Federal Vision Musings

Although my sympathies lie with the FV folks (mostly because I don’t actually know the guys on the other side of the debate), I can’t claim to be an expert in the controversy. I’m still learning too much! However, one book I’ve found quite helpful in working through these issues is Leonard J. Vander Zee’s Christ, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

I was struck at how FV he sounded, even though Wilson, Wilkins, and Lusk don’t show up anywhere in the footnotes. The only suspect listed is Leithart, but the rest of the sources are top-notch scholars.

Vander Zee writes: “If we don’t really know what baptism is we don’t really know what the church is either. It seems to me that we will not recover a solid ecclesiology until we recover a solid biblical understanding of baptism, which is our incorporation into the body of Christ,” (112). Although the FV debate is stirring up a lot of dust (maybe too much dust), it’s an important debate to have. Justification is central to biblical Christianity, but so is baptism.

Vander Zee also stresses the visibility of the Church, and cautions us against making too much of the visible/invisible Church distinction (112).

I found this a powerful statement of what baptism does: “Baptism unites us, by water and Spirit, into the body of Christ that is both visible and invisible, local and universal, at the same time. We presume that all who are baptized are spiritually united with Christ unless and until they, by their unbelief and unrepentant sinfulness, show themselves otherwise to the very end of their lives. Finally, this is judgment only God can make,” (113).

Although I’ve quoted only a few tidbits from two pages, Vander Zee is a wise voice from outside the Reformed ghetto (a pastor in the CRC), and reading his irenic study might help some folks to calm down and work through these issues carefully.

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