What is the problem with FV?

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by Leslie, Apr 16, 2008.

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  1. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    I disagree with FV but it appears to be for reasons different than those of others in the PB, from what I can ascertain, reading other threads. What is the basic problem with FV?
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    A few threads that might orient you:


    In a nutshell, the Scriptural position is that union with Christ is laid hold of by Evangelical faith. That is, it is born from above.

    While the entire Congregation is preached to with the same promises and the same sort of injunctions, not all participate in mystical union with Christ simply by being a member of the Church.

    There are several errors but chief among them is the idea that, when one is baptized into the Church, all are united to Christ and have the benefits of that union with Christ in some sense: all are in some sense forgiven of their sins, have peace with God, etc. The manner in which that status is maintained is by faithfulness to the Covenant so that, in the last day, those that are finally justified are those that did not forsake Covenant membership.

    I'm certain there are those that will take issue with the basic explanation but the bottom line is that our union with Christ is not simply by being visibly joined to the Covenant of Grace. Baptism does not unite us to Christ. Faith does. Those that do not have faith that is born from above are in no sense forgiven of their sins. Do they hear the preaching of God and taste the heavenly gift? Are all members preached to with the expectation that all should fear lest any be found to be unbelieving?

    Yes and yes. But none are justified in some sense. It is only those that have been elect from the foundation of the world, that have been regenerated by the Gospel, and have been given Evangelical faith that are united to Christ in His death and resurrection. The fact that the congregation is preached to with the expectation that all must respond in a way that only the elect truly can does not, in turn, imply that all are able to do so in some sense.
  3. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Impairing of justification by faith alone by positing a temporary justification based upon faith and works. A kind of baptismal regeneration wherein one receives temporary salvation through the administration of the sacrament, to be kept or lost on the basis of one's own faithful observance of the law and gospel. A failure to distinguish between law and gospel.

    Then an assertion of eternal predestination without demonstration or elucidation of how election and reprobation work out in the covenant community coupled with deliberate obfuscation.

    Finally constant schismatic and abusive behaviour towards and in the house of God.
  4. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

  5. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    The two most sucinct summaries of FV I have heard yet. Thanks, boys.
  6. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for your thoughtful replies, especially that of Semper Fidelis. Since FV is wrong about the temporary salvation concept (and I agree they are wrong), then are not the forms for infant baptism sorely defective? I'm familiar with the CR form but presumably other forms are similar. There are all these glowing promises of God pronounced over the wee one but never is the big condition mentioned "IF THEY HAPPEN TO BE ELECT". If one should add the big condition, then how is a convenant infant different from any other infant? One can say of all infants whatsoever that God makes glowing promises if they happen to be elect, even those infants born into Buddhist families.

    Also how do Reformed people who reject the FV understand the condition of people who are born into Christian families but are finally reprobate, explicitly, by choice, no doubt about it. The author Peter DeVries comes to mind. I'd assume they were never saved in any sense whatsoever and, in retrospect, the promises and blessings pronounced in their infancies were, at best, half-truths, if not outright lies.

    Lest any misunderstand, I'm NOT a secret FV sympathizer, nor am I trying to be sarcastic or smart-alecky. I've come to faith in God relatively recently, having been a covenant baby, a reprobate most of my life, and given a new heart three years ago. I really want to understand.
  7. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Gents, really appreciated those linked threads for the summaries, as well as Rich's. I don't spend much time on this subject so it is nice to get this sort of a thread on it to clarify. :up:
  8. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Not every promise and blessing of God comes apart from means. The means of faith appropriates Christ and all His benefits (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 21). In baptism we are promised salvation in its fullness; those who reject these promises incur greater wrath for their unbelief (see Hebrews 4:1-2; Romans 9:1ff.). The sacraments, are after all, the visible gospel and confirm what God has promised in His word (as signs and seals).

    So it is not a lie to promise something with a condition so that if the condition is not fulfilled the promise will not come to fruition. Nor is it Arminianism because God Himself fulfills the condition in the life of the elect.

    Furthermore there are many promises that are unconditional for the believer and reprobate within the covenant. "I will be your God and you will be my people." Unto the Israelites were the covenants, promises, law and adoption (Romans 9:1-4) That they rejected these things by no means makes God's promise illegitimate. His eternal covenant is established and continues with or without the faith of many of those who are covenant children. For God is faithful to a thousand generations and will always provide the seed of the woman through the seed of the woman. (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 105:8; Acts 2:39).

