Friday, January 13, 2006

Shepherd vs. Heidelberg Catechism

Norman Shepherd has posted a brief response to Barry Hofstetter’s online critique of Shepherd’s book A Call of Grace. In this article Shepherd attacks the idea of the imputation of the active obedience of Jesus Christ. In other words, the imputation of Christ’s obedience to the law, his righteousness, to us. His basis is of course denying that a Covenant of Works exists.

I just wanted to briefly respond. Many men better than I have already responded to the basic principles he discusses. However, in this response Rev. Shepherd admits that the Covenant of Works and Active Obedience of Christ may be found in the Westminster, but he denies it is found in the Heidelberg Catechism. It is this claim that I wish to debunk.

Shepherd cites Q.1, 66, and 67 as proof that the Heidelberg knows nothing of a covenant of works, or imputation of obedience to the law. Question one states that we "belong to our faithful savior Jesus Christ, who has fully satisfied for all our sins by his precious blood." Shepherd states that his sacrifice on the cross is the only grounds for the sinner. Q.66 and 67 are discussing the sacraments, and they state that we have "everlasting life for the sake of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross." Shepherd says that adding Christ’s obedience to the law to the cross hides the cross as the only ground of salvation. Shepherd further states that we have two sacraments and they both memorialize the death and resurrection, not the life, of Christ.

Allow me briefly to illustrate the Covenant of Works and Active Obedience of Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism. It is implied in the beginning of the catechism with Q.4 which tells us the Law of God requires perfect obedience, and then again in Q.7 and 9 both tell us that Adam and Eve broke this law, and lost righteousness for their descendants. In case any have missed it the Catechism adds Q.18 where Christ is given to us "for complete redemption and righteousness." Our Lord gives us redemption and righteousness. Q. 21 tells us that God has given “not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. Here we see we are given righteousness by the merits of Christ. Merits of Christ! This is exactly what Shepherd is denying in his article. The Catechism goes on to explain the Apostle’s Creed. When we confess that Christ ‘suffered’ for us what does that mean (Q.37)? It means, "all the time he lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life . . ." Clearly here more than the death of Christ is in view, but his entire life is for us. The same question ends, "He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life."

Then the really clear questions begin. Q.56 asks what we believe concerning the ‘forgiveness of sin?’ The answer, ". . . but God graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never more come into condemnation." Shepherd cannot confess this question and hold to what he wrote in the article or the book. God gave us the righteousness of Christ. Q.60 further explains when it asks, ‘How are you righteous before God?’ The answer concludes, "yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me, if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart." Nothing can state the case any clearer than those two questions. Not only the satisfaction made on the cross, but his righteousness, which is linked to his obedience is imputed to us to be our own. There is not a better description of salvation anywhere, and Shepherd denies it, and claims the Heidelberg Catechism never teaches Christ’s obedience is given to us. He either does not read his Catechism, or does not understand what it says. See also 61, 62, and 84.

Just to show also that he did not even finish reading the Catechism regarding the sacraments. Q. 76 tells us that eating the crucified body and drinking the shed blood of Christ means, "to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ. . ." When we reference what the Catechism has already taught us regarding the suffering of Christ in Q.37 we see that this means his entire life, not just the end of it. So, Shepherd’s claim that no sacrament memorializes his life is also wrong.

Thanks to Barb for directing me to the articles.

9 Comments:

Mark said...

Lee, Zacharias Ursinus simply did not hold to the imputationof the active obedience of Christ. His commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism makes this real clear.

Saying Christ provides us with righteousness is not an argument. All agree with this. Nor does it matter that Christ's whole life is included in his sufferings. It remains Passive Obedience rather than Active.

I affirm the imputation of Christ's Active Obedience but Ursinus did not.

Lee said...

Mark,
Thanks for your comment.
The Catechism did have two authors, and Casper Olevianus did believe in the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ. Olevianus teaches Christ fulfilled the Legal Covenant in our stead.
I believe it is Olevianus's view that won out in the formation of the Catechism. Question 60 plainly states that all Christ's obedience is ours as if we ourselves did it. I have a hard seeing this as refering to anything other than His Active Obedience.

Mr. Baggins said...

Way to go, Lee! As my church reads through the Heidelberg Catechism, I am struck by how strong it is on the active obedience of Christ imputed to the believer. In fact, it is as strong as the Westminster Standards, in some places, stronger. Thanks also for your clarification on the authorship. I had thought that only Ursinus had written it.

