Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Contra the Joint FV Profession: The Covenant of Life/ Works

[continued from here]

The Covenant of Life

We affirm that Adam was in a covenant of life with the triune God in the Garden of Eden, in which arrangement Adam was required to obey God completely, from the heart. We hold further that all such obedience, had it occurred, would have been rendered from a heart of faith alone, in a spirit of loving trust. Adam was created to progress from immature glory to mature glory, but that glorification too would have been a gift of grace, received by faith alone.

We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam's moral exertions or achievements. In line with this, we affirm that until the expulsion from the Garden, Adam was free to eat from the tree of life. We deny that Adam had to earn or merit righteousness, life, glorification, or anything else.

Having a flattened 1-dimensional ecclesiology, the FV bring this same hermeneutic over to the realm of covenant and salvation. Together with ecclesiology, they form the basis for the FV unique and heretical teaching on justification.

The hermeneutical failure to differentiate between the different senses of being in the covenant likewise results in a failure to read salvation history properly. As the people of God are indeed one between the Old and the New Covenants, so the continuity between the two according to this 1-dimensional hermeneutic means that the differences between the two periods of salvation history are minimized. This is most evidently manifested in the denial of the Law/Gospel distinction, but for now we will stick to the flattening in the covenants which we can see here.

The FV denies the Reformed teaching of the Covenant of Works. It is perhaps illustrative to contrast this statement here with the description from the Westminster Confession of Faith on this issue.

I. The distance between God and the creature is go great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.

II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

(Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VII: Of God's Covenant with Man)

Besides blatantly contradicting the Confession at this point, the main issue to be noted here is their appeal to what they think grace is and what king of agreement is appropriate for God. First of all, grace is not unmerited favor Rather, it is demerited favor. Grace is always what God gives to creatures who deserve His wrath, not to creatures like the the sun, the moon, or the stars for example. To say that grace is mere unmerited favor is to trivialize grace as a mere relational state with creatures, whereas grace always has a sin motif to it.

Since grace is demerited favor, Adam was not under grace before the Fall. Adam was under God's unmerited favor, but he in his sinlessness in the Garden before the Fall have not yet done anything against God. So while gracious (in the non-technical sense), Adam was not under grace. As for faith, one wonders what use is faith when Adam saw God (theophanically) in the Garden. Faith exist when sight does not (cf 2 Cor. 5:7) and vice versa.

If one defines merit as making God a debtor to us, then of course there is no such thing as "merit". I have tackled the issue of merit elsewhere. Suffice it is to say here that if God has decided to reward Adam based upon the doing of a certain work, even though He did not have to, that work can be considered meritorious since doing it would fulfil the condition(s) set by God for His rewarding of obedience.

The Joint FV profession erred in this area, and it is here that one of their *distinctives* are clearly visible, even though it is not the main problem with their system. First of all, Adam could not have a "heart of faith" nevermind rendering obedience from such a heart. There was no grace in the Garden too, so glorification would not be by grace, neither to be received by faith.

Ironically of course, the effort to be make it all of faith ends up making it all of law and works, a fact which we shall see in the denial of the Law/Gospel distinction. In the FV system, since God does not owe anyone, He could not condition reward upon obedience, and therefore the gift of glorification is not by obedience but by faith. Therefore, if the gift of glorification is by faith, then the failure of Adam in the Fall to acheive the gift must be because he ceased having faith. From this, the entire salvation heresy of faith as faithfulness flows, which we shall look at another time.

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