Judgment according to works?

It's often suggested that Matthew 25 teaches a final judgment according to works. I question the accuracy of such language in reference to Matthew 25. In fact, Matthew 25 does speak of a final judgment in accord with what we do, but the basis of that judgment isn't works in the plural sense, the basis of that judgment is said by Christ to be one deed (or work), whether good or ill.

Christ is describing the final judgment before His throne where the sheep will be separated from the goats.

Speaking to the sheep, Christ says, the King will say:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

This clearly sounds like the scenario described by those who propose a final judgment on the basis of works. But then Christ adds further details fundamentally important to understanding this judgment. First, he tells us that the sheep will not understand their acquittal:

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

Still, so far so good. But then the King explains the judgment:

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Two things stand out about the King's judgment. First, it's not a statement about what the Spirit did through the one acquitted. It's a simple statement about what the righteous did. Second, it's not actually a statement about works, it's a statement that even just one deed, one act, one work done toward "the least of these my brothers" is credited as having been done unto Christ. No vast raft of deeds, no great body of works is in view. All Christ says to the humbly remonstrating sheep is that if it was done to "one of the least of these", it is counted as done unto Him.

Still, it may seem, this substantiates judgment according to works. It doesn't have to be many works, even one is sufficient. But note that Christ doesn't enumerate the works. He doesn't list the deeds of the righteous. He doesn't speak of a lifetime of good deeds, but only of one, and even that one is left unspecified.

And to the goats the King's measure is the same, though in their case the resulting pronouncement is as terrible as for the sheep it's glorious.

Speaking to the goats the King will say:

Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

Again, this seems in accord with standard thinking about a final judgment on the basis of works. But, as before, Christ adds details which are significant to the bald statement of judgment. Like the sheep, the goats also complain about the unfairness of the King's judgment. But unlike the sheep who question their acquittal, the goats question their conviction:

Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?'

To which the King will respond,

Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.

There's not a vast body of sin in view here, only one failure. One sin of omission damns the goats, one act of righteousness justifies the sheep.

In other words, the King's judgment could be life for one sheep who failed to help all but one of "the least of these," and death for one goat who failed only once to help "one of the least of these."

If this is judgment according to works, so be it. But it seems clear from the passage that the works in question are not a vast body of evidence produced by the Holy Spirit, but ultimately one work, good or evil, serving as a marker of faith. So while I don't deny that Scripture teaches a final judgment in accord with works, it seems quite obvious that Christ wants us to understand that at the judgment works will serve as a marker of faith rather than as a great body of exonerating evidence wrought by the Spirit.

If this passage is the simple statement of judgment according to works that some would have it, then the King's answers to those acquitted and those convicted make no sense. The sheep will be thinking normally (as sheep) by regarding themselves as unworthy. The goats will be thinking normally (as goats) by thinking themselves worthy. If it's really a simple judgment according to works, the King should tell the sheep that all their good deeds are known by Him and that all of them are accepted by Him through the work of the Spirit, and the King should tell the goats that all their good deeds are not really good deeds because they aren't done through the Spirit.

But Christ's emphasis here is on disparity: one good deed taken as done unto Him, one omission taken as failure toward Him. Christ's elaboration beyond a simple statement of judgment and division here reveals something both surprising and vitally important: the basis of judgment will be a bombshell both to the righteous and the unrighteous. The surprise revealed by the King's response to the remonstrations of both the sheep and the goats is that only one deed is necessary as the basis of His judgment.

In the end, far from being a statement of the centrality of works to the judgment, it seems to me that this passage tends to deprecate the role of works by making them evidence for rather than the grounds of Christ's judgment. Both sheep and goats think works should play a bigger role in how they are judged. Christ's point to both is that one deed is all that's necessary as the basis for His judgment.

Comments

On pages 78-79 of volume 1 of his commentary on Romans, John Murray states "the distinction between judgment according to works and salvation on account of works needs to be fully appreciated." He ends his discussion with this statement: "Good works as the evidences of faith and of salvation by grace are therefore the criteria of judgment and to suppose that the principle 'who will render to every man according to his works' (vsl 6), has no relevance to the believer would be to exclude good works from the indispensable place which they occupy in the biblical doctrine of salvation."

I discuss judgment according to works in a sermon on Romans 2:1-16 found at http://grovergunn.net/andrew/andrew.htm#45rom, starting at page 6.

Grover Gunn

Our works are always in accordance with what we believe. And so, every word will be scrutinized in the Day of Judgment (Mt 12:36), since it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Mt 12:34). Those who profess to believe in the person and work of Christ, but who do not live like it, will be shown to be false by their works. Those who profess to believe in the person and work of Christ and whose works substantiate that claim will be vindicated.

The basis of our justification is always and only faith alone, but where there’s smoke; there’s fire. Our works are the smoke signals indicating by what our hearts have been set on fire. Some hearts burn after women and wine; others burn after the kingdom of God and his righteousness. I think it’s safe to say that we our justified by our faith in the person and work of Christ, but our faith will be shown to be genuine by our works.

On the other hand, our rewards do seem to be on the basis of our works. But that’s a different discussion.

David, I am now wearing a proper cotton shirt today, I'll have you know. I do enjoy a fine sturdy polyester shirt with a big, stout collar though.

