Everyone is attacking Federal Vision theology, and good for them. I have nothing new to add to that discussion. I can address, at least anecdotally, what FV has done on the Reformed institutional scene.
Earlier I warned against the danger of rejecting FV but remaining in communion with it. This post will broaden the expanse, though the first post is the most important: if you commune with the Federal Visionist, then you commune in his doctrine.
Some Larger Problems
While everyone wants to attack FV on election and the covenant, I will add some insight on broader problems they have with Reformed praxis
- The Sabbath: I was ridiculed in school for holding to the Sabbath. I didn’t do it perfectly, and some could point to my faults, yet I strove for Sabbatarianism and was ridiculed. That’s not to say Jordanites didn’t write on the Sabbath. They did. Many and great were the artistic literary monographs.
- Confusion on Signs and Seals: Depending on which FV guy you are talking to, you’ll get different (but always unguarded) answers on baptism (it was either Rich Lusk or Steve Schlissel who scoffed at the idea of Reformed ministers laboring to say what baptism doesn’t do). I will go with an early FV answer: justification is in baptism (usually). I responded to one FV guy, “But Paul in Romans 4 says Abraham was justified before he received the sign and seal of the covenant;” reasoning analogously, we can see justification acting independent of the action of baptism.
Which points to a larger problem: contrary some of the Young Turks, the WCF has a very high and strong view of the sacraments. It sees them not only as signs, but also seals. Further, there is a sacramental union between sign and thing signified. This allows us to take passages like Romans 6 and really affirm baptism unites with Christ’s death, if we understand how a sacramental union work.
- Which in turn leads to a misplaced emphasis: we heard a lot of paedofaith and covenant succession, but very little of the atonement. Translation, or so one minister told me, the next generation won’t speak of the atonement. He was right. That generation has gone Pope, EO.
- There is a good reason the divines didn’t speak of paedofaith. It’s going beyond Scripture. I remember sitting in a Sunday School lesson at Auburn Avenue (don’t judge me; I’ve since repented grievously; many times) and the said assistant minister (he’s no longer there) scoffed at the idea of “elect infants dying in infancy,” saying this does nothing to help a grieving family that their child will (probably) be in heaven. Of course it won’t help them! Nothing will at the moment. It is far more encouraging than the idea of paedofaith, though. If paedofaith is true, and among the supposed side-benefits is that an infant dying in infancy exercised faith, then that infant will go to heaven. But that raises the ominous rejoinder: what if the infant didn’t exercise his faith? The only sane pastoral move is to stick with the Confession’s language and not get smarter than the divines.
- They never avoided dualisms entirely. One of the legitimate contentions of FV was that this is God’s world and creation is good. I agree. This means, so they argue, that dualisms are bad. Again, I agree. The problem, though, is that the emphasis was so much on creationality that FV constructed an inevitable dualism between matter and spirit (or better yet, collapsed everything into matter and creation). As a result, there was a lot of emphasis on the sacraments but not on piety and devotion (I remember Leithart wrote a few articles attacking the “quiet time.” Now, I want to make fun of the silly evangelical as much as the next guy, but I’ve also noted that those who attack the quiet time are lacking in devotion. That is my own general observation. I am not claiming that of Pr. Leithart). Banner of Truth has gotten a lot wrong, but they are 100% correct in this regard.
- They did not respect other jurisdictions, sort of. Again, blanket statements here are bound to be misleading but here goes: I was in the OPC and under the jurisdiction of the OPC. Yet I was routinely pressured (maybe that’s too strong a word) to support the FV. Regardless of my own personal thoughts, because my own church body had not yet ruled on it, I wasn’t obligated to support or condemn it.