The Federal Vision and the URC 2010 Synod

-Posted by David Gadbois

The United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) will be holding their synod meeting July 26th-30th.  The synod is roughly equivalent to a general assembly in presbyterian terms, although for us it is not an annual meeting.  The last synod was in 2007, when a study committee was formed to study the Federal Vision theology.  The committee was comprised of 12 URC ministers, a group that included Michael Horton and Cornelis Venema.  The Final Report from the committee can be found here, and is a useful resource as a critique of Federal Vision theology (focused mainly on its doctrine of justification) from the standpoint of the Three Forms of Unity and churches descended from the Continental Reformed tradition.  The Report recommends that Synod 2010 “affirm the following [15 points] of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity, and encourage all office-bearers to repudiate FV teachings where they are not in harmony with them” and that Synod “distribute this report to all the consistories of the URCNA, commending the report to them for study.”

In fairness, I should mention that URC Nampa has published a critical interaction with the Report, which does not defend the orthodoxy of FV, but rather contends that “the committee’s Report has not sufficiently described and wrestled with the views of the FV. There are far too many instances of over-simplification, far too many places where the more orthodox statements of the FV men are largely ignored, far too many areas in which the imprecise language of the Report seems to be condemning pastoral emphases that have long been accepted in Reformed churches.”

I do not think that the authors of this critique have considered that Federal Visionists often engage in double-speak, redefinition of key terms, and pour unorthodox meaning into language that we would normally identify as orthodox.  It should be no surprise that one can find “more orthodox statements of FV men”, and it is completely appropriate that the Report would omit them for the sake of brevity.  In an important sense, such statements are not relevant because they are not distinctives of the Federal Vision theology.  The error lies in the distinctives.  Is this not always the case with theological error?

I notice, too, that this critique relies heavily on quotes from Douglas Wilson in order to prove its case, who is acknowledged by all sides as the more “user-friendly” Federal Visionist.  This only proves that FV is not monolithic, a fact that the Report does not contradict.  Again, it is entirely appropriate that the Report sift out the most problematic elements of Federal Vision theology, as espoused by its various proponents.   Given that none of these men have repented or retracted the statements and quotes provided, nor have any proponents even tried to meaningfully distance themselves from them, these errors can and should be used against the Federal Vision, considered as a movement and a distinctive system of theology.  The critique mentions that the Joint Federal Vision Statement is not referenced often enough.  This is a minor defect, it can be admitted.  But does anyone seriously doubt that Reformed Is Not Enough, The Auburn Avenue Theology:  Pros and Cons, and The Federal Vision, the works cited most frequently by the Report, do not constitute definitive and representative works of the Federal Vision?  The Report is not a survey of the teachings of individuals, but rather is intended to document and refute the various (most important and dangerous) strains of error present within the movement.  A Report such as this is an ecclesiastical report on a theological movement, not an academic paper nor even an examination of an individual minister for a discipline case.  It is not appropriate for it to be overly-academic in character, exhaustive, burdensome in length, nor concern itself with every nuance of the various Federal Vision proponents’ teaching.

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102 Comments

  1. June 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

    [...] July is near.  Next month, there will be a URC Synod in London, Ontario.  Over at Green Baggins, David Gadbois has posted some comments in anticipation of the discussion of the Federal Vision and Justification report.  I suspect we [...]

  2. GLW Johnson said,

    June 7, 2010 at 8:15 am

    This URC is in Idaho…hmmm.

  3. Matt Beatty said,

    June 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Really, Gary. Do you know the Nampa minister (or Consistory) at all? Should the URC look into the orthodoxy of the Nampa church… simply because they’re in the same state?

  4. Tim Prussic said,

    June 7, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Matt, it’s just a comment suggestive of an all-too-common ad hominem dismissal. The sort of thing that FV guys would do. :)

  5. Doug Barnes said,

    June 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    @ GLW J:
    So because the critiquing URC is in Idaho, it’s suspect? Seems to me that’s about as helpful a comment as hinting that Church of the Redeemer is suspect because it’s in Arizona, where retired people migrate, so comments of its office-bearers might be tainted by dementia. I don’t know you or the church you serve, so it would be a serious sin against the Ninth Commandment for me to write such a thing. And likewise for you to suggest what you have suggested of the URC Consistory in Nampa.

    And really, that’s what Nampa’s critique focuses on: critique that relies on rumor, rather than establishing and discussing facts. As a report written by some “big names” in the URC, one would expect it to be well-supported in all that it says. Instead, it ignores crucial sources for understanding the FV and selectively quotes FV authors in such a way as to border on (if not, arguably, diving right into) slander.

    That’s no defense of the FV; nor is the paper from Nampa. It’s merely a critique –an expression of concern — about the report. Our synod will be charged with determining what to do with this report. We will be asked, in some fashion, to “own” it. We need to be sure that what we agree to “own” is true and honoring to God. If it is slanderous or incomplete or untrue in any way, we need to address and correct that (at the very least).

    Or, alternatively, we could hide our heads in the sand and accept uncritically anything and everything that hints at the conclusion: “FV is bad.”

  6. David Gadbois said,

    June 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    While it can be admitted that all reports that are in some way approved or adopted by synods can and often do contain errors, I don’t believe anything in this Report rises to the level of anything “slanderous” nor contains any errors of such magnitude that overturns the central thesis. The Committee quite modestly recommended that the Report be distributed and commended for “study”. The only thing synod would be taking a definitive stand on are the 15 points of teaching summarized at the end.

    This is similar to the report approved by the PCA GA. It was urged that the PCA report on the Federal Vision be passed on the basis of the 9 Declarations, regardless of any quibbles or debatable points made in the body of the report.

  7. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 8, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    If David is correct that the “errors lie in the distinctives”, then since the Joint Federal Vision Statement served to coalesce distinctives from among diverse FV adherents, a report’s failure to interact with that statement would be a major defect, not a minor one.

  8. June 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Not true, Mark. Please read our mandate! The emphasis of the mandate is to focus “on the doctrine of justification”. There are ambiguous statements made on the nature of justifying faith–living, active, obedient, etc. We learn what they mean by this formulation from their other extant writings.

    Thanks for this, David. There will be more response to come from this very “unhelpful” review of our report.

  9. David Gadbois said,

    June 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Mark, I agree that the utility of the FV Joint Statement is that it does document the unanimously-agreed upon distinctives of the major FV proponents. Not to be overly-cynical, but it should be kept in mind that the Joint Statement is very much intended to be a user-friendly advertisement for FV, and as such it conceals or glosses over some of the more dangerous ideas present and commonly espoused in the FV movement. The wording is guarded, and one would not expect to find the more egregious statements of FV proponents here.

    Also, note that the Report does quote the Joint Statement twice. The Joint Statement is indeed objectionable on its own grounds, even as careful and guarded as its language is.

  10. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Chris, I have read the mandate. It clearly placed examining the Federal Vision’s view of justification front and center, to wit:

    That Synod 2007 [of the United Reformed Churches in North America] appoint a study committee to examine by the Word of God and our Confessions the teachings of the so-called Federal Vision and other like teachings on the doctrine of justification; and present a clear statement on these matters to the next synod for the benefit of the churches and the consistories. (Acts of Synod Schererville 2007, Article 72.2)

    I am simply following David’s reasoning that in such exam, one would want to identify the “distinctives” of this teaching. Here we have a Joint Statement declaring distinctives, signed by a number of self-identified Federal Visionists. It would appear to be an important document to interact with. Certainly, it is proper to question whether some of the committee’s conclusions appear to contradict the Joint Statement.

    Having said that, fairly examining the Joint Statement does not preclude interacting with other “extant” writings to gain insight and interpretation of the primary document. As confessionally Reformed, we ususally start with the language of the primary document {the Confessions} and work out from there { to the extant writings of individual theologians} to gain understanding of the confessional language.

    It sense a bit of defensiveness to my post–perhaps it was your exclamation point! But note that David himself sees this issue as a defect of the committee report, albeit he believes it a minor one. Whether the Synodical delegates will see it as minor remains to be seen.

    So as I continue to prepare for Synod, I am certainly open to hearing your “more response” as to why you believe the Nampa critique “unhelpful”.

  11. Doug Barnes said,

    June 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I, too, will be interested in hearing why the Nampa critique is “unhelpful.” Chris, I hope you know by now that I’m not a Federal Visionist. But I _am_ committed to the idea that our churches should be as honest and fair as possible toward those with whom we disagree. (I think I read a column somewhere that made a point similar to that. ) And Nampa’s critique points out that our committee’s report seems to go to great lengths to read FV men in the worst possible light, while ignoring that which would alleviate or moderate concerns. That’s not the honesty and fairness for which we should strive.

    Moreover, Nampa points out that some of the ways the report “proves too much” in some of its conclusions. They end up condemning ways that Reformed ministers have spoken since the time of the Reformation (Calvin & company included; and certainly including a significant portion of URC ministers). If that’s the case — and thus far, I believe it is — then rather than being unhelpful, Nampa’s report is an essential piece of feedback for synod.

    So yes, I’m looking forward to a careful and charitable answer to Nampa’s concerns. Because they are my concerns, as well — and I strongly suspect that those concerns are shared by a significant number of URC consistories.

  12. June 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Doug,
    You write, “I, too, will be interested in hearing why the Nampa critique is “unhelpful.” The Nampa report advances nothing new–they are beating the same FV drum. It’s the very same tactic FV proponents have repeatedly used throughout the controversy–“we aren’t being understood, you are misunderstanding us, we don’t mean this…” It’s like saying Arius spoke with some orthodox language and mentioned the three persons, so we shouldn’t be so quick to hurt his reputation. Sigh… What scares me is the lack of discernment evidenced in this response. At some point, we need to fulfill our ordination promises and stand up to what is “outside” the boundaries of our confessions (and I think this was a key point of that article–:)) The report is well done, and a “helpful” reponse to the deviant teaching of the FV. Further, we had some pretty top notch guys on this committee. Wasn”t one your former professor, Dr. Venema? The other was mine, Dr. Horton. I hardly think they would aggree to being “dishonest and unfair” in their critiques of others. I can personally assure you, Doug, as a member of the committee, that we strove for this. These are not only “our” top theologians, but they are also respected theologians throughout the broader Christian community. And, ALL of the pastors on this committee, including the late Eric Fennema, knew what we were critiquing.
    There is much more to say, but all in due time. I will reserve the rest of my comments for my more full-orbed response to Rev. Smith.

  13. ray kikkert said,

    June 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Well … it’s pretty clear that both that consistory who wrote up the report and Rev. Barnes are too busy straddling the fence to offer a clear rejection of FV theology after so many years … example … the report tries to by pass the FV joint stance and directs the reader to Douglas Wilson’s more “orthodox” statements located within the book … “Reformed Is Not Enough”. Say What!
    It offers folks to read the book … but does not allude directly to the supposed orthodox statements therein (because there really aren’t any -rk) … bottom line … this report is shoring up support for FV… regardless of the claims that these folks do not support FV theology. It’s a politically correct report that sadly is par for the course amongst URC officebearers too busy tripping over themselves in being polite, but not supplying the stern rebuke for such a heresy as FV theology.

