The Amillennial Cirlce

A-millennial eschatology teaches that good and evil grow together until Christ returns. Further a-millennialism teaches the victory Christ achieves will be a victory that is won by an apocalyptic in breaking in which the enemies of Christ are vanquished. A-millennialism teaches that up until the sudden and violent eschatological in breaking of Christ the opponents of Christ had been in the ascendancy in this world at the time of Christ’s return.

Now there is nothing in amillennialism that negates that God will periodically send seasons of Reformation and awakening, but all amillennialism insists that when the end comes it comes in the context of the Church being largely in defeat and retreat mode.

Now what is interesting is a complimentary doctrine that many amillennials advocate. Many amillennialists insist that there are two realms in which men operate. The first sphere is the sacred sphere, which is largely equivalent to the church realm. In this sphere Christ is Lord and rules through His Elders according to His word. The second sphere is often referred to as the ‘common realm’ and in this realm Christ is, in the words of one of their proponents to me, ‘Lord in a different way.’ In this realm Christ rules indirectly through Common Grace and Natural Law. Because this is true the Church as the Church has nothing to say to the common realm, relying instead on Christ’s indirect rule through Common grace and Natural law to provide governance for this realm. Now, amillennialists will insist that individual Christians can and should speak in this realm but they should do so by appealing to Natural law as their source of authority understanding that God’s word does not pertain to this common realm. We must understand that for these amillennialists this realm would be all other realms except the Church realm.

Now where we find the amillennial circle is on one hand they teach that the world gets worse and worse while on the other hand they teach a doctrine that insures that the world will go from bad to worse. In other words if we divide of a sacred realm from a common realm and insist that the Church cannot speak to the common realm (where by the way most of man’s living takes place) what we have insured by way of our theology is that the common realm will go from bad to worse. So the amillennial theology of a common and sacred realm serves as self-fulfilling prophecy that things will go from bad to worse. In short they find in Scriptures that the world will eventually go to hell in a hand basket and they develop a theology that if followed will insure that it will. Behold the amillennial circle.

Now, I think that at least one reason why amillennialists have this theology is their understandable fear of immanentizing the eschaton. The theory is that people who immanentize the eschaton have a nasty habit of forcing their eschatological ideology on everybody else. The ironic thing though is that the amillennialists while trying to avoid immanentizing the Christian eschaton end up immanentizing somebody else’s eschaton by their retreat. That is to say that by insisting that the common realm belongs to common grace and natural law what they end up doing is creating a vacuum in which the other adherents of other gods will try to immanentize their respective eschatons. So while at least some amillennialists want to avoid immanentizing the Christian eschaton what their retreat ends up doing is allowing the immanentizing of other non-Christian eschatons. We must remember that it is never a question whether or not if some eschaton will be immanentized but only a question of which eschaton will be immanentized. I vote for the Christian one.

Another reason I think that amillennialists have this eschatology is that they fear that if Christianity becomes to closely aligned to some ruling matrix found in their putative common realm then if the ruling matrix is found wanting then so will the Christian faith and the consequence will be disrepute brought upon the gospel as it is brought upon the ruling matrix. The problem here though is that the amillennialists theology, in my opinion, is already bringing disrepute upon the Gospel as people observe that the Gospel is good for getting souls saved but little good for spreading the effects of salvation into every corner of every realm. The Gospel is held in disrepute because it is seen as gnostic, personal and individual with few, if any implications for the concrete public square in which humans find themselves living. The Church must be silent in regards to the evils of totalitarianism for God’s word doesn’t speak on that. The Church must be silent on economic systems that have theft as their basis for God’s work doesn’t speak to that. The Church must be silent on educational issues in the public square for God’s word does not speak to that.

It’s easy to see how the world will get worse and worse if the Church has no voice to speak on these kinds of issues. Imagine how disappointed some people are going to if this theology reaches dominance in the Church and the world does go to hell in a hand basket because of it and Jesus doesn’t end up returning.

A Reformed Universalism That We Can Live With

“And He (Jesus) is propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only; but also for the whole world.” I John 2:2

Here we have a text that has often been used by non-Biblical (i.e. — non-Reformed) people to teach the essentially Arminian idea of a hypothetical universal atonement. Now, clearly if the passage is to used as the basis of any wrong teaching it would have to be the wrong teaching of ‘Universal Atonement’ since a non-contextual reading (context being the book of I John, The epistles of John, The writings of John, The New Testament and finally the whole of revelation) would lead one to conclude that Jesus provided propitiation in a universal sense. Still, non-Reformed people have forever appealed to this passage as a bulwark to support hypothetical universal atonement which teaches that Jesus died for each and every person who ever lived and the reality that each and every person who has ever lived isn’t saved is due to individuals refusing Jesus propitiatory death.

