Federal Vision Study

As part of my studies this year I have to do an independent study (IS) module. After much deliberation I have come up with the following working title:

A Critical Evaluation of “Federal Vision Theology” Arising in North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in the Last 30 Years and a Consideration of the Implications for Reformed Churches in the UK.

Rather lengthy, I know, but there it is. I have been meaning to get to grips with this topic for the last three-plus years since the 2002 AAPC controversy blew up, but I have simply not had the time. Study, work and family have made it impossible. Since I have to do an IS module anyway, it seemed sensible to combine a desire with a requirement. So, what better motive can I have?

As well as trying to understand the doctrinal distinctives of the movement/conversation, I intent to get a handle on its theological and historical roots. I also hope to look at recent responses from the reformed/presbyterian denominations.

So, anyway, here is something for you, Dear Reader – do you have any suggestions for essential background reading? I am particularly interested in any historical perspectives which are not found on the web.

Federal Vision Study

12 thoughts on “Federal Vision Study

  1. Stephen says:

    I don’t think my tutor would allow me to get away with not reading the original sources!

    I am well aware that 2nd and 3rd hand opinions are often sandy grou

  2. coconutsteve says:

    I am an ordained minister in the United Reformed Churches of North America. I serve as a missionary in Trinidad, WI, where I teach at a Reformed Bible College. I am very familar with the “new perspective” on Paul or “Federal Theology.” I would recommend 3 books that will give you an history of this theology and how it entered into the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. “The Current Justification Controversy” by O. Palmer Robertson and “A Companion to the Current Justification Controverersy” by John W. Robbins and “Not Reformed at All” by John W. Robbins. These books can be purchased through The Trinity Foundation http://www.trinityfoundation.org.
    In my opinion, this movement is trip back to Rome and the council of Trent that confuses Justification and Sanctification. I do have some original material by Norman Shepherd who was/is a key figure in this movement in introducing these ideas into the Presbyteian and Reformed churches. He was a professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and had a major impact on the OPC and CRC churches and later on in the URC (my demonination). BTW I got your name and info on the URC group.
    Hope this helps,
    Steve McGee

  3. Stephen says:

    Thanks for the recommendations. I recognise the confusion between justification and sanctification from my previous reading, though I have to confess it has been superficial.

    At the moment, I’m surprised at the assertion that it is a return to Rome. Steve Wilkins and Doug Wilson explicitly deny such a move in their lectures and warn others against it. I am trying to get to the bottom of this.

    Every blessing on your work in Trinidad.

  4. coconutsteve says:

    Stephen, Thanks for your reply. I know the men in this supposed new movement claim that this not a return to Rome but if you carefully look at what they say and compare their statements to the Council of Trent and Vatican I church council they are virtually the same. For instance, Trent and Vatican I do not deny a salvation by Grace or Faith. However, they add to Grace and Salvation your works. I am very concerned when I hear the NPP folks say we keep ourselves in the covenant by our obedience. In my understanding of the Scriptures and the Reformers, our obedience is a results of our justification not a condition of our justification. The NPP people,like Rome, have confused this. The books I recommended to you will clearly spell this out and IMHO will greatly help you to get to the bottom of this.
    Have a great day brother and may God Bless you and your work.
    Steve McGee

  5. coconutsteve says:

    Stephen, I forgot to mention that you can download at interview with Doug Wilson on a radio program called “The White Horse Inn” This is a weekly radio program that is a live call in program that disusses Reformed theology. The address is: http://www.modernreformation.org. On the right of the screen you will see the White Horse Inn. Click on the archive programs and go down to the interview with Doug Wilson.

  6. Stephen says:

    Thanks for your comments. I’ve heard these kinds of statements before about FV being on the road to Rome, so my antennae are up. As yet, though, I have not found the evidence, though I need to read much more. I guess what I need are references and citations. I plan to get hold of the books you listed.

    Obedience: I would argue that obedience is necessary, but the preposition is important i.e. obedience is necessary in salvation, rather than for. It seems to me that obedience is necessary in some sense, but not as a ground or reason for justification, but as a necessary evidence of it. (As a former mathematician, just to confuse things a but further, that seems to make obedience a necessary condition of justification, but not a sufficient one!) Is this not consistent with our confessions?

    I heard the WHI interview with Doug Wilson some time ago. I will listen again. I noted that Wilson made a further comment on his blog afterwards.

    Best wishes,


  7. coconutsteve says:

    Stephen, I agree that obedience is necessary for salvation. In fact, Paul says in Rom 1:5 “we have recieved grace and apostleship for the obedience to the faith among all nations.” However, as you pointed out, our obedience is not a condition to our justification. Obedience is a results of justification. You have probably seen this before and forgive me if you have. Dr. Gertsner would draw this diagram on a board to explain justifiction and good works.




    That in my opinion is the biblical view. I remember Dr. Gertsner say so many times “our good works have no merit in them, BUT they better be there.”
    I’m off to Tobago today with my wife for much needed R & R. Have a Blessed day and I was wondering if you might be available to come to Trinidad and speak at one of our Reformed conferences? We have 2 a year. What do you think?

  8. Stephen says:

    Gerstner’s diagram is a great one worth remembering.

    Have a great vac. I’ll email you about your request.

Comments are closed.