Federal Vision No Mas

Show Outline with Links

Introduction

I have decided, after mulling over it for some years now, to discontinue identifying myself with what has come to be called the federal vision. It used to be that when I was asked if I held to the federal vision, I would say something like “yes, if by that you mean . . .” Now my intention will be to simply say no. I don’t.Book Depends

This obviously requires explanation, which I hope to provide here. This post is simply an attempt at a more careful qualification of terms, but must itself be carefully qualified. Most of all, I am trying to find a spot where all appropriate qualifications will be heard—by all parties.

In what follows, I will offer observations about what this means, and in addition to that, I will try to add some careful statements on what it does not mean.

It is never possible to say everything that needs to be said at one time, but on the essentials of this particular issue I hope to attempt it here. But every part of this needs to be balanced by the rest, and so I would ask everyone who reads part of this to make sure they read the whole thing. A part of this post taken as the whole would be grossly misleading. Follow up questions are to be expected, but I hope to make the general point clear.

First, what do I intend to attempt? The first part of this consists of a set of retractions, not to mention an important sense in which I need to seek forgiveness. The second half concerns that which does not need to be retracted at all. I am trying to disentangle some old confusions, but I do not wish to entangle some new ones.

The Reason for Retractions

When I first became a Calvinist, back in 1988, I spent a couple years after that point denying that I was in fact a Calvinist. My reasoning was simple: I hadn’t learned these things from Calvin, I did not want to participate in any Paul/Apollos competitions, I just wanted to be biblical, etc. But I gradually came to the conclusion that the only thing I was really convincing anybody of was that I was being disingenuous, if not dishonest, and too clever by half. Everybody knew what a Calvinist was, and I was what that particular noun is supposed to describe. Denying it was communicating truth to nobody, except to communicate the possible truth that I was not to be trusted with the ecclesiastical silver.

Something similar happened with the phrase federal vision, only running the other direction. Everybody knew (or thought they knew) what that phrase represented. Since I certainly owned the phrase, albeit with modifiers, and lots of energetic typing, what happened was that I was thought to be owning what people knew as this. But the more I typed that, the more it made people’s heads hurt. So one of the few things I have been successful at doing is persuading a number of people that I am a sly fellow, and one who bears close watching. Heretics are slippery with words, and since I have spent a lot of time trying to grease this particular piglet, I must be a heretic.

So I have finally become convinced that the phrase federal vision is a hurdle that I cannot get over, under or around. The options are therefore limited. I could abandon my actual position and adopt what most people think of when they think federal vision, or I can continue my futile quest of explaining it just one more time, or I could abandon the phrase, and let everyone know that I have done so. So I have finally become convinced that the phrase federal vision is a hurdle that I cannot get over, under or around.The latter option is what I have decided to do. I am doing this in an attempt to communicate charitably, and have no desire to obscure.

A Different Kind of Difference

For years I have been trying to describe some of these distinctions involved in all this as “amber ale federal vision” as over against “oatmeal stout federal vision,” and have sought to identify myself with the former. But I have come to the conclusion that the phrase federal vision is itself a stumbling block that prevents far too many people from hearing what is being said, however many metaphorical adjectives I use.

This is because—I am now convinced—it is not the case that there is this thing called federal vision, with how much of it you actually get wired up to a dimmer switch. I believe it is a false analogy to say that I am a 7 on this switch, and Jim Jordan, say, is a 9.

Coming to this recognition does not mean that I am now disclaiming all commonality with my friends in the federal vision, even over against what many other believers in other traditions believe. Lutherans and Baptists both believe in the deity of Christ and in justification by faith alone—but Lutherans are still Lutherans all the way down. The same goes for Baptists. Baptists are Baptists all the way down. A federal vision advocate is FV all the way down. I am something else all the way down, and I believe that the terminology is getting in the way of making important distinctions.

So the views I hold to are a different kind of thing from what is represented in the common understanding of the federal vision, and the differences involved are connected to everything. They are a different kind of thing, not a lesser amount of the same thing. Thus when I speak of the objectivity of the covenant—which I will still continue to do—this is not a lite version of what someone else might mean by it.

Now I do not say this because I am angry or upset with anybody. I say it because I think I have learned something.

On Seeking Forgiveness

A great deal of the federal vision controversy was tangled and confused, and this certainly included many of those who were attacking the federal vision. But in retrospect, I have come to believe that there were also a number of critics of the federal vision who were truly insightful and saw the implications and trajectories of certain ideas better than I did at the time. I was wrong to treat all critics as though they were all more or less in the same boat.

There were insightful critics and there were bigoted ones, and I should have given the insightful critics more of a fair hearing than I did, and I should have used the behavior of the ignorant critics as less representative than I frequently did. I believe I was wrong in this also.

Not only were some critics insightful in their critiques, but they tended to be the ones who also were fair-minded about other things. Indeed, I think that those two things usually go together.

Because there was a general melee, in the middle of it I did not want to say or write anything that would be twisted and used against me or my friends. But even in the midst of everything, I did find some things on the federal vision side of things worrisome, and in the same way as did some of our critics. I know that I acknowledged this at times, but I should have done a better job of acknowledging it. I should have acknowledged it with great clarity, and I should have been louder. In short, I should have done more than I did to distinguish critics who sought to be responsible from irresponsible ones.

