Doug Wilson Lets God Unfold His Decrees

I don’t agree with the way that Doug Wilson can’t make a distinction between Bible covenants. Wilson assumes that two kinds of election in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants means two kinds of election in the new covenant.

Of course Doug Wilson is not the only paedobaptist to say “the covenant” as if that’s saying the same thing as “the gospel”. Nor is he the only paedobaptist to make a distinction between the new covenant and election. But since mono-covenantalism is his central doctrine, Wilson is more consistent than most paedobaptists in how this works out in his doctrine of assurance.

In this case, being consistent is not a good thing, because Wilson has confused his ecclesiology with the gospel itself, which means that his false gospel is about grace helping people keep the conditions of “staying in the covenant”.

Doug Wilson: “To see election through a covenant lens does not mean to define decretal election as though it were identical with covenant election. But we do not drag the decrees down into our understanding of history — we let God unfold His unchangeable decrees throughout the process of all history. The content of the ultimate decrees is none of our current business, although we cheerfully acknowledge that the decrees are really there and that they have an unchanging content.”

Wilson certainly begs the question ecclesiologically. I suppose it’s big of him to let God reveal in the Bible that there is a decretal election. When Wilson “understands” that we can’t understand decretal election, he fails to make a distinction between knowing that there is such an election, and knowing who is elect. While the Bible does not tell who is elect, God does reveal that all the elect and only the elect will believe the gospel.

But Wilson “understands” the gospel as that which does not talk about decretal election. So his gospel does not tell the good news about Christ having only died for the decretally elect, nor does his gospel tell the good news about the decretally elect hearing and believing the true gospel.

Doug Wilson: “Because of the promises of the covenant, we may deal with election on our end, which is covenant election. The decrees are on God’s end. It is important for us to know that God does what He does on His end, but we only know that He is doing it, not what He is doing.”

Doug Wilson can know if “members in the covenant” on “this end” are meeting the conditions of “the covenant” well enough to have their infants baptized in the covenant. But since Doug Wilson teaches future justification, he is saying that nobody— parents or children—can know they will always have lasting life and the forgiveness of sins.

Doug Wilson thinks that having assurance is nothing but subjective pietism, and that threats and warnings are way more useful, at least for those in the covenant.

According to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without talking decretal election”.. Of course we don’t have to use those words, but we have to explain that Christ did not die for a group to be named later. Nor did Jesus Christ die for a subset which manages (by cooperating grace) to “stay in the covenant”. Romans 9 is not only talking about the “covenantally elect”.

“Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

Both were in that covenant. God’s purpose of election is about God’s decree. We need to see the connection between “not because of works” and decretal election. When evangelicals attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about decretal election, they end up saying “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Most “Reformed” folks grew up believing in a “faith alone” gospel, and now they still believe in a faith alone gospel but know in addition that the faith came to the elect from God. If the object of the “faith alone” is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and died for everybody (in some “covenantal” sense?) and that “faith alone” is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this “faith alone” is not in the true Christ but is instead in “faith alone”.

Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on “faith alone”. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel. Decretal election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of “not works”. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

Romans 11:5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

Does the apostle Paul not understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about decretal election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? And this “remnant” is not the “covenantally elect”. Paul is writing about decretal election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works. But neither does Paul regard faith as a substitute for Christ’s righteousness.

Romans 4:4 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted unto righteousness.”

God does not count faith as the righteousness. God counts the object of faith as the righteousness. Because the object of faith is Christ’s righteousness, not His presence in us, but His accomplished obedience even unto death.

Explore posts in the same categories: covenants, election


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9 Comments on “Doug Wilson Lets God Unfold His Decrees”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    from the Northwest Presbytery question to the OPC—Certain views and formulations of the Mosaic covenant… distinguish the Mosaic covenant from the Abrahamic covenant. The former is referred to as a “law covenant”, a “republication of the covenant of works”, or a covenant with a “works principle”; the latter is described as a “promise covenant.” The use of this language is confusing, since it seems to imply that to some degree the nature or substance of the Mosaic covenant differs from the other administrations of the Covenant of Grace (e.g., the Abrahamic covenant).

