Norman Shepherd / New Perspective on Paul
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Articles relating to these subjects located at the bottom of this page
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Email abstracts from the United Reformed Church's Co-Urc bulletin board as they relate to Norman Shepherd and his book "The Call of Grace". Main topic was concerning "The Covenant of Works". The names of participants and dates of posting are indicated below at the top of each posting. For full text of discussion, visit the Co-Urc HERE  Must sign up to access list.


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Dr. R. Scott Clark - Discussing Norman Shepherd

Message: 6
   Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001 11:20:06 -0700
   From: "R S Clark" <rsclark@wscal.edu>
Subject: Antinomianism or Evangelical Romanism?
 

Under the heading "Antinomianism and Legalism," Shepherd says:

"The differences can be summarized as the differences between legalism and antinomianism. Children of the Reformation insist that salvation is by grace alone. There is nothing that you can do or should try to do to save yourself. For some, salvation by grace means that you make a decision for Christ. You believe in him and are saved. Of course, the commandments are important and Christians should be concerned about holy living. After all, Jesus said that "if you love me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15). But all of that has nothing to do with your salvation or your eternal security..."

We call this way of thinking "antinomian." The word means, literally, "against law." The term brings out the fact that law keeping plays no role in the way of salvation.

His account of the nature of antinomianism is vague and misleading and a classic "nomist" move going back to the Marrow Controversy of the 18th c. By definition, "antinomianism" is opposition to the Law of God. Shepherd has it, however, that antinomianism is refusing the make law-keeping an instrument of justification.

It is true that Zane Hodges and others deny the Third Use of the Law, and make sanctification a second blessing, but that is because he is a genuine antinomian, higher life, revivalist fundamentalist.

Hodges' view is not an option for those who heartily affirm the threefold structure of the HC  (see my earlier post). This is a distinction which Shepherd ignores. Rather he lumps together those who hold the third use of the law, that is, those who hold with the HC that gratitude is the *response* to grace, rather than an instrument of justification, with antinomians such as Hodges.

By saying "plays no role in salvation" rather than "justification" Shepherd buys himself some wiggle room. Yes, the law plays a role in "salvation" which is a broader concept than "justification," but it plays *no* role in justification.

In Reformed theology, when we say "salvation" we encompass both justification and sanctification. This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says, "work out your *salvation* with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12) because "it is God who is at work in you to will and to do." Anyone who says that this passage is describing justification per se, has subscribed the classic *Roman* doctrine of justification (see below). Rome says that God graciously works in sanctification in you, and you must cooperate (this is the original "obedient faith") in order to be justified. We distinguish justification and salvation, precisely to avoid the problem created by the papists.

If anyone says that obedience is a part of justification then I ask, is it the ground or the instrument? If he says, "ground" then I say he has denied sola gratia. If he says "instrument" then I say he has denied sola fide. Anyone who denies sola gratia or sola fide -- I care not whether he thinks he has Scripture on his side, all heretics quote Scripture -- is no preacher of the gospel but a false teacher who comes under the condemnation of Galatians 1:9.

It is precisely because of these dangers that the HC makes law-keeping the *response* to grace (HC 86) but no part of justification. Anyone who construes law-keeping such that it has the same necessity as faith ("certain knowledge and hearty trust" HC 21) has slid into legalism.

Shepherd continues (p.8) by drawing a false and sharp dichotomy between Lutherans and Reformed on the question of Law and Gospel. It was against this attempt to divide the Reformation on this basic point that I gave the quotations from those "Lutherans" Beza, Machen et al.  On this see my essay, published in the Outlook and reprinted on my website:

http://www.wscal.edu/clark/danger.php

There is no such cleavage between Classical Lutheranism and Reformed theology. Shepherd *knows* this because it was shown to him in the controversy over twenty years ago. That he continues his propaganda only shows that his interest is *not* in upholding the Reformation sola's but it warping them.

It is true that, on p. 5, Shepherd affirms grace alone through faith alone. Though one notes that he finishes the paragraph by omitting the "alone" in the formulae. That omission is a foreshadowing of things to come. I contend that this is a formal, not substantial affirmation. In other words, he says it, but the substance of his argument goes on to deny the very thing he has just affirmed. I am aware that this is a serious charge and I intend to substantiate it below.

One begins to see the way in which Shepherd is going to deny the sola's, in substance, by the way he defines covenant. By making the Abrahamic covenant (p.12) normative, i.e., the standard by which all other covenants are defined, he has begun with "grace" and not with Law. Remember what a' Brakel warned. If one begins with grace, on the pretense of avoiding "legalism" then one will not rightly understand grace. Grace makes sense only against the background of the Law. This is why we talk about "Law" and "Gospel" and "covenant of works" and "covenant of grace." By flattening out the differences between the covenant of works (Law) and the covenant of grace (gospel -remember Ursinus' theology) he makes the covenant of grace to have more "law" (hence his definition of antinomianism) than the covenant of works and the covenant of works to have more grace than the covenant of grace. By his definition of the covenant, he has set the stage for confusing Law and Gospel, faith and works.

On p. 13 Shepherd challenges the notion that the Abrahamic covenant (the covenant of grace) was unconditional. He goes on to list 6 conditions. This is part of his program of revising traditional, classic, Protestant, Reformed covenant theology and soteriology. Classic Reformed theology knows one for receiving the benefits of the covenant, apprehensive faith. I say apprehensive faith to distinguish Calvin, Ursinus, Olevian and the tradition from the definition of faith which D. Fuller, J. Armstrong, and N. Shepherd (p.16) are offering, "obedient faith."

The classic Roman definition of faith is "obedient faith." Notice that in Ursinus' definition which I quoted from his Summa, is identical to that of the HC.

21. What is true faith?

It is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word; but also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, for the sake of Christ's merits.

Where is this definition in Shepherd's account? It is not there. Why? He has a different agenda than the HC. Notice that the HC has the three parts of faith, knowledge, assent and trust. Notice that the HC does not say, "certain knowledge, hearty trust and obedience." According to Shepherd's definition of the covenant of grace and of faith, the HC *must be judged antinomian.*

Of course the HC is no such thing, it has a third section which is wholly and rightly given over to a gracious doctrine of sanctification. This is why the *order* of the catechism is so terribly important.

Notice also how the HC speaks of Christ's *merits*. Why? Because the authors of the catechism (chiefly Ursinus and Olevian) *knew* that Christ did not make salvation available for those who will "trust and obey" but rather Jesus *earned* justification and salvation for his elect by his perfect law-keeping. He will give saving, apprehensive faith to all his elect, and those same will manifest grateful obedience which itself is the product of grace. This gratitude however, is no part (ground or instrument) of their justification.

He does this also by making Jesus the first Christian. In Shepherd's covenant theology, Jesus is not just the 2nd Adam who came to fulfill the terms of the covenant of works for the elect, but rather he is the model for Christians who must, like Jesus trust and obey. This is his point on p.19.

All of this is made possible through the covenantal righteousness of Jesus Christ. His was a living, active, and obedient faith that took him all the way to the cross. This faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Brothers, I say this in all seriousness, this is heresy against the Reformed faith. Our doctrines of sola gratia and sola fide and solo Christo teach that God graciously gives faith to his elect. Faith, it its essence is that adequate sole instrument of justification because it is *extraspective* and looks to Christ as its sole object and to Christ's obedience as the ground of justification. Through that sole instrument (faith), Christ's justice is imputed to the sinner and our sins are imputed to Christ. This is the "wonderful exchange" of which Luther spoke.

Shepherd, however, has wonderfully exchanged the Protestant scheme of imputation for a softened version of the Roman scheme of moral improvement through graciously infused obedient faith. He has stumbled over the offense of the gospel, called it antinomian and softened it by making Jesus the first obedient Christian. Faith is for sinners, not the sinless. Faith trusts in another for righteousness. To whom did our immaculate, sinless, wholly righteous high priest look for his justification?

