A Gentle Rebuke to Brother John (Updated)

UPDATE 12 October 2009

The remarks that follow highlight areas of significant disagreement so let me preface my remarks thus: I am thankful for the good work that John Piper has done. I’m most thankful for his clear and strong stand in recent years for the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. I realize that he’s taken a lot of heat for standing up for the gospel. I am also thankful for his opposition to Open Theism and for his defense of the historic Christian view of marriage and of male/female relations. Further, I write this as a friend to a friend. John was a commencement speaker at WSC a few years back and I’ve enjoyed fellowship with him here on campus and at a small, late-night meeting in San Diego (ETS ) a few years back. This post necessarily focuses on some strong disagreements but I don’t want those disagreements to obscure those areas where we agree and where we are able to work for a shared goal.

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I also realize that a lot of folk, including critics and supporters, regard John Piper as a Reformed theologian. It would be more accurate to say that John holds certain views (e.g., predestination and justification) in common with the Reformed churches. Calling a Baptist “Reformed” is like calling Presbyterians “Baptist” because they believe in believer’s baptism. The Reformed churches do practice the baptism of unbaptized believers but they also baptize the infants of believers. No self-respecting, confessional Baptist should accept me as “Baptist” and Reformed folk should resist labeling anyone who rejects most of Reformed theology as “Reformed.” The contemporary equivocation over the adjective “Reformed” isn’t helpful and some of John’s recent comments about the Federal Vision movement and how it ought to be regarded are a good illustration of why this is a problem.

I just watched a video that John did with Mark Driscoll (and another fellow) where the question was asked: “Dr Piper – in your defense of the gospel against N T Wright – have you found [the] Federal Vision theology of Doug Wilson to be another gospel?” John replied unequivocally “That’s easy, Doug Wilson doesn’t preach another gospel. I don’t think N. T. Wright preaches a false gospel either. I think N. T. Wright preaches a very confusing gospel.” Elsewhere, in another video [since removed-rsc], John says, that Wilson “gets the gospel right.”  I wish it were as easy as John says.

First, I was troubled by the question and the implication of his answer that we all know what “another gospel” is and it isn’t that which is taught by by N. T. Wright or by Doug Wilson. What Paul means by “another gospel” is a difficult question to be sure. The assumption embedded in John’s answer seemed to be that “another gospel” constituted such a high test that neither Wright’s views nor Wilson’s (they are different) have met it. One almost receives the impression that we know a priori that they couldn’t meet the test.

Nevertheless, what did Paul mean by “another gospel”? Consider first Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian congregation in 2 Cor 11. So far as I know, people don’t ordinarily read the Corinthian correspondence to be about the question of justification or “the gospel” strictly defined. Thus it is instructive to note that part of Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthian problem of confusing Greco-Roman culture with the Christian faith is not only to point them to the “foolishness” (μωρια) of the “word of the cross” to those who are perishing; 1 Cor 1) but to continue his prosecution of the self-described “super Apostles” (2 Cor 11) by charging them with presenting to the Corinthian congregation “another Jesus,”  “a different Spirit,” and “another gospel.” He equates the deception of the Corinthian congregation by the self-described “super Apostles” as morally and spiritually equivalent to the deception of Eve by the serpent!  Paul calls his opponents “false apostles” and “deceitful workmen” who disguise themselves as “angels of light” in the same way Satan does. He “boasts” here in a way that is quite analogous to his “boasting” in Philippians. Here, however, his “boasting” is not of his Hebrew lineage and rabbinical accomplishments but of his sufferings and weakness and powerless (at least as the Super Apostles measure power) for the sake of Christ and his gospel.

My point here is that we should be certain to set up a test that is the same test that Paul used in evaluating what constitutes “another gospel” or “another Christ” or “another spirit.” Evidently, judging by Paul’s criticism of the self-described super-Apostles in Corinth, it is possible to preach “another gospel” without directly contradicting the Pauline gospel, narrowly defined, as the message of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension (1 Cor 15). What is it that makes the message of self-described “Super Apostles” “hetero” (anther)? Paul identifies one quality of their message as “craftiness” (πανουργια) that corrupts the mind. Arguably both the FV and NPP are “crafty” and “corrupting.”

One evidence that they are “crafty:” After all this time, after all these pixels and all the ink spilled, both groups still claim that their critics still do not understand them!  Paul’s gospel was unequivocal and clear: Christ for us. After all these years there remains cloudiness and ambiguity, especially about the FV. Wilson himself helped to pen a statement (July 07) on the FV (which I can no longer find online) which was full of ambiguities about some of the most important matters in the faith. I imagine today that people are still confused about where “Wilson stands” on the FV despite his advocacy of it for years. Why? Because he says orthodox things and then he contradicts them or at least he qualifies them and defends those who deny them. That’s confusing. Indeed, in the video Piper says the same thing. We agree that Wilson is confusing and has dubious associates (not in the way that Jesus had dubious associates—that’s quite another thing. I’m happy to associate with sinners. I do it daily because I’m one of them!)

A second evidence that both the NPP and FV qualify as crafty: Has anyone ever read Tom Wright’s outrageous claims about how important his work is to understanding Paul? It’s breath-taking really. If we’re looking for a modern day “super Apostle” Tom’s hubris about the importance his own work in Paul seems a remarkable likeness to Paul’s opponents in Corinth. The FV movement breathes the same spirit of arrogance. The Reformed churches formed ecclesiastical study committees, came to conclusions, reached ecclesiastical decisions and rejected the FV. Did the proponents of the FV ever repent? I know of one former public FV proponent who has publicly repented of his advocacy of the FV (William Hill of covenant radio). As far as I know, the rest of them continue to defy the decisions of the assemblies of the RCUS, the OPC, the PCA, the RPCNA, and the URCs just to name a few. Some have fled the jurisdiction of some of those assemblies to the safe and warm embrace of Doug Wilson’s Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches.

The complementary messages of the the NPP and FV are corrupting. They are corrupting of the peace of the churches. They are corrupting of the assurance of believers. They are corrupting of the gospel itself. In the case of the NPP, the radical re-definition of “justification” from “forensic declaration by God that a sinner is accepted by God on the sole basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and received the faith resting and receiving alone” to a socio-religious boundary marker is nothing if not a corruption. The FV message of temporary, conditional, historical election, union, justification, adoption etc by baptism, their embrace of the Shepherdite definition of faith in the act of justification as consisting of trusting and obeying, their acceptance of Shepherd’s denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Jesus (yes, I know Wilson affirms IAO) and their advocacy of paedocommunion is certainly corrupting of the Reformed faith as confessed by the churches. Some parts of this complex of errors are more dangerous than others. Their doctrine of a temporary, conditional, historical election, union with Christ, and justification etc conferred through baptism and retained by grace and cooperation with grace is certainly a corruption of the gospel as confessed by the Reformation and by the Reformed churches.

In Gal 1 Paul speaks of “another gospel” as a sort of hypothetical. He denies that there really is such a thing as “another gospel,” but he uses the expression as a way of characterizing what he regards as a false and dangerous and deceptive message about Christ. What is that false, deceptive, and dangerous message? He gets to it in chapter 2.

But  when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him  to his face, because he stood condemned.  12 For before certain men came from James,  he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing  the circumcision party.  13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  14 But when I saw that their  conduct was not in step with  the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas  before them all, “If you, though a Jew,  live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”  15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not  Gentile sinners;  16 yet we know that  a person is not justified  by works of the law  but through faith in Jesus Christ,  so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law,  because by works of the law no one will be justified (ESV).

Paul attacks two errors here: (1) the direct corruption of the doctrine of justification by making (in NPP terms) boundary markers (circumcision) and obedience to the law (the NPP and FV definition of “works of the law” is too narrow) conditions of acceptance with God; (2) the manifestation of that doctrinal error in Peter’s refusal to eat with gentiles.
It is beyond question that the NPP is an all-out assault upon and rejection of Paul’s doctrine of justification sola fide. The Reformed churches have judged publicly and ecclesiastically that the FV also corrupts the gospel in similar ways. John recognizes the tension between his analysis and that of the Reformed churches when he criticizes some in the PCA for being too hard on Wilson.
The Reformation understanding of this passage (and of Romans 4) was that it was a bulwark against the medieval and Roman doctrine of justification by grace and cooperation with grace. We understood the doctrine of “cooperation with grace” as equivalent to Paul’s phrase “the works of the law.” Wright’s soteriology, like that of the FV, essentially makes the same mistake as Rome. It makes our final standing before God contingent not only upon the finished work of Christ (which the NPP denies and which most of the FV advocates deny) but also upon Spirit-wrought, intrinsic, inherent sanctity which is the result of grace and our cooperation with grace. There is, in fact, evidence from Second Temple Judaism that some of the rabbis taught virtually the same doctrine of salvation as that which was rejected by the Protestant Reformers. Put anachronistically, not all the rabbis were Pelagians. Some were semi-Pelagians. The Reformation and the Reformed churches rejected (and reject) both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. The Synod of Dort attacked Arminianism as Pelagianism by name for this very reason.

Second, tt is very disturbing to hear John say casually that the FV doctrine of temporary election etc—a doctrine categorically and repeated rejected by the confessional Reformed churches over the last several years—is nothing but consistent Presbyterian theology. That dismissal of the work of the NAPARC churches suggests that John fundamentally misunderstands historic Reformed theology.

Third, John’s primary source of evidence, judging by his comments in the video, seems to have been the three-hour interview conducted by Wilson’s presbytery. My brief response to this is this: though I don’t expect John to be expert in Presbyterian polity I can say that John’s characterization of that interview (parts of which I’ve read) is misleading. That interview does did not constitute a “grilling.” I don’t know how Baptist ministers are examined but in classical (presbytery) exams I’ve witnessed since 1984, candidates for the ministry are routinely examined for four or five hours.

These exams are not usually conducted in the friendly confines of a self-selected, self-created denomination of which one is the de facto head. Wilson being examined by his own presbytery in his own denomination is like the pope being examined by a college of cardinals whom he has appointed! Had Wilson been examined by Classis Southwest US in the URCs or some other orthodox, confessional assembly that exam might have more significance.

Fourth, John seems impressed by how bright Wilson is. I agree. Doug is quite gifted. So what? Were not the self-described Super Apostles more eloquent than Paul? He conceded that fact but the didn’t care much for eloquence or the wisdom of this world or of this age did he? John is impressed (in the DGM video linked above) with Wilson’s passion and ability to be orthodox. Wilson’s critics in NAPARC have not denied that Wilson can say orthodox things. The problem is that Wilson’s orthodoxy is made confusing by his heterodoxy.

Here is the portion of John’s comments I find so bewildering and utterly confused about what Reformed theology is and teaches about these things:

“…brilliant! Wrong in numerous cases, but wrong the way you’d expect a Presbyterian to be wrong.”
“For him to talk about the fact that there are unregenerate elect and unregenerate regenerate and church members who aren’t church members and the saved who aren’t saved—I understand what he’s saying. It’s not heresy. It’s the same thing anybody would say whose been baptized and joined the church whether Baptist or Presbyterian and you treat them like their part of the family of God and you find out in the end they’re not. And there was a kind of objectivity to their membership that got them some privileges. That’s what the Federal Vision is about.”
“…There’s real objective salvation here…it’s very complicated. And don’t write Doug Wilson off very easily. He’s a very bright guy.”

“…brilliant! Wrong in numerous cases, but wrong the way you’d expect a Presbyterian to be wrong.”

“For him to talk about the fact that there are unregenerate elect and unregenerate regenerate and church members who aren’t church members and the saved who aren’t saved—I understand what he’s saying. It’s not heresy. It’s the same thing anybody would say whose been baptized and joined the church whether Baptist or Presbyterian and you treat them like they’re part of the family of God and you find out in the end they’re not. And there was a kind of objectivity to their membership that got them some privileges. That’s what the Federal Vision is about.”

“…There’s real objective salvation here…it’s very complicated. And don’t write Doug Wilson off very easily. He’s a very bright guy.”

In these comments John confuses the historic Reformed doctrine and practice of the judgment of charity, i.e. of accepting the credible profession of members with the FV doctrine of a temporary, historical, conditional election etc.

Once more:

In Reformed theology, i.e., in the confessions of the Reformed churches, with respect to the ordo salutis (the application of redemption by the Spirit to the elect), there is no such thing as a temporary, historical, conditional election or union or justification etc conferred by baptism. When the FV folk, who teach this false doctrine of a temporary election etc in the ordo salutis, claim to be Reformed when they teach it, they are liars. Yes, there is such a thing as a temporary election relative to national Israel, in the history of redemption, but that’s a different matter altogether and it is quite unhelpful to conflate the history of redemption with the application of redemption.

In Reformed theology there is only one kind of election relative to salvation and justification. Election is eternal. Election is not conditioned by anything in the elect. Union with Christ is unconditional and gracious. Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. In the Canons of Dort we deny that the elect can fall away. The FV teaches that the “elect” can fall away. These two views are contradictory. It is misleading for John to suggest that the FV is just another version or in any way consistent with confessional Presbyterian or Reformed theology.

The Reformed churches confess that there are two ways of existing in the one covenant of grace. We’ve always confessed that the visible church, the Christ-confessing covenant community is always mixed, it always has within it wheat and tares, it is always populated by elect and hypocrites. We accept the credible profession of faith of members but we do so in light of Paul’s clear teaching that there are always those who have only an “outward” membership in the covenant of grace and not also an “inward” membership (Romans 2:28). Herman Witsius described these two ways of being in the visible church as a “double mode of communion” in the covenant of grace.

You can read more about this distinction in Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace. You can see a more technical and historical treatment of these issues in “Baptism and the Benefits of Christ.”  There is a full-scale analysis of and response to Norman Shepherd, the FV movement, and aspects of the NPP, in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. There is a panoply of resources on these questions at my WSC website. Those who are unfamiliar with these issues and questions should begin here.

It is good to build bridges but it also good to make distinctions. I understand that, as a Baptist, John thinks that Reformed and Presbyterian Churches are wrong about baptism and other matters but there is no reason for anyone to be confused or confusing about what the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches teach about covenant and justification or baptism and election.

Reformed theology more than just the doctrine of predestination and the Five Points of the Synod of Dort. Reformed theology has a covenant theology, i.e. an understanding of the history of redemption, a view of Scripture, a way of reading Scripture, doctrines of God, man, Christ, salvation, church, sacraments and last things. The confessional Reformed churches do not see their theology in the FV. If we’ve consistently, publicly, and ecclesiastically rejected the FV why does John feel free to continue to regard the FV as just another variation of Reformed theology? This gets us back to the question of who gets to define the adjective “Reformed.” Are there as many definitions of “Reformed” as there are definers or is there is fixed, stable, public, ecclesiastical definition of the adjective? I say the latter is the case.

John, you’re entitled to appreciate Doug Wilson’s gifts and occasional orthodoxy (we all do)  but you’re not to suggest that the FV is just another variation on Reformed theology. It isn’t.

197 comments

  1. wow, i have been studying both the NPP and FV for a while now and have had a problem declaring if they would fall under the label “another gospel” because it is so hard to get any clarity (on most issues) out of either camp. this is a very good response, i’ll have to read over it again and think harder on these issues.

    soli Deo gloria!

    jason d.

    • The fact that you find it so hard to ‘get any clarity’ on the so-called new doctrines is a glaring hint. I say this from experience, that if one were around a group of Blog and Magog people, in the classical schools they are involved in, attending the churches they start, one would still not ‘get any clarity.’

      It’s all so darn esoteric and you might not be part of the club. Possibly it involves secret handshakes and meeting locations, or did I just give you a hint of what I think the orginisation is all about :)

      I love John Piper too and hope he runs, not walks, away from the Condescending Boys Club.

    • Amy,

      Did you mean “clarity” or “charity”?

      And you left out the secret underwear.

  2. Thank you for writing so clearly about such an important matter. You are a real boon and stalwart for those desiring to defend and promote the apostolic faith. Keep pressing on, for the sake of your influence on young ministers, and for the sake of the clarity of how we articulate the Gospel.

    Would that *all parties* wrote so clearly about their own theological positions.

  3. One of the best professors that I’ve ever had often asked student’s a rubber-meets-the-road question about various theologians: “Would you let this man preach in your pulpit?” With respect to Bishop Wright, his answer was an emphatic no.

