Reply to Jeff Meyers, Part 11

I note that Mark Horne has started blogging about my responses. I will pay some attention to them when I get back from vacation (next week). Right now, I only have time enough to finish my critique of Meyers’s 30 points. Point 27 is about definitive sanctification and the question of justification. The problem with Meyers here is that he commits a sort of reverse fallacy. By saying that a passage can be talking about more than one thing, that is not the same thing as saying that justification itself has more than one thing involved with it. Ferguson’s quotation from The Christian Life cannot be made to say such a thing, either. Ferguson is talking about the passage, not about justification per se. About being set free from sin, that happens in sanctification, not justification. Meyers is conflating two categories, as is Leithart. Sanctification, as Calvin has told us, happens concurrently with justification, but is distinct from it. Distinct, but inseparable. I am really quite at a loss to know why Meyers and Leithart have to play loci musical chairs by putting deliverance from the power of sin under the category of justification. This happens in sanctification. Furthermore, Meyers misinterprets the WCF. He interprets “acceptance” to mean moral renovation. This is not the proper interpretation that phrase. The proper interpretation of the phrase is that we have a right to eternal life based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. That is what the WCF means by “acceptance.”

On point 28, this is really about the same points that have been brought up before about the level of authority this report will have. It has moral authority. It does not have confessional authority. It provides guidance to presbyteries, and it will provide guidance to the SJC as they make their deliberations.

Point 29 is simply rubbish. First of all, it is not a judicial sentence. It has the same kind of weight that the women in the military report has, or any other report. Secondly, the SJC is already dealing with Steve Wilkins. They were dealing with the issue before the study committee was even formed. And they are the final court of appeal, not any presbytery. If the SJC cannot trump a presbytery’s decision, then we have lost one of the three marks of the church on the national level. If the SJC cannot deal with someone who is outside the bounds of the WS, and rule on that, then there is no church discipline in the denomination as a whole. Why do all FV guys seem to think that presbyteries are the final court of appeal? That is simply not the way our courts are set up.

Point 30 also seems to forget that considerable amounts of dialogue have already taken place. Secondly, if something is not in accord with the Standards, then it needs to be firmly escorted off the grounds, not allowed to split the church in the future. This is why the critics are keen on passing this report: the critics see the FV as outside the bounds of the WS. Therefore, they need to go elsewhere.

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22 Comments

  1. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 23, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    First, thank you for your tireless work in this Rev. Keister.

    While I agree this is all very important, does one failed case at the SJC level, really rise to the level of losing “discipline” as a mark of the church? — Or — does this mean that you think that the teachings at stake in that case are so crucial that this one case destroy the discipline mark of the PCA?

    From reading the comments on all these postings it seems to me that there is anything but consensus among those who agree that the FV is erroneous, that it rises to the level of heresy, let alone a damnable heresy. Can a church lose it’s discipline mark for a single failed case of prosecuting, simple error, or a non-damnable heresy? Although that comes across as rhetorical, it’s really a serious question I think you and the PCA should consider. I hope you don’t have to answer it.

  2. Chris Hutchinson said,

    May 24, 2007 at 8:00 am

    This is an email I sent to Jeff Myers earlier this week. He has graciously accepted my apology. Lane, if it’s OK with you, I’ll post this a couple of different places, so it gets seen.

    ~~~~~

    Jeff,

    I want to apologize for the way I brought up our private email exchange from a couple of years back on Lane’s blog. My methods were worldly and did not live up to the high standards required of my own ordination, or of even being a Christian, cf. Romans 12:18, etc.

    As you well know, if you do hold to the beliefs and practices I mentioned and I have not misunderstood them, I do think them odd, and serious enough that a presbytery should determine their acceptability. But the more mature and courageous approach would have been for me to press you on that privately, and if need be formally, rather than ambushing you in public.

    So, please accept my apologies. I will post something to this effect on Lane’s blog later at an appropriate place, but I wanted to do this privately with you first.

    Sincerely,
    Chris Hutchinson

  3. Stewart said,

    May 24, 2007 at 9:33 am

    “Why do all FV guys seem to think that presbyteries are the final court of appeal? That is simply not the way our courts are set up.”

    Yes, letting pastors in good standing defend themselves from glory seeking sectarians like you is not the way a church court should work.

  4. Sean Gerety said,

    May 24, 2007 at 10:07 am

    “While I agree this is all very important, does one failed case at the SJC level, really rise to the level of losing “discipline” as a mark of the church? — Or — does this mean that you think that the teachings at stake in that case are so crucial that this one case destroy the discipline mark of the PCA?”

