The Federal Vision, A New Threat To Baptists

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by Robert Truelove, Jul 21, 2009.

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  1. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    Within Presbyterian and Reformed circles the main tsunami of the Federal Vision has come and gone. These days it seems that most Presbyterian and Reformed churches know to avoid the Federal Vision and defections have slowed dramatically as more and more pastors are getting their hands around this issue.

    Just when I thought the storm was passing, I am concerned that the Baptists will be the next body to be hit with this controversy and they are in some ways highly susceptible.

    That may sound like a contradiction of sorts. After all, Baptists do not hold to the underlying Reformed system of thought that the Federal Vision twists and wrangles so they should be immune, or so the thinking goes. On the one hand this is true, however, as Baptists are introduced to teachers like Doug Wilson through influential leaders like John Piper, there are worrisome implications.

    The trouble is, there will be those amongst Baptists (indeed, its already happening) who become enamored with charismatic leaders like Doug Wilson through his teachings on the family and other topics. Through his influence they will move to adopt infant baptism and move in what appears to be a more Presbyterian direction. However, not being grounded in historic Reformed theology because of their Baptist roots (and I use Reformed with a capital R), many of these will flow right into the Federal Vision waters without ever being challenged with what historic Reformed theology is actually teaching.
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I have a Baptist pastor friend who noted that many Seminary students at Southern were being allured by it.

    I don't mean for this to sound pejorative but one of the reasons I agree that Baptists are susceptible is that it was usually Presbyterians that thought like Baptists until they encountered some Covenant Theology that were most susceptible to the FV. It was never the folks that had a mature understanding of Reformed causistry but almost always a Presbyterian that created the dilemma that it was a choice between "bare sign" and "head for head".

    Those attracted to a new theology are often susceptible to extreme swings from one pole to another. In fact, as R. Scott Clark has noted, the FV shares with Baptists a view of the Covenant that conflates Covenant signification with the spiritual reality (i.e. we only baptize those that the Church determines possesses the reality).
  3. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'm by no means an expert in "federal vision."

    It seems easy to quickly discern that federal vision either confuses or denies justification by faith alone and that's reason enough to stay away from it- because we are talking about the gospel. Neither effect (fruit) is acceptable for one who would presume to teach God's people.

    One thing I've observed that might make Baptists less susceptible to this is the emphasis on and basis of covenant children that federal vision appeals to. This has come up in the context of those who believe in "paedocommunion." By and large, reformed theology is not that. Reformed theology is not child communion before a credible profession of faith.

    Federal vision theology usually mean paedocommunion. A Baptist would not be as susceptible because he would not be inclined to see paedocommunion as biblical.

    The federal vision theology might say something like there is no difference between the infant child of a parent believer. But reformed theology (but not federal vision) is careful to make a distinction.

    The infant child is baptized based on the faith of at least one believing parent, not on the basis of his individual faith. The infant child is baptized based on promises of God's grace toward children of believers (not an absolute promise of salvation). The child is baptized to signify the thing which, by faith, is to come and into a covenant community of believers. That child's baptism acknowledges the position of privilege he has having at least one believing parent and a covenant community of believers through which, ordinarily the means of grace will come. A child outside that does not have that.

    With the Lord's Supper, however, nonbelievers are told in Scripture to abstain and focus on their need for Christ. All are told to examine themselves. Hence, a child who does not have a credible profession of faith is not permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper, a way of obeying Scripture and protecting ("fencing") the Lord's Table.

    Federal vision confuses or denies that distinction and goes on to say there is no difference at all unless the child proves out themselves to not be a Christian (by being apostate). Along the way, they confuse or deny the distinctions reformed theology makes between the visible and invisible church, "union with Christ" (by Baptism), and perseverance of the saints- and of course justification.

    All-in-all, federal vision is a prideful, factionalized, mess that came out of very good systematized doctrine of all of Scripture. It's fruit is faction, confusion and sometimes denial of some basic parts of Christianity but always confusion.

    Baptists are less likely, it would seem to me to go this way with a believer's only baptism and a believer's only basis for "visible church."

    ( I could not have articulated any of this a year ago, but thanks be to God... and Puritan Board)
  4. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    The threat to Baptists is real, albeit limited; or should I say that the FV has limitations that will only appeal to susceptible Baptists. Confessional Baptist churches should be capable of indentfying the signs of The FV, although there is no iron-clad guarantee against infiltration.
  5. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    It is certainly good to be cautious and aware of the potential for such influence. Yet, we can also overestimate the degree of influence/effect this controversy may have on the churches, being tempted to sound an alarmist note, seing an imminent threat overtaking the church.

