Horton Vs. Keister?

In the Leithart trial transcript, Rayburn, in his closing arguments, argued that since I was “confused” about a statement that came from Michael Horton’s writings, and that I wound up disagreeing with Horton, that therefore I was “biased” and my testimony was worthless. There are quite a few other charges levelled against me in the closing arguments by Rayburn (the comments about me start on page 401 of the transcript and continue through page 403 line 5). Those will be dealt with as we get to them. For now, let us examine the trick that Rayburn played on me (which can be found on page 119, line 7, and continues to the next page). Rayburn quoted something that belonged to Horton’s writings, and asked if I was comfortable with it. Then, after stating that was I uncomfortable with that way of putting it, Rayburn said that it was Horton’s writings. In the conclusion, Rayburn uses this as an example of why my testimony is “virtually worthless.”

I have emailed Mike Horton about this particular quotation. Horton agrees with me that Rayburn took the statement out of context, and Horton affirmed that he said the same thing about baptism that I said. I fell for the trick because I naively thought that a Presbytery would treat a member of another Presbytery (who was in good standing) with a modicum of respect. I was obviously wrong in that assumption. The quotation was delivered by Rayburn anonymously and out of context. In other words, it was a lie. This is a trick that many FV advocates and defendants have tried on me over the years. You’d think I would have been ready for it! I had been meaning to address this point long before this, but had never gotten around to emailing Mike about it.

I will now address some of Rayburn’s statements concerning me in the closing arguments. I had admitted to bias in the cross-examination. Of course I was “biased.” I was a witness for the prosecution, and thought that Leithart was guilty. But then Rayburn put a construction on the term “biased” that I had never agreed to. He says, “Bias suggests the failure to put the best construction on what a man says or writes, a determination to find fault and a lack of even handedness in the evaluation of evidence.” He did not mention this definition of bias when he cross-examined me. I do not agree that I am biased according to this definition. Instead, as Rayburn himself says, “It is not biased to believe to be true a certain opinion regarding the facts of the case.” That is where I was and where I still am. I was interpreting the term “bias” to be equivalent to “non-neutral.” In that case I was biased, just as Leithart was biased. But Rayburn put a construction on those words that I never intended. On the first page of my testimony, I explicitly said that I owed Leithart all the charity and care of reading possible. Rayburn just assumed that I was incapable of achieving that.

Then Rayburn says, “Along with competence, the objectivity of an expert witness is his most important recommendation.” Objectivity is absolutely impossible. Is there anyone in the PCA who is objective when it comes to FV issues? Now Rayburn shifts the ground entirely to say that the only witnesses worth anything are those who don’t actually have an opinion.

Rayburn claims that the defense read my testimony. That is seriously misleading. I watched them during the entire 15 minutes (which was all that the defense counsel requested to examine my testimony). All they did was flip desultorily through my testimony. They didn’t read it. Not so as to be able to interact with it. It was not interacted with by the defense counsel in any way, shape, or form. The court asked one or two questions about the substance of the testimony, and then jumped on my statement about Leithart leaving for the peace of the church. The court did not interact with my testimony on any kind of thorough basis either.

Then Rayburn brought up this comment on my blog by Sean Lucas. That Sean Lucas and I would disagree about the import of Michael Williams’s book is taken as evidence that my testimony is worthless. Not sure how this follows. Even if Sean Lucas was were correct in every point of his critique of my review, that would be irrelevant as to whether my testimony in the Leithart case was accurate or not. If Rayburn takes it that therefore I am reading people uncharitably, again it doesn’t follow. Even if I were reading Williams uncharitably (and Lucas’s comment did not convince me of that), that does not mean that I am reading Leithart uncharitably. Every single quotation from Leithart in my testimony I attempted to set in its immediate and broader context so that I was not misreading him.

Rayburn also claims that I am a known controversialist, and that I am known by many as someone who relishes conflict. I do not relish conflict. I only engage in it because I feel I have to contend for the gospel, as Jude directs me to do. This is a blatant attempt at reading my motivation, and I will say flat out that it is a lie. Rayburn had never met me once before the trial. He doesn’t know me at all. He made a lot of statements about me that assumed a greater knowledge of me than he in fact had. To be blunt, he lied about me multiple times in a very public way.

In his sermon (always interesting to be preached about!) Rayburn says that I only pretended to scholarship. I never pretended to anything other than what I actually own. At one time, Jason Stellman slipped up by calling me “Dr. Keister,” and I corrected him on the floor of the PNW Presbytery. When asked whether I was an “expert” witness, I debated in my mind how to reply to that. On the one hand, I did not want to toot my own horn and appear like I was an expert in all theological fields, which I certainly am not. On the other hand, I had read all of Leithart’s theological writings, and about 80% of all the original source FV writings, which put me in a position to say something about the FV, and about Leithart. I can say without fear of sounding too grandiose that I am an expert in FV matters. I have since learned that Rayburn has accused me of being “obsessed” with Leithart. I had read exactly 2 books written by Leithart before Stellman asked me to be a witness in the case. I did almost all my reading of Leithart after being asked to be a witness in the case. No obsession there, unless you want to say that I was obsessed with accurately describing Leithart’s theology, which I most certainly was.

I debated a long time whether to post this or not, because it has a rather defensive tone about it. These accusations that have come my way are very public in nature. The main reason I wished to set the record straight on these matters is, again, the wrongness of the SJC decision. I have written before on how the SJC did NOT need to show great deference to PNW’s decision. This post adds more arguments to that post.

About these ads

50 Comments

  1. Reed Here said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I’m saddened for the position you were put in. I’m grateful for your standing in this manner.

