Some Odd Reasoning

I have only just now been reading the Pacific Northwest Presbytery’s reasoning in their exoneration of TE Leithart. I just wanted to comment on pages 13-14 of that document, wherein they discount my testimony as being that of an expert witness. Whether I am an expert in matters FV is not really for me to say. However, in the midst of their claims that I am not an expert witness, there is this tidbit, which I found more than a little odd:


However, much if not all of the controversy concerning Dr. Leithart’s views can be traced to the witness himself and his blog. Leading a campaign against a man, then claiming that, even if the man should be found innocent, the Court should remove him from the PCA because a campaign was waged against him is inappropriate in an expert witness.

Notice this claim: “Much if not all of the controversy concerning Dr. Leithart’s views can be traced to the witness himself and his blog.” I just did a quick look and confirmed that my Leithart posts are dated from June 2007 to October 2007. Furthermore, my recollection is that these posts were hardly hotbeds of controversy. Many of those posts did not generate much discussion. There were nowhere near as many comments on those posts as on, say, the Douglas Wilson posts.

I suppose in one sense I should be flattered by their characterisation of me creating the controversy about Leithart’s views all by me blogsy. However, the court seems to have omitted consideration of Leithart’s involvement in the Knox colloquium in 2003, well before I even started reading about the FV. In fact, I was just talking with Rev. Rick Phillips about that colloquium recently, and I can assure you that he found Leithart’s views controversial, to say the least. The OPC’s justification report dealt with Leithart’s views, and that was done without any reference to my blog. The PCA’s FV report dealt with Leithart’s views, and they didn’t reference my blog either. The Rev. John Otis wrote his book well before he had any knowledge of my blog, and he dealt with Leithart’s views. The same can be said for Brian Schwertley’s book. Guy Waters’s book was published in 2006, again before my blog started dealing with Leithart. In short, Leithart’s views were both known and controversial well before 2007. In fact, I would say that the controversy surrounding Leithart’s views was going along at a pretty good clip well before I blogged about it. In fact, I can say fairly confidently that I would not have blogged about Leithart’s views, if they had not already been controversial. I am almost always behind the curve, time-wise, when something comes out. So, I cannot claim creation of even “much” of the controversy, let alone “all” of it, contrary to the Presbytery’s reasoning. Nor can it be said that I “led a campaign against the man.” What I did in those posts was not some kind of personal crusade or vendetta against Leithart. I critiqued his published work. It was a critique, not a campaign. I could wish that the Pacific Northwest Presbytery had done a little more research into this point before making this claim, especially as it affects my Christian character. They accuse me of creating most or all of the controversy, and then capitalizing on that controversy to try ousting Leithart, an accusation which basically amounts to a conflict of interest. I would hope that Leithart himself would be more than embarassed by this libel.

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26 Comments

  1. danm1962 said,

    November 4, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Lane,

    I see your point. I am intrigued, however, by the other accusation in the paragraph you quoted from their reasoning. I mean your apparent claim that, should Leithart be found not guilty, he still should be removed because a campaign had been waged against him. Did you advance that argument at the trial?

    Dan MacDonald

  2. greenbaggins said,

    November 4, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Dan, I said that I thought the commission might be able to see their way to directing Leithart to leave, based on the ruckus his views have caused, not because a war had been waged against him. That is the commission putting words into my mouth. I was arguing this by way of setting before them an option to preserve the peace of the church even if they believed him innocent. My exact words are on the last page of my testimony.

  3. Tim Wilder said,

    November 4, 2011 at 9:32 am

    There seems to be a great reluctance by Pacific Northwest to deal with the case by rendering an assessment of Leithart’s actual views. They seem to prefer to attack the witness and argue about how evidence is presented.

    Is it because the presbytery members do not want to commit themselves on substantive theological matters on the record where they could then themselves be held accountable for their views in later reviews and trials? Or is that too suspicious a view of the matter?

  4. Cris Dickason said,

    November 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I suppose this question is best asked of Rev. Stellman, but, relevant to following this issue here: I recall that Leithart himself initiated this whole scenario by raising the issue that the GA had issued the report/recommendations against the Federal Vision, and Mr. Leithart volunteered that he was a signer of the FV Joint Statement. In essence, Leithart volunteered himself a test case.

    If this recollection is wrong, than please pull it.

  5. November 4, 2011 at 10:16 am

    HT @James – “Anyone who isn’t an expert witness on justification has no business being ordained an elder in Christ’s church.”

