Brief rundown of FV theology?

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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
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.
Did you just come up with that? It's brilliant! I'm saving that quote!
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
No; I can't take credit except for the paraphrasing of Durham from the MS sermon of his I'm working on. You can see a lot of his thinking that would go into his treatise on Scandal in this sermon delivered before the Glasgow synod in 1652 as the protester resolutioner fiasco was beginning.
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.
Did you just come up with that? It's brilliant! I'm saving that quote!
I'll see if I can edit Durham enough to post his comment.
 

mvdm

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

Berkhof's and Vos's positions don't seem to be Schilder's either. Schilder nowhere distinguishes between the covenant as purely legal relationship and the covenant as communion of life. Kloosterman's detection of a legal/vital distinction in Schilder may be accurate, but Schilder himself never phrased it exactly that way (and certainly not in the way Berkhof or Vos did).
Thanks for locating this, Tyler! I had forgotten about this series answering the polemic launched against the Can RC. Here we see preserved at least some of the original source translation work upon which the differentiated covenant membership was posited:

In the section of Schilder's writings (his monograph, Looze Kalk) Kloosterman has in mind, Schilder writes (p.44), "To be sanctified in Christ means that by our participation in the covenant we are entitled (recht hebben) to the promises of justification by Christ's blood. When by faith the baptized person accepts the promise of being washed in Christ's blood, and thereby in fact receives justification, then this implies his being washed by Christ's Spirit --- his sanctification not 'in Christ' but 'through the Spirit.' And what we have 'in Christ' (by covenantal right, as promise; Dutch: naar verbondsrecht, in belofte) is therefore the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives (what our elders called regeneration, the resurrection of the new man, etc.), which must be seen as including our conversion in principle (principieele omzetting)."
Then Rev. DeJong continues with his own observation, citing a separate Schilder work:

Schilder makes an interesting distinction between "washing through Christ's blood" ("IN Christ") and the "washing through Christ's Spirit" (THROUGH the Spirit). In Schilder's mind, these two phrases from the Form for the Baptism of Infants mean different things, though his opponents alleged they were synonymous. The former, for Schilder, refers to the promise which belongs by right to every baptized child and the latter to the appropriation by faith of that which is promised, which only some enjoy.

In De Reformatie (18 [March 22, 1947] p.185) Schilder writes, "Participation in a promise is a right (Deelen in een belofte is een recht). He who bases himself on it . . . has a legally valid ground (een rechts-grondslag) for his 'assuming' and 'acting.' But participation in an active grace, a grace that is already active, is a fact (Maar deelen in een werkzame genade, een reeds werkende genade, dat is een feit). He who bases himself on it has a factual basis (een feitelijken grondslag) for his 'assuming' and 'acting.' The Synodicals jump from a sure and certain statement (stellige uitspraak) which creates a legally valid ground (een rechts-grondslag) to a presumptive fiction (onderstellende fictie), which only fantasizes a valid ground (een feitelijken grondslag)."
Would be interesting to see whether someone has undertaken a translation of the full work/article in De Reformatie cited by DeJong, as it looks to provide further elucidation of the distinction Schilder made.

Ad fontes!
 

TylerRay

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

Berkhof's and Vos's positions don't seem to be Schilder's either. Schilder nowhere distinguishes between the covenant as purely legal relationship and the covenant as communion of life. Kloosterman's detection of a legal/vital distinction in Schilder may be accurate, but Schilder himself never phrased it exactly that way (and certainly not in the way Berkhof or Vos did).
Thanks for locating this, Tyler! I had forgotten about this series answering the polemic launched against the Can RC. Here we see preserved at least some of the original source translation work upon which the differentiated covenant membership was posited:

In the section of Schilder's writings (his monograph, Looze Kalk) Kloosterman has in mind, Schilder writes (p.44), "To be sanctified in Christ means that by our participation in the covenant we are entitled (recht hebben) to the promises of justification by Christ's blood. When by faith the baptized person accepts the promise of being washed in Christ's blood, and thereby in fact receives justification, then this implies his being washed by Christ's Spirit --- his sanctification not 'in Christ' but 'through the Spirit.' And what we have 'in Christ' (by covenantal right, as promise; Dutch: naar verbondsrecht, in belofte) is therefore the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives (what our elders called regeneration, the resurrection of the new man, etc.), which must be seen as including our conversion in principle (principieele omzetting)."
Then Rev. DeJong continues with his own observation, citing a separate Schilder work:

Schilder makes an interesting distinction between "washing through Christ's blood" ("IN Christ") and the "washing through Christ's Spirit" (THROUGH the Spirit). In Schilder's mind, these two phrases from the Form for the Baptism of Infants mean different things, though his opponents alleged they were synonymous. The former, for Schilder, refers to the promise which belongs by right to every baptized child and the latter to the appropriation by faith of that which is promised, which only some enjoy.

