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

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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
If he means temporal benefits by "saving benefits," though, then it is a problem of terms, right? He needs to use clearer language?
I think if all he meant was temporal benefits, in the same sense that we began this thread with (i.e. Owen) then nobody would be batting an eyelash even if he called them saving benefits. I don't think the language is important.

Note carefully what he says:
Does Paul mean that each and every member of this congregation is “elect” in the Westminster Confession sense? I don’t think so but that leaves the question of how exactly he does understand them to be “elect of God, holy and beloved.” And further, how exactly do they partake of “the inheritance of the saints”? And, though I am quite certain that only the elect will finally be redeemed through the blood of Jesus and only the elect will receive the forgiveness of sins (and I’m sure Paul would agree) how can Paul state that this reality was true of the members of the church in Colossae?
That's completely different than the temporal benefits that Owen is speaking of. Pastor Wilkins is assuming that:

-because Paul's called the Church the elect of God, holy and beloved
-beause Paul has spoken of the inheritance of the saints
-because Paul spoke of the forgiveness of sins
-and addressed a Church body that he knew consisted of elect and reprobate
THAT
-it is true fully of the absolute, sovereignly elected
*AND*
-it must be also true partially (somehow not sure how exactly but true) of the ultimately reprobate
These are the sorts of questions I’m seeking to address and to do so in a way that does no harm in the least to God’s absolute, sovereign, predestination.
But he does is what his critics are saying because he applies benefits that are only given to those who are absolute, sovereignly predestinated to the reprobate on the basis of a form of address.

Now, one might argue that Owen and the WCF and Presbyterianism in general are all wet on this subject.

What you cannot do with that statement, however, is just say "Well, it's exactly the same thing as what Owen wrote."
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If he means temporal benefits by "saving benefits," though, then it is a problem of terms, right? He needs to use clearer language?
His terms are expressing an error. He says that forgiveness can be lost. This means he is intentionally teaching that those who fall away were REALLY forgiven for a period of time. In historic reformed theology, forgiveness of sins belongs to the elect alone.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
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.
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
If he means temporal benefits by "saving benefits," though, then it is a problem of terms, right? He needs to use clearer language?
This is exactly the issue, and David King is perfectly correct. In go-around (at least) number 3 with Wilkins, several men responded to Louisiana Presbytery's Ad Hoc Committee on FV by pointing out the main errors in Wilkins' formulations were in the areas of assurance and perseverance. This is because it is not just a problem of terms, but of substance. If it were just a problem of terms, even then why should we allow a teacher of the Scriptures - whose call is to make things clear - to obfuscate and confuse Presbyteries, churches, seminaries and so many for so long after so many engagements by critics? What is the real benefit to all this, if what is actually being said is "temporal benefits" which the Confession itself says and Owen says (like 100 times more clearly)? Here is the relevant section from the response to LA Presbytery:

1. Mr. Wilkins wrote,
205 a. “If [someone] has been baptized, he is in covenant with God.”3
206 b. “. . . covenant is union with Christ.”
207 c. “. . . covenant is union with Christ. Thus, being in covenant gives all the blessings
208 of being united to Christ. . . . Because being in covenant with God means being
209 in Christ, those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly
210 places.”4 {Emphasis mine - FTG}

211 2. From these statements it follows that if someone has been baptized he has all spiritual
212 blessings in the heavenly places. The phrase “all spiritual blessings in the heavenly
213 places” originated in Ephesians 1:3, and in that context Paul includes among such
214 “spiritual blessings” election to holiness and blamelessness before God, predestination
215 for adoption and to be to the praise of God’s glory, redemption through Christ’s
216 blood, forgiveness of trespasses, an inheritance in Christ, and reception of the Holy
217 Spirit as seal and guarantee of inheritance “until we acquire the possession of it”
218 (Ephesians 1:3-14). Mr. Wilkins explicitly acknowledged this as the context for the
219 phrase in his 2003 AAPC lecture.5 These blessings are certainly salvific, and they
220 reach all the way from election before creation to final salvation at the end of history.

