- At Jason’s new blog.
- Lane Keister reviewed Michael Williams’ volume on covenant theology and offers this related criticism:
Further, Williams seriously confuses law and gospel. In fact, he advocates a kind of covenantal nomism as the proper understanding of all covenantal arrangements between God and man. This much is clear from pages 150-151. Here are the relevant quotations: “It is imperative that we see that in the giving of the law we witness the same relationship between grace and obedience that God has maintained from the beginning.” Now, in certain contexts, this could be true, except that he brings it back all the way back to creation. This is clear form what follows: “As he created Adam to obey his word, Yahweh redeems Israel to obey his word. There is no question of merit in either case…I cannot say this strongly enough. The law was never intended to be a means of earning salvation…In fact, we can speak of the law as a further act of grace, a gift to God’s people that serves his covenantal and gracious purposes. Thus the call of the law is to translate God’s grace into action. The law is the divinely intended means by which the covenant is nourished and maintained” (pp. 150-151). If the law was never intended to be a means of earning salvation, then Jesus Christ did not earn our salvation by means of law-keeping. Law winds up being grace, and grace winds up being law. This is not mitigated by his statement “Man’s obedience brings blessing; his disobedience brings curse” (p. 68), because he does not define the nature of the blessing or the cursing. Hence it is a statement with which almost anyone could agree.
Lane notes that Williams’ book on covenant theology is required reading at a Reformed denominational seminary.
Well, as to be expected , the Bishop of Moscow gets his shorts in a knot over why Presbyterians are not as zealous in defending a particular understanding of Creation but become very exercised over a little thing like The Reformation’s understanding of justification .Leave to the ‘D’ students to get their priorities out of order.
It seems to me that it would be better to say that Jesus was faithful to the covenant of creation and then recieved the due punishment for Adam’s breaking of the covenant. He could not have been a covenant breaker and still taken upon Himself the curse of Adam unless He lived faithfully where Adam failed. We are granted a righteous standing with God because we receive Christ’s covenant faithfulness. It was the death of the lamb of God which brings about our righteous standing.
I think it is inaccurate to say that His sinless life played any part in “earning” our standing in the covenant, it seems more correct to say that His righteous life was a prerequisite in order for Him to be the spottless substitutionary sacrifice, the sacrifice being that which fulfills the righteous requirements of the covenant of grace made with Adam. He was not trying to earn what Adam failed to “earn”, but rather restore Adam to that which He forfeited.
Williams is right on in my opinion. The law is a blessing and has always been the primary means of santification by the Spirit. It is Christ, the point of the law, the fulfillment of the law, who’s image it is that we are being conformed to…it was never meant to be used to merit a right standing with God…especially not in the Garden of Eden. The problem comes when people exchange its proper usage for a faulty one and try to say that God ever intented it as a means to “earn” a right standing with God, which ironically sounds more similar to the position of those who have an extremely dualistic exageration of the distinctions between the covenants.
1. The WCF speaks of the covenant of works 3 times and the WLC used it three times. You may wish to speak of the covenant of creation but that’s not the language of the standards.
2. Your account denies the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. Jesus did not have to qualify himself to be a Savior. He came not for himself, but for us. He was born under the law not for himself but for us.
Check the discussion of the IAO in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry
Take a listen to the recent discussion on the Heidelcast.
I absolutely agree that Christ came for us…I’m slightly confused what your point was in saying that. I also believe that he perfectly identified with the covenant people, and lived faithfully to the covenant (not only the mosaic covenant, but of course the covenant with Adam as well). We receive forgiveness of sins and His perfect standing before God through faith alone. I’m not at all sure how to follow your logic then when you say that I have denied imputation…explain further please.
I also do not think that it is innacurate to say that he had to qualify Himself as Savior. He had to become like His brothers in every way, so that He might become a high priest and make propitiation. There was a point to His living life as a man afterall. As God, He does not have to qualify as Savior, but as man, He must live a sinless life and identify with His people. Had this not occured, He would not have qualified to be Savior. He is substituting for Adam.
