Leadership Lesson for Those Facing Federal Visionists

Posted by Bob Mattes

The thread on the Context of Sam Duncan’s Comment on the SJC has topped 700 comments! Yesterday I found another great thread, this one over at the PuritanBoard, on the situation inside LAP. The interaction between SemperFideles and HaigLaw there provides more information on the human side of the equation, something often lost in this debate. Well worth the read.

Both HaigLaw’s comments on the PuritanBoard thread and Pastor Davis’ comments starting here highlight the wisdom of my earlier post about not being loyal to the wrong people. I caught more heat for that post from the Federal Vision mini-empire than any other post I’ve written, and it’s clear why. I struck at the heart of the issue. Federal Visionists in the PCA rely on their personal relationships inside their Presbyteries to protect them from the required discipline at the point of original jurisdiction. When that happens, the only place an impartial trial can take place is at the Standing Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, just as it was with Wilkins. Hence the spew of venom against the PCA and its SJC–the latter established by the will of the commissioners of the PCA General Assembly–as the only remaining threat to them.

Leadership is tough, but it’s even tougher when you compromise your core principles, consciously or unconsciously. Personal relationships must not interfere with one’s leadership duties. That cuts at the heart of impartiality. The rule of law through the guiding Constitution must take precedent over personal feelings. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons for any leader to master.

This is a painful lesson that I have had to relearn a few times in my 30-year military career. I confess that I haven’t always acted wisely, but God by His grace has imparted the mental toughness necessary for each successive challenge, maturing me for even tougher challenges in the future. And so it can be for commissioners in Federal Vision-infected PCA Presbyteries. Hebrews 12:5-11 teaches us that sometimes love is expressed as discipline.

I believe that this is, in part, the point being made by SemperFideles on PuritanBoard. Although the PCA doesn’t have commanders at each level as we do in the military, that doesn’t excuse officers in the church. Each ordained, orthodox officer must make the tough decisions and take the difficult actions within the constraints of the Constitution. Rather than looking to a single leader, we must look around us to lead with our fellow commissioners and stand together against error, even if it is our friends who must be held accountable.

This argument has a core Scriptural basis. In the first commandment, God commands us not to have other gods before Him. Friendship, even loyalty to a beloved teacher or pastor, can be such an idol when it prevents us from acting to preserve the gospel and protect God’s flock from error. It is uncomfortable to take necessary action against those we count as friends or teachers, but they are not real “friends” who take advantage of their relationships to promulgate false teachings to God’s precious flock whilst avoiding accountability for the same. As the current example in Louisiana Presbytery shows, Federal Visionists have no problem sacrificing their friends to protect themselves and their erroneous teachings. When called to face the music, they quickly bolt to safety and leave their loyal friends to take the brunt of the blowback. The loyalty shown to them is not returned.

Some may say “Isn’t it easier for Federal Visionists to just leave the PCA?” Yes, but they should leave before processes against them or their Presbyteries are started, not when indictments are impending. They should save their Presbyteries and the PCA the pain and expense of the judicial process if possible. However, once process is under way or an indictment is pending, as it was against Wilkins, they are honor-bound to stand trial. What difference does it make? Just look around Louisiana Presbytery today for the answer. Wilkins has left LAP to pick up the pieces and pay the price for his ego and erroneous teachings. Where is the honor in that?

Wilkins’ flight from accountability and Federal Visionist blog comments about it tells us more about Federal Vision than any trial ever could have. Once LAP plead guilty to count 2 of their indictment, the burden was transferred from LAP to Wilkins himself, posing a risk that Wilkins proved unwilling to shoulder. Federal Visionists’ talk was indeed proven cheap. Let other Presbyteries learn this lesson well. Federal Visionists in and out of the PCA have made it clear that they do not respect the processes of our Book of Church Order or our courts, and with one exception, those in the PCA that they will not be held accountable.

So here’s some friendly advice to FV-infested Presbyteries: we must learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have the time or resources to make them all ourselves.

As for the orthodox officers and members of Louisiana Presbytery left to clean up after Wilkins’ and his followers, please pray that God will be merciful in giving them a quick recovery, healing the wounds dealt by those they thought were their friends. Those are the unkindest cuts of all.

Posted by Bob Mattes

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151 Comments

  1. February 18, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    [...] Lesson for Those Facing Federal Visionists I posted a new article on GreenBagginses about the human cost of the Federal Vision and the leadership needed to avoid further damage. It [...]

  2. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Here is wisdom from a PCA minister:

    “…I think the two most recent initiatives at the general assembly level have not portended well for our future. There are a large and influential group of men who are confident in their own ability to police the boundaries of biblical faithfulness and see men with the prophetic gift as interlopers. Or worse, gangsters.

    This is one of the reasons David and I, while being opposed to the at-least incipient sacramentalism and Oxford-movementish nature of some of the Federal Visionists, have not been happy with some of the tactics used against them. Does anyone really think Machen or the Apostle Paul would be tolerated within the PCA today?

    Disagree with me over this—I’m fine with that. But leaving Machen and the Apostle Paul behind, I’m hopeful we all recognize that strict subscriptionists and those who opposed Cedar Springs and those seeking to prophetically address our southern or evangelical Baptist ethos within the PCA are precisely those who are very much needed within the PCA today and tomorrow. And if anyone thinks that they’re being opposed simply because of their theological errors, and not their commitment to the church reformed and always reforming, I’ve got some nice pond-side real estate in Gary, Indiana to sell.”

    Sometimes real leadership comes from knowing when to order about face…

  3. February 18, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    David,

    I have no idea about the context of your quote. Without context, it is left tossing on the waves without an anchor. I believe it was Wilson who equated Wilkins to Machen, a comparison which would make Machen violently ill were he still with us. As for tactics, adherence to the BCO is what keeps the PCA working “decently and in order.” The BCO has been followed scrupulously throughout the current controversy.

    Sometimes real leadership comes from knowing when to order about face…

    At times. But not when sola fide and the gospel are at stake. We don’t retreat from our foundational truths. And before you break out the same old broken records, I’ll remind you that seven Reformed denominations have already ruled against the Federal Vision in this regard. It’s not about retreat, but about submission to vows and the wisdom of brothers in the formal context of church government.

  4. Seth Foster said,

    February 18, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you for this much needed post, Bob.
    One of the most delicate issues in the history of the human soul is that of concealing what ought to be made known and of making known what ought to be revealed. Abraham made the mistake of concealing his true relationship to Sarah before Abimilech. His case of reserve was the common case of personal pride which eventually ended in humiliation before a pagan king.

    Presbytery officers have a choice of concealing what ought to be known about the Federal Vision and facing humiliation, not only from others in the PCA, but from those outside the PCA. They have to decide whom they fear the most – fear of man or fear of God. Their choice will determine the future of the PCA – whether it will be one of honor or of humiliation.

    We have personally heard from outsiders who have visited Federal Vision churches in our former presbytery. Some left in the middle of the service because of the ritualism and “weirdness”, and some view the Federal Vision as a cult. Is that the reputation that the PCA wants to hold onto?

    Humiliation or honor? That’s the choice that each presbytery has to make.

  5. David Gilleran said,

    February 18, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Bob please go over to Bayly Brothers’ Blog for the quote under the thread Is the PCA fundamental

  6. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    >We have personally heard from outsiders who have visited Federal Vision churches in our former presbytery. Some left in the middle of the service because of the ritualism and “weirdness”, and some view the Federal Vision as a cult. Is that the reputation that the PCA wants to hold onto?

    And I’ve worshipped in PCA churches that seemed no different from an Evangelical Free Church and had little or no relationship with worship as understood by men like Calvin and Knox. Depending on the outsiders normative Presbyterian worship might see weird to them. That is setting an odd standard.

  7. February 18, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    So, are you advocating the OT ritualistic “covenant renewal” worship?

  8. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    >So, are you advocating the OT ritualistic “covenant renewal” worship?

    How about Calvin’s Strasbourg liturgy?

  9. Morgan Farmer said,

    February 18, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    You have no idea of the cost in human terms.

    Been there…seen that…done that…got the t-shirt….

  10. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    >You have no idea of the cost in human terms.

    That would be Aztec worship.

  11. February 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    How about Calvin’s Strasbourg liturgy?

    I asked first.

  12. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Okay, I’m not 100% sure what you asked me (what you meant, not the words themselves). If you spell it out I’ll be glad to reply.

  13. Al said,

    February 18, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    “Let other Presbyteries learn this lesson well.”

    I am sure there are many lessons to learn from this. Does having loyal friends inside your particular presbyteries only prevent fair trials of those holding to the FV or would this apply to other issues?

    al sends

  14. Seth Foster said,

    February 18, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    All I am saying is that every leader in each presbytery should have as their guiding factor obedience to the highest they know – at all cost. Any wriggling a leader tries to indulge in to escape from being humiliated will prevent him from being right with God. God never evidences the slightest sign of fear or cunning or diplomacy. He is never vindictive, nor is He ever humiliated. For, it is only possible to be humiliated when we are serving our own pride.

    Central Carolina Presbytery and now even Louisiana Presbytery in the end did the honorable thing in chosing obedience to God in order to to be right with Him. Now each presbytery has to make the same choice in regards to the Federal Vision. Will they choose to serve their personal pride resulting in eventual humiliation? Or, will they choose obedience to God resulting in honor and being made right with Him? In other words, will they reveal what ought to be revealed about the Federal Vision in their presbytery? Missouri Presbytery? Ohio Valley Presbytery? Northwest Presbytery?

  15. February 18, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Al,

    The appeal process exists for a number of reasons, and certainly manifold human frailties would be among them. Federal Vision is the issue at hand that is damaging the church today and the subject of the post, so that’s the application at the moment. Misdirection will not change what happened in LAP, nor relieve the pain of those orthodox officers and congregates hurt there and elsewhere.

  16. February 18, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    David, RE #11,

    I was referring to the Federal Vision using OT sacrificial rituals in a so-called Covenant Renewal service. Jeff Meyers wrote a book on it, which the self-publishing Canon Press partly describes as a:

    case for a covenant renewal service by means of Old Testament sacrificial liturgics, biblical typology, and covenant theology. He then guides us through the stages of a covenant renewal liturgy, explaining from Scripture the meanings of each step of the service.

    Kinda gives legs to Seth’s comments above.

  17. Mark T. said,

    February 18, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I understand that they’re using chickens in lieu of sheep and the great thing is that they already had the money changers in place.

    Thank you.

  18. Lee said,

    February 18, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Bob,
    I think I have to disagree a little with your article. It seems to me unfair to complain that Rev. Wilkins left before any trial took place. He was a minister in good and regular standing, and those ministers are free to leave if they so wish. It does look bad that the one who was proclaimed to be the new Machen got out of town pre-fight, but is it fair to hold Wilkins accountable for Wilson’s comparison? Probably not.
    Rather, I think this is a time when the PCA should sit down and ask itself some tough question such as ‘did our process work?’ If you think that Wilkins should have not been allowed to stay or been ‘honor bound’ to face a trial, I think you have to answer that question with a ‘no the process failed.’ I hope the PCA takes this opportunity to fix its judicial system.

  19. February 18, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Lee,

    You are welcome to disagree. The fact is that LAP referred Wilkins to the SJC for trial, and that a prosecutor would be named and an indictment prepared at the March SJC meeting. So, Wilkins hit the brick exactly one week after LAP’s referral. The toner was barely dry. Yeah, he left in good standing but on one leg at best. I’m sure he’ll hide behind that for the rest of his life as a badge of honor.

    There’s nothing wrong with the PCA judicial system. It only problem is that it assumes that it will deal with honorable men. You can do the math.

  20. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    >I was referring to the Federal Vision using OT sacrificial rituals in a so-called Covenant Renewal service.

    Brother Mattes, re #16

    The answer then would be no.

    Do you have any problems with Calvin’s Strasbourg liturgy?

  21. Dewey Roberts said,

    February 18, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    BTW, Doug I will get back to your question as soon as I am able to do so according to my vows with the SJC. Maybe in the meantime, someone on this board can point you to some of my earlier posts which might help illuminate you.

  22. February 18, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    David, RE #20,

    If what you mean is Calvin’s statement in the Institutes:

    Thus it became the unvarying rule that no meeting of the church should take place without the Word, prayers, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and alms-giving.

    On which Larry Sibley of WTS Phila. says:

    What Calvin did with this central norm was to develop a paradigm for the Sunday service. There were to be those four practices present in every worship service: the reading and the preaching of the Word in the language of the people, the prayers in the language of the people, the Lord’s Supper, and the sharing of goods, principally through alms-giving in the service.

    Sibley later points out that this pattern became the formula for The Westminster Directory for Public Worship, which is also represented in our own BCO. If this is what you mean, I have no problem with that.

