Peter Leithart’s 10+ Years of Work on the PNW Candidates & Credentials Committee

How is it that a Presbytery of the PCA could exonerate a man in the face of the General Assembly’s Federal Vision Report, which specifically condemned the teaching of this very man? Perhaps one of the reasons is that for thirteen years, Peter Leithart has been on the Pacific Northwest Presbytery Candidates and Credentials Committee. Peter Leithart has been “specifically charged with examining incoming candidates regarding sacraments.” Here is Dr. Leithart’s testimony on the matter:

COMMISSIONER: Peter, beginning, thank you for being part of this. And I want to express for the record, thanks for – – to your wife as well who is here present with us. The – – In the cross examination yesterday, the prosecution spoke of your relationship to the PCA and this presbytery and distinction from your involvement in another denomination. You’re obviously serving out of bounds. I would like to ask a couple questions about your relationship with us. You’ve been serving in this presbytery, I know it’s part of the record but I don’t recollect, for how long now?
WITNESS [Leithart]: Since 1998.
Q: Since 1998. You’ve been involved heavily in the examination of incoming transfers and presbyters and men coming under care extensively, haven’t you?
A: I have. Yes.
Q: And has that had a meaningful form of impact, do you think, on the presbytery?
A: I think it’s been beneficial to the presbytery. I should say just for the record and for those who don’t know, I’m on the examination credentials committee and that I’m specifically charged with examining incoming candidates regarding sacraments.
Q: And so you are, so that’s been formative to a number of men on their way through right?
A: I think it’s been helpful to a number of men coming into the presbytery who during the course of the examination realize that they have gaps in their training and knowledge that the – – the exam exposes. One of the questions asks concerning the reformed liturgical tradition and ask them to answer question partly in terms of that. And there’ve been a number of candidates who knew nothing, virtually nothing about that and this forced them to do some studies. So, yes I think it’s been (inaudible)” –Leithart Trial Transcript (pp. 235-236).

About these ads

13 Comments

  1. Chris Gordon said,

    October 13, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Good grief, what a shameful compromise–Ex. 32:25-26. Praying for you guys.

  2. October 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Well, this reinforces my opinion that the PCA has a serious problem with a rogue Presbytery.

  3. Jack Bradley said,

    October 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    This is really pathetic, Lane. Why don’t you stick to the substance of the trial?

  4. October 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Jack, the substance of the trial consists of Leithart’s views on baptism. Many of us in the PCA who oppose FV as antithetical to the Gospel are shocked that Leithart was found not guilty when his views clearly stand in opposition to the 2007 Study Committee report which was overhwelming adopted by GA. PNW has already thumbed their nose at the GA and the SJC on the issue of paedocommunion. So, this is evidence that a strong FV advocate has been in a key position of influence within the Presbytery. Between Rob Rayburn and Peter Leithart, is appears that PNW has been led astray into a very unBiblical, unReformed view of the sacraments that is more Lutheran or Anglican than Reformed of Biblical.

    My own thoughts on Federal Vision (from a few years ago): http://prochristorege.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/federal-vision-new-perspectives/

  5. greenbaggins said,

    October 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Jack, isn’t Peter Leithart’s own testimony IN THE TRIAL part of the SUBSTANCE of the trial?

  6. Jack Bradley said,

    October 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Jason, thanks for making an attempt at bringing in some substance, even though it doesn’t make direct contact with the recent trial.

    Lane, you continue to make no attempt.

  7. October 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    I agree with Jack, but also want to answer the first question you ask, “How is it that a Presbytery of the PCA could exonerate a man in the face of the General Assembly’s Federal Vision Report, which specifically condemned the teaching of this very man”.

    The GA FV report is not an accurate representation of the FV and doesn’t condemn any specific man (how could it – there was no man there on trial, no defense, etc). The “FV man” as described in the report is a ghost. I more or less agree with that report in fact. The GA FV report is a set of recommendations sent to the churches on areas of concern, which they generally described as “Federal Vision.” Again, that report does not condemn a specific man. It is a consensus that there is a concern. The NWP ruled that Peter Leithart does not fall into those areas of concern. In fact, the PCA has ruled that three “FV men” did not fall into those areas concern. No man has so far, which reflects the quality of the report.

    Again, the report is more a stated and agreed concern. The trials on the other hand are examinations of real men, and real theology that exists in real life and real pulpits. It is these trials that truly count.

