Conditional Election - Where does FV differ from Historical Reformed Usage?

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by Semper Fidelis, Jan 9, 2007.

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  1. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    There was a good exchange between Rev. Winzer and Wayne Wylie in the thread about Wilkins' Presbytery exam. I'll quote it below because I want to have some interaction with a thought.

    I'm trying to determine the difference between what Rev. Winzer is quoting as a historic Reformed usage of conditional election from the way the FV camp is using it. I've been engaging in some dialogue with some FV supporters lately. It's a bit difficult breaking through the crust honestly because, for all the charges that they're being unfairly treated, many tend to be very prickly when you're trying to interact with them on a concern.

    If I'm reading them correctly, however, they seem to be claiming that all they're doing is arguing for a concept of conditional election as Rev Winzer does. Here is Rev Winzer's first post:
    Now one of the FV champions actually found the whole post edifying but then really couldn't understand how they could be charged with the last part.

    Anyhow, Wayne responded with this:
    To which Rev. Winzer responded:
    As I argued elsewhere, this ought not to be a debate over semantics or the definitions of words but over the doctrinal meaning. I don't see anything contentious about the idea of conditional election given the way that Rev. Winzer described it.

    Thus, what is the substantive difference between what he has described and what the FV have written?
     
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Rich, I would suggest the problem with the FV formulation is to be found in their saying that temporal election includes being partakers of "saving" benefits, from which the temporarily elect person may fall away.
     
  3. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    Are you speaking "covenantally" or "decretively". To the FV supporters, it makes all the difference. In fact this is the exact point Wilkins makes.
     
  4. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    This is exactly correct. And they use (historically Reformed) language such as Rev. Winzer quoted from Owen that has reference to temporary gifts as having reference to saving benefits.


    Excellent point, Rev. Winzer.
     
  5. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is the distinction itself which is in error. The covenant of grace is decreed so far as its spiritual and eternal benefits are concerned, and it is the exclusive privilege of those given to Christ before the foundation of the world to be in covenant with God. The external administration of the covenant in time to the visible church does not confer spiritual benefits, but only provides the means by which grace is administered. The means belong to all in the visible church. The grace belongs to the elect alone.
     
  6. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    I didn't like the term "conditional election" at first, but Judas is a good example of exactly that, he was chosen to be one of the twelve who were closest to Jesus in His earthly life, and apparently chosen to carry the moneybag. Esau might be another example, not sure about that though.
     
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Thank you Reverends Greco and Winzer. I think this helps draw out the distinction.

    This discussion gets very frustrating when you try to peel back the onion. I think too many are not willing to get past the chaff of words and get to the heart of the issue.

    In my open letter to the Federal Vision I posed this basic question: is what you are fighting for worth disturbing the Church?

    After discussing this with some FV guys at length, they won't really answer the "what's different?" question but simply refrain "We're not what you accuse us of...." Seriously, is the expectation that we just keep saying: "Well you mean this..." and they say "No, that's not it..." until somebody gets it right?

    Further, when the correct meaning of what they write is ascertained, is their expectation that we are in the same place doctrinally? If that is the case then I have to think that God would be very displeased over a 5 year wrangling over identical terms.

    Seriously, whether I had a name to give what Owen writes, I've always understood that as being the Reformed position even when I was relatively naive in Reformed Theology. I don't have a problem calling it conditional election and retract a previous statement that it is not Reformed to use that terminology.

    I think, then, we have discovered one very basic difference is uncovered very obviously. It doesn't take the writing of tomes to state either:

    From Rev Winzer
     
  8. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    No doubt that you are absolutely right. But when the FV folks talk about any saving benefits they are speaking covenantally because that is the way they believe Scripture is speaking. That is why in another post I said that Wilkins wants it both ways.

    To me it starts with their distorted view of covenant as being synonomous with "relationship", per Steve Wilkins in his oral exam before the LA Presbytery.

    FYI, the purpose of my response to Mr. Winzer in the above post was not to say he was wrong. I was just showing how the concept he was describing is reflected in the Standards, which has a clear definition that hopefully we can agree with.
     
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    One terrifying example is given to us in the NT: "remember Lot's wife." She was physically separated from the world lying in wickedness by virtue of her visible connection with the household of Abraham and its promises, but her last look proved where her heart really was. Subsequently she was made a singular example of the judgment of God against those who hold the truth in unrighteousness. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!
     
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Agreed! I apologise if my matter of fact way of speaking gives the impression I am disagreeing. I'm only trying to accurately express what I mean.
     
  11. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Perhaps it would be better to post in this thread.

    So then, my question is, what is "wrong," Biblically speaking, with referring to Christians as elect and forgiven, and so forth? Especially consider Reformed liturgies where the Pastor declares the congregation's sins are forgiven after the prayer of confession! Of course, the Pastor is not saying that those who in the congregation that are not REALLY elect are forgiven, but it is given as a general declaration, based upon Scriptural truth. We can't lift up people's skirts to see if they're REALLY elect, so I think, with Paul, this is the best we can do. That doesn't make one wrong, does it? Or a liar? I am having a hard time seeing how.
     
  12. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    Gabe you moved your post!!! So I'll also post my comment over here.

    Would you agree with Steve Wilkins and the AAPC Session that the Standards are speaking "Decretively" and the Scriptures are speaking "Covenantally"? And would you say that this would be the general position of most of the advocates of the FV position?
     
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't think there is anything wrong with it at all; but can you see that you have introduced a different distinction? Whereas temporal election is real, to genuine visible church privileges, you have felt the need to distinguish between those who are REALLY elect and those who are not with respect to spiritual benefits. Hence you acknowledge that those who fall away only "appeared," phenomenologically, to be elect for the present, whereas in reality, noumenally, they are not elect. This is different from an election to temporal benefits, which is a real election, visibly distinguishing persons from the world.
     
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Gabe,

    I'll let Pastor Winzer express it more eloquently than I. I think many sympathetic to the FV are guilty of their own mischaracterization by assuming that if you uphold the distinction that you are not able to use a general term of address. As I noted in the other thread, Christ treated Judas like any other Apostle even knowing he never believed. How much more ought we to treat all members of God's Church with equity not having infallible knowledge?

    Consider Hebrew 6. The writer warns, in the most extreme terms, of the danger of rejecting the faith. But he then writes:

    [kjv]Hebrews 6:9[/kjv]
    9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

    Does the author really know that none of those addressed will fall away or does the author assume that he's only writing to the truly elect and that none are in danger of the judgment spoken of? I don't think either answer is correct.

    The Biblical pattern in exhortation then differs from a didactic understanding of who is and isn't elect. Terms of address and encouragement and reminders of election to a general audience do not a doctrine form.
     
  15. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    I would disagree that this is what Steve Wilkins is saying.

    I think he's saying the Scriptures are speaking in BOTH ways, and in harmony (like the paradoxical tension between free will and divine sovereignty).

    I think the Scriptures speak in BOTH ways, as well.

    If it turns out he does NOT, and thinks they only speak Covenantally, I would disagree with him. However, I do not think this is the case at this time...
     
  16. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    Gabe,

    Check out the AAPC web site and the Sessions statement on what they believe.
     
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I moved Rev Winzer's response over here to follow Gabe's question. This is a good discussion.
     
  18. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    These are the sections that I'm most interested in, and where I think Rev. Wilkins is making the best points on this topic. Thoughts?
     
  19. crhoades

    crhoades Puritan Board Graduate

    I'll say that the two current threads have been most beneficial to me helping me understand what's going on. Thanks everyone for taking the time to sort this out for everyone.:handshake:
     
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Gabe,

    That quote is a perfect illustration of what I just wrote. Pastor Wilkins assumes this:

    1. Paul makes reference to a whole church and calls them "elect", "partakers of the son", etc.
    2. Paul knows that some of the members are not elect
    3. Therefore, Paul must mean that there is a sense in which "saving benefits" confer on even the ultimately unsaved.

    Don't you see that 3 is not a conclusion that has to be drawn necessarily? Notice in all of those passages, Paul does not say "...including those among the Church that are actually reprobate...." If he said that, then we would have to conclude that the benefits are for everyone.

    Further, the problem that Pastor Wilkins has, even if we have to grant that this general form of address creates a necessary inference, Paul doesn't go on to spell out the differences in the benefits. Here's the rub. There is no didactic teaching that tells us where to draw the line on how those saving benefits differ. Pastor Wilkins and others are left to form that part with no Scriptural teaching except a vague notion that they have some forgiveness of sins. Well what forgiveness of sins do they receive? Some kind for sure because they're in the room when Paul talks to the Church and calls them elect.
     
  21. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Paradox, that old charley horse between the ears, or as we say in Australia, a brain strain. Who can prove anything to be in error if paradoxical tension exists? On this basis we can say that God both elects and does not elect; saints will persevere and they will not persevere. And thus Satan succeeds in destroying that "comfort of the Scriptures" whereby the saints "might have hope."
     
  22. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Does Pastor Wilkins ever explicitly state #3, though? I don't read it that way. I dunno. *shrug*
     
  23. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Those are contradictions, a paradox is an apparent contradiction... :D
     
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Gabe,

    Are you serious?

    It's all over.
     
  25. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm still gonna have to give him the benefit of the doubt unless I read more. That can be taken in different ways. I'm not going to be so quick to pass judgment on this Elder. He demands my respect by virtue of the office in the Church and Christ's appointment of such an office.
     
  26. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    When the apparent contradiction is presented as a real problem (tension) it is a real contradiction. So when Wilkins presents the apparent elect as being real elect he is effectively saying that the reprobate are elect -- a real contradiction. ;)
     
  27. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, if he was saying that, it would be a problem.
     
  28. D

    D Puritan Board Junior

    For a point of clarification, what I've read in both Wilkins and Lusk (if memory serves me correctly), the difference comes down to the grace of perseverance. That seems to be the one saving grace uncommunicated to the temporarily elect.

    DTK
     
  29. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Gabe,

    I'm not passing judgment. I'm simply articulating what he says. The question for judgment, for the Courts to decide, is whether the idea that the reprobate participate in "saving benefits" is Confessional.

    I've never seen them denying that the basic premise for their ideas flows out of the claim that because Paul addresses the Church with certain titles that he means to also be expressing something didactic about the use of the terms of address for the reprobate.
     
  30. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    If he means temporal benefits by "saving benefits," though, then it is a problem of terms, right? He needs to use clearer language?
     
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