So that I do not float away into generalities here, some of the critics I have in mind who sought to be fair-minded would include men like Rick Phillips, Cal Beisner, and Richard Gaffin. I am sure there are others. In saying this I am not saying that (even now) I would agree with any or all of their criticisms—I am saying only that I did see a serious attempt at fair-mindedness.

I am trying to pinpoint where I need to seek forgiveness, and this is a distinct operation from simply changing sides, or turning coat. That is not what I am doing. So even while doing this, I want to continue to say that the insights of some critics were almost hopelessly obscured by rash accusations, bigoted political maneuvers within the church, and theological incompetence. I continue to believe that there were many instances where advocates of the federal vision were repeatedly and egregiously wronged in how they were treated. But it is not my job here to confess other people’s sins. My problem in this was that the incompetence on display on the other side provided a distracting way of muting the legitimate criticism.

My tendency in this was simply to circle the wagons, defending myself and defending my friends. I have come to believe that my robust defense up and down the line contributed to the group-think that was going on. I believed at the time that I was fighting group-think, fighting the high sectarians, but in doing this I believe that I actually helped to polarize the situation. I also now believe that that polarization happened in such a way as to have the political borders (lines on the map) not really match the natural borders (mountain ranges, rivers, etc.). Now here we are, a number of years later, and I have become acutely aware of the fact that the political borders are not the natural ones.

This problem was one I contributed to, and I am seeking to undo what I can. But in distinguishing myself from the federal vision, I am accusing no one of heresy. I am simply saying that certain views are not the same kind of thing as what I am seeking to teach. I am not trying to start a fight, but rather to own my portion of a fight that ought not to have gone on as it did. You could say (in my defense) that it is difficult, in the middle of a saloon brawl, to distinguish the motives of loyalty, manly principle, stubbornness, and cussedness. That it correct. It is difficult, but I still should have done a better job. I am responsible for not having done so, and thought I needed to say so publicly.

If someone is encouraged by this statement, but thinks that I need to be more specific about a particular incident or exchange, please feel free to contact me about it. When we look into it, at the end of the day I still may not agree, but I am wanting to state here my willingness in principle to agree.

Trajectories

We are a decade and a half downstream from the first federal vision explosion. Certain things have shaken out during that time, and incipient earlier differences have become very obvious differences. To take one example, Peter Leithart’s “end of Protestantism” project is going someplace where I am simply uninterested in going. Unlike some of his critics, I do not believe he is going to Rome, but I do believe it is a project, and it does have a destination. That destination is not mine. It is hard to reconcile his “end of Protestantism” project with my “Protestantism forever” approach.

In saying this, I trust everyone will recognize that I am talking about the destination of our respective theological projects in this life. I am not talking about Peter’s personal destination, which is the resurrection of the body, and complete glory, a destination we gladly share.

And to flip it around, my glad cheer-leading for the principled retrieval of historic, classical Protestant orthodoxy is not going where Peter is headed. We don’t need to hurl anathemas at one another over any of this—but neither do we need to be calling them by the same names. The hot persecution of Baptists by Anglicans was one sort of historical evil, one that afflicted another era. But calling different theological positions by the same name is an evil that is much more conducive to the fuzzy thought of our era, and nobody gets on very well. We are not all saying the same thing really.

What I Do Not Mean

This statement represents a change in what I will call what I believe. It does not represent any substantial shift or sea change in the content of what I believe. I was, am, and will remain a Westminster Puritan within an irenic river of historic Reformed orthodoxy. I am making this lexical shift for the sake of clarity and communication—defining more precisely what was already there. Good fences make good neighbors, and so do good nouns and adjectives.

This represents no change in my friendships or personal commitments, or denominational relationships. All my friends are still my friends. Although I am currently the presiding minister of the CREC, this statement is in no way a statement on behalf of that body of churches. What I am saying here represents my views only. I hope that it has a good effect elsewhere, but I am not speaking on behalf of anyone else.

I trust that a proper development of doctrinal precision can be matched by a corresponding zeal for doctrinal charity. Charity and clarity should not be at odds. They even rhyme.

I would still want affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement, but would also want to point out two things about that statement. First, it was a consensus document. I would now want to go further in some directions with that statement while other signatories would almost certainly want to go further in other directions. And that brings us to the second point. Some of those areas of divergence would be highlighted in the postscript to the statement, and the tension that exists there in that section does require some sort of resolution. I am attempting that resolution here.

In short, I believe the statement was fine as far as it went, but does not say everything that needs to be said. My proposal for a true resolution is to sign away all rights to the label federal vision. What I used to call oatmeal stout federal vision should now just be called federal vision. What I used to call amber ale federal vision should just be called . . . something else. I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Three Branches

I think it was Wolterstorff who observed that the Reformed tradition has three main branches—the pietistic, the confessional, and the Kuyperian. If forced to choose I would opt for the Kuyperian, but my real desire would be to work out a synthesis of all three. Within the Reformed stream, there are various “projects” under way, and I believe there is pretty much room for them all.

About the only one I would exclude would be all the variations on postmodern mush. In fact it is tragically ironic that Wolterstorff himself recently surrendered to the goo thought of pomosexuality. If you get the definitions of male and female wrong, there are precious few other categories that will remain intact after that.

