Do the Obedience Boys Know Their Catechism?

Amid the flurry of posts about justification, sanctification, and antinomianism, attention to the Shorter Catechism has been missing. When you look there, you receive a very different impression of the law and good works than the obedience boys, Mark Jones and Rick Phillips, give.

At the birds-eye-view level, the Catechism teaches twice that God requires something from us. The first comes with the introduction to the Decalogue:

Q. 39. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.

For neo-nomians or the antinomianphobes, this looks encouraging. (It also seems to make the theonomists and neo-Calvinists’ hearts swell since it would seem to encourage efforts to implement God’s revealed will in all walks of every square inch.) See, God requires obedience from us and teaching the import of law and good works is only going along with what God requires.

But then comes the kicker. After discussing the requirements and prohibitions of each and every commandment — this is the catechetical speed bump that poses a barrier to covenant children ever learning the sacraments — the catechism soberly reminds where these requirements end: the wrath and curse of God.

Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word and deed.

Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Q. 84. What doth every sin deserve?
A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

This depressing experience with the law is why some of us lean on the grace side of things. Sure, the law is good and important and it reveals God’s holiness and our own standard for holiness. But any attempt to keep it post-fall will result in God’s wrath and curse (which is also kind of a downer for thinking about implementing God’s revealed will in politics, the cinema, or plumbing).

But then the catechism goes on to talk about the remedy to our misery:

Q. 85. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

I have always found it remarkable that these Puritans did not include the law or good works in this answer. This doesn’t mean that they did not affirm the third use of the law. Nor does this answer say that “faith and repentance are necessary for salvation” (even though that’s basically what Paul told a certain jailer). But for the basic problem of sin and its consequences, the remedy for the human predicament (we are talking salvation, here) is faith, repentance, and attending the means of grace. In other words, to escape God’s wrath and curse, our obedience — in terms of obeying the law — is not going to count for much anything. Instead, what we need to do is trust in Christ, grieve over and turn from our sins, and continue to sit under the Christian ministry to have our faith strengthened and to prevent self-righteousness.

289 thoughts on “Do the Obedience Boys Know Their Catechism?

  1. I second that Amen.

    I recently read a commentary on the WCF and was delighted to see that the author affirmed a strong law/gospel distinction. It seemed so rare to see this in a modern reformed author. Well at least I thought modern until I found out that the author is a dead guy. It seems the Escondido boys are the only contemporary Reformed affirming the classic distinction.

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  2. Yeah, and? You’re talking about justification; we’re talking about sanctification. You know: those questions on the commandments you missed out.

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  3. Why did you stop reading the catechism there?

    If you read on, you find that “repentance into life” involves this little thing called

    New Obedience!

    An unanswered question would be if repentance that includes new obedience actually brings more wrath

    I sure hope not.

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  4. 9:4 When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin;[8] and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;[9] yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.[10]

    9: 5 The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.

    The anti-antinomians like to focus on the new inward ability that comes with “union” (Christ in us). But until they begin to give personal testimonies about how they themselves are now using that ability to now keep the law, there is no need for us to be intimidated by their scolding.

    Nobody is denying our duty to keep the law. Unless the “faith alone but never alone” boys are denying that we are sinners, they need to see that our assurance is not relative to our situation, and does not depend on us. We are to look not sometimes but always to Christ’s finished atonement as that which severs us from the law so that we can be married to Christ (Romans 7:6). For our assurance we are never in any situation to look to what God is imperfectly doing in us. Since faith is not works (Romans 3:27), works without faith (James) are dead works.

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  5. Lee Irons—–“The Law of Christ tells us that the Law’s demands have already been completely satisfied. The Law’s urgent insistence, its warning and cajoling, have been pacified by Christ’s meritorious Law-keeping. Indeed, we have died to the Law; we have already suffered the equivalent of an eternity under its curse. “Or do you not know, brethren, … that the Law has jurisdiction over a person only as long as he lives?” (Rom. 7:1). “Through the Law I died to the Law, so that I live to God” (Gal. 2:19).

    Lee Irons—-“Because these things are true by virtue of covenantal union with our Law-fulfilling Surety, the believer continues to sustain a relationship to the Law IN CHRIST. Otherwise, if the Law itself has been abolished in an ontological sense, we would be saying that the merit of Christ has also been abolished. Thus, as Paul argues so eloquently in Romans. 7:1-6, we have died to the Law, not in order to be without a husband, but in order to be, married to another. http://www.upper-register.com/papers/married_to_another.html

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  6. Alexander, it was (I think) Robert Shaw. I only had the book for a brief time on loan and read the chapter on justification.

    Are you a fellow Scot?

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  7. In addition to repentance unto life involving “new obedience” it is worth noting how the Larger Catechism deals with this matter:

    Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
    A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.

    The first thing that is emphasized is how Christ fulfilled this law on our behalf. Yet, rather than pitting this against law keeping the LC points out that this ought to provoke “more thankfulness” that manifests itself in striving “to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of obedience.”

    This simply is not a case of either/or.

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  8. Preceding the exposition of the moral law – 10 Commandments – Q/A 97 teaches how to use it…

    Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
    A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.

    Uses of the law for believers – 1) those common to all men (see Q/A 95). 2) to teach believers how much they are bound to Christ’s obedience, for bearing its curse for them. 3) to provoke more thankfulness that is the basis for increased diligence in their obedience.

    Basically Guilt, Grace, Gratitude…

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  9. Alexander, then let’s got to the LC 78 where after defining sanctification (75) and distinguishing it from justification (76) we read:

    Q. 78. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    A. The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

    Which sounds a lot like HC 114 (the prior QA sounding which a lot like the priors to WSC in the post):

    Question 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?

    Answer: No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.

    All of which seems to convey a more restrained view on sanctification that never seems to come through with the obedience crowd.

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  10. Zrim- But who is arguing for perfect obedience? Nothing I’ve read in Mark Jones or Rick Phillips suggests they believe in perfectionism. The problem at the moment is that a lot people disagree that ANY obedience is required. And that, somehow, any talk of good works equals a negation of justification by faith alone.

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  11. Alexander, I think the rhetoric used by the O boys speaks volumes. a preacher of free grace is accused of sounding antinomian in a book entitled “Antinomianism”. Furthermore, the law/gospel distinction is called into question, obscured and even mocked in other quarters. Ridiculous blanket questions like “how does Tullian’s teaching help the man hooked on porn?” are used to brush aside the need to continually focus upon Christ as our justifier. Statements like “Christ doesn’t need your good works, your neighbour does” are sneered at as primitive and naïve. Antinomianism is portrayed as the bogey man stalking our churches while neonomianism is relatively ignored. Frame’s ST receives critique without a mention of his defence of Shepherd.

    Heaven help the Rom 7 believer with the crushed conscience when all he has for help are the works of the O boys.

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  12. Alexander, that just sounds like more bluster. Even those who emphasize grace will, to the question of how to sum up the Christian life, answer obedience and say that the structure of sanctification is law (even as grace is its power). It’s more a matter of emphasis, not perfectionism or legalism, and in keeping with the Reformed tradition’s emphasis on grace…

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  13. David, one implication could be that contra HC 114 the small group of holiest among us making the smallest of beginnings is bigger than originally thought. Yikes, bye bye Christian humility.

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  14. If justification cannot increase or decrease, but “our graces” can increase (and decrease), shall we look to “our graces” for reassurance about the “not yet aspect” of justification?

    Q.75 ‘having the seed of regeneration unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and these graces so stirred up, increased and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life’.

    Gaffin, lectures on Romans 2:13—That judgement decides the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. That is, death or life. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.”

    In his preface to the new P and R edition of Gaffin’s By Faith Not by Sight , Mark Jones confuses John Cotton’s position of faith and justification. Mark Jones falsely identifies imputation before faith with justification before faith. In A Faire and Easy to Heaven (1978, p 43), William Stoever quotes Cotton: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth.”

    The assumption for Jones and Gaffin is that faith is a condition of what they they call “union” and that what they call “union” is a condition for their view of “justification”, in which acceptance before God continues to have a “not-yet” aspect, so that final justification is conditioned on continuing works of faith. If their logic holds, then “union” also has its “not-yet aspect”, so that an incomplete “union” also is conditioned on working faith.

    Even though (for Gaffin and Jones) we receive the “personal presence” of Christ inside us BEFORE we receive by imputation the benefit of Christ’s finished work, this personal presence also continues to be conditioned on our perseverance in works of faith. If there is some sense in which those who have been justified are not yet justified, is there also some sense in which God has not yet imputed the sins of all the justified to Christ?

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  15. But McMark, Gaffin signed off on the OPC study committee on Justification and all his students are firmly ‘lutheran’ in their affirmation of the logical priority of Justification. Repent of having a brain and bothering to use it.

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  16. Alexander, and some (a lot) are uncomfortable with the priority of justification to sanctification. I’d say these are the same people who fall into the obedience camp. Can you say “obedient faith” along with Norman Shepherd?

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  17. A lot of what TT has said is just rank antinomianism- and very bad exegesis at that. I don’t understand why TT cannot be allowed to fail. He’s like the Lehman Brothers of the generally-Reformed world. Who’s ignoring legalism? All I ever hear about is the rampant legalism (I’ve yet to see any examples cited though). And who’s defending Frame? I’m not. He’s not Reformed so he’s not even on my radar. Neither is Shepherd.

    And Mr. Hart- that same catechism says that justification, sanctification and adoption are all fruits of being united to Christ. When you gonna face up to that one?

    Nick- a fellow Glaswegian!

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  18. I wonder if Alexander, given that he is not ‘totally depraved’, has actually obeyed the following command:

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

    I don’t think the obedience team actually understands the law at all…

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  19. All score 0% on obeying the Ten Commandments to the standards of righteousness clearly stated in Scripture. That is if the person in question honestly cares what Scripture teaches…

    Thankfully we have a Prophet, Priest, and King who is mediating for His flock, without it we are totally up the creek.

    Some like to boast of their obedience and hassle others about it. Prudently stated it can be a good reminder that we should pursue holiness, but we will score 0% on that test, but we still will try and want to pursue holiness, and 100% put our faith fully in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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  20. Tell you what, Phillip’s works on his gluttony problem and just saying “No” at the dinner table and I’ll get all fired up about my regenerative progress. Don’t talk to me about behavior modification while you eat your way into a Type II diabetic malaise. Let’s have a talk about self-control and your appetite being your god.

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  21. Kent, dear brother…

    This debate is about sanctification: which is totally different, does not follow from and is separated from justification; they are only related in terms of the ‘duplex gratia’ granted to us as part of the benefits of ‘union with Christ’.

    Wake up!

    PS. You were probably watching ‘cat videos’ during Dick-Gaffin101 classes.

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  22. DGH,

    In your opinion, should a gospel minister regularly call the justified flock to repentance for sin?

    Thank you for your time,

    B

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  23. Susan, it’s hard for me to hear from the RC’s about the bible while they teach me Bultmann. Aquinas and Augustine is so pre vat II. I know it’s all about Jesus being raised in my heart but I still struggle with the disconnect.

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  24. Obedience Boy types seem to always want to sell you on their Lancaster Dodd like heart-plumbing sessions to help you determine whether or not you truly have the joy-joy-joy-joy down in your heart like they say you should have. They are always on the lookout for their next Freddie Quell.

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  25. If my assurance of my justification is only as good as my assurance of my “sanctification”, then the supposed distinction not only fails at defining “sanctification” as the Bible defines it, but also eliminates the distinction between demand and promise “after union”. In this way we are taught that ‘”sanctification is also by grace” in such a way that “grace” means in fact that “sanctification” is also by works.

    But faith is not works (Romans 3:27), and works without faith (James) are dead works, as are works confused with faith.

    Smith—What I don’t think the “obedience boys” get is how normal sin is. Perhaps they really do not know this reality in terms of their own experience. It could be that for them there is a regeneration-created night and day before and after story. Or, it may mean that there has been a steady upward trajectory to their sanctification without harrowing nosedives into sin or wearying discouragements of slow or no progress. Or, it may be that they do not know themselves very well. Or, it may be that their theological understanding of regeneration and conversion does not allow them to acknowledge that believers can have messy lives – chronic struggles and frequent defeats. That believers can by their messy lives inflict great damage and hurt on other believers and can be badly damaged and hurt by the messy lives of other believers. That the church is a messy place where messy lives are intertwined with and sometimes disillusioned by other messy lives.

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2013/11/sin-as-snafu-sin-is-any-want-of.html

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  26. TBR: I just had to put in some plain truth instead of the navel-gazing nitpicking arguments that dominate Reformed discussions and are a 100% ruination of our faith to anyone reading who isn’t already Reformed…

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  27. “Who’s ignoring legalism? All I ever hear about is the rampant legalism (I’ve yet to see any examples cited though).”

    Have you ever heard any of the obedience boys (who for whatever reason also seem to overlap with the patriarchal/complementarian crowd and culture warriors) pontificate about social/cultural issues related to the family? That’s the definition of soft legalism on steroids.

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  28. Sean,

    I completely understand the disconnect, I felt the gospel/ law distinction( aggravation) in my heart as well. For myself, the demands of agape are a lot easier along with the goal for more moral virtue though then wondering if I was not among the elect because I am a terrible sinner, or if I was in actuality robbing God of glory belonging only to Him when I felt good when I did a corporal act of mercy.So there was plenty of questioning of my motives when I was Reformed, which alone prempts a fidelity to the doctrine of sola fide, and causes navel gazing and no assurance because of this vicious cycle.
    Since different idea exist about what law and gospel are, and since theoretically any could be correct, I decided to put my trust in the RCC as the church where truth resides, and put my confidence in her instruction and care. In a way it was a gamble but then the MOC were also very great.

    soli Deo gloria,
    Susan

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  29. Dear Dr. Hart, and fellow Reformed-Confessional brothers,

    I so appreciate your views and discussions. I regularly visit OLTS and am both strengthened and encouraged in the Lord. I was wondering if I was the only one out there in radioland who had the same feelings about these issues. I hope you will not mind another sharing comments and views with you. On this particular issue ( Dr.Hart, thank you!), there is so much I would like to say, but I must practice some restraint. My concern is that ‘the obedience boys’ are setting up the conditions for bringing church discipline to those who disagree with their views in their respective circles/spheres of influence. My bet is that this is the ultimate goal, even though the language has been on the tone of ‘having conversations’. Once challenged, a number of ‘the obedience boys’ will back off and claim the camofluer cover of ‘plausible deniability’. I agree, it is hard to get around what the confessions declare, that is, that Justification is prioritized along with the third use of the Law.
    This is such a healthy perspective. I am drawn to Christ, and desire to live for Him. Believe me when I say, I have been there and done that on the super-accountibility/confession/submission to the elders/leadership/pastors to a fault. I still have such an overactive and terribly wrongly informed conscience from my past life being under abusive leadership in the small group setting, which is by the way, the ‘vehicle of choice’ among the ‘obedience boys-types’ for acheiving progress in sanctification. I think I have recovered enough now to say that small groups in and of themselves are not wrong per se, but I think can become problematic very quickly if they become ‘mandated’ instead of happening ‘naturallyand organically’ (2 or 3 friends want to get together on their own to pray, read, etc.) Personally, I am not very high on them. Or Jonathan Edwards. Or Wesley, or Lloyd-Jones,…..

    Appreciate you guys.

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  30. Oh, I agree: All the new obedience required is trying and wanting to. Gurnell says as much in the Christian in Complete Armor.

    but how can you say

    ” But any attempt to keep it post-fall will result in God’s wrath and curse ”

    if repentance unto life, which is needed to escape the wrath and curse, requires endeavoring to keep it?

    sounds like a dilemma!

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  31. Susan, that’s a bad gamble in my book but I appreciate that you understand the RCC as the object of your faith and the mediator of your relationship with God. I’m good with L/G, but too many of my protestant brothers can’t wrap their head around it. Many of them eventually head your way. What any of that has to with Jesus as myth is a bit of a mystery, Bultmann is clear, but it helps to have been around.

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  32. Alexander, if you’re in Phillips’ corner (believers are mostly but not totally depraved) then does that mean we should have more sympathy for the Pharisee who no doubt waxed eloquent on the grace of God but was also thankful he wasn’t like other men, or the tax collector who called it like it is?

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  33. Alexander, well World magazine (not read in the UK I’m sure) just made Frame’s latest the book of the year or something.

    So what about union and justification and union. As if anything you or I do has anything to do with being united to Christ? It’s not like union is somehow the answer to antinomianism.

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  34. Oh we got some butter spreaders in SA. But, the ‘fat man’-Nawlins proves the point, thank you very much. Da Spurs.

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  35. Semper R., concerning your fear about church discipline by the Obedience boys: when has the PCA ever disciplined anyone? Sorry. A cheap shot (sort of). But is it not curious that Tullian and Mark Jones are in the same denomination and their dispute will likely never become an item on any assembly’s agenda?

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  36. Unless I misunderstand you, are you not creating a false dichotomy between repentance and obedience? They are one in the same. Repentance is turning away from one’s own way and turning to Christ’s way instead. The Scripture stated this no clearer than when John the Baptist said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

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  37. The Spurs fasted last year, with that rebound and three point shot. This year back to the feast against the east,

    Rick Phillips— “Justified Christians are actively to engage in Christ’s work of sanctification”

    as in, when we work, Christ is working

    Rick Phillips— the way to pursue assurance of salvation is not ONLY to rest on your justification but ALSO to ADVANCE in YOUR sanctification.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2012/12/misconceptions-about-justifica.php

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  38. Sean and Darryl,

    Susan, get real. Since Vat II who in your church cares about Aquinas or Thomism?

    The only RCs I’ve talked to who care are converts, whether from Protestantism or nominal RCism, or from rank secularism or paganism. It’s really hard for me to see this pope caring at all about Aquinas. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of man who’s good at parsing distinctions to the Nth degree for the sake of clarity and logical coherence.

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  39. Here’s a question for some of you Old Lifers:

    When the Psalmist says that he loves the law of God, does he mean only that he loves how it points out his failures and his need for forgiveness and pardon?

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  40. Sanctification by synergism is the soft underbelly of some parts of the Reformed tradition.

    Vos, The Pauline Eschatology , p 153

    “Much light falls on the forensic significance of the resurrection IN believers from a comparison with the case of Christ’s resurrection. The Spirit is in Christ… through his exalted state, produced by the resurrection, the perpetual witness of the continuous status of righteousness in which He exists.. To say that forgiveness of sin procured though the imputation of Christ’s merit constitutes only the initial act in the Christian life, and that thereafter, the slate having been wiped clean, there is no further need for nor allowance of recourse to it is wrong because it ignores forensic righteousness as a vital factor in the exalted state of the Savior.”

    Aquinas–: “God can perform an act which is both mine and God’s at the same time. ‘To be moved voluntarily, is to be moved from within, and yet this interior principle is not repugnant to being moved by another”. William T. Cavanaugh, “A Joint Declaration?: Justification as Theosis in Aquinas, p 270

    Gaffin, By Faith not by Sight, p 73, —”Here is what may be fairly called a synergy but it is not a 50/50 undertaking (not even 99.9% God and 0.1% ourselves). Involved here is the ‘mysterious math’ of the creator and his image-bearing creature, whereby 100% plus 100% =100%. Sanctification is 100% the work of God, and for that reason, is to engage the full 100% activity of the believer.”

