Federal Vision Q's: Personality and the Effect of Works

Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, Puritan board! Sanctification is confusing. I have placed this in Federal Vision because I find many of these questions to be FV and New Perspective questions that I have never had satisfactorily answered for my brain. Disclaimer: I believe regeneration is given by the Holy Spirit and precedes faith (Monergism); I believe obedience comes from faith; I believe justification is once for all (no future justification, only vindication).

I have questions about Federal Vision stemming from a good conversation with a friend over a question which can be summarized as, "does obedience change you?"

Federal Vision famously says that obedience and faith are basically identical: it's about faithfulness to the Covenant. To be completely honest, I don't understand their system very well, it has always more confused me: many claim that they they say X, and yet their system necessarily will result in Y. FV and NPP will come back by saying that is a caricature of our position, and the wheel turns round and round.
But as I've interacted with those who have sympathies with FV, I've found an admirable desire to obey. There is a kind of being overwhelmed with the requirements of the law in Federal Vision that seems healthy, but a response from them seems to be to say about themselves that they are "nothing but sin," that they are "worms and not men," and then to not care who they are now, but only care about who Christ is and conform everything to Christ. To deny self and your desires, and to not worry about asking, "Who am I?" but rather only ask, "who is He?"

Honestly, that last sentence to me is attractive. I've only ever said since conversion that who I am is not as important as who I strive to be like, Christ. I have also had the basic assumption that who I was under sin was really not who I was; like a zombie, I had portions of myself that corresponded to who I would be in life, but my "true" self was only after life, and even more so in the future after the Spiritual body of 1 Corinthians 15.

All that leads me to two questions:
1) What are the place of personalities in the Christian walk? Where can we discern that this aspect of ourselves ought to be excised, where as this aspect ought not to be? Where can we discern that this aspect of our personality is out of proportion, where as this aspect is underproportioned? For example, if a man is aggressive, this is not necessarily wrong, but ought he to become a calm man against his personality? I am struggling with this understanding that we all ought to be like Christ, yet be also unique members of a body: is personality in some fashion given a pass in the sanctification enterprise?

2) What are the effects of obedience? Regeneration is before faith, an act of obedience, and obedience is the result of a changed heart, but I am struggling to understand the effects of obedience. What are the effects of sin? "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Prov 13:15). Disobedience often results in temporal hardship, and if not in Christ results in eternal consequences. But I have not been taught much about the effects of obedience in the temporal life of the believer. 1 Peter comes to mind, "he who desires to love life and see good days let him [list of obedient things]... For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer." Those who obey, do they gain greater communion with the Lord? This is the question Eastern Orthodoxy seems to be trying to answer in theosis: what is the effect of obedience? To them, it is to participate in the energies of Christ, and therefore become more like God in some mystical, ontological way. But for Protestants, does anything change? If the reward of obedience is enjoyment of God and communion with God, then can we say that if someone is not enjoying God, then they are caught in sin in every case? What does communion with God look like if it does not include a great amount of obedience? Is obedience disconnected from growth in grace? Is obedience merely the end of a rightly working faith?


Further ramblings upon this subject: I have heard quotes about the "strange math" of sanctification as 100% the work of the Holy Spirit, and 100% the work of the regenerated man. This work might simply be beyond me, but I believe that sanctification is the Holy Spirit's work primarily, and not my own. If I am a personality (I have a will, and I act in some sense freely), then I struggle to understand how my personality interfaces with the Holy Spirit's work. I do not want to "let go and let God" quietism style, but nor do I want to so work as if sanctification were my own work, or do some type of middling amount of work between those two. I want to be zealous for what is good (1 Peter 3). I want my works to flow from gratitude toward God, and yet I find that my works often flow from a sense of duty without gratitude. I struggle with sin, and I hate sin, but sanctification is incredibly hard and I have very few sweet times of fellowship with the Lord, and few "aha" moments in Scripture. I turn to the Lord for help, but I receive very little back, and so I press on, trusting the Lord, but losing will power, all along worrying that I substitute will power for the power of the Lord. In all this I trust the Lord, but continually wonder if I am doing something inherently wrong: "how could I be still struggling with this sin were I truly living a life of faith?"
 
