Posted by: reformedmusings | August 2, 2007

Joint Federal Vision Statement Analysis – Part 4

Green Baggins has made some excellent comments in his Christians in Society post, and Jason Stellman’s The Federal Vision and Global Christianity is also good. Dr. R. Scott Clark posted a masterful analysis of the FV Statement (4): Politics. I cannot improve on these comments, especially Dr. Clark’s, so will content myself with practical applications of this “Christendom” theology that we can see today.

The Joint Federal Vision Statement says:

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.

First, what is Christendom? According to Miriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, it is:

the part of the world in which Christianity prevails

Sounds simple enough. Note what it isn’t, though. Christendom is not purely inhabited by Christians, i.e., 100% Christian. It is simply where “Christianity prevails.” Who could be against that? Shouldn’t Jesus be the Lord of our lives? Absolutely. Shouldn’t we live out our faith in all areas of our life? Of course, but like I said about post-millennialism (which is an acceptable position in the PCA) at the end of my previous post, the concept isn’t the problem, it where you take it. Should we evangelize the world? Absolutely. Should we rule the world? I think that’s an entirely different question and not a wise goal.
To establish a “global Christendom” as Federal Vision applies post-millennialism sounds a bit like a triumphal theonomic empire on earth. I don’t say this lightly. I’m simply following the thought trend in the joint statement’s opening. First, the statement opens with a statement on the Trinity that, when analyzed in the light of previous FV writings, provides a theological basis for their granting (temporarily) some of the saving graces to the reprobate in the visible church through an “objective covenant.” Then the statement moves on to a version of post-millennial eschatology that, when read in light of their theonomic background and writings, provides an earthly promise and reward for the visible church through its “covenant faithfulness.” It all flows, but doesn’t end there.

Last time I said that Federal Vision was basically theonomy without the politics, combined with elements of the New Perspective on Paul. In the Christendom section being considered, the politics of theonomy has crept back in. While that sounds like I missed something in my previous statement, I was merely covering those in the Federal Vision who don’t buy the political aspects. Some (none of whom signed the statement) have been explicit in blog comments that they don’t buy into that. But certainly the Federal Vision leaders who signed the joint statement have made it clear in this paragraph that they do include the political aspect of theonomy with the goal of creating a global Christendom.

What is theonomy? That’s a complex question as there are different types, including Christian Reconstruction and Dominion Theology. I don’t want to misrepresent anyone or paint anyone with the wrong brush, so I’ll take the bird’s eye view here. In general, theonomy wishes to apply Old Testament case law to current civil law. You get a sense of this from Dr. Leithart’s description of a “chastened post-theonomist”:

“…someone who a) recognizes the hermeneutical complexities of applying the Old Testament law to modern societies, but b) still thinks that the church should make the effort to work out these applications.”

Let’s be clear that we aren’t talking about the moral law here as described in the Westminster Standards, e.g., WCF XIX.5. The Old Testament law mentioned by Federal Vision advocates and the Biblical Horizon’s mission statement is the civil case law of ancient Israel.

Here’s core flaw that I see here, if it isn’t already obvious: ancient Israel was a Theocracy in which God was their King and He provided divinely-inspired Prophets, Judges, and eventually some human Kings to administer His law in detail, though few did so perfectly. No such Theocracy exists today, nor will it until Christ returns according to Heb 1:1-2. Instead, today uninspired men would administer ancient Israel’s civil laws in the name of God.

If God was serious when He said that man’s heart is wicked and deceitful above all things (and I believe that He was and is), then how do you think putting uninspired men in charge of administering laws in God ‘s name and reserved for His Theocracy thousands of years ago will work out? You only have to look at the history of medieval Europe or today’s Middle East. The wise authors of our Westminster Standards understood this, clearly stating in WCF XIX.4 that these civil laws expired with the ancient state of Israel. Even the “chastened post-theonomist” seems to get the general flavor of this.

One Federal Vision example of this goal today is Steve Wilkins’ role as a founding director of the League of the South (FAQ), which actively works towards the old Confederacy’s secession from the Union to create a separate, theonomic country. Is this his idea of Christendom? To the best of my knowledge, he has never repudiated that founding role. I’ll post it here if he ever does. Note that Wilkins signed the joint statement.