    Galatians 3: 6 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his seed… who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.

    mark: That part after “this is what I mean” is confusing, because it seems to say that the added law is not the same as the covenant previously ratified.

    Galatians 4: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.

    mark: It certainly is confusing to tell us that Abraham had two sons. Does this mean that Abraham had two kinds of children? Does this mean that the Abrahamic covenant had more than one promise?

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Leithart: The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor TO ME . Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts MY NAME on the package. Like the gospel, BAPTISM REQUIRES a response of ENDURING faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says ABOUT YOU .

    Leithart–The self-imputation of “righteous” is based on the baptismal declaration that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to rescue me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism…..

    Read more:

  3. 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.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    It is not proper, therefore, to set up a dichotomy whereby according to God’s secret will, election or justification cannot be lost, but according to our covenant perspective they may be lost. The statements cited show a tendency to use typically Calvinistic language with respect to the level of God’s secret will, but in the level of “covenant perspective” to use typically Arminian language (Christ died for you; the elect may become reprobate). There is even the notion that Ephesians 1:1–14 does not “function as canon” in relation to God’s unchangeable decree of predestination, but functions as canon only within that “context of the covenant” where “election” maybe lost. This is a misreading of the doctrine of God’s incomprehensibility. That doctrine does not mean that the perspicuously revealed grace of God in election and justification can be regarded as changeable on the covenant level.

    —Henry W. Coray, Mario Di Gangi, Clarence W. Duff, David Freeman, Donald C. Graham, Edward L. Kellogg, Meredith G. Kline, Robert D. Knudson, Arthur W. Kuschke, David C. Lachman, George W. Marson, W. Stanford Reid, Paul G. Settle, Lelie W. Sloat, William Young to the Trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary (December 4, 1980), 5.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    John Piper on Romans 9—By this election of Isaac instead of Ishmael God shows that physical descent from Abraham does not guarantee that one will be a beneficiary of the covenant made with Abraham and his seed… But, the interpretation continues, the covenant blessings for which Isaac is freely chosen (before his birth) and from which Ishmael is excluded (in spite of descendancy from Abraham) do not include individual eternal salvation. One cannot legitimately infer from Rom 9:7-9 that Ishmael and his descendants are eternally lost nor that Isaac and his descendants are eternally saved. What God freely and sovereignly determined is the particular descendant (Isaac) whose line will inherit the blessings of the covenant: multiplying exceedingly, fathering many nations, inhabiting the promised land and having God as their God (Gen 17:2-8). This benefit, not eternal salvation, is what is not based on physical descent from Abraham, but on God’s unconditional election…
    God’s promised blessings are never enjoyed on the basis of what a person is by birth or by works, but only on the basis of God’s sovereign, free predestination (Rom 9:11,12)… We may grant, for the sake of argument, that in the demonstration of this principle of God’s freedom in election Paul uses Old Testament texts that do not relate explicitly to eternal salvation… [But] the solution which Rom 9:6-13 develops in respons to this problem [9:1-5], must address the issue of individual, eternal salvation…

    [W]hether Paul sees the election of Isaac (Rom 9:7b) as the election of an individual to salvation or as the election of his posterity for a historical task, the principle of unconditional election is immediately applied by Paul to the present concern, namely, who in reality does constitute true, spiritual “Israel” (9:6b), whose salvation is guaranteed by God’s word?

    – John Piper, The Justification of God, p. 56-73

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Fisher’s Catechism on Q.87, q.20 What is the evil in maintaining that none but true penitents have a warrant to embrace Christ by faith? a. It sets sinners upon spinning repentance out of their own bowels, that they may fetch it with them, as a price in their hand to Christ, instead of coming to him by faith, to obtain it from him, as his gift. Mark: I agree with Fisher that we don’t need to know that we are regenerate (or elect) before coming to Christ. We can’t know before coming. But the warrant (the right) for sinners’ coming is not that “Christ is dead for you” or that Christ desires the salvation of the non-elect.

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