  2. Mark Kim said,

    December 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    During my research for my dissertation on Horton, there was nothing he said in his writings that gave me the impression that his view of the covenant, sacraments, and salvation were compatible with FV doctrines. I’m sorry that you got undermined this way Lane by another officer of the PCA. This just demonstrates that the opinions I have of the FV movement has always been correct.

  3. December 7, 2013 at 10:54 am

    […] Horton Vs. Keister? […]

  4. Hugh McCann said,

    December 7, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Did he slander you, as well, Lane?

  5. greenbaggins said,

    December 7, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Hugh, I merely point out what happened. I see no need to call Dr. Rayburn names. I have removed your previous comment.

  6. Sean Gerety said,

    December 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Thank you Lane for this overdue and edifying debriefing. Yep, I meant edifying. It’s good to remember the kind of people we’re dealing with when it comes to those who defend and protect Christ’s enemies.

    On a side note I was again struck by the attack on your imagined lack of credentials as a way to avoid virtually all of your arguments given to the court. You wrote: “In his sermon (always interesting to be preached about!) Rayburn says that I only pretended to scholarship.” I used to chuckle when John Robbins, a man who had considerable experience dealing with self-important religious types like Rayburn, would sign his letters: “John Robbins (Dr., to those who parade their own degrees.)”

  7. Hugh McCann said,

    December 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks, Lane. I wouldn’t want to be accused of libel.

    But the piece insinuates or intimates that the good Doctor* defended a heretic, lied, & slandered a brother minister in good standing.

    Maybe I misread, it, though. ;)

    Thanks,
    Hugh
    a measly MA

    * MDiv from Cov’t Theological Seminary & PhD in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen.

  8. CD-Host said,

    December 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    @Lane —

    I like you and I can fully understand why you find this distressing. Having been a witness in trials I’ve seen my words twisted and misquotes by both friendly and opposing council. So I can empathize.

    But let’s start with the most basic thing here. Of course this is not going to be a friendly chat. You and Stellman were telling PNW that a close friend of theirs was a hellbound heretic who should be fired from his job and cast out from his community. And since he had wide support in his position you were more or less calling for an upheaval or a purge. You goal was to get a faction which likely hadn’t agreed with the FV ruling of the GA to enforce it on someone they liked with repercussions more broadly. What part of that would you expect to be friendly? Most church discipline cases involve powerless people being beaten on by the powerful, like the borderline mentally ill or unpopular teenagers. For the powerful those discipline hearings are friendly, they scapegoat the weak and build community.

    This was someone with friends, fans and allies, the backing of a faction. And their are neutrals who are effectively hostile because they want the PCA to be broad on other issues. And then later people who basically agree with the USA objections to double jeopardy that the prosecution shouldn’t have the right to appeal, who don’t like the idea that if a case doesn’t go your way you try the defendant again and again and again until you get a conviction. This case probably needed to be political in every sense of the word. These people represent a minority, do not agree with your theological position yet want to remain in the PCA. Your best arguments are theological and doctrinal. Their best arguments are personality based, that Peter Leithart is a good guy and it doesn’t feel right to declare his slight disagreements worthy of casting him and the thousands who find the FV position appealing out of the denomination. Of course they want to shift the ground from being about Leithart’s theology to being about Lane Keister’s personal failings. Why would you expect them to play to your strong suit?

    And frankly if you wanted this to be a civil theological discussion you would have gone for it on a blog or a theology newsletter. A trial is more like combat than it is like a meeting of a debating society. What you are ultimately complaining about about is the core of an adversarial system. In an inquisitorial system the investigating judges are there to fairly collect evidence, people aren’t biased. In the adversarial system the defendant is entitled to a vigorous defense. Under that system it is the defense’s job to discredit witnesses for the prosecution. If Rayburn can trick you into saying something that the judges see as discrediting regarding Michael Horton that’s his job. If he can overplay your admissions to make them less likely to believe your testimony that’s his job. If he can present a plausible case that you shouldn’t be listened to because you are biased he’s got to go for it if he consider your testimony damning.The same way that if you had been a friend of Stellman with little interest in FV he’s going to want to push that angle. If you were getting paid, he’s going to push the corruption angle.

    Consider the ad-hominum a complement. Rayburn considered your testimony damning enough that he wanted to convince the court not to take it at face value. That’s a good thing. You did what you were there to do.

    Stellman had to make a tactical decision about whether it is worth defending you or not. That was his job as prosecutor. I’m assuming he decided not to. He may or may not have been right.

    Again, I can empathize with the frustration. It is one of the reasons I got interested in the inquisitorial system because the adversarial system seems to be so bad, so incredibly dishonest in practice. There is nothing unique to Rayburn here. The defendant’s counsel was mean to a prosecution witness is not grounds to throw out a decision. If that doesn’t happen the defendant wasn’t represented properly.

  9. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 7, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Lane – At the risk of poking a wound, I wanted to correct something you wrote in this blog. It pertains to the defense review of your 42-page document the prosecution entered into evidence at the trial. Above, you wrote: “I watched [the defense] during the entire 15 minutes (which was all that the defense counsel requested to examine my testimony). All they did was flip desultorily through my testimony. They didn’t read it. Not so as to be able to interact with it. It was not interacted with by the defense counsel in any way, shape, or form.”

