Stunning

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A discussion with Peter Meney on Duty Faith. (Editor of New Focus)

2007/09/15
A discussion with Peter Meney on Duty Faith. (Editor of New Focus)
Category:
Author: tartanarmy (2:26 am)



Dear Peter,

I have put up part of our discussion at my blog, in the hopes it may start some interesting conversation among our readers.

Please feel free to make comment and or provide your original email if you like, alternatively, if you do not wish the discussion to be available for others to interact with, please let me know and I will remove it at the earliest convenience. (I am reasonably sure you would not mind others discussing this issue)

I believe there is no reason not to discuss these things publicly, as we are both responding to things that are on the public record, whether it is Pinks views or Huntington or mine and yours as well as the Gospel Standard Baptists.


For everyone else, I am affirming "Duty Faith" and Peter is against "Duty Faith".
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Dear Mark,


Further to your letter I am setting out some thoughts on Mr Pink’s article on Duty Faith.


A few of points to clarify first, if I may.


1. I am not an apologist for the Gospel Standard Baptists. That denomination, of which AWP speaks, still exists. I am not a member of their churches nor have I signed their statement of faith. They still hold to the Articles Pink criticises and have themselves published several defences of them in recent years. One is “What Gospel Standard Baptist Believe” by J H Gosden and a second, more recent, is “A Godly Heritage” by J A Watts and G D Buss. (In my opinion the latter does not improve upon the former.)


2. While I say that I do not believe in duty faith, I do not say that men have no duties or obligations towards God. Clearly they do: God is our creator and all men owe Him honour and obedience as such.


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Does this obedience include trusting in Him?....Tartanarmy
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Furthermore, just as God is every man’s creator, all men, as such, are under legal obligation to Him.


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Are all men under the obligation to trust in Him?....Tartanarmy
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3. In discussing duty-faith we need to distinguish between two things which most of those who advocate duty faith fail to do. You will see this in Pink’s paper. We must distinguish not between those things men can and cannot do, but between those things we are, and are not, commanded to do, irrespective of ability.

Those, like Pink, who say that simply because people cannot do a thing is no barrier to them being commanded to do it have a point which I accept,


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For me, that is the crux of the issue.....Tartanarmy
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But those of us who have a problem with the modern duty faith debate do not believe that all sinners, or even all sinners who have the gospel preached to them, have the command to believe imposed upon them, regardless of ability to perform.


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That seems to undermine any duty, even in the above comments.....Tartanarmy
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Ability is not the issue but applicability. We would say that in the gospel the call or command to believe follows the gift of faith and is contingent upon it. Who has, and who has not faith is not man’s business but God’s business.


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Is this not confusing what God commands with what He decrees?, and if so, what business do we have to make doctrine based upon the secret things of God? Sure we know that God gives faith etc, but we have no clue as to who shall receive it, therefore we, by default make the command to repent and believe binding upon all.....Tartanarmy
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The listed quotes

Turning to Mr Pink, I am not able to deal with the quotations individually as I do not have the context of the quotes given and even if I had, all they prove is that people’s views upon this matter have varied over the years and Pink has selected quotes he believes back up his position. However, each of us to whom these matters are revealed have the privilege of seeking an answer for ourselves and need not be swayed one way or the other simply because someone else believed it.

I will say that I did look up the final listed quote from John Gill and discovered that Gill is interpreting John 6:37; “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” He is speaking about the Jews’ failure to accept Christ as Messiah (not as Saviour) despite the fact that they were waiting and expecting the Messiah. Furthermore, the sentence Pink quotes does not end where he stops but continues, “ … since this does not arise from any decree of God but from the corruption of nature through sin: and this being blameworthy, what follows upon it, or is the effect of it, must be so too.”

Thus, with all due respect to Mr Pink, Gill is not saying that sinners are blameworthy for not accepting Christ, or as some might say “for not doing their duty to believe”, but rather he is pointing out that sinners are “criminal and blameworthy” for their perverseness and inability to accept Christ.


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But what is this inability if it is not the ability to repent and believe? Your answer makes no sense.....Tartanarmy
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They are guilty first for what they are and therefore must be guilty for what they do. You cannot get clean water out a dirty pipe. They are blameworthy because they cannot accept Christ, and not because they do not. I conclude therefore that at the very least this quotation is inappropriate to use in support of Pink’s argument and had he supplied the comments in context and provided the whole sentence his usage would have lost its force.


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This is such a small play on words as far as I can tell.....Tartanarmy
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False logic

As far as Pink’s own comments are concerned permit me to draw a couple of things to your attention. Pink goes to great lengths to show where he agrees with the GS Baptists which is good, for there is a lot to be agreed upon. But then he lays great store upon what he sees as their false use of human reasoning and logic. He gives the examples of trying to reason out spiritual things like the Trinity and the existence of eternal damnation notwithstanding the love of God. He concludes that we must “repudiate all reasoning upon spiritual things as utterly worthless”.

