How the FV Won the PCA

Before getting into the way the FV won the PCA, it is necessary to state why I believe the FV has won the PCA, because that is, of course, a controversial claim. The reason I say that the FV has won the PCA is that the PCA is now a FV-friendly denomination. The final tale has not perhaps been spoken. That will be in October. However, unless a miracle happens (and I’m certainly praying for one!), nothing will change in October. Of course, there are Presbyteries that would never allow in a FV man. But the FV doesn’t need those Presbyteries. They have Pacific Northwest, Missouri, Siouxlands, and Metro New York Presbyteries. That’s enough space for anyone, surely (7 states and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the entire world)! Those Presbyteries are absolutely safe for FV men.

So how did the FV win the PCA? Well firstly, they learned fast, for one thing. Instead of trying to avoid judicial procedure, they learned that it was actually necessary to jump the gun on a trial, because then they could choose the battlefield and have all the advantages. Get a Presbytery to exonerate a man, and the SJC will be under enormous pressure to give a free pass to the Presbytery. Rush everything so that the prosecutor wouldn’t have enough time to do it right. Make it all about personalities and martyrdom. Everyone loves a martyr. Don’t let it be about doctrine. In terms of the doctrinal points that they do address, they introduce just enough “counter-evidence,” which is actually contradictions of previous material in some cases, and bare assertions about confessional adherence in others, so that people can be bamboozled into using that as an excuse not to rule the right way.

Secondly, they pulled an enormous amount of their internet stuff, because that was the forum where they made the most “far-out” claims. Tis the nature of the internet. Get rid of the incriminating evidence, and you make the prosecutor’s job a whole lot harder.

Thirdly, they kept their heads low when the discussion got hot. When there was nothing for it, they lit into the accusers with the ninth commandment club like there was no tomorrow (as all heretics everywhere have ALWAYS done). But in all other instances, they said nothing except this: that SAYING one’s theology is compatible with the Westminster Standards proves it beyond any shade of reasonable doubt. They just kept on claiming that, despite the clear evidence to the contrary that they actually hate the guts of the Westminster Standards, because they know good and well (as James Jordan so honestly told them) that their doctrine goes with the Westminster Standards about like asparagus goes with ice cream (that’s something of a paraphrase of James Jordan, as anyone in the know will readily perceive). But if one gets rid of all the evidence, then people are much more likely to believe their claims.

Fourthly, they never gave up. They were incredibly tenacious, with a very few exceptions, and those were already lost causes. They can afford to lose on Rich Lusk or Steve Wilkins, if they win on Peter Leithart and Jeff Meyers.

Fifthly, they actively courted the evangelical middle of the PCA. They tried very hard (and successfully) to convince the evangelical middle that the FV issues were not gospel issues, but peripheral issues. This was done by the cherry-picking out-of-context quoting of the Reformed fathers that tried to make the case that the FV was within the Reformed tradition (whatever that means!). Once that was done, the evangellyfish (trademark somewhat ironically Doug Wilson) middle completely flipped sides. If it is a gospel issue, the middle generally votes with the confessionalists. However, if they are not convinced that it is a gospel issue, they will vote to keep the peace (whatever that means! There is FAR less peace in the PCA now than there was, say, 8 years ago. Witness everyone talking about it). They will be cwaga folks.

It is certainly a good thing for the FV that the evangelical middle has such a short memory (does anyone know what happened in 2007?). It is also a good thing for the FV that the evangelical middle has so much fear of man infecting it. The middle has no stomach for what would need to happen to certain Presbyteries for real discipline to occur. That’s because real discipline is always painful. And who has the endurance for something like that?

Can the situation be salvaged? It is highly unlikely. There are too many egos on the line, and there is too much defensiveness, especially on the part of the SJC members, many of whom cannot possibly be happy with the outcome of the Leithart case, but who are now committed, and cannot admit to being wrong about something. I can’t imagine the discomfort, having one’s conscience gnaw at them all the time about it.

I would, however, like to ask the SJC this simple question: is your interpretation of the polity of the PCA putting polity higher in importance than the gospel? If God were to ask you why you allowed a heterodox teacher to remain in the flock, are you going to feel comfortable telling God that the polity of the PCA couldn’t be violated (and this is even assuming that you are interpreting the polity correctly!)? Have you elevated the BCO over the Bible? One of the principles of Robert’s Rules is that if any of Robert’s Rules come into conflict with a society’s bylaws, then Robert’s Rules gives way, and the bylaws of that society take precedence. Extending this principle a bit further, we arrive at this principle: if anything in the BCO prevents us from doing what the Bible tells us to do, then so much the worse for the BCO. The Bible is not only the highest authority, but also demands our highest allegiance. This doesn’t mean we ignore a BCO. But if a situation arises when the BCO would seem to prevent us from doing what the Bible clearly tells us to do, then we must obey God rather than men.

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146 Comments

  1. August 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Words cannot express how grateful I am to you for taking on this challenge and explaining to your readers the danger of FV and the harm done by those who allow it to go on in the church. False teaching is a real danger and those of us who have suffered from it wonder why we weren’t cautioned by more experienced and learned Christians. Don’t they love the Lord or young believers enough to say something? I left the PCA years ago due to the poor reformed theology being taught at my local church; I had to leave in order to grow in knowledge of Reformed theology and God’s Word. I know there are still some good churches, but the actions of the PCA regarding Federal Vision should be a wake-up call to its members. May the good Lord bless those who stand up for the Lord and His Word as the author at Green Baggins has done.

  2. August 12, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Excellent post, Lane. FV is still a small problem in the overall scheme of the PCA, but cancer always starts with just a few cells. It’s the symptoms and conditions that allow the cancer to grow that troubles us the most. Those of us who take the Reformed faith and our vows seriously still outnumber the heterodox. The fun will really start when the evangellyfish and FVers are the only ones left. The National Partnership and Biblical Horizons crowds will huddle in their little corners, only coming out to exchange salvoes across the vast divide. Each will have what they thought they wanted, and the gospel will be long gone from the PCA by then.

  3. Justin said,

    August 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

    It still amazes me that FV even got off the ground. It’s more amazing that it is allowed to stay afloat through (as I see it) redefinition, equivocation, and the moral equivalent of an if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit argument. Maybe I am being too simplistic here, but if legal procedure allows heresy to spread, legal procedure should be re-examined.

    My prayers are with my brothers in the PCA. May the leaders be given discernment and courage to do what is right.

    Christ will rule his church, regardless of what comes out of this. I only regret that sometime in the future, in addition to people thinking “liberal” when they hear “Presbyterian” (thanks, PCUSA), they’ll likely think of Rome as well.

    Would that Presbyterians look to Geneva and Westminster instead of Rome and Moscow, ID. Is it really that hard?

    Thank you for this piece, Lane.

  4. tominaz said,

    August 12, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Excellent post Lane! Your questions to the SJC are a reminder of the kind of polity that has long prevailed in the PCUSA – polity trumps everything. That view is prevailing in the PCA and, as you state, absent a theological “aha!” moment by the SJC in October it will become the prevailing view and the gospel will be eclipsed by polity.
    Bob in #2 with the cancer analogy has got it right as well.

  5. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Lane – I’d like to suggest a correction to protect the reputation of a highly regarded brother. I don’t want to debate the matter, but you mention something you call the “Coffin doctrine” and describe it as “complete and absolutely inviolable Presbytery autonomy” and further define it parenthetically as a view where “Presbyteries cannot err in doctrine, it seems, or if they do, there is really nothing anyone can do about it.” I’m sure Dr. Coffin would not recognize that as any view he holds, nor would the men who know him best, nor would those who read him fairly, nor would the men in his own Presbytery. It’s difficult to interact with the accusation, since no citation is given, but perhaps your conclusion comes from SJC Case 2010-04 where the SJC adopted the following as part of its Reasoning: “Complainants hold that certain views expressed by [a minister], capable of a heterodox interpretation, must be so interpreted. But this violates the Judgment of charity, that if a view can be interpreted in an orthodox fashion, it ought to be so interpreted until one is forced to do otherwise.” [M39GA, p. 582]
    I expect reasonable men would not find anything particularly alarming in that SJC statement. The SJC vote on that decision was 19-1 and the majority included three members of the PCA’s study committee on FV as well as the GA Moderator who appointed that committee. But perhaps your accusation comes from some other source. If so, it would be fair to provide.

  6. August 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Howie,

    Perhaps a fair point on the citation request, but I disagree that reasonable men would find that example statement reasonable in the current FV debate where obfuscation reigns as an art form. Besides, the underlying assumption of that excerpt violates the clear statement of Jer 17:9. And the views in question were not just “capable of heterodox interpretation”, they were heterodox. The SJC had no problem coming to the exact opposite and correct conclusion in the LAP/Wilkins case. The road to heresy is paved with inappropriate judgments of charity. Like, perhaps that shark is just smiling at me?

  7. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Bob (#6) – Using your analogy, I think the statement from the decision in 2010-4 in one sense simply means we should treat an ordained PCA minister like a brother in good standing, and not like a smiling shark, unless it becomes clear he is a shark (or has shark-like views). I don’t think this charitable position contradicts Jer 17:9 about deceitful hearts. It’s not much different than the concept of being innocent until proven guilty (or proven to be an obfuscator).

  8. August 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Howie, RE #7, And so, the PCA finds itself well into its version of the OPC’s Norm Shepherd era, where obfuscation and weak-knees ruled the courts and the church. The “in good standing” dodge is wearing mighty thin as a cover for heresy.

  9. August 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    In response to Mr. Donahoe, I would like for him to take into account the Lord’s lambs who suffer while Church leaders play politics and the sharks (or wolves) devour the flock. I would not want to defend the lack of taking serious action to protect the Lord’s flock when standing before the Lord. If only more Christian men had the backbone of the owner and contributors of this website! How blessed the Church would be!

  10. greenbaggins said,

    August 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Howie, that was not the source I had in mind. I can’t remember which case it was (though it was more recent than 2010), but it was a statement that took the “great deference” clause and applied it even to cases where our BCO explicitly says the higher court is NOT to give great deference to the lower courts. Of course, then the question becomes one of what constitutes (if you’ll pardon the pun) a question concerning the interpretation of the constitution. The practical implication of Coffin’s statement, which is a complete misreading of the constitution, is that Presbyteries cannot be held accountable on doctrinal matters if they have crossed the I’s and dotted the T’s polity speaking. Incidentally, I have lost most of my respect for David Coffin, and so have NUMEROUS others.

  11. Bob B said,

    August 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    @reformedmusings 8
    Before you go attacking Norm, perhaps you aught to read the most extensive collection of facts on that particular person and the controversy surrounding him (compiled by former PCA paster Ian Hewitson). I do see striking similarities though between the FV folk and the Norm controversy.

    http://www.amazon.com/Shepherd-Justification-Controversy-Westminister-Seminary/product-reviews/0911802835/ref=cm_cr_pr_redirect?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0

  12. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Lane – If you’re going to publicly say a well-respected and long-serving churchman has made a “complete misreading of the constitution” I believe it’s incumbent on you to provide the exact citation. I don’t think Dr. Coffin, or any SJC judge past or present, would agree with your allegation that any of them believe “Presbyteries cannot be held accountable on doctrinal matters if they have crossed the I’s and dotted the T’s polity speaking.” I think some of the popular confusion probably results from a misunderstanding of the sequence of higher court deference. In a doctrinal trial, and in any appellate review of it, one must first cross the “factual finding” bridge before one crosses the “constitutional interpretation” bridge. And if there is no clear error on the FF bridge, then the appellate court would not usually even get to the CI bridge. (This is the same with ordination exams – factual finding first, then the question of how the finding comports with the Standards.) As BCO 39-3.2 stipulates, a higher court should only reverse a factual finding of a lower court if it determines that finding was a clear error. So, when a man is on trial for alleged doctrinal error, the first matter to be determined is, factually, what he actually believes. The trial court renders a factual finding, and the higher court can review it. But unless the appellate court determines there is clear error in that finding, the lower court’s factual judgment stands. It is only then the question comes into play on how the factual finding comports with the constitution. I think this is explained well in the brief Presbytery filed in the Hedman case prior to the SJC Hearing. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kpzd4mjnptyipkm/ApHiA1kiZ9
    You disagreed with some of our Presbytery’s factual findings in the trial, but apparently the appellate court did not find clear error in any of those factual findings. And absent such clear error, the CI bridge did not need to be approached (at least that’s my understanding).
    And, for what it’s worth, while I sometimes disagree with my brother Dr. Coffin, I consider him to be the finest churchman I’ve known during my 28 years as a ruling elder in four Presbyteries. And I think that sentiment, or something close to it, is shared by an overwhelming majority of men in the PCA – from all camps. Then again, I don’t think someone’s reputation should be debated on a blog…

  13. greenbaggins said,

    August 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Howie, what Coffin believes on the relative powers of the Presbytery versus the General Assembly is both fairly well known (the “Coffin” doctrine is a “thing” amongst my acquaintances), but also pretty tangential to my main points in the post above. I’ll take out the reference to Coffin, since it matters little, and I have no idea where to find the original citation.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    August 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Bob B, I have read Hewitson’s book. My opinion of it is that it is carefully researched as to the actual facts of what happened, and completely wrong-headed when it comes to the doctrine of justification. So, in one sense I agree with his thesis: that Shepherd was not treated well. They strung him out for a very long time before anything definitive happened. However, I disagree with Hewitson that Shepherd’s theology falls ANYWHERE within Reformed orthodoxy.