    This question touches on an important aspect of John Piper’s treatment of Doug Wilson. to be fair, we should not be excessively critical of the youtube video that you referenced above. The format was an extemporaneous response to a question. All of us have answered such questions while wishing later that we could “revise and extend our remarks”. On the other hand, there is the far more significant (and deliberate) issue of Doug Wilson being invited to speak at Desiring God’s national conference. This is not the same thing as inviting someone to preach in your church – and in some circumstances would allow for inviting speakers who have less than a full Reformed confessional commitment. For example, while not commenting on the specifics (as I didn’t attend), I have no objection to Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church inviting both Professor Gaffin and N.T. Wright to speak on Paul. For that matter, I could see why a conference might invite a Roman Catholic speaker such as Peter Kreeft. The problem comes when the speaker is held up as representing Reformed Orthodoxy while promoting views contrary to the Reformed Confessions. It should be noted that in the promo video for the conference, John Piper explicitly notes Doug Wilson’s commitment to the Westminster Confession of Faith as one of the reasons why he was excited to have him speaking at the conference. Yet, as you noted, NAPARC churches have consistently, publicly, and ecclesiastically rejected the Federal Vision.

    Regretfully, famous pastors like John Piper often function as a sort of evangelical teaching magisterium (If Piper says its o.k., then it must be o.k.). As for us, let us hold fast to the Reformed Confession.

  4. HeidelPing: An excellent essay from Dr. Clark regarding Piper's statements on Wilson/Wright

  5. The problem is that Wilson’s orthodoxy is made confusing by his heterodoxy.

    Sort of like how theonomy gets in the way of a theonomist saying Jesus perfectly effected messianic fulfillment. Sort of like how Catholicism’s confusion of justification with sanctification hinders its confession of Jesus and Lord and Savior. Sort of like how Piper’s sacramental theology (and ecclesiology) is getting in the way of his desire to be Reformed.

  6. Dr. Clark,

    I share your high regard for John Piper. He was one of the people (along with Mike Horton, J.I. Packer, etc) God used to bring me out of the slough of Arminianism. I love John Piper. Your post however helps to demonstrate why those of us who care deeply about biblical precision must not hold any man so high that we disregard the responsibility to test everything in light of God’s Word. I agree with your assessment of Wright and Wilson. They have both done outstanding work in certain areas but the NPP and FV are not orthodox.

    Also, as a baptist who holds to the 5 points of Dort I appreciate the fact that you know why you are a Presbyterian.

  7. Interesting. Has this concern been shared with Piper prior to this post or at least as a forewarn to it? I’m sure he’ll get wind of it soon enough; just curious.

    • Well, John didn’t consult the PCA, OPC, URCs, RCUS, or RPCNA before endorsing Doug Wilson’s orthodoxy. Wouldn’t that have been appropriate?

      To answer your question directly, yes, John knows of these concerns. He’s had extensive conversations with better men than I about these things and they articulated these sorts of concerns more clearly than I have done here.

    • This is such a sad response. Maybe I’m the sensitive type, but it literally brought tears to my eyes. The issue is whether John Piper was lovingly and privately approached by Dr. Clark and told about this article and even offered to see it first. And what’s Dr. Clark’s response? In effect, “Well, he didn’t consult so and so…,” and “Yes, others, better than I, have told him about some concerns…” This is so sad. No wonder the world sees us, especially the reformed among us, as cold, critical, harsh, judgmental, un-Christlike, and vicious. Dear Dr. Clark, your great learning and scholarship is not enough. You needed to go to Piper with tears in your eyes, and in love and humbly share your concerns. That is true humility and Christlikeness. Your defensive response here is so typical of all that’s wrong with our academy–lots of book learning and very little genuine love and compassion. Always trying to win debates and score points, but few humble tears in private rebuke. In Christ’s love, my dear brother, I adjure you to reconsider your ways. A proper response to JR would have been, “I erred. I should have talked to Piper directly first and allowed him to answer before publishing this. I’m sorry and I will ask for John’s forgiveness.” And now, this article is all over the place; I received it via e-mail from a third party. My dear brother, it ought not to be so. This is not Christ’s way.

    • Dear Tearful,

      I did try to approach John. I don’t have direct access to him. I approached two of his colleagues, who do have his ear, with concerns and tried to document my concerns as best I could. Only later did I become aware of the videos. I do know that two brothers, whom I know and trust, did bring the very same sorts of concerns to John. He’s aware of these concerns.

      This will likely only confirm your suspicion of my dead orthodoxy but in our tradition we deal with public sins (not that this is necessarily sin in the full sense of the word) publicly and private sins privately. Maybe our whole tradition is wrong about this but that’s the way we do it.

    • Thank you so much for pointing this out Dr. Clark. This concept is lost on many people in our day (including my presbytery.) A public sin generally calls for a public rebuke of the “open and notorious liver” and a private sin generally calls for the initially private measures outlined by Matthew 18.

      The actions (or inactions) of public bodies or public courts of the church, or the public words and actions of individual people call for a public rebuke in order to be obedient to the Ninth Commandment.

      WLC Q145 tells us we violate the Ninth Commandment by “concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others… and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.”

      I would also point out to Tearful that this was a most gentle rebuke. Piper has nothing to be rightfully offended about in how this unfolded. He is an influential figure who made public assertions. His public assertions were politely and firmly refuted. Only sinful pride would bridle at that.

  8. A very good reply, Dr. Clark, especially your exegesis of the super-Apostles text and how FV advocates are a modern parallel.

    I have one question and two comments. Not being familliar with the ins and outs of NPP/FV let alone where Wilson’s views unite and differ with the standard NPP/FV position, has Wilson ever repudiated the NPP/FV’s “the radical re-definition of ‘justification’ to a socio-religious boundary marker” in favour of the “forensic declaration by God that a sinner is accepted by God on the sole basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and received the faith resting and receiving alone?”

    My first comment is that Piper seems to be reading into Wilson’s neo-Presbyterian view of covenant membership through the lens of Baptist ecciesiology as if they were the same thing. But they aren’t.

    My second comment is: beware double negatives! You wrote “”Both groups still deny that, after all this time, after all these pixels and all the ink spilled, their critics still do not understand them!” Perhaps you meant to write: “both groups still affirm…their critics still do not understand them?”

    • Tim,

      Thanks for the editorial help. Fixed.

      Wilson’s relations to the NPP are ambiguous. He’s been strongly critical of Tom Wright lately but in earlier years he was a strong advocate of the NPP. He’s one of the co-signers of the FV statement from July ’07. I’ve given up trying to track Wilson’s zig-zagging. He’s a typical, eclectic American evangelical who happens to identify with aspects of Reformed theology. Like most American evangelicals he picks and chooses and then forms his own church.

  9. Perhaps it would have been appropriate for him to do so. It wasn’t meant as a slight against you in asking the question. I appreciate your work here and have learned a great deal from you and your essays. Like Todd above, I greatly admire Piper; for it was through his preaching that the Lord brought the Arminian (even semi-Pelagian) scales down from my eyes. Born and raised Church of Christ (Stone/Campbell). Grace to you, Scott.

    • Jr

      No slight taken. I’m just challenging the assumption implicit in your query.

      FWIW, I also corresponded with some of John’s associates at some length. I’m reasonably confident that he’s aware of these concerns.

  10. >Sort of like how Piper’s sacramental theology (and ecclesiology) is getting in the way of his desire to be Reformed.

    You’ll have to explain this. I have not read a single book by Piper, I’ve just skipped him because one can’t read everybody who is currently popular, but I do know he is credo-baptist. So how is his theology sacramental?

    • dt,

      It isn’t that Piper’s theology is sacramental (I’m not sure what that would even mean). It’s that his sacramental theology is credo-baptistic and not paedobaptistic. To be Reformed is to have a sacramental theology that is the latter.

      I believe in one of your most recent drive-by comments you tried to make the point that paedobaptism was half-way to Rome. But that’s like saying because we paedo’s also baptize professing adults we are half-way to Muenster. Curious: where does a trinitarian christology partially put us?

  11. Good stuff, Dr. Clark. I’m relieved to know I wasn’t the only one puzzled and troubled by this. In the video clip I watched Piper described Wilson’s distinction between the gospel as “good news” not “good advice.” All well and good, and very Horton-esque, but it just didn’t seem to jive with so much of Wilson’s other statements and writings.

  12. HeidelPing: Scott Clark on the Issue of John Piper Inviting Doug Wilson « Gospel-Centered Musings

  13. Well said, Dr. Clark. It still amazes me that the FV types still proclaim and play at a high-church ecclesiology, yet have such a low view of submission to their brothers. Maybe that’s a new category: high-church congregationalism. Thanks for a cogent and timely analysis.

  14. Very nice Dr. Clark. Thank you for the additional links for more information. I am glad that others find it confusing. Reading “Reformed Is Not Enough” was an eye opener.

    A Reform… Baptist!

  15. What bugs me is that almost all 3 and half minutes of Piper’s explanation for why he’s inviting Doug Wilson to his conference (the second video) centers around the “good news vs. good advice” illustration. Then why not invite Horton?? Hasn’t he read “Christless Christianity”?? At least Horton and Piper have more in common (and they would probably have fewer disagreements, since Horton rejects paedo-communion as well).

    I also don’t know how you can have a “Calvin Conference” without any real Calvin experts! :)

  16. Hi Dr. Clark,

    I am Venkatesh from India. I have been following your blog recently. I want to thank you for your insightful analysis on this important issue and for your loyalty to the true understanding of scripture. John Piper’s comments are indeed disturbing. I also feel very disturbed by John Piper’s (and even D A Carson’s) endorsement of Mark Driscoll.

  17. I think there are two points that need to be made here.
    The first one is your obsession with the term ‘Reformed Baptist.’ You may not like us, but you do have to get over that. Like the weather and like taxes, we’re not going away, and you have to live with it. You ask, “Who gets to define the adjective ‘Reformed’?” Well, not you, Dr Clark; and any attempt to define it that exclude Reformed Baptists is going nowhere.

    However, I am not aware that John Piper has ever described himself as a Reformed Baptist or ever given more than occasional lip-service to the 1689 Confession. Would that he had! With such an anchor for his understanding, he might not then have made such an egregious error in supporting a man like Wilson. You’re analysis is correct; F.V. is another Gospel.

  18. I noticed that Piper tried to seperate Wilson from the other Federal Visionists calling them ” a bunch of dumb people”. To my knowledge Wilson has never disavowed any of his colleagues in the FV.

  19. Piper is naive. Not a good sign in this case because it involves direct spiritual warfare against a true false teacher and a false teaching that strikes at the heart of biblical doctrine: justification by faith alone.

    It was my observation early on that the first truly direct confrontations with Doug Wilson that didn’t involve the inane academic niceties of interaction that he so exploits was being done by Reformed Baptists (Piper strikes me to be more of the naive academic type, I’m talking about the pit bulls one sees on the internet). Doug Wilson is a child of paedo-baptist Reformed Christians, he is not a child of Reformed Baptists (he left his credo-baptist stance because he saw he couldn’t defile it in the direction of Rome); but Reformed Baptists, being the active spiritual warriors they tend to be, didn’t step back with some notion of ‘not our fight’ from taking Wilson on in his obvious attack on apostolic biblical doctrine nicknamed Calvinism, Reformed Theology, classical Covenant – Federal – Theology.

    Any true, historic Reformed Baptist can see the constant temptations to Rome that grow up within paedo-baptist Reformed environments and can knock them around a bit with no problems. Paedo-baptist Reformed Christians obviously have more difficultly in discerning such attacks on biblical doctrine and then vigorously doing much about it. Wilson himself started with Theonomy. When that didn’t get the job done he modulated into his ‘Federal Vision’, and no doubt before he’s dead he and his companions will come up with something yet ‘new’ that will attempt to defile biblical doctrine back in the direction of the system of the Beast. Unfortunately all they have to do is exploit the breaches paedo-baptists leave in the walls of their doctrine.

    Wilson in many ways *should* be a blessing to paedo-baptist Reformed Christians. A mirror to show you the distortions you have kept in your doctrine. But you can’t see it, and so you’ll be plagued with your dark children probably until the return of the King. The real tragedy is how many paedo-baptists miss the true cause of regeneration, the Word and the Spirit, clinging to Romanist Beast system ritual and false teaching. And don’t pull any false predestination triggers here, part of the secondary causes is me writing this to you right here right now.

    • Sorry to be a little naughty here, but there is no such thing as “paedo-baptist Reformed Christians”. Reformed Christian are paedo-baptist! It is more accurate to say there is no such thing as Reformed-Baptist, it’s a blatant contradiction. It would be more accurately termed ” Calvinistic-Baptist”.

  20. Agreeing with the general tenor of the whole article/post, we must recognize that Piper does this every conference: Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller. He invites people that he disagrees with on secondary matters in terms of baptism, language and vulgarity, etc.

    But Piper misses the whole thing when it comes to FV. He says “Hes wrong as you expect him to be wrong in a presbyterian sort of way.” Which reformed presbyterian would say that your baptism saves you, your faithfulness to the new covenant saves you, and so on. Piper clearly has not gone into the “finer” points of Wilson’s theological beliefs nor does he properly understand reformational theology.

    • Robbie,

      I appreciate the fact that John has reached out to others beyond his circles. We’ve done that here too. We’ve had Duane Litfin speak and John himself and many others in more purely academic settings (not general convocations or commencement exercises). The DGM conference, however, isn’t a purely academic setting and the people attending aren’t necessarily divinity students or scholars prepared to evaluate DW and to hear him critically. They are bound to take John’s words in these videos as an endorsement of DW as a sound, credible, shepherd of Christ’s lambs. There are reasons to think that’s not true or at least to think that’s not been true consistently. Thus, I wouldn’t put DW in the same category with, e.g., Tim Keller or WSC’s Julius Kim, who is speaking at the same conference this fall! Yes, they’re an “outsiders” to DGM but no one has ever raised questions about their orthodoxy and that’s a huge difference.

      Second, I would dissent quite vigorously from the notion that baptism is a “secondary” matter. According to the Belgic Confession, Art 29, the pure administration of the sacraments is one of the marks of a true church.

      Mark Dever and I agree on this, btw, that baptism is not a secondary matter.

      I’ve suggested in other posts that there are more significant issues with Mark Driscoll’s theology, piety, and practice than his colorful language.

  21. “Who gets to define the adjective ‘Reformed’?” Well, not you, Dr Clark…”
    No, you’re right, Clark doesn’t get to define it, and from what I’ve read I’ve never seen him say he gets to. The Reformed Confessions define what “Reformed” is, and that’s always been Clark’s point.

  22. Given that Piper holding to “New Covenant Theology” denies the covenant of works, could that be the source of his misunderstanding of Wilson and FV?

  23. Dr. Clark —

    I think we can accept your critique of FV at face value, but I also think we have to ask what you mean by it in practice.

    Here’s what I’m asking: we all take it for granted that the Presbyterian way is to baptize the children of believers — that is one of the key reasons you mention of disavowing Baptists as “reformed” in any way. When you do this, you are doing something for someone of (in the best possible case) indeterminate faith status.

    When you have done this, the WCF says is it “not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace“, yes? (WCF 28.1) Now, of course, in your view WCF 28.6 has to be wholly considered as well — so we cannot say that the person has received the grace of baptism without faith.

    But you yourself -must- admit that to be “admitted to the visible church” is no small thing, and it is no -ungracious- thing on the part of God. The affirmation of WCF 25.2 is wholly applicable here.

    So you a key criticism from you toward FV (and Doug Wilson in particular) is that they mistake union with the church as election or temporary union with Christ. Yet there is no way to explain what the WCF says about this matter without adopting some form of that view — because it is unquestionable that some are admitted to the church who are not elect, yet these who are admitted without the eternal election are, for a time and in some sense, are in the “Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ”.

    How would you resolve the problem that all who are baptized are admitted to the church, placed in Christ’s Kingdom, but are not saved in the final judgment?

    • Frank,

      I don’t know how much of this literature you’ve read, but I discuss this question in the interview yesterday just posted online today. The link is in the Cov Radio post above.

      May I direct you to the resources on this question I’ve posted, since I’ve written on this at length in for publication.

      1. See the booklet for a more popular treatment.

      2. See the CPJ article for a more academic treatment.

      2. See especially the lengthy Exposition of the Nine Points (2007).

      The premise that you seem to overlook in your comments is the distinction that classic Reformed theology makes between an internal and an external relation to the covenant of grace. This distinction is essential to understanding the WCF.

    • Dr. Clark —

      Yes, thanks — I think that’s exactly right. My concern is that in seeking to create your fortification of that disctinction, and thereby excommunicate the FV advocates on that basis, your folks in Presbyterian circles are actually creating a separation which does far more than you’re intending.

      Let me put it this way: you have cast off the FV as “not orthodox” because they do not adhere to “covenant theology” which you propose is stated unequivocally in the WCF and the other reformed confessions.

      However, you have cast off us baptists as merely “not reformed” when the problems of reconciling systematics are actually far more pronounced between you and I than they would be between you and Doug Wilson. I think there’s a matter of consistency and, if you will forgive me for saying it, grace in your assessment of FV and of Doug Wilson in particular.

