Apparently, this Federal Vision statement is going to be printed in hard copy in Credenda/Agenda. So says Doug Wilson. It is being given out early because of Jordan’s reference to this document in a letter he sent to Christian Renewal.
That is by way of background to this document. Now, we will examine the preface. The preface makes several important claims. The document claims that the views it espouses are not in conflict with either the 3FU or the WS. Of course, this is not a new claim on the part of the FV. However, for them to say that if we understand it to be in conflict with these confessional documents means that we have misunderstood the document is an example of assuming that which needs to be proved. They don’t say this explicitly. I hope they do not mean it. Always, for those who have taken vows to uphold the standards of the church, their teachings need to be demonstrated to be in conformity with the standards. So, the FV will forgive us, I’m sure, if we do not take them at their word, but instead examine the document to see if it is compatible with the standards. This is not an unreasonable undertaking. And, contrary to what some FV proponents say, we the critics are not automatically assuming them to be out of accord with the standards. Members in good standing of presbyteries are assumed to be in accord with the standards until they prove otherwise. This is the approach I will take here.
Secondly, the document limits its own scope to certain issues that are a significant part of the FV discussion. In other words, this document should not be understood to be an exhaustive dealing with all the various books, articles, etc. Furthermore, we should not understand this document to be an official confession of faith. The provisional nature of the document is clear from the document itself (“at this stage of the conversation,” “given our circumstances”). These statements are the views of these men at this time on these issues, and we should interpret the document with this in mind.
Thirdly, this document is presented in a spirit of teachableness. The document explicitly says that the authors desire to be teachable, and are willing to stand corrected. They desire to state their views as clearly as they can in order to facilitate further conversation, as it includes discussion of possible ambiguities and errors. One should certainly laud such a statement. The desire to be teachable is rather important in this whole discussion. I fear that too many on both sides have not exhibited much of a teachable spirit. I certainly include myself in such an indictment. Humility seems the correct (and only!) path to me here, and I think the Bible would agree. So, I am going to take them at their word here. I am not going to assume that past behavior dictates future response. If I did, I would not have excessively good reason to deem FV authors teachable. Be that as it may, I think believing this statement of humility on their part is the best way forward.
Update: this post was written independently of Scott Clark’s points, available here. He has some thoughtful points that deserve careful consideration.