Wilkins' Presbytery exam examined by Rick Phillips

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by NaphtaliPress, Jan 5, 2007.

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  1. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    The Standards have a better term than "conditional election" or "temporary election" and that is the "general calling". The definition in Chapt 10 on Effectual Calling is as follows:

    IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word,[15] and may have some common operations of the Spirit,[16] yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:[17] much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess.[18] And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.[19]


    [15] MAT 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

    [16] MAT 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. HEB 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.

    [17] JOH 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

    [18] ACT 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. JOH 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. EPH 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. JOH 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    [19] 2JO 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 1CO 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. GAL 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

    One of the problems with the FV are the use of terms. Using "temporary election" only causes further confusion despite the fact that some theologian at some time used the term.
  2. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    If it is true that the WCF is saying that conditional election is under the heading of the "general call" as you quote above, then I would say the WCF is unScriptural on this point... Just a simple read of John 15 should show us that people can, in fact, be IN Christ and not be ultimately saved eternally.
  3. AdamM

    AdamM Puritan Board Freshman

    Gabe, back in the early 80's I used to read a magazine published and If I recall correctly, editied by R. Emmet Tyrrell, called the American Spectator. One of the features I enjoyed the most was Tyrrell's "Strange New Respect" awards. Basically awards given out to folks who evidenced remarkable changes from their previously staked out positions. Things like Dick Gephardt suddenly becoming pro-choice after many years of being a leading pro-life stalwart in congress and so on. David Brock who once wrote for the magazine is another example.

    No offense intended and I wish you well whatever, but you appear to have developed a rather amazing "strange new respect" for the Federal Vision (or maybe you've been body snatched)?
  4. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior


    Based on what Rev. Winzer cited, he is discribing a person who is in the church and shares some of the benefits of the church but is not elect to salvation no matter what they may do. What he is describing is a person who would fit the definition per the WCF as generally called. Being a Presbyterian, I think its best to use terms and definitions that are clear to all. I can point to Chapter 10 section 4 and say "that is exactly what I'm talking about". No fuss no muss.

    Now you have to define what it means to be "IN Christ" since it can be taken a number of ways. Does it mean that a person is in the visible church but not elect, ie; generally called? or that they are actually elect, effectually called, but can lose their salvation?
  5. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    To be "in Christ" is exactly what Scripture says.

    It is to be born again into the kingdom of God -- the Church -- under the headship of Christ (cf. John 3). It is to be set apart from the world in covenant with God. It is to be called to faith and repentance and to rest in Christ all the days of your life (cf. John 15).

    It is NOT the same thing as "salvation" in the WCF sense; that is, being "truly" saved, or "eternally elect."

    Good Calvinism has to take into account (as Calvin did), both the covenantal/sacramental life of the Church (the visible church), and the predestination and eternal side of things (the invisible church, which is far less "important" to us in the "here and now"; cf. Deut 29:29 if you disagree with me).
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    To be blunt, I think you are behaving irresponsibly in this thread. It's as if you have your hands clasped over your ears and are simply charging: "You misrepresent, you misrepresent..."

    You have so far:
    1. Accused two Elders in the visible Church of bearing false witness without substantiating the claim.
    2. You have accused all those who agree that Wilkins' statements are irresponsble as "...making haste to run to evil...."
    3. You accused me of poisoning the well without explaining how I was being unfair with terms.
    4. Having barely studied the WCF and wondering aloud "...if that's what it teaches...", you assume your "...on the surface of John 15..." is enough to pronounce that the WCF is wrong.

    This is a dialogue on the issue. You may not agree with the conclusions others are drawing about Wilkins' teachings but to stop your ears and scream "...you're misrepresenting..." does not help anybody to understand.

    If you have a case to present that his words are being misrepresented then demonstrate how Pastor Phillips or others have dones so by comparing meanings, analyzing, and critiquing. If you're expecting any of us to agree with you on the basis of your decretal authority alone then you're sadly mistaken.
  7. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    1. Then I guess I'm guilty along with the hundreds upon hundreds of people who simply regurgitate synopses of what they read online in order to engage in a blanket condemnation of any number of Elders in the visible Church. This is ad hominem tu quoque.

