Jones on Conditions

Mark Jones recently responded to Lee Irons on the question of faith as a condition of justification. In light of my last two posts, I just want to make one short comment. Jones rightly notes that Owen permits faith to be a condition of justification (after spending a couple of pages carefully qualifying what that can and cannot mean, and noting it is liable to confusion), but then he goes on to imply Owen therefore thought faith was the antecedent condition to interest the believer in Christ and the covenant of grace itself. That was not Owen’s position, though it was the position of others.

In his commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13, Owen carefully distinguished between conditions for obtaining an interest in the covenant and conditions for certain blessings within the covenant. He said faith is a condition for justification, but not a condition of the covenant itself. Rather, faith is a blessing of the covenant. For Owen, the covenant of grace itself was entirely unconditional and unbreakable.

[I]n the description of the covenant here annexed, there is no mention of any condition on the part of man, of any terms of obedience prescribed unto him, but the whole consists in free, gratuitous promises…

It is evident that there can be no condition previously required, unto our entering into or participation of the benefits of this covenant, antecedent unto the making of it with us. For none think there are any such with respect unto its original constitution; nor can there be so in respect of its making with us, or our entering into it… It is contrary unto the nature, ends, and express properties of this covenant. For there is nothing that can be thought or supposed to be such a condition, but it is comprehended in the promise of the covenant itself; for all that God requireth in us is proposed as that which himself will effect by virtue of this covenant…

It is evident that the first grace of the covenant, or God’s putting his law in our hearts, can depend on no condition on our part. For whatever is antecedent thereunto, being only a work or act of corrupted nature, can be no condition whereon the dispensation of spiritual grace is superadded. And this is the great ground of them who absolutely deny the covenant of grace to be conditional; namely, that the first grace is absolutely promised, whereon and its exercise the whole of it doth depend.

Unto a full and complete interest in all the promises of the covenant, faith on our part, from which evangelical repentance is inseparable, is required. But whereas these also are wrought in us by virtue of that promise and grace of the covenant which are absolute, it is a mere strife about words to contend whether they may be called conditions or no. Let it be granted on the one hand, that we cannot have an actual participation of the relative grace of this covenant in adoption and justification, without faith or believing; and on the other, that this faith is wrought in us, given unto us, bestowed upon us, by that grace of the covenant which depends on no condition in us as unto its discriminating administration, and I shall not concern myself what men will call it…

The covenant of grace, as reduced into the form of a testament, confirmed by the blood of Christ, doth not depend on any condition or qualification in our persons, but on a free grant and donation of God; and so do all the good things prepared in it.

Owen was also clear that we have an interest in Christ prior to faith, and, in fact, our faith presupposes an interest in Christ:

No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith, etc. (X, 626-27)

In this regard, Owen sided with Crisp (though Owen made important corrections to what Crisp thought were necessary implications on this point).

For more, see my last two posts:

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  1. October 15, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Mark Jones—Most of the Early Modern Reformed did not view Romans 2:7-11 as hypothetical, contrary to what some in the Reformed camp today have suggested. Rick Phillips has addressed this question in the past, but …. his post also strikes me as far too defensive. Better, in my view, is the approach taken by Richard Gaffin in By Faith, Not By Sight.

    Should this cause people to despair regarding the future judgment? Only if one is a bona fide hypocrite. Christ will rightfully condemn the hypocrites in the church (Matt. 25:41-46). They are marked out as those who did not do good works. They are those who neglect the weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23).

    http://oldlife.org/2015/10/will-believers-be-judged-for-not-knowing-english-historical-theology

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  2. October 15, 2015 at 3:59 am

    Mark Jones gives us another an either or—NOT the finished resurrection of Christ but “union with the present risen Christ”—–“A theological student should ideally know the difference between the means of procurement (medium impetrationis) and the means of application (medium applicationis). The application of justification depends on Christ’s intercession, not on his resurrection. This helps us to understand the importance of Christ’s intercession, which is regrettably overlooked a lot. Christ’s death was a work of impetration that could be understood either as a physical cause or a moral cause. According to John Owen: “physical causes produce their effects immediately,” and the subject must exist in order to be acted upon. Moral causes “never immediately actuate their own effects.” Christ’s death was a moral cause, not a physical cause. Thus, those for whom he died do not need to be alive at the time of his death in order to receive the benefits of his vicarious sacrifice. Physical causes do not require human acts, but moral causes do.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/08/we-distinguish-the-importance.php

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  3. Hugh McCann
    October 16, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Election, not union, is the basis of our salvation in Christ alone.

