Castle Church Podcast on the FV

Jim Cassidy, Jeff Waddington, and Camden Bucey were joined by Lane Keister for the Castle Church podcast this week that focused on the Federal Vision. This is a helpful introduction to the issues and they give some bibliographic leads on their website.

If you’re unfamiliar with this controversy/discussion start here. There are more resources here

The CC podcast is generally in two parts, a helpful survey of recent Reformed works and then a substantive discussion of some issue of interest to confessional Reformed folk. This ‘cast has both and the second part is largely an interview with Lane, whose blog is largely devoted to discussing the FV and often with FV proponents.

There are two things about which I might quibble.

 

1) The CC ‘cast is quite devoted to Richard (Dick) Gaffin’s theology generally and particularly to his view union with Christ. To readers who are unfamiliar with Gaffin’s career should understand that Gaffin defended Norm Shepherd’s doctrine of justification by grace through faithfulness for about 30 years. As late as 2000 Gaffin endorsed Shepherd’s book on covenant and justification. Not long after that he defended OPC elder John Kinnaird’s fundamentally wrong-headed two-stage doctrine of justification. In more recent years, however, Gaffin, who served on the OPC justification committee, has distanced himself from Shepherd by supporting the OPC committee report. I haven’t yet read his most recent book or his essay in Justified in Christ, so I don’t know how those pieces fit into this puzzle yet but it seems fair to say that Dick’s legacy on justification is mixed. I’m grateful for the CC fellows for their devotion to justification sola fide and I’m grateful for Dick’s change of mind on justification but it seems to me that the history of the Shepherd controversy suggests that one should exercise caution in embracing Dick’s formulation of the doctrine of union with Christ.

2) Though it is mentioned, it is not always completely clear in this roundtable discussion that several ecclesiastical bodies have actually judged and condemned the FV as contrary to the Reformed faith.

Here it is useful to once again remind readers that over the last few years the FV has been studied and rejected by the faculties at WSC, MARS, Knox (in a previous incarnation). More importantly. it has been studied and rejected by the URCs, the OPC, the PCA, the OCRCs, the RCUS, and the RPCNA among others. In other words, this discussion is not just a intramural discussion among a group of friendly fellows sitting around smoking cigars. The FV controversy touches the most fundamental points of biblical and confessional doctrine. The FV doctrines of covenant and justification corrupts that doctrine, which according to Reformed theology, is of the standing or falling of the church and therefore the FV has been thoroughly and completely rejected by the Reformed churches. 

The FV doctrines of covenant and justification are not open questions. We may and should study them but the proponents of the FV are not mere dialogue partners. I agree with the CC fellows and Lane when they say that the apparent re-alignment of FV proponents to the CREC, which is fast becoming the home of the FV, will lower the temperature of the discussion, but it’s not the case that we can return to the status quo ante the various ecclesiastical judgments. The stance of confessional Reformed folk toward the FV should be more consistent than the stance of the Netherlands Reformed Churches was toward the Remonstrants after Dort. Instead of holding firm and insisting on repentance of submission to canons adopted at Dort, the churches eventually relented and allowed impenitent Remonstrant ministers back into the churches and the NHK suffered grievously for this decision. 

On questions like “what is the gospel?” we must be absolutely ruthless or we will lose our churches. To the degree the FV boys partake of the same spirit that animates the theonomic/reconstructionist movement(s) it will likely never die. They believe that they have made a breakthrough in biblical exegesis and theology and that we just have not caught up with them. In some cases they believe that they are just too brilliant to be understood by mere confessionalist mortals. Consider the example of Norm Shepherd, one of the godfathers of the FV movement. His revisions of justification and covenant have wreaked havoc in congregations and Christian lives and cost hundreds of thousands of man hours in research and labor and committee meetings and given rises to thousands of people of documents. His theology has been explicitly rejected by numerous and well established Reformed churches and there’s not a shred of evidence that he’s the least bit penitent for having troubled the churches. His followers have the same spirit. Because they represent themselves as “Truly Reformed” they will keep winning converts and we shall have to continue to clean up after the FV as parents have to clean up after children.

The FV controversy isn’t an Ivy League boxing match where, after the match, college fellows shake hands and buy beers all round for the boys. No, Reformed folks must realize that this is a covenant of works. The FV folk must repent of the FV utterly and demonstrate fruit worthy of that repentance or they must be excluded from confessional Reformed congregations, presbyteries, classes, denominations, and federations. Further, those ecclesiastical assemblies who harbor the FV should be judged to be at odds with God’s Word as confessed by the Reformed churches. 

Statements and studies are only the beginning of the process. FV proponents continue to teach, preach, and exercise influence in the midst of confessional Reformed churches. If these persons and bodies are not disciplined and if that discipline is not made to “stick” then it will all have been just an academic exercise and we will have shown our confession to have been merely theoretical and mere theoretical orthodoxy is dead orthodoxy.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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47 comments

  1. “The CC ‘cast is quite devoted to Richard (Dick) Gaffin’s theology generally and particularly to his view union with Christ.”

    One man’s quibble is another man’s “AMEN!” 🙂

    On a more serious note, I have really enjoyed their other discussions on the spirituality of the church and Van-Til. They all seem to be very knowledgable on the subjects that they select.

  2. On questions like “what is the gospel?” we must be absolutely ruthless or we will lose our churches… The FV folk must repent of the FV utterly and demonstrate fruit worthy of that repentance or they must be excluded from confessional Reformed congregations, presbyteries, classes, denominations, and federations. Further, those ecclesiastical assemblies who harbor the FV should be judged to be at odds with God’s Word as confessed by the Reformed churches.

    Amen, and Amen!

  3. My reply to Lane from the GB combox:

    Hi Lane,

    I have no interest in making disagreements where they aren’t. This isn’t a partisan issue for me. I don’t believe that WSC has a distinctive doctrine of union with Christ. I think we are all committed to teaching what the Reformed have always taught and what the Reformed churches confess. I have a lot of affinity with the theological studies dept at WTS. Carl and I are dear friends. Lane was a student as was Jeff Jue and I’m friendly with Scott Oliphant and Dick Gaffin. I’ve been at and spoken at conferences with Scott and Dick. Jeff was just out here this year and we had a great time together. I really don’t want people to think that there’s some great tension between WSC and the theological/historical studies guys at WTS/P. There isn’t.

    I think we need, however, to reckon honestly with the dogmatic relations between Dick’s earlier formulation of the nature and role of union with Christ, in The Centrality of the Resurrection, where, as I recall, he did use the central dogma method, and his strong and long-standing support for Norm Shepherd and even his support for John Kinnaird’s indefensible views. Some of this stuff wasn’t very long ago. Indeed, as I recall, one of his supporters asked him on the floor of GA how he relates his support for the OPC report and his (just then) published book on justification so it’s not as if I’m dredging up ancient history here.

