Isaac Backus’ Comments on the Non-Establishment Clause

August 23, 2014 Leave a comment

“That colony was first planted in 1607, the first of all our colonies, and the church of England had all the government there until 1775, when Britain commenced a war against us* in which dissenters from them prevailed, and took away the support of those ministers by law. And though they tried hard to regain their power afterwards, yet in the beginning of 1786, a law was made, which said,

…” Be it therefore enailed by the General Assembly, ,That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or bur- thened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or be lief ; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in mat ters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities…

And Christianity has never appeared in the world, in its primitive purity and glory, since infant baptism was brought in, and after it the sword of the magistrate to support religious teachers. Yea, the foregoing declaration of Dr. Chauncy plainly says as much ; and the inconsistencies and contradictions, that he and others have been guilty of, serve to confirm the above observations. The credit of the paper money, which supported our war for several years, gradually declined, until it entirely failed in 1781 ; so that if a kind Providence had not opened other ways for us, the independence of America could not have been establish ed. And when that was granted, private and pub lic debts, and the fierce methods that were taken to recover them, brought on an insurrection in the Massachusetts, where the war began.

It was then found to be necessary for a new plan to be formed for the government of all these states ; and this was done in 1787. A large convention met at Boston, in January, 1788, to consider of this new constitution, where men discovered what was in their hearts in various ways. I before observed that a constitution for the Massachusetts was formed in 1778, which was not accepted. But I would observe now, that when it was in suspence, a noted minister said to our rulers, ” Let the restraints of religion once be broken down, as they infallibly would be by leaving the subject of public worship to the humours of the multitude, and we might well defy all human wisdom and power to support and preserve order and government in the state.”*

Yet this same man was in the Convention of 1788, wherein much was said against adopting a constitution of government, which had no religious tests in it ; and he was then in favour of the constitution, and to promote the adoption of it, he said, ” The great object of religion being God supreme, and the seat of religion in man being the heart or conscience, that is, the reason God has given us, employed on our moral actions, in their most important consequences, as related to the tribunal of” God, hence I infer, that God alone is the God of the conscience, and consequently, attempts to erect human tribunals for the consciences of , men, are impious encroachments upon the prerogatives of God.”*

Can these two paragraphs, from one man, possibly be reconciled together? Yea, or can any men support ministers by the sword of the magistrate, without acting contrary to a good conscience? The support of the ministers of Christ is as plainly a matter of conscience towards God, as any ordinance of his worship is. This I shall more clearly prove hereafter. In the mean time, the sentiments and example of the greatest men in America, deserve our serious notice.

After General Washington was established as President of these United States, a general committee of the Baptist churches in Virginia presented an address to him, in August, 1789, wherein they expressed an high regard for him ; but a fear that our religious rights were not well secured in our new constitution of government. In answer to which, he assured them of his readiness to use his influence to make them more secure, and then said, ” While I recollect with satisfaction, that the religious society of which you are members, have been throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends of civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution, I cannot hesitate to believe, that they will be the faithful supporters of a free, yet efficient general government,”*

And an amendment to the constitution was made the next month, which says, ” Congress shall make no law, establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to the government for a redress of grievances.” This was dated September 23, 1789 ; and it has been adopted by so many of the States, that it is part of the constitution of our general government, and yet the Massachusetts and Connecticut act contrary to it to this day.

And so all the evils that worldly establishments have ever produced, ought to be considered as a warning to them ; for our Lord assured the Jews, that all the blood which had been shed by former persecutors^ whom they imitated, should be required of them. Mat. xxiii. 29—35. And the blood that was shed at Boston, an hundred and forty years ago, brought the greatest reproach upon New-England, of any thing that was ever done in it.