Rather Jesus obeyed the Law, yes and Amen. He fulfilled every commandment joyfully and perfectly, but where was his faith? What was lacking in his obedience? Abraham, that sinner, was trusting in Jesus' obedience (John 8:56) and to impute Abraham's faith to Christ is to commit the Roman error of confusing faith (certain knowledge and hearty trust) with law-keeping.

This is what is disturbing about Shepherd's account of James 2. He denies the classic Reformed view (recently ably defended by Prof. Venema in the pages of the Outlook) that James is concerned not to juxtapose faith and works per se, but rather a dead faith v. a living faith. Shepherd's exegesis of James 2 (explaining Abraham's obedience) is much closer to the classic Roman view than it is to the Reformed. Here, p. 16 he clearly makes faith and works two instruments of justification. One sees the same approach on p.17 where Shepherd does not interpret Abraham's obedience as "demonstrative" of his justification by grace alone, through faith alone, but rather as constitutive or instrumental in Abraham's justification. This is a serious error in theology.

This is no imaginative interpretation on my part. He alerted the reader to his agenda in the opening pages (p.3ff) where he takes the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals to task for the way they criticized the 1994 document, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." On this see my "Regensburg and Regensburg II," Modern Reformation (September/ October, 1998) at:

http://www.wscal.edu/clark/regensburg.php

It is also striking that while criticizing ACE (the radio program of which, The White Horse Inn, many of our churches support) he *nowhere* criticizes ECT!

Then, look at pp. 59ff where Shepherd begins to offer his own solution to the crisis of the Reformation. He thinks that  (p. 60-1) Rome has a point! They attack us because we misunderstand James 2.24 and Gal 5.6 (which Rome quotes for her doctrine of "obedient faith"). Shepherd (p.60) thinks the problem is twofold: that Rome attributes merit to human obedience. Shepherd's response is, as it has been for more than 20 years, to reject merit as a working category in our theology. This is the thesis which underlies the unease some have expressed on this list with the category merit. Fortunately, as we've seen, our doctrinal standards are not so squeamish.

Shepherd believes that his reconstruction of covenant theology is the tonic which ails Rome. Rather than calling Rome to repent and believe in the justice of Christ received solely through the imputation of Christ's merits, through apprehensive faith, Shepherd (p.61) calls Rome to reject the works/merit paradigm.

What is amazing is that, in this case, Rome has understood the doctrine of justification more clearly than Shepherd. Rome is correct, it is a matter of works and merit. The question and controversy with Rome has *never* been *whether* works or merit (hence our standards teach this repeatedly as I've shown) but *whose* works and merit. We say that it is by Jesus' works and merit, imputed graciously by God and received through faith.

There is indeed a deep chasm between the gospel and Shepherd, between confessional Reformed Christianity and the moralism offered in _The Call of Grace_.

RSC

R. Scott Clark, DPhil.,
Associate Professor of Church History
Westminster Seminary California
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027
USA

rsclark@wscal.edu

http://www.wscal.edu/index.php
http://www.wscal.edu/clark/index.php

760 480 8474
760 480 0252 FAX


John Barach - Responding to Dr. Clark

Message: 9
   Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001 13:51:10 -0600
   From: John Barach <jbarach@telusplanet.net>
Subject: Re: Antinomianism or Evangelical Romanism?
 

Scott cited a passage from Norm Shepherd's new book, _The Call of Grace_. He then wrote:

   > Shepherd has it, however, that antinomianism is refusing to
   > make law-keeping an instrument of justification.

Where does Shepherd say this?

   > Hodges' view is not an option for those who heartily affirm
   > the threefold structure of the HC  (see my earlier post). This
   > is a distinction which Shepherd ignores. Rather he lumps
   > together those who hold the third use of the law, that is,
   > those who hold with the HC that gratitude is the *response*
   > to grace, rather thanan instrument of justification, with
   > antinomians such as Hodges.

Where does Shepherd lump "those who heartily affirm the
threefold structure of the HC" together with Zane Hodges and
others who teach that you can receive Jesus as Saviour without receiving Him as Lord?

Scott adds:

   > By saying "plays no role in salvation" rather than
   > "justification"  Shepherd buys himself some wiggle room.
   > Yes, the law plays a role in "salvation" which is a broader
   > concept than "justification," but it plays *no* role in
   > justification.

Could you explain what positive role the law plays in salvation? Is covenant faithfulness necessary for salvation in your view?

   > It is precisely because of these dangers that the HC makes
   > law- keeping the *response* to grace (HC 86) but no part of
   > justification. Anyone who construes law-keeping such that it
   > has the same necessity as faith ("certain knowledge and
   > hearty trust" HC 21) has slid into legalism.

The Belgic Confession, art. 24, speaks about "justifying faith." It describes that "justifying faith" this way: "It is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man; for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith which is called in Scripture a faith working through love, which excites man to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word."

In other words, justifying faith is a working faith, a "faith working through love." Isn't that also what Norman Shepherd says in _The Call of Grace_?

   > There is no such cleavage between Classical Lutheranism
   > and Reformed theology. Shepherd *knows* this because it
   > was shown to him in the controversy over twenty years ago.
   > That he continues his propaganda only shows that his
   > interest is *not* in upholding the Reformation sola's but in
   > warping them.

Are there really no differences between classical Lutheranism and Reformed theology in the way these two schools of thought speak about the law and the gospel?

Unfortunately, your comments have passed from careful discussion of what Shepherd actually says to the imputation of evil motives. I'm interested in discussing the former; I have no interest in the latter, which I submit is inappropriate on this list.

   > On p. 13 Shepherd challenges the notion that the Abrahamic
   > covenant (the covenant of grace) was unconditional. He goes
   > on to list 6 conditions. This is part of his program of revising
   > traditional, classic, Protestant, Reformed covenant theology
   > and soteriology. Classic Reformed theology knows one for
   > receiving the benefits of the covenant, apprehensive faith. I
   > say apprehensive faith to distinguish Calvin, Ursinus, Olevian
   > and the tradition from the definition of faith which D. Fuller,
   > J. Armstrong, and N. Shepherd (p.16) are offering, "obedient
   > faith."

Don't you agree with Shepherd that the Abrahamic covenant was
conditional? After all, even if the only condition you see is faith,
there is still a condition, isn't there?

Furthermore, isn't it possible to speak about several conditions, all of which are intimately related to faith? For instance, when we say that we are justified by faith only (and not by our good works), we don't mean to say that repentance isn't a condition for salvation, do we? 

   > Where is this definition in Shepherd's account? It is not
   > there. Why? He has a different agenda than the HC. Notice
   > that the HC has the three parts of faith, knowledge, assent
   > and trust. Notice that the HC does not say, "certain
   > knowledge, hearty trust andobedience." According to
   > Shepherd's definition of the covenant of grace and of faith,
   > the HC *must be judged antinomian.*

Once again, Scott, you are imputing evil motives to a Reformed brother. Shepherd's book consists largely of lectures that he gave. In those lectures, he didn't say everything there is to say about faith. But is his description of faith different from the description in the Belgic Confession, art. 24? Does the BC's description contradict or complement the HC's description of faith?

   > He does this also by making Jesus the first Christian. In
   > Shepherd's covenant theology, Jesus is not just the 2nd
   > Adam whocame to fulfill the terms of the covenant of
   > works for the elect, but rather he is the model for
   > Christians who must, likeJesus trust and obey.

Isn't Jesus our example in any sense? Didn't He live by faith in
His Father?

   > Shepherd, however, has wonderfully exchanged the
   > Protestant scheme of imputation for a softened version
   > of the Roman scheme of moral improvement through
   > graciously infused obedient faith. He has stumbled over
   > the offense of the gospel,called it antinomian and
   > softened it by making Jesus the firstobedient Christian.
   > Faith is for sinners, not the sinless. Faith trusts in another
   > for righteousness. To whom did our immaculate,sinless,
   > wholly righteous high priest look for his justification?

