Nuance or Contradiction?

I’ve decided to address one Federal Vision issue that has become something of a hot topic on my blog: the URC report, and the critique of it by the URC Nampa church.

I found the critique somewhat irritating, quite frankly. It showed little theological nuance, despite its accusations of the report lacking nuance. It also showed a tendency to press “nuance” when in fact the FV was engaged in doublespeak. That is why I have entitled this post “Nuance or Contradiction?” My impressions also are that the critique was filled with ironies, in that they were doing to the report the very thing of which they accused the report of doing. There are nuances in the report, often on the very issue that the critique said needed nuance!

Methodologically, the critique is faulty in that they do not acknowledge contradictory viewpoints among FV authors, and also contradictory statements among an individual FV author’s own writings. When the report quotes an FV author as saying X, the critique says, “But look, this FV author said Y over there, which seems to contradict X.” The consistent methodology of the critique is to assume that the FV is generally consistent. Therefore, the appearance of contradictory statements among the FV authors can only be explained as “nuance” by the critique, never as contradiction. This is a serious flaw of the critique, and betrays the self-expressed limitation that it is not an interaction with the wide range of FV literature out there. If the writers of the critique had been as familiar with the FV literature as the writers of the report obviously are, this problem would have been significantly alleviated.

To go into a bit more detail at this point would be helpful. The critique says that the report “misrepresents the FV men by over-simplifying their positions, by ignoring the nuances and qualifications offered by the FV men in their writings, and by failing to acknowledge and wrestle with the more orthodox statements that have been offered by the FV” (p. 2). In fleshing this three-fold point out further, the critique says the report has been uncharitable in reading the potentially problematic statements of the FV “in the worst light possible” (p. 2). In reply, one could say that of anyone whose teaching was outside the boundaries: if one read Arius’s theology in the best light possible, as many tried to do in the history of the church, then Arianism would have won the day. Arius was part of the church at the time, too. Was he treated fairly? Were the Remonstrants treated fairly by the Synod of Dordt? The problem here is a lack of nuance on the part of the critique: there is a line between genuinely helpful charitable readings of someone’s theology versus excusing flat-out wrong statements that cannot be nuanced away. Then, in a sort of appropriation of biblical hermeneutic, the critique says that the report should have read the less clear statements in the light of the clearer, more orthodox statements. I would ask this question: do more orthodox statements excuse less orthodox statements? I find this to be a puzzling critique, since no human author has the right to be read this way. Furthermore, it is the author’s responsibility to ensure that no possible misunderstanding can result from his work. He has to work hard to exclude every possible misinterpretation of his writings. It is hardly the normally intelligent reader’s fault (and one would certainly wish to be charitable to folks like Michael Horton and Cornelis Venema by calling them “intelligent readers”) if the author is unclear. And yes, lack of clarity can most certainly be contrary to the confession.

The critique also posits that two interactions with the Joint FV Statement are not sufficient. This critique does not take into account the fact that the vast majority of the report deals with the proper, orthodox understanding of these doctrines from a confessional viewpoint. There are very few resources quoted more than twice, and the ones that are should be. The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons book remains the very best original source collection in this whole debate. I wonder that the critique even included this as a critique, since it significantly takes away from the point that it is trying to make (which has to do with misrepresentation). After all, if the folks writing this critique have not done the original source work, why do they have the right to critique the report for not interacting with a particular source enough?

I will deal with the specific critiques in a series of posts to come.


  1. June 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for this, Lane. I hope that your critique of the critique of the critique will be helpful. But I’m sure there will be more critique…

  2. Phil Derksen said,

    June 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    “…there is a line between genuinely helpful charitable readings of someone’s theology versus excusing flat-out wrong statements that cannot be nuanced away.”

    Nailhead, meet hammer. Thanks pastor.

  3. Theodore Halton said,

    June 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I am eager to read your upcoming contributions and critiques of the Nampa report. It will be most helpful to have specific posts on each of their three ‘concerns’ so that the comments below them can be engaged with the specifics of the Nampa report in the different sections of the critique.

  4. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Lane, in your view, do the recommendations of Section VI.B of the report adequately deal with the contradictions (or nuances) that you have in mind?