How do you understand saving faith? What is the nature of it? Of , course, the object of your faith is Christ, but what is He doing, and how is He accomplishing it? What is the role of the law in the Christian life? Is the law a blessing or a curse? of course we are not declared just by the law, but by Christ through faith, but what about sanctification? Does the law play a role in it? Is sanctification part of salvation? Is not part of the goal to be conformed to Christ in His purity? I am very confused about how you view these things. In all probability, I assume we are likely not far off.
No, I said that your construction denies the imputation of Christ’s active obedience.
See the materials to which I referred you.
It seems it has been forgotten that for us who sinned in Adam, the Law places us under the Curse; I have heard it called “the Common Curse.” That made Christ’s active obedience for us a necessity, along with His Cross and Passion, by which he redeemed His Church. Denying the Law/Gospel distinction, one cannot be Reformed any more than one can be Lutheran and deny it.
(This is intended especially for the Brian – Dr. Clark discussion.) It’s important to remember the scheme of the WCF: that when a command is given with an attendant curse, the opposite promise is held out. Thus, ‘in the day you eat of it you shall surely die,’ entails that if Adam continues not eating, he will, in some new sense, live. That’s the WCF, like it or not. I don’t mean to be crass, but we are a confessional people. Revise it or state stipulations for exceptions, but don’t deny the tradition. Acknowledge you see a flaw, however minor, don’t pretend like you’re just toeing the line.
This opens up the discussion biblically. Yes, you can say Adam was created in a state of favor. But, according to WCF, that state was intended to be bettered. He had to merit, earn, work-to-get that higher estate by obeying. If Adam had, lets say, disobeyed the cultural mandate to subdue and guard, he would not only have forfeited that state of favor which he was graced to have, he would also have lost the intended future life, the greater life represented by the tree of life which God guarded him from after he failed. Not only is favor lost, the fruit of merit, eternal life is lost.
The scheme Brian was proposing seems plausible on a theoretical level out there, away from the data, but I think the WCF is right to see the command-and-its-opposite scheme in Genesis 1-3. This is the issue. Did Adam stand to gain something not in his possession by obeying, by meriting it? If so, then I pray to God Christ did merit whatever that was for me also, otherwise I am without hope. My maintenance of favor seems to be about as solid as Israel’s in the favored land of promise.
Thanks for your kind reply Josh. I also believe that Adam’s state would have been bettered had he continued by faith to remain in the original state of grace; but I have to disagree that this state would have had to been earned meritoriously. Surely, had Adam continued to faithfully rule over the creation, remaining in his original state of grace, he would have attained to a higher estate. What exactly this entails, I am not sure, but I think it is safe to conclude that this life of blessing includes a more intimate knowledge of the Trinity and a greater experience of the love and fellowship of God.
I do think that faithful obedience to the Lord would have been the means to this enhanced blessing, but definately not the first cause. Grace is the cause, faithful obedience the means by which he would receive it. If Adam desired life eternal, all he had to do was believe that God loved him and gave him everything freely by grace, and that what God said about the dangers of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was true. Adam apostasized, and yet, God renews the covenant with him immediately…this is grace! By the time we get to Moses, we are still talking grace, for God desires to reconcile His people to Himself and gives them the law in order to guide them, both as a means of sanctification and as a pointer to Christ.
In the way I read the scriptures, the real problem with the law comes when we view it apart from the grace of God, who alone graciously grants a righteous standing through faith in substitionary atonement, ultimately that of Christ. Obedience to the law in and of itself is useless (if it is not viewed as grace), but obedience to the law is also essential for sanctification (when viewed as grace). In fact, what we are to have faith in is the fact that in Christ we will be conformed to the law (Christ the fulfillment) perfectly in the new earth. We should cherish the law, for it gives us proper guidance as to how we are to abide in Him, and keep ourselves in the love of God. It is when we view the law as something contrary to the gospel that we open up the door to grievous error. From this standpoint, in fact, those who refuse to see the law in this manner have a greater tendancy to look at the law in the same way that Adam and Eve did, right before the fall, as if it would somehow hold them back from recieving a greater blessing. As I see it, this is where the biblical data points.
Scripture itself juxtaposes law and grace as two distinct principles! They are reconciled in God, of course, and in his acts but we are not God.
