One of the many excellent points that Lane Keister made in our recent Heidelcast interview is that at the heart of the FV controversy is the well-being and safety of the sheep. Hitherto it has too often seemed as if the under-shepherds were asleep or not guarding their flocks very diligently. Now, however, some shepherds have stepped on and confronted the problem, not only with committee reports or declarations, but with actual ecclesiastical action. Of course, in response, some have essentially called into question the very legitimacy of church discipline as an act of the church. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. We live in the late stages of modernity, in a hyper-subjectivist time, when every person is his own master and every person has his own definition of “reality” and “truth.” This late modern subjectivism is widespread and it has infected the church and it influences the way pastors think about issues such as the self-described Federal Vision movement. When subjectivists hear someone say “The FV doctrine is wrong and dangerous” their first thought is to say to themselves, “Who is parson x to say that the FV is wrong? How does he know that the FV doctrine is wrong? After all, from a certain perspective the federal visionists have some helpful things to say.”
Of course, one waits in vain to hear the latitudinarian, subjectivist types apply the same “charity” to Reformed confessionalist case. There seems to be no perspective from which the confessionalist has anything to contribute to the resolution of the problem. Never mind the fact that the OPC, the PCA, the RCUS, the URCs, Westminster Seminary California, Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, have each considered the claims of the FV movement and rejected them as contrary to God’s Word as confessed by the Reformed churches. The one-sidedness of “charity” in this case should tell us all something about the warped definition of charity at work here.
Thus, it is most encouraging to read this speech, by a PCA ruling elder, made on the floor of a PCA presbytery pleading for Ruling and Teaching Elders to fulfill their sacred obligation, to recognize the stark reality before them that yes, some of their friends, some “good guys,” with whom they perhaps went to seminary have taken up views that are at odds with what we confess and that those views are even dangerous to the spiritual well-being of the sheep whom we’re called to shepherd.