Piper- solas- "Shepherdism"?

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by lynnie, Oct 11, 2017.

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  1. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate


    This was posted on the Aquila report today.


    I am wondering if this is the same as Norman Shepherd, or if it is farther to the infused righteousness side, and actually shall we say off the Reformed cliff.

    If Ed Clowney thought NS was within confessional bounds on justification but not on perseverance, whether or not you agree with Clowney, would this be the same thing? Would there be men like Clowney who would say it is within confessional boundaries?

    I am not asking for debate on what Piper is saying, because when I read this article I have to agree with this article. But I am just wondering if it is Shepherdism, or more extreme than Shepherd.

  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    My gut response is "no." I believe Shepherd held that James 2 was forensic in a sense, something I am sure Piper rejects.

    I am going to wait until a more substantial voice weighs in. I take RM with a big grain of salt.
  3. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Mark Jones seems to be in the right (if he'd just provide citations for the quotes he's given). He quotes Zanchi as saying,

    “Good works are the instrumental cause of the possession of eternal life; by these indeed, just as by an obvious and legitimate way, God leads us into the possession of eternal life.”
  4. Jerome Rosana

    Jerome Rosana Puritan Board Freshman

  5. augustacarguy

    augustacarguy Puritan Board Freshman

    I am going to wait until a more substantial voice weighs in. I take RM with a big grain of salt.[/QUOTE]

    Could you elaborate?

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  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Could you elaborate?

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro[/QUOTE]

    She comes across as doing theological hit-jobs on people who don't line up with her, and then unfriend them on facebook. Mind you, the exposes on the Canon Press plagiarism was good and needed.
  7. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Rachel Miller did not write the article I posted. The one I posted used her original article as a stepping stone to disagree with Piper. What you think of her isn't really relevant; the author has his own set of opinions.

    Jerome- nice link. Thanks.

    But I am still primarily trying to assess if this is your basic Norman Shepherd position, or more to the FV side.
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Sure, but RM was a stepping stone for the author. In any case, you can find Reformed divines through the centuries making the same statements Piper made.

    William Twisse: Good works are the dispositive [Lat: dispositiva] cause of salvation” Or, “as for the causes of salvation, not only faith, but also repentance and good works go before … as preparative causes …” Or, “It is incumbent for all the elect to seek salvation not only by faith but by works also.”

    Zanchi: Good works are the instrumental cause of the possession of eternal life; by these indeed, just as by an obvious and legitimate way, God leads us into the possession of eternal life.”

    Michael Horton: The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor…Holiness, which is defined by love of God and neighbor…is the indispensable condition of our glorification: no one will be seated at the heavenly banquet who has not begun, however imperfectly, in new obedience.
  9. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Interesting is I first heard of this controversy with Piper and Clark on FB, the great source of what is going on in the church. :) I wonder if this is a result of the problem of how the word "salvation" is used solely for the doctrine of Justification. In other words, "salvation" entails not just justification but also sanctification.
  10. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Neither position seems to me to be Shepherdism. Shepherdism reintroduces works to justification itself. The debate in the OP is about regeneration/sanctification, specifically about faith's relationship to sanctification, and the relative position of works. Neither side in this dispute seems to be advocating a position wherein faith has no relationship at all to sanctification. Faith is related to sanctification, necessarily so. The question is the nature of its relationship to sanctification and good works.

    The best articulation of the relationship of faith to sanctification (and works, for that matter) is that of Turretin, who argues that God's grace produces good works in us, and that therefore our works are a necessary part of sanctification, but NOT as an effective cause, but as a necessary result. An analogy I often use is that of a cannon. Does the sound produce the explosion of a cannon shot, or does the explosion produce the sound? You cannot have a cannon fire without a loud sound. The sound is a necessary part of the cannon shot. But it does not cause the cannon to fire. It is necessary in a resultative way, not a causative way. You cannot separate the sound from the explosion, but you can distinguish it. So also God's grace enables faith to be active in sanctification, and our works make a big noise.

    I looked up his quotation of Ursinus (which is on page 113 of the commentary, not page 224 as indicated). I flat out disagree with Ursinus here. How can regeneration be an effect of faith without faith coming before regeneration? Faith cannot possibly cause regeneration. And yet almost all Reformed authors would agree that regeneration has to come before faith. If the author of the OP is correct, then faith has to come before regeneration.