    This is not a personal thing. This is about what constitutes Reformed theology. There’s no question that union with Christ is an important doctrine. The question is whether it has such a central role that the rest of Reformed theology somehow flows from it or whether there is any central doctrine to Reformed theology.

    I think I saw a post on GB a while back on union and I thought, well, there’s nothing wrong with that. I wish you (and maybe the Castle Church guys) would read my book on Olevianus and tell me how you think Olevian’s and Calvin’s doctrine of the duplex beneficium and duplex gratia relate to Dick’s views? I did an essay on double justification for a festschrift where I connected Luther’s early doctrine of double justification with Calvin’s doctrine of duplex gratia and Olevian’s doctrine of duplex beneficium. I would be glad to have some feedback on those two.

  4. Scott

    During the discussion on CTC we did mention the several Reformed denominations that have reviewed and rejected the FV (unless this was edited out, which I do not remember happening). If the impression was given that we thought it was an open question whether the FV was legitimate, we certainly did not intend to give it.

  5. I see you noted that we mentioned that various Reformed denominations have rejected the FV. Chalk it up to my lack of sleep.

  6. Thank you Dr. Clark. That was refreshingly candid and helpful. I think the point you raise has been glossed over and it was great to see you address it head on.

    Your question

    This is about what constitutes Reformed theology. There’s no question that union with Christ is an important doctrine. The question is whether it has such a central role that the rest of Reformed theology somehow flows from it or whether there is any central doctrine to Reformed theology.

    is one I’ve never heard asked in light of Dr. Gaffin’s work, but I think is extremely important to have answered.

  7. I am not convinced that saying union is central is the same as saying it is a central dogma. Please demonstrate that Gaffin has deduced every other doctrine from union. To be a central dogma requires that the rest of the system of doctrine be deduced from that spoke in the center of the wheel. Where is it?

  8. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for your kind words about our show. However, the comments you made about Dr. Gaffin were not as helpful as they could have been – in my opinion. This is why.

    There were good men on both sides of the debate. And Shepherd’s formulations were ambiguously stated such that a charitable reading could yield an orthodox view. Much of the debate was confused, and there was a lot of talking past one another. One might even argue that Kushke was approaching the debate from a position very near to antinomianism. Since those days, Shepherd has made his real views much more clear and Gaffin has distanced himself from them. Many did not see where Shepherd would go. Maybe Dr. Gaffin and others lacked foresight – granted. But I think that to blame his support of Shepherd on his doctrine of union with Christ requires an unfortunate leap of logic. And to call his commitment to an orthodox doctrine of justification into question borders on irresponsible.

  9. Scott,

    You state that Gaffin has “changed his mind” regarding justification. I don’t think that is really the case at all. I think he has changed his mind about polemics and about the need to defend the doctrines of systematic theology. As I read it, Gaffin’s defense of Shepherd was mainly driven by his concerns regarding the fairness of the process, and I suspect also to defend biblical theology against vigorous confessional onslaughts (remember that Gaffin occupied a position astride by BT and ST, teaching and working in both, and trying to hold them together rightly). I read the Kinnaird materials, and it was clear to me that Gaffin’s input was to show the unfairness of the prosecution case (while I strongly disagree with Kinnaird’s position, I agreed with Gaffin’s assessment of the case). But now the other shoe has dropped. Shepherd has come clean against imputation (as was obviously inherent to his position all along) and biblical theologians are out to drive a rosewood stake through the heart of systematic theology. So now Gaffin comes out in vigorous defense of the doctrines of Scripture and justification. I heartily welcome these, and am grateful that this happened before he fully retired, lest his exceptionally teaching be misread through the lens of his defense of errant brethren.

    As for Gaffin himself, though, I don’t think he has changed his mind on justification. I had him for Doctrine of Christ and for Acts and Paul in the mid-90’s. He was rock solid on justification in the classroom. As for union with Christ, I whole-heartedly agree with you that a nebulous doctrine of union threatens the doctrine of justification. But more recently, Gaffin has specified that union with Christ is strictly configured forensically (federal representation) and Spiritually (the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit). That is very helpful, and while I wish it had been made clear much earlier, I don’t think it is a change of mind on his part. Also, I’m not sure it is appreciated that Gaffin was never under the spell of the New Perspective on Paul and that from the start he spoke against Wright’s doctrine of justification. I know this from personal interaction and, if I remember correctly, from an MR article he did in the early 90’s criticizing Wright for “What Saint Paul Really Said.”

    As a fervent admirer of both Dick and his teaching, I have long struggled to understand his defense of Shepherd, and especially the lamentable endorsement of “The Call of Grace.” But I do not think a change of mind regarding justification is behind it all. Rather, I have ascribed it to his irenic spirit and to his attempt to balance BT and ST amidst so much polemical conflict.

  10. Jeff,

    That’s just the point. For Dick (and his students et al) is union an “important” doctrine or “the” doctrine?

    Have you read VanDrunen’s essay in the Strimple Festschrift? Have you read Horton’s volume on union?

  11. Hi Rick,

    I don’t think I’m misrepresenting Dick. I have the original Shepherd controversy documents and Dick was defending a complex instrument of justification, i.e. faith and works on paper and in faculty discussions.

    Dick defended not only Shepherd’s right to hold his views but the substance of his views. He defended, on the floor of the Phila Presbytery, the substance of John Kinnaird’s view that, at the last day, we are justified on the basis of Spirit-wrought sanctity. These are uncomfortable facts.

    Today, however, Dick rejects Norm’s doctrine of justification. That’s a change of view, isn’t it?

    I don’t know how Dick related his doctrine of union to his doctrine of justification in class or how he related it to justification but we cannot simply bury our heads in the sand and say that there was no connection between the one and the other.

    There is no question that the double benefit of Christ is justification and sanctification by why do so many ostensible Reformed folk either insist that they are absolutely logically equal, that there is no logical priority to justification or even that sanctification precedes justification logically or even chronologically? The folks I’ve seen/heard arguing this say that they are following Dick.

    Nebulous? Perhaps, but Dick’s ardent, passionate defense of Norm and elder Kinnaird was not nebulous. It was clear and unequivocal.

    As I say, I’m thankful for his support for the OP report and I look forward to reading his latest work (I’m still waiting for P&R to send the festschrift to the WSC bookstore).