    It’s getting pretty old and lame to use the 9th commandment as a scapegoat and crutch with which to allow error.

  14. Matt Beatty said,

    June 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Chris,

    Consider this: A couple of years ago, I read “top theologian” Mike Horton’s work on the Ten Commandments and in that generally fine book you’ll find him arguing AGAINST a confessional view of the Sabbath (caught-up in Klineanism, I imagine…) – a view he, along with RSC, now embrace. I suppose if I asked him, at the time, if the view he now holds was accurate he would’ve said, “No. Of course not. I devoted 20-30 pages in an attempt to refute it.” Some years pass, Horton reads more, and is led to affirm the very position he once believed to be in error. Although I’d love to see his recant on this issue more public, I’m glad to see Horton (and RSC) telling people, “I was wrong.” This is a model for all of us… especially those training ministers of the Gospel.

    I can easily imagine a study committee populated by “top theologians” formed to tell us why the “traditional” views of Sabbath, Creation, etc. are all wet… only to recant such views within a decade or so. We assume this applies to the low-level parish ministers – especially if they only read “X” – but seldom think of it happening with/to the big-shots of the denomination.

    You think Drs. Venema and Horton would take issue with being labeled “dishonest and unfair” in their critique of the FV? I would assume no less; they have opinions and are entitled to them. But they aren’t infallible (as the above example proves) – not even close to it.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that Pastor Smith is correct in his opinion of the committee’s work, but it does mean (I think) that such a response shouldn’t be dismissed with the wave of a hand. He’s your brother in the federation… I think you owe him more than that. (And he to you, of course)

  15. David Gadbois said,

    June 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Let’s keep the tone down to a low simmer, guys. I really want us to keep the discussion going and focus on the merits and demerits of the Report as well as the URC Nampa critique, since this issue will be important at synod next month.

    I do take the Nampa folks to be sincere in their concerns, and I believe them when they say they are not seeking to defend FV. I also believe their concerns can be answered.

  16. Doug Barnes said,

    June 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    @ Chris:
    For this: “The Nampa report advances nothing new–they are beating the same FV drum.” … I have to throw a flag on the play. There is NOTHING in the Nampa paper that defends FV — zero, zip, zilch, niets, nada. And this is a (very) public arena. So for the sake of our brothers’ good names, how about refraining from identifying them with what you (in the same post) term “deviant teaching.” (Because, of course, if they were guilty of that, you would be obligated to take the course of action urged by Synod Schererville. But, of course, that also would require evidence, of which there is … none.)

    To be clear: that’s not spoken in malice. But especially in these sorts of conversations, we need to preserve the names of our brothers and be careful of the accusations we level (and especially so in public, without evidence).

    As to this:
    “Further, we had some pretty top notch guys on this committee. Wasn”t one your former professor, Dr. Venema? The other was mine, Dr. Horton.”

    … perhaps that’s why I’m so annoyed about the report. On the basis of … well, pretty much every individual on the committee, I expected quite a lot more. But committees can fall victim to a number of problems, not the least being reliance upon the big names in them … and (inadvertent) assumption of facts not in evidence. I believe Nampa’s report bears witness to three such problems which are evident throughout the report. I would love to hear the answers to those concerns.

    But: with concern for the names of all involved, brother.

  17. June 8, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Doug,

    What I actually said was that Nampa’s line of argumentation is the same as the FV—THAT is all! You forgot to quote what follows, “It’s the very same tactic FV proponents have repeatedly used throughout the controversy–”we aren’t being understood, you are misunderstanding us, we don’t mean this…” That is the FV drum, Doug. So I in no way suggested that they were FV. Now how about your brother’s good name on this end?

    As to the other concern, again, I will address that in my response.

  18. June 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Apples and Oranges.

    You write, “that such a response shouldn’t be dismissed with the wave of a hand. He’s your brother in the federation… I think you owe him more than that. (And he to you, of course)”

    Amen.

  19. June 8, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Hey Mark, I see I didn’t answer you. You write, “I sense a bit of defensiveness to my post–perhaps it was your exclamation point!” Not at all, sorry if it came accross that way.

    And, “So as I continue to prepare for Synod, I am certainly open to hearing your “more response” as to why you believe the Nampa critique “unhelpful”.”

    Thanks for being open.

  20. Doug Barnes said,

    June 9, 2010 at 7:56 am

    @ Chris —

    You wrote:
    “What I actually said was that Nampa’s line of argumentation is the same as the FV—THAT is all!”

    Great! And thank you for that quick clarification; I truly appreciate it.

    I was concerned (and was quick to post my concern), because it sounded very much like your response was implying that Nick &/or Nampa are FV. And not only is that not the case, but they went to great lengths to make it clear that they were not defending FV in expressing their concerns. But … well, if something is stated or implied on the Internet, it never dies — and some folks will take it as gospel, regardless of the facts.

    Honestly, brother, that’s my concern going into synod. We have before us a report with which many of us have concerns. Those concerns lie largely with the process and the manner of expression. Yet there is a fear of speaking up, lest those who speak be painted as Federal Visionists, by dint of the fact that we expressed concerns with the report. I’ve talked to plenty of folks who said nothing about the un-church-orderly adoption of the Nine Points in 2007 precisely because of the fear that, if they spoke up, they would be branded FV. But “unity” arising from fear that silences all concerns isn’t unity at all.

  21. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 9, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Chris:

    I remain open for now– but a note of concern here that you have made listening to what you have to say more difficult.

    First, I too read your prior response about the “Nampa beating the FV drum” as a not-so-subtle suggestion that Nampa is defending and/or sponsoring the FV. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but just yesterday a URC D.Phil blogger with a weakness for ad hominem used almost identical language that you used– and was quite explicit in what he was suggesting about Nampa’s sympathies. Now, we’ve all come to expect that type of argumentation from this fellow so his arguments can be easily ignored. But you are a committee member who is delegated to Synod, and I urge you to not follow suit. Trust me, that it will only elevate delegates’ concern over the degree of care the committee took in preparing this report. You claim you were misunderstood in your comment on “beating the FV drum”. Fair enough. But as you continue to work on your detailed response, please at least consider the irony of your claim of being misunderstood.

    Second, an appeal to level of “authority” of the committee members, in itself, does nothing to persuade me. No doubt, we all could easily think of different men with advanced degrees that we wouldn’t trust teaching our pet a new trick. While I can understand a committee member could have enjoyed attending all those committee meetings and been impressed by Drs. Venema and Horton discoursing, bantering and sharpening iron together, at the end of the day we must judge the work by what is written.

  22. June 9, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Mark,
    You write, “Trust me, that it will only elevate delegates’ concern over the degree of care the committee took in preparing this report” with “at the end of the day we must judge the work by what is written.” Please be consistent and follow the last one.

    You write, “While I can understand a committee member could have enjoyed attending all those committee meetings and been impressed by Drs. Venema and Horton discoursing, bantering and sharpening iron together…” Not really a helpful comment, but you should know that I enjoyed the “bantering” of ALL of our very capable ministers who took time to thoroughly interact with the views.

  23. June 9, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Doug, thanks for this.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    June 9, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Christopher, welcome to my blog. I have added your blog to my roll.

  25. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 9, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Chris, a heightened concern is directly related to judging “what is written”. It is not an either/or proposition. Hence the cautionary notes from me and Doug– two men who are reading what is being written.

  26. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 9, 2010 at 11:24 am

    As a URC minister who has had experience pastoring people who have become entangled in Wilson’s fv web, I am apololled by the lack of discernment with those who are critical of URC committe report on justification and fv teaching. It is not like we are trying to protect the reputation of our brothers in Christ who have a different emphasis, but rather the fv represents a different gospel. I do not think that Rev Nick Smith and the Napa Consistory understands that federal vision teachers often engage in double-talk, they redefine key terms, they fundamentally alter essential categories, by pouring unorthodox meaning into confessional terms. And therefore it is nieve to read them charitably, because they are intentionally deseptive. On the one hand they want to be viewed as confessionally reformed, but on the other hand they want the liberty to manipulate confessional categories and say something new. Just because the wolf is dressed in the gab of a sheep does not mean that we are unfair or breaking the ninth commandment when we judge the wolf to be a wolf. There is not honor in allowing the wolf to kill and destroy the flock, before we come to terms with the fact that the wolf is a wolf. I am deeply troubled by those who are more concerned about protecting the wolves, than they are about protecting the purity of the gospel and the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Rev Mark Stromberg

  27. June 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Mark, you were challenging me not to suggest what D Phil did with Nampa’s report. Judging our report “according to what is written” is a different issue. If you cannot make that basic distinction here, what an irony it is indeed that you are “misunderstanding” our report.

  28. June 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Hi Lane, thanks for adding me!

  29. Doug Barnes said,

    June 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    OK, seriously, Mark?

    Let me see if I have this right:
    — The Ninth Commandment doesn’t apply when dealing with those who hold to doctrines which we have judged to be false.
    — The committee established to examine their doctrines doesn’t need to read charitably or treat fairly the men whose teachings are examining, because those men are wolves, set on devouring the sheep.
    — We can’t believe anything those wolves say, because they lie.
    — And although we can’t believe anything those wolves say, we know that they are wolves, because … well, because we do.
    — Therefore we are naive and lack discernment if we question why our committee’s report seems to misquote people and ignores key sources in favor of simply asserting its conclusions as accepted fact.

    Did I miss anything?

    Oh, and lest it be missed: I am _not_ a Federal Visionist (nor am I sponsored by them, nor do I play one on television). But I _do_ hold to the old-fashioned and naive notion that God wants us to treat even those with whom we disagree with honesty, and I _do_ believe that it’s a sin to claim that someone, _anyone_, believes and/or teaches something that they don’t. And I’m not willing to ignore credible concerns about slander committed in the name of our churches, which is one of the things the Nampa report very gently is doing.

  30. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Ok, seriously, Doug?

    The crucial issue here is the lack of discernment by those who are undermining the committes report. Our committee’s report is consistent and in agreement with the reports of the PCA, OPC, RPC, RCUS etc. And yet our committee is being accused of misrepresenting fv teaching, and slandering fv teachers. Maybe, the real problem is with those who lack discernment and because of other committements are unwilling to judge wolves to be wolves. I am not accusing you of being fv, but I am concerned that you and men like yourself are protecting the wrong people. It is time that all URC office bearers honor their ordination vows and protect the purity of the gospel and the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and this requires judging false prophets to be false prophets. For a guy who claims that he is not fv, (and I believe that you are not) it seems that you think being fv is acceptable!! This lack of discernment and committements that prevent men from making sound judgements when it comes to protecting and clarifying the gospel is the real issue.

  31. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Chris, I’ve attended a conference led by Venema explaining the report. I’ve read the report a number of times. I’ve had private edifying conversation with a committee member regarding the report. I understand the report just fine.