    What the author of the OP is missing is this key fact: faith acts differently in justification as contrasted with sanctification. In justification, faith receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation. In sanctification, God's grace enables faith to be active, not merely passive. The passive parts of faith's receiving and resting continue on in sanctification. But added to that is now an active component.

    Justification and sanctification do not behave the same way. There are many differences, however inseparable they are. For instance, justification is a one-time act of God's declaration, whereas sanctification is a work in progress until glorification. The righteousness in view differs: in justification, the righteousness is the perfect righteousness of Christ, whereas in sanctification, it is our own grace-enabled imperfect righteousness. Justification happens outside of us, whereas sanctification happens inside of us.

    As to the question of the five solas, and whether they apply only to justification, or to salvation as a whole, here we must be careful and distinguish. Grace, to take one of the solas, applies in different ways in justification and sanctification, however inseparable they may be. God, in His grace, applies the finished work of Christ to our guilt in justification, but applies the Spirit to our dead hearts in sanctification. Grace has different effects. The sola gratia can only apply to justification, because grace is not alone in sanctification. Grace enables our works in sanctification as the result of grace. Similarly faith. Faith is completely alone in justification; no works of ours are considered whatsoever. Faith is not completely alone in sanctification, but has all other saving graces working closely with it. Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria can apply to both justification and sanctification. Sola Scriptura was not, in the time of the Reformation, as directly tied to the salvation question, though, as it was tied to the authority question. They are related, in the sense that both have to do with God's declarative word, and the authority of that word. It's more complicated than an all-or-nothing. So in this, I would say both Piper and the OP are wrong.

    If you have more questions, Lynnie, keep asking.
  11. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks for a beautiful post GB.

    Several years ago I listened to a message by Piper titled something along the lines of "This Man went Down to his House Justified." It was an FV rebuttal. It was about how the Pharisee thanked God for not being like other men- he gave the glory and thanks to God for his infused righteousness. He didn't take credit for it, he attributed it to God.

    But, it was the other guy ( God be merciful to me a sinner) who was justified. It was a full length sermon and I don't want to do it an injustice with a poor synopsis, but the main idea was that we don't rely at all on infused righteousness. Zero. Even knowing our infused righteousness is all by God's grace and thanking God for it does not justify us.

    So when I read things that sound like Piper is subtly or overtly saying that infused righteousness is part of what enables us to be saved, I start to wonder if he has really changed, or is being misunderstood, or if he is trying to figure out the place of works himself- and bloggers are trying to figure it all out as well- and to be honest it is easier to ask here what is going on, than go down the blogger rabbit trails :).

    Thanks to all.
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    If you attend to the author's comment, he accurately describes Ursinus' (and others of that age) use of "regeneration" as an enlarged term:
    and his footnote refers to other passages where this use is plainly demonstrated.

    Ursinus is moving ahead in his exposition. An initial, unprompted act of God toward man in regeneration, results in faith and justification; which then produces further effects: including faith, and regeneration in the total-sense of that word.

    What we in post-reformation language typically reduce regeneration to: viz. that infinitesimal moment of first-vivification, the quickening enablement of mind and will; is clearly set forth in WCF X "Of Effectual Calling." It is worth noting that the one use of "regeneration" in that chapter is in para.3, where elect infants dying in infancy are said to be regenerated; which in their case is rather a fulsome yet compressed treatment of their whole progress unto glory.
  13. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Bruce, even if I grant that such is the case (and I have no reason not to grant the point), it still indicates fuzzy thinking, since some of the "enlarged" definition would occur prior to faith, and other parts of the "enlarged" definition would follow faith.
  14. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Really, Lane? Ursinus is "fuzzy?" Having gone through his CHC, I'd have to say that the only fair way to judge the man is in his complete context, literarily and historically.

    I've seldom encountered a more precise and total treatment than the CHC. Turretin is the same, only moreso. They speak with precision; they define their terms; and they deal with questions and objections raised.

