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.