The case you are arguing is not Reformed. It is Barthian — grace swallows up law. It’s become the majority view, I suppose, but it isn’t the view we confess. We confess that God made Adam in righteousness and true holiness that he might rightly know God his creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness. Adam was in a probation. He had a test to pass. He had to satisfy the law. Thus the Belgic Confession says that he had to obey the commandment of life. His eschatological life was conditioned not upon grace — he was not fallen
It is obvious that you have a much greater understanding of the confessions than I do (though it seems there are many who disagree with your interpretations of them).
1) why should I agree with the confession on this point when the language of probation and merit are nowhere to be found in either the genesis account or in the subsequent scriptures with regard to Adam?
2) why should I agree with your interpretation of the confessions over and above those who disagree with your assement, especially speaking here of law/gospel (i.e. John Frame)?
3) How “reformed” does one have to be in order to be a legitimate Christian? I ask because (correct me if I am misrepresenting you) if one denies your interpretation of the WCF on IAO, then they have logically denied sola fide…is this your understanding?
1) until you’ve studied the issues to know certainly, the confession of the church (it’s not just a systematic theology; indeed, it’s not a ST at all!) deserves the benefit of the doubt. It is the confession of the CHURCH as she reads God’s Word. If your reading of God’s Word contradicts that of the church(es), you should be troubled and humble enough to admit that maybe, just maybe, someone, sometime had a thought that you haven’t had yet.
2) Please read CJPM where we address the question of merit directly.
3) To be Reformed one has to agree with what the Word of God teaches as it is confessed by the Reformed churches.
We discussed this recently here:
Read the CJPM, read the other orthodox works linked on the resource page, listen to the Heidelcast discussions then we’ll talk.
1) Merit is in the Genesis account. Adam had to keep a rule and if he kept the rule he would live for the next day. This rule is explicitly stated. Thus we can say that Adam by doing what God ruled, deserved Adam to live for the next day. Why was it deserved? Because God is just, it was a promise by a just God and God is true to His justice. As long as you do not see an explicitly stated merit in Genesis you will not see probation in the Bible.
2) John Frame seems to have emotional vested interest – this is my opinion which I base on word choices in JF’s writings.
3) I do not think that any serious Reformed folk believe only the Reformed churches hold Christians. However, as I read your propositions here they seem to be basic RC soteriology without the RC ecclesiology and the Protestant Reformation was not simply for change in ecclesiology.
To get all your questions (and more) answered read Dr. Clark’s RRC and the faculty’s essays in ‘Covenant Justification and Pastoral Ministry’
I would agree with your first statement…but being humble does not necesitiate agreement with the confession on every point. It just might be, contrary to your assumption, that I do tend to agree with much (not all) of what you say with regard to the importance of the active obedience of Christ (I listened to the Heidelcast), while at the same time deny the idea of merit as a means of earning the grace of God in the covenant of creation ( I have stated my differences earlier). I felt the heidlecast was a misrepresentaion of those who disagree with you. Anyway, it just may be that since their are many Spirit filled men today who disagree with this wording, that you should be troubled and humbled, and admit that maybe, just maybe, someone has had a thought that you have not had yet (although this view is NOT foreign to Reformed theology).
The word merit is not found in Genesis, although I recognize that this is a common (though not the only) view within the reformed church. This is an interpretation, though I believe a faulty one, and a person would have to do some serious exegetical gymnastics to arrive at the conclusion that Adam had to earn God’s grace. Even a simple reading of the text will bear this truth out.
I mention JF because I have read Dr. Clark’s comments on the PB with regard to law/gospel and noticed how tightly he attempts to tie him to the FV, and was looking for a straight answer to see how far he was willing to carry out his logic.
Actually, my soteriology is not RC at all. I believe that we are justified through faith in the finished work of Christ. I also believe that justification is only one aspect of a salvation which also includes regeneration and sanctification. We can seperate these terms to talk about them, but in reality they cannot be seperated. We are justified because of Christ, but we are also sanctified because of Christ. We are declared righteous, and we are being made righteous. I am saved by Christ alone, but an essential part of my salvation is by being restored to the image of God. I think it is faulty logic to assume that I have an RC soteriology.
