Monday, April 06, 2015

Sacred Bond: Contra Engelsma (Part 3)

In their exposition of the covenant, the authors of Sacred Bond show no awareness of the covenant heresy and its root. If they are aware, as one cannot imagine they are not, they have learned absolutely nothing from the heresy and its dreadful effects in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches, including their own. [David Engelsma, PRTJ 46:1 (Nov 2012): 119]

I am sure that, in a book that seeks to introduce the basics of Covenant Theology to simple believers, an assault on Federal Vision is absolutely unnecessary. Is Engelsma suggesting that someone new to the Reformed faith for example MUST be immediately taught how bad Federal Vision is?

The biblical covenant confessed and explained by Brown and Keele is conditional from stem to stern, from source to fulfillment. (Ibid.)

The problem with Engelsma is that that he is totally unable to see that he must hold to some form of condition in even his "unconditional covenant." If Christ did not die on the Christ, can there be a Covenant of Grace for the Elect? Engelsma to be orthodox should say no. But if the death of Christ on the Cross is necessary for the implementation of the Covenant of Grace, then the death of Christ on the Cross is a condition for the Covenant of Grace. Or to put it more theologically, one condition for the Covenant of Grace is that Christ must merit salvation. To put it another way, Christ must fulfill the law and merit righteousness, and that is the main condition of the Covenant of Grace.

Engelsma, as with many PRCA theologians, are totally unable to see that conditions cannot be eradicated, unless one becomes a universalist. Anything that must happen, or that restricts the application of redemption, is a condition. The question to differentiate between orthodoxy and heresy is not whether there are conditions, but where and how and by whom the conditions are fulfilled. But if one has only one covenant (which the PRCA holds to), then one is even more restricted as to how the conditions are to be configured, and just by fiat denying there are conditions is manifestly inconsistent if one says that believing in Christ is necessary to be saved.

In this explanation of the “covenant of redemption,” the authors pay no heed to any number of Reformed theologians, including Herman Bavinck and Herman Hoeksema, that the main Scriptural proof adduced for the explanation—Zechariah 6:12, 13—does not at all refer to a bargain of Father and Son in the Godhead ... (Ibid.)

That there is an agreement between the members of the Godhead does not imply that there is any form of bargaining involved. That is a strawman and misrepresentation, as well as a massacre of the English language, to say that agreements must imply the presence of bargaining.

...they go on to describe the new covenant with believers and their children, which is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, as conditional: “Its [the new covenant’s] condition is, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’” (Ibid., 120)

If someone does not have faith, can he be saved? No. If someone has faith, is he saved? Yes. So, according to the basic definition of syllogistic logic, faith is both a necessary and sufficient condition for salvation.

The problem with Engelsma is what happens when you have people who don't see that basic logic necessitates saying that faith is a condition. It is just like Engelsma's problems with definitions. One cannot define something in a way that restricts its meaning based upon one's ideology. To restrict meaning, one uses modifiers to modify the basic words. In the case of faith, we call it an "instrumental condition," because it is through faith that we are saved, not on the basis of faith.

As though the Canons of Dordt had never exposed the Arminian heresy as teaching that faith is the new covenant condition of salvation, rather than obedience to the law in the old covenant (Canons, 2, Rejection of Errors: 4)... (Ibid.)

The error rejected in Canons of Dort section 2, rejection of errors 4 is the error that God "graciously looks upon this [faith] as worthy of the reward of eternal life." In other words, the Arminian error is that faith is the ground of justification, not the instrument. God looks upon faith and by congruent merit credited that imperfect faith for righteousness. This is far from the position taken by Brown and Keele that faith is the instrumental condition for salvation, and thus Engelsma misrepresents what they, and the Reformed tradition, teaches.

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