A mistaken idea of good, in maintaining the government of the church over the world, was the cause of that evil ; but the worst of men in our land have equal votes with the best, in our present government. A view of this caused many fathers in Boston to procure an act to abolish the use of force there for the support of religious ministers ; and all that is done of that nature in the country, is contrary to that example, as well as to our national government. A work of the Spirit of God at this time discovered the glory of a free gospel ; for many new plantations on our eastern coasts had scarce any ministers at all to preach to them, as a view to worldly gain could not draw them there ;

Concordism and the Nature of Science

The problem therefore with the concordism debate is that both options are wrong. The biblical account is not “scientific,” but history; it is eye-witness account of what happened. It does not tell us scientifically what happened, as if science can do that. Science is a tool. It can tell us what possibly might have brought the events stated in the Bible to pass, but it is totally incapable of telling us what exactly happened in history. In other words, science can only tell us the “how,” not the “what” of history. Christians therefore do not have to try to reconcile “science” with the Bible, because the evolutionary metanarrative is not science, but a non-scientific metanarrative propped up with plausible scientific theories and facts that supposedly validate it.

Concordism and the Nature of Science

Categories: Uncategorized

OPC GA Republication Study Committee

June 17, 2014 4 comments

The overture was once again before the assembly. In review, the overture requests that the GA establish a study committee to examine and give its advice as to whether and in which particular senses the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. After much debate, and a call for division, the overture was granted by a vote of 83–53.

Categories: covenants

The Emperor Has No Clothes

June 14, 2014 2 comments

I just noticed that Stephen Cunha’s The Emperor Has No Clothes in on sale for $3.98. The book is a critique of Richard Gaffin’s doctrine of justification. I have not read Gaffin’s By Faith and Not By Sight because it was out of print – but it appears it has recently been re-published. Mark Jones wrote the forward to the second edition I’m which he calls it “a book that has been so deeply influential in my own theological thinking.”

I greatly appreciate any correction and interaction with Cunha’s critique of Gaffin. Here is my summary:

I was a bit guarded going into the book, expecting to read a very (perhaps overly) polemic work. But I was surprised to read a very simple, clear, concerned critique of Gaffin‘s view.
It stands out against the other works that have been written interacting with Gaffin because it is written by a layman (who has a firm grasp on the issues) and is thus very to the point and practical (whereas much of the writing between WS and WSC beats around the bush and requires a lot of reading between the lines).

Here are some summary quotes to give you a better idea:

The purpose of this book is to demonstrate and call attention to the fact that Dr. Gaffin is teaching a doctrine of justification that is contrary to the Westminster Standards, and, more importantly, to the Word of God. In this writer’s opinion, the key factors influencing Dr. Gaffin‘s distinctive teaching on justification are the application of the already/not yet concept to justification and, I shudder to say, a distorted understanding of the resolution between Paul’s assertion that justification is by faith alone and James’ assertion that justification is not by faith alone, which subtly, yet gravely, compromises the classic Law/Gospel antithesis taught by the Reformers (13)

The first chapter discusses Gaffin‘s view that the believer is still under judicial condemnation from the fall, and thus he dies. I found this chapter to be very worthwhile. It’s something I’ve only briefly considered. Cunha argues that our deaths are 1) not required, and 2) part of the Father’s loving process of sanctification, not condemnation. He discusses WLC Q85 in this regard.
The second chapter discuses how Gaffin‘s view of faith and works applies to his understanding of the supposed already/not yet aspect of our justification. Cunha notes:

According to Dr. Gaffin‘s view, faith and works are constituent parts of a faith/works complex that is necessary to obtain justification. Just as access to the flight is partially dependent upon the presence of a passport, so justification is made to be partially dependent upon the presence of good works. This goes beyond the traditional Protestant view that works are only evidential or declarative with respect to justification. When Dr. Gaffin refers to works as “the integral fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith” in justification, he acknowledges works to be the “fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith,” but denies that works are solely evidential with respect to justification.

It is clear that Dr. Gaffin denies that works are the ground or basis of a believer’s justification. What is not so clear is how works produced through faith can be pulled within the sphere of justification in a way that is beyond purely declarative of justification and, at the same time, not share any degree of instrumentality with faith, nor be a part of what faith itself is. Unless there is a new category of description that this writer is not aware of to characterize the relationship between works and justification, we are limited to the categories of ground, instrument, and evidence. If works produced through faith are in the smallest degree beyond purely evidential of justification, it follows that they must be, to some degree, either the ground or instrument of justification.

