Can The Presbyterian Church In America be saved? by Sean Gerety, Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2009, 158 pp.
Sean Gerety’s Can The Presbyterian Church In America by saved? is an excellent study on the problem of the heresy of the Federal Vision, its root causes, and its effects on the PCA.
Although I read this book some years ago, upon a second reading now I much better understand the issues, and so was more easily able to follow the arguments.
The story is basically this: the PCA rightfully critiqued the Federal Vision in a study report at one of its General Assemblies but has failed to implement its findings in the disciplining of those who hold to the error. Gerety finds that the hesitancy to condemn the error (or even to notice it) is related to a widespread acceptance of Cornelius Van Til’s doctrine of paradox. That is, if two doctrines are contradictory (as are Sola Fide and Federal Vision) what is to say that they are not only “apparently contradictory?” This doctrine of paradox makes it impossible to discern any error, for the law of contradiction —the very basis of all thought and argument—is shunned.
In addition, the accepted traditional Reformed three-fold definition of faith as notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust) provides cover for the Federal Visionists to smuggle in works (as an element of fiducia) into the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
Now, nine years after the publication of this book, Federal Vision remains a problem in the PCA. For instance, one church with which I’m acquainted recently left the PCA and joined the Bible Presbyterian Church. And in their documented reasons for doing so, they noted the PCA’s failure to discipline Federal Visionists. Their session wrote of the Federal Visionists, “Several of them are still in good standing in the PCA poisoning congregations with their heresies.”
Fortunately, despite itself, the PCA can be saved. That is, it can be saved only because God is sovereign. Though the PCA has failed in many cases to discipline the Federal Visionists, many of the Federal Visionsts have left on their own accord. They have transferred to the Confederation of Reformed and Evangelical Churches (CREC), a denomination supportive of their error and thus a denomination neither Reformed nor evangelical, for they do not preach the euangelion, the one gospel of God’s grace in salvation through belief alone in Jesus Christ. Though the PCA hasn’t excised the cancer, it might be said that it is in remission for one rarely hears of a Federal Visionist today risking his neck poking his head out of his earthen hole.