  12. Jim,

    As I say, if you’ll read the original documents I don’t think the “good men on both sides” interpretation best explains the facts. We’re there “good men” defending Shepherd? I suppose but most of the leading Reformed lights that then were concluded that Norm’s doctrine of justification was not Reformed. Need I list them all again?

    This is the same sort of defense that was offered for the FV — I’m not accusing you of defending the FV.

    I’m concerned that we not let personal loyalty cloud our judgment here. I’m not interested in maligning anyone, but history is history.

    If one compares what Norm is saying now to what he said then, I think it’s substantially the same thing. Indeed, the verbal parallels between the Call of Grace and his earlier papers are very strong.

  13. Scott

    For me the important question is whether union is important for the apostle Paul and I have no doubt that it is. Argue with him.

    And yes, I have read David VanDrunen and Mike Horton. Let’s just say I appreciate some of what is said and disagree with other aspects.

    As for the simultaneity of the duplex gratia dei, please note that Calvin taught it. If you disagree with Calvin, say so. But know that I agree with Calvin here. I am also inclined to read Olevianus this way. In fact, your dissertation has solidified that for me with the discussion of the duplex beneficium.

    Note that I am just as concerned to protect the forensic nature of justification as you, however I see no need to make justification prior to sanctification. As far as I can see, the important point is to clearly distinguish or delineate justification from sanctification. The error is to blur the distinction between the two or to mix them.

  14. Scott

    Allow me to apologize if I was rude in any way in the above posts. I do enjoy the cut and thrust of debate. Our concern here is to be biblical and orthodox and to get at the truth.

  15. Scott,

    I didn’t know that Gaffin defended “a complex instrument of justification” in the Shepherd controversy. Sorry to hear that. As for the Kinnaird trial, I did not see Gaffin defending a two-stage justification theory. Rather, he argued that Kinnaird could not be declared unorthodox simply because he taught a final judgment justification. As for the role of works in the “final justification”, I don’t believe that Gaffin argued that works played any other than a demonstrative role. As for the relationship between justification and sanctification, Gaffin is simply pointing out that sanctification is not the result of justification, but of union with Christ. Through faith, we receive from Christ both. Following Calvin he argues that these are distinct, so that we may discuss either first. But is he denying a logical priority to justification (and I do think this is important)? I don’t think so. He is denying a causal relationship between justification and sanctification; the cause of both is union with Christ through faith.

    Like you, I hear a lot of goofy stuff being said about union with Christ — which is why it is so important that we specify what we mean by union, etc. — and Gaffin is sometimes cited as the source. I recently heard a sermon in which the preacher said that we really don’t know what union with Christ is, it’s just a mystical sense that we are one with him. I wanted to pull my hair out.

    In my opinion, until the last several years, Gaffin’s writings left open interpretations that he did not hold, which is a weakness in them. Ten years ago, I had a conversation with some of the WTS faculty against whom Gaffin is not fervently opposed. They asserted to me that they were following Gaffin and even then I argued that they were not, but rather conveniently exploiting the side doors left open in his writings, namely, the lack of specificity as to the configuration of union with Christ. The last several years have seen Gaffin closing the door on those interpretations. Ever since his inaugural address to the Charles Krahe chair (published in “The Practical Calvinist”), it has been clear that Gaffin is teaching the Westminster doctrine of justification. Again, I do wish some of Gaffin’s recent and clear writings had come out years earlier, but if there was a change of mind on his part regarding justification, it happened many years ago and not recently. Again, I think that the only change discernible in the fifteen years I have known Gaffin is his polemical attitude.

    I’m not really asking that Gaffin be given a free pass. Admittedly, I am a former student who remains a grateful admirer. There was nothing in his classroom to trouble a student fifteen years ago regarding the Westminster doctrine of justification, and much to strengthen and deepen it. I have a hard time explaining the defense of Shepherd and the endorsement of “The Call of Grace.” But I would ask that Gaffin be allowed to clarify his own views, and his recent works do that in an extremely satisfying way.

  16. I need an edit to the above post. I speak of “WTS faculty against whom Gaffin is “not” fervently opposed. I meant to write, “now fervently opposed.” Thanks.

  17. Hi Rick,

    I guess I read the transcripts from the Kinnaird trial a little differently than you do. I appreciate students who are gracious to their former profs! I really do. I hope students are gracious with me.

    If we were talking about a verbal slip or an occasional problematic formulation that got worked out after a discussion or a conference, okay, I understand. I’ve said things in class or at a conference that later I realized were less than helpful or were just plain wrong. I’ve published things that were just plain wrong. One of my arguments in the first serious piece I ever published was just wrong. If I ever get the chance I hope to correct the record. I let my dogmatic interests cloud my historical judgment. Profs err.

    I think we agree that Dick has moved in recent years. I’m trying to acknowledge that. I really am. I’ve learned a lot from Dick. We all have. I’m grateful for his desire to be faithful to the Reformed confessions. I appreciate his critique of the NPP.

    But it’s also clear to me that when Dick was invited to speak at the Auburn Ave Conference they thought that he was with them on union, sanctification, and justification. They had good reason to think that way. I see that the redoubtable and learned P. Andrew Sandlin has expressed a similar sentiment over at GB. I can’t keep up with comments on my on blog let alone at Lane Keister’s and it’s not Dick’s fault that moralists think that his theology supports them, but, at the same time, that’s the cost of being fuzzy for thirty years. No one thinks that Bob Godfrey, or Mike Horton, or Meredith Kline supports moralism. Say what you will about them but their record of bein unequivocal about justification and union and covenant etc is unimpeachable. People have accused them of being antinomian and they’re in good company with the apostle Paul. You’ve been on the receiving end of that one too. I know. I’m deeply grateful for your leadership on the NPP/FV issue! Without your courage and the courage of many others the PCA might not have been as clear on this as it was. God bless you and all those who have been valiant for truth on this.

    So, I have a question. Where is Dick now on Rom 2:13. I think I heard that issue come up on the podcast. I think I know what Dick used to say, that we are the righteous keepers of the law and not just by imputation (that was an issue in the Kinnaird trial) but by Spirit-wrought sanctity. What is he saying now? As I say, I don’t have his justification book but will get it asap. Our library is just now coming back into shape after being extensively remodeled in June.

  18. Hi Jeff,

    Again, I do not doubt that union with Christ is an essential doctrine to the Reformed faith. The question is how we ought to formulate that doctrine and what role it plays in our theology. Is it one doctrine among many or does it have some special place? I hear people talking about it as if it were some gnostic secret that only the illuminati understand. I doubt those folk are correct.