  6. Dean B said,

    November 4, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Pastor Keister

    I really think you are being too humble. Your work here in exposing the real dangers of this controversy has been instrumental. May God grant you perseverance in this struggle for fidelity to His Word.

  7. Mark R said,

    November 4, 2011 at 10:49 am

    It really does sound like they have openly accused you of libel — which should be grounds for charges. So where are the charges? I think you should be asking for a trail. Speaking as an outsider here, I’ve seen this happen before. Someone is vilified in order to cover up for someone else. Then when real charges are forced, the whole thing implodes. You’ve requested examination before (you testified to that episode in your cross examination). I’d request it again in this matter as these are informal charges that need to be dealt with.

    They decided that “someone” needs to be guilty in this matter. If they think that’s you, than than justice and the reputation of the court demands a trial.

  8. November 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I suppose this question is best asked of Rev. Stellman, but, relevant to following this issue here: I recall that Leithart himself initiated this whole scenario by raising the issue that the GA had issued the report/recommendations against the Federal Vision, and Mr. Leithart volunteered that he was a signer of the FV Joint Statement. In essence, Leithart volunteered himself a test case.

    Yes, you’re right (and there’s a whole chronology of events that can be found on our presbytery’s website). The day that GA received the FV report back in ’07, Leithart published (on his BLOG!) a letter to Rob Rayburn which laid out his views in response to the report’s nine declarations. He then said he would happily submit to an investigation.

  9. November 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Here’s the next section of my protest:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/2011/11/protest-against-pnwp-sjc-decision.html

  10. G Browning said,

    November 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Is an issue of libel against a witness cause for a protest or complaint by Rev. Stellman? In other words, if the reasoning by the prebytery is in fact some form of character assasination, can that be part of the protest or complaint process? Stay in the stuff Lane, Congrats on the new post!

  11. Reed Here said,

    November 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Mark R: I appreciate your reasoning why you suggest Lane should ask for a trial. I’d counter however that not every accusation calls for us to take such action. Lane is in a new pastorate. His duties to his family and his new flock far outweigh any smear against his good name in terms of the use of his time right now.

  12. Mark B. said,

    November 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Reed#12. That was not me:) The coment I would make on the subject of this post is much more simple. Liethart brought this upon himself, the evidence of this is crystal clear, all one has to do is READ HIS BOOKS!!

  13. Reed Here said,

    November 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Thanks Mark B. I’ve corrected the comment to be directed to Mark R at no.8.

  14. rcjr said,

    November 4, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Lane,

    I’m sorry this was said about you and your work here. It’s one thing to find a man not guilty. It’s another to disparage those who raised the concern in the first place, or in your situation, even further down the line. I, as usual, concur with Reed’s wisdom, and would only add the comfort of Jesus, that we are blessed when persecuted for righteousness sake.

  15. rfwhite said,

    November 5, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Green Baggins:

    I’m genuinely puzzled by the block quote and especially the words “leading a campaign.”

    For example, I look back and I see that on June 20, 2007, Dr. Leithart wrote a piece in which he publicly asked for someone to challenge his paper on justification exegetically, since the only challenges to his paper that he had seen to that point had been done on systematic and confessional bases. On June 21, 2007, Green Baggins began a series in response to Dr. Leithart’s June 20 post, and, granted, the series was, overall, negative toward Dr. Leithart’s thinking. So, is it the court’s contention that Green Baggins is blameworthy for taking up Dr. Leithart’s public appeal for interaction?

    Let’s grant each other this: none of us wants to make claims without evidence. So, when claims are not clearly congruent with evidence, the disconnect leaves us to keep looking for whatever it is exactly that is prompting the claims made.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    November 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks, R.C. and Fowler. I appreciate your support at times like these.

  17. dgh said,

    November 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I am dumbfounded by the appeal to expertise in this argument. It is by no means a biblical category, unless you are four-office and believe in the office of doctors in the church. Otherwise, Presbyterians believe in a parity of elders. If you’re three office, maybe you give more weight to the testimony of ministers (I would since those guys know the original languages). But if you’re two-office, you’re even suspicious of the distinction between pastors and elders. In which case, everyone a minister, everyone an expert.

    The other irony is that you need to be an expert to spot an expert. Do the members of the judicial commission really claim to be experts? How would they know what constitutes one?

    This is all very unseemly and unchurchly.

  18. TurretinFan said,

    November 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Lane has my full support, I want that to be clear up front.

