Doug Wilson and Biblical Horizons/Trinity Institute Lutheranism...

In the post Accountability in the CREC..., I commend Pastor Doug Wilson, which leads a longtime, faithful commenter to this remonstrance:

Brother,

From the standpoint of biblical truth, reformed theology and the Confessionalism that flows from it, this post is disappointing.

Not only do you endorse a leading proponent of the errant 'federal vision' theology, but by unnecessarily putting down a biblical, reformed communion as a means of doing it.

Not only has this man repeatedly been warned and hardened himself...

(Titus 3:10), but is a signatory of the near heretical "A Joint Federal Vision Profession."

You are right to upbraid the PCA's failure to effectively discipline a few proponents within her midst of this false, unconfessional and harmful teaching.

But you do so without acknowledging the excellent study report it did condemning it. While on the one hand acknowledging the harm of 'federal vision', you defend the ring leader of it.

Nor do you acknowledge that a few, granted not all, have been educated and disciplined about this error in the denomination. Nor do you seem to realize this is not over, there yet will be accountability for this.

As you are aware, the pseudo-communion CREC has been used as an escape from discipline, e.g. such as this individuals writing partner in wrong theology, and co-signatory of "A Joint Federal Vision Profession."

Your otherwise insightful biblical thinking and posts are undermined by associating with, and defending this false teacher.

May God open the eyes of all the brothers in the PCA that they might deal with this threat to the peace and purity of the church.

But may God open your eyes as to what your doing, no doubt with the best of reasoned intentions.

Blessings.

There's a lot in the text above that I could respond to. Because our dear brother says I've done a thing doesn't make it true and some of what he attributes to me leaves me looking cross-eyed thinking "where have I said that?" On the other hand, concerning Federal Vision and "PCA friend's" objections to our defense of Pastor Doug Wilson, his criticism is fair and faithful and deserves a response.

It's clear Doug has been disciplining the Federal Vision movement precisely at the point of the necessity of regeneration. Read his blog posts of the past two years culminating in his book, Against the Church, and the trajectory is clear. And this is the place F-V most needs discipline. Sacramentalists have never been big on the Holy Spirit's work of giving repentance and faith (what our Lord called new birth) to souls. In fact, one may argue sacramentalism is always in opposition to the necessity of being born again, to the reality of the distinction between circumcised foreskins and circumcised hearts.

I'm sure Doug would prefer I not speak this way. As he sees it, his work is not a repudiation of his past F-V work in favor of a restoration of the Sacraments, the doctrine of the Church, the objectivity of the Covenant, the necessity of good works and fruit, etc. to Reformed Evangelicalism. And certainly he has not backed down in his commitment to paedocommunion.

Yet to most of us watching the F-V wrecking ball swinging down there in what they call the Trinity House, we would respond to Doug saying that the trajectory of that ball has been clear for many years. And I have said to Doug that I would like him simply to say, "I was wrong about F-V" or "I should have recognized the danger of F-V's incipient sacramentalism long ago."

But you know, Doug is Doug and one of the traits I appreciate about him most is his loyalty. Unlike many Reformed bigwigs, he won't stick a knife in his friend's back and he won't fight like a girl. He's an old submariner (61st birthday tomorrow) and he knows what makes a fair fight and how to wear a uniform and keep shooting to the very end.

So, as David and I have said many times, we love Doug and will not stop declaring our commitment to him. And because of our respect for him, we will not stop our criticism of the pseudo-Reformed nature of the oatmeal stout wing of the F-V disembodied brains, either. So which side will Doug choose in the coming months and years?

We think he's already chosen and it will become increasingly clear.

But for ourselves, as we look at Trinity House (Steve Wilkins, Rich Bledsoe, Jeff Meyers, Peter Leithart, Jim Jordan, etc.), it's hard to imagine why they keep trying to remake the Reformed church into the Lutheran/Roman Catholic church. They say they have objections to Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism that keep them from simply joining those communions. This makes no sense to us since their objections to Reformed doctrine and practice are much larger than their objections to Lutheran/Roman Catholic sacramentalism.

Which is to say, since they're sacramentalists and they yack about how much they want peace with Rome, why not go for it. Like right now. Time's a-wasting.

It would be a charitable work. Indeed, it would be a work of supererogation that would clarify things immensely and allow all of us to move on. You've heard of the New Oxford Movement? We give you the New Horizons Movement.

You know, my friend Richard John Neuhaus was man enough to do it. Also my seminary friends Marcus Grodi and Scott and Kimberly Hahn.

And another seminary friend I will leave nameless who moved from the formalism of the Episcopal church to the less scandalous formalism of the Lutheran church, and then to full-blooded and honest Roman Catholicism. It happened a couple years ago and I did my best trying to hold him back. I asked him to read Buchanan's Justification, but he wouldn't and took the plunge.

In his case, though, there's a funny ending. After a couple years in the Roman Catholic church, we were talking and he told me he'd switched back to Lutheranism. 

