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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Federal Vision, Augustinian not Reformed


Federal Vision (FV) theology borrows from Augustine at his worst while departing from Calvin and the Reformed confessions at their best. FV is correct that perseverance is a gift given to the elect alone but where the system is terribly flawed is in its doctrine of regeneration, which suggests that the reprobate can, for a season, enjoy the grace of faith and union with Christ prior to falling away. Consequently, the FV has no place to ground the assurance of salvation that is available to the regenerate because the system allows for the reprobate to receive the same measure of regeneration and faith as the elect. Assurance becomes predicated upon the secret decree of perseverance, which cannot be known being a secret! All of which stands in stark contrast to the biblical teaching, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with the believer’s spirit according to the unambiguous word of promise that all who God calls, He justifies and will glorify.

If FV has brought something new to the church that exceeds the theological precision and exhaustiveness of the Reformed confessions, then what is it that its proponents have discovered? The simple answer is that the FV movement has brought nothing new to the church but rather denies what the Reformers taught. What is most disruptive is that FV'ists claim the tradition of the Reformers only to turn around and deny what they taught, and even died for.

Ron

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15 comments:

Tim K said...

Ron:

Love the picture - it's from Invasion of the Saucermen, a wonderfully silly AIP 1957 flick where the aliens are destroyed by strong light. Could we draw a further analogy here? Hmmmmm.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

You're a plethora of information, Mr. Tim K. Excuse me, Dr. Tim K. :)

Strange, it took a monster film to get you to finally weigh in! :)

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

hmmm, destroy the strong light... I'll have to ponder that.

Ron

Tim K said...

Ron:

At first, I wasn't sure whether to point out that the light that killed the aliens was actually the headlights of the teenagers' hot rods. I had to think about how that related to your comments about youth ministry. I decided it would be supportive - the teenagers were well equipped with the light and knew how to bring it to bear on unexpected life situations. Even cheesy 50's sci-fi films can provide strong arguments for the apologetic value of a Reformed youth ministry ;-)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Tim,

Talk about brute facts that can be interpreted any which way one likes!

Ron

Colin said...

I love the pic on this blog!

My only objection is to the comment at the top which is harshly critical of "Van Tillianism".

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Colin,

shhhhh Tim Harris told me that too. The pic was doctrored up by John Robbins or someone like that.

Ron

josh said...

Ron,


I enjoyed your post on theonomy and natural revelation. Good work. It seems that you are very careful to represent theonommy and theonomists properly. However, you do not represent the FV well when you mention you concern about their views on regeneratin.

1). It is better to say Wilson, Lusk, Wilkins, etc, rather than "FV", because these teachers are unified on particulars. FV is like saying Reformed Dutch Theology, Reformed Baptitst, or whatever. When you condemn a FV doctrine that not all hold to, you slander one who departs from said docrine who still wants the label.

2. You have misreprented some of them on regeneration. Wilson, at least, affirms regeneration in the WCF sense and has said so in print a million times. He has made the distinction between covenantal regenernation and personal regerenation. You need to make these qualifications and address the stock objections when you write pieces about the "FV". Please show the same accuracy when writing about FV guys that you show when you defend thenomists. When you don't, you only show that you are just another party-line writer with nothing ot offer to this very crucial debate. Our teacher Bahnsen never winked at sloppy scholarship.

Take this a kinds words from a brother.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Josh,

Thanks for your thoughts.

Given your comments it's strange that you would lump Lusk in with Wilson since everything I wrote about FV applies to Lusk but not to Wilson. In fact, I had Lusk in mind when I wrote the blog entry.

The reason I don't feel I need to distinguish this Federal Visionist from that one is because the Federal Visionists are not willing to distinguish themselves. Accordingly, I will deal with them organically because that is how they have chosen to present themselves. Once a FV'ist repents of baptismal regeneration and the Roman Catholic doctrine of perserverance (or makes clear that he never embraced such apostate doctrine to begin with) then he should repent of using the Federal Vision label and simply go on record as saying "Reformed is enough!" Look at it this way, no matter what a RC priest says, he can rightly be called a papist because of his fellowship, loyalty and alliance with the Pope. So why won't Wilson renounce the label that is part-and-parcel with what I wrote on my blog? FV theology adds something to the Reformed Confessions and what it adds is not Reformed but Roman. If what I said about FV does not apply to some, then it is because they are not FV'ists and, therefore, ought not to claim the name. If they wish to claim the name, then that's their unfortunate decision because they will be placing themselves under a banner of apostate doctrine.