I would have to reply that this is not responsible debating. Any promoter of error could say the same.


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Yes, but let us remember it is Pink saying this, not just "any" old purveyor of error. I think there is wisdom in what he is saying here.....Tartanarmy
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Are we simply to disengage our faculties of reason because someone says that humanly speaking it can’t be understood and therefore we ought not to try?


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Such a reply has no merit against a Pink, for he would not accept the charge, and I for one would agree with him.....Tartanarmy
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Every false teaching imaginable could enlist this argument and I am very sure that you have encountered Arminians who have tried to use the very same technique on you.

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There is a difference between the type of an argument and the substance it contains. I believe you are confusing the two, and certainly pink would pick up on that.....Tartanarmy
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However, we are new creatures. We see with spiritually open eyes and Christians are perfectly entitled to apply the gifts of spiritual insight and understanding to spiritual questions. The apostles argue logically throughout their epistles, building up cases and showing the reasonable consequences of their doctrine.


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Pink would have no concerns about that, just as long as the substance in the arguments are solid.....Tartanarmy
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Is Pink suggesting that these GS Baptists with whom he is in “hearty accord” upon just about everything else, have used spiritual reasoning to reach every conclusion upon which they agree with his own views only to suspended it on this one issue? Or is it possible they had greater light than he?


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Of course it is possible, but not likely. Pink was one of those men who refused to tow the party line, and that is one of his huge strengths in my opinion.

Again, many use similar arguments which is fine, but truth is found in the details, namely the substance of the arguments, not the style of it.

Even logic can be turned aside quite easily if one particular proposition can be shown to be in error. The argument itself may be logically consistent, but upon closer examination one or more of the premises may be wrong, hence changing the structure of the argument may yield an entirely different outcome. Happens all the time in formal logic.....Tartanarmy
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To return to Pink’s examples, I believe that Christians can gain much by meditating and contemplating upon the Triune God and surely it is not too difficult to both Biblically and logically set forth a reasonable explanation of a God of love and the existence of a place of eternal punishment. Similarly, it is quite possible to set out a rational Biblical argument against duty faith without resorting to jibes about it being “utterly worthless” reasoning.


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Fair enough, but if the foundation of the argument for rejecting Duty Faith is exposed as weak and unconvincing, then the resultant outcome could be said to be worthless in a measure.....Tartanarmy
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Responsibility and accountability

Next Pink goes on to say, “while holding fast to the total depravity and the spiritual inability of the natural man, we must also believe in his moral responsibility and accountability to God.”


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I see no fault here and agree wholly with Pink.....Tartanarmy
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This begins his next major point and I reply, who disagrees? I certainly don’t nor do I believe that any who deny duty faith suggest that man is not morally responsible and accountable before God for his actions. We are responsible for doing what we are commanded to do and accountable when we don’t do it. But surely we are not responsible to do what we are not commanded to do, nor will we be held accountable for not doing it.


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What you now need to do is set forth from Scripture where it explicitly teaches that man is not commanded to trust in the Lord? This you must do if you wish your doctrine to be taken seriously. This is where the rubber meets the road in your argument I believe....Tartanarmy.
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If we were, God would be totally unjust and this can never be.


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This statement actually concerns me, for it is awfully close to the same objection made by Non Calvinists.....Tartanarmy
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For Pink to use this argument he must show where God commands all men to have faith.


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Actually the opposite is also true! One also needs to positively show where man is not commanded to repent and believe.....Tartanarmy
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While Pink is looking for this command I would ask him also to show me one instance where God commands a sinner to give spiritual birth to himself,


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That is an error in logic and a category error, therefore moot.

The statement contains concepts that scripturally cannot be broken down to one proposition. It is like asking a man if he has stopped beating his wife?

One only has to demonstrate from scripture, that what God commands, does not necessitate that God enables the will to obey such a command.....Tartanarmy
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one command to quicken his own soul, and one to make himself a new creature. Pink would no doubt reply that such verses cannot be found because these tasks are not the responsibility of the sinner but the work of the Holy Ghost.


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Actually, Pink would maintain that they are the responsibility of the sinner, BUT, also teach that the Holy Spirit undertakes to enable certain sinners to meet this responsibility by way of regeneration, so I think you may be not fully understanding Pink and Calvinism at this point.....Tartanarmy
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He would say, they are God’s responsibility as He sovereignly works His eternal purpose in the hearts of His chosen people, not the duty of the natural man. I would agree. But why then does Pink say that to have faith, which is also the gift of God (Ephesians 2:4,5, 8), is a human duty and responsibility?