  15. August 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Bob B – I have not read Hewitson’s book, but have read a lot of original source material. I think that Shepherd was treated with more respect than he treated either the OPC or WTS. Like his progeny in FV, he survived by obfuscation. He poisoned minds of WTS students for 9 years while remaining a TE in good standing. Appropriate parallel to FV in the PCA today.

  16. Bob B said,

    August 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    It would be a tough job, being the gardener of the presbytery. If you prune too much, the tree dies, and if you don’t prune enough, some branches get upset at the overgrowth. I’m pretty sure I’d be pruned off for my beliefs… but I opted for disassociation quite some time ago. Better that than being labeled a heretic by ‘brethren’ at every turn.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, but the arguments against FV start to sound silly when you say things like ‘the trial wasn’t fair because the defendant wanted one speedier than I liked it to be’, and ‘these guys were tenacious, they should have just rolled over and been declared heretics because that is what they are! – this is what reformed orthodoxy demands!’

    Or perhaps they weren’t declared heretics by the presbytery because… wait for it… they aren’t. If this was a regular court of law, they have been declared innocent. Continuing to treat them as guilty (and continuing to call them heretics) mocks your own system of governance. How can one possibly have a fair trial in your eyes if only your approved outcome is acceptable? Why can’t you respect the decision of those you are submitting too and start treating these FV types as the brethren they are?

    But their theology is outside my interpretation of the Bible! Well, apparently your interpretation is not in like with the ‘court’ that tried them for orthodoxy!

    I’ll leave this webcomic here:

  17. Bob B said,

    August 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    @reformedmusings 15
    ” I think that Shepherd was treated with more respect than he treated either the OPC or WTS. Like his progeny in FV, he survived by obfuscation.”

    I want to make sure I’m hearing you right. What this sounds like to me is that Shepherd was able to ‘pull the wool over’ the eyes of many in authority at WTS – in essence, all these learned men tasked with looking into it were duped by his obfuscation. However, you are able to see clearly the issue and have rightly judged NS as a heretic… where these other learned Bible scholars are being tricked by Norm’s fancy words.

    Right. The Norm’s and FV’s of the world spend considerable amounts of time outlining and clarifying their position for the purpose of obfuscating it. The logic here is strong.

  18. Michael said,

    August 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Rev. Keister,
    So where is our (those who agree with your assessment) future ecclesiastical home? The OPC has a Kinnard history (ironically, with a strong anti-FV study report). The URC needs a home on the East Coast – is this a viable option to hunker down as we pilgrim here awaiting our Blessed Hope? Or should we become Independent Presbyterians in the mold of Terry Johnson and RC Sproul Sr?

    For the record, I appreciate your strong words, while others are saying, “Peace, Peace” when there is no peace.

  19. August 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Bob B – Funny guy. Like I said, I read a lot of original source material. I see the arguments that Shepherd made in response to direct and reasonable questions from colleagues. Too many at WTS were willing to give Shepherd a judgment of charity where none was deserved. We saw the same with Enns on a different topic more recently. My general experience is that, with limited and notable exceptions, TE’s are loath to discipline their colleagues. We saw that in LAP and now in PNWP, MOP, and Siouxlands.

    After Shepherd left the OPC and WTS, he wrote books and articles clearly espousing views that, IMO, he obfuscated previously. We all look like prophets with 20/20 hindsight and the benefit of more information than the folks in the original situation had. Yet, there were some raising the alarm early, but they were ignored. After all, Shepherd was a TE in good standing, eh.

  20. August 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Michael,

    No denomination is pure or perfect. I one was, it wouldn’t be after I joined! That said, I had the privilege of worshipping in the RCUS many years ago. I have no issues with the Three Forms of Unity, though they aren’t as detailed as the Westminster Standards. There are others out there, small but faithful.

  21. August 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Lane, I’ll ask again, as I have several times in the past: given all this, why are you still in the PCA?

  22. Jack Bradley said,

    August 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Just the question that keeps coming to my mind, Richard.

  23. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    August 12, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Lane would be more than welcome in our (ARP) Catawba Presbytery.

  24. August 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    […] It is certainly a good thing for the FV that the evangelical middle has such a short memory (does anyone know what happened in 2007?). It is also a good thing for the FV that the evangelical middle has so much fear of man infecting it. The middle has no stomach for what would need to happen to certain Presbyteries for real discipline to occur. That’s because real discipline is always painful. And who has the endurance for something like that? Read more» […]

  25. greenbaggins said,

    August 12, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I have my reasons, which I cannot divulge to the public just yet. Suffice it to say that I am no congregationalist.

  26. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 12, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    I would, however, like to ask the SJC this simple question: is your interpretation of the polity of the PCA putting polity higher in importance than the gospel?

    Lane,

    I don’t get this. The SJC has been told by the PCA to uphold it’s policy. But you advocate that every time that someone on the SJC thinks that the gospel is at stake that they have the right to reject their commitment to do what their brothers collectively have told them to do and launch out on their own?

    If there is a problem with the polity of the PCA (and no argument from me that there are problems here!) is not the answer to change the polity by established means rather than to instruct members of the SJC to play the role of lawmaker as well as judge?

  27. greenbaggins said,

    August 13, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Andrew, here it is not really a matter of the polity per se, but the interpretation of that polity that the SJC has put on it that is the problem. No one on the SJC has been able to show me convincingly that there was no way they could have reversed PNW’s decision and still be faithful to the PCA’s polity. Our polity didn’t help, but the main problem does not lie in the polity itself, but in the SJC’s interpretation of it. Interpretation of the polity can never be allowed to prevent us from doing what the Bible tells us to do. If the Bible tells us to discipline wolves, we should do that, and if our interpretation of the polity gets in the way, so much the worse for our interpretation of that polity.

    Howie, for instance, pointed out that the SJC could find no clear error of fact-finding on the part of the PNW Presbytery. The answer is simple: PNW found no error in Leithart’s teaching that warranted a finding of guilty, despite Leithart’s many and manifestly clear errors on the subjects of baptism, justification, an covenant. People I have talked to about this case claim that there is counter evidence in Leithart’s testimony that negates my testimony, for example. There is no such thing. He made his own positions crystal clear. He did not deviate whatsoever from what he had always taught. In fact, he made his deviant positions much clearer through his own testimony. You can’t tell me that there was no way the SJC could have said that. There was CLEAR error on the part of PNW in exonerating heterodox teaching.

  28. August 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

    […] Read more… […]

  29. tominaz said,

    August 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

    #23 Benjamin P. Glaser – the ARP is certainly to be considered.
    #20 Bob, the RCUS is also to be considered.

  30. tominaz said,

    August 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I was reading Carl Trueman’s short review of D. G . Hart’s new book on the history of Calvinism over at Ref21. His salient point is: “the best chapter is on the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, and Hart once again makes a compelling case (which he has worked out more elaborately elsewhere) that the tragedy of Princeton was not initially at least about the triumph of liberalism but rather about the encroachment of broad evangelicalism which downplayed differences for the sake of being, to use an anachronistic phrase, gospel centred. There is a sombre lesson there for the YRR.” I would add a somber lesson for the PCA, including the evangellyfish and the FVers!

  31. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Just FYI to readers, the references to Coffin in 5, 10, 12, and 13 pertain to a quote from the original post that was subsequently (and appropriately) deleted.

  32. Ron said,

    August 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Great post. You have upheld your vows and stayed faithful (a commendation to you, and an explanation for such as Richard Zeulch).

  33. CD-Host said,

    August 14, 2013 at 11:32 am

    @Reformed #19

    After Shepherd left the OPC and WTS, he wrote books and articles clearly espousing views that, IMO, he obfuscated previously. We all look like prophets with 20/20 hindsight and the benefit of more information than the folks in the original situation had. Yet, there were some raising the alarm early, but they were ignored. After all, Shepherd was a TE in good standing, eh.

    I can tell you from personal experience that you might not be drawing the right conclusion from this. I’ll use myself as an example. When I was still trying to hold on to being a Christian I thought the dividing line was the Apostle’s Creed. I believed long as I could affirm the statements (not the intent) of the Apostle’s Creed I could still consider myself a Christian.

    So for example: “suffered under Pontius Pilate , crucified, dead and buried” I believed Jesus was eternally crucified, eternally dying… So one could say he suffered crucifixion and died under Pontius Pilate, you could also say he suffered crucifixion and died under George Washington. Clearly I was breaking with the intent, but not the actual language, and I understood that at the time. Once I reached the point I couldn’t affirm some of the language like communion of saints… then it was like a damn broke. I felt free to just deny the incarnation outright no ambiguous language. But it was just a shift in language it was a shift in thought as well. Because as soon as a I denied the incarnation I denied that Jesus Christ existed in any meaningful sense Zeus did not. Once I stopped being able to affirm the Apostle’s Creed, I couldn’t call myself Christian and I rapidly went from a Gnostic Christian to an atheist.

    My guess is that once Shepherd was booted from OPC and WTS his theology changed. I think the whole cover up thing is a bit more subtle. People have disagreements that they suppress, even to themselves, when they are inside an organization that they don’t have reason to suppress once they leave.

  34. coramdude said,

    August 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Gents,
    Just for clarity’s sake, Dr. Sproul Sr. is a minister of the central Florida presbytery of the PCA, serving out of bounds at an independent church. (I suspect the same is true of Terry Johnson.) While you may not like the existence of independent churches, surely my father’s circumstance is less congregational, more connectional, than what was ascribed to him above.

  35. Ron said,

    August 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    It is a common mistake to assume that a biblical congregationalism (e.g. that of Henry Dexter) is merely Independency. The root lies in the erroneous teaching on polity that takes place in seminaries, and the laziness of students.
    New England Congregational polity was as connected as Presbyterianism, without courts higher than a local congregation.

    http://archive.org/details/congregationali02dextgoog

    http://archive.org/details/handbookofcongre00dextuoft

  36. greenbaggins said,

    August 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Yes, R.C. Jr., the same is true of Terry Johnson. He is in the Savanna River Presbytery serving out of bounds.

  37. August 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Also, I would like to point out that leadership sets an example in how to deal with error and actions like this set precedence for how future Presbyteries deal with problems, as well as your local churches. For goodness sake, one would think those in leadership would have had more foresight.

  38. August 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I am interested in getting your opinion where would congregations and TEs go if they left the PCA? Would the OPC mostly benefit or the ARP? Which NAPARC denominations have the reputation as ones that are reforming either in practice or doctrine? Just curious as a RPCNA pastor how the spiritual landscape is perceived by other reformed brothers.

  39. greenbaggins said,

    August 15, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Welcome to my blog, Kent. I am deeply appreciative, by the way, of your wife’s book. You probably get that a lot.

    Kent, to answer your questions, it is unclear at this point what would happen if the confessionalists leave. I have some ideas, but they are still rather unformed. I’m sure that some of the other NAPARC denominations would benefit some from an exodus. More than that, I cannot say.