Man, that is really profound. Christ only needs one little piece of evidence to look at to judge the state of our souls, whether regenerate or reprobate, underscoring that without the Spirit of God our works are entirely filthy. Praise God for His mercy and His work!

There are three 'works' here:

Salvation relies solely on Jesus' work in fulfilling the law, appropriated by the grace of faith by the sheep.

Works condemning the goats because they relied on their own works and as sinners (as the sheep) could never fulfill the law.

Works being judged in both the sheep and goats having to do with degree of reward for the sheep and punishment for the goats.

JOHN GILL:

"Mat 25:35 - 'For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.....' This, and the following, are not mentioned as causes of the kingdom being prepared for them, or of their being entitled to it, or of their being put into the possession of it; but as descriptive of their characters, and as testimonies and evidences of the grace of God in them; by which it appeared, that they were the blessed of his Father, having his special grace vouchsafed unto them; and that they were the children of God, to whom the inheritance of the kingdom belonged, and for whom it was prepared: for what was done by them in time, could never be the cause of what was done for them in eternity, or before, or from the foundation of the world; nor is there any proportion between a kingdom, and such services as here mentioned: and besides, this kingdom is by inheritance, and not, merit; is prepared by God, and not procured by men, and was got ready for them before they had a being; and therefore could not be caused by any actions of theirs: what is here, and in the following instances, said to be done to Christ, is not to be understood of him personally, but mystically, of the members of his body, as he himself explains it, Mat_25:40, and the sense is, that when some of the servants of Christ, ministers, or private Christians, were in distress for want of the necessaries of life, these gracious souls supplied them with food; which to do, especially in a time of persecution, showed not only love to Christ, but great faith in him, and that they were not ashamed of him, and their profession of him, nor of his poor ministers and members; for this was done by them, not as the effect of mere humanity to the poor in general, but as an instance of affection to Christ's poor; and was done for his sake, and because they belonged to him, were preachers of his Gospel, and professors of his name; and therefore was considered as if done to himself personally..."

John Gill wasn't reformed, he was a Baptist...

I think I answered this on the other thread.

>I think I answered this on the other thread.

Ineffectively however.

Gill wasn't only a Baptist (which in itself wouldn't exempt him from being a faithful commentator on Scripture--though, in this case, it is telling that anti-FV folks appeal to Baptists rather than people like Calvin, Turretin, Bullinger, Cranmer, &c.), he was also a an antinomian HYPER-Calvinst. That does disqualify him to tell us anything of value as a faithful commentator on Scripture.

Pastor Austin,

You mean like this John Calvin?:

"35. For I was hungry. If Christ were now speaking of the cause of our salvation, the Papists could not be blamed for inferring that we merit eternal life by good works; but as Christ had no other design than to exhort his people to holy and upright conduct, it is improper to conclude from his words what is the value of the merits of works. With regard to the stress which they lay on the word for, as if it pointed out the cause, it is a weak argument; for we know that, when eternal life is promised to the righteous, the word for does not always denote a cause, but rather the order of

procedure. f167 But we have another reply to offer, which is still more clear; for we do not deny that a reward is promised to good works, but maintain that it is a reward of grace, because it depends on adoption. Paul boasts (2 Timothy 4:8) that a crown of righteousness is laid up for him;

but whence did he derive that confidence but because he was a member of Christ, who alone is heir of the heavenly kingdom? He openly avows that the righteous Judge will give to him that crown; but whence did he obtain that prize but because by grace he was adopted, and received that justification of which we are all destitute? We must therefore hold these two principles, first, that believers are called to the possession of the

kingdom of heaven, so far as relates to good works, not because they deserved them through the righteousness of works, or because their own

minds prompted them to obtain that righteousness, but because God justifies those whom he previously elected, (Romans 8:30.)

Secondly, although by the guidance of the Spirit they aim at the practice of righteousness, yet as they never fulfill the law of God, no reward is due to them, but the term reward is applied to that which is bestowed by grace."

I guess Calvin just didn't understand Reformed theology as well as Peter Leithart either. Pity.

For my part, it seems that Matt. 25 is only one instance (and that by way of parabolic example) of Scripture's affirmation that judgment on the last day will have alot to do with their works during their life. Of course, the anti-FV folks are quite right in saying that the judgment based on works is not only for the believer but also for the unbeliever. This is quite right. It seems to me that this indicates that what will be at work will be that demonstration--ademonstration that an unbeliever does not believe because of his evil works, and a demonstration that a believer does because of his growing holiness throughout his life. However, this idea of demonstrating what the character of a person is, in the case of a righteous person, can rightly be called "justification." This word "justification" isn't only applicable to the change in status due to God's reckonning or imputation or union with Christ (however you want to describe it), but it is also applicable to the demonstration of a person's righteous standing (or even a growth in righteousness that is not perfect in himself, but based on the righteousness that is received by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ). So, i don't see a problem with using the term "justification" to refer to the final judgment that takes into account the works of believers. This does not necessarily imply that the works of the believers who are so "justified" undo the fact that their trusting in Christ is the sole means by which they have a right standing before God, but it does keep what Scripture itself says at the fore of our minds that real Christians are faithful in every meaningful sense of that word--not just some intellectual faith, but the kind of faith that so affects the believer that his whole life changes in the way he lives it.

