Why is Bahnsen linked to FV?

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Seb

Puritan Board Junior
I know I'm late to the FV issue, but I've been trying to understand FV’s errors and their repercussions. I fear that paedocommunion is about come into my Church / Denomination and I need to be prepared to give a proper response to it when the time comes.

Let me say clearly up front: What I understand of the FV - I wholeheartedly oppose. I consider it a heresy; a huge step back towards Rome and a works based 'salvation'.

Having said that - I'm about halfway through studying Bahnsen's By This Standard (Great book In my humble opinion) and I don’t see any problem with his theory so far, but I have read some that link Bahnsen to FV and I don’t understand why.

From an article on FV by Dr. R. Scott Clark (whom I have nothing but the utmost sincere respect for):

As such, the FV movement has had disproportionate influence on ex-fundamentalists who've discovered Reformed theology. Instead of discovering Calvin, Ursinus, and Hodge, they've discovered Rushdooney and Bahnsen (who gave them virtually divinely-approved answers to all their ethical questions) and Wilson and Barach and Schlissel (online) and the other leaders of the FV movement.

Very early in Bahnsen’s book he states:

Moreover, the one aspect of ethics which is the focus of attention in these studies, the question of law, is presented with a view toward avoiding certain serious errors that can be made about God’s law. Obedience to God’s law is not the way a person gains justification in the eyes of God; salvation is not by meritorious works but rather by grace through faith. And while the law may be a pattern of holy living for sanctification, the law is not the dynamic power which enables obedience on the part of God’s people; rather, the Holy Spirit gives us new life and strength to keep God’s commands. The externalistic interpretation of God’s law which characterized the Pharisees is also repudiated herein; the demands made by God extend to our hearts and attitudes so that true obedience must stem from a heart of faith and love. It is not found simply in outward conformity to (part of) His law.

Which is much the same as Dr Clark stated later in his article (referenced above):

According to the Reformed understanding of Scripture, Jesus has kept the law for all his people fulfilling the promise he made to his Father. Christ's obedience in fulfilling Adam's duty is the basis for God's declaration to and about all those who trust in Christ alone and in his finished work: you are righteous. That's good news and that's the biblical covenant theology and doctrine of justification. The covenant of grace isn't just another covenant of works with a little grace drizzled on top. No, the covenant of grace is really gracious. It's free. You can't earn anything with God. It's unconditional. In justification, faith isn't trusting and obeying. It's only trusting in Christ and in his finished work for sinners.

Yes, we must obey God's holy law, but we do so by grace and out of gratitude and only as evidence of the new life that God has given us in Christ by grace (HC 86-129). If we don't get our covenant theology and our doctrine of justification right, however (HC 21, 60), we have no basis for a Christian life and we will find ourselves trapped again in the very sort of legalism from which the Reformation (and before then, the Apostle Paul!) set us free.

Is it that the FV zealots have misapplied what Bahnsen was advocating or is there something inherently wrong with Bahnsen’s premise regarding theonomy and the application of Biblical ethics to NT believers to start with (If there is I don't see it)?
 
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Southern Presbyterian

Puritan Board Doctor
:popcorn: This ought to be "a good one."

I will say one thing, and one thing only (for my level of sanctification is not such that I can sustain civil tones when this topic arises). in my opinion, it is a matter of guilt by association for Bahnsen. Early on in the controversy certain FV proponents tried to claim that Bahnsen would support FV if he were alive today. And for certain individuals, the fact that some of the more prominent FV men are also Theonomists means therefore that all Theonomist are at some level ready to also join the FV camp. [Nothing could be further from the truth, btw - the first denomination to come out strongly and condemn the FV theology was the RPCUS, by all accounts as Theonomic a denomination as you'll find.] I just had to get my :2cents: worth in. This matter is sort of near and dear to my heart and my blood pressure is already rising (i.e. my reference to my level of scantification), so please understand if I do not comment further in this public forum.

