Federal Vision vs Arminianism?

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Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
I just watched a video on Doug Wilson trying to understand why there is so much controversy with him and what exactly Federal Vision is, the brief explanation of his view on Christians who fall away, left me confused on how this is any different than what Arminians believe on this issue.

I understand that he differs with the Arminian on how we are saved but the issue was on how we remain saved. While I disagree with what I heard, and believe that our salvation is not dependant on our "covenant faithfulness", I didn't see how this is considered heresy anymore than the Arminians view.

Can someone help me understand what exactly is the difference with Doug Wilsons view and the Arminian's? I have also seen so many differing views on him over the years that I've basically just avoided him. Some say he is great while others say he should be avoided, but if this is the main issue people have with him I don't see why he ought to be considered a heretic.

I appreciate any light shed on the matter.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I just watched a video on Doug Wilson trying to understand why there is so much controversy with him and what exactly Federal Vision is, the brief explanation of his view on Christians who fall away, left me confused on how this is any different than what Arminians believe on this issue.

I understand that he differs with the Arminian on how we are saved but the issue was on how we remain saved. While I disagree with what I heard, and believe that our salvation is not dependant on our "covenant faithfulness", I didn't see how this is considered heresy anymore than the Arminians view.

Can someone help me understand what exactly is the difference with Doug Wilsons view and the Arminian's? I have also seen so many differing views on him over the years that I've basically just avoided him. Some say he is great while others say he should be avoided, but if this is the main issue people have with him I don't see why he ought to be considered a heretic.

I appreciate any light shed on the matter.
I'd say he is closer to Lutherans than anything else, I could be wrong though. Although they (Lutherans) wouldn't like the language of "covenant faithfulness". The whole thing is confusing on the technical level. First the objectivity of the covenant makes baptism something ontologically real for both believer and unbeliever but only efficacious for the decreatally elect.
I dont think that Armenians have such a view of the sacraments. Its true both believe in ultimate or some sort of ontological apostasy, the person was truly saved but fell away, but once you include election the difference is extreme. Confessional Lutherans don't believe in election by foreknowledge of who would believe, Armenians generally do.
As far as covenant faithfulness goes, do Armenians have an explicit covenant theology? Doug Wilson got that language from Norman Shepherd and I don't think Lutherans would agree and I don't know if covenant plays a role in Armenian theology.
All in all there are similarities between FV and Lutherans and Armenians but they are different sets of animals altogether. Like I said on the technical level there are huge differences between all.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
From what I've read of Wilson he believes in divine election to salvation like any Presbyterian. He does not as I understand it believe one can be truly justified then fall away. He does however believe that something is conferred in baptism, and that thing may be lost. His views of baptism and what it does are where I see him differing more than anything from standard Presbyterian views.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
From what I've read of Wilson he believes in divine election to salvation like any Presbyterian. He does not as I understand it believe one can be truly justified then fall away. He does however believe that something is conferred in baptism, and that thing may be lost. His views of baptism and what it does are where I see him differing more than anything from standard Presbyterian views.
Fair enough but I think the problem is your using traditional understandings of these terms and assuming Doug Wilson means the same. He doesn't. He does, as well as baptism, believe something is conferred by church membership alone (ontological election of a different sort than decreatal election). Thats the rub, what do non-decrealtal elect ontologically have by virtue of baptism and church membership, and can fall away forever? You can substitute spiritually for ontologically, it probably makes more sense on further reflection (but I like philosophical terms).
The issue is not what he affirms on elect perseverance, its also what he affirms on non elect church members. Read "Reformed is not Enough" if you are curious where I get this from.
Also covenant faithfulness and Norman Shepherd are not Reformed in relation to justification by faith alone. Justification by "faithfulness" alone is not confessional (look up Shepherd and listen to his talks on this, and read the book I mentioned).
You bring up good points and if I thought I was slandering a brother in Christ publicly, and I do believe he's a Christian, I would publicly repent. But I don't don't believe I'm wrong, and since he's publicly stated these things I am entitled to publicly disagree.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Wilson's famous for his "beware of cliffs sign in Kansas" line. In other words, he believes that the apostasy passages are real. If you apply that to the elect, we have problems.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here is an affirmation from Wilson on this point:
"It is not possible for those who are truly united to Christ to fall away. Only the elect are truly united to Christ, and none of the elect can fall away. There is such a thing as a connection to Christ that can be lost, but this is the connection to the visible church, the visible covenant, the external body of Christ. It is a genuine connection (see John 15 and Romans 11), but it is not the same efficacious union with Christ that the elect are given at regeneration. It is qualitatively different."
Now I'm quite aware of the accusation that Wilson talks out of both sides of his mouth, and I'm willing to entertain that possibility, but since this post was from 2019, not so long ago, I hope any allegedly contradictory material from his opponents would be that recent. If he wrote something less orthodox in "reformed is not enough" upwards of a decade ago and he said something orthodox in 2019, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. That just seems like the charitable way to approach him.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
If he wrote something less orthodox in "reformed is not enough" upwards of a decade ago and he said something orthodox in 2019, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. That just seems like the charitable way to approach him.
Might it not also be uncharitable to think that he would continue selling a book with which he now disagrees? The book in question remains available.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Wilson and others like him have a two-fold soteriology that is Calvinistic with regard to the decretally elect, and Arminian with regard to the non-decretally elect. Some (like Steve Wilkins) don't even have the Calvinistic side at all. Whether they are heretical has to do with how one defines heresy. I prefer the term "unconfessional," with regard to the WCF and the FV, or the 3FU and FV. Another accurate term would be "heterodox."

