Wednesday, September 27, 2006

That Emotional Federal Vision Theology


If history can teach us anything – It's the fact that two non-glorified Christians that agree on absolutely everything can probably not be found (discounting leaders and their parrots). Be that as it may, I'm struggling to see what exactly the Federal Vision controversy is. When I read Pastor Wilson’s and Rich Lusk's writings, I find good strong biblical Reformed Christian writing. Disconcertingly to myself, I get the same thought line when I read Michael Horton or Brian Schwertley - "yeah, that's what the Bible teaches". Considering the emotions I've seen flare, there has got to be a difference I'm just not seeing. The reason I'm bringing my confusion to you, is because the emotionality seems mostly (though not all) on your opponents' side. Maybe I'm being as thick as a Dufflepud or as simple as Rumblebuffin, but what is being debated?

Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ be unto you, Christian

Hi Christian,

I believe there are many different reasons why folks are as emotional over this issue as they are. These are in no particular order, but we've seen them all at various times and suspect them also on other occasions. First, the Federal Vision is a very masculine understanding of the Bible. We live in an effeminate age with effeminate church leaders. When someone comes along teaching something with fangs and muscles, the soft tend to react in an emotional and negative way. Incidentally the Magisterial Reformers believed most (excepting paedocommunion) of the same things as the Federal Vision guys.

Second, for years Doug Wilson has been teaching that elders must qualify for their offices as elders according to 1 timothy and Titus. If they do not, they should step down until they do qualify. This has caused quite a stir among pastors who have children who are not walking with the Lord. The Federal Vision is not the same topic, but it is a scapegoat that has been raised that will allow some of these men to attack Doug and others without dealing with the real issue. This is why in many ways they appear to be saying the same thing, in other contexts (they are saying the same thing).

Third, there is a turf/guild war going on here. If you are a member of the Ivory Tower crowd (professors, PhDs, etc.) it is okay to say things that go against the standard line, but you probably wouldn't. The Federal Vision crowd (except for Peter Leithart) are all guys without the degrees or standing to be making such bold and "new" pronouncements about the status quo. They are being attacked because they don't “qualify” to speak the way they do on the things they are talking about.

Fourth, many of the words and phrases being used by Federal Vision folks are being used in different ways than the theologians use them. So for instance when the Federal Vision guy uses the word ‘Christian’ he is defining it as “one who is a member of the body of Christ bases on faith and baptism.” The theologian and average Evangelical assumes 'Christian' means “someone who if they were to die right now would go to heaven.” When the Federal Vision guys then says, “A Christian can fall away from the faith and be cast out of the church and eventually, barring his repentance, go to Hell.” The theologian and average Evangelical thinks the Federal Vision guy is saying that people can lose their salvation. They also hear that a person is saved by being baptized.

Fifth, there are many in the opposition who are not reading the original sources. They are reading the disgruntled books and articles, and believing the lies and misrepresentations they contain. These folks are simply sheep being led around by the unscrupulous and pseudo scholars.

At this point in the discussion, the 4th and 5th reasons are clearly the largest groups. In the beginning the first few were more prevalent and quickly spread to the 4th and 5th especially combined with the 3rd.

I haven't come across anyone yet who is able to accurately represent the Federal Vision theology who was on the other side. There is an article on the web written by a fellow who is not an official FV guy and it is very good ( But I think he is not a FV guy yet because the consequences are high and he isn't ready to make the plunge yet. I know several people in this boat.

I hope this clears things up for you a little bit.


Pastor Lawyer

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