Interaction with URCNA Report on FV (14)

Much time has lapsed since my last installment in this series of posts critiquing the URCNA Report on FV. The demands of pastoring a congregation are so great I don’t often have time to venture beyond them. On the other hand, I know there is therapeutic value in diverting from one’s typical responsibilities periodically to refresh the mind. In this post I would like to reflect on what the FV report says about baptism in particular.

In summarizing the FV position on baptism (section III.B.2), the report cites Rich Lusk and Steve Wilkins in particular. Why the writings of Peter Leithart were excluded from this section is puzzling (inexcusable??), given the fact that Leithart wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on baptism at Cambridge University and subsequently published a book on baptism in light of the FV controversy. One would think that FV critics would begin with the FV individual who has given the most thought and attention to the sacrament of baptism.

I will not comment on what the report says about Rich Lusk other than pointing out that Lusk’s exegetical comments are critiqued with confessional data. One would have wished that the report had begun with interaction with Lusk on the exegetical level first --- unless, of course, the assumption is that interpretations of Sacred Scripture which conflict with those of Sacred Tradition are necessarily wrong.

The bulk of this section in the report is a summary of Wilkins’ position on baptism as presented in “Covenant, Baptism and Salvation” in The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros. & Cons. Here it is alleged that Wilkins “maintains that baptism is the means of incorporation into Christ and places its beneficiaries in possession of all the benefits of His saving work” (p.18). What’s striking here is that there’s only one citation from Wilkins—one citation which says a lot of about Wilkins’ view of the covenant, but nothing of Wilkins’ view of baptism. This part of report, however, purports to address the sacraments (3.B), and specifically baptism (3.B.2) and not the covenant (3.A). Surely the authors of the report could have included at least one citation from Wilkins on baptism!

Interestingly, this section does reach an apparently guarded conclusion: “Since membership in the covenant community is tantamount to saving union with Christ, and since baptism is the means to effect such a membership, it seems to follow that baptism saves by uniting covenant members to Christ so that they are flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone” (p.19). The report betrays some unusual caution here through the use of words like “tantamount” and “seems.”

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