The Federal Vision???
Fire... Ready... Aim!
~By George Crocker
It all began in January 2002 at the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference called "The Federal Vision." And what began? More controversy or at least that is what it evolved into after the conference. As pastor Steve Wilkins said " There was nothing novel or particularly creative about the lectures given (most if not all of the points made by the speakers had been made by numerous theologians at one time or another in the past), but the conference became the catalyst to provoke a great deal of discussion on the covenant and its practical outworkings." I was there and still am perplexed by all the reaction to the conference , and in particular, towards the speakers involved = John Barach, Steve Schlissel, Steve Wilkins and Douglas Wilson. Charges of heresy and heretic have been bantered about from all over the reformed world.
Reformed men, who were friends, now have turned on each other and have gone after one another's throats (that is my view anyway). That "seems" to be a Reformed past-time - shoot one another in the feet or grab them by the throat (per above) and the rest of the world be "damned". No wonder many evangelicals don't find the Reformed faith "attractive". (PS it is not "attractive" to those who want a man-centered gospel but that is not what I mean by my use of the word here).
Many, not all, of the so-called Federal Vision (FV) opponents soon started to make charges against these men and claimed they were making theological heresies that they, in reality, were not really saying or even implying (again this is my opinion as an observer and friend of many of the men on both sides of the issue). Since that infamous conference many articles, books, overtures, etc have come forth and, in many cases, have "blurred" the real issues. I think my brothers have talked "past one another" in many of those issues and, thus, have painted "straw men" in doing so.Without oversimplifying the matter I believe that what many in the FV camp are saying is that we must look at the covenant "objectively" (for we don't know God's secret decrees in regard to the covenant ) = the objective covenant. Many of the "FV" opponents are looking at the covenant from God's perspective (in regards to individual election)= "subjective" covenant. In other words both camps are usually on the same page (theologically) but looking at that page from two different angles. Or, as an astute brother has already noted, they are on two different train tracks but both are going in the same direction.
I admit, sadly, that controversy intrigues me - part of the effects of the Fall, I guess. But is this one helping or hindering the Church - especially in the Reformed communities? If it causes us to to reflect on what we believe and why we believe it or even to re-think things we have been taking for granted then it can become a good and helpful thing. However, if it causes us to "sling mud" and hope that it sticks to the wall (on our brother) and/or we make false accusations about that brother then it has become a hindrance to the cause of Christ and His Bride. We must repent and ask for forgiveness.
We have included a good article (I think so anyway) on our site (that is also found elsewhere) written by Joseph Minich. It is entitled "Within the Bounds of Orthodoxy: An Examination of the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul". It is, as I just said, a good as well as a very helpful article. Mr. Minich is both objective and kind in this article. I believe it is "level-headed" and, though certainly not the last word on the subject, ought to bring healing and encouragement. Says Dr. John Frame of Mr. Minich's paper:It is by far the best thing I've ever read on the Federal Vision and/or New Perspective. I hope this essay gets the widest possible distribution. People concerned with these issues, whatever their persuasion, need to meditate deeply about it. And it provides a model of careful, thorough, thoughtful theological criticism.
Also check out this website for further helpful articles on this issue: www.federal-vision.com. May our Sovereign be glorified and His Bride strengthened!