Calvinist International, FV, and Doug Wilson

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Delahunt

Puritan Board Freshman
Steven Wedgeworth at The Calvinist International has just completed a six-part in-depth historical study on the theological trajectories of FV and its various adherents, including and especially focusing upon Doug Wilson. It is well worth reading - I found his analysis of Doug Wilson to be helpful. Interestingly, Doug Wilson also spoke approvingly of Wedgeworth's work on Twitter. I would be curious to hear if anyone here at PB would disagree with Wedgeworth in terms of his findings or (more likely) analysis. Here are links:

1. https://calvinistinternational.com/...-of-the-federal-vision-after-all-these-years/
2. https://calvinistinternational.com/2019/11/18/a-federal-vision-history/
3. https://calvinistinternational.com/2019/12/19/beginning-to-explain-theology-federal-vision/
4. https://calvinistinternational.com/2020/01/03/douglas-wilson-and-justification/
5. https://calvinistinternational.com/...dings-of-salvation-held-together-by-one-name/
6. https://calvinistinternational.com/2020/01/13/the-federal-vision-a-systematic-critique/
 

Delahunt

Puritan Board Freshman
Can you give me a very short summary? Does Wedgeworth find that Wilson is as bad as his detractors say he is?
Hi Sean,
My understanding of the articles is that Steven Wedgeworth seems to understand that there are indeed two trajectories of FV as FV Dark and FV Light. Many of the guys who have dangerous justification views are FV Dark, whereas Wilson is FV Light. It seems that Wilson holds to traditional views on justification, although he has often employed language that is not helpful given the FV controversy even though it may be historically orthodox. In addition, Wedgeworth says that personal friendships and doctrinal inconsistency mark Wilson and his works (especially about 20 years ago - 2001-2004), so that there is some question marks raised that can only be answered by reading the entirety of the Wilson corpus (not a quick feat).

In sum, when Wilson bade farewell to FV while still holding his own views, it only makes sense by realizing that there are indeed multiple trajectories within FV (which Wilson did state in his descriptors of FV oatmeal stout and FV amber ale).

I think that when one does look at Wilson's views as Wedgeworth describes them (and based upon my reading so far in the Auburn Avenue Chronicles put together by Wilson), his views on justification do fall within the bounds of orthodoxy, unlike many of the FV Dark theologians.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Sean,
My understanding of the articles is that Steven Wedgeworth seems to understand that there are indeed two trajectories of FV as FV Dark and FV Light. Many of the guys who have dangerous justification views are FV Dark, whereas Wilson is FV Light. It seems that Wilson holds to traditional views on justification, although he has often employed language that is not helpful given the FV controversy even though it may be historically orthodox. In addition, Wedgeworth says that personal friendships and doctrinal inconsistency mark Wilson and his works (especially about 20 years ago - 2001-2004), so that there is some question marks raised that can only be answered by reading the entirety of the Wilson corpus (not a quick feat).

In sum, when Wilson bade farewell to FV while still holding his own views, it only makes sense by realizing that there are indeed multiple trajectories within FV (which Wilson did state in his descriptors of FV oatmeal stout and FV amber ale).

I think that when one does look at Wilson's views as Wedgeworth describes them (and based upon my reading so far in the Auburn Avenue Chronicles put together by Wilson), his views on justification do fall within the bounds of orthodoxy, unlike many of the FV Dark theologians.
Wonderful summary. Thank you! (I do intend to read the articles, I just didn't have the time yet.)
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
I've always appreciated the care, even-handedness, and clarity of his writing. (He's now in the PCA, co-pastoring a church in Vancouver with Mark Jones.)
 

Delahunt

Puritan Board Freshman
Wonderful summary. Thank you! (I do intend to read the articles, I just didn't have the time yet.)
Thanks, glad it was a helpful summary!

I've always appreciated the care, even-handedness, and clarity of his writing. (He's now in the PCA, co-pastoring a church in Vancouver with Mark Jones.)
Yes, I started reading him a few years back - I have enjoyed his work, as well as all the writers at TCI.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
I would be curious to hear if anyone here at PB would disagree with Wedgeworth in terms of his findings or (more likely) analysis.
I found Wedgeworth to be fair and dispassionate. It was refreshing to read someone interacting with this matter with a measure of objectivity.
 
