Posted by: reformedmusings | August 26, 2007

Joint FV Statement – Union and Imputation

This topic goes straight to the heart of the gospel and how we are saved. Green Baggins posted on imputation here. As he points out, the most troubling aspect of this section of the joint statement is that they don’t define union with Christ. Here’s their statement:

Union with Christ and Imputation
We affirm Christ is all in all for us, and that His perfect sinless life, His suffering on the cross, and His glorious resurrection are all credited to us. Christ is the new Adam, obeying God where the first Adam did not obey God. And Christ as the new Israel was baptized as the old Israel was, was tempted for 40 days as Israel was for 40 years, and as the greater Joshua He conquered the land of Canaan in the course of His ministry. This means that through Jesus, on our behalf, Israel has finally obeyed God and has been accepted by Him. We affirm not only that Christ is our full obedience, but also that through our union with Him we partake of the benefits of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father.

We deny that faithfulness to the gospel message requires any particular doctrinal formulation of the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ.” What matters is that we confess that our salvation is all of Christ, and not from us.

Depending on what they mean by “union with Him,” with which I’ll deal in another post, the first paragraph doesn’t sound so bad. Why the definition suspicion? Because of previous Federal Vision statements which I’ve discussed in this post and this one, amongst others.

For people that accuse the orthodox Reformed denominations of being baptistic in their theology (an absurd statement in itself), the second paragraph seems way out of place. It comes within a hair’s breath of “I have no creed but Jesus.”

This FV paragraph denies the rich Reformed confessional heritage as well as the Westminster Standards and Three Forms of Unity. This statement repudiates the great exchange of 2 Cor 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)

This verse ties to Paul’s exposition of the justification by faith alone in Romans 4, where he spends the entire chapter condemning the idea of salvation by works (Federal Vision’s final justification based on covenantal faithfulness?) and talking about how Christ’s righteousness is credited (imputed) to us by grace alone through faith alone. Paul then moves on to Chapter 5 where he parallels the imputation of Adam’s sin to us with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the elect.

If you follow Federal Vision writings, you’ll see that this denial of the importance or even the fact of imputation time and again. This led the PCA’s Ad Interim Study Committee on NPP and Federal Vision to observe on page 2215 of their report:

When the Standards go on to describe how that accounting and accepting of sinners as righteous occurs, they further specify that “accounting” involves imputation (“by God imputed to them” LC 70). God imputes both the “obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them” (WCF 11:1, 3; LC 70, 71).29 To put it differently, Christ’s “perfect obedience” (his “active obedience” to the demands of the law) and his “full satisfaction” of God’s justice (his “passive obedience” in which he suffered on the Cross for sinners) are both imputed to sinners; they are then accounted to be and accepted as righteous in God’s sight. In other words, the sole ground for justification is the “righteousness of Christ,” which is “imputed” to sinners (WCF 8:5; LC 77).

And on page 2225:

Nevertheless, the truly problematic claims of the Federal Vision proponents come when some suggest that “Christ’s active obedience” is not transferred to his people or that imputation is “redundant” because it is subsumed in “union with Christ.” Such claims contradict the position of the Westminster Standards and strike at the vitals of the system of doctrine contained there. Further, to strike language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people contradicts the position of the Westminster Standards (WCF 17:2; LC 55; 174).

Nothing could be clearer. Christ’s active and passive obedience are the foundation of our salvation. If these are not imputed to us by grace alone through faith alone, and our sins to Him on the cross, then we have no salvation. Scriptures and the Standards are abundantly clear on this point, the core point of all salvation. That’s why the third Declaration of the committee report, accepted by the 35th PCA General Assembly, says:

The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

Federal Vision advocates like to say that they believe in sola fide. If so, then how can they claim that the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ” (i.e., His righteousness) isn’t important enough to solidify in our doctrinal statements? They cannot logically do so and stay within the Standards. Seven orthodox, confessinal, Reformed denominations (so far) have publicly recognized this and condemned this critical error.

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