Blessings!
 

discipulo

Puritan Board Junior
In my humble opinion FV has tried to hijack several Theologians already departed like John Murray, Klaas Schilder, Greg Banshen and others

chapter 11 Greg Bahnsen Is Not In The Federal Vision Camp

PDF attached is the comple chapter of the book by John M. Otis

“Danger In the Camp: An Analysis And Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision.”
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I believe that it is in large part due to David Bahnsen (Greg's son) making such claims about his father. But the fact that Bahnsen was totally opposed to Shepherd gives the lie to these claims.
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Cesar is right.

Here's Bahnsen in his own words concerning baptism. Notice in Bahnsen's writings, he is not afraid of words like "impuatation", and "penal substitution". I'm also reading "By This Standard" and I see constantly a distinction between the basis of our justification and obedience to the Law. It's so clear one wonders how anyone could see an FV strain in Bahnsen.

Here's a quote taken from this interview. While not necessarily anti-FV specifically, you can see his principled stance would be difficult to reconcile with the FV:
CM: Some Reconstructionists have been very interested in symbolical interpretations of the Bible - what has been called "hermeneutical maximalism". You once addressed this in a review of David Chilton's Days of Vengeance in Journey magazine. What do you think of this movement?

Bahnsen: I believe that what has been called "hermeneutical maximalism" is very dangerous. It is not sufficiently controlled by the text of scripture, but depends on the imagination and creativity of the interpreter. People can come to peculiar conclusions through this stream of consciousness approach. But even when they arrive at orthodox conclusions, their methodology is not governed sufficiently by the Word of God. We need faithful conclusions - arrived at faithfully.

CM: Some Reconstructionists have been very interested in liturgical renewal, seen particularly in the movement to Anglican communions and the use of vestments. Any comments?

Bahnsen: Reformed theology has insisted on the regulative principle of worship because the Bible requires it. The stress on liturgical forms and significance goes beyond the scripture's teaching. I endorse the regulative principle, and thus the simplicity of New Testament worship. The days of symbolism and ritual (Old Covenant) have given way to the appearance of the Son and emphasis on the Word (New Covenant).

in my opinion, Reconstructionists after Bahnsen decided to re-work the Christian faith instead of reforming the errors of limp-wristed evangelicalism according to God's Word...that's one reason I never label myself a Reconstructionist, and will only call myself a theonomist generically...as far as the term goes, that's what I am...as far as the movement (if it can be called that), I am NOT.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
:worms:

I'm not a fan of the slippery slope fallacy.

Let's just say that some people's disciples take things in a really bad direction that might not have been anticipated.

This includes folks like Meredith Kline, Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, Geerhardus Vos, etc. It's funny that I was just thinking about this today. It's interesting to me the number of teachers in the 20th Century that have gained followers who follow these men in such a way that their teaching becomes the new "center of gravity" for all understanding. This gravitational center then tends to dislodge other Reformed truths to place them in an improper orbit.

Vos, for example, believed Biblical Theology was a line with Systematic Theology being a circle that is supposed to balance out what you do in the former. He knew he was working in an orbit but some of his disciples have made where he stood the new center and re-cast all sorts of things in the process. The same can be said about Kline - is his theology a way to shed some light on the historic Reformed understanding of the Covenants or is it something that should supplant it and, in the process, re-form things like days of creation and the relationship of the Mosaic Law to the CoG?

I'm not a Theonomist but, not having read Bahnsen at length, I've seen some stuff from him that I like and appreciate his contributions in certain areas. I can take him on board as one of many voices in the conversation that is the history of theology but, I believe, there are those that believe that we must choose a voice and silence all the other voices or tone them down so that we only hear an anachronistic interpretation of the voices of the past.

Thus, in writing this, I'll be reviled by some Theonomists on the one hand and some Klineans on the other because I have to either pick a party or I'm against both. I'm not permitted to appreciate the contributions of both.

But proximate blame for the extremes should not be laid at the feet of the voices even if some of the things they wrote could be used to lead unstable men in unanticipated directions.
 

Seb

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks everyone.

It sounds like it has nothing to do with any of his specific teachings, but more like the FV people are trying to misappropriate his legacy and put words into his mouth posthumously.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks everyone.

