By Faith Alone, part 4

This article is written by T. David Gordon. The article is entitled “Observations on N.T. Wright’s Biblical Theology,” with the subtitle “With Special Consideration of ‘Faithfulness of God.'”

Gordon has three major criticisms of N.T. Wright’s BT (he concentrates on WSPRS). The first is that “Wright understands the New Testament primarily as a fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, not as a fulfillment of the redemptive pledge imbedded in the Adamic curse” (pg. 61, emphasis original). He notes that this is a common feature (at least to some people’s minds) of NPP and FV: “neither explicates its biblical theology with reference to the Adamic administration.” I agree with this assessment.

He also notes this important factor (though I might qualify it a bit): “The present debate is about whether we can properly handle the doctrine of justification apart from juridical categories, apart from God’s right judgment of his creation in terms of its obedience or disobedience to his rule.” I agree with this, after I have modified the thought a bit: N.T. Wright says that justification is judicial. It is the judicial pronouncement (according to NTW) of God that someone is indeed a part of God’s family, a member of Abraham’s family by faith. It is God’s declaration that someone is in fact (already) a Christian. So N.T. Wright says that it is judicial. However, his definition of judicial is not the same as the Reformation’s definition.

The second major criticism that Gordon has of NTW is that “Wright’s Christus Victor language of defeat of enemies does not mention God’s wrath as a serious threat that has been deflected by the death and resurrection of Christ” (pg. 62). Certainly, NTW’s handling of this theme leaves that out. My question, however, is this: is Gordon saying that Wright never talks about the wrath of God against sin and sinners? Or is NTW’s specific doctrine of Christus Victor leaving out God’s wrath? This is not meant as a criticism, actually, but just a question. He seems to clarify on pg. 63, when he says, “When he explains precisely what Christ therein (viz. His death and resurrection) triumphed over, the wrath of God is not among the panoply.” Therefore, Gordon seems to be claiming that NTW does not include the wrath of God as a reason for Christ’s death and resurrection. This would be a serious omission on NTW’s part.

Thirdly, NTW misunderstands the phrase “righteousness of God” in Romans by removing it from its judicial context (pg. 63). Gordon is certainly on firm ground here (with the qualification I made earlier about the difference between NTW’s definition of “judicial” and the Reformational definition of “judicial.”) What follows is an extensive and persuasive thesis that “righteousness of God” does not mean God’s covenant faithfulness, but rather God’s creational, moral, judicial righteousness. Gordon defines his terms in this way: “its (the dik-group) predominant usage is to denote God’s justice-his unwavering commitment to judge his creation uprightly-without compromise, favoritism, or inequity” (pg. 66). Indeed, Gordon’s conclusions are quite in line with Seifrid’s study of the term (which is unfortunately not discussed in ths article). He further argues that when God’s covenant faithfulness is in view, Paul uses the pist-word group. This is evident in Romans 3:1, for instance. For Paul to use the dik-group in this context “would have obfuscated the logical and rhetorical power of his argument” (pg. 67). The pervasive context of romans 1:18-3:26 is not God’s faithfulness to His covenant, but rather judgment of God in all its forensic/juridical glory (pg. 67). This is followed by a string of quotations proving his point (his point is well-made, in my opinion).

Gordon makes a spectacular argument on pg. 69 regarding the revelation of the wrath of God in Romans 1:18. His argument runs like this: the wrath of God must have reference to His judicial wrath. that same wrath is revealed in the righteousness of 1:17-18 in Jesus Christ’s propitiation of God’s wrath. Therefore, the righteousness of God does not refer to covenantal faithfulness (which isn’t even remotely present in the context), but rather to God’s law-wrath.

He argues that NTW has some hermeneutical problems with regard to the dik-group. He argues that NTW takes an ambiguous occurence of the word (dikaiosune theou) and renders it in a manner that is different than its unambiguous usage in the very same context. That passage in question is Romans 3:5-4:6.

He notes NTW’s consistent straw-man argument about justification being about membership in the covenant community, and not about an individual’s relationship to God. Gordon notes that no Reformed theologian says that justification is about a person’s relationship to God. Rather, it is about a right standing before God and the law (pg. 72). A very helpful article, both in its overall scope, and in its specific argumentation.



  1. February 6, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    […] This review is worth interacting with.  It would be better to review Gordon’s essay myself, but for some strange and completely mysterious reason, no one’s sending me an advance copy. […]

  2. David said,

    February 6, 2007 at 5:56 pm


    Does Gordon deny (with NTW) that the “righteousness of God” is the righteousness imputed to believers? That’s the impression I got from your review.

    Also, an honest question for you: one of the things that steers me towards NTW’s reading of “righteousness” is the echo of Isaiah 56.1 and Psalm 98.2 in Romans 1.16. (The ESV obfuscates the former.) The context of both OT echoes (Psalm 98’s “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel” and Isaiah’s theme of Yahweh’s gathering of covenant-keepers to his mountain to worship) seem to point to, well, God’s covenant faithfulness. It’s hard to imagine that Paul didn’t have these passages in mind as he penned Romans 1.16.


    (I haven’t read Seifrid, and am not sure what Gordon article this is.)

  3. David said,

    February 6, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Oops, that’s not to imply that my first question was dishonest!

  4. pduggie said,

    February 6, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Since Wright seems to me to push the “dealing with sinful people and the law” part of salvation onto the cross/ressurection (primary) and effectual calling (secondarily) I wonder if the linkup between Wright and standard reformed theology could be in the realm of a so-called objective justification and subjective justifcation.

    You seem to be willing to understand Wright’s doctrine of the cross as appropriately judicial.

    Yes, we are corporately declared righteous heirs of the inheritance when the Seed of Abraham is declared to be the heir, but we are personally accepted when God marks us as members of that body of people who are co-heirs together.

    Also, I dont’ see how the Seifrid or Gordon model of “righteousness” match what the reformed have said about righteousness either

    “its (the dik-group) predominant usage is to denote God’s justice-his unwavering commitment to judge his creation uprightly-without compromise, favoritism, or inequity”

    Do we stand in need of being accounted as just judges of creation? We have the righteousness of God AS JUDGE imputed to us?? Christ’s active obedience on our behalf is his law-wrath? That’s what the reformed always affirmed? Where? Isn’t that all new?

