Archive for the ‘Federal Vision’ Category

The following appeared on the Trinity House Blog:

Are apostasy and assurance mutually exclusive? Some seem to think so. But let’s consider this a bit:

No reformed man would ever say that a man who is “saved” today will be safe forever no matter what. Rather we say, “your sins are forgiven, now, walk faithfully, glorify the Lord, love and worship Him all your days.” And we say this without qualification, because it is true.

The implication of this is important, however. If someone walked into my study and declared, “Hey Wilkins guess what? I’ve decided, based upon God’s promises, that I can live as I please and believe anything I want and still go to heaven when I die! And I don’t have to worry about anything you or anybody else says or does to me!” If anyone said this to us, we’d respond by telling him in no uncertain terms that he’s lost and deceived and headed for eternal condemnation. And if he says that we’re making God a liar and an “Indian-giver,” we’d say, “Nope, the promises of God are ‘Yea’ and ‘Amen’ in Christ. But when you deny Him, ignore His will, and walk as His enemy, you forfeit all interest in those promises and call down God’s judgment upon yourself.”

That’s a classic Reformed response.

And this response in no way undermines assurance (just as it in no way impugns God’s faithfulness to His promises). Assurance is founded upon the fact that all who believe can know for certain that they are beloved of God, forgiven of their sins, and the recipient of all His promises and thus, may rest in peace with sure and certain confidence.

Assurance is based upon the fact that Jesus promises He will not cast us off arbitrarily or forsake us for no reason. Assurance is based upon the fact that no man and no circumstance can rip us out of Christ’s hand. Indeed, nothing outside of me can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus.

But assurance is not based upon a belief that eternal life is mine no matter what I do or believe. Assurance is only for those who believe.

The rebel, the unbelieving skeptic, the self-conscious hypocrite, the one who crucifies Christ afresh and tramples upon the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, the one who despises the baptism that saved him, will surely perish – and has no right to any assurance of salvation.

This is the common position of everybody who is Reformed.

And that reality does nothing to undermine true, legitimate, biblical assurance.

One of the problems in this discussion is the view that some have of apostasy. We sometimes speak of apostasy as if it is something that comes upon a man like a flu virus. Here’s a guy who loved Jesus and was faithful when he went to bed on July 28 but then, for no apparent reason, he woke up on July 29 and was an unbeliever who didn’t love Jesus any more and yet, couldn’t tell you why. Apparently, the Spirit just decided to up and leave him and allow him to return to his “unregenerate” state.

This is like the modern view of love which views love as an arbitrary emotion that falls upon us and leaves us without reason or rhyme. So that men claim simply to have fallen “out of love” with their wives for no specific reason whatsoever. They just woke up one morning and their love had fled, never to come home again. We all know this to be bogus and if a man says this, we know he’s lying. Love doesn’t just vanish, it dies – and there’s always a cause of death.

In the same way apostasy doesn’t “just happen.” Apostasy is the result of an extended period of compromise, disobedience, and unbelief that culminates in a denial of Christ not to be repented of. In other words, no one apostatizes, unless he wants to and is willing to work at it. And therefore apostasy catches no one by surprise. It’s the result of an intentional, purposeful, and persistent choice to depart from Jesus and the faith.

In other words, apostasy is something that a person who is sincerely loving Jesus and seeking to be faithful to Him need never fear.

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I don’t know of anyone who agrees with Bishop N. T. Wright at every point. Not a single person. But the hysterical reaction against some of his views on the part of some “Reformed” and evangelical leaders has been nothing short of disgraceful. Here’s a man who is getting a hearing around the world — who actually believes in Sola Scriptura and in a literal resurrection and sincerely believes the finished work of Jesus is absolutely necessary for salvation (and on top of all else, is a self-professed Calvinist!). You’d think that the “Reformed” and other evangelicals would be dancing in the streets. But instead, they have fallen over one another to see who can be the most extreme in their denunciations. It’s been nothing short of amazing.

In other (more sane and faithful) times these men could never get away with these sorts of shenanigans. But in a time when “orthodoxy” is proven more by the list of people you denounce rather than by what you profess, this is what you get.

