A Short Credo on Justification: Douglas Wilson

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Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
I forgive you Joseph. I know you think I have wrongly accused Wilson of teaching a false gospel, but the evidence against him is irrefutable. It is Wilson who is in real need of repentance. Yet, in spite of the mounting evidence against him he grows more and more resolute and determined in the face of his many critics. You must agree that Wilson is in fundamental agreement with FV and the Auburn Avenue theology and has continued to further their collective agenda as one of their chief and most capable defenders. That´s why you should seriously and prayerfully consider this change of heart from Calvin Beisner:

Had I written my conclusion five months later than I did, it would have been much more decisively and comprehensively critical of the Federal Visionists than what was published. Over that period, thousands of e-mails among the contributors served to persuade me that the Federal Visionists really meant some of the worst things I´d feared, not what I´d hoped, by many of their ambiguous public statements. I became thoroughly convinced that what they are offering is a wholesale replacement of Westminsterian soteriology, ecclesiology, and sacramentology with a soteriology that is a hybrid of Amyraldianism and Roman Catholicism, an ecclesiology that leans heavily toward Roman Catholicism, and a sacramentology that also is far more Roman Catholic than Protestant. My reading of their statements in the time since then convinces me likewise even more strongly. One cannot consistently maintain the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and yet affirm some of the definitive elements of what has come to be known as the Federal Vision or Auburn Avenue Theology. That some manage inconsistently to maintain both is a testimony to their intellectual inabilities, not to the orthodoxy of the FV/AAT [.http://www.upsaid.com/scarecrow/index.php?action=viewcom&id=548]

If you really believe that salvation is by belief alone - plus nothing, you need to see that Wilson does not and that while he wraps himself in the Reformed Confessions he twists their meaning to fit his anti-Christian paradigm.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Magma2

The Covenant of Grace is not made with a mixed multitude of elect and reprobate, nor with the baptized, nor with all members of organized churches.

You are free to believe this, just as many Reformed Baptists do. But this is not the historic Reformed position. Neither older (Witsius) Reformed nor newer (McMahon) Reformed would agree with you. Just look at Dr. Matthew McMahon's chart on Covenant Theology. He says:

"Believers and Unbelievers included in the Old Testament administrations of the Covenant of Grace . . . . men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Esau, Moses, Korah, Saul, David, and Solomon in covenant with God. They will prove themselves to be covenant keepers or covenant breakers. Only the regenerate are able to keep covenant with God although all are required to obey."

Amen! And if anybody today is in tune with historic Reformed (especially Puritan) theology, it is Dr. C. Matthew McMahon!

Sean, you keep missing the point that it is *impossible* to be a covenant breaker without first being a covenant member.

Originally posted by Magma2

Reprobate baptized members of the Church are not Christians and are not members of the covenant except in an external or nominal sense. This Wilson denies along with the other heretics making their claims at Auburn Avenue.

If you mandate a certain definition for the word "Christian", then Douglas Wilson would agree with you 100%. He believes that there is a relationship between God and the regenerate which is *never* shared between God and the unregenerate. He understands Matthew 7:23 just fine.

The problem is that you *refuse* to let him define himself. He doesn't use the word "Christian" the same way you do, so please quit trying to act as if he does! You define "Christian" as "regenerate". But Wilson does not. If we define "Christian" as meaning "covenant member", then there is absolutely nothing wrong with Wilson's statement that there are unregenerate Christians! In other words, there is nothing wrong with saying that there are unregenerate covenant members. If I adhere to Wilson's usage of the word "Christian", then there is nothing wrong with me saying that "Judas was a Christian". There would be nothing wrong with me saying that "Esau was a Christian". Like I pointed out earlier, Dr. McMahon himself wrote right on his Covenant Theology chart that Esau was a member of the covenant of grace. Thus, if he were to use Wilson's particular definition for the word "Christian", then he could rightfully say that "Esau was a Christian". --- The whole problem here is that you are quibbling over semantics rather than substance. You get in a tizzy because Wilson uses the word "Christian" in a way that you don't like to use it. But what is the *substance* of what he is saying? He is simply saying that there are both regenerate and unregenerate covenant members. Period. That's it. And whether you agree with that statement or not, you have to admit that a large number of Covenant Theologians, both past and present, would totally agree with that statement. There is nothing heretical about it. Please quit acting as if Wilson was using *your* definitions for words!



Originally posted by Magma2


Per Wilson Christians are saved by their faithfulness, not by faith alone. That's the point. You need to take your blinders off.


Hogwash.

Prove your statement. Or am I just supposed to take your word for it? Wilson has very clearly said, repeatedly, that Christians are saved by faith ALONE. He believes in sola fide just as much as you and I do.

Wilson on the other hand is clear which should have been evident to all per his credo above. But since you've read his diatribe against the Reformed faith, you'll recall that according to Wilson, "both the true and false son are brought into the same relation" to Christ. So what is the determining factor that separates the sheep from the goats? Wilson explains that "faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness.... But when we have faith that works its way out in love, which is the only thing that genuine faith can do, then the condition that God has set for the fulfillment of His promise has been met" (186-187, emphasis added). The ones who, through their faithfulness, "meet the condition that God has set for the fulfilment of His promise," become sheep. In the objective covenant in which the sinner meets conditions and fulfills his covenantal obligations, thus qualifying himself for the salvation God has promised, Wilson confuses works with sanctification, and both with justification. Wilson's conditional objective covenant is an outright denial of the Covenant of Grace and the doctrine of justification by faith alone: Those whom God effectually called he also freely justified; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone: not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith: which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God [WCF, 11:1].

Thank you for pointing out specific quotes. Let's deal with a few things in order:

1) "faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness"

Amen! That is precisely what is taught by every Reformed theologian I know. You have heard the oft-repeated phrase, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone". Amen to that! Do you think that a person can have true faith in Christ, and yet never bear fruit? Do you think that a person can receive justification, and yet never receive sanctification. You see, true faith and true faithfulness ARE inseparable. They are inseparable, but they are not identical. And I think this may be where you are misinterpreting Douglas Wilson. He is not saying that faith = works. Rather, he is simply saying that works are inseparable from faith, and will always flow from true faith.

2) "when we have faith that works its way out in love, which is the only thing that genuine faith can do, then the condition that God has set for the fulfillment of His promise has been met""

Sean, you put part of this phrase in italics because you are trying to point out what you think is a heresy. If I understand you correctly, you think it is horrible that Wilson says that God has set a "condition" for the fulfillment of His promise. Am I correct that this is what bothers you?

Well, let's ask the question: Is there any "condition" on our part, in order to receive salvation? You bet your boots there is a condition! But WHAT is that condition? Is it works (Pelagianism), faith plus works (Catholicism / Arminianism), or is it faith alone (Reformed)? Of course we know the answer is "faith alone". Faith is the *only* condition on our part. (And even that condition is met by God Himself, for He gives us faith as a gift.)

Sean, the problem is that you are selectively quoting Wilson. For what I just said is what Wilson himself said in the very next sentence after the quotation you gave. Immediately after speaking about the "condition" of receiving God's promises, Wilson proceeds to tell us exactly what that condition is:

"when we have faith that works its way out in love, which is the only thing that genuine faith can do, then the condition that God has set for the fulfillment of His promise has been met. Can we fulfill our covenant responsibilities (by believing) and yet have God fail to fulfill His promise? It is not possible."

Pay close attention to what Wilson said. How do we "fulfill our covenant responsibilities"? We fulfill them "by believing"! In other words, if we have faith, then by that faith alone we have fulfilled our covenant responsibilities, and God will fulfill His covenant promise to us. This is sola fide, pure and simple!

And earlier on page 186, Wilson is even clearer:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity . . ."

How much more clearly does he have to say it? He obviously believes that the promises are fulfilled on the basis of faith alone, NOT on the basis of faithfulness. But this is another example of your selective quoting. You left off this first half of the sentence, and only quoted the second part, which correctly points out that "faith . . . is inseparable from faithfulness". And I already responded to this point above. Faith is inseparable from faithfulness. However, faith is most certainly NOT *identical* to faithfulness. The head of a penny is not the tail of a penny, and the tail of a penny is not the head of a penny. Nevertheless, they are quite inseparable. Likewise, justification and santification are not each other. But they are most certainly inseparable. You cannot get one without also getting the other. Faith and works are not each other, but they are inseparable. You cannot have one without also having the other. Nevertheless, we all agree that our justification is based on the faith, not on the faithfulness. This is the classic Reformed distinction, and Wilson upholds it quite explicitly.