In the like manner, I am glad to call myself a theonomist because I know of no theonomist who disagrees with the fundamental principles of theonomy.

Ron

josh said...

Ron,

The Federal Vision isn't a denomination with a theological confession. Rome is. I will join you in denouncing Romish doctrines, not worrying about the foolish priest who departs doctrinally from Rome while remaining in Rome. He chose the label, he can take the heat. We agree here.

FV was a name given to a 2002 conference and represents a variety of views concerning liturgical reformation, objectivity of the covenant, etc. If one wants the name, yet wants to distinguish his beliefs from other FV's (like Wilson, contrary to your claim that they do not distiquish themselves)then its a waste of time to do what you and others do.

The reason Wilson will not renounce the label is because the label does not mean "Lusk". Nor does not mean "baptismal regeneration" in the sense (romanish) you and I would both denounce. Simply put, the label does not (contrary to your claim) represent part and parcel what you wrote on your blog.

Point me to an offical FV statement that says that FV represents Romanish baptismal regernation, or point me to any FV Confession at all. If you can, your post is meaningful.

"Once a FV'ist repents of baptismal regeneration and the Roman Catholic doctrine of perserverance (or makes clear that he never embraced such apostate doctrine to begin with) then he should repent of using the Federal Vision label and simply go on record as saying "Reformed is enough!'"

Wow! Why should anyone have to accept your arbitary requirements? That sounds Popish

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Josh, you have contradicted yourself (several times). You will hold a priest to his Romish affiliation but not a federal visionist to his. Your point is that Rome is a denomination with a confession whereas Federal Visionism is not. Well, what is FV then – an abstract concept without content? Of course not otherwise the FV’s would not be unwilling to abandon the label! Accordingly it is confessional, even if it’s not well articulated. What is it that the FV’s will not denounce – a concept without content? The reason they hold to the label is due to its meaning! The meaning of FV is found in their collection of essays that bears the name of the movement! Haven’t Steve Wilkins, John Barach, Rich Lusk, Doug Wilson, Steve Schlissel, Peter Leithart, James B. Jordan, and Mark Horne joined hands in the “Federal Vision” without disagreement? Are you even minimally acquainted with the writings of these men that speak of one losing his salvation? They have a Confession and it is published under the label FV, of which they all are willing to share.

If you wish me to publish another remark of yours, then you must advance an argument that defends their popish doctrines. If you fail to produce the doctrines of Lusk, Barach and Horne, which are the most clear, then I will assume that you are not acquainted with the sect to begin with. Consequently, at best all you can say is that Wilson does not affirm the popery that the others do and that he has brought nothing to the Reformed church and should, therefore, repent of the label since Reformed is enough.

I have found that the FVists are muddled "thinkers" who for some reason tried to make a name for themselves only to have shown that they have nothing at all to add to the Divines and the church. But what say you? What have you learned from this wind of doctrine?

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron:

You are correct that the FV movement is confessional enough to be condemned as a unit. Because of the unity among those that are willing to write and speak at conferences together under one unified label, they are fair game. That they have not formed a denomination or an official creed does not get them off the hook. If anyone within the group does not wish to be lumped with the others then they always have the option of separating themselves by renouncing the label or at least speaking out against those with whom they disagree though have united with.

You raise a good point. What have these troublemakers brought to the church?

Keith

Anonymous said...

Keith's point is a good summary of part of your position (only part of your position) while it seems to leave out an underlying point of yours that you made in a reductio ad absurdum fashion. Keith's point underscores your one point that is included in the PCA's position noted here in the PCA’s “REPORT OF AD INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE ON FEDERAL VISION, NEW PERSPECTIVE, AND AUBURN AVENUE THEOLOGY”

The report says:

"…Nevertheless, it is these “commonly held perspectives” that unite and distinguish the FV from others within Reformed and Presbyterian communities. Their writings are largely consistent on major points. They quote each other approvingly; they stress the same points; they state many of their issues using virtually the same language; and they joined together to produce a book called "The Federal Vision".

