Many of you know that the Reformed world in the USA is going through a really donnybrook of a battle between some who have styled themselves Federal Visionists and those who claim to be defending the historic traditions of the Reformed faith. Many of you know I have a problem with some of the beliefs of combatants on both sides of the contest. Below I reproduce a conversation I recently had with somebody on this division within the Reformed Church. The person who is pro FV comments are in italics.
For one thing, the majority of the PCA has not determined the state of the question or even the legitimacy of the charges against men like Steve Wilkins even if they have appointed a committee to do so. As usual, these things on closer examination fail to pass muster when we consider all the attendant factors.
KJ this is revisionist history. The PCA GA, by higher than 90%, accepted the committee report that clearly determined that FV was out of bounds. All that is happening with the Wilkins case is the application of that denominational decision. Actually, upon closer examination what fails to pass muster when the attendant factors are considered are KJ’s assertions.
Secondly, it is clear–whatever you or others think of the matter–that Federal Vision theology springs generally from normal received traditions in flux at differing points in the Reformed traditions we have to this point since the sixteenth century.
You can find almost anything as a ‘normally received tradition’ somewhere at some time in 500 years of Reformed history. So what?
Look, it’s this simple … If the gatekeepers in current Reformed denominations don’t desire FV then FV isn’t going to survive in those denominations. That is the way that all organizations work. Many Reformed denominations have determined that they don’t want FV getting into the water supply of Christendom through their channels thus bringing about the same kind of coup that dispensationalism won 100 years ago when it got into the water supply and infected everything.
The answer is easy here KJ. Let the FV people go build their own denominations. If, as many have said, ‘Ichabod’ is pronounced over the denominations that have given the old ‘heave ho’ to FV then in a short amount of time those denominations will dry up and FV will stand as champion on the grave of that which it detests.
I am too much of a historian to admit the idea that the Reformed tradition was fully developed and constant throughout its entire five hundred year length to this point. So, is it really a compromise of the doctrine of justification by faith? Maybe it is according to Muller who has his own limitations in looking at the Reformed histories and the corresponding traditions but I daresay that some of the men he has studied would be less impressed with his results.
Yes, and many men who study the works of those who don’t like Muller wouldn’t be impressed with their works. Again, I ask … ‘So What?’
Certainly, the Reformed tradition is still not fully developed, and who would contend that it has ever been constant? These are ‘Captain Obvious’ statements. Again, the point of the matter is that different groups desire different trajectories for their version of the ‘Tradition.’ Let each go their own way.
And yes the Federal Vision is, in its less thought out expressions, is a compromise on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.’
But to further throw a wrench in the works…let us do what you have supposed and grant the premise. I’m frankly not sure that this is the momentous occasion that the Reformation was in looking at ‘the article at which the church stands or falls’. Is the Church herself on the brink of destruction because sola fide is purportedly at risk in a denomination not .0000000000000000153254 percent of the entire Christian Body on this planet?
You don’t come to truth by counting noses KJ. By this reasoning something was amiss with Elijah since he was one of the .0000000000000000153254 percent of the entire faithful body in Israel. Being the avid student of history that you claim to be you surely realize that minorities often are those who save the day.
Remember the Mustard Seed.
Go ahead, drop a zero on the right side of the decimal from that percentage and include all the other Reformed bodies that have commented negatively on the FV and what do we have other than a very small group–something like the leaf way up high on massive oak that is hundreds of years old–telling the entire Church how she must view this issue.
Just imagine how small of leafs Luther and Calvin and Bucer, and Zwingli, and Peter Martyr and Bullinger et. all must have been. And yet …
No doubt a proper understanding of justification by faith alone is important and central to the gospel, but it is not equivalent to the gospel.
Is this like saying a proper functioning ovary is important and central to getting pregnant, but it is not equivalent to getting pregnant?
Well, sure, but no woman will ever get pregnant without a proper functioning ovary. Just so, no one will ever be saved without a gospel which casts all on Christ alone.
And, frankly the dismissing of the importance of justification by faith alone is troubling.
There are times when other more central matters have pressed to the fore in the history of the Church and I believe we face more important issues than this one especially when (let us come back to reality now) it is not immediately clear that the Federal Vision advocates are in every instance denying that which they have sought to affirm every inch of the way.
There is some truth there. I believe that public square a-nomianism (Radical Two Kingdom Theology) in the church is just as dangerous as FV. I believe that Feminism in the Church is just as dangerous as FV. I believe that humanistic psychology in the Church is just as dangerous as FV. There are many different ways in which the Church can be poisoned. I also agree that not all FV advocates are in every instance denying what they are being said to deny though certainly some of them do. Still, among all the dangers the Church faces FV is certainly a danger that the Church should react strongly against. Now, if she would only act against the other dangers.
The discipline present in Reformed churches carries with it a stench that originally belonged to her Roman subjugators.
That is always what the minority says when they are getting tossed out on their ears. Sometimes, no doubt, they are correct. Sometimes they aren’t.
If anything, the Reformed churches of our land are due for a major overhaul. I pray for revival. Repentance and true revival. The kind that would scare the crap out of the White Horse Inn guys. That would solve our problem a whole lot faster than the countless disciplinary actions sure to follow if the SJC and Mr. Inquisitor General Andy Webb gets their way.
I join you with the prayer for Reformation in head and members. I support the idea that every generation must re-interpret and re-apply the Reformed faith so that it remains the living tradition of the dead and not the dead tradition of the living. I also agree that the White Horse Inn guys would probably soil their undergarments with the kind of Reformation I envision. But for all that I am pretty sure that your vision of Reformation and my vision of Reformation are at such odds that we would be disappointed if either of our visions came to pass.
It is a good thing that God’s vision will come to pass when genuine Reformation comes and not Horton’s and not Webb’s and not Wilson’s and not Johnson’s and not McAtee’s.
Well … maybe McAtee’s