    Mark Jones—“We contribute to His mediatorial glory and His delight in Heaven… His sending of the Spirit is the guarantee that His labor was not and will not be in vain. In this sense, Christ “needs” our good works!….Christ is most satisfied when you most glorify.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/06/christ-is-most-satisfied-when.php

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  41. Robert: When the Psalmist says that he loves the law of God, does he mean only that he loves how it points out his failures and his need for forgiveness and pardon?

    mcmark: Thanks for the question, I think we are pointed to King Jesus and His perfect satisfaction of the law for righteousness. In this regard, I would commend to you the essay by Richard Belcher in The Law Is Not Of Faith. “The King, the Law, and Righteousness in the Psalms”

    http://sovereignlogos.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/richard-p-belcher-jr-on-the-king-the-torah-and-the-active-obedience-of-christ/
    :
    “The relationship of the king to the torah is important. The king meditates on the torah and desires to keep the torah. The king declares that his life is a reflection of the righteousness of the torah in that he is blameless. Thus the king is able to ask God to judge him according to his righteousness because his life is a reflection of the righteousness of the torah.” (p168)

    An unthinking cursory reader of Psalms 7, 18, and 26 might not recognize the apparent problem with these Psalms in that the author (the king) considers himself to be righteous in the sight of the law. But how does this square with Psalm 143:2, in which the Psalmist specifically asks God not to enter into judgment with him, because “in Your sight no one living is righteous?”

    ….A second option is that the Psalmist is speaking in light of his sanctification by God. Through the power of God’s work, the righteousness of Christ is INFUSED INTO the believer, and he is made into a righteous being. Through this righteousness worked in the believer, God can judge the Psalmist as holy . Many who profess belief in Christ hold this view. Yet is this how God judges men to be saints?

    Belcher—“All the statements in the psalms related to the benefit of the law would have been true of Jesus’ sinless human life. He would have delighted in the law and kept his way pure according to its precepts. In this way he not only fulfills the role of the king in relationship to the law, but he also fulfills the original role of mankind in creation as the one who rules over God’s creation in obedience to the word of God.” (p.168)

    Lee Irons—“The believer continues to sustain a relationship to the Law in Christ. Otherwise, if the Law itself has been abolished in an ontological sense, we would be saying that the merit of Christ has also been abolished.”

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  42. Robert, I think we can all affirm the ‘goodness’ of the law. The whole ‘challenge’ of proclaiming a sovereign, predestinating God is, is He good? Affirming the goodness of the law and of God doesn’t however magically defang the law. In fact, it ups the ante. The Law condemns even in it’s third use. I love God not because of the goodness of His law, but because he loved me first and redeemed me while I yet hated Him and His law. Faith responds to the promises and trembles at the threatenings. I ‘know’ and am brought to faith and repentance and love of God through the mercy of His son, not the excellency or goodness of His law, though it be both good and excellent.

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  43. Dear Dr. Hart,

    Thanks for your reply. Maybe the ‘bark’ is worse than the ‘bite’, but the running standing joke (masked/veiled threat, I believe) is ‘do we need to call for the Elders about this’…………..I have observed so much in the way of church discipline in my lifetime – some of which was legitimate, some which seemed unfair/wrong. The rhetoric against Reformed-Confessional theology has become so vitriolic in the PCA (Gospel Reformation Network) that it sounds like they are going to admonish those who don’t go along with the GRN view; after all, it has been twenty years of unbalanced teaching……

    So now, the Luther/Lutheran view of justification has largely become a bad thing/unhealthy teaching in the PCA, just because the ‘Pope’ says so. Sorry. A cheap shot (sort of). The saber-rattling effect (but only for effect?) makes it a true curiosity about TT and MJ, as you propose.

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  44. I think the noise about ‘Union with Christ’ by some Reformed writers is nothing but a plot by Satan to make all Reformed souls spiritually and mentally schizophrenic.

    <>
    >Justification: all by faith, no merits of your own |Simultaneously| > Sanctification: by faith and works

    But wait, since sanctification doesn’t necessarily follow from justification, where do I get my assurance? My works will never match up (unless Alex has managed to stop coveting):

    <>
    >’&*&*, You Have Performed an Antinomian Operation!’ > ‘You are still coveting, maybe you are not united to Christ after all’.

    >Reboot

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  45. Attention fellas, just curious. The idea has been dealt with before, so why are you treating it like it’s uncharted territory? From the Reformed perspective you will battle it out without ever coming to a resolve. But as a Catholic, I can look for a definition of law/gospel which also is in the fabric of the church’s practice. Fully consistant regardless Bultmanns infiltration in the Church. This much of what Protestants are arguing about is a steady Thomism that has stuck post Vat II.

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  46. Thanks for your concern Susan, but we already have our Confessions and Catechisms; which are not ‘new’.

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  47. TBR,

    You are right – many thanks. If you are in an environment where Pietistic influence is high, you do suffer the ‘creep’ of spiritual and mental schizophrenia. Especially when the ‘Pope’ has issued a dispensation that the Holy See does not recognize Dr. Luther…….

    Modern day parallel – using the analogy/mythology of Superman……..the presence of Kryptonite (semi-pelagianism influence).

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  48. Maybe these guys forgot the word only in the Heidelberg Catechism, Q1:

    Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

    A. That I am not my own,
    but belong—
    body and soul,
    in life and in death—
    to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
    He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
    and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
    He also watches over me in such a way
    that not a hair can fall from my head
    without the will of my Father in heaven;
    in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

    Because I belong to him,
    Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
    assures me of eternal life
    and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
    from now on to live for him.

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  49. “Fully consistent regardless Bultmann’s ‘infiltration’ in the church. Just let that ruminate for a while…………………………………..And Bultmann’s ‘infiltration’ is subscribed to by your boy in the abbey, so it’s not an unwelcome interloper. BTW, any number of us prots have it(L/G) resolved. No gospel without it. You really need to stop representing Rome as this monolith of theological understanding. Remember Francis says it’s ‘bad’ to define the edges.

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  50. By all means teach the Law. Christians need to know right from wrong. Hopefully when they hear the law they realize that they fail to keep it and look to Christ for help.

    The problem comes when Christians who major on the Law inevitably try to come up with some new and improved system to try to keep it. This is where we get Doug Phillips, Patriarchy, Vision Forum, The Federal Vision, The Stay at Home Daughters Movement, Courting Not Dating, Radical Homeschooling, Bill Gothard, The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, and on-and-on.

    Just let the Law stand on its own without trying to invent a method, organization, or career to assist people with their lawkeeping. What inevitably happens is that, in so doing, another aspect of lawbreaking that maybe you have not considered rises up and bites you in the butt.

    Or the very area that you appear to be majoring on and strong in becomes the weak area that is your downfall (e.g. Phillips and purity/the family).

    Sin, like The Dude, abides. As long as you are in this mortal body, anyway. Turn to Christ regularly in Word & Sacrament and avoid the big, life-altering sins. This is where wisdom, reasonable temperance, and surrounding yourself with good and reasonable people comes in. You’ll be alright in the long haul.

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  51. Sean,

    ” “Fully consistent regardless Bultmann’s ‘infiltration’ in the church. Just let that ruminate for a while…………………………………..And Bultmann’s ‘infiltration’ is subscribed to by your boy in the abbey, so it’s not an unwelcome interloper. BTW, any number of us prots have it(L/G) resolved. No gospel without it. You really need to stop representing Rome as this monolith of theological understanding. Remember Francis says it’s ‘bad’ to define the edges.”

    I’m sure it’s in there even though I haven’t personally dealt with it.. But it’s everywhere. If not in local fellowships of particular denominations as part of their doctrine, it’s there by representation of individuals who are believing it and/or propagating it clandestinely or openly in both Protestant and Catholic circles, because both have been affected by modernism. But again, the Catholic Church officially doesn’t approve of a modern heremeutic or the interpretation gotten from that methodology, and therein is the difference. It’s hugely troublesome that some infiltrator can lead people to believe false doctrines that will damage their faith, and the only correction to this is a church that has authority to tell what doctrines match the nature of the eternal truth.
    I’m going to bow out Sean, but I want to say that I am thankful for the apostolic truth we do share as fellow Christians.

    Peace,
    Susan

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  52. Robert posed this question for some of you Old Lifers:

    “When the Psalmist says that he loves the law of God, does he mean only that he loves how it points out his failures and his need for forgiveness and pardon?”

    Perhaps this is too simplistic an answer, but I always thought the Psalmist loved the law of God because of the wisdom contained therein. When David penned Psalm 119:97, I think he loved it because it came from God he loved. We know from the testimony in Scripture that David didn’t always love God or his law, but regardless of his weakness and frailty, he recognized the wisdom the law provided. And of course wisdom points to Christ.

    Quite frankly, I just don’t understand what all this debate regarding sanctification and the law is all about. I have never met an antinomian. All the Christ-followers that I have met over my lifetime have wanted to grow and mature, to be transformed. All of the Christ-followers that I know struggle and fall; they are all in process. I don’t know who these “obedience boys” are, but it seems like they have their own notion of what holiness and sanctification and want to impose that upon others. A good friend of mine said something to me that seemed very wise and profound. Maybe he picked it up from someone else, I don’t know, but it went something like this: holiness looks different on different people.

    I think these so called “obedience boys” like to talk this stuff because it makes them feel better about their own progress, but I doubt they are really much different from me.

    This debate in an odd sort of way reminds me of the Knotheads and the LEFTPAPASANE in Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins. I do not notice a great deal of difference between the “Obedience Boys” and others.

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  53. “……………..But again, the Catholic Church officially doesn’t approve of a modern heremeutic or the interpretation gotten from that methodology, and therein is the difference.”

    Excuse my french, Susan, but FUBAR. VAT II, preeminently influenced by the German bishops with no one less than Ratzinger consulting, allowed for THAT VERY MODERN INTERPRETIVE HERMENUETIC as pastoral interpretation and application. I’m sorry Susan, but somebody sold you a bridge in the middle of the air and you bought it.

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  54. Robert,

    When the Psalmist says that he loves the law of God, does he mean only that he loves how it points out his failures and his need for forgiveness and pardon?

    It’s a good question, I’ll try to approach it from the vantage point of how the psalmists, and David in particular are using law, and how someone like Paul uses the law. I’ll be brief, and so excuse the generalizations, as they can be pushed too far.

    I don’t think that there is a 1:1 correspondence to the psalmists’ use of torah (law) and the 613 commandments that comprise the Law as given in the Pentateuch, even if there is definite conceptual and semantic overlap. In OT studies there are two broad categories for the Law – 1) apodictic laws: these are case laws – basically outlining how a law is to be enforced or carried out – for example the death penalty for adultery is an apodictic law; 2) didactic laws: these laws are more instructive broad, and universal, the Decalogue is an example of didactic law, as these are broad universals that do not have one specific application, but have many applications. For example “honor thy father and mother…” is didactic, giving instruction not only to how one must respond in familial contexts, but more broadly in any human relation where hierarchies are present. torah therefore is a broad theological concept, and the psalmists pick up and elaborate on it in great detail. More often than not the psalmists are emphasizing the didactic aspect of torah as sound, and indeed Divine instruction that taught the man seeking righteousness exactly what righteousness looked like from God’s perspective. Those who sought to uphold and understand the law could expect to grow in wisdom as it was God’s instruction in all manners of righteousness. Unlike their Ancient Near East neighbors, Israelites were privy to exactly what God required to live a life pleasing to him whether as individuals or as a community that confessed the shema – that Yahweh was the only God, and his will was clear to his people. Other ANE cultures had no such confidence in knowing the divine will, or what would please or displease the pantheon of deities that they worshiped.

    I think it is from this vantage point that the psalmists praised God and loved the Law and extolled its virtues. They aren’t looking at the Law as a means of justification, and even at that stage in salvation history, they understood that the cultic system set forth in the Pentateuch was not sufficient to wipe away the guilt of sin, or secure their standing before God (c.f Psalm 51). We can see, with rise of Messianic expectation throughout the psalms, that they understood that the cult and it’s sacraficial system was not an end, but a visible sacramental system that drove them to faith in Yahweh who alone could forgive sin, removing it from them as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:10-12). By the time we get to the NT, the religious leaders of Israel had forgotten this for a variety of reasons, placing confidence in one’s ability to carry out the “works of the Law” to secure righteousness. Against this background Paul deals with the Law and its inherent inability to secure any standing before God whatsoever.

    If we were to evaluate the psalmists love for torah in the context of Reformed confessionalism, we would probably say that much of their love for the law comes from what we understand to be it’s third use – they loved the Law not solely because it pointed out what miserable wretches they were (though given the nature of some of the lament psalms, this cannot be ruled out), but because it infallibly revealed to man how he ought to live life before God and man, and through a love of the law one could grow in wisdom, righteousness, and the fear of the Lord, however short one fell of it’s perfection. The only way they could love this Law, whose perfect standard portended curse and death to all sinners, and by extension all men, would be if they understood the ground of their relationship with God to be based on faith in a God who was also gracious and could provide other means to secure their righteousness before him, which was in Christ, to whom the whole Law and sacrificial system pointed.

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  55. “I think these so called “obedience boys” like to talk this stuff because it makes them feel better about their own progress, but I doubt they are really much different from me.” -MM

    Oddly enough, I generally find the obedience types to be far less sanctified and far more hypocritical than the law-gospel folks. In general, they’re often pretty selective about the kinds of obedience they’re willing to pursue. They’ll talk all the day long about sex, but are often themselves overweight gluttons. Is it no accident that they emphasize obedience most heavily on issues that relate to the Culture Wars?

    I was thinking about this yesterday as I was reading the Supreme Court opinion related to the evangelical pro-life group, Susan B. Anthony List. The group, whose activities are often heralded by the neo-Calvinists over at World Magazine, had challenged an Ohio law which made it a criminal act to publish false statements about a political candidate during the course of a campaign. Yes, you heard that right: An evangelical pro-life group was fighting for the right to bear false witness against another and to be free of any punishment for it.

    That’s the danger of pietism: It only works when we narrow “obedience” down to the important issues, e.g., the issues at play in the Culture Wars. When your “Christian worldview” excuses you for telling lies about others–or even recasts lying as a virtue–it’s awfully hard to equate that with any kind of piety that we find in the Gospel. I suppose that’s why we call it pietism instead of piety.

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  56. Calvin—We cannot be quieted unless we are surely persuaded that we are pleasing to God. . . . Therefore, those who prate that we are justified by faith because, being reborn, we are righteous by living spiritually have never tasted the sweetness of grace. This quieting…. does not take place through the gift of regeneration (sanctification), which, as it is always imperfect in this flesh, so contains in itself manifold grounds for doubt.”
    Institutes 3.13.5

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  57. DD, new obedience is not the one and same thing as repentance. STRIVING after NO is only part of repentance.

    You’re missing the difference between what God requires of man (obedience to the law which results in God’s wrath and curse) and what God requires to escape his wrath and curse. The divines could have treated the law after faith the way Heidelberg (which is Lutheran, right), but they did not.

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  58. Robert, does Ps 119 equate Law with Decalogue the way we do? Maybe not if Calvin’s reading is right. Here‘s what he says about delighting in God’s law:

    Had not thy law been my delight The prophet continues to prosecute almost the same theme; affirming, that he would have been undone, had he not in his calamities sought consolation from the law of God. The adverb, אז az, signifies then; but as it is sometimes used for a long time, it is equivalent here to long ago; unless some may prefer to consider it as a significant and emphatic pointing to the thing, as if he were still in the state which he describes. He confirms from his own experience what he had previously said, to make it manifest that he did not speak of things with which he was unacquainted, but that he asserts what he had really experienced, — namely, that there is no other solace, and no other remedy for adversity, but our reposing upon the word of God [OL emphasis], and our embracing the grace and the assurance of our salvation which are offered in it. He here unquestionably commends the very same word, which he had but now said dwelt in heaven. Though it resound on earth, enter into our ears, and settle in our hearts, yet it still retains its celestial nature; for it descends to us in such a manner, as that it is not subject to the changes of the world. The prophet declares that he was grievously oppressed by a weight of afflictions enough to overwhelm him; but that the consolation which he derived from the Divine Law in such desperate circumstances, was as life to him.

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  59. I don’t recall agreeing with Phillips that we are not totally depraved. I don’t recall signing some formula that said If I agree with a couple of points made in a blog post is agree with everything that person has ever said ever. I thought I was talking with grown-ups.

    Mr. Hart- of course our righteousnesses are as filthy rags even once regenerated (you do believe in regeneration right? You do believe there is a real, spiritual, vital change in the believer? From death to life? You do actually agree with that?). What am I’m saying is that our relation to the law is different as regards our justification to our relationship with the law as regards our sanctification. This debate is about the latter not the former.

    Jed- I’m guessing your church doesn’t sing the Psalms…?

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  60. Does Alexander think he is being very very witty?

    He isn’t at all, every line of thought he posts is that of a total jackass

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  61. May a reforming Baptist query as to the possible pertinance of WCF Chapter 16 to this discussion?

    1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.

    2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

    Seems consistent with Jones’ perspective to me.

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  62. During the FV controversy, P&R’s republication of Turretin’s work on justification was my exposure to the idea that God does not declare good works “good” based on the requirements of the Law, which no man can maintain, but rather as a Father viewing us through Christ via the doctrine of adoption.

    The absence of wrangling from the obedience boys with the problem of how God must judge man’s good works by some standard other than strict conformity to the Law makes it difficult to take them seriously. I don’t care for Tchividjian’s imprecision and care less for his supergrace parachurch alliance website pledge in response to all this. But Phillips’s “Christians are not totally depraved” is as sloppy as Tchividjian’s worst, while his years of public denunciations of another minister in good standing as an antinomian are borderline Tennentish.

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  63. Alexander, what you said was: “A lot of what TT has said is just rank antinomianism- and very bad exegesis at that. I don’t understand why TT cannot be allowed to fail. He’s like the Lehman Brothers of the generally-Reformed world. Who’s ignoring legalism? All I ever hear about is the rampant legalism (I’ve yet to see any examples cited though).”

    That’s actually Phillips on steroids. Maybe you take issue with his notion that believers are mostly but not totally depraved, but in the course of piling on those who affirm the law but emphasize how grace super-abounds law (per Paul, ahem), maybe you can see how it wouldn’t be too far a stretch for some to think you may also agree with his semi-Calvinism.

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  64. Robert, on the Psalmist and delighting in the law, I’m not sure we’re supposed to choose between the Psalmist who delights and Paul who subverts. Sort of like how we’re not supposed to choose between Moses telling us to love our parents and Jesus telling us to hate them.

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  65. Zrim,

    Robert, on the Psalmist and delighting in the law, I’m not sure we’re supposed to choose between the Psalmist who delights and Paul who subverts. Sort of like how we’re not supposed to choose between Moses telling us to love our parents and Jesus telling us to hate them.

    I agree. My point in asking the question is that in these arguments between the “grace boys” and the “obedience boys” (which is so reductionistic on both sides), the “grace boys” sometimes come across as if the law, for the Christian, is only a heavy burden and that if one delights in the law, one is somehow a legalistic who isn’t trusting Christ alone for salvation. Obviously, no one is saying that directly, but it is the impression I get sometimes.