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  4. October 16, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Lee Irons responds to Mark Jones—He correctly points to “eternal life” instead of “heaven” as more biblical language. But then he caves on conditionality, when this is done in the context of debates with paedobaptists. I quote:

    “Jones fails to mention this, but the treatise by Flavel that he cites was Vindiciarum Vindex, or, A Refutation of the Weak and Impertinent Rejoinder of Mr. Philip Cary. It wasn’t a treatise on justification but was part of a debate over paedobaptism. Philip Cary, the credobaptist, had argued that the new covenant or the gospel covenant is absolute or unconditional—a position that was even held by some paedobaptists, most notably John Owen. Flavel disagrees and argues that the gospel covenant is conditional upon faith. I happen to agree with the paedobaptist (Flavel) against the credobaptist (Cary) in this particular debate.

    Irons—“Flavel’s entire discussion of the various meanings of the word “condition” has to do with paedo- vs. credo-baptist debates over covenant theology, e.g., questions like whether the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision was the same in substance with the new or gospel covenant, and whether the new or gospel covenant is conditional. The precise question of the role of faith (instrumental vs. conditional) in justification is not directly in view (although justification is mentioned several times and Flavel even attaches an appendix critiquing the hyper-Calvinist doctrine of eternal justification, but, again, only to argue that faith is a condition in the obvious sense that it is necessary for justification).”

    http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/2015/10/response-to-mark-jones-on-faith-as-a-condition-of-justification.html

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  5. October 26, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Given Owen’s Covenant Theology, how did he ground his view of infant baptism?

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    • October 27, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Hi Matt, I’m working on a post explaining that. Suffice to say that it was much weaker than the Westminster view. He still retained the concept of being in the New Covenant at an administrative level, even though he pulled out the foundation for such a concept as developed by the reformed covenant theology he rejected.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. markmcculley
    November 9, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Mark Jones dismisses John Owen as “novel” — Up to a quarter of the Reformed tradition, including the early Reformers, were hypothetical universalists. Indeed, if a hypothetical universalist came to the Western Canada Presbytery to be examined – l I would not view his position as striking at the vitals of the Confession. It is a close one, but the better versions of hypothetical universalism – which differ from the views of Amyraut or Cameron – are practically indistinguishable from certain versions (yes, versions!) of particular redemption.

    mcmark—i agree with that, but this is a reason to expose those version of particular redemption. It is not a reason to follow Alan Clifford and the Torrances in dismissing “Owenism”.

    Mark Jones–John Owen was actually the NOVEL THEOLOGIAN theologian when he wrote The Death of Death. In fact, Owen was an innovative theologian for his time, rarely afraid to say things differently or in a new way.”

    Mark Jones–“The problem with a lot of polemical theology done by those who might be called Truly Reformed is their penchant for going for the jugular too easily and quickly. … to call someone a moralist is to say they are going to hell. It is the most serious of all heresies, and not a charge to be taken lightly.

    mcmark— When Mark Jones accuses people left and right to being “antinomian”, is that not “going for the jugular”? Doesn’t he think that antinomians are headed for destruction? if not, why is he making such a noise about it? .

    Mark Jones–Nonetheless, I find some comfort in John Owen’s words: “Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which in opinion they deny to be imputed.” We need to remember that justification is not by precision alone.

    mcmark: Why not quote also NT Wright to the effect that the doctrine of justification is not about soteriology but about ecclesiology for those who are already “water baptized into Christendom” ?

    Therefore we can have a gospel in common with the Roman Catholics which says that Jesus is Lord, and therefore there is no salvation apart from works and then “go for the jugular” by saying that “antinomians” are headed for destruction.

    And why quote John Owen who is kinda unique, “novel” really, an one-off, not somebody in the mainstream?

    http://oldlife.org/2015/11/todays-theme-is-breadth/

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/11/truly-reformed-tr-reformed-cat.php

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  7. Hugh McCann
    November 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    I’d be surprised to not see Jones or Trevin Wax or any of the other Y2R guys NOT cross the Tiber and pope.

    Bryan Cross & Jason Stellman are waiting…

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  8. markmcculley
    November 16, 2015 at 9:58 am

    “His people” in the old covenants is the same as “His people” in the new covenant

    Jesus might have been your representative but he’s not your replacement and substitute therefore you got to die daily and not only depend on His death alone.

