Lane Keister: Doug Wilson Denies Justification by Faith Alone!
There have not been many praiseworthy moments in the battle to identify and rid the church of Federal Visionists. Frankly, all in all, I’d say it is a losing battle, and despite recent movements that seem to be more or less in the right direction, I am of the opinion that it is all a case of too little too late. However, I am extremely happy to report, and praise be to God, the public retraction Lane Keister has just posted on his blog declaring that Doug Wilson does indeed deny justification by faith alone. As readers of this blog may recall back in March 2008, and after a year of reviewing and publicly debating Wilson’s defense of the Federal Vision in, Reformed is Not Enough, Lane publicly exonerated Wilson on the central doctrines of the Gospel: justification by faith alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. At that time Lane declared:
Personally, I am willing to believe that Wilson holds to justification by faith alone, although he is too ambiguous on the aliveness of faith and its place in justification. He does hold to imputation.
Well, it looks like on at least one of those doctrines Keister has made an about-face and now declares:
…I feel that I need to retract an earlier statement I made about Douglas Wilson’s theology. I have come to the conclusion that the law/gospel distinction is essential to preserving sola fide. Here’s how this worked in my own mind. If there is no distinction in the text of Scripture between law and gospel (that is, if the difference between law and gospel is only in the application, and not in the text), then all the discussion of faith in the New Testament is both law and gospel, which we’ll call Golawspel. This means that, even in the apostle Paul’s most rigorous separation of faith and works, which occurs in his discussions of justification, Paul is not really claiming that law observance is separate from faith within the structure of justification. For the definition of faith itself must fall prey to the Golawspel muddlement. If faith, therefore, is not opposed to works in justification, then justification is no longer sola fide.
Put more positively, the definition of sola fide has always been dependent on the prior distinction between law and gospel, such that when God calls people to faith, this has nothing to do with law observance of any kind. It is pure gospel. Paul does not speak of faith-faithfulness in justification, but of faith as utterly opposed to works in justification. Who are we to turn around and call faith Golawspel?
This means that every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide. They will, of course, claim the opposite. And they will also claim that denying the distinction of law and gospel in the text of Scripture does not mean that they deny sola fide in justification. This will have to be a difference between them and me. For if there is no difference between law and gospel in the text of Scripture, then faith is no longer what the Reformers said it was: which is opposed to works in justification.
And, in case some are wondering who the signers of the Joint Federal Vision Statement are and who it is openly denying sola fide, they include:
John Barach (false teacher, CREC)
Rich Lusk (false teacher, CREC)
Randy Booth (false teacher, CREC)
Jeff Meyers (false teacher, PCA)
Tim Gallant (false teacher, CREC)
Ralph Smith (false teacher, CREC)
Mark Horne (false teacher, PCA)
Steve Wilkins (false teacher and coward, CREC)
Jim Jordan (lunatic at large)
Peter Leithart (false teacher and phony “godly scholar,” PCA)
Douglas Wilson (pope, CREC)
Needless to say, Lane’s retraction was perhaps not as strong as I would like to see, and there is certainly the question of imputation (although I fail to see how someone can deny sola fide while simultaneously affirming the imputation of Christ’s righteousness which is also by faith alone, but I never try to assume anything when dealing with one of Van Til’s children), it did take a considerable amount of courage and conviction for Lane to publicly reverse himself on Wilson. I also have to think this seismic reversal in Lane’s thinking has come about through his discussions with Scott Clark as he’s been a recent and repeated guest on Scott’s Heidelcast. Of course, any change in mind and recognition of the truth is ultimately the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, regardless of how it occurred, thank you Lane.