Preview of Coming Attractions

I will be responding in a series of blog posts to TE Robert Rayburn’s public reaction to the SJC decision regarding the Leithart case. I hope I will be more charitable to Rob Rayburn than Rob Rayburn was to the SJC. Rob Rayburn is undoubtedly a highly intelligent, highly accomplished theologian. Therefore, I will make it a point to say nothing on this blog that I would not be comfortable saying to him in person. But I do feel that the SJC needs to have someone speak up for it and answer some of the very serious things that TE Rayburn has said in his response to the decision.

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34 Comments

  1. January 25, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Would Rayburn conclude that someone is out of accord with the Westminster Standards when they openly reject some part of its teaching, and not when they add to it–i.e. by subtraction, not addition? Even so, Leitharts explicit rejection of the Standards teaching on the Covenant of Works. Rayburn can only appeal to Murray, Ridderbos and a few NCT guys to support his arguments here. The SJC appealed to the Confession, Rayburn appealed to progression.

  2. January 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

    The second sentence of my comment above should read: “Even so, with regard to Leithart’s explicit rejection of the Standard’s teaching on the Covenant of Works, Rayburn can only appeal to Murray, Ridderbos and a few NCT guys to support his arguments.

  3. pduggie said,

    January 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    “Would Rayburn conclude that someone is out of accord with the Westminster Standards when they openly reject some part of its teaching”

    In my reading of Rayburn’s claim, Leithart is not “openly rejecting” part of the “teaching” of the WS. he says “Those who read the Standards as
    emphasizing a meritocracy and those who read them as emphasizing the gracious foundation of all God’s covenant dealings with humanity can both find their view in the language of the Standards and in the Westminster tradition. The Standards are simply not sufficiently precise to settle this debate.”

    So the ‘teaching’ of the WS does not need to be ‘openly rejected’ by anyone, since it can be read

    A superlapsarian does not need to openly reject any of the teaching of the WS, nor an infralapsarian. Nor a postmillenialist nor a amillienialist.

    Does a view that bifurcate the Old and New covenant into two essentially different covenants “strike at the vitals” of the WS teaching, even though, clearly, it contradicts the statements thereof. There are some who would say so, I guess, but that seems a bit much.

    Likewise a view that notes that the formal features of all covenants (“Grace and law from God’s side, and a demand for faith and obedience from man” to quote Leithart) are quite similar (that’s why, perhaps they are all called covenants, rather than work-contracts vs Inheritance documents or some such.)

    Even Gordon defending Irons cites Bavink favorably that the issue in the garden is Adam’s faith

    “In the probation-command the entire moral law was staked on a single throw, as it were, for Adam; for him the former incorporated the dilemma: God or man, God’s authority or his own insight, unconditional obedience or independent investigation, faith or doubt.”

    It was Murray who, IIRC taught a great many students to ‘take exception’ to the view that the ‘covenant of works’ language was 1) the best 2) proof that there was no graciousness in the garden.

    “The SJC appealed to the Confession, Rayburn appealed to progression.”

    Who will appeal to the Holy Spirit Speaking in the scriptures? That’s supposed to be the only RULE of faith and practice.

  4. David Gray said,

    January 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    >Rayburn can only appeal to Murray, Ridderbos and a few NCT guys to support his arguments here.

    And who here would be imprudent enough to want to discipline Murray or Ridderbos?

  5. January 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    For what it’s worth, my recollection of Murray’s view is that he basically maintained the substance of our confessional teaching on the prelapsarian state while taking issue with the nomenclature.

    Leithart’s view goes well beyond that.

  6. Reed Here said,

    January 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Looking forward to the discussion. I hope Dr. Rayburn will consider moderating the tone of his comments.

  7. David Gray said,

    January 25, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    >Looking forward to the discussion. I hope Dr. Rayburn will consider moderating the tone of his comments.

    I would imagine he’d be willing to do that if the SJC was willing to moderate the nature of their actions.

