Roman Catholicism and Douglas Wilson’s Federal Vision theology are essentially the same in their perversions of the Gospel.
In part two, we covered Douglas Wilson’s interview with Christian Renewal where he equates saving faith with works. This was not a unique incident.
In vol. 15, issue 5, of his magazine Credenda/Agenda, he states:
Now this fides salvifica does not cause obedience in the way that a billiard ball striking another one causes it to move. It is not mechanical. Rather, it brings about obedience organically, the way life in a body causes that body to breathe. As a body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26). This is why saving faith necessarily lives and acts. One of the principal acts performed by such saving faith is the act of trusting in Christ alone for both justification and sanctification.
Douglas Wilson, “A Pauline Take on the New Perspective,” Credenda/Agenda vol. 15, issue 5 (2003): 8.
(For a refutation of Wilson’s interpretation of James 2:26, see “Does James 2 contradict Romans 4?,” by John MacArthur.)
In light of Wilson’s statement that “fides salvifica does not cause obedience in the way that a billiard ball striking another one causes it to move,” Sean Gerety writes:
The central deadly error of Rome is the conflation and confusion of justification and sanctification. The genius and great blessing of Reformation was the correction of this deadly conflation by drawing the necessary, logical and biblical distinction between justification which is by belief alone and works done in sanctification as the result of belief. For Christians works done in sanctification are the result or the fruit of justification. The latter is quite properly the cause of the former.
However, for Wilson, “fides salvifica does not cause obedience in the way that a billiard ball striking another one causes it to move.” For Wilson, there is no causal connection between justification which is by belief alone and obedience or works done in sanctification. They’re the same thing and are all part of Wilson’s doctrine of faith, which, as he already made clear, is different from belief.
Sean Gerety, The Fiducial Road to Rome, Part 2.
Back to Wilson, who goes on to state:
Think of it this way. Saving faith is a mother who always bears twins——justification and sanctification, in that order——so that we can see easily that when justification is “born,” his mother does not die, but rather brings his younger brother “obedience” into the world. But we cannot forget an important part of the illustration. The “mother”——faith——is trusting and obedient in how she gives birth.
Saving faith is the alone trusting instrument of justification, and, immediately following, that same saving faith the alone trusting instrument of sanctification, and reveals itself always as a faith working through love. Saving faith that does not trust and obey is a saving faith that does not exist. We never have raw faith without trust, and then, a moment later, trust arrives.
Wilson, “A Pauline Take on the New Perspective,” 8, 9.
Gerety notes that “While Wilson talks in terms of justification and sanctification as being twins, notice that the ‘mother’ which is faith ‘is trusting and obedient in how she gives birth.’” (Gerety, The Fiducial Road to Rome, Part 2)
So for Wilson, works are the cause of justification and sanctification: “The ‘mother’——faith,” performs acts of obedience (“obedient in how she gives birth”) in order to give birth to (i.e., produce) justification. This denies the biblical truth that justification is by faith apart from works (Romans 4:1-12).
“The ‘mother’——faith” then performs acts of obedience in order to give birth to (i.e., produce) sanctification. This denies the biblical truth that sanctification is by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Gerety further points out Wilson’s denial that sanctification results from justification:
“Remember, [for Wilson] justification and sanctification are the identical twins from the one mother ‘faith.’ Justification does not give birth, to use Wilson’s metaphor, to sanctification. The one is not the cause or the result of the other.” (Gerety, The Fiducial Road to Rome, Part 2)
Thus for Wilson, salvation is the work of man, not the work of God. Wilson states, “Saving faith that does not trust and obey is a saving faith that does not exist”; in other words, for Wilson, since without obedience saving faith cannot exist, saving faith is, or at the very least in part, works.
While Wilson collapses saving faith and works together, the Word of God separates them:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
In light of this, Wilson’s view that Christians are saved by works is a boastful, prideful view.
Recommended resources exposing Wilson’s dangerous views:
1. Blog: God’s Hammer (several posts on Wilson can be found via a keyword search)
2. John M. Otis, Danger in the Camp: An Analysis and Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision (Corpus Christi, TX: Triumphant Publications, 2005)
3. Guy Prentiss Waters, The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2006)
4. John W. Robbins and Sean Gerety, Not Reformed At All: Medievalism in “Reformed” Churches (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004)
A response and refutation of Wilson’s Reformed is not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant.