Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chart: Roman Catholicism and Federal Vision Theology Compared with Protestantism (by Brian Schwertley)

The following is a chart comparing biblical Christianity ("Reformed Protestantism") with Roman Catholic and Federal Vision, or Auburn, theology.  The chart is from Rev. Brian Schwertley's book, "Auburn Avenue Theology: A Biblical Analysis (Saunderstown, RI: American Presbyterian Press, 2005 ), pp. 101-103.

Roman Catholicism/Auburn Doctrine
Biblical View (Protestantism)
Justification comes at the end of a very long process. For Romanists God accepts men after they become personally holy and (in most cases) are further purified in purgatory. For the Auburn Avenue theologians (as well as Shepherd and the New Perspective writers) justification comes after a period of covenantal faithfulness. Both systems require personal obedience for justification. [1]
Justification occurs in an instant of time the moment a sinner lays hold of Christ by faith. It is an instantaneous act of God. It is whole, never repeated, eternal and perfect, not piecemeal or gradual. (Jn. 5:25; Lk. 18:13, 14; 23:43; Rom. 3:22-28; 4:5-8; 5:1, 9)

Faith and works are the basis for justification. Romanists teach that men are saved by faith and the good works that flow from faith. The Auburn Avenue theologians teach that men are ultimately justified by faith and faithfulness to the covenant; by belief and personal obedience; by trust and perseverance in personal righteousness.

Faith in Christ alone apart from anything we do is the basis for justification. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9; see Ac. 13:39; Rom. 3:20-24, 28; 4:3-8; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:8-9; etc).
Justification is a cooperative effort between God and man (synergism). Romanists teach that church members must cooperate with inward grace until justification is achieved. The Auburn Avenue theologians teach that men must be faithful to the covenant to keep their justification on the last day.
Sinners are saved solely because of what God has done in Christ. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

The ground of justification is the death of Christ and good works. Romanism combines the merits of Christ with inward holiness or justification and sanctification for justification. The Auburn Avenue theologians combine the death of Christ which brings the pardon of sins with the covenant faithfulness of church members. This covenant faithfulness brings final justification on the last day.            

The ground of justification is the sacrificial death of Christ and His perfect righteousness. Jesus’ merits or perfect works are imputed to the believing sinner. “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness….God imputes righteousness apart from works (Rom. 4:3-6). [2]

According to the Auburn paradigm, our obedience in the covenant serves the exact same purpose as Adam’s obedience before the fall. In other words, without our own personal obedience to the covenant we cannot obtain “eschatological life” (i.e. we will not achieve salvation). Thus, according to the Auburn teaching Christ’s own perfect and personal obedience was (a) to ensure His sacrifice would be acceptable; and (b) to set an example of covenantal obedience. Jesus does not perfectly obey the law or fulfill the covenant of works in our place but merely sets the example for faithfulness. The manner in which the Auburn Avenue theologians reject the covenant of works causes them to also destroy the covenant of grace. Mono-covenantalism turns all redemptive history into a covenant of works.
According to Reformed Protestantism, Jesus as the second Adam and the head of the covenant perfectly fulfills all of the terms of the covenant in our place. Christ satisfied the justice of His Father by His death; fulfilled the covenant of works and perfectly obeyed God’s law in exhaustive detail. Therefore, He not only pardoned our sins but also by His perfect and perpetual obedience merited eternal life (or “eschatological life” as Lusk puts it). The Son of God does not leave us where Adam was in the garden before the fall but secures for us glorification. The good works and obedience of believers are the fruit of saving faith. They always accompany justification but never contribute to it (see Jn. 17; Gal. 4:4; Rom. 5:15-19).


[1] “In Shepherd’s scheme a person’s justification is going to take time. He never indicates that it will take time for God because he does call it correctly a forensic act. (When we say forensic, we indicate that God as judge makes a judicial decision.) If God is making a judicial statement about our conduct before His all-seeing eye, we will never be justified ever! But if that verdict is based on someone else’s perfect righteousness, justification needs no time for us to catch up with covenant faithfulness. However, if we insist on including some of our holiness, then it will need time to develop and show itself as the real thing. Shepherd’s idea of justification takes time.” (David H. Linden, with Robert L. Reymond, “Norman Shepherd’s ‘Faith Alone’” in Mark D. Anthony, Sr. ed., The New Southern Presbyterian Review [Cuming, GA: Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, Fall 2002], 73)

[2]  Charles Hodge writes: “To whom God imputeth righteousness without works, that is, whom God regards and treats as righteous, although he is not in himself righteous. The meaning of this clause cannot be mistaken. ‘to impute sin,’ is to lay sin to the charge of any one, and to treat him accordingly, as is universally admitted; so ‘to impute righteousness,’ is to set righteousness to one’s account, and to treat him accordingly. This righteousness does not, of course, belong antecedently [i.e. going before in time] to those to whom it is imputed. For they are ungodly, and destitute of works. Here then is an imputation to men of what does not belong to them, and to which they have in themselves no claim. To impute righteousness is the apostle’s definition of the term to justify. It is not making men inherently righteous, or morally pure, but it is regarding and treating them as just. This is done, not on the ground of personal character or works, but on the ground of the righteousness of Christ. As this is dealing with men, not according to merit, but in a gracious manner, the passage cited from Ps. Xxxii. 1,2, is precisely in point: ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.’ That is, blessed is the man who, although a sinner, is regarded and treated as righteous.” (Romans [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, (1835) 1989], 115)


No comments: