Mark quoitng rs: Regarding the passage in Romans, all that are born in Adam are born sinners. He acted for them and because He acted for them they are guilty because of their link to him. But as for the righteousness of Christ, it is only when sinners are born again that they are united to a different Head, that is, Christ.

    mark: that is begging the question.

    RS: No, it is you seeing imputed righteousness each time you read the word “righteousness.”

    McMark: All humans (Christ excepted) are born guilty in Adam. The texts then show the analogy to Christ’s obedience, but Rs will not allow it.

    RS: It is not that I will not allow it, but the text must be read for no less and no more than what it is saying. All human beings are born guilty in Adam since he is their federal head. Of course there is an analogy to the obedience of Christ, but it is not a direct and straight correspondence.

    McMark: Even though we don’t have to become corrupt to get imputed with Adam’s guilt, RS just knows that we have to get born again to get imputed with Christ’s righteousness.

    RS: But all sinned because all were in Adam. Until a person is in Christ a person does not have Christ and His righteounsess. Again, you want a person to have the righteousness of Christ without having Christ. I can only say that once again this is what Westminster teaches as well. Abraham believed and it was accounted to him as righteousness. He did not have the imputed righteousness until he believed. It seem so very plain and clear.

    McMark: But of course this is the very question in dispute, which it doesn’t even seem that RS understands. RS assumes that “reconciliation” is new birth, not justification. But the text teaches that reconciliation is the “free gift of righteousness”

    RS: Reconciliation is when a sinner is born again, his sins are cleansed, and that sinner has the perfect righteousness of Christ. Reconcilitation is when the soul is reconciled to God in Christ. It happens in Christ and so one must have Christ to be reconciled. So I am not assuming that it is of the new birth, I am just saying that it happens when one has Christ which is also when one has His righteouness because one has Christ. Again, you appear to be so big on imputation that you continue to impute things to me that I don’t believe and don’t say.

    McMark quoting RS: The text does not teach that reconciliation is the free gift of imputed righteousness.

    Romans 5:11 we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now RECEIVED reconciliation.

    RS: Yes, we receive reconciliation when we have Christ. But you (McMark) have placed the imputed righteousness of Christ as a basis for the new birth.

    Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    RS: No timeline or order for that in this text. It ismply says that we receive grace and the free gift of righteousness and so reign in life though Christ.

    McMark: Yes, we have to make a distinction (not a separation in time) between the new birth and justification. I think we all agree on that, unless we are Roman Catholics. But the question is—which has the logical priority, which becomes practically which has the emphasis most of the time? RS keeps assuming that the new birth is in order to justification, despite the evidence of Galatians (because you are sons, Spirit, rather than because Spirit, sons), even going to the point of denying that the faith given through Christ’s righteousness is given to individuals II Peter 1:1). Does God justify the ungodly? Or does God justify the born again?

    RS: God justifies the ungodly and part of how He does that is to give them the new birth. As Titus teaches so clearly, He saved us by the washing of regneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. He poured out the Spirit UPON us richly through Jesus Christ. Why? So that being justified by His grace… At no point does a person become more than ungodly in one sense, but according to Titus it is in the new birth that a person is cleansed and renewed so that one can be justified by grace. See the text of Titus 3 below.

    4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
    5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
    6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
    7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    RS: Back to Galatians 4:
    3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
    4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

    RS: I would like to make a point there that this text is not talking about regeneration as such. I would also like to point out that the role of the Holy Spirit continues in the life of believers beyond regeneration. Notice, for example Romans 5:5 : “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We can continue to have hope because of the Holy Spirit who continues to dwell in us.

    Romans 8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

    RS: This spirit of adoption is one by which we continue to cry out “Abba! Father!” because of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in His people.

    Romans 8:26 ” In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

    RS: In Romans 8:26-27 this shows the work of the Spirit in prayer.The Spirit is given to the children of God for many reasons and we can see the continual work of the Spirit in the people of God. The passage in Galatians simply says that God sends the Spirit to sons. That does not show that the imputed righteousness of Christ is the basis of regeneration at all. It just shows that God sends His Spirit to those who are His sons.

    McMark (speaking of RS) reven going to the point of denying that the faith given through Christ’s righteousness is given to individuals II Peter 1:1).

    2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

    RS: While it is not clear whether Peter is speaking of an objective faith like Jude ( 3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.), the text does not say we have received a faith because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Whether we have received a faith such as the whole of Christian teaching or of an individual faith, of course it came by the righteousness of Christ. Galatians 3:13-14 teaches us that Christ died so that we would receive the Spirit. It was a righteous work that He did no the cross as well as His whole life, but that is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness. Everything that Jesus did was righteous. This text simply does not teach that we have received a personal faith on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. I don’t deny what the text teaches, I just deny that you are teaching the truth about this text.

    McMark: Clair Davis 270–”Just what is the connection between forgiveness and change? Roman Catholicism had suggested that being forgiven depended on your heart attitude. Grace was a divine fudge-factor, the giving of more credit for a little change than it deserved.”

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  146. mark mcculley: Geoffrey Paxton—The disastrous mixing of the righteousness of Christ and the regeneration and inner renewal of the believer so often starts in the revivallist’s tent. That which takes place in the believer (faith) is accorded a place alongside of that which took place for the believer (the doing and dying of Jesus Christ). Faith is given the same rank as that which took place in Palestine. Faith is given a specific weight of its own. Instead of the gospel controlling faith, faith controls the gospel.

    RS: But part of the Gospel is that God gives faith and Christ and His grace are received through faith. Indeed faith must happen in the believer or the believer will not have faith. Indeed the believer must have Christ in the heart now or the believer would not have what Christ purchased so many years ago. It is not that my positions is disasterous, it is that your position tries to defend some objective truth without realizing that the objective truth works in the souls of those today. It is hard to read the Bible without speaking of something that happens in the soul as an act of God. What is regeneration? It is a washing and renwal of the soul by the Holy Spirit. Christ purchased that on the cross.

    McMark: The content of the gospel is dictated by faith instead of the content of faith being dictated by the gospel. Instead of God rewriting man’s history in Jesus Christ, man now rewrites the history of God in his existential saving appropriation.

    RS: No, completely false if you are saying that in all circumstances. The Father is the One who dictated what happened and He dictates what happens now. It is God who writes His own history in and out of human beings. God is not only sovereign over our solar system and the things external to us, He is also sovereign over our hearts and minds.

    McMark: Faith takes its value from its Object.

    RS: Faith is a gift of God and the continuing work of God. There is no saving faith apart from the Holy Spirit and there is no continuing faith apart from the Holy Spirit either. Christ purchased that at the cross and guarantees that to be accomplished in His people.

    McMark: In Luther and Calvin’s day some taught that faith may be said to justify because it is “fashioned by love.” . The Roman Catholics attribute justification to love, because they CANNOT IMAGINE THAT FAITH CAN EXIST WITH SIN. Where does this end but with the abolition of the promise and a return to the law? If faith receives the forgiveness of sins on account of love, the forgiveness of sins will always be unsure, for we never love as much as we should. In fact, we do not love at all unless our hearts are sure that the forgiveness of sins has been granted to us.

    RS: We also don’t love at all without the Holy Spirit’s continuing work in us who is the love of God poured out in our souls. Your view at least implies that we can respond in love if we can only know for sure that we have been forgiven. Sorry, but that sounds like a work. No, it is because we have been forgiven and have the Holy Spirit that we can love God for who He is and not just because He did something for us.

    McMark: Let us consider, for example, the honored “testimony meeting” within revivalism. More often than not, the focus of these testimonies is “what God is doing in my life.” So often our rationale is that this will “encourage faith.” But where does the Bible say this? Does not the Bible say that faith comes by hearing and hearing the message of Christ? (Rom. 10:17). If that which creates and sustains faith is objective to faith, why do we turn our eyes and the eyes of other Christians to something subjective?

    RS: But McMark, that is what you said above (basically). You said that if we know that God has done something for us, we can respond in love. That is more or less what you are denigrating the revivalist for. Now if faith is in the heart and Christ dwells in His temple of the heart, where do we look for Christ? Are we to see Him in heaven? Where do we look for Him if not shining in our own hearts giving evidence of His glory or perhaps of others who love Him? Of course what Christ accomplished many years ago was accomplished in history, but is He not allowed to change hearts and reign in the hearts of those He lives in today?

    McMark: If forgiveness is outside the believer and the ground of acceptance is outside the believer, the focus of faith is also outside the believer. God saves us and turns us inside out. The testimony of the Bible, which the Reformers rediscovered, is that the power of God lies in the gospel.

    RS: But Titus 3 says we are washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Does this happen outside of us? No, but the purchase of it was accomplished outside of us. However, it must happen in us or we have no reason for saying it was accomplished for us. Of course the power of God to save is in the Gospel. But Colossians 1:27 says that this great mystery of the Gospel that was hidden for ages past and has now been revealed is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Mark, the power of God is the Gospel but the Gospel is about a God who really cleanses His people and a God who really dwells in them and really defeats sin in their hearts. The teaching of the New Covenant is that He will dwell in them and cause them to walk in His ways. The teaching of the New Covenant is that He will put HIs laws in their minds and write His laws on their hearts. Mark, that is something that happens in the believer. Why do you separate the Gospel from what it actually does in the soul? Are we to say that we intellectually believe something that happened in history and we are changed? Or are we to think as the Bible says that God changes hearts and grants them Christ in the soul and the Holy Spirit who will work His fruit in them?

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  147. Mr. Hart–

    I am somewhat confused by your reply. I would say that conversion for Calvin, Ursinus, Edwards, and the Heidelberg Catechism is both an event and a process.

    Calvin clearly sees it as an event:

    “God, by a sudden conversion, subdued and brought my mind—which was more hardened against such things than might have been expected from one of my youthful years—to a more teachable frame. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, yet I pursued them with far less ardor.” (from the prologue to his commentary on the Psalms)

    Edwards clearly sees it as a process:

    “It is with professors of religion, especially such as become so in a time of outpouring of the Spirit of God, as it is with blossoms in the spring; there are vast numbers of them upon the trees, which all look fair and promising; but yet many of them never come to anything. … It is the mature fruit which comes afterwards, and not the beautiful colors and smell of the blossoms, that we must judge by. So new converts (professedly so), in their talk about religion, may appear fair, and be very savory, and the saints may think they talk feelingly. They may relish their talk and imagine they perceive a divine savor in it, and yet all may come to nothing” (Religious Affections, p. 59)

    Were you to speak of Whitefield or D. James Kennedy, I might agree with you. But I believe you would be wrong about, say, Tennent or Frelinghuysen. You would certainly be wrong if you included Owen in your list of experimental Calvinists ignoring Heidelberg.

    The place of emotion/experience in conversion is fraught with difficulty. Edwards clearly states that its presence evidences nothing. Persons can experience dramatic “conversions” and remain spiritually unchanged, unregenerate. Other people can undergo authentic regeneration with few if any taking notice.

    On the other hand, Damascus Road experiences can indeed be genuine: go ask Paul. Just as possible, youth baptized and raised in soundly confessional settings can believe themselves to be regenerate (despite or even because of their lack of experience)…and yet not be.

    Calvin, Ursinus, and Edwards all call for genuine conversion.

    I would never say that one must have certain feelings. Everyone reacts differently due to the culture they are embedded in or the personal disposition they were born with (or the psychological impairment they are burdened with: they could be manic or suffer from anhedonia). Still, I would say that conversion is never ordinary. That is because of the subject: when one is united to the incomparable One, he or she cannot speak of “ordinary.”

    I agree with you: I’d rather take comfort from Christ than try to make myself feel ecstatic that I take comfort from Christ. But even when I am in the depths of depression and feel…nothing, quite frankly…I know that I am taking comfort in CHRIST, the just and holy, the ever merciful Savior of my soul! In fact, it is only my understanding of His greatness that gives me such great comfort in spite of a lack of emotion. It may be the flattest emotional experience ever, yet be extraordinary nonetheless.

    As Edwards put it:

    “Will any say that the saints in heaven, in beholding the face of their Father and the glory of their Redeemer, and contemplating His wonderful works, and particularly His laying down His life for them, have their hearts nothing moved and affected by all which they behold or consider?”
    (Religious Affections, p. 27)

    Olympic gold medal winners may jump up and down or surreptitiously daub tears from their eyes or fall to the turf and stare straight ahead, transfixed. Those of us who do nothing but cheer may have similar reactions. The emotion is not the significant factor here in determining who the genuine medal winners are. And no one will make them drum up appropriate feelings. But the fact that it is a great event which will affect the whole rest of their lives in certain ways is beyond dispute. (And the vast majority of them display…something.)

    Whether one wishes to see conversion as a single breathtaking event…or as a series of events throughout one’s lifetime…or as both. How does one encounter the source of all life and remain unaffected in any way?

    Introspection, if it means looking inward for the answers, is not a healthy spiritual choice. But introspection, to see if one’s character/behavior comports with the answers one has found in the Word, can be a good thing, as well.

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  148. D. G. Hart: Eric, the complaints about conversion from me are two-fold. One, conversion to Edwards means something different from conversion to Calvin or Ursinus. One is a dramatic experience, the other is a life-long process. See Heidelberg 88-90. I wish experimental Calvinists would acknowledge the change in terminology. They may be right. Then again, the sixteenth c. may have had a point.

    RS: I don’t think that conversion according to Edwards (though you may think I have converted to Edwards) was always a dramtic experience. Sure enough that during the awakenings there were those, but those were not what happened all the time. But surely the Heidelberg (in light of the verses they give) did not think of conversion as something a person can almost sleep through. But let us also not forget Heidelberg 2. It speaks of enjoying this comfort and living and dying happily.

    Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?

    Question 88. Of how many parts does the true conversion of man consist?
    Answer: Of two parts; of the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man. (a)

    Question 89. What is the mortification of the old man?
    Answer: It is a sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them. (a)

    Question 90. What is the quickening of the new man?
    Answer: It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, (a) and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works. (b)

    D.G. Hart: Second, the sixteenth c. may have been more circumspect about knowing the operations of the Spirit on the soul. I object to the kind of introspection that an emphasis on experience produces. Experiences come and go.

    RS: But notice that in the very language you used here that you are leaving something unexpressed. The sixteenth century was circumspect about knowing the operations of the Spirit on the soul. You then make the leap to saying that this a kind of emphasis on what experience produces. If they were looking at the operations of the Spirit, wouldn’t that be an emphasis on that the Spirit produces? Indeed experiences come and go, but the Holy Spirit does not in that same sense. If we are to look back in history to see what Christ accomplished, then how are we to look at what Christ purchased and the Spirit accomplishes in His people today?

    D.G. Hart: That’s fine. But making an experience a test of some kind of assurance, or holiness, or zeal seems to be like building a house on sand. For that reason, I’d rather take comfort from Christ than looking to see whether I really really really feel that I take comfort from Christ.

    RS: But following from your first paragraph above, is there something we can do to know if the Spirit is working in us rather just thinking it is some sort of experience? We are commanded to be holy as He is holy. Can we not know if we are in any way growing in that? We are told in Heb 12:10 that God disciplines us so that we may share in His holiness. Is there nothing we can do to know if He is disciplining (training) us so that we can know that we are not illegitimate children as it says just a few verses prior to that (Heb 12:8)? If we cannot know that we are not growing in true holiness, then how can we carry out the teachign and admonition of Hebrews 12 that there is a difference between the illegitimate children and true sons of God?

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  149. rs: “Mark’s assertion is that the righteousness of Christ is legally imputed to a person so that they can be regenerated. My point is that if that is true, that would be separating Christ from the
    righteousness of Christ which cannot be done.”

    mark: WHY would it be separating Christ from the righteousness? WHY does saying that regeneration is earned by the righteousness and given because of the righteousness “separate Christ from the righteousness”? This is the thing you need to answer, even for yourself to see what
    your own presuppositions are. Is it because you assume that Christ is given to us by regeneration, and thus NOT by the righteousness? If so, then it’s you who are separating Christ and righteousness.

