This is from a Facebook post written by Hannah Oliver on October 30, 2018. May the Lord use it to help Christians exercise discernment and be equipped with the knowledge to spot a false gospel. If you have any questions you are welcome to email Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her on Facebook. We are Baptists, and this issue is mainly undermining Presbyterianism. We believe it is important to speak out when the gospel is under attack, and we believe it is important to defend the integrity of other believers. This was written out of love for Presbyterians, Jesus Christ, and the gospel that saves.
“What is Federal Vision and why do I believe it’s heresy?
Federal vision is many things. A major issue with Federal Vision is how they view baptism and the nature of the church.
To give a clear understanding I will explain orthodox Presbyterian position and Federal Vision.
Presbyterians believe that baptism is the sign and the seal of the covenant. Just as a hospital sign points to the hospital, the sign itself is not the hospital. And just as a seal on a diploma authenticates the diploma, it is not the diploma. It points to the covenant, but doesn’t guarantee the covenant reality – which is namely regeneration and being united to Christ. Presbyterians believe in the mixed nature of the church. Invisible and visible. All who are baptized are brought into the visible physical church, but it’s maintained that not all are saved, and not all will be saved. Baptism is not an empty sign. It is believed to be a means of grace and will benefit those who do come to faith. It never benefits the unregenerate. They hold to a robust understanding of justification by faith, and baptism is not viewed as regenerative.
Federal Vision (FV) is the belief that baptism formally UNITES a child to Christ. This language is incredibly important to understand and it is not a reformed orthodox belief. When a child is baptized they are treated as though they are truly Christians (elect.) There are two types of election under this system. Decretally and historically. Decretally are all those who are truly elect. Historically are all those who have been baptized. They have something called the objectivity of the covenant. Which means they blur the distinction between the invisible and visible church. As a result all are viewed as partaking in the invisible reality before there is proof of regeneration. There is a real apostasy in this system. Children are raised to “remember their baptism” and are told they are in Christ and to partake of all his benefits. This includes communion. They are told to remain in covenant faithfulness to prove they are decretally elect. The system now becomes one of works based salvation because the responsibility falls on the child to prove they are actually saved. Those who fall away literally fall into apostasy. Because they are viewed as truly elect if they were baptized. They assert they don’t know who the decretally elect are, but because of the objectivity of the covenant everyone is viewed as decretally elect.
This system has the implications of baptismal regeneration, a rejection of justification of faith, and teaches a final justification on judgement for those who kept in covenant faithfulness. A rejection of the core of the gospel is heresy, and therefore I won’t tolerate it. FV also rejects P and U in TULIP, and therefore is not even close to reformed.”
The language I use comes from conversations that I have had with Federal Vision proponents. To summarize, Federal Vision essentially conflates sanctification with justification. As well as, conflates faithfulness with faith.
The gospel is not faithfulness to the covenant. The gospel is Jesus Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. It is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness applied to us by faith. Christ’s righteousness, Christ’s faithfulness, Christ’s accomplished work. Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9) and it is not a product of our own doing. The gospel is a free gift. We are justified on the basis of Christ alone. Federal Vision distorts the gospel because it turns the gospel into something that we keep. Obedience, faithfulness, and our good fruit become the litmus test if one is actually elect. Federal Vision does not trust in what Christ accomplished, it does not trust in the subjective grace of God to save. Federal Vision relies on a misunderstanding of the promises “belonging to you and your children” and make the mistake of believing that their children are decretally elect (truly elect people of God.)
I did not write this to stir contention within the body of Christ. I wrote it for the edification of the body. My prayer is that it will help to clear up any misunderstanding or confusion on this complicated issue. This is not an exhaustive treatment of Federal Vision. Federal Vision is so much more than this. My encouragement is to read Dewey Roberts book on the subject, and I will add further resources to aid in your study if you choose to pursue this further.
I have studied this at length, and I am careful to express my words in a way that are truthful. I have been careful not to misrepresent, and Presbyterians have expressed that I have explained Presbyterianism accurately. Please test for yourself what has been shared. This is not a subject in which I will debate, but I will answer sincere questions. All Glory to God. – Hannah Oliver
Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision: A Theological Analysis and Practical Evaluation by Dewey Roberts