Originally posted by Magma2

Wilson favorably quotes Randy Booth: "Only faithful covenant membership (i.e., those full of faith in the Savior), receive the covenant blessings, including the blessings of imputed righteousness" (175, emphasis added). Read that sentence again Joseph. The imputation of Christ's righteousness is the result of being a faithful covenant member.

The answer to your objection is contained in the very quote you are using! In the context of the sentence you quoted, who exactly does Wilson say is "faithful"? He explicitly says that the faithful are "those full of faith in the Savior". So Wilson is saying that only those with faith in the Savior receive imputed righteousness. Amen to that! That is what every Reformed person believes, including yourself!

Let's think about the parable of the sheep and the goats for a moment. Is anything said in that parable about faith? No. The good works of the sheep are pointed out, and then they are ushered into Heaven. The evil works of the goats are pointed out, and then they are ushered into Hell. Some people falsely interpret this parable as teaching some sort of works salvation, but Wilson is not one of them. It is true that those with good works are sent to Heaven, and those with evil works are sent to hell. However, every good Reformed exegete recognizes that the good/evil works serve as a *barometer*, not as a *grounds*. In other words, the works a person does demonstrate whether or not he/she has faith. The sheep are NOT rewarded on the grounds of their good works. They are rewarded on the grounds of Christ's imputed righteousness, which is only granted on the basis of faith alone, not faith plus works. However, these good works DO demonstrate the fact that the sheep have true faith. --- It is kind of like me saying that "I don't want to go outside because the thermometer is red all the way to the top." My statement is a true statement. But does the ultimate reason I want to stay inside have anything to do with the thermometer color? Of course not. My *grounds* for not going outside are because it is very *hot* outside. Whether I had a thermometer or not, the heat is the actual thing that would keep me indoors. --- Likewise, good works are a "thermometer" in the parable of the sheep and goats. Jesus can point out the sheep's good works, and then validly tell them "welcome home". But the works are no more the grounds of their welcome than the thermometer is the grounds of my staying indoors. Rather, Jesus welcomes them home on the grounds of His imputed righteousness which He gave to them via their faith alone. --- Wilson is saying nothing more than this. It is TRUE that only the faithful receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. But WHY do they receive the imputed righteousness of Christ? They do not receive it BECAUSE of their faithfulness. Rather, they receive it BECAUSE they are "full of faith in the Savior", just as Wilson explicitly says.

In short, just because Wilson says one thing (imputed righteousness) is only given to one group (the faithful), that does NOT mean that the imputation is given on the *grounds* of their faithfulness. Wilson is doing nothing more than restating the classic phrase: "Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone." He *never* claims that the *grounds* of imputation are in works of any kind.


Originally posted by Magma2

I can see you didn´t get the point of his book.

Right back at ya.


:book2:
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Magma2
I forgive you Joseph.

Thank you Sean. Your graciousness is much appreciated. My fervor is directed towards this discussion itself, and not towards you personally. I respect you, and I respect your intentions.

Originally posted by Magma2
If you really believe that salvation is by belief alone - plus nothing, you need to see that Wilson does not and that while he wraps himself in the Reformed Confessions he twists their meaning to fit his anti-Christian paradigm.

With all of my heart, with every fiber of my being, I believe that salvation is by belief alone. Justification and Sanctification should never be confused with one another. (That is one case in which we should all *not* follow dear old Augustine!)

Where I disagree with you is regarding Douglas Wilson and the FV in general. I do not think they disagree with you and me and the WCF on this critical point. I truly do believe they are being misunderstood. I think some of the fault is theirs. Some of them (especially Wilkins) could afford to be clearer in their presentation of what they believe. But on the other hand, I think a lot of blame belongs in the TR camp. Many Reformed theologians have been VERY uncharitable and uncareful in their readings of Wilson et al. The mistakes you have made in understanding Wilson's writings are the same mistakes I see numerous others making frequently. And it deeply saddens me. I truly believe a number of people have already staunchly made up their minds, and are now "heresy hunters", just looking for any way possible to discredit Wilson, Wilkins, Jordan, etc. And apparently people think it is OK to use selective quotations to make it appear as if these men said things that are diametrically opposed to their actual beliefs, to the actual context of the writings from which such quotes are taken. The intentions may be good, initially. But the result is slander, nonetheless, even if it is unintentional slander. And unintentional slander hurts the reputations of good Christian men.

If Douglas Wilson ever denies justification by faith alone, I will be on the front lines, right beside you, shooting at him with theological darts. But I have never seen Wilson deny sola fide. So far, all I have seen is a bunch of quotations taken out of context, twisted, trying to peg Wilson with beliefs that he doesn't even hold.


I repeat what I said earlier:
Until a person can articulate his opponent's view in such a way that the *opponent* will agree with it, he has not yet properly understood his opponent's view, and therefore has no business critiquing it.


I *beg* you to back off just long enough to engage Douglas Wilson *personally*. Email Wilson and/or his personal assistant. Clearly tell him where you think he is heretical, and give him an opportunity to respond directly and personally to your questions. That is the truly Christian approach. And if you take the time to dialogue with him, I think you will find that his view on salvation is NOT different from yours. He just articulates himself using lingo and definitions that you aren't comfortable with. Maybe he is unwise to use such lingo and such definitions. Maybe not. But even if he is totally wrong to use his lingo and definitions, the fact remains that the *content* of his teaching on salvation is *no different* from that of the WCF.

And if ANYONE deviates from the WCF on salvation, you'd better believe that I will be the first one to cry foul!

Your brother in Christ,
Joseph

[Edited on 4-4-2006 by biblelighthouse]
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
One thing to bear in mind: When we talk about relationship, we look at it from both sides, being still trapped in this sinful human mind. We would no doubt agree that there are those who are in relationship to God through His church, just as we would say we are.

But the all important distinction made in justification is that the relationship is from God's side. What is the misery of that estate? All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse... In justification, those sinners gain communion with God. And how is it that communion with God is gained? Not because man wants a relationship from his side, but because God institutes or decrees a relationship from His side. The FV denies this because they see the covenant as a two-way street. It is not a two-way street.

The elect have a relationship to God only through their mediator Christ, whose perfect obedience has extended to them, which they receive by faith alone, His righteousness, by which they are justified. The relationship is all one sided.

Matthew 7:21-23 spells this out rather succinctly. There will be those who clearly have a relationship to Christ by virtue of their being in the church and even in the ministry. So, why are they cast out? Because they didn't work hard enough? Because their hearts weren't in the right place? No. They are cast out because Christ did not have a relationship with them. They are under God's wrath and curse. That relationship only comes by Christ through the Holy Spirit because there is a chasm between God and man that only God can cross.

So we need to be careful when we talk about relationship. Our day is filled with the incorrect assumption that we can have a personal relationship with God. I think it is quite the other way around. God can have a personal relationship with us. And the way that relationship is fostered is only by the mediatorial relationship Christ has to the covenant, the faith He gives us as a gift by His grace, and His justifying the sinner by His perfect obedience through that faith and nothing else.

Many in our world want to have a relationship to God. But only the elect truly do. To the rest He will say, "Depart from me you workers of inquity. I never knew you."

In Christ,

KC
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
You are free to believe this, just as many Reformed Baptists do. But this is not the historic Reformed position. Neither older (Witsius) Reformed nor newer (McMahon) Reformed would agree with you. Just look at Dr. Matthew McMahon's chart on Covenant Theology. He says:

"Believers and Unbelievers included in the Old Testament administrations of the Covenant of Grace . . . . men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Esau, Moses, Korah, Saul, David, and Solomon in covenant with God. They will prove themselves to be covenant keepers or covenant breakers. Only the regenerate are able to keep covenant with God although all are required to obey."

Amen! And if anybody today is in tune with historic Reformed (especially Puritan) theology, it is Dr. C. Matthew McMahon!

Sean, you keep missing the point that it is *impossible* to be a covenant breaker without first being a covenant member.


You will not find any support in the WCF, LC or SC for the idea that God´s Covenant is with reprobate members of the church. God´s Covenant is with the elect alone. This may not be the position of a lot of P&R men these days, but it is the position of the WCF and it is biblical. Further, as you might recall, it turned out that Dr. McMahon and I are closer on our understanding of the Covenant than you might hope. You might also recall Fred Greco´s remarks to you as well which I wholeheartedly agreed with:

The outward administration is not substantive - it is dross that burns away. The non-elect are like guests at the wedding feast who do not have wedding clothes, and that shows that they never belonged there in the first place. or like the thief who climbs over the wall instead of going through the gate. Just because one thinks that one is in relationship with God does not mean that he is.

