Posted tagged ‘conditionality’

Children of Abraham, Not What It Used to Be

November 2, 2012

All the laws God gave are moral, and the cherry-picking which decides some of them are not moral is a weak instrument used by those who want to ignore the flow of redemptive history, in which not all covenants are the same and in which not all of God’s laws are given at one time.

Beginning in Genesis 12. Abram is promised a great nation (polis), and he can’t have a great nation without land, territory for many people, mostly all biologically related to Abram, a land with no other altars allowed except to Yahweh the King. God also promised blessings for other nations based on their relation to Abram’s nation, with curses for those nations which don’t relate favorably to Abram’s nation.

This is one reason we need to deny that the Abrahamic covenant is the new covenant, despite the continuity between some of the promises to Abraham and the new covenant. Promises to Abraham are fulfilled in the circumcision of Christ on the eighth day (Luke 2).

The sign of circumcision was not only about pointing to the bloody sacrifice of Christ, which cuts the justified elect off from legal solidarity with Adam. Circumcision was an initiation rite for every male in Abraham’s family (even if one parent did not go testify before the presbytery!). And what belonging to Abraham’s family means now and what it meant then is not the same thing.

Theonomists are promising us that, with the right attitude and understanding, we already have what the judiazers offered. But to understand the advance of redemptive history is to see that we don’t need what the judiazers offered, And also, we can’t have what the theonomists are offering. There is only one way now to be children of Abraham, and those who are non-elect and who do not believe the gospel cannot now be “children of Abraham”. They can’t be in the new covenant. Nor should they be in “the administration” of the new covenant.

Now that Christ has been born and circumcised, it’s not possible for jewish male infants to be born as types of the birth to come. The solution to this fact is not to divide the Abrahamic covenants into parts, some cherry-picked as “ceremonial” with other parts “moral”.

Sure, the promises to Abraham are typological. But they put non-Abrahamic people out of the territory to make room for the biological-political heirs of Abraham. And the Doug Wilsons of the world, despite their optimism about future generations being mostly Christians, are no more averse than Augustine and Calvin to pushing people not in their “the church” out of their territory.

If it is not Christ who kept all the conditions of the elect being in (and staying in) the new covenant, then we need to hear a lot more from theonomic folks about the kind of “conditionality” involved in the new covenant. Is the new covenant “unbreakable” only in the sense that the covenant stands even if no individuals do what they have to do to “get connected” (and stay connected) with Christ’s death?


If the Sheep Can Turn Jesus Down, His Death is a Zero

September 19, 2012
  1. Galatians 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    Many Neo-Calvinists will not talk about election when they are talking about Christ’s death and love. Instead they talk about “covenant conditionality”. They will only say, “if you put your life-long trust in Him,” and will not spell out the antithesis between sheep for whom Christ died and goats for whom Christ did not die.

    On the one hand, everyone in their congregation is spoken to as one of the “us” Christ loves. On the other hand, listeners are warned that the ultimate efficacy of Christ’s intention depends on God making us obedient “in the covenant family”

    At issue here is not only the extent of Christ’s love but the nature of Christ’s love. God’s love never goes unrequited. God does not love everybody, but everybody God loves also loves God back.  If God loved everybody, but stopped loving those who didn’t love back and only continued loving those who loved back, that would be a very different kind of love than the love God actually has for the elect.

    It does no good to say that God took the initiative in loving the unlovely. In our own relationships, one of us often takes the first step. But if the other person does not respond, it amounts to nothing. If Christ’s love is only one step which then depends on our being enabled to make an adequate response, then Christ’s love amounts to zero.

    Galatians 2:20 does not say that the Son of God loved you and gave Himself for you. Nor does that text give clergy the authority to extrapolate that God loves you and gave Himself for you. Rather, the next verse says “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If Christ’s love depends on your obeying the law as the way you put your trust in Christ, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing and His death was for no purpose.

    In our relationships, we try to woo the lovely. We attempt to become lovely to those who are lovely to us. In the same way, the false gospel of Roman Catholicism depends on our becoming more lovely. But what good is a love for the unlovely which depends on our becoming lovely at some point? A love which CAN amount to nothing always DOES amount to nothing.