    I think ( I hope) we both agree that regeneration is not the righteousness, but all your logic denies that righteousness is the cause of regeneration. Do you insist on your order because you think that Christ is given to us by “union”, and thus NOT by God’s imputation of righteousness? If
    so, then it’s you who is saying that we can logically first have Christ before we have His righteousness.

    rs: allow me to scream, the righteousness of Christ cannot be separated from Christ Himself.

    mark: I am not sure that we are even agreed about what the righteousness of Christ. My guess is that you perhaps think the righteousness itself is both “legal and also real” (but not objective!). This
    perhaps goes back to your inclination to ignore the pattern of the first Adam (we don’t have to be corrupt to get the guilt of the first Adam, because the guilt imputed is the cause of corruption) when it comes to the second Adam, where you say it’s different, so that we have to be born again before we can be imputed with the righteousness. Thus you repeat your thesis, without proving it, and by ignoring the parallel of Romans 5.

    rs: “Christ Himself is our righteousness. There is no objective thing out there called the righteousness of Christ, but it is Christ Himself who earned it as the Federal Head for His people. ”

    mark: Again, at this point I am not sure anymore that we are talking about the same thing when we use the word “righteousness” since you deny “it” is a thing. I deny that the righteousness is imparted or infused. I deny that the righteousness revealed in the gospel is Christ indwelling. I insist that the righteousness is the objective value of Christ’s completed historical obedience even unto death. In your denial of the objectivity of the righteousness, you remind me of NT Wright (“it’s
    not a liquid”). You also sound very much like Osiander—if the righteousness which is imputed is “not an objective” legal record which serves as the difference between life and death before God, what is “it”?

    rs: My assertion of two things does not mean that I emphasize one over the other. Where in the world do you get the idea that I emphasize the new birth over the atonement and justification?

    mark: You get heated up when i say (with II Peter 1:1) that righteousness is the cause of the new birth and faith. Why does that bother you so much? Because you want to say that regeneration comes before the righteousness. Why do you so much want to say that? We can both say that we say what we say because we simply want to say what the Bible says. But you have an agenda no less than I do.

    You can never give “equal” attention to both the legal and the new birth as two co-aspects of the “union”, because you insist that justification is a result of the “union”. If this doesn’t mean that you think you can have Christ (union with Christ) logically before you have the righeousness, then what
    does it mean and why do you care so much?

    btw, you can’t even have the new birth as one “aspect” of the “union”, and that for one of two reasons. Either you think that the new birth is the result of the “union”, which would mean then that you think that the “new birth” is not an aspect of the “union” itself. Or else what you call “real union” is just another way for you to say “new birth”, and then since you say that new birth comes before the imputation of the righteousness, that would mean that your “union” doesn’t have a legal aspect but only a legal result.

    And you can say, well this is all overly precise, but why do you care? You can scream even louder that you don’t privilege new birth over the justification (in which the atonement gets imputed to the elect), but when you get all bothered when I say that the new birth is the logical result of righteousness imputed, then we know that you too have your own priority.

    Of course there can be no justification apart from faith in the true gospel, but that does not settle the question about if God’s imputation of righteousness is the logical cause of the faith which receives the righteousness. When you repeat again that it’s simply obvious that the new birth and faith are before that imputation, you show no more than that we disagree. The imputation of righteousness by God’s counting of course is not something we experience, but the effectual result of that imputation is faith and justification.

    If you reduce the “receive the free gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17) to our faith and deny that we receive by imputation (like Adam’s children receive guilt), then you put the focus on our experience of faith and take the focus off the object of faith, which is Christ’s righteousness.

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  150. Eric,

    I’m late to this conversation and this ground has likely been covered but from an ecclesial perspective the objection really amounts to a pursuit of revival beyond or instead of the ordinary means of grace. Which, quite frankly plagues evangelicalism. I still find a quote attributed to Martin Luther as terribly relevant and adequate to this discussion; ‘ God is free to work apart from the ordinary means of grace but we are NOT FREE to seek Him there.’ This seems to me to be the dissonance in the argument between what Richard wants to fight for and what confessionalism wants to emphasize. God is free, we are not.

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  151. II Peter 1:1 Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

    rs: The text does not say we have received a faith because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Whether we have received a faith such as the whole of Christian teaching or of an individual faith, of course it came by the righteousness of Christ.

    mark: this does not compute. The two sentences contradict each other. I agree with the second. I disagree with the first.

    RS: Galatians 3:13-14 teaches us that Christ died so that we would receive the Spirit. It was a righteous work that He did no the cross as well as His whole life, but that is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness

    mark: WHAT is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness? If the righteous work Christ did on the cross is not His righteousness earned and imputed, then what is that work of Christ ? And even more importantly, if the righteousness of Christ which God imputes is not what Christ did on the cross, then what is the righteousness of Christ?

    RS: Your view at least implies that we can respond in love if we can only know for sure that we have been forgiven. Sorry, but that sounds like a work.

    mark: I doubt if you are sorry, but perhaps you mean to disagree. I certainly agree with Calvin that assurance is of the essence of faith and I deny the puritan “practical syllogism”. But let me ask for now, WHY does it sound to you like a “work” for me to say that we need to have assurance to truly love and please God? I would commend to you Walter Marshall’s The Gospel Gift of Sanctification.
    Are you saying that we need some “doubt” to keep our loving from being a “work”?

    rs: It is because we have been forgiven and have the Holy Spirit that we can love God for who He is and not just because He did something for us.

    mark: There is no mandate in Scripture that commands “disinterested benevolence”. You have to read Jonathan Edwards to get that. Also Kant.

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  152. sean: Eric, I’m late to this conversation and this ground has likely been covered but from an ecclesial perspective the objection really amounts to a pursuit of revival beyond or instead of the ordinary means of grace. Which, quite frankly plagues evangelicalism. I still find a quote attributed to Martin Luther as terribly relevant and adequate to this discussion; ‘ God is free to work apart from the ordinary means of grace but we are NOT FREE to seek Him there.’ This seems to me to be the dissonance in the argument between what Richard wants to fight for and what confessionalism wants to emphasize. God is free, we are not.

    RS: Actually that is not right. The means of seeking God to revive His people with Himself is the preaching of the Word and prayer. From my view the only kind of grace that there can possibly be is a sovereign grace that God is free to use as He pleases. My point in contrast to confessionalism is that it appears that they think that God gives grace simply because they use the means of grace.

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  153. McMark quoting RS: Your view at least implies that we can respond in love if we can only know for sure that we have been forgiven. Sorry, but that sounds like a work.

    mark: I doubt if you are sorry, but perhaps you mean to disagree.

    RS: I was sorry to have to point that out.

    McMark: I certainly agree with Calvin that assurance is of the essence of faith and I deny the puritan “practical syllogism”. But let me ask for now, WHY does it sound to you like a “work” for me to say that we need to have assurance to truly love and please God? I would commend to you Walter Marshall’s The Gospel Gift of Sanctification. Are you saying that we need some “doubt” to keep our loving from being a “work”?

    RS: McMark, I am not sure what the problem is but you are having a hard time reading me with any degree of accuracy. Here is what you said: ” If faith receives the forgiveness of sins on account of love, the forgiveness of sins will always be unsure, for we never love as much as we should. In fact, we do not love at all unless our hearts are sure that the forgiveness of sins has been granted to us.”

    RS: Here was my response to you: ” We also don’t love at all without the Holy Spirit’s continuing work in us who is the love of God poured out in our souls. Your view at least implies that we can respond in love if we can only know for sure that we have been forgiven. Sorry, but that sounds like a work. No, it is because we have been forgiven and have the Holy Spirit that we can love God for who He is and not just because He did something for us.”

    RS: My response was to your comment that “we do not love at all unless our hearts are sure that the forgiveness of sins has been granted to us.” I interpret that as saying that we don’t love until we are sure our sins are forgiven. I am saying, then, that this sounds like a love from a self-centered heart instead of a love for God simply for who He is.

    McMark quoting rs: It is because we have been forgiven and have the Holy Spirit that we can love God for who He is and not just because He did something for us.

    mark: There is no mandate in Scripture that commands “disinterested benevolence”. You have to read Jonathan Edwards to get that. Also Kant.

    RS: But of course those words are not in Scripture, but that does not mean that the concept is not there. By the way, Kant did not teach what Edwards did.
    John 6:26 “Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”

    RS: Notice that Jesus told the people the reason why they sought Him. They did not seek Him because of who He was as revealed by the signs He did, but for free food. They sought Him and went to great effort to find Him, but they did not seek Him for who He was, but simply to get free food. As Jesus taught us in Matthew 16, ” 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

    RS: Jesus taught us in this passage and others that we must deny self to follow Him. He must be our chief love, even regarding parents, family, wealth, and our own lives. We are to seek Christ, then, not for the interests of self and not out of love for self, but out of a self-denying love for Him. That is what Edwards meant by disinterested benevolence. It is a love that is not based on or out of self, but a love that is based on love for Christ and His glory. It is a love for Him that may require much pain and suffering on our part, and those who have not denied self will deny Christ at some point. So the point of Edwards is in Scripture, but he is just using different terminology. If we do not love Christ for who He is, then we are just loving Him based on what we can get. The latter type of “love” is not the love of God from God abiding in us.

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  154. David R quoting RS: He did speak of that, but I can’t see the application of that as directly to the present point. He was encouraging the Gentiles as a whole not to be arrogant toward the Jews.

    David R: This is the crux of the issue, so it’s crucial that you see the application to the question at hand. Let’s take a look at Paul’s olive tree metaphor.

    RS: Since you said that this is the crux of the issue, I thought it might be wise to focus on this.

    David R: First of all, the tree is rooted in the Abrahamic promise. The root (Abraham) is holy and therefore the branches are also (Paul argues in v. 16). Is he speaking of sovereign election/regeneration here? No, because some of those holy branches will be broken off (which of course isn’t possible of the regenerate). Thus there is a holiness (i.e., covenant membership) apart from the question of electing grace. You will probably respond, “Well sure, that was true of Old Testament Israel where the entire nation was set apart. But in the NT, only the regenerate are holy.” Really? Let’s see what Paul says: “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree …” Notice, the wild branches become part of the same olive tree, and the holiness of the root extends to all these grafted-in branches too. Yet (Paul continues), “you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” Apart from faith, these holy grafted-in branches will be broken off, just like the natural ones. Why doesn’t Paul say of these Gentiles that by unbelief they will prove that they only seemed to be grafted in, but that in fact they never really were? It’s because membership in the covenant of grace works the exact same way in NT times as it did in OT times. The olive tree (covenant membership) isn’t limited to the elect (though ultimately, all but the elect will be “broken off”). Rather, the olive tree includes Abraham and his children—the natural branches (whether or not they’re elect), and believers and their children—the grafted branches (whether or not they are elect). Make sense?

    RS: I still see this passage as speaking to people groups. Israel as a whole or as a nation was cut off. Rom 11:11 “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.” Then, at the end of chapter 11, “25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery– so that you will not be wise in your own estimation– that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

    The reason that hardening came to many in the nation of Israel and indeed Israel was chopped off was so that the fullness of the Gentiles would come in. It is only when the Gentiles have come in and the elect Jews are saved that all Israel will be saved. I cannot see (at this point) that we should press all the details of this (like a parable) as illustrative of the points of the covenant. It seems more like a parable or an analogy of sorts to make a larger point.

    David R quoting RS: I would not argue against the nurture from one generation to the next, but giving the sign of the spiritual promise of God (that He would give them His Holy Spirit who works regeneration and applies Christ in that promise) to those that we know that many are not children of Isaac seems to be contrary to the NC.

    David R: But as we’ve seen, if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if you are grafted into the rich root of the olive tree, then the shoots that you bring forth are also holy, even though they might conceivably be broken off in the future on account of unbelief.

    RS: But what this sounds like is that people are saved and then are lost. It sounds much like those who say people are in the covenant and assumed to be regenerate unless they take their names of the book of life. If God has truly set apart one and made that one holy in His presence, He will keep that one persevering. But if a person is cut off on account of unbelief, then did that person ever believe? If person A is cut off on account of unbelief, does persons B keep believing in his or her own power? If God makes both person A and person B holy, then it sounds as if it is up to the person for the rest.

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  155. Horton: “The righteousness imputed should be seen more clearly not merely as ontologically different from inner renewal, but also as the ontological source of that change” .(p198,Covenant Union)

    Gaffin: “Reformed theology has not commonly seen justification as the judicial basis for regeneration, which it understands as the eschatologically irreversible origin of the faith that appropriates justification.” (review of Covenant Union, in ordained servant)

    II Peter 1:1 Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

    rs: The text does not say we have received a faith because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Whether we have received a faith such as the whole of Christian teaching or of an individual faith, of course it came by the righteousness of Christ.

    mark: this does not compute. The two sentences contradict each other. I agree with the second. I disagree with the first.

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  156. Berkhof: The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration.

    A. A. Hodge: The second characteristic mark of Protestant soteriology is the principle that the change of relation to the law signalized by the term justification, involving remission of penalty and restoration to favor, necessarily precedes the real moral change of character signalized by the terms regeneration….. Remission of punishment must be preceded by remission of guilt, and must itself precede the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. We are pardoned in order that we may be
    good, never made good in order that we may be pardoned. We are freely made co-heirs with Christ in order that we may become willing co-workers with him, but we are never made co-workers in order that we may become co-heirs.

    RS: Galatians 3:13-14 teaches us that Christ died so that we would receive the Spirit. It was a righteous work that He did on the cross as well as His whole life, but that is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness

    mark: WHAT is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness? If the righteous work Christ did on the cross is not His righteousness earned and imputed, then what is that work of Christ ? And even more importantly, if the righteousness of Christ which God imputes is not what Christ did on the cross, then what is the righteousness of Christ?

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  157. Richard, so the question then is how much weight you put on regeneration. Is it a mini form of sanctification, or is it a renewal of the will? On the latter, I still think we’re entering the terrain of psychology which Calvinists don’t like when non-believers do it. On the former, you don’t want to put sanctification before justification for reasons having to do with Rome.

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  158. Eric, see Richard’s quotes from Heidelberg. Almost no one after 1700 regards conversion in those terms.

    Introspection may be good if it leads to repentance. But if it comes in a context where sincerity is all in all, it can be a demon.

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  159. Richard, what I look for as an elder is a credible profession of faith, which includes trust in Christ, repentance for sins, knowledge of some basic doctrine, and a life not characterized by gross public sin. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. I didn’t even mention experience.

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  160. Richard, confessionalists don’t assume that the means of grace are automatic. This is in my view the mistake of the Federal Visionaries. What we do believe is that God has promised to bless the means of grace. And as Bible-only folks, we don’t see other means to trust very highly. In fact, we’re suspicious of non-biblical means like Christian aerobics or even Christian broadcasting. What seems to be your affliction is a view that just because the means are not automatic, you may go ahead and mistrust them.

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  161. Richard there is no exe opere operato view of the sacraments in confessionalism. Again, God is free we are not. The emphasis is on the ordinary means, because we have no other biblical prescription for ministering the gospel. It’s a matter of obedience, not limitation of God.

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  162. D.G. – I listened to your recent lectures in Oregon on You Tube and I think you made the point that we can draw some lines between the “conversion experience” of an adult vs. that of a covenant child. As Reformed people we do not deny that conversion experiences happen, we just don’t agree with the expectation that they always have to happen in a dramatic way in the case of covenant children, correct?

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  163. II Peter 1:1 Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

    RS: The text does not say we have received a faith because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Whether we have received a faith such as the whole of Christian teaching or of an individual faith, of course it came by the righteousness of Christ.

    mark: this does not compute. The two sentences contradict each other. I agree with the second. I disagree with the first.

    RS: The two sentences do not contradict each other, though I can see how one could be confused. Two possible options: 1) The faith that is spoken of is the faith that is given to the sinner. 2) The faith that is spoken of is the faith as a body of doctrine. What the text does not say is that either of these is given on the basis of an imputed righteousness. It is not the case that each and every time the Bible mentions righteousness that it refers to an imputed righteousness.

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  164. mark mcculley: Berkhof: The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration.

    RS: It would be nice to have the location of that quote. However, once again, this view demands that the righteousness of Christ be given to a sinner before the sinner has Christ. To repeat, it is not my view that this is true, but the view that McMark espouses (and quotes Berkhof) sure seems to demand that a sinner has the imputed righteousness of Christ before the sinner has Christ. This view seems to imply that one can have the imputed righteousness of Christ and then die before one can have Christ Himself.

    McMark: A. A. Hodge: The second characteristic mark of Protestant soteriology is the principle that the change of relation to the law signalized by the term justification, involving remission of penalty and restoration to favor, necessarily precedes the real moral change of character signalized by the terms regeneration….. Remission of punishment must be preceded by remission of guilt, and must itself precede the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. We are pardoned in order that we may be good, never made good in order that we may be pardoned. We are freely made co-heirs with Christ in order that we may become willing co-workers with him, but we are never made co-workers in order that we may become co-heirs.

    RS: Of course we are declared just in order to live to His glory rather than living to His glory so that we may be just. But far more weighty than Hodge is Ephesians 2:1-10 and Romans 4:1-6, 16; 11:6.