    And does Paul subvert the law in any sense besides it being a means for sinners to find their justification, which was never its purpose under the old covenant anyway? Again, sometimes the “grace boys” come off as believing that we should throw the law away even as a means or aid to sanctification and that to have a desire to obey the law means one has missed the point of grace.

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  66. d4v34x, that’s some good progress for a recovering teetotaller (or abstentionist?)…

    Kindly explain to us how that is inconsistent with what TT has been saying.

    Hint: “…by [good works] believers manifest their thankfulness…” Geddit, geddit?

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  67. d4v34x (does he know 867-5309?) brings up good works. One thing worth thinking about is how Jesus says we should do our good works in a way that brings as little attention to ourselves as possible. Note how many today do their good works in a way that brings AS MUCH attention to themselves as possible. This is the problem with setting up separate, parallel institutions as Christians. Why not just do our good works quietly, steadily, in the midst of pagans?

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  68. Mike K. – while his years of public denunciations of another minister in good standing as an antinomian are borderline Tennentish.

    Erik – Good observation, as always, by Mike K.

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  69. Alexander – All I ever hear about is the rampant legalism (I’ve yet to see any examples cited though).”

    Erik (from above) – Doug Phillips, Patriarchy, Vision Forum, The Federal Vision, The Stay at Home Daughters Movement, Courting Not Dating, Radical Homeschooling, Bill Gothard, The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, and on-and-on.

    Now you’ve seen examples cited.

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  70. Dear Friends,

    It has only been in the past 8 years or so that I really began to understand Reformed theology, and I am reading as much as I can. Regarding the details for some of the ‘why’ that accounts for the positions of ‘the obedience boys’, is the following synopsis accurate?

    Lutheran/Reformed soteriology: Justification is prioritized as the ground and cause of sanctification
    (Sanctification flows from our Justification)

    Gospel Reformation Network/Pietistic (or Whatchumacallit) soteriology: Union with Christ is the object of focus, with the election, regeneration, justification, sanctification, etc. all occurring-being accomplished in a chronological order. (Step 1 – Step 2, etc.) See link below
    http://gospelreformation.net/affirmations-denials-on-the-gospel-and-sanctification/

    In the examples above, especially the Gospel Reformation Network(GRN)/Pietistic model, I’ve tried to explain it as best I can, and please forgive my lack of knowledge about terms/not knowing as much as others. But it makes sense to me that if one subscribes to the GRN model, then it’s like they (the GRN) are saying……’Justification is done-accomplished, now you need to get on with the business of pursuing sanctification……and – if you are still struggling with wondering if you are saved, and having doubts about your salvation, and you feel like you need to keep preaching the Gospel to yourself, then (fork in the road – as per below) is what is usually said:

    ….that’s fine, if you need to (“but that might be an indicator that you are not saved”……….(Arminian minister’s private thought clouds)…….

    and/or

    …..you need to pray the sinner’s prayer again. Especially since you have been struggling with ‘characterological/recurring/habitual sin’…..

    In short, the GRN view (not all of them, but many, it seems) have a soteriology that resembles the ‘Super Mario Brothers’ or video gaming structure –

    – with levels of accomplishment
    (no going back – that’s done – but if you insist on going back – game over – start again – the next time with 2 players)

    – and also levels of reward(s).

    Do I have it right in this synopsis? I’m very sure that the ‘wiggle room’ of terms and nuances will result in some plausible deniability for a number of the GRN convocation to object to the model of how it is perceived, but that’s the way it comes across to me.

    Many thanks!

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  71. Robert, the reductionist point is a fair one. At the same time, though, aren’t the “grace boys” in fairly good company with Paul who was accused of some form of law-tossing antinomianism when pointing out the weaknesses of the law and exalting the powers of grace (Romans)? I’m hard pressed to think of when it was ever suggested he was slouching toward legalism.

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  72. Erik, good works quietly? Next you’ll be telling us to mind our own houses, which everybody knows leads to Nazism. Sit down and shut up, you rrrrradical antidentite.

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  73. TBR,

    I’m not arguing against T² so much as I am pushing back against something Dr. Hart implied a page back. To paraphrase: that the catechism states believers will be disposed to obey, but may not actually obey. And that obedient works of believers are filthy rags same as good things done by unbelievers. Aren’t the former, being a result of the Spirit’s work in us different in kind than the latter. WCF 16 seems to me to so indicate.

    So I’m not so much advocating a synergistic sanctification, but, to make an example from justification, I am justified by faith only because God worked faith in my heart as I heard His word. But I still *actually* believe. It’s not a positional thing. I believe.

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  74. Believer’s sincere good works are acceptable not due to the Spirit’s work within us (i.e. power or grace to make those works more intrinsically holy) rather due to Christ’s finished work of the cross:

    And as there is ever some sin mixed up with our works, even when we desire to serve thee sincerely and from the heart, grant that all stains in our works may be so cleansed and washed away by the sacrifice of thy Son, that they may be to thee sacrifices of sweet odour, through the same, even Christ Jesus, who has so reconciled us to thee, as to obtain pardon even for our works. Amen. (Calvin, Commentary on Hosea)

    In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification [acceptance] of works depends on the justification of the person, as the effect on the cause. (John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)

    WCF 16.6
    Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

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  75. Zrim

    Aren’t the “grace boys” in fairly good company with Paul who was accused of some form of law-tossing antinomianism when pointing out the weaknesses of the law and exalting the powers of grace (Romans)? I’m hard pressed to think of when it was ever suggested he was slouching toward legalism.

    That is an important point and one we should all consider. I do think that Lloyd-Jones (was it him?) was right that if no one ever accuses you of antinomianism, you probably aren’t preaching the gospel. But I’m not sure that the “obedience boys” are saying the law has any inherent power, though perhaps they are coming off sometimes as if they do. Even so, I’m not sure I would put people like Jones and Phillips in the same camp as some of the others that have been mentioned here such as the FVers, the Stay at Home Daughter movement, etc., all of which clearly tend toward a legalistic, our-way-of-living-is-the-only-right-one view.

    I think my main issue with some of the “grace boys” is that they never seem to move past justification. Of course, it’s not that we should move “past” it, but it would be helpful if some of them devoted some time to other aspects of the ordo salutis than they do. To be fair, there is certainly room for a stronger emphasis on grace than we find explicitly in the “obedience boys” at times. Justification is the entrance into the Christian life and has logical priority over sanctification, adoption, and glorification, but justification isn’t the whole of the Christian life. We need to be reminded of it over and over and over again. But it’s one thing to do that and another to collapse everything into it, which is the tendency I see with some of the “grace boys”. Those who on the other side, however, could stand to come across as less fearful that preaching grace will open up the floodgates to antinomianism. They can come across that way sometimes even if they don’t mean to.

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  76. Robert,
    I think my main issue with some of the “grace boys” is that they never seem to move past justification.

    One has to focus on where the battle lines are drawn. Over the recent past – New Perspectives, Federal Vision (still alive and kicking), union priority over justification, and the current “obedience-gospel” that wants to put justification in a lock box when talking about sanctification.

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  77. There is no obedience/good works probationary period for believers. They add nothing to our standing now or on that Great Day. So seek to walk obediently, as we should. Resist sinful desires and acts. Love your neighbor as yourself. And at the end of the day, know that it is all mercy…

    Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ not only are righteous in the sight of God but they are beyond the possibility of becoming unrighteous. In their case, the probation is over. It is not over because they have stood it successfully. It is not over because they have themselves earned the reward of assured blessedness which God promised on condition of perfect obedience. But it is over because Christ has stood it for them; it is over because Christ has merited for them the reward by His perfect obedience to God’s law.
    The Doctrine of the Atonement: Three Lectures by J. Gresham Machen

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  78. Alexander,

    Jed- I’m guessing your church doesn’t sing the Psalms…?

    I am wondering what makes you think that. But if you must know, we try to mix in some Psalm singing between “Shine Jesus Shine” and clap offerings. Sheesh, leave the clairvoyance to science-fiction.

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  79. WCF—These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the FRUITS AND EVIDENCES of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, STRENGTHEN THEIR ASSURANCE, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

    mcmark- I don’t have to agree, and I don’t. Without the contrary truth, that works without faith in the gospel are dead works, the presence of works does not prove faith. And since assurance is of the essence of faith, without assurance there can be no good works. All that being said, Jones and Gaffin are not content with the confessional idea that works are merely “evidences” and insist that works are effectual in what they have configured as the “not-yet” aspect of justification.

    The union of law and gospel in the pursuit of “union” priority is the confusion of law and gospel, so that law no longer kills and the gospel is no longer gospel.

    Gaffin—-“Calvin destroys Rome’s charge of antinomianism by showing that faith, in its Protestant understanding, entails a disposition to holiness WITHOUT PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO JUSTIFICATION, a concern for Godliness that is NOT to be understood only as a consequence of justification “Biblical Theology and the Westminster Standards,” WTJ 65 (2003)

    Carson—“In carving up the ground of justification between Christ’s work for us and the Spirit’s work in us, and then giving sanctification an instrumental role in procuring final salvation, N T Wright has effectively destroyed the objective nature of our justification. The objective basis of assurance is thereby undermined and becomes entirely hostage to Christian obedience. Assurance is not established as a constituent element of saving faith itself”. DA Carson, “Reflections of Christian Assurance”, WTJ 54 (1992)

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  80. Zrim- I understand that people get grouped together in debates all I ask is that if I haven’t argued for a revised understanding of TD then please don’t impute that view to me. There are a number of things about Rick Phillips I’m not keen on; I happen to be on “his side” in this debate without necessarily agreeing in all particulars.

    Erik- I appreciate those examples. I know I’ll come across as changing the goal posts but even from the names of those movements I question that they are Reformed. And isn’t Doug Phillips an FVer, i.e. heretic? I do not doubt there is legalism in American Christianity. But TT has made the accusation there is legalism within the Reformed community. Scott Clark says the same thing. I should have been more specific so that is my fault. Are any of those groups found within NAPARC denominations? If so then thank you for citing those examples. I would say that is the result of these sorts of federations- i.e. being in fellowship with such nonsense- but that’s another debate.

    Zrim- I don’t think Paul said it was a good thing to be accused of lawlessness though; that it is something all preachers should aspire to. And I believe he goes out of his way to refute the accusation, no?

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  81. Romans 3:5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

    In Romans 3, Paul threatens antinomians with condemnation. I know some Calvinists (I was one of them) who think it is enough to say that God is sovereign and thus the cause of salvation .But the truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s righteousness.

    This means that the gospel is not only about the justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of God. God is justified in justifying the elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of that elect sinner and 2. God declares individual elect sinners to legally share in that death. Because of these two facts of history, God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

    This grace does not look good for order and law. . The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, became “alive to sin”, because of imputed sins, so that Christ had to die. The guilty are justified. The only innocent one is condemned. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions.

    But the gospel itself does not take that attitude. The gospel reveals God’s righteousness in Christ’s death. The gospel shows how God justifies the ungodly and also at the same time is just. “Their condemnation is just”—those who deny God’s justice in Christ’s satisfaction of the law.

    When the anti-neonomians point to their own righteousness as that which effects the reign of grace (Romans 5:21), they not only misread Romans 5 but dishonor the righteousness of Christ, who is the final Adam….

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  82. Are dead works judged? Are dead workers (those who work based on another gospel, which is no gospel) judged :according to OR “based upon” their works?

    Fesko—- Gaffin’s argument fails to account for judgment kata works for the wicked. This point seems to be borne out by Paul’s own use of kata, “He will render each one according to [kata] his works” (Rom. 2:6), but this rendering kata works is for both the righteous (v. 7) and the wicked (v. 8). According to Gaffin’s interpretation, are the wicked judged according to their works, but are their works not the GROUND OF their condemnation (see 2 Cor. 11:15)?

    John Fesko, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine, p. 315

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  83. @ Semper Ref(i):

    I’m known in these parts as a strong defender of the centrality of union, but I’ve also learned that there are some nuances that are necessary to keep the whole thing from collapsing into moralism.

    You ask, Lutheran/Reformed soteriology: Justification is prioritized as the ground and cause of sanctification (Sanctification flows from our Justification)

    “ground” is good; “flows from” is good; “cause” is squishy. Best to say that the efficient cause of our sanctification is the work of the Spirit.

    Further: Gospel Reformation Network/Pietistic (or Whatchumacallit) soteriology: Union with Christ is the object of focus, with the election, regeneration, justification, sanctification, etc. all occurring-being accomplished in a chronological order.

    This is where it gets tricky. Originally, union with Christ was articulated by Calvin himself as a way of explaining how the benefits of Christ come to us — they do not come to us apart from Christ, but in union with Him.

    The question is, can we posit a logical relationship between the benefits of Christ, or do they come to us by union in an undifferentiated fashion?

    That’s the key argument between the sides here. Not to re-open the can of worms, but I’ve been successfully convinced that we need to see our justification as the ground of our sanctification if we are to avoid moralism. It’s kind of simple: We are sanctified by the work of the Spirit; we have the Spirit because of our adoption; we are adopted because we are justified.

    SR: But it makes sense to me that if one subscribes to the GRN model, then it’s like they (the GRN) are saying……’Justification is done-accomplished, now you need to get on with the business of pursuing sanctification

    I think that’s a fair criticism.

    I’ll talk about your linked article below.

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  84. Robert, your concern seems to be how some or others are coming across. Again, it’s a fair point as far as it goes. The problem seems to be that we have NT writers who also come across in ways open to criticism. For example, they sure talk about Jesus a lot and could come across as a bit too fixated on his person and work—aren’t there other things to take up and discuss? From where I sit, that’s a good problem to have.

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  85. Alexander, Paul does go out of his way to refute the accusation of lawlessness, but it’s because he’s not advocating it. Neither are the “forensic centric grace boys.” They’re all affirming law while promoting the superiority of grace. That’s the point of NT Christianity.

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  86. Many thanks Jeff – very helpful. It seems like we are flying in formation together like the USAF
    Thunderbirds. I’m still learning, and I so appreciate what you related to me. Today was the first time I read that extensively on the different perspectives concerning our union with Christ, though I did understand the basic concept, but not in the framework of the justification-sanctification debate. Thank you again so very much ~

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  87. Zrim,

    I’m not sure some of those fixated on grace trumping law are affirming law at all, to wit-

    http://liberate.org/2012/09/10/you-cant-teach-a-frog-to-fly-so-stop-trying/

    I don’t get the insistence on existential crisis as the hallmark of faith? That’s where I think they’ve collapsed justification and sanctification, in the opposite direction of the FV’ers. What about the mundane among the flock that affirm adoption solely through faith in Christ, attend to the means of grace, try to pay our mortgage, keep our children in line, enjoy a whisky at the end of the day, etc, but could benefit from a rector pronouncing the moral law? Preaching “instead of coming to me, run to Jesus” versus “six days shalt thou labor, and do all that thou has to do” are kinda the same, but kinda not, and my balky ass could use hearing the latter from time to time.

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  88. Zrim,

    The problem seems to be that we have NT writers who also come across in ways open to criticism. For example, they sure talk about Jesus a lot and could come across as a bit too fixated on his person and work—aren’t there other things to take up and discuss? From where I sit, that’s a good problem to have.

    I’m not sure I can agree with this. Yeah, they talk about his person and his work, but they don’t talk about his work in providing for our justification only. They talk about his work in providing for our sanctification, adoption, glorification, et al, as well. Paul has a lot to say about the working of the Spirit of Jesus—i.e. the Holy Spirit—in us to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    Some of the “grace boys” seem to think that the only work Christ does is for our justification. The whole “sanctification is just the art of getting used to our justification” and all that definitely imply, if not outright assert, as much.

    Justification is logically prior to all else, but are we not working in some sense in our sanctification if the Spirit is working in us to will and to work for His good pleasure in a way that that is not true of justification. It seems to me that we are. But sometimes I get the impression from some quarters that we are to be down on ourselves if we want to be holy or more consistent in our obedience. That somehow entails that we’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus and our justification. Really? We’d have to get rid of Hebrews and its call to strive for holiness.

    Yeah, it can degenerate into legalism, which is why the continual preaching of the gospel even to Christians is necessary. But I’m not sure where the obedience boys deny that.

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  89. @ Alexander, Robert, and Semper R:

    Here, I’m going to show what I consider to be the problem with what GRN says and how it works out pastorally. But let me fence what I’m saying in this way: I’m not convinced that everyone at the GRN takes their affirmations and denials to their logical conclusions. I have concrete reasons for my hesitance.

    That said, I’ll be quoting from The Gospel Reformation Network, “Affirmations and Denials”, http://gospelreformation.net/affirmations-denials-on-the-gospel-and-sanctification/

    Article II: We deny that the believer, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, remains unable to obey and please God, by grace and in Christ.

    This is squishy because it does not distinguish old-man/new-man. In particular, is this saying that the old man is in some way able? Or rather that the believer is identified only with the new man?

    By itself, this is possibly an oversight. I’m pretty sure that people at the GRN would qualify the above to limit it to the new man. However, this oversight sets the stage for a curious incoherence …

    Article VIII: We affirm that God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered effort to put off sin and put on righteousness is necessary for Christian growth in grace…
    Article IX: We affirm that growth in the Christian life comes through faith, which believes and acts on the promises of God in the Scriptures.

    Out of what does growth come? From HS-powered effort or through faith?

    There might be a good answer here, but as the statements stand, it appears that the answer is “both.”

    And “both” is a problem because at minimum it posits two different growth principles that are in some sense antagonistic: growth-by-effort appears to say that growth is “getting stronger with practice.” growth-by-faith appears to say that growth results from “not trusting in my own efforts.”

    Alexander, Robert, and SR, here’s where the rubber meets the road: How do you answer the question, “What are the means of grace?”

    The Confessional answer is word, sacrament, and prayer.

    But a common answer within the PCA is “word, sacrament, prayer, and accountability.”

    To his credit, Ligon Duncan holds the line at the confessional answer, unlike some.

    But accountability is not like the others. Word, sacrament, and prayer present to us Christ and Him crucified so that we may trust in Him. Accountability, which is really a business term and not a Scriptural term, induces me to change my actions without changing my heart. It is a means of law, not a means of grace.

    (Which doesn’t mean that accountability is bad, just that it is a law-function, not a means of grace).

    That point right there distinguishes the two camps: Is it that

    (1a) We grow by exercising obedience and thereby getting stronger at it, OR
    (1b) We grow by fixing our eyes on Jesus and being nourished by faith

    Or put another way, are we viewing our obedience as a growth principle, as a means of grace? Article VIII above suggests that obedience is viewed as a growth principle.

    IT MAY NOT BE THE CASE that GRNers believe that obedience is a growth principle. But they have not yet made this clear in their discussion of the necessity of obedience. They need to, because the Reformed faith has historically rejected obedience as a growth principle, in contradistinction to both Roman Catholics and also Wesleyans.

    Does that clarify?

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  90. Jeff,

    Means of grace: Word, sacrament, and prayer

    1a v. 1b—I need to think about that. My initial inclination is to say that obedience follows/is the consequence of fixing our eyes on Jesus and being nourished by faith, but I’m not sure that answer you’re looking for, and I don’t know anyone who is Reformed and denies that.

