Ligonier Ministries Responsible for Federal Vision Converts?Posted: July 9, 2007 Filed under: CREC, Doug Wilson, Federal Vision, Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul, RC Sproul Jr 39 Comments
“Back in the 1990s, Senior Sproul was an outspoken critic of Charles Colson’s, J. I. Packer’s and Cardinal Cassidy’s cult, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, but in the twenty-first century, he remains silent on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, both forms of heresy rife in his denomination, the PCA; and he is silent on Norman Shepherdism, the form of Neo-Legalism rife in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Junior Sproul, while he was editor of Table Talk, the monthly devotional publication of Ligonier Ministries used to advance its theological agenda, made sure that Douglas Wilson appeared in the magazine monthly, and that his friends, Steve Wilkins and Steve Schlissel, appeared occasionally…
“The silence of the shepherds in dealing with the heresies in their own churches stems from their compromised philosophy and theology. They cannot clearly articulate their differences with Rome, or practice what those differences require, because at bottom they agree with Rome.”
The Silence Of The Shepherds, The Trinity Foundation
The Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue theology controversy has been raging in Reformed circles for several years now, and especially so since the 2002 Pastor’s Conference at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Monroe, Louisiana, pastored by Steve Wilkins, where the theme of the conference was Federal Vision.
I view Federal Vision as one of the most divisive and dangerous doctrines that has ever been introduced into the Reformed church. Federal Vision is a deceptive assault on the doctrines of grace, and in particular the doctrine of justification by faith alone — Sola Fide. As such, Federal Vision is a pernicious belief system with eternal consequences. It’s made just that much more insidious because of the fact that all of it’s leading spokesmen hold themselves out as “Reformed.” Indeed, it’s not outsiders who have crept into the Reformed church to subvert it and lead it back to Rome, but rather insiders.
All of the key Federal Vision spokesmen have come from Reformed backgrounds, and all of them claim that they are still “Reformed.” They say they still believe in the Five Solas, but they have deceptively redefined them. Many of them claim to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Yet, Federal Vision doctrine is contrary to the Five Solas, and contrary to the Westminster Confession on some of the most significant issues that the Confession expounds, such as the covenant, election and justification.
We haven’t dealt with Federal Vision here before, mainly because others are far better qualified to address it than we are, and some have. If you’re not familiar with this controversy, let me just say that it’s one of the more important theological issues to have confronted the church in many years. There aren’t many theological issues that can be as significant as soteriology — how man is saved.
Federal Vision has already infiltrated many Reformed churches. I say “infiltrated” because quite often the ringleaders would prefer to operate surreptitiously, rather than openly and honestly. If Federal Vision hasn’t already infiltrated your church, you should be prepared for it, and the way to be prepared is to study the issue for yourself. I’ve provided a list of some references at the end of the article, but this is by no means exhaustive. There is also much more available, both online, and in various books.
Reformed Presbyterian churches and their denominations have especially felt the impact of Federal Vision, particularly the PCA and the OPC. Many of their members, and even some of their pastors and elders, have started embracing Federal Vision, and many more embrace it privately and covertly. Indeed, the covert nature of Federal Vision, and the way that its promoters seek to stealthily infiltrate Reformed churches, is one of the things that troubles me so much about it. Its spokesmen have often shown themselves to be crafty and cunning infiltrators, rather than honest and straightforward about what they believe. They often twist words and meanings in a manner that bears striking resemblance to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In response to the onslaught of the Federal Vision within it’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America determined at their 34th General Assembly to appoint an “Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology.” The Report was finalized on May 11, 2007 and presented to the PCA at their 35th General Assembly. The Report was overwhelmingly approved by the GA. Only about 50 out of 1400 delegates voted against it).
It remains to be seen what will become of prominent Federal Vision spokesmen who pastor PCA (e.g. Steve Wilkins) churches. For the present things appear to remain in the “discussion” and “recommendation” stages. However, at some point the discussion will need to come to an end and action will need to be taken. The PCA cannot permit heresy in its midst. If it does then it will render itself irrelevant and little better than the PCUSA. The Truly Reformed will have no choice but to leave, and they will leave in droves. The PCA cannot and must not permit its own pastors to be guilty of promoting heresy.
At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, those PCA pastors who are guilty of Federal Visionism will either be required to recant and repent of Federal Vision, or they will be brought up on charges of heresy. Since it’s unlikely that any of them will recant, they’d be wise to flee those Truly Reformed denominations, such as the PCA and OPC, and escape to someplace that’s “Reformed” in name only. Doug Wilson’s Federal Vision boutique, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, comes to mind.
Timing here is crucial. What they don’t want to do is to force their Presbyteries into a position of having to defrock them, and then they have no choice but to flee to the CREC. That’s what RC Sproul Jr did, and that was a big PR mistake. Better to flee before being defrocked.
