Showing Van Til the Door

somefoundersI was sent the following video by pastor Mark Kielar, who is a Reformed Baptist minister and member of the Southern Baptist Convention (obviously an insurgent).  I’m not at all familiar with Pastor Kielar or anything else the man teaches, but here he presents a short, refreshing and extremely clear refutation of Vantilianism with the help of a particularly powerful quote from Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology.

It’s tragic how so many Presbyterians and Reformed men remain so completely blind when it comes to all things Van Til and are completely unable to make the simple and obvious distinctions Kielar makes to their detriment and shame.  While revisionists like OPC “historian” John Muether (author of Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman), along with the deaf-dumb-and-blind Vantilians over at Greenbaggins blog, remain in the myth making and idol creation business, it’s nice to see those outside of the shrinking P&R world have not been fooled.

This video is just more evidence why Vantilianism is no longer the “majority report.”

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101 Comments on “Showing Van Til the Door”

  1. Ben Buskey Says:

    Great video. Being a baptist myself, its nice to see others that have not fallen folly to the anti-intellectual suicide that many baptists cling to.

  2. speigel Says:

    I wanted to know if it would be wrong to attribute all (affirmative) talk and thought of paradox to Van Til. Was he the father of the idea, or the popularizer, or etc.?

    In case I get questioned over what I think about the idea of paradox, please note that I am not promoting paradox. I am asking, not about the idea, but about attributing all talk of the idea to one source. In fact, I do not read much of Van Til. This is not because I do not want to. I simply do not have time to read his material, even if some think that it might not be worth my time.

  3. Darrin Says:

    Brilliant!! This video is going to make the email rounds. If thought about carefully, this is a clear death knell to those who laud paradox as some sort of virtue. Thanks for posting it.

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    Van Til wasn’t the originator of the idea, just the particular brand mentioned in the vid. Also, as mentioned in the vid, paradox per se is not a “bad” word in theology except when redefined as that which is *irreconcilable* at the bar of human reason. It is this idea of paradox that Van Til most certainly not only championed, but has successfully influenced the thinking of countless churchmen and theologians who follow, and continue to follow, in his footsteps.

    FWIW this was at heart of the Clark/Van Til controversy and is why Vantilians slander Clark as a “rationalist” to this day. In many P&R circles you’re a “rationalist” or worse if you do not accept Van Til’s position. Van Til’s influence has been crippling to the Reformed faith in too many ways to mention here. You might also want to take a look at my piece, The Evisceration of the Christian Faith, in the Trinity Review archives.

  5. speigel Says:

    Thanks, Sean. I’ve read your piece before (I read TRs on a monthly basis when they come out). There is a reply on the internet on your piece but found it lacking if not lazy.

    I found Reymond’s writing on the issue in his Systematic Theology very solid and irrefutable. Probably one of my favorite sections in his book.

    I had only asked my initial question because I did not want to always attribute to Van Til what some people may be thinking on their own, if indeed they are thinking on the issue on their own – however unlikely that is.

  6. Jim Says:

    Thanks for the video clip. I am aware of the idea of paradox as an “apparent” contradiction that may be true. But I had not seen the definition as fundamentally including the idea that a paradox “is reconcilable.”

    So, would Clark say these paradoxes are reconcilable where VanTillians would say they can’t be reconciled on this side of heaven — so don’t try?

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    So, would Clark say these paradoxes are reconcilable where VanTillians would say they can’t be reconciled on this side of heaven — so don’t try?

    Absolutely. For example, Van Til (along with his followers) excoriated Clark for even claiming to have reconciled God’s sovereignty with human responsibility (see Clark’s 3’R’s or God and Evil: Problem Solved) quite apart from the merits of his argument which were considerable.

    I could cite any number of places to support this, like Van Til’s Intro to ST where he doesn’t even engage Clark’s argument, yet calls him a “rationalist” for even attempting an answer. It’s Clark’s “method” (which was to attempt to harmonize these truths) that Van Til objected to. Also, he and his associates (John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, and others) were even more vicious in their denunciations of Clark in the complaint they filed against him with the Philly Pres (see the Clark/Van Til Controversy). I don’t have the quote handy, but VT called Clark arrogant and “under the spell of rationalism” for even suggesting he had solved this particular problem which has “baffled” so many before him. Again, they never even dealt with the substance of Clark’s arguments.

    Clark’s “sin” was trying to reconcile the so-called irreconcilable paradoxes of Scripture.

  8. brandon Says:

    speigel, I think that the idea of irreconcilable paradox is not unique to Van Til, but I think the depth of defense of it is unique to Van Til. I doubt many of the people advocating irreconcilable paradox in mainstream evangelicalism have ever heard of Van Til, but he seems to have tried to defend it in more depth than any other thinker.

    And as far as this video is concerned, the quote at the end from Reymond was written specifically against Van Til.

  9. brandon Says:

    Here’s a rather timely piece from James White (posted yesterday as well):
    Of Squeamish Calvinists and Hyper-Arminians

    a sample:
    We need a God who is sufficiently like us that He can be as double-minded and bemused as we often are. Never mind His eternal existence outside of time, His imperturbable majesty, His solitary sufficiency. We need to insist that God has freely and inalterably decreed that which completely bums Him out.

  10. Monty L. Collier Says:

    It’s no coincidence that almost all proponents of Federal Vision are Vantilians. Once you surrender the basic laws of logic, once you accept the notion that all the teachings of Scripture are paradoxical, and once you assent to the notion that these paradoxes are irreconcilable, then you can teach and believe whatever you want. Van Til’s theology of irreconcilable paradox is a direct attack on Sola Scriptura. Van Til’s theology destroys the perspicuity of Scripture. It is heresy.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, it’s no coincidence that most of the opponents of the Federal Vision are also Vantilians which explains why no FV’er has ever been successfully prosecuted in any P&R church.

  12. speigel Says:

    @Brandon: Yes, I understand Reymond’s quote was directed at Van Til. I have Reymond’s Systematic. The section notes that Reymond was referring to Van Til and references Van Til and Clark several times (along with a note about Frame’s multiperspectival approach). I’ve also read Hoeksema’s account of the controversy.

    Although Van Til advocated the idea of irreconcilable paradoxes, which I am quick to denounce, I am less quick to place him with the FV crowd (though perhaps some are, which I am not saying anyone here is). Van Til may have no rational basis for opposing the FV, but that is a much different thing than saying that Van Til affirms FV. (Perhaps this is what some may be implying – that Van Til belongs in the FV crowd – but no one I’ve read has directly asserted this. I am not saying anyone here has, though it may be true and I have just missed it.)

    For example Van Til did not accept Theonomy – neither Bahnsen’s nor RJ Rushdoony’s version. Theonomy may be the logical conclusion from Van Til’s thoughts. But Van Til still did not accept Theonomy. Inconsistent? Perhaps. But we know Van Til did not endorse it.

    Perhaps Van Til’s ideas are necessary to FV or Theonomy. But that is different from saying that they were also sufficient. Perhaps they are. I have not thought it completely through.

    I do not deny that Van Tillian ideas have a place in the FV (or Theonomy). But perhaps we should also make sure, if not more so, place blame on the sinfulness of the men in the FV group and those who fail to persecute them.

    Tangent: Anyone know of any place that I can easily get a copy of the Complaint?

  13. enieves Says:

    I first came to hear of Calvinism and the Sovereignty of God through the TV programs Kielar hosts, Word Pictures. I thought back then that it was an excellent program, and wish they had more of a following in Calvinist circles. Hardly anyone I’ve talked to knows about them, probably because their programs were aired mostly late nights and on Charismatic channels conservatives would not usually watch. I was in a total state of confusion back then and their ministry was a blessing to me. I hope it continues. They’ve done a pretty comprehensive series on Biblical interpretation, approx 20 hours I believe. I plan on using some of their videos as an aid in teaching my children. The website is http://www.crosstv.com.

  14. Jonathan Says:

    Repent of your ridiculous criticism!!!

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    LOL! Is there an argument here? Although, I did enjoy the multiple exclamations. 🙂

  16. Tim Harris Says:

    Still — you fellas need to come to grips with the fact that the RPCUS — which is both van tillian and theonomic — was the VERY FIRST ecclesiastical group to call the FV on the carpet. Are you going to have to say that this is yet another vantillian paradox?

  17. speigel Says:

    @Tim: No one has denied that Van Tilians oppose FV. Sean just said most opponents of FV are Van Tilian. The point is that Van Tilians have no solid ground to oppose FV unless, as the post title says, they show their Van Tilian ideas (such as paradox) out the door. But because they retain (some or all of) their Van Tilian ideas, they haven’t successfully prosecuted any FV supporter.

    Sean, please correct anything in my post that may be wrong. Thanks.

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    Nothing to correct Speigel. That is exactly right. Some Vantilians have rightly opposed FV, but they have no epistemological reason for doing so. By the same token, virtually all FV’ers are Vantilian and theonomic and I don’t see any Vantilians explaining that other than claiming it’s an anomaly. An anomaly like Van Til publicly defending Norm Shepherd at the height of the controversy as it raged at WTS. Even worse, we have Vantilian opponents of the FV who still consider its main proponents and teachers “brothers in Christ.” We’ll call them Vantilian cripples. But if Tim wants to chalk that up to another Vantilian paradox, that’s fine with me. I won’t argue. 🙂

  19. Gus Gianello Says:

    Thanks for finally saying what needs to be said. Van Til was a heretic–there is no sound and credible reason for believing he is in heaven–he might be, but he did not have a credible profession of faith.

    That may be shocking to state it so baldly. But considering the amount of vitriol that has been tossed at Clark (eg. he’s a Sandemanian you know) and Robbins (eg. he is hate-filled and bitter) we ought to speak the truth about Van Til. Truth is the best defense to lies. I have documented proof that he is a heretic–and the doctrine of “paradox” is right at the centre of it. In his abstract for Systematic Theology (I have the originals) and in “Van Til: The Man and the Myth” (it is also documented there) Van Til states that God is three persons in one person, NOT three persons in one God. He freely acknowledges that this is a REAL paradox and that it is irrational, but maintains it nonetheless. I am not aware of him EVER retracting that statement. Can you be a Christian, and deny the orthodox doctrine of the Tri-unity of God as stated in the WCF. For the life of me, I do not understand why he was never hauled up on charges. Oh wait–maybe it had something to do with hero worship? I had a close friend who was a close friend of Van Til. He went down every summer to spend it with Cornelius–that is how much enthralled with Van Til he was. I am of course prepared to amend my statement if someone can prove to me that he ever retracted that statement. To me, Van Til stands right along side to Barth and Schliermacher or Kierkegaard. He was not orthodox.

    Gus

  20. Gus Gianello Says:

    As a former reconstructionist who personally knew Ray Sutton and Jim Jordan, though not intimately, and who has hosted Greg Bahnsen in Canada, I can tell you, that they felt a bit betrayed that Van Til did not go theonomist. Not only that, but it was commonly believed in my circle, that Bahnsen was the heir apparent to the mantle of Van Til. HE certainly acted that way. He met Clark on several times, and challenged him to a duel of ideas. And you guys are missing a critical historical connection. The really pronounced FVers, Doug Wilson et al., were THEONOMISTS before they were FVers. In fact you can find strands of FV in Gary North’s “Unconditional Surrender” which was written in the 80s. He stated in that book at we are justified by faith AND works. That is FV through and through.
    We can thank God that some Van Tillians are NOT consistent Van Tillians and are therefore still orthodox. But the point is, that NO Van Tillian if he is thorough and consisten should BE orthodox.

    Besides all this there is a reason why Van Tillians via Reconstruction are attracted to the Tiber (Romanism), and that reason is that there is no difference between Van Til’s position on knowledge being analogical, and Thomas Aquinas’s position. It is the Romanist position! Shades of Scott Hahn!

    Gus

  21. speigel Says:

    The party spirit favoring Clark is just as bad as the party spirit favoring Van Til. Clarkians need to own up to the fact that they hero worship Clark as much as any Van Tilian hero worships Van Til. Sure Van Til was more popular than Clark, but that has no bearing on the level of hero worship Clark gets from his group. Though I think it understandable as a reaction against some horrible things that some Van Tilians have said. Those Van Tilians have much to blame. But God alone repays.

    As an outsider, I was and am still frustrated at seeing this hero worship, for either side, go on. And before someone tries to call me out as Van Tilian, I’m not Van Tilian. I’ve never even read Van Til. I have all of Clark’s published books (outside those philosophy textbooks which he edited) and have read most of them at least two to three times over. And from what I’ve read of Clark, he would never have said that Van Til was not in heaven but in hell.

