Here is the text of the complaint in full. It is important to read this carefully, because it provides the context for the prosecutor’s brief, which will be shortly following.
To Dr. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.
And now, this fourteenth day of May, A.D. 2012, comes RE Gerald Hedman and complains against the action of Pacific Northwest Presbytery on April 27, 2012 in denying the complaint of October 18, 2011, RE Wesley Witt versus Pacific Northwest Presbytery, in connection with the trial of TE Peter Leithart on June 3-4, 2011, and in support of said complaint sets forth the following reasons:
Whereas it is the obligation of teaching elders to uphold in their teaching the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards (BCO 21-5.2), and;
Whereas presbyteries are charged to “condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 13-9.f), and;
Whereas, the same or similar views taught by Pelagius and Celestius on final justification, on perseverance, on law and grace, and on the imputation of sin and righteousness were condemned as heresy by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., and;
Whereas, the same or similar views were opposed by the Protestant Reformers when taught by the Roman Catholic Church and denominated as Pelagianism by Calvin, Luther, Melancthon and other Reformers in the sixteenth century, and;
Whereas, the same or similar views when taught by Albert Barnes, Charles Finney and others in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in the nineteenth century resulted in heresy trials denominated as the “Pelagian” trials, and;
Whereas the Standing Judicial Commission of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America ruled on March 5, 2010 that PNWP erred “in its handling of the Reports of the PNWP Study Committee appointed to examine Leithart’s fitness to continue as a PCA teaching elder” and sustained the complaint which was brought against the presbytery, and;
Whereas the Standing Judicial Commission further directed Pacific Northwest Presbytery in March of 2010 that they may counsel TE Leithart “that the views set forth above constitute error that is injurious to the peace and purity of the church”; that they may offer him “pastoral advice on how to recant or make reparations for those views”; that they may counsel him that “he is free to take timely steps toward affiliation with some other branch of the visible church that is consistent with his views”; or, that failing any of the above, they “shall take steps to comply with its obligation under BCO 31-2”, and;
Whereas PNWP did not counsel TE Leithart that this views “constitute error that is injurious to the peace and purity of the church”, and;
Whereas TE Leithart at the October 2010 meeting of PNWP declined to recant of his views or make reparations for them, and;
Whereas TE Leithart at the October 2010 meeting of PNWP informed the body that he would not transfer his credentials out of the PCA, and;
Whereas PNWP indicted TE Leithart on January 17, 2011; received his not guilty plea on January 31, 2011; and conducted a trial on June 3-4, 2011 (the results were sealed until October 7, 2011) which resulted in a judgment that he was innocent of all charges, and;
Whereas, PNWP’s Standing Judicial Commission deliberated upon and denied the complaint of October 18, 2011, and;
Whereas, Pacific Northwest Presbytery upheld the court’s Standing Judicial Commission’s decision on April 27, 2012, and;
Whereas TE Leithart continues to promiscuously teach and publish doctrines in flagrant contradiction of the Westminster Standards, to wit:
1) TE Leithart teaches a doctrine of baptism which contradicts the Westminster Standards and Scripture by attributing to the sacrament of baptism saving benefits such as regeneration, union with Christ, and adoption. Water baptism, according to Leithart, assures:
Those who are members of the church [that they] stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God, who is the righteous and holy Son…. Membership in the visible church involves us in marriage to Christ. We are members of his body as much as a bride is a part of her husband’s flesh.
Again, Leithart says:
The baptized is made a member of the family of the Father … [and] branded as a sheep of Christ’s flock. All that is gift. All this the baptized is not only offered, but receives. All this he receives simply by virtue of being baptized.
Yet, the Westminster Standards teach that the efficacy of baptism or the saving benefits received through baptism are only for those who are true recipients of grace.
The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to the moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of the ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will. (WCF 28.6).
These saving benefits are not for all the baptized, but only “to such as that grace belongeth unto.” Such people are those to whom the “the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost.”
