Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Norman Shepherd vs. Francis Turretin

Rev. Mark Horne has some excellent quotes from Francis Turretin posted on his site. These quotes begin to show Turretin’s position on whether or not the Covenant of Grace is conditional. In short, Rev. Horne concludes that Turretin holds to a qualified conditional Covenant of Grace (CoG). This is correct. Turretin argues that there are no meritorious or impulsive causes. In that sense the CoG is unconditional. He does hold that faith is a condition of the CoG if we understand that it is only an instrumental cause. This is all covered in Vol. 2 Questions 2 and 3 (pgs. 174-189) of Turretin’s Institutes. So far Rev. Horne and I agree both with Turretin and with what Turretin is saying.
Yet, Rev. Horne attempts to dove tail Turretin into Norman Shepherd, and his novel views of justification. He does so by examining Turretin’s view of works. Rev. Horne jumps from talking about conditions on the covenant of grace to the duties of a Christian. You will note in his essay, Rev. Horne jumps to Volume 3 of Turretin’s work. Yet there is no need to this for Turretin discusses whether or not repentance and the other virtues can be considered conditions. Rev. Horne quotes the section for us.

It may be taken either broadly and improperly (for all that man is bound to afford in the covenant of grace) or strictly and properly (for that which has some causality in reference to life and on which not only antecedently, but also causally, eternal life in its own manner depends). If in the latter sense, faith is the sole condition of the covenant because under this condition alone pardon of sins and salvation as well as eternal life are promised (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 10:9). There is no other which could perform that office because there is no other which is receptive of Christ and capable of applying his righteousness. But in the former, there is nothing to hinder repentance and the obedience of the new life from being called a condition because they are reckoned among the duties of the covenant (Jn. 13:17; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 8:13) [p. 189; emphasis added].

Turretin’s answer then is no, properly speaking repentance is not a condition. It is a duty, but to call it a condition is to use the word improperly. This means repentance and any works are not even conditions in an instrumental sense like faith. Turretin’s position then is that nothing earns salvation, that there are no meritorious causes in man, but faith is an instrument in apprehending Christ and in an instrumental sense can be called a condition, but works including repentance are not instruments, and can only be called conditions if you use the word condition to mean a duty. There is no causality in repentance and works at all. None, not an iota. Is this how Norman Shepherd uses them?

Let us let Rev. Shepherd speak for himself. His 15th Thesis states:

15. The forgiveness of sin for which repentance is an indispensable necessity is the forgiveness of sin included in justification, and therefore there is no justification without repentance.

Turretin disagrees ranking repentance as not a proper condition of the covenant, and not a part of justification at all. Turretin makes repentance a duty of the covenant, not a condition of justification. There is no instrumental role for repentance in apprehending Christ for Turretin. Shepherd continues in his 18th Thesis:

18. Faith, repentance, and new obedience are not the cause or ground of salvation or justification, bur are as covenantal response to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the way (Acts 24:14; II Peter 2:2, 21) in which the Lord of the Covenant brings his people into the full possession of eternal life.

Turretin has made plain that he does not see faith and repentance as operating in the same manner. Faith is an instrumental cause, and repentance and new obedience are not. Turretin goes to great lengths to explain that in the "first moment of justification there is nothing in him except faith which can please God" (2.3.11 pg.187). And faith plays the role of works in the covenant of nature, which is an instrumental cause (Ibid, paragraph 4). Faith is what unites us to Christ (Ibid., paragraph 5), not repentance nor new obedience. These are not to be placed on the same level as Shepherd appears to do. Next, theses 20-22 are important.

20. The Pauline affirmation in Romans 2:13, "the doers of the Law will be justified," is not to be understood hypothetically in the sense that there are no persons who fall into that class, but in the sense that faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will be justified (Compare Luke 8:21; James 1:22-25).

21. The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification (Heb. 3:6, 14).

22. The righteousness of Jesus Christ ever remains the exclusive ground of the believer's justification, but the personal godliness of the believer is also necessary for his justification in the judgment of the last day (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46; Heb. 12:14).

Again Shepherd uses ‘necessary’ in a way that makes one think of cause, and it is at least used without necessary qualifications. Again, Turretin would disagree with these points, and he has an answer to theses 20-22. He directly lets us know that justification is not the same as observing the covenant. "There is not the same relation of justification and of the covenant through all things. To the former, faith alone concurs, but to the observance of the latter other virtues also are required besides faith" (2.3.17 pg. 189). Here Turretin tells us justification is about faith alone. The other good works are not related to justification, only covenant keeping which is a separate thing. Shepherd insists on inserting his idea of continuing in a state of justification and forcing ‘new obedience’ into justification by expanding the time frame of justification. Turretin knows nothing of this idea, and in fact separates them. Faith alone is to justification, ‘new obedience’ is the fruit of life or "not that you may live but because you live" (Ibid.). That idea from Turretin knows nothing of ‘necessity’ to ‘continue in a state of justification’ as Shepherd claims. Rather Turretin’s idea is the same as the Heidelberg Catechism that makes new obedience part of living a life of thankfulness because of salvation, not in order to keep salvation. Shepherd and Turretin then completely disagree about the role of ‘new obedience’ and even repentance in salvation.

Shepherd’s view can be seen again in thesis 25:

The Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone does not mean that faith in isolation or abstraction from good works justifies, but that the way of faith (faith working by love), as opposed to the "works of the law" or any other conceivable method or justification, is the only way of justification. (John Calvin, Institutes, III, 11, 20. "Indeed, we confess with Paul that no other faith justifies 'but faith working through love' [Gal. 5:6]. But it does not take its power to justify from that working of love. Indeed, it justifies in no other way but in that it leads us into fellowship with the righteousness of Christ.").