    Maybe I’m wrong about what Clark would have said and maybe I will be called a nominal Clarkian, soft-skinned, or whatever have you. But can you honestly say that Clark would approve of what goes on nowadays between Clarkians and Van Tilians? The discussion has been reduced to who is a bigger heretic. And Clark wouldn’t have played that game.

  22. speigel Says:

    *Those Van Tilians have much to be blamed for. But God alone repays.

  23. Gus Gianello Says:

    Spiegel,
    You are really quite ridiculous. There is no hero worship of Clark on this blog. I cant speak for anyone else, but there are things that Clark has said that I do not agree with. He is premillenial, he allows women to teach sunday school, etc. I dont agree with that. Niether do I agree with his approach to textual criticism, since I am convinced of the case for the Ecclesiastical Text, and believe he is too soft on Westcott and Hort. And to paint the two sides as being equivalent is a disservice to the truth. I defy you to find ONE thing that Clark has said which is considered NOT controversial but heretical. Sure Clark is controversial, but this mealy-mouthed “God will judge” nonsense is typical of modern evangelicals. My mother-in-law refuses to condemn my brother-in-law for engaging in immoral medical practices, she says, “God will judge.” We are called to judge–righteously.(John 7) I have read Van Til, and Bahnsen, and North, and Jordan, and Sutton, and Clark and Robbins…Being sanctimonious is not the same as being sanctified. Clark was run out of the OPC. Historically he helped establish it with Machen–though that isnt ever mentioned in the history books. His name has been expunged from the records by the official historian of the OPC. So, please dont lecture me about hero worship. And yes, I dare to say that about Van Til, just as I dare to say it about Barth, and Kierkegaard and Schliermacher, or all the evangelicals who have abandoned the Protestant doctrine. Hello, Scott Hahn, former OPC member, you are going to hell. So is anyone else who denies the Trinity, justification by faith alone, the deity of Christ, etc. I have a friend who was a pastor and was taught at Greenville, who now denies eternal hell. Should I tell him that he’s ok? Sorry bud, doctrine means something. And if Luther could tell the pope that he was the antichrist, then I can tell the great Van Til, or anyone else, that there is a question about the security of his soul. Also please note that I said he “might” be in hell. There is no way of knowing–he did not have a credible profession of faith.

    Your attempt to not participate in “hero worship” only proves your inability to see the issues clearly.

    Gus

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    While I’m not going to call Van Til “lost” and I do agree many of the ideas he advanced were certainly heretical (i.e., specifically concerning the Trinity and the doctrine of Scripture), I agree that the divide between the two men cannot be chalked up to a matter of personalities or “hero worship.”

    I think the Clark/Van Til controversy marked a watershed in P&R demons that sadly continues today. IMO had Clark’s non-contradictory philosophy and high view of Scripture, along with the entire Christian system as advanced by Clark been more widely understood and accepted, theologies like those concerning the damnable heresies of the Federal Vision would have been more immediately identified and effectively dealt with.

    My objection to Vantilianism is that it is untenable, irrational, and crippling to theological development. In that sense it is patently unhealthy. It also promotes a very un-Reformed ecclesiology that is necessarily authoritarian.

  25. speigel Says:

    @Gus: First, I wasn’t talking about this blog alone. I’m online enough to be competent to say that there are those who hero worship Clark as much as Van Tilians hero worship Van Til.

    You can have differences with Clark and still hero worship him. Should I state that Van Tilians who no longer endorse as strongly the transcedental argument to no longer hero worship Van Til? Or that those who disagreed with Van Til on theonomy can no longer hero worship him? It’s a puerile defense to anything.

    Nor was I saying that we cannot judge since the Bible says we can. I was talking about Clark and Van Til only. Do you think I am so stupid to think that Clark would not have concluded that person who was a RCC, a Hindu, or a follower of any other non-Christian religion, was not bound to hell? Give me a break.
    In addition, I didn’t even talk about the issues in my post because my post was about hero worship. The post wasn’t about the issues. You raised up an irrelevant point. I see the issues but my post wasn’t regarding the issues. Your conclusion that my post to stop hero worshiping has blinded me from understanding the issues is a non-sequitar. Grow up.

    Finanly, my post did not lessen the amount of harm Van Tilians have done to Clark. I even admitted that Van Tilians have done some horrible things. My speech was plain.

    You’re so blinded by the axe you have or need to grind that you can’t see much else. I was and am ridiculous to think that some may listen and reflect upon their character and heart. But apparently some think they are above such things as hero worship. It’s as if that idea never came into their mind. How silly of me indeed.

    @Sean: Thanks for your insight. I agree with what you’ve said. But my post was about Clarkians and Van Tilians and NOT about Clark and Van Til. I understand the differences in the ideas and thoughts promoted by the two. But the concern I was raising was between how Clarkians behave. My speech was plain.

  26. qeqesha Says:

    Gus and speigel,
    I see you folks take the title of this blog quite literally …. “God´s hammer!“
    speigel … How do you define hero worship? It sounds condescending and also a trivialisation of the issues involved in the Clark-van Til controversy.
    People believe things they think are true! In fact, to believe is to think something is true. So, it is always about the issues. To hero worship would perhaps mean to follow someone blindly, to the extent of failing to think critically and objectively about what that individual believes! Yes? NO?
    I am a Clarkian because I believe the things Clark taught. I do not agree with him where he has kind words and says nice things(undeservedly) about Arminians. I also think he might have been a bit too much of a gentleman, but that´s probably just my personality! John the Baptist once called some very important people a bunch of creepy crawlies … “a brood of vipers“. Jesus called some, “decorated graves“ and others “of your father the devil“, Paul warned some people “to be ware of those dogs!“ None of this was gratuitous insult! This is the inspired word of God that He has given us to profit by!
    But according to you, even if I might disagree with Clark, I might still hero worship him! How so? Do van Tillians hero worship Clark, in spite of their obvious disagreement with him, and vice versa?

    denson

  27. Mitch Says:

    Please forgive that this question is completely unrelated to the topic, but did Clark write anything about being filled with the Spirit?

  28. Daniel Chew Says:

    Sean:

    may I enquire as to the degree by which Van Tillianism has infiltrated the Reformed churches and seminaries in the US?

  29. Sean Gerety Says:

    It would be hard to quantify, but perhaps by way of example “The Recommended Curriculum for Ministerial Preparation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church” includes under the apologetics subhead:

    Introduction to Apologetic Methodology and Practice including (1) the school of Van Tilian presuppositionalism as the most biblically faithful expression of Reformed apologetics….

    Needless to say, I don’t think any Scripturalists would agree with that statement.

    There is no question that Vantilianism has dominated the OPC, specifically since they draw most of their pastors from WTS. I was reading something similar at the RCUS website in one of their introductory pieces entitled, “The Influence of Westminster Seminary on the RCUS.” Now check this out:

    “Dr. Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetic, which begins and ends with the Triune God, is certainly foremost in my mind and has most influenced my ministry” (The Rev. Paul Treick, a son of the RCUS). The Rev. Steven Schlei testifies that, “This giant of the faith (C. Van Til) gave me an absolute confidence in the truth of the Christian religion. He taught me how to defend the faith against all challengers. He steered me away from rationalistic hyper-Calvinism and taught me to understand Scriptures from a paradoxical perspective.”

    Gee, what a testimony. Let me join denomination that prides itself in understanding the “Scriptures from a paradoxical perspective.” I can only guess what they mean by “rationalistic hyper-Calvinism.” At least they’re up front about their doctrinal deficiencies and confusion.

    While admittedly anecdotal, I think it’s safe to say that Van Til’s influence is sadly very widespread in American P&R circles. It certainly has been my experience. OTOH I don’t think VT’s influence has been quite as strong in the PCA, which is a blessing. I know one PCA church I attended for years always had an R.C. Sproul tape ready to go on any given Sunday. FWIW I have never been in a church or heard of any denomination where the recommended reading list included Clark’s Intro to Christian Philosophy, much less any other Clark volume. God willing we can fix that. 🙂

  30. brandon Says:

    FWIW I have never been in a church or heard of any denomination where the recommended reading list included Clark’s Intro to Christian Philosophy, much less any other Clark volume. God willing we can fix that.

    http://www.porticochurch.com/books/apologetics.htm 🙂

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    Let’s hope it’s a trend Brandon 😉

  32. Daniel Chew Says:

    Hello Sean,

    thanks for the reply. I am asking this partly because I am considering seminary, and while I don’t mind listening to Van Tillianism being taught, I am looking for a place in which the environement is conducive for the re-examination of Van Tillianism according to the Scriptures, not to be “shouted down” so to speak and penalized if one does not embrace their system.

  33. Cliffton Says:

    The PRC is quite favorable to Clark and has been for years.

  34. Daniel Chew Says:

    The PRC also has a certain view of the Covenant which I do not believe to be scriptural. Listening to Prof Herman Hanko, I am not impressed with his strawman attack on the idea of the Covenant of Works.

  35. Cliffton Says:

    How one understands the Covenant with Adam is dependent upon how one defines Covenant. Either the Covenant is a means to an end and therefore necessarily conditional, or it is the end itself, the revelation of the life of the Father and Son in the Spirit, that is, the revelation of God.

    One of the reasons why almost all “Reformed” and “Presbyterian” denominations cannot defend themselves against the Federal Vision heresy is because their definition of Covenant necessarily results in what these heretics are teaching.

    And to make this relevant to Sean’s blog, it is interesting to note that the PRC is the only denomination that I am aware of that rejects Van til’s idea of paradox. Further, the PRC’s understanding of Covenant fits in quite nicely with the understanding that our relationship to God is intellectual, that fellowhip with God is thinking His thoughts.

  36. Daniel Chew Says:

    The PRC is on record of denying the Covenant of Works, and thus committing the error of mono-covenantalism. Such a move is inspired by neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth who similarly threw away the concept of merit in the covenant. By making grace everywhere, grace can be found nowhere. As Robery Reymond has rightly said, quoting Meredith Kline, the denial of the Covenant of Works would logically entail

    … the work of obedience performed by Jesus Christ did not merit a verdict of justification from his Father. The justification of the second Adam was not then according to the principle of works in contrast to grace, but rather found its explanation in the operation of a principle involving some sort of grace — a grace required because of the inadequacy of Christ’s work to satisfy the claims of justice. (quoted in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 432)

    Reymond also correctly states that “if Christ’s obedience has no meritorious value, neither has a penal substitution been made for our sins nor is there a preceptive righteousness available to be imputed to us’ (p. 433).

    John Robbins and Sean Gerety himself has written a book entitled Not Reformed At All, which adequately answers the Federal Vision. That the “Reformed” and “Presbyterian” cannot defend against the Federal Vision heresy is not because of the concept of the Covenant, but because of irrationalism caused by the embrace of irrationality taught by Herman Bavinck and Cornelius Van Till. Orthodox Presbyterian theologians like O. Palmer Robertson and Robert Reymond have adequately refuted the Federal Visionists using the historic orthodox Covenantal framework as detailed in the WCF without resorting to redefinition of the concept of the Covenant.

    In a lecture by Prof Hanko, I have asked him regarding the issue of Christ’s active righteousness. His answer was that Christ had indeed earned righteousness for the elect. However, such an answer would make his entire theological system logically self-contradictory. There is simply no way to affirm an active righteousness of Christ while denying the Covenant of Works, for one necessarily entails the other.

    The statement “Either the Covenant is a means to an end and therefore necessarily conditional, or it is the end itself, the revelation of the life of the Father and Son in the Spirit, that is, the revelation of God” is a false dichotomy. The Covenant being the means to an end does not make it necessarily conditional. Similarly, it could be both the means to an end and the revelation of the life of the Father and the Son (for the Covenant of Grace), and there would be no contradiction in the sentence. As an aside, such 1-D reductionism of the PRC in its mono-covenantalism can also be seen in its dismissal of the well-meant offer (ie Engelsma book Hyper-Calvinism and the Offer of the Gospel), which though orthodox is manifestly simplistic compared to Francis Turretin (Institutes of Elenctic Theology) and C. Matthew McMahon’s refutation of the topic in his book The Two Wills of God.

  37. Bob S Says:

    While I appreciated my time spent in the PRC’s and their emphasis for example on preaching, the confessions and reformed theology, a number of anomalies became apparent.

    One of these would be as Daniel notes, is their denial of the covenant of works. Yet about the only thing the article by Lems
    The Covenant of Works in Dutch Reformed Orthodoxy misses, is that the doctrine is also taught in the Argument (preface) to the New Testament in the Staten Vertaling or States General Bible translation/annotations of 1637 as called for by the historic Synod of Dordt (1618,19). While perhaps it is not as binding as the Canons, it is nothing to sneer at. The doctrine is hardly unknown in continental theology.
    The Dutch Annotations were translated into English by one Theodore Haak in 1657 as originally requested by a number of Westminster divines in 1645, including the Scots in toto. A facsimile reprint of 2002 may be obtained from Reformation Heritage Books in Grand Rapids.