    I understand that union was important to Calvin but we ought not to be reading Dick Gaffin or any other modern writer back into Calvin’s theology or, historically considered, we’re no better than the Barthians or R T Kendall.

    Again, please let me make clear that I understand and believe that union with Christ is a very important doctrine but I am concerned that there are distinctions in the way we have talked about union in the past that have been lost in some of the contemporary discussions. I am concerned that the role and nature of faith as a simple act have been obscured by some formulations. I am concerned that Dick’s earlier formulations and those of some of his followers are being used as a wedge between the Lutherans and the Reformed on justification in a way that does not account for the actual history of theology.

    E.g. I don’t believe for a second that Calvin thought he was formulating some doctrine of union that sharply distinguished him from Luther. That’s just crazy talk! He thought of himself as Luther’s faithful student and especially so on justification. Luther had such a strong doctrine of union that some are now arguing that he had a doctrine of theosis. I have responded to this claim here:

    Iustitia Imputata Christi: Alien or Proper to Luther’s Doctrine of Justification?” Concordia Theological Quarterly 70 (2006): 269-310.

    I agree entirely that Calvin taught the duplex gratia Dei but to what effect? I really wish you would read my Olevianus book and “The Benefits of Christ: Double Justification in Protestant Theology Before the Westminster Assembly,” Anthony T. Selvaggio, ed., The Faith Once Delivered: Celebrating the Legacy of Reformed Systematic Theology and the Westminster Assembly (Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne Spear). (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007), 107-34.

    Have you read Cornel Venema’s outstanding work on Calvin’s doctrine of duplex gratia Dei? He and I came to very similar conclusions on our subjects completely independently. I had finished my research and thesis when I came finally read his thesis. It’s very solid and careful work.

  19. Scott

    Thanks for these remarks. I believe I share your concerns in much of what you say here. And I have read your dissertation and the chapter in the Selvaggio book. In fact, I try to read nearly everything you and your colleagues produce just because what you write is so rich and deep. I have Venema’s work and it is on my night stand.

    I also agree that the doctrine of union is treated by many as a panacea and that there are poor formulations of the doctrine and better formulations. Like the doctrine of justification, merely having “a” doctrine tells me nothing about the doctrine itself, whether it is soundly formulated or not.

    And I agree with you about Luther having a doctrine of union. And certainly theosis is for the birds.

    So here is where we disagree: do all the benefits of redemption accrue to us when we are united to Christ by faith? I can’t get around Calvin’s teaching that justification and sanctification are simultaneous blessings. Now Calvin may be wrong, but Calvin teaches it.

    Calvin’s teaching does not mitigate the importance of justification. At least I do not read him that way. Others do, I realize, and they are simply wrong. But I am not sure what the value is in maintaining that justification is the basis for sanctification. What is so essential to that way of formulating the doctrine?

    Is it not possible that the Reformed tradition may actually have two models of the ordo salutis? One stemming from Calvin and one stemming from Dordt? Is it possible that these two streams have been blended in some cases? Does the ordo salutis in the life of the believer reflect or mirror the historia salutis? That is how I read Paul.

    So for me there is the historical question here: What did Calvin teach? And then there is the theological question: Is it true? We are trying to answer both at the same time. We need to untangle the questions and then relate them to others like is Calvin truly reflecting Paul and the Biblical materials? What is the relation of the later tradition to Calvin? I have answers that do not accept the old Calvin versus the Calvinist paradigm but that allow for continuity and development (for instance, Calvin had no covenant of works to speak of).

    Sorry for blowing hot air. But letos be clear where I stand: I am a student of Gaffin. I am opposed to Norman Shepherd. I am opposed to John Kinnaird (he was a confused at best). I am opposed to the FV and the NPP. If this perplexes you, realize I am not alone.

    I do think we can make headway if we continue to talk this through. Perhaps it would be better done between you and me privately.

  20. “Dick defended not only Shepherd’s right to hold his views but the substance of his views. He defended, on the floor of the Phila Presbytery, the substance of John Kinnaird’s view that, at the last day, we are justified on the basis of Spirit-wrought sanctity. These are uncomfortable facts.”

    Scott, you never cease to surprise me . . . and usually in agreeable ways. I guess that should make us both concerned 😉 However, what I find more interesting (and disturbing) than just the discomfort many here are exhibiting when confronted by these “uncomfortable” facts, is how many continue to let their admiration for Gaffin the man and their beloved prof to completely cloud their judgment and on such a central and important topic.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but if Gaffin has really changed his position on justification and has repented of views he has consistently held and defended in others for more than 30 year, where did he actually recant and repent? Is that too much to ask? Yet, all his defenders can do is draw dubious inferences that do not necessarily follow while confessing their undying love of the man. Others claim that Gaffin has always been sound on justification. Either these men don’t think Gaffin’s long and public defense of identified heretics of the FV is particularly sinful or that it necessitates anything near a clear public confession of error. I disagree on both counts. So let’s look at another one of those facts. Consider the following passage from R&R.

    “Baptism signifies and seals a transition in the experience of the recipient, a transition from being (existentially) apart from Christ to being (existentially) joined to him. Galatians 3:27 is even more graphic: “Those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” . . . Consequently, the transition described in [Ephesians 2] verses 5f. as being an object of God’s wrath(v.3) to experiencing his love (v.4). takes place at the point of being joined (existentially) to Christ [50_51].”

    Can anyone really doubt exactly why Gaffin has defended the substance of both Shepherd and Kinnaird views or why he publicly praised “Call of Grace”? The way of salvation proposed by Gaffin in R&R is through the water of baptism and existential union with Christ – not by mere belief alone in truth of Scripture and the message of the Gospel. The “ordo” which men like Keister continually and rightly harp on in their ongoing discussions with the FV men is completely obliterated in Gaffin and subsumed under existential union that results from baptism. Yet, when I’ve pointed out such *facts* drawn from Gaffin’s own work, I was attacked by Keister and others for libeling the good name of a “gentleman scholar.”

    So, while I very much appreciate you taking a stand here Scott, be prepared. Right now the gloves are on. I have no doubt that the attacks will turn considerably less friendly shortly, particularly if you don’t back off and fall into line and do so quickly.

    Blessings – Sean Gerety

  21. Hi Sean,

    I don’t doubt that Dick’s views have changed for the better. It’s important to be fair about this. We can’t criticize folks for making mistakes (remember the majority of the WTS faculty in the 70s sided with Shepherd or at least with his right to hold his views) and then refuse to give them credit when they embrace the truth. Dick was on the OP committee and he defended the report on the floor, even, as I hear, when he was challenged on the basis of his own publications. So, kudos. It’s not easy to admit a long and public mistake but that’s what ministers do. That’s what good scholars do. I am much encouraged by David Steinmetz’ foreword to the second edn of Reformers in the Wings where he repents of his chapter on Beza. That’s great stuff.

