A Rejoinder to ‘Theonomy, Bahnsen and the Federal Vision’

A response: Federal Vision is a real problem, but its roots are not endemic in Theonomy.

Just because a person speaks highly of the law of God in one place in one book does not make him a legalist or the father of legalism.  Just because a person has a high view of the efficacy of baptism (as does the Westminster Confession of Faith) in one place in one book does not mean that he denies the work of the Holy Spirit or that he is the father of sacramentalism… Just because a person believes that the covenant has an objective quality does not mean that he is a proponent of Federal Vision.

 

The Aquila Report has been publishing articles here and here by Rev. Dewey Roberts where he summarizes portions of his book, Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision that deals with the connection between Theonomy and Federal Vision.  In the interest of balance and fairness to readers it is incumbent on me as an evangelical and theonomic minister in the PCA to point out the following.

  1. Disparaging remarks made about the views of godly PCA ministers with different eschatological views and different views on the corporate application of God’s law do not promote a charitable Christian conversation. Rev. Roberts disparages theonomic convictions by calling it an “illusory hope.” I would remind Rev. Roberts that the term “illusory hope” could just as easily be applied to the resurrection of Christ.  Theonomy is no more an “illusory hope” than the hope that God can raise dead hearts to life through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.   Just because we live in a fallen world does not inhibit God from doing great things like capturing the nations through the preaching of the gospel and the power of His Spirit.
  2. Rev Roberts implies that Federal Vision is “endemic” in Theonomy. This type of analysis and connecting dots gets us nowhere. If I were to apply Rev. Roberts’ method consistently, I could point to the theology of the Apostle Paul and blame him for sowing the seeds of Mormonism because he spoke of being “baptized for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29).”  I could say that endemic to the theology of James is a denial of justification by faith alone because he said that a man is “justified by works and not faith alone (James 2:24).”  To build the loci of criticism by quoting a portion of one book in one place is simply unfair to any writer.  It certainly is catastrophic in interpreting the Bible.
  3. For anyone interested in a critique of Rev. Roberts’ analysis, I would encourage them to read a reply by Dr. Joel McDurmon of American Vision.
  4. Rev. Roberts reminds me of two disagreeing Calvinists who both quote Calvin. Pick the hot-button issue of the day in reformed circles and you will find that both sides will quote Calvin. We tend to paint the views of Calvin in the eyes of our presuppositions. We are prone to quote one sentence and deduce a full theology suitable to our bias. We then add weight to our position by saying that we are protecting the gospel.  This method of critique is full of problems.
  5. The PCA never condemned theonomy. As a matter of fact the 7th PCA General Assembly wrote that “no particular view of the application of the judicial law for today should be made a basis for orthodoxy or excluded as heresy…” The 1983 General Assembly in answer to a Constitutional Inquiry said that “All views of the application of the judicial law not contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter, paragraph 4,, are to be regarded as acceptable within the Presbyterian Church in America.”[i]
  6. Just because a person speaks highly of the law of God in one place in one book does not make him a legalist or the father of legalism. Just because a person has a high view of the efficacy of baptism (as does the Westminster Confession of Faith) in one place in one book does not mean that he denies the work of the Holy Spirit or that he is the father of sacramentalism. Just because someone believes that apostasy is real does not mean that he is the father of the heresy of conditional election. Just because a person believes that the covenant has an objective quality does not mean that he is a proponent of Federal Vision.

Federal Vision is a real problem, but its roots are not endemic in Theonomy.

Larry E. Ball is a Retired Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.  

[i] “To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”