Monday, July 09, 2007

Declaration #7: Union and Salvation

"The view," declares the PCA's Report on the Federal Vision, "that one can be 'united to Christ' and not receive all the benefits of Christ's mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards."

Advocates of the Federal Vision argue that the nomenclature of "union with Christ" applies to all who have been baptized with water, and that this "covenantal union" can be lost due to one's failing to abide in the Vine (cf. John 15:6).

The Westminster Standards, on the other hand, teach that union with Christ is a "special benefit" enjoyed by the "members of the invisible church." Further, by this union "the elect... are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably" joined with Christ (WLC 65-66). The "inseparable" nature of this union precludes "true believers" from "totally or finally falling away from a state of grace" (WLC 79). Finally, the various benefits of Christ's mediation, such as "justification, adoption, and sanctification," are given to "the members of the invisible church" as "manifestations of their union with him."

The Standards do not speak of baptism effecting "union with Christ," whether covenantal or saving, but speak instead of this sacrament being a sign and seal of our "ingrafting into Christ" (WCF 28:1; WLC 165; WSC 94), a blessing not necessarily received at the moment of the sacrament's administration (WCF 28:6).

Interestingly, the New Testament does not speak with univocity concerning our union with Christ, but employs a handful of phrases to communicate the doctrine ("in Christ," "in Me," "united with him," &c). This being the case, it makes perfect sense to follow our tradition in employing one phrase to indicate the elect's saving relation to Jesus ("union") and another to speak of the baptized covenant member's association with the visible assembly of saints ("solemn admission," WCF 28:1).

The Federal Vision's insistence upon using the language of "union" to refer to both betrays either an ignorance of, or a stubborn refusal to employ, the tools of systematic theology. Their boast of "using the Bible's terms," therefore, comes at the cost of confusing the saints and robbing them of their assurance.