    2. No I did not. That was directed at Robin who -- to be blunt -- has said some REDICULOUS things regarding Elders in the visible Church, with apparently no intent to understand someone's position, dialogue, or come to any sort of understanding... just throw rocks.

    3. You were being unfair with terms because Wilkins and others are using regeneration in (what is arguably) a more Biblical-Theological manner (and there's nothing WRONG with that, as long as one is clear -- which Wilkins and others obviously haven't been clear enough in the past, and thankfully they're qualifying now... but still to people's discontent!); that is, regeneration as being born into the kingdom of God (the visible Church) through Baptism (cf. John 3, Titus 3, etc.). This is found in Calvin, Augstine, and especially in M.F. Sadler's book "The Second Adam and the New Birth," which is a defense of the Reformed view of the Sacrament of Baptism, straight out of Calvin and his contemporaries. WCF made regeneration to mean "conversion," which is fine by me, as a theological term, but I really am not sure if that's how Scripture ALWAYS uses the term. I'm still studying, and always will be. So, like I said, TO BE FAIR, you should read Wilkins in context, according to what he has said, not read a different -- but fine and good -- context into what he's saying and then throw stones at his statements about baptism and regeneration. He does not believe Baptism "truly saves" a person or makes them "eternally elect." He's completely confessional on this subject; that is, on the subject of God's eternal decree and the salvation of sinners.

    4. This is just an insult, but I'll clarify anyway, giving you the benefit of the doubt, as a fellow layman in the Church. I said that "if that's what it teaches" because I don't believe that is what WCF's point was. I thought it was a bad reading, because it would seem to contradict clear Scriptures on being "in Christ" and how one can be "on the vine" and "a branch" but still be cut off from Christ (covenantally speaking, of course!!! not eternally).
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This call can be heard from Joe Blogs standing on a soap box in the centre of town.

    Traditional Presbyterianism taught that Jehovah God manifests His gracious presence and acts according to His special providence for the good of the visible church. This privileged position is acknowledge by historic writers as an election, which distinguishes the members of the visible church from the world. To call it anything less is to detract from the significance of the church as an institution of divine appointment.

    The Confession considers the visible church to be nothing less than "the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (chap. 25, sect. 2). Besides the special benefits of the sacraments, which apply only to the elect, the Confession states they are also instituted " to put a visible difference between those that belong to the church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word" (Chap. 27, sect. 1).

    It appears to me that the confusion arises because inexperienced theologians do not understand the adjectives "absolute," "unconditional" or "eternal," as being relative to the election which pertains to eternal life, and that such adjectives are stated for the express purpose of distinguishing this election from an election to temporal privileges.

    I specifically chose the quotation of John Owen because he particularly refers to Christ's election of Judas to temporal privileges. Judas was chosen, being a devil; yet in terms of inward, spiritual blessings, he was not chosen. One is not at liberty to deny what the Bible so plainly teaches. The responsible thing to do is to explain the difference between these two elections, which is what historic reformed theology has done.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Well, at least I got you out of your pithy "one-liner" cocoon in this thread.

    1. That's an interesting ethic. What others do is not normative. Others may accuse me of misrepresenting and the Lord knows I have much to learn but if I speak inaccurately I confess it when I know of it.

    2. Take that up with Robin.

    3. I didn't even write enough words to conclude everything you just accused me of. I summarized something that was true as far as it went. My point, at the time, is that you merely charged me with misrepresenting and now you engage in accusing me of concepts I did not express. Be careful of the standard with which you judge...