  40. August 15, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Yes to your question. If there is a split in the PCA the trend in protestant history is for a new denomination to form to seek to recapture what the old denomination use to be in many respects. Rarely do congregations leave a denomination to join another denomination whereby they will “grow” in reformation. Keeping the status is what is most comfortable but not at all helpful to a congregation. Interested in the opinions out there.

  41. locirari said,

    August 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Lane and Kent,

    It is an interesting time in denominational histories. I am impressed by the irony and tragedy posed by the CRCNA. They congratulated the founders of the OPC in the late 30’s only to largely abandon the Reformed faith roughly sixty years later. The changes in the CRC resulted in the expulsion of that body from NAPARC.

    I think the formation of the United Reformed Churches out of the CRC is exacltly what Kent describes: the URC is an attempt to preserve the heritage and testimony of the CRC. The churches that became the URC chose that path rather than alignment with an existing body standing firm where the CRC had failed. I think the heritage and distinctive emphases of the conservatives who left the CRC made it more practical for them to form a new body than to enter another denomination. They have been criticized for starting a new body but I see how it really was the most practical way to leave as a group.

    It appears that the challenge for institutional unity for the conservative Reformed is the sacrifice of a shared “branch” history. It also appears certain distinctive practices would also inevitably take a backseat if the conservatives were to get together. That would mean separate branches converging in wholly a new denominational tree.

  42. Martin said,

    August 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Kent, locirari (and any others),

    I agree with what Lane said about the lack of clarity for confessional PCA folks on where to go or what to do if/when it comes time to leave. There is much thought and discussion that still needs to happen.

    A couple additional thoughts:

    While both the ARP and OPC are attractive options, both have issues as well. Some confessional PCA folks are uncomfortable or worse with the ARP approach to deaconesses and to ownership/control of church property. When looking at the OPC, some are concerned about lingering FV issues (jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?) and others about the current republication controversy. And there are other things people want to understand better, while at the same time acknowledging the strengths present in both denominations. For some, too, it is a geographical issue – e.g., not many ARP congregations on the West Coast.

    As for forming a new denomination, that may not be a bad option, though it does open the new group to criticism of yet more schism in the body. There is, however, a possible solution: Dr. Robert Godfrey’s long-standing proposal regarding some sort of joint synod or assembly in which all the NAPARC groups would participate on a regularly scheduled basis. If we believe there is value in maintaining our distinctives, we would still be able to express our unity in a very public and meaningful way. I think his proposal is fantastic and would love to see it implemented.

    Martin

  43. locirari said,

    August 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Martin,
    Godfrey’s proposal is interesting. Has he said anything about what kind of authority a NAPARC synod could have?

  44. Brad B said,

    August 16, 2013 at 1:16 am

    This from Bob B @16

    “Why can’t you respect the decision of those you are submitting too and start treating these FV types as the brethren they are?”

    and this from Richard @21

    “Lane, I’ll ask again, as I have several times in the past: given all this, why are you still in the PCA?”

    Made me wonder if Martin Luther heard similar council, it also made remember that we have WCF 20 to feel free/empowered to challenge “those you are submitting to” if conscience compels such. Why be suprised that one committed to protecting the peace and purity of the church doesn’t up and leave or submit as advised against conscience? After following these discussions for 4-5 years, I’d be surprised if Lane did either….ever.

  45. Reed Here said,

    August 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Those of you asking Lane why he doesn’t leave the PCA, why not let his answers suffice? Why keep asking? If you find the answers inadequate, and Lane doesn’t see fit to accommodate your sense, why not leave it at that?

    For me, I expect y’all aren’t keeping in view what it means to a confessionalist to take vows. Leaving is the LAST thing a confessionalist wants to do – after he has done the last things he is compelled to do. All this sounds like so much pestering, and belittles the conscience of a brother.

  46. August 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I agree with Reed… As a fairly new follower of this blog, I am disappointed at the behavior of some those commenting who act as though FV is no big deal and if a man has a disagreement with it or the “polity” of the PCA, they should just up and leave. I don’t think Rev. Keister is the one who should leave. Perhaps those teaching and defending FV should leave and join the CREC; they are the ones straying from the WCF.

  47. greenbaggins said,

    August 16, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Brad, no side had “won” for the last 4-5 years. It was a see-saw battle. As long as the PCA had not exonerated false teaching, I was still going to stay. I am not a schismatic. I have already given my thoughts on why I am still in the PCA for now. That will probably not make sense at the moment to some of you, who seem to be more concerned about my conscience than I am! And since Brad, you know me very little, I would suggest you be a bit more circumspect in judging another’s conscience in future.

  48. August 16, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Good for you, Pastor! Please know you and your family are in my prayers. May the good LORD bless and keep you all safe. In Lord Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

  49. todd said,

    August 16, 2013 at 11:11 am

    The call for pastors to leave their denominations is too often irresponsible and a bit self-serving. Depending on background, the commitment to a denomination runs deep, like to a family; especially those born and raised in a denomination. Some pastors have a deep love for their denomination, and it is cold to tell them they must leave when things are not going their way. We don’t quickly tell a seventeen year old to leave his family because of the presence of sin and abuse. That may be a difficult choice he makes, but is not something we glibly recommend. It is always a matter of conscience, and each pastor’s conscience is different on these matters concerning leaving denominations.

    There are some godly pastors still ministering in the PCUSA. I couldn’t do it, but I respect the ones I have met who do. And if merely the toleration of any false teaching is enough to demand departure from a denomination, Luther and Machen would have left long before they actually did. It doesn’t mean we simply give in and refuse to fight, nor fear calling false teaching what it is, even if it is tolerated in our denominations, but traditionally the time one had to leave was when he was not free to teach the truth or there was no gospel left in the church’s confession. Up until then it was a matter of conscience.

    All denominations have false teachers in them, and yes, it is often tolerated. Even the early church (Acts 15) had legalists in their midst, who right under the Apsotles’ noses had risen to positions of leadership. The church in Corinth had false teaching. Five of the seven churches in Rev. 2&3 were a mess, with either toleration of false teaching or people with cold hearts toward God and others. And while there is certainly rebuke and correction to Corinth and the five churches in Rev., there is no call for the faithful to leave those churches and form other churches. I suspect that part of the problem is an idealistic ecclesiology instead of one formed from the reality of the church in the New Testament, as well as a bit of modern American consumerism in the mix; too many choices.

  50. Jack Bradley said,

    August 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Todd wrote: “. . . while there is certainly rebuke and correction to Corinth and the five churches in Rev., there is no call for the faithful to leave those churches and form other churches. I suspect that part of the problem is an idealistic ecclesiology instead of one formed from the reality of the church in the New Testament. . .

    I couldn’t agree more, Todd. And the current OPC republication controversy will be a good case in point. I think I know the republication men well enough to know that they are good and gifted men who will be open to needed critique.

    A helpful synopsis:

    https://sites.google.com/site/mosaiccovenant/overture

    A brilliant critique:

    https://sites.google.com/site/mosaiccovenant/paper

    Another brilliant critique:

    https://sites.google.com/site/mosaiccovenant/venema_mosaicCovenant.pdf?attredirects=0

  51. Todd said,

    August 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Jack Bradley agrees with me on something? Maybe I’ll rethink this. (Just kidding, Jack)

  52. Jack Bradley said,

    August 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Ha! Hey, I agree with you on lots, brother :) And you’ve definitely sharpened my iron many times. I know I’ll never forget your Brilliant presbytery exam back in the day!

  53. Jack Bradley said,

    August 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Other suggested reading, in case anyone is interested:

    https://sites.google.com/site/mosaiccovenant/reading

  54. Brad B said,

    August 17, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Hi Lane, I’m not sure if I’m judging your conscience, surely not intending to as if measured against some standard anyway, so I apologize that my comment allowed for that interpretation. My thought process as to why I’d be surprised you’d either submit or leave over this controversy has more to do with what I’ve seen as you conviction that FV is an attack on justification by faith alone. Where I see conscience in this is in the context I opened my comment with, that of Martin Luther “…unless I’m convinced by scripture and reason…”, of course he left by force.

    Didn’t mean to come off as judging, just making an observation that clearly you aren’t convinced by scripture or reason, and if I’m wrong on that, I guess I could see why that would come off as judging your conscience, but, this is why I cited WCF XX-That God alone is the Lord of the conscience.

    Maybe I misused the confession here? At any rate, I certainly dont want you to think badly of my intention of noting that the council from #’s 16 and 21 went against chapter 20 par 3…again unless I’m misusing the confession. Reed probably said it better anyway.

  55. Brad B said,

    August 17, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Whoops, the WCF 20 reference is paragraph 2, not three.

    Here, so I wont be misunderstood:

    “II God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, in matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

    I added italics and bold myself.

  56. dgwired said,

    August 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Lane, for what it’s worth, the conditions that allowed for FV to win may have been set in place well before the actual presence of FV in the PCA. I know folks may believe I am obsessed with Keller, but the triumph of Keller and his model of ministry in the PCA was by no means a victory for the kind of theology and practice that you would appear to desire. Once the PCA made Keller it’s poster boy, hard was the task of defining and defending borders — theological as well as church government.

  57. August 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    RE #37,

    FFL made a key point that goes to the heart of the issue – LEADERSHIP. We refer to elders as shepherd or under-shepherds, but a synonym of shepherd in that context is leader. Leaders set the standard. There are always church controversies because we’re all sinners saved by grace (or in the case of FV, by covenantal faithfulness rewarded at our final justification). Leadership structures don’t have to be hierarchical for leaders to set and enforce standards for the flock.

    When teaching elders are more interested in doing “cutting-edge theology” than in the plain gospel of Jesus Christ, and others who should be leading the denomination at all levels turn a blind eye or worse, what message does that send to the flock? I’ll tell you – that the gospel is less important than polity or people either making a name for themselves and selling books or going along to get along.

    I am personally tired of being asked for, and having to recommend, faithful churches in questionable presbyteries for folks travelling. In some presbyteries, I have to recommend OPC churches because I cannot discern which PCA churches still preach the gospel as summarized in our Standards. Or, having to explain why the PCA church they attended on vacation in XXX presbytery seemed more Roman Catholic than Presbyterian, or just plain “out there.”

    Inevitably, if the PCA splits or “merely” sheds its confessional wing, it will be because of a lack of leadership, faithfulness, and courage by those who remain.

  58. August 19, 2013 at 12:08 am

    […] made it plain that I think the PCA is dead.  Others are now coming to the same conclusion.  Lane makes a few excellent points about what the FV men surely did, and it helped their cause.  They did start to lay low: blogs were removed and went silent.  […]

  59. August 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

    […] I can beat Aquila Report with the scoop on this one. In response to Lane Keister’s post about how the Federal Visionaries won a rightful place within the PCA, Lee — a Pirates fan […]

  60. David A Booth said,

    August 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    One of the rarely mentioned issues behind many of the problems facing NAPARC churches is that we are unwilling to invest in cultivating excellent leadership for Christ’s Church. Consider a reasonable scenario:

    A 28 year old Army officer, who has recently been promoted to Captain, is a member of your church. He has been teaching Bible studies, leads a godly life, and seems in many ways like an ideal candidate for pastoral ministry. As you and your Session encourage him to consider pastoral ministry the following items come up:

    • He will have to borrow money to pay for seminary as your church will provide him with little or any financial aid.

    • When he graduates from seminary he will be making $30k less per year than he was before he started three years of graduate school and his wife will almost certainly need to work to make ends meet.

    • Once he is a pastor in a local church it is very unlikely that he will ever receive support for continuing education.

    In other words: “We don’t value your work as a pastor very highly.”

    The amazing thing is that we still have many gifted men pursuing pastoral ministry under these conditions. The reality, however, is that many men moving into pastoral ministry lack the intellectual and other gifts necessary to provide effective leadership to the church. A related issue is the reality that academic standards at most seminaries are appallingly low.

    The issue isn’t that we need to pay pastors like senior business executives or like Generals and Admirals. But if we are not willing to pay pastors as well as we pay junior military officers (nor are we willing to invest in their continuing education) than we are advertising that we think pastoral ministry is an easy calling that nearly anyone can do. If we are willing to call “anyone” into pastoral leadership then we should stop complaining about the consequences of that choice.