    I respectfully contend your parenthetical statement is inaccurate. To be fair, you should have reported the defense asked to read and review your lengthy document OVERNIGHT and then conduct the cross-examination in the morning. (Trial Transcript page 113 line 20 to page 115 line 4 – especially p. 114 line 23). The Trial Moderator asked the prosecutor if he would agree. But he would not. The prosecutor said you would not be available to take the stand the next morning. It was only then the defense agreed to allow the document to be entered into evidence in writing rather than requiring you to read it from the stand. And this was a gracious deference to the prosecutor who would have used up much of his allotted time if he had to elicit all your testimony orally. Instead, he could and did use that time in his cross-examination of the defendant. It was your inability to return to the stand the next morning that resulted in the defense’s inability to cross-examine your written testimony as thoroughly as you believe was warranted. And frankly, entering testimony as a 42-page document that the defense does not have time to read and study could reasonably be considered unfair to any defendant.

    I had to look up the definition of “desultorily” – and you used it well. Because of this prosecutorial move, the defense indeed went through the document in a less-than-systematic fashion. But the prosecution’s unwillingness or inability to put you back on the stand the next morning was the cause – not something perfidious on the part of the defense. And finally, it is the judge or jury that has the responsibility to weigh evidence, not the defense.

    It’s been 2 1/2 years since the trial. The appellate court has reviewed it. Several procedural attempts have been made to review, reverse, or remand. I think it’s time to heed five important words from BCO 45, shown at the end of the paragraph below:

    45-5. If a dissent, protest, or objection be couched in temperate language, and be respectful to the court, it shall be recorded; and the court may, if deemed necessary, put an answer to the dissent, protest, or objection on the records along with it. Here the matter shall end …

    If your Session conducted a trial, and the verdict was reviewed and upheld by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission, I can’t imagine your Session would condone a church member continuing to blog harsh criticism of that Session decision two-and-a-half years after the fact.

    I hope you consider me speaking as a friend (Proverbs 27:6). My lunch offer still stands.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    December 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Howie, first of all, your criticism is irrelevant. My comments on the issue of the defense reading my testimony were simply to point out that it was in fact a lie. Neither you or Rayburn read the testimony. Rayburn says the defense did in fact read it. That is not true. So Rayburn still uttered a lie. I was already well aware of everything you said in your comment, and did not in fact forget any of it while I was writing the blog post in the first place. You could have asked for more than 15 minutes to review the testimony. You could have asked to review it over lunch. You didn’t. It was quite disingenuous of the defense counsel to ask for 15 minutes to give the appearance of reading the testimony, and then proceed to ask me not one single question regarding that testimony. It has all the appearance of wanting to give a show of having read it, when the strategy the whole time had already been well set in stone, and had nothing to do with what I actually said, but only in undermining my character. So no, I’m not buying your excuse/account for one single solitary moment.

    According to my count, Rob Rayburn lied 6 times about me. Your comment does not acknowledge one single problem in anything that Rayburn said or did. You just can’t seem to acknowledge any faults or problems of Rayburn, can you?

    The issue of the why of Rayburn’s statement being a lie is a distinct issue. The reason I was going to read the whole testimony was that the court had originally objected to having me enter my testimony in writing. We were perfectly willing to read the whole thing. It was Steve O’Ban who interrupted me along about the second page and asked to revisit the whole issue of whether or not to have it entered into the minutes. That was your opportunity to object to having it entered into the minutes. You did not then object. So you had plenty of opportunity to have it the other way, and you chose not to do so. So saying that the way it happened was unfair to the defendant is simply wide of the mark. You had plenty of opportunity to make it fair, according to your definition, and you did not do so. That is your fault, not mine, and not Jason’s.

    I have defended my continued posts about the Leithart trial before. This issue is not dead. Very recent was the Evangel Presbytery decision. I will keep talking about the wrongness of the SJC decision so that something will be done about it.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    December 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    CD, very interesting comments. I will say this: I was never playing for the win in the PNW Presbytery. I knew from the get-go that it was a kangaroo trial with no objectivity whatsoever on the part of the Presbytery. If they weren’t even willing to indite him in the first place, they certainly weren’t going to condemn him. No, I was always playing for the record of the case, and the SJC, because I felt certain that Jason or one of the other elders would complain the decision, and it would go to the SJC.

    It may be hard to believe, but I am not so much angry about the personal treatment (as horrid as that was: shepherds will always get attacked in their line of work), as about the lack of justice in our denomination, and about the putting first of polity before the doctrinal standards, as Grover Gunn so aptly pointed out. The real reason why I am pointing these things out is NOT so that I can “get back” at Rayburn, though I would not turn down an apology from him, as unlikely as that is ever to materialize. If it were only my reputation at stake, I could forego doing this. But the integrity of the denomination is at stake. And, as it so happens, defending myself and my testimony is my only real avenue at the moment of pointing out the errors into which the denomination has fallen.

  12. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Lane – I’m still curious how you would respond to my scenario/question: If your Session conducted a trial, and the verdict was reviewed and upheld by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission, would you or your Session condone a church member continuing to publicly blog harsh criticism of that Session decision two-and-a-half years after the fact? I expect he might say his continued public criticism was his only real avenue of pointing out the errors into which the Session had fallen, or that the integrity of the church was at stake, or that the Gospel had to be defended…
    I think this is an important doctrinal question.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    December 7, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    You’re really amazing, Howie. Quite the dodger.

    Let me give you an alternate scenario by way of answer to your question. If you knew that an Arian was in the church, and was acquitted by his Presbytery, and the decision was not overturned by the denomination, and he was therefore free to continue poisoning the sheep, would you say that there was no reason to keep on talking about it? Would you feel any responsibility whatsoever for the sheep who are getting led astray? The FV is heresy, and people are getting led astray by Leithart’s teaching. Not only that, but now we have a rogue Presbytery who acquitted him, and an SJC which failed (because of our polity) to overturn a bad decision by the Presbytery. There are so many reasons there not to stop talking about this that I don’t even know where to begin. By the way, you inaccurately reported the SJC’s decision. PNW’s decision was not “upheld.” It was merely not overturned. There’s a difference.