Where does Scripture (or the confessions) teach that faith is only for sinners? Didn't Jesus trust His Father? Where does Shepherd teach "a softened version of the Roman scheme of moral improvement through graciously infused obedient faith"?

   > Shepherd's exegesis of James 2 (explaining Abraham's
   > obedience) is much closer to the classic Roman view than
   > it is to the Reformed. Here, p. 16 he clearly makes faith
   > and works two instruments of justification. One sees the
   > same approach on p.17 where Shepherd does not interpret
   > Abraham's obedience as "demonstrative" of his justification
   > by grace alone, through faithalone, but rather as
   > constitutive or instrumental in Abraham'sjustification. This
   > is a serious error in theology.

I'm not sure where on p. 16 you see Shepherd making "faith and works two instruments of justification." He does say that Abraham's faith was made complete by what he did. But isn't that a quotation of James 2:21? Shepherd's point is that "justifying faith" is a working faith -- but isn't that what BC, art. 24, says?

I'm also not sure what you're referring to on p. 17. Shepherd does say, "The promises are renewed and will be fulfilled *because* Abraham trusted God and walked in righteousness according to the word of the Lord."  But when he says that, he's quoting Genesis 26:5, where God says that He'll bless Abraham "*because* Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees, and my laws."

Where on p. 17 does Shepherd make Abraham's obedience "constitutive or instrumental in Abraham's justification"?

   > This is no imaginative interpretation on my part. He alerted
   > the reader to his agenda in the opening pages (p.3ff) where
   > he takes the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals to task for
   > the way they criticized the 1994 document, "Evangelicals and
   > Catholics Together."

What Shepherd actually says is that the ACE responded negatively to "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." He says, "Others sounded the alarm and warned that basic principles of the Protestant Reformation were being surrendered" (p. 3). Wasn't that the truth?

He does say later on that neither the ACE response nor the original "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" appeal to the covenant. He regards that as a flaw (p. 63).  Wouldn't it have been good for these documents to speak about the covenant?

By the way, you say:

   > It is also striking that while criticizing ACE ... he *nowhere*
   > criticizes ECT! 

But he levels the same criticism aganist "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" as he does at the ACE response: no appeal to the covenant (p. 63). Have I missed some other criticism of the ACE?

   > He thinks that  (p. 60-1) Rome has a point! They attack us
   > because we misunderstand James 2.24 and Gal 5.6 (which
   > Rome quotes for her doctrine of "obedient faith"). 

What Shepherd says is that Roman Catholics often appeal to passages such as James 2:24 and Gal. 5:6. Roman Catholics claim that Protestants don't do justice to these passages. Shepherd responds by saying that a biblical view of covenant does do justice to these passages. 

Note, by the way, that Gal. 5:6 is the source of the line "faith working through love," which is part of the description of "justifying faith" in the BC, art. 24.

   > There is indeed a deep chasm between the gospel and
   > Shepherd, between confessional Reformed Christianity and
   > the moralism offered in   _The Call of Grace_.

Where in _The Call of Grace_ do you see Shepherd teaching "moralism"? Doesn't he consistently say that we cannot be justified by our own merits?

He says on p. 50, as he speaks about the covenant conditions, "They are conditions, but they are not meritorious conditions. Faith is required, but faith looks away from personal merit to the promises of God. Repentance and obedience flow from faith as the fullness of faith. This is faithfulness, and faithfulness is perseverance in faith. A living, active, and obedient faith is the way in which the believer enters into eternal life."

Again, on p. 60, he explicitly rejects the Roman Catholic church's
teaching about human merit: "Rome's doctrine of salvation requires that place be given to human merit....  But if there is place for human merit, then there is place for boasting about meritorious achievement." And he cites Eph. 2:8-10 in response. "Our boast must be in the work of God, not in our own works."

I understand that you disagree with Shepherd's approach. That's fine. But is his view really outside the bounds of the confessions?

Note, too, that the issue isn't so much what Shepherd teaches. It's what the confessions teach and what they allow. The confessions don't spell out every aspect of the covenant. They leave room for difference of opinion on some key points, and within those boundaries, we can disagree and discuss like brothers.

Regards,

John
 

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

John Barach (403) 317-1950
Pastor, Trinity Reformed Church (URCNA)
113 Stafford Blvd. N.
Lethbridge, AB
T1H 6E3


Dr. R. Scott Clark - Responding to John Barach

Message: 18
   Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001 21:45:39 -0700
   From: "R S Clark" <rsclark@wscal.edu>
Subject: Obedience of faith 
 

Dear John,

I've written many more pages of email than I should have. Like Dr Riddlebarger, I'm going to save my more detailed critique for publication.

As to motives, nothing I have said concerns Shepherd's personal motives, but I am critical of his theological motives. Analyzing *why* a theologian does or says what he does is an important part of theology. In my earlier posts, I've done nothing more than this.

You object that I mischaracterize Shepherd's objection to the ACE statement. No, its Shepherd's move to re-cast covenant theology and then to use that revised doctrine of the covenant to which I object. The ACE response to ECT etc may not be "covenantal," but at least it is consistently Protestant, which is more than can be said for Mr. Shepherd's book.

The entire point of Shepherd's definition of the covenant is to make obedience a co-instrument of faith, else why not simply teach the classic doctrine of the covenant? This is the function of his claim, repeated by Bill DeJong -- despite the extensive documentation I have provided, including a link to an essay which also discusses this matter  -- that there is a distinctively Reformed doctrine of Law and Gospel. The purpose of this claim is to be able make obedience a second instrument. This is why he essentially categorizes the Lutherans as antinomian.

Your question about the place of works in the Christian life is very telling. Where do you think I put them? Exactly where the Catechism puts them, in the "gratitude" section, as a response to God's grace, themselves the fruit of grace. See HC 62-64, 86, 87 and 114.

The force of these Q/A is this: Believers produce fruit. Anyone who does not produce fruit is not a believer. We do not excommunicate sinners because they sin. We excommunicate them because they show themselves to be unbelieving. The question is one of faith and unbelief.

None of these Catechism questions make obedience an instrument of justification. They consistently make obedience the fruit of justification. This is what I have been arguing all along.

One of the key differences between Shepherd's doctrine as expressed in _Call of Grace_ (e.g., 76) is the definition of faith. His interpretation of Rom 1.5, "obedience of faith" (Hypokoen pisteos; see also 16.26). This expression comes at as part of the introduction to his epistle. Of course he's not teaching the ordo salutis here, but it is a pregnant phrase. In Paul's theology it means "that hearty trust in Christ the 2nd Adam which *is* our obedience." This is not, however, how Shepherd construes the obedience of faith. For him it means "trust and obey." This is a quite different view of faith.

The same can be said for his argument that Jesus was the first Christian (my summary of his argument on p.19). This phrase, "the first Christian" is the way Jesus was interpreted by the classical liberals, beginning with Schleiermacher. Jesus had the primary religious experience (the sense of dependence upon the divine) and we're to model that religious experience. Shepherd, by imputing "faith" to Jesus has, from a more conservative standpoint, done something quite similar. He has removed Jesus from his unique office as Mediator and 2nd Adam, to make him a mere example of one who trusts and obeys.

Did Jesus trust his Father? Yes, but when Paul and the author to the Hebrews talk about "faith" they mean "saving faith in the one Mediator Jesus." So, if we are going to impute "faith" to Jesus we must mean it in an entirely different sense. For us sinners, faith looks away from one's self, and entirely to Jesus the Savior. To whom did Jesus look for "salvation"? He needed no salvation! He was the Savior. He was *the only* Law-keeper. Thus, to impute "faith" to Jesus makes nonsense of our faith.

