The Clark Controversy With Feet On It . . .

What appears to be a debate over at De Regno Christi on the so-called “Federal Vision” seems to be plodding along for anyone interested. I have to think that the only real advantage for these so-called “Federal Visionists” to continually debate, explain and defend their theological “distinctives” over and over again, what some of us call, at least when we’re feeling particularly winsome, dangerous anti-Christian soul-destroying novelties, is that they must glean a sense of respectability from these exchanges. “See, we’re Reformed Christian men after all. Everyone takes us seriously, and, besides, the PCA report on our doctrines even referred to us as ‘brothers,’ not the heretics and false teachers our vitriolic critics charge.”

Well, for once James Jordon has found the nail head and actually hit it. Concerning the debate over the FV he said:

“It’s the Clark controversy with feet on it.”

That is exactly right and on so many different levels I have to guess Jordon doesn’t even realize he has only scratched the surface.

For Doug Wilson, Andrew Sandlin, Jordon and other FV’ers batting it around on De Regno Christi, believing is synonymous with doing and it is this combination that saves a man. Of course, this view of faith is not even remotely Christian, but these men have been able to wrap their nonsense in so much Christian and Reformed sounding jargon and historic confusion (in this case confusion over how faith is understood and defined) that even solidly grounded elders and pastors can’t even seem to see past their facade. Had they listened to Gordon Clark years ago on the question of faith my guess is that my brothers wouldn’t be looking so foolish now as they attempt to rid their denominations of these neo-liberal/legalist heretics. Of course, I’m not even sure they want to rid their denominations of these FV’ers at all, but I would suggest that perhaps the main reason they’re having so much difficulty dealing with these false teachers is that they are in fundamental agreement with them on such basic questions as what constitutes and defines faith.

Andrew Sandlin asserts:

Justifying, and not merely sanctifying, faith (as if there were a difference!) is penitent, obedient, submissive faith. In short, we basically agree with [Norman] Shepherd on this . . . What you will not find (to my knowledge) as such a distinctive is the definition of justifying faith as penitent, obedient, submissive. In fact, the majority of these denominations have now make painfully clear that they do not hold this view.

Thank goodness for the “majority of these denominations.” Notice all the things justifying faith does; it repents, it’s obedient, it’s submissive, it does. These are, in case you missed it, just part of the conditions that must be met in order to make faith saving. This is no mere assent to the understood propositions of the gospel that saves a man, but it is a faith that works. Wilson bangs the nail home when he concurs by adding; “I would take the idea of mere passive faith as the innovation.” Notice again, it’s not belief APART from works that saves a man, but justifying faith does things. Faith that simply rests and receives what Christ has done completely outside of us and apart from anything we do is an “innovation.” Mere belief alone in the truth of the gospel and the finished work of Christ doesn’t justify. Can these men be any clearer. You want to be saved, well, you’re going to have to work for it.

Again, Jordon swings his hammer cleanly:

. . . Faith becomes presuppositional rather than intellectual-propositional. A baby’s trust in his mother’s arms becomes the primary analogy for faith, as Jesus taught. As we grow, our understanding matures, and we expect mature faith to have lots of notitia and assensus; but fiducia is the foundation.

Faith or belief (these words are interchangeable since they’re both derived from the same Greek word pistis) is not “intellectual-propositional.” Simply believing the message of the gospel is inadequate to save sinners, rather what we need is to make faith “presuppositional,” whatever that might mean in Jordon’s evolving FV lexicon. While it’s not important to understand what he means by faith being “presuppositional,” what is important to understand is what faith is not (or, more specifically saving faith), and it is not mere belief in the gospel alone.

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