    The URC Synodical study committee report noted this sort of distinction between "widespread discussion" and actual influence. While recounting the internet/publication discussion of the FV in the URC, the committee nonetheless said: We do not mention these items to suggest that the FV has had a significant influence upon the understanding of many URCNA office-bearers or members. Even the alarmists should take comfort in that statement.

    In my view, a greater cause for concern arises when we see heterodoxy being taught in seminaries, as newly trained ministers then take their theological viruses into the churches.
  6. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    When you have a congregation without mature, discerning people in place, this is a surefire recipe for disaster.
  7. Sven

    Sven Puritan Board Sophomore

    Before the FV was a threat the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP) has infiltrated baptist circles. I say this because the FV and the NPP are similar in some aspects. I was a bit disappointed when I saw Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary giving N T Wright's new book a favorable report. Sam Waldron wrote an excellent book regarding the departure from sola fide within evangelical circles here:
    Faith, Obedience, and Justification: Current Evangelical Departures from Sola Fide - Reformation Heritage Books
  8. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    The good news is almost every single biblical reformed denomination has written a good study paper explaining the serious error of this theology.

    The work has already been done!
  9. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    I would think that Arminian Baptist congregations would be particularly susceptible given a) their theological stance that genuine salvation may be lost through disobedience and b) the teaching that only those who truly are believers have been baptized and are members of the local church. Each of these concepts resonates very strongly with the FV core messages.
  10. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    I think Todd's observation are sound. Recently I presented what was taught in regard to FV to a friend who had never heard of it. He's very solid theologically and recognized error immediately. I would submit that it has more to do with good, in-depth, solid biblical understanding than with being Baptist, by a long shot.
  11. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    Aside from the issue of baptism, I think the primary concern should be the necessary confusion over justification that will result when someone like Piper, who is at least unclear on justification, sympathizes and ministers with others who teach an even more distorted view of justification.
  12. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    What I was trying to state in my post was that Federal Vision is a threat to Baptists who initially come over to the Reformed/Presbyterian view on baptism through the influence of Federal Vision proponents.

  13. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    So are you particularly concerned about Baptists who study, for example Doug Wilson, and then go into a PCA or OPC church (rather than going into Mr. Wilson's "Confederation" denomination)?
  14. 5solasmom

    5solasmom Puritan Board Freshman

    As a former RB, I actually spoke (initially unknowingly) to another FVist about infant baptism when I had questions. This person was a Presbyterian and I figured they would be of great help. Thankfully this person was upfront and let me know that their view was hotly contested in the reformed churches and that they fell on the FV side of things...

    Because RB's see both the sacraments to follow a profession of faith, it WAS strange as a new paedobaptist to grasp the reasons behind why baptize at infancy and wait to allow communion until profession of faith. It took more questions and study to come to a better understanding, but it WAS tempting to feel as though I was somehow "not being consistent".

    I have seen firsthand the lure of Wilson's articles/views and paedocommunion in those who are coming to a paedobaptist view. Suprisingly, I even know more than a couple of baptists who allow their young children to take communion but have not been baptized first. :confused:

    I would agree that they are vulnerable to FV theology....
  15. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    This has been my limited experience. The only two pastors I have personally known who bought into the FV lie came out of baptistic backgrounds but became enamored with the covenant teachings of the FV movement. It was very much the switching of poles of which Rich speaks.

    Now, one of those pastors subsequently rejected FV (too "legalistic" -- his words), moved to a stronger NPP position, but now has all but completely apostatized from the faith for reasons I would not like to get into on a public board. Let's just say he is no longer a pastor in the PCA but member in the UCC. I can't say that's because of the FV, though.
  16. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Ya' know, I was having a discussion with a Baptist fellow a couple of weeks ago that was giving a glowing report on Piper and his smoozing Federal Vision, he then took a look at their theology and found great commonality with it, save the paedobaptism.

    I can't say I understand how he arrived at this conclusion, as he was harder to understand than the FV boys, but he seemed to identify with the FV's attempt to make the visible church communicable.
  17. jason d

    jason d Puritan Board Freshman

    Though I am Reformed Baptist, I started studying this issue because I have close personal friends getting into NPP and FV stuff. I am thankful I studied alot of this because once news was out that Doug Wilson was going to be speaking @ Piper's Desiring God conference, many in our church became interested in this.

    We've been having our own discussion on this issue here I even got my old friend who has attended Doug Wilson's church for the past 7 years and has held to FV views for that long to help us in the dialog.

    I don't think this will be that big of an issue for solid Baptist.

    soli Deo Gloria!
  18. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman


    I'm actually happy that Piper is having Doug Wilson come through. I've learned a lot from Douglas Wilson when it comes to Family and Infant Baptism. Not to mention he's PostMill....Ah yes... that would be great. So if Doug can persuade Baptist to put a P in front of their Sacrament of Baptism to God be the Glory for that.

