Sanctification Signaling

Big Green Letters is piling on with niceness. Not only has Jared Wilson repeated the charge that Calvinists are mean, but Ray Ortlund re-quotes John Newton’s oft-cited comments about how to pursue controversy with love. (Justin Taylor may be the first Green Letter to appeal to Newton.)

But here’s the thing that Big Green Letters don’t seem to consider — that the pursuit of nice often ignores both sides of a disagreement. It opts for the third way without really sorting out what’s right and wrong in the controverted issues. Which means, that love or nice is its own sort of polemical meanness because in taking no side and offering no alternative except to say “love” or “be nice,” it ignores the people and principles in view. Imagine doing that in a dispute between a wife and a teenage son over mowing the grass. The dad says, “love each other.”

Sure.

This side of Big Green Letters, this religious affectionism, is what makes evangelicals (even those who think they are Calvinist) so unreliable either in ecclesiastical or civil matters. Liel Liebovitz picked up on this in the spat between Sohrab Ahmari and David French over virtue and the current POTUS:

To put it briefly, the Never Trump argument is that they should be greatly approved of, while Donald Trump should rightly be scorned, because—while they agree with Trump on most things, politically—they are devoted to virtue, while Trump is uniquely despicable. The proofs of Trump’s singular loathsomeness are many, but if you strip him of all the vices he shares with others who had recently held positions of power—a deeply problematic attitude towards women (see under: Clinton, William Jefferson), shady business dealings (see under: Clinton, Hillary Rodham), a problematic attitude towards the free press (see under: Obama, Barack)—you remain with one ur-narrative, the terrifying folk tale that casts Trump as a nefarious troll dispatched by his paymasters in the Kremlin to set American democracy ablaze.

By analogy, The Big Green Letters supposedly agree with “mean” Calvinists about Christianity and church ministry (actually they don’t but go along, please), but want to hold themselves up as the party of sanctification because they don’t fight the way “mean” Calvinists do. But what if Big Green Letters had had a little more fight or agreed more with “mean” Calvinists when deliberating about whether to grant a Big Letter to Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, and James MacDonald?

It gets worse (thanks to Liebovitz) and points to the follow-the-money argument that Carl Trueman has made:

French and the other self-appointed guardians of civility, then, should do us all a favor and drop the civic virtue act. They’re not disinterested guardians of our public institutions; they are actors, working in an industry that rewards them for dressing up in Roman Republican drag and reciting Cicero for the yokels. This is why Bill Kristol, another of the Never Trumpers, could raise money for his vanity website, The Bulwark, and why he could expect his new creation be lauded on CNN as “a conservative site unafraid to take on Trump,” even as the site was staffed by leftist millennials and dutifully followed progressive propaganda lines. Like anyone whose living depends on keeping on the right side of a leftist industry, they understood that there’s only so much you can say if you care about cashing a paycheck—especially when the president and leader of your own party won’t take your phone calls.

The Never Trumpers, of course, aren’t the first Americans to hide cold careerism behind a wall of virtue-signaling. It’s why so many in the professional punditry went the way of Never Trump: More than anything else, the decision to align oneself with a movement that, ontologically, vows to reject the president a priori, no matter what he might say or do, regardless of your own supposed political beliefs, is a way of affirming one’s professional class loyalties, thus ensuring that your progeny will still be accepted and acceptable at Yale.

A YUGE part of Big Green Letters’ brand is nice. It increases hits at the website, registrations at conferences, sales of books, size of celebrity. In which case, if the New Calvinists really want to follow John Newton’s example and practice their niceness within the boundaries of a Christian communion like the Church of England rather than turning nice Calvinism into a movement.

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67 thoughts on “Sanctification Signaling

  1. Either you are sanctified or not. But of course that’s not what the Reformed Conessions teach.

    What is sanctification? Having the seeds put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.”

    What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ? A. It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, BESIDES THAT, , to become MORE AND MORE UNITED to his sacred body

    “At least I am honest” is another kind of self-righteousness. Granted that Pilate and Trump and Falwell are merely doing the Lord’s work, and granted also that they are not clergy, so they don’t have to set an example (or follow Christ’s) , who gets to say that a third side is not a real choice, and therefore you have no “realistic” choice but to choose between two sides (as chosen by those like Carl Truman defining “evangelical” vs “Reformed” (where “evangelical” was first “Arminian” but also at the same time “what used to be Reformed”.)

    William Smith—–“Once it is acknowledged that there is much more to Calvinism than the five points, and that one can affirm the Five Points and not be Reformed, the question has to be asked: Can one who does not agree with the substance of the five points (if not the terminology) be regarded as holding the truly Reformed faith? Dr. Stewart wants us to understand that Calvinism is much more open to revivals renewal than we might think. Now, as one of a small minority who have some criticisms of “experimental Calvinism” and revivalism, but who could hold of convention of likeminded folks in a phone booth (if he could find one), I ask why Dr. Stewart thinks that….“Calvinists take a dim view of revival and awakening.”…. one wonders why this book was written. It seems it will serve to cause those who favor a broader, softer Calvinism to say, “Amen.” Meanwhile, this book will not cause those who hold a more defined and robust Calvinism to change their minds. The book … is not an academic book which would provide a better understanding of varieties of Calvinism. It rather is an advocacy book. And what it advocates is going to a place no one bound by vows accepting the Westminster Standards as teaching the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture may go.”

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2011/07/kinder-gentler-calvinism.html

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  2. I would change what I said in this post back in 2010. I was attending a Lutheran Church at the time. I would not be so affirming of the confessional Reformed or the confessional Lutherans as I was in my comments in this post. I was still learning what the true and accurate biblical Gospel was. You do have to be taught what the Gospel is, what it accomplished, and exactly who Jesus died for before you can assent to it. And you won’t assent to it until God justifies you by the imputation into Christ’s death at the hearing of the Gospel. Trying to establish your own righteousness is an abomination to Gods redemptive plan in Christ and that is the sin we are most blind too.

