Thursday, October 20, 2005

Strict Subscription vs. No Subscription

There is an interesting discussion about strict subscription that should be commented upon. Rev. Meyers shows his opposition to strict subscription by quoting James Jordan. Jordan argues that the system of doctrine in the Westminster has little to do with the details of the Confession.

Well, of course there is a "system" in the Standards, but the question is how detailed that system is. To say that there is a general system though many details in the Standards are not necessarily bound into that system, is quite different from saying that the Standards form a system that is tightly locked down in every detail.


What Rev. Jordan means by detail is 'word' or 'thought'. The system of the Westminster is not to be bound in every word or thought of the Confession. The System is something much broader. Thankfully, Rev. Jordan supplies an example.

For instance, we hear today that the “covenant of works” notion is an integral part of the Westminster Standards’ theology, and that departing from it is a departure from the Standards. Not so. The Westminster documents also use the phrase “covenant of life.” The “system” is that there are two stages of human life, a first stage with Adam and a second stage with the New Adam.


Here Rev. Jordan explains that even though the Westminster speaks of a covenant of works and a covenant of life the "system" of the Westminster only means two stages. The entire idea of covenant is thrown out the window as if it were some extraneous abstract idea that has no meaning.

Which brings us to the idea of strict subscription. Is it still subscription when one does not believe the words of the document are important. It seems to me that ‘Good Faith’ or ‘Loose’ subscription is really just interjecting Neo-orthodoxy into Confessional readings. The debate is between the ‘Confession is the system’ and the ‘the Confession contains the system’. Jordan, the Presbyterian Pastoral Leadership Network, and others argue for the Neo-Orthodox Confessional reading. These men want to be subscribers to the Confession, but only if they can ‘demythologize’ it first. Strip it of its silly old notions and replace them with the new enlightened ones. Once we allow this into our churches (as the PCA already has) then no Scriptural truth is safe.

10 Comments:

Mr. Baggins said...

What an interesting thought about loose subscription (which I abhor!): that it is merely Barthianism applied to the Standards, just as it has been already applied to the Word! That rings true, Lee. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Barthianism? Neo-Orthodox? You have not even tried to offer an argument for these incredible slanders.

May God remember and reward your zeal.

Fred Carpenter said...

Lee, you don't have any arguments; only to see development in it worse light. Your law-gospel CoWorks program, which is an extra-biblical, quasiCatholic inheritance anyway, keeps you from 'hearing these men positively and charitably. Sad. The Bible says it was never by a covenant of works, not any level, upper story, lower or in between; (see Romans 9:31-32) but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.[n] 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.[o] For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. Reformed systematics has placed a 'works righteousness merit system' into their covenant theology (and confessions) that was never there biblically; it was always by faith, not by Adam trying earn it, then failing, and then Christ being used a treasury of merits to earn completely what we could have earned if only we could do it perfectly. The law was never set down that way to trick men to earn salvation, Old or new. hebrews 4:2 says the good news of Old (law = trust and obey = FAITH) is basically same good news of today, but that they lacked FAITH, which, yes, has changed more in the New with the coming of the Spirit, but Faith was always the Way. You impugn the integrity of our Lord if you say he wasn't on the level w/ Rich Young Ruler as the Law, properly understood as WAY of Faith. I'm sorry you don;t have biblical arguments and can only throw around slogans and misrepresent good people who diligently are reading the Story, a unified Bible, and not a collection of abstract propositions to react to as you jettison God's word.
Fred

Mr. Baggins said...

Fred, have you read Kline's defense of the Covenant of Works?

Mr. Baggins said...

In response to Anonymous (why are you anonymous?), we are noting a similarity in thought pattern between the acknowledged way in which Barth reads Scripture, and the way in which a loose subscription works. That doesn't mean that all those who hold to a loose subscription are Neo-Orthodox/Barthian. You are calling us liars. So who needs to watch about slander?

Fred Carpenter said...

Lane, yes, and the Klinean model of CoW is extra-biblical. I agree w/Shepherd/Jordan, et.al, that merit theology is not found in the Bible as God's program of soteriology. So, I can only conclude that you are quasi-Catholic in your interpretation of scripture, sorry but so true...I truly believe you are out of accord with Scripture; do you agree with R C Sproul, "Man's relationship to God in creation was based on works. What adam failed to achieve, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded in achieving. Ultimately the only way one can be justified is by works." (Getting the Gospel Right, p.160)

You agree with him Lane? I assume you apparently do if you're asking me about Kline's views? I think this is a false view of how God relates - and has related - to His people

Fred

Mr. Baggins said...

I think it is instructive how Jesus treats the commandments in His Sermon on the Mount. There, of course, the positive aspects of negative commands are set forth (obeying the seventh commandment means not merely lust, but also protecting the marriage from divorce: those things being not mutually exclusive). In other words, the commandments always have the opposite reverse command implied: if we are not to kill, then we are to preserve life, etc. That is how the Westminster divines (and the Dutch Reformed) interpreted the Ten Commandments.

From the texts given in support of the CoW, it is evident that they interpreted God's command to Adam in the same way. It was not just that Adam was to refrain from taking the fruit of the tree. It was also that he was to trust the Word of God. He was to obey. It makes little difference whether the command was negative or positive: Adam was to obey. And if he obeyed, then the benefits of that covenant (yes, the idea is there even if the terms are not, contra Murray) would accrue to him. Reformed theology has *never* said that we can merit anything in an absolute sense (this is what distinguishes Reformed merit from Catholic merit). Read Turretin on this. However, if God binds Himself to the terms of the covenant, then mankind could merit it covenantally. That is the difference between condign and congruent merit. Congruent merit is the one that is biblical. It is the merit from the pact that God has made. Therefore, your assertion that the CoW is unbiblical is simply not true. I have just demonstrated it from Scripture. It was merit from the pact that Adam was to have earned, just like a parent says to a child, "If you do this job, I'll give you a sweet." Ultimately speaking, if the child were to to the job, he could still not *require* the sweet of his parent, since that job was part of being in the family, and was only his duty. However, if the parent *binds himself* to that for the child, then the child can earn it in that way. it is that merit that we are talking about wrt Adam.

