Not So Fast

Neo-Calvinist lions have buried the hatchet with two-kingdom lambs, at least according to Matt Tuininga’s report on Mike Horton’s roundtable discussion of 2k with Covenant College faculty earlier this week:

When it comes to the two kingdoms doctrine and Christian liberal arts institutions like Covenant College (the college of the Presbyterian Church in America) in Lookout Mountain, Georgia there may not be that much conflict after all. That, at least, is the conclusion to which one might come in response to a panel discussion on the topic yesterday between Michael Horton, a professor at Westminster Seminary California, and several Covenant College faculty.

The proof of agreement (though Dr. K. is not buying) comes from a list of propositions that Horton believes 2kers and neo-Calvinists affirm. I paste them below italicized but offer comments in normal font. I do so not to be disagreeable but to attempt to clarify the disagreements (I still regard Mike as a better drinking companion than Mark Dever, and now we have a lot to discuss over adult beverages):

1) Both clearly distinguish the form of cultural and political engagement obligatory on Christians from the model of Old Testament Israel.

If neo-Calvinists look to the Bible for models of political engagement, where are they looking other than the Old Testament since the New Testament is silent on political strategies unless you count “my kingdom is not of this world” as a form of political engagement. In which case, the neo-Calvinist insistence on biblical politics (see James Skillen) paves the way for theonomy even if Kuyperians are uncomfortable with Greg Bahnsen.

2) Both maintain a sharp critique of the militancy and culture war mindset that marks much of the Christian Right, which has its own version of the social gospel.

Since many neo-Calvinists do actually denounce 2kers for not lending adequate support to the culture wars or for criticizing statements like the Manhattan Declaration (think Chuck Colson, Nancy Pearcey, and some disciples of Francis Schaeffer — say, didn’t Schaeffer have a connection to Covenant?), I am waiting to see the neo-Calvinist critique of culture war militancy. Criticizing the evangelical baptism of the Republican Party and George W. Bush does not count.

3) Each perspective affirms basic neo-Calvinist concepts concerning common grace, the antithesis, and sphere sovereignty.

This is one of the more agreeable affirmations in the list, but the fine print is important. Since some neo-Calvinists construe the antithesis in a way that obliterates the proximate goods of the earthly secular city, or insist that special revelation must interpret general revelation (fine, but what if the Bible is silent on plumbing?), affirmation of antithesis is not going to produce synthesis. Meanwhile, this 2ker finds the notion of common grace unhelpful. Christianity already has good doctrines — creation and providence — that teach what common grace attempts to affirm. Adding grace to something common only gives license for speaking about realms like culture and politics redemptively. As for sphere sovereignty, see here.

4) Both seek to distinguish the work proper to the institutional church (church as organization) and the way in which believers serve Christ and witness to his kingdom in every area of life (church as organism).

Perhaps, but all of that talk about kingdom work and every member ministry leaves me thinking that neo-Calvinists share with evangelicals an inability to understand the kingdom of Christ aright, that is, as a realm of redemption (as opposed to creation and providence). In other words, the American Historical Association is not but the visible church is, as the Westminster Confession teaches, the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

5) Both agree that Christians cannot bring the kingdom of God to earth through their cultural work.

If this is true, why did Abraham Kuyper describe the cultural task as holy?

6) Each perspective insists that Scripture has much to say about how Christians should be involved in culture through their vocations.

Maybe, but 2kers are much more cautious about reaching for their Bibles to justify their political, philosophical, or scientific convictions and tasks. That is to say, that 2kers come closer to the Belgic Confession’s distinction between the books of general and special revelation than Kuyperians do. Those cosmological passages (e.g. Col. 1:15-20) give neo-Calvinists inches that look like the entire canon.

7) Both agree that the church must proclaim what the word of God says about God’s law to the state, while avoiding false claims to expertise in matters of economics or policy.

Actually, 2kers are much more inclined to cite Westminster Confession chapter 31.4 on the church’s duty to refrain from meddling in civil affairs, while neo-Calvinists (or those inspired by its broad claims) are inclined to tell government officials how they are godless nincompoops.

8) Both affirm that while the actual objective work of Christians often looks similar to that of unbelievers, in terms of motivation, worldview, and sometimes objective results such work is profoundly different.

Some 2kers wonder whether anyone can be as self-conscious as w-w language suggests. They even think that when a mother sees her child spill a plate of spaghetti over the new dining room carpet she is not necessarily thinking about how she can glorify God or extend Christ’s Lordship when she instructs little Sammy about the importance — for the eleventh time — of staying in his chair, sitting up, and not playing with his food. Some 2kers even think that this believing mother will act to rear her child in ways common to most female parents (as part of the created order) rather than consulting a Kuyperian handbook on child discipline and carpet cleaning. (She may wish for a neo-Calvinist cookbook that would yield a recipe for spaghetti sauce that little Sammy would eat.)

9) Both affirm the value of Christian parachurch organizations like colleges and seminaries, while at the same time preserving the liberty of Christians to participate in non-Christian organizations as well.

The irony here is that denominational colleges like Covenant and Calvin fail to meet neo-Calvinist criteria of sphere sovereignty and in so doing put their respective churches in an awkward place of having to oversee matters over which their pastors and elders have no competence (such as the arts and sciences, since the Bible does not reveal German, Shakespeare, or Austrian economics).

I apologize if these comments rain on the warm and fuzzy fog that descended on Lookout Mountain, but many points of disagreement remain to be clarified.

And one of the greatest is the very criticism that 2kers regularly endure from neo-Calvinists. Notions of sphere sovereignty, church as organism or institute, w-w, and cultural engagement are not in the Reformed confessions. In other words, they have never been confessional matters, that is, until neo-Calvinists expressed shock — simply shocked — that 2k thinking is going on here. Do 2kers ever receive praise for defending the gospel (as in justification by faith alone), the regulative principle (of Reformed worship), the importance of keeping the Lord’s Day holy, what the Second Commandment says about images of God, or maintaining a lively opposition to the errors Roman Catholicism? 2kers have taken positions on all of these pieces of Reformed faith and practice that have been central to Reformed Protestantism’s development and witness. Neo-Calvinists, in contrast, have been largely silent on these same topics. Yet, neo-Calvinists react to 2k as if its teachings were a denial of the fundamentals of the Christian religion.

That is why some 2kers (me, anyway) are not going to join any common affirmation with neo-Calvinists until Kuyperians show that they can tell the difference between Reformed Protestantism’s central and peripheral matters.

Postscript: Matt also summarized Horton’s presentation with these lines about the spirituality of the church:

[Horton] clarified that the two kingdoms doctrine does not amount to a distinction between material and immaterial things but between the present age and the age to come. For that reason he rejected versions of the doctrine of the spirituality of the church that have been used to argue that the church should not speak out against patent evils like the racial slavery of the Antebellum South.

This is the second time within the last month or so that Mike has taken a swipe at the spirituality of the church. Without getting into a lengthy discussion, I would try to correct this assertion by noting that the reason some Presbyterians did not speak out against slavery was not to preserve the spirituality of the church. The reason was that Paul and Jesus and Abraham and Moses did not speak out against slavery. Whether or not Presbyterians read the Bible correctly, they were starting with Scripture and from that followed the spirituality of the church — as in the church may not speak where the Bible is silent. It is the same idea that led and leads some Presbyterians to oppose the church’s support for the Eighteenth Amendment and the church’s ban on women serving in the military.

111 thoughts on “Not So Fast

  1. Good things Darryl. Mazel Mazel. Didn’t I read quite some time ago, that Michael Horton was in a predominantly dutch congregation the past few years of his life, and credited that group with helping him to understand what it meant to be a church family and body? If so, maybe all that dutch predilection for w-w sunk in. When the dutch have figured out self-consciously oriented motivation for sleep and therefore accounted for an entire 1/3 of our life that we aren’t self-consciously taking thoughts captive to the glory of God, wake me up or actually, don’t. I mean how in the world(pun intended) are you gonna sell a w-w that’s spoken goal is to take every “square inch” and not even address 1/3 of it? Not to mention all the ‘little Sammy’ moments that intrude the moment after we wake.

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  2. It’s time to give the “common grace” theory back to the Dutch and to stop regarding it as a litmus test for being Reformed. As we can talk about God’s covenantal sanction against Adam without talking about grace before sin, now we can talk about God’s providence without confusing God’s government with “common grace”. They key concept we need in thinking about our enemies and God’s enemies is the distinction between God and ourselves.

    We are not God. God has and will killed many of God’s enemies We human creature have no divine right to act like God in this regard, or to be God’s agents in killing enemies. Christ commands us
    to do “more” for our enemies than they would do for us, without at all saying that God is going to love our enemies.

    God does not at all love God’s non-elect enemies. God is going to get even with them, God is going to destroy them. The “be ye perfect” ( Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount) is a command for us to not discriminate, even though God does discriminate. God is kind to the “ungrateful and the evil” elect. God is not being kind to the tares, the goats, the non-elect. Rain is not a blessing for them. God’s providence and longsuffering is not “common grace” for God’s enemies.
    .
    Romans 1:32. “Even though they know that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

    Having exchanged the true God for a lie, their next sin becomes God’s wrath for their last sin, and God’s wrath is being revealed not only in the future but even now in their sin.

    I Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as SENT BY HIM to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

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  3. Hi
    I’m relatively new to the discussion over 2K. I don’t object to it as it certainly is thought provoking and even helpful. Can someone perhaps clarify the discussion around point 7 above. Is everyone defining ‘church’ consistently? For example WCF 31 speaks about the government of the church in terms of what they are, who may sit in them and what they should do (and not do). Therefore I would not expect an assembly of my denomination to make an authoritative statement about what voting system is best or whether taxes should be increased or decreased or even to call our politicians godless nincompoops. But would what is called 2K allow for a Minister or member of the church (in terms of WCF 25.2) to make a statement about voting, taxes or politicians or would it only to object a Minister or member making that statement if he was making that claim on behalf of the church?

    Apologies that this is less a comment but rather a series of questions.
    Chris

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  4. Chris, the spirituality of the church doctrine, as taught by someone like Machen (see his essay “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age”), insists that the church has a spiritual mission, not a political one. So the church can only declare what the Bible teaches — such as murder is sinful — not how a civil polity will decide to criminalize murder. Getting from the Bible to public policy or law are at least two different steps and the church (as ministers, assemblies, officers) can’t minister something other than Scripture.

    As citizens Christians may speak to a host of issues. And if they invoke the Bible, they should make sure they are using Scripture properly. They should also expect to lose at least some of their nonChristian hearers.