  23. David Gadbois said,

    February 19, 2008 at 12:44 am

    David Gray,

    It is to the shame of those PCA churches that have a worship that is no different from an EV Free Church. But it is far, far more to the shame of those Federal Vision churches who can’t even get justification by faith alone right while my local EV Free and Calvary Chapel can. As a matter of fact, if I had to direct someone, I’d tell them first to go to the EV Free and hear the unpolluted Gospel, rather than the local FV church with their fancy hats, dog collars, and costume party of a liturgy. I’ll tolerate (however begrudgingly and under great protest) rock band worship and “Shine Jesus Shine” choruses sooner than I would a diluted or confused Gospel.

    FV churches should take the oak plank out of their own haughty eyes first before lecturing others on worship style.

    FWIW – most URC churches use modified versions of the Strasbourgh Liturgy.

  24. February 19, 2008 at 1:53 am

    Just an aside, but it has been argued on this blog a few times that “covenant renewal worship” is peculiar to the FV (one guy even said that all their aberrant soteriological formulations are made in order to protect this view of worship).

    In point of fact, Westminster CA also teaches covenant renewal worship, and Mike Horton has a section by that title in his book on worship. Now, the details are different and much of the OT feast language is absent, but WSC does in fact teach that in worship our gracious covenant with God is renewed.

    Maybe they’re all wrong, but my point is simply that CRW is not a distinctly FV idea.

  25. February 19, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Jason,

    Point taken. Maybe I should have said “mythical objective covenant renewal” worship based on Christ-fulfilled/superseded OT ceremonial rituals. But then, that would have led the answer. ;-)

  26. Matt Beatty said,

    February 19, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Musings,

    Modern Reformation – not normally thought to be FV-sympathizers – published a review of THE LORD’S SERVICE which lauded the book as a whole (it took issue, predictably, with paedocommunion and one or two other small things). I can’t imagine that the powers-that-be at MR regularly publish positive reviews of books with which they have little/no sympathy, but I could be wrong. What do you make of this? Are the MR editors crypto-Romanists/Anglican/Lutherans, (fill-in the blank with whatever perjorative taunt one wishes)? Have they been duped by Meyers (and the reviewer – Gil Harp – who is a J.C. Ryle-variety Anglican)?

    And, I don’t think you’ve answered the question yet… would a church service like Calvin’s order of service in Strasbourg (including architecture, clerical garments, etc.) be “Reformed” to you, or not?

  27. Matt Beatty said,

    February 19, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Rev. Stellman,

    As a WSC grad, could you tell me where Horton’s thinking on CRW came from? That is, what was he reading that led him to formulate his ideas as such, write the book, etc.

    Thanks.

  28. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 19, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Bob,

    The rule of law through the guiding Constitution must take precedent over personal feelings.

    I think this is your key point, and the key to why I can’t fully agree with your post. (Note well: I’m not in the PCA any longer, and was never an officer; my knowledge of the BCO is anti-encyclopedic.)

    If by “the Constitution” you meant the Scriptures, I would whole-heartedly agree; if you meant the Confession, I would mostly agree; I think, though, that you mean the BCO. I think that fair processes are very important, but I DON’T think that a designed-to-be-fair process is the be-all and end-all of fairness. The American court system is very well designed; it still is abusable (think tobacco litigation, or mass torts more generally–try the case over and over and over until we get the “right” result, then leverage that precedent in that jurisdiction to extort a massive settlement.) And court procedures often prize process over outcome–which they need to, but then you get into the “but you needed to file in quintuplicate on beige paper and this is on cream” objections.

    And yes, I think both of these are problems that can’t be avoided by good procedures–including the BCO. Having a panel that has made up its mind before seeing the defense is a non-procedural problem. (And if you think that Wilkins’ politics had nothing to do with the animus toward him, I’ve got an absolutely can’t–miss piece of investment advice to sell you.)

  29. Al said,

    February 19, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Bob,
    No misdirection intended…

    I am just wondering if this process would be used if, for example, a Presbytery refused to bring charges against a teaching elder for saying that he subscribed to chapter four of the WCF, while espousing some framework novelty or day-age theory.

    Who would determine if it is misplaced loyalty driving the Presbytery non-action in cases like these? Is that a function of the GA?

    al sends

  30. Seth Foster said,

    February 19, 2008 at 11:46 am

    If the leaders of each of the presbyteries fail to follow through with the recommendations of the PCA committee report, then they are condoning and promoting what Jesus calls the leaven of the Pharisees. Here is a partial list:

    With the addition of ceremonies, ritualism, church calendars, and symbolic colors, the PCA has allowed the Federal Vision to place the Church in the place of Christ.

    With the addition of priestly clerical collars and white robes and liturgical absolution, the PCA has allowed the Federal Vision to regard the minister as the mediator between God and man.

    With the additional emphasis on the “Rite of Initiation” (baptismal regeneration) and “covenant renewal” (the Lord’s Supper) in the sacraments, the PCA has allowed the Federal Vision to give up the doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law.

    With the addition of more reverence for the liturgy, the PCA has allowed the Federal Vision to place the liturgy above the Word of God Himself.

    With the addition of more honor to the teaching and ruling elders, the PCA has allowed the elders of the Federal Vision to refuse salvation to everyone who does not belong to their church.

    We are warned to be on our guard against this kind of “leaven”. If teaching elders are going to protect and condone those other elders in the Federal Vision, then the members have no choice but to leave the PCA.

  31. David Gray said,

    February 19, 2008 at 11:48 am

    >With the addition of priestly clerical collars and white robes and liturgical absolution, the PCA has allowed the Federal Vision to regard the minister as the mediator between God and man.

    Traditionally reformed ministers where robes, although black is more common historically from what I’ve read. If it is good enough for John Knox…

  32. Jesse Pirschel said,

    February 19, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    David G. wrote,
    “FWIW – most URC churches use modified versions of the Strasbourgh [sic] Liturgy.”

    David, do you think this is true in “most” URC churches or “most” So. Cal URC churches? I have worshipped in quite a few and while the So Cal men have a more structured traditionally reformed liturgy many of those outside of CA don’t (instead having what I consider the typical conservative modern reformed approach) . Has this changed on a wider scale and did something precipitate this?

  33. Jesse Pirschel said,

    February 19, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Bob,

    What structure should a reformed church use for worship? And what has FV done in that vein that takes them “outside” the acceptable view?

    Or is this just one of those handy sticks that are good enough to beat them with?

  34. February 19, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Matt,

    You wrote: “As a WSC grad, could you tell me where Horton’s thinking on CRW came from? That is, what was he reading that led him to formulate his ideas as such, write the book, etc.”

    I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing he would say that, even though worship may not have been framed explicitly in covenantal terms at the time of the Reformation, the covenantal structure of the service was there implicitly.

    So he would follow Meyers’s basic flow of worship, which Horton would also advocate calling “The Lord’s Service.”

  35. Al said,

    February 19, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Jesse,

    I think with Wilkins gone, Jeff Meyers might be the next up for, ummm… “examination.” I just hope he does not have anyone with misplaced loyalties within his Presbytery.

    al sends

  36. Roger Mann said,

    February 19, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Re: #24

    To add to what Jason already pointed out, the PCA church of which I’m a member also practices a “covenant renewal service,” and we are far from being a FV congregation. Here’s part of the explanation from our church’s website:

    Our worship service is also described as a “Covenant Renewal.” This reminds us that our relationship with God in Jesus Christ is covenantal. The phrase “covenant renewal” reminds us that God calls us into his presence on the Lord’s Day to reaffirm his love to us in Christ Jesus. As sinners, we enter God’s presence by faith, claiming not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. The phrase “Covenant Renewal” also teaches us that worship is not merely a time to remember what God has already done for us, but that in and through our worship, God is presently at work shaping and maturing us in Christ through forgiveness, instruction and feeding.

  37. Kenchristian said,

    February 19, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Ref 33: Jesse writes:

    Or is this just one of those handy sticks that are good enough to beat them with?

    Jesse, haven’t your heard? Any stick is good enough to beat those FV bums with. I think they’re even being blamed for Britney Spear’s recent troubles. And I personally hold Wilkins and Horne responsible for Sanjaya’s run on American Idol last season.

  38. February 19, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Roger,

    I think you’re right, the Covenant Renewal idea is way too widely-dispersed to attach to the FV as another reason to attack them.

    Global warming’s clearly their fault, though.

  39. magma2 said,

    February 19, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Ken. I’m still waiting for some specifics where you think the Committee report erred in its handling of the Federal Division and that by concluding its teaching were contrary to the Confession that the report’s authors were battling straw men? Reminder, I could care less whether the FV men “say” they can’t see themselves in that report. Bald assertions are not arguments.

  40. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 19, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Bob, have you actually read Meyers’ book? Or have you just read Scott Clark’s mischaracterizations of it?

    And did I read correctly that Calvary Chapel gets the gospel right? Salvation by sentiment and experience? Hmm…

  41. Roger Mann said,

    February 19, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I thought global warming was George Bush’s fault, along with Hurricane Katrina, the price of gas, and the Southern California fires. I glad to hear it’s really the FVists’ fault though, as ole George has enough responsibility on his hands for ordering 9-11 in collusion with the Israeli Mossad! :-)

  42. February 19, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Mr. Mattes,

    Because your post contributes nothing but acrimony to this present controversy, I ask you to remove it.

    Respecting the authority of God not only requires us to submit to his Word where it speaks but also requires us as a church to stay within our “proper dwelling.” Careful, deliberate processes that respect the dignity of those being subjected to them as men created in God’s image and who are our brothers in Christ, corporate action defined by love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” courts that are careful not to “pronounce judgment before the time,” these are what we should strive for. And these are the things I find wanting in your post.

    I know that you long for the purity of the church, but purity must be had on God’s terms, according to his Word. Those whose views are questionable must be given a fair hearing, and their accusers have the burden of establishing that the views at issue are not simply contrary to the standards but contrary to God’s Word, for our Constitution’s “subordinate” doctrinal standards themselves proclaim that God’s Word is “the only rule of faith and obedience” and “the supreme judge by which all … doctrines of men … are to be examined.”

    For my part, I am as yet unsure that the Federal Vision movement as a whole is so unbiblical as to constitute the kind of fundamental error that is actionable under our Constittution, and I have questions about some of the justification tinkering. The FV Study Committee on which you served was little help in this respect because it compared the views of these men to the teaching of our standards, read narrowly and without sensitivity to their historically contingent — much less their de jure “subordinate” — nature, without following the standards’ own repeated admonition to let the Holy Spirit (not the Westminster Divines) decide our controversies of religion. And, more importantly, so-called “FV men” have their own personal nuances, reasoning, beliefs. These are real people living in real churches, not masked bogeymen who can be righteously dismissed with derisive labels.

    What we need is not judicial activism and fire-breathing zealotry but faithfulness to God, self-restraint, an acute awareness of our limitations as men, an awareness of the Westminster Divines’ limitations as men, and obedience to the Word of God’s sufficiency as the God-breathed norm for our church’s life (which necessarily qualifies the claims to authority of all man-made documents).

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan Mark Siverd

  43. February 19, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Jordan,

    Excellent final paragraph:

    “What we need is not judicial activism and fire-breathing zealotry but faithfulness to God, self-restraint, an acute awareness of our limitations as men, an awareness of the Westminster Divines’ limitations as men, and obedience to the Word of God’s sufficiency as the God-breathed norm for our church’s life (which necessarily qualifies the claims to authority of all man-made documents).”

    You and I are agreed that these qualities (among others) have been, are, and will always be needed. However, it is my view that these qualities are precisely what have been displayed by the Study Committee, by the SJC, and by men like Bob and Lane and Dewey and Dominic Aquila, throughout all of this. I recognize that you (and FV men and FV-sympathizers) would disagree.

    Agreeing or disagreeing about whether particular people in their particular words or deeds have been godly or not may matter to some folks (it bores me to tears). Meanwhile, coming to agreement together about the content and meaning of the gospel is the purpose of this blog, as Lane has repeatedly made plain to his readers.

  44. magma2 said,

    February 19, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Jordon, perhaps you think Bob’s post contributes nothing but “acrimony” simply because you, even at this incredibly late date, are “yet unsure that the Federal Vision movement as a whole is so unbiblical as to constitute the kind of fundamental error that is actionable under our Constittution[sic].”? This also perhaps explains why you only have “questions about some of the justification tinkering.”

    Should everyone conduct themselves with a posture of tentative uncertainty simply because you are? After all, some of us have no questions at all about the FD’s justification tinkering. I dare say many of us cannot see any substantive difference between the FD and Rome on this score and the many converts to Rome from the FD certainly attests to this point.

  45. February 19, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    “Should everyone conduct themselves with a posture of tentative uncertainty simply because you are?”

    Well put, very well put.

