Another Federal Visionist Popes

Wes White has the story. It’s not the first time. It probably won’t be the last. According to the FV, baptism creates a temporary, conditional union with Christ, temporary, conditional justification etc. Those benefits are retained by grace and cooperation with grace. They can be lost if one does not cooperate sufficiently with grace. Friends, that’s hardly different from the medieval and Roman doctrines of salvation. It’s clear that several Federal Visionists have overcome their sociological problems. They’ve learned to dress like Romanists (by wearing the Roman tab collar). So, what are the real, substantive obstacles? The assumption of the Virgin, the invocation of saints, and the Roman doctrine of memorial eucharistic sacrifice. These are not insuperable for those longing for the psychological, emotional safety “Rome sweet home.” The QIRC is powerful urge.

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  1. The fact that the FVers want to dress like the Romanist Papists is damning enough. Anyone wishing to bring back the clerical collar clearly has Romanist view of the church and sacraments. Even by their dress, they deny the Reformation.

    • Gosh, well, yes. I mean all those Lutherans and Anglicans, with their dog collars and black shirts, are just Roman Catholics in the making! Presumably Ian Paisley was only saved from becoming a damnable slave of the whore of Babylon by the fact that he wore his collar without a collaret covering.

    • As a Mo. Synod Lutheran, I’m not going to try to convince you that wearing the collar (in any of its manifestations) or liturgical vestments is just fine; I don’t expect a confessional Presbyterian to wear them. But your reaction is I think overdone. Just as the Roman priest is required to wear his collar with a black suit in public, you would forbid ever wearing it. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulation, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and teachings?

      • Adam,

        I’ve no problem with the protestant collar. I’ve no problem with protestant clerical dress. It’s adiaphora. Historically, as far as I know, the “dog-collar” (while all round) is protestant and the tab collar is papist. The thing that worries me is that these guys are playing at being “high church” and they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a symptom more than a problem.

        • Dr. Clark,

          I think that’s very reasonable, as the wearing or not wearing of vestments, clericals, etc. does confess something. Are you familiar with any other adoptions of, for instance, the Western Rite of the liturgy, liturgical vestments, etc. by Federal Vision pastors who still claim to be Reformed, rather than those who have become Episcopalians or Romanists? I would be very interested to learn if such things are happening.

          I just wanted to be clear that the wearing of neckties or collared Oxford shirts by clergymen wasn’t a sign of their Protestant orthodoxy, as among Lutherans I like to defend the right of clergymen to not wear clerical collars at all.


  2. As a historian you know that the Roman “tab collar” was actually an Anglican invention that Rome co-opted.

    So technically the “Tab collar” (or its cousin the full collar) does have a “Reformed” origin and was until very recently a common practice for ministers of nearly all Reformed denominations.

    Just as a note.

  3. Dr. Clark,

    I believe that this is a rather unjust charge against the men who hold to the FV.

    Undoubtedly, those who abandon confessionally Reformed churches (and who eventually swim the Tiber), are normally going to seek intermediate steps. Quite commonly such men make stops at Anglican or Lutheran churchs along the way. To argue that Lutheranism is a road to Rome on this basis is rather silly. Of course, that is precisely what some some Baptists say about Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Is that a fair charge? One of my professors at RTS converted to Roman Catholicism by way of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. So is it RTS, being a Minister in the PCA, or membership in the ELCA that is the road to Rome that we should be warning people about?

    BTW – I do think QIRC played a large part in the lives of the men I know who have converted to Roman Catholicism. I also think you are correct that the FV promotes QIRC. I just think you have a significant problem with cause and effect. It is one thing to say that those seeking illegitimate religious certainty may try to find it in FV circles (particularly in light of the fuzzy boundaries within the FV movement). It is quite another to say that the FV leads people to Rome.

    It is better to warn people against the FV because it is wrong in its own right rather than arguing that it leads to Rome. In addition to the slippery slope argument lacking credibility – it may also encougage people to believe that the FV is not so bad so long as it doesn’t lead one to Rome.

    You have read far more FV theology than I ever care to. Someone has to do this – but I am happier not reading so much amateur theology. Nevertheless, I am willing to go out (not very far) on a limb and say: If either Doug Wilson or Jeff Meyers converts to Roman Catholicism – I will donate $200 to WSC.


    • Jeremy,

      Yes, that’s the sort of collar to which I was referring. We should hope and pray that the good news so takes hold of our ministers that they aren’t tempted to convert to Rome.

  4. If people begin adopting Romanish theology, and then wearing Romanish garb, and more than a few of these folks end up converting to Rome, then what’s the problem in saying that this is all very, well, Romanish?

