More Federal Division

There is an ongoing discussion and examination of Robert Rayburn’s widely circulated screed in defense of FV heretic Peter Liethart going on over at the Greenbaggins blog.  I highly recommend Bob Mattes’ excellent retort, Does God Practice Temporary Forgiveness.   Bob’s reply is devastating  and exposes the Romanish heart of  the Federal Vision.  So, while I’m more than happy to let Bob and the rest of those at Greenbaggins continue to dissect Rayburn, I was particularly disturbed by this little bit of sophism:

What is repeatedly revealed in the panel’s argument, alas, is a persistent failure to grasp the real status questionis and, consequently, the lines of argument are not drawn with the precision necessary to ensure a proper solution. This is true in respect to every issue the panel takes under its review. For example, in the matter of justification the panel fails carefully to distinguish between the causa materialis and the causae instrumentalium. Reformed theology does not doubt, for example, that faith is a cause of justification, but it is not its ground, which is alone the righteousness of Christ. The Word of God, the gospel, is a cause of justification, but not its ground (1 Cor. 15:2; Eph.1:13; 2 Thess. 2:14). And, in the same way, the works of a Christian’s life are a cause of the sinner’s final justification (whether as its vindication or its demonstration) while certainly not being its ground or material cause. Without attention to such careful distinctions and without the demonstration that Dr. Leithart’s view has been scrutinized in keeping with these distinctions the panel’s reasoning is an exercise in comparing, as we say, apples and oranges.

The above admission that “works of a Christian’s life” are an instrumental cause in justification  is quite amazing and one that I would think even a half-blind PCA presbyter would be able to discern.  Admittedly, Rayburn has any number of instrumental causes for justification in addition to mere belief alone (assuming he even has that), but the WCF only has one; “faith … is the alone instrument of justification” (WCF 11.2).

My guess is that Rayburn believes the average PCA presbyter is so dim-witted that they will be so wowed by his use of Latin phrases like “causae instrumentalium” that their eyes will simply  gloss over and not see exactly what he’s saying.  He might be right.  But, a denial of justification by belief alone could hardly be any clearer.  For Rayburn, works too are just as much an instrumental cause in justification as is faith.   With all the back and forth about which side is accurately representing “the Reformed tradition,” I have to wonder if either side is really keeping an eye on the Christian tradition, since at no time in the entire history of the Christian faith have the “works of a Christian life” been an instrumental cause of justification either now or in the final judgment.

For those who tempted to think I’m being unfair and that am not reading Rayburn “charitably” (of course to read someone “charitably” in FV Newspeak means to either agree or acquiescence) consider this from the PCA’s FV/NPP report:

The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

If the SJC is really interested in preserving the truth of the Gospel in the PCA, and I’m not at all convinced that they are, when they come back in March instructing the Presbytery of the North West to bring charges against Peter Leithart, they should include Robert Rayburn’s name as well.

One interesting side note for those following the Siouxlands FV Flying Circus, Rayburn is the father-in-law of that other FV cheerleader, Joshua Moon.  While certainly not as impassioned or as much fun to read as the Rayburn, for those interested in comparing the arguments of Rayburn with his son-in-law, since the family resemblance is impressive, I’ll leave the interested reader with a transcript I found of Moon’s public defense of Federal Visionist, Greg Lawrence given on the floor of the Siouxlands Presbytery.  I’d say enjoy, but even for those with strong stomachs,  I’ll say suffer. 


Joshua Moon’s Floor Speech Given in Defense of Federal Visionist Greg Lawrence

For those who are wondering what the other side might say in response to the things I have said on this blog, here is a sample. This is a speech given on the floor of Presbytery by TE Joshua Moon, Ph.D., University of St. Andrews, Pastor of Good Shepherd PCA in Minnetonka, Minn., in defense of not finding a strong presumption of guilt in the teachings of TE Lawrence (the original man investigated). This speech was recorded in our minutes. All the footnotes are those made by TE Moon. All emphases are his except where he emphasizes someone else. The following is the speech:

Just over a century ago Herman Bavinck, the great Reformed theologian, stood in the midst of a controversy that threatened the unity and purity of the Reformed church of the Netherlands. The controversy circled around some issues similar to those we have today: the place of children in the covenant, the efficacy of baptism, what it means for baptism to seal or be a means of salvation. Yet, with all of those debates occurring – and views being defended that are far stronger than what TE Lawrence has ever said – Bavinck could still hold up his head and praise his church for the spirit of the discussions:

People did not accuse one another of heresy…and never considered criticizing each other before the church public as being less Reformed. The difference of opinion existed within the boundaries of the confession, one that did no injury to brotherly love and one wherein unity in diversity came into its own. This is all the more reason to respect the opinions on both sides of the issue… [Footnote: Bavinck, Saved by Grace (ET: Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 90.]

I am saddened that the very fact of my having to present this paper takes from me the chance to praise our church in the same way.

You have been asked to judge TE Lawrence’s views on baptism as contrary to our Standards and striking at the vitals of our Reformed system. You have been asked to believe it without TE Lawrence ever having the chance to defend himself against the reports, and without your being given either the specific accusations or evidence for the same.

In what follows I will argue that TE Lawrence, even when he speaks strongly and in a way that may be different from your own language, stands well within the Reformed tradition. In fact, this is the kind of debate and discussion that ought to exist within the church. It is a question that has long been difficult and given rise to various views. But you are being asked to do something different than agree or disagree: you are being asked to claim TE Lawrence and his views outside what we will tolerate in our denomination.

Admittedly, in what follows I am somewhat shooting in the dark. To defend someone’s views without knowing exactly what he is being accused of is something like preparing a meal without knowing the menu or number of guests. You prepare as best you can and then tentatively offer it to those who come. Sitting on the committee, I can only speak to the main issues that arose in those discussions. If the complainants have something new to offer, I suppose we will have to address those. But the notion of a minister in good standing being accused in such an ad hoc way in any case ought, it seems to me, be a matter that our presbytery says it will not satisfy.

The crux of the accusations in the committee meetings rested on one main contention: that TE Lawrence believes and teaches that baptism gives to all what, in fact, is only given to the elect. Or, that he fails to qualify his discussions of baptism in a way that leaves him open to confusion and in failing to qualify adequately he stands contrary to the Standards. This accusation came with various tentacles, most of which were explicitly repudiated by TE Lawrence. But a few occurred more than once, and so I will address these.

1. ON THE BAPTIZED AS CHRISTIANS

One of the first and most oft-repeated charges has been that TE Lawrence considers all the baptized as Christians by virtue of their baptism, and that such a position is contrary to the Standards. Here is TE Lawrence’s supposedly damning statement: “If you come to the font and have water poured, dipped, or if you’re immersed in it, you’re a Christian” (Report, p.20‐21). But this is only problematic if “Christian” is taken to mean “elect.” And TE Lawrence has explicitly said that this is not what he believes or teaches.

Semantically, TE Lawrence’s use of “Christian” is hard to disagree with. When the name “Christian” first came into use in Antioch, it seems to have been used by those who were outside the church. Just as anyone deemed partisan to Herod was called a Herodian, anyone deemed a partisan of Christ was called a Christian. The early use of the label had nothing to do with the eternally elect either in its 3 uses in the New Testament or the era afterward. It was simply a label for those deemed to follow Christ. And surely baptism deems one among those who follow Christ.

Even within our tradition, TE Lawrence rightly appeals to Calvin as precedence for his position. In Calvin’s catechism for children, we read this:

Q: Are you, my son, a Christian in fact as well as in name? A: Yes, my father. Q: How do you know yourself to be? A: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [Footnote: Qtd. in Hughs.Oliphant Old, Baptismal Rite, 207. My emphasis.]

You may think that too strong or open to confusion. But it is John Calvin himself, one whom I do not think we should cut off from those whose teachings are acceptable in the PCA. Or, a more recent illustration. In his fine work on John Owen, Sinclair Ferguson offers this summary of Owen’s views (with which Ferguson is clearly sympathetic):

[Baptism] is to be to the Christian a constant reminder and pledge of his being constituted a Christian, and of the basic elements in the ‘new creation’ which has come in Christ. [Footnote: Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 216. His emphasis.]

I do not think we ought to accuse Dr. Ferguson – or at least John Owen – of striking at the vitals of our Reformed system of doctrine. The use of Christian to refer to the member of the covenant by baptism, as TE Lawrence uses it, is in fact common in our Reformed tradition, and is not contrary to anything in the Standards.

Finally, the Directory of Public Worship put out by the Westminster men itself declares in its service on baptism: “That children, by their baptism…are Christians.” This was as serious as most of the complaints against him were: “his language is confusing,” which then (somehow) becomes an accusation of being contrary to the Standards. Such arguments surrounded language like “union with Christ,” “adoption,” “salvation,” and at each point some on the committee were insistent that one cannot use those terms except as they saw fit and saw it as used in the Standards. We will see the problem with that view in a moment, but such complaints are entirely unconvincing. The only way of sustaining the charge against Mr. Lawrence is to say that, given this statement of becoming a Christian at baptism, he sees the distinction between true and false Christians as irrelevant.

[Footnote: This specious argument arises from the following statement: “It is not helpful for us to ask the question, am I truly a Christian? Am I truly elect?… It is not a distinction to meditate upon and has no pastoral significance except to remind us that the Lord is the author and preserver of our salvation”(p.19). Yet the obvious point of the sermon is in the positive, which the complainants continually neglect to mention: “The question is, are you walking by faith, through faith, by grace?” (p.21) Mr. Lawrence simply finds the decrees of God inscrutable, finds introspection on such a question inappropriate, and so directs his congregation to look to Christ’s word, promise, and power for their salvation. And that, I certainly hope, is not contrary to the Standards.]

Actually to believe this about Mr. Lawrence is preposterous. Mr. Lawrence agrees with a distinction between the visible and invisible church, an absolute distinction between the elect and non-elect, and every other main tenet of our Calvinist position. If love believes all things, as the Apostle declares, then to argue that Mr. Lawrence does not truly believe the things he says on these matters is an especially odious lack of love.