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  5. Wow. Did Horton switch to decaf? Will he be going to Wheaton and coming out with statements of the things that Reformed churches and evangelical megachurches have in common?

    I could be wrong but I don’t recall Van Drunen ever using the phrase “common grace” in “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms”. He instead contrasts the covenants that God made with Noah & Abraham.

    Carl Trueman had an interesting interview on Reformed Forum about confessionalism. He says (rightly, in my opinion) that the farthest a church can go in taking a position on a matter is defined by its confessions. If you accept this stance, 2K makes a lot more sense than Neocalvinism. When you join a church you shouldn’t have to obey THE RULES (the confessions), but then have to obey the rules (all of the things that some people want to infer from the confessions — including Neocalvinism). The URC has allowed this to creep into its Church Order through its requirement that elders “promote godly schooling”, but I think the burden should rightly fall on Neocalvinists to show me in the confessions what their justification is to bind my conscience in the way they seem to want to do on cultural transformation.

    I guess I am saying to put up or shut up – start the procedure to revise the confessions or back off.

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  6. Darryl, Honest question. If you reject common grace because it really accounts for nothing not already covered by a reformed understanding of creation & providence, how do you account for the fact that Christ witholds his judgement of reprobates (and blesses them such that they may even materially prosper in this life), restrains evil and works all things together for the good of His church? I can see how this can all be subsumed under God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, but it seems to me that God’s making a covenant with creation (Noah) is a distinct positive covenantal action of God toward creation. Citizens of “this present evil age” still receive certain material blessings from God that will ultimately turn out for their condemnation which would seem to go beyond providence.

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  7. First of all, happy 495th anniversary to all! In addition to many other more important benefits, I figure we all have a little more money in my pockets this recession thanks to Martin Luther.

    On point #9, does 2k affirm the liberty of Christians to work in parachurch organizations that attempt to usurp the work ordained for the church alone?

    Personally, the more I study it, the more it seems to me that parachurch ‘mission’ organizations with self-called ‘missionaries’ and self-appointed governing bodies are unbiblical and do a great deal to harm the Kingdom where they go even though many do so with the best intentions and are supported by many churches.

    Maybe this is not the point of #9, but this is immediately what jumped into mind.

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  8. The death penalty required in the Noahic covenant is not a function of grace or even of “common grace” nor is it “secular” if that means without reference to the true God (nstead of in reference to here and now). The Noahic covenant is about blood atonement, religious worship, and what the God revealed in Scripture requires. The Lord Jesus who created the world is not different from the Lord Jesus who redeems. To translate God’s covenant with Noah into a mandate for non-separation from those who don’t worship the same God is to not deal fairly with Genesis 9

    btw, dvd writes that the violent political “realm” receives its institutional foundation from God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 9. Dvd understands this covenant to be a “covenant of common grace” (p27). That is, the covenant is made with the whole human race, indeed every creature, “whether devout or not.” DVD argues that Noahic covenantal grace regulates temporal, cultural affairs rather than more narrowly religious affairs pertaining to salvation from sin.

    But, as not all triumphalists are theonomists, even so not all 2 k folks believe in “common grace”

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  9. Genesis 9 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

    Which God are we talking about? The God revealed in creation or the God revealed in the redemption done by Christ? Which part of Genesis 9 is “ceremonial” and which is not? Which part is “religious” and which is not? Let the cherry-picking begin. And then the deconstructiion of differences assumed for the sake of communication and civilization….

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  10. Sean, for what it’s worth, speaking as a fellow with Dr. Horton, our Church is far from a bastion of Neo-Calvinism or it’s sympathies. If anything, the teaching and preaching of our pastor, Mike Brown, was instrumental in moving me away from theonomic/neo-Calvinist tendencies and to a more biblically/theologically consistent 2K perspective.

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  11. “Personally, the more I study it, the more it seems to me that parachurch ‘mission’ organizations with self-called ‘missionaries’ and self-appointed governing bodies are unbiblical and do a great deal to harm the Kingdom where they go even though many do so with the best intentions and are supported by many churches.”

    Good point B. Go to most any parachurch “minister” or worker and ask them which body of elders they are accountable to and they will look at you with a look of either puzzlement or disdain. I have supported a missionary with this kind of attitude which is why I won’t be any more after year-end. I have some remaining commitments from my evangelical days that have carried over into the present.

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  12. Erik, URC CO 14:

    The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

    could learn something from the RCC Catechism 2229:

    As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

    But as long as Christian schools remain the laboratory for worldviewry it’s doubtful neo-Calvinists will think they have anything to learn from Catholics.

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  13. Didn’t I read quite some time ago, that Michael Horton was in a predominantly dutch congregation the past few years of his life…
    Horton is Associate Pastor at Christ URC, Santee CA (just a few miles from my house and home church of New Life PCA, La Mesa, but I have still never visited, so I can’t attest as to the Dutchiness of the congregation)

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  14. Mark G., on your first question, which is distinct from your second (Noah), the problem of evil and the problem of evildoers prospering is not one I’m going to solve. Nor does common grace solve it. It’s a theory. But the problems of evil are still a mystery left to the infinite counsel of God.

    As for Noah’s covenant, it seems merely like a reiteration of the one with Adam, though now in a fallen setting. I for one don’t consider the covenant of works (creation) to be gracious. When you introduce grace before the fall, theological problems happen.

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  15. Erik, that’s a fair question and one that I might ask him. Yet, I think that I would rather wait to hear the actual dialogues myself. Not to question Tuininga’s ethics, but his is just one perspective and of course he has his own agenda, which seems to be trying to navigate a via media between the two; noble, but one which I don’t myself share.

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  16. Darryl, I agree that the pre-fall Adamic covenant was a CoW and it is problematic to smooth out the distinciton b/w CoW and CoG. I recently read “Far as the Curse is Found” and thought it was very weak on the CoW and in distinguishing it from the CoG. For my understanding, I think Kline presents the covenant with Noah as a common grace covenant. I guess you would disagree? Kline presents the Mosaic covenant as a reiteration of the CoW. Would you follow Kline on that? Just curious.

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  17. Adam, Rube,

    Let me be clear, I’m not knocking Dr. Horton in ANY way. I simply remember hearing him on a broadcast, I believe, mentioning that He and his wife were part of a church, whom, I thought I heard him mention, were of a dutch ‘stripe’ and while either he or his wife or one of his parents(I honestly can’t remember which of the aforementioned) had been ill, this particular body of believers had been a tremendous blessing to him and his family as they dealt with the illness. He painted this particular body as an example, to him, of what and how the church should both look like and function. That’s all I was referring to, and speculating that maybe that experience and exposure gave him some sympathies and appreciation for ‘some’ neo-calvanism, or at least an desire to build bridges to it theologically.

    Either way, I value his teaching a great deal, even if I don’t always agree with everything, all the time.

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  18. I should add; Not that I matter or he would even care. There. A woulda/shoulda became a did and done. Spirit wrought work fo sho.

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  19. One of the things that came out in the Patrick Edouard debacle is that he was supposedly short of money and one of the women had been giving him money. I had heard that when he decided to homeschool his kids instead of sending them to Christian school the church in Pella cut his pay (the rationale being that he didn’t need the money for tuition). I have seen his kids and they appeared to be very good kids. Extremely well behaved in worship, anyway. This struck me as petty and vindictive. This is a large church, maybe the largest in the URC, and they can’t extend some grace to their minister on this? This is where the rubber meets the road on Neocalvinism.

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  20. All I know is that I now cannot vote for Obama cuz Huckabee says I’ll go to Hell. Huckabee must truly believe Mormons are Christians.

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  21. These 2k/neo-C debates are very reminiscent of the debates between those who favor limited government vs. those who favor a larger government. The same arguments are used against those in favor of limiting the authority of the church and those in favor of limiting the authority of the civil government. Those who choose to limit church authority by what is stated in the confessions (and therefore the Bible) or limit government authority to what is stated by the law (and therefore the Constitution) are many times maligned when they say that the church and/or government does NOT have the authority to deal with various social ills and issues.

    While I don’t want to draw a direct connection between those favoring 2k and those favoring a limited form of government, their similarities should be noted. I don’t want to impugn the character of those with a neo-C prerogative, but it seems to me that human beings have a natural tendency to usurp authority which is not theirs to enforce. Whether it’s church officers or government officials, people have a desire to rid themselves of the rule of law whether it be the Westminster Confession or the Constitution, and place themselves as the highest authority. This is the very nature of “lawlessness”. There is always the draw that if we just rid ourselves of the rule of law (whether Church or civil) that we can usher in a better world. If you want to see how disregarding the rule of law ends, see the first three chapters of Genesis. This is why creeds and confessions are of the utmost importance and binding Christian consciences must be done in a confessional manner. To be 2K IS to be confessional.

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  22. Kloosterman says “Perhaps we will be seeing advocates of “the two kingdoms doctrine” taking a page from the playbook of “the Federal Vision movement” to remind us that theirs is not a monolithic movement, nor even a movement. Just classic Reformed theology.”

    Gosh, thanks for linking us 2K guys with Federal Visionists. Don’t Federal Visionists have a lot more in common with Neocalvinists than with 2K guys, though? Political advocacy, transforming culture, Christian schools in Moscow, etc.

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  23. Darryl,

    You are probably in a better position to speak to this than most since you are so well connected to WSC, but it seems to me that among the 2kers on the full time faculty, DVD and then possibly Clark are the most vocal advocates, and 2k figures prominently in their doctrine, and Horton while certainly holding to it seems to have other emphases, possibly owing to his work in Systematics, that figure more prominently in his work. That on top of the fact that Horton seems to work to find commonality wherever possible, both in the Reformed and broader evangelical community, might explain some of the discussions over at Covenant. I think Horton serves an important role in what he does, and compliments some of the more probing polemics for 2k that come out of our circles – they all have their place and serve their purposes, so I don’t find much that I could say against what Horton and his Covenant counterparts – just that the qualifications you make here are important and highlight the true differences between 2k and neo-Calvinism.