B. B. Warfield following John Owen lanced this kind of reasoning,

“Is not the rejection of Jesus as our propitiation a sin? And if it is a sin, is it not like other sins, covered by the death of Christ? If this great sin is excepted from the expiatory [effectual covering] of Christ’s blood, why did not John tell us so, instead of declaring without qualification that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world? And surely it would be very odd if the sin of rejection of the Redeemer were the only condemning sin, in a world the vast majority of the dwellers in which have never heard of this Redeemer, and nevertheless perish. On what ground do they perish, all their sins having been expiated?12(Never mind that such a refusal shouldn’t matter as it relates to individual salvation since in this understanding Jesus’ death propitiated for the sin of any individual’s refusal to individually accept that propitiation.)”

John Owen who wrote exhaustively on this issue of “world” and wrote sarcastically about his opponents,

The world, the whole world, all, all men! � who can oppose it? Call them [the modified Calvinists] to the context in the several places where the words are; appeal to rules of interpretation; mind them of the circumstances and scope of the place, the sense of the same words in other places; . . . [and] they. . . cry out, the bare word, the letter is theirs: “Away with the gloss and interpretation; give us [the modified Calvinists] leave to believe what the word expressly saith.”

Now historically there have been different ways to handle I John 2:2 with its ascription of universality to the propitiatory work of Christ and most of these different approaches have focused on how to understand the phrase ‘The Whole World.’ Some have handled this passage in such a way as to say that the propitiatory work of Christ affected something like the benefits of common grace that all men receive, while still holding out that the propitiation of Christ still has unique reference to the elect in terms of turning away the Father’s personal wrath from them and them alone. Now, while we might admit that the benefits of common grace that the unbeliever receives is in some way related to the Cross work of our benevolent Savior, we would have to insist that such a teaching can’t be found in I John 2:2, without a great deal of extrapolation.

Another approach is to suggest that the phrase ‘The Whole World’ is a comparative statement where the inspired Apostle is saying, “Jesus is propitiation not only for the sins of us Christians in Asia Minor but also the propitiation for the sins of Christians everywhere in the world.” Certainly the thought that the ‘whole world’ does not have to have reference to each and every individual who has ever lived has support in the New Testament. One has only to think of Colossian 1:6 where the Apostle, speaking of the word, can say it ‘has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit….” Quite obviously the Apostle isn’t saying that the word has come to each and every individual but rather is speaking in a metaphorical sense regarding how the word has proliferated. In Colossians 1:23 we see a situation where the Apostle can say that the gospel was ‘preached to every creature under heaven’ and yet quite obviously the Apostle does not mean here that people outside the Roman Empire had heard the Gospel. Indeed the meaning in Colossians 1:23 is that the Gospel had been made known indiscriminately and profusely. Now, given what we have seen from Colossians clearly the phrase ‘The Whole World’ found in I John 2:2 does not have to mean ‘each and every individual who has ever lived,’ and any interpretation of I John 2:2 that agrees with Augustine, Bede, Calvin, and Beza that what John is communicating is that the propitiation of Jesus is not limited to the saints in Asia Minor but extends to the elect in ‘The Whole World’ is to be preferred over non-Reformed interpretations if only because it provides a cogency and logical consistency that all other non-Reformed interpretations are lacking.

(And on this point of logical cogency keep in mind that many people you discuss this point with, like a person I discussed this with in their home last week, may end up telling you that it doesn’t matter if their position is a contradiction and that it is a mystery we have to accept.)

Still, the interpretation that teaches that what John is doing is making a statement comparing “Jesus’ propitiation as not only for the sins of those Christians in Asia Minor but also the propitiation for the sins of Christians everywhere in the world” is to be preferred over non-Reformed interpretations where Christ dies for each and every individual. Yet I would contend that there remain problems with that interpretation and that perhaps a better way to read this text might be found.

