There are people within Reformed thought who are very concerned that a growing number of Reformed theologians and pastors are preaching justification by faithfulness, not justification by faith.
A reader pointed me to an interesting article (originally a blog) entitled Sola Fide or Sola Fidelity? (See here.) It is by Wes White, a Reformed Pastor.
(Another article, this one, entitled “When You’re Strange,” by Sean Garrity is helpful too.)
Federal Vision (FV) theology has gained a lot of traction in Reformed circles. White sees FV theology as a denial of sola fide:
The Federal Visionists want to replace the great sola fide (faith alone) of the Reformation with a doctrine of sola fidelity (justification by faithfulness alone).
What’s wrong with a doctrine of sola fidelity? The answer is simple. If we adopt or allow the Federal Visionist sola of sola fidelity, then our justification becomes primarily about what we bring to God and not what we receive from Christ. This eviscerates our doctrine of justification.
That is well said.
White shows how FV proponents get from justification by faith alone to justification by faithfulness alone.
While White seems to hold to the traditional Reformed understanding of the perseverance of the saints (citing the WCF), he nonetheless suggests that justification is by faith alone, apart from faithfulness.
Toward the end of his article, White writes, “There is a big difference between saying to such a person, ‘Simply trust in Jesus,’ and ‘Be loyal to Jesus.’” I agree, though I would put the word believe (or, have faith), not trust, in the first statement. There is a big difference between saying to a person, “Simply believe (have faith) in Jesus,” and “Be loyal to Jesus.”
More and more people are arguing for justification by faithfulness alone. Last year I did a radio debate with Dr. Matthew Bates, author of Salvation by Allegiance Alone. Sadly, his view is gaining followers even in Reformed circles.
I find it odd to hear an essentially Roman Catholic understanding of justification coming from people who claim to be Reformed. The Reformation was a break from justification by faithfulness. It is sad that there is a major movement in Reformed thought which teaches straight up justification by faithfulness.