Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Declaration #2: Election

The second declaration of the PCA's Federal Vision Report states:
"The view that an individual is 'elect' by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this 'election' includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his 'election' if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards."
The view the committee has in mind is represented by PCA pastor Steve Wilkins who, after arguing that all who have been baptized are elect and in covenant with God, writes:
"The elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. If they later reject the Savior, they are no longer elect - they are cut off from the Elect One and thus, lose their elect standing.... All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ. If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation than Sodom and Gomorrah" ("Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation" in The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons, 261, 263).
To his credit, Wilkins saves us hassle of citing the Westminster Standards for the purpose of comparative analysis by admitting that Federal Visionists, following Scripture, "seem to use the terms 'covenant,' elect,' and 'regeneration' in a different way than the Westminster Confession uses them" (Ibid., 268).

By obliterating the traditional Reformed and confessional distinction between the visible and invisible church, and by allowing covenant to swallow election whole, the Federal Vision fails to provide the (much-needed) antidote to revivalism that they originally sought to give us.

Instead, we are left with an arrangement, begun by baptism and completed by Spirit-wrought covenant faithfulness, according to which we can gain such saving benefits as election, regeneration, and vital union with Christ, only to potentially lose them on the last day.

In short, we are left with an arrangement that, though not completely Pelagian, isn't truly Pauline either.