First, there is nothing in the book of I John that suggests that whatever John has to say is uniquely applicable to the Christians in Asia Minor. In other words, the assumption that in 2:2 John is emphasizing that the extent of the propitiatory work of Christ reaches beyond the Christians he is writing to doesn’t fit the general context of I John where we find nothing that would require the Apostle to go out of the way to make the point that Christ’s propitiation is broader than Asia Minor Christians. Indeed the contrast that the Apostle seems to be making is not between Christians in Asia Minor as well as Christians throughout the world but rather Christians as a whole as well as ‘the whole world.’ Besides, it would have hardly been considered ‘news’ to these believers in Asia Minor that Jesus’ propitiation also applies to Christians in other Christian faith communities. More on that in a moment.

Another interpretation that we have already rubbed up against is the idea that I John 2:2 does teach that every creature under heaven creature has been provided a propitiation for and so does indeed teach a Universal propitiation in a hypothetical sense. The problems with such a reading are legion.

First, such a teaching would expose the propitiatory death of Christ as largely ineffectual. Christ dies to provide universal propitiation and yet John can say of this, “propitiated for world,” that it ‘lies in the evil one.’ In such an interpretation one can only conclude that the propitiation of Christ isn’t worth the papyrus on which John wrote the words.

Second, such a teaching requires us to conclude that the propitiatory death of Jesus is not that which saves us. If Christ propitiated for the whole world and if the whole world (each and every individual) isn’t saved then that which differentiates a saved person from a non-saved person can not be the propitiatory death of Christ but rather some other differentiating dynamic. Such a teaching would make the death of Christ secondary to whatever primary dynamic is the reasons that causes people to differ in reference to salvation, and this in turn, would require honesty to say that the death of Christ in itself most definitely doesn’t save.

Third, the Apostle speaks of this propitiatory death as being a monumental benefit both to the Church and also to the World and yet if Christ’s death is so ineffectual as to the salvation of so many, wherein can be found that which is monumental in that which is said to be a benefit? Quite obviously hypothetical universal propitiation will never do.

Another way out of this labyrinth that some have offered is to divide Christ’s work of Advocacy from His work of propitiation (cmp. 2:1). This argument is construed so as to teach that while Christ is indeed the propitiation of the whole world (each and every individual who has ever lived) He is not the Advocate for the whole world. Thus Christ dies effectually for everybody but He does not pray that all that He died for will come and so some whom He died for never come and they die in their sins. In this view it is the advocacy of Christ that turns the potentiality of the propitiation into actuality. Again the problems here are burdensome. First, as has already been mentioned what such a view does is to divide the Priestly work of Christ introducing contradiction into the office of Jesus as great high priest. On one hand the High priest, in His death, provides propitiation for the sins of each and every individual while on the other hand this same great High Priest refuses to advocate for those for whom He propitiated. Can you say multiple personality disorder? Second, were such an arrangement true we would have to say that what saves us is not the Cross work of Christ but rather the Advocacy work of Christ. This view makes the effectual power of the propitiation of Christ to rest on the work of Christ’s Advocacy as opposed seeing His Advocacy as resting on the basis of the effectual power of His reconciling death. Such an interpretation must be forsworn.

So what do we make of I John 2:2? Well we could start by stating the obvious. The inspired Apostle says that Christ IS (not was) the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. It is the whole world that is propitiated for and which has an advocate before the Father. Here we are forced to embrace some kind of Universalism that is exclusive of the idea that all individual men will be saved. What kind of Universalism will serve that kind of function?

The overall answer I believe lies in embracing the idea that the reconciling work of Christ accomplished on the cross was designed so that in the outworking of history what would eventually come to pass was the salvation of the whole cosmos (“all things”). In Christ’s death all things were reconciled in principle and definitively but that reconciliation was to take place progressively in history and culminate in all things being reconciled finally in the consummation of all things. The redemptive effects of Christ’s death was accomplished at the cross and those same redemptive effects continue to extend out into the future so that the all things that were reconciled in principle and definitively in the death of Christ are progressively reconciled as the future unfolds. The final end of Christ’s work is the reconciliation of all things that was accomplished in principle and definitively in the work of our Lord Christ in his Cross work.