  5. GLW Johnson said,

    February 7, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Mark Horne
    I attempted some months ago to establish open lines of communication with Jeff Meyers. I introduced myself, and mentioned this book that Guy Waters and I were co-editing. Meyers was, to put it candidly, disinterested in maintaining any correspondance. Not only did I attempt to engage Jeff, but shortly after the Auburn Ave. controversy bursted upon the scene, I wrote directly to Doug Wilson. Doug and I had know each other prior to the Federal Vision developement. Redeemer Christian school, a ministry of the Church of the Redeemer where I have served as senior pastor since 1993, was a charter member of the Classical Christian Schools Assoc. that Doug helped to found. Every Summer for years we sent our teachers to Moscow for training, and both Doug and his wife Nancy have conducted conferences at Redeemer. On top of all that I invited Doug to write a chapter for the book I co-edited with Fowler White, ” Whatever happened to the Reformation?”(P&R,2001). I wrote to Doug to express my concerns over things being said by people identified with the FV and was taken back when Doug’s asst., Mike Lawyer replied that Doug was to busy to respond, and that my concerns were misplaced. Mike further stated that since I had specifically raised questions about Rich Lusk , then why write to him instead. Well, I didn’t know Lusk and we didn’t have the kind of association with him that we did with Doug . I was being bombarded on a weekly basis with questions from people from our school and church- “What is our position on this thing called the Federal Vision?”- ” Are you part of the FV?” etc.It was, to say the least very frustrating, to be told in effect, ( not by Doug himself, mind you, but his assistant) ” Go away and stop pestering us with all these questions!”So , one reason that I did not request an advance copy of our book be sent to you or anyone else associated with the FV, is traceable to the lack of response that I had received from Jeff and Doug when I made every effort to establish openlines of communication.

  6. markhorne said,

    February 7, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Gary, when David Letterman had Hilary Clinton on his show, he opened by saying it was a good thing he had never ever told a joke at her expense or else this would be an awkward time. Everyone laughed.

    I’m not surprised nor disappointed that I never got a review copy. I am surprised and disappointed that I have to find out about messages sent to me on trackback links when my own blog has open comments.

    Other than that, I’ll just mention that other people might have other interpretations of the events you recount above.

  7. GLW Johnson said,

    February 7, 2007 at 8:47 am

    By all means, please have Jeff and Doug clarify anything that I related as not accurate.

  8. February 7, 2007 at 10:07 am

    […] Continuing my thoughts on this review… […]

  9. pduggie said,

    February 7, 2007 at 10:12 am

    “Meyers was, to put it candidly, disinterested in maintaining any correspondance. ”

    So like, what was the email you sent Jeff?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    February 7, 2007 at 10:24 am

    God’s righteousness as judge condemns Christ when Christ takes on Himself our sins, and God’s righteousness therefore acquits us when Christ gives us His righteousness. I read in one of these articles (I think it was in CJPM, actually) that the problem with Wright’s critique of the Reformed position is that it is a straw man. It is a straw man in this way: no Reformed person claims that it is the Father’s righteousness that is imputed to us. Rather, it is Christ’s righteousness *earned as a man* that is imputed to us. That Christ is God gives this righteousness infinite potency. That Christ is man makes this righteousness possible-to-be-vicarious. I think this is Gordon’s position.

  11. pduggie said,

    February 7, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Um, doesn’t the NIV translate Romans 1 as saying that the Gospel is “righteousness FROM God”? Isn’t the whoe point of the Luther conversion narrative is that Luther realized that ‘iustia dei” in Romans DID NOT mean “God’s justice-his unwavering commitment to judge his creation uprightly-without compromise, favoritism, or inequity” but rather meant something posessed by God that was imputed from God himself?

    Wright isn’t making any hay about righteousness being from the *father* anyway. The question is the “righteousness of God” in romans a way of referring to an imputed righteousness that we have from God?

    If Gordon identifies it as “God’s justice-his unwavering commitment to judge his creation uprightly-without compromise, favoritism, or inequity” it seems passing strange to say that THAT is what we have imputed to us. Is he saying that? If he isn’t what does he mean by defining “Righteousness of God” that way.

  12. February 7, 2007 at 11:47 am


    I thought I’d stop by and drop you a few words as you have me. First, I too lament the loss of Al; yet I celebrate his life–a life that fully represented in thought word and deed Jesus Christ our Lord. As for this post though, allow me to disagree with the following: You quote T. David Gordon as saying, “Wright understands the New Testament primarily as a fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, not as a fulfillment of the redemptive pledge imbedded in the Adamic curse” (pg. 61, emphasis original). I have to disagree first with the fact that you agree with Gordon and also (and obviously) with Gordon himself. In almost every chapter of Wright’s book “The Climax of the Covenant” (and almost everything Wright has written) Wright argues that Jesus as the Climax of the Abrahamic story is for the primary means of undoing the sin of Adam. Put another way, the reason for Abraham was to undo the problems brought about by Adam and Jesus is the way God did such a thing. Cf. the Aforementioned book, chapter 2, p. 18-40, “Adam, Israel and the Messiah”.

  13. Jeff said,

    February 7, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Gary, what in the world are you talking about? We exchanged a few emails back in August. You said you wanted to open lines of communication, but not with me. I wasn’t targeted by the up-coming book. I believe you did have a few comments about some things that I had written on my blog about the Confession. But that was about it.

    I didn’t have any objection to communicating with you. You said you and Waters were publishing a book that would mention some of “us.” I believe I asked if my name or views were critiqued and you said not explicitly but only by implication given my connection with the FV guys. At any rate, you were more concerned about Mark and Rich Lusk so there wasn’t any reason for us to continue the conversation. I never got the sense that you wanted to talk with me about my views but about what Mark and Rich and Doug were writing. I didn’t have much to say about that. It wasn’t my business.

    I admonished you NOT to do what Guy Waters has consistently done and refuse to send advance draft copies to the men being critiqued. I encouraged you to send whatever you had to Mark and Doug. I sent Mark’s email address to you. And I wrote and told them what might be coming. You never followed through. And I never got any more emails from you.

    I had no reason to communicate with you about any of this. In your initial conversation with me you had all sorts of problems with things Mark and Rich had written and I told you to contact them directly. Did you?

    If you really want to “open lines of communication,” why don’t you and Waters share what you plan to publish against these men? What’s so hard about that?

  14. greenbaggins said,

    February 7, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Matthew, thanks for dropping by. I certainly agree with you about Al. Still, I will miss him greatly.

    With regard to Wright, I think that what bothers Gordon and I about Wright’s formulations is the fact that his emphasis on Abraham overshadows the sin problem. Covenant overshadows forensic (as the Reformation defines the forensic aspect, which is different from Wright). Abraham is somehow inserted in-between Adam and Christ with regard to the ultimate sin problem. I see this as a problem when one is looking at how Christ corrects Adam’s problem. There is no one in Romans 5 in-between Adam and Christ. The two mountains are Adam and Christ. This is not to say that Abraham is unimportant, nor is it to say that Israel is somehow a parenthesis in biblical theology. When it comes to the church and the people of God, Israel is anything but a parenthesis. But when it comes to imputation, there is only Adam and Christ. Wright does deny imputation, whatever his followers say. Union with Christ is no substitute for imputation, as CJPM says (and _By Faith Alone_ says). So Wright confuses the people of God with justification, hence putting Abraham on the same level (or even higher) as Adam when it comes to the sin problem. Romans 5 simply does not justify this understanding.

  15. markhorne said,

    February 7, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Strange how it didn’t bother him in 1994 when review Climax of the Covenant. The only difference between the two books is that WSPRS is *much* briefer and less detailed.