I asked why and he responded (and these are his very words), "Tim, you wouldn't believe how mind-numbingly legalistic the Roman Catholic church is."

He and I were a part of a group of five who used to drink beer and argue theology in a small private library of illuminated manuscripts and paintings from the Middle Ages during seminary, so I responded, "Uh duh!"

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Dear Brother,

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Against the Church appears to be an extended 'audible' called against the excesses of Oatmeal Stout FV...

"So it cannot be that all who are covenantally 'in Christ' by virtue of baptism are in exactly the same position as regards the grace and favor of God - with no distinction save that some persevere somehow. To think that having 'all grace' except for persevering grace is somehow reassuring is to have a wildly skewed set of priorities." Wilson, Against the Church, pp. 186-187.

Regarding those excesses, Doug has elsewhere said...

"Those who want to say that the efficacy of death of Christ applies to every baptized person, head for head, run into a fundamental contradiction almost immediately. Does the death of Jesus secure the grace of perseverance? If it does, then the efficacy of the death of Christ does not apply to all the baptized head for head (unless all the baptized persevere and are saved). But if the death of Jesus does not secure the grace of perseverance, where does perseverance come from then? It would have to be contributed by the person who is being saved, which amounts, at the end of the day, to salvation by works." http://dougwils.com/s16-theology/the-chewy-porter-of-reformation-evangel...

This point bears trumpeting from the rooftops...

Tim, I have an article at Virtueonline that deals with the same issue here in an Anglican context: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1902...
It is a friendly dialogue between me and Roger Salter, who takes your line. In short there are two schools of thought, both Reformed, that differ on what is now called FV, but was called Augustinianism at the Reformation.

Dear Roger,

Thank you for your well-written article. Many of the points I agree with. Of course, the main one, no.

It's hard for me to understand how those living in the midst of the terrible fruit of sacramentalism everywhere in Europe (including the UK where around ninety percent of souls are baptized—"christened," as you put it—while less than five percent are in church Lord's Day mornings) can argue that sacramentalism is "Reformed" and Biblical is beyond me.

You call your sacramentalism both "reformed" and "Augustinian." Your second is right but your first misleading, dear brother. At least on this blog where we use the word 'reformed' in the sense of...

Well, in the sense of repenting of sacramentalism, for instance.

One other point: you say the Protestant and Reformed repudiation of ex opere operato is our attempt to guard predestination. Actually, it's to guard the Atonement, the completed work of Christ on the Cross when our Savior cried out, "It is finished!"

Love in Christ,

 

Part of the Augustinian view is that many of those who are regenerated fall away from the faith, and God justly deprives them of their salvation. There is no such doctrine as once baptised always saved, which is what you seem to think that we teach. The basis of this doctrine is scripture, which not only warns against the danger of falling away, but gives us many examples of men who have done just that.

This is a difference between the Augustinian English Church and the Calvinists, who insist in the WCF that only the elect are regenerated.

On whether this view of the sacraments is Reformed or not, I draw your attention to your own WCF on Baptism, which states that baptism conveys the things they signify to those who rightly receive them! How is this not "sacramentalism"?

No, the real difference os not the power of baptism, but whether God regenerates many who are not eternally elect, to use your category. To use my own category, the church is Israel, and the children of Christians are Israelites, and the nation as a nation is elect, since the promises of God to Abraham are without repentance. Christian children are therefore elect in the usual sense of the word as it used in scripture, that is, the covenantal and historical sense.

In this normal usage of the word the elect are lost all the time, as experience shows.

This is a difference between the Augustinian English Church and the Calvinists, who insist in the WCF that only the elect are regenerated.

In my familiarization with confessional Lutheranism over the last 2-3 years I'd say that the real fault line between that and Calvinism in many ways is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. A great many of the differences flow from the idea that those regenerated by God may or may not fall away from the faith. Westminster clearly teaches baptismal efficacy for those who are elect (otherwise it would not use the word "efficacy" as it does). And the elect will not fall away.

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.

Contrast that with this item from Luther's Small Catechism:

What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Neither allows baptism to have "efficacy" without belief. However the Lutheran will allow for belief which will not endure while maintaining that none can believe without the only and sole cause being the work of God, what we call monergism.

In this normal usage of the word the elect are lost all the time, as experience shows.

I think that is a poor way to say it. Even a confessional Lutheran will not say that. Confessional Lutherans will teach that all the elect persevere but that there are those who truly believe who are not of the elect and will not persevere.

Mr. du Barry,

You said: "Part of the Augustinian view is that many of those who are regenerated fall away from the faith, and God justly deprives them of their salvation."

Doug ably identifies the error in such thinking in the quote I included above. This is precisely why the Augustinian view must be rejected.