It’s not that being defrocked makes any difference to the CREC. They have, and they will continue, to gladly welcome defrocked Presbyterian ministers, even if they were defrocked for very serious things like ecclesiastical tyranny and tax fraud (as was the case for RC Sproul Jr). So being defrocked as a heretic surely won’t pose any obstacle to getting into the CREC. Nevertheless, from an appearance standpoint, it would be wise for all the Federal Vision heretics to flee to the CREC before they wind up getting defrocked.
No doubt Doug Wilson is licking his chops now. The PCA’s Federal Vision Report can only mean one thing for Doug Wilson — church growth.
I recently came across an interesting statement on a blog run by Federal Visionist, Mark Horne:
Great stuff from Ligonier Ministries on the Lord’s Supper
Published by Mark, July 2nd, 2007 in Bible & Theology
Here is a an article from Ligonier Ministries’ TableTalk magazine on the Lord’s Supper. It is really good.
Mark Horne’s blog entry directs his readers to an article on the Lord’s Supper, originally published in Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine. The article was written by Federal Visionist, and PCA Pastor, Jeffrey J. Meyers. Mark Horne himself has had articles in Tabletalk.
Both Horne and Meyers are PCA pastors, and both pastor at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, Saint Louis, MO. Jeff Meyers is also the author of The Lord’s Service, a favorite book among the Federal Vision crowd, and considered among many of them to be essential reading.
Jeff Meyers’ article had been written for Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine, during the time that RC Sproul Jr was Tabletalk’s editor. RC Sproul Jr not only tapped Jeff Meyers to write for Tabletalk, he also procured writing gigs for multiple Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue Theology leaders Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and Steve Schlissel. These and other Federal Visionaries appeared in Tabletalk during the time that RC Sproul Jr was editor. RC Sproul Jr also arranged for various Federal Vision spokesmen to speak at Ligonier conferences.
Not everyone would appreciate the significance of a Jeffrey Meyers article appearing in Tabletalk magazine. However, Mark Horne certainly appreciates it, and he recognizes what a coup it was to have a prominent Federal Vision spokesman’s articles appearing in the “devotional” magazine of the nation’s leading Reformed ministry. Others too had no trouble picking up on the message:
I have enjoyed telling people (especially in the last few weeks) that I first discovered both Biblical Horizons and Credenda/Agenda through Ligonier Ministries back in the early 90’s. R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.
I’ve assumed for quite some time that Ligonier Ministries has had a hand in making Federal Vision converts. However, not many people like Sean have been willing to go public with such confessions. So for the Federal Vision converts that converted as a result of the articles that appeared in Tabletalk by Federal Vision authors, we can thank RC Sproul for that. In fact someone else commented on Mark Horne’s blog to do just that:
Mitch Jul 8th, 2007 at 9:56 pm
“R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.”
Sean, I’m with ya bro!
Stop and think about the irony though. The publication of the most Reformed ministry in the country responsible for making Federal Vision converts. Too cool! I knew it was happening. It’s just refreshing hearing someone thank Ligonier Ministries for it.
As much as thanking R.C. Sproul we need to thank R.C. Sproul Jr. I don’t think his old man is FV. I don’t think so, but anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.
However, is it reasonable to just “thank” RC Sproul Jr? Didn’t his father have a hand in his son becoming the editor of Tabletalk? Of course he did, just as his father continues to play a role in ensuring that the defrocked RC Jr continues to speak at Ligonier Ministries conferences. So why would Dr. RC Sproul have permitted his son to invite men who hold to such errant and even heretical theology to publish their articles in Tabletalk?
Was, and is, RC Sproul really ignorant of one of the biggest theological controversies to hit the Reformed world in years? No, he clearly is not. In fact RC Sproul attended the 35th PCA General Assembly, and rose in opposition to a motion to postpone a vote to adopt the Committee’s Report. His speech was compelling. So how could RC Sproul have permitted Federal Visionaries to write for Tabletalk and speak at Ligonier conferences, and yet not also understand that such men deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone? It simply appears inconceivable that one of the most knowledgeable and insightful Reformed theologians of our day could be knowledgeable and insightful, while at the same time being so incredibly ignorant of what those men represent and their attack on a doctrine which is key to the Gospel itself. It’s just not adding up.
RC Sproul is one of the leading champions of the Reformed Faith in the world today. He even wrote a book expounding the Reformed doctrine of justification entitled, “Faith Alone.” Federal Vision is one of the greatest threats to the Reformed Faith today, and especially the Reformed doctrine of justification. One would think that RC Sproul would have a vested interest in speaking out long and loud against Federal Vision. Yet, for the most part, he remains strangely silent. Why? If you search Ligonier Ministries’ web site you won’t find one mention of Federal Vision. Yet, his ministry has given a platform to the Federal Visionists. Why?
