Monday, May 01, 2006

Within the Bounds

Joseph Minich has written a paper called Within the Bounds of Orthodoxy. It is a paper about the current controversy regarding the Federal Vision. It has been endorsed by John Frame and Steve Wilkins and commented upon favorably by many other bloggers both pastors and laymen.

It is an interesting paper. It seeks to establish the faithfulness of the Federal Vision to both the historic Reformed positions and to the Bible. Although it concentrates on showing the Federal Vision to be a historically held position. The paper has an abundance of quotes and must be admired for its scholarship and research. Thus in evaluating this plea we must carefully look at the historical record he provides.

I do believe that a few glaring historical quotations have been taken out of context and twisted to fit a Federal Vision view point when what they really do the opposite. For example, Mr. Minich quotes Turretin as supporting the view that Jesus offers the Rich Young Ruler the gospel. First no one denies that Jesus offered the gospel, the difference comes in whether or not the offer of obedience to the law was the gospel or showing him the need for the gospel. Turretin says Rich Young Ruler must follow Christ, which is not the same as saying the ‘Law is Gospel and Gospel is the Law’ as Steve Schissel put it.
Minich next quotes Ursinus as saying, “Good works are necessary to salvation”, which he does say on page 485 of his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. But the Federal Vision relates good works not to salvation in general, but justification specifically. The same paragraph quoted by Minich of Ursinus says, "To say that good works are necessary in them that are to be justified, is to speak ambiguously, because it may be so understood as if they were required before justification, and so become a cause of justification." This is a fairly harsh condemnation of the language used by many Federal Vision men as well as an outright rejection that good works are a cause or ground of justification in anyway. Salvation and justification are not necessarily interchangeable and Mr. Minich has missed that point.

In discussing the Covenant of Grace and the issue of conditions, Mr. Minich argues that the Federal Vision does not claim man must fulfill conditions in anyway. To show the Federal Vision asserts Christ kept the conditions for us he turns to Rev. Rich Lusk:

He [Lusk] says further, "Any and all covenant conditions must be understood within this wider framework of union with Christ, the One who has already kept the covenant in full on our behalf, and who shares that covenant keeping (as both status and life) with us. All covenant conditions are intrinsic to our union with Christ, not extrinsic (as though they had to be met from outside of union with Christ). The conditions are not… ‘Do this and live.’"

Yet the fact that one can be in Christ and then fall out of Christ, and whether or not that implies conditions intrinsic to our union with Christ is not discussed at all. Thus, the major issue in the debate about conditions is artfully avoided.

When dealing with the objection that the Federal Vision makes justification a process with an initial justification and a final justification, Minich states that having a beginning and an end does not make something a process. This may very well be true, but Minich fails to deal with the most significant objection, and evidence that the Federal Vision makes justification a process. All advocates of the Federal Vision make clear that one can loss his status in Christ. He can be initially justified, but may not be finally justified. Thus, not only is there a beginning and an end, but also an ability to have started, but not finish. It is hard to deny the claims of a process when that element is considered. This fact should also be remembered when evaluating his quotes from old reformers. If they did not mean one could start and then not finish, they do not support the Federal Vision view of justification. When the paper does get around to the subject of apostasy it rejects the idea that one stays in the covenant by work. The paper does quote the Auburn Ave. Church by saying, "Those elect unto eternal salvation are always distinguished by their perseverance in faith and obedience by the grace of God." Yet, the fail to see this as work. What that quote reveals is that the difference between those who have only an initial justification and those who have both an initial and final is perseverance in faith and obedience. In fact, the same statement goes on to say that those who are not ordained to eternal life have all the benefits of Christ crucified except the gift of perseverance. The paper does not attempt to reconcile the idea of persevering obedient faithfulness being the sole difference between apostates and elect with the idea that remaining in the covenant is not of works.

When addressing the denial of imputation of the active obedience of Christ, Minich states that all affirm the doctrine. He specifically lists James Jordan as affirming the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. One cannot find such support when reading Dr. Jordan. He states,

But merit theology often assumes that Jesus’ earthly works and merits are somehow given to us, and there is no foundation for this notion. It is, in fact, hard to comprehend what is meant by it. . . . What we receive is not his earthly life and His death, but His death and His glorified life. What we receive is not Jesus’ merits, but His maturity (Federal Vision. Pg. 194-195).

Minich does admit that the model of imputation is not the same with many favoring conjoining imputation with union with Christ. Mr. Minich fails to recognize that implantation or participationism is different from imputation. The mode is important in this discussion.