  5. greenbaggins said,

    June 11, 2010 at 9:57 am

    My opinion, Jeff, is that the recommendations are excellent and address quite well the problems of the FV. However, some FV writers will probably say that they can affirm those recommendations, and that the recommendations don’t really touch them. This is because there is a tendency among the FV to quarantine confessional language to a very small area, so as to make room for less confessional language. They will probably interpret the recommendations to apply only to the decretal ordo salutis, and will therefore think that there is plenty of room left for a covenantal, lesser version of salvation, what the PCA report called a “parallel soteriological system.”

  6. June 11, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Thank you for your response, Lane. It’s very helpful.

  7. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Have you ever defined what FV is? If the “holders” of FV do that double speak thing and they contradict one another at all the points you mention, what exactly is FV?

  8. Peter Green said,

    June 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Accusing your opponents of “double-speak” is an easy way to avoid the hard work of trying to understand them.

    Furthermore, it is a very dangerous accusation to make: if you are wrong you should repent or come under church discipline. Are you so confident that you are willing to risk discipline by making such a broad and serious accusation?

  9. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Peter, you are doing precisely what you are accusing me of doing. I have written well over 300 posts on the FV, and I have read almost all of the original sources. I think you are a bit hasty in your accusations.

  10. Peter Green said,

    June 12, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Correction: I did not accuse you of double-speak. In fact I did not accuse you of anything, but implicitly allowed for the possibility that you are right (see my second paragraph).

  11. Alex said,

    June 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Mr. Green @8 & 10, the implication of which you speak in 10 is apparently so subtle that it is invisible.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I was saying, Peter, that your statement that I was choosing an easy way of avoiding the hard work of trying to understand them is absurd. I have worked enormously hard over the past five years to understand them. What you are doing is writing off my conclusions without doing the hard work of understanding me, and thus you are doing what you have accused me of doing. If that was not your intention, then you have picked a very unusual, not to mention pugnacious way of expressing it.

  13. Peter Green said,

    June 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Rev. Keister, you certainly have dedicated a lot of time and effort to this issue over the years. In so far as what I said implied that that was not the case, I stand corrected.

    Alex, I apologize for my subtly. Let me be explicit: It is both possible that the FVers engage in double-speak, and it is possible that they do not. In so far as one makes an accusation that they do engage in double-speak, one is risking sullying the good name of ministers and opening oneself up to the possibility of church discipline.

    Based on Rev. Keister’s responses, I take it that the answer to my question is ‘yes,’ he is confident enough in the truthfulness of his accusation to take such a risk. Fair enough. That is his right.

  14. Peter Green said,

    June 12, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Rev. Keister,

    I did not intend for my post to come off as “pugnacious,” although I admittedly wrote out of a great deal of frustration and a little bit of anger. In retrospect, I can see that my original post was curt, blunt, and disrespectful. You, as an ordained minister, are deserving of more respect than I offered, in spite of my disagreements with you. Please accept my apology.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Peter, thanks for this. I do accept your apology.

    I have experienced this double-speak on many occasions, to tell you the truth. What appears to me a clear difference with the confession of the church is explained away as something that “goes beyond” the confession, and yet is simultaneously said to be something quite in harmony with the confession. The entire paradigm of the FV is something that is supposed to address, by their opinion, things with which the confession does not deal. But the confession does in fact deal with them.

    With regard to the confessions themselves, the FV authors will say that they are in conformity with them, but then say that the confessions need to be changed or ditched. They will say that they are Calvinists, even “black-coffee” Calvinists, and yet they will also say that a person can have salvific benefits (not decretally salvific, but truly saving, nevertheless), and then lose those salvific benefits, which is Arminian, no matter what they say about the decretally elect. In other words, they are Calvinistic when it comes to the elect, and Arminian when it comes to the non-elect.

    And then they will constantly yell and scream (in VERY intemperate language, I might add) that we are evil, Satanic tyrants to point these things out to them (that is language that they have in fact used), and that we have not understood them, and that we are breaking the Ninth commandment. But the way in which we are always breaking the Ninth commandment is that we have failed to take into account the whole of their theology, which usually has just enough orthodox-sounding statements to convince some that they are confessional, but yet these other statements which in no way comport with them are allowed to stand. So yes, I am fairly comfortable with saying that they are engaging in double-speak.

