Ditzel’s disagreement on Scriptural and Church History
In his first website essay allegedly rebutting my doctrine of justification, Peter Ditzel promised to challenge my view of Scripture in a following article which he subsequently entitled ‘The Debate as Based on Scripture’. However, now in his second part, he ignores my Scriptural evidence on justification from eternity, centering rather on my Scriptural evidence given to show that God justifies those at enmity with Him and begins by also rejecting my evidence concerning Biblical scholars and Reformers of the past.
Once again, in his second paper, I find that Ditzel has fully misunderstood my position and chastises me quite unfoundedly for advocating beliefs quite contrary to those I hold dear. Indeed, anyone reading Ditzel’s version of George M. Ella must be forgiven for thinking that both he and Ditzel are hopelessly mixed up. Thus Ditzel often scolds me for taking a position which he outlines at times as being his own, but at other times rejects. Indeed, he is as unclear and self-contradictory in putting over his own positions as he is putting over mine. Again, he appears to have read me but little; certainly not enough to be used as a basis for his wild accusations. Furthermore, the points he feels he has grasped are interpreted through that part of his theology commonly abbreviated to NCT which I find is Bible reading with a pair of scissors, cutting and pasting ad lib. Peter Ditzel not only deals with the Scriptures in this way but also deals likewise and irresponsibly so with my work and testimony
Ditzel’s view of our Reformers
So, contrary to his announcement, Ditzel does not begin his second installment on my evidence from Scripture but first deals with some of the stalwarts of yesteryear I quote in my historical over-view concerning those who had the same, similar and different views regarding the three-fold nature of justification according to Gill, i.e. from eternity, at conversion and at glorification. Ditzel has lumped a selection of the men mentioned together and accused me incorrectly of saying that they all agree with me, not only on justification but also on other doctrinal matters over which we differ, though I never mentioned them, but on which Ditzel comments obviously thinking wrongly that I adhere to such views. Furthermore, he says I give no evidence to support my claim that most of our Reformers believed in the fact that God justifies from eternity, brushing aside all that I say concerning Bullinger, Tyndale, Bucer, Becon, Nowell, Rogers, Calvin, and later Reformed Christians such as Goodwin, Davenant and Bunyan. Nor does Ditzel deal with my criticisms of modern so-called Reformed writers who reject justification from eternity for a Fullerite solution. It is furthermore interesting to note that Ditzel either merely gives his opinion that these Christians of yesteryear do not agree with me, or he confesses he cannot find data (which I give) on them. Of course, what he does not know. He cannot believe. Thus he argues from prejudice and ignorance; two very bad teachers. Furthermore of the seven or eight men whom he selects, from the many I mention who argue either for or against justification from eternity, Ditzel picks out only one of the many stalwarts I mention at length for comment.
This is Benjamin Keach, whom Ditzel refers to from one of his works, claiming Keach would disagree with me, though I find a measure of agreement there and very much more so in his works on justification which Ditzel avoids. Thus, instead of quoting Keach from his major publications on justification such as his Marrow of Justification and A Medium Betwixt two Extremes which are available as freebies on the net, so they are readily available to all and have been for years, Ditzel refers to an allegorical work entitled The Travels of True Godliness in which a character called Godliness rebukes a man called Antinomian for believing in ‘justification in eternity’. It would appear that Ditzel identifies himself with Godliness and me with Antinomian. However, Ditzel is far closer to Antinomian than Antinomian is to me. Indeed, Ditzel’s own position as established in his first rebuttal where he argues that we ought to drop speaking of ‘justification from eternity’ and declares ‘it is better to talk of ‘in eternity, elect in eternity, justified in eternity’ is exactly the view that Godliness accuses Antinomian of holding. Although to be fair, Godliness mixes up justification from and in eternity himself. It is also clear that the Antinomian Keach postulates is not myself so Ditzel’s use of Keach’s work which actually speaks volumes against Ditzel’s own position, has little reference to me. Take for example Godliness’ just criticism of Antinomian for teaching that one should not pray for the pardon of sin. So why does Ditzel make such a horrible comparison as he obviously does not know me from Adam? He cannot possible know how I struggled for years under the burden of sin, constantly praying for forgiveness and how wonderful it was when Christ stepped into my life relieving not only this burden. Furthermore, Ditzel pays no attention to the various critical evaluations of Keach which I have dealt with in my articles and books on justification.
