Nothing Coming Down the Pike

The question of assurance is a subset of epistemology. And that means Christians today who struggle with assurance are dealing with an extra factor that previous generations of Christians (usually) did not have to deal with. We live in a skeptical postmodern age, and so the question of knowing that you are saved is related to the question of how you can know anything.

This becomes even more challenging when we are talking about our own faith five years out. In Scripture, genuine faith in God now is necessarily related to faith in God in the future. Baptism binds the future.

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:27–30).

Paul says that when Christians respond to persecutors with a calm and like-minded spirit, this freedom of terror is a token, a proof, a demonstration. The word is endeixis (ἔνδειξις — pardon — just testing WordPress fonts). When God gives such supernatural grace, it is a token, a sign, an indicator, that this group is going to be saved, and that one is going to be damned. This is not something that should be classed as infallible revelation (a persecutor might repent, and one of the Philippians might apostatize), but it should be classed as genuine knowledge.

So we are not talking about any kind of assurance that by-passes the need for perseverance. We cannot be assured of anything the way God is assured of things. God knows what He knows absolutely, and all our knowledge is contingent. All our knowledge is creaturely. But there are more options than having to decide between “knowing as God does” and “knowing merely that I am saved for the present moment.”

The Spirit works into us true knowledge about the future, not just the present. We know this future as we know anything else, as creatures, but we do in fact know it. This is why the Bible speaks of the Spirit as an earnest, as a guarantee (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). But what good is a guarantee that guarantees nothing in the future? This is why we are encouraged to know that He who began a good work in you will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6). And this is why Paul piles up challenge upon challenge, threat upon threat, in order to teach us to taunt those challenges with the knowledge that nothing coming down the pike can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:37-39).

In short, we need two things in this, and as I see it the FV dark beers thus far are only affirming the first of the two. The first is that as we work through the New Testament, we must find a class of Christian for whom it is absolutely true that nothing can separate them — whether things present or things to come — from God’s love for them in Christ. Because they affirm decretal election, the dark beers do affirm this, unapologetically. The dark beers have been repeatedly and slanderously wronged by those who maintain they are denying this. That mistake is made because people believe this controversy has to be an old issue in new clothing. No, it really is a new issue, and needs to be treated as a new issue. It needs to be worked through patiently, asking and answering the hard questions.

So the second thing we need is this. We must also find that it is possible for this class of chosen Christian to know this fact to be true about themselves, and to draw real assurance from it. And this, thus far at least, is what I believe is missing from this new proposed paradigm. And the ramifications of what we need to work through here extend from soteriology up to epistemology. It is a big issue, and a complicated one.

As for me, I hold that an essential part of our confession of faith has to do with our place in the future of God’s people. “And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (HC 54).

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timothy
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timothy

You totally lost me with:

…as I see it the FV dark beers…

beer?

Up until then, it was very good.

Bro. Steve
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Bro. Steve

As long as the the death of Christ has the “L” asterisk behind it, people will remain unable to affirm, on the basis of revelation, that Christ died for *me.* And with that as a given, Scripture-based assurance will remain out of reach.

Jane
Member

timothy, Doug has for some time now used beer color as an analogy for the “flavors” of FV that he has observed. Those who take the thinking farther are “darker,” and he calls those at the end of the spectrum “stouts.” He considers himself a “less dark” adherent of the school of thought.

Drew
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Drew

@ Timothy

dark beers = Lutherans in denial

Seth B.
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Seth B.

“That mistake is made because people believe this controversy has to be an old issue in new clothing. No, it really is a new issue, and needs to be treated as a new issue. It needs to be worked through patiently, asking and answering the hard questions.”

How is perseverance of the saints a “new” issue? Augustine wrote a treatise with that very title.

soylentg
Member

Seth, I’ll see your Augustine and raise you a Solomon
Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

timothy
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timothy

Jane.

Thank you.

What is FV?

cheers.

t

RFB
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RFB

“What is FV?”

NO!!! Not that Button!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

timothy
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timothy

A search of the site for “FV” yielded Federal Vision and an ongoing discussion.
If I have time, I will dig deeper.

Thanks!

timothy
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timothy

We believe our opponents to be sincere and honest Christians, but men who have erroneously made a bad truce with modernity and who have accommodated their theology to the abstract dictates of the Enlightenment.

Well, crud. This looks intriguing. Who can resist a “stick in the mud/old codger” vs “preppy boy” fight ?

A Learning Student
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A Learning Student

Yes, what is FV?

Todd
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Todd

@Drew: help me understand the “Lutherans in denial” comment. Thanks!

Jason Pearson
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Jason Pearson

Five dollar words and philosophical calisthenics are the best–Christ used ’em all the time. It’s good to know that the poor and ill have all been taken care of in northern Idaho, Doug, so that your resources have been freed up to address the really important stuff.

