Saturday, December 29, 2007

12/29/07, Federal Vision's Fraudulent Revision of Reformed Worship

Some Necessary Background to the Current Federal Vision Assault on Justification By Faith Alone
(updated from 10/2/07)
While it is somewhat of an aside to the original reason for this website, it needs to be said that the relevant parties in the current Federal Vision controversy perturbing and disturbing contemporary P&R churches on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, previously had conducted a similar campaign and assault on the Regulative Principle of Worship
(RPW). Their deceitful modus operandi of distorting and misrepresenting a confessional position in order to supplant it with one of their own imagination hasn't changed. Unfortunately. Perhaps if the P&R churches had nipped things in the bud, things wouldn't have got to this stage, but the compromises on worship being what they were and still are in modern American P&R churches - though there has been some improvement - the FV got off easy on the RPW. Now they are back at it and serious about modifying the doctrine of justification by faith alone to fit their popish and judaizing style of worship.

What is the Reformed Faith? While Federal Vision already has been condemned in a number of P&R churches, discussions and dialogues are still taking place in hope supposedly of further clarifying and distinguishing what FV is all about. One such venue would be that on the De Regno Christi website moderated by various officers from the RPCNA and the OPC. Yet in all this, one, there seems to be a tendency to lose sight of the forest for the trees in all the FV blather which is part and parcel of the tactics of heretics to muddy the water, particularly as regards the clarity of Scripture on the question of justification. Two, there is a failure to mention the previous track record of more than a few of the FV proponents, which amounts to the application of the same type of blather to the reformed doctrine of worship. Since James Jordan in the DRC discussion seems to be recognized by other FV men - or at least Andrew Sandlin and nobody disagrees - as the godfather after Norm Shepherd of FV, if not that Jordan claims the title himself, two remarks of his are worthy of note. 

On the topic of (John) Frame's Creative Children of September 23rd, ‘07 Jordan tells us that:
. . . .there is a whole-life societal-political context in which theology is done, and that is the Reformed context, and it is the FV context. The Reformed faith is not the ordo salutis.
We at least can agree on the last. The Reformed faith is not the ordo salutis. Neither is the reformed faith restricted to the five points of Calvinism, with the doctrine of infant baptism and ruling elders thrown in to distinguish presbyterians from reformed baptists, and perhaps exclusive psalmody to boot, if we really are “truly reformed.” It is much more than that.

The Whole Counsel of God
What though, is still the question and Jordan’s answer, if it can be called that, here or elsewhere, as we shall see is less than persuasive. In that the reformed church is that which was re-formed out of the deformed romish church at the time of the Reformation on the basis of the infallible rule of Scripture alone - in doctrine, worship and government - the reformed faith confessed by that same church necessarily touches upon those topics. Otherwise it cannot conform to that whole counsel of God found in the Scriptures alone that Paul was so diligent to preach and teach upon the pain of death (Act 20:26,7). Even further, since Christ is not only the prophet, but also priest and king over his church, the worship and government of his church are not matters of adiaphora or indifference.

Eccl. 1:9
But that is all to say, some things never change. Jordan’s concluding comments regarding what the FV would like to leave behind in the Reformed Tradition - to put it in his terms - are not a misunderstanding, but rather an insult and one, we are tired of. If he cannot at least retire them, he ought to at least retire as a professedly reformed minister/teacher.
To be sure, examining the Reformed tradition we FVers also see errors that we wish to leave behind: Keeping children from the table; lack of enthusiastic dancelike hymnody and psalmody (i.e., returning to the Reformers in this area); lack of music instruments (returning to David); lack of festivals. The larger area we see is that intellectualistic tendency to see man as homo sapiens rather than homo adorans, and seeing the production of an “educated” clergy as more important than producing a clergy capable of playing cymbals and trumpets and leading in the kind of worship God likes. Which is why, we believe, God has moved most of His people into churches that, however poorly in execution, do worship Him with joy and vigor. But in fact, I myself wrote an entire book on this subject, interacting with Girardeau and others of the minimalist tradition. We have not ignored tradition. We have interacted with it constantly and at every point.