With regard to whether Wilson has changed in his views, it seems pretty clear that he hasn't changed a thing except he doesn't think his views should be labelled FV any more. I have not seen any retractions of previous viewpoints.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Might it not also be uncharitable to think that he would continue selling a book with which he now disagrees? The book in question remains available.
Not necessarily. Sometimes authors see their later work as clarifying or improving upon their earlier work in a complementary way. Van Til would be a good example of this. Defense of the Faith is in large part a clarifying of earlier works, and at times it appears to contradict them on important points (although not in the eyes of Van Til). Now of course if there were an absolutely radical shift between an author's early and late work which implied profound ethical disagreements it would be disingenuous to keep selling the earlier work. Like if a Rabbi converted to Christianity, we would expect him to stop selling his Halakhic works.
 

Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
Wilson and others like him have a two-fold soteriology that is Calvinistic with regard to the decretally elect, and Arminian with regard to the non-decretally elect. Some (like Steve Wilkins) don't even have the Calvinistic side at all. Whether they are heretical has to do with how one defines heresy. I prefer the term "unconfessional," with regard to the WCF and the FV, or the 3FU and FV. Another accurate term would be "heterodox."

With regard to whether Wilson has changed in his views, it seems pretty clear that he hasn't changed a thing except he doesn't think his views should be labelled FV any more. I have not seen any retractions of previous viewpoints.
What is decretally/non-decretally elect?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
What is decretally/non-decretally elect?
Some FV guys think that if a believer is elect according to God's decree, their salvation is the unbreakable golden chain of Romans 8. These same guys will also say, though, that a person could be elected to the covenant (understood in an overly externalized sense), not according to the decree, and thus their salvation is losable.
 

Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
Some FV guys think that if a believer is elect according to God's decree, their salvation is the unbreakable golden chain of Romans 8. These same guys will also say, though, that a person could be elected to the covenant (understood in an overly externalized sense), not according to the decree, and thus their salvation is losable.
Interesting, how does the election come about if not by decree? And so if it is ‘losable’, it is also able to be kept by “covenant faithfulness” rather than by God keeping them?
 
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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Here is an affirmation from Wilson on this point:
"It is not possible for those who are truly united to Christ to fall away. Only the elect are truly united to Christ, and none of the elect can fall away. There is such a thing as a connection to Christ that can be lost, but this is the connection to the visible church, the visible covenant, the external body of Christ. It is a genuine connection (see John 15 and Romans 11), but it is not the same efficacious union with Christ that the elect are given at regeneration. It is qualitatively different."
Now I'm quite aware of the accusation that Wilson talks out of both sides of his mouth, and I'm willing to entertain that possibility, but since this post was from 2019, not so long ago, I hope any allegedly contradictory material from his opponents would be that recent. If he wrote something less orthodox in "reformed is not enough" upwards of a decade ago and he said something orthodox in 2019, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. That just seems like the charitable way to approach him.
I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt but when someone (Wilson) is connected to something (FV) that has been shown time and again to speak out "both sides of their mouth", it is only natural to be suspicious. Has he ever recanted of his earlier views or the "Joint Declaration on The Federal Vision"?
No, he has to my knowledge (I could be wrong), never done that. Plus in your quote he uses the term "election" exactly the way I said he did. The devils in the details with him. What do you mean by these things? Isn't this also based on your "objetivety of the covenant" idea?
I think those are two good reasons to warrant a suspicious belief that he's changed all that much, except he doesn't publicly identify with the term FV. Also the circumstantial evidence is curious in itself, his church is part of a demonation he helped found as a haven for FV.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Wilson's famous for his "beware of cliffs sign in Kansas" line. In other words, he believes that the apostasy passages are real. If you apply that to the elect, we have problems.
As a life long Kansan I’ll confirm there are cliffs here. :)
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Some FV guys think that if a believer is elect according to God's decree, their salvation is the unbreakable golden chain of Romans 8. These same guys will also say, though, that a person could be elected to the covenant (understood in an overly externalized sense), not according to the decree, and thus their salvation is losable.
I think we could all agree that everything, including covenant membership, is done according to God's decree, and that election is simply God's decree as it concerns salvation. That's an old patristic saying that filtered down into many reformed writers. So what is the substantial difference is saying one was decreed versus elected to covenant membership? It's outside of the scope of the historical usage of the word "election" to use it to refer to such, but setting controversies over vocabulary aside, what is the substantial disagreement here?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm not a big fan of the FV theology because of differences on sacramentology and ecclesiology, and because I'm not a Van Tilian theonomist, but I just don't see what the issue is on this point.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I'm not a big fan of the FV theology because of differences on sacramentology and ecclesiology, and because I'm not a Van Tilian theonomist, but I just don't see what the issue is on this point.

A lot of the early talk from Federal Vision sounded word-for-word from the Remonstrances. They then started saying, "But we've always affirmed Westminster." It's really hard to pin them down on one point. Unlike Paul, there message was always "Yes" and "No."
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Interesting, how does the election come about if not by decree? And so if it is ‘losable’, it is also able to be kept by “covenant faithfulness” rather than by God keeping them?
I think we could all agree that everything, including covenant membership, is done according to God's decree, and that election is simply God's decree as it concerns salvation. That's an old patristic saying that filtered down into many reformed writers. So what is the substantial difference is saying one was decreed versus elected to covenant membership? It's outside of the scope of the historical usage of the word "election" to use it to refer to such, but setting controversies over vocabulary aside, what is the substantial disagreement here?
Covenantal election (for the FV'ers) is roughly parallel in concept to the national election of Israel as a nation. It is a corporate thing. They would agree that it happens by God's decree, but that the part of the decree in operation is not that concerning salvation, but rather the church.
 
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