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RWD

Puritan Board Sophomore

“We affirm that there is only one true Church, and that this Church can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of visible and invisible.”

This is one of the most troubling statements of the FV. (Taken from joint statement.)

The statement communicates that there is only one church, which can be described in terms of its being visible and invisible. The implication of such a construct is that the invisible church and the visible church are the same church. From that false premise comes much confusion and outright error. To make the point more clearly, consider the following modification of the statement:

We affirm that there is only one true God, and that this God can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of transcendence and immanence.​

The modified statement, which uses the same construct of the FV statement, clearly communicates that the one transcendent God is the same God as the immanent God. That is true. Transcendence and immanence are simply two aspects of the one God. Is the FV statement true in this way? Is the visible church the same church as the invisible church? The FV statement clearly implies that they are one and the same; for it states that there is “only one true Church” that can be described in various ways, like visible and invisible. How can they claim such a theology and also claim to be Reformed? In contrast to FV theology, now consider Reformed theology:

“The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all…The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”​

Note the difference. Within Reformed theology the invisible and visible churches are not the same church. The invisible church consists of the elect who will all possess Christ, whereas the visible church consists of those who profess Christ (and their children). On that basis alone, the FV may not be considered “Reformed” in any sense of the word. The FV is comprised of a bunch of muddled thinking men.

The Federal Vision blurs the visible-invisible church distinction, collapses soteriology into ecclesiology, and has a faulty view of the one Covenant of Grace. Accordingly, they imagine that through water baptism one is united to the very life of Christ. Consequently, if one who was baptized with water were to deny the faith, he would in Federal Vision terms truly fall from grace and lose the life he had in Christ.

Regarding assurance:

Federal Vision theology does affirm that all who have been justified will be glorified. Notwithstanding, how can one who has been justified be assured of his final state of salvation, glorification, if he can in fact fall from grace and lose the life in Christ he supposedly had? It is no wonder that assurance of salvation in the Federal Vision is limited only to the objective truth that those God has justified will be glorified. Federal Vision theology makes no room for personal, subjective assurance of one’s final salvation; indeed how can it if one can truly fall from grace and lose his life in Christ that is alleged to be given to all in the church?

The Federal Vision is correct that the “the decretally elect cannot apostatize”. But by blurring the visible-invisible church distinction and attributing a former life in Christ to those who outwardly deny the faith, the truly justified that will one day prove themselves elected unto glory is left no place to ground his assurance of his justification. After all, both those elected unto glory and those who deny the faith allegedly share in the same life in Christ and consequently must have the same grounds for assurance of perseverance, which becomes no grounds at all since some with life will not persevere.

Federal Vision proponents would do well to learn that the Covenant of Grace was established only with Christ as the Second Adam and in Him, with the elect. Consequently, the promises the covenant contemplates are restricted to the same, the elect – the invisible church, which comes from a systematic theology the Federal Vision abhors.

Any system of theology that would make such claims and create such confusion for God's people is abhorrent, but the teachers of the Federal Vision are not in my estimation so much to be abhorred but simply regarded for what they are, dunces. Note well, I would never use such language to describe those who are walking in the ways of the Federal Vision or even standing in the way. It is only the ones who have taken a seat in order to teach Federal Vision do I consider dunces. After all, it is they who have studied hard and still haven't a clue about the doctrines of church, salvation and covenant. For that they are to sit in the corner in shame.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I only read the last one so far. Wedgeworth does seem to have moved a bit from his FV sympathizing before. However, I do not agree with everything he says about the FV light position.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I only read the last one so far. Wedgeworth does seem to have moved a bit from his FV sympathizing before. However, I do not agree with everything he says about the FV light position.
True. His reading of Richard Muller helped him realize that FV--even the "light" Wilsonites--have no knowledge of historic Reformed theology. I'm willing to concede that Wilson sometimes says orthodox things. Why doesn't he have a trusted NAPARC body examine him then?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Hi Sean,
My understanding of the articles is that Steven Wedgeworth seems to understand that there are indeed two trajectories of FV as FV Dark and FV Light. Many of the guys who have dangerous justification views are FV Dark, whereas Wilson is FV Light. It seems that Wilson holds to traditional views on justification, although he has often employed language that is not helpful given the FV controversy even though it may be historically orthodox. In addition, Wedgeworth says that personal friendships and doctrinal inconsistency mark Wilson and his works (especially about 20 years ago - 2001-2004), so that there is some question marks raised that can only be answered by reading the entirety of the Wilson corpus (not a quick feat).

