Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Me and the FV, part deux or For the Love of Pete (UPDATED)

(FV refers to the Federal Vision, a conversation amongst Reformed believers about the nature of covenant, sanctification, the Church, and the sacraments. To read from all sides of the debate go to www.federal-vision.com)

I didn't make GA this year but watched it via the wonders of technology. I missed the main action of GA this year - the discussion and vote on the FV Committee Report. Unfortunately I'm in the monday morning quarterback position. Well, actually, I was named in the GA paperwork as part of the original committee examining TE Leithart. In my initial post on that experience, a commentor was gagging at the apparent lovefest I was throwing for Peter. He's a dear man and does the whole Christian world a service by his humble and relentless questioning so that we would land firmly on the Scriptures. His use of the Scriptures is miles away from the proof texting of confessions and onto the rich and faithful use of Scripture known as Biblical Theology.

I love Peter, but only as a brother. But the following is a list of what I love more and you can decide if the current PCA or some contributions of biblical theologians line up with where I'm at.

1. Kingdom of God as defining theological centre - - I think the vote on FV at the GA displayed the tacit agreement that justification by faith must be the defining feature of our theology. Yet as true calvinists, we must start with Theology proper and see how creation, fall, redemption, and consummation form the whole of our theology. The FV often handles in a more biblical way the issues of Intra-trinitarian relations and as Calvin says "how the grace of God comes to us" in how justification flows into sanctification. This is why the FV is so keen on ecclesiology: God's rule is reestablished over his people via his grace that shapes a people into the Church and shapes those people into the image of Christ. All the FV men agree on the WSC on justification. TE Leithart's work on Justification is actually more biblical than the Confession, only because it deals with all occurences of the word, versus the narrowed focus on Pauline use of justification. They just press us on sanctification and ecclesiology in ways that keep them from just high fiving each other all the time over justification. The current tone of the PCA on grace and justification, is that we must embrace our justification for spiritual renewal. I agree. But what is the goal of renewal: renewal? No holiness, action, fruit, being the Church, displaying Christ. As Doug Wilson has said in his debates with Lane and RS Clark, why should we freeze frame justification? Let's roll it forward into sanctification and glorification. Let's enjoy the finished work by engaging in the work of grace. As Paul says "I worked harder than all you guys by the power of God that was so powerfully working in me."

2. Catholicity vs. Evangelicism - - I meet with a group of "young turks" every week. Some of them are well read in FV authors. Others are skeptical. I'm somewhere in the middle. We reached a moment of clarity this week as we talked about ecumenicity and the Gospel as we have a bunch of PCA-ers reading a Reformed Baptist and why we line up on some emphases and not on others. One thing that came out is that the PCA is moving in some parts towards a bland evangelicalism. Why is that? We're tired of being seen as wierd by other evangelicals. Isn't that odd, that the faith of the Apostles was viewed as strange, alien, and abhorrent by the world and that was its glorious offense. If we were focusing outwardly we would be dealing with the world and the strange nature of the Gospel as opposed to all other forms of rule at work in the world (hedonism, anarchy, statism, eco-apocalypticism). We're more worried about other Christians and that they freak out when they know we sprinkle babies. FV and others who might go by the name of missional, since they have anchored their practice and theology in a theology of Christ's kingship, they aren't too worried over heartburn over our practices and faith from other Christians. We expect the world to hate us. And we're not so concerned to be invited to Christian parties and drink lemonade and discuss finer points of worship style and which Bible translation. Christ is building his kingdom not managing acrostics, affiliations, voting blocs, etc!

BTW, the one part of the GA feed that I caught made me lose my appetite for GA forever. A resolution was before the floor that all churches be encouraged to fast and pray for the persecuted church. We've prayed for the persecuted church. We even announced a seminar on the persecuted church!! But the debate lasted longer, I'm guessing, than the nature of the role of the confession in our church's life. Celebrate the day for God's sake!!! Fast for a week for God's sake!! But this is not the business of the church to set days for Senior's Day, Left Handed Secretarial Appreciation Day etc. Be the Church rampant people!!

3. Biblical Theology is Confessional Theology This will be short, because it's simple and obvious. Chapter 1 of our confession seems to be saying this in essence "Stop arguing about the confession. Go do Biblical Theology. Not all parts are clear. Bring clarity to the discussion via the discipline of Biblical Theology. Then talk about it in terms of Systematic Theology. Then go do Biblical Theology. Repeat till Jesus comes!" Going beyond the confession is actually the way to be confessional. The way to be married isn't to stand around in a suit and a dress repeating words. Go enjoy your union! Our union with Christ came to us through the word. Our clarity, like our vows, come through creeds and confessions. But we camp out in the Scriptures, just as we must sleep in our marriage bed and live in our family home.

That's my rant. For the love of Christ and his bride. Not for the love of Pete

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