2. DEFINITION OF BAPTISM AND ITS EFFECTS.

TE Lawrence, being asked “What benefits do you believe to be conveyed to the recipient in baptism?”, responded:

Baptism is the initiatory rite by which we are united to Christ and thus granted new life (Matt 28:18-20; Titus 3:5; Rom 6:3-4); brought into the fellowship of His body, the church (Eph 4:4-46; Gal 3:27, cf. Lev 8-9; 1 Cor 12:13); adopted as sons of God (Gal 3:26-27); cleansed of our sins (1 Cor 6:11); all of which is a gracious work of God the Father through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.

This definition is a paraphrase of biblical texts on baptism and spells out the benefits of the covenant that are, in the Standards, said to be signed and sealed in baptism [Footnote: Baptism is “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life”(WCF 27.1).] Here is Paul’s language that TE Lawrence explicitly cites and tries to follow throughout his interview:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:3-4) [Footnote: Similar in its indiscriminate tone is Gal 3:27‐28: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heir according to promise.”]

I certainly hope that we are not saying someone who uses Paul’s language for baptism is saying something contrary to the Standards. Nonetheless, the complainants have alleged that TE Lawrence’s definition, however much it sounds like the Confession or like Paul, fails in part because it fails to distinguish between the sign and the thing signified.

The majority misunderstands the point of the distinction in Reformed theology on that matter. The sign is the H2O – the water – considered with the words by itself; the thing signified is the benefits given by God. Now, to be sure, the water – even with the words–has no power in and of itself to wash or cleanse, and TE Lawrence is explicit in his agreement with that. But the Roman church, and in part the Lutheran church, disagreed. And that was generally the reason for distinguishing the sign and the thing signified: efficacy does not lie in the water or the words, but in the gracious work of God by his Spirit, as TE Lawrence says.

The complainants, on the other hand, seem to think they can use this distinction of sign and signified to say that Paul is not speaking of water baptism in (e.g.) Romans 6, but only of the thing signified in water baptism. Not only does that violate every exegetical rule, and have no support from biblical scholarship, it also comes very near to violating what the Confession says about the union of the sign and thing signified: “There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.” (WCF 27.2)

At the worst, one eager to find problems may claim that Mr. Lawrence attributes the names and effects of the thing signified to the sign. But that is just what the Confession says is appropriate in sacramental language. In fact, if Mr. Lawrence had agreed to divorce the two as he was asked to do in the interrogation, that may very well have been a violation of the Standards.

Nothing TE Lawrence says in his definition of baptism is contrary to what the Confession actually states or what is within the bounds of our tradition.

3. ATTRIBUTION OF THE PRIVILEGES OF THE ELECT TO THE REPROBATE.

This third issue is the most prominent and, from what I gathered, the most significant in the minds of the complainants. The complainants argue that TE Lawrence fails to distinguish adequately between what is granted to the elect and to the non-elect in baptism. So, by indiscriminately ascribing to those who are baptized “some sense” of (a)union with Christ, (b) new life, (c) adoption, and (d) the cleansing of our sins, TE Lawrence stands in contradiction of the Standards by giving to the reprobate what properly belongs only to the elect.

But the complaint fails on every level: it fails to represent faithfully what TE Lawrence in fact says, fails with respect to biblical exegesis, and fails in understanding our Reformed tradition. The complaint refuses to recognize that TE Lawrence has placed his finger on a tension that runs through our tradition. He is not raising a tension from a Lutheran or Roman Catholic tradition, but from our own Reformed tradition.

We are the ones who have held tenaciously to the doctrine of our baptized children being full members of the covenant of grace, without qualification. That is our Reformed teaching. Further, we are the ones who speak of “temporary faith” – not pseudo-faith, but faith that is temporary and so, in the end, not effectual for salvation. That is just what TE Lawrence is framing in his doctrine of apostasy: temporary faith that is, in the end, ineffectual. Our Standards speak of the “common operations of the Holy Spirit” between the elect and the reprobate, though without spelling out exactly what those are.

The Reformed doctrine concerning the place of baptized infants of believers, which is the real point at issue here, is everywhere expressed in just the terms that TE Lawrence uses, and often far stronger. The Reformed authorities use language that may sound unorthodox in American evangelicalism. But that reveals more of the theological character of American evangelicalism than of our Reformed tradition.

Testimony of the Tradition

So, first, I want to make clear that this tension is a part of our tradition. Listen to how strongly our authorities put the matter of baptism and what it does. We begin with the fountainheads of our tradition in the age of the confessions. Here is Zachary Ursinus, the chief author of the Heidelberg Catechism:

[T]hose are not to be excluded from baptism, to whom the benefit of the remission of sins, and of regeneration belongs. But this benefit belongs to the infants of the church; for redemption from sin, by the blood of Christ and the
Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult. [Footnote: Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Tr. G.W. Williard; reprint: Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R), 366. Note further the comment introducing the tercentenary edition of the Heidelberg Catechism: “Children [of believers], we see, as well as others, have a place in this glorious citizenship of the saints… and being there, they are to be known, and also to know themselves, as being ‘in Christ,’ no less than their believing parents, and not simply as being candidates for the Christian profession at some future time.” Qtd. in Lewis Bevins Schenk, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant (Reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001), 32.]

You hear the similarities, I hope: the infants of believers indiscriminately are said to have remission of sins, regeneration, redemption. That is put more strongly than TE Lawrence puts it. But you are being asked to believe the views of TE Lawrence strike at the heart of our Reformed system. Where would that leave the author of the Heidelberg Catechism?

Or Heinrich Bullinger, the chief author of the first and second Helvetic Confessions, explaining infant baptism:

For to whomever the Lord promises that he will be their God, and whomever he receives and acknowledges for his, those no man without horrible offense may exclude from the number of the faithful. And God promises that he will not only
be the God of them that confess him, but of infants also; he promises to them [i.e. the infants of believers] his grace and remission of sins. Who, therefore,
gainsaying the Lord of all things, will yet deny that infants belong to God, are his,
and that they are made partakers of purification through Christ? [Footnote: Bullinger, Decades (tr. Thomas Harding,), V.383. My emphasis.]

Again, the complaint alleges TE Lawrence outside the Reformed system when attributing forgiveness of sins and union with Christ to all baptized infants. But the complaint can be raised as well against the author of the Helvetic Confessions. Bullinger knows that, in the end, only the elect will have final and true enjoyment of those things. But so does TE Lawrence, and both of them say so.

The Belgic Confession is just as blunt: “Christ shed his blood no less for the washing of the children of the faithful than for adult persons; and, therefore, they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that which Christ hath done for them.” [Schaff, Creeds, III.427] As is also the Scotch Confession:

We are fully persuaded that, by means of baptism we are engrafted into Christ, made partakers of his righteousness, through which our sins are covered , and on account of which kindness and grace are purchased. [Footnote: My translation; in Schaff, Creeds, III.468. The instrumental language is clear: “per baptismum,” by or by means of baptism.]

What has TE Lawrence said that is more than that? Union with Christ, partakers of his righteousness, sins covered: that is our Reformed tradition. And, of course, here is Calvin speaking of our covenant children as adopted and given salvation, which is sealed in baptism:

Baptism, must … be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause of half salvation merely, but gives salvation entire; and this salvation is afterwards ratified by Baptism. [Footnote: Interim Adulterogermanum: cui adiecta est vera Christianae Pacificationis et Ecclesiae Reformandae Ratio. Per Joann. Calvinum. In Corpus Reformatorum, vol.35, 619. Qtd. and transl. by Schenk, 13.]

Again, you may not use this language. You may be surprised that such language is everywhere in our tradition. It may be confusing and open to misunderstanding. But that is our tradition whatever confusions are possible out of it.

You are being asked to pronounce these views as striking at the vitals of our religion. You are being asked to think Calvin, as well as the authors of the Heidelberg, Helvetic, Belgic, and Scotch Confessions – the great Reformed confessions of the 16th century – all outside of what we will allow in the PCA. That seems a rather presumptuous request to be asked of the Siouxlands presbytery.

What is more, we find the same teaching on this subject in our authorities in American Reformed thought. The above statements are found again in various forms among the Old Princeton theologians (Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, Lymond Atwater, and others). [Footnote: This is adequately shown in the work of Lewis Bevins Schenk, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant.]

Indeed, Charles Hodge comes out and says what is the crux of what Mr. Lawrence is accused of holding:

Since the promise is not only to parents but to their seed, children are by the command of God to be regarded and treated as of the number of the elect.” [Footnote: Charles Hodge, “The Church Membership of Infants,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, 30.2 (1858), 375‐76].

That is exactly what TE Lawrence does in his sermons and discussions of baptism: he regards and treats baptized children as of the number of the elect, until they prove otherwise.

[Footnote: So, TE Lawrence (p.67): “God tells us to believe that children in the covenant are believers/disciples and thus full recipients of the redemptive blessings that Christ offers in baptism, and we have no reason to doubt that this is true unless and until we see concrete evidence to the contrary…. We must continue to believe that this is the spiritual status of the church’s children and
act accordingly until we see evidence otherwise.”]

Surely we are not ready to call a man a heretic for following the directions of Charles Hodge.

I recognize that this raises tensions in our theology and in our minds: what then of the reprobate? But it is a tension in our tradition. TE Lawrence is saying nothing more in his language and beliefs of baptism than these Reformed authorities. If there is tension, then it is our tension.

You are being asked to narrow our reading of what counts as confessional to a point that excludes a great number of our Reformed authorities. And we must refuse any such action.

I can hear the complaint now: “But those men said other things too, besides those (seemingly too strong) statements.” They did. And so does TE Lawrence. The difference is that you are told not to believe or make use of the other things that TE Lawrence says.

You are not to believe his avowed and repeated adherence to the Standards, even knowing TE Lawrence as many of you do. Presbytery should never treat any of its
members this way.

Testimony of Scripture

But not only is TE Lawrence well within what the Reformed tradition has always held in regard to baptism, the language and ideas he uses are also found in Scripture. Our authorities, at their best, allowed the tension to exist precisely because they refused to let their theological systems trump what Scripture says.

TE Lawrence is said to attribute to the reprobate what only belongs to the elect – namely, union with Christ, adoption, forgiveness of sins, and new life. Attributing any of those to the reprobate is, you are being told, contrary to the Standards. But not only is that untrue to the Reformed tradition, it also flies directly in the face of the plain language used in Scripture.

