Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Contra the Joint FV Profession: The Next Christendom

The Next Christendom

We affirm that Jesus Christ is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. We believe that the Church cannot be a faithful witness to His authority without calling all nations to submit themselves to Him through baptism, accepting their responsibility to obediently learn all that He has commanded us. We affirm therefore that the Christian faith is a public faith, encompassing every realm of human endeavor. The fulfillment of the Great Commission therefore requires the establishment of a global Christendom.

We deny that neutrality is possible in any realm, and this includes the realm of "secular" politics. We believe that the lordship of Jesus Christ has authoritative ramifications for every aspect of human existence, and that growth up into a godly maturity requires us to discover what those ramifications are in order to implement them. Jesus Christ has established a new way of being human, and it is our responsibility to grow up into it. (The Joint FV Statement)

From where has the FV arisen? In his book on the FV, Guy Prentiss Waters states that the FV seems to be derived from theonomy. The goal of the FV is societal transformation, and it seems that that is the tail wagging the dog. As he states:

There are hints among those sympathetic to the FV that their views accompany a discontent with the success of the theonomic project. ... The FV, then, represents a chastened theonomy, an attempt to reconstruct the project of theonomy to accommodate its greater goal of cultural transformation.[1]

Instead of letting theology influence sociology and activism, the FV seems to be a movement that build its theology in service to its sociology — a sociology and missiology in search of a theology.

In the Joint FV Profession, the section speaking on the next Christendom is the third section discussed in the document, preceded only by the section on God and a section promoting the transformationalist postmillenial eschatology. Such an arrangement of topics seem to give credence to Waters' thesis that sociology drives the theology of the FV.

Nevertheless, let us analyze the transformationalist beliefs of the FV according to Scripture. We have already seen the distortion of the FV in their doctrine of God, and in their doctrine of the Church. As we will see, in line with their hyper-realist and one-dimensional hermeneutic, their doctrine of Church and State is similarly one-dimensional.

The section starts with the proposition that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Certainly that is something all Christians believe in. However, what does this lordship of Christ entail? How is Christ's lordship manifested in life and in the world? The Joint FV Profession states that Christ's lordship requires "the establishment of a global Christendom." However, is that truly the case?

To look deeper, we will examine this section under three headings: The Great Commission, What Christ's incarnation means for us, and the Lordship of Christ.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission is the commission Jesus Christ gave to the believers before He ascended into heaven. The most commonly cited proof-text for it can be found in Mt. 28:18-20.

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt.28:18 -ESV)

In the Great Commission, our Lord Jesus Christ calls believers to spread the Gospel and make disciples of all the nations. This is normally interpreted to refer to the various individuals from every nation who are saved, discipled, baptized and taught. Nations as entities cannot be in view here because there is no way to baptize a nation as only people can be baptized.

In the Joint FV Profession, we see a hyper-literalistic interpretation of the Great Commission. It is doubtful that the FV has in mind literally baptizing nations as entities, but as a shorthand to describe baptizing every individual in the nation as in the re-creation of Christendom as a political entity. This is however not the teaching of the Great Commission. Whatever one thinks of the transformationalist project, there is no way to find it in the Great Commission itself. The focus on the Great Commission is to "make disciples" and therefore the focus is salvation, not politics. Even if somehow majority or even all of the people in a nation turn to Christ, that does not by itself turn that nation into part of Christendom. Rather, that requires a certain connection between salvation and politics which states that Christians are saved in order to rule the world, an assertion that needs to be proven instead of assumed.

The FV interpretation of the Great Commission depends on a certain view of Christ's lordship and the goal of salvation. As we shall see, in both of these aspects the FV is seriously in error.

The Incarnation of Christ

What is the role of the incarnation of Christ? The biblical answer is that Christ was incarnated in order to became a man so that He could die on the cross for our sins. For God could not die, so Christ must take on a human form and a human nature in order to die. It is not without reason that the Cross is a symbol of Christianity, not the manger.

According to the FV however, Jesus Christ came and established "a new way of being human." This is to put it nicely a Socinian answer to the question of why Christ came. It is true that Jesus Christ being sinless is the perfect human, yet how does Christ define his perfect humanity but by perfect obedience to the law (Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:20, Mt. 5:17). Furthermore, this manner of perfect obedience to the law the Scriptures made plain that Adam as a type of Christ was to have in the beginning (Rom. 5: 12-21). Therefore, in effect Jesus Christ as the second Adam came and did what Adam was supposed to but failed to do in passing the test in obedience to God.

We have seen that the FV denies the Covenant of Works, and such a denial is consistent with the view that Jesus Christ came and established "a new way of being human." However, the biblical evidence points to Jesus coming to be and do what Adam was supposed to be and do. The FV is totally inconsistent in its affirmation on the one hand of the forensic nature of Christ's death, and on the other hand the Socinian statement that Christ came and established "a new way of being human." Illogicity however runs rampant in the FV, but for those of us who believe that God is rational in His ectypal revelation to us (Jn. 1:1, 14), such irrationality is contrary to the very nature of God and the nature of His revelation.[2]

Christ' incarnation is therefore NOT meant to establish "a new way of being human." That is an error that flirts dangerously with the Eastern Orthodox view of theosis.

The Lordship of Christ

Christ exercised His lordship over the world in two different ways. Christ as the Creator and Ruler of the whole world rules in absolute authority. When Christ rules in His church however, He rules over the affairs in the church regarding spiritual matters. The NT epistles have instructions over the ruling and discipline in the church, but it nowhere prescribes that Christians are to attempt to take over the government to rule in Christ's stead. Rather, Christians are called to pray for all people and kings and all in high positions that we might lead "a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Tim. 2: 1-2). While Christians are certainly to obey God's law, we are not called to take over the government to impose God's law. Rather, "God judges those outside" (1 Cor. 5:13a). The role of the church has nothing to do with politics, and therefore salvation is not for the purpose of creating a political entity.

The Joint FV Profession denies the two ways in which Christ exercised His lordship. Instead, like the many doctrines we have seen, they flattened out the distinction such that Christ can only exercise His lordship in only one way. Since Christ is the Creator and Ruler of the whole world, Christians must bring the lordship of Christ to bear in every realm in the same way. Again, since neutrality is impossible in every realm, therefore every realm must be brought under the lordship of Christ in the exact same way. There is simply no room in the FV for Christ to exercise His lordship in other ways at all. Why must Christ be thought to not exercise His lordship through providence and natural law through men both regenerate and unregenerate in politics, instead of demanding that Christ must use Christians to bring forth the "next Christendom"?


In conclusion, the FV view of culture and Church-State relations is in error. Their transformationalist agenda has no theological backing. Should Christians participate in politics and try to bring society into greater conformity to God's law? Yes, for we believe that such glorifies God and creates a better society for our fellow human beings. But we do so as citizens just as any other citizen in the nation both regenerate and unregenerate. Christ does not exercise His lordship over the nations now as Judge, but as Sustainer sustaining the present order while drawing the elect unto salvation (2 Peter 3:5-9). Until that last day, it is still called Today - the day of salvation, where everyone is invited to come to the Lord for salvation (Heb. 4:6-8). Today is not the day of judgment, and therefore it is not the day for believers to rule the world.



[1] Guy Prentiss Waters, The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2006), 296

[2] Ibid., 263-73.

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