Tuesday, April 04, 2006

More Confusion over the "Covenant of Grace" and "Conditions and Causes"

In the article here, Michael Horton makes two statements that trouble me:

"God did not make the covenant of Grace with the Elect, but with believers and their children."
"Faithfulness in the Christian life is in no way a condition of justification. Sinners are justified 'apart from works,' without any reference whatsoever to their regeneration or new life."
Regarding the first quote, does Professor Horton appreciate that he has taken exception to Q & A #31 of the Westminster Larger Catechism?

Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?

Answer: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.
Regarding the second quote, Professor Horton, like so many others in the Reformed tradition, does not allow for a distinction between a cause and a necessary condition. {Sadly, such a lack of appreciation actually caused an unnecessary church split in my own denomination!} In fact he seems to underscore this problem by rightly stating: "But if they are not regenerated and therefore bear fruit, they have not been justified." Professor Horton is correct here in that if one does not bear fruit, then he is not justified. But this is to say (applying modus tollens) that if one is not not-justified (i.e. is justified), then he will not not-bear-fruit (i.e. will bear fruit) - which is to say, fruit is a necessary condition for justification(!) - which is the very thing Dr. Horton denies when he writes: "Faithfulness in the Christian life is in no way a condition of justification." Again, Professor Horton is thinking in causal terms, which must not be confused with terms for condition that contemplate states of affairs and not logical priority.

p1. If no fruit, then no justification is present
p2. ~ no justification is present (i.e. negation of no justification... --> justification is present)
Therefore: ~ no fruit (i.e. negation of no fruit --> fruit is present)

In any true if-then proposition, the consequent is always a necessary condition for the antecedent (and the antecedent is a sufficient condition for the consequent). Notwithstanding, the necessary condition for the antecedent need not be a cause: If faith, then justification; but it can be: If justification, then faith. {In passing we might note that this distinction gets to the heart of why presuppositional apologists must concern themselves with necessary pre-conditions as opposed to mere necessary conditions for intelligible experience.}

Finally, I would think that Professor Horton is lamenting over Protestants who believe that works are a cause, therefore, a pre-condition for justification. If so, then who are these Protestants who believe that good works precede and cause justification? I'm not sure what all the problems are about.


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Anonymous said...

I agree completely. It took me a very long time to see "the difference between a cause and a necessary condition"! Good post!!

Reformed Apologist said...

Praise the Lord brother. Isn't the Christian journey wonderful!



Anonymous said...

Indeed Ron, and humbling too. I was in the very high Calvinist realm and very critical of my brethren who were happy to speak of conditions which I wrongly understood as refering to a causal condition. Now, whilst I still shy away from conditional language (still smaks too much of Arminianism) I am able to fellowship more with brethren who do not have the same hang up over the term.