    I have less of a beef with neo-Calvinists like Baus and Terry Gray who frequent OL, or even Dr. Godfrey, who maintain their confessional chops, and seem to keep a solid grip on the importance and proper bounds of the institutional church. Of course, I am not convinced of their take on the extent to which redemption goes, but those are discussion where I can live comfortably with our differences. But, the neo-Cals who blur the work of the church into the secular realm, and don’t really respect their own tradition’s sphere sovereignty are the individuals with whom I more sharply disagree – I would say that this is the most popular form of neo-Calvinism, and extends outside distinctly Reformed circles, and seems to dominate groups like the Gospel Coalition – what bugs me most is they at once have an over-inflated ecclesiology with respect to the role of the church in the world, and yet it is at the same time anemic, and not very churchly – placing little to no emphasis on the due use of the ordinary means. To me, this brand of neo-Calvinism is more problematic to 2k, and that isn’t to say there aren’t key differences between confessional neo-cals and confessional 2kers.

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  24. I would just view this as Michael Horton speaking for Michael Horton and not much more. Where did anyone else give him the authority to speak for “the movement”? Van Drunen and Hart are the ones who have written the books that people are disagreeing with, not Horton. No disrespect meant to Dr. Horton, but don’t just take his statements and run with them as is “the movement” has conceded anything.

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  25. Another obvious point that needs to be made: What is the living legacy of Neocalvinism that we see in 21st Century America? It has to be the Christian Reformed Church. How ironic is it that some of the staunchest advocates of Neocalvinism in the URC wouldn’t have anything to do with the CRC today if their lives depended on it. I’m reminded of the old cliche about Marxism failing only because the right people haven’t tried it yet. We’ve thrown off the CRC yoke, why not question some of their Neocalvinist assumptions as well?

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  26. Another point is that once Presbyterian & Reformed churches sever the link with the civil magistrate (which all American P&R churches of relevance have done), talk of cultural transformation is toothless (as is theonomy). Without the power of the sword it is pretty much pie-in-the-sky to talk even talk about. It’s wishful thinking, setting aside the question of whether or not the Bible even advocates it.

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  27. If saying that there is more than one kind of 2k is like being a federal visionist because federal visionists say that there is more than one kind of federal visionist, does this mean that there is only one kind of triumphalist transformationist?

    Federal Visionists share with Mike Horton and many other Reformed folks the idea that the non-elect are are in and out of the new covenant.

    Hebrews 10:28-29, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the One who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.”

    This Bible text about making the blood unclean (profaning the sacred) is a primary proof Mike Horton uses to teach a grace which is common to both elect and non-elect. Horton uses the verse to teach that the new covenant can be broken, and that the new covenant is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. Horton’s idea of common grace is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in the new covenant, and even more grace for the elect. This idea of common grace is not biblical.

    The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate was in the new covenant. I do not think it is even saying that the apostate was in a “visible church” and appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation

    The “Son of God” is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. Of course we need to remember that “sanctify” does not mean to get better and better, as some Reformed Confessions presume with their “more and more” language. “Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context of Hebrews 10, (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

    Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself in common for every sinner so that maybe (and maybe not) these sinners will be sanctified.Not only do they wrongly define sanctification as getting better, but they turn that getting better into the evidence that Christ’s supposedly common death has had special results in specific cases.

    The book of Hebrews instead gives all the glory to Christ’s death.

    “We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He would taste death for every… (2:10). The verses which follow identify the every— “sons to glory”, ”those who are sanctified”, “ children God has given me”.

    Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory of Christ is dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They tell us that the One crowned was sanctified for more than are sanctified. They dishonor Christ by telling the children God gave Him that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God.

    That Christ sanctified Himself does not mean that Christ got better and better but that Christ set Himself apart to die for a people set apart before the creation of the world. These elect people are in time sanctified by faith given by Christ’s Spirit, but before that, God’s elect are set apart by the death, by the blood of Christ.

    Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, He became the source of age to come salvation to those who obey Him.” All the elect will obey the gospel but it is not their obeying which is the source of their salvation.

    But if Christ died in common for every sinner, and not every sinner is set apart, then it is not the blood of Christ which sanctifies. It is not special, and it does not do anything special. God forbid!

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  28. Jed, you know there was a time when Mike interviewed Robert Schuller and made him (Schuller) so mad that the interviewee had to leave the studio. Those were the days.

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  29. Well, there was also a time when Horton denied that Arminians were evangelicals. But now he does book tours with them, and takes a Romanist with him on his cruise. But why talk about particular atonement when you can have so many Lutheran friends who agree with you about sacramental objectivity? Anybody attempting to have an alliance in which being Lutheran means being “Reformed” is going to find Zwinglian credobaptists inconvenient.

    and the Lutheran clergy says to all in common: Christ died for you and forgives you.

    http://www.prca.org/articles/bolt.html

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  30. Darryl,

    I heard the interview, and I am not so sure that Horton wasn’t pulling a Hendrie, and just pretending to be Schuller – or maybe I just secretly hope he was. I am still waiting for that cage match between him and Tipton, if only disputes could be settled so civilly in the theological world.

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  31. @Mark Mccully:

    The OPC I attend teaches that the New Covenant can be broken. And none of the Elders who teach this can be considered FV in the slightest, in fact quite the opposite. If you don’t believe the New Covenant can be broken, then I think you need to ask yourself if your reformed at all. Now please don’t get me wrong, I have many dear friends who are good brothers who feel the same way. But they are “reformed Baptists” who do not believe in Covenant theology. They freak out that we baptize our babies. Me? I believe that children of believers are in fact members of the New Covenant and should be baptized.

    Rest in his completed work

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  32. Darryl,

    I remember that. That was good stuff. Wasn’t it Rosenblatt who was so put off he wouldn’t even come into the studio that day? It was either that or they were taking Schuller out to dinner before or after and Dad Rod refused to dine with him. Good and cranky.

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  33. Doug: The OPC I attend teaches that the New Covenant can be broken.

    Mark: That was my point—that there is agreement on this issue between many Federal Visionists and the Reformed mainline. As we should all see clearly, there are those in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants who are not elect. Many Reformed mono-covenantalists think this proves that the new covenant includes the non-elect. Of course, they don’t usually get that specific. They simply say “the covenant” and leave it to others to figure out which covenant they mean.

    So I agree with you that the distinction between new covenant and election is not the difference which makes a federal visionist. Without at all wanting to say that federal visionism is inherent in the Reformed Confessions, we will have to look to something else for the difference between Shepherd and Horton.

    doug: If you don’t believe the New Covenant can be broken, then I think you need to ask yourself if your reformed at all.

    mark: well, I have never claimed to be reformed, so this means that I have nothing to say to you or you to learn from me. I just keep harping on about Christ having died for the elect alone, and saying that is not enough to be Reformed. Shoot, you can deny that and still be Reformed. You can be Reformed and teach that Christ died for everybody but that “union with Christ” makes atonement. Of course some who are really really Reformed want you to confess also that sacramental efficacy creates and causes the union that makes the death work. But no problem, I never wanted to be Reformed.

    doug: Now please don’t get me wrong, I have many dear friends who are good brothers who feel the same way. But they are “reformed Baptists” who do not believe in Covenant theology.

    mark: I tend to care more about people’s ideas than their feelings. That’s why I don’t talk too much about the sentimentality of those who are attached to the notion that their infants are perhaps already regenerated, and that this has been confirmed by what God did with water. Instead of patronizing my Reformed friends, I read all their books which indicate a pluralism of ways to do “covenant theology”. At the least, the books teach me that there is no one covenant theology and no one reading of the confessions.

    As one Reformed writer was bold to say, we must be right about infant water baptism, because despite how much we disagree about how to make the case, from the old covenants or from the NT precedents, and no matter how much we contradict each other (and ourselves), we nevertheless agree about the practice.

    doug: They freak out that we baptize our babies. Me? I believe that children of believers are in fact members of the New Covenant and should be baptized.

    mark: I am a big boy getting old, so traditions don’t freak me out so much. Like Mart Twain, I have seen it before. I am kinda of like those guys who watched John the Baptist giving the water of repentance to those who had already been circumcised. It all seemed strange, until I saw that John was also baptizing with water all the infants and spouses of those who were being baptized. That’s when I knew that nothing had really changed, and that there was nothing new under the sun. And then John the Baptist told us about the Messiah who would come and displace the pagan Romans and take over the empire for the protection of God’s unchanging church.

    I hope, Doug, that you do not fail to warn all those you welcome to the new covenant about negative sanctions. It will be worse for them if they don’t believe the gospel, because they have Christians parents. And it will be even worse for them if they don’t believe the gospel, because they had at least one parent who agreed to infant baptism. And you know it’s worst,for those members of the new covenant who fail to do the life-long works which show themselves that they believe. I don’t know if there will be extra blessings (not purchased by Christ) for those members who got in the new covenant so early, but for sure, there could be extra special curses.

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  34. Erik C., did you see the “Des Moines Register” photo of the former Rev. Edouard being led away in handcuffs following his sentencing? I don’t know where you live in Iowa, bit in my rural locale this story has greatly distracted the Reformed. “Oldlife.org, never heard of it or Dr. Hart. Theological chatter is of no interest to me. Let’s go hear an inspirational speaker across town next week.”

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  35. 28660a – I followed that story closely and made a lot of blog posts on it. Very few of the folks here are Dutch nor do they live in Dutch communities. The same is true for me. The Dutch have a different take on a lot of these issues than the non-Dutch do. When you are born Dutch Reformed its kind of like a fish not noticing the water he is swimming in.

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  36. Doug Sowers: The OPC I attend teaches that the New Covenant can be broken.

    RS: Which means that the New Covenant is more about what you do than what God does? If the New Covenant is the promise of God, then how can we do something to break His promise? It would seem that we are left with working to stay in the New Covenant, but that does away with justification by grace alone.

    Doug Sowers: And none of the Elders who teach this can be considered FV in the slightest, in fact quite the opposite.

    RS: Whether they teach FV or not, if they teach that you are in the New Covenant but can break it, then the roots of FV is there.

    Doug Sowers: If you don’t believe the New Covenant can be broken, then I think you need to ask yourself if your reformed at all.

    RS: That is a fine question, but I would ask you that if you believe the New Covenant can be broken by you then you need to ask yourself if you believe that you are saved and kept by grace alone or by your own works?

    Doug Sowers: Now please don’t get me wrong, I have many dear friends who are good brothers who feel the same way. But they are “reformed Baptists” who do not believe in Covenant theology.

    RS: But there are many Reformed Baptists (whatever that may mean) who do believe in Covenant theology as the Bible teaches it, but what they deny is that any are in the New Covenant who can get out of it by their own sin. Christ died for all in the New Covenant and He keeps them safe.

    Doug Sowers: They freak out that we baptize our babies. Me? I believe that children of believers are in fact members of the New Covenant and should be baptized.