(1) We are told by the complainants that you cannot attribute forgiveness of sins to the potential reprobate. But that is clearly wrong. The unmerciful servant, Jesus says, was “forgiven his debt.” He moved from a state of condemnation to true and real forgiveness. This was no pretended forgiveness. Yet the servant was finally apostate. He failed to live up to the grace shown to him, and so the privilege of that forgiveness was revoked. And that, Jesus says, is how my father will treat each of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. This, remember, is addressed to Peter and Christ’s own disciples. It is a parable about forgiveness and apostasy, and gives the complainants no ground at all for their complaint.

(2) We are told that the language of adoption cannot be applied to any except the elect (again, in spite of seeing that done in our Reformed authorities). Yet in Jeremiah the Lord repeatedly speaks in the language of adoption to apostate Israel. Most summarily, he says: “Return, faithless children.” They are his children, yet have no faith. Or the programmatic statement that opens the book of Isaiah: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.” (Isa 1:2) Some think this is true only for the group, the corporate body of Israel. But if none of the individuals were in fact children the Lord brought up, I fail to see how all of them put together can be called children.

(3) We are told that the language of union with Christ cannot be attributed in any sense to the baptized indiscriminately – that it cannot be true for the reprobate. Yet John 15 and Romans 11 both use the language of being “in Christ”, which is union with Christ. And they use that language in speaking of those who might finally be (or have been) cut off. In both cases it is covenantal union in Christ that is then broken. And in both cases the possibility and the reality exist of apostasy. Paul in Romans 11 even speaks of those branches who are being “nourished by the root” who are then cut off.

This language is simply an extension of the marriage and covenant metaphors everywhere present in the prophets: the Lord calls them “my people,” even when they are apostate. “My people are judged for lack of knowledge,” the Lord says in Jeremiah – and knowledge here is faithfulness. Union with Christ language is applied “in some sense” to the reprobate throughout Scripture.

As a personal aside, my own field of scholarly work, such as it is, is in the prophetic books – Jeremiah and Hosea in particular. And I will simply say that I have no idea how someone can make sense of the prophetic books in the terms you are being asked to declare as the only orthodox terms. You remove the concepts of covenantal union, marriage, adoption, forgiveness – or qualify those concepts so that they don’t mean what they seem to mean – you do that and you cut the heart out of what the prophets say again and again and again. I don’t know how to read Hosea’s interaction with Gomer except in terms of union and marriage, or Gomer’s children except in terms of adoption. I cannot read Jeremiah’s moving sermons except that what the people possessed – actually, truly possessed – they turned their back on. The position of the complaint appears to be that the apostate does not in fact possess anything of union, adoption, new life, or these other matters. But such a position can only be held if you rip most of the prophets out of your Bible, or at least make them insignificant for theological discussion. I, for one, will not agree to either course.

(4) You are being asked to declare that one cannot attribute “new life” to any but the elect. Yet TE Lawrence clarifies his meaning of the phrase explicitly by means of the parable of the sower in which some “receive the Word with joy,” and yet fall away.

[Footnote: This is another instance of the lack of charity offered TE Lawrence. He more than once appeals to this parable as his explanation for what “new life” means (see, e.g., his sermon on apostasy at p.1, 22). Yet he is attributed a view of “new life” in a strict sense of that regeneration only known by those effectually called – even in spite of his explicit denial that this is his meaning.]

They spring to life, only for their life to be choked out. Once more, you find the same thing in the prophets. In Ezekiel 16 the Lord walks by the dying, condemned infant and says, “Live,” and she lives (it’s repeated twice for emphasis there!). She is then united to the Lord in marriage, made to enjoy his love and affection, only to leave him and end as an apostate. She had new life, and turned her back on the one who gave it to her. So she was judged and condemned.

Again, this is no different from what is said belongs to all the children of believers in our tradition: that they have a new life that they are to live from the moment of their baptism. They are not to live like the old man, but the new. I hope we all tell our children just that from their first breath and especially after their baptism.

In attributing to all the baptized some form of union, adoption, new life, and forgiveness, TE Lawrence is speaking the language of our tradition and of our Scriptures. By refusing to attribute absolute and final union, adoption, new life, and forgiveness, TE Lawrence is directly in line with our Standards.

CONCLUSION

To conclude: You are being told that TE Lawrence is contrary to the Standards in his views of baptism: his sacramental language, definition of baptism, and failure to distinguish between the elect and reprobate are all said to strike at the vitals of our system of doctrine.

But nothing that he has said is in fact contrary to anything actually stated in our Standards. What is in fact being asked is that you put forward a narrow reading of the Confession that will, from this time forward, make views long held in our tradition outside the bounds of true Reformed thought. I, for one, do not think the Siouxlands Presbytery ought to stand and declare that Calvin, along with the authors of the Reformed confessions (Ursinus, Bullinger, and others), along with Hodge and our Princeton men are all to be deemed outside of our tradition.

[Wes’ Note: the following two paragraphs were removed from the minutes at the 88th Stated Meeting, but they were spoken on the floor and in the handout given by TE Moon.] There are those who want to remake the PCA in their own image, according to their own likeness, narrowing what is allowed with the Standards beyond anything our church has ever done. And if they had their way it would lead not only to the exclusion of TE Lawrence, but others in this presbytery and many men in many presbyteries. The fact is, what TE Lawrence says on baptism is held in various ways and with various nuances by a lot of people in our PCA: from ministers and elders here in this presbytery, myself included, to professors at our theological seminary, and even almost entire presbyteries. Some are wanting to drive them all out and are asking you to begin that exile.

Make no mistake: that is just what is being asked of you to begin, in spite of our tradition, here at this presbytery.

You may think that TE Lawrence ought to be more clear and careful in his language. I can almost guarantee that all of this will make him so. But then, listen to Charles Hodge, speaking of the benefits that are declared for any child of a believer at baptism:

[H]e stands in a peculiar [unique or special] relation to God, as being included in his covenant and baptized in his name; that he has in virtue of that relation a right to claim God as his Father, Christ as his Saviour, and the Holy Ghost as his sanctifier; and assured that God will recognize that claim and receive him as his child, if he is faithful to his baptismal vows. [Footnote: Hodge, Essays and Reviews, 310.]

Here we have nothing more than a summary of the position of TE Lawrence on the matters deemed heterodox by the majority: the language of adoption, salvation and forgiveness, and even the new life of the Spirit, all with the call to be faithful to one’s baptismal vows. This in Hodge is true adoption: it is preposterous to think that anyone has the right to call God his Father unless it is true. It may not be final, absolute adoption(Hodge knows that and so does TE Lawrence). But it must in some way be true, or they have no such right. And that applies to calling Christ their Savior, and the Holy Ghost their sanctifier.

To assert that TE Lawrence is out of accord with our Standards would be a terrible error of judgment by this presbytery. Whether you agree with his views or not, think it confusing or not, you are being asked to make a decision that would have terrifying consequences for the future of our beloved denomination and cut out from under us a large bulk of our tradition.

We have had these tensions and disagreements in Reformed thought for a long time. It may be a surprise to you that some form of this discussion was already present in the 1700’s in Scotland. Thomas Boston remarks that his friend, the Rev. George Mair, taught that baptism seals all members of the visible Church to have a right to Christ and the benefits of the covenant. That sounds very close to what we have in front of us today: TE Lawrence claiming that baptism seals a right to Christ and the benefits of the covenant to all who are properly baptized.

Boston disagreed with Mair on the matter, but the difference between their disagreement and the one in front of you today, is that Boston and Mair never argued that the other was contrary to the Standards, never attempted to push the other out of the Presbyterian Church (they were strict Westminsterians, incidentally). In fact the two men shared each other’s pulpits as long as they were both living. Boston, just after recording this disagreement in his journal remarks:

“I could not be of his opinion…. However, I reckon that worthy man one of the more happy instruments of the breaking forth of a more clear discovery of the doctrine of the gospel, in this church, in these latter days.” [Footnote: 18 Memoirs, 103. Mair was, for a time, colleague of the famous James Fraser of Brea. Further, Mair was held in high esteem by the brothers Erskine. Of Ebenezer Erskine, Mair is said “to have commanded his peculiar veneration.” And Ralph Erskine went so far as to compose an elegy for Mair, of which this is a part: “He was a burning and a shining light,/ In doctrine ardent, and in practice bright./ Sweet in his converse, sober in his talk,/ Meek in his worship, modest in his walk;/ In him lamb‐meekness, lion‐boldness shone,/ Bold in his Master’s cause, meek in his own.” See Donald
Fraser, The Life and Diary of the Reverend Ebenezer Erskine, (Edinburgh: William Oliphant, 1831), 160; idem, Life and Diary of the Reverend Ralph Erskine (1834), 121]

Gentlemen, you are being asked to declare unorthodox something that has long been a part – a substantial and perhaps majority part – of our tradition, however much it has been forgotten by some in our day. If you make this ruling, you set outside the bounds of the Confession views that have always been allowed within it and a disagreement once held with some sense of dignity, respect, and love (charity).

Nothing said by TE Lawrence is outside of what has been said by greater and more authoritative men who have looked at the way the Bible speaks and tried to be faithful to it, even if not always being able to resolve every mystery or tension.

Therefore, I urge that we pass the motion to find TE Lawrence clear of any guilt with respect to the reports or alleged complaints of his theological views on these matters.

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77 Comments on “More Federal Division”


  1. I thought faith was a gift of God? (Ephesians 2:8-9). And faith is the means or the instrument in applying justification. It is not in and of itself the “cause” of justification because the cause of justification is the atonement on the cross. Faith is how the objective justification of Christ on the cross for our sins is then applied to us and made effective. Charles Hodge does a good job in his discussion on justification by faith alone.

    Charlie

  2. Kris Jones Says:

    “because the cause of justification is the atonement on the cross.”
    Charlie, I wonder where, in Hodge, did you find that line of thinking? I thought, and I thought that Hodge thought, that the ground of our Justification is the Active Obedience of Christ – the truly Righteous Life He lived.
    I might have been mistaken, but I have his Systematic Theology, so if you could direct me to the section where this is explained, it would be a big help. Thanks, Charlie.

    Kris

  3. brandon Says:

    Thanks for posting this Sean. I look forward to reading Lane’s response. I just have a quick question for you as I’m still trying to wrap my head around your view of covenant theology. Would you agree with R. Scott Clark that “Everyone who is born of covenant parents is a member of the covenant of grace outwardly?”