The third chapter is the longest and it addresses Gaffin‘s denial of an absolute Law/Gospel antithesis. Gaffin says:

From this perspective, the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself. It is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not by virtue of creation but as the consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer. How so? Briefly, apart from the gospel and outside of Christ the law is my enemy and condemns me. But with the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend. Why? Because now God is no longer my enemy but my friend, and the law, his will, the law in its moral core, as reflective of his character and of concerns eternally inherent in his own person and so of what pleases him, is now my friendly guide for life in fellowship with God. These observations on faith and obedience may be reinforced by referring here briefly to the perennial debate over Paul and James on faith and works. On the coherence between them, in what is sometimes taken to be their contradictory teaching on faith and works in justification, it is hard to improve on what J. Gresham Machen wrote aphoristically, “as the faith which James condemns is different than the faith that Paul commends, so also the works which James commends are different than the works which Paul commends.”

Cunha comments:

The classic Protestant Law/Gospel antithesis is that there are two antithetical ways to obtain justification. Justification is obtained either through a course of perfect obedience to the law or through faith in Jesus Christ… Dr. Gaffin says that the Law/Gospel antithesis is “not a theological ultimate” and that the Gospel “is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer.” It is here where one may rightly question whether or not Dr. Gaffin truly understands the classic Protestant Law/Gospel antithesis. Understood properly, there is no need to move toward an end of removing an absolute Law/Gospel antithesis in the life of the believer because the Law/Gospel antithesis applies to justification only. Both now and throughout eternity, a believer will rejoice in the fact that he or she has been justified on the basis of Jesus’ atoning death and merits received by imputation through faith alone.

He also includes a very helpful discussion of Romans 2 in this chapter.
The fourth chapter discusses Gaffin‘s support and endorsement of Norm Shepherd and the similarities between their views of justification and works.
He concludes with some remarks about other work being done at Westminster East and its connection to Gaffin‘s view of justification, faith, and works.
Overall I found the book to be very readable and to provide a helpful summary of the concern/debate about Gaffin‘s views – much more so than what I had read previously.
If anyone has read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Categories: books, justification

Rick Phillips’ Stand

June 14, 2014 1 comment

I am very grateful for Rick Phillips’ continual stand against a confusing and troubling view of the final judgment. He has been doing so for several years. See here and here, which was also delivered at the 2009 Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals Conference. Around the same time (maybe part of the same series) he had an article regarding the Westminster Confession as well, but I remember that article being very quickly pulled following some heated exchange with others, including Mark Jones (sorry, can’t find the discussion – it may have been on Jones’ old blog that was removed years ago).

Just recently Phillips posted another helpful stand for clarity on this issue: Concerns about the “Efficacy” of Works in which he warns Mark Jones to take a firmer stand against neonomianism.

Jones argued that our good works play a role greater than “mere evidence” at the final judgment: “God will not grant eternal life unless there are good works; indeed, these works have a sort of ‘efficacy.'”

Phillips explains

I am rather raising concern about the need to be clear in avoiding this kind of implication [of teaching that works are an instrumental condition of the Christian's justification].

If our works play more than an evidentiary role in our salvation and inheritance of eternal life, then what is that role?  Stephen Cunha notes in his critique of Richard Gaffin:

Unless there is a new category of description that this writer is not aware of to characterize the relationship between works and justification, we are limited to the categories of ground, instrument, and evidence. If works produced through faith are in the smallest degree beyond purely evidential of justification, it follows that they must be, to some degree, either the ground or instrument of justification.

The Emperor Has No Clothes (on sale right now for $3.98)

But Jones says he’s not talking about justification, he’s talking about salvation. To which Phillips rightly responds:

to see these works as efficacious with any sense of instrumentality requires us to have two doctrines of justification, one present and one future, in such a way that justification through faith alone is simply not conclusive.  But this is contrary to Paul’s constant emphasis: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  That “now” is not provisional, but conclusive and final.

Robert Reymond agrees:

“Justification possesses an eschatological dimension, for it amounts to the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.”

A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p743

Again, I’m thankful for Phillips’ clear stand against both Tchividjian’s confusion and Jones’.

Categories: final judgment

The justification of the good works of the justified

Norman Shepherd: What’s All the Fuss?