Fred Carpenter said...

hey guys, why is it so necessary to go beyond the bible, vis Rom 5:9 on your extra-Bible tw0-fold imputation theory? Let's say your absolutely correct re: interp. of creeds VERSUS the Bible. It just informs me of your inheritance w/Catholicism regarding the 2nd Adam imputational theology; guys, Jesus was not (is not) a Roman Catholic with all these treasury house of active merits creditedto our account. As Shepehrd has noted, some Reformed have inherited the 'works merit' principle respecting Jesus in their doctrine of Justification, in order toi get assurance; if that's what you need to have assurance, by all means believe it, bless you, but at least admit it that you're quasi-Catholic on Justification then. Or as Sproul made clear in an RC-way a few years back: "man's relationship to God in creation was based on works. When Adam failed to achieve, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded in achieving. Ultimately the only way one can be justified is by works." So you and Scott Hahn do have something in common after all (:
Ecumencially yours,
Fred

Andrew McIntyre said...

Quasi-Catholic? Imputation vs. infusion of righteousness is precisely the crux of the issue between Romanism and Reformational soteriology. I believe we have devolved from intelligent conversation on the issue to utter nonsense.

Andrew

Lee said...

Fred,
While I obviously disagree with your contention that the creeds are versus the bible, let me address a few other troubles I had with your comment.
1. It is not wrong to hold to some truths that the Catholic Church holds. You obviously mean it as an insult, but I freely confess many of the same truths as a Romanist would confess. For example, we both hold to Chalcedonian view of Christ and a Nicaean view of the Trinity. Those can be called an inheritance from Rome, and they are not necessarily wrong.
2. I agree with Andy that there is a vast difference between Roman soteriology and a Reformed one.
3. I also think that Shepherd's view, which confuses justification and sanctification or at least blurs the line is closer to a Roman view of salvation than the Covenant of Works and Active Imputation.

I hope to hear your response.
Lee

Fred Carpenter said...

Hi Lee, for number 1 you wrote: 1. "It is not wrong to hold to some truths that the Catholic Church holds. You obviously mean it as an insult, but I freely confess many of the same truths as a Romanist would confess."

What did I mean that you interpreted as an insult Lee?

Here's exactly what I said that you did not answer in any way: "Let's say your absolutely correct re: interp. of creeds VERSUS the Bible. It just informs me of your inheritance w/Catholicism regarding the 2nd Adam imputational theology; guys, Jesus was not (is not) a Roman Catholic with all these treasury house of active merits creditedto our account."

Now I'm being very clear here specific to Jesus, 2nd Adam, and what I believe is flawed soteriology inherited by Reformed from RC...

Now I'm asking you to specifically answer that, and not talk of early creeds, and what was brought forward in developed theology, which you apparently disagree with except when it fits into your CoW paradigm.

I will tell you my belief of this, as I have changed, and used to beleive like you: I believe there's, first, a vast difference, for example between Calvin's doctrine of Justification, and the later post-Calvin Beza/WCF interpetation of two-fold imputation theology (by the way it, "active obedience of Christ merited to the believer", developed over time, which you apparently have been against via Scaff, et.al, and, yet, you fully embrace theological development over time as long as it suits your theological perspective, don't you find that interesting Lee, even ironic??).

if you've ever read and digested Rick Lusk articles of how the 'works-merit' principle was Received within the medieval tradition, you might better understand my perspective, but the problem I see from you is that I don't know that you can hear any other music other than what you sing in the RCUS, where you've walled yourself off via strict subscription and anethamas to others in your pure sytematic theology perspective. Is this insulting? I don't want it to be, but it is the truth as I see it.

But, the old paradigm of works=merit legalist principle assigned to Christ, as in a kind of Plan B that was hauled in to earn (employer-employee-like) and therefore achieve what Adam A failed to earn or achieve is a flawed soterioloy friend, and this is what I specifically meant that HAS THAT IN COMMOM WITH RC theology.

So, yes, I see the soteriology of Reformed and RC flawed in respect to Jesus treasury house of legalistic merits earned/credited to our account, as opposed to GRace and Faith of Christ that was truly sinless, and ABSULUTELY worthy as our Savior, etc...but not as a Covenant of Works Plan B, similar to Dipensationalism that we all would agree is not biblical, which is why I agreed w/Dan Fuller years ago, way before Shepherd, that the Bible does not teach the law, the revelatory law rightly understood, as teaching a principle of legalism only to be saved by JFA; this is a middle (false) step injected into Roman/Evangelical/Reformed soteriology that will eventually be 'reformed' someday Lee, with or without the tiny RCUS's permission.

For example, reformed & evangelicals both misread RYR passage in gospels & Romans 2:13 passages as hypothetical only; this is flawed and NOT TRUE Of WGHAT Paul and JESUS were saying!! and sadly impugning the integrity of ur Lord on top of it, even though some, Like Nelson Kloosterman of MARS seminary in the article I sent you Lee Disagrees with CoW perspective...this is REFORMed way to go back to the text with alkl the bible, like Kloosterman, and read & think afresh friend.

So, when I say to you Creeds over against Scripture, Scripture always triumphs in the end, but I beleive it abckwards in rCUS... I'm truly sorry you feel insulted and I apologize if that is the way I came across, but I feel your hands are tied completely Lee even if you begin to see things defferently.

Back to 2fold imputation; rather than scholastic post Calvin Beza and WCF & compnay interpretation, I beleive Romans 5:9 clearly expresses forgiveness by his passion/death. However if someone wants to affirm more, GREAT, but it is not necessary especially to bring the CoW baggage, which, as I've expressed is not biblical. Meditate on some of Rich Lusk articles on merit, and you will at least get that perspective. Read Mark Horne's articles on RYR/Romans 2:13 passages, as I beleive you read those with Luther's glasses on, e.g., HC says 'law as misery, misery," Bible says law is happiness, Ps 1.

You are a faithfful law keeper or you're in the otehr group Romans 2 mentions.

I know which group you're in Lee and it is not 1) Hypothetical, 2) Lost group.

Sincerely in Christ,
Fred

Re: 2 comment Lee, no, there's striking similarity between Rome's and Reformed's view of Christ earning our salvation in a works-merit principle, which is your Covenant of Wroks which I beleive is unbiblical for the reasons I have given above. Can we stick to the point at hand and take specific Bible pasages that I have rasied to debate this this so-called CoW that I beleive was a false imposition placed upon the Scriptures for a variety of reasons, one probably was for assurance.

Fred Carpenter said...

Hi Lee, for number 1 you wrote:

1. "It is not wrong to hold to some truths that the Catholic Church holds. You obviously mean it as an insult, but I freely confess many of the same truths as a Romanist would confess."

What did I mean that you interpreted as an insult Lee?

Here's exactly what I said that you did not answer in any way: "Let's say your absolutely correct re: interp. of creeds VERSUS the Bible. It just informs me of your inheritance w/Catholicism regarding the 2nd Adam imputational theology; guys, Jesus was not (is not) a Roman Catholic with all these treasury house of active merits creditedto our account."

Now I'm being very clear here specific to Jesus, 2nd Adam, and what I believe is flawed soteriology inherited by Reformed from RC...

Now I'm asking you to specifically answer that, and not talk of early creeds, and what was brought forward in developed theology, which you apparently disagree with except when it fits into your CoW paradigm.

I will tell you my belief of this, as I have changed, and used to beleive like you: I believe there's, first, a vast difference, for example between Calvin's doctrine of Justification, and the later post-Calvin Beza/WCF interpetation of two-fold imputation theology (by the way it, "active obedience of Christ merited to the believer", developed over time, which you apparently have been against via Scaff, et.al, and, yet, you fully embrace theological development over time as long as it suits your theological perspective, don't you find that interesting Lee, even ironic??).

if you've ever read and digested Rick Lusk articles of how the 'works-merit' principle was Received within the medieval tradition, you might better understand my perspective, but the problem I see from you is that I don't know that you can hear any other music other than what you sing in the RCUS, where you've walled yourself off via strict subscription and anethamas to others in your pure sytematic theology perspective. Is this insulting? I don't want it to be, but it is the truth as I see it.

But, the old paradigm of works=merit legalist principle assigned to Christ, as in a kind of Plan B that was hauled in to earn (employer-employee-like) and therefore achieve what Adam A failed to earn or achieve is a flawed soterioloy friend, and this is what I specifically meant that HAS THAT IN COMMOM WITH RC theology.

So, yes, I see the soteriology of Reformed and RC flawed in respect to Jesus treasury house of legalistic merits earned/credited to our account, as opposed to GRace and Faith of Christ that was truly sinless, and ABSULUTELY worthy as our Savior, etc...but not as a Covenant of Works Plan B, similar to Dipensationalism that we all would agree is not biblical, which is why I agreed w/Dan Fuller years ago, way before Shepherd, that the Bible does not teach the law, the revelatory law rightly understood, as teaching a principle of legalism only to be saved by JFA; this is a middle (false) step injected into Roman/Evangelical/Reformed soteriology that will eventually be 'reformed' someday Lee, with or without the tiny RCUS's permission.

For example, reformed & evangelicals both misread RYR passage in gospels & Romans 2:13 passages as hypothetical only; this is flawed and NOT TRUE Of WGHAT Paul and JESUS were saying!! and sadly impugning the integrity of ur Lord on top of it, even though some, Like Nelson Kloosterman of MARS seminary in the article I sent you Lee Disagrees with CoW perspective...this is REFORMed way to go back to the text with alkl the bible, like Kloosterman, and read & think afresh friend.