It sounds like it has nothing to do with any of his specific teachings, but more like the FV people are trying to misappropriate his legacy and put words into his mouth posthumously.

Yes and no. There are also those who are violently opposed to theonomy (and/or wedded to Bahnsen’s opponents) and use any excuse to knock Bahnsen, including alleged links to FV.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
thanks everyone.

It sounds like it has nothing to do with any of his specific teachings, but more like the fv people are trying to misappropriate his legacy and put words into his mouth posthumously.

yes and no. There are also those who are violently opposed to theonomy (and/or wedded to bahnsen’s opponents) and use any excuse to knock bahnsen, including alleged links to fv.

:ditto:
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
:worms:

I'm not a fan of the slippery slope fallacy.

Let's just say that some people's disciples take things in a really bad direction that might not have been anticipated.

This includes folks like Meredith Kline, Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, Geerhardus Vos, etc. It's funny that I was just thinking about this today. It's interesting to me the number of teachers in the 20th Century that have gained followers who follow these men in such a way that their teaching becomes the new "center of gravity" for all understanding. This gravitational center then tends to dislodge other Reformed truths to place them in an improper orbit.

Vos, for example, believed Biblical Theology was a line with Systematic Theology being a circle that is supposed to balance out what you do in the former. He knew he was working in an orbit but some of his disciples have made where he stood the new center and re-cast all sorts of things in the process. The same can be said about Kline - is his theology a way to shed some light on the historic Reformed understanding of the Covenants or is it something that should supplant it and, in the process, re-form things like days of creation and the relationship of the Mosaic Law to the CoG?

I'm not a theonomist but, not having read Bahnsen at length, I've seen some stuff from him that I like and appreciate his contributions in certain areas. I can take him on board as one of many voices in the conversation that is the history of theology but, I believe, there are those that believe that we must choose a voice and silence all the other voices or tone them down so that we only hear an anachronistic interpretation of the voices of the past.

Thus, in writing this, I'll be reviled by some Theonomists on the one hand and some Klineans on the other because I have to either pick a party or I'm against both. I'm not permitted to appreciate the contributions of both.

But proximate blame for the extremes should not be laid at the feet of the voices even if some of the things they wrote could be used to lead unstable men in unanticipated directions.

I agree completely. That is why i describe myself as a "Vanilla Westministerian" (as in plain) and would never be a Theonomist, although I am comfortable being a theonomist. I also appreciate Biblical Theology, but would never consider myself a "Redemptive Historical" person (in terms of a distinct group).
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
:popcorn: This ought to be "a good one."

I will say one thing, and one thing only (for my level of sanctification is not such that I can sustain civil tones when this topic arises). in my opinion, it is a matter of guilt by association for Bahnsen. Early on in the controversy certain FV proponents tried to claim that Bahnsen would support FV if he were alive today. And for certain individuals, the fact that some of the more prominent FV men are also Theonomists means therefore that all Theonomist are at some level ready to also join the FV camp. [Nothing could be further from the truth, btw - the first denomination to come out strongly and condemn the FV theology was the RPCUS, by all accounts as Theonomic a denomination as you'll find.] I just had to get my :2cents: worth in. This matter is sort of near and dear to my heart and my blood pressure is already rising (i.e. my reference to my level of scantification), so please understand if I do not comment further in this public forum.

Blessings!

While in the main I agree that some FV proponents believe that Dr. Bahnsen would fall into the FV camp, it may be a little simplistic to say he would totally oppose certain aspects of what is called FV. In particular Dr. Bahnsen cannot be assumed to totally oppose Norman Shepherd's theological revisionings, even though he disagrees with Shepherd on imputation, as:
a) Dr. Bahnsen held his former teacher in very high regard even after Shepherd was dismissed from WTS
b) Bahnsen followed the case from afar and regarded Shepherd's dismissal as a theological error. (Dr. Bahnsen's son David claims to have written evidence of his father's views from his surviving correspondence but he has yet to make the information public.)
I think it the better part of wisdom not to attribute to Dr. Bahnsen an unquailifed "heresy hunter" or "proponent of new paradigm" stance until more information becomes available.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
it's kind of like the tootsie pop question: we will never know the answer. Sad fact remains that he is dead or something like that and just can't answer questions anymore. In By This Standard and TiCE he went out of his way to defend imputation, something most FV guys probably do not do. And then there is the whole hermeneutics of charity to dead guys issue. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

But to answer the question: it is easy to smear people and immediately discredit a position by linking it to the FV or to people who drown kittens.
 

nicnap

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
thanks everyone.

