Brief rundown of FV theology?

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by Jeremy Ivens, Jan 2, 2016.

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  1. Jeremy Ivens

    Jeremy Ivens Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi there. I am not a fan of FV nor do I hate it. I don't understand it. Would somebody give just a basic rundown of what it is so I at least know that?
  2. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    This is the formal PCA position paper that came out several years ago. Parts 2 and 3 are 34 and 14 pages. I guess by brief you mean less than 48 pages, but this will give you a good summary if you skim it.

    I was in a PCA church at the time and we had a dear friend who was into it, but left to join the staff at another PCA. Our pastor actually held a congregational meeting to address FV which is when I figured out that it really mattered and wasn't just another Reformed argument on a non essential matter. So if I were you I would consider this report worth reading, although I am sure other people here can sum it up in much shorter fashion for you.

    I think it is great that you are asking this by the way.

    I want to add that if anybody tries to pass it off to you as true repentance bears the fruit of obedience, and we need to obey, and pulls out Spurgeon or somebody on good works in the Christian life, making it sound like the FV critics are antinomian hyper Calvinists ( do you know what I mean by that?), they are misinformed or lying. It isn't the same as the Reformed view of needing to obey God. It is genuine error. I urge you to read the PCA paper.
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    Please click on the link below my Signature to see how to create a proper signature.

    It's hard to briefly describe the FV problems. The report by Lynnie is very good at outlining many of the problems. One has to have a certain level of apprehension of the Reformed system of doctrine to detect the nuances of the overarching problem.

    I think the main problems with FV theology is not maintaining the appropriate distinction between the invisible and visible Church. There are evangelical graces that belong to the sovereign operation of the Holy Spirit. The Church's work is ministerial in declaring the Gospel and the Promises of God for believers and administering the Sacraments, which also hold forth Christ and His benefits to those who believe. Union with Christ is not something that is conferred by the Church and her ministry. The ministry of the Church is to hold forth those things upon which men and women can believe upon but we leave it to the operation of the Spirit to bring men from death to life.

    Federal Vision theology tends to downplay this distinction and sees in the membership of the local body a type of union with Christ. Union with Christ is a kind of Covenantal participation. As far as men and women and boys and girls have not visibly rebelled against the visible Covenant they are in the New Covenant and are in union with Christ as the mediator of that Covenant. They maintain union with Christ by their faithfulness to the Covenant. Baptism and the Lord's Supper really do confer evangelical graces by the administration of those sacraments as opposed to the Reformed understanding that they are sacramentally related but that the evangelical graces only "belong" to the elect as the Holy Spirit confers those graces.

    I personally think that a lot of FV theology can also be boiled down to the idea that good parenting is a kind of sacrament in their theology. Good parenting yields good, faithful children and the reason for apostasy is fundamentally traced to the faithfulness of parents to either parent according to faithful means or to fail to do so. While I certainly do not want to downplay the importance of good parenting as a means that God uses in the salvation of people, the FV thends to hyper-intensify that relationship such that the family is seen as federally under the male head and evangelical graces flowing from the fidelity of the father to his husbanding and parenting.
  4. Jeremy Ivens

    Jeremy Ivens Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks! I will read it. Yes I know what you mean by antinomian hyper-calvinism
  5. Jeremy Ivens

    Jeremy Ivens Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks! I have a sig now. Sorry about that.
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Others will point to theological problems. I think I can point to some "on-the-ground" problems and issues (in no particular order).

    1. You cannot separate Doug Wilson from FV. I know he has softened his take but at the end of the day, he is the FV and he is the CREC.
    2. Does the FV view of the covenant lead to the sexual abuse/authority scandals? Probably not, but it's funny how that keeps popping up.
    3. FV guys are big on wanting "Catholicity," but if you read their blogs and books they are writing to their own people (which is 1% of 1% of 1% of American Evangelicalism) or they are ridiculing evangelicals. Granted, the latter are usually silly but there are a lot of them and some are quite smart.
    4. They have--often by their own admission--zero knowledge of Reformed theology.
  7. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    It's also important to keep FV separate from the New Perspective on Paul. They overlap at points but the NPP developed earlier than and independent of FV. And we don't have evidence from Jim Jordan's earlier writings (Sociology of Reconstruction that he is reading Wright, Dunn, and Sanders.
  9. Doulos 2

    Doulos 2 Puritan Board Freshman

  10. johnny

    johnny Puritan Board Sophomore

    Federal Vision is subtle,

    And many of those who hold to FV don't outright call themselves FV.
    It also tends to attract the inteligensia, (they are no dummies)

    When I asked about FV on this board I was told to look for Paedo Communion.
    It's a sure sign that something is going on, (and it was)
    We have left our church at Christmas because of FV.
    But they don't call themselves FV'ists so watch out.

    Like I said, it can be very subtle.
  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The Federal Vision is Roman Catholicism with a (thin) veneer of Reformed terms (redefined) laid over the top of it. They are Calvinistic with regard to the elect, and Arminian with regard to the non-elect. In the FV, baptism unites a person to Christ, which person then has all the benefits of salvation except perseverance, but all of these benefits are enjoyed in a non-decretally elect way by the non-elect, and in a persevering way by the elect. Some are willing to posit a qualitative difference between the elect and the non-elect (Doug Wilson). Others seriously fudge or erase that distinction (Peter Leithart). I believe the basic error of the FV is the desire to have their faith in something that they can see: baptism. It is a baby-driven theology. What is confusing about the FV is that they use a lot of the terms we use, but fill them with different meaning. As Rich points out, they do indeed erase the distinction between the visible and the invisible church, but I wouldn't put that as the basic error. Their theology of baptism is the basic error, stemming from the quest for illegitimate religious certainty that Scott Clark talks about. Most of the FV are paedo-communion, but not all PC advocates are FV, although they tend to be very soft on FV theologians.
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    It's good to hear from you (even if it's virtual). I agree that their fundamental error isn't, per se, the erasing of the visible/invisible Church distinction and I agree that there is an illegitimate quest for certainty in their theology. They will appeal to texts like Ephesians where Paul is using the first person singular pronoun and conclude that this means that when Paul writes things in Ephesians 1-2 about "us" or "we" that everyone addressed is, in some sense, a partaker of that reality.

    This observation is going to make some people angry but I've noticed over the years that there is a certain "profile" to people who are attracted to FV theology. It's sort of the profile of the people who packed up and moved to remote areas during Y2K waiting for the lights to go out while all the unprepared starved to death.

    There's an organic relationship between "obsessive reconstructionism" and FV theology because "Dad the family priest" takes such center stage in all this theology. It's not by accident that so much is written about how men are the heads of the home and like Christ to their wife and kids and that, should they raise them in the fear of the Lord, they will not depart from it. I don't think it's so much of a theology focused on babies but on the illegitimate use of wisdom literature to create a formula for faithfulness. If Dad gets the family into the correct Church and worldview and life then they will all maintain their fidelity to the Covenant. I think the Sacraments then have to fit, in their understanding, to match this conviction of Covenant succession. It cannot be the case that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the election of children in one sense because that would mean that Dad, the family priest, could do everything the Proverbs tell him to do with respect to training his child in the fear and the admonition of the Lord and the child may, in fact, depart from the faith. The "working of the works" begins with the proper training of the child - making sure he knows that he's got to obey the Covenant and have a proper worldview while the Sacraments are initiatory into this work that Dad and the Church are at work to perfect in the child.

    The Puritans were head, heart, and hand Christians. They had their dogmatic and Biblical theology solidly worked out with God being the Creator and us being the creature. Westminsterian theology has a strong element of the heart and hands because it recognizes the fact that we are creatures and can live by the things revealed even though the theology of God in Himself and His decree is hidden from us. The FV are quasi-head, heart, and hands. They want to borrow and steal from elements of Puritanism while abandoning the theological distinctions that properly ground its activity. It has the veneer of being Reformed but only insofar as it can borrow from it while maintaining its desire to ground Dad the family priest's activity into something certain.

  13. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Whenever this question comes up, I like to point to the very suggestive analyses provided years ago by T.E. Wilder. I wouldn't back everything to the hilt (he's more of a lumper, I think, where I'm more of a splitter), but some of his propositions can be rather illuminating when it comes to figuring out why this particular congeries of positions are held together.

    What is at the heart of FV?

    Why do the FV claim to be confessional?

    How deep do the problems run?

    Where does the family emphasis fit in?

    Why was FV popular?!?p=268704#post268704

    How does liturgy fit in?
    (Also don't miss the concise remark by Matthew Winzer:

    What are its sources?

    What is the goal?

    What's the solution?
  14. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior


    Jacob, if you haven't listened to this lecture by D.A. Carson, on the New Perspective on Paul, you should give it a listen. On youtube but audio only.

  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I listened to it a while back and am in general agreement with Carson. My point was not to lump FV into the same group with NPP.
  16. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Maybe I've missed that you've posted this in the past but that was a great summary.

    Reading those old threads made me wistful for all the people that are no longer active here. :(
  17. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I know the feeling! I wonder from time to time how some of them are.
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Yeah, me too. tewilder, DTK, JohnV, Civbert, Theroretical, just to name a few.