In sum, when Wilson bade farewell to FV while still holding his own views, it only makes sense by realizing that there are indeed multiple trajectories within FV (which Wilson did state in his descriptors of FV oatmeal stout and FV amber ale).

I think that when one does look at Wilson's views as Wedgeworth describes them (and based upon my reading so far in the Auburn Avenue Chronicles put together by Wilson), his views on justification do fall within the bounds of orthodoxy, unlike many of the FV Dark theologians.

Wilson writes:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity, but, of course, faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness. Faith, by definition, is not faithless, but rather faithful. Faith is invisible to the human eye, but faith’s constant companion—faithfulness—is not invisible. Nevertheless, it is faith that receives the promises, overthrows kingdoms, and stops the mouths of lions." (RINE, 186)

Sounds pretty confused to me.

He claims to believe in justification by faith alone, then seems to sneak in good works at times while we are not looking.

I am not sure there are Dark and Light varieties of FV as much as there are more or less sneaky apologists for it who have learned to speak out of both sides of their mouth.
 
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SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Wilson writes:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity, but, of course, faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness. Faith, by definition, is not faithless, but rather faithful. Faith is invisible to the human eye, but faith’s constant companion—faithfulness—is not invisible. Nevertheless, it is faith that receives the promises, overthrows kingdoms, and stops the mouths of lions." (RINE, 186)

Sounds pretty confused to me.

He claims to believe in justification by faith alone, then seems to sneak in good works at times while we are not looking.

I am not sure there are Dark and Light varieties of FV as much as there are more or less sneaky apologists for it who have learned to speak out of both sides of their mouth.
What's confused about it? Sounds like James 2, "Faith without works is dead". What am I missing?
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Wilson writes:

"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity, but, of course, faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness. Faith, by definition, is not faithless, but rather faithful. Faith is invisible to the human eye, but faith’s constant companion—faithfulness—is not invisible. Nevertheless, it is faith that receives the promises, overthrows kingdoms, and stops the mouths of lions." (RINE, 186)

Sounds pretty confused to me.

He claims to believe in justification by faith alone, then seems to sneak in good works at times while we are not looking.

I am not sure there are Dark and Light varieties of FV as much as there are more or less sneaky apologists for it who have learned to speak out of both sides of their mouth.
What's confused about it? Sounds like James 2, "Faith without works is dead". What am I missing?
I am not defending Wilson or the Federal Vision here, but what Wilson says in this particular quote, unless I am missing some nuance somewhere, seems to be rather in line with what my (and his) Confession says:

These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

—Westminster Confession of Faith, XVI.ii.​

And Berkhof says this:

There can be no doubt about the necessity of good works properly understood. They cannot be regarded as necessary to merit salvation, nor as a means to retain a hold on salvation, nor even as the only way along which to proceed to eternal glory, for children enter salvation without having done any good works. The Bible does not teach that no one can be saved apart from good works. At the same time good works necessarily follow from the union of believers with Christ. [...] The necessity of good works must be maintained..."

—Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1938), 543.​

Again, I am not defending Doug Wilson's entire theology; I am just looking at the quote posted above in isolation.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Is he saying that the only faith that justifies is a faith that works, or is he saying that saving faith will necessarily produce works? Or are those two things any different?

This is a very difficult thing for me to grasp. Because, on the one hand, we as Reformed rightly profess that it is faith and faith alone that is the instrument of justification. Yet, as the WCF and Berkhof say above, good works are necessary. (Of course, as Berkhof noted, "necessary" must be understood properly, but good works are nonetheless necessary.) It seems that anyone who emphasizes the former is often labeled an antinomian, while anyone who emphasizes the latter is labeled a neonomian. So, honestly, I am unsure how even to read and understand critiques of Wilson.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Is he saying that the only faith that justifies is a faith that works, or is he saying that saving faith will necessarily produce works? Or are those two things any different?