(footnotes 3 & 4)
3Steve Wilkins, “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation,” in The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros & Cons: Debating
the Federal Vision, ed. E. Calvin Beisner (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Knox Theological Seminary, 1994), 254-69, at 267.
4Ibid., 262
D. While the Report
277 1. rightly says that the Confession acknowledges “the reality of apostasy, that a person
278 can be a member of the visible church and fall away and thus loose [sic] the real
279 benefits of belonging to God’s people, the real loss of external, Covenant blessings
280 claimed through being a member of the visible church through baptism,” and
281 2. while it rightly asserts that the Confession “[d]oes not accommodate a view that an
282 individual can have a vital, internalized relationship with the Lord and lose it,”
283 3. it does not notice that what Mr. Wilkins affirms belongs to every baptized person–“all
284 spiritual blessings in the heavenly places,” with Mr. Wilkins’s own enumeration of
285 such based on Ephesians 1 and 1 Corinthians–is nothing if it is not precisely that: “a
286 vital, internalized relationship with the Lord.”
287 4. Yet it is just this that Mr. Wilkins wrote can be lost. In “Covenant, Baptism, and
288 Salvation,” after enumerating “all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” that
289 belonged to all who were baptized and therefore in covenant and therefore in Christ,
290 he wrote: “Paul declares these things to be true of the members of the Church in
291 Corinth . . . . All this was true of each of the members, but . . . f they departed from
292 Christ, they would perish like Israel of old. All their privileges and blessings would
293 become like so many anchors to sink them into the lake of fire. . . . The apostles did
294 not view the covenant as a place of potential blessing or a place of fantastic
295 opportunity–they viewed it as salvation, because it means fellowship and communion
296 with the triune God. It is union with Christ in His obedient life, sacrificial,
297 substitutionary death, triumphant resurrection, and glorious ascension and session at
298 the right hand of the Father. [para] All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ.
299 If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall
300 away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation than
301 Sodom and Gomorrah. Covenant can be broken by unbelief and rebellion, but until
302 it is, those in covenant with God belong to Him and are His. If they do not persevere,
303 they lose the blessings that were given to them . . . . Thus, when one breaks covenant,
304 it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness,
305 and salvation.”
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Yet it is just this that Mr. Wilkins wrote can be lost. In “Covenant, Baptism, and
288 Salvation,” after enumerating “all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” that
289 belonged to all who were baptized and therefore in covenant and therefore in Christ,
290 he wrote: “Paul declares these things to be true of the members of the Church in
291 Corinth . . . . All this was true of each of the members, but . . . f they departed from
292 Christ, they would perish like Israel of old. All their privileges and blessings would
293 become like so many anchors to sink them into the lake of fire. . . . The apostles did
294 not view the covenant as a place of potential blessing or a place of fantastic
295 opportunity–they viewed it as salvation, because it means fellowship and communion
296 with the triune God. It is union with Christ in His obedient life, sacrificial,
297 substitutionary death, triumphant resurrection, and glorious ascension and session at
298 the right hand of the Father. [para] All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ.
299 If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall
300 away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation than
301 Sodom and Gomorrah. Covenant can be broken by unbelief and rebellion, but until
302 it is, those in covenant with God belong to Him and are His. If they do not persevere,
303 they lose the blessings that were given to them . . . . Thus, when one breaks covenant,
304 it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness,
305 and salvation.”

Wow! This doesn't even mix terms here and makes the benefits indistinguishable temporarily.

Gabe: I'll even give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's retracted the above notion. Even assuming that, however, it simply does not jive that moving a little bit in this direction (only some sense not all) is very problematic.
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Cannot someone who is in covenant with God, part of the visible Church, lay claim to forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus? Isn't forgiveness of sins offered to all who are in the covenant? Of course, faithful reception is the key to actually HAVING forgiveness, being united to Christ, but isn't the offer still there? Isn't it part of the covenantal arrangement, conditional upon faith alone (a gift of God)?

Maybe that is more along the lines of what Wilkins is getting at. *shrug*
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Cannot someone who is in covenant with God, part of the visible Church, lay claim to forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus? Isn't forgiveness of sins offered to all who are in the covenant? Of course, faithful reception is the key to actually HAVING forgiveness, being united to Christ, but isn't the offer still there? Isn't it part of the covenantal arrangement, conditional upon faith alone (a gift of God)?

Maybe that is more along the lines of what Wilkins is getting at. *shrug*
Are we forgiven on the basis of:
a. the imputed righteousness of Christ
b. being in visible Covenant with God
c. both a and b are the same thing
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Are we forgiven on the basis of:
a. the imputed righteousness of Christ
b. being in visible Covenant with God
c. both a and b are the same thing
We are forgiven if we are united with Christ by faith. By faith then, we rest in Him and are counted righteous based on Christ's righteousness.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
We are forgiven if we are united with Christ by faith. By faith then, we rest in Him and are counted righteous based on Christ's righteousness.
Exactly. So how does an unregenerate person have their sins forgiven - even temporarily? How does their participation in the visible Covenant make them even partial recipients of this benefit?