    We’re talking generalizations here, and pointing out tendencies and affinities. Some Roman converts themselves has said that FV led them there. Why not take their word for it? Obviously a tab collar in and of itself doesn’t make you a papist. And obviously not all FV’ers will inevitably end up as such. And surely nobody could really think that’s what the OP was claiming. Geez, people, lighten up.

    • Louis,

      The problem with arguing that the FV leads to Rome is that it isn’t a valid argument. Isn’t that sufficient? The fact is that those of us who are confessionally Reformed have more in common (thoelogically) with Doug Wilson than with Charles Stanley. If someone from my congregation wanted to transfer to the church that either of these men pastor – I (along with my Session) would refuse to do so. We would spend a great deal of time trying to point out the dangers in the theologies of both men. Nevertheless, Pastor Wilson’s theology is obviously closer to that of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church than Charles Stanley – and neither Stanley nor Wilson is the road to Rome.

      As for taking converts to Rome at their word. Jeff Steel (who is the convert to Rome in question in this blog entry) claims that the FV had NOTHING to do with his conversion to Rome. Jeff writes:

      “This news is nearly 10 months old! Hardly news…And, sorry but the FV is not Catholic and the FV had nothing to do with my conversion. Those guys who embrace FV are Reformed and not much Catholic about them with regards to their sacramental theology.”

      Is he right about the lack of role the FV played in his move to Rome? I have no idea. But if we are going to discount his claim we should also discount the claims of those say that the FV helped lead them to Rome.


      • David
        You remind me of the noble knight in that Monty Python movie who insist despite having one limb after another cut off he is still good to go.

        • Gary,

          At least I gave you something to smile about!

          If trying to be fair with those we strongly disagree with is tilting at windmills … so be it – I will tilt at those windmills.


      • David,

        I think you are trying to apply a standard of logic here that nobody is arguing for.

        The FV is clearly the path to Rome for some people. And surely the reason for this is that there are certain affinities between the FV and Romanism. But even when the FV doesn’t lead to outright apostacy to the Roman church, it still has those affinities.

        The issue is whether those connections are strong enough to justify placing them together on the same end of the spectrum, and sounding the warning that the FV is heading in a Roman Catholic direction. Nobody is trying to argue that the movement from the FV to Romanism is a logical necessity.

        As far as your examples, Mr. Steel can claim what he wants, but there is a reason why he went from the PCA to the FV and ultimately to Rome; and not from the PCA to Charles Stanley to Rome. Again, we’re talking generalization here. If Charles Stanley converts to Rome, it doesn’t make the point invalid.

        • Louis,

          The only reason why I raised the issue of what Mr. Steel claimed is because you wrote: “Some Roman converts themselves has said that FV led them there. Why not take their word for it?”

          Should we only take the word of those who support your position?


          • “Should we only take the word of those who support your position?”

            No, we should look at the issue as a whole — the theology, practice, and statements of those involved — and then make fair generalizations that aid in dealing with the problem.

  5. You don’t get respect dressing like a baptist….

    Dude, what are you talking about? Short-sleeved button down shirts with a tie and polyester slacks, you can’t get swankier than that!

  6. Many Free Church of Scotland ministers also wear a collar–they’re hardly Romanist. (Oh yeah, Free Presbyterians do, too). In fact both denominations say that the Pope is the Antichrist. Don’t get hot under the collar.

  7. The subject of this blog has certainly opened up an interesting can of worms in some respects. In my early childhood back in the 50’s I recall Lutheran pastors generally only wearing the clerical collar under their traditional white gowns (I forget the proper name) and stoles during Sunday worship services. It was rare to see one it on other occasions. Nowadays, though, they seem to wear them so often that I sometimes wonder if they have one sewn onto their pajama tops. And, of course, they are more often than not mistaken for Roman priests.

    Maybe that’s what they want – I’m not sure. Certainly gains them easier access into places where they might otherwise have to provide proof of their occupation. Personally, I do not care much for it and prefer to see a pastor wearing a decent suit or, better yet, a type of gown worn by college professors – it seems much less pretentious.

    • Jordan,

      Yes, it is an invalid argument even though some convert to Roman Catholicism says otherwise. Why would you want to put any weight one what Taylor Marshall says anyway? BTW – did you notice the self-important way in which he titled his blog entry (“The Catholic Perspective on the Federal Vision”). Apparently Taylor speaks for the entire Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

      I hope that you have a great experience at RTS in Jackson. I highly recommend that you consider First Presbyterian simply because my friend Lig Duncan is such a terrific preacher (and a fine Christian gentlemen). There are actually a fairly large number of solid churches in the area.

      Best wishes,


  8. Mr Steel is of course a joke. The pope is the vicar of Christ? The Roman Church is the Catholic Church? etc. etc. … ??? He has dones a Newman and that makes him very happy indeed. I”l say this again: Newman was a third rate theologian and the Roman Church is in fact the Gnostic Church survived with all the various christological heresies.