    As John Stott said, “the purpose of an open mind is to find something solid upon which to shut it.” I appreciate that there will always be folks just hearing about these FV distinctives for the first time, and needing to give it some time before sorting out what they believe. I don’t expect everybody to be immediately up to speed and firm minded on these things. But there are an increasing number of us (perhaps as many as 96% of the commissioners to the 2007 General Assembly) who have already gotten up to speed, come to a considered and studied opinion on these things, and won’t ever “open our minds” to the FV distinctives ever again.

    The sooner the FV men and their sympathizers come to see that, the better, for them and everyone else.

  46. magma2 said,

    February 19, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    For the record, an example of the kind of leadership Bob outlines above can be found
    here
    from a man who has also be accused by men of being acrimonious, but who has consistently refused to let friendships or the praise of men compromise the simplicity of the gospel.

  47. February 19, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    “Should everyone conduct themselves with a posture of tentative uncertainty simply because you are?”

    That is not what I am asking.

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan

  48. David Gray said,

    February 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    >That is not what I am asking.

    Obviously. But it is so much easier for some to ignore what you are asking…

  49. February 19, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Jordan, RE #42,

    I am troubled by your post, largely because I believe you missed something.

    Respecting the authority of God not only requires us to submit to his Word where it speaks but also requires us as a church to stay within our “proper dwelling.” Careful, deliberate processes that respect the dignity of those being subjected to them as men created in God’s image and who are our brothers in Christ,

    This is exactly that from which Wilkins ran. He had the opportunity to submit to the brothers and stand trial for what he supposedly believes to be true. Instead, when that opportunity was imminent, he ran rather than stand for what he says he believes. DW thinks Wilkins is a reincarnated Machen. Last I checked, Machen didn’t run. Looks like DW tripped over that amusing but bogus comparison.

    corporate action defined by love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” courts that are careful not to “pronounce judgment before the time,” these are what we should strive for. And these are the things I find wanting in your post.

    I thought that you were a lawyer. Corporate action is defined by processes governed by the rule of law and the reliefs and redresses provided therein. Again, Wilkins had the prime opportunity to work within those processes, but instead bolted for the door one week after LAP repented of their shield of protection over him. So, who shows greater submission to the brothers and public, orderly processes, those who stand by their oaths to be in submission, or those who abandon their vows and bolt for the door?

    The study committee did exactly as they were instructed by the 34th General Assembly. If you didn’t like the tasking or the boundary conditions, you should have spoken up during the ample debate at the 34th. Since the 35th GA approved the committee’s recommendations almost unanimously, I’d say that they vindicated the committee’s effort to be faithful both to their tasking and the Standards.

    I believe that you’ve lost sight of the fact that seven Reformed denominations, including yours, have ruled Federal Vision out of accord with their Standards, both Westminster and 3FU. I know that FVers and their apologists hate hearing that, but those are the facts. In your law studies, surely no one taught you that if a community outlawed vandalism, that you were free to smash windows without consequence. A handful of men are troubling the church by openly preaching and teaching another gospel. It is not the seven orthodox, Reformed denominations that must repent, but those whose views were found not in conformity with the Standards. Or, they can move somewhere that tolerates their views before process is pending against them. If I don’t like the firearm laws in Canada, then I best move to the US or sooner or later I will be caught and prosecuted, eh?

    I continue to appreciate our interaction. I appreciate your comments, but I stand by my post. In my view, the issue isn’t theology, which has already been decided at this point, but leadership and honor. Leadership to do the difficult thing by taking action against those officers holding, teaching, and preaching FV views, and honor on both sides to see the processes through, which all have taken vows to do. Hence my post.

  50. February 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Al, RE #29,

    Who would determine if it is misplaced loyalty driving the Presbytery non-action in cases like these? Is that a function of the GA?

    No, that’s one purpose of the appeals process at the lower courts. If the appeal gets to GA, then the SJC will hear the case. But they are the last resort, not the first.

  51. David Gray said,

    February 19, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    >I believe that you’ve lost sight of the fact that seven Reformed denominations, including yours, have ruled Federal Vision out of accord with their Standards, both Westminster and 3FU.

    In fairness didn’t the PCA rule a series of propositions out of accord and then attribute to those propositions the title “Federal Vision”? Presumably if one does not hold/teach those propositions to be true then they shouldn’t have a problem, regardless of what they call themselves.

  52. February 19, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Sam, RE #28,

    Scripture, the Standards, and the BCO are all rules in descending authority. The rules are the rules. I one doesn’t like the rules, one can try to change them (well, the last two listed). Ignoring the rules, though, shouldn’t be an option at any level.

    (And if you think that Wilkins’ politics had nothing to do with the animus toward him, I’ve got an absolutely can’t–miss piece of investment advice to sell you.)

    To what specifically are you referring? I am aware that he’s a neo-confederate if that’s what you mean. I haven’t seen any reference to neo-confederate views in the BCO, though.

  53. February 19, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Mr. Mattes,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    Nowhere in my comments do I discuss the conduct of FV men, and I am not sure why you respond to my comments regarding your own post by pointing to the way that others have behaved.

    >”[S]urely no one taught you that if a community outlawed vandalism, that you were free to smash windows without consequence.”
    The WCF states that we are not constrained by the doctrines and commandments of men when it comes to matters of faith. Last time I checked, you were calling for FV heads to roll not because they were smashing churches or violating laws of the church with their conduct, but because of their beliefs — their faith. As far as I know, FV pastors, for example, do not commune very young children as they would like, practicing the very kind of submission regarding the PCA’s law that you claim they lack. To the extent their faith differs from that of the Westminster Standards, that is only a threshhold question (if that) — the real issue is whether it is contrary to God’s Word. And that is the question that the FV Study Committee Report intentionally placed in abeyance (or would you rather that I read your report as blasphemously teaching that anything contrary to the Westminster Standards is necessarily contrary to God’s Word?). Moreover, to the extent that PCA law requires respect for liberty of conscience, you are the one who is refusing to submit to the express law of the church by calling for men to be disciplined prior to any adjudication of their views by a court with original jurisdiction.

    >”I believe that you’ve lost sight of the fact that seven Reformed denominations, including yours, have ruled Federal Vision out of accord with their Standard.”
    There has not been a ruling from the PCA that FV teaching is out of accord with the standards. There has been an advisory, in thesi deliverance that 9 “views” are problematic — but FV advocates publicly state that they do not hold these 9 views.

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan

  54. February 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    >>”I believe that you’ve lost sight of the fact that seven Reformed denominations, including yours, have ruled Federal Vision out of accord with their Standard.”
    >There has not been a ruling from the PCA that FV teaching is out of accord with the standards. There has been an advisory, in thesi deliverance that 9 “views” are problematic — but FV advocates publicly state that they do not hold these 9 views.

    Moreover, the standard in the PCA is the Bible — the Westminster Standards are subordinate thereto.

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan

  55. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 19, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Bob Mattes,

    It was Wilkins’ neo-confederate views that I had in mind. I am fairly certain that a lot of people care about this controversy for that reason, given the furious quarrel over racial issues in the Presbyterian Church from Dabney’s time until today (on which subject I think Dominic Aquila is right and Steve Wilkins wrong). (Note: I am NOT saying that people care about this controversy for only that reason–just that it draws a crowd who wouldn’t otherwise be interested.)

    My main point was not that the rules aren’t important, but that saying “We followed all the procedures–show us where we didn’t” does not mean that the result was necessarily fair or right.

  56. Ray said,

    February 19, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    #23 David Gadbois said,

    “As a matter of fact, if I had to direct someone, I’d tell them first to go to the EV Free and hear the unpolluted Gospel, rather than the local FV church with their fancy hats, dog collars, and costume party of a liturgy. I’ll tolerate (however begrudgingly and under great protest) rock band worship and “Shine Jesus Shine” choruses sooner than I would a diluted or confused Gospel. FV churches should take the oak plank out of their own haughty eyes first before lecturing others on worship style.”

    #38 Jason J. Stellman said,
    “I think you’re right, the Covenant Renewal idea is way too widely-dispersed to attach to the FV as another reason to attack them.”

    I visited a PNW PCA church not so long ago and found what I would say bore a very close resemblance to CRW as described by Jeffrey Meyers in his book, The Lord’s Service. As a matter of fact, the Pastor thought enough of Meyers’ book to quote it from the pulpit (gasp). The worship service there was much like the services of several CREC churches I’ve also visited.

    David, be cautious you are apt to find what you criticize in your own backyard.

    J.S., the global warming comment was humorous – kind of, but you never know when your practices might end up making you suspect. Guilt by association and all that. I know, you’re not FV, but then again…

    Somehow my mind keeps thinking about the inquisition.

  57. February 19, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Jordan,

    Thank you for your reply.

    The WCF states that we are not constrained by the doctrines and commandments of men when it comes to matters of faith. Last time I checked, you were calling for FV heads to roll not because they were smashing churches or violating laws of the church with their conduct, but because of their beliefs — their faith.

    Well, first I am not calling for anyone’s head. That’s quite a dramatic overstatement. I’m merely exhorting Presbyteries to give “…due and serious consideration by the Church and its lower courts when deliberating matters related to such action.” So far in relation to Federal Vision, only NW Presbytery is doing so voluntarily. LAP’s hand was forced by CCP’s memorial, now admitting that CCP was correct.

    Second, I have said before and will say again: FVers may believe anything they like, but they cannot be officers in the PCA if their beliefs seriously violate the Constitution of the PCA. That’s what Preliminary Principle of the BCO is all about. You can believe what you want, but not as an officer here. Nobody’s conscience is being violated in any way.

    I see a lot of misdirection in your comment which I wish to address head-on, but I have to go out for a while. I will continue this later. Thanks again for your interaction here.

  58. Matt Beatty said,

    February 19, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Seth said
    “With the addition of priestly clerical collars and white robes and liturgical absolution, the PCA has allowed the Federal Vision to regard the minister as the mediator between God and man.”

    Are you serious? White robes (instead of black) and clerical collars get you indicted as a Romanist (or worse)? Why don’t you make a biblical case for either of these (and what precisely do you mean by “liturgical absolution” anyway?) being the means by which one supplants Christ as mediator? Or a historical case? Any case, really?

    I’m guessing that for all the criticism Rev. Stellman and others have, they’re not going where you’re going, Seth. Calvary Chapel… here we come!

  59. February 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I got kicked out of Calvary Chapel once, so I doubt they’d have me again….

    The interesting thing about FV critics from WSC is that we’re not so much railing against the FV’s doctrine of baptism or covenant renewal worship as much as against its aberrant soteriology.

    FV-ers often complain that Horton gets to have a high view of baptism, why can’t they? Horton gets to advocate CRW, why can’t they? Horton can advocate the practice of absolution, why can’t they?

    So in the same way that we mustn’t lump all FV types together and behave as if Wilson believes everything Meyers says, so mustn’t the FV crowd lump all their critics together and call them “bapterian.”

  60. David Gadbois said,

    February 19, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Ray,

    You’ll notice that I didn’t attack Covenant Renewal Worship. My first criticism was against the lack of solid Gospel preaching, and my second criticism was against the quasi-Anglican worship of FV. I see, as a matter of fact, that Jason Stellman appears to be wearing a Genevan robe in his picture. So does my pastor, along with a good number in Classic Southwest of the URCNA. The intention of the plain, black Genevan robe is not just to mark the minister’s office, but also to *diminish* the person and, instead call attention to the preached Word he is giving. This is a stark contrast between the vestments and other priestly trappings that indicate mediatorship and the various symbols that indicate episcopacy.

  61. Matt Beatty said,

    February 19, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Jason,

    Soteriology alone? What about paedocommunion? Would you see that (and all that the debate entails) as a debate falling into soteriology or ecclesiology?

    I agree with your final paragraph and suspect that Wilson and others wouldn’t wish to paint a monochromatic portrait of FV critics; some of the less-mainstream, younger, and office-less folks who are sympathetic to FV concerns. I would suspect that the same is true of the FV critics’ “camp” if one can/should call it that.

  62. Matt Beatty said,

    February 19, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    David,

    Define a few things for me:
    1) Solid Gospel preaching (I sit through some of the most moralistic sermons I’ve ever heard each Sunday in the OPC and no one’s bringing charges… in fact, just the opposite)
    2) Quasi-Anglican worship
    3) Does only black diminish the person and stress the office?
    4) Precisely what vestments do you have in mind? Would a minister in an alb or cassock/surplice (Anglican) be unReformed?
    5) Are the 39 Articles Reformed or not?

    Thanks.

  63. February 19, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Matt,

    I think I said that our critique is MORE about soteriology than about sacraments, but there are criticisms to be made about that as well. My point is that you can’t pigeonhole FV critics as having a low view of the sacraments.

  64. February 19, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Jordan, RE #53 continued,

    To the extent their faith differs from that of the Westminster Standards, that is only a threshhold question (if that) — the real issue is whether it is contrary to God’s Word.

