Brief rundown of FV theology?

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

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  1. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    My reason for referencing Van Til was that in the quote that I provided he justifies Shepherd's doctrine of justification by saying that Shepherd knows Dutch, and that American Presbyterians do not understand Dutch theology. If Shepherd claims that his doctrine of justification is rooted in Schilder's covenant theology, it's no stretch to infer that Van Til thinks that Shepherd gets Schilder right.
  2. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    You seem determined to distract from my point, so I will say this one time and leave it here: this does not disprove the fact that Schilder (in the Dutch) makes a "legal/vital" distinction with respect to covenant membership.
  3. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'm sorry--I really don't mean to distract from your point. I only meant to point out that Van Til felt that Shepherd's view of Justification (and thus the FV view of justification) was well rooted in a certain strand of Dutch theology, which Shepherd and the FV claim is Schilder's.

    I'll say no more about it. Schilder's own distinctions are certainly worth looking into. I don't have an ax to grind with Schilder--I just wanted to point out a part of the link between Schilder and the FV.
  4. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Mark, you made the claim that Schilder makes the distinction between legal and vital. You have not provided one single source to back that up. Since YOU made the claim, I do not have to prove your claim false. You have to prove it true. Show me the source. Your prevarication on this issue suggests to me rather strongly that you don't even have a source that proves this point.
  5. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    and Amen!!!
  6. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Lane, I’ve come back here to see you’ve headed down your usual path. I debated whether to respond, but your charging me with prevarication necessitates a response. So let’s look back. When I told you to do your homework, I was hoping you’d be reminded of Dr. Kloosterman’s paper entitled “For the Sake of Accuracy” that translated from the Dutch evidence of Schilder’s legal/vital distinction.

    “For the Sake of Accuracy” was posted in a thread here on the Puritanboard back in 2009.

    That thread was started by, and that paper was posted by, none other than…….. Lane Keister.

    In that thread, you indicated you hadn’t read the Schilder material cited in the Kloosterman piece, but without giving any reason, stated you still weren’t convinced by the paper’s evidence.

    So back then, I asked you:

    You never answered.

    Then, literate-in-Dutch Rev. Wes Bredenhof of the Can RC chimed in the thread:

    If that was not evidence enough, Rev. Bredenhof has since published his own book on the FV, in which he defends Schilder against the misappropriation by the FV folks. You can find it at the Reformed Fellowship publishing site. I’ve also spoken to another Dutch fluent pastor familiar with Schilder who would agree with Bredenhof’s conclusion.

    I understand your reliance on a certain illiterate-in-Dutch partisan polemicist who sought to damage closer URC/CanRC relations, but you might consider a better approach is rather than ceding Schilder to the FV, you could argue against their misappropriation, leaving them hanging out to dry even further than they already are.

    So while I might be tempted to say it is you who prevaricates when you peddle the line that there is no proof Schilder made a legal/vital distinction- even when you had known otherwise- I’ll prefer to just chalk it up to faulty memory.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  7. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Several points. 1. Your derogative slur of "your usual path" is quite unnecessary, and rather insulting. Kindly refrain from such condescending remarks in future. 2. The link to Kloosterman's piece is no longer active. I have spent about an hour trying to find it somewhere (including wayback machine website), but no such luck (my emails with Kloosterman also no longer exist). If you know of a place where it exists online, I will be happy to read it again. 3. I did not post the Kloosterman essay, nor did I start the thread. It was started and posted by Dearly Bought. So, what do you mean when you say that "That thread was started by, and that paper was posted by, none other than…….. Lane Keister." Are you trying to use this as a knock-out punch? If so, your punch went rather wide. 4. The conversation between Scott Clark and Bredenhof was, unfortunately, never finished. The points from Clark's reading of KS's "The Main Points of the Doctrine of the Covenant" were not answered by Bredenhof, in my view. The last post in the series seems to be one of clarification, rather than debate.
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Schilder's theses on the church are available in English. I have not seen the translation brought into question and therefore accept them as I read them. Therein I read that the visible-invisible church distinction is not valid. I cannot say what that means in the Dutch confessional heritage, but I know the rejection of this important distinction in the Scots Presbyterian heritage would require a revised understanding of federal theology. The so-called "FV" is one example of a group which reworks the doctrine of the church in this systematic fashion.
  9. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Take a deep breath, brother. You brought up several sidebar points, but you really didn't address the main indisputable point: that there are in fact Dutch trained sources who posit evidence that Schilder makes a 'legal/vital" distinction/ differentiates covenant membership.

