Rich Lusk

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by AV1611, Aug 13, 2007.

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  1. AV1611

    AV1611 Puritan Board Senior

    Do you know of any articles and books that critique the work of Rich Lusk?


    Our Curate lent me a book by Lusk called Paedofaith which I have written a brief nine page reply to but I was wondering if anyone else knew of good materials.
  2. raderag

    raderag Puritan Board Sophomore

    Do a search for Michael Horton and Rich Lusk. You will find something of substance.
  3. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    "The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis," by Guy Prentiss Waters deals extensively with Lusk.
  4. Mayflower

    Mayflower Puritan Board Junior

    Is it possible to put your brief on the board ?
  5. AV1611

    AV1611 Puritan Board Senior

    I will come back and edit later as internet access is ending for today but hope this is of interest :pilgrim:

    Paedofaith – A Brief Critique

    All quotes from Scripture are taken from the Authorized (King James) Version

    The Preface
    I agree with Lusk that the age in which we are living is “more ‘exile’ than ‘conquest’” and I join with him in saying “We cannot merely build a hedge around our homes to keep the world out. We have to train and equip our children to face and fight the world in all its worldliness”. As Christians we are called to live an antithetical life for we are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). We ought to say with David “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” (Psalm 101:3, 7). We ought obey God when he commands “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 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. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). To obey our God is our bounden duty and great joy.

    I also agree with Lusk that the covenant of God “includes our children” and that “The covenant is the bedrock on which we seek to build our own lives and the lives of our children.”

    Chapter One – the Psalms
    Lusk makes an important point regarding the use of the Psalter, or lack thereof, in churches today. I join with him in lamenting the fact that “As we have lost touch with the Psalter, we have lost touch with our best model for a life of piety and devotion.” Oh that we would return to the songbook of the Church, the Book of Praises, that God has given us through David the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1)! Nowhere has God authorized the use of songs other than the psalms and we sin if we use them in worship. Recall the fate of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1, 2.

    I have no issue with his understanding of Psalm 22 as such, however I do take issue with Lusk on page 4 when he writes “the promise [of Genesis 17:7] declares that from the very beginning of their lives, our children stand in the same covenantal relationship with God that we ourselves are in by virtue of faith.” My point of contention is highlighted well when he states at the bottom of the same page, “God is our God from the time of our youth if we are conceived and born into a covenant family.” Whilst it is correct to say that God has promised to be the God of the seed of believers it must be remembered that the central seed of Abraham to whom the promise was made is Christ (Galatians 3:16). We ought also note that “if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29) and therefore the promise of God to be the God of the seed of believers is only ever made to the elect “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (Romans 9:6-8). To this I add the words of Heac I, Article 7 which read “He has also from eternity appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of salvation and thus He decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit. He decreed to give them true faith in Him, to justify them, to sanctify them, and, after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them, for the demonstration of His mercy and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.” The idea that all those born to believers are within the covenant is not founded upon the word of God. The covenant of grace is made with Christ and the elect in him, the reprobate have no place whatsoever in the covenant of God whether they are the seed of believers or not.

    I object to Lusk saying on page 5 “while the covenant is a blessed relationship, it is also a conditional relationship”. It most certainly is “a blessed relationship” but in no way is it “a conditional relationship”. This stems from his wrong conception of covenant. The very essence of a covenant as Hoeksema makes plain in his The Covenant: God’s Tabernacle with Men is one of intimate friendship and blessed communion. Yes we are to have faith but this is a fruit of election Christ purchased for us by his death. As the Canons teach, “Election…is the fountain of every saving good, from which flow faith, holiness, and other saving gifts, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects.” We were placed into a covenant relationship with the Triune God before the foundation of the world. Yes we are to “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1) but this is not a condition to be in the covenant but a demand of already being in the covenant. We are to walk in the way of faithful obedience but let us remember that whilst we are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” nevertheless “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12, 13). These latter verses being related directly to what St. Paul said in the first chapter – “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The covenant is unconditional (Cf. Genesis 15) as is illustrated most plainly in the “I wills” of God:

    Jeremiah 31:33, 34 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    Ezekiel 36:25-28 “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

    I here understand the New Covenant not as new but rather renewed and the clearest manifestation if the one covenant of grace established in eternity. The covenant is God’s, he alone establishes it and he alone maintains it!

    I object to Lusk’s argument in footnote 4 on page 5 when he bases paedobaptism upon paedofaith arguing “why baptize a child unless we have some reason to regard him as a believer?” In my article “Why Baptize Infants?” I pointed out “We baptize infants not because they have faith…but rather because of the promise of God to believers that he will be their God and the God of their children (Deuteronomy 30:6; Isaiah 59:20, 21; Jeremiah 32:37-40).”

    Lusk makes an important point in footnote 7 starting upon page 9 and with which I lean towards. This idea, which a friend pointed out to me, cause me to question whether I was in fact converted in December 2003 or whether that was just an awakening or renewing “conversion” for I can distinctly recall praying the “sinners-prayer” (a practice I vehemently oppose) when but 9 or 10. But then of course, was that not just a manifestation of a faith that I had since conception? Highly probable for as Herman Hoeksema writes in his Reformed Dogmatics “we regard it as a common rule that in the line of the covenant the elect children are reborn from infancy.” However I could not agree with Gisbertus Voetius who allowed “The apostle Paul was regenerate from infancy and the seed of grace was latent in him even when he persecuted the Church of Christ” and “Augustine was also regenerated, and even incompletely converted, prior to his years of bondage to heresy and immorality.” William Young is surely correct to say then “The making of a prolonged time gap between regeneration and conversion is a major objection to the Voetian and Kuyperian theory that all elect infants of believing parents are regenerated from the womb.”

    I am worried by Lusk’s insistence that “There is no such thing as membership in the people of God that is merely external (e.g., sociological, with no Spiritual implications)” in footnote 8 which is in flat contradiction to Romans 9:6.

    I am not entirely persuaded of Lusk’s interpretation of Psalm 139:14 although the overall point he is making in that section is not objectionable in my opinion.

    Concerning Psalm 8 I believe that Matthew 21:16 is helpful and I agree with Lusk on page 15 that liturgy is valuable especially for children although I take issue that they should be taught the Doxology, Gloria Patri and Te Deum. They should be catechized and I would suggest the Heidelberg Catechism as well as the Westminster Catechisms. I myself have attempted to develop a Reformed liturgy and am a great fan of the Book of Common Prayer.

    Psalm 128 is contained in The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony and I like the imagery of “children like olive plants round about thy table” for a covenant family should eat sitting around a table not slumped in front of the TV watching some sinful drama or film. The evening meal cooked by the wife, given thanks for by the husband and eaten by the household after which is a suitable time for training up the “olive plants” through catechizing, psalm singing, Scripture study and family prayer.

    In concluding this section I disagree with Lusk where he writes that “The experience of the psalmist should be the experience of our offspring” for he is assuming the seed of believers head for head are covenant members but this is wrong. It is correct to say however that all the seed of believers “should be nurtured in the faith all along the way from infancy forward to young adulthood” on page 21.

    Chapter Two – The Gospels
    It is completely correct to say, as Lusk does on page 23, “God says He will be a God to us and to our children.”

    I have no issue with Lusk’s argument concerning John the Baptist however his exposition (if it can in all seriousness be called such a thing) of Matthew 18 leaves a lot to be desired and I am not at all convinced his argument is sound as he notes in footnote 5 on page 28 and my reading of this text would be termed “old” and “scholastic” by Lusk but I shall not be losing any sleep over that! I believe that Lusk is reading his own ideas into the text and as I was reading this I kept on thinking “A text taken out of context is a pretext”. As for this proving paedocommunion, well even if his exegesis is correct it just does not follow for he seemingly assumes that which he has not proven i.e. infants partook of the Passover.

    Your second comment on page 33 caused me to chuckle because I was thinking the exact same thing. Is not Lusk guilty of reading Matthew 19:14 into Matthew 18:1-6 as opposed to rightly dividing the word of truth?

    I take issue with Lusk’s insistence that “Jesus regards covenant infants and children as believers” only because Lusk misunderstands who is within the covenant and I see no evidence of that statement.

    Chapter Three – Paedofaith a Mystery
    Lusk is correct that “God makes promises to our children” on page 39 however Lusk understands this as all the children of believers head for head and this is incorrect. Therefore when Lusk insists that “God has promised our children the riches of the gospel, namely, Christ and His benefits” he will run into all sorts of problems as I anticipate I shall read later in the book. Indeed we already see the outworking of his own covenantal theology where he sees the covenant as conditional. Lusk writes that God has promised to give our children faith and yet these same children who have been given faith by God do in a real way loose that faith. Such a view I find repugnant and the Synod of Dordt condemned such a view rejecting the error that “The perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election or a gift of God obtained by the death of Christ” . It condemned the view that “True regenerate believers not only can fall completely and definitely from justifying faith and also from grace and salvation, but indeed they often do fall from them and are lost forever” as well as the view that “The faith of those who believe for a time does not differ from justifying and saving faith except with respect to its duration.”

