Friday, September 23, 2016

An Open Letter to the American Vision on the Federal Vision

A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.  
(Psa 133:1-3) 

An Open Letter to the American Vision on the Federal Vision 
by Nathan Pace & Stephen Halbrook: 
The Federal Vision (FV) is a heresy in Reformed circles that teaches salvation by works. Since the FV has come on the scene beginning in 2002, there have been many theonomists who have come out against it: Joe Morecraft III, Brian Schwertley, John Otis, and others. Moreover, prior to the formal unveiling of the FV, Greg Bahnsen opposed James Jordan (considered by some to be "the godfather of the FV") for his interpretive maximalism and sacramentalism.  

One theonomic organization that has not taken a stance against and/or openly opposed the FV has been the American Vision (AV).  Furthermore, the AV openly promotes the works of FV advocates, hamade documentaries with them, and has had them speak at their conferences. At the time of this letter the following FV advocates’ resources are available and promoted on the AV website: – Doug Wilson (perhaps the most influential FV advocate), James Jordan (a major influence on the FV), and Peter Leihart (who has stirred controversy in the PCA for his FV tenants).  

To our knowledge, none of the works by FV advocates promoted by AV teach the FV heresy itself; but by exposing the AV audience to Federal Visionists without even a disclaimer, seeds may be planted for followers of AV to go on to read and be influenced by heretical FV teachings. 

On July 5, 2016 Dr. Joel McDurmon posted an articletitled TheonomyBahnsen, and “Federal Vision”: a reply to Rev. Dewey Roberts, to the AV website. The original article written by Rev. Roberts, titled Theonomy, Greg Bahnsen, and the Federal VisionFederal Vision is the natural progression of the principles of theonomy, made the case that Theonomy leads to the FV. Dr. McDurmon’s reply sought to prove that Rev. Roberts had refuted himself in his attempts to prove that Theonomy leads to FV. *It should be noted here that we DO NOT agree that Theonomy leads to the FV and we do not agree with Rev. Roberts. * 

This would have been the perfect opportunity for Dr. McDurmon and the AV to state that the AV does not support the FV or its advocates. He could have simply stated that the FV is heresy and that he denies all associations. Dr. McDurmon chose a different route. First, one will notice an interesting change to the title that Dr. McDurmon has made. His title differs from Rev. Roberts in that Dr. McDurmon has decided to add quote marks to the terms Federal Vision. Dr. McDurmon seems to indicate that Rev. Roberts' use of the terms are arbitrary. He states: 

The article is beset with all kinds of difficulties, for example, the fact that Rev. Roberts seems to condemn Theonomy and Federal Vision up front without providing any definitions of what these things are, or citing any sources for proof. Since I have watched scores of critics, literally, misquote and misrepresent both of these movements for decades, I would like to see something more than just the next critic’s bare ipse dixit, especially when charging terms like “legalism,” “works salvation,” etc. An article purporting to show connections based on the logical extension of “the principles of theonomy” is somewhat obligated to give a credible representation of what those principles actually are. But Rev. Roberts’s article provides nothing but innuendo and condemnation.1 

Just as he has asked of Rev. Roberts we ask him. Please answer the following Dr. McDurmon: 

What is your working definition of “Theonomy”? 
What is your working definition of “Federal Vision”? 

American Vision's mission, as stated on its "about" page, is to provide "resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview." We commend the organization for this, and appreciate much of what it has done. But surely AV believes that the purity of the Gospel is foundational to a biblical worldview; in fact, AV devotes an entire page on its website about the Gospel (What is the Gospel by Greg Bahnsen), and Joel McDurmon emphasizes the Gospel being foundational to Christian Reconstruction in his piece Theonomy and Regeneration

     With these thoughts in mind and the history of AV’s refusal to take a position one way or the other on the FV—We, fellow theonomistsimplore the AV to openly opposthe FV. While the Federal Vision is not exclusive to theonomy circles, it is within theonomy circles, and therefore it stands to reason that a theonomic biblical worldview organization would oppose it to protect the purity of the Gospel and the souls of those that it may influence.

Appendix: Helpful Resources 

What's the Big Deal with the Federal Vision? Is it Heresy? by Steve C. Halbrook (a concise critique for a quick understanding of the FV)    



Denominational Position papers on the FV: 
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS) 
The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) 
Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States (WPCUS) 
Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA) (Refers to the Federal Vision as "Auburn Avenue Theology")  
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) 
The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCA) 
United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) 

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