The scary part of the quote above, that I just realized, is that Pastor Wilkins says that while a person is in the Covenant they have union with Christ and the benefits of forgiveness. As you correctly articulated, the Scirptures teach that it is faith that is the instrument of our justification. It is a gift of God that imputes to us the righteousness of Christ and the taking away of our sins. How does an unregenarate person ever have any faith with which to procure even a temporary forgiveness of sins?

It seems the only way to get the idea of a temporary forgiveness of sins would be to admit that the regenerate would have some capacity in themselves to believe truly for a season to receive that forgiveness of sins.

To say that it is because they're in Covenant temporarily doesn't address the question unless the grounds of our forgiveness is changed from the imputed righteousness of Christ through faith to being part of the Covenant (which Wilkins either says above or implies very dangerously).

I am thinking about a new thread in this direction: some of the problems are beginning to open themselves up to me.
 

Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Cannot someone who is in covenant with God, part of the visible Church, lay claim to forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus? Isn't forgiveness of sins offered to all who are in the covenant? Of course, faithful reception is the key to actually HAVING forgiveness, being united to Christ, but isn't the offer still there? Isn't it part of the covenantal arrangement, conditional upon faith alone (a gift of God)?

Maybe that is more along the lines of what Wilkins is getting at. *shrug*
Only those who "have" forgiveness of sins can "lay claim" to forgiveness of sins. As you say, Gabe, one does not "have" forgiveness simply by virtue of the offer; one must receive it by faith. But Mr. Wilkins is saying that those in the church who have not received the offer by faith, in some sense, "have" forgiveness of sins, and can therefore "lay claim" to forgiveness of sins.
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
In Col. 3:12 Paul calls the members of the church in Colossae, “the elect of God” and does not qualify this appellation at all, and calls upon them to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven them (3:13).
This is complete and utter nonsense. If Christ has forgiven all the members of the visible church then they are all forgiven!

Does Paul mean that each and every member of this congregation is “elect” in the Westminster Confession sense? I don’t think so . . . .
So the point is again made, Wilkins believes in a different system of doctrine than the one taught in the Confession. Nowhere in the Confession, or in Scripture, are we taught that the sins of the reprobate, even the baptized reprobate (temporally elected or otherwise), are forgiven. Yet, Wilkins says the sins of all members of the church are forgiven by Christ.

What good is Presbyterian Tradition if it allows a minister of the Word to continually get away with such transparent equivocations and subterfuge. It is the tradition which embraces the contemptible idea that Scripture is paradoxical and apparently contradictory in all its teachings and that this somehow evidences of the Creator/creature distinction to which all men must bow. The Vantilian love of paradox come home to roost.
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think if all he meant was temporal benefits, in the same sense that we began this thread with (i.e. Owen) then nobody would be batting an eyelash even if he called them saving benefits. I don't think the language is important.
:amen:
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
The following is from the Auburn Avenue Session regarding their position on Covenant, Baptism and Salvation (Revised):


"3. God works out His eternal decree of salvation in history by means of His covenant. Salvation, therefore, may be viewed from two basic perspectives, the decretal/eternal and the covenantal/historical. The Bible ordinarily (though not always) views election through the lens of the covenant. This is why covenant members are addressed consistently as God’s elect, even though some of those covenant members may apostatize, proving themselves in the end not to have been among the number of those whom God decreed to eternal salvation from before the foundation of the world. Thus, the basis for calling them God’s “elect” was their standing as members of the Church (which is the body of Christ) and not some knowledge of God’s secret decree. The visible Church is the place where the saints are “gathered and perfected” by means of “the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God” (WCF 25.3).

We cannot separate covenant and election, but, to do full justice to the Biblical teaching, we must distinguish them. Following the Biblical model, it seems that we must view fellow church members as elect and regenerate and, at the same time, hold before them the dangers of falling away. This does not contradict the decretal/eternal perspective, because our knowledge of God’s decree is only creaturely. We can never, in this life, know with absolute certainty who are elect unto final salvation. For this reason, we have to make judgments and declarations in terms of what has been revealed, namely, the covenant (Deut. 29:29). The covenant is the visible, historical context in which the eternal decree of election comes to eventual fruition. "

If you understand this then you understand all the terminology of the FV and how they come up with their view of Scripture. They view Scripture via the lens of the Covenant (ala Norm Shepherd). The problem to solve is "where do the Scriptures speak covenantally (which is the ordinary way) and where do they speak decretively (the not so ordinary way)?