    I really feel much of the time like the only rational explanation is that I have slipped into an alternative universe. I guess Gordon never wrote that review…

  16. markhorne said,

    February 7, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    I mean, “…when he reviewed Climax…”

  17. pduggie said,

    February 7, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I don’t see how Gordon’s comment

    “Wright understands the New Testament primarily as a fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, not as a fulfillment of the redemptive pledge imbedded in the Adamic curse””

    understands properly what Paul says about Abraham in Romans 4. The promises made to abraham ARE the redemptive pledge.

    “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

    That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

    The faith that God uses as an instrument to justify Abraham seems to consist in his resting and receiveing of the promise (contained in the Seed) that God makes to him.

    I’m really not getting what Gordan’s beef is.

  18. pduggie said,

    February 7, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    You can’t deny there’s a important New Adam motif in the call of Abraham. Here is Romans 4 (Father of us ALL?) In Matthew’s genaeology (goes back to Abraham and stops) and in Genesis itself (republishing the fruitfulness language, and Abram’s avoidance of the well-watered edenic land near Sodom, in favor of waiting for God to fulfil the promise.

  19. markhorne said,

    February 7, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    More importantly, Wright himself has written that Abraham was a new Adam–showing that the terms of God’s promised blessing are given to him in the language of “be fruitful and multiply.” This was done in a book that Gordon reviewed and lauded for this very content.

  20. eric said,

    February 7, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    To extract God’s righteousness away from his covenant promises, and away from the duties that he vows to Himself to perform, as if his justice & wrath were not covenantal, is to refuse to accept the Bible’s full definition of God’s righteousness.

  21. February 7, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    I have to say (and echo the majority vote here) this one goes to Wright and Gordon is wrong. Wright’s work is littered with this stuff: that Abraham and his seed (Christ) are there to recreate humanity and thus undo the sin of Adam. (Hey Mark Horne!)

  22. markhorne said,

    February 7, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Hey Matthew! You write: “that Abraham and his seed (Christ) are there to recreat humanity and thus undo the sin of Adam.”

    And Gordon wrote in 1994: “The recurring argument of Wright’s thesis is that Paul follows an Adamic theology, in which God’s “servant” is first Adam, then corporate Israel, then Israel’s Messiah. Where the first two fail, the last succeeds. The first two become servants whose disobedience causes their respective stories to be stories of sin and wrath, each depicting the state of the race as a whole in a single, focused servant. The last Servant is one in whom also sin is focused, indeed, even more so than the previous two, but for the purpose of bearing it obediently and vicariously, and thereby providing redemption.”

    So, what explanation do we have for the later Gordon?

    Do we have here a demonstration of what certain pressures in the Reformed world are being brought to bear on Reformed profs to join in marginalizing Wright’s contribution to Biblical study?

  23. Todd said,

    February 7, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    “So, what explanation do we have for the later Gordon?”

    Imperious Curse.

  24. February 7, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    […] Continuing my response to this. […]

  25. markhorne said,

    February 8, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    GLW Johnson

    OK, I’m sure your busy or something, but whenever you’re ready the lines of communication, as you can see, are open….

    Private email is fine but since you called me out on this blog I think I may have reason to respond just as publicly.


    Mark Horne

  26. GLW Johnson said,

    February 9, 2007 at 8:42 am

    You have my permission to post our email exchanges.

  27. GLW Johnson said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Please do post these- there were only four of them , and all together they could have been put on a 3×5 card.

  28. RBerman said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Lane, in light of this comment you made above:

    “N.T. Wright says that justification is judicial. It is the judicial pronouncement (according to NTW) of God that someone is indeed a part of God’s family, a member of Abraham’s family by faith. It is God’s declaration that someone is in fact (already) a Christian. So N.T. Wright says that it is judicial. However, his definition of judicial is not the same as the Reformation’s definition.”

    I wonder if you could give me your thoughts on this quote from Gordon Clark’s “What Presbyterians Believe,” page 123:

    “To discover what justification is, it is best first to see how the word is used in the New Testament. Luke 7:29 says that the publicans justified God… Far from making God righteous, they declared that he was already righteous. It should be completely obvious that the publicans produced no change whatsoever in God’s character. That justification does not refer to a subjective change is seen also in other verses. There is the figure of speech in Matthew 11:19, “Wisdom is justified of her children.” Luke 10:29 says, “But he, willing to justify himself…” where the lawyer did not intend to alter his character but intended to defend it. He meant to declare that he was already just.”

    As far as I know, Clark’s faithfulness to Reformed soteriology has not been impeached. He appears to view justification as a judicial declaration of what God has already done in the life of the now-saved sinner. Christ’s atonement is what actually makes us right in God’s eyes, and justification is God’s announcement of that already-existing reality.

  29. RBerman said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:42 am

    To be more explicit with my question, in your quotation above, were you more concerned with Wright’s idea that justification is an announcement of something that’s already occurred, or with Wright’s idea that what’s already occurred has more to do with being in the family of God than with the forgiveness of sin? I see the latter as more of a concern than the former.

  30. greenbaggins said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:42 am

    RBerman, I am really surprised that you would use this passage to prove that Clark teaches the same thing as N.T. Wright. Surely, the Pharisee wanted to prove that he was already just. But Jesus says that he was *not* justified. Surely, Clark did not miss this point. What does the context of this quotation say? I have read plenty of Clark (my father was his best friend, by the way), and (though I don’t currently have access to his works, being away at a funeral in CA) I can tell you that Clark does *not* believe that justification is a declaration of what is already true. He believes that a person is made right with God by justification, which is God’s declaration in His courtroom that a person is not guilty in the eyes of the law, based on Christ’s righteousness imputed to the believer, and the believer’s sin imputed to Christ. That is justification, and Clark believes it.

  31. RBerman said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Here’s a fuller quotation from the same section, which is his exposition of WCF IX:1:

    “To discover what justification is, it is best first to see how the word is used in the New Testament. Luke 7:29 says that the publicans justified God… Far from making God righteous, they declared that he was already righteous. It should be completely obvious that the publicans produced no change whatsoever in God’s character.

    That justification does not refer to a subjective change is seen also in other verses. There is the figure of speech in Matthew 11:19, “Wisdom is justified of her children.” Luke 10:29 says, “But he, willing to justify himself…” where the lawyer did not intend to alter his character but intended to defend it. He meant to declare that he was already just.

    That justification is a declaration is more clearly seen when we notice how the New Testament contrasts it with condemnation. Matt 12:37, even thought the exegesis be somewhat complicated, clearly contrasts justification and condemnation. So too Romans 8:33-34 says, “It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?” The same contrast is also found Romans 5:16 and 18. Other verses, though they do not explicitly use the two words, imply the same contrast, such as John 3:18.

    From this contrast we may conclude that since the verb condemn does not mean to make a person guilty or to make his character evil, but means to declare that he already is guilty, the verb justify does not mean to make a man just or to improve his character, but means to declare that he is now just, not guilty, innocent. Indeed a good verb to contrast with condemn is acquit. A judge acquits a man when he declares that the man is not guilty. Justification then is a judicial act. It is God’s declaration that this sinner is not guilty, but righteous.

