Thursday, September 13, 2007

Federal Vision and the Old Perspective on Paul

The principal leaders of the religious faction called Federal Vision have recently denied that their party is “movement” advancing an “agenda,” which isn’t noteworthy except for one minor detail: their claim belies other assertions made by the same men at different points during in this controversy, when political expedience did not obligate them to deny their movement’s existence. And this point isn’t even that noteworthy except that it illustrates the primary objective of this blog — “Federal Schism” — which is to expose the disingenuous characters and rank hypocrisy of the men driving Federal Vision. First, however, we must establish that the Federal Visionists have denied that they are a “movement” pushing an “agenda.”

On August 21, 2007, Douglas Wilson posted a letter on his blog that James Jordan wrote in response to certain criticisms pointed at the Federal Vision. The content of Jordan’s letter was somewhat fanciful if not downright fantasy, and it clearly denied that the existence of a Federal Vision movement and agenda:

Mr. Beach continues by writing that Mr. Minich’s article “doesn’t mention that paedocommunion is a major item on the FV agenda, probably because he is responding to critics of FV.” Well, that’s because there is no FV agenda. All there ever was was a Pastor’s Conference. The FV “movement” and “agenda” are creations of the minds of people who don’t like what some of us believe. . . . But understand, none of this started out as some kind of movement. “Federal Vision theology” is a creation of the minds of FV critics, and that is why it is so hard to say what it is. It varies from critic to critic. Only now, after 5 years, have some of us decided to try and heal this silly war by stating what we think FV might be. (“A Guest Post from Jim Jordan”)

And on September 3, 2007, Douglas Wilson echoed Mr. Jordan’s assertions, dismissing the Federal Vision as nothing more than “a conversation, a shared set of questions, not a movement,” when he wrote:

Just a quick point for the record. . . . The FV guys have been maintaining that the FV is a conversation, a shared set of questions, not a movement, and so on. Some of the critics have insisted on the opposite — that we are a well-oiled, deeply-funded machine, set to infiltrate and take over the federated Reformed witness in North America. . . . Once it becomes obvious that the FV is not the movement that it was claimed to be. . . . (“FV As the Death Star”)

But these two claims about the Federal Vision, which Wilson published on his blog, contradict other statements that he published on the same blog at different times during this controversy. For example, on August 12, 2004, in a post entitled “Answering All the Questions,” Wilson explicitly stated the primary objective of the Federal Vision, that is, its agenda, if you will. He wrote, “I reiterate again that this entire battle is for the hearts and minds of second-year seminarians.”

Now, whatever else may be true, not many people would confuse a “battle” with a “conversation” or “a shared set of questions,” unless of course the conversation contemplated the proper meaning of the word “battle.” Then again, given the title of the post, “Answering All the Questions,” Wilson appeared to answer the question surrounding the Federal Vision agenda: it’s a battle for “the hearts and minds of second-year seminarians.”

One month later, on September 2, 2004, Wilson framed the Federal Vision controversy much differently, in an apparent attempt to seize the high ground, if not an attempt to write Church history in advance:

Not only do confessional Protestants have to make their peace with revivalism, the kind of movement to which they generally object, they also have to make their peace with genuine movements of the Holy Spirit, which can be far more troublesome. In the revivalist stream, the institutional Church often suffers at the hands of nutjobs, and they come and punch holes in the wineskins with the icepick of fanaticism. This does create ironies and tensions. But the new wine of the Spirit is sometimes just as unkind to the wineskins. As we recall, there was a time when virtually every trained theologian in Jerusalem voted to kill the Messiah. (“Wineskins and Other Metaphors”)

No, he never stated directly that the Federal Vision was a new work of the Holy Spirit; he only implied it in a post that he filed under “Auburn Avenue Stuff,” the archival category holding all of his Federal Vision posts. He eventually develops this theme in greater detail.

Two months later, on November 6, 2004, in a post called “Just Back From LA,” Wilson restated the specific agenda held by those in the Federal Vision sect, when he wrote, “I have said before that this whole thing is a battle for the second year seminarians.”

Seven months after this, on March 15, 2005, Wilson once again jockeyed for the high ground by delineating the reasons why certain men resist this “new wine in the church.” He wrote:

When it appears that the Holy Spirit has begun to create new wine in the church, why do Christian leaders sometimes fail to drink it? . . . let us assume for a moment that the Holy Spirit really has begun to work in a significant way, and that entrenched religious authorities oppose that work. What are some of the reasons given in Scripture for why they might want to do this? . . . . Envy. . . . Fear. . . . Laziness. . . . (“Three Stumbling Blocks,” emphasis original)

Got that? If you oppose the Federal Vision, then you must be envious, afraid, and lazy. Regardless, Wilson clearly sees the Federal Vision as a new work, and within the first year that he began blogging (he opened his blog on April 22, 2004), he clearly identified where he believes the Federal Vision originated — “the Holy Spirit.” He also stated the primary objective that the Federal Visionists sought to achieve — “the hearts and minds of second-year seminarians.” And, most importantly, he articulated the means by which the Federal Visionists intend to obtain their stated goal — “battle.”

So, if the Federal Vision “is a conversation, a shared set of questions,” and “not a movement,” as Douglas Wilson alleges, then how does he square this “conversation, this shared set of questions,” this non-existent movement, with his oft-stated goal of capturing the hearts and minds of second-year seminarians?

The answer to this question rests with a proper understanding of that old perspective on Paul, who warned, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29, 30.)