But he’s not alone. Together with another FV leader who signed the joint statement, they wrote and published Southern Slavery: As It Was which claimed that there was no problem with Christians owning slaves and that:

Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since. Whatever its failures, slavery produced in the South a degree of mutual affection between the races which will never be achieved through any federally-mandated efforts. (Page 18)

Will these actions and statements be exemplars of Federal Vision’s Next Christendom?

Again to ensure that I did not misrepresent anyone, I gave both of these men the opportunity to repudiate this publication, but neither have done so in the last few months even though they have been aware of the opportunity.

If you need more, Google is your friend. These kinds of things are what theonomy and its progeny, the post-millennial, global Christendom-seeking Federal Vision, can produce when taken to their logical conclusions in the hands of fallible men. Ideas have consequences, and Jesus warned us that we’d know a tree by its fruit. I recommend taking a very careful look at what’s in the Federal Vision produce isle. That fruit has a history that didn’t just start with the Joint Federal Vision Statement.

UPDATE (8/4/07):

I have received private correspondence which calls into question my presentation of Wilkins’ and Wilson’s booklet Southern Slavery: As It Was (html version here). I was accused of misrepresenting their views. By all means, I encourage anyone with questions about the context to read the entire document. That’s why I have provid the link every time I mention it. The specific quotes that I’ve used on this blog come from the section called “Unexpected Blessings” at the end of the document (page 18). Judge for yourself if the quotes used on this blog are out of context. My quote above is virtually the entire paragraph in the booklet. All the facts as stated above and in other posts here are ALL verifiable on the Internet. Google is your friend.

I was also criticized for either not reading or mentioning a follow-on book that Wilson wrote called Black and Tan. Thanks to a friend here locally, I have read the book. This book is a collection of essays and/or blog posts and includes the bulk of Southern Slavery in one chapter, with one exception that I’ll mention below. The book merely fleshes out the shorter document, adding greater detail in some areas, as well as adding a few new areas of argumentation. In addition to including the bulk of the pamphlet in one chapter, the book also spends one dedicated chapter explicitly defending the earlier pamphlet and and an additional chapter handling additional objections. The book also briefly mentions Wilkins’ role in the League of the South (FAQ), in case anyone thinks that I made that up as well.

The tone of the book is a bit softer than the pamphlet, although the content is generally the same. To be clear, Wilson’s underlying treatise is that the US Civil was was an abomination (aren’t all wars in the general sense?) and slavery would have eventually been abolished eventually without the Civil War. Given the tremendous economic power of the slave market and its importance in undergirding southern agriculture of its customers, I personally doubt that very much. As part of vilifying the US Civil War, he also cites the outcome of the as contributing to Row v. Wade and legalized abortion. But he still says:

Was slave ownership malum in se, an evil in itself? The answer to that question, for anyone who believes the Bible, is that it was possible for a godly man to own slaves, provided he treated them exactly as the Scripture required. In a sinful world, slave ownership generally is sinful, and it is a system that invites abuse. Over time the gospel will overthrow all forms of slavery. (page 68)

So according to Wilson and Wilkins, two prominent leaders of the Federal Vision, it is possible for a Christian to own slaves, though the gospel will eliminate the practice in time if we are patient. I guess that’s easy if you are a southern slave owner, but what about the slaves? But no consideration for the suffering wrought in the thousands of years while waiting as we let go and let God?

The one thing missing from the book is the “Unexpected Blessings” section of the earlier booklet. Although it is not included in the book, and although the booklet is actively defended in the book, the “Unexpected Blessings” section was not repudiated in the book, nor has it been on the Internet. And that’s my point.

So, the book does not mitigate the earlier booklet–the book actively defends the earlier booklet. And except for the one short section, the booklet is essentially included as a chapter in the book and then defended in a separate chapter. If you don’t believe me, read them both.

As for the totality of the argument, In my opinion both documents are apologetics that attempt to use the Bible to advance a political agenda. The reason that I mentioned them in this post that deals with the Joint Federal Vision Statement section on The Next Christendom should be clear enough to even casual observers. When FV leaders suggest establishing a global Christendom, we should look to their past works to see what they have in mind.

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