Do We Really Want Peace?

All:

We pray for the peace and purity of Christ’s Church. It is clear that the substantial divide between those for and those opposed to the FV has not narrowed. Accordingly, how do we who profess the sovereignty of God in all things, express our faith in that belief in these circumstances?

Those in favor of the FV believe it to be a blessing and benefit in an era of the Church where weaknesses and errors abound. They put forth the FV as both correction and balm for these errors. As well, they profess their position in complete keeping with the various reformed standards of their respective denominations. For both (their adherence to the FV and their affirmation of their standards consistency), they do so with sincerity.

Those opposed to the FV do not disagree with their FV brethren as to the presence of great weakness and errors in Christ’s Church in this land. Yet they believe the FV is tainted medicine, a cure worse than the illness. As well, they believe, after at some length listening to and discussing with their FV brethren, that not only is the FV in disagreement with the reformed standards, it is unbiblical.

So what’s to be done?

Those in favor of the FV insist that those opposed are not listening (or worse). They say their positions are at best misunderstood. They say their opponents are themselves both being too narrow with the reformed standards and the Bible itself. Yet, to date, no amount of conversation has persuaded their brethren that this is true.

Even more significant to the question of this thread – note that the Sovereign God has not done anything to effectually persuade and convince those opposed to the FV that their pro FV brethren are correct. Surely the FV men have prayed to this end. God has answered: either NO, or Not Yet.

Those opposed to the FV insist that those in favor are not listening (or worse). They say their FV brethren are at best muddling and confusing the sheep with their innovative doctrine. They say the FV’ers are distorting, even contradicting the Bible, let alone the reformed standards.

Even more significant to the question of this thread – is God ruling His Church, or have a bunch of renegades kicked the Father, Jesus and the Spirit out to the curb?

To date, operating by faith via their promises to Christ in their ordination vows, the elders of six (seven?) reformed denominations have formally declared that the FV is out of bounds with the Scriptures. In the PCA, despite relentless recriminations against the integrity and character of its elders by some in the FV camp who have spoken rashly, the elders have moved deliberately and carefully towards seeking God to answer their convictions concerning the FV. They have sought to recover brethren they believe are in dangerous error.

Those in favor of the FV may not like it. They may not agree with it as things stand. They are right to remind us all that Church councils can, do, and have erred.

Yet they need to seriously consider how God is answering their prayers.

It appears that the report concerning AAPC (and Rev. Wilkins) leaving the PCA is true. While not the desired action, given the impasse which we find ourselves concerning the FV, I applaud this congregation’s action. What else can men of sincere profession do when faced with such differing convictions?

Hear me carefully brothers and sisters. I am not saying good riddance, a pox on your house and those in it, to the AAPC, or to any FV persuaded brother (I speak from the judgment of charity). I speak from a deep conviction that God does rule His Church and He has shown His will in these circumstances.

I have no right to force my convictions down your throat FV brother. I have no right to silence you in your pulpit, to still you in your pew, from believing what you choose to believe. Your conscience is sacrosanct before our Father and I respect that.

And so is my conscience sacrosanct. You have no right to force your FV conviction down my throat. You have no right to insist that I keep my opposition to what I believe is deadly error silent; to keep me from expressing my faith in the form of church government to which I’ve given my vows. My conscience is likewise sacrosanct before our Father.

Will you respect that? Will you see how God is answering at present and join hands with me to find a path to peace? Will you seek to respect and honor my right to bear my conscious before God, as I seek to respect, even defend your’s?

What other course is open before us but the path the AAPC has (apparently) taken? I admit wishing in providence that this path had been taken sooner. Yet I am willing to be at peace that this now is God’s timing.

What I am asking of you FV brethren?

I am asking you to end the fighting. I am asking you to see that we your brothers cannot be persuaded by you, that you are right about the FV. I am asking you to express your faith in God’s sovereignty by choosing to pursue peace with us. I am asking you to prayerfully and seriously consider if now is not God’s providential timing for you as well.