Respectfully,

Nate Harlan

Tim, serious request, please show me where I have erred in exegesis. I know what you think, now show me from the Bible where I have made an error. I don't need a long essay, just a short putting of the finger on the mistake. The point I would like you to address is that Baptism is a vital part of sola fide because it is the occasion when the grace of forgiveness is communicated.

Hi Roger.

You say that some of those who are regenerated persevere and some do not. The entire book of 1 John stands against this. If you are born of God, you persevere. God's Spirit is given to those who are born again, enabling such perseverance. If you don't persevere, you were never born of God. I could mention lots of specific verses, but see 2:29, 3:2, 3:9-10, 5:4, 5:18.

Roger,
you would have to do more serious work when you talk about "elect in the usual sense", especially when you're equivocating this term with "Christian", or "Israelite."

To use my own category, the church is Israel, and the children of Christians are Israelites, and the nation as a nation is elect, since the promises of God to Abraham are without repentance. Christian children are therefore elect in the usual sense of the word as it used in scripture, that is, the covenantal and historical sense.

Elect has very particular uses in the OT and NT. Jesus is "Elect". That's what distinguished Him from everyone else in Israel. He's Elect because of His particular role in saving particular people...so elect is so very...particular. Elect is the distinction within the distinction. To remove such distinction would change Paul's statement in Romans 9:7 to: "they are all children because they are Abraham’s descendants."

Elect, in the "usual" sense, refers to God saving particular individuals. That's why Esau was out, but Jacob in. Esau was never elect, so elect cannot be the same as "Israel", or "Christian". Remnant would be the closest term, and that is a theme rife throughout the OT and NT. Elect, or remnant, is always a distinction within a distinction, and this distinction is unavoidable and blatantly obvious page after page in Scripture. John, without using the term "elect" denotes as much in 1 John 2:19. The absence of the term in that passage makes the case more powerful, especially when John highlights that his readers have an anointing (not water baptism) which is what ultimately distinguishes them from those who were not "of us."

Neither is "elect" the same as "regenerate". One must be elect if he is to ever be regenerate, but as David W. has pointed out, the regenerate never "loses his salvation". Ironically, even such phrasing (losing your salvation) has no biblical precedent. Falling away does, to be sure, but you'd have to make the case that these men who fall away are regenerate...but that rests primarily on your view of baptismal regeneration, something most here (including myself) reject outright. As mentioned earlier, John indicated that those who were not of us were not regenerate (1 John 2:19) while those who are "of us", are regenerate (anointed by the Holy One). 

Reading the post you linked to, I saw you wrote:

It is obvious that one cannot be forgiven in the very moment of exercising faith, and at the same time say that sacraments are generally necessary to salvation. It is either one or the other, and the standards are clear which path they have chosen. 

Acts 10 speaks contrary to what you find "obvious" (Acts 10:43, and Romans 10:9 as well)). Peter's message was that the exercise of faith grants forgiveness. In fact, reading Acts 10:44-48 contradicts the Anglican order of salvation since Peter declares the Gentiles, having received the Holy Spirit in the same way they had, should not be denied baptism.

That is to say - they did not receive the gift of regeneration after baptism, but before. This is why Calvinists do not include water baptism in the ordo salutis and what makes it so frustrating when credobaptists and sacramentalists emphasize the administration point so heavily.

To summarize, there's no biblical precedent for using Israel, Church, Christian, or regeneration interchangeably with "elect"; and there's no biblical precedent to prefer any notion of being able to "lose your salvation." Other than semi-pelagian fundamentalists, the only other groups asserting as much are sacramentalists.

David Wegener, hello. I know your angle very well, having believed it for a long time, until about ten years ago. I don't want to engage you on it, because this is not the place to do so. I merely wish to point out that many great men who have believed in absolute predestination disagree with you, men such as Augustine and Prosper, and the English Reformers. They too have scriptural proofs.

Craig and Nate, I understand why you struggle with my assertion that the church is Israel, and that since Israel is elect, we are Israelites, and thus elect in the covenantal as opposed to the eternal sense of the word. It is because your Calvinsim has taught you think exclusively in the eternal category when speaking of election. In the Bible by far the majority of references to election have to do with Israel's election as a nation, while relatively few are about "eternal" election.

The mystery that was given to Paul, and not to the other apostles, is that the Gentiles are included with the Jews in the covenants of promise by faith in Christ, and that we are co-heirs with them of the promises of grace, and fellow citizens in the Commonwealth of Israel. Read about it in Ephesians 2 to 3.

In Romans Paul uses the image of the foreign branches, wild olive branches, being ingrafted into the Israel tree in the places vacates by natural branches broken off for unbelief. It is essentially the same idea.

This historical and covenantal aspect of election is by far the most dominant aspect of it in the Bible.

Roger,

Thank you for your response. I'll begin by pointing you back to what Tim said earlier: "...you say the Protestant and Reformed repudiation of ex opere operato is our attempt to guard predestination. Actually, it's to guard the Atonement, the completed work of Christ on the Cross when our Savior cried out, 'It is finished!'" Allow me to elaborate on that point...

