What’s Going On in the Siouxlands Presbytery (PCA)? Updated

Update 29 Jan 2010

Wes White re-publishes the 2007 rejection of the FV by Siouxlands Presbytery.

UPDATE 26 Jan 2010. Wes White has the latest including his protest against the finding that there is no strong presumption of guilt in the teaching of monocovenantalism.

Original post: 25 Jan, 2010

Wes White has a summary of the issues here. He has even gone so far as to publish Pastor Joshua Moon’s defense of the pastor being charged with error.

The speech is a striking example of what is wrong with the Federal Vision appeal to history. It appeals to a series of formal parallels between federal vision theology and the tradition. Moon appeals, in order, to Bavinck, Calvin’s catechism, John Owen (via Sinclair Ferguson), the Directory for Publick Worship, the Apostle Paul, the Westminster Confession, Zacharias Ursinus, Heinrich Bullinger, the Scots Confession, and Charles Hodge. The claim is made repeatedly that Pastor Lawrence, who is being accused of teaching the FV doctrine of baptismal union with Christ, that he is merely teaching traditional Reformed theology.

This speech wants us to think that that the FV and the various orthodox writers to whom Moon appeals are saying the same thing as Lawerence. This assumption is unwarranted. In the first instance, Bavinck was not addressing the question of baptismal union with Christ, but another question. Second, in each of other instances cited, the authors to which Moon appeals either assumed or made explicit a distinction which the FV either denies or ignores: the distinction between a purely external relation to the covenant of grace and an internal relation to the covenant of grace. The issue is not whether there are two covenants, internal and external, but two ways of relating to the one covenant of grace. Herman Witsius described this as the “double mode of communion” in the the covenant of grace. Denial of this double mode is at the heart of the FV error. Pastor Moon’s speech quite simply ignores this problem. It’s not as if this has not been addressed. It’s been addressed in print in the article “Baptism and the Benefits of Christ: The Double Mode of Communion.” This essay has been available since 2006 and it’s been online for most of that time. There is also a more popular treatment of this question in booklet form, Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace. Each of the writers to whom Pastor Moon appeals distinguished between two modes of relating to the covenant of grace. They did not repeat the distinction each time they referred to baptized persons as Christians because the distinction was assumed.

There is another  distinction which Pastor Moon’s speech ignores and this one is made in the text of the Westminster Confession itself. In WCF 27.2 the divines explained this shorthand way of speaking about the sacraments:

There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

In other words, when speaking of the sacraments Scripture, our theologians, and our confessional documents often assume a distinction between the sign (sacrament) and the thing signified (the benefits of Christ) without making that distinction explicit. The distinction is present as 27.2 explained but they do not always repeat the distinction because it’s tedious to do so. Thus, Moon, like the FV writers, capitalizes on those places where the distinction is implicit rather than explicit to give the appearance of agreement with the FV doctrine of baptismal union with Christ.

The divines mean for us to understand that the sacrament of baptism does not create a substantial union with Christ. In baptism one is outwardly identified with Christ. With that distinction in mind, we may say that a baptized person is a Christian. A baptized person is really in the covenant of grace, really identified with Christ, but that does not mean that, by virtue of baptism, one is united to Christ and it certainly doesn’t mean that there is a temporary, “covenantal,” historical, conditional sort of union with Christ, election, or  justification etc that is conferred by baptism and kept by cooperation with grace. That is the FV doctrine but it is not the biblical doctrine nor, as has been shown repeatedly, is it the Reformed doctrine.

What’s going on in the Siouxlands Presbytery? Judging by this speech what is going on, on the part of the defenders of Pastor Lawrence, is equivocation and misleading claims about the nature and history of Reformed theology.

We’ve been down this road. The FV has been making such claims for years and for years they have been shown to be false.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    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.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


11 comments

  1. Scott
    Along similar lines extensive misreading of Calvin by Rich Lusk is all too typical of the FV. Interesting as well was Wm. Stanford Reid demonstrating that Norman Shepherd was guilty of distorting Calvin as well.

  2. In the first instance, Bavinck was not addressing the question of baptismal union with Christ, but another question.

    I’m not convinced that is completely accurate. It seems to me that the FV has taken on presupposed regeneration but formulated it in a different direction.

  3. sp,

    Yes, I believe I stated they formulate it differently. Yet no doubt Kuyper was accused of promoting ex opere operato at the time for believing that the sign and the seal occurred simultaneously.

  4. You can find the link to the committee report that TE Moon was responding to at the link below:

    Johannes Weslianus: Summary of the Siouxlands Federal Vision Controversy [Updated 11 a.m. Mountain 1/26]

    I’ve also included a protest against the Presbytery declaring that Greg did not teach monocovenantalism contrary to the Standards which I wrote and which you can find linked in that same post.

  5. Thank you for your continued fight for clarity in this battle. I know it has to get old. I haven’t dealt with this error nearly as much as you have, yet I tire of hearing the same old arguments from the FV about how they are misunderstood or mistreated and how they are within the bounds of the confessions. It’s not that hard to understand both sides of the issue and to see how, and on which points, the FV corrupts Reformed theology.

    Thanks again, and continue to fight the good fight!

  6. Tim,

    I don’t post pseudonymous/anonymous posts on the HB. See the policy
    statement on the left of the main page.

    As to the material question, I’ve answered it many times on the HB and
    elsewhere. It’s the same answer the Synod of Dort gave to the
    Remonstrants. The elect persevere. The non-elect do not persevere.
    Covenant doesn’t change that. We cannot leverage the decree with
    covenant. The latter is the outworking of the former.

    We read the narratives and parables in light of expository passages
    such as Eph 1 and Rom 9. Esau was never elect. He was never in union
    with Christ. Most of those who were “baptized into Moses” (1 Cor 10)
    were not united to Christ. They were identified with Christ/Moses and
    Paul uses that fact to warn the Corinthian congregation against being
    presumptuous. Rom 2:28 is always in the background.

    Here are some resources:

    https://heidelblog.net/2020/02/explaining-the-nine-points-of-synod-schereville/

    http://www.cpjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/CPJ2-RSClark.pdf

    http://www.wscal.edu/bookstore/store/details.php?id=1341&utm_source=rsclark&utm_medium=rsclark&utm_campaign=wscbooks

    These passages have been addressed in several ecclesiastical reports:

    See this resource page:

    https://heidelblog.net/2018/08/resources-on-the-federal-vision-theology/

Comments are closed.