    4. I would suggest you be more guarded in your speech the next time.

    My comments were intended as a warning. I do not intend to give a tit for tat. I don't want this to become personal but others are not the only folks "poisoning the well" in this thread.
  10. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Rev. Winzer,

    I understand what you are saying, but I do not believe it is apropos of the issue at stake here in this thread. To acknowledge that there is an "election" or "choosing" by God that amounts to common grace (which you have aptly described) is not the point. Owen is clearly describing an election to temporary gifting, such as Judas had. That is not what Wilkins is describing. He is describing a temporary election to salvific gifts, benefits. Owen is describing the exact opposite. He is discussing the giftings shown by those who manifestly do not have saving graces, in his effort to show that the work of the Holy Spirit (the selected text is from Owen's work on the Holy Spirit, Pneumatologia) in saving grace is distinct, different and not related to his work in gifting men.

    Here is the quote in full context, from a section dealing with the difference between spiritual gifts and saving grace, which makes that point crystal clear (I'll bold the bottom line portions):

  11. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I was careful in my original post to note the deficiencies of the FV in this regard. My concern is to ensure we do not throw out the baby with the bath water, that is, the important concept of temporal election in connection with visible church privileges. One should not oppose the FV on the basis that they use the term, but because they use the term inappropriately.
  12. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Do Wilkins and other FV proponents say that one is OFFERED the benefits of Christ, or is really and truly GIVEN those benefits?

    Everyone in the covenant is OFFERED eternal life, justification, glorification, etc. etc. etc.

    Whether or not they actually are truly GIVEN those benefits depends on faith.
  13. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    Rev Winzer,

    If you think that the definition of the general calling is not what you meant, all you had to do was say so.

    It is interesting though that the Divines used Judas (as noted in the Scripture proof 17 sighting John 6) as someone who was generally called (just like you did. Imagine that!).

    BTW, I don't think anyone will dispute that the basic definition of elect is to choose. And if you want to put and adjective with it? thats okay as well. Also that is a nice quote from Owen. But Owen, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Hodge, Machen or any other teacher you want to quote is not the Church. Unless I missed somewhere that the Church declared that everything Owen's said was now dogma. The Church gets to establish doctrine for the Church, not anyones favorite teacher. So Owens aside, since the Standards, which I have taken a vow to subscribe to, do not use such terms as "conditional" or "temporary" election, I see now reason to muddy the waters with extranous terms.
  14. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Absolutely. I meant no disrespect, but just wanted to clarify. The FV advocates are already linking your post here in this thread as a vindication of their position.
  15. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    No, Gabe, you are wrong. Read the Knox Colloquium, read Federal Vision itself, and read Paedofaith (just among a few). If this were just about benefits being "offered" there would be no dispute, and frankly no need for the FV advocates to even write anything, since this is standard Westminster theology and language.

    You can't have it both ways, either (as keeps being said over and over) Westminster is not broad enough, and not Biblical enough - which the FV folks have been so bold as to come out and say in the past six months - or there is no reason for them to be disturbing the church.
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I hope that includes the part where I explicitly state their departure from the historic reformed position.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    It is just good to remember that if the term itself is made anathema, then those orthodox teachers which used the term are anathematised with it, which should give pause before making such a commitment. Also, as words are symbols of meaning, it is to be hoped if the term is to be discoontinued that the idea it represents is not forgotten.
  18. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    The funny thing is - yes!
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Refer to the first post. They teach that persons forgiven can lose their forgiveness. Forgiveness is a spiritual benefit merited by Christ for the elect alone.
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Those in the wrong always find some way to turn their own accusers. Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
  21. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    How are we to regard the apostle Paul when he calls entire Churches "elect" with "forgiveness of sins", etc.?
  22. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    judgment of charity.
  23. Arch2k

    Arch2k Puritan Board Graduate

    Or maybe presumption?:D
  24. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    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.
  25. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior


    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?
  26. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Rev. Winzer, you are confusing the forest for the trees. Which is ironic, since you are the one who wrote what is arguably the definitive refutation of the error of the so-called “well meant offer.” Where the WMO is Arminianism repackaged with Reformed gift wrap, the Federal Vision is the next logical step – Romanism wrapped in the powdered wigs of Puritans. The error of the latter is the working out of the logical implications of the former.