    But you are correct in stating that such never had eternal salvation though they certainly enjoyed many outward benefits of the covenant for a time (Hebrews 6:4-8). The problem with the FV is that they posit a temporary salvation which shares many components of eternal salvation and thus jeopardizes the finished work of Christ.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2008
  9. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Or, to get at it another way than Daniel does, we can say that baptism initiates us into the visible church, and it is faith that initiates us into the invisible church. These two things may be connected (in the case of some of the elect) or not (in the case of the reprobate). When one is initiated into the visible church, one receives the benefit of being treated as a believer until that person is shown otherwise. This increases the condemnation of those who apostatize and show themselves never to have been a part of the invisible church at all. The Federal Vision collapses the visible/invisible church distinction.
  10. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    As an Founders SBCer I haven't looked that closely at the FV issue. However, from what I have read in this present thread it sounds to be that Jonathan Edwards dealt with something similar in his church by in the day.
  11. Hippo

    Hippo Puritan Board Junior

    One of my main problems with the FV is that once you are a covenant member through baptism the call is to covenant faithfulness (which in practice is often works) rather than to conversion. Indeed conversion is almost frowned upon as an abrogation of the primacy of the external covenant. Therefore the FV would see Edwards "Sinners in the hand of an angry God" as an unwarranted demand for inner conversion which is entirely inappropriate.

    The FV do not therefore in my mind preach the full Gospel.

    To be fair the FV would say that the modern call to conversion is an experiential approach that verges on synergistic Arminianism and they do have a point, but the answer is to reform our unbiblical practices, not to cease to preach the full Gospel.
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Excellent points by Daniel and Lane. I just want to add my own two cents.

    I think what you need to understand with respect to how God brings redemption to mankind is a distinction between the Covenant of Redemption (CoR) and the Covenant of Grace (CoG). One simple way of stating it is that we are elected because of the Covenant within the Godhead to save a particular people to the glory of God to the uttermost but that CoR is worked out, in time and space, by a visible administration to people who work within the things revealed and means.

    If you think about the "golden chain" it includes some things that are hidden from us as well as some things that we experience in the here and now.

    Romans 8:28-30
    Our own knowledge of our salvation is not based on the things that God foreknew or upon His predestination. Rather, our knowledge is of an external and internal call, a turning from our sin and unto Christ in Evangelical faith, and then a sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that flows out of our justifcation. We don't even have experience of our glorification for it is a future hope.

    But, because we know Who we believe and rest in Him for salvation, we are able to "connect the dots" and have some connection to the chain that is in the eternal decree of God and we have confidence on the basis of our trust in Christ that God is the author and finisher of our faith.

    It is really inappropriate, then, to speak about God's hidden decree in a way that speculates about whether or not it was futile for men to be issued Promises within the CoG in the first place or, as part of its regular administration, to be constantly preached the Word toward the conversion of hearts or the building up of the Saints.

    We live and work within the things revealed. It is actually against the Word of God to speculate and say: "What is the point of these means if somebody was never elected in the first place?"

    Also, the notion that being in and among these means is pointless and a person might as well have never been a participant in the CoG if they were never truly elect is roundly rejected repeatedly by the Scriptures themselves. This anticipates your question about advantage.

    Romans 3:1-4
    This anticipates those who would even argue that people have no opportunity to respond to the Gospel and are not under any responsibility to it. When speaking of the Jews (Covenant people) who have rejected Christ, Paul states this:

    Romans 10:14-21

    The Christian religion and understanding of God's election is not meant to be something, ultimately, where we try to determine the point where we've arrived and, in lieu of a decision card, point to our "election card" and assume that our fear and trembling in the process of sanctification has ended. We are repeatedly enjoined to live as if we believe we have been justified and to corporately care about how everyone is progressing in sanctification and, in fact, whether or not a man might never have been converted.

    We are not simply supposed to be concerned about ourselves but about the entire Body. We are to be fearful lest any be found to be unbelieving:

    Hebrews 4:1-10

    This we will surely do because we have trusted in Christ but we never take it for granted and the Promises of God are given to us as an audible and historical act of God's utter faithfulness to save us and, by Word and Sacrament, impel us all toward His holy ends.
  13. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks again to Semper Fidelis. I don't have the knack of quoting previous posts, but if I understand you right, you are saying that the advantage of covenant infants in the church is analogous to the advantage of infants born into Jewish homes in the B.C. era. It is simply that they have the advantage of exposure to the corpus of teaching regarding God. From a strictly human point of view, conversion should be easier, not quite so radical as it is for a Buddhist. Yet there is also a disadvantage in this, in that the condemnation of an ultimately-reprobate covenant infant is greatly increased. I still don't understand why the CR form for the baptism of infants sounds like a FV document, promising the forgiveness of sins etc. without the mention of either "if elect" or "if later converted".
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I would also say that the advantage is that spiritual blessing has historically been given along geneological lines. That is to say that children are blessed to have parents that instill in them a love of God and a family that serves the Lord. The fact that the Lord grafts in wild shoots (as many of us are) does not exclude the fact that He also still blesses in great abundance geneologically.

    Again, election works itself out in time according to the CoG. It is the reason why Christians don't just pop up at random and we don't see the same proportion of Christians in Muslim homes as we do in Christian homes.

    Even when you interview Baptist parents, close to 100% of their kids end up making professions of faith and they are baptized. Election is not some blind force of fate where children are saved apart from means. Pagan parents tend to raise more of the same except, in God's grace, He calls some graciously into His Kingdom. But His Kingdom is still big enough to allow for His blesssing to occur in abundance within families that, by His grace, He utilizes the Church to train up all her disciples - young and old.

    Paul commands parents, just as Moses did, to train children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. God utilizes those means for maturation and conversion.

    Again, election cannot be thought of as a concept where we try to peel back the curtain and wonder if God has elected our children. He commands us to raise them in the fear and admonition of Him. This implies discipleship and, just like older believers, we all fear lest any be found to be of an unbelieving spirit. Whether or not God has elected a child in my household or an adult with a mature profession is not for me to speculate. My command is to be built up together with all. And because I serve a gracious God, I assume the best of the means He provides through me toward the goal of raising up a Godly inheritance.
  15. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This is, in my opinion, one of the problems with FV that is often overlooked. A very balanced response; thank you.
  16. HaigLaw

    HaigLaw Puritan Board Sophomore

    The PCA at its 2007 General Assembly adopted 9 points of the "Declarations" or summaries of the findings of the PCA's Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision found on page 2235 (Section IV) of the committee report contained in the 2007 General Assembly minutes, saying FV theology was out of accord with PCA beliefs in those 9 ways.

    Point 2 of the 9, for example, found at the link below, says this about one of the points attributed to FV theology, "The view that an individual is 'elect' by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this 'election' includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his 'election' if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards."

    I discuss this report in my Xanga blog of the Louisiana Presbytery (LaP) meeting of today.
  17. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Quite a change of events I would say. Thanks for the update.
  18. HaigLaw

    HaigLaw Puritan Board Sophomore


    That is about as succinct and to the point as I've seen.

    Thanks! :detective:
  19. Mayflower

    Mayflower Puritan Board Junior

    They sprinkle infants :p
  20. Ron

    Ron Puritan Board Freshman

    Federal Vision (FV) theology borrows from Augustine at his worst while departing from Calvin and the Reformed confessions at their best. FV is correct that perseverance is a gift given to the elect alone but where the system is terribly flawed is in its doctrine of regeneration, which suggests that the reprobate can, for a season, enjoy the grace of faith and union with Christ prior to falling away. Consequently, the FV has no place to ground the assurance of salvation that is available to the regenerate because the system allows for the reprobate to receive the same measure of regeneration and faith as the elect. Assurance becomes predicated upon the secret decree of perseverance, which cannot be known being a secret! All of which stands in stark contrast to the biblical teaching, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with the believer’s spirit according to the unambiguous word of promise that all who God calls, He justifies and will glorify.

    If FV has brought something new to the church that exceeds the theological precision and exhaustiveness of the Reformed confessions, then what is it that its proponents have discovered? The simple answer is that the FV movement has brought nothing new to the church but rather denies what the Reformers taught. What is most disruptive is that FV'ists claim the tradition of the Reformers only to turn around and deny what they taught, and even died for.

  21. HaigLaw

    HaigLaw Puritan Board Sophomore

    Good point!

  22. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    It seems to me that the assurance of which you speak, the inner voice of the Holy Spirit is not at all unambiguous. It is entirely subjective. How can anyone know the difference between the Holy Spirit bearing witness that one belongs to God and self-deception? I've known many people who have an inner assurance of being in-covenant with God, who are evidently their own little gods, judging by their attitudes and actions. They don't see it themselves but it's evident to those around them. Granted, there may be a seed of genuine faith in some cases but it stretches credibility that everyone who claims an inner Holy Spirit witness but lives by deceitful, autonomous, self-exalting principles, is indeed of the elect. When we see others fooling themselves on what basis can we put ourselves into the category of genuine? Are we all not prone to the same depravity?