    Further if the marriage covenant is made with God, unbelievers cannot covenant with God. Yet the marriages of unbelievers are valid. Therefore the marriage covenant is not with God per se, but before him and is not unbreakable as taught by the PRC’s who deny that there can be any lawful divorce and remarriage before the death of one’s previous partner. That is not to say that divorce and remarriage is not a scandal nowadays in the Christian church, but even outrageous abuse is not an argument against lawful use.

    The PRC’s also teach eternal justification, another doctrine that has little following among reformed theologians and as per most Dutch reformed churches have waffled on the 2nd commandment and the regulative principle of worship re. song, instruments and feastdays.
    And so on and so forth.

    I also agree with spiegel. Idolatry and hero worship is unacceptable regardless of which side of the Clark/Van Til divide it is found on. IOW for those that have ears to hear.

    Thank you.

  38. ray Says:

    Daniel, the PRC does indeed maintain that the Lord’s covenant is both eternal and everlasting, and thus it requires no replacement as such as from … the covenant of works … to the covenant of grace. We maintain that it is God, and God alone… who establishes, maintains , and sustains His covenant. We maintain that the Lord’s covenant is always of grace … from eternity in the Godhead …throughout history as revealed to us in His Word… to life everlasting. We also maintain the the Lord’s covenant is a bond of fellowship and friendship between the the Godhead and the God’s chosen people… the elect in Christ…and them alone. We do not require a redefintion of God’s covenant. It is the same … nothing shall change it. God has revealed His Covenant in different times to different saints , but it remains His covenant … not ours … as if we have the right to name it and define as we would like. Many have attempted to define the Lord’s covenant … in that it has different types that have died off and have been replaced by other covenants. Others dictate that the command given by the Lord to our first parents in the garden of Eden was a covenant. This we deny. The Lord commanded them to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … the Lord did not set up a covenant of works with our first parents because of this … His covenant was alive and well before any of this took place. None have been able to logically relate that the command of the Lord dictates that the command is thus His covenant. The Lord’s coveannt was in effect before the act of disobedience ever took place within the garden of Eden. A so called coveannt of works was not set up per say so that it in itself would later be replaced by the covenant of grace. The Lord’s covenant has been of grace, has been everlasting and eternal ever before the foundation of the world?

  39. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you for such an insightful piece on the covenant of works. “The Covenant of Works” is just another way of saying God’s law is eternal and all his creatures remain in fellowship with Him only by 100% obedience to His law! To deny the covenant of works is to deny God’s moral law for his creatures and His Holiness. Further, it is to deny the Fall and consequently salvation becomes hollow! Grace in such a scheme is nothing other than granny sentimentality! In time, denial of the covenant of works ironically leads to neolegalism, salvation by faith and works!!
    While I would agree with you that hero worship has no place in Christianity, we are all bretheren, I would rather we should be encouraging people to read Clark for themselves and not distract them with condenscending warnings about the dangers of hero worship, where no such danger exists. Why can’t we trust that people posses the same gifts that God has given us that enable us to avoid hero worship? Clark’s teaching is what has enabled some of us to see clearly the errors of neolegalism and avoid them.

    Denson

  40. Cliffton Says:

    In addition to Ray’s comments, the argument claiming that to deny Adam the capability to merit with God would logically imply a denial of Christ’s active obedience is simply false. Unless that is, you are infralapsarian and think that Adam, and not Christ, is first in the logical order of decrees. We do not look to Adam in order to understand Christ.

  41. Cliffton Says:

    Bob S. states: “Further if the marriage covenant is made with God, unbelievers cannot covenant with God. Yet the marriages of unbelievers are valid.”

    Cliffton: The institution of marriage is a type of Christ and the Church. Furthermore, the Scriptures also identify the relationship between God and His people as a father-son relationship. The notion of the father-son relationship stems from and is grounded in the life of God Himself which is eternal. All earthly relationships of father-son only have meaning in view of the eternal idea of Father-Son. Does this then mean that all earthly father-son relationships are therefore invalid? Come on now.

  42. Cliffton Says:

    The second to last sentence should have read:

    “Does this then mean that all earthly *unbelieving* father-son relationships are therefore invalid?

  43. Gus Gianello Says:

    It is enough for me that Ray’s comments are a clear rejection of the Westminster Standards, and therefore technically heresy. I am not descending to name calling, I am pointing out, that to deny the Covenant of Works is to deny the WESTMINSTER doctrine of salvation, which anyone will see by perusing the LC’s use of the Covenant of Works for establishing its system of Ethics. WHen a denial of a particular doctrine leads to the destruction of the entire subsequent system of ethics, then you have heresy.

    I am sorry but the WCF and the LC or SC are not up for grabs. This is the reason that I do NOT go to dutch-continental reform churches. Dutch speculative theology, whether Kuyperian-ism, Neo-kuyperianism, Doeyverianism, etc., has progressively deviated from the type of theology and practice that the WCF enjoins. Presumptive regeneration, sphere sovereignty, etc., are all concepts that have come out of progressively degraded continental speculation. Do not forget Van Til was Dutch reformed, and a member of the CRCNA. Some would argue that my thesis is flawed, my thesis being that Continental Reformed is getting progressively speculative and worse. Prove it.

    I have the WS and the 3 forms of unity, and I have always argued for the superiourity of the WS to the 3 forms. The WS are scripturalist documents starting with the doctrine of Scripture, whereas the Three Forms are classically Thomistic documents–they start with God. The WS are clearer in matters of ethics, wheres the three forms are oblique. For example, the difference of opinion that all dutch conservative denominations have concerning the right to divorce and remarry. The WCF is very clear–on biblical grounds the right exists.

    I will stay with the WCF LC and SC thankyou.

    Gus

  44. Cliffton Says:

    Dear Gus Gianello,

    FWIW, Rev. Eugene Case (an ordained minister in the PCA) presents an interesting article on the Westminster Standards, LC, and SC doctrine of the Covenant that may in fact cause you to, in the very least, procede with a bit more understanding in your evaluation of the WCF, LC, and SC position on the Covenant. It can be found in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, November 2006, Volume 40, Number 1.

  45. Daniel Chew Says:

    Clifton:

    I have quoted Kline’s and Reymond’s logical arguments to prove my case. How about refuting their argumentation?

  46. Daniel Chew Says:

    ray:

    Whoever said there was a replacement? Maybe the language describing the transition from the Covenant of Works to the Covenant of Grace in the WCF is a bit loose, but technically speaking, both covenants have always existed. The Mosaic Covenant for example have both law and grace aspects to it, as Herman Witsius did mention. When Christ fulfilled the Covenant of Works as the last Adam, this shows that the Covenant of Works was technically still in operation at that time since otherwise Christ could not have fulfilled it. Also, Rom. 2:6-11 in context is best interpreted as a restatement of the Covenant of Works, otherwise the passage makes no sense unless one wishes to interpret the text as applying to “future justification” (by works done through the “obedience of faith”).

    With regards to the covenant being a bond of frienship, I assume you follow Prof Hanko in citing Ps. 25:14 as a proof text? Have you ever considered that this psalm is a song of praise written by David who is under the Covenant of Grace, and therefore it can only be used to prove the unconditionality of and the love within the Covenant of Grace, not the essence of the covenant per se?

  47. Cliffton Says:

    Dear Daniel Chew,

    You have quoted both Kline and Reymond. This was not overlooked in my response.

    Your quotation of Kline was merely an assertion of what he believed a denial of a covenant of works would imply. That is what I dealt with. The “argument” (that neither you or your quotation of Kline demonstrates) asserts that if Adam couldn’t merit, neither could Christ. Your starting point is wrong. You must begin with Christ since he is logically prior to Adam. I am assuming you agree with this (that Christ precedes Adam in the order of decrees) and it wasn’t necessary to demonstrate this. Is it necessary to do so?

    Regarding your quotation of Reymond. I do not deny “if Christ’s obedience has no meritorious value, neither has a penal substitution been made for our sins nor is there a preceptive righteousness available to be imputed to us’ (p. 433)”, which is why I believe that Christ’s obedience does, in fact, have meritorious value. As Article 22 of the Belgic Confession teaches us:

    “…But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness…”

    However, this is quite a different statement than your assertion that if Adam couldn’t merit, neither can Christ.

  48. Gus Gianello Says:

    Cliffton,
    you said,
    ______________________________________________
    In addition to Ray’s comments, the argument claiming that to deny Adam the capability to merit with God would logically imply a denial of Christ’s active obedience is simply false. Unless that is, you are infralapsarian and think that Adam, and not Christ, is first in the logical order of decrees. We do not look to Adam in order to understand Christ.
    _____________________________________________

    That is NOT dealing with Reymond and Kline. Ironically, that is merely asserting that their conclusions are an assertion. DEMONSTRATE that a denial of the covenant of works DOES NOT NECESSITATE a denial of the meritoriousness of Christ’s life and death.

    Secondly, irrespective of whether you prove your thesis contra Reymond and Kline, their position is the WCF position AND the position of Clark and Robbins. This is no argument from authorities but merely pointing out that if this is what you assert then you are NOT Reformed as the WCF understands it.

    I will now demonstrate this…
    1. WCF 7:2 The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works Gal_3:12), wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity (Rom_5:12-20; Rom_10:5), upon condition of perfect and personal obedience (Gen_2:17; Gal_3:10).

    The covenant of works is the reason Christ was born under the Law.

    2. WCF 8:5 The Lord Jesus, by HIS PERFECT OBEDIENCE, and sacrifice of Himself, which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father (Rom_3:25, Rom_3:26; Rom_5:19; Eph_5:2; Heb_9:14, Heb_9:16; Heb_10:14); and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him (Dan_9:24, Dan_9:26; Joh_17:2; Eph_1:11, Eph_1:14; Col_1:19, Col_1:20; Heb_9:12, Heb_9:15).

    Christ lived a life of obedience to fulfill the covenant of works. The covenant of works had to be fulfilled to placate God’s wrath due to the broken law. That broken law was republished as the Ten Commandments, and required the penalty of eternal death for transgression. Christ’s perfect law keeping in life and death was imputed to believing sinners so that his legal merit became theirs.

    You have not demonstrated, merely asserted, that it is still possible to require Christ to live a life of LEGAL and MERITORIOUS standing without a covenant of works to require it. Demonstrate THAT and you will have overturned the whole of the Westminster Standards system of soteriology. Furthermore in reference to the NECESSITY of the Covenant of Works for a Westminsterian system of Ethic I refer you to the following…

    Question 92: What did God at first reveal unto man as the rule of his obedience?

    Answer: The RULE of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him, besides a special command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the moral law.

    Question 93: What is the moral law?

    Answer: The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding everyone to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he owes to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.

    Question 94: Is there any use of the moral law to man since the fall?

    Answer: Although no man, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law; yet there is great use thereof, as well common to all men, as peculiar either to the unregenerate, or the regenerate.

    Question 95: Of what use is the moral law to all men?

    Answer: The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly;to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives; to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.

    That moral law is the covenant of works republished through Moses. Christ died to merit salvation. He was under necessity to merit it because the pre-existing covenant of works was broken. He had to fix it. There is a connection between Adam and Christ, otherwise Paul’s extended argument in Romans 5 and 1 Cor 15 is meaningless. Paul by revelation says there is a relationship. The are both federal heads of their respective races. A federal head is under covenant with his posterity, otherwise he is not a “federal” head. What binds Adam to his descendents is the covenant of works. That is why his sinfulness is imputed to us. We thus are conceived with actual and imputed depravity. Not only are we corrupt but the reason for our corruption is our federal relation to Adam, and the reason his sin is charged to us, is because of the covenant of work.

    Gus

  49. Cliffton Says:

    Dear Gus Gianello,

    If you recall, you said:

    “…As Robery Reymond has rightly said, quoting Meredith Kline, the denial of the Covenant of Works would logically entail”

    And then follows your quotation of Reymond’s quotation of Kline stating what a denial of the Covenant of Works would logically entail.

    “… the work of obedience performed by Jesus Christ did not merit a verdict of justification from his Father. The justification of the second Adam was not then according to the principle of works in contrast to grace, but rather found its explanation in the operation of a principle involving some sort of grace — a grace required because of the inadequacy of Christ’s work to satisfy the claims of justice. (quoted in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 432)”

    Again, that long quotation is Kline’s statement on what he believes the “denial of the Covenant of Works would logically entail” (to use your own words). To claim -your quotation of Kline- is what a “denial of the Covenant of Works would logically entail” is quite different than demonstrating this to be the case. It is quite different than formulating an argument.