    It was interesting to read some of those old threads after 8 years of more theological study and some of the points that tewilder made were much more understandable. I didn't agree with everything he wrote but he did make some very keen observations about where we are in Reformed theology. I found, especially, his notion about postmodern approaches to the Confessions to be very insightful as it has been a special concern of mine for a few years now.
  19. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I assumed that you guys were all still friends on facebook. (I don't participate, so I wouldn't know.) I was just reflecting the other day on how beneficial PB has been to my own, and many others' sanctification. Not just in knowledge which puffeth up, but in real charity which edifieth.

    Thank you, Rich, for putting up with us all these years.
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I'm friends with CivBert on Facebook.
  21. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Yes, I think for instance that some of the historical details could probably be disputed, but I found his analysis a stimulatingly different critique of the FV. It's always interesting to me to see how different filters can fit the same data. Of course, I should also have linked to the epic post where he pointed out that James Jordan's theology was eerily parallel to another Jordan's Wheel of Time....

    While the Confessions are dehistoricized from the Reformation and Protestant Scholastic contexts in which they arose, it seems people will be able to say they subscribe because of ad hoc agreement with the words, even when they are at odds with its tenor and scope. Simplicity and immutability are one area where that sometimes seems to happen.
  22. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Please do; I would like to revisit that; I couldn't find it searching.
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I would dispute that. I thought of writing a Philosophy in the Wheel of Time book. For all of his faults, James Jordan holds to a linear view of time with an eye towards eschatological maturation. Robert Jordan is very against that (at least in the books). Every book begins by denying there is the beginning and the end, but only a beginning.
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You can pin that on a wall to describe the way the Confessions are handled at times.

    My very first Presbytery meeting I broke the "gentlemen's rule" in not talking during my first Presbytery meeting as a new Elder a number of years ago. A candidate for ministry was being examined who held to Paedocommunion and he presented a paper on why he believed in PC. A good number of the TE's and RE's had the opinion that "...he explained why he believes this so why are we pulling him through a knothole on this issue...?" The problem was that his paper was contradictory to our Standards. At one point the candidate even stated that he could read the Confessions in such a way that he agreed with the words of the Confession (even though propositionally they contradicted his own view). That was, again, good enough for enough men present that he was approved for ordination by about 66% of the Elders in attendance. It's not just the FV that are treating our Confessions with a "reader response" theory. The sad irony is that I imagine that more Elders would be constructionists with respect to our U.S. Constitution (and be up in arms about the way the Supreme Court rules) than there are Elders who treat our Church's constitution in the same manner.
  25. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Chris, I think that must be on a thread that got moderated and so is no longer searchable. I'll bring the comment to your attention if I come across it, but I'm probably out of time to hunt for it any longer.

    Jacob, just based on my memory of the comment, it wasn't about the philosophy of time, nor would that have been the suggested point of contact. As I recall (and without having read Robert Jordan), it was about the idea that Adam should have fought to defend Eve from the serpent, and might well have died doing so. You could have a derivation that paralleled a number of points but didn't necessarily agree on an important point (for instance, how David Lindsay showed C.S. Lewis how to do the Space Trilogy).

    For the record, I'm not endorsing everything tewilder said. The older threads themselves contain corrections that were offered to him on multiple points, some of which were quite valid.
  26. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    Hi Jeremy,

    Here are some resources:

    1. PCA Report
    2.The URCNA Report on the FV
    3. OPC Report
    4. URC's Nine Points Contra FV
    5. Audio: Explaining the Nine Points
    6. Library: FV Articles
    7. Audio Echo Zoe Interview
    8. RCUS Report
    9. Baptism and the Benefits of Christ
    10. Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace
    More resources on the FV

    Hope this helps.

  27. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I don't think I totally agree with this. While Wilson is the popular FV guy for folks outside of the FV camp, inside of the camp they pretty much take their cues from James Jordan. Of course, no one will say that--he doesn't hold a special office or anything. But it is indisputable that he is the Godfather of the Federal Vision.
  28. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The origins of the FV are more complicated than James Jordan, as important as he is. You have to throw in there Klaas Schilder, Norman Shepherd (who was scheduled to speak at the 2002 Auburn Avenue Conference), and Peter Leithart. Those four together form the origin of the FV.
  29. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    It is true that Jordan is the ultimate brains behind the operation, but Wilson is the personality. And few other FV guys have Wilson's linguistic skill and connections with mainstream evangelicals. Take Wilson completely out of the picture and in 10 years the CREC becomes a different operation.
  30. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    The colloquium at the URC Synod 2014 between Canadian Reformed seminary professors and Mid-America professor Dr. Cornelis Venema laid this canard to rest.
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