Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fault lines?

Guy Waters has a new book out about the Federal Vision. I have not yet read it because of the wonder of government run postal service. My tax money at work. Anyway, there are quite a few critiques out there to be read. Doug Wilson is blogging his way through the book, and his posts are very well done. Peter Leithart has a discussion about Rev. Waters views his books. Mark Horne also some related thoughts up on his page. It seems Rev. Waters is not friendly to the Federal Vision in his book, and I wonder if there is an avenue for a single pastor to bring other pastors up on charges if they lie in different presbyteries? Being unfamiliar with the ins and outs of PCA polity, I do not know the answer, but if Rev. Waters is charging men in his own denomination of heresy in print, he ought to do it in the church courts as well. Study Committee reports do not count. If there is no way for men in differing presbyteries to bring charges on one another, then there ought to be.

But that is a matter for another day. I want to specifically look at the opening of Joel Garver’s essay on Guy Waters. Rev. Garver writes about the current controversy:

These issues are not in themselves new, involving instead topics of perennial Reformed discussion such as the nature and practice of the Christian sacraments, the relationship between biblical and systematic theologies, the precise contours of a scripturally rooted covenant theology, how best to explain the free offer of the Gospel, how we pastorally apply a Calvinistic understanding of election, how we interconnect various aspects of soteriology, and so on. Any student of the history of reformational dogmatics will quickly recognize these as the dog-eared pages of past conversation and contention.

He then adds a few sentences later:

More often than not, I suspect (and shifting metaphors again), the discussion has had the effect of unearthing and shaking up the tradition’s existing fault lines that had lain dormant in the wake of liberalism’s assault upon orthodoxy, the hegemony of modernity and its assumptions, and the dominance of one particular variety of evangelical piety.

These are fascinating comments that could produce many different threads of discussion. One could argue his point about Reformed theology has long fought the battles he listed. It is a common argument that often involves defining ‘Reformed’. Was Luther ‘Reformed’? Do we consider men like Schaff and Nevin ‘Reformed’? One could also take the tact of arguing that Thomas Boston’s arguments about the Free Offer of the Gospel are not that same as the Federal Vision’s arguments. Or even asking the question of whether or not Biblical Theology pre-dates Vos in the late 19th century? Or one could discuss whether or not his list of discussions are really the heart issue or issues involved in the Federal Vision debate. I seem to remember justification being discussed quite a bit in the books that I have read, yet it fails to make his list. Unless that is what he means to convey when "interconnecting various aspects of soteriology". All worthy discussions.

However, I would like to get feedback on the idea of dormant fault lines running through the tradition, in this case presbyterianism or even the PCA specifically. It was said at the inception of the PCA that it would be a schismatical movement (obviously this was said by someone who did not join the PCA). While it is still a relatively young denomination it has yet to have a major schism. More than can be said for the beginning of the OPC. Is this Federal Vision shake up simply the ending of the honeymoon period of the PCA and the fault lines are showing of an inherently schismatic movement? Or is the ‘Truly Reformed’ camp more correct when they argue that the ‘Joining and Receiving’ of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod created the fault lines? I suppose in short my question is ‘do you agree with Rev. Garver that the PCA, Presbyterianism, or the Reformed tradition in general has fault lines that run just underneath the surface?’


Anonymous said...

Hi Lee,

This is an aside, but why aren't you at camp???? Obviously, I didn't go either. Drop a note when you can. Paula

Jay said...

You probably know this, but I somehow feel obliged to point out that if the market were governing postal rates, it probably either would be significantly more expensive to ship a book to you, or deliveries would occur less often. In some sense, the tax dollars of people in large population centers are subsidizing your postal service. You get it cheaper than you otherwise would.

Hope you're surviving the heat . . .

Mr. Baggins said...

This is a very interesting idea of Joel's (whom I know personally , btw). If there are any fault lines, then they lie not over architectonic portions of the PCA, but over the schismatics. That's my read.

Lee said...

I am not at camp. Jenny Jo is due in less than a month with our third, so I stayed home to help. I think everyone will forgive me for skipping camp, but we will see.

I don't know, markets usually make things cheaper. Anyway, since the governments artificially keeps agricultural product prices low through trade agreements, price caps, and other measures, in order to subsidize those living in the cities at the expense of farming towns, you owe us subsidized mail service.
I am making it through the heat, so far.

Mr. Baggins,
You don't think that joining and receiving was a fault line waiting to happen or that good faith subscription are fault lines? If not why not?

Mr. Baggins said...

Joining and receiving, I would say no. On good faith subscription, you would have a point. I think we are dealing with FV largely because of that. At any rate, it will make it much harder to get rid of the FV as a result.

Anonymous said...

Joel Garver is not a Rev.

Lee said...

Is he not? Why did I think he was a Rev? I guess I messed that one up. My apologies, I will fix the mistake soon. The fact that he is not a Rev. does not take away from the interesting nature of his comments.