So, when the Apostle speaks here of Christ being the propitiation for the sins of the whole world what he has before him is the kind of Universalism that sees the end result of the work of Christ. The teleology (goal) of Christ’s propitiatory work is a universally saved world. The idea of ‘Whole World’ in I John 2:2 should not be read as Christ making propitiation for the sins of each and every individual. Neither should I John 2:2 be read as Christ providing a propitiation for each and every individual that is activated only by His particular Advocacy. Rather I John 2:2 should be read as the Apostle speaking in much the same way that Isaiah wrote in Chapter 49 in reference to the coming Messiah,

5 And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength—
6he says:”It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

And so I John 2:2 while not teaching a absolute universalism is teaching that there is a universalistic quality to what Christ has done. That is to say, that because Christ has died for the sins of the whole world we can anticipate that a time is coming where the whole world will be saved. This has been called “eschatological univeralism”

That the whole world didn’t yet give evidence in John’s day or doesn’t yet give evidence in our day that Jesus has propitiated for its sins is no proof against the reality that the propitiatory work of Christ wouldn’t one day yield a whole word that would one day give evidence of Christ propitiating for the sins of the whole world.

In saying that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world John is, I believe, also speaking proleptically about what is as good as accomplished in light of the effectual power of Christ’s propitiating death. Christ propitiated for the sins of the whole world and it is only a matter of time before the whole world, like the little community that John writes to, will be saved.

Now that word proleptically.

a. Proleptic is the assignment of something, such as an event or name, to a time that precedes it, as in If you tell the cops, you’re a dead man.

So John is writing to this early church that is a small and fledgling organization, and the Apostle, understanding the impact of what Christ has done, by speaking of Christ’s propitiation for the sins of the whole world speaks of the future certain effect of what His propitiation accomplished. Sure, the whole world isn’t yet revealing the fruit of Christ’s propitiatory death but that doesn’t mean that Christ death wasn’t a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

B. B. Warfield puts it this way,

“(Jesus) came into the world because of love of the world, in order that he might save the world, and He actually saves the world. Where the expositors have gone astray is in not perceiving that this salvation of the world was not conceived by John – any more than the salvation of the individual – accomplishing itself all at once. Jesus came to save the world, and world will through Him be saved; at the end of the day he will have a saved world to present to His father.”

Because of the propitiatory death of Christ the world in its totality will be saved. Because of the propitiatory death of Christ the New World Order of His eschatological Kingdom that He inaugurated will push back and overcome this present evil age. The Lord Jesus Christ, because of His propitiatory death, has saved the World from the destruction that was visited upon it by the work of Adam.

All of this fits wonderfully with what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8;

“because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

The present evil age World order will be delivered from the bondage of corruption precisely because it was delivered from the bondage of corruption in the propitiatory death of Christ. The mustard seed will become the huge tree. The leaven will work its way through the whole loaf. The great stone cut out of the side of the Mountain will crush pretenders to the throne. Christ will be all in all.

In this reading the contrast that is implied by the Apostle in I John 2:2 is not the contrast of the flock in Asia Minor contrasted with the flock in other portions of the world. Nor is the contrast to be found in the propitiation of all the Christians of all time with the propitiation of each and every individual that lived during John’s time. Rather the contrast that the Apostle has in mind is the contrast between the ‘little flock’ in Asia Minor that is saved with the Whole World that will be saved as a result of the work of Christ.

The salvation that Christ wrought is Cosmic in its nature. The death of Christ does not merely save individuals out of the World but has the effect of saving individuals along with the World. The Universalism, thus of the Apostle John, is not an ‘all men will be saved’ universalism. Rather the Apostle’s Universalism is an eschatological Universalism.

Ken Gentry puts it this way,

Though these passages do not teach an ‘each and every universalism’ as in liberal thought, they do set forth the certain, divinely assured prospect of a coming day in which the world as a system (a Kosmos) of men and things, and their relationships, will be redeemed. A day in which the world will operate systematically upon a Christian ethico-redemptive basis. Christ’s redemptive labors will have gradually brought in the era of universal worship, peace and prosperity looked for by the prophets of the Old Testament…. There is a coming day in which Christ will have sought and have found that which was lost: the world. Hence the Great Commission command to baptize ‘all nations.’

So when we read these types of passages we read them understanding that “all things” refers to the expansive nature of Christ’s reconciling work. The created order has been reconciled in Christ. Though all men are not reconciled, humanity as a whole is reconciled.

I John 2:2 thus is a passage that is a post-millennial affirmation that the Kingdoms of this World will be the Kingdoms of our Lord and that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Now, in light of this believers can continue, as they so commonly currently do expect defeat in this world or in submission to King Jesus they can get to work seeking to extend the crown rights of King Jesus, who has provided the propitiation of the sins of the whole world.