But such relativism isn’t Reformed because relativism isn’t really anything. But among the believing options, I do not believe that we have exhausted all of them—in fact I am a firm believer in the Protestant ressourcement project under way in various places because I don’t believe we have even cataloged all the options that Reformed Christians have developed in the past.

So this does not mean piety gone to seed, as in moralistic pietism. Nor does it mean the kind of confessionalism intended by some, where they don’t believe you can possibly understand the Heidelberg unless you can read it in the original Arabic. Nor does it flinch and hold back where Kuyper himself did, advocating a secular state.

Names, Names, Names

What shall we call this endeavor? I don’t know yet, but I think continuing to use federal vision as a label for any part of what we are trying to do here is only confusing things.

So there it is, whatever you want to call it. Whatever this is, it is federal vision no mas.

158
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
32 Comment threads
126 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
50 Comment authors
Sean GeretyHugh McCannRichard ChelvanChristopher Caseyjillybean Recent comment authors

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

“Good fences make good neighbors, and so do good nouns and adjectives.”

One for the ages.

Jane
Member

Happy to see this. I think this is the right direction.

Joe Anderson
Guest
Joe Anderson

Pastor Wilson, I’m still not sure I hear a difference in where you and Leithart are headed in the long run regarding the end of Protestantism. I’ve read the blog posts and listened to the recordings… it sounds to me like both of you believe that one day, in the distant future perhaps, all branches of Christianity will be united and Protestantism (as well as the Roman church) will cease to exist as such. The difference I heard was Leithart thinks now is the time to start making serious efforts to unite and you don’t think it’s time yet (maybe… Read more »

Jane
Member

I think Leithart believes the movement has to come mostly from our direction, and Wilson is not willing to move far enough to meet them unless they move a lot more toward us. It’s not so much timing as drawing lines of where the meeting needs to be.

Joe Anderson
Guest
Joe Anderson

If Leithart is right that there is movement (repentance) necessary on our side, then it seems he’s correct that we should do that without delay… you can’t repent for the other guy. Regardless, I take issue with Doug’s statement that “Leithart’s ‘end of Protestantism’ project is going someplace where I am simply uninterested in going”. Is he really uninterested in moving toward unity? Or is all practical concerns… we can’t unite until they repent? If it’s the latter, then it sounds like they agree in principle on the long term aim.

Jane
Member

Of course what repentance needs to happen shouldn’t be delayed. But Leithart seems to think that the burden of repentance is all on our side, and once we’re done repenting we’ll be united, or very close to it. Wilson believes that once we’ve repented of everything we need to repent of, there will still be a great gulf that will exist until the other side does a whole lot of repenting of its own. Again, it’s not timing, it’s where the meeting point needs to be. Leithart seems to think that the core issues that divide us are small, and… Read more »

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

I believe that the place that Wilson is uninterested in going to is a new hybrid Catholic/Protestant denomination. His criticism of Leithart is that Leithart seems to be proposing something along the lines of: “We’ll end up with a mix of 60% of Protestant doctrine and 40% of Catholic doctrine while embracing 80% of Catholic liturgical practices. This will bring everyone together in one big happy family!” Wilson’s response was essentially: “No. That will simply create yet one more idiosyncratic Christian group – expanding, rather than contracting, the divisions in Christendom.” My guess is that the current post was the… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

“We’ll end up with a mix of 60% of Protestant doctrine and 40% of Catholic doctrine while embracing 80% of Catholic liturgical practices.”
That’s not even close to happening, though. You don’t see candles, incense, signs of the cross, etc. being done in even the most “liturgical” Presbyterian churches…as far as I know.

Jane
Member

No, but that’s where Leithart seems to be headed, and not a trajectory Doug wants to be on, imminent or not.

JP Stewart
Member

Nope.
https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/05/staying-put

If he (or his followers) aren’t even willing to go Anglican, their liturgy will never get close to Catholic/Orthodox/Anglo-Catholic. They won’t even look Lutheran.

Richard Chelvan
Guest
Richard Chelvan

Unless in Hollywood where all Christians are represented as sign-crossing, priest-embracing, liturgists. They are the legitimate representative of Christianity and the others are simply anti-intellectual, fundamentalist, faith-healing charlatans!

Jane
Member

Thank you, John. Much clearer than I was, but very much what I was trying to communicate.

Except the last paragraph — I don’t think that’s quite what’s going on here but it’s not that important a disagreement.

adad0
Member

Romans 14:1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Doug, in my own walk, I almost never go to these “theological neighborhoods”. A habit I actually learned from you and your dad. Theological adjectives and titles have their place, but The Word always speaks for itself, as the Word is pure. Here of course, I have to add my own descriptive, “Intellect is interesting, but Grace is amazing.” I have always thought that your dad exhibited about as much grace as I have ever seen a human being show. Your post here demonstrates similar grace,… Read more »

weisjohn
Guest
weisjohn

> in fact I am a firm believer in the Protestant ressourcement project under way in various places because I don’t believe we have even cataloged all the options that Reformed Christians have developed in the past

Could you speak as to who or what this looks like? The only thing that comes to mind would be the translation and discovering of Reformed works that are currently inaccessible in English, something that I think The Daveant Trust is doing, but I’m looking for some more clarity on what you mean.