The error in your exegesis is that it contradicts the Bible's teaching on the Atonement. Penal substitutionary atonement entails perseverance: none of those for whom Christ died as Substitute can possibly perish, because He has forever propitiated the Father's wrath toward them. In this case, perseverance flows from the efficacy of the Atonement.

But on your view, Christ's propitiation of the Father's wrath is conditioned upon the perseverance of the believer: "...many of those who are regenerated fall away from the faith, and God justly deprives them of their salvation." For those who fail to persevere, the Atonement ceases to be effective. But this capsizes the Gospel: in that case, the efficacy of Christ's exertion upon the cross is utterly dependent upon the believer's exertion in persevering. Propitiation ultimately depends upon my efforts, not Christ’s. As Doug notes, this amounts to salvation by works.

Granting that penal substitution is indeed the biblical view of the Atonement, the view of baptismal efficacy you’re defending cannot be true, and your argument is refuted by our Lord's cry "It is finished!"

In Christ,

Nate

Very well put, Nate. Precisely.

Nate, you have made a coherent logical argument for your position. My response is that we must be careful to let scripture rule our thinking, with logic very much secondary, because the gospel contains many things that are contrary to human reason. Talking donkeys and floating axes are just two things contrary to reason, and yet we believe them because scripture affirms them.

Here is a logical answer to your logical argument. If the propitiation is not conditional upon perseverance, then there is no need of perseverance for salvation. The atonement saves regardless of perseverance, and so we are back to the heresy of OSAS. You will reply that salvation always includes perseverance, but the scripture does not support that position, because it givers us examples of people who believed the gospel for a while, then fell away into unbelief.

The greatest example of such apostasy is the wilderness generation, held up for us in Hebrews as an example of God's chosen people who discontinued their faith, refused to believe the gospel by refusing to enter the land, and whose bodies were scattered in the wilderness as an example to us of one-time believers who fell away. Exodus informs us that they believed God and Moses in Egypt when they killed and ate the Passover and crossed the Red sea on dry land.

Hebrews 10 warns us that Christ died for sins once, with the result that anyone who falls away cannot be saved twice, because there cannot be two atonements for a man. There is another plain warning text for you.

Scripture is our supreme authority, not reason.

>>Nate, you have made a coherent logical argument for your position.

Dear Roger,

Coherent and logical are overrated. If we today read Galatians for the first time without knowing it was a part of God's Word, I have little doubt we would fault it for being overly emotional, employing ad hominem arguments, and needlessly alienating the Judaizers through the use of satire and ridicule.

Since the largest part of my years of ministry have been in churches in university communities, and thus our congregations have been filled with brothers who read and write and talk for a living, I've become very sensitive to an occupational hazard that dogs these men. Almost all of them are tempted to think logic escaped the Fall and sits pristine in its otherworldly glory. So I never stop warning them man's wisdom is foolishness to God.

Let me point out once again that the Word of God confronts both mind and heart issues. It exposes both bad logic and bad motivation all the time.

So ought we.

Having said that, I also want to point out that this is the principle glory of Reformed expositions of Scripture and Scripture's doctrine. They refuse to be pulled away from the text of God's Word because it doesn't comport to our silly reason. Again and again and again and again and again Calvin reminds and warns readers not to go further than God's Word. This is why Reformed doctrine is unique. We refuse to bend to sinful desires in our hermeneutics and exegesis.

If God said it, that settles it. You should return to Reformed doctrine. It's a very humble and self-limiting place to live and love.

Love,

Roger,

Thanks for your thoughts. To be clear, you are affirming that propitiation ultimately depends upon the believer’s efforts, not Christ’s? See my other responses below…

First, I’m not sure how logic can possibly be “very much secondary” in the interpretation of Scripture. To employ the analogy of faith is to assume that coherent interpretation is possible first and foremost because God cannot lie nor contradict Himself. But if He can, then all bets are off and the postmoderns have got it right after all. So did the serpent, come to think of it…

Second, logic is not the problem. As Tim noted, man and his fallen reasoning is the problem. Here’s how I know that your reasoning is bad: you must read a contradiction into Scripture in order to defend your sacramentalism. And in so doing, with all due respect, you’re attributing your fallen, self-contradictory reasoning to God and His Word. Yet God is not a postmodern, that He should contradict Himself. Your appeal to talking donkeys and floating axes is of no help to you, as those are not examples of God contradicting Himself.

Third, the answer to the heresy of OSAS is not more heresy. Let’s not allow the antinomians to drive us across the road into the other ditch of works-salvation. The answer is to uphold the sin-killing, life-giving efficacy of the Atonement: no one born of God can keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 Jn. 3:9). Hence, anyone who does keep on sinning has not been born of God – regardless of going to the altar, praying the prayer, or receiving baptism....