Keach, of course, as I have outline in several books and essays, believed in what he called virtual justification when the elect were placed in Christ for justification. This secure justification is then activated when the believer comes to faith. This was the doctrine of Gill and the doctrine of Witsius and the doctrine of George M. Ella. Keach argues on pages 18-19 in A Medium Betwixt Two Extremes:
‘Believers that lived and died from Adam till Christ came, were justified, and went to Heaven before the Sacrifice was offered, and the Atonement actually made: the Father trusted the Son according to that holy Compact that was between them, Christ covenanting and engaging that he would die for them. And now as Adam received the Atonement when he believed, and not till then; so we when we are in Christ, believe, do receive the Atonement also, and not before: for at the same time, and upon the same terms, they under the Law received it, we under the Gospel-Dispensation do receive it: by Time I mean when they had, and we have actual Union with Christ, and believe, or do receive the Spirit, the Bonds of this Union.’
Keach thus concludes on pages 28-30:
‘I also grant a federal Union of the Elect with Christ, as our Surety and blessed Sponsor, from Eternity, who also then received a grant of a discharge for them from Condemnation, upon his holy Compact and Covenant with the Father, on the account of what he was to do and suffer, which made Justification and Salvation sure for them all, see 2 Tim. 1.9. Tit. 1.2. I say, it was sure for them,
1. By God’s eternal and unchangeable Decree and Purpose.
2. By virtue of that Covenant made between the Father and the Son, in behalf of the Elect, from eternity.
3. And also by the Death and Resurrection of Christ, for Christ was actually justified when he rose from the dead.
Now we grant that he was not justified as a single, but as a publick Person, viz. as the Head and Representative of all the Elect. See what a Reverend Author says:
For this was a legal acquittance given to Christ for all our Sins, and so to us also considered as in him, his Death was but the Satisfaction and Payment; but this is the first Act of absolution, yea and it is the Original Act which is upon record between God and Christ; and our Justification and Atonement (when we are justified by Faith in Christ) is but a copy fetch’d from this Roll and Court-Sentence then pronounced.
But notwithstanding this, I say, tho Christ was thus justified, and we virtually in him, when he arose from the Dead, and he received for us an actual discharge as our Surety, yet the Elect do not receive an actual discharge, or are not in their own Persons acquitted or pronounced justified and righteous Persons, until they have actual Union with Christ: and such as call this a contradiction, do but betray their own Ignorance. Take the said Doctor again in what he farther says, viz. saith he,1
Lest there be a mistake, let me add this, that it is necessary that we be justified in our own Persons, by Faith (notwithstanding this former Act thus legally passed) whereby we lay hold upon what God did thus before for us in Christ, to the end that God upon our believing, may, according to his own Rules, justify his justifying of us unto all the World; which until we do believe he could not do: for according to the revealed Rules of his Word (which he professeth to proceed by at the latter day) there is a Curse and Sentence of Condemnation pronounced against us, under which we stand till he shall take it off by giving us Faith, unto which he hath in the same word made the promise of justifying us in our own Persons as before he had done in Christ. Yet still notwithstanding, so as altho when we first believe, then only Justification is actually and personally applied to us, &c.’
Ditzel should also read Keach’s The Child’s Delight where he relates how we are justified when we were placed in Christ as our Head and Representative and which becomes personal in time. This is Gill’s actus immanens and actus transiens. Keach thus distinguishes between our justified standing in Christ and its outworking in the faith and life of the believer. So, too, in Betwixt Two Extremes, Keach defends a believer in justification from eternity from the false charge of Antinomianism and himself against the false charge of Arminianism. Indeed, here Keach clearly teaches that one is justified first and faith is then given as the hand which receives and apprehends it. In other words, he is very close to Gill here with one difference which we shall look at below. I would also advise Ditzel to read Keach’s A Postscript Containing a Few Reflections upon Some Passages in Mr Clark’s New Book entitled Scriptural Justification.
