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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, October 05, 2008

R. C. Sproul, Jr. and the Federal Vision Controversy

While I like R.C. Jr.’s thoughtful response to the issue, I have to disagree with his irenic attitude toward a teaching that directly attacks the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Protestant Reformers were not gentle in their attacks against semi-pelagianism and idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church. We live in an age when we are are supposed to be ecumenical and almost “Vulcan” as if being irenic were a sign of true election. It is true that in theological education we must objectively evaluate various doctrinal positions. Sometimes the ideal of tolerance for other views works to undermine sound doctrine and leads to subtle deception. Satan loves to use theological education as a means of deceiving the very elect if it were possible.



Moreover, what R.C. Jr. is overlooking is that the Reformers utilized polemics and dogmatics wherever necessary. The short of it is that if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and lives like a duck, most likely it is a duck. The affinity between Federal Vision/New Perspectives of Paul and the Anglo-Catholic/Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox view of things is obvious since they seem to get along better with those folks than with their own “Reformed” tradition. N.T. Wright is an Anglican bishop and Anglicanism has a notorious reputation for focusing on unity at all costs rather than holding to definite dogmatic distinctives, particularly after the Tractarians of the 19th century attacked the teachings of the 39 Articles of Religion.


As for the internet being a source of theological dissent, I believe this is a good thing even if there are negative aspects of it. The internet is equivalent to the invention of the printing press and the publication of the Bible and other theological materials for the general public. No longer is theology only in the hands of the academic elite but now theology is available to read for the general public!



In particular classical Reformed theology, confessions, creeds and the historical documents associated with these developments are readily available for anyone who knows where to search on the internet. While some theological journals charge the public for the privilege of reading their ivory tower tomes, many others are realizing that lay persons are increasingly able to understand theological terminology and jargon and wish to make their theological discussions and materials available to the general public.



Yes, bad theology and even deceptive theology gets distributed over the internet. Disinformation is an enemy of the Gospel, just as disinformation is a propaganda organ for those with a political agenda. However, that being said, the internet presents a tremendous opportunity to engage deception, disinformation, and bad theology from both a lay level and from a professional theological level.


My suggestion to R.C., Jr. is to present his own case for the Gospel on the internet. I personally run my own blog and I will throw my own “bombs” at will since that is a part of correcting theological error. R.C., Jr. might dislike it but the internet is a useful tool for academic and religious freedom. As R.C., Sr. once said, Luther was an outspoken reformer and by today’s standards, he would be considered a “bomb” thrower. Luther’s bomb led to actual reform, however.



Perhaps I am a reactionary. I’m still learning. But the one thing I do know is that I have learned more about Reformed theology since the age of the internet than I ever learned in seminary. I studied at Asbury Theological Seminary, which is Wesleyan and Arminian. Their agenda was to refute Reformed theology and the more conservative side of Evangelicalism. Essentially, seminaries are not purely objective or academic but in many cases try to issue forth a particular point of view that becomes manipulative if not outright propagandistic. For one example, one of the church growth professors, George Hunter, III, advocates throwing out the penal/substitutionary view of the atonement in favor of the view advocated by Abelard, the moral influence theory, which completely undermines the doctrine of total depravity and man’s need for redemption and the propitiation of God’s wrath.



The Gospel is being attacked from unprecedented different angles in seminaries, in churches, and in the media. Today the internet gives us an opportunity to research, learn, and to refute such errors. A good example of this would be the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and other groups calling Evangelicals back to confessional standards of the Protestant Reformation and the universal creeds. While I understand the context of R.C. Jr.’s remarks, I disagree. If the Federal Vision proponents are using the internet to openly attack the traditional confessions of the Reformed faith, then such an attack justifies an equally forceful response. If the Federal Vision is not a different Gospel, I would ask, then why all the controversy? Surely all the Reformed theologicans and ministers who are speaking up about this new theology have some basis for their concern in Scripture and the Reformed confessions?



Perhaps the most telling observation is that FV and NPP redefines the law and the Gospel. Any redefinition that cannot be substantiated in apostolic doctrine, the church fathers, or in the Protestant Reformation bears the burden of proof, in my opinion. The danger of theological innovation today as always is that it is deceptive and subtle. Just as at the Synod of Dordt when the Remonstrandts claimed to base their theology on Calvin’s writings and on Scripture and that their view was really the true “Reformed” one, we have Federal Vision proponents redefining the Gospel while still claiming to be “Reformed.” Call me a naive fanatic, but until the FV folks can prove their attack against the Gospel is justified, then I will remain in the Reformed camp.



Soli Gloria Deo!


(Click on the title to see R.C. Sproul, Jr.'s remarks about the Federal Vision/Auburn Avenue controversy).

1 comment:

Randy Kardon said...

"The danger of theological innovation today as always is that it is deceptive and subtle. Just as at the Synod of Dordt when the Remonstrandts claimed to base their theology on Calvin’s writings and on Scripture and that their view was really the true “Reformed” one, we have Federal Vision proponents redefining the Gospel while still claiming to be Reformed."

Well said. RC Sproul Jr is just one among several "deceptive and subtle" men on the fringes of the Federal Vision movement who claim to be "reformed". Sproul has even said, "We're not trying to take the Reformation in a new direction." A soteriology that smacks of Romanism isn't a new direction for the Reformation?

Sproul was defrocked from the ministry for duplicity, violating his ordination vows, and tax fraud. It comes as no surprise to me that he masquerades as Reformed while he covertly advances the Federal Vision agenda.

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