Last time, I ruminated a little about FV (“covenant moralism”) as QIRC in RRC.  This time, I have some thoughts about FV as IQaRC; rather than a Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty, an Illegitimate Quest against Religious Certainty.

What is FV, in 3 words or less?  Overreaction to antinomianism.  I’m sure every Federal Visionista would agree at least that FV is a reaction to antinomianism, and of course, their critics judge them to be over-reacting.  Clark (at his most charitable) attributes the FV crisis to “a sincere but misguided desire to produce sanctity among God’s people.”

What does the FV see when they look at today’s Reformed church that gets them so upset?  It is Religious Certainty.  Easy-Believism.  People too assured of their own election.  “Don’t try to peek under God’s skirts,” they exclaim, “The secret things belong to the Lord.”  So all things decretal are pushed behind a curtain, as they are ethereal, unknowable, and lead to navel-gazing and morbid introspection.  While admitting to decretal truths if pressed, they assert that God intends for us think “concretely,” so they trot out parallel, lesser, “covenantal” analogues to decretal concepts: defectible election, temporary union, conditional assurance, etc.  Focus on unconditional election, irresistable grace, and infallible assurance are dangerous (they tell us); it is Illegitimate to Quest for such Religious Certainty.  But the lesser analogues are concrete and knowable; therefore, they become Religious Certainties for which we may Legitimately Quest.  Using the lesser analogues, pastors can confidently comfort their sheep by preaching from the pulpit that every butt in the pews is definitely elect (“covenantally”, but you better not mess that up!) — that every baptized Christian has assurance (that God will be faithful to his end of the bargain of redemption, as long as you remain faithful on your end).

So the question boils down to whether it is Legitimate to Quest for infallible assurance of decretal election.  Peter Kreeft (by way of OHS JJS) makes a similar point, that “Otherworldliness is escapism only if there is no other world. If there is, it is worldliness that is escapism.”  In the same way, questing for infallible assurance of decretal election is QIRC only if there can exist no such assurance.  If there can, it is the FV that is illegitimate.

However, my intention here is not to settle that question (obviously I believe there is plenty of biblical and confessional support, but this post is long enough.  Greenbaggins does a good job here).  My intention is simply to note the curious way in which the FV Quests for Illegitimate Religious Certainty when it comes to the tension between justification and sanctification, but Illegitimately Quests against Legitimate Religious Certainty when it comes to infallible assurance of decretal election.  To top it all off, FV demonstrates in the end that they really do want to Quest for Religious Certainty after all — they want it so bad that they suck the meaning out of the terms ‘assurance’ and ‘election’, until they are sufficiently Uncertain that the FV no longer feels Illegitmate in Religiously Questing for them.

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6 Responses to FV as IQaRC

  1. Pingback: The FV as QIRC « Heidelblog

  2. Zrim says:

    I tend to think so much of this turns on how one understands “infallible assurance” and “absolute certainty.” It seems to me that FV hears the latter when the former is uttered.

    Yet this quest after infallible assurance of decretal election causes me some consternation; peering into election just seems less like navel gazing and more like looking into the sun. Looking to anything but Christ just seems misguided.

    For better or worse I think of the traveler analogy: someone who has never been to Rome is departing for his first trip. Up to this point, his only ground for believing Rome exists has been sight-unseen. All of a sudden, at some point along the way, he thinks he has to begin inspecting the plane (faith) to make sure all is in order. He becomes highly agitated at all the people in the seats (pews) seem “so assured” they’ll land in this place called Rome. Look at them, eating their snacks (communion) and tending their children (fellowship) and looking at their itineraries (scripture), as if everything is going to work out.

    FV just seems like the misguided pilgrim who fundamentally miscontrues what it is to have assurance that he will arrive at a place never seen.

  3. Good synopsis of the FV. That is an excellent point made by Clark.

  4. RubeRad says:

    Thx for dropping in, Robbie.

    Interesting analogy, Z. Is there any particular reason they’re travelling to Rome, instead of, I don’t know, Geneva? Or Maui? And I wonder what could be baptism — the security screening?

  5. Zrim says:

    I pick Rome only because my hygenist just showed me pictures of her honeymoon to Rome and Greece, and a co-worker just got back from her annual trip. It reminded me that “I want to go to there.” Scotland is my first pick though. I’ll leave it to others to make sacred jokes about my secular travel yearnings.

    Sure, baptism = screening. Our friend can’t stand that everybody just seems to assume the all clear by the rent-a-cop means they’re actually all clear; look at them, putting their shoes on and fastening their belts and strolling to point B, like everything is just dandy, don’t they realize they could’ve not tied their shoe right and trip at some point? I’d hate to travel with a FVer. He’s so neurotic.

  6. Pingback: Presbyterian Sociology, part I | The Confessional Outhouse

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