Sunday, September 22, 2013

Federal Vision: to the point - by a GB commenter...

Jason Loh meanders a bit and then zeros in (with a revision or two by me) on the FV error in his comments at Green Baggins...
According to Scripture as interpreted by the Westminster Confession of Faith, David Reece is not the only Presbyterian who says that Peter Leithart is a heretic according to the WCF.
I’m sure Leithart is a nice, good and even a sincere person. But we are talking about the Gospel here. It cannot be strongly emphasised enough that the saying that THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS applies most aptly here. NOT that it is necessarily to be taken literally at all — but St James did warn about the greater condemnation that teachers shall receive … St Peter warned about false teachers who twist and turn Scripture to their own destruction … St Paul spoke of the Judaisers with the damned gospel …
And the Federal Vision is one version of the Judaising/legalistic [i.e. false] gospel that is at enmity with the true Gospel. The FV may be a good blueprint as a socio-political ideology and vision. But please remember that Jesus did distinguish between theology and politics.
If we read the Gospels carefully, we see that the theology of Jesus was completely at odds with his [the current religious] politics [of his day]. The one who ate with prostitutes, publicans and the social outcasts was also the one who warned that our righteousness must exceed those of the Pharisees … who said that we are to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect … the One Who claims to have come to fulfill the Law breaks [the Pharisees' understanding of] the Law for the sake of neighbour …
IOW, the FV as the confusion between the two kingdoms/ Law and Gospel/ divine and human righteousness/ Old and New Adam/ theological and political uses of the Law, etc. ends up having NO home in either the theology or [any supposed] politics of Jesus...

Read more HERE


  1. We orthodox Lutherans are THRILLED to see the rise of the "Federal Vision" in Reformed circles. However, we Lutherans have another term for it: Lutheranism!

    God be praised that the Reformed are coming back to accepting "Repent and be baptized...for the forgiveness of sins" as EXACTLY what God meant and not a mistranslation by Catholic/Anglican/Lutheran translators.

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

  2. Gary, FV undermines justification by faith alone, the article upon which the Church stands. I doubt Martin Luther would be all that thrilled...

    And just when did the confessional Reformed Church stop believing and practicing "Repent and be baptized... for the forgiveness of sins?"

  3. A common misperception of Martin Luther by Reformed Christians that we Lutherans frequently encounter is this: "Luther denounced Baptismal Regeneration".

    This is blatantly false.

    When Luther talked about "justification by faith", what he was talking about was "Satisfaction for sins" not the "when" of salvation. Luther, as do Lutherans today, believe that God saves by the power of his Word, and most often this occurs at and in Baptism.

    In Luther's time, Rome was teaching that Christ initiates justification in your baptism, but then you must do good works to complete your justification and to make satisfaction for the penalty for all post baptism sins, either in this life or in purgatory. Giving money to the pope in the form of an indulgence could "cut" your sentence in Purgatory.

    When Luther read Romans, he realized that the phrase "the just shall live by faith" meant that Christ satisfied ALL sins on the cross, not just original sin and those sins we commit before baptism. Therefore the "just" or the saved/the Christian can live his life by faith in Christ having made full satisfaction for all our sins, not worrying about Purgatory. We do good works out of love for our benevolent Father, not of fear. No more crawling on bloody knees up Cathedral steps to earn God's favor!

    Unfortunately, many Reformed, especially Baptists, think what Luther meant is that he was SAVED reading Romans, by HIS faith in Christ. Luther said no such thing. Luther stated emphatically throughout his ministry and to his death bed that he was saved in his infant (Catholic) baptism! It was his baptism that gave him assurance of salvation.

    If the Reformed believe that God forgives sins and gifts the Holy Spirit in Baptism, then I owe you and all in the Reformed Church an apology. However, I and all of Lutherandom will be shocked to hear that statement.

    We are under the impression that the Reformed believe that the purpose of Baptism is to form a "covenant", not to forgive sins and gift the Holy Spirit.

    Are we wrong in our understanding of the Reformed position on Baptism?

  4. Gary, not sure why you arguing what you are. From the LCMS.ORG -

    Q. You teach, as did Martin Luther, that man is justified by grace alone, through faith alone. Yet I also read your position on baptism and it seems to me that you also teach baptismal regeneration. You clearly state that a person (infant) comes into the blessings of grace (salvation) through their baptism. How can this be if the scripture teaches that faith is the means of apprehending salvation? I may simply be misunderstanding what you are saying in the section on baptism, I hope I am. If not, then I must insist that there would then be no difference between the LCMS and the Roman Church on its view of justification and salvation. Please help me understand where I am misunderstanding you.