  61. August 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    […] How Did the FV Win the PCA? […]

  62. August 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    […] made it plain that I think the PCA is dead.  Others are now coming to the same conclusion.  Lane makes a few excellent points about what the FV men surely did, and it helped their cause.  They did start to lay low: blogs were removed and went silent.  […]

  63. Sean Gerety said,

    August 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Lane, I wonder if this is the case you’re thinking of regarding the “Coffin principle”: http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/a-standing-judicial-setback/

  64. tominaz said,

    August 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    This is a link to Dr. Albert Mohler’s commencement address to southern Seminary. I found his comments about the situation in his early days as President falling along the lines of what we are experiencing in the PCA. Enjoy: http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/08/20/dont-just-stand-there-say-something-the-sin-of-silence-in-a-time-of-trouble-2/

    Well worth the time to watch.

  65. Gerald Hedman said,

    August 20, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    With regard to concerns over confessional PCA members, congregations, or presbyteries fostering schism or becoming schismatic, the shoe is on the other foot. Reason being that any member, congregation, presbytery or denomination which departs from the gospel is adjudged to be schismatic, and properly so.

    Any who defend the pure gospel, whether in the PCA, OPC, URC or elsewhere, and are thus forced to worship elsewhere, can never be accurately accused of schism.

    It appears likely to me, from inside the latest Leithart complaint, that we may very soon rightly conclude (if not already) that the PCA is schismatic, having departed from the pure gospel. A new, confessional denomination becomes more attractive, and necessary, as the days go by.

  66. oworm said,

    August 21, 2013 at 9:20 am

    The article mentions something that will happen in October. Whats happening in October?

  67. August 21, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    […] are two interesting postmortems on the PCA from two different perspectives.  The first is “How the FV Won the PCA” by Lane Keister. The second is a counterpoint by a a former PCA pastor from Lincoln, NE who […]

  68. August 21, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    RE #65,

    The SJC’s next regular meeting is in October. We’ll know that they are serious about the gospel in the PCA if they honor the two overtures to take up the Leithart case. If not, then Katie bar the door.

  69. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    tominaz @63 – Mohler is today useless. A talking head with little in it, apparently. Able to praise popes, sign concordats calling papists brethren, and colluding with Arminians because they’re So. Baptists.

    oworm @65 – Nothing; Repeat: NOTHING happens in October. Get it?

    How many more meetings, committees, convocations, assemblies, session & Presbytery meetings, synods, symposia, dialogue, lectures, sermons, hand-wringing, blog-spewing, etc. before a PCA man stands up to the false teachers,

    denoucing them by name
    calling them out (& to repent)
    calling others to do the same
    refusing to pray with them
    refusing to break bread (communion & otherwise) with them
    LIVING according to the godly man’s rules in Titus & Timothy and the rest of the N.T.?!

    We are seeing so little difference between this bull skubulon and the Episcopal Church split (FINALLY!) of a decade ago, it is chilling.

    Revelation 3:16, PCA.

  70. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Bob @57 –
    Please discard the passive voice.
    “If the PCA…”
    “its confessional wing…”
    and “those who remain.”

    DO something manly, man.

  71. August 21, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Hugh,

    How’s this for manly: In addition to my full-time day job as a senior military officer, I served on the PCA Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology, and after carefully and prayerfully studying the issue for almost a year with six dear brothers in the faith, helped write the committee report condemning those views. I have written extensively critiquing FV and specific individuals’ views, engaged in debates, naming names all along the way. I signed, along with 28 others, the letter of concern about Jeff Meyers that starte the chain of events towards his trial. I prepared and served as a prosecution witness at Meyers’ trial. By God’s grace, I’ve successfully fended off three direct and personal attacks on me by FV proponents routed through my session. I have served on my presbytery’s credentials committee for about 8 years, actively carefully filtering for aberrant views with my dear brothers here. I have consistently challenged error and argued in favor the Reformed orthodoxy on the floor of General Assembly and in committees for years. And that’s not a comprehensive list.

    So, Hugh, what have you done? Surely you can trump my trivial efforts.

  72. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Ha ha! Me? Never, Bob. I seriously testify that your resume is hundreds of times more noble than mine. Well done. I know you are a man’s man, a man of orthodoxy and integrity from all I can glean online.

    What I am asking for (provoking you, I hope, to love and good works!) is what I wrote in #67:

    denouncing them by name
    calling them out (& to repent)
    calling others to do the same
    refusing to pray with them
    refusing to break bread (communion & otherwise) with them
    LIVING according to the godly man’s rules in Titus & Timothy and the rest of the N.T.?!

    In other words, abandon the neo-evangelical tactic of tact, joining, dialoguing, ad nauseam, and practice 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 if they will not repent or leave.

    I see from Gerety that while he calls them wolfen, you call them unfit as elders. http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/pca-postmortem/

    OK, what makes them fit as brethren?

  73. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Bob – I have nothing to compare with your resume. Seriously.

    But I didn’t know we were competing.

    I know you’re orthodox and have integrity. Now,

    denounce them by name as false teachers
    call them out & to repent
    call others to do the same
    refuse to pray with them
    refuse to break bread (communion & otherwise) with them
    LIVE according to the godly man’s rules in Titus & Timothy and the rest of the N.T.

    Withstand them to their faces.

    If they fail to repent or leave, then go 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1.

    1 Tim. 6:3-6 ~ If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: FROM SUCH WITHDRAW THYSELF.

    2 Tim. 3:1 ff ~ This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,t raitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY.

    and all that.

    Separation is biblical, not merely fundamentalist.
    The neo-evangelicals lie[d] to us.

    God bless, you, brother! Many of us are praying for you.

  74. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Bob, This [I served on the PCA Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology, and after carefully and prayerfully studying the issue for almost a year...]

    reminded me of Dobson and others who 30 years served on a congressional task force on pornography. Dobson complained of how defiling it was to his soul No doubt, you’ve been through similar material. Spiritual scat, as it were.

  75. Gerald said,

    August 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Re: #68
    There are two levels of process involved in the three identical overtures asking the SJC to assume original jurisdiction. The first is a Yea or Nay on that specific question. The second huge leap would be for the SJC to overturn itself and find Leithart’s teachings striking at the vitals of our system of doctrine.

    Now that the SJC membership is less confessional than it was in March, is either one of those barriers going to be breached? I pray that it may be so; however, God’s correctional, restorative (hopefully) judgment may already be in action regarding the PCA.

  76. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Gromit,

    Jim Dobson and others served 30 or so years AGO, not FOR 30 years!

    Oh yeah, and Titus 1:9ff says:

    An elder must be Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

    For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: WHOSE MOUTHS MUST BE STOPPED, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

    One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore REBUKE THEM SHARPLY, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

    Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

    Titus 3:9f ~ But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition REJECT; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

  77. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Lane, nailing it: “the PCA is now a FV-friendly denomination.”

    So, a spiritual whore-house, in other words?

    Y’all have to go after the pimps as well as the hookers, eh?

    “…nothing will change in October.” !Ka-ching!

    Q: “So how did the FV win the PCA?”
    A: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=207

    This failure of the critics to defend the Gospel properly seems to stem from two causes: misguided loyalty to the Neolegalists, and ignorance of what the Bible teaches. One critic describes his relationship to the Neolegalists in these words: “I speak/write with nothing but the deepest affection and appreciation for each of the men who will be attending the colloquium.” Nothing but affection and appreciation? How about a little skepticism, if not suspicion? How about a little of Paul’s willingness to speak sharply to Peter? Or, perhaps more to the point, a little of Paul’s zeal in cursing false teachers?

    …Why does this PCA pastor fail to defend the faith? “Because I value these brothers [James Jordan, Leithart, Schlissel, Wilson, Wilkins, Lusk, & Barach] so highly, it is very difficult for me to write a disagreeable word against them.” Not only does he value them too highly, he values the Gospel too little. This critic allowed his personal relationships to cloud his judgment for twenty years, and he is still doing so. That is one reason this heresy has spread so widely in the churches.

    Another reason this heresy has spread so widely is this critic’s (as well as others’) ignorance of what the Bible teaches on these matters. Even after this critic quotes James Jordan explicitly denying regeneration, he says “James Jordan’s humility and scholarship are both beyond question…. I have no intention of assaulting Jordan, but I would like to humbly point out several areas of advice or disagreement where he could (perhaps) hone his arguments.”

    Contrast these words with those of Paul when he confronted Peter “to his face before them all,” merely for hypocrisy. Peter was a much greater man than James Jordan, and his error was less serious than James Jordan’s. This pastor’s response is pathetic – and sinful. It is thinking like this that has allowed these heresies to spread and flourish in the churches.

    ~ John Robbins, 2005

  78. Hugh McCann said,

    August 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Lane, Bob, et. al.,

    OK, OK, they were smooth, conniving, prolific, duplicitous, tenacious, more cunning children of darkness than the light’s kids were, whatever.

    Now, it’s time to look long and hard into the mirror, gents, and write the hard one: “How We Screwed Up & Let the FV Win the PCA.”

  79. Gerald said,

    August 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    From my limited knowledge of PCA history, I think there have been warning signs along the way, not the least of which was removing from the GA the power to correct the SJC, which happened several years ago and apparently was marketed to commissioners as a way to make GA easier. Now, the so-called highest court in the PCA has no judicial power at all to correct even the most heinous heresies as long as the man’s presbytery does not find him guilty.

    This was asked in the Overtures Committee after long discussion about the serious issues at hand in SJC Case 2012-05. One TE asked, “So what you’re telling me is that, a man may teach the most damnable heresies, as this man has done and written for many years, and if his Presbytery exonerates him, then there is nothing that we can do about it?” And the statements (I believe from Messrs. Coffin and Donahoe, and the chair of that committee) were affirmative to the question.

    We have failed, as REs and TEs, to take seriously our God-given responsibilities to guard the flock.

  80. L Westerlund said,

    August 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Hugh McCann quotes John Robbins on the reluctance to find fellow pastors guilty of false teaching. What Robbins writes echoes the account of the Norm Shepherd controversy at WTS as reported by O. Palmer Robertson in “The Current Justification Controversy”. Seven years of meetings, discussions, findings, statements! It seems like his colleagues were reluctant to assign guilt to Prof. Shepherd because he was such a fine man and good friend and respected colleague. It is more comfortable to say teaching is “ambiguous” than to say it is “false.” It seems more charitable to say that we probably haven’t understood than to say it is false. No one wants to be uncharitable. But how can we say we love if we fail to speak the truth? And how can we rightly discern the truth unless we are willing to speak the truth in love, whatever the consequences to human institutions we value? Love rejoices in the truth.

  81. Gerald said,

    August 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Also the case with A.A.Barnes, who was tried and exonerated twice by his presbytery, and finally convicted by the higher court.

    It resembles far too much the operation of a Medieval Guild when one of its own members is at risk.

  82. Hugh McCann said,

    August 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Mr Mattes @71,

    I cannot hope to “trump” your record, but I did find one who has.

    So, let me get this right:
    You
    served on the PCA Study Committee on FV, NPP, & AAT,
    carefully and prayerfully studied the issue
    helped write the committee report condemning those views
    wrote extensively critiquing FV and specific individuals’ views
    engaged in debates, naming names all along the way
    signed the letter of concern about Jeff Meyers
    prepared and served as a prosecution witness at Meyers’ trial
    fended off three direct and personal attacks from FV proponents
    served on your presbytery’s credentials committee for about 8 years
    actively carefully filtering for aberrant views
    consistently challenged error
    argued for Reformed orthodoxy at GA and in committees for years.

    And this is not a comprehensive list! Whew!

    OK, great resume, Bob. Except for one glaring omission.

    Have you tried this? — But when Peter was come, I WITHSTOOD HIM TO THE FACE, because he was to be blamed. For he taught the FV heresy. And other PCA TEs & REs dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that _____ also was carried away with their dissimulation.

    But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter BEFORE THEM ALL, “If thou, being a PCA minister, say that you subscribe to our standards and the gospel, and not as do the papists, why do your teach the age-old heresies and false gospel of the Pharisees, Judaizers, and Papists?”

    You see, my brothers, committees, charges, procedures and protocol have their places, to be sure. But read the Robbins piece closely.

