Interaction with URCNA Report on FV (17)

The question remains, why did the URCNA Report consistently use the language of "saving union to Christ" or "savingly united to Christ" to describe the FV position on baptism or the covenant of grace when (a) this terminology, so far as I can tell, is absent from FV documents and (b) the FV documents themselves describe this union with other words --- namely, "covenantal union" or "formal union."

I would submit that this language is borrowed from point five of the nine points adopted by Synod Schererville 2007, which rejected the errors of those . . .

# 5. who teach that a person can be historically, conditionally elect, regenerated, savingly united to Christ, justified, and adopted by virtue of participation in the outward administration of the covenant of grace but may lose these benefits through lack of covenantal faithfulness (CD, I, V).

By utilizing language of "savingly united" to describe the FV position, the report forces Synod 2010, if it accepts the report's portrayal of FV as accurate, to judge the FV position erroneous because Synod Schererville has already condemned those who teach that a person can be "savingly united" to Christ by virtue of participation in the outward administration of the covenant of grace.

There's great irony in this because the word "savingly" is my word.

Here's the history: At Schererville, a sentiment was growing that there was no way out of Synod apart from the adoption of a statement addressing some of the controversial issues of the day. The synodical advisory committee (on which I served) to deal with the Shepherd Overture from Classis Michigan had been presented with a document penned by an anonymous instructor at Westminster Seminary in California who had not been delegated to Synod, but apparently wanted to have his voice heard. This document contained points of perceived error to be rejected by Synod.

The initial impulse of the advisory committee was to consign this document to the trash-bin. Since when does an advisory committee admit documentation for discussion and possible adoption by Synod which the churches themselves have never had an opportunity to see??? After some lengthy discussion, however, there was a surprising change of mind and the document was lifted out of the trash-bin, put on the table and viewed as potentially helpful.

At a certain point, Rev. Harry Zekveld, a friend and colleague of mine who brims with congeniality, sat down beside me in the auditorium and asked me what, if anything, I found objectionable in the statement. I told him what I tell people today---that I found the statement to be largely innocuous from a doctrinal point of view, though I did prefer changes in wording here and there. One of the changes I suggested was the insertion of the word "savingly" in front of "united to Christ" in recognition of the fact that it's perfectly biblical and Reformed to speak of those in the covenant of grace as "united to Christ" (a sentiment with which the URCNA FV Report happily agrees). In fact, one of my reasons for suggesting the addition of adverb "savingly" was to leave room for the FV emphasis that those in the covenant of grace are, in some way, "united to Christ." Harry liked the suggestion, inserted the word with his pen, and the amended phrase was eventually adopted.

So the word "savingly" is, oddly enough, my word, a word from one of the delegates at Synod Schererville. So far as I know, the expression "savingly united" to Christ can't be found among the FV documents. So this adverb "savingly," though it originated with me in an attempt to exonerate FV, is now being used to indict it.

Today, I regret my suggestion to Rev. Zekveld, and think it was unhelpful. I now think that there is a way in which it is perfectly legitimate to talk about those in the covenant of grace as "savingly united to Christ." It all hinges, of course, on what is meant by "saving."

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