Frame review of Horton's "Christless Christianity"

Discussion in 'The Literary Forum' started by mvdm, Oct 21, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    No, the Lordship controversy is different again, and Horton is very clear that Christ is Lord and Saviour; he is also very clear that the God who justifies is the God who sanctifies. Regrettably, however, Horton teaches the imperative-indicative division of law and gospel, and thereby undermines the element of "evangelical obedience" which is part and parcel of reformed theology.
     
  2. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    You've misread my meaning and misrepresented my position, either intentionally or out of ignorance. Even your assertions regarding Reformed thought and emphasis is in error. At the very least, you seem unaware that salvation includes justification and you impugn me by suggesting that I am speaking of a "broad" salvation that would please delegates to Trent. I could say more but I trust it would be wasted. http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2008/01/resurrection-or-conversion.html

    Ron
     
  3. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    Ron, I've interacted with you before in another venue, although you most likely do not remember. What I saw there was the same as I am seeing here, namely, taking the "high road" of saying that your own position is correct, and that those who disagree with you are ignorant or intentionally misrepresenting you. Yet in doing so each time you refuse to address the points given, or in this case even to do the minimal work of reading an article. I expect more from a ruling elder.
     
  4. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    By all means, please feel free to find fault with me for the emphasis I put on some doctrines over others. Just the same, I find it a bit passing strange that without constraint you would find fault with me for not being inclined to read an article upon which you assert that Dr. Clark has discerned the motives of John Frame. Either Dr. Clark is omniscient, you are mistaken, or Dr. Clark has made assertions beyond his abilities. Anyone of those scenarios does not interest me and has little to do with the accuracy of Frame's review of Horton's book. That's the material point.

    I suppose if you are unwilling to read the assessment in that article then you will be unable to make a response of any substance.

    It does not follow that because I am not interested in reading an article that you believe speaks to Frame’s motives that, therefore, I must be unqualified to render even reasonable observations regarding Frame’s review of Horton’s book (or theological emphasis). I might be unqualified mind you, but my not reading such an article cannot make it so. The accuracy of the review stands on its own merit, aside from Frame’s motives - which only God knows. Accordingly, your premise would appear false.

    However, I would challenge you on wagging your finger against any minister who would place a very strong emphasis upon the forensic doctrines of justification and imputation.

    Your exhortation presupposes that one who places a strong emphasis on important, even essential doctrine is untouchable in other areas. That would appear simply fallacious.

    Historic Evangelical Protestantism has always placed a higher emphasis upon those aspects of soteriology precisely because they are the points that are denied by the Roman Catholic church.

    First off, the Confession is a product of its time and circumstances. Accordingly, the emphasis found in the Confession need not be the emphasis we find in Scripture. Secondly, the Confession spreads itself over many doctrines and does not place undo emphasis on those doctrines that you think have a higher emphasis in Reformed thought. Accordingly, your point would seem unfounded.

    Rome's theologians would have no problem sitting down with you to affirm existential union and the broad definition of "salvation" while shelving a forensic doctrine of justification.

    Do I have a magical view of baptism? Does my doctrine of salvation confound justification and sanctification? Do I believe that those who are existentially united to Christ can lose that union? Of course not! Accordingly, your statement is simply untrue.

    It would seem that you are following after the trend of some at WTS-P and within the OPC who would push existential union over and above the legal and particular aspects of Reformed soterieology (Gaffin, Garcia, Tipton, etc.), but this is ultimately unhelpful, and most likely detrimental for the health of the OPC in the long run.

    That I would point out that I have grave concerns over the emphasis one puts on “justification over salvation; forensic over existential; and its close cousin, imputation over union” does not suggest that I must embrace a contrary order of priority. In other words, my belief that there is undue overemphasis of P relative to Q does not logically imply that I believe Q should take primacy over P. In fact, logically speaking one can maintain that justification should take precedent over sanctification yet that Horton’s emphasis is way too extreme. Consequently, you jumped the gun by lumping me with others, even if you do have them rightly pigeon holed.

    The down playing of the former doctrines for the latter has already been picked up by Leithart and other men who would seek, not to give some more floor time to union and the broad picture of salvation while still maintaining imputation and a forensic view of justification, but who rather would emphasize the one to cover up their personal denial of the other.

    Even if true, the foolish (even devilish) acts of some are no reason in and of itself to eclipse so much of Pauline soteriology. Consequently, your point is not logically sustainable.

    ”The Christian should glory in active obedience, imputation, sola fide, and like doctrines every day of the week. Without them, our salvation is not nearly so grand.

    Did anything I said suggest that these are not doctrines in which we should glory? Again, it would seem as though you simply missed the mark.