    McMark quoting RS: Galatians 3:13-14 teaches us that Christ died so that we would receive the Spirit. It was a righteous work that He did on the cross as well as His whole life, but that is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness

    mark: WHAT is not the same thing as an imputed righteousness?

    RS: A righteous act or work that Christ did (which would be everything He did) would in and of itself be righteous but that is not the same thing as saying that each and every time the Bible speaks of righteousness that is is speaking of an imputed righteousness. Of course all the righteousness of Christ is imputed to His elect when the elect are in Christ, but it is possible to speak of His perfect and righteous actions without thinking of it as imputed righteousness at that point it is speaking of those actions.

    McMark: If the righteous work Christ did on the cross is not His righteousness earned and imputed, then what is that work of Christ?

    RS: There you go with your false deductions. I am simply making the distinction that what Christ did on the cross was righteous but that is not the same thing as making an immeditate declaraton of an imputed righteousness. Unbelievers can agree that what Christ did was righteous and yet not have the imputed righteousness of Christ. His righteous acts must be imputed at a later point.

    McMark: And even more importantly, if the righteousness of Christ which God imputes is not what Christ did on the cross, then what is the righteousness of Christ?

    RS: Of course God imputes the righteousness of Christ to His elect at the timing of His good pleasure, but they were still acts of righteousness without direct reference to the imputation of them. But as to what the righteousness of Christ is apart from the cross, that would be His whole life of perfectly righteous acts, motives, intents, loves, and thoughts. This is not to deny that His righteous acts on the cross were also righteous and is imputed, but simply to say that the works of His whole life were righteous and imputed when Christ is united to the soul of the elect person.

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  165. D. G. Hart: Richard, so the question then is how much weight you put on regeneration. Is it a mini form of sanctification, or is it a renewal of the will?

    RS: The question that I though I was trying to discuss with McMark is whether the righteousnes of Christ is imputed before regeneration or after regeneration. He argues that the righteousness of Christ imputed is the basis on which regeneration happens. I am arging that the imputed righteousness of Christ is imputed when the sinner has Christ. McMark’s view separates the righteousness of Christ from Christ while my view says that we cannot have the imputed righteousness of Christ without Christ Himself.

    D. G. Hart: On the latter, I still think we’re entering the terrain of psychology which Calvinists don’t like when non-believers do it. On the former, you don’t want to put sanctification before justification for reasons having to do with Rome.

    RS: But of course, but in terms of my discussion with McMark that is not the point, though for some strange reason he has brought it up. I don’t put sanctification anywhere but after the sinner has been declared just on the basis of the propitiatory work of Christ and the imputed righteousness of Christ. In other words, when God looks at the sinner that is united to Christ He beholds His Son.

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  166. D. G. Hart: Eric, see Richard’s quotes from Heidelberg. Almost no one after 1700 regards conversion in those terms.

    Introspection may be good if it leads to repentance. But if it comes in a context where sincerity is all in all, it can be a demon.

    RS: Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

    Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

    2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

    I might also add that the vast majority of people that the Bible says believed in the Gospel of John were shown later not to savingly believe. The Parable of the Sower also speaks of the kind of heart that is necessary and shows that many are deceived as well.

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  167. D. G. Hart: Richard, what I look for as an elder is a credible profession of faith,

    RS: But surely this is more than does one agree with some propositions.

    D. G. Hart: which includes trust in Christ

    RS: But surely that includes more than words.

    D. G. Hart: , repentance for sins,

    RS: So as long as the person says he repents and has no “experience” of repentance that is okay?

    D. G. Hart: knowledge of some basic doctrine, and a life not characterized by gross public sin.

    RS: So the experience of a life not characterized by certain kinds of sin.

    D. G. Hart: I don’t see what’s wrong with that. I didn’t even mention experience.

    RS: You might not have mentioned it, but it is there. It is sort of like going to a doctor or mechanic. Do you want one that has the “book learning” or the one that is experienced in what they do? Is it so wrong to want a Christian that is experienced in the things of God? Is it so wrong to want an elder that is experienced in the things of God?

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  168. D. G. Hart: Richard, confessionalists don’t assume that the means of grace are automatic. This is in my view the mistake of the Federal Visionaries. What we do believe is that God has promised to bless the means of grace.

    RS: Okay, but please hear me out on this. You say that confessionalists don’t assume that the means of grace are automatic. I hear you. Then you say that God has promised to bless the means of grace. I hear that. But put those two statements together and what do you have? Without more qualifications you basically have the means of grace being automatic because God has promised to bless them. Does God promise to bless them all the time? Is grace in the hands and the prayers of the ministers to bestow? If the answer to the last two sentences are no, then how do we know that we have received grace? If it is not automatic (like it appears in Rome) but instead relies on the promise of God, if God promises it and I take it doesn’t that mean that God is obligated to give grace when I perform the act? Do you at least see how someone might see that as just another version of it being automatic?

    D.G. Hart: And as Bible-only folks, we don’t see other means to trust very highly. In fact, we’re suspicious of non-biblical means like Christian aerobics or even Christian broadcasting.

    RS: Would Christian broadcasting include BLOGS? Anyway, I am not arguing for non-biblical means of grace, though I have heard of people that thought that aerobics was sure a blessing. I am a bit of a stickler on the Regulative Principle.

    D.G. Hart: What seems to be your affliction is a view that just because the means are not automatic, you may go ahead and mistrust them.

    RS: Ah, I am trying to refrain from going on and on about how we are not to trust in the means of grace but in the God who gives grace as He pleases to the humble. Can a proud person take the means of grace and expect to recieve grace even though God says He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble?

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  169. Sean: Richard there is no exe opere operato view of the sacraments in confessionalism.

    RS: I am sure that what you mean by this is your view of confessionalism.

    Sean: Again, God is free we are not.

    RS: By God being free He is only obligated to Himself and His own glory and only deals with His people on the basis of His own free and sovereign grace. By definition grace must be free of anything found in the human being that is based on merit or work.

    Sean: The emphasis is on the ordinary means, because we have no other biblical prescription for ministering the gospel. It’s a matter of obedience, not limitation of God.

    RS: That last little sentence, however, in this context sounds a little dangerous. If we are linking the saraments to receiving grace (and I am not arguing that this is entirely wrong), then surely we don’t want to say that it is a matter of obedience. My concern is not the limitation of God, but to stand for a grace that is always grace and that God is never under obligation to human beings to bestow. Any work or merit added to grace at any point makes grace no longer to be grace. Any sense of obligation that we think is on God to give grace to us because of what we do makes grace no longer to be grace. There is no other kind of grace but sovereign grace.

    My concern is not to argue that the sacraments are not means of grace, but to argue that we cannot trust in our taking of the sacraments to receive grace. Instead, God gives grace to the poor in spirit and to those who are not trusting in anything or anyone but Him. God only gives grace to the humble while He opposes the proud. The state of the heart is vital in taking the sacraments and all else that we think and do.

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  170. Richard,

    You lost me. I did neurotic as an evangelical for 2 years, I’m not going back. I will trust that God will complete His work in me, while I partake of the ordinary means. I’m certain that the experiential notions you are eager to defend are not found by pursuing them, except in false or contrived manifestations. God is free to move as He wishes, and when and if I have rapturous moments they will be a rather indirect result of pursuing ordinary means. Not saying you are false Richard, at all, but your ‘preparationism’ even for the ordinary means and desire to safeguard against dead form/ritual is a little overwrought from my perspective. More importantly, I don’t think it’s a great diagnosis of the need in protestant churches. We can’t get acquiescence to the reg. principle, much less carry it out with any sort of uniformity in our confessional reformed churches, never mind the charlatan’s on T.V. or behind the plexiglass lecturn. We have people leave because we are not sufficiently christian america or practical enough or entertaining enough or don’t adequately speak to the kids and on top of it, we can’t preach worth beans. That’s the reality on the ground. If we want to get animated about something, that’s what we should be up in arms about. IMO

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  171. sean
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
    Richard,

    You lost me. I did neurotic as an evangelical for 2 years, I’m not going back. I will trust that God will complete His work in me, while I partake of the ordinary means. I’m certain that the experiential notions you are eager to defend are not found by pursuing them, except in false or contrived manifestations. God is free to move as He wishes, and when and if I have rapturous moments they will be a rather indirect result of pursuing ordinary means. Not saying you are false Richard, at all, but your ‘preparationism’ even for the ordinary means and desire to safeguard against dead form/ritual is a little overwrought from my perspective. More importantly, I don’t think it’s a great diagnosis of the need in protestant churches. We can’t get acquiescence to the reg. principle, much less carry it out with any sort of uniformity in our confessional reformed churches, never mind the charlatan’s on T.V. or behind the plexiglass lecturn. We have people leave because we are not sufficiently christian america or practical enough or entertaining enough or don’t adequately speak to the kids and on top of it, we can’t preach worth beans. That’s the reality on the ground. If we want to get animated about something, that’s what we should be up in arms about. IMO

    RS: The real isue is that God has hidden His face. We must seek His face in the ways He has prescribed. That is with humility and broken hearts coming to Him as the Potter and we as the clay. Call it neurotic if you will, but there is no finding the face of God apart from His work in the heart and apart from that heart being broken from self and self-sufficiency and any hope in anything or anyone but God in Christ by the Spirit.

    Isaiah 64:1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence–
    2 As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil– To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
    3 When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
    4 For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
    5 You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved?
    6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
    7 There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.
    8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

    II Chr 7:13 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people,
    14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
    15 “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.

    Hosea 5:15 I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.

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  172. RS:”It is not the case that each and every time the Bible mentions righteousness that it refers to an imputed righteousness.”

    mark: i guess this means that Rs is going with only one of his two sentences about II Peter 1:1 , and wishes he had never said the other. I certainly agree that the word “righteousness” does not mean in “each and every” time in Scripture that which Christ earned and which is given by imputation. But the question was about what “righteousness” means in II Peter 1:1 and other specific texts like Romans 1:16-17

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

    My point was that this specific righteousness in the good news is the imputed righteousness earned by Christ outside of us. It’s not only about God’s righteous attribute. In response, RS has both agreed and disagreed that the righteousness in these texts is imputed righteousness. Besides contradicting himself, he ends with the emphasis that “it doesn’t have to be the imputed righteousness”.

    To which I had a very specific question. What kind of “righteousness” that’s in these texts if it’s NOT the one Christ earned and which is imputed?

    It didn’t have to be oj simpson that did the killing, but if nobody has another answer for who the killer might be….

    In II Peter 1:1 RS says it doesn’t have to be the imputed righteousness. Well, then what is it?

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  173. Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    Forget “each and every” Scripture. Is this gift of righteousness the gift of what Christ earned and imputed? If not, what is the righteousness given and how is that righteousness parallel to the guilt we received from Adam?

    Romans 5:20 “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also shall reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    Again, in this specific text, what is the righteousness by which grace reigns (even where sin increases)? Is this righteousness by which grace reigns the righteousness earned by Christ and imputed? If not, what is the righteousness by which grace reigns? And why does the question of Romans 6 immediately follow this verse, if Romans 5:21 is not talking about an imputed (synthetic, alien) righteousness?

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  174. Erik, experience is less important for me, in case you haven’t noticed. An adult unbeliever does need to change direction in his life if you want to call that conversion. A covenant child who faithfully attends the means of grace and submits to parents should do anything but change his ways. He simply (though hardly simple) needs to own what he has been given by his parents and congregation.

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  175. Richard, but the deceitfulness of the heart goes both ways. You need to examine your heart sometimes to see what’s going on. But if your deceitful heart is examining a deceitful heart who are you going to believe?

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  176. Richard, fans in Philadelphia never warmed to Mike Schmidt because he wasn’t experiential on the field. He was formal. They loved Pete Rose (when wearing a Phillies uniform) because they could see his experience of playing ball. Are you really going to dispute whether Mike Schmidt was a real baseball player because he wasn’t joyful the way Pete Rose was?

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  177. Richard, forget the blog jazz. I am here as a regular guy, not as an elder or with a writing ministry. This is a place for a conversation, not for a family visit the the e-elder.

    Here’s the problem you have, I think. The Word of God is a means of Grace. I don’t expect God to speak to us anywhere but through his Word (or the ministry of it through preaching and pastoral counsel). But your view says that I have an automatic view of the Bible, as if anyone who reads it or hears it preached will be saved, edified, etc.

    I don’t think you question the Word as a means of grace. So why do you question a high view of preaching, sacraments, and prayer? They are God ordained means too.

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  178. RS: I still see this passage as speaking to people groups.

    David R: “People groups” is church growth lingo for cultural/linguistic barriers. Maybe you’re using it in a different sense, but I’m not clear on how you mean to argue against what I’ve said.

    RS: The reason that hardening came to many in the nation of Israel and indeed Israel was chopped off was so that the fullness of the Gentiles would come in. It is only when the Gentiles have come in and the elect Jews are saved that all Israel will be saved.

    David R: Well, what you’ve quoted explains Israel’s transgression/rejection, but it is not really to the point of the question of the administration/membership of the covenant of grace, which is addressed in the passage I discussed.

    RS: I cannot see (at this point) that we should press all the details of this (like a parable) as illustrative of the points of the covenant. It seems more like a parable or an analogy of sorts to make a larger point.

    David R: There are not very many details. The root is holy, the branches are holy, some of the branches are broken off. In your view, what is the purpose of the olive tree metaphor? How should we understand what Paul says about the branches being holy, and yet some broken off? How does this speak to your view that “Israel was the physical seed, but the church is the spiritual seed”?

    RS quoting David R: But as we’ve seen, if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if you are grafted into the rich root of the olive tree, then the shoots that you bring forth are also holy, even though they might conceivably be broken off in the future on account of unbelief.

    RS: But what this sounds like is that people are saved and then are lost. It sounds much like those who say people are in the covenant and assumed to be regenerate unless they take their names of the book of life.

    David R: The reason it sounds like that to you is because you do not have a category for covenant administration (as distinct from covenant substance). The holiness of which Paul speaks here is that of being embraced by the covenant in its administration. It is membership in the visible church. He is not speaking here of the holiness of election/regeneration.

    RS: If God has truly set apart one and made that one holy in His presence, He will keep that one persevering.

    David R: True, all those who are holy in the sense of being united to Christ by God’s effectual call will persevere. But that is not the holiness being addressed in this passage.

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  179. Dr. Hart–

    1. I agree that introspection can be dangerous. That’s part of the reason we are to be in fellowship with other believers…to hold one another accountable…to shed light on the deceit of our own hearts.

    2. Were you saying that no one views conversion as consisting in mortification and quickening past 1700?

    3. An adult unbeliever “changing direction” in his life in nowhere near a valid description of conversion. (I assume you inadvertently left out the essential component of belief.)

    4. A compliant covenant child “making the faith his or her own,” on the other hand, is an eminently acceptable description. (That is, however, an “experience.” It may not be dramatic, but it is something that has happened to them, something they have undergone.)

    5. Your view of conversion still seems strangely devoid of the supernatural. It sounds like something one does for oneself. Outside a little self-congratulation, there’s no need for rejoicing. All in a day’s work. (I thoroughly understand that is not how you picture it, but that’s how it starts to sound.)

    6. Have you had any children make the faith their own (or at the very least, articulate the faith in their own words)? Did [would] you feel no pride or joy at such an occasion? Was it not [would it not be] an experience? I’m just trying to get a handle on why you might mistrust all emotion, or all honorable (though emotion-charged) experiences.

    7. I would say that I trust entirely in the “ordinary means of grace” [though there’s nothing particularly ordinary about them].

    Were I to shed a quiet tear while participating in communion at your church, would I be button-holed and dragged into the pastor’s study for an interrogation? The “ordinary means of grace” shake me to my boots…or rather, they would if I ever wore any.

    I don’t mind your own evaluation of the insignificance of experience. For whatever reason, that’s you. Why do you begrudge others their own personal reactions? (Are emotional people, in your mind, always duplicitous and manipulative? Are they always involved in some sort of self-deception?)

    In some ways, Mike Schmidt was a “real” baseball player more than Pete Rose. He never bet on baseball, did he? He brought nothing but honor to the game…and besides, he worked hard in his own way!

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  180. Eric P., 2) I’m saying that after the First Pretty “Good” Awakening, the notion of conversion as synonymous with sanctification became a rare view, especially among Reformed communions.

    3) A conversion in the modern sense means leaving one’s previous life and associations behind. The best testimonies in my church growing up, the celebrity converts, were those who were gang members, drug addicts, fornicators. How was my “conversion” going to compete with theirs?