  8. January 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Yes Jason, and this can account for Murray’s strict subscriptionism. If Murray’s alleged “rejection” of the covenant of works was essentially the same of Leithart’s present denial of the doctrine, then his very adamant strict subscriptionist views wouldn’t be possible given the inclusion of the bi-covenantal structure in the WCF. Comparing Leithart with Murray is symptomatic of Rayburn’s poor analysis on this issue. Even a cursory reading of Murray on the covenant of works will reveal the massive differences between Murray’s confessionalism and Leithart’s theological revisions.

  9. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 25, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Every man has to own his own tone.

    That said, I look forward to the discussion too. The points Dr. Rayburn raises are substantive, and Lane is typically capable of substantive response.

    In particular:

    Suppose the SJC committee report is adopted in toto. Would the report then take on the status of settled precedent, so that a view that Romans 6 refers to (effectual) water baptism would be considered unConfessional?

    Jeff Cagle

  10. David Gray said,

    January 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    The SJC states that the WCF ‘only “represents” Christ and His benefits.’

    Yet that is not what the WCF teaches. Perhaps someone should investigate the SJC? Or perhaps, as Dr. Rayburn suggests, they should take an exception to the WCF on the issue of baptism? Or simply become Baptists.

  11. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Speaking of tone, by “typically capable” I meant “as a type”, not “usually.”

    More clearly, “…and Lane is, as always, capable…”

  12. David Gray said,

    January 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Referencing post #9 the SJC was referencing baptism. The statement was that regarding baptism the WCF ‘only “represents” Christ and His benefits.’

  13. January 26, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Lane,

    I’ll coordinate with your posts. I’m about 1/2 way through an exegetical critique of Rayburn’s and FV’s “temporary forgiveness”. I want to make sure that I don’t duplicate your approach. I do not intend to deal with the SJC’s action itself. This is just Wilkins all over again IMO. Leithart will eventually wind up in the CREC like Wilkins, but not before bleeding the PCA of resources that could be better spent in spreading the gospel around the world.

    As for Rayburn’s tone, well, that just reads like sour grapes to me.

  14. GLW Johnson said,

    January 26, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Gee, Bob, one would like to think that the FV crowd has gathered at their Vatican in Moscow to give any serious consideration about going that route ( joining the CRE) rather that the present one of disturbing the piece of the Reformed churches- but ,then again that would not be the kind of victory they had in mind, now would it?

  15. Reed Here said,

    January 26, 2010 at 8:08 am

    David: even if the SJC is wrong, I found father Rayburn’s comments unbecoming. You learned this from mom right, two wrongs don’t make a right?

    Now, you can disagree that his tone is unbecoming. Maybe this is what you mean?

  16. Reed Here said,

    January 26, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Once again I see the whole FV procedure occuring, and it is rather disheartening. Either we can and are to make determinations of truth, or we can’t/aren’t. If we can/are, then it is of the utmost importance that all of us follow the exanple of civility set by two men at the heart of this round of the debate, Leithart and Stellman.

    I appreciate that Dr. Rayburn strongly disagrees. If I were on the SJC panel, and once again the SJC, I’d be strongly tempted by now to just simple ignore any response or remarks that do not follow the pattern of civility.

    The SJC does not deserve the vitriol. It was sin when given in past rounds and and it is sin now.

  17. January 26, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Reed,

    Vitrol is all FV has. They have no Reformed exegesis. They have only empty rhetoric, out-of-context and cherry-picked verses and quotes, and vacuous claims of not being understood – a claim based on the equation of understanding = agreement. From what I’m seeing in NW and Siouxland, FV is out to burn down the PCA if they cannot convert it to sacerdotalism.

  18. Reed Here said,

    January 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Bob: I’m not ready to join you in your conviction. However the evidence supporting your contention is substantial enough that I’ll not chastize your opinion. Instead I’ll add my prayers that your’s be heeded as a warning and a plea to those who do give the appearances you list.

