Friday, 6 March 2009

Federal Vision Essay Re-Plugged

As a few people have dropped by who are interested in thinking about the Federal Vision, here's a plug for a short essay I wrote touching on the FV's take on the issue of apostacy:

It's not an academic essay, but was the result of stitching together some blog posts, intended for general consumption! Whatever the lack of rigour, I have at least re-read it and corrected some of the more egregious typos.

It's essential for FV advocates to establish that New Covenant members, professing faith in Christ and united to him in that covenant, can later fall away and be lost - and not because there was some difference in their covenant membership compared with those who are at last saved. This is connected logically with other FV beliefs:
  1. The New Covenant is entered by baptism.
  2. Therefore all those who are baptised are Christians, united to Jesus Christ in covenantal union.
  3. Thus, if we want assurance of our standing in Christ, we can look to our baptism (just as a married man can look at his wedding ring for assurance of his marital status).
Real life shows that many baptised people apostatise. But doesn't the Bible teach that those who are truly saints can never be lost? So what gives? Traditionally the Reformed have distinguished between saving faith and temporary faith, and taught that it is by saving faith (not baptism) that we enter the New Covenant. (Reformed paedobaptists would also add, or by being born as the child of a true believer). Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant, the sign of faith; it is not the entry marker itself. This, though, clashes with the FV's insistence that we can look to our baptism for assurance: i.e. that we look at the objective ordinance, not the qualities of our subjective faith. Hence FV advocates have had to look to a different answer. This answer has been to deny the premise that the Bible teaches that those who are truly saints cannot be lost. Yes, the elect can never be lost - but that's a different kettle of fish, it's argued. Election is hidden and secret; baptism is visible and objective, and it's only the latter that we can address in our present state. In the essay I look at some of these issues.

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