  8. October 14, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Daniel, it seems the PCA’s FV Report is an accurate respresentation of the FV and Leithart. Here is one point of the nine:

    Point 7 of the FV Report says:
    “The view that one can be ‘united to Christ’ and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.” (Emphasis Added)

    Now look at this section from the SJC’s Leithart Ruling:

    “The Court finds Dr. Leithart’s views on union with Christ and apostasy to be in accord with the Standards (SJC Ruling, p. 25.4ff.)…Dr. Leithart does believe that some who are united with Christ will not persevere in faith and so will not be saved (Trial Transcript, p. 178.12ff.).”

  9. October 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Good point, Andrew! That’s perhaps the very heart of the issue: The idea that one can be united to Christ and then not persevere in faith and so not be saved is something which Leithart teaches. It was clearly condemned by the FV Report. That alone should’ve been “case closed.”

    Daniel Foucachon: The reason why it’s been so hard to convict these three men stems from two main reasons: lack of courage by Presbyteries and lack of clarity and integrity by the men on trial. Real men who are skilled at equivocation can wiggle and jiggle under cross-examination. Still, by the PNW’s own SJC report conclusions, they should have found Leithart guilty.

  10. pilgrim said,

    October 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I am part of the Western Canada Presbytery, and was part of the PCA when we were still part of the PNW Presbytery.
    I never met Peter Leithart, but I have seen the exam used for sacraments. The exam itself is a valid exam–it makes sure that candidates not only are able to provide correct answers about sacraments, but it looks at how they apply their beliefs to sacraments.

    I have also seen his answer key to that exam–I don’t have a copy handy to quote exactly from, but there wasn’t anything wrong I could find with the answers either.

    However that means nothing as far as this trial goes.
    The issues would come more from how he interpreted and taught those questions & answers in his own writings and teaching.
    This, of course, would also impact how he graded those who took the exam–but the exam itself is not an issue.
    There were also other men on that committee who do not hold FV views, so they were also there to examine candidates from a definitely non-FV view.

    The issues with Peter Leithart would not stem from his handling/reading/marking of the sacraments exam.

    I certainly disagree with some of what I have read of Peter Leithart, but I would need to read more info to see if I agreed with the verdict or not. Unfortunately much of what I have read is vague, and hard to pin down, so many will interpret it differently than I do.

    I definitely see issues with his views, and I do think the PCA will need to tread carefully in that area as we move forward.

  11. Jenkins said,

    October 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    My understanding is that a complaint has already been filed with regard to the outcome of the trial. If so, will this cause the trial to go to the SJC?

  12. Ron Henzel said,

    October 25, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Daniel,

    You wrote:

    The GA FV report is not an accurate representation of the FV…

    As one who’s read FV theology straight from the sources, and who’s also read the “Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology,” I couldn’t disagree more. But then, since you run the premiere FV-apologist web site (federal-vision.com), what else should I expect you to say?

    You wrote:

    …and doesn’t condemn any specific man (how could it – there was no man there on trial, no defense, etc).

    You say this as though it is somehow relevant. Please explain.

    You wrote:

    The “FV man” as described in the report is a ghost.

    There was no “‘FV man’ described in the report.” But there was an “FV perspective” described in the report.

    We further recognize that there are a variety of viewpoints among FV teachers and writers. …

    Nevertheless, it is these “commonly held perspectives” that unite and distinguish the FV from others within Reformed and Presbyterian communities. Their writings are largely consistent on major points. They quote each other approvingly; they stress the same points; they state many of their issues using virtually the same language; and they joined together to produce a book called The Federal Vision.

    ["Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology," p. 2202, lines 1 & 15-19.]

    You wrote:

    I more or less agree with that report in fact.

    So it’s “not an accurate representation of the FV” but you “more or less agree with [it] in fact?” Please explain.

    You wrote:

    The GA FV report is a set of recommendations sent to the churches on areas of concern, which they generally described as “Federal Vision.”

    No, it is primarily a set of declarations (page 2235) which the report authors inform us (on page 2203, lines 30-31) “sets forth nine features of NPP and FV teaching that the committee finds to be contrary to the Westminster Standards.”

    You wrote:

    Again, that report does not condemn a specific man.

    Again, please explain the relevance of this observation.

    You wrote:

    It is a consensus that there is a concern.