I was wondering a couple things as I read your comments:
1) How do you define “merit”? Are you reading too much into the definition of the word used by those with whom you disagree?
2) You speak of these people “earning God’s grace.” What is your definition of “grace”? If we speak of being “saved by grace,” grace is the means, and not the substance of the salvation. In this sense of the word, no one is saying that Adam would earn “grace.”
What about Williams’ “This World Is Not My Home?” I have this book.
Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t think anyone is questioning your salvation. There’s been a lot of talk of denying faith alone in terms of consistency, but, thankfully, we all do a lot of good things in a way inconsistent with other beliefs. Whether or not a view is inconsistent with another view, it’s possible (and in this case common) to hold them both together.
I think most people reading this have seen your view somewhere or other. I’m curious whether you think it’s confessional. You say some have seen it as plausible with regard to the confession. Do you?
The question of the definition of ‘merit’ and ‘grace’ is an important one. To risk re-hashing familiar material, a covenant can be gracious in its institution but legal (merit-based) in its terms. God was gracious to promise life upon obedience/maintenance, but once that obedience is done, that life is merited, owed by God. Otherwise, God would not be bound by his own oath. Promises bind. If God promises Abraham something and swears by two witnesses, he must do it when the conditions are met. We have an inspired text on merit, to the one who works, his wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Thus the language in Hebrews about Jesus obtaining things, accomplishing so as to be entitled to a certain position or office.
This is, I think, what we ought to mean when we talk about ‘law’. This, then that. Do, and the thing promised (blessing or curse) will follow by necessity. Means vs. cause might be irrelevant here. It’s about the obligation of the apodosis. Of course, law has many gracious functions and we shouldn’t oppose them. Brain, you helpfully point out some of the gracious deliverances of the law. I just think we can’t deny that God is self-bound by his words to do to Adam, for or against, according to the arrangement. Christ exploits the arrangement to its full advantage at the exact place where Adam didn’t obey.
I appreciate you kindeness greatly! Your comments are well thought out and I agree with much of them. In fact, I am persuaded that there is much more agreement between the opposing sides of this discussion than is normally recognized. You also helpfully are pinting out that there is a difference between the OC and the NC. I hope to explain where I see the difference to be in the following.
I didn’t think that anyone was particularly questioning my salvation, I do have serious questions about how far Dr. Clark is willing to carry forth his logic. If an “apparent” denial of IAO is an implicit denial of soal fide, is that person a Christian? I think that’s a fair question. In all honesty I would not be offended at the answer. I am not as concerned about his opinion with regard to my standing before God as I am about his understanding of what salvation is and how it is obtained.
By no means am I an expert on the confessions. I do recognize that it is disputed as to whether or not this view is confessional. I do know that there are (and have been in the past) many men in good standing in reformed presbyterian denominations that hold to this view. I also know that Calvin is claimed by both sides. In all honesty, my opinion must be based upon the opinion of those who have done more research than I in these historical matters. Ultimately, I figure my time would be better spent seeking out whether or not certain positions are more biblical (rather than cofessional) without neglecting historical theology. The problem is that my views are arguably consistant with those of past (and credible) churchmen.
I agree wholeheartedly that Jesus obtained righteousness and salvation for His people (Hebrews). I would probably just organize things slightly different than the confession (at least Dr. Clark’s view of it). Jesus lived a sinless life, and identified fully with His people under the law, this so that He might become a faithful high priest and make propitiation. It was necesary for Him to fulfill all righteousness so that He might qualify (Dr. Clark’s word) as Savior. Dr. Clark accused me of saying that Jesus “came for Himself”, but that is innacurate. Everything He did, especially in identifying with His people and living a sinless life, was for His people. I just choose to see it, I think biblically, more as a prerequisite to His being the perfect sacrifice, though in everyway essential for our justification. The effect is the same, but I believe the formulation is more biblical.