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  91. What about the mundane among the flock that affirm adoption solely through faith in Christ, attend to the means of grace, try to pay our mortgage, keep our children in line, enjoy a whisky at the end of the day, etc, but could benefit from a rector pronouncing the moral law?

    RKB, this is the crowd for whom the emphasis on grace tends to resonate. It’s my crowd, a working crowd, and we don’t take well to any galling suggestion that we don’t affirm law. How are we attending with regularity the means of grace, paying bills and raising families if we deny law? The mundane crowd plodding through life don’t get much of a break from the obedience boys.

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  92. Justification is logically prior to all else, but are we not working in some sense in our sanctification if the Spirit is working in us to will and to work for His good pleasure in a way that that is not true of justification. It seems to me that we are. But sometimes I get the impression from some quarters that we are to be down on ourselves if we want to be holy or more consistent in our obedience. That somehow entails that we’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus and our justification. Really? We’d have to get rid of Hebrews and its call to strive for holiness.

    Robert, to my understanding, sanctification is as much through faith alone and by grace alone as justification is. What exactly is to be lost by that? And just as it structures our justification, the law certainly structures our sanctification—the difference is that Jesus alone perfectly earns our justification by doing the law while we imperfectly obey it in our sanctification. But to say we are contributing to our sanctification strikes me as off the mark as saying we contribute to our justification. God alone does both. And I don’t see what wrong with being “down on ourselves.” Is it not true that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin? I don’t think the point is to dispense with striving so much as it is to temper our notions of success in striving.

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  93. @ Robert: That is indeed the answer I’m looking, and that’s what the “grace” side is saying, to the consternation of some. So the next question is, Why the consternation?

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  94. Jeff,

    This is very helpful and so clearly presented – thank you. I believe you hit the nail right on the head. It is so easy just to simply ‘follow’ without thinking through the issues.

    D.G. encouraged me yesterday regarding the fear of ‘being disciplined’ for holding to a truly Reformed view of Justification, but I still wonder if there will be ‘soft admonishment’ – ‘quiet rejections, etc., in local churches. Also, when a point of view is made so obviously clear, there are still plenty of places for people to hide in the language of theology – ” Oh, you are taking me wrong……that’s not what I intended……I never meant that……never said that……….that’s not what the text says exegetically……..and so on.

    Maybe a graphic analogy will suffice for the aforementioned (concerning denials):

    The building design in the link above (by reknown architect Leon Krier)

    Is it classical….or….modern?

    Theological polemics are much like architecture.

    (Answer – the Krier design is both classical and modern, or, in theologically-analogous terms, it is Neonomian/Semi-Pelagian)

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  95. Zrim – we’re all in the grace crowd but you missed the point, which is the tendency of many in that crowd to pit grace/gospel against the law in a believer, per the frog article.

    I think you’re wrong about us plodders not getting a break from the obedience boys. Actually, it’s the other way around. A corrective against those who insist that, for the redeemed, gospel and that thing written on our hearts are locked in combat and that our grace-enabled strivings are futile, and for whom failure brings freedom (see http://liberate.org/2014/02/14/jeremy-abbott-and-freedom-in-failure/), was badly needed. I’m sure the responses of the obedience boys aren’t perfect, but they’re a start.

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  96. @ RKB: “I’m sure the responses of the obedience boys aren’t perfect…”

    What imperfections do you see in them?

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  97. Jeff – in regard to the responses to the TT issue (the ones I have in mind), none jump to mind, though that doesn’t mean I vouch for them. What’s your point?

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  98. While this theological discussion has been helpful, I nonetheless suspect that this is a social dispute masquerading as a theological dispute. It’s no accident that most of the Obedience Boys are men who are fairly committed to the Culture War. I sincerely doubt that these men are browbeating their mostly Southern congregations on various persistent sins that are widely tolerated among white, middle-class Southerners, e.g., gluttony, gossip, slander, greed, etc. In fact, I suspect that they’re generally not willing to demand too much in the obedience department beyond what’s demanded by the surrounding civil-Christian culture. After all, moral crusades are almost never about morality; rather, their generally about power. In this case, it’s another effort by the Southern pietists in the PCA to restore themselves to their erstwhile place of privilege within the denomination. The election of Bryan Chappell as moderator of the GA suggests that their efforts will likely prove to be vain.

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  99. @ RKB: I don’t have a specific point, so much as I was trying to figure out what your baseline assumptions are.

    The thing that sticks out to me the most is charges of “antinomianism” that are … a poor fit.

    After all, antinomianism is teaching that because we are under grace, we need not obey the Law. I have never encountered any Presbyterian teaching that.

    In the case of TT, I’ve not read him extensively (3/4 of One Way Love, 32 minutes of video), but he actually makes a Big Point of saying that we are obligated to obey the Law.

    So the antinomian charge is a poor fit, and that then makes me wonder (1) why the charge is made, and (2) why the actual teachings aren’t criticized, over against the “impression given by the teachings.”

    I say that by way of laying my cards on the table.

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  100. Jeff: Out of what does growth come? From HS-powered effort or through faith?
    There might be a good answer here, but as the statements stand, it appears that the answer is “both.”

    mark: After law and gospel have been confused, there is no difference between Holy Spirit effort and resting in the gospel. Jeff, I am glad that you see the difference. Resting partly in the obedience which the Holy Spirit will enable us to do is not resting in the gospel.

    Could you tell us what you mean by “union”/

    Do you mean Christ “in us” or us “in Christ”.?

    Do you mean “election in Christ”?

    Ephesians 1– Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He CHOSE US IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, according to the purpose of His will,

    Do you mean “righteousness in Christ” ?

    II Corinthians 5:21 For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that IN HIM we become the righteousness of God.

    Do you mean “union by faith”? If “union” is instrumentally because of faith, where does faith come if faith does not come from “union”?

    And then your question—
    Is this faith passive or is it effort?
    Does this faith have two objects, one of which is the working of faith?

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  101. Jeff, I’m very impressed with Tullian, and agree that he teaches the third use of the Law in the Reformed tradition, from what I have read of him, so the antinomian charge is totally undeserved.

    Bobby, ….”you have a keen eye, where did you acquire it?” (Credit to screenplay writer Christopher Fry) Great insight.

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  102. RKB, again, if Paul can do it then I’m not clear on what the problem is in pitting gospel against the law in a believer:

    For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

    So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

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  103. Bobby – sins widely tolerated among white, middle-class southerners? Yeah, we sure love heaping helpings of greed and slander to go along with, of course, our racism. Thank goodness I didn’t see porn on the list. Guess that’s more of a rust belt thing.

    Zrim – aren’t we talking about the inner being and the striving against the flesh? Who ever said we’d cast off the shackles of the flesh?

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  104. I just heard a story the other day about a Christian homeschooler who married young and recently committed adultery. Very sad. There is no magic formula to grow up a mature Christian man or woman.

    It’s more important to focus on character qualities in the individual vs. the external context in which those character qualities are developed. You can be surrounded by pagans and still develop those qualities. You can be surrounded by Christians and still fail to develop them.

    The best we can do for our young people is give them a solid church to grow up in, model Christian character, teach them law & gospel (confessions & catechisms are a good tool), and prepare them for how the world they will encounter as adults really is.

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  105. I generally argue that the Christian kid who survives public school is better prepared to face temptation than kids who have been sheltered from the world their whole upbringing. You see sin, you see people not being nice, you see people making bad choices, you make some mistakes, but ultimately if you embrace your faith and mature in it you emerge stronger than you otherwise might. The things that the world has to offer lose their allure as you see the futility that they can ultimately lead to. If this is denied to you by someone else until you leave home, you may still have to go out and figure that out for yourself, and if this happens when you have a wife and a young kid it’s easy to make life-altering and life-defining mistakes.

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  106. Bobby, I recognize that sentiment. Pinch, poke you owe me a coke. Hold the peanuts. I have to credit my southern wife for even knowing such a drink existed. I’m forever gonna be on the outside of this denomination looking in. Thank God.

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  107. @Semper

    I’m a lawyer; I always assume that people are working some angle. I’ve also spent a fair number of years living in the South and attending Southern PCA churches.

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  108. @RKB

    I was leaving out racism as a kindness. But since you mentioned it, I also found that racism and sexism are pretty common in the Southern PCA. I played golf once with some guys from a PCA church I was attending in the Southeast. Two of the guys were elders. I was pretty shocked by the things that these middle-aged “Christian” men said about women and minorities when they believed themselves to be in like company.

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  109. d4, the justification prioritists have always said that good works are the fruit of faith. Unionists haven’t liked the priority of justification but have wanted to insist that justification and sanctification are simultaneous, which sounds like good works are simultaneous with faith.

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  110. Semper, what you wrote is fine. I don’t think, though, you want to say that justification is the cause of sanctification. It is logically prior, but the Spirit or effectual calling is the cause (in one of those Aristotelian senses).

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  111. d4, and I’ll push back with the confession (the part you left out):

    5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

    That doesn’t sound like Jones (especially if you listen to his Reformed Forum interview).

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  112. Robert, but consider this. The Obedience Boys are in a communion where attention the the fourth commandment is — let’s say — not what it used to be. Where’s the concern for obedience as churchmen? Or is this just bluster, a chance to move up in the blog pecking order by taking on Billy Graham’s grandson?

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  113. Bobby,

    What is interesting (relating to your observations about angles) is how the GRN meets every year right before the General Assembly…….kind of like coupling rail-cars with the locomotive in the railyard, and there does not appear to be the same opportunity/forum with resources for those who hold to the classic Confessional soteriology positions to have a conference also (equal time). Maybe I missed it somewhere, but I don’t think there is such a thing.

    I do believe that more people in the PCA are waking up to classic Reformed theology, which is why there is such a storm in a tea-cup about these issues, and naturally, would mean (for those who are unionists/semi-pelagians, etc.) that they are losing power.

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  114. D. G. Hart
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 1:45 am | Permalink
    Semper, what you wrote is fine. I don’t think, though, you want to say that justification is the cause of sanctification.

    Exactamundacious, Dr. Hart. Although believing one or the other as soteriological fact won’t save any one of our wretched asses on Judgment Day either way.

    If I understand your theology correctly.

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  115. Thank you Dr. Hart; appreciate your kind words and your explanation on the Justification/Sanctification question.

    May I ask:

    Is it correct to say that the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) prioritized Justification in their soteriology as it relates to the process and experience of sanctification?

    And based upon your answer to me just now, is it correct to say that the Holy Spirit (Spirit of Christ) causes us to understand, believe in, and appropriate (by the faith He gives us) the finished work of Christ for our sins and imperfect obedience in this life (*Justification) while also creating new desires in us for holiness (Sanctification)?

    *Justification being a one-time act, an announcement of being declared ‘not guilty’, as understood so far.

    And is it correct to say/assert – that understanding, believing in, and appropriating Christ’s finished work on our behalf is a lifelong practice that should never wane or diminish, but should be consistently emphasized/prioritized, so that we can be free from guilt, and in/with gratitude serve the Lord?

    I thought that I had read where both Calvin and Luther made remarks to the effect that Justification is the cause of Sanctification, or that Sanctification is the result of Justification, or words to that effect, but I can’t recall the referenced work.

    Many thanks.

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  116. Semper Reformanda
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:27 am | Permalink
    Thank you Dr. Hart; appreciate your kind words and your explanation on the Justification/Sanctification question.

    I thought that I had read where both Calvin and Luther made remarks to the effect that Justification is the cause of Sanctification, or that Sanctification is the result of Justification, or words to that effect, but I can’t recall the referenced work.

    Dang. Dr. Hart, please do clarify for the poor gentleman. I’d try to help but my scorecard has almost as many scratchouts as his!

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  117. Semper, I’m not qualified to speak for Calvin or Luther. But here is how the French Reformed churches articulated many of these matters in 1559 (and I believe Calvin had a hand in this confession):

    17. We believe that by the perfect sacrifice that the Lord Jesus offered on the cross, we are reconciled to God, and justified before him; for we can not be acceptable to him, nor become partakers of the grace of adoption, except as he pardons [all] our sins, and blots them out. Thus we declare that through Jesus Christ we are cleansed and made perfect; by his death we are fully justified, and through him only can we be delivered from our iniquities and transgressions.

    18. We believe that all our justification rests upon the remission of our sins, in which also is our only blessedness, as saith the Psalmist (Psa. xxxii. 2). We therefore reject all other means of justification before God, and without claiming any virtue or merit, we rest simply in the obedience of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to us as much to blot out all our sins as to make us find grace and favor in the sight of God. And, in fact, we believe that in falling away from this foundation, however slightly, we could not find rest elsewhere, but should always be troubled. Forasmuch as we are never at peace with God till we resolve to be loved in Jesus Christ, for of ourselves we are worthy of hatred.

    19. We believe that by this means we have the liberty and privilege of calling upon God, in full confidence that he will show himself a Father to us. For we should have no access to the Father except through this Mediator. And to be heard in his name, we must hold our life from him as from our chief.

    20. We believe that we are made partakers of this justification by faith alone, as it is written: ‘He suffered for our salvation, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish.’ And this is done inasmuch as we appropriate to our use the promises of life which are given to us through him, and feel their effect when we accept them, being assured that we are established by the Word of God and shall not be deceived. Thus our justification through faith depends upon the free promises by which God declares and testifies his love to us.

    21. We believe that we are enlightened in faith by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, that it is a gratuitous and special gift which God grants to whom he will, so that the elect have no cause to glory, but are bound to be doubly thankful that they have been preferred to others. We believe also that faith is not given to the elect only to introduce them into the right way, but also to make them continue in it to the end. For as it is God who hath begun the work, he will also perfect it.

    22. We believe that by this faith we are regenerated in newness of life, being by nature subject to sin. Now we receive by faith grace to live holily and in the fear of God, in accepting the promise which is given to us by the Gospel, namely: that God will give us his Holy Spirit. This faith not only doth not hinder us from holy living, or turn us from the love of righteousness, but of necessity begetteth in us all good works. Moreover, although God worketh in us for our salvation, and reneweth our hearts, determining us to that which is good, yet we confess that the good works which we do proceed from his Spirit, and can not be accounted to us for justification, neither do they entitle us to the adoption of sons, for we should always be doubting and restless in our hearts, if we did not rest upon the atonement by which Jesus Christ hath acquitted us.

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  118. Well done, Dr. Hart.

    Although

    I thought that I had read where both Calvin and Luther made remarks to the effect that Justification is the cause of Sanctification, or that Sanctification is the result of Justification, or words to that effect, but I can’t recall the referenced work.

    wasn’t actually answered, you gave “Semper Reformada” a more useful answer [yours?] in his quest for theological clarity in the 21st century.

    Which is cool.

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  119. Bobby- Re: racism/sexism. I think the first clue was that they play sports (if we can call golf a sport).

    Dr. Hart- good point on have lack of Sabbath keeping in the PCA. Mark Jones wrote a very silly post on Ref21 the other day about the World Cup(!) and mentioned the Sabbath in a very sneering way.

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  120. I’ll admit that I have read both Jones and T² incompletely as far as this debate goes (and otherwise, of course), but I don’t hear any of the Obedience Crew insisting on the simultaneity of faith and sanctification. I guess I could further admit that could be due to my own preconceptions.

    Regarding my omission of 16.5, obviously the OC would affirm that. So you’re saying they’re (at best) inconsistent in their affirmations? Isn’t that what at least some people are saying about T². The Liberate article linked above (not by Tchavidj.) makes progress in obedience sound like a pipe dream Jesus himself might not be able to help one with. [/preposition]

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  121. RKB, I thought we were talking about what it means to be at once sinful and justified, a strange existence east of Eden.

    Alexander, invented in the land of Presbyterians, golf is the sport of pilgrims–a good walk ruined.

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  122. DGH: “Robert, but consider this. The Obedience Boys are in a communion where attention the the fourth commandment is — let’s say — not what it used to be. Where’s the concern for obedience as churchmen? Or is this just bluster, a chance to move up in the blog pecking order by taking on Billy Graham’s grandson?”

    At the bottom of Mark Jones’ latest blog post at Ref21: “Pastor Mark Jones is on an airplane en route to Houston for the PCA GA. He faces some incredibly difficult decisions at GA, such as which World Cup games to watch on television and what Scotch he will drink.”

    Odd to be making (or allowing) a lighthearted quip about GA, especially considering the state of the PCA. Seems a true churchman would not make such a comment, at least not publicly. Nor would he disrespect WSC and a certain one of its adjunct Profs on Facebook. Where is the obedience, the humility? Maybe he just gets a free pass because he is something of a celebrity now…

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  123. d4, Philips is on record as being a pronounced unionist and with unionism goes simultaneity. Jones waffles on 16.5 in his Reformed Forum interview.

    Come on. Get up to speed.

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  124. The ranting and raving of Derek T and Todd P and Mark J gives the PCA another excuse not to deal with the doctrine of justification at the GA. If they keep talking about holiness by our law keeping, they won’t have time to talk about the Good News of an already possessed justification based on Christ’s finished atonement for all the sins of all the elect.

    They keep saying—–we are not talking about justification.

    Yes, that’s the problem.

    If faith is effort, and the not-yet aspect of justification depends on faith, then the not-yet aspect of justification simultaneously depends on works.

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  125. This synopsis of Derek Thomas’s talk is interesting. Thomas, by implication, critiques the HB catechism as defective because of its primary motive of gratitude for our obedience. For him that is insufficient. I would submit that it is a false choice to pit gratitude against 1) the motive of obedience because these are simply God’s commands and 2) the necessity of holiness in our lives. The unbeliever hears the law and as far as obedience says – forget it. He is against God’s law.
    Mark, my two cents…

    What is the reason a believer considers God’s holy commands as not only obligatory, but now desirable? Because of the mercy shown him, a rebel to the Law, in Christ Jesus. And as far as the “necessity for holiness”… what is meant by that? Certainly holiness of our entire being is in the eternal purpose of God for each of the elect. So for the reason of God’s decreed will holiness is indeed necessary. And therefore obedience in that context is necessary for all those Christ saved. The justified are sanctified! And having the law written on their hearts they, former rebels, now agree with it. But does the believer consider it “necessary” as conditional for his salvation? No. He considers it necessary as the reasonable and logical response of gratitude in his heart to the One who bore the curse of his sins in His bloody death and purchased eternal life for him by His perfect obedience to the Law. Gratitude requires that it’s unthinkable to not respond by offering oneself unto God for righteous living. So gratitude as the primary motive infuses all other motives of obedience for the blood-washed, justified sinner.

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  126. Questions for the obedience boys – Are you more aware of your obedience or more aware of your sin? And, are you more assured by your obedience than you are troubled by your sin? Christ came as the answer to the sin problem which, until we die, is with us. I would propose that those confident in their daily obedience logically have no need of Christ’s daily cleansing of their consciences. But really, who is that self-confident?

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  127. “The union of law and gospel in the pursuit of “union” priority is the confusion of law and gospel, so that law no longer kills and the gospel is no longer gospel.”