    4) What you call experience, I call an episode or transition. I’m not sure you can make me use experience since the Bible doesn’t use the word in any way that I can recall. (No fair consulting your concordance or doing a search at ESV.com.)

    5) If you only associate the supernatural with dramatic occurrences, you might have a point. But sanctification is supernatural and it happens often very quietly unless you get sanctimonious about it.

    6) I don’t have children but I have been quite moved at many an infant’s baptism. Even weepy. Sheesh, does this make tears an instance of experience? And if I don’t tear up, has my heart grown cold?

    7) Good.

    As you can see, I’m not prohibiting emotion. Why emotion is synonymous with experience or the supernatural will require a whole lot of labor on your part. What I am saying is that folks like Edwards make people like you associate emotion with genuine religion, and invite suspicion of those who don’t have “experience,” much like the way Philadelphia regarded Mike Schmidt. I don’t begrudge other people’s emotions. I just don’t think their emotions are the gold standard of piety.

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  181. Dr. Hart–

    You continue to read things into what I write. Perhaps I am putting words in your mouth, as well.

    1. Conversion separated from sanctification is not good for much. The best testimonies in my experience were those that were clearly far more than skin deep. These believers were humble, gracious, generous, devout, evangelistic, hungry for the Word, and oozed faith from every pore. Or so it seemed to me. Yet I don’t remember the slightest inclination toward competition with them on my part. I just yearned to be like them. Yes, there was conviction involved, but even that was a good feeling. I don’t recall any personal inadequacy or inferiority as a result.

    2. The criteria for discerning genuine supernatural experiences (or transitions or episodes) include neither dramatic events nor quiet steadiness. The process can, of course, involve either extreme or something in between. You may not theoretically begrudge my more emotional responses, but you evidently far prefer more stoic dispositions. You appear to find them more spiritual.

    3. For me, emotion is in no way synonymous with genuine spiritual experience, but it is a frequent and natural reaction in many believers. For me myself, spiritual experience evokes an emotional response though I am not one to particularly let it show. I don’t raise my hands or shout out any hallelujahs. On the other hand, I do tend to sing from the heart; I don’t hold back. However, I never catch myself suspicious of those who respond differently: many are more effusive than I; many are more reserved.

    If some have impressed you as arrogantly setting forth their way of doing things as “the gold standard,” I’m sorry they were like that. Nevertheless, I do not believe they picked it up from Edwards. Edwards’ ideas were quickly twisted all out shape by his successors, till they were beyond recognition. He was more or less unique within his age. A Puritan of sorts untimely born.

    4. Do you find your tears (when they come at perfectly appropriate times like an infant’s baptism) to somehow be a bad thing? Are they not in some sense from the overflow of your heart? Lack of tears may not indicate coldness at all, but boredom might. Finding no significance in the event, excusing yourself to go outside and trim the church’s hedges, that might indicate some coldness.Texting your mother-in-law to make sure she has Sunday dinner ready for your arrival. That may. Like many other developed character traits, coldness is displayed in a variety of ways.Sometimes even with crocodile tears.

    5. Some who are pietistic / revivalistic use emotion as a tool to whip up a crowd or manipulate an individual into a supposed “decision.” Some who are confessional resemble the Puritans stereotyped by H.L. Mencken as those possessing “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be having fun.” But there are significant exceptions to both. The actual Puritans were deeply confessional and deeply pietistic. Some have depicted Old Princeton in similar terms. Both were firmly set against false revivalism. Edwards was also set against false revivalism. The First Great Awakening was spotty and short-lived, not that terribly great. But it was, at least in part, a genuine movement of the spirit that inspired further revival back in the Old World. The Second Great Awakening may well deserve the title of “pretty good” or worse. Finney and his ilk caused untold damage to the subsequent development of evangelicalism.

    You seem to believe that I. like many with pietist leanings, equate emotion with authenticity. I do not.

    I wonder if you, like certain pedantic confessionalists I have known, are suspicious of anything in worship that smacks in the slightest little bit of sentimentality or ornamentation or artificiality. Are you such a spiritual curmudgeon?

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  182. mark mcculley quoting RS:”It is not the case that each and every time the Bible mentions righteousness that it refers to an imputed righteousness.”

    mark: i guess this means that Rs is going with only one of his two sentences about II Peter 1:1 , and wishes he had never said the other.

    RS: No, you continue to misread or I continue to write in a way tha you misread.

    McMark: certainly agree that the word “righteousness” does not mean in “each and every” time in Scripture that which Christ earned and which is given by imputation. But the question was about what “righteousness” means in II Peter 1:1 and other specific texts like Romans 1:16-17

    RS: But the point is that you tend to assume that this is what it means.
    II Pet 1:1 “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” It does not say imputed righteousnes and it does not demand imputed righteousness.

    McMark: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

    My point was that this specific righteousness in the good news is the imputed righteousness earned by Christ outside of us. It’s not only about God’s righteous attribute. In response, RS has both agreed and disagreed that the righteousness in these texts is imputed righteousness. Besides contradicting himself, he ends with the emphasis that “it doesn’t have to be the imputed righteousness”.

    RS: No contradiction, but simply continuing to point out that the text does not state that it is an imputed righteousness and it does not demand an imputed righteousness. You are assuming that it is an imputed righteousness.

    McMark: To which I had a very specific question. What kind of “righteousness” that’s in these texts if it’s NOT the one Christ earned and which is imputed?

    It didn’t have to be oj simpson that did the killing, but if nobody has another answer for who the killer might be….

    RS: Whether a person has another answer or not that is not the issue. God has the answer whether no other person knows it or not,

    In II Peter 1:1 RS says it doesn’t have to be the imputed righteousness. Well, then what is it?

    RS: The text Of II Peter 1:1 tell us those that Peter is writing to: “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

    Jude 3, which certainly is a letter that was written with II Peter in mind (or vice versa) since they have many parallels and almost the exact languge, says this: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” In that context “the faith” is clearly about the content of the truth that faith holds to. It is like saying our “Christian faith” which has to do with the doctrines and things held.

    It is by what Christ has done that there is a faith to have. It is by what Christ had done in purchasing the Holy Spirit for His elect (Gal 3:13-14) who applies the work of Christ and so gives faith in regeneration. But the text does not say that it is based on the imputed righteousess of Christ that we are given faith. We are given faith so that we may have the imputed righteousness of Christ.

    Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

    RS: Read Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    In reading this text, is it talking about the imputed righteousness of Christ? No, it is not. God is declared to be righteous because He set forth Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice. In the work of Christ and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ God is declared to be righteous. Note, then, in Romans 1:16-18 that the righteousness that is being spoken of is the righteousness of God that is revealed from faith to faith, or from one degree of faith to another degree of faith. It then says that the righteous man will live by faith. The contrast to the righteous man living by faith is the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The the righteousness that the one with faith lives by is contrasted with the wrath of God against the unrightouesness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

    So the Gospel of Jesus Christ does indeed have a stress on the imputed righteousness of Christ, but it is also stresses the righteousness of God as well. But back to the point at hand, you have yet to give one text that says that God regenerates sinners on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ and that before they have Christ. A righteous God, which is a glorious part of the Gospel, will not impute the righteousness of Christ to those who have not been washed and renewed in the washing of regeneration. Christ must have His temple cleansed before He will dwell in it.

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  183. mark mcculley: Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    Forget “each and every” Scripture. Is this gift of righteousness the gift of what Christ earned and imputed? If not, what is the righteousness given and how is that righteousness parallel to the guilt we received from Adam?

    RS: Of course in this text the imputed righteousness is in view. All were in Adam when He sinned and so all sinned. He represented them when they were one in him. With Christ, however, we have to be (shall we say) disunited with Adam and united to Christ in order to have His righteousness imputed to us.

    Romans 5:20 “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also shall reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    McMark: Again, in this specific text, what is the righteousness by which grace reigns (even where sin increases)? Is this righteousness by which grace reigns the righteousness earned by Christ and imputed? If not, what is the righteousness by which grace reigns? And why does the question of Romans 6 immediately follow this verse, if Romans 5:21 is not talking about an imputed (synthetic, alien) righteousness?

    RS: I don’t think this text (Rom 5:21) is speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ because sinners have already been declared just in Christ. Grace reigns by working true righteousness in sinners and so it is grace that reigns rather than death and the sin of death. It makes no sense if the text is speaking of the imputed righteousness by which we are declared just and then to say that this “grace also shall reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is speaking of the life of Christ in the soul and that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ. It is grace that regenerates a soul, it is grace that declares the soul just, and it is grace that reigns in the soul into eternity.

    This makes perfect sense of Romans 6:1 which says: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” The soul that has been declared just by the imputed righteousness of Christ and now lives under the righteous reign of grace is told not to sin so that grace might abound. Instead of that, the soul is told to walk in newness of life. It fits well together.

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  184. D. G. Hart: Richard, fans in Philadelphia never warmed to Mike Schmidt because he wasn’t experiential on the field. He was formal. They loved Pete Rose (when wearing a Phillies uniform) because they could see his experience of playing ball. Are you really going to dispute whether Mike Schmidt was a real baseball player because he wasn’t joyful the way Pete Rose was?

    RS: Pete Rose could have been a fake (being judgmental here). The issue is whether a person partakes of the fruit of the Spirit or not.

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  185. D. G. Hart: Richard, forget the blog jazz. I am here as a regular guy, not as an elder or with a writing ministry. This is a place for a conversation, not for a family visit the the e-elder.

    RS: My tongue was in my cheek when I said that.

    D.G. Hart: Here’s the problem you have, I think. The Word of God is a means of Grace. I don’t expect God to speak to us anywhere but through his Word (or the ministry of it through preaching and pastoral counsel). But your view says that I have an automatic view of the Bible, as if anyone who reads it or hears it preached will be saved, edified, etc.

    RS: It says that you can have that and a lot of people do have that, but not necessarily that you do have that.

    D.G. Hart: I don’t think you question the Word as a means of grace. So why do you question a high view of preaching, sacraments, and prayer? They are God ordained means too.

    RS: I don’t question even a very high view of true preaching and prayer. I don’t question a rather high view of the sacraments though I still see some of the teaching on them as some hangover from Rome. The Bible hardly speaks of the sacraments and yet many make them the main emphasis. It is through true preaching and prayer that true revival comes if it comes. My argument is that in preaching God only gives grace as He pleases. My argument about prayer is that God only gives grace as He pleases. My argument about the sacrament (in this context) is that God only gives grace as He pleases. We must come to Him with humble hearts to hear preaching, to pray, and to take the sacrament.

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  186. RS (old comment): I cannot see (at this point) that we should press all the details of this (like a parable) as illustrative of the points of the covenant. It seems more like a parable or an analogy of sorts to make a larger point.

    David R: There are not very many details. The root is holy, the branches are holy, some of the branches are broken off. In your view, what is the purpose of the olive tree metaphor? How should we understand what Paul says about the branches being holy, and yet some broken off? How does this speak to your view that “Israel was the physical seed, but the church is the spiritual seed”?

    RS: It still seems that the text is being used in a general way and should not be pressed on all points.

    Old Comment of RS quoting David R: But as we’ve seen, if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if you are grafted into the rich root of the olive tree, then the shoots that you bring forth are also holy, even though they might conceivably be broken off in the future on account of unbelief.

    Old comment of RS responding to David R: But what this sounds like is that people are saved and then are lost. It sounds much like those who say people are in the covenant and assumed to be regenerate unless they take their names of the book of life.

    David R: The reason it sounds like that to you is because you do not have a category for covenant administration (as distinct from covenant substance). The holiness of which Paul speaks here is that of being embraced by the covenant in its administration. It is membership in the visible church. He is not speaking here of the holiness of election/regeneration.

    RS: Perhaps, but is that category found in Scripture? Why do you think that there is a type of holiness that one can have in the covenant of grace and yet not be a saving grace and a saving holiness?

    Old Comment by RS: If God has truly set apart one and made that one holy in His presence, He will keep that one persevering.

    David R: True, all those who are holy in the sense of being united to Christ by God’s effectual call will persevere. But that is not the holiness being addressed in this passage.

    RS: But this is still getting at the heart of the New Covenant and how far one is to press the points of this passge. When Roman Catholicism was on the scene just before the Reformation they believed that infant baptism washed away the original sin of the infant and placed it in a state of grace. While Luther had a hard time breaking away from that, others saw that this was not consistent with justification by faith alone or the covenant of grace. So the doctrine of the covenant was set out as a reason for infant baptism. They couldn’t do away with the practice since infants were baptized into citizenship as well as membership into the Church.

    Rome also kept people coming because for people to have access to Christ they had to have the sacrament of the Supper. If people are truly in the covenant of grace and they are holy in some way, I cannot but think of this as closer to Rome than you may care to admit. Again, if infants are truly in the covenant of grace and we are to assume that they are regenerate, then how is that in reality different from Rome? Isn’t that also saying that the Church has the power to give grace to infants in baptism? I don’t think that I have changed the subject, but am trying to press a bit on where you will end up (logically) if you press Romans 11 at every point of this analogy.

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  187. mark mcculley: Berkhof: “The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration.

    RS: I didn’t notice you answering my question as to the location of this quote, so I set out to find it. You made me read a lot of Berkhof in order to find the quote. There was a lot of interesting material in the context that makes your quote seem to be a very favorable reading for your view.

    Berkhof: ” But not all imputation can be called justification in the Scriptural sense of the term. We must distinguish between what was merely ideal in the counsel of God and what is realized in the course of history. ”

    RS: This was just before the quote you gave. In other words, Berkhof distinguishes between an ideal in the eternal counsel of God and what is realized in the course of history. In the following paragraph I will give the quote that you (McMark) gave and then give the rest of the paragraph.

    Berkhof: “The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. [McMark stops the quote here, but I think that it should be continued to get at the sense that Berkhof means]. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priorty of justification in a temporal sense. The sinner can receive the grace of regeneration on the basis of a justification, ideally existing in the counsel of God and certain to be realized in the life of the sinner.”

    RS: In other words, Berkof is saying that in the mind of God He is viewing sinners in a certain way because of Christ and His imputed righteousnesss, but in actual time and in the lives of the saints they are regenerated before they are justified and in that justification declared just by the imputed righteousness of Christ.

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  188. D. G. Hart: Richard, but the deceitfulness of the heart goes both ways. You need to examine your heart sometimes to see what’s going on. But if your deceitful heart is examining a deceitful heart who are you going to believe?

    RS: That is why the deceitful heart must be humbled and submit to Scripture and the searching of the Spirit through the Scripture. The verse after Jeremiah 17:9 is 17:10. It teaches us that only the Lord can know the heart, but indeed He can also show us our hearts.

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  189. D. G. Hart: Erik, experience is less important for me, in case you haven’t noticed. An adult unbeliever does need to change direction in his life if you want to call that conversion.

    RS: But Matthew 18:3 says that one must be turned (by God) and become like a little child to even enter the kingdom. This is also not to mention the teaching of Jesus and Paul on the new birth.

    D.G. Hart: A covenant child who faithfully attends the means of grace and submits to parents should do anything but change his ways. He simply (though hardly simple) needs to own what he has been given by his parents and congregation.

    RS: But what can his parents and the congregation give him? Until the little viper is regenerated isn’t s/he still dead in sins and trespasses and by nature a child of wrath? Surely something has to change, perhaps even a lot of things have to change. All the things that the child was doing before conversion was done for self and to please others rather than God. It seems like a rather large change is needed if the child is turned so as to love God in all s/he is doing.

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  190. D. G. Hart: 3) A conversion in the modern sense means leaving one’s previous life and associations behind.

    RS: But the Pharisees did that.

    D.G. Hart: The best testimonies in my church growing up, the celebrity converts, were those who were gang members, drug addicts, fornicators. How was my “conversion” going to compete with theirs?

    RS: So you have had an inferiority complex all these years? Testimony envy driving your ever work against revival and Edwards? Could it be that you have developed a belief about what feelings and revival from the things you list above when in fact that stuff is just plain false? I like to think of it a different way. Jesus seemed to hate the religious folks (scribes and Pharisees) more than anything. So perhaps the worst sin is to be a Pharisee rather than a drug addict and so on. Those things are, after all, just fleshly things and rather ho hum when you think about it. But when a Pharisee (the worst of sinners) is saved, those are the really great testimonies that fire my jets. Oh, and I might add one more thing, a testimony is not supposed to be about the person giving the testimony (though it usually is), but is supposed to be about the greatness of God. See there, Dr. Hart, you can now be released from your testimony envy. All of those testimonies that were considered as great were just great to the flesh and not great in the spiritual realm.