    Note that if every child of believers possesses paedofaith, which Lusk argues is the norm, then every child born to believing parents possesses “Christ and His benefits”. This therefore means every child is included in the atonement. And yet Lusk argues that some of these children will “apostatize” and so one must ask whether Lusk has introduced an atonement that does not save within the sphere of the covenant and it is self evident that he has. He also seeming ignores the fact that, as the Canons repudiate the error that “The perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election or a gift of God obtained by the death of Christ” .

    If God has promised to be the God of our children then does God’s promise fail? It must do if Lusk is correct. Yet Lusk overlooks the plain fact that God’s promise is ever only for the elect, the covenant is made with Christ and the elect in him. Can it be said any plainer as it was by the Westminster divines in the Westminster Larger Catechism Question and Answer 31? The covenant is made with the elect and them alone. The reprobate has no part, absolutely no part, in the covenant for that is a bond of friendship and communion between the Triune God, as Sovereign-Friend, and his people in Christ Jesus, as servant-friends. This must be understood.

    Furthermore, according to Lusk “covenant children can grow up to reject the promised offer”. I would ask four things:
    1stly; what are “covenant children”?
    2ndly; what is the “promised offer”?
    3rdly; is not a “promise” the very opposite of an “offer”?
    4thly; how is this “promised offer” rejected by “covenant children”?

    For Lusk the promise of God is “a trustworthy and sure pledge of forgiveness and new life in Christ” and yet at the same time is neither trustworthy nor a pledge but is wholly dependant upon the child. Is this not just Arminianism being introduced into the covenant? I would have to say yes it is for here salvation is given to the child upon the condition that they have faith or if they have faith that they persevere in faithfulness. The Canons of Dordt teach that “election is not based on foreseen faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition, as a cause or condition in man required for being chosen, but men are chosen to faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, and so on. Election, therefore, is the fountain of every saving good, from which flow faith, holiness, and other saving gifts, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects.” It teaches also that God “has also from eternity appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of salvation and thus He decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit. He decreed to give them true faith in Him, to justify them, to sanctify them, and, after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them, for the demonstration of His mercy and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.” This is sure and stable for the Canons assure us that “The cause of this gracious election is solely the good pleasure of God. This good pleasure does not consist in this, that out of all possible conditions God chose certain qualities or actions of men as a condition for salvation” . They also condemn the idea of conditions saying, “Synod rejects the following errors… Error: The good pleasure and purpose of God of which Scripture speaks in the doctrine of election is not that He chose certain persons and not others, but that He out of all possible conditions (such as the works of the law) chose or selected the act of faith, which in itself is without merit as the condition for salvation. In His grace He would count such faith as complete obedience and worthy of the reward of eternal life.” The lesson is that what God promises he delivers for the promises are Yea and Amen in him!

    Is there a difference between infant and adult faith? That is an interesting question and I shall look into it in more detail and so I refrain from judgment here.

    Concerning the efficacy of baptism; to argue “Baptism…offers Christ to faith already present in the heart of the child” does not sit well with me simply because I object to the term offer, far better would be “presents” and I would insert “elect” between “the” and “child”. As to the efficacy of baptism, whilst this is an issue that I have been thinking through seriously for over a year I still have no reason to disagree with Hoeskema’s presentation in his Reformed Dogmatics where he states, “In the sacrament, God assures with an oath that he reckons faith unto righteousness. Through the sacrament he assures the believers in Jesus Christ that he will surely grant unto them the grace of his covenant and the salvation promised to them.” He goes on to say, “The mere fact that one has received the outward sign of baptism by the church does not mean that his sins are washed away. It is very possible that one is externally baptized and is received as an external member of the church in the world, yet he has no part with Christ and all his benefits.” In concluding Hoeksema argues baptism is a sign and seal of the “power of the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse away our sin and of this grace of the Holy Spirit, whereby he brings our souls into a saving contact with that blood of Christ”.

    I find it odd that Lusk argues “not all infant faith is saving faith” for it is that paedofaith that Lusk wishes to say makes the infant saved on page 39.

    His pointing out that WCF 10.4 does not refer to the doctrine of common grace is very interesting and I agree with him on that point. I acknowledge that there have been Reformed thinkers that have defended the doctrine of Common Grace such as Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck and Louis Berkhof however I see no confessional (nor more importantly a Scriptural) foundation for it. I would point to a short article by Herman Hoeksema for further reading on this issue this being his “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer”. This is an issue that I have looked into for a while and I could write more but I shall leave it at that and move on.

    Concerning presumption, God never promised to save the children of believers head for head and so we ought not presume that he does.

    I also object to Lusk’s argument regarding apostasy.

    Concerning adoption on page 64 I think that he goes too far. Yes adopted children ought be baptized but do they have paedofaith? Not unless they are given it by God.

    Chapter Four – Death in Infancy
    Before I begin I would point out that I would agree with Hoeksema in his chapter on this issue in Believers and their Seed. Head I, Article 17 of the Canons teach, “We must judge concerning the will of God from His Word, which declares that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they are included with their parents. Therefore, God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1Corinthians 7:14).” I would however argue that to presume what God has never promised is tantamount to blasphemy for it is taking his name in vain ascribing to God what he himself has never said. I would say that the WCF in 10.3 puts it well saying “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ through the Spirit who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth”. This is a difficult pastoral issue and must be handled with due sensitivity and care.

    Chapter Five – Is Paedofaith Universal?
    I disagree with Lusk on page 73 where he says that “If he’s baptized…the covenant promises belong to him.”

    I would point out again that paedofaith must not be the basis of paedobaptism and is in fact not the basis of it.

    Seeing Lusk raises the broad issue in footnote 5 on page 76 I would point out that I take the position that the notion of godfathers and godmothers is not founded upon the word of God and ought not be practiced.

    Chapter Six - History
    This chapter was interesting but nothing was gained by it, with regards to Lusk’s argument, in my opinion.

    Chapter Seven – Covenant Community Life
    As I was making my way through chapter three I commented that Lusk “will run into all sorts of problems as I anticipate I shall read later in the book.” Well as he turns to the implications of paedofaith we shall see if my warning was prophetic.

    Firstly Lusk links paedofaith with paedobaptism arguing that the former establishes “more securely” the latter. On page 108 he states, “It simply makes no sense to say that God has authorized us to baptize unbelievers” and then turns Baptist on us in arguing that “Everything in Scripture seems to connect faith to baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16).” His conclusion is bold, “If paedobaptism is biblically warranted, paedofaith must be a reality.” On page 111 Lusk writes, “Paedofaith helps to build an impregnable wall around the doctrine and practice of paedobaptism.” He seems preoccupied with answering the Anabaptist objection for he points out that, “If children are believers, they ought to be baptized. They meet the required condition.”

    The problem with Lusk’s argument is numerous but allowing that circumcision and baptism are the same thing albeit in differing dispensations then the case of Ishmael refutes Lusk’s insistence that “It simply makes no sense to say that God has authorized us to baptize unbelievers” for in the Old Testament God authorized the circumcision of unbelievers. Read Genesis 17:7, 10, 19-21, 23 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised. And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.” Abraham is commanded to circumcise his seed and so Ishmael was circumcised however he was not a covenant child for “my covenant will I establish with Isaac”! Likewise believers are to have their children baptized regardless of their being elect or reprobate, in the covenant or not and this is by the commandment of God.

    Secondly Lusk links paedofaith with paedocommunion and to be honest I am not convinced that his statement that “everyone agrees that paedocommunion was the generally accepted practice in the West up until the twelfth century” is factual. Even if it were that would not prove the practice to be Scriptural. The most obvious defect in Lusk’s argument, which immediately comes to mind, is that he is running with presuppositions i.e. because the Lord’s supper is a “covenant renewal feast” (an unproven assertion) and all infants are in the covenant (false premise) and all infants have faith (unproven assertion) therefore they ought be admitted to the Table of our Lord. So with two unproven assertions and a false premise Lusk wishes to prove the practice of paedocommunion. Well I am not at all convinced.

    It ought be pointed out that Lusk has claimed Calvin as his own up until now but now Calvin is nowhere to be seen, I wonder why?

    Also missing is exegesis and no parallel is drawn with the Passover (although he does raise this briefly on page 138 in the next chapter) and I am convinced that if you were to look at the Passover texts in Scripture none clearly teach that infants partook of it or indeed imply that they did, but rather quite the opposite.

    Chapter Eight – Parenting
    In raising up a child I would point immediately to the following:

    Proverbs 13:24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
    Proverbs 19:18 “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
    Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
    Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

    Professor Hanko writes in We and Our Children “Covenant parents begin the covenant instruction of their children from the moment they are born…Parents do so because they believe that God is at work in the hearts of these elect children of the covenant, and that covenant instruction is used by God to work conscious faith and salvation in them, as small as they may be.” They must be admonished when they sin and taught to confess their sins and repent daily. They ought be catechized and taught the Creed, Lord’s prayer as well as the Decalogue. The family should have times of worship together where the psalms are sung, Scripture is read and prayers are made. Hanko also writes that parents are not to judge between their children to see which is elect or reprobate, which is a true seed of the covenant and which carnal. No! He writes “it is certainly true that the parents treats them all as elect in the years of their minority.” On this I am sure Rich Lusk and I would agree!


    “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him;
    and he will shew them his covenant.”
    - Psalm 25:14
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2007
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

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