Joey Wells
Guest
Joey Wells

Is there going to be a part two for this post? Some of us in the upper gallery were anxiously looking forward to finding out what late discovery resulted in the reclassification of the amber ale and the stout in different taxonomical cubby holes.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Website stats down? Just kidding. Like others, I’m unsure exactly how amber and stout FV have become so different that one is now a wine rather than a beer. I’m not convinced that there is an absolute chasm of difference between visions of Protestantism or even the regeneration stuff. And there is a lot more that is more in common that groups you together that is in the FV Statement. I’m thinking: Psalms Paedocommunion Theonomy Preterism/postmill Presupp apologetics Biblical symbolism Freedom to use Biblical language What should we call these commitments, perhaps divorced from the covenant objectivity question? It seems… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

What’s this “freedom to use Biblical language” thing?

Paul
Guest
Paul

Iirc, one of the points of the joint FV statement was about the difference between biblical and theological terminology. ‘Regeneration’ in scripture is not equivalent to its meaning in reformed soteriology. Similarly, the Bible unapologetically says ‘Baptism saves’, but reformed theologians do not normally speak in that way.

The point was to defend those who did want to speak using the biblical language from confessionalists who insisted on using only ‘confessional’ language.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Thanks! — So, how did those who “wanted” to speak a Biblian dialect get hushed? — I know they didn’t get staked & burned, but did they run the risk of getting kicked out of some confab or fellowship? (Like, I might call myself a preBiblian preterian, seeing all the necessaries except the actual coming & dying of the God-man as in place the moment Adam & Eve were confronted in the garden. The biblical language then was a later, superb but tangential development that certainly is … how does the Bible itself put it … USEFUL, but not necessary… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

re: your second paragraph – that’s a very specific view that I’m not familiar with and haven’t thought about. I’m not a pastor, and my church heritage isn’t the WCF so I really don’t know. As I’m just a spectator in all of this, my understanding is that some FV types were being criticised for using the language in its biblical meaning rather than it’s ‘systematic theology’ meaning. And so they were being labelled as people not holding to the Westminster standards and therefore attacked/undermined within the PCA. As I say – I’m on a different continent, in a very… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Good summary of the mechanics of the controversy. The content of the controversy almost didn’t matter to the TRs, but the mechanics of it certainly did. Failure to use certain terms in a strictly systematic way was all the leverage they needed to start dropping H-bombs and declaring people “not Reformed”. In terms of the content of the controversy, what we discovered was that even early Reformers were quite guilty of holding positions that TRs would denounce as heretical. It was comical when someone would post a quote that sounded Federal Visiony, and then ask, “who said this?”, and it… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

“relativism isn’t really anything” — but isn’t that also true of “Reformed”?

It’s like circumcision, or baptism — these are types, not the antitypes.

Drop anchor verbally into the solid rock of the thing.

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Well dang. After the first couple paragraphs I was whispering “credobaptist, credobaptist, come ON!!” till I read

Thus when I speak of the objectivity of the covenant—which I will still continue to do

Noah
Guest
Noah

Haha. That comment made me laugh out loud!

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Funny. I was like, “E…p…i…s…c…o…p…a…l … come on baby …, here we go!…” Until “oh no” :

“I was, am, and will remain a Westminster Puritan”

Ian Miller
Member

The two or three of us credobaptists in the comments continue to hold out hope ;)

trey
Member

Very well written and humbling, Doug. This is why I have tremendous respect for you and how you approach engaging people with whom you disagree.

Nate
Guest
Nate

Based on what I’ve read of your writings on the objectivity of covenant membership (vis-a-vis paedobaptism/paedofaith), may I humbly suggest “covenantal vision” as one possiblity for a term you could ascribe to yourself? It’s a label I would be comfortable adopting, personally, but I’m not as well-versed in all the ins and outs of the FV debate as you and most of your peers. I imagine that since the term “federal vision” is a significant stumbling block to many, so “covenantal vision” may be too similar to it for a lot of people’s comfort, but I also know that you… Read more »

Occidoxy
Guest

Call it The Feral Vision.

Robert Truelove
Guest
Robert Truelove

I think this is a positive move. May the next no mas be paedocommunion. :)

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

You’re taking this move as a retraction of something he formerly believed, but has now grown past?

Or are you thinking there’s just some added clarity on the good paedoism that you see he has but he needs to work through?

adad0
Member

I always wondered “how many sins your average baby had to confess” at communion? Especially when most babies can’t even talk! ????

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Isn’t the ceremony properly understood to refer to the sorrowful-yet-turned-to-joyful confession of ALL the baby’s sinful condition, now re-formed & restored into a thing of beauty? No talking needed. That’s why women should keep silent.

Victoria West
Guest
Victoria West

??

adad0
Member

Silence is under-rated,
……..
and Is often appropriate for both Genders!????

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

I take Paul’s injunction for silence 2 remind us that both men and women are the bride and are both to be awaiting the groom’s words and not coming up with our own religion

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Not sleeping through the night? Crying when they’re hungry? Wriggling during diaper changes? Who knows? I believe in original sin, but I have trouble with the whole vipers-in-diapers concept.

adad0
Member

Yeah, it takes us a while to ramp up to sins of commission!
I’m guessing I started my own active sin career at about age 3.