The paper concludes unhappily with a slap at American Presbyterianism pointing out that the Federal Vision controversy does not rage in Europe. The sad state of European Christianity should not be the standard to which we measure anything. Yet, later in that same paragraph Mr. Minich contradicts his own thesis by showing the Continental tradition does have conflicts about the Federal Vision by showing that both Norman Shepherd (Christian Reformed Church) and David Englesma (Protestant Reformed Church) are on opposite sides of the Federal Vision debate. He also argues for the Mercersburg duo of Schaff and Nevin, but fails to point out that their theology created the United Churches of Christ, hardly a Reformed entity at all. I will admit the Federal Vision is a much bigger deal in the American Presbyterian Churches. I could go on to argue for the superiority of the Three Forms of Unity, but that would cause needless anguish. The paper then goes on to state that the critics of the Federal Vision have never once accurately represented the Federal Vision. His proof? When critical statements come out the condemned speak out against it. Hardly convincing proof. Next, he claims that the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives are not movements, but rather they are "impulses". The distinction between the two is not elaborated. He then pleads for better communication and more open understanding as well as letting biblical theology be the guide and allow the ‘dynamic’ nature of language and words their rightful place.

In the end this paper designed to show the Federal Vision as within the bounds of orthodoxy is not a fair treatment of the debate at all. It should not surprise us that Federal Vision men were willing to so quickly endorse it. I can wholeheartedly endorse the need for further and better communication. Yet, the communication cannot simply be denying that critics understand the Federal Vision or its implications. Maybe the do, maybe they don’t, but denials do not make it so. The hard consequences of the Federal Vision thought must be laid bare on the table, which this essay avoids doing in every circumstance. It is good that they deny justification is a process, but is the result of all aspects of their thought that justification is a process. One does not have to outright affirm a process in justification to be teaching a process in justification. I hope Mr. Minich will consider that fact in any future writings.


Justin Donathan said...

I would prefer you not link my sight without telling me if you are doing so in the context of an article that seeks to condemn my position. Also, if you are going to talk about someone misrepresenting others you have to be especially cautious. You say that Nevin and Schaff's theology "created the United Churches of Christ." Their are quite a few assumptions there. Nevin and Schaff were in a denomination that eventually became the modern day United Churches of Christ. Does that mean that their theology created it? Did Luther's theolgy create the the ELCA, or Calvin or Knox's create the PCUSA? The contemporary Churches of Christ theology looks nothing like Nevin or Schaff's theology. So in order to get from theirs to what the church has now you have to actually show that what they taught somehow directly led to what happened which I would say would be significantly more difficult than just a bald assertion. I don't mean to be rude or patronizing, I'm just saying that if you are going to critique you have to make sure you don't do what you are critiquing.

Andrew Duggan said...


You do realize that when you publish something on your site, you are by that very act inviting others to link to it. Linking is the very foundation of the nature of the World Wide Web, there is a lot of information available on-line to explain that to you. Try the World Wide Web Consortium or a search engine like Google.

Technically speaking it's not even your site. It might be your blog, but the site is Lee linked to your blog which is hosted on the Blogspot site, which by the way hosts his blog as well.

Linking to the original site (or blog in the case) on which one might be commenting on one's blog, is the right thing to do, since it allows those reading the criticism to read the entire original work. In short, linking is correct. You should be thankful that Lee's blog is not not a popular as SlashDot.

If you are too sensitive to take criticism on your remarks made in the most public forum yet known to man (the World Wide Web), perhaps you should refrain in making them in the first place.

Lee spends the overwhelming bulk of his post dealing with Minich, the author of the article on which he is commenting. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Lee's post wasn't about you. You did remark on the same article , which is what Lee was pointing out. Are you ashamed of it?

I wonder at the seriousness of your entire comment considering that the link between Nevin, Schaff and their Mercersburg Theology and the UCC is well established. Try this Google search and review some of the results. You might even try the UCC's website, since they claim Nevin and Schaff. Both Calvin's and Knox's theology were instrumental in the original formation of the PCUSA in 1788, and the Presbyteries and Synods (Philadelphia and New York) that preceded it, even though there were centuries between Calvin and Knox and formation of the PCUSA. The PCUSA has now ceased to be Calvinist let alone Christian, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't both when it started. FWIW, there was less than one century intervening the death of Schaff and the formation of the UCC.

Finally you might not have meant to be either rude or patronizing, but succeeded in being both.

Andrew Duggan said...


In my previous comment, that first sentence should have been punctuated with a question mark, instead of a period and started as “Do you...”.