I'm still not seeing what all the fuss is about over this issue, unless we are being most uncharitable and assuming that the Federal Visionists are meaning the worst possible thing that they could. If biblical and Christian love "believes all things" of others, then it shows a patent lack of love for our brothers in Christ automatically to assume that our FV brothers mean something heretical when their words themselves could mean (and if they are telling the truth, do mean) something that is not inconsistent at all with Confessional language and traditional Reformed categories.

Pastor Greco,

Unless i have completely misread him, Doctor Leithart has not said that our works are, as Calvin said, "the cause of our salvation," or that our works "merit eternal life." If you are going to quote Calvin in this discussion, you can't quote him dealing with one thing against another thing altogether. Calvin is dealing there, as your own quote so clearly shows, with those who claim that works are the cause (or, in our terminology, "the ground") or our salvation. I have read a good bit of Leithart's theological views, but that isn't one i have heard from him.

If Calvin refutes Leithart here, it must be because Leithart affirms that works are the ground of our salvation. Yet, that very assumption is the question at hand: does Leithart believe that works are the reason for our salvation? That means that you have begged the question rather than answered it. Show us from Leithart's own work that he has affirmed that works are the cause of our salvation, and Calvin will apply. If you can't do that (and i don't reckon that you can), then the truth of Calvin says here, as good as it is, does nothing to refute Leithart. In everything i have read by Leithart, he affirms that everything that the believer receives is sheer grace, and that goes as much for his first work of grace to bring the believer to himself as much as for crowning his works of faith with glory and giving him the reward of the crown of life for them. Notice, though, that Calvin doesn't deny that works are part of the judgment, but only that any reward that God gives for them is because of grace. I couldn't agree more, and i wager that, if you were to ask Doctor Leithart, he'd agree wholeheartedly as well.

"I'm still not seeing what all the fuss is about over this issue, unless we are being most uncharitable and assuming that the Federal Visionists are meaning the worst possible thing that they could."

They engage in mocking true believers. Their language, their sophistical rhetoric, mocks true believers. (They grin at the words "true believers" as shown in their mocking use of the 'TR' label.) They 'yank chains', and the fact that Reformed Christians take Reformed Theology as life and death - eternal life and eternal death - itself it just increases the pleasure of the FVists (and I speak of their leaders; the followers actually have bought into the nonsense, and they I mourn for). They know Reformed Theology is the truth and that Reformed Christians are zealous by the Spirit to defend and pass on the truth as they've received it, so what do they do? They introduce all the clap-trap of pomo nonsense the Academy soiled secular literature with (cut up the truth, attack it piece-meal, say whatever when confronted, etc.).

Imagine if young Jesuits got together in college and decided how fun it would be to pretend they were Calvinists and get into the denominations and churches of Calvinists and just muck Reformed Theology up as much as they could...the Federal Vision types fit the bill.

Mr. Phillips,

Only if you have the power to stare into the hearts of these men and determine that they are *NOT* "true believers" are your own accusations not liable to yourself as much as to them. Since you have no such power, you should not so quickly fall into the same error that you see in your theological disputants. Our Master said something in this case about removing the log in your own eye before you go trying to remove the speck in your brother's. I would wager that it is a log in either case, but the exhortation to clear yourself of the overt offense before trying to point it out in others is still a just exhortation, no matter which parties are involed.

I grant you, though, that there is plenty of rhetorical and jocular offense that has been given. Yet, does this guilt on their part "justify" (pun intended) the overblown accusations that they engender (and arguably, which engendered the rhetorical and jocular overstatement to begin with)? Absolutely not. One sin never makes another one in response right (whichever came first). What is so strange is that you speak as though you are completely guiltless in this case, which you so clearly are not, because your accusation is itself guilty of the thing you would accuse others of doing!

Why not just deal with the specifics of the dispute rather than likewise employing that unrighteous hyperbole and those puffed-up accusations which you so despise in these men? I despise it as well, not only in them, but in yourself. So, just let it go, asking them to forgive you, even while extending your forgiveness to them. Is that not what would show your Christ-likeness more than anything: a willingness to be reconciled to the sinners he loves at all costs? Indeed, we are all called to be children of our Father in heaven precisely insofar as we are willing to love our enemies as God in Christ loved us while we were yet *HIS* enemies. Can you honestly say that you are doing that? I don't see it, and i haven't seen it very much at all on either side.

I don't know, Pastor Austin, but this seems clearly unconfessional and "pro-works"

From:

http://www.leithart.com/archives/003095.php

"Is the denial of judgment according to works implicitly binitarian?

If we are judged according to Christ's imputed righteousness, then at the judgment, Jesus' works are approved but not ours. the judgment is Father-Son. But where's the Spirit?

If our works are the works of the Spirit in us, then their approval is the Son's final judgment about the Spirit, the vindication of the Spirit as the Spirit of righteousness. At the final judgment, the Son, speaking the Father's final word as the Incarnate Word, will say that the Spirit did everything expected of Him; the Spirit will be able to say, It is finished.

If judgment is not according to works, when is the Spirit finally vindicated? When do the Father and Son say, "Well done, good and faithful Spirit?"

(I'm not, for the record, claiming that those who differ on this point are non-Trinitarians. I'm simply suggesting that they haven't worked through the implications of Trinitarian theology as thoroughly as they might do.)"

