Resources on Federal Vision

Here are some resources on the Federal Vision theology, since some have asked what it is. For a one-stop place to go, one really cannot do better than this book. It is a collection of articles both for and against the Federal Vision (Federal Vision is synonymous with Auburn Avenue Theology). For web-sites, go here and here to hear them in their own words. Last, but not least, get this book for a thorough critique (despite the fact that the Federal Vision advocates absolutely hate this book, it is a good book).

Basically, the Federal Vision is a loosely conglomerated group of individuals who seek to promote a certain understanding of the covenant. This understanding of the covenant is objective (outside of oneself). In their understanding, membership in the covenant is based on baptism, not on a faith-profession. You could call it a reaction against pietism and an overly self-focused Christianity, an overly individualistic Christianity.

They usually hold to an undifferentiated understanding of the covenant. That is, there is no real difference between those who are elect and those who are not unless and until some apostatize. Baptism confers union with Christ, and all the benefits of being in union with Christ (perseverance is usually excepted here) are given at baptism.

Federal Vision advocates offer an alternate understanding (they will usually say “non-competing”) of certain systematic theological terms such as election. Federal Vision advocates are not generally pleased with systematic categories, actually. But with election, for instance, they will say that there is a corporate election of the church. When Paul addresses the church as elect, this is what he means: that everyone in the church is elect to the church, even though all may not be elect in the decretal sense. Critics argue that this introduces confusion, and that Paul presumes (but does not assert) the decretal election of believers when he addresses the church.

It usually follows that Federal Vision advocates are also advocates of paedo-communion (infants partaking of the Lord’s Supper). Certainly not all paedo-communion advocates are Federal Vision advocates.

Critics of the Federal Vision (of which I classify myself) argue that the Federal Vision has gone too far in its reaction to individualism. Critics also will say that the Federal Vision has abandoned traditional understandings of the order of salvation (ordo salutis) by confusing the terminology. The order of salvation (by the way) is the way in which salvation comes to a believer, and includes such things as union with Christ, justification, sanctification, adoption, glorification, etc. Critics will also go so far as to say that the Federal Vision is a fundamentally Catholicizing (as in Roman Catholic) tendency. The tendency is to make the visible church equal to the invisible church (such a distinction between visible an invisible is distasteful to most Federal Vision advocates).

It is important, finally, to realize that there is not one huge, monolithic movement here, and that many people associated with the Federal Vision do not hold all the beliefs of others in the movement. I have not said everything there is to say, but I think I have captured the main themes here.