Ironically, my initial reaction to Lee's linking of Justin's post was also negative, since it didn't include a warning against of the grotesque violation of the second commandment. In reality the idol is nothing, and worth even less, and Lee certainly didn't commend it. I don't think merely linking to something could or should be construed as commendation of it. However, in an attempt to be clear I really don't think that those kinds of warnings are necessary, since one is exposed to that kind of sin by walking by a Romanist church. It is not that which goes into a man which defiles him, but that which proceeds from his own heart. (cf Matt 15:11,18)

Considering the name of Justin's blog is logos (cf John 1:1-5) and the figure includes what looks like the Greek letters alpha and omega (cf Revelation 1:8) it seems to me that the picture is supposed to be a depiction of Christ, which is clearly forbidden in the second commandment. Just what part of "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of any thing ..." (Exodus 20:4) is unclear?

In fairness to Justin, if it is not the case that his featured picture is supposed to depict Christ, then I suppose it's no harm no foul. Unless Justin is the original artist of the image, there remains the issue that he has provided no attribution for it that I could find. Even if the image is in the public domain, I think it could be argued that the ninth and tenth commandments requires proper attribution of the work. It further could be argued that the href in the anchor tag does not constitute proper attribution as that is not visible to the average visitor.


In only bring this up because Justin decided to lecture you on the subject of the right way to engage in Internet debate.

Mark said...

Can you explain to me how Justin violates the 2nd Command?

Here it is in an English translation:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Andrew Duggan said...

First, we must hear from Justin to see if he would like to take the out and say the image in the upper left of his blog is not a depiction of Christ, so called. If it's not then as I said previously, in fairness to Justin, it's no harm no foul.

To more directly answer your question, I will simply quote a famous 17th century assembly. In the larger of the two catechisms it produced, they, in Q109, answer your question quite well.

The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

Emphasis (and spelling modernization) mine.

In case anyone is still wondering the assembly to which I am referring is the Westminster Assembly.

Since neither the maker or user of said image can attest to the accuracy of the image, I further submit that the use of the image may also be a violation of the ninth commandment. I'll give you a hint here, it's twofold, one for each nature of the person of Jesus Christ.

Are we both talking about the same thing? My original remarks were regarding the image of the man with both full body and head halos, marked with what appears to me as an alpha and omega.

For good measure, here is a more heinous example.

Obviously these links are only valid at the time I am writing this.

Lee said...

I apologize for not informing you of my link. While, I am not sure of the proper protocol for such things, I notice that you do have a 'links to this post' section, and I should have made use of it. In my defense, I am quite ignorant of 'pinging' or whatever it is called, and I confess to be slightly intimidated by it. I should get my wife to teach me. Again, please accept my apologies on not doing so.
As for Nevin and Schaff and the UCC, I do believe their theology created the UCC. It is not that their theology is the theology of the UCC, but it is Schaff's theory of theological developement, Nevin's view of creeds, and their view on ecumenism that led to the merger that created the E&R and later the UCC. As Mr. Duggan rightly pointed out this is something that the UCC claims for themselves, so I did not think I was breaking new ground. If you so desire, I can produce the necessary proof via quotes.

Justin Donathan said...

Lee, thanks for being cool about it. Yeah, the link thing wasn't a big deal, I just wished I had known, but honestly it's no big deal, thanks. As far as the Nevin and Schaff stuff I don't know. I recently read Hart's biography of Nevin and I just can't see how his theology would lead to what the UCC has now. I know they claim him, but that doesn't mean he would claim them if he were alive. Maybe you're right but I tend to think they dumped his theology a long time ago. Anyway, thanks for the comment.

Justin Donathan said...

I don't really know what to say, other than yes, those are artistic representations of Jesus. I don't understand why, on your understanding of the commandment all pictures of everything aren't forbidden. It would seem that either a)all images of everything are completely forbidden, or b) making images to worship, or worshipping images is forbidden. I would take the latter view. I don't worship the images. I don't think anyone does. I find them artistically beautiful. And if I am in disagreement with westminster on that, i'm okay with that. I disagree with them on a few things here and there. Most reformed people do. As you know they have even changed a few bits.

As far as the linking goes, i'm sorry it upset you so much. I was just saying what i "preferred" not making a demand. Obviously Lee can link anything he wants, but as he mentioned, I was just saying that I prefer the linking system that is on my posts. It's not a huge deal either way.

I don't know what to say about the image ownership thing. It is public domain. I don't see how I am bearing false witness or covetting. (or stealing in case the 8th is a concern as well.) I don't understand your zealousness to find new and creative ways in which I am a sinner. For the record I break God's law everyday and I have to repent. So if you are trying to show that I am a sinner, I confess. But as far as the issue goes I don't think I am doing anything wrong in having those pictures up and it is something I have spent a decent bit of time thinking/reading about.