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  3. I posted this comment at the wrong post and you can’t delete your comments after you post them.

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  4. Sdb, I think that’s supposed to be obvious, at least according to the Never Hilaryers (therefore Trump because binary fundamentalism).

    But if Trump is to statecraft what Sunday is to religion then shouldn’t Presbyterians be more critical of Trump than his imperfect critics? Or is Sunday not really a problem? Or is it not nice to suggest that Trump may be an exception to the fair-and-balanced rule?

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  5. “ Either you are sanctified or not. But of course that’s not what the Reformed Conessions teach.“
    This is sophomoric nonsense. The fact that one is right or not right does not entail that there are not degrees of rightness. Secondly scripture teaches that salvation is a process. When Paul summarizes the gospel for the corinthians (a gospel you add to and create a form of intellectual works righteousness), he tells them that they are “being” saved. This is equivalent to saying that they are getting more and more saved. Thus the reformed confessions are correct and you are just another in a long line of false teachers puffed up by your belief in your own idiosyncratic insight. A hefty dose of humility would do you good.

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  6. “ You do have to be taught what the Gospel is, what it accomplished, and exactly who Jesus died for before you can assent to it.“
    The apostle Paul disagrees.

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  7. @z
    I think criticism of Trump is mostly overblown. He is crude, rude, and obnoxious, but he is governing like a conservative republican. One place he has been better than the Bush2, McCains, and Grahams of the GOP, has been his reticence at getting us into new conflicts, support for criminal justice reform, and willingness to take on regulations. Not too shabby a run.

    I think criticism of Hillary was overblown as well. Yes she is a political opportunist and careerist, but she would have maintained the status quo which for all the fear inferring was actually pretty good for most people. She would have expanded the affordable care act, increased domestic spending, and probably supported some kind of bailout for college loans. She might also have gotten us more involved with Syria. She would also have appointed a Supreme Court justice who favored rvw so that these states with heartbeat bills would not have overplayed their hand. Ironically, I think we would have seen more long term success for the prolife movement.

    Anyway, a mixed bag for both. God is still on his throne and chooses our leaders and the directions they choose.

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  8. 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

    It seems impossible, still with our corruption, to even really, fully, truly contemplate the perfection of Jesus – never doing wrong even in thought, motive, judgement. No improper condemnation, ridicule, belittling, mocking, reviling, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc ; no wrong motive; no self exaltation, no wrong judgement, etc, etc. Only doing and thinking right.

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  9. @Ali
    Yep! While “being” sanctified is a life long process, we remain far from perfected this side of glory. Thus we “work out our salvation” and “strive” like an athlete preparing for the games. Not to earn righteousness, but to express gratitude for all Christ accomplished. I must be missing something in these sanctification debates because it doesn’t seem all that complicated to me. I just don’t see where the standards fall afoul of scripture.

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  10. Sbbdd, the gospel is drawn from inferences, logical deductions and syllogisms drawn from the Scriptures but many Reformed types have disregarded that type of thinking in favor of their idiosyncrasies drawn from Van Til.

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  11. Sbbbddd, better, some of the Gospel… There are idiosyncrasies in Reformed Covenant Theology, Reformed Sacramental Theology, and in the Reformed idea of the free offer of the Gospel.

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  12. Sbbbddd, so the gospel is limited to 1 Cor. chapter 15? Who told you that? How do you judge someone by the Gospel or is what matters to you the amount of athletic striving towards what you think sanctification is? Is it possible for someone to be misguided about sanctification by the Westminster confession of faith? Who is allowed to question what they say?

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  13. “Sbbbddd, so the gospel is limited to 1 Cor. chapter 15?”
    Let’t break down what Paul says here:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    So Paul is going to remind the brothers what they need to believe to be saved. What is the content of the gospel they must believe?

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

    So what is the gospel?
    1. Christ died for our sins
    2. He was buried
    3. He rose again
    4. He appeared

    Paul repeats this more or less to Timothy,

    Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…
    </blockquote

    That's the good news. Your theories about the scope of the salvific effect of Christ's death, how sanctification works, the details of his second coming, details about baptism, the Lord's supper, how to pray, etc… are all important. But they are not the good news.

    "Who told you that?"
    The Apostle Paul

    "How do you judge someone by the Gospel"

    Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?

    “is what matters to you the amount of athletic striving towards what you think sanctification is?
    What does the author of Hebrews say?

    let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus

    Here’s Paul again

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    And again,

    anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules

    I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

    That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

    The NT is awfully clear that striving is part of our Christian walk.

    Is it possible for someone to be misguided about sanctification by the Westminster confession of faith?

    Of course. But I don’t see that they were mistaken. The burden of proof is on you to show that the divines were incorrect. Given that this has stood the test of time by scores of godly expositors, I’m going to need more than your mockery or the incoherent bleatings from some internet gadfly who thinks he has overturned the reformed standards. Perhaps you can point out how these passages should be understood and why Paul repeated described an incomplete gospel to the churches to which he wrote.

    Who is allowed to question what they say?

    It’s a free country, so I suppose anyone can question anything. But that doesn’t mean they are right or shouldn’t be corrected.

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  14. “many Reformed types have disregarded that type of thinking in favor of their idiosyncrasies drawn from Van Til”
    van til was by all accounts a wonderful guy, but everything novel he had to say about philosophy is wrong. I doubt that he has had the influence you suggest. The number of people who have actually read van Til could probably fit on a school bus.