Furthermore, since obedience was required, then disobedience forfeits the benefits of the covenant. Jesus Christ was not disobedient, but obedient. Therefore the pact's benefits accrued to Him. Unless you're going to sit there and tell me that Christ's life meant nothing, and earned nothing. Why did He live a life of 33 years, if he could have been a perfect sacrificial lamb at the age of infancy? This question has never been answered by anyone denying the CoW.

So, when Scripture says, "Do this and live," Christ did it, and He lives. Therein lies our salvation. We are married to Him by means of faith-union. Thus, whatever is His belongs to us by legal right, and whatever is ours belongs to Him. That is why we can posit imputation in justification. It is a legal transfer, not some cold business, but a marriage that has happened. Christ's righteousness is ours, and our sin is His. So, your charge of being unbiblical wrt CoW simply will not stick.

Lee said...

Fred,

I was not setting out in the post to provide a defense of the Covenant of Works, I used the example Jordan provided in his essay. It was meant to be illustrative of how a system unlinked to words operates. However, I can see how one would want a defense of it, so the next post shall be about the Covenant of Works. I look forward to you interaction with the next post.

As for seeing development in its worst light without reason, I believe you are mistaken. I have tried to post several times on how Development Theory does not fit with the facts of history (ie. Saying the doctrine of the Trinity did not exist prior to Nicaea, etc.). But, I think you will agree, this is a hard medium for such a lengthy discussion of historiography. In future I shall strive to show what I believe are shortcoming in the theory. For now it should suffice to say that no final synthesis has ever appeared, no matter what school of Development one follows. Schaff and Nevin expected a combing of Romanism and Protestantism, which has still not happened. Karl Marx expected a downfall of capitalism and the rise of the Proletariat, but that is now on the ash heap of history. And Hegel himself could not usher in the final stage of enlightenment with Philosophy as the great final synthesis. In fact, Hegel changed his own view before his death from his great works of Phenomenology of the Spirit (Mind). His later works showed that he now expected a final synthesis between the Religion and Philosophy. By the way, that too has not happened. Developmentalists are always compartmentalizing the past in ways that do not stand up to scrutiny, and looking for a new stage that never arrives. These are fairly big holes in the theory, and should constitute a reason for me rejecting it. I can get more specific if you wish.

Fred Carpenter said...

Lane, Love & faithfulness is the **Basis** of covenant, not earning and merit; all you have told me is the extra-biblical education you received at Westminster West. And, to employ this dialectic upon our Lord in RYR text, especially when Jesus said 'He loved him" is, as stated, to impugn Him and ##add## to the text. And as HC says, reward comes from GRACE, not merit. Lane, there are 2 groups of people, the righteous and unrighteous, the ocvenant keepers and covenant breakers, those that generally are faithful and those that practice unbelief. Your CoW thesis breaks down on many fronts, and like Dispensationalism, is an unbiblical view. Please exegete RYR passage for me, especially considering the whole text where Peter is assured of salvation and 100fold reward for following Jesus, that which has been said couldn't happen. Law keepers living by faith (which was Jesus's message (with forgiveness as part of it) are Not hypothetical in scripture, which is why you have not read and interpreted texts like, Rom. 2:13, and book of Hebrews, which is not about loss of rewards, but life itself when the bible speaks conditionally, which the Bible does everywhere. But, unfortunately you can't hear it as you have been trained to place the antithesis wrongly, as it is between faith and unbelief, rather than law and gospel, RIGHTLY understood, (Hebrews 4:2ff).
Fred

Lee said...

Fred,

Before I get into the Rich Young Ruler, I would like to point out an apparent contradiction in your thinking. You have said repeatedly that merit is left over Roman Catholicism, but yet you know tell us that the basis of the covenant is obedience, faithfulness, and keeping the demands of the covenant. So, the obvious question is how does your system not include merit?

The Rich Young Ruler from Matthew 19:16-26 is a good passage, but it does not support a Federal Vision position. Verse 17 is important to remember for here Christ tells us that there is no one good, but God. This is the answer Christ has for the RYR when he asks, what must he do to have eternal life. Christ then lists the commandments except commandment 10, which the RYR thinks he keeps, and then Christ exposes his inability to keep Commandment 10, and with it all of the other commandments. The RYR leaves sad and upset because he now knows he will not inherit eternal life, and sees his sinfulness. It is a mistake to end the RYR passage at verse 22 for it is not over. Christ then tells people in verse 24 that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. The disciples’ respond appropriately by saying, “Who then can be saved?” For the disciples have just over heard everything. They stand convicted, they heard Christ say there is none good but God. Christ’s answer is telling, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Thus, man cannot enter heaven, only God’s grace gives entrance to the kingdom.
Now it seems to me that Fred’s contention is that Christ was being straightforward with RYR and thus one could do something to have eternal life, and to assume otherwise is to make Christ disingenuous. However, Christ fairly clearly states in the same passage that there is nothing that can be done to inherit eternal life. He does it by saying God alone is good in verse 17, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle in verse 24, and again in verse 26 by directly saying it is impossible for men, but only for God. The addition of the phrase Jesus "loved him" in Mark 10:21 does not change anything. It is not an unloving thing to expose the sin of one who is unrepentant. So, I fail to see the change this phrase brings.