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It is because Pink is not confused about who does what. He knows that all men are duty bound, but only some men are enabled to perform this duty.

Surely you would never say that believers do nothing whatsoever and that the Holy Spirit does everything?

Regeneration yes, only The Holy Spirit does that, but the resulting faith and repentance is an act of man, and hence a responsible act.

Just because not all are regenerated, does not mean that all are not duty bound to repent and believe, and just because God enables some to manifest this duty, does not make the rest somehow not duty bound to do so.....Tartanarmy
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Why does he say this when Christ in John 6:29 explicitly says “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”


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Apart from being a scripture often debated by fine reformed men in the past, such a passage is not watertight for any view on this matter. If anything, a plain reading of the text reconciles well with Duty faith, to the point of expressing the fullness that God shall do this work but you will also be involved and shall believe and hence able to do your duty.....Tartanarmy
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Misusing William Huntington

Pink goes on to say that the compilers of the GS articles were influenced by William Huntington and particularly his letter, “Excommunication: and the Duty of all men to believe weighed in the balance.” Pink quotes one paragraph, or about 250 words, from a letter of almost 15,000 words! He picks one argument from a whole clutch, declares it to be a confused jumble and in a single blow dismisses the whole paper as unworthy of further consideration.

Yet even Pink’s ‘pick of the bunch’ shows his own bias.


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Just keep in mind that Pink is already convinced from Scripture, thereby, anyone, whether it be Huntington or you and me, the man is already convinced from scripture. He is not investigating the doctrine, so unless Huntington or anyone else comes up with some powerful evidence against his committed belief, such will be turned aside easily.

I can relate to that. It is not as if Pink is just trying to form an opinion or research this doctrine, no!....Tartanarmy
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Again he has quoted selectively from Huntington – the paragraph is much longer than the sentences he gives and more is excluded than Pink’s ellipsis suggests. Still he has to acknowledge that Huntington accepts what Pink pretends he does not. Pink says, “In allowing that Peter ‘spoke the Word promiscuously to all’ Mr. Huntington pulled down what he laboured so hard to build up.” Once again, is Pink wiser than Huntington? Is Huntington so foolish that he employs arguments that contradict his own premise? Or perhaps Pink has not quite grasped the point Huntington is making!


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Perhaps Pink, is wiser than Huntington. Perhaps he is not swayed by the voluminous effort others make upon this doctrine.

Some men when they get invested in a doctrine, can go all out, and subsequently become imbalanced by paying way too much attention to one particular aspect to the negation of another aspect. Pink had a gift for getting at both sides like few men ever in my opinion. I will comment more about this later.....Tartanarmy
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In fact all Huntington is saying here is that there is a difference in scripture between legal commandments and gospel commandments; legal repentance and gospel or evangelical repentance. Legal obligations fall upon the natural man, and gospel obligations come to those who are spiritually quickened. Judas repented (Matthew 27:3) but his repentance was not unto salvation. Many believed (John 2:23-25), but Christ knew their hearts. Huntington is right in his conclusions that while the gospel call goes out to all promiscuously, it is not the duty of the natural man to work spiritual works. If they did repent it would be a natural Judas’ repentance. If they did believe it would not be a genuine, heart-felt faith.


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Here is the problem. In finely articulating this doctrine, no one who affirms "Duty Faith" is saying that is is mans responsibility to "impart" spiritual life! That is the whole point.

Notwithstanding the fact that all men are Spiritually dead and have no life, does not negate their responsibility to trust in God and follow His ways.

The matter cannot be answered by dissecting legal commands and gospel commands! Such a thing offers no answer to the argument. All it does is help to clarify that certain commands can be understood in ways that are helpful to draw parallels between law and gospel, which is another huge subject all by itself.

Of course if they repented it would be real as opposed to "natural". The point is no one shall do that!....Tartanarmy
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Apostolic preaching

Towards the end of his paper Pink turns on the GS article regarding the ministry of the Apostles furnishing no precedent for God’s servants today. Here I have some sympathy with Pink because I think the GS article in question is somewhat ambiguous and might have been better phrased. What the original authors seem to have intended is good theology, what they actually wrote could have been set out more clearly. The GS themselves accept this and have tried over the years to address any confusion in the wording, particularly in the two books I mentioned at the beginning. However, I have no sympathy that Pink has used this article to blacken the anti-duty-faith position of the Gospel Standard. The Apostle Paul found cause to withstand Peter (Galatians 2:11). He blamed him where there was cause but he did not employ Peter’s error to cast suspicion on his other teaching. Pink appears to imply, if the GS are wrong on this they may be wrong about duty-faith, too.


