Friday, March 04, 2011

Contra the Joint FV Profession: The Church (part 1)

[continued from here]

The next item we would look at in the Joint FV Profession is their doctrine of the Church.

The Church

We affirm that membership in the one true Christian Church is visible and objective, and is the possession of everyone who has been baptized in the triune name and who has not been excommunicated by a lawful disciplinary action of the Church. We affirm one holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the house and family of God, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. In establishing the Church, God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham and established the Regeneration of all things. God has established this Regeneration through Christ—in Him we have the renewal of life in the fulness [sic] of life in the new age of the kingdom of God.

We deny that membership in the Christian Church in history is an infallible indicator or guarantee of final salvation. Those who are faithless to their baptismal obligations incur a stricter judgment because of it.

We can see from the first statement the main error in FV ecclesiology. According to the FV, "membership in the one true Christian Church is visible and objective." Therefore, within any local church body, a member in that church would be considered a true Christian without any qualifications whatsoever. Since "covenant membership" is objective, when the profession says that "in Him we have the renewal of life in the fullness of life in the new age of the kingdom of God," it logically follows that objectively all church members have the "renewal of life in the fullness of life in the new age of the kingdom of God" in Christ.

Such an objectivization of the covenant of grace creates a tension within the FV system. It is a fact that not everyone who calls himself a Christian and was a member of the church continues on as a Christian. How can the Federal Visionists account for this undeniable reality? The way they have settled the tension between objective salvific membership and visible apostasy is to redefine faith as faithfulness. Having affirmed that membership is objective, they put forward their statement that membership in the Church is "an infallible indicator or guarantee of final salvation." Instead, members have to persevere in faithfulness as Christians in order to guarantee their final salvation.

Since FV claimed that membership in the church is objective, this therefore means that for members who are faithless, "those who have faithless to their baptismal obligations," at one time were truly saved by Christ. So for such individuals, they were truly saved while they were members in the church, but then when they became "faithless to their baptismal obligations," they do not have their final salvation. One indeed wonders what definition of "truly" we are operating with here.

While the FV advocates strongly deny believing in salvation by faith and works, the essence of their teaching promotes it, except it is not called "works", but "faithfulness". What exactly is the difference is anyone's guess. That faithfulness is non-meritorious? What is "merit"? Is "merit" necessarily defined in relation to boasting or being better than others? Or is it rather defined as positively doing something in order to achieve a certain result?

The FV Profession says that those who are not faithful will in a sense not be saved. This therefore means that one has to be faithful to be saved, and those who are faithless are lost. Such is the very definition of a works-principle whereby one has to do something (be faithful) in order to gain something (final salvation).

In this light, the FV denial of salvation by faith and works is mere semantics. Of course, nobody thinks that the FV advocates believe in salvation by obeying all the Mosaic ceremonial laws! The way they deny salvation by faith and works is through the refusal to label their idea of "faithfulness" as a work despite having all the trappings of a works-principle. In contrast to the FV, it is seen that faithfulness as they have defined it is a work, and therefore FV does indeed teach salvation by faith and works, as defined in its historic Protestant sense.

The Reformed view that Salvation by Faith Alone implies that a person requires faith and nothing else. This means that a person formally does not have to be faithful in order to be saved. Salvation is by faith apart from any work including faithfulness.

This does not mean that a believer once saved can live like the Devil, because sanctification follows Justification as believers are united with Christ (cf Rom. 6). But such works are post-salvation fruits, not salvation conditions.

Consider this analogy: An apple seed is genetically apple-like even though it looks like a seed — round/oval, black and totally unlike a tree or an apple. It will however grow into an apple tree when planted. A mango seed is genetically mango-like. Just as an apple seed is considered to be an APPLE seed because it is genetically "apple", even though there are no apples that can be seen, so believers are considered saved even though no fruits (apples) can be seen.

Using this analogy, according to FV, all seeds are objectively genetically "apple" . These "apple" seed then have to produce apples (faithfulness) in order to continue being an "apple" tree (final salvation). When any "apple" seed produces mangoes (being faithless), they cease to be an "apple" tree (are not finally saved).

In the FV system, faithfulness becomes something to do instead of something that true Christians are. This logically results in legalism which is further worked out in their distortion of the visible/invisible church distinction, which we will look at now.

[to be continued]

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