    Where you PCA TEs & REs failed was in following scriptural policies of rebuke. Your house is left unto you desolate in part because good men failed to withstand in personal, face-to-face rebuke (in love) the false teachers. As elders, you were right to stay and fight to protect God’s people. Those ordained men who fled erred in my opinion. But so have all those who did not follow the apostolic example.

    Thank you, and may God bless you in the final days of your association with the PCA.

    Hugh

  83. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 23, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Gerald @78 – I don’t recall the question, but as specifically worded in your comment (below), I would not have answered “Yes” as you reported. Nor do I think would have the other men you mentioned.

    “So what you’re telling me is that, a man may teach the most damnable heresies, as this man has done and written for many years, and if his Presbytery exonerates him, then there is nothing that we can do about it?”

    I think the question was probably different and involved the PCA constitution. In the Greenville Overtures Committee, which dealt with an Overture from Illiana Presbytery seeking remand of the appellate court decision in the Hedman Complaint that was against a Presbytery’s trial verdict, it’s more likely the question was “Can a Presbytery’s judicial decision, sustained by the appellate court, be reversed via an Overture from a Presbytery?” The answer to that question, constitutionally, is “No.”

  84. Gerald Hedman said,

    August 23, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Howard @83

    The speaker was a TE from Iliana Presbytery, perhaps Gerry Koerkenmeier’s pastor. The quote is, if not exact, nearly 100% because I wrote it down at the time. Also, I talked with him later that afternoon at a break. Messr. Coffin was the primary speaker on the subject and recounted the history of the GA giving final authority to the SJC, without having further review, including his role in bringing about that change. Perhaps you did not chime in on this one, you were pretty busy throughout the GA.

    Of course it was a constitutional question, but not the hypothetical one that you imagine. “The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on….” And it cannot be changed nor recalled.

  85. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 24, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Gerald @84 – I don’t think or imagine the question is hypothetical. But the point is, to be in the proper context, your quote needs to end with four important words: “…nothing we can do about it in the Overtures Committee.” The point being, the OC cannot address a judicial case in the way Illiana Presbytery requested (that is, unless the PCA changes its constitution, which it certainly can do.) The OC, which is composed of two representatives from each of the 80 Presbyteries, voted 71-27 in favor of that constitutional interpretation. (Not all Presbyteries sent reps, or they sent only one.)

  86. August 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Howie,

    I’d like to make it clear that what David gave the Overtures Committee was HIS interpretation of the constitution and intent in working the subject changes. Others may and do have a different interpretation, encompassing on a bigger picture.

    This circumstance demonstrates two unfortunate facts. First, though all elders theoretically have equal authority in the denomination, the PCA has developed an elite class whom most are ready to follow without question. These people are routinely invited to address committees of which they are not members. Others are rarely accorded that courtesy. Second, some PCA courts, including the SJC, have moved away from an ecclesiastical mindset of defending the gospel to a secular court mindset of worshipping procedure over gospel truth. I don’t believe that our fathers in the faith and denomination had either abomination in mind when they wrote the BCO.

  87. Howard Donahoe said,

    August 25, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Bob – Granted, the interpretation offered by Dr. Coffin of the changes made by the 1996 GA in Fort Lauderdale to review of judicial decisions were, as you wrote, HIS interpretation. But it’s a pretty informed one. He chaired the Ad Interim Committee on Judicial Procedures, which also included TEs Paul Fowler, Lee Ferguson, Paul Gilchrist, T. David Gordon, and Morton Smith and REs Dale Peacock and Jack Williamson – a pretty experienced and impressive group. I’d even say they were “experts” at the task they were assigned. Their committee designed, recommended, and explained the proposed changes, which were then overwhelmingly adopted by the PCA. Regarding the change to review of SJC decisions, the Ft. Lauderdale GA adopted the recommendations by a vote of 791-17 (98%-2%). The BCO amendments were strongly supported the following year by the Presbyteries voting 45-5 to adopt, and finally were adopted by the 25th GA in Colorado Springs in 1997.

    I’m not sure I understand why you think the PCA has an “elite” class. Granted, there are some men with more experience than others, but I don’t think that translates to elitism. And your own resume at #71 demonstrates you’ve certainly not been marginalized in the PCA. For example, being one of only 3 REs on the PCA’s FV study committee is a pretty elite position.

    Regarding your assertion that the SJC is guilty of some procedural “abomination” whereby it “worships procedure over gospel truth” in such a way that would offend our forefathers, one only needs to look again at the names of the men on the AICJP to see there were several of our most prominent “fathers in the faith and the denomination” that designed and recommended the change with which you presently seem so uncomfortable. While I often enjoy your hyperboles, this one is miles beyond your standard fare.

    Looking forward to another breakfast soon.

  88. Gerald Hedman said,

    August 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Error is error; sin is sin regardless of when committed, or by whom committed, even in overwhelming majorities.

    After all, Christ’s very own 12 forsook him (with the possible exception of John). That certainly did not make it right.

    God + 1 = majority, it is said. In fact, He alone is majority, and we all do well to listen more closely and carefully to the Holy Spirit, whose mission it is, in part, to lead us into all truth. When actions divert from or go against Scripture, or ignore it, they cannot be said to be the will of God.

    In fact, they are sinful.

    Democracy is wonderful, and I am as much a democrat (small “d”) as the next person. Majorities in voting by fallible humans neither constitute nor determine truth; their best and highest function is to affirm the Truth.

  89. Reed Here said,

    August 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Howard, appeals to popularity do not truth make. Yes, the reputation of others should give us pause. It hardly does them honor to use their reputations as a means to conclude truth.

  90. jsm52 said,

    August 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Interestingly, in his essay “Make War No More?,” Darryl Hart points out that the liberal opponents of J. Gresham Machen in the Presbyterian Church routinely invoked the Ninth Commandment against him.

    cwaga doesn’t like controversy. Yet Machen made the case that contending for truth in a sinful world (which is always at the heart of an act of love) would always find controversy close by.

  91. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Gerald and Reed – My last comment to Bob did not really involve an assertion of truth v error. I was simply asserting Dr Coffin is probably in as good a position as anyone to opine on the GA’s reasons for adopting the procedural change in 1996. In fact, he’s probably the most valuable and most informed source for such an opinion.

  92. Reed Here said,

    September 2, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Howard, then you offered an immaterial observation.

  93. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Reed – I think the observation was material to the first sentence of Bob’s comment in #86.

  94. Reed Here said,

    September 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Howard, so you were making an appeal to popularity. Or, to be more consistent with your context and your reference to the “experts” on the original committee, you were making an appeal to experts.

    You were challenging Bob’s comment about Dr. Coffin bringing his own opinion. Are we not to understand your challenge as nothing more than saying, “well, personal opinion it may be, but it is a better opinion because Dr. Coffin is an expert on this particular part of BCO because he chaired the expert committee which introduced the change.”?

    Seems a pretty fair reading of what you said Howard. If you were not making an appeal to popularity (expertise, the reputation of the one cited) to challenge Bob’s point, than your comment is immaterial. If your comment rested on the relative value of Dr. Coffin’s opinion based on his reputation vs. Bob’s comment (in this case expertise as co-author of the change in view), then my criticism of your comment at least accurately applies.

    You may want to deny it is fair. But that is different from denying it applies.

    All I’m saying Howard is that critiquing Bob’s original point must rest on something a bit better than an appeal to Dr. Coffin’s reputation in this case. It is a fact that Dr. Coffin was ONLY bringing his opinion on the matter (Bob’s point). It is material to recognize that Dr. Coffin’s opinion should at least carry some weight in our consideration. Yet your comment did not develop Dr. Coffin’s opinion based on his reputation. You merely threw his name out there (amidst a host of other “weighty” names) and left it there to stand on its own.

    That is an appeal to the man (i.e., popularity, authority, expertise, etc.). That is a debate tactic that is less than helpful in this kind of setting.

  95. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Reed – In your post, you seem to use the words (and perhaps the concepts) “popularity” and “expertise” as synonyms, which seems odd. I think we all know men who are experts, but not necessarily popular, and vice-versa.

    In Bob’s post 86, I understood an underlying question as essentially being: “Of what value was Dr. Coffin’s opinion given to the Greenville Overtures Committee regarding the historical and judicial reasons for the change made to the BCO in 1996?” Sure, it’s factual to say it was just one man’s opinion. But to paraphrase my response to Bob, I can’t imagine any other individual whose opinion, on that specific matter, is of more value. Dr. Coffin is an expert on that question. Probably THE expert. Has nothing to do with how popular he might be.

    Your post makes me wonder if you’re uncomfortable even with the idea of saying some men are experts on a matter and others are not, or even uncomfortable with the concept of “expertise” itself (likening it, in a less than complimentary way, to “popularity”). For example, it seemed odd for you to put in quotes the word “weighty” with regard to the names of the other men on the AICJP – TEs Paul Fowler, Lee Ferguson, Paul Gilchrist, T. David Gordon, and Morton Smith and REs Dale Peacock and Jack Williamson. It’s hard to imagine anyone not considering each of them to be experts on the work of the AICJP, and on the reasons for the changes made to the BCO in 1996. It’s one thing to disagree with their recommended changes. You can be an expert and still be wrong (though one would assume a non-expert would be wrong more often than an expert on the particular matter for which the expertise pertains). But it’s another thing to say all men’s opinions on the matter have the same weight. While I’ve studied the AICJP report, read the GA minutes, and discussed the matter for years, my opinion is nowhere near the value of Dr. Coffin’s. But my opinion on IPA’s far surpasses his.

  96. Reed Here said,

    September 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Howard: maybe not intentionally, but you are decidedly swerving from the basic point of my challenge to you. If you would, please read my first comment challenging this particular critique fro you to Bob’s comments.

    Rather than “appeal to the man,” I should have written “appeal to authority,” or an “argument from authority.” The words popularity and expertise are merely similar phrases (not exactly equal but more popularly synonymous). I am asserting that your challenge to Bob is nothing more than an example of this logical fallacy.

    There is nothing odd in emphasizing a word with quote marks. Are you reading between the lines and missing my explicit meaning expressed in my own words?

    Of course, as I’ve said twice (did you miss them), yes Coffin (and these others) do have a more informed opinion given their expertise (and experience as well). Yes their opinion should be given greater consideration.

    YET, you did not offer anything demonstrating why in this case Coffin’s opinion IS better than Bob’s. You offered us the option of judging truth merely on the basis of Dr. Coffin’s greater reputation than Bob’s. I know you are familiar with this kind of tactic in a legal setting (and given what I think I know of your positive reputation as a lawyer, you know to challenge it when used against your client).

    The issues facing us here deserve better debate than the mere use of such a tactic. Maybe you have a better argument than in view (other than Coffin has a better reputation than Bob). If so, make it. Please, don’t stumble over a simple criticism offered kindly.

  97. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Reed – Sorry I’m not following you. I suppose its best to just put this one on the shelf.

  98. Reed Here said,

    September 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    So be it.

  99. L Westerlund said,

    September 2, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    An attempt to follow to follow this discussion that became a–civilly conducted–argument yields this:

    1. Agreed: An informed opinion is better than an uninformed opinion on a given matter. An expert’s opinion deserves consideration.

    2. Disputed: The rightness or wrongness of the expert opinion must be determined by evidence from other sources. Even experts have a perspective, a starting set of assumptions. Experts can err, factually or theologically; their conclusions may be wrong. So evinces the court of history.

    3. When the dispute is theological, the opinion must be judged by Scripture. There may still be disagreement as to how we understand the Scriptures, and, even more so, how Biblical principles apply in a given case, but all interested parties can then discern who makes the most cogent case from the Word of God.

    Have I got it?

  100. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Well said sir. But I don’t think the immediate matter involved Scripture so much as it involved informed memory.

  101. L Westerlund said,

    September 2, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Thank you for your response. Perhaps that is the nub of the disagreement–whether we are talking about correct reporting or a correct decision–two different concerns. Arguing the rightness or wrongness of the change requires an accurate and informed remembering of the procedures, but it is the wisdom or foolishness of the outcome that interests me, and I would hazard, other readers of this blog.

    Perhaps I have lost the thread, but that is how it looks to this observer.

  102. Reed Here said,

    September 3, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Yep. Sounds like where we ended.

  103. September 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Wow, I’m providentially hindered from the discussion for a while and see what happens? Everything got interesting.