    You are the one asserting that a denial of the covenant of works NECESSITATES a denial of the meritoriousness of Christ’s life and death. The onus is on you to DEMONSTRATE that this is true. Indeed many people say it, but I have yet to see anyone present a valid argument for their claim. In fact, I don’t even think I have ever seen anyone ATTEMPT to formulate an argument, never mind a valid one. I guess if you say something over and over again, people begin to think that it must be true.

    Regarding your “merely pointing out that if this is what you assert then you are NOT Reformed as the WCF understands it”, my confession is the THREE FORMS OF UNITY.

  50. Daniel Chew Says:

    Dear Clifton:

    Where did the idea of “Christ is logically prior to Adam” came from? Supralapsarianism has to do with the logical order of God’s DECREES, not persons!

    With regards to Kline’s argument, you have failed to take into account the parallelism between Adam and Christ; the first Adam and the last Adam, especially as described in Rom. 5 and 1 Cor. 15:22. Also, since you believe that Christ’s obedience has “meritorious value”, under which Covenant did Christ accrue merit through his active obedience? It cannot be the Covenant of Grace, for grace by definition excludes works.

  51. Cliffton Says:

    Dear Mr. Chew,

    “Christ is logically prior to Adam” is an abbreviated expression of the truth that the decree concerning the person of Christ as the last Adam is logically prior to the decree concerning the person of the first Adam. Or maybe a better way to put it would be- it is an abbreviated expression of the truth that the decree concerning the person of Christ as risen and exalted is logically prior to the decree concerning the person of Adam as of the earth, as a figure (or type) of the one to come. Please excuse my initial brevity.

    Regarding Kline’s “argument”, I have not failed to take into account the “parallelism” between Adam and Christ. You rather (and Kline), have made Christ and Adam identical in all respects, or at least have failed to properly distinguish between the two (which 1 Corinthians 15 seems to deal with at length). You cannot claim that disobedience vs. obedience AS SUCH properly distinguishes the two, for when did Adam serve as a type of Christ, prior to the fall or after it?

    Therefore, although we must acknowledge that there is “parallelism” between Adam and Christ, we cannot say that the “parallelism” extends in every respect, say, to the idea of substitution for example. Could Adam serve as a substitute for sin when there was as of yet no sin?

    Regarding your last question-

    ” Also, since you believe that Christ’s obedience has “meritorious value”, under which Covenant did Christ accrue merit through his active obedience?”

    -Christ as resurrected and exalted was appointed head and mediator of the Covenant of Grace (as Col 1:15-18 teaches) and therefore already comprehended His merit. Further, Christ’s work was for us. Christ didn’t merit salvation for Himself. That has to be kept in mind or else we fall into the error of Gaffin and the “union with Christ” school.

  52. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t really have the time right now to weigh in at any length, but I think one of the weakest parts of Hoeksema’s otherwise excellent Reformed Dogmatics is his discussion of the CoW. You can find his major objections on 214ff.

    Also, while the FV’ers certainly would agree with many of Hoeksema’s reasons for rejecting the CoW,not least of which his point that “it is quite impossible that man should merit a special reward with God” (something I think problematic when we consider the meritorious work of the God/Man Jesus Christ), it should be clear that the FV’ers really don’t reject the CoW at all, just recast it in Arminian/Romanist terms requiring our ongoing covenantal faithfulness in order to secure final justification.

    Concerning the CoG, remember, and to their credit, the PRC hold to an *unconditional* view of the covenant. You can see some of the implications of the conditional view as it relates to the current FV controversy in Hoeksema’s controversy with Klaas Schilder. IMO if more P&R folks paid closer attention to that debate they might have avoided some of the pitfalls in the current controversy.

  53. ray Says:

    Sean and all, thank you for your comments. I have been busy of late and have not had time to respond without rushing it. Please be advised that while I disagree with how the Westminster Confessions deals with the Covenant of Works … do not then think that I suffer from some Kuyperian-ism, Neo-kuyperianism, Doeyverianism, etc., has progressively deviated from the type of theology and practice that the WCF enjoins. Presumptive regeneration, sphere sovereignty, etc., are all concepts that have come out of progressively degraded continental speculation.

    I understand these errors and progressively reject them as best I can … Sean can back me up here, he knows my style of writing well enough over the years … that I have bigger fish to fry … so to speak. I will try to articulate and interact with your rejections as best I can and how it has reality in real life with the family both at home and within the church congregation.

    Covenant theology must be that way … that it has reality in every day life with our families at home and within the congregation. “Unconditional, everlasting, and gracious covenant of God” are more than just buzz words in reformed theology despite attempts by the vain to rape and destroy their meaning by doing armchair theology.

    I am not interested with that because the Gospel never is …

    greetings, return in due course with responses … ray kikkert, wingham, ontario, canada … protestant reformed churches.

  54. Daniel Chew Says:

    Dear Cliffton,

    The parallelism talks about Christ earning life for His people as a parallel to Adam “earning” death for his. The issue of Adam being in a prelapsarian or postlapsarian state per se is not really relevant in that sense, as the issue is about the covenant relationship Adam has with his people as a parallel with that which Christ had with His.

    So:

    Adam Christ
    Disobedience Obedience
    Death Life
    Imputation of sin and death Imputation of righteousness and life

    Substitution is irrelevant here, since the issue is covenant or federal headship. While Christ’s sacrifice is indeed substitutionary, substition per se is linked to the passive righteousness of Christ at the Cross to remove the penalty of sin, not the active righteousness of Christ to be imputed to the Elect.

    With regards to the basis of Christ meriting salvation, you have not answered the question. Since grace qua grace must be without works, how can any talk of Christ meriting salvation be mentioned in the Covenant of Grace? After all, the PRC are against any sort of works present in the CoG, but in the case of Christ, there are willing to smuggle in works? To say that Christ’s work for us and not for Himself does not solve the problem, for the issue is that WORK is still PRESENT!

  55. Daniel Chew Says:

    Oops, I mean “substition per se is linked to the passive righteousness of Christ at the Cross to remove the penalty of sin, not the active righteousness of Christ to be imputed to the Elect WHEN VIEWED COVENANTALLY”. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is part of the application of the Covenant of Grace to us, not the reward of the Covenant of Grace.

  56. Cliffton Says:

    Dear Mr. Chew,

    Yes, Christ and Adam are both representative heads. This is not being denied here. However, as representative heads they must be distinguished one from the other (unless you are claiming Adam and Christ are identical which is obviously not the case), and that mark of distinction cannot be disobedience and obedience as such, for Paul also teaches that Adam is a type of the one to come. That is, Adam as a federal head AND as a type of the one to come must be distinguished from Christ. You have to consider Adam in his capacity as a federal head as a type of Christ. For this reason, their (Adam and Christ’s) consequent actions as federal heads cannot be the mark of distinction. The only way to deny this is to assert that Adam became a type in or after the fall.

    Substitution is relevant here only in that it establishes the point that Adam and Christ are not identical as federal heads. Christ’s “one act” of obedience is His obedience to all the work that God had appointed him to accomplish, which includes His work as a substitute. You cannot divorce Christ’s work as mediator from Christ’s work as head. Christ stands as head of the covenant of Grace, and, as head he is mediator of the covenant of grace.

    Regarding your last paragraph, I think the problem may be that you are using your own definition of covenant in order to criticize what I am saying. Or in the very least, you are not using my definition of covenant. Therefore your criticism would not apply. If this helps, I don’t believe the covenant to be a means to some greater end. Rather, I believe the covenant to be the end itself, God dwelling with His people. As was said before, Christ as resurrected and exalted was appointed Head and Mediator of the Covenant of Grace and therefore His merit is comprehended in His very Headship. He does not stand as a head about to do a work that constitutes His fulfillment of certain stipulations or conditions. He stands as a faithful Son in fellowship with the Father delighting to do His will, which will included the salvation of a particular people on the grounds of His satisfaction of law. You ask,

    “Since grace qua grace must be without works, how can any talk of Christ meriting salvation be mentioned in the Covenant of Grace?”

    You’ve missed it. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness *IS* grace.

    He is the “first born of every creature” as “the first born from the dead”. As such, He is “the head of the body, the church”.

  57. ray Says:

    Hi Daniel … you stated above …

    “John Robbins and Sean Gerety himself has written a book entitled Not Reformed At All, which adequately answers the Federal Vision. That the “Reformed” and “Presbyterian” cannot defend against the Federal Vision heresy is not because of the concept of the Covenant, but because of irrationalism caused by the embrace of irrationality taught by Herman Bavinck and Cornelius Van Till. Orthodox Presbyterian theologians like O. Palmer Robertson and Robert Reymond have adequately refuted the Federal Visionists using the historic orthodox Covenantal framework as detailed in the WCF without resorting to redefinition of the concept of the Covenant.”

    … in all honesty Sean relayed later …the point that FV advocates deny the Lord’s covenant to be unconditional. Our men in the PRC have been stating this also for some time, that this is the root problem. Men like Dr. S Clark are neutered in their attempts to repell the FV because they themselves hold that the Lord’s covenant is conditional. Sure S. Clark makes attempts to distance himself from Schilder’s view … but like I said … it a neutered and raped version of the covenant that still is Conditional covenant theology.

    “Modern Heresies: Federal Vision Theology (2)
    By Herman C Hanko
    Prof. Hanko is professor emeritus of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary. Previous article in this series: July 2007, p. 419.

    As I noted earlier, the Federal Vision has its roots in the heresy of a conditional covenant. It emphasizes that it is a doctrine that has to do with the covenant, has its roots in covenant theology not only, but defines the nature and essence of the covenant.

    No matter what view of the covenant one may take, the doctrine of the covenant has to do with the doctrine of salvation. If the covenant is conditional in its very nature, salvation itself is conditional. This obvious fact is carried to its extreme by those who promote the Federal Vision.

    If the covenant is conditional, it is conditional because it is established with more people than are actually saved. And this is what the promoters of the Federal Vision maintain. They take hold of the old covenant conception of William Heyns, developed and promoted by Dr. Klaas Schilder, and carry it to its logical extreme. Prof. Heyns and Dr. Schilder taught that baptism was a sign and seal of the covenant, and that God established His covenant, therefore, with every baptized child. Thus every child of believers is included in the covenant, fully, and in such a way that all the blessings of the covenant are his.

    Dr. Schilder and his followers today do not believe that election ought to be the controlling principle that determines membership in the covenant. They are adamant about separating God’s electing determination of His people from the covenant. Dr. Schilder maintains that all born in covenant lines belong to the covenant. The men of the Federal Vision diverge from Schilder on this one point. Here they go beyond Schilder. They take the position that all born within covenant lines are elect, really, fully, completely. They are all elect from eternity, written in the Lamb’s book of life, destined for eternal glory, and the objects of God’s electing love.

    And, because all are elect, all receive in fact, really, fully, and completely, all the blessings of the covenant�which is to say that they receive all the blessings of salvation. They are regenerated, converted, justified, and sanctified, and are objects of saving grace.

    But, because all are not saved, the covenant, with all its blessedness, is conditional. That is, all these blessings will continue to belong to the children of the covenant as long as they fulfill the conditions of the covenant. Should they fail to fulfill the conditions, namely, walk in obedience to God, they will lose their election, their conversion, their sanctification, their justification. A conditional covenant results in a conditional salvation.

    This conditional salvation is applied especially to the doctrine of justification. When applied to the doctrine of justification, the result is a doctrine of justification by faith and works. And so we are back where the church was in 1517, for we are back to Roman Catholic theology.

    One may object that such a position vindicates the Roman Catholic Church. And so it does. One formerly Protestant author has justified his return to the Roman Catholic Church by an appeal to Shepherd’s doctrine of justification by faith and works. One may object that the Reformers unanimously repudiated Rome’s heresy and agreed that justification was by faith alone. The promoters of the Federal Vision are not deterred by an appeal to the Reformers.

    One may object that Luther called the truth of justification alone the standing or falling of the church. It makes no difference. One promoter of this heresy simply wrote Luther off as wrong.

    One may object that our Reformed confessions and the Westminster Confessions are all agreed that justification is by faith alone. That too makes no difference. The confessions are dismissed as being wrong or, at best, being inadequate on this point.

    With a cavalier wave of the hand, the entire tradition of the Reformation is dismissed.

    One may object that Scripture is clear, especially Paul in his epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, but this too is argued away.