    Haha! McMark, you said it! ………… 😀

    It’s encouraging that the brethren here do not buy into the priority of union with Christ over justification. The “for you” of justification on the cross is foundation of the “in you” of the union, if I as a Lutheran may be permitted to appeal to the Reformed (and Lutheran Orthodox) distinction. Furthermore, the priority of Gaffin et al has Trinitarian (ad extra — economic) implications. The work of the Son always precedes the work of the Spirit. This is especially pertinent for those who confess the filioque (as western Christians) as referring to both the immanent and economic Trinity.

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  128. I think d4 is further behind than I initially thought. First he couldn’t spell his name, then he cited an article out of context which he seems to have only heard from his celebrity pastor. He then proceeded to duck the question that questioned his implied siding with the obedience crowd.

    By the way, the article says “..by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance..” See the word ‘strengthen’? That assumes assurance already exists; it’s pretty impossible to have any ounce of assurance when sanctification and justification are simultaneous. That’s unless you ‘have faith’ in some form of self-help.

    Say hello to Oprah and Dr. Phil.

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  129. Todd P—So long as we are south of heaven gratitude alone will never fully suffice.

    mcmark: I agree that whatever we ever do, be it faith or works or gratitude, will never be enough. That is why I am so glad that Christ’s righteousness is completely enough.

    My gratitude will not suffice, but my fear will suffice? Or is gratitude plus fear of the future judgment together which will suffice? Does not fear of the not-yet aspect of justification based on (or according to) my works cancel out my gratitude? Not only what we do, but also all motives for what we do, none of it is enough. That is why we must not to put our motives and works and faith into competition with ( which is same as addition to, Galatians 2:21) what Christ has already done in His death as satisfaction for all the sins of the elect.

    Your gratitude is never perfect nor sufficient, but adding some fear in there gets you closer? This fundy points to the binary. Christ’s righteousness alone. Plus nothing. Either or,,,,

    The clergy who talk about their own “observable holiness” and about what the rest of us still need to do motivated by fear of the judgment….they don’t seem to have much time left over for any discussion of Christ’s righteousness or God’s imputation of it

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  130. jason–The work of the Son always precedes the work of the Spirit

    mcmark: Amen to that. One of my constant questions is— if faith (hearing the gospel) is a blessing given based on the meritorious basis of Christ’s righteousness, then how can that faith be given logically before God baptizes the elect into Christ’s death? My answer is that God imputes the righteousness (places, plants into the death) as a means in order to regeneration, faith and justification

    Romans 8: 9 Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    Galatians 4::5, “to redeem those who WERE UNDER THE LAW , so that we would receive ADOPTION as sons. 6 And BECAUSE YOU ARE SONS, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!

    II Peter 1:1—– To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF OUR GOD AND OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

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  131. Mr. Miller, so appreciate the synopsis of your review of Derek Thomas, and how he feels that the Heidleberg Catechism as defective. What did Columbo typically say……..Erik?
    To Dr. Hart, and fellow bloggers, many thanks for bringing out the Union specifics.

    I love the PCA – so many,many excellent, good and great people, sincere and loving believers, the best of the best, although, doctrinally, it is a mixed-bag. I do want them to know of my love, and that my comments are more for the few who influence the many, whom I respect and love in the Lord also, even though their emphases do earn the title of being the ‘obedience boys’, because they have the emphasis on the wrong sil-la-ble.

    Below, I will try to offer a synopsis of my experience in the PCA below in being under the influence of the ‘Obedience Boys-Types’ – for years:

    – Came to the PCA from a Charismatic Background (Repented of and Forsaken that!)

    – Began attending, and my first impression (from the way the pastor-others talked/emphasized) was that in order to be considered as committed-real-authentic, I had to become involved in the type of discipleship was that was emphasized as ‘getting plugged-in, meeting with someone once a week for accountability, and in addition become part of a small group (singles, undershepherd group, etc.), and volunteering (actually ‘being required’) to serve the church in various ministries/work parties/choir/missions, etc. I did attend an inquirers class, and we went over the 5 points, etc., but it was very minimal on Reformed theology.

    – Over the course of the next several years, there was much teaching in the vein/way of encouraging ‘Every Member Involvement’, admonishments about people not serving in the church and being true to their vow ‘to support the church in it’s worship and work’, etc., and, it seemed, much teaching based on a contemporary author/pastor/their books, etc., (in many instances, not Reformed), and so much about counseling, marriage, finances, debt, and missions. I found the Faith Promise giving concept to be so maddening, and if you didn’t participate, it seemed that everyone noticed. All the while, throughout, no one hardly/ever? (to my recollection) taught on Calvin’s Institutes, or much at all in the way of Reformed Theology (Luther, Calvin, Turretin, Ursinus, Owen, Warfield, etc.). I remember buying a copy of the Westminster Confession, and was interested to read it, but there was not much in the way of instruction about it or anything else that resembled Reformed Theology in my recollection. As long as you regularly attended, met with someone one-on-one, were serving in the church, and part of a small group, you were considered as ‘committed-spiritual’. I am not saying that we should not love and serve our church/neighbors, but this was the ‘approval stamp’ for being considered a true believer. It was like a mandate – in fact, when I think of the ‘Obamacare individual mandate’, it reminds me of my experiences (Law-based, with ‘elder brothers’ in abundance).

    – It was not until about 8 years ago that I was introduced to Reformed Theology/Soteriology by a kindred spirit saint in that same church body, in a very excellent, loving, and entreating way. This really changed my life, and I am so appreciative (gratitude). (Gospel-based and Christ-Centered).

    As you can see by my sketch of events from past experiences, what I was not getting before, and what I have received in the past 8 years is very telling about what is wrong with the PCA.

    My synopsis?

    With what I see in ‘the obedience boys’, the one-on-one accountability/small group discipleship, every member involvement/being plugged-in, total surrender/giving till it hurts/burning out instead of rusting out…..readers can add more……is the ‘centerpiece’ of their piety – and the overemphasis on these things (which I also see in them) will definitely cause one to lapse into a form of ‘works-righteousness’. That was what happened to me, and the residue of that experience is still taking time to overcome, even as I write.

    By contrast, what I see among the Reformed/Confessional believers (Reformed/Lutheran/Calvinistic soteriology that prioritizes Justification) is a love for Christ grounded in assurance, a natural ability to do their work quietly, love and serve their neighbors, enjoy the arts and their personal interests, even seeing these as ways in which they may be avenues for sharing the Gospel, and a natural and loving interest to care for the saints in the local church, without ‘the individual mandate’ and the metrics that accompany it. As I learned recently from someone who knows well, ‘the Gospel is the ‘centerpiece’ of Reformed Theology. I withhold the name of the author of the quote only out of respect for their privacy.

    Last thought – all PCA churches and ministers are not like my several-year experience, but it is an element/percentage component of the makeup of the PCA. There was/were many good things I learned in spite of the lack of understanding what it means to be Reformed, and I am sincere in expressing appreciation for the same, and many wonderful people – underscored, italicized, boldened. It’s a top-down problem, I think, and it depends on ‘who has the hammer’.

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  132. MM- So faith is a result of the righteousness of Christ being imputed to the sinner? Righteousness and then faith??

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  133. Semper Reformanda,

    I can relate to your experience in the PCA except my 19 years of faithful church attendance was begun in the discipleship/shepherding wing of the charismatic movement that began being influenced by Rushdoony, North and other reconstructionist thinkers in the late 70’s and on throughout the 80’s. The same things that you noted were also what was emphasized from the pulpits in the churches I attended during those years. Accountability groups were taken to the extreme and when I began running into marital difficulties the inquisitions got quite heated in the close and tight knit church I attended. Lots of things were said and taught that should have not been said and taught. I think that is enough said to get the picture.

    I was very close to the Pastor, his family, and my kids and their kids were involved in a lot of activities together. He was attending Calvin seminary during the years I attended the church and because of the theological reading I enjoyed doing we discussed lots of theology together. We met most every Saturday morning for probably two years while he provided marital counseling that usually ended up in the discussion of theological matters he was learning at the seminary.

    The Pastor became heavily involved in planting churches in the Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) with the mentoring and financial backing of a shepherding group from England who were in relationship with the leaders of the discipleship/shepherding movement in the States. My point being is that there was quite a flurry of activity that was going on in the church I was attending, and the weird thing about it was that the theology being taught was a mix of culture winning reformed theology and charismatic ecclesiology and structure. I was being weaned into this whole ordeal but my marital difficulties were preventing me from being involved in greater leadership responsibilities. They were trying to get me there, but the whole thing ended badly, probably for the better, when looked back upon with more of a providential understanding and perspective now.

    During this time I began reading Modern Reformation magazine and was introduced to Michael Horton’s book PUTTING AMAZING BACK INTO GRACE.

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  134. whoops, I posted accidentally,

    During this time I began reading Modern Reformation magazine and was introduced to Michael Horton’s book PUTTING AMAZING BACK INTO GRACE. It came at a good time in my life but it put me at odds with some of the Pastor’s beliefs. He was leaning more Edwardsian than me and we broke off meeting together. I then left the church after completing my studies at Calvin and then got more heavily involved in our family business that then began a whole other set of conflicts and disagreements with family members and coworkers who were mostly family members too. The obedience boys versus grace boys themes have been a part of my life for many years now. And I am still trying to sort it all out.

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  135. Alexander says,

    MM- So faith is a result of the righteousness of Christ being imputed to the sinner? Righteousness and then faith??

    That coment reveals a curious blindness. I bet McMark has probably said that over a hundred times in his posts over the last 2 years and really is a crucial point in the controversies between the grace boys and obedience boys. The “mystical unionists” and most confessionalists reject the forensic imputation union as having priority over the mystical union and disagree about when and how this occurs. This big problem is that Calvin and the reformers were not clear or waffled on this issue and everyone cherry picks the quotes they take as most important.

    McMark even said it again with relevant scripture passages just a few post ago. Therein lies the problem. The reformed have been taught for so long that regeneration preceeds faith that it won’t get dislodged from minds that easily. However, I am not sure you would call yourself reformed, Alexander. btw, who do you draw from and read a lot of?

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  136. Dear John,

    Thanks so very much for sharing your story – I can really relate to you on many touchstone points. There was a lot that I didn’t share about, but in a nutshell I had a failed business, and then had a major disappointment with my next job (even though I was evaluated with high marks), and the second attempt at business fizzled, and I had to go to work washing dishes and food preparation for several years, while living off of my wife’s income for a fair season of time. I was not alone, as this happened to others as well. What did not help was having our church being so influenced by Law-based counselors in-situ (you know, obey the imperatives, confess-confess-confess, find the sin that so easily besets you and repent of it, and then the gates of blessing will open wide……problem finding a job? nothing working out? what sin is preventing God’s Hand from moving for you……..) it was awful.

    I can also relate about the Edwardsian aspect also – somehow, Edwards makes people feel as though they can have a halo in this life for everyone to see if they will follow his prescriptions…

    God bless you, brother, truly in the Lord.

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  137. John, “Regeneration” IS always before faith (hearing the gospel). What you wrote could be read as if I disagreed with that. I don’t. The new birth is always before faith. The continuing question is about what comes before regeneration.

    Does God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness come before faith? Or is faith an instrumental cause of God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness? But nobody ( here that I know of) is denying that faith is before justification, or that regeneration is before faith.

    I do not want to discount the wonderful news that God gives the elect a new heart to understand and to keep believing the gospel. Regeneration makes it surre that the justified, despite their continuing sins, will never stop believing the gospel . “I John 3:9, “No one born of God sins, because God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot sin because he has been born of God.”

    I John 3:9 is not only saying that the justified elect cannot be charged with the sin of not believing the gospel. t is true that Christ died as a result of being imputed with all the elect person’s sins (including their not believing). But Christ also died in order to give the Spirit to the elect so that the elect would abide in the gospel, and the gospel would abide in the elect.

    When I deny that the Spirit gives Christ or that the Spirit unites to Christ, I am not denying that Christ gives the Spirit or that the Spirit gives the elect person a new heart. But I do disagree with John Calvin’s conclusion that the Holy Spirit must join the elect person to Christ’s person before that person is imputed with Christ’s righteousness.

    Here’s the famous quotation from Calvin (3:11:10): “I confess that we are deprived of justification until Christ is made ours. Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed.. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that His righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into His body—in short because he deigns to make us one with Him.”

    Calvin seems to think this order is very important, and so do the academics (Barth, Torrance, Gaffin) who seem to write every essay so that they can get to that quotation. To then 3:11:10 trumps anything else Calvin wrote, so that you are supposed to ignore anything which is consistent with their quotation and read book two in light of their quotation. For some of this, it’s all about eating Christ in the eucharist, so that Christ in us gets the priority over us in Christ.

    As long as Christ is outside us, they say, His righteousness is not yet imputed to us, therefore faith in Christ comes before justification. Of course they agree in theory that there is an eternal election, but there’s hardly any need to ever talk about the sins of the elect having already been imputed to Christ before His death. They conclude that faith is the condition of union with Christ and that this union with Christ is the condition of justification.

    They dismiss Berkhof as teaching “mere extrinsicism”

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

    “Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.” (systematic, p 452)

    In his preface to the new P and R edition of Gaffin’s By Faith Not by Sight , Mark Jones also confuses John Cotton’s position of faith and justification. Mark Jones falsely identifies imputation before faith with justification before faith.

    In A Faire and Easy to Heaven (1978, p 43), William Stoever quotes John Cotton: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth.”

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  138. John- I’m so very sorry that I have not read and also committed to memory every single post that McMark has read. I read that statement in this debate and the phrasing was new to me so I responded.

    The WCF says we receive and rest upon Christ’s righteousness by faith; that this faith is the result of the work of the Spirit in our hearts. The SC says that the redemption purchased by Christ is applied to the believer by the Spirit working faith in him. If you can explain how McMark’s statement is consistent with this teaching then fine.

    I may not be “reformed” according to the OPC or PCA and for that I’m thankful. Over here we still hold to the Westminster Standards; we still observe the RPW and the Sabbath. You don’t. The people we take our theological teaching from are the likes of Calvin, Turretin, Boston, John Brown of Haddington, the Erskines, Fisher, Watson &c. These are the writers used in our divinity classes; read by our people.

    But I’m confused: I thought McMark was the one who repudiated the Reformed moniker?

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  139. McMark- thanks for your last post, it clarified for me you’re thinking on this issue. Though I would disagree with you. At the end of the day, as I’ve said before, the whole “union debate” over there is a bit of a puzzlement to me. It’s not one that is in play over here, but still interesting (at times).

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  140. McMark and Alexander,

    I obviously was not as clear as I thought I was being in my posts. Here is a quote by Abraham Booth that I think I was trying to put into this puzzle of the ordo salutis- perhaps wrongly:

    Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings

    p 238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it..It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

    p 247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    p 249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations.

    So, I read this as saying that the influence of divine truth (law and gospel) can take place in a person before faith or regeneration takes place. The effectual call (a better word than regeneration because regeneration implies a change of substance in the individual) occurs when the elect are placed into the death of Christ and passively receive Christ’s righteousness and this is what causes the effectual call, faith and repentance. Even though these elements involved in the effectual call occur simultaneously it is the placing into the death of Christ by God the Father which has the logical priority and is the reason for the Spirit being sent to the elect. This faith and repentance results in the justification but it is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness that is the cause of faith and repentance (effectual call). It is easy to get all this confused in our minds when you are not careful in your writing or speech. And I was not as careful as I thought I was being. McMark has explained what he said to me in that last post before so my bad for not being clear again.

    Therefore, it is important to be teaching the Law and Gospel accurately or it is possible for someone to be believing false things about both what the Law and the Gospel is. That is what Paul was laboring for throughout his missionary journeys and with the other New Testament Apostles. At least that is the way I read the New Testament for what that is worth.

    Alexander, I guess I have to throw back at me what I said to you. And McMark did answer your inquiry about the confessional statements although I know he does not agree with some of what the confessional statements say in both the WCF and the SC. That is why he does not call himself reformed.

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  141. Semper,

    I feel your pain- so, there may be more to the story about the guy who is thrown out into the streets by the obedience boys. Especially if you start digging in your heels about what the Gospel really is. The obedience boys will want to get rid of you and like to make a whipping boy out of you as an example for all to see. They don’t want you to influence others to start asking embarrassing questions. The point being, if you are having severe difficulties in your life run from the obedience boys churches- you may never recover from the axe that falls. And forget about the possibility of reconciliation again. They are not going to be the father welcoming you back with open arms when Gospel repentance does become a reality in your life. You will have to prove yourself by the appropriate types of transformation they are looking for. There is some truth to that but they often times are not seeing the bigger picture of what the Gospel is. It is still about internal righteousness to them that they think they have but you don’t.

    I appreciate your comments- it is rare to get them when you are at a place in your life that I am at right now. Very difficult to deal with and it is easy to wallow in anger and bitterness again when things are not changing as fast as you want them to. The victory dance gets much more applause and attention.

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  142. Well effectual calling and regeneration are not the same things. The effectual call is the whole process of being brought to a saving knowledge and interest in Christ; regeneration is the end result of that process. And it is a perfect word for what it describes because it is a true, real, vital change from true spiritual death to true spiritual life.

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  143. And if someone rejects teachings of the Westminster standards- especially in such fundamental areas- then, well, they’re not Reformed. If you reject the Reformed doctrine then how can you still be Reformed?

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  144. I should have added that the obedience boys may let you back into their good graces again if you show the appropriate transformation and start agreeing with what they are teaching, otherwise, you might as well start trying to build your life from scratch again. Or, you might be fortunate and find other “Cave of Adullum” dwellers (see 1 Samuel chapter 22) who may encourage you along your journey. They are the ones that Jesus and Paul liked to hang with and who responded best to their teaching about the Gospel.

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  145. Sexy Alexy,

    I don’t call myself reformed anymore either- even though I believe now in the 5 points of Calvinism (when perseverance is understood as continuing belief in the Gospel). However, I also believe you can believe in the 5 points of Calvinism and not be a believer in the accurate biblical Gospel. You have to renounce and repent of all your self-righteousness, or what many call Spirit-helped internal holiness the way Paul did in Philippians chapter 3. He also gloried only in the cross of Christ.

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  146. John,

    Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I couldn’t agree with you more, and interestingly enough, we have discovered the ‘Caves of Adullam’ in our midst where we have found encouragement among like-minded saints. But you are so right concerning the obedience boys – they seem to be more interested in ‘looking on the outward’.

    When you’re in the middle of the trial(s), it is very hard, and relief does not appear to be anywhere in sight (Psalm 77 & Psalm 88) ~ those Psalms really mean so much to me. As Michael Horton related once on the White Horse Inn (hope I am quoting him accurately), ‘we don’t want to be like Job’s friends’ (my paraphrase).

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  147. Alex, are you waiting for me to say ‘oh, look at my good works. I must therefore be justified!’? Sorry, to dissappoint you and Mark Jones, but although faith doesn’t save me, I have faith in the Gospel and Christ’s merits are sufficient to justify me.

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  148. Alexy says this: “Well effectual calling and regeneration are not the same things. The effectual call is the whole process of being brought to a saving knowledge and interest in Christ; regeneration is the end result of that process. And it is a perfect word for what it describes because it is a true, real, vital change from true spiritual death to true spiritual life.”

    JohnnY says: What is the whole process of being brought to a saving knowledge and interest in Christ and when does the imputation of righteousness occur in the process? Or, does that come after effectual call (or what you call regeneration). How then can one use the phrase justification of the ungodly like Paul does in Romans?