    RS: So Christ died for all the children of believers? Does God promise to save all in the New Covenant? So if they depart from the New Covenant, that means that Christ died for some who will not be saved and that He promises to save some He does not save. Either that or you believe that God promises to save those who will do certain things so that He will save them or keep them saved.

    Doug Sowers: Rest in his completed work

    RS: I am not sure how one can believe that the New Covenant can be broken on the one hand and yet also believe that one is to rest in His completed work on the other. If we are to rest in Christ alone, then we rest in Him who lived, suffered and died, was resurrected, and then ascended into heaven for all those in the New Covenant. Yet, if we can leave the New Covenant then we must trust in ourselves to keep ourselves in the New Covenant. You do sound rather FV at the moment.

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  37. I’m not sure that I can agree that “[b]oth maintain a sharp critique of the militancy and culture war mindset that marks much of the Christian Right, which has its own version of the social gospel.”

    I would consider Marvin Olasky (and World Magazine) to be the most visible prolocutor of Kuyperian thought. A quick perusal of World Magazine suggests a pretty open embrace of the “culture war mindset” and the right-wing social gospel that goes along with that. So, perhaps Horton would be better served by talking with folks who may be more representative of grass-roots neo-Calvinism, such as those at World Magazine or at Colson’s organization.

    Would the Baylys count as neo-Calvinists? They too seem to conflate the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom, but perhaps in a manner different from the neo-Calvinists. I would tend to associate the Baylys more closely with the revivalism of Edwards, Tennent, and Finney, which, like neo-Calvinism, is a departure from historic covenantal Calvinism. Perhaps the neo-Calvinists err by overstating the difference between the Covenant people and the World, which leads them to favor a government run by a Christian elite (i.e., like a Christianized variant of Marxism). In contrast, the Edwards/Tennent/Finney/Bayly theology errs in understating the difference between the Covenent people and the World, which leads its proponents to make light of the means of grace and to make much of prophetic utterances directed to the unregenerate.

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  38. Bob: Would the Baylys count as neo-Calvinists? They too seem to conflate the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom, but perhaps in a manner different from the neo-Calvinists. I would tend to associate the Baylys more closely with the revivalism of Edwards, Tennent, and Finney, which, like neo-Calvinism, is a departure from historic covenantal Calvinism.

    RS: It is not accurate to think of Edwards and Tennent with virtually anything to do with Finney. Depending on what one thinks of as “historic covenantal Calvinism”, you might consider Carl Bogue’s volume on Jonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace. One can argue that covenantal theology more or less started with the Reformation and was not really all that settled until at least the Puritans. Since Edwards was very much in line with the Puritans, he is in line with at least one branch of covenantal theology.

    Bob: Perhaps the neo-Calvinists err by overstating the difference between the Covenant people and the World, which leads them to favor a government run by a Christian elite (i.e., like a Christianized variant of Marxism). In contrast, the Edwards/Tennent/Finney/Bayly theology errs in understating the difference between the Covenent people and the World, which leads its proponents to make light of the means of grace and to make much of prophetic utterances directed to the unregenerate.

    RS: Having read Edwards, Tennent, and Finney, the first two are nothing like the latter. Finney was a Pelagian while Edwards and Tennent were Calvinists. Having tried to listen to Bayly, I can only say that he should not be linked with Edwards and Tennent.

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  39. Correction!

    My OPC doesnt use the language, that the New Covenant can be broken per se. But it does teach that children of believers are members of the Church, and to be treated as the Elect until they give evidence otherwise. My OPC Church teaches that members of the Church are in the New Covenant, and share in the corparate blessings of the Holy Spirt. And much like in the Old Testament not all Israel belonged to Israel, not all Christians are true Christians, as in born of God.

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  40. RS: So Christ died for all the children of believers?

    Me: No he did not. The promise is for believers and their children. But he promise must be apprehended by faith

    Does God promise to save all in the New Covenant?

    Me: No he did not. Moreover, Hebrews warns us time and time again that there will be those in the New Covenant that will fall away. But were they ever saved? No.

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  41. Doug, then your Church doesn’t teach a breakable or conditional New Covenant, end of story. Perhaps the way you initially stated it wasn’t exactly the most clear manner, eh?

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  42. Richard and Mark:

    I apologize for not choosing my words more carefully. I should never have said my OPC said the New Covenant can be broken. That is very awkward language. But we would saythat being a member of the Church places you in the administration of the New Covenant. But not all those in the Covenant are truly born of God, and those who are not will fall away. Those warnings are all through Hebrews. Now I want to be clear, my Church is not FV.

    Please forgive me brothers

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  43. yep, “administration” makes it all better.

    1. It lets you keep saying all the things you have been saying, and at the same time the opposite of what you have been saying.

    2. Do you think the new covenant is an adminstration of “the covenant of grace”? Does that mean that only the adminstration of the new covenant is an adminstration of “the covenant”? Or is the new covenant itself (its essence, its reality) an adminstration of “the covenant”?

    3. Does the “difference” between the new covenant and its “adminstration” translate into internal and external or is there some biblical guideline for what to cherry-pick and when? When are the non-elect children of Abraham “really” children of Abraham and when are they not? Are the non-elect children of Abraham never in any sense in the Abrahamic covenant? If not, what is the need for a distinction between administration and covenant, or between sign and significance? I mean, if there is one gospel, one church, why can’t there be identical “union” between adminstration and covenant?

    4. Is “adminstration” your word for never having to say “dispensation”?

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  44. Doug, remember that I agree with you that the distinction between new covenant and election is not the difference which makes a federal visionist. Without at all wanting to say that federal visionism is inherent in the Reformed Confessions, we will have to look to something else for the difference between Shepherd and Horton.

    Why are you not a federal visionist? Why did you and Morecraft not follow Andrew Sandlin, Peter Leithart, and James Jordan into the promised land of “sacramental objectivity”? When you talk about faith being the condition of the new covenant (not the adminstration), are you talking about a faith alone in Christ’s death for the elect alone, or are you talking about a faith that the same Holy Spirit who lives in Christ living in you now?

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  45. Richard,

    I realize that there may be some differences in the sotiorology propounded by Edwards and Finney. But on issues of ecclesiology and the relationship of the Covenant people to the World, I don’t see much difference between Edwards/Tennent and Finney…or the Baylys. As a class, these revivalists seem to be dissatisfied with their calling to be dispassionate administrators of the means of grace to God’s covenant people, and prefer to “minister” as so-called prophets to the broader culture.

    I’ve not read anything written by Carl Bogue, except for the PCA’s poorly reasoned statement on abortion (which was authored by a committee chaired by Bogue). It strikes me that Bogue suffers from certain impulses to theocracy, which may explain his attracton to Edwards, who espoused the undefensible notion of National Covenant.

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  46. Richard – I think you err in viewing Edwards & Tennent as equals. Edwards was far superior to Tennent in temperment, theology and intellectual ability. No one talks about Tennent being the most important theologian of 18th century America. I agree they were both superior to Finney, at least the more mature Tennent.

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  47. “Without getting into a lengthy discussion, I would try to correct this assertion by noting that the reason some Presbyterians did not speak out against slavery was not to preserve the spirituality of the church. The reason was that Paul and Jesus and Abraham and Moses did not speak out against slavery.”
    While it is true that Paul, Jesus, Abraham, and Moses did not speak out against slavery, it is also true that Paul did speak out against menstealers (KJV), kidnappers (NAS), enslavers (ESV) 1Tim 1:10 (WLC 142 “What are the sins forbidden in the 8th Commandment?). Does this not strike at the very foundation upon which the racial slavery of the Antebellum South was built?

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  48. This is a really helpful analysis. As someone who grew up in proto-neo-Calvinist circles, I’m finding 2K increasingly attractive and sensible as I become more disillusioned with the cultural politics of the Neo-Calvinist Right. I am a 27 year old PhD candidate in history at a major university (not the history of religion, mind you) and your website, which I stumbled upon a few weeks ago, is the first place I’ve ever heard about 2K. Thank you for your commentary!

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  49. Mark says: Do you think the new covenant is an administration of “the covenant of grace”?

    Me: Mark, I would say that all of the post fall covenants, starting in Genesis 3:15 where God promises the seed of Christ will crush the seed of Satan. And then expanding to the Noaic, Abrahamic, and Davidic covenants which were founded on *promise* *type*, and *foreshadows* which prefigured the work of Christ. Israel is a type of the Church. Israel was the Church in her immaturity. The remnant of Israel or True Israel is part of the Eternal Church.

    When Christ comes in reality, it’s not a different covenant!!!

    (Although the outer form changes, with it’s rituals and shadows which could only point to Christ)

    It’s the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would save his people. Of course the best is yet to come at the resurrection. But each covenant in the older Testament expanded on the prior until the climax of God coming incarnate and sacrificing himself for his Elect he knew before the foundation of the world. Each Covenant was gracious because they were all about Christ.

    Oh Mark, to answer your question I would phrase the New Covenant as the kingdom of God. Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God until all his enemies have been defeated the last enemy will be death. The visible Church is the currant administration of the New Covenant, although not all members are truly born of God.

    I hope that helps bro.

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  50. Dennis, so you’re okay with other forms of slavery, like prisoners of war, persons born as slaves?

    And if you don’t like buying persons, have you ever considered that Christ “bought” his followers with a price?

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  51. Erik Charter: I think Doug makes sense in his covenant theology. Doug – You are arguing with Reformed Baptists, which explains a lot.

    RS: Yes, it means that he has to argue against the Bible to hold his position.

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  52. Bob: Richard, I realize that there may be some differences in the sotiorology propounded by Edwards and Finney.

    RS: No, it is not accurate to say that there may be some differences between Edwards and Finney in soteriology. Finney was a Pelagian and did not preach the biblical Gospel at all. Edwards was a biblical Calvinist and preached the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Finney preached and man was the center, but when Edwards preached God was the center. There is virtually an infinite difference between Edwards and Finney. If that is not enough, Finney was a non-Christian doing evangelism in the religious realm. Edwards was a Christian preaching the Gospel in the churches.

    Bob: But on issues of ecclesiology and the relationship of the Covenant people to the World, I don’t see much difference between Edwards/Tennent and Finney…or the Baylys. As a class, these revivalists seem to be dissatisfied with their calling to be dispassionate administrators of the means of grace to God’s covenant people, and prefer to “minister” as so-called prophets to the broader culture.

    RS: I can only say that I think you need to read the men themselves more and then read about them more as well. There is simply no way one can compare Edwards and Tennent to Finney and be in the same universe.

