Federal Vision Is Not Dead (it just smells funny)

not dead yet

Those familiar with the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail will remember the scene where Eric Idle is collecting plague consumed dead bodies on a cart while crying out like some old-time peanut vendor or carnival barker; “Bring out your dead!” Hearing the call a man appears carrying an elderly man on his shoulder who protests; “I’m not dead yet. I’m feeling better.” That’s the image I have when I see Federal Visionists like faux “pastor” Doug Wilson reemerge trying to reinvent himself as something other than what he is — a rank Christ-denying, Gospel-destroying first-class heretic, and charlatan.

Some will remember only a couple of years ago when Wilson claimed (falsely, of course) that he was no longer Federal Vision. Thankfully, many observers of Wilson noted that this so-called “mea culpa” and professed rejection of the Federal Vision was just another craftily constructed ruse designed to deceive the gullible and undiscerning. To others, mainly me, it was clear from the language in his original post that the Federal Vision label had perhaps caused more than a few Reformed parents to decide not to send their little Johnnys to Wilson’s New Saint Andrews College. Like most Reformed and Presbyterian elders, I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Pew-On have no idea why the Federal Vision is a bad thing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to little Johnny’s eternal soul … and their wallets.

The unfortunate thing about this is that Wilson’s ruse did work on some who should know better. For example, Calvin Beisner wrote in the comment section of Wilson’s blog post:

I have zero desire to become re-embroiled in the controversies over FV at this time, but I did think it proper to acknowledge what you’ve said here, thank you for what you said about me, and commend you for this step away from FV.

Sadly, Beisner is among the gullible and undiscerning as Wilson didn’t step away from the FV in the slightest and cleverly repented of nothing. Also sad, is that it appears Beisner never profited from John Robbins’ rebuke of his handling of Wilson and other FV men in his article, “Why Heretics Win Battles.” However, since Beisner commented on Wilson’s blog in 2017 some might consider this “old news.” OK, well, what isn’t old news is when last month another member of the “gullible and undiscerning” club, world-famous Baptist debater and apologist James White, interviewed Wilson on the Federal Vision. I’m not going to provide a link to that interview simply because the only version I could find was uploaded to Doug Wilson’s Canon Press YouTube page and I’m sure that page is monetized so that Wilson profits from the number of views he gets.

While I’m not going to comment at any length on that interview right now, I was surprised how White just fed Wilson one softball after another and never once pressed him on any of his responses. It was obvious that White bought Wilson’s claim that he’s just “amber ale” in his Federal Vision as opposed to “oatmeal stout” guys like Pete Leithart and James Jordan even though it is a distinction without a difference. That’s because they’re all part of the same flight of sour beer from the same brewery. It was as if White was completely unfamiliar with the mounds of literature exposing the Federal Vision as a false gospel and modern reworking of the old Pelagian heresy. Regardless, Wilson was clearly happy with the self-serving and marketing value of the interview which is why he featured it on his YouTube page.

I’m happy to say while they are not of the same “rock star” stature in the eyes of some in the P&R world, Baptists or otherwise, there are some who have been sounding the alarm about Wilson’s reemergence into the mainstream Reformed conversation. Men like Tim Shaughnessy and Carlos Montijo at Thorn and Crown Ministries have been raising red flags. Also, PCA Pastor Patrick Hines has a number of new podcasts discussing the Federal Vision specifically with Doug Wilson in mind. I’m thankful that these men recognize that Wilson is easily the most dangerous of the bunch simply because he does a pretty good job of disguising himself as a genuine Reformed pastor who is just the victim of some bad press.

I particularly want to mention Hines’ podcasts only because he is a PCA pastor and I’m hoping in future episodes he addresses his own denominations failure in successfully adjudicating even one Federal Vision proponent on heresy charges to include Steve Wilkins, Peter Leithart, and Jeffrey Meyers (who remains a PCA pastor in good standing Pastor at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in St. Louis). All of these men are still very active in advancing and profiting from their Federal Vision.

