Repenting of Nothing

Dragon-Lady

Last night a friend messaged me letting me know that supporters of Doug Wilson are claiming Wilson is no longer affiliated with the Federal Vision and to continue to label him as a Federal Visionist is unwarranted and generally not nice.  I admit that was news to me and frankly nothing could make me happier to learn that Wilson has rejected the central tenets of this aberrant, deadly and anti-Christian theology and has now embraced the unvarnished truth of the Gospel. His scales have been removed, hallelujah!  However, being generally skeptical of sudden conversions, although knowing from Scripture that they can and do occur, I asked for some proof or a link recounting Wilson’s road to Damascus moment.  So my friend sent me a link to a piece on Wilson’s blog titled; Federal Vision No Mas.  Encouraged by the Roberto Durán surrender reference, I read the piece.

Reading it I had the sense that I had read it before.  Turns out I did, albeit secondhand on Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog.  Lane wrote that Wilson “is not retracting his theology. He is retracting what he would call or label his theology.”  The sum total of Wilson’s conversion is that he no longer identifies with the Federal Vision.  Given that we live in an age where a man can “identify” as a woman or even a reptile, Wilson seems to think he can slither away from the Federal Vision while still affirming its theology.  Sorry, Doug, it doesn’t work like that.

Explaining why he no longer wants to identify with the Federal Vision Wilson writes:

Everybody knew (or thought they knew) what that phrase [Federal Vision] represented. Since I certainly owned the phrase, albeit with modifiers, and lots of energetic typing, what happened was that I was thought to be owning what people knew as this. But the more I typed that, the more it made people’s heads hurt. So one of the few things I have been successful at doing is persuading a number of people that I am a sly fellow, and one who bears close watching. Heretics are slippery with words, and since I have spent a lot of time trying to grease this particular piglet, I must be a heretic.

While I can certainly understand why a heretic wouldn’t want to be known as one, and I suspect that particular epithet has started to hurt Wilson’s bottom line hence his feigned mea culpa, the irony is that he continues to use an almost endless stream of slippery words to explain why and how he is no longer a Federal Visionist; none of which are very convincing.  Pay close attention to just some of Wilson’s slippery words:

This is because—I am now convinced—it is not the case that there is this thing called federal vision, with how much of it you actually get wired up to a dimmer switch. I believe it is a false analogy to say that I am a 7 on this switch, and Jim Jordan, say, is a 9.

Coming to this recognition does not mean that I am now disclaiming all commonality with my friends in the federal vision, even over against what many other believers in other traditions believe. Lutherans and Baptists both believe in the deity of Christ and in justification by faith alone—but Lutherans are still Lutherans all the way down. The same goes for Baptists. Baptists are Baptists all the way down. A federal vision advocate is FV all the way down. I am something else all the way down, and I believe that the terminology is getting in the way of making important distinctions.

So the views I hold to are a different kind of thing from what is represented in the common understanding of the federal vision, and the differences involved are connected to everything. They are a different kind of thing, not a lesser amount of the same thing. Thus when I speak of the objectivity of the covenant—which I will still continue to do—this is not a lite version of what someone else might mean by it.

Wilson says he differs from Federal Visionists like James Jordan “all the way down,” but at the same time continues to affirm “commonality” with his FV friends to include his so-called “objective” view of the covenant where the magic waters of baptism in conjunction with the mystical mumbling of some quasi-priestling-pretend-Protestant renders a person “elect” if only for a time.  But that commonality doesn’t stop there. Wilson assures his readers; “I would still want [sic] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement ….”  So, Wilson continues to affirm the Joint Federal Vision Profession but no longer wants to be considered a Federal Visionist?  Huh?  Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

While there are a number of problematic things with the FV statement, including the affirmation of covenantal nomism, the one thing that has always stood out for me was their description of saving faith:

We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active, and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.” (JFVP, p. 6, emphasis mine)

Not to unpack all the slippery words above or revisit how they have been used by defenders of the FV, most proficiently by Wilson himself, PCA pastor Wes White sums up their view of saving faith this way:

Now, notice that last phrase, “personally loyal faith.” Here’s how dictionary.com defines loyalty:

1. The state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. Faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.

They tried to slip one past us by using the word “loyal” instead of “faithful,” but it means basically the same thing. Faithfulness to commitments and faithful adherence, according to the Federal Visionists, is included in the “sole instrument of justification.” This is justification by faithfulness, justification by obedience, and justification by works. This is a rejection of the sola fide of the Reformation.

Rather than affirming the so-called “objectivity of the covenant” and the Joint Federal Vision Profession which was authored by Wilson, he should reject and renounce these things.  That is what he needs to retract and not some nonsense about not taking his “responsible” and “fair-minded” critics like “Rick Phillips, Cal Beisner, and Richard Gaffin” more seriously and apologizing for lumping them in with the “irresponsible ones” (I’m sure he has people like yours truly in mind). Or, complaining that Peter Leithart’s “end of Protestantism” project is something he can’t go along with.  None of that matters and none of that is enough to separate him from the house he built.

