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Federal Vision and New Perspective Theology

By heath - Posted on 17 May 2006

I have recently read a theology paper that was really good. Basically it describes a current controversy in conservative Presbyterian circles. It is pretty technical, but I thought it was very helpful in understanding the controversy. It definitely encouraged me to keep reading about this issue.

I won't try to summarize it, but the controversy is about the meaning of justification and the practical issue of assurance of salvation. It is pretty heavy in terminology. If anyone out there wants to read it, and has questions. Feel free to post them. I'll answer them as I can.

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Thanks for posting this essay Heath. I read it as an outsider looking in the Presbyterian window (I had not read many of the primary works mentioned in regards to the perspectives cited among the FV and its critics). So with that disclaimer, I think you are right. It was a really good essay. The writer seemed to evaluate the matter fairly, and I appreciate his approach. I smiled when I read his emphasis on giving others the benefit of the doubt you would want if they were reading you. We wont get anywhere in understanding each other enough to love each other without it. I also liked his prayer at the end, and it fit what seems to be a genuine concern for the matter of most importance and resulted in his humility. At least from what I can tell from just this essay.

It is interesting how we stuggle on the boundaries of understanding. There must be a healthy balance of acknowledging limitations and learning what can be understood. It sounds like this controversy has been pretty prominent in the Presbyterian church. Has it had detrimental effects?

What stood out to you about the controversy?

I forgot to mention. Work must be better if you are having time to blog and read a little. Thanks good. :)

Work is better now. I don't know how long it will stay that way, but it will be good while it lasts.

I am impressed. That was a fairly heavy essay to weigh through with many terms peculiar to presbyterian and reformed theology. Have you studied covenant vs. dispensational theology very much?

I honestly don't know that much about this particular controversy. We were in France when it broke out, and know that there are cries of heresy, which is pretty serious in the PCA. I think the denomonation is looking into the issue, and I too am going to do more research.

I think the biggest criticism is related to the FV guys as "going catholic." I do think that Minich did a good job of show how this was not really a valid criticism. To a degree, I think the problem is one of vocabulary and perspective.

What stood out to me is the how the 2 perspectives of Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology are difficult at times to translate from one to the other. I do believe they may be for us unreconcilable and yet true (See the Room for God post). However, it is fruitful to explore both and push the limits of each to understand them as representing distict but true summaries of what is taught in scripture.

Right now, I tend to agree with the FV teaching, but I have not studied it thoroughly. In a sense, it sounds like what I beleived already. Having recently studied Galatians, I can see how both FV and the New Perspective fit with both Galatians and how they are compatible with traditional doctrinal usages of the text.

I hope that this paper will lead to mutual understanding. I admire Minich for taking seriously the theologian's job as a servant of the Church. This is what stood out most about the paper. It seemed to analyze both the issues involved in the controversy and the controversy itself with amazing clarity.

It took several chunks of time over 3 days or so reading and rereading parts of it to understand the writers analysis and how the terms were being used by each of the people he cited and how he was using them himself. I think if Minich hadnt boiled it down well and analyzed it fairly, it would have taken longer to get through it. I found myself refining what I understood of each viewpoint's terms of "salvation", "justification", "process" etc as I went along having to go back and read a sentence over with that understanding - which supports what you said that a lot of the problem is in the vocabulary and the perspective each person is framing their thoughts from.

I had read and thought some about covenant vs. dispensational theology but did some building onto and refining the starting point I had from that. I think you mentioned once that you think "top down" a lot, abstractly analysing principles and then applying them to the details and actually when reading this essay thats one of the approaches I took; understanding the particulars of viewpoints on the covenant theme by having an idea of the principle of a covenant concept and waving it as a magnet over the details of the controversy and what I knew of the Bible to get the form of its substance more clear.

Reading something like this helps define the boundaries of concepts like this and the particularities of the variety of takes people can have on it.

Ya, he did contrast and compare Systematic and Biblical theology paths pretty well. They are both human endeavors to understand Gods revelation which will have their own pitfalls and strengths and in some degree will run into the "puzzle" you mentioned in your "Room for God" post. Yup, they both offer their angles on it, like a microscope and a telescope, hopefully both looking at the same world just from different mechanisms.

I like how Minich helped bring people together on the terms trying to get past hurdles of "not being in the Reformed perspective" or "heresy" tendencies. Its good to be on guard for heresy, but conclusions probably should be reached cautiously.

I wonder how Minichs suggestion on the tendencies of the covenant theme will be recieved in the Reformed perspective (if I understand his point right). I think its a good insight, that I know I do myself sometimes, which is to take a prominent aspect of Gods relationship with us and overapply it: sacrifice for example, its in sacrifice God accepts us and sacrifice is what he desires from us but sacrifice isnt the concept that is applicable to every event or principle in the Bible.

Minichs analysis of the New Perspective on Paul seems to be on. Fear of reactions to the "real motivations" for accepting a distinction between the works of the law Paul is talking about and any type of work isnt a good motivation and lens to determine its legitimacy and extent.

What did you already believe about Paul's theology in regards to Galations?

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