Where I differ from Keach and Ditzel
Where I differ from Keach, as also Ditzel, is in the interactivity between God and the time he has created. Both Keach and Ditzel are thinking in terms of the virtualization of justification at a time long ago followed by a long wait until the believer’s life catches up with the decree. As Ditzel has written, but then obviously taken back, the interaction between eternity and time is instant. When God justifies us in eternity it is actualized in time. When God says ‘I justify Peter Ditzel’ from His Royal tribune, Peter Ditzel is justified in time. It is as simple as that. The fact that God justifies from eternity does not rule out but demonstrates that this is transposed into time. This happens immediately from my point of view in time and not after a wait of thousands of years before it can be affected. This is exactly as Gill explains it, so cutting down Witsius’ nine-fold justification to three-fold, that is justification by God’s decree from eternity; justified at conversion; and justified in glorification.
Given that Ditzel has misunderstood me on the timing of justification, he quarrels with me for picking out Alphonse Turretin for rejecting justification from eternity, arguing that his father Francis also did so. I chose, of course, Alphonse because he illustrated my argument the best. But the evidence he gives from Francois Turretin’s Institutes is not conclusive, though Francis sees God as justifying the godly and not the ungodly as in modern Fullerism. Here, we are reminded of Wesley’s attacks on Hervey for teaching that God justifies the ungodly by making them such. Ditzel has not noticed that I point out that Turretin senior drew up the Formula Consensus Helvetica, designed to protect Reformed theology from the very Samur teaching (Amyraldianism) that Alphonse took over. This caused Jesuit Francois de Pierre to argue correctly that Alphonse took the Reformed Church back to Rome. Alphonse Turretin out-radicalized his father to a high degree whereas his father remained largely orthodox. Thus I feel quite justified in using Alphonse as an example and not Francis. Why Ditzel argues I ought to have picked the more moderate father, I cannot imagine.
Does the Westminster Confession express our reformers theology?
One of the most surprising points in Ditzel’s second rebuttal is that he cannot distinguish between the doctrines of the Reformation and those of the Westminster Confession which set back the Reformation to an alarming degree by introducing a new conception of the Covenant and the Church as also the doctrine of justification, which was, for our Reformers from Wycliffe on, the doctrine that summed together all other doctrines. When the great Antinomian-Neonomian Controversy split the Westminster Assembly into two parties, they wisely called Witsius from Holland over as referee and moderator. He saw at once that both the Antinomians and Neonomians were at sixes and sevens on justification because they had both rejected the Scriptural doctrines of election and justification from eternity. Ditzel will remember that the WA rejected Bullinger because of his closeness to the Church of England which he helped to reform and proclaimed that they would follow Presbyterians such as Calvin and Melanchthon, making a big mistake as neither men were Presbyterians. Of, course, the WA took over Melanchthon’s most indefinite doctrine of justification. Yet Ditzel puts the Westminster Confession over as if it were a statement written by our Reformers. He forgets that the Presbyterian government of 1643 outlawed the Articles, Homilies, Prayer Book and Catechism and laid heavy fines on those who believed and used them. However, even the Westminster Confession is not as radical as Ditzel. Their mistake was to distinguish between an active and passive understanding of justification whereas the entire outworking was one of activation from God’s side from eternity. Gill also argues against the so-called passive and active side of the Atonement, showing that even in the so-called passivity of Christ He was actively carrying out His substitutionary and vicarious suffering according to the eternal will of God. So, too, the fact that the Holy Spirit actualises justification in time, as in Ditzel’s Westminster Confession quote, in no way contradicts the fact that such a justification is a direct act from eternity. The Father sends the Spirit from Heaven to accomplish the Triune Will on earth. The WC which was an unfinished document pushed into print before it was completed reflects a number of compromises at this stage due to the highly different theologies of the delegates. Cromwell set up a committee to iron out these under the compiler Durie and minute-taker Byfield but Cromwell’s disinterest, probably enforced by illness, and the sacking of the Presbyterians from Parliament put an end to this.
Ditzel’s use of Scripture as a rebuttal
Now we come to a very weak argument indeed in Ditzel’s discussion of my Biblical evidence. He gives ten passages to prove that the justification of the sinner takes place in time after he exercises the gift of faith, none of which has any bearings on the many passages of Scripture which I have used in advocating justification from eternity. Indeed, he appears to have borrowed the verses from Peter Meney and myself which we used to show that God justifies the ungodly. They were not used in altered versions as Ditzel uses them and not written to show that there is no such thing as justification from eternity. However, they were not put forward primarily as evidence for justification from eternity either, though they do back that doctrine up. On the other hand, Ditzel completely isolates them from their contextualized meaning by using them to show that what God decrees in eternity is exercised in time only after a long wait of thousands of years. However, Ditzel will be perhaps surprised to read that I believe every single one of the passages he cites but I do not believe in the great time-lag he sees between God commanding from eternity and His efficacious will in time. Indeed, I believe these texts far more fundamentally than Ditzel who constantly challenges their authority and that of the AV, as he did in his first rebuttal and shows he is neither familiar with the Greek text of the passages he chooses, nor their meaning.
Ditzel’s first ‘proof-text’ against justification from eternity is Galatians 3:8 which speaks of it being foreseen that ‘God would justify (dikaioi) the heathen through faith’ with reference to Abraham. Here Ditzel clashes strongly with Keach and myself as we believe that Abraham was not only declared righteous long before the earthly advent of Christ but also had righteousness imputed to him. Abraham’s faith then became exemplary for all subsequent believers. However, Ditzel says here ‘It would be very difficult, in fact, impossible to get eternal justification as taught by John Gill out of this Scripture. I presume, Ditzel means by ‘eternal justification’ ‘justification from eternity’, which is not the same thing. If a sinner were eternally justified by nature, he would have no need to be justified from eternity by a sovereign act of God activated in time. Why does Ditzel use this verse to rule out justification from eternity? It is because he cannot accept that eternity can impinge on time at any particular moment through Gods action. He imagines I believe that God must always think thousands of years before he acts. This is an insult to the intelligence of God! God acts in time as and where He wills from eternity.
Ditzel argues here that ‘forseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith’ is a mistranslation and should read ‘Forseeing that God does justify the heathen.’ This is a typical example of Ditzel’s self-contradictory logic. If the Greek really does read as Ditzel says, though the language would have been not considered literary in the early 17th century, it would quite contradict what Ditzel is saying about it. ‘God does justify the heathen’ is in a simple present tense, emphasized with the auxiliary ‘to do’, meaning that God is always justifying the heathen. It could also be an emphatic response to one who denies that God justifies the heathen in the form of, ‘No you are wrong. God does justify the heathen.’ It appears that Ditzel is arguing that ‘would justify’ is not a present tense and dikaioi, which is third person singular present indicative active can only mean ‘does justify’. Actually, the Greek is saying that under the condition that belief is present, so is justification, the term ‘would’ being thus present conditional. The one comes with the other. The auxiliary verb ‘to do’ is thus superfluous here. Though Ditzel is saying that the action is simple present, why does he argue that the ‘this would lead to that’ condition expressed by the term ‘would’ ‘is not accurate’? Furthermore, Ditzel quite contradicts the positive statement contained in the simple present tense of dikaiooo (which he, nevertheless advocates) with the meaning God is always justifying the heathen, by saying ‘this verse speaks of a time, the time of Abraham, when the heathen were not yet justified’. Ditzel’s effort at expounding the meaning of the text leaves us to believe that though God is always justifying the heathen, He makes an exception in the case of Abraham and his times.