It seems clear to most NT scholars that when Paul speaks, in Rom 3.22 of the "faith of Christ" (pisteos Iesou) it is an objective genitive, not subjective. Its not "Christ's faith" but rather the sinner's faith in Christ which is in view here. Even those who take the expression as a subjective genitive usually understand it to mean "Christ's faithfulness."

With this post, I'm going to let others work through these issues
electronically. I think I have done all I can for now. I think I can best serve the church by concentrating on research and writing for publication.

RSC

R. Scott Clark, DPhil.,
Associate Professor of Church History
Westminster Seminary California
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027
USA

rsclark@wscal.edu

http://www.wscal.edu/index.php
http://www.wscal.edu/clark/index.php

760 480 8474
760 480 0252 FAX


Bill DeJong's 5 Point Summary

Message: 10
   Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 11:38:06 -0600
   From: "Bill DeJong" <bdejong@telusplanet.net>
Subject: Cov. of Wks. Def'n
 

Dear Co-urcers,

In what follows, I have tried to articulate Kim's and Scott's position on the covenant of works in five simple points. Perhaps they could indicate whether I have understood their position correctly. 

1. God established a covenant with Adam in the garden of Eden. This covenant has the character of a contract between an employer and an employee. Just as an employee earns wages by working, so Adam would earn something by doing what God instructed him to do. The wage to be earned here is eternal blessedness. Adam could merit that wage from God by passing a probation which required him to refuse the fruit of a forbidden tree. In so doing Adam would meet the terms of the covenant by his own merit and so acquire eternal blessedness. 

2. The possibility of meriting eternal blessedness did not exist only for Adam. It continues to exist in history, although only hypothetically. This is how we ought to understand Moses, for example, when he says things like: "the man who does these things shall live by them." The principle, "Do this and live" encapsulates the covenant of works. Those who obey the law of God perfectly will merit eternal blessedness. 

3. Because this situation is hopeless for a sinful humanity, God the Father entered into covenant with Christ. Since Christ was called to be the second Adam, God's covenant with Christ was also a covenant of works. Unlike Adam, who failed, Christ passed the probation, met the terms of the covenant and thereby merited eternal blessedness for himself and for all his people. 

4. The covenant of grace is established with the elect. The elect are saved by Christ who has merited salvation for himself and for them by keeping the law. Those who are not elect are in the covenant of works. They will perish eternally because of their sin. They do not merit eternal blessedness. 

5. There are two ways of life which are diametrically opposed to one another. One is by Law (covenant of works) and the other is by Gospel (covenant of grace). When one tries to live by law, one is reverting back to the covenant of works which promises only eternal death for sinful people.

Kind regards,

Bill DeJong


Dr. R. Scott Clark - Responding To Bill DeJong

Message: 9
   Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 17:15:16 -0700
   From: R S Clark <rsclark@wscal.edu>
Subject: Instruments, Covenant of works etc
 

Dear Brothers,

I'm being besieged with requests and demands that I write more to the list. I will not be a slave to the tyranny of the immediate (email). I think email is not a very good forum in which to conduct serious theological discussion. Its obvious to me that my longer posts have gone largely unread. I don't really expect this one to be read. I suppose that email is too fast and ephemeral to communicate well. Nevertheless, I discharge my duty.

As to Bill's five points I have several caveats. I've said virtually
everything I'm about to say now at least once if not twice before. This is more proof that email does not work well for this sort of discussion.

Concerning the Five Points (no, not those five points)!

To quote Leonard Coppes, "five points is not enough." We should be careful, the last time someone made five points it led to the Synod of Dort, and I don't think we've set aside enough time at Synod for that.

Bill's post mentions nothing of the pactum salutis. The three covenant structure has been the mainstream (though not the only stream) of covenant theology. Even Westminster Larger Catechism which conflates the covenant of grace and the pactum salutis, at least envisions a pre-temporal intratrinitarian covenant, unlike the Jan 2000 CERCU report which rejects the PS out of hand. Berkhof, rather confusingly, treats the PS under the covenant of grace, though in so doing he affirms the classical three covenant view.

The historical covenants of works (Law) and grace (Gospel) are the product, the historical outworking, of a pre-temporal, intratrinitarian pact/counsel among the persons of the Deity. This pact was fundamentally a legal arrangement, considering the trinitarian persons, though gracious when considering the beneficiaries (elect sinners).

The Father required that the Son should obey in the place of the elect, that he should be their surety, i.e., he would meet the legal obligations of the elect, to atone for their sins, to bear the punishment for their sins and to meet the demands of the covenant of works (Law) and to merit the forgiveness of sins and positive righteousness (imputed) to his people. The Son, as the 2nd party to this covenant, graciously, freely, willingly accepted the terms of this covenant. The Father promised several things, among them a sinless humanity, the Holy Spirit without measure, cooperation in the Son's work, the authority to dispense the Holy Spirit and all authority on heaven and earth, numerous rewards for completing the probation as the 2nd Adam (See Berkhof, 267-71).

Should the Son meet the terms of this covenant, he would merit the justification of his people and be vindicated by his resurrection. He is risen indeed!

Please remember that, pace R. Letham's criticisms, this is not tritheism nor is it subordinationist. We have always distinguished between the economic and ontological (immanent) trinity. The pactum salutis works with economic not ontological categories.

Flowing out of that eternal, pre-temporal, intra-trinitarian pactum/ consilium are two covenants, the Law (covenant of works) and subsequent to that, the Gospel (covenant of grace).

Therefore, Bill's when 1st point has Adam as "employee," he already skews the debate. If God the Son can agree to submit to the Father, in the history and economy of salvation, then there cannot be any juxtaposition between sonship and a legal covenant.

In fact, in the 20 year history of the controversy with Rev Shepherd, this analogy has been used to drive a wedge between Adam's sonship and his federal and legal role under the covenant of works. Another post suggested that if Jesus (in the gospel of John) is pre-eminently "Son" he can't be in a legal relationship. I reject this dichotomy. Adam and Christ were both sons, in different senses of course, but here I'm focusing on their offices in the historia salutis and not on Christ's natural Sonship and consubstantiality with the Father and the Spirit. With regard to their offices as federal heads (of humanity and the elect), both were "sons" and both were in legal relations to God.

Our theologians have described the prelapsarian covenant (please note this distinction) as a covenant of works (relative to the conditions), of life (relative to the eschaton) and of nature (relative to the setting). Ursinus defines covenant first of all, as a "mutual pact." Whether this is well expressed by an employee-employer metaphor, I'm not sure. I do agree that Adam's responsibility under the covenant of works, for which he needed no grace -- though God was under no obligation to make a covenant of works with Adam and thus it was an act of voluntary condescension on his part as the WCF says, and therefore a free act on his part -- was to fulfill the terms of the covenant, to sustain the probation under the penalty of death ("the day you eat thereof you shall surely die"). Should Adam have fulfilled the terms of the covenant of works, which had the ability to do (he was created in righteousness and true holiness, he was without sin) he would have merited eternal blessedness for himself and all his posterity. He would have done so, however, as son and servant. As it was, he failed and plunged himself and us into death and total depravity.

As to Bill's second point: The covenant of works was a legal arrangement. After the Fall, the Law (covenant of works) continues to function by prosecuting sinners: "cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law." God's righteous demands are continually pressed upon sinners, despite the fact that, as Adam's children, they are utterly unable to meet the terms of the covenant. Nevertheless God continues to press the terms of the covenant upon Adam's children. The fall being what it was and its consequences what they are (death), at this point, I do not know how useful it is to speak of a hypothetical possibility of the justification of sinners through Law-keeping. This fact does not, however, keep God from pressing the terms of the covenant of works (Law) upon sinners. One way of thinking about this sort of biblical language is to think about the difference between the secret will of God (the decree) and the revealed will of God (scripture). God's revealed will is that sinners should meet the terms of the covenant of works. The function of the Law, as the catechism teaches us, is to drive sinners to Christ.