      You may have a legitimate concern regarding the relationship between FV and Norm Shepherd — I understand that, and from my baptist perch I think you need to escape by ending the baptizing non-believers and saying that such a thing both is and is not admission into the church. :-) That cures what ails ya. But it seems to me as an observer of this conflict from an external theological position that what you want is to accept everyone you want to accept as “orthodox” and reject everyone you want to reject as “unorthodox”, neglecting much of the nuance of the very proposition upon which you’re going to hang the conflict.

      If there is in fact the disctinction of “internal” and “external” relationship to the covenant of grace as a valid and workable point, I suggest that one should reconsider whether or not it’s a fair accusation to call Doug Wilson’s position on the non-elect who are admitted to the church “unorthodox”.

      My thanks again for your consideration of this matter.

    • Frank,

      My Baptist friends who identify with aspects of Reformed theology, i.e. Particular Baptists who hold the 1st or 2nd London Confessions or the 1689 or what have you, have not taught “in by grace, stay in by faith and works.” They haven’t been confusing on the gospel of justification sola fide etc. The FV folk have and these are DW’s people. This has been documented for years.

      Yes, I have significant problems with the claim of some Baptists to be “Reformed.” I don’t think that one can deny the hermeneutics, ecclesiology, and sacramentology of the Reformed confessions and still be Reformed but I do agree with my orthodox Baptist friends on justification sola fide. The FV movement is not marked by fidelity to justification sola fide. In addition to that confusion they have also corrupted Reformed covenant theology. In the FV theology these two things are integrally related. My Baptist friends have, in my view, a defective covenant theology, but those defects haven’t led them to corrupt the doctrine of justification.

    • Dr. Clark —

      Again, my thanks for your patience and consideration.

      Regarding how you can “keep” the baptists but “leave” the FVists, I suspect that if we consider the matters at issue in terms of “flawed covenant theology”, we’d find that there are plenty of gaps in baptist theology which you would have to classify as unhelpful and problematic as what you are characterizing as “works theology” on the part of Doug Wilson. For example, the idea that one must confess faith to receive baptism would ultimately render from you a judgment of subjectivism and self-justification — because of your sacramentology. That’s inconsistent with your judgment of the FV and of Doug.

      As I read what you write here, I am reminded of WCF 16.3:
      [The believers’] ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

      Plainly, the works do not justify anybody, but because of the work of God the Holy Spirit in them, the believers ought to do good works; moreover, from 16.2, the works are the fruit of “true and lively faith”, and by the “fruit unto holiness” they will have the end of that fruit, which is eternal life.

      This is what I understand Doug Wilson to be saying overall in his writings. Admittedly, he trumpets the covenant louder than you do in these matters, and speaks to the obligations of the bearers of the signs of the covenant — but when he does that, he is speaking to eccesliology and not soteriology, insofar as those things can actually be separated in a covenantal systematic. He is often characterized as having said that these works justify a man in the same way that Christ justifies a man, but I think a more careful reading of what he means points to the wholly-orthodox idea that one does these works because one is justified, not in order to cause one’s justification. God will say, “well done, good and faithful servant,” after all: we will have done something of which God will approave.

      I am also aware, btw, that you have tracked this ground before with others. That you are good enough to track it with me speaks to your kindness to the ignorant.

  24. My apologies — that second-to-last paragraph should read:

    So a key criticism from you toward FV (and Doug Wilson in particular) is that they mistake union with the church as election or temporary union with Christ. Yet there is no way to explain what the WCF says about this matter without adopting some form of that view — because it is unquestionable that some are admitted to the church who are not elect, yet these who are admitted without the eternal election are, for a time and in some sense, are in the “Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ”.

    Thanks for your consideration.

    • Frank,

      The Westminster Divines held to the views as stated in the WCF without ever stating it in the terms that Doug Wilson or any of the FVer’s do; so too (just to name some Reformed/Presbyterian big dogs) Warfield, Bavink, Berkhof, Machen, Van Til, Vos, and Hodge never did either. It just isn’t true that one must talk in terms of union with the church as temporary election in Christ in order to make sense of WCF 16.2 or any chapter of the confession.

      And if that’s true, it seems more than likely to me that if one feels like one needs to use that kind of language to hold the WCF (or any Reformed confession) together as a whole that there are operating from different understanding of election, soteriology, ecclesiology, covenant, justification and good works. This, as Dr. Clark has pointed out, is precisely what all the NAPARC churches have discovered.

      Now you ask for charity for Baptists and for the Wilson and other FVers. I quite agree. But charity can only go so far; it cannot be used as a way to whitewash over differences. Therefore, we disagree with Baptists–as they disagree with us. Yet, because we both preach justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, we grant the judgment of charity to one another because the church is constituted by the Gospel. In fact, its upon the basis of a shared and consistent Gospel that we Reformed and you Baptists can have a dialogue is it not: because we confess the gospel we can trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in each of our lives to enlighten us more and more to the Scripture’s understanding every day.

      The rub with Wilson and the FVers is that while we (and here I mean all protestants) confess a Gospel of justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, they do not. Sometimes they might seem to, but at the end of the day it is not a consistent proclamation of the gospel which saves. That is why, without exception, the NAPARC churches have both rejected and condemned their teaching. It isn’t for want of charity (I know plenty of men who were heartbroken by it); its for a love of Christ and a desire to protect His Gospel: as Dr. Clark has pointed out in his exegesis of Galatians 1, there is one and only one Gospel which saves.

      Therefore, when you’re making comparisons between the way Baptists and FVers are addressed in Reformed circles, I think you’re making comparisons between apples and oranges, because we’re talking about different gospels. And before that statement is dismissed, remember that very excellent scholars from all over the Reformed world have made that charge, excellent ministers and elders have declared that charge to be both valid and necessary, and whole denominations and confederations have seen the need to condemn it BECAUSE they believe (and I think rightly) that it destroys (at worst) or muddies (at its absolute best) the Gospel of Christ by which men are saved.

    • Barks —

      I want to apprecaite the detail with which you are addressing this issue.

      I think you are mistaken on two points:

      [1] that Doug Wilson has ever seriously and clearly believed or preached a “gospel” of good works.

      [2] that the differences as they are spelled out by the critics of the FV would not cause the same rift between baptists and presbyterians if the same points of reference were used to spell out the differences.

      Consider it: why does a presbyterian who is thinking systematically reject the credobaptist position? That is, why does a paedobaptist reject credobaptism but still baptize new converts? The systematic thinking of the credobaptist is rejected for certain reasons, and my observation is that if you spelled out those reasons using the touchpoints used to spell out the objections to FV, you’d find yourself anathemtizing baptists.

      My thanks for you graciousness. It’s not always offered in this discussion.

    • Frank,

      I take it that you don’t accept my argument from 2 Cor 11 that Paul’s definition of “another gospel” is rather broader than that used by John in the video?

      Are you accounting for my comment that yes, DW can be orthodox but that he negates that by his heterodoxy? In Reformed theology, it is not enough simply to mouth the right formulas if one is also going to articulate serious error that undermines orthodoxy. This was one of the problems with the Remonstrants. They said true things but they also undermined the the truth they did teach by the errors they taught or allowed. Read the Rejection of Errors that are a part of the Canons of Dort.

      Have you read the major critiques of the FV?

      I have no idea what you’re saying about baptism. We baptize previously unbaptized adult converts for the same reason that Abraham was circumcised as an adult. We baptize the children of believers for the same reason Abraham circumcised his sons. What’s inconsistent about that? Are you sure you really understand the Reformed explanation of the history of redemption (covenant theology) and of the sacraments?

    • Frank,

      The thanks for graciousness goes both ways.

      In regard to your first articulated point of disagreement: I do not know what Doug Wilson believes in his heart. I do not think that I am in a position to judge the heart and so it is entirely possible (and I pray that it is so) that he is resting in Christ alone by faith alone for salvation.

      I am, however, in a place to judge his confession. So in that light, I would like to note that when you said that Doug Wilson has never “seriously and clearly believed or preached a ‘gospel’ of good works,” but could not say “Doug Wilson has ALWAYS and consistently preached justification according the solas,” should be a huge red flag. Men like Spurgeon and Calvin and Lloyd-Jones believed it very easy to preach a Gospel consisting of the solas alone. They and so many after them did it clearly, and they never made statements that sounded as if justification is dependent upon sanctification or upon ecclesiology. Yet Doug Wilson has not preached the solas clearly or consistently, and he has made many statements where it seems as if justification is dependent upon sanctification and ecclesiology. That is a huge problem; it could even be a soul damning one. I say that knowing the strength of the statement I make, and I make it because where the Gospel is at stake, so is eternity. Certainly we both agree that only one Gospel alone justifies, and so the question I would pose is: Which Gospel is it? And, as a follow up, if someone cannot preach and teach that Gospel consistently and clearly, should they really be preaching and teaching? James’ warning comes to mind at this point.

      With regards to your second point, I respectfully disagree. If Baptists made justification contingent upon the sacraments and ecclesiology we would have the same rift. Baptists, thankfully, make the distinction that ecclesiology and the sacraments, though important, are not the Gospel. They are not justification. One may have erred in their doctrines of both and still go to heaven upon the basis of Christ’s blood alone had by faith alone. The difficulty that I, and I think others in the NAPARC churches, have with the FVers is that they smash together justification, ecclesiology, and sanctification into one basically indistinguishable amalgam. Consequently, because they are tied together in that way, we find ourselves necessarily condemning their teaching because it not only prevents teaching clearly the doctrines of grace, but it also (however unintentional it might be) takes away the solas and replaces it with human effort to it. According to Paul’s argument in Galatians 1 and 2 Cor 11, that constitutes a different Gospel.

      Sorry for the length of the response. Thank you for the conversation thus far.

    • Dr. Clark —

      I have read many (not all) of the critiques of the FV, and my opinion is that they addresses the excesses of some of the advocates, but that Doug Wilson does not demonstrate the excesses of the FV: he represents the best of the FV from which we all can learn something. The serious issue here is whether Doug Wilson advocates hetereodox beliefs, and I would say he does not. I would further say that someone should quote him saying something heterodox to dismiss my opinion — because that’s how it ought to be done.

      As to the baptism issue, without taking your comment thread hostage here, I don’t think that the presbyterian form of baptizing the believer and his children is inconsistent based on the theology behind it: I think that the presbyterian who does not call the baptist heterodox but will in fact call Doug Wilson heterodox is being inconsistent.
      _________________________

      Barks —

      I wouldn’t ask you to judge DW’s heart. We can only judge his confessions and his writings.

      Doug’s biggest sin, I think, is allowing words to have more than one meaning — which we all do, we just don’t usually do that in theology or systenatics because we prefer a less-ambiguous, less-literary approach to our philosophical thought. So when DW says something like “covenant people”, we have to consider closely what he means because he might mean “the universal, invisible church” (as the WCF might mean), or he might mean “the visible church, warts and all” (as the WCF might mean). And while that distinction is important and useful, it is also a distinction which can take away our appreciation that sometimes all of us are inside the visible church but acting opposed to the warnings the NT gives us to disobedience and failing to love Christ by obeying his commands.

      But to his way of looking at this, we have to admit that he does something important: he shows us that theology is not a flat science of monochromatic meaning. The covenant which ultimately calls out the universal church in the final account is the same covenant which calls out the visible church which is a mixture of wheats and tares — and somehow the blessing the NT gives to the local church, and the warnings it gives to those in the church but in error, have to deal with that tension.

      I don’t agree with everything Doug says — but I’m a baptist. I don’t agree with everything R. Scott Clark says, either. I’m a baptist. If you reject the worst of the FV: fine. I reject the excesses of anabaptists. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some anabaptists who are orthodox, and for you it doesn’t mean that Doug Wilson is ipso facto heterodox.

      Again, all: thanks for the courtesy and the generosity.

  25. why does John feel free to continue to regard the FV as just another variation of Reformed theology?

    The better question is why does John consider the FV to be another variation of Christian theology? Could it be that Piper has more in common with the FV than he lets on? Could it be that his Fullerite and Neoleaglistic leanings, expressed fully in his book Future Grace, is what allows him to embrace Wilson as a kindred spirit even inviting him to headline at his upcoming DG conference?

    I suppose the better question is why is Marvin Olasky speaking at the same conference and sharing the stage with Wilson? Isn’t Olasky an elder in the PCA? Shouldn’t your gentle rebuke be addressed to Olasky and his session as well? Wouldn’t the parallel to your citation from Galatians above apply to Olasky as he is, even unwittingly and unintentionally, being drawn into Piper’s hypocrisy?

    The FV teaches that the “elect” can fall away. These two views are contradictory.

    Perhaps this really isn’t a contradiction at all. Perhaps it is a MACRUE (a merely apparent contradiction resulting from unarticulated equivocation). If you haven’t read it already, you need to read James Anderson’s Paradox in Christian Theology. I think the FV men have been quite brilliant, Doug Wilson in particular, in balancing the paradoxes (OK, some people might be tempted to call them contradictions) inherent in their doctrine of the covenant, justification and election even without Anderson’s help. However, and assuming they take advantage of it, Anderson has provided Federal Visionists with a philosophically sophisticated method of warrant for their contradictory theology and a means by which they can easily deflect the charge that they’re teaching anything remotely contradictory. What you call a contradiction is only apparent; it is not real. I can’t believe you’re behind the curve on this? ;-)

  26. Frank, Federal Vision attacks first the Covenant of Works to get at their main target: justification by faith alone. All else they blather about is window dressing to give them material to sew confusion and to divert from their main target and goal. And to do this they simply and shamelessly prey upon the currently ignorant while knowing they are being ‘seen’ by Christians who are not ignorant of Reformed Theology and age-old false teachings intended to lead people back to Rome and bondage to the darkness and death of the devil’s kingdom.

  27. Dr. Clark,

    Excellent article! Very helpful, discerning and very graciously written.

    As a Reformed Baptist (I know that moniker concerns you – sorry) I appreciate you pushing the issue of what does it mean to be reformed. Coming out of the non-confessional, non-reformed background in both church life and theological education, I too am deeply concerned about the “who” and the “what” that is given the title reformed. I too am thankful for much of what men like John Piper has done for the body of Christ. However, in part because of things you have sighted and other issues as well, brother Piper is clearly not reformed. He isn’t confessional, his worship services have more in common with Finney than Calvin, and seems to be answerable to no one beyond his own elder board.

    As a result, (and because I don’t minister too far from Piper) I have often had to labor hard to make distinction between myself and John Piper’s version of reformed. While this gives opportunities to speak sound doctrine, it does cause some amount of discord.

    That said, I would continue to disagree with you on one point. As I read your material concerning who is reformed – I agree with most everything you write and am greatly encouraged and appropriately challenged. However, it seems to me that you make infant baptism de facto the test of reformed.

    Obviously you don’t think so but let me explain why I think you do.

    1. A person can be in complete agreement on every point of the Three Forms of Unity or the WCF except infant baptism and you declare them non-reformed.

    2. You don’t put the same emphasis upon other elements of the WCF such as Psalm singing. Clearly, the WCF teaches that Psalm singing is the appropriate source for our worship songs. Clearly, Calvin thought Psalms were the only appropriate songs for worship as did John Murray. Yet, I don’t hear you decry “non-reformed” as boldly to your OPC friends who have adopted modernistic worship styles.

    It would seem if you were consistent then you would have to declare RC Sproul to be “non-reformed” because under his pastoral leadership his congregation sings uninspired hymns and has pictures of Christ hanging in their sanctuary – not to mention the use of a string quartet for leading singing. All things not sanctioned by the WCF, or the Three Forms of Unity. But thankfully, Dr. Sproul still baptizes babies – hence “Reformed”. No serious criticism or disrespect of Dr. Sproul is intended, only evidence that you seem to make infant baptism the de facto test for being allowed into the reformed camp.

    Thanks again for your wonderful article. Keep them coming!

    God’s richest blessing upon you and your family today.

    Sincerely,

    Doug VanderMeulen

    • “…Clearly, Calvin thought Psalms were the only appropriate songs for worship as did John Murray.”
      Didn’t Calvin sing the Apostle’s Creed?

      I’m also curious, how can one agree to “every” point of the WCF and “only” reject infant baptism? To reject infant baptism is to reject the covenant theology undergirding the WCF. I just don’t see it.

    • Trbl,

      Yes, you’re correct. Mr Murray was not an exclusive psalmodist but he didn’t sing uninspired songs. I came (quite apart from his minority report) to agree with him on this and I argue this case in the book, Recovering the Reformed Confession.

      Yes, Calvin did sing the Creed. I’m still working out how to think and speak about this. Bob Godfrey suggests (implicitly) that Calvin had a category of “affirmation” in worship and I think it comes under the heading of “Word.” The Creed was regarded as a summary of the most basic teaching of the Word.

    • Dr. Clark
      You wrote

      Mr Murray was not an exclusive psalmodist but he didn’t sing uninspired songs.