    But how can this be so? How can a sinner be righteous? It should be clearly understood that even faith itself is not the basis of justification. The ground or basis of justification is the object in which the faith rests; that is, Christ and his righteousness. God acquits a sinner, declares him not guilty, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness having been imputed to him. Sometime the expressions are shortened in Scripture as in Romans 4:5, so that faith is mentioned while the object of faith is left understood; but this is because the true basis of justification had been clearly expressed a few verses before, in Romans 3:21-26. Then again, the great passage in Romans 5:12-19 shows that as it was one act of one man that brought condemnation, so it was by the righteousness of one man alone that justification is possible.

    It is necessary to insist that justification is a judicial act of acquittal, for only so can salvation be by grace. However the ordinary idea of acquittal does not exhaust the Biblical concept of justification. Section 1 also says that God pardons the sins of those who are justified and accepts their persons as righteous. Perhaps the idea of pardon needs no explanation, for its meaning is easily understood; but the idea of acceptance needs to be distinguished from both pardon and acquittal. The governor of a state may pardon a convicted official without restoring him to favor and to his previous office. Appointments to office, if honest, would depend on the future conduct of the pardoned man. But it is other with Biblical justification; for if favor with God depended on our future conduct, eventual salvation would be based on our works—clearly contrary to Scripture—and we could never have an assurance of success. When our position depends on Christ’s merits instead of our own, we need have no fear.”

  32. greenbaggins said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:46 am

    To answer number 29, I would say that both are a problem, because the status of a person changes at justification. They go from being under God’s judicial wrath to being innocent. However, the point of the quotations are more concerned with Wright’s shift of justification from soteriology to ecclesiology. However Wright’s theological musical chairs come out, he has left out the Reformation understanding of justification.

  33. greenbaggins said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:47 am

    “means to declare that he is now just.” Just how does this help your thesis?

  34. greenbaggins said,

    February 9, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Clark is reacting against the idea that the RCC had of justification making a person inherently righteous. He is not saying that nothing happens with regard to the status of the individual.

  35. RBerman said,

    February 9, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    As far as the teacher of the law in Luke 10:29. you are right that his attempt to justify himself-that is, to demonstrate that he was just, to get others to declare him just- failed, because he was not in fact just, so declaring him just would have been improper.

    From what I’ve read (disclaimer: I’ve read about Wright much more than read Wright), it does appear that Wright has “left out the Reformation understanding of justification” emphasis on atonement for sin and propitiation of God’s wrath. I just want to be careful in articulating in what ways that’s true. Clark, like you and I, would take exception to Wright’s de-emphasis on the Reformational relationship between justification and the atonement of sins. And you’re on sound footing saying that justification involves a change of status, as God declares one to be no longer “under God’s judicial wrath” as you put it. The reason such a declaration is not a “pious fiction” as Roman Catholics sometimes claim is because, logically prior to justification, the atonement has already been applied to the sinner in question, and justification is God’s announcement that his wrath against that sinner has already been propitiated. This is why a more complete quotation from Clark (compared to #33 above) is “since the verb condemn does not mean to make a person guilty or to make his character evil, but means to declare that he already is guilty, the verb justify does not mean to make a man just or to improve his character, but means to declare that he is now just, not guilty, innocent.” Clark explains that a man’s justification is on the basis of “Christ’s righteousness imputed to him.” That is, already imputed to him. So the imputation is logically prior to the declaration. The change in status, as you put it, is possible because the change in nature has already occurred.

  36. Jeff said,

    February 9, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Gary, in response to #26, I didn’t ask to post our email exchanges.

    You accused men of not being open to communicate about these things. You said you attempted to open lines of communicate but where rebuffed.

    I said that when you wrote me you were complaining about things other men wrote. I simply said contact them with your critiques. Have you? You were all up in arms about what Rich and Mark and Doug had written, so I said: write to them. Did you?

    I also advised you and Waters to share what you were going to write about these men before you went into print with a critique of their theology. If you really want to “open lines of communication,” you would extend them this common courtesy. Did you do that? Have you shared with them your criticisms?

  37. pduggie said,

    February 9, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    It seems like Clark (Gordon this time) is caught in a shift in language. Saying that “condemning” doesn’t make you guilty, it just declares that you already ARE guilty, equivocates on what is meant by guilty. If “guilt” is a forensic term of art referring to the status of a person in a trial, then, Clark is wrong if he believes that condemnation doesn’t “make” the person guilty. (I suppose someone could point out that in the (English court) forensic language game, you don’t “make” someone guilty, you “find” them to be guilty.) In a court, a judge gives you a new forensic status when he pronounces you guilty.

    But if guilt is a term of moral worth, then of course, the criminal has the objective moral worth of guilt even before he comes into court and has that immoral quality discovered and declared.

    Since we’re dealing with an omniscient and eternal God we always have difficulty when we try to describe his actions in time, which is why the Reformed seem to have always flirted with or actually affirmed at times “eternal justification”

    I still think Wright is seeing the judicial dealing with the sins of God’s people (soteriologically) ON THE CROSS and resurrection, and then the application of that soteriological justification applied in the effectual call (which involves the gift of the Spirit) and then ecclesiological (though still with soteriological dimensions) in the experience of the believer holding to the Gospel promises.

  38. pduggie said,

    February 9, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    “So the imputation is logically prior to the declaration”

    There is an imputation of righteousness to a person WITHOUT THE INSTRUMENT OF FAITH?!?!?

    Instead of justifcation on the ground of Christ’s works, BY faith, we have justification BY what? Nothing? A trick of thought?

  39. RBerman said,

    February 9, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    If you’re addressing me, I don’t believe I said that imputation occurs “WITHOUT THE INSTRUMENT OF FAITH.” I was only addressing the logical order between imputation and justification. The Ordo is all of a piece, however. You’re no more justified “WITHOUT THE INSTRUMENT OF FAITH” than you are justified without being adopted as God’s heir. But I didn’t mention adoption either, because that wasn’t the point under discussion.

    I agree that “just” and “guilty” seem to be used in two senses in the Clark quote. The first seems more ontological: A man murders another man. He is guilty of the crime. But a forensic sense of his guilt nevertheless awaits the declaration of the court. That declaration does not change his nature. It changes how the court treats him, however, which is what Lane’s comment about “status” carries.

    It’s interesting you brought up eternal justification, since I was just reading on that topic in a completely unrelated forum discussion elsewhere.

  40. February 9, 2007 at 6:42 pm


    Interacting with #32 (your interaction with #29): You say, “the status of a person changes at justification. They go from being under God’s judicial wrath to being innocent. ” At every point of the ordo there is a “from darkness to light” scenario. Or to put it another way, there is a realized (and eschatological) dimension to every point of the ordo AND a “looking back to what once was” (ala, Gaffin). Calling: you now are in the Spirit’s grip, when, in fact, there was once a time that there was NO Spirit involvement in your life; Or, adoption: you are NOW a son, when in fact, you were once an alien and stranger to God; etc, etc; etc. Lane, there is a status change at every point in the ordo, NOT just at justification.