  16. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    The reason I asked what I asked was because it seems that if the various adherents to FV are saying different things at different times, it might just be that there is no such thing as FV theology. I realize that you have studied this for a long time, but if you keep mentioning folks who deny agreeing with others who you have lumped into the camp, perhaps they do disagree and thus the “movement” is no movement at all. This may explain why the various men you accuse of being FV deny what you say they believe so strongly.

    It seems like the various men have signed on to some things they agree on and you agree with them on those things (as evidenced by your discussion with Douglas Wilson). Then there are number of issues they disagree with one another on and you disagree with many of those things as well. Why can’t you just take each individual guy, apart from your understanding of FV theology, and examine them alone?

    Perhaps you have dealt with this in an earlier post and you could just point me to that answer. Thank you.

    The reason I think this is important is because you and others in the PCA are going after men and trying to cause them to lose their positions and their livelihoods. And from where I’m sitting in the cheap seats, you’re lumping them all together into one non-existent group called Federal Vision Theology.

    And quite frankly I have yet to see anyone actually define what FV theology is. In any new movement you would think that you could find even two guys who agree on the major points of that movement’s theology. But I’m betting you can’t do it in this case. So again I think there is no such thing as Federal Vision Theology.

  17. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    One more question and I’ll leave you alone. Do you see the FV guys as non-Christians? That is are they outside the pale? Going to Hell if they die?

    If not, are you treating them with love and respect? Again, from the cheap seats, it doesn’t look like you love these men in the least. You are right to be strong in your opinions, but you are wrong to be so quick in them that to my knowledge all the men you comment on deny what you are saying they believe. You think that is double speak and is disingenuous, but it appears to an outsider that you aren’t loving them enough to carefully understand what they are saying and why. John says that if you don’t love the brothers, you don’t love God (1 Jn. 4:7, 8)

    If you do believe they are not Christian, bound for Hell, unregenerate, profligate, then your tone and behavior makes perfect sense. We should all join you in not only bouncing them out of their pulpits, but pushing for their excommunication as well. But is appearing to disagree with your take on the WCF enough to call a man a non-Christian? What about all those Charismatic folks or what about those arminian baptists?

  18. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Mike, are you being loving and considerate of the critics of the FV by calling them unloving? Is it unloving for a doctor to say to a sick patient that the patient is sick? Is it unloving for someone to say that someone else is wrong? And how do you know what is in our hearts? From where I stand, you are jumping in to a discussion that has been happening for the last five years where, to be frank, I’ve been given a whole lot more flak than I’ve given out. How about the FV rhetoric in calling the critics Satanic and tyrranical? I judge the FV to be non-confessional. I make no judgment about whether a certain FV person is going to hell or not. Furthermore, I vigorously dispute that I’m attacking their livelihood. The FV errors are, in my opinion, very similar to the errors of the Anglican church. Anglicans are not Presbyterians. So why don’t the FV guys leave the PCA and go to a place more congenial for them? We would have gotten along a lot better if they hadn’t decided to stick it out even when they’ve been declared wrong by our whole denomination. I further dispute that my tone has been acerbic. Of course, disputes about tone sicken me to my very stomach. But I have already defended the double-speak comment above.

    As to your first post, there is something out there called the FV, and they have written a Joint FV Statement, to which most of them have affixed their signatures. I have now gone through this document twice, showing where I believe them to be unconfessional. I think that answers your questions.

  19. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Lane. Thank you for responding to me. Can you tell me where you have addressed the FV Statement?

    There are so many things in your post to respond to, I don’t know where to start. First, I wasn’t saying that the FV guys weren’t doing double-speak. I agree with you that it appears that they are. One guy says one thing in one place then something different in another. Then another guy will say something different from another guy and then something the same. It gets very confusing. But what I was asking is is it really double-speak or are you just not getting it? Or is it really that these guys don’t agree with one another and thus what you see as a movement is not really a movement at all?

    I wasn’t accusing the critics of FV, I was asking you if you love the men whose careers and households you are trying to destroy. I wasn’t lumping all critics together as if they all agree. They don’t and I know that full well. I was asking you if you love Peter Leithart, or Steve Wilkins, Greg Lawrence or any of the other PCA guys you have gone after. And what about those guys who are not in the PCA you have been discussing? Do you love Douglas Wilson, Steve Schlissel, and John Barach?