Fourth, Scripture does indeed teach that perseverance always accompanies salvation, because it: a.) teaches penal substitutionary atonement and b.) cannot contradict itself.

In Christ,

Nate

Tim, coherent and logical are indeed overrated, and that was precisely my point! Read past the first sentence my friend. :)

Nate, you wrote: "To be clear, you are affirming that propitiation ultimately depends upon the believer’s efforts, not Christ’s?"

Absolutely not. The Augustinian position is that the eternally elect will infallibly be saved, with not one missing. Those non-elect persons who are regenerated by God's grace will infallibly be lost, not unjustly, but justly, for their apostasy.

The point is not the efficacy of the cross, but the will of God, who hardens whom he hardens and has mercy upon whom he has mercy. The cross infallibly saves the elect, while certain benefits are applied to some of the non-elect in the secret counsel of God.

This apparent oddity is a part of the mystery of election. Why do we say that some of the non-elect are regenerated? Because the Bible says they are, namely, the entire letter to the Hebrews, and the parable of the sower. Does it make sense? It makes biblical sense.

"Why do we say that some of the non-elect are regenerated?"

I would just take a wild stab at this and say that it's because you understand propitiation differently than what we see the Bible teaches that it is, and your desire to apply efficacy to baptism ultimately trumps penal substitutionary atonement.

The F-V is standard Arminian fare, though it is dressed up in fancy language: Augustinian, Calvinesque, Reformational, etc. Some F-Vers seem to entertain the hope that they will come up with the formula that is going to unite the diverse parties of Christendom; hopefully, sooner rather than later, they will discover that this just isn't going to work.

I remember a professor in seminary who had this vain hope (though he was certainly not an F-Ver). In a seminar where professors and students presented papers, he presented one on middle knowledge and touted it as a formula that was going to heal the Calvinist-Arminian division. I raised my hand and asked him, "how can you say that? You denied all five of my points on one page." Not sure how he could have been so naive.

Roman Catholics and Protestants cannot unite unless one of them gives up his doctrine. They're not reconcilable. It is easier for Arminians to become Catholics because their semi-Pelagianism brings them closer together, but still, the Arminian has to give up some core doctrines if he is going to convert.

Calvinists and Arminians aren't going to reconcile without one side giving up something. We honestly disagree on important doctrines.

Sometimes, someone will give out an impassioned plea for unity in Christ and how we must seek it and I will feel ashamed for a while. But unity must be based on holding significant doctrines in common. Failing that, it's a unity made out of thin air.

David, these are good points. Roger, I hope to respond with some follow up points to your post tomorrow.

In Christ,

Nate

No David, it is not standard Arminian fare. I know many of the FV men and they are not Arminians. I cannot think of one who denies absolute predestination. I myself am not FV, just a Reformed Augustinian.

Here's a good way to test this, Roger. With whom do you have the most in common: John Piper or Peter Leithart?

Who would John Calvin have fellowship with, a Lutheran like Melanchthon or a rebaptizer?

And I like John Piper a lot.

>>or a rebaptizer?

This is a forced parallel not worthy of consideration. The Anabaptists of Luther and Calvin's time bore no resemblance to esteemed Reformed brothers such as Charles Spurgeon and John Piper.

Start out with that "Reformed" part: Reformed baptists like these two men are common, now, and if there is hope of God working to bring Biblical doctrine out of its Presbyterian ghetto of educational, intellectual, and socioeconomic elitism, that hope is all Baptist.

But beyond the movement towards Reformed doctrine central to Baptist vitality in our time, move on to the centrality of civil rebellion among Anabaptists of Reformation times. You can't separate Luther and Calvin's intense hostility toward the Anabaptists of their time from Thomas Muntzer and his pitchfork rebels. Back then, Anabaptists were the equivalent of gasoline on fire. Luther had already set the world aflame by opposing Rome, and now he found a host of men to his right, claiming he was half-hearted and needed to go all the way. So they picked up their pitchforks and revolted against the civil magistrate.

The Reformers' hostility towards the Anabaptists cannot be understood outside of this danger of complete conflagration they posed.

If we want to say that Calvin would choose sacramentalists seeking rapprochement with Rome over John Piper, say away. But among those who have studied Reformation history, making the point stick will require quite a bit more than the observation that the Anabaptists of Reformation times and Reformed brothers such as John Piper repudiate infant baptism.

Love,

Yet Calvin said that his doctrine of the Lord's Supper and Melanchton's were identical and that if Melanchthon told Calvin that Calvin was in error Calvin would change his doctrine to conform to Melanchthon's.

Your points on the historical nature of the Reformation Anabaptists are valid in noting their political radicalism and there is even more that could be said. It is clear though that Calvin's and Luther's hostility was not solely based on such political radicalism and had a theological component as well. John Piper has a great many virtues. However his errors on the Lord's Supper and Baptism would not have been such a small matter for Calvin as they are for those who see them as relatively minor concerns compared to much weightier matters. They are not peripheral to the marks of a true church.