May 16, 2014 5 comments

Norman Shepherd taught a false gospel of works righteousness at Westminster Theological Seminary in the 70s by arguing good works are instrumental to justification. When asked in their ordination exam how we are justified, graduates were answering “by faith and works”. When asked who taught them that, they said Professor Shepherd. He paved the way for the Federal Vision.

In 2002, Shepherd delivered 4 lectures titled “What’s All the Fuss?” regarding his views on justification:

  1. What’s All the Fuss? (Part 1): The Biblical Doctrine of Justification
  2. What’s All the Fuss? (Part 2): The Church Doctrine of Justification by Faith
  3. What’s All the Fuss? (Part 3): Job Justified by Faith
  4. What’s All the Fuss? (Part 4): A Parable About Three Men

The thrust of his lectures is to show that the Bible does not teach a works-merit paradigm. He presents his position as the “faith-grace” or “covenantal” paradigm and he opposes this to the “works-merit” paradigm.

Well the preceding is only a sampling of the problems we run into on the works-merit paradigm. We become uncomfortable expressing biblical doctrines using biblical language. Texts get bent out of shape in order to make them fit into a paradigm that does not arise out of Scripture and is foreign to Scripture. And without meaning to do so or wanting to do so we can find ourselves compromising the integrity of what is written in the Word of God.

The biblical paradigm, I would suggest to you, is one that is consistently covenantal without the schizophrenic antithesis between the covenant of works and an antithetical covenant of grace.

Lecture 2, @27:00

In lecture 1 he insists that the biblical doctrine of justification consists in forgiveness of sins only.

According to Paul, justification is simply the remission of sin. Justification is the forgiveness of sin. A sinner is justified when his sin is forgiven so that he is accepted by God and becomes an heir of eternal life.

Lecture 1, @11:15

It does not provide a righteousness not our own, it only forgives our sins. And forgiveness alone is insufficient to eternally save anyone. It merely makes us eligible for eternal life.

By his death and resurrection, Jesus once and for all paid the death penalty for sin so that we could be forgiven. By his death and resurrection, Jesus gave us the power of a new life so that we could really live in communion with one another and with the Lord as covenant keepers. He wrote his law on our hearts so that we would obey and live.

Lecture 2, @37:00

Proverbs 12:28 “In the way of righteousness there is life. Along that path is immortality” That is salvation by grace in the Old Testament and it is also salvation by grace in the New Testament. The works-merit paradigm has no way of accounting for those words in Proverbs 12:28. In terms of that paradigm this is nothing but salvation by merit or works, but it’s presented to us in the bible as gospel.

Lecture 2, @43:40

Faith is not belief in the work of Christ. Faith is our obedience.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, faith in his blood, we can know now that we will stand forgiven, justified, in the day of judgment. This faith is an ongoing reality in our lives. We live every day and every hour of every day by faith. And that faith is a living, active penitent and obedient faith. [Inaudible] By the grace of God we have a living and active faith. The good news of the gospel is that the just will live by faith, even though they do not deserve, in themselves, to live. We are pilgrims on the path of life, the narrow path that leads to eternal life. The Bible calls it the way of holiness. By the grace of God alone we have been placed on that path and we stay on that path and we will reach our ultimate destination.

Lecture 2, @46:00

Yes we have tended to [separate the two hinges of justification and sanctification] do that. And the reason we do that is because of this works-merit paradigm that lies at the bottom of the way that we have structured this doctrine. Because in this paradigm where the meritorious ground for our salvation is the active obedience of Christ imputed to us and not anything that we do for ourselves. And again, within that paradigm that make sense. That’s what makes it evangelical. But it creates a situation in which now we hear any demand for righteousness in the bible, any demand for repentance, as, which of course is a matter of sanctification, as conflicting with justification by free grace so that the stress on sanctification becomes a threat to justification by free grace, within that paradigm. And the way in which people try to account for it is to say, well, the good works, the obedience will automatically flow once we have believed and been justified, then the sanctification will come along. But that isn’t the way that the bible presents it. We’re constantly exhorted to persevere in righteousness and holiness, without which we will not see the Lord. Then I say, what is the paradigm that accounts for that kind of biblical language?

