The debate about justification is a delicious irony. Those who are most voicy about being Presbyterian and Reformed, or just Reformed, like the Reformed Baptists, claim to be defending the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone – but they are not.
You see, there are two versions of the sola fide doctrine – one as held by the Reformers, and the other as held by the Anabaptists and modern evangelicals, and they are very different!
The original version of sola fide as taught by Martin Luther and every other Protestant leader of note links the free forgiveness of our sins to a particular way that the said forgiveness is imparted or conveyed – in baptism. By baptism I mean baptism – you know, the sprinkling of water upon someone accompanied by the recitation of the Trinitarian formula, not some other kind of baptism that has no relation to wet water.
There can be no proper disagreement by anyone who actually reads history, the Bible, and the various Confessions. Without handcuffing God to baptism as an inseparable means of justification, the Protestant Churches of the Reformation taught with one voice that they acknowledged one baptism for the remission of sins, and taught that those who received it worthily received at once from God both justification and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Those who are shouting the loudest today about the need to defend justification, the pillar of the standing or falling church, people like Andrew Webb and the OPC, the “Confessionalists” within the PCA, and the rest of that sorry lot, have an entirely different version of it. Being mystics, and having a deeply Baptistic mentality, they deny that Baptism has anything to with the imparting and conveying of grace. The situation in the UK is the same, sadly.
Modern evangelicals of every stripe fall into this category, which is the reason that I no longer use that term to describe myself.
Here is the irony again: the so-called Federal Vision is not hereticals on justification, but their accusers and persecutors are.