Heidelcast 54: The Story Of The Meyers Case (Pt 2)

For those who are outside the Reformed churches, the so-called (and self-named) Federal Vision movement probably seems like a tempest in a teapot. For those of us, however, who worship in Reformed churches, the FV is no theoretical discussion. There have been actual Federal Visionists in pulpits preaching their errors. As a result. some believers have been robbed of their assurance through a corruption of the gospel and through the FV corruption of the doctrine of apostasy. Others have been led into a false view of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (e.g., paedocommunion). The FV errors have led to a series of ecclesiastical trials. Most believers, even those in Presbyterian and Reformed churches, have probably never seen an ecclesiastical trial. In these two episodes we’ve been able to get a behind-the-scenes view of one such FV-related trial.

Here is part 1 of the interview with Pastor M. Jay Bennett with links to background materials.

Here’s episode 54:

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  1. I remember the Shade case in the Illiana Presbytery of the PCA back in the late 1990’s. While Mr. Shade was defrocked for the slander of a fellow elder and schismatic action, FV teachings did have a role in a nasty church split.

    I much prefer to take in information from reading, and often have trouble getting podcasts and broadcasts. Hence, I have a question for Dr. Clark or others better versed in FV ideas:

    Is FV teaching necessarily connected to the idea that the teaching elder is above all, and to obeyed implicitly; and that the Word does not become effectual to salvation unless received from a duly ordained TE?

    I’m asking about FV beliefs; not traditional Reformed covenantalism (I know something of the difference).

    • I have never head those concepts to be associated with FV. Common themes of FV include: Baptismal Regeneration, Paedocommunion, denial of merit in the Covenant of Works, and stress on works within the Covenant of Grace.

      And if you like reading, check here, here, here, and of course here (note the list of signatories at the end, including Jeff Meyers — seems to me that PCA Report + Jeff Meyers’ signature on the FV Joint Statement = QED, but what do I know?)

    • I’ve read a bit of various FV guys, but I don’t recall them explicitly stating that. I’m not sure they would, or could (based on their system), say that, Catholics who make that argument usually tie back into a” duly ordained priesthood which is the result of apostolic succession” to justify it. However, I can see getting that impression, it sometimes seems implicit in what they do say. Consider, for example, this quote from Leithart: “When the minister pronounces a child baptized, he is authorized to announce, based on these passages and others, God’s own acceptance of the child as saint, son of God, righteous one……. this declaration is specific, particular to the child. The minister, as a servant of Christ acting in Christ’s name, names the child baptized as a child of God……… So, baptism is a declaration “this child is forgiven, righteous in the sight of God for Jesus’ sake.” ” (for more of this error see “The Baptized Body” by Leithart). I think we can at least say that they have a strange view of the authority of the minister in regards to salvation.

    • I think that’s just the Baptismal Regeneration coming out, not specifically a problem with their idea of ministerial authority. Orthodox reformed would also understand baptism by a duly ordained minister of the gospel to be an authoritative declaration, but what is declared is not regeneration; but rather membership in the visible church.

    • Rube
      Sure, but that’s sort of my point, that’s a rather different authoritative declaration. If the minister declares if someone is saved, says that they must continue in “covenantal faithfulness” to maintain that salvation, and the minister can declare that someone hasn’t been “covenantaly faithful” and thus has lost their salvation, can you see how someone under that system might come to see their salvation as depending on the minister?

    • Fair enough, I guess that’s a logical side-effect, I’m just saying I’ve never heard FV proponents (or victims) express that notion explicitly.

    • Joey Pipa pointed out near the beginning of the orthodox ecclesiastical reaction to the FV (see The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision. The Knox Theological Seminary Colloquium on the Federal Vision. Edited by E. Calvin Beisner. Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Knox Theological Seminary, 2004.) that as regards sacramentology (baptism in particular), FV proponents are essentially touting a Lutheran position.

      That this is so is completely apparent from the quote from Leithart (MarkB’s Dec.17,12:59 above). As well, their baptismal regeneration view is essentially Lutheran (or a distinction without a difference). It isn’t Reformed, no matter what they claim for it.

      Lutherans are also not content with a “high view” of the ministry such as the Reformed maintain. The Lutheran view is made manifest in their view of ministerial instrumentality in conferring grace through Word and Sacrament. While they deny the ex opere operato view of Rome, they nevertheless maintain an objective and inseparable act by the Spirit when the minister acts/speaks. As long as the true gospel is preached, and the requirement for true faith is maintained doctrinally, there is the Spirit to act according to the promise of the infallible Word.

      So this view leads to:
      1) salvation given through faith (also given) objectively, to all present who hear the Word faithfully taught (law/gospel). This faith and salvation can be lost as soon as it was originally given when it is effectively resisted, or as soon as the man leaves the church, or as soon as he ever stops believing what he heard in church.

      2) salvation and faith given in baptism (also losable; they seldom talk about personal election, because they treat it as too hidden a thing, so they would never speak as the FV do of “conditional election). Again, it is a ministerial gospel-act; although (oddly, but similar to Rome) they are not adverse to lay-baptism, which is wholly opposed by Reformed ecclesiology.

      3) Absolution, which is actually connected to the third Lutheran sacrament, confession (residually tied to Roman penance). In a Reformed church, you may hear Scripture read following corporate Confession of Sin, proclaiming a word of Pardon/Forgiveness/Absolution, the literal Word of Christ healing the believer. In a Lutheran context, the church is spoken to by the minister, “By the command and in the stead of Christ I forgive you all your sins.”

      Here again, the “objective” is taking precedence over all subjective responses, and everyone present is actually forgiven (of course, many also adhere to universal atonement anyway, and perhaps a majority also to universal objective justification). Those sins taken away by the minister (who is acting for Christ, in the gospel) will return to the unbeliever, who “takes them back” from Christ. We Reformed respond, “How did the sinner take them back from as far as the east is from the west…? Oh, nevermind, now I remember that’s too logical…”

      4) Finally, I might as well mention the Lord’s Supper too, since the Lutheran minister feeds Christ corporeally (to the mouth) to everyone he communes, believer and unbeliever. Again, let me be clear and fair–it isn’t Romanism, but then, it isn’t Reformed either, or proper.

      The Reformed have (should have) a healthy respect for the high-office of the ministry. The gospel minister serves for Christ, in his place or “stead” (to use the exact Lutheran term). However, he does not usurp the Holy Spirit; nor does the minister’s function gain temporary-but-true adherents, or perform objectively saving acts for or upon individuals that are then discarded by them.

      If the minister really did as Lutheran doctrine asserts, this would be equivalent to saying that the Apostle Paul’s gospel preaching first savingly converted all the Pharisees that then flipped out on him in Act.22:22; which is more than Jesus’ own preaching in person accomplished with many of the same mindset, cf. Jn.8:43; and 10:26-27.

      The reason FVers won’t join the Lutherans, is because they can’t adopt the Book of Concord, and give up whatever petals of the TULIP they still want to profess. They are residents of one of the many unstable “half-way houses” of makeshift theology, picking and choosing from a buffet of options.

      We oppose FV not only because it is unstable, or because it tries to merge Lutheran sacramentology with Reformed Christology, etc. We oppose FV because unstable compounds have a tendency to blow unsupervised lab-rats into the catch basins, where they are sluiced into the Tiber with the rest of the sewage.

      • Thanks Bruce.

        In one of the pro-FV books one of the FVists did say that their view is, essentially, an ex opere view. If memory serves, this learned writer spelled it ex opera.

  2. I ask this “unencumbered by the study of history”. Didn’t Nicea establish that Arianism was heterodox, yet Arianism flourished (and Athanasius continued to be persecuted by the A-Team?) And PCA passed a resolution on justification, but presbyteries observe it in the breach. Any parallels here? Just thinkin’…..

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