Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Contra the Joint FV Profession: Decrees and Covenant

The Divine Decrees

We affirm that the triune God is exhaustively sovereign over all things, working out all things according to the counsel of His will. Because this necessarily includes our redemption in Christ, God alone receives all the glory for our salvation. Before all worlds, God the Father chose a great host of those who would be saved, and the number of those so chosen cannot be increased or diminished. In due time, Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross, and in that sacrifice He secured the salvation of all those chosen for salvation by the Father. And at some time in the earthly life of each person so chosen, the Holy Spirit brings that person to life, and enables him to persevere in holiness to the end. Those covenant members who are not elect in the decretal sense enjoy the common operations of the Spirit in varying degrees, but not in the same way that those who are elect do.

We deny that the unchangeable nature of these decrees prevents us from using the same language in covenantal ways as we describe our salvation from within that covenant. We further deny this covenantal usage is "pretend" language, even where the language and terminology sometimes overlap with the language of the decrees. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children, that we may keep the words of this law. We affirm the reality of the decrees, but deny that the decrees "trump" the covenant. We do not set them against each other, but expect them to harmonize perfectly as God works out all things in accordance with His will.

[The Joint FV Profession]

The divine decrees is an integral part of Reformed theology. The idea of the redemptive Covenantal structure of all of Scripture along the lines of the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace distinction is almost the "central dogma" of Reformed thought, although of course Reformed theology is more than the covenants. Nevertheless, it is in this important doctrine that the Federal Visionists are seriously in error.

Being debtors to the Reformed tradition, the FVists work within the vocabulary and framework of Reformed theology. Thus, the doctrine of covenant and election is very much a reality in FV circles. Yet while the form remain similar, the content is radically transformed.

We can start to see the alteration of Reformed doctrines in the statement above. The statement makes the claim that there are indeed "covenant members who are not elect in the decretal sense". Now what does this mean?

The phrase can be taken to mean what Reformed theology has traditionally taken it to mean, which is that there are those who are externally in the covenant who partake of the benefits of being among God's people, yet who are not truly elect and does not have true faith in Christ. As the Belgic Confession states:

... the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there (Belgic Confession, Article 29: The Marks of the True Church)

However, as have seen of the FV doctrine of the church, such language must be interpreted according to how the FV uses them. The flattening of the church into one "objective" church means that the decretal sense is truly invisible to all. Rather, those who are elect in the decretal sense are merely believers who will persevere and have their "final justification" manifested on the last day.

Therefore all covenant members are in this life to be considered truly objectively saved. Those who are not elect in the decretal sense are basically believers who will be seen to fall away later, and therefore are truly elect now.

As if to underscore the "objective" nature of the covenant, the statement continues to deny that this covenantal usage is "pretend language". Therefore, we cannot have any idea of a two-fold sense of being in the covenant, because how can a person who is in the church be considered not in the covenant community? Isn't calling a church member who actually is not a true believer a believer "pretend language"? So goes the reasoning.

The statement here finished this section with the denial that the decrees "trump" the covenant. Instead, both will eventually harmonize perfectly. The language here suggest that the FVists see a present discrepancy between the decrees and the covenant. Indeed giving their idea of the elect being made up of those who will persevere and those who will fall away, this is not surprising. Instead of seeing the covenants as the outworking of God's decrees in time, the covenants are presently in tension with the decrees as not all who are in the covenant are the "elect in the decretal sense".

The FV list of error continue to grow, as we shall see later.

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