I am not saying to end a proper – HUMBLE – discussion with us. I am saying that if I were in your shoes, with a conviction of God’s sovereignty in the rule of His Church, and six (seven) denominations finding that the FV is biblically consistent (rather than in error), then I would be taking my own advice to you and seriously considering finding another place to exercise my convictions without unneeded intrusions on my conscious, and without continually disturbing the peace of other sheep.

Do you really want peace? Do you really want to get back to pursuing the first things, the proclamation of the good news of our Savior?

Consider whether or not now is time to withdraw, to withdraw only until such time as God in His providence: persuades us, persuades you, or persuades us both of something better.

With prayers for His rich and full mercy and grace in Christ to be your’s evermore,

Reed DePace

TE, PCA

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34 Comments

  1. January 28, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    [...] DePace has just written an open letter of sorts to Federal Vision advocates in the PCA. He writes it from a position of charity. In part, he writes: Do you really want peace? Do you [...]

  2. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 28, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Huh? In essence, you are saying to the FV “The fact that you have failed to convince us proves that God is on our side.”

    And how does your exhortation to the FV to pursue the proclamation of the good news square with the fact that the critics think that the FV message is in fact, not good news at all, but rather heretical error?

    And this “don’t force your convictions down my throat” is ridiculous: the FV had pastor’s conferences, published books, engaged in colloquia, etc. When did they ever call anyone a heretic or take judicial action against their opponents? But the opponents of FV done exactly this…

    You can’t have it both ways: if the denominational use of “force” (i.e., ecclesiastical proceedings rather than theological discussion) was justified, it was because FV is deadly error, striking at the heart of the gospel. All the tactics against the FV have been justified by this claim: the controversy is about the gospel, about the very life of the faith. If that is the case, then how can you issue this call to peace and co-existence with a false gospel and its apostles?

  3. its.reed said,

    January 28, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Ref. #2:

    Joshua:

    I think you might not be reading me fairly. Please, let me humbly ask you to go back and re-read what I’ve said. I’ve been very fair and balanced, acknowledging that both pro and opposed FV see things dramatically differently. I’ve expressly offered that those opposed to the FV could be wrong.

    As to the “down the throat line,” please re-read both the pro and opposed paragraphs. I deliberately structured them exactly the same to make the point that not only do we not agree, we have no right (either side) to require to other side to go against their conscience.

    Your response that the pro FV side has been lily white in their handling of these differences may flow from your misunderstanding of what I am saying. The record is clear, even here at Green Bagginses, that there have been egregious statements made by folks on both sides of the debate.

    You are being unfair to the vast majority of us in the opposition when you suggest we have not engaged in theological discussion. I myself have done so since the first AA pastor’s conference. Many others have put in even more effort.

    It is not a matter of having it both ways. It is a matter of agreeing to disagree, and leaving the resolution in the hands of the One Who has authority over the Church.

    I never said anything about God being on my side because your side can’t convince my side. Out of respect for those pro FV I expressly did not (and am not) engaging in a debate of who is right or wrong. Please, consider the offer in my last paragraph,

    “Consider whether or not now is time to withdraw, to withdraw only until such time as God in His providence: persuades us, persuades you, or persuades us both of something better.”

    Is it not clear that I am acknowleding all the possibilities?

    > Those opposed could be wrong,
    > Those in favor could be wrong, or
    > Both sides could be wrong.

    How much more peace can I offer?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    A couple of things come to mind. I’m sure that Reed will have more to say. Reed is not saying that failure to convince proves that God is on our side. That is a bit of an extension of what Reed said. Reed would probably say that the failure to convince (including all the study committee reports!) **points** in the direction of the denominations being right. He explicitly admitted that councils can be wrong.

    Secondly, an exhortation for the FV to preach the Gospel is not at all inconsistent with holding the FV to be in error. If they are preaching error, then all the more reason for Reed to exhort them to preach the truth rather than the error!