    My simple point is that all matters will get evaluated by what is being written– at the various stages of the discussion: first, the written Committee report, then the written Nampa critique, your’s or others’ written responses to Nampa, etc, etc. The plea is quite simple:* whatever* is written, let it address the substance of the critique rather than resort to ad homimen smears. I know that is hard, if not impossible, for some to follow, but I’m hoping for better from you.

  32. Doug Barnes said,

    June 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Mark S, here’s what I hear you saying, from a courtroom perspective:
    1. Forget about the holes in our evidence. The guy’s a scumbag. Just trust us, and vote guilty.
    2. The real problem here is jurors who lack the discernment to overlook the lack of evidence presented. Just convict the guy. After all, he’s a scumbag! Trust us!

    Here’s the thing: as a federation of churches, we aren’t obligated to create and distributea report on the FV. We already subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity, and all of our office-bearers take a vow to uphold them and to teach only within their bounds. If someone breaks their vow, we have means of calling them to account, thereby protecting the churches.

    That’s not to say we _can’t_ create a report on the FV. But if we do so, it should be a report that serves and assists the churches. Right?

    However, if we adopt a report that’s full of holes; that misquotes the folks it condemns; and that condemns friends along with its original targets … well, we’re doing harm, not good. Discerning men will read that report, check the sources, and say: “Why would I believe the claims of people who aren’t willing to be honest in their criticism?”

    The net result is the same as walking into a courtroom with an ill-prepared case. The defendant might be guilty as Cain — he’s still going to walk, and it’s going to be the fault of the prosecutor.

    So true discernment in this situation should call us to do an exemplary job with our report OR do nothing. But if we’re going to distribute something to the churches for their edification: let it be something that is as genuinely edifying and honest as we can make it. And if we’re not willing to do that, then let’s stand on what we already confess and leave it alone.

  33. David Gadbois said,

    June 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I notice that this conversation is somewhat short on specifics. Precisely at what point did the Report slander anyone or even come close to it? If there is one or a few examples that can be brought forth we could discuss it. Right now people in this thread are just venting impressions and opinions.

  34. Doug Barnes said,

    June 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    @ David:
    Sorry; my statements were predicated on what was written in the Nampa paper. I don’t have time right now to pull the specifics — but look at what that paper has to say, throughout, about “misrepresentation.”

  35. June 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Doug,

    You write, “if we adopt a report that’s full of holes; that misquotes the folks it condemns; and that condemns friends along with its original targets …” It should be stated strongly that this is not proven, and, as David asserts, is just venting an opinion. Enough has been written over the past years to discern what has been said. The report demonstrates this.

    You write, “Why would I believe the claims of people who aren’t willing to be honest in their criticism” How am I to read this? Are you charging us with being dishonest? There appears to be a sentiment among us in the URCNA that feels quite justified in protecting the reputation of FV proponents, and, yet, so willing to go after their own brethren by suggesting they are the dishonest ones in their critique. Something backwards here? You do see why it can be easily wondered if there are other motivations behind such an approach?

    Now what if our report had said the following with no attempt to document the claims: “There are a series of problems with the movement, including a sanguine approach toward Rome and Orthodoxy and the efficacy of the sacraments; Federal Vision’s often muddled language on the relationship between our works, perseverance, and future justification; and, of course, their often rancorous rhetoric….I took the opportunity to argue that Federal Vision’s view of apostasy was, as far as I could tell, a denial, however unintentional, of the biblical doctrine of perseverance of the saints. That is a rather serious problem. One cannot deny perseverance, or affirm a system of thought that leaves little room for perseverance, and still claim to be Reformed or confessional. ” Now who said this?

    The irony here is striking; our report is attacked for making these claims even though some feel our evidence is wanting (e.g. Nampa report). But very few, even from his own camp, dared criticize RC Sproul Jr. for these “unproven” statments made in TABLETALK magazine!

    The FV is what it is, and it’s terribly unfair to blame us for the mess they have created. Our report simply exposes what a mess this movement is! All of the energy given here to stop progress against the FV, and defend their orthodoxy (as Nampa stated was an objective) if it were turned to expose their very serious theological error, would really be of benefit to us in helping to honor what we promised in ordination.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    June 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I’ve heard the cry of “misrepresentation” and “breaking the 9th commandment” WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too often to be impressed by it in the slightest. It has been levelled against the most careful reports ever written on the subject. In fact, it has been levelled at ALL the reports on the subject. It makes me think that, according to the FV, the only way to understand it is to agree with it. The constant cry is that we critics come from a different paradigm. Of course, that is perfectly true, and IS IN FACT THE POINT: our paradigm is confessional, and theirs is *something else.*

    Matters are not helped by the fact that almost every criticism can be answered by a defense along the lines of “but look at this orthodox statement over here.” This would be an acceptable defense if the FV system was coherent and logical. But, on the one hand, they claim to be confessional, and on the other, claim that the confession needs to be scrapped. They claim to lie within the historical Reformed position, but they cannot make their doctrine fit the standards. As a result, they rarely answer criticisms on the precise point at issue, but rather seek to change the subject.

  37. John Barach said,

    June 9, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Permit me to mention two factual errors at the very outset of the URCNA’s report.

    First, the report says:

    In January 2002, Rev. Steven Wilkins, pastor at the time of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Monroe, Louisiana, invited a number of speakers to the church‘s annual pastor‘s conference to articulate and defend their advocacy of the “Federal Vision.”

    This statement is untrue. Every year, in January, Auburn Avenue hosts a ministerial conference. In January 2002, the title of the conference was “The Federal Vision.” That title intended to indicate that the whole conference would be about the covenant (“federal”) and viewing things in terms of it. It was simply a creative way of saying that the conference would be about the covenant and about viewing things in terms of It.

    The report says that it was in January that Steve Wilkins invited us to speak. That is not true. The conference was in January; the invitation came much earlier. (By the way, “pastor at the time” makes it sound as if Steve Wilkins is no longer the pastor of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church. But he’s still the pastor of that church to this day.)

    As well, the speakers were not “invited … to articulate and defend their advocacy of the ‘Federal Vision.'” That way of putting things makes it sound as if “the Federal Vision” existed already as a movement and the conference was about why people hold to it. That is far from the case. No one spoke about “the Federal Vision” before the conference; rather, the title of the conference became a shorthand way of referring to some of the views expressed at the conference.

    When I was invited to speak, Steve Wilkins didn’t ask me to defend my advocacy of something called “the Federal Vision.” He invited me, rather, to speak about the covenant and let me choose whatever related topics I wished to address. That’s important to note: I chose the topics; they were not assigned to me. I was not asked to articulate any particular view, nor was I asked to defend a view. I was asked to speak, and I spoke about whatever I wanted to speak about. Furthermore, the four of us who spoke did not consult each other (“You talk about this and then I’ll say that”), nor did we think we were starting a movement of any kind.

    So much for the first set of factual errors. Here’s the second. The third paragraph says: “Since Rev. Shepherd was unable to attend this meeting, Rev. John Barach, at the time a pastor of the Grande Prairie URC, was invited to speak in his place.”

    This is also untrue. As a quick check could have revealed, in January 2002 I was the pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta. (By the way, “the Grande Prairie URC” is a sloppy way of referring to the church. Its name is Covenant Reformed Church.)

    Are these flaws significant enough that the whole report should be jettisoned? Probably not, though they ought to be corrected. At the same time, these were the easiest possible facts for the committee to ascertain. Hardly any research was necessary to establish these facts. These facts were not controversial or hard to pin down. And yet the committee didn’t get these facts straight.

    There are many, many more mistakes and misrepresentations that I could list, concerning things that matter far more than these simple facts. But already these two mistakes suggest that the report is sloppier than it should be.

    In this connection, I also highly commend Rev. Bill DeJong‘s ongoing and in-depth examination of the report.

  38. Doug Barnes said,

    June 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    @ Chris:
    RC Sproul Jr. isn’t URC, nor is anyone asking me to put my name on TableTalk. What is said in a magazine is one thing; what is recommended for the study of the churches by a synod is something entirely else.

    To be clear: my question — “Why would I believe the claims of people who aren’t willing to be honest in their criticism?” — is the question that could be asked by those to whom the report is recommended, in the churches, should a report be handed to them which they find to be full of misrepresentation. It’s a hypothetical question, true; but one which would be understandable. Why believe a report unless its authors are careful to be as honest and faithful as possible, even with those whom they critique?

    You said: “The FV is what it is, and it’s terribly unfair to blame us for the mess they have created. Our report simply exposes what a mess this movement is!”

    But I’m not blaming anyone for the mess someone else has created. I’m saying we need to be careful not to create a mess of our own. If our report faithfully and carefully demonstrated what a mess the FV was, well and good. But that’s the problem: it asserts, rather than proving. If that’s the best we can do, then let’s just tell our consistories to re-read the TFU and be careful to evaluate in the light of those clear confessions of the truth. OTOH, if we want to help the churches to understand aberrent movements, then let’s do so with the utmost care and honesty.

    Servants of the God of Truth should strive to do no less, and should be satisfied with no less.

  39. Daniel Kok said,

    June 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Let us note that this whole issue and the persons involved have been awash in supposed ninth commandment accusations from the very beginning. It will never go away, ever, no matter how much each side promotes the truth and honesty of their statements.

    Certainly it is incumbent upon every party to fairly represent others to the best of their ability, and certainly there should be genuine and honest attempts to correct that which is lacking in a critique when brothers point out such errors. And giving one another the benefit of the doubt is very much in line with the spirit of the ninth commandment. And I certainly trust that when it comes to debating the report that the brothers who wrote it will be open to constructive criticism about their formulations and definitions.

    Having said (and here I boldly open myself to the charge of violating the aforementioned ethic) there are issues at stake there are of greater concern than that which is alleged by one party to be true or false. To wade through these accusations tends to, whether we like it or not, take our eyes off the central issue at hand (which I think is Rev. Mark Stromberg’s concern).

    I am reminded of the fact that Joe Morecraft and others who stood against the FV from the very beginning seemed to be (at the estimation of others) out of touch with reality, and were overstepping the bounds of fellowship. Certainly he was attacked as doing such by FV adherents. Time has, unfortunately, proved that their stand was not merely over reactionary as many others of our brothers and sisters in other Reformed denominations have spoken out against this movement including, I believe, even those who were reluctant to do so from the beginning.

    Personally, as one who has been at the heart of a ‘FV controversy’ in my former denomination, what I saw was that many of those who initially claimed it was a tempest in a teapot saw, after careful reflection and honest investigation, that the Federal Vision was in fact endangering the spiritual well being of the flock over which we had been charged to protect.