Andrew Duggan said...


Briefly, the 9th commandment issue relates to your initial protection of your blog (in your original comment to Lee about linking). Since its your blog, you are making an explicit claim of authorship over the content, unless something is otherwise attributed to another. You might consult the Westminster Larger Catechism regarding the ninth commandment for a better understanding.

You might want to read Romans 7 and see what Paul the Apostle says about the 10th commandment.

I am not surprised that you disagree with Westminster regarding the second commandment, but I am amused by your use of the tired old "why doesn't that make all images wrong?" argument. You will notice Westminster does not say the second commandment forbids all images, and neither do I. Have you read any Puritans on the second commandment? Since you disagree with Westminster about images of Christ (so called), I wonder what else you might disagree with them about? Justification maybe?

If you're going to lecture others on their shortcomings (see your first comment to Lee's post) you might first examine the situation to see if a) you are right and b) if you have any moral authority. You chided Lee (or so it seemed to me) for not informing you prior to linking to your posting, while at the same time you have made use of others' works without attribution, and using "img" tags pulling directly from other sites. So, unless you are the author/artist of those works, there is a problem, if the works are in the public domain, its called plagiarism.

So let me see if I understand, its OK for you to link any where you want to and make use of anything you fee like (even without attribution) but it's not OK for anyone to link to you without at least telling you first. Nice!

Hey, when it comes to sin, I am the worst of them all. Only on account of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ in keeping the moral law on my behalf (imputed to me and received only by grace through faith (which is itself the gift of God), and his sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin, by God's free grace have I been declared righteous in His sight. There is nothing I can or do contribute to it, its 100% totally God's free gift through Jesus Christ, my Lord.

Seriously, I am sure that work for work you are far more righteous than I. I am sure that would still be true if I had the same luxury as you in thinking that the using/displaying pictures of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (so called) is not sinful.

I fear that you whittle away at God's law so that in the end, you think you are able to keep it, at least some of the time. That way, at the day of Judgment you will have enough (hopefully) good works to present to Christ for a "final" declaration of "Righteous". I hope that is not what you are doing, since it will lead to disaster. Anyone who does that will have a very different experience on the day of Judgment than what he is expecting.

Yes, yes, I know that any F.V. proponent will vehemently deny that is what F.V. teaches, and claim that I am misrepresenting it. I am sure that I am not nearly smart enough to understand the truth of the F.V. Obviously anyone with any real biblical understanding/wisdom would embrace the F.V., All who opposes it are mean-spirited, narrow-minded ignorant fools – right? A fool I am, but one that trusts solely on Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

Justin Donathan said...

Andrew, I neither think nor have said that you don't trust Christ alone. You have said that I most likely don't. You spent a few paragraphs talking about how I am probably trying to earn my righteousness, and then concluded by saying that I probably think you are a fool. Why? I don't know you but you say you trust Christ alone and Grace alone and I believe you, I have no reason not to. I may disagree with you about stuff but that doesn't mean I think you are dumb or or not really trusting Christ.

On the images issue, putting aside what others have said for a moment, I don't see how I can look at the text of the second commandment and not have to choose between one of the two options I put forward. The argument may be old but it still makes sense to me.

Finally, what I asked of Lee was that if he was going to link an article from my blog that has a "link this post" link at the bottom, in the context of an article that was condemning the position I support, I prefer to know. He doesn't have to. I know that. I just made known to a brother in Christ my preference. And yes, I did call it my blog. Yes there are images that I didn't draw. It is not plagiarism to put a picture on a blog and then refer to it as your blog in an informal setting, like the comment section of another person's blog. Most of my pictures are linked to a photobucket or flickr site where I store my pictures, not someone else's website anyway. My point was that it seems to be stretching to say that if you have a blog, and it has a public domain picture on it that isn't explicityly credited and then you are talking to some folk in a comment section of a blog and you refer to it as your blog you have plagiarized. Would you really want everyone to always have to say, the blogspot blog page that I use all the time? I feel a little like you are looking for things to point out that I am doing wrong.

Sorry if I seemed chiding. I didn't mean to. I said that initially. Lee did not seem terribly offended, and we shared courteous discourse. You have lambasted my character, and said that I am probably not a real Christian but just someone trying to be good enough to earn their way into heaven, even though all we were talking about was views of the second commandment, whether Nevin and Schaff's theology created the present UCC and whether me expressing my preference about being linked unwittingly in articles opposing my position was valid. For the record, I relent. Anyone can link my post with or without telling me. I still prefer to know, but that is other people's business.