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  15. sdb, gratitude is a primarily motive, but not the only one-there are several. Another one is coming more and more to see sin as God does:
    A.W.Pink: “ The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character on which we need to meditate frequently. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to makes excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness.”

    Jz and sdb, I have seen some good articles recently on the scope of our good news (the Gospel) that speaks to forgiveness, redemption, restoration. It would not be good news to be forgiven yet be forever a corrupt miserable sinner.

    The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.”

    “Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.”– Tim Keller

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  16. @Ali – agree that there are other motives.
    Disagree with this though:
    The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.”

    Christ isn’t renewing the whole world. He is going to burn vast swaths of it and make a new one. The grass withers and the flowers fade…even after Christ’s saving work. The world will someday melt like snow and be replaced with a new creation. But I’m not sure that this should properly be understood as part of the gospel. The gospel is what one must believed to be saved. Paul describes the gospel similarly in many places through the NT. Am I overlooking biblical warrant for a more expansive understanding of the gospel? I’m riffing off the top of my head, so I’m sure I could be forgetting something.

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  17. Am I overlooking biblical warrant for a more expansive understanding of the gospel?

    Yes, I think so-
    Matthew 4:23a Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom
    Matthew 24:14This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

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  18. How does that passage suggest that all of creation will be renewed? I don’t doubt that all nations will eventually hear the gospel. But image bearers aren’t “all” of creation.

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  19. Sdb, I guess I’m not completely sure what you were saying when you said “Am I overlooking biblical warrant for a more expansive understanding of the gospel?”. I thought you were talking about what you said previously:.” So what is the gospel?1. Christ died for our sins 2. He was buried 3. He rose again 4. He appeared”

    As far as creation, we know -Romans 8 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now…. Revelation 22:3 aThere will no longer be any curse;

    As far as ‘new’ creation, since we ourselves are new creations (2 Cor 5:17), exactly how God goes about ‘new’ is His prerogative

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  20. @Ali
    Thanks. Sorry I wasn’t clear. What do the texts in Matthew tell us about the content of the gospel?

    As far as what new means, doesn’t scripture tell us that this world will be destroyed with fire?

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  21. Sdb, your breakdown of 1 Cor. 15 is loaded with your assumptions. So, the content of the Gospel is:

    1. Christ died for our sins
    2. He was buried
    3. He rose again
    4. He appeared

    Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses believe that. Does that save them? I really don’t believe that you actually believe that is the full content of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul was addressing a particular problem in the Corinthian Church in chapter 15. Some people were saying that Christ did not rise from the dead and Paul was dealing with that issue. He was not giving a complete explanation of the full content of the Gospel ãnd explaining its meaning. You have to consider the complete writings of the New Covenant in order to do that.

    My friend Giovanni explains the Gospel as follows- it takes into consideration the full New Covenant revelation.

    The gospel is that Jesus Christ, the eternal Holy Son of God was imputed with the sins of His people by God, He paid the debt owing to God the Father for that sin of the elect alone, and God now proves He is righteous in forgiving sinners because of what He did through Christ dying on the cross. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the elect believer, and there is now no condemnation for that saint.

    I often hear this rebuttal concerning election as if it might scare away the sheep of Christ who have not yet come to Him. That is an impossibility. Jesus tells us in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and they only follow Him, that they will not follow another. Jesus also tells us in John 6 that it is HIS mission to save all that the Father has given to Him, so the salvation of the elect is the surest thing in this universe because Christ cannot fail-He is God. So it is NOT true that speaking about election will cause a sheep of Christ’s fold to be scared off. Quite the contrary! The discussion about election and limited atonement informs the elect believer that his salvation is ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED and SURE because of the EFFECTIVENESS of the atonement for the elect. This is the good news that the elect believer MUST hear-that the atonement of Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God against His people-the elect. That is good news. That is the gospel. Christ died, and so we died, and now we have the living hope of resurrection to eternal life in the age to come. Limited atonement and election are an inseparable pair-one cannot be rightly understood without the other.

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  22. sdb says: What do the texts in Matthew tell us about the content of the gospel?

    From Got Questions (which I know you don’t like, but I do, finding them a trusted source)
    “The gospel of the kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal kingdom (John 1:12) . Those who choose to remain in their sin cannot be a part of this kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21). Although grace makes this offer available to anyone who will receive it, Jesus warned that it would be very difficult to enter His kingdom and few would do so (Matt 7:14.)

    The gospel of the kingdom is the news that there is freedom from our slavery to sin if we will repent and turn to God (Romans 6:18-19). Our Redeemer has come, but it is difficult to enter God’s kingdom, not because God requires impossible standards for us, but because we do not want to repent and change. We tend to love the darkness more than the Light (John 3:19). Many would rather cling to their old sinful identities than allow Jesus to create them anew (2 Cor 5:17).

    Those who receive the gospel of the kingdom become citizens of heaven and are freed from bondage to this world (Gal 4:3-9). Second Cor 5:20 refers to God’s children as “ambassadors” for our heavenly Father. Just as an earthly foreign ambassador retains his national identity when representing his country in another, the spiritual ambassadors of God’s kingdom owe their allegiance to God even as they reside in this world. We must follow our heavenly Father’s code of conduct while sojourners on earth. We need not conform to this world’s habits, values, and lifestyle, because this is not our home (Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).

    Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). So, although we must live here until God calls us home, we are not to live for ourselves or according to this world’s value system. Those who have been bought by the blood of Jesus have been given the right to live according to God’s value system. Citizens of the kingdom of God live here on assignment from our Father the King. Living with a kingdom mindset empowers us to make wiser decisions as we invest our lives in furthering the gospel of the kingdom.”

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  23. Sdb says: As far as what new means, doesn’t scripture tell us that this world will be destroyed with fire?
    Yes. The same ‘destroyed’ as it was by water?? What do you think? I don’t know.