    But here we come to another aspect of the heresy of the Federal Vision. Paul is clear, unmistakably clear, that justification is by faith alone. Something must be done about Paul. And so what is called “A New Perspective on Paul” is promoted. The leading figure in this effort to get rid of Paul is a British theologian by the name of N. T. Wright. He has invented the novel theory that Paul was not writing against justification by faith and works, but was rather combating a Jewish heresy that sought salvation in the works of the law. Paul’s fierce denunciation of justification by faith and works, as well as his repeated insistence that justification is by faith alone, was simply a refutation of Jewish legalism. James in his epistle sets the balance right when James tells us that both Abraham and Rahab were justified by works.

    This is, admittedly, a brief summary of the teachings of the Federal Vision, but it is sufficient to give us an idea of the extent of the heresy.”

  58. ray Says:

    Gus … I also did not appreciate your sutpid argument here…”I have the WS and the 3 forms of unity, and I have always argued for the superiourity of the WS to the 3 forms. The WS are scripturalist documents starting with the doctrine of Scripture, whereas the Three Forms are classically Thomistic documents–they start with God. The WS are clearer in matters of ethics, wheres the three forms are oblique. For example, the difference of opinion that all dutch conservative denominations have concerning the right to divorce and remarry. The WCF is very clear–on biblical grounds the right exists.”

    The 3 forms are thomistic, but not Scripuralist? I am not even going to ask you to flesh this out further because it is nonsense. The 3 forms are as Scripuralist as the WC.

    You and I are very much disagreed here, especially in that your grounds for argument lie in the divorce and remarriage stance. I’ll stick to the firm, uncompromising, narrow and hard road here thanks … few do regardless where they hang there hat denomination wise.

    http://www.prca.org/current/Articles/WCF_Divorce_and_Remarriage_English.htm

  59. ray Says:

    Dan stated … ” Whoever said there was a replacement? Maybe the language describing the transition from the Covenant of Works to the Covenant of Grace in the WCF is a bit loose, but technically speaking, both covenants have always existed. The Mosaic Covenant for example have both law and grace aspects to it, as Herman Witsius did mention. When Christ fulfilled the Covenant of Works as the last Adam, this shows that the Covenant of Works was technically still in operation at that time since otherwise Christ could not have fulfilled it. Also, Rom. 2:6-11 in context is best interpreted as a restatement of the Covenant of Works, otherwise the passage makes no sense unless one wishes to interpret the text as applying to “future justification” (by works done through the “obedience of faith”).

    … my response is not an attempt at reinventing the wheel of response. The arguments set forth below are simple enough.

    http://www.prca.org/articles/article_8.html#Covenant

  60. Daniel Chew Says:

    Dear Ray,

    the error of the Conditional Covenant is not that their definition of the covenant is in error, but that they make the conditions dependable on Man; on his faith. The definition of a condition is that an argument can be expressed in the logical form “If p, then q”. Salvation can be expressed in the form: “If you have faith in Christ, then you will be saved”. It is a mere parsng of words to claim that there are no conditions when such logical conditional sentences do in fact express the Truth of Scripture.

    In the Covenant of Grace, the condition is clearly stated as follows:

    WCF Chapter VII: Of God’s Covenant with Man
    III.
    Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; REQUIRING OF THEM faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

    And one example in the Canons of Dordt:

    The Second Main point of Doctrine
    Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All
    Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that WHOEVER believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life.

    That the Reformed creeds teach that Christ fulfilled the condition of the Covenant on our behalf:

    WCF Chapter VIII: Of Christ the Mediator
    V. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.

    VIII. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and EFFECTUALLY apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; EFFECTUALLY PERSUADING THEM BY HIS SPIRIT TO BELIEVE AND OBEY; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.

    So Prof Hanko is in error. The error of the Conditional Covenant is not that they claim that there are conditions in the Covenant, but that the conditions are to be fulfilled by Man.

  61. Daniel Chew Says:

    So in effect, what I am saying is that the Covenant of Grace is unconditional on our behalf because Christ fulfilled the condition for us.

  62. Daniel Chew Says:

    Dear Cliffton,

    your are imposing your definition of a covenant and thus denying the clear parallelism drawn in Rom. 5 between what Christ merited as compared to what Adam demerited. Rom. 5:21-21 parallels Christ’s obeidnece meriting salvation and life compared to Adam’s sin “meriting” death. Contrary to your assertions, the biblical text contrasts the ACTIONS of the federal heads Adam and Christ, as verse 17 explicitly says:

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

    trespass – righteousness
    death – life

    Nothing can be clearer than this.

    With regards to Christ’s righteousness, why should it be imputed to us? It is humanity that sinned, and it is humanity that must pay the price. As such, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness cannot be His inherent divine rightoeusness, but His perfect human righteousness which He earned as a perfect, sinless man (active righteousness). So you still have no basis for this active righteousness to be imputed to us in the Covenant of Grace, since the PRC denies merit can be earned at all, and Christ therefore cannot earn any [human] merit as the Last Adam either.

  63. Mitch Says:

    Did Clark write anything about believers being judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Would it be fair to say that these works that believers are judged by are not works righteousness since they do not affect salvation? I guess the typical text given is from 1 Cor. 3:11-15.

    Thanks

  64. Cliffton Says:

    Daniel states: As such, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness cannot be His inherent divine rightoeusness,…

    Cliffton: I agree and have never made any claim to the contrary, nor could it have been deduced from what I said. If you believe it can be deduced from what I said, please demonstrate.

    Daniel states: So you still have no basis for this active righteousness to be imputed to us in the Covenant of Grace, since the PRC denies merit can be earned at all, and Christ therefore cannot earn any [human] merit as the Last Adam either.

    Cliffton: Since your conclusion above was dependent upon your thinking that I was making the claim that it is the “inherent divine righteousness” of Christ being imputed to the elect, which claim I was not making, your argument does not apply.

    Whereas you *believe* that “the PRC denies merit can be earned at all”, and whereas the Belgic Confession Article 22 states that all those who belong to Christ are imputed “all his merits”, and since the PRC confess the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession being one of the three forms), you have by implication accused the PRC of violating their own confession. This is a very serious charge which should without hesitation be substantiated.

  65. Daniel Chew Says:

    Dear Cliffton,

    I did not accuse the PRC of knowingly violating their own confessions. I am saying the denial of the CoW LOGICALLY implies that Christ could not have merited righteousness, and therefore the PRC’s argument on Christ meriting salvation for His people is logically contradictory. In other words, the PRC’s professed position on the CoW is a LOGICAL CONTRADICTION of their orthodox view on Christ’s active righteousness.

  66. Cliffton Says:

    Daniel states: I did not accuse the PRC of knowingly violating their own confessions.

    Cliffton: Daniel, you claimed

    “…since the PRC denies merit can be earned at all”

    I took this to mean that you were claiming “the PRC denies merit can be earned at all”. Maybe I just misread you here.

    Daniel states: “I am saying the denial of the CoW LOGICALLY implies that Christ could not have merited righteousness…”

    Cliffton: Daniel, I am fully aware that this is your position. You do not have to continue to repeat yourself. All I am looking for is a logical demonstration of how you arrived at this conclusion. If you cannot do so, then we should probably end this discussion, at least for now.

  67. Sean Gerety Says:

    Clark wrote a commentary on First Corinthians, so 3:11-15 is covered at length. How typical Clark’s take on this passage I really can’t say since I have only read a few commentaries on 1 Cor.

    What do you think the passage is referring to? Do you think Paul asserting the necessity of good works in order to be finally saved? If it’s any help, that certainly wasn’t Clark’s position.

  68. Mitch Says:

    No the text is not about the necessity of good works in order to be saved, in fact most people that use this text will say that it is not about salvation, but it is about the so called believers judgment.

    The idea is that there will be two distinct judgments, one for believers that will judge what they did after they believed (that is when this text gets brought up), and the other judgment for the non-believers.

    So not knowing what Clark wrote or thought about this so called believers judgment I was just trying to see if anyone here knew or could point me to where I could learn his view on it.

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    I already told you that Clark discusses the passage at length in his commentary. That would be a good place to start. I gave away my copy of What Do Presbyterians Believe, but I recall he discusses WCF XXXIII as well which might help shed some light. I suppose I’m just curious why you would call it *so-called believers judgment*?

    IMO the important thing to remember in the passage is that it is not addressing believers, per se, but a specific class of believers, specifically teachers. I think you would agree that teachers are held to a higher standard and how they build upon the one foundation, which is Christ, has repercussions even if their errors never rise to the damnable levels of, say, a Doug Wilson or a Peter Leithart.

  70. Mitch Says:

    Please know that I understand that you told me that Clark talked about the verse in his commentary and I will have to get a copy to review what he wrote. You then asked some questions that I answered in my follow-up comment.

    The reason I ask, it seems that more and more people are talking about how even believers will be judged by *their* works and that is why some are saying that salvation = faith + works. Now they define works differently in order to stay away from the charge of works righteousness, but I do not see the difference. Yet more and more are talking about *our* works after justification and how we will be judged by *our* works, the common term used seems to be *believers judgment*. The idea is that *all* believers will be judged by THEIR works and that this judgment is separate and different from the judgment of non-believers in that for believers their judgment does not affect salvation. So my question was if Clark had written anything about this

    Sorry that I am not as clear as I need to be and thank you for your help.

  71. Sean Gerety Says:

    As I mentioned, Clark makes the case, and I think convincingly, that the passage has teachers or pastors in mind and not believers in general:

    These verses confirm the interpretation of the preceding. Paul is not speaking of seriously antichristian doctrines, such as those that cause him to pronounce anathemas on the Judaizers. The unbiblical teachers here in mind will themselves be saved, even though they have damaged the temple of God. Ignorantly and carelessly through they have built, yet they built on the foundation of the Atonement. Therefore, though they shall be punished, they are at the end received into heaven.

    It should be noted that Paul is expressly speaking of ministers, not their converts. No doubt certain implications for the laity can be drawn, but the leaders bear the greater responsibility of building the church.

  72. Sean Gerety Says:

    The reason I ask, it seems that more and more people are talking about how even believers will be judged by *their* works and that is why some are saying that salvation = faith + works.

    Let me just add Mitch, while the false teachers riddling countless PCA and other P&R demons have surreptitiously incorporated works as a necessary component of faith where believing means doing and faith is equated with faithfulness, and both are conditional components to our so-called “final justification,” these equivocating dogs will all get theirs. They are not even in view in 1Cor 3:11-15. As you can see above, Clark would have had them readily tagged along the lines of Galatians 1:8,9 had he lived to see these vipers in action.

    However, that doesn’t mean that God does not chastise or punish His own children and that how we build upon the one true foundation, even the Lord Jesus Christ alone, somehow doesn’t matter. It may not have any bearing on the questions of who is and who isn’t finally saved, contrary to what these New Perspective Panderers and Federal Frauds would have us believe, but what minister of the gospel, much less pew-ons like us, wouldn’t one day love to hear our Lord say to us: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

    Don’t let the slobber of some dogs currently disturbing the church steal that away from you.

  73. Mitch Says:

    Sean,

    Thanks for the info and I agree too many are distorting the Gospel. We need more men who believe the bible and all that it says and who are not afraid to proclaim the gospel and nothing else.

  74. Bob S Says:

    Cliffton Says:

    April 13, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Bob S. states: “Further if the marriage covenant is made with God, unbelievers cannot covenant with God. Yet the marriages of unbelievers are valid.”

    Cliffton: The institution of marriage is a type of Christ and the Church. Furthermore, the Scriptures also identify the relationship between God and His people as a father-son relationship. The notion of the father-son relationship stems from and is grounded in the life of God Himself which is eternal. All earthly relationships of father-son only have meaning in view of the eternal idea of Father-Son. Does this then mean that all earthly father-son relationships are therefore invalid? Come on now.

    The institution of marriage is not a type of Christ and the Church. It cannot be, because unbelievers could not then get married/have valid marriages. But they do have valid marriages, which the PRC’s themselves recognize in forbidding remarriage to anybody now converted, who was previously married and divorced as an unbeliever. Go figure. You can’t have both. Marriage is only valid among Christians and what pagans do is immaterial OR marriage is honorable in all and a creation ordinance which preceded sin, the fall, Christians and Christianity, just like work as a calling and the one day in seven sabbath. While Christ’s union with the church is a great mystery and Christians are exhorted to act accordingly, is it a strict type? No. Passover is a type of the Lord’s Supper. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are not.

    Neither was Judas a Christian, but Judas still had an earthly biological father of whom he was the earthly biological son. There are some things, belief doesn’t/can’t change. For that matter, the resident cat around here has a father. So what?