    Now of course rather than acknowledge all of these false accusations, you may prefer to write something akin to what you wrote before, that I’m taking the “’high road’ of saying that my position is correct, and that those who disagree with [me] are ignorant or intentionally misrepresenting [me].”

    I’m fine leaving you with the last word. I think that a careful read brings the truth of our exchange to light.

    Ron
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  5. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I'm learning much from this thread. Thanks to all, and especially Pastor W.
     
  6. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mr. Winzer, I think I see the point but I just want to make sure I am not misapprehending it. Would you say that when "law" is treated or defined as equal to "imperative" and "gospel" is treated or defined as equal to "indicative", that this is more Lutheran than Reformed? Would that involve also being contrary to the Confession on the precise point of its affirmation of the category of evangelical obedience?
    And on that topic, should evangelical obedience be understood as not merely obedience to the law in an evangelical manner, but in fact obedience to the gospel, which is thus seen to have commands?
     
  7. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    The Mosaic covenant is the covenant of grace, administered differently than during the times of the gospel. Is this what he means by the Mosaic covenant being "part of the covenant of grace"?

    If this is the case, then logically, we must likewise believe in a republication of the covenant of works in the New Covenant? For example, what else can be Christ's response to the Rich Young Ruler? What else can be the call to forsake all, deny yourself, and follow Christ? What else can the Sermon the Mount be? Do you agree that the covenant of works is republished in the New Covenant?

    What exactly does it mean for the Mosaic covenant to be "part of" or "connected to" the covenant of grace. It is the covenant of grace.

    Say I told you that you were part of my church, or connected to my church. Is that the same thing as saying you are my church? Logically and grammatically, these are not the same thing. Hence, the quotations from the standards cited above, intended to demonstrate that making Moses' covenant anything less than or other than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in preparation is not confessional.

    Then, as I stated above, the Gospel likewise republishes the covenant of works, with even more force than the Mosaic.


    How can the covenant of grace promise life on the condition of perfect obedience?


    Excuse me? The nation arose out of the Abrahamic promise by God Almighty, who loved their fathers, and chose them by His pure grace. Also, He alone saved the nation out of the fiery furnace by His grace. He alone gave them a free promise of land. He alone drove out their enemies, and planted our fathers. Furthermore, the Abrahamic covenant prophecied of all nations coming to Christ. The Great Commission deals with making disciples of all nations because Christ has all authority on heaven and upon the earth. Paul argues that Abraham would be the heir of the whole world. Therefore, something being national does not make it purely legal. This vitiates the catholic and Reformed doctrine of Christendom.

    The standards have no pretense of abrogating Christendom, or making the Mosaic covenant an adjunct to the covenant of grace. The Mosaic covenant is the covenant of grace. Christendom is both presupposed and explicitly taught in our standards. If the modern version of the republication doctrine teaches otherwise, then it is not the historic Reformed doctrine of republication: it is a version of modern Biblical Theology.

    Cheers,
     
  8. Irish Presbyterian

    Irish Presbyterian Puritan Board Freshman

    "Like the covenant of creation, this covenant is made between God and human partners – in this case, fallen Adam, Seth, Abraham, and David. IT is in this covenant that provisions are made for offenders, based on another’s fulfillment of the legal covenant on their behalf. Thus, instead of it being a covenant based on law (“Do this and you shall live”), it is based on promise (“Live and you will do this”). There are real partners in this covenant (God with believers and their children) and real conditions (repentance and faith), but as it is grounded in the eternal covenant of redemption and the Mediator’s fulfillment of the covenant of works, even the meeting of these conditions is graciously given and not simply required."
    Michael Horton, 'God of promise' pg 104-105
     
  9. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    It is notable that the Mosaic covenant is left out. Does he happen to mention it in context?

    Also, do you believe or does Horton teach that the saints of God should look to the promises of blessings in the Mosaic covenant as given in Leviticus 26 to encourage them in obedience to God's law?

    I think this is part of what Boston refers to when he states that:

    Christ being the Surety of the better covenant, having made a new covenant of grace in his blood, he takes the same law in his hands, and gives out the commands of it as a rule of life to his covenanted people, and renews the promises of it to their sincere obedience of them.

    This can be confirmed by reading the Confessional quotations cited above, but let me give a reference for it:

    Chapter XIX
    Of the Law of God
    VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others;... It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[18] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.