Are there legitimate grounds to disagree with some of the things Bishop Wright teaches? Sure (and, he is the first to acknowledge that, by the way). Are there things on which I will probably never agree with him? Certainly. Do I think that all of these issues are insignificant? No, I don’t. But none of them are so serious as to provoke me to denounce him as a heretic or “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or false shepherd or denier of the gospel, or any of the other ridiculous charges that have been thrown his way by some.

Anyone who has heard Bishop Wright speak or who has spoken with him, knows that he’s quite willing to interact with those who disagree and has never been surprised by the fact that not everyone thinks he’s got everything right. But this is not sufficient for our valiant “Defenders of the Faith and Enemies of all Error.” For them, these are the days of miracles and wonder, their own special “killing time,” and they are giddy drunk with the excitement of getting to shoot at those who dare to think differently or who presume to meddle with their hallowed definitions.

It’s been a shameful spectacle.

Which brings me to this post from Jim Jordan. Jim points out some of the factors provoking the reaction against Wright and gives us some very important perspective. Please read it.

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It’s amazing how free some people are to pass along false charges. I was just sent a link to this page which is supposed to tell us about Reformed denominations. It’s supposed to be a “primer” so what’s the harm, right?

But as we go down the page, we find this statement next to the CREC entry: “Composed of Presbyterian, and Reformed Baptist churches, but more congregational in church order. They allow believers and infant baptism and communion, depending on what the local church says, Many advocates of the Federal Vision heresy,which denies justification by faith alone, have come here (e.g. Steve Wilkins), but thankfully there are also members who do not follow this movement (e.g., RC Sproul, Jr).”

(the red ink is the author’s, not mine — and so is the mysterious comma after “the local church says”).

Aside from the unsubstantiated charge of “heresy” there’s the statement identifying the “Federal Vision” with a position that “denies justification by faith alone.” This in spite of the fact that everyone I know who would be identified as a “Federal Visionist” affirms “justification by faith alone.” Speaking for AAPC, here’s point #1 of the statement we adopted in 2006 in an attempt to put some slanders to rest:

1. We affirm that justification is received by faith alone and is not grounded in any sense upon man’s works.

We further affirm the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. We have never viewed human works as the ground (either partial or total) of justification before God. We have never taken any exception to the statement of this truth found in the Westminster Confession of Faith and catechisms. We unanimously adopted our summary statement on “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation” which included this affirmation in the first point:

“Salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and not of works. It is founded upon the obedience, death, and resurrection of the faithful Second Adam, Jesus Christ. Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein sinners are accepted as righteous in God’s sight by virtue of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them and received by faith alone (WSC Q. 33). This justifying faith is always accompanied by all other saving graces and virtues (WCF 11.2). Justifying faith, therefore, is never vain but one that works by love (Gal. 5:6).”

This is the position we have always held, never denied, and, God willing, a position from which we will never depart.

is this really unclear? Or do we have another case of a Christian who has no regard for truth while he supposedly defends the truth (and, yes, in case you’re wondering, I tried to deal with this privately, but the email address provided by the author [like his moral compass] was not in working order).

Having now seen all the denunciations, refutations, accusations, and rebukitations from individuals and respected denominations against the “Federal Vision” I am forced to conclude that what has now come to be identified as the “Federal Vision” is not a position I hold or have ever held — and I happily join with the PCA, OPC, RPCNA, RCUS, RPCUS, UCRC, ARP, GMAC, AARP, UAR, RCA, ESPN, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, UAW, and Wikipedia, in denouncing this position and whoever in the world might possibly hold it (though I have no idea who they might be). I say with a clear and, please note, courageous voice, “If you’re out there, you are walking around under my official CENSURE!” And I hope you feel guilty and repent!

(And don’t look at me like that, you know who you are)

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Well, I was going to say something about the action of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in DECLARING their opposition to all things generally related to the Federal Vision and the New Perspective, but our internet service went out and has been out for the last two days. So now I can just refer everyone to Doug Wilson’s comments and to those of David Field which are much more polite and sensible than mine were going to be anyway. So we’re all better off thanks again to God’s wise and happy providence.

Now I can be done with only one line: This is undoubtedly one of the silliest things I have ever seen done by a denomination. Ever.


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