    I would like to respond to something DGH wrote: “The other irony is that you need to be an expert to spot an expert.”

    a) That’s not true in most areas of knowledge and skill. One can easily tell the difference between an expert juggler and an inexpert one, without the least physical dexterity. Likewise, people without expertise in medicine themselves routinely identify medical professionals based on indicia like credentials, experience, or reputation.
    b) Theology isn’t really an exception. I can (usually) tell the difference between some college student and a seminary professor.
    c) In this case, the relevant expertise was (or should have been) familiarity with Leithart’s teaching. That familiarity can be judged by a non-expert in Leithart’s teaching in a variety of ways, such as whether or not someone has actually read what Leithart has written.

    - TurretinFan

    P.S. Doesn’t the OPC have the office of “teacher”?

  19. Cris Dickason said,

    November 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    TF: No, the OPC does not have the office of teacher. There is recognition of a specialized functional subset of the minster/teaching elder office that is designated “teacher.” From the OPC Form of Gov’t.

    Chapter VI – Ministers or Teaching Elders

    1. The ministry of the Word is a calling of God to stewardship in the gospel. In this ministry there is a diversity of gifts that are essential to the discharge of evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching functions.

    2. Every minister of the Word, or teaching elder, must manifest his gifts and calling in these various aspects of the ministry of the gospel and seek by full exercise of his ministry the spiritual profit of those with whom he labors.
    3. & 4. omitted

    So, every teaching elder is to have evangelistic, shepherding and teaching gifts.

    Chapter VII – Evangelists
    1. …While it is the calling of every believer to confess Christ before men, and while God gives particular gifts and calling to some to minister the Word, and while every minister of the Word must evangelize in the fulfillment of his calling, there are some who are particularly called by Christ and his church as evangelists. Ordinarily such men shall preach the Word free of pastoral charge in a particular flock in order that they may labor to bring in other sheep.
    2. The evangelist, in common with other ministers, is ordained to perform all the functions that belong to the sacred office of the minister. Yet distinctive to the function of the evangelist in his ministry of the gospel are the labors of (a) a missionary in a home or foreign mission field; (b) thru (e) omitted.

    Chapter VIII – Pastors

    Christ’s undershepherd in a local congregation of God’s people, who joins with the ruling elders in governing the congregation, is called a pastor. … Rest of the single point omitted.

    Chapter IX – Teachers

    1. A teacher is a minister of the Word who has received particular gifts from Christ for expounding the Scripture, teaching sound doctrine, and convincing gainsayers, and is called to this ministry.

    2. A minister may serve a local congregation as a teacher if there is at least one other minister serving as pastor. The teacher may also give instruction in a theological seminary; or teach the Word in a school, college, or university; or discharge this ministry in some other specific way, … He shall take a pastoral oversight of those committed to his charge as teacher, and be diligent in sowing the seed of the Word and gathering the harvest, as one who watches for souls.

    http://www.opc.org/BCO/FG.html

    -=Cris=-

  20. TurretinFan said,

    November 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    From that same BCO: “It is proper to speak of such a publicly recognized function as an office, and to designate men by such scriptural titles of office and calling as evangelist, pastor, teacher, bishop, elder, or deacon.”

    And given there are separate headings for different kinds of ministers / teaching elders … it looks like your “yes” should be a “no,” unless you mean something else by “office” than what the BCO means.

    Or have I misunderstood something?

  21. TurretinFan said,

    November 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Err – “no” should be a “yes,” I mean, of course.

  22. Cris Dickason said,

    November 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    TF:

    No, I stand by my initial “No.” The OPC FOG makes clear that there are three main areas of service/calling/function that the Teaching Elder/Minister can be engaged in, and so go by that specialized title. Some ministers are more gifted in presenting the gospel to unbelievers, so they can be called by a church (or presbytery) to work as an Evangelist. Some are gifted in teaching (and understanding?) the Scriptures (and related theological/ecclesiastical topics) and are called to serve as teachers. The “pastor” (ch. VIII) is typically gifted to some degree in all 3 and is properly called to shepherd a congregation, with a sound session of ruling elders assisting.

    So, the sequence of the chapters in the FOG is important, ch VI makes plain the 3-fold area of gifts for all ministers (evangelism, shepherding, teaching), then chs VII, VIII, IX take up in alphabetic order the specialized gifts, callings, functions (evangelist, pastor, teacher). In fact, ch. V of the FOG that you site supports this as well. It mentions very broadly that there are offices and titles mentioned in Scripture. FOV ch V.2 is certainly not to be taken as an indication that the OPC holds to six offices (evangelist, pastor, teacher, bishop, elder, or deacon).