  4. Welp, since you wanna be accurate, Kris, it is both the active AND the passive obedience of Christ that justifies us. But then if you really understood justification you would have said so.


  5. Hodge’s Systematic Theology is online. If you really wanna know you can google it.

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Brandon. I really can’t see anything objectionable with Clark’s understanding in that there is one Covenant of Grace but there is more than one way that people relate to it. I think Clark is careful in saying that unbelievers in the church are in the covenant only insofar as they participate in its outward administration. That’s because, per the WLC, the “covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.” For example, recently Clark wrote:

    At the same time Scripture teaches and we confess that everyone who is participates in the administration of the one covenant of grace is really in the covenant. Reprobates and unbelievers are in the covenant of grace only outwardly, but they do participate in its administration. There are not two covenants of grace. It is possible to be a member of the covenant community, to participate in the administration of the covenant of grace, and not receive the benefits of Christ. Only the elect receive those benefits by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    What does it mean to participate in the outward administration of the one covenant? I think WLC 63 does a good job of explaining this:

    What are the special privileges of the visible church?

    The visible church has the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, not withstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

    Unbelievers can be said to be a members of the “covenant community” as the visible church consists of both wheat and tares, but the benefits and blessings of the covenant belong to God’s elect exclusively and are given to them unconditionally. I think John Robbins explained the current situation best when he wrote:

    Paul explains the Covenant of Grace in terms of God’s election of individuals. Any interpretation of the Covenant that excludes or minimizes the doctrine of individual election is a false interpretation. Today ministers in good standing in several denominations, not just Wilson’s, are teaching that the Covenant of Grace is conditional, that it is made with all who are baptized, that it is better understood if we ignore the doctrine of election, and that the salvation of the baptized depends upon their fulfilling the terms of the covenant.


  7. Rayburn’s an interesting fellow. I sat in on a conference he did on worship, and over the course of three days he lectured on the subject without ever once defining the term. When I asked him what he meant by worship, I was met with a surprised look and no answer.

  8. brandon Says:

    Thanks for clarifying Sean. I’m just trying to get the different views straight in my mind. Would you affirm with Kline and Karlberg that the New Covenant is just an outward, earthly, temporal, historical manifestation/administration of the Covenant of Grace and that therefore one can be a member of the New Covenant without being a member of the Covenant of Grace? Or would you disagree?

    I think I misunderstood “Not Reformed at All” when I read it the first time.

    This “new covenant”…this Covenant of Grace, is personal… individual… and absolutely effective… and “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” The Mosaic covenant was public, corporate, and ineffective…

    I originally read that, particularly “public”, as articulating one of the differences between the NC and Mosaic being that the former is internal while the latter is external, or “public.” But I suppose that was wrong?

    I’m not looking to derail the thread or start an argument, but in regards to the wheat and tares, I would be very interested to here your or anyone else’s thoughts (at some other time) on Henri Blocher’s chapter in the book “Always Reforming.” In this regard, he notes:

    The lack of distinction between church and nation leads to a strong affirmation of the mixed character of (visible) church membership. With Calvin (and Augustine), many have quoted the parable of the tares to buttress this affirmation. However, as Klaas Runia has well perceived, this use collides head on with Jesus’ own explanation: ‘The field is the world, not the visible church (Matt. 13:38).

    http://books.google.com/books?id=jsJcsuoMks0C&lpg=PP1&dq=always%20reforming&pg=PT240#v=onepage&q=&f=false

  9. Gus Gianello Says:

    Sean,

    I am stunned and saddened–almost reduced to tears actually. I always thought that Rayburn was highly sympathetic to the work of Trinity Foundation and Robbins. I cant count the number of Trinity Reviews he has authored. It was because of Crampton’s largely positive review of Rayburn’s Christian Theology that I purchased it. I do know that he tangled with Clark in his “Justification of Knowledge” being thoroughly rebutted.

    I would be interested in your speculation of what has happened to Rayburn, even if it is offline.

    Gus

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    I originally read that, particularly “public”, as articulating one of the differences between the NC and Mosaic being that the former is internal while the latter is external, or “public.” But I suppose that was wrong?

    You weren’t wrong, the Mosaic covenant was “public, corporate, and ineffective.” Instead, you need to go back to what Moses wrote in Gen. 21:13

    And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

    While both Ishmael and Issac were the recipients of the sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and its outward administration, God said that he would establish his “everlasting covenant” not with Ishmael, but with Isaac “and with his seed after him.” Similarly, consider Esau and Jacob. Both were the recipients of the outward administration of the covenant, but God’s love did not extend to both of the twins, but to Jacob exclusively.

    You asked me if I have an issues with Scott Clark’s formulation and I don’t. Remember, John said; “Any interpretation of the Covenant that excludes or minimizes the doctrine of individual election is a false interpretation.” I don’t see that Clark has excluded or minimized the doctrine of election in any way.

    OTOH, I do think much of the confusion that has been sowed by Federal Divisionist is that they, like Schilder, have essentially applied the error of the Well-Meant Offer to the administration of the Covenant. This point perhaps would be better laid at Clark’s doorstep. 😉

  11. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Gus,
    ¨I cant count the number of Trinity Reviews he[Rayburn] has authored.¨ Really? I wasn´t aware of that. Could you give me a clue to a couple of them?

    Denson

  12. Jim Butler Says:

    It wasn’t “Rayburn” that authored Trinity Reviews, but Robert Reymond. It isn’t Reymond who is sympathetic to the FV.

    jim

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    Brandon, as far as the Schilder/Hoeksema controversy, there used to be a great series by Bernard Woudenberg on the net, but I can’t seem to locate it.

    There is a ton of stuff at The Standard Bearer website.

    Basically, the difference comes down to a conditional or an unconditional view of the covenant and the implications of each. If I can find that study I’m thinking of, I’ll let you know.

  14. brhm Says:

    Gus, rest easy. You probably are confusing Robert Reymond with Robert Rayburn.

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    I did a quick search on Robert Rayburn on the TF site and came across this interesting citation from a piece by Paul Elliot, “The Marks of Neo-Liberalism”:
    _________________

    “Shepherd’s teachings are also echoed in so-called “covenant succession” theology that is gaining increasing acceptance in the OPC, PCA, and elsewhere. Typical of its tenets are these statements by Dr. Robert S. Rayburn:

    It is affirmed… The [baptized] children of Christian parents are to be considered Christians…until and unless they prove the contrary. Their situation, in other words, is the same as any other church member. It is denied: Covenant children are to be evangelized like every other lost sinner.

    …It is denied: The spiritual history of covenant children will be marked by an experience of conversion….

    …It is denied: Christian children, before reaching an
    age at which they are able to make a profession of
    faith, can, at best, only be considered as “Christians to be.” [It is denied that] in general they are to be regarded as unsaved until they show evidence of true faith in Christ.

    …It is denied: The teaching of covenant succession is
    likely to produce nominalism and a crippling selfconfidence.

    But that is exactly what it does produce. To say that someone may simply look to his baptism and to a lack of evidence of outright apostasy in his life as the proof of his salvation is not the Scriptural standard. There are millions of baptized people who live moral lives but are on their way to Hell. They are still in their sins.

    To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ – to confess with the mouth, and believe with the heart – is the standard. Any other standard is nominalism by definition, and produces a self-confidence that is not merely crippling but soul damning.Covenant succession is another error of the Pharisees that both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ denounced (Matthew 3:7-12, John 8:31-47). Our confidence must be in the blood of Jesus Christ, and that alone. And to say that we do not need to evangelize our children is to disobey God’s command: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).” – The Marks of Neo-Liberalism
    _____________

  16. ray kikkert Says:

    Hey Sean and Brandon … I checked it out and Rev. Woudenberg moved his treatises over to a mission web page …. http://www.sibd.org

    You can access the history of Schilder/Hoeksema there… under the history sub topics link.

  17. qeqesha Says:

    Sean,
    ¨To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ – to confess with the mouth, and believe with the heart – is the standard. Any other standard is nominalism by definition, and produces a self-confidence that is not merely crippling but soul damning.Covenant succession is another error of the Pharisees that both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ denounced (Matthew 3:7-12, John 8:31-47). Our confidence must be in the blood of Jesus Christ, and that alone.¨

    Glory to God, Amen and amen!!!

    Denson

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thanks Ray. I read them years ago and spent about a half hour looking.

    Also, on an editorial note, I changed the title of this because the more I thought about it De-Vision might have been a little too cutesy. I had originally thought of maybe Duh-Vision or Death-Vision (too 1950’s circa sci-fi), but since men like Rayburn, Moon, Lawrence, Leithart, Meyers, Smith, Wilson, Wilkins, Horne, Cassidy and the rest are, in all seriousness, schismatics, I think I will just refer to them from now on, and whenever possible, as Federal Divisionists since that better describes their theology. I don’t want to be accused of taking the poison these men spew too lightly.

  19. Kris Jones Says:

    Charlie,
    Forgive me for asking and forgive me for disturbing you. I know that Hodge is on line but I have a copy and prefer finding it there. Since I can’t ask a legitimate (albeit stupid in some other’s eyes) question of a brother in Christ without suffering the sarcasm of, “But then if you really understood justification you would have said so.” I promise to seek elsewhere. So let’s leave it like this, Charlie – if you would take the time to show me the offense, I’ll gladly apologize. Otherwise, let me apologize generally to you & to the list for being so obtuse.

    Sean,
    My apologies to you and the list.
    As an aside, I have been reading Trinity Review for nearly 15 years, have read much (and understood less) of Clark, Robbins and others. I have also asked some fairly stupid questions of Dr. Robbins and the response was always short, succinct and clear, but never rude. In the future I’ll restrict my participation to merely lurking and listening and learning what I can without asking questions – although that seems a fool’s errand.
    Again, my apologies to all.
    In Christ,
    Kris

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    Kris, you’ve got nothing to apologize for and anyone who has been reading TR for nearly 15 are the very people I want commenting on this blog.

    I need your input and feedback.

  21. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Unbelievers can be said to be a members of the “covenant community” as the visible church consists of both wheat and tares,…”

    The Bible does not say the visible church consists of both wheat and tares, though it is possible if not likely that there be tares in the visible church.


  22. Kris, I accept your apology and I also want to apologize. I sometimes shoot from the hip, particularly because there have been a couple of snipers in here. I took it that you were criticizing what I said rather than asking a question in sincerity.

    Charles Hodge is not perfect by a long shot. One has to read him with care. In particular, Hodge accepted Roman Catholic baptism as legitimate while the Presbyterian church of his day rejected it. Also, Hodge, because of his views on common grace, often gave too much ground to the Roman Catholics. The Westminster Confession originally said that the Roman Catholic Church is a synagogue of satan. Most modern versions have removed that.

    The main link to Charles Hodge is: Charles Hodge: Systematic Theology.

    The section in Hodge dealing with justification by faith is located here: Justification.

    You might want to read Gordon H. Clark’s book, What Is Saving Faith. He critiques Hodge’s irrational views on faith there. Hodge doesn’t get everything wrong so it’s good to read his systematic theology. (See pages 51-63 for Clark’s critique of Hodge).

    This is the quote from Hodge I had remembered and was citing in my other remark:

    It may be remarked in passing that according to the Protestant doctrine there is properly no “formal cause” of justification. The righteousness of Christ is the meritorious, but not the formal cause of the sinner’s being pronounced righteous. A formal cause is that which constitutes the inherent, subjective nature of a person or thing. The formal cause of a man’s being good, is goodness, of his being holy, holiness; of his being wicked, wickedness. The formal cause of a rose’s being red, is redness; and of a wall’s being white, is whiteness. As we are not rendered inherently righteous by the righteousness of Christ, it is hardly correct to say that his righteousness is the formal cause of our being righteous. Owen, and other eminent writers do indeed often use the expression referred to, but they take the word “formal” out of its ordinary scholastic sense. § 5. Imputation of Righteousness.

    Again, sorry for being sharp with you, Kris. I don’t always remember things precisely or state things precisely. Theology is a precise science and it is difficult to get every single detail correct in every single remark. This medium is impromptu.

    I really need to go back and read Clark’s book on saving faith again.

    May the peace of God be with you,

    Charlie


  23. Are the comments moderated? My last post seems to have disappeared.


  24. I read the Trinity Review online and I’m in the process of buying and reading Gordon H. Clark as I’m able. I certainly do not attribute infallibility to Clark, Robbins, or any other human. However, I find I agree with Clark where he says that the mind and the heart are one and the same in Scripture.


  25. Well, for some reason my other post did not get published. Anyway, I apologize if I was short, Kris. There are a couple of snipers in here who made remarks about what I said and then took me out of context. I jumped to a premature conclusion that you had done the same. Check out § 5. Imputation of Righteousness. There you will see this remark by Hodge:

    It may be remarked in passing that according to the Protestant doctrine there is properly no “formal cause” of justification. The righteousness of Christ is the meritorious, but not the formal cause of the sinner’s being pronounced righteous. A formal cause is that which constitutes the inherent, subjective nature of a person or thing. The formal cause of a man’s being good, is goodness, of his being holy, holiness; of his being wicked, wickedness. The formal cause of a rose’s being red, is redness; and of a wall’s being white, is whiteness. As we are not rendered inherently righteous by the righteousness of Christ, it is hardly correct to say that his righteousness is the formal cause of our being righteous. Owen, and other eminent writers do indeed often use the expression referred to, but they take the word “formal” out of its ordinary scholastic sense. …..

    and:

    Owen in his elaborate work on justification,33 proves that the word to justify, “whether the act of God towards men, or of men towards God, or of men among themselves, or of one towards another, be expressed thereby, is always used in a ‘forensic’ sense, and does not denote a physical operation, transfusion, or transmutation.” He thus winds up the discussion: “Wherefore as condemnation is not the infusing of a habit of wickedness into him that is condemned, nor the making of him to be inherently wicked, who was before righteous, but the passing a sentence upon a man with respect to his wickedness; no more is justification the change of a person from inherent unrighteousness to righteousness, by the infusion of a principle of grace, but a sentential declaration of him to be righteous.”34

    The ground of this justification in the case of the believing inner is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.This is set forth at length.35 “The judgment of the Reformed Churches herein,” he says, “is known to all and must be confessed, unless we intend by vain cavils to increase and perpetuate contentions. Especially the Church of England is in her doctrine express as to the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, both active and passive, as it is usually distinguished. This has been of late so fully manifested out of her authentic writings, that is, the ‘Articles of Religion’ and ‘Books of Homilies,’ and other writings publicly authorized, that it is altogether needless to give any further demonstration of it.”

    If faith is the “cause” of our justification, then faith is in essence a work that we do which causes God to declare us righteous. But since faith itself is a gift of God and since faith is the instrument by which God applies justification to us and imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, then it is all a gift of God from beginning to end. There is nothing that we “do”, including “believing”, which “causes” us to be justified.

    God causes us to be regenerated. God causes us to believe. God causes us to be justified through a legal and forensic declaration.

    Charlie

  26. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Kris, you’ve got nothing to apologize for and anyone who has been reading TR for nearly 15 are the very people I want commenting on this blog. ”

    Except for me. Again, what is the reason for the disparate treatment (moderating/screening my comments)?

  27. lawyertheologian Says:

    “It is affirmed… The [baptized] children of Christian parents are to be considered Christians…until and unless they prove the contrary. Their situation, in other words, is the same as any other church member. It is denied: Covenant children are to be evangelized like every other lost sinner.

    …It is denied: The spiritual history of covenant children will be marked by an experience of conversion….

    …It is denied: Christian children, before reaching an
    age at which they are able to make a profession of
    faith, can, at best, only be considered as “Christians to be.” [It is denied that] in general they are to be regarded as unsaved until they show evidence of true faith in Christ.”

    Not for anything, but I thought this was the view in all Reformed Denominations. The PCA’s Directory of Worship says that (baptized) children of believers are to be regarded and treated as Christians.

  28. Sean Gerety Says:

    Charlie, for some reason your missing post ended up in the spam cue.

    And, as for Patrick, yes, I’m moderating your posts.


  29. Sean said,

    But that is exactly what it does produce. To say that someone may simply look to his baptism and to a lack of evidence of outright apostasy in his life as the proof of his salvation is not the Scriptural standard. There are millions of baptized people who live moral lives but are on their way to Hell. They are still in their sins.

    I agree with what you’re saying here if by baptism we mean ex opere operato grace or that somehow regeneration is tied to baptism. But the fact is Thomas Cranmer said to look to our baptism when we are doubting our salvation. Luther said the same. Neither, however, would have said that baptism saves apart from the word, a true and lively faith, etc. (I couldn’t find the quote from Cranmer).

    Even Calvin, when dealing with the idolatry of icons, said:

    Even were the danger less imminent, still, when I consider the proper end for which churches are erected, it appears to me more unbecoming their sacredness than I well can tell, to admit any other images than those living symbols which the Lord has consecrated by his own word: I mean Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, with the other ceremonies. By these our eyes ought to be more steadily fixed, and more vividly impressed, than to require the aid of any images which the wit of man may devise.

    Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

    Calvin could be interpreted here as saying, “Look to your baptism and to the Lord’s Supper, not to icons.”

    Cranmer’s doctrine of baptism is almost identical with Calvin’s doctrine of baptism. It is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. If we understand baptism as the sign of a true and lively faith, as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and His blood, then telling someone to look to their baptism for assurance is not wrong but simply a way of giving them a tangible symbol to look at. It’s a spiritual object lesson–an image, as Calvin puts it. The sacraments are a visible and tangible expression of God’s Word. Word and sacrament go together.

    As you said, just going through the motions of baptism as a nominal sign of outward church membership, baptism in and of itself is nothing apart from faith.

    The Prayer Book of 1662 puts it this way:

    ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, heavenly Father, we give thee humble thanks, for that thou hast vouchsafed to call us to the knowledge of thy grace, and faith in thee: Increase this knowledge, and confirm this faith in us evermore. Give thy Holy Spirit to these persons, that they may be born again, and be made heirs of everlasting salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

    Then the Priest shall speak to the persons to be baptized on this wise:

    WELL-BELOVED, who are come hither desiring to receive holy Baptism, ye have heard how the congregation hath prayed, that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive you and bless you, to release you of your sins, to give you the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life. Ye have heard also, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his holy Word to grant all those things that we have prayed for; which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, ye must also faithfully, for your part, promise in the presence of these your Witnesses, and this whole congregation, that ye will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God’s holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments.

    ****
    (And then, speaking to the new baptized persons, he shall proceed, and say,)

    AND as for you, who have now by Baptism put on Christ, it is your part and duty also, being made the children of God and of the light by faith in Jesus Christ, to walk answerably to your Christian calling, and as becometh the children of light; remembering always that Baptism representeth unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died, and rose again for us; so should we, who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living.

    Baptism of Those of Riper Years


  30. The quote from Calvin is Book I, Ch. XI. 13

  31. ray Says:

    Lawyer Theologian … you stated “The Bible does not say the visible church consists of both wheat and tares, though it is possible if not likely that there be tares in the visible church.”

    The Bible does not say this verbatim, but the definition and the idea of the visible church having both wheat and tares, goats and sheep, wolves and sheep … is there nonetheless. God …through Paul warned about this to the church at Corinth. The Lord … through John had warnings for the 7 churches.

    There’s no need of the warning if it isn’t there in the first place. They are not all Israel, which are of Israel.

    The Belgic Confession states thus:
    “Article 28: That every one is bound to join himself to the true Church.
    We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it; maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them. And that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers, according to the word of God, to separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the Church, and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God hath established it, even though the magistrates and edicts of princes were against it, yea, though they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore all those, who separate themselves from the same, or do not join themselves to it, act contrary to the ordinance of God.

    Article 29: Of the marks of the true Church, and wherein she differs from the false Church.
    We believe, that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church. But we speak not here of hypocrites, who are mixed in the Church with the good, yet are not of the Church, though externally in it; but we say that the body and communion of the true Church must be distinguished from all sects, who call themselves the Church. The marks, by which the true Church is known, are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself. With respect to those, who are members of the Church, they may be known by the marks of Christians: namely, by faith; and when they have received Jesus Christ the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. But this is not to be understood, as if there did not remain in them great infirmities; but they fight against them through the Spirit, all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in him.” As for the false Church, she ascribes more power and authority to herself and her ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit herself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does she administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in his Word, but adds to and takes from them, as she thinks proper; she relieth more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those, who live holily according to the Word of God, and rebuke her for her errors, covetousness, and idolatry. These two Churches are easily known and distinguished from each other.