TE Leithart teaches that these benefits of salvation belong, at least for a period of time, to everyone who is baptized. He teaches that through being united to Christ in baptism:
We enter into the new life of the Spirit, receive a grant of divine power, are incorporated into Christ’s body, and die and rise again with Christ. In the purification of baptism, we are cleansed of our ‘former sins’ and begin to participate in the divine nature and the power of Jesus’ resurrection, being made “new creations in the deepest possible sense,” being “born again as a ‘son of the house.”
These benefits of water baptism are not for adults only, but also belong to infants who are baptized, according to Leithart. He says that the infant who receives the “justifying and sanctifying washing” of baptism becomes a son of God and “the sonship conferred by baptism is not ‘external’ to our basic identity but constitutive of it.” Additonally, baptism, Leithart says:
Also confers the arrabon of the Spirit, and in this sense too is a ‘regenerating’ ordinance. There can be no ‘merely social’ membership in this family.
There are obvious problems with Leithart’s views. First, how can baptism be a ‘regenerating’ ordinance without actually conferring the never ending new birth of the Scripture? Leithart has turned the matter completely around. He says all these benefits flow from water baptism, including the new birth. Yet, Shorter Catechism Question and Answer #31, says:
Q. What is effectual calling? A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (Bold added for emphasis).
According to the Westminster Standards, the new birth is the result of God’s effectual calling. Westminster Confession of Faith 10.1 describes this renewal of the will:
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; in enlightening their minds spiritually to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh>; renewing their wills</strong, and, by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Bold added for emphasis).
The new birth is often in Scripture described as taking away the old heart or the heart of stone and giving a new heart or a heart of flesh (Cf. Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-11). The Confession makes it clear that this new birth is the result of the Word and Spirit. Water baptism is never mentioned with respect to the new birth. Thus, Leithart’s view that water baptism effects the new birth contradicts the Westminster Standards. The answer to Larger Catechism Question # 67 teaches the same thing about the ministry of the Word and Spirit with respect to the new birth.
The Westminster Standards also make it clear that the elect, and only the elect, are so effectually called. Larger Catechism Question and Answer # 68 says:
Q. Are the elect, and they only, effectually called? A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
Thus, the Westminster Standards leave no room for someone to hold to Leithart’s view that water baptism imparts the new birth “in the deepest possible sense.”
Second, how can all those who are water baptized become “new creations in the deepest possible sense”, and yet lose that status? If they are born again in the deepest possible sense, in what sense are those born again who persevere unto everlasting life? Leithart is left with two possible responses. Either he can say that those who are saved for eternity are born again in the exact same way as everyone who is water baptized (the result of that answer would be that the difference between the saved and the lost is all in the power of man); or, Leithart can answer that the saved experience an even deeper sense in which they are born again, which would make his words superfluous in the extreme. As noted below, Leithart chooses the first answer and, thus, makes man’s will- not God’s grace- the ultimate determiner of salvation. Such a view is in blatant contradiction to the Westminster Standards which teach consistently that it is God’s almighty power alone which makes us to differ.
Third, how can all who are baptized be righteous, holy, justified, sanctified, regenerated, sons of God, receive the arrabon of the Spirit and yet many of them are not even believers? Leithart answers these questions in the following way:
These benefits of baptism, however, belong, finally only to those who respond in God’s grace in faith; there are some who are made sons by baptism who fall away. (Judgment and Reasoning of the Standing Judicial Commission of Pacific Northwest Presbytery, October 7, 2011, p. 11).
Leithart’s answer raises even more questions. How can someone who is baptized by water receive all these benefits of Christ, including the new birth, as Leithart alleges, and not even be a believer? He cannot. Where do the Westminster Standards teach that saving faith and perseverance can be separated from the other saving benefits of Christ? They do not.
In the trial testimony, Leithart admitted under cross-examination that he had changed his earlier position, which was that everyone who is baptized receives everything that Christ has to offer. His reason was that:
There are obvious gifts that the elect receive… that don’t go to every baptized person. Perseverance was the obvious one. (Trial testimony, page 228).
Yet, the Westminster Standards connects perseverance with acceptance, calling and sanctification (WCF 17:1), which Leithart says are benefits every baptized person receives. The answer to Shorter Catechism Question # 36 (What are the benefits which in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption, or sanctification?) says:
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. (Bold added for emphasis).