As to Bill's third point. I should not like to express the *decree* to justify and save the elect in historical terms. This gets to the logical order of the decrees, and should not be expressed in chronological terms. The triune God decreed from all eternity to justify and save the elect. The covenant of grace is the second part of the historical outworking of the pactum salutis. The nature of the covenant of grace is the same as the gospel. Whereas the Law says, "Do this and live," the Gospel says, "I have done this that you might live." The differences between the covenants of works and grace are that sharp. Any monocovenantal formulation tends to blur these lines (see below) and to confuse Law and Gospel which is a fundamental theological mistake tending toward Pelagianism. The consensus of Reformed theology since the 1560's has been that the covenant of grace is monopleuric in origin and dipleuric in administration. That is, God elects sinners, he grants them faith, through that faith (to be considered in more detail below) they apprehend the justice of Christ imputed to them, but he does so in the sphere of the covenant using established means of grace: the preaching of the Gospel (notice the Law/Gospel distinction implicit in HC 65) and the administration of the sacraments.

As to Bill's 4th point. The covenant of grace can be considered broadly and narrowly. Bill's point misses this distinction. Just as the covenant can be considered monopleuric and dipleuric, it can also be considered relative to all the baptized or relative to the elect. Relative to the hidden divine decree, the Father gave a certain elect number to the Son to redeem by his active and passive obedience. The Son did that work, which he consented to do in the pactum salutis, hence his cry, "It is finished." Praise God.

In this sense, then, the covenant of grace is with the elect. Considered relative to the administration of the covenant of grace, it must be said or thought to be with all the baptized, since we do not have archetypal (God's) knowledge. Therefore, our theologians (e.g., Olevian to name but one) said that there some in the visible covenant community, baptized (on the basis of the divine command and promise, not on the basis of presumed regeneration) who are actually reprobate, because they are not elect. Only those who are elect actually appropriate for themselves the "double benefit" of the covenant, or the "substance of the covenant," i.e., justification and sanctification.

Thus, practically, we treat all the baptized, in good standing, as
regenerate -- we are not Baptists! -- but we do not presume on God's grace. We expect our children to come to faith, we do not treat them as little reprobates, but we also call them to make a credible profession of faith and to attend faithfully to the means of grace. Everyone who is baptized and, who being of age, makes a credible profession of faith, should be considered "in the covenant."

Nevertheless, it is true that not all of them have received or will received the "substance of the covenant" (Olevian) but that is a matter to addressed as it develops in the providence of God. If a covenant child shows himself unbelieving by being unrepentant, then he should be disciplined according to the Scriptures and the C.O. In any case, we are shut up to the revealed will of God and not allowed to play "guess the rebrobate."

On Bill's 5th point. Again, distinctions must be made between humanity as it existed *before* the fall (the antelapsarian world) and *after* (the postlapsarian world) the fall. Before the fall, there was no saving grace, since Adam was no sinner. He needed no salvation. He was given a probation to fulfill, which he failed. After the fall, God made a gracious, Gospel covenant for and with sinners, promising a Redeemer who would be the seed of the Woman, who would crush the serpent's head.

In the postlapsarian world, it is impossible to live by Law, though this does not keep God from pressing the just requirements of the covenant of works upon sinners. The Gospel covenant is the only way of life for sinners.

Jesus, however, as the righteous, obedient, second Adam, did all that Adam refused to do. He did it willingly and completely. He earned, he merited our justification, our salvation and our glorification. Sinners benefit from that active and passive obedience by grace alone (unearned divine favor alone) through faith alone (see below), in Christ alone (see below). The benefits are twain: Christ's obedience and merits (both the verb and the noun) are imputed to sinners and, as a consequence, Christ uses his appointed means to sanctify his justified and redeemed people.

Against the Neo-Remonstrants

What then of faith? Norman Shepherd says to us, through the gentle offices of Rev Barach that he has "always defended the WCF ch. 11, section 2, on that point. "Faith... is the alone instrument of justification; yet is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love."

It is my understanding that the "always" used above might need to be revised. I am presently searching for some archival material on the early WTS debates over this issue, but the evidence I have so far suggests that this claim will not stand as it is.

On the basis of my reading of his book and other published and unpublished documents from Rev Shepherd, I conclude that he holds a different definition of "faith" than our standards. When he says "faith" he does not mean the "certain knowledge and hearty trust" or the "true faith" as defined by BC 22, i.e., that this "faith embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, makes Him our own, and does not seek anything besides Him."  The Confession continues:

Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith apart from works of law (Rom 3:28).  Meanwhile, strictly speaking, we do not mean that faith as such justifies us, for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ our righteousness; He imputes to us all His merits and as many holy works as He has done for us and in our place.  Therefore Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and faith is the instrument that keeps us with Him in the communion of all His benefits. When those benefits have become ours, they are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.

The quotation of Rom 3.28. This is crucial. The Protestant definition of faith, over against that of Shepherd in his book is that faith is the divinely ordained, simple, passive, extraspective instrument of justification. Remember what Rom 3.28 says: "For we maintain that man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." The reason that the BC quotes this is to refute the classic Roman definition of faith as a complex instrument (i.e., faith and works, or faith as works. See below).

In my earlier posts I should have said to list what said on the floor of Classis SW. What Rev Shepherd and his followers are teaching is justification by grace alone, through "faithfulness" alone -- it is a complex active extra and introspective instrument. That, in their definition, faith is not a merely passive, apprehensive instrument, but is composed of both our trust in Christ *and* our obedience. As a shorthand I called this "two instruments," which is the effect of their teaching, but not the form.

It is clear that they are not satisfied with making obedience merely necessary in the way that HC 62ff and 86 do, they must have it as a part of the instrument of justification.

*Extraspective* is a key term here. Extraspective means, "looks away from one's self" and "toward Christ and his righteousness." Introspective, necessarily looks at one's own sanctification. This was the Roman teaching, but it is the introspective doctrine of faith which our standards reject. A complex instrument makes a complex object, Christ and me. I, as a rotten sinner, am a miserable object of faith. By folding obedience into the definition of faith -- this is the entire project behind the expression "obedient faith" -- they have corrupted the genuine Biblical and Protestant doctrine of faith. Whoever holds to "obedient faith" cannot agree with the Apostle Paul in Rom 3.28 or with HC 21 or BC 22 & 24 *as they were intended.*

There is no question that true faith produces good fruit. This is the teaching of BC 24. "We believe that this true faith, worked in man by the hearing of God's Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a new man." Nevertheless, BC 24 continues by saying, "These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, since they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they do not count toward our justification.  For through faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do any good works.  Otherwise they could not be good any more than the fruit of a tree can be good unless the tree itself is good." As important as good works are, they are neither instrumental in nor the ground of nor constitutive of our justification.

Its not, however, as if we've never faced this problem. Mike Horton today pointed out that the delegates to the Synod of Dort had something to say about these issues. In the Rejection of Errors, 2nd Head of Doctrine, Para. 3, we confess that we reject those:

"Who teach: That Christ by His satisfaction merited neither salvation itself for any one, nor faith, whereby this satisfaction of Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but that He merited for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as He might desire, obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should fulfill these conditions.  For these adjudge too contemptuously the death of Christ, in no way acknowledge that most important fruit or benefit thereby gained, and bring again out of hell the Pelagian error".

Now this is a fascinating quotation. Following Rev. Shepherd, several men on this list have called into question whether "merit" is a useful category. In response, several of the orthodox have cited several confessional passages which teach clearly that Jesus merited (the verb) our justification and that his merits (the noun) are imputed to us. Any such questioning, however, runs quite afoul of the RE and must therefore be condemned.