    2 Peter 3: 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

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  24. @jy
    “Sdb, your breakdown of 1 Cor. 15 is loaded with your assumptions.”
    OK. Break down what what Paul is saying there using your assumptions.

    “Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses believe that.”
    You sure about that? I’m pretty sure that the mormons believe Jesus was the brother of satan. I think that JWs are wrong about a lot of things, but I’m not sure they are all lost.

    “I really don’t believe that you actually believe that is the full content of the Gospel. ”
    I don’t believe that it is the full content of theology, but I’m not going to argue with Paul.

    “Paul was addressing a particular problem in the Corinthian Church in chapter 15. Some people were saying that Christ did not rise from the dead and Paul was dealing with that issue. He was not giving a complete explanation of the full content of the Gospel ãnd explaining its meaning. You have to consider the complete writings of the New Covenant in order to do that.”
    Why does he give the same summary to Timothy?

    “My friend Giovanni explains the Gospel as follows- it takes into consideration the full New Covenant revelation.”
    Why should I care what Giovanni says?

    “The gospel is that Jesus Christ, the eternal Holy Son of God was imputed with the sins of His people by God, He paid the debt owing to God the Father for that sin of the elect alone, and God now proves He is righteous in forgiving sinners because of what He did through Christ dying on the cross. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the elect believer, and there is now no condemnation for that saint.”
    While I think all of these statements are true, I don’t see any evidence in scripture that they are part of the gospel proper.

    “I often hear this rebuttal concerning election as if it might scare away the sheep of Christ who have not yet come to Him.”
    You haven’t heard that from me or anyone here. You certainly can’t find that in the TFU or WSs.

    “That is an impossibility. Jesus tells us in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and they only follow Him, that they will not follow another. Jesus also tells us in John 6 that it is HIS mission to save all that the Father has given to Him, so the salvation of the elect is the surest thing in this universe because Christ cannot fail-He is God. So it is NOT true that speaking about election will cause a sheep of Christ’s fold to be scared off. Quite the contrary! The discussion about election and limited atonement informs the elect believer that his salvation is ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED and SURE because of the EFFECTIVENESS of the atonement for the elect.”
    So far so good.

    “This is the good news that the elect believer MUST hear-that the atonement of Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God against His people-the elect. That is good news. That is the gospel. Christ died, and so we died, and now we have the living hope of resurrection to eternal life in the age to come. Limited atonement and election are an inseparable pair-one cannot be rightly understood without the other.”
    Perhaps. That doesn’t make them part of the gospel. One can be made right with God without knowing anything about the limited atonement or election. Consider the thief on the cross. THat doesn’t mean that these truths don’t matter. But in even summary fo the gospel I can recall in the NT, none of them include these items. Curious, no?

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  25. “sdb says: What do the texts in Matthew tell us about the content of the gospel?”
    While your source is fine as far as it goes, it does not tell us what the content of the gospel in Matthew is. Paul tells us in at least two places what the content of the gospel is:
    1. Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures
    2. He was bruied
    3. He rose again
    3. He appeared

    That is not the entire scope of all that matters in theology, but it is the content of the good news. Jesus died for our sins. Our theories deduced from scripture about how this is applied, the effect of this good news, and the scope of this good news are all important inferences to make from scripture. But they aren’t the gospel.

    I need no other argument,
    I need no other plea;
    It is enough that Jesus died,
    And that He died for me.

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  26. “Yes. The same ‘destroyed’ as it was by water?? What do you think? I don’t know.”

    But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

    It is this text and others in scripture along the same lines that make me very skeptical of claims along the lines of,
    “through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world.”

    he isn’t going to renew the whole world. he is going to destroy it. The beautiful works of art, architecture, scientific insight, etc… are all going to burn. None of these things has eternal significance. We don’t grow Christ’s kingdom by implementing better politics, creating great works of art, or doing excellent work whatever our job. These things are fine as far as they go, but they are only a means to an end. I think the old fundamentalists were much more correct than we want to give them credit for.

    Only one life, “twill soon be past,
    Only what’s done for Christ will last.

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  27. sdb says Only one life, “twill soon be past,Only what’s done for Christ will last.

    and speaking of fire-
    1 Corinthians 3:13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

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  28. @Ali
    Purgatory? Ha! Just kidding. Yes, our works will be tested by the refiners fire as they say. Thank God for the active obedience of Christ! No hope with out it.

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  29. amen sdb.
    and how can we forget to mention the most incredible offer of the hope of the gospel good news – adoption. By God, who has become our Father

    you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal 4:7)

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  30. JohnnY, Mormons and JW’s believe Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, who took human form to die for the sins of the elect? They believe all that?

    Who knew?

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  31. Zrim, isn’t it sort of obvious to be critical of Trump? Why should Presbyterians jump on the bandwagon? To show that we are virtuous and not like those hypocrites?

    It’s not like Trump is any different from Meryl Streep on gay marriage or sex outside marriage. And yet we now live at a time when Hollywood celebs’ get to criticize Trump the way Falwell criticized Bill Clinton.

    But you want to stand with the Trump critics? Be sure you know when to duck.

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  32. Dgh, I did not say all that you said, I said they believe:

    1. Christ died for our sins
    2. He was buried
    3. He rose again
    4. He appeared

    That says nothing about Christ being God or God being manifested in human flesh. The point I was trying to communicate is that those four propositions about the gospel can become a different false Jesus without further revelation, clarity, and definition from the whole of the New Covenant. The same can be said about limiting the Gospel to those 4 propositions from 1 Cor.

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  33. ” The point I was trying to communicate is that those four propositions about the gospel can become a different false Jesus without further revelation, clarity, and definition from the whole of the New Covenant.”
    The gospel is not all the true stuff about God.