    [18] (LEV 26) 2CO 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. EPH 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. PSA 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. MAT 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. PSA 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
     
  10. Irish Presbyterian

    Irish Presbyterian Puritan Board Freshman


    The republication aspect of the covenant of works in the Mosaic covenant finds it's necessary fulfillment in the Person and work of Christ. To suggest a republication of the covenant of works therefore in the New covenant simply doesn't follow. You might want to think of exactly what place Christ has in your drafting of things.

    You might want to consider Jesus words before trying to re-institute the Constantinian idea of Christendom:

    Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." John 18:36
     
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    [Moderator]If you want to argue about Christendom start a new thread, gentlemen.[/Moderator]
     
  12. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    The quotation you cited stated:
    Rather, in concert with historic Reformed theology, the doctrine of republication merely points the redeemed sinner to Christ as the one who has fulfilled the broken covenant of works and has redeemed him from the curse of the law.

    How does the gospel not do this? The gospel did this in Moses' covenant as well as in the new; how is that fulfilled? Certainly, Christ physically, mentally, morally, and actually fulfilled, but that was reckoned as good as done in the Mosaic. And, would you kindly address the questions about the Mosaic being a part of the covenant of grace rather than the covenant of grace, as this is crucial to help us understand yours and Dr. Horton's position?

    The Reformers rejected the anabaptist idea that you are espousing here, and our confession embodies what you dispariage as a man-made unscriptural doctrine. The Bible says more than the important thought captured in John 18:36; it also informs us that the magistrate is God's deacon and liturgos, and is to do His bidding in punishing offenses against both tables of the law. It also informs us that Christ is the Lord of all lords, and the King of all kings. The anabaptists never got past such verses to see the entirety of Scripture; this is why the confession is so helpful. Among other things, it gives a biblical doctrine of Christendom rather than blindly utilizing it, or blindly opposing it.

    -----Added 10/23/2009 at 07:50:37 EST-----

    I missed this while posting; I'll discuss elsewhere. I think it relevant to the topic at hand, but will defer to your judgment.
     
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Ruben, thankyou for your clarifying questions. Yes, yes, and yes. The law has a gracious aspect in Reformed theology. The believer receives it as a kindly signification of the way to please God in Christ and obeys it out of love to the Saviour who has kept the law for him and promised the eternal kingdom to all who follow after and persevere in His ways.
     
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    First, there is nothing here about the Decalogue. Secondly, it distorts the Reformed view of the covenant of grace. The reformed view is, "Live and do this," not," "Live and you will do this." Your quotation substantiates the very criticism you are seeking to negate.
     
  15. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    [Moderator]
    It is a related issue, but it seems unlikely that such a discussion will permit the point more immediately at issue on this thread to continue to be helpfully expounded. But if you're willing to take on a new thread I'll be willing to move some posts or partial posts to it.[/Moderator]
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2009
  16. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    1. The gospel as it is narrowly delineated in 1 Corinthians 15 implies no obedience on the part of the recipient. The gospel in that context is an historical fact only. Jesus died for the sins of believers, was buried and raised from the dead. Whereas the gospel that Paul is jealous to guard in Galatians has to do not with Christ’s work but rather the appropriation of that work: it is appropriated by grace through faith alone apart from law-works. In neither of those two cases does the gospel imply obedience. Both sides of the issue should agree.

    2. Now leaving aside any discussion regarding elect infants dying in infancy, other elect persons incapable of being outwardly called by the word, and infants God regenerates in infancy – both sides should also agree that one is justified by appropriating Christ’s obedience and satisfaction through the evangelical graces of repentance and faith.

    3. Both sides also agree that faith without works is dead.

    4. With respect to the question of whether justifying faith is an obedient response to the gospel call - it should first be observed that a sinner who tries to obey the command to flee the wrath to come and turn to Christ does so either with a regenerate heart or out of enlightened self-interest. When the latter occurs, obviously no justifying faith is present, obedient or otherwise. Accordingly, it is only possible for one to flee the wrath to come with a regenerate heart. Both sides should agree here too.

    5. The question that remains is whether the act of turning and believing is an act of obedience. Before finding an answer, I think there is at least one more point of agreement between the sides that should come to light. As Calvinists, both sides agree that God alone effects faith and repentance in the application of redemption.

    Getting to the nub of the matter:


    In one sense, if God alone effects justifying faith in dead sinners, then it is somewhat a misnomer to refer the such implanted grace as obedient. Yet on the other hand, given that the grace of faith is exercised in response to a command to believe, then of course there is an appropriateness in referring to justifying faith as obedient because it is a response to a command.

    Here’s the point I’d like to make. Both sides, if asked very specific questions, would agree on seemingly everything with possibly one exception only. Yet from what I can tell, it seems that both sides of that point of disagreement have a reasonable claim on the best way to view justifying faith, whether as obedient or passive. When we only consider that justifying faith is a response to God’s command, then obedience obtains. If we merely consider that justifying faith is a necessary result of effectual calling, then a non-obedient (not to be confused with disobedient) or passive faith seems to be a better description.