So, I would appreciate it if you’d [D Hart] get off this “FV does not respect Reformed tradition” dime, because it’s beginning to stop being a misunderstanding and to start being an insult.
There are any number of problems with these comments. One, we must know God, before we can worship him. There is not an antithesis between the two. The Greek altar to the unknown god is not an approved Scriptural example (Acts 17:24). Rather Paul calls it superstition. And if Jordan’s disingenuousness below on the reformed doctrine of worship is any indication, one might think him a champion for that old popish notion that ignorance is the mother of devotion. Two, we might also consider Jordan's comments a slur against a genuinely educated and reformed ministry as opposed to a charismatic karaoke worship leader. That he seems to consider modern American cotton-candy "contemporary Christian music" worship, that idolizes Amy Grant, if not Britney Spears, to be full of “joy and vigor” is telling, if not damning. Worse, that he can at this late date still consider his Liturgical Nestorianism and the Regulative Principle of Worship (1994, rev. 2000, LN&RPW) to have “interacted” with Girardeau and others of the “minimalist tradition” is either the height of arrogance or idiocy.

Previous Indiscretions
Yes, it is that bad. There are more than a few of the hoi polloi who in part make up the base rank and file of P&R churches that can remember beyond yesterday and are irritated and annoyed by all this FV jazz with its collegial dialogues and the fluid and ever shifting words, definitions and positions. Neither is it all sour grapes. What largely now calls itself the FV, first began by assaulting the reformed faith as it is distinguished in the doctrine and practice of the regulative principle of worship. That not only includes Mr. Jordan as represented in his LN&RPW (go here for previous reviews of this over wrought and over the top title, if not here regarding his offerings prior to it), but also Frame in his Worship In Spirit and Truth (1996), Schlissel’s “All I Know about Worship. . . I Don't Learn from the Regulative Principle ” (2002) and Leithart's From Silence to Song (2003).

As for Wilson, while he acknowledged John Knox's classic view of, if not "zeal" for the RPW in his biography of the reformer For Kirk and Covenant (2000, pp.162-4), that was then in ancient Scotland. This is now. (Knox's "Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry" is a classic in historical theology on the RPW and should have alone resolved the Lord MacKay schism in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1989.) He gave Frame’s title a positive review in Credenda Agenda (go here again for another review), welcomed Schlissel to his pulpit and publishes Leithart on Canon Press, as well as hires him to teach at New St. Andrews College.

For their part, Horne and Meyer have only piled on at least regarding holydays, but regardless, the modus operandi in all this has been the same. Distort, misrepresent and confuse the classic confessional and historic doctrine and then volunteer the ‘oh so convenient substitute whether for the RPW, or now for the doctrine of justification by faith alone. 

Ignorant of the Obvious
As per the standard operating procedure, the RPW in Jordan's LN&RPW is restricted to the explicit commands alone in the New Testament and no mention is made of good and necessary consequences or approved examples in Scripture: “The sect form of the Regulative Principle comes to the Bible with the pre-determined notion that God can direct us only by explicit commands. . . (p.10, emph. added)”. This straw man and half truth is then denigrated as ‘minimalist, dispensationalistic, and restrictive,’ if not also a “hangover of Medieval worship (pp.9,10,13,19,14 )”!? Specifically regarding Girardeau, LN&RPW is brash enough to state:
Girardeau begins by asserting that anything not expressly commanded for use in public worship is forbidden (p.31, emph. added).
The problem is the opening remarks in the first and last chapters of Girardeau’s Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (1888, rpt. 1983), to which Jordan is referring, explicitly state - with the italics in the original, the bold obviously added for emphasis - that:
A divine warrant is necessary for every element of doctrine, government and worship in the church; that is, whatsoever in these spheres is not commanded in the Scriptures, either expressly or by good and necessary consequences from their statements is forbidden (p.9).

The foregoing argument has proceeded principally by two steps. The first is: Whatsoever, in connection with the public worship of the church, is not commanded by Christ, either expressly or by good and necessary consequence, in His Word, is forbidden (p.200).
In other words, if Mr. Jordan is not a liar in LN&RPW, he is at the very least incompetent to the question. If he doesn’t trade on his audience’s ignorance in misrepresenting the historic confessional position on the Second Commandment found in the Westminster Confession 21:1, the Larger Catechism (Q&A 107-10) and the Shorter Catechism (Q&A 49-52) and substitute his theology lite version in its place, he at least does so regarding Girardeau’s orthodox doctrine of the RPW. On either count though, again the genuine RPW is but the good and necessary consequences (cf. West.Confession 1:6) of the Second Commandment as set forth in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. (Likewise the Heidelberg Catechism LD 35, Q&A 96,7. One may go here for Girardeau's application of it to musical instruments.)