So, when I say to you Creeds over against Scripture, Scripture always triumphs in the end, but I beleive it abckwards in rCUS... I'm truly sorry you feel insulted and I apologize if that is the way I came across, but I feel your hands are tied completely Lee even if you begin to see things defferently.

Back to 2fold imputation; rather than scholastic post Calvin Beza and WCF & compnay interpretation, I beleive Romans 5:9 clearly expresses forgiveness by his passion/death. However if someone wants to affirm more, GREAT, but it is not necessary especially to bring the CoW baggage, which, as I've expressed is not biblical. Meditate on some of Rich Lusk articles on merit, and you will at least get that perspective. Read Mark Horne's articles on RYR/Romans 2:13 passages, as I beleive you read those with Luther's glasses on, e.g., HC says 'law as misery, misery," Bible says law is happiness, Ps 1.

You are a faithfful law keeper or you're in the otehr group Romans 2 mentions.

I know which group you're in Lee and it is not 1) Hypothetical, 2) Lost group.

Sincerely in Christ,
Fred

Re: 2 comment Lee, no, there's striking similarity between Rome's and Reformed's view of Christ earning our salvation in a works-merit principle, which is your Covenant of Wroks which I beleive is unbiblical for the reasons I have given above. Can we stick to the point at hand and take specific Bible pasages that I have rasied to debate this this so-called CoW that I beleive was a false imposition placed upon the Scriptures for a variety of reasons, one probably was for assurance.

1:43 PM

Lee said...

Thanks for the response, Fred. I shall try to deal with your questions. First, I would like to briefly answer the idea that the Covenant of Works developed over time. I do not believe that can be shown. You yourself acknowledge that many Medieval Theologians held to a Covenant of Works. Anselm is fairly clear about it. While finding specifics in the Early Church Fathers is difficult because they seldom sat down and worked out comprehensive theologies as men like Calvin were able to do, I do believe that the Covenant of Works can be seen in many Early Father’s writings often spoken of as a covenant or testament of ‘bondage.’ Augustine’s Anti-Pelagian writings carry a clear teaching that the law brings death until we are redeemed by the Mediator. Chrysostom’s commentary on the Galatians makes his belief in two covenants plain and apparent. And even Leo the Great seems firm on his conviction of two covenants with the ‘obedience’ of Christ making us reborn. Leo actually uses the legal term ‘imputation’ in one of his letters to the monks of Palestine. While today we have a more systematic presentation of the Covenant of Works, and have nailed down a title for it, I do believe that men in the early church believed such things. Therefore, I do not believe this doctrine developed through the ages.

On to the main point of your questions. Does the Bible teach the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to us? Does the Bible teach a Covenant of Works that no man can fulfill, but Christ does on our behalf? You reference Romans 2:13 that teaches us it is not the hearers of the law that are justified, but only the doers. I am not sure that I would say this verse is hypothetical, but I do believe that Paul continues on to prove that ‘no one is righteous, not even one’ (3:10), and that no ‘human will be justified in his sight.’ (3:20, Ps. 143:2, and Gal.2:16). The works of the law bring only failure and death to all save Jesus who was perfect. This leads us to Paul’s point in 5:19 that we are made righteous by the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ. Here Christ and Adam are set side by side as leaders of two covenants (see also I Cor. 15 and Gal. 4:24). One of works under Adam that brings death, and the other under Christ brings life because of his life, death, and obedience which makes us righteous. Just as Adam made us sinners, Christ makes us righteous. This can be nothing but imputation. This point is echoed in Rom. 10:3, 2 Cor. 5:21, Phil. 3:9. Also if one is going to deny the imputation of active obedience of Christ they must deal with the Sermon on the Mount, especially verse 6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

As for the Rich Young Ruler, I believe one could have a long response. I believe the context is key for understanding. Christ starts by telling the RYR that only God is good (Mark 10:18). I do believe Jesus is drawing the man’s attention to the fact that no one lives up to the law, only God is perfect. Kloosterman is very weak on this point in the article you sent me. Also if Jesus is offering the RYR a path to salvation that is based on his law keeping, then why the addition of selling all of his stuff? It is not commanded in the OT, and Peter specifically denies it is necessary in Acts 5. Yet, Christ makes it a condition of salvation for the RYR. Kloosterman tries to argue that this was only an invitation to become a disciple, the 13th I suppose, but then acts as if not following was a loss of salvation. Jesus also then discusses how hard it is for the rich to enter heaven, and states that with man entering heaven is impossible, but with God it is.

I welcome more explanation from you on this subject for I currently do not see how Kloosterman and others can hold the RYR is a ‘law is gospel’ passage.