Here Shepherd has moved from speaking of justification by faith to justification by the "way of faith", and that is different than the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone, and it is surely different than the doctrine of Turretin. As quoted earlier, "first moment of justification there is nothing in him except faith which can please God". Reformed justification, according to Turretin and the Calvin quote provided by Shepherd, tells us that faith justifies in isolation from works. It is not the faith working in love that justifies, but faith connecting us to the righteousness of Christ that justifies. That same faith will work in love, but that comes after justification and is in no way a cause of it.

Thus, I must conclude against Rev. Horne. I believe that Francis Turretin does not agree with Rev. Shepherd at all. In fact, they seem to disagree on some very fundamental points.


Mark said...

"Shepherd uses ‘necessary’ in a way that makes one think of cause, and it is at least used without necessary qualifications. "

Lee, this may reveal something about your own mind and perceptions, but by any publicly acknowledged use of language or logic it is an absolutely fantastic claim.

Norman Shepherd, Thesis #5
"The ground of justification or the reason or cause why sinners are justified is in no sense to be found in themselves or in what they do, but is to be found wholly and exclusively in Jesus Christ and in his mediatorial accomplishment on their behalf"

Francis Turretin:
It “cannot be denied that the covenant is conditional.
(a) It is proposed with an express condition (John 3.16, 36; Romans 10.9; Acts 8.37; Mark 16.16 and frequently elsewhere). (b) Unless it was conditional, there would be no place for the threatenings in the gospel (which could not be denounced except against those who had neglected the prescribed condition)—for the neglect of faith and obedience cannot be culpable, if not required. (c) Otherwise it would follow that God is bound in this covenant to man and not man to God (which is perfectly absurd and contrary to the nature of all covenants, in which there always is a mutual agreement and a reciprocal obligation because the contracting parties are bound on both sides—as between a husband and wife, a king and his subjects, etc.)… [I]f the promises of the covenant are understood concerning the end, no one can deny that they are conditional because they are always made under the condition of faith and repentance" (12.3.3, 13.3.4; p. 185).

You are selective both in your qutations of Shepherd and Turretin in order to alienate Shepherd and domesticate Turretin. I think the fact that you could find your selective quotes in Turretin is testimony that I did a good and impartial job in selecting quotes. I simply don't see them going in the direction you want them too. Nor is it at all clear to me why you see things as you do.

It would be interesting to ask Shepherd if he sees the covenant as inclusive of the decrees. Turretin certainly does. But if they differed here, how would that be substantial? All we need to do is point out that Shepherd believes and teaches that God decrees all things unconditionally and all that is left is a logomachy.

Why fight this battle?

This does not exhaust everything I found inaccurate in your post, but it will have to do.

Feel free to take the last word on this, Lee, I don't want to be involved in another explosion of comments.


Lee said...

Why fight this battle? For two reasons. One: You seem to think no one responds to your scholarly posts. You stated, "This is what I have realized: Having a serious piece of argumentation on the web is simply useless. I have many serious pieces up and no one has offered me any interaction about them. My defense of Norm Shepherd? Vanishing without a trace amid all the alleged "debate." I could go on and on."
Two: Norman Shepherd is not orthodox.

As for me selectively quoting Turretin, I disagree. You had both of those quotes in your own post, and I saw no reason to re-post them. Especially since they are not in dispute. I agreed in my post that Turretin thinks the Covenant of Grace is conditional, and I agree with him. I do think you should not read too much into his comment that no one can deny the Covenant of Grace is conditional since Turretin himself denies it is conditional on page 185 ("if the condition is taken antecedently and a priori fore the meritorious and implusive cause and for a natural condition, the covenant of grace is rightly denied to be conditioned"). He denies that a priori and meritoriously or impulsively the CoG has condidtions. I agree with that too. As do you, and according to point 5 of Shepherd, which you quote, so does Shepherd. Everyone can agree on that. The point in dispute is not whether we are saved by grace alone or by Christ alone. The point in dispute is whether we are saved by faith alone.

Turretin, and Reformed Orthodoxy, holds that the CoG has conditions when we are discussing instrumental causes. Turretin believes that faith is the instrumental cause and the only proper condition of the CoG. Shepherd disagrees and makes repentance and new obedience instrumental causes and conditions of the CoG. You think my argument that Rev. Shepherd uses ‘necessity’ to mean insturmental cause is unsupported and outside the realm of logic, fine , I shall give you more quotes (for the record this fantastical claim was also the claim of the Westminster Board). Rev. Shepherd has always held that repentance and good works were instruments in justification on par with faith. This is what the original charge against him was in 1975. Rev. Shepherd disagrees that faith should be before justification in the ordo salutis, and that good works should be with faith and repentance prior to justification (pgl. 22 "The Relation of Good Works to Justification in the Westminster Standards", also quoted in the "Reason and Specifications Supporting the Action of the Board of Trustees in Removing Professor Shepherd"). Thesis 23 argues this point and is using the idea of necessity as a condition or as an instrumental cause. You are right that in Thesis 5 he denies any meritorious causes outside of Christ, but he goes onto argue for works as an instrumental cause of realizing the promises of Christ. This is something that Turretin denies plainly as I quoted above. He does not think repentance is an instrument nor are good works. Faith alone apprehends Christ and his grace. Thus we are saved by grace (meritorious cause is Christ) through faith (instrumental cause that connects us to Christ). Turretin believes in a conditional Covenant of Grace, but he does not have the same conditions as Rev. Shepherd. I think your essay does not discuss that point. It is a fundamental difference between the two men. Rev. Shepherd does not hold to faith alone, attempts to redefine faith to include works, and is at odds with Turretin on this point.