Now compare this with Wilson´s covenant where even the reprobate are, in your words, "œfull fledged covenant members." In Wilson´s covenant magic baptism is always efficacious in bringing men into union with Christ. Along with the rejection of the idea of the Church invisible, which cannot be photographed, in Wilson´s theology there is no logical connection between the doctrine of election and the covenant. This is a rejection of the Reformed doctrine of the Covenant even if you can´t see it. That´s because, per Wilson, all who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are initiated into a "œhistoric, objective and visible covenant relationship":

This consecration really happens. God really does it. His people are genuinely set apart; a visible difference is placed between them and the world. By means of baptism, baptism by water, grace and salvation is conferred on the elect (107 "“ emphasis in the original).

This puts Wilson in a uncomfortable position, because even he recognizes the absurdity of the sacramentalist understanding of baptismal regeneration:

Of course there are baptized covenant members who are not individually regenerate. They are the ones who reject what God is offering to them in their baptism. They therefore fall away from the covenant and not from election . . . . (104 "“ emphasis in the original).


It should be obvious that Wilson has adopted the error of the so-called "œWell Meant Offer" and confined it to all baptized members of the church. For Wilson the elect are not simply those who are actually regenerate or born again, but are all those who have ever been baptized. Or, as John Barach proclaimed at the Auburn Conference in his lecture, Covenant and Election; "œWho are the elect? This is as visible and obvious as your church membership roll . . . ." In Auburn Avenue theology what makes a person a Christian are not the propositions believed, it is the water of baptism. Becoming a Christian is the result of being photographed at the baptismal font. Through the water of baptism God bestows "œgrace and salvation" even on those who are ultimately lost. Salvation is something that takes place within this "œcovenant relationship" lived by those "œelected" into the covenant via the water of baptism and who persevere until the end, i.e., the "œspecially elect." Further, since grace is offered to all those who are baptized, conversion becomes the "œapplied grace of their baptism."

Per Wilson, God imposes obligations on us in baptism and it´s how we live that decides our salvation. Wilson repeatedly tells us in his book this relationship is much like an unfaithful husband who, even while mired in infidelity, still has "œall the obligations of marriage." Like being a faithful and dutiful spouse, we must do our part. Salvation is not the result of Christ´s work completely alone and apart from us, but is something worked in us "œcorporately" as we persevere and live out our lives in covenantal faithfulness. For Wilson, believing is doing and Christians are saved by fulfilling conditions of the covenant:

In the historic Protestant view, good works are inseparable from biblical salvation. They are not a condiment to flavor a "˜raw´ justification, but rather are definitionally related to justification . . . like the terms husband and wife (173 "“ emphasis in the original).

Good works and justification are reciprocals. Justification is not the cause or ground of sanctification and good works, but the equivalent. In Wilson´s anti-covenant soteriology, the good news of salvation by mere belief alone is rejected in favor of "œcovenantal faithfulness." After all, and read this closely Joseph, Wilson argues, "œNo one assumes that every husband will automatically have a successful marriage. Nor should we assume that every Christian will go to Heaven." According to Wilson´s antichristian theology some Christians go to Hell. For Wilson the covenant is conditional and it´s through faith that we are enabled to meet these conditions.

Wilson´s scheme and his credo is completely anti-Christian. It is a clever counterfeit that you have bought hook-line-and-sinker.


The problem is that you *refuse* to let him define himself. He doesn't use the word "Christian" the same way you do, so please quit trying to act as if he does! You define "Christian" as "regenerate". But Wilson does not. If we define "Christian" as meaning "covenant member", then there is absolutely nothing wrong with Wilson's statement that there are unregenerate Christians!

Yes, there is something very wrong with Wilson´s definition of what makes a man a Christian. That should be obvious from what I´ve supplied above. If you can´t see that, then I am very concerned for your soul Joseph.


In other words, there is nothing wrong with saying that there are unregenerate covenant members. If I adhere to Wilson's usage of the word "Christian", then there is nothing wrong with me saying that "Judas was a Christian". There would be nothing wrong with me saying that "Esau was a Christian". Like I pointed out earlier, Dr. McMahon himself wrote right on his Covenant Theology chart that Esau was a member of the covenant of grace.


The confessional standards of the church that I am currently a member is supposed to be the WCF, not the writings and opinions of Dr. McMahon. Also, at least from my earlier exchange with Dr. McMahon on this subject, it appears that he too is in agreement with what Fred Greco says above and that non-elect are only members in the sense of being under the outward administration of the CoG. Therefore, Judas was NOT a Christian in any sense. That is one of the most absurd statements I have almost ever read.

1) "faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness"

Amen! That is precisely what is taught by every Reformed theologian I know.

Prove it Joseph. No Reformed theologian that I have ever read has ever equated and confused faithfulness with faith. Of course, I don´t consider Wilson and his ilk Reformed theologians, rather they are nicely disguised wolves.

If I understand you correctly, you think it is horrible that Wilson says that God has set a "condition" for the fulfillment of His promise. Am I correct that this is what bothers you?

Well, let's ask the question: Is there any "condition" on our part, in order to receive salvation?

You bet your boots there is a condition! But WHAT is that condition? Is it works (Pelagianism), faith plus works (Catholicism / Arminianism), or is it faith alone (Reformed)? Of course we know the answer is "faith alone". Faith is the *only* condition on our part. (And even that condition is met by God Himself, for He gives us faith as a gift.)

While Gordon Clark has provided a much needed corrective to the traditional and grossly deficient "œtraditional" definition of saving faith, the problem with Wilson is that he denies that salvation is by mere belief alone. This goes back to his equating faith with faithfulness, something you agree with and applaud. Wilson denies that one is saved by believing the message of the Gospel alone, apart from anything we do as he made clear in his interview with Christian Renewal when asked if salvation is by faith alone, Wilson replied; "Not bare bones faith. Not assent. Devils have that. True faith is more than assent.... we say faith cannot be separated from trust and obedience, and...we say saving faith cannot be separated from a life of obedience and trust."

Notice faith = obedience and an obedient faith is a doing faith. Believing is doing. You agree with that don´t you Joseph? The WCF defines justification as occurring completely apart from any "œevangelical obedience" whatsoever. Not so for Wilson . . . and evidently not you either.

Sean, the problem is that you are selectively quoting Wilson. For what I just said is what Wilson himself said in the very next sentence after the quotation you gave. Immediately after speaking about the "condition" of receiving God's promises, Wilson proceeds to tell us exactly what that condition is:

"when we have faith that works its way out in love, which is the only thing that genuine faith can do, then the condition that God has set for the fulfillment of His promise has been met. Can we fulfill our covenant responsibilities (by believing) and yet have God fail to fulfill His promise? It is not possible."

Pay close attention to what Wilson said. How do we "fulfill our covenant responsibilities"? We fulfill them "by believing"! In other words, if we have faith, then by that faith alone we have fulfilled our covenant responsibilities, and God will fulfill His covenant promise to us. This is sola fide, pure and simple!


Perhaps that is sola fide in your mind, but not in mine or in the mind of the writers of the WCF. But thank you for that additional citation since it again highlights Wilson´s heresy. Works done by faith are necessary conditions for salvation. Nothing could be clearer. Thanks Joseph. Salvation is conditioned upon OUR fulfilling OUR covenant responsibilities and this, in your mind, is sola fide! Amazing.

Faith and works are not each other, but they are inseparable. You cannot have one without also having the other. Nevertheless, we all agree that our justification is based on the faith, not on the faithfulness. This is the classic Reformed distinction, and Wilson upholds it quite explicitly.

Wilson confounds the two. That´s the point. His view of salvation is substantively no different from any modern Roman Catholic. I suggest you spend some time on Catholic boards discussing the RC doctrine of salvation. You might find you have a lot in common. They too deny that a man is justified by merely believing the Gospel, but rather a "œfully formed faith" is what saves a man. Like Wilson they believe saving faith is an obedient faith; it´s a faith that works.

I´ll have to take up your misunderstanding of the parable of the sheep and the goats at a later time, God willing. In the meantime, I recommend you read Dr. Robbins´ piece, Justification and Judgment, at http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=117 . In the piece he examines the role of works as evidence in light of Mat. 7:21-23. I think you need to read it. If nothing else it should demonstrate how far apart you and I really are.

If Douglas Wilson ever denies justification by faith alone, I will be on the front lines, right beside you, shooting at him with theological darts. But I have never seen Wilson deny sola fide. So far, all I have seen is a bunch of quotations taken out of context, twisted, trying to peg Wilson with beliefs that he doesn't even hold.


Joseph, while I admit it would be helpful for you if Wilson were just to come out and say; "œI deny justification by belief alone." He´s too clever for that and For what it's worth I don´t consider him an idiot. However, he has expressed his denial of JBFA in many different ways and on many different occasions. Some men have been willing to excuse Wilson as a confused and contradictory man who really doesn´t know what he is saying. However, like Beisner above, too many are coming to the realization that these men mean exactly what they say and it is their intent to confuse. Unfortunately, the time for surgery has passed and these men missed their chance. The cancer has long since metastized, which, I suppose, is why we're having this discussion.
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
I want to comment a little more on the equivalence in Wilson and Joseph of faith and faithfulness. Websters defines faithful as:

1 obsolete : full of faith
2 : steadfast in affection or allegiance : LOYAL
3 : firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty : CONSCIENTIOUS
4 : given with strong assurance : BINDING <faithful promise>
5 : true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original

I had cited Wilson´s endorsement of Randy Booth who said; "Only faithful covenant membership (i.e., those full of faith in the Savior), receive the covenant blessings, including the blessings of imputed righteousness." Joseph objects that "œWilson is saying that only those with faith in the Savior receive imputed righteousness." So it would seem that for Wilson faithful really does not mean faithful in the sense of definitions 2 through 5. As born sinners we are not steadfast in affection or allegiance; we do not firmly adhere to promises we make or in observance of our duty; we can find no basis for assurance in ourselves; and we are not prone to being true to any standard, much less to Christ who we call our Lord. Only the obsolete usage of faithfulness is left.

But look again at Booth´s statement; "œonly faithful covenant membership (i.e., those full of faith in the Savior), receive the covenant blessings, including the blessings of imputed righteousness." It is OUR faithful covenant membership that enables us to receive the blessings of the covenant, including the imputation of Christ´s righteousness. Wilson has already told us that some Christians who are unfaithful to the conditions of the covenant and go to Hell. Wilson has already recast justification as an eschatological category. Wilson has already compared the covenant with a marriage where as faithful husbands we must be true to our vows to our wives if we´re to be justified in our claims of being good husbands. In Wilson´s conditional covenant we all must do our part if we can ever hope to obtain our "œfinal justification" and all the blessings of the covenant, including imputation.

Wilson has already told us that both elect and non-elect members of the covenant are "œfull fledged" members of the CoG. Wilson has already told us that by "œmeans of baptism, baptism by water, grace and salvation is conferred on the elect." However, before nodding in agreement, we must also remember that in Wilson´s reworking of the covenant, not only should the church be thought of in terms of "œhistoric and eschatological," but election should be thought of in these terms too, as is evident from Wilson´s quote of Joel Garver´s "œA Brief Catechesis on Covenant and Baptism":

. . . it is precisely in our "˜covenantal´ election that "˜special´ election is realized and made known. Thus we should not drive a wedge between "˜special´ and "˜covenantal elections, for special election simply is covenantal election for those, who by God´s sovereign electing grace, persevere. For those who fall away, covenantal election devolves into reprobation (139 "“ emphasis mine).

Election becomes reprobation. Election and reprobation are no longer eternal realities which God has determined before the foundation of the world, they are states which men enter by their actions: baptism and "œcovenant faithfulness."

Wilson has already told us that "œpropositions without works are dead "“ even if the propositions are true." Wilson in his arrogance disagrees with Jesus Christ who said that even the very words He spoke were "œspirit and they are life" and those who believe His words, doctrines, propositions "“ apart from any work wrought in them or done by them "“ have "œpassed out of death into life." Therefore, and for many more reasons, one cannot logically arrive at any other conclusion other than Wilson intends to apply any combination of definitions 2 through 5 as necessary components for what he means by faithful covenant membership. He intentionally confuses and confounds justification with sanctification, and like his fellow brothers from Rome, ends up with neither. Unless he repents Wilson will go to Hell along with all those so eager to follow him.
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
As Dr. Clark has said, the FV makes Baptism into Law, not Gospel. Baptism becomes a grace which WE must COOPERATE with and AID in order to see the grace succeed. As for Justification, every FV advocate I have read states that when one is baptized into the covenant, they are "full fledged" members of the Covenant of Grace, and have received "all the benefits of Christ" ... except for perseverance of course. That is now, according to the FV, our responsibility. When you abandon the distinction between legal and communal membership within the Covenant, you abandon Reformed theology, and you abandon the Gospel of God's Grace towards sinners.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Sean,

You are clearly revealing your utter unwillingness to pay attention. You have little charity for your Christian brothers. Instead of simply trying to understand what is being spoken to you, you seek for any way you can to stretch & twist the words of others, or even to tell outright lies.

Since you are not open to either Scripture or logic, I won't waste my time unwinding all of your sophistry in your post. However, I will point out one very blatant error you made which is appalling.

I said, "true faith and true faithfulness ARE inseparable. They are inseparable, but they are not identical. And I think this may be where you are misinterpreting Douglas Wilson. He is not saying that faith = works. Rather, he is simply saying that works are inseparable from faith, and will always flow from true faith."

And then, incredibly, you responded:


Originally posted by Magma2

Prove it Joseph. No Reformed theologian that I have ever read has ever equated and confused faithfulness with faith. . . . the problem with Wilson is that he denies that salvation is by mere belief alone. This goes back to his equating faith with faithfulness, something you agree with and applaud. Wilson denies that one is saved by believing the message of the Gospel alone . . .

Notice faith = obedience and an obedient faith is a doing faith. Believing is doing. You agree with that don´t you Joseph?

No, I most certainly do NOT agree with that. But apparently you don't even take the time to read my posts. I EXPLICITLY said that faith and works are "not identical", and that Wilson is NOT saying that faith = works. What part of "NO" don't you understand?

This is how our conversation is going:


Sean: I hate Wilson because he thinks faith and works are the same thing.
Joseph: No, Wilson doesn't believe that. Wilson and I both agree that faith and works are NOT identical, and are NOT the same thing.
Sean: You believe that faith and works are the same thing? You think faith and works are equated? You are a heretic!


Your lack of attention is staggering. It would be one thing if you merely misunderstood some fine point of my argument. But when you blatantly claim that I said something directly OPPOSITE of what I said, your actions border on slander.


And I repeat --- on page 186, Wilson is even clearer:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity . . ."



Sean, what part of "not" don't you understand? You sound like a broken record. Try READING my posts for a change, and actually responding to them, instead of responding to the imaginary evil straw-man in your head.



LET ME BE VERY CLEAR:

1) FAITH AND FAITHFULNESS ARE NOT TO BE EQUATED. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. THEY ARE DISTINCT.

2) SALVATION IS BY FAITH ALONE, NOT FAITH PLUS FAITHFULNESS.


Is that clear enough for you, Sean? Or is the word "not" still too hard for you to see in my posts?

[Edited on 4-4-2006 by biblelighthouse]
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
As Dr. Clark has said, the FV makes Baptism into Law, not Gospel. Baptism becomes a grace which WE must COOPERATE with and AID in order to see the grace succeed.

I have never seen any FV person claim that.

The only "cooperation" we have to give is FAITH. That's it. And even that faith is a gift from God. So while the "cooperation" of our faith is required, we cannot even take credit for that.

Do you believe a person must respond to God in faith, or not? If your answer is "yes", then you agree that faith is a condition. That is ALL they are saying, nothing more, nothing less. This is sola fide, pure and simple. The ONLY "cooperation" Wilson is talking about is FAITH, not FAITHFULNESS. And even he would agree that the faith itself is a gift from God.



Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
As for Justification, every FV advocate I have read states that when one is baptized into the covenant, they are "full fledged" members of the Covenant of Grace, and have received "all the benefits of Christ" ... except for perseverance of course.

Not one FV person teaches this, as far as I know.

They teach that all the benefits of Christ are there for the taking, but they can ONLY be apprehended by FAITH ALONE. So just because they say that all the benefits of Christ are offered, does NOT mean they believe that every covenant member actually POSESSES them ontologically.