  14. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    I asked you first.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    December 7, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Um, my alternate scenario was by way of ANSWER, as in, that’s how I see the situation, as I said in the first line of the second paragraph.

  16. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 7, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Sorry, I can be dense sometimes. So I hear you saying that if the member of your church thought the elder acquitted by your Session was an Arian, the member could continue to publicly and harshly criticize you and your Session indefinitely – regardless of what the higher courts have said in review? Really?

  17. CD-Host said,

    December 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    @Lane —

    FWIW I entirely believe you that you are mainly upset about the implications for reformed theology in Leithart being acquitted and that it isn’t personal. I don’t see much personal animosity towards Leithart anywhere on your blog at all. I mostly see personal indifference, I’d suspect from your blog you barely know him. Obviously no one likes losing, but your comment you wanted to get on the record for the appeal is fully consistent with everything I’ve seen you write before or since. So FWIW I believe you.

    I think your Arian analogy, even when you were angry shows where your head is at. You consider this a clear cut case. I don’t think you are right on that, but I do think your motives are pure.

    ____

    Honestly, I think your and Howie’s dialogue on Leithart above is reminiscent of Gresham Machen and Robert Speer’s disagreement on the missions board. Both of them (and for that matter Pearl Buck as well) had really good points. But everyone was talking past one another since they weren’t really talking about the same thing.

    Buck needed a radical reform to save the Chinese mission from total destruction when China became post colonial.

    Speer was concerned with the mechanism by which people solved disagreement without tearing apart the church.

    Machen was concerned that Christian church first and foremost preach Christianity and not get so caught up in the international peace movement that it forget what its purpose was.

    All of them were right in the points they were raising. Buck was absolutely correct about what happened over the next 2 decades in China. Speer was absolutely correct about the long term effects on America’s denomination when factions decided to take schismatic actions rather than work within the system. And Machen’s vision of an idealogical / non-social Christianity has become the evangelical norm.

    In the same way I think you Howie and Leithart are all correct but all talking past one another.

  18. Hugh McCann said,

    December 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    The important thing is that we’re all together this season,
    and sharing so nicely with one another! :)

  19. Hugh McCann said,

    December 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Lane, I love it when you get mad! Praise God!

    You meant “indict” (not “indite”) in post #11, and it’s more than PCA integrity at stake, here, brother.

    It’s about the gospel, Christ’s glory, and the loss of souls in the PCA due to false teachers.

  20. Steve M said,

    December 8, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Where truth is not deemed to be important, the best liar wins.

  21. Hugh McCann said,

    December 8, 2013 at 11:55 am

    So I hear Howie D. saying that if a member of his church thought an elder acquitted by his session was an Arian, the member should NOT continue to publicly and harshly criticize Howie and the session indefinitely – regardless of what the higher courts said in review. Really?!

    Oh, for 10 guys in the PCA who would not rest (watchmen-like) til the Federal Vision was but an historical footnote.

    Yes, Howie, personal conviction trumps ecclesiastical hierarchy for the biblical Christian. Sessions, presbyteries, G.A.s, synods, classes, consistories & your courts be damned when they deny Christ by perverting his gospel.

    We (that’s me/ myself/ I & whomever) follow the Lutherans, the Baptists, and the early reformers when it comes to heresy. That’s why Luther and Calvin were excommunicated, why many of the English were burnt at the stake, why Machen was defrocked.

    Those of Abraham’s seed who stand for God’s truth while opposing the the seed of the bondwoman spewing Satan’s lies, will ever be persecuted (at least marginalized) by the latter.

    The scandal should be the submission and silence and complicity of those of you in the PCA who do not unceasingly shout the warnings of God against false teachers, false gospels, & false gods.

  22. Greg said,

    December 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I think a bit of clarification is needed here. Lane wrote: “If you knew that an Arian was in the church….” and Howie changed that to “if a member of your church thought….”

    “Knowing” and “thinking” are two different things. One “knows” facts whereas “thinking” might be construed as an unsubstantiated suspicion or conclusion. Lane was asking about a supposed factual situation wherein there was, in fact, an Arian in the church. Howie turned this into a scenario in which the fact is called into question.

    Howie did not answer the question.

    So Howie, to return to Lane’s question, in the situation wherein it is a fact that an Arian is in the church and “was acquitted by his Presbytery, and the decision was not overturned by the denomination, and he was therefore free to continue poisoning the sheep, would you say that there was no reason to keep on talking about it? Would you feel any responsibility whatsoever for the sheep who are getting led astray?”

  23. Hugh McCann said,

    December 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Good catch, Greg, #22.

    I will assume (barring correction from Lane) from the context of his post #13 & from the thread that he means an elder, and one who is teaching (not merely holding to) Arianism. Lane’s scenario includes a blinded session, presbytery, etc.

    While we’d all agree, Greg, with your distinction ‘twixt “know” & “think,” the point is that the layman is convinced (believes, is certain) the man to be a heretic. Further, he disagrees with the judgments, decisions, & discernment of his church’s leadership and courts.

    HD #9 ~ “If your Session conducted a trial, and the verdict was reviewed and upheld by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission, I can’t imagine your Session would condone a church member continuing to blog harsh criticism of that Session decision two-and-a-half years after the fact.”