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  34. Sdb,

    I’m not clear on what you mean by, “Salvation is a process.” What part of salvation are you talking about? Are you understanding salvation as an umbrella term like some confessional Reformed understand union with Christ? We have had this argument many times at old life. I take it that one of the texts you get this from is this:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    John Y: Is the key phrase here, “being saved?” Many believe that one of the idiosyncrasies of the WCF is its understanding of sanctification. McMark quoted those views from the confession in his comment above. Luther, many other Lutherans, Barth, Seifred, the Zahl’s (to name a few) did not agree with the WCF so the issue was hardly non-controversial and easily agreed upon in the past. The following are a few quotes that challenge Calvin’s and by implication the WCF’s understanding of progress and process in salvation or sanctification:

    Mark Seifrid-—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. …. The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. The Reformed regard the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.

    Seifrid—Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    Seifried—Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self-seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another.

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  35. Sdb says: The gospel is not all the true stuff about God.

    John Y: Sure, but you can come to wrong conclusions about what the gospel is from those 4 propositions without further explanation and understanding.

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  36. @JY You are correct. You have to have a proper understanding of what those words mean. But again, that background information is not the gospel. Paul gives us the content of the gospel. Yes, you have to properly define the words. You don’t have to have the proper theory of election worked out exactly right to believe the gospel.

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  37. @JY

    Is the key phrase here, “being saved?”

    Yes. You see the same idea in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all…are being transformed…”

    Many believe that one of the idiosyncrasies of the WCF is its understanding of sanctification. McMark quoted those views from the confession in his comment above. Luther, many other Lutherans, Barth, Seifred, the Zahl’s (to name a few) did not agree with the WCF so the issue was hardly non-controversial and easily agreed upon in the past. The following are a few quotes that challenge Calvin’s and by implication the WCF’s understanding of progress and process in salvation or sanctification:

    Right. Lutherans are not Calvinists. Lots of people disagree with the reformed standards.

    I take it you do not believe that “we work out our salvation”. That believing THE GOSPEL without any mistakes (lest one be believing a false gospel) saves you and there is nothing ongoing regarding one’s salvation. We aren’t being saved. We were saved (if we got our beliefs exactly right) and will never be more saved. Is that a fair construal of your understanding? If so, then what do you understand Paul to be on about when he talks about “working out one’s salvation”, “being saved”, “being transformed”, “running the race with endurance”, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord”, “grow up in your salvation”, “make every effort to add to your faith…”, and so on? Sure sounds like progress to me. That would make Seifried wrong.

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  38. Darryl, like the way Sunday (or Finney, Whitefield, Edwards, Piper, Graham) is obvious? Some might say a consistent criticism of all these is bandwagoning and virtue signaling but so what? We’re right to hold out on imposters to the historic faith that influence should be resisted. Why does it all of a sudden become bandwagoning and signaling when it’s Trump? Are all critics bandwagoning signalers? That might sound like a clever way to zig when others are zagging, but plenty of critics are more sober than the SJWs.

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  39. sdb, that’s too fair-and-balanced. A broken clock is right twice a day and Trump might accidentally do some ok things but the flouting of received institutions and collective wisdom under the bootleg Baptist cover of “being his own man” and “calling it like it is” has been an unmitigated disaster in ways that HRC is only annoying (boo hoo). His is a classic charlatan’s way of hoodwinking a gullible set eager to be merely entertained and wound up. How do conservative Calvinists who should have better sensibilities about all this miss it so often? Perhaps too influenced by the Sundays and his ranks of eeeevangelicals. God may well be on his throne but not sure that means we dispense with prudence and judgement have the guts to say some people are worse than others.

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  40. Sdb says:

    I take it you do not believe that “we work out our salvation”. That believing THE GOSPEL without any mistakes (lest one be believing a false gospel) saves you and there is nothing ongoing regarding one’s salvation. We aren’t being saved. We were saved (if we got our beliefs exactly right) and will never be more saved. Is that a fair construal of your understanding? If so, then what do you understand Paul to be on about when he talks about “working out one’s salvation”, “being saved”, “being transformed”, “running the race with endurance”, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord”, “grow up in your salvation”, “make every effort to add to your faith…”, and so on? Sure sounds like progress to me. That would make Seifried wrong.

    John Y: No, you are not understanding what I am saying. All I’m saying is that if you don’t include election and definitive atonement in the Gospel than you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people. You won’t boast only in the cross of Christ. You will also boast about the Spirits work inside you; feathers and all. The important and critical work in salvation shifts from outside the sinner to inside the sinner. This becomes apparent in people’s comments when they continually want to focus on the imperatives and move past the gospel. You cant move past the gospel. I think that is the point Seifrid was making.

    To quote McMark: Christ’s righteousness is the cause of the elect’s believing. This means that we cannot say that election without the righteousness is the gospel. It also means that we cannot say that the righteousness without election is the gospel.

    Those who deny that election is in the gospel think they can talk about the righteousness of Christ without saying that this righteousness was only obtained for the elect. The effect of this cover-up is that they end up teaching that the work of the Spirit in the sinner causing the sinner to believe is not a result but the cause of Christ’s work working.

    These folks may say: let’s just talk about the cross before we get into the whole election thing. But ironically, they end up not glorying in the cross but putting the Spirit’s work in the sinner in the determinative place. This is the great danger of saying that “election is not the gospel” but only that which makes sinners believe the gospel. I know some people only say that because they have heard other people say it, and it sounds good. But you need to think before you begin repeating what I say!

    The texts I have quoted from Ephesians will not support leaving election out of the gospel and salvation. But folks want to leave out election because they don’t want to talk about non-election.