And you are totally wrong to suggest that they teach such a thing about perseverance. They do not! They do NOT teach that the only difference between covenant members is a matter of "perseverance" (i.e. duration in the covenant). You may be able to find some quotes where they say that perseverance is *one* important difference between the two groups, but it certainly is not the *only* difference:

Just for example, the AAPC summary statement says that the difference between those who persevere and those who do not is "not to be reduced to the time of their duration in the covenant". Indeed, employing this very point, it goes on to say, "œGod does work "˜effectually´ in those whom He has predestined to eternal life so that they do not fall away in unbelief. In this sense, we may say that there are things which are true of the "˜elect´ which are never true of the reprobate. But these distinctions"¦are impossible to recognize at the beginnings of one´s Christian experience within the visible church."




In other words, there ARE ontological differences between elect covenant members and non-elect covenant members. All they are saying is that the differences are something we cannot visibly see to begin with. And that is right in line with 1 John 2:19.


You see, Gabriel, I would agree with you in pointing the finger at them if they believed the things you say they believe. But you are simply incorrect.

Their theology may be formulated in an odd way, and you and I can disagree with it all we like. But neither of us has any right to make the rash accusation that they have somehow denied the Gospel! They may be in a different camp, but they are certainly not as far away from us as you think! They AGREE that salvation is by faith ALONE. And they AGREE that there is a real ontological difference between elect covenant members and reprobate covenant members.




[Edited on 4-4-2006 by biblelighthouse]
 

AdamM

Puritan Board Freshman
Sean,

You are clearly revealing your utter unwillingness to pay attention. You have little charity for your Christian brothers. Instead of simply trying to understand what is being spoken to you, you seek for any way you can to stretch & twist the words of others, or even to tell outright lies.

Since you are not open to either Scripture or logic, I won't waste my time unwinding all of your sophistry in your post. However, I will point out one very blatant error you made which is appalling.

Joseph, I think one could assume by the harsh tone of your response, that the demand for charity toward Christian brothers is sort of one way street.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Everyone:

This topic is of great importance, especially in our day and age. I have enjoyed the back and forth, and I am especially interested in studying this issue. Of course I have my opinions, but for now, am just watching, but remember so are others.

[Moderator hat]
That being said, personal attacks do not help in this debate, but rather detract from the issues at hand. The debate is not about who is or is not lying, for obviously only one side can be right. Instead, please concentrate on the issues or the thread will be closed.
[/Moderator hat]
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by AdamM
Sean,

You are clearly revealing your utter unwillingness to pay attention. You have little charity for your Christian brothers. Instead of simply trying to understand what is being spoken to you, you seek for any way you can to stretch & twist the words of others, or even to tell outright lies.

Since you are not open to either Scripture or logic, I won't waste my time unwinding all of your sophistry in your post. However, I will point out one very blatant error you made which is appalling.

Joseph, I think one could assume by the harsh tone of your response, that the demand for charity toward Christian brothers is sort of one way street.


Adam,

My call for charity regards the matter of whether we call a person a "brother in Christ", or whether we call him a "heretic". We should exercise EXTREME charity in this regard, and should exercise MUCH charity and care before using the "h" word".

But I have not called Sean a heretic. Far from it! I have no doubt that he trusts in Christ for his salvation. Rather, he has essentially done that to me. By publically assuming that I equate faith with faithfulness, he is trying to suggest that I have denied the Gospel. So my harsh reply was quite appropriate . . . especially since I had made it abundantly clear in my previous posts that I reject the idea that faith & faithfulness are identical.

When I clearly state something, and then someone else blatantly says that I said the opposite, you had better believe I will reply in no uncertain terms. In spite of my clear posts, Sean said that I believed the very opposite of what I had actually said. And those are fighting words!

I do not take it lightly when someone suggests that I have denied the Gospel!


Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Everyone:

This topic is of great importance, especially in our day and age. I have enjoyed the back and forth, and I am especially interested in studying this issue. Of course I have my opinions, but for now, am just watching, but remember so are others.

[Moderator hat]
That being said, personal attacks do not help in this debate, but rather detract from the issues at hand. The debate is not about who is or is not lying, for obviously only one side can be right. Instead, please concentrate on the issues or the thread will be closed.
[/Moderator hat]

Jeff, please see my comments to Adam above. I am surprised that you are directing your moderator comments to me, rather than to Sean.


I am more than happy to discuss the issues with a cool head. But if anyone wants to deny my clear statements that I reject the equation of "faith" with "faithfulness", then he will get my feathers in a ruffle. And I will respond accordingly. If he doesn't like this, then simply don't accuse me of things I clearly say I don't believe!


Now . . . let's get back to the discussion . . .

I would like for Sean, or anyone else, respond to what I pointed out above. For example, please respond to Doug Wilson's statement on page 186 of his book, where he explicitly denies that God's promises are apprehended by anything other than faith alone, NOT faithfulness.

In other words, on page 186, Wilson explicitly affirms sola fide.



[Edited on 4-5-2006 by biblelighthouse]
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by biblelighthouse
Jeff, please see my comments to Adam above. I am surprised that you are directing your moderator comments to me, rather than to Sean.

Just for clarification, my comments were directed to anyone involved in this conversation, not just to you Joseph. ;)
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
And you are totally wrong to suggest that they teach such a thing about perseverance. They do not! They do NOT teach that the only difference between covenant members is a matter of "perseverance" (i.e. duration in the covenant).

Joseph, I´m not going to comment on a number of things you wrote since I believe your mind is closed to any criticism leveled against Wilson and the rest of his fellow Neo-Legalists. However, you are wrong, Wilson and the rest of his ilk deny the doctrine of perseverance since, as I´ve already shown you, Wilson says some Christians go to Hell. In addition, Joel Garver who Wilson quotes favorably also said this:

. . . election is only revealed in and through the covenant. The covenant people are the elect people of God in Christ, the Elect One of God. Sadly, many of those who are among the elect people will turn out to be reprobate through apostasy. Nonetheless, God's purposes stand as he gathers his elect people in and through the covenant. Those who persevere in faith have no one to thank but God in his free and sovereign electing love poured out--salvation is by grace alone. Those who apostatize have no one to blame but themselves for having squandered God's good gifts . . . . If someone is in Christ by baptism--united to the Head as a member of the Body--then, that person is elect. If that person apostatizes and no longer abides in Christ (like the branches in John 15), he is no longer elect in Christ, but is reprobate, should he never repent and return. Whatever time we abide in Christ is a manifestation of God's electing love for us and faithfulness to us (http://www.lasalle.edu/~garver/cateches.htm "“ emphasis mine).


There is so much wrong with the above quote that it is almost too much to make mention, but you´ll notice that, while not the only error, even you should be able to see a complete denial of the doctrine of perseverance in the above. Baptism IS election and some of the elect who do not persevere are lost. This is gross heresy and it is exactly what Wilson teaches and endorses.

Their theology may be formulated in an odd way, and you and I can disagree with it all we like. But neither of us has any right to make the rash accusation that they have somehow denied the Gospel! They may be in a different camp, but they are certainly not as far away from us as you think! They AGREE that salvation is by faith ALONE. And they AGREE that there is a real ontological difference between elect covenant members and reprobate covenant members.

It´s not that their formulation is odd, the problem is it is wrong. Also, there has been nothing rash in coming to the conclusion that these men are heterodox to the core. What you still fail to grasp is that these men deny that a man is justified by mere, or as Wilson says, "œraw" belief alone. We´re saved through the means of baptism and covenantal obedience. Of course, it may not be that you fail to grasp what these men are saying, it´s also very likely that you simply agree with them. OTOH, you were correct when you said:

You may be able to find some quotes where they say that perseverance is *one* important difference between the two groups, but it certainly is not the *only* difference:

I very much agree. There is not one of the 5 points of Calvinism that men like Wilson do not redefine and ultimately deny. By their teaching they have marked themselves as being outside of the faith. The fact that the PCA and the OPC do not discipline the many prominent men in their ranks who teach such things, men like Steve Wilkins, Peter Leithart, John Kinnaird and many others, is merely evidence that the PCA and OPC have ceased to function as Christian churches. While I still hope against hope that this isn´t the case, my guess is their death certificates have already been issued and I´m just too slow to notice.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Originally posted by biblelighthouse
Jeff, please see my comments to Adam above. I am surprised that you are directing your moderator comments to me, rather than to Sean.