    All Federal Visonists and their defenders like Wilkins, Wilson and Gaffin are united in their belief that all those who are baptized are in existentially united to Christ. Union with Christ is not through faith alone. It is not a change of legal standing and adoption. It is the result of the combination of water on the head and the murmurings of some designated prelate. As Doug Wilson said, baptism is always efficacious; "This consecration really happens [in baptism]. God really does it. His people are genuinely set apart; a visible difference is placed between them and the world. By means of baptism, baptism by water, grace and salvation is conferred on the elect.” Baptism is the wedding of a person to Christ and marriage comes with a whole new set of obligations and responsibilities. The lesson taught by the Federal Vision is that in order to be finally saved, to be counted among the “eschatologically elect” and not just the “corporately elect,” sinners must do their part. Salvation is not the result of Christ's work alone outside of them and on their behalf, but something worked in the church "corporately" as church members persevere and live out their lives in covenantal faithfulness. For Wilkins, Wilson and Co., Christians are saved by fulfilling the conditions of the covenant

    Election and reprobation are not eternal decrees of God made before the foundation of the world, they are states which men enter as a result of their actions under the objective covenant -- they are covenantal outcomes. They are made elect by baptism, and reprobate by failing to fulfill the (unspecified) conditions of the objective covenant. For Wilkins election and reprobation are conditional and revocable. Each is conditioned on one's performance. Federal Visionist Joel Garver makes this idea even clearer as he reshapes the Arminian error of the "well-meant offer" in terms of the covenant:

    Since God's love extends to the reprobate and elect alike, as both are "in Christ" by virtue of being "covenantally elected" at baptism, it follows that it is not God's eternal and immutable love and hatred which determines election and reprobation. It is not on the basis of Christ alone that God loves his own, for we see that both the elect and reprobate are in covenant relationship with Christ, and this is so regardless of the time we abide in Christ. The ones who, through their faithfulness, "meet the condition that God has set for the fulfilment of His promise," become sheep. In the objective covenant in which the sinner meets conditions and fulfills his covenantal obligations, thus qualifying himself for the salvation God has promised.

    With all due respect, if anything like this was ever taught by Owen and “Traditional Presbyterianism,” then Presbyterian tradition along with Owen be damned.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2007
  27. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Rick Phillips has posted some interaction to the Warfield list.

    I received an email today from an FV supporter that involved what I think is helpful interaction. He affirmed that the point of my paper (re: TE Steve Wilkens's answers) was that Wilkens teaches different doctrines from the Westminster Standards. What he did not see was my argument to this effect. I gave the following as an answer to this question, that is, my reasoning as to why Wilkens's answers involve not just differences in terminology but significant doctrinal differences with the Confession. I hope this advances the conversation and clarifies my earlier paper for some readers.

    Rick Phillips

    My answer consisted of four points:

    1. Part of my criticism of Steve Wilkins's Answers is the way in which he defends his teaching. When challenged as to his teaching of a conditional election, he answers that where the Bible teaches election, it teaches something other than the doctrine of the Confession. This was a point I labored to make in my Comments. While I certainly realize that there is not always a correspondence between a word in the Bible and the doctrine of that name in our confessions, here is a case where they in fact have the same point of reference. So his way of defending his teaching is to assert that the Bible teaches differently than does the WCF. This, I argue, is not to affirm the Confession.

    2. Moreover, what TE Wilkens says about election is contrary to the Confession. All Bible-believers agree that God elects people. But the point of the doctrine of election is in answering two questions: when the Bible relates election to salvation, on what basis we are elected, and to what we are elected. Arminians answer that the basis of our election is conditional (the condition being foreseen faith), and we are elected to glory. The Westminster Standards answer that our election is unconditional, and we are elected to glory. Wilkens answers that our election is unconditional (at least I think this is his position), and we are elected to covenant membership and its privileges. So we might line them up:

    Position Election on what basis? Election to what?
    Arminian Conditional To Glory
    WCF Unconditional To Glory
    Wilkens Unconditional To Covenant Membership

    One thing this argues is that Wilkens's teaching is not Arminian; whatever else he is doing, he is not doing the same thing the Arminians are doing. For this reason, I do not believe that charges of Arminianism against Wilkens are either accurate or helpful. But the other thing this argues is that Wilkens teaches a doctrine of election that is different from that of the Westminster Standards. This is the point I am seeking to make.