    However, Doug's view of Justification and infusion of the Invisible/Visible church is a definate snare and attack against the Gospel. Not to mention their assault against Historic Calvinism of the precious doctrine of Perservance of the Saints. I've yet to see them answer the question from Romans 9 where it says before the children were born in the womb doing neither good or bad God loved one and hated the other. Where's the Visibility of the Church Justification there??? Such a bunk view.

    So I'm hoping the Baptist can swallow the Truth and spit out the bones.

    Grace and Peace,
  19. RevZach

    RevZach Puritan Board Freshman

    I attended a seminary that was Baptist in affiliation when I began (but then changed the word "Baptist" to "Theological" while I was attending--don't get me started in the irony there). Anyway, this was almost 10 years ago, we were 95%+ Baptist, and Federal Vision was already a byword among the brothers.
  20. Reformed City Rockers

    Reformed City Rockers Puritan Board Freshman

    Here is my five cents on the issue as well as my first post here on the blog. As far as Aminian Baptists being sucked into FV is unlikely. Most Arminian Baptists are in the mold of either an Adrian Rodgers/Charles Stanley model which they will explain without really knowing or theologically systematically explaining why that you can’t lose your salvation or they are of the evangelical mega-church model which they are indifferent to any theological discussion.

    The Baptist who are risk of being sucked into FV are the ones who are on the fence they are in the process of exiting dispensational theology because they are reading Calvinists and other reformational theological books. These Baptist are predestinarian but not Calvinistic in the sense of being grounded in reformed theology and thus have no compass of a Westminster Standards or even a 1689 to direct them to a dual covenantal system of a covenant of works/covenant of grace understanding of the scriptures and thus no way of distinguishing the law from the gospel. So passages like Galatians 3; Romans 5:12-21; Romans 10:5-8 these Baptists will fumble away the ball on the 20 yard line on the opening drive. These Baptist at risk to their credit are into taking the Christian life seriously and are heavy into Christian Piety maybe for some getting a little too pietistic but rightly defending holiness in the Christian life. They Champion Lordship salvation and are followers of the writings John MacArthur and John Piper (more on Piper); and even take the Lordship of Christ into other spheres of thinking and thus are more of a cultural transformation rather than the traditional reformed understanding of two-kingdom theology. Most of these Baptists who are at risk are probably new to presupposition apologetics but were won over by the theistic transcendental apologetics of Greg Bahnsen especially after hearing the Stine debate. Most of these Baptists four favorite theologians are probably: MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, and Bahnsen. So when you say the words covenant of works or the active obedience of Christ outside of some exposure to R C Sproul most of these Baptists are clueless on what you’re talking about.

    Here is the problem: Piper’s influence is mono-covenantal. Piper studied under Daniel Fuller at Fuller Theological seminary. Daniel Fuller was basically the Norman Shepherd of the Baptist world, enough said! Bahnsen is a theonomist which already confuses law and gospel and theonomy is a one way freeway to FV theology. Bahnsen was also mono-covenantal taking John Murray’s recasting of covenant theology to its logical conclusion along with Norman Shepherd (I just read T. David Gordon’s essay in the book The Law is Not of Faith, ed. by Brian Estelle, John Fesko and David VanDrunen). If you read Piper’s Future grace it is spooky stuff it reads like Norman Shepherd’s Call of Grace and Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins and Peter Leithert’s writings. So yeah non confessional Baptists are totally at risk of Federal Vision. This Federal Vision war aint over by a long shot!!! If you’re a confessional Baptist and you’re getting bamboozled into FV then shame on you! You have the 1689 London Baptist Confession so use you confessional covenantal compass that your big brothers from the Westminster Divines gave you.
  21. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    This in my observation has been the biggest inroad. Theonomy is basically Fundamentalism + Reformed Theology (as with any combo there is not a 100% transference). So if you are a Baptist who is already a fundamentalist and you come to some modicum of Reformed theology theonomy is an easy place to end up. Then, they discover the Vision Forums and things really go downhill. It also seems to be more palatable for the typical 1/2 2 dispensation other 1/2 new covenant model that many Baptists seem to have (no it is not consistent, just persistent) to go into postmillenial ideas than amil.
  22. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Why in the world would you recommend someone who, according to your own words, creates a snare and attack against the gospel? You end your post by hoping that Baptists can swallow the truth and spit out the bones. That's kind of like saying, "There's a million dollars at the other end of that field, but the field is covered with buried land mines. I sure hope you can cross the field without being blown up." If a preacher is not completely orthodox about the doctrine of justification he is a hidden land mine, no matter how right he is on any other point of doctrine.
  23. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Very few properly educated theonomists went over to the FV, since the FV doesn't use historic Reformed definitions of words like election and perseverance. In fact, many of the strongest opponents of the FV are theonomists.

    In fact, while we're at in facts, there were never many FVers in the first place, and now we're down to what, 20 or 30 people who can intelligently write a paragraph? My current observation is that the FV is largely confined to conspiracy nuts who latch on to it for that very reason; that there are so few who follow it.
  24. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    While I had a good laugh at your "big brother from the Westminster Divines" comment, you bring up a good point about recent Baptist converts to Calvinism. When I first joined this board my user name was "Baptist in Crisis." I was a Baptist Calvinist that hadn't found too many other Baptist Calvinists. I thought I was on my own and started weakening in my opposition to Presbyterian Covenant Theology. Thankfully I came across some strong confessional Baptists that helped strengthen my knowledge, but it was not without a period of crisis in my walk with Christ. Knowing my own personal history I can see how a Baptist in similar situations can get caught into the periphery of Reformed Theology, which is not always sound teaching.
  25. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    And For what it's worth, I might add that the first public condemnation of the FV and it's proponents came from a Theonomic Denomination, the RPCUS.
  26. Reformed City Rockers

    Reformed City Rockers Puritan Board Freshman

    The RPCUS is not even part of NAPARC so they don’t count. The serious contention to this poison called FV and NPP came from the GA reports of the RCUS, OPC, PCA and URCNA all provided due diligence and good sound traditional bi-covenantal framework against the mono-covenantal madness of FV theology. But the Knock out blows came from books by Guy Waters one on FV and another on NPP, John Fesko’s new book on Justification, a little book on Sola Fide ed. by Gary W L Johnson and Guy Waters, and the final blistering salvos that destroyed the FV theology in one swift stroke was the Westminster Seminary California book, Covenant Justification and Pastoral Ministry and the new book called The Law is not of Faith.

    The RPCUS objection to FV was insipid and vacuous the guys at Bob Jones University could do a better job! When it comes defending Justification by faith alone and we little lay people are getting bullied by the Ayatollahs of FV, the guys at Westminster Seminary California (who are all NAPARC members) are the first guys I’m going to call, big brother to the rescue. They’ll throw the atomic bomb of polemics. The RPCUS response is like going into a gun fight throwing marshmallows. If I want to be confused when it comes to issues of distinguishing the law from the gospel and hop aboard a quasi fundamentalist theonomic express bus to the legalistic land of Federal Vision then I’ll hit up these small independent Theonomic Presbyterian bodies who are outside of NAPARC and give them a call.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  27. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you for marginalizing both me and the denomination that I call "home".

    I look forward to reading more of your enlightened views.

  28. Reformed City Rockers

    Reformed City Rockers Puritan Board Freshman

    Hey SP I don't mean to offend you have a blessed weekend and especially blessed Lord's Day

  29. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    I'm not entirely sure why being or not being a part of NAPARC is what makes a church "count." I disagree with Theonomy, but this doesn't mean we just toss out everything a church court has said solely because they affirm theonomy -- especially in this context. As many have drawn a connection between Theonomy and the FV, we should be rejoicing when an official ruling comes out of a theonomic church condemning the FV, not scorning their findings as worthless.
  30. Reformed City Rockers

    Reformed City Rockers Puritan Board Freshman

    Paul I understand where you’re coming from and I’m sure you have appreciated the OPC GA report as well as the PCA’s report. The point is that theonomy does not have the framework to combat FV theology when they oppose FV it is because they are abandoning the mono-covenantal ways of theonomy and borrowing capital from the traditional bi-covenantal system they once abandon. Yes I agree it is in one sense a good thing that these brothers oppose FV. If you look at the response from the Westminster seminary California guys many of who were in the GA committee regarding FV. These classical reformed guys provided a consistent rebuttal to FV as well as NPP from their system of Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology and Confessional Theology as a result the response to FV from our guys was complete detailed informative instructive and most of all devastating to the FV opposition. The RPCUS response to FV opposing that it claims to be was lackluster theologically and couldn’t go toe to toe on the biblical theological historic redemptive scale. To put it in another way the RPCUS response still would have left people in a fog about the important issues reguarding a lot things. Let’s pray that those in the RPCUS will continue to think about these issues aggressively and abandon man made traditions like theonomy and painstakingly search the scriptures I am sure they will get back up to speed with the rest of historic reformed WCF understanding of law/gospel, covenant of works/grace understanding that we always had. It’s not Lutheran, it’s biblical.

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