    HD #12 ~ “If your Session conducted a trial, and the verdict was reviewed and upheld by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission, would you or your Session condone a church member continuing to publicly blog harsh criticism of that Session decision two-and-a-half years after the fact? I expect he might say his continued public criticism was his only real avenue of pointing out the errors into which the Session had fallen, or that the integrity of the church was at stake, or that the Gospel had to be defended…”

    LK #14 ~ “If you knew that an Arian was in the church, and was acquitted by his Presbytery, and the decision was not overturned by the denomination, and he was therefore free to continue poisoning the sheep, would you say that there was no reason to keep on talking about it? Would you feel any responsibility whatsoever for the sheep who are getting led astray? The FV is heresy, and people are getting led astray by Leithart’s teaching. Not only that, but now we have a rogue Presbytery who acquitted him, and an SJC which failed (because of our polity) to overturn a bad decision by the Presbytery.”

    HD #16 ~ “I hear you saying that if the member of your church thought the elder acquitted by your Session was an Arian, the member could continue to publicly and harshly criticize you and your Session indefinitely – regardless of what the higher courts have said in review?”

    If a church member believes that another is propagating Arianism in the church, then he has a DUTY to not only warn other sheep about that guy, but also to use continued public criticism as his only real avenue of pointing out the errors into which the Session had fallen, since the integrity of the church is at stake, and because the Gospel does indeed have to be defended!

    But I hope my #19 implied that.

  24. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Hugh and Greg – I’ll try to answer both your questions together, but I sometimes feel like O’Reilly going on the Daily Show or John Stewart appearing on the Factor. Tough to keep interacting with an inimical audience, but here goes.

    I think part of the answer lies in the difference between a private judgment and the judgment of the church. In the proposed scenario, a church Session has judicially determined an elder does not hold heretical views, but a church member holds a different private judgment. The church member interprets the evidence differently than his church and he sees the facts differently than his church. He is free to hold that private judgment. The question is: When does his private judgment trump the judgment of the church in such a way that he can continually criticize the Session publicly and harshly? I don’t think it does. He is free to seek avenues of review provided in his denomination’s constitution, and can register his hearty disagreement through avenues like having a protest recorded. But at some point, the matter must end. And if he cannot then submit to the church, then he should seek another in which he can happily obey his membership vow to submit himself to the government of the Church.

    I think there’s an analogy between polity and doctrine. A man who holds a view different than his church’s Standards should hold it as a humble minority. He is free to announce or record his disagreement, but he cannot aggressively seek to undermine those Standards. Likewise, a man who holds a view different than his church’s judicial decision should hold it as a humble minority and he should not seek to constantly undermine that church decision.

    I’m afraid of a statement like Hugh’s that “personal conviction trumps ecclesiastical hierarchy for the biblical Christian.” I believe such an attitude can be equally as dangerous as unorthodox teaching. And I think it would lead to a very interesting new member interview.

    To Greg’s point – In the judicial case that’s the subject of this blog post, the courts of the church have seen the facts differently than the blog author. He may “know” an unorthodox teacher is in the church, but the church apparently does not agree with him and “knows” otherwise. A factual determination was made by a presbytery and that determination was not reversed on appellate review (by 17-2 vote).

  25. Hugh McCann said,

    December 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Lane, per your #10, if Dr Rayburn lied about you not once, not twice, not thrice, not 4 times, not five times, but a staggering six (6) times, does that make him
    (a) merely a liar, or
    (b) a chronic liar, or
    (c) a pathological liar?
    Thanks! :)
    Hugh

  26. Hugh McCann said,

    December 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    …I sometimes feel like O’Reilly going on the Daily Show or John Stewart appearing on the Factor. Tough to keep interacting with an inimical audience, but here goes.
    Thou dost most nobly, methinks!

    I think part of the answer lies in the difference between a private judgment and the judgment of the church.
    Agreed. Sort of.

    In the proposed scenario, a church Session has judicially determined an elder does not hold heretical views, but a church member holds a different private judgment.
    Yes.

    The church member interprets the evidence differently than his church and he sees the facts differently than his church. He is free to hold that private judgment. The question is: When does his private judgment trump the judgment of the church in such a way that he can continually criticize the Session publicly and harshly? I don’t think it does.
    Bingo. Disagree, but this is the churchman’s answer.

    He is free to seek avenues of review provided in his denomination’s constitution, and can register his hearty disagreement through avenues like having a protest recorded.
    And then, supine-like, submit to those he believes to be in sin?

    But at some point, the matter must end. And if he cannot then submit to the church, then he should seek another in which he can happily obey his membership vow to submit himself to the government of the Church.
    Agreed, when it is a non-essential of the gospel.

    I think there’s an analogy between polity and doctrine. A man who holds a view different than his church’s Standards should hold it as a humble minority. He is free to announce or record his disagreement, but he cannot aggressively seek to undermine those Standards.
    Agreed. But either he knowingly held the differences upon joining – and needed to hold his tongue, or he came to a difference of opinion and yet will “hold it as a humble minority.”

    Likewise, a man who holds a view different than his church’s judicial decision should hold it as a humble minority and he should not seek to constantly undermine that church decision.
    Disagree. Here, the church has illicitly moved the yardstick.

    I’m afraid of a statement like Hugh’s that “personal conviction trumps ecclesiastical hierarchy for the biblical Christian.” I believe such an attitude can be equally as dangerous as unorthodox teaching. And I think it would lead to a very interesting new member interview.
    Ha ha! Interesting interview indeed! But no, we stand on Scripture, and, as a certain renegade monk said, “to go against conscience [biblical convictions] is neither right nor safe.”