I have to say I am really frustrated by the way you have talked to me and the assumptions you have made about me and what I think about you. I don't know you, and you don't know me. We are both real people who, if we had met in a church service or almost any other setting probably would have gotten along just fine and talked to each other in a much more respectful way. I am sorry for anything I have said that was rude, and for using the anonymity of the internet to feel free to say things in a more harsh way than necessary.

Andrew Duggan said...


I bear you no ill will. I only responded as I did based solely on my conclusion that you prefer and enjoy aggressive Internet debate. I drew that conclusion only by the tone I perceived in your original comment, espeically the first two and last two sentences. I read Lee pretty regularly, and in my opinion he is always cautious and careful in what he writes, and I saw no less care in the posting on which we are commenting. (Would that it were I was commenting on his posting.)

Hopefully in somewhat a more civil tone, I would like point out that I used the words fear and hope in my last comment specifically because, as you rightly point out, I don't know you, and you don't know me. My profession of faith was not included to imply that you don't have one, but so that you would know me a little better and what I do believe.

Actually until your immediately prior comment, I had no I idea whether or not you are a F.V proponent and/or considered me to be a fool or not. I did imply that various proponents of the F.V. would think me a fool (if they knew of me) (about that one point they would be right - I guess they can't be wrong about everything (humor)), but until you indicated that included you, I didn't know you were a F.V. proponent. Did you mean imply that? Perhaps I should read more of your blog, rather than the one posting.

If you are a F.V. proponent, I would urge you to consider well what you might say if asked on the day of judgment about your works and their place in your standing before God. I phrase the question in that way, to hopefully get you to think about where (and in whom) your trust really is.

This is a very serious matter, the most important and serious a matter can be. I certainly cannot read your heart, only God can, and he knows it better than you do yourself. Are you a christian? I don't know for sure, because I cannot read your heart, I can only go by what you say.

One thing I can say is that the doctrines taught by F.V. are inconsistant with Christianity. Perhaps, like a member of the church of Rome one who by the grace of God, might be inconsistant enough to be a Romanist and a christian, so to, might one hold to the F.V. doctrine of justification, and still be a christian, but it's not the norm and should be a matter for church discipline.


Joseph Minich said...

Thankyou Mr. Lee for your charitable interaction with my essay. I hope these comments will clarify for you where I am was coming from…with respect to your specific criticisms.
As a first note of clarification, the paper did not attempt to offer biblical warrant for the FV, but simply to establish it as within the bounds of broad Reformation orthodoxy. The biblical issue can be discussed only when misunderstanding is cleared away. (The attempt of my essay, failed or not)

I think you have misunderstood my use of Turretin. You are correct to point out that Turretin would NEVER say that “law is gospel and gospel is law.” I never even began to imply this. However, the passage is often taken as the “law” equaling Christ’s command to follow, and the “gospel” being relevant when he sees his sin and insufficiency. Indeed, even you make this distinction. However, Turretin does not. He seems to take the command to “follow” as something more than that which drives the young man to dependence. It has a “positive” function in the offer of the gospel, not just a “condemning” function. And, one cannot say that the young ruler “received” the gospel without “following” according to Turretin. This does not mean there is no distinction in GL. It means that various Reformed individuals have variously formulated the distinction. I myself support a stronger distinction than is found in the FV. Indeed, I take major exception to Sclissel’s quoted language, but I don’t think that best represents the broad contours of FV or the dynamicity of the Reformed tradition on this issue.
As for my Ursinus quote, I think the reader should look at the larger context, available from “” Notice that Ursinus does not say that to speak such a way is wrong, but that it is dangerously ambiguous. He is very willing, in the end (in the entire section) to speak of good works as a “condition” so long as we distinguish what we mean by “condition.” He concludes, “that without which no-one can be saved is properly said to be a condtion.” (Justification is included in the context) Here again, no FV person speaks of works as the grounds or “condition” of justification in the sense condemned by Ursinus. They speak of “conditionality” in the same way we find in Ursinus, Turretin, Picet, and Owen. In fact, they have specifically pointed to these quotes and said “Hey! That’s what I mean!” I think we need to take them at their work on this. Salvation and justification are not interchangable in every sense, but they are in Ursinus’ discussion here. (He explicitly mentions both in context)
I never said that for FV’ers, conditions don’t function in any way in the New Covenant…only that such “conditionality” was qualified by their doctrine ofunion with Christ. They must be “understood” as functioning within Christ…not as meritorious achievements. Furthermore, I think you are incorrect that I did not consider the issue of “falling in/out” of union with Christ. In fact, this was THE hardest issue for me to get my head around, and I struggled with it tremendously when considering these gentlement. Without beating a dead horse here, I recomment re-reading the typescript of the lecture I gave at the end of my paper. That was precisely the question I addressed in the lecture….and I think if we understand their categories, this is not an issue of orthodoxy or no.
Your treatment of my language regarding the issue of “process” I think misses the point as well. I feel like I was quite clear, that for FV, initial and final justification are not two separate events, but two aspects of a single event. (In the objections section) As for the hangup over the “loss of status” issue, I would strongly recommend…once again…re-reading my conclusion. Their conception of how the reprobate “possesses” justification is not parralel to how you are using “justification” here. This is a bit of equivocation. As I make very clear, it is not as though God has personally pronounced someone “righteous” and then says “Oh…I changed my mind.” Briefly, reprobates “possess” all blessings in Christ, but that does not mean that they choose to enjoy them. Only the elect do this. Only they enjoy union with Christ. I could elaborate how this answers your objection, but it would take a paper about the length of well…my paper. (Grin)