Love,

David Gray, let's not get distracted. My question was not, what would John Calvin do? It was directed to you and to Roger (and really to all of us). Peter Leithart is a Lutheran though he is still ordained in the PCA. John Piper is a Baptist who is Reformed. With which one do you have the most in common? John or Peter?

On soteriology: We hold to the doctrines of grace. John Piper would agree with us. Peter Leithart wouldn't.

On the sacraments: We hold to infant baptism, but not to baptismal regeneration. Piper holds to believers only baptism but agrees with us that baptism does not regenerate. Leithart holds to infant baptism but he holds to something like baptismal regeneration. Not sure if JP holds to Calvin's view of the Lord's Supper. Leithart probably holds to either the Reformed view or the Lutheran view of the Lord's Supper.

So … which one is it … Piper or Leithart? I realise this is offensive but it does focus the issue.

Roger,

It seems to me that you haven’t actually answered me, but have simply reaffirmed your contradiction and insisted that it makes “biblical sense” because the warning passages. You affirm that “the eternally elect will infallibly be saved, with not one missing” through the efficacy of the Atonement. But then you go on to say “non-elect persons who are regenerated by God’s grace will infallibly be lost, not unjustly, but justly, for their apostasy.”

The problem here is that you’re equivocating on the efficacy of the Atonement, specifically in its relationship to perseverance. For the “eternally elect,” Christ’s propitiation has secured their perseverance, but not so for the ‘regenerate’ non-elect – in their case, the opposite is true: propitiation must finally be secured *through* perseverance. On the one hand, perseverance is contingent upon propitiation; on the other, propitiation is contingent upon perseverance. So in order to maintain your view of baptismal efficacy, you’re forced to affirm two contrary views of the Atonement and the Gospel at the same time.

Of course, here you could make your appeal to mystery and exhort me to stop forcing my logic upon the text, but there’s far more at risk here than mere logical consistency. If we read your contradiction into the Bible, then your equivocation becomes God’s equivocation in regard to the terms of His promise to be forever propitiated toward all who look upon the Son and believe. For some, the promise is not contingent upon perseverance but guarantees it; for others, the promise is contingent upon perseverance. Thus, in order to hold penal substitution in tension with the FV stout’s brand of baptismal efficacy, you must impugn the perfect character of God by introducing equivocation into His promises. And that will never make biblical sense.

In Christ,

Nate

I don't know about Leithart but I'll pick a faithful confessional Lutheran over a faithful Reformed Baptist, although that is a tougher choice than Lutheran vs run of the mill Baptist who in some respects is rather RC in his understanding.

Piper does not have a covenantal understanding of salvation. Piper's practices on baptism are what Westminster labels "sin." Piper has a memorial view of the Lord's Supper (unless he's changed without me noticing). What are the marks of the true church? The right preaching of the word and the right administration of the sacraments and church discipline. Piper gets good marks on the first and third. An orthodox Lutheran gets all three right.

So … which one is it … Piper or Leithart? I realise this is offensive but it does focus the issue.

It isn't offensive at all, it is a perfectly fair question. I have trouble understanding how someone who really believes what Westminster teaches about the sacraments would feel more at home with a faithful Baptist than a faithful Lutheran. I'm comfortable sitting with Calvin on this one.

Now to be clear I'm getting clumped with Roger and I don't agree with him. I hold to the Perseverance of the Saints while he does not (which gives me common ground with a Reformed Baptist rather than a Lutheran). But I tend to think the Reformers got the marks of the church right which means we don't get to elevate TULIP above right administration of the sacraments. An orthodox Lutheran teaches election, is monergistic and holds to Total Depravity without adopting an approach to baptism which Westminster labels as "sin."

I think we need more Westminster, not less. Westminster is a good antidote to Baptistic theology of any stripe.

Nate, you've pointed up another problem with the F-V: their doctrine of the Trinity.

They have God the Father electing some from all eternity. But then they have God the Holy Spirit regenerating some. And the "some" whom the Father elects and the "some" whom the Holy Spirit regenerates are not the same "some." So you have different persons of the Godhead working toward different ends and that gives you a problem with the doctrine of the Trinity.

Sorry to be commenting so much, but I just read a great quote from B.B. Warfield this morning. "Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism."

Nate, the real issue here is the authority of scripture, and the way that we do theology. You are imputing all kinds of things to me which you believe that my position requires, which I do not accept, and the reason is your systematic theology. Then there is the fact that you do not accept my word, because you think that I must be equivocating, when I am not.

I hold that scripture has authority over each and every form of systematic theology, and that what seems to create contradictions in theology, but is plainly taught in scripture, must be accepted. For example, Hebrews not only warns against falling away from the gospel, but it gives us actual examples of many who have done so. This utterly sinks your contention that it is impossible to fall away of you are a believer.

