Wilson and Fesko

Dr. Fesko’s critique interacts mostly with Jim Jordan, Rich Lusk, and Ralph Smith. In his critique, he frequently misses the point being made by these men, although I also believe he raises some legitimate questions. But when he comes to summarize his concerns, he does so in a way that expands his critique to include others, including me.

Dr. Fesko says this: “The evidence has demonstrated that the federal vision does not merely represent one variant of reformed theology but an entirely different system of doctrine. They deny the primary authority of Scripture in theology, the covenant of works, the adversarial nature of death, the ability of man to obey the command in the garden, the traditional distinction of the active and passive obedience of Christ, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, the historic understanding of the work of Christ, and the traditional definition of faith. What is troubling is that proponents of the federal vision claim they are building upon the historic reformed faith. One writer, for example, states that ‘we do understand ourselves to be in the middle of the mainstream of historic Reformed orthodoxy.”

Note the referece to the “federal vision” as a whole in the first sentence, the words “they deny” that begin the second sentence, the catalog of doctrinal problems that follow, and then his quotation of my essay on union with Christ in The Auburn Avenue Theology. He is guilty at this point of what can only be described as extraordinary sloppiness. Let me run through his catalog of our deficiencies to show what I mean. In my responses I am speaking only for myself, although I believe many of the same responses would apply also to other federal vision types. Moreover, my responses on these points are very much part of the public record of this controversy.

Dr. Fesko says:

1. They deny the primary authority of Scripture in theology. But I affirm it, stoutly.

2. They deny the covenant of works. If you mean a covenant of obedience, I affirm it. But if you mean a covenant of autonomous merit, I deny it. There is likely a true disagreement here.

3. They deny the adversarial nature of death. But I affirm that death is an enemy, an adversary, and that this is necessarily so.

4. They deny the ability of man to obey the command in the garden. I affirm the ability of man to have obeyed God in the garden. And had he obeyed, he would have thanked God for His gracious preservation.

5. They deny the traditional distinction of the active and passive obedience of Christ. I affirm the traditional distinction between the active and passive obedience of Christ.

6. They deny the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. Turns out that I affirm it. Like Machen said, no hope without it.

7. They deny the historic understanding of the work of Christ. I affirm it. Me and Leon Morris are fishing buddies.

8. They deny the traditional definition of faith. I affirm the traditional definition of faith, which rests upon Christ alone as He is offered in the gospel.

This is an accuracy rate that is (at its highest, depending on how the covenant of works discussion goes) around twelve percent. And then Dr. Fesko quotes me as defending this collage of misrepresentations as being in the middle of the Reformed mainstream. This is more than embarrassing. If Dr. Fesko wants the OPC study commission to be received with anything other than a horse laugh, he needs to take far better care in gathering his facts. This is such a striking misrepresentation, that I would like to take this opportunity to call upon Dr. Fesko, who is a godly Christian gentleman, to retract that portion of his paper, and to apologize for it.

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