I can see where the confusion often comes with regard to law/gospel, but I think what tends to be forgotten by some who oppose my particular viewpoint is that the foundation of everything is grace. Even in the Mosaic covenant, though there is blessing and cursing based on obedience, there is also a sacrificial system (a type of Christ) which holds out the constant opportunity for forgiveness and restoration to good standing in the covenant. The problem with the OC was that the sacrifices had to be offered over and over again, and were merely shadows of the true sacrifice. So when Christ comes, the law is fulfilled, and a rejection of Christ while simutaneously seeking to use the law as a means to get right with God exposes a rejection of the true point of the law. Forgiveness is only in Christ, not in the OC sacrifices, and of course not in future “law keeping”. I just have to see the issues involved with law vs. faith in the NT as overwhelmingly and primarily a Christological issue, as well as a community issue, and only secondarily an individual salvation issue.
Even today, those who trample the son of god under foot, and regard the blood of the covenant unclean by which we are sanctified, and go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, will find no forgiveness. I am not saying that we are thus justified by good deeds, but nonetheless, we are to abide in the covenant, looking only to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who not only freely offers grace and forgiveness for every sin, but gives us the necessary grace for sanctification, primarlily through the Spirit and the moral law. The only way we will ever be cast off is if we reject Christ (which actually includes everything about him, including the moral law as a necessary part of sanctification and deliverence from the power of sin). Of course, believing in election and perseverance, those that do depart were those who were never of us in the first place. I think this view makes us hold all the more fast to Christ, for He is our only hope of ultimate salvation.
Though justification is something that occurs at the initial point of faith, it is a foreshaddowing of what will come in the future, and our deeds will testify to the fact that we have trusted Christ, though imperfectly, and because we have kept the faith, Christ will wash away every stain, and because of Him alone, in every way, we are declared righteous, both present and future. But at the same time, many people think that they have been justified (present tense) that will not be on the last day. Why? They have not truly trusted Christ. Maybe at some point after their conversion they stop believing in Him. Maybe they saw the law as antithetical to Christ and thus there deeds were being built on a faulty foundation. I think that my view accounts for all these things in a more sufficient way, while at the same time remaining well within the bounds of orthodoxy.
God Bless You 🙂
I believe that Williams’ book This World Is Not My Home is his treatment of dispensationalism. If I remember correctly, it is a redaction of his doctoral dissertation, which examined the “escapist” theologies of early dispensationalism. I haven’t read it, though.
I appreciate your questions. In all honesty, I doubt we have substantial disagreement. The problem comes when I am told that I reject something that I do not (Dr. Clark’s 1st reply).
Merit is when good works are done in order to receive reward. The issue isn’t (for me at least) so much about whether Adam would have recieved greater blessing if he remained faithful, but whether or not the covenant was foundationally a covenant of grace or works. I think Josh made some good points below. At the same time, I do not see a substantial difference between any of the covenants in the respect that he mentioned. The foundation of all covenants is grace, and if we are to receive blessing, we must trust that God’s ways are right and true, and that obedience to Him leads to blessing. Hence, the scriptures speak of the obedience of the gospel, and the law of Christ.
I agree that grace is the means to that blessing. It’s actually my point in all this. Adam began in a state of grace, as I see it, not forgiveness of sin grace obviously, but grace nonetheless. Adam did nothing to deserve His favored position, and I think David would have considered His position to be one of grace. So, I recognize that technically one cannot “earn God’s grace” but I disagree with the whole idea that this was a probation period where Adam had to do a bunch of good works for a long enough time and then God would have blessed him purely on the basis of those good works. I think God intended blessing for Adam, because He is loving and gracious, but Adam fell from grace.
You addressed the central things of the Gospel: that Christ’s righteousness is given to us and our sins (analytic and federal) are forgiven because of his death. I’m thankful for this even if we may disagree about some pretty important things. I appreciate your thoughtfulness–this scheme, which seems close to N.T. Wright if I’m not mistaken, has, in my layman’s opinion, some unbiblical strains if matched up against Reformed orthodoxy. But it can’t be charged with lacking explanatory power.