    Michael Horton wrote a good chapter on effectual call in his book, COVENANT AND SALVATION UNION WITH CHRIST. Equating regeneration with vital change is not very clear.

    I had a “vital change” in my spiritual life when I was 18 years old and with the spiritual experiences I was seeking in the charismatic churches I was attending for 19 years. I was never taught the accurate biblical Gospel during those years so I ended up chasing experiences and transformations while not really getting what the Gospel was. The effectual call has content in the message (the Gospel) that must be taught accurately. I think that is what Romans chapter 10 is about. And it took 9 chapters of Romans to get to that point. Romans 4 is all about the imputation of righteousness and 6, 7 and 8 draw out the implications of Romans 4. Romans is about how forensic union with Christ takes place in God’s elect. It is a legal argument throughout. Paul is laboring to be clear about both Law and Gospel even though some things are hard to understand, as Peter says at the end of his second epistle.

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  149. Got this e-mail from a well-meaning guy I go to church with:

    “We’re excited about the Living for God Conference that is coming up next month.

    For three days – July 10-12 – we will, God willing, be hosting a conference on the power of God and the Christian life.

    Scott Brown, Steve Deace, Kevin Swanson, and Phil Kayser will be delivering 17 messages that aim to breathe vigor, love, and heart into your Christian walk.

    Here are big reasons for you to come:
    This conference is in your backyard: Iowa and the Midwest! It will be held in the auditorium of Faith Baptist Bible College.
    This conference is for your whole family: littles and bigs!
    This conference is needed! Families and Churches – Christians desperately need revitalization in the ways of God to be stirred up to love God and live for Him.
    This conference exalts the Word of God! The Bible that Jesus used to live and speak by is also our certain guide.
    The conference will have many others that you can both encourage and fellowship with!
    This conference comes for a bargain!

    The message titles, the venue, registration, and much more information can be found here: http://livingforgodconference.com/

    Whether you can come for the whole thing or just one or two days, I hope you will walk away with zeal to think from the Word of God, and consequently to live for God.

    I hope you can make it!”

    At least half the speakers are Baptists. One is best known as a talk radio host.

    The problem with stuff like this is the assumption that ordinary Word & Sacrament ministry is not enough.

    This same mistake underlies the ministries of “The Obedience Boys” and The Gospel Coalition. They are impatient with the church and evidently feel constrained by it, so they take it upon themselves to form an organization to “fill in the gaps”.

    Why do we need ecumenical coalitions? Churches do ecumenism. Who appointed these individual ministers to do ecumenism or form committees?

    These things are all variations of the same underlying mistakes — impatience and lack of trust in churches to do the work that Christ has appointed to them.

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  150. @ Alexander,

    I spent about a year here litigating this very issue with Mark McC, Zrim, and others. My point of view at the time, as yours is, was that it is without warrant or Reformed precedent to say that justification logically precedes faith.

    Several folk – notable David R and RL, but likely others as well – tipped me off to the fact that Ursinius argues for the logical priority of justification to faith in the commentary on the HC, and AA Hodge does the same in Outlines. That changed my picture of the the Reformed heritage of the view.

    I’m not persuaded of the view; I think it overplays the logic at the expense of the plain text of Scripture. But I am persuaded that it is a non-heterodox Reformed variant.

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  151. This is the kind of discussion that makes us dumb Baptists pull our hair out. Faith is a gracious gift. Regeneration is a gracious gift. Justification is a gracious gift. Sanctification is a gracious gift. Glorification is a gracious gift. Works have diddly squat to do with any of these things. It is Grace all the way down. Jesus Saves. Everything necessary to salvation is extra nous. What difference does it make if faith precedes or follows justification? I mean, whatever order you want to preach it in, as long as you keep works out of it, you are preaching the Gospel.
    (Stepping off soapbox)

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  152. Dan,

    “Sanctification is a gracious gift. Glorification is a gracious gift. Works have diddly squat to do with any of these things.”

    Works don’t factor into your progressive sanctification, nor your degree of reward/glory?

    “Everything necessary to salvation is extra nous.”

    So union and inherent (however inchoate) righteousness are not necessary to sanctification and salvation?

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  153. Dan,

    I did not know much, nor did I care, about the ordo salutis until they started arguing about it here at oldlife about 3 or 4 years ago. At least that is when I started checking in here. I was a member of a Lutheran church at that time and they don’t care about the ordo salutis either. In fact, I was told not to listen to the Reformed arguments about the ordo by other Lutherans because it would just confuse me and it was “too rational” anyways. They told me that the Christian faith contains lots of paradox and the ordo was a means that the reformed used to rely more on their reason than accept the mysteries of the faith that the Word of God contained. However, as I tried to understand the arguments better I was more and more drawn to what McMark was saying in his comments because no one was really refuting his arguments as far as I could tell. They would either ignore him or not really get what he was saying. Plus, some of what he said did not line up with the reformed big three confessional statements. Mark did have Scriptural backing with what he was saying and had some good theologians who he noted who were saying the same things he was saying too.

    I do think the ordo matters now

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  154. I have got a very sensitive mousepad on my laptop so it sometimes posts when I don’t want to post.
    I do think the ordo does matter because it has implications for how you live out the Christian life, ie. it helps define the critical issues in the Gospel. The summary of the ordo is found in Romans chapters 8-11 so it definitely is contained in the Scriptures.

    The arguments do get tedious and time consuming because we all by nature “hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.” I think I have learned a lot by listening to the various points of view about the ordo and how it fits in with the historia salutis. It has helped to clarify some confusing issues about the faith and has helped understand the opposing viewpoints better.

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  155. Dgh, I’m confused- is Cletus Van Damme the same person as TVD? delta tango victor, foxy damme Charlie; and are both CTC Catholics? I don’t follow the Catholic issues much here expect I do hone in on Sean’s comments occasionally.

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  156. Cletus—“So union and inherent (however inchoate) righteousness are not necessary to sanctification and salvation?”

    mark: Where does the Bible talk about an inherent or “imparted” righteousness? And what do you mean by “union” Do you mean “Christ in us” or “us in Christ”? Isn’t the righteousness through which grace reigns the righteousness of Christ? (Romans 5:21)

    Being “in Christ” is essential and necessary to salvation. Having Christ “in us” is essential and necessary to salvation.

    And certainly, regeneration ( and/or effectual calling) is before faith. A person who does not care about that order is simply not “Reformed”.

    I am thankful to Jeff for mentioning the history (Ursinius, AA Hodge). I would point to others like John Cotton (and Bavinck and Berkhof and Boehl) who gave the priority to the forensic, so that there is no indwelling of Christ before and apart from legal sharing in His righteousness.

    But I would make a distinction which is not always clear in Hodge or Berkhof. The idea of “imputation” has two senses, one which is always declaration but the other which (in some cases) is a legal sharing (transfer). I am NOT advocating “eternal justification”. Nor do I agree with the distinction between “active justification” and “passive justification”. Indeed, I am NOT saying that “justification” is before faith. It is God’s imputation (in the legal sharing sense) which I think has priority to the work of the Spirit in us.

    btw, Mike Horton says most of this in his Covenant Union book, in his response to Bruce McCormack on Horton, but then in the end Horton disagrees with McCormack about the significance of the point. , By saying that “union” is organic and therefore more than forensic, Horton jumps ahead to “sacramental union”.

    But make no mistake, it’s not just one of the sides of the “union” debate which cares about order, because the “unionists” are dogmatic that faith is before “union” (whatever that is) and that justification (not only the now but the not-yet aspect) is after “union” (whatever that is).

    Do not be fooled by those who want you to think “union priority” means that the rest of the benefits don’t matter in terms of order. “Union” is being used to eliminate the distinction between demand and promise.. Supposedly, after “union”, there is no more distinction between law and gospel And after there is no more distinction between demand and promise, there is no difference between Holy Spirit effort and resting in the gospel.

    But resting (partly) in the obedience which the Holy Spirit will enable us to do is NOT resting in the gospel.

    So Cletus (or Jeff), could you tell us what you mean by “union”/

    Do you mean “election in Christ”?

    Ephesians 1– Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He CHOSE US IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, according to the purpose of His will,

    Do you mean “righteousness in Christ” ?

    II Corinthians 5:21 For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that IN HIM we become the righteousness of God.

    Do you mean “union by faith”? If “union” is instrumentally because of faith, where does faith come if faith does not come from “union”?

    And is this “union-causing” faith passive or is this “union-causing” faith also effort?
    Does this faith have two objects, one of which is the working of faith?

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  157. CVD, the answer to your first question is no. The answer to your second question is that union and inherent righteousness are gracious gifts we are promised, to be fully realized in eternity.

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  158. Bavinck—When the Scriptures say of this justification in “a concrete sense” that it takes place by and through faith, then it does not intend to say that it is produced and wrought through that faith. Since Jesus Christ is all our righteousness and all benefits of grace are the fruits of his labor and of his labor alone; the blessings are entirely contained in his person and are not in any need of any addition on our part.

    Bavinck–The terminology, that active justification takes place unto and passive justification by and through faith may have some value against nomism; but the Scriptural language is entirely adequate provided it is understood Scripturally. Saving faith directs our eyes and heart from the very beginning away from ourselves and unto God’s mercy in Christ.

    Bavinck—Many have in later years, when the confessional power of the Reformation weakened, entered the way of self-examination, in order to be assured of the sincerity of their faith and their salvation. Thus was the focus shifted from the promise of God to the experience of the pious.

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

    Bavinck— If justification in every respect comes about after faith, faith becomes a condition, an activity, which must be performed by man beforehand, and it cannot be purely receptive. But if the righteousness, on the ground of which we are justified, lies wholly outside of us in Christ Jesus, then faith is not a “material cause” or a “formal cause.”

    Bavinck—Faith is not even a condition or instrument of justification, for it stands in relation to justification not as, for example, the eye to seeing or the ear to hearing. Faith is not a condition, upon which, nor an instrument or organ, through which we receive this benefit, but it is the acceptance itself of Christ and all his benefits, as He presents Himself to us through word and Spirit, and it includes therefore also the consciousness, that He is my Lord and I am his possession.

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

    H. Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, Vol. IV (4th ed.; Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1930), p 198—

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  159. John, I hope I hope I didn’t cause you any undue angst. I just find that these debates over the ordo salutis quickly become scholastic– in the worst sense of the word. I know that people are wired differently, and I have an impatient streak in me that compounds the frustration I feel sometimes. I had similar feelings years ago when I had to listen to premil dispys argue over the timing of the rapture. But there were many good Christians among them, and it didn’t hurt me to listen. But I will ask you the same question I asked some of them: where do you find your joy?

    BTW, I agree that McMark is a wonder. From long exposure, I am very familiar with the kind of Hardshell position he advocates, but he expresses it extremely well and has a knowledge of academic theology that far surpasses anyone I’ve ever known who takes positions similar to his. Doesn’t mean he’s right, though.

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  160. JohnnY, cletus is James Young, hence foxy lady or whatever. He is a real Roman Catholic. victor delta, tango or tvd or Tom is a poseur. Not the same guy. The same wrong.

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  161. I am not “hardshell”. If you don’t want to think, Dan, that’s fine. But I think the gospel is instrumental and necessary in salvation, indeed, it is the “power of God unto salvation”. God does not save anybody apart from the gospel.

    We may disagree about what the gospel is, and what the false gospel is, but there is no excuse for you throwing around the term “hardshell” in regard to me. I do not deny the duty of every sinner to believe the gospel. Every sinner is to be taught the gospel, and without any qualification or preparation or hesitation about it.

    I don’t know why you use the term. Maybe you have never met a “hardshell” primitive baptist. I have, and they teach that some “anonymous Christians” are born justified and never hear the gospel. That is a million miles from my position. It is also the opposite from that which is taught by Engelsma and the folks in the Protestant Reformed church.

    The real question is not about who should hear the gospel. The real question is –what is the gospel. If you don’t like a gospel which mentions the good news of God’s election, then that’s your problem. God shall justly save all for whom Christ died, and not one of the elect will be lost because I use the word election.

    Normally I would assume that you were just using the word “hardshell” in ignorance but since you claim to be “familiar with” my position, I thought I would set the record straight.

    Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings

    p 247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    p 249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations.”

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  162. Mark, sorry, I did not mean to touch a nerve. I certainly will withdraw the use of the term Hardshell . I did not mean it in an offensive way at all. Note that I did not use the term Prmitive in conjunction with it, or at all. I have never thought you fit in that category at all. I have never criticized your views on election for the simple reason that I’m not so sure that you aren’t right. But you might not be.

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  163. Dan,

    I get my joy in the good news of the Gospel and McMark keeps the good news in the Gospel whereby sinners like me can still take comfort in the finished work of Christ. I don’t think it is McMark who is confusing and conflating law and gospel. He is pointing out the subtle distortions that very intelligent and sophisticated theologians often make to take that good news away. That can get complicated and tedious to point out.

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  164. John, the 1st and second paragraphs of my post to you were entirely separate thoughts. But as to debates over the ordo salutis, I think the good news very often becomes obscured– particularly the grace part, and that to me is what ought to make us downright giddy.

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  165. D. G. Hart
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink
    JohnnY, cletus is James Young, hence foxy lady or whatever. He is a real Roman Catholic. victor delta, tango or tvd or Tom is a poseur. Not the same guy. The same wrong.

    You tell ’em, Uncle Screwtape.

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  166. Dan,

    Some do use the ordo to obscure the good news and that is what Mark tries to point out. The grace is the imputed righteousness of Christ that the believer can rest in and it is extra nous- having nothing to do with the how much inherent righteousness has been worked in the elect person. That does give me great comfort and joy and also the strength to endure the sufferings and hardships we all have to face in this life.

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  167. Good quote by Geerhardus Vos:

    “Naturally the problem becomes most accentuated where it touches the center of Paul’s teaching. This, we may still insist, is the doctrine of justification. Recent attempts to dislodge it from this position, and to make the mystical aspect of the believer’s relation to Christ, as mediated by the Spirit, entirely coordinated with it—so that each of the two covers the entire range of religious experience, and becomes in reality a duplicate of the other in a different sphere—we cannot recognize as correct from the apostle’s own point of view.1 In our opinion Paul consciously and consistently subordinated the mystical aspect of the relation to Christ to the forensic one. Paul’s mind was to such an extent forensically oriented that he regarded the entire complex of subjective spiritual changes that take place in the believer and of subjective spiritual blessings enjoyed by the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification. The mystical is based on the forensic, not the forensic on the mystical.”

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  168. Q. What is effectual calling?

    A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

    That is what I mean by the process of coming to a saving knowledge and interest in Christ. Regeneration is the end point of that. And by vital change I did not mean some charismatic experience as you well know. Not everyone spent a wilderness in a charismatic church and is trying to get over it. I meant a real change, a chance of death to life. A vitality in the soul. Oftentimes the precise moment passes unnoticed. But it is a real change. Which is why regeneration is a good term. It’s also a good term because, you know, the Spirit uses the term. (In the Bible, in case you didn’t get that.)

    TBR: How do you know your belief is true saving belief and not mere head knowledge?

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  169. John, the Vos quote is good. He leaves room for the mystical, a lot of arguments about the ordo salutis don’t seem to.

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  170. alex cum TBR: How do you know your belief is true saving belief and not mere head knowledge?

    we cannot possibly know until we get there one day

    memorizing man-shaped P&R theology, no matter how close we feel it is Biblical, can’t answer that question

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  171. Kent-

    Do you mean presbyterian and reformed theology?

    So assurance is impossible? What do you make of Peter exhorting us to make our calling and election sure? Was he speaking nonsense? It’s the Papists who say we can’t have assurance this side of eternity.

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  172. I hear you Alexander….

    I am committed fully to “gambling” my eternity that a Presbyterian and Reformed theology is the best grid to place on Scripture for my life. I am grateful to have found P&R theology after decades of not buying into Evangelical streams.

    At the same time I accept that this theology isn’t of much use for millions of believers now and throughout history, and that they will be in heaven on that Great Day through their differing faith in Jesus Christ.

    Assurance is impossible until we actually get there; in the meantime I try to talk my disaffected Evangelical friends into giving Reformed a try. (Presbyterian is very liberal in Canada, sadly…)

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  173. My eye just fell on this Bavinck quote provided by Mark M:

    “Bavinck—Faith is not even a condition or instrument of justification, for it stands in relation to justification not as, for example, the eye to seeing or the ear to hearing. Faith is not a condition, upon which, nor an instrument or organ, through which we receive this benefit, but it is the acceptance itself of Christ and all his benefits, as He presents Himself to us through word and Spirit, and it includes therefore also the consciousness, that He is my Lord and I am his possession.”

    Seems like he’s responding to this from John Ball (who apparently heavily influenced the Westminster Assembly in their formulations) from A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace:

    “Faith is a necessary and lively instrument of Justification, which is amongst the number of true causes, not being a cause without which the thing is not done, but a cause whereby it is done. The cause without which a thing is not done, is only present in the action, and doth nothing therein: But as the eye is an active instrument for seeing, and the ear for hearing, so is faith also for justifying. If it be demanded whose instrument it is? It is the instrument of the Soul, wrought therein by the Holy Ghost, and is the free gift of God.”

    I have to say I’m glad this thought from Ball (a few paragraphs down) apparently didn’t make the cut for Westminster (though Norman Shepherd must have picked up on it):

    “A disposition to good works is necessary to justification, being the qualification of an active and lively faith. Good works of all sorts are necessary to our continuance in the state of justification, and so to our final absolution, if God give opportunity: but they are not the cause of, but only a precedent qualification or condition to final forgiveness and eternal bliss.”

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  174. Alex, because it has all the three elements of faith, including trust.

    Have you managed to stop coveting yet? You are indeed an all-round jerk after all…

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  175. Alexander, I’ll put it another way.

    I’m white, with roots from the UK over the past generations

    My parents stayed together in their marriage

    They encouraged me to get an education, so I have post-grad work and a professional accounting designation

    I have a very good upper-middle-class job in a big city

    My country hasn’t been bombed to smithereens over the last 100 years, it is a really nice and comfortable living in a free country, no prosecution for my faith at all.

    Do I have a leg to stand on trying to the majority of people in the world that they better accept my Reformed Jesus or they are damned?

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  176. Dan,

    “CVD, the answer to your first question is no.”

    which was “Works don’t factor into your progressive sanctification, nor your degree of reward/glory?”

    So you’re not rewarded for your works/fruit in eternity? Your works don’t contribute to your growth in progressive sanctification?

    WCF: “God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the sate of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”
    “yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”
    “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.”

    LC: “Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
    A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”

    That seems like your works impact your progressive sanctification. So I fail to see how works have “diddly squat” with sanctification.

    WCF: “Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

    That sounds like works are rewarded. And Edwards wrote quite a bit on differing degrees of glory in his “The Portion of the Righteous” sermon, and Piper recommends his thoughts (not that Edwards or Piper or any Reformed theologian is infallible, but I don’t hear the same criticisms of those guys as against the union or obedience guys). So I fail to see how works have “diddly squat” with glorification.

    “The answer to your second question is that union and inherent righteousness are gracious gifts we are promised, to be fully realized in eternity.”