Ditzel does not believe that Abraham was born again
Ditzel’s cryptic comment ‘when the heathen were not yet justified’ reflects on one of the key issues between Orthodoxy and the NCT (New Covenant Theology) who have different views on when and how the heathen are to be converted and he challenges the very fact of God’s salvation being worked out from eternity in all time. This is because Ditzel does not see Christ’s work on the cross in the fullness of time radiating throughout all time, which was its purpose. In a ‘Word of His Grace’ entry entitled ‘Were the Old Testament Saints Born Again?’, Ditzel surprisingly says, ‘There can be no escaping the fact that Jesus was saying that John the Baptist was not in the kingdom of heaven’. Indeed, he goes on to imply that none of the OT saints were! The reason he gives is that they were not born again or born from above. He explains this by arguing that Christ was not yet crucified. This is why the NCT so dogmatically stresses that there is no Bride of Christ, the Church present amongst OT saints. One wonders then why Ditzel calls them OT saints. This shows the huge gap which still exists between the NCT and the orthodox Christian faith once delivered to the saints in our Bible. Ditzel’s further explanation is that the Covenant under which sinners are born again did not exist before the time of Christ’s incarnation. He thus believes that his faulty view of the work of Christ from eternity ‘does not weaken the argument against eternal justification’. If he means by ‘eternal justification’ ‘justification from eternity’ Galatians 3 goes a long way in destroying Ditzel’s opinion altogether.
Ditzel’s next ‘proof-text’ is Colossians 1:22 which refers to our being reconciled to Christ through His vicarious death in the fullness of time. Ditzel believes that there is ‘no hint of eternal justification’ here. I find there is because here, Paul is speaking of a fully-fledged reconciliation at a time when, according to Ditzel, he and his Christian friends did not exist. So it must work at least forwards in time and if forwards, why not backwards as Christ keeps the Covenant for all believers in all times. The truth is that Christ’s atonement is efficacious for past, present and future and for all eternity. To prove Ditzel’s theory, he must demonstrate that those Paul addressed were actual contemporaries of Christ’s crucifixion which only had efficacy there and then – believe that who may.
Ditzel tells us that Titus 3:4-7 is similar. This verse explains how ‘after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared;’ we are regenerated and justified by the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ditzel concludes that the subordinator ‘after’ indicates a time frame, thus altering the English use of ‘after’ according to the Greek ‘ote’ as in Swedish ‘eftersom’ or German ‘weil’, meaning: because, since, about, in relation to, for etc.. ‘After’ here is obviously not temporal, that is, not a preposition of time but a causal conjunction rightly translating the Greek ‘ote’ which means, ‘because’, ‘seeing that’, ‘as’ etc.. Paul is not emphasizing that ‘this happens after that’ but ‘this happens because of that’. So too, if I say ‘My duty is to look after my children’, I am not saying that I only do that after I have done something else, it is a full-time job. Thus Ditzel is wrong in concluding that ‘After indicates a time frame’. Sadly, such critics of the English language, in professing to simplify and modify it to suit modern style or private theories only succeed in impoverishing it.
Romans 3:21-22, Ditzel’s next proof-text, refers to the ‘righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all that believe.’ Ditzel’s comment is, ‘If the elect were actually justified in eternity, so that they had had the righteousness of God before they were born, why does this Scripture say the righteousness of God is given to those who believe?’ The answer is simple: Ditzel is mistaken. He has got his timing and phraseology wrong. I am not arguing for an ‘actual justification in eternity’. This is Ditzel’s wording, and actually the words Ditzel uses to express his own view and the words Godliness uses to denounce Antinomian. They are neither my words nor my thoughts. I am not arguing that a sinner can be eternally justified in the sense that he does not need to be made just because he is already just; nor am I arguing for justification in eternity, as Ditzel uses the term. I am arguing for justification from eternity activated in time. I understand these verses to mean that the faith which justifies is Christ’s faith imputed to us and does not stem from the believer’s works of law obedience. The forbearance of God has secured such a state for us through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
This verse tells us that God is ‘the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus’. Ditzel has already confessed in agreement with Scripture and me that our faith is the gift of Christ’s faith, exercised federally with Him. Yet Ditzel cannot see any simultaneous application of gifts here so must place faith before justification in what he mistakenly calls the ordo salutis. Surely the Scriptures teach that God grants us with justification all the blessings held in store for us which include faith’. Or is Ditzel one of those who argues that repentance, belief, conversion, adoption, justification, the forgiveness of sins come in stages before salvation is accomplished? I am not one of that school.