You’re quick to try to find the conciliatory note, which I appreciate again on the moral level. However there are some things that seem irreconcilable. For instance: do you regard your position as embracing penal substitutionary atonement? It seems unavoidable that you reject the imputation of Christ’s active obedience in the meritorious sense. Both (the specific view of atonement and IAO) I’m almost certain, though I haven’t read a ton of him, are affirmed by Frame as being right and confessional. I’m not sure how you’re making Frame say otherwise. Maybe I’m uninformed.
The explanatory power you gravitate toward is something I want to fill out. How we measure that power is always conditioned by the problems we see in the issue in the first place. Thus, for example, dispensationalists see their view as really helpful when looking at Daniel or other prophetic books; I never saw any problem with Daniel in the first place: Christ told us that all Scripture pointed to him. Seems like a lot of Messianic prophecy to me, so no problems to bend over backwards to explain.
Your problems, then, seem to me to stem from a certain a priori belief that the grounds of divine-human relationships are always grace, grace, grace. It smells a lot like begging the question. It would go, ‘The covenant with Adam can’t be legal (like Dr. Clark says it is) because the ground is really gracious, not “legal” (in the sense of merit).’ So it seems like you’re saying it can’t be legal because it’s gracious, and that as a pre-commitment. This brings me to the next relevant point as I see it.
You say you want to pay attention to historical theology but are unfamiliar with the confessions. Maybe you’re just being modest, but creeds and confessions are the basics of HT. This is relevant to the portion above because of the issue of hermeneutical approach. Wright and FV proponents say things like you’ve said: I don’t care what so and so says in history, I care what the Bible says. Amen to the latter part being primary. However, to paraphrase Herman Bavinck, everyone starts his exegesis with the church, and no one can build a theology alone; that takes centuries. This accounts for what is, in my view, the immature way of seeing the big picture of redemption that you outline. It has a certain explanatory power, as I said, but it has some hiccups that take a lot of time and review to see evince themselves. Thankfully, the Church has spent the time and the mental power to investigate these things. I think the structure of redemption in the WCF and Three Forms of Unity show a more mature and comprehensive view of God’s acts in Scripture than your model. They ultimately have more explanatory power because of their Scripture-given hermeneutical lens–they don’t have one given by some pet problem or pre-commitment. The undergirdings are Scripture-tested and true. I would urge you to depend less on your own ability to tease out a full theology from the Bible. Depend on your ministers and elders to deliver the reflection of ages which you can test against the Scriptures. I think this is Paul’s counsel in the NT. ‘Just the Bible and me’ is a bad idea according to the Bible. I don’t mean this too harshly, I only wish good things for you and your understanding of the Lord as I sense you do love him and have contemplated his power toward you.
[Sorry for the length.]
Thanks again Josh, and no need to appologize for length; obviously my post was equally as lengthy. Quick points:
1) I do not deny that an essential portion of my justification is the imputation of the active obedience of Christ or the reality of penal substitutionary atonement. I can only assume that you are coming to this conclusion using a certain line of logic that I am not following. If I am stating contrary to your assumption (or at least what you are questioning), why are you saying that I do deny these things? I honestly would like to know your thoughts.
2) I am by no means an expert on either John Frame or NT Wright, and I would not desire to see either of them linked together with me, or together. They can handle themselves. I only brought up Frame with regard to what he teaches with regard to the law/gospel distinction. I agree with him on this, and I am sure that he does affirm IAO and PSA.
3) I bring up grace so much in this context because Dr. Clark seems to regularly desire to accuse those who hold this view of either FV or works-righteousness. My hope was to show that this is absolutely not the case, and I think his logic is faulty here.
4) My point in saying that we should go to the bible as more important than the confessions I think is valid in this context, because I have a great concern that Dr. Clark holds tradition equal with the bible (and worse, his own subjective interpretation of HT). I agree with everything that you say in the paragraph with regard to the importance of HT, and I know I can do much more study in this area and learn much.
I would disagree with you that I should not seek to build a theology in my own study. I do agree that I should seek the help of the the church past and present in this process. To defer to elders and teachers and confessions, without seeking to advance my own understanding of theology, would be, in my view, to abandon the bible in a form very similar to that of the RCC. This, I fear, is the case with people like Dr. Clark. To assume that disagreement with the confession is biblical error is to say that we believe that the confession is a pure and most mature understanding of the bible there is, and to question it (or rather certain interpretations of it) and then equate that questioning with a departure from scripture, is dangerous. I think Martin Luther would agree with me. In all reality, I do not think that I am departing from the confession in any significant way, if at all anyways.