    The heresy that one is trying to guard against will often dictate the position he defends. If one is jealous to guard against the notion of merit, then of course he will recoil over the term obedient faith (in the realm of justification). If one wishes to fight against antinomianism, then he might prefer to speak with a view to the command to believe and hence use terms like obedient faith.

    I sincerely hope that I haven't made too little of what seems to be such a divisive subject but it seems to me that neither side in this disagreement is denying any tenets of Calvinism.

    Ron
     
  17. Irish Presbyterian

    Irish Presbyterian Puritan Board Freshman

    Adam you asked:

    How does the gospel not do this? The gospel did this in Moses' covenant as well as in the new; how is that fulfilled? Certainly, Christ physically, mentally, morally, and actually fulfilled, but that was reckoned as good as done in the Mosaic. And, would you kindly address the questions about the Mosaic being a part of the covenant of grace rather than the covenant of grace, as this is crucial to help us understand yours and Dr. Horton's position?

    The covenant of works aspect of the Mosaic law called for perfect obedience just as it did in the time of Adam. That perfect obedience was met and fulfilled completely in the death and resurrection of Christ and his perfect active obedience. Therefore evangelical obedience is NOT a covenant of works in this sense but is purely gracious.

    To answer your question, the Mosaic economy was not the totality of the covenant of grace and is therefore seen as an 'administration' of the covenant of grace. That's what I mean by a part of. I can't speak for Dr. Horton but I'm looking at it eschatologically.

    Cheers.
     
  18. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Of course, the law of God ALWAYS demands perfect obedience, with appropriate promises and threats.

    The issue with understanding Moses is that any republication concept has to be subordinate, or viewed as an "overlay" upon the essential Covenant-of-Grace principle that grounds the whole thing. The overlay is precisely what the Pharisee and every other legalist takes erroneously for the substance.

    And, I fear it when Reformed men (non-legalist or anything else) assume a basic correctness of the Pharisaic mistake.

    There is a reason that in the heart (literally) of the law (Leviticus) is the sacrificial system. ATONEMENT lies at the heart of the Mosaic Covenant. Gracious salvation comes bfore it. The Promised Land lies just beyond it. How can Moses covenant be anything other than the Covenant of Grace?

    2Cor.3:7-18 tells us that God allowed the externalities, the earthly "glory" of the Mosaic covenant to function as a blinder, an overlay, a veil to its fundamental character. Suggesting that this function of certain aspects of that covenant comprise its essential character turns the reality on its head, making the Covenant of Grace the secondary, add-on reality of the Mosaic administration.
     
  19. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    The writers of the Westminster Standards did not believe it was a "misnomer" to refer to the response to the Gospel as obedience:
    I understand what you're trying to drive at but that is very theoretical. While nobody disagrees that God has fulfilled all righteousness, it cannot be stated that the hearer of the News of the Gospel is called to passivity. While the work of the Holy Spirit is, in fact, monergistic that work is one of vivification. The hearer is now alive. He is not dead. He is called to repentance and faith and does, in point of fact, obey. The call of the Gospel is not "Christ has died for you and now do nothing." Those who do, in fact, do nothing or disobey the call of the Gospel are justly judged (Romans 10 and compare with language of Dordt above).

    As some of us have also argued here (and in other threads), it is not possible to separate the sanctifying fruit in a believer's life from the broader sense of the term Gospel. As I noted above, Paul considered it a departure from the Gospel in Galatians 3 not that the Galatians had their beginning in faith wrong but that they had their continuation all wrong. They were trusting in the deeds of the flesh to perfect.

    I personally have a lot wrapped up in this in my own walk with Christ. I cannot express how powerful it was when I began to see how freeing it was to understand the Gospel's power in sanctification. The sharp Law/Gospel distinction had left me with the understanding that my only motivation for the 3rd use of the Law was gratitude for what Christ had done. I do not want to diminish that point as it is, in fact, great motivation and impetus for the battle against indwelling sin within my members.

