Monthly Archives: December 2007

We will see what happens

Interesting and (to me) chilling:

By the way, my prediction for 2010 is that once all of the FV advocates are together in the same church body, they’ll turn on each other–that will be interesting to watch.

(Of course, we already are all in the same church body, the body of Christ. But he is–erroneously, in my view–expecting some convergence into one denomination.)

I think this is interesting because I have held exactly the mirror-identical opinion. Between the Southern Presbyterian zealots, the Klineans, and the Clarkians, and the more barely-Reformed crowd there will be nothing but unending war. This is because, 1) FV is out of the way (maybe) and 2) precedents have been set by which anyone’s opinion can become the revisionist standard of orthodoxy to accuse anyone else of heresy. You don’t even need a court case. Just stack your own committee. NAPARC is left with nothing to hold onto as far as right and wrong are concerned. Nothing is left but power and the will to expel.

I say it is chilling because if anything like this happens on either “side,” it will be tragic. It will truly obscure the Gospel.

And, since I think this will be far more ruinous, it is time to consider blog silence on the FV issue (yes Again!). I mean, I’ve just turned forty, I’m entering the second year of my bivocational business, and New Years is a traditional time for all sorts of resolutions.

So this is mine. I’m done. Others will report the important stuff in the PCA and elsewhere. Just follow Doug Wilson’s blog and google “federal vision” on the blogsearch on a regular basis if you want to keep up with the sporadic news and constant poison.

Tomorrow is a new year. Let’s see what we can do.

How can we trust in science when scientists are so untrustworthy?

Another piece of evidence:

Nor do the women feel that they got what they wanted from Dr Neubauer. “I really was hoping that he would take responsibility for what he had done so many years ago,” says Elyse.

“He refuses to be open to the possibility that they were wrong,” says Paula. “No matter what, we can’t make up for the 35 years that we lost. We are different people because of being separated.

What Dr Neubauer did was arrange the life-long separation of twin baby girls.

Remembering your first love: Is this really the essential genius of Reformed Orthodoxy?

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Heresy! Brothers cannot fall from the living God. If they fall then they were never really brothers.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

Heresy! Only the elect escape the defilements of the world and they do so irreversibly.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

Heresy! No one who was ever genuinely cleansed from his former sins can ever fall. There is nothing for such nearsighted people to forget. It must have never happened. Thus, there is nothing that could be forgotten.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Heresy! No one who is bought by the Master can ever experience destruction.


Is this the treatment of Scripture that led you to first accept the doctrines of TULIP? Is this the way someone opened up the Bible to you to explain how God fore-ordains whatsoever comes to pass?

And is this the sort of thing worth fratricidal divisions with brethren who believe in “the five points of calvinism” and in absolute predestination just much as you do?

If this be treason, make the most of it.

Just to pick out one of many problems with this:

“Here’s a gift and here’s what you have to do to keep it” isn’t good news for sinners who cannot do “their part,” not even with the help of grace.

Then we must not tell sinners to repent and believe the Gospel. Requiring faith is now Roman Catholic legalism in the mouths of our revisionist accusers of the Brethren.

Here’s my theology; if this be heresy make the most of it:

Q. 152. What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?
A. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law, deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.

Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?
A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.

Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

My cynicism unjustified?

When it comes to the Knox Colloquium, absolutely. This comment was just amazing to me.

Having now re-read DW’s exchanges with you on this topic, I think it is fair to say that he has not changed his personal views on this matter since at least 2003. At the Knox Colloquium, he and I agreed that all the branches in John 15 and Rom 11 are truly joined to the vine/tree, and I affirmed with him that this association is the case through God’s covenant. In other words, all the branches are covenantally united to the vine/tree. He and I even agreed that there is a division of elect and reprobate among the covenantally united branches. At that time, his willingness to see such a division among the branches put him at odds with several of his FV group, most notably Steve Wilkins, and this disagreement within the FV group was not a matter of indifference. The extent to which there is still a disagreement among the FV men on this point is another matter.As I see it, the seeds of agreement on this point are in a common acknowledgement that John 15 and Rom 11 are addressing the status of branches on [in] the vine/tree from the “man’s eye perspective.” This kind of language puts us in the realm of the visible church. On the other hand, the seeds of disagreement persist over what it means to be covenantally joined/united to Christ. The challenge of definition is compounded because the Bible doesn’t use the relevant terms in only one sense. Hence, DW uses the term ‘union’ with a broad sense; you are using it, here at least, in a narrow sense. In addition, both uses have Biblical textual support.

It may be somewhat better to speak of covenantal association and vital union, but that distinction does not forestall all objections. It’s still necessary to argue that covenant and election are not coextensive — which is just to say with John 15 and Rom 11 in mind that being a branch and being an abiding, fruitful branch are not the same.