    It is wrong to say that non-election is only conditioned on sin and the sinner. Both those elected and those not elected are sinners. If sin were the cause of non-elect, then all sinners would not be elect. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

    If we try to take God’s sovereignty out of God’s justice, then there would be no reason for either election or non-election. If we attempt to leave God’s election out of God’s gospel, then there would be no good reason for why some sinners are saved and others are not.

    God’s glory is also revealed in His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

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  41. @jy
    I believe that God ordained some to be vessels of Grace and others vessels of wrath. I see no evidence that this is part of the gospel.

    ” you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people. ”
    Why is this a problem?

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  42. Zrim,

    “Trump might accidentally do some ok things but the flouting of received institutions and collective wisdom”

    Which “received institutions and collective wisdom” is he flouting, and why if it is happening is it ever worse than the way the Clintons and Obama flouted received institutions and collective wisdom?

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  43. Zrim,

    Why does it all of a sudden become bandwagoning and signaling when it’s Trump?

    Because Trump’s flaws are obvious to anyone who pays attention. The flaws of Sunday, Whitfield, etc. not so much. Nobody has to tell an evangelical that adultery and crude talk are bad. They have to be told that altar calls are.

    At the very least, Trump has been no better or worse than any other president of my lifetime. He’s just loud and obnoxious. Yeah, we get it. And Obama was polite while lighting up the White House in the LGBTQEIEIO rainbow, trying to rule by executive order, sending the IRS after CPACs, entering into bad deals with Iran and weaponizing the FBI and CIA against the president-elect. Pardon me if I don’t think that’s better.

    I’m no Trump fan, but at this point the Trump hate is, well, pointless.

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  44. Zrim, Edwards, Whitefield, and Piper are not obvious. Think Big Green Letters. And then consider how clever and unusual it is to link Finney and Sunday to Whitefield and Edwards.

    Just say no to all obvious criticisms.

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  45. His is a classic charlatan’s way of hoodwinking a gullible set eager to be merely entertained and wound up. How do conservative Calvinists who should have better sensibilities about all this miss it so often?

    Zrim,

    What if you’re just a moralizer? What if you’re like those church ladies who scold teenagers for holding hands and kissing in public? What if Trump is just a politician like any other and voters had to make choices between one politician or another? Maybe you’re seeing too sharp a moral contrast between politicians. I’ve been guilty of this myself. Gaining altitude will help. I’m here for you, bro.

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  46. John Y: All I’m saying is that if you don’t include election and definitive atonement in the Gospel than you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people.

    You have a point. After all, the Synod of Dort rejected a large number of errors concerning election and atonement, Both the notion that election is grounded in foreseen faith and the notion that Christ died for some indefinite number were declared outside of orthodoxy.

    The force of that rejection is that anyone holding to the aforementioned errors cannot be a minister of the Gospel for the simple reason that he does not understand the Gospel.

    So far we agree.

    But now, SDB has a point also. Namely, it is not necessary to understand the Gospel perfectly in order to savingly believe in it. The chief example is Peter, who was certainly saved by the time Matt 16 occurs. Yet he also carried around a works-based corruption of the Gospel as late as the Antioch incident mentioned in Gal 2.

    Immediately, Clarkians pounce: How can one believe imperfectly in propositions, which are either true or false? Either Peter believed the Gospel, or else he didn’t.

    And this reveals the weakness of Clark’s understanding of human cognition. For it is obvious in Matt 16 that Peter was saved. One cannot be “blessed” and “the rock” and “given the keys of the kingdom” without being saved. One cannot receive the Spirit (John 20.22) or be commissioned by Christ as an apostle (Matt 28) or perform the ministry that Peter did in Acts 1 – 10 without being saved. There is no question that Peter was saved by the time of the events in the first part of Acts.

    And yet, sometime after all this, Peter shows a defect in his understanding of the Gospel that Paul anathematizes in Galatians.

    What do we conclude then? Is believing the Gospel not necessary for salvation? Me genoito. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already”

    Rather, we conclude that people are inconsistent and defective in their beliefs. Unlike the Clarkian model of cognition, where belief is simply assent to propositions and believers are treated as fully rational agents, we find in the real world that people are not fully rational agents. They simultaneously assent to propositions AND to other propositions contrary to the first ones. Contradictory? Yes. Is it what we do? Also yes. Is it what we should do? No. Can we fix that that? Not completely.

    So: You, McMark, and Clark (along with many others) have correctly seen that “unlimited atonement” implies that people have some quality in themselves that determines their salvation. As such, belief in “unlimited atonement” is incompatible with belief in salvation through Christ alone.

    Yet *millions* of people affirm “Jesus saved me” and also “Christ died for all.” Are they inconsistent? Absolutely. Are they thereby unsaved? Not necessarily. If Peter can be saved while believing something so antiGospel as “circumcision is necessary for salvation”, so can others.

    Believing an inconsistent set of propositions is what people do.

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  47. Robert, hate may be pointless (sometimes) but not maintaining scrutiny on an elected office or branch of government. Is maintaining protest against Rome and evangelicalism hate or just what’s warranted in the realm of Reformed religion? So where’s the critical chutzpah when it comes to the political realm?

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Walt, right because that’s my pattern around here, a moralizer. But maybe you’re being a tad dainty and overly-worried about being a moralizer simply because one is a critic? Maybe all moralizers are critics but not all critics are moralizers? Maybe some criticism is more about his gross incompetence for the task and less his moral failings? Maybe Trump is a self-promoting entertainer who has bamboozled many into thinking he’s a politician (who’s just being like any other politician and “no better or worse than any other president of my lifetime”)? Maybe the term “bro” is the greasy familiarity of dude culture and PDA is just unbecoming of people of any age?

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  49. Zrim,

    The difference is that there’s no evidence that Trump is any worse than any president before him. Or maybe you can explain to me the ways he’s destroying our public institutions the way Obama or Bush didn’t.

