Wednesday, January 19, 2005


The problem of definitions and agreement is perhaps the biggest problem in any debate. It is no different in the current Federal Vision debate. In fact, many will get upset by the name Federal Vision Theology. They claim there is no such thing. They claim that Reformed Catholicism is not a movement, but simply the name of a blog (please note the blog refers to itself as a movement). No one likes the name, but you have to call it something. But, maybe that is the whole point, once they admit they are something else, that is not the traditional (and I believe biblical), they have given away the farm.

This debate about definitions goes far beyond what to call the movement. Do Federal Vision men believe in Justification by Faith alone? Yes, they all say so, but then again, no for they fight for conditions of repentance and obedience on the covenant of grace. Do they believe in forensic justification? Yes, they say they do. But then again, there is an initial justification, and a final justification and final salvation. Do they believe in a process of justification? No, they will tell you as much. But then there is that initial and final part that sure makes it sound like a process.

One could list the examples forever. This is simply part of the process of debate, I believe. The Remonstrants debated for several years before they were pinned down, as were the Nestorians, the Arians, and even the Protestants if you want to look at it that way. Every other group you could imagine has the same process of taking time to settle into terminology and definitions.

Thus, after I finish the next post on Shepherd, who I still believe has minimal influence over the current debate, we will begin to examine the theology of the Federal Vision and compare it with the Reformed Confessions. It is important to remember that you cannot take one piece of the puzzle like Justification, and hope to score a victory for they will not be pinned down. This was part of the mistake that Westminster Seminary made when they first examined Shepherd, they did not want to look at his other views. It is looking at the whole of one’s theology that nails one down to a position. It takes looking at the sacraments, Christ, covenants, worship, and justification (just to name a few) to understand the implications and definitions of one’s theology.


David said...

Lee, I would generally put myself in the camp of those who believe that there is no such thing as a Federal Vision Theology. Let me explain ...

I am NOT saying that there is nothing interesting/troubling (depending on your perspective) that is going on under the name of "Federal Vision"; I just think that as things shake out we will see how loosely identified this group is.

Those associated with the Federal Vision were shot at when they were suddenly condemned as heretics without the benefit of a heresy trial. They quickly circled the wagons - and began to defend themselves (more or less) as a group. Furthermore, several of the men identified as leaders among the Federal Vision are friends with one another.

Well, that sure seems like a group with a theology - why isn't it? The hastiness with which the circle was drawn includes a rather diverse group of men. The differences between Steve Schlissel and Steve Wilkins may be as great as those between Steve Wilkins and Lig Duncan.

For now, "Federal Vision" may be a necessary label - but I wouldn't expect that it will end up as a unified movement.

Anonymous said...


Let me just note that some people want to bloat their self-importance by pretending that they are starting (and head of) a movement.

Be wary of anyone who says that they *are* the movement -- like "Reformed Catholicism". It's fine to be Reformed; it's fine to be catholic (small, "c", you know the drill). But a Reformed Catholicism movement? Especially one lead by a single blogger?


Lee said...


You make a good point Dale. Many desire to be the leaders, and I think there are a fair share of zealots out there. But, just as a point of clarification, the Reformed Catholicism blog is run by a small group. It has about 3-4 guys who post regularly. They do receive posts from guests or at least less frequent posts from the likes of Andrew Sandlin and others.

Thanks and peace to you,

Lee said...


While I agree that some differences exist in the "Federal Vision Camp", and I am sure that some who are currently included will desire to distance themselves, I believe a Federal Vision Theology is still likely. I do hope to post more soon on what I believe to be the underpinnings of their theology. One of the pillars is a commitment to Schaff's view of history and theology. This is a dialectal approach to theology, a belief that theology develops over time en route to a final synthesis. For now that means a synthesis with Roman Catholic theology. It is not a coincdence that they advocate a very similar theology to that of Nevin and Schaff. I agree with you that some may get shaken out as the definitions and commitments manifest themselves, but many of them remain committed to this 'doctrinal development', and have enough in common to remain united.

David said...


Thank you. I look forward to reading more from you on this.