    This is also why John Calvin stated what he did regarding the parable of Matthew 13:24-30 regarding the wheat and the tares:

    “In my opinion, the design of the parable is simply this: So long as the pilgrimage of the Church in this world continues, bad men and hypocrites will mingle in it with those who are good and upright, that the children of God may be armed with patience and, in the midst of offenses which are fitted to disturb them, may preserve unbroken stedfastness of faith. It is an appropriate comparison, when the Lord calls the Church his field, for believers are the seed of it; and though Christ afterwards adds that the field is the world, yet he undoubtedly intended to apply this designation, in a peculiar manner, to the Church, about which he had commenced the discourse. But as he was about to drive his plough through every country of the world, so as to cultivate fields, and scatter the seed of life, throughout the whole world, he has employed a synecdoche, to make the world denote what more strictly belonged only to a part of it.”

  32. ray Says:

    You know Sean … as soon as I read that entry regarding “Does God Practice Temporary Forgiveness” which as you stated was well done by Mr. Mattes … I thought …”only an FV freak can makes this BS up” … and the only reason they come up with such vain doctrines is simply because they are remonstrant freaks… semi-pelagian freaks…with a disregard for God’s Word and the Reformed Confessions …

    From the Canons of Dort:
    The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:

    VII. Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a time, does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.

    see … remonstrant arminians aren’t the only one’s who can come up with goobledegoop … FV freaks can too 🙂

  33. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean said,

    But that is exactly what it does produce….

    Charlie, just for the record, that was Sean citing Paul Elliot.

  34. Sean Gerety Says:

    VII. Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a time, does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.

    Spot on. Federal Divisionists like Moon and Rayburn, while pretending to be Reformed are just a bunch of second rate Arminians. Actually, they’re worse than Arminian.


  35. Ah, thanks for the clarification. I get confused about who said what. I guess the bottom line is we should not confuse sanctification with justification. That is a sign of semi-pelagianism. No is denying that we are called to sanctification. But sanctification is always less than perfect. Since God’s law demands perfect obedience, imputed righteousness is absolutely necessary at all points along the way and in the final judgment. Anyone who makes salvation ultimately depend on sanctification is in effect preaching merits or works a basis for justification.

    But you guys have it easy. I was at the Central Florida Diocese of TEC today. They narrowly passed a resolution condemning the election and consecration of an openly lesbian bishop in the Los Angeles Diocese. It’s bad enough they got women ministers/bishops. But now they are ordaining unrepentant lesbians and gays.

    Eventually, if you give in to the Federal Devisionists, which is arminianism…. the next step will be women teaching elders… and then there will be a fight over openly gay and lesbian church members… and then you’ll have celibate gay and lesbian ministers …. and eventually OPENLY gay and lesbian ministers. It’s a matter of a slow erosion of biblical authority.

    Take a look at the PCUSA, ELCA, UMC, etc. It’s just a matter of time before the OPC and the PCA get there. The Federal Devisionists use the same tactics as the liberal progressives in the liberal mainline churches.

    Same thing with the so-called Anglican Church-North America. Lots of liberals in it already. It’s a matter of time before its as liberal as the AC-NA.


  36. As liberal as the TEC, I meant.

  37. Gus Gianello Says:

    Praise God I am going senile. I got Rayburn and Reymond confused. It was late at night when all this came across my desk. For clarification to everyone so that no one gets confused Dr. Reymond is NOT Rayburn. And I apologize if I made things murkier for anyone. I dont know who Rayburn is BUT I am sure glad it isnt Reymond.

    Gus

  38. Gus Gianello Says:

    Dear Kris Jones,
    Being alone all the way in the Peoples Fascist Democracy of Kanukistan, I would consider it a privilege to correspond with you and mutually fellowship with each other; that is learn and teach each other. We have no visible church to go to, and I would appreciate your fellowship. I too have been ready the Trinity Review for about a decade or longer. I too corresponded with John. I have one added advantage, I WAS a virulent Vantillian and Reconstructionist, and was acquainted with Jim Jordan and Ray Sutton. Some of the people all this nonsense spued from. I am so grateful to God for all that He taught me using John and Gordon Clark.

    dr dot gus gianello at rogers dot com

  39. lawyertheologian Says:

    Ray,

    Sean does not want me to respond here to your post regarding what the visible church consists of and has voided my response. He believes what I’ve said is a silly notion, that any further discussion on my part will lead to useless meandering and a fruitless rabbit trail. So, for now, you have the last word.

    Since this is off topic anyway, my response, if you desire it, will have to come offline, either by email or at my blog.

  40. ray Says:

    Sean’s pretty sharp to spot babble … so if he shut you down … be thankful … not whiny 🙂

  41. George Says:

    Sad so sad to think that salvation by works instead of grace is being taught by Presbyterian pastors.

  42. dewisant1 Says:

    Dear Dr. Gus Gianello,
    I would be happy to engage in this conversation with you. I am sorry you have no visible church to go to. I have a heart for your dilemma, but you can always come to the USA. There is a program for Kanuckistani immigrants called Citizens of Convenience that you might be interested in. In any case, I’ll try and answer any questions you may have…

    kris

  43. Lauren Kuo Says:

    The Bible clearly says that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It also says that There is NONE righteous NO, NOT ONE (Romans 3:10). So, why are covenant children presumed to be Christians when the Bible states just the opposite?

    Jesus stated to Nicodemus a “covenant child” that he had to be born again by the Spirit. In other words, his covenant status by his physical birth did not merit justification nor one ounce of presumption of justification. Nicodemus of all people should have been presumed justified but Jesus pointed out that he was just as lost as a Gentile. His pedigree or covenant status did nothing to justify him.

    The “leaven” of the PCA began at its founding when it brought in theonomy from many of the southern presbyterian churches. Theonomy mixed with VanTil slowly metamorphasized (is that a word?) into the New Perspective and the Federal Vision. Just as Jesus warned of the leaven of the Pharisees, the PCA has failed to heed that warning and now they have a mess in their presbyteries that is like leaven – impossible to reverse. The PCA has reduced itself to a political entity with elders trying to out-maneuver each other with the BCO and fighting for exceptions and “various nuances” in their interpretation of the Standards. Meanwhile, the Gospel is totally lost and churches have become mere outward religious show.


  44. Hi, Gus…

    I tried to e-mail you with the address you posted. It bounced or something. Anyway, were you affiliated with the Reformed Episcopal Church at one time?

    Ray Sutton is a bishop with the REC and one of those leading the REC back to Anglo-Catholicism.

    Sad.

    Charlie

  45. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Lauren,
    Good to hear from you again!
    “So, why are covenant children presumed to be Christians when the Bible states just the opposite?”

    The idea is that even children CAN believe the Gospel and thus be justified. There is no age of consent concerning the gospel[this is not sex]. John the Baptist responded[kicked in his mothers womb] when Mary greeted his pregnant mother. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Presuming them saved is called the “charity of ignorance”. It is NOT to say they are assuredly saved. Those that are not elect, it will do them no harm to get them baptised, since they are simply not going to stay in church as they grow older anyway. On the other hand, if we treat them like unbelivers, we sin against the Lord and against their precious faith, should they infact be believers. Thus we must teach them and admonish them in the fear of the Lord as if they are Christians. Those who are true believers will benefit and those who are not, it may be a seed that will later blosom into true faith as God opens their minds to the Gospel as they grow older.

    Denson

  46. ray kikkert Says:

    I wrestled with this as a young father with children … I understood that presumptious regeneration was out of the question as was viewing our children as “little vipers” as Jonathon Edwards stated was not correct either.

    I love my children … my wife and I teach them as best we can … although imperfectly… the truth of the Lord and His Word. They … as their parents before them … and their grandparents before them … are all born totally depraved … a truth we have taught them. If they disobey … they are reproved and disciplined … and they are also asked for forgiveness when I have either provoked them to wrath unjustly … or have done or said that which contradicts what I have taught them concerning the Lord and His Word. They need to see and hear this.
    They were born into a family where the parents believe and glorify the Lord, as their grandparents before them. But they also witness that not all their uncles and aunts, cousins from both our families have continued in that like precious faith. They understand from a young age that faith is a gift of God which He gives only to the elect chosen of God.
    We are admonished of the Lord that we are to train up a child in the way that he should go and that later he shall not depart from it. This does NOT mean that they all will be elect. It means that they will never be able to shake off the teaching and admonishment of the Lord which He teached through the parents and grandparents. That teaching they will have their life long, even if they wickedly reject it, just as Ishamel or Esau did.

    Our oldest is 12 and the youngest of 4 is 9. It is sheer vanity to doubt a child’s salvation … it simply is not up for us to determine their eternal destiny, as if we are more rightoeus in dealing with the children then the Lord who created both them and us … they all equally will be taught around that kitchen table, in family devotions, in congregational worship and the truth of the Lord’s predestinating purposes in election and reprobation will not be hid from them. They will be taught this in all love and sincerety for the honor and glory of Christ and Him crucified … for they will see it both in family devotions, catechism, and congregational worship.
    The Lord is great and righteous in all His ways … a truth this rebel child named Ray was made to understand by the grace of God. I hope and pray the same for the children my wife and I were blessed with … and it does not come without it’s share of tears and sorrow, as well as joy and thankfulness.

  47. Lauren Kuo Says:

    Jesus said that many would call Him Lord, Lord and His response would be, “Depart from me, I NEVER knew you.” He does not say that He temporarily knew them but then forgot about them. They were never saved or justified to begin with.

    Jesus introduced to Nicodemus a New Covenant and a new way of entering into that covenant. He taught that you no longer enter the covenant the old way through physical birth. You enter it by being born again a second time through the Spirit. Nicodemus with all his old covenant credentials could not see the kingdom of God. He, a grown man, had to be born again to enter the new covenant.

    Presuming your child is saved is based on what? That he or she was born physically into a Christian family? Then your plan of salvation flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus.

    What should we presume about our children? Nothing. If I leave my house to go on a vacation and then ten miles down the road realize that I may have left the stove on, what should I presume? If I presume I left the stove on, I would immediately turn around and go home to check on it. If I presumed I did not leave it on, I would continue on my merry way and just wait until I returned home to learn whether my presumption was right. But if I presumed nothing, I would still return home to make sure my house was safe and have peace of mind.

