Is Daniel Fuller’s Conditionality the Answer to Dispensationalism?

I quote Daniel Fuller (Unity of the Bible, 143): “NOT ONLY must we trust that His death on the cross enables God to forgive our sins, but to believe properly we must also continually believe in God’s promises as an indispensable component of genuine faith…”

While “unconditional” election supposedly is not part of the gospel but only that which secretly makes the gospel work, the gospel according to Daniel Fuller is not only the work of Christ outside of us but also the work of Christ in us.

But what happens if I do not “continually believe as much as I should”? We are told not to be “overscrupulous”. “Justifying faith need not be perfect or flawless, or superhuman faith.”

The Fuller/ Piper perspective focuses on commands of God “to those already in the family”, to those “already in the covenant” and explains that we don’t need to be exactly perfect.

But the gospel says that all saving faith is the fruit of the righteousness obtained for the elect AND that justification is not a future thing dependent on our future works or future faith or future works of faith. This is what we learned when we are taught the gospel: it is the very thing Fuller and Piper leave behind when they start saying the faith doesn’t need to be perfect.

Fuller explains that “Calvin’s exegesis of key passages in Romans and Galatians can be seen as positioning the law of Moses as a ‘law of works’ not based on faith at all.

I think Calvin got this one right! Gal 2:16-3:13 are not about a “misunderstanding” of works. Galatians puts works in antithesis to faith in a way that Daniel Fuller will not allow.

All I seem to read from some Reformed folks is that dispensationalists are wrong about law and grace. These Reformed guys have never once in their lives been accused of being “antinomian”.

What bothers them most is any talk of “eternal security” or “unconditionality”.

Of course election is unconditional, they formally consent in their confessions. BUT in the end everything DEPENDS on THE COVENANT which of course to many (but not all!) Reformed scholars is conditional, depending on God causing us us doing our part.

Instead of being dispensationalists, they have decided that the law is gospel after all. They started by talking about the “grace of law”.

Perhaps there is no blank page in their Bibles between the Old and New Testaments. But there seems to be a blank where Romans 6:14 reads “not under law but under grace”. The apostle Paul seems to be operating there with an old perspective in which one thing depends for its definition on not being another thing.

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5 Comments on “Is Daniel Fuller’s Conditionality the Answer to Dispensationalism?”

  1. MARK MCCULLEY Says:

    Horton: The classification of “unconditional” and “conditional” covenants isn’t helpful, they argue, because there are elements of each in every biblical covenant.However, their argument assumes that the mere presence of commands indicates a mixture of unconditional-conditional aspects in the basis of the covenant itself. At this point, Reformed theology has traditionally appealed to a distinction between basis and administration. The mere presence of commands says nothing about the basis of a covenant itself.

    mark: so far, so good, Tullian got this from Horton–commands don’t make things conditional But Horton does bring back conditionality

    Horton: Concerning covenant theologians, Wellum, “Ironically, however, they agree with the Arminian exegesis and conclusion as applied to full covenant members who are not elect” (75). This isn’t quite accurate. We hasten to add the qualification in verse 9: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (v. 9). The writer does not know for certain that each and every member of the new covenant is justified, but exercises charity since they are not among the open apostates. A Baptist interpretation cannot account for this category of covenant beneficiaries who spurn the objective blessings delivered to them and fall away, while an Arminian interpretation cannot account for the distinction of this group from those who were in fact united to Christ.

    mark: but this simply assumes that there are non-justified members in the new covenant, which is the thing to be proven, but Horton assumes it because he assumes straight continuity with Abraham (as if all discontinuity was with Moses, but Abraham himself had two sons)

    Horton: jewish branches that didn’t yield faith were broken off to make room for living Gentile branches that share the faith of Abraham in Christ. And yet he adds, “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (vv. 16b-21). The whole tree is holy, but dead branches will be pruned. The whole church of Corinth is addressed as “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1:2). And yet, among that very number are members he will later upbraid them for not excommunicating!
    mark: thus Horton teaches that members of the new covenant lose their sanctification and their membership, because it’s all conditioned on faith

    and then Horton becomes quite open in his conditionality, as much as Kline or Piper or Schreiner: To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? If faith is the only way into membership (693), then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to exercise faith and persevere in faith to the end?

    Horton: God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator. The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Brandon Adams — historic Presbyterianism was very different than modern Presbyterianism. Modern Presbyterianism will consider a non-communicant member who has reached the “age of discretion” and does not profess saving faith in Christ to be a covenant breaker and thus excommunicated. That was not the historic position. Instead, non-communicant members could remain members of the church without making any credible profession of saving faith. That was only required for communicant membership (access to the Lord’s table). Thus everyone in a nation was required by law to profess the true religion (known as “historic faith”) but they were not required by law to profess saving faith. Therefore the covenanters did not see themselves as judging “the world” with these laws. They were judging the church.
    http://reformedlibertarian.com/articles/theology/the-half-way-covenant/

    With which presumption will we start?

    –will we exclude from the new covenant those who were in the Abrahamic covenant, or only “include more” ( now females and unmarried males)

    –will we include the spouse and the slaves and the teenage children of a father, or even the grandchildren of those with parents who were cut off from the covenant?

    All or nothing–if we want to include instead of exclude, why not let’s water everybody (not only infants from some families) , including all the adults who come our way–then we can begin to teach them the commands of the covenant (how could we teach anybody God’s law until after they were in the covenant?) and thus we can teach these included disciples that God has promised all of them them saving faith….less narrow, more generous and capacious

    And all we need for that is a common enemy scapegoat—those who refuse to be magistrates, we can accuse them all of wanting to take over as magistrates—and thus find unity between ourselves by excluding fanatics loyal only to one kingdom.

    every inclusion is also an exclusion

    https://chantrynotes.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/godfrey-and-the-baptists/#more-2500

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Roberts—“The force of the grace of adoption summons thee adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is never only a completed event of the past, but is an enduring reality enjoyed by those who continue to receive it. Adoption is much less about its initial reception than it is about its lifelong reception. The faith water baptism calls for is not present faith so much as future faith.”

    Roberts—“Martin Luther’s resistance to the ‘linear model’ of the Christian life, with an one time conversion followed by progress beyond that point. Luther maintained that we never move beyond the point of water baptism. . Conversion is an ongoing reality in the Christian life, a continual act of going back to water baptism as the beginning. The efficacy of water baptism day after day makes death and resurrection a reality that has not yet been fully accomplished IN US.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/infant-baptism-and-the-when-of-baptismal-grace.php#sthash.SNY6T0Ud.dpuf

    Meredith Kline–The newness of the New Covenant does not consist in a reduction of the Covenant of Redemption to the principle of election and guaranteed blessing. Its law character is seen in this, too, that it continues to be a covenant with dual sanctions

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Piper’s appendix from The Future of Justification https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/piper-vs-owen-on-romans-26-7-13/

    John Piper— Romans 9:32 views the law as it points to and aims at “Christ for righteousness,” not in all the law’s designs and relations to faith. Therefore, it would be a mistake to use Romans 9:32 to deny, for example, that there is a short-term aim of the law that may suitably be described as “not of faith” as in Galatians 3:12 (“But the law is not of faith, rather `The one who does them shall
    live by them’”).

    John Piper—I myself have argued in the past, for example, without careful distinction, that “the law teaches faith” because Romans 9:32 says that you don’t “attain the law” if you fail to pursue it “by faith,”
    but pursue “as from works.” But the distinction that must be made is whether we are talking about the overall, long-term aim of the law, which is in view in Romans 9:32, or whether we are making a sweeping judgment about all the designs of the law.

    John Piper— We would go beyond what Romans 9:32 teaches if we made such a sweeping judgment, so as to deny that there is a short-term design of the law not easily summed up in the phrase “the law teaches faith” but fairly described in the words “the law is not of faith” (Gal. 3:12).


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