    As re. the Cov. of Works (COW)

    The Dutch Staten Vertaling Bible, as called for by the Synod of Dordt 1618/19 in the Argument (or summary) for the New Testament starts out by saying:

    The word Testament is a Latine word, whereby the Greek word Diakethe is rendered, which the Greek translators use to express the Hebrew word Berith, that is Covenant. And thereby I properly understood the Covenant itself, which God hath made with mankinde upon certain conditions to give them everlasting life: which Covenant is twofold, the Old and the New. The Old is that which God made with the first man before the fall, wherein eternal life was promised upon condition of a thoroughly perfect obedience, and keeping of the Law; and is thereby called the Legall Covenant, which God again propounded to the Israelites, that from thence they might learn to understand (seeing this condition is transgressed by all men, and can now be fulfilled by no man) that they must seek their salvation in another Covenant, which is called the New [Covenant,] and consisteth in this: That God hath appointed his Son for a Mediator, and promiseth eternal life upon condition that we believe in him; and is called the Covenant of Grace.

    If the PRC’s care to argue with that, fine, but it is the historic Dutch Bible of the Reformation. Let’s be clear just who the PRC’s repudiate and note bene, who they don’t tell you they repudiate.

    Further, Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711) was an eminent Dutch pastor and theologian in his own right of the Dutch Nadere Reformatie or Second Reformation which ran roughly at the same time as English and Scotch Puritanism. In his classic The Christian’s Reasonable Service (1701) only recently translated and reprinted in English in 1992 -1995 by Reformation Heritage Books, Brakel says regarding the COW:

    Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well (p.354).

    Truly there is nothing new under the sun. “(T)hat Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect” is precisely what the Federal Vision theology denies in the Joint Statement of 2007 as is clear from the sections on Covenant of Life and Union with Christ and Imputation (pp.5,6). As do the PRC.

    But Christ not only atoned for and washed away the stain and guilt of sin, he actually fulfilled the positive duties of the moral law perfectly. While no one denies that the covenant of grace was from eternity, again not only must the sinner’s guilt be atoned for – the negative transgression of the law must be paid for – the positive righteousness of obedience to the law must be found to the justified sinner’s account. Yet we know that Christ’s divine righteousness is not imputed by faith to the believer, so what is and how was it attained? In short, Christ fulfilled the COW and we through faith and the covenant of grace participate in that fulfillment. If you will, there is at bottom only one covenant, the covenant of works, either Adam’s or Christ’s which we participate in by the imputation of birth or rebirth/regeneration/grace

    The covenant of grace (COG) is also conditional as Daniel states. But not only is the condition faith, it is promised in the COG. So the irresistable grace of the 5 points of Calvinism. There is more to be said, I am sure, but from what I remember Turretin was a little more trustworthy than the PRC’s take on conditions. Don’t get me wrong, the PRC’s are a lot closer to Turretin than the FV, but both quote him with approval (i.e. selectively). Yeah, I know, I am opining here, but say what you will the PRC’s still deny the COW and affirm eternal justification.

    But not to leave any stone unturned or controversy undisturbed, (I trust everyone has their flamethrower/fire extinguisher at the ready) Bavinck et al are not per se irrationalists. The archetypal/ectypal distinction is orthodox and of long standing in classic historic reformed theology (Turretin, Owen etc.). God is unknowable as he is in himself/ in se. Or if you will, the finite (mind) cannot contain the infinite. He is only knowable as he has truly revealed himself in Scripture and Christ.

    That VanTil/Murray are confused in going further and applying the archetypal distinction to Scripture in part – but Scripture is ectypal and Clark, Hoeksema and Schilder either deny or are unaware of the a/e distinction – only leads to more misunderstanding and charges at cross purpose.

    Again, I appreciated my time in the PRC’s and learned a lot, but they are hardly the last word on reformed theology, particularly the COW. Their conservative nature keeps them from erring further, but human nature being what it is, the (il)logical tendency sooner or later is to go down the wrong rabbit trail, to paraphrase Dabney (Pract. Phil. p.243).

    Thank you.

  75. Cliffton Says:

    Bob: The institution of marriage is not a type of Christ and the Church. It cannot be, because unbelievers could not then get married/have valid marriages. But they do have valid marriages, which the PRC’s themselves recognize in forbidding remarriage to anybody now converted, who was previously married and divorced as an unbeliever.

    Cliffton: This does not follow. In addition, your starting point is wrong. We do not (or rather we should not) use the type to define the antitype. Your argument does just that, which is actually the same problem you are having with your CoW “argument”.

    Further, I am claiming that the INSTITUTION of marriage is a type of Christ and the Church. It is the institution of marriage that unbelievers enter into that gives their particular marriages validity, which is precisely where Christ begins His exposition. That said, to the extent that the particular marriages fail to “measure up” to the institution, they will most certainly be held responsible for desecrating the same.

    I do not wish to present a full blown exposition of the Biblical position on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in this particular venue. However, if you are interested in a more detailed explanation I can certainly recommend a few books.

    As far as the rest of your post, let us not confuse a description of someone’s belief with what one ought to believe.

    One more thing, you state:

    “The covenant of grace (COG) is also conditional as Daniel states. But not only is the condition faith, it is promised in the COG. So the irresistable grace of the 5 points of Calvinism.”

    You must realize that faith cannot be both a condition unto the reception of the blessings and at the same time a blessing of the CoG. Your understanding of the CoG is precisely what the Synod of Dordt condemned in their rejection of errors under the Second Head of Doctrine. Man violates God’s law, Christ fulfills it, and now God establishes another covenant requiring faith as a condition and “esteems it worthy of the reward of eternal life THROUGH GRACE” (my emphasis). Is this not the very teaching that the Synod condemned? Sounds dangerously similar.

    I do not believe this discussion is progressing much and I do not want to take up any more of Sean’s blog. Please excuse me from it.

  76. Derek Ashton Says:

    Sean,

    Sadly, the alternative to embracing Biblical paradox is the proud exaltation of human reason above God’s infinite wisdom. All of us are better served by humbly bowing our hearts and logical explanations before the Almighty Father. If any person grasps the minutest grain of truth, it is of His pure mercy.

    I do not know if Van Til was right or wrong, or to what extent. But I am certain that God’s ways transcend the finite logic of the best human minds.

    Despite all the cheering going on here, Kielar’s video is fraught with problems. I commend James Anderson’s book, Paradox in Christian Theology, as an antidote. Also, you will find a wealth of quotations from men like Charles Spurgeon who loved the way God outwitted them and worshipped Him more as a result. They saw Him high and lifted up, and themselves mere worms.

    When we come face to face with God, every one of us will realize that we have been outmaneuvered by a wisdom unlike anything we’ve imagined. Better to acknowledge it now and prepare for that day with a corresponding humility.

    Grace & peace,
    Derek Ashton


  77. The guy in the video seems to want to think that he stands shoulder to shoulder with Spurgeon, but he goes on to completely contradict Spurgeon’s statements that many truths can NOT be reconciled by any man on earth:

    “These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

  78. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sadly, the alternative to embracing Biblical paradox is the proud exaltation of human reason above God’s infinite wisdom. All of us are better served by humbly bowing our hearts and logical explanations before the Almighty Father. If any person grasps the minutest grain of truth, it is of His pure mercy.

    I wouldn’t recommend Anderson as an authority on anything, but thankfully you present a false dilemma. The Biblical alternative to “embracing Biblical paradox” (which is nothing more than a bald contradiction at least to the human existent), is embracing and defending the logical harmony of all of Scripture, what the Westminster Divines called a “consent of the parts.” God’s Word is evidenced as true by its inherent logical coherence.

    Embracing Biblical paradox isn’t an expression of Christian humility; it is intellectual suicide.

  79. Sean Gerety Says:

    No argument here. Hopefully he recognizes that Spurgeon was wrong. Jesus said the Scriptures “cannot be broken,” the “great” Spurgeon notwithstanding.

  80. Derek Ashton Says:

    Sean,

    Anderson holds two Ph.D’s. But that’s not to say he’s especially authoritative. There are Ph.D’s on all sides of the issue. However, Anderson’s arguments are weighty, and he makes a strong case. I’d like to see an official response to his book from an equally well credentialled Clarkian. That’s a book I would enjoy reading.

    I admire your confident stance, yet I have to say it’s not one I could take. I’d have to deny too much clear and essential orthodox Biblical teaching in order to apparently reconcile everything. And I believe the reconciliation would be merely apparent.

    I believe there is a danger in embracing paradox, and those who are attracted to the flame should be careful not to get burned. The Neo-orthodox have made that clear enough. But there is also a danger in rejecting paradox. Pelagius and other heretics have proven this over and over again. I would agree that comprehensively and pervasively expressing truth as irreconcilable paradox would lead to intellectual suicide. However, I suggest that failing to leave any room for paradox can ultimately result in something worse: spiritual suicide. And I would not wish that on anyone.

    I’ve enjoyed chatting with you, brother. We could probably keep disagreeing like this for months (certainly not for eternity), but I’ll leave off here and read any rebuttal you might make. I’ll consider your thoughts with great interest and then let it rest.

    Of course, if you have questions for me I’ll answer them, but I don’t want to “lock horns” and have this disintegrate into a fruitless argument.

    In the end, Van Til vs. Clark is a subpoint in the larger framework of Reformed theology. It is an important disagreement among brothers who will likely spend eternity in the same place. So, if we were in the same local church I would gladly receive communion next to you and Gordon Clark and the rest of the gang. Someday, perhaps, we will feast on the Lamb together – united as one in the Body of Christ. What a glorious hope!

    Grace & peace,
    Derek Ashton

  81. ray Says:

    You mentioned derik, the danger that rejecting paradox leads to Pelagianism … care to show where on this blog this has shown itself. Further… you went on to suggest that those of us who reject paradox are exalting human reason over God’s infinite wisdom …. care to show on this blog where this has shown itself … or are you content to straddle the fence. I checked out your blog … and I think it is the same old whiny fence straddling I have grown to despise.

    In fact it reminds me of this statement …

    “7. Rationalism

    The third indictment the complainants bring against Dr. Clark is really twofold: According to them, he is a rationalist and an antinomian.

    The accusation of rationalism is based on the contention that Dr. Clark tries to solve problems, paradoxes, and contradictions, particularly the problem of the relation between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Anyone who makes an attempt to solve this problem, who tries to harmonize these two, who claims that this solution is possible – and especially he who is ready to offer his solution of this problem – is, according to the complainants, a rationalist. We quote from the Complaint:

    Dr. Clark asserts that the relationship of divine sovereignty and human responsibility to each other presents no difficulty for his thinking and that the two are easily reconcilable before the bar of human reason. He expresses surprise that so many theologians find an insuperable difficulty here [10].

    The complainants then make several quotations from Reformed writers to show that by theologians of good standing the problem has always been considered insoluble. It presents an apparent contradiction which we are not able to harmonize. Both must be confessed – that God is absolutely sovereign and that man is responsible. But how they are to be harmonized is beyond the understanding of the human mind. Thus they quote from Berkhof, Calvin, Vos, A. A. Hodge, and Abraham Kuyper. And then the complainants continue:

    Here then is a situation which is inadequately described as amazing. There is a problem which has baffled the greatest theologians in history. Not even Holy Scripture offers a solution. But Dr. Clark asserts unblushingly that for his thinking the problem has ceased to be a problem. Here is something phenomenal. What accounts for it? The most charitable, and no doubt the correct, explanation is that Dr. Clark has come under the spell of rationalism. It is difficult indeed to escape the conclusion that by his refusal to permit the scriptural teaching of divine sovereignty and the scriptural teaching of human responsibility to stand alongside each other and by his claim that he has fully reconciled them with each other before the bar of human reason Dr. Clark has fallen into the error of rationalism. To be sure, he is not a rationalist in the sense that he substitutes human reasoning for divine revelation as such. But, to say nothing of his finding the solution of the problem of the relation to each other of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the teaching of pagan philosophers who were totally ignorant of the teaching of Holy Writ on either of these subjects, it is clear that Dr. Clark regards Scripture from the viewpoint of a system which to the mind of man must be harmonious in all its parts. The inevitable outcome is rationalism in the interpretation of Scripture. And that too is rationalism. Although Dr. Clark does not claim actually to possess at the present moment the solution of every scriptural paradox, yet his rationalism leaves room at best for only a temporary subjection of human reason to the divine Word… [12].

    What shall we say about this accusation of rationalism?

    First of all, we may note that it is an old one. There is nothing original in the findings of the complainants. They speak the language of the Christian Reformed leaders since about 1922-1924. From these they have, no doubt, learned to speak their theological language. Personally, we are very familiar with the accusation they now bring against Dr. Clark.

    But what of the accusation itself?

    The complainants speak of a “situation which is inadequately described as amazing,” and of “something phenomenal.” I must confess that these words express exactly my sentiment when I read this part of the Complaint. There is here, indeed, something that is more than amazing, that is really unbelievable, that might almost be catalogued as another paradox: the phenomenon that theologians accuse a brother theologian of heresy because he tries to solve problems!