    Covenant presumption is like presuming the stove is turned off and coming home from vacation to find your house burned down. Evangelizing our children is just as much a necessary part of Christian nurture as discipling them in the Word, prayer, and worship. To presume your child is saved and to treat them as if they are Christians when in reality they may not is, to me, child abuse. A parent puts unrealistic expectations on a child by presuming he is saved. What is the message we communicate to them? “You are presumed to be a Christian unless you prove to us and to God that you are not.” So now the child has the burden to “prove” that he is a Christian through his works. Jesus had some very strong words to parents and leaders who would dare to put this kind of burden on our children: It would be better for a millstone to be tied around their necks and be thrown into the sea. This teaching from hell, folks, is just a part of Federal Vision theology. It is a theology of fear – not of love. Of bondage – not of liberty.

  48. lawyertheologian Says:

    Lauren,

    I think your reasoning is sound, but convenant presumption of children of believers is not Federal Vision theology but Reformed paedobaptism theology. The idea is that one must presume one or the other and that is more “charitable” to presume the positive.

    Anyways, if anything, I believe the Bible tells us to presume all to come into the world unregenerate and needing to be regenerated, regardless of their parentage.


  49. Lawyah,

    The Reformed paedobaptist view teaches that all are born unregenerate and totally corrupted by original sin. Furthermore, baptized children are taught that there are sins which can separate them from the church and bring grievous suffering upon them. And they are most certainly taught about the possibility of apostasy, which would prove the apostate to be unregenerate. So what is your point?

    Haven’t you read the shorter catechism or the Heidelberg catechism? Don’t you know that baptized children are instructed in Scripture and the catechism?

    Charlie

  50. Lauren Kuo Says:

    Charlie,
    You seem to have replaced Christ with the church as our mediator.
    So we baptize our child and then proceed to threaten him with the possibility of apostasy? So a child has to live in fear of losing his salvation if he doesn’t mind his p’s and q’s? That’s not the Jesus I know in the Bible. Where is the grace and love of Christ in that kind of teaching?
    Do you believe in assurance of salvation?


  51. Lauren, you seem to forget the threats and warnings in Scripture. Besides, you’re misquoting me. I have never said anything like what you’re saying. What I said was IF you walk away, i.e. APOSTASY, you were never saved.

    ESV 1 John 2:18-19

    18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
    19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

    Simply because I mentioned that the Bible teaches that apostasy is a genuine possibility does not mean I’m an Arminian or a Federal Visionist. The Westminster Confession makes it clear that those who are in open sin have no assurance of salvation at that point in time, even if they are elect of God:

    WCF 18.1 Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.

    WCF 18.2 This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

    WCF 18.3 This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

    WCF 18.4 True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness, and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.

    And the Belgic Confession says:

    3. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?
    The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.[1]

    [1] Mt 5:12; Lk 17:10; Rom 11:6; 2 Tim 4:7-8; Heb 11:6

    TOP

    64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?
    No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.[1]

    [1] Mt 7:18; Lk 6:43-45; Jn 15:5; Rom 6:1-2

    Grace is not a license to sin. Anyone who takes it that way is probably described by WCF 18.1.

    I could mention the apostasy passages in Hebrews. Apostasy is taught in Scripture and the confessions. That does not mean, however, that someone who is elect can “lose” his or her election or salvation. That is not what I said and anyone implying such is simply unfamiliar with Scripture, the confessions and with my stand as confessing and Reformed believer.

    Children should not be taught that grace is a license to sin.

    Charlie

  52. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Lauren,
    I agree with most of what you said since it is what scripture teaches. But I think you cannot ignore the rest of what scripture says about children. The presumption is based on what the scripture says about children. First, that believing parents shall or do bring up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This would obviously include preaching the gospel to them and the whole counsel of God. You also ignored my reference to John the Baptist who was excited at hearing the greeting of the mother of the Saviour in the womb and was filled with the Spirit from birth. Further Jesus said, not to place a stumbling block before children, for of such is the Kingdom of God, and anyone who is an offence to a child deserves to be drowned with a huge conrete block around their neck to make sure they sink, said the Lord.
    Further, as I said, children can and do believe the Gospel. It is your position that would require children to demonstrate that they are indeed believers before you will let them off the hook.

    Denson

  53. lawyertheologian Says:

    Charlie,

    Don’t bother asking me questions. Sean won’t let me respond for fear of me “hijacking” the discussion.

    I guess you are going to have to discuss this issue amongst yourselves apart from any input from me.

  54. brandon Says:

    Don’t forget those who are far off.

  55. Lauren Kuo Says:

    My concern is for the children who are told that they are Christians because their parents are believers and they have been baptized in the church. These children grow up with this mistaken idea and never have the opportunity to know the joy and comfort and assurance that comes from repentance, deliverance, and living a life of thanksgiving to the Lord. Their lives are a wreck and without the Lord’s intervention they will pass along the same mistaken tragedy to their children. I have seen this heartbreaking tragedy in the lives of the sons and daughters of elders.


  56. Lauren, that’s a problem for Christians across the board. It’s a problem of discipleship. Either you teach your children how to repent, pray and read the Bible or you don’t. And even if you do everything right there is no guarantee that they won’t go into apostasy or nominalism. As Mike Horton says on his program, apostasy is only one generation away. God has no grandchildren.

    The doctrine of infant baptism, when it is practiced as the confessions and catechisms and Scripture prescribe, is a source of comfort and encouragement for those who struggle in this life. Baptism does not save but it is a tangible object lesson that reminds us of our commitment to Christ and the covenant of grace God makes with His elect.

    Charlie

  57. Gus Gianello Says:

    Charlie and Chris,

    My email is dr dot gus dot gianello at rogers.com. Thanks Sean for permitting this.

    I was very tenuously connected with the REC years ago. The only reason I considered it, was because Ray Sutton was in it. But since reading Jus Divinum and “Imperious Presbyterians” I am convinced of BIBLICAL presbyterianism–not the nonsense that calls itself presbyterian in the putatively reformed Denominations.

    As to having no visible church, Cynthia-Ann and I have contacted each, and have promised each other Christian Hospitality. She lurks here, she just never posts—and she is a wonderful sister in the Lord. Her family and mine, I am sure will become fast friends. John Robbins told her that there were THOUSANDS of families in our position. Like her, I would move to Unicoi, in a heartbeat if I could. Id rather spend the last twenty years of my life with like-minded believers, then submit to the swine and eat the swill that is offered in local religious assemblies.

    Gus

  58. Gus Gianello Says:

    Sean, et al,
    I am in the process of compiling and converting to pdf the history of the Hoeksema and Schilder controvery, and what it did to the relation between the Liberated and the Protestant Reformed churches. Some of you will remember that Hoeksema was very sympathetic to Clark and did what he could to oppose Van Til’s nonsense. He was ejected from the Christian Reformed Church because of the Synod of Kalamazoo in 1924 affirming common grace. Common grace, and Shilder’s take on it is the seminal point of the Federal Vision. When I was a reconstructionist Jim Jordan was very taken with Schilder and the conditional covenant. Conditionality of the covenant leads FVers to posit that the reprobate are elect when baptized because they are joined to a VISIBLE covenant. Anyway, there is no copyright on the material. So, I am going to freely distribute it. If you are interested send me an email

    dr dot gus dot gianello at rogers dot com
    Subject line: “Shilder”

    And I will also include you on my mailing list for future offiers and mailings.

    Dr. Gus Gianello
    Reformation Canada!

    Motto: Reformation NOW!


  59. Thanks for sharing, Dr. Gus.

    I will e-mail you… I spent over a year as a deacon with the REC here in Orlando. Jim Reber was the presbyter. He’s now pastoring an Anglican Province in American congregation and most likely full blown Anglo-Catholic. He’s also a theonomist.

    I resigned after Reber found out that I wasn’t going to change to his Anglo-Catholic views. He kept pushing apostolic succession and other such nonsense.

    Charlie

  60. dewisant1 Says:

    Thanks, Gus.
    I too left a putatively presbyterian pothole that I had driven into after fleeing, with my son, the PCUSA. It was a PCA church – no big surprise there, I guess. I have recently found comfort in a small local church with a big name called Hope Reformed Evangelical Church of Aztec. They subscribe to the LBCF 1689. They were once Evangelical Free but found the Doctrines of Grace much more attractive & true and so began to reform – Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda. And Canada too!

    I have been a Presbyterian for 60 years but I was struck by the sense of what was said in “Imperious Presbyterians” and how eerily true it was in our case. My new church family is not presbyterian by any means, but I am struck here by the quiet certitude, faith, love and humility in which they submit to God’s Word and live out a truly reformed life in their worship and in their day to day lives.

    I no longer frantically search for a truly reformed presbyterian church nor bewail the loss – well, maybe a little. The sad irony is that the PCA church was founded here around a core of believers seeking a reformed ecclesiology and IMHO, didn’t get what they bargained for. I love them all to this day, but as for me and my son (he has attended a service with me once, now) we will hopefully rest at Hope.

    Kris

    Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus


  61. “Moreover, when Scripture intimates that the good works of believers are causes why the Lord does them good, we must still understand the meaning so as to hold unshaken what has previously been said–viz. that the efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father; the material cause in the obedience of the Son; the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness. In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes. But how so? In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works. What precedes in the order of administration is called the cause of what follows. For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows. But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he enjoins us not to take refuge in works, but to keep our thoughts entirely fixed on the mercy of God.” (Inst. III.14.21.)

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jason, are you attempting to intimate that Calvin, like Rayburn above, believed that “the works of a Christian’s life” are an instrumental cause of the sinner’s “final justification”?

    If that’s the case, I think you need to try a bit harder.

  63. ray kikkert Says:

    Do you know of this OPC minister Sean? Had a look at his blog … seems really into the clergy clothing 🙂

    There is at times… no difference between the clergy cloth and a sucker in a 3 piece 🙂

    I would like to see him at least clarify his intent on quoting Calvin from his Institutes book 3 … his section on Justification.


