Saturday, September 22, 2007

Federal Vision Soter-Ecclesiology

In the Federal Vision discussion at De Regno Christi, Peter Leithart made the following succinct comment about Federal Vision teaching:

The FV claim is: If the visible church is the body and kingdom of Christ, and baptism is the entry rite into the visible church, then baptism joins the baptized to the body of Christ and makes him or her a subject of His kingdom. Baptism makes the baptized a member of the more-than-human community of the church; baptism makes the baptized a member of the body of Christ, which really is the body of Christ, that is to say, the human community joined to the Incarnate Son through the Spirit.

This is consistent with the Federal Vision's emphasis on the objective character of the church and with its program to cast nearly every aspect of salvation in objective terms. My fear in such an approach is that it will create Christian nominalism, a people who "honors Me with their lips" (objective) but whose "hearts are far from Me" (subjective).


  1. Helpful post and a good summary. The FV sounds good but in the end makes the NC no better than the OC and that is unbiblical.

  2. Actually, the only reason nominalism occurs is because of a lack of church discipline. The FV has a high view of church discipline and therefore will not cater to any form of nominalism as far as I can tell. I don't see why any Christian who believes in the sacraments would disagree with Leithart, but modern sacramental theology might just be out of par with historic protestant views. That would explain why the FV has a point about recovering objectivity in our NC theology.

  3. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the comment! I actually disagree with you. Nominalism will inevitably occur in FVism in my judgment because it tends to point people to their baptisms and to their church memberships for salvation and security, rather than to the cross of Jesus Christ. Baptism and membership are objective; faith in Christ is subjective. This is the price they must pay for elevating the objective over the subjective, for elevating baptism over personal conversion and faith. They would claim that pitting the baptism against Christ is a false dichotomy, but I don't think it is in practice, though it may be in theory. I believe in both the inner and outer lives of Christians, but against FVists, I believe the inner life of the heart is primary, not the outer life.

    The bottom line is: One can very easily be outwardly cleaned up, avoid church discipline, and feel comfortable in his pew because he has been baptized, is a member of the church, and is constantly told that this external conformity to ritual practice is more important than personal conviction of sin, conversion, present faith, repentance, and joy in Christ, love to Him, and obedience to Him from the inside out.

    I think FV emphases are a prescription for nominalism, even when the church is faithful to practice discipline because nominalists are not always candidates for discipline.