And this is certainly hostile to the notion of a final verdict based on the works of Christ:

http://www.leithart.com/archives/003096.php

"The Father has put judgment into the hands of the Son (John 5), and God the Father has appointed a day on which the Risen Son will judge all men (Acts 17:31). The judge of all will be a Man, as Paul says in Acts 17.

According to the PCA FV Study Committee, the "so-called final verdict of justification" based only on "the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone."

Doesn't that mean that Jesus is passing judgment on His own obedience? And isn't that slightly odd? Doesn't Jesus seek His Father's approval rather than His own?"

And this post is pure Romanism, which has justification based on works wrought in us by the Spirit (in the old days, we called that infusion):

http://www.leithart.com/archives/003094.php

Notice that Calvin says that the rewards are a result of *adoption* which is justification's twin. Those who are *already* justified and adopted have their works judged and rewarded. That is what Calvin says, what my brothers David and Tim are saying, and NOT what Leithart is saying.

Pastor Greco,

If Doctor Leithart were saying that the Spirit's working obedience in our heart were the basis for our initial justification, then i could see your point. But even in seminary, one of the things that i learned was to distinguish between justification and sanctification. One of the characteristics of sanctification, as opposed to justification, is precisely that God infuses his grace (i would include holiness as one of those graces) in us (in this, the WSs agree; cf., WLC 77).

Leithart, as i read him in all that you have quoted, even, is simply saying that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the judgment of the believer and his full and final acquittal of all guilt. It does not only involve the Father's electing and sending of the Son, and it does not only involve the Son's coming in the flesh and doing everything from his perfect life through his resurrection; it also must involve the Spirit in his applying the Son's benefits, not just initially, but also continuing to apply those benefits to us every day and preserving believers in that state of grace, while also working in them to cause them to put to death the deeds of the flesh and live more and more as slaves of rightoeusness. His argument seems to me a rather strong one, because the final act of judgment, in which works are so pivotal in showing forth the faith of the believer, is also, even as Calvin himself said in what you quoted, a crowing of God's own grace--not only imputed, but also infused (again, WLC 77 affirms both in justification and sanctification respectively). God has already *ACCOUNTED* the believer as righteous because he has trusted (by God's grace) in the Lord Jesus Christ (this is God's act of justification). In this final judgment, God goes beyond simply considering or reckonning one who is still inherently a sinner as righteous; he recognizes and affirms as fully accomplished the believer's now inherent righteousness, only because he has worked in him (which judgment also can be called justification, but in a different sense from imputation and accounting; in this sense, a confirmation of what is true). God's *FINAL* affirmation of the believer as righteous (what the catechisms call "openly acknowledging and acquitting in the day of judgment") is both because of what Christ has done for him and given to him through imputation, and also because of what the Spirit has done in him by means of infusion, because on that last day, after sanctification is complete and he has been raise in glory (cf., 1 Cor. 15:42-44) the believer will be, in the last day, fully righeous and free not only of the *GUILT* of sin (which we already are in this life through having been forgiven and given Christ's righteousness) but also from the very *PRESENCE* of sin.

But the issue at stake is this: why is the believer freed from condemnation? The answer to that is none other than the finished work of Christ applied to him. But answering why a believer is freed from condemnation goes no farther than the initial act of justification. And God doesn't leave us there, but continues his work of grace in our lives and hearts to bring us to ultimate perfection. That God will crown the perfection that he subsequently works in us by his grace is itself grace, and our final justification is confirming what he will have done; it won't be, ultimately, a change in status, but a confirmation that what he originally said was true and ever shall be. And, since it is all based on what God has done in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, it has nothing to do with the merit we incur for eternal life for anything that we have done; such is impossible. All that we are, both in how God looks at us (i.e., in justification) and how we actually are (i.e., in sanctification and ultimately glorification) is because of what God does for us and in us. And the final act of judgment (or "justification") at the throne of Christ will simply recognize and affirm God's own work, not ours.

That's what, it seems to me that Leithart is saying when he speaks of all three persons being involved in the judgment. The final judgment doesn't *ONLY* take into account the finished work of Christ in abstraction from everything else; it will do that, but it will also take into account what will be the Spirit's finished work in us, which has as its foundation Christ's work, and even before that, God's purpose of grace in election.

BTW, all that i have here explained isn't anything i have learned from Leithart himself, but it comes from what i learned from one Dr. John Oliver, a professor of mine in my "Sanctification" class at RTS-C. I seems to me that what Leithart says dovetails what i learned as standard Reformed theology.

Incidentally, the textbook for that class was J.C. Ryle's _Holiness_, a wonderful book that describes in chapter two God's work of sanctification. There he says this:

"Sanctification is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment. It will be utterly useless to plead that we believed in Christ unless our faith has had some sanctifying effect and been seen in our lives. Evidence, evidence, evidence will be the one thing wanted when the great white throne is set, when the books are opened, when the graves give up their tenants, when the dead are arraigned before the bar of God. Without some evidence that our faith in Christ was real and genuine, we shall only rise again to be condemned. I can find no evidence that will be admitted in that day, except sanctification. The question will not be how we talked and what we professed, but how we lived and what we did. Let no man deceive himself on this point. If anything is certain about the future, it is certain that there will be a judgment; and if anything is certain about judgment, it is certain that men’s "works" and "doings" will be considered and examined in it (John 5:29; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:13). He who supposes works are of no importance because they cannot justify us is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born."