  41. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2007 at 7:19 am

    Your recollection of these matters is somewhat different than mine, but that can be resolved by posting our exchange. As I said it’s not all that long , especially your comments to me.

  42. Todd said,

    February 10, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Gary, can you post the emails yourself?

  43. greenbaggins said,

    February 10, 2007 at 11:29 am

    BOQ there is a status change at every point in the ordo, NOT just at justification. EOQ I am not entirely clear as to where I was denying this. I was merely pointing out that our status in the eyes of the law changes at justification. We go from being guilty to being not-guilty. However, in Wright’s formulation, there is only the trivial status change of going from not being declared a member of God’s people to being declared to be already a member of God’s people. In other words, in Wright’s formulation, the status change is not even from being not a member to being a member. Instead, one *is* already a member, and justification declares one to have what they already possess. In my opinion, this trivializes justification to the point of absurdity. It is not a real status change.

  44. Jeff said,

    February 10, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Gary: Okay so let’s not leave it to recollections. I had to recover this from my old computer, but here’s your note with my responses interspersed. Hopefully the html coding works. My responses are in bold.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: churchredeemeraz
    Cc: Bearing Fruit Communications
    Sent: Friday, August 04, 2006 8:12 AM
    Subject: previous letter

    Dear Jeff,
    I wrote to you a few weeks back( I sent it to your wife’s email address)-but you may not have gotten it-atleast I would like to assume that is the case(as oppose to the notion that you chose to simply ignore me).

    Gary, I’m sorry but I didn’t see the other note. I’ve been out of town a lot for a number of weeks now, and it just might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I apologize!

    I pointed out our common link to David Wyckoff, (we went thru the Ph.D. program together at WTS and would have grad. together.) I also enjoy hunting, and like you I was in the Army( 1969-1971). I went on to say that Guy Waters and I have just finished editing a book on Justification that Crossway will release in Feb. 07- and that I hoped we could establish some open lines of communication.

    Now I know that I didn’t get your earlier email because I would have remembered this.

    I read your most recent post on your blog, and decided to make contact once more. I totally agree with your comments about the kind of language we use in doing polemical theology. I wrote a chapter in a forth coming book that I edited on B.B.Warfield( P&R, spring,07) entitled ” Warfield and Briggs: Their Polemical Styles an Legacy ” that highlights this.

    Well, those were actually Frame’s comments. I probably need to go back and make that clear on my post.

    I am ,however, very troubled over the kind of animosity being thrown at Guy Waters over his recent book on the FV,i.e Bill Smith’s reprehensible remark abut ” God’s harshest judgment ” falling on Guy (and this from someone who signed the P&PT document!) I wrote directly to him, but got no response. I was disappointed that you, Mark Horne and others directed people to Smith’s site.

    Hmmm. I’ve not directed anyone to Bill Smith’s site. Perhaps Mark has. Honestly, I’ve not even read his entire critique. I have heard about these comments, or better, seen it discussed on some other discussion list.

    Okay. I just went and read Bill’s “review.” I agree that that his judgment statement at the end was overly harsh. I don’t know Bill very well, but I will write him about it. I would hope he tones it down.

    Likewise, John Frame’s inflammatory remarks about some of Shepherd’s critics being ” stupid ” and “unfit to be training men for ministry “( in The Backbone of the Bible) .Although Frame issued what can only be called a back handed apology, he stood by his criticisms- which were directed at men like Bob Godfrey, Palmer Robertson, Joey Pipa,et. al. but would include the likes of Martin Lloyd-Jones who called Shepherd’s teaching “another gospel “.

    That language, too, is over the top – Frame’s AND Martin Lloyd-Jones’s! But JF’s root criticism arises because the things said about Shepherd don’t even come close to dealing honestly with his words. The way the OPC report, for example, dealt with Shepherd is unconscionable. His responses make that pretty clear.

    Anyway, I want to avoid that kind of thing. I co-edited with Fowler White the book, ” Whatever Happened to the Reformation? ” (P&R, 2001) I invited Doug Wilson and Doug Jones to contribute. Doug Wilson and his wife Nancy have been guests speakers at our Christian School. After the Auburn Ave, thing blew up I wrote to Doug, urging him to step back from this. I saw Rich Lusk to be extremely careless in his theological formations and given to making indefensible statements that I was sure Doug would not like to be grouped with- Doug,however, adopted the motto of the three Musketeers- “All for one and one for all”. Our relationship has never been the same since. Lesson learned, I hope. Our forth coming book does critique positions that you are identified with, so I am Attempting to try to engage you in the proper tone and spirit.

    I don’t know what to say about Doug and Rich. But I personally find Rich’s theological formulations to be anything but “careless.” I can tell you that quite a few seminary professors around have the same opinion of Rich’s competence. Rich’ response to the dreadful OPC report is a model of theological and exegetical faithfulness. But I suppose we will disagree about that.

    All of that is really beside the point. What is to the point, however, is why you are writing to me about this upcoming book. I have not written anything on justification. Are you writing because I am being named in the book? If so, I can’t imagine the reason or context.

    If you have followed the responses to Waters’s book, then you will know that he does not fairly represent his opponents views. He gets it wrong way too often. And this could have been avoided had he simply allowed them to look at his draft manuscript and suggest corrections. I assume you have read Wilson’s, Garver’s, Barach’s, and Leithart’s responses. There’s a consistent theme. Many of them asked to see what he was going to say before it was published in order to avoid outrageous mistakes. He refused to do so.

    My recommendation would be that the men being named in the essays be contacted before the book is published. More than that, they are contacted before the final editing is done. That’s not to say that the author needs to incorporate or change everything that these guys might want changed, but at least it will provide an opportunity to make sure that rather silly mistakes of fact are not made in the substance of the book. That kind of misrepresentation has a tendency to spoil the whole book for thoughtful, well-informed readers.

    Does that make sense?

    Where are you now, Gary? Are you a pastor or professor? Just curious.

    Thanks for writing.

    The Lord bless your work!

    Jeff Meyers

  45. Jeff said,

    February 10, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Gary: now let’s return to the point. In your original comment here (#5) you said you wanted to open lines of communications about these issues but were rebuffed. I will repeat my questions to you again. You have NOT answered them yet.

    I said that when you wrote me you were complaining about things other men wrote. I simply said contact them with your critiques. Have you?

    I also advised you and Waters to share what you were going to write about these men before you went into print with a critique of their theology. If you really want to “open lines of communication,” you would extend them this common courtesy. Did you do that? Have you shared with them your criticisms?

  46. greenbaggins said,

    February 10, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Jeff, I object to your saying things like “common courtesy” with regard to talking with men before critiquing their *public* *published* writings. Does anyone contact the author of a book before he publishes a book review? I suppose this happens on occasion, but not always. These are public writings that are being discussed and debated. Open lines between FV proponents and critics were firmly established during the colloquium at Knox, which resulted in the Auburn Avenue book. Did that accomplish the resolving of these issues? No.