    The conclusion was stated in this way: “Though we certainly do not make statements about every wrong theological teaching, there are times when such a statement is rendered necessary. If any teachings cause controversy
    and division in churches and denominations essentially like-minded to ours, there can be a pastoral concern that may need to be publically addressed.”
    (for those who wish to see the results of this deliberation, please go to: http://www.cambridgeocrc.org/Documents/federation/fvstatementexpl.pdf)

    What was always strange to me is that the theological issues were rarely discussed from the other side but rather issues of misrepresentation. Smokescreen anyone? Though I think that both sides were guilty of it at times, the lack of open discussion about issues which pertained to confessional subscription were largely left aside.

    The whole issue though, for the Reformed churches, was settled at the colloquium held at Knox Seminary in August of 2003 (the results of which have been published in “The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons”).

    What makes this meeting so important is that those who were adherents of what has been called FV theology, had an opportunity to explain their views to their colleagues and friends. This was not an inquisition but an opportunity to explain and, possibly, come to an agreement.

    Carl Robbins wrote: “As I said at Monroe in January 2003, I speak/write with nothing but the deepest affection and appreciation for each of the men who will be attending the colloquium….” (page 162).

    In the introduction E. Calvin Beisner wrote: “Joey Pipa and Morton Smith were no mean theologians and Pipa was Wilkins close friend” He concludes in the final chapter saying “With Joey Pipa in chapter 2 above, I wish first to applaud and join advocates of the Federal Vision in their critcism of modern evangelicalism’s over subjectivism” The examples could be multiplied.

    Most if not all of the men who write contra the FV say the same thing: we respect them, we understand their concerns but… and they go on to refute the error of the FV in a rather clear and devastating fashion.

    And, yes, it was nice of the FV men to write an additional joint statement but it didn’t change anything. What they said and wrote at Knox was clear enough, as well as those statements made at the original conferences.
    Did the go back, did they refute, did they contradict what were statements that were made, not under duress but openly proclaimed? No. Have they repented of their views that their friends and colleagues have called upon them to repent of? No.

    So I believe the time for accusations about violations of the ninth commandment are over If you wish I can write out a list of false accusations made by FV proponents that were stated from the very beginning, that I believe provoked this mess in the first place. But what would be the point?

    These issues pertain to the heart of our doctrine; to the very things we have fought (yes!) for and obtained at pain and heartache. We have been here before; we will be here again. And so though I don’t think that Rev. Nick Smith has done a disservice by responding to the Report, I am afraid that the issues that are already clear and settled will be lost in the discussion that follows. The original report follows the spirit and tenor of other reports made by our brothers in other, faithful Reformed denominations.

    If there be errors of name, date, or place then let them be changed. But no amount of additional quoting or citation will change the minds of those who have been embroiled in the issue for years now. For that we are prepared to be judged by the Lord for our honesty and decency, which certainly means answering to His church to whom we love and earnestly serve.

    In Christ’s service,

    Pastor Daniel Kok

  40. June 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks Lane, you’re correct, we are simply rehashing all the arguments you guys have been dealing with over the past few years. I don’t think these arguments will hold any weight–I’m so glad you pointed this out.

    You write, “It makes me think that, according to the FV, the only way to understand it is to agree with it. The constant cry is that we critics come from a different paradigm. Of course, that is perfectly true, and IS IN FACT THE POINT: our paradigm is confessional, and theirs is *something else.*

    Amen! I really don’t believe there is anything we could produce that ultimately would be accepted by those now taking issue with our report. As stated, those making waves over our report are sure giving all of their energy to defend FV “orthodoxy” but none to expose the very serious threat these teachings pose to the souls of our people. Hopefully, the careful URCNA reader will ask why some of our brethren are so eager to overturn all efforts in the URCNA to expose what is outside the bounds of our confessions, while giving nothing in return to our federation by way of exposing FV error. If we had a bit of balance here, their concerns might be more well received.

  41. June 9, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Appreciate this, Daniel!

  42. June 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Doug, you’re not making the connections. Please read Lane’s response, he answers directly this repeated misrepresentation charge.

  43. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    The individuals making waves about the report fail to see the central issue; they are more concerned about hiding behind a smoke screen, and protecting those who promote a false gospel than they are about maintaining and defending the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should all be praying that by the end of Synod London, those who are unwilling to defend a confessional view of the gospel will feel very very uncomfortable in URCNA. Anything less would be in violation of our ordination vows. May God give us courage, strength, and the discernment required to defend the gospel.

    Mark Stromberg

  44. Reed Here said,

    June 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Doug Barnes: I’m confused. Have you read the URC committee’s report? Am I correct that you have not read (or at least read in depth) Nampa URC’s critique?

    Is this correct?

  45. Reed Here said,

    June 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    John Barach: you are correct that the list of “factual errors” you present are insignificant at best.

    The Shepherd/you one does appear to be an out and out error. It is an error however that is immaterial to the subject of the report. That is, it has no material effect on the conclusions of the report.

    As to the “Federal Vision,” I dispute your reading of an error. I read the use of the quotes as an inference to exactly the point you are making. At the time there was no such thing as an indentifiable movement called the FV. That it is the inference, and is consistent with the reports usage of this data – to mark the ostensible “public” beginning of the movement now before us. This again is not inimical to the report’s purpose. It is merely a marker for historical context, and helpfully accurate for that point.

    As to the choosing of topics, this is quite disingenuous of you. I was around at the time and remember receiving information from a friend who wanted to attend. As with all such conferences, both Auburn Avenue’s and other churches/ministries, an overall theme is presented for the conference and speakesr are asked to speak relevant to that theme.

    Surely you do not mean for us to believe that a conference still referenced as “The Federal Vision” by Auburn Avenue PC, CREC itself was actually not so thematically organized? Surely you do not mean to suggest that you were free to speak to anything you wanted and you just so happened to pick a topic relevant to every other’s speaker’s independently chosen topic, and that all these coincidentally related to the announced theme, “The Federal Vision”? Your argument is incredulous!

    Finally I dispute the silliness that the URC report got the name of the church wrong. At the time (Jan. ’02) Steve Wilkins was pastor of Auburn Avenue PC, PCA. He is no longer, as that church has left the PCA and joined the CREC (as you know). Admittedly this is an insignificant factual error on your part, but it is an error. A little closer reading on your part would have easily identified this.

    One has to wonder why you went to such great lengths to make such disingenuous arguments about insignificant (supposed) errors (one arguably accurate)? Oh wait, we don’t have to wonder. You explain yourself. You use these silly arguments to bring into question the credibility of the whole report.

    That your arguments are so disingenuous should warn others to be careful in listening to you. Seriously, John, this is ridiculous on your part. Shame.

  46. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Yes Doug, you are confussed I have read the committee report and the Nampa URC’s critique.

  47. Kevin Barrow said,

    June 9, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    From a distance, it appears as though the consequences for which some men here are wrestling, is known. Not directly but here are the fruits that do prevail from wrestling with justification, however unintentional.

    “As one of those four, I took the opportunity to argue that FV’s view of apostasy was, as far as I could tell, a denial, however unintentional, of the biblical doctrine of perseverance of the saints. That is a rather serious problem. One cannot deny perseverance, or affirm a system of thought that leaves little room for perseverance, and still claim to be Reformed or confessional.”

    “I have highlighted this same problem and in turn noted a long series of other problem areas within the FV movement. These include its sanguine approach toward Rome and Orthodoxy and the efficacy of their sacraments; Federal Vision’s often muddled language on the relationship between our works, perseverance, and future justification…” R.C Sproul Jr. Feb. 2010 Tabletalk CREC minister

    Is this what you’re fighting for?

  48. Doug Barnes said,

    June 10, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Mark S & Reed,

    I have no idea what the two of you are talking about.
    Yes, I have read both the URC committee’s report and Nampa’s report.
    And Mark, I’m not sure where I implied anything other.

    However, Mark, I do have this to say: truth is a better weapon than bullying. But it takes more work, so lazy people resort to bullying.

    Example: There’s plenty to critique in the Joint FV Profession, which the men involved all agree is fair and representative of their views. Opening it at random and skimming the page, I find two clear statements of belief — one about baptism, and one about the Lord’s Supper — which I believe to be false/erroneous. Fleshing those out would be easy: supplement the Joint FV Profession quote with their other writings to demonstrate the significance of those troublesome statements; then explain why its a problem in terms of Scripture and Confession. Result: they might not agree with my critique, but adherents of the FV would have no choice but to admit that the view I am critiquing is THEIR view. After all, their name is on the concise and clear statement I cited.

    Then I would be working with the truth. That’s a sharp sword, and difficult to dodge.

    OTOH, I could just make claims about what the FV guys teach, buttressed by
    incomplete quotes from random, individual FV writers, possibly taken out of context. And when someone notes that I haven’t proven my case, I can point at him and loudly declaim him as an FV supporter, thereby effectively scaring other potential critics into silence.

    Then I would have bullying. Less a sword than a club — but far easier to use.

    A Godly federation, intent on truly identifying and rooting out error, will use a sword. A lazy bunch that just wants to impress their friends at the local (na)parc will grab a club and start swinging.

    Question is, which will WE use? The club near at hand, or the sword that still needs sharpening and polishing before it’s ready for use?

  49. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Doug,

    You talk about using a sharp sword to root out error and not a club, which I fully agree with, but I fear that by the time the critics are done with their work, we will be left with neither a sword nor a club. If those who are critical of the report really want to sharpen the report and make it more effective, then may God bless them in their labor, but if their intentions are to diminish the report and weaken it, then I pray that these intentions will come to light.

    One of the problems that the critics have concerning the report, is that many of us have been studying the fv for many years, and some of us have had to address fv teaching within our own congregations and classis. As a result we already have a good understanding of fv teaching. Although the documentation of the report could be improved, we appreciate the way the report faithfully summarizes the teaching of the fv, and the way the report defends our confessional views and in particular our confessional view of justification. And therefore, we are suspicious of those who arrogantly claim that we don’t really understand the fv, or that we are misrepresenting the fv. You may take issue with an incidental statement within the report, or with the percieved need for better documentation, but I do not see how you can take issue with the over all body of work. In terms of its analysis of the fv, it is honest, fair and discerning.

    Doug it is one thing to sharpen a sword, this I can appreciate, but it is quite another to break a window and have nothing to replace it with. If the critics of the committees report were as concerned with critiquing the false teaching of the fv, as they are about critiquing those who are trying to defend a confessional view of the gospel, I would find it easier to believe that they are in the business of shapening swords, rather than breaking windows.

  50. Doug Barnes said,

    June 10, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Mark S —
    Thank you. That’s helpful, and I can appreciate your concerns.

    Now, here’s the question we need to answer before synod: what is the purpose of our report. Is it:
    A. To confirm that we’re right in what we believe? … or
    B. To help the churches understand what FV is & what is wrong with it? … or
    C. To confirm that we agree with what the PCA & others have said/done?

    To be clear, I’m not being snarky. This is a question we really need to answer. If you want to hit a particular target, you need to know what that target is so that you can use the right weapon. (You use a different gun for pheasant than for bear.)