    Yet, I had not considered fully how Romans 6 (and other places) speak so forcefully about what Christ definitively accomplished for our sanctification on the Cross by putting Sin, as power, to death on the Cross. While it is true and glorious, then, that I try to please my Father for what He has accomplished in Christ I would have no power over Sin if Christ had not defeated Sin on the Cross. I do not just have motivation to obey (from gratitude) but am empowered to obey in my vital union with Christ who lives forever. Please see: http://www.puritanboard.com/f87/dead-sin-alive-Christ-rom-6-1-11-a-50607/#post703514

    I do not, in any of this, desire to conflate justification with sanctification nor do I desire to claim any power within myself to have been united to Christ. I simply agree that the "Gospel as justification alone" leaves a gaping hole that has consequences toward how a person understands his battle against indwelling sin and I believe the Reformed Confessions teach richly toward this end contra the Lutheran view.

    I don't believe I've ever called Mike or John a heretic and I'm not much of a "club joiner" when it comes to the schools of thought that seem to line up on either extreme of the issue. I've considered Mike a dear friend for a number of years and John has been personally kind to provide me some notes on the Trinity years back.

    I love the WHI and believe (as Matthew noted) that they are an incredibly important voice in a world of self-centered Christians who have long been impoverished from the pulpit. They were meat and bread to me when I was 3 years in Okinawa with very little Gospel proclaimed to my ears. It is an intramural, Brother to Brother, concern for me. I do not wish to condemn the men but to dialog and persuade even as they desire to persuade us.

    I want to close by noting that I wish that this whole thread could have focused more on how egregious Dr. Frame's critique was. I believe Matthew's first analysis hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, on this board, with strong views being what they are, it was inevitable that the critique would have been obscured as we took up the issue of the WHI's view on Law/Gospel. I wish it could have been a smaller sidebar.
     
  20. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    It appears that at least in part, Frame had in mind the idea found in Calvin's commentary on Matthew 5:17 ---which helpfully explores the reason Scripture does not support a dichotomous *separation* between Law and Gospel, but rather exposits the harmony between them:

    Matthew 5:17. Think not. With regard to the perfection of his life, Christ might justly have maintained that he came to fulfill the law: but here he treats of doctrine, not of life. As he afterwards exclaimed, that “the kingdom of God is come,” (Matthew 12:28,) and raised the minds of men with unusual expectation, and even admitted disciples by baptism, it is probable, that the minds of many were in a state of suspense and doubt, and were eagerly inquiring, what was the design of that novelty. Christ, therefore, now declares, that his doctrine is so far from being at variance with the law, that it agrees perfectly with the law and the prophets, and not only so, but brings the complete fulfillment of them.

    There appear to have been chiefly two reasons, which induced him to declare this agreement between the law and the Gospel. As soon as any new method of teaching makes its appearance, the body of the people immediately look upon it, as if everything were to be overturned. Now the preaching of the Gospel, as I mentioned a little ago, tended to raise the expectation, that the Church would assume a totally different form from what had previously belonged to it. They thought that the ancient and accustomed government was to be abolished. This opinion, in many respects, was very dangerous. Devout worshippers of God would never have embraced the Gospel, if it had been a revolt from the law; while light and turbulent spirits would eagerly have seized on an occasion offered to them for entirely overthrowing the state of religion: for we know in what insolent freaks rash people are ready to indulge when there is any thing new.

    Besides, Christ saw that the greater part of the Jews, though they professed to believe the Law, were profane and degenerate. The condition of the people was so decayed, every thing was filled with so many corruptions, and the negligence or malice of the priests had so completely extinguished the pure light of doctrine, that there no longer remained any reverence for the Law. But if a new kind of doctrine had been introduced, which would destroy the authority of the Law and the Prophets, religion would have sustained a dreadful injury. This appears to be the first reason, why Christ declared that he had not come to destroy the Law. Indeed, the context makes this abundantly clear: for he immediately adds, by way of confirmation, that it is impossible for even one point of the Law to fail, — and pronounces a curse on those teachers who do not faithfully labor to maintain its authority.

    The second reason was, to refute the wicked slander which, he knew was brought against him by the ignorant and unlearned. This charge, it is evident, had been fastened on his doctrine by the scribes: for he proceeds immediately to direct his discourse against them. We must keep in mind the object which Christ had in view. While he invites and exhorts the Jews to receive the Gospel, he still retains them in obedience to the Law; and, on the other hand, he boldly refutes the base reproaches and slanders, by which his enemies labored to make his preaching infamous or suspected.

    If we intend to reform affairs which are in a state of disorder, we must always exercise such prudence and moderation, as will convince the people, that we do not oppose the eternal Word of God, or introduce any novelty that is contrary to Scripture. We must take care, that no suspicion of such contrariety shall injure the faith of the godly, and that rash men shall not be emboldened by a pretense of novelty. In short, we must endeavor to oppose a profane contempt of the Word of God, and to prevent religion from being despised by the ignorant. The defense which Christ makes, to free his doctrine from slanders, ought to encourage us, if we are now exposed to the same calumnies. That crime was charged against Paul, that he was an apostate from the law of God, (Acts 21:21) and we need not, therefore, wonder, if the Papists endeavor, in the same manner, to render us odious. Following the example of Christ, we ought to clear ourselves from false accusations, and, at the same time, to profess the truth freely, though it may expose us to unjust reproaches.