    Howie – I think that Reed makes good points which cut to the heart of the matter. My bottom line had nothing to do with what was done or passed decades ago but the bigger picture of the current situation. In this regard, giving greater deference to anyone, especially in a committee of which they are not a member is inappropriate. My point was standing for gospel truth vs. hiding behind procedural interpretations based on a secular approach to an ecclesiastical court’s duty.

    Instead of debate and a decision by a thousand elders, one elder convinced 100 or so to bypass their parent body using a procedural trick. I don’t see how God was honored, and certainly the gospel was not defended against heresy.

    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing, in this case by simply look the other way by using secular legal reasoning to sway an ecclesiastical court.

  104. hughmc5 said,

    September 5, 2013 at 1:19 am

    Hear, hear, here: Bob’s last sentence in #103!

    How did the FV win the PCA? Good men did precious little good. To wit:

    …they learned [fast] that it was actually necessary to jump the gun on a trial, because then they could choose the battlefield and have all the advantages. Get a Presbytery to exonerate a man, and the SJC will be under enormous pressure to give a free pass to the Presbytery. Rush everything so that the prosecutor wouldn’t have enough time to do it right.

    Someone was NOT instant in season and out… You all got “bamboozled.” Shame on you.

    Secondly, they pulled an enormous amount of their internet stuff, because that was the forum where they made the most “far-out” claims. Tis the nature of the internet. Get rid of the incriminating evidence, and you make the prosecutor’s job a whole lot harder.

    Someone did not do their homework;
    or, the henhouse was too long unprotected;
    or, you took ordination vows at face value.
    The children of this age are wiser than we are,
    and you need to be as subtle as serpents
    if you’re going to battle effectively.

    Thirdly, they kept their heads low when the discussion got hot. When there was nothing for it, they lit into the accusers with the ninth commandment club like there was no tomorrow (as all heretics everywhere have ALWAYS done).

    Someone didn’t have ammo with which to fire back! THEY failed the 9th commandment, and yet won! Fail us once, shame on you; fail us twice, shame on us…

    Fourthly, they never gave up. They were incredibly tenacious

    And someone else wasn’t… :(

    Fifthly, they actively courted the evangelical middle of the PCA. They tried very hard (and successfully) to convince the evangelical middle that the FV issues were not gospel issues, but peripheral issues.

    Again, the henhouse was unprotected. Y’all gave up the middle, didn’t convince the middle, failed to disciple the middle. Shame on the FV, shame on the middle, and shame on you.

  105. September 5, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for this. Your balanced perspective is fair. But it is more than a human battle. It is a spiritual battle. It is not fought in neutral territory, but–from our perspective–here on earth, where God’s adversary prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.:As Peter writes, “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned,be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled men and fall from your firm grasp on the truth But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day. II Peter 3:17,18

  106. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Bob @103 – I assume you’re still referring to the Illiana Overture that failed in the Overtures Committee.

    1. I suppose we’ll just graciously disagree. Regarding the experienced minister who gave his opinion on the rationale and effect of the BCO changes made in 1996-97, OC Rules clearly permit such: “When necessary for the performance of its duties, the committee may, by a majority of those present and voting, invite other persons to address the committee.” (RAO 15-6.m) I think it probably happens every year, and it makes sense. I believe it’s wise, when discussing a debatable matter, to hear from recognized experts on the matter (if available, and time and rules permit), and to give weight to those opinions commensurate with the weight of the expertise and/or the wisdom of the advice. This presumes the person is indeed an expert, and I realize there’s some debate over what constitutes expertise. If the matter had involved a question of how the FV Study Committee operated, you could have been the expert.

    2. Again, assuming you’re still referring to the Illiana Overture that failed in the Overtures Committee, a motion seeking to have an unconstitutional request declared out of order is not a “procedural trick.” Abiding by the Constitution we vowed to uphold is not ”using secular legal reasoning.” (RE vows 3&5, TE vows 3&4) It almost sounds like you’d be open to a kind of procedural anarchy, something like: “We can and should set aside our Constitution whenever a minority feels its really, really important to do so.” Or more specifically, “Even though 72% of the OC reps appointed by their Presbyteries disagree with my interpretation, I should prevail because these experienced men are apparently being swayed by a procedural trick or swayed by secular legal reasoning. It can’t possibly be the case that their constitutional interpretation is correct, and mine is wrong.” I’m not impugning motives, but as an alternative to your assertion, one might contend that trying to float an Overture that’s disallowed by the Constitution is the real procedural trick.

    Looking forward to breakfast.

  107. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I served on the Overtures Committee of Commissioners this year for the fourth straight year. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. 2013 felt almost like penal servitude. One good rule for Presbyters: If you’re getting close to burnout, take a break and recharge your spiritual batteries.

    On the voice vote to allow David Coffin to speak to the Committee about the BCO rules changes in the 1990’s, I was one of the few (probably no more than five) to vote “No.” I have great respect for David. No one can question his faithful service and expertise in this area. We had a short, cordial conversation during a break in the Committee’s work. I have noted his gracious response several times when his suggestions were ignored or defeated on the floor of the entire Assembly. I have also noticed, however, that the dynamic is different in the Overtures Committee. At several critical moments during the past four years, Dr. Coffin has been brought in to explain an Overture he authored or to give his opinion on a matter. When he speaks to the Committee, many members seem to react as if they’ve heard the final word on the subject. (Of course, my view on this is entirely subjective. You can often feel which way the wind is blowing in a group this size, though, without a word spoken.) I’m not sure why this is the case. Perhaps it’s due to the all-too often situation in the Overtures Committee, when matters get bogged down or tied in parliamentary knots, and we’re eager for anyone to help us break free. Or it could be the unusual makeup of this Committee: Most of us don’t know each other (unlike our Session or our Presbytery), yet we must work closely together on subjects of great importance, in an intimate setting, under high pressure, with very limited time. At any rate, I believe it’s not helpful to use one “expert” on a regular basis without hearing another respected Presbyter as a counterweight.

    Naturally, it’s easier to identify a problem than suggest a solution. At the very least, the Chairman should be aware that inviting non-members to address the Committee can create more problems than it solves. In my opinion, this practice should be rare and used only under extraordinary circumstances. A non-member should be invited speak only when the Committee cannot get the same information on its own. There’s simply too much opportunity for political maneuvering and manipulation to routinely invite non-members to speak. (I have no evidence that anyone was guilty of this.) This year, I felt that Dr. Coffin’s remarks added nothing new to the discussion, but they further tipped the scales in favor of one view. I do not doubt that the outcome would have been the same had he not spoken, but at least the decision would have been that of the Committee, and the Committee alone.

  108. September 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Howie,

    1. The few times I’ve ever seen someone not on OC or our beloved Stated Clerk address the OC was the author of a complex overture. For example, the author of the complete rewrite of BCO Chapter 5 a few years ago asked and was granted time to explain the overture’s flow. In this case, someone who had nothing to do with the overture in question was allowed to provide a personal opinion about that overture. Legal? Perhaps, but far from wise.

    2. Actually, in my studied opinion, that was not an unconstitutional overture. I was prepared to defend it in detail during the RAO 15-required opportunity for floor debate that was stolen from the commissioners by procedural trickery. That argument was never heard because the OC was bamboozled into violating RAO 15.8 by bypassing the General Assembly entirely. Sun Tzu would have been proud, but I doubt that the Head of the Church is amused (see Acts 15 where ALL were heard before any decision was made). The constitution was not endangered at any time by alternate points of view. Indeed, had the OC heard a detailed argument from another point of view, they may have decided differently (Pro 18:13, 17). However, certain individuals saw to it that no meaningful opposition would be heard. Certainly the GA would have heard another point of view had the matter been openly debated. But alas, the elite class all but assured that would not happen, and the mushy middle dutifully followed them.

  109. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 5, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Right on, Bob, especially in regard to #2. We have corresponded personally on this very subject. The Moderator’s peremptory ruling the Overture “Out of Order” was one of the worst abuses of parliamentary power I’ve ever seen. It’s left a bad taste in my mouth that refuses to go away. I am more upset by this one action than by anything else I’ve ever experienced as a Presbyter. (Yes, I know I need to get over it.). True, the majority of the Overtures Committee recommended that the Overture be ruled Out of Order. Yet the Moderator’s ruling violated the most fundamental principle of the work of the Overtures Committee: The Committee reports to the entire Assembly, not to the Moderator. It was the Assembly’s task to hear all sides, and only then, if it so desired, to recommend that the Moderator rule the Overture Out of Order. I had signed a Minority Report and was looking forward to the Assembly’s hearing our position through the regular process of Majority Report, substitute motion for the Minority Report, debate, and vote. Yet a very dangerous precedent was set by “bypassing the General Assembly entirely.” I pray that this error in judgment was a one-off and not the result of a well-executed conspiracy. Cliche appropriate here: Time will tell.

  110. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 6, 2013 at 7:57 am

    I’m aware that the Assembly could have overruled the Moderator, in which case the Committee’s Majority and Minority reports would have proceeded as usual. That afternoon was a time of great confusion throughout the hall, however (understatement!), and few seemed to be thinking clearly. The thing was over in a flash. We’re safe at this point, in the judgment of charity, to attribute the whole sordid incident to “the fog of war.” I have no hard evidence to assign bad motives to anyone. Whether by design or by accident, though, the end result was quite a mess. Going forward, open and honest debate should be everyone’s default position. When in doubt, let it come out.

  111. September 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

    I agree that the hall was in confusion during that proceeding and my challenges to the chair. Since I could not argue my point, most probably had no idea what was happening. I think that there’s a general inclination to trust the chair, but the elected moderator wasn’t even presiding if I recall correctly. The whole setup has a foul odor to it.

    In combat, the general rule is that if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying. I never anticipated that rule even remotely being applied in our denomination’s highest court. I naively believe that we used the Acts15 model.

  112. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 6, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Frank – The phrase “open and honest debate” sounds positive, unless the matter is constitutionally un-debatable. But that was the whole question. The constitutionality of the Illiana Overture was fully debated in the Overtures Committee where 72% of the 100 men believed it was out of order since it violated a constitutional prohibition. One can disagree with that interpretation without alleging men with a different interpretation are acting contrary to Acts 15. (I know you didn’t allege such, but others have.)

  113. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 6, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for your reply, Howie. I hope that we can spend some time together at a future GA.

    I want to continue to focus on just one point: Every recommendation from the Overtures Committee should reach the floor of the General Assembly. Period. No exceptions. The OC is a Committee of the Assembly, after all. The Moderator should never act on his own. If the Committee majority has decided that an Overture should be ruled Out of Order, let the Committee make its case directly to the entire Assembly. Let the Assembly also determine if it wishes to consider a Minority Report. I see no downside to this process. Everything is transparent, every view gets a hearing, and everyone hears it all.

  114. September 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Frank – That’s exactly what RAO 15.8 requires. You’re standing on solid ground. RAO 15.8 provides no allowance for the OC to bypass the GA by going directly to the moderator. Contrary to my understanding of Howie’s assertion but as you indicated, the initial GA debate would have been over the constitutionality of the overture, and only then to the actual merits of the overture. As it is, IMHO the moderator unconstitutionally ruled an overture unconstitutional, bypassing the proper RAO procedure. That was the crux of my challenges to the chair.

  115. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Frank – Your response was gracious, but I think some men might misunderstand the meaning of a “point of order.” The point is put to the Moderator, not the floor. And even if OC had recommended the Illiana Overture be adopted, any individual could have immediately raised a point of order contending it would be improper to even consider the recommendation. At that point, the Moderator would need to rule on the point of order. So, if an individual had the right to raise that point of order, surely a 100-man committee representing all Presbyteries has the same right. RAO 15-6 stipulates the OC is governed by Robert’s Rules (unless RAO stipulates otherwise). Nothing in the RAO prohibits the OC from judging an Overture to be out-of-order and asking the Moderator to rule it out-of-order. Let’s say a Presbytery sends an Overture asking the GA to immediately divest RE John Doe from office without process. That would clearly be out of order and the OC should judge it thusly and recommend the Moderator rule that way. It would be inappropriate for the entire Assembly to debate that point of order. The Moderator’s ruling could be challenged, and if so, the floor would vote on whether to sustain the ruling. I believe this was done in Greenville, and the out-of-order ruling was sustained (I think by a very large margin).