Notice how the RE continues. Faith is that which appropriates Christ's satisfaction. It is a simple, extraspective instrument, not a complex instrument. Notice how the RE condemns the multiplication of conditions in the covenant as respects justification. Shepherd has 6 in his book. He makes them all equal. He confueses the classic Reformed distinction between a monopleuric origin, in which we say there is but one condition, faith, itself the gift of God, and dipleuric administration, in which we might speak of attendance to the means of grace as "stipulations" as Olevian did. The one condition, faith, is for justification. The many stipulations (e.g., means of grace) are the objective tests by which we judge a person's profession of faith. If they claim to have faith, but do not attend to the means of grace, then we judge them to be in sin and perhaps, if they are impenitent, reprobate. These stipulations, however, are not on the same order as the one condition, faith.

By confusing these two categories, Shepherd, conflates justification and sanctification. Remember, the covenant is monopleuric in origin, but dipleuric in administration. When we say "origin" we mean "justification" and when we say "administration" we mean sanctification. Human cooperation is essential to sanctification, but sanctification (which includes cooperation) is neither a part of the grounds nor a part of the instrument of justification. It is the *fruit* of justification.

The RE is not finished with us, however. It continues under Para. 4 We reject those:

"Who teach: That the new covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by faith, in as much as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact that God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of faith, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace.  For these contradict the Scriptures, "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith" (Rom 3:24-25).  And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinius, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church".

Notice that the Canons reject the same sort of definition of faith as being tendered by Rev Shepherd and his followers. The Remonstrants/ Socinians too rejected the category of merit as too legal and unloving.

Notice too how, like Rome, the Remonstrants suggested that now, in Christ, there is a slightly less rigorous demand for obedience, which makes it possible to think about a complex instrument -- i.e., now, under Christ, we are justified by "faith and the obedience of faith" whereby God graciously imputes perfect obedience to us, despite the fact that we obey imperfectly -- rather than the strictly simple instrument of the Protestants.

This is not new, this is something which the Medieval and Roman theologians were teaching at the time of the Reformation and after.  Peter Lillback (in his PhD diss. recently revised and publ. by Baker), as I recall made a similar argument, i.e., that Calvin taught a version of congruent merit, whereby God graciously accepts our obedience as part of a double-justice scheme. Lillback's argument is dubious on historical grounds -- Bucer and others taught a version of double justice (imputed followed consequently and subsequently by infused sanctification but they learned it from Luther. Calvin and Olevian revised this into a "Double Benefit"), but as a dogmatic question, we reject any sort of congruent merit either in the ground or instrument of justification. The only merits in question are Jesus' condign merits earned for and graciously imputed to us, but make no mistake, there are merits and anyone who denies the merits of Christ imputed to sinners is denying the Gospel and should be disciplined by his consistory (CO Art. 61-62).

According to the RE, any such complex instrument whereby faith becomes really faith and works (under one head), is a Socinian error. We are justified "freely," not "by grace and if we obey." We ought to obey and we must obey and if we do not obey or refuse to obey, then we give up the right to have our profession of faith regarded as credible, but we cannot confuse the instrument with the result of justification.

Notice too how the RE connects the problem of the Remonstrant/ Socinian doctrine of faith with their errors in the doctrine of the covenant. This connection suggests that there is not the sort of liberty to formulate the doctrine of the covenant which some claim. I realize that in the 20th century a variety of new formulations of the covenant developed. I guess that most all of them are wrong. I'm sure that offends some. I'm sorry. When I'm exegeting a passage or weighing a theological construction, the men who worked out the Reformed faith get priority. If I have to choose between Ursinus, Polanus, Wollebius, Witsius, Turretin, on the right hand and Schilder, or Barth or Hoeksema on my left, its not much of a choice. This does not mean that we cannot learn from the later divines. Of course we can, but they (i.e., their exegesis of Scripture) simply do not carry as much weight as the exegesis offered by the classic Reformed theologians and the standards.

As to the matter of Angels and Men, yes BC Art. 12 says, " but the others have by the grace of God remained steadfast and continued in their first state" but the BC presupposes that we understand that there is, according to the book of Hebrews (1.7-8; 2:16), a rather large difference between angels and men. God did not make his covenant with an angel to become incarnate. It was not with angels, but human beings that he made his covenants of works and grace. It was not to redeem angels, but sinful men that God the Son became incarnate as true man. Angels don't "learn obedience" by what they suffer (Heb 5.8) but Jesus did. Jesus was and remains true man. It was not angels, for whom Jesus died, but sinful flesh and blood men. To earn our justification, he became and remains a man. Therefore, though there are analogies between God and men, but there are discontinuities. To appeal to God's grace to the angels to disprove the covenant of works is to confuse categories. This dog won't hunt.

Conclusion:

I am not suggesting that that Rev Shepherd and his followers have made *exactly* the same errors as the Remonstrants / Socinians *at every point,* but I am saying that they have made *some* of the same errors concerning:

1) their definition of the covenant;

2) their relation of Law to Gospel;

3)  and their definition of faith;

and that some of their language and arguments sound awfully close to some of that which is clearly rejected not just by dead theologians, but by our standards.

In classic Protestant theology, embodied by the 3FU, good works are not constitutive of justification, they are *demonstrative*. This is the argument of James 2 and Gal 5.6. Clearly Rev Shepherd and his followers think the tradition needs to be adjusted.

They believe that they have made biblical discoveries which the tradition missed. They are entitled to their view, but they are not entitled to make that claim under the umbrella of the 3FU or classic Reformed theology, which is the context in which the 3FU were written and in which they must be interpreted.

RSC

R. Scott Clark, DPhil.,
Associate Professor of Church History
Westminster Seminary California
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027
USA

rsclark@wscal.edu

http://www.wscal.edu/index.php
http://www.wscal.edu/clark/index.php

760 480 8474
760 480 0252 FAX


Dr. R. Scott Clark - Discussing Norman Shepherd

Message: 1
   Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 16:55:10 -0700
   From: "R S Clark" <rsclark@wscal.edu>
Subject: Double Imputation and Biblicism
 

Dear All,

On biblicism, I was responding to specifically to Rev. Roorda's post and to several of Steve Schlissel's. It seems to me that Rev. Barach's reply, that the words <<active obedience>> are not in Q. 37, confirms my fears about the way both the Scriptures (which norm the confession) and the standards are interpreted and subscribed by too many in our federation. I refer readers again to the excellent post by the Rev. Dr Venema in which he reminded us, on another issue, that if the substance of the doctrine is present, the words themselves need not be. We use the same hermeneutic in interpreting the Scriptures.

Rev. Shepherd's soteriology raises acutely the danger of a misinterpretation of sola scriptura. It is often misconstrued or confused with the (ana) Baptist principle of the "the soul authority" of the believer to make of Scripture whatever he will. Nonsense. Rather, sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the norm that norms all other norms, but it is read within a community, in this case confessing federation of churches who have bound themselves to certain understandings of Scripture. Those understandings may be changed, but when it comes to fundamental issues such as justification, the arguments will have to be much stronger (exegetically and theologically) than they been heretofore. Certainly individual ministers are not permitted to hold or teach views at variance with the standards to which they have (contra Jamie Soles) sworn faithfulness. If a minister believes the standards to be wrong, then he has a moral duty to tell his consistory and classis and let his scruples be judged.

On double imputation, I did not say <<those on the list>> but <<those who deny that merit is a biblical category.>> There is no question that Norman Shepherd does this and that he has had several supporters on this list. I will be most encouraged to see on this list, clear, unequivocal rejections of Rev Shepherd's errors. So far, all I have seen from some is silence on the doctrine of justification and support for man who is patently guilty of grave errors against the faith as summarized by our standards.

Dear Brother, Nelson, I read your fine post. As for Peter Wallace, he is a Shepherd supporter and it shows in the way he accounts for Turretin's soteriology. He also errs by confusing substance and accidents of Reformed theology in his defense of the liberty to hold a variety of views on creation. I agree with him that there is a relative liberty on the interpretation of Gen 1 but I disagree with his rationale: If there is liberty on double imputation among the divines, there ought to be liberty on creation. Our standards do not give us the liberty to deny double imputation. We do have liberty regarding various interpretations of Gen 1.