Perhaps, though, i'm just being charitable in my reading. I would rather, though, be charitable to a fault than to be suspicious from the outset.

>hey 'yank chains', and the fact that Reformed Christians take Reformed Theology as life and death - eternal life and eternal death - itself it just increases the pleasure of the FVists (and I speak of their leaders; the followers actually have bought into the nonsense, and they I mourn for).

But as you have demonstrated that you don't understand what constitutes Reformed Theology or Christianity this doesn't really make much of a point.

I understand the five solas, doctrines of grace, and classical covenant theology (Federal Theology). Your version of church polity and your understanding of sacraments don't define Reformed Theology. Once again, by that thinking you pit John Owen (the Calvin of England) against John Calvin, and John Bunyan against John Owen (and don't make me break out the Owen quote on Bunyan). Many great Reformed theologians were/are post-millenial. I'm amillenial. They're not any less Reformed.

Pastor Austin,

You are missing the point. The issue with FV men such as Leithart is that they confuse and conflate justification and sanctification. Leithart makes a number of outrageous and unconfessional statements on *justification* and you defend him on the grounds that what he has said is true of *sanctification*. But that is not on point.

Leithart's posts are specifically referring to some kind of "final *justification*" that is somehow distinct and on different grounds (and by a different judge) than initial justification. The titles of his posts show this - frankly, I don't see *sanctification* used in any of his posts, just *justification*. If he meant sanctification, why didn't he say so? I am willing to give him credit that he understands what words mean. Apparently you are not. What I will not give him credit for is being Confessional.

[Sticking my nose into the discussion regarding the FV's apparent conflating of justification and sanctification]

Doesn't the dichotomy reside in that traditional Reformed soteriology proceeds in the following way: Justification -> Sanctification -> Glorification, while the FV, with its effectively bifurcated justification instead traces a path of Initial Justification -> Sanctification -> Final Justification -> Glorification?

In traditional Reformed soteriology, the names on the list of those Initially Justified are identical to those on the list of the Finally Justified, so there's no benefit to be gained by emphasizing that one is justified when one first turns to Christ in faith, and then will be justified at the end, as well.

ISTM that the FV has there being more names on the Initially Justified list than there are on the Finally Justified list, since some of those on the former list will be proved to have been NECM's.

One thing I'm uncertain about is whether or not the grace imparted to the NECM at Initial Justification is the same as the grace imparted to the ECM at that point, since there's been quite a bit of discussion by FV'ers about how the grace given to the NECM isn't precisely the same as that given to the ECM, so maybe it's not.

If it's not, though, then there'd have to be two lists for those Initially Justified, one for the NECM and one for the ECM.

Tell you what, one thing I'd loved about Reformed soteriology is how elegantly simple and straightforward it is.

Neither of those adjectives could be applied to the FV. =8^o

Pastor Greco,

No, i don't think i'm missing the point. I see what Doctor Leithart is saying quite clearly. I see that he is speaking of a distinct final justification (and i affirm such a final justification as distinct from and looking at something different from initial justification--otherwise, what would the point be in having such a judgment, other than bare repetition?).

Yet, when i see Doctor Leithart speaking of our works being part of that and also affirming that all we receive is by God's grace, i am simply connecting the dots in what he is saying (since he's not explicitly spelling these things out, and he hasn't mentioned God's work of sanctification in this regard) that the works he's talking about are the works that we produce as a result of God's sanctifying work in us.

As i said, my desire is to be as charitable as possible in making judgments here. If there is any way i can look at what Doctor Leithart says as being consonant with our Confession (and i spelled out just one way to do that above), then i take it as my God-given duty to do so (as WLC 144 says, my duties in the 9th commandment are (in part) "charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them...").

No, he didn't use the word "sanctification." That fact alone should be reason to tell us that there may be more going on here than a simple conflating or confusing of initial justification and sanctification; certainly that should be enough to impugn his motives without explicit evidence (after all, aren't all these men innocent until proven guilty in a court of the Church, where they may confront their accusers, present evidence in their defence, and be able to speak for themselves as to what they believe?). I can think of several other, more innocent, reasons why Leithart may not have used the word "sanctification." Perhaps he isn't disputing the traditional understanding of justification and sanctification that you and i know and love and that are spelled out so clearly in our Confession and Catechisms. If he affirms them, why argue over that point? If that's the case, he's simply dealing with the point in dispute and not the other points which we all agree upon. The point in dispute isn't the nature of justification as the Confession and Catechisms spell out (though you seem to think that it is, for no other reason than that he uses the word "justification"); the point in dispute is the final judgment of believers and what is actually judged there--and, too, the valid application of the word "justification" to that final judgment. Remember, brother, that the same word can have different meanings and admit of different senses (even theologically), so just because he uses the word "justification" doesn't mean he's denying the use we all give that word as in the traditional Reformed doctrine of justification (i.e., "initial justification").