    While some men might have been confused at that point in the Assembly, the OC report had been posted on the web well ahead of time. The GA Commissioners probably had the report earlier than any prior year, and it contained the following grounds for the OC’s point of order. I believe men had sufficient time to decide how they should vote if the chair’s ruling was challenged. (If Bob sensed a “foul odor” to the procedure, perhaps his nose is overly sensitive.)

    Grounds: The Committee believes this overture is constitutionally out of order and requests the Moderator to rule them out of order. Below are some reasons.

    1. Both Overtures 19 and 23 assert:

    BCO 15-5.a permits the General Assembly to “direct the Standing Judicial Commission to retry a case if upon review of its minutes exceptions are taken with respect to that case.” (The last Whereas clause in both Overtures – pp. 80 & 94.)

    But BCO 15.5.a only applies to CCB review of SJC minutes. (And even then, per RAO 17-1, the CCB is to review the “minutes, but not the judicial cases, decisions, or reports,” of the SJC.) Regardless of how one understands CCB’s authority, no review authority is given to Presbyteries and they are not constitutionally permitted, in any way, to try to reopen SJC cases.

    2. For the last 16 years, since the revisions to BCO 15 and RAO 17 made by the 25h GA in Colorado Springs in 1997, SJC decisions have been final when they are announced to the parties and they cannot be reopened – certainly not via overture.

    BCO 15-5.a: “… The decision of the SJC shall be the final decision of the GA except as set forth below, to which there may be no complaint or appeal. …”

    The phrase “except as set forth below” refers only to an SJC minority report from at least 1/3 of the SJC proposing a different decision. (BCO 15.5.c and SJC Manual 17.2 and 19.4)

    BCO 15-5.c. (1) If, within twenty-four (24) hours of the time of adjournment of a SJC meeting at which a final decision was rendered in a case, at least one-third (1/3) of the voting members of the SJC file written notice of their intention to file a minority decision with the Stated Clerk of the GA, and within twenty (20) days from the adjournment do file such a minority decision, such minority decision shall be considered a minority report and shall be referred, with the report of the SJC, to the GA.

    OMSJC 17.2 A judgment of the SJC shall be effective from the time of its announcement to the parties in accordance with BCO 15-5(b) except in the case of a minority report in accordance with BCO 15-5(c).

    These revisions were first approved in 1996 by a 98% majority of the 24th GA in Ft. Lauderdale and subsequently ratified by 90% of the Presbyteries. (Prior to these changes, all SJC decisions were voted up or down by the GA without debate.)

    3. BCO 15-5.c stipulates that if there’s an SJC minority report, the GA shall act upon the SJC and the minority reports “without question, discussion, debate, or amendment.” If an SJC minority report must be considered without question, discussion, debate or amendment, then how could it be proper for the GA to debate the merits of an SJC decision via overture?

    4. Unlike SJC members, no member of the OC or GA is required (a) to read the Record of the Case or (b) to read the briefs filed by the parties, or (c) to listen to the oral arguments presented at the hearing. (In one of these cases, the Record and briefs totaled over 740 pages.) None of the 1,400 Commissioners at this GA are required to read the lengthy Records of the Missouri or the Pacific NW cases, yet these overtures ask the GA Commissioners to render an opinion on the SJC’s decisions in each case.

    5. If it was allowable to reopen an SJC decision via overture, then any Presbytery losing a case at the SJC level could simply file an overture asking the GA to remand their case for a rehearing. And even if their overture was answered in the Negative, they could still publicly debate the SJC decision at the Assembly via the overture. In addition, if this is allowed, then any SJC member who dissents in a case could go home and ask his Presbytery to file an overture asking GA to remand the case to the SJC for rehearing.

    6. Illiana Overture 19 ends by including three pages of what it calls “selective citations taken from the transcript of his trial in Pacific Northwest Presbytery.” But the trial transcript is 406 pages long. Such “selective” citations are unfair to any minister who submitted to an 18-hour trial, took the stand, answered questions, and was acquitted by his Presbytery (an acquittal which the SJC upheld by an 88% majority).

    7. If the PCA allows an SJC decision to be reopened, discussed and debated, and then remanded or reversed via overture, then no SJC decision will be final until after each GA. For example, an SJC decision rendered at the SJC’s October meeting would not be final until 8 months later after the next GA considers any overtures filed against it.

    For these reasons the Overtures Committee asks the GA Moderator to rule Overture 19 Out of Order.

  116. Reed Here said,

    September 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Howard: you took seven paragraphs to demonstrate the reasonableness of the Point of Order to rule the overture Out of Order. And those are only some of the reasons (according to your comment).

    I’m no slouch in following arguments, But you have me racing for advil with an espresso chaser (double shot). ;-) And this is your idea of something that is pretty straightforward, that the commissioners could actually follow in the GA setting? Sincerely, are you maybe not putting yourself in the other fellow’s shoes here?

    I agree with you that the procedures followed may have procedural integrity. That is, things were done “by the book.”

    But that does not mean that the processes themselves achieved an end marked by integrity. In that the procedures followed did not provide sufficient information for men to vote with understanding, they lacked integrity of means we might say. The process was not a just means (one marked with obvious integrity) to the end in view (voting with understanding to either support or oppose the chair).

    If I remember correctly, Bob wasn’t even allowed to speak against the moderator when he challenged the chair. The reason given was that he was not allowed to discuss the subject. It is ironic that you here, demonstrating the reasonableness of the OoO ruling, hard to resort to discussing the subject.

    I seriously doubt most men understood what they were voting to support, or even why Bob believed the moderator was wrong in his OO ruling.

    Note that I am not arguing for or against the constitutionality of the overture. My beef is with the procedures used to in effect squash discussion.

    The whole thing does not have obvious integrity. For men called to rule in an above reproach manner, this should bother us.

  117. Reed Here said,

    September 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    And I would be remiss if I didn’t note my appreciation for your willingness to discuss this with us. In the end, that is all I really wanted to see at GA.

  118. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Reed – Thanks for your efforts at trying to help me understand your concerns. I’m sure to some degree you’re correct about me putting myself in someone else’s shoes. Granted.

    But your post also made me realize there’s an important point that might not be sufficiently appreciated. While there was no debate on the GA floor on the Illiana Overture, there certainly was in the Overtures Committee. In other words, one could say it was debated by the PCA. Part of the re-design of the PCA Rules of Assembly Operation that created the OC was apparently for that very purpose – to move most of the haggling and debate off the floor and into the OC where every Presbytery can appoint two representatives (TE and RE). No elitism here. Presbyteries know how important the OC votes are and I think most would agree the Presbyteries usually elect their best, or at least their most experienced, men to the OC. And any person can attend the OC meetings, even non-commissioners and non-PCA members. Any member of Illiana Presbytery (including their two reps) had the right to address the OC regarding their Overture. It takes a 3/4 majority to “call the question” in the OC, meaning, as long as 26% want to keep debating any matter, it goes on. No member of the OC can speak on the GA floor when an OC recommendation is discussed, despite their experience and/or wisdom in the matter (unless the majority of the GA grants the exceptional privilege, which I don’t recall ever being requested). Once an OC recommendation gets to the GA floor, it cannot be amended. It can be referred back, but can’t be amended. All this to say, the PCA has apparently decided the hard work needs to be done, and the PCA wants it to be done, in the OC.

    Bottom line, the Overture was adequately debated by a large committee strongly representative of the whole PCA (the committee most responsible for that debate) and by an overwhelming majority, it judged it as being out-of-order. Granted, the OC is not the final word, and it wasn’t in this case. The Moderator ruled, and the Greenville GA sustained his ruling. I can’t speculate on how well every GA commissioner understood the point of order (though I think it was clearly briefed in the OC report and shown in the 7 items in post 115 above). But I don’t think there was any confusion, or lack of debate, in the OC. One suggestion to those who disagree with what the OC decided is to try to get their Presbyteries to appoint them to the OC in the future. And/or draft and circulate something like an amicus brief in May whenever they feel strongly for or against a particular Overture.

    Heaven soon…

  119. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Howie,

    Given the normal three score and ten, or by reason of strength four score, I’ll get to heaven afore ya. See you there.

  120. Reed here said,

    September 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Howard (may I call you Howie, never late for dinner?),

    I actuall appreciate your point quite a bit. What you’re describing represents a serious and sincere effort to overcome the weaknesses of our system of govt.. I do sympathize and support such efforts.

    However, it seems to me that the solution in this case may be worse than the problem. Participating in the committee process at GA still does not address the problems associated with low (RE) participation. In effect we’ve created a system which effectively streamlines floor debate, but increases the ability of the focused minority (I.e, an organized party, no pejoratives intended) to secure their desired outcome.

    This is one of the reasons I’d prefer a regional synod with bi- or tri-annual GA. If structured with attention to the issue of maximizing participation with effective representation from Presbyteries, I think we might get somewhere.

    If an analogy may help, our current system is like only having the House of Reps in Washington. The original US constitution writers learned a lot from Presbyterian forms of government. Maybe we should go back and recover our roots?

    As to heaven soon, amen.

  121. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Speaking as a PCA Ruling Elder (although sometimes I’m allowed to hang out with the Preachers’ Guild), I can attest to one reason for low RE participation at General Assembly. A number of RE’s I’ve talked to believe that “the fix is in.” The ruling coterie – I hesitate to say “cabal” – has the policies and procedures pretty well sewed up for now. I don’t mean basic adherence to the BCO and the RAO, either, but the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, the hand-picked Committee assignments, the “big-tent” agenda. At least that’s the perception. (Sorry to sound cynical here. I’m just passing along some facts.) And this comes from strongly conservative, confessional men who attend GA as regularly and faithfully as they are able. Usually, men who spend six days a week in the “real world” of professional and business life are quite discerning. They know a closed system when they see one.

  122. September 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Howie,

    If I recall correctly, the OC report on the Iliana overture simply parroted a document circulated by a particular member of the SJC whose personal opinion held that the overture was out of order. Not much original thought derived from extensive debate. To quote Frank’s sources, the fix was in and TEs are out of bounds for serious charges.

    I agree with Frank at 121. As another highly-involved and pretty visible RE, I receive questions from others, both RE and TE, who believe that their participation at GA is perfunctory. When the elite class speaks, be it in committee, on the floor, or even during presbytery trials, the game is over. I certainly don’t believe that’s true in all cases, but it sure is when the ruling class pulls out the stops to protect a fellow TE or a controversial SJC ruling that they favor.

    Unfortunately, I have information that I cannot share that, in my opinion, points to an organized, concerted effort behind the scenes to avoid getting Leithart and Meyers in front of the SJC. If Leithart and Meyers had the courage of their convictions, they should both have requested that their cases be referred to the SJC from the start. Instead, especially Meyers gamed the system to minimize that likelihood.

    I do appreciate your willingness to engage in this discussion. I also appreciate your honest heart for the PCA. As I recall, the next breakfast is on me.

  123. hughmc5 said,

    September 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Howie @ #115 – How’d y’all get from Acts 15 to this fine mess? :(

    an organized, concerted effort behind the scenes to avoid getting Leithart and Meyers in front of the SJC

    “the fix is in.” The ruling coterie – I hesitate to say “cabal” – has the policies and procedures pretty well sewed up for now… {working REs} know a closed system when they see one.

    our current system is like only having the House of Reps in Washington… Maybe we should go back and recover our roots?

    the PCA has apparently decided the hard work needs to be done, and the PCA wants it to be done, in the OC.

    BCO 15-5.c stipulates that if there’s an SJC minority report, the GA shall act upon the SJC and the minority reports “without question, discussion, debate, or amendment.” If an SJC minority report must be considered without question, discussion, debate or amendment, then how could it be proper for the GA to debate the merits of an SJC decision via overture?

    I agree that the hall was in confusion during that proceeding and my challenges to the chair. Since I could not argue my point, most probably had no idea what was happening. I think that there’s a general inclination to trust the chair, but the elected moderator wasn’t even presiding if I recall correctly. The whole setup has a foul odor to it.