    So how is inherent righteousness and union extra nos? Even if it’s never fully realized in this life, the regenerate still have a degree of it yes? And without having a degree of it, they would not be saved.
    And LC:
    “Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.”

    Infused grace is not extra nos. If it is, imputation and infusion have no distinction.

    Mark,

    “Being “in Christ” is essential and necessary to salvation. Having Christ “in us” is essential and necessary to salvation.”

    Great so how is that extra nos per Dan’s statement? And why do you ask “Where does the Bible talk about an inherent or “imparted” righteousness?” if you agree to your above statement? Have not countless Reformed in history agreed to inherent righteousness as part of progressive sanctification (and indeed chided some RC opponents for dismissing/ignoring that aspect of their theology), just that such righteousness is always imperfect/inchoate and hence cannot be the grounds for justification?

    “who gave the priority to the forensic, so that there is no indwelling of Christ before and apart from legal sharing in His righteousness.”

    I understand you have differences with the “union boys” in terms of the priority/nature of that union. What I do not understand is Dan’s (perhaps you disagree with him) assertion that *everything* is extra nos. Indwelling is not extra nos.

    “But resting (partly) in the obedience which the Holy Spirit will enable us to do is NOT resting in the gospel.”

    WCF: “it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure.” – so one should not be diligent in making their election sure?

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  177. CVD, you must have me confused with someone else. The confession that comes closest to my beliefs is the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. I have said several times here that I do not consider myself Reformed. I find some aspects of Reformed theology helpful, as I do some parts of Lutheran theology (I particularly like Luther himself), but in the main I find the most helpful theology to me is contained in our Baptist Hymnal.

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  178. 1. i don’t think Christ indwelling us is outside us. I don’t even understand what Dan is saying.

    2. Cletus, did you define ‘union’ yet? I see that you keep using the word, but I don’t see a definition. Do you think that “union” is Christ indwelling “in us”? Is that indwelling (personal presence) logically before or after being righteous “in Christ”?

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  179. Dan,

    Fair enough I didn’t read carefully enough when you mentioned that earlier – thanks for the clarification you’re not part of the OL-Borg. But I do share Mark’s sentiments in that I simply cannot see how *everything* is extra nos if one wants to claim any idea of infused grace or inherent righteousness or union in the regenerate. It makes sanctification an incoherent concept. If everything’s extra nos, everything’s imputed it seems to me. Is that what you hold?

    Mark,

    Obviously I would hold union in a different sense in RCism (even though some strands are shared). But I am not arguing RC theology – that’s why I was referencing Reformed materials/individuals in the response to Dan. My central points were that it’s odd to reduce infusion or inherent righteousness or union to extra nos, which you seem to agree with. And secondly that if sanctification is necessary for salvation, and inherent righteousness and union are necessary to sancification, then they are necessary for salvation, which you also seem to agree with in your previous reply.

    Darryl,

    “foxy damme charlie, define “necessary.” You’re the one who knows Aristotle via Thomas.”

    I define necessary the same way I define “define” – check out any standard dictionary.
    nec·es·sar·y
    [nes-uh-ser-ee]
    adjective
    1. being essential, indispensable, or requisite: a necessary part of the motor.

    Synonyms
    1. required, needed. Necessary, essential, indispensable, requisite indicate something vital for the fulfillment of a need. Necessary applies to that without which a condition cannot be fulfilled or to an inevitable consequence of certain events, conditions, etc.: Food is necessary to life. Multiplicity is a necessary result of division. Indispensable applies to something that cannot be done without or removed from the rest of a unitary condition: Food is indispensable to living things. He made himself indispensable as a companion. That which is essential forms a vitally necessary condition of something: Air is essential to red-blooded animals. It is essential to understand the matter clearly. Requisite applies to what is thought necessary to fill out, complete, or perfect something: She had all the requisite qualifications for a position. 5. requirement, requisite, essential.

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  180. Cletus: would hold union in a different sense in RCism…. it’s odd to reduce infusion or inherent righteousness or union to extra nos, which you seem to agree with. And secondly that if sanctification is necessary for salvation, and inherent righteousness and union are necessary to sanctification,

    mark: I am still waiting for your definition of “union”. Is it Christ’s indwelling presence? I asked, but you did not answer. Telling me RC does not yet tell me anything.

    I see the word “reduce” in your statement above. If you give me a definition of “union”, maybe we could make sense of that.

    I do not agree to an “infusion”.

    i do not agree to an imparted or inherent righteousness.

    I certainly do not agree that “sanctification” is “infusion”. Where does the Bible say that “sanctification” is “imparted righteousness”?

    But before you define infusion and inherent righteousness and “sanctification”, tell us what you think “union” is. Is being “in Christ” for His imputed righteousness before Christ indwells us something which denies that indwelling? Does the God’s imputation priority “reduce” the blessings of salvation? How so?.

    In the latest WTJ (Spring 2014), we are told that without “union” first, forensic righteousness is a “fiction”. Before I suggest that this accusation sounds like a Roman Catholic objection, I only want to ask my first question. What was it that you said “union” was?

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  181. Mark,

    The reason I mentioned RCism is because many of your points rest on your particular understanding of imputation and ordo salutis contra other Reformed adherents. I obviously don’t have a dog in that fight. So I can talk about union but it’s irrelevant to your intramural debates, unless perhaps you think all the union and obdedience boys are crypto-RCs and need to be stopped at all costs.

    “Is it Christ’s indwelling presence?”

    Yes.

    “I do not agree to an “infusion”.
    i do not agree to an imparted or inherent righteousness.”

    Then what is your doctrine of sanctification? Do you disagree that many orthodox Reformed in history have held to such in their doctrine of sanctification?

    “I certainly do not agree that “sanctification” is “infusion”. Where does the Bible say that “sanctification” is “imparted righteousness”?”

    Okay so you agree to (some type) of union, but not to infusion or imparted/inherent righteousness. So how do you define union in contrast to infusion or imparted/inherent righteousness in sanctification?

    You said earlier:
    “Being “in Christ” is essential and necessary to salvation. Having Christ “in us” is essential and necessary to salvation.”

    How are we in christ and christ in us if there is no infusion or inherent righteousness? You seem to be agreeing with Dan.

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  182. Kent- I’m not sure what you’re occupation or country of residence or race has to do with whether you uphold the Biblical revelation of Christ or not. Can non-Reformed Christians go to Heaven? Yes. Should we therefore take a relativistic approach to the expression of Christianity? No. Reformed Christianity is the Christianity of the Bible. All other expressions of Christianity are faulty to greater and lesser extents and are far more likely to give people false hope.

    That Bavinck quote seemed like he was saying faith is intrinsically effectual, but that’s not right is it? Faith in and of itself is not what saves, but what that faith takes hold of, receives and rests upon. Faith is an empty hand reaching out to Christ.

    TBR- How do you know you are truly trusting in Christ? This is why Scripture lays out marks of grace: mere intellectual assent or conviction doesn’t mean we are saved. Trust is that extra element that distinguishes the believer from the unconverted adherent of the Christian religion. But we must be examining ourselves to see if that trust is truly present in us.

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  183. It’s strange that I’m the jerk when it’s you lot who ate casting aspersions upon the character of Mark Jones and Rick Philips, accusing them of hidden agendas and sin. Essentially, slander. And slandering brothers in Christ no less. So Kent, et al, your race and privilege doesn’t stop you witnessing for Christ but your callous and disgraceful attitude towards other Christians may be a bit of a hindrance.

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  184. Erik, I have a sincere question re your 6/21 comment. In the context of understanding the notion of the ‘universal’ church, could we not legitimately consider orgs like the Gospel Coalition as merely a forum for a bunch of very gifted people sharing their spiritual gifts with the ‘broader’ body of Christ?

    I realize you still may assert that the negatives of groups like GC outweigh the positives. But, I’m also wondering what positive things, if any, you might concede about the existence of the GC?

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  185. @ CVD: Your post above reveals the connection between Catholic theology and the popular evangelical vision of sanctification that has been opposed here.

    The central question is, Are our good works an efficient cause of our sanctification?

    You put it like this:

    Your works don’t contribute to your growth in progressive sanctification?

    (quoting WLC 160) That seems like your works impact your progressive sanctification.

    And those questions crystalize the issue.

    Sanctification is above all a change of heart, in which the believer is made able to live to God and die to self. We contend that while our works might change our behavior, the change of heart is properly and entirely the work of God. It is in that sense that our works contribute nothing to our sanctification.

    At the same time, you note that we do have a role to play — namely, to “diligently attend the means of grace.” And that’s a fair point. But our attending the means of grace is for the purpose of receiving God’s work by faith, NOT by contributing to it in a causative way.

    On a side note, you say: And Edwards wrote quite a bit on differing degrees of glory in his “The Portion of the Righteous” sermon, and Piper recommends his thoughts (not that Edwards or Piper or any Reformed theologian is infallible, but I don’t hear the same criticisms of those guys as against the union or obedience guys).

    Check the archives. There’s plenty there on both theologians.

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  186. Petros – I realize you still may assert that the negatives of groups like GC outweigh the positives. But, I’m also wondering what positive things, if any, you might concede about the existence of the GC?

    Erik – I’ll grant it’s probably more wholesome than a porn site.

    Like porn stars, however, we have way too many men who want to be star ministers. The action should be in the church and in the corporate actions of the church. Why? Because it’s hard to be novel in solid Presbyterian & Reformed churches. They keep mavericks & would-be mavericks in line.

    Ministers and scholars have a job to do and the more they can stick to that job without trying to be cutting edge or novel, the better.

    And no skinny jeans under any circumstances.

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  187. Jeff,

    “Sanctification is above all a change of heart, in which the believer is made able to live to God and die to self. We contend that while our works might change our behavior, the change of heart is properly and entirely the work of God. It is in that sense that our works contribute nothing to our sanctification.”

    First, why do you think obedience or union boys would disagree with this? Do you think they consider the change of heart to not be entirely the work of God?
    Secondly, if you don’t do works, will you grow in sanctification?

    “At the same time, you note that we do have a role to play — namely, to “diligently attend the means of grace.” And that’s a fair point. “But our attending the means of grace is for the purpose of receiving God’s work by faith, NOT by contributing to it in a causative way.”

    If you don’t attend to the means of grace, do you receive God’s work by faith? If not, but you do when you do attend, what was lacking in the former but not the latter that was not contributed by you? Similarly, if you sin, do you receive God’s work by faith? If you resist sin, do you? What was lacking in the former but not the latter?

    “Check the archives. There’s plenty there on both theologians.”

    True I just assumed most of it was about transformationalism and 2k and the like, but perhaps there’s some sanctification stuff as well (Darryl doesn’t seem to mind throwing anyone under the bus who might play with notions of synergistic sanctification so I respect his equal-opportunity sniper fire). Regardless, I would hardly think holding a notion of differing degrees of glory for the elect is some church-splitting issue amongst the Reformed but who knows.

    Mark,

    A followup to my last reply – you said “I do not agree to an “infusion”.
    I cited above WLC:
    “Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof…”

    Is WLC off or do you characterize infusion differently than it does?

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  188. Petros, on “the Gospel Coalition as merely a forum for a bunch of very gifted people sharing their spiritual gifts” how about TGC as a forum for people who think they are very gifted and spiritual marketing themselves to Christians who already have pastors?

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  189. Alex, do you constantly ask yourself if you trust those dearest to you? That might explain your behaviour on this forum…

    Why is this trust thing so difficult for you?

    You are un-freak-ing believe-able! So you question my trust in Christ (a hidden thing) and go ahead and accuse us of being slanderers when it’s clear that the men you have put your faith in have managed to openly accuse a man of something he hasn’t said (that he DOESN’T believe in the third use).

    This is a whole new level of being a douche…

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  190. CvD: First, why do you think obedience or union boys would disagree with this? Do you think they consider the change of heart to not be entirely the work of God?

    I think they would agree to that statement but not necessarily consider its implications.

    CvD: Secondly, if you don’t do works, will you grow in sanctification?

    If a tree bears no fruit, will it have a good root?

    In your scheme, works make the heart good and sin makes the heart bad. According to Jesus, it’s the other way round.

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  191. John Cotton: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth. And how can we be good trees, before we be engrafted into Christ?”

    Bruce McCormack,Princeton Seminary—
    “The image of vine and branches might easily be seen to connote an organic connectedness of Christ to the believer. The early church thought of an ontological union of a ‘person” in whom being is mixed with non-being (that’s us) with a ‘person’ in whom being is pure from non-being (Jesus). Where that occurs, the life communicated from the vine to the branches flows organically.

    “The difference between the relation between a vine and a branch and the relation between Christ and the believer is that the first relation is impersonal and the second is personal. The flow of nutrients from the vine to the branches take place automatically. It does not require a LEGAL ACT of the will. But in the case of Christ and the believer, we are dealing with a willed relation. The ethical ‘bearing of fruit’ takes place ON THE FOUNDATION OF JUSTIFICATION. John 15:3–’You are already clean BECAUSE OF THE WORD I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU.’

    “The term ‘ingrafting’ is used in Romans 9-11 to speak of inclusion in the covenant , which results in a share in all the gifts and privileges. That Paul would preface his use of the horticultural image with the affirmation that the adoption belonged to the Israelites before the Gentiles suggests that the image of ‘ingrafting’ is used as a synonym for adoption. The horticultural image is subordinated to the legal…”

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  192. Calvin– “We must come to this remedy: that believers should be convinced that their only ground of hope for the inheritance of a Heavenly Kingdom lies in the fact that, being engrafted in the body of Christ, they are freely accounted righteous. For, as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours to the recovering of God’s favor but receiving from Christ that which we lack.”

    Wenger comments—“This explanation is especially informative because Calvin utilized the language of union (engrafting) with Christ, but only as a means of further describing the proper distinction
    between justification and sanctification, rather than a blurring of categories or of their order.”

    http://www.etsjets.org/…/50-2/JETS_50-2_311-328_Wenger.pdf Calvin-

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  193. “Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof…”

    Is WLC off or do you characterize infusion differently than it does?

    mark: I try not to talk about “infusion” at all. I think it would have been better if the WCF had not used the word. Remember that I am not Reformed—I am a Zwinglian sectarian who teaches that only the sins of the elect were imputed by God to Christ. To the extent I do talk about “infusion”, it usually is to deconstruct the putative difference between protestant versions of “infusion” and those of the Roman antiChrist….

    What is the difference between Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Aquinas on the matter of “infusion”?

    “Virtues are inner dispositions toward certain goods. They are infused”for at least three reasons: 1) They are not an exterior or physical reality of the person but rather an invisible internal reality, 2) They are the effect of God’s indwelling and thus originate outside of the person ), and 3) they are beyond the natural capacities of that person to acquire.”

    “God can perform an act which is both mine and God’s at the same time. ‘To be moved voluntarily, is to be moved from within, that is, by an interior principle: yet this interior principle may be caused by an exterior principle; and so to be moved from within is not repugnant to being moved by another’ (I.105.4, ad 2).” William T. Cavanaugh, “A Joint Declaration?: Justification as Theosis in Aquinas and Luther,” 270. .

    mark: New dispositions, new habits, new abilities—but at the end of the day, none of us satisfy God’s law by what God does in us. If Augustine’s “give what you require” means that God gives us the power to fulfill the requirements of the law, then we have no hope. And if it’s not Christ’s imputed righteousness which is that completely fulfills the requirement of the law, then Christ died to no purpose. None…. Galatians 2:21

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  194. Calvin—The Fathers of Trent pretend that righteousness is twofold, as if we were justified partly by forgiveness of sins and partly by spiritual regeneration; or, to express their view in other words, as if our righteousness were composed partly of imputation, partly of quality. I maintain that it is one, and simple, and is wholly included in the gratuitous acceptance of God. I besides hold that it is without us, because we are righteous in Christ only. Let them produce evidence from Scripture, if they have any, to convince us of their doctrine.

    Calvin— I, while I have the whole Scripture supporting me, will now be satisfied with this one reason, viz., that when mention is made of the righteousness of works, the law and the gospel place it in the perfect obedience of the law; and as that nowhere appears, they leave us no alternative but to flee to Christ alone, that we may be regarded as righteous IN HIM, not being so in ourselves. (Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)

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  195. Darryl,

    Petros, on “the Gospel Coalition as merely a forum for a bunch of very gifted people sharing their spiritual gifts” how about TGC as a forum for people who think they are very gifted and spiritual marketing themselves to Christians who already have pastors?

    You also mentioned the obedience boys working to score points against Billy Graham’s grandson in order to further their own agenda.

    I think that people on all sides need to be careful of those issues you just mentioned. The issue is that I could make the same charges of branding/marketing/etc. to a lot of the grace boys. They all have their own websites, coalitions, etc. Why not pick on the White Horse Inn or Tullian for such things?

    Now, I’m not saying the “grace boys” are guilty of this, I’m just puzzled as to why the TGC, for all its pluses and minuses, gets the criticism while these others don’t. (Maybe they have and I’ve missed it. If so, Mea Culpa).

    The temptation to become celebrity pastors and theologians is one that we are all inclined to, are we not? (and BTW, I do appreciate your warnings about this.)

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  196. Robert, one possible reason for the perceived disparity is that something like WHI has a robust ecclesiastical sense and so is stronger on pointing people to local churches and is diligent to not portray itself as a ministry–a little different story with something like TGC. At the same time, as you say, the temptation for celebrity is an equal opportunity affliction, and I for one would deduct 150k points from WHI for having a cruise. Don’t laugh, the Christian cruise is the first mark of the cult of religious celebrity.

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  197. Robert, WHI allows a Lutheran to be the 2nd in command and often the dominant view on the shows, and a Reformed Baptist gets his views in as well.

    Not sure if this helps the WHI in the eyes of our more strict P&Rs, I like it though.

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  198. TBR- I have never once questioned your trust in Christ . I merely asked you to explain how a believer can know they have true saving trust/faith in Christ if you reject things like examining oneself for marks of grace. Considering this is literally an issue of life and death- whether one has true saving faith- I didn’t think such a question was unreasonable. Perhaps if you didn’t take everything so personally you would have seen that was all I was doing. Christians should always be seeking to prove their faith in Christ, rather than resting on long ago experiences or professions. The question is too important to be left to mere intellectual assent to certain propositions: anyone can fool themselves when it comes to those.

    Mark Jones and Rick Phillips and the like have not slandered TT: they have taken issue with things he has actually written, whether it be his books or his blog posts, for example his exposition of 1 John 5. These ministers have criticised TT for what he has actually said and taught. It is you who make the unfounded accusations, anything to distract from the matter. The unChristian attitude towards our brethren shown on this site at times is breathtaking. Accusing them of boastfulness and seeking power. Give me the quotes, give me the examples of boasting. Otherwise shame on you.

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  199. Chortles,

    That’s a good question. In one sense, I would probably agree, although I’m not sure how much influence they really have beyond being a site that collects resources from a bunch of different teachers. I know they host conferences every two years, but my sense is that the individual personalities who make up the coalition are more well-known than the coalition itself. With the exception of Michael Horton, I think the White Horse Inn is probably the opposite.

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  200. Alex, the only ‘sin’ that TT has committed is to preach the Gospel on a passage that talks about obedience: bad exegesis. OK. But no, Rick Phillips had to go all the way and call it ‘false teaching’… and no, that’s not slander?