; – )

ashv
Guest
ashv

Let’s not forget Augustine… Was it a good thing for me to try, by struggling as hard as I could, to harm them for not obeying me, even when it would have done me harm to have been obeyed? Thus, the infant’s innocence lies in the weakness of his body and not in the infant mind. I have myself observed a baby to be jealous, though it could not speak; it was livid as it watched another infant at the breast.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Considering that the infant in the early stages doesn’t even appear to be capable of understanding the concept of other beings as entities distinct from itself, I think Augustine might have been speaking out of ignorance there. “Jealousy” surely isn’t the correct description when “I”, “you”, and “he” haven’t even been well-defined in the self yet.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think Augustine attributed unrealistically adult interpretations, the way I do to my cats when I assume they understand my motives and are judging me accordingly.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

I doubt cats hold humans to feline standards. They know it wouldn’t be fair.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Glad to know we have a wiser man among us in this humble comments section than one of the greatest fathers of the Church.

JP Stewart
Member

Greatest fathers of the church? Since we appear to be heading back to Reformed sectarianism, shouldn’t we reserve those titles for R.C Sproul and some of the Westminster professors?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

That’s an awful retort. So if anyone takes advantage of anything learned in the 1600 years since Augustine wrote, he’s calling himself wiser than Augustine? [T]he feebleness of infant limbs is innocent, not the infant’s mind. I have personally watched and studied a jealous baby. He could not yet speak and, pale with jealousy and bitterness, glared at his brother sharing his mother’s milk. Who is unaware of this fact of experience? Mothers and nurses claim to charm it away by their own private remedies. But it can hardly be innocence, when the source of milk is flowing richly and… Read more »

Bro. Steve
Guest
Bro. Steve

I’ve always been puzzled by my brethren that baptize infants and then refuse to share the Lord’s Supper with them. Ain’t no logic in that.

soylentg
Member

I know I’m late to this party, but taking paedo-baptism to its logical next step of paedo-communion, then at what age does paedo church discipline come into play. Personally I can’t see many maintaining their church membership through their terrible twos.

Jane
Member

Hmmmm….that seems to imply that excommunication is the appropriate way to deal with transitory selfishness and bad temper. Is it, really?

Christopher
Member

Douglas “late for dinner” Wilson? That doesn’t fit at all… :)

Giovanni Maresia
Member
Giovanni Maresia

A breath of fresh air. Well done. I pray this move may be liberating and fruitful.

JP Stewart
Member

Some of us have moved to greener pastures, but thank the FV for dealing honestly with what the Bible has to say about apostasy. I also appreciate the stronger view of the sacraments and at least a small nudge in a more liturgical direction. I could never go back to the tiny bickering Reformed world that believes 95% of relevant church history began in 1517.

Josiah Luke Spencer
Guest
Josiah Luke Spencer

Thank you for noticing that, too. Presbyterians think they know Church history. What they really know is post-Martin-Luther-nailing-theses-on-church-door history.

Jane
Member

I haven’t left, but I live in a little corner where some of the people may believe that, but it’s not the center of how they relate to the rest of the world. And the bickering is not a big deal, or I should say it is not a large feature of my experience.

But if I lived in a more typical part of the Reformed world, I think it would drive me out. And I’m glad it hasn’t — there is much I still value in Reformed thought.

Katecho
Member

mkt wrote: Some of us have moved to greener pastures, but thank the FV for dealing honestly with what the Bible has to say about apostasy. Well said. Very, very few outside treatments of the FV controversy properly identified it as a debate over the reality of apostasy and, therefore, the nature of covenant union. Most treatments misidentified it with the New Perspective, or as an attack on justification by faith, and never recovered any credibility from then on. The FV controversy exposed that many Reformed are, sadly, Reformed before they are Christian, in terms of their primary devotion to… Read more »

E. Calvin Beisner
Guest
E. Calvin Beisner

Doug, as you know I’ve stayed almost entirely out of FV discussions since about 2007–partly because my calling focuses my attention elsewhere, partly because I found them almost invariably fruitless. I’m glad to see this post, to which a friend alerted me. I would hope, though, that you would agree that not only Rick Phillips Dick Gaffin, and I “sought to be fair-minded” but also Chris Hutchinson, George Knight, Joey Pipa, Carl Robbins, Morton Smith, and Fowler White, all participants in the Knox-sponsored colloquium I led (with you and John Barach, Peter Leithart, Rich Lusk, Steve Schlissel, Tom Trouwborst, and… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Wilson may be ready to acknowledge, in Beisner, Waters and others, a certain desire to seriously guide the Church through controversy. That’s a generous olive branch to extend, but some of us remember some pretty shoddy analysis, false comparisons, and flat out mischaracterization on their part. Here is a link to the start of Wilson’s review of Guy Waters’ book, referenced above: https://dougwils.com/s16-theology/guy-waters.html My impression at the time was that both Beisner and Waters committed one mistake after another, and completely missed the central issues. Let’s just say that the words “evenhanded”, or “devastating critique” didn’t come to mind. In… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

I agree. I never read anything that was “devastating.” Waters’ work is particularly weak.

