Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Federal Vision

This is a republication of The Federal Vision, a collection of essays edited by Steven Wilkins. This launched the Federal Vision controversy, also known as the Auburn Avenue controversy, which saw Norman Shepherd kicked out of Westminster Seminary. The authors attempted to offer a more catholic, high church reading of Reformed theology, but they were accused of compromising the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

These essays challenge conventional Reformed ecclesiology, viewing the church as a truly visible body and giving genuine recognition to the idea of the sacraments as means of grace and not just symbols that don't really do anything. The authors engage really well with the Scriptures as well as the Reformed tradition. The authors argue for a vital relationship between the covenant and the present experience of salvation. On their view, the covenant includes persons who are not among the elect and who will not ultimately be saved. Rich Lusk in the final essay, argues that the apostates in Hebrews 6 are persons who had a genuine experience of the grace of regeneration, despite not being elect. He argues against attempts by Calvinists to water down warning passages by introducing distinctions that are not found in the text. Those who are in the church, but who fail to persevere are genuine participants in the blessings and privileges of the covenant. This is a far more authentically Augustinian viewpoint than that of conventional Calvinism.

The views articulated here share much common ground with Catholicism. This was a really positive contribution to Reformed theology. It is unfortunate that the views of the Federal Vision for the most part fell on deaf ears within the conservative Reformed movement.

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