    I hope for your soul’s sake that your trust is not determined by how well you are doing on your obedience/coveting scale…

    Goodbye.

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  201. Alexander, instead of always seeking to prove their faith in Christ or resting in experiences, how about resting in Christ, as in WCF XI.1 and .2? I wonder if you realize just how much work you make a life of Christian rest.

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  202. 1 Cor 2:11. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?”

    Erik, you said folks at the GC “want to be star ministers”.
    DGH, you said folks at the GC “think they are very gifted and spiritual”

    Your evidence for knowing what people at GC are thinking is exactly what?

    Prudent warning about the possible cult of celebrity is one thing. Your assertions about the motives and thoughts of GC folks is quite another.

    ——–

    Zrim, kudos to you for bewailing the cruise with your bro Michael Horton. I respect your consistency in calling that out.

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  203. Erik, aren’t Calvin, Machen, and Hart ‘stars’ to you?

    That you admire them so much is not evidence that they were/are publicity and power seeking.

    A lot of local pastors have benefitted from resources at the GC, and hardly see them as the competitors to local church ministry that you seem to do.

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  204. Petros, I’ll spend some of my kudos and suggest that if it’s true that admiration isn’t evidence of seeking power and influence, then neither is it true that not seeing certain personalities as competition means there is no competition. Have you considered that a local pastor who invites a celebrity to his pulpit or references his resources regularly may be doing so to hitch his wagon to a star at least as much as he does so to feed his flock?

    But I do wonder if the man who lies in an unmarked grave turns in it every October 31.

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  205. Jeff,

    “CvD: Secondly, if you don’t do works, will you grow in sanctification?
    “If a tree bears no fruit, will it have a good root?”
    “In your scheme, works make the heart good and sin makes the heart bad. According to Jesus, it’s the other way round.”

    No, that is not my scheme, nor have my questions necessitated such a position. You seem to think sanctification must be a zero-sum game. A tree bears fruit with a good root. The obedience and union boys would agree I’m sure, and I agree (as does Trent – “For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God”). That does not mean it is guaranteed to bear good fruit or that fruit cannot be inhibited by other factors.
    I’ll ask again:
    If you don’t attend to the means of grace, do you receive God’s work by faith? If not, but you do when you do attend, what was lacking in the former but not the latter that was not contributed by you? Similarly, if you sin, do you receive God’s work by faith? If you resist sin, do you? What was lacking in the former but not the latter?

    Mark,

    “mark: New dispositions, new habits, new abilities—but at the end of the day, none of us satisfy God’s law by what God does in us. If Augustine’s “give what you require” means that God gives us the power to fulfill the requirements of the law, then we have no hope. And if it’s not Christ’s imputed righteousness which is that completely fulfills the requirement of the law, then Christ died to no purpose. None…. Galatians 2:21”

    Can Christians love and fulfill the law or not? Is the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled in us or outside of us?

    Secondly, thank you for the clarification you are not Reformed. Now, am I wrong in believing you hold to some type of union in the regenerate, but reject any infusion or inherent righteousness in sanctification? So, as I asked above, how do you define union you accept in contrast to infusion or imparted/inherent righteousness in sanctification you reject (I understand you reject RC notion of infusion – what I mean is your rejection of Reformed notions of infusion). Just tell me in your own words, I don’t want a text-wall of citations.

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  206. Cletus—I am not going to repeat the stuff I already said about “union”. You seem to be keep begging the question. Since you assume “union” is “in us” or “indwelling” or “infusion”, then you don’t seem to be able to see that I am talking about being placed into Christ’s death, having an imputed “righteousness in Christ.” You have already decided that none of that can be “union”

    As for what you want as opposed to what you need, to understand the history of Reformed theology, you will need to attend to the citations. They will continue.

    Steele and Thomas commenting on Romans 8:4 and the requirement of the law fulfilled in us, (Romans: An Interpretative Outline) “In order to free believers from the guilt or condemnation of sin, God sent His own Son into the world (in a nature like man’s sinful nature, but not itself sinful.. Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, and thereby legally put sin away and thus freed His people from its guilt. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial work, the just requirement (demand) of the law has been fulfilled (fully met) in those who are joined to Him. This is because what Christ did, He did as their substitute or representative, and it is therefore counted (imputed) to them by God as if they themselves did it.

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  207. Cletus, I fear we are not understanding one another. For example, I find your latter questions to be hard to answer because I’m not sure whether you’re asking about agency or merit.

    Likewise, I think you are finding it hard to understand me because you conflate (in language, if not in thought) the categories of “good works” and “means of grace.”

    So you ask: [I]f you don’t do works, will you grow in sanctification?

    And since I understand good works to be those things which are fruits of our sanctification, the answer is “This question makes no sense.”

    Then you ask: If you don’t attend to the means of grace, do you receive God’s work by faith?

    And the answer is “ordinarily, no” (though of course, there can be special exceptions — Balaam and Paul come to mind, and Jonah).

    And these two answers are entirely consonant with one another because “attending to means of grace” is as different from “performing good works” as fertilizing a tree is different from harvesting its fruit.

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  208. Robert, the pecking order seems to be TGC as the premier collection of celebs with White Horse and Ref21 bringing up the rear. So TT goes from a TGC regular to being his own celeb. Meanwhile, Ref21ers take on the TGCer, TT.

    I do see jockeying for position in all this.

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  209. Petros, the evidence is Justin Taylor who regularly trumpets the brilliance of Keller, Carson et al. Get this — Keller, Carson et al don’t tell Justin to stop posting about their brilliance

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  210. So you’re saying I shouldn’t print up the “Hart is my homeboy” t-shirts for the fanclub? What about something more subtle like an oval sticker with “dgh” or “r2k” for the rear window of the minivan? I’m sure they’d be hot sellers on your website. Might be…transformative!

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  211. 1st and 2nd Samuel are good case studies in how celebrities jockey for position in power plays. That is the fun and interesting part of watching history unfold. Power plays never work out right in God’s Providential plans. The one who seemed to handle the power plays the best in the Scriptures is Paul. He had to go through a bad sin experience or he might have gone the celebrity route too. I guess the point is that your hardships, sufferings and thorns in the flesh are there for a reason.

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  212. The obedience boys, grace boys debates about union and the relationship between justification and sanctification remain at a standstill and no one wants to budge or continue the debate at this time. Waffling, jockeying and confusion are winning over direct and to the point clarity.

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  213. Thanks John. The pointyheads can argue over it and leave the reality of guilt/grace/gratitude to those of us out of their sect.

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  214. Jeff,

    So one attends to the means of grace. What is “attending to” if not a verb/action and work? You said ordinarily no, you do not receive God’s work by faith if you don’t attend. So again, what is lacking when you fail to attend versus when you attend if not your contributory action/role?

    Mark,

    “As for what you want as opposed to what you need, to understand the history of Reformed theology, you will need to attend to the citations.”

    Why? You have no qualms dismissing parts of WLC and other Reformed theologians you don’t like that don’t gel with your particular view of imputation and sanctification. So I don’t know why Reformed citations carry any weight with you considering you admit you are a non-Reformed Zwinglian sectarian.

    “Since you assume “union” is “in us” or “indwelling” or “infusion”

    Here is what you said – “Being “in Christ” is essential and necessary to salvation. Having Christ “in us” is essential and necessary to salvation.”

    So if I assume union is Christ in us per your criticism above, then it would seem you also affirm union is “in us”. But then you say:
    “then you don’t seem to be able to see that I am talking about being placed into Christ’s death, having an imputed “righteousness in Christ.” You have already decided that none of that can be “union””

    What I want to understand is how one can have any type of “union” that is imputed/forensic only. Again, you seem to be agreeing with Dan that everything is extra nos, even though you said you didn’t understand what he was saying.

    Your citation was nice but begged the question just as much as you charge me with – “the just
    requirement (demand) of the law has been fulfilled (fully met) in those who are joined to Him.”
    …supporting argument?….
    “This is because what Christ did, He did as their substitute or representative, and it is therefore counted (imputed) to them by God as if they themselves did it.”
    The second does not follow from the first. Non-imputation frameworks agree the law has been fulfilled in those who are joined to Him.

    Secondly, you still did not answer whether Christians can love and fulfill the law or not.

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  215. Not sure how to take that one, Kent. Maybe it is like the “how many angels can dance on a head of a pin remark.” I find the debates to be more critical and important than the name calling of “sect” would warrant. They will continue, most probably, so carry on would be my attitude towards it all- for what that is worth.

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  216. I should have mentioned that it was Zrim who said that- I wanted to comment about that earlier but let it pass. Your remark, Kent reminded me of it again.

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  217. Petros – Erik, aren’t Calvin, Machen, and Hart ‘stars’ to you?

    That you admire them so much is not evidence that they were/are publicity and power seeking.

    A lot of local pastors have benefitted from resources at the GC, and hardly see them as the competitors to local church ministry that you seem to do.

    Erik – Calvin worked primarily as a churchman in Strasbourg and Geneva.

    Machen worked primarily as a churchman in the Presbyterian church.

    Hart works primarily as a scholar, a professor, and churchman in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

    What I see Hart doing is pointing people back to their Presbyterian & Reformed Churches and to the Reformed Confessions, using history as a tool to those ends.

    I see little novelty or non-church instigated ecumenism on the part of these three men.

    Also note that this is the Old Life Theological Society, not Darrylhart.com. I know him personally, and none of what he does is about power or money. In fact, he has made many financial sacrifices over the course of his career to do what he does.

    Guys in ministry who conduct themselves in a way so that they are popular to the maximum number of people are not making financial sacrifices.

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  218. Erik,

    Does DgH like you making comments like that?

    Petros, the evidence is Justin Taylor who regularly trumpets the brilliance of Keller, Carson et al. Get this — Keller, Carson et al don’t tell Justin to stop posting about their brilliance

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  219. Zero bad vibes meant towards you John, I really like your posts on here.

    It’s just that if I’m going to sit down and read from or listen to someone try to splinter the finer points of theology, that I’m going to Horton or Scott Clark or others of like pedigree, not people who haven’t the prudence to correct or instruct without being hostile.

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  220. Gotchya, Kent- just wanted to clarify. And thanks for the pat on the back. And thanks too Erik for taking my jibe without offense. I was not sure how you would take that and was a little worried about it. You two just made my day after a few arguments- one with a sibling and then a daughter. I was not feeling too good about myself .

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  221. Not to say that I don’t know saints who have zero book knowledge but have such spiritual wisdom and ballast in their simplicity that tons hasn’t been learned from them.

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  222. CvD: So what is “attending to” if not a verb/action and work?

    “Attend to” is a verb.

    It does not follow that “attend to” is a good work. There are a whole lot of verbs that are not good works.

    I’ve made this point in three different ways. I would prefer to leave it there, unless we can have a more constructive engagement.

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  223. Jeff, just curious. Do you distinguish between “attending to the means of grace” and “the worship of God”? I take them as more or less synonymous, and if it’s true that the worship of God is the principle good work of the believer, how would attending the means of grace not then be a good work?

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  224. kent is sound pretty hostile, so I will respond to Cletus referencing my quotation from Steele and Thomas on Romans 8;4. This is because what Christ did, He did as their substitute or representative, and it is therefore counted (imputed) to them by God as if they themselves did it.”

    Cletus responded: “The second does not follow from the first.”

    mark: The federalist tradition has said it does. If you reject imputation, then you will reject any idea that Christ’s fulfillment of the law is counted to Christians. But my hope, along with John Calvin, is that Christ fulfilled the law for me, and that this is imputed by God to me. I fulfilled the law in Christ.

    I am not denying indwelling, but indwelling does not fulfill the law.
    I am not denying the new birth, but new birth does not fulfill the law.

    Moo writes about Romans 8:4 in NICNT, p 482—”Some think that Christians, with the Spirit empowering within, fulfill the demand of the law by righteous living. However, while it is true that God’s act in Christ has as one of its intents that we produce fruit, we do not think that this is what Paul is saying here.

    First, the passive verb “be fulfilled” points not to something that we are to do but to something that is done in and for us. Second, the always imperfect obedience of the law by Christians does not satisfy what is demanded by the logic of this text. The fulfilling of the “just decree of the law” must answer to that inability of the law with which Paul began this sentence. “What the law could not do” is to free people from “the law of sin and death”–to procure righteousness and life. And it could not do this because the “flesh” prevented people from obeying its precepts.

    The removal of this barrier consists not in the actions of believers, for our obedience always falls short of that perfect obedience required by the law. As CALVIN puts it, “the faithful, while they sojourn in this world, never make such a proficiency, as that the justification of the law becomes in them full or complete. This must be applied to forgiveness; for when the obedience of Christ is accepted for us, the law is satisfied, so that we are counted just.”

    Moo—If then the inability of the law is to be overcome without an arbitrary cancellation of the law, it can only happen through a perfect obedience of the law’s demands. In the last part of Romans 8:4, the participial clause modifying “us” is not instrumental—”the just decree of the law is fulfilled in us BY our walking not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”–but descriptive, characterizing those in whom the just decree of the law as ‘those WHO walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    mcmark to cletus—Paul does not separate the “fulfillment of the law” from Christians described believing the gospel, ie, walking according to the Spirit, not walking in self-righteousness. But Christian believing and behavior is NOT how the law is fulfilled. That’s what substitution and imputation is all about.

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  225. How does Romans chapters 5 and 6 then come into play here? I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about Romans 5 and the differences between the imputation of Adam’s sin and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If Calvin denied original guilt in favor of original corruption (like Augustine) then issues of infusion of righteousness come into play when talking about Romans chapter 6. How much transformation is needed before we can be assured we are really united to Christ? That is what I think needs to be clarified further and it causes a lot of confusion in how we walk out the Christian life and where we find our assurance.

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  226. @ Zrim: Good qn. Thanks.

    The key issue is merit. In both Catholic theology and Reformed, good works are rewarded because they are assigned condign merit (Catholic) or because they are accepted in Christ (Reformed)

    Where Reformed and Catholic part company is whether our good works merit grace. Catholics say Yes:

    Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. – CCC 2010

    My point, and the Reformed point, is that our good works do not merit an increase of grace.

    So what IS going on with means of grace? Simply this: that MOG hold up Christ before us, to believe and be saved. We increase in grace, to the extent that makes sense, because we believe the promise of God held forth, not because our attendance is meritorious.

    So is worship an action? Yes. A good action? Yes. One that is rewarded by an increase of grace because of the merit of the action? No.

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  227. Jeff,

    ““Attend to” is a verb. It does not follow that “attend to” is a good work. There are a whole lot of verbs that are not good works.”

    Okay so what is it then? An action can be sinful, can be non-sinful and a good work, and attending to the means of grace is neither in your scheme so what is it then?

    “My point, and the Reformed point, is that our good works do not merit an increase of grace.”

    Do they merit anything? Are good works rewarded, just not with an increase of grace, or are they not rewarded at all?

    WCF: “God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the sate of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”

    If one does not humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance, one does not have the light of His countenance restored. If one does those actions, one has the light restored. If the actions entail the restoration, and the lack of that action entails its continued withdrawal, how are the actions not being rewarded?

    “that MOG hold up Christ before us, to believe and be saved. We increase in grace, to the extent that makes sense, because we believe the promise of God held forth, not because our attendance is meritorious.”

    If you do not attend, you do not increase in grace correct? So how is your attendance not being rewarded?

    To circle back: “At the same time, you note that we do have a role to play — namely, to “diligently attend the means of grace.” And that’s a fair point. But our attending the means of grace is for the purpose of receiving God’s work by faith, NOT by contributing to it in a causative way.”

    Again, what is lacking when you fail to attend versus when you attend if not your contributory action/role you seem to deny above? How does one “diligently attend” without a contributory action/role?

    Mark,

    “I fulfilled the law in Christ.”

    Is there any difference between saying “Christ fulfilled the law for me” and “I fulfilled the law in Christ”? This is again why I say you and Dan seem to be brothers on this score. You claim some type of “union” but it ultimately remains extra nos.

    “I am not denying indwelling, but indwelling does not fulfill the law.”

    So you do not deny the indwelling (and associated union), but you do deny infused grace? I do not see how that can work or not go the Dan route of affirming everything extra nos. Note I am here referring to infused grace in Protestant sanctification, not infused grace as understood by RCism or non-imputation frameworks which I’m aware you will obviously deny.

    “But Christian believing and behavior is NOT how the law is fulfilled.”

    So when Paul says love one another and fulfill the law, can Christians do that or not?

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  228. Christ’s Spirit does not give me the ability to fulfill the requirement of the law. No sinner ever fulfills the requirement of the law, except by way of imputation, by legal solidarity in Christ’s fulfillment of the requirement of the law.

    “Christ fulfilled the entire complete requirement of the law” should be clear enough–Christ is the representative of the elect. But after the elect are set apart and justified by God’s imputation of Christ’s fulfillment of the law, they confess that “they fulfilled the law in Christ”. This brings out the idea of substitution, not only representation. Representation is not wrong, but we need to see that it is substitutionary representation. The only way we in any way fulfill the law is by God’s imputation.

    It’s not that Christ by the Spirit gives us some ability to fulfill the law, and then at that point what Christ did (outside of us, back then over there) makes up the difference. No, Christ’s righteousness is enough. Only Christ’s righteousness alone (without additions of what we do by the indwelling power of the Spirit) satisfies God. All that you want to add to that is an abomination to God.

    Charles Hodge– One’s interpretation of Romans 8 verse 4 is determined by the view taken of Romans 8:3. If that verse means that God, by sending His Son, destroyed sin in us, then, of course, this verse must mean, “He destroyed sin in order that we should fulfill the law” — that is, so that we should be holy (sanctification). But if Romans 8:3 refers to the sacrificial death of Christ and to the condemnation of sin in Him as the sinners’ substitute, then verse four must refer to justification and not sanctification.

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  229. After years of trying to earn God’s favor through what I do, I finally had to admit that I couldn’t do it. I then left Presbyterianism for Lutheranism, and while I love my brothers from that tradition, I realized that the emphasis on performance and law-keeping actually kept me from pleasing Christ. In fact, some sins that had gripped me for years melted away under the Law/Gospel distinction that is Lutheranism. Try it, you may just like it.

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  230. Where do the “obedience boys” (bad name for a new Christian boy band?) ever claim that the law or good works are the way to escape the wrath of God and the curse due to us for our sin?

    And repentance unto life is explicitly mentioned in Q.85. Defined in Q.87, it includes a turning away from sin unto God and an endeavoring after new obedience. Sounds like obedience is pretty important. We are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8), but it seems that we are not saved without them either (2:10).

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  231. “Amid the flurry of posts about justification, sanctification, and antinomianism, attention to the Shorter Catechism has been missing.”

    In Antinomianism, Jones quotes/refers to the Westminster Standards quite a few times. He also quotes those Puritans who wrote the Standards at length throughout.

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  232. Andy, well, I think you answered your question. Where do they claim law and good works are the way to escape God’s wrath and curse?

    The answer (according to Andy) is: “repentance unto life is explicitly mentioned in Q.85. Defined in Q.87, it includes a turning away from sin unto God and an endeavoring after new obedience. Sounds like obedience is pretty important. We are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8), but it seems that we are not saved without them either (2:10).”

    Couldn’t help yourself, I know.

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