    Is that really so hard for you to acknowledge?
  10. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    While I am not convinced of Schilder's reasoning for rejecting the terms "visible/invisible", his description of legal/vital ends up substantively landing in the same place, with 2 different ways of relating to the covenant of grace. The FV ran with Schilder's rejection of the terms "visible/invisible" to support an undifferentiated relationship to the covenant, but left out Schilder's alternative of "legal/vital."
  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Mark, you regard your factual errors as "sidebar points?" Furthermore, they are not sidebar points. I am trying to get hold of Kloosterman's sources, which surely is the central point, is it not? I had read the article before, and was not convinced by his arguments, by the way. Just because Kloosterman can read Dutch and I can't doesn't mean he is correct. You ask me to acknowledge something I haven't seen yet, while you are unwilling to acknowledge factual errors in your post. This method of argumentation does not commend your position very well.
  12. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Lane, no problem. It is plain that I misread who started the thread and posted the piece. Sorry about that. My eyes saw your avatar as the first entry, when it was the second.

    But back to the main point, is also plain that you participated in the thread, read the "For the Sake of Accuracy" piece, and read Bredenhof's assessment of it.

    Now, to be VERY clear to you one last time: I'm not asking you to acknowledge the *accuracy* of their assessment, but to acknowledge that such Dutch- literate assessments of Schilder ACTUALLY DO EXIST. You leveling the charge of prevarication was on the question of their existence.

    That you still won't acknowledge the plain fact that there exist Dutch-literate theologians who've read Schilder and posit he maintains a "legal/vital" distinction does not commend your method as very rational, brother.
  13. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    And your seemingly deliberate misreading of my claim seems to prove to me that you are not reading me very carefully at all. I was never making a claim that no one thought Schilder made the distinction. I was claiming that I wasn't convinced that Schilder himself actually made such a distinction, and that I had not seen a convincing argument so far that was based on original sources. I greatly respect Bredenhof, but his conclusions do not match what I remember of Always Obedient. What I have seen of Kloosterman's arguments are a bit piece-meal. That is to say that the stuff he has was atomistic, to the best of my recollection. With regard to the phrase "Alles of niets," Bredenhof made a counter-claim, but one that had no original source support. So you, Bredenhof, and Kloosterman argue that Schilder is not properly read as a forerunner of the FV on covenantal membership. I have always understood this, Mark, contrary to your assertion. I never claimed otherwise. Clark has provided original source material (in English, but not a contested translation, from what I currently understand), which I also have read, that seriously undermines the collective arguments of you, Bredenhof, and Kloosterman. It might be helpful for you to provide an analysis of "The Main Points" that I linked to above, and argue why Schilder's formulations do not undermine a differentiated covenantal membership.

    In my book, decoupling covenant from election (which Schilder obviously, emphatically, and unarguably does in the piece) is enough in and of itself to prove the point. If the substance of the covenant is not made with the elect, then it is alles of niets. Everyone participates equally in the covenant. This is no different from what the FV claims. If you claim that Schilder says that people can be "vitally" connected with the covenant, presumably referring to the elect, those who have been regenerated, then you have reintroduced election as the substance of the covenant, something Schilder categorically REFUSED to do.
  14. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior


  15. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    A little over my head at the present time.
  16. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    In thinking this through last night, a "third option" presented itself to me. Here are the options as I see them: 1. On the issue of covenantal membership (and that ONLY), Schilder's formulations anticipate the FV's formulations; 2. Schilder's views do not anticipate the FV's views, or 3. Schilder himself was confused on the topic. For the sake of argument, if Schilder makes a distinction between legal and vital ways of belonging to the covenant, that would not be in harmony with his rejection of election as the substance of the covenant of grace. The third option is the more possible because so many people find his statements difficult to understand and confusing. His Dutch is apparently exceedingly difficult to read. I still hold to the first option, but I am willing to consider the third. The second option is not possible in my mind at the moment, because of his statements in the piece about the main points of the covenant.
  17. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Could be I have as much difficulty reading you as most folks do reading Schilder.

