First interaction with FV

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Logan

Puritan Board Junior
I had my first real experience with Federal Vision this last week. I've been on a work trip to Grand Junction, CO and it appeared the only "reformed" options in the area were a CRC church (which I understand can have some good congregations) and a CREC church.

Being wary of CREC, I did a bit of research and it seemed like there was a good bit of variance within the "denomination". Looking through this church's website I noticed they did sing some psalms and claimed to subscribe to the WCF and Larger and Shorter catechisms. So it sounded possibly promising.

I did meet with the pastor on a day I had off and we talked about some things. He's a young guy that came out of the PCA, largely it seems because he didn't find a lot of theological acumen within the denomination but also issues related to family. Things were passable until this last Sunday when his sermon was preached on "perseverance of the saints", and in which he urged members of the congregation to persevere, lest they fall away completely (as a friend of his) and be cut off from the covenant, with absolutely no mention of God's keeping or preserving. It sounded exactly like an Arminian sermon. They also practice paedo-communion, which the more I think about the more concerned about it I get. He attended Rich Lusk's church in Alabama for a while and looks up to him.

I guess my question is if there are any good works on FV or good ways to approach talking with this pastor? I won't be in town for another Sunday but didn't want to leave with the impression that I approved of everything that was taught, or thought it was consistent with reformed theology.

But the only real facts I've been able to pick up about FV theology is that it's not consistent from person to person and any time someone tries to define it to expose its errors, the definition is met with denial. I watched the four-video lecture by Guy Prentiss Waters and Joseph Pipa, but I know folks like Rich Lusk would deny almost everything that is said, and Doug Wilson reviews Waters' book with a single word: "atrocious".

I read (or skimmed rather) Rich Lusk's paper on "Do I belief in Baptismal Regeneration" which essentially didn't answer the question, only quoted from Calvin (and the way he pulled things out of context was mind-numbing), or Bucer, or some other people to show that maybe his view is really more reformed than the reformed view.

It really does bother me when they say they hold to the WCF when they redefine or "qualify" lots of fundamental doctrines. I need to re-read Confessional Presbyterian vol 2 but in the meantime, is there any key point I could focus on, under the assumption that this young pastor is merely misled rather than knowingly teaching error?
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
Things were passable until this last Sunday when his sermon was preached on "perseverance of the saints", and in which he urged members of the congregation to persevere, lest they fall away completely (as a friend of his) and be cut off from the covenant, with absolutely no mention of God's keeping or preserving. It sounded exactly like an Arminian sermon.
Among other errors, it is indeed backdoor Arminianism as you witnessed. But this is necessitated by their prior commitments on their take on covenant theology where they basically deny the invisible/visible and outward/inward distinction(s). They basically equate the sign with the thing signified. If you are in the visible church, then you are in the covenant, in their eyes. Hence, there are no grounds for withholding the Lord's Supper if a child is to be seen as being as much in the covenant as his credibly professing Daddy is, which is what your report of the sermon seems to suggest. That brand of "covenant theology" is basically incompatible with unconditional election.

On this point, they are closer to Lutheranism (which teaches baptismal regeneration and conditional security) although other typical views of theirs are totally incompatible with modern Lutheranism.

Someone do correct me if I'm wrong on any of this. It's probably been about 7-8 years since I've looked into it in any depth.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
I believe that is correct. It is fundamentally a problem of who is in the covenant. I see it progressing this way:

My children are in the covenant.
All in the covenant are united to Christ.
Therefore, my children are united to Christ.
Some children abandon the church.
Therefore, it is possible to become un-united to Christ.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I watched the four-video lecture by Guy Prentiss Waters and Joseph Pipa, but I know folks like Rich Lusk would deny almost everything that is said, and Doug Wilson reviews Waters' book with a single word: "atrocious".
FVers always claim that no-one has ever understood them; yes, that is right, no-one, not even PhD trained scholars and experienced ministers of the Word. How do we respond to this claim? Well, we begin by pointing out that if no-one else has properly understood them, then that must be their own fault for not being sufficiently clear.

Does Doug Wilson claim that Guy Prentis Waters' book is "atrocious"? So what if he does? That would assume that his opinion actually counts for anything.
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
Logan,
I can heartily recommend the OPC's commission and response to both NPP and FV regarding justification. I think it can be found on-line free and was very informative on both positions...
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
My children are in the covenant.
All in the covenant are united to Christ.
Therefore, my children are united to Christ.
Some children abandon the church.
Therefore, it is possible to become un-united to Christ.
I believe (speaking as a guy who's read some about the issue but not a lot) that to make sense of this you have to affirm a distinction between being united to Christ because you're part of the historical church and being united to Christ because you're part of the eschatological church. These correspond roughly to the visible/invisible church distinction, though not exactly. The historical church is viewed as being Christ's true church at this time in a way that most Protestants don't quite view the visible church. So in this thinking it is possible to become "un-united" to Christ in terms of your participation in the historical church, but not with regard to the eschatological church. This allows for talk of falling away and being cut off (ala Hebrews 6) while still affirming perseverance.

A sermon on the importance of not falling away is, in itself, not a bad thing... but I certainly would want to avoid making it sound like a self-effort exercise, and rather point listeners to rely on the strength of God and his determination to preserve those who are his.

By the way... I hope you enjoyed Colorado while you were here and were able to get out of hot Grand Junction and into our mountains.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Does Doug Wilson claim that Guy Prentis Waters' book is "atrocious"? So what if he does? That would assume that his opinion actually counts for anything.
Have you read Waters' book? If so, is that the best popular treatment?
I would recommend Waters' book. I do not know of any critical work as thorough in its summary and evaluation of the views of multiple proponents covering multiple theological loci. Wilson did offer some longer critiques of the work on his blog, which basically boiled down to him swearing to his orthodoxy each time and wondering why Waters would impute such things to him.

Wilson is a slippery fellow. He's happy to bait-and-switch critics of the FV by offering up his own affirmations of orthodoxy, all the while publishing and supporting the blatantly heretical views of men such as Lusk and Leithart.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
is there any key point I could focus on, under the assumption that this young pastor is merely misled rather than knowingly teaching error?
You could complement him on his integrity in going CREC. At least he isn't a Wilkins.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I guess my question is if there are any good works on FV or good ways to approach talking with this pastor?
Here are a couple of good works that may help you understand the Federal Vision:

http://www.amazon.com/Auburn-Avenue-Theology-Debating-Federal/dp/0974947709#

Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root: David J. Engelsma: 9781936054077: Amazon.com: Books

The first is a colloquium featuring FV advocates such as Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, and Steve Wilkins; and critics such as Joey Pipa, Carl Robins, and George Knight.

The second gives important information regarding the Dutch roots of the Federal Vision, presented from a Protestant Reformed Church perspective. I found it very helpful (though I don't agree with all of the PRC doctrine).

As a former Federal Visionist, I would encourage you to hear them out, learn their arguments, study the history they appeal to, and know your Reformed federal theology. They are slippery.

Lastly, distinguish between those who are truly deceivers (i e., those who claim to hold to Reformed theology, and claim we hold to a perversion; who know better than to say that), and those who are deceived, i. e., those who truly want to be biblical and reformed, and have unwittingly followed cunning wolves--these are in the ranks. I was one.
 
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