    By “forcing convictions” I believe Reed was saying that the FV is straining with might and main to remain a viable option in the PCA, including some rather vituperative language directed against the critics. James Jordan has definitely gone very far in his vituperative epithets.

    Judicial action is precisely what is required if we believe someone to be teaching something outside the bounds of the confession. How this can be a fault in us is puzzling if you (for a minute) grant that we are doing this out of conscience.

    Reed is referring specifically to the fight that is going on in the PCA. Precisely by calling on them to leave, Reed is advocating as much unity as can be expected. Your comment seems to imply a monolithic FV, which I thought the FV guys repudiated a long time ago.

  5. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    So, in a sense, the AACP and Wilkins leaving is exactly what the PCA wants? (If they cannot have what they view is a need of repentance)

  6. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Yes. That would have been the point of a trial of Wilkins (not prejudging his guilt, of course).

  7. its.reed said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Ref. #4:

    Thanks Lane. Yes, you are echoing me fairly.

    Joshua, let me add, that the intensity of your response suggests the wisdom of what I am asking for. I tried very carefully to be fair and balanced. Your response shows how hard that is. In another venue I received some well-meant (and well-stated) mild admonishment from someone who thinks I give too much to pro FV’ers in this post.

    I will admit to being clumsy at times. In any way my words are wrong, I will do the right thing (by faith, of course :) ). Yet I do not have a reputation as being an “unreasonable” opponent of the FV.

    If someone like me (opponent to the FV) and someone like you (in favor of at least some of the FV) cannot see eye to eye, what hope (humanly) is there for others in this debate? How does it serve God’s glory that we continue the debate, leading to more rancor? Why not put our faith in the unity promise of John 17 and seek unity where we can find it?

    My personal conviction is that the FV is an error, more or less egregious depending on the sub-set of topics. At best, I see it as an error as bad as Arminianism.

    Contrary to some (I’m going to get some flack on this one), I do not believe God would have me anathematize the Arminians I know, people who give credible professions of faith in spite of what I believe are serious errors in their doctrine. Am I not called to be united to them, to the degree my conscious allows?

    At present I think this is the best well-intentioned souls on both sides of the FV debate can acheive. As an expression of my trust in Christ, I’m offering the olive branch.

  8. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    “Am I not called to be united to them, to the degree my conscious allows?”

    ~ to what degree do you believe you can be united with the FV?

  9. its.reed said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Ref. #8:

    David, about the same degree to which I can be united with a local Methodist believer. I can join with them in proclaiming the message of say a hymn like Charles Wesley’s Arise, My Soul Arise.

  10. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Would you allow them to take communion?

  11. January 28, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    RE #10.

    Would you allow them to take communion?

    What does the BCO say about that? That’s what we’ve sworn an oath to uphold as part of our Constitution.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I don’t think that David is PCA. Correct me if I’m wrong, David.

  13. its.reed said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Ref. 10:

    David: when I was standing for ordination in Ascension Presbytery (PCA), one Dr. Carl Bogue asked me a question that taught me a great lesson. He asked if I would baptize someone who had received the RCC’s baptism.

    Like many men in those circumstances, nervousness led me to the fatal mistake – I’d tried to come up with an answer on the fly. Of course Dr. Bogue took my response and used it to ask another question; one even more difficult to answer. I did it again, and Dr. Bogue did it again.

    I felt like a reveler running with the Bulls at Pamplona, Spain, being tossed from horn to horn.

    After a moment of awkward silence, the Spirit graced me with the humility I should have led with. I responded to Dr. Bogue’s last query with, “father, I do not know, but I will study the matter more carefully.”

    Dr. Bogue was satisfied with my response. I’ve been ever grateful for the lesson he taught me that day.

    I’ll rest with my simple answer at this point. With Paul, I will not argue against anyone who preaches the gospel, but will join them in doing so.

  14. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Reed,

    I commend your ecumenical spirit. It’s rare in these ‘em parts. ;-)

    Lane,

    You’re right. I’m not in the PCA.