David Gray
Guest
David Gray

Waters? After hearing him interviewed by a pair of Baptists I wouldn’t touch Waters’ work with a ten foot pole.

Nicholas Barnes
Guest
Nicholas Barnes

As one who has left the Federal Vision fold and the CREC (while being in the midst of internship where the controversy started and while seeking a pastoral call), and now having to re-do my process in the PCA to be eligible for ordination, what specific areas do you find yourself not in agreement with in regards to the “Federal Vision” (ex: NPP, baptismal regeneration, Shepherdism, apostasy/perseverance, Interpretive Maximalism)?
Note: I think your later pieces on perseverance and Warfield’s “Plan of Salvation” made this move inevitable.

mikebull1
Member

Dear Doug, Based on the amount of qualification typed out (and required) over the years, this step makes sense. But both sides do make valid points, and these cannot be resolved as long as you gents keep attempting to claim Abrahamic promises in a post-Abrahamic world. There are no ‘degrees’ possible because a two legged stool will fall one way or the other (in this case, flesh or Spirit), but it can only fall. Until your covenant theology is reformed beyond the limited vision of the Reformers, your foundation inescapably sets you up for confusion. The respective projects/directions (which all… Read more »

Carson Spratt
Member

Or Jesus applied the covenant, as originally stated, to all nations. Unless you think that that bit was left unfulfilled for Abraham’s covenant?

mikebull1
Member

Thanks Carson. I believe the root of the problem lies in viewing Old Covenant history as linear, when in fact it was multi-layered. The Davidic Covenant was cut within the Mosaic, and the Mosaic within the Abrahamic, and the Abrahamic within the Noahic, and the Noah within the Adamic. All the previous Covenants continued to exist even after a new one was cut. This means that the Gentiles were still under the Noahic Covenant even though they were outside the Abrahamic. So everyone was always under some kind of Covenant. There was never any “binary” divide, only degrees. The New… Read more »

Andrew Lohr
Member

Idaho vision??

Chris Comis
Guest
Chris Comis

How about This-Ain’t-Yo-Daddy’s-Vision? This is the new vision . . . Douglas Vision????. Then again, maybe not.

Jack Brooks
Guest
Jack Brooks

Speaking as an EFCA theological examiner: It is my understanding that the Reformed movement has always believed in the objectivity of the covenant. The sharp disputes arise over what that means experientially in the life of a covenant child, and how the sacraments do, or do not, enact that objectivity. Westminster objectivity states the child is clean and inside the camp (i.e., a member of the congregation), due to the faith of at least one parent, and as such this exposes the child to the general ministrations of the Spirit (and regeneratively, in the case of elect children). Anglican objectivity… Read more »

Ben Carmack
Guest
Ben Carmack

Jack has put his finger on the heart of the FV controversy. A good way to understand Federal Vision is to understand that it tends toward Anglicanism or Lutheranism. Take a look at the sacramentology, ecclesiology and soteriology of FV, and you see the resemblance. Attend a worship service at an FV church and you definitely see the resemblance. The TR critics of FV were wrong to call it heresy, because Lutheranism and Anglicanism are not heresies. However, they are also distinct theological streams from the Reformed stream. The Westminster Directory of Public Worship was written in response to the… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

“Likewise, if your church teaches that salvation mongeristically happens through the sacraments, but that you can lose that salvation through unfaithfulness, you are in a Lutheran church, not a Presbyterian church.” Presbies have plenty of their own problems with this. Like most Evangelicals, they ignore or explain away the many warnings of apostasy. If you say one has to remain faithful to their church, take the sacraments, repent of their sins, etc., those are “works.” So what happens when someone has clear fruits and knows Reformed doctrines backward and forward…and still walks away from the church and refuses to repent?… Read more »

Ben Carmack
Guest
Ben Carmack

” Like most Evangelicals, they ignore or explain away the many warnings of apostasy.” The warnings are neither ignored nor explained away. Warnings are one of many ordinary means God uses to keep and preserve His elect. One can believe in the classic evangelical doctrine of regeneration (a once and for all transformation of a person’s nature from being a son of the Devil to a son of God) and traditional Calvinism and still take the warning passages seriously. Read more widely. “If you say one has to remain faithful to their church, take the sacraments, repent of their sins,… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

I appreciate the response, but I see no clear explanations. “Read more widely” doesn’t help, either. And comparing circumcision (and the type of crowd/issues Paul was dealing with) to New Covenant sacraments is problematic on several levels. Can you know that you’re in the eternal salvation camp? If so, do you ignore passages like 2 Peter 2:20-22, Heb 6:4-8, Heb 10:26-29, the parable of the sower, I Tim 4:1-3, II Peter 3:17, John 6:66 and I Cor 9:27? Should you avoid preaching these warnings altogether, as is usually the case in Reformed churches I’ve seen? Heb. 3:14 tells us “For… Read more »

Ben Carmack
Guest
Ben Carmack

If the Reformed churches you are in are not preaching the warning passages at all, that is a glaring pastoral error. The warning passages are there for a reason. They are there to be used in preaching, in counseling, and in teaching. The reason for the error, I would say, is the prevailing “Grace all the time” mentality in Reformed churches these days. This tends to be true in the PCA and even in Reformed Baptist circles. The notion is that you should never ever preach in such a way as to cause church members to doubt their salvation. Instead… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

I completely agree on the “justification, justification justification, grace, grace and more grace” part. I’m not sure if things like the Tullian Tchividjian situation will change that. I guess we’ll see.