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  191. Eric, if you don’t equate emotion with authenticity, why are you defending it so much. I don’t say that people who emote are arrogant. Most of the time they are naive. They act as if no forms of decorum are in order in a group setting where not everyone has the same emotional range. It’s like two girls talking about boyfriends very loudly and annoyingly on the train. I don’t think they are arrogant. I just don’t think they are aware that they share this space with others. In other words, prayer closet piety is not the same as corporate piety. Even our Lord gave instruction on this in the Sermon on the Mount.

    I do object to sentimentality (as opposed to sentiment) and so should you. Sentimentality is a disproportionate regard for something ordinary or common.

    BTW, how do you think awe looks? Someone who weeps, or someone who looks like a deer caught in the headlights?

    We can keep this going but this is such a soupy, runny category that unless you put something more definite on the table defending emotion or experience or sentiment or whatever it is you’re defending I probably won’t go on too much. Most of your examples are capable of a variety of interpretations — even emotions — because we don’t see the human heart.

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  192. Richard, who is denying that God only gives grace as he pleases? But why has God given the sacraments? Why has God given the word? Do we look for his blessing in other places?

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  193. Richard, like his parents never taught him to pray, never took him to church, never helped him memorize the Bible? As if this kind of rearing makes no difference even to someone who does not believe for later in life when they hear the gospel and have the categories to understand it as opposed to someone who was living in Bythinia and had never heard of Abraham or Moses?

    You seem to view spiritual matters as an abstraction — just the person and God with nothing in between like parents, pastor, culture, language, plausibility.

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  194. RS goes on and on until he gets to– “So the Gospel of Jesus Christ does indeed have a stress on the imputed righteousness of Christ, but it also stresses the righteousness of God as well”

    mark: Does that mean that the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17, II Peter 1:1) is NOT the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed? Or am I having problems reading you because you are not being logical? I know that NT Wright says so. Do you agree? If so, what is this “righteousness of God” which is NOT the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed?

    Is it infusion? Impartation? Where are the Bible texts which deny what you want to deny? Where does the Bible say that the righteousness of Christ is NOT the righteousness of God?

    Romans 10 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ for righteousness is the end of the law to everyone who believes.”

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  195. rs: “The the righteousness that the one with faith lives by is contrasted with the wrath of God against the unrightouesness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

    mark: Does that mean that “the righteousness of God” is “the righteousness people live by” instead of (or in addition to) the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed?

    RS: “I don’t think this text (Rom 5:21) is speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ because sinners have already been declared just in Christ.”

    mark: Which sinners have already been justified, and why would that matter for knowing what the righteousness is in Romans 5? There are two federal heads in Romans 5, where Adam’s guilt is received by imputation, and Christ’s righteousness is received by imputation. Why would the chapter talk about some other (undefined) righteousness rather than Christ’s righteousness?
    I know you want to talk about how righteous your “soul” is, but neither chapters 5 or 6 do so.

    Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made
    righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also will reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    mark: is not the “one act of righteousness” Christ’s righteousness earned and imputed? Is not the “by one man’s obedience” Christ’s righteousness earned and imputed? Why would your soul’s imperfect “living by faith” somehow factor into the reign of grace? And if Romans 5 were indeed talking about the righteousness of God being what God does in you, why would there even be an objection in Romans 6 about “more sin to get more grace”?

    rs: Grace reigns by working true righteousness in sinners and so it is grace that reigns…

    mark: If you are being logical, this is you saying again that “true righteousness” is something different and other than the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed. It’s also you begging the question again, repeating yourself again.

    rs: It makes no sense if the text is speaking of the imputed righteousness by which we are declared just and then to say that this “grace also shall reign through righteousness leading to eternal life
    through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    mark: why not? 1. No if about it, Romans 5 is talking about two heads, with Christ’s righteousness being the basis of justification. 2. So why would it make no sense to conclude by talking about the results of the righteousness of Christ imputed in the reign of grace? 3. And again, if the righteousness leading to eternal life is NOT Christ’s righteousness earned and imputed, then why would you think your born again soul and its acts will lead to eternal life? If it’s not Christ’s righteousness which reigns, which righteousness is it?

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  196. mark mcculley: RS goes on and on until he gets to– “So the Gospel of Jesus Christ does indeed have a stress on the imputed righteousness of Christ, but it also stresses the righteousness of God as well”

    mark: Does that mean that the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17, II Peter 1:1) is NOT the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed? Or am I having problems reading you because you are not being logical?

    RS: It appears to me that you are having problems reading because you don’t like what you read. I am arguing and have argued very clearly that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ sinners are justified by Christ and part of that is the imputed righteousness of Christ. By “part of that” I am not saying that we add any righteousness to the righteousness of Christ, but part of the justification that God declares is the propitiatory work of Christ as well. But I am also arguing that in the Gospel a righteous God is set forth and glorified. When Christ died on the cross, the righteousness of God was vindicated and glorified because He left the sins of sinners in the OT unpunished. But in Christ He is now seen as perfectly righteous. This is part of what Romans 3:24-26 sets out.

    McMark: I know that NT Wright says so. Do you agree? If so, what is this “righteousness of God” which is NOT the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed?

    RS: It is the attribute of righteousness which in and of itself is not imputed. That does not mean that the Gospel does not include the righteousness of Christ imputed to sinners, but simply saying that is not the only kind of righteousness that there is. The righteousness of God the Father is not imputed to sinners, but the righteousness of God the Son is.

    McMark: Is it infusion? Impartation? Where are the Bible texts which deny what you want to deny? Where does the Bible say that the righteousness of Christ is NOT the righteousness of God?

    RS: Where do we ever see the Bible teaching us that the righteousness of the Father as an attributed is imputed to sinners? Below are just a couple of instances of the righteousness of God which I cannot see how they can be interpreted as imputed righteousness.

    Rom 3: 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.” 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)

    25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
    26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Romans 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

    RS: Just as a note, Mark, notice that in the text above the members of our bodies are to be instruments of righteousness to God.

    Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    RS: In the text above sinners become the righteousness of God in Him.

    2 Corinthians 6:7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left,

    RS: The weapons of righteousness are not the weapons of imputed righteousness.

    Ephesians 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

    RS: In the likeness of God we are created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Indeed we must have the imputed righteousness to be declared just in the eyes of God, but there is the attribute of righteousness in God and believers are recreated in regeneration in that image of righteousness.

    Philippians 1:11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    RS: Believers are filled with the fruit of righteousness. This is to say that righteousness is a fruit that comes through Jesus Christ. In context this is part of what Paul is praying for the believers there.

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    RS: There is a righteousness that must be practiced or one is not a child of God. This cannot be an imputed righteousness.

    1 Timothy 3:16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

    RS: This is speaking of Christ Himself who was declared righteous (same Greek word for justify, but translated as “vindicated” here) by the resurrection. Surely He was not declared righteous on the basis of the imputation of His own righteousness.

    McMark: Romans 10 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ for righteousness is the end of the law to everyone who believes.”

    RS: Indeed, as I have agreed for approx one million times, sinners can only be declared just in the eyes of God based in the imputed righteousness of Christ. There is no adding to this righteousness and sinners are declared perfectly righteous when they have this imputed righteousness. However, God is also declared righteous or seen to be perfectly righteous (see Romans 3:24-26) when He justifies sinners because in Christ alone He can be just and justifier.

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  197. mark mcculley quoting rs: “The the righteousness that the one with faith lives by is contrasted with the wrath of God against the unrightouesness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

    mark: Does that mean that “the righteousness of God” is “the righteousness people live by” instead of (or in addition to) the righteousness of Christ earned and imputed?

    RS: The righteousness of Christ is imputed to sinners and justification is based on that. However, they must/will walk in righteousness after justification. This is not adding to the righteousness of Christ, but instead it is an attribute of God (He is perfectly righteous) and He will work in His people to be righteous rather than unrighteous.

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    McMark quoting RS: “I don’t think this text (Rom 5:21) is speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ because sinners have already been declared just in Christ.”

    mark: Which sinners have already been justified, and why would that matter for knowing what the righteousness is in Romans 5? There are two federal heads in Romans 5, where Adam’s guilt is received by imputation, and Christ’s righteousness is received by imputation. Why would the chapter talk about some other (undefined) righteousness rather than Christ’s righteousness?
    I know you want to talk about how righteous your “soul” is, but neither chapters 5 or 6 do so.

    RS: Yes, I don’t mind bragging about how righteous my soul is. In Christ and becaue of Christ I can boast in Christ, which Paul tells us we can do in Gal 6:14. I might add, however, he did not tell us to boast in the imputed righteousness of Christ but in the cross of Christ. We are also told that those for whom Christ died and are in Christ are blessed with all spiritual blessings and are holy and blameless in His sight. So, mark, I am holy and blameless and I boast in nothing but the cross.

    You ask, “Why would the chapter talk about some other (undefined) righteousness rather than Christ’s righteousness?” Because God breathed forth the words of Scripture and He has a lot more to say in the Scriptures than repeating the words “imputed righteousness” over and over. Yes, the imputed righteousness of Christ is vital and it is in Romans 5. However, the contrast is also between those who “live” in death and those who live in righteousness or life. Grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life. So the extent of the reign of grace here is from the moment of justification until eternity. A person must have grace and a person must have Christ each moment so that they may live by grace/faith rather than sight. The grace that a soul has must be a righteous grace or it is not grace at all.

    Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made
    righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also will reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    mark: is not the “one act of righteousness” Christ’s righteousness earned and imputed?

    RS: Of course it is, but there is more to the life of the sinner than being declared righteous. That is not a denigration of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, but at some point we have to live. Notice that in verse 18 it is that one act that “leads to justification and life for all men.” It does not just lead to justification, but justification and life. We are declared righteous in order that we may live. We are declared righteous as a justification of the life of God in our souls.

    McMark: Is not the “by one man’s obedience” Christ’s righteousness earned and imputed? Why would your soul’s imperfect “living by faith” somehow factor into the reign of grace?

    RS: 1. We are to live by faith.
    2. Living by faith means to live by received grace.
    3. Therefore, the justified soul lives by received grace which is how the kingdom of Christ runs. Christ reigns and rules in the souls He has saved through grace.

    McMark: And if Romans 5 were indeed talking about the righteousness of God being what God does in you, why would there even be an objection in Romans 6 about “more sin to get more grace”?

    RS: It is telling people that they are to live righteously as a result of being declared righteous rather than sinning more that grace may increase. Living by grace is the way the glory and righteousness of God is displayed through those whom He has declared just rather than sinning so that grace may be glorified. In fact, God justifies sinners by grace and then it is by grace that they live to the glory of His name. No one ever earns one iota of grace because that is utterly impossible. But justified souls are those that live by grace so that all they do manfiests His glory rather than their own (which they don’t have anyway). Justified souls live in utter dependence on God and can do nothing good or righteous apart from Him. So all the glory is of His and justified souls live by grace to His glory.

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  198. II Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

    RS: In the text above sinners become the righteousness of God in Him.

    mark: I had already agreed that “righteousness” in many texts does not always mean Christ earned and imputed. I had already brought up God’s attribute. But, as Luther discovered, God’s attribute of righteousness is not the gift of grace revealed in the gospel. Rather, Christ’s righteousness earned is what satisfies God’s righteous attribute, and God’s righteous attribute is what assures us that God will impute Christ’s righteousness to all for whom Christ died.

    Though you seem to want to flee texts like II Peter 1:1 and Romans 5, but I would suggest that you don’t flee to II Cor 5:21. Are you now denying that the righteousness the elect in Christ become in II Cor 5:21 is the righteousness earned by Christ and imputed? If so, again I ask, if not that righteousness, what then is the righteousness we become?

    Is II Cor 5:21 saying we become “righteous souls”, non-sinners who sometimes on occasion sin?
    There is a parallel in II Cor 5:21 (as there was in Romans 5). Christ did not become sin by being corrupted or depraved. Christ was made sin by imputation. Even so, the justified elect are not constituted righteous by some kind of ontologically substantial infusion Those who are justified become the righteousness of God in Christ by imputation. There is no such thing as having Christ without having His righteousness imputed.

    And you say, there you go, making everything about two things, Christ’s righteousness and imputation. No, but that accusation can’t help you avoid the question about specific texts. If you don’t think II Cor 5:21 is about imputation, then you are going to need to tell us what it is about. And you are going to have to look at the context, including verse 19 (not imputing sins)., which is not talking about the new birth but about Christ’s death and reconciliation. Of course you could beg the question again by repeating again that “new creation” must be talking about your soul. But the context won’t support you on that.

    15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

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  199. 1 Timothy 3:16 “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”

    RS: “This is speaking of Christ Himself who was declared righteous (same Greek word for justify, but translated as “vindicated” here) by the resurrection. Surely He was not declared righteous on the basis of the imputation of His own righteousness.”

    mark: if you are going to have two kinds of righteousness, it certainly would make sense to have two kinds of justification. And of course NT Wright does have a future justification based on what his politically active self (he wouldn’t say “soul”) will do

    But I Tim 3:16 is a very interesting verse to think about. Christ was justified. I hope you are not denying that. Now, how was Christ justified? Certainly not by becoming born again. Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Again, I hope you don’t deny that sins were imputed to Christ. I sure hope you don’t say that Christ needed a new birth.

    Romans 6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

    So Christ was justified by His own righteousness. Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person, but by what He had done in obedience and satisfaction to the law. Remember that “imputed” has two senses, one which is transfer and the other is declare. No righteousness was transferred to Christ, because Christ had earned His righteousness, and the justification (vindication, if you want) is God’s declaration (in the resurrection) that Christ was
    justified on the basis of what Christ did. Christ was imputed as righteous. Christ was justified.

    So it is correct to see that the justification of the elect sinner is different from the justification of Christ. It’s different precisely in this one thing, the TRANSFER. The legal value and merit of Christ’s
    righteousness is TRANSFERRED to the elect sinner when they are justified. The legal value and merit of Christ’s death is imputed to the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are placed/baptized into that death.

    So only one righteousness. In Christ’s case, no transfer. In the case of the justified elect, that same one death is transferred, and it’s enough, because counted to them it completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)

    Romans 6: 7 For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

    I submit to you that Romans 6:9 is saying exactly the same things as “justified in the Spirit” is saying in I Tim 3:16. Gaffin is certainly correct to emphasize resurrection as Christ’s justification. The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when we begin to think that since Christ was justified by what He did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do.

    But there are not two justifications, one now by imputation, and aother in the future, where we will be justified like Christ was. We are only justified by what Christ did, and not by what Christ is now doing in us. Christ alone was justified by what He did.

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  200. mark mcculley: II Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

    McMark quoting RS: In the text above sinners become the righteousness of God in Him.

    mark: I had already agreed that “righteousness” in many texts does not always mean Christ earned and imputed. I had already brought up God’s attribute. But, as Luther discovered, God’s attribute of righteousness is not the gift of grace revealed in the gospel. Rather, Christ’s righteousness earned is what satisfies God’s righteous attribute, and God’s righteous attribute is what assures us that God will impute Christ’s righteousness to all for whom Christ died.

    RS: But it is also the righteousness of God that we take comfort in because He is always righteous and always does righteously.

    McMark:
    Though you seem to want to flee texts like II Peter 1:1 and Romans 5, but I would suggest that you don’t flee to II Cor 5:21.

    RS: Suggest all you want, but I have not fled from II Peter 1:1 or Romans 5. Instead, I have tried to give you another view of them other than your seeing imputed righteousness behind every tree and bush and jumping on all who say that the imputed righteousness of Christ is vital, but there are other things in the Bible.

    Just as in Romans 5 and 6, II Corinthians 5 is followed by II Corinthians 6. Notice the context of what it means to become the righteousness of God in the context. Then note these verses:
    15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
    16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.

    McMark: Are you now denying that the righteousness the elect in Christ become in II Cor 5:21 is the righteousness earned by Christ and imputed? If so, again I ask, if not that righteousness, what then is the righteousness we become?

    RS: Read II Corinthians 6 immediately following 5:21 as if there is no chapter break. Remember, this was originally a letter. Notice that 6:1 starts off with the word “and.” The imputed righteousness of Christ leads to people living righteous lives, though not in their own strength but by grace to the glory of God. I might also point out that just before this passage 2 Corinthians 5:17 is located and is speaking of being a new creature resulting in a new life too. ” Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

    20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
    21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 6:1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain– 2 for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION “–

    RS: This is in accordance with James 2. Sinners are justified by Christ alone as Abraham was, but there will be a changed life afterwards.
    14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

    RS: One can claim the imputed righteousess of Christ all they want as a theory, but if there are no works of faith there is no faith. We can tell a brother in great need to go in the peace of imputed righteousness,” but what use is that to a person that is starving? Indeed there is great use of that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is of more importance than food, but the point is that we are to feed a starving person because that is what true faith does and we can hide behind our pious sounding theology.