It sounds like it has nothing to do with any of his specific teachings, but more like the fv people are trying to misappropriate his legacy and put words into his mouth posthumously.

yes and no. There are also those who are violently opposed to theonomy (and/or wedded to bahnsen’s opponents) and use any excuse to knock bahnsen, including alleged links to fv.

:ditto:


:ditto:

-----Added 1/21/2009 at 12:59:58 EST-----

But to answer the question: it is easy to smear people and immediately discredit a position by linking it to the FV or to people who drown kittens.

:lol:
 

Greg

Puritan Board Sophomore
I found this quote on the Covenant Media Foundation website. It's taken from one of Bahnsen's lectures titled, "Course in Church Membership" in regards to when children should take communion:

"How about children? Well not children who don't understand these things because at Passover, remember, the child who took the meal had to say 'father what do these things mean?' The child had to be a discerning, understanding child. But now how young can the child be? The answer to that question is 'I don't know.' You bring me a two-year-old who can give me a two-year-old profession of faith and we'll have that two-year-old take the Lord's Supper. Some will say well that's not possible. I don't know, I don't know enough about human psychology to tell you whether it is or not, but if it happens I'm not going to say God's word says eleven years old before you can join the church. There's nothing like that. And if we're going to be true to our principles as Reformed people we should not impose prerequisites that the Bible doesn't impose. There's no age requirement for the Lord�s Supper."
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
With regards to the issues you are about to face:

Don't get tied up in personalities; stick to the confessional issues. Dr. Clark has plenty of resources on his Westminster website that highlight the FV's deviancy from our standards.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Some of that is probably the same dynamic that makes feminists try to claim Katherine Mansfield or Wilde try to imply that Shakespeare was homosexual. George Orwell is good on this topic (see Benefit of Clergy). Basically it is hard for people to see that someone they like disagrees with them. And if you are trying to make out that your position is respectable, of course the most tenuous and unsubstantiated connection or adumbration suddenly seems blindingly obvious.
 
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TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
As such, the FV movement has had disproportionate influence on ex-fundamentalists who've discovered Reformed theology. Instead of discovering Calvin, Ursinus, and Hodge, they've discovered Rushdooney and Bahnsen (who gave them virtually divinely-approved answers to all their ethical questions) and Wilson and Barach and Schlissel (online) and the other leaders of the FV movement.

I'd heard something just as crazy a couple weeks ago from an FV person. I lived up there with Rushdoony for two years, and the statement seemed so absurd based on what I knew of Rush that I wrote his son, and this is the reply

Hi Tim,My father would be horrified at the Federal Vision/ New Perspective on Paul theology, which did not become prominent in Reformed circles until after his death. He may have quoted from Wright (I don't know offhand) but he often quoted from those with whom he had disagreements, so a mere use as a reference would not represent anything more than that reference. My father used very traditionally Reformed language and definitions, all of which these new ideas reject. See Systematic Theology, p. 660, the first sentence as an example). He often criticized shallow, inconsistent Reformed thought, but not traditional Reformed theology regarding the doctrine of justification.His entire work Institutes of Biblical Law is based on a careful distinction between justification (by grace received through faith) and sanctification (by obedience to the law). He says that plainly in the introduction. I think the core of the error of the new ideas is that they blur the line between justification and sanctification, really claiming that the Reformation got it wrong. My father did say that the Reformation did not definitively settle the means of sanctification, but he never deviated from the traditional definition of justification.My father said law was integral to God's salvation because it was His law and His salvation was covenantal, but he also pointed to the fact that the exodus took place before the giving of the law, showing that the law presupposes grace.(see Biblical Law, Vol. III, p. 176).Mark Rushdoony
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
With regards to the issues you are about to face:

Don't get tied up in personalities; stick to the confessional issues. Dr. Clark has plenty of resources on his Westminster website that highlight the FV's deviancy from our standards.