    That’s contra-confessional. The PCA Constitution is defined as:

    The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is
    subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,
    the inerrant Word Of God, consists of its doctrinal standards set forth in the
    Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter
    Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order, comprising the Form of
    Government, the Rules of Discipline and the Directory for Worship; all as
    adopted by the Church.

    Note carefully that everything is subordinate to the Scriptures. That’s what we all believe. However, that doesn’t make the Westminster Standards irrelevant, or as you put it, “only a threshhold question (if that)”. To the contrary, every PCA officers vows that they “adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures;” That’s not “a threshold question.” That defines a distinctive required to become and remain an officer in the PCA. Further, it includes the idea that the Standards do not compete with the Scriptures but are harmonious with them.

    The real question in your comment is what do you mean by threshold. The clear PCA Constitutional Standard is that officers must “adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures;” When they preach a different soteriology, sacramentalism, etc., then it’s time for them to move on. By God’s grace, LAP has finally come to see that in Wilkins’ case.

    Moreover, to the extent that PCA law requires respect for liberty of conscience, you are the one who is refusing to submit to the express law of the church by calling for men to be disciplined prior to any adjudication of their views by a court with original jurisdiction.

    BCO Preliminary Principle 1 makes a clear statement about liberty of conscience, then Preliminary Principle 2 clearly states:

    In perfect consistency with the above principle, every Christian
    Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled
    to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the
    qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole
    system of its internal government which Christ has appointed. In
    the exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err in making
    the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet even in
    this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of
    others, but only makes an improper use of its own.

    So we see again that the PCA principle do not support your assertion on liberty of conscience. As I’ve said many times, officers adhering to FV may believe whatever they like…somewhere outside the PCA. As for my trying to discipline FVers prior to adjucation by a court, you aren’t reading my clear statements. I’ve clearly been pushing for the process to get started at the Presbyteries. One core message in my original post was that this was finally happening with Wilkins when he split to the CREC. That was his right in the short gap between the LAP referring him to the SJC and the upcoming SJC meeting, but there’s no honor in fleeing the discipline to which he vowed to submit.

    If you really believe that FV is Biblical, than you cannot possibly take seriously the appropriate sections of the Standards. The Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. Since FV teaches contrary doctrines on the same subjects, it necessarily contradicts both Scripture and the Standards.

    Nothing personal, but your points are old arguments that have been dealt with extensively over the last eight months at least. The FV arguments now ring especially hollow now that their PCA poster child has fled from the very trial that FVers have been demanding for so long.

  65. Richard D. Phillips said,

    February 19, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Sorry to butt in late in the conversation, but I have long wanted to respond to the accusation made in comment #2, which I have seen numerous other places as well:

    “if anyone thinks that they’re [the FV] being opposed simply because of their theological errors, and not their commitment to the church reformed and always reforming, I’ve got some nice pond-side real estate in Gary, Indiana to sell.”

    I always wonder how people who say these things gain such omniscience into the motives of others. I have been one of the early opponents of the FV, dating back to our face-to-face dialogue at the Ft. Lauderdale colloquium. Since then, I have had personal conversations with most of the public opponents of the FV. Therefore I know for a fact that the opposition to the FV is overwhelmingly based on its theological errors and not on other axes to grind. Might there be people who are happy about the troubles of FV leaders like Steve Wilkins because of previous experiences and other issues? I suppose there might be, although I don’t know them. But many of the most ardent opponents of Wilkins and the FV have been men who were their comrades in previous fights and, in many cases, personal friends. So it is beyond me how people can be so sure that the anti-FV movement has really been about “their commitment to the church reformed and always reforming” and not to the stated theological issues. It is easy to be sure that the motives of others are ungodly, but I find that such a view says more about the person holding it than about the people to which they attribute it.

  66. Garrett said,

    February 19, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Jason,

    I’d highly, highly encourage you and some of your WSC grad friends not to throw the baby out w/ the bathwater on potential friends and allies against much bigger enemies like secularist and the coming Islamic wave.

    There are not a few of us CREC types who advocate CRW, high sacramental views shared by Horton and Godfrey, wear a black Genevan (although w/ a phat stole) and still affirm IAOC and bi-covenantalism. When you’re told your sacramental views are to “Romanist” because you agree w/ Calvin, and the WSC grads in your presbytery have no problem w/ your sacramental views but you’re told your views are not PCA material, what do you do? Where do you go? If you’re in So. Cali. and you 3 choices (independent aint it): (1) PCUSA (female session, no thanks) (2) EPC (maybe, but you may be in the PCUSA in 10 years) or (3) CREC. I can live w/ our differences in the CREC b/c we know their are bigger fish to fry. I’d encourage you to make friends where and how you can. We’ll need each other in the years ahead.

    Garrett Craw
    Pastor, Christ Church, Santa Clarita, CA

  67. February 19, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Rick,

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said on that piece of misdirection. I’m relatively new to the whole thing, so I only know a handful of the players. Your broader and longer view is quite valuable.

  68. February 20, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Mr. Mattes,

    My name is Jordan.

    The Preliminary Principle you quote has to do with the right of churches to organize themselves as they see fit under civil law — not the autonomy from moral scrutiny you claim. When the church disciplines people unbiblically, it has every right to do so as a human society vis-a-vis the state, but it has no moral right to do so vis-a-vis God. Accordingly, it is quite proper to ask whether the church is imposing discipline according to God’s Word, even if we all agree that it the state shouldn’t be the one deciding that — but rather its determination should be left to “the approbation of an impartial public, and the countenance and blessing of the great Head of the Church.”

    The idea that a church court violates the Constitution when it grants a man an exception to the teaching of the standards is contrary to the subordinate nature of our doctrinal standards and our practice of good-faith subscription. The fact that we have good faith subscription means it’s simply insufficient to claim that this or that idea differs from the teaching of the standards — we must also evaluate whether it “strikes at the vitals of religion.” And to answer that we must make careful recourse to the Word of God, which the standards themselves call “the only rule of faith and obedience” and set forth as “the supreme judge by which all … doctrines of men … are to be examined.” Yet that is exactly the consideration that the PCA FV Report ruled out. So, it was an abortive analysis at best methodologically, and its approach displaced the authoritative Word of God in an unfortunate elevation of the word of Westminster.

    The reason I stated that differences with the standards are a threshold question (if that) is (1) just because a man has differences doesn’t necessarily mean his views are unbiblical, and (2) even where a man teaches something that is wacko but not necessarily rejected by the standards (e.g., God commands us to wear green socks) he should still be disciplined if his views are unbiblical regardless of whether the Westminster Divines foresaw the need to mention it.

    You refuse to distinguish, even conceptually for the sake of argument, between the Bible and the Westminster Standards. In light of that, I’m not sure what point there is in talking to you about this any further.

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan

  69. February 20, 2008 at 12:08 am

    And while we’re on the topic, will someone point me to the part in our doctrinal standards that says we’re supposed to be “always reforming”?

    All sarcasm aside, where did this slogan originate? I’m not persuaded that we need to be constantly changing our theological formulations simply for the sake of being innovative. In my view, we need a really good reason and some very convincing exegesis before I’m willing to change anything.

  70. anneivy said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:39 am

    I might be wrong about this, but if I recall correctly, back when I wondered the same thing (#68) years ago, the point of “always reforming” is that due to mankind’s relentless, dogged tendency to veer off the straight and narrow doctrinal path, the Church needs to actively work to remain on it, or if we’ve gone awry, to return to it.

    The Reformation wasn’t about finding all sorts of keen new doctrines and putting them into play, but rather about wrenching the Church away from the heterodoxy into which it had fallen and back into orthodoxy. IOW, the Church was “re-formed” into what it was supposed to be, but hadn’t been.

    Sinful people have a natural tendency to slide insensibly into heterodoxy, so we must be “always re-forming.”

    However, someone else will doubtless have a better explanation. ;-)

  71. February 20, 2008 at 12:56 am

    How many exegetical quantum leaps have we really made since the 1640s? I mean, developments that have made us seriously consider modifications to our confessional way of looking at things?

    I can think of a few theologians who may qualify as paradigm-shifters, but only a few.

    And if they stretched us, it was due to faithful and compelling exegesis, not because the slogan told us we’ve gotta be reforming “always.”

  72. jared said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Also, those who keep doing so need to, as Mr. Siverd has pointed out (along with my self and many others), refrain from saying that the PCA has, officially or unofficially, condemned FV (or NPP for that matter). It hasn’t. While critics are free to believe whatever they wish about FV, they are not (or should not be) free to falsely represent the PCA.

  73. Richard Van Noord said,

    February 20, 2008 at 1:41 am

    #’s 68, 69, 70 Thank you Jason and Anne. Well said!

  74. February 20, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Jordan, RE #67,

    The Preliminary Principle you quote has to do with the right of churches to organize themselves as they see fit under civil law

    What??? You’re totally ignoring the point. The point is that the church may include or exclude membership based on views. A straight-forward reading of the BCO will do fine here. Please don’t make this harder than it is. For reference, here’s a comment from the BCO commentary on the PCA Historical Site:

    This principle is essential to all organizations. Men are at liberty to refuse to be connected with a society, but if they voluntarily enter, they must submit to its terms of admission and to its laws. So if any man’s conscience will not permit him to concur with, or passively submit to, the standards of the Church, he “shall, after sufficient liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceably withdraw from our communion, without attempting to make any schism.” Provided that which he cannot accept shall be judged by the Church to be indispensable to Presbyterian doctrine or polity. This of course refers only to the officers of the Church, who are required to receive and adopt the standards of the Church. But communicants are received on profession of faith in the Lord Jesus.

    There’s nothing about anything being limited to civil law there. It’s about conformity to the Standards of the church.

    we must also evaluate whether it “strikes at the vitals of religion.”

    Are you paying attention? The point that I and MANY others are making is that in the opinion of 95-98% of the commissioners of the 35th GA, and of six other Reformed denominations, the FV DOES strike at the vitals of religion. (That’s not the only standard, BTW.) Sola Fide is at the core of our Reformed soteriology, and FV plays fast and loose with that as has been shown many times.

    The reason I stated that differences with the standards are a threshold question (if that) is (1) just because a man has differences doesn’t necessarily mean his views are unbiblical,

    But then they are unconfessional if they strike at the vitals. THAT’S the point here an of Preliminary Principle 2. If the Confession is optional, then FVers can join a Bible Church or the CREC and be perfectly happy. The Confession isn’t optional in the PCA. We aren’t talking about what color hats to wear to Saturday night bowling here, we’re talking about the heart of the gospel.

    You refuse to distinguish, even conceptually for the sake of argument, between the Bible and the Westminster Standards.

    That is a blatant misstatement and twisting of my explicit point. For the hundredth time, NO. Read my lips: The Standards are subordinate to the Holy Scriptures. Got that? OK, now the Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scriptures. If you teach something directly contrary to the Standards on something which the Standards explicitly teach, then by their very definition, that teaching is contrary to the Scriptures as well. The nine declarations provide excellent and detailed examples, but even the report stated that they weren’t the ONLY issues. You are making up an entirely new relationship which is logically inconsistent with the PCA Constitution, but very convenient for FV when they want to ignore the Standards.

    Jared, it frankly seems as if you are ignoring the plain language of the PCA Constitution, substituting instead some fancy general concepts you make up on the fly. Let’s stick with the books and their plain language meaning, shall we?

    I have one more question, though. If you believe that your pseudo-legal reasoning is so persuasive, then why didn’t Wilkins stick around for his trial with you representing him? I see that as a rhetorical question, because we all know why. Twisting and spinning the PCA Constitution to your liking may sound sophisticated on the blogs, but it won’t fly before the SJC.

  75. February 20, 2008 at 7:46 am

    RE #71,

    So I guess that the PCA hasn’t condemned paedocommunion, pornography, homosexuality, humanism, or any other position condemned through votes on overtures and/or study committee reports/recommendations? So the General Assembly doesn’t decide anything by vote? Is that what you’re saying?

    Or do the normal rules not apply to Federal Visionists because they are “more Biblical” than the Reformers and Divines and therefore exempt from mere ecclesiological decisions of the brothers unto whom they have vowed submission? Councils can and do err, but rogue individuals are far more prone to error. That’s an underlying tenet of Reformed ecclesiology.

  76. February 20, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Mr. Mattes,

    So I’ve gone from Jason to Jared. And yet, I’m the who’s not listening? Funny.

    You write: “If you teach something directly contrary to the Standards on something which the Standards explicitly teach, then by their very definition, that teaching is contrary to the Scriptures as well.”
    It’s not that simple. Those who teach that we can play games on the Sabbath teach something directly contrary to the Standards. As do paedocommunionists. The issue isn’t how directly contrary something is to the Standards, but the extent to which a difference with the Standards is a departure from clear Scriptural truth, which is “the only rule of faith and obedience.”

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan

  77. February 20, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Jordan,

    The issue isn’t how directly contrary something is to the Standards, but the extent to which a difference with the Standards is a departure from clear Scriptural truth, which is “the only rule of faith and obedience.”