Perseverance is a benefit which all those who are justified, adopted, and sanctified receive according to the Westminster Standards. Thus, Leithart’s position contradicts the Westminster Standards. It is obvious why Leithart changed his position concerning perseverance. If every person baptized by water also received perseverance in addition to all the other benefits of Christ then every person baptized by water would also be eternally saved.
In the trial testimony Leithart stated that his views on the benefits of Christ covered Scripture truths which the Westminster Standards do not address. There are certainly areas of truth which are not addressed by the WCF. Yet, Leithart did not show from Scripture that everyone who is baptized receives all the benefits of Christ’s grace. Nor, did he show the difference between the benefits supposedly received by everyone who is baptized and the benefits which belong to those who are saved. What passage of Scripture shows the difference between the “justifying and sanctifying washing” which Leithart says every baptized person receives and the “justifying and sanctifying washing” which only true believers receive? The fact is that these distinctions are simply the product of Leithart’s fertile, but improperly informed mind. They are not taught by the Scriptures.
Leithart also stated in the trial that his own presupposition concerning baptism is that every passage which speaks of it is speaking about water baptism unless it states otherwise. When questioned by the defense, Leithart said that Calvin took the view that Romans 6 was speaking about water baptism (Trial transcript, p, 227). Yet, that was either an ingenuous or disingenuous misstatement of the truth. Calvin actually takes the opposite view; that baptism refers to God’s spiritual work in making believers new creatures in Christ. Commenting on Romans 6:3, 4, Calvin says:
It is not a washing alone, but also the mortification and putting to death of the old man, which is there set forth… Baptism means that being dead to ourselves, we may become new creatures… It is irrelevant to argue that this power is not apparent in all the baptized, for Paul, because he is speaking to believers, connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign in his usual manner (John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul to the Romans and to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), 122-123).
Thus, Calvin’s view is just the opposite of Leithart’s view on Romans 6:3, 4. Calvin teaches that Paul is not speaking to everyone who is baptized, but to true believers. Therefore, says Calvin, Paul “connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign.” This is an example of TE Leithart trying to claim that his views have support among reformed scholars from the past when in fact his claim is repudiated by the views of Calvin.
Calvin’s view on baptism is made even clearer in his commentary on Jeremiah 9:26:
Hence the prophet says, that though they had the visible symbol in the flesh, they were yet uncircumcised in heart, and ought therefore to be classed with the nations. We see how sharply he reproves them; for God cares not for the external symbol, but regards the chief thing, the circumcision of the heart. It is a common thing with Moses and the Prophets to call an unrenewed heart, uncircumcision, and to say that the people are uncircumcised in heart: for circumcision, while an evidence of free salvation in Christ, at the same time initiated the Jews into the worship, and service of God, and proved the necessity of a new life; it was in short a sign both of repentance and of faith. When, therefore, the Jews presented only the sign, they were justly derided by Moses and the Prophets; for they seemed as though they sought to pacify God by a thing of nought, without regarding the end. The same is the case now when we boast of baptism alone; and are at the same time destitute of repentance and faith; our boasting alone is absurd and ridiculous. And hence Paul calls the external rite, when the sign separated from its reality and substance, the letter of circumcision; and on the other hand he calls that the true circumcision, which is in secret and in the spirit. We may say the same of baptism,- that the literal baptism avails hypocrites nothing, for they receive only the naked sign; and therefore we must come to the spirit of baptism, to the thing itself; for the interior power is renovation, when our old man is crucified in us, and when we rise again with Christ into newness of life (Bold added for emphasis. John Calvin, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Volume One (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 507-508).
The teaching of Leithart is that water baptism conveys the very thing signified which differs from saving grace only because it does not last or does not produce fruit. As Leithart says:
Some are united to Christ yet do not persevere. During the time they are branches in the vine, they do receive benefits from Christ through the Spirit and may enjoy real, personal, and deep communion with Jesus for a time. Yet, their relationship with Christ is not identical to the relationship of the elect. Put it this way: Some are united to Christ as members of the bride but are headed for divorce; others are united and headed for consummation.”