The Charge Of Inconsistency

I have received a number of e-mails recently chastising me for being inconsistent in supporting Ron Paul given his views of abortion (States should decide), Gay Marriage (States should decide) and Homosexuals in the military. This will be a brief attempt to explain my reasoning on this issue.

First of all, those who have followed my articles will know that right from the very beginning of the Paul phenomena I have said that he is not a perfect candidate and that he is clearly and overwhelmingly wrong on the abortion issue. The Constitution in the Fifth Amendment clearly gives the Federal Government the legal responsibility to insure that none of its citizens are ‘deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.’ Abortion clearly is a deprivation of life without due process of law and the Federal Government has the Constitutional Responsibility to protect life. Congressman’s Paul’s Libertarian tendencies work against him at this point and make him severely wrong in advocating a policy so clearly contrary to both the Constitution and Scripture.

So given this conviction why do I support Paul? The reason is because Ron Paul desires to return this Country to Constitutional Government and under Constitutional Government a State that desires to secede from these United States can do so and I can think of no better reason to secede from the Republic then a refusal to be associated with sacrificial child murder in its rankest form. Under the Paul plan if some States desire to allow in utero murder then apparently they can but also if any State is convinced they can not be yoked with that kind of murderous tyranny then Constitutionally they are free to leave. If we are going to be Jeffersonian here then let us have it all the way. (See the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions.)

As to Congressman Paul’s insistence that the States should decide on homosexual marriage I am in agreement with him for the reason that I do not think it is the State’s business to be in the ‘licensing of marriage’ business. This is a function that should be happening within the sphere of the Church and not the State. The State has been given the Sword as a ministry of justice, not the Surplice that it may approve, or conduct by proxy, marriages. This country existed for quite some time without the State being in the marriage business and I see no reason why we should have to get the States permission to marry.

Finally, on Homosexuals in the military issue, I once again believe that Paul is in a clear error that violates Scripture and the earlier standard that followed Scripture set by one General George Washington. In an instance where a sodomite was caught in the Washington’s army, Washington wrote,

At a General Court Martial whereof Colo. Tupper was President (10th March 1778), Lieutt. Enslin of Colo. Malcom’s Regiment [was] tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly, For Perjury in swearing to false accounts, [he was] found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War and [we] do sentence him to be dismiss’d [from] the service with infamy. His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of camp tomorrow morning by all the drummers and fifers in the Army never to return; The drummers and fifers [are] to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose.

The fact that any candidate can seriously suggest that having buggery in the Military shows how far we have slipped from basic morality. This position of Congressman Paul once again reveals that his Libertarianism is getting the better of him. Still, Paul deigns to return us to Constitutional government, where at least theoretically, a State could secede due to such unconscionable policy from its Federal Government and so I support his candidacy with all the passion I can muster, going so far as to suggest that Christians who do not support his candidacy are not thinking Biblically.

I support Congressman Paul for President. I do not support him when his Libertarianism turns into a license that would harm the collective culture due to how it can help breed an immoral cancer that infects the soul of a nation.

Martin Luther Roe

There is must be some kind of Cosmic Irony that finds the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade nestled up against the celebration of Martin Luther King’s anniversary. In King’s Birthday we celebrate King’s theoretical accomplishment of racial justice. In the anniversary of Roe vs.Wade we mark an event that can be characterized as nothing but a holocaust in the Black community.

So, while on one hand people gather together in public places in order to toast the great emancipation work of King, on the other hand the reality is that in America today, almost as many African-American children are aborted as are born. One might almost wonder how much progress has been accomplished when a black baby has less chance of survival then the black slaves had being transported from Africa to enslavement at different points around the world. On one hand people raise a toast to the great progress of the American Black community, on the other hand a black baby is three times more likely to be murdered in the womb than a white baby. Yes sir, now that’s racial progress. On one hand the blacks have made the Supreme Court, the Presidents cabinet, and have become mega CEO’s in corporate America. On the other hand since 1973, abortion has reduced the black population by over 25 percent.

It might just be me but if I were Black I might wonder how much King really accomplished in light of the reality that every three days, more African-Americans are killed by abortion than have been killed by the Ku Klux Klan in its entire history. I might reconsider just how much Rosa Parks accomplished when I realized that about 13 percent of American women are black, but they submit to over 35 percent of the abortions. If I were black and were convinced that my people had made progress in the realm of civil rights I might begin to wonder why
Planned Parenthood which operates the nation’s largest chain of abortion clinics has almost 80 percent of its facilities located in minority neighborhoods.

But then, I’m not African-American, and not being African-American, I probably don’t get it since it could very well be a ‘Black thing.’ Still, all this death in my community might make me wonder why we are celebrating all this ‘progress.’

Wilson’s War

Those who follow the Reformed world will well know the battle royal that continues to be waged among those putatively Reformed. I have stated my conviction more than once that it may be a case where two sides are arguing over what it means to be Reformed with the interesting insight that neither side may indeed be Reformed. If this is accurate it may be a pity if either side wins.

One of the protagonists in this battle is the Bishop from Moscow, Doug Wilson. Now one could fill pages with the recounting of all the good that Wilson has done for Christianity. But even the guys in White Hats can fire blanks now and then, and on the issue of Federal Vision in relation to justification Wilson is just plain wrong.

Below I have culled a quote from Wilson that he recently wrote on his own always active and energetic blog.

The Mablog one writes,

The real issue that is confounding the Reformed world is the relationship of Christ to the individual believer and the relationship of Christ to His corporate body, and then the relationship of the individual believer to that corporate body. Put this question another way — this recapitulation of Israel’s history, this active obedience of Christ — is it imputed to the reprobate covenant member? If we say that Christ’s active obedience is imputed to each elect covenant member only, one at a time, thus building up the body of the elect (as an abstracted roster), then we are disparaging the role of the organic Church. But if we say that the imputation of Christ’s obedience is “for the new Israel,” and I am a covenant member of that new Israel, then His obedience is mine, right? Q.E.D. But this leaves us to puzzle over the differences between the elect covenant member and the reprobate covenant member, and leaves the classic TR (rightly) suspicious. The imputation of the active obedience of Christ cannot be taken as simple handwaving over the entire visible Church. In my appeal to the recapitulation of Israel’s history in the life of Christ, that is not what I am trying to do.

Part of the struggle in the whole Federal Vision debate is how to understand the relationship of the Church as a whole to Christ vs. the more commonly pursued understanding of the individual’s personal relationship to Christ. A great deal of time is spent examining how the individual comes into relation with Christ (ordo salutis) without spending as much time examining the question of how the Church as a whole (both elect and un-elect members) is in relation to Christ. When we make this kind of emphasis the inevitable consequence is that the historical concrete Church takes it on the chin in terms of importance over against the Church invisible. The problem crops up when we insist that all who belong to the visible Church (whether elect or non-elect) belong to the justified community. Certainly we don’t mean that non-elect covenant members of the justified community are justified, do we?

This is how I understand the difference between the elect and reprobate covenant member in their enjoyment of the benefits of that covenant. By “benefits of that covenant” let us use the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, but I believe the same thing applies to all the blessings of the covenant. The elect enjoys them with the result of ultimate salvation at the last day. The reprobate enjoys them temporarily as the common operations of the Spirit, to use the language of Westminster.

Wilson’s attempt to resolve this dilemma immediately crashes on the shore of Scripture and reason.

Wilson appeals to the reality that the non-elect covenant member enjoys all the ‘benefits of the covenant’ but only temporarily. The problem with this reasoning is that one of the ‘benefits of the covenant’ that Wilson says that non-elect covenant members (henceforth NECM) share temporarily is the final perseverance and preservation of the saints. So we have Wilson saying on one hand that NECM get all the ‘benefits of the covenant’ while on the other hand we get Wilson saying that the NECM get all the benefits of the covenant except for the one they don’t get. This kind of reasoning by contradiction shows up frequently in Federal Vision doublespeak when it comes to the issue of justification.

It seems that the only distinction that Mr. Wilson is making between ECM and NECM is that one perseveres and the other doesn’t. But if this is accurate this would be to say that NECM are genuinely temporarily saved up until the time that they quit persevering and being preserved. It seems that Wilson is saying that both the ECM and the NECM have the essence of the covenant, which is Christ, until they commit soteriological treason. Is it the case that according to Wilson both NECM and ECM share the same ontological regenerated nature until the NECM goes apostate? Now, this could be squared with Arminian Theology, and probably most non-Reformed Theology but it can not be squared with Reformed Theology unless we redefine what it means to be Reformed.

It is difficult to see how this can be squared with Reformed Theology.

But what of the ‘common operations of the Spirit’ language (from the WCF) that Wilson appeals to? Instead of insisting that it means that the NECM have genuinely and truly the all the saving benefits of Christ, if only temporarily, it would be better and more Biblical to say that the NECM are like the dogs who get the crumbs that fall of the children’s table that Jesus refers to in his conversation with the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24f. The dogs are getting part of the feast (hence ‘common operations’) but nobody suggests that the dogs are equal to or are the same as the children.

Doug continues,

If this following illustration helps, great. If not, then maybe we can find a better one later. We are all in the car of salvation, barreling along at a high rate of speed, headed toward the eucatastrophic wall that bars the road at the end of history, and which we will all hit at that high rate of speed. We are all in the car, we all have a seat, we all have equal access to the drinks and snacks in the cooler, and we are all buckled up, except for some sons of Belial in the way back. We have all been expressly told to buckle up, and we have mostly done so. Some of those buckled have just shoved the thing in thoughtlessly, but the converted covenant members hear the click. That click makes all the difference, for everyone and in everything.

Rev. Wilson is famous (or infamous depending on whom you ask) for his illustrations. I have, over the years, found many of them to be quite good. This isn’t one of them.

First, note that for Wilson both the ECM and the NECM who are together members of the covenant are all together in the ‘car of salvation.’ Now in the sense that all are in the place where salvation is to be enjoyed and lived out this is true, but in the sense that all are headed to the same destination this is not true. The NECM are never on their way to salvation and for them that wall is not eucatastrophic but rather dys-catastrophic. The fact that Wilson puts them all headed towards a eucatastrophic wall belies Wilson’s failure to realize that the NECM have always been, in Brian Adam’s phrase, ‘on the Highway to Hell’ and not on the highway to a eucatastrophic end.

Pressed to its logical conclusion Wilson’s analogy teaches salvation by works. If the differentiation between ECM and NECM is found in who buckles up and who becomes a ‘test crash dummy’ then owning salvation really isn’t equated to being in the car but rather it must be equated to buckling up. And further, in Wilson’s analogy, why can’t I boast in my contribution towards salvation since what I did (buckling up) is what makes me differ from the poor NECM slob who didn’t buckle up?

Second, this illustration could be read to be teaching that all the members in the vehicle get in by grace but they must stay in by works. (The difference between ECM and NECM according to Wilson’s analogy is that the former perform a necessary work while the latter doesn’t.) In Michigan language the NECM don’t ‘click it so they get a ticket.’It seems that Wilson could easily be accused of teaching, by analogy, that believers keep their salvation by works. Now, certainly, all Reformed Pastors worth their salt teach that work (clicking) happens in the Covenant of Grace but no Reformed Pastor worth his salt would ever teach that we keep our covenant status by our works. How can we work to keep something that is irreversibly given? When Christ put me in the covenant of Grace He did it all including clicking the seat belt.

Finally the Moscow maven offers,

So the qualitative difference between the elect and reprobate extends to their enjoyment of every blessing. It affects every blessing, and it affects it totally. Is the obedience of Christ given to the reprobate car-rider? Yes, but no click. Is the obedience of Christ rendered to every elect covenant member? Absolutely . . . and click. In this respect, the reprobate covenant member’s enjoyment of the common operations of the Spirit is exactly like the reprobate non-covenant member’s enjoyment of rain and sunshine. The greater the enjoyment, the more we should have a sense of gathering tragedy and doom. As C.S. Lewis points out somewhere, damnation works backwards.

This really looks to be obfuscation on the part or Rev. Wilson. On one hand the NECM has the obedience of Christ imputed to them while on the other hand it is not imputed to them because they didn’t click. Which is it? Imputed or not imputed? It seems what Wilson has introduced is another step in the ordo salutis. Wilson now offers, ‘justification, click, regeneration, sanctification, etc…. Apparently some can be justified (and let’s keep in mind what justification means) but because there is no sweet sound of the click then their’s is just a non-click version of justification.

Anybody want to bet that we are now going to divide in to the ‘Click Reformed Church vis a vis the No Click Reformed Church?

Anyway in the end Rev. Wilson’s attempt to continue to bridge Federal Vision with classic expressions of the Reformed Faith fails. Doug ought to just give up this attempt to bridge these expressions and go join his Federal Vision compatriots and diligently pray that God will raise some other movement up to defeat the Reformed derangements of many of his radical two Kingdomists Luthernaized opponents.