Finally, complex, in my opinion, does not necessarily mean mature. In all reality, we should seek for the most simple understanding of scripture first, and build complexity off of what is sure. This is all I am tryin to do. If it is immature, I can deal with that, I just hope I am being faithful to the Lord.
God bless you Josh…have a great evening 🙂
You couldn’t possibly have read ANYTHING I’ve written on Scripture, tradition, or sola scriptura and come to the conclusion you allege against me.
It’s sheer fabrication and nonsense.
Please shut up long enough to read something. Start with RRC. Go away and read something before you say more silly things in public.
Thanks Dr. Clark…I will.
I’ll try to respond more fully soon, but remember the existential struggle Martin Luther had over disagreeing with the Church. It was along the lines of, “Am only I right? How?!” It nearly broke him. This is what I’m talking about. I didn’t say abandon teasing out a full theology from the Bible, I just said depend less on your abilities to do so, and depend more on your elders to tell you the views of the Church and then test them against Scripture. This last part is all important.
For what else does it mean that Paul went to Jerusalem to compare his Gospel with the other Apostles, LEST he had run in vain. Or why does Paul tell Timothy to entrust these things to faithful men who will be able to correct those who disagree. This is more than a Bible study; it’s the deliverance of a tradition of doctrine of interpretation. Or when Paul honors the Corinthians for continuing in all the traditions he had shown them: this is an Apostolic oral/praxis tradition similar to the RCC (which included head coverings, though I think Paul says we don’t have to if it causes controversy, thus showing that it’s not equal with the Word of God). This is why it nearly killed Luther to break. He tested it against Scripture and found it wanting, so he gave it up, but not casually or naturally. The Reformation had a very unnatural feeling to Luther, I believe, because it breaks the normal chain of authority. But it had to be done according to God’s Word.
So that’s what I’m advocating for you. Depend on the deliverances of the Church insofar as they comport with the Word. By all means, depart from them if you test them diligently and find them wrong–I’m not telling you to make them equal to the Word–but don’t overcorrect from RCC and become a Churchless exegete.
The issue I see with your scheme and the imputation of active obedience is that, since you deny that Christ fulfilled the “legal-law” (ie, as Dr. Clark has defined the law) as a corollary to Adam’s failing to keep the legal-law, Christ’s active obedience in that respect can’t be imputed to us. I’ll say it more clearly. Because it wasn’t required of Adam in the first place—you say he was in a state of grace and didn’t have to merit anything more—there’s not the thing corresponding to Adam’s failure-to-merit which Christ MUST do, which is then imputed to the believer’s account in order to be accepted as righteous in the state Adam should have merited. Seems clear on your view that you can’t hold IAO like this. Whatever you may affirm with regard to IAO, it can’t be this, which is what I think Reformed people mean by it. If Adam didn’t have to merit by the law, then Christ couldn’t have merited what Adam didn’t merit.
Finding a few scholars who think your version is confessional doesn’t change the issue. It’s clearly not IAO in the sense of Christ’s active meriting of all creational and Adamic agreements, in a forensic way, given, imputed to the believer. Surely you understood this is what Dr. Clark meant. This is what confessionalists believe. You can’t affirm IAO in the way classic Reformed theology does and deny the meritorious aspect of Christ’s fulfillment of Adam’s failure. You may still think yours is the more biblical way to speak, but I think you can recognize the vocabulary of a certain community.
I’m sure you see the imputation of Christ’s righteous life to the believer—praise God for that. But IAO in confessional theology is more specific because it is covenantal.
The penal substitution question: You can disregard any implications as you’ve cleared it up, I think.
One thing that is unsettling is that you seem content with the company of a few theologians on your side. This would scare me, personally. I hope to confess what the Church more broadly confesses about things so central. There are nitty-gritty things, and, of course, we’re dealing with a fractured Church, but the Reformed confessions are pretty close on this one.