Just for clarification, my comments were directed to anyone involved in this conversation, not just to you Joseph. ;)

Thank you, Jeff. Please forgive me for jumping to conclusions.

Your brother in Christ,
Joseph
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am more than happy to discuss the issues with a cool head. But if anyone wants to deny my clear statements that I reject the equation of "faith" with "faithfulness", then he will get my feathers in a ruffle. And I will respond accordingly. If he doesn't like this, then simply don't accuse me of things I clearly say I don't believe!

I´m glad to hear you reject the equation of faith with faithfulness. For what it's worth I never realized in any of my responses to you that you were under discussion, so I apologize for ruffling your feathers. However, while you do not equate faith with faithfulness, Wilson does.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Magma2

I´m glad to hear you reject the equation of faith with faithfulness. For what it's worth I never realized in any of my responses to you that you were under discussion, so I apologize for ruffling your feathers. However, while you do not equate faith with faithfulness, Wilson does.

Thank you for understanding where I stand.

As for Wilson, no, he does not equate faith with faithfulness. In fact, he says just the opposite:

on page 186, Wilson is clear:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity . . ."



Again, saying that faith and faithfulness are inseparable is not at all the same as saying that they are identical.

He is not saying that faith and faithfulness are to be equated. He is merely saying that you can't have one without the other. And as far as I know, every Reformed person in history has agreed with that fact. If you get justification, then you are also certain to get sanctification and glorification. They are not all the same thing, but they are all inseparably connected.
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
As for Wilson, no, he does not equate faith with faithfulness. In fact, he says just the opposite:

on page 186, Wilson is clear:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity . . ."

Why is this surprising? As a consummate Van Tilian Wilson is well trained in the art of dialectics where he can affirm something out of one side of his mouth while denying it out of the other. Dealing in contradictory language is his stock and trade. After all, since VT asserts that all of Scripture is apparently contradictory, with no method by which we can tell the apparently from the really contradictory, why should the theology of those like Wilson walking in VT's footsteps be any different?

Since you seem thankfully somewhat receptive to the Dr. McMahon, consider what he wrote concerning Wilson:

In affirming such doctrines as justification by faith alone out of one side of his mouth, he demonstrates blatantly to the reader that he believes something different out of the other side of his mouth. [http://www.apuritansmind.com/BookReviews/Sourpuss/WilsonDouglasReformedNotEnough.htm]

You should read the above review yourself and, just as an aside, McMahon says; "œJudas was not a Christian." And, while I´m at it:

Only those for whom Christ died are partakers of the benefits of the covenant of grace made with them, as the Westminster Confession of Faith says and Wilson denies. He would have anyone who says they are a "œChristian" in that covenant, and a partaker of it. Question 31 in the Westminster Larger Catechism says, "œQ31: With whom was the covenant of grace made? A31: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed."

Finally he concludes with a short summary of Wilson´s many heresies which include:

3) He believes in corporate justification which overthrows individual justification and redefines covenant inclusion by baptism instead of faith.

4) He believes in sacerdotalism, and believes the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches baptismal regeneration (which it does not) and overthrows justification by faith alone.

. . . 6) He believes baptism is efficacious for salvation (baptism saves, kept in his context) apart from faith.

7) He believes good works are the grounds by which one may have assurance of salvation specifically seen in accepting baptism without question. Baptism is then assurance (assurance by works).

8) He believes that faithfulness to the covenant is justifying (which is his corporate justification).


Read heresy number 8 again over and over to yourself until the light goes on ;)


Again, saying that faith and faithfulness are inseparable is not at all the same as saying that they are identical.

Let me guess; Dr. McMahon didn´t "œget it" either when he reviewed Reformed is Not Enough? Have I got it?

Look, if you want to believe that Wilson is your Christian brother and that he affirms JBFA and in no way conflates justification and sanctification don´t let me stop you. I´ve met quite few Romanists who say they affirm the imputation of Christ´s righteousness and even by faith alone. Of course, when you press them you find out that it is not mere belief alone that saves a man, but rather, citing James, they´ll tell you that it´s a "œfully formed"and obedient faith working its way out in love that ultimately saves. Sound familiar? Salvation is attained as we live our lives faithfully and in conformity to what God demands - and what their church commands - which is an explicit denial of the doctrine of imputation which my Romanist friends say they affirm.

My problem is that you are not carefully taking into account all that Wilson says and how he has carefully and surreptitiously redefined key terms. He has succeeded in making you think he´s saying one thing when in reality he means another. That´s why he´s such an effective and dangerous charlatan. He would make a great sideshow huckster and if his con only cost people their money rather than their souls, I wouldn't lose any sleep. Or, to put it another way, if Wilson´s novelties didn´t cut to the very heart of the gospel, which is JBFA, then perhaps I could be more charitable.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Magma2
As for Wilson, no, he does not equate faith with faithfulness. In fact, he says just the opposite:

on page 186, Wilson is clear:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity . . ."

Why is this surprising? As a consummate Van Tilian Wilson is well trained in the art of dialectics where he can affirm something out of one side of his mouth while denying it out of the other. Dealing in contradictory language is his stock and trade. After all, since VT asserts that all of Scripture is apparently contradictory, with no method by which we can tell the apparently from the really contradictory, why should the theology of those like Wilson walking in VT's footsteps be any different?

Just keep in mind that, by slamming VT, you are slamming probably the majority of Reformed theologians on this board. It's a separate debate that I don't care to enter into right now. But just keep that in mind. You aren't just slamming Wilson, you are slamming McMahon, and a number of others here on the PB, most of whom have nothing whatsoever to do with the FV.

Originally posted by Magma2

Since you seem thankfully somewhat receptive to the Dr. McMahon, consider what he wrote concerning Wilson:

In affirming such doctrines as justification by faith alone out of one side of his mouth, he demonstrates blatantly to the reader that he believes something different out of the other side of his mouth. [http://www.apuritansmind.com/BookReviews/Sourpuss/WilsonDouglasReformedNotEnough.htm]


Let me guess; Dr. McMahon didn´t "œget it" either when he reviewed Reformed is Not Enough? Have I got it?

Bingo. McMahon missed the point just as badly as you did. He doesn't have a clue what Wilson was saying, and neither do you.

I highly recommend you read this review of McMahon's critique. Craig Sowder and Keith Darrell soundly demonstrate how far off base McMahon was in his reading of Wilson's book. So instead of hashing out McMahon's critique with me, and reinventing the wheel, please read the excellent things these 2 guys have already written.

Originally posted by Magma2

My problem is that you are not carefully taking into account all that Wilson says and how he has carefully and surreptitiously redefined key terms. He has succeeded in making you think he´s saying one thing when in reality he means another.

My problem is that you are way too caught up in semantics. The word "justification" is nothing more than a placeholder for an idea. But that placeholder is not the idea itself. It is nothing more than a "j" and an "n" with lots of letters in between. Here is an example of why it is silly for you to get so caught up in semantics.

Frankly I see no difference between what Doug Wilson is doing with the word "justification" and what James did with the word "justification" in James 2. Please explain to me how you see any difference.


I can just see it now . . . You turn to a page in Doug Wilson's book, and see the phrase, "a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." And then you post that quote on the PuritanBoard as proof that Doug Wilson is a heretic. Basically, that is just what you have done!

Of course, as you probably know, that quote is not from Doug Wilson, but is from James 2:24. So there is certainly nothing heretical about it!

For some odd reason, you seem to think it is OK for James to use the word "justified" in this way, but that it is NOT ok for Doug Wilson to use the word "justified" in this way.

Would you please explain to me why you have this apparent double standard?




[Edited on 4-5-2006 by biblelighthouse]
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
Just keep in mind that, by slamming VT, you are slamming probably the majority of Reformed theologians on this board. It's a separate debate that I don't care to enter into right now. But just keep that in mind.

And your point is? Do you really think heretical notions like those of Norm Shepherd and Doug Wilson have been able to flourish in a vacuum? VT tilled the epistemic soil which enabled this rancid bed of heresy to grow . . . and, in my view, is the main reason why otherwise good Christian men in authority have been impotent to stop its spread.

Let me guess; Dr. McMahon didn´t "œget it" either when he reviewed Reformed is Not Enough? Have I got it?

Bingo. McMahon missed the point just as badly as you did. He doesn't have a clue what Wilson was saying, and neither do you.

I see, everyone is wrong except you Joseph. Thanks for the clarification.