    James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

    RS: A faith without works is dead which is to say it is not a true faith. It can claim imputed righteousness, but righteousness is imputed to a true and living faith.

    James 2:18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

    RS: How can a true faith be seen if there are no works? Once may try to hide behind an imputed righteousness as a theory, but where the imputation of righteousness is given there is the life of Christ in the soul. Christ told us that what we do for the least of HIS BROTHERS we have done to Him and what we have not done to the least of them (His Brothers) we have not done to Him. No, where imputed righteousness is or where true righteousness has been imputed there is a living Christ who lives in and through His people by grace.

    James 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

    RS: The demons believe that imputed righteousness is part of the true Gospel.

    James 2: 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

    RS: McMark, are you willing to recognize that faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ that produces no change and no works is useless?

    James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

    RS: McMark, Abraham was justified by works in this sense and not by the imputed righteousness of Christ. You might note that Abraham believed God and was declared righteous in Genesis 15:6. We are now in Genesis 22 many years later. Abraham had to wait for close to 25 years after the promise for Isaac to be born, and then until Isaac grew up to the age he was when he took him to sacrifice him. So we are probably 40 years or so away from the time Abraham was declared just by God when he believed the promises of God. But here, in Genesis 22, the text says that Abraham was justified by works. We must deal with that honestly and without hermeneutical gymnastics.

    James 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.

    RS: The justification of Abraham in Genesis 22 was actually a fulfilling of the Scripture of Genesis 15:6. That is what the text says. We must deal with it.

    James 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    RS: The text says that a man is justified by works, so there is a form of justification by works. This is not a soul being declared righteous by God on the basis of anything other than the righteousness of Christ. But the text is quite clear that there is a justification that is by works. It is not the Roman view that says a person is justified by faith and by works, but it says that a person is justified by works.

    James 2:25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

    RS: Rahab the harlot was justified by works in the same way Abraham was. What I am trying to communicate to you is that Paul and James fight back to back. Both teach that Abraham was justified by faith apart from works, but James teaches a second type of justification (justification or vindication by works after one is saved by the imputed righteousness of Christ). Paul teaches a new life of righteousness in those that have been declared new creatures in Christ. Again, I do not deny the imputed righteousness of Christ in the slightest. But I also don’t deny the righteousness of God that He works in and through His people. The Gospel of grace alone is true, but it is also true that a sinner saved by grace will live by grace and that grace will be seen in life and in works.

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  201. mark mcculley: 1 Timothy 3:16 “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”

    McMark quoitng RS: “This is speaking of Christ Himself who was declared righteous (same Greek word for justify, but translated as “vindicated” here) by the resurrection. Surely He was not declared righteous on the basis of the imputation of His own righteousness.”

    mark: if you are going to have two kinds of righteousness, it certainly would make sense to have two kinds of justification. And of course NT Wright does have a future justification based on what his politically active self (he wouldn’t say “soul”) will do

    RS: You can refrain from bringing up NT Wright all the time. Dr. Wright is wrong when he denies the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and I am asserting that strongly.

    McMark: But I Tim 3:16 is a very interesting verse to think about. Christ was justified. I hope you are not denying that. Now, how was Christ justified? Certainly not by becoming born again. Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Again, I hope you don’t deny that sins were imputed to Christ. I sure hope you don’t say that Christ needed a new birth.

    RS: Sigh, I am beginning to think that you don’t actually read what I say but instead just close your eyes and put your finger down in order to come up with a response. I have asserted previously (on different occasions in our discussions) that sins were imputed to Christ. Other than the incarnational birth which was new and needed to save sinners and declare the righteousness of God in doing so, Jesus did not need a new birth.

    McMark quoting Romans 6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

    So Christ was justified by His own righteousness. Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person, but by what He had done in obedience and satisfaction to the law. Remember that “imputed” has two senses, one which is transfer and the other is declare. No righteousness was transferred to Christ, because Christ had earned His righteousness, and the justification (vindication, if you want) is God’s declaration (in the resurrection) that Christ was
    justified on the basis of what Christ did. Christ was imputed as righteous. Christ was justified.

    RS: The text of I Tim 3:16 says that He was justified/vindicated by the resurrection. While what you are saying appears to be true, I don’t think it is true as to what I Tim 3:16. Christ was declared innocent and so justified by the resurrection from the dead. That is what that text says.

    McMark; So it is correct to see that the justification of the elect sinner is different from the justification of Christ. It’s different precisely in this one thing, the TRANSFER. The legal value and merit of Christ’s righteousness is TRANSFERRED to the elect sinner when they are justified. The legal value and merit of Christ’s death is imputed to the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are placed/baptized into that death.

    So only one righteousness. In Christ’s case, no transfer. In the case of the justified elect, that same one death is transferred, and it’s enough, because counted to them it completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)

    Romans 6: 7 For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

    I submit to you that Romans 6:9 is saying exactly the same things as “justified in the Spirit” is saying in I Tim 3:16. Gaffin is certainly correct to emphasize resurrection as Christ’s justification. The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when we begin to think that since Christ was justified by what He did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do.

    RS: I don’t think that Romans 6:9 is saying the exact same thing as I Tim 3:16. All those in Jerusalem looked upon Him as a criminal and by His resurrection He was vindicated from that charge. Great is the mystery of godliness.

    McMark: But there are not two justifications, one now by imputation, and aother in the future, where we will be justified like Christ was. We are only justified by what Christ did, and not by what Christ is now doing in us. Christ alone was justified by what He did.

    RS: Well, take that up with James 2. It is not easy to get around this in Paul, but James is even harder to get around. By the way, what do you think of antinomianism?

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  202. McMark: Is II Cor 5:21 saying we become “righteous souls”, non-sinners who sometimes on occasion sin? There is a parallel in II Cor 5:21 (as there was in Romans 5). Christ did not become sin by being corrupted or depraved. Christ was made sin by imputation. Even so, the justified elect are not constituted righteous by some kind of ontologically substantial infusion Those who are justified become the righteousness of God in Christ by imputation. There is no such thing as having Christ without having His righteousness imputed.

    RS: The moment the sins were transferred to Christ He became the most sinful human being (in His flesh) that had ever lived. Notice, however, what sin by imputation lead to. It was not imputed sin, declared unjustified on the basis of imputed sin, but then He had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness. The rest of His life (we will say six hours or so) He lived out that sinfulness because sin brings misery and death. The fact that His suffering ended in six hours does not change the fact that the rest of His live He lived as a sinner. The imputation of sin changed the rest of His earthly life.

    It is your position (imputation of sin is the basis of regeneration) that demands that a person can have the imputed righteousness of Christ without having Christ. That is not my position. It also appears that your position denies what the WCF teaches when it says this:
    Chapter XI Of Justification
    II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[4] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

    RS: In other words, following James 2, one is saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. True faith is always accompanied by all other saving graces.

    McMark: And you say, there you go, making everything about two things, Christ’s righteousness and imputation. No, but that accusation can’t help you avoid the question about specific texts. If you don’t think II Cor 5:21 is about imputation, then you are going to need to tell us what it is about. And you are going to have to look at the context, including verse 19 (not imputing sins)., which is not talking about the new birth but about Christ’s death and reconciliation. Of course you could beg the question again by repeating again that “new creation” must be talking about your soul. But the context won’t support you on that.

    RS: But it is never begging the question to turn to a true teaching of a text of Scripture. Your denial of what that text teaches does not make me beg the question by turning to it.

    II Cor 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

    RS: What did Christ die for according to this text? So that they who live would no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Note, I am not reading into the text or suppling anything to the text. The text plainly teaches us one reason that Christ died for sinners. That reason (to repeat myself and the text) is so that they would no longer live for themselves but for Him. Unless I am greatly mistaken, that is very important for the context of what is to come.

    II Cor 5: 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.

    RS: As they say, when you see a “therefore” in the text, you ask what it is there for. Notice that because of verses 15-16 (the therefore in this case points there) we are no longer to recognize anyone according to the flesh. Because Christ died so people would no longer live for themselves but for Him, so we are not to know people according to the flesh any longer.

    II Cor 5: 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

    RS: A second “therefore”, or the second application based on verses 15-16. Because Christ died so people would no longer live for themselves but for Him, all those who are in Christ are new creatures.

    18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
    20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    RS: What does verse 17 teach in light of verses 15-16? That believers are new creatures because Christ died for them and they are no longer to live for themselves but Him. What does verse 21 teach in light of verses 15-17? That Christ became sin for sinners so that they MIGHT BECOME the righteousness of God in Him. Without denying the truth and reality of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, this text does not teach the imputed righteousness of Christ. Believers are to become the righteousness of God by not living for themselves (self-centered living, even as religious people, is unrighteousness) but instead living for Him. The Bible teaches the imputed righteousness of Christ quite plainly in the places it really teaches it, so there is no need to find it where it is not.

    2 Corinthians 6:1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain–

    RS: Notice the working together with Him (Paul and his helpers). They urged people not to receive the grace of God in vain. How is that possible from your interpretation? It is not. What follows, still in context of the death of Christ for the purpose of His people not living for themselves but for Him, Paul then goes on to describe his own ministry of grace and the suffering that he endured. Then, toward the end of this chapter, he encourages the people to holiness by telling them that they are temples of the living God and to come out and be separate. This fits with people being new creatures and not living for self but for Him. This fits with becoming the righteousness of God in the world in daily life. It does not fit with your interpretation. I might add for Dr. Hart’s sake, if he is reading this, that verses 11-13 has to do with Paul urging people to more affection.

    II Cor 6:2 for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION “– 3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,

    11 Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide.
    12 You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections.
    13 Now in a like exchange– I speak as to children– open wide to us also.
    14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
    15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
    16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
    17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.
    18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.

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  203. RS has followed through on his denial of imputed righteousness in Romans 5:17-21 by denying that Christ was made sin only by imputation. Rs uses the antithesis: “it was not imputed sin”, Rs tells us, but “sinfulness”. Rs does not exactly tell us what this “sinfulness” was, except to say that it was not imputed.

    I had already asked rs if he thinks Christ became corrupted. The best reading I can come up with for what Rs writes below is that he thinks that Christ bore the consequence of imputed sins, but without
    sins being imputed to Christ. Besides being unjust, that arrangement certainly does not describe what Romans 5 teaches about federal headship. But a denial of imputed guilt (and only bearing the
    consequences) is the position of Andrew Fuller and others influenced by the New England theology. For more on this, I would recommend the last chapter in John Murray’s The Imputation of Adam’s Sin.

    McMark: Is II Cor 5:21 saying we become “righteous souls”, non-sinners who sometimes on occasion sin? There is a parallel in II Cor 5:21 (as there was in Romans 5). Christ did not become sin by being corrupted or depraved. Christ was made sin by imputation. Even so, the justified
    elect are not constituted righteous by some kind of ontologically substantial infusion Those who are justified become the righteousness of God in Christ by imputation. There is no such thing as having
    Christ without having His righteousness imputed.

    RS: The moment the sins were transferred to Christ He became the most sinful human being (in His flesh) that had ever lived. Notice, however, what sin by imputation lead to. It was not imputed sin,
    declared unjustified on the basis of imputed sin, but then He had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness.

    mark: I think Rs meant to say “it was not only imputed sin”. At least I hope so.

    RS: The rest of His life (we will say six hours or so) He lived out that sinfulness because sin brings misery and death.

    mark: I don’t know where Rs gets the idea that God did not impute sins to Christ until Christ was on the cross. I have heard the conclusion before but I have never seen any Bible or Confessional argument for it. (and no, I really don’t want to get into a discussion of Calvin vs Rome on the “descent into hades”) My concern is any denial that the imputation of the guilt of the elect is the only way Christ was made sin. I want to reject any idea that Christ Himself “experienced” sin, not only because of the imputed righteousness which justifies, but also because of the glory of Christ’s person.

    Flavel:They tell us that not only the guilt of sin was laid on Christ by way of imputation: but sinfulness itself, was transferred from the elect to Christ: and that by God’s laying it on him, the sinfulness or fault itself was essentially transfused into him.

    First, we thankfully acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Surety of the New Testament, Heb. 7.22, and that as such, all the guilt of our sins were laid upon him, Isa. 53.5,6. That is, God
    imputed, and he bare it in our room and stead. God the Father, as supreme Lawgiver and Judge of all, upon the transgression of the law, admitted the surety-ship of Christ, to answer for the sins of men, Heb. 10.5,6,7. And for this very end he was made under the law, Gal. 4.4,5. A

    God by imputing the guilt of our sins to Christ, thereby our sins became legally his; as the debt is legally the surety’s debt, though he never borrowed any of it: Thus Christ took our sins upon him,
    though in him was no sin, 2 Cor. 5.21, “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”

    We thankfully acknowledge, that Christ hath so fully satisfied the law for the sins of all that are his, that the debts of believers are fully discharged. His payment is full, and so therefore is our
    discharge and acquittal, Rom. 8.1–. The guilt of believers is so perfectly abolished, that it shall never more bring him under condemnation, John 5.24. And so in Christ they are without fault
    before God.

    As the guilt of our sins was by God’s imputation laid upon Christ, so the righteousness of Christ is by God imputed to believers, by virtue of their legal union with Christ; and becomes thereby truly theirs, for the justification of their particular persons before God, as if they themselves had in their own persons fulfilled all that the law requires, or suffered all that is threatened.

    No inherent righteousness in our own persons, is, or can be more truly our own, for this end and purpose, than Christ’s imputed righteousness is our own. He is the Lord our righteousness, Jeremiah 23.6, We are made the righteousness of God in him, 1 Cor. 5.21.

    But notwithstanding all this, we cannot say, that over and above the guilt of sin, that Christ became as completely sinful as we are. He that transgresses the precepts, sins: and the personal sin of one, cannot be in this respect, the personal sin of another. There is no transfusion of the transgression of the precept from one subject to another— this is utterly impossible; even Adam’s personal sins, considered in his single private capacity, are not infused to his posterity.

    I know but two ways in the world by which one man’s sins can be imagined to become another’s. Either by imputation, which is legal, and what we affirm; or by essential transfusion from subject to
    subject. We have as good ground to believe the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, as this wild notion of the essential transfusion of sin.

    If we should once imagine, that the very acts and habits of sin, with the odious deformity thereof, should pass from our persons to Christ and subjectively to inhere in him, as they do in us; then it would follow that our salvation would thereby be rendered utterly impossible. For such an inhesion of sin in the person of Christ is absolutely inconsistent with the hypostatical union, which union is
    the very foundation of his satisfaction, and our salvation. Though the Divine nature can, and doth dwell in union with the pure and sinless human nature of Christ, yet it cannot dwell in union with sin.

    This supposition would render the blood of the cross altogether unable to satisfy for us. If the way of making our sins Christ’s by imputation, be thus rejected and derided; and Christ asserted by SOME
    OTHER WAY to become as completely sinful as we; then I cannot see which way to avoid it, but that the very same acts and habits of sin must inhere both in Christ and in believers also.

    Did this indwelling sin pass from them to Christ? Why do they complain and groan of indwelling sin (as in Romans 7) if indwelling sin itself be so transferred from them to Christ? Sure, unless men will dare to say, the same acts and habits of sin which they feel in themselves, are as truly in Christ as in themselves, they have no ground to say, that by God’s laying their iniquities upon Christ, that Christ became as completely sinful as they are; and if they should so affirm, that
    affirmation would undermine the very foundation of their own salvation.

    Nothing which Christ did or suffered, nothing that he undertook, or underwent, did, or could constitute him subjectively, inherently, and thereupon personally a sinner.. To bear the guilt or blame of other men’s faults makes no man a sinner. So then this proposition, that by
    God’s laying our sins upon Christ (in some other way than by imputation of guilt) he became as completely sinful as we, will not, ought not to be received as the sound doctrine of the gospel.

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  204. mark mcculley: RS has followed through on his denial of imputed righteousness in Romans 5:17-21 by denying that Christ was made sin only by imputation. Rs uses the antithesis: “it was not imputed sin”, Rs tells us, but “sinfulness”. Rs does not exactly tell us what this “sinfulness” was, except to say that it was not imputed.