  15. its.reed said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Ref. #14:

    Thanks David.

  16. January 28, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Lane,

    I knew that. I was making the point that we don’t get to make things up as we go along. We have Constitutional guidance which we swear to uphold and abide in the things covered thereby. I appreciate with Reed that there are some areas that require more study than others, but we still don’t get to ad lib as David seemed to imply. We are accountable to our brothers and the courts above us. So, I thought that the communion question seemed out of place in an orderly denomination like the PCA.

    Kudos to Reed, BTW, for his response.

  17. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    “I appreciate with Reed that there are some areas that require more study than others, but we still don’t get to ad lib as David seemed to imply.”

    ~ I wasn’t implying ministers in the PCA get to “ad lib” where they want, but is there not room for a session or a minister to refuse communion to someone they understand to be unorthdox or a heretic? FV proponents have repeatedly been labeled as heretics on this (PCA) blog. So my question is, do PCA ministers have the freedom (under the Constitution) to exercise their conscience and refuse proclaimed heretics from partaking of the Table?

  18. January 28, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    RE #17,

    Not without due process. The court of original jurisdiction for a member is the Session. No church officer can unilaterally decide such an important issue. There are specific procedures for dealing with this kind of issue that protect the individual as well as the peace and purity of the church. As you well know, it’s not my table, or Reed’s or Lane’s, but the Lord’s Table. We fence it to His glory, not our druthers.

    And not many here have labeled FVers heretics. The PCA Study Report did not, nor did the 35th GA. I think that they are very wrong, but so are Arminians and Baptists. Yet they are my brothers in Christ as well.

  19. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear on who I was talking about.

    I thinking of a non-member (visitor) in those churches which practice open communion. If Lusk, Wilkins or Wilson (any known FV advocate) was visting could or would they be barred from the Table?

    Lane, would these guys be welcome to take communion in your church?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    This is what I do: I say that only baptized members of an evangelical church may participate in the Sacrament. My church (and I would not do it even in a PCA church) does not require people to go to the elders first to see if they can partake. I fence the table at the table, and then let people’s consciences choose. I define evangelical as preaching the true Gospel of justification by faith alone based on Christ’s finished work.

  21. David R. McCrory said,

    January 28, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    “I define evangelical as preaching the true Gospel of justification by faith alone based on Christ’s finished work.”

    ~ But isn’t this a central tenet of this whole debate? ;-)

    ~ So, if you don’t believe someone (i.e. a heretic) to be doing this, then don’t we have a moral responsiblity to proactively prevent them from eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves?

  22. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I believe that some of the FV guys deny justification by faith alone, and others do not. It is therefore inadvisable to issue a blanket forbidding of the table to the FV guys. The next time an FV guy comes through North Dakota, I’ll be sure to talk to him about it. ;-)

    I think the moral responsibility is quite adequately covered by the verbal fencing of the table. These guys are not members of my churches. If they were, that would be a different matter entirely. But if they choose to partake after having been warned, that is their problem. I believe this is what open communion means.

  23. Al said,

    January 28, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    “FV brother…” I like that.

    “Yet they are my brothers in Christ as well.” – Elder Mattes

    I have not read all of Bob Mattes posts, he is prolific, but is this a common expression found in his writing?

    al sends

  24. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 28, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    It’s all about the terms, I suppose…and the tone, which doesn’t come through well on a blog.

    So, it comes down to the fact that I took force as being some kind of sanctions, not merely verbiage. On my definition, the FV did not use force: they never sought to bring charges against their opponents for theological errors. To be sure, neither side has been particularly flawless in their tone–I wish that Jordan had never gotten started on that tack…but I could say the same of Scott Clark (who does, by the way, consider the CREC to be a false church, a cult, and a member of the same profession as the whore of Babylon). So, by “force” I didn’t mean strong words, but rather political sanctions. Nor by saying that the opponents of the FV have used force did I mean to imply that they had not used theological argumentation–since some of the conferences, books, and colloquia in fact included the critics.