    I am not come to destroy. God had, indeed, promised a new covenant at the coming of Christ; but had, at the same time, showed, that it would not be different from the first, but that, on the contrary, its design was, to give a perpetual sanction to the covenant, which he had made from the beginning, with his own people.

    “I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts,
    and I will remember their iniquities no more,”
    383

    By these words he is so far from departing from the former covenant, that, on the contrary, he declares, that it will be confirmed and ratified, when it shall be succeeded by the new. This is also the meaning of Christ’s words, when he says, that he came to fulfill the law: for he actually fulfilled it, by quickening, with his Spirit, the dead letter, and then exhibiting, in reality, what had hitherto appeared only in figures.

    With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect to ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more fully confirmed. The coming of Christ has taken nothing away even from ceremonies, but, on the contrary, confirms them by exhibiting the truth of shadows: for, when we see their full effect, we acknowledge that they are not vain or useless. Let us therefore learn to maintain inviolable this sacred tie between the law and the Gospel, which many improperly attempt to break. For it contributes not a little to confirm the authority of the Gospel, when we learn, that it is nothing else than a fulfillment of the law; so that both, with one consent, declare God to be their Author.


    18. Till heaven and earth pass Luke expresses it a little differently, but to the same import, that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one point of the law to fail The design of Christ, in both passages, was to teach, that the truth of the law and of every part of it, is secure, and that nothing so durable is to be found in the whole frame of the world. Some persons indulge in ingenious refinements on the word till, (ἓως ἂ ν,) as if the passing away of the heaven and earth, which will take place on the last day, the day of judgment, were to put an end to the law and the prophets And certainly, as

    “tongues shall then cease, and prophecies shall be abolished,”
    (1 Corinthians 13:8,)

    I think that the written law, as well as the exposition of it, will come to an end; but, as I am of opinion that Christ spoke more simply, I do not choose to feed the ears of readers with such amusements. Let it suffice for us to hold, that sooner shall heaven fall to pieces, and the whole frame of the world become a mass of confusion, than the stability of the law shall give way. But what does it mean, that every part of the law shall be fulfilled down to the smallest point? for we see, that even those, who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, are very far from keeping the law of God in a perfect manner. I answer, the expression, shall not pass away, must be viewed as referring, not to the life of men, but to the perfect truth of the doctrine. “There is nothing in the law that is unimportant, nothing that was put there at, random; and so it is impossible that a single letter shall perish.”


    19. Whoever then shall break Christ here speaks expressly of the commandments of life, or the ten words, which all the children of God ought to take as the rule of their life. He therefore declares, that they are false and deceitful teachers, who do not restrain their disciples within obedience to the law, and that they are unworthy to occupy a place in the Church, who weaken, in the slightest degree, the authority of the law; and, on the other hand, that they are honest and faithful ministers of God, who recommend, both by word and by example, the keeping of the law. The least commandments is an expression used in accommodation to the judgment of men: for though they have not all the same weight, (but, when they are compared together, some are less than others,) yet we are not at liberty to think any thing small, on which the heavenly Legislator has been pleased to issue a command. For what sacrilege is it to treat contemptuously any thing which has proceeded from his sacred mouth? This is to sink his majesty to the rank of creatures. Accordingly, when our Lord calls them little commandments, it is a sort of concession. He shall be called the least This is an allusion to what he had just said about the commandments: but the meaning is obvious. Those who shall pour contempt 384 “Comme 1es plus inutiles du monde;” — “as the most useless in the world.”
    on the doctrine of the law, or on a single syllable of it, will be rejected as the lowest of men
     
  21. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    Ron stated: In one sense, if God alone effects justifying faith in dead sinners, then it is somewhat a misnomer to refer the such implanted grace as obedient. Yet on the other hand, given that the grace of faith is exercised in response to a command to believe, then of course there is an appropriateness in referring to justifying faith as obedient because it is a response to a command.

    Semper Fidelis replied:
    The writers of the Westminster Standards did not believe it was a "misnomer" to refer to the response to the Gospel as obedience:

    VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending to the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel

    Ron Replies: I believe you have made a subtle equivocation with your reference to the Confession. I was strictly speaking of the call of the gospel that results in conversion by the instrumentality of faith. The portion of the Confession to which you referred is speaking about obedience as it pertains to assurance, a separate matter altogether.

