Federal Vision, “ELECT”, etc.

Posted: November 1, 2007 by Rick Hogaboam in Ecclesiology (Church Stuff), Theology
Tags: , , , ,

I am pasting below a published article and my response is in italics below the article.NEWS FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
JUNE 14, 2007
35th PCA GA Approves Recommendations of Federal Vision Study Report
MEMPHIS, TENN – The 35TH General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, June 13, approved the recommendations of its Interim Committee on Federal Vision.

After the committee made its report, a motion was made to postpone taking action on the recommendations at this GA, to add two new members to the committee, and to direct the committee to include more exegesis of relevant biblical passages in its report. This motion failed. After further debate the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve the recommendations.

The recommendations included the following:

1. That the General Assembly commends to Ruling and Teaching Elders and their congregations this report of the Ad Interim Committee on NPP, AAT and FV for careful consideration and study.

2. That the General Assembly reminds the Church, its officers and congregations of the provisions of BCO 29-1 and 39-3 which assert that the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, while “subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word of God,” have been adopted by the PCA “as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.”

3. That the General Assembly recommends the declarations in this report as a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards, and further reminds those ruling and teaching elders whose views are out of accord with our Standards of their obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views.

4. That the General Assembly reminds the Sessions and Presbyteries of the PCA that it is their duty “to exercise care over those subject to their authority” and “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 31-2; 13-9f).

Recommendation 3 dealt with nine declarations proposed by the study committee. It asked the General Assembly to recommend that the declarations in the report be considered a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards. The declarations are:

In light of the controversy surrounding the NPP and FV, and after many months of careful study, the committee unanimously makes the following declarations:

1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.

2. The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

3. The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

4. The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

5. The view that “union with Christ” renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

7. The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, such as regeneration and justification, and yet not persevere in those benefits is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

Byfaithonline – The Web Magazine of the PCA
Make sure to visit http://www.byfaithonline.com regularly to read articles and news for and about the PCA. To subscribe to the print edition of the Byfaith magazine go to https://giving.christianity.com/donatenow/pca/offers.php.

Dominic Aquila, Editor
Byfaithonline Newsletter

I agree with just about everything…although I have some minor qualms with point #2 The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

I understand what is at the heart of this statement…but my understanding of such a text as 2 John 1, where the epistle is addressed to the “elect” lady and her children; would seem to me to be an endearing designation of those who are the “ekklesia” by means of their confession, baptism, and participation in the covenant community. When such people go out from the church in apostasy, John says that they were never really a part of us…meaning that they proved themselves to be insincere in their faith. Even so, while participating with all marks of a true believer, they would be addressed as the “elect” presumptively…and contingently, based on persevering faith in the redemption in Christ. In this sense then, the covenant community would all be addressed as the “elect” although some would fall away, not making their calling and election a sure thing…and therefore no longer be addressed as the “elect” in such an apostasized state, but would regain such an endearing term if they were to be restored to the church. In this sense, I do believe in a broad use of the term, “elect”, to refer to the local body. I would even argue that the word church, meaning “called out”, even carries with it much the same identity of “elect”.

Though I would not necessarily say that one loses their election, one must at least admit that they are forsaking the elect community and the saving benefits found in her (I am sounding like a sacramentalist, but that is okay, I think) and such a person would no longer be assured of the salvivic benefits they once enjoyed while participating in the “elect” community…they would be cut off…but of course welcomed back if genuine restoration takes place. Basically, being part of the “elect” is contingent on several things: repentance, baptism, fruits of repentance, a lively faith. One shows themselves elect based on only these visible evidences that we have to judge and administer discipline accordingly. We can only presume and never claim to be infallible in our judgment as a church. We are left to press on and make our calling and election a sure thing…a final reality.

John Piper’s, “Future Grace”, was very helpful and influential in some of my thinking in this matter and it may very be that I adapt more of Federal Vision than I am aware. My understanding all stems from Scripture, to which my conscience is captive…even if I should die a heretic.

Any thoughts?

  1. Steve Cornell says:

    I just saw this post tonight and was wondering if, after more than a year, your thoughts have changed on point #2? I’ve thought about this quite a bit myself for sometime and have came to the same conclusion that you articulate in your post. A friend and I were talking over coffee a week ago about this subject (his sister is involved in a CRE church), and I commented that when Doug Wilson speaks about “election” in those terms, he’s branded a “heretic”- yet the same people who shoot the flaming arrows at him are the same ones who adore C.S. Lewis and just kind of overlook some of his odd theology; which I might add could be construed as heretical. I’ve not studied the F.V. guys exhaustively, but I think they have been unfairly attacked on certain issues. I think they may have legitimate points when they speak of how “election/elect”, “justified”, etc. are used in different ways. I have heard and read many sermons, articles, etc. in which they clearly articulate that we are justified through faith alone in Christ alone. One thing that does concern me is how some of them have adopted the idea put forth by N.T. Wright that the gospel is “Jesus is Lord”. I think that is indeed good news- but only for the believer. Though I consider myself a “confessionalist”, I do think that my PCA brethren (as well as those in the OPC and URC) tend to hold them in such a high regard that, dare I say, they can’t be wrong. From my understanding of the Westminster divines, there was quite a bit of disagreement as the WCF was being drafted-and that on some major issues. Anyways, I found your remarks as interesting.

    • Steve,

      I would say that I do agree that “elect” is a term that is often synonmous with the church. Having said that, it must be distinquished from the doctrine of election, though they relate to some degree. The doctrine of election, which inevitably leads to justification, sanctification, and glorification, is rooted in God’s sovereign work in the life of a sinner.

      The true church consists of a truly elect community, however some sadly turn away into apostasy. For such, I wouldn’t say that the doctrine of election is threatened, but that such are proving themselves to not be of Christ. It would be okay to state that such a person is turning their back on the elect community, and spurning the means of grace as dispensed in counsel and correction from the elders. They are therefore stripped of the privledges that are reserved for those in good standing within the body.

      Essentially, one use of the term “elect” has more to do with ecclessiology, while the doctrine of election has more to do with soteriology. Though they overlap, it is crucial to maintain a distinction.

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