    Two-cents. I think it does. The example of the OPC GA overturning of John Kinnaird’s heresy conviction back in 2003 is an apt example. Here we have another student of Norm Shepherd’s aberrant doctrine of justification by faith and works whose teachings were deemed to be in accord with the Confession and the Scriptures. There is now court precedent within the OPC that the false gospel of men like Kinnaird, Shepherd and others may stand along side whatever is left of the true gospel and both may be promulgated and preached. Consequently, any seeming merit there may be in the OPC report on Justification is just gilding on dung. I think it is safe to say that not one Neo-Liberal in the OPC has left because of their little report. The OPC officially speaks “yes” and “no” on the doctrine of justification. This is why the SJC action, or lack thereof, in the Wilkins case is so important, and, while the PCA report might be helpful to some who are still on the low side of the learning curve (which in itself is inexcusable), court action is the real test.

    At this late stage in the game I would ask, if the courts in the PCA can’t get this right what good are they?

  5. magma2 said,

    May 24, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Now here is a man who really understands the Federal Vision. His piece is absolutely must reading:

    “I was a young Calvinist who set to reading the post-Theonomy authors (James Jordan, Jeffrey Meyers, Joel Garver, Peter Leithart, Ray Sutton, et al.) They were on the edge of things – robes, weekly communion, Old Covenant typology, realized eschatology, high ecclesiology, etc. This is the same pond that produced the covenantal Catholic theologian Scott Hahn, which nearly all American Catholics have celebrated.

    . . . It is not a surprise then that Federal Visionists believe that justification is best understood as “union with Christ” and not as the imputation of righteousness in a strict merit/demerit transaction. Very biblical and very Catholic . . . Federal Visionists believe that the sacrament of Baptism actually accomplishes union with Christ – not in a nominal way, but in an ontological way. Again, very biblical and very Catholic. A person is Christian if they are baptized – they are either a “good Christian” or an “apostate Christian.”

    . . . Ultimately, I think that younger Presbyterians will gravitate toward what the Federal Vision offers. Many will sink their teeth into it and many will find it wanting. Many will discover that the Catholic Church is their true home, and many will discover her in a great moment of joy. This Federal Vision is really only a peek into the keyhole of the Catholic Church. The Federal Visionist has a vision of the beautiful things inside, but they have not yet appreciated the warmth of a true home.”

    http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2007/05/catholic-prespective-on-federal-vision.html

  6. Tim Wilder said,

    May 24, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Re: 5

    “Many will discover that the Catholic Church is their true home, and many will discover her in a great moment of joy. This Federal Vision is really only a peek into the keyhole of the Catholic Church.”

    And when they do, they will discover the OTHER John Robbins!

    http://custosfidei.blogspot.com/2007/05/nancy-pelosi-in-houston-attending-mass.html

  7. magma2 said,

    May 24, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    LOL :)

  8. NHarper said,

    May 24, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    The PCA Federal Vision report has a lot of substance, but its concluding recommendations make the report fizzle like a hand-held sparkler on the 4th of July. The broad loose suggestion to sessions and presbyteries does nothing to hold them accountable. They can still just return to business as usual. Presbyteries and sessions have a long history of practicing the John 12:42-43 principle: “they loved praise from men more than praise from God”.

    Can a member take a pastor to court for not following through on the recommendations – not for teaching error, but rather for not condemning the error(s)? It is my understanding that they (the members) would have to go first to the presbytery and if not satisfied with the presbytery’s action, then appeal to the SJC. But, if these are just suggestions, not enforceable mandates, the member is left to the whims and fancies of their presbytery, with no protection. The presbytery or session has the authority and right to do absolutely nothing. So, it seems to me that the member has no recourse but to leave. The report has been reduced to nothing more than an opinion. In the end, we have nothing but hot air – can’t even “cool off our porridge!”

  9. Tim Wilder said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Re: #8
    “The PCA Federal Vision report has a lot of substance, but its concluding recommendations make the report fizzle like a hand-held sparkler on the 4th of July. The broad loose suggestion to sessions and presbyteries does nothing to hold them accountable.”

    I think that this is just the reality of how the PCA works. Trying to change something like that is beyond the mandate of the committee.

    But then, all the committee does is make recommendations. Somebody at the GA will have to make the actual motions that get voted on, and what those will be nobody knows, except for maybe future delegates who may have something in mind. Probably there will be people with something prepared.

    The recommendations themselves have no force as long as they are just committee recommendations. The committee is a creature of the GA and reports back to the GA, and the GA can do what the committee recommends, or do more, or do less, or do something different.

  10. NHarper said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    If the GA does more or less in the form of amendments, does that mean that the committee will not be dismissed at this time – but rather go back and make the necessary revisions which would take another year?