Respectfully, the point of the thread is not questioning whether the FV is in error, but rather whether Clark is in error to insinuate an FV connection to Bahnsen.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
With regards to the issues you are about to face:

Don't get tied up in personalities; stick to the confessional issues. Dr. Clark has plenty of resources on his Westminster website that highlight the FV's deviancy from our standards.

Respectfully, the point of the thread is not questioning whether the FV is in error, but rather whether Clark is in error to insinuate an FV connection to Bahnsen.

You are correct but I thought the encouragement was, nevertheless, needed.
 

Seb

Puritan Board Junior
With regards to the issues you are about to face:

Don't get tied up in personalities; stick to the confessional issues. Dr. Clark has plenty of resources on his Westminster website that highlight the FV's deviancy from our standards.

Respectfully, the point of the thread is not questioning whether the FV is in error, but rather whether Clark is in error to insinuate an FV connection to Bahnsen.

You are correct but I thought the encouragement was, nevertheless, needed.

And thank you for that encouragement and the wise words.

I'm going a little off topic here but it seems that if the CRC is going to continue down the road to paedocommunion, they will have to ignore or revise their version of the HC (cf. Q77, Q78, Q81, & Q82) - This is most distressing and will probably be a deal breaker for me, depending on what my local council does at that time.

Regarding my OP - Being a newcomer to theonomy, Bahnsen, PC, and the FV - I was looking for some answers to help me quickly understand the lay of the land especially any possible links between Bahnsen and FV and you guys have been very helpful in this.

I don't have an ax to grind with Dr Clark - at this point I don't even know enough to own an ax. :) - I'll let others fight whatever battle may be there.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
From the website of DavidLBahnsen (GLB's son): posted Apr.28,2008
Articles

That's the fv-oriented son laying claim to his father's legacy, via the Shepherd issue.
Right or wrong, it contributes to showing how the connections are observed from that direction.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
From the website of DavidLBahnsen (GLB's son): posted Apr.28,2008
Articles

That's the fv-oriented son laying claim to his father's legacy, via the Shepherd issue.
Right or wrong, it contributes to showing how the connections are observed from that direction.

Not to take as stand as I haven't reseached FV, but I have heard that there are some signficant differences between Shepherd and FV. If my information is correct, It seems to me that one must prove Shepherd's theology that Bahnsen supported= the FV distinctives condemned as heresy for Bahnsen's support of Shepherd to necessarily translate into Bahnsen supporting FV.
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
it's kind of like the tootsie pop question: we will never know the answer. Sad fact remains that he is dead or something like that and just can't answer questions anymore. In By This Standard and TiCE he went out of his way to defend imputation, something most FV guys probably do not do. And then there is the whole hermeneutics of charity to dead guys issue. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

But to answer the question: it is easy to smear people and immediately discredit a position by linking it to the FV or to people who drown kittens.

FV=people who drown kittens.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
From the website of DavidLBahnsen (GLB's son): posted Apr.28,2008
Articles

That's the fv-oriented son laying claim to his father's legacy, via the Shepherd issue.
Right or wrong, it contributes to showing how the connections are observed from that direction.

I think it is pretty safe to say that it certainly comes from the "wrong" direction.

In this case the sins of the son should not be imputed to the father. Again any kind of Guilt-by-Association argument against Greg Bahnsen should be taken with less than a grain of salt.
 