      I’m not quite sure how you’re using the term exclusive psalmodist, since you say he was not, but for those of us who actually knew Mr. Murray, I can tell you that’s what he practised among and taught to those who were his closest of friends, and with and to the churches in which he worshipped.

      Believe it or not, but there was more to Mr. Murray than just what he wrote. There is still the original EP OPC congregation in suburban Philadelphia that is EP because God in His providence used Mr. Murray to teach us what RPW is, starting by way of Mr. Murray’s personal generosity.

    • Hi Doug,

      We probably disagree on how to prioritize things. As I see it, as Reformed confessionalist who accepts the confession of the Reformed churches my friend R. C. is a minister, in good standing, in a confessional Reformed church. He accepts the doctrine of the Reformed churches. His practice (like that of most Reformed churches today) may not be entire consistent with the confession (whose is?) but he does not reject the confession. My Baptist friends do not accept the Reformed confession. They do not confess the same reading of the history of redemption, the same heremeneutic, nor do they confess the same doctrines of church and sacraments. R. C. accepts me as a baptized person but my Baptist friends do not! There’s a major difference there.

      Thus the premise of your argument, that one’s practice must conform entirely to the Reformed confession or else one is not Reformed, doesn’t work. It’s a bad premise. This is why we speak of “semper reformanda,” i.e. of continually bringing our theology, piety, and practice into conformity with the Word as confessed by the churches.

    • Doug,

      I wonder. If I said, “I’m a Baptist. Please baptize my new-born daughter,” how would you respond? Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think it would be something like, “Baptists don’t do that. If you think you’re a Baptist, I think you have some things to work out.”

      Would I then be wrong to suggest that “you seem to make credo-baptism the de facto test for being allowed into the Baptist camp”?

    • Zrim,

      I am not sure of your point. Of course credo-baptism is a de facto test for being baptistic. But that is not the same thing as saying only those who are reformed baptist are reformed or only those who with reasonable consistency hold to the WFC are reformed.

      I agree with Dr. Clark that the reformed faith is much narrower than the so-called 5 points of calvinism. Just because someone is a Calvinist doesn’t mean he is reformed – i.e. John Piper.

      All I am suggesting is that Dr. Clark is drawing the circle of who is reformed too narrowly. As a baptist, I would think that even on baptism we agree on much of its meaning and purpose in the life of the church. We agree that it is a means of grace. We agree that it is a sign of the covenant of grace. We agree that it is not a means of salvation – baptismal regeneration. We agree that the sign and the thing signified go together but ought not to be confused. We agree that unbaptized adults who are converted are to be baptized. We agree on WCF chapter 10 which is verbatim chapter 10 of the LBC of 1689. We agree that non-elect children of believers are not engrafted into Christ and the list can go on.

      We also agree that covenants are the hermeneutical principle for rightly reading the Bible. We agree in that there is a covenant of works and grace. The list goes can go on and I am sure you know of of this.

      But because reformed baptist don’t agree that the sign of the promise of the new life in Christ is applied to unconverted children we are ipso facto not reformed. Hence my objection that Dr. Clark has unintentionally make infant baptism the final test of being reformed. For example, lets consider John Owen.

      Was John Owen reformed? The Savoy Confession departs significantly at points with the WFC of faith, particularly in ecclesiastical issues? Of course he was reformed! But again, I believe that most reformed people view Owen being reformed because of infant baptism and over look his church polity which WCF significantly differs. So unlike Dr. Clarks’s semper reformata example of Dr. Sproul, Owen has a significant creedal difference from WCF on church government.

      So all I am suggesting is that Dr. Clark is on target in his challenge about what is the reformed faith and does a man such as Piper or Wilson (for different reasons) belong. I just think he draws the circle too tightly especially since the formal cause and the material cause of the reformation were Sole Scriptura and Sola Fide and not baptism.

    • Doug,

      I would rather say that the Reformed faith is more extensive than the Five Points of the Synod of Dort (to which there were no Baptist delegates!).

      Historically, those Baptists who identified with the soteriology of the Reformation didn’t call themselves “Reformed” because they understood that adjective referred to a theology, piety, and practice with which they agreed selectively. Thus they called themselves “Particular Baptists.” It’s not a great name for marketing but it is more accurate.

      This is just the point. Why should we who hold the Reformed faith as confessed by the churches, as John Owen did (I don’t understand this point about Owen since he was theologically one with the Independents who were at the Assembly. There’s no great tension between the Savoy and the WCF as the latter states no precise form of government because there were presbyterians (of various sorts), independents, and episcopalians at Westminster. The same was true at Dort! A particular form of church government is not of the essence of being Reformed. A high view of the church and a certain view of the sacraments—on these things the Reformed all agreed against the Anabaptists (Dort) and against the English Baptist movement as it arose in the early 17th century and certainly by 1644 with the First London.

      Baptists do not only reject a Reformed practice, they don’t even regard Reformed folk as baptized! That’s not a minor, secondary thing. That’s huge. We at least regard you as rebellious but baptized people! Baptists and paedobaptists read the entire history of redemption differently. We view Moses and Abraham differently. Baptists habitually kidnap Abraham and give him plastic surgery to make him into Moses so they can get rid of him. The Reformed churches don’t do that. We see our faith as substantially identical with Abraham. See the post “Abraham Was Not Moses.”

      Once again, it is not I drawing the circle. It is the Reformed confessions. We’re there any Baptists at Westminster? Theoretically there could have been. They existed. The Particular Baptist movement was a reality. They weren’t there because the Westminster Divines were Reformed. Yes, ther are great areas of commonality between some PBs and the Reformed churches. In the case of the IRBS folk I can’t see exactly why they don’t baptize infants—except for an over-realized eschatology—but most PBs are only selectively Reformed not only as a matter of practice but as a matter of confession and as a matter of hermeneutics.

      If you can convince the Reformed churches that Baptism and covenant theology and the hermeneutics that lie behind them are “secondary” then we can talk, but until then I can’t see how one can simply declare ex cathedra that such things are non-essential to being Reformed, especially when the Belgic Confession makes the pure administration of the sacraments one of the three marks of a true church.

    • Doug,

      Yes, we agree on those things. Where we depart is how all of that means children of believers are members of the covenant and should therefore receive the sign of the covenant. It’s no negligible thing. Indeed, going by the name “Baptist” seems to convey that sacramentology is vital, to say the least (if not a little misguided: if there can be [credo] Baptists can there someday be [paedo] Communionists?). It is ironic to me, then, when a credo-baptist accuses a paedobaptist of being too narrow in his definitions. A credo-baptist may tell a paedobaptist he isn’t a Baptist, but a paedobaptist can’t say a credo-baptist is less than Reformed? Huh?

      Re Owen, the three marks of the true church don’t include polity, but they do include sacramentology (second mark). So, polity may be overlooked, but not sacramentology.

  28. An unspoken thing that Piper has also done here is give Wilson a bit of a new life. Federal Vision was pretty much dead. Wilson’s compound operations were dying on the false vine. Then Mr. Piper goes and… Not everybody gets the memo, or understands it, I suppose…

  29. >To reject infant baptism is to reject the covenant theology undergirding the WCF. I just don’t see it.

    Reformed Baptists consider chapter 10 of the WCF as rather meaningful and important.

    Covenant Theology (true, classical Covenant Theology, i.e. Witsius, Vos, Berkhof) is not the servant of infant baptism, nor is infant baptism even a Reformed distinctive.

    • Breathing is not a Reformed distinctive either but the Reformed understanding of infant baptism is quite distinct from the Roman explanation and somewhat distinct from the Lutheran explanation of infant baptism.

    • We all know the Covenant Theology of Nehemiah Coxe and the Westminster Divines differed drastically–granted Coxe died a year before the LBC. So arguing that chapter 10 of the WCF is meaningful doesn’t mean a whole lot to me since we still disagree on the nature of the covenants.

  30. I keep hearing that Reformed differ with Reformed Baptists on the Covenant Theology itself. This is nonsense, and it is a new tactic. To say that being born again by the Word and the Spirit and having faith in the still to come or already come Messiah is entrance into the Covenant of Grace. Nothing changes. I understand Covenant Theology pretty clearly. This line that Reformed Baptists don’t have the same Covenant Theology is put forward with no evidence. Sometimes the line is taken that New Covenant Theology is what Reformed Baptists espouse (I suppose), but not historic Reformed Baptists.

    And anyway, paedo-baptist Reformed are hardly on the same page regarding Covenant Theology – today and throughout history – thus making the accusation that Reformed Baptists have a ‘different’ Covenant Theology further ridiculous.

    I see a classical line of true Covenant Theology. It is Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works, Covenant of Grace, two Adam, Federal Theology — five solas, doctrines of grace. Infant baptism does not control of of that. Again, Covenant Theology is not the servant of infant baptism.

    Another rather obvious point that needs to be made again and again: unless you paedos secretly harbor belief in baptismal regeneration afterall you are the same as Reformed Baptists regarding entrance into the Covenant of Grace. Like it or not. Now, again, unless you secretly harbor sacramentalist, baptismal regeneration views…

    • “This line that Reformed Baptists don’t have the same Covenant Theology is put forward with no evidence.”
      Perhaps you can point us towards a Baptist who has iterated C.T. in the same line as the Reformed. For a treatment on the Particular Baptist’s view of C.T. I’ve been directed to Nehemiah Coxe (Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ) and his work doesn’t sound like the classical position. If I can remember correctly (it’s been three years since I read it) he pluralizes the covenant made with Abraham, to my knowledge no classical C.T. has done this. Help?

    • Simply because infant baptism doesn’t control classical Covenant Theology one doesn’t *have* to have a distinct Reformed Baptist theologian’s take on classical Covenant Theology, any more than you have to go find some theologian who believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary (as Calvin did) to write a Calvinist systematic theology.

      I must say I’m more familiar with the Westminster Confession of Faith than with the London Baptist Confession of 1689, but I suspect you can look at that latter document and find as classical a presentation of covenant theology (maybe a more full presentation regarding the Covenant of Redemption? I add with question mark because I don’t know, but the thought is in the back of my mind for some reason) as in the former.

    • Yes the London Baptist Confession of 1689 is actually more full in its classical presentation of Covenant Theology than the WCF:

      3._____ This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.

    • Well, I’m reminded why I am not so attached to the classical Reformed confessions regarding Covenant Theology. One leaves out one thing, another leaves out something else. None of them present classical Covenant Theology in full. The LBCF 1689 leaves out this paragraph from the WCF:

      2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

      Because it seems to have a thing against the term Covenant of Works? Then you have the WCF not mentioning the Covenant of Redemption by any name other than if you want to, like Robert L. Reymond, see it in the *title* of chapter 3 (Of God’s Decree) which is a stretch. The Covenant of Redemption is, of course, mentioned to some length in the Sum of Saving Knowledge, but that document is not a part of the Westminster Standards proper.

    • I can’t help escaping the thought that you’re being a little anachronistic. The WCF predated the LBC by 43 years, and the 3FUs about 70-120 years. Nonetheless, infant baptism is the natural consequence of a consistent and biblical C.T., something Baptists lack. Like I said, the best attempt I know of is Coxe, and he mutilates the Abrahamic covenant–which was necessary for him to do given his denial of paedobaptism. I just can’t help thinking that men like Coxe had to “re-write” and change things up to avoid the inevitable conclusion of paedobaptism (presently guys like Steve Wellum do something similar in his chapter in Believer’s Baptism ed. Thomas Schriener). So I still fail to see how Particular Baptists had a classical presentation of CT.

  31. On the point of Baptists calling themselves Baptists. I could be wrong, but isn’t that a name that was given to them? Like Puritan. Rather than a name one gives oneself, like Reformed, or Presbyterian? That’s a significant difference in the context of what was said above regarding Baptists being so involved in that one thing that they chose to *call* themselves by it.

    • dt,

      It is an interesting historical question, how a group got their name, I suppose. But not only is it no more interesting than the fact that other people named me when I was born. Just as I rather uneventfully continue to go by the name my folks gave me, I don’t think it matters as much as you suggest.

      What is significant here is that (credo) Baptists call themselves (credo) Baptists. Whatever else that means, they must think there is something to it. If anyone is being narrow it seems obvious it is the one who identifies himself and excludes others by a very particular sacramentology, as well as being narrow on who is baptized; it is also an odd name since it seems to suggest a monopoly on something every other Christian tradition also does. It’s like distinguishing golfers as “Putters” and “Drivers” instead of amateurs and pros.

      Re your sustained charge that paedo’s, by virtue of simply being paedo, are really frustrated Romanists, has it ever occured to you that this is no different from Romanists conflating Protestants with Anabaptists by virtue of our claim to sola scriptura (as opposed to solo scriptura)? There is a pretty big difference between letting scripture intrepret scripture and swallowing the Holy Spirit feathers and all.

  32. So-called ‘solo’ Scriptura is a coinage by a Federal Visionist (a quasi-Romanist) to get Protestant Christians to be ashamed of the Word of God and of the Holy Spirit’s role in illuminating the Word of God. Another topic, yet vaguely related nevertheless. It’s another example of establishment (I’ll use that word in this context) Reformed Christians being vulnerable to attacks from the devil and actually not even seeing them coming, or recognizing them when they’ve arrived.

  33. I don’t have as much knowledge as some of you, but at the end of the day it does seem that a Baptist is not Reformed. It your group was not part of a discussion or synod, if you weren’t invited to participate, and if you don’t belong to a church that holds to the Reformed confessions, then you are not a part of that tradition. If the theologians and churches that call themselves Reformed, that established what they mean by Reformed, do not acknowledge you as being Reformed because you don’t meet the definition, then you are not. The definition of Reformed (within the context of theology) was set by a group of churches, in particular it’s theologians and ministers, to distinguish themselves. This definition is set in their confessions. Within the context of Christian traditions and theology, Reformed has a distinct meaning. This is what I understand people like Dr. Clark to be saying ultimately. And I have to come to accept it because it seems logical. I once called myself a Reformed Christian and a Calvinist, but not any more.

  34. Alberto, if it’s tradition you want you can have it. I’ll take apostolic biblical doctrine under whatever nickname one wants to give it. For Protestants that nickname is various: Calvinism, Reformed Theology, Federal Theology, classical Covenant Theology. If you’re defending some precious tradition then knock yourself out. I don’t care about your tradition. I care about what the Bible says.

    And yes I *did* just solve this ridiculous ‘problem.’ If Dr. Clark wants his tradition left alone, so be it. If he wants apostolic biblical doctrine all to himself, then…he’s going to have to grow up.

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  36. >I can’t help escaping the thought that you’re being a little anachronistic. The WCF predated the LBC by 43 years, and the 3FUs about 70-120 years.

    I never mentioned Three Forms of Unity. They are not in the picture, chronologically, regarding Covenant Theology. I’m not sure what your point is regarding the WCF and the LBC. I suspect you don’t know the LBC1689 is basically the same as the WCF, i.e. is based, actually more than based, on it. As is the Savoy.

    >Nonetheless, infant baptism is the natural consequence of a consistent and biblical C.T., something Baptists lack.

    Says you and other paedo-baptists. I happen to think that believers baptism is the natural and elegant progression of the Covenant of Grace, and certainly is the biblical one with actual biblical warrant.

    >Like I said, the best attempt I know of is Coxe, and he mutilates the Abrahamic covenant–which was necessary for him to do given his denial of paedobaptism.

    You are really in naive territory here. As I wrote above, first of all, you won’t find consistency on Covenant Theology among paedo-baptist covenant theologians, on into the 20th century and today. You don’t have to find a ‘baptist’ theologian to find out how Reformed Baptists see Covenant Theology. I mean, go to the LBCF1689 rather than Coxe. Why not? But most sources like that get quirky in one way or another. Even the WCF doesn’t fully flesh out the Covenant of Redemption, as stated above.

    Yet there *is* a classical Covenant Theology. It’s *not* defined by paedo-baptism (a ridiculous and petulant thought on the face of it). Covenant Theology is in *no way* the servant of infant baptism. Baptists just simply see, biblically (and because we kind of – ooh, bad word coming up – *experience* it) regeneration by the Word and the Spirit (as spelled out nicely in WCF 10) as what, in so many words, gets one in to the Covenant of Grace, or the Kingdom of God. Kind of important, eh? Regeneration. It precedes faith, you know. You’ve heard that? I hope that’s still being taught in Reformed seminaries.

    >I just can’t help thinking that men like Coxe had to “re-write” and change things up to avoid the inevitable conclusion of paedobaptism (presently guys like Steve Wellum do something similar in his chapter in Believer’s Baptism ed. Thomas Schriener). So I still fail to see how Particular Baptists had a classical presentation of CT.

