Hunting Wolves

I’m told that a wolf will gnaw its own foot off to escape a steel trap and Lane Keister has laid a nice trap in his recent post on the Joint Federal Vision Profession (JFVP). Keister begins by drawing his prey in by expressing his frustration with the men of the Federal Vision, a frustration shared by many PCA elders trying to deal with these men within their own Presbyteries:

I have found the FV to be an extremely moving target. The minute one has a logical argument against a position that has been written down, I am told that that isn’t their position. It was their position just a minute before, when what we had was written documentation. However, what always seems to happen is that I am told that I am a dolt, an irresponsible nincompoop, who cannot even understand plain English. Of course, not everyone in the FV camp has been doing this to me (Wilson being an example, though he doesn’t think I have proven one single aspect of any FV thinker’s theology to be out of bounds).

Anyone dealing with the any of these FV men will immediately sympathize with the Lane’s frustration. Trying to nail down any of these men on any one point of doctrine is like trying to wrestle a greased pig. They will concede no ground and just when you think you have them cornered, they slip right out from under you. Even the PCA’s FV/NPP can’t nail down even one of these men as they all claim miraculously “not to see themselves” in any of the nine declarations of the PCA’s report, and, to a man, they all claim to be both confessional and biblical. Poster boys for orthodoxy. Doug Wilson was even so bold to assert, “I must not be FV at all because I do not hold to the positions they condemned.”

So, for an example of how the game is played, Lane Keister again takes up the challenge and says he will use one example to prove “the FV statement is thoroughly non-confessional.” To accomplish this task he takes the Committee report’s first declaration:

The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.

Notice, the question here is not just a question of semantics, but those who would reject “the essence of the first/second covenant framework.” Keister then discusses “the essence” of this first covenant according to the Westminster Confession and contrasts it to the covenant of works (if we can even call it that) as advanced by the signers of the JFVP:

The Covenant of Works, in chapter 7 of the WCF, plainly says that eternal life was promised to Adam upon condition of personal and perfect obedience. The JFVP says plainly that ‘the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements’ (see under the section ‘The Covenant of Life’). Now, I am not sure what else Adam’s moral exertions or achievements could be other than his obedience to God’s law, or personal and perfect obedience. So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP. The PCA has decided that this is not going to be an allowable exception to the Standards.

Here we have a clear contradiction between the position taken by the WCF and the signers of the JFVP.

1. The WCF states: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

2. The JFVP states: We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

Life cannot be promised and not promised in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect and personal obedience,” and, at the same time, not on the condition of “moral exertions or achievements.” Perfect and personal obedience IS (at least for those of us who still speak English) the result of moral exertions and achievements.

To render obedience means:

1 a: an act or instance of obeying b: the quality or state of being obedient.

To be obedient means to be submissive to the will of another — obedient implies compliance with the demands or requests of one in authority.

Now, as Lane points out, what else can Adam’s moral exertions or achievements be other than “his obedience to God’s law, or personal and perfect obedience?” Lane clearly identifies the inherent and glaring contradiction in Wilson’s doctrine and states it this way:

So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.

Here is the dilemma for FVists: If the phrase “moral exertions or achievements” is not the equivalent and synonymous to “prefect and personal obedience” then what does it mean? Because, if it is to be understood as being synonymous with the Confessional phrase “perfect and personal obedience” as Keister and the ordinary meaning of the English language require, then FVist like . . . .

John Barach (minister, CREC)
Randy Booth (minister, CREC)
Tim Gallant (minister, CREC)
Mark Horne (minister, PCA)
Jim Jordan (minister ARC, Director of Biblical Horizons, member CREC)
Peter Leithart (minister, PCA)
Rich Lusk (minister, CREC)
Jeff Meyers (minister, PCA)
Ralph Smith (minister, CREC)
Steve Wilkins (minister, PCA)
Douglas Wilson (minister, CREC)

. . . are ALL out of bounds with the Confession.

There is no middle ground.

In comes Doug Wilson, now watch what he does. He affirms that Adam’s obedience was necessary and “upon which continued bliss absolutely depended,” but that such obedience isn’t to be confused with works. Huh? Wilson writes:

But here are some terms that one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works.

You might have noticed that’s exactly what the Confession does when it defines the covenant of works. But Wilson says this is not allowed. Aside for missing his coronation, I suppose it’s a good thing the Divines at Westminster weren’t taking orders from Wilson. Wilson continues:

Not one of us believes that the WCF was wrong to say that Adam had to obey. He disobeyed, and here we are in a sinful world. Had he obeyed, we would not have been. We all hold to the necessity of that obedience, as the Confession says. So when we deny that the gift was conditioned upon Adam’s “moral exertions or achievements,” we are denying the idea of autonomy. We are not denying the idea of trusting obedience, upon which continued bliss absolutely depended. . . . There is no conflict between “personal and perpetual obedience” and “required to obey God completely, from the heart.

