The FV is More Than Just a Theological Question

Mark Vander Pol asks us to think about the FV controversy using a different set of categories.

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  1. Hi Dr. Clark,

    Mark holds that FV teaches that a Christian must remain “faithful to the covenant” in order to maintain/earn his salvation. He makes his point from this basis. Doug Wilson’s last sermon (once again I might add, but particularly so here) clearly preaches the contrary: nothing we do merits, or maintains, our salvation. It is by grace, through faith alone, plus nothing. In the last day we our clothed in Christ’s righteousness – that is the sole foundation of our merit before God.

    Please take a moment to listen to the sermon for yourself:


  2. DF
    Do any of the other FVers-I am thinking of Rich Lusk and Steve Wilkins in particular- teach this? They do. It is in print and yet Doug Wilson choose to be identified with the FV….and he has not, to my knowledge, take the opportunity to retract positions that he previously embraced that explicitedly link him with the views of Lusk, Wilkins,

  3. GLW, most people who are arguing against the FV agree that Doug Wilson is the best representation of what it is. I don’t know Lusk, and have only met Wilkins, so I won’t speak for them. But I do know Wilson quite well, and have only heard the pure gospel of free grace from him for over 5 years now.


      • Then you can rejoice, for it is so!

        If you can only afford 10 min, at least listen to this part of the above-linked sermon from last week:

        Here Doug Wilson is speaking of our resting upon the active and passive imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and how our works contribute nothing whatsoever, whether to earn salvation OR to continue in it. The only place for (godly) works is when they flow out of an already-completely-justified-name-written-eternally-in-the-book-of-life Christian, ONLY as evidence of true faith (God sanctifies whom he justifies), and not the basis of our trust. (my paraphrase 🙂 )

        Sola Fide,


        • When will he repent publicly for corrupting the doctrine of faith, for promoting justification through faithfulness, and for haboring and protecting those who openly corrupt the faith and who contradict God’s Gopel? If he acts like a wolf….

          Sent from my iPhone

  4. Another good reason to check out Mark Vander Pol’s post: Some of the commentators on the post are marshaling the Biblical evidence for the active obedience of Christ.

    • No and I’ll tell you why. Wilson has demonstrated for YEARS the intent and ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth. I know how the howl of a wolf sounds. When he stops ACTING like a wolf, I’ll stop regarding him as a wolf. Remember, the wolf talked very sweetly to Little Red, just long enough to get her close to the bed.

      Update: Okay, so I’m listening to the segment linked above. I understand that it’s only part of a whole (and perhaps part of a series, I don’t know) but only 30 seconds in significant problems arise. First he says “It’s all grace.” Okay, fine, but what does “grace” mean for a Federal Visionist?

      Let’s assume he means by “grace” what we mean by it. 7 seconds later he says, “if you believe, the law is grace, if you believe the gospel is grace….”

      NONSENSE! That’s just not true. The law is not “grace.” This is a subversion of the entire Protestant Reformation. At the beginning of this segment he burns down the entire Reformed and classical evangelical house and now we’re supposed to marvel and what a good housekeeper he is?

      Daniel, don’t you understand what’s happening here?

      Romans 5:20 says that the law came to increase trespasses, but where sin abounded, grace abounded more. Grace and law are NOT the same thing. This is Pauline/Reformation Theology 101.

      He continues in that same vein.

      Daniel, this is precisely I have doubted your claims about Wilson’s glorious, gospel preaching.

      I think Wilson is clever and able to mouth formulae but there’s a lot more to getting the gospel right than that.

      Is true that to those who don’t believe nothing in the bible is grace? So, until a person believes, grace is not grace? Does unbelief turn grace into law? Before I believed God wasn’t gracious to me? How then did I come to faith? By law? What utter nonsense.

      I agree that, at the judgment, to all those who have spurned the offer of grace in this life shall have to stand before God on their own two feet, as it were, and shall face the fires of hell for it, but we’re not there yet are we?

      At 2:10 et seq. he speak of how our “good deeds” stink. Presumably he’s speaking of those who are outside of Christ. Fine, but the controversy with the NPP folk and the FV folk is that they don’t think that cooperation with grace after baptism, or Spirit-wrought sanctity (by grace and cooperation with grace) count as “good deeds.” They fence off “good deeds” or “works” as something else. Thus we have two different definitions of “good deeds.”

      It gets more complicated. He goes on to speak of “sanctification,” which certainly has external consequences but he speaks of it in wholly external categories.

      It’s amusing to see Wilson (at 3:54) speak about escaping the “entanglement” of “destructive relationships.” I guess we have two different ideas of what some of those might be. I don’t suppose Doug is thinking of the relation members of his congregation have to him! That was the first thing of which I thought, however!

      When did homeschooling (6:19) become a “good work” or “good deed”?

      Am I suspicious of Wilson? You betch and with good reason.

      As I’ve conceded for some years now, Wilson is quite capable of saying orthodox things. That point has not been in dispute for some time. What is in dispute is whether he subtly undermines or eviscerates the good things he says with the errors he teaches, tolerates, and harbors.

      The 2007 Federal Vision Statement looms. Reformed is Not Enough is still out there. If I’m going to criticize Barth for dialectical teaching/preaching so I’m going to criticize Wilson for the same thing.

      It’s a similar problem with Schilder etc. When dealing with “covenant” theology we hear essentially Arminian theology, except that the FV is much less orthodox than Schilder.

      Of course then there’s still the problem of the two-stage doctrine of justification of the FVists. They’re happy to concede initial justification sola fide and to speak in an orthodox way about so-called “initial” justification but then they become moralists/papists when talking about “final” justification. It’s always something with this lot. Here’s the language to which Wilson signed his name in July of ’07 just after the PCA GA rejected his theology:

      “We affirm that apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians. All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body. The connection that an apostate has to Christ is not merely external.

      We deny that any person who is chosen by God for final salvation before the foundation of the world can fall away and be finally lost. The decretally elect cannot apostatize.”

      This is the heart of the FV error, the refusal to recognize what Witsius called the “double mode of communion” in the visible church or Paul’s internal/external distinction (Rom 2:28). As has been shown repeatedly, there is no such thing as “covenantal election” as distinction from “decretal election.”

      I have to interpret Doug’s orthodox-sounding language, such as it is, in this sermon in the light of what he’s affirmed elsewhere. I can’t, as John Piper seems to have done, read Wilson selectively.

      Just after 8 minutes he speaks of “Christians” falling away and doesn’t explain. Here’s where the external/internal distinction would help. “Christians,” in the truest sense of that word don’t fall away. Those who have only an external relation to the covenant of grace may fall away if they do not appropriate all the benefits of the covenant of grace by faith (resting and receiving) alone in Christ alone — something else corrupted by the FV statement of July 2007.

      What I hear in this segment is a fellow struggling to speak like an orthodox protestant but his dialect has a funny accent. It’s not his native speech. He’s speaking a foreign language for public consumption. Like Paul, I’m glad when anyone preaches Christ, for whatever reason, but this segment isn’t all that reassuring.

      One final, minor detail, at 8:38 Wilson says that Luther said that justification is the article of the standing or falling of the church. That’s not correct. Once more, it was J H Alsted, a Reformed theologian, who said that in the early 17th century. Luther said things like it, but he didn’t say that.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    You’ve mentioned N.T. Wright has stated he’s not familiar with the history of Reformed exegesis. Could you remind me where I can find the quote and reference. Thanks!

  6. DF,

    Taking Gary’s post a step further, Steve Wilkins has denied sola fide in print, and yet he was welcomed open arms by Wilson into the CREC without having to change any of his views. So it at least raises a question; if a man says he believes in sola fide, yet allows those to teach who do not, and even welcomes ministers who were facing charges in a Reformed denomination for denying sola fide, how much can we trust that man’s committment to sola fide? It is at least a valid question. Sounds again like what Scott described – speaking from both sides of the mouth.

  7. I’m sure I can find some orthodox-sounding quotes from my friend Frank Beckwith, but that doesn’t mean I want to “Return to Rome.”

    Thank you Scott and Mark for continuing to defend the Gospel.

    Those who hold to FV/AA/NPP deserve nothing less than Paul’s rebuke in Galatians 1:6-9.

  8. Wes raises the spectre of blasphemy, and rightly so. My question is, why are so many Reformed not willing to call Arminianism heresy as well?

  9. Sorry, I meant to say Mark raises the spectre. Both BC22 and HC30 warn us about the false teaching that Christ is but half a Savior. Arminians glaringly teach this and yet I hear in our camp that they are not heretics, just aberrant. What’s up with that?

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