    It is historically and theologically naive to write the sentence “So I still fail to see how Particular Baptists had a classical presentation of CT.” Why? Because very few theologians were on-the-mark with Covenant Theology. (John Flavel may be an under-the-radar leading candidate for on-the-markness), and it matters not whether the theologian is Baptist or paedo-baptist. John Gill or Thomas Boston. Understanding the Covenant of Redemption, Works, and Grace is rare for *any* Protestant theologian in history and up to our very day.

    An underlying nagging aspect of this whole subject is the fact that the classical confessions didn’t present Covenant Theology completely (it being still a work in progress), and the desire on some to so want them to have done that that they pretend that they did it. (Robert L. Reymond wanting to see ‘Covenant of Redemption’ in the *chapter title* of chapter 3 of the WCF, for instance.)

    I think the whole of classical Covenant Theology was available in the 17th century, but the Westminster divines didn’t have access to it at the time of their gathering. So, guess what, we’re left to *discern for ourselves* what is on-the-mark. And that is not difficult if you have the Holy Spirit in you, which is the Spirit of Truth and Discernment. For instance, it is not difficult to see that Ralph Smith is off-the-mark, and that Geerhardus Vos is on-the-mark. Not difficult for me.

    You have to understand that the term Reformed Baptist has come about *naturally* for a historical reason. We know the five solas, we know the doctrines of grace, we know covenant theology and we know *regeneration.* I.e. those of us who *are* able to see classical Covenant – Federal – Theology.

    • Forgive my naiveness, perhaps you can extend to me a little bit of charity. As I understand it the confessions were never intended to be fully developed systematic or biblical theologies. They served as a framework for orthodoxy. Given that, I’m finding it hard to see why it’s so useless to consider the C.T. of the Particular Baptists, like Coxe. As interested as I am in the LBC’s statement of C.T., I’m also interested in the theology that lies behind the statement–the same goes for the WCF. I picked Coxe as a representative of the Baptist thought of that day, perhaps you can point me towards someone else. The point is, the theology behind the LBC is not a classical form of C.T–if Coxe is a good representative of their thought.
      Sure, I’ll admit that the classical C.T.s (Witsius, Ball, Rollock, Boston, Owen, Turretin, Berkhof, Vos, etc) have diversity in thought–but their diversity only goes so far. None of them have the audacity to pluralize the Abrahamic covenant into covenants (doesn’t Gill do the same thing in his commentaries?). The C.T. of the Reformed and that of the Baptist seems quite different, but I’m naive so maybe you can help me out.

    • As I stated, you are going about it wrong to look for a Baptist representation of classical covenant theology. Baptists don’t have a unique take on Covenant Theology. And finding the true classical line of CT is as difficult if you are looking in a purely Reformed paedo-baptist environment as it is anywhere else. For instance, my discernment of Covenant Theology includes the Covenant of Redemption, Works, and Grace. That puts me at odds with many paedo-baptist Reformed covenant theologians.

      You are operating under the wrong assumption that credo and paedo lead to different Covenant Theology. My point is that is a canard. Baptists Covenant theologians have the biblically powerful and elegant and true understanding on how one enters the Covenant of Grace, or the Kingdom of God. Paedo-baptists have a take that is hybrid Romanist, propped up with sophistry, and which defaults to baptismal regeneration when any – *any* – pressure is applied.

      The pressure Reformed Baptists apply to you guys is a good pressure. We press you to not go with the world and to not follow the easy current of ritual and man at the expense of the Word and the Spirit. The WCF in chapter 10 *tells* you what effects regeneration, and the word baptism is no where to be found in that chapter (I’ve read Federal Visionists who state they want to take that chapter OUT of the WCF).

      And Reformed paedos have no advantage regarding their children being in some kind of a better Christian situation either. If a child is born to Christian parents that is God’s doing and they will get the benefits of that with or without a ritual being applied to them. As for regeneration by the Word and Spirit they are in the same boat as Reformed paedo children.

    • “Baptists don’t have a unique take on Covenant Theology…You are operating under the wrong assumption that credo and paedo lead to different Covenant Theology.”
      Please clarify for me. I’ll admit, I see two different covenant theologies when I read Witsius as opposed to Coxe. Not just different emphasises or takes on the relationship between the Mosaic administration and the CoG or how the CoR fits in with the CoG–but pretty drastic differences. What am I missing and how is this being “canard?”

  37. I keep hearing that Reformed differ with Reformed Baptists on the Covenant Theology itself. This is nonsense, and it is a new tactic.

    Is there a “Reformed” Baptist confession somewhere that we might read? If not, then the Baptists published the London Confession in 1689, thus distinguishing themselves from the Reformed and Presybterians. Compare WCF with the London Confession when it comes to the part “God’s Covenant with Man.” The latter is much less robust in its treatment of covenant theology, but otherwise a rip-off of the WCF until you get to the part about the sacraments where, of course, the Baptists differ.

    Either way I don’t think I’m going to be recognizing the term “Reformed Baptist” anymore because it’s meaningless until the “Reformed” Baptists cobble together a confession that we can read.

  38. First, long post warning. :-) Below is a piece from something I have written. Sorry for the length, but I think it may help this discussion. If not, delete it ASAP. BTW, footnotes and bibliography are not included, though I have them. Also, this comes in a context of a wider discussion of seventeenth-century federalism. Second, a question: Is infant inclusion in the covneant of grace of the essence of the covenant of grace? And finally, a related question, what is the essence of the CG and when was it first revealed in Scripture?

    Nehemiah Coxe (1) was co-editor (and most likely the “senior” editor) of the Particular Baptist Second London Confession of Faith (2nd LCF [which is closer to the Savoy than the WCF, btw]); (2) agreed with John Owen and other seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox theologians on the function of the covenant of works as it related to the Mosaic covenant in redemptive history; and (3) authored A Discourse of the Covenants that God made with men before the Law…, which is structured after the Federal model, utilizes Reformed orthodox theological nomenclature, concepts, and sources, and is semantically Reformed orthodox, except portions of his exposition of the Abrahamic covenant(s).
    Coxe’s treatise discusses God’s covenant with Adam, God’s covenant with Noah, and God’s covenant(s) with Abraham. It is constructed in a linear-historical trajectory from creation, to fall, to redemption in typical Federal fashion.
    Coxe holds a robust Federal view of the covenant of works. He called it the covenant of creation, covenant of works, covenant of friendship, and a covenant of rich bounty and goodness. Coxe held that God created Adam in his image with the law written in his heart. It was the sum of this law that was promulgated on Mount Sinai and delivered more briefly by our Lord “who reduced it to two great commandments respecting our duty both to God and our neighbor…” Added to this moral law was “a positive precept in which he charged man not to eat of the fruit of one tree in the midst of the garden of Eden. The covenant of works or creation was not co-extensive with creation but an addition to it. Coxe says:

    In this lies the mystery of the first transaction of God with man and of his relationship to God founded on it. This did not result immediately from the law of his creation but from the disposition of a covenant according to the free, sovereign, and wise counsel of God’s will. Therefore, although the law of creation is easily understood by men (and there is little controversy about it among those that are not degenerate from all principles of reason and humanity), yet the covenant of creation, the interest of Adam’s posterity with him in it, and the guilt of original sin returning on them by it, are not owned by the majority of mankind. Nor can they be understood except by the light of divine revelation.

    It is not from any necessity of nature that God enters into covenant with men but of his own good pleasure. Such a privilege and nearness to God as is included in covenant interest cannot immediately result from the relationship which they have to God as reasonable creatures, though upright and in a perfect state.

    Adam had “the promise of an eternal reward on condition of his perfect obedience to these laws.” The tree of life functioned sacramentally as “a sign and pledge of that eternal life which Adam would have obtained by his own personal and perfect obedience to the law of God if he had continued in it.” Adam’s violation of the positive precept of Genesis 2:17 was also a violation of “that eternal law that is written in his heart.”
    Coxe sees the covenant of grace introduced via the promise of the gospel first revealed in Genesis 3:15. The 2nd LCF (1677), 7:3 says, “This Covenant [the covenant of grace in context; cf. 7:2] is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of Salvation by the seed of the woman…” In his Discourse of the Covenants, he says:

    11. It was from this design of love and mercy that when the Lord God came to fallen man in the garden in the cool of the day, and found him filled with horror and shame in the consciousness of his own guilt, he did not execute the rigor of the law on him. Instead he held a treaty with him which issued in a discovery of grace. By this a door of hope was opened to him in the laying of a new foundation for his acceptance with God and walking well pleasing before him.
    1. For in the sentence passed on the serpent (which principally involved the Devil whose instrument he had been in tempting man, and who probably was made to abide in his possession of the serpent until he had received this doom, Genesis 3:15) there was couched a blessed promise of redemption and salvation to man. This was to be worked out by the Son of God made of a woman, and so her seed, and man was to receive the promised salvation by faith and to hope in it. In this implied promise was laid the first foundation of the church after the fall of man which was to be raised up out of the ruins of the Devil’s kingdom by the destruction of his work by Jesus Christ (1 John 3:8).

    Later Coxe adds:

    From the first dawning of the blessed light of God’s grace to poor sinners faintly displayed in the promise intimated in Genesis 3:15, the redeemed of the Lord were brought into a new relation to God, in and by Christ the promised seed, through faith in him as revealed in that promise.

    This understanding of Genesis 3:15 gives Coxe’s work a Christocentric flavor from the beginning. In the first paragraph, he says:

    The great interest of man’s present peace and eternal happiness is most closely concerned in religion. And all true religion since the fall of man must be taught by divine revelation which God by diverse parts and after a diverse manner has given out to his church. He caused this light gradually to increase until the whole mystery of his grace was perfectly revealed in and by Jesus Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. God, whose works were all known by him from the beginning, has in all ages disposed and ordered the revelation of his will to men, his transactions with them, and all the works of his holy providence toward them, with reference to the fullness of time and the gathering of all things to a head in Christ Jesus. So in all our search after the mind of God in the Holy Scriptures we are to manage out inquiries with reference to Christ. Therefore the best interpreter of the Old Testament is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the new. There we have the clearest light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining on us in the face of Jesus Christ, by unveiling those counsels of love and grace that were hidden from former ages and generations.

    Not only is this statement programmatic for a Christocentric understanding of Scripture, it also reflects the fact that Coxe viewed special revelation as progressive. The 2nd LCF, 7:2 says, “This covenant is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of Salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the new Testament.” Coxe saw Christ as the hermeneutical center and focal-point of the whole Bible (i.e, scopus).
    Coxe utilized Reformed orthodox theological nomenclature and concepts. For instance, in the preface of his work, Coxe says:

    The usefulness of all divine truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the great importance of what particularly concerns those federal transactions which are the subject of the following treatise are my defense for an essay to discover the mind of God in them.

    Coxe clearly held to a covenant of redemption between the Persons of the Trinity before the world began. In the first chapter of his work, he briefly discusses the monopleuric (i.e., God’s sovereign initiation or proposal ) and dipleuric (i.e., man’s restipulation ) nature of covenantal engagements between God and men. Coxe defines the “general notion of any covenant of God with men” as follows: “A declaration of his sovereign pleasure concerning the benefits he will bestow on them, the communion they will have with him, and the way and means by which this will be enjoyed by them.” Covenantal engagements spring from God’s “condescending love and goodness.” Covenant is not co-extensive with creation. God sovereignly proposes covenants with men in order to bring them to an advanced or better state than they are currently in and ultimately “to bring them into a blessed state in the eternal enjoyment of himself.” Adam “was capable of and made for a greater degree of happiness than he immediately enjoyed [which] was set before him as the reward of his obedience by that covenant in which he was to walk with God.” Coxe even held the view that “Moses’ law in some way included the covenant of creation and served for a memorial of it…” This was the view of both Ames and Cocceius above, as well as John Owen. Finally, Coxe utilized typology in a manner similar to others in his day.
    Coxe utilized Reformed orthodox sources. In Coxe’s “Preface to the Reader” he acknowledges John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews 8. Coxe had thought about continuing his treatment of God’s federal transactions with man by dealing with the Mosaic covenant, however, Owen’s treatment of these issues satisfied him. Coxe quotes or references many Reformed orthodox theologians throughout his work: for instance, Beza, Cocceius, Rivet, Ainsworth, Strong, Pareus, Owen, Whiston, and Junius.
    Coxe articulated Reformed orthodox views of the covenants of works and grace, though with his Particular Baptist view of the function of the covenant of circumcision made with Abraham. He understood revelation to be progressive and Christo-climactic. Christ, for Coxe, was the scopus of Scripture. Coxe also articulated a view of the Garden of Eden that we have seen before: God offered an eternal reward of unbroken communion and future blessedness with him to Adam. In other words, Adam had an eschatology; protology is eschatological in Coxe’s Federal scheme.

  39. “But examine everything carefully, hold fast to the truth” (1 Thess. 5:21).

    Dr. Clark,

    I want to thank you for bringing this to our attention. Several years ago I met you at WTS-CA and I have always respected your scholarship. While I am not “reformed” in the sense that you suggest is the authentic expression of Reformed Evangelicalism, I am an “exegetical calvinist” in that I believe the augustinian / Calvinist understanding of divine sovereignty and election is taught clearly in Scripture.

    I actually first came into contact with the thought and writings of Doug Wilson during a Winter term course taught by RC Sproul at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, when a person gave me a few copies of”Credenda Agenda” and like many Evangelicals came to greatly respect Mr. Wilson for thinking carefully on a whole host of issues confronting Evangelicalism in America today. Yet, while I respect Mr. Wilson, I began to be troubled when I started to read about his view of “The Federal Vision” and think doctrines such as “padeo-communion” are outrageously unbiblical.

    I am also a big fan of John Piper and believe Dr. Piper has done incredibly great things for the cause of Christ and Calvinism in America. The recent revival of Calvinism amongst young people in American Evangelicalism has a lot to do with John Piper as TIME Magazine and Christianity Today has reported in recent years. I think many Evangelicals respect John Piper’s opinions and viewpoints much more than your critique indicates, since it is very well possible that Piper is the singular most influential Calvinist in America since the late Jonathan Edwards himself. I say this since RC Sproul does not have the “cross-denominational” following that Piper presently has. I have seen Piper preach at many different Evangelical settings including Charismatic, Pentecostal, Baptist and Reformed circles and his popularity is immense in these seemingly irreconciable movements.

    Having said this, it is of fundamental importance that John Piper realize that he is playing with fire and is risking influencing this wide following in a negative sense by allowing Doug Wilson to speak at the Desiring God conference this year. There is no reason for Wilson to speak there and it just causes confusion and division in the Church and I am actually shocked that Piper is having Wilson speak there since Piper has stood so strongly for the Reformed and Evangelical doctrine of Justification as you have also mentioned. Wilson’s views are at best confused and mangled and at worse heretical and a different gospel as you suggest and there is absolutely no reason for Piper to give public accomadation to Wilson who has scattered and confused God’s people with this abberant view of Federal Vision. Thank you for standing up for the truth. I hope Piper comes to his senses and the elders of his church likewise come to a change of heart and revoke their invitation before further damage takes place. Thanks again.

  40. Purely hypothetical, but I wonder how Wilson would respond if Piper decided to rescind the invitation for some or for all of the reasons advanced in this post.

    I don’t want to present a false dilemma, but I wonder if he would accept the criticism with humility and endeavor to clarify his confession, or if he would give us one of his well-known temper tantrums, replete with his characteristic name-calling, abusive ad hominems, and general overall feigned outrage and righteous indignation — all directed at John Piper.

    Personally, I hope we get to find out.

    • Sorry to interject again with what seems like a red herring since I never commented on this blog before this post finally riled me into action :), but I’m, personally, afraid that a lot of talk is going to entrench Wilson. If there is anything that seems to be elevated to unpardonable sin that makes everyone walk on eggshells in his camp, it seems it’s ‘gossip,’ as defined in part by any talk that makes a leader insecure about their authority.

      It’s the accountability that’s missing in the first place. It can make renegade theologians of us all. I personally would do well to remember this when I need a gentle rebuke. It isn’t the easiest thing to learn.

  41. Scott (or to whom this may concern),

    This gets us back to the question of who gets to define the adjective “Reformed.” Are there as many definitions of “Reformed” as there are definers or is there is fixed, stable, public, ecclesiastical definition of the adjective? I say the latter is the case.

    For a change of perspective, It doesn’t seem anyone has stock in this matter. After all, the motto is “Reformed and always reforming”–the radicals are simply playing that note; they believe they are continuing the process begun by Luther (or whomever), and they believe they have reformed beyond Westminster. So, who can say they are wrong, or non-reformed? This is why Catholics believe focusing on how the “Church” is defined and “who” can define it is a better, more constructive option. For, after all, “Reformed is an adjective we give to “Church”, so it makes sense to start there, and, as Catholics, we attest we actually have full stock in that matter.

    Just a thought, by the way.