On a smaller point, Hines routinely defines saving faith as “resting and receiving.” While certainly good confessional language it is still a figure of speech. What Hines needs to do is define saving faith in literal terms. I suspect Hines might think, as many Reformed elders do, that “resting and receiving” is something more than the assent to understood propositions, specifically the assent to the propositions of the Gospel. It is not. But, in my view, recognizing this is key to exposing the central error of the Federal Vision which attempts, with some success, to define saving faith in terms of action, covenant-keeping, or simply works. This is how they have been able to equate faith with faithfulness as they drive their FV truck through the tautological and ambiguous traditional threefold definition of faith. As James Jordan howled over a decade ago when the FV fight was at its height:

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

You can find Patrick Hines’ videos of his podcasts at his Bridwell Heights Presbyterian Church Pulpit Supplemental YouTube Page. Or, if you’re like me and would rather listen to podcasts, check out his Sermon Audio webpage (his videos are there as well). And, if you want to save some time here are a few podcasts I highly recommend:

Is Doug Wilson Reformed? (1)

The Federal Vision is Still Heresy

Norman Shepherd and Federal Vision Gospel Heresy

Doug Wilson and Deniers of Sola Fide

“Christian” & “Hopeful” meet Doug Wilson & John Piper

Doug Wilson on Justification and Covenant of Works

Federal Vision is Pelagianism, Moralism, & Legalism

If you enjoy any of the above, Hines has promised there are more to come!

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8 Comments on “Federal Vision Is Not Dead (it just smells funny)”

  1. Steve Matthews Says:

    Thanks for the FV update, Sean. Sorry to hear that about Dr. Beisner.

  2. John Bradshaw Says:

    Thx for the warning Sean and the links.
    I agree that defining faith is key in the fight for the Gospel. As has been said, Latin is no friend of the truth. I struggled for decades trying to understand what faith was. It NEVER became clear till I read Faith and Saving faith by Clark. Along with that I could never understand why R.C. Sproul dismissed so lightly Dr Robbins’ essay ‘R C Sproul on Saving Faith’. It was a very great pity he did so, as it was one part that Dr Sproul was too much influenced by Latin/Aquinas. I never heard him use the Greek only when discussing belief/faith (not that I have listened to all his lectures). His default position seemed to be to revert to the Latin for faith. Strange for someone so gifted in language. Our philosophy though influences our reading of plain sentences and holding Aquinas up as a safe philosophy will have some dire consequences.

  3. Denson Dube Says:

    Happy new year Sean, and thanks for being a watchman and calling out these wolves in sheep’s clothing!
    It was Clark’s “define or discard” that saved me from pious confusion sold from nominally Christian pulpits.

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    White & Wilson: Heretics Я Us

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, why would you call White a heretic?

  6. Eric Says:

    Sean,

    It’s good hermeneutics (and edifying…rightly dividing the Word) to make the distinction between figurative and literal language in the Bible especially where the gospel is concerned.

    This distinction should be front and center in the training of seminarians…less confusion I think.

  7. Pht Says:

    [blockquote]Sean Gerety Says:

    January 6, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Hugh, why would you call White a heretic?[/blockquote]

    Seconded … ???

    —-

    In FV no mas, DW bluntly said he was not disowning what he had believed previously, and that he was disowning the label – and the text of that post indicates that he belived some things different (I am not talking of the truth or falsity of these things) than the other signers of the FV statement (I’ve seen it said that DW was a/the main editor on that statement?). Well, Ok, just going at face value, well what does he believe that’s different than those fellows?

    How does this: https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/a-retraction/ Not still stand? (& etc). My impression is that DW hasn’t been pushed in a proper way on JBFO and such because the people he has been questioned by (or who he will let question him and he will give meaningful answers to) are confused on the definition of faith by that 2 real + 1 magical leg latin stool. At least that I know of … which ain’t saying much.

    —-

    The un-biblical definition of faith is (as has been said) is a barn door, open for abuse. Consistency truly is a gracious gift from God, which none of us deserve… The whole thing with james 2 and what demons believe is cleared up by the clearer passages on the topic. We know no demons are saved (devil and his followers into the second death, revelation), and we know that Christ saves all who believe the gospel, and that Christ will not fail to save any believers (john 3). Call me a pews-schlub (and I am one) … but that is pretty definitive (we just have a hard time getting over works salvation … it scares us).

    But because james 2 is less clear on what the thing is demons belive (though not very unclear), people try and drive that horsecart through it, not letting the clear passages define it.

    Those who aren’t clear on the biblical definition of faith will have a hard time understanding how others can abuse that magical third category (fiducia).

    —-

    I am, atm, awaiting brandon’s follow up post to this one: https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2019/12/03/federal-vision-baptists/

    (discussed here: https://reformgelical.podbean.com/e/brandon-adams-and-his-blog-post-federal-vision-baptists/ )

    So, for those who don’t mind giving clicks and traffic … another video was dropped with White and wilson regarding trinity and patriarchy/etc.

    I have no idea how to watch a YT video off the site without giving it a view… that said? I am very thankful for adblockers.

    I have also seen this vid up on facebook, don’t have the link, but maybe someone can find it.

  8. pht Says:

    …and that Christ will not fail to save any believers (john 3)

    John SIX … *facepalm*


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