The question is not whether we hold to the requirement of obedience. We all hold to that. We are all confessional on this point. The debate is over the nature of that obedience. Was it an aspect of God’s grace to man, or was it to be autonomously rendered by man? That is the point of debate, and on that the Westminster Confession requires nothing of us, one way or the other. So Lane is simply wrong to say that we are not confessional here. The only part of the confession he quotes is the part that says obedience is necessary. I quoted a section from out statement that clearly shows we believe obedience to be necessary. If he wants to show us out of conformity with the Confession, Lane needs to pick another place and try again.

Actually, not only does Lane not have “to pick another place and try again,” but Wilson’s failure here exposes his entire false FV gospel. Wilson wants to advance the idea that our obedience is somehow not a matter of “works.” That way when he and his other fellow false teachers (see the above list for a small representation of just who they are) assert that our “final justification” or “final salvation” is the conditioned on our faithful obedience they can deny that they’re advancing a scheme of salvation based on works. That’s because faith plus works equals, in the FV lexicon, obedience, not works. See how clever they are.

Now, in case anyone missed the sleight of hand, and I readily admit that Wilson is a true master in the art of obfuscation and deception, Wilson says the issue and resolution of this apparent contradiction hinges on the sense of the word “obedience.” Did you ever notice how often these FV men will defend the most outrageous anti-Christian heretical nonsense while hiding behind the supposed “sense” of a word no matter how strained or contrived? Think about this for a moment, according to Wilson Adam was require to obey in the Garden and his eternal bliss was conditioned on his perfect obedience, but this obedience had to be by grace and “from the heart” and not an autonomous human act. Huh? Still confused? I know, you’re asking yourself if the covenant of works is premised on Adam’s “perfect and personal obedience” then what difference is there if this obedience is done by grace through faith or autonomously (assuming such a thing were even ontologically possible)? What is required under the terms of the covenant is what is required. I also know that you didn’t notice the Confession making any distinctions between obedience and works or even types of obedience, only that Adam’s perfect obedience was required in order to obtain the promise. This is, after all, what the covenant of works is and what the word “works” mean. Not so for Wilson, in defense of this bit of impenetrable contradictory nonsense, he explains:

We distinguish between obedience and works because Paul does. In the Pauline vocabulary, deeds without faith is works. Deeds done in faith is obedience.

Notice what happened here. Deeds in conformity to the law done in faith are acts of obedience. Deeds in conformity to the law without faith are works. See how that works. So, keep these two definitions in mind and let’s go back to our contradiction above:

1. The WCF states: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

What was required in order to obtain the promise is obedience and to be obedient requires “faith.”

2. The JFVP states: We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

What was required in order to obtain the promise is obedience, not “moral exertions or achievements” which are “autonomous” human acts. These are works.

Consequently, and if you’re still following, the promise of the covenant of works was conditioned not on works but on obedience. See, no contradiction. Huh? I guess the Divines should have called the first covenant the Covenant of Obedience.

Of course, there is nothing in “the Pauline vocabulary” which states that deeds done without faith are “works” or that deeds done through faith are “obedience” but not “works.” Biblically and confessionally works and personal obedience to God’s commands are synonymous.

Works are doing what God commands.

Being obedient is doing what God commands.

Paul said not just hearers but the “doers of the Law will be justified.” The problem is no one keeps the law and all have fallen short of the glory of God and have followed in Adam’s footsteps ever since. Belief does not make works “not works.” Belief makes works “good” and not because of any intrinsic value of either belief or the works themselves, but because of Christ’s perfect and finished work imputed to us. Our works of obedience are acceptable to the Father because of the imputed righteousness of Christ and because of His works, not ours and certainly not because of some mystical infusion of belief.

Adam’s disobedience was his failure to do the work that he was required to do under the first covenant. By his insubordination to God’s command he plunged all mankind into sin and death. All of Wilson’s attempts at word play changes absolutely nothing. The covenant of WORKS was premised and conditioned on Adam’s perfect work of obedience.

Beyond that, Paul also talks about the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5, 16:26), but if this is what Wilson has in mind he clearly doesn’t know what Paul meant and is perhaps hoping everyone else is mired in the same darkness he’s in. The obedience of faith, as Calvin rightly said, is the act of believing the gospel. It is not our “faithful obedience” to the demands of the FV conditional covenant as Wilson & Co. maintain. Calvin said:

We must also notice here what faith is; the name of obedience is given to it, and for this reason — because the Lord calls us by his gospel; we respond to his call by faith; as on the other hand, the chief act of disobedience to God is unbelief . . . Faith is properly that by which we obey the gospel.

No matter how you slice it or whichever way you turn it, the contradiction remains and the false teachers of the Federal Vision remain outside the bounds of the Confession. Adding the word “faith” to the mix or even “grace,” as if these words were some kind of magic faerie dust, doesn’t change a thing. And, as should be obvious, asserting that somehow obedience is not a work doesn’t cut it either. The contradiction stands even if you call works done by faith “NOT WORKS.”

I realize that Federal Visionists have nothing but contempt for any remaining Christians who can still speak English, but, honestly, how stupid do they think we are? I guess the one tiny consolation is the simple but morbid pleasure of watching Wilson gnaw at his foot. Despite my differences with Lane recently, he did an outstanding job setting the trap.