Explicit Fundamentalists and the Second Commandment
Not only Jordan, but his FV companions in compromise are also guilty of this same ‘literal and dispensational’ - if not 'fundamentalist' - distortion of the confessional version of the RPW, no matter how loudly they accuse others of it. Essentially the RPW becomes: 'Only what God explicitly commands is allowed in worship. Only gross idol worship is forbidden in the Second Commandment.' That, or the RPW is divorced from the Second Commandment entirely.

Frame can only tell us that: "The second forbids the worship of any god (even the true God) by means of idols (WIS&T, p.38.)." Schlissel is a little more verbose saying:
The regulativist, however, answers by saying, “God’s will is that if He has not commanded a thing, it is forbidden.” But where does he find that in the Second Commandment? He does not. He has obviously first assumed it and then imposed it.

In fact, what the Second Command does—and this might be a shock to some—is to forbid idolatry and the use of images as representations of God or as objects of worship. Most humble readers of the Bible would conclude this without help (AINTK, V:5).
Leithart in an attempt we suppose, to outdo Jordan's Nestorianism, even terms the RPW "Marcionite," and further, does not mention the Second Commandment at all in his exposition of worship.
In the hands of at least some writers, the regulative principle is, in practice, hermeneutically wooden and theologically Marcionite. It is wooden because an explicit 'command' is required for every act of worship, and it is Marcionite because it ignores the abundant Old Testament liturgical instruction in favor of exegeting a few passages of the new (FSTS, pp.15,16).
But for all practical purposes, this is not what some, but essentially all reformed writers believe about or make the RPW into, according to Leithart. The only mention of Girardeau's title is where it surfaces briefly in a footnote on p.111 where he disputes Girardeau's statement that the worship of the synagogue is not typological. Again, there is no mention of the Second Commandment whatsoever in Leithart's FSTS or even that Girardeau's version of the RPW is a "photograph" of the confessional doctrine, rather than Leithart's "caricature (FSTS, p.101)" of it.

Another Commandment Honored in the Breach
Still, Jordan's LN&RPW and the previous efforts by these other FV proponents on worship necessarily break the Ninth Commandment on the Second Commandment, if not the RPW, in restricting New Testament worship to only what is literally or expressly commanded in Scripture. In other words, the Ninth Commandment only forbids false witness against thy neighbor. But not the reformed confessions and catechisms. Nor the Second Commandment. But that is exactly what is going on in the misguided zeal and enthusiasm for the “cymbals and trumpets” of the OT ceremonial/sacrificial worship and distortion/wilful ignorance of the Second Commandment and the RPW.

As a consequence, the FV comes to the table today in the discussion of the gospel doctrine of justification by faith alone with its competence, credibility and character already soiled by its previous prevarications about and practice of reformed worship. (Not that its tactics of confuse and obfuscate have changed at all when defending or promoting FV. Heresy loves ambiguities and equivocations.) The leprosy is spreading to other areas and Mr. Jordan himself after all, is the one who brings all this up now and boasts of it. As opposed to being made an offender for a word by others, he blithely assumes that the FV problems/position with the RPW have been vindicated and chides others about it. Yet until the pejorative misrepresentations and mischaracterizations of the reformed doctrine of worship are repented of and restitution made, those who largely make up the FV deserve no hearing and can play no part in any reformed dialogue or discussion, particularly on something as important as the doctrine of justification.

No Genuine Worship without True Faith
But Owen said it best, no matter that any NT specialist can ignore his extensive and thorough comments on justification in 1677 by narrowly focusing on the likes of Bultmann, Schweitzer, Dunn and Sanders. After all these are the experts NT Wright recommends in his popular theology lite book about What [I Say] St. Paul Really Said (1997) (but really didn’t). Owens' "The Doctrine of the Justification By Faith" in the standard edition of his collected writing is followed by a complementary title "Gospel Grounds and Evidences of the Faith of God’s Elect." In it, Owen says all false worship follows upon the ignorance, neglect or weariness in the exercise of faith (Works 5:437), if not that Paul says there are some who are ever learning, yet are never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 3:7). Having begun with worship, is it any wonder FV has now turned its guns on the doctrine of justification by faith alone? Hardly.

Rather the FV sympathizes with the New Perspective on Paul and its position on justification by faith alone, which substitutes some confused nonsense about “covenantal nomism” in its place contra the old perspective. It deceitfully adds a future judgement of works to faith alone justifying a sinner in clear opposition, if not out right contradiction, to the perspicuity/clarity of the Scriptures. The same teach an imputed forensic righteousness only merited by Christ’s life and death and which righteousness is appropriated by faith alone, however witnessed before man or God in works, that are only a fruit of that faith. All this as clearly - believe it or not - acknowledged in the reformed confessions. Yet we are reminded of the plastic way with words and equivocations that the Remonstrants were guilty of before and even at the Synod of Dordt to the point that they were finally read the riot act and told to leave, with the Synod then going on to condemn their doctrine and views. We unfortunately see nothing essentially different with the FV in its literature and dialogue such as is taking place at De Regno Christo or took place in the past on the regulative principle of worship.

A Carnal and External Faith and Worship
The FV insists on a carnal, visible, material, external church, covenant and baptism, as well as redefines justification to include a future judgement of works in order to be justified, along with the previous and continuing fascination with external worship; of "cymbals and trumpets”, festivals and feastdays, if not a carnal "joy and vigor". All these attributes are the par excellence of judaizing, if not popery, however much it is denied or sidestepped by the supposed FV appeal to Scripture over and against the confessions and the insinuations of ‘unbiblical’ confessional traditions. Again as regards worship, the FV chooses the OT ritual, rites and cult of the temple over and against the didactic preaching and teaching orientation of the synagogue that carries over into the NT worship of the church.

A Threefold Cord
For that matter, Girardeau in his Discretionary Power of the Church, also states in principle exactly what is going on with the FV on the gospel in light of its departure from the regulative principle of worship:
There is, moreover, such a divinely adjusted relation between the different departments of the church—between doctrine and government and worship; there is so nice and delicate an inter-action among them, that one cannot be injuriously affected without involving the suffering of the others. All history teaches this lesson. The contagion begun in one sphere is sure to spread by sympathy to the others, as the consumption of one organ of the body fatally implicates all the rest. A corpse anywhere in the church infects her whole atmosphere. A dead doctrine tends to paralyze a living polity and a living worship, and a dead worship infuses a poisoning virus into a living doctrine and a living polity.
Nor can we be indifferent to the fact illuminated by the experience of the church that false doctrine always tends to affiliate with a false polity and a false worship. In the struggles of the Church of Scotland, as Hetherington, her eloquent historian, graphically points out, Arminianism was almost always associated with Prelacy and a cumbrous ritual, and Calvinism with Presbytery and a simple worship. Introduce an unscriptural element into any department, and if unchecked it stamps, in the course of time, its depraving genius upon all the rest. Let us see to it that we guard the towers of government and worship on our outer walls, assured that if one of them be carried, the path is opened up before an irruptive and triumphant foe to the citadel of doctrine and the seat of life.
We do not know what Mr. Jordan would make of Girardeau's comments here other than perhaps misrepresenting them as completely as he did Girardeau's on the Second Commandment/RPW. Nevertheless, the doctrine, worship and government of Christ's reformed church makes up a threefold cord that is unraveled and renovated at its own risk, however much the FV thinks its innovations in worship and doctrine are rather the only way to save the church and restore its faithfulness to the Word of God and relevancy to the world.

The Federal Vision is Unjustified
All of it, of course, based on the FV’s recent and untried reading of the Scripture as opposed to the historic confessional reading. Still, if the FV can’t even tell us what the confessions and catechisms actually say, the FV comprehension of Scripture is also suspect to begin with. (Only a tyro and novice at this late date in historical theology would insist that James contradicts Paul in the book of Romans, rather than the classic reformed view that justification before men and justification before God are the respective concern and scope of the two books.) We know that is at least true regarding the RPW. That the FV cannot or will not even realize its presumptions and presuppositions in this ploy of pitting the Scripture against the confessions, further confirms its naivety and prejudices, however they are proudly proclaimed as a superior new biblical objectivity and insight. That alone should be enough to remind anyone, that there is none so blind as those that insist that they alone can see.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. John 9:40,41
May God have mercy on his church and deliver it from the new pharisees’ perspective and fraudulent version of justification, which is but the old popery and even older judaizers’ version of the NT gospel, which the FV would like to add as a complement to their revival of OT ceremonial worship. As such the FV is not a sectarian, but rather a heretical version of the gospel and consequently it is to be reprobated. The Bible alone tells us that salvation is by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ and his life and work culminating in the cross alone, to God alone be the glory.

See also the followup of 2/3/08, The Reformed Argument Against Musical Instruments in Public Worship

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