  19. David Gray said,

    January 26, 2010 at 9:44 am

    >Vitrol is all FV has. They have no Reformed exegesis. They have only empty rhetoric, out-of-context and cherry-picked verses and quotes, and vacuous claims of not being understood – a claim based on the equation of understanding = agreement. From what I’m seeing in NW and Siouxland, FV is out to burn down the PCA if they cannot convert it to sacerdotalism.

    Good thing these comments are not “unbecoming”. I’m impressed by their “civility.”

  20. GLW Johnson said,

    January 26, 2010 at 9:50 am

    DG
    Does your cherrleading costume come with a big FV on the front or the back? Just curious.

  21. David Gray said,

    January 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

    >Does your cherrleading costume come with a big FV on the front or the back?

    No, does your failure to submit to church authority give you standing?

  22. pduggie said,

    January 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

    RM:

    A question, but you didn’t have comments on your blog post so I’ll ask it here.

    We both agree God is good an gracious, right.

    We both agree that the grace and goodness of God is expressed in at least 2 ways

    1) he counts us among his saints

    2) he grants to our children a badge of his love (baptism)

    so if 2 is agreed by both of us, do you also agree

    when God grants the children water baptism, it is because he is gracious to them and that when God grants that badge of his love, its indicates (to us and them) that he loves them?

    Or is there some reason why the above isn’t true?

    I hope the rhetoric here isn’t empty or cherry-picked, and that this is not expressed with vitriol. Please let me know if it is.

  23. pduggie said,

    January 26, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Rayburn writes

    “First, the panel treats us to the more than faintly ridiculous conclusion that though Dr. Leithart teaches that is there is discontinuity between the Adamic covenant and the post-lapsarian covenants [C i] – a discontinuity rooted in the entrance of sin and change of federal head from Adam to the Son of God! – that there is nevertheless no significant difference between the covenants. Surely God’s covenant with sinners in Jesus Christ represents a difference of some significance! ”

    Ligon Duncan, warning about John Murray writes

    ” Now, you know, we can quibble about grace as opposed to mercy, or grace in graciousness, and we even got into a little discussion about that last week. The important issue is, of course, the presence of demerit. That is my point. There may be different terminological ways of getting at this, and I am not saying that there are not different terminological ways of getting at it, but the main point I want to make is you have got one relationship in which the demerit of sin does not exist, and then you have another relationship in which the demerit of sin does exist, and the beautiful thing about a bicovenantal structure is, it makes this distinction clear. And if you wipe out that bicovenantal structure and you say, “It is all just one big glop of a Covenant of Grace,” what do you do? You downplay the difference between a relationship in which demerit must be overcome, and a relationship in which demerit is not present at all. And that is a very serious downplaying. ”

    (FYI, it seems Duncan is wrong when he claims, earlier, that ‘grace’ is exegetically never used for favor without demerit.)

    So the question is, does Leithart (or Murray) really think that the demerit of sin makes no difference in covenants?

    Leithart clarifies

    “My use of the term “soteriological” in talking about the Adamic covenant was infelicitous, and my claim that the discontinuity between the covenants of works and grace does not lie “in the manner of communion with God” was also potentially misleading. This leads to another set of clarifications. The way of life demanded of Adam was the way of obedience arising from faith, just as it is for us. [b]But Adam did not need saving from sin and death[/b] (though he ought to have called out to Yahweh for rescue – for salvation – from the serpent). Hence, it was confusing for me to introduce the term “soteriological” in this context.”

    therefore, the key feature Duncan is looking for is present, just as Rayburn claimed. Way rayburn justified in this claim without L’s clarification?

    Yes, because Rayburn accepted Peter L’s general affirmations of confessionalism without suspicion.

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Reed: …even if the SJC is wrong, I found father Rayburn’s comments unbecoming. You learned this from mom right, two wrongs don’t make a right?

    I found the tone startling, partly because of the heat and partly because the second sentence would reasonably cause the reader to shut off sympathy … not a strategic choice. I can only presume that he hoped to shock the reader into listening. It struck me as one of those e-mails that you send and then say … “Whoa. What did I just send?”

