Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Federal Vision and the Proclamation of the Word

Another section in the Federal Vision's Joint Statement concerns "The Proclamation of the Word," in which the authors write:

"We deny... that translations [of biblical language into 'philosophical' or 'scholastic' language] are superior to or equal to the rhetoric employed by the Spirit in the text, and we believe that the employment of such hyper-specialized terminology in the regular teaching and preaching of the Church has the unfortunate effect of confusing the saints and of estranging them from contact with the biblical use of the same language. For this reason we reject the tendency to privilege the confessional and/or scholastic use of words and phrases over the way the same words and phrases are used in the Bible itself."
If there ever were a rejection of the need for systematic theology, this is it.

Here is my question: If Paul teaches that we are justified "apart from works," while James insists that Abraham was "justified by works," which is more "confusing": (1) Seeking to understand what these two authors meant by "justify" while denying that they simply contradict one another, the result being that what James had in mind was something more akin to vindication (Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, after all, happened some twenty years after he was accounted righteous), or (2) Refusing to capitulate to "scholastic, confessional categories" by biting the bullet and insisting, as Leithart does, that saints are justified by works "in whatever sense James meant it"?

I'm all for retaining biblical categories, but what the Federal Visionists seem to miss is the fact that various biblical authors use identical terms to denote different phenomena.

Pointing this out helps alleviate confusion, while refusing to do so under the guise of protecting us from "scholasticism" only perpetuates it.