    The Moderator’s peremptory ruling the Overture “Out of Order” was one of the worst abuses of parliamentary power I’ve ever seen.

    the OC was bamboozled into violating RAO 15.8 by bypassing the General Assembly entirely. Sun Tzu would have been proud, but I doubt that the Head of the Church is amused (see Acts 15 where ALL were heard before any decision was made).
    —————

    OK, OK. This sounds depressingly wretched and anti-biblical.

    What now, gentlemen?
    HAVE the federal visionaries won the PCA?
    Is it over?
    If so, what are faithful TEs & REs going to DO?!

  124. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I thank you too, Howie, for your irenic spirit during this discussion. I know certain TE’s in very high places who get all “prickly-pear” at the first sign of disagreement.

  125. hughmc5 said,

    September 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Fwiw, posts 78 & 82, above.
    I’ll quit nipping at your heels, men.
    I just close with this:

    Please be wiser than this generation’s wicked children,
    you gentle children of the light. You are

    as sheep in the midst of wolves:
    be ye therefore wise as serpents,
    and harmless as doves.

    May God have mercy on you all.

    Yours for Christ,
    Hugh McCann
    hughmc5 AT hotmail

  126. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    “What are faithful TEs and REs going to DO?” That’s an excellent question, hughmc5 at #123. I can see how you might think we’ve painted a totally hopeless, apocalyptic picture of the PCA. I’ll dispense the same medicine that a well-known and well-respected Teaching Elder gave to me at General Assembly.This brother is a a scholar, writer, and preacher of great gifts and 30+ years of pastoral experience. I’ve told him that he’s our “happy warrior.” When we spoke at GA, I was at my lowest point regarding the future of the PCA, headed toward a major pity party (which can be caused by lesser things, too, I’m sad to say). He gently and kindly said to me (this is the gist of it, anyway), “Frank, don’t worry yourself about it. There’s always been a group in the PCA who think they’re completely in control. They have big schemes and plans that never quite come off. Men come and go, and every few years there’s a new group who think they can work wonders that the others couldn’t. General Assembly is only four days a year. You’ll get back to normal life next week. The real action is in your local church and in your Presbytery. Serve the Lord faithfully where He’s placed you, and He will bless.”

    I know that there are a dozen “But what about . . .” responses to my friend’s counsel. Take it to heart, though. There’s great wisdom there.

  127. hughmc5 said,

    September 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks, Frank. I heard and saw that m.o. in the Episcopal Church, too. But the PCA?!

    Don’t worry – be happy. Sounds like the So. Baptists.

    This is (pardon me, Frank et. al.), but this is isolationist & defeatist hooey of the first order.

    This is how evangelical priests tried to stay under the radar in the Episcopal Church = No accountability in either direction.

    But why not be Baptist and just separate from the mother whore church?

    Because y’all have imbibed the neo-evangelical kool-aid of Henry, Nash, Ockenga, Schaeffer, & Co. and can tolerate heresy but cannot tolerate verbs like “separate.” You stay happily in fellowship with apostates.

    Not only is the cancerous fruit of the neo-evangelical movement metastasizing now in the PCA, but the warning that Lloyd-Jones gave Stott & Packer & Co. in 1966* has gone utterly unheeded in your circles. Please review it! The PCA refuses to learn from history, and thus, repeats it.

    Enjoy your lunches.

    * http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/2005/12/martyn-lloyd-jones-1966-and-all-that.html

  128. Reed Here said,

    September 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Hugh: no, I don’t think the FV has “won” the PCA, if by that you mean that the FV is either the defining doctrine of the PCA or that even it is the current popular expression. Rather, I think that the “FV” is considered to be a non-issue by the broader/progressive wing: an egg-head intramural kerfuffle between two minor wings who on other days would actually be on the same page, making a mountain out of a molehill over something else. It is an “in the way of more important things” issue for them.

    And that is a problem, albeit one that is an exemplar of a much deeper issue, to wit, disagreement over what is essential in the ministry of the gospel. It is in this consideration that I think Lane is arguing that the FV has “won”. They have won “space” for themselves, acceptability as a valid difference of opinion that is not inimical to the gospel.

  129. Howie Donahoe said,

    September 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Bob at 122 – The draft motion in OC regarding the Illiana Overture was drafted by a member of the OC.

  130. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    hughmc5 # 127, Wow! To some in the PCA, I’m a hard-line, uncompromising TR. Now, from another angle, I and my fellow-travelers have “imbibed the neo-evangelical kool-aid,” happily tolerating heresy and and dangerously at ease in Zion. It’s been an interesting day, to say the least.

  131. hughmc5 said,

    September 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Amen, Reed. Fight ‘em, men!

    Paul’s Acts 20 warning needs revisiting by your eggheads.

  132. hughmc5 said,

    September 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    And/ or, Frank, you’re an egg-head from a minor wing in the PCA, making a mountain out of a molehill . . . ;)

    Acts 20 needs revisting by all sides: Both your broader/ progressive wing, as well as by you “hard-line, uncompromising TR” types!

  133. hughmc5 said,

    September 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Fwiw: Know that I only thus scream & hyperventilate in love.

  134. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Glad to know you “only thus scream & hyperventilate in love.” Please don’t let loose your dark side.

  135. LWesterlund said,

    September 9, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I am an observer, neither a TE or an RE. Such is the public nature of blogs. I am writing to say that the charitable tone of this protracted discussion has been an encouragement and a blessing. The stakes could not be higher–the context for all this discussion about denominational procedures is the guarding of the Truth, entrusted to us in God’s Word, and the question of whether a teaching that is tolerated is a false teaching. But the discourse has been, by and large, respectful. May I offer my commendation? I am sure I am not the only lurker.

  136. Reed Here said,

    September 11, 2013 at 9:01 am

    well: Grace Presbytery Overture

  137. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I was privileged to vote on this Overture in our Session meeting last month (First. Pres., Hattiesburg, MS). There seems to be a growing consensus in the PCA that our polity is broken with regard to the Standing Judicial Commission. Now is the time to fix it.

  138. David Gilleran said,

    September 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Just a few thoughts on the overture. It keeps in place the reason we have a SJC to start with. In the old days, committees would hear cases at GA then present their committee recommendation to the floor. Because of the rules of debate at that time, there were cases which were re-tried on the floor by questioning the committee chairman.

    The question I have is this: are you making the SJC into a committee with its own special rules for debate? Final verdict will rest with the Assembly which makes the SJC report a committee report.

  139. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Interesting question, David. I didn’t write the Overture, but I strongly support it. The Overture, it seems to me, keeps the best of both worlds: The SJC does the initial hard work of adjudicating the case, and General Assembly – as the highest court – has final approval, with a variety of options if it disapproves the SJC’s decision. Whether the SJC should still be called a “commission” is a discussion for another day. In my opinion, at this point the term we use should take a backseat to the problems we solve.

  140. Hugh McCann said,

    September 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Postscript. Please see # 77 above:

    The big disappointment in this book* is not the vehemence with which the Neolegalists state their views (that is to be expected), but the failure of their critics to challenge their premises. Time after time the critics concede points to the Neolegalists. Now the critics do make some telling arguments, but they do not challenge the Neolegalists where they must be challenged. When one critic comes close, the arrogant Schlissel demands an apology.

    This failure of the critics to defend the Gospel properly seems to stem from two causes: misguided loyalty to the Neolegalists, and ignorance of what the Bible teaches. One critic describes his relationship to the Neolegalists in these words: “I speak/write with nothing but the deepest affection and appreciation for each of the men who will be attending the colloquium.” Nothing but affection and appreciation? How about a little skepticism, if not suspicion? How about a little of Paul’s willingness to speak sharply to Peter? Or, perhaps more to the point, a little of Paul’s zeal in cursing false teachers?

    ….Why does this PCA pastor fail to defend the faith? “Because I value these brothers so highly, it is very difficult for me to write a disagreeable word against them.” Not only does he value them too highly, he values the Gospel too little. This critic allowed his personal relationships to cloud his judgment for twenty years, and he is still doing so. That is one reason this heresy has spread so widely in the churches.

    * The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision, E. Calvin Beisner, ed., Ft Lauderdale, FL: Knox Theological Seminary, 2004

    …how we must oppose those who obscure or pervert the Gospel (from Paul’s example with Peter):

    (1) We must recognize doctrinal error as a serious sin.

    (2) We must not tolerate either error on the doctrine of salvation or those who teach it “even for an hour.”

    (3) We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated or cowed by the reputations or credentials of those teaching error on the doctrine of salvation.

    ~ From “Why Heretics Win Battles” by the late ex-PCA RE John Robbins.

  141. Gerald said,

    September 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    To #137 I agree that our polity is broken with regard to the SJC; however, there is much more broken polity than that. There is a “confidential but not secret” group of seemingly self-appointed men in the PCA who seem to be in the roles of Church Cardinals or puppetmasters answerable to no one other than themselves. I believe this is known as the “National Partnership”.

    Although this may not be the actual case, how else does one explain the manner in which such fine men as TE Dewey Roberts (GA 40) and Dominic Aquila (GA 41), both with exemplary years of service on the SJC, were manipulated out of office at the very time of some crucial cases?

    With reference to the constitutional change several years ago which made the SJC no longer answerable to the GA, and effectively made the SJC into the highest court of the church, I know that the move was approved by the denomination through appropriate channels: it was marketed as a way to make future GA sessions shorter and more manageable.

    Shorter and more manageable these may well be, but, IMHO, the PCA is losing, or has already lost, the ability to remain true to its doctrinal standards, as long as the ‘confidential but not secret’ council controls the seats of power at the top, and in too many presbyteries.

    We cannot even decide, after more than two years of study and two attempts at a final result, whether “Allah” the name of a pagan deity, should be considered as being equally valid as YHVH or Elohim in discussing the Triune God who created everything, ex nihilo.

  142. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Gerald,

    There are many who agree with your assessment of the PCA and remain committed to fighting the good fight as long as they can. I’m at “normal” retirement age, and believe me, I don’t relish the conflict. I’d much rather listen to opera and read church history in my easy chair.

    The PCA liner has great gashes in her hull. As long as I believe that she can stay afloat and be repaired, I’ll stay on board and continue to serve.

  143. Gerald said,

    September 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Frank,

    I am well past normal retirement age, and began with Elder responsibilities in the late 1960’s, (pre-PCA) but more-or-less continually until about one year ago. This particular FV issue has been formally with us now since at least 2007, and each succeeding denominational decision is less scriptural/confessional, and less righteous than its predecessors.

    The PCA does neither define the Good Ship Zion nor the church/body/sheepfold of the Great Shepherd, and no one denomination or group ever can.

    In whatever type of ship we may be, I trust it is more like the ark built by righteous Noah as instructed by God. I have no doubt that Noah, his family, and all the animals would have perished if he had departed from his God-given mission and/or the specific instructions from God. When they were all inside, God Himself shut the door.

    If the PCA “liner” has gashes in her hull, they have come from within. Therefore, by what means will the gashes be repaired, if not by the mercy of God and the removal of all who have caused, or would cause, more injury?

    “Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain. Except the LORD build a house…. You know the rest.

  144. jsm52 said,

    September 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Amen, Gerald. Amen. Lord, have mercy…

  145. Stanton said,

    September 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    My experience is:
    -The PCA is mostly made up of nice people who don’t understand the FV issue, even at a basic level.
    -Our small PCA church split and now calls FV “ecclesiocentricity”.
    -The pastor talked above the last reamining people’s heads to such confusion that they stayed .
    -The very few who stayed sound like the confused evangelical middle you describe.
    -The “subjection to the pastor” angle was stressed to them, so the church ( just barely) stayed open.
    The middle evangelicals didn’t even react when he said if his daughter went to town where threr was only a Baptist and a RC church, he would tell her to avoid the Baptist and embrace the RC church!
    I respect those who left the PCA to become Roman Catholic, though I see salvation and church authority differently than they do.
    I would like more PCA folks todo that and stop trying to stretch definitions!
    Is the PCA the Postmodern Catholics of Apostasy?

  146. gary said,

    December 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    We orthodox Lutherans are THRILLED to see the rise of the “Federal Vision” in Reformed circles. However, we Lutherans have another term for it: Lutheranism!

    God be praised that the Reformed are coming back to accepting “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” as EXACTLY what God meant and not a mistranslation by Catholic/Anglican/Lutheran translators.

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals


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