  22. Hi Jeff,

    Sure, I look forward to talking and to sitting in on the CT podcast.

    There’s no question about the temporal order of the benefits. The question is of the logical order. Is there any way in which we’re justified because we’re sanctified? Certainly some have taken union in that direction.

    I don’t think that the historic doctrine of union as expressed by Olevianus and Calvin and Zanchi (who had a very strong doctrine of union) is all that difficult. I think the modern confusion stems from the way this doctrine, like many others, has been articulated in the modern period.

  23. Scott,

    Well, I have nothing at all bad to say about Bob Godfrey. The only thing I would say about Mike is that he has become so very nice in recent years, except to Joel Osteen (who I see he made cry on CBS — that’s the old spirit, Mike!). And as for Kline, I would only complain that I still don’t understand more than two or three pages of Images of the Spirit!

    As for Gaffin, it is clearly the case that the neo-legalists have thought he was on their side. I think they merely mistook his irenicism, and I think his recent work bears this out. It is actually somewhat helpful, as they put so much stock in Gaffin’s support, since now Gaffin comes out so strongly against them. And as you point out, many of us who have been so strident against the NPP and FV are also Gaffin products. So, yes, I think the issue has been what you call “fuzziness.” But, as I have argued, I think that has (finally) been redressed. And as for the Kinnaird trial, I think you are seriously misreading Gaffin’s purpose and position, even if the result was problematic.

    As for Rom. 2:13, a truly pivotal verse in these debates (wasn’t NTW’s commentary enlightening here!), I think you will find Gaffin’s position to be very much in line with the WCF (although I suddenly can’t find my copy of By Faith Alone).

    Anyway, I need to stop badgering you about this and get back to work. Surely the most important lesson of all this is the one you pointed out: we must step up to the plate to defend the doctrine of justification and speak and write with utmost clarity on this matter, leaving not an inch of a crack open to those who would take us in ways that we do not intend. It can hardly be all laid at Gaffin’s door, but the “charity” shown to Shepherd et al over the last twenty years has opened doors through which serious threats to the gospel have entered the church. Thank the Lord that the NAPARC churches have acted to close them, but what a problem this has been!

  24. One last thought: it long ago occurred to me that very few of the FV and NPP supporters who claimed Gaffin’s support were actually his students. Peter Leithart was, but I can’t think of another. During the 2003 FV colloquium in Ft. Lauderdale, the other side was throwing his name around quite freely, and I kept asking, “have any of you actually studied under Gaffin?” It is also worth noting that Gaffin’s confessional defenders have all been former students. Again, the fuzziness has been taken out of his writings and the Shepherd defense. But not from the classroom. There is a reason why Gaffin’s actual students are such fervent supporters.

    Now, the FV — Van Til connection may be another matter. But, as I said, I need to get back to work!

  25. As a simple layman, looking in from the outside, I can tell you that while understandable, the protecting of sacred cows at the expense of the clarity of gospel presentation in a number of OPC pulpits under which I sat is not so easy to brush off. I understand he was a mentor to many of you, and I can empathize with the loyalty, but, the chair of systematics at a supposed bastion of PROTESTANT orthodoxy, much less reformed in tradition, being “fuzzy” on justification isn’t defensible in my opinion. I won’t even mention, how it LOOKS. In many other endeavors in life with which I am and have been associated, this sort of obfuscation would never have been tolerated. You guys don’t have a right to ask for funds and donations from PCA and OPC congregations and then tell the congregants this is discussion for the faculty lounge.
    Anyway, I’m really trying to keep the rhetoric in check, so I’m done.

  26. For the record, the “sean” above is not me, although I very much agree with his thoughts. I also disagree with any notion that churches in the NAPARC have acted in any substantive way to eradicate the problem infecting these churches, nice reports to pass around in the faculty lounge notwithstanding. I can point to only one case where FV doctrines were tried and that outcome didn’t close a thing.

    Scott, what do you make of Sandlin’s remarks on GB where he argues, “If there is a “new” Gaffin, he is not evident in his recent published writings”? I haven’t read “By Faith, Not by Sight” either, but one reviewer of “By Faith” raised some real concerns that seem to support Sandlin’s conclusion. Do you think it might be wise to reserve judgment until you’ve read his book? Perhaps what appears to be a shift is no shift at all?

  27. Hi Sean G.,

    I haven’t read Justified in Christ or By Faith. Frankly, after completing CJPM I didn’t have the energy to read the late coming volumes. I’m pretty worn out in re justification. I’ve been at this more or less nonstop for 8 years. I was yelling about this when no one else was. Go back and look the old URC list discussions. I took *a lot* of heat for that.

    So I can’t comment on APS’s claims. I can say that he announced a reply to CJPM before it was even finished, so one might raise questions about his hermeneutic. Replying to a book one hasn’t seen is a pretty good trick.

    Sean M,

    I share your frustration but reject your notion that the discussion has been “moved to the faculty lounge.” I’m still here. How many other sem faculty members are online dialoging with folks? It’s a short list and I take heat for that too.

    I agree that there is, in the NAPARC world generally, a tendency to a GOBN. We need to act on principle. Public sins should be addressed publicly and private sins privately. Bob and Dave wrote a terrific response to the scathing critique of CJPM in the Ordained Servant. That’s worth reading and it’s public.

  28. Dr Clark,

    You’re absolutely right, and I didn’t intend to lump you in with the “faculty lounge” group. My apologies. Obviously you weren’t the intended “audience” of my reply, the discussion is being hosted on your blog.

    I’ve read and cited and linked to that particular ordained servant article, and as I’ve expressed in the past, am both in debt and thankful to the work being done at WSC. In my opinion there is a clear demarcation at least in emphasis much less clarity on the issue of justification between the two institutions. You’re much more generous in attitude toward WTS than I am, and since this is your blog, I will desperately try to honor your irenic attitude.

