I recently had the pleasure of reading some of Douglas Wilson's materials, including his title which got him into a bit of trouble: 'Reformed' is Not Enough - Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant.
In essence the book is an attempt at explaining what is now called the "Federal Vision"(hereafter FV) and defend the position Scripturally and confessionally. I'm not sure who coined the term "Federal Vision" but it's been applied and I think the label has stuck.
To summarize the federal vision - The main thrust is a call to view the covenant not from a subjective (do you believe?) to an objective one (have you been baptized?). This allows ministers to "speak God's Word to God's people," and effectively answer the tough (Calvinist) question of "who can we actually say 'Jesus loves you' to?" Essentially the answer that Wilson gives is, "you can say it to anyone who has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Basically, echoing the exhortation that, "You are, so be."
The first part of the book is an effort to lay out the Calvinistic, Reformed, and Evangelical assumptions that are held throughout the book. Since Wilson has been accused of rejecting some distinctivenesses(like Justification by Faith alone, or the sovereignty of God in election), he takes some effort to be clear about what he does believe and does reject.
The second half of the book is laying out what the whole issue is, and the center of it is an attempt to basically show from Scripture and the Westminster Confession that the FV is entirely within Scriptural bounds.
The last part of the book is a, "now what?" section, discussing the ramifications of FV, the answers that it allows, as well as answering the difficult question of, "then what of assurance?"
Well, in short, I thought this was a fabulous book. He lays out his argument clearly and consistently, and as far as I can see, defends it Scripturally. He doesn't actually hold to what a lot of people are saying that he holds to (like baptismal regeneration or covenant keeping = faith). I hope a lot of his critics would be willing to read this book, because I suspect there's a lot more agreement with him then they'd expect.
As for the FV I'm totally in agreement. One of his best points is that often we want to draw distinctions between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant (when it comes to the warning passages) exactly where the Bible draws parallels. The author of Hebrews repeatedly tells us, "how much worse would it be..." (Hebrews 10:29, 12:25). It also neatly answers the question of the warning passages - the cutting out of the tree in John 10 and Romans 11, cut out of the covenant in Hebrews 6 and 10. Those people are actually being cut out of Jesus, having once been grafted in via covenant, they fail to abide (in faith through Christ) and will be cut out and burned.
On a side note, one thing that has been helpful to explain to people who don't understand the infant baptist position is the emphasis that "being in the covenant isn't automatically a good thing if you're a covenant breaker." As Douglas Wilson explains, if someone commits adultery, we don't say that they're married as if that's a good thing, it in fact, increases their condemnation. The fact that they're married makes them an adulterer.
All in all, a great book. It's an easy read, very pastoral. My only criticisms come with the usage of Scripture - I'm not a fan of the KJV due in part to my inability to just read it and understand it. Another thing is that he tends to italicize words a lot, and at first I didn't know if he was quoting the KJV italicization (to note words that aren't in the Greek) or if he's adding emphasis. It was the latter, but I wish he had made a note about it somewhere.
Labels: Book Review