This is a very difficult thing for me to grasp. Because, on the one hand, we as Reformed rightly profess that it is faith and faith alone that is the instrument of justification. Yet, as the WCF and Berkhof say above, good works are necessary. (Of course, as Berkhof noted, "necessary" must be understood properly, but good works are nonetheless necessary.) It seems that anyone who emphasizes the former is often labeled an antinomian, while anyone who emphasizes the latter is labeled a neonomian. So, honestly, I am unsure how even to read and understand critiques of Wilson.
He is full of rhetorical tricks. I believe the fundamental way he communicates has been dishonest in the past, often with smug tongue-in-cheek responses and different messages for different audiences. Maybe I have already written him off as untrustworthy some time ago, but his Yea is not Yea, nor his Nay a Nay.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Sounds pretty confused to me.

He claims to believe in justification by faith alone, then seems to sneak in good works at times while we are not looking.
It sounds to me like what is confessed with complete agreement in the Westminster, Savoy, and Baptist confessions of faith:

Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; (Rom. 3:28) yet it is not alone in the person justified, but ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. (Gal. 5:6; James 2:17, 22, 26). — Confession of Faith, XI. 2.

 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
"Wilson denies that simply believing in Jesus’ promise of everlasting life (or believing that we are justified through faith apart from works) is the sole condition for having everlasting life. You also need works because they are essential to the nature of saving faith. This puts Wilson in the absurd position of saying that two people can believe in Jesus for justification, but with two different kinds of faith. The one who has faith plus works is justified, while the one who has faith without works is not justified. Wilson apparently doesn’t think it is blatantly self-contradictory to say that we need works in order to be justified by faith apart from works."
https://faithalone.org/journal-arti...h-recovering-the-objectivity-of-the-covenant/
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
"I have argued that promises are apprehended by faith, not faithfulness or fidelity, but, of course, faith in the biblical sense is inseparable from faithfulness. Faith, by definition, is not faithless, but rather faithful. Faith is invisible to the human eye, but faith’s constant companion—faithfulness—is not invisible. Nevertheless, it is faith that receives the promises, overthrows kingdoms, and stops the mouths of lions." (RINE, 186)
Faith, and Wilson means justifying faith (WLC 72-73), in the biblical and theological sense, is distinguishable from faithfulness and must be distinguished. "Inseparable" is not the right category. Distinguishable is.

Then Wilson says, "faith, by definition, is ...faithful," and here he conflates faith and being faithful, which is to say that he equates faith with being faithful. They are not to be equated.

Faith (consisting of knowledge, assent, and trust, WLC 72) is utterly extraspective: it looks away from all that we are, have, and do and rests only on "Christ and his righteousness" (WLC 72).

WLC 73 makes it all clear: Faith stands in an alone position with respect to our justification, distinguished both from "those other graces which do always accompany it" (repentance, e.g.), and from "good works that are the fruits of it." The good works that are the inevitable fruits of justifying faith are no proper part of justifying faith itself. Again, WLC 72-73 is there to make these distinctions clear. And they are necessary distinctions, without which one does not have our doctrine of JBFA properly.

I could say more about this (I've written about it in a number of places, some of which have been cited on the PB previously). The point is this: Wilson continues here to obfuscate when it comes to justifying faith by introducing either the accompanying graces of justifying faith or the fruits of justifying faith (or both) into the essential definition of justifying faith. He does so in a way that compromises the alone character of justifying faith and must be resisted.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Faith, and Wilson means justifying faith (WLC 72-73), in the biblical and theological sense, is distinguishable from faithfulness and must be distinguished. "Inseparable" is not the right category. Distinguishable is.

Then Wilson says, "faith, by definition, is ...faithful," and here he conflates faith and being faithful, which is to say that he equates faith with being faithful. They are not to be equated.