    In the end of all things when we get to glory is God going to ask us if we were consistent Presbyterians or is he going to ask us if we loved one another in spite of our different readings of Scripture? I’m getting kind of old for this sort of thing, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it will be the second. That’s all I’m asking. Do you love your Christian brothers more than you love your Presbyterian doctrine? Would you be happy to be wrong? Will you look Jesus in the eye on that last day and say, I loved you in them? I’m asking you to take a step back and ask yourself if despite what others are saying about you, do you love those guys enough to die for them like Jesus did.

    And Just so you know, I don’t agree that calling you “Satanic and tyrranical” is a loving comment. If you tell me where that quote came from I’ll ask them whether they love you or not.

    The world and our churches are watching you guys and they aren’t seeing Christ’s body functioning in a very healthy way. Jesus said all men will know we are his disciples if we love one another (Jn. 13:35). But I don’t see a lot of love coming from you. There is a higher right than being right, and it just appears, from where I”m sitting, that you want to win the argument more than you want to win these “opponents.”

    Thanks for your time. You don’t need to respond to this post. I just thought I’d express what someone in the cheap seats thinks about your intramural discussions.

  20. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Mr. Lawyer:

    As a prominent office-bearer in Christ Church (Moscow, Idaho), do your questions about the existence of FV reflect the sentiments of your pastor, Doug Wilson? He has certainly written and spoken as if there is such a thing, though admittedly not monolithic (such movements hardly ever are). Are you serious in these questions or simply provocative?

    And upon what grounds do you question Lane and others as to their love for FV partisans? Is this not abusive ad hominem? Lane has interacted with Doug extensively on FV: does that not show Christian affection?

    When has Lane or sober critics of FV made sweeping statements about the eternal destiny of FV supporters? To go there simply personalizes this in a way that takes the focus off the issues (the theological disagreements) and puts them on persons. What value is there in this? We all agree with John’s dicta about loving the brethren. Let’s stick to the theological issues.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Mike, if you are serious about asking the FV men if they love their critics, then I direct you to Mark Horne and James Jordan, the sources of the rhetoric of which I am speaking. My first interaction with the JFVS is all indexed here:

    The second time round is usually linked by way of pingback on those first posts, as I usually referred to them while doing the second round, although I haven’t indexed the second time round. As to whether I love FV brethren whose doctrine I have rejected (I have not attacked their livelihood: I take great exception to that statement), I can say that I do.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Let me amplify why I am not trying to destroy their households or careers (hardly a loving accusation on your part). I believe these men and their churches would exist quite happily in the CREC. If they moved there, I would not have very many further discussions about it. If they moved to the CREC right now, would they lose their jobs? Hardly. But I do not believe they should be a part of the PCA. I will cheerfully admit to seeking their removal from the PCA. That’s hardly an attack on their households or their careers. If they view it that way, that is not my fault. I am seeking to do what my conscience tells me I must.

  23. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Mr. Strange. I am completely serious in my questions to Mr. Lane. I have not discussed them with Pastor Wilson. This whole issue, from the beginning, has looked like a dog fight. I have been pretty disappointed in it all along. I believe that Pastor Wilson has been congenial and friendly throughout his discussions with Mr. Lane and all the others. In fact I and the other elders here at Christ Church have been very careful to observe this in Pastor Wilson.

    I have been very busy for the past several years working on some educational goals, but have been watching, as I’ve said from the cheap seats. Asking whether a Christian loves another Christian is a perfectly valid question to ask. I’m very disappointed that others have not been consistently asking it from the beginning. It is not ad hominem in any sense. If a man is not a lover of other Christians he is not fit to be a pastor. Not only is it an acceptable question to ask, it is irresponsible not to ask it.

    I have been traveling about lately and I’ve been noticing that others have been picking up a certain tone with regard to this whole FV issue. It is a tone of intellectual superiority, not one of loving care. We Presbyterians are shooting ourselves in the feet by bickering and fighting this way. No wonder our churches are so small and shrinking every year. People want godly leaders who will love them and who will love others. And what they see is their leaders hammering one another.

    We may agree with what the Apostle wrote, but he wrote them in a particular context and that context was about how to discuss theological issues. And his point was, if you can’t discuss theological issues without being mean and nasty (not that I’m saying Mr. Lane has been mean and nasty), you need to step outside for a few minutes with your Bible. And it doesn’t matter which side you are on. It should break our hearts to see our brothers headed down the wrong path. At the same time, we should have the humility to know that we weren’t where we were 30 years ago, nor will be be where we are now in 30 years. We might be wrong. He might be right. Perhaps I ought to understand what he is saying to the point where he will say, “Yes you understand what I’ve been trying to say.” Then, if he is still wrong, you can gently come along side and correct him. This should help us to love that brother who is in error. Where is the gentle restoration? Where is the compassion?