G.Wetmore

Puritan Board Freshman
On the Faith/Works issue Bahnsen was with Shepherd. Besides the evidence David Bahnsen gives, consider the following quote which I transcribed from a the lecture entitled "Dispensationalism" (the first lecture of the series on "An Eschatology of Optimism")

“…Because faith and obedience can’t be separated artificially. If you have faith in God, you obey him. And if you truly obey him you have faith in him, the two go hand in hand. And that’s why the Old Testament system of salvation is not any different than the New Testament system of salvation. Now I want to suggest to you the reason why many people don’t understand that today is because they don’t really understand the New Testament system of salvation. They understand salvation by faith to be separate from works. They think we are saved by faith – some kind of little internal spiritual ghostly experience in our heart – and then of course, works are an evidence of that - or something like that - that comes in later. Good works becomes, maybe, the second work of grace for people who see things that way. That isn’t the way the New Testament presents it. Men are saved by obedient faith in the New Testament, even as they are saved by faithful obedience. You have to have both. James - unless you want to throw him out of the canon, as Luther was tempted to do – James makes it very clear that a man who says he is justified by faith and doesn’t have works is wrong. That’s dead faith, and dead faith justifies no one. Now I am not telling you we are saved by faith plus works. You see, that’s the problem, people hear what I’ve been suggesting and they think that means this plus that – it’s not at all. I am saying that we are saved by the grace of God, and that the instrumentality of that is active living obedient faith – not dead faith, obedient faith. So I’m not saying first you have faith then you add works to it, and that formula gives you salvation, that would be judaizing – that’s a problem. What I’m saying is that the faith God gives us, as a gift, is a living active obedient faith, and that was true of the Old Covenant saints as much as it is of the New Covenant saints.”
-Dr. Greg Bahnsen, from the first lecture (Dispensationalism) in the series on An Eschatology of Optimism
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
The bold portion of that quotation misses the conclusion Bahnsen was aiming for...he was simply defining what saving faith is...it is living.
What I’m saying is that the faith God gives us, as a gift, is a living active obedient faith, and that was true of the Old Covenant saints as much as it is of the New Covenant saints.

The context is a discussion of Dispensationalism...where the erroneous "carnal Christian" doctrine is paraded about. Bahnsen addressed that error in a similar vein that James did.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
He's just saying that faith without works is dead and works without faith are dead :think: No heresy here.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
On the Faith/Works issue Bahnsen was with Shepherd. Besides the evidence David Bahnsen gives, consider the following quote which I transcribed from a the lecture entitled "Dispensationalism" (the first lecture of the series on "An Eschatology of Optimism")

“…Because faith and obedience can’t be separated artificially. If you have faith in God, you obey him. And if you truly obey him you have faith in him, the two go hand in hand. And that’s why the Old Testament system of salvation is not any different than the New Testament system of salvation. Now I want to suggest to you the reason why many people don’t understand that today is because they don’t really understand the New Testament system of salvation. They understand salvation by faith to be separate from works. They think we are saved by faith – some kind of little internal spiritual ghostly experience in our heart – and then of course, works are an evidence of that - or something like that - that comes in later. Good works becomes, maybe, the second work of grace for people who see things that way. That isn’t the way the New Testament presents it. Men are saved by obedient faith in the New Testament, even as they are saved by faithful obedience. You have to have both. James - unless you want to throw him out of the canon, as Luther was tempted to do – James makes it very clear that a man who says he is justified by faith and doesn’t have works is wrong. That’s dead faith, and dead faith justifies no one. Now I am not telling you we are saved by faith plus works. You see, that’s the problem, people hear what I’ve been suggesting and they think that means this plus that – it’s not at all. I am saying that we are saved by the grace of God, and that the instrumentality of that is active living obedient faith – not dead faith, obedient faith. So I’m not saying first you have faith then you add works to it, and that formula gives you salvation, that would be judaizing – that’s a problem. What I’m saying is that the faith God gives us, as a gift, is a living active obedient faith, and that was true of the Old Covenant saints as much as it is of the New Covenant saints.”
-Dr. Greg Bahnsen, from the first lecture (Dispensationalism) in the series on An Eschatology of Optimism

No, Bahnsen was NOT with Shepherd on this issue. Shepherd denied the sole instrumentality of faith in justification, but just had to include the idea of obedience within the structure of faith's instrumentality in justification. This is not something Bahnsen ever did.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The problem with the above is that he uses the word saved. It is Shepherd lingo. It is not about faith alone that justifies or works that proves a living faith.
 
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