This is in part because we have different relations to our standards than the Presbyterians (since the American Adopting Act at least), e.g., we subscribe our standards *quia* and they typically subscribe their standards *quatenus*.

As to the relations between our theologians and the confessions: If we don't interpret the standards in the light of the intent of the founders, we will flounder in a morass of subjectivism. Good hermeneutics are just that, whether dealing with the standards or the Scriptures. This why our theologians have consistently taught the doctrines I'm defending and why they have typically (Bavinck is an example) seen them in the standards. It is a novelty to refuse to find the covenant of works, Law and Gospel and double imputation in the standards.

The relations between the matter of the right interpretation of Gen 1 and the matter of justification are on two different orders. One's interpretation of Gen 1 is not the "hinge" (Calvin) of the faith or the "article by which the church stands or falls" (J H Alsted), but justification is. That comes pretty close to the "heart" of the Reformation, don't you think?

As for who is guilty of the error of denying double imputation, Rev Shepherd does it in his book. I'm told that he did it in his Reformation Day sermon last year in Long Beach. I'm waiting for the audio tape to confirm this claim. It is reported to me by first-hand witnesses that he has done it more than once in conversations. It is part of his program to reformulate Reformed theology along what he and his supporters regard as more Biblical lines.

As I showed in my post, the denial double imputation has happened before and its happening now. How else should take Rev Shepherd's claim that Christ has faith in the same sense in which we have faith? How else can we take his rejection of the doctrine of Christ's merits and the category of merit generally?  On another list, seminarian Andy Webb writes,

<<For Shepherd, this is critical because he contends that in Justification we are returned to an Adamic state, and then it is up to *us* to obey and produce good works. Therefore, it is not Christ's active obedience imputed to us, but our active obedience (which he contends is non-meritorious, just as it supposedly was for Adam). The passive obedience of Christ in dying for our sins can be found in Shepherd's famous 34 theses on Justification, but his active obedience imputed to us cannot. Instead, when he uses the word "obedience" he is referring to the believers obedience.>>

Thesis 21 says,

<<21.  The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification (Heb. 3: 6, 14).>> [Shepherd, 34 Theses on Justification]

The popular Romanist apologist Scott Hahn appeals to Rev Shepherd's teaching in support of papist doctrine! The late Rev. Dr. Bob Knudsen replied in a debate with Mr Hahn,

<<"Now that brings up the point about whether we can ever lose
that justification. That was one of Scott's [Hahn] major points in reference to Professor Norman Shepherd at Westminster Theological Seminary. We discussed those matters very seriously for five years. Mr. Shepherd was indeed saying that on a certain level it was indeed possible for us to lose our justification, and some of us on the basis of the teaching of Scripture had to demur. We did not force him out at least the faculty did not but he was dismissed for the good of the seminary, an action that I did not precisely approve of in that form. If one is once justified, can he then lose it? God has declared that we are just on the basis of the merit of Jesus Christ, the perfect merit of Jesus Christ, and Christ has said that no one will pluck us, grab us, out of his hand. No one. If, then, one rejects the faith, if one shows that there are no works, is it not rather to be said, "No, he never knew Christ." Christ will say, "Depart from me. You never knew me."">>

Shepherd's denial of active the imputation of the active obedience of Christ goes hand-in-glove with his revision of the sola fide into "faithfulness alone" in Theses 22 and 23. Shepherd wrote:

<<22.  The righteousness of Jesus Christ ever remains the exclusive ground of the believer's justification, but the personal godliness of the believer is also necessary for his justification in the judgment of the last day (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46; Heb. 12:14).>>

Shepherd is clear about the ground and the instrument of justification. In our theology, it is necessary to get both right. He is more explicit in thesis 23:

<<23.  Because faith which is not obedient faith is dead faith, and because repentance is necessary for the pardon of sin included in justification, and because abiding in Christ by keeping his commandments (John 15:5, 10; I John 3:13, 24) are all necessary for continuing in the state of justification, good works, works done from true faith, according to the law of God, and for his glory, being the new obedience wrought by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer united to Christ, though not the ground of his justification, are nevertheless necessary for salvation from eternal condemnation and therefore for justification (Rom. 6:16, 22; Gal. 6:7-9).>>

Shepherd clearly teaches that if one sins enough, he can lose his justification. Thus though he denies changing the *ground* of justification -- a denial which must now be in doubt -- he is certainly revising the instrument. The words <<necessary for continuing in the state of justification>> cannot be understood in any other way.

This is the same language he is still using today as evident from his _The Call of Grace_ when he says,

<<When the call to faith is isolated from the call to obedience, as it frequently is, the effect is to make good works a supplement to salvation or simply the evidence of salvation. >>

He places grace and faith in juxtaposition. He says, <<Salvation is both by *grace* through *faith*.>> ( 63). True enough. It would nice to see the qualifier "alone," but we press on. <<These are the two parts of the covenant: grace and faith, promise and obligation.>> Really? Faith is obligation which is the second part of the covenant? Yes, there is a second part to the covenant, we do, by God's grace, respond to the Call of Grace, but look here, he has made <<faith>> into *faithfulness*. <<Faith>> here does not mean the passive, simple apprehension of Christ's active and passive obedience, but our obedience/sanctification produced by grace. This is no stretch, in his Oct. 26, 1997 sermon (the substance of which is now in _The Call of Grace_) he identified justifying faith with being <<faithful:>>

<<But just as Jesus Christ was faithful in order to guarantee the blessing, so his followers must be faithful in order to appropriate the blessing.>>

This is Romish. How is this teaching fundamentally different from that of Chapters and Canons of the Council of Trent?

Further, it was the Rev Dr Jelle Faber who said years ago, Clarion 31 (1982), 90, that classical covenant theology teaches double imputation and it was he who set it in direct opposition to Rev. Shepherd's teaching.

Thus, I think I'm on firm ground when I say that there are those in our movement, supported openly by some in our federation, who deny double imputation. I go back to my post of April 12 in which I offered this stirring quotation from W. a' Brakel:

<<Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the meadiatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well.>>

I stand with WB on this. Shepherd denies the covenant of works and he denies double imputation -- this was cited by the WTS board as one of the Reasons and Specifications for Removing Prof. Shepherd in 1982. He denies the category of merit, he denies the active obedience of Christ.

Are you suggesting that there are no ministers in our federation who think that the doctrine of double imputation is adiaphora or who deny it outright? I would rejoice to be wrong about this. If Prof. Shepherd unambiguously affirms the imputation of Christ's active and passive obedience in the sense in which I expressed in the earlier post, and if none of the ministers in our federation deny the doctrine of double imputation, it will be a great relief to know it.

RSC

R. Scott Clark, DPhil.,
Associate Professor of Church History
Westminster Seminary California
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027
USA

rsclark@wscal.edu

http://www.wscal.edu/index.php
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Dr. R. Scott Clark - Discussing Norman Shepherd

Message: 7
   Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 20:09:16 -0700
   From: "R S Clark" <rsclark@wscal.edu>
Subject: RE: Double Imputation and Biblicism

Dear Rev Barach,

I'm glad to see that you now find the substance of the doctrine of active obedience in Q. 37. Like you, I agree heartily with Dr. Bavinck, though perhaps for different reasons. I read Bavinck in the light of the theologians who went before him not in light of theologians who came after him. Rev. Shepherd has long tried to cloak himself in Bavinck's mantle, but I think it is an ill-fit.

The question has never been <<living faith v. dead faith>> but what is the nature of a living faith. Rev. Shepherd says that a living faith is works. He has explicitly repudiated the classic Reformed doctrine of sola fide. As I have said repeatedly, faith produces works, but those works are no *instrument*, but Rev. Shepherd will not have this formulation, he calls it antinomian.