    RS: Again, I have no idea of what you are talking about. Yes, despite the fact that I firmly assert the imputed righteousnss of Christ I am not convinced that Romans 5:17-21 teaches it as McMark does. But unless I really typed something very wrong I don’t deny that Christ was made sin by the imputation of sin to Him. I was crystal clear in my asserting that.

    McMark: I had already asked rs if he thinks Christ became corrupted. The best reading I can come up with for what Rs writes below is that he thinks that Christ bore the consequence of imputed sins, but without sins being imputed to Christ. Besides being unjust, that arrangement certainly does not describe what Romans 5 teaches about federal headship. But a denial of imputed guilt (and only bearing the consequences) is the position of Andrew Fuller and others influenced by the New England theology. For more on this, I would recommend the last chapter in John Murray’s The Imputation of Adam’s Sin.

    RS: I would highly recommend Mortimer Adler’s work on How to Read a Book. I clearly asserted that sins of the elect were imputed to Christ. I did go on trying to show you the connection between imputation and what happened afterwards. Because the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ the Father poured out His wrath on the Son for the rest of His life on earth. In other words, there was a clear consequence to having the sins of the elect imputed to Him.

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  205. Erik Charter: I got pretty emotional as a kid watching Mike Schmidt play against my Cubs at Wrigley field. My tears often fell onto my scoresheet…

    RS: Horror of horrors. Feelings

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  206. RS (old comment): I cannot see (at this point) that we should press all the details of this (like a parable) as illustrative of the points of the covenant. It seems more like a parable or an analogy of sorts to make a larger point.

    RS quoting David R: There are not very many details. The root is holy, the branches are holy, some of the branches are broken off. In your view, what is the purpose of the olive tree metaphor? How should we understand what Paul says about the branches being holy, and yet some broken off? How does this speak to your view that “Israel was the physical seed, but the church is the spiritual seed”?

    RS: It still seems that the text is being used in a general way and should not be pressed on all points.

    David R: Even if you insist on ignoring the details, at the very least what the passage suggests is that your paradigm (i.e., Israel physical seed/church spiritual seed) is not the one Paul was operating from. If he were, he certainly would have said all this differently.

    Old comment of RS quoting David R: But as we’ve seen, if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if you are grafted into the rich root of the olive tree, then the shoots that you bring forth are also holy, even though they might conceivably be broken off in the future on account of unbelief.

    Old comment of RS responding to David R: But what this sounds like is that people are saved and then are lost. It sounds much like those who say people are in the covenant and assumed to be regenerate unless they take their names of the book of life.

    Old comment of David R responding to RS: The reason it sounds like that to you is because you do not have a category for covenant administration (as distinct from covenant substance). The holiness of which Paul speaks here is that of being embraced by the covenant in its administration. It is membership in the visible church. He is not speaking here of the holiness of election/regeneration.

    David R quoting RS: Perhaps, but is that category found in Scripture? Why do you think that there is a type of holiness that one can have in the covenant of grace and yet not be a saving grace and a saving holiness?

    David R: Aren’t we discussing a passage of Scripture?! Paul explicitly says here that the branches are holy and yet some are broken off. (But of course this is a detail that you don’t want to press.)

    Old Comment by RS: If God has truly set apart one and made that one holy in His presence, He will keep that one persevering.

    Old response of David R to RS: True, all those who are holy in the sense of being united to Christ by God’s effectual call will persevere. But that is not the holiness being addressed in this passage.

    David R quoting RS: But this is still getting at the heart of the New Covenant and how far one is to press the points of this passge. When Roman Catholicism was on the scene just before the Reformation they believed that infant baptism washed away the original sin of the infant and placed it in a state of grace. While Luther had a hard time breaking away from that, others saw that this was not consistent with justification by faith alone or the covenant of grace. So the doctrine of the covenant was set out as a reason for infant baptism. They couldn’t do away with the practice since infants were baptized into citizenship as well as membership into the Church.

    David R: It’s a nice theory, but as a former credo-baptist myself, I’ve become convinced that the doctrine of the covenant is actually scriptural. Also, Calvin and the Reformed orthodox devote quite a bit of energy polemicizing against credo-baptism for folks who didn’t think Scripture actually taught it.

    RS: Rome also kept people coming because for people to have access to Christ they had to have the sacrament of the Supper. If people are truly in the covenant of grace and they are holy in some way, I cannot but think of this as closer to Rome than you may care to admit.

    David R: To me, the distinction between the sacramentalism of Rome and the covenantalism of Geneva seems obvious, but if you want to see Calvin as striking a via media between Rome and Munster I won’t argue.

    RS: Again, if infants are truly in the covenant of grace and we are to assume that they are regenerate, then how is that in reality different from Rome?

    David R: Personally I’m not terribly comfortable with the notion of “assuming they’re regenerate” because it suggests a pretense to some foreknowledge on our part of God’s secret decree. But if you’re speaking of a judgment of charity, then yes, just as we make a judgment of charity that someone with a credible profession of faith is regenerate. The fact is that neither credos nor paedos know who’s “truly regenerate” so we both assume. (But it does seem to me that credos are less honest about not knowing.)

    RS: Isn’t that also saying that the Church has the power to give grace to infants in baptism? I don’t think that I have changed the subject, but am trying to press a bit on where you will end up (logically) if you press Romans 11 at every point of this analogy.

    David R: I assume what you mean is that infant baptism entails some sort of ex opera operato notion, but I have no idea how that follows. But I’m happy for you to explain if you can (provided the mod doesn’t think this has already gone on too long….).

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  207. RS quoting RS from a previous post: The moment the sins were transferred to Christ He became the most sinful human being (in His flesh) that had ever lived. Notice, however, what sin by imputation lead to. It was not imputed sin, declared unjustified on the basis of imputed sin, but then He had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness. The rest of His life (we will say six hours or so) He lived out that sinfulness because sin brings misery and death. The fact that His suffering ended in six hours does not change the fact that the rest of His live He lived as a sinner. The imputation of sin changed the rest of His earthly life.

    McMark: I had already asked rs if he thinks Christ became corrupted. The best reading I can come up with for what Rs writes below is that he thinks that Christ bore the consequence of imputed sins, but without sins being imputed to Christ. Besides being unjust, that arrangement certainly does not describe what Romans 5 teaches about federal headship. But a denial of imputed guilt (and only bearing the consequences) is the position of Andrew Fuller and others influenced by the New England theology. For more on this, I would recommend the last chapter in John Murray’s The Imputation of Adam’s Sin.

    McMark: Nothing which Christ did or suffered, nothing that he undertook, or underwent, did, or could constitute him subjectively, inherently, and thereupon personally a sinner.. To bear the guilt or blame of other men’s faults makes no man a sinner. So then this proposition, that by
    God’s laying our sins upon Christ (in some other way than by imputation of guilt) he became as completely sinful as we, will not, ought not to be received as the sound doctrine of the gospel.

    RS: Mark, in the first paragraph I think I made it abundantly clear that I assert and believe that the sins of the elect ARE imputed to Christ. The whole paragraph asserted that quite strongly. I have no idea how you could write the post you wrote after reading that paragraph. Indeed I left one word out of a sentence, but you noticed that as well. The context, however, made it abundantly clear what was being asserted. What is unclear about “The imputation of sin changed the rest of His earthly life” in that context? The sins of the elect were really and truly imputed to Him so much so that II Cor 5:21 says that He became sin on our behald.

    Take notice that I also did not say that the nature of Christ changed or that He sinned. But since the sins of all the elect were imputed to Him, He was really and truly counted guilty of more sin than any other person could possibly be. This phrase “It was not [only] imputed sin, declared unjustified on the basis of imputed sin, but then He had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness” is also clear despite my leaving out one word (only). But you noticed that, so I have no idea why you continued to rant on and on saying that I deny the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    The point I was making is that imputation has results that can be seen. When the sins of the whole world of the elect were imputed to Christ, things changed and that change could be seen. The whole earth was dark. The Son cried out to the Father in agony. In much the same way, when the elect receive the imputed righteousness of Christ, that changes things as well. The imputations are forensic, yes, but they have results that can be seen.

    Of course I deny quite stringently that Christ was a sinner. If at any moment He became a sinner He would have been disqualified to be the perfect sacrifice. However, we cannot deny that when the sins of the elect were imputed to Him things changed. The wrath of the Father was poured out on Him and that wrath was not just imputed it was real. Let me repeat because you (McMark) continue to atribute to me things I don’t believe and I wouldn’t dream of denying, the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ. The wrath of the Father that came upon Him as a result of that imputation was not just imputed but was very, very real.

    So please, stop drawing implications and attributing to me things that I am clearly denying. While you may not like the law, the ninth commandment still stands in how we quote others and what we accuse them of. I know that you are a strong believer in imputation, but please stop imputing beliefs to me that I don’t believe.

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  208. Erik Charter: Richard – You are at risk of dying at the keyboard if you don’t take the plunge and switch to Sanka…

    RS: Thanks for the warning (twitch, twitch) and the advice. Maybe I do need to be more Sanktafied. On the other hand, though this may be too internal and all, at times things like this are helpful in dying to self. Theology is tough, but wrestling with one’s own heart is tougher. Tozer said that people can use their creeds to hide their own hearts from them. I have found that to be true of others, but then most disturbingly of myself as well. So in discussions like this it is not just a matter of trying to convince others of an intellectual truth, it is also a time of the discovery of the self.

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  209. RS: This phrase “It was not [only] imputed sin, declared unjustified on the basis of imputed sin, but then He had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness” is also clear despite my leaving out one word (only). But you noticed that, so I have no idea why you continued to rant on and on saying that I deny the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    mark: I was simply giving a quotation from Flavel. I guess I get no credit for noticing you maybe left out a word. And I can’t give you credit for ignoring what I had to say about the error and lack of clarity in your remarks. Your focus on the “sinfulness” that Jesus is bearing sounds like some six hour mystical experience, and it distracts from the meaning of Christ being legally counted with the guilt of the elect.

    First, I questioned the biblical basis for your assuming that Christ was not imputed with sins until six hours before He died. Second, the wages of sin is death, and not some six hour experience. Third, the focus on “sinfulness” rather than imputed guilt calls into question what you think “imputation” means. Is it only a transfer of punishment and consequence, and not of guilt, as Andrew Fuller would have it?

    Thus a quick summary of my objections, which you have ignored. I understand that you practical point is that imputation has results. Of course I agree. Indeed, I am the one saying that the life of the new birth is a result of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But you don’t like that. You want the new birth to be first logically, with justification. When you talk about results of the new birth, you don’t deny imputation and forgiveness of sins, but you are looking for more “real” results than that, like you have a more righteous “soul” than the next guy.

    I am saying that this shows up when you deny that the reign of grace through righteousness in Romans 5:21 is about Christ’s earned and imputed righteousness. You are itching to get your Spirit-enabled “righteousness” into that verse, even though it doesn’t fit the context, either before or after. And your idea that imputed righteousness is not enough shows up again when you talk about II Cor 5:15-21, when you insist that “new creation” is about you and your new birth, even though the entire context is about judgment, Christ’s death, non-imputing of sins. But still you think that “becoming the righteousness of God in Christ” is not (only) about imputation.

    I am not picking on you because you left out a word. I am saying we need the only. We need the sola. Texts like II Peter 1:1, Romans 5, II Cor 5, are only about a righteousness that Christ earned. The righteousness in those texts is not God’s attribute, and is not Christ’s person apart from that finished obedience to death. Every time you say “not only”, you might as well say, not that.

    Galatians 2: 21–” I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

    Arminians and Roman Catholics look at that verse and say, see it’s not through the law, so why talk about Christ’s satisfaction of the law when it’s about Christ in me by grace enabling me to imperfectly keep the law, and grace does not demand perfection. They don’t think that Christ’s death and resurrection are enough. They don’t deny it. They just don’t think it’s enough.

    But the point of Galatians 2:21 is that Christ died to completely satisfy the law’s demand, and there is no possibility of satisfying God’s law in any other way except Christ’s death. And to those who would say, well sure, we don’t deny that Christ’s death figures into the equation but don’t leave us out and don’t forget how grace now causes us to get circumcised, Galatians 2:21 goes all or nothing. Either only Christ’s death for righteousness, because if not ONLY that, Christ died for nothing. Thus the antithesis.

    When Rs says he’s about only about the cross, and not only about the imputed righteousness, he is telling us two bad things. One, he doesn’t think the death of Christ on the cross is the righteousness. I don’t think he really means this one. I think he gets confused sometimes into thinking that the life of Christ (the six hours perhaps) before the death is the righteousness without the death.

    But two, the really bad thing Rs says is, it’s not ONLY about the earned and imputed righteousness of Christ. But it is. If there were indeed a future justification based on our works, then we who are justified by Christ’s obedience alone are without hope, and Christ died in vain. Only the non-elect and non-justified will be judged by the books. This is why we who have our names written in the book warn those who don’t believe the gospel of the judgment to come.

    II Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.

    No, the imputation of righteousness is not a result of the new birth. But yes, imputation of righteousness has results. Result one, those imputed with Christ’s righteousness know and believe God’s only gospel, and repent of the false gospel that gets them into the equation. Result two, there is no condemnation for those imputed with Christ’s righteousness. There is no being “in Christ” without being imputed with Christ’s righteousness. “No condemnation” is not a result to be minimized. And “no condemnation” is not a result to be put back in doubt based on the works of those who are already in Christ.

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  210. Richard – I was just giving you a hard time. I do have difficulty reading so many long posts, but I’m not working at Old Life Full time. I like your stuff, just maybe in smaller snippets. Do what you need to do, though.

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  211. D. G. Hart: Richard S., do you think Edwards would have wept at a baseball game?

    RS: Yes, over the souls of those who played on the Sabbath, those who wasted so much money on beer, and over those who profaned the name of the Lord while cheering/cursing. But other than that, probably not.

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  212. mark mcculley quoting RS: This phrase “It was not [only] imputed sin, declared unjustified on the basis of imputed sin, but then He had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness” is also clear despite my leaving out one word (only). But you noticed that, so I have no idea why you continued to rant on and on saying that I deny the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    mark: I was simply giving a quotation from Flavel. I guess I get no credit for noticing you maybe left out a word. And I can’t give you credit for ignoring what I had to say about the error and lack of clarity in your remarks.

    RS: Frankly, when people continue to accuse me of denying something, my inclination to respond to each point decreases. It seems rather pointless. I would also argue that your misunderstanding is not always a lack of clarification in my remarks, but I am sure that more clarification is needed at times. I noted that you did pick up on the missed word, but you still continued to say that I denied imputation.

    McMark: Your focus on the “sinfulness” that Jesus is bearing sounds like some six hour mystical experience, and it distracts from the meaning of Christ being legally counted with the guilt of the elect.

    RS: Well, I guess we will have to differ if that is how you take it. Christ did not bear the full force of the wrath of God His whole life, but only while He was on the cross. It was there that the wrath of God was fully satisfied.

    McMark: First, I questioned the biblical basis for your assuming that Christ was not imputed with sins until six hours before He died.

    RS: It is because He walked in perfect love and fellowship with the Father until the cross.

    McMark: Second, the wages of sin is death, and not some six hour experience.

    RS: Yes, but there is also a spiritual death as the kind found in Eph 2:1-3. People are dead in sins and trespasses. Those who go to hell are said to go to the second death. In that case death is the place where there is no spiritual good or light and all people do is suffer. Adam was told that they day he ate of the fruit he would die. I would argue that he did die, but he died spiritually.

    McMark: Third, the focus on “sinfulness” rather than imputed guilt calls into question what you think “imputation” means. Is it only a transfer of punishment and consequence, and not of guilt, as Andrew Fuller would have it?

    RS: Well, aside from what Fuller said or didn’t say, and I would hope you are not reading him through the lenses of Ella, there is no punshment and consequence of sin apart from the guilt of sin. No, I am not a big fan of Fuller. However, I tried to read Ella’s book on Fuller while checking Ella’s footnotes. I grew quite disgusted with the inaccuracy of Ella’s quotations of Fuller because he was taking Fuller out of context.

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  213. McMark: Thus a quick summary of my objections, which you have ignored.

    RS: But again, I have asserted over and over that I firmly hold to the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the elect. There is no real Gospel apart from that teaching. So your repeated words of saying that I denied this moved me to give up.

    McMark: I understand that you practical point is that imputation has results. Of course I agree. Indeed, I am the one saying that the life of the new birth is a result of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But you don’t like that.

    RS: It is not a matter of liking or not liking, it is simply that I disagree with it. While I do not argue what you believe or don’t believe about the matter, by implication your view separates the righteousness of Christ from Christ Himself.

    McMark: You want the new birth to be first logically, with justification.

