Tag Archives: Federal Vision

Synod Carman 2013 — Prognosis (4)

Today let’s take a look at what’s happening with the discussions towards federative unity with the URCNA.  This is a process which has been underway for what seems like forever.  Well, actually since 2001, when Synod Neerlandia entered into phase 2 relations.  That’s only been a dozen years (!).  There’s good news and bad news as we survey the various reports on relations with the URCNA.

Some of the good news is found in the report of our Coordinators for Church Unity.  While the Coordinators are realistic about the slowing momentum towards unity, they also see some spots where there are improvements in relations.  But especially noteworthy is the interaction of our Coordinators with the Nine Points of Schererville and the Fifteen Points of London regarding Federal Vision.  As I have mentioned before, it’s good to hear Canadian Reformed voices saying, “Contrary to the Federal Vision movement, we too believe that baptism does not bring about the believer’s union with Christ or justification.  One is united to Christ through faith, and one is justified through faith.”   Well said!

The Church Order Committee is the one committee where the most progress has been made (report here).  A Proposed Joint Church Order has been drafted.  A lot of effort has gone into finding common church political ground for a united federation.  Our last Synod provisionally adopted the PJCO for a united federation.  The last URCNA Synod accepted it for continued study among their churches.  The church polity angle seems to be covered quite well, even if some are not totally satisfied with the end product.

But alas, there is also bad news.  The Committee for Theological Education report is one page.  It will take you two minutes at most to read it.  The URCNA disbanded their Theological Education Committee in 2010, so our committee had no URC counterpart with which to meet.   Our committee concludes, “Since we had no URCNA committee with whom to discuss our mandate, we never convened and can only report that there has been no progress in this matter.”  No progress — that’s very sad.

It’s almost the same story with the Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee.  This committee has a URC counterpart with which they COULD meet, but the URC committee has no mandate to meet with our committee.  URCNA synods have not mandated their committee to have any discussions with the CanRC.  Now, if that URCNA committee wanted to, they could propose to a Synod that it be made part of their mandate, but there does not seem to be any interest.  Again, very sad.  Our committee is proposing that they be disbanded until the URCNA is willing to play ball.  Having served on this committee in a previous iteration, I can understand their frustration.

What will our Synod do?  Our last Synod wrote a letter to Synod 2010 of the URC.  It was a passionate plea for unity — a call to our URC brothers and sisters to take Christ’s call to unity seriously.  The officers of URCNA Synod 2010 were mandated to write a response, which they did.  The URC letter noted that they didn’t reappoint their Theological Education committee because there was an impasse.  There is no mention of the Liturgical Forms and Confessions committee.  The letter also notes that the feeling in the URCNA is that we should move more slowly towards federative unity in order to build “a lasting unity that will truly glorify God and advance the gospel of peace in our world.”  Moving more slowly can be appreciated, but scrapping committees and not giving other committees an ecumenical mandate might send another message.  I have commented on that before (although some of what I wrote about in 2009 has since been addressed).  Could there be a growing frustration in the Canadian Reformed Churches with this process?   After all, we have invested much (far more than the URCNA), but seen comparatively little in return.  I wonder if this will be reflected in the decisions of Synod Carman 2013.  Can we move forward together in good faith or will we be stalled at a snail’s pace or slower for another dozen or more years?  Following the recommendation of the Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee will dial things down yet more.  So would disbanding the Theological Education Committee.  That would leave our Church Unity Coordinators with a very long-term project.  But perhaps that’s where we’ll find ourselves next month whether we like it or not (and I decidedly do NOT like it).


“Contrary to the Federal Vision Movement…”

It’s that time again when Canadian Reformed consistories are reading reports for an upcoming synod.  That synod will be in May in Carman, Manitoba.  Some of the reports are more interesting than others.  One that I find especially encouraging is the Report of the Coordinators for the Committee for Church Unity.  This is the committee charged with facilitating contact with the United Reformed Churches with a view to full federational unity.  We’re a long ways off from reaching that goal, but there are some good developments to take note of.

The report discusses the fifteen points adopted by Synod London of the URCNA to address Federal Vision theology.  Our report draws attention to point 12:

The sacrament of Baptism does not effect the believer’s union with Christ or justification but is a confirmation and assurance of the benefits of Christ’s saving work to those who respond to the sacrament in the way of faith (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 25 and 27).

Our report then comments with a Canadian Reformed perspective:

Contrary to the Federal Vision movement, we too believe that baptism does not bring about the believer’s union with Christ or justification.  One is united to Christ through faith, and one is justified through faith.  It is good that we state this explicitly, since we are sometimes seen by some as being part of the Federal Vision movement.

That’s great to read!

Our report goes on to comment about the notorious point 6 of the Nine Points of Schererville.  In that point, Synod Schererville 2007 of the URCNA rejected the error of those

  …who teach that all baptized persons are in the covenant of grace in precisely the same way such that there is no distinction between those who have only an outward relation to the covenant of grace by baptism and those who are united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone (HC QAs 21 and 60; BC 29).

And how does our report respond to that?

As Canadian Reformed Churches, we too believe that while all covenant children receive the promise of salvation, not all will receive the promised salvation.  This is what point 6 of Synod Schereville is trying to get across.

Our report concludes by stating that this analysis should allay any fears — and I agree.  I pray that our Synod will adopt recommendation four (with the other recommendations) and decide that this discussion is over.  The CanRC is not FV — and we have nothing to fear from the URCNA’s stand against FV.   End of story.  Let’s move forward towards the unity which pleases Christ our Saviour…

 


New Resources Added

One of the resources I have on this website is a collection of themes and divisions for preaching the Heidelberg Catechism.  I just added Lord’s Day 34.

The idea that Federal Vision theology is just a restatement of Canadian Reformed thinking continues to be spread around the world.  At best this is wishful thinking or just mistaken.  Whatever the case may be, it is not correct to identify the Canadian Reformed Churches with this threat to the gospel.  I have written a booklet dealing with this subject.  It was published in The Outlook last year and now is in the queue for publication by Reformed Fellowship.  Meanwhile, a brother has graciously translated it for publication in a Korean theological journal.  If you can read Korean, here it is.

 


Federal Vision Booklet

Last year, The Outlook published a three-part series of articles on the theological movement known as Federal Vision.  Perhaps you saw that they planned to collate the articles and publish them as a booklet.  Well, I can inform you that this plan is still on.  The booklet is in the “queue” at Reformed Fellowship, although I can’t give you a definite timeline.  Stay tuned…


Can You Lose the Holy Spirit?

From time to time I get questions.  Here’s a particularly disturbing one I recently received:

I have a quick question that I believe I know the answer to, but need confirmation: can you lose the Holy Spirit? Can you lose your salvation? That idea seems rather Arminian, yet we’ve come across it in Canadian Reformed circles…can you explain?   Thanks.

This was my reply:

No, you [a Christian] cannot lose the Spirit or your salvation. That idea goes against the doctrine of the preservation (perseverance) of the saints, found in the Bible, and confessed in the Canons of Dort. The way of thinking that you’re hearing is related to a bad understanding of covenant theology. In that understanding, with our baptism we receive all the benefits of Christ, but if we do not obey the obligations of the covenant, then we can lose those benefits. Included in those benefits are salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have written something on that (see this link). Hope that helps.

It doesn’t take a theologian to sense that badly formulated covenant theology can be a way for Arminian thinking to find a home among us.