I can say that the better FV/Anglican/Lutheran churches don’t downplay holiness and do teach that baptized/communing congregants can still go to hell.

Jack Brooks
Guest
Jack Brooks

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; not our baptism.

JP Stewart
Member

We’ve been buried with Jesus in our baptism (Col 2:12, Rom 6:4) and it’s part of our salvation (I Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Gal 3:27). Let’s use the language of Scripture instead of platitudes.

Jack Brooks
Guest
Jack Brooks

Spirit-baptism. Let’s define terms instead of projecting our works-righteousness into passages.

JP Stewart
Member

So Jesus is guilty of works-righteousness (John 3:5)?

Jack Brooks
Guest
Jack Brooks

I’m not Catholic, and neither was He. See Ezekiel 36:25.

NewChristendom
Guest
NewChristendom

I find it fascinating that, in the case of an apostate, both sides of the debate agree on the present state of his soul. It’s only on the past state – whether he was ever truly in any sense in the faith – that they differ on.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

“… has clear fruits and … still walks away”

Every person who walks away or never came near has had clear fruits.
You can’t be human without clear fruits.
Hitler had clear fruits.
Adam and Eve, and Judas Isc. had clear fruits.

JP Stewart
Member

Do they? Did Judas and Hitler walk away from comfortable careers to do hard ministry? Did they struggle and suffer for Christ instead of taking the easy route? I’ve seen this type of person apostasize.

Sure, Stalin gave his kids bread and I’m sure Idi Amin did a few nice things. But you’re making Jesus’ teaching worthless with that kind of statement.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Would you accuse Jesus of making his creation worthless because he threw it away on the likes of an Eve, who “took the easy route”?

JP Stewart
Member

Not going down this tangent with you. I stand by my point of people bearing fruits (not just a few nice acts that anyone does) and later turning away.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

And those nice acts — the ones that anyone does — those come from the devil?

john k
Guest
john k

Anglicanism has largely been taken over by Tractarian views of salvation and sacraments, but it was not always like that. The Prayer Book was understood by many in the past compatibly with Reformed thought. Check out the Gorham case. Look up J.C. Ryle, and those whom Ryle quotes.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

What rubbed off on me (and still sticks) from my Anglican days = that “objectivity” occurs in heaven, with consequences immediately rippling out like a shock wave. I know Doug has stubbornly persisted in trying to shame what he sees as the kind of airy-fairy, gnostic, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it, can’t-take-a-photo-of-it, up-in-the-clouds, sweet-by-n-by brand of objectivity that Anglicans have held. But he’s moving in that direction; which is why we love him. If a kiddo gets physically baptized, that’s good reason to suspect he was indeed dunked in the Spirit. If it turns out he falls away from his duty here, we may… Read more »

antexw
Member

Doug,
What additional distinctives beyond what you signed which (sometimes) now fall under ‘federal vision’ have resulted in motivating you to shift yourself away from being labeled as one belonging to ‘federal vision’ despite there still being no “substantial shift” from what you’ve believed/signed pertaining to ‘federal vision’?

Jack Brooks
Guest
Jack Brooks

Speaking of objectivity, I notice a phrase that repeats: “my friends.” How much objectivity about an idea, or set of ideas, is compromised, when concern for private friendships permeates the assessment process? My tribe likes this; I’d like to be loyal to my tribe; so this set of ideas is good. That tribe over there dislikes this; they are obnoxious and unjust, and are mean to my friends; their ideas are no good. But then a third tribe appears — the “critical but respected and respectful” tribe. Now I’m listening more closely to tribe #3. How much do personal/tribal relationships,… Read more »

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Wow. Conversations here are a lot different without 40 ACRES.

Jane
Member

It’s almost like we can actually have them.

Ian Miller
Member

Well, I blocked him, so I’ve been having them for a bit. But all the “User blocked” spots were sucking a lot of the air out of the room.

Jane
Member

As well as those inclined to respond to him. I’m not criticizing them for doing that, but it did suck a lot of the air out of the room when all these ridiculous side arguments would get started purely due to 40’s ridiculous propositions.

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Blocking doesn’t do a lot for me because about 95% of my time here is on my phone and even if the blocked messages are gone the replies are still there and I have to wade though them. And this does nothing to fix disqus’ big problem – if I save a comment URL or click on one of the most recent (also the most recent list should be variable size), it should highlight that particular comment and also have ALL comments in its thread above and below.

Ian Miller
Member

Disqus ain’t perfect, but I think it’s better than facebook comments. :)

Jane
Member

Now THAT’S a low bar.

Ian Miller
Member

What can I say. I’m really unimpressed with facebook comments, and disqus hasn’t proved too bad for me. :)

Jane
Member

That last sentence is my biggest beef with Disqus as well. It’s ridiculous how it doesn’t show you a full comment thread when you directly link to one of them.

JP Stewart
Member

Be careful what you ask for. Now we have Geralt of Rivia—some guy who took a break from Manga blogs to come here and try to win “the world’s most arrogant Reformed know-it-all” title.

