Monday, August 01, 2005

Louisiana Presbytery Report: Exoneration or Fabrication

There are a lot of things that concern me about the recent Final Report on Federal Vision of the Louisiana Presbytery. I will simply concentrate on the two big ones for now. First is the report’s insistence on the necessity of ‘theological development and inquiry’. Inquiry, I can understand. This is what the church does as new issues arise. ‘What does our theology teach about abortion or euthanasia?’ This is a good example of theological inquiry, and the report is correct in stating that the place for such inquiry is in the church courts. Then what does the report mean by theological development? It seems obvious that they mean continued change in theology to any area of theology. This is the same as Sandlin’s “substantial theological development.” They prove this point when they go on to misuse the ‘always reforming’ quote, to show that they are indeed willing to change even cornerstone doctrines of the faith. This, I still contend, is a major front in this fight.
Second, the final proposal, which was adopted, was an exoneration of Rev. Steve Wilkins of Auburn Ave. Presbyterian Church. Not only is he exonerated, he is declared to be in conformity with the Westminster Standards. That this could be done flabbergasts the mind. The report itself just finishes saying that the WCF does not allow for the view that men can be in vital internal relationship with God and lose it. Rev. Wilkins’ church put forth a statement that says,

8. God has decreed from the foundation of the world all that comes to pass, including who would be saved and lost for all eternity. Included in His decree, however, is that some persons, not destined for final salvation, will be drawn to Christ and His people only for a time. These, for a season, enjoy real blessings, purchased for them by Christ’s cross and applied to them by the Holy Spirit in his common operations through Word and Sacrament (Hebrews 6:4-6; Matthew 25:14ff; etc.).

How is this not contradictory? Did Rev. Wilkins recant? No mention is made of that. Did AAPC take down this statement of faith? No. I looked it up this morning. So, how can someone have this statement, among others, as a statement of faith, a church court declare it to be out of accord with the Confession, and then the same court declare the man holding that position to be in complete agreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith? This exoneration is not going to end this controversy, nor should it. I hope that the rest of the PCA will realize that this exoneration does not seem realistic. Judicial cases must be brought against those who hold the Federal Vision positions. Norman Shepherd lived to plague the church in later decades because the OPC refused to actually hold a judicial case against him. These men will too unless bold steps of love are taken and charges filled.


Anonymous said...

Please help me understand the excerpt you use to show the heresy being presented by the Federal Vision movement. Do we,as Orthodox believers, believe that their is an inward as well as an outward covenant? And don't we believe that their are real blessings associated with being joined to the outward covenant (the Church) even if we are not true believers? Don't we believe that these blessings were purchased by Christ since their would not be a church if Christ hadn't completed His work? And don't we speak of common grace? Am I just reading my understanding of doctrines into their statement? Do they believe something other than the traditional ideas when they use these statements?

Lee said...

We, as Orthodox believers, do believe in a common grace, and blessings for those who are part of the church even if they are hypocrites. However, I do not think that is what is meant by the passage above. I think the key phrase in the quote above is, “purchased for them by Christ’s cross and applied to them by the Holy Spirit in his common operations through the Word and Sacrament.” First, I don’t think that one could argue that there is a benefit in the sacraments for unbelievers ever. They don’t have faith and without faith they do not receive the thing signified by the sacrament. By saying that the sacrament gives these people a blessing and that blessing is applied to them by the Holy Spirit, they are ruling out the idea of talking about common grace. They are talking about saving grace. The sacraments are not a picture of common grace, but signify salvation. I Corinthians 11:27-29 also make it fairly plain that those who are “not destined for final salvation” receives condemnation and not salvation from the sacrament. Second, I believe that the above quote means forgiveness of sins when it is saying “Christ’s cross.” They are saying that those who believe for a time, but not unto eternal life, do receive the benefit of being washed by the blood of Jesus, but then they lose it. Remember that this benefit is applied to them by the Holy Spirit so this is not some benefit such as church discipline, or the world being a better place because of the message of the Church, this is a benefit applied to their souls by God himself. I probably could have found a better quote if I looked harder, but let me illustrate with a quote from The Federal Vision pg.60. Steve Wilkins explains that union with Christ brings the benefits of his “obedient life, His Sacrificial death, substitutionary death, triumphant resurrection, and glorious ascension.” Rev. Wilkins then tells us, “All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ. If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation than Sodom and Gomorrah.” This is what Rev. Wilkins means in the above summary statement. If you are baptized, then you have forgiveness of sins, you have the righteousness of Christ, you have life eternal. These are all yours. If you fall away after baptism, you forfeit these things, but you did have them. You were really washed by Christ, but now after your unbelief you become unwashed somehow. Your sins had been removed from you as far as the east is from the west, but then God brings them back to you, and imputes them to you again. Clearly, there is no perseverance of the saints for Rev. Wilkins. There is no assurance of salvation for Rev. Wilkins. There is no forensic justification for Rev. Wilkins. This is why I am astonished he was declared in conformity with the Westminster Standards.
I hope that this answers your questions. If not, please let me know. I realize that I am not always clear in my posts, and from time to time my own thinking either. Thanks for making me clear things up a bit.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. That was very helpful.