    To Greg’s point – In the judicial case that’s the subject of this blog post, the courts of the church have seen the facts differently than the blog author. He may “know” an unorthodox teacher is in the church, but the church apparently does not agree with him and “knows” otherwise. A factual determination was made by a presbytery and that determination was not reversed on appellate review (by 17-2 vote).
    Lane in convinced Leithart is heretical. Your ecclesiolatry is scary, Howie. Presbytery has NOT “made a factual determination,” it has ruled on a case. It hasn’t proven Leithart to be heresy-free, it merely called it as it saw it.

  27. December 8, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Your problem,Lane, is you don’t know the value of polemics. Tolerance is not as biblical as polemics. Both Jesus and Paul were willing to confront their opponents head on. The apostles turned the world upside down.

  28. CD-Host said,

    December 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    @Hugh —

    I’m not sure how you can argue for radical individualism when it comes to PCA courts and at the same time consider the 2007 FV ruling of the GA binding. If PNW held your position regarding church order and just said they disagreed with the GA what objection could you raise other than you think they are mistaken?

  29. Hugh McCann said,

    December 9, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Ultimately, CD, what is our basis for agreement or disagreement?

  30. Greg said,

    December 9, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Howie said: “I’m afraid of a statement like Hugh’s that “personal conviction trumps ecclesiastical hierarchy for the biblical Christian.” I believe such an attitude can be equally as dangerous as unorthodox teaching.

    Pope Leo X would have agreed with you, Howie. That naughty little monk wouldn’t put down his pen and shut his mouth….

    When I speak of “knowing” I speak of truly knowing what is true and not merely of one’s perception of the facts. Granted, we are all subject to error, but we can KNOW the truth.

    We KNOW that it is true that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. Our faithfulness to the covenant does not maintain our union with Christ and our justification as the FV proponents falsely teach.

    We KNOW (and confess) water baptism does not effect (in any sense) regeneration, union with Christ, justification, etc. Again the FV rejects the truth and embraces and teaches a lie. But they “know.”

    Leithart and his FV friends “know” falsely, i.e., they are deceived. Luther KNEW while Leo X merely “knew.”

    We choose as Luther chose, to stand for the KNOWN truth of the gospel in the face of error– even by the church courts. And like Luther, we will not be silent.

    When courts rule it is not always according to the law. At times the court rejects (or ignores) the law and refuses to punish the lawbreaker because the court believes the law is in error. Guilt may be set aside to further “good” as the court sees it. The “good” may be the perceived need for better (corrected) law. Certainly there are those in the PNWP who see the WCF as having run its course and in need of replacement. Paedocommunion is almost certainly one of those issues.

    At other times the court may act (or refuse to act at all) in a way that is contrary to the law (set free the guilty, e.g., Pilate) in order to, as they see it, preserve the peace. If they did what was required they fear loss of peace and unity. For those in church courts who judge in such a manner, they heal the wounds of God’s people lightly, proclaiming, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” And like Neville Chamberlain, they ought to know better.

    Perhaps the day will come when we will leave the PCA. Although the current PCA trajectory is dangerous, not all hope is gone in the FV matter. But know this: if we do leave because the PCA ultimately refuses to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one and only gospel– there is no other– after we depart we still will not be silent; for good shepherds care for the sheep. It is the bad shepherds who slaughter the sheep or stand by and allow them to be slaughtered. And we refuse (and by God’s grace will continue to refuse) to stand by and do nothing!

    We will have no part of a false peace.

  31. December 9, 2013 at 8:58 am

    […] Horton Vs. Keister? (greenbaggins.wordpress.com) […]

  32. greenbaggins said,

    December 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Incidentally, Howie, I would take issue with you that I am harshly criticizing the SJC. I am criticizing the SJC, but disagreement does not equal harshness. I disagree, and disagree strongly. But I have not been harsh towards the SJC, to my knowledge.

  33. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 9, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Hugh @26 – I think you’re mistaken when you assert:
    “Presbytery has NOT ‘made a factual determination,’ it has ruled on a case.”
    Presbytery’s nine-judge trial court rendered 55 findings of fact regarding the views of the defendant. When the complaint was taken to the appellate court, the SJC apparently did not find “clear error” in those factual findings. (BCO 39-3.2)

    Lane – Fair point @32. So, to clarify, it’s the continuing nature of the criticism that’s most troubling. BCO 45-5 stipulates (after a Protest): “Here the matter shall end…” By analogy, BCO 57-2 stipulates a Session is: “to judge, after careful examination” the qualifications of covenant children applying for admission to the Supper. It would be inconsistent to say an officer can disregard either one of those five-word phrases.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    December 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Howie, by your reading of BCO 45-5, no discussion can happen on a case after the official documentation has closed. Your reading of it would preclude discussion happening 2 days after the case was officially closed as much as discussion happening months or years afterwards. That cannot be the meaning of BCO 45-5. It must rather mean that such is the end of the judicial process, and there is no more recourse.

  35. Hugh McCann said,

    December 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Howie @33: Thanks for your clarification & more info. But, the court rendered its opinion, not “a factual determination.”

    Unless a presbytery has attained infallibility (or at least, impeccability), it cannot make a determination.

    They “found” the defendent not guilty, & believe him to be innocent, & they rendered their collective opinion, not “findings of facts,” technically.

    They “found” him not guilty doesn’t mean he’s not guilty. It merely means that in their collective opinion, according to their judgment of the evidence they examined, & testimonies they heard, they believe the defendent not guilty of the charges filed.

    “But,” as many (even in the PCA) are saying, “they were wrong.”

  36. CD-Host said,

    December 9, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    @Hugh —

    Sorry a court is a factual determination. During the course of a trial there are “disputed facts”: A claims X is true, B claims Y is true X and Y conflict. The court renders Z as its finding of fact. They aren’t saying it is infallible but it certainly is a factual determination, that’s the point.