Lecture 2, @56:00

The active obedience of Christ is not the meritorious ground of our salvation because, not because of any inadequacy in it or anything like that, but because there is no such thing in the bible as obtaining salvation by the merit of works. Salvation after the fall or the gift of eternal life before the fall was never granted on the basis of the merit of works but was always a free gift that is received by faith. That is why Adam was tested on the point of faith. Will we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?

Lecture 2, @1:03:00

We are in the same position as Adam in terms of our need to obtain eternal life. The only difference is that when we sin, it is forgiven. But our works play the same role as they did for Adam before the fall. This is contrary to the London Baptist Confession

London Baptist Confession

19.6._____ Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to shew what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unallayed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.

The confession articulates a contrast between the way our good works function and the way Adam’s good works functioned. His obedience to the law was as a covenant of works. Ours is not. This distinction is fundamental to the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone articulated in the confession (note the affirmation of the imputation of active obedience):

11.1._____ Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God. 

Shepherd is right that this doctrine of justification rests upon the works-merit paradigm and upon the concept of a covenant of works. Sam Waldron notes:

[T]here is no place in Shepherd’s theology for anything like the dichotomy between law and gospel that lays at the foundation of justification sola fide for the Reformation. If there is no such thing as meritorious works, if Christ’s work was believing obedience, if the obedience of faith is the righteousness of faith, then we are clearly dealing with a system of doctrine that has no way to express the Reformation’s contrast between law and gospel. Such a system cannot consistently affirm the justification sola fide squarely built on this contrast.

Allegiance to The Westminster Confession is often understood as subscription to its “system of doctrine.” The Westminster Confession accurately represents the Reformation system of doctrine when it grounds its soteriology on a contrast between the law (“the covenant of works”) and the gospel (“the covenant of grace”). Shepherd has no place for such a structure in his theology and cannot, therefore, affirm consistently the “system of doctrine” taught in the Confession he cites so often in his writings.

-Faith, Obedience, and Justification: Current Evangelical Departures, p. 186

Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God’s Covenants

With all of that in mind, it is particularly troubling to see people continue to recommend Greg Nichols’ book as a faithful representation of the system of doctrine taught in the London Baptist Confession. Nichols’ book is idiosyncratic and not representative of the confession, nor its signatories (see, for example, here and here). Confessional Reformed Baptists should stop recommending his book as representative of our confessional views.

The similarities between much of what Nichols writes and what Shepherd teaches is striking:

From Greg Nichols’ “Covenant Theology”


In sum, Adam’s original relation to God was familial and filial-parental. Thus it was warm and affectionate, not cold or distant. It was not an impersonal relationship between “contracting parties.” It was not between a disinterested judge and an unrelated defendant, or a ruler to an unknown subject. Thus, a “covenant of works” model simply doesn’t comport with its filial-parental framework. Categories like “contracting parties,” “stipulations,” and “penalties” are foreign to this familial relation. Such categories might suitably define a contract between corporations forging a business venture through their lawyers. They seem woefully inadequate to define a parental prohibition. In Genesis 2:16-17 God addresses Adam, not as a lawyer, but as a Father. This prohibition is an integral part of Adam’s filial relation to God. Thus, the covenant of works model wrenches this prohibition from its filial foundation. This is my primary objection to imposing this motif and its categories on this prohibition. (337)


This conditional form [of the Adamic Covenant] is similar to the conditional form of the Mosaic covenant… Observe that if [Adam] had complied with the condition, he would simply have done what was required. He would not have merited or earned anything – because he merely gave what was owed, trust and compliance. (346-7)

God freely blessed Adam with the Sabbath and with the hope it symbolized. Adam did not earn the Sabbath by works. Thus, Adam did not merit his hope by works – but he could sin and forfeit his hope. The covenant of works motif seems to say that Adam had to earn the hope of eternal rest that God gave him freely as a privilege… By eternal hope I refer to this expectation of divine blessing once he fulfilled his mammoth vocation. When he had populated and subdued the earth, he would have entered his rest. (341)


An Evangelical Explanation of the Mosaic Covenant’s Conditional Form
In this conditional promise God doesn’t say: “if you repent and believe, then you will be my special people,” but, “if you keep my law, then you will be my special people.” God said to Adam, if you eat you will die, implying, if you obey you will retain life and Eden. Similarly, he said to Israel, if you obey, you will retain Canaan, but if you disobey, you will be judged and disinherited. As Adam lost Eden, you will lose Canaan…