    If it’s A, with all due respect, we don’t need it. Ditto with C. One of the things that got/gets the CRC in so much trouble was thinking that “synod has to say something” on every latest topic of concern. That’s one of the things that brought the CRC to where it is today, and I don’t think it would be wise to take the URC there.

    OTOH, if our intention is B — to help the churches understand what FV is & what is wrong with it — then we need to be as clear, comprehensive, and honest with the FV as possible. We need to hand our consistories something that will be truly helpful. But how can it be truly helpful when it ignores the one joint statement of doctrine on which all the leading FV guys agree?
    How can it be truly helpful when it quotes men to support claims that are contradicted in the same article/chapter of what is quoted?

    So what I’m saying — and what the Nampa critique is saying, in large part — is simply: if we’re going to give them something, let’s give them something that’s truly helpful. Let’s give them a sword, not a cracked stick.

    No broken windows necessary.

  51. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Doug: in a previous post it appeared to me that you said you had not had time to read the Nampa critique in detail, i.e., that you just skimmed it and for that reason could not (yet) offer informed opinion. To be clear I asked if this was true, and whether or not you had read the URC committee report.

    I agree with your concern about “bullying.” However I think you are cautioning against an appearance of the URC report, and one that is not quite fair.

    What is more fair, to critique a brother’s position based on one written document or on a plethora of documents? Clearly the latter. Reading only one document, however summary it proposes to be, leaves too many inferences and implications of what is being said left unanswered. Offeringh a critique on that basis is unfair.

    It is unfair to both the one being critiqued and the listening to the critique if the critique is based on a narrow reading of one’s opponent. Only through reading more fully can the one offering a critique be able to answer with surety the inferences and implications raised by the summary piece. A fuller reading leaves less loose ends, and provides more clarity for what is being said, by both the critiquee and the critiqor.

    I’m not saying you are argfuing for a narrower reading (yet it sound like some here are). To criticize the URC committee report because it does not limit itself to the Joint FV statement is actually quite wrongheaded. Further, to assume that limited reference to the Joint FV statement means lack of interaction with it by the URC committee is also wrong. This assumes something about the men on this committee which is both uncalled for in terms of their Christian character and their scholarly reputations.

    The Joint FV statement is a document forged in the context of the debate when the “heat” of the matter was possibly the highest. It serves as an attempt to answer and assuage the concerns of critics. To that end it is a welcome piece.

    Yet the document itself is not without connection to the broader discussion. The key characteristic failure of the FV men is their use of equivocating language. Accordingly, any summary document such as the Joint FV statement is subject to the burden of this failure. That is, the summary language used needs to be understood in light of the broader record of the arguments put forth by these men.

    Consider that the document is intended as a “common denominator” explanation. I.e., it offers what the signers have in common in terms of their “Federal Vision” beliefs. When one then examines what each signer has said about a particular summary statement (i.e., read more broadly in fairness), one finds a wide range of explanations about that particular statement. In other words, they all say “we believe x,” and then personally define “x” in different manners. This demonstrates the fundamental equivocating nature and inherent danger of the FV; it is as unstable as oil on water.

    This is why any reasonable critique has to focus not simply on a summary statement, but the big things that the FV men say the same way (i.e., the thing in which they share the same definitions). When one does this the field of possible critique narrows. Yet it does narrow in on the key and egregious errors.

    The FV posits an earthly parallel system of salvation, one which even the elect cannot distinguish for sure from the sovereign system of salvation ruled over by God. Such confusion is rightly identified and critiqued by the URC committee.

    To say, “critique a brother’s best statement,” is unfair to that brother and to the brother who may listen to him. Rather fairness brings into view all of a brother’s statements. It appears, in spite of how hard this work is, that the men on the URC committeed did just this. They are to be commended, rather than chastized.

  52. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Doug: have you asked the URC committe members how they respond to the Nampa response? Maybe (as I suspect knowing the involvement some of these men have had with studying the FV) these men can attest to thorough interaction with the Joint FV Statement.

    If so, then why not ask them to explain why such critique does not appear as much as the Namp criticism would like? Why assume the Nampa critique is accurate?

    I can give you a sound reason why these men might have chosen this course in their report, but frankly I expect you will not be persuaded unless, unitl you understand as deeply as they do.

    Accordingly, let me suggest you ask someone like Mike Horton to give you his reading list on the FV. Then spend the time necessary to study as he has. Then consider whether or not the Nampa critique is fair?

    I expect you will find yourself appreciating their concern (the appearance of fairness), deciding nevertheless the URC report is on target, and then possibly offering an apologetic as to why the Nampa critique does not apply.

    Seriously, why assume the report is more like a club than a sword?

  53. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 10, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Reed: Where has anyone argued that the Study Committee should have confined itself only to evaluating the FV Joint Statement?

  54. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Mark: that’s is not what I said.

    Am I correct that the criticism of the Nampa response is that the URC committee’s report does not appear to have adequately interacted with the Joint FV statement?

    Has not one of Doug’s points been that it is better to critigue the FV based on their “best” statement, the one they all agreed with, that is, the Joint Statement? The inference is that if the URC committee report limited itself to this, or at least oriented itself toward that statement, it would more accurately represent the FV position.

    I am merely pointing out that such an approach makes a number of errors.

  55. June 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Doug,

    As for A–There is precedent, and often this is necessary. “Synod affirms that the Scriptures and confessions (Heidelberg Q/A 59-62; Belgic Confession articles 20-23) teach the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, based upon the active and passive obedience of Christ alone (p. 27 Acts of Synod 2004).” The common cry of, “we just have the confessions, and, therefore, nothing else needs to be said”, is a wearisome argument at best.

    As for B–Reed is correct, Why assume the Nampa critique is accurate? You’ve just hit the ground running with this.

    As for C–I value being ecumenical with my brothers who have been willing to take a strong stand against the FV.

    So let’s make this all inclusive: we want to expose FV error, speak clearly to our federation about just what we believe concerning these things, and align with our faithful brothers in other demoninations who have been willing to take the stand also.

    Alternatively, we could just review our mandate.

    As stated, I hope the careful URCNA reader will ask why some of our brethren are so eager to overturn all efforts in the URCNA to expose what is outside the bounds of our confessions, while giving nothing in return to our federation by way of exposing FV error.

    I am looking right now at an appeal to make our 9 points “null and void” based on procedural concerns–I wonder, have any of our Prebysterian brothers ever faced this? I know Ligon Duncan pleaded at the PCA GA that anytime people want to stop progress, they appeal to procedure. Didn’t Machen have something happen like this? And now we are dealing with a vigorous attempt to take down our report. So the whole picture is concerning, what has been done by those fighting against our report to expose Fv thought? Nothing.

  56. June 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    One other question, how would the Synod of Dort held up to the Nampa test?

  57. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Doug:

    Why is it that you are only concerned about breaking the ninth commandment, when it applies to critiquing the fv and not when it applies to misrepresenting our committee’s report. Comparing the committee’s report to a broken stick, is dishonest and a gross misrepresentation. Once again your protecting the wrong people. I fear that by the time the critics have had their way, we will be left with nothing but a broken stick. On the whole the committe report is an excellent body of work, and it will be very helpful to the URCNA congregations. I am curious, in terms of the reports conclusions and its recommendations, what do you find to be false or offensive?

  58. David Gadbois said,

    June 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    56 posts and still no one has documented any specific slander, misrepresentation, or fatal error that they feel the Report contains (on doctrinal issues, not incidental historical details). Where’s the beef?

  59. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Doug: You have been exposed, you may not be fv, but you are clearly committed to protecting your fv friends (naast).

  60. Doug Barnes said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Wow. Friendly mob.

    I’ve said my piece. I believe that if we recommend a report to the churches, it should be honest with regard to those whom we critique and, thereby, honoring to God. I have clearly stated that I do not hold to the FV distinctives. I would add, just to be clear: neither do I teach the FV distinctives.

    Nonetheless, it has been strongly suggested that I am either a naive (note the spelling) fool, or a sympathetic ally of the FV; and that I am one of those who is “eager to overturn all efforts in the URCNA to expose what is outside the bounds of our confessions.” (Thanks for that, Chris. I appreciate your bridge-building efforts.)

    FWIW, the consistory I serve also wrote the appeal against the Nine Points. We had no complaint against the doctrine expressed in the Nine Points. But my elders were properly unhappy with the fact that we adopted a significant statement which had neither been requested nor developed by (nor, for that matter, been seen by) a consistory or classis in our federation, as the church order requires. The statement was adopted in a hierarchical, synodical, and un-church orderly manner — regardless of what it says. And we believe that those who are willing to ignore it when a synod plays free and loose with the rules when it falls in their favor soon will find that the same rules are unable to protect them when they are in need. So, as was our duty, we appealed.

    However, judging by what has been written here over the past day, it seems pretty likely to me that we’ll be branded FV for daring to question the Nine Points. I suspect we’ll be told it was our duty to rally in defense of their, ahem, “creative” birth (de novo, from an advisory committee member’s e-mail!).

  61. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Reed: You said it “sounds” like Doug is arguing for this narrow position. You also now say there is an inference from his argument that if the “URC Committee report limited itself to this,or at least oriented itself toward that statement, it would more accurately represent the FV position.” I’d like to see a citation to something he wrote that could give a reasonable man that impression.

    Doug’s posts are quite clear: the Joint FV statement is an important document that should be adequately examined ALONG WITH other extant writings of FV authors.

    Why is such a simple position so hard to understand?

  62. curate said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Gadbois no. 58

    I have detected a gen-u-ine theological error. Reed and Jeff will know what it is.

  63. curate said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I checked with the Heidelberg Chat, and, yep, I was right.

  64. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Doug: as one who does not have a “dog” in the URC “fight”, I must say your “pastoralness” leaves a lot to be desired.

    The “procedural” point you make here at the end is fundamentally a different argument against the URC committee’s report that has dominated your conversation here. As one whon takes his “presbyterianism” seriously, I do have sympathy with the direction this takes.

    However, this is not been the substance of your criticism here at GB. To then turn around and deride those who critique your (unsubstantiated) argument agains the accuracy of the URC committee repor t, without offering any substantive examples to back your criticism up … well that is quite breath-taking.

    You end with a complaint that you will not be granted the judgment of charity, all the while your argument has been lacking in that very judgment of charity.

    I appeal to you, granting you the judgment of charity you ask for, why not do the work necessary to validate your impression of the URC committee report’s weakness? If you have done this work, then why not satisfy the requests of those here who in good faith ask you for some substance? Surely one or two good examples of how the URC committee report gets it wrong is reasoable to ask of you.

    You are quite uncharitable to those here who express frustration with your unwillingness to offer reasonable responses to substantiate your criticism. In this sense, you are guilty of the very criticism you level at the URC committee report.

  65. June 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Doug, are you saying your appeal was based on something de novo from an email? I didn’t read that in your appeal. Why are you making that charge here? Do please inform????

    Didn’t Mark just say that he doesn’t believe you are FV, and I do not believe so either. Naast is a more of the issue here.

