Why we need the FV

A key criticism of the FV is its hermeneutic, that is, the way it reads the Bible.  The FV method insists upon an historical reading, a covenantal reading, a reading that focuses upon the way that God speaks and interacts with man in history.  The Truly Reformed (TR) who are driving the anti-FV agenda over at Greenbagginses insist that the proper method is eternal decree centred, that assurance, for example, must start with election, not the covenants.

Taylor Marshall, the notorious apostate, said this there in criticism of the TR:

I’m accusing Reformed theology of neglecting the Incarnation by obscuring redemptive-history in its focus on eternal decrees. For example, notions like “invisible church,” “limited atonement,” “covenant baptism,” “supra vs. infralapsarianism,” and “eternity past” suggest that Reformed theology is hung up on “eternal decrees” at the expense of God’s redemptive history – this why Calvinists tend to abstract the Incarnation (images of Christ forbidden in the WCF!!! – how gnostic) and ignore Church History.

On this subject of obsession with eternal decrees, and reading the Bible from that perspective, this Calvin quote is taken from his tracts and treatises, his second defense of the sacraments, in answer to the calumnies of Westphal.

“I come now to the second branch of the calumny. He says, that the effect of baptism is brought into doubt by me, because I suspend it on predestination, whereas Scripture directs us to the word and sacraments, and leads by this way to the certainty of predestination and salvation. But had he not here introduced a fiction of his own, which never came into my mind, there was no occasion for dispute. I have written much, and the Lord has employed me in various kinds of discussion. If out of my lucubrations he can produce a syllable in which I teach that we ought to begin with predestination in seeking assurance of salvation, I am ready to remain dumb. That secret election was mentioned by me in passing, I admit. But to what end? Was it either to lead pious minds away from hearing the promise or looking at the signs? There was nothing of which I was more careful than to confine them entirely within the word. What? While I so often inculcate that grace is offered by the sacraments, do I not invite them there to seek the seal of their salvation?”

There are many statements like this from Calvin. Here’s another one from his Secunda Defensio of 1556, where Calvin explains his instrumental view of Baptism to Westphal:

“But as Baptism is a solemn recognition by which God introduces his children into the possession of life, a true and effectual sealing of the promise, a pledge of sacred union with Christ, it is justly said to be the entrance and reception into the Church. And as the instruments of the Holy Spirit are not dead, God truly performs and effects by Baptism what he figures.”

(Calvin, Second Defense of the Faith Concerning the Sacraments in Answer to Joachim Westphal [1556]; CO 9:41-120; cited in Willem Balke, Calvin and the Anabaptists Radicals, trans. by William Heynen [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 221.)

You see that Calvin understood himself to be reading the Bible covenantally, not from the decretal angle.  This quote is dynamite for the argument that is raging about reading the Bible either decretally, covenantally, or both.  Calvin, speaking about his own method of reading the Bible and doing theology, places himself squarely on the covenantal side, repudiating a so-called decretal perspective!

The Lutherans had exactly the same approach to predestination, saying that:   This [predestination of God] is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God, but to be sought in the Word of God, where it is also revealed. (Epitome of the Formula of Concord).

Perhaps Taylor Marshall has a point about modern Calvinism.  Perhaps – no, certainly – it has lost both Calvin’s and Luther’s method, which is by definition that of the Reformation.  They sent men to the word and the sacraments, to an historical reading of the Bible.

It turns out that the FV method is that of the Reformation after all!  Calvin denies that he wrote a single syllable of all his writings in any other way.  On another key point the TR are shown to be in error.

The justice of God does not sleep.


3 thoughts on “Why we need the FV

  1. I think it’s important to keep a Both/And perspective here, not an Either/Or. Keeping it Reformation Era, I like to tell people there is the James perspective and the Pauline perspective. That is, we see normally things from a human perspective only. But when someone elevates that to eternity and God’s point-of-view, then we hit them with Romans 9 upside the head. Standing at God’s side, we will be able to know what someone’s baptism did, decretally. In this life, in such particulars, we can only say what it did covenantally. Neither view is wrong, per se.

  2. I think my point is that we can only access the eternal decree through the gospel and the sacraments, not via a direct mystical knowing.

    God may grant this special insight to some, but it is nowhere promised, and is not to be sought except through the gospel and sacraments.

  3. Yes, I agree. I had some ask me to explain the FV controversy. After a while of fumbling around, he asked me point blank, “So what is actually accomplished at baptism?” Covenant blessings were vague and amorphous to him. He is caught up in Modernist Determinism (as opposed to Post-Modern Relativism or Presuppositionalism). We all seek to know (master) things without recourse to and dependence upon God.

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