It's Not Misunderstanding, It's Disagreement

It is a common refrain of Federal Visionists that the orthodox, confessional Reformed ministers and churches who’ve read the FV books, articles, web pages, and blogs, just don’t understand the FV. Once more Wes White shows that just isn’t the case.

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  1. This is the same line that the apologists for Rome use against Protestants that we do not understand there position. Is it not ironic how the FV and Rome make the same statement?

  2. I find the issue lays at harmonizing, or synthesizing, systematic theology (covenant of works, redemption, and grace) with biblical theology (abrahamic, mosaic, david, and new covenants). If Wilkins and the FV would simply state the eternal covenant of grace (systematic) is not identical to the visible covenant through which it is administered (biblical theology). One can be baptized into the external, biblical theological new covenant without saving faith or decretal election, but one can only enter into the covenant of grace through faith alone. I believe FV simply conflates the visible with the invisible church and does so because of the inability to intertwine systematic and biblical theology.

  3. Mr. Welch’s comment speaks for itself.

    Mr. Myers’s comment is far more worthwhile. One big issue I have with FV guys (generally), is that they make the Cov’t of Redemption the model for historical dispensations of the Cov’t of Grace. God relating to himself is not so helpful when considering how God relates to creation (or, even more, fallen creation). I think Ralph Smith has done a disservice to the church in his work in this vein.

  4. Mr. Prussie, I wish I were familiar with Ralph Smith and his works, so at least I could comment about it. Regardless, wouldn’t you say the Covenant of Redemption is indeed the archetype of all covenants, including the various covenants in redemptive-historical dispensations? Maybe I do not understand?

  5. Mr. Myers, thanks for the interaction. The CoR is an archetype, to be sure, but not a good model. In other words, I think that the CoR is the eternal foundation for the Cow and GoG. I do not, however, think it serves as a good model of all of God’s covenants. How God interacts/covenants with himself is going to be a great deal different that how he covenants with creatures. That difference is further extended (and the difficulties further compounded) by sin. It’s no longer just an infinite condescension in an ontological sense (God’s being is infinitely greater than a creature’s), but also in a moral sense (God’s absolute holiness is infinite and we are miserable sinners – cosmic traitors).

    • Tim,

      Well, considered economically there’s value in seeing the pactum salutis as the pattern for both the covenants of works and grace inasmuch as the Son entered into a covenant of works for us which becomes the basis of the covenant of grace, in him, with and for us.

      This is why, I think, the divines conceived of the PS as a covenant of grace in the Larger Catechism, because they had us in view, and a covenant of works, in the confession, when they had the Son as surety in view.

      We don’t have to go to ontology to appeal to the PS as a paradigm. We can and should limit ourselves to the economy of redemption.

  6. Thanks, Dr. Clark.

    I appreciate the observation. I’ve often wondered why the apparent equivocation with the terminology (CoR and CoG). It seems like the equivocation just causes confusion. Your comment sheds some light.

    In what ways do you see dissimilarity between the PS and the CoW and CoG?

    • Well, the PS is made between the Trinitarian persons! The covenant of grace is said, in the WLC catechism have been made with Christ (hence the connection between the PS and the covenant of grace) but Christ’s relation to the covenant of grace and ours is quite different. Christ is not the recipient of grace that we are. There is an ontological and personal communion between the Father and the Son that we, because of our finitude, cannot experience. There are similar disanalogies between the PS and the covenant of works with Adam. The latter is not the Son! He’s a picture of the Son, he points forward to the Son. He’s an adopted son, he’s a priest, he’s a king, but God the Son is THE Son, THE priest, and THE king.

  7. Dr. Clark,

    I’ve always been “troubled” by the use of “covenant of grace” in regard to the Larger Catechism, using “covenant of grace” to speak of the covenant of redemption. Not only that, but it seems to conflate the parties of the CoG (God and the elect) with the parties of the CoR (exclusively the Trinity). I do not believe the covenant of grace was made with Christ, in that he was not a party member of it; rather being the mediator of it. I prefer the clearer elaboration of Sum of Saving Knowledge, which has a hard-line tri-covenantal distinction (as it also is in the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689). I’ve always wondered how to reconcile Q&A 31 of the Larger Catechism with the language of the Sum of Saving Knowledge.

    Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?
    Answer: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

    I must take exception to this prima facia. The covenant of grace is between the Father and the elect in Christ, but it is not a covenant made between the Father and the Son as is the CoR. I’m sure the language is used in order to include both tri-covenantal and bi-covenantal, but it is troubling systematically with the categories and terminology we use, today.

    • Bradford,

      Why can’t these two be complementary?

      Christ is not in a covenant of grace. I think the divines understood that. He is, however, our federal head and the covenant of grace may be said to be made with him acting in our stead, on the basis of his righteousness for us.

      The confession is looking at it from the pov of his obligations as surety. The WLC is looking at it from the pov of the benefits that accrue to us.

      I don’t see why it has to be problematic.

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