And what about RC Sproul Jr? Is he too really that ignorant? How can he claim to be “Reformed” while countenancing the very men who assault the very foundations of the Reformed Faith? How can he claim to be Reformed and yet some of his closest personal friends are prominent Federal Vision spokesmen? And why did RC Sproul Jr jump ship to join the one and only “confederation” that has dedicated itself to advancing the Federal Vision?
I just wish that RC Sproul Jr would start being honest and, in Mitch’s words, “anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.”
RC Sproul Jr has already been defrocked for goodness sake. So it’s not like anyone in the Reformed world respects him anymore anyway. With the exception of Doug Phillips, the only friends he’s got left are in the CREC. Why not just admit to being Federal Vision?
Update, July 10: And Federal Vision Is Responsible For Roman Catholic Converts
I received an email from a gentleman, concerned that it took RC Sproul years to respond to the assault against the Reformed faith by the Federal Vision. However, it could be argued that Sproul’s brief little two-minute speech he gave at the PCAGA could hardly qualify as a genuine and substantive response at all, especially in light of the fact that he permitted his Ligonier Ministries to be used as a platform for Federal Visionaries for so long.
The gentleman had an additional concern — the fact that so many Federal Visionaries have become Roman Catholic converts. I too have heard this very thing, and I even know of several people who have become RC (that’s Roman Catholic, not Robert Charles) as a direct result of first embracing the Federal Vision.
Below is a video clip by a Roman Catholic who gloats over this very thing, and who thanks the Federal Visionaries for helping to make Roman Catholic converts. In his words:
“I rejoice with the Federal Vision because I believe that it’s a golden brick road to Rome… So I thank God for the Federal Vision because it’s a termite within Protestantism, and it’s tearing away at the structure, and everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.”
I’m sad to have to agree with this Roman Catholic. However, he’s not entirely correct when he says that “everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.” There are also numerous accounts of those who embrace the Federal Vision, and then go on to become Greek or Russian Orthodox. Not that there’s even much of a difference between the RCs and Orthodox.
Presbytery Reports On Federal Vision:
- Review & Critique of the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue Theology
- Analyzing the Federal Vision
- Federal Vision Refutation
- Refuting the Federal Vision Heresy
- Paul’s Perspective
- Providence OPC Spring Conference on Federal Vision
- Covenantal Universalism: New Form of an Old Attack on Sovereign Grace
- The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis
- Justification And The New Perspectives On Paul: A Review And Response
- Getting the Gospel Right: Assessing the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul
- The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision
While I can’t say I agree it’s the most dangerous or divisive heresy ever introduced into the Reformed Church (the PCA is knee-deep in liberalism, which J. Gresham Machen believed to be a direct assault on the very heart of of the Gospel), over the past six months I’ve had a lot of second thoughts about the Federal Vision, and I’ve come to the conclusion much of it borders on heresy. It’s hard for me personally to call all of it a heresy, as that’s awfully strong language for a teaching that seems somewhat mish-mashed and thinly-veiled. Not all FV proponents agree with each other, and it’s extremely difficult to know what they’re actually saying.
Luther said the doctrine of justification is the doctrine upon which the church either stands or falls. When someone says that the council of Trent and the council of Dordt were just big misunderstandings over semantical polemics, and we need an ecumenical council to set the record straight…you know they’re lying when they try and pass their movement off as a return to historic Reformation theology.
While virtually no one takes the man seriously, the young Jeremiah Bannister was a former Baptist associate pastor who became Reformed, than Federal Vision, and subsequently converted to Roman Catholicism. He has a video wherein he gleefully rants about how Federal Vision theology is a “parasite” in the Protestant world that will lead Calvinists to Roman Catholicism.
His reasoning, like many who go from FV to Rome, is that FV introduced Reformed Christians to the early Church Fathers and the first century of Christian tradition, and in doing so, leads them off to Rome. I would posit this likely due to a presupposition they take to the text, rather than due to the writings of the Fathers themselves.
While it would be dishonest to say the consensus of the early Church Fathers was in orthodox Calvinism, the testimony of these men, such as Augustine, are only a source of pride to Rome on the surface. In reality, these men were anything but prototypes of the Jesuits, and have as much in common with classical Protestantism as they do Catholicism. I’ve seen, on more than one occassion, a Roman Catholic apologist retreat into “they were flawed men” after pumping up the Fathers to the point of being equal with Scripture, once it was revealed they departed from Tridentine theology at points.
