Friday, December 21, 2007

Give me a break

By far and away Green Bagginses has the finest commentators on his blog, and Pastor Gary Johnson is one of them. This morning he had an excellent comment that moved someone to request that he insert a few paragraph breaks in his posts. You see, Pastor Johnson has a tendency to type one complete thought en masse — typos, punctuation errors, et al — and hit “Submit Comment.”

Therefore, with the hope of encouraging Pastor Johnson to insert paragraph breaks in his comments, I have re-posted his comment without permission, though with corrections and appropriate paragraph breaks:

I want to commend Norman Shepherd for his straightforward admission that the Westminster Standards (WS) are really not in harmony with his views. It would be refreshing if his disciples in the Federal Vision would follow suit.

Shepherd, for example, readily acknowledges that the bi-covenantal structure of the WS, especially the centrality the divines placed on the Covenant of Works (CoW), clearly leads to a pronounced emphasis on the imputation of the active obedience of Christ (IoAOC). No CoW, no IoAOC. Instead [for him] the first covenant is entirely a gracious covenant. But, as has been observed many times, there really is a bi-covenantal structure embedded in this view after all — because the end result is that a covenant of works now surfaces in the Gospel in terms of “covenantal faithfulness” that now constitutes the condition for final justification.

Why just recently Doug Wilson, in his overview of Piper’s critique of NT Wright, said that he was very sympathetic to Wright’s contention that “justification is on the basis of the completed life lived.” Now Wilson is quick to add, “This is not the same thing as affirming justification by works, and is fully consistent with sola fide.” No, it is not, Doug, and your saying so does not make it so. Why even Trent affirmed that justification in their system was entirely of grace and gave “faith” THE place of prominence — going so far as to declare that anyone who would seek to be justified by works deserves an anathema. Wilson, however, ends up following a very similar path as did Trent by appealing to Rom. 2:5–7 ala Wright and confidently declares, “This is consistent with ‘sola fide’ because we receive everything God gives by faith from first to last. The righteousness of God is revealed ‘from’ faith ‘to’ faith (Rom. 1:17), and the just shall ‘live’ by faith (Rom. 1:17), not the ‘just shall make a good start by faith.’”

It should be noted that NONE of the Reformers or the Westminster divines interpreted Rom.2:5–7 the way that Wilson is suggesting. I also want you to note what this amounts to in the final analysis. A distinctive covenant of works is now imported into the scheme of how one goes about securing one’s final justification. You can jump up and down and stomp your feet and howl at the top of your lungs, “Sola Fide all the way Baby!” But it ceased to be what the Reformers and the Westminster divines meant by that when you introduced a conditional final justification that has any reference to “the totality of the life lead.” Please see Calvin’s indignant response to the 6th session where he again and again repudiates any notion that justification is in the slightest contingent on the life lived after one embraces the Gospel, declaring — “as if God, after justifying us once freely IN A SINGLE MOMENT, left us to procure righteousness for ourselves by the observance of the law during the whole of life” (my emphasis).

Clearly Calvin rejected outright the “covenantal nomism” that the New Perspective on Paul advocates like NT Wright are proposing, and to his credit Wright openly admits that he does not follow the Reformers in their understanding of justification, but as it turns out this is the path that Norman Shepherd and the FV is traveling as well.

You see, it looks cleaner, reads easier, and an excellent comment just got better.

Thank you.