Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Westminster Conference Report #4

Sam Waldron on 'The Uneasy Relationship of Repentance
and Sola Fide in the Reformed Tradition'

I. Reactions to Legalism

A. Sola Fide and Repentance in Calvin

Calvin followed Luther on justification.  The double benefit of justification and sanctification is received on the believer's union with Christ. (See diagram below, click for a clearer view). In Calvin, repentance is an aspect of regeneration, by which the Reformer meant progressive sanctification.  Repentance follows faith and is born of faith. Repentance and regeneration = progressive sanctification, which is the fruit of saving faith. John 1:13. However, in Psalm 130:4 repentance, involving conviction of sin seems to precede faith.

The tensions in Calvin on repentance and faith were due to his concern to uphold sola fide, that justification is by faith alone, apart from works.

B. Faith and Then Repentance in the Marrow Men

1. The Marrow Controversy and the Marrow Men

Church of Scotland minister, Thomas Boston 'discovered' The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher. The book helped to clarify his thinking on the free offer of the gospel over and against Hyper-Calvinist tendencies. The Marrow of Modern Divinity was condemned by the Church of Scotland. Church authorities disliked the free offer of gospel. In their teaching the gospel in effect became a new law.

2. The Distinctive View of Faith and Repentance of the Marrow Men

Faith takes logical, causal and experiential precedence over repentance. The gospel is freely offered to all, not just 'sensible sinners' or the consciously penitent. Faith will lead to repentance. Once again, the concern is to safeguard sola fide.

C. Faith and Then Repentance in the Sandemanians

An extreme concern to safeguard sola fide. No will or affections in saving faith. Faith is intellectual assent. Faith precedes repentance. Andrew Fuller wrote against Sandemanianism. He emphasised that faith cannot exist apart from repentance.

II. Reactions to Easy-Believism

A. Repentance and Then Faith in R. L. Dabney, A. W. Pink, and M. Lloyd-Jones.

According to Dabney, we believe because we have begun to repent. Pink taught that in conversion, there is both a  turning from sin and turning unto God. Repentance comes first. Also, in Lloyd-Jones' early teaching, repentance come first, Acts 20:21.
B. Repentance and Sola Fide in Norman Shepherd
Shepherd was extreme in his opposition to antinomianism. He pointed out that the Westminster Confession does not use the formula 'justification by faith alone'. For Shepherd, Luther's teaching on justification by faith alone is problematic. Repentance includes good works and new obedience, so justification is by believing good works.

III. Resolution: Repentant Faith and Believing Repentance

A. Historical Representation: Spurgeon, Ryle, Gerstner, and John Murray

Repentance and faith are inseparable, neither has priority. Like Siamese twins.

B. Relational Considerations

1. Response to Calvin

Calvin  protected sola fide, but his deficiency is that he included repentance in transformative sanctification.
2. Response to the Marrow Men

There is no need to make repentance follow faith if repentance is properly defined.
3. Response to the Sandemanians (and Easy-Believism)

Easy believism leads to spurious professions of faith and is a gospel of cheap grace.

4. Response to Dabney, Pink, and Lloyd-Jones

Teaching that repentance is prior to faith can be a from of neonomianism - making the gospel into a new law.

5. Response to Shepherd

Shepherd  imports good works into repentance and a makes repentance a condition of justification.

Faith and repentance are inseperable. Sola fide is preserved when faith is held to be repentant faith that turns from sin, and repentance is understood to be believing repentance that turns to God for the mercy and salvation  that are freely offered to sinners in the gospel.

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