In which I respond to Frank Turk

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Last evening's post was flagged by the Turkish police. Apparently, it was deemed unsafe for the little ears. I'm not quite sure why. But I do have a guess. Perhaps the worry was that I was repeating the antinomian error that many (myself included) have observed in recent days. A charitable reading of my post should have scotched that worry. Nonetheless, because the post was about the relationship between Jesus and faith--a vital relationship to understand and to experience--it seems that a word of clarification is merited. I offer five clarifying statements therefore by way of commentarial elaboration upon the original post.

1. As the first and last paragraphs indicate, the topic of my post was the relationship between Jesus, the agent or "efficient cause" of saving grace, and faith, the instrument or "instrumental cause" of saving grace. The post did not say or imply that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. The entire post was about Jesus' relationship to "something"--i.e., saving faith.

2. The identification of Jesus as the agent or "efficient cause" of salvation should not be controversial to Protestants, especially Reformed Protestants. One of the basic propositions of Reformed dogmatics is that the entire Trinity is the efficient cause of salvation, Jesus being the "immediate" cause of salvation in his role as mediator of the covenant of grace.

3. Though I did not use the precise terminology, paragraph three of my original post described faith (the "instrumental cause") of salvation in terms of both (1) its "passive" role in justification, whereby it receives, rests, and relies upon Jesus as he is offered to us in the gospel, and (2) its "active" role, whereby it believes Jesus' promises, trembles at Jesus' warnings, and obeys Jesus' commands (a la WCF 14.2). Faith plays both roles. My post said that faith plays both roles. Moreover, if one reads a sampling of other posts I've written (see here and here), it would be very difficult to assume that I could have meant to say anything else.

4. Paragraphs four and five aimed at a pastoral problem that arises from failing to appreciate the difference between the roles that Jesus and faith play in our salvation. In the seventeenth century, this problem trafficked under the label "neonomianism." Today, this problem lacks a specific label. It is nevertheless ubiquitous in the environs in which I serve as a minister of the gospel. If you are not familiar with this pastoral problem, then you are blessed. But this blessing is a bliss that follows from ignorance, because the problem is real. And, I believe, one of the best ways of addressing this problem is through the use of careful theological distinctions.

5. Besides restating the topic of my post (i.e., the "order and relation" between Jesus and faith), the last paragraph attempted to make a brief point regarding the emphasis of our preaching. It is not uncommon for me to hear young preachers (and sometimes older ones, myself included) speaking sentences where "faith" is the subject of verbs of which only "Jesus" should be the subject. This is understandable shorthand, and necessary on occasion. However, when it becomes the main staple of our rhetoric, then we and our hearers are headed for trouble. There is a reason we have an entire book devoted to recounting the glories of our God and redeemer (i.e., the Psalter) and there is a reason that we don't have an entire book devoted to recounting the glories of our faith (yes, I have read Hebrews 11, but the point still stands): recounting the glories of our God and redeemer creates, encourages, and sustains faith; recounting the glories of our faith does not. Does this mean we should avoid calling folks to exercise faith? Certainly not! But the best way to call folks to faith is by emphasizing the spectacular trustworthiness of Jesus. And the careful reader will note that the last sentence of my earlier post attempted to do just that.

I trust that these five points clarify what I did and didn't say, and what I did and didn't mean. If there is still something objectionable here to brother Turk, then so be it. 
Posted October 21, 2014 @ 8:42 AM by Scott Swain
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