    In Christ,
    Jared B

  42. I am still wondering how Wilson is going to relate to his friends in the FV who Piper has publically declared to be severely intellectually challenged. That ought to be interesting the next time they get together.

    • I’d be interested to hear whom Piper regards as among the ‘dumb people’. Having watched the clip, I’m not too sure Piper knows who he is referring to; it sounded a wee bit like a sound-byte.

  43. Nick
    The context of the remark made it sound like Piper was referring to the other representatives in the FV-who else could he be referring to? Again, it appears that Piper was trying to extract Wilson from his associations in the FV.

  44. Gary,
    I was meaning, which particular FV advocates was Piper referring to? I don’t think he really knows. Calling them a blanket ‘dumb’ to exhonerate DW doesn’t help anyone. Does he mean Lusk, Jordan? If he does, would DW agree?

  45. Out of a curiousity for the sake of consistency…

    Suppose Tim Bayly or R.C. Sproul invited Doug Wilson to speak at a conference they were hosting. Would they also receive gentle rebukes as the one that you wrote in an open letter to John Piper?

  46. Nehemiah Coxe (1) was co-editor (and most likely the “senior” editor) of the Particular Baptist Second London Confession of Faith (2nd LCF [which is closer to the Savoy than the WCF, btw]); (2) agreed with John Owen and other seventeenth-century Reformed orthodox theologians on the function of the covenant of works as it related to the Mosaic covenant in redemptive history; and (3) authored A Discourse of the Covenants that God made with men before the Law…, which is structured after the Federal model, utilizes Reformed orthodox theological nomenclature, concepts, and sources, and is semantically Reformed orthodox, except portions of his exposition of the Abrahamic covenant(s).

    I think we’ve got a winner here.

    “Reformed” Baptists can adopt the Particular Baptist LCF, break off from whatever denominations they’re in, and form a new organization centered around it, but leaving out all the infant baptism unpleasantness. We Reformed/Presbyterians can then begin referring to these brothers as “Particular Baptists” and get back to planning our next schism with the NewLifers and other liberals in our own denominations. The issue of the definition of “Reformed” Baptist will finally be put to rest as there will now be the Reformed/Presbyterians and the Particular Baptists, which (I suspect) is really what “Reformed” Baptists mean when they call themselves “Reformed.” The Particular Baptist Confession appears to be a perfect expression of their faith.

    • I hadn’t seen that. Thank you, for the correction.

      It doesn’t change my central contention that his rejection of the CoW leads to the issues under discussion. Piper was raised in dispensationalism which breeds an antipathy to the CoW. This was only strengthened by his study under Fuller (see his introduction to Fuller’s “Unity of the Bible”) and the attending monocovenantalism is still there. This is similar to Wilson and FV’s monocovenantalism, though not identical.

      Piper’s use of WSC 1 replaces Law with Gospel. In the end, “Christian Hedonism” is Law not Gospel. As Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism states:

      3. From where do you know your misery? From the Law of God.

      4. What does the Law of God require of us? Christ teaches us in sum, Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

      5. Can you keep all this perfectly? No, for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.

      So while the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, this is law and not Gospel. It is preaching what ought to be, but what sinful man cannot do in and of himself. In fact only Christ did. This requires the double imputation to the sinner. So to strive for this is to admix works with the Gospel. I say this as someone who has read with great benefit Piper for many years, but who has recently (as in within the last week or so) to see this as an Achilles heel for it is to quote Bunyan:

      “Run, John, Run! The Law demands;
      But gives me neither feet nor hands;
      What Better news the Gospel brings;
      Which bids me fly and gives me wings.”

  47. Dr. Clark, I think that your post is very helpful, clear, and necessary. I can honestly say that I am indebted to your theological acumen on these crucial matters. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to the doctrine of justification through faith alone, by grace alone, on account of Christ’s active and passive obedience alone, according to the Scriptures alone, all to the glory of God alone as summarized in our Reformed Confessions. Praise the LORD!

    Thank you, Dr. Clark.

  48. I wonder if too much has been made of “Reformed” in the phrase “Reformed Baptist.” Could it be that use of the word “Reformed” isn’t an adjective here so much as the phrase “Reformed Baptist” has become a technical term for a baptist who holds to a Calvinistic soteriology?

    I’ve never really seen Reformed Baptists asking to enter into all that has ever been called reformed. So, I think it would be helpful to make this distinction.

    Let me make a royal proclamation: Henceforth, the moniker “Reformed Baptist” is a technical term for a baptist who believes in the doctrines of grace and not an indication of a baptist who wants to receive all of the entire historical reformed schema.

    Now, my royal pedigree is supect, so I suppose it’s not a completely valid proclamation, but would I be off here? Is anybody with me?

    • Henceforth, the moniker “Reformed Baptist” is a technical term for a baptist who believes in the doctrines of grace and not an indication of a baptist who wants to receive all of the entire historical reformed schema.

      Aquinas was predestarian and believed in the doctrines of grace. Can we have “Reformed Roman Catholics” as a technical term for a Roman Catholic who believes in the doctrines of grace and not an indication of a Roman Catholic who wants to receive all of the entire historical Reformed schema?

    • I guess so, if it becomes very widely self-used and morphs into a technical term without relation to all the minutiae of Reformed theology. A technical term is still a technical term, even if it’s for things we don’t necessarily like, my friend. Though you and I do it through gritted teeth, we still call Mary-Baker Eddy’s religion “Christian Science” because it is the self-identified technical term. We both know that it is neither Christian nor science.

      And “Reformed Baptist” has become a technical term for baptists who believe in the doctrines of grace. My “proclamation” is merely a recognition of the fact, not its inauguration. What started as a mis-nomer is now a technical term.

    • Jon,

      I don’t know if we’re to take you comment as flat out sarcasm or not but as someone who considers himself a reformed baptist your words are somewhat troublesome.

      I understand why WCF and TFU people choke at the term reformed baptist and I think some of the postings have offered cogent reasons for this. However, your comments and those others comparing reformed baptist to reformed catholics are a bit over the top.

      To follow your logic, Piper is reformed – a position I would reject. Piper is a calvinist in the strict sense of the 5 points. Yet, he isn’t interested in any reformed creed governing his theology or teaching (beyond a superficial quotation). He answers to no one but his own elder board and maybe Jonathan Edwards nor does he not seek to intentionally stand in the flow of reformed doctrine as taught by Calvin and the other reformers. Piper does not hold to the RPW. If anyone has been to a Piper worship service knows that it has more in common with Finney than Geneva – and that isn’t an accident. How we worship does reflect our theological commitments.

      As a reformed baptist – our worship service is driven by the RPW, we sing Psalms, hold to Word and Sacrament as primary means of grace, building our worship service around law and gospel and believe that the covenant of grace is the underpinning for the whole thing.

      As a reformed baptist our theology is seriously being molded by WCF 10 which is the same in the LBC 1689. The overwhelming majority of the LBC directly quotes the WCF or SC. We teach extensively from the WCF, TFU and Dort.

      I know you think we are screwed up on the Abrahamic covenant seeing that from him flows both a historic-national-temporal covenant expressed in Suzerain Vassal terms most fully expressed in Moses and a covenant of grace – a royal grant covenant fully expressed in the person of Christ. You can disagree with how we have handled this. You can say we are wrong. You can say we are not reformed — But please — don’t lump all so-called reformed baptist into the same tank with men Piper (though a good brother in many ways).

      Reformed baptist, for the most part, are working hard to no be driven by the pop theology and culture of the day and are seeking to reform and to be always reforming under the Word of God and the teaching of the Magisterial Reformers in ways that men like Piper and other sovereign grace men just don’t seem to be interested in.

      Maybe from your vantage point we are not doctrinally in agreement with you to be considered reformed – so be it – but please be more nuanced in your understanding. There is a world of difference between most reformed baptist and men like Piper or John MacArthur. We would share many of the same issues and concerns that you have concerning these men. While share concerns is not the test for being “reformed” you paint calvinist baptist with too board of a brush.

    • Doug,
      Thanks for your interest in my comments. In your zeal you seem to have presumed to know very much about my personal doctrinal convictions, none of which I showed in any of my posts. Let me clarify a few things for you so you don’t have to depend on your faulty sources anymore:
      – I am a baptist.
      – I consider the likes of John Piper to be reformed in all the ways that really matter.

      When I wrote “what started as a mis-nomer is now a technical term,” I was granting the arguments of R. Scott Clark for the sake of the argument. My goal is to reframe the argument a bit for the sake of charity. Whether you like it or not, when most people think of “Reformed Baptist” they more often think of folks like Piper, Dever, and Spurgeon…not your “team.”

      So, by my logic, John Piper is a “Reformed Baptist” whether or not the 17th century reformed theology committee grants him full rights to the word “reformed.” This is because, again, I’m pushing for a technical term. You surely understand what a technical term is, right? A quick Wikipedia definition for anybody following along here: “These terms have specific definitions within the field, which is not necessarily the same as their meaning in common use.” So, I am taking the word “reformed” and removing it from its usual parlance as a stand-alone adjective and recasting it. The whole phrase now is descriptive of a larger self-identified movement.

      For some reason, you take great offense at the example of the “Reformed Roman Catholic.” This is common sense. If a large movement of Roman Catholics were bizarrely persuaded of the doctrines of grace and the five solas and they were universally called the “Reformed Roman Catholics,” what would you call them? What do you call Christian Scientists? If you’re like me, your only consolation in calling them “Christian Scientists” is that it is a technical term! This is the very nature of a technical term: the words lose their usual descriptive and prescriptive force since they’re being used for a special case.

      Despite the trickle of self-identified “TRULY” reformed baptists (who all get gold stickers from the Reformed theology police), most people who would call themselves “Reformed Baptist” these days are usually trying to say nothing more than the fact that they treasure the doctrines of grace and the five solas. Despite your fervent protests, that’s probably not going to change. Much to your chagrin, the powerful Spirit-filled ministries of men like Piper and MacArthur are creating an ocean of folks who self-identify as Reformed Baptists and it would seem that you are probably increasingly in the minority. I’m not arguing that numbers = right. I’m arguing for the use of a technical term for this already consciously self-identified large group.

      In my scenario, a person who considers himself “truly Reformed” (full adoption of the WCF and other Reformed standards) wouldn’t have to choke anymore at the phrase “Reformed Baptist.” He would know that it is a technical term for a baptist who loves, at the very least, the doctrines of grace and the five solas. Good stuff!

      R. Scott Clark wants to refuse the word “reformed” to anybody who doesn’t line up entirely with the Westminster Standards (including you!). You want to refuse the word to anybody who doesn’t line up with your chosen standards. I’m trying to be helpful about what I see going on.

      So, my brother, I consider you to be a Reformed Baptist! Though that surely means very little to you now :)

    • Jon,

      How far do you imagine all this technical-terming will carry things? Being Reformed isn’t just a soteriology or a sacramentology, it’s also an ecclesiology. At some point real, live church membership becomes a reality for those of us who take the latter seriously. And when a covenant child is born, for example, is will not do to refrain from being obedient by invoking the technical phrase, “I’m a Reformed Baptist, so we’ll pass on the font.” Pleading the five solas won’t help. And it is unclear how a “Reformed Roman Catholic” (a term I suggested to point out the folly of your suggestion) will successfully negotiate papal authority in his local parish. Do those explicitly favoring more taxes and bigger government ever win Republican nominations?

      Technical-terming may work under for those characterized by low-church rationalism, where everyone can be whatever he pleases—even inhabiting that odd soteriological no man’s land known as “Calminianism.” But it would seem a serious ecclesiology makes short work of it.

    • Zrim,
      It’s more than a bit unfair for you to come up with a stupidly ridiculous hypothetical situation, and then when I roll with it and prove my point you come back and say, “that state of affairs is totally impossible and foolish.” I believe any folly rests at your feet for that one. With that said, let’s stay with it. In YOUR hypothetical situation, a MASSIVE group of Roman Catholics SOMEHOW (remember, I’m granting YOUR situation) begin adopting the doctrines of grace and are universally identified as “Reformed Roman Catholics” for many years. What do YOU call them when you want to identify them? What do you (be it grudgingly) call Christian Scientists?

      I guess those of us who call ourselves “Reformed Baptists” as an affirmation of our beliefs concerning soteriology and baptism will have to admit that one word cannot bear the entire weight of our doctrinal system. I guess there’s lots of wisdom we’ll have to seek from reflecting on the Bible and Church history. Maybe I envy those of you in the PCUSA, I mean the Christian Reformed Church. Er, wait, which one of you guys upholds the ecclesiology that you say all reformed people believe? :)

      And do you seriously not know of any Republicans who aren’t explicitly expanding taxes and government? They are only “Republicans” by comparison to the far left. I guess we would say that they are “technically Republicans” in that sense. Hmmmm.

    • Jon,

      In YOUR hypothetical situation, a MASSIVE group of Roman Catholics SOMEHOW (remember, I’m granting YOUR situation) begin adopting the doctrines of grace and are universally identified as “Reformed Roman Catholics” for many years. What do YOU call them when you want to identify them?

      Maybe “functional Protestants,” but” dysfunctional Catholics” seems better. But I’d have to admit it, still wouldn’t satisfy. I don’t think either Gomarus or Arminius would know what to do with that modern creature who calls himself a “Calminian,” but maybe the dys/functional option could at least give some temporary aid.

      Why would you “roll with” a “stupidly ridiculous hypothetical situation”? Doesn’t that just advanced the folly?

    • Zrim,
      I apologize for calling it stupidly ridiculous. That verbiage doesn’t promote charity at all and I was trying to use overly forceful language. So I wronged you. I hope you will forgive me, my brother. And my ALL CAPS are in there because I don’t know how to do italics on this board. It’s for emphasis, not shouting :)

      It was manifest that you were trying to present an impossibility, but such a bizarre group serves only to further my point, so I rolled with it. I’m not really asking what would you THINK of them, but rather what would you CALL them when you referred to them. If I may, here’s what your words could sound like: “Those Reformed Roman Catholics are, in reality, dysfunctional Catholics. When is the Pope going to come down on the Reformed Roman Catholics?”

      See? You’re not granting them the entirety of meaning of “Reformed” to them, but rather you’re using “Reformed Roman Catholic” as a technical term for that group. That’s all I’m asking for. Couldn’t “Reformed Baptist” be used as a technical term for credobaptists who (at the very least) love the doctrines of grace and the five solas? And if a Reformed Baptist wants to demonstrate his Reformed credentials further, he can do so. However, at that point, the paedobaptists are free ring the alarm that Clark has rung.

      Thanks for your graciousness.

    • Jon,

      No worries, I’m not easily offended.

      If all you’re proposing is what to call certain folks, I think that’s already a done deal; I know what a Reformed Baptist is—it’s a credo-baptist who “holds certain views (e.g., predestination and justification) in common with the Reformed churches.” I thought we were discussing what we think of the technical terms already assigned. And, while I realize it is common place and few give it a second thought much anymore, my point is that “Reformed Baptist” seems as unhelpful a term as “Reformed Roman Catholic.” There are “Bapterians,” as well in Reformed environs, which are dysfunctional Presbyterians/functional Reformed Baptists.

      I’d also like to know why, if there can be (credo) Baptists, there hasn’t popped up yet (paedo) Communionists, as in the Regular Assembly of Northern Communionists or the Midwestern Communionist Convention. Maybe it’s a just a matter of time?

      Again, technical terming makes sense in low church rationalism, but it quickly evaporates when ecclesiology is at all a concern.

    • Zrim,
      Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ve never really been all that concerned with high-church pretension. So the labels haven’t needed to be minutely exhaustive of every facet of a position. Labels are helpful in getting big ideas, but I find that people are more interesting to read than labels when it comes to more exact details. Labels eventually break down as well, bringing little shelter from the onslaught of the enemy (as evidenced by the wreckage of those who have claimed the name “Christian” and even “Reformed”).

      I’m glad to hear that you find it a done deal on what to call Reformed Baptists (in the broad sense). I expect you’ll have to explain it to your friends now that this phrase will be crossing your lips when you refer to the likes of John Piper.

    • Jon,

      Generally speaking, it seems to me that if arguments like yours are right then Rome had a point about the Protestant Reformation: there will be as many formulas as there are formulaters. But the Protestant Reformation was a battle on two fronts, one against Rome and one against the Radicals. I think your argument is really one that finally descends from the latter; after all, the Radicals were the ones who told the Protestants they didn’t reform enough. And when Rome made its scary (and valid) prediction it really had in mind the Radicals, not the Protestants.

      I realize we all look alike to the undiscerning eye, all us non-Roman Catholics, but there’s more to being Protestant than not being Catholic. What Catholics and Radicals both seem to agree on is that there are Roman Catholics and then there’s everybody else.