Hear the testimony of St. Basil the Great on the doctrine of justification:
“Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ.” – St. Basil the Great (Homily on Humility)
The five solas were not novel inventions of the Reformers, not even novel semantics, but are found in Holy Scripture, and even explicitly in the writings of the early Church Fathers.
One longtime FV supporter and RTS seminarian frequently refers to Rome as a branch of the Church which is fine for a Christian to join, and says we need to have a give-and-take relationship with her, sharing traditions and doctrines where ever helpful. This is ironic, as the Federal Vision’s popularity in Reformed circles lies in its assault on the individualism that has so plagued Christianity in America.
Yet, this seminarian has advocated (on more than one occasion) ecumenism with Rome, internationalism, and a pseudo-conservative World Council of Churches type structure wherein “catholicity” would allow for numerous doctrinal differences, with “unity” found in the Nicene Creed. This is not found in Scripture, nor tradition, so clearly it is his own individual interpretation of doctrine and the direction the Christian religion should head.
All too many Federal Vision proponents depart even from the polemics of the Reformation. Ron Smith, a PCA elder in Southern California, has been spotted frequently deliberately using terminology contrary to that of the Reformers (on various websites), in order to make a theological point against TR Christians. Heresy? Well, no. However, it is noteworthy in showing us that all too many FV proponents deliberately distance themselves from the terminology of the Reformation, while at the same time accuse TR proponents of departing from Reformation terminology.
As has been written about on various Reformed blogs, the interesting thing about the Federal Vision is its distortion of the doctrine of the visibility and invisibility of the Church catholic. Federal Vision ecclesiology is not the view of the Puritans, that the church has succession solely by its apostolicity, rather than a visible succession of bishops. Nor is it the view of the Reformed Anglican or Lutheran position, which does give minimal weight to the apostolic succession of bishops. It teaches “baptismal succession”, something I never even heard of prior to researching FV doctrine.
Like Rome, the appeal is only on paper. In practice, it is another thing entirely.
The emphasis on ecclesiastical authority is ironic considering the origins of the CREC, which were in schism, Baptist theology, and the high-jacking of Christ Church, Moscow. That the CREC reads like a who’s who of defrocked Presbyterian and Baptist ministers is…interesting, to say the least, especially if you’ve read Leithart, Horne, or Meyers.
My point being, it is clearly a historically novel interpretation that treats the Christian religion as a buffet of denominations and traditions that one can borrow from at leisure. Like the Campbellites, all too many FV proponents think the various denominational boundaries to be bad, and one giant ecumenical denomination to be good. It is, admittedly (by its proponents), a “progressive theology”, and from all appearances wants to distance itself from historic Christian ecclesiology.
Great article! Can’t wait to check the sermons.
I wouldn’t be surprised if R.C. Sproul Jr., or even Lawrence Windham, went Greek Orthodox. R.C. could join, get ordained, and be the only abbot in the history of his cloister to have Gothardite grandkids, an independent paedobaptist pastor for a father, and Reformed Presbyterian admirers from around the world.
But hey, baptism saves, and diversity is strength.
I have been a critic here & elsewhere regarding the manner in which Ligonier Ministries has been managed since Tim Dick has been onboard (not that there were not abuses prior to that time). It was just prior to Tim becoming VP that issues surfaced between RC & RC Jr relative to doctrine that led to RC Jr. leaving his post as the managing editor of Tabletalk. The new prospectives on Paul, the abuse/exaggeration of covenant theology, & pado communion (all related to the Federal Vision) being among those issues. Whether these issues were real or contrived due to pressure from orthodox supporters of Ligonier relative to Doug Wilson’s appearances at the Ligonier conference is not certain (it was well known that RC Jr was a Wilson supporter). That said, I specifically asked RC privately about his opinion relative to the Monroe 4 (Doug Wilson, Steve Schlissel, John Barach & Steve Wilkins), & their views. RC was not kind in his denunciation of their views. Further he was aware of the prior Norman Shepherd controversy at Westminster Sem. where some of the beginnings of the “Federal Vision” were taught and RC seemed to consider Shepherd’s views in this area heretical.
Since I am currently out of touch with Ligonier & RC personally (the situation for anyone who is critical of the management of Ligonier), I would wonder if his health has prevented him from studying this movement more closely given its activities within the PCA. Further given the negative PR with which Ligonier has had to deal relative to Tim Dick & the abuse of supporter funding, I would guess that RC lacks the energy to properly address “Federal Vision”. For certain Ligonier is not looking to offend any other potential supporters from the reformed camp as long as they are naive and don’t question the ministry management.
