Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Declaration #5: Union and Imputation

"The view," declares the PCA's Federal Vision Report, "that 'union with Christ' renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ's benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards."

Some clarification is needed here (as was helpfully pointed out to me by one of my readers): Federal Vision advocate Rich Lusk has clarified his position with respect to union with Christ and the imputation of his righteousness. It is not imputation as such that Lusk argues is made redundant by our union with Christ, but imputation as defined by a "transfer of righteousness" from Jesus' account to ours. Imputation, he argues, is God's "reckoning" (logizomai) of us as righteous based upon the verdict pronounced upon his Son at his resurrection on the third day.

So once again, to the Standards....

Westminster Larger Catechism 65-66 states that union with Christ is a "special benefit" that "the members of the invisible church enjoy," and that this union "really and inseparably" joins the elect believer to his Husband and Head. Furthermore, WLC 69 teaches that our union with Christ is "manifested" by our "partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in [our] justification, adoption, [and] sanctification." And once again, this union is said to be a benefit given to "the members of the invisible church."

Though union is certainly understood by the Reformed tradition to be the rubric under which the various blessings of the covenant of grace come to us, there is no warrant for using union as an excuse to collapse these blessings together, or to allow any one (like sanctification) to swallow another (like justification).

So Lusk's clarification notwithstanding, he and the Federal Vision still fall short of anything resembling an historic, confessional, Reformed position. His concession that Jesus' verdict is ours by virtue of our union with him fails to ultimately comfort, especially when we realize that this union is only retained through our covenant faithfulness, and that the verdict pronounced in the "already" may be changed by the time we reach the "not yet."