Leithart continues by saying that:
Everyone who is baptized—every one—is brought into the body of Christ, ordained to be a priest before God, married to Jesus, and brought into the family of the Father, into the circle of God’s personal favor—everyone who is baptized is shown favor simply by the fact of their being baptized… [yet] that favor does not last, or it does not produce fruit, without faith. Only those who respond in faith fulfill their priestly role rightly, persevere in the marriage covenant with Christ, stay in the family, remain in the circle of God’s favor.
The failure of TE Leithart’s views on baptism is that he does not properly distinguish between the sign and the things signified; between what men can do and what God alone does. A minister can apply the water of baptism, but only God can renew the will and cause a person to be born again. A minister can baptize with water, but the saving benefits of Christ are reserved only for those who are effectually called, and none other according to the Westminster Standards.
2) TE Leithart teaches a view of the covenant of works/covenant of grace which is contrary to the Westminster Standards. Leithart says:
We do have the same obligation that Adam (and Abraham, and Moses, and David and Jesus) had, namely, the obedience of faith. And, yes, covenant faithfulness is the way of salvation, for the “doers of the law will be justified” at the final judgment. (Prosecution’s Brief, page 8). (Bold added for emphasis).
Leithart also wrote:
That the differences between Adamic and post-lapsarian covenants are not at a “soteriological” level, but at the level of covenant administration. (Prosecution’s Brief, p. 8).
Leithart, therefore, obliterates the necessary distinctions between law and grace; the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The Westminster Standards connect the law which Adam was responsible to obey in the garden with the law given on Mount Sinai:
God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endowed him with power and ability to keep it. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them, as well as to others (WCF 19.1,2a, 5a).
TE Leithart, thus, contradicts both the Westminster Standards and the Scriptures (cf. Galatians 3:10-14) in teaching that “covenant faithfulness is the way of salvation.” The Westminster Standards teach that no person is saved by a covenant of works, but by grace. If we are saved by covenant faithfulness, then we are saved by works and by law-keeping, whether Leithart realizes it or not. Paul specifically condemns trusting in circumcision which makes “Christ… of no benefit to you” and places you “under obligation to keep the whole Law.” (Galatians 5:2, 3). Paul contrasts such covenant faithfulness with salvation through faith in Christ.
3) TE Leithart teaches a view of the imputation of Christ which contradicts the Westminster Standards and the Scripture. TE Leithart in his views and teachings rejects the teaching of the Westminster Standards that the obedience and satisfaction of Christ are imputed to the believer (WCF VIII.5; WCF XI.3; Rom. 4:1-8; 5:17-18).
The Westminster Standards could not be plainer about the fact that what is imputed to the sinner in justification is the work of Christ:
Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies… by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them (WCF 11.1).
Yet TE Leithart explicitly denies this teaching when he writes:
There is no “independent” imputation of the active obedience of Christ, nor even of the passive obedience for that matter; we are regarded as righteous, and Christ’s righteousness is reckoned as ours, because of our union with Him in His resurrection. What is imputed is the verdict, not the actions of Jesus. (“More From Ward,” emphasis added).
While there is no dispute that some of the Westminster Divines rejected the language of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, there has never been any debate about whether his passive obedience is so imputed to us. Yet TE Leithart insists that not only is he unsure about the concept of imputation in general (see the evidence for Charge #3 in the Indictment of the Leithart Trial Documents), but also that the actions of Jesus, whether active or passive, are not imputed to sinners.
From a theological standpoint, what is problematic about TE Leithart’s denial that the actions of Jesus are imputed to sinners, and his insistence instead that his righteousness is credited to us via our union with him, is that in this scheme the sinner is never counted as a law-keeper, neither can he said to be credited with any positive righteousness (as though man’s only problem were his sin, and not additionally his deprivation of positive righteousness). Rather, he only shares in a verdict pronounced over the Son by the Father at the resurrection, and this participation in the Father’s verdict comes by virtue of a baptismal union that TE Leithart unequivocally states can be lost through lack of covenant obedience. Furthermore, Paul teaches that the result of the second Adam’s obedience and satisfaction is that an “abundance of grace” and a “free gift of righteousness” is granted to all who trust in Jesus (Rom. 5:17-19). Furthermore, the “one Man’s righteousness” in verse 18 is parallel to “the one Man’s obedience” in verse 19, meaning that the free gift that the believer receives is nothing less than the right action or conduct of Christ. That which results from Jesus’ federal headship, therefore, is not merely his resurrection verdict being shared by those provisionally united to him, but the believer actually receiving, as a free gift, the imputation of the merit of Christ’s righteous conduct.