    As for him not being guilty there are two senses of guilty:
    justly chargeable. In which case “not guilty” does mean he isn’t guilty
    justly liable. In which case “not guilty” means the best available evidence conflicts with a finding of guilt.

    I think it is reasonable to say a court decided something wrongly. But it is not reasonable to say they didn’t decide something.

  37. Hugh McCann said,

    December 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    CD,

    Truth claims are not necessarily facts. Courts cannot determine facts.

    Your claim that “a court is a factual determination” is amazing.

    Your second paragraph is beyond me.

  38. Alan D. Strange said,

    December 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    The work of a court, definitionally, is two-fold: to seek to establish what the relevant facts in a given case are and to apply the law to such facts.

    Every human court, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is fallible and may get either wrong: it may mistake and misconstrue the relevant facts and it may wrongly apply the law to them.

    The work of appeal courts is to see that trial courts have done their work properly, particularly as to form, though not wholly unconcerned with substance. Certainly, ecclesiastical courts, at least in doctrinal cases, have to be concerned with substance as well as form, on appeal, since the whole church is concerned with establishing what is true doctrine.

    Having read the record of the Leithart case shortly after it was made public, it was clear to me that the case was poorly prosecuted in several respects. The question now is–does such a prosecution warrant a re-trial or would that be another bite at the apple that would amount to double jeopardy?

    Before jumping to say that double jeopardy is a purely civil concept, it is a concept based on legal equity, which derives from natural and biblical law. I think that it has some application, arguably, in ecclesiastical law, though not in the same way as it does in civil, particularly given that the magistrate bears the sword (and this has implications for double jeopardy).

    I’ve read Grover Gunn’s Protest and while I am sympathetic insofar as I find some of Leithart’s positions contra-confessional, I wonder if that’s really the best, or even the correct, argument here. Perhaps it’s the only if there is no prosecutor’s appeal. The OPC, for instance, does not have a prosecuter’s appeal, and this is a potential weakness in a doctrinal case. Charles Briggs, for instance, would not have been convicted without such.

    The bottom line is that the church as a whole, especially in a doctrinal case, needs the ability to address aberrant doctrine when lower courts refuse or fail to. The genius of Presbyterianism expects and demands it. Double jeopardy, while it may have some proper play in ecclesiastical courts, should not keep the church from declaring as a whole what it believes correct doctrine to be and from properly applying it.

    I would rather get at this through a prosecuter’s appeal, however, than through ordering a re-trial due to a poor prosecution. I am not sure that a poor prosecution warrants a re-trial, though I do think that the broader church, in a doctrinal case, has a clear interest in establishing whether doctrine called into question is biblical and confessional or not.

  39. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Dr. Strange – Several good points. Thanks.
    I think a “Complaint” is essentially synonymous with what you call a “prosecutor appeal.” In fact, in the case mentioned in this blog, the Complainant who sought SJC review of the verdict was an elder at the prosecutor’s church. And then the broader church, through its elected 24-man judicial commission, considered the Complaint (i.e., read the 722-page Record, read the Complaint, read the Complainant’s Brief, listened to the 30-minute oral argument of the Complainant’s representative, asked questions, deliberated and rendered a judgment.)

    I’m curious what a “prosecutor appeal” might be. I thought the PCA and OPC were pretty similar in their appeal provisions. I couldn’t find the phrase “prosecutor appeal” in the OPC Book of Discipline. Here’s the excerpt I found about appeals from BOD 7:

    An appeal in a judicial case is the removal of the case to an appellate judicatory by the filing of a petition asking that the final judgment of a lower judicatory be reversed or modified. An appeal may be taken by the accused, or by a judicatory whose judgment has been reversed or modified by an appellate judicatory. http://www.opc.org/BCO/BD.html#Chapter_VII

    The appeal described in the second part of the second sentence seems to be, for example, if a Session verdict was reversed on appeal to Presbytery, the Session could then appeal Presbytery’s ruling to the next higher court. It doesn’t seem a prosecutor as an individual has any special standing to “appeal” a verdict that went against his efforts. He could just file a Complaint like anyone else.

  40. Jeremy said,

    December 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Dr Strange @38

    Should such a doctrinal communication from the broader church come from an association like NAPARC?

  41. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Lane – Good question @34. I think there are two extremes to be avoided – perhaps the Scylla and Charybdis of “submitting to the brethren.” Striking the rocks of Scylla would be to prohibit absolutely any and all “discussion” of a case after the highest court renders its decision. But being destroyed in the Charybdis whirlpool would be to allow absolutely anything to be said about that case, and that decision, and that higher court – and to allow such speech to go on indefinitely. All along I’ve intended my comments simply to help brothers avoid the Charybdis and to return to what I think is safer navigation in the brethren-submission channel (especially when I think some brothers are continually and dangerously drifting around Charybdis).

  42. Alan D. Strange said,

    December 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Rev. Donahoe:

    Things are a bit different in the OPC. We make a fairly sharp distinction between judicial appeals (BD 7: having to do with appeals taken after trials) and the appeal of a complaint (BD 9: the latter being restricted to administrative matters).

    In a judicial case, as our book presently stands, only a defendant can appeal the verdict and censure. No one else in the court can complain about it. There is only a defense appeal, not one allowed by the prosecutor (or anyone else for that matter). I think that this is a deficiency.

    I think that the PCA allows more here, because it allows an appeal by others than the defendant (called a complaint) in a judicial case. But here’s the rub: Did the complaint you cite allow the judicatory to address not only the form but the substance of the underlying case?

