Thoughts on the ad interim report on Federal Vision theology...
Now that the PCA's Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies has issued its report, debate will be lively. But framing the debate is vital. And to that end Tim and I have several comments we'd like to make.
1. It appears our report a year ago that some within the PCA desire to rid the PCA of 85 Federal Vision (FV) churches was accurate.
2. By choosing to oppose FV theology through the mechanism of an ad interim study committee of General Assembly, opponents of FV views have taken a legitimate path of engagement. This is not, at least on the face of things, a path of backroom politicking.
3. Yet, despite acknowledging the prima facie legitimacy of this report, it is possible that the ad interim process has been unfair to the FV movement in at least two ways:
First, makeup of the study committee may not have been impartial. It's striking that the only study committee member residing north of the Mason Dixon line is a Covenant College professor. We think it's fair to say that if you wanted to find FV foes in the PCA you'd head first to old-line churches in the south.
Second, the committee's report may not characterize FV views to the satisfaction of FV proponents--the old "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" method of engagement. (Yet FV proponents do have a tendency to cry foul at almost any characterization of their views by opponents.)
4. And yet, past our procedural concerns, Tim and I find much that is disturbing in FV views. In particular, we find the sacramentalism exhibited by proponents of FV views deeply troubling--even as we share their despair over contemporary Evangelical and Reformed ecclesiology. To the extent that FV theology is a reaction against modern Protestantism's disdain for the Church we sympathize with it--while remaining opposed to it.
5. We believe that any definition of the Westminster Standards that would cast Doug Wilson outside the orbit of acceptable PCA theological views would impoverish the PCA. We respect Doug's willingness to debate these issues with his foes and we believe that any adjustment of views he has made over the years is a reflection of humility rather than subtlety and should not be held against him. We also believe, based on extensive reading of Doug's work (in particular, Reformed is Not Enough, his blog entries on NT Wright and his answers to presbytery questions) that he is not at the bleeding edge of FV views, but actually has taken a more conservative approach to these issues than he is often credited with. There must be room in the PCA for big men. Doug is a larger-than-life pastor and leader and we believe that envy has played a not-insignificant role in the opposition he has faced over the years.
6. We also believe the FV movement is not univocal, and some of its more prominent proponents have had an unwise tendency to declare unity with younger and less-prominent FV advocates who stand at the bleeding edge of FV views. In the absence of some form of self-policing by FV proponents, blunt action of the form recommended in the ad interim report is inevitable, and likely necessary.
7. Finally, there is some question in our minds whether the PCA could be ignoring more fundamental battles by engaging FV theology. There are other equally pressing threats within our midst. Over the long haul, the prevalence within PCA churches and presbyteries of egalitarian views is as great a danger as FV theology to our spiritual well-being. When PCA churches are setting apart women to the diaconate in what seems to us to be clear defiance of our Book of Church Order; when any number of congregations are using women to administer the Lord's Supper; and when churches begin to call women holding the M.Div. from Covenant Seminary to serve in staff positions bearing the title of "minister" of this and that, we find ourselves wondering whether the almost-exclusive emphasis on FV theology by PCA conservatives isn't willful obscurantism. But of course, taking on the titans of egalitarian ideology in our denomination would be much more difficult than dealing with the more heterox of the FV men among us, wouldn't it?