As to different judges: we certainly must agree with this, do we not? In the act of justification as it is defined in our Confession and Catechisms, the subject of the justification is God himself; he does the justifying. We could understand this to mean God the Trinity, as in all three persons, but that doesn't make much sense, because in the very definition (WLC 70, e.g.) "God" is applying the work of "Christ." IN other words, we are better off (and it is more consistent, confessionally) speaking of "God" the Father being the one who accounts us as righteous because he looks on the work of Christ as satisfactory in our stead, and it wouldn't make much sense to say that the Son, Christ himself, looks on his own work and justifies sinners. For this reason alone, we should understand that it is God the Father who does the justifying in initial justification. However, at the final judgment (again, that judgment is validly called a "justification," but it is not the same thing as the first justification), Christ himself tells us that judgment has been given to him by the Father, and Paul tells us that we will be tried by Jesus Christ.

Am i just all washed up in my reading of Scripture, or is it possible that you are imputing the worst possible reading to what Doctor Leithart says? As i said, in my estimation, you're not proving your case, but only begging the question you're trying to answer by taking for granted the very thing you're trying to prove.

Pastor Austin,

I can see I am wasting my time here. Words have meaning. You insist it is somehow my "reading" of Leithart that is the problem, when it is in fact his words. Obviously, you have no difficulty putting the worst possible "reading" on the views of 95% of the PCA's elders, whom Leithart insists are unconfessional and do not understand WCF 33.1

WCF 33.1 has never been read as Leithart insists, and there is no reason to do so, unless we desire somehow to invent a "final justification" that is more than a vindication (as the Confessions hold, and Reformed theologians have insisted for centuries).

So I will bow out now, and leave you to the "brilliance" of a man who insists the PCA is completely wrong on the central issue of doctrine, while he pastors a non-PCA church he planted and does all his significant ministry in the CREC, the land of milk and honey for the FV. Why he doesn't leave, I'll never know.

Ms. Ivy said: "ISTM that the FV has there being more names on the Initially Justified list than there are on the Finally Justified list, since some of those on the former list will be proved to have been NECM's."

Is this something that you have seen explicitly in what the FV writers have said, or is it an assumption ("it seems to me"=ISTM, right?) of what you think that they "must" mean? Even admitting of the existence of non-elect Covenant members, and even if we with Calvin and the WCF say that those NECMs receive some kind of work of the Spirit that falls short of truly salvific work, does that necessarily mean that we must (or that the FV writers do) see the initial work of justification as part of those "common operations of the Spirit"?

I'd like to see where a FV writer has claimed explicitly that a NECM can lose initial justification, which justification is defined in the terms of the Confession's and Catechism's definition of justification. Even those statements that all the benefits of Christ are applied to all Covenant members won't do since it has now been retracted and repented of.

Ms. Ivy said: "ISTM that the FV has there being more names on the Initially Justified list than there are on the Finally Justified list, since some of those on the former list will be proved to have been NECM's."

Is this something that you have seen explicitly in what the FV writers have said, or is it an assumption ("it seems to me"=ISTM, right?) of what you think that they "must" mean? Even admitting of the existence of non-elect Covenant members, and even if we with Calvin and the WCF say that those NECMs receive some kind of work of the Spirit that falls short of truly salvific work, does that necessarily mean that we must (or that the FV writers do) see the initial work of justification as part of those "common operations of the Spirit"?

I'd like to see where a FV writer has claimed explicitly that a NECM can lose initial justification, which justification is defined in the terms of the Confession's and Catechism's definition of justification. Even those statements that all the benefits of Christ are applied to all Covenant members won't do since it has now been retracted and repented of.

Since trying to get FV theologians to state much of anything explicitly and without qualifications galore is extraordinarily difficult, of course you haven't read where such a claim has been made.

Look, I don't possess a snazzy M.Div. so it's always within the realm of possibility I'm making an unjustified (a pun! a bad pun, but still...a pun!) leap of necessary consequence by inferring from various statements made by various FV'ers that NECM are somehow justified at baptism, but won't be at glory.

If it's not "Initial Justification" that they mean, then - as happens so often when I try to decipher FV theology - I'm confused.

Pastor Greco said: "I can see I am wasting my time here. Words have meaning. You insist it is somehow my "reading" of Leithart that is the problem, when it is in fact his words. Obviously, you have no difficulty putting the worst possible "reading" on the views of 95% of the PCA's elders, whom Leithart insists are unconfessional and do not understand WCF 33.1."

My brother, i do not put the worst possible reading on the views of 95% of the PCAs elders (and ministers, too, since i see a distinction in those offices). What i do see is that there is alot of confusion at work here on both sides. I believe that the vote by the GA was "knee-jerk," not really dealing with the actual issues at play. I don't think that the committee or any of the ministers and elders in the plenary session of the GA even considered how the affirmation (that the only thing considered in the final judgmnet is the finished work of Jesus Christ) could be reacting to a point that it would make what the Confession says in other places strained at best (that the judgment on the last day will be of those works that we have done in the body). I don't believe that you or others who voted for the statement explicitly deny WCF 33:1 any more than i believe that Doctor Leithart explicitly denies the statements of the WCF on justification and sanctification. More than anything, i believe that there is alot of talking past one another. It is unfortunate that the first reaction of people on either side is to assume that the other has broken faith with their brothers in terms of their confessional stance.

