Friday, June 22, 2007

Seeking charity and clarity

As many of you might be aware, the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and its PCA derivative, The Federal Vision (FV), have been getting much press in PCA circles of late. I must confess that little has so thoroughly intrigued me in recent years as this discussion. I have, separate from this discussion (and I believe, as a result of my journey away from the Baptist church) come to a very particular view of the covenant people of God (which has very corporate implications), a high view of the sacraments that rejects a merely memorial approach, and consequently a burning desire to approach the corporate worship of God by means of a seriously considered and theologically rich liturgy. As an American Christian in my 30s, I have also become convinced that the individualism of the West has driven us into a fatally introspective habit that has turned our attention away from the social aspects of the gospel (a tendency propelled along as a reaction against the theologically empty liberalism of the late 19th century). As a result the church has failed and, in large part, is failing, to meet its responsibilities as a community to communicate the gospel in more holistic ways than simply propositional proclamations of the gospel (ala Billy Graham). What does this have to do with NPP and FV? For those that are familiar with these views, you will instantly recognize my point. I find all the issues I have just enumerated present in the discussion that is taking place! Unfortunately, I find myself attracted more often to the appeals of the NPP and FV proponents. Why unfortunately? Because within my tradition (PCA and Southern Presbyterianism) the NPP and FV are quickly being branded heterodox at worst, and outside the bounds of our confession at best. These conclusions may yet prove to be true, and I am disturbed by some of the language I have encountered in both the NPP and FV polemics. Nonetheless, with polemics raging on both sides, I have found it difficult to wade through the issues and come to a charitable and yet truthful evaluation of the NPP and FV points of view.

In light of this, I offer up an introduction to the issues penned by one who is not in the slightest degree to be mistaken for an NPP or FV advocate. However, contrary to most of the writing I have encountered by "the orthodox" (such as the committee report which recommendations were approved last week at the PCA GA), this report (written in 2005 by Bryan Chapell) is very charitable and a wonderful introduction to the issues. It is not a stopping place, but it is a great place to begin. Simply click on the title of this post to open the pdf document. I highly commend it to anyone that still feels as though they are wallowing around trying to find SOMETHING to latch onto in this debate.


GUNNY said...

Though being a Baptist this is not a "hot" topic (we have our own in the SBC (e.g., beverage alcohol, tongues speaking, Calvinism, etc.)), this is a discussion I try to stay abreast of as well.

Speaking on behalf of the other 2 readers ... We'd love to hear your "perspective" on the New Perspective, etc.

I likes (not quite "loves") me some Doug Wilson and I can't help but feel he's been been dirty more than a few times in this whole brew-ha-ha.

P.S. I actually heard there was a 4th reader, but since his initials were "R.B." and he laments the punting of Baxter and he's bribing folks with "2 tickets to the gun show" as he tells them this blog "is good, I wanna be friends with it" ... 2 of us have suspicions that it is really Jay the Bennett trying to double dip.

Matt Bradley said...

Thanks I begin to work though all of it I'll post some thoughts on the blog here. I'm at the point now where it would be irresponsible to keep talking about this without reading what the FV guys have to say for themselves. So that's my next stop. I'd like to be able to summarize (from their own statements) all the aspects that differ from "traditional" reformed and Presbyterian theology. Then compare this to both Westminster (first) and then Scripture (ultimately).

Someone told me recently that those of us that leave the Baptist church are usually among those that move on to something else since we are so open-minded (this was said in the form of a warning). It was a good warning if politics and being liked by my peers is my goal. But I simply can't believe that the reformed church is always reforming if we are not allowed to think outside of the box.

GUNNY said...

Amen, brother. There's a temptation to us Reformed types to merely exchange one tradition for another, using the Semper Reformanda and Sola Scriptura bullets only once.

We have to be careful that we not merely move the capitol of our city from Rome to Geneva.