    • Zrim,
      So, my appeal for people to be called “Reformed Baptists” is the wild outbreaking of chaos on the body of Christ? A people who love justification by faith alone? Who reject the ex opere operato working of the sacraments? Who confess and love the gospel doctrines of grace and the five solas of the Reformation? That these people should be termed “Reformed Baptists” is your evidence that the Catholic Church was spookily right? Your eagerness to separate from your brothers who love the gospel is…disappointing, I guess.

      Who doesn’t know that we aren’t all the same in everything we believe? Who doesn’t know that rejecting Catholicism is different than being Protestant? I guess I had just hoped that you could identify some people who affirmed some beautiful gospel issues and extend some grace to them. The Scriptures seem to say that there are two groups: those who believe in a righteousness by faith and those who believe in a righteousness by works. Rome believes in a righteousness by works. What’s your third category?

      I guess that’s the reason I referred to the pretended importance of being high-church.

    • “Much to your chagrin, the powerful Spirit-filled ministries of men like Piper and MacArthur are creating an ocean of folks who self-identify as Reformed Baptists and it would seem that you are probably increasingly in the minority.”

      I’d add the names of Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, and James White to the impressive list of Reformed Baptists.

    • TU…AD,

      But those men aren’t really Reformed at all, not having passed muster from Dr. Clark. Without his embossed “R” seal of approval, you are not permitted to call youself a Reformed anything and the only way to get that seal of approval is to carry on the papist practice of infant baptism.

    • Hi Art,

      I wanted to know more about the person who can write with such an irenic tone, so I bopped over onto your blog.

      Just wanted to congratulate you and your family for coming out of Mormonism. That is, indeed, God’s sovereign grace.

    • Zrim,
      So, my appeal for people to be called “Reformed Baptists” is the wild outbreaking of chaos on the body of Christ? A people who love justification by faith alone? Who reject the ex opere operato working of the sacraments? Who confess and love the gospel doctrines of grace and the five solas of the Reformation? That these people should be termed “Reformed Baptists” is your evidence that the Catholic Church was spookily right? Your eagerness to separate from your brothers who love the gospel is…disappointing, I guess.

      Who doesn’t know that we aren’t all the same in everything we believe? Who doesn’t know that rejecting Catholicism is different than being Protestant? I guess I had just hoped that you could identify some people who affirmed some beautiful gospel issues and extend some grace to them. The Scriptures seem to say that there are two groups: those who believe in a righteousness by faith and those who believe in a righteousness by works. Rome believes in a righteousness by works. What’s your third category?

      I guess that’s the reason I referred to the pretended importance of being high-church.

    • Jon,

      So, my appeal for people to be called “Reformed Baptists” is the wild outbreaking of chaos on the body of Christ? A people who love justification by faith alone? Who reject the ex opere operato working of the sacraments? Who confess and love the gospel doctrines of grace and the five solas of the Reformation?

      I’m saying that to be credo-baptist is to be much closer to the Radical Reformation than the Protestant Reformation; and the former is also much closer to the solo scriptura tradition than sola scriptura. It is similar to what one might say to the so-called “young, restless and reformed” crowd: it’s great that you see what the Reformation has to offer soteriologically, but keep coming, there’s also an ecclesiology and a sacramentology over here.

      Who doesn’t know that we aren’t all the same in everything we believe? Who doesn’t know that rejecting Catholicism is different than being Protestant? I guess I had just hoped that you could identify some people who affirmed some beautiful gospel issues and extend some grace to them. The Scriptures seem to say that there are two groups: those who believe in a righteousness by faith and those who believe in a righteousness by works. Rome believes in a righteousness by works. What’s your third category?

      (I’m sure you meant “faith alone,” since Catholicism teaches that righteousness is by faith as well.) Again, that you embrace the Reformed doctrine of justification is wonderful. But the Reformed teach that the three marks of the true church are soteriological (pure gospel), sacramental (right administration of the sacraments) and ecclesial (discipline). If “Reformed Baptists” can consider my baptized children un-baptized and living in sin, I fail to see why we Reformed can’t raise a hand when you claim to be Reformed.

    • Zrim,
      Good thoughts. I guess we in that crowd would say that we have disagreements about the Biblical merit of your sacramentology and your placement of continuity and discontinuity (no surprises). When I tell people that I’m a Calvinist, I assure them that wherever Calvin doesn’t line up with Scripture, I’ll pass him right on by. Now, he’s quite a figure to pass by, and must do it with fear and trembling, but there are places where I will do it. In the same way, the Reformed confessions bring much, but there are places where I must do without it.

      You’re right, I definitely meant “faith alone.” (I’m re-reading the Institutes with ref21 and had Calvin’s radical disjuncture between faith and works in my head when I left out the word “alone.”) Again, the case I’m making is NOT that we are claiming to be Reformed in every sense. So you can lower your protesting hand. I’m saying that we are a group of people who are self-identifying as “Reformed Baptists,” a technical term that is related to, but not exhaustive of, the word Reformed. This would be, again, similar to your free identification of “Christian Scientists” even though you would dispute both of those words. Why are you comfortable granting them a technical term and not the Reformed Baptists? Surely the word “Christian” is as dear to your heart as the word “Reformed.” In the exact same way, spread the word to all your Truly Reformed friends that (the majority of) the “Reformed Baptists” aren’t claiming to be Reformed in every sense of the word. You can even CALL them “Reformed Baptists” without having to spit afterward.

      That way, I guess I’m with you when you argue with a “Reformed Baptist” who comes around begging you guys to recognize him as Truly Reformed. If he needs your approval, he’s barking up the wrong tree.

    • Jon,

      In the same way, the Reformed confessions bring much, but there are places where I must do without it.

      I see this all the time in the CRC. It strikes me as much more evangelical than confessional. It’s the high opinion/low view of the confessional formulations. They are good for “guidance” but stop well short of the high opinion/high view of “binding.” And, just to be proactive, high view is different from infallible–that’s reserved for scripture alone.

      This would be, again, similar to your free identification of “Christian Scientists” even though you would dispute both of those words. Why are you comfortable granting them a technical term and not the Reformed Baptists?

      I’m not sure where we lost each other, but recall that I do grant the technical terms (as in “done deal”). I’ve nothing against short hand, since it makes life easier. But when one seriously considers just what a “Reformed Baptist” might mean, it makes as much sense as “Christian Scientist” or “Reformed Roman Catholic.” (Indeed, “Roman Catholic” is a bit odd since it presumes one is only as catholic as he is Roman.)

      I suppose “Reformed” can be a little misleading itself, since most of us seem rather incorrigible. That’s a bit of levity.

    • Great discussion. Thank-you, Dr. Clark. I wonder if a better term for a Baptist holding to TULIP is “Sovereign Grace Baptist.” (?)

  49. Thanks for your comments, Dr. Clark. Always very thoughtful, rigorous.

    Obviously, you are not writing-off Piper entirely. Your critique is ‘surgical.’ But your recent comments and others you’ve made (about crypto-Calvinists) leads me ask what may be a dumb question:

    I was thinking of purchasing Piper’s new teaching DVD on ‘TULIP.’ I’m looking for a good resource to help teach these basic principles to Christians. I found Piper’s CD lesson on TULIP very helpful a couple of years ago…But can a Baptist teach Reformed theology?

    Until very recently I would have said, ‘yes.’ But lately…

    Dr. Clark, you don’t need to reply. You’re a busy guy. But perhaps others have some reasonable thoughts on the matter.

  50. HeidelPing: Piper Police « Randomness

  51. Dear Robert,

    I don’t see why a Baptist cannot teach Reformed Theology, but just remember it is a Baptist that teaches Reformed Theology. So he may present or evaluate things that are from his own pervue. Just keep that in mind and I don’t see why you couldn’t listen to Piper’s teaching on TULIP, just keep a critical ear on what he is saying and why he is saying it this or that way.

    Trust me when I say I’ve heard some “Reformed” folks trying to teach TULIP and I ended up wondering are they really Reformed at all.

  52. Dr. Clark,

    Is there one particular book such as “Reformed is not Enough” or some taped series that Doug Wilson has expressed his views on the Federal Vision? I need something tangible to give to my pastor and elders who are asking questions about this. There is a lot on line from opponents of this view but what is the quinessential definitive work that encapsulates the view and clearly articulates what you believe to be heretical?

  53. HeidelPing: R. Scott Clark: A Gentle Rebuke To Brother John (Updated) «

  54. Good to see that you have made you way out of Mormonism Art, I personally hope the Lord enables you to come to an understanding of confessional reformed theology as well. You could start by reading Dr. Clark’s ‘Recovering The Reformed Confession’.

  55. HeidelPing: Kline was on to Piper back in ‘94 « The Confessional Outhouse

  56. “If ‘Reformed Baptists’ can consider my baptized children un-baptized and living in sin, I fail to see why we Reformed can’t raise a hand when you claim to be Reformed.”

    Whoa… You think ritual water baptism makes you sinless?

    I have a strong suspicion, dt, that you are the infamous “Robert-Jackson-Christian.” But the short answer is no, I don’t think that.

    The extended answer is that what I think is that both credo- and paedobaptists have different views on what it means to live in dis/obedience. To the credo, the baptism of a covenant child is invalid and to remain un-baptized (read: not re-baptized) is disobedient; to baptize upon profession of credible faith is obedient. To the paedo, to withhold baptism from a covenant child (as well to re-baptize) is disobedient; to administer the covenant sign and seal on a covenant child is obedient, as well as to administer baptism to a previously un-baptized person upon profession of credible faith.

  57. Todd Braye:
    “I wonder if a better term for a Baptist holding to TULIP is “Sovereign Grace Baptist.” (?)

    ReformedSinner:
    “Just keep that in mind and I don’t see why you couldn’t listen to Piper’s teaching on TULIP, just keep a critical ear on what he is saying and why he is saying it this or that way.”

    “Divine election and reprobation” art. 17 Canons of Dordt

    “Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14)” Psalter Hymnal 1959 ed.

    I’m glad that “Reformed Baptists” confess as much as they do but there’s no such thing as a 5 point baptist if that 5 point is in reference to the C.O.D. or TULIP. If it’s not in reference to the COD etc., what is it in reference to then?

  58. I wrote the above so that these 5-point baptists would partake of the same comfort on this point. Please don’t miss out on that!

  59. “These exams are not usually conducted in the friendly confines of a self-selected, self-created denomination of which one is the de facto head. Wilson being examined by his own presbytery in his own denomination is like the pope being examined by a college of cardinals whom he has appointed! Had Wilson been examined by Classis Southwest US in the URCs or some other orthodox, confessional assembly that exam might have more significance.”

    Has any classis actually invited Doug Wilson to come and be examined? I know he’s said on his blog that he has extended the invitation to meet with you personally, Clark (I think that’s right, I could be wrong) and I’m wondering if anybody on the PCA/OPC/URC side of things has done likewise…

  60. dt,

    “but you shouldn’t shy away from being held to the tribunal of Scripture ever.”
    -No one’s shying away from Scripture’s tribunal and promises which are to us and our children, Wsc 94-95,WCF XXVIII, HC q&A 72-74, Belgic confession XXXIV, COD I:17 The Scriptures are well summarized in the confessions as well as well cited. That’s why I confess with them the same.

    “unless you are arguing for baptismal regeneration you have no point with that CoD quote.”

    -That is not even a confessionally/historically accurate accusation. See the above cited confessions on the point. The reformed confessions belabor wrongly clinging to the elements of the sacraments rather than what’s promised by God. The point was that “reformed baptists” put themselves into a problematic position by calling themselves “5 point-ers” etc. when they refuse to proclaim covenant baptism which is explicitly part of the “5-points”.
    I think it pertinent to the discussion the belgic confession’s detestation of anabaptistic doctrine regarding the baptism of infants. That leaves baptists trying to make their case of being reformed confessionally impossible. But as I was trying to say before I’m glad that “Reformed Baptists” confess as much as they do biblically.

  61. I like four things about this post:
    (1) That it utilizes the inherently gnostic media of ‘blogging’ to allegedly correct the ‘minor sin’ of associating with Doug Wilson & N. T. Wright.
    (2) That though the author attempted to contact Piper before correcting him gently, there is no indication that he attempted to contact either Doug Wilson or N. T. Wright before questioning their orthodoxy.
    (3) That this fellow, Frank Turk’s request for one quote demonstrating Doug Wilson’s unorthodoxy is simply ignored.
    (4) That in an article claiming to ‘gently correct a fellow brother,’ there are inset links to the WSC bookstore hawking the author’s books. There seems to be an incongruity in correcting a brother and selling your product at the same time.
    As an outside, I have no stake on either side of the debate, but I certainly appreciate D. Wilson’s reasoned arguments rooted in scripture compared to the PCA, OPC, et al’s bald faced assertions, refusing to engage in any real argument and based on WCF rather than the Bible! It makes a scholar extremely nervous about associating with the PCA given that you can’t write anything new without getting your book reviewed by a doctrinal committee!

  62. Nathan
    You don’t have a dog in this fight? And of course you are an outsider who is being purely objective-why look at the keen insight you have with the OPC and PCA study reports ( by the way have you read the recent assessment of the URC?). Hmmm, very interesting,very interesting.

  63. “drollard, so baptism is now one of the 5 points of TULIP? Interesting.”
    -Not just now but infant baptism was there in the document the whole time. See C.O.D. I:17 From where did TULIP come? The C.O.D. Those who use that term ought to stick with its contents.

    “children being born to Christian parents and benefiting from that fact is a matter of God’s providence, not ritual”
    -A matter of God’s providence and covenant which is to us and our children. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. “…baptism is God’s ordinance to seal unto us and our seed HIS covenant; therefore it must be used for that end, and not out of custom or superstition.” Psalter Hymnal 1959 liturgical forms p.85
    It’s not to be mutilated either out of custom or ritual cutting off posterity from the covenant.

    -I don’t believe in baptismal regeneration, even latently. Stop suggesting that. “Only the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse from sin.” “Baptism is a divine pledge and sign that we’re spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are outwardly washed with water” -HC

    Our children are holy not by nature but by God’s covenant of grace which is to us and our children.

  64. dt,

    You are accusing our brothers of holding to baptismal regeneration despite the fact that they don’t.

    Yes the devil is of the accuser, but holding up the Law can be gracious if it will allow them to repent. You are doing nothing but accuse. It is repugnant.

  65. HeidelPing: Piper from two angles « The Wanderer

  66. Nathan,

    Some quotes questioning DW’s orthodoxy, from the Puritan Board

    “The church today has adopted a number of assumptions that are diametrically opposed to what the word of God teaches. Now when we recognize that we have met the enemy, and he is us. This means that in Christian circles, in evangelical circles and particularly in reformed circles, we have to stop confessing our sins and start confessing our virtues. The things that we thought were our strengths are the things that have been dogging us for a long, long time, for a number of centuries. For 350 years in this country, we have been getting some of the fundamental issues with regard to the word of God, and the covenant, and the gospel, and what is a Christian, we have been getting them wrong” (page 20, line 23-28. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “When we say that all of God’s word is perfect, converting the soul. When we don’t divide it up into law and gospel, when we don’t say law over here, gospel over there, when we say it’s all gospel, it’s all law, it’s all good” (page 21, line 29,30. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “We say, for example, well we want to make sure this kid really understands the Lord’s Supper before he partakes. Oh, like you really understand it? Who understands it, who fully understands the Lord’s Supper, raise your hand, I dare you. Little Johnny, you grow up big and strong and after you have grown up big and strong, then we will give you some food. And then, of course, he keels over. He dies of starvation, wonders off, apostatizes and then we say, “oh, see? He died of starvation. It’s a good thing we didn’t give him any food. He died.” He died because you weren’t feed him” (page 22, line 12-17. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “The Bible says, we say basically, well before you can come to the Lord’s table, you’ve got to, you’ve got to be like an adult. Jesus says before you come to the kingdom of God, you adults have got be like a child. Jesus says, you adults, you’ve got to work on being more childlike and we say, you children have got to be working on becoming more adult like. And what’s more, you reformed people say that the gold sanctifies the alter. Well, no, no, we don’t say that last one. Well, why not, go ahead, why stop where you stop. God says this, we turn it on its head, upside down, backward. We couldn’t get it more entirely wrong. And then we say, well, this is our tradition, we just want to protect the purity of the faith and. That’s not how you protect the purity of the covenant people of God. You don’t protect the purity of the covenant by starving covenant members” (page 22, line 18-27. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “Wisdom is vindicated by her children”, Jesus says. Well we have to understand is that Jesus said, whoever stumbles one of these little ones, it would be better for him to tie a millstone around his neck and have him be thrown into the sea. And we in the reformed tradition, I am talking specifically the American reformed tradition, we have 350 years of “millstone ‘r us.” Well, that’s how we think. Well, some kids stumble, some kids stumble, that’s a shame, that’s a shame, it’s a shame when kids stumble, but we have to preserve the purity of the table. Who put you in charge of it? Who told you it was your table? The Lord is the head to the table and he defends it quite nicely (page 22, line 28-32, page 23, line 1-3. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “If we abandon the Hellenistic ontological division between invisible and visible and adopted a more Hebraic biblical way of thinking and toppled the whole thing on its side, the invisible church is the eschatological church and the visible church is the historical church. Now notice what this does, if I topple the whole thing on its side and it is now in history, the eschatological church is now the historical church and it is at the culmination of history, all right, and the visible church is that same church at an earlier point in time. You don’t create the question which of these two churches is the true church” (page 28, line 8-13. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “All right, there are questions that reformed exegetes have been dishonest with and perseverance of the saints is one of the prime areas where we say these are hypothetical warnings and they are plainly in the text very, very real warnings” (page 34, line 27-30. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “The true church is the church in history, the gathered throng of all professing households assembled in covenant around the word in Christ’s sacraments whether they understand that or not. Okay, they are not saved by works, they are not saved by passing a test. They are saved because of their connection to Christ and if they have that connection to Christ, they’re saved” (page 36, line 3-6. Doug Wilson: Visible and Invisible Church Revisited Tape 2).