Yet, because you are working with a certain theological system, you feel free to contradict the Bible on this because it doesn't make sense to you. At the same time the Bible teaches absolute predestination, and the infallible salvation of the secretly elect within the elect nation. I am perfectly comfortable believing both things at the same time - because the Bible tells me so.

That you think that this overthrows the atonement speaks more to your method than to my beliefs.

A serious caution that I want to sound is this: Bear in mind that great men, the greatest, best and brightest, have been, and are, Augustinian on these issues. Take a moment to pause before you make sweeping accusations against their position. When I was first converted aged 23 it was into a baptistic culture and church, but I had a niggle about condemning infant baptism because men as great as Luther and Calvin taught it and defended it, even though I did not have the tools yet to grasp their arguments, and none of the Ministers I knew then could explain them to me.

In time I came to understand, and now I utterly reject the baptistic arguments.

I am saying this: Be more cautious and sober before you impute things to us that we explicitly reject because you think we logically "must" be doing so.

David Gray, I actually do believe in perseverance, and that only the secretly elect will be given grace to do so. I do not agree that only the secretly elect are effectively regenerated because the Bible says that many others are, then fall away.

So … Roger … true believers fall away. That is the standard Arminian view of perseverance, as I said above.

I think it would be fair to note that in many respects Roger is not Arminian although in that regard he is.

David, you are possibly correct about Roger. Yet I have found that F-Vers like him often redefine theological terms, so that the question is still open. They redefine election and regeneration and justification, so that they don't mean what they have meant historically.

And just because Roger says he is not an Arminian, doesn't mean that it is so. I really do think F-Vers are Arminians, though they are not normal Arminians.

He does not hold to the final perseverance of the saints as you've noted and Nate is showing that he does not hold to the Calvinist view of the atonement.

So I'm going to stand by what I've written, for now. :-)

Well David W., if you are right then I am in the company of famous Arminians such as Augustine, Luther, and Cranmer. I am signing off from this thread now. Y'all have a good time now.

Roger,

Thank you for your continued interaction. I know that you’ve signed-off, but I’ll offer the following responses anyway… Your words are in quotes.

“Nate, the real issue here is the authority of scripture, and the way that we do theology.”

The real issue is indeed the authority of Scripture. I heartily agree with you on this point. This is also why I just as heartily oppose what you’re affirming. If we can read contradictions into Scripture and then legitimize them with a generous sprinkling of “mystery” dust, then Scripture has no real authority. It’s at the mercy of my sprinkling.

So the way we must “do theology” is to interpret God’s Word in a manner that is consistent with His character and verbal-plenary inspiration. Since He cannot lie, contradict Himself, nor equivocate, then His Word cannot. And if our theology reads contradiction and equivocation into Scripture, then we must call it bad theology, not mystery.

“You are imputing all kinds of things to me which you believe that my position requires, which I do not accept, and the reason is your systematic theology. Then there is the fact that you do not accept my word, because you think that I must be equivocating, when I am not.”

I’m not imputing anything to you; I’m describing what you’re actually doing. I don’t believe that you’re being intentionally equivocal. But the fact remains that you’re equivocating in regard to the efficacy of the Atonement and the terms of God’s promise to be propitiated toward all who believe. You have not proven that you in fact are not, but have merely made a bare assertion.

“I hold that scripture has authority over each and every form of systematic theology, and that what seems to create contradictions in theology, but is plainly taught in scripture, must be accepted.”

Where does Scripture plainly teach that it contradicts itself?

What you’re suggesting here actually serves to hamstring the authority of Scripture rather than uphold it. By denying Scripture’s non-self-contradictory unity, you also undercut its clarity, so that what is “plainly taught” is left up to the fallen interpreter, who may sprinkle mystery dust as conservatively or liberally as he likes. Scripture ceases to infallibly interpret itself – and that puts all the authority back in our fallible, power-coveting, idol-making hands. This is why Rome must argue against the perspicuity of Scripture in defense of the Magisterium.

On a related note, while I understand and appreciate that you are neither neo-orthodox nor postmodern, the approach to Scripture that you’re employing here shares similarities with both. In essence, you’re saying that a.) Scripture plainly teaches contradictory things and b.) we are not able to finally make sense of it, but end up having to believe contradictions, given our human finitude. Ironically, in order to refute the errors of neo-orthodoxy and postmodernism in regard to Scripture, you would have to make arguments similar to those I’ve briefly raised here. This is telling.

“For example, Hebrews not only warns against falling away from the gospel, but it gives us actual examples of many who have done so. This utterly sinks your contention that it is impossible to fall away of you are a believer.”

I readily grant that it is possible for the non-elect to fall away from the gospel and sadly know people who have actually done so. This does not sink my contention that is impossible for believers to fall away. It does torpedo the contention that apostates were ever believers in the first place, because God is not a man, that He should lie: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:39-40).