I highly recommend you read this review of McMahon's critique. Craig Sowder and Keith Darrell soundly demonstrate how far off base McMahon was in his reading of Wilson's book. So instead of hashing out McMahon's critique with me, and reinventing the wheel, please read the excellent things these 2 guys have already written.

Maybe next you´ll quote Wilson and his review of the book I wrote with Dr. Robbins; Not Reformed At All where he called the book "œatrocious." :lol: That was my favorite review. :D Regardless, I´d rather read your refutation of McMahon.

My problem is that you are way too caught up in semantics. The word "justification" is nothing more than a placeholder for an idea. But that placeholder is not the idea itself. It is nothing more than a "j" and an "n" with lots of letters in between. Here is an example of why it is silly for you to get so caught up in semantics.

Yeah, we wouldn´t want clear definitions and the unambiguous use of words to interfere with the creative manipulation with eternal truths and doctrines. Perspectivalism in action. :)

Frankly I see no difference between what Doug Wilson is doing with the word "justification" and what James did with the word "justification" in James 2. Please explain to me how you see any difference.

I will agree I see no difference between what Doug Wilson is doing with the word "œjustification" and how his brothers in Rome understand what James did with the word in James 2. For Wilson James isn´t using the word to justify in a different sense, rather they both mean the same thing:

So what is meant by faith? According to James faith without works is dead; according to Paul faith is all sufficient for salvation. But what does James mean by faith? The answer is perfectly plain. The faith which James is condemning is a mere intellectual assent which has no effect upon conduct. The demons also, he says, have that sort of faith, and yet evidently they are not saved (James 2:19). What Paul means by faith is something entirely different; it is not a mere intellectual assent to certain propositions, but an attitude of the entire man by which the whole life is entrusted to Christ. In other words, the faith that James is condemning is not the faith that Paul is commending.

The solution of the whole problem is provided by Paul himself in a single phrase. In Gal. 5:6, he says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love." "Faith working through love" is the key to an understanding both of Paul and James. The faith about which Paul has been speaking is not the idle faith which James condemns, but a faith that works. It works itself out through love. And what love is Paul explains in the whole last division of Galatians. It is no mere emotion, but the actual fulfilling of the whole moral law. "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Gal. 5:14). Paul is fully as severe as James against a faith that permits men to continue in sin. The faith about which he is speaking is a faith that receives the Spirit who gives men power to lead a holy life.

You see, Paul and James both reject justification by mere belief alone, i.e., intellectual assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel, they both affirm a faith that works. Specifically, a faith that does the law. This is a faith that saves for both James and Paul. You´ll also notice Wilson´s brilliant use of double think and sleight of hand. It appears as if he is actually drawing a distinction between Paul and James, when in fact he asserts they´re both in agreement in that the faith that saves is the faith that works.

But you´re skeptical. You think being the unrelenting meanie that I am, I´m just not being fair to old Dougy and haven´t understood anything he´s written. Then let´s continue since this next part is great:

And so what is meant by works? Moreover, as the faith which James condemns is different from the faith which Paul commends, so also the works which James commends are different from the works which Paul condemns. Paul is speaking about "works of the law"-that is, works which are intended to earn salvation by fulfilling the law through human effort. James says nothing in chapter 2:14-26 about works of the law. The works of which he is speaking are works that spring from faith and are the expression of faith. Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice only because he believed God. His works are merely an evidence that his faith was real. Such works as that are insisted upon by Paul in every epistle. Without them no man can inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21). Only-and here again James would have been perfectly agreed-such works as that can spring only from faith. They can be accomplished not by human effort, but only by the reception of the power of God. http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=ArchivesByTopic&TopicID=14

Can any expression of salvation by FAITH AND WORKS be any clearer? When James and Paul talk about justification and its relationship to works they´re talking about the same thing and in the same sense.

I honestly don´t think the Pope could have done a better job than little Douglas here.:banana:
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Sean,

I have been following this argument with some interest. This is what I got from Wilson with your comments on him.

1. Wilson believes that Paul and James are in agreement (is that bad?)
2. Wilson believes that Paul and James use the word 'justification' in the same way.
3. Wilson solves the apparent tension between Paul and James by stating that they use the word 'faith' differently. They are in agreement; but their vocabulary is distinct (as I understand, most Reformed people agree with this, generally speaking, but many will say that the different vocabulary comes in with the word 'justification').
4. Wilson's view is that faith is more than assent (in which view he feels supported by Paul and James --or twists them wilfully in order to make it seem that way).
5. Therefore, Wilson is bad.

Have I understood you?
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have been following this argument with some interest. This is what I got from Wilson with your comments on him.

1. Wilson believes that Paul and James are in agreement (is that bad?)

Of course Paul and James are in agreement. What´s bad is the agreement Wilson asserts.

2. Wilson believes that Paul and James use the word 'justification' in the same way.
3. Wilson solves the apparent tension between Paul and James by stating that they use the word 'faith' differently. They are in agreement; but their vocabulary is distinct (as I understand, most Reformed people agree with this, generally speaking, but many will say that the different vocabulary comes in with the word 'justification').

When James tells us "œthat a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" he is NOT using the word to justify in the sense of being accounted righteous before the judgment seat of God. When Paul tells us "œthat a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law," he is using the word "œto justify" in exactly this sense. The deadly error of Wilson is that the agreement he finds between Paul and James is the same agreement maintained by Rome. Wilson rejects salvation by mere believe alone. He hates and bristles against it and denigrates mere belief as being somehow "œraw" or even Satanic. For Wilson a man is justified by having a faith that works, for him no other faith can save.

4. Wilson's view is that faith is more than assent (in which view he feels supported by Paul and James --or twists them wilfully in order to make it seem that way).
5. Therefore, Wilson is bad.

Have I understood you?

I think you have. Wilson has expertly capitalized on the grossly defective and tautological traditional three-fold definition of faith to great affect and has employed the dubious addition of "œfiducia" in order to smuggle in works as a necessary component of what makes faith saving:

It is the essential nature of fiducia to trust gladly in everything that God has spoken in His Word"”"”whether law or gospel, Old or New Testaments, poems or prose, odd-numbered pages or even. This means that fides salvifica is related to ongoing fidelity, trust or obedience in the same way that a body is related to breathing. Without a body, there is nothing to breathe with. Without breathing, there is something that needs to be buried.

Yet, contrary to Wilson's ongoing, obedience which he says is the only faith that saves, Jesus said; "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." Paul said; if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." Yet, in spite of this, for Wilson "œfides salvifica" requires our ongoing fidelity, trust and obedience. It´s not simply that those who so believe will evidence the truth of their faith before men by their good works, but rather the works of the law are a necessary element in what makes faith saving. By faith and works a man is justified and accounted righteous before the judgment seat of God. I would ask you to compare what Wilson says concerning saving faith in light of the WCF´s definition of justification and the role both belief and works of obedience play in our justification (For what it's worth Wilson also doesn't understand that faith and belief mean the same thing and are variants of the same Greek word, but that's for another post):

Those whom God effectually calleth he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone: not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith: which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.

You'll note that for Wilson good works and justification are reciprocals. Justification is not the cause or ground of sanctification and good works, but the equivalent. Contrary to Wilson´s Moscow theology, Dr. Robbins writes:

The writers of Scripture repeatedly exhort believers to lead holy lives: Their argument is, You are already Christians; you have already passed from death to everlasting life; you are already saved; therefore, act like Christians. A typical example of such exhortations is

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light"¦"¦. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them"¦"¦. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil"¦"¦ [Ephesians 5:8, 15-16].

There are dozens of such exhortations. But our acting like Christians does not save us, for we are already saved. The indicative - salvation - precedes the imperative: Behave as the saved people you are. Our obedience is not the condition or ground of our salvation; our salvation is the condition or ground of our obedience (September/October 2001 Trinity Review "“ "œFalse Shepherd").

To sum up; works play no role whatsoever in salvation.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
"Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone."

Sean, do you agree with that statement, or not? Is there such a thing as a "saving faith" that nevertheless produces no good fruit?



I read all of your Wilson quotes above, and the classic Reformed statement above is *precisely* what he is saying. A faith that doesn't work is a faith that doesn't save. But the justification is on the basis of the faith, not on the basis of the works produced by the faith. That is the historic Reformed doctrine of justification.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is quite different. They too say that a faith that doesn't work is a faith that doesn't save. But for the Roman Catholics, justification is on the basis of BOTH the faith AND the works produced by the faith.