My only point of disagreement here is with the evaluation of Steve Wilkins, who as a double-predestinarian through and through would not possibly deny “that there is a division of elect and reprobate among the covenantally united branches.” Doug Wilson makes the case perfectly clear here:

This leads to the second point. Steve is clearly not asserting that the benefits enjoyed by all covenant members are identical until the moment of apostasy undergone by some of them. This is not what he says. The emphasis below is mine.

4. How would you distinguish between the benefits enjoyed by a (decretively) elect member of the visible Church and a reprobate member of the visible church who has not yet manifested his apostasy?This is not an easy question to answer but it does seem to me that the benefits enjoyed by the “decretively elect” do differ from those received by the non-elect. First, they differ qualitatively. Thus, for example, though the non-elect are brought within the family of the justified and in that sense may be referred to as one of the justified, the elect person’s justification in time is not only a declaration of his present acquittal from the guilt of sin but also an anticipation of his final vindication at the last judgment. The non-elect church member’s “justification” is not. His “justification” is not the judgment he will receive from God at the last day. Second, the blessings conferred differ in their duration. The elect person perseveres and remains in a state of grace until the end of his life. The non-elect believer eventually forsakes the faith and falls away from the state of grace. There may also be other experiential differences between the elect and the non-elect, but these differences may not be discernible (to the individuals themselves or to others) until the non-elect person displays his unbelief in some very explicit and concrete ways. In other words, Steve is not affirming a tautological definition of perseverence (e.g. those who persevere are the ones who persevere). There is a reason for the perseverence of the decretively elect covenant member, and there is a reason for the apostasy of the non-elect covenant member. Part of that reason is qualitative and is seen by God throughout the entire course of their lives. God sees the apostasy coming, and, furthermore, going back to the first point, the whole thing is within His sovereign control.

So, the idea that Doug Wilson is somehow unique in his orthodoxy in this matter is simply false. Pastor Steve Wilkins is right there with him. I’m glad that White will acknowledge the truth for Wilson. I look forward to him doing so for those the PCA where efforts in which he has taken part are still being used to destroy the lives of ministers of the Gospel.

Please, Dr. White, give me reason to repent of even more of my cynicism.

Postscript: Oh, I almost forgot, the other great thing about this post was the formulation at the end:

It’s still necessary to argue that covenant and election [to eternal salvation] are not coextensive — which is just to say with John 15 and Rom 11 in mind that being a branch and being an abiding, fruitful branch are not the same.

Now that’s a distinction that I like–one actually found in Scripture. There are branches in the vine/tree and then there are remaining, fruitful branches. And the latter owe it all not to themselves but to God’s sovereign choice and his invincible work. Unconditional election and monergism are not in the least jeopardized but rather upheld.

The Reformed don’t pray the Psalms?

One of my many undeveloped blog projects has been my theological autobiography.

In 1993 or so, I made good friends with a PCA school teacher. He was discipled in RUF but also had a lot of other stuff in his background.

So I have no idea where he was coming from when he asked me to confirm his suspicion that “New Covenant” Christians should never pray when confessing sin,

Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 52.11).

I told him (as best I remember) that there were a couple of problems with this.

First, if the problem was the doctrine of regeneration, then David’s praying those words was no less problematic than a present-day believer doing the same.

Second, the Reformed have always prayed the Psalms, in line with the vast majority of the entire Christian tradition.

But David was a professing believer who had at least been called into God’s presence (his kingdom, the visible church) by a “common operation of the Spirit.” As someone caught in high-handed sin, what is true of all believers is true of David:

True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit

So it made every sense for David to pray this way. And we should to. Praying this way is a demonstration of true faith by “trembling at the threatenings” in the Word of God. Indeed, in this way David showed that he was not

utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

I learned something by dealing with this question, but at the time it never crossed my mind that I was saying anything that any Reformed minister would object to. I thought I was simply showing the difference between the Bibllical beliefs of the Reformed and the quasi-Marcionite beliefs of dispensationalism.

I had no idea that this was a hint of a revisionist storm to come.

(Having said that, I am open to the possibility that there has been ambiguity, despite the uniform early Reformed liturgical tradition of praying the Psalms, on this point. One could make the case from the Scripture index for the Westminster Standards that Psalm 52.11 is danced around. It is only used as part of Psalm 51.1-14 to demonstrate that

he that scandelizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended (WCF 15.6)

And as part of the entire Psalm used to substantiate that the justified

may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

Does this mean that the Westminster Assembly had dispensationalism creeping into their thoughts? I think that is highly doubtful in light of the Assembly’s robust view of the necessity of a life of repentance for salvation.)

Was the Apostle Peter a good calvinist?

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I think Peter was a good and fine calvinist, who was neither guilty of being unclear, nor of using language that might lead later generations of believers into error.  Be believed in the doctrines of grace and taught them without any compromise.