    At least now I see you *clearly* acknowledge that there are Dutch-literate sources who've read Schilder and posit he has makes a "legal/vital" distinction, which of course would run contrary to any blanket claim that he nowhere differentiates covenant membership. Yes, confusion or inconsistency on his part based on his other writings is certainly an option.

    But another option for a responsible theologian is that with so much of his work untranslated, it would be wise to tread more cautiously in making blanket claims on the man's work and its relation to some contemporary errors.
  18. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    That people claim a legal/vital distinction does not prove that Schilder held to it. You seem to be making the leap (in the bolded words)from what scholars say to what the original source says. This is not a legitimate leap. Secondary sources are divided on the question. I have Clark and Gleason on my side. You have Bredenhof and Kloosterman on your side. Secondary sources will not solve the issue.

    My claim is that you have not produced an original source to prove your point. I have an original source in translation.

    Then there's your word "responsible." Do you always argue with slurs towards your debating partner? Or are you going to accuse Clark, Gleason and me of being irresponsible theologians?
  19. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Ahem: Kloosterman was translating an original source. It is just one a piece of evidence to take into account when reading the original source you are pointing to.

    Can you produce Gleason's translation of an original source refuting Kloosterman's translation work?

    I made no "slur" about your overall responsibility as a theologian. But that you take personal umbrage at the suggestion that it would be responsible to further study the largest portion of a man's body of work before coming to blanket conclusions-- well that doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it? Just today you thought of another "option" to consider. That was responsible thinking. Then work should move forward to explore it further.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    This exchange seems exceedingly odd to me. Is it not possible to produce anything that accurately translates an original source so the issue can be discerned by those who possess the capacity to read?

    People disagree about Owen's Covenant theology (even when he writes in English!) but the issue isn't solved by simply making the injunction: some who read Owen insist he believes that the Mosaic is not an administration of the CoG, therefore it is wrong to contend that he actually believed the opposite!

    Is your only point in this argument to note that some who read Dutch believe Schilder held to a "legal/vital" distinction? Does that settle anything of value in understanding how he might have been handled?

    I might add that demonstrating that Schilder himself held to this distinction may not let him off the hook as a progenitor of a strain of thought. If his writing is obscurely or poorly worded in such a way to lead people in directions he may not have intended then there is replete evidence in history to see how disciples of some men took their thought in ways they might have not intended. Have we not witnessed, even in this thread, that some have taken Van Til's apologetic antithesis in a dogmatic direction he may have never intended? Has it not also been argued that Murray's dislike of the term "Covenant of Works" may have led his disciples into odd conclusions?
  21. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I can accept there are two different confessional heritages and Schilder was dealing with intramural issues which were not directly relevant to English-speaking Presbyterian churches. Perhaps he would have been better served if his works remained in Dutch for the Dutch. But when we have his teaching espoused in Presbyterian circles we are obliged to come to some decision as to the validity of his concerns so far as they affect the Presbyterian confessional heritage. From that standpoint I find his rejection of the visible-invisible church distinction to be detrimental. Whether he taught a legal-vital distinction I am not in any place to judge, but I am in a place to know that such a distinction in and of itself does not alleviate the effects of denying the visible-invisible distinction.
  22. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    You and me both.

    Pretty much! As I worded it previously:

    Does it "settle it"? No, I've said that it is one piece of evidence that must be taken into account. It contradicts a certain party line that it is "settled" that Schilder posited there is NO DIFFERENTIATED relationship to covenant--which is what makes him a "pillar" of the FV. I'm pleading for the fact that much evidence remains unaddressed/untranslated, yet some want to bypass the arrest, the arraignment, the trial, and proceed to sentencing.

    May be true. But it may not be a fair assessment either. And yes, subsequent followers of a line of thought can take things in directions unintended. Should we automatically blame the forbear for the subsequent generations twisting of a line of thought? Not sure there is a single theologian in history whose work has been without some error that hasn't subsequently been abused. I'd at least like us to take the care necessary in light of counter evidence to assess whether the attribution is fair or not.
  23. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Mark, if this post is true, and you have never been intending to prove what Schilder's views are, but rather to prove what some people think about Schilder, then don't you think words like "canard" and "smear" that you have used in the past are, perhaps, overstated? In order to prove that Clark and I have "smeared" Schilder with this "canard" (surely an accusation of a Ninth Commandment violation!), you would have to do much more than prove that certain people disagree with us. If the issue is not settled, as you just said it was not settled, then you CANNOT claim that we are necessarily wrong.