  29. In the spirit of sean, the laymen, above, I too agree it’s quite concerning when faculty members and pastors have a moving target or deficient view of the Protestant and Reformed understanding of justification. Why do we make justification some wax nose in order to mitigate against antinomianism? I’ve posted a link to John Piper’s sermon from 1999 on Rom 2:13. Does anyone find his exegesis here a bit unorthodox? Is this not covenant moralism? Is there an associaion b/w the mentorship of Shepherd and Gaffin and that of Fuller and Piper? I think there’s a warning here as to whom we subject our theological education. Still learning with a teachable (and discerning) spirit!
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/1068_There_is_No_Partiality_With_God_Part_2/

  30. Sean,

    I take your point very seriously, which is why I was willing to serve on the prosecution team for the SJC trial of Steve Wilkins (which he dodged by jumping from the denomination). But I don’t think magma2 is correct in saying that the NAPARC churches have done nothing substantive. Really, the most we can do is force these guys out of our denominations, since they have local churches in their support. But that is no small thing. As someone who was losing sleep over the FV and NPP five years ago, I think the last few years have been remarkably successful in thwarting them. But we do not have the ability to eradicate them. Moreover, while being stalwart in defense of justification, it is important that we not take a scorched earth approach. When we do that, we often misrepresent the actual position of many, as I am afraid is happening to Dr. Gaffin. (Scott has made some assertions here that I cannot refute, however. But I want it noted that at a crucial juncture, Gaffin stood solidly and publicly for the WCF doctrine of justification.) Lastly, the faculty lounge phenomenon is a very real one, and it is why we cannot look to academia to guard the trust, but only the church courts. The best thing that has happened in recent years is for the justification debate to enter the church courts, and the result has been very good. The false teaching is still there, but it has been strongly refuted by the churches. Much follow-up is needed, and we will deal with this for a long time. But we have real cause to give thanks to God for the last couple of years.

    Here, too, is where church history is helpful. The Synod of Dordt did not eradicate Arminianism, but its expulsion of Arminianism was no small achievement. Also, the Nicean controversy was fought out over a couple of generations. The Arians were never eradicated, but they were defeated in the church nonetheless.

  31. Rick,

    I appreciate the work you’ve undertaken, I realize it isn’t easy (few things ever are). Dr. Clark has been trying to convince anyone who would listen (sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t) that the church court route is the route to go. That requires belief in the guys manning the posts, yes, I realize God is sovereign, I also realize God is sovereign in the means to the end, and that I as a congregant have a role to play in that process. Anyway, I get skeptical when some of those guys manning the posts are beholden at least emotionally to those for whom I believe are either less than clear or maybe even dishonest in their declarations. Guilty of suspicion, maybe, but I also believe simply cognizant of human behavioral tendencies. It’s not always easy to be objective, and I think/know that often loyalties (well-meaning and otherwise) can cloud sound judgement. Thirty years is a long time to get clear on an issue, much less when it’s justification, and furthermore you just so happen to inhabit the chair of systematics at an institution that fills a lot of reformed pulpits. Having said all that, I think/believe there have been times that Dr. Gaffin has allowed his confessional commitments to override his BT inclinations. However, I think it’s rather clear those particular BT commitments have often won the day both in his writings and more importantly in some(a lot) of the students who have come through his courses. As a former roman catholic I’m quite familiar with the concept of taking away with the left hand what you’ve just granted with the right. You know, in ordaining officers in the church we often make the distinction between those who are welcome as members and we embrace in fellowship but yet are not suited for office. I think, even if it’s an intellectually honest struggle (maybe particularly so), that maybe if you’re still working on exactly how to formulate justification, you might want to resist the opportunity to train future protestant pastors at an institution that’s heralded as safeguarding our protestant reformed tradition, much less accepting the chair of systematics.

  32. ” . . . the most we can do is force these guys out of our denominations”

    Really? I guess I just don’t understand why these teachers cannot be held to account for what they teach and instead can only be “forced out”? That hardly seems like the makings of a healthy church. Besides, whose forcing anyone to leave? Do you think these men are scared of the FV/NPP report? The majority claim to not even “see themselves” in the report and Doug Wilson asserts he must not be FV in light of it.

    So, why couldn’t charges have been filed against Wilkins? Or how about some lesser lights of the FV still in the the PCA like Pastor Bill Smith in Louisville, KY. I commented on some of his publicly expressed views here. Not long ago Andy Webb threatened to bring Mark Horne up on charges over at GB for some of his odd doctrines. Nothing came of it. So, no offense, but I don’t see forcing Wilkins out and letting him leave as a pastor in good standing as a victory for the cause of Christ. What ever happened to holding men to account? Besides, since Wilkins fled, I hardly see a mass exodus of FV pastors for the FV denom, the CREC. Did I miss it?

  33. Dr. Clark wrote:

    No one thinks that Bob Godfrey, or Mike Horton, or Meredith Kline supports moralism.

    Jim:

    No, but they have been used to support antinomian and Lutheran views. Just as every Gaffin will have his Kinnaird, so every Kline will have his Irons.

    Blessings,

  34. Jim,

    Indeed they’ve been charged with such, but as they say in Mizzou: “Show me.” Of course all Reformed people are Lutheran on sola fide and justification. Lutherans confess the tertius usus legis. Antinomianism? Godfrey? Nonsense. MGK? Well, in substance, no. I’m not entirely comfortable with all the ways MGK spoke about the decalogue late in his career, but antinomian?

    Remember they called Paul an antinomian too. We “Lutherans” are in good company. I’ve been called “Lutheran” for insisting that sanctification is only fruit and evidence of justification and for insisting that sanctification is in the third part of the catechism and the like. If that makes me a Lutheran I’m glad to be one.

    Dick didn’t just have his wacky follower. He defended him and his views in the courts of the churches. Dick’s defense of Kinnaird did a great deal of damage to good people who were, as we now all know from the OP report, right. Dick was wrong in the Phila. Presbytery and a kindly, godly, persevering lay couple–who received precious little help from orthodox ministers in their own presbytery– was right.

  35. If Richard Gaffin and John Piper have bad theology, then what hope do the rest of us have? How many faithful men are left?

    It’s one thing to disagree, but it’s quite another to judge a man such as Richard Gaffin unconfessional, unworthy of serving in a Reformed church. The fact that a first-rate Reformed theologian such as Gaffin, who has devoted his life to studying Paul, disagrees with you, should at least cause you a moment’s pause. As for being “fuzzy” about justification, I don’t think the biblical authors live up to your standards either. James 2 and Romans 2 seem a little “fuzzy” to me. James would be run out of most presbyteries in NAPARC.

  36. Jonathan,

    Our hope is in the completed and perfect righteousness of Christ. Reformed theology is not contingent upon this or that theologian but upon God’s Word as confessed by the Reformed churches.

    As to Dick and John, well, I know and appreciate both and both have come to greater precision and clarity in recent years (though I guess both say that they haven’t really changed, John told me and others this in October). As far as I know, Piper advocated Dan Fuller’s (and Shepherd’s) covenant theology and doctrine of justification but has rejected both. I think Dick has become more confessional in recent years. I’m thankful for both developments.

