I lurk around a number of blogs, like you probably do. I have been watching the goings on concerning the Federal Vision (FV) controversy for some time, especially at Blog and Mablog, Green Baggins, Heidelblog, and Mark Horne. It seems that there are certainly varying degrees of civility (or lack of it) in this tussle that has headlined in the Reformed world for several years now.
I think this whole debate is something worth following and understanding. It is substantive and important. I think that the FV men have some very significant things to say that correct some areas of inadequacy in contemporary Reformed theology. They are speaking to theological, ecclesiological, and pastoral issues that go beyond the typical Reformed confessional boundaries but that are vital nonetheless. After all, the confessions do not exhaust everything we should be saying as we proclaim the whole counsel of God.
Now, do I agree with everything being said by every FV man? No, no more than I agree with everything being said by, say, the OPC men or the PCA men or the URC men, or any other group of men in the Reformed world. Do a man’s teachings line up with the Word of God? That takes hard work, careful listening, and a generous spirit to answer. You need to know the Scriptures, understand the creeds and confessions, and be acquainted with history. That’s no easy task. But it must be done. And it can be done even while you love the truth and reject heresy.
I recently went to a local PCA pastor to invite him to join us in the wordlview conference we recently hosted. The theme was covenant succession — something I (naively) assumed was Presbyterian bread and butter that would be impossible to decline. Yet here is this pastor apologizing because we had two CREC pastors speaking, who had FV radioactivity clinging to them because of their contact with FV isotopes such as Doug Wilson, and though this pastor had never read FV men or listened to FV men, the men this pastor respect (i.e., Ligon Duncan, Rick Phillips, et. al.) fear the radioactivity of the FV men’s heterodoxy and have filled the air with suspicion and charges of heterodoxy. So this PCA pastor looks me in the eye and says, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I was floored really. He refused to join with fellow Reformed believers because of something he had heard about what we might be associated with that could be confusing to his people that he should probably avoid. I appreciate this brother’s caution and care for his flock. But really, that’s just not good enough.
No wonder the Reformed church is marginalized in our culture. In this kind of air of suspicion that is really the product of a caricature of 1 Timothy 4:16 and Jude 3 (to mix my metaphors), it is hard to have any kind of meaningful theological discussion, much less any unity and cultural impact for the gospel.
My wife (O precious saint!) and I have learned over the years that when we have a disagreement, two issues very quickly emerge: the issue we are disagreeing over, and the way we are disagreeing. In this FV controversy there are two issues: the FV issues and the way the Reformed church is disagreeing over it.
The church needs to kiss and make up, like my wife and I always do. The children are watching.