    Not His death alone but also another factor is your repenting, which means doing what your church tells you to do (most likely, because we can’t be sure at this point, because it’s no longer just depending on Christ’s death alone)

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/the-world-in-the-church-4-lawless-world-lawless-church.php

    when I am obeying him (however imperfectly) more than you are, my progress in sanctification is the fruit of free justification and my progress in sanctification does contribute to my assurance, but if your lack of progress in sanctification contributes to your lack of assurance, remember not to make your progress the first thing but only something second or third in your assurance, because even if you have a little less gas (and more water) in your tank than I do, you do have some gas, and none of us have all gas (some water is mixed into all our progress) , and assurance is not all or nothing, which is why my progress in sanctification is not the first main thing but only one of the reasons that gives me assurance

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  9. markmcculley
    November 16, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Jesus did not bear the curse which comes the warnings, which means there’s still some curse left for those in the covenant , In theory, there is no curse for those in Christ Jesus, but in practical reality, you have to obey the warnings or you won’t be in Christ Jesus. Which would mean you were never in Christ Jesus, because justification was in Christ’s death alone, but sanctification is not in Christ’s death alone but also in your daily dying, and if you don’t die daily, then you won’t stay sanctified, and you won’t stay in the covenant, which means that you were never justified. Justification itself is by Christ’s death alone, but the assurance of it depends on how you obey the warnings so as to not lose your sanctification.

    Since our context is not legalism but antinomianism, we don’t need all that justification stuff, we need sanctification

    The gospel depends on the situation, the gospel depends on those who hear it, and now in our situation, we need the gospel to be the law, and we need the gospel to be what condemns people–because many are born in the church and many are born in the covenant, so what will condemn them is not the law, because what will condemn them is the gracious but conditional promise of the covenant, what will condemn them is “grace”— a grace common between those who believe and those who don’t believe. Grace for everybody, but believing for some.

    So how does his essay published today fit with what he wrote in From Heaven He Came?

    Has his Reformed ecclesiology subverted his soteriology?

    507, “Punishment God Cannot Twice Inflict”—Garry J Williams —“My argument stands against an unspecified penal satisfaction narrowed only by its application. The sacrifice for sin in Scripture is itself specific…If the penal substitution of Christ has no relation to one person’s sin, then it is not in itself God’s actual answer to any sin, and therefore not penal at all…An unspecified “No” is not an answer to anything; it is without meaning….I cannot see how anyone who excludes the identification of Christ’s satisfaction itself with the specific sins of specific individuals can avoid the logical outcome of denying its truly penal character.

    Garry J Williams, From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, ed Gibson, Crossway, 2013, p 513—”The notion that the lost will be punished for the sin of unbelief and not for sin in general allows Lutherans and Arminians to hold that Jesus died for every general sin of every individual, and yet not all must be saved, because unbelievers may still be justly condemned for their unbelief since Christ did not die for it. This reply limits the sins for which Christ died.”

    Williams: “The Lutherans and Arminians have created a difficulty with biblical texts referring to the sins for which Christ died. Every affirmation that sins have been borne by Christ must now be understood to contain a tacit restriction—except the sin of unbelief….If a sinner believes and becomes a Christian at age forty, since the Lutherans teach that Christ did not die for the sin of unbelief, this means that Christ did not die for this man’s sin of unbelief committed over forty years

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  10. markmcculley
    November 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Cunha—The foreword to the recently published second edition of Gaffin’s By Faith, Not By Sight is written by PCA pastor Mark Jones and is, unfortunately, fully consistent with the understanding that there has been no positive change in Gaffin’s teaching on justification.

    The selection of Jones to write the foreword, a man who has on more than one occasion publicly suggested that works of evangelical obedience have some efficacy in justification, is itself noteworthy. Jones gushes at the beginning of the foreword that “It is a unique privilege and a remarkable providence to write a foreword for a book that has been so deeply influential in my own theological thinking.” He then attempts to defend Gaffin’s views on soteriology, and especially justification, largely on the basis of historical theology….

    Jones says that Reformed theologian Peter Van Mastricht (1630-1706) taught that there are three stages of justification and that in the third and final stage “in which believers gain possession of eternal life, good works have a certain ‘efficacy,’ insofar as God will not grant possession of eternal life unless they are present.”

    Jones goes on to say that, based on what he discerns to be a shared view on Paul’s teaching in the first half of the second chapter of Romans, both Gaffin and Van Mastricht “hold firmly to the Reformed view that good works are a necessary condition (consequent, not antecedent, to faith) for salvation.”

    Cunha— When I first read this last statement, I was struck by Jones’s sudden shift from the word “justification” to the word “salvation” at this place. The word “salvation” can be used to denote something broader than the word “justification” (e.g. encompassing sanctification and glorification), but, based on the context, is clearly being used here as an equivalent term for justification….