…At the heart of their belief is the view that water baptism serves as the means for uniting each participant to Jesus; those baptized receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation except final perseverance. Our concern is that some of those who are baptized will simply presume on God’s grace, “continuing in the covenant” without “apostatizing” but also without justifying faith (cf. Matthew 22:1-14); others will be driven to despair, working for a salvation out of “covenant faithfulness” instead of resting and receiving Jesus alone for their salvation…

…after many months of careful study, the committee unanimously makes the following declarations… The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards."

Ron,

It is clear that those most closely associated with FV are in agreement over cardinal doctrines that deny the Westminster Standards on Regeneration and Union with Christ. That much should be obvious. Another point you made was that one cannot logically defend the Federal Visionists on the grounds that there is no distinct doctrine of Federal Vision. As you keenly pointed out, if there is no distinct doctrine of Federal Vision then there is no reason to defend "Federal Visionists" -- yet Josh defends Federal Visionists on the basis that there is no Federal Visionist doctrine! Josh's contradiction is that he must first presuppose that there are Federal Visionists (who he would like to defend) which presupposes that there are distinct doctrines -- (otherwise what is a Federal Visionist?) -- and that is the very point that Josh denies -- that there is Federal Visionist doctrine.

Ron, I have seen this devilish line of reasoning within cults and now among sympathizers for those that would ike to be considered "Reformed" in their theology while denying the Confession. It's utter confusion and as you say they may not have a free pass on this.

The PCA committee argued correctly that there is enough agreement within the movement that can be dealt with as a movement on those particular doctrines that unite them.

As you have often quipped "proof is not persuasion." The PCA has argued the point well that there is something we can call and interact with that is truly FV. Those who produced a book of articles have affirmed that same point by producing such a work. Therefore you are right to interact with the theology as you have.

Tee

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Keith / Tim (?),

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I would nuance this a bit further though. First, I agree that there is a FV theology, which I get from the essays that were produced as a theology under a given name. Added to this, when someone like Horne puts Lusk's anti-Confessional writings on his blog approvingly, he underscores what is already the case. The doctrine is not evolving in other words. The doctrine that is called FV obtained through the initial yoking of certain individuals who produced documents. Accordingly, and catch this, the doctrine is now to be indexed to objective documents and not to people who are capable of changing their views. If one subjective individual comes clean, the common denominator of objective doctrine does not get modified anymore than Trent can change if a maverick Roman Catholic priest suddenly affirms sola fide. The point that I don't want missed is that we are not discussing individuals but rather a movement called "Federal Vision" that although was begun by individuals it contains common doctrines that now transcend the individuals who wrote them. If certain authors have moved in their position (or if certain popes move in their position), the doctrine of the movement is not denied; men simply end up denying the doctrine.

As for Josh, he simply refused to admit or grasp that there are common denominators within the writings. To argue that the writings are not part of a denominational creed (such as Romanism) commits the fallacy of making a distinction without a relevant difference. It's to argue by false disjunction actually. We must treat Josh fairly. Josh thinks that the doctrine of FV has good and bad in it and that some of the people in the movement disagree. However, Josh is treating the doctrine as ever-green as opposed to what was first written. He allows for modifications, which in turn allows for disagreement within what was once a united front over false doctrine. Accordingly, Josh would like to think that there is no official position, but what Josh has done is confused the position with the ever changing voices and dissenting elaborations. Again, I have not concerned myself with what the individuals now believe or what they are now saying; my concern has been with what the individuals said for that is what defines the FV theology.

Moreover, there is nothing contradictory in the original writings. They compliment themselves quite well in their denial of the Confession. That Mr. Wilson ammended his thoughts is good for him; yet it doesn't ammend the static writings of years gone past and that is what we are dealing with, aren't we? We're to be dealing with a theology and not "theologians."

I think we've batted this around long enough.

Ron

Anonymous said...

"Josh would like to think that there is no official position, but what Josh has done is confused the position with the ever changing voices and dissenting elaborations.... my concern has been with what the individuals said for that is what defines the FV theology....We're to be dealing with a theology and not "theologians.""

Point, Set, Match!