I actually disagree with the Federal Vision project in theology. I’m simply noting that when you take away all the layers from both standard Reformed theology (if such a thing exists) and Federal Vision theology, both are doing the same thing.
The Federal Visionists were accused (and probably rightly so) of “changing the meaning” of terms in theology and more importantly, the confessions–justification is the most obvious one. The Federal Visionists, the charge goes, affirm the same words of the Confession, but they do not mean what it originally means.
Well, standard Reformed folk do the exact same thing with the Nicene Creed. Let’s look:
“he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate…etc.” Reformed folk believe this. They truly do. How do they interpret this? They usually argue along the lines that Christ kept all of the Law perfectly and upon his death transfered that perfect legal account to those who would later believe in him.
Is that how the 4th century Nicenes viewed the work of Christ? No one can seriously argue it is so. The writers of the Creed saw salvation as God taking on human nature and recapitulating humanity, bringing it up to God. Those who are saved are those who participate in the body of Christ.
Let’s look at another phrase.
“I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”
Reformed interpretations of this phrase are varied but they all agree on one point: catholic doesn’t mean Catholic. That might be true, but again, that’s probably not what the early church meant by the phrase. It’s not so much what modern Calvinists say the line means, but what they do not say.
The early church saw it as a visible body that is not broken by schism and can be identified by apostolic succession. (Ironically, the Anglicans can try to make this claim, but since they deny essentially every tenet of the faith, don’t bother).
Of course, the Reformed counter to all of this is, “We don’t accept creeds as the final authority, but only the word of God.” True. I seem to remember some Federal Visionists saying the same thing. What gives?