4) TE Leithart teaches a view of justification and sanctification which directly contradicts the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 11:2, 4 says:
Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet it is not alone in the person justified, but it is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.”
The answer to Larger Catechism Question # 73 says:
Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.
The answer to Shorter Catechism Question 33 says:
Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.
TE Leithart affirmed during the trial that justification is a once-for-all judicial act and sanctification is a process of growth and holiness (Trial Transcript 6.11.21-25). Yet, he also teaches that there is a kind of justification for all who are baptized when God declares them to be right with Him and accepted by Him into His family. This justification which is the result of water baptism cannot be the once-for-all judicial act, though, because not all the baptized endure to the end so as to attain salvation, as Leithart admitted.
Leithart secondly teaches that those who believe in Christ are justified. According to his views, the justification which results from saving faith also cannot be the once-for-all judicial act he professes to believe for reasons which will follow in this paragraph. Leithart thirdly teaches that there is a final justification at the final judgment. This is the only “justification” according to Leithart’s views which can be a once-for-all judicial act. If the justification of the believer when he comes to saving faith was the once-for-all judicial act, then there would be no need for a final justification. Final necessarily means that everything which preceded it was not final nor was it “once-for-all.” Thus, Leithart’s views require that only his theory of ‘final justification’ can be the once-for-all judicial act he says he affirms. Such a view is out of accord with the Westminster Standards.
Leithart’s view of final justification is in complete contradiction to the Westminster Standards and the Scriptures. Neither the Bible nor the Westminster Standards ever mention a final justification. That term is a product of the Federal Vision theology to which Leithart holds, but is not taught anywhere in the constitution of the PCA. WCF 33 teaches about the final judgment, but the phrase ‘final justification’ is nowhere mentioned in the Westminster Standards nor is it mentioned in the Scripture. The final judgment is not a once-for-all judicial act which determines the eternal salvation of anyone. The final judgment is for “the manifestation of the glory of his mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect: and of his justice, in the damnation of the reprobate” (WCF 33:2).
The salvation of the elect is guaranteed by God’s eternal decree and the application of salvation to them through the work of the Holy Spirit- including effectual calling, saving faith and justification by faith alone. The salvation of the elect is not in suspense until the final judgment, as Leithart asserts, at which time they are finally justified on the basis of their whole life.
Leithart’s view of final justification also requires him to believe that sanctification takes place prior to this final justification or not at all. As WCF 13:1 says:
They who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them.
Sanctification, according to the Westminster Standards begins with the new birth and continues throughout the whole life of the believer. If the once-for-all judicial act of justification does not happen until the final judgment, then sanctification precedes justification. Yet, the WCF teaches a different ordo salutis in which effectual calling, regeneration, justification and adoption precede sanctification.
The Westminster Standards also connect justification and sanctification to effectual calling- not to water baptism. Effectual calling occurs only once according to the above quote from the chapter on sanctification in the WCF. Regeneration also occurs only once according to the same chapter in the WCF. Since the Westminster Standards additionally state that “those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth” (WCF 11:1) and those who believe are justified when the Holy Spirit “in due time, actually apply Christ unto them” (WCF 11:5), this establishes the only time in which justification can be said to happen according to the constitution of the PCA.
Justification does not happen when a person is baptized by water, according to the Westminster Standards. Justification does not happen at the final judgment, according to the Westminster Standards. Justification happens only at that one time when a person is effectually called and regenerated. Thus, once again, Leithart’s views on justification and sanctification place him in flagrant contradiction of the Westminster Standards.
5) TE Leithart teaches a view of the benefits of Christ which is in flagrant contradiction to the Westminster Standards. First, WCF 13:1 teaches in consistency with the Scripture that effectual calling and regeneration happen only once and are the result of God’s work of grace in the hearts of the elect (see previous paragraph).
