The forward to Reformed is Not Enough, by Douglas Wilson, is helpful to understanding the context of the Federal Vision debate. I received permission from Pastor Doug Wilson to republish the forward for all to read. I highly recommend the whole book, which you can pick up HERE.
On June 22, 2002, Covenant Presbytery of the RPCUS declared that certain teachings at a pastors' conference presented by Steve Schlissel, Steve Wilkins, John Barach and, as the Victorians would have put it, the present writer, involved a "fundamental denial of the essence of the Christian Gospel in the denial of justification by faith alone." Consequently, the four of us were declared to be heretics.
This book project was already well under way when all of this happened and so it cannot be understood as a full-orbed response to the charges. At the same time, given the nature of the subject this book addresses, the materials here can be considered as part of the provocation and something of a response. The basic theme of this book is what brought about the charges in the first place, and in more than a few passages, I have written responsively with the charges in mind.
The charges assumed (which is incidentally not the same thing as proving) that the positions taken by the speakers were "contrary to the Bible and the Westminster Standards." As a result, in the following pages, there is a closer interaction with the teaching of the Westminster Confession than would otherwise have happened. This was not done in order to "get around" anything in the historic Reformed faith, but rather the reverse. It is our conviction that certain epistemological developments since the Enlightenment have caused many modern conservative Calvinists to read their confessions in a spirit alien to that which produced them. As a result, we were taken to task for denying our confessional heritage at just those paces where we were in fact upholding it. This of course does not make us right–as the Westminster theologians themselves told us, and as Steve Schlissel continues to tell us in a loud voice. Something can be "confessional" and wrong. But we are like the obedient boy in the parable–we say the confession could be wrong, but then we affirm the confession. Our opponents say the confession is as right as it gets–biblical Christianity in "its purest human expression"–and then proceed to merrily disregard what the confession actually teaches in this area.
What we always want in all "controversies of religion" is a plain and honest resort to Scripture primarily. But when we do this, we are still mindful of our confessional riches and we love that heritage. Given this, it is a bit much to be charged with abandoning our inheritance when those taking the charge abandoned the standards long enough ago to give it the color of "a historic position."
No single issue in this collective charge against us is very complicated, but, taken all together, things can become significantly tangled. This is because this was a heresy trial on the cheap–it was a veritable broadside of charges with no apparent need to contact us to get any clarification, no need to document the charges with quotations, no need to distinguish four men with different emphases, and so forth. Simple issues when collectively heaped can still make a big mess.
At the same time, this published response seeks to name this imbroglio appropriately. Apart from the specific charges, exactly is going on here? What worldview are colliding? This might seem like a nonsensical question to some–"what do you mean worldviews?" Both sides of this dispute hold to some variation of postmillennial, Calvinistic, presbyterian, Van Tillian, theonomic, and reformed thought, with additional areas of agreement standing off to the side. I bet none of us voted for Clinton. How could there possibly be enough material left over for a fracas?
The answer is found in a contrast we have used many time–medieval versus modern. We believe ourselves to be in the process of recovering what our fathers taught from the Reformation down to the Enlightenment–that is, a Reformed and medieval mindset. We believe our opponents to be sincere and honest Christians, but men who have erroneously made a bad truce with modernity and who have accommodated their theology to the abstract dictates of the Enlightenment. This is why we have been laid on the Procrustean bed of a particular understanding of systematic theology and have had our heretical feet cut off. The irony in this case is that the standard used to judge us were written with the mindset we are returning to and which are drastically misunderstood by the mindset we are rejecting. There will be more on this in the chapters to come.
So the dispute is not imaginary–there are real and important differences between us. We do not believe the differences to constitute heresy–any of the men who have taken this action against us would be welcome to worship at any of our churches and commune with us in the Lord's Supper there. Nevertheless, the differences are real and deep, and the parties that differ ought to be properly named. If it were up to me, building on the acronym TR ("Truly Reformed"), I would suggest that this is a debate between the Enlightenment TRs (ETRs) and the historic reformed. But agreement with this naming will have to wait for further proof.
The basic content of this book appeared originally in a series of sermons preached at Christ church in Moscow. One of the chapters appeared originally in The Hammer, a publication of Community Christian Ministries, while another chapter appeared in Table Talk. The rest was written for the occasion.
Doug Wilson weighs in:
Over the last number of years, since the eruption of the FV controversy, we have of course been involved in the public back and forths that such a controversy involves. Much of it has been the doctrinal interaction, and the rest of it has been (mostly unsuccessful) attempts to clarify what we are in fact saying. But for some, these latter attempts are just like rubbing the spot on the wall -- it just won't clarify. Take, for example, Scott Clark's most recent foray into fog. His summary of our position is this: "Get in by grace, stay in by cooperation with grace." Forsooth, and double heh.
But throughout the course of this controversy, I have frequently been asked why the controversy exists, and why it has continued. This question comes from people who hear our qualifications, and note (accurately) that we are within the historic Reformed mainstream, and yet they have good reason to respect and take seriously those voices that are calling for our ouster from the historic Reformed mainstream. And so the question that most naturally occurs to them is why.
I have hesitated to answer the question in a public setting (like this one) because I have not wanted... (Continue Reading)
From Doug Wilson on Blog and Mablog, Easter Sunday:
"As many who read this blog know, it has a been a season of controversy. But fortunately, it is also the Paschal season. The Lord is risen; He is risen indeed.
We have been brought up from the dead, and our present possession is life, just as our final destination is life. Newness of life now, eternal life now, and life everlasting. This life is sheer unadulterated gift -- we cannot do anything to merit it. Salvation is all of grace.
And this means that it has to delight my soul that God loves those on the other side of our particular theological divides more than I have ever loved anything or anybody. It needs to delight me that we will all spend eternity together, as it does. And so I pray God's blessings on the resurrection celebrations of all God's children, and I pray for a double blessing on the celebrations of my adversaries. This resurrection life is a powerful thing, and gets into everything . . . even our disputes.
Happy Easter, then, and may you all stand in the overflow of God's abundant blessings."
To which I can only add: Amen and amen!
Doug Wilson responds to the accusation that his view of Law and Gospel imply a denial of Sola Fide. He includes a great quote from Turretin's Institutes.
So once saving faith comes, with regard to the broad intention and design of God, the believer principally rests in Christ alone, as He is offered in the gospel. But saving faith also understands the parts and relations of law to gospel, and sees God's overarching gracious intent. He sees totus lex. This is why he can now tremble at the threatenings without that trembling being an example of unbelief. This is why he can render obedience to the laws without that obedience being a form of works-righteousness. In order to have the pedagogical use of the law and the didactic use of the law functioning at all, it is necessary that a man be able to transition between them. That transition is called getting saved.
Read full post HERE. Well worth the read!
"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully" (1 Tim. 1:5-8).
Pastor Wes White, a critic of the Federal Vision, recently posted an imaginary conversation with an Federal Vision minister, which he claims represents the Federal Vision. He was challenged on his understanding of what a pastor and advocate of the Federal Vision would say, and therefore put together a series of quotes to back up his claims here. We believe that he does not treat these texts in their proper context. Pastor White appears to be unwilling to admit that he has taken quotes out of context, and he also is unwillling to contact the individuals who wrote them to clarify what they meant.
We felt that the best way to illustrate his faulty understanding was to replace his imaginary Federal Vision Pastor with a real one.
Pastor Douglas Wilson, of Christ Church, in Moscow, Idaho answers these same questions. Pastor Wilson is a proponent of the Federal Vision, and drafted the Joint Federal Vision Profession. Prior to the following recording, he had not read Pastor White's imaginary conversation.
note: I apologize for the typo at the beginning. A new version is being created, but will take a while to upload.
Steven Wedgeworth on the Federal Vision and Reformed Theology
By Steven Wedgeworth. also see his other posts on FV HERE
An Evangelical Introduction to the Federal Vision (UK)
By Steve Jeffery
The Federal Vision: Reformation or Alteration? Part Two
By Uriesou T. Brito
John Piper on Doug Wilson
Video from Desiring God Conference 2009 - "Why Doug Wilson?"