“Yet, because you are working with a certain theological system, you feel free to contradict the Bible on this because it doesn't make sense to you. At the same time the Bible teaches absolute predestination, and the infallible salvation of the secretly elect within the elect nation. I am perfectly comfortable believing both things at the same time - because the Bible tells me so.”

I’m not contradicting the Bible, as I just demonstrated above. My “theological system” won’t let me, because it is predicated upon verbal-plenary inspiration. The problem is that your theological system does let us get away with pitting Scripture against itself.

“That you think that this overthrows the atonement speaks more to your method than to my beliefs.”

The issue is with your methodology, which cannot be reconciled with what Scripture teaches about itself, and thus cannot be trusted.

“A serious caution that I want to sound is this: Bear in mind that great men, the greatest, best and brightest, have been, and are, Augustinian on these issues. Take a moment to pause before you make sweeping accusations against their position. When I was first converted aged 23 it was into a baptistic culture and church, but I had a niggle about condemning infant baptism because men as great as Luther and Calvin taught it and defended it, even though I did not have the tools yet to grasp their arguments, and none of the Ministers I knew then could explain them to me.”

I grasp your arguments well enough. And I thank God for the great good that the “best and brightest” Augustinians have contributed to Christ’s Church. I also thank God that Scripture is sufficiently clear to show us where they are in error.

“I am saying this: Be more cautious and sober before you impute things to us that we explicitly reject because you think we logically "must" be doing so.”

I have been cautious and sober. Again, I’m not imputing anything to you by pointing out your inconsistencies. I’m demonstrating that your theological conclusions are wrong because they entail reading contradictions into Scripture. Thanks for the discussion.

In Christ,

Nate

Nate,

While by and large I agree with you there is one point where I think you might want to reconsider:

The real issue is indeed the authority of Scripture. I heartily agree with you on this point. This is also why I just as heartily oppose what you’re affirming. If we can read contradictions into Scripture and then legitimize them with a generous sprinkling of “mystery” dust, then Scripture has no real authority. It’s at the mercy of my sprinkling.

God's revelation is complete, in terms of what we need to know. If we accept Total Depravity, which we should, then we must accept our reason is fallen along with the rest of us. Our logic is fallen. It is also highly finite. When we bring our fallen and finite reason to bear on the Scriptures we must accept that we cannot explain everything. There are mysteries because God did not explain everything, He just explained what we need to know. Calvin was content to acknowledge mystery and I think he was wise to do so.

That doesn't mean I accept Roger's conclusion.

David,

Yes, our logic is fallen, but God's character is not, nor is His ability to clearly communicate to us at all limited by our depravity or creaturliness. And when we appeal to our fallen finitude to justify reading contradictions into Scripture, we're subjugating God and His Word to our limitations - and going postmodern.

And I agree that there are great mysteries that evade our full comprehension. But what Christ accomplished on Calvary, and the promise that attends His accomplishment, is certainly not one of them.

In Christ,

Nate

Nate,

Someone wouldn't be trying to "justify reading contradictions into Scripture" but rather acknowledging in humility our fallen reason by recognizing all Scripture is truth even if we can't reconcile all of it. A failure to recognize this can take you bad places, see Gordon Clark for example.

love

"...but rather acknowledging in humility our fallen reason by recognizing all Scripture is truth even if we can't reconcile all of it."

But how is that not merely moving the goalposts back 10 yards? Isn't this exactly what the postmoderns constantly do when they're challenged on issues that they don't want to acknowledge as true?

So--if we all "acknowledging in humility our fallen reason", take a deep breath, and then dive right back into the text, I don't believe we'll find the Bible to be at all ambiguous regarding the nature of the atonement.

Isn't this exactly what the postmoderns constantly do when they're challenged on issues that they don't want to acknowledge as true?

The difference between Calvin and McLaren is that Calvin is informed by teaching of the church since the apostles. McLaren could care less about the teaching of the church. Anyone who thinks that there is nothing in Scripture that they can't fully intellectually explain and reconcile is as bad as Gordon Clark and has elevated fallen logic over divine truth.

I don't believe we'll find the Bible to be at all ambiguous regarding the nature of the atonement.

I never said the Bible was ambiguous on the atonement. I was discussing a wider point as a review of the past discussion will clearly reveal.

David,

“Someone wouldn't be trying to ‘justify reading contradictions into Scripture’ but rather acknowledging in humility our fallen reason by recognizing all Scripture is truth even if we can't reconcile all of it. A failure to recognize this can take you bad places, see Gordon Clark for example.”

The problem with the fellows who share Roger’s views is that they want to take an exception to the rule when it comes to defending their system. They have no problem trusting the text-reconciling logic behind Nicea or systematic refutations of Open Theism (for example), but that same logic suddenly becomes suspect when turned upon the inherent contradiction between the Atonement and their view of baptismal efficacy. This is not humility – it is special pleading that truly seeks to “elevate fallen logic over divine truth” by imputing “fallen logic” to God Himself.

In Christ,

Nate

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