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  53. Erik Charter: Richard – I think you err in viewing Edwards & Tennent as equals. Edwards was far superior to Tennent in temperment, theology and intellectual ability. No one talks about Tennent being the most important theologian of 18th century America. I agree they were both superior to Finney, at least the more mature Tennent.

    RS: I would not argue that God used them in the same way or even created them with the same intellectual ability. My argument is that they were true Christians who preached the Gospel and for the most part in local churches. Finney, on the other hand, denied original sin, a real atonement, and the imputed righteousness of Christ. He stressed the need to whip the feelings of people up and press them hard to made a decision right now in order to be saved right now. He moved around the country wreaking havoc and the “burned out district” wherever he went. Edwards and Tennent were not like that, though indeed they might not have been equals in the sense you mean. However, I have read part of a dissertation that a person did on Tennent that speaks of Edwards as picking up ideas from Tennent. My real point, however, is that Edwards and Tennent should not be compared in any way with Finney.

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  54. Doug Sowers: Mark, I would say that all of the post fall covenants, starting in Genesis 3:15 where God promises the seed of Christ will crush the seed of Satan. And then expanding to the Noaic, Abrahamic, and Davidic covenants which were founded on *promise* *type*, and *foreshadows* which prefigured the work of Christ. Israel is a type of the Church. Israel was the Church in her immaturity. The remnant of Israel or True Israel is part of the Eternal Church.

    When Christ comes in reality, it’s not a different covenant!!!

    RS:
    Hebrews 7:22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

    Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; 9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. 10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

    Heb 9:15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

    Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

    Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,

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  55. @Richard:

    The word *new* does not have to mean (brand new), as in completely different in nature. New can also mean, and in this case it does mean *renewed* *fulfilled* or *completed*. I like thinking of the New Covenant as “mission accomplished”. Why is the New Covenant better? The Old Covenant was founded on PROMISE! Nothing in the Old Covenant could save. The animal’s blood could only point to the day when Christ would go to the cross. In the New Covenant, Christ accomplishes salvation for the whole world. It’s the difference between shadow and reality. And in that sense it’s certainly better!

    Once Christ comes and accomplishes salvation, of course that is superior! So how the Saints were of Old saved? Retroactively of course. That’s another example why the New Covenant is so superior. It’s so great it saved Abraham and all the Saints of old, retroactively.

    Moreover, in the Old Covenant God only promised to save the remnant; the few, the minority. In the New Covenant God promised to pour his Spirit out on all flesh saving to the upmost, from the least to the greatest. Saving a number no man can count. So the New Covenant is greater is scope, power, and finality. Our salvation has been purchased once for all.

    BUT both the Old and the New Covenants are essenscially ONE Covenant of Grace.

    Brother Richard, please try show from scripture, why you disagree.

    Rest in his completed work,

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  56. Richard,

    Finney, not a Christian? That strikes me as a weighty charge. I’d agree that his preaching overemphasized the role of human responsibility, but I’m not aware of anything that suggests that Finney would not agree with the averments of the ecumenical creeds, which the Church has historically recognized as defining the baseline of Christian orthodoxy. After all, God’s grace to us in Christ is even sufficient to save us from bad theology.

    Also, you seem to keep trying to steer the conversation back to soteriology. By original comment had nothing to do with soteriology; rather, I was focusing on ecclesiology. Viewed from that lens, there is not much difference between Edwards, Tennent, Finney, and the Baylys. All appear to have a low view of the institutional church; they envision it as an institution that primarily serves its purpose by prophesying to the broader culture. In contrast, I’d argue that neo-Calvinists separate the church too far from the culture, and commend us to meditate upon Christian mathematics, Christian plumbing, and Christian volleyball.

    In that sense, the revivalists err by limiting the church to a pragmatic role, as merely the vehicle through which Christians organize for the purpose of proclaiming Christ to the culture. Thereby, the church fails in performing its ecclesiastical role because its focus is almost entirely outward (e.g., condemning Disney World, etc.). On the other hand, the neo-Calvinists err by bringing in all kinds of common endeavors under the authority of the church, such that the means of grace have to compete with politics, culture, etc. I suppose that both movements err in disregarding the means of grace at the expense of worldly pursuits. The revivalists do this by focusing their attention on things outside the church, while the neo-Calvinists merely take what is rightly outside of the church and haul it inside.

    Thus, I would tend to see both movements as growing out of a man-centered dissatisfaction with the mundane rigors of partaking regularly of the means of grace as an alien in a foreign land and awaiting the kingdom that is not of this world. But they depart from that common impulse in different ways.

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  57. Doug Sowers: Richard my brother! Just exactly where did I argue agaisnt the Bible?

    RS: When you said this: “When Christ comes in reality, it’s not a different covenant!!!”
    I would argue that when Hebrews tell us that Christ did away with the old and is the Mediator of a new, that a different covenant would be the necessary conclusion.

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  58. Bob,

    Finney denied total depravity, original sin, justification by faith, imputation, and the substitutionary atonement. In what sense should he be considered a Christian? As a matter of fact, if you read Finney carefully, there is no need for the cross to hold to his view of salvation. See below…

    “These and similar passages are relied upon, as teaching the doctrine of an imputed righteousness; and such as these: “The Lord our righteousness” (Phil. 3:9). . . . “Christ our righteousness” is Christ the author or procurer of our justification. But this does not imply that He procures our justification by imputing His obedience to us. . . [Charles Finney, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany), 372-73].

    “[Subhead:] Foundation of the justification of penitent believers in Christ. What is the ultimate ground or reason of their justification?
    1. It is not founded in Christ’s literally suffering the exact penalty of the law for them, and in this sense literally purchasing their justification and eternal salvation” [Systematic Theology, 373].

    “Gospel justification is not to be regarded as a forensic or judicial proceeding” [Systematic Theology, 360].

    “There can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that He obeyed for us” [Systematic Theology, 362].

    “By sanctification being a condition of justification, the following things are intended:
    (1.) That present, full, and entire consecration of heart and life to God and His service, is an unalterable condition of present pardon of past sin, and of present acceptance with God. (2.) That the penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues. If he falls from his first love into the spirit of self-pleasing, he falls again into bondage to sin and to the law, is condemned, and must repent and do his “first work,” must turn to Christ, and renew his faith and love, as a condition of his salvation.” [Systematic Theology, 368-69].

    “that, being once justified, he is always thereafter justified, whatever he may do; indeed that he is never justified by grace, as to sins that are past, upon condition that he ceases to sin; that Christ’s righteousness is the ground, and that his own present obedience is not even a condition of his justification, so that, in fact, his own present or future obedience to the law of God is, in no case, and in no sense, a sine qua non of his justification, present or ultimate.
    Now this is certainly another gospel from the one I am inculcating. It is not a difference merely upon some speculative or theoretic point. It is a point fundamental to the gospel and to salvation, if any one can be” [Systematic Theology, 369.]

    “Moral depravity cannot consist in any attribute of nature or constitution, nor in any lapsed or fallen state of nature. . . . Moral depravity, as I use the term, does not consist in, nor imply a sinful nature, in the sense that the human soul is sinful in itself. It is not a constitutional sinfulness” [Systematic Theology, 245].

    “[Sinners] are under the necessity of first changing their hearts, or their choice of an end, before they can put forth any volitions to secure any other than a selfish end. And this is plainly the everywhere assumed philosophy of the Bible. That uniformly represents the unregenerate as totally depraved, and calls upon them to repent, to make themselves a new heart” [Systematic Theology, 249].

    “There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means—as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means. . . . A revival is as naturally a result of the use of means as a crop is of the use of its appropriate means” [Charles Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, n.d.), 4-5].

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  59. Bob: Richard,Finney, not a Christian? That strikes me as a weighty charge.

    RS: Perhaps, but maybe not as weighty as saying that a man who denied original sin, the imputed righteousness of Christ, and substitutionary atonement is a Christian.

    Bob: I’d agree that his preaching overemphasized the role of human responsibility, but I’m not aware of anything that suggests that Finney would not agree with the averments of the ecumenical creeds, which the Church has historically recognized as defining the baseline of Christian orthodoxy. After all, God’s grace to us in Christ is even sufficient to save us from bad theology.

    RS: But faith in Christ and Christ in us also means that we must look to Christ alone for the satisfaction of the wrath of God and for a perfect righteousness given to us by grace alone.

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  60. Bob: Also, you seem to keep trying to steer the conversation back to soteriology. By original comment had nothing to do with soteriology; rather, I was focusing on ecclesiology.

    RS: Apart from the Gospel there is no ecclesiology. However, in lumping Edwards with Finney in the area of ecclesiology, I think you are misinterpreting his view of revival.

    Bob: Viewed from that lens, there is not much difference between Edwards, Tennent, Finney, and the Baylys. All appear to have a low view of the institutional church; they envision it as an institution that primarily serves its purpose by prophesying to the broader culture.

    RS: I cannot argue with you Finney and Bayly having these views, but I would argue strongly that you have misunderstood Edwards.

    Bob: In contrast, I’d argue that neo-Calvinists separate the church too far from the culture, and commend us to meditate upon Christian mathematics, Christian plumbing, and Christian volleyball.

    In that sense, the revivalists err by limiting the church to a pragmatic role, as merely the vehicle through which Christians organize for the purpose of proclaiming Christ to the culture.

    RS: But that is not what Edwards and Tennent stood for.

    Bob: Thereby, the church fails in performing its ecclesiastical role because its focus is almost entirely outward (e.g., condemning Disney World, etc.).

    RS: But biblical revival is that the Church is revived. Finney was the one that had no real ecclesiastical role, but Edwards and Tennent stayed in the church.

    Bob: On the other hand, the neo-Calvinists err by bringing in all kinds of common endeavors under the authority of the church, such that the means of grace have to compete with politics, culture, etc. I suppose that both movements err in disregarding the means of grace at the expense of worldly pursuits. The revivalists do this by focusing their attention on things outside the church, while the neo-Calvinists merely take what is rightly outside of the church and haul it inside.

    RS: But again, where do you see Edwards preaching outside the church and doing all of what you say?

    Bob: Thus, I would tend to see both movements as growing out of a man-centered dissatisfaction with the mundane rigors of partaking regularly of the means of grace as an alien in a foreign land and awaiting the kingdom that is not of this world. But they depart from that common impulse in different ways.

    RS: Beware of lumping people together such as Finney and Edwards. The revival that Edwards sought from a sovereign God, though indeed it used the same word (revival) that Finney used, is not the same thing that Finney sought by his own methods.

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  61. Doug Sowers: BUT both the Old and the New Covenants are essenscially ONE Covenant of Grace.

