Federal Visionist PCA Pastor Craig Higgins’ Vision for bringing the PCA under the Pope

Posted by Wes White, original article here.

Last week, the Aquila Report featured an article by John Otis detailing the Roman Catholic views of of PCA Pastor Craig Higgins. Now, I would not have been surprised if he would have said that Higgins believes in baptismal regeneration, wants to return to many Roman Catholic rituals, emphasizes the Church year, and sees Lent as a very important Christian practice.

What surprised me is that Higgins actually has proposed that the PCA return to diocesan bishops and go back under the leadership of the Pope. I’m not kidding. Yes, he does not hold to papal infallibility, and he wants the Pope to exercise authority only with a council, but let us remember that Higgins’ view was one of the major viewpoints within the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and was the view of many within the Roman Catholic Church long after the Reformation.

PCA Pastor Craig Higgins is Pastor of Trinity PCA in Rye, NY. Trinity is part of Tim Keller’s “Redeemer Network” and a part of the Metro New York Presbytery.

For readers who might be wondering if Higgins should be considered Federal Vision, Otis also writes:

As one delves into his [Higgins’] thesis, one soon finds that his views are hardly Reformed and Confessional. Moreover, his quotes from Calvin are totally misused. He will readily expose himself as solidly in the Federal Vision camp. At places, he will cite to his defense none other than the notorious company of N.T. Wright, Peter Leithart, Norman Shepherd, and Rich Lusk.

What I would like to reproduce here, though, is Higgins’ proposal for placing the PCA under Papal supremacy. Otis points to two different paragraphs in Higgins’ article on ecumenicity:

“Third, the unity we seek should be both conciliar and, yes, episcopal. While wholeheartedly agreeing with the position of all the Reformed churches that a corporate episcopate is (at least!) as faithful to the apostolic tradition as is monepiscopacy, and while agreeing that the latter was not practiced universally until centuries after the apostolic age, we in the Reformed churches must admit that the Church did become near-universally episcopal, and that the historic episcopate is an important witness to the Church’s unity. Therefore, if we are to work toward the visible unity of the Church, we should, I am increasingly convinced, defer to the wisdom of the majority in the Great Tradition and embrace the ministry of bishops.”

“One last comment:In Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II has invited all the churches to discuss how the Petrine office should function in a reunited Church, and Reformed churchmen should welcome this conversation. Our idea of concentric circles of conciliar accountability would lead us to teach that, if the Church were visibly united around the world, there would need to be an ecumenical council, meeting as necessary to govern and guide the Church.The above argument for a (reformed) episcopacy would also lead us to teach that such a council would need a ‘presiding bishop,’ serving asprimus inter pares among his brothers, and historically such a position of honor has fallen to the bishop of Rome. How would we envision a Reformed(!) Petrine office? First, as argued above, any such primacy would need to be exercised in a conciliar fashion; the universal episcopate must be seen first as a pastoral, rather than a juridical, office. The idea that the pope has an authority that exceeds even that of an ecumenical council must be rejected. Second, we must humbly but firmly insist that the dogma of papal infallibility is not only foreign to the holy Scriptures but also is not a catholicdoctrine at all, but a sectarian one. The dogma of papal infallibility is a serious obstacle to true ecumenism, and another example of where the unity we seek awaits further reformation[6] (Emphases are from Otis).”

Posted by Wes White