In Christ or in the "Community?"

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amishrockstar

Puritan Board Freshman
I just got done watching Doug Wilson debate
James White in, Are Roman Catholics our Brothers
and Sisters in Christ?


It seems that Reformed/Confessional believers tend
to describe "believers" and "unbelievers" as being in
the "covenant community," while the Fed. Vision
believers speak of believers and unbelievers as being
"in Christ."

Is that what the main issue is?
("In Christ" vs. "In the covenant community")

Because it sounds like --after hearing Doug's debate-- the
F.V. and other Westminster believers are saying the
exact same thing, but they are using different terms.

I went to a Presbyterian and Reformed church for a while,
and I didn't hear Doug say anything that the pastor of
that church would say about believers and unbelievers
--he was just using different terminology.

Any thoughts?

Thanks
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Well the difference between Wilson and Presbyterian/Reformed people is that they have two different covenant theologies. There are more people on this discussion board who would be better at laying out the differences but I have to go right now and I will try to lay those out tonight or tommorow, whenever I get the chance. Or someone else who is better qualified might be able to do it.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The FV has pretty clearly come down on the side of obliterating their need (not THE need) to talk about "two ways" of being in covenant. We Confessional types describe that difference as internal-external, substance-accident/administration, and similar.

It was hard for OT Israel to make that distinction too, however it was surely necessary. How many people simply assumed they were "right with God" just because they were Israelites, or circumcised? That such was sufficient to describe their "special" relationship? Paul goes right direct against that thinking when he states plainly that not all are Israel who are of Israel.

FV advocates say that all who are in the church (the present Israel-of-God) are really in union, or substantively in Christ, and its just fine to talk like that without qualifiers, without distinctions. That theres no point in recognizing that for some who wear the name "Israel" that's it: it's just a name, no more. Sorry, but that's not union.

A point of NT understanding is that we have new language to describe such basic differences between having only part of a relation externally, and possessing the whole in truth. To be "in Christ" is to have the reality down to the core. The FV like to speak and to emphasize the this-worldly aspect of the church, and to functionally fuse the ideas of "in-Christ" and "in-Church". This way, one speaks of the church monolithically. And consequentially, to be membered in the church is to be identifiable in the secret things as if they were visible things already. Hence, to be in the church is to be elect, in all senses of that word so far as we can speak of such things in the world. Likewise, to be in Christ the same way. To be lost at the end is in a real way to have that election and union removed.

This is objectionable, because we doubt that we can speak properly and biblically of true election and union (not simply confirmed election and union) being removed. We must distinguish between an ideal description of the church as "elect" in this world, and the ideal realized in the age to come; again, the already and not-yet tension.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Reformed & Presbyterians reject the propriety of speaking and acting as though what we have in the visible church is "functionally equivalent" to election and union. We exercise the judgment of charity, and we understand that the church-on-earth is a setting for "salvation" and those who are "being saved". It is a society of sinners becoming saints, not perfected saints. It is a "perfect" representation, howbeit comprised of imperfection.

I have criticized (hopefully with charity) my baptist brethren for a stance similar to the FV (only in this respect). Obviously JW vs. DW show in debate how they are widely separated. Together, however, both "ends" agree against us that the church is to be viewed fundamentally as a society of saints; to keep the parallel, it is an "imperfect" representation of perfected people (in the eschatological sense).

Their argument against one another is: as to how that identity is best to be expressed. The Baptist sees cognizable profession as a guard against unregenerate spoilage; the FV sees unregenerate spoilage as irrelevant and undamaging to what is already ideal in the world. Each side even sees discipline as indispensable.

By way of comparison, consider that the view of the FV is deeply parallel to that of Romanism. Essentially, in RCC ecclesiology, the church is so idealized (despite the accidental conditions of her sinners) that she is without error in fact, and irreformable in principle. Generally, the FV would not take their view of the church so far (I do not think). But in this, they are merely moving backward to the Middle Ages (as often they cheerfully acknowledge), where Romanism was still in principle reformable. After the Reformation, Rome ceased to be so, but that was simply the outworking of her fundamental mindset.

Perhaps I can sum up the difference by describing "orientation" in worship. In the "saints-on-earth" mentality, the church is basically "heaven-on-earth" for now; heaven comes down. In the understanding of the church as a "society-of-sinners" on earth, the church periodically "goes up to heaven" for worship of God (e.g. Eph.2:6-7; Heb.12:22)--and only the Redeemed in Christ actually get there in the Spirit for a foretaste of eternity.
 
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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Of course, the Torah, the Historical books, Solomon and the Psalmists, and the Prophets, Christ in the Gospels, and the Epistles, are repeatedly making distinctions between the righteous/just (or the apparently righteous/just; only God and God in Christ can infallibly tell who these are) and the wicked who are in the Covenant.

So why we the New Covenant heirs should be averse to making clear that there is such a distinction, I don't know? To treat everyone who is baptised as a homogenous sameness of saved individuals is less consistent with the Old (and New) Testament pattern and is wilfully living in cloud-cuckoo land or wishful thinking when one knows that some/many people who have been baptised, and even take the Lord's Supper (and/or Mass?), are quite frankly not showing healthy signs of salvation and need to be warned/sanctioned. In fact many of the baptised are showing clear signs that they are God's enemies.

Many show signs of being dead wood in the tree of the Visible Church/Christ and that needs to be recognised and these cut out for the health of the Church. Sometimes almost whole denominations appear to be dead wood.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Along these lines (and I have no wish to hijack the thread in any way), but I am wondering how much of a postmodern perspective plays in this. The reason I ask is that I have read a fair bit of Stanley Grenz and hear some similar tones. Grenz's systematic theology (Theology for the Community of God) is arranged around the theme of "community." Because of this (and probably because of the influence of Pannenberg), his doctrine of justification allows for multiple perspectives (i.e., allowing for both Reformed and Roman Catholic views to be "correct," for instance) -- John Fesko's book on justification discusses this very briefly.

Certainly Grenz is nowhere close to being Reformed, but I am wondering if the same attacks on justification and emphasis on community might be coming from other quarters as well.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Contra_Mundum

Perhaps I can sum up the difference by describing "orientation" in worship. In the "saints-on-earth" mentality, the church is basically "heaven-on-earth" for now; heaven comes down. In the understanding of the church as a "society-of-sinners" on earth, the church periodically "goes up to heaven" for worship of God (e.g. Eph.2:6-7; Heb.12:22)--and only the Redeemed in Christ actually get there in the Spirit for a foretaste of eternity.
Am I understanding correctly both the Roman and Federal Vision theology leans toward the former, reformed theology toward the latter? Or, is there is a distinction being made between a Baptist and Federal vision perspective?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Scott,
I'm trying not to disparage the baptist; only pointing out a single point of correlation, where there are times when he will side with the FV against us, but not necessarily by adopting the same postulate. It's an "ends-vs-middle" sort of allignment. But we do sometimes call the Baptist on what we see as "overrealized-eschatology." That's the same issue that I'm pointing to.

You may recall it has been pointed out that many paedo-communionists used to be baptists. Both "ends" dispute the division we assert between the proper recipients of each (so far as the children of believers go). The baptist makes both sacraments the exclusive domain of the professor; the p-c (and most FV are) goes the other way, saying that both sac's belong to any baptized person not under penalizing discipline. Both are collapsing the sacraments into one order.

The point I was making is that the FV (or Rome, but also any system that builds praxis on making the invisible visible) is trying to bring the glory down. It's a project destined to fail.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Along these lines (and I have no wish to hijack the thread in any way), but I am wondering how much of a postmodern perspective plays in this. The reason I ask is that I have read a fair bit of Stanley Grenz and hear some similar tones. Grenz's systematic theology (Theology for the Community of God) is arranged around the theme of "community." Because of this (and probably because of the influence of Pannenberg), his doctrine of justification allows for multiple perspectives (i.e., allowing for both Reformed and Roman Catholic views to be "correct," for instance) -- John Fesko's book on justification discusses this very briefly.

Certainly Grenz is nowhere close to being Reformed, but I am wondering if the same attacks on justification and emphasis on community might be coming from other quarters as well.
Well first the emphasis on community is different in scope and content. FV's emphasis is on the covenenant community as a body of beleivers that is all elect, in some sense, even if they fall away. Grenz and the post-conservative group has emphasiseses on community because in post-modernism that is king over all else. Since no one is right or wrong we should all just get along and have community. This emphasis on community is different for both groups.
 
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