    Again, I point to the fact that "regeneration" as we tend to use the word exclusively, is hardly considered precise by those scholastic precisionists; who are more wont to use the vocabulary of effectual calling: enlightening, renewing, quickening, etc., to describe that starting event.
  15. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Bruce, I only think Ursinus is fuzzy on this point. I have read the entirety of his commentary, and, as a whole, I think it is amazingly helpful and precise. I just do not think that he is that helpful on this particular point. He did not define his terms very well in this one instance, and left me with a lot of questions.
  16. tangleword

    tangleword Puritan Board Freshman

    I thought Clark's post was really spot on, and Piper's view on this is a little concerning as is his relationship with Douglas Wilson. It makes me wonder how closely he now lines up with Wilson's Federal Visionish theology that Wilson says now is not Federal Vision theology. (somewhat similar concern with Mark Jones who even speaks at Wilson's stuff). It has surprised me recently after joining a "reformed" facebook group (that seems to exist in part to have a place where Wilson can't be talked about negatively, which I didn't know before joining) how many reformed pastors and elders seem to be still enthralled with Wilson and somewhat supportive of Federal Vision, or at least belittling concerns about Federal Vision. All of these people also seem to be very on the Piper side of this issue, whereas other groups of reformed Christians on Facebook/twitter, who I know oppose Douglas Wilson and FV, have been very critical of what Piper said.
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  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    My own take:

    Piper's words are fine, if poorly stated (unless Rachel Miller wants to throw Ursinus under the bus, too). I do have problems with Piper's past associations with Wilson.
  18. Brad Mason

    Brad Mason Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello. After hearing this and similar a couple times, I added this blurb at the beginning of Part 2:

    A quick note on our previous post, Part 1. It seems that many take exception to Ursinus’ use of the word “regeneration.” I am not suggesting we change our current use, but rather just pointing out that when we read what he has written on the subject, Regeneration is used simply to denote all that is the second benefit in the duplex gratia. It represents all that answers to our corruption received from Adam in distinction to our guilt derived from the same. And this was the common usage of the word prior to the tidier ordering and parsing of benefits that came later. For example, Witsius writes,

    “For really, sanctification differs no other ways from the first regeneration and renovation, than as the continuance of an act differs from the beginning of it.” (Bk. 3.8.10)

    And as to the concern that Ursinus is saying faith precedes Regeneration in time, that is not at all what he is saying. Rather, the Holy Spirit is working Regeneration when He works faith in the heart. As the Catechism says,

    Q.65. Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, where does this faith come from?

    A. The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.


    I think our use of "regeneration" comes to the same problem when we examine it with respect to time. Does God not use the preaching of the Word as the means of Regeneration? And is it not the hearing and believing of the Word together the first act of faith and the beginning of Regeneration? I don’t think we would say we are Regenerated and then hear the Word and believe it. Seems to me they are the same event, in terms of time. Witsius (and others) even speaks of the Word being coactive in the Regeneration of infants, but the implanted Word. Difficult stuff.

    Sometimes I think our “regeneration” is simply the “illumination” of the Fathers.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  19. tangleword

    tangleword Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't think Piper's words are fine in the context of the Federal Vision issues going on and his association with Wilson. Those words in a different time and circumstance are easier to ignore, those words when so much has been written about this, and when he has been criticized for associating with someone from a denomination that teaches FV convey a different message. We can't compare his words to others from a different era without taking into context the era and situation he is writing them in.
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    True enough on the bad associations, but does that change the meaning of, say, Ursinus?
  21. tangleword

    tangleword Puritan Board Freshman

    No, doesn't change the meaning of Ursinus, but Piper can't say the exact same words as Ursinas and have them taken the way we do/should take Ursinas because of his associations and the context. Same way FV people quote historic reformers and church fathers, who were not in err in what they said then, but taken now, out of the original context, and into the current context, they make them sound as if they support FV, and thus now saying those things is a problem even if it wasn't when the original church father said them.
  22. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Really good point.
  23. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Daniel Fuller yet. Piper studied under Fuller, and counts him one of his greatest influences, and a sound evangelical. Fuller's doctrine of justification, from what I understand, is essentially the Baptist version of Shepherdism.