    If someone is going to commit something to writing, then he is also committing it to being critiqued. Does Mark Horne consult with me before publishing his critiques of the Siouxlands report, or his debates about my review of the new book coming out? No. There is no difference in principle between a blog and a book. They are both public published documents. Do I have a problem with what Mark Horne has done. Not remotely. I disagree with his critique. But he wouldn’t have to consult me before publishing on his blog critiques of my work. Why are FV proponents whining so much about extending “common courtesy” about something that really isn’t so common?

  47. markhorne said,

    February 10, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    But Lane, stating why *I* can’t affirm a statement you want to require me to affirm, or explaining my qualms about making the affirmation though saying I am willing to do so, is not the same as pretending to write a blog entry:

    The Pseudo-Reformed Revivalism of Lane Keister and making claims about what you believe based on what you say, my inferences of what you say, and my inferences about what you don’t say. I may need to write such a thing (hypothetically speaking here!) but it would be the way of common courtesy among ministers in one denomination to run it by you and get your response like, “yes that’s what I believe,” or “No, you’ve completely misunderstood me,” or “I never thought of that and I too abhor the error; I’ll have to think about it and see if I need to change some formulations”–in this last case it would behoove me, by the way, as a Christian, to report the change when it occurs and then never attribute the previous formulations to you again.

    That is common courtesy Lane. It is simply apples and oranges to compare Presbyterian ministers defending their orthodoxy from ecclesial power claiming the contrary to a minister publishing accusations of doctrinal heresy against another minister in good standing without even talking to him.

  48. Lee said,

    February 10, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    While I think that this entire interaction is a good example of why the debate over the Federal Vision in the PCA is bogged down (people arguing about courtesies and email exchanges as opposed to beliefs), I do want to weigh in with an observation or two.

    1. I agree it is comparing apples and oranges when trying to compare men protecting themselves from ecclesiastical accusations, and one minister speaking about another minister. It should be pointed out that other than the Mississippi Valley Presbytery, I am not sure any ecclesiastical court has named names of anyone. And those names were of people out of their jurisdiction. Right or wrong, the Siouxland Report did not name names. The fact that ministers can write books denouncing others in their denomination without feeling the need to file charges against that minister is one of the astounding facts of this debate. Why is the church court system so neglected is a question that needs to be seriously asked and answered.
    2. I do think that Mark is also right that the PCA is revivalistic. Part of the problem in this FV controversy is the ‘New Side’ idea that presbyteries determine who sits in the General Assembly rather than the General Assembly being able to set some rules of its own as to who can constitute the Assembly. Why can ministers in good standing in Presbytery X be rejected by Presbytery Y and then still sit in fellowship in the GA? Why does Presbytery Y not file charges in Presbytery X after rejecting said minister? Are the Presbyteries independent of one another except for one week a year?

    The PCA appears to me, and other outsiders I would bet, to be in an ecclesiastical crisis. No matter what the outcome, I would hope that this crisis leads to a better organization or guidelines within the PCA itself.

  49. greenbaggins said,

    February 11, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Lee, maybe you have forgotten, but Steve Wilkins has been named in the SJC, and it is being fought out in the church courts right now. That court process has been initiated, and that’s where it will end.

    Mark, the nature of public documents is the real issue here. Public documents can be critiqued. This happens all the time in the scholarly world. Why is the book _Federal Vision_ somehow exempt from this? Why are all the internet articles written by FV proponents exempt from this? Just as public sin needs to be rebuked publicly (witness Galatians 2), so also public documents that have been disseminated among the rank and file by the internet; those same documents may be publicly attacked if the documents in fact contain error. What you seem to miss here, Mark, is that you assume that any and all FV documents are infallible, and may not be made subject to critique by any body of Christians ever. But the fact is that public docuemects may be publicly critiqued. Period. Therefore books may be written critiquing these documents. Period. Very few scholars take a publicly published document in order to critique it while at the same time making sure that he talks with the person he is about to critique. That happens rarely, Mark. If the FV proponents are so keen on open lines of communication, why didn’t they submit their teachings to the scrutiny of other ministers in the PCA before they started disseminating their new opinions?

  50. markhorne said,

    February 11, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    “Just as public sin needs to be rebuked publicly”

    Not doctrinal sins by individuals on the internet who have sworn to uphold presbyterian government.

    “If the FV proponents are so keen on open lines of communication, why didn’t they submit their teachings to the scrutiny of other ministers in the PCA”

    They did submit their views to others in the PCA. I constantly do so and have received great encouragement from many ministers in the PCA, not as a teacher of new theology, but as a teacher of the Reformed Faith.

    The only new opinion you’ve ever identified with FV (and I’ll pass on the fact that it is an erroneious association), is paedocommunion. And that has been rigorously taken up to the highest levels of the PCA. The decision there was that the practice of the PCA must remain credocommunionist and that both views would be disseminated from the office of the stated clerk to those enquiring into the issue.

    Other than that, I and every other PCA minister have registered whatever exceptions we have with our presbyteries.

    You shouldn’t be calling brother ministers heretics in your own presbytery. Furthermore, contrary to your implication above, Wilkins is not on trial by the SJC.

    You have accused people of heresy on your own authority, Lane. Stop being an independent and try to bring this discussion into presbyterian bounds, please.

  51. markhorne said,

    February 11, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    correction: “in your own presbytery” should be “in your own denomination.”

  52. greenbaggins said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    So, Mark, what exactly is supposed to happen when people publish heretical writings while being a member in good standing in a presbytery? Of course, the courts are supposed to handle this. And Wilkins is in trouble with the SJC, by the way. If you think that the spring meeting is going to do nothing more than slap him on the wrist, then you have a gigantic surprise awaiting you. But you have studiously avoided the public-nature-of-the-document argument that I have advanced. I have authority as a minister of God’s Word to declare something erroneous and heretical. Obviously, my authority is limited to doing that. I cannot expunge anyone from a presbytery. But to go from that to saying that therefore I can never declare anything heretical is quite a stretch. Then I couldn’t defend my sheep or anyone else’s.

  53. Xon said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I think Mark’s point about the SJC, Lane, was just that the only thing technically in the purview of the upcoming SJC decision is whether or not the Louisiana Presbytery has acted appropriately. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding here, but the SJC is reviewing the way the LAP has examined Wilkins, not Wilkins per se. Of course, if the SJC finds the LAP has not done its duty here, then the SJC will presumably take over and will examine Wilkins itself. But the point is that these are separate actions. It is theoretically possible, for instance, that the LAP could be found to have been derilect in its duty to examine Wilkins, but that then when Wilkins is examined properly he is exonerated just the same. So a ruling against the LAP is not equivalent to a ruling against Wilkins. Make sense?

  54. greenbaggins said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    De jure, you are right, Xon. However, de facto Wilkins is being put on trial for heresy. This is only the first step in the process.

  55. markhorne said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Lane your supposed to press charges. Your presbytery should be willing to petition SJC. Signing a document calling people heretics and leaving it at that is something I thought was never supposed to happen.

