Pastor Leithart's Letter
I've read Rev. Peter Leithart's post-General Assembly letter to the stated clerk of his presbytery several times now and two questions occur to me.
Before beginning, however, a confession. I find the idea of a pre-fall covenant of works between God and Adam somewhat of a stretch Biblically, I do believe in the powerful congruence between Adam and Christ which the term "covenant of works" apparently refers to. Yet Hosea 6:7 notwithstanding, I remain unconvinced Scripturally of the existence of an objective covenant between God and Adam. In this as in most matters I prefer Calvin's approach to the Covenants to the views that followed him
That said, I don't understand why Pastor Leithart rejects any notion of merit in Adam in his response to point 4 of the Ad Interim Report only to argue in point 9 that James teaches a final judgment according to works. It seems he cuts the donkey's nose off only to turn around and pin it on its tail by denying merit in Adam while arguing for a final judgment based on works. Perhaps he distinguishes between works and merit. If so, it seems a distinction without much difference. The idea that Adam's obedience did not satisfy God because God needs no one's obedience doesn't square with his somewhat inchoate insistence that we give the passage in James its due which declares, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
(Actually, I find it troubling that the second half of Jame 2:24 is so infrequently included in quotations by those who profess they're simply trying to square James with Paul. They may think that the end of the verse--and not by faith alone--is assumed in their arguments, but it sure would make those of us who are troubled by Federal Vision thinking more comfortable if we heard it expressly stated every time the first half of the verse--a person is justified by works--is emphasized.)
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Pastor Leithart is right to use marriage as a symbol of the believer's union with Christ. Not only does Ephesians 5 explicitly tell us that human marriage is modeled on the relationship between Christ and the Church, Jesus routinely uses marriage as a picture of His Kingdom and Revelation's picture of the end of history is of a great marriage feast.
But this brings up difficult issues involving the corporate vs. individual nature of things ecclesiological and soteriological. It's clear that the marriage feast of Christ and the Church lie ahead in history, but it's also clear that the Bible teaches an individual union with Christ that is not merely future but current: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me."
Pastor Leithart writes in his response to recommendation #7 of the Ad Interim Report,
I do believe that some are united to Christ yet do not persevere (John 15). During the time they are branches in the vine, they do receive benefits from Christ through the Spirit and may enjoy real, personal, and deep communion with Jesus for a time. Yet, their relationship with Christ is not identical to the relationship of the elect. Put it this way: Some are united to Christ as members of the bride but are headed for divorce; others are united and headed for consummation. Marriages that end in divorce are not the same as marriages that end happily.
My question--and it's not necessarily one with a simple answer on either side--is how Pastor Leithart can speak of some who are "united to Christ as members of the bride but are headed for divorce" while saying that "others are united and headed for consummation."
At this point Pastor Leithart seems to have sundered what can't be divided--the "union" and "consummation" of marriage. Yes, the marriage feast of the Lamb lies ahead for the Church. But, and here's the rub for all of us, Scripture clearly speaks of that which is future for the Church being present reality for those of us who are individual atoms in the Church.
When Pastor Leithart speaks of some being "united" with Christ and headed for consummation while others united with Christ are headed for divorce, he seems to reserve consummation only for the elect. But marriage isn't marriage without consummation. So either none of us are yet united with Christ--only to His Bride, the Church, which will one day be united to Christ in eternity--or there are those who are united with Christ in consummated marriage who will fall away.
Pastor Leithart seems to believe in an unconsummated one-flesh union between the non-elect and Christ. At this point, the analogy from marriage (which we know is no mere analogy) works against Pastor Leithart. There is no such thing Biblically speaking as an unconsummated marriage. To speak of such is akin to speaking of an undeclared, uncut covenant. You simply can't separate consummation from marriage.