    Secondly, Matthew Winzer and I have now both promulgated the argument about election being severed from covenant. In my opinion, this is the strongest argument in favor of my position. Let me restate it: if covenant and election are severed, then everyone is equally in the covenant of grace. If you reintroduce a "legal/vital" distinction, then you have reintroduced election back into the covenant, something which Schilder categorically refused to do. This is based on demonstrable original sources. Do you intend to answer this argument or not?
  24. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Lane, I will try one last time. I will use caps to highlight it for you (not shouting or talking down). It is indisputable that there is PRIMARY SOURCE EVIDENCE OF SCHILDER'S VIEWS that runs contrary to line that it is "settled" he held to no differentiation in covenant membership, hence making him a "pillar" of the FV, and by association, casts the same suspicion on the covenant theology of Can RC.


    Bingo. So here you admit that the legal/vital distinction would be a piece of conflicting evidence, bringing election and covenant back together. Perhaps Schilder was inconsistent or confusing (options you considered). Or maybe he developed his thought over time. Does that give one pause to think further investigation/study is warranted before making categorical conclusions? You say "no". I say "yes".

    I doubt I can make my argument any clearer to you. It may be the limitation of electronic communication. If you want to continue the discussion via private message or give me a tel. call, fine by me. I suspect we've reached the limit of the readers' patience.
  25. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Mark, I think it is indeed fruitless to continue this discussion. The original sources you point to are either non-existent at the moment, due to faulty links, or they are things I have read in the past or the near past, and are not convincing to me that they say what you claim they say. They are too atomistic. The only contiguous original source I have seen points in my direction, a fact you seem completely unwilling to acknowledge. You don't even seem willing to acknowledge that Schilder separates covenant from election.

    I was only willing to say "for the sake of argument, suppose that the legal/vital" distinction exists (nowhere in the original sources I have seen so far does Schilder use this language, and you are unwilling/incapable of providing any original source material here). If (and only a hypothetical if) this distinction existed in Schilder, it contradicted his separation of election from covenant.

    One last point: if Schilder was confusing in his own pronouncements, then that actually favors my position, because the FV would not be misreading him then. This point of commonality at least is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt: Schilder and the FV both separate covenant from election. Neither are willing to say that the covenant of grace is made with the elect. I would argue that, functionally, this is my point. If you wish to respond to this, fine, but I am done.
  26. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

  27. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I don't think it is at all "unfair" if a man writes in a manner which can tend to mislead, to point out that people who read him might develop a whole theology on the basis of their misunderstanding of him.

    Yes, theologians are misunderstood but one can also trace a line of theology to them. Many Lutherans (and even some former PCA like Tullian) read Luther's early works and come to some antinomian convictions that the later Luther might have corrected but it cannot be claimed that those who read Luther have no basis in Luther for their faulty views.

    I used the term "exceedingly odd" and I'll continue to use it regarding your position. It is apparently *NOT CLEAR* that Schilder held to a view different than many attribute to him because the only people (according to you) who have access to understand the "real Schilder" are those who are good at reading Dutch and who have access to a source that cannot be readily produced. Thus, what is available for those who wish to appeal to Schilder for their views on theology are the very things that would lead them astray since they only have access to the part of his theology that formed a pillar in their theology. Schilder may be shocked in glory that people ran with things he wrote but what he can't deny is that he wrote them.

    Incidentally, this is exactly the reason I don't think it is ever wise for pastors or teachers to communicate in ways that confuse the issue. I think the Gospel ministry requires that we be painfully clear and, all too often, we see men being "cute" or using terms like "incarnational" or "missional" instead of communicating plainly. Perhaps Schilder ought not to be used as a pillar for an aberrant theology but, if so, let it be a warning to teachers everywhere that they too may be held accountable for those who come to faulty theological conclusions because they thought that it was better to communicate in ways that could be interpreted correctly but they didn't think it was necessary to be absolutely clear.
  28. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Excellent point. To a pastor, it matters little whether his flock went astray because he was in error, or because he was unclear.
  29. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Better to not defend a truth at all than do so unprofitably; wait for a more useful time. I think there's an attitude which this social media age feeds rather than corrects, that all that matters is that its a truth; nevermind if harm is done rather than good.
  30. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I found this assessment of Kloosterman's article by a CanRC pastor interesting.

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