10 Things to Expect in a Federal Vision Church

I recently read a post by a frustrated woman on the outcome of some decisions made in different PCA Presbyteries. Among many things, this individual observed that she was deeply concerned for the well-being of the people who attend PCA churches. She urged them to leave the denomination. Many of them have bought into the “Federal Vision theology,” and are possibly doomed to a “Christ-less eternity,” she wrote. They also are grace-less, because they emphasize a robust faith that is not dead.  Among the other things mentioned, apparently Federal Vision advocates do not care about personal relationships, but only church business, because we put so much emphasis on the church. And to top off the list of accusations, we have traded “a relationship with Jesus for religion.”

I am not a PCA pastor, but as someone who served in the PCA for several years, I do want to defend those brothers who are referred to as Federal Vision. Suffice to say, these accusations are childish in every way.

At the same time, I know there is a lot of misunderstanding out there. And in case you are either curious or tempted to visit one of these so-called Federal Vision churches, I would like to prepare the bold visitor for ten things he/she is to expect as they enter into a typical one:

1) Apart from using the term to clarify ideas and misunderstandings in friendly conversations and the occasional men’s study, the term Federal Vision will most likely never be used in the pulpit.  Further, opponents and even advocates of the Federal (Covenant) Vision differ on many points. The closest thing to a consensus is found here, but there are still are sorts of distinctions and qualifications that need to be made.

2) Be prepared for that archaic practice of singing the Psalms. Yes, we confess to singing from Yahweh’s songbook, as well as some old time religion music from the 4th century. Expect very vibrant singing; the one that roars!

3) Be alerted that we are a very friendly congregation, and contrary to what you have heard (if you have ever heard such a thing) we will greet you and likely invite you to lunch after church.

4) Also, do not be alarmed by the little cries in the congregation (Ps. 8:2-3). We really love our little ones and we encourage parents to train them up in worship, and the best place to do that is…in worship.

5) You may be asked to kneel (Ps. 95:6). We believe posture is important to God. Obviously, you do not have to kneel. It is optional, though everyone will.

6) The pastor may get a bit theological at times, he may take the time to explain the text in detail, but he usually explains his theologizing and biblicizing and is very consistent in applying his text and theology to the life of the body.

7) This may truly shock you, but we have the Lord’s Supper every week. And furthermore, we offer bread (real bread) and wine (real wine). This may take some adjustment, but I promise it will make sense after a while.

8) And I know the red flags are all over the place by now, and this is not going to help, but we also believe that baptized children are called to partake of the table of the Lord. Here is where we confess we have strayed from broad Reformed practices. But we have only done so because we believe that the early Christians practiced this. We further believe that I Corinthians 11 actually confirms our practice.

9) The ministers may wear an alb and a stole (though many others may simply wear a suit and tie). This practice serves to point out the unique role the man of God has in proclaiming God’s truth in Word and Sacrament. This may appear very Roman Catholic to you, and you are right. Of course, it is also very Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and yes, even Reformed (see data on clerical collars).

10) Finally, you are correct to assert that we love the Church. We love her because Christ died for her. Our Reformed forefathers were clear. But the Church is no substitute for Christ, the Church is called to build on her firm foundation, which is Christ. You cannot separate Groom and  Bride. And what does this Christ demand of his Church? He demands repentance, and in repentance you will find fullness of life.

I trust you will visit us, but if you do so, we want you to be prepared.



About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Federal Vision, G.K. Chesterton, Kingdom, Resurrection, Rich Lusk, Typology/Symbolism/Biblical Parallels, Van Til, Word/Sacrament and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to 10 Things to Expect in a Federal Vision Church

  1. Joshua T says:

    Thanks Uri. Now I can pray harder for a “FV church” in Austin, Tx. 😉

  2. This is so good, Uri. My wife and I just joined Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham. The baptist tradition that I come from is very hostile to “Federal Vision” theology. After losing the latest bout with the Holy Spirit concerning baptism, we visited every PCA church in the area in a concerted effort *not* to go to TPC and were incredibly disappointed. The folks were nice, but the preaching was deficient. Or the preaching was great, but the people were dower. Or the preaching was good, the folks were nice, but there was nothing distinctively Reformed about the culture.

    In an act of desperation, we visited TPC on Easter and our lives will never be the same. We were blown away by no. 3, first. *Everyone* was so nice, so kind, and so warm! We were like, “is this a cult??” in hushed tones. The people there seemed genuinely interested in our journey. We saw our first infant baptism and it was moving. Not only was the liturgy stirring (and *loud*), the preaching was solid!

    After the service, Rich invited back to his house for a resurrection feast and we got to spend time with people who loved us and didn’t even know us. I got to ask some questions with one of the guys who spoke at the conference that started all this business. I wasn’t reading through comments about what he believes or interacting with a book written years ago. I was asking him, the person, in the flesh. It was amazing. It makes me wonder why more of our brothers don’t hash things out over ribs and Shiner Bock.

    Now, all of that is great, but it’s not everything. The people at your local Flying Spaghetti Monster meeting (is that a thing? do they meet?) could be very nice and warm and all that. I can imagine the same is true at your local mosque to some degree. But working through the biblical and theological issues related to the “Federal Vision” in a community of people who embodied the covenant life I was trying to figure out was worth more than I can say.

    These men and these people weren’t monsters, they weren’t abusive or misleading—they were brothers and sisters. Now they’re my son’s brothers and sisters. My mom used to sing a song called “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” and I’ve never seen it dug down deep in the very fabric of a community like the one we’re a part of now. Bless the Lord.

  3. Sounds very familiar, Uri!

  4. John Calvin says:

    FV is heresy! Avoid it at all costs.

  5. Jarrod Richey says:

    Well said, Uri.

  6. Uri Brito says:

    I was so naive to trust Calvin was on my side 🙂

  7. gary says:

    We orthodox Lutherans are THRILLED to see the rise of the “Federal Vision” in Reformed circles. However, we Lutherans have another term for it: Lutheranism!

    God be praised that the Reformed are coming back to accepting “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” as EXACTLY what God meant and not a mistranslation by Catholic/Anglican/Lutheran translators.

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

  8. Danny says:

    This FV stuff is still going on, huh? Here’s a question I was discussing with someone today about FV: why are FV churches by and large all from one demographic: upwardly mobile, white, pre-churched (no converts from other religions or secularism) and intellectual. Doesn’t that fact alone raise any red flags to anyone?

    I wonder what is going on in the hearts of these people that cause them to gravitate so heavily towards the objectivity of the covenant and away from the ambiguity of our experience of faith and repentance and salvation. Seems to me these are people who have an emotional detachment from the faith and the church that they are genuinely grieved by and can’t recapture so they just retreat to the “objectivity” that FV theology holds out. But seriously…

  9. Danny,

    Did you not just describe 97% of American Presbyterianism?

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