Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Historically accepted?

Kevin Johnson's Coffee Conversations has made claims about the historicity of the Auburn Avenue theology. He claims,

the writings of both current and past Presbyterians make it clear that this just isn’t the case. There is a fair amount of theological diversity in Presbyterianism that allows for differences of opinion on these issues

Now he does offer some support, to his credit, but it is simply a link to Mark Horne’s Theologia. This site contains many articles, but does not constitute proof of accepted theological diversity within the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions. Browsing the site one can easily see that the vast majority of articles on the site are by people living today. In the sections on sacraments and soteriology I counted 3 articles from Ursinus and 1 from John Calvin. None of which really defended any of the Federal Vision points. One Ursinus article defended infant baptism, not a point in question, and one explicitly states that good works follow Justification, a point that Federal Vision men seem to have trouble making since they wish to discuss an initial and final justification, a distinction Ursinus did not make. Admittedly Philip Schaff, John Nevin, and Charles Hodge have a few articles a piece, but altogether non-21st century writers probably only make up less than 10% of what is found on the site. This hardly seems like proof of a historical precedent.

It would seem to me in order to claim a historical place at the table of the Presbyterian and Reformed one needs a leader of the Reformation or one of its resulting churches to argue for a position similar to that of the Auburn Ave. men. Not only that, but those men would have to be accepted and not challenged by the rest of those within the tradition. I cannot find anyone who fits that description.

I will concede that John Nevin and Philip Schaff led the RCUS down the path very similar to the Auburn Ave. theology, but they were fought every step of the way by men within the denomination like James I Good and Joseph Berg, as well as outside the denomination by men like Charles Hodge and Robert Dabney. Also, with the end result of the leadership of Nevin and Schaff being a merger with a Lutheran church, and then finally the formation of the United Churches of Christ, it seems hard to argue that they actually fit in the Presbyterian and Reformed Tradition.

Briefly I would like to list men who seem to oppose the Federal Vision view of sacraments, justification, and the covenant of works.
  • Henry Bullinger clearly rejects the view of sacraments as ‘efficaciously’ conferring anything (5th decade, 7th sermon, pg. 327) and rejects any idea of infant communion.

  • Louis Berkhof follows the ordo saludis (order of salvation) that is from time to time attacked by FV proponents. He also does not adhere to the sacramental view of the FV (pg. 618 of Systematic Theology), and speaks of the Covenant of Works (pg. 211f).

  • Herman Witsus also rejects the sacramental view of the FV by claiming that baptism is reception into the covenant of grace and not a reception into Christ (Economy of the Covenants, pg. 430). Witsus states it signifies benefits in Christ (434). He also speaks of a Covenant of Works.

  • John Calvin has a differing view of the sacraments than the one espoused in the FV. Old Mercersburg men admitted as much when they admitted the Mystical Presence was different than Calvin. Plus Calvin is clearly harsh on the widespread practice of infant communion among the FV men. While explaining why the infants are baptized and not allowed to the table he says, “If these men had a particle of sound brain left, would they be blind to a thing so clear and obvious?” (4.7.1353).


This claim is made by more than just Mr. Johnson, but it has never really been backed up by evidence of any sort.

3 Comments:

Andrew McIntyre said...

Of course, let us not forget that the Scriptures contradict their teachings. I am sure they could dig up some theologians that advocated something that may at least seem to sympathize with their view, but what does it matter? Every man, no matter how great, defaults to a bit of folly. Doing Reformed theology is a science of revelation, not tradition.

DRB said...

Why does FV attack the order of salvation of Berkhof? Does FV follow Nevin's order? I don't see any difference between Nevin's order in Mystical Presence and
those of Vos and Gaffin
. I'd appreciate any clarification.

Lee said...

DRB,
I have not had time to read the links yet. I will try to get to them soon. Briefly, Federal Vision men attack the ordo saludis because it is an order. They usually argue that having an order is silly and wrong. Mainly they dislike the justification portion. Federalist Vision men desire to make justification a process in and of itself. The justification in Berkhof is a fixed point in time where the believer is forensically justified. This the FV men do not like. They want an initial and final justification and having the initial does not mean you get the final. I will try to add more later if you want.

Thanks.