NewChristendom
Guest
NewChristendom

I disagree about 40 Acres. I don’t agree with everything he says, and his propensity to reply with LOL or LMAO at times is annoying and unhelpful. But he’s been civil enough overall, and seems to be able to get along with several folks around here who clearly are not on his side. His style sometimes tends toward the rhetorical, believing, apparently, that dialectic is wasted on some people. And he obviously believes that debate is a man’s game, and is not afraid to give and receive hard blows, which is clearly too much for some of his interlocutors. But… Read more »

Jane
Member

“Those who block or report him reveal, to my mind, not so much that they are trying to maintain civil discourse, but that they require a safe space from the mere presence of ideas they simply cannot countenance.” Your assessment is wanting. Speaking for myself, I need no “safe space” from ideas I disagree with. I “countenance” ideas I disagree with all the time. I just believe that on a Christian page, the level of discourse should be Christian, not uncharitable, rude, falsely accusatory, and disrespectful of others. Not to mention heretical and at times blasphemous. Being “a man’s game”… Read more »

NewChristendom
Guest
NewChristendom

Fair enough. And maybe you’ve seen comments he’s made that are heretical and blasphemous (I have not seen such comments). But it seems we ought to be able to let a fair amount of uncharitable, rude, even falsely accusatory and disrespectful commentary roll off our backs, in the name of charity if nothing else, and especially if it’s mixed with real ideas and arguments (however offensive we may find them). I believe 40 Acres does present real ideas and arguments that are worth consideration, not dismissal, though you may disagree with that. He and ashv have made me stop and… Read more »

NewChristendom
Guest
NewChristendom

I also think there are apostles and prophets (not to mention Christ Himself) who would fail the “full of grace, seasoned with salt” test as defined by many today.

carandc
Member

“I have come to the conclusion that the phrase federal vision is itself a stumbling block that prevents far too many people from hearing what is being said, however many metaphorical adjectives I use.” I think you could recycle this exact wording only take out the term federal vision and replace with paleo-confederate. The word confederate is most definitely a stumbling block that prevents people from hearing what is said. I know you’re right in you’re nuanced explanations, but the word confederate is to today’s culture as a squirrel is to Up’s dog Dug. Your many salient points regarding American… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Since Wilson is not taking back anything in the joint FV Statement that he signed, it would seem to make more sense for the term Federal Vision to refer only to that consensus statement, and that it not become a “living label” for some new movement in a new direction. In other words, those who want to develop ideas in a new direction should be the ones to come up with a new label. This would keep those involved in stating and defending the original FV statement on the hook to continue to do so, or else explicitly amend their… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

“how many put their credibility on the line to defend the distinctives”
Yep, some lost jobs and their reputations.

Jerry Owen
Guest
Jerry Owen

Doug, are you apologizing for or retracting what you said about Cal Beisner’s and Guy Waters’ work, such as this: https://dougwils.com/s16-theology/last-post-on-waters.html?

Christian Histo
Guest
Christian Histo

I think FV sort of accomplished what it set out to do. Weekly communion is now the norm in new presbyterian churches. Art and poetry are now regularly a part of the Reformed world. Classical education is widespread.

I think that the Presbyterian backlash against it was somewhat reactionary. But with that being said, I think setting aside the term might be the right strategic move.

Jane
Member

From my perspective, the weekly communion thing wasn’t really a product of FV, though FV may have given it a good push. Three of the five Presbyterian churches I have been a part of (two PCA, one OPC) that have gone weekly over the past 25 years, all before FV was a known phenomenon. And actually, I’m out of touch with the other two, so I can’t say for certain either way. Same with classical ed — that was a growing movement before FV ever came along, and is pretty much separate from it, although again, the popularity of FV… Read more »

Stephen Anderson
Guest

Glad to here it. I have found myself in movements whose trajectory clearly indicated they were headed where I was not willing to go but disengaging can be a difficult and long process. May God bless and guide you into all truth.

Jane
Member

To the moderator:

Since you were willing to put up with the backhanded, disingenuous, barely within the bounds of civility insulting snark of 40 Acres, may I ask if “Geralt of Rivia’s” overt abuse and slander crosses the line of unacceptability to the point of banning?

In case it’s been overlooked:

https://dougwils.com/s16-theology/federal-vision-no-mas.html#comment-3105168117 (and following.)

Christopher
Member

Probably best to start by reporting his comments, he may leave if enough get deleted.

Jane
Member

Yes, I’ve done that. Time will tell. I was reporting plenty of 40 Acres for a while and that did nothing — he didn’t leave until he decided he’d had enough fun.

Jane
Member

Oops, spoke too soon. Comments have been deleted; it remains to be seen whether the whole GoR has been deleted. :-)

Christopher
Member

I think it’s only Doug moderating, and he doesn’t seem interested it policeing the ‘tamber’ of the comment section.

Hugh McCann
Guest
Hugh McCann

Why are there questions? You’ve been absolutely clear:

It does not represent any substantial shift or sea change in the content of what I believe…

This represents no change in my friendships or personal commitments, or denominational relationships…

I would still want [to] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement…

I believe the statement was fine as far as it went…

Sean Gerety
Guest