    We can all become more confessional in many ways. I think I’ve become more confessional over the years. That’s what semper Reformanda means.

  37. Sean (Magma),

    I don’t think that discipline of FV proponents in the PCA is done. I think it’s just getting started. The PCA GA action was only laying the foundation for discipline to come. I don’t know all the particulars but I know that there is a study committee in the Northwest and I believe that there are other things happening too. There has some re-alignment to the CREC. There’s probably more to come.

  38. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you again for the interaction. Lest I be misunderstood, I myself don’t believe that Godfrey or Horton are Antinomian! I myself have found Kline very helpful and am not ashamed of being called a Klinean (which is neat being that I am in the pulpit that he once pastored long ago!). I do take issue with his view of the Sabbath, however.

    Nevertheless, my point was in response to your initial statement about Gaffin’s “fuzziness.” Is it fair to say that we can not necessarily blame the teacher for the student’s errors? Sandlin endorsed Gaffin’s work. Sandlin also mis-appropriates Gaffin’s work (as does Lusk) for his FV proposal. If we want to blame Gaffin for Sandlin or Lusk’s views, should we not – by parity of reasoning – blame WSC theologians for Lee Irons’ errors?

    The defense of Shepherd and Kinnaird are a different – albeit, related – issue. Remember, the OPC GA overwhelmingly upheld Kinnaird’s appeal. Why do you suppose that is? Is it becuase the OPC as a whole is “Kinnairdian”? I guess that could be argued. But I think there is a far more logical explanation. Kinnaird’s defense convinced me – and I abhor Shepherd’s current views on Justification and the views of the NPP and the FV. Kinnaird gave a statement on his view of Justification which came right from the Confession.

    To be sure, I have been terribly disappointed in Kinnairds more recent statments at the OPC discussion group. Makes me feel at times like I got the wool pulled over my eyes. Maybe Gaffin got the wool pulled over his eyes (along with the bulk of the OPC GA). Maybe he should have been more suspicious, and less charitable. I will grant you that, and even that his defense was a mistake given what subsequent statements have been made by both Kinnaird and Shepherd. But that is not because Gaffin’s doctrine of union and/or justification are suspect or less than confessional. As I read him in a R&R and By Faith, he nails the WCF doctrine of justification through painstaking exegesis.

    But I’ve been wrong before and freely admit that I may be wrong here. And I am willing to read evidence from Gaffin’s writings themselves which reflect a less-than-sound doctrine of Justification. Though I do have to say I’ve read just about everything he’s written and I’ve never seen anything even close to error.

    Blessing on your good work and fine blog!

  39. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your good words.

    A little about the Kinnaird case from memory.

    I don’t think you were alone at GA. John cried and gave a reasonably orthodox account of his views so that the men voted on what he said on the floor and not what he had said. What he said at GA, from what I understand, bears little relation to what he had been saying or what he has said since.

    What was properly before GA was not what he was saying just then but what he had said, preached, and written. I suspect that people didn’t want to believe that such things were being taught in the OPC by an honored and respected member of the denomination and a former moderator of GA.

    I’ve read everything Mr Kinnaird said before GA and I was shocked at the vote in that GA. Immediately after Mr Kinnaird announced that his views had been “vindicated.” Things were not set right until the next GA when there was a re-assertion of justification sola fide and then in the GA study committee report.

    What John is saying now is what he was saying before GA. The difference is that people are paying attention now and understand what he’s saying. A lot of people didn’t begin paying attention until the Kinnaird case. In a way, even though it wrecked a congregation and hurt good people, I’m glad it happened because if it hadn’t (sort of like Pearl Harbor) I think it might have taken a lot longer for people to start paying attention.

    What was defended on the floor of the Phila Presbytery, however, was quite outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy, namely a two-stage doctrine of justification. Initial justification sola gratia, sola fide and a final justification grounded partly on Spirit-wrought sanctity. Not vindication coram hominibus but justification before God. This he derived from his doctrine of union with Christ and the necessity for Spirit-wrought, inherent righteousness in order to stand before God.

    That’s enough for now.

    Warmest

    rsc

  40. Can we start with the presupposition that anyone (read:anyone!) that has defended Shepherd’s “hinge on which all true religion turns”, should be presumptively guilty untill proven innocent? This is not a grey area!! This is the heart and core of Christ’s Gospel. We can disagree on a lot of secondary issues, but this is NOT one of them.

  41. Gaffin: “Baptism signifies and seals a transition in the experience of the recipient, a transition from being (existentially) apart from Christ to being (existentially) joined to him. Galatians 3:27 is even more graphic: “Those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” . . . Consequently, the transition described in [Ephesians 2] verses 5f. as being an object of God’s wrath(v.3) to experiencing his love (v.4). takes place at the point of being joined (existentially) to Christ [50_51].”

    Sean: The way of salvation proposed by Gaffin in R&R is through the water of baptism and existential union with Christ – not by mere belief alone in truth of Scripture and the message of the Gospel.

    Dear Sean,

    Dr. Gaffin clearly notes that he’s speaking of what baptism signifies and seals in the experience of the believer. He goes to greater pains than the apostle to flesh out that he’s not speaking of a Romish working of the works, or anything of the sort. Even a cursory reading of his writing bears this out.

    You’re willing to read the apostle in light of the Westminster standards (and rightly so), where it states: “There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other” Yet for some reason you are unwilling to render to Dr. Gaffin the same measure of charity, even when he actually prefaces his statement by referring to signs and seals.

    I see this sort of thing quite often from you Sean. I hope you will wrestle with whether you don’t have the acumen to deal fairly with your opponents, or whether you are willing to bear false witness intentionally.

    Ron

  42. Hi Ron,

    I don’t think it’s quite fair to ask us to treat Paul and Dick Gaffin in the same way. In the case of Scripture we’re interpreting ad hoc letters and drawing inferences etc. In the case of any contemporary theologian we’re reading a text in the light of 2000 years of Christian reflection on Scripture. Further, in the case of a confessional Reformed theologian we’re dealing with a person writing in an established tradition with an established set of categories and a fixed vocabulary for addressing basic questions such as union with Christ and justification. Further, in the case that Dick defended Norm for most of thirty years we’re entitled to read what he says in that light and all the more when he is not absolutely clear about the doctrine of the standing or falling of the church.

    For example, as late as 2003 Dick was still speaking (I don’t know what he says today) of a two-stage justification or an already and not yet aspect to justification. This is just wrong. There is no “not yet” aspect to justification. There is a “not-yet” aspect to our vindication, indeed, our vindication at the judgment is entirely “not yet.” Had Dick not pressed justification into the “already/not yet” scheme, we could have avoided misunderstanding.