    For, mark you well, it is exactly this that these complainants do in this part of the Complaint. They simply accuse him of trying to find a solution, of claiming to have found a solution. Whether Dr. Clark has actually succeeded or not to discover a solution of the problem of God’s sovereignty in relation to man’s responsibility is not the question at all. Whether his solution is right or wrong has nothing to do with this part of the Complaint. The mere fact that Dr. Clark attempts to harmonize things makes him a heretic, a rationalist. Other theologians have always claimed that the problem is not capable of solution; the complainants themselves insist that in the problem of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility we face a paradox, a contradiction as far as we can see: This should have been sufficient to warn Dr. Clark against the attempt to seek a solution. That he, nevertheless, did make the attempt shows that he is a heretic, a rationalist.

    That, as it appears to me, is the whole argument of the complainants. And this is something which, to my mind, the word amazing is inadequate to describe. But what about the accusation of rationalism? Is it really rationalism to make the attempt to bring Scripture into harmony with itself? The complainants maintain that it is:

    Dr. Clark regards Scripture from the viewpoint of a system which to the mind of man must be harmonious in all its parts. The inevitable outcome is rationalism in the interpretation of Scripture. And that too is rationalism.

    The language of the complainants is somewhat ambiguous here, whether the ambiguity is intentional or accidental. The words might convey the impression that Dr. Clark begins with a system of thought, not derived from the Scriptures, and that now he proceeds to explain Scripture in such a way as to support that preconceived philosophical system. And that would, indeed, be rationalism. Scripture would then be distorted to fit Dr. Clark’s system. But the complainants do not openly accuse him of this. The words may also mean that, according to Dr. Clark’s view, there is in the revelation of the Word of God itself a harmonious system of truth, which, by careful exegesis, comparing Scripture with Scripture, the theologian attempts to bring to light and to formulate. And this seems to be the truth. Thus, at least, The Answer interprets Dr. Clark’s attempt to harmonize divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We quote: “It is pertinent to note that Dr. Clark, instead of approaching these problems on a rationalistic basis, reaches his conclusion from an exegesis of Scripture” (37). And again:

    Next, the attempt to find by a deeper study of the Scripture the solution of paradoxes – a use of exegesis that the complainants call rationalism – is in the eyes of the complainants incompatible with subjection of human reason to the divine Word…. In other words, a man who tries to understand what God has revealed to him cannot be subject to the revelation, and the more he understands, the less he is subject; probably the less he understands, the more subject he is; so that the really obedient and devout man must be completely ignorant. By what right do the complainants imply that the attempt to understand Scripture is inconsistent with believing Scripture? [37].

    We may take it, then, that the attempt to harmonize Scripture with itself is, by the complainants, branded as rationalism.

    This we absolutely deny.

    Let the complainants prove their contention. They do not do this. They do not even make an attempt to prove this charge of rationalism. The Answer reduces the contention of the complainants, somewhat ironically, to absurdity, by showing that ultimately it leads to the conclusion that “the really obedient and devout man must be completely ignorant.”

    But if the contention of the complainants is true, it certainly follows that all theology, and especially all dogmatics, is rationalistic, for it proceeds from the assumption that the truth revealed in the Bible can be formulated into a logical system.

    No theologian has ever proceeded from the assumption of the complainants. Dogmatics is a system of truth elicited from Scripture. And exegesis always applied the rule of the regula Scripturae, which means that throughout the Bible there runs a consistent line of thought in the light of which the darker and more difficult passages must be interpreted. The complainants virtually deny this, at least, and that, too, rather arbitrarily, with relation to the problem of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

    Who does not know that Reformed theologians have always interpreted those passages of Scripture, which at first sight seem to be in favor of the Arminian view, in the light of the current teaching of Holy Writ that salvation is of the Lord, that grace is sovereign, that the atonement is particular, and that man is not free to do good? According to the contention of the complainants, this is rationalism.

    The complainants simply ride a recent Christian Reformed hobby.

    As to “contradictions,” I maintain that there are no such things in the revelation of God in Scripture, for the simple reason that Scripture teaches us everywhere that God is One, and that he cannot deny himself. His revelation, too, is one, and does not contradict itself.

    No, but the complainants would say, there are no real contradictions, but there are apparent contradictions in the Bible nevertheless, and them we must leave severely alone, without even making an attempt at solution. We must simply and humbly accept them.

    I most positively deny all of this.

    By apparent contradictions the complainants mean propositions or truths that to the human mind, and according to human logic, are contradictory. I deny that there are such propositions in the Bible. If there were, they could not be the object of our faith. It is nonsense to say that we must humbly believe what is contradictory. This is simply impossible. The complainants themselves cannot believe contradictions. Contradictions are propositions that mutually exclude each other, so that the one denies the truth of the other. The principles of contradictions are: 1. That a thing cannot at the same time be and not be. 2. That a thing must either be or not be. 3. That the same property cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time of the same subject. A is A. A is not Not-A. Everything is either A or Not-A.

    I challenge anyone to point out that there are propositions in the Bible that violate these fundamental principles of logic. I challenge anyone to prove that it is possible for the believer to accept such contradictions, or that it is Christian humility to claim such faith. Perhaps it may be worth the effort to apply these statements to the problem of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. But this must wait until our next issue. “The Clark-Van Til Controversy
    Herman Hoeksema
    from The Trinity Review, November-December 2005

  82. Sean Gerety Says:

    Anderson holds two Ph.D’s. But that’s not to say he’s especially authoritative. There are Ph.D’s on all sides of the issue. However, Anderson’s arguments are weighty, and he makes a strong case.

    From what I’ve read of the book I found nothing “weighty” or any of his arguments particularly strong — or even original for that matter. It sounds like the same old defense of Vantilian nonsense that I’ve heard for years. Just another rehash of tired arguments made by men like David Byron, John Frame, David Bahnsen, Doug Jones and others. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but seeing that Anderson is the author of Van Til FEM I hardly think his book in defense of biblical contradictions, which he and other Vantilians wrongly call “paradoxes,” will offer anything new.

    I’d like to see an official response to his book from an equally well credentialled Clarkian. That’s a book I would enjoy reading.

    I don’t see how that would make any difference? It sounds to me like you’re sold, not to mention overly impressed by titles. Although, seeing I’m not a “well credentialed Clarkian,” whatever that might be, I guess I won’t be getting a review copy any time soon.

    I admire your confident stance, yet I have to say it’s not one I could take. I’d have to deny too much clear and essential orthodox Biblical teaching in order to apparently reconcile everything.

    The orthodox Biblical stance is that the meaning of Scripture is one and not “manifold” and that the Scriptures present to the mind a “consent of the parts,” not antinomy, paradox and incoherence. The truth of Scripture is evidenced by the harmony of propositions. Van Til and his followers are not orthodox.

    Were the Confession writers wrong when they claimed a “consent of the parts” as one of the evidences for the truth of Scripture? If we are to believe Van Til and his followers, it would seem so. They assert that necessary inferences from Scripture are permissible, except when one deduction contradicts another. But if they understood what truth is, they would know that it is non-contradictory, and one valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition. If an inferred conclusion contradicts Biblical teaching, the inference must be invalid. Biblical teaching is non-contradictory. But the Vantilian method assures us in advance that valid inferences from Scripture will eventually “force us to deny other Biblical teaching.” Their rejection of the Confessional affirmations that all the parts of Scripture “consent” together, that is, logically cohere, and all valid inferences from Scripture are Scripture, could not be any clearer.

    Clearly, Derek, you have a different standard of orthodoxy.

    I would agree that comprehensively and pervasively expressing truth as irreconcilable paradox would lead to intellectual suicide. However, I suggest that failing to leave any room for paradox can ultimately result in something worse: spiritual suicide. And I would not wish that on anyone.

    There is plenty of room for paradox, properly understood. But a paradox is that which can be harmonized at the bar of human reason and not the Vantilian sort which we are to have faith in faith that there are no paradoxes for God.

    In the end, Van Til vs. Clark is a subpoint in the larger framework of Reformed theology. It is an important disagreement among brothers who will likely spend eternity in the same place.

    I wish I could agree that it is a “subpoint” in Reformed theology. I think it Clark/VanTil controversy was a watershed whose ramifications are still being witnessed as the false gospel of the Federal Vision and so-called NPP continues to spread virtually unabated through P&R denominations. The current justification controversy is nothing more than the rotten fruits of Vantilian love of paradox being applied to the doctrine of justification.

    So, if we were in the same local church I would gladly receive communion next to you and Gordon Clark and the rest of the gang. Someday, perhaps, we will feast on the Lamb together – united as one in the Body of Christ. What a glorious hope!

    Call me overly optimistic, but I would like to think you might come to your senses before then. 🙂

  83. Derek Ashton Says:

    Ray said:

    Derek responds:
    Ray, while I do strive for balance and sometimes describe what seem to be humanly irreconcilable paradoxes, I don’t think you will find anything “whiny” on my blog. Also, I do not “straddle” the fence so much as hop over it repeatedly in order to examine and compare both sides. Denying that one side of the fence exists would be irrational, but studying it from both sides in as detailed a fashion as possible tends to give a comprehensive view. However, I find certain fences contain parts that simply can’t be seen or accessed. But hey, isn’t that what fences are for? To restrict access to the unauthorized?

    In answer to your questions, I suggest that any church history text will prove my argument. Heresy has invariably arisen whenever a person rationalistically asserts one side of a Biblical teaching to the exclusion of its balances. Arius did it, Pelagius did it, Marcion did it, Nestorius did it, and I would venture to say every hyper-calvinist has done it, along with most Arminians and certainly every open theist. I said nothing about this blog in particular, and I would not wish to go picking apart Sean’s work no matter how much I may disagree with him. My point is only that there is a danger in rejecting paradoxes simply because the mind can’t find a workable solution. That, by definition, is an exaltation of human reason above God’s wisdom. If the shoe fits, try it on.

    Hoeksema’s work is interesting, thanks for sharing it.

    My approach is to solve paradoxes where possible, but maintain them when necessary. Our theology declares that the “bar of human reason” is totally depraved, so I try not to trust it more than I have to. On the other hand, reason one of the guides God has given us and it is often helpful (there I go looking at both sides of the fence again). As I have said before, I’m not particularly attached to Van Til, but I am bound by Scripture. You may find this article by Tony Byrne to be of some interest, although I affirm paradoxes a wee bit more than he does (I think it’s a great answer the Van Til/Clark issue)

    http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/2005/06/paradox-and-mystery.html

    Sean,

    Thanks for the response. I didn’t detect any direct questions, so as promised I’ll let us agree to disagree. Thanks for giving me some space to make my case here. May God bless you in serving, knowing, and walking with Him.

    Blessings,
    Derek Ashton

  84. Derek Ashton Says:

    Somehow the quotation from Ray disappeared. It was supposed to be the first paragraph of his comment.

  85. Cliffton Says:

    Derek Ashton: My point is only that there is a danger in rejecting paradoxes simply because the mind can’t find a workable solution. That, by definition, is an exaltation of human reason above God’s wisdom.

    Cliffton: Maybe we should accept them, then, because the mind can’t find a workable solution. Does the shoe fit Derek?

  86. Derek Ashton Says:

    Clifton,

    Er … yes, I think you’ve restated my point well. If the “shoe” is admitting God’s ways and thoughts are beyond my comprehension, I’ll take two of them. 🙂

  87. Cliffton Says:

    Then you’ve just refuted yourself!

  88. Derek Ashton Says:

    Clifton,

    I’m having trouble following your line of reasoning.

    I’ve re-read my initial comment, and I see that it could be taken a few different ways. Hopefully what I am about to say makes it clearer.

    Here’s an example of what I mean. I say there is a paradox in the two natures of Christ. He is fully God. He is also fully man. The two are mutually exclusive by the normal rules of logic, and yet they are co-existent in the One Person according to Scripture and the orthodox creeds. My mind cannot find a workable solution to reconcile these two truths, but I accept them as a paradox. God’s omnipotence makes it possible, though it hardly explains how. I don’t reject the paradox of two natures in Christ simply because I can’t explain or grasp the concept. A person who can’t find a workable solution to this seemingly contradictory set of Biblical truths, and also rejects the very idea of paradox, will inevitably take away from one truth in order to emphasize the other, thus creating an imbalance or even a heresy – depending on how strongly he rationalizes away the truth he isn’t comfortable with. That is the danger I speak of.

  89. Cliffton Says:

    Derek Ashton: My mind cannot find a workable solution to reconcile these two truths, but I accept them as a paradox.