  9. As for Ian Paisley, well, low church evangelicals of the fundamentalist type are enamoured of him. He is a hypocrite, a tool of the Jesuits in the dialectics of opposition and maybe a Freemason too. We don’t need the likes of Paisley. We don’t need Lloyd-Jones, we don’t need Wesley. We need confessional Protestantism, not the pseudo-type of the Federal Visionists who are neither here nor there. But in which justification by faith is the theology and proclamation of the Church.

  10. As a member of the laity, all I ask is that pastors don’t wear socks with sandals. Is that too much to ask?

  11. “The fact is that those of us who are confessionally Reformed have more in common (thoelogically) with Doug Wilson than with Charles Stanley.”

    That is a sad commentary on the Reformed churches then. As Scott just pointed out in his latest post, DW is threatening church discipline on anyone who votes for a Democrat or certain Republicans. Why should the Reformed churches feel closer to DW’s legalism than Stanley’s anti-nomianism? A pox on both their houses.

    • Todd,

      Please note that I also wrote: “If someone from my congregation wanted to transfer to the church that either of these men pastor – I (along with my Session) would refuse to do so. We would spend a great deal of time trying to point out the dangers in the theologies of both men.”

      As for Wilson being closer to the Reformed than Stanley – I think that is just obvious given that the WCF is the basic confession that Wilson confesses (with several exceptions). I will, however, happily defer to Dr. Clark’s judgment in this area as he has read far more of Wilson (and other FV men) than I care to do. If Dr. Clark wishes to state that he is closer theologically to Charles Stanley than to Doug Wilson I will retract my claim at that point.


  12. I am a PCA teaching elder who wears a robe and a clerical collar. As a former papist I despise the Roman church and its ruler in Rome,who is regarded as the anti-christ in our confessional standards. The reformers regarded Rome as a false church and the pope as the anti-christ. What concerns me about the Federal Vision heresy is not that they wear robes and collars, but that they teach doctrines contrary to the faith. Many Federal Visionists like Jeff Steele have become papists through the influence of men who claimed to be reformed. The robe and collar does not lead to Rome anymore than a suit and tie leads a minister to abandon the ministry for the business world. Roman Catholics baptize infants, so perhaps we should label all infant baptisers as papists. We need to be more concerned that pastors are teaching sound doctrine.

    • Stephen,

      Once more, my concern is not with robes and collars. I preach in a Genevan robe. I have no objection to what I understand to be Protestant clerical garb. The tab collar has been Roman clerical dress and the FV guys are, it seems to me, playing dress up, and it symbolizes their theological trajectory. Benjamin says I’m all wet in re the history of clerical dress. I don’t have time to look into it now but I’ll do it when I can.

  13. David,

    Your position separates Wilson’s confession from his practice, which is essentially a baptistic form of atheism.

  14. Chunk,

    You make an important point. I do have significant problems with what I understand to be the practices of Christ Church, Moscow. My hesitancy in commenting on such practices is that I have never been to Moscow, ID and have no first hand knowledge of any of these practices. So I can be critical of those practices which Doug Wilson publicly espouses, such as a melding of libertarianism with Christianity, but beyond that – I have no intention of simply repeating (i.e. gossipping about) what other people have told me regarding life at Christ Church in Moscow, ID.

    Part of the reason why I compared Pastor Wilson and Pastor Stanley is that members of Reformed churches are listening to both of them, yet none of us are forming study committees to condemn Dr. Stanley or to warn our members about the dangers of listening to In Touch. The reason why NAPARC denominations have spent so much time and effort refuting and condemning the FV is because nobody would confuse the First Baptist Church in Atlanta with a Reformed Church while many people (including some Elders and Pastors) do tend to think of the CREC as a Reformed confederation. I believe that one reason for this is that Doug Wilson and his associates really are closer to us than Charles Stanley. I didn’t think this would be a provocative comment but merely a stating of the obvious.


    • Chunk,

      BTW – I don’t understand your phrase – “a baptistic form of atheism”.


      • Baptistic = Autonomous, independent. Without obligation to any authority.

        Atheist = Someone who denies the existence of God, which includes what the Puritans called a practical atheist, or someone who lives their life in such a way that indicates they do not believe a God exists who shall call them to account.

    • I didn’t understand it as provocative and I agree that you were merely stating the obvious. However, I think you miss the primary thing that differentiates Wilson from Stanley in the NAPARC, which is the reason we have seen so many study committees. Wilson and the FV are targeting Reformed churches, whereas I am no aware that Charles Stanley has devoted any time to penetrating Reformed churches with false doctrine.

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