    A. Lutherans believe that the Bible teaches that a person is saved by God's grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Baptism, we believe, is one of the miraculous means of grace (together with God's written and spoken Word) through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person's heart (see Matt. 28:18-20; Act. 2:38; John 3:5-7; Act. 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5-6; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:13).

    Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about baptism) that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated, yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., 1 Peter 2:21; Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:13). This faith needs to be fed and nurtured by God's Word (Matt. 28:18-20), or it will die. Those who have been baptized, but who no longer believe, will not be saved. (By the same token, those who truly believe and yet have not had opportunity to be baptized [like, for example, the thief on the cross] will be saved.)

    And from Hodge's Systematic:

    Here's Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology, Volume III, 1.20.13:

    The Condition on which the Efficacy of Baptism is suspended.
    That condition is faith. It is the clearly pronounced doctrine of the Lutheran Church that baptism is altogether useless or void of any saving effect, unless the recipient be a believer. And by faith is not meant mere speculative assent, such as Simon Magus bad, but true, living, and saving faith. On these points the Lutheran standards are explicit.
    From this it follows that in the case of adults, faith and therefore regeneration, must precede baptism. And consequently in their case the design and effect of baptism cannot be to convey the remission of sin and renovation of the heart, but simply to confirm and strengthen a faith already possessed.

    Me: Both the LCMS and the Reformed teach that baptism is only effectual unto salvation to the one who believes, i.e. has faith in Christ alone. In other words, baptism is subordinate to faith when it comes to salvation.

    By the way, Baptist's aren't Reformed. They don't teach infant baptism. Reformed do.

  5. Lutherans consider all non-Lutheran Protestants, other than the descendants of the Ana-Baptists, to be Reformed or the offspring of the Reformed.

    Baptists are not descended from the Ana-Baptists and contrary to what some of them may tell us, they have not existed as the "true believers" ever since the Apostles.

    But by the Reformed definition, no, Baptists are not Reformed.

    So just to be clear we are on the same page, Lutherans do not believe that the ACT of Baptism saves in and of itself, as do the Roman Catholics. We believe that it is the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God, spoken at Baptism, that quickens the dead soul of a sinner and gifts him faith, belief, repentance, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

    The gift of salvation is only received through faith, but unlike Baptists, we Lutherans believe that faith is a gift given to us by God. Faith is not a product of human intelligence and maturity that allows the sinner to "accept" God's gift. Lutherans believe God "gifts" faith as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. Since God gifts salvation without the assistance or even the cooperation of the sinner, God can and does save infants and adults.

    Salvation always occurs by the power of God's Word, received through GOD'S gift of faith.

    Salvation by the power of the Word can occur when an adult is quickened by the preaching of the Word, or when an infant is quickened by the spoken Word in Holy Baptism. It isn't the is the Word in and with the water that forgives sins and saves.

  6. You said, "
    Me: Both the LCMS and the Reformed teach that baptism is only effectual unto salvation to the one who believes, i.e. has faith in Christ alone. In other words, baptism is subordinate to faith when it comes to salvation."

    Could you explain what you mean by this statement?

    It was my impression that the Reformed do not believe that infants are saved nor that their sins are forgiven in Infant Baptism. We Lutherans definitely do. We believe that infants can believe. We believe that infants can believe by a supernatural act of God that quickens their dead souls and gifts them faith and belief.

    Confirmation serves NO role whatsoever in Justification/Salvation in Lutheran theology. Lutherans believe that we are saved and that our sins are forgiven in our Baptisms.

    Can someone as an adult believe, die before he is able to be baptized, and still go to heaven? Absolutely! But this is the exception.

    The rule is that God saves and forgives sins in Baptism.

  7. Just for clarification, are you FV or anti-FV? I haven't read your other posts.

  8. Gary, I would hope you would understand from the post and my comments that I consider Feveral Vision doctrine regarding baptism and justification by faith as serious error.

    When I say that "baptism is subordinate to faith" I mean that baptism without faith doesn't save. Baptism with faith saves. Lutherans believe God gives faith to an infant in baptism and thus is forgive of his sins and saved. If that one grows up and stops believing then his baptism is no longer effectual. Lutherans believe that an adult must be regenerated and have faith in Christ in order to be baptized. So in both case faith is the crucial element through which God's salvation is received by the sinner.