    Cliffton: You are charging those who believe that God is not irrational with exalting “human reason above God’s wisdom”. Yet, because *YOUR MIND* cannot find a workable solution to reconcile” particular propositions, you identify it as a paradox. Your incapabilities become the determining factor. You condemn yourself. Make no mistake, your position is by definition prideful. And misology is hatred of God.

  90. Derek Ashton Says:

    Clifton,

    I just realized you haven’t been listening. I’ll let my previous statements speak for themselves. I think we’re done now. Thanks.

    Derek

  91. speigel Says:

    @Sean: I think it was Hoeksema who said that it would be useless to rationally argue or argue rationally with these irrationalists. They will charge us with the very thing that argue against – rational discourse – though they are not so explicit about it. It would be a waste of time to argue with them. It’s like, to give a biblical analogy, feeding pearls to swine. (Please don’t take the analogy too far.)

    Their ilk tells the world that it is human arrogance and perhaps sinful to harmonize alleged paradoxes in the Bible. But it’s human stupidity due to sin or immaturity that cannot, and will not, harmonize these alleged paradoxes. The Confession states the consent of all the parts of Scripture. If they do not logically accept that, they should bring it up to their Presbytery.

  92. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m having trouble following your line of reasoning.

    In a way, why would it matter Derek? Since you think it an act of Christian piety and humility to embrace what you believe are insoluble paradoxes and assert that the Scriptures do not cohere, perhaps this is just another one of those so-called “paradoxes” you can’t resolve? If you can’t understand Clifton, why not just embrace what he says as biblical truth? After all, that’s the kind of authoritarian prattle Van Til’s followers routinely resort to. They are impressed with titles too and seem to believe that if an elder teaches unbiblical nonsense it should be received as God’s word on nothing more than their own authority.

    After all, you claim you are “only proposing a logical limitation of human understanding and a fitting exaltation of the sovereign transcendence of the Holy One.”

    So, to ask you some questions:

    How is God exalted by the Vantilian notion that the Scriptures do not cohere in all that they teach? Wouldn’t that be an admission that God simply either chose to or simply could not communicated to creatures formed in His image in a non-contradictory fashion? From where is this deduced or taught in Scripture?

    Also, I don’t want to pick on Van Til and the nonsensical bilge he taught. How about Spurgeon’s claim you cited in response to Mananta’s abusive ad hom tirade:

    I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

    FWIW Charles should have stuck with his first point; “That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment.” If he would have stopped there he would have actually demonstrated Christian humility. But, he did not. Instead, notice his sheer arrogance. Like you and the other irrrationalists, mystics and necromancers on Triablogue, Spurgeon IMPUTES his faulty and weak judgment TO THE SCRIPTURES. He just doesn’t confess that he doesn’t know how to harmonize the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. That would have been the honorable and honest thing to do. Instead, and in his pride, he goes on to claim that since he couldn’t solve this particular problem, or even knows of anyone who has, it therefore follows that no one can! How could he or you or anyone else possibly know that the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility do not “converge”?

    What you call humility is prideful arrogance and the imputation of one man’s ignorance to God’s perfect and holy Word.

    If you men weren’t running headlong back into the Dark Ages, with more than a few Vantilians today leading the way back to Rome, you would have noticed that Spurgeon’s so-called “apparent contradiction” was solved more than 70 years ago by Gordon Clark. Thankfully, his solution to this problem didn’t go unnoticed by men like Drs. Robbins, Reymond, Crampton and countless others. Of course, Clark’s brilliance on this front didn’t go unpunished either. Van Til and his WTS cohorts in the ’40’s slandered Clark as a “rationalist” and worse, but failed to refute – or, I might add, even INTERACT — with Clark’s proposed solution. Even today the slander continues. As you said on Triablogue and in response to Manata, “Van Til would be proud.” I bet he would.

    Finally, where is it taught either in Scripture or anywhere in the 3 Forms or the WCF that it’s an act of Christian humility and glorifying to God to assert and believe the Scriptures teach contradictions, which we’re told by Vantilians like yourself are not real, but are somehow resolved in the Godhead? Further, where do the Scriptures teach ala’ Andersen that the so-called “paradoxes” of Scripture are the result of a lack of relevant and necessary revelatory information provided by God in Scripture?

    You claim, “We are not in any way denying the rules of logic or the inherent rationality of God’s mind as the origination of ALL TRUTH,” but in very fact you are doing just that. You assert there are things taught in Scripture that DEFY a rational solution and that on account of these, shall we say, deficiencies, logic must be curbed and all in the name of some feigned sense of piety.

  93. ray Says:

    Derik, thanks for the reply …

    …. when using the natures of Christ to try and prove your point about that vain idea of paradox … you mentioned the “normal” rules of logic. What is normal ? Defined by whom? … the world or Scripture? I hope you understand the importance of the answer.

  94. Derek Ashton Says:

    Sean,

    I was hoping for some fruitful discussion and possibly a better understanding of the Clarkian viewpoint. However, in order to continue this I would have to deal with so many of the “straw men” you present that it wouldn’t be worth the time. You have done a great job of beating the tar out of the straw people, but we’re not getting anywhere in terms of productive discourse. This bears a lot of similarity to the way some Arminians continually misrepresent Calvinism so it is easy to argue against, but they don’t ever get to the heart of the matter. We’re just circling the center at this point. So, allow me to once again express my thanks, affirm my respect, embrace you as a brother in Christ, and move on.

  95. Sean Gerety Says:

    However, in order to continue this I would have to deal with so many of the “straw men” you present that it wouldn’t be worth the time.

    This is the kind of self-severing and dishonest reply I’ve come to expect by Vantilians. Rather than actually demonstrating where I have advanced even one straw man argument, you simply assert as much and pretend to be taking some imagined moral high road. Hogwash.

    This bears a lot of similarity to the way some Arminians continually misrepresent Calvinism

    If you can’t demonstrate where I’ve misrepresented anyone, why should anyone believe you? Just because you say so? I’ve misrepresented no one. Your charge simply won’t stand no matter how hard you now try to wash your hands in this matter.

    So, allow me to once again express my thanks, affirm my respect, embrace you as a brother in Christ, and move on.

    You’re welcome and you’re certainly free to move on. But let me just ask that in the future if you come to this site looking to engage me or anyone else on some point or other, be ready to actually defend your position and perhaps avoid mischaracterizing and dishonestly maligning your host.

  96. Bob Suden Says:

    Clifton, as regards yours of Apr. 20:

    The PRC’s believe that marriage is a covenant with God. But unbelievers cannot covenant with God. Yet their marriages are valid. Go figure. The problem is the PRC’s concept of a covenant, if not the marriage covenant. Rather marriage is a covenant with your spouse before God. Neither is it an unconditional covenant and unbreakable as is God’s covenant of grace with his elect. At least upon adultery, if not also desertion, the P&R churches have ruled one is permitted (but not necessarily required) to divorce their spouse and remarry.

    Further faith can be a condition and a blessing of the covenant of grace depending on which perspective one takes. From God’s, it is a blessing, from man, a condition. The latter however is not a causal condition. Faith does not cause salvation or the covenant of grace. It is a predestined link in the chain. These are all distinctions common to theology that the hasty, unread and amateur (or “imprudent and inexperienced” see below), as well as ecclesiastical theologians, overlook at times.

    But don’t take my word for it. Consider the following from the Westminster Confession Chapt. VII. Of God’s Covenant with Man:

    III. Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

    Note, God not only offers salvation and requires faith in Christ of sinners, but further he also promises the Holy Spirit to his elect so that they may believe. In short we do not have a piece meal presentation of the matter with an exaltation of one aspect over another. Neither is it that which is condemned in the Canons in the 2nd Head, IVth Rejection which might clearly be an argument by the “imprudent and inexperienced” (VIth Rejection).

    As far as what one should believe about the CovWorks, not only is the “opinion” of the Westminster Confession authoritative, so too the Canons, much more the Synod they sprang from. When the same calls for a translation of the Bible with annotations, in which at least four of the six translators were delegates at the Great Synod – Bogerman, Hommius, Waleus and Rolandus with the first two being respectively the president and a clerk of the synod – it does take a bit of brass to sneer at what became the Reformation translation of the Dutch Bible with its approved annotations, which include a brief exposition of the covenant of works.

    True, the marginal notes are not binding per se upon the conscience of the believer, as Bogerman and Baudartius recognize in 1637 upon the completion and presentation of the translation to the States General, but they also recognize, the marginal explanations are taken from the most eminent reformed teachers of theology past and present and approved by the Reformed Church of the day.

    That the PRC’s, like most other churches, have an aspect of “we’re right, they’re wrong, rah rah, rah,” is not surprising. Neither is it surprising at least when I was a member from ’90 to ’98, there seemed to be a great abyss in reformed history after Calvin until in 1924 when all of a sudden out of nowhere, the heroic Herman Hoeksema arose like Melchizadek, without doctrinal father or mother to do battle with the enemies of the reformed faith. Yet if one bothers to consult something like Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, if not again The Covenant of Works in Dutch Reformed Orthodoxy one might get a better perspective and realize all that glitters is not gold or what one has been told. While I appreciate the PRC’s, on the basis of sound reformed theology and history I don’t have to buy into their exception, denial or innovation re. the CovWorks. Neither do I have to, because I am no longer a communicant member, though you yourself may wholeheartedly be one.

    Thank you.

  97. qeqesha Says:

    Dear All,
    I have come to think of God´s one eternal decree or covenant as His purpose to glorify Himself and to share that glory with no creature! I call it The Covenant of the Self Glorification of God or The Covenant of the glory of God!
    In the Covenant of Works, man earns life through perfect obedience. But this would mean God would be obligated to man for his obedience. In other words, man would have something to boast about or glory before God! God therefore decreed the Fall, so that no man can boast before Him. He then decreed some to eternal life through the justification from the obedience of another, again so that no man can boast before Him. Thus God has all the glory without violating His eternal covenant!
    This I believe answers the argument that “the covenant of works would make God obligated to man, therefore there was no covenant of works”.

    Denson

  98. ray Says:

    Well Bob… that is up to you … your main points thus far against the PRC have to deal with your advocation of divorce and remarriage, your advocation of conditions within the covenant of God, and your advocation of a covenant of works.

    It is well and good your not within the PRC.It was good you moved on.
    I am curious as to what congregation you have joined with now.

    As for the apparent abyss you speak of … your quite mistaken … there is enough material that can be read from other sources other the the PRC or Hoeksema regarding the vain philosophy of common grace and the well meant offer …for that matter. I myself grew up in catechism learning to advocate the covenant of works while within the now disbanded OCRC( which most have joined the URC). I am sure the COW is taught within the FRC,NRC,URC or CANREF churches … but one thing always struck me when in discussion about God’s covenant with folk… how very arminian sounding were the explanations given by those whom I asked, as if they had no idea really how this was to work itself out in reality, in their lives… this idea of God’s covenant.

    I have read Rev. Kersten’s (FRC) reformed dogmatics regarding the covenant of works and frankly he does a good job at contradicting himself when dealing with the Lord’s covenant.(pages 196-208)

    Many came before Hoeksema … and Hoeksema read them all … yet he it was that saw and defined the Lord’s covenant for what it was … absolutely unilateral in all respects and that the Lord’s covenant was governed by His eternal and predestinating decree of election… established, maintained, and sustained by the Triune Lord and the head of the covenant … the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.

    This is neither arminian or ethicistian … such rails are made by vain babblers.

  99. Bob Suden Says:

    In the Covenant of Works, man earns life through perfect obedience. But this would mean God would be obligated to man for his obedience. In other words, man would have something to boast about or glory before God!

    Does anybody bother to read the standard material on the question before answering questions that aren’t being asked?

    Chapter VII:I of the Westminster Confession of Faith, ” Of God’s Covenant with Man” says:

    The distance between God and the creature is go great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could
    never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant

    God does not owe anybody anything, but when he enters into a covenant or obligates himself to something, which is a condescension from start to last on his part, he is good for his word to reward that “obedience” which to begin with was nothing more than out duty.

    “your advocation of divorce and remarriage, your advocation of conditions within the covenant of God, and your advocation of a covenant of works.”

    On the one side of an issue is the PRC’s, on the other the majority position of the historic P&R churches. Now, granted, the majority could be wrong, but it still doesn’t make it “my” position.
    Further, I’ll take the cats who wrote the canons and the Staten Vertaling over the PRC’s.

    As for Hoeksema’s doctrinal background, there is no question he had forbears. The question is, is that forthrightly acknowledged in the PRC’s? In my opinion and experience, no. Maybe that has changed or for others never was. Great, but I have seen enough of it in presbyterianism, to recognize the same thing when it happened in a reformed church, even the “Perfectly” Reformed Churches.


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