    This is in contrast to say, Reformation Geneva. There the office of doctor was a teaching office but NOT a ministerial office: the doctors were not allowed to administer the sacraments, they were not ministers of the word, but teachers in the hybrid state-church situation that prevailed in Geneva. They might teach medicine (such as it was back then), etc., not just “theology.”

    So, not trying to be argumentative (I was just being the king of cut & paste in the original reply), but a “teacher” (minister called as teacher) in the OPC is a minister, a teaching elder. An evangelist is a teaching elder or minister. A specialized function within one of the three offices: minister/teaching elder, ruling elder, deacon. Or even this, Two Offices: Elders and Deacons. But elders are further sub-divided into teaching and ruling elders.

    I actually don’t know how many men in the OPC view things as 2-office, vs. 3-office. I’m two-and-a-half office myself.

    -=Cris=-

  23. TurretinFan said,

    November 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for your reply, Cris. I guess my confusion arose from the seeming equation between “title” and “office” in the part I quoted, coupled with the use of the title. I certainly agree that the offices are reducible either to elder/deacon or TE/RE/deacon under the OPC’s BCO, though I think one might make an argument that they are also expansible to Pastor/Evangelist/Teacher/RE/deacon.

  24. Ron Henzel said,

    November 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    FWIW, whoever wrote the following opening paragraph in Wikipedia’s “Expert witness” article informs us that,

    An expert witness, professional witness or judicial expert is a witness, who by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have expertise and specialised knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially and legally rely upon the witness’s specialized (scientific, technical or other) opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of his expertise, referred to as the expert opinion, as an assistance to the fact-finder.

    Assuming that this basically covers it, an expert witness, then, is someone possessing the expertise needed to evaluate evidence or facts pertaining to a case that the average person does not possess. And this is consistent with the limited experience I gained from sitting in on a murder trial some time ago.

    In that trial, the defense attorney called an expert witness to the stand for the purpose of evaluating physical evidence of a technical nature that the police had collected and which the prosecution had already presented in court. In order to establish this defense witness as an expert, the defendant’s attorney began reading aloud what sounded like the witness’s c.v.—his degrees, his professional association memberships, his published articles, his work on various projects, etc.—until the judge interrupted, accepting the witness’s credentials, and directing the defense attorney to provide a copy of the document for the trial records.

    In that particular case, the expert witness was being asked to evaluate the reliability of hair sample analysis in linking the defendant to the scene of a murder to which there had been no eye witnesses. (This was back in the days before DNA testing rendered this kind of testimony unnecessary.) The primary question before the court was, “Did this man commit this murder?” Part of the evidence consisted of hair samples found near the victim’s body that did not appear to belong to the victim, which 99 percent of the people in any given geographical area were not qualified to scientifically evaluate. Thus the role of the expert witness was to tell us how likely it was that the hair samples in question belonged to the defendant.

    In Peter Leithart’s case, there was no question of “linking” him to any act that required either witnesses or evidence to confirm. The primary question before the church court was whether five particular views of Leithart were out-of-accord with the Westminster Standards. All of the evidence consisted of Leithart’s own statements. Assuming that everyone who participated in any official capacity at Leithart’s trial was familiar with the Westminster Standards (or expected to be), and could recognize a view that is out-of-accord with it (one would hope), if expert testimony had been required in this case it seems to me that it would be for the purpose of providing an opinion of whether Leithart’s doctrinal formulations are allowable given the meaning of the Standards, and would only be necessary if there was language difficult to interpret either in the Standards themselves or in Leithart’s statements.

    The irony here is that, ultimately, the PNWP agreed at several points that the language of the Standards is clear, and that Leithart’s language is inconsistent with the way the Standards speak. So they really didn’t need an expert to tell them the obvious, but in their opinion: Hey! It’s no big deal! (For details on how they did this, see the last half or so of my previous comment on another post here.)

  25. Lee said,

    November 15, 2011 at 9:45 am

    It does not surprise me that the defense basically went with a four office view and attacked Lane for not being qualified to critique Rev. Leithart. I have long believed the Federal Vision a revival of Mercersburg Theology and they ended up doing the very same thing. They attacked Ursinus Seminary claiming those people were not qualified to teach theology because they were not Teachers of Theology appointed by Synod. It ended up in an argument about Teachers or Doctors being an office. History it seems repeats itself.


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