Why The PCA Will Lose Its Fight Against the Federal Vision
Admittedly, there are many reasons why the PCA will lose its fight against the Federal Vision. I tried to outlined some of the major reasons in my book, Can the PCA be Saved? John Robbins outlined similar reasons pertaining to the OPC, lessons those in the PCA still need to learn, in his booklet, Can the OPC be Saved. In both of these works we have tried to demonstrate how and why the unique epistemology of Cornelius Van Til provided the door through which the FV walked and why the position advanced by Gordon Clark is the antidote. As James Jordan once noted in a rare sentient moment: “The FV controversy is the Clark controversy with feet on it.”
Of course, the failure in leadership is not restricted to just to followers of Van Til. Dr. Robbins offered a rather stinging rebuke of his friend Cal Beisner in Why Heretics Win Battles. Reading that piece again I confess if it were directed at me I would be smarting. I loved John Robbins but I would not want to be at the receiving end of one of his critiques (although, truth be told, I was once on the receiving end on a different issue that hit close to home and it did sting, even if I finally had to admit he was right). So, long and short, there is certainly enough blame to go around. I’m sure some could make the argument, and believe me some have, that I have contributed to the spread of the FV in that I’m not as irenic as I should be or that my opposition to this particular false gospel amounts to “bomb throwing” which might actually in some unintended way empower Christ’s enemies. They might be right.
However, I want to focus on just one common misconception I think needs to be addressed again and that is the tendency of many to think that the battle over the FV is somehow an in-house fight or that it has to do with who is and who is not a real Presbyterian.
Recently PCA pastor, Andy Webb, commenting on the recent exoneration of FV pastor Jeff Meyers, and in repose to a tongue and cheek comment by someone who Webb evidently mistook as one of Meyers’ defenders, wrote:
For instance, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t want presbyteries filled with Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists, regardless of the sincerity of their Christian profession or how nice they were.
Now, we’ve already condemned – as a denomination – the FV as an erroneous opinion, and insisted that a Presbytery discipline a TE (LA, Wilkins) because of it. So, either the MO presbytery is formally stating that they repudiate the official position of the PCA in regards to the FV or that they don’t believe Meyers own declarations regarding his FV allegiances.
The problem with statements like these, besides not being very helpful, is that there is simply no parity between presbyteries filled with Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists and presbyteries currently protecting, defending, and exonerating Federal Visionists. Despite their errors, and some are more serious than others, Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists are not by definition Christ denying heretics. Sure, they are not Presbyterians and none of these folks have any place in any PCA presbytery, but last I checked Pentecostals, Congregationalists, and Baptists don’t by definition deny the truth of the Gospel, or the finished work Christ accomplished completely outside of us, or even that His finished work is applied or imputed to us by mere belief alone. Now, some might do this, but denying the finished work of Christ is not a mark of any of these groups, however it is the mark of the Federal Vision.
That is why we simply have no reason to presume that Federal Visionists are our brother in Christ and it is certainly no act of charity, given what they themselves have written concerning the central truths of the Gospel, to presume that they are. Now, some may be hypocrites, as in the example Paul gives us of Peter in the second chapter of Galatians. However, as a signer of the Federal Vision Profession of Faith, PCA Pastor Jeff Meyers is no hypocrite. Meyers signed the document because he believes it. Meyers is not just going along to get along because he wants to drink beer with James Jordan and Doug Wilson or get invited to speak at Steve Wilkins’ Auburn Avenue FV pastors conferences. Admittedly, some might be going along to get along (after all, I think the Missouri presbytery would be a very uncomfortable place for any serious FV opponent, arguably even more hostile than, say, the Ohio, Siouxlands or the Pacific Northewest presbyteries), but I believe Meyers when he says that in order for faith to save it has to be “personally loyal” and “active.” I believe him when he says that in order for a sinner to be righteous he must “do what the covenant requires of him.” I believe him when he denies that righteousness in the bible refers to moral purity or conformity to a legal standard and that for him this is “the Lutheran mistake.”
I think when men like Andy Webb imply that ridding the PCA of FV men is similar to deposing Pentecostals, Congregationalists, or Baptists he is making a categorical error and one that the FV men are all too happy to see him make. The goal of the FV men, particularly early on, was to convince men in the PCA and beyond that this fight was an intramural contest; a disagreement among Reformed brothers. There can be no doubt that they have succeeded in accomplishing this and in spades. Besides the PCA’s FV/NPP report which referred to “NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ,” we recently saw Sean Lucas, who was one of the committee men who drafted the PCA FV/NPP report, say of FV PCA pastor Peter Leithart on another blog:
I have little doubt that Dr. Leithart is a genuine believer in Jesus. I do not believe that he is a heretic (particularly because, in my understanding as a church historian, heresy would generally be associated with denying key Trinitarian or Christological truths). And I do not believe that simply because one has a high baptismal theology that one is a heretic (if so, then Calvin was wrong to say that the Roman Catholic Church still had true baptism).
As a fellow signer of the Federal Vision Profession of Faith, Peter Leithart’s last problem is that he has a “high baptismal theology.” Make no mistake, statements like these made by Lucas and Webb, not to mention those found in the PCA’s FV/NPP report, are major concessions to the FV men and send a clear message to every TE and RE that all this squabbling is all much ado about nothing.
However, as R. C. Sproul said on the floor of the General Assembly that passed the FV/NPP report, “This is the Gospel people .” Sproul was right. If the FV is not about the Gospel, then it’s hardly worth fighting.