    Ron Stated: Here’s the point I’d like to make. Both sides, if asked very specific questions, would agree on seemingly everything with possibly one exception only. Yet from what I can tell, it seems that both sides of that point of disagreement have a reasonable claim on the best way to view justifying faith, whether as obedient or passive. When we only consider that justifying faith is a response to God’s command, then obedience obtains. If we merely consider that justifying faith is a necessary result of effectual calling, then a non-obedient (not to be confused with disobedient) or passive faith seems to be a better description

    Semper Fidelis replied: I understand what you're trying to drive at but that is very theoretical.

    Ron Replies:
    I sincerely believe you do from what you wrote. I’m not sure though how it being “theoretical” (whatever that might mean to you) discredits the point, which you understand (and I believe you do). Let’s press on below...

    Semper Fidelis States: While nobody disagrees that God has fulfilled all righteousness, it cannot be stated that the hearer of the News of the Gospel is called to passivity. While the work of the Holy Spirit is, in fact, monergistic that work is one of vivification. The hearer is now alive. He is not dead. He is called to repentance and faith and does, in point of fact, obey.

    Ron States: Assuming you are speaking of conversion, which is what I was addressing, you are correct, it is most appropriate to speak of the grace of repentance in conversion as an act of obedience for it can be in response to a command. I’ve already agreed with that premise. My other premise, which is not contrary to the first, is that because God implants repentance and faith in the believer, those gifts need not be considered strictly as acts of obedience; for acts of obedience are often associated strictly with the acts that proceed from the gifts of repentance and faith. The Confession speaks this way too: “By this faith, a Christian believes… and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, etc. But the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone…” So yes, by the faith that justifies sinners, men do act and obey, but the principle acts of justifying faith are accepting, receiving and resting, which I believe Escondido wishes to distinguish from obedience. I have no problem with that distinction; it’s a good one, but not as necessary as they might think. Let me digress ever so slightly (but I think it’s relevant). In those cases in which God regenerates infants, those infants are not merely regenerated without also sharing in all the benefits of Christ, including justification. Accordingly, the seed of faith that is implanted in those regenerate infants is justifying faith. Indeed, that faith must (and will) be exercised but nonetheless justifying faith is present. In all fairness, Escondido’s paradigm fits those situations much better, for how does a baby obey in conversion? Again, there is a place for referring to obedience to the gospel call upon men’s lives in the realm of conversion (and more so in the work of progressive sanctification). Notwithstanding, in the case of a sinner broken before God who all of a sudden is converted by the invading work of the Holy Spirit, it can be terribly misleading to call such a one’s new resting place in Christ as an act obedience. It’s hard for me to believe that when considered in that light, which is what Escondido is trying to say (I believe), that it’s not palatable to all of us.

    Semper Fidelis States: The call of the Gospel is not "Christ has died for you and now do nothing."

    Ron replies: I believe everybody appreciates that point. The question is whether we are required (in the case of non-infants) to always consider “accepting, receiving and resting” as acts of obedience; or may we without denying Scripture distinguish those mental “acts” from the physical acts that proceed from those “acts”, such as feeding the poor, comforting the sick, loving our wives, serving in our churches, etc.

    Semper Fidelis States: As some of us have also argued here (and in other threads), it is not possible to separate the sanctifying fruit in a believer's life from the broader sense of the term Gospel.

    Ron States: Nobody I know denies the relationship between the gospel, the reception of the gospel, and the changed life.

    Semper Fidelis: I do not, in any of this, desire to conflate justification with sanctification nor do I desire to claim any power within myself to have been united to Christ. I simply agree that the "Gospel as justification alone" leaves a gaping hole that has consequences toward how a person understands his battle against indwelling sin and I believe the Reformed Confessions teach richly toward this end contra the Lutheran view.

    Ron Replies: The “gospel” has many definitions in Scripture, which I alluded to before. The gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is an historical fact pertaining to redemption accomplished; in Galatians the “gospel” pertains not so much to what Christ has done but rather how we are to appropriate that finished work. Neither of those two cases has obedience in view with respect to what is being labeled “gospel”. You wish to emphasize the good news that God sanctifies those he justifies. That is true true, but the question is whether there is a significant distinction worth noting between resting in Christ as he is offered in the gospel and feeding the poor.

    Ron Stated: The heresy that one is trying to guard against will often dictate the position he defends. If one is jealous to guard against the notion of merit, then of course he will recoil over the term obedient faith (in the realm of justification). If one wishes to fight against antinomianism, then he might prefer to speak with a view to the command to believe and hence use terms like obedient faith.

    Semper Fidelis: I don't believe I've ever called Mike or John a heretic and I'm not much of a "club joiner" when it comes to the schools of thought that seem to line up on either extreme of the issue. I've considered Mike a dear friend for a number of years and John has been personally kind to provide me some notes on the Trinity years back.

    Ron Replies: I’m sorry - I did not mean to suggest that you or anyone else considered either of them as heretical. My point is that Escondido is trying to guard against any idea of human effort playing a part in justification. In passing, let me add with you that in my personal exchanges with both these men (much more with John), I have found them to be nothing less than charitable and kind.

    Best wishes,

    Ron
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  22. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Ron, I don't wish to derail things here, but what exactly do you mean by appropriating through repentance?
     
  23. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    I appreciate much of Horton's and Frame's works and their ministries. But I do think Horton's analysis of the problem and the solutions he offers (yes I read both books!) have various problems when he talks about the evangelical Church (generally defined as non-mainline protestantism).
     
  24. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for saving me from the tribunal. Please see note 1 above, which speaks of appropriation by faith alone. My blog has point 2 more clearly stated: Reformed Apologist: Gospel, Blessings and Obedience

    Also, in that post I finish my thought on this matter. The first part of the blog entry is pretty much what I've stated here.

    Thanks!

    RD
     
  25. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    So you are rephrasing to this, right?

     
  26. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    Yup
     
  27. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    What are some of those problems you have, J.P.?
     
  28. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Equivocation? Where? Twice, in the section cited, the Confessions speak of yielding obedience: to the Word and to the gospel. Would you care to demonstrate how the Confessions can be said to be referring to assurance in this portion?

    Lest you think the Standards are unclear:

     
  29. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    Again, I would suggest that the portion of the Confession to which you refer does not pertain to the gospel in conversion, which is what I am addressing, but rather the gospel’s work in the life of the believer as it pertains to progressive sanctification. The Confession speaks to the humility and diligence (for instance) that is granted to those who obey the gospel, which I would take as throughout the Christian’s life, because of the reference to assurance, which best fits with sanctification, not initial conversion. Moreover, the Confession footnotes Romans 11, “Be not high-minded, but fear”, a clear warning to converted believers being sanctified. Nonetheless, I am pleased to allow for your interpretation. As I’ve noted several times now, I agree that speaking in terms of obedience to the gospel with respect to conversion is appropriate. My point is and has been that it is at least equally important to uphold the teaching that it can be inappropriate to refer to faith as obedient. It depends upon the situation.

    I’m going to leave you with three scenarios:

    1. Consider the case of the sinner broken before God who all of a sudden is converted by the invading work of the Holy Spirit. Would we say that such a one who was burdened and heavy laden with his sin and finally found rest in Christ was being obedient, especially if no command was needed to bring such a one to faith? It’s hard for me to believe that anyone who did not have a personal axe to grind would insist that we must always consider justifying faith obedient. Certainly Scripture teaches a distinction between the mental "acts" of resting upon and receiving Christ, and the physical acts that proceed from such faith, such as feeding the poor, comforting the sick, loving our wives, serving in our churches, etc. James makes this very point.

    2. Imagine another case - this time a person who was a hardened criminal and not burdened with his sin. Then imagine God quickening such a one in his tracks after his hearing the call to repent and believe. In such a case, it is most fitting to describe such a response as obedient to the command (while not forgetting that God granted the obedience).


    3. In the cases in which God regenerates infants, those infants are not merely regenerated without also sharing in all the benefits of Christ, including justification. Accordingly, lest justification need not be accompanied by faith, we must conclude that the seed of faith that is implanted in those regenerate infants is justifying faith. Indeed, that faith must (and will) be exercised during years of discretion, but nonetheless justifying faith is present. In all fairness, Escondido’s paradigm fits those situations much better, for how does a baby obey in conversion?! Again, there is a place for referring to obedience to the gospel call upon men’s lives in the realm of conversion (and even more so in the work of progressive sanctification), but it would be a monstrosity to suggest that a woman converted through the shame of adultery and an infant converted in the mother's womb are obeying when God grants them rest.

    I really must leave this discussion now. I find it terribly partisan.

    Ron
     
  30. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Partisan? I don't understand how my remarks can be construed as partisan. I have been trying to clarify and accurately present the Confessional language on whether or not it is a "misnomer" to speak of one's response to the Gospel as obedience.

    Your insistence that the obedience being spoken of should primarily refer to the converted cannot be sustained as the Standards refer to unbelievers who "obey not the Gospel...." I would assume you agree that unbelievers' disobedience to the Gospel is not post conversion.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page