  64. Will a person be vindicated or acquitted on the last day irrespective of good works performed in this present life? The Bible is clear that final judgment is according to works, and the Reformed tradition in all of its breadth has acknowledged this to be true. If good works are included in the final verdict, how so? As evidence? If yes, then they are ratiocinative, indicating the reason, after the fact, for the sentence of acquittal pronounced by Christ. If we grant them a ratiocinative function, then the standard causal categories are fair game in seeking to define the relation of good works to final justification. Material, efficient, and final causes are all out of bounds. But what of Calvin’s designation of good works as “inferior causes” of final salvation?

  65. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thank you from coming out from behind the woodwork Jason. However, you make Calvin say too much. Calvin, even in the small bit you quote, does not say that good works are an “‘inferior causes’ of final salvation,” although I will grant that is your interpretation of him. Frankly your reading of Calvin finds more in common with your fellow OPC men like John Kinnaird and Norm Shepherd (admittedly only formally OPC, prior to those in the OPC conspiring to allow him to leave for the CRC as a so-called “pastor in good standing). I find it interesting the portion immediately following that you left out:

    But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he does not enjoin us to take refuge in works but keeps us solely to the contemplation of his mercy. What sort of thing is this teaching of the apostle: “The wages of sin is death; the grace of the Lord, eternal life” [Romans 6:23]? Why does he not contrast righteousness with sin, as he contrasts life with death? Why does he not make righteousness the cause of life, as he does sin that of death? For thus an antithesis would duly have been set up that is somewhat broken by this variation. But the apostle intended by this comparison to express what was true: namely, that death is owing to men’s deserts but life rests solely upon God’s mercy. In short, by these expressions sequence more than cause is denoted. For God, by heaping grace upon grace, from the former grace takes the cause for adding those which follow that he may overlook nothing for the enrichment of his servants. And he so extends his liberality as to have us always look to his freely given election, which is the source and beginning. For, although he loves the gifts which he daily confers upon us, seeing that they proceed from that source, still it is our part to hold to that free acceptance, which alone can support our souls; and so to subordinate to the first cause the gifts of the Holy Spirit he then bestows, that they may nowise detract from it.

    Needless to say, your own “ratiocinations,” which really are, so far as I can tell, rationalization instead of anything logically inferred from the text of the Institutes, seem to ignore the thrust of Calvin’s argument and the role of works in a Christian’s life. Even the chapter heads leading up to your reading refute the very notion that “the works of a Christian’s life” are an instrumental cause of the sinner’s “final justification. ” Headings like…

    NO TRUST IN WORKS AND NO GLORY IN WORKS

    THE SIGHT OF GOOD WORKS, HOWEVER, CAN
    STRENGTHEN FAITH

    WORKS AS FRUITS OF THE CALL

    WORKS ARE GOD’S GIFT AND CANNOT BECOME THE
    FOUNDATION OF SELF-CONFIDENCE FOR BELIEVERS

    IN NO RESPECT CAN WORKS SERVE AS THE CAUSE OF
    OUR HOLINESS

    Under the above head Calvin avers:

    The philosophers postulate four kinds of causes to be observed in the outworking of things. If we look at these, however, we will find that, as far as the establishment of our salvation is concerned, none of them has anything to do with works. For Scripture everywhere proclaims that the efficient cause of our obtaining eternal life is the mercy of the Heavenly Father and his freely given love toward us. Surely the material cause is Christ, with his obedience, through which he acquired righteousness for us. What shall we say is the formal or instrumental cause but faith?

    And, anticipating men like Rayburn who would make works, even works done through faith, as an instrumental cause in justification, Calvin adds:

    The most avowed enemies of divine grace cannot stir up any controversy with us concerning either the efficient or the final cause, unless they would deny the whole of Scripture. They falsely represent the material and the formal cause, as if our works held half the place along with faith and Christ’s righteousness. But Scripture cries out against this also, simply affirming that Christ is for us both righteousness and life, and that this benefit of righteousness is possessed by faith alone.

    Anyway, Jason, thanks for posting.


  66. I did not argue that Calvin taught good works establish our salvation or constitute its foundation or serve as the object of trust or function as a proper cause. It was simply noted that he was willing in his writing to allow that good works are embraced by the Lord as inferior causes due to their sequence. Obviously, works cannot be a cause in the strict sense. Not even faith in its causal efficacy as an instrument is contributory. With that said, in order of time works precede the enjoyment of the believer’s final inheritance, and so Calvin writes, “For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows.”

    Sean, would you comment on “he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works” and “he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause” parts of Calvin’s statement?

  67. Sean Gerety Says:

    I did not argue that Calvin taught good works establish our salvation or constitute its foundation or serve as the object of trust or function as a proper cause.

    Then why on earth would you cite Calvin’s discussion in Book III and in reference to Rayburn? Do you really think there is any relationship between Calvin’s discussion of causation and the role of good works in the life of the Christian with Rayburn’s?

    FWIW, I think it is the reason for your posts and you do believe Rayburn and Calvin share common ground. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I find it extremely odd and even criminal for an OPC pastor to even insinuate that Rayburn’s, and by extension Leithart’s, soterilogical scheme can even be compared to Calvin’s.

    First, Rayburn complains loudly that “the panel fails carefully to distinguish between the causa materialis and the causae instrumentalium” and then proceeds to do the exact same thing he complains about. He cites only two causes in justification; material and instrumental. As to the material cause or ground of justification, Rayburn cites the righteousness of Christ. The instrumental causes include, but are evidently not limited to, faith, God’s Word, and good works. Calvin at least was attempting to apply Aristotle’s four causes to the biblical scheme, yet he argues:

    The philosophers postulate four kinds of causes to be observed in the outworking of things. If we look at these, however, we will find that, as far as the establishment of our salvation is concerned, none of them has anything to do with works.

    Now, compare that to Rayburn who squawks, “the works of a Christian’s life are a cause of the sinner’s final justification (whether as its vindication or its demonstration)….” Works, even works done by faith, cannot vindicate a sinner in judgment. They cannot even provide demonstration that sinner belongs to Christ on the last day. That is absurd and we have a painful reminder of those who on that terrible day will point to their so-called good works done in the Lord’s name in the vain hope that their works provide even circumstantial evidence that they are Jesus’ own. To those who will point to their works as demonstrative of their faith, Jesus will point to them and say; “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

    For Rayburn works are an INSTRUMENTAL cause in justification. Works are necessary to a Christian’s so-called “final justification.” For Rayburn justification is a process. For Rayburn and the rest of these FV wolves, the finished cross-work of Christ completely outside of us will not be enough to sustain us. Whereas for Calvin, and “as far as the establishment of our salvation is concerned,” works have no causative role at all.

    So, while it might be an interesting intellectual exercise to examine Calvin’s application of Aristotle’s theory of causation as it relates to the Christian life, however, since it has nothing to do with Rayburn’s discussion of material and instrumental causes as they relate to justification, and really seems to be just you trying to obscure Rayburn’s intent, I fail to see how any of it is relevant.

  68. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Works, even works done by faith, cannot vindicate a sinner in judgment. They cannot even provide demonstration that sinner belongs to Christ on the last day. That is absurd and we have a painful reminder of those who on that terrible day will point to their so-called good works done in the Lord’s name in the vain hope that their works provide even circumstantial evidence that they are Jesus’ own. To those who will point to their works as demonstrative of their faith, Jesus will point to them and say; “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” ”

    Very good Sean. Most Christians do look to good works to verify that they or others are Christians. Instead faith, or a credible confession of faith is the proper reason for thinking one to be saved. Thus,

    “Will a person be vindicated or acquitted on the last day irrespective of good works performed in this present life?” Yes, But

    “The Bible is clear that final judgment is according to works, and the Reformed tradition in all of its breadth has acknowledged this to be true.”

    The final judgment is with respect to what punishment will be received, not vindication/acquital versus condemnation. This will be according to the works of the individual.

    “If good works are included in the final verdict, how so? As evidence?”

    Good works are not included in the final verdict even as evidence.

    It seems to me that Calvin was speaking of “inferior causes” as simply things that go before being the cause of what comes after. “What goes before in the order of dispensation he calls the cause of what comes after.” Thus, our faith, which I believe Calvin here refers to as good works (produced of course by the Spirit),results in our salvation, our obtaining eternal life. This is basically the same as instrumental cause. It is not the true cause, but as Calvin says, “by these expressions sequence more than cause is denoted.” As Calvin illustrated, our glorification is caused by our justification, a prior grace a step to that which follows.


  69. […] in the schizophrenic Siouxlands Presbytery.  In his defense of Lawrence, Moon made the following statement: There are those who want to remake the PCA in their own image, according to their own likeness, […]

  70. starlight Says:

    You guys are being very unfair. As people study Scripture they are bound to come to diverse conclusions on things. A denomination should not have too many confessional standards; people will wind up fighting. Either you should drop the standards or leave off with independent Bible-reading. You can’t have your cake and eat it too!


  71. […] A Possible Answer A possible answer comes from an unlikely place. TE Joshua Moon, who was an intern for two years under Jeffrey Meyers, made a speech on the floor of Presbytery in which he has provided a possible clue. In the course of defending Federal Visionist Greg Lawrence, TE Moon argued the following: There are those who want to remake the PCA in their own image, according to their own likeness, narrowing what is allowed with the Standards beyond anything our church has ever done. And if they had their way it would lead not only to the exclusion of TE Lawrence, but others in this presbytery and many men in many presbyteries. The fact is, what TE Lawrence says on baptism is held in various ways and with various nuances by a lot of people in our PCA: from ministers and elders here in this presbytery, myself included, to professors at our theological seminary, and even almost entire presbyteries. Some are wanting to drive them all out and are asking you to begin that exile (emphasis mine, you can read the entire text here). […]


  72. […] states, “That children, by their baptism…are Christians.” (You can read Moon’s analysis here). First, we would note that even if this is the right reading, this would not disprove the point. […]


  73. […] In TE Moon’s speech defending TE Lawrence (which you can read here), he stated, “The fact is, what TE Lawrence says on baptism is held in various ways and with […]


  74. […] Meyers.” I mentioned Jack Collins as a potential confirmation of Josh Moon’s statement about “professors at our theological seminary.” Now, Lane has provided us with an even stronger example. In his latest post, a review of Michael […]


  75. […] well: Moon is an advocate of the Federal Vision false gospel. He was tried in the PCA for his beliefs (though not convicted, just like all the other FV false […]


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