The PCA’s Nine Declarations Against The Federal Vision (2007)

In light of the controversy surrounding the NPP and FV, and after many months of careful study, the committee unanimously makes the following declarations:

  1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.
  2. The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  3. The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  4. The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  5. The view that “union with Christ” renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  7. The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, such as regeneration and justification, and yet not persevere in those benefits is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.


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  1. Dear Scott,

    Oops, where is number nine?

    Peace and rest in Christ Jesus our beloved Redeemer.


  2. There is an interesting comparison to be made between the PCA document and the report of the 2006 Missouri Presbytery [MOP] ad hoc Committee on Federal Vision theology (found at First, the MOP document curiously predates the PCA document. Second, while the PCA document names names and quotes those persons, the MOP document fails to name a single FV apologist/supporter (and does not quote a single one). This is especially noteworthy given a notable FV supporter (i.e., Meyers) was a member of the committee.

    Members of the MOP ad hoc committee included various professors from Covenant Seminary(PCA) as well as FV teacher Jeffrey Meyers. Mr. Meyers is still a TE in the MOP, has served at various times as chairman of the MOP C&C, and is Chairman of the Board of the Theopolis Institute where a who’s who of FV folk are on faculty. Several years ago the MOP exonerated Mr. Meyers on charges related to his FV theology. Covenant continues to send seminary interns to Mr. Meyers.

    Mr. Meyers along with Peter Leithart and Dr. Michael Williams (Covenant Seminary)–all members of the ad hoc committee–were witnesses for the defense in the 1998-1999 trial of Burke Shade in the Illiana Presbytery (PCA). This was apparently the first trial in the PCA of a TE for teaching what came to be known as FV theology. Mr. Burke was found guilty and was defrocked; he fled to the CREC (Doug Wilson’s denomination). In 2015 Leithart joined the CREC after he was refused permission by a PCA presbytery to serve out-of-bounds in Birmingham, Alabama. Williams still teaches at Covenant Seminary.

    Last year at PCA GA I spoke to a man from the MOP who claimed to have attended the full Meyers trial. When I suggested that the MOP had simply “circled the wagons” around Meyers in response to the letter of concern about Meyers’ FV teachings (that was signed by various PCA elders and sent to the MOP), his reply was an indignant, “you’re darn tootin’.”

    Finally, the MOP report ends by stating that “the way we live together and love each other is as important as the truths we have in common.” Did the Meyers trial results reflect that? Perhaps, if the MOP agrees with Meyers’ FV theology. And what are we to think given the presence in the MOP of so many Covenant Seminary professors–many who were a part of the Meyers proceedings?

    The PCA committee document is far more useful than the MOP document, but as Leithart and Meyers defender, PCA TE Rob Rayburn (Faith Tacoma) has noted, it is not binding in the PCA.

  3. Dear Dr. Clark,

    While on the subject of FV and NPP, I see the tendency to reconcile both Reformed and Medieval understanding of faith, works, grace, etc. There have been cases prominent Reformed/Evangelical leaders crossing the Tiber back to Rome.

    One of the chief arguments is that Calvin was indebted to his Medieval education and influence.

    Do you know any book by yourself or any notable scholars that tackle Calvin’s indebtedness to his Medieval influence? How far is the influence that seems to justify this crossing the Tiber or going back to Medieval “spiritual practices” just because Calvin is somewhat influenced by his Medieval counterpart?

    Or if you want to give me a quick answer in this blog, that will be great.

    Thank you

    • Hi Wilson,

      Calvin was influenced by the medieval theologians, if that’s what you mean but he was by method and temperament a Renaissance humanist. He was medieval in some ways. He made medieval assumptions about Christendom and the role of the state in enforcing religious orthodoxy but academically he was a humanist. He was committed to returning to sources. He had a much stronger sense of history, of the difference between his time and the that of the ancient world than the medievals did.

      Theologically, he was indebted in certain ways to some medieval ideas and terms, as we all are. In important ways the Reformation was a re-arrangment of medieval ideas but his soteriology (i.e., his doctrine of salvation) was thoroughly Protestant. He was deeply influenced by Luther’s law/gospel distinction and the doctrine of salvation sola fide, sola gratia over against the medieval definitions of grace (as substance) and faith (as a sanctifying virtue).

      No one who is following Calvin with any care could possibly be misled to go back to Rome.

      The people who are converting to Rome are doing so for a few reasons. The great one I call QIRC, the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty. The other is aesthetics but neither of those have anything to do with Calvin.

      Here are some essays and resources on why some are going back to Rome.

      Here’s an interview with Bob Godfrey on this question.

  4. A decade after all the FV rumpus in NAPARC it has to be admitted that Rob Rayburn was right in that the written papers against FV were indeed not binding, indeed had zero teeth. Not only in the PCA , but throughout NAPARC. The Reformer’s (not just Luther) believed that the doctrine’s of grace, justification, imputation were indeed the doctrines by which the Church stands or falls. They were Biblically correct to hold that view. Best I can tell hardly any NAPARC leaders think FV is any big whoop nowadays, even though FV is very clearly alive, well and growing. Nine Declarations, committee meetings, studies, papers. words, just words in a puffed up hollowed Protestant Sacerdotal good old boy environment. No thanks.

    In an airplane when the pilot and co-pilot give each other that kind of professional courtesy people die. The ecclesiastical plane is in a nose dive. Men are soft peddling these doctrinal issues, making them non issues. I appreciate the loyalty to fellow church men/ elders, I appreciate the high view of the Presbyterian church process, wanting to not cause unnecessary controversy, but this is an example (over the last 10 yrs) of mis-guided professional courtesy, an over realized ecclesiology in a sense, one that has greatly hurt the Church and truncated the gospel. They were then and they are now very big issues. The people speaking out against it are not the ones causing the ruckus.

    “Westminster confesses justification by faith alone; Federal Vision theology undermines “faith alone” – and Leithart even goes so far as to say, “Covenant faithfulness [which includes works] is the way of salvation, for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment”

    • KM,

      Not mine to own in terms of copy right once I post here. The keeper of Heidelblog realm (Dr. Clark) determines who may do such. My understanding is it is OK to copy/ paste or send links too. Seen it done many times before. ?? Ask the keeper of the realm. That said I’m cool with it as far as my comment goes. Where is your public site? Or is it Facebook?

    • Thanks Frank! Very insightful piece you passed on by Ethan J. Bolyard.

      Is it really any wonder that with so many having a hyper-community (over realized ecclesiology/ sacerdotal) view that Liethart types are giving a pass? Federal Vision theology is flourishing. Only it does not go by the name FV, rather it often uses very good and biblical concepts like…..”transformation”, “community”, concerns over Antinomianism, etc. Or even not so Biblical concepts like…… “live the gospel in your community”, “be the gospel” , “do the gospel”, etc. I have often observed that many of the young, restless and reformed like all this FV business or are soft on it, or don’t see the big deal, not so much because of their good theology or sound exegesis but more because they are sound socialists in outlook/bent and many an older person who is a softy on FV crave re-living their R.U.F. days. There are certainly more layers to it than just that, but still a reasonable observation I think. The tie that often binds is they love the sociological construct of it all and they think that is The Key to Salvation and good Christian living. Many have made an idol out of…”It takes a village”……

      What Ethan J. Bolyard states here is spot on……
      “Leithart not only insists that “baptismal justification must be understood in a corporate, ecclesial context,”[26] but acknowledges that much of his work “is part of a larger effort to integrate ecclesiological factors into an account of justification.”[27] His view of justification is inseparable from his doctrine of the church. ”

      “Theologically, Leithart recasts covenant theology in terms of contemporary social theory and continental philosophy…… he collapses soteriology into ecclesiology (i.e., sacerdotalism) and ecclesiology into sociology (i.e., naturalism) as if they were a series of nesting dolls. This postmodern approach to language and ritual involves a “philosophical skepticism toward the nature of being and a preference in expression for . . . relations or activities.”[67] In other words, it favors economic relations over ontological realities. As a result, Leithart redefines salvation in corporate (vs. individual), mediate (vs. immediate), sacerdotal (vs. evangelical), natural (vs. supernatural), and immanentistic (vs. transcendental) terms.[68] Waters concludes, “What Leithart is offering us is not a refinement of certain Reformed doctrines. Nor is he effectively supplementing a soteriological understanding of the sacraments with a sociological one. What Leithart offers us is . . . revolutionary.”[69] It is nothing short of a different worldview. Ironically, this means that Leithart does not have too high a view of the sacraments; rather he has too low a view of salvation.[70] He has reduced justification from a soteriological declaration to a sociological construct.”

      Kudos to Bolyard, spot on!

      If I might be so bold to add a comment……
      I get it, the bigger problem in the broader Evangelical world is too low a view of the church. However, at times in the Reformed world (as difficult as this is for people to understand, especially those who are otherwise staunchly reformed and especially sometimes for elders to understand) there is such a thing as to high a view of the church. There is such a think as Presbyterian Sacerdotalism, not saying it is right, saying unfortunately it does exist. To hear some talk in a high and lifted up fashion when describing the visible Church and its community therein, this becomes clear. When in fact it is most Biblical that it be Christ who should be high and lifted up. He must increase, we must decrease.

  5. “6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which
    each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including
    regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological
    system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the
    Westminster Standards.”

    I would say that there is definitely a Covenantal Union that is initiated by unregenerate
    Adults who have no right to Baptism, but have received it for whatever reason, they are
    like those who receive Circumcision, become debtors to do the whole of the Law! thus
    they are under a curse. Gal 3:10 & 5:3

    The Union of such persons with Christ is external & NOT Spiritual/Mystical, so does
    not include “the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration,
    justification, and sanctification” neither does it include “Election”


    Speaking more to this issue of an over realized ecclesiology (a too high a view of the visible church) that I’ve been talking about. When Polity trumps sound theology indeed that is legit concern that there are very serious problems.
    By the way I’m sure it goes without saying but an over realized ecclesiology always goes hand in glove with over realized eschatology. All of this has tie in to Federal Vision issues.
    Now I realize that those who are on the other side of this debate will cry from the roof tops…. “No No, it is your side which has an under realized ecclesiology and eschatology!”

    Sorry, that is just not the case and the evidence of that is abundant. Truth is that which corresponds to reality not rhetoric.

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