    Cunha–Jones suggests, approvingly that both Van Mastricht and Gaffin stretch justification out into multiple stages and that good works are in some way efficacious in the final stage. Such a scheme violates the antithesis between works (Law) and faith (Gospel) with respect to justification. This is entirely consistent with the explicit denial of the Law/Gospel contrast expressed by Gaffin in By Faith, Not By Sight.

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/update.php?id=3

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  11. markmcculley
    January 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/january-february/whats-so-dangerous-about-grace.html

    John Barclay—-“Luther was incredibly anxious about any notion of circularity—that we give back to God so that God can give further again to us. Luther was anxious about any language of obligation or obedience if it implied trying to win favor with God. As a result, some Protestants believe it’s inappropriate for God to expect something in return, because it would somehow work against grace. They believe a gift should be given without any expectation of return. However, that can lead to notions of cheap grace—that God gives to us and doesn’t care about what we do. On the other hand, the Calvinist and, in different ways, the Methodist–Wesleyan traditions have rightly understood that the gift of God in Christ is based on conditions, in a sense. While there is no prior worth for receiving the gift, God indeed expects something in return. Paul expects those who receive the Spirit to be transformed by the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit. As he puts it, we are under grace, which can legitimately lead to obedience, even obligation.”

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    • Hugh McCann
      January 9, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Why do “conditions” or “prerequisites” just sound awful and well… wrong?

      Liked by 1 person

  12. markmcculley
    January 9, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Mike Horton—“The New Testament lays before us a vast array of CONDITIONS for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor ” God of Promise, p 182

    Mike Horton—To be claimed by water baptism 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 DID NOT BELONG? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet the CONDITION is that they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator….” http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/reformed-theology-vs-hyper-calvinism/

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    • Hugh McCann
      January 9, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      What?! And, WHAT?!

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  13. markmcculley
    January 9, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    see the entire essay by Horton at http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton

    Horton: 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?
    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

    Engelsma: Horton affirms that God promises saving grace in Christ to every baptized baby. For a Reformed theologian, it is the same as to affirm that God promised saving grace to Esau in his circumcision. This affirmation implies that God failed to keep His promise. His promise failed. Grace is resistible, inefficacious, and impotent. The reason, they will say, is the unbelief of Esau. Whatever the reason, grace does not realize itself in one to whom God is gracious. Regardless of the reason for grace’s impotence, the teaching is heretical.
    If God promises saving grace to both Esau and Jacob, as Horton affirms, but the promise fails because of Esau’s unbelief, then the conclusion necessarily follows that grace succeeded in the case of Jacob, not because of the inherent, sovereign power of grace itself, that is, because of God, but because of Jacob’s acceptance of grace

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  14. markmcculley
    January 9, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Lee Irons in response to Mark Jones —“Jones fails to mention this, but the treatise by Flavel that he cites was Vindiciarum Vindex, or, A Refutation of the Weak and Impertinent Rejoinder of Mr. Philip Cary. It wasn’t a treatise on justification but was part of a debate over paedobaptism. Philip Cary, the credobaptist, had argued that the new covenant or the gospel covenant is absolute or unconditional—a position that was even held by some paedobaptists, most notably John Owen. Flavel disagrees and argues that the gospel covenant is conditional upon faith. I happen to agree with the paedobaptist (Flavel) against the credobaptist (Cary) in this particular debate.
    Irons—“Flavel’s entire discussion of the various meanings of the word “condition” has to do with paedo- vs. credo-baptist debates over covenant theology, e.g., questions like whether the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision was the same in substance with the new or gospel covenant, and whether the new or gospel covenant is conditional. The precise question of the role of faith (instrumental vs. conditional) in justification is not directly in view (although justification is mentioned several times and Flavel even attaches an appendix critiquing the hyper-Calvinist doctrine of eternal justification, but, again, only to argue that faith is a condition in the obvious sense that it is necessary for justification).”
    http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/2015/10/response-to-mark-jones-on-faith-as-a-condition-of-justification.html

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  15. markmcculley
    January 20, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Not only is the efficacy of the death of Christ distributed by means of the efficacy of water baptism but the efficacy of water baptism continues to be dependent on the object of your faith, but the object of your faith is your continuing faith, which you believe is not totally alone, which faith you believe continually exists in you along with your hating sin and loving God (enough).

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/no-one-time-justification-the-efficacy-of-water/

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