    RS: I believe the biblical order (versus what I want or don’t want) is that regeneration precedes faith. God declares sinners just based on Christ alone. Sinners receive Christ through faith. The new birth is not part of justifiation in and of itself, but a sinner must be regenerated in order to be justified.

    McMark: When you talk about results of the new birth, you don’t deny imputation and forgiveness of sins, but you are looking for more “real” results than that, like you have a more righteous “soul” than the next guy.

    RS: The soul that does not have Christ can have no real righteousness at all. The soul that has Christ has all the righteousness it will ever need or have. However, we are to be instruments of His glory in this world and He works the character of God (including righteousness) in and through people. Again, there is no need for anyone to have any more righteousness than the righteousness of Christ to walk through the pearly gates. But that does not mean that we are not to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

    McMark: I am saying that this shows up when you deny that the reign of grace through righteousness in Romans 5:21 is about Christ’s earned and imputed righteousness.

    RS: But the text does not say imputed righteousness and the context favors my interpretation. Yes, that is my opinion.

    McMark: You are itching to get your Spirit-enabled “righteousness” into that verse, even though it doesn’t fit the context, either before or after.

    RS: And I would argue that you are itching to see imputed righteousness behind every iota in the Bible. It simply does not fit the context in that text.

    McMark: And your idea that imputed righteousness is not enough shows up again when you talk about II Cor 5:15-21, when you insist that “new creation” is about you and your new birth, even though the entire context is about judgment, Christ’s death, non-imputing of sins.

    RS: Again, it is not all about me and it is not that imputed righteousness is not enough. What matters is the order and location of what the Bible says. When one really things about it, the new creation is not all about me, but as with all things it is all about God. He is the One who takes dead sinners and creates life in them. They are to be instruments of His glory which is once again all about Him. The context of II Cor 5:17 flows out of verses 14-15: “14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Verse 16 starts with a “therefore” and verse 17 starts with a ” therefore.” They are both built on verses 14-15 which gives them their real context.

    McMark: But still you think that “becoming the righteousness of God in Christ” is not (only) about imputation.

    RS: Yes, but that is because of the text itself. For example, in Ephesians 2 we see that sinners are saved by grace. But in Romans 5:21 it speaks of a reign of grace. The reign of grace is something that goes on for a longer period than justification. So the life of the believer is a reign of grace and all good that comes through a believer is from that reign of grace.

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  214. McMark: I am not picking on you because you left out a word. I am saying we need the only. We need the sola. Texts like II Peter 1:1, Romans 5, II Cor 5, are only about a righteousness that Christ earned. The righteousness in those texts is not God’s attribute, and is not Christ’s person apart from that finished obedience to death. Every time you say “not only”, you might as well say, not that.

    RS: Which is a huge, huge, and huge point. I am stressing the whole of the work of Christ and it appears that you are narrowing it down to one thing. When I say “not only” I am not denying the imputed righteousness of Christ, but simply saying He did more than that. He did more than earn righteousness for His people while on the cross. He suffered the wrath of the Father in their place to pay a debt of righteousness that they could not and cannot pay.

    Galatians 2: 21–” I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

    McMark: Arminians and Roman Catholics look at that verse and say, see it’s not through the law, so why talk about Christ’s satisfaction of the law when it’s about Christ in me by grace enabling me to imperfectly keep the law, and grace does not demand perfection. They don’t think that Christ’s death and resurrection are enough. They don’t deny it. They just don’t think it’s enough.

    RS: But that is a different sort of argument. I am not arguing that by our keeping of the Law we obtain a righteousness that is acceptable to God. For justification the imputed righteousess of Christ is all that one can have. For sanctification, which does not add to the righteousness of Christ in justifiction, His righteousness is lived through the person and so there is still no merit earned by the one being sanctified.

    McMark: But the point of Galatians 2:21 is that Christ died to completely satisfy the law’s demand, and there is no possibility of satisfying God’s law in any other way except Christ’s death. And to those who would say, well sure, we don’t deny that Christ’s death figures into the equation but don’t leave us out and don’t forget how grace now causes us to get circumcised, Galatians 2:21 goes all or nothing. Either only Christ’s death for righteousness, because if not ONLY that, Christ died for nothing. Thus the antithesis.

    RS: Of perhaps you have put things into a setting that it could be called the horns of a dilemma. There is another way.

    Gal 2:19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.

    RS: Notice that Paul says it was by the Law that He died to the Law. But it was so that he might live to God. So a person must die to the Law as a way of righteousness that they may live to God. To put it differently, if a person is trying to live by the Law in order to obtain righteousness, that person is not living out of love for God.

    20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    RS: However one wants to think of being crucified with Christ, it comes out that to Paul the self (the “I”) no longer lives or is no longer the ruling life. Now it is Christ living in the person. When Christ lives in the person, that person does not live in the flesh (the “I” or the self-life) but lives by faith in the Son of God. But we are talking about living here. Paul said he lived by faith in Christ (Son of God) who loved Him and gave Himself up for Him. The grace of God cannot be nullified in obtaining righteousness without throwing a person back to the Law and self to obtain it.

    But does that deny that the whole life of Christ was to earn righteousness to the glory of God for His people? No, this text does not deny that. Righteousness does not come by the Law and by the self keeping it, but when God in Christ came to the planet and lived a perfect life, He was the perfect keeper of the Law. That righteousness is also imputed to His people.

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  215. You still have not been knocked out yet Richard but you’re staggering and both eyes are puffed up so you can barely see anymore. Do you want the the fight to continue? Warfield considered himself a pugilist with his polemics. He fought until he knocked out. You have not thrown in the towel yet.

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  216. McMark: When Rs says he’s about only about the cross, and not only about the imputed righteousness, he is telling us two bad things. One, he doesn’t think the death of Christ on the cross is the righteousness. I don’t think he really means this one. I think he gets confused sometimes into thinking that the life of Christ (the six hours perhaps) before the death is the righteousness without the death.

    RS: But I do mean that. I think that the entire life of Christ who kept the Law perfectly as He loved the Father perfectly is imputed to the believer. Part of that life of perfect obedience is indeed the cross, but His entire life is imputed and not just the six hours. The suffering of Christ on this planet was His entire life, though He was not specifically suffering the wrath of the Father for sin, because He was sinless and He had to put up with sinful people around Him all the time. He had to have mourned over the sins of those around Him and the dishonor they gave to God.

    McMark: But two, the really bad thing Rs says is, it’s not ONLY about the earned and imputed righteousness of Christ. But it is.

    RS: Christ earned a perfect righteousness for His people, but He also suffered and died for their sins. It is not only about the earned and imputed righteousness of Christ, it is also about propitiation.

    McMark: If there were indeed a future justification based on our works, then we who are justified by Christ’s obedience alone are without hope, and Christ died in vain.

    RS: You are mixing two things up. The hope of an eternity with God where believers can behold His glory is based on the propitiatory work of Christ on the cross and the imputed righteousness of Christ. James, however, does speak of another justification and it cannot be denied. It is not, however, a justification for salvation. The Bible also speaks of a judgment of works. But if the works are prepared by God beforehand that we may walk in them (Eph 2:10), then they are of God. We are told very clearly that we are not saved by our works (Eph 2:1-10), but that we are saved for works. Works are very important, but they do not justify or add to justification in any way. It is only those who have been delivered from the Law (in that sense) that stands against them and as a way of earning righteousnes in their own strength and works that can truly do good works out of love for God and to the glory of His name. They have the righteousness of Christ and so there is no righteousness they need to enter heaven and so that frees them to love God (which is the real keeping of the Law).

    McMark: Only the non-elect and non-justified will be judged by the books. This is why we who have our names written in the book warn those who don’t believe the gospel of the judgment to come.

    RS: James says very specifically and clearly that there is a justification based on works. It is not a justification for salvation, but he uses that word for a purpose. Our systematics must not trample on a text of Scripture to arrive at the conclusions we want. But then again, we should be careful not to trample on systematics either.

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  217. McMark will probably not like that imagery because he is a pascifist. However, with his polemics, he fights with the heavyweights. And I know he has more scripture passages he can fight with. Once someone sees the priority of the forensic in the New Testament many other scripture passages fall into line and you begin to see it everywhere in the New Testament. And it is supported in the Old Testament too. We have not even gotten there yet. This whole idea of the Spirit giving us dominion over our sin is what is fictional biblically. The Spirit does not want to be the emphasis, the Spirit wants to glorify the work of Christ and point the sinner to Christ. The Spirit is the illuminator in the backround. The Spirit never wants to be the focal point.

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  218. John Yeazel: You still have not been knocked out yet Richard but you’re staggering and both eyes are puffed up so you can barely see anymore. Do you want the the fight to continue? Warfield considered himself a pugilist with his polemics. He fought until he knocked out. You have not thrown in the towel yet.

    RS: John, he hasn’t touched me with a glove yet. I am staggered that the two of you cannot see what the texts of Scripture are really saying.

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  219. McMark: Second, the wages of sin is death, and not some six hour experience.

    RS: Yes, but there is also a spiritual death as the kind found in Eph 2:1-3. People are dead in sins and trespasses. Those who go to hell are said to go to the second death. In that case death is the place where there is no spiritual good or light and all people do is suffer. Adam was told that they day he ate of the fruit he would die. I would argue that he did die, but he died spiritually.

    mark: I don’t want to pursue this far, because it’s a different topic, and we’re already pretty far from Princeton. (If anybody besides rs and me is reading, you can say amen here). But the term ‘spiritual death” can be pretty slippery and doesn’t seem to ever get defined. The term is often used to avoid the truth that Christ actually died, in terms of Isaiah 53, poured out His soul even unto death.

    And we see this ambiguity in your use of the term for Ephesians 2. To assume that “dead in sins” there means our corruption and not our guilt would be wrong. As Gaffin shows, to say that the “quickening” there is regeneration and not the forensic life of justification would also be
    wrong. And if you can say “not guilt” or “not only guilt” there, you can go on to say that Christ not only suffered and died for guilt (or guilt only) but also by “bearing sinfulness”, whatever mysterious
    experience you mean by that.

    McMark: Third, the focus on “sinfulness” rather than imputed guilt calls into question what you think “imputation” means. Is it only a transfer of punishment and consequence, and not of guilt, as Andrew Fuller would have it?

    RS: Well, aside from what Fuller said or didn’t say, and I would hope you are not reading him through the lenses of Ella, there is no punshment and consequence of sin apart from the guilt of sin.

    mark: I am not a fan of Ella. Ella teaches an eternal justification, and denies that “made sin” and “become the righteousness” are by imputation. He sounds like Tobias Crisp without correction by John Gill. In that respect, Ella is more like you than me, especially in his infusionist assumptions about the “new man”. I am however a great fan of Rushton’s book (Particular Redemption) which exposes the New England theology of Andrew Fuller for what it was, a limiting of
    “imputation” to consequences, which denies the “reality” of imputation.

    rs: No, I am not a big fan of Fuller. However, I tried to read Ella’s book on Fuller while checkig Ella’s footnotes.

    mark: I am glad to hear that you don’t approve of Fuller. Would you agree that Fuller denied the reality of legal imputation, and confined the idea to consequences? I have read Andrew Fuller for myself, and I have also seen how he used by the infralapsarian tolerant half-Arminians in the Southern Baptist Convention. (for example, in their latest, Whomsoever Will). But I
    would put the question to you:aside from Ella, Rushton, Fuller, what is this “sinfulness” that Jesus was bearing? You haven’t told us. Would it be something one could feel and emote about? Or do you just talk about it without being able to define it?

    McMark: I am saying that this shows up when you deny that the reign of grace through righteousness in Romans 5:21 is about Christ’s earned and imputed righteousness.

    RS: But the text does not say imputed righteousness and the context favors my interpretation. Yes, that is my opinion.

    mark: We need arguments for opinions, not repeats. I argued for imputed righteousness in Romans 5:21 because of what Romans 5 says about the two federal heads. To jump to some “righteousness” enabled in you at verse 21 would not only be out of place but would also undermine the point earlier about being constituted righteous by the obedience of the one man. I also argued that the question of Romans 6 would never even come up, if indeed 5:21 had been talking about your righteousness. You don’t argue against this. It seems right, you agree, but still you have your opinion.

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  220. Because I am all about peace and harmony, and out of respect to Hart’s original reference to Princeton and Hodge, let this old credo-baptist quote the man himself. On this at least I would hope we all agree.

    Hodge, Justification by Faith Alone,p 75–“How easy it would have been for Paul to say…”I only say that ritual works have no worth in his sight, that he looks on the heart’ or that ‘works done before
    regeneration have no real excellence or merit’ or that ‘God is more lenient now than in his dealing with Adam” or that “he does not demand perfect obedience but accepts our imperfect but well-meant endeavors to keep his holy commandments’. How reasonable and satisfactory such
    answers would have been. Paul, however, does not make them.”

    p108—“The sins which are pardoned in justification include all sins past, present and future. It does seem indeed (odd) that sins should be forgiven before they are committed…It would be a more correct statement to say that in justification the believer receives the promise that God will not deal with him according to his transgressions. rather than to say that sins are forgiven before they
    are committed.”

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  221. John Yeazel: This whole idea of the Spirit giving us dominion over our sin is what is fictional biblically.

    RS:
    Romans 8:4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

    Romans 8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

    Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

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  222. There rs goes again, quoting Scriptures again without exegesis, as if his own reading of the texts was so evident that it need not even be stated. I won’t quote again Calvin’s commentary on Romans 8:4, except to recall to your minds that Calvin contended that only the imputed righteousness of Christ outside the elect fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. This of course does not prove that Calvin is correct, but it does tell us that we can’t just quote Scripture and assume it obviously agrees with us.

    Those who gain assurance by works use Romans 8:13 with the assumption that “living by the flesh” can only mean acts of immorality. They have not yet considered the context, or Philippians 3, which teach us that gaining assurance by how we live (we don’t live by the law, we live the right way!) is just another way of “living by the flesh”. Arminianism is living by the flesh. Assurance conditioned on the sinner is living by the flesh.

    Vos, “Soterioogy: Ordo Salutis”, Systematic, reprinted by Fesko, in
    Calvin Theological Journal, 2012, p69

    6. The justifying acts serve as the foundation on which the regenerational acts of God rest.

    7. Who are they who reverse this ordering? The Roman Catholics allow for the judicial acts of God to follow and rest on morally transforming deeds.

    16, What does the mystical union with Christ imply? The union with Christ is not set forth as the basis for the application of His benefits. The believer receives all the benefits because of Christ’s
    merits.

    17. What erroneous representation is based on a contrary opinion? They reason as follows: we cannot receive anything from Christ before we are united to Him. This also applies to the New Birth. Therefore, union with Christ first, then New Birth.

    Answer: The New Birth does not take place founded on union with Christ through faith, but founded on unity with Christ through election.
    ————–
    mark: Of course this does not mean Vos is correct about this, but I think he is. But if “reformed” folks say “union” and “the covenant” often enough, they will never have to say the word “:election”.

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  223. Mark,

    That was helpful. From some of Richards posts one would think that “putting to death the deeds of the body” means attending church on Sunday, not spending too much money on beer at baseball games and whatever else he said we should not do at those baseball games. I can’t remember the rest of what he said. Don’t smoke, chew or run with boys who do. Boys will be boys, don’t you know Richard? I thought being a Calvinist meant putting pietism to death.

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  224. Correction RS: Money is not wasted on beer provided it is good beer. It could possibly be wasted on drunkenness. This was the part of your argument that most offended me. And the Tozer quote. I believe Warfield made mincemeat of Tozer’s proto-pentecostal interpretations. We have a Holy Man prophet in our neighborhood who is friends with Tozer’s son and gnostic as can be. Thank you Warfield the faithful.

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  225. todd mahaffey: Correction RS: Money is not wasted on beer provided it is good beer. It could possibly be wasted on drunkenness. This was the part of your argument that most offended me.

    RS: Sometimes being offended can be a good thing.

    Todd Mahaffey: And the Tozer quote. I believe Warfield made mincemeat of Tozer’s proto-pentecostal interpretations. We have a Holy Man prophet in our neighborhood who is friends with Tozer’s son and gnostic as can be. Thank you Warfield the faithful.

    RS: Since Warfield died a long time before Tozer, I doubt he dealt with Tozer directly, but Tozer was far from being involved with the pentecostals. However, even if Tozer was not 100% correct, that does not mean that all he wrote was wrong, Warfield was also not exactly inerrant. Have you ever read about how Warfield defined what a Calvinist was? He sure sounded a lot like Tozer when he did. It is always good to hear of a holy man.

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