    The older Reformed theologians did not speak of a “not yet” aspect to justification because they understood that was what the entire Reformation was about! Rome said, justification has been initiated but not consummated. I realize Dick meant something else by it but we already had language for the distinction he was trying to make.

    So, reading Paul is one thing, reading Dick Gaffin is another.

  43. Dear Scott,

    I don’t see the relevance of Dr. Gaffin’s support of Norman Shepherd or his already-not-yet paradigm as it pertains to justification since we were to be considering Dr. Gaffin’s words as they pertain to Galatians 3:27 and Ephesians 2:5. All Dr. Gaffin (following Murray) has noted in that particular snippet supplied by Sean is that in the application of redemption, signed and sealed in baptism, a real transition occurs from being a child of wrath to that of recipient of love and grace in Christ. That reality occurs through the existential union in Christ as opposed to at the cross (or in the eternal election-identity one has in Christ). It would seem that Sean would have us believe that Dr. Gaffin attributes the elect’s existential union to a magical working-of-the-works, which you will be hard pressed to find in any of Dr. Gaffin’s writings given his unequivocal repudiation of Romish baptism. Consequently, your appeal to Dr. Gaffin’s support of Shepherd and a two-stage paradigm of justification fails to support Sean’s claim regarding Dr. Gaffin’s alleged view of water baptism.

    Having said all that, I am not here to support Dr. Gaffin’s view of justification, even as it is put forth in his most recent essay Justification and Eschatology. In fact, I find much of what Dr. Gaffin wrote unclear, if not troubling. Notwithstanding, I’m not about to give up union-with-Christ language (as some are so quick to do); nor will I allow it to eclipse the Reformed theology of imputation, alien righteousness and the final open-vindication of our justification (by grace through faith), which I think Dr. Gaffin is also jealous to guard.

    Some of my problems with Dr. Gaffin are:

    1. Dr. Gaffin denies that a person is partially justified according to a process of justification. (That much is good.) Yet he affirms that justification unfolds in two steps. I see that as taking away with one hand that which is granted with the other. The two-stages would seem like a process that is merely separated by the time that extends from conversion to the Day of Judgment. I would have less of a problem if he fleshed out a significant difference between the two justifications, like if he noted that the second does not include the forgiveness of sins. If he’s done that, I’ve missed it.

    2. Dr. Gaffin asserts that one is not justified in the first justification anymore than he is resurrected bodily at that time. But is the reason this is so due to God not yet gathering all mankind before him, or is it because we have not yet been glorified in the body? I sense from Dr. Gaffin’s writings that it’s because men have not been changed ontologically, which if so would mean that our justification is incomplete (implying process) due to a change that must still occur in us, a problem indeed. If one’s reasoning were that we await a second justification before a watching world, then I could more easily attribute that (second) justification to that of a public vindication. That, however, is not Dr. Gaffin’s view as I understand it because he clearly affirms a forensic aspect to the second justification similar to that of the first.

    With those concerns in view, I wish that men would begin to substitute “justification” with “forgiveness of sins and considered righteous before God for Christ’s sake” in every theological discussion of this sort. I think it might then become exceedingly glaring that if we’re justified (i.e. forgiven, etc.) now, then there can be no justification of that sort to come later. For how can one be irrevocably forgiven and declared righteous once and for all, and then once again?
    As wisdom is vindicated in her children, so will our forgiveness be vindicated by our deeds wrought in Christ by the Spirit on the last day. To call that “justification” in a discussion such as this is equivocal at best. I’m concerned that Dr. Gaffin means a bit more than that.

    To bring this full circle, I hope you can appreciate my narrow concern as put forth in my first post. I don’t think it is helpful (let alone truthful) to impugn Dr. Gaffin’s doctrine of baptism when his writings on that matter have been clearly Reformed and uncontroversial.

    Ron

  44. Hi Ron,

    As I’ve said many times (e.g. on the PB) I see no warrant for speaking of a two-stage justification or already/not-yet aspects to justification. As far as I know the only aspects are already and forever. The distinction is between justification which includes both the forgiveness of sins (the negative) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (the positive). I think Paul says something about “having been justified…” Glorification is not justification but a consequence of it. What we should say is “vindication” relative to the judgment.

    As to baptism I’ve written a good deal about it and I can’t accept Dick’s language. See the pamphlet on baptism and the article on baptism or the Exposition of the Nine Points.

    Baptism is a sign and seal but creates no more existential union with Christ than circumcision did. Esau was a member of the visible covenant community. That’s all.

    Murray could and did err. By his own testimony he set out to revise Reformed covenant theology. It was an experiment that didn’t work. We’re all fallible. Having rejected the visible/invisible distinction or the internal/external distinction folks are bound to get into all sorts of unnecessary tangles.

  45. “Baptism is a sign and seal but creates no more existential union with Christ than circumcision did. Esau was a member of the visible covenant community. That’s all.

    Dear Scott,

    Dr. Gaffin never stated nor implied that baptism creates existential union. He merely stated that “baptism signifies and seals a transition in the experience of the recipient.” It was Sean and now you who wish to impose upon Dr. Gaffin a theology that would have the existential experience indexed to the washing of water. That rendering is not supportable in any of Dr. Gaffin’s writings. If it was, then one could find it on the Trinity Foundation website! 🙂

    As for your remarks on Murray, we’re not talking about whether the Mosaic covenant was purely an administration of the one Covenant of Grace (a position I affirm and you don’t). My reference to Murray had to do with his view that a transition occurs when one who is eternally identified in Christ as elect becomes united to Christ existentially. That existential union is signed and sealed in baptism, which is not the same thing as saying that it is created by baptism – the doctrine you dare to impugn Dr. Gaffin with.

    Moreover, it is simply absurd to think that Gaffin or Murray somehow missed the visible / invisible church distinction. Clearly they understand / understood that the one covenant of grace was established with the single Seed of Abraham (Christ as the second Adam), and in him with all the elect. Genesis 17; Galatians 3; WLC, Q&A31 Whereas it is to be administered to those who profess the true religion along with their households.

    I’m pleased to let this matter rest, Scott. It’s clear to me after two tries that you are not going to engage my point. I’m not even sure you have understood it.

    In His grace,

    Ron

  46. Ron,

    Murray explicitly rejected the visible/invisible distinction. Check it out. It’s in his collected writings. I don’t know what Dick thinks about it. We’ve never discussed it, but Murray’s criticism of it helped create the pre-conditions for the FV nonsense.

    Baptism is a sign and seal of what is true of those who believe. Why make it more complicated?

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