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Well, without getting into all that, I think that Pink is being reasonable.....Tartanarmy
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Dead men don’t pray

In his final point Pink says, “The physical condition of those in the cemetery is vastly different from the moral state of the unregenerate still upon the earth.” But spiritually speaking this is simply not true. Of course men can read their Bibles, and even call upon God for mercy, and countless do in the formal, sterile, lifeless religion of our day. Does this take them any closer to saving grace? Does it recommend them as good material for salvation? Is there anything about the efforts of the natural man that commends him to God? The answer is certainly No!


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I am not sure if you are trying here to attribute things to Pink that he himself would never say, so I will not further comment.....Tartanarmy
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Does this mean that doing these things is a waste of time? No! The fault lies not in the doing of these things but in the heart of man which renders these things useless to his darkened mind until the light of the gospel shines in. Should we encourage people to do these things? Yes, of course, they are wholesome and suitable for all men, but of themselves they will never lead to grace or salvation.


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Yes but God has ordained to work through means. He does not merely zap people here and there and then they become these Christians. We are called to call people to this Covenant of grace, whereby God is calling for us to makedisciples, going forth baptizing and teaching people. God works in our midst, and through the means of grace, is regenerating people in the ordinary going forth of the gospel message. The fact that man's heart is dead means little to us who know that God has an elect people, and they shall be saved, every single one of them.

As far as the false professors etc, that is where discipline needs to be met out, and one of the reasons the Visible Church seems such a joke today, is precisely because there is no discipline, which is of course another huge area for discussion/debate.....Tartanarmy
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Duty-faith and the free-offer

Our opposition to duty-faith is connected closely to our opposition against the so-called free-offer of the gospel.

Peter Meney


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This area is much confused today. I am old school here, and not with Murray and the modern men.

The free offer was always about us freely proclaiming the gospel to all men as we are able to, and it had nothing to do with God Himself, explicitly desiring the salvation of everyone without exception. I have had many heated discussions on this matter and it is most frustrating to say the least.

By far the most popular teaching is the "well meant offer"/Free offer" espoused by Murray/Stonehouse as well as Arminians,Amerauldians and other Non Calvinists.

Mark (Tartanarmy)
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Recent email response from Peter Meney.

Dear Mark,

Thanks for the feedback. You are welcome to use the letter I sent you as you see fit. I'm pleased to know that you are a man after my own heart - whether we actually see eye to eye on duty faith or not! Both Don Fortner and Henry Mahan are known to me. Don I know better than Henry but both are highly respected. I had the pleasure of having Don Fortner stay at my home recently with his wife Shelby when he was over in the UK preaching at our church.

I have read your blog and your comments. I hope you get some feedback for your blog. As far as the free offer of the gospel is concerned I'd be delighted to stand with you if by the term 'free offer' men simply meant preaching the gospel promiscuously to all people. I am for that 100% and do so whenever I have opportunity. I have a little saying which I sometimes use, its not original and I don't know who said it first, but it nicely sums up my position with respect to this issue. "I believe in the promiscuous preaching of a particular gospel." That for me is the essence of this debate. We are to preach the gospel to all, but the gospel we preach must be the distinctive gospel of free grace with the elective purpose of the Father, the particular atoning work of the Son, and the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, central to the declaration we make. We err if we leave men thinking that salvation is offered to them to accept or reject.

However, the modern free-offer teaching which is simply Arminianism in Reformed clothes, is not about preaching to everyone without exception, it is about telling everyone that God wants to save them if they will only believe. It is this teaching that I contend with. I do not believe that God desires the salvation of all men. I do not believe that God offers salvation to all men. I believe that salvation is offered to all within the covenant of grace and all within that covenant accept it, being made willing in the day of His power.

Regards

Peter

4 comments:

PuritanReformed said...

Hmmm,

interesting. I have also seen your interaction on the Pyromaniacs blog on this issue. I agree with you & I would be engaging Tony Byrne and his errant position on the 'Sincere, free offer'. If you are interested, you may come in.

Tartanarmy said...

Thanks for coming by. It would be best for me not to engage Byrne, as we have been at it for years, and it is not edifying. I wrote a response to him and David Ponter which you can read below.

http://tartansplace.blogspot.com/2007/03/20070305-response.html

and an interesting read below too!

http://tartansplace.blogspot.com/2007/11/two-wills-well-meant-offer-john-piper.html

PuritanReformed said...

I see. Thanks for the links. I would be going on a diffeent track in my interaction with Byrne, so hopefully it would force the issue such that he must either change his position, continue on into worse error, or admit to being illogical; at least that's my aim.

Tartanarmy said...

May the Lord bless your efforts. I very much like what you have been saying. You have a very good insight into what it is you are saying. I like your arguments.

In my hundreds of posts with him, I had touched upon some of what you are presenting, but using slightly different language, but I really like the way you come accross.

Plus, I just can't help admiring logical thinkers!

Mark