Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Mitred Ones have spoken!

Contra mundum is a nice slogan if you can get it. I have been watching some of the internet discussion in the aftermath of the PCA decision at GA, and I decided I needed to say a little something about the following argument: "All these venerable alphabet combinations have condemned the Federal Vision -- URC, OPC, RPCNA, PCA, GM, NATO, and countless others -- and still you guys whine and complain. What makes you think that the entire world has failed to comprehend what you guys are saying? Hey?"

The use of this argument, with virtually no self-awareness at all, is actually an argument in favor of another observation I have made about all this. Those who go by the nickname TR are actually curators of the Reformed mausoleum, and not scholars in the Reformed tradition. The way we can tell this is that -- in defense of keeping the marble floors of their mausoleum polished and shiny -- they deploy Eck's argument against Luther. Their blood stirs when they hear the story about Athanasius saying that he was contra mundum because they really like that kind of thing when is it behind glass in the museum of church history. But when someone actually stands up against the living and breathing ecclesiastical Mitred Ones, they haul this argument out as shamelessly as a theologian who thinks he is supposed to have an infallible magisterium. And they do this against people who they say are trying to "lead them to down the road Rome." But how can you lead people to Rome when they are already there?
Posted by Douglas Wilson


What are we to make of Wilson’s charge?

It’s true that an appeal to consensus is not, in and of itself, a valid argument. However, it can be valid when answering an opponent on his own grounds.

1.The FV faction has been complaining that it was misunderstood. But this complaint loses credibility if the FV has been condemned by just about every Reformed seminary and denomination of note. Have all the critics of the FV (and NPP) misunderstood the FV? Including Reformed academics?

2.Also, the parallel with Reformation is disanalogous at this point, for Rome rightly discerned that there was a genuine conflict between Protestant theology and the Catholic status quo. The conflict with Rome was not the result of a big misunderstanding.

3.Likewise, the FV faction is also complaining about how the deck was stacked against them, as if that’s inherently unfair. But if the FV is overwhelmingly unpopular in most Reformed circles, then the deck was bound to be stacked against them.

There’s nothing inherently unfair about that. Denominations are free associations. Confessional denominations are composed of like-minded members. If you’re out of step with the overwhelming consensus of opinion, then you don’t belong in that denomination.

Put another way, you’re not in the same game. You can’t play bridge at a poker table.

4.As I’ve said before, the FV faction also talks up ecclesiastical authority. So it’s the FV faction that used to invoke the “ecclesiastical Mitred Ones”—until it ended up on the losing side of ecclesiastical authority.

So Wilson and his like-minded cohorts find themselves in quite a predicament.

On the one hand, they can’t very well invoke ecclesiastical authority, for the FV has been censured by ecclesiastical authority.

On the other hand, they can’t very well fall back on a populist appeal, for the FV is deeply unpopular among the rank and file.


  1. Again, I am glad that the PCA condemned the FV as against the Westminster Standards. But the ultimate question is, do we consider these men heretics? I am confused.

    For example, page 2203, lines 13 and 14, of the report, says that "the committee also affirms that we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ."

    I am confused by this. These men are outright denying justification by faith alone.

    Are we no longer saying, then, that justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls?

  2. Good points, and no kidding. I haven't seen so much crying and complaining since... since... well, since MacArthur told the truth about some Calvinism and Bible prophecy.

    (Oh, wait -- is this the wrong place to say that?)


  3. Somehow, I can't help but think that mocking one's theological opponents as "the mitred ones" and the "curators of the Reformed mausoleum" is not what Athanesius did or would have done.

    Instead Athenasius set forth a Scriptural defense of His doctrine, and persuaded the vast bulk of the visible church of His day.

    FV/AAT advocates seem to have a tough time even identifying their talking points, though they are consistent in claiming that they are misunderstood.

    I, myself, have attempted to provide a forum on my own web page where any proponent of FV/AAT can identify the FV/AAT distinctives positively.

    Otherwise, it looks like we have a few people complaining because a fuzzy theological innovation has not gained any significant amount of traction, and teeters on the edge of heresy.