    Scott Clark, interestingly, just did a blog post on this subject, and in it he quotes his pamphlet entitled Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace:

    I don't mean to say that Piper holds to Fuller's doctrine of justification--I don't know if he does or not; however, I have heard him accused of it.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I wondered about that, too. I thought I read that Piper threw Fuller under the bus about five years ago on this topic.
  25. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Perhaps the concern is that he has returned to that old vomit or else never repudiated it to the degree that some hoped.

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  26. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    This is an old post by Puritan Covenanter with the text of Clowney's statement on Shepherd.


    When you read through all the ins and outs and terms and trials and corrections and modifications of the saga that Clowney details- and he tries to be as fair and gracious as possible for the sake of both Shepherd and the Seminary- it seems that the bottom line at the end is that Shepherd did hold to the imputation of Christ's active and passive obedience to us as the only ground of our salvation and merit before God. No infused righteousness grants us any standing or merit with God. It is all Christ.

    Now you can read it and see that with regards to the Reformed doctrine of perseverance Shepherd departs from Confessional standards, and hence lost his faculty teaching position. But he was OK on justification when he was pushed. Some problematic terminology about works for a while that was OK when the dust settled. (don't flame me, I am trying to read Clowney correctly). When Lane says that Shepherd reintroduces works to justification itself, I am not sure Clowney would agree.

    ( Faith, repentance, and obedience are regularly linked in Prof. Shepherd’s teaching as the covenantal response. Although he no longer teaches that works, like faith, are an instrument of justification, and although he is willing to think of good works as the fruit of faith, nevertheless the effect of the covenantal obedience package is to keep this question alive.)

    So anyway, back to my original question. FV would say that infused righteousness is necessary as merit before God. It is not 100% the work of Jesus Christ, it is Jesus plus the infused righteousness. And that is not what Shepherd holds to.

    So I was trying to figure out where Piper was at these days. My guess is that he still holds to infused righteousness as contributing nothing at all to our standing before God, the way FV erroneously does, and Roman Catholics do, but his terminology is getting fuzzy as he tries to teach complicated subjects. But I don't really know to be honest.
  27. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

  28. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Shepherd rather explicitly said that our works play a part in procuring our justification. You can find it in quite a few places in his published works. For instance, in his The Way of Righteousness, several places find Shepherd advocating a position wherein our obedience plays a role in justifying faith. For example, page 57, "Neither obedience without faith, nor faith without obedience will justify or save." Page 59: "n the proclamation of the gospel, our Lord makes justification and salvation contingent upon obedience." O. Palmer Robertson's The Current Justification Controversy sheds much light on Shepherd's neonomianism.
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  29. tangleword

    tangleword Puritan Board Freshman

    Looks like Desiring God took it further, especially with their tweet that said "You’re not saved through faith alone. Be killing your sin." introducing this article: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-train-your-dragons particularly concerning are quotes such as "If you have a pet sin, you must renounce it at once. Your salvation depends on it." and "But what about being saved by faith alone? You’re not. You’re justified through faith alone."
  30. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Lane, you most probably know time lines better than me. I was under the impression that after the meetings and trials and talks, he had sufficiently truly changed his problem terminology about justification and good works, even if Clowney details why he falls short of Reformed doctrine on election.

    "Faith, repentance, and obedience are regularly linked in Prof. Shepherd’s teaching as the covenantal response. Although he no longer teaches that works, like faith, are an instrument of justification, and although he is willing to think of good works as the fruit of faith...."

    "Although he no longer teaches" being the key phrase. I thought he had responded well to the concerns and corrections brought to him about justification. Wasn't that after the book? I hope so. And I haven't followed it since it came up here some time back. So yes, he did teach something in error, but thank God the brethren at WTS helped him out. We need to pray for these modern FVs to be rescued out. ( I hope NS is still out!)

    Zach, that is a great link. I thought this was particularly good:


    I didn't realize that this concern with Piper was ongoing; I had missed that thread you posted. Same song, second verse, as the saying goes. I thought this was the first time it had come up. Obviously the problem goes back farther than I knew when I started this thread. One can only hope it is well meant confusion and a genuine heart to resist antinomianism and see people lead holy lives, and that in time they will be corrected.

    Thanks again for all the replies.
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