Thus, when we compare the Reformed & RC doctrines of justification, Wilson clearly falls into the camp of the former, not the latter.




Originally posted by Magma2

For Wilson a man is justified by having a faith that works, for him no other faith can save.


:amen:

It sounds like Wilson *nails* the Reformed doctrine of justification perfectly! Please see these sample quotes from Gerstner, Schwertly, and Luther. They say the same thing Wilson said:


As Dr. John Gerstner said: "Faith is Not a Work, but it is Never without Work"

As Brian Schwertly said: "Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone. Biblical Protestants agree with the apostle James "œthat faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:20). "

"œJustification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that IS alone." - Martin Luther

[Edited on 4-6-2006 by biblelighthouse]
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
I just received a U2U message a little bit ago, and I would like to share it with everyone. To respect privacy, I won't share the name. But the sender of the U2U is welcome to post on this thread if he so desires.

Check out what he had to say in response to the current thread:

Joseph,

First, I'll say that I have read "Reformed is Not Enough" by Wilson. I didn't appreciate the book very much. Personally, I would not consider Wilson "Reformed". He teaches a form of baptismal regeneration (pgs 103, 105, 107), and paedo-communion (pgs 114,115,127). I am uncertain what he means by "corporate regeneration" (pg 35) and "corporate justification" (pg 175) and don't know why he wants to use such terms (I'll give the benefit of the doubt and hope he doesn't mean the same thing as Rich Lusk does on pg 273 of "The Federal Vision").

I've also read "The Federal Vision", in which he contributes a short chapter in which he says nothing different than what he says in "Reformed is Not Enough". However, I do not understand why he would want to share the authorship and hence be identified with Steve Wilkins, John Barach, Rich Lusk, Steve Schissel and James Jordan (all of whose chapters in the book are nauseating).

That being said, I've been reading through the Douglas Wilson thread, and have to give some credit here. Your defense of Wilson on justification by faith alone is right on target. Wilson does not teach the Romish doctrine, but instead defends the historic Reformed doctrine from the antinomianism of easy believism.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that your hard work has not been missed on everyone.

I want to commend the sender of this U2U. He obviously disagrees with Wilson on many counts, and could in no way be called an FV guy. Nevertheless, just like me, he recognizes that Douglas Wilson is NOT heretical. Rather, everything Wilson says is merely an "in-house debate". Wilson is not an enemy. Rather, he is a dear Christian brother with whom we should discuss doctrine. If he is in error, then exhort him. If we are in error, then he will exhort us. But in all things within the body of Christ, "iron sharpens iron". --- I want to thank the sender of this U2U for not jumping onto the loose-cannon heresy-happy bandwagon. THANK YOU for being one of the many who refuse to anathematize Wilson for doctrinal differences of a less-than-critical nature!

:up:
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone."

Sean, do you agree with that statement, or not? Is there such a thing as a "saving faith" that nevertheless produces no good fruit? . . . A faith that doesn't work is a faith that doesn't save.

:banghead: You don´t get it do you Joseph? Yes, sanctification follows justification, but all the works ever done by every Christian who has ever lived can contribute precisely nothing to the salvation of even one sinner. Contrary to you and Wilson's false gospel, works do not make faith saving.

As for your anonymous admirer, I´ll just repeat the words of Calvin Beisner:

"œOne cannot consistently maintain the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and yet affirm some of the definitive elements of what has come to be known as the Federal Vision or Auburn Avenue Theology. That some manage inconsistently to maintain both is a testimony to their intellectual inabilities, not to the orthodoxy of the FV/AAT."
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Magma2

Yes, sanctification follows justification, but all the works ever done by every Christian who has ever lived can contribute precisely nothing to the salvation of even one sinner.

Sean, I agree with you.

Douglas Wilson agrees with you too. He never says that your good works contribute to your salvation.


Originally posted by Magma2

Contrary to Wilson's false gospel, works do not make faith saving.

Wilson never says that works make faith saving. Where did you get that? Would you care to share any quotes to this effect?


Rather, Wilson says what every other Reformed theologian in history has said: A faith that does not work is a faith that does not save.

The message is NOT that the good works somehow get "added to the faith" to make it "good enough". It looks to me like this is your misinterpretation of Wilson.

Rather, the message is this:


There are two different kinds of "faith". There is "real faith", and there is "spurious faith". There is "living faith" and "dead faith". Only "real faith" saves. A person who truly trusts in Christ alone for his salvation has "real faith". And it is this faith alone that saves him.

Notice that I said NOTHING about "works" in that paragraph. I just said that there is a (real) faith that does save, and a (dead) faith that does not save. Real faith is that faith which truly trusts in Christ alone for salvation. Dead faith is that faith which does NOT trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Now, totally apart from speaking about conditions for salvation, I will make another statement:

"Real faith" always bears the fruit of good works.
"Dead faith" does not bear the fruit of good works.

And you would agree with this statement, correct? This statement is precisely the same as Luther's: "Justification is by faith alone, but not by faith that IS alone."


Here's the deal:
1) Reformed theologians say that only "real faith" in Christ saves.
2) Reformed theologians say that "real faith" always results in good works.

BOTH statements are true! But they are both statements about the real faith, NOT statements about the grounds of salvation!


If I say that "only real faith saves", I have made a true statement.
If I say that "real faith always produces fruit", I have made a true statement.
And AT NO TIME do I ever suggest that the good works themselves have anything to do with my salvation.


Here is a simple (imaginary) analogy:

Suppose (for the sake of argument) that yellow-skinned apples have vitamin-C, but that red-skinned apples do not have vitamin-C. And suppose that the *cause* of vitamin-C-presence is totally based on genetics *alone*. ---- Now, if I said, "only yellow apples have vitamin C", then I would be making a true statement. However, I would NOT be implying that the color of apple-skin was the *cause* of vitamin-C-presence. Rather, to be technically articulate, I would have to say, "genetics caused the apple to be yellow, and genetics caused the apple to have vitamin C". Genetics caused BOTH; and they did not cause each other. For example, if I painted a red apple with yellow paint, it wouldn't cause that red apple to suddenly contain vitamin C.

So the color of the apple skin has NO causative factor regarding the presence of vitamin C. Nevertheless, since yellow skin and vitamin C always go together, I can still *honestly* say that "only yellow-skinned apples contain vitamin-C." But it is a statement of parallelism, NOT a statement of causation.

Now, maybe my analogy was fanciful. But hopefully it carries the point. It is a true statement that "the only faith that saves is a faith that works". But it is a statement of parallelism, NOT a statement of causation. BOTH the true faith and the good works are gifts from God. And justification is granted on the basis of the faith ALONE. Nevertheless, true faith and good works ALWAYS are found together. You can't have one without the other, any more than you can have yellow apples without vitamin C.




That's as simply as I know how to explain it, Sean. So if you don't understand that, then you frankly don't understand what any Reformed theologian in history has taught, because that is what ALL of them taught.





"Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone."

Is there such a thing as a "saving faith" that nevertheless produces no good fruit? Of course not. . . . A faith that doesn't work is a faith that doesn't save.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Sean, thanks for clarifying. I am glad to know that I did understand you. One more question. Assuming you allow the existence of a dead faith, what distinguishes dead faith from living faith? For Wilson, from your quoting of him, it seems to be that one is assent and another is assent plus something. How would you distinguish the demonic belief from the believer's belief?

Joseph,

When you say that
the justification is on the basis of the faith
what do you mean?
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Joseph, you are confounding Justification and Sanctification, in my opinion, when you say "A faith that does not work is a faith that does not save."
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by py3ak

Joseph,

When you say that
the justification is on the basis of the faith
what do you mean?


Ruben,

Thank you for the question.

Specifically, I said:
"justification is granted on the basis of the faith ALONE. Nevertheless, true faith and good works ALWAYS are found together. You can't have one without the other"


A person cannot receive justification without faith. Hopefully we all agree on that.

When God sees a person, He sees at least two things:
1) that persons faith,
and
2) that person's works

And hypothetically, God could justify a person one of two ways:
1) based on that person's faith + works
or
2) based on that person's faith alone, without regard to his works


Of course, option #1 is Roman Catholic, and is not even an option at all.

Option #2 is the Biblical, Reformed, Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.



When God justifies a person (declares that person righteous), I believe God does it on the basis of that person's faith alone, and NOT on the basis of any works performed by that person whatsoever.
 
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