    Brother Richard, please try show from scripture, why you disagree.

    RS: I would argue that the unifying covenant is the eternal covenant that was made within the Trinity. All other covenants need to be interpreted in light of that covenant. As you can see from the passage below, the New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant. Everyone in the New Covenant knows the Lord, yet not all in the Old Covenant did know the Lord.

    Jer 33:31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
    32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
    33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
    34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

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  62. @Richard Smith:

    Thanks bro, at least I’m tracking with you.

    Reformed theology never claimed that the Old and New Covenants are exactly the same, just that there is continuity. Who is the Father of our faith? Is it not Abraham? Is there only one eternal Church? Is there a difference between the Saints of old and Saints today? Were not both Covenants about Christ? Wasn’t Jesus the righteous root in the Older Testament?

    You see Richard, in my very humble opinion you are miss reading the language in Jer 33:31. Everyone knows the Lord? You’re reading that like passage much like Arminists who insist that God wants to save ALL men. However, the word *all* does not necessarily have to mean each and every person. God uses the word *all* in the general sense in many places in Scripture. You’re making the same mistake with the wording in Jer. 33.31.

    Jer 33:31 employs the same type of language. It’s emphatic, not literal. In other words, just where the Old Covenant failed, the New Covenant will never fail. But to suggest that no one will fall away from the New Covenant is easily proved false. If fact Scripture says the exact opposite, in many places. See Romans 11 and Hebrews chapters 3, 4, 6, and 10 And 1 Cor 10. These verses warn the New Covenant Church members that the example of Israel in the wilderness is a warning to us! Take heed so your bodies aren’t scattered in the wilderness like they were. Paul never says that’s impossible for New Covenant members to be cut off from Christ, in fact Paul says it CAN happen. Now of course once we are born of God nothing can snatch us away from God. And while only the few were saved in the Old Covenant the opposite is true in the New.

    I hope that helps

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  63. RS: I would argue that the unifying covenant is the eternal covenant that was made within the Trinity.

    Me: But Richard, arent both the Old and New Covenants merely the execution of the eternal covenant? God in eternity makes a covenant with himself, and it plays out in real time.

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  64. My concern is not only about changing the word “new” into “only renewed” or the words ‘covenants” into “covenant (with administrations) ” Some folks seem to think that “the concept new covenant’ is only about a right attitude or understanding of law and gospel. Thus they ignore the reality of redemptive history.

    But saying “old covenant” is not about having a wrong motive, which is how Robert Rayburn Jr. explains Hebrews. We need to see that the good news is about what God has done in history in the new covenant. Romans 9:32–”Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.”

    In order to perform its killing function, the Mosaic covenant was law demanding perfection with the power to condemn and kill. Romans 5:20 says that the law entered that sin would increase, not simply that knowledge about sin would increase.

    The central text discussed in this connection is Romans 9:32–”They did not seek if by faith, as if it were by works of law.” The “federal vision” says that there is no difference between law and gospel, but only a right way and a wrong way of pursuing the law, and that the gospel is the right way of pursuing the law.

    David Gordon not only refutes the idea that all covenants are one covenant. Gordon also rebuts the idea that the solution is only a correct faith and understanding WTJ (Spring 1992): “Why Israel did not obtain Torah Righteousness; A note on Romans 9:32.” Gordon explains that 9:32 should be translated not “as if it were”, but “because the law is not of faith” in line with Gal 3:12. “The qualification works-and-not faith in Gal 3:10-13 is parallel to the qualification works and not faith in Romans 9:32.”

    Gordon: “If one group attained what the other did not, the difference between them might lie in the manner in which they pursued it…This is now what Paul says however. The two groups did not pursue the same thing (the gentiles pursued nothing)…Paul’s point therefore is NOT that the Gentiles pursued righteousness in a better manner (by faith) than the Jews. Rather, God’s mercy gives what is not even pursued.”

    Gordon: “When Paul asks why the Jews did not attain unto the Torah, his answer addressed the NATURE of THE COVENANT), not the nature of the PURSUIT of the Torah.”

    mcmark: Those who say “we do it the right way, with the faith and not works” do not understand the gospel. We don’t do it ANY way. God did it. God did it at the cross, for the elect.

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  65. D. G. Hart: Doug, Randy, and RS, I’d love to be a fly on the wall with the three of you discussing various and sundry. It might put Richard off Edwards.

    RS: Or it might open your eyes and you begin to love Edwards. After all, the truth is a glorious and beautiful thing.

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  66. Doug Sowers: Reformed theology never claimed that the Old and New Covenants are exactly the same, just that there is continuity. Who is the Father of our faith?

    RS: God the Father

    Doug Sowers: Is it not Abraham? Is there only one eternal Church? Is there a difference between the Saints of old and Saints today?

    RS: The difference between the saints of old and the saints of today is that the Holy Spirit has been purchased and given to those whom Christ purchased the Spirit for. Another major difference is that now Christ Himself dwells in His people (Col 1:27). So there is a huge difference.

    Doug Sowers: Were not both Covenants about Christ? Wasn’t Jesus the righteous root in the Older Testament?

    RS: All covenants were about Christ, but we no longer refrain from certain foods to declare Him.

    Doug Sowers: You see Richard, in my very humble opinion you are miss reading the language in Jer 33:31. Everyone knows the Lord? You’re reading that like passage much like Arminists who insist that God wants to save ALL men. However, the word *all* does not necessarily have to mean each and every person. God uses the word *all* in the general sense in many places in Scripture. You’re making the same mistake with the wording in Jer. 33.31.

    RS: No, there is nothing Arminian in my reading of that passage. It simply says that all who are in that covenant will know the Lord. In the NT it is that all who truly believe will have eternal life, but that does not say that all will believe. In the OT all who truly believed were converted as well, but they believed in the coming Messiah in forms and shadows. Now we have the resurrected Christ who is the glory of God shining. All who have Christ are in the New Covenant and are children of Abraham because Christ was and is the seed of Abraham and the true child of the promise. Since all who are in the New Covenant know the Lord, there are not those who are in the covenant or administration of the covenant who then fall away because they choose to.

    Doug Sowers: Jer 33:31 employs the same type of language. It’s emphatic, not literal. In other words, just where the Old Covenant failed, the New Covenant will never fail.

    RS: Except that those in the New Covenant have the promise of God that He will not let them fall (perseverance of the saints).

    Doug Sowers: But to suggest that no one will fall away from the New Covenant is easily proved false. If fact Scripture says the exact opposite, in many places. See Romans 11 and Hebrews chapters 3, 4, 6, and 10 And 1 Cor 10.

    RS: Indeed people fall away, but that is not the same thing as saying that they fell out of the covenant once they were in.

    Doug Sowers: These verses warn the New Covenant Church members that the example of Israel in the wilderness is a warning to us! Take heed so your bodies aren’t scattered in the wilderness like they were. Paul never says that’s impossible for New Covenant members to be cut off from Christ, in fact Paul says it CAN happen. Now of course once we are born of God nothing can snatch us away from God. And while only the few were saved in the Old Covenant the opposite is true in the New.

    RS: Well, Jeremiah 31 (and Hebrews 8) is quite clear that all in this covenant will know the Lord. Either people in the New Covenant keep themselves in the covenant or God keeps them in the covenant. Do you have biblical evidence that there are those in the New Covenant and yet can fall out because they have the ability to leave? Christ is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the New Covenant. He is the only Mediator for those in the New Covenant. Will He allow His sheep to fall out of the New Covenant? Does He not mediate for all in the New Covenant?

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  67. mcmark: Those who say “we do it the right way, with the faith and not works” do not understand the gospel. We don’t do it ANY way. God did it. God did it at the cross, for the elect.

    RS: Which is a vital point and gets at many things. If Christ did it all for His elect, that is, what He covenanted to do in the eternal covenant, can those chosen in the eternal covenant (now seen in the New Covenant) ever not be in the eternal covenant (now seen in the New Covenant)? Can they drop out of this covenant by failing to obey in some way when the way in this covenant was never by works to begin with?

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  68. Doug Sowers quoting RS: I would argue that the unifying covenant is the eternal covenant that was made within the Trinity.

    Doug Sowers: But Richard, arent both the Old and New Covenants merely the execution of the eternal covenant? God in eternity makes a covenant with himself, and it plays out in real time.

    RS: No, they are not at least in the same way. The Old Covenant passed away, but the New will never pass away. The Old Covenant was but a preparation and shadow for the New.

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  69. Thanks Richard:)

    Richard, I wasn’t calling you an Arminian, BUT your miss-understanding of the word *all* is exactly the same. You’re simply not being consistent with how the Bible uses the word *all*. You are insisting that *all* must mean *each and every* when that simply isn’t the case. Let me illustrate with two or three wtinesses.

    1 Tim 2 verse 3

    This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires *all* men to be saved to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Now Brother Richard, notice the word *all*? Do you understand *all* to mean *each and every* Does this verse deny particular atonement? Of course not!!! Are you consistent with your use of the word???? Let me give you another:

    1 Corinthians 10: 23

    *All* things are lawful, but not *all* things are helpful. *All* things are lawful, but not all things build up.

    Okay Richard, was Paul saying it was lawful for him to commit murder? Was Paul saying that it was lawful for him to commit adultery? Of course not! If you’re going to be consistent with your definition of the word *all* you will turn the Bible into absurdity!!!

    I could give you many, many, other examples where *all* can not mean each and every, but with two or three witnesses let it be established. When the New Testament uses the word *all* it usually has a generalizing force, meaning the majority, not each and every.

    And finally Richard, what Covenant are unregenerate baptized confessing members of the Church in? Or are you suggesting that unregenerate baptized confessing members are not in Covenant at all?????

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  70. Doug Sowers: Richard, I wasn’t calling you an Arminian, BUT your miss-understanding of the word *all* is exactly the same. You’re simply not being consistent with how the Bible uses the word *all*. You are insisting that *all* must mean *each and every* when that simply isn’t the case. Let me illustrate with two or three wtinesses.

    RS: But I am not insisting that at all. I am simply saying that in the context of Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8 that is what it means. The context must be allowed to speak in all cases.

    1 Tim 2 verse 3

    This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires *all* men to be saved to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Now Brother Richard, notice the word *all*? Do you understand *all* to mean *each and every* Does this verse deny particular atonement? Of course not!!! Are you consistent with your use of the word????