Anyone want to hazard a guess?
 

BJClark

Puritan Board Doctor
This is throughly confusing, and I truly respect all the men who are throughly sifting through all the information to get at the truth...


Now, my comments on what I *think* the arguement to be about (which I'm really not sure about) but after trying to read through just a little bit of all of this...this is my very limited grasp of it...and the only thing I can come up with to help me understand this would be looking at it in terms of unequally yoked marriages (though I'm sure it is much deeper than this) but it seems like it would apply at least on the most basic of terms for me as a lay person.

is whether to use the term "temporarily elect", which I would disagree with.. either a person is elect or they are not...however, I could agree to use the term the Bible uses to describe (at least some)

We see this in 1 Corinthians Chapter 7:14 in reference to unequally yoked marriages.

"For the unbelieving husband is 'sanctified' by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is 'sanctified' by the husband: else were your children unclean: but now they are Holy."

it doesn't refer to them as elect in any way shape or form, but it does say they are 'sanctified'. so what does that mean, in reference to this arguement? Do they believe a person to be 'temporarily elect' just because they are 'sanctified' by virtue of the fact they are married to someone who IS elect?

Main Entry: sanc·ti·fy

1 : to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use : CONSECRATE
2 : to free from sin : PURIFY
3 a : to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to b : to give moral or social sanction to
4 : to make productive of holiness or piety <observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it -- Deuteronomy 5:12(Douay Version)>

Feel free to correct me if my understanding of this is off....
 

turmeric

Megerator
The following is from the Auburn Avenue Session regarding their position on Covenant, Baptism and Salvation (Revised):


"3. God works out His eternal decree of salvation in history by means of His covenant. Salvation, therefore, may be viewed from two basic perspectives, the decretal/eternal and the covenantal/historical. The Bible ordinarily (though not always) views election through the lens of the covenant. This is why covenant members are addressed consistently as God’s elect, even though some of those covenant members may apostatize, proving themselves in the end not to have been among the number of those whom God decreed to eternal salvation from before the foundation of the world. Thus, the basis for calling them God’s “elect” was their standing as members of the Church (which is the body of Christ) and not some knowledge of God’s secret decree. The visible Church is the place where the saints are “gathered and perfected” by means of “the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God” (WCF 25.3).

We cannot separate covenant and election, but, to do full justice to the Biblical teaching, we must distinguish them. Following the Biblical model, it seems that we must view fellow church members as elect and regenerate and, at the same time, hold before them the dangers of falling away. This does not contradict the decretal/eternal perspective, because our knowledge of God’s decree is only creaturely. We can never, in this life, know with absolute certainty who are elect unto final salvation. For this reason, we have to make judgments and declarations in terms of what has been revealed, namely, the covenant (Deut. 29:29). The covenant is the visible, historical context in which the eternal decree of election comes to eventual fruition. "

If you understand this then you understand all the terminology of the FV and how they come up with their view of Scripture. They view Scripture via the lens of the Covenant (ala Norm Shepherd). The problem to solve is "where do the Scriptures speak covenantally (which is the ordinary way) and where do they speak decretively (the not so ordinary way)?

Anyone want to hazard a guess?
I gotta go back to chopping up the Scriptures? I left Dispensationalism for this?

Don't we do this anyway without all the fuss? We extend the judgment of charity to everyone in the visible church until they act otherwise, then we are supposed to practice church discipline, and if they repent, we go back to the judgment of charity, right? Do we have to talk like Arminians to do that?
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Meg, it's interesting that you brought up dispensationalism. I've been talking to a dispensationalist friend who takes statements made to OT Israel, sees that they were made to a "mixed multitude" and thereby concludes that the statements must have some reference to unbelieving Israel. Is that not what Wilkins seems to be doing, as Rich pointed out? Because statements are made to the visible church, they must be true of everyone in the visible church; but what if statements are made to the visible church according to the judgment of charity but are actually applicable to that church in its ideal condition --they actually have exclusive reference to those who will never go out from us, because they are of us?
 
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