I think you have misrepresented a tad…my view of the AAPC church summary statement. They are clear the difference between elect and reprobate is not just the “duration of belief.” Something distinguishes them at the fount of baptism…even if we don’t understand it. The reason that the “paper does not attempt to reconcile the idea of persevering obedient fiathfulness being the sole difference between apostates and elect with the idea that remaining in the covenant is not of works” is because no-one in the FV teaches that the “sole difference” is is persevering obedient faithfulness. I spent at least three or four pages and many quotes of my paper establishing precisely this distinction.
As the issue of “Active obedience,” I was very clear that they do not “paint the picture” so to speak in the way that we often do. However, neither did Luther! I have a bachelor’s thesis on this topic if you would like to read it. (Just email me) Jordan affirms everything that the imputation of active obedience attempts to affirm. He does not deny that redemption is more than just forgiveness…but that we need establishment in righteousness. (what active obedience attempts to give) The squabble is over how to formulate this. Is it the “amalgamation of good deeds that result in the meritorious pronouncement of God upon Christ’s performance” that constitutes the “active obedience” that we need for redemption? Or is it union with Christ…the status of Christ based upon His “entering into eschatological life.” My paper also spent much time clarifying this with marriage analogies etc. As for lumping Jordan or any with “participationist” categories, I think this is a dreadful misinterpretation. Luther used marital and union images to speak of justification more than anything else. And he was certainly no “participationist.” And even if Jordan was, it is extremely clear that he does not REDUCE justification to participation.
My point about the controversy not raging in Europe is not to use the “sad state of Uropean Christianity” as a measuring standing of anything…but only to point out how theological categories have developed differently. It was to point out that this controversy seems distinctively American. (In the present time) Furthermore, I don’t think it is a “contradiction” to say that these things reflect tensions that existed in Continental Reformed theology. There are various reasons for this. The “conflicts” in Continental Reformed theology were over theological substance…but usually each side understood what one another was saying. The problem in America is that we cannot even get past discussions of definition. We are incredibly technical, and insist on particular language often-times. Hence, my argument (most evident in a particular footnote) is that Continental discussions provided frameworks of discussion/thought that have become abused most particularly in an American context. Analogously, republical ideology has a continental background, but is the source of particularly bitter disputes on the American scene. In other words, theological discussion, at present, looks little different from the American Congress.
This discussion has already said about what I would say regarding Schaff/Nevin.
The movement/impulse distinction I simply found to be self-evident. A movement is an organized institutionally functioning set of ideas etc. An “impulse” is something that can be shared among many, but it is not as though there is some secred agenda. One can have conspiracies about a movement…not about a cultural/theological impulse. Analogously, Nazi’ism was a movement…Anti-Semitism is an impulse.
You write “The hard consequences of the Federal Vision thought must be laid bare on the table, which this essay avoids doing in every circumstance.”

I hope this does not sound offensive, but did you real the whole essay? I was very careful to make sure that the “consequences” of Federal Vision theology were eluciated from the lips of FV authors themselves. I find it very difficult to see how this can be said an “avoidance.” The alleged “hard consequences” of FV theology were shown to arise from misunderstanding (also supported by FV authors themselves) or false inference. (Also supported by FV authors)

As an example of this claim you state “It is good that they deny justification is a process, but is the result of all aspects of their thought that justification is a process.” This is a fine claim, but I have not sensed that you recognize the distinctions they make. Once again, I recommend re-reading the appendix.