    You missed this from #72, the comment in question:

    FV DOES strike at the vitals of religion.

    By taking one part of my comment out of its overall context and using a relatively trivial example in #74, you missed the point again. Try using something like a mythical “objective covenant” that replaces WCF 7, or a parallel “union with Christ” that contradicts the true union with Christ based on effectual calling described in the Standards and the Scriptures. Read the SJC indictment of LAP for count 2. These items have been handled in detail on the blogs (including this one and my own) and in books, and they all strike at the vitals of religion.

  78. its.reed said,

    February 20, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Ref. #74:

    Mr. Siverd, if you look a little closer at Mr. Mattes’s comments, he inserted Jared’s name because at that point he was turning from addressing you to addressing Jared. Unless I’m mistaken, you’ve missed this point, inferring Mr. Mattes’ is not paying attention. Just for clarification sake, and hopes that making rhetorical points won’t distract from staying on subject.

    In your response to Bob you miss something else. Those who disagree with the WCF, say in terms of the Sabbath, are being consistent with Bob’s point in a way that Fv’ers cannot. When taking such a Sabbath exception they are by definition saying:

    “I agree that the WCF, as far as it speaks, accurately represents the teaching of Scripture, except in this point (to which I am taking exception). Here at this point, and only at this point, I believe that the WCF does not accurately represent the Scriptures.”

    In other words, such an exception, on a minor point (i.e., not the vitals of our religion), is not a scruple that effective breaks between the WCF and the Bible. One is able to affirm that the WCF accurately represents the Bible without (unintendded) hypocrisy and take minor exceptions.

    If the FV insists that its teaching is consistent with the WCF, than it needs to show this. It hasn’t – it can’t. The PCA report (along with those of the other denominations) thoroughly documents why the overwhelming majority of us, who have carefully listened, asked questions, listened some more, prayed an awful lot, listened some more, do not in fact agree.

    If the FV is willing to acknowledge that it’s teaching is not consistent with the WCF (et.al.), but is nevertheless consistent with the Bible, then by definition the FV is saying that the WCF does not accurately represent the Bible. Given that the range of doctrine covered by the FV is fundamentally spread across the vitals of our religion, then such a difference amounts to a wholesale exception to the WCF. There is no way that one can in good faith take an exception in such circumstances, for the person would be effectively denying the heart of the WCF.

    Nor, might I add, as one under vows to the WCF, would I be able in good conscience to admit such a person to join me in such vows. By definition, their vow to the WCF, while adhering to a system that fundamentally contradicts it, is vacuous of any real meaning. To admit such a one would be to make my own vows meaningless – while offering God affront in my irresponsible, frivolous vow-taking.

    The FV not only can’t have it both ways, it can’t have it either way:

    > If the FV wants to maintain it is consistent with the WCF and the Bible, it does so with only the highest degree of disrespect and disdain for the majority of us who disagree. We’ve discussed and debated extensively. The majority of us in the PCA are persuaded of two things: 1) the WCF accurately represents the Bible’s teaching, and 2) the FV denies both the WCF and the Bible it accurately represents.

    > If the FV wants to maintain it is consisent with the Bible, if not the WCF, then those affirming the FV need to move on. Quit troubling us and our congregations. We are willing to be at peace and labor alongside many brothers who do not hold to the WCF. I’m sure we can find means to do so with FV’ers in time.

    In the meantime, when you find yourself at odds with a brother over the most serious of matters, what would God have you do? Continue to debate and push at the brother? Or back off, settle down, keep counsel to yourself, and pray for your brother?

    I for one am persuaded we’ve reached an impass, for the time being Lord willing. The main FV proponents have not budged from the positions that trouble so many of us. From their perspective, we who disagree with them have not budged one inch from our unwillingness to keep reading the worst of mistakes into their positions.

    Both sides are diametrically opposed. The Lord has answered our prayers for unity over these matters with at least a “not yet.”

    I am one who believes the FV is fundamentally an error. FV’ers will say I read things into the FV that are not there. So be it.

    Will they stop bothering us? Will they take an action consistent with trust in God, and quit trying to force us against our consciences to maintain vows with them we believe they will not (are not) keeping? Will they push us right to the edge (e.g., Wilkins circumstances) and only leave at the very moment of the greatest tension, angst, and heated disagreement?

    Or will they show us grace and mercy, and quietly leave be, and go elsewhere?

    I do not like asking for such. Yet given the continued fighting that occurs over this issue – what would Jesus have us do?

  79. Bill Walker said,

    February 20, 2008 at 10:34 am

    QUOTE: However, once process is under way or an indictment is pending, as it was against Wilkins, they are honor-bound to stand trial.

    If I recall, the FV study commission was put together, intentionally, as a one-sided commission. In light of that, I think it’s kind of funny to talk about Wilkins being “honor-bound.”

    No, clearly, the standard of the PCA is the letter of the law (remember, “Robert’s Rules say “should be,” not “must be.”) and not the spirit of it. Anyone who cheered at the FV study commission has, I think, lost the right to complain about Wilkins for leaving as a minister in good standing, according to the BCO.

  80. February 20, 2008 at 10:53 am

    “I for one am persuaded we’ve reached an impass, for the time being Lord willing.”

    Many of us agree. And on this thread in particular as well. Mr. Siverd seems to me to have simply become argumentative on this thread, shedding no light.

  81. February 20, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I think we need to distinguish better between minor and major exceptions to the Westminster Standards and exceptions that strike at vitals. Sabbatarianism was not some incidental part of Puritanism, and it has no small space devoted to it in the WS. That it may be little held today in the PCA and generally, does not make taking an exception to the WS on it a minor one.

  82. Jesse Pirschel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Bob,

    Are the exceptions taken to the regulative principle during the contemporary services in the PCA (which are legion) striking more or less at the vitals of religion then say, a high octane covenant renewal service where a man wears a robe?

  83. Jon said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Jesse,

    What are some of the distinctives of this “high octane” service? Because, in my opinion, a robe and a more structured liturgy don’t necessarily violate the RPW. However, your language seems to imply more.

  84. Jesse Pirschel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Jon,

    In the context of the larger conversation of this thread you will see that I dont think it a violation either. High octane would be more fixed forms (corporate confession, sursum corda etc), congregational response, etc. But more than that a structure that is intentinally patterened according to the covenant. It seems these things are being challenged now with comments like,
    “So, are you advocating the OT ritualistic “covenant renewal” worship?”

  85. February 20, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    I gotta side with Pirschel on this one. The PCA has many planks in its eye (the RPW being one of them). I attended a conference for PCA Old School Presbyrerians in the south a couple years ago, and during the Q&A one of the speakers said the Regulative Principle of Worship doesn’t apply because we’re not bound to the Westminster Directory (!).

    But, these inconsistencies, important as they are, cannot ecclipse the FV issue.

  86. Jon said,

    February 20, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    At the risk of being off topic, do advocates of the FV generally reject the more traditional understanding of the RPW? Can one be FV and NOT have the more high octane service? Doesn’t FV create a necessity for a more ritualistic service? Or can the two issues be divorced?

  87. February 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Jon,

    I don’t see how, if you properly distinguish between elements and circumstances, why a covenant-renewal service should violate the RPW.

    For my own part, I would not vote to accept an exception by a candidate to the Regulative Principle of Worship. It’s part of what makes the Reformed church Reformed.

  88. Jon said,

    February 20, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Jason,

    I agree with your last proposition. I guess I’m just not familiar enough with what covenant renewal services. I have seen, around the net, certain FV advocates making a big deal about the robe and other things. If the robe or other parts that may noramally considered circumstantial become a part of the service or are imbued with certain meanings, that, I would think, would place those practices in questionable RPW territory.

  89. February 20, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Jon,

    Here (http://exile-pc.org/worship.html) is an example of non-FV covenant renewal worship.

  90. February 20, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    How do you make something a link?

  91. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Jason,

    Go to the “HTML Tags / Codes / Web Page Design” on the “Web Source” web site and scroll down to the “HTML Tags Chart” table. The “anchor” code (“a”) on the table’s second row is what you’re looking for. Lots of other HTML codes are listed on that page along with examples of how to use them, but not all of them are allowed on WordPress, which has provided a list of allowed HTML tags here.

  92. February 20, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Jason,

    Re #84: Are you sure you heard the speaker correctly? It is incontrovertible that we in the PCA are not bound by the Westminster Directory, and it is incontrovertible that we ARE bound by the Westminster Confession’s expression of the RPW (as in 21.1). I can’t imagine the speaker meant either that we weren’t bound by 21.1 OR that we ought to approve a candidate who took exception to 21.1. Perhaps (like Andy Pettite, according to Roger Clemens) you “misheard” or “misremembered”?

  93. February 20, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Jeff,

    It was clear that the speaker was unaware that the RPW is taught in the Standards themselves. You seem to have misunderestimated my memory.

  94. February 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Yikes! I know there are plenty of elders in the PCA that seem unaware that the RPW is taught in 21.1 et al, but I didn’t know there were “Old Schoolers” unaware!

    Unfortunately for us, I guess the chances you were “mishearing” or “misremembering” are as likely as the chances that Andy Pettite was….

  95. February 20, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Re. #84.

    … and during the Q&A one of the speakers said the Regulative Principle of Worship doesn’t apply because we’re not bound to the Westminster Directory (!).

    Re: #92. That was a rather remarkable exhibition of ignorance then. Rather sad. Or maybe the questioner was a plant? Was he wearing groucho glasses?;)

    FYI to readers of GB. The Confessional Presbyterian has completed an arc of material on the RPW in the first three issues (2005-2007), amounting to several hundred pages if in regular book format (the journal is in a large double column format), which surveys the last sixty years of literature on the RPW (pro and contra).

  96. Towne said,

    February 20, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Jason & Jon (#s 84 & 85):

    FV advocates have historically tended to disdain the Puritans. It is my understanding that they disavow the regulative principle of worship (and here please remember that the regulative principle applies not just to worship but also to doctrine and polity–God alone is Lord of the Church and we cannot innovate in any of these three areas). We must have clear warrant OR good and necessary consequence for all that we do in these three areas.

    At least one leading FV advocate has been heard to teach against the regulative principle, by erecting a straw man, stating the first half of the principle, that we must have clear warrant from Scripture, but then carefully overlooking the added note about good and necessary consequence (cf. WCF 1:6), and thus he lays the ground for attacking the principle as unworkable, which it would be if you did delete the provision of good and necessary consequence.

    As to covenant renewal forms of worship, back before he supposedly repudiated theonomy, James Jordan wrote The Sociology of the Church, in which theonomy is applied to ecclesiology. The book sets the foundations for where the FV group has been heading since at least the mid-90s and informs the FV version of what might be called covenant renewal worship. For Mr. Jordan, it is not merely a matter of wearing a robe, but there is a whole theology of vestments (Mr. Jordan recently rolled through St. Louis and declared ex cathedra that white robes were now de rigeuer.)

    Mr. Jordan also has chapters in his book on a “liturgy of malediction” and a “liturgy of healing”. He says he does not advocate the practice of crossing one’s self, but also argues that it is not unscriptural. He argues for sacramental conversion (p. 159-61), and for the lifting of the elements (p. 268-9).

    Lastly, on page 208, Jordan shows himself to be another who misquotes the Regulative Principle in order to argue against it. There is much more in that book that warrants a skeptical eye. It would be interesting to know what, if any, further developments have been added to Jordan’s views on worship since the time that this book was written (1986), and how that thinking is working itself out in FV circles.

  97. Rick Phillips said,

    February 20, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    In my experience, I have never seen an exception taken to the RPW. Yet it is undeniable that a good many PCA churches engage in worship practices that cannot be justified under the RPW. Moreover, the current climate in most presbyteries seems to be such that it is not possible to effectively require adherence to the RPW. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that 1) the PCA rank and file is not committed to the RPW, at least so as to require adherence; and 2) the PCA rank and file is comfortable with TE’s vowing to uphold the WCF and then flagrantly violating ch. XXI.

    In my opinion, this evidences some troubling realities. First, the idea of the PCA as a grass-roots church is more powerful than the idea of the PCA as a confessional denomination. You encounter this almost any time you try to enforce adherence to the Standards. Pastors and elders respond, “Why are you trying to push your views on us?” rather than, “We agree that we are accountable to one another and that we must uphold our solemn vows.” This, in my view, is the underlying issue in so many divisive issues, including doctrinal teaching and the matter of gender egalitarianism. The PCA strongly espouses presbyterianism, but at any level higher than the congregation, many of our leaders are simply committed to congregationalism. This is the fault line along which many of our past, present, and future divides rests.

    Secondly, the PCA has taken the view that we can have true denominational unity with the widest diversity in our approach to worship. But our unwillingness to come to real agreement on worship (as with ministry philosophy) underlies our serious lack of unity. As a result, we are functionally balkanized, unable even to worship in one another’s churches and increasingly unable even to understand one another. And the fact that the doctrinal standard we confess before God makes very clear statements regarding worship has no discernible influence on the situation.