    I do appreciate the call for peace, but I simply wasn’t clear on what grounds it could be issued: if one clicks on the “heresy” tag at the side of this blog, one gets all the posts on the FV, and many of the critics have said that the FV is a gospel error…I suppose I was lumping you in with other critics (e.g., I wonder where David Gadbois would weigh in on this plea for peace and unity), but it does seem fair to associate someone with others on the side they have chosen. I could be wrong about that, and if I have impugned your integrity, I apologize.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Some are definitely quicker than others to cry heresy. As I have said before, there are two definitions of heresy with which I am operating. One is as synonymous with “heterodox:” teaching that is out of conformity with the standards of the church. This is how I mean it, and it is what the category means. The other meaning is that of soul-destroying falsehood, which, if someone believes it, automatically qualifies them for the underworld. Neither I nor Reed would use the term in this sense of the FV, though many other critics would, admittedly. Your use of the term “force” is noted. Do you mean to imply guilt on the part of the PCA for so acting? The problem here is that the FV guys do accuse the TR’s of having abandoned the Reformed position. But they are not willing to follow up on that and press charges, or propose changes to the standards. The critics have now shown that we are willing to press charges.

  26. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 28, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    No, I’m not implying guilt. My only point was the means that were used, as I was understanding the term “force,” and the apparent inconsistency of wanting “peace” with “brothers in Christ” whose error were so egregious that they had to be “forced” out.

    And I recall now your, if I may say, rather idiosyncratic definition of ‘heresy’ as essentially synonymous with ‘erroneous.’ May I lodge a complaint that this use of terminology lacks clarity, departing as it does from the standard usage of ‘heresy’ understood ‘that which is outside of the Christian faith’? If we were to apply your usage, we could legitimately refer to ‘heretical Christians,’ which honestly appears to me to be an oxymoron…

  27. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 28, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Reed, genuine thanks, by the way, for this:

    “For both (their adherence to the FV and their affirmation of their standards consistency), they do so with sincerity.”

    I find myself sort of in this boat: I would not label myself as an ‘adherent’ of the FV, but perhaps ‘mostly appreciative,’ but I do not find myself inconsistent with the standards. Others would and have called me self-deluded, just plain stupid, or an outright liar for this. I appreciate that you do take us as genuine and don’t presume to see the hearts of those you disagree with.

    My pastor and elders, by they way, also do not find me inconsistent with the standards, after numerous conversations. I won’t say which church that’s in (although I will say it’s not CREC), lest any reader from across the country take a situation he doesn’t have the standing to judge as evidence for the apostasy and conspiracy of a whole denomination.

  28. magma2 said,

    January 28, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    What I am asking of you FV brethren?

    Isn’t this a contradiction in terms? Did I miss the verse in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he addresses his Judiazing brethren?

    What is wrong with you men?

    Sean Gerety

  29. Al said,

    January 28, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Sean is your gravatar raving? Cuz if it is … well…

    al sends

  30. magma2 said,

    January 29, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Hi Al, I think of it more as a look of shock and terror.

  31. its.reed said,

    January 29, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Ref. #30:

    Sean, hmmm, King Crimson is your taste. Me thinks I understand you better :)

  32. magma2 said,

    January 29, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Only when I’m in a romantic mood. ;)

  33. its.reed said,

    January 29, 2008 at 10:52 am

    LOL and enjoying it :)

  34. January 29, 2008 at 11:12 am

    “I suppose I was lumping you in with other critics (e.g., I wonder where David Gadbois would weigh in on this plea for peace and unity)”

    I’d probably take it on a case-by-case basis. FV ranges anywhere from simply wrong (like Lutherans or Arminians) to schismatic to anathema-worthy. Some FVers simply belong in Lutheran churches (we consider confessional Lutheran churches to be true churches in the continental Reformed tradition) because of their views on baptism and perseverance of the saints. Others have, at least by implication of teaching, denied justification by faith alone and thus destroyed the credibility of their Christian profession.


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