    Again, no: it is a set of declarations that Federal Vision theology makes statements that are out-of-accord with the Westminster Standards. Something is a “concern” when you’re wondering if there might be a problem. The report sounds the alarm bell so everyone knows that there’s definitely a problem. If any “concerns” were expressed, they were to the effect that not enough people in the PCA would realize just how non-confessional the FV is.

    You wrote:

    The NWP ruled that Peter Leithart does not fall into those areas of concern.

    Technically, no: the PNWP-SJC ruled that Leithart did not contradict either Scripture or the Westminster Standards. The question of how the 2007 Study Committee’s report should affect the trial was raised on May 3, 2011 as follows:

    To what extent, if any, a presbytery considering a judicial matter is bound by the resolutions of a GA on a non-judicial, but related matter, and in particular the Recommendations of the Federal Vision Study Committee adopted by the GA meeting in Memphis, TN to this judicial case?

    [PCA v. Leithart, Judgment and Reasoning of the SJC to the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest, October 7, 2011, page 3, lines 22-26.]

    There we read that the defense chose to file a pre-trial brief on that point while the prosecution chose to address it during trial. It appears that the defense then chose to cover it in their general pre-trial brief, where they argued “the Nine Declarations [of the Ad Interim Study Committee's Report] do not have Constitutional teeth” (page 15). I haven’t yet read the trial transcript deeply enough to ascertain exactly how the report was brought to bear by the prosecution during the trial, or how successful they were in their efforts to get the PNWP-SJC to take it seriously.

    You wrote:

    In fact, the PCA has ruled that three “FV men” did not fall into those areas concern. No man has so far, which reflects the quality of the report.

    Or it could reflect the quality of the deliberative bodies hearing the cases. That certainly seemed to be the case with Steve Wilkins. I, for one, am very concerned when I read the following in the PNWP-SJC’s reasoning for its not guilty verdict:

    Is Dr. Leithart’s belief that the reprobate may experience a temporary union with Christ, a real personal relationship with the Savior, a difference with the Standards? The Court believes it is not. Dr. Leithart potentially goes beyond the Standards, but does not disagree with them as far as they go.

    [PCA v. Leithart, page 29, lines 15-17.]

    But just what is this “real personal relationship with the Savior” that manifests itself in “a temporary union with Christ” that “the reprobate may experience?” Well, the PNWP-SJC knows very well that Leithart refers to this as “union with Christ,” for as they themselves explain:

    With respect to union with Christ and apostasy, Dr. Leithart is using the term “union with Christ” in a wider sense than that of the Confession. Where the Confession uses the term almost exclusively to refer to the relationship that the elect have with Christ, Dr. Leithart, in the writings under consideration, is exploring the fact, made clear in the Bible, that some non-elect people have some kind of identification with Christ that results in considerable benefits (hearing the word with joy, enlightenment, a taste of the heavenly gift, partaking in the Holy Spirit, tasting Christ, escape from the defilements of the world, and so on).

    [PCA v. Leithart, page 31, lines 42-48.]

    So now we are free to take the language that Hebrews 6:4-5 applies to apostates and call it “union with Christ” and still remain within the bounds of the Standards? Am I the only one that sees a problem with this?

    And am I the only one that sees a problem when the PNWP-SJC endorses Leithart’s statement that “being joined to the church also means being joined to Christ” (PCA v. Leithart, page 13, lines 17)? Am I the only one that sees a problem with thus making justification a consequence of “being joined to the church” as opposed to the Reformed doctrine of making “being joined to the church” a consequence of our justification? Am I the only one who has a problem when the PNWP-SJC refuses to see Leithart’s logic of “”baptism = being justified, because baptism = being joined to the church, which = being joined to Christ, which = being justified” as being out-of-accord with the standards, as they do when they write?:

    Dr. Leithart says that baptism is a justifying washing, because baptism is a joining to Christ, and Christ has been justified for us. This is not the same thing as saying that baptism, by its mere performance, justifies. This may be a much stronger statement of the effect of baptism than we are used to today, but the Court does not find that it contradicts the Standards.

    [PCA v. Leithart, page 31, lines 42-48.]

    So now it’s OK to say—without any of the qualifying language of WCF 27.2 or 28:1—that “baptism is a joining to Christ?” Apparently we really don’t need those parts of the WCF anymore. We can simply say that baptism joins us to the church, and the blessings of union with Christ follow…except you can lose them all through apostasy…

  13. Reed Here said,

    October 25, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Jenkins, no. 11: not directly. PNW Presbytery must first act on the complaint.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 326 other followers

%d bloggers like this: