A question which deserves consideration is, why is the URCNA so insistent on repudiating Federal Vision? Are there churches divided over this issue? Are there men in the URCNA teaching what are perceived to be the dangers of Federal Vision? Is Federal Vision making inroads into the URCNA? Is this an issue URCNA churches are unable of their own to resolve? Why was a synodical pronouncement so necessary?
The fact that the URCNA made these pronouncements apart from any evidence anywhere of alleged false teaching in the church is curious. When may synod make doctrinal pronouncements or give pastoral advice about doctrinal issues? The answer, it seems, is: when it feels like it.
Not exactly a great precedent. What's next?
What was accomplished by approving the recommendations of the FV Report?
1. The names and reputations of godly pastors were dragged through the mud. This is what I find especially objectionable. My URCNA friends tell me that the FV Report was not adopted, but only received; the recommendations are adopted. True enough, but the contents of the report will now be published and distributed, even though they are full of fallacies and distortions.
The names of John Barach, Steve Wilkins, Douglas Wilson, Peter Leithart and others are all mentioned in the report. Variations of their teachings, according to the report, must be repudiated. Do these men have the opportunity to defend themselves? Can they explain their statements? Have they retracted anything? There's no way to know without talking to them. Talking to FV personalities, however, ruins the fun; they sound so orthodox when they explain themselves.
Do I sound sarcastic? The men mentioned above are my friends. I know them well, some better than others. They are people with sensitive hearts and souls. They are godly husbands and fathers, with loving wives and children. They are Reformed pastors in the church of Christ whose hearts beat for the gospel They are co-laborers in the kingdom of Christ. Was it too much to speak to them?
John Barach was a fellow seminarian of many pastors in the URCNA, a student of several professors. Everyone loved John at seminary. He was the seminary's bright light. John's going to go places, we all said. Was it too much to talk to him?
The Arminians at the Synod of Dort were initially seated as delegates. They were given opportunity to defend themselves. True, say my correspondents, but the FV leaders are not ministers in the URCNA. True, I say, but then why are you badmouthing them? It's easy to condemn someone when he's not in the room.
2. A message is sent to the Can Ref that their constant warnings about adopting extra-confessional pronouncements are worthless. This point cannot be minimized. The URCNA was warned about the nine points. The nine points were re-affirmed and more points were added.
What about the Reformed confessions is unsatisfactory? Is the teaching on justification really that unclear? Is the teaching on the sacraments really that obscure? If the recommendations basically say exactly what the confessions do, why are they necessary? If they say something beyond than the confessions, why isn't that extra-confessional binding?
3. Those who have made careers out of badmouthing FV personalities and distorting their teachings can feel good about themselves and continue in their ways.
I realize that there are many who participated in this synodical decision who are not culpable. They are godly men who sincerely want the gospel to be preserved in its integrity. They fear that the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone is being jeopardized. I'm with them, in some sense. But I'm not with those who've read through the Joint FV Statement and know exactly what FV folk truly affirm and deny and persist in condemning.