    If we think we can do one lovely thing to cause God’s imputation to happen, then we presume that God is wooing us. We think God is appealing to the part of us which God finds lovely. So then, no matter what we say, we haven’t really believed that God loves the unlovely.

    Neo-Calvinists think of election and definite redemption as two different things, because they think of love and propitiation for the elect as two different things. Not so the Scripture! John 10 does not say that the good Shepherd loves the goats so that they can become sheep if they respond. John 10:12 says that “he who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”  The good shepherd does not act like the hired man. The hired man’s love amounts to nothing.

    How do we know the Shepherd loves the sheep? “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Does this mean that the Shepherd dies as a representative of the sheep along with the sheep? No. The Shepherd is not only the leader, not only the first to die. The Shepherd dies as a substitute for the sheep. Because the Shepherd dies, the sheep do not die.

    So John 10 does not separate Christ’s love and Christ’s death. Christ loves those for whom He dies. Christ dies for those He loves. John 10 does not say, “If you put your trust in and believe.” John 10:26—”you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.”

    But Neo-Calvinists don’t deny election. Sure, John 10:29 tells how “My Father has given them to me”. Doug Wilson and Leithart only ask us not to talk about election when we are talking about Christ’s covenant love and death..

Conditional Promises, by W J Berry

October 31, 2011

God is not Obligated to Man by Conditional Promises

Religious teachers for hundreds of years have been putting forth the idea that God made a conditional covenant with Adam, thereby leaving the eternal destiny in the hands of the creature, the man Adam. This was not true.

It is either true or false. If it is true, then the eternal destiny of the Adamic race rested entirely on the conditional act of Adam. If it is false, then the popular religious teaching, including that of Christendom, is guilty of teaching and preaching a far-reaching error.

Referring to the creation of Adam, the word says, “the creature was made…by reason of him [God] who has subjected the same in hope.” (Rom. 8:20) When God created and formed the first man he was made upright and without sin, but he did not possess immortal life; nor is it intimated anywhere in Scripture that by his first disobedience he would lose immortality or eternal life, as he had neither.

When God placed Adam in the garden, He subjected him to the fall, and informed him that when, or in the day he committed this offense of the divine command, he would die; that was the death of the Adamic man which “passed upon all men.” (Rom. 5:12)

It is prevalent teaching, based on the first error, that when Adam fell he disobeyed a conditional commandment and lost the immortal life he regains in Christ. This is not true. Christ, the Son of God said: “I am come that they would have life, and that they would have it more abundantly.” (John. 10:10)

Speaking of His sheep (v. 28) He said: “I give to them eternal life.” Referring to this same life Paul wrote: “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom. 2:7) This word means deathless, incorruptible LIFE. Adam in his best estate did not possess this
kind of life.

God the Creator did not make any such conditional covenant with Adam with a promise of life—either temporal or eternal FOR his obeying a command. Neither did God ever promise any of Adam’s posterity any life, blessings eternal FOR his obeying a commandment or law given since Adam’s fall. It was then, and remains God’s absolute sovereign right to both command and punish His creatures in consequence of any failure. He is never obligated any time or in any sense to His creatures.

Religious work-mongers continually quote as conditional such scriptures as Isaiah 1:19: “If you be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land.” This gracious promise was given to a sinful, rebellious, unworthy people, to be bestowed out of pure grace, and not in payment for any service
to God the Giver. So with all of God’s promises, commands, blessings, mercies and savings.

It must and should therefore be clearly understood and freely acknowledged by every sin-convicted redeemed (no others can) that from Adam to the end, there are none in nature or grace—that could ever, by word or deed, be able to earn the very least favor of Almighty God. Our Lord Himself made all this plain when He said: “Does he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded him? Likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)

How presumptuous then, is it for depraved sinners of Adam’s race to believe and teach others to expect they will or can receive any favor of God—either in providence or in grace—apart from His own good will and unconditional right to bestow it. This being so, how utterly pharisaical and confusing, is the whole present work-monger system of men. It is difficult to believe those who teach this error, have yet to see themselves for what they are before a holy sovereign Almighty God.

Is Daniel Fuller’s Conditionality the Answer to Dispensationalism?

May 17, 2011

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.