I’m going to throw out a bunch of quotes from a book I’m re-re-reading. I won’t mention the title, but maybe I won’t have to. The reason for this is not to steal credit from its authors (who deserve much better than they’ve been treated) but to provide a clean, bias-free slate for consideration (I am indeed aware that this sort of thing does not exist for the Calvinist).
Also, I think the title of the post should give it away. If it doesn’t, I claim the right to use Diet of Wurms 2 in other (related) contexts.
The foundation of all of God’s dealings with man is covenant. It is the basis of all that God has done, is doing, and will do in time and on earth. Nothing can be understood rightly apart from an understanding of covenant.
There is no explicit reference in the Scripture to any covenant existing between the three persons of the Godhead. Usually, Reformed theologians, if they speak of any covenant within the Godhead, are referring to the idea of a pretemporal “covenant of redemption” – the agreement in which the Son voluntarily placed Himself under obligation to the Father to carry out the work of redemption.
As [Ralph] Smith observes, “A god for whom a relationship with another is eternally irrelevant is an abstraction, an idea or a thing more than a person.”
Unitarianism leads to a dreadful and nightmarish dead end.
The covenant into which we are brought is this very same covenant that has always existed within the Godhead for eternity.
“There was, as it were, an eternal society or family in the Godhead, in the Trinity of Persons. It seems to be God’s design to admit the Church into the divine family as His Son’s wife.”
Sin fragments the covenantal unity of life. It destroys meaning and purpose and man himself is destroyed.
By virtue of union with the Second Adam we have wholeness and restoration – new birth, regeneration, new life. And by virtue of our union with Him who is the true image of God (Col 1:15), we are restored to full image-bearing (Rom 8:29)…To be reconciled to God is to be restored back into covenant communion with Him. Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:4).
Sarcastic note: don’t think that by all this I actually think I mean what the Bible says is true. What a silly idea. </sarcasm>.
The Bible teaches us that baptism unites us to Christ and His body by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). Baptism is an act of God (through His ministers) which signifies and seals out initiation into the Triune communion. At baptism we are clothed with Christ, united to Him and to His Church which is His body (Gal. 3:26-28).
Silly Paul. We know better.
By virtue of our union with Him, we are made recipients of all that is His. This is how we receive the grace of God. Eph. 1:5-6. To be saved by grace then requires that we be united to Christ (Eph. 2:5-6). Thus, Christians are called to persevere in the grace of God (Acts 13:43).
Salvation is relational. It is found only in covenant union with Christ…It has been the common practice in Reformed circles to use the term “elect” to refer only to those who are predestined to eternal salvation…but the term “elect” or “chosen” as it is used in the Scriptures ost often refers to those in covenant union with Christ who is called the Elect One.
Election was not something hidden or unknown to the apostles or the prophets but something that could be rightly attributed to all who were in covenant.
How could Paul say this [greeting the Thessalonian Church as sanctified]? If someone insists that Paul was given special insight into whom God had chosen, then we must respond with John Barach, “we suddenly discover that we cannot learn from the apostle Paul, who told us to imitate him, how to talk to our churches.”
Being “in Christ” is the key to understanding covenant. Many Reformed folk speak of the covenant as if it were a thing.
In fact, covenant is a real relationship, consisting of real communion with the Triune God through union with Christ…There is no salvation apart from covenant simply because there is no salvation apart from union with Christ, and without union with Christ there is no covenant at all.
The apostles did not view the covenant as a place of potential blessing or a place of fantastic opportunity – they viewed it as salvation, because it meant fellowship nd communion with the Triune God.
Thus, when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness, and salvation.
The apostate fails to persevere in the grace of God and, thus, has his name removed from the book of life…This is not a hypothetical impossibility but a very real possibility for those who are in covenant with Christ and members of His Church.
The apostate forsakes the grace of God that was given to him by virtue of his union with Christ. It is not accurate to say that they only “appeared” to have these things but did not actually have them – if that were so, there would be nothing to “forsake” and apostasy is bled of its horror and severity.
The Calvinist embraces this implausible interpretation [vines that fail to bear fruit were never real vines] because he (understandably) does not want to deny election, effectual calling, or the perseverance of the saints…If the brances are not truly joined to the vine, how can they be held accountable for their lack of fruit? The distinction of “external” and “internal” union seems to be invented and is not in the text.
Oddly enough, the views of Calvin and “Calvinists” are at complete odds here. References to come eventually.
The picture of the vine and branches was a common way in which God referred to His covenant people Israel in the Old Testament…Here in John 15 Jesus says that “He is the real vine.”
If they do not abide faithful to God, they are going to bring down judgment upon themselves. They will be cut off from covenant with God…Thus, in the Scriptures, those in covenant with God are warned against breaking the covenant that has been established by God.
Covenant, therefore, is a gracious relationship, not a potentially gracious relationship.
Covenant life is always founded upon persevering faith in the faithful One. If we are to abide in union with Him, we, by the grace and power of the Spirit, must be faithful.
[1 Tim 1:18-20] Unbelief is a denial of God’s image and breaks covenant, cutting us off from the blessings of salvation (communion with the Triune God).
We must embrace this straightfoward covenantal framework and allow it to direct our understanding of God’s work of salvation as it unfolds in time. We cannot judge men based on the secret decrees of God or the hidden operations of the Spirit. The secret things belong to God (Deut. 29:29). We are to be concerned with those things that are revealed. The questions of when a man is “regenerated,” or given “saving faith,” or “truly converted,” are ultimately questions we cannot answer and, therefore, they cannot be the basis upon which we define the Church or identify God’s people. What we do know is whether or not a man is in covenant with God. If he is not in covenant, he must repent of his sins and believe in Christ Jesus, be joined to the people of God by baptism, and persevere in faithfulness all his days (by the power of the Holy Spirit who works in him “to will and do” for God’s good pleasure). If he is unfaithful, he is to be called to repentance. If he refuses to repent, he is to be cut off from the body of Christ and delivered over to Satan with the prayer that he be taught not to blaspheme.
Viewing salvation from the perspective of the covenant does indeed force us to rethink some of our categories and terminology…The covenant perspective enables us to assure the people of God of their blessedness without toleration or condoning ungodly presumptions upon the grace of God…We can declare the powerful significance and blessings of the sacraments without becoming sacerdotalists. We can boldly declare the centrality of the Church in salvation without falling into the errors of Roman Catholicism.
All that we as Calvinists have been concerned to preserve (the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, the absolutely gracious nature of salvation, the supremacy of Christ over all, etc.) can be preserved without falling prey to the error of forcing the Scripture to submit to a preconceived logical or theological construct and, thus, subtly departing from Scripture as the supreme rule of faith and life.
It was good enough for Peter, it’s good enough for me.