In De Reformatie (18 [March 22, 1947] p.185) Schilder writes, "Participation in a promise is a right (Deelen in een belofte is een recht). He who bases himself on it . . . has a legally valid ground (een rechts-grondslag) for his 'assuming' and 'acting.' But participation in an active grace, a grace that is already active, is a fact (Maar deelen in een werkzame genade, een reeds werkende genade, dat is een feit). He who bases himself on it has a factual basis (een feitelijken grondslag) for his 'assuming' and 'acting.' The Synodicals jump from a sure and certain statement (stellige uitspraak) which creates a legally valid ground (een rechts-grondslag) to a presumptive fiction (onderstellende fictie), which only fantasizes a valid ground (een feitelijken grondslag)."
Would be interesting to see whether someone has undertaken a translation of the full work/article in De Reformatie cited by DeJong, as it looks to provide further elucidation of the distinction Schilder made.

Ad fontes!

Here's more
.

Whether Schilder laid the groundwork for the so-called federal vision movement is debatable. Schilder is somewhat of a hero to John Barach and Barach's talk at the Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference was very much in line with Schilder's emphases. In the end, I suspect that Barach's views owe more to Schilder's colleague, Benne Holwerda, and Schilder's disciple, Cornelis Trimp. I doubt that Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins know much about Schilder's covenantal theology. More significant figures in the evolution of FV would probably be: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Cornelius Van Til, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, twentieth century neo-Calvinist writers and perhaps on the periphery, John Nevin, Philip Schaff, Gordon Wenham, John Millbank, Rene Girard and a handful of others.

There are clearly areas where Schilder would disagree with FV thought. Neither Schilder nor any prominent figure in the Liberated theological tradition, so far as I know, holds to paedo-communion. Moreover, Schilder's eschatology, unlike the postmillennialism of prominent FV players, was remarkably pessimistic, almost defeatist -- as was the case for many who endured two world wars.

The FV view of the covenant of works and the invisible/visible church, though similar to Schilder's views, probably derives more from John Murray and Anthony Hoekema. The FV emphasis on the centrality of union with Christ as the matrix through which to understand aspects of salvation probably derives more from John Calvin, Richard Gaffin, Anthony Hoekema and Sinclair Ferguson. The FV liturgical emphases are informed by various Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican liturgists.

The name of Norman Shepherd has always been respected in Canadian Reformed circles. Shepherd studied at the Free University of Amsterdam (where he had prepared to write a doctoral dissertation on Zanchius) and is fluent in Dutch. His facility with Dutch gave him access to the theological literature of the Dutch Reformed and Shepherd became quite fond of S.G. De Graaf, in particular. I have a slight recollection of Shepherd telling me that his views on the covenant of works were derived in part from reading De Graaf's book on the Heidelberg Catechism, entitled, Het Ware Geloof. Shepherd prized the Liberated tradition of Schilder, Holwerda and company and was thrilled with the translation and publication of Kamphuis's An Everlasting Covenant.

When Shepherd was dismissed from Westminster Theological Seminary for political and not theological reasons, Jelle Faber wrote a series of editorials in Clarion lamenting this, defending Shepherd, but not uncritically. I suspect Shepherd's more recent books are not widely read in Canadian Reformed circles.

Though I respect Norman Shepherd a great deal, and cherish him as a Reformed father and a brother in Christ, I do demur from some of his positions. In my mind he tends to over-accentuate continuity between old and new covenants. I'm not convinced either by his arguments against the imputation of Christ's active obedience in justification. That said, I'm not entirely comfortable with the theology of many of his critics either. I share with Shepherd the conviction, on exegetical grounds, that Romans 4 is not about the imputation of Christ's righteousness. I agree with Shepherd that faith is the sole instrument of justification and that faith without works is dead. I find it deeply regrettable and irresponsible that his name is so cavalierly tarnished in segments of the Reformed community.