    Its a sinful thing to act like these are esoteric topics of discussion as if we were all sitting around the lunch table at seminary. Try telling that to the pastor’s wife or his children or the little old lady in the third pew whose husband just died. Nothing is just a theological issue. Theology is life. You can’t talk about destroying a family as if it was nothing just because you want to have what you think is a simple discussion.

  24. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    And Mr. Lane. I think I might just take a look at you link. If I’m going to get involved with you, I may just need to get involved with “the other side.”

    If I don’t get into it with Mr. Horn and Dr. Jordan it will likely be because they aren’t writing on the topic currently (I haven’t looked yet), but if their tone is less than godly, you can be sure I’ll be asking them about it.

    And you, don’t be shy about bringing it up either. Just make sure your log is gone first.

    Thank you for your time.

  25. Mike Lawyer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I didn’t realize that you were trying to get their whole churches removed from the PCA. I thought you were only dealing with the individual men themselves.

    I completely misunderstood. That makes a huge difference.

    It doesn’t change anything about the need for a sweet heart and attitude, but it does put a different light on things.

    I suppose, if I’d read more of your blog postings I would have caught that difference. I’m sorry for not reading more.

  26. Franklin H said,

    June 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Excellent exhortation Mr. Lawyer. We presbies do love to cannibalize ourselves. Scenario: Three tiny reformed churches in a major metro area 1) RPCNA to OPC – “You sin every time you sing that Isaac Watts song accompanied by that piano.” OPC to PCA – “No true Christian obedience without requiring the two-a-day Sunday services”; PCA to RPNCA – “Female deacons? Sinful.” And on we go… Never enjoying Sabbath fellowship and weeklong encouragement with brethren in the struggling Presby churches down the road from our own TRUE church. Theology truly is life. And the Church misses out on so much by these constant attacks.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Franklin, do you think there should be a confession of faith for Reformed churches, and that that should differentiate Reformed Christians from other Christians? From the sound of things, it doesn’t sound like you think there should be anything like that. Where would you draw the line, then, between people who are seeking to be true to a confessional reading of Scripture versus people who are just nit-picking? A lot of this discussion simply circles around the following question: what should we require of office-bearers in our denomination? A reduced Christianity? Or a robustly confessional Christianity?

  28. June 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Baptismal Regeneration and Reformed Theology (Updated)…

    Wes White has two posts on this important topic at his blog, part 1 and 2.  He quotes and actually uses statements of real Federal Vision advocates. This isn’t mis-communication or a nuance we aren’t getting. It is contrary to our Reformed …

  29. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Mr. Lawyer:

    My question about whether you were being merely provocative had to do specifically with your query about the very existence of something called “FV.” I agree that we are not sitting around the seminary lunch table having a theoretical discussion: that’s why I questioned you as to your seriousness, because it seemed like one in your position could not be serious at this late date about such a question. I quite agree that we should deal pastorally and candor is a part of that.

    It is the case that in the midst of a serious theological discussion my asking you, “Do you love me?” might imply that I think you don’t and thus may be a tactic used both to shift the ground of argument and to render our differences inconsequential. It has the effect, intended or not, of making you answerable and accountable to me in a particular sort of way and gives me the high ground or at least the feel and appearance of such. I would not in the midst of this response ask you such a question, Mike, or Doug, for that matter, with whom I’ve interacted in the past (I agree in my interactions with Doug that he has been gracious).I would ordinarily consider it prespumptuous on my part simply to start asking opponents in the midst of a debate if they loved me or others against whom they were arguing.

    I believe, Mike, that love for God and each other is in short supply in the entire Christian church. I think that our temperature is at a low ebb in that regard. We need restoration and revival, a lively application of the means of grace by the Spirit to fan our love to God and each other into flame. I can agree with you wholeheartedly in that. That’s part of the reason that I am reluctant to start pointing the finger at others for a lack of love. I lack it and am so thankful that our God in Christ has perfectly loved us and done all needful for our salvation. Truly, our only hope is the blood and righteousness of Christ.

    I have been involved, as I am sure that you know, in this discussion for some time and I have found men on both sides both showing love and lacking in love. But the best of us, whoever that is, are woefully lacking, needing Christ’s perfect record to be accounted to us and our sins to be paid for. Do we all need to love more than we do? Yes, but the FV controversy has not arisen simply becuase non-FV men have failed to love FV men.

    Rather FV men, professing a desire for a revitalized doctrine of the covenant and of the church, saw problems in the church (identifying some of them correctly) but prescribed a remedy that in at least some respects the confessional Reformed church has found not to be a confessional improvement but a confessional departure. Those of us who have said that FV departs are now said to be “unloving.” I never said that the critique of Doug and others of the confessional churches was unloving. Many of us never even said that the critique was wrong in all points but that some of the proposed solutions were wrong.

    When I said “let’s stick to the theological point,” that’s what I meant Mike: not that this is a theoretical discussion but that FV alleged problems and if we disagree with their prescriptions, the charge is that of being “unloving.” I see that as ad hominem and not responding in substance. Yes we need to love in word and deed. And our contending for the faith is a part of loving God and each other and, yes, we all need to do that better.

  30. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Amen, Dr. Strange! Thanks very much for your spot-on comment.

  31. June 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Ditto Lane. Great job, Alan.


  32. Dick M Barendregt said,

    June 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Mr Strange:

    Full disclosure: I am not personally aquainted with Mr. Lawyer. But I have been an officebearer in the URCNA churches and had Pastor Barach and Pastor Dejong as my Pastors.

    Speaking from the cheap seats now, my remarks to you may have little value, but would you afford the christian courtesy for me to make them?

    You write:FV men have …”prescribed a remedy that in at least some respects the confessional Reformed church has found not to be a confessional improvement but a confessional departure.”

    In the book “The Auburn Avenue Theology – Pros and Cons” an interesting observation is made by Carl D. Robbins. “Therefore, it must be fairly pointed out that Pastor Barach cannot be charged with “theological novelty,” for his views were first propounded by Klaas Schilder in the 1940’s and (before him) …..Heyns. …. In fact..Barach has simply and faithfully restated covenatal understandings popularized in the Dutch Covenantal debates.”

    Your comments above are false. This debate about covenant is NOT a FV thing. The Canadian Reformed Churches have taught what the the FVer’s lay out in their Statement for years. (with the exception of children at the Lord’s Table) I was taught by some of their Pastors who are still alive.

    Haven’t we heard just recently that we should present the facts carefully?


  33. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Mr. Berendregt:

    I don’t disagree that there are aspects of this debate that have deep roots, reaching back before the Reformers to Augustine and before. I maintain, however, that FV, as a project, seeks to do things with the doctrines of the covenant and the church that, taken together as a whole, are indeed novel (which itself does not establish them as wrong), particularly insofar as the Reformed symbols are concerned.

    I do not claim the competence enjoyed by my colleagues at Mid-America in judging the degree of faithfulness to (or departure from) Heyns, Schilder, and others that Barach exhibits. I was not speaking narrowly to that matter but rather to the wider project. I do know that those in FV who deny the covenant of works in every sense and the imputation of the active obedience of Christ in our justification do depart at least from some of what I have read in and of Schilder. I certainly see connections between Barach and those men: whether he is teaching precisely the same thing is another matter altogether.

    I know a Schilder expert who thinks that Barach goes farther than Schilder in some of his expressions. With all due respect, I don’t think that Bro. Robbins is anymore expert in this matter than I (we are both American Presbyterians–my area of concentration) and I would give more weight to people whom I know to be able in Dutch langauge, history, and theology.

    I also know men in the Canadian Reformed Church (able scholars therein) who would dispute your contention that what the FV teaches is that to which the Can Ref as a whole holds. The FV is far bigger than the particular contributions of Mr. Barach and my remarks had to do with FV taken in its integrity rather than simply his. Even at that, I think that it’s more complicated than you make it out to be: Barach repristinates Heyns and Schilder and his view is, simpliciter, that of the Can Ref. You state this as a “fact,” but I trust as a good Van Tilian you do not think that there are brute facts: there is interpretation that is arguable all throughout your post (as there is in this one).

  34. June 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Dick Barendregt wrote (#32):

    The Canadian Reformed Churches have taught what the the FVer’s lay out in their Statement for years.


    As Alan Strange points out: this statement is a misrepresentation of the Canadian Reformed Churches. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but as a Canadian Reformed minister I find the FV to be dangerously in error on many points, not just paedocommunion. I’m not going to debate it with Dick or anyone else here (we know where that goes), but readers of Green Baggins should know that the CanRC are not an “FV federation.” And I can assure you that I’m not the only CanRC minister with these sentiments. That’s all I’m saying.

  35. June 13, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    1. FV affirms “that God formally unites a person to Christ and to His covenant people through baptism into the triune Name” and that “Baptism formally engrafts a person into the Church”

    2. FV affirms “ that through our union with Him we partake of the benefits of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father.”

    From 1 and 2 we can discern that Baptism automatically yields in at least a “formal” sense all the benefits of Christ’s work through a union that automatically is transmitted through the washing of water.

    3. Yet FV also denies “that baptism automatically guarantees that the baptized will share in the eschatological Church.”

    Those statements might seem to imply that existential union occurs at baptism (by the working of the works) yet that existential union can be lost since baptism does not guarantee a place in the “eschatological Church”.

    4.However, FV also denies “the common misunderstanding of baptismal regeneration—i.e. that an “effectual call” or rebirth is automatically wrought in the one baptized.”

    Accordingly, for me to make sense of all of this (1, 2, 3 and 4), I might be inclined to think that what FV means by 1 & 2 is that through water baptism one is united to the visible Church (this being the “formal” union and engrafting to which they speak), but because baptism does not automatically bring forth the new birth (4), there can be those who only share in the outward administration of the covenant as portrayed in 1 and 2, and consequently not end up saved in this life (4) and the life after (3). If that is all the FV means, then why not say, as the WLC Q&A 31 teaches, that the CoG was made only with Christ as the second Adam and with all the elect who would be united to him in the new birth? In other words, why not conceive the promise of the covenant of grace as pertaining ONLY to the elect, although administered to the entire visible church? If that is what FV means, then what have they brought to the Reformed church other than confusion (at best)? If that is not what they mean, then what are they trying to say?

    I think they mean more because (a) Federal Visionists believe they have more to offer the church beyond the confessions, and (b) they make much to do about the identical union that all have through baptism. One prominent Federal Visionist says that the “same sap” runs through all the branches of the Vine, whether elected unto final salvation or not.

    Case in point – a pastor now associated with Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches candidated at my church prior to our considering and calling our existing pastor. While enjoying a cigar with this man on my porch on the Lord’s Day he preached to our congregation, I challenged him on some of his FV leanings. His position at that time was that there are those who are engrafted into Christ that share in the same operations of the Spirit as the elect. I challenged this man, asking him to elaborate on the elect’s assurance (even infallible assurance) of salvation given his view that some with the same measure of the Spirit can and will fall away from Christ. In other words, if those with the witness of the Spirit can fall away, then how can assurance of final salvation be obtained in this life? His response was concise and without ambiguity. Without pause he said that he took exception to the Confession’s chapter on assurance of grace and salvation. Although we finished the cigar and went back to evening service, I was confident at that very moment that this man would not receive the call. When I emailed the pastor to tell him my verdict and what my recommendation to the search committee and session would be, he responded by saying that he misspoke, went back and re-read the Confession and actually can affirm that men can be assured of their salvation. I was thrilled to hear that he came around on the matter but disheartened that he had such a fragile handle on the matter. That is just ONE reason why I don’t find most Federal Visionsists heretical but rather simply muddled. That man, BTW, was ordained in the OPC and actually at one time had pastored a church in the denomination.


  36. June 13, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    We affirm that there is only one true Church, and that this Church can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of visible and invisible.

    This is one of the most troubling statements of the FV. The statement communicates that there is only one church, which can be described in terms of its being visible and invisible. The implication of such a construct is that the invisible church and the visible church are the same church. From that false premise comes much confusion and outright error. To make the point more clearly, consider the following modification of the statement: We affirm that there is only one true God, and that this God can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of transcendence and immanence. The modified statement, which uses the same construct of the FV statement, clearly communicates that the one transcendent God is the same God as the immanent God. That is true. Transcendence and immanence are simply two aspects of the one God. Is the FV statement true in this way? Is the visible church the same church as invisible church? The FV statement clearly implies that they are one and the same; for it states that there is “only one true Church” that can be described in various ways, like visible and invisible. How can they claim such a theology and also claim to be Reformed?

    In contrast to FV theology, now consider Reformed theology: “The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all…The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

    Note the difference. Within Reformed theology the invisible and visible churches are not the same church. The invisible church consists of the elect who will all possess Christ, whereas the visible church consists of those who profess Christ. On that basis alone, the FV may not be considered “Reformed” in any sense of the word. The FV is comprised of a bunch of muddled thinking men.

    A concise profession of their musings can be found here:


  37. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    June 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Wes wrote:

    As Alan Strange points out: this statement is a misrepresentation of the Canadian Reformed Churches. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but as a Canadian Reformed minister I find the FV to be dangerously in error on many points, not just paedocommunion….but readers of Green Baggins should know that the CanRC are not an “FV federation.”

    Wes and Alan are correct. Thus, would it not be incumbent upon us TR’s to rebuke those among us who would paint our CanRef brothers with the FV brush?

  38. Mike de Groot said,

    June 15, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Hi Dick (32) – to follow-up on Wes’ post (34), some CanRC professors recently answered FV questions from a URC classis. The details can be found here: . Question 8 in the link discusses the CanRC’s and Schilder’s view of the covenant.

    In my opinion the CanRC/Schilder’s view is not nor would lead to the FV view. I’m thinking that actually the Westminster LC #31 (CoG made only with the elect) coupled with the practice of baptizing babies on presumptive regeneration grounds would take one closer to the FV view – All those baptized are elect (for a time until they fall away). Schilder’s view never equates covenant or baptism with election.


  39. Mark Stromberg said,

    June 15, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    In response to Ron G. I appreciated you post (post 35,36), because you clearly demonstrate the tension within fv teaching. Is this tension nuance or contradiction? There is no doubt that some of the men who hold to fv teaching are muddled, and confussed, but this does not change the fact they are confussed about what is most important, that being the gospel and the doctrine of justification. Weather these men are just confussed or wolves in sheeps clothing is not necessarily the issue, they do great damage to the church, by promoting a false gospel and promoting views which are outside the boundaries of our confessions. And therefore it is imperative that confessional bodies maintain their confessioal committements, regardless of weather those who deny them are muddled or sophisticated wolves in sheeps closthing.

    Mark J. Stromberg

  40. June 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm


    I agree with your sentiments. It is not a matter of whether these men are muddled or ravenous wolves; their doctrines are at best confusing and at worst damnable. I also agree with Lane when he intimated that this matter would not beep nearly as much on the reformed radar screen if the proponents of FV confined themselves to one locale, say the CREC. In the end, I do believe the fire has been well contained and that the ones who remain within the confines of the PCA are on a very short leash, under close watch and at best smoldering. They have been given a fair hearing in many quarters and consistently have been found wanting. For that we can all be grateful.



  41. Tim Prussic said,

    June 15, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Brothers, I have just posted a long article on the Jewish origins of NT polity here:

    I’m working through Tim Troutman’s article on Holy Orders, which is posted as the lead article over at Called to Communion. Please give it a read.

  42. Dick Barendregt said,

    June 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Rev Strange:

    Thank-you for your remarks. Interestingly they did not set me off! Wish there were more who could respond like you. ’cause speaking from the cheap seats we often are treated as if we need to leave it all to the learned and highly educated.

    May I make another comment? – I too like to argue from the greater to the lesser. And trying to say that the Canadian Reformed would agree to the FV statements is from that direction. I grew up there was the first graduate of the first Canadian Reformed School. My wife a close second. We took serious what we were taught. Very serious, you know the demands of the covenant, promise, threat- that kind of stuff. Read every Wilson book, listen to every Wilkins sermon, not much different from what we were taught. In spite of what some Can Ref preachers may say. They are just nervous. :-) (big smile). Again on the BIG picture stuff leaving out the kids at Lord’s supper stuff.

    Because of the miasma surrounding FV everyone wishes to disassociate himself from FV. The attacks on anyone with even the hint of FV on him are vicious. My wife and I know. Please warn others to be careful of the cheap seat sitters, they too, need salvation. And they often have a whole host of kids that do not really understand what’s up.

    But then, I guess if it’s about election, who cares? I mean who can care?

    Again appreciate your comments.


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