  11. Tim Wilder said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    The committee just says, We studied what we were supposed to study, and here is what we recommend. We recommend that the GA does X, Y and Z.

    Now it is up the to GA what they want to do. They could do X, Y and Z, or just Z, or W, X, Y and Z, or Q, R, and S. The committee gave its advice, and if the GA does not accept it, this does not mean that the committee has to come up with more advice. The committee is just something that the GA created to advise the GA.

    Somebody will probably stand up in GA and move that the GA adopt the committee recommendations. Somebody may move a substitute motion. Somebody may propose a modification to the committee recommendations. Somebody may go to the GA with a plan including motions previously agreed on by supporters. We just don’t know.

  12. NHarper said,

    May 24, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks for the info, Tim. Some of us have gotten wind that after/if the report is adopted, our presbytery will just sit and wait for the FV folks to leave. So, instead of following through on the recommendation to actively condemn these errors, they plan to just sit on it and let the cookie crumble. Do you think there is any remote posssibility that a motion be put forth requiring all sessions to write a letter to the members of their congregation making them aware of these errors in addition to directing them to the report? This would be a concrete way of following through on recommendation #4: to exercise care over those subject to their authority.

  13. Tim Wilder said,

    May 24, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    I don’t think it is correct to speak of adopting the report, as opposed to the recommendations of the report. As you you noted, the recommendations don’t go very far. There certainly isn’t time in the GA to go over the details of the report. Somebody may pick something out and argue about that until there is a motion to end discussion.

    The FV will just say that the report is an opinion of an advisory committee, and has no authority. The recommendations of the report are mostly to the effect that people should follow the Book of Church Order, which they are supposed to anyway, so these recommendations don’t change anything. It is possible that someone could make a motion with more bite in it.

    What the discussion and vote will do is to take the temperature of the PCA on this issue. If there is a strong expression of opinion, that could affect attitudes and also the willingness of people to stick to some course of action.

    Last year the SJC threw out most related cases, and the GA threw out most related overtures on the FV. Everything was hung on the one remaining case, the Wilkins case. If I understand correctly, nothing will have been done by this GA, so two GAs will have gone by without resolution of it. If the SJC finally does something, it will be up to the GA a year from now to back it up or not.

    As far as motions go, people are free to line up at the microphone and make any they like, up until, as happened last year, someone moves to end all discussion and gets the necessary vote to pass that.

    The difference this year, and is is a big one, is that everyone will have heard the FV and NPP discussed for a year, and there will be a report in every delegate’s packet. Lots of books have come out. People will come with developed opinions this time. My guess is that they are more likely to want to vote one way or the other on this.

  14. RBerman said,

    May 25, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Tim, you said:

    “Now it is up the to GA what they want to do. They could do X, Y and Z, or just Z, or W, X, Y and Z, or Q, R, and S. The committee gave its advice, and if the GA does not accept it, this does not mean that the committee has to come up with more advice. The committee is just something that the GA created to advise the GA. Somebody will probably stand up in GA and move that the GA adopt the committee recommendations. Somebody may move a substitute motion. Somebody may propose a modification to the committee recommendations. Somebody may go to the GA with a plan including motions previously agreed on by supporters. We just don’t know.”

    And,

    “As far as motions go, people are free to line up at the microphone and make any they like, up until, as happened last year, someone moves to end all discussion and gets the necessary vote to pass that. ”

    The difference between last year’s GA and this one is that last year, the Assembly approved RAO changes that limit the sorts of motions that can be made. No more “committee of the whole” editing and maneuvering through substitute motions that are simply the inverse of the main motion. Reports are presented, and their recommendations are either approved or rejected. But I don’t think they can be modified on the floor anymore. Isn’t that what the new rules say?

  15. NHarper said,

    May 26, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    MALACHI 1:6-11 The priests had despised God’s name by offering defiled sacrifices on God’s altar. They had offered blind, crippled, and diseased animals as sacrifices to God. And, then they dared to beg God to be merciful to them! God replies by stating He would rather close down the Temple in order to keep these worthless sacrifices from being offered.

    Are we not presenting to God a crippled, mutilated, diseased Gospel? Look at the report! Nine errors! And, the MARS report points out 45 errors! By bringing contemptible food, we are saying that it is all right to defile the Lord’s table (Mal. 1:12) Think of it! A gospel that is stolen and mutilated, crippled and sick – presented as offerings (Mal. 1:13)!! Do we have the audacity to gather at the General Assembly and expect God to accept such an offering? And, to beg God for mercy?! Do we realize that God would rather shut the doors of our churches than for us to continue to offer a worthless, defiled gospel?! Which is no gospel at all?

    God goes on to say that people of other nations – those outside the “visible” covenant community – those who have not been raised in the visible church with all the covenant benefits – the so-called “unchurched” – they are the ones who truly honor God by offering the sweet incense and pure offering of the Gospel. There are people who have left the PCA and, in some cases, those who have decided not even to darken the door of any denominational church because of the diseased, mutilated gospel that we the PCA preach and teach in our pulpits.

    The question before the GA next month is this: Why should the Lord Almighty show the PCA any favor at all (Malachi 1:9)? This report along with the MARS report should break the hearts of each of the commissioners, leading us all to fall down on our knees in broken, contrite, humble, repentance. Forget the boat rides on the Mississippi and the Memphis blues and jazz concerts! Instead, gather together with groups of brothers to seek the face of the Lord and His forgiveness.

  16. NHarper said,

    May 26, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    A P.S. to #15:
    Malachi 1:14 Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord.

    How dare we, the PCA, claim to preach reformed, biblical faith, while all the while preaching and teaching and tolerating a defective gospel replete with 45/9 errors on the vitals of the faith?!?! Not just to God’s people, but to the Lord Almighty!

    The PCA either teaches, preaches, or condones and tolerates a defective gospel. Both reports testify to this fact. We cannot escape or hide this reality.

  17. pduggie said,

    May 26, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Dude, ask anyone in the FV and they’re repudiate 99% of the listed errors, and only quibble with the other 1%.

    The only one from the PCA report I think I is wrong is #5, since I don’t think it contradicts the confession to redo justification using union only, since I don’t think the confession went out of its way to rule out simplified systems.

  18. NHarper said,

    May 27, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    With man, I expect repudiation and not repentance. I do not ever want to put my trust and confidance in the arrogant, unbelieving, fickle decisions of man. Repentance is the sole work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why I will pray for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of all of the commissioners in the GA. With God, all things are possible, my friend.

  19. May 28, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Hey Green Baggins,

    Thanks for posting faithfully!

    I’m back blogging again and this time I’m working on a few new surprises.
    God bless you!

    Jim Richardson

    http://thywordistruth.wordpress.com/2007/05/26/a-mighty-god-indeed/

  20. Glenn said,

    June 4, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Lane,

    How is what you proposing in point 30 not going to split the church now??? Either way, unless the PCA accepts the FV ministers as within bounds, the church is going to split. You escort them off the property and you split the church now, but if you leave them on the property where they belong then you have a united church that will last until the minority of ministers who want division leave. The FVers don’t want division. Why doesn’t anyone see that?

    Just my thoughts.

  21. JennyF said,

    June 5, 2007 at 6:46 am

    No- the FV does not want division but they do want the majority to sit by and accept a point of view that is WE BELIEVE is not in line with the Standards. I don’t want to debate whether it is or isn’t because you will not sway me. I will never accept paedo-communion as Biblical and appropriate. I believe it is bringing condemnation upon the people that allow it and I do not believe it has any place in the PCA. If that “splits the church”, so be it but I do agree with Lane that it will not devastate.

    Oh and I don’t agree with you at all that the FVers do not want to split churches. They may not want to split from the PCA but they will do everything and anything in their power to get non-FVers out of their congregations.

  22. Glenn said,

    June 5, 2007 at 7:46 am

    JennyF,

    Where do you get the idea that non-FVers would be ousted from FV churches??? I’ve not heard that at all.

    Now, I can understand ministers on either side (FV or non-FV) wanting certain divisive people out of their congregations because those people speak against things that they are not in position to speak against when the church is in agreement with their ministers. If someone in a church were stirring up trouble without talking with the ministers first about their disagreements and trying to resolve them and live in the unity of the Spirit, then that person is sinning and needs to be disciplined whether they are FV or not! If they won’t repent, then yes that person would have to be removed for a divisive spirit, but not for their disagreements.

    I would certainly agree to condemning any of that behaviour. But that doesn’t mean that FVers are all like that in their behaviour. You have no proof that they are all like that and you have no right to make such silly claims.

    I think, and from everything I’ve heard, that most FVers would appreciate having people who might not agree with everything but understood that they were both there to minister Christ to the Church and the World. It’s really just the staunch critics of the FV views that think it is all heresy that would cause the problems.

    When any of us think that something is heresy, we don’t particularly want to stay in unity. But my point is that these FV guys aren’t speaking heresy. But I’m not trying to bother you with that. ;-)

    I’ve read them often and they clearly affirm the Gospel and are simply trying to be honest with Scripture. They don’t have everything right, just like all of us, but they are not wolves as *certain* professors and ministers would have us think (illegitimately of course).

    Well, in the end, I simply cannot see where you are right on the issue of what the FV people do in churches.


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