    The kind of prosecutor’s appeal that the old church had when it convicted Briggs allowed the GA to deal not only with the technalities of the trial but also the substance of his errors. New York Presbytery refused to convict Briggs, and both Briggs and that presbytery were deemed doctrinally out of step with the broader church.

    So the PCA may allow more review than the OPC, but still not enough if there is no way for the higher judicatories to get at the substance in a doctrinal case. A prosecutor’s appeal, which neither of our churches have, would allow the underlying case, particularly in a doctrinal matter, to be fully adjudicated by broader judicatories.

    I understand that as our Books of Church Order currently read, neither of us would be able to address matters as I think that they need to be in a doctrinal case. I also recognize that you may believe that the complaint addressed matters sufficiently or that higher courts should not be able to touch the substance of things–I’m simply unsure of your position on these matters–and so the matter has properly been concluded judicially.

    As to the question of NAPARC, Jeremy, perhaps you could expand as to your meaning.

  43. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 10, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Dr. Strange – Thanks for the clarification. One way for the PCA to address these concerns is to address/revise our BCO 34-1, which allows the higher court to “assume original jurisdiction” if requested to do so by some number of other presbyteries in a “doctrinal case or case of public scandal” when the Presbytery has “refused to act.” Several attempts have been made to revise this section of our Book, but so far all have been unsuccessful. Hopefully, that will change and so that when a Presbytery declines to indict someone in a doctrinal case, and enough other presbyteries petition the SJC to assume jurisdiction, the higher court can investigate, and if necessary, indict and conduct the trial. But the rub is the threshold. Many Presbyteries think two is a sufficient number. Many others think anything less than 10% is problematic. And to change this section requires 2/3 of our 81 Presbyteries to vote in favor of the change (i.e., 54). And that consensus will be difficult to achieve unless men are willing to compromise.

  44. Scott said,

    December 11, 2013 at 7:31 am

    As far as allowing PCA General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction of a case, it’s not really the thresh hold that needs to be resolved. The thresh hold is presently two presbyteries in agreement that a doctrine or conduct error was missed, based on a biblical principle of matters confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. That is sufficient.
    The intent is to give Presbyteries that spot an error the right to have General Assembly assume jurisdiction, not only of failing to indict, but failing to follow the constitution, e.g. as it appears to have been the case here.
    So, a procedural clarification might have 2 or 3 Presbyteries agreeing, and exercising a spiritual court right to have broader review of a case when a basic case of violation of the constitution is made for that review, regardless of whether the case made it to indictment, etc.

  45. Jeremy said,

    December 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Dr Strange @42

    In the event other NAPARC bodies disagree with doctrinal stances not being taken in the PCA, should those bodies be working towards communicating something to the PCA to that effect? (both as individual denominations as well as a group voice from NAPARC if possible)

  46. Howie Donahoe said,

    December 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Scott @44 – The interpretive question from the PCA Book of Church Order involves the phrase “refuses to act.” Your comment seems to imply it should be interpreted as “refuses to act properly.” But you have to import that adverb. Many others interpret it to mean something more like “refuses to indict” (including a past SJC decision in a matter in Louisiana Presbytery). I believe some good clarification will come when the SJC adopts an answer to the Gunn Protest. Stay tuned.

  47. Brandon said,

    December 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Lane,

    I’ve not read everything from Leithart that you have, so maybe you could point me to certain portions of the trial transcript that substantiate your argument that Leithart is a heretic. I am sympathetic to one saying that Leithart’s views are unconfessional, but to say that his views are heretical is an even stronger claim. Painting with a broad brush, I think Leithart’s positions share a lot in common with Lutheranism in terms of efficacy of the sacraments and Arminianism in relation to believer’s position in the covenant. Neither of these views, however, would enter the definition of “heretical” to me. Do you disagree with my assessment of Leithart? If not, if you could kindly point me to your broader case against Leithart as a heretic that would be greatly appreciated.

  48. greenbaggins said,

    December 13, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Brandon, you can read my testimony, and find the places where Leithart goes astray, most especially in the area of justification, where he includes definitive sanctification in the definition of justification. That is a move neither Lutherans nor Arminians would sanction. Read Horton’s testimony as well. I would also argue that Leithart’s hermeneutics (he holds to the medieval quadriga) are outside the bounds.

  49. greenbaggins said,

    December 13, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Howie, your Scylla and Charybdis analogy fails for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you have to add quite a bit to the BCO in order to make it mean what you say it means. I see no justification for your reading of it. You still haven’t answered my objection that your reading would prohibit all discussion of a case after it has been adjudicated. Your reading of it now seems to be, “here the matter shall end mostly, but not quite all the way: people can talk some, but not a lot.” After all, in this very thread, the Briggs case came up, and how long has that case been over with? Over a century! There is no BCO provision prohibiting discussion of a case after it has been ruled. Period. The Briggs case was discussed ad nauseum during the time (newspapers were reporting on it as it went along!) and immediately after, and for decades afterwards. You have not proven that the BCO says what you say it says. You talk about “allowing absolutely anything to be said about that case” as if it were something that a court had the right to refuse. I don’t see that principle anywhere, either.

    Furthermore, there is a third danger which you did not mention (of course you wouldn’t!): that of suppressing opposition speech for the purposes of making the denomination comfortable with the decision. That is an outcome I aim to prevent by keeping this in the public eye. If the decision was indeed incorrect, why would it be a good thing for us to become comfortable with a bad decision?

  50. greenbaggins said,

    December 13, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Jeremy, I would certainly rejoice to see some good solid, brotherly rebuke coming from other NAPARC denominations about how we are (not) handling the FV matters in our midst, and how we are allowing polity to trump doctrinal considerations.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 351 other followers

%d bloggers like this: