There are many worthwhile themes that emerge from this discussion - and Wilson's analysis of Reformedom being comprised of pietists, doctrinalists, and Kuyperians sounds familiar. I commend it all to your careful reading.
I want to say at the outset that I tend to agree very much with David Bahnsen's underlying suggestion that the FV failed to "package" itself in a manner that would be politically optimal. No matter how you slice it, the FV took on a tactical approach that raised more ire than appreciation. If you believe (as I do) that the FV is really the confluence of many theological issues being nuanced and rediscovered, the FV guys could have done a better job closing their ranks before doing conferences and publishing books. If they could have intentionally shared the platform with guys like Rayburn, Mathison, Gaffin, Frame, Poythress, GI Williamson, Piper, etc., this thing would not have gone down as *easily* as it has so far. In fairness and charity, I realize that the Auburn Avenue conferences were nothing new and the early participants didn't intend to provoke a nationwide fracas, nevertheless, the PR side of this thing has been an ugly mess.
Please note that I admit that the FV would struggle to survive within pop-Reformedom - even with better PR. At the end of the day, the FV is opposes the very things pop-Reformedom promotes - revivalism, individualism, pietism, doctrinalism, Enlightenment rationalism, and the rest. Aside from stylistic shortcomings, the FV does represent substantive challenges that would have been politically problematic at some point.
Despite my empathy for Bahnsen's spirit on this point, I do have a fairly significant disagreement with him regarding Wilson's use of the "serrated edge" (playfully sarcastic rhetoric) on other believers. If I understand David correctly, he is saying that we should not use such rhetoric with fellow Christians. If he is absolutizing this priniciple, he is just flat incorrect. Even the Apostle Paul used such rhetoric when rebuking the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:10). Whether we should use the serrated edge is not a matter of application to Christians or non-Christians, it is a matter of wisdom (Proverbs 15:28). I agree that the FV proponents may have lacked some wisdom along the way, but using the serrated edge is not a violation of principle or character.
The failure of the FV to survive politically is not ultimately about bad PR or mishandled rhetorical knives. It is about issues that pop-Reformedom is not willing or ready to concede. We can critique some of the FV proponents for their approach, but let us not blame them for the outcome that is upon us.
I finally and belatedly read the manifesto of the "emergent" church, "A Generous Orthodoxy," by Brian McLaren. The central thesis of the book is revealed by the subtitle which says something to the effect of, "Why I am a Methodist/Anabaptist, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, evangelical, Roman Catholic, Liberal/Conservative, Missional, Eastern Orthodox, Emergent Christian..."
I opened the book with great expectations because I have come to appreciate the disaster of a pompous cul-de-sac sectarianism that cannot see or charitably converse beyond itself. My tour of duty through micro-Reformedom opened my eyes to this problem - although I know full well that such psychologies are alive and well in all branches of the church. There is nothing new under the sun.
In many respects, McLaren has opened up a very helpful conversation. Each orthodox tradition has distinctives that we should embrace. No tradition has it all figured-out and we really can learn from one another. I am no Wesleyan, but I can appreciate the need for a personal holiness that is rooted in spiritual disciplines. I'm not a fundamentalist, but I know there are truths that cannot be compromised without sacrificing the Christian faith. I am not Eastern Orthodox, but I do believe that our Trinitarianism needs to be more at the forefront of our faith and practice. Etc., etc., etc...
Here is the, "BUT."
The problem I have with McLaren's book and his brand of "emergent" Christianity is that is superficial and naive in a bad way. His analysis of the respective traditions he interacts with are all caricatures at best. It is like having a caricaturist trying to deliver on a medical anatomy text. It makes a certain point, but the details are an ugly and misleading mess. For example, he equates Calvinism with "determinism." Belief in inerrancy is slapped with endorsing "dictation theory." Roman Catholicism is complimented for it's focus on the resurrection of Christ. I could go on and on with the vague inaccuracies that he ascribes to each tradition he assesses.
McLaren labors to make disclaimers about his approach - that he is not an academic and is probably wrong about a great many things. That is a nice gesture, but his readers would be better served if they were alerted to the fact that his portrayals of each tradition are purposefully disproportioned for him to make the points he wants to make. The book is short on accuracy and long on editorial impressions.
In part 2 of this review, I will look at McLaren's larger / real project, which is an experiment in applying postmodernism to Christian theology...
If you have followed the Federal Vision controversy, you know that one of the major points of conflict is how we understand the theological parallels of the 1st and 2nd Adams as they relate to Christ's redemptive work (Romans 5:12ff). The prevailing anti-FV notion is that the 1st Adam could have earned eternal life through moral achievement (merit / strict justice) and since he didn't, the 2nd Adam had to come and do it so we could have the merit necessary to be righteous before God.
The FV angle is that while Adam was to obey God, his relationship was not based on moral achievement, but faith and trust in God (Romans 1:17). Adam's relationship to God was fundamentally that of a son to a Father, not an employee to an Employer. He was made to live in an unbroken fellowship of love to God (which obeys). Where the first Adam failed, the second succeeded. Christ, the 2nd Adam, was the Man of Faith for us. Obedience to God is an obedience of faith (Romans 1:5).
Okay, so that is a high-level introduction to this aspect of the controversy. To help promote an FV understanding, I think it is interesting in Romans 1 to see how Paul unpacks the problem of sin in humanity. Look particularly at Romans 1:18 and following and look at what condemned and condemns humanity. Paul does not say that we are condemned because we lack moral achievement or merit. No, we are condemned because we 1) suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, 2) did not glorify God, 3) did not give thanks, 4) professed to be wise. I think this is huge for our understanding of Adamic sin - it was about breaking FAITH with God. Adam did not trust in God's goodness in the garden (he believed the serpent's lies), therefore he did broke God's law. You see, behind Adam's law breaking was his broken faith in God. Adam fundamentally broke a relationship rooted in TRUST and LOVE, NOT merit according to strict justice. The problem of sin is not a mere lack of moral brownie-points, it is a failure to LOVE GOD WITH ALL OF OUR HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND STRENGTH. When we do not TRUST God, we do not live in conformity with His will and incur the penalty of the covenant.
So you see, if Paul defines the problem of sin upfront (Romans 1) in terms of denying truth, not giving glory (praise), and a lack of thanksgiving to God, we should not go back to the Genesis narrative and find Klinean "merit" according to strict justice. Adam and mankind weren't created to earn God's favor - we were created with it! We were created to love God with thankful hearts, rejoicing in the truth of His goodness. The first Adam didn't do this, but the 2nd Adam did. Yes, Christ obeyed God. Absolutely. But that obedience was an obedience of faith - and his sacrifice fulfilled the curse on our behalf. We are not saved by or for merit, but by the death and resurrection of the One who lives in perfect community with God the Father. God didn't create us for moral achievement, but to say, "Thank you, Father. You are are worthy of all praise." That is what we were made for, and this is what we are redeemed for.
PCA Pastor, Steve Wilkins, is being hounded, oppressed, and re-examined for his "Federal Vision" teachings. Here are his written answers to the charges. I'll tell you what, so-called Reformed guys who can't see that he is not only orthodox, but Reformed in the best sense, are just not smart or honest enough to be in the game. Yeah, that's what I said. This comes down to intelligence and integrity. Period, the end.
I had to take the past two months off of blogging to get through some personal transition. I am still in the midst of massive change and have many hills to climb, but I should be able to get back on track with the blog.
Thanks to Lane and Russ for kicking my booty back into gear.