Heidelcast Minute: The Federal Vision Theology Is Dialectical

The adjective dialectical, can refer generally to a discussion of different points of view. In this context, however, it refers to a specific theological method. In short, a dialectical theologian says contradictory things about the same at the same time. It is a method that was popularized by the Swiss (new) Modernist theologian, Karl Barth (d. 1968). Here is a brief explanation:

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  1. When theologians refer to Luther having a dialectic between the law and the gospel, how is this different than what Barth and Shepherd are doing?

    I am not at all defending Barth or Shepherd, just trying to understand. Barth’s Romans commentary dwells on paradoxes from the existential experience of a finite being coming into contact with divinity, and in so doing destroy traditional categories of theology. Shepherd seems to be purposely using univocal terms in an equivocal way for the purpose of maintaining the appearance of orthodoxy. The outcome appears to be the same, but the method seems different to me.

    I suppose Frame’s perspectivals is to some degree a weakened form of Barth’s dialectical paradoxes. But again, it allows what should be univocal terms to become equivocal in the movement through the perspectives.

    • Shane,

      Luther was not a dialectical theologian, at least not in the sense in which Barth and the FV guys are dialectical. Is there, in Luther, a dialectic, meaning alternation between law and gospel? Yes, but the word “dialectical” this context means to say A and -A about the same thing at the same time.

      So, e.g., the FV says that we are justified sola gratia, sola fide AND that we are justified (finally) by good works. They also say that we are covenantally elect in baptism AND (potentially) decretally elect simultaneously.

      Barth’s Romerbrief is dialectical in the second sense. He says Yes and No about the same things at the same time. He cannot speak analogically, because he’s a Kantian, a Modernist.

      Shepherd does equivocate, as do his Federal Visionist successors.

      Frame’s Tri-perspectivalism, is a dialectical system too, in which each of the three perspectives corrects the others.

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