    RS: The context (both immediate, distant, and theological) determines the meaning. In this case, it is clear that the word “all” does not eman each and every person of all time. In the context of Hebrews 8, however, it is clear that each and every person in the New Covenant are converted people. The context of the word “all” is a lot different than the word “all” in I Tim 2:3.

    Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
    8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;
    9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.
    10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
    11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
    12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”

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  71. Doug Sowers: Let me give you another: 1 Corinthians 10: 23 *All* things are lawful, but not *all* things are helpful. *All* things are lawful, but not all things build up.

    Okay Richard, was Paul saying it was lawful for him to commit murder? Was Paul saying that it was lawful for him to commit adultery? Of course not! If you’re going to be consistent with your definition of the word *all* you will turn the Bible into absurdity!!!

    RS: No, I would not. Again, the context determines what the text means.

    Doug Sowers: I could give you many, many, other examples where *all* can not mean each and every, but with two or three witnesses let it be established. When the New Testament uses the word *all* it usually has a generalizing force, meaning the majority, not each and every.

    RS: Indeed there are many other examples, but that does not deny that there are some uses where all does mean each and every especially when the context demands it. There is no need to assert that just because the word “all” is used in many if not most cases where it does not mean each and every that in all the cases it is used that it does not mean each and every. You would have to show what the word means in its own context. I argue that it is clear from Hebrews 8 that it is referring to each and every person in the New Covenant.

    Doug Sowers: And finally Richard, what Covenant are unregenerate baptized confessing members of the Church in? Or are you suggesting that unregenerate baptized confessing members are not in Covenant at all?????

    RS: I am simply arguing that they are not in the New Covenant because they have not been regenerate and they do not have Christ and so we cannot know if they are of the Seed of Abraham or not. Christ is not their Mediator and He does not represent them in any way so how can they be in the Covenant? What does Christ mediate to them? The Body of Christ is the true Church and no one else.

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  72. RS: I am simply arguing that they are not in the New Covenant because they have not been regenerate and they do not have Christ and so we cannot know if they are of the Seed of Abraham or not.

    Me: This is where you are at your weakest, in my most humble opinion. I asked you what Covenant are the unregenerate who have been baptized and confessed Jesus, for a time in, and then fall away? And all you can retort is not in the New Covenant? Huh? Have you read Hebrews 10:29 very carefully?

    “How much worse punishment, do you think will be deserved by the one, who has spurned the Son of God and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

    Brother Richard, this verse is talking about men who are in the New Covenant, and yet spurn God by profaning the Christ and walking away! (Because they were never born of God) And you say, that’s not the New Covenant? If that’s not the New Covenant, then which covenant of Christ’s blood are they spurning? A third Covenant?

    Of course reprobates are in the New Covenant!! The classic example is Judas! Didn’t Jesus wash his feet and serve him the first New Covenant communion meal? Didn’t Jesus give the Holy Spirit to ALL the twelve to go out and do miracles? Or was Judas the only one of the twelve to not cast out demons? The Bible doesn’t support that notion. This is why, it’s much worse for those in the Covenant who will not walk by faith.

    But thankfully we have a better hope, in the New Covenant instead of only the minority, or the few, being saved, Christ will save all. And *all* means the majority, not each and every.

    Rest in his completed work,

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  73. Richard,

    I appreciate your honesty in admitting that, for you, soteriology comes before ecclesiology. I think that’s probably what distinguishes the Reformed from Calvinistic Baptists*. For the Reformed, ecclesiology is primary; Reformed soteriology is the product of Reformed ecclesiology.

    I don’t deny that Edwards’ philosophy may provide a useful perspective for thinking about God’s redemptive activity. I will even admit that Edwards is generally more helpful than Finney. But Edwards, like Finney, had little regard for the steady, plodding, dispassionate partaking of the means of grace that ought to mark the practices of God’s covenant people.

    Lastly, I would call Finney a Christian because I’m aware of no evidence that Finney denied any aspect of the teachings of the three ecumenical creeds. He may have been massively deluded in certain respects–which is true of Edwards as well. But I have no reason to believe that he is not a Christian, insofar as that term is used in the ecumenical creeds.

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  74. Surely, soteriology is more important than ecclesiology, because if not, no paedobaptists would be saved from God’s wrath. They would only have covenant badges, as NT Wright explains it.

    Hebrews 10:28-29, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the One who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.”

    This Bible text about making the blood unclean, or profaning the sacred is a primary proof many Reformed folks use to teach a grace which is common to both elect and non-elect. They use the verse to teach that the new covenant (or its adminstration, if they want to talk out of both sides of their mouths) can be broken, and that the covenant/ adminstration is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. The dangerous idea of “common grace” is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in “the covenant”, and even more grace for the elect. This idea of common grace is not biblical. I am glad that DGH has suggested that we can say all we need on this topic by reference to providence and not to a concept of “common grace”

    The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate was in the new covenant. I do not think it is even saying that the apostate was in a “visible church” and appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation

    The “Son of God” is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. Of course we need to remember that “sanctify” does not mean to get better and better, as the Reformed Confessions presume with their “more and more” language. “Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context of Hebrews 10, (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

    Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself in common for every sinner so that maybe (and maybe not) these sinners will be sanctified.Not only do they wrongly define sanctification as getting better, but they turn that getting better into the evidence that Christ’s supposedly common death has had special results in theircase. The book of Hebrews instead gives all the glory to Christ’s death.

    “We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He would taste death for every… (2:10). The verses which follow identify the every— “sons to glory”, ”those who are sanctified”, “ children God has given me”.

    Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory of Christ is dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They tell us that the One crowned was sanctified for more than are sanctified. They dishonor Christ by telling the children God gave Him that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God.

    That Christ sanctified Himself does not mean that Christ got better and better but that Christ set Himself apart to die for a people set apart before the creation of the world. These elect people are one day sanctified by faith given by Christ’s Spirit, but before that, God’s elect are set apart by the death, by the blood of Christ.

    Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, He became the source of age to come salvation to those who obey Him.” All the elect will obey the gospel but it is not their doing which is the source of their salvation.

    But if Christ died in common for every sinner, and not every sinner is set apart, then it is not the blood of Christ which sanctifies. It is not special, and it does not do anything special. God forbid!

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  75. Doug Sowers quoting RS: I am simply arguing that they are not in the New Covenant because they have not been regenerate and they do not have Christ and so we cannot know if they are of the Seed of Abraham or not.

    Doug Sowers: This is where you are at your weakest, in my most humble opinion. I asked you what Covenant are the unregenerate who have been baptized and confessed Jesus, for a time in, and then fall away? And all you can retort is not in the New Covenant?

    RS: No, much more can be said. For example, what covenant were all the ites (Caananites and Jebusites and so on) in? The Israelites were in covenant with God and no one else.

    Doug Sowers: Huh? Have you read Hebrews 10:29 very carefully?

    RS: Yes, I would say that I have.

    Heb 10:29 “How much worse punishment, do you think will be deserved by the one, who has spurned the Son of God and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

    Brother Richard, this verse is talking about men who are in the New Covenant, and yet spurn God by profaning the Christ and walking away!

    RS: How do you know that they were in the New Covenant? One, John Owen says that the One sanctified in the New Covenant was Christ. Two, people can be sanctified without being in the covenant because the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse (I Cor 7:14). The unbelieving spouse does not have to be in the covenant to be sanctified (in some way) by the believing spouse’s being in the covenant. The text does not demand that these people be in the covenant for them to profane the blood of the covenant.

    Doug Sowers: (Because they were never born of God) And you say, that’s not the New Covenant? If that’s not the New Covenant, then which covenant of Christ’s blood are they spurning? A third Covenant?

    RS: To say it again, though in a different way, one does not have to be in a covenant to spurn the blood of the covenant. You assume that they are in the covenant, but the text does not say or demand that they are actually in the covenant.

    Doug Sowers: Of course reprobates are in the New Covenant!!

    RS: Of course they are not in the New Covenant since Christ is the Mediator of all those in the New Covenant. Christ died for all those in the New Covenant.

    Doug Sowers: The classic example is Judas! Didn’t Jesus wash his feet and serve him the first New Covenant communion meal?

    RS: But of course that does not prove that Judas was in the New Covenant. The New Covenant was not actually instituted until the death of Christ.

    Doug Sowers: Didn’t Jesus give the Holy Spirit to ALL the twelve to go out and do miracles? Or was Judas the only one of the twelve to not cast out demons?

    RS: The Spirit can come upon reprobates and give them the power to do miracles without them being in the New Covenant. Remember Matthew 7 where many will claim to know Jesus and will say that they did miracles, but they were not converted. Saul had the Spirit, but he was a reprobate as well. Again, the Spirit can come upon a person and give that person power to do many things, but that does not prove the person is part of the New Covenant.

    Doug Sowers: The Bible doesn’t support that notion. This is why, it’s much worse for those in the Covenant who will not walk by faith.

    RS: So why do some in the New Covenant (perish the thought, so from your view) walk by faith and some do not? Is it in accordance with their own power and strength or choice? Couldn’t it be that in the New Covenant the Mediator of that Covenant purchased the Spirit for all His people who would then give faith to all those Christ purchased and purchased faith for? Why do you think that a person can walk out of the promises of God by his own power?

    Doug Sowers: But thankfully we have a better hope, in the New Covenant instead of only the minority, or the few, being saved, Christ will save all. And *all* means the majority, not each and every.

    RS: NO, all in the New Covenant will be saved because God saves because of His own promise and glory rather than the power of the sinner. Christ died to save each and every one in the New Covenant because God gave them to Him to purchase a people. All that Christ died for will be saved and it is not just a majority that He died for that will be saved. The high priest of Israel represented all those in the nation and had their tribes on his garments when he took the shed blood into the holy of holies to sprinkle it on the mercy seat. So Christ had all those He died for on His heart when He shed His blood as our mercy seat. Each and every one in the New Covenant will know the Lord because salvation is guaranteed to each one by the promise of God and the blood of Christ.

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  76. Bob: Richard, I appreciate your honesty in admitting that, for you, soteriology comes before ecclesiology. I think that’s probably what distinguishes the Reformed from Calvinistic Baptists*. For the Reformed, ecclesiology is primary; Reformed soteriology is the product of Reformed ecclesiology.

    RS: To put it a different way, the Gospel is how the Church (as an organism) comes into being rather than the Church bringing the Gospel into being. The Church exists because of the Gospel rather than the other way around.

    Bob: I don’t deny that Edwards’ philosophy may provide a useful perspective for thinking about God’s redemptive activity. I will even admit that Edwards is generally more helpful than Finney. But Edwards, like Finney, had little regard for the steady, plodding, dispassionate partaking of the means of grace that ought to mark the practices of God’s covenant people.