Bavinck refers obliquely to the concept of double justice. On this see my essay <<Regensburg and Regensburg II>> at:

http://www.wscal.edu/clark/regensburg.php

I am also working on a conference paper for the Sixteenth Century Studies Soc. in Denver (October, 2001) on double justification in Luther, Bucer and Calvin. In short, they agreed fundamentally that we are justified by the imputation of Christ's active and passive obedience, and that the justice of sanctification is merely demonstrative. This has often been misunderstood (particularly in Bucer and Calvin). The papists, however, taught a quite different doctrine of double justice which is quite relevant to this discussion as its not far from what Rev. Shepherd says at places.

I agree that guilt by association is ad hominem. I criticized Mark Karlberg for exactly this sort of thing. I did not such thing, however. Stating historical facts and giving direct quotations from Rev. Shepherd is not guilt by association. I mentioned Scott Hahn to set the context for Bob Knudsen's reply. It is a fact, however, that contemporary Roman apologists such as Hahn and others find support for their positions in Rev Barach's doctrine.

Now why does this happen? The same could not be said of Bob Godfrey or Mike Horton or R C Sproul. Why is that? Because they are so unambiguously clear in their affirmation of classic Protestant and Reformed teaching on justification that it would be absurd to cite them as supporters of papist doctrine. Sadly, it is not absurd to cite Rev. Shepherd's teaching. He himself says that he has the key to bringing the Reformed together with Rome, and his plan is not that Rome should repent of her moralism and embrace sola fide, sola gratia etc as understood by the Reformed confessions, but that they should embrace his new Biblical (covenantal!) solution to this age-old issue.

Such an approach merits all the criticism one can muster. As to his ministerial standing, I have shown all the deference necessary. My conduct is not the issue, despite repeated attempt to make it so. Rather, the issue is errant and dangerous teaching propagated by those who fail to fulfill their duty before God.

I've criticized other Reformed ministers on this list, such as Harry Boer who also failed to do their duty, whom the CRC refused to discipline. That the CRC refuses to be a disciplined church, to require ministers to obey their vows and adhere to the confessions is not my fault, it is theirs. The fact is, if the CRC was a disciplined church, someone would have charged Rev. Shepherd years ago, indeed they should not have admitted them into their ministry.

It is, speaking frankly, naive to think the Rev Shepherd refuses to use the word "merit" simply because it was abused by Rome. He rejects it as a category because it doesn't fit his soteriology. Rome abused the term "sanctification" and the term "justification" and the term "tradition" and countless other terms, but we don't repudiate them, we Reformed them.

Rev. Shepherd has consistently, as I've shown in the extended quotations and analysis posted to this list, made obedience not the fruit of faith, but a co-instrument of trust. This is what he means when he says, "necessary."

This is the interpretation of Rev. Shepherd's theology in Theses 21-23 (to cite just one place among many) reached by 15 leading Reformed ministers and teachers, including Henry Coray, Mariano Di Gangi, David Freeman, Robert Knudsen, David C. Lachman, W. Stanford Reid, Paul Settle on Dec 4, 1980. On May 4, 1981 a much larger list including  Bob Godfrey, Calvin Cummings, Bruce Hunt (the missionary), George W Knight III, Iain Murray, Roger Nicole (since he signed ECT 2, he may now support Shepherd), Robert Reymond (who still opposes Shepherd), O P Robertson, Leslie Sloat, Morton Smith (now of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) reached similar conclusions.

In 1975 Rev. Shepherd taught that like faith, <<good works are the instrument of justification.>> This is a direct quotation from Rev. Shepherd's lectures. I contend that he has never changed his view, only his rhetoric and thus far no one has offered a shred of evidence to the contrary. Frankly, I do not think it possible.

Your quotation, however, from Rev. Shepherd's press release is very interesting and, as everything he writes (we live in the post-Clinton era after all, not everyone agrees on what <<is>>) it must be parsed very carefully.

Shepherd said,

<< Shepherd, however, has held throughout the controversy that the obedience of Christ, active and passive, secures the justifying verdict of God, and that Christ's work for his people lays the foundation for a life of covenantal obedience.  This obedienceis the holiness without which no man will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).>>

In it he does not actually say -- since documents must apparently use the exact words -- that he teaches the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. What he says is, <<the obedience of Christ, active and passive, secures the justifying verdict of God>>

I put it to you and the list that this is intentionally vague language. Rev. Shepherd is a trained theologian, who has written well on Jerome Zanchi, one of the dead orthodox, and who studied on the graduate level Europe. He certainly knows what to say to relieve the situation, but instead he chose a deliberately ambiguous formulation.

He did not say, <<is imputed to sinners>> he says, <<secures the justifying verdict....>> How? When we trust and obey. Rome believes that the obedience of Jesus is the ground of our justice before God and like Shepherd, they believe it is mediated through faithfulness in response to divine grace.

He goes on to say, <<Christ's work lays the foundation for a life of covenantal obedience.>> Pelagius said exactly the same thing. Rome agrees with both these statements in Trent. These statements can only be made affirmations of double imputation by wishful thinking. In _The Call of Grace_ <<Lays the foundation>> means <<sets a good example.>>

Rev. Barach, you have not delivered Rev. Shepherd from the dock. So I ask you, what is sola fide? I've said what I think. I cannot be clearer, but I am uncertain as to what you think sola fide means.

You *appear* (please note the qualifier) to misunderstand the Belgic and the WCF on the relations between justification and sanctification. They are, as I've said many times now, part of that double benefit (Olevian) or twofold grace (Calvin) so they are related but they are distinct. Justification produces sanctification, not the reverse. Is this what you are trying to say? If not, please say what you want to say unambiguously. Do you think the formulae which I've stated on this list many times is "Lutheran" or "antinomian" as Rev Shepherd does?

Your interpretation of WCF 15.3 and HC 87 *appears* to make repentance an instrument of justification. You *seem* to confuse administration (our observation of the ordinary way in which sinners come to faith) with the teaching of Scripture about what the good news actually is, thus confusing the Gospel as it is spoken to sinners, that, <<that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, for the sake of Christ's merits>> (HC 21) with our observations of the nature of providence.

For what its worth, Sinclair Ferguson notes this same pattern among the neonomians in the early 18th century in Scotland, when they reacted to Thomas Boston's republication of the _Marrow of Modern Divinity_. They made the same mistake Shepherd makes and which, in defending Shepherd, also *seem* to be making. As I keep saying, the good news is *not* you will be saved if you trust and obey, but rather, <<Trust that Christ has obeyed.>>

Perhaps some diagnostic questions will help.

Do you affirm that faith is that unique, sole, passive (receptive), simple, extraspective instrument which apprehends Christ and his benefits? Or, is faith a complex instrument, composed of trust and obedience?

Do you affirm that sanctification is a necessary fruit in anyone who calls himself a Christian but that such fruit is no part of his justification, i.e., it is neither part of the instrument nor part of the ground, but rather sanctification (repentance and obedience) are diagnostic and demonstrative of justification, but not constitutive of justification?

I will pass over your claim that the standards do not teach the covenant of works. We've been round that pole a few dozen times. The tradition disagrees. You may be right, but mere denials are not compelling.

RSC

R. Scott Clark, DPhil.,
Associate Professor of Church History
Westminster Seminary California
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027
USA

rsclark@wscal.edu

http://www.wscal.edu/index.php
http://www.wscal.edu/clark/index.php

760 480 8474
760 480 0252 FAX

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Monergism.com's link list of articles critical of the New Perspective on Paul HERE (Very Good!)
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Cornelis P. Venema, President of Mid-America Reformed Seminary (MARS) regarding the New Perspective on Paul. Series of 26 articles HERE (Link courtesy of A Basket of Figs)
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