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9 Comments on “Hunting Wolves”

  1. Mark T. Says:

    “Covenant of Obedience,” yer killing me!

    Nice job.

  2. rgmann Says:

    But here are some terms that one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works. (Doug Wilson)

    Of course, Scripture clearly equates Christ’s “good works” with His “obedience,” and teaches that they were the very basis of His glorification!

    “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. — John 10:37-38

    “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” — John 17:4

    “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” — Romans 4:4

    “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” — Romans 5:18-19

    “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name…” — Philippians 2:8-9

    Wilson simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or else he does, and he’s doubly guilty!).

    The question is not whether we hold to the requirement of obedience. We all hold to that. We are all confessional on this point. The debate is over the nature of that obedience. Was it an aspect of God’s grace to man, or was it to be autonomously rendered by man? That is the point of debate, and on that the Westminster Confession requires nothing of us, one way or the other. (Doug Wilson)

    Of course, the Westminster Confession clearly teaches that God created Adam and Eve with “the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it” (4.2), and that both their obedience and disobedience to His law was governed by His “providence” (5.1-4) not His “grace.” God’s “grace,” properly defined within this context, is in response to Adam’s disobedience or sin (it’s called the Covenant of Grace, Doug!). Nothing we do, including our sinful acts of disobedience, is “autonomously rendered by man!” Once again, Wilson simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or else he does, and he’s doubly guilty!).

  3. magma2 Says:

    The verses in John are devastating. The problem with the rest is that these sophists contend that “obedience” is not a work. They agree that Christ’s perfect obedience was required but this is “by grace through faith” and is therefore not works. Works are “autonomous.”

    Not only are these FV men not Christians, but they’re not even Calvinists, despite their incessant prattle about being dyed-in-the-wool 5 pointers. Wilson said; “when we deny that the gift was conditioned upon Adam’s “moral exertions or achievements,” we are denying the idea of autonomy.” But, I thought we all exist and move “in God,” He is the Potter and we are His clay, and that the idea of “autonomy” is an illusion like that Arminian and Romanist fantasy of free will? I guess not.

    Consider this from one of Wilson’s tireless defenders, Xon. I I believe Xon is even a member of James Jordan’s church (which shows how depraved this poor soul is to place himself under that bag o’ nuts).

    I am saying for the third time now, I agree that there are no autonomous actions. Which is why the FVers are right to say that Adam was not required to render them. Since unicorns do not exist, God did not require Adam to tame one.

    Now think about the level of darkness in this reply. Wilson and the other false teachers and signers of the FV statement are “right” to say that Adam is not required to do the impossible and absurd. Adam’s not required to think of a square circle either, why not make that an FV confessional standard.

    Notice too that according to this brave defender of Wilson that autonomous actions, which in the FV lexicon are “works,” do not even exist. Works are a chimera, the intellectual equivalent of unicorns. Therefore there is no such thing as works in Scripture or anywhere else for that matter. Yet this poor trapped and imprisoned soul foolishly goes on a public blog and defends the indefensible. What’s worse is that wolves like Wilson and the rest of the dogs that signed the FV statement just leave this poor guy out to dry. They let some poor follower do their dirty work, but they cannot even muster a defense for their nonsense.

    The FV men are asserting unicorns and Xon defends their nonsense. I honestly think Scientologists like Tom Cruise make more sense then some of these men who pretend to be Christians and Christian leaders.

    My question is, when will the PCA prosecute these false teachers like Meyers, Leithart, Horne, and the others who signed the FV statement?


  4. […] should be noted that for Wilson works done by God’s grace and by faith are acts of obedience and are not “works” in the biblical sense. According to Wilson “deeds without faith is works. Deeds done in faith is […]


  5. […] mentioned in a previous blog piece, Hunting Wolves, life cannot be promised and not promised in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect […]

  6. RubeRad Says:

    Excellent stuff here! I have been going through much of the same ground lately on my blog, following a debate I organized on the question of merit in the CoW.

    Huh? I guess the Divines should have called the first covenant the Covenant of Obedience.

    Or how about the Covenant of Meritorious (Personal, Entire, Exact, Perpetual) Obedience?

    Not only are these FV men not Christians, but they’re not even Calvinists

    Very true. They always give a token nod to the doctrines of grace in theory, but then “the secret things belong to the Lord, stop trying to peek up God’s skirts,” and they launch into telling us how we need to preach and teach and live like Arminians. Theoretical Calvinists, Practical Arminians.

    Parting shot, here’s another example of FV’s egregious abuse of the English language…


  7. […] weasel out of this obvious contradiction (or a place to drop your comments), you can jump into some steaming hot magma. Or you could add your contributions to the 300+ comments at the original source.) Possibly related […]


  8. […] (special thanks to “rgmann”) […]

  9. Joe Says:

    One would think that if the FV men really believed that they had the Gospel down, they would want to articulate it as clearly as possible. The fact that they don’t is evidence of either poor communication skills (in which case they should not be teachers), or else dishonesty. I am quite without scruples in calling these men liars. Thanks for all your great work, Sean!


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