    Or, as SDB noted, everything looks to be running as fine as it always did before.

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  50. Zrim,

    Or, did you ever think that the possibility is that Trump is a self-promoting entertainer who has bamboozled people like you into thinking he’s not like every politician before him?

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  51. @ Zrim: PDA is a form of rebellion against the tyranny of youth, who yell “Ewwww” when they see anyone over 40 kiss.

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  52. Maybe some criticism is more about his gross incompetence for the task and less his moral failings?

    Your past criticism has centered around his moral failings. You must’ve been asleep for the past 40 years and have failed to observe previous administrations.

    Maybe Trump is a self-promoting entertainer who has bamboozled many into thinking he’s a politician (who’s just being like any other politician and “no better or worse than any other president of my lifetime”)?

    “Self promoting entertainer” describes most presidents since Kennedy and television. Reagan was literally an actor. Clinton was elected by Baby Boomers who thought he was cool because he played the saxophone with sunglasses on. Kennedy was elected partially by women who thought he was good looking. He loved the ladies as much as Trump. The voters vote for this. Read “Closing of the American Mind.” I’m sorry, but these people reflect the electorate.

    Maybe the term “bro” is the greasy familiarity of dude culture and PDA is just unbecoming of people of any age?

    Hey, who are you calling “Greasy,” dude? Is that some sort of racial epithet against Italians?

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  53. First, to be more clear about Sdb’s question:

    John Y: ” you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people. ”

    Sdb: Why is this a problem?

    John Y: I think Mc Mark answers that question in a convincing way:

    “God’s work in the sinner does not make us “not sinners” and does not erase our past sins, our present sins or our future sins—-faith in the true gospel leads to despair about how much God is going to do in us in this age, and despair from “mouths shut before the law” leads to our only hope being the alien external righteousness (Christ’s death outside us)”

    John Y: So where is the righteousness found and of necessity what is the cause and object of faith? What is the wedding garment that allows someone into the wedding feast in the new covenant parable? What makes Christ’s death effectual to the elect sinner who is born already condemned in Adam? How can election not be part of the gospel when election is really the definition of God’s love. Without election there is no Gospel.

    Second, to further inquire about Jeff’s comment about an inconsistent gospel. Am I understanding correctly that the Reformed Confessions teach that someone can be justified and converted by an inconsistent Gospel? Does that include lies and distortions of the Gospel too? How about the possibility of being effectually called and converted by no gospel at all?

    We really don’t know what Peter or the thief on the cross knew or did not know about the Gospel in any full way from the information given regarding their stories in the Scriptures. So, I’m unconvinced about whether your comment has validity. It seems absurd that God would use inconsistencies, distortions, or lies about the gospel when effectually calling someone by the Gospel.

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  54. ” Without election there is no Gospel.”
    Could be, but that doesn’t make election part of the Gospel. Without the existence of the triune God of scripture, there is no Gospel. The doctrine of the Trinity is not part of the gospel. How perfectly must one be able to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity to be judged by you as believing the true gospel?

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  55. “God’s work in the sinner does not make us “not sinners” and does not erase our past sins, our present sins or our future sins”
    So our sins aren’t blotted out? Not taken away as far as the East is from the West?

    “faith in the true gospel leads to despair”
    That doesn’t seem to be the reaction of people in the NT who believe the gospel.

    “about how much God is going to do in us in this age, and despair from “mouths shut before the law” leads to our only hope being the alien external righteousness (Christ’s death outside us”
    To be sure, it is the alien righteousness of Christ that justifies. I don’t see why this is inconsistent with salvation being contingent on the Spirit’s work in the sinner (regeneration) or the Father’s work in electing the sinner. MM quote, as usual, clarifies nothing.

    “So where is the righteousness found and of necessity what is the cause and object of faith?”
    Righteousness is found in Christ alone.
    The cause of faith is the regeneration of the believer creating belief in the Gospel.
    The object of faith is that Christ died for our sins, was raised again, and appeared to many.

    “What is the wedding garment that allows someone into the wedding feast in the new covenant parable?”
    Christ’s imputed righteousness…even if you don’t know all the theological definitions.

    “What makes Christ’s death effectual to the elect sinner who is born already condemned in Adam?”
    Regeneration->Faith->Adoption->Sanctification…

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  56. John Y: Am I understanding correctly that the Reformed Confessions teach that someone can be justified and converted by an inconsistent Gospel? Does that include lies and distortions of the Gospel too? How about the possibility of being effectually called and converted by no gospel at all?

    No, you are not understanding correctly (sorry). I am not saying that God uses error. He uses truth. But, I am also saying that God is not prevented by error that lies side-by-side with truth in the mind.

    Taking your questions in reverse order:

    Can we be converted by no gospel at all?

    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; — WCF 14

    Much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever,be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is very pernicious, and to be detested. — WCF 10

    So, No (leaving aside children dying in infancy and others not able to be ordinarily called).

    Can we be converted by lies and distortions of the Gospel?

    Lies and distortions of the Gospel are not the Word. Nevertheless, to the extent that the truth is told, God can certainly use what truth is understood to convert.

    So no: We cannot be converted by lies and distortions of the Gospel. But we can be converted by the truth, which is sometimes accompanied by lies and frequently by distortions.

    Finally: can we be converted and justified by an inconsistent Gospel?

    The true Gospel is not inconsistent. Nevertheless, two things can happen

    (1) The evangelist may preach an inconsistent message that contains truth alongside distortions. This is the case discussed above.

    (2) The evangelist may preach the gospel but the hearer understand inconsistently OR believe a consistent Gospel that conflicts with other beliefs.