Romans 3:28 tells us that we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Amen! He concludes that this is an event which takes place in time. He means, of course, this is an event which God activates in time from eternity. We must not leave out God’s part in salvation or we leave out salvation.
Here we are told that we are justified by faith and have peace with God. Again, I can only say Amen! Ditzel says this cannot mean that we have always had peace with God. I agree but I disagree that my having peace with God is the condition I must conjure up for my justification. This is a gift of God irrespective of my works. We have not been justified by our faith but by Christ’s faith made ours in justification. Thus the justified now live by faith which is the life of Christ in us. This is worked out for us in eternity whence Christ said, ‘Here am I, send me’.
Romans 5:6. claims that Christ died in due time for the ungodly. The double emphasis, I believe, is on ‘due time’ that is ‘the fullness of time’ and the ‘ungodly’. Ditzel seems to be arguing all along that justification can only come AFTER belief but here we have Christ dying for us in due time i.e. when God’s will finds us out BEFORE a personally exercised faith in the sense that Ditzel (but not I) puts on it in a later time. In Ditzel’s idea that ‘We could not have been enemies at any time if we were already justified from eternity,’ I wonder what Ditzel means by ‘already’? There is, I take it, no such word of time-sequence in eternity. Nor can Ditzel line up time as if it runs parallel with eternity. All are condemned under sin in time but not all are left there for all eternity. It is from eternity that Christ redeems His own so that they might dwell with Him in eternity. First they must be taken from time to be in eternity so they are rescued from eternity and delivered from time.
Concerning Galatians 2:16, Ditzel argues,’ Yes, we’ ‘have believed in Jesus that we might be justified by the faith of Christ’ and ‘Without belief, there would be no justification.’ This is correct but I understand ‘that we might believe’ differently to Ditzel who seems to take the Scripture to mean that ‘by reason of our faith we have secured for ourselves justification’. He will forgive me if I have misunderstood him here but what other interpretation would speak against justification from eternity? Paul is comparing faith with works and not faith with eternity. Perhaps Ditzel, who is obviously wobbly on his tenses, has taken hold of the word ‘might’ and misinterpreted the ‘ina’ clause it translates. This has no tense meaning but simply means ‘so that’ (Germ. damit) or ‘in order to’. Faith that it might justify or, in order for it to justify, must be Christ’s Faith imputed to us and not a faith engendered by our own merits. Let Peter Ditzel see this as a denial of justification from eternity if he will, I cannot because it all fits in to the doctrine I believe and love because it gives God all the glory and not man. The time motivation for good works to sinners is their own strivings. The Christian motivation for good works is our justifying faith given to us as a gift of God with the imputation of righteousness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. To conclude with Ditzel that ‘Without belief, there would be no justification’ is only half of the truth as we must also say, ‘Without justification, there would be no belief.’ Why cannot Ditzel believe in justifying faith as an instantaneous fiat of God from eternity? Why must he employ Aristotelian analysis and make an ‘ordo’ out of it and a string of elements of no purpose as individual entities but make sense only when molded together and given in one by our Father who dwells in eternity?
Ditzel’s last proof-text against justification from eternity is Philippians 3:9 explaining that this verse does not speak of ‘our righteousness from eternity’. In the sense that Ditzel takes it, nor do I. Our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags and does not aid us one bit in our justification. Again, Ditzel is really asking, ‘Is righteousness our lot in eternity irrespective and apart from our position in time?’ I answer ‘No’. Nor did any of the stalwarts I list in support preach such nonsense. Rather than accuse Ditzel of slander in misrepresenting my position, I must accept that he is theologically most muddle-headed though I believe in his heart, he wishes to follow Jesus. I say this because Ditzel accuses me of saying that he is not a Christian, which I have neither thought nor taught. He confesses, however, that I am a second Schopenhauer and explains this at tedious length, so I must leave it to my readers to work out whether Schopenhauer was a Christian or not. I have only given him a thought in my university studies in order to refute him.
Ditzel has four more essays written against me which I must take up so I shall leave my positive exposition of the Biblical doctrine of justification after I sum up all that Ditzel has to offer against it. The next installment will be under Ditzel’s title John Gill’s Blunder #1.
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