I hope my words do not offend you. I do think I should clarify where I am coming from though, and I am honestly quite surprised at how you interpreted my arguments. The entire effort of the paper was to present these subjects as FV writers understand the on their own terms, and I cannot help but feel that you are still trying to “filter” their statements through definitions which they do not fully accept or argue from. Perhaps I am wrong. I am willing to see that. I hope my responses help you to re-consider or at least to clarify what you are saying. Thankyou for your interaction. God bless!

Your brother in Christ,

Lee said...

Your words do not offend me at all. The best conversations often include hard words. Please allow me some time to re-read your appendix lecture. And thank you for your gracious interaction.

God Bless

Lee said...

Mr. Minich,

Thank you for your helpful distinction between movement and impulse. I can now see your point on that, and I will agree with you that the Federal Vision is, for the moment, an impulse.

I do acknowledge that it is possible that I ‘filter’ things through my own understanding, but after re-reading your appendix I still believe my critic of the Federal Vision has holding to a process understanding of justification is valid. Let us just use your example of two married couples. One is really in love and consumates their marriage. The other married for social reasons and never consumates. You and the Federal Vision advocates explain that the were objectively married but never subjectively made it their own. This relates to justification by saying one who becomes an apostate is objectively part of Christ but never makes it subjectively his own, and will eventually divorce, or remove himself objectively as well. To me this still makes justification a process. There seem to be only three possibilities, feel free to add more if you see more. One: Both the elect and the apostate have initial justification in that they are objectively related to Christ and partake of him by faith. One receives it and holds fast to the Word. He continues in his faith, and the other does not continue instead he loses his faith. Thus the elect with perseverance receives final justification and the other did not. Two: Both the elect and the apostate are objectively related to Christ, but the apostate does not receive initial justification because he has not faith. Thus, his objective union to Christ has no benefit with regards to justification, sanctification, or salvation. The elect has faith and thus receives Christ and all his benefits including both initial and final justification. Three: the elect and apostate are objectively related to Christ, and both receive initial justification, yet the apostate never has faith at all. At some point he removes himself from the objective relationship, and thus never gets a final justification. The elect of course has faith and receives both justifications.

Now it seems to me that number one is making justification a process dependent on perseverance, and that people can lose their faith and their initial justification. Number two makes one wonder why anyone would bother talking of initial and final justification or objective relationships to Christ. Number three makes it possible to have justification or at least part of it, and union with Christ without faith. It also could be construed to make salvation be more about sacraments than faith. Or it makes justification different for the apostate than it is for the elect. If that is the case, a new name for what the apostate experiences is needed. I understand that Rev. Lusk says that perseverance is present at the beginning and is not the caboose on the train. However, if the only difference between the two trains is the caboose then it is the ground or basis of salvation no matter when it is present. Faith cannot be the ground if both trains have faith. It must be the perseverance, which almost has to be viewed as a work, even if it is defined as faithfulness or obedient faith. I look forward to more clarification from you on this point. Thank you.

Joseph Minich said...

Thanks again Lee for your charitable interaction with me. I will try to further clarify where I am coming from.

It seems to me that the only thing I need to respond to is the "three" scenarios which all make justification a process in your view.