    I don't agree with the FV for other reasons but it seems that in their system at least one can look at his or her current faithfulness to the covenant to determine if one is currently in relationship to God, even while being uncertain if the gift of perseverance will enable one to finish the course.
  23. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Until my faithfulness fails. Look to Christ.
  24. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    O.k. the promise of God is objective, but how can anyone tell if he or she has the right kind of faith, is trusting in Christ alone? How can you say "faith alone?" It's certainly "grace alone" but the only place where "faith alone" is used in scripture is in James where it says "taint so!". Paul called the Gentiles to the obedience of faith.
  25. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    If one says he has faith but has no works then he has not true faith (according to James 2:14). This is a talking faith not a walking faith. The walking faith testifies to the inward work of the Spirit (which we were talking about earlier). And notice James says nothing about faith in Christ only a faith in God. (James 2:19) A monotheistic faith never saved everyone.

    For it is faith in Christ alone that justifies. The true talking faith is one that believes not only in words but confesses from the heart (Romans 10:9). This receives the righteousness of Christ apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:23ff; 9:32). This is the only instrument of justification by which we might be saved lest we boast (Ephesians 2:8ff).
  26. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You can tell if you have faith in Christ when you are trusting in Christ as the Scriptures reveal Him. His Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are sons of God and we cry out "Abba! Father!"

    You are incorrect about James. He doesn't use the term "faith alone" and not in the sense that the idea communicates either. He talks about a faith that bears no fruit. This is what he is speaking about in terms of those who say they have faith.

    An evangelical faith always bears fruit. If it bears no fruit then there is no evangelical faith. James is exactly like Paul in this regard as Paul speaks about our reasonable service in response to our justification in Romans 12-16. Paul also notes how the Gospel transforms us in Galatians 5-6 even after he's spent 4.5 chapters repudiating the notion that we are justified before God by our works in any sense.

    Faith lays hold of Christ as our righteousness. Only a person born from above can do this. But because it is born from above that new life produces a desire for holiness on the basis of our status before God as justified. If we have no desire for holiness then we have no faith in the Son of God.

    But the problem is that people turn the tree on its head. Our holiness is the fruit while justification by faith is the root. Roman Catholicism and Arminianism seek to move from producing fruit (holy living) and by that you will demonstrate that you have faith and produce a tree and roots around the fruit. The Scriptures operate the other way around where the foundation (roots) are justification and this produces fruit of righteousness.

    This is how James can say that a man who says he has faith (the root) but has no works (the fruit) is not justified. It is because anybody that has the root will produce the fruit. If you cannot see the fruit then there is no root and, hence, there is not justification. The root and fruit always, always, always go together but the root is always primary and the basis for everything that follows and not the other way around.
  27. HaigLaw

    HaigLaw Puritan Board Sophomore

    These are great questions, and I see you have already gotten some good answers.

    I would add two more points:

    1. On your first question relating to how we can know, or have assurance, the WCOF says assurance is not of the essence of faith, that is, being in faith does not guarantee you will have assurance, but by diligent appropriation of the means of grace, one can get it. Short paraphrase.

    2. On the second question about the FV offering a more tangible means of assurance, I don't read them as offering assurance on the basis you suggest. Rather, I read them as saying assurance is based on your baptism and membership in the covenant family.

    I may be wrong, and if so, I'm sure someone will correct me. :book2:
  28. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior


    The only thing I would add is what has already been said regarding staying in!! ie; coventant faithfulness.

    Of course covenant faithfulness only goes so far if you get short changed by the Holy Spirit, in that per FV all covenant members are regenerated, justified, santified but unfortunately you may not get the gift of perserverance and wind up on the outside looking in with your Final Justification!
  29. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    After reading through this thread I can see why Federal Vision is usually linked with NPP. The basic concepts seem to have a thread of similarity. Both seem to be founded upon a hyper view that the "church" and the sacraments save, and works keep one saved. It is similar to what the RCC believes and some liberal churches.
    I can also see why anyone not covenantal in their theology would not find this appealing since dispsensationalism is about salvation of the individual and apart from the workings of the church or the sacraments. They do not have that high a view of the church. (Let the reader understand)
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