God said through Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”  Wilson may not be happy with the long-term (financial?) consequences from his long association and defense of the Federal Vision, but he has no more ability to wipe this stain from his character than the “transgender dragon man” can repair his forked tongue with super glue or remove his tattooed scales with Palmolive and a dish rag.

 

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13 Comments on “Repenting of Nothing”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    That 2nd box o’ quotes is a DOOZY!

    A federal vision advocate is FV all the way down. I am something else all the way down, and I believe that the terminology is getting in the way of making important distinctions.

    So the views I hold to are a different kind of thing from what is represented in the common understanding of the federal vision, and the differences involved are connected to everything. They are a different kind of thing, not a lesser amount of the same thing.

    (Sung to the tune of “A Groovy Kind of Love”?)

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    I’m unclear. Does this mean that he’s no longer wearing a tie in the pulpit, though he used to (usually) and still has many friends who choose to do so?

    And he want to call them “neckties”? Have I got it right?

  3. Hugh McCann Says:

    Excuse me: He *doesn’t* want to call them “neckties” anymore.

    Have I now got it right?

    ( I DO wish we could correct here!)

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    I read these from Wilson:

    “This statement represents a change in what I will call what I believe. It does not represent any substantial shift or sea change in the content of what I believe…

    “This represents no change in my friendships or personal commitments, or denominational relationships…

    “I would still want [to] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement…

    “I believe the statement was fine as far as it went, but does not say everything that needs to be said…”

  5. Denson Dube Says:

    Sigh!

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Don’t know if anyone has seen the follow up from Doug, but it does shed some light on why he wants to distance himself from the FV without having to repudiate FV theology and it was as I suspected because the FV label has started to impact his bottom line. It also explains (at least to me) why he craves third party Reformed validation, something it seems men like David Gadbois (who calls the FV a “failed theological project” rather than the Christ denying heresy that it is – http://tinyurl.com/yabq3tpn) and others at Greenbaggins and elsewhere are more than happy to give him.

    Wilson writes:

    “I have been asked a number of times what the response has been to my Federal Vision No Mas post. As best as I am able to gauge, there have been three visible responses. The first has been relief and gratitude. “Thanks much. I think this is a good move.” This comes, I think, from friends of our ministry who are grateful that they don’t have to start explaining an esoteric doctrine to their friends if they happen to commend something else we have said or are doing. Say that a student in their classical Christian school decides to come to New St. Andrews, and some concerned folks in the church start wondering aloud whether that is entirely wise, because they heard that they teach something out there called “federal vision,” and while they do not know what it is exactly, it sounds dubious. Our friend can now, without getting into the weeds, simply say no, that’s not true. This is not evasion because the concerns were pretty nebulous to begin with, and the answer addresses it at that same level. What do they teach there? We are Reformed evangelicals in the historic Westminster tradition.”
    https://dougwils.com/s16-theology/straight-outta-calvin.html

    The last line would be funny if it wasn’t so tragically false and outright dishonest.


  7. The so called Federal Vision is different from most heresies because it is almost impossible to find out what it actually means, plus, as noted here, the adherents of it keep on changing what it means. Actually, we might want to combat it by saying that it does not even rise to the level of heresy because in most cases you could understand what the traditional heretics were saying. How can you combat something like Federal Vision if they keep changing what they mean and if you are not really sure what they do mean!!?? Maybe we should reply to them like the old fahioned Indians used to do what they said, “You speak with forked tongue!!”.

    Forrest

  8. Hugh McCann Says:

    THERE IS NO CHANGE:

    It does not represent any substantial shift or sea change in the content of what I believe…

    This represents no change in my friendships or personal commitments, or denominational relationships…

    I would still want [to] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement…

    I believe the statement was fine as far as it went…

    WHAT MORE NEED BE SAID?

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    Forest … Good points. If you haven’t read it already, you might appreciate John Robbins’ “Why Heretics Win Battles.”

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/The%20Trinity%20Review%2000243%20244WhyHereticsWinBattles.pdf

  10. Matt Anderson Says:

    “I suspected because the FV label has started to impact his bottom line”

    I think that’s it in a nutshell. I read this piece a while back when it was written and my immediate thought was “Doug Wilson is attempting to ‘rebrand’.” I’ve worked in the advertising industry for years now and have learn everything there is to know about a rebrand. Sometimes it’s a necessity if a business wants to enter a new market…which is what I think Wilson’s aim is. I think Moscow has gotten just a little to stale for Wilson and he’s wanting something bigger. I wouldn’t surprised if he’s got his eye on a post at The Gospel Coalition or he’s got a book he wants Thomas Nelson to pick up.

  11. Forrest Schultz Says:

    Thanks, Sean. I will read it..

  12. Forrest Schultz Says:

    Thanks, Sean! I did read it and it was thoughtful and helpful.

    Forrest

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    You’re welcome, Forrest! 🙂


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