    I have disagreements with other PCA ministers. I deal with it by saying “I disagree, I think the Bible teaches…”

    This is all independency. The whole point of being Presbyterian is to have a way of dealing with this without having to get into fratricidal propaganda wars.

    As far as whatever is “just the beginning,” the fact remains that Steve Wilkins is your brother minister and you are not supposed to slander him.

  56. markhorne said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Wait, I should finish this.

    Lane, is it your testimony that if I write and publish an essay from your public speeches under the title,

    The Heretical, Pseudo-Reformed Theology of Lane Keister

    And hold a conference and distribute lectures to others in our denomination without telling you or ever interacting with you…

    Is it your testimony that your only problem with this would be the accuracy of my information, not the serious nature of my public statements made without your input and without any resource to the Church courts?

    The only issue would be whether or not I was accurate. You could respond and complain that my accusations are mistaken, but you could not complain that I had not bothered to contact you or that I was pronouncing judicially upon your orthodoxy on nothing but my own authority–is that your opinion?

  57. greenbaggins said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Mark, my opinion (actually, it is fact) is that another presbytery has already petitioned the SJC regarding the views of Steve Wilkins. They have already said that Wilkins is out of accord with the WS. They have already done all this, or didn’t you read the Central Carolina Presbytery’s petition?

    And further, you seem to deliberately bleep over the public nature of Wilkins’s (and others’) statements. I am not surprised that you have zero answer for this, since there is none. Public documents can be publicly critiqued. That is precisely what I am doing, and what Phillips is doing. This is not independency; this is holding Wilkins accountable for his views, which are out of accord with the WS. In fact, it is Presbyterian.

  58. markhorne said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    OK, I’ll start putting together a conference. You’ll hear about it a year after the fact.

    Yes, NCP petitioned SJC. SJC refused to take original jurisdiction over Steve and instead dealt with the Presbytery. This was NCP’s second choice. They would have preferred SJC deal with Steve. SJC disagreed.

    Steve remains a member in good standing.

    I never said you can’t deal with public teaching. I am saying you do not have the authority to declare another man to be a heretic. The PCA you will be left with, if you get your way, will be nothing but a pit of self-devourers. You cannot run a denomination with this sort of behavior allowed.

  59. greenbaggins said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Then you ought to press charges against me, if that is your conviction, Mark.

  60. Jeff Hutchinson said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:49 pm


    Thanks for your part in your Presbytery’s outstanding work. Our Presbytery has an official study paper that may or may not be helpful to folks. It’s kind of long, but I’ll cut and paste it below.

    Blessings to you, brother.


    Members of the Presbyterian Church in America, and her elders in particular, are reminded that it is our Christian duty to labor and strive for the purity, peace, unity, and edification of the Church (Book of Church Order 24-5, 57-5; see also Ps. 122, 133, 1 Tim. 1:3-7, Jude 3).

    On occasion, an individual member, session, or presbytery of the PCA may have concerns about the Christian character and/or doctrine of a Teaching Elder in their own presbytery. On such occasions, the directives of the BCO are straightforward, and may be fairly easily understood and followed.

    On other occasions, however, an individual member, session, or presbytery of the PCA may have concerns about the Christian character and/or doctrine of a Teaching Elder in another presbytery, that is, outside of their own “prescribed district” or “jurisdiction” (BCO 11-4). On these occasions, while its directives are not quite so straightforward, the Book of Church Order still provides several potential recourses for action.

    This report summarizes those constitutional guidelines, principles, directives, and options.

    The Power of Jurisdiction

    1. The power to make determinative judgments (BCO 3-2), is always a “joint” and never a “several” (that is, one man’s) power (1-5). Therefore, only the courts of the Church have this “power of jurisdiction.”

    2. Thus, if an individual wishes to raise his concerns, he must do so through a court of the church to whose jurisdiction he is subject (the principle expressed in 43-1). The one exception is that, in the case of a Teaching Elder’s public teaching, an individual is free to bring his concerns about that teaching directly to some other minister of that Teaching Elder’s presbytery (34-3). The assumption is that this minister, if he shares the concerns, would himself pursue the matter in his presbytery. (If the minister does not share the individual’s concerns about his fellow Teaching Elder, it seems assumed that he may decide either to do nothing, or to bring the “report affecting his fellow Teaching Elder’s Christian character” to the attention of their presbytery anyway.)

    3. This “power of jurisdiction” of Church courts “is only ministerial and declarative” (11-2).

    4. It may only be exercised in matters relating to “the doctrines and precepts of Christ,” “the order of the Church,” or “the exercise of discipline” (11-2).

    5. Examples of the power of jurisdiction expressly granted to the courts of the Church include:
    A. Framing symbols of faith (11-2).
    B. Bearing testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, within or without the Church (11-2).
    C. Resolving questions of doctrine and discipline seriously and reasonably proposed (11-4).
    D. Maintaining truth and righteousness (11-4).
    E. Condemning erroneous opinions and practices which tend to the injury of the peace, purity, or progress of the Church (11-4, 13-9.f).
    F. Proposing to the next higher court such measures as may be of common advantage to the Church at large (13-9.h).

    Directing Principles

    As members and courts consider the potential use of particular constitutional options, our BCO appeals to us to keep several principles in mind:

    I. The principle of brotherly and organic connection between presbyteries

    “Although each court exercises exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters especially belonging to it….these courts are not separate and independent tribunals, but they have a mutual relation, and every act of jurisdiction is the act of the whole Church performed by it through the appropriate organ” (11-4).

    As the Word says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ….As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ But God has so composed the body…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” ~ 1 Cor. 12:12, 20-21, 24-27.)

    II. The principle of truth

    “Godliness is founded on truth. A test of truth is its power to promote holiness according to our Savior’s rule, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matthew 7:20). No opinion can be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon the same level. On the contrary, there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it” (Preface II-4).

    III. The principle of mutual forbearance

    “While, under the conviction of the above principle, it is necessary to make effective provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good character and principles may differ. In all these it is the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other” (Preface II-5).

    Further, “Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding and are not likely to do much injury” (34-5).

    (Consider also Philippans 3:15-16, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”)

    IV. The principle of oversight

    “It is the duty of all…Presbyteries to exercise care over those subject to their authority. They shall with due diligence and great discretion demand from such persons satisfactory explanations concerning reports affecting their Christian character. This duty is more imperative when those who deem themselves aggrieved by injurious reports shall ask an investigation” (31-2).

    V. The principle of jurisdiction over a minister of the gospel

    “Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of which he is a member” (34-1).

    VI. The principle of impartiality

    “As no minister ought, on account of his office, to be screened in his sin, or slightly censured, so scandalous charges ought not to be received against him on slight grounds (34-2).

    VII. The principle of ensuring impartial oversight over a minister of the gospel

    “Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of which he is a member. However, if the Presbytery refuses to act in doctrinal cases or cases of public scandal and two other Presbyteries request the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction (to first receive and initially hear and determine), the General Assembly shall do so” (34-1).