For number one, several clarifications need to be made. FV authors are very careful not to say that "final justification" is received on the grounds of good works. Rather, good works are an antecedent to final justification. This is historic Reformed doctrine which can be found in Owen, Turretin, et al. Given this, it needs to be highlighted again that the difference between elect and reprobate is not merely perseverance. perseverance could even be spoken of as the "fruit" of their difference...the "effectual call" of God in their life. This "effectual call" manifests itself in the person who inwardly receives the gift of justification which is rightfully "theirs" in baptism.
And so, here again I need to make a distinction. We can't speak of "initial justification" monolithically when we treat reprobates. Elect and reprobate don't possess this blessing in precisely the same way in every sense. Both elect and reprobate in the covenant (according to FV) have a right to the blessings of the covenant that the un-baptized do not. The gifts of Christ are "theirs" so to speak. But this does not mean they have received it. However, those who DO receive it in saving faith WILL persevere...and perseverance is a NECESSARY outcome to those whom inwardly receive it. In other words, FV authors are saying that what is commonly called "external membership" INCLUDES the "external right to redemptive blessings." They are not denying traditional categories of justification, sanc...but adding new ones by saying that justification/sanctification can be spoken of in such a way that it can be predicated onto the reprobate. They hvae a "right" to it. This does not mean they possess it in the way we typically speak of these things.
In this scheme, what is traditionally called "initial justification" WILL end in glorification. But they are saying something a litle different than what we traditionally mean. There IS traditional justification...but also the "right" to traditional justificaiton by baptismal identification. This seems to best account for the scripture speaking of "loss" of redemptive blessing. Note the organic metaphors. The "loss" is also of source to recipient. They "lose" redemptive blessings in that they are cut off from the source...they do not loose their subjective appropriation of such things.
As for seeing justification in separate "stages," this does not make justification a process. FV authors are very clear (with Gaffin and Dennison) that justification is ONE event in the person of eschatological verdict given to saving faith...and declared publically at the end of time. The theological language of "process" only historically refers to something which organically in the Tridentine position. No one here argues for an "increase" of justification...only different manifestations of its one event...ultimately the resurrection of Christ. Our verdict of righteousness is His verdict of righteousness...and will be publically declared to all who manifest resurrection life. Such resurrection life will not "earn" final justification...but it will reveal those who are vitally united to Christ and who enjoyed the effective verdict God rendered over Him.
As for number two, we speak about "initial and final" justification because scripture does. And in some would be correct to say that reprobates don't "receive" initial least not in the same way that the elect do. They never "consummate their marriage" so to speak. they receive a right to it...they receive an offer of it...they receive external blessings of it...but they never receive the thing itself in their own personal lives in vital union with Christ by saving faith. Once Bannerman puts is the "right of property versus the right of possession."
As for number three...that depends on how you define faith. The reprobate does have faith objectively. he "confesses" Christ. But he clearly does not have internal saving faith in the sense we traditionally speak of it. He "believes for a while" as the scriptures teach whereas the elect "hear His voice and follow." I totally see the confusion in the way you put it though. To say they "both receive initial justification, but only the elect receive final justification" IS problematic. The issue is how we understand "receiving" initial justification. The debate, to me...seems to me over this precise point. How can we account for scrioptures which speak of apostasy, justification, final justification, the traditional categories? It seems to me that one of the ways to do this is to speak in a bit more of a complicated way about what "receiving justification" means. (initially) In other words, scripture does not speak about it merely as a change in our "ontological standing," but can refer to it in such a way that it simply refers to our change in identity by virtue of our "relation" to God. In baptism, we are newly related to God objectively...but must receive what He offers in that new relation (justification, sanctification) by saving faith. Baptism offers what faith must receive. Still...even in a marriage...we ASSUME and treat a couple as though they are in love, when in reality we might find out that they never have been five years later. This does not change their objective standing, but it does change what they receive from the relationship. This analogy is imperfect...because those who "have it" at the beginning will "have it" at the end, and this does not always work in marrigae. But marriage is a relationship with both objective and subjective elements...and where blessings are "possessed" in different ways. I think so much of this debate is over language...but it is motivated by men who are trying to understand the complex nature of scriptural revelation, and who are dissatisfied with tradtional treatments of certain biblical texts.
As for your other comments, fiath is never the "ground" of justification, but only the instrument. The "ground" in EVERYONE's book is the work of Christ. Further, perseverance is not the only difference. Lusk's point in saying what he said was to indicate the exact opposite...that something about each "car" of the train is different for elect and reprobate. The elect "possesses" blessing in a way that reprobate does not. Period. One does not receive "justification" in YOUR use of the term without faith...but they can experience a "right to justification in union with Christ" with only external faith. This is how Hebrews can speak about redemption as a sort of "birthright." Don't forfeit it the author says! Clearly...some do. They did have external faith...and were thus seen as "having the right," but they never relaly "received and enjoyed" the right by virtue of saving faith.
As for "faithfulness," the instrument of justification ever remains faith alone...not its fruit...even though fruit follows from saving faith. Faith DOES distinguish both "sets of trains," because the elect have faith in a wayt aht the reprobate do not. They have "profession..." and they 'believe for a while" but the faith of the elect comes from the "Effectual call." It does not and cannot defect because God ever preserves it and their union with Christ.
To use the over-beaten marriage analogy is the difference between saying "I do" without real import in the soul, and actually sensing something of the obligation and being committed to being a good husband. I am not saying that we are saved by "commitment." But I am saying that there is a difference between a faith which merely says "I believe" and faith which manifests its belief by action. (James 2) Only the elect have this latter sort of faith...and it does distinguish them from the reprobate. BUT..the fruit of faith is not the ground of their redemption. Only Christ is...though he is enjoyed and received by persevering faith alone. This is not just "Everything the unbeliever has" plus one element. It has a qualitative difference down the line.

God bless!