We May Not Be Able to Move On Yet

Had a great time with the folks at Springs Reformed Church in Colorado Springs, at the “Recovering the Reformation” conference. Attendance was good and reception of the talks and sermons was positive and enthusiastic. Thanks to everyone at Springs Reformed Church, to those who prepared food, to Shawn, to Pastor David Reese, to the session, and to John Terrell who was there representing WSC. While in the Springs, however, I was reminded that we might not be ready to “move on” yet.

As wonderful and warm as the reception was it became clear from conversations I had with some of those attending the conference that reminded me that the Federal Vision controversy is not dead. This is no reflection on the good folks at the Springs Reformed Church. Pastor Reese and the session there are among those who confronted the Shepherdite error and the FV early, clearly, and confessionally. Nevertheless, despite the clear and unequivocal rejection of the FV by most of NAPARC it continues to affect some Reformed congregations. 

Pastors are busy people. In the nature of the life of the minister life often moves from one “issue” (problem) to the next crisis. In between meetings and counseling sessions the pastor has to try to squeeze in a little study time. When issues crop up (like weeds) in the presbytery or classis the temptation is to say, “let the other fellows deal with it. My hands are full.” As tempting and realistic as this response may be the problem is that every other minister may be thinking the very same thing! In such a case the FV problem may go untreated. If left to fester it may spread and soon you may find it in your own congregation.

Then there are cases where entire majorities in presbyteries either do not understand the issues presented by the FV or do not care or who think that “tolerance,” diversity,” or multiple perspectives require or permit them to “live and let live” regarding the FV. In these cases, the question, in part, is this: what are the duties of the minister relative to the broader (in Dutch Reformed circles) or “higher” (in presbyterian circles) assemblies? What are the obligations of the minister’s ordination vows?

When a minister is ordained he takes a vow not only to uphold the Word of God as confessed by the churches but also to defend the same. Yes, there are issues on which we ought to be tolerant because they do not affect the substance of what it is to be Reformed, but the nature of the gospel and the nature of faith in the act of justification, a redefinition of election, justification, and the sacraments these things are surely of the essence (substance) of what it is to be Reformed. These things are of the essence of our faith and confession. When we ministers took vows before God and the church we promised fidelity to these things and to see to the order and faith of the churches. In other words, with all the pressing daily business of ministry, seeing to the truth of the gospel in the broader or higher assemblies is also a part of our vocation. 

This isn’t a purely theoretical issue. Our congregations are full of people who depending upon us to defend and protect them, to tell them the truth, to love them, in short, to serve them as shepherds. God give us grace to fulfill our vocation in the Kingdom of God.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. No, but ministers and elders should not tell themselves that, having voted for orthodoxy at Presbytery, their responsibility is finished. The Leithart case suggests that a good number of people still don’t “get it.” The FV is still finding adherents in NAPARC congregations and when that becomes known in a presbytery, orthodox ministers have a responsibility to do something about it rather than averting their eyes.

    That’s not a “witch hunt” is it?

  2. Until ministers/laymen reject the notion that knowledge is analogical, the Federal Vision heresy will remain.

    Yet ministers/laymen refuse to submit to the authority of Scripture, its claims regarding itself, and the numerous warnings from the late Dr. Robbins. These FV heretics are simply drawing the necessary inferences from their anti-Christian theory of knowledge.

    Analogical knowledge necessarily relegates man’s thoughts to what is of the earth, earthy, and therefore to what can be seen, observed, “known” by the senses. Those who have not (yet) accepted FV and yet maintain that knowledge is analogical are fighting a battle in which they have already, in principle, lost.

    Gentlemen, there is a reason why the Roman Catholic Church/State holds Aquinas in high regard.

    • Clifton,

      This is complete rubbish.

      The reason that Thomas remains a threat is not that he spoke of analogical knowledge but because he didn’t practice it consistently. It is the error of denying the Creator/creature distinction as promulgated by the likes of Gordon Clark and others that has undermined Reformed theology. The FV is guilty of a kind of rationalism by trying to set up a situation wherein people have to be good in order to retain the benefits given in baptism. In both cases, in different ways, the fault is not analogical knowledge but rationalism.

      • According to you, because man is a creature his knowledge must be analogical, or rather, to deny that man’s knowledge is analogical would imply a denial of the “Creator/creature distinction. That is, man can only have a creaturely (earthy), limited, finite knowledge because man is a creature (of the earth), limited, and finite. Man’s knowledge cannot extend beyond the realm of created (earthy), limited, finite categories of thought. This necessarily implies that the object of man’s knowledge likewise cannot extend beyond the realm of created, limited, finite categories.

        And what “gospel” is the FV preaching? The FV is preaching of a salvation that is earthy, limited, and finite; a salvation that does not save because the god that they know is a god who can only be created (of the earth), limited, and finite.

        And lest we fail to grasp the relation between knowledge and salvation, Peter reminds us,

        “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you THROUGH THE KNOWLEDG OF GOD, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, THROUGH THE KNOWLEDG OF HIM that hath called us to glory and virtue:”

        Again, the false theory of analogical knowledge is not merely a philosophical/academic debate. It is a matter of one’s very own salvation. Augustive knew this, Gordon Clark knew this. Do you Mr. Clark?

        • Clifton,

          You’re confusing categories. God’s Word says, “In the beginning God….” It teaches a fundamental distinction between God and man that cannot be breached. I cannot know anything infintitely, immensely, or absolutely, i.e. the way God knows it.

          To attempt to connect analogical knowledge to the FV is to confuse apples and oranges, they are both fruit but they fruit of different kinds. This is just sloppy. The FV proposes a parallel soteriology, not an analogical soteriology. Their parallel is effectively Arminian. They also say that they affirm the traditional Reformed decretal theology but their parallel, Arminian theology of the covenant(s) contradicts their decretal theology.

          Where is the “analogy” in the FV system? Of what is the FV an analogy?

          This is where your comparison breaks down.

          Reformed orthodoxy, that did not have trouble with the FV, taught analogical knowledge long before the FV.

          The historical fact, as I showed in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry is that the Reformation has always been plagued by moralists such as the FV.

          We’ve also always been plagued by rationalists who insist on breaking down the Creator/creature distinction. On this see my essay in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine ed. by David VanDrunen. There I show the historical pattern which Van Til followed in teaching analogical knowledge.

          • Scott Clark claims, “Reformed orthodoxy, that did not have trouble with the FV, taught analogical knowledge long before the FV.”

            Cliffton: Mr. Clark, would you be so kind to direct me to a Reformed creed that explicitly teaches that our knowledge of God is analogical? Actually, it would be even kinder of you to direct me to any creed, other than your own, that explicitly teaches that our knowledge of God is analogical?

            • Clifton

              See the essay to which I referred you already

              There are many things in Reformed theology thay are not expressed explicitly in the Creeds and confessions. They do imply analogical knowledge, however.

              One thing taught explicitly by the confessions and denied explicitly by G. Clark is the 3 aspects of justifying faith.

              Sent from my iPhone

  3. not the real topic… but it caught my eye:

    Dr. Clark, you wrote:
    relative to the broader (in Dutch Reformed circles) or “higher” (in presbyterian circles) assemblies

    Anyone who assumes Presbyterian assemblies to be more hierarchical than the Reformed church order (as so many do assume), should really consider Williamson’s fascinating examination of that question here: http://www.opc.org/OS/html/V8/2d.html

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