    That said, if we sympathetically look past the tone and consider the meat of the arguments, there’s a lot there:

    (1) Alleged appearance of impropriety in the composition of the committees.
    (2) Uncharitable construction of innocent phrases.
    (3) Requiring Leithart to uphold a standard beyond the Confession.
    (4) A particular view of Rom 6.1 – 7.
    (5) Holding withdrawn statements against Leithart.

    I’m not saying he’s right on any of those necessarily (although I don’t mind going on record that the panel’s view of Rom 6 was a real surprise).

    Rather, I’m saying that it would be a shame to focus on the man’s tone when all of this substance is lying around waiting to be dealt with.

    Which is why I’m glad that Lane has taken it up.

    Jeff Cagle

  25. January 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Paul, RE: #22,

    My answer is WLC Q. 62 as far as the special privileges granted to those in the visible church.

  26. J.Kru said,

    January 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Reed, you wrote,
    David: even if the SJC is wrong, I found father Rayburn’s comments unbecoming. You learned this from mom right, two wrongs don’t make a right?
    I don’t get it. When you wrote “father Rayburn” was that a sign of respect or sarcasm, or is David related to TE Rayburn? I’m assuming you are not (related), but it could be read that way, too, i suppose.

  27. pduggie said,

    January 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    RM@25.

    I’m disappointed.

    So is it wrong to say that God loves those (babies) to whom he gives a badge of his love?

    Are the privileges of the visible church *grace* to the individuals in the visible church?

    Isn’t that what the prayer says? Or am I being confused by what the prayer you cites says?

  28. January 26, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Paul,

    Sorry that you’re disappointed. You’re asking me feel-good questions and I gave you a solid answer. I don’t deal in feel-good questions.

    Isn’t that what the prayer says? Or am I being confused by what the prayer you cites says?

    I apologize, but I’m drawing a blank. What prayer? I looked at my comments again and don’t see any mention of a particular prayer.

  29. Reed Here said,

    January 26, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    J. Kru, #26: a sign of respect. I recognize Rayburn’s standing and the respect we owe him. Accordingly, using that title in the sentence was intended to highlight my disappointment in his tone. It is because my respect is legitimate that my disappointment is such.

  30. GLW Johnson said,

    January 27, 2010 at 5:40 am

    DG
    I am in full submission to my church and the Reformed standards that we hold. You on the other hand run with a pack of …oh, never mind.

  31. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Sorry: The prayer for baptism that you quoted on your blog Dec 27 here

    http://reformedmusings.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/reformed-baptismal-prayer/

    I was just intrigued by it, since it seemed to be saying that God loves baptized babies and gives them grace. I understand the prayer was distinguishing that love and grace from the covenant, but was curious about your views of the love and grace expressed in the token of baptism itself.

  32. January 27, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Paul,

    I guess I don’t see your point. Reading the prayer as a whole, it is very clear that God must make their baptism effectual through faith. That’s exactly what the Confession says (WCF 28.6). That God grants particular benefits to all in the visible church that are not offered to those outside the visible church is clearly taught in the Standards, especially the question that I cited in comment #25 above. Those are not, however, saving benefits.

    I also think that we must be careful to realize that the prayer, as well as much of our preaching/exhorting, follows Paul’s and the other Scripture writers’ use of the judgment of charity. Maybe that’s what you’re getting at?

  33. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I’m not sure it follows the judgement of charity though. The judgement of charity deals with taking professions as valid if there’s no reason to doubt.

    The prayer thanks God for being gracious and in giving tokens of love to babies.

    You are right that they aren’t saving benefits per se.

    But when I ask you: “Are they grace and love?” you so far haven’t said yes.

    I’m curious as to why.

    I would think the judgement of charity would only be invoked if the prayer said “we thank you for bringing this child into saving covenant with you since he has been baptized”. We wouldn’t really know that for sure, but we’d be operating as if it was in a judgement of charity.

    I’d think that instead there is no mistaking that God is, in a well-meant and indisputable way, offering salvation to the child through baptism, and that it is loving for God so to do.

    Is that unconfessional?

  34. J.Kru said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you for your response, Reed.


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