    As for this statement, “(Thanks for that, Chris. I appreciate your bridge-building efforts.).” Nice shot. But there are confessional boundaries. You know that I am required to defend these things. Too much is at stake, and we are charged to content earnestly for the faith once delivered. I refuse to let questionable procedural concerns stand in the way of that defense. I just don’t think you have thought through how dangerous this movement is to the salvation of our people. If we have to be quite strong about this, I trust you will at least appreciate that we are doing this because we do indeed believe that what is at stake is the gospel.

  66. Doug Barnes said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Reed,

    Briefly: Read what Nampa wrote. I haven’t offered substance beyond that, because our brothers in Nampa were kind enough to give us 17 pages of details. Why should I reinvent the wheel, when they were kind enough to do it already?

    See here: http://urcnampa.org/resources/interaction.pdf

    I’m sorry; I thought it was quite clear all along that I agreed with what they wrote, which offers plenty of specific references.

  67. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Doug: And you can’t find time to offer even one substantive example? You are the one here criticizing the URC committee report. It is imperative upon me to to do the work of defending your criticism?

    This is a blog for discussion and interaction. You’ve got time to take to task the URC committee report, but no time to offer even one substantive example?

    What about my repreated suggestion? How do you know that the URC committee did not intertact sufficiently with the Joint FV Statement? How much of the voluminous writings on the FV have you actually read and interacted with? (I’m verys serious in these last to questions – you’ve made some rather strong criticisms. Prove you are to be trusted, that your’s is an informed opnion, not merley a sentimental mawkish one.)

    Seriously, if you expect one to take your criticism seriously, and give time to interaction with you, a little more serving on your part is reasonable.

    I’m not sure if you know this or not, but GB has a valid reputation for serious and extended interaction on the FV (don’t recognize your name as a regular poster). You’re not talking with folks who are uninformed but rather quite the opposite.

    If this is the best you are willing to offer in your criticism, is it probably wiser to keep such criticism to yourself. As it is, without substantiation, your argument is an old, worn out canard here at GB. Take your flag down if you don’t intend to defend it. Your criticism and your manner of defending it are unbecoming the high standards of godly conversation to which we are called to exercise.

  68. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Doug: Reed, has a valid point, in the name of sharpening the sword, and not using a club (you should recognize this analogy) it is time that you substantiate your claims. A man who is so concerned with the ninth commandment should have no problem with this challenge.

  69. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Roger: I’m a bit more obtuse than that. But … I have a guess as to what you are referring. Only a guess, mind you.

  70. Doug Barnes said,

    June 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    @ Mark —
    I already did. Read what Nampa wrote; plenty of examples there. Sunday’s coming, and I haven’t the time to re-type what you can get by clicking a link.

    @ Reed —
    I’ve read abundantly in the FV stuff, from the very start in 2002. I’ve had no inclination to participate in GB discussions, for the most part, b/c I’m not PCA. The only reason I entered this discussion was to uphold the name of brothers within my own federation.

    And now, Sunday is comin’, and some of us have to prepare to preach.

  71. John Barach said,

    June 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    @Reed —

    You may not believe that my account of the Auburn Avenue conference is accurate. Nevertheless, when I was invited to speak, I was told what Norman Shepherd’s topics were, but Steve Wilkins told me I could speak about anything else related to the topic of covenant and viewing life and theology in terms of it.

    I chose to stick with Shepherd’s original topics: “Covenant and History,” “Covenant and Election,” and “Covenant and Evangelism.” But at no point did I consult with Doug Wilson or Steve Wilkins or Steve Schlissel to find out what they were speaking on. At no point did we say, before the conference, “If you’re going to say that, then I’ll say this.”

    So there was indeed a theme (“The covenant and viewing stuff in terms of it”), but there were no specifics and no coordination beyond that.

  72. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Doug: sorry brother, but your defense is lame. Wish you hadn’t made such unsubstantiated criticisms of good men within your own federation. Would that you were equally concerned about their good names?

    Would that you hadn’t thrown around unsubstantiated insinuations of “slander,” “(dis)honesty,” “(un)fairness,” “(dis)regard(ing) the facts,” “bullying,” and “clubbing” on the part of the URC committee report authors. According to your own professed convictions here, you’ve shown no 9th Commandment regards for these men.

    Your behavior tells me that I waste my time giving your criticism any credibility. Given what you’ve said here, I’ll assume the best and conclude that you are incredibly naive. I pray God will lift that fog from you.

    And now, Sunday is comin’, and some of us have to prepare to preach.

  73. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    John: and your response to the rest of my challenges to your disingenuous comments?

    As to this defense of one, do you mean to tell me that Steve Wilkins never said something like, “can you speak out our next Pastor’s Conference, which we’re titling, “The Federal Vision”? Even on the basis of your explanation here as to what the theme was (“the covenant and viewing stuff in terms of it), Do you really mean that you did not come with a shared “vision” of how the covenant works?

    I did not say or suggest the speakers colluded. Nor does the URC committee repor quote you use to make this argument. The simple point is that y’all shared a similar approach, a similar understanding (in broad terms) of the covenant that has come to be identified later on as Federal Vision. The URC committee report accurately reports this. Your criticism is disingenuous.

    C’mon man! Y’all spoke because y’all shared a common approach to this time (covenant and viewing stuff in terms of it). You were asked to speak in Dr. Shepherd’s place because you shared the same approach as him and the other speakers. Your criticism of this supposed error in the URC committee report is unbelievable.

    Now, if we were speaking at the subsequent AAPC (’04?) at which Dr. Gaffin spoke, well then I can believe that some of the invited speakers were present because of their contrasting views. Yet that is not the case with the ’02 conference and you know it.

    Seriously John, these kinds of disingenuous arguments are part of the reason why many of us do not trust you. Surely you are better than than brother, or at least you can offer better.

  74. John Barach said,

    June 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    @Reed —

    Of course, Steve could have been fairly certain that the four speakers would have some similar perspectives. I have never denied that. What I denied is that we talked together and planned what we were going to say (“You say this and I’ll say that”).

    What happened is that Steve invited four speakers, three of whom had spoken at AAPC conferences together before and one of whom was recommended by a couple of people as a possible replacement for Norman Shepherd and whom Steve Wilkins knew through some prior e-mail interaction, to speak on various aspects of the covenant.

    Of course, he expected that the various talks would dovetail. But that was the limit of the planning. No one told me what to say. No one told me that I had to say what Shepherd would have said (and I don’t think I did). No one told me that I had to cover the same topics Shepherd was going to — just the opposite in fact; the choice to keep those same titles was my own and my treatment of them was my own.

    You refer to “the rest of my challenges to your disingenuous comments.” I’m not sure which challenges you have in mind. If I’ve missed them, let me know.

  75. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Roger (#62): As it is not my denomination, I’ve been out of this one. My only comment is that demanding the highest standards of accuracy is not a “tactic” but a necessity.

  76. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    John: you are being obtuse. As to my other challenges, read my comment to which you are responding (no. 45). I also took you to task for your “PCA” and the “date” errors you claim were made.

    As to the “Federal Vision,” you said that the report was untrue when it claimed all the speakers came together to “articulate and defend their advocacy of the “Federal Vision.” You’ve explained twice now that by “untrue” you mean that the speakers were neither told what to say nor colluded (compared notes).

    This is not the point being made by the paragraph you quoted from the URC committee report. Even a cursory reading can see that. All that is being said is what you’ve already explained: y’all had a similar understanding of the covenant and viewing sutff in its terms. That is exactly the point being made by the URC committee report. Y’all shared an approach to the covenant that y’all self-labeled (after the fact as you will have it), the “Federal Vision,” and y’all gathered to speak on that theme. This is what the quotes says y’all did. (Talk about reading your opponent fairly! Sheesh!)

    I guess I must apologize to you at this point. … I do apologize for accusing you of being disingenuous if either is the case. …

    (edited by author)

  77. John Barach said,

    June 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    @ Reed:

    I think we’ve about exhausted this topic, if not also the patience of the readers, so this will be my last response.

    I grant that Schlissel, Wilson, Wilkins, and Barach agreed on some things before the conference, such that Wilkins would not have expected us to disagree sharply with one another at the conference. He thought we’d be roughly in the same ballpark.

    But in the invitation, he didn’t spell out what that ballpark was. He didn’t ask us to defend our adherence to some position, let alone to a movement. He didn’t tell me what to talk about, and I certainly didn’t think that, by giving those lectures, I was starting or furthering a movement of some kind.

    I was simply presenting what I thought was a biblical and helpful survey of the covenant(s) from Adam to Christ (“Covenant and History”), of the relationship between covenant and election, and of the importance of the covenant for evangelism. If one of the other speakers had disagreed with me about something I said in one of those lectures, it wouldn’t have surprised me, nor would it have been seen as “breaking ranks” or “a dispute in the movement” or something like that. I wasn’t there to defend a movement’s views, but simply to present my own.

    So the wording of the report still seems to me misleading, unclear, and unhelpful.

    As for “PCA,” I grant that “pastor at the time” might have been meant to refer simply to the PCA part. But it’s not as clear as it could have been, because it sounds as if he’s no longer the pastor of that congregation, when in fact he is.

    As for the date errors, I don’t see where you discuss them.

  78. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    John: yes, I see where I missed the “date” (error). I had something in my head and forgot to write it down. (You were arguing for an preciseness in the January ’02 reference that is not necessary, and therefore not an example of a material factual error).

    Saying that the report in these ways is unclear is a far cry from saying it is untrue, as you’ve at first claimed. Given that it is entirely possible that the unclarity lies not in the report but in your reading, maybe you should simply offer a “mea culpa” on your initial criticism.

    I promise not to try and take advantage of you in this regard. Instead, I invite you to offer one substantive error. After all, your original comment does end with the observation that there are many more mistakes and misrepresentations that you could list.

    So why not back off these insignificant (supposed) errors that may be nothing more than your errors? Why not offer a substantive criticism. That might be helpful.

  79. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 10, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Although the 9th commandment operates quite intermittently at GB, accusing Rev. Barnes of this is just nonsense. In fact, I think he has demonstrated the most concern for the good name of the men on the URC committee and of the federation in general. If the Nampa critique is on target {which Doug believes it is–and Reed, its not that hard to read}, then now is the time to make amendments, corrections, etc to the report. Otherwise, we are knowingly and stubbornly refusing to close a wide- open door to future FV accusations of 9th commandment violation.

    Are we so proud that we hurl accusations rather than discuss the substance of a critique, one which may help avoid embarrassment and harm to reputation of our federation?

    74 posts later and still no substantive reply to the Nampa concerns.

  80. John Barach said,

    June 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    @ Reed:

    I don’t intend to interact more. Thanks. But I’ll point you to Bill DeJong’s extensive and ongoing interaction with the report at his blog. Rev. DeJong is a former URCNA minister, now serving a Canadian Reformed church.