    “If you adopt some of the things that were adopted in the seventeenth century about visible and invisible church, if you adopt some of the thinking about election, you have to go in this Reformed Baptist direction. And this Reformed Baptist assumption is the assumption that those who fall away from the covenant were never really members of it” (page 104, line 23-27. Doug Wilson: Doug Wilson: Curses of the New Covenant Tape 7).

  67. Yo, DT aka rabid Robert K, calm down, please. Take the dog and pony outrage show somewhere else, thanks anyway.

    Of course I must admit to your credit, that you did finally pick up on the hint on a previous post that the 5 points summarize the gospel and NOT the reformed faith, which proved (ta-da, trumpet fanfare here) you are not a papist clone and drone like the rest of us.

    IOW that means it’s time for another short and simple lesson in covenant theology.

    As in:
    God made a covenant with Abraham that involved his family Gen 17:7.
    The covenant sign was applied to Abraham – and his family Gen. 17:10.
    But the NT tells us that the same bloody sign was a sign and seal of the righteousness by faith that Abraham had Rom. 5:12.
    Which now has been replace by the unbloody sign of baptism Col. 2:11,12.
    Ergo. . . .

    Further just because Baptists believe that whatever is not repeated in the NT is repealed, does not mean the P&R have to go along with them. (I know, I’ve heard the recording before: we’re just papist dro . . . .) Rather what is not repeated in the NT remains in force – unless it is repealed.

    Hence the P&R like Abraham, apply the covenant sign to their family. Like duh, this is P&R Theo. 101. IOW get used to it or go find a reformed anabaptist site to complain on RK, for crying out loud. This is not rocket science.

    Todd,
    DWilson, no matter how literate, gifted and glib, is hardly a reliable expert on reformed theology. Once a RB, now he is FV. OK, but I would take whatever he says with a big grain of salt, chief among them his comment that essentially you must either be FV or RB. I don’t think so.

    As re. John Piper and this post in general, I always thought John Robbins’ ’02 critique of John Piper, Pied Piper over at Trinity Fndtn. was pretty good. What gives? Is Robbins anathema? Was Robbins wrong? Is his critique of Piper’s Future Grace (’95) just old fashioned and out of style? Has Piper repudiated his previous beliefs? Or do Piper’s problems go deeper than just welcoming Wilson to his conference? Inquiring papist drones and clones want to know (whatever ole RK says).

  68. Scott,

    I don’t know what happened to Nicholas’ comment, but since it’s gone, you may as well delete mine.

    Thanks

  69. Nope,
    DTJacksonChristianRobertK you still missed it.

    Why did Abraham in obedience to God apply the sign of the covenant, the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith Rom. 5:12 to his seed?
    Particularly why did he do so if Ishmael was an unbeliever?
    From time immemorial the sign of the covenant has been applied to the offspring of believers. Where is the command in Scripture to cease and desist?

  70. dt,

    If your beef with paedobaptism is its “ritualistic” nature, does this mean that credo’s should stay away from being baptized for fear of falling into the same ritualistic trap as paedo’s? Does this also extend to drinking wine and eating bread?

    • Ignore da troll. He doesn’t believe anything,
      one way or the other. He’s “likes-to-fight-guy”.

  71. HeidelPing: Piper’s Perpetual Plummet! « Defending. Contending.

  72. HeidelPing: Are Covenantal Baptists Reformed in the Historical Understanding of Reformed Theology

  73. Nope, here we go again, DTJacksonChristianRobertK.

    Abraham who was regenerate, not only had the sign and seal of his faith applied to him, but also to the members of his household – who it turned out – weren’t regenerate. But Ishamael ultimately is God’s problem, not Abraham’s or ours.

    IOW according to your lights, or lack thereof, Abraham, though he will sit down at the wedding feast of the Lamb, cannot measure up to your reformed baptist church membership requirements because he doesn’t believe that the sign of the covenant is only applied to those who confess regeneration, but also to their family. Abraham who saw Christ in his day and was glad. Abraham who was saved by faith in Christ alone. Now that might be exclusive of you, but it is not evangelical. You’re welcome to it.

    Back on Green Baggins I thought you actually had something to say, but all you are up to now is ranting. A pity in a way. But whatever. You may do that.
    It is also the very opposite of persuasive though, even if you do pride yourself as a heroic John the Baptist decrying Churchianity/Moralianity here.
    Again, suit yourself.
    And have a nice day while you’re at it.

  74. R. Scott Clark

    Well, John didn’t consult the PCA, OPC, URCs, RCUS, or RPCNA before endorsing Doug Wilson’s orthodoxy. Wouldn’t that have been appropriate?

    this fairly reeks of arrogance. Why SHOULD Mr. Piper come asking any of the above denominations about HIS conference? Who appointed any of them the arbiters of orthodoxy?

    And as to your remarks concerning the “esoteric” nature and lack of clarity in Mr. Wilson’s explanations in his work on FV, perhaps spending some time actually READING that work, to include his definitions and explanation of intent/meaning, might tend to clear away whatever smoke might remain. I’ve read it, and I understand his points…. and I’m no theologian.

    No, I’m neither a Wilsonite nor Piperite. I’ve read them both, and both have contributed much to my present understanding, for which I am quite thankful. I find it interesting that I can’t say the same about any significant body of work emanating from the scholars of the above listed denominations, those “within the pale” of “orthodoxy”.

    • When lewsta claims,

      No, I’m neither a Wilsonite nor Piperite. I’ve read them both, and both have contributed much to my present understanding, for which I am quite thankful. I find it interesting that I can’t say the same about any significant body of work emanating from the scholars of the above listed denominations, those “within the pale” of “orthodoxy”.

      He’s being disingenuous, or else his definition of “Wilsonite” excludes those who slobber and grovel in celebration of Blog and Mablog’s birthday, which is exactly what lewsta did in the combox, writing:

      Seriously, Douglas, thanks SO MUCH for being faithful in doing this . . . it’s helped me personally, immensely, challenging and stirring. I’ve also set a few others whom I’ve felt desparately [sic] needed exposure to a different way of thinking (some in the mainline evangelifish scene) and at least a few have become regular readers. Something about contagious. . . . .

      That was just one quote from the 187 hits for “lewsta” and “Mablog” on Google.

      I’d say he’s a Wilsonite.

  75. The best I can do? I wasn’t talking to you, so what makes you assume I was obliged to respond your your ad hominem tripe? Sound’s like you have an inflated sense of the quality of your input. I don’t strike on “bait”.

    Tit.3:10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,

    I think you want people to drop down with you in the gutter, and answer you on your own terms. You’re just “likes-to-fight-guy”. It’s evidently all about the competition for you, so no, I don’t assume that just because you “say” you believe the Bible, that its content is anything more than an excuse for you to “go”.

    The fact that people across the theological spectrum all think this could be instructive, if you were teachable. But you like vain discussion, desiring to be a teacher of the law, without understanding either what you are saying or the things about which you make confident assertions (cf.1Tim.1:5-7).

    Please just go away.

  76. Lewsta,

    Your write: “No, I’m neither a Wilsonite nor Piperite. I’ve read them both, and both have contributed much to my present understanding, for which I am quite thankful. I find it interesting that I can’t say the same about any significant body of work emanating from the scholars of the above listed denominations, those “within the pale” of “orthodoxy”.”

    If you can’t learn a great deal from the pastors and other theologians within NAPARC denominations – there is something fundamentally wrong with how you are doing theology – or, at least, you need to read a little more. BTW – I doubt that Doug Wilson would not make the same claim.

    David

  77. Dr. Clark,

    I do fear we live in a spiritually-effeminate and intellectually-debased age, and things are only getting worse. At least, one could arrive at this assessment based on evidences such as those gleaned from the weight of the simply ridiculous responses to your proper and, necessary, rebuttal of a well-known speaker for Christ’s Honor. I am growing tired of the “love-tumps-truth” cabal and its side-kick, “Christ-over-Christianity” gang. What do I mean? I have discerned two schools of pseduo-thought and inordinate emotion masquerading as “Reformed” champions. The former attempts, sometimes rather subtley, sometimes not to “trump” systematics with biblical theology *alone* as if the two can be separated. The latter adopts a more sentimental tactic and employs it, with all-too-much effectiveness, I am sad to say, to stifle any and all scholarly critique or rebuttal of heresy or heterodoxy. With well-tuned reflex they simply say, “Well that was not a Christ-like thing to say” or, “You lack love in your responses.” Of course, we both know these two “schools of thought” are really attempting to quash Truth. Perhaps, they simply lack the intellectual fortitude or honesty or spiritual maturity to admit it. They feel they must hide behind stale and dis-ingenuous platitudes and use cliches such as, “Just give me the Bible and that is enought for me” or, more famously, “What Would Jesus Do?” Well, I am here to say, Jesus would do what you did, Dr. Clark. Period. Of this much I am quite confident. The N.T. Wrights and Doug Wilsons of the world may attempt to subvert God’s Truth with their vile heresies, after all they have been *attempting* to do so for two thousand years. In the end, God uses courageous bulldogs such as yourself to call them (or in this case those prominent, well-known brothers who fail to challenge them in the *public* eye) to account by His Spirit and through His Word.
    We need more fighters Dr. Clark. We need more men, theologians, professors, pastors, missionaries and laymen to relentlessly assault and destroy every last vestige of heresy, for Christ and for Christ alone. Even if this means challenging wayward yet well-meaning and good men of God such as Dr. Piper, a *brother* I too love very much in Christ, IT MUST BE DONE.
    And I for one look forward to studying under some great fighters at WSC, such as yourself. May God grant you His Most Holy Spirit and comfort and strengthen you against this barrage of “Marvin Milktoast” posturing towards something that, in all honesty, was done (and should have been done) for Christ’s Honor and Name. On behalf of us “stale scholars and dead orthodox theologians,” thank you. God Bless you brother and Christ’s Grace and Love to you.

    PS
    How would John Knox have approached this issue? I think he would have been charitable yet unwavering with one goal in mind — fence the truth! I do wish we had more Knoxes in America.

    Soli Deo Gloria

    Mike Coatney

  78. HeidelPing: H4CBlog » Blog Archive » Piper’s Perpetual Plummet!

  79. “Doug Wilson . . . . gets the gospel right.” — John Piper

    “This points to the need for Christians to learn the biblical way of avoiding ‘problem texts.’ This is the way of a priori submission. Christians must recognize that they are under the authority of God, and they may not develop their ideas of what is ‘right’ and ‘fair’ apart from the Word of God. And when the Bible is our only standard of right and wrong, problem texts disappear. This entire issue of slavery is a wonderful issue upon which to practice. Our humanistic and democratic culture regards slavery in itself as a monstrous evil, and it acts as though this were self-evidently true. The Bible permits Christians to own slaves, provided they are treated well. You are a Christian. Whom do you believe?” — Doug Wilson, Southern Slavery As It Was

    “Doug Wilson . . . . loves history and is a historical student. . . .” — John Piper

    “Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates.” — Doug Wilson, Southern Slavery As It Was

    “Doug Wilson is a risk-taker.” — John Piper

    “It would have been much easier, and less risky, for owners of large plantations to keep a mistress in town than to risk the possibility of the destruction of his own family by taking up with a slave woman.” — Doug Wilson, Southern Slavery As It Was

  80. I am a freshy here but I thought I might ask a couple questions/comments regarding the FV/DW stuff.

    1. I have heard a lot of people say that DG is a heritic/heterodox etctera. In a different breath

  81. I am a freshy here but I thought I might ask a couple questions/comments regarding the FV/DW stuff.

    1. I have heard a lot of reformed “authorities” wax eloquent about DW being heretical/heterodox etcetera for his FV views. In a different breath these same people make loud claims about the FV being confusing or the like. Is it just me or is their something wrong with this line of reasoning? Since when does confusion= heresy/heterodoxy? If there is any amount of confusion about what others believe the humble way to deal with it is to ask honest and sincere questions… period. Perhaps there are other personal underlying issues unresolved here.

    (Interestingly I believe one of the comments people make about the confusion of the FV go like this, “If it sounds confusing that’s a clue there is something wrong with it right there”. – Pitiful argumentation. C’mon!)

    2. If the FV is confusing or even if it is not; what is the deal with the seeming refusal to accept the repeated invitations from the FV folks for public dialogue and examination by those so quick to accuse? The only answer that I have heard goes something like this, “The PCA… denominations already put the ne-no on the FV”. Yet my question still remains where can I find a meaningful debate? Where can I find the invitation for honest dialogue from those that raise the red flags with the FV guys? The only attempts I am aware of are the FV guys inviting debate/dialogue, the examination of Steve Wilkins by the Louisiana Presbytery, the CREC examination of DW, and a short radio exchange between DW and Michael Horton. There is a lot of complaining from non-FV people about the CREC exam of DW being biased, but in my mind 100 poignant questions by the man’s own denomination is the best a man can do when his loud opponents won’t ask their own!

    Unlike Nathan (the guy above- who makes some good assertions in my opinion) I do proudly (after much consideration) associate myself with DW’s thinking so far as I understand it regarding the FV (if you couldn’t tell). I know I am in “enemy territory” here but please understand that I am honestly trying to understand God’s revealed will for my life as I imagine I will spark further conversation.

    When will you (R. Scott Clark) as one of the FV’s loudest opponents engage DW in public debate? He has publically given the invitation!

  82. Dr. Clark,

    Does John Piper know that you don’t even think he has a true church?

    “An overwhelming majority of modern evangelicals hold Baptist convictions of one sort or another. If it is the case that rejecting infant baptism is sufficient to unchurch a congregation, i.e. to deprive them of the status of being a “church” then there are very few actual churches in North America, to pick but one global region. To many such a thought is impossible. It was quite difficult for me to reach this conclusion but I didn’t reach it carelessly or quickly. For most of my life in the Reformed world since 1980 I shared the assumption that, though I disagreed with my evangelical brothers and sisters over the question of baptism, their congregations were still churches. It’s only been in the last few years that the other shoe has dropped . . . This principle of radical discontinuity, this denial of the fundamental unity of the covenant of grace as symbolized in the administration of the sign and seal of the covenant of grace to covenant children, is serious enough to warrant saying that any congregation that will not practice infant initiation (baptism) into the administration of the covenant of grace is not a church.”

    http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/on-churchless-evangelicals-pt-3/

  83. Isn’t the problem that this isn’t a case where God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, in their holy wisdom, have veiled the meaning of some passages or some timeframes etc. from our human understanding, but that a doctrine that is being confused for us BY a human being? Possibly on purpose? For admiration and academic kudos? With an attitude of self-rightiousness and untethered by the normal avenues of accountability?

    Isn’t this also why a face-to-face talk would be difficult? It’s like trying to nail down jello…

  84. What a read!

    First: I enjoyed the post, and thank you for it.

    Second: I read through (really!) the comments and the great debate between the legitimacy of the moniker “Reformed Baptist”, and the reason(s) why “Reformed” people do not think this is unique to themselves, but would disallow its use by Baptists.

    A little clearer understanding and perspective on the 1677 and 1689 confessions and their purpose would go a long ways to settling this. In particular (pardon the pun), the 1689 was written to show that the signers were in “substantial agreement” with the reformed churches.

    The term ‘reformed’ has gone beyond a strictly technical designation held by theologians, to a general usage in the minds of the public. In other words, whether or not it was a correct designation of Baptists of the 1689 persuasion originally, it cannot be denied that it is a useful and accepted one now.

    Rather than beating up Reformed Baptists for using the word “Reformed”, why not simply note that they differ on some points as manifested in the second word in that designation, “Baptist”? The argument has already been well-laid out that there is more substantial agreement between “classical reformed” and “reformed baptists”, than between the CR and FV folks.

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