Does the FV Really Accept the Existence of NECMs?

Over at Green Bagginses, Reed raises the question of the status of NECMs (non-elect covenant members) and how the FV views them. There’s much good there, particularly in the quotations from Turretin on temporary faith and the like. That distinction, between true faith and mere historical or temporary faith, is grounded in a prior distinction between those who are in the covenant of grace only externally (“they went out from us because they were not of us”; 1 John 2:19) and those who are in the covenant of grace externally and internally. On this see Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace, the Exposition of the Nine Points, and “Baptism and the Benefits of Christ” (PDF).

If the FV would embrace the historic and confessional distinction between the two ways of being in the one covenant of grace, they would take a giant step toward orthodoxy. Of course, they should still have to accept the distinction between law and gospel in justification and the Reformation solas, but they would be well on their way!

There are a some issues, however, that arise in Reed’s post that I addressed in a comment and that I want to repeat (with modification) here:



I think your summary of the FV view of the NECM is somewhat faulty. For example, when you say that, on a spectrum, they hold that:

  • An experience of Christ and his benefits that parallels those benefits experienced by elect Church members (ECM), but

The problem is that both Barach and Shepherd, who are at the heart of the FV movement, have written that the NECM participates in the covenant of grace “in the same way” and not just in a parallel way. If the FV held that the NECM had merely a parallel experience to the believer, that would not be so bad, but they don’t. Yes, it’s true that they start out talking as if the NECM had a parallel experience, but at some point, because of their commitment to Klaas Schilder’s doctrine of “head for head” and “all or nothing” and because of their rejection of the internal/external distinction, the FV ends up converging the parallel experience of the NECM with the ECM. Hence the major problem the orthodox have had with the FV.

  • An experience of Christ and his benefits that is not the same as that experienced by ECM, in that,

Given what was said above, the FV does not consistently maintain this distinction because they cannot. They cannot get folks to do their part, to keep their part of the covenant, to cooperate with grace unto eventual justification without blurring the distinction between the two ways of being in the one covenant of grace.

This raises the problem of the term NECM. It is quite misleading. In the mainstream of the FV doctrine, there’s no such thing as NECM. Election is re-defined as temporary, historical, and conditioned upon cooperation with grace. The very term NECM implies a distinction that the FV denies. In a sense, there is no such thing as a NECM in the FV since, to be “in the covenant” is to be elect. All are in the covenant, therefore all are “elect,” according to the FV. As you imply in your post, we don’t say any such thing.

  • The experience of the RCM is temporary, whereas the experience of the ECM is permanent.

This is a bit misleading too as it suggests a distinction that doesn’t really exist. In the FV, the administration of of the covenant of grace overwhelms the decree. In Calvin, and the orthodox Reformed, and in the PCA’s Nine Points, and the URC’s Nine Points, and the OPC Justification Report, the Reformed/Presbyterian Churches all teach that the decree is determinative of the administration of the covenant of grace, but not so in the FV.

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