Faith (consisting of knowledge, assent, and trust, WLC 72) is utterly extraspective: it looks away from all that we are, have, and do and rests only on "Christ and his righteousness" (WLC 72).

WLC 73 makes it all clear: Faith stands in an alone position with respect to our justification, distinguished both from "those other graces which do always accompany it" (repentance, e.g.), and from "good works that are the fruits of it." The good works that are the inevitable fruits of justifying faith are no proper part of justifying faith itself. Again, WLC 72-73 is there to make these distinctions clear. And they are necessary distinctions, without which one does not have our doctrine of JBFA properly.

I could say more about this (I've written about it in a number of places, some of which have been cited on the PB previously). The point is this: Wilson continues here to obfuscate when it comes to justifying faith by introducing either the accompanying graces of justifying faith or the fruits of justifying faith (or both) into the essential definition of justifying faith. He does so in a way that compromises the alone character of justifying faith and must be resisted.

Peace,
Alan
Thank you for stating that much better than I could.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
"Wilson denies that simply believing in Jesus’ promise of everlasting life (or believing that we are justified through faith apart from works) is the sole condition for having everlasting life. You also need works because they are essential to the nature of saving faith. This puts Wilson in the absurd position of saying that two people can believe in Jesus for justification, but with two different kinds of faith. The one who has faith plus works is justified, while the one who has faith without works is not justified. Wilson apparently doesn’t think it is blatantly self-contradictory to say that we need works in order to be justified by faith apart from works."
https://faithalone.org/journal-arti...h-recovering-the-objectivity-of-the-covenant/
The quote you cite here is from a gentlman responding to what Wilson says on page 48 of Reformed Is Not Enough. Wilson states...

“Faith is the only instrument God uses in our justification. But when God has done this wonderful work, the faithful instrument does not shrivel up and die. It continues to love God and obey Him. If it does not, but just lies there like a corpse, then we have good reason to believe that it was lying there like a corpse some days before—not being therefore an instrument of justification. Faith without works is a dead faith, and a dead faith never justified anybody.”

I have two questions for you, @Pergamum, Do you actually disagree with what Wilson says here? And if so, what is the nature of your disagreement?

I believe the gentleman you've quoted is the one in error if he honestly thinks what Wilson says here is a denial of justification by faith alone.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The quote you cite here is from a gentlman responding to what Wilson says on page 48 of Reformed Is Not Enough. Wilson states...

“Faith is the only instrument God uses in our justification. But when God has done this wonderful work, the faithful instrument does not shrivel up and die. It continues to love God and obey Him. If it does not, but just lies there like a corpse, then we have good reason to believe that it was lying there like a corpse some days before—not being therefore an instrument of justification. Faith without works is a dead faith, and a dead faith never justified anybody.”

I have two questions for you, @Pergamum, Do you actually disagree with what Wilson says here? And if so, what is the nature of your disagreement?

I believe the gentleman you've quoted is the one in error if he honestly thinks what Wilson says here is a denial of justification by faith alone.
The ambiguity of the statement is that Wilson has faith (qua) instrument doing something. Faith does work, but not as an instrument.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
The ambiguity of the statement is that Wilson has faith (qua) instrument doing something. Faith does work, but not as an instrument.
That seems to contradict the Confession of Faith which declares "Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification" (WCF 11:2). Perhaps you could clarify.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The quote you cite here is from a gentlman responding to what Wilson says on page 48 of Reformed Is Not Enough. Wilson states...

“Faith is the only instrument God uses in our justification. But when God has done this wonderful work, the faithful instrument does not shrivel up and die. It continues to love God and obey Him. If it does not, but just lies there like a corpse, then we have good reason to believe that it was lying there like a corpse some days before—not being therefore an instrument of justification. Faith without works is a dead faith, and a dead faith never justified anybody.”

I have two questions for you, @Pergamum, Do you actually disagree with what Wilson says here? And if so, what is the nature of your disagreement?

I believe the gentleman you've quoted is the one in error if he honestly thinks what Wilson says here is a denial of justification by faith alone.
Douglas Wilson and the Book of James are not saying the same thing here. James says Faith without works is dead (i.e. a false false, no faith at all), Wilson is saying faith plus works saves.
 
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