This teaches the necessity of gospel obedience unto complete salvation…  (Lev 18:5; Matt. 5:20; Rom 8:12-13)

Jesus warned that evangelical obedience was necessary to enter heaven… This is how the conditional promise of the Mosaic covenant applies to the Christian life. It demonstrates the necessity of perseverance in gospel faith and holiness. …The law is gracious because it teaches us that if we live a holy life, mortify the deeds of the body, and keep evangelically the commandments of God, we will go to heaven, not to hell. (233-4)

Norman Shepherd


One of the primary points emphasized in the Sandy Cove lectures (July, 1981) is that the obedience required of Adam in the “Creation Covenant,” had he rendered it, would not have been meritorious. Adam was a son, not a laborer. The concept of wages earned, reward merited, is not appropriate to the father-son relationship. This is not a point made somewhat incidentally by Mr. Shepherd along the way, but a point that is evidently fundamental in his theology of the covenant.

Reason and Specifications Supporting the Action of the Board of Trustees in Removing Professor Shepherd


Mr. Shepherd rejects not only the term “covenant of works” but the possibility of any merit or reward attaching to the obedience of Adam in the creation covenant. He holds that faithful obedience is the condition of all covenants in contrast to the distinction made in the Westminster Confession. The Westminster Confession states in Chapter Vll that the first covenant “was a covenant of works wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” In contrast, in the second covenant, the covenant of grace, the Lord “freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved.”

Reason and Specifications Supporting the Action of the Board of Trustees in Removing Professor Shepherd


He describes the requirement of our covenant-keeping obedience in terms drawn from his description of Adam’s covenant-keeping. We have resources that Adam did not have, Mr. Shepherd shows. We have forgiveness of sins in the blood of Christ; we have the Spirit to move us to obey; but we also have the same covenant condition to meet, and the same threat for disobedience.

Reason and Specifications Supporting the Action of the Board of Trustees in Removing Professor Shepherd

As the Lord God came to Mount Sinai to deliver his commandments to Moses and all Israel, so also the Lord Jesus came to another mount to deliver the commandments of the new covenant to his disciples and to the church of the new covenant…. Far from abolishing covenant obligation, Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). (The Call of Grace)

The obedience required of Israel is not the obedience of merit, but the obedience of faith. It is the fullness of faith. Obedience is simply faithfulness to the Lord; it is the righteousness of faith. (The Call of Grace, 39)

Shepherd Analysis

The ‘covenant dynamic’ of Mr. Shepherd makes the function of our obedience in the covenant to be the same as the function of the obedience of Adam in the covenant before the fall. … Adam’s covenantal obedience in the garden did not merit any reward; neither does our covenantal obedience. But both are required by the covenant command. The threat for disobedience is eternal death. This threat is as real for us as it was for Adam in the garden. The warning of the New Covenant must not be blunted or made hypothetical in any way. God’s threat to Adam or to Israel was not idle, and the same sanction of the covenant is directed against us in the New Covenant.
Reason and Specifications Supporting the Action of the Board of Trustees in Removing Professor Shepherd

Summary of Shepherd’s errors:

1) Denies the concept of merit

2) Therefore denies the covenant of works

3) Therefore denies Christ merited anything

4) Therefore defines forensic justification as only forgiveness of sins (rejects imputation of Christ’s righteousness)

5) Defines faith as including obedience (faithfulness).

6) Argues that the process of sanctification (regeneration) is prior to justification.

7) The “works of the law” that we are justified apart from are works done in an attempt to merit a reward (Rom 3:28). This does not have reference to “good works” of the believer (obedience of faith), which is necessary for justification (Gal 5:6).

8) Christ’s covenantal righteousness was his living, active, obedient faith. This faith was credited to Christ as righteousness.

9) The same obedience of faith is required of believers in every covenant. This active faith/obedience is credited to believers as righteousness (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:11; 1:5; 16:26)

10) Argues there is a “not yet” aspect of justification.

11) Our works will be judged on the last day to determine if we go to heaven or hell.

Categories: justification, theology

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