  81. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Mark: did you read the list of insinuations Doug made? Let me repeat it for you: “slander,” “(dis)honesty,” “(un)fairness,” “(dis)regard(ing) the facts,” “bullying,” and “clubbing.” He made these with reference to the men who wrote the URC report. This is showing most concern for their good name?

    Your point about the need for perfecting the report is not the issue Rev. Barnes was addressing. He was addressing himself to the supposed inaccuracy of the report based on the suposed failure of the writers of the report to adequately and fairly interact with the written statements of the FV men.

    He is the one who raised 9th Commandment concerns. Is it unkind or loving to remind Rev. Barnes that he will be judged according to the standard of judgment he uses (Mt 7:2)?

    You are missing all this for some reason Mark.

    The criticism in view is not the supposed errors of the Nampa response but the URC comittee report. Your counting, accordingly, has it backwards. 80 comments and still no (substantive) criticism of the URC committee report.

    Rev. Reed DePace

  82. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    John: I guess I can’t be surprised. For some reason this is a common response of FV adherents when challenged.

    What is the harm in acknowledging you exagerated in your criticism? This does not prove you are wrong in saying that there are other misinterpretations.

    Oh well, so much for a desire for truth.

  83. Theodore Halton said,

    June 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    @ Mark (79) & @ Doug

    In your estimations, and in your roles as 2010 synodical delegates, can the exhortations contained in the Nampa critique be incorporated into the URCNA Report so that it can be improved on the floor of Synod or in the time leading up to it? Can it be edited in such a way that it still accurately describes the error of the FV while also addressing the concerns which Nampa has raised?

    If we take at face value the Nampa paper’s statement that “The goal, rather, is to address some problems in the Report that ought to be addressed”. In view in such a statement is the upcoming Synod which will/must address the FV controversy and the time-sensitivities which are incumbent upon anyone with objections to have them brought up and resolved *before* Synod approves the URCNA Report.

    The Nampa paper then identifies three core flaws in the report. Misrepresentation, Proving Too Much, and Failure to Distinguish Ways of Being Wrong.

    So my question to Mark & Doug and the broader audience is: can a second document be prepared which offers ‘tune-ups’ in each of these areas that would satisfy those who are hesitating to adopt the report ‘as is’?

    The Report’s authors may not be pleased to have their work amended in such a way but hopefully some Christian humility will recognize that the work which they were tasked to do is ultimately being done in the desire for purity and unity within the church and that therefore these cosmetic (ex. adjusting Grande Prairie URC to say Covenant Reformed Church) and content-related (ex. removing so-called contradictory quotes even though the essence of what’s being proven stands with or without those associated quotes) changes can be made to the report when it arrives on the floor of Synod.

    An astute reader can’t help but notice that numerous references are made to the FV and its proponents as unorthodox and unconfessional (Doug, you’ve been very clear to point out that you see grave errors in the FV) and yet the narrow wedge issues are deterring some of our brothers from moving forward with this report.

    Procedurally it is certainly possible to craft, circulate and adopt an emendation of the report in the weeks leading up to and including Synod that will 1) solidify the intended message of the report, 2) remove the legitimate crises-of-conscience among the brothers who feel that it’s a report, as Doug said previously, “that’s full of holes; that misquotes the folks it condemns; and that condemns friends along with its original targets ” and 3) move the URCNA towards its zealously-sought-after goal of purity and unity within the church on these essential questions of justification, election and covenant.

  84. June 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Look, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of ministers, elders, and congregations in the URCs long ago rejected the FV lock, stock, and barrel.

    There are a small number of holdouts seeking to carve out space within the URCs for the FV, trying to turn back the clock to pre-2004, when Synod rejected a sermon preached by a FV minister as “confusing” and adopted three points on sola fide an the imputation of active obedience in response. In 2007 Synod re-adopted those 3 points and promulgated Nine Points of Pastoral Advice rejected the FV root and branch.

    This response from Nampa is prima facie evidence that the substance of the argument is long over.

    Those who’ve paid the least bit of attention over the last 10 years know exactly what the FV doctrine and movement is: Arminianism done under the cover of covenant theology.

    Those who confess God’s Word with the Reformed Churches in the Three Forms of Unity know what the Reformed faith is, and the FV isn’t Reformed.

  85. June 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    John,

    Everywhere I read your comments you point us to Bill Dejong’s blog. I see you are linked up there, along with quite a few other key FV figures. He shares and sympathizes with FV theology. This just proves Lane’s point above, that the only way to “understand” the FV is to agree with it–thus we are directed to someone like Bill, a sympathetic figure.

    But if we are operating fundamentally from a different paradigm than the FV, one this is confessional, and theirs “other/and” then no manner of critique will ever allow them to accept that our critique is correct (this is why it has NEVER happened with any report), even when the critique is spot on.

    In other words, since they claim also to being Reformed, they can duck and cover under whatever awning they like and cry, using Nampa’s concern, “we don’t recognize what you are saying about us”! This, it semes to me, is what MVM, Doug B, Nampa, and others fail to discern.

    So there you go, here is one major substantive failure of the Nampa report, its starting premise is all wrong and should be rejected. And if your starting premise is wrong, the rest of the arguments come into question.

  86. John Barach said,

    June 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Reed: I don’t believe that I exaggerated in my criticism. I said the statement is untrue. I didn’t say it was a lie; I believe it was mistaken.

    * It is untrue that the invitation to speak came in January 2002. But that is what the statement says. This mistake is probably the result of poor wording. The statement means to say that in January the conference was held, but instead it says that in January the invitation was given.

    * It is strange to say that Wilkins was “pastor at that time of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCA).” I suspect that you’re right and that the committee did mean that he was “at that time” in the PCA, but the statement sounds as if it’s saying that he was “at that time” the pastor of AAPC. Well, that’s true enough, but the wording makes it sound as if he isn’t the pastor of AAPC any longer. That’s confusing and perhaps misleading, as a result of poor wording.

    * The statement says that Wilkins invited us “to articulate and defend their advocacy of the ‘Federal Vision.'” I’ve already explained several times why this is not correct. Once more: I was free to speak about anything relating to the covenant that I wanted to; I was not told that I was supposed to be talking about certain issues relating to what was later called “Federal Vision” stuff.

    It still seems to me that these opening paragraphs, the paragraphs that are intended to lay out the basic facts before analyzing the theology, contain errors. While the errors themselves are not so significant (e.g., it doesn’t really matter for the substance of the report if I was the pastor in Grande Prairie or in Lethbridge at the time), it does betray a certain sloppiness.

    How did a mistake like that occur? The answer, it seems to me, is probably that the person who wrote that part of the report did not bother to look up where I was at the time but went by his memory, a memory which happened to be flawed. No biggie, but sloppy.

    He also didn’t bother to look up the name of the church in Grande Prairie in his URCNA Church Directory in order to find out that it’s called “Covenant Reformed Church.” Instead, he just called it “the Grande Prairie URC.” No biggie, but sloppy.

    Perhaps the sloppiness and the lack of research ended with the introduction. But I think Nampa’s response and Bill DeJong’s critiques show that it didn’t.

    And now I will depart and allow you to say, if you please, that I lack a desire for truth. But I do not intend to interact with you any more after that.

  87. Mark Stewart said,

    June 10, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Hello gents,

    I finally get back into the blog world and, lo and behold, it’s in the same condition I left it in: all kinds of heat and very little light! But I know I’m made up of the same sinful stuff :)

    As a member of the FV Study Committee, let me assure you that the committee would be happy to have Synod make improvements to the paper so that we as a federation can happily receive it (or however we word it) as an important development in our history as churches together.

    In terms of the FV Joint Statement, let me just say that we initially engaged in a great deal of interaction with that document. Our earliest discussions involved a desire to ensure that we actually answer what the most popular FV proponents were arguing for, rather than respond to straw men and exaggerated claims about what they were saying. I believe we have done this. However, we came to the conclusion that we could not do that faithfully by engaging mostly with the Joint Statement because it was clearly to us a much too conservative summary of what many in the movement taught. In fact, I remember those associated with the FV initially arguing strenuously against their being a part of any movement at all; I was surprised then that they decided to adopt this statement.

  88. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 10, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Theodore asked:

    So my question to Mark & Doug and the broader audience is: can a second document be prepared which offers ‘tune-ups’ in each of these areas that would satisfy those who are hesitating to adopt the report ‘as is’?

    The Report’s authors may not be pleased to have their work amended in such a way but hopefully some Christian humility will recognize that the work which they were tasked to do is ultimately being done in the desire for purity and unity within the church and that therefore these cosmetic (ex. adjusting Grande Prairie URC to say Covenant Reformed Church) and content-related (ex. removing so-called contradictory quotes even though the essence of what’s being proven stands with or without those associated quotes) changes can be made to the report when it arrives on the floor of Synod.

    Mr. Halton @ 83, thank you for such a refreshingly simple question that gets to the issue without all this distracting ad hominem corrosiveness.

    From a church polity standpoint, I do not think that the report can be “amended” from the floor of Synod. The report is the report and we are not to do committee work on the floor of Synod. However, I do believe Synod could re-commit the matter to the committee for further study to address identified concerns to then report back–hopefully with a more airtight report.

    But we have to recognize the political climate. There is a campaign to shape the debate. The spewing oil in the Gulf has nothing on the poison spewing into the atmosphere in advance of Synod. Given that, some delegates might think the motion to re-commit is fine, but could be reluctant to support it for fear he will be viewed as trying to “carve out” a safe haven for the FV. To paraphrase Obama, what is needed is for someone to just “plug that d… hole”, ecclesiastically speaking.

    I have been thinking for some time that it appears we have entered a new phase in our federation. Doug mentioned a column written about efforts at charitable discussion among those with differences, and quite frankly, THAT is one occasion where I think Doug Barnes was pretty naive in what he was dealing with. Mr. Halton, you mention the need for humility, and I too had asked if we are so prideful we cannot countenance correction. Jeff Cagle rightly observed that precision is not a tactic, but a “necessity”. But unless men repent of their pride and arrogance, it does not bode well for the future of the federation. May God have mercy on us all.

  89. June 11, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Could Synod amend and tune up an overture, report or recommendation from the floor of Synod? Yes, of course it can do that. Is it necessary to do this? That is an entirely different matter.

    We amended recommendations on creation topic in 2001 and approved the 9 point of Synod 2007, both on the floor of Synod. In one instance we did committee work on the floor of Synod in the other we approved the recommendation of a committee of pre-advise responding to an overture the churches had all seen on the topic from Classis MI.

    The Federal Vision report was put out with plenty of time for any church or any member to overture for changes in the report. Why did this not happen? Also, has anyone critiqued Nampa “Interaction” in the same manner that they critiqued the FV report itself. Here are a few points that I interact with since I looked at Nampa’s Interaction two days ago.

