Category Archives: Federal Vision

Federal Vision: Within the Bounds of Orthodoxy?

I am looking forward reading this paper endorsed by two of my favorite PCA ministers, John Frame and Steve Wilkins.

“I have read the article, and my judgment is that it is a wonderful piece. It is by far the best thing I’ve ever read on the Federal Vision and/or New Perspective. I hope this essay gets the widest possible distribution. People concerned with these issues, whatever their persuasion, need to meditate deeply about it. And it provides a model of careful, thorough, thoughtful theological criticism. Mr. Minich . . . has a great future as a Reformed theologian.”

Dr. John Frame, Reformed Theological Seminary

Covenant Blessings and Curses in the Face of a Righteous King

In recent years my understanding of Covenant Theology has increased in various ways. Indeed, it was only four years ago when I would have mocked at such a thought of conditionality from God’s part. Nevertheless, my studies have led me to see God’s covenanatal dealings with manĀ  in at least two simple ways: faithful and harmful. By faithful, I refer to God’s gracious offer of preservation to a line, which in many ways were not and continues to not be very faithful. And by harmful, I acknowledge that God’s patience, though longsuffering, is still limited. Covenant breakers and Covenant Keepers alike are cursed, and at the same time, both are blessed. In an ultimate sense, this process is totalized by God, and covenant breakers receive their eternal punishment and covenant keepers receive their eternal bliss.

So, in what sense is this background necessary? First, the priority given by God is that Covenant keepers be blessed in every respect. In fact, if God were to deny blessings to His faithful seed (line) He would be an unjust ruler. In a real sense, God as a King provides both nourishment and spiritual healing for His people. Secondly, God offers judgment to those who live under His rule, but betray His good provision. This is akin to the kind hospitality of a family towards a poor single in the youth group, only to find out later that he has robbed the family gold and has abandoned the city. In this sense, God has no other way of treating the infidel, but to pursue and punish him in the most severe fashion.

The modern concept of “God is love,” is replaced by the Scriptural language of God’s faithfulness and condemnation. God is faithful to His people to the extent of the faithfulness of the people to Him. To give an example of this concept (which can be very easily distorted), let me suggest that one is not kept in God’s covenant by earning or by achieving a human condition not attainable in this life (perfectionism), but rather he remains in the covenant by the daily sustenance of God. Here is where it is helpful to employ the language of temporary blessing and eternal blessing.

Covenant members are destined to either eternal or temporary blessings; the answer to this either/or question lies in the faithfulness of the member to accept or to reject the promise of daily spiritual provision.

In summary, covenant members are destined to all goods in their spiritual lives (Hebrews 6), but by rejecting God’s gracious provision they spit in the face of God. God, on the other hand, will not be mocked and applies the results of covenant breaking to the traitor. It is here where we realize that God’s commitment to His people as King is a faithful one. God will be mocked, but behold the mockery of God turns against the unworthy member in a destructive manner. Hence, God’s dealing with covenant breakers is harmful. God may be mocked temporarily, only so that the one who mocks may in the end see that the joke was on him.

The Hypothetical Folly…

In contemporary discussions, the oft quoted passage of Hebrews six has been much debated. Contrary to common assumptions about the primary interpretation of this disputed passage, the Reformed tradition has not commonly assumed it as a hypothetical scenario. Rather, the falling away from the covenant is a present reality; in other words, the danger of apostasy is a real one. Rev. Doug Wilson has pointed out several times that the falling away from the covenant (this is the constant language in Galatians and in Hebrews) is a necessary reality. As I John 2:19 indicates, there is a true departure from the covenant community; an abandonment of the true God. Once they trusted and now they no longer do. They are even called the sons of God and they have faith in Christ, but they are “sons of God” for a temporal period (see Galatians 3) and their faith vanishes as if they had never possessed it.

Richard Pratt has pointed out that the liturgical language of the Confession and of the Sacraments demonstrate that those who possess Covenant membership are safe and not safe at the same time. In fact, I would add that those who betray the covenant are in danger of greater judgment than an atheist. It truly is a dangerous thing to fall under the wrath of an angry God.

Peter Leithart on Justification

I have thoroughly enjoyed Peter Leithart’s blog the last few months. He has been by far my favorite sacramental theologian. Here are his thoughts on justification:

Justification is not the end of a story, but the beginning.

Consider Noah, who was righteous in his generations, and who was seen/judged righteous before Yahweh.

To be justified is to be distinguished from the wicked generation.
To be justified is to be preserved when the judgment falls.
To be justified is to be set up on Mount Ararat to offer thank offerings.
To be justified is to be renewed in the Adamic commission, to enter a new creation to rule and subdue it.

Justification is not the end of a story, but the beginning. And the story is the story of new creation.