Wouldn't it be a good idea to invite Doctor Leithart here to discuss these things with him instead of accusing him based on snippets and fragments of his theological work? I am more than happy to continue to discuss these matters with you (and, for the record, i believe that words have meaning as well, but not some inherent, disembodied meaning in themselves apart from context and athorial intent--i learned that in my hermeneutics classes in seminary); i'm just sorry that you don't believe that discussion and interaction is beneficial. I'm sure it would be a much easier question for me if i would just listen to R.C. Sproul make grandiose statements about the denial of justification by faith lone and standing for the Gospel, without ever having read or listened to these men for myself. I just can't bring myself to do that.

>I can see I am wasting my time here.

Well not just yours. You seem unable to interact with Pastor Austin's discussion. I think we see here why certain elements prefer a quick referendum with a few minutes of brief discussion rather than using due presbyterian process.

Dear Brothers,

Although at times I've been wearied by your concerns over tone, Pastor Austin, I do believe that we need to love one another more and that your challenges here lately have been well put. As I've been reminded so concretely, today, life is very short and we all soon will stand before the Judgment Seat of God to give an account for every idle word (as Chris so aptly points out), as well as every deed, whether good or evil.

But on to the larger issue. Throughout my ministry, I've become increasingly concerned about what I've seen, pastorally, as an almost complete disregard for Scripture's warnings and exhortations addressed to believers concerning matters such as works, holiness, and testing ourselves to see if we are in the faith. And ironically, this is both what causes me, at times, to be sympathetic to federalista visionistas; and, at other times, to pull my hair out at their seeming inability to see the real danger posed to our sheep by the practical (if not theological) sacramentalism that has been a constant across salvation history--you know, circumcised foreskins but uncircumcised hearts and all that.

Yes, I do agree with my dear brother, David, about the sole basis of our redemption being the work of Jesus Christ--not our own work--and that Matthew 25 is no contradiction of that Scriptural doctrine. But it seems to me that anyone who reads the parable of the sheep and the goats and is led in his reading by the Holy Spirit will grow both in the grace of humility and the holiness of good works, and that he will not simply be driven to make an even more precise statement of the biblical doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone as he exposits this text to his flock.

Can't my dear brothers on both sides of this issue agree that the fear of God is largely absent from reformed churches today? And can't they cooperate, pastorally, as ministers of the Gospel, to pray and work for its return such that the pursuit of faith-holiness once again characterizes the people of God under our care?

These are the questions or concerns that burden this pastor's heart today, first concerning his own soul, but even more concerning the many souls under his care for which he will give an accounting to God Almighty.

And by the way, how about an end to the Baptist-baiting, guys? Just as a favor to me, let it go for now, OK?

Tim,

Dear brother, you say prophetically (in the Biblical and Confessonal sense):

=============

Can't my dear brothers on both sides of this issue agree that the fear of God is largely absent from reformed churches today? And can't they cooperate, pastorally, as ministers of the Gospel, to pray and work for its return such that the pursuit of faith-holiness once again characterizes the people of God under our care?

=============

You have personally known my own ministry for years. You know I believe exactly what you say is true. But just as importantly, you know I agree with you that the solution to weak-knee anti-holiness pastoral ministry is the fervent application of the imperatives of Scripture, not some hypothetical future justification that is separated from justification by faith in the Son of God, King Jesus.

Blessings,

Just a short observation: notice R. C. Sproul's name is now being invoked by FVists in pretty much the exact same manner and tone liberal theologians would invoke his name? Or Arminians would invoke his name. FVists aren't on the side of apostolic biblical doctrine (Calvinism, Reformed Theology). They don't have to change their ways (only the Spirit can inspire that), but they do need to stop pretending to be something they are not.

They are liberal theologians. Accept yourselves.

Think of all the liberal seminaries and colleges and universities that will validate and celebrate your every bright doctrinal revision and revelation!

>They are liberal theologians. Accept yourselves.

Ironic given your hostility to Calvinism and the reformed confessions and catechisms.

Us neanderthals whose conscience hews us to the biblical standard and the Spirit's teaching and discernment don't have those worldly options. No Harvard Divinity School for us. We'll never be seen as smart. No dissertations on "The Estrangement and Low Self-Esteem of the Holy Spirit in the Face of Contemporary Accelerated Evolution of Spiritual Values." Man, I could write that! And I'd be at conferences all over the world! But this conscience I have... I'm not a liberal theologian! Oh, well...

>Us neanderthals whose conscience hews us to the biblical standard and the Spirit's teaching and discernment don't have those worldly options.

Ever dislocate your shoulder while patting yourself on the back? You must be glad that you are not as other men...

"Ironic given your hostility to Calvinism and the reformed confessions and catechisms."

What this FVist is saying: I don't buy into baptismal regeneration and sacerdotalism, which FVists have been dressing Calvin up in for about five years now with surgically clipped extracts devoid of the context that hammers their little heads hard.

>What this FVist is saying: I don't buy into baptismal regeneration and sacerdotalism, which FVists have been dressing Calvin up in for about five years now with surgically clipped extracts devoid of the context that hammers their little heads hard.

Yep, that must be what I'm saying.

Mr. Phillips said: "Just a short observation: notice R. C. Sproul's name is now being invoked by FVists in pretty much the exact same manner and tone liberal theologians would invoke his name? Or Arminians would invoke his name."