    Nampa states that FV report is a misrepresentation of FV. They point out the duty of one who critiques, “It is our duty to represent our opponents fairly, showing the fulness of their position, complete with nuance and qualifications”. They submit a more complete formulation of the FV position by telling us to go to 3 websites that give a complete view of FV. Do these websites give the fullness of the FV position complete with nuance and qualifications? They do not. In addition does Nampa’s Interaction deal specifically the main points of the Report itself? It does not. Nampa’s Interaction is incomplete. It seems their interaction has a different standard from the standard they demand. However, I submit that no report or interaction can do ALL that is demanded by Nampa’s standard.

    Problem two according to the interaction is “Proving Too Much”. Here the “Interaction” states that the committees summary term describing FV’s view of the sacraments, “effectual means of grace”, is itself a problem and “comes perilously close to over-reacting in the direction of treating the sacraments as mere signs”. Brothers, if you only read Dr. Horton on the sacraments, an author of this report, you would never come to the conclusion that this report “comes perilously close to over-reacting in the direction of treating the sacraments as mere signs”. Here is a misrepresentation that over-reacts and proves too much. This interaction does what it accuses the FV report of doing. It misrepresents the FV report and proves too much.

    I readily admit my statements here are a summary of the Nampa Interaction. I submit this modest critique of the first two points of Nampa’s Interaction as an indication of its failure to represent accurately and tendency to prove too much by what it says.

  90. Reed Here said,

    June 11, 2010 at 10:45 am

    All: I ask you to consider this apology I’ve offered to John Barach:

    “John: I need to apologize to you for some of my rhetoric in our conversation at Green Baggins. I was harsh and unkind, inappropriate no matter my differences with what you said.

    I responded in some anger at what I perceive to be inappropriate criticism of the URC committee’s report. “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” (Jas 1:20).

    I have failed in this regard. For Christ’s sake, please forgive me.

    I will be amending my comments at Green Baggins, so as to remove the onerous language against you. As well, I will be making this apology public there.”

    I ask the forgiveness of those here at GB.

    Reed DePace

  91. June 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Thank you for this good response, Casey. I hope all URCNA members read this and consider the fine points you make.

  92. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 11, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Casey, I don’t think the precedents you cite are persuasive. A brief pre-advice committee recommendation is quite a different animal compared to an 80 page study committee report. Has Synod ever commissioned and considered such a study committee report before? I’m not aware of one. While efforts to amend from the floor are not out of the realm of possibility, it would be unwise for the delegates to attempt to amend such a lengthy/ involved committee report. We would need the majority of the time allotted at Synod to discuss, debate, and vote on incorporating changes into that report. That kind of detailed discussion is what the committee was commissioned to first do, and if on reading it the delegates could judge that it needs additional work. Thanking the committee for the work done thus far and re-committing it to them for further sharpening is the wisest course. Perhaps Mark Stewart can clarify what he said above, but not interacting with the Joint Statement because it was a “much too conservative summary” of what the FV teaches is an odd reason to not engage it.

    You mention that churches could have overtured for amending the report. That is true and would be the proper protocol, but given your citation to Synod 2007’s precedent on the 9 Points, that protocol appears to be preferred, but not required.

  93. June 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Mark VM, You wrote, “Thanking the committee for the work done thus far and re-committing it to them for further sharpening is the wisest course.” Based on? Nothing yet has been proven that this is needed. It would be, in my opinion, a stall tactic and unhelpful for our churches. I’m not sure you understand what we are up against in dealing with this. We have repeatedly emphasized here the double-talk, shifting paradigm, etc., of the FV. I encourage you to read Lane’s recent post and interact with it. No degree of “further sharpening” will meet the Nampa standard of understanding the FV. Much more will be needed to prove that we need to do what you are suggesting.

  94. Daniel Kok said,

    June 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    FYI, an overture from Classis Western Canada to amend the Report is on the synodical agenda.

  95. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Chris, re-committing is based on the documented lack of interaction with the Joint FV Statement. Rather than suspiciously viewing it at a “stallling tactic”, see it as an opportunity to make this report as airtight as possible, which is for the good of the churches. {Note too, that one does not have to agree with all of Nampa’s observations, and could still believe the committee needs to interact more thoroughly and substantively with the Joint FV Statement}.

    And yes, I do know what we’re up against. All the more reason to re-commit this to the committee.

    I have read Lane’s new post, but there is nothing of consequence to comment on yet.

  96. Matt Siple said,

    June 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    @90 – I really appreciate this. And with the other readers, we gladly forgive you.

    “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people – Luke 1:68

  97. John Barach said,

    June 11, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Reed: As I wrote to you off the blog, I do forgive you.

  98. Noah J. Heckmann, Jr. said,

    June 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Greetings All,

    I am simply a member of a URC who recently saw a friend leave the church to become a member of a CREC. I am no theologian, nor have I been raised in the Reformed faith and tradition. Yet, as new as I am to a confessional church, by God’s grace I have developed a zeal for the three forms and the Reformed faith and after taking interest in these comments (of which I am appreiative for everyone’s learned-ness) I thought a layman’s comment might give some perspective.
    In talking with my friend who has followed Wilson and Shepherd for many years one thing became a recurring theme. He would constantly question the adequacy of the confessions. Saying that he affirms what is in them, but they don’t go far enough in explanation. In addition to this he brought up all of these questions concerning the Covenant of Works, and baptism that were contrary to what was being taught from the pulpit.
    I am not a smart man, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that what this man was talking about was not the reformed faith that I had recently thrown myself into learning and wanting to know so desperately. From a layman’s perspective I am convinced that what the ‘FV’ proponents teach and confess (in addition to the confessions) is not traditionally reformed. I do not think I am alone in this, therefore if the ‘FV’ proponents are convinced that they have been enlightened to a “more reformed” position then they might want to consider not casting their lot in with those who profess to be traditionally confessionally reformed (whew, that’s a mouthful).
    I certainly hope I have not offended anyone here, this is not my intent, only to recognize that the ‘FV’ adherents are different enough in their teaching on certain issues to constitute a federation that maybe should not claim a reformation position. Thank you again for everyone’s openess on discussing such an important issue that concerns Christ’s church and his Gospel.

  99. jared said,

    June 13, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Page 11 of the Synod’s report after a broken quote from Lusk:

    In this statement, Lusk distinguishes between election and covenant but still insists that all who are included in the covenant are, in the proper sense, truly and savingly joined to Christ. All who are members of the covenant community are genuinely united to Christ and participants in all the benefits of His saving work.

    Lusk does not, in fact, “insist that all who are included in the covenant are, in the proper sense, truly and savingly joined to Christ” nor does he advocate (in the quoted article) that all covenant members “are genuinely united to Christ and participants in all the benefits of His saving work.”, at least not in the sense the Report is implying (or implicating). There are pre-constructed concepts read into what Lusk is saying throughout the quoted article. The next sentence after the Report’s end of quote says: “Until and unless that person breaks covenant, he is to be reckoned as among God’s elect and regenerate saints.” (i.e. he is to be reckoned as saved). This is nothing but standard fanfare for how we understand church membership. We take it on good faith that any given profession/conversion is “genuine” until demonstrated otherwise.

    Whether one is “genuinely” united, or “in a proper sense” savingly united, Lusk has said nothing about in the Report’s given quote(s). In fact, just a few paragraphs later Lusk will say “No elect person can lose his salvation, however much he may backslide. This is the point of Jesus’ teaching in Jn. 10 – God the Father and God the Son will not lose their grip on those they have chosen for final salvation.” Lusk would argue (if pressed, I think) that one can distinguish (at least conceptually/categorically) between one who is “genuinely” united and one who is merely (or circumstantially) united. Perseverance is not only the easiest measuring rod but it is also the one that the NT authors emphasize most in this regard.

    The Report is using this quote from Lusk to paint him as not making any distinction between elect and reprobate covenant members with regards to salvation. From the quoted article this is demonstrably false; Lusk says: “Again, there is no question that God’s elect, predestined for final salvation, will persevere to the end. They cannot fall away because God is determined to keep them in the path of life. But reprobate covenant members may temporarily experience a quasi-salvation. They were, in some sense, bought by Christ (1 Pt. 2), forgiven (Mt. 18), renewed (Mk. 4), etc., and lost these things.” He will go on to note that “It may not be wise to call this ‘losing one’s salvation’, but it would be unbiblical to say nothing at all was really lost.”

    After similarly interacting with a quote from John Barach the Report continues:

    Consistent with this identification of covenant membership and true, saving communion with Christ, proponents of the FV reject any distinction, however it is expressed, between those members of the “visible” church who may truly be members of Christ by faith and those who are only “externally” members of the covenant people of God. Distinctions between the covenant in its historical administration and the covenant as a saving communion of life, between the “visible” and “invisible” church, between “external” membership in the covenant and “internal” or saving membership, are frequently rejected by FV proponents, who insist that all members of the covenant community are savingly united to Christ. (emphasis mine)

    So here we see the Report ignoring (or not acknowledging, at least) that both Lusk and Barach have a clearly qualified understanding of the term “salvation” (and related terms such as “truly saved”, “genuinely united”, etc.) as it applies to elect and reprobate members of the new covenant. The qualification hinges on a decidedly divine-wrought perseverance in the elect and the inevitable apostasy of the reprobate. So it seems that the FV does not, in fact, “reject any distinction, however it is expressed” between the elect and reprobate members of the covenant. In the last sentence of the quote from the Report the word “savingly” might as well be “equally” for that will make it more obvious as to how the FV position has been mischaracterized in this section of the Report.

    In summary, then, the Report surmises that FV proponents believe all covenant members, whether reprobate or elect, receive in equal and full measure all the same benefits of saving union with Christ (i.e. there is no distinction or differentiation in the application of all benefits afforded by being united to Jesus). The Report says, “In Lusk’s and Barach’s view of the covenant of grace, membership in the covenant community, which includes believers and their children, must be understood in the strongest sense to include full participation in the saving blessings of Christ’s work as Mediator.” From the quoted FV proponents in this section, however, it is clear that reprobate covenant members do not enjoy at least one benefit in tandem with elect covenant members: perseverance. It is not clear, given the Report’s quotations, whether or not there are any benefits at all (including perseverance) that reprobate members do not enjoy to the same extent elect members do.

    I have not read the whole Report but if this sort of “analysis” can be found throughout then it really does need to be more careful in interacting with the FV, its various proponents, and their peculiar use of (too?) familiar terminology.

  100. July 9, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I stated above that an objective of Nampa was to defend Fv orthodoxy. That was mispoken, and I retract it. To me, there is a glarring inconsistency here, however, between what they say and their application of interaction with the report. But, I should honor what they repeatedly said in the report. Just for the sake of accuracy.

  101. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    July 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Re: #100–appreciate this Chris. This has once again raised my hope for rational, civil discussion. Perhaps others who’ve made similar claims here against those offering critiques of the report could follow your humble example and likewise retract?

    Let’s pray that our discussion at Synod will be marked by our working *together* as we strive for the highest standards in our defense of the gospel.

  102. Cor Hoff said,

    July 23, 2010 at 9:22 am

    If there seems to be such a controversy re the FV, how can the Synod finish the workload in such a short time?


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