The Nine Points of the 2007 URCNA Synod
By the 2007 Synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America
Abbreviations: HCâ€”Heidelberg Catechism; BCâ€”Belgic Confession; CDâ€”Canons of Dort; REâ€”Canon’s of Dort’s Rejection of Errors
These Nine Points were affirmed by the URCNA to counter the growing influence of the Federal Vision (FV) movement within Reformed churches. For those of you who are wondering what this movement is all about, read Dr. R. Scott Clark’s introductory article,Â “For Those Just Tuning In: What is the Federal Vision.”Â In this article, Dr. Clark says,
The FV is a 33-year old movement that originated, at least in this episode, with the Rev. Mr. Norman Shepherd who was then teaching systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). In 1974 he defined faith, in the act of justification, to be â€œfaith and works.â€ …Â At the same time he, and others, was about revising covenant theology. In baptism, he wrote, we are all united to Christ and receive the benefits of Christ temporarily and conditionally. What is the condition of retaining them? Faithfulness!
At the same time, the FV movement also re-defines covenant theology to say that there is but one covenant. Historic Reformed theology had affirmed three covenants [covenant of redemption, covenant of works, covenant of grace]…
The FV affirms only one covenant: a gracious conditional covenant before the fall and a conditional gracious covenant after the fall. The FV generally rejects the pre-temporal covenant… This re-construction of covenant theology served the FV movement well as it allows them to emphasize graceâ€”who can criticize grace?â€”and it allowed them to insinuate conditions into the covenant of grace which supported their doctrine of justification through faithfulness (trust, Spirit-wrought sanctity, and cooperation with it in good works).
Along with this package the FV movement also offers paedocommunion (infant communion)… The movement toward paedocommunion was attractive to and fueled by those in the FV movement who, dissatisfied with what they regard as the â€œsterileâ€ Reformed distinction between God and man, are attracted to Greek orthodoxyÂ (emphasis added). Remember, this movement is very much on the margins of Reformed theology, piety, and practice and serves as a sort of half-way house for those entering the Reformed churches and also for those leaving them.
Dr. Clark prefaced his explanations of the Nine Points, “Synod affirms that the Scriptures and confessions teach the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, and that nothing that is taught under the rubric of covenant theology in our churches may contradict this fundamental doctrine.” The Synod was very strong in affirming these Nine Points, introducing them with, “Therefore Synod rejects the errors of those who…”, following after the 1618-19 Synod of Dort in its condemnation of Arminianism.
Dr. Clark’sÂ explanations of each of the Nine Points will be posted later.
Synod affirms that the Scriptures and confessions teach the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone and that nothing that is taught under the rubric of covenant theology in our churches may contradict this fundamental doctrine. Therefore Synod rejects the errors of those:
- Who deny or modify the teaching that “God created man good and after His own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness,” able to perform “the commandment of life” as the representative of mankind (HC 6,9; BC 14);
- Who, in any way and for any reason, confuse the “commandment of life” given before the fall with the gospel announced after the fall (BC 14, 17, 18; HC 19, 21, 56, 60);
- Who confuse the ground and instrument of acceptance with God before the fall (obedience to the commandment of life) with the ground (Christ who kept the commandment of life) and instrument (faith in Christ) of acceptance with God after the fall;
- Who deny that Christ earned acceptance with God and that all His merits have been imputed to believers (BC 19, 20, 22, 26; HC 11-19, 21, 36-37, 60, 84; CD 1.7, RE 1.3, RE 11.1);
- Who teach that a person can be historically, conditionally elect, regenerated, savingly united to Christ, justified, and adopted by virtue of participation in the outward administration of the covenant of grace but may lose these benefits through lack of covenantal faithfulness (CD, I, V);
- Who teach that all baptized persons are in the covenant of grace in precisely the same way such that there is no distinction between those who have only an outward relation to the covenant of grace by baptism and those who are united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone (HC 21, 60; BC 29);
- Who teach that Spirit-wrought sanctity, human works, or cooperation with grace is any part either of the ground of our righteousness before God or any part of faith, that is, the “instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness” (BC 22-24; HC 21, 60, 86);
- Who define faith, in the act of justification, as being anything more than “leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified” or “a certain knowledge” of and “a hearty trust” in Christ and His obedience and death for the elect (BC 23; HC 21);
- Who teach that there is a separate and final justification grounded partly upon righteousness or sanctity inherent in the Christian (HC 52; BC 37).