Heidelberg 56: Why We Can’t Move On (2)

Sometimes it might have seemed that we haven’t had to contend for the gospel but the historical reality is that we were kidding ourselves. In every case where the gospel has been seriously challenged, whether by Pelagius, medieval semi-Pelagianism, Trent in the 16th century, or neonomianism and antinomianism (twins) in the 17th century, or by resurgent moralism in our age (in the theology of Norman Shepherd and the Federal Vision) the crisis was developing while we weren’t looking. At the very same time leading Reformed figures were telling us with great certitude: “We all know what the gospel is, now lets get on with the Christian life,” Norman Shepherd was telling his students that we are justified through faith and works in an ostensibly confessional Reformed seminary. Then, historically, as soon as the immediate challenge seems to be despatched, the apologists for the error return to fill the vacuum left by the orthodox retreat from the field. So it is in our time. There are significant broader evangelical figures such as John Piper (and here) and figures within the confessional Reformed world, such as John Frame, who would have us believe that the controversy over the self-described Federal Vision theology was a tempest in a teapot. We should give thanks that the churches did not see it that way.

Nevertheless, when influential figures take such a stance, those who weren’t present for the controversy or who haven’t read the history and the reports might be tempted to believe the revisionist account of what happened. They shouldn’t. Here is part 2 of this three-part series on why we can’t move on. In this episode we’ll take a look at John Frame’s revisionist account of Shepherd’s theology (endorsed by Shepherd himself). In the next part we’ll look at the original response to Shepherd’s theology.

Here’s episode 56:

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