It is my opinion that Ligonier historically has had a leaning to include speakers at their annual conference who would bring the most people yet pass the test of at least an appearance of being reformed & orthodox (at least on the topic assigned). Doug Wilson to Ligonier, at least initially, represented a popular speaker with reformed & orthodox views (at least on the surface) but particularly related to his views on home schooling – something many orthodox believers support due to the condition of our government schools & even some “Christian schools”. About the time (or the year following) Doug Wilson spoke at Auburn Ave PCA as part of the 2002 pastors conference (along with Steve Schlissel, John Bartach & Steve Wilkins) is approximately the time when Ligonier dropped Wilson as a Ligonier speaker. This would support RC’s views stated privately regarding the Federal Vision. Also, I do not find Tim Dick’s biblical/doctrinal knowledge impressive and because RC is not active day-to-day in the ministry, I would guess that the use of speakers/writers who support FV would not occur to him as inconsistent with the prior stated views of Ligonier & RC Sproul. In my opinion this is just another example of no one running the ship.
In any event, you are right to express concern related to the Federal Vision, it is heresy. It does not support historic biblical views related to God’s saving grace being a sovereign, particular, definite and everlasting act by the Godhead toward His children individually and irresistibly. It is contrary to the teachings of Paul, Luther, Calvin and the Westminster Standards – and it represents a new path to Trent where ultimately works would make a believer acceptable to God under the Federal Vision.
For a website that presents a rather exhaustive listing of views relative to the Federal Vision movement as well as learned and honest critiques, I would recommend a visit to http://www.paulperspective.com/
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Huh. R.C. Sproul is the one who spoke strongly against the FV in PCA GA. But then, you might have said that. I must admit I didn’t make it all the way through your lengthy post.
Good news on the Wilkins front… his presbytery just determined him orthodox after a second examination:
In my experience the reason that many TRs reject the FV is plain lack of intelligence. Yes, I think that very many TRs are a few strawberries short of a picnic.
I have just left the OPC list after almost nine years. Just try to get a discussion on a Biblical text. It is almost impossible. The very next response will be a white-lipped demand for Confessional proof and backing, and instantly the Biblical text is on the back burner, despite every attempt to get it back on track.
This is also the view of the previous list moderator.
One gem was the recent insistence of the present moderator, Jack Sawyer, that it takes the blood of the covenant and the Spirit of grace to make a man a mere member of the visible church. This in an attempt to make the apostate mentioned in Hebrews 10 into a man who was never saved, in line with the heretical once-saved-always-saved-therefore-if-a-man-leaves-he-was-never-a-Christian orthodoxy of the list.
Second example: the FV overthrows sola fide, they cry. What rubbish. Can these people read? many of the TRs cannot write a grammatical sentence, yet they rush to condemn what they can barely understand.
Of this I am sure: God is watching and writing it all down, and those who have falsely accused other Christians of heresy on sola fide will be made to answer.
This article simply shows that the author has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the FV issue…
As a person who came out of the church mentioned in the Mississippi Valley Presbytery Report dated Fall 2004 on the FV… I can attest to the discord it sows in churches. The MVP Report was one the first attempts by a presbytery to deal with the FV. The report was extremely well written and is in my opinion probably one of the best on the debate.
My old church can be summed us as:…Engineered the removal of an associate……” MVP Report page one about line 27 or so….
It really is time for those PCA & OPC Churches that desire to teach this heresy to leave the mainline denominations and join the CREC.
Just my two cents, but it seems to me that any study of the Church Fathers is by far more likely to send one hiking to Constantinople than it is swimming the Tiber.
I have only lightly studied anything regarding FV while I have read several folks who are screaming heresy about it, and I see an awful lot of folks use the word “heresy” who should know better. Heresies were declared by the whole Church at the councils and I have yet to see anyone state any real heresy that is being committed in FV.
Not every doctrinal difference rises to the level of a heresy, although sometimes (well, often) they are connected to one behind the scenes. In that case if someone is going to cry heresy toward FV instead of pointing to doctrinal distinction, show us an actual heresy.
More light, less heat is not the recipe for a good jalepeno lite beer; it is the recipe for good Christian debate.
This from Rev. Kevin D. Johnson of Reformed Catholicism:
I was not disagreeing that FV might send one to Rome in my comment, but the comment I responded to was discussing studying the Early Church Fathers which is a bit different endeavor than following FV.
It is a common modern “Protestant” misconception to lump the three traditional churches, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglicans together as if there is no difference. That is a mistake. Roman Catholic understanding does not always equate Catholic understanding.
The differences between the three traditional churches are not all that small in some respects especially when looking at the Anglicans, who are ultimately the product of the English Reformation (and generally follow the five solas) which engaged in a theological process similar to the continental reformers but did not as liberally declare things to be “Roman” and thus done away with. Probably because these were things the Celtic Church had been doing for almost 400 years before coming under Rome and so the Celts did not see those things as particularly “Roman”, rather as historic to the Church. The continentals had no time to have a Continental tradition before going under Rome so they lacked any historic lens but Rome (although they did study the Orthodox) when viewing the traditions of the Church.
The morning star of the Reformation was Wycliffe from England. Reformation did occur in England and Anglicans are as much Protestant in that regards Baptists and Presbyterians despite the focus of our more ignorant brethren in Henry VIII’s desperation for a male heir.
Today a church joining the REC (Reformed Episcopal Church) can hardly be equated with swimming the Tiber. I note that Rev. Johnson, whom I respect, did not equate Rome and Canterbury, but listed Roman and Anglican as separate. This is because he knows the difference. It would behoove others to figure it out before engaging in blanket statements or implications to the contrary.
“Also, I do not find Tim Dick’s biblical/doctrinal knowledge impressive”. That’s the understatement of the year! I’ve spoken with Tim on more than one occasion. Just forget about trying to engage this man in any theological discussion. What an ignoramus. I can’t understand how such an ignorant man could be qualified to head up Ligonier. If it weren’t for the fact that he married into the family it would have never happened. It’s probably wise that he doesn’t ever talk theology though. Tim grew up a Roman Catholic and he probably still holds to many RC opinions.
As far as the Federal Vision thing goes, R. C. is definitely not FV. Privately he’s very opposed to it. It bothers me that he’s never publicly taken a strong position against it. He really needs to. This isn’t something that he has the luxury of only saying something once at PCA General Assembly. He really needs to write an article about it and post it on Ligonier’s web site. The fact that he’s never done so looks bad for him. People are likely to get the idea that he actually supports FV.
R. C. Jr. is a different case altogether. In spite of what he claims about not being FV, there are too many positions that he holds to that aren’t just anti-confessional but they line up perfectly with FV. R. C. Jr. is not Reformed. At least now he’s where he belongs, in the CREC.
Lawrence’s comment is correct. There is a significant difference between Anglicans, Catholic, and Orthodox.
That Kevin Johnson would lump the REC in with Federal Vision is irritating, to say the least. I’ve talked to a couple REC clergy that are absolutely opposed to the Federal Vision, and believe much of it (and the NPP) to be heresy and an implicit denial of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
The Reformed Episcopal Church has its very origins in opposing the Anglican version of “Federal Vision”; the Oxford Movement. The Oxford Movement was led by such theologians as John Henry Newman (a later convert to Roman Catholicism). It was a post-Cavalier effort to squash the Calvinistic and Protestant element of the Episcopal Church from the communion.
Bishop David Cummins, who founded the REC, sought to form a communion committed to the five solas, the sovereignty of God, and covenant theology. Upon leaving the Episcopal Church USA, the original REC parishes met and worshiped in Presbyterian services for quite some time. The origins of the REC are born solely in opposition to the Romanization of the Anglo-Catholic Church.
Here are the Reformed Episcopal “Declaration of Principles” (emphasis made in italics):
1. The Reformed Episcopal Church, holding “the faith once delivered unto the saints”, declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, as the sole rule of Faith and Practice; in the Creed “commonly called the Apostles’ Creed;” in the Divine institution of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and in the doctrines of grace substantially as they are set forth in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
2. This Church recognizes and adheres to Episcopacy, not as of Divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity.
3. This Church, retaining a liturgy which shall not be imperative or repressive of freedom in prayer, accepts The Book of Common Prayer, as it was revised, proposed, and recommended for use by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, A.D. 1785, reserving full liberty to alter, abridge, enlarge, and amend the same, as may seem most conducive to the edification of the people, “provided that the substance of the faith be kept entire.”
4. This Church condemns and rejects the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God’s Word: First, that the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity; Second, that Christian Ministers are “priests” in another sense than that in which all believers are a “royal priesthood”; Third, that the Lord’s Table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father; Fourth, that the Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine; Fifth, that regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism.
The REC’s founding principles deny baptismal regeneration, the concept of an unchangeable liturgy, the doctrine of the priesthood, the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass, the doctrine of transubstantiation, the elevation of tradition to Scripture, the Romish concept of apostolic succession, and the existence of the Church being found in its polity. It’s clearly not Roman Catholic, and unlike the CREC, is no puppet denomination.
Conservative Presbyterians in the PCA and OPC should commend the Reformed Episcopal Church, if for no other reason, for being one of the few Protestant denominations over one-hundred years-old that does not tolerate neo-evangelicalism and the Emerging Church heresy in its ranks. Unfortunately, the PCA is about 30 years old, but already has its share of mega-churches that have worldly worship services which blend postmodernism and the culture of the day with Reformed distinctives. I’ve seen this all too often, not in the OPC (fortunately), but definitely in the PCA.
I think this quote from Richard Hooker best sums up the distinctives of Reformed Episcopalians from other Reformed brethren in Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, and from Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox. It also shows the fundamental conservatism inherent in (truly Protestant and orthodox) Anglicanism.
“Let us be loath to change, without urgent necessity, the ancient ordinances, rites, and long approved customs of our venerable predecessors. .. antiquity, custom and consent in the Church of God, making with that which the law doth establish are themselves sufficient reasons to uphold the same, unless some notable public inconvenience enforce the contrary… We neither follow Rome in her errors nor reject what is sound simply because it is hers. Not everything that idolaters have done is to be abhorred, but what they have done idolatrously. For of that which is good even in evil things, God is the author.’
Being Lutheran I’m not quite up to speed on all this. Although I did work at Ligonier many years ago and found it a place to stay far away from. Anyway … is the Federal Vision nonsense an outgrowth of the Van Tillian presuppositional, theonomist thing? I know many of those guys moved to the REC. And many predicted RC Jr. would too.
Martin, it is not. Doug Wilson thinks child pornography needs to be legalized, and that we need to “own the curse” of queer marriage. He denies being a theonomist, and rightly so. Wilkins and Schlissel are probably the only FV leaders that are theonomists. Some of their leading critics, however, such as Joseph Moorecraft, are also theonomists.
Most, however, are Van Tillian.
It’s hard to pinpoint the growth of the Federal Vision movement. Although the things you mention are tied together by VanTillianism I wouldn’t say that FV or theonomy are a direct result of VanTillian presuppositionalism. If you want more info on the rise of these movements you should check out http://www.trinityfoundation.org
Can you provide the context in which Doug Wilson wants to legalize child pornography? Why would he say such a thing?
I’ll look for that quote tonight Kelly, if I get a chance. Maybe someone else can help me out. I do know he said we should legalize homosexual marriage, and in doing so, would please God and be in line with the prophet Jeremiah.
Anyone familiar or interested in Francis Beckwith, co-author with Greg Koukl? He decided to return to Catholicism.
Another tributary on this subject…
This just in…… Tim Dick has been removed as CEO at Ligonier Ministries. Check it out.
I know many people that attended PCA church(es) that are now attending catholic churches after being exposed to the FV. As one of the survivors of the MVP reports “TE’s being forced from their callings……” church mentioned in the report I can attest first hand to the horriffic chaos the teaching divisiveness has caused.
A lot of us still suffer from the effects of PTSD concerning the breaking and splitting of our churches. Our ears are constantly on the alert for any sign(s) from a pulpit on FV leanings.
Mr. Pink, you gave no link. 😉 Where’s the story so we can check it out?
Arthur Pink, where do we check it out that Tim Dick has been removed?
My sources have confirmed Arthur Pink’s story. I’ve been checking on the details. If anyone has additional details they can provide, please email me with the particulars.
Check back here again on Monday for the full story.
Watchman, I look forward to the full story. Somehow I doubt, though, that Frank Vance (especially), you, Jen Epstein, and the other bloggers who wrote articles exposing the truth about Ligonier and Tim Dick will receive any thanks.
Removing Tim Dick would be the first step to restoration. Three more would be a public apology for stealing Don Kistler’s ministry from him, a return of that particular ministry back to him, and any compenstion that Don Kistler deserves for lost wages, pain and suffering and so forth.
Your July 10th comment is interesting indeed. You more or less do a “drive by” on this site, but do not explain anything further. Beyond this observation, allow me to make a suggestion. Though we cannot judge another’s heart, we can certainly make observations about one’s “fruit.” In the comment in question, I would have to say the fruit reeks of arrogance, pride, and condescension. IF you are a child of God, He will humble you. If you are not a child of God, He will not humble you because your damnation is already a certainty. My suggestion is this: Pray that God would give you a humble spirit.
May God have mercy on you, sir.
Will the full story of the removal of Tim Dick be positive? Not if Tim is merely replaced by John Duncan. Or Ligon Duncan. I remember that Tim was warned about their efforts to take over last year. If he heard, it was too little, too late. More likely he just wasn’t bright enough to know how to handle it even if he did have some dim understanding of the threat. I hope that I am wrong and that the replacement is a true outsider with the full support of the Board to clean house. That would be an encouraging development.
Watchman, If you have the opportunity to update us on the status of Ryan, please do so. Tim wasn’t the only Dick at Ligonier who deserved to go.
More testimony that Federal Vision makes for Roman Catholic converts:
In relation to this thread, on Jen’s blog Mark and Sarah Hodges have made some posts (Sarah is Steve Schlissel’s daughter), and they are staunch Roman Catholics. I don’t know too much about Steve Schlissel’s writings on this subject, though, just thought I’d note this development.
Developments in the Federal Vision Theology debate
Interesting discussion going on here:
The title of the entry is “Federal Vision and Catholicism.” So far, there has not been very much discussion on FV, but there are links provided to see Dave Hodges thoughts on the subject.
Is it just me, or does anyone else think (in light of the most recent post mentioning him) the fact that John MacArthur’s writing for Presbyterian publications (such as Table Talk) needs some exposing? Why aren’t they’re websites all across the world exposing the fact that John MacArthur has a Bible named after himself, and is passing his innovative theology off as within Reformed orthodoxy (same with Piper).
I disagree with a lot of the Federal Vision, its interest in Norman Shepherd and N. T. Wright, the downplaying of sola fide, the disdain for systematic theology, etc. But, as far as I can understand it, most of their views on baptism and the Supper are nothing new. Martin Bucer, whether right or wrong, who was the pastor of John Calvin (correct?), held views on “holy baptism” that would probably be considered heterodox by John Robbins. Same with Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, etc.
Indeed, most of the Magisterial Reformers had a much different view of the Sacraments than the latter Puritans did.
And this is not to say one side was correct, and the other was not. Rather, this aspect of theology seems to be most people’s issue with Federal Vision theology, in the many websites I’ve come across critical of it.
So, all that to say, how is it John MacArthur, a dispensational Baptist (or non-denominational -credobaptist), can get a free pass in writing for a publication that holds to Calvinist (not Zwinglian or Anabaptist) views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but someone like Meyers can’t? Think about the differences between Arianism and Trinitarianism, and then think about the differences between dispensatonalism and orthodox Christianity. Dispys deny the Lordship of Christ, believe in chialism, teach everyone got it wrong about the identity of Israel, and that what the U.N. and the Balfour Declaration in 1948 proclaimed to be Israel is what God was talking about as being His Chosen People (not the Church). It is on par with Mormonism or Campbellism -it has no historical basis, and was never believed by anyone until Scofield.
How can a man who denies paedobaptism, denies the Westminster Confession’s view of baptismal efficacy (whatever it is), and says the Church Fathers and the Reformers didn’t know what the Bible said about the Church and Israel (and probably is anti-creedal)…how is that acceptable reading material for the devout Calvinist Christian? How is that acceptable, but Wilkins is beyond the pale?
Maybe I’m insane, as apparently nobody else seems to see this, but why aren’t their websites all over the place exposing MacArthur’s connections to Sproul and Ligonier? Anyone care to enlighten me?
I think you mean Dave and Sarah Hodges.
Mark is Jen’s husband.
This from a convert to Roman Catholicism:
“Alas, it has already come to pass. I still stand by my prediction that:
younger Presbyterians will gravitate toward what the Federal Vision offers. Many will sink their teeth into it and many will find it wanting. Many will discover that the Catholic Church is their true home, and many will discover her in a great moment of joy. This Federal Vision is really only a peek into the keyhole of the Catholic Church. The Federal Visionist has a vision of the beautiful things inside, but they have not yet appreciated the warmth of a true home.”
Well, this is all very eye-opening (I’m a former Ligonier supporter , but stopped supporting them several years ago for various other reasons and haven’t really kept up with what’s going on at the Holy See of Lake Mary.)
I must say I don’t think you win any points by quoting a nut-job like John Robbins (Trinity Foundation) to bolster your otherwise legit concerns about the Sprouls and Ligonier .
That aside I think you’ve amassed quite a case here on this web site . Ligonier needs to answer this and I’m afraid that this once great Reformed ministry may not recover if the level of stonewalling is as great as you’ve indicated.
I was always uncomfortable with Sproul Sr. passing himself off as a Presbyterian and yet he comfortably continued to preside over a non-denominational Bible fellowship (St. Andrew’s Chapel) while being a member in good standing (?) of a PCA presbytery. And I was doubly uncomfortable with Ligonier promoting dispensational , Baptist preachers like MacArthur, Begg, and Piper . Being a Tulipist isn’t the same as being Reformed.
I think the person above who points out this troubling aspect of the Ligonier conferences and TableTalk (i.e. supporting non-Reformed dispensationalists ) is correct. This is just as troubling as the FV . More so, in my opinion. I don’t think the FV is quite the bogeyman it’s made out to be, but dispensationalism is an open heresy as Sproul’s mentor Dr. John Gerstner so succinctly pointed out in his book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth.
“I must say I don’t think you win any points by quoting a nut-job like John Robbins (Trinity Foundation) to bolster your otherwise legit concerns about the Sprouls and Ligonier.”
Maybe you should listen to him Nich. If you had maybe the Reformed Church wouldn’t be infested with theonimist, Federal Visionisnt, Preterist, or Hyper-patriarchs. He’s only been warning of these nut-jobs since the mid 90’s.