Mr. Phillips, for the life of me, i don't get how you so easily and so quickly jump to the worst possible conclusions and smear and slander people your brothers in Christ. I personally have great respect for Sproul's teaching, and i have benefitted from it over the years greatly (and, BTW, though i am not a FVist, i have great respect for and have benefitted from the ministries of men like Wilson, Schlissel, Leithart, Shepherd, &c.). Sproul's display on the floor of GA was disappointing for me, not because i had no respect for him at all, but precisely because i expected more from him. For a deep thinker like him to turn up so shallow a point with no theological depth at all was simply out of character for him. Of course, it shouldn't surprise any of us that good men can become followers of the prevailing political winds in spite of their formerly decisive and strong leadership in many areas.

Bottom line, though, for you: just because R.C. Sproul says something doesn't make it so. And disagreement with him isn't tantamount to abandoning the Reformation or Calvinistic principles (or Scripture for that matter; after all, we don't have a single magisterium who has exclusive rights to interpret Scripture, so that when they speak, we must say "Amen" to every point; we can disagree with those teachers, and still be good Christians and good Calvinists). The sooner you see men like Sproul as, just that, *MEN*, the sooner you'll be able to clearly see the Savior for who he is: the governor, keeper, and spouse of the Church, his body. Stop idolizing men, sir; those men are liable to fall into sin and disappoint you deeply one day. I pray that, if that happens, your faith will be able to stand up under it. If your faith is in Reformed theologians, though, instead of the Savior, it will waste away like the shifting sands it's built on.

Mr. Phillips said: "They are liberal theologians. Accept yourselves.

"Think of all the liberal seminaries and colleges and universities that will validate and celebrate your every bright doctrinal revision and revelation!"

This sounds eerily similar to garbage i've heard spewing out of Uticoi, TN, over the past several years. I'd wager Gordon Clark books to dollors that this Mr. Phillips has a subscription to (or at least an affinity for) the Trinity Foundation and John Robbins. Lots of people call FVists lots of things, but only the Trinity Foundation's readers and followers call them "liberals."

In fact, if you were to plop Steve Schlissel, Steve Wilkins, Doug Wilson, or Peter Leithart down in the middle of a group of *REAL* theological liberals, you'd soon see what would happen. Those men would be the bane of those liberals because of their "ultra-conservative" views. (I went to seminary with lots of United Methodists, PC(USA)ers, and Disciples of Christ (CCDC); i know how they think, and i know just how very much they hateful they are to anyone who doesn't share their views.

For that matter, for all those people who keep saying that FVists are on the road to Rome, i wonder how "PAPA" (that's Italian for "Pope") across the Tiber would react to a segment of his Church rejecting merit altogether. Pastor Greco posted Calvin refuting Romanist views on how works merit salvation. That's the standard Roman view. They have lots of things that qualify it, like their different categories of merit, but that's the heart of Romanist theology is merit. Since FVists so clearly reject merit out of hand, do you honestly think that these men in the FV would receive the warm welcome in Rome that you have envisioned? When they reject that the sacraments *AUTOMATICALLY* confer grace, do you honestly think that the adherants of the "ex opere operato" view of the sacraments would embrace them with open arms?

I just don't think people who make those kinds of accusations (the FV is "liberal"; the FV is the road to Rome) just don't think about what they're saying. If they actually did, i think they'd see how ridiculous they sound to people who actually *THINK* for themselves.

I can't be the only person who thinks this is just slap ridiculous. Can i?

>"Sproul's display on the floor of GA was disappointing for me, not because i had no respect for him at all, but precisely because i expected more from him."

This is the standard construction of America-hating liberals when protesting that they actually love America.

>"For that matter, for all those people who keep saying that FVists are on the road to Rome,"

That would include all the former FVists who have actually trekked down that road to become brand new Roman Catholics.

>"i wonder how "PAPA" (that's Italian for "Pope") across the Tiber would react to a segment of his Church rejecting merit altogether."

Rejecting merit regarding the two Adams and the role of merit in God's plan of redemption. Very much not rejecting merit regarding meriting our way to salvation via our own works. 'Papa', as you say, is very much compatico with that.

>"When they reject that the sacraments *AUTOMATICALLY* confer grace"

Like Mark Horne who just today wrote a new essay giddy about instituting baptismal regeneration as a dinstinctive of Reformed Theology?

Log Cabin Republicans style themselves conservative. FVists have as much credibility. (And both show their true colors at the point where real decisions have to be made. Gay Republicans voted for Kerry when the chips were down. FVists follow their vanity and pride rebellious spirit when confronted with the most fundamental doctrinal points of the faith such as sola fide.)

>This is the standard construction of America-hating liberals when protesting that they actually love America.

Which has what to do with anything of relevance?

>That would include all the former FVists who have actually trekked down that road to become brand new Roman Catholics.

And evangelicals like Gilchrist and Schaeffer who went to Constantinople? What sort of odd conclusions do you draw from their low church, baptistic, anti-sacramental backgrounds?

>Very much not rejecting merit regarding meriting our way to salvation via our own works.

Find a mainstream FV quotation that actually argues for that.

>Log Cabin Republicans style themselves conservative. FVists have as much credibility.

Log Cabin Republicans pretend to be conservative. You pretend to be Reformed. Is that what you mean?