Last edited:

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I have questions about Federal Vision stemming from a good conversation with a friend over a question which can be summarized as, "does obedience change you?"

Only in terms where obedient acts form a habit.
But as I've interacted with those who have sympathies with FV, I've found an admirable desire to obey. There is a kind of being overwhelmed with the requirements of the law in Federal Vision that seems healthy, but a response from them seems to be to say about themselves that they are "nothing but sin," that they are "worms and not men," and then to not care who they are now, but only care about who Christ is and conform everything to Christ. To deny self and your desires, and to not worry about asking, "Who am I?" but rather only ask, "who is He?"

It sounds good and if it came from a Reformed minister, it would be good. If they are saying, look to Christ, that's fair. They are always saying more than that, though.
Regeneration is before faith, an act of obedience, and obedience is the result of a changed heart, but I am struggling to understand the effects of obedience.

Are you saying that faith is an act of obedience?
 

Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
Are you saying that faith is an act of obedience?
Well, that is a good question. I want to say that no, faith is not an act of obedience, faith is from a changed heart apart from the works of that human person acted upon by the Holy Spirit. Once the heart is changed, it results in faith as a matter of course, a matter of nature recognizing what is good. However, with all that said, there is still an action that must be taken. Faith is knowledge of, assent to, and trust in the person and work of Christ: to trust requires action, a resting upon Christ and His work. But that action is guaranteed by the change of nature (he works faith in us), so that whenever we do good it's His working in us, both to will and to do for His good pleasure. A good tree produces good fruit, which is the work of a tree. The question I was asking was - does the fruit "help" the Christian in any way in this world?

I'm not sure if that answers your question.

Those who do not have faith are disobedient; their hearts are incapable and unwilling to have faith in Christ because they are constitutionally, covenantally not able not to sin. Those who do not have faith cannot please God.
 
Last edited:

Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
Another way of saying the above, maybe is that I think the FV think that obedience is a means of grace (a means of enjoying God, is how I might say it.). I've never considered obedience a means of grace, not will I, but does that mean obedience does NOT give us enjoyment of God? I have always assumed that obedience will mean at least less hinderance in prayer (1 Peter 3), as well as other benefits that have to do with the means of grace. Does that mean that obedience is just the necessary context of rightly working means of grace? I think Owen called sinning as a Christian a bed of weeds with grace still growing, so, obedience would simply be a well-weeded garden? If so, then obedience benefits us.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
If so, then obedience benefits us.
Of course, it does. Recall how John rejoiced to see believers walk in truth:

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. (2 Jn. 1:4 KJV)

I don't think it has to be so complicated. Our Lord said his yoke was easy. It is when we follow his lead and walk with him. We are in fact yoked to our Master, and, in faith, we are pleased to be so connected and held by him.

But in our times of rebellion, the yoke feels hard. Disobedience means we are not walking with him but tugging at the leash. It detracts from the walk and detracts from the joy of being our Lord's possession.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I've never considered obedience a means of grace, not will

It's not.

but does that mean obedience does NOT give us enjoyment of God?

Of course it does. Federal Visionists are notorious for attacking positions that no one has ever held.
If so, then obedience benefits us.

Everyone believes that. If I break the sixth commandment and suffer the consequences, then not obeying God was very disadvantageous.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Terminology matters. One of the issues we were having was redefinition. It happened on both sides of the issue. FV and Anti-FV had issues of understanding what the other was saying. The movement was not monolithic. It was like trying to nail a worm to a board.
You should read the denominational reports on the Topic.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Terminology matters. One of the issues we were having was redefinition. It happened on both sides of the issue. FV and Anti-FV had issues of understanding what the other was saying. The movement was not monolithic. It was like trying to nail a worm to a board.
You should read the denominational reports on the Topic.
It is that way regardless they are slippery with terms.
 
Top