    VIII. The principle of careful process

    “If any one knows a minister to be guilty of a private offense, he should warn him in private. But if the offense be persisted in, or become public, he should bring the case to the attention of some other minister of the Presbytery” (34-3).

    “If such investigation [into reports affecting the minister’s Christian character], however originating, should result in raising a strong presumption of the guilt of the party involved, the court shall institute process, and shall appoint a prosecutor to prepare the indictment and to conduct the case. This prosecutor shall be a member of the court” (31-2).

    IX. The principle of general review and control of presbyteries

    “It is the right and duty of every court above the Session to review, at least once a year, the records of the court next below, and if any lower court fails to present its records for this purpose, the higher court may require them to be produced immediately, or at any time fixed by this higher court. In reviewing records of a lower court the higher court is to examine:

    1. Whether the proceedings have been correctly recorded;
    2. Whether they have been regular and in accordance with the Constitution;
    3. Whether they have been wise, equitable and suited to promote the welfare of the Church;
    4. Whether the lawful injunctions of the higher court have been obeyed” (40-1,2).

    X. The principle of handling serious presbytery irregularities

    “It is ordinarily sufficient for the higher court merely to record in its own minutes and in the records reviewed whether it approves, disapproves or corrects the records in any particular; but should any serious irregularity be discovered the higher court may require its review and correction by the lower. Proceedings in judicial cases, however, shall not be dealt with under review and control when notice of appeal or complaint has been given the lower court; and no judgment of a lower court in a judicial case shall be reversed except by appeal or complaint” (40-3).

    XI. The principle of handling very great presbytery irregularities or entirely
    neglectful presbyteries

    “Courts may sometimes entirely neglect to perform their duty, by which neglect heretical opinions or corrupt practices may be allowed to gain ground; or offenders of a very gross character may be suffered to escape; or some circumstances in their proceedings of very great irregularity may not be distinctly recorded by them. In any of these cases their records will by no means exhibit to the higher court a full view of their proceedings. If, therefore, the next higher court be well advised that any such neglect or irregularity has occurred on the part of the lower court, it is incumbent on it to take cognizance of the same, and to examine, deliberate and judge in the whole matter as completely as if it had been recorded, and thus brought up by review of its records” (40-4).

    XII. The principle of informing General Assembly of a presbytery’s important delinquency or gross unconstitutionality

    “When any court having appellate jurisdiction shall be advised, either by the records of the court next below or by memorial, either with or without protest, or by any other satisfactory method, of any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings of such court, the first step shall be to cite the court alleged to have offended to appear by representative or in writing, at a specified time and place, and to show what it has done or failed to do in the case in question.

    The court thus issuing the citation may reverse or redress the proceedings of the court below in other than judicial cases; or it may censure the delinquent court; or it may remit the whole matter to the delinquent court with an injunction to take it up and dispose of it in a constitutional manner; or it may stay all further proceedings in the case; as circumstances may require” (40-5).

    XIII. The principle of General Assembly conducting an orderly process against a presbytery

    “In process against a lower court, the trial shall be conducted according to the rules provided for process against individuals, so far as they may be applicable” (40-6).

    XIV. The principle of “References,” of a presbytery asking General Assembly for help

    “A reference is a written representation and application made by a lower court to a higher for advice or other action on a matter pending before the lower court.

    “Among proper subjects for reference are matters that are new, delicate or difficult…or which relate to questions involving the Constitution and legal procedures respecting which the lower court feels the need of guidance.

    “In making a reference the lower court may ask for advice only, or for final disposition of the matter referred.

    “Although references are sometimes proper, in general it is better that every court should discharge the duty assigned it under the law of the Church.

    “A higher court is not required to accede to the request of the lower, but it should ordinarily give advice when so requested.

    “When a court makes a reference, it ought to have all…documents duly prepared, produced and in perfect readiness, so that the higher court may be able to fully consider and handle the case with as little difficulty or delay as possible” (41-1,2,3,5,6).

  61. markhorne said,

    February 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    “Then you ought to press charges against me, if that is your conviction, Mark.”

    Why? Are you agreeing or not that it would be wrong for me to put together my conference?

    If you’re saying that I ought to press charges rather than have the conference you’re not invited to, well yes. My point.

  62. greenbaggins said,

    February 14, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Mark, the point is that I have done what you think ought not to be done: namely, calling Steve Wilkins out of bounds (a heretic). If you think that what I did was wrong, then you ought to press charges against me. I consider that what I am doing is protecting my sheep, and trying to protect other sheep as well from what I regard as very dangerous teaching. Your last statement is non-sensical, Mark, because it assumes that I am here trying to instigate some kind of conference. I don’t even know how the conference idea came into the discussion. I am talking about what I am doing here on this blog, and what our presbytery did as a presbytery. That is not a conference. A presbytery has the power to condemn erroneous opinion, according to the BCO. We were quite within our rights.

    BOQ I never said you can’t deal with public teaching. I am saying you do not have the authority to declare another man to be a heretic. EOQ But what if the public teaching is heretical? By the way, I am saying that it is Wilkins’s teaching that is heretical. And by heretical here, I mean that it is out-of-bounds wrt the WS, and obviously so. It is obvious to just about every good thinker who is not infected with the FV theology itself.

    I can’t deal with public heretical teaching without saying that it is heretical. The point in dispute is whether Wilkins is heretical. I have repeatedly argued that his teaching is heretical. So, in dealing with public, heretical documents, I am not allowed to say that it is heretical? You seem to think that I am not even theoretically allowed to declare something heretical if it is written by a minister in good standing. Ministers in good standing can be heretical. And they ought to be declared so. If I were a heretic, I would want people to call me on it, show me where I am wrong, and declare me a heretic, so that I would change my teaching to be in line with the WS. That is what I vowed when I said that I promised subjection to my brothers in Christ. That vow is not limited to my own presbytery.

    Such judgments as I have made ought never to be entered into lightly, of course. My opinion has not been formed without serious, prolonged, consideration of Wilkins’s views (and others’ views, of course), and not without prolonged debate with FV supporters. This is no snap judgment, whatever else it may be. I do not make those kind of judgments as a general rule.

  63. Todd said,

    February 14, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    “It is obvious to just about every good thinker who is not infected with the FV theology itself.”

    Tautology much, Lane?

  64. Todd said,

    February 14, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    More seriously, Lane, what about the report of the Missouri Prebytery? Not enough good thinkers, or too much infection?

  65. greenbaggins said,

    February 14, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    The MO report closes the door on the worst of the FV theology, and the worst of the NPP on Paul. It isn’t as strong as I would have liked to see it, however. I’m sure that is not the fault of the better thinkers in the presbytery.

  66. markhorne said,

    February 15, 2007 at 12:17 am

    My opinion has not been formed without serious, prolonged, consideration of Wilkins’s views (and others’ views, of course), and not without prolonged debate with FV supporters. This is no snap judgment, whatever else it may be. I do not make those kind of judgments as a general rule.

    Thanks for your assurances Lane.


  67. November 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    […] Continuing my response to this. […]

  68. November 21, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    […] Continuing my thoughts on this review… […]

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