Dr. Cornelis Van Dam, who teaches Old Testament at the Theological College, recently wrote a blurb on the back of Shepherd's new book on justification. I suspect he shares my fondness for Shepherd; I also suspect that he shares my unwillingness to endorse everything Shepherd says.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
It is interesting to see the way that Schilder's thought and that of the FV folks complement one another in De Jong's view:

I was the first individual to go through the ordination process of the newly formed federation, then called, "The Uniting Reformed Churches in North America." I accepted a call from the Orthodox Reformed Church in Edmonton to help plant a church in Grande Prairie. Those were fabulous days, and I was happy to have Rev. Bill Pols mentor me. In my first year of ministry I wrote a monograph on the covenant which some found helpful. It was translated into a couple of languages, and eventually found its way into the hands of Scott Clark. Scott didn't care for it. It didn't help that in my preface I indicated that my understanding of the covenant was shaped largely by people like Klaas Schilder, Jelle Faber, Cornelius Vander Waal and Norman Shepherd.

One of the things I argued in that monograph was that Genesis 15:6 (quoted in Romans 4) does not refer to the imputation of Christ's righteousness. This is what Shepherd also taught, and Clark wasn't happy. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. To me, it was an unacceptable exegetical stretch to call this theological shorthand for "the imputation of Christ's righteousness." We must not impose our theological categories on the text of Scripture. To me, the text was simply saying that God reckoned Abraham as righteous through (and only through) his faith. This reading finds an elaborate defense in Dr. Gert Kwakkel's monograph, "De Gerechtigheid van Abram." Since Scott stumbled upon this paper, he hasn't thought too highly of me (which means, he has never thought too highly of me!!).

During my Grande Prairie days I was also introduced to the writings of James B. Jordan and they have revolutionized my thinking. I know of no one who knows the Bible better than Jim Jordan. My friend John Barach and I used to quip that Jim was either ON TO something or he was ON something, because some of his ideas sound outlandish initially. Jim was shaped by a lot of the same thinkers as I was (i.e., the Dutch redemptive-historical interpreters), and so his ideas resonated with me.

During my GP days I also stumbled upon the writings of N.T. Wright, and I read his column in "Bible Review" faithfully. Wright's book, "Jesus and the Victory of God" has radically altered my understanding of the New Testament. I didn't care too much for his book, "What Saint Paul Really Said" though I've found his later books on Paul much more palatable, if not helpful.

During these years a strong friendship was forged between John Barach, Tim Gallant and me --- someone apparently referred to us as Mid-America's Canadian triumvirate. We graduated in different years, but shared interests and a connection to Grande Prairie, AB. John and Tim are extraordinarily bright individuals. John's memory is photographic and Tim is brilliantly creative. There was once talk of some seminary in Mexico hiring John to teach. When it was pointed out that John didn't know Spanish, Bill Pols quipped, "That's no problem. He'll learn it on the plane on the way down."

John had become very enamored with the "Liberated" tradition in his second year at seminary. I remember him stumbling into class (he was not a morning person) saying, "I've experienced a major paradigm shift." Dr. Kloosterman taught John Dutch and soon enough John was throwing around words like "verbond" and "verkiezing." Since then John has read numerous Dutch books in the Liberated tradition and even translated a couple of them.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
The FV view of the covenant of works and the invisible/visible church, though similar to Schilder's views, probably derives more from John Murray and Anthony Hoekema.
Whether Schilder laid the groundwork for the so-called federal vision movement is debatable.
I doubt that Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins know much about Schilder's covenantal theology. More significant figures in the evolution of FV would probably be: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Cornelius Van Til, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, twentieth century neo-Calvinist writers and perhaps on the periphery, John Nevin, Philip Schaff, Gordon Wenham, John Millbank, Rene Girard and a handful of others.
Yes, very interesting, Tyler.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
He views some of the FV folks (Barach and Shepherd) as being directly influenced by Schilder and other "Liberated" theologians, whereas he doesn't see the other FV folks as having been influenced by them directly (albeit indirectly through shepherd), but they all end up emphasizing the same things, regardless of their influences.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't see John Milbank as being an influence on FV. Sure, Leithart did his D.Phil under Milbank, but that was more on social theory (Yes, it was on baptism but it wasn't the same views that get FV people in trouble). Wilson openly despises Milbank
 
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