    In case (2), can such a one be saved? Again we look at Peter. You are unconvinced:

    John Y: We really don’t know what Peter or the thief on the cross knew or did not know about the Gospel in any full way from the information given regarding their stories in the Scriptures. So, I’m unconvinced about whether your comment has validity.

    But this is mistaken. We know two things. First, that Peter was most definitely saved by the time of Acts 2. It would be absurdly obtuse to deny this. Second, we know that sometime after Acts 10, Peter was mostly definitely acting in a manner inconsistent with the truth of the Gospel, per Gal 2

    For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles … When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? — Gal 2

    So it is clear that Peter was saved; it is clear that his behavior, which came from the heart, revealed that he believed that Gentiles needed to follow Jewish customs — which is inconsistent with the Gospel.

    John Y: It seems absurd that God would use inconsistencies, distortions, or lies about the gospel when effectually calling someone by the Gospel.

    Yes, that would be absurd. It would also be absurd that God’s effectual calling would be conditioned upon absolute consistency and perfection of both speech and understanding. It would be absurd that God can be hindered in His effectual calling by defects of understanding in the one called.

    No, it is rather the case that truth and error lie side-by-side in the mind; God uses truth, but is not prevented by error. This is why Peter could be saved, yet act inconsistently with the Gospel. This is also why churches are more or less pure.

    The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children;b and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ…

    This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible.a And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them. — WCF 25

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  57. Sdb, We debated the how, when, and why of union with Christ here for many years. MM continually pointed out that the priority in union with Christ was the legal declaration and transfer of the death of Christ to His elect people. This is the cause of the work of the Spirit in the effectual call. This was dismissed by the confessional Reformed here as an idiosyncratic view. The spiritual union is the vital union according to the confessional Reformed. These two differing views have differing implications for how the Christian life is lived out and they have different theological implications when thought through. The atoning work of Christ is the priority in the legal union while the work of the Spirit is the priority in the spiritual union. The vital question then becomes are these different views the same Gospel?

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  58. John Y,

    The history of union discussions needs some clarification. Interested readers should check out the tags Union with Christ and Forensics. (Aside: DGH, what happened to the posts pre-2010?)

    In that series, which included a recurring “Where’s Waldo” motiv, DGH persistently argued for the priority of forensics over mystical union. He was joined in this by Zrim, RL, David R, Jed Paschall, Jack Miller, and many other commentators. And eventually, I came to agree with the language that forensic has priority in salvation.

    So the first and most important correction that needs to be made is that your sentence “the spiritual union is the vital union according to the Reformed” is incorrect. In fact, the Union posts were created in order to *push back* against exactly that idea.

    As discussion progressed, it became clear that there was an intramural difference concerning ordo salutis in re: imputation and effectual calling. Some Reformed writers, including Ursinus and AA Hodge, hold that imputation precedes effectual calling. Others, including Calvin, hold that imputation is received by faith.

    The first view I called “idiosyncratic”, but I had to admit that it is definitely attested in Reformed soteriology. When you say MM continually pointed out that the priority in union with Christ was the legal declaration and transfer of the death of Christ to His elect people. … This was dismissed by the confessional Reformed here as an idiosyncratic view. , this is incorrect. Many Reformed folk here (RL, David R, and Zrim come to mind) agreed with him. And even though I disagreed, I allowed that it was within the realm of orthodoxy.

    So the second correction is that it is NOT true that “imputation as the cause of effectual calling” was dismissed by the confessional Reformed as an idiosyncratic view. That term is mine, and I don’t speak for everyone.

    Finally, you (following Mark) create a false dichotomy by suggesting that the two views discussed above are equivalent to a legal-priority view over against a work-of-the-Spirit priority view.

    As DGH has amply documented in the “Forensic Friday” series, both Ursinus’ view and Calvin’s are legal-priority views. There are no regular commentators here who hold that the work of the Spirit has a priority over the forensic — including me.

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  59. ” We debated the how, when, and why of union with Christ here for many years.”
    I ignored most of those threads. I find MM impossible to read. Reading Jeff’s recap re minds me why. I frankly still do not understand the importance of the distinction between what he refers to as Urinus and Calvin’s view.

    “MM continually pointed out that the priority in union with Christ was the legal declaration and transfer of the death of Christ to His elect people. This is the cause of the work of the Spirit in the effectual call. This was dismissed by the confessional Reformed here as an idiosyncratic view.”
    Priority is carrying a lot of weight here. I always took union with Christ to more or less be a metaphor equivalent to adoption.

    “The spiritual union is the vital union according to the confessional Reformed. ”
    So vital = priority? That doesn’t make any sense.

    “These two differing views have differing implications for how the Christian life is lived out”
    You’ll need to spell out for me how these different views make one iota of difference to how the partisans actually live.

    ” they have different theological implications when thought through. The atoning work of Christ is the priority in the legal union while the work of the Spirit is the priority in the spiritual union. The vital question then becomes are these different views the same Gospel?”
    I consider myself a reasonably well read and thoughtful layman. I have no seminary training, I’m not a church officer, and I’ve never taken a course in an ancient language. But I have read institutes, a fair bit of theology, numerous commentaries, and have a decent working knowledge of the reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, and Anglican standards. In short, I have a better than average knowledge of theology as a layman. Yet I still cannot make heads or tails of the difference between what priority means in regards to forensic and mystical union. The distinction is esoteric and therefore irrelevant to the Gospel. You would need to convince me that scripture is sufficiently plain on this point that getting it right is a necessary article of faith one must hold in order to be saved. In other words it should be blindingly obvious from scripture. You have not convinced me that any of this stuff is part of the Gospel rather than theoretical speculation about how the gospel works. It may be worthy of discussion and there may be a definitive correct conclusion, but it is not the Gospel.

    Like

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