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

Do stouts say unbelievers can stand in that one spirit but not in The Spirit?

timothy
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timothy

My first take on it is that FV attempts to assume the base definitions of the early Reformed tradition and build out a correct understanding of what is true based on those early definitions. There is an example of the skew of definitions that can happen over time that I touched on in another thread. The term “Well regulated militia” implies–to our modern ears–the ideas of “tightly controlled” and “government over-sight”. However, the meaning of the term well regulated was quite different in colonial America. The term meant smoothly functioning, like a well-made clock or well-run business. Ergo, I assume… Read more »

J
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J

Here is an interpretation of Jason Pearson for all of us slow people. “I don’t like Doug Wilson because he’s smart, but I’m going to hide my dislike of what he is doing behind an accusation of his church not taking care of poor people.” What’s really weird is that I’m pretty sure I read about someone else doing that somewhere with a bunch of perfume…Anyway, back to my dictionary so I can finish reading this post.

Jane
Member

FV = Federal Vision. I’m not the person to ask to explain it though, I’ve just been watching from the cheap seats.

Drew
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Drew

@ Todd The dark stout beer FV folks, as Doug puts it, and as I understand him, are those people who claim to be “Reformed” or “Calvinist” but have, among other things, taken a relatively high sacramental view of infant baptism. So the type of language they use about baptism often sounds like baptismal regeneration, which Lutherans typically affirm without reservation, but which the Reformed/Calvinists typically do not affirm, at least not without reservation. The theological problem for them is that if a baby is saved at the moment the baptismal water hits his/her forehead, then they as Calvinists have… Read more »

Matt Bell
Member

So we see that a Biblical understanding of baptism would go a long way toward clearing up some of this confusion…

timothy
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timothy

Hi @Drew. The theological problem for them is that if a baby is saved at the moment the baptismal water hits his/her forehead Has Pastor Wilson ever argued they are? From my (limited) reading of him on this blog, the argument is not that the infant is saved, but that they are “officially” part of the covenant. I.e. it is a social/spiritual marker that is important (culture does matter, after all) but does not absolve the individual of their individual accountability before God. Pastor Wilson has also mentioned the sacrament of marriage and its symbols. The keeping of that sacrament… Read more »

Katecho
Member

The wikipedia article on Federal Vision isn’t too bad as an introduction: Federal Vision In my view, the controversy that was fanned up around FV was opportunistic, misguided, and thin-skinned. The original FV talks were seized on by certain Reformed hot heads who seem to prefer strife over understanding. The controversy resembled a turf war by those who are apparently unaware of diversity in Reformed history on these subjects. Rather than respond to a perceived threat by engaging, understanding, and defending their own views, there was an immediate resort to denominational power play and heresy accusations (H-bombing). The kangaroo court… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I am enjoying this discussion very much and am swinging back and forth like a human pendulum. I decided to take two minutes to brainstorm differences I see between life in 1965 and 2015 as regards a move towards freedom. I chose some trivial ones and some I think are very important. 1. In 1965 you could be drafted. 2. You could go to prison for possessing marijuana and obscene books. Not anymore, at least not in my state. 3. You had to pretend to be married in order for a man to check into a hotel with a woman.… Read more »

Todd
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Todd

Katecho: very helpful post. John G. Crawford recently published a great little book, “Baptism Is Not Enough”, which expands on your point.

mikebull1
Member

“It is a big issue, and a complicated one.” Said the kitteh who had tangled itself in the yarn. This issue is only complicated because an Abrahamic Covenant theology is artificially fused with the New Covenant. If it were understood that the Great Commission has already put everyone objectively into the New Covenant by default, and that a Christian is one who believes subjectively (as above) a) that it is absolutely true that nothing can separate believers from the love of God; and b) know this fact to be true about themselves, and draw real assurance from it, and are… Read more »

Jane
Member

Jill, I think your comment was meant for a different post.

Drew
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Drew

@Timothy

You are exactly right. I was not suggesting that Doug does affirms baptismal regeneration. I was referring to Doug’s DESCRIPTION of dark stout beer FV folks – which he is not.

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Drew

Doug’s DESCRIPTION of dark stout beer FV folks – which he is not.

thank you!

Katecho
Member

Mike Bull wrote: Everyone on the planet is a “Covenant member” now, just as all Israel was under Covenant. But that is not the same as union with Christ, which is what is experienced only by those who respond in faith. Blows me away how this “does not compute.” Lots of erroneous teaching on Covenant, I suspect. Speaking of erroneous teaching on Covenant, Mike is setting himself against some very clear Scripture. Here is my attempt at a compact refutation of Mike Bull’s view: 1) If New Covenant membership is not the same as union with Christ, then why does… Read more »

Matthew Paul Abel
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Matthew Paul Abel

What a mess these comments have become!
Beer queries, FV novices, and someone who accidently posted on the wrong topic (I think…).
Then at the end I think I smelled a dispensationalist discussing the confusion of the Abrahamic and New covenants.
I was afraid to look, though, like I often am with my son’s diaper.

Anyone want to toss is some charismatic gifts discussion, just to make Pollock proud?