    As to Reformed understanding of baptism. WCF 28:
    1. Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

    2. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.

    3. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.

    4. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

    5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

    6. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

    7. The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.

  9. I am surprised by this document. It certainly sounds as if regeneration (salvation and the forgiveness of sins) is conferred in the Reformed baptism.

    I was under the impression that the Reformed did not believe that their infants are saved in baptism but only brought into a Covenant/the visible church.

    Your characterization of Lutheran beliefs at the beginning of your comment are accurate. Faith must be present for salvation and the promise of eternal life to be present. Lutherans do not teach that we must do good works to keep our salvation, but a willful rejection of Christ or ongoing willful sin can result in the loss of faith and the loss of salvation.

    Heaven only accepts faith, not one time decisions for faith that do not endure to the end.

    So how are you saying that the FV are different from Lutheran theology? We Lutherans believe that All Trinitarian baptisms are efficacious. The theology of the one baptizing is irrelevant. It is God's spoken Word that saves in Baptism, not any act of man.

  10. Gary,
    Lutherans and Reformed do have a different understanding of baptism, yet not such that either comprises the necessity of faith and still retains a high view of baptism. Reformed would say that baptism is effectual only to those who God has elected to salvation. Those elect will come to faith so that their baptism is effectual unto salvation but not necessarily tied to the time of baptism:

    28.6. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

    Lutherans say that faith is given to the infant, but that he can lose it. So, Lutherans affirm the necessity of faith, just as do the Reformed. And that Spirit given faith by the grace of God results in salvation (Eph. 2:8-10).

    Yes, Lutheranism is different from Federal Vision. A good source to investigate the links found HERE. The second link on that page is a helpful review of Federal Vision controversy.

  11. I just read the link.

    Do the FV teach that good deeds are necessary to complete salvation, or do they believe like Lutherans, that good works do not assist our salvation, but a rejection of Christ, or a life of willful sin, can FORFEIT our salvation?

  12. Via Scott Clark:
    One aspect of the self-named Federal Vision movement that is sometimes overlooked is its connection to theonomic ethics. “Federal Vision” (hereafter FV) refers to a movement with roots in the early 1970s (see below) but that developed in the 1990s. They took the name “Federal Vision” in the early 2000s. It proposes a radical revision of the Reformed doctrines of salvation, church, and sacraments that turns eternal unconditional into a temporary, conditional election and that posits baptism as the instrument through which the temporarily, conditionally elect are said to be conditionally elect, united to Christ, justified, adopted etc. The FV also teaches that faith, in justification, is more than “resting” in and “receiving” Christ and his righteousness alone for justification. It teaches that, in justification (acceptance with God) faith is trusting and obeying. They like to speak of faith as “faithfulness.” Of course, their doctrine of conditional election and justification through faithfulness contradicts the teaching of Scripture as confessed by the Reformed churches in the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) Canons of Dort (1619), and the Westminster Standards (1648).

  13. Interesting.

    Their terminology sounds off, but isn't the result the same as Lutheranism:

    1. God gives salvation freely in Baptism.
    2. Salvation can be lost by outright rejection or abandonment of one's faith in Christ.

    If the FV are saying that good works assist our faith, in that we must perform a certain amount of work to keep our salvation, then no, that is not Lutheran, that is Roman Catholic.

  14. When it comes to justification and works FV is much, much closer to Roman Catholicism that Lutheranism. Lutheranism and Reformed are not very far apart.

    Again, Clark:
    According to the FV, it is not really ungodly sinners that Christ justifies but those who are sanctifed, who cooperate with grace. As we have seen, in the FV, the sentence “A justified man is sanctified” becomes, “A man is justified because he is sanctified and cooperated sufficiently with grace to retain what he was given in baptism.”

    On the doctrine of justification, most advocates of the the FV theology, teach justification (acceptance with God) on the basis of faith (trusting) and obedience or faithfulness. Thus, the FV rejects the Reformation doctrine of justification through faith alone (sola fide). Where Scripture and Reformed theology has good works as evidence and fruit of justification, the FV movement makes our good works a part of the instrument (faith) and thus a part of the ground (basis) of our justification.

  15. Very definitely NOT Lutheran theology. Thank you for the insight!