    3. Wilkens and his supporters argue that this is a both-and situation; what he is saying is true of church members who will not inherit glory, and what the Confession says of church members who will inherit glory is also true. I am arguing that it is in fact an either-or situation. When Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians, he spoke of election with reference either to those who are destined to glory only (the WCF position) or to all church members, regardless of their end. Surely we will all agree that in Eph. 1:4 (and similar passages), Paul is relating divine election to salvation, so Eph. 1:4 is not a use of election that belongs to a different doctrinal context. Either Paul is saying that those who are "saints" and "faithful in Christ" are chosen unto glory, or he is saying that church members are elected into the covenant, some to be saved through perseverance and others to be lost via apostasy. You cannot have it both ways, as if Eph. 1:4 is directed to two different kinds of readers. Is Eph. 1:4 is directed, as Wilkens says, to church members who enter into glory and to those who will not, or is written only with reference to true believers who can thus be assured of glory? This question yields two different doctrines of election. I maintain that the Westminster Standards teach one doctrine -- Paul is telling true believers that God elected them unto glory -- and Wilkens teaches another doctrine -- Paul is telling true and false believers that they are elected into covenant membership and privilege. We might go on to debate the correct interpretation of Eph. 1:4, but my point is that Wilkens' doctrine and the Confession's doctrine are fundamentally different. If one is correct, the other is in error, since Paul is making either one point or the other. As I indicated above, this is true not merely of Eph. 1:4, but of Paul's use of election throughout his epistles.

    4. My Comments make this same point for the other doctrines -- especially perseverance and the visible/invisible church.
  28. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Good post. I just corresponded with Pastor Phillips today commending him on his work.

    It is gratifying to see my reading of him is precisely how he intended to be read.

    Perhaps I'm just an optimist but I've been trying to interact with some heavily ensconced FV proponents and pointing them to this couple of threads. My point is this:

    Here is what we think guys - clearly laid out. Here's what the problem is. I think we've done a pretty good job of showing why we believe your view of conditional election differs completely from ours and the historic Reformed position. You don't have to agree with us but we are completely clear about what we believe the problem is:

    We do NOT agree that Paul's form of address in Ephesians (and elsewhere) when he is speaking to the Elect can be used to infer what you're concluding: that Paul means to speak of the same things in a full sense for the "fully" elect and in a lesser sense for the "partially" elect.

    I have to admit that, after just a few days of spending some energy on this, it gets pretty frustrating having some of the FV proponents just deal with that issue. They keep getting distracted by words. They want to keep qualifying terms and avoid the issue and get me to see that maybe there are some places where Paul means to say this or "this is like the Psalter...." I keep pointing them back here and the other thread because I don't think we could be any clearer.
  29. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    John Owen wrote what is UN-arguably the definitive refutation of the well meant offer. He had no difficulty with "temporal election" and what it represents biblically. I have pointed out the key point where his use of the term differed from the way the FV use it; and I believe I have clarified more than once that it should be used with Owen's qualification.

    Thankfully Owen and traditional Presbyterianism have never taught anything like the FV, so there is nothing for you to get so worked up over.
  30. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, of course not. Which raises the question why you would even bring up Owen temporal election in the first place? It's not as if he provided justification for Wilkins' vacillations, redefinitions, equivocations and false gospel. What both men believe and teach are apples and oranges. in my opinion bringing up the fact that Owen used the phrase "temporal election" in this situation just muddied the water.

    On a side note, Phillips is wrong, Wilkins does hold to a conditional view of the Covenant.
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