Federal Vision Controversy, R.I.P.?

For those who have been following the case, Peter Leithart was tried and exonerated by his presbytery (Pacific Northwest). There was a complaint about it, and so now the SJC of the entire PCA heard the case, and Peter Leithart was found to be teaching within the boundaries of the Westminster Standards. There is a round-up of the affair (from a critic’s perspective) which you are find here, here, and here.

I have just several observations. The first is an exhortation to anyone identifying themselves as FV, particularly the “oatmeal stout” variety of FV. The second observation is for the critics.

First, the SJC, while finding Leithart to be orthodox and Reformed, did admonish him to be careful in the future to be less provocative in his handling of key theological terms. In short, they wanted him to take care to qualify how and in what ways his teaching and vocabulary are consistent with the Standards.

“In light of our conclusions, we urge that Pacific Northwest Presbytery continue to encourage TE Leithart to take care that when he uses standard theological terms (such as baptism, justification, sanctification, efficacious, and arrabon) in non-standard ways that he make clear those differences in use and that he continue to clarify how his views in key areas are not in conflict with the Standards.”

For this reason, I believe it would be extremely ill-advised for FV partisans to take the vindication that the SJC has provided, and yet not take to heart the caution stated here. This is a body which has determined, in effect, that Leithart was falsely accused, and yet that the false accusations were provoked, in part, by teminological carelessness. We should take the vindication in hand, and take the caution to heart.

The second point is just a comment to the diehard critics of the FV, most of whom are in the PCA. These are the men who have stoutly maintained that this is not a matter of semantics, or of provocative language that can be adjusted or clarified, and so forth. No, for them it is a matter of substance, and it revolves around justification — the article of a standing or a falling church. I would ask you to consider your position now, and if you take my point, reconsider your position, if you know what I mean.

I am a minister in the CREC, a communion which has never formally pronounced on the doctrinal matters involved in this dispute. The closest thing was my exam that was conducted at my request — which you can listen to here. But you all are ministers in the PCA, and, if you accept my distinction between FV amber ales and FV oatmeal stouts, you now belong to a communion which has formally determined FV dark to be within the reformational pale.

Your choices are to double down on the rhetoric, in which case people will wonder why you remain within a church that has now decided, at the highest level, the “wrong way” on the article of a standing or falling church, or you can also take the SJC’s admonition to heart, accept that loose words (provocations and counter-provocations) were a big part of our problem, and resolve to work with those FV men who are happy to labor within the system of doctrine taught by the Westminster Confession, with us (for our part) making our conformity to that Confession clear. We do exist, and we would be happy to take this as an opportunity to bury the hatchet.

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