The answer to Shorter Catechism Question #32 says:
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits, which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.
The answer to Shorter Catechism Question #36 says;
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
The Westminster Standards set forth a consistent order of salvation and the several benefits which accompany these acts or works of God’s free grace. The graces are effectual calling, justification, adoption and sanctification. The benefits of these graces of God are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Spirit, increase of grace and perseverance. All these benefits of Christ are given to believers in their effectual calling- not their baptism.
Baptism, according to Shorter Catechism Question #94:
Doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.
The benefits of the covenant are not applied to all those who are baptized, as Leithart contends, but only to those who are effectually called, truly regenerated, embrace Jesus Christ through saving faith, are justified, adopted and sanctified.
TE Leithart teaches a parallel plan of salvation which begins with baptism. All the graces of Christ and all the benefits of Christ are given to everyone who is baptized, according to his parallel plan (refer to his quotes about the benefits given through baptism in the point 1 above). Yet, he denies that perseverance is given to those who are baptized. Thus, Leithart teaches that this parallel plan of salvation begins with water baptism, not the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit (which is real baptism).
Leithart teaches that water baptism does not confer eternal grace, but rather confers graces which can be lost. He teaches that water baptism confers graces like regeneration which makes all who are baptized “new creations in the deepest possible sense”, but strangely they are not truly new creatures in the Scriptural sense. Does that mean, therefore, that Scriptural regeneration is deeper than the regeneration through water baptism; that the regeneration of saints is not as deep as the regeneration through water baptism; or, that they are both the same? Leithart does not clarify that point. Again, he teaches that water baptism confers all the benefits necessary to salvation, except the one benefit which will prevent them from losing their salvation, perseverance.
TE Leithart says he is not teaching a parallel way of salvation, but the evidence would show that he is either mistaken or confused. Like other people in the federal vision, Leithart has retracted some of his statements and changed his views on various things. At one time, he taught that even perseverance was a benefit given to everyone who is baptized with water. A study committee of PNWP convinced him to change his position on that point. If all those baptized with water were given the grace of perseverance, then that would guarantee their eternal salvation.
In making the difference between these parallel plans of salvation to consist in perseverance, Leithart puts salvation in the hands of man. The difference, according to Leithart, is that one persevered and the other did not. Leithart’s views are confused and dangerous. They are contradictory to the clear teaching of the Westminster Standards which makes the difference to be the grace of God who effectually calls one and not the other. Leithart himself is confused and has not yet reached a resting place in his theological journey. He began his journey by trying to think of a new way to express the statements of the Scripture concerning baptism. Leithart’s views are a new way, but they are contrary to the Westminster Standards.
TE Leithart contends that the benefits of Christ received at baptism concern areas of truth outside the teaching of the Westminster Standards. Is that really true? Are there really temporary benefits, such as justification, sanctification, regeneration, adoption, and others, which can be lost? Leithart originally taught that perseverance was also one of the benefits given to everyone who is baptized. Now, he has retracted that position. Why? Because perseverance would guarantee that all the baptized would be saved. Yet, that could only be true if the perseverance given to all who are baptized is exactly the same as the perseverance given to those who are effectually called. If perseverance is the same grace in both instances, then that means all the other benefits which Leithart alleges are given at water baptism are also the same as those given at effectual calling. That means Leithart is teaching that a person can be truly born again, regenerated by the Spirit of God, and yet lose his salvation. Moreover, it means that the only thing which makes one baptized person differ from another is that some persevere and others do not. Such teaching is clearly and flagrantly out of accord with the Westminster Standards.
Therefore, the undersigned complains that Pacific Northwest Presbytery acted unconstitutionally on April 27, 2012 in denying the October 18, 2011 complaint of RE Wesley Witt versus Pacific Northwest Presbytery, in their adopting the report of the court’s Standing Judicial Commission on October 7, 2011. This egregious and unconstitutional error permits TE Peter Leithart, who is flagrantly out of accord with the Westminster Standards, to teach and publish his false doctrines with impunity. We further complain that this action of PNWP undermines the Westminster Standards and the system of doctrine taught in the Scripture.