    I do not say these things in a polemic spirit, but simply as a matter of honesty. The idea that we can have true unity with little mutual accountability and a casual attitude to holy vows, and that we can remain spiritually bound while little able even to worship together, does not seem tenable to me.

    This is a main reason why it is so hard for the PCA to take any corrective action. There are some topics in which we have a stongly shared commitment, such as the doctrine of justification (and it is only for this reason that action against the FV has been possible). But the mere fact that we have together vows to uphold our confessional standards has simply not proven to be an effective basis for unity. I lament this greatly, since our vows before the Lord ought to weigh heavily on souls. But this situation was openly displayed during the FV debate in last year’s GA. Numerous elders spoke to belittle the study report’s insistence on Westminsterian doctrine. On the one, the reality is that the opposition to the FV was based of the belief of its critics that the FV contradicts the biblical teaching of salvation. But since our denominational unity is supposed to result from our shared confessional vows, it is completely appropriate for us to judge the acceptability of someone’s teaching by comparison with the Standards. The belittling of this principle is just one more piece of evidence that we do not have a shared commitment to our avowed Confession. So what unity do we really have? Do have unity in a sense of mission? in a philosophy of ministry? I doubt it. Instead, we have unity in a general commitment to evangelical Calvinism. We have some unity in our shared history and in our shared institutions. But I wonder if those bases of unity will be sufficient to hold us together over time.

  98. February 20, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Jon, #85

    Great question. Frame and I et al. are not ritualistic, not high church, not heavily sacramentarian, not Covenant Renewal, do not see the minister as the Voice of Christ, do not wear robes or dog collars, do not oppose Contemporary Worship Music, do not see the Bible as specifying a liturgy.

    Our FV and Presby critics would see us as too charismatic or Pentecostal or “contemporary.” In fact, Preby anti-FV’ers like Scott Clark stand closer to the FV than either does to us on ecclesiology and liturgy.

    Yet we affirm an obedient faith, deny merit theology (Frame qualifies it), support Paedocommunion (Frame is not opposed to it), affirm a unity of Gospel and Law, support Christendom, and oppose Traditionalism.

    The FV may be misnamed. It is not really a Federal Vision but an Ecclesial Vision, or, rather, it is a Federal (Covenantal) Vision as an Ecclesial Vision.

    I myself am much closer to Bullinger than to Nevin. The church supports the covenant, not vice versa.

  99. Towne said,

    February 20, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Pastor Phillips (#96):

    In light of what you said, it seems that there is a failure to recognize the Standards as a jointly agreed-upon commentary on what the Scriptures teach. How did we get to this troublesome place?

    The problem with appealing directly to the Scriptures instead of the Standards is that such an appeal circumvents the Standards and even undercuts the basis of our unity as a denomination. It is in effect an invitation to reinvent the wheel, and an invitation to a revolution, where some new constitution will hold sway, since there ultimately has to be some gathering point, some basis of common understanding. Am I overstating the case?

  100. David Gilleran said,

    February 20, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    RE post 96
    Rick, when the Ad-Interim report on the Structure of the PCA was debated in the 80’s when one of the members of the committee when arguing for the adoption of the report at our presbytery meeting( there were BCO amendments ) said very clearly that the PCA was not tied to the Presbyterianism of the past. He explained that that statement by saying that were not going to emulate a presbyterian polity found in previous expressions either in America or Scotland. The PCA from its founding has been a hybrid of Presbyterianism/congregationalism.

  101. February 20, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Mr. Mattes,

    All I have asked is that just as you desire to see the SJC respected the lower courts of the PCA also be respected and be given room and time to perform their duty — free of political pressure being applied by alarmist rhetoric and saber-rattling acrimony.

    The way you have treated me in response to my sincere comments has been very illuminating, though probably not in the way you intended.

    “Veni, Domine Jesu.”

    Jordan

  102. Rick Phillips said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    David,

    Thanks for this. I have often heard about this. But one would not know that the PCA is a Presby/congregationalist hybrid simply by reading the BCO. It explains some of the features of the BCO (like the weakness of the GA). But reading the BCO and its presentation of graded courts, etc., one would not realize this historical background. Therefore, we have a disconnect between, on the one hand, the memory of many TE’s and RE’s and the background culture of the PCA, and on the other hand the formal structures of the BCO and the normal meaning of the word “presbyterian”. One effect of this, I find, is that we experience friction based on differing expections of what to expect from one another. (Some expect to be let alone, while others expect to be mutually accountable.) I personally doubt that one can be presbyterian while adhering to a congregationalist ethos.

    Towne,

    I agree with you. I think the big issue in the PCA right now is working out what confessionalism means for us. I also think our consensus on this matter will be forged in the GA’s reaction to controversies. The FV was one, but because that dealt with our cherished doctrine of justification, the rank and file was pretty united. But what about gender egalitarianism, the emergent church, or other future issues? Our expectations of unity will be clarified by GA decisions. I would expect an increasing number of overtures to GA in the years to come as our functioning polity is hammered out.

    In the meantime, I think the best thing we can do is to practice presbyterianism as much as possible. Let’s be scrupulously honest in making exceptions to the Confession and let’s ask the same of others. Let us work through the presbyteries and in the GA. Let’s be willing to lose votes without waging civil war. Let’s urge our fathers and brothers to take holy vows seriously and to be willing to be mutually accountable. And let’s avoid factionalism, both in spirit and by avoiding the formation of non-presbyterian factional groups that end-run the presbyteries and GA.

  103. Dewey Roberts said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    David (post #96)

    That individual, if you are referring to Bob Cannada, was not a church historian. His reference really was to the form of polity in the PCUSA which is known as hierarchical Presbyterianism. I know that from many detailed conversations with him on the subject. Hierarchical Presbyterianism is not historical Presbyterianism. Dr. Roy Taylor has an excellent article on this which is available from the PCA website. Also, the New Light Presbyterians in the 18th century believed in the type of polity which the PCA has. Their opponents, the Old Lights, believed in hierarchical Presbyterianism and are the forerunners of the type of polity found in the PCUSA. William Cunningham has a good chapter in his book, Historical Theology, which shows that the basic principles of church government in the Bible are similar to the polity found in the PCA. But, read Dr. Taylor’s paper first for an understanding of church polity in the PCA.
    So, David, I disagree that the PCA is a hybrid Presbyterianism. Church history proves otherwise.

  104. Dewey Roberts said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Once more.
    The position of the Old Lights was that a church court could do anything it wanted to do unless it could be shown to be contrary to Scripture.
    The position of the New Lights was that church courts were specifically limited in their powers to those few powers expressly given to them in the Bible.
    The differences were not subtle. I am a New Light Presbyterian in almost every respect.

    P.S. For those who don’t know the difference, New Lights are not the same group as New School Presbyterians. Different centuries, completely different views.

  105. David Gilleran said,

    February 20, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Dewey it was not Bob Cannada it was Jack Williamson. The issues debated were a) can a commission of presbytery remove a session? and b) can a commission or committee of presbytery shepherd a session on its own accord? The answer which Mr. Williamson gave is no and that is when he made his statement. There was no appeal to New Light Presbyterianism. It was presented as a scaled back Presbyterianism.

  106. February 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    #95-97

    If no less than an Owen can say that all false worship follows on ignorance, neglect or weariness in the exercise of faith (Works 5:437), is it any wonder that what now largely calls itself the FV (Schlissel, Jordan, Frame, Leithart and Wilson), having begun by assaulting the regulative principle of worship, has now turned its guns on the doctrine of justification by faith alone?
    I don’t think so.

    Further, since the PCA is an American presbyterian descendant of the Revolution Settlement 1689 in Scotland, the only thing left of the original Westminster Standards, is the American version/revision of the Confession and Catechisms. The SL&C (the original oath of subscription to the complete Standards), the Directory for Public Worship and the Form of Church Government have long since been discarded formally and in substance.

    Consequently among other things, modern moderate American presbyterians think being reformed only applies to doctrine, not the worship and government of the church. Exit uniformity in doctrine, worship and government stage right, enter chaos and confusion stage left: standing judicial committees, good faith subscription, contemporary worship music and practice etc. etc.
    And the FV.

    As a former PCA-ite, I am watching all this with a great deal of interest. There is nothing new under the sun, whether the FV thinks so or not.

    Bob Suden

  107. Howard Davis said,

    February 20, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    test/ test

  108. jared said,

    February 20, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Bob,

    Ref. #74 & 75

    You say,

    Jared, it frankly seems as if you are ignoring the plain language of the PCA Constitution, substituting instead some fancy general concepts you make up on the fly. Let’s stick with the books and their plain language meaning, shall we?

    How am I ignoring the plain language of the PCA constitution? I didn’t say or mention anything about.

    You say,

    I have one more question, though. If you believe that your pseudo-legal reasoning is so persuasive, then why didn’t Wilkins stick around for his trial with you representing him? I see that as a rhetorical question, because we all know why. Twisting and spinning the PCA Constitution to your liking may sound sophisticated on the blogs, but it won’t fly before the SJC.

    I don’t know why Wilkins didn’t stick around for his trial; I do know that I would have. Once again, I’ve done no twisting at all of the PCA Constitution; I’ve said nothing about it.

    You say,

    So I guess that the PCA hasn’t condemned paedocommunion, pornography, homosexuality, humanism, or any other position condemned through votes on overtures and/or study committee reports/recommendations? So the General Assembly doesn’t decide anything by vote? Is that what you’re saying?

    I’ve not seen any Study Reports on paedocommunion, pornography, homosexuality, humanism, etc. so I can’t say for sure whether those things are officially condemned or not. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be and I can’t imagine needing a committee to come to such conclusions regarding most of those issues. So, no that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that the Study Report on the FV/NPP doesn’t condemn either, so far as I can tell. Rather it condemns a few tennents that may or may not be held by FV/NPP advocates.

    You say,

    Or do the normal rules not apply to Federal Visionists because they are “more Biblical” than the Reformers and Divines and therefore exempt from mere ecclesiological decisions of the brothers unto whom they have vowed submission? Councils can and do err, but rogue individuals are far more prone to error. That’s an underlying tenet of Reformed ecclesiology.

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at with this point. What does this have to do with the Study Report condemning or not condemning FV/NPP?

  109. Towne said,

    February 20, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Jared (#106):

    I suspect Mr. Mattes had not yet had his coffee this morning when he wrote, and if you will compare the posts above carefully, you will see that he was conflating or confusing posts from both you and Mr. Siverd. Much of what you are confused about in #106 is answered by realizing that it was intended for Mr. Siverd, who entered the thread at post #42.

  110. Howard Davis said,

    February 20, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Bob,

    Sorry that my reply to your post is so late coming. Last week much of my week was sunk in this blog. This week I’ve been at the plough so much that I haven’t had time to follow all the interesting, informed, and often inflated blog-posting debate.

    But here is what I would say in response:

    You said: “Federal Visionists in the PCA rely on their personal relationships inside their Presbyteries to protect them from the required discipline at the point of original jurisdiction. When that happens, the only place an impartial trial can take place is at the Standing Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, just as it was with Wilkins.”

    I do not believe that Steve Wilkins and Auburn Avenue used (nor abused) their personal relationship to gain undeserving favor from LAP court. In the entire process, as we were probing Wilkins on controversial things that he had written and said in relationship to FV, he lacked clarity on key issues and yet time and time again appeared to affirm the beliefs found in the Westminster Standards, esp on the most controvesial elements. While a lack of clarity is not good, it is not normally a reason to try someone; otherwise, all TEs would often find themselves on trial. However, as time progressed and the questions narrowed, Wilkins became clearer and yet in a way that reflected, at least to me and several others, a clear departure from the Standards in vital areas. I (nor most others in LAP I know of) did not give Steve a pass because we are friends and he is a likeable guy. We gave him a pass because when we pressed him, he seemed to keep falling out on the side of the Standards, even while he openly wrestled with more controversial elements of the FV. A large percentage (not a majority) of LAP agreed with Wilkins’ perspectives at the time, so they were not voting for him because of friendship but out of agreement (though their theological positions may have been influenced by his genuinely winsome spirit). All along the way, Wilkins has (I believe) genuinely wrestled with reconciling his views to the Standards. Along the way, he began to redefine some key terms, like “truly come to Christ”, that allowed him to think he still fit (not out of deception but out of a desire to remain consistent with the Standards). Over time, it became clear to me that while he still bought into the language of the Standards (as he had redefined the terms), he differed in substance to the true theological concept being conveyed (e.g., the spiritual experience of apostates, the reality of the invisible church). That is what moved me to take the stance that Wilkins was outside the bounds of the Standards. Were we an impartial jury? Not perfectly. Many REs stated publicly that these issues and disagreements were too complex and too nuanced for them to make confident judgments, and most of them tended towards withholding condemnation since they had much uncertainty about his guilt (which is how uncertain judges should tend to err, if they err). None of us were theologically neutral (many were predisposed to FV, but many like myself were predisposed against FV), but if by impartial you mean honestly wrestling without judging as to the person, we were a relatively impartial court (on the whole, not everyone but most) .

    “the only place an impartial trial can take place is at the Standing Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, just as it was with Wilkins.”

    If you think that SJC or even GA is any more of an impartial jury than LAP (by virtually any standard that you would judge LAP as being partial), you are fooling yourself. I believe that was the point of Sam’s comment. The only difference would be that the impartiality is weighted in the opposite direction (a direction that I personally agree with). Case in point (many could be made), GA’s big decisions are often swayed by what 1 of 10-15 thought leaders say.

    “Leadership is tough, but it’s even tougher when you compromise your core principles, consciously or unconsciously. Personal relationships must not interfere with one’s leadership duties. That cuts at the heart of impartiality. The rule of law through the guiding Constitution must take precedent over personal feelings.”

    I completely agree with this. This is actually what moved me initially to defend Wilkins and then moved me to oppose him, when my perception what I heard from him changed from being within the Confession to being outside. In none of this have I compromised core principles (nor theological convictions), nor have most LAP reps who have been genuinely wrestling with this. There should be pause in all of us before condemning (or acquitting) another person, to make sure we are not just going along with the crowd.

    “In the first commandment, God commands us not to have other gods before Him. Friendship, even loyalty to a beloved teacher or pastor, can be such an idol when it prevents us from acting to preserve the gospel and protect God’s flock from error.”

    As for idolatry, I do confess I am an idolater (as Derek Webb puts it so aptly, a whore, cf Hosea and Jeremiah 2 & 3). But I nor most of LAP have friendship as our idol and certainly not in a way that compromised our judgment in this case. Our idolatry is driven mostly by seeking to find life outside of the True Fountain of life by digging empty cisterns for ourselves (like incessant blogging ;p) ).

    “When called to face the music, they quickly bolt to safety and leave their loyal friends to take the brunt of the blowback. The loyalty shown to them is not returned.”

    As for what sort of friends FV folks are…There were times like when I first began to oppose Wilkins, having changed from thinking he was inside the bounds of the Standards to thinking Wilkins was outside, that FV proponents in LAP treated me as if I was a traitor (probably because they thought I was in much the same way as you have the tendency to interpret favorable stances as partiality). But as time has passed and my arguments have clarified but remained in opposition, we reconciled. Most FV proponents continue being my friends, as I continue as their friends. My position has never been driven by loyalty to one person or group or another. Their positions have not been driven by disloyalty but theological changes. What is more, I believe that Wilkins decision to leave was largely driven both by a desire for peace for LAP, his church, and to a lesser degree the PCA & by a strong impression that SJC was going to make the decision without impartiality.

    Hope this helps clarify the situation in LAP.

  111. jared said,

    February 20, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Towne,

    Except that I’m only responding to #74 from after I was addressed and to #75 which is solely to me. I do see that the last paragraph of #74 was likely not aimed at me but since it was addressed to me I wanted to be clear that those issues were not ones that I brought up. I suppose that excuse could carry over to #75 but neither of us will know for sure until (and if) Bob responds. I am not trying to make light of Bob’s apparent confusion; I am, instead, responding to Bob’s patronizing of me (which isn’t confused or unclear).

  112. David Gilleran said,

    February 20, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Dewey, by hybrid, I mean that we have always have, in theory, Presbyterian in our polity which is unique to the other American Presbyterian churches in some aspects. However, we act more in a congregational manner in the way we relate to each other and how view the courts of the church.

  113. February 20, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Jared,

    Some of the post numbers were changed by WordPress as moderated posts were approved. One of the posts you reference was certainly directed at Jordan by name after I corrected it early this AM. I’ll have to try to sort out the other one when I get a chance. This is my one frustration with WordPress.

  114. February 20, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Howard,

    I appreciate your bringing your perspective. Although I disagree with your assessment of the brothers on the SJC, I always appreciate your candor and your thoughts.

  115. February 20, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Jared,

    OK, #75 was for you. I wasn’t patronizing you, but challenging your statement. Go to the PCA Historical Site and read the overtures and recommendations cited. The format and approvals are the same as the FV, etc., study report and recommendations. So, if you say that the PCA didn’t declare those aspects of FV out of accord, then neither has the PCA condemned homosexuality, paedocommunion, humanism, etc. The problem for your statement is that the PCA has done all of the above.

  116. Howard Davis said,

    February 20, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks Bob,

    In all that I said, I am not trying to imply that SJC is a strongly or blindly biased jury,nor that they are judging FUNDAMENTALLY on the basis of the persons involved, but I am saying that the impartiality is IMO certainly no greater than (perhaps equal to) that of LAP. To imply that LAP was a partial jury and at the same time to argue that SJC is not is to judge both by very different standards.

  117. jared said,

    February 21, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Bob,

    You say,

    OK, #75 was for you. I wasn’t patronizing you, but challenging your statement. Go to the PCA Historical Site and read the overtures and recommendations cited. The format and approvals are the same as the FV, etc., study report and recommendations. So, if you say that the PCA didn’t declare those aspects of FV out of accord, then neither has the PCA condemned homosexuality, paedocommunion, humanism, etc. The problem for your statement is that the PCA has done all of the above.

    I’m not saying that the PCA hasn’t declared certain theological views to be out of accord. The overtures on homosexuality, pornography, etc. aren’t exactly comparable because there aren’t divisible tennents of them that are okay. FV says that Jesus is God, so if we say FV is out of accord with Scripture then are we saying that the view that Jesus is God is also out of accord? Of course not, that’s absurd. The issues you listed for comparison aren’t as complex and complicated as FV is so you can’t equate the respective reports and their conclusions. There is no problem with my statement because there is no ground for comparing FV to issues like homosexuality, pornography, and humanism. Now, the report on paedocommunion is a bit more comparable except that it had a minority report.

    As far as I can tell, paedocommunion isn’t condemned (as homosexuality, pornography and humanism are condemned), it just isn’t allowed to be practiced. There’s an important distinction which needs to be made, here, between forbiding something and condemning something. The report on paedocommunion says nothing about kicking out or excommunicating or condemning those ruling and teaching elders who supported the minority report. It does say those who do support the minority report need to let their sessions and presbyteries know, but judgment one way or another is left to the sessions and presbyteries. There could be (and I’d be surprised if there’s not) ruling and teaching elders who agree with paedocommunion but don’t practice it because it isn’t allowed. Sessions and presbyteries weren’t required to oust those who came forward with their views. The same is true of those who are FV advocates. The main difference between the paedocommunion study report and the FV study report is that the paedocommunion study report was done right. The study committee was established at the 12th GA and the report wasn’t delivered until 16th GA; and that was just one issue! This should speak volumes about the quality of the FV study report.

    Also, the more I read the declarations of the study report the more I am convinced that FV is not majorly (or even mostly) condemned by them. In fact, I see only two declarations that are directly problematic for FV advocates; number 2 and number 7. If these are the only 2 aspects of FV that are out of accord then it is hardly a whole-sale condemnation of FV and one cannot maintain the supposition that the PCA has officially and/or effectively condemned FV as a movement or as a system of theology.

  118. February 21, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Jared,

    Well, OK, suit yourself, but you are drawing an artificial line that doesn’t exist in reality. Making that argument on a blog is one thing, but I wouldn’t try that before an orthodox Presbytery or the SJC.

    The report on paedocommunion says nothing about kicking out or excommunicating or condemning those ruling and teaching elders who supported the minority report. It does say those who do support the minority report need to let their sessions and presbyteries know, but judgment one way or another is left to the sessions and presbyteries.

    And so it is with the FV report. The difference is that although paedocommunion is an important issue, it doesn’t strike at the heart of soteriology like FV does.

  119. jared said,

    February 21, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Bob,

    Where’s the artificial line? I haven’t put forth an argument here that I would not use before session, presbtery or the SJC. The difference is not that FV strikes at the heart of soteriology, it’s that those aspects of the FV which the study report has outlined strikes at heart of soteriology. And, as I and others have pointed out, with the except of 2 and 7 the declarations do not directly strike FV; much less do they condemn it like homosexuality, pornography or humanism. What I find odd is we agree that paedocommunion is an important issue and FV all the more important. Yet 20 years ago GA put 4 years of studying into coming to a conclusion about paedocommunion and now we won’t even give 2 years to something that is more important and vital? It seems to me that more caution should be used in this instance, not less.

  120. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 21, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Jared, what I hear you saying is that the individual doctrines, not the name “Federal Vision”, were proscribed in the PCA report.

    Is that a correct reading? If so, I agree.

    Jeff Cagle

  121. Scott said,

    February 21, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Pastor Davis,
    Regarding your post# 108.

    Thanks for an inside perspective on what happened in your Presbytery during these events. Your account reflects a Pastor’s heart. It is evident God has equipped you for your office and with a good heart toward people. I rejoice people of your calibre are in our deonomination.

    Like you, I am busy and have limited time to read and post in blogs.

    As a layman, without knowing any of the people involved, it is understandable how difficult it is to oppose the error of people and still work with them on good terms. It is even more understandable when it is a small group- I understand your Presbytery has only 8 churches. There is less “cross-pollination” than in a larger group.

    This Pastor started Federal Vision conferences in 2002 and wrote a seminal book about it in 2004. There was clear evidence several years ago these doctrines were serious error. They quickly produced and spread confusion and division about things long held- justification by faith (in Christ’s righteousness) alone, perseverance of the saints, the visible versus invisible church, and others.

    Being occassionally unclear or misunderstood is not a reason to examine someone, especially with relatively minor areas of doctrine.

    However, promoting teachings that create confusion about central doctrines like justification by faith alone is. Whether the teacher explicitly states he does not agree with the doctrine or whether his teaching confuses it, neither is acceptable for a teaching Elder.

    I have a book of Charts that summarizes Christian views. It says for Reformed Theology, “the unity of the Church must be grounded in doctrinal agreement.” It is one thing that binds us together as a confessional church.

    It is indeed easy to let personal friendships or relationships cloud evaluation of the beliefs of that person. In a similar situation many of us might do it, for a short time or longer. It is, as you point out, a spiritual flaw that affects many of us. It does seem, however, as an outsider looking at this, that this is a fair characterization of what happened with this individual within his presbytery. Personal relationships clouded the evaluation of a person’s doctrines.

    Now that the majority has admitted their guilt in not seeing the harm and not protecting the church from it, the process of repentance continues. As I understand it, biblically, that requires admitting, forsaking the wrong and making restitution. Certainly, the painful process of repentance has begun with some. A lot of harm has been done by this.

    I don’t have much experience in our denominational process but it would seem a broader cross-section of people (like the Judicial Commission represents) is more likely to look at an issue disspassionately. That’s not a guarantee, but it is more likely. That’s why in our (civil) judicial system there is sometimes what is called a “change of venue” for a trial. People can be too close to a matter to judge it fairly.

    Submitting to the discipline of the church, including examination and even a trial is what the vow is. It’s not about submitting only if one thinks one will have a personably favorable result or even about whether one thinks one will get a fair hearing. Every authority relationship in the world breaks down on that basis. We, of all people (our denomination) believe God sets these authorities in place and uses vows taken in His name to enforce them.

    It’s really like this- someone gets a letter infoming them they are a “person of interest” in a grand jury proceeding. They are not technically restricted. That night, however, they flee the country to a nation that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Although the judicial system is designed with all sorts of substantive and procedural safeguards to protect their rights, they will not be brought under it. They will flee it. They do so, they say, because, they do not believe the grand jury will judge them with impartiality. The process, they rationalize, would disrupt the affairs of others they care about.

    It seems that is what happened here.

    This Pastor fled the night before he was going to be formally engaged to stand examination of his views.

    Thank you again, for your integrity in this process and for all you do.

  122. Heather said,

    February 21, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Jeff Cagle,

    You’ve worded your understanding in an odd way. I am saying that the individual doctrines the study report outlined are not, in any way, fundamental to FV as a movement or as a theological system (with, perhaps, the exception of declarations 2 and 7). If we are going to call FV a system of theology in contrast (or opposition, or whatever) to Reformed theology, then the study report is woefully inadequate as an analysis/assessment. So, it isn’t simply the name “Federal Vision” that isn’t condemned by the report, FV as a system/movement is not condemned by the report (nor are FV advocates).

  123. jared said,

    February 21, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Okay, so that last post was actualy from me. I didn’t notice that my wife had her information in the appropriate boxes.

  124. jared said,

    February 21, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Er, the post from “Heather” that is, whenever it shows up…

  125. Dewey Roberts said,

    February 21, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    David,
    I know what you meant by hybrid. I just disagree. The view of the PCA on polity is not a hybrid. It is Biblical and Presbyterian church government. You should read up on some of the things I said in my earlier post. Read Cunningham on Historical Theology. Read Dr. Taylor’s paper because it has a number of excellent quotes.

  126. Dewey Roberts said,

    February 21, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    David,

    Jack Williamson also is not an historian. He knew that he didn’t want the type of church polity in the PCUSA which they had fought against for so long. What I am saying is that the PCUSA does not represent Biblical and Presbyterian church polity. The polity of the PCA is Biblical and true, historical Presbyterianism.

  127. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 21, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Jared (#122-124):

    Yes, my unusual wording was intentional. It is my opinion that the study report has the effect of setting very broad boundary stones without necessarily cutting any one person “in” or “out”. Hence, I think the report addresses ideas without taking on the FV as a whole or even individuals in particular.

    Jeff Cagle

  128. David Gray said,

    February 21, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    >Hence, I think the report addresses ideas without taking on the FV as a whole or even individuals in particular.

    Which is why arguing that it puts anyone who identifies with the FV as out of bounds is rather misleading at best…

  129. Howard Davis said,

    February 22, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Scott (121),

    Very good post. I agree that 2002-2005 gave plenty of evidence that Wilkins seemed to take positions contrary to the Standards. I went into my questioning and examining of him with strong suspicion/presumption of guilt because of what I read. However, his talks and writing often lacked clarity. Erroneously, I filled in the gaps with what I would have meant had I said what he said/wrote. That was a major mistake. Still, greater clarity is found when you can ask someone who wrote something controversial specific questions about what they believe about these controversial issues. A committee of 3 that included myself and another TE who opposed FV and a supporter of FV drill Wilkins for over 90 minutes. His answers while not removing all doubt satisfied us all that he appeared to be within the bounds of the Standards. That was not driven by friendship but by what we heard, and I don’t mean any statements like “I have no disagreements with the Standards.” or “I take the Confessional position on that.” But statements like “I believe that apostates do not experience vital union with Christ”.

    But in other places Wilkins seemed to contradict himself. As he clarified the apparent contradictions, it became clear IMO that he differed with key theological concepts themselves, and had been able to affirm them only by majorly redefining some key terms and phrases like “truly comes to Christ” and “vital”. Personally, I do not believe that any of this came from a deceptive spirit but that it came from his own wrestling with what he believed and how he could legitimately communicate these things. His identification with FV positions grew over the last 2 1/2 years, so that in the end he would say that someone could have forgiveness and lose it, whereas before he said he was trying to figure out the difficult language of the Bible when it suggested such.

    Yet having said this, you lay out a compelling “theoretical” case. I can see how the situation would be perceived in this way.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful and gracious response.

  130. Howard Davis said,

    February 22, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Just to clarify: “Personally, I believe that none of this came from a deceptive spirit…” That is what I get for editing on the fly and not rereading before posting.

  131. February 22, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Howard,

    I fixed #129 to mean what you intended per #130, but only changed one word so that 129 and 130 say the same thing in slightly different words for maximum clarity. If you don’t like the edit, then I will make 129 match 130 exactly.

  132. David Gray said,

    February 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Now that’s service…

  133. David Gilleran said,

    February 22, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Dewey, I have read Dr. Taylor’s paper and HT by Cunningham. I agree that our polity is far better than what was found is the PCUS. The point that I was making can be seen by the new church in Philadelphia Presbytery (see the thread on the Bayly Brothers blog)

  134. Morgan Farmer said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    David Gray said,
    February 18, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    >You have no idea of the cost in human terms.
    That would be Aztec worship.

    Aztec worship???

    No David, I am referring to those that were the victims of the FV ministers, those that were basically kicked out of churches and those whose ‘removal was engineered by an associate’. The other people that had to endure seeing their churches destroyed by the FV teachings when formerly solid pastors went off the deep end.

    No David, I am talking about crying yourself to sleep for nights on end…PTSD symptoms and all of the other nigtmare horrors that accompany church splits and doctrinal divisions. I am talking about runied friendships as people chose sides and no one could reason with anyone….I am talking basically war here.

    You people act like it is a joke. Like the only thing there is is discussion and prosecution…there is more… a lot more…there are people in these churches. Remember PEOPLE??????? Do you not think that these doctrinal divisions havve affeced peoples’ lives? If not then you are certainly un -informed

    Yes David….I am still angry about it. I am angry because no one did anything, from the presbytery on down…I am angry because the only response I got from a so called mediator was that I will pray for you. Yeah, be warm and filled to a starving man.

    I don’t expect you to agree with me or feel sorry for me, but you need to know that there is a cost and its’ not pretty.

  135. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    >o David, I am talking about crying yourself to sleep for nights on end…PTSD symptoms and all of the other nigtmare horrors that accompany church splits and doctrinal divisions.

    Invoking PTSD during a time of actual war is in bad taste.

    > I am talking about runied friendships as people chose sides and no one could reason with anyone….I am talking basically war here.

    And who declared it?

    >You people act like it is a joke. Like the only thing there is is discussion and prosecution…there is more… a lot more…there are people in these churches. Remember PEOPLE??????? Do you not think that these doctrinal divisions havve affeced peoples’ lives? If not then you are certainly un -informed

    No, but most of the people I’ve seen suffering are at the hands of the sort of hatred that we see on this website occasionally and it is predominantly from anti-FV people.

    >I am angry because the only response I got from a so called mediator was that I will pray for you. Yeah, be warm and filled to a starving man.

    I guess you wanted the presbytery to liquidate your theological opponents on demand? Do they ever cry themselves to sleep at night because of you?

    And of course the original post was when you responded to my post regarding Calvin’s Strasbourg liturgy by talking about the human cost. If you were referencing other than the last post before yours you would have served yourself well to have referenced it.

  136. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    And to be clear I am not saying that most anti-FV posters here manifest hatred. But there are a small number who have.

  137. February 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    David, RE #135,

    Few will think it humorous to cruelly dismiss the real suffering of God’s sheep in the pews. Straight-forward and frank debate between officers is one thing. Laughing at the suffering of covenant families is something else entirely. I don’t think that your post was clever or funny, and I don’t think that I’m alone. May I suggest that you examine yourself on this?

  138. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    >Few will think it humorous to cruelly dismiss the real suffering of God’s sheep in the pews. Straight-forward and frank debate between officers is one thing. Laughing at the suffering of covenant families is something else entirely. I don’t think that your post was clever or funny, and I don’t think that I’m alone. May I suggest that you examine yourself on this?

    And do you think much human suffering has resulted from Calvin’s Strasbourg liturgy? I don’t. I am not laughing at the suffering of covenant families. Go back and read the original context. I asked you about Calvin’s liturgy. He responded a bit later “You have no idea of the cost in human terms.” Now he did not reference any other post and it seemed an extreme reaction to mine. So I made a light hearted reply. Now if he actually thinks that about the Strasbourg liturgy he is rather odd in that regard. And maybe he does. But how anyone takes that to mean I’m laughing at covenant families is beyond me.

    Who is laughing at the suffering of covenant families? Go back and read what he was referencing. I asked about Calvin’s liturgy. He then posted “You have no idea of the cost in human terms.” Given that he wasn’t referencing a particular post

  139. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Brother Mattes,

    If you are not referencing the Aztec remark but actually post 135 then I’m also at a loss as nothing in that post is humourous or indicative of laughing. It does suggest that there is suffering on both sides and he seems cognizant of only one.

  140. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Hmm. Not sure where the last paragraph in 138 came from.

  141. February 23, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    David,

    I think you have a huge misunderstanding here. I took Morgan’s comment to be about my post and your reply to it in comment #2, along with your suggestion to retreat. I believe that Morgan was saying that retreat isn’t an option when families are suffering under the erroneous teachings and divisions caused by Federal Visionists. Retreat just leads to further suffering by covenant families targeted for their unwillingness to be led astray by the theological fad of the hour.

    In that light, your reply in 135 is heartless. Strasbourg isn’t even in view and I have no idea why you think that it is.

  142. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    >In that light, your reply in 135 is heartless. Strasbourg isn’t even in view and I have no idea why you think that it is.

    Because that was the comment (#8) that preceded his (#9) and he referred to no other post to provide context? And then his (#134) references my (#10). I’m not a mind reader.

  143. February 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    #134 was absolutely tied to #10, as the date/time stamp referenced by Morgan in #134 clearly showed.

    Maybe a judgment of charity would have helped. Saves a lot of difficult mind reading.

  144. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    >#134 was absolutely tied to #10, as the date/time stamp referenced by Morgan in #134 clearly showed.

    Which is why I said it was. You were arguing that #9 was tied to #2. If he wanted that to be understood then he should have stated as such. Otherwise it could be any preceding post and the most logical choice is the one immediately preceding.

    >Maybe a judgment of charity would have helped. Saves a lot of difficult mind reading.

    Absolutely. It would also save false accusations about laughing at the suffering of covenant families.

  145. February 23, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    David,

    I guess you wanted the presbytery to liquidate your theological opponents on demand? Do they ever cry themselves to sleep at night because of you?

    Why would I think that this isn’t mocking their suffering? Morgan says they called out for relief from their Presbytery but were blown off (my words). Their suffering continued unabated and you joke about “liquidate your theological opponents.” Morgan’s post wasn’t about theology, but about real suffering of real people.

    This is exactly why I wrote my post. Too many people see this as a game (not generally you). Others of us see real suffering by real sheep in God’s covenant flock.

  146. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    >This is exactly why I wrote my post. Too many people see this as a game (not generally you). Others of us see real suffering by real sheep in God’s covenant flock.

    Okay, I understand you better now. But I would submit that essentially he wanted (at least as expressed in his post) just that. He is angry because a mediator only told him that he would pray for him? What did he want done? If it is Wilkins that is in question he was examined more than once by presbytery and as indicated by an opponent of the FV in that presbytery it wasn’t clear to this opponent that Wilkins was in the wrong until the latter stages. What do you think Mr. Farmer actually wanted? He certainly gives the impression that he wanted precise conclusions drawn of those he opposed, he wanted them drawn quickly and then he wanted immediate and far reaching action. Right or wrong?

    I see real suffering on both sides and I see real offense on both sides. But I see one side with a good deal more power to damage their opponents than the other. I remember when the Baylys heard one FV opponent a couple years back talk about his plan to purge the PCA of (if memory serves) 90+ churches that he viewed as FV infected. We have seen some of this in action. How much grief has it caused? And not just among FV clergy but I warrant among families in their churches as well.

    If action must be taken it should be done clearly and deliberately and with the “judgement of charity” you call for up above. That doesn’t mean no action. But I suspect it wouldn’t be the sort of approach that would assuage Mr. Farmer’s anger (at least with the impression that he gave above).

    I understand why Pastor Wilkins may have left when he did for the best of his congregation but I think the PCA would have been much better served to have had an open trial. Life is complicated and messy.

  147. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    And I daresay that the study committee, whatever its strengths or failings, did not act overnight by any means either (as you know better than I). And that at least is as it should be.

  148. Reed DePace said,

    February 23, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    David:

    I’ve not jumped on your case for a while here :) I think I need to this time.

    You are known, at least here at Green Bagginses, for your willingness to take to task anti-FV’ers whom you perceive to be speaking in an injudicious, unkind, innappropriate, sometimes hateful manner. You do so with some wit and sarcasm.

    At times I’ve found your comments to be right on, and appropriately directed. At other times I find your comments just more of the thing you argue against. Caustic wit against caustic wit makes neither your opponent’s argument nor your’s palatable to those with more irenic desires.

    My introduction to you was as the brunt of some of your caustic wit – which earned you a warning from Lane. Your response was more caustic responses. Rather than stop, consider that maybe you misread me and assumed things unfairly, you defended yourself.

    You’re doing the same thing here. Even assuming that Morgan was confused/confusing in his response, his response clearly demonstrates a pain that goes beyond mere doctrinal debate. He does not read like someone who is taking cheap shots.

    Brother, you demonstrate that you have a sound head on your shoulders. I do not suggest with any glee that you should pray for some more kindness and gentleness in your heart.

    I write not as one known as a paragon of gentleness, but one who has been gripped by how much more I need of the Gentle One.

    FWIW

  149. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    >I write not as one known as a paragon of gentleness, but one who has been gripped by how much more I need of the Gentle One.

    Pastor DePace, actually that is how I’ve known you here at any rate. You make some good points. Maybe you should write the book “Being Right is Not Enough.” And I need to read it. Mr. Farmer please accept my apology if I added to your pain.

  150. Reed DePace said,

    February 23, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    David:

    Let me also add I’ve seen you more than once show a humility that only comes from Christ. Thank you for giving him glory.

  151. Morgan Farmer said,

    February 24, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    It’s Mrs. Farmer.

    Thanks Reed for the ‘correct reading’ of my post.


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