    RS: I think you have read some folks that have not seen that Edwards was a preacher first. He preached Sunday after Sunday and his dismissal was over those to be admitted to the Table.

    Bob: Lastly, I would call Finney a Christian because I’m aware of no evidence that Finney denied any aspect of the teachings of the three ecumenical creeds.

    RS: He denied original sin and substitutionary atonement. Those are vital.

    Bob: He may have been massively deluded in certain respects–which is true of Edwards as well.

    RS: No, Edwards was not massively deluded.

    Bob: But I have no reason to believe that he is not a Christian, insofar as that term is used in the ecumenical creeds.

    RS: The ecumenical creeds speak of forensic justification and of imputed righteousness. Finney denied those.

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  77. @Richard:

    I was raised Baptist, just to let you know.

    I have shown you a couple of examples of where the word *all* does not mean, and can not mean, each and every person; and you even agreed! You thought you had a way out, by saying “in context” you feel Hebrews 8’s use of *all* is in fact, saying each and every.

    But can you be taken seriously? Let’s examine the whole passage. That particular verse is FULL of HYPERBOLE. Hyperbole is exaggeration. And isn’t it a bit of an exaggeration to say we have no need of teachers?

    Do you have no need for teachers, Richard? Don’t you love Edwards? Is there anyone of us, who feel we don’t need any teaching? Is there anyone of us, who don’t listen to our Pastors every Sunday? Is there anyone of us, who don’t read what other teachers have to say?

    I think you and I would be quick to point out that the Holy Spirit is the most important factor, and amen, but is that what Hebrews 8 says literally? Of course not! It says we have no need of teachers! So Richard, you have failed to take into account the poetic hyperbole laced throughout this Prophecy. You’re not on a soap box telling us to not listen to teachers. You don’t understand that sentence like you understand God using the word *all*. Its as if you forget that God is using poetic exaggeration, and then all of a sudden you want to hold the word *all* to fit your literalist New Covenant is only for the Elect. Take this verse away and your whole Baptist theology fall apart at the seams.

    In other words Richard, you’re not being consistent. You’re reading one sentence literally, and ignoring the rest of the passage. This is one powerful reason why I became reformed, and discarded the Baptist perspective.

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  78. Doug Sowers: @Richard: I was raised Baptist, just to let you know.

    RS: I am sorry to hear that you have left the fold.

    Doug Sowers: I have shown you a couple of examples of where the word *all* does not mean, and can not mean, each and every person; and you even agreed! You thought you had a way out, by saying “in context” you feel Hebrews 8’s use of *all* is in fact, saying each and every.

    RS: No, I don’t “feel” that Hebrews 8 uses all to mean each and every, I think that the context demands it.

    Doug Sowers: But can you be taken seriously? Let’s examine the whole passage. That particular verse is FULL of HYPERBOLE. Hyperbole is exaggeration. And isn’t it a bit of an exaggeration to say we have no need of teachers?

    RS: No, the text does not exaggerate. However, the text does not say that we have no need of teachers.

    Doug Sowers: Do you have no need for teachers, Richard? Don’t you love Edwards?

    RS: You may me feel unclean when you ask if I love Edwards. Let me just say that I love the God that Edwards writes about in a way that the Oldlife Presbys didn’t.

    Doug Sowers: Is there anyone of us, who feel we don’t need any teaching? Is there anyone of us, who don’t listen to our Pastors every Sunday? Is there anyone of us, who don’t read what other teachers have to say?

    RS: But does a pastor need to tell true believers that they need to know the Lord? The text tells us that we won’t need to tell people in the covenant that they need to know the Lord. So why is it that people don’t need others to teach them to know the Lord? It is because all in the covenant know the Lord. This is one of the evidences of what “all” means each and every in this context.

    Doug Sowers: I think you and I would be quick to point out that the Holy Spirit is the most important factor, and amen, but is that what Hebrews 8 says literally? Of course not! It says we have no need of teachers!

    RS: No, it does not tell us that we have no need of teachers.

    Doug Sowers: So Richard, you have failed to take into account the poetic hyperbole laced throughout this Prophecy.

    RS: That is because there is no poetic hyperbole in the text.

    Doug Sowers: You’re not on a soap box telling us to not listen to teachers. You don’t understand that sentence like you understand God using the word *all*. Its as if you forget that God is using poetic exaggeration, and then all of a sudden you want to hold the word *all* to fit your literalist New Covenant is only for the Elect. Take this verse away and your whole Baptist theology fall apart at the seams.

    RS: I am simply taking the text and reading and studying it carefully. There is no hyperbole or poetic exaggeration. The word “all” in its own context means each and every.

    Doug Sowers: In other words Richard, you’re not being consistent. You’re reading one sentence literally, and ignoring the rest of the passage. This is one powerful reason why I became reformed, and discarded the Baptist perspective.

    RS: No, I am reading the passage in its own context. You are bringing things into the text that are not there. Be careful of doing that. I hope you did not discard the Baptist perspective based on interpreting the Bible as you are doing in this thread of thought.

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  79. Okay Richard, please explain

    “And they shall not shall not teach each one his neighbor and each one his brother saying know the LORD for they shall all know me”

    We don’t teach or children? We don’t catechize our children or our neighbors? Come on Richard! And you can’t detect hyperbole? I thought we DO in fact teach our children, no? We do in fact teach our neighbor! And yet, you take this as your proof passage that the New Covenant is only for the Elect? Richard please tell us how you understand “we don’t teach our children”, without using hyperbole.

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  80. Reading Horton’s 2006 essay in Christianity Today, “How the Kingdom Comes”. On page two he says, “This means that there is no difference between Christians and non-Christians with respect to their vocations.” Point six of Tuininga’s report on Horton’s meeting is “Each perspective insists that Scripture has much to say about how Christians should be involved in culture through their vocations.”

    I’m no logician, but these statements appear to be direct opposites.

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  81. Regarding Horton “taking a swipe at the spirituality of the church”, I wrote a blog post today, “Southern Presbyterians, Slavery, The Spirituality of the Church, Abolitionism, Manumission, 625,000 Civil War Dead, and Rev. John Gloucester (1776-1822)” that includes an interesting piece by a mystery author that we all know.

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  82. Doug Sowers: Okay Richard, please explain

    “And they shall not shall not teach each one his neighbor and each one his brother saying know the LORD for they shall all know me”

    We don’t teach or children? We don’t catechize our children or our neighbors? Come on Richard! And you can’t detect hyperbole? I thought we DO in fact teach our children, no? We do in fact teach our neighbor! And yet, you take this as your proof passage that the New Covenant is only for the Elect? Richard please tell us how you understand “we don’t teach our children”, without using hyperbole.

    RS: But the text does not say that you are not to teach your children and neighbors at all. It says that you won’t need to teach them to know the Lord because all of them (those in the New Covenant) will know the Lord. It says you will not need to teach them to know the Lord, but not that you will not need to teach them at all.

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  83. @Richard Smith: Thanks for responding bro, now let me try to take you to task:

    RS: But the text does not say that you are not to teach your children and neighbors at all. It says that you won’t need to teach them to know the Lord because all of them (those in the New Covenant) will know the Lord. It says you will not need to teach them to know the Lord, but not that you will not need to teach them at all.

    Me: Not quite Richard, the verse says “They shall not teach” not “they won’t need to teach”. You’re being forced to add a few words to help draw that inference which makes my point. Now I’ll grant that your inference is possible, (I even agree with that inference) but it’s just that, an inference. This passage is poetic, and with poetry we use exaggeration to drive home the point! Yet you want to cling to *all* in a wooden literalistic non poetic fashion. You don’t seem willing to admit that normally the Bible uses *all* in the generalizing sense, meaning *the majority*.

    In any case Richard, I hope you’ll rethink your stinging indictment that I am arguing against the Bible. I hope you can see, that I am at least not intentionally arguing against the Bible. Not to mention the overwhelming majority, (as in *all* LOL) of the great theologians agree with me, not you. Would you be so flippant to tell Calvin or Edwards they were arguing against the Bible? They baptized babies, no? Please feel free to take me to task where you think I am being unfaithful to any Biblical text. I have some blind spots feel free to point them out.

    Keep pressing on!

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  84. Doug Sowers: @Richard Smith: Thanks for responding bro, now let me try to take you to task:

    RS: I posted a rather long post in response to you earlier today, but I forgot to type in my name and email address (it used to be automatic). My response did not make it and I lost it. I have lost several posts that way in the last week or so. Maybe I will try again tomorrow.

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  85. RS: I posted a rather long post in response to you earlier today, but I forgot to type in my name and email address (it used to be automatic). My response did not make it and I lost it. I have lost several posts that way in the last week or so. Maybe I will try again tomorrow.

    Me: Been there, done that.LOL! I look forward to a thoughtful response at a later date. Until then, let me give you a little more to think about. How was the Older Testament broken? Did everyone, as in each and every Covenant member, break the Covenant? Of course not!

    The book of Hebrews is replete with names in the faith hall of fame. Yet when it came to Israel, only the few or the minority was saved, because Israel was a temporary shadow of what God would do once Jesus arrived… So when Christ confirmed the Old Covenant promises, by fulfilling the shadows that typologically prefigured his saving and priestly work; the paradigm changes.

    “I will pour out my Spirit on *all* men.

    Let’s not forget that men and women were saved in the older administration, albeit retro-activelyin my humble opinion. However, with the Holy Spirit being poured out on *all* men, therefore *all* will be saved. And by *all* God is simply talking about the majority of mankind. In context with all the warnings in Romans 11, and Hebrews, it becomes a necessity.

    You see Brother Richard, if as you believe, it’s impossible for New Covenant members to be Covenant breakers, then the warnings in 1 Cor. 10, “these things happened as a warning to you” wouldn’t even make sense. Let alone the warning verses found in Hebrews 3, 4, not to mention 6 and 10.

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  86. Neither I Cor 10 nor the Hebrews warnings talk about breaking the new covenant. That’s just an idea that Doug is reading into the texts.

    dgh, Defending the Faith, p105—“Machen believed that fundamentalists were in error for failing to distinguish between providence and grace.”

    mark: And the analogy would be those (from the Reformed left, not only theonomists) who follow Kuyper in calling providence “common grace”. But God’s sovereign control of the non-elect is not grace, and the confusion of God’s reign in history with God’s grace leads to the confusion of law and gospel.

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  87. Hello, i read your blog from time to time and i own
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