Retraction

A few months ago, I published this article by Wes White on the validity of the visible/invisible Church distinction:

In that article, Wes critiqued Doug Wilson as one who denied this distinction.  As of that paper, he defined Wilson as saying that visible Church is that which professes the true faith in time and the invisible Church as referring to the Church at the end of time. Thus, in the present time, it seemed to us that Wilson was saying that “Church” in the present time can only refer to that visibly gathered community.

We would like to retract this because Wilson does affirm that in addition to the historical/eschatological distinction, the Church can also be distinguished into those who are truly converted (invisible) and those who publicly profess the true faith with their children (visible).  We hereby withdraw our criticism of him on this point.

Nevertheless, this does not affect the substance of the article or any of the argumentation, and we continue to recommend this article (with these qualifications) to our readers.

Sincerely in Christ, Lane Keister and Wes White

117 Comments

  1. Xon said,

    April 18, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Lane, kudos to you and Wes for being willing to do that. It is never easy.

    And I don’t want to push, but I’m wondering whether this retraction has an effect on your “Why the FV is heresy” posts from several months ago? As I recall, in that series you offered two hard criticisms of FV theology, and one of them was that they “deny an ontological distinction b/w the vis and invis church.” And your evidence for that point was almost all quotations from Doug Wilson, wasn’t it?

  2. April 18, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Gentlemen:

    If only more of us would be quick to admit where we were wrong! If Augustine had to publish a whole book retracting things he taught, surely we lesser thinkers should expect to :-) Thanks for your honesty in this regard.

  3. April 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Lane and Wes,
    Well done and might I add my wondering to Xon’s above!

  4. greenbaggins said,

    April 18, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I will put it like this for those who wonder: I commend to you the last paragraph. It does not affect the substance of the article. In other words, Wes and I believe that Wilson does not say the same thing now as he said, for instance, in RINE and _Federal Vision_. I dare say that Wilson will deny that he has shifted in this manner. And that will, no doubt, be a difference of opinion. What we are acknowledging is that Wilson holds to the v/i distinction today.

    To me, after having read both of those books, DW does seem, in those books, to confuse the militans/triumphans distinction with the v/i distinction. He does not seem to confuse those two distinctions now.

  5. Andy Gilman said,

    April 18, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    When I asked this question earlier it met with silence, but in light of Wes and Lane’s retraction, I wonder if Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins are going to retract these statements, or will they stand by them and accept a glaring contradiction between the WCF and LC?

    Doug Wilson:
    “A partial number of the elect is not the invisible church because it is not the whole number of them.”

    Steve Wilkins:
    [BOQ]
    —in other words, the invisible Church does not yet exist though it is surely foreordained by God and will surely and certainly exist at the last day (but then of course, it will exist as a very visible body). It is only “invisible” in that we can’t see all the members of it now.
    [EOQ]

  6. tim prussic said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Well done, GB. This is helpful.

  7. Xon said,

    April 18, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Andy, those quotes aren’t the sort of thing that needs to be “retracted.” At least in Wilson’s, he is simply expressing what he thinks the “proper” meaning of “invisible church” is. It doesn’t exist in its entirety yet. If you want to say we can still speak of the currently existing portion of it as though it is the entire thing by synecdoche, then that’s fine. But it hardly requires a retraction from Wilson for the statement above.

  8. Andy Gilman said,

    April 18, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Xon, are you going to start us running around the track again as though this is the first post you have seen on Lane’s blog with regard to Doug’s statements about the invisible church? Doug can speak for himself on this can’t he? He’s been participating in Lane’s blog. I think one good turn deserves another, and since Lane and Wes have been humble enough to admit a mistake (which I personally am not persuaded was a mistake at all), I think Doug and Steve should do the same.

    Doug has made statements about the invisible church which are contradicted by the Larger Catechism. Either Doug has misinterpreted WCF 25.1, or the confessions contain a glaring self-contradiction with regard to the invisible/visible church distinction. Doug replied to my original post by simply changing the subject. Either he should retract his original statement, and acknowledge that he has badly misinterpreted WCF 25.1, or he should deal with the substance of my criticism. So far all he has done is say something along the lines of: “Yes, I agree with you that the visible church is also an abstraction, and that just reinforces my point, so let’s not use “clunky” abstractions when we talk about the church.” But the fact still remains, either Doug is wrong about the existence of the invisible church in history, or the Westminster Standards are self-contradictory. Doug should tell us which he thinks it is.

    Here is my original post again:

    Doug Wilson:
    [BOQ]
    …if you want to have the invisible church existing “in history,” in a way that is distinct from the visible church, then you are out of accord with the Confession. That is because the invisible church “consists of the whole number of the elect.” A partial number of the elect is not the invisible church because it is not the whole number of them. It would make sense to speak of the whole number of the truly regenerate at this moment of 2007, but this is just a partial congregation within the invisible church. It is a subset of the invisible church, not the invisible church itself — just as Christ Church here in Moscow is a congregation within the visible church; we are a subset.

    If the invisible church includes the whole number of the elect, then it exists right now in the mind of God. I affirm this, as does Wilkins. If you want it to exist right now in history, then you have to do something about the “whole number of the elect,” which includes current atheists who will be converted tomorrow and saints yet unborn. In short, you cannot have the invisible church, as the WCF defines it, in history. You can have a invisible congregation of the invisible church, but how helpful is that?
    January 4, 2007
    [EOQ]

    According to the WCF definition, says Doug Wilson, the invisible church is an abstraction which exists only in the mind of God. “A partial number of the elect is not the invisible church because it is not the whole number of them.” To speak of anything less than “the whole number of the elect” as the invisible church is contrary to the WCF definition of the invisible church. Yet when the WCF defines the visible church as consisting of “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion,” or when the LC says the visible church is “made up of all such as IN ALL AGES and places of the world do profess the true religion,” Doug seems to have no problem allowing the visible church to exist in history, and to be subdivided. He seems to have no qualms about referring to Christ Church in Moscow (which I’m sure he will allow is not “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion”), as a partial expression of the visible church, without doing injury to Westminster’s definition of “visible church.”

    My point is that the “visible church” according to the WCF definition is no less an abstraction than is the “invisible church.” If Doug is going to be consistent he will have to limit himself to talking only about “particular churches,” like Christ Church in Moscow.

    But if he takes that logical step, then he should be careful not to talk about the members of his “particular church” enjoying “union and communion” with Christ, because, according to LC 65, “union and communion” with Christ is reserved to those who are members of the invisible church, an entity which doesn’t exist in history according to Doug’s reading of Westminster. It would follow then that “union and communion” with Christ is occurring only in the mind of God, where also the invisible church actually exists. LC 82 and 83 speak of the “communion in glory which members of the invisible church have with Christ,” IN THIS LIFE. So by Doug’s reading of Westminster, we would have members of the invisible church, a thing which doesn’t exist in history, somehow enjoying communion with Christ “in this life.”

  9. April 19, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Andy
    I wish you well on your quest- but this is ‘a fool’s errand’. Wilson is constitutional unable to (1) admit that any of the criticisms of the FV by Guy Waters, Scott Clark & co. have the slighest validity, and (2) that he is ever in the wrong about any subject he takes up. Futhermore, his devoted band admirers will quickly come to his aid if they sense he is in danger of being cornered into admitting otherwise. Sorry, but that is the way it is.

  10. Xon said,

    April 19, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Except, Andy, that the visible church is a SOCIETY…which consists of “all such as IN ALL AGES and places of the world do profess the true religion.”

    No, I don’t want to go around on all of this again, but Wes and Lane attributing to Wilson a view he does not hold (at least at present, in accord with the specific terms of their apology) is not the same as Wilson saying something about his own view which he (acc. to you) needed to clarify later. Even if you are right, clarifying earlier statements hardly requires a “retraction” or an “apology.”

    The two situations are not really analogous, and I’m sure Lane and Wes did not apologize with the expectation that Wilson would also apologize. That’s not how sincere apologies work.

  11. Todd said,

    April 19, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Gary’s scathing personal vendetta, I think.

  12. Andy Gilman said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Hi Gary,

    It is very likely that you are right about the “fools errand,” but I wanted to highlight that fact here in this “retraction” thread. I did have some slight hope that Doug would actually acknowledge the mistake. On the other hand, maybe Doug’s argument was just sophistry from the beginning.

    Xon said:
    [BOQ]
    No, I don’t want to go around on all of this again, but Wes and Lane attributing to Wilson a view he does not hold (at least at present, in accord with the specific terms of their apology) is not the same as Wilson saying something about his own view which he (acc. to you) needed to clarify later. Even if you are right, clarifying earlier statements hardly requires a “retraction” or an “apology.”

    The two situations are not really analogous, and I’m sure Lane and Wes did not apologize with the expectation that Wilson would also apologize. That’s not how sincere apologies work.
    [EOQ]

    Xon, you are very good at finding things in my posts which I didn’t say. I didn’t say the two situations were “the same” or that they were “analogous.” I said “one good turn deserves another.” And I didn’t say that Doug needed to “clarify” his statements. He only has two choices as I see it. Either he has badly misinterpreted the Standards, or the Standards contain a glaring self-contradiction. I’m entertaining a third possibility now, given that Doug won’t own either of these options, and that is that Doug knows full well that he is abusing WCF 25.1 and is engaged in sophistry.

    I too am “sure that Lane and Wes did not apologize with the expectation that Wilson would also apologize,” and your implied suggestion that their apology is not sincere, would be intelligible if Lane and Wes were actually suggesting that Doug now apologize for something. Does the fact that I ask Doug to retract a bogus argument, on a thread entitled “retraction,” automatically suggest to you that Lane and Wes’ retraction might not be sincere?

    Xon, isn’t it time you stop running interference for Doug Wilson, and let him speak for himself?

  13. April 19, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Todd
    This is not a personal vendetta. It is ,however, my personal frustration with Wilson’s complete unwillingness to come out and admit that the FV critics ,(as represented in the three books that Wilson has ‘reviewed’ on his blog ) have some very legitimate criticisms. Instead we are accused of misrepresenting, distorting, taking out of contexts, etc., etc.Doug is a very capable fellow and has much to contribute to the larger Reformed community,i.e. his recent response to Sam Harris. But, Doug is not a expert in everything he decides to write on( hurt feelings notwithstanding, Doug is not a trained theologian). As Dirty Harry famously once said, “A man has got to know his limitations”- and this is no where more obvious than in Doug dogged defense of his fellow FVers. Wilson admitted to me on this blog that the FV is not monolithic- yet he defends the whole thing. Take a look at how this unfolds: Wilson declares that he affirms the CoW as stated in the WS- others in the FV out and out reject it; Wilson is equally adament in his affirmation of the active obedience of Christ- others in the FV discard it altogether; Wilson declares that imputation is a central doctrine- others in the FV call it into question; Wilson has gone on record expressing his grave concerns over the views of NT Wright on justification- others in the FV endorse Wright on this and openly celebrate the views of Wright on this and other ares that are distinctive to the NPP. There are any number of other concerns that could be mentioned, but these are representative.It would be refreshing if Doug would acknowledge that he is not up to speed in his expertise on subjects that are in fact the very fields where the likes of Guy Waters, Scott Clark, Mike Horton, Fowler White, Cal Beisner et. al. have devoted years of research at the highest level- and when these men detect errors in the novel proposals of Wilson’s fellow FVers, Wilson would better serve the larger Reformed community by admitting this as such instead of digging his heels in and refusing to break ranks with his friends in the FV.

  14. Xon said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:36 am

    I didn’t realize my comments were seen as “interference.” Wilson is certainly free to answer for himself. But if I see a problem with what someone says about him, I don’t see why I can’t point that out.

    Andy, I’m sorry if you think I’m imputing things to you that you didn’t say, but you need to take your own complaint seriously and not do the same to me. I did not imply in any way that Lane and Wes’s apology was not sincere. Didn’t say it, didn’t think it, didn’t imply it.

    As for what I DID say, my point was not that you think that the two situations necessarily are analogous. Rather, I’m simply pointing out that they are not and drawing a conclusion from that fact. Whatever you might think about their analogical connection or lack thereof, the fact that they are not analogous has implications. “One good turn deserves another” does not mean that Wilson should find something to apologize for if he doesn’t think he owes an apology. The phrase from him you quoted does not require an apology.

    And now in this thread in which Lane and Wes have apologized for misrepresenting Wilson, you are using the occasion to argue that he in fact is a sophist who apparently STILL continues to “abuse” the Standards. Lane’s view is that Wilson WAS unclear in his own view at an earlier time, but has now sufficiently clarified to warrant this retraction. But you want to say that Wilson is STILL in the penalty box, for some reason.

    He only has two choices as I see it. Either he has badly misinterpreted the Standards, or the Standards contain a glaring self-contradiction. I’m entertaining a third possibility now, given that Doug won’t own either of these options, and that is that Doug knows full well that he is abusing WCF 25.1 and is engaged in sophistry.

    No, there is a fourth way. Wilson’s statement did not badly misinterpret the Standards, and this does NOT mean that the Standards contain a glaring self-contradiction. But, rather than continue my “interference,” I’ll wait and see if Wilson comes along to explain this himself.

  15. Xon said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Mr. Johnson said:

    Wilson admitted to me on this blog that the FV is not monolithic- yet he defends the whole thing. Take a look at how this unfolds: Wilson declares that he affirms the CoW as stated in the WS- others in the FV out and out reject it; Wilson is equally adament in his affirmation of the active obedience of Christ- others in the FV discard it altogether; Wilson declares that imputation is a central doctrine- others in the FV call it into question; Wilson has gone on record expressing his grave concerns over the views of NT Wright on justification- others in the FV endorse Wright on this and openly celebrate the views of Wright on this and other ares that are distinctive to the NPP.

    But Wilson’s stated position (I think) on all of these matters is that the “other FVers” who hold a different position than he are not out-of-bounds with Reformed orthodoxy. He disagrees with guys like Lusk on some things, but this doesn’t mean that Lusk is unorthodox or that he can’t defend Lusk against what he thinks are unjust accusations. But there I go again!

  16. greenbaggins said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Careful, Xon. We did not say that Wilson is correct on everything. Our retraction is narrowly considering the v/i church distinction, which we believe that Wilson now teaches. This is not a blanket retraction of every criticism we have ever levelled against Wilson.

  17. April 19, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Lane and Wes, you are right that we have remaining disagreements, which I am sure we will continue to pursue. Let me just say that, despite those differences, my respect for you both is very high. Thank you for this. For my part, I can assure you that while I have not changed my mind on the v/i business during the course of this controversy, this discussion has made it obvious to me that I have not always been as clear as I should have been. Specifically, in retrospect I can understand why you thought I was confounding v/i and militans/triumphans, and my apologies for that.

    And Gary, you can’t simultaneously argue that I refuse to make distinctions between myself and other FV men, refusing to acknowledge the justice of certain criticisms, and then in the same breath point to all the places where I have made those distinctions, and acknowledged the justice of various criticisms. Xon is exactly correct. The thing is not whether I have been clear about these various issues — the thing is whether I am prepared to make issues like these the dividing line of fellowship. You do this yourself, and I have no problem with it. You acknowledged in your chapter of By Faith Alone that Wesley was among our evangelical forefathers, and I can assure you that Wilkins is a lot closer to your position than Wesley was.

  18. April 19, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Doug
    I will gladly embrace Wesley as one of our evangelical forefathers. My hero. BB Warfield would have done the same. Wesley as it is well known, did not claim to be Presbyterian. He never took ordinational vows that reflected his committment to the WS. And even though Warfield may have had more in common with C.A. Briggs, a fellow Presbyterian and professed Calvinistic minister than he did with the Arminian John Wesley, Warfield opposed Briggs on the grounds that his views were out of harmony with the WS.

  19. Xon said,

    April 19, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Lane, re: #16, of course. Didn’t mean to be unclear on that point!

  20. Todd said,

    April 19, 2007 at 10:36 am

    “But, Doug is not a expert in everything he decides to write on( hurt feelings notwithstanding, Doug is not a trained theologian).”

    Gary, you realize that this kind of comment is irrelevant, right? An ad hominem fallacy? Especially when there is not even an attempt to actually engage the things Wilson says. I think you should put all of your theological training to work and debate, man. Enough with the insults.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    April 19, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Todd, actually, it is not irrelevant. In court, for instance, if the credentials of a doctor giving testimony are found to be spurious, then that testimony is given no weight. The academic credentials are extremely relevant, if the credentials in question are supposed to be in the area of expertise under question. Therefore, Gary is not making a logical fallacy. The ad hominem would be if Gary were to say, “DW, you’re not an expert in experimental physics; therefore what you say about theology is false.” But Gary’s argument is this: “DW doesn’t have credentials in the area of theology; therefore his oftentimes dogmatic defense of the FV is suspect when he is challenging those with much better credentials.” This is not a fallacy. You may challenge one of the premises, but it is a valid argument.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    April 19, 2007 at 11:07 am

    That being said, I appreciate DW’s response to our retraction. And it is close enough to admitting that his previous position was unclear. At least DW admits that he can see where we got our analysis from in his writings.

  23. Todd said,

    April 19, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Gary is committing an informal, rather than formal, fallacy.

  24. April 19, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Todd
    I have already stated my willingness to debate Doug- there is a condition-which Doug has yet to met. Futhermore, my pointing out Doug’s dearth of theological training is not an ad hominem agrument- it not an agrument at all -it is a statement of fact- and those of us on this side of the controversy see this as one of the reasons for the lack of clarity and subterfuge with repeated charges being made that we don’t understand them or ,worst yet, we are ‘politically’ motivated in our opposition to their views. A good seminary education would have helped in Doug’s case. Instead, like Lewis Sperry Chafer, he starts his own school and makes himself professor of theology- (now I wll have the DTS fellows down on me).

  25. Tim Wilder said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Chafer at least wrote a systematic theology which exposed the whole scope of his views to scrutiny.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Todd, you really don’t understand logic, do you? I was arguing not that Gary’s position was not a formal fallacy, but rather, I was arguing that Gary was not committing the *informal* fallacy of ad hominem. Sorry for the negatives, but there really isn’t another way of putting it. In other words, my argument is that Gary was not committing an informal fallacy. So, your comment is quite wide.

  27. Todd said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Gary, could you repeat that condition for us here?

    “A good seminary education would have helped in Doug’s case.”

    I wonder what went wrong with Leithart, then.

  28. Todd said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    You gotta love an insult that has to include an apology for writing unclearly!

  29. Xon said,

    April 19, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    I think Gary’s explanation of what he was doing works better than your attempted defense, Lane. The difference you point out between “no credentials, therefore his view is false” and “no credentials, therefore his view is suspect when it challenges those with better credentials” is at best very subtle and at worst non-existent. It seems to me (from the “worst” side of things) that the latter form is still committing the fallacy. We need to look at the particular the uncredentialed person makes, and the particular contrary arguments the credentialed people make, and evaluate them on their own merits. Ruling the uncredentialed person to be wrong, or even just “likely” wrong (“suspect”), simply because he lacks credentials, is improper.

    But, if all Gary was doing was giving his own theory as to why Wilson has gone wrong, all assuming of course that Wilson indeed has gone wrong, then that makes more sense. Though I question its usefulness in a mixed forum like this. It does nothing to advance much of anything (neither an argument nor the overall tone of discourse) to tell your opponents your own personal speculation as to WHY their view is wrong, a view which by the way they don’t admit is wrong in the first place.

    And then, of course, there’s Todd’s valid point, which is that not all FVers are uncredentialed, so now what? We just come up with a different theory for why they went wrong, I guess.

  30. April 19, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Re: 27

    And Horne…

  31. April 20, 2007 at 7:34 am

    I strongly differ with the views of the other FVers- but my concerns have always been with Doug Wilson. Had Doug not been involved in the FV, personally I would have paid it little attention. But Doug’s involvment changed that-and I wrote directly to him to express my concerns. Due to our close affliliation with the organization of Classical Christian Schools which Doug helped to found(our school was a charter member)and our extensive use of Doug’s texts as well as our sending our teachers every Summer to Moscow, ID. for training, and having had both Doug and his wife Nancy to speak for us-not to mention the well known fact that I invited Doug to contribute to the book that Fowler White and I edited,’Whatever Happened to the Reformation'(P&R,2001). Added to that, I had introduced hundreds of people to Doug’s writings via C/A, and given away dozens of copies of his book on ‘Reforming Marriage’. All of this linked us pretty close together in the minds of people who knew me. When the Auburn Ave. thing blew up, I was bombarded on a weekly basis from people wanting to know if I supported the FV. We had people contacting our Christian school asking the same question. One local pastor told a prospective family not to enroll their children in our school because “it is well known that pastor Johnson is a strong supporter of Doug Wilson, who is the leading figure in the Federal Vision.” To my great surprize( and disappointment) my letter to Doug went unanswered and my second letter was met ,not with a response from Doug, but from his assistent informing me Doug was very busy and this Auburn Ave stuff was no big deal.It was not until I wrote back to Doug informing him that I was discontinuing my finacial support of C/A and that we were in the process of withdrawing our Christian school from the Classic Christian Schools Assoc. that he responded. Again, I was told that this was all a big misunderstanding and Doug said he hoped we could perhaps work on another book together sometime in the near future! I was in no mood to be told that I misunderstood what the FV was all about. My good friend Fowler White, who was part of the Knox colloquium on the FV, had kept me informed about the matter, and I was well versed in the controversy surrounding Norman Shepherd( as I have stated before on Lane’s blog , I was a student at WTS during this ) and saw clearly the connection between the FV and Shepherd ( the fact that Shepherd had been invited to be one of the original speakers at that conference did not escape my notice).I had urged Doug to step back and distance himself from this- instead, he redoubled his efforts to defend the FV. Now Doug is more than willing to admit that there are some significant differences amongst the FVers-but these are ‘minor’ and not worth squabbling about. In fact, the real concern should be with the mean-spirited, politically motivated critics of the FV. Those are the fellows with the black hats! I personally know most of these people e.g. Guy Waters, Fowler White, Cal Beisner, Scott Clark ,Mike Horton, Bob Godfrey and the contributers to the book I co-edited ‘By Faith Alone’. When people of this caliber raise and start waving red flags, it is high time to stop what you are doing and take notice.Not Doug, who dismisses their collective concerns, as he did me, with a wave of the hand, assuring all of his devoted faithful followers that this is inconsequential and this despite the fact that a growing number of ecclessiastical bodies are likewise issuing clear cut warnings about the FV. This is not going away and Doug should have by now realized this.
    So, for all of you who may have wondered why I got mixed up in this brawl, now you know.

  32. April 20, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Gary, either I missed it, or in the hurly-burly of everything, I forgot it or misplaced it. My apologies for that, but could you repeat the condition you had for debating?

    And just a brief word, if I might, about my “credentials.” As Paul would say, I am out of my mind to talk this way, but you have forced me to it. Formal training, education and credentialing are a means to an end, and what matters is that end. If a man doesn’t have it, and is an ignoramus, it is sometimes relevant to inquire into the reasons he may have gotten that way. If he is not an ignoramus, then it should not matter to us whether he is formally trained or an autodidact.

    The point of my next citation concerns the principle of the thing, and is not an attempt on my part to put myself into the same league as the apostle Peter. But those who advance the credentials argument should at least be aware of the fact that this issue comes up (more than once) in the Bible. “By what authority . . .” is a question that is frequently asked, but it is often the devil’s question. Those who ask it today may have reasonable grounds for asking it, but they also have reasonable grounds for remembering the scriptural examples of the same kind of thing. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The first century had a credentials system also, and the apostle Paul appears to have been the only apostle who had such credentials — and he got them in his BC days. Was this a terrible oversight on the part of Jesus? Or is there a deeper reason why He was able to speak with authority, and “not as the scribes?”

    And one last point. When Peter objected to those “ignorant and unstable men” who twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction, he was speaking of men whose ignorance would have been obvious to the Christian leadership from day one. I have been preaching, teaching, writing, and editing in theological matters for thirty years, and for many of those years was well-received by those who now raise the credentials question. But this only became a problem after — guess what? — a difference over doctrine arose. Gary’s description of our previous relationship is a case in point. What credentials did I have to contribute an essay on Socinianism to a book that Gary edited? Same as I do now, actually.

    So, if I am wrong, point out where. If I don’t have the craft-competence to do theology with the big boys, then a debate with me would seem to be just the thing the anti-FV forces should be clamoring for. I am certainly willing, I am a recognized spokesman for the FV, and it should be child’s play for a certified theologian to pull my shirt over my head, and roll both my socks down.

  33. Glenn said,

    April 20, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Let’s see a debate! What is the condition though??? I want to know!

  34. April 20, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    […] Doug Wilson: How are my credentials different now from when you liked me? Good question. (tags: fv/npp-smear) Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  35. Innocent Bystander said,

    April 21, 2007 at 2:57 am

    GLW,

    I said this on another board and you never responded. So here it is again:

    “With all due respect, just because these men are your personal friends doesn’t mean they don’t play power politics. (At least) one man on your list has repeatedly rejected offers to meet with FV men and let them read his books before they were published. You’d think one would allow ministers in good standing in his own denomination to do this, but he’s continually refused any contructive dialogue/criticism. And that’s just the tip of the political iceburg.”

    Again, it doesn’t matter if these men are your personal friends or what “caliber” you consider them. Why won’t they at least allow their FV targets (in their own denominations) to see if they’re fairly represented before they publish books, speak at conferences, etc.?

  36. April 21, 2007 at 5:09 am

    The condition was, and still is: When Doug shows the same amount of angst over his acknowledge differences with his fellow FVers as he has with the critics of the FV, then I will debate him- until the he can go pound sand in a rabbit hole.

  37. greenbaggins said,

    April 21, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Innocent Bystander, thanks for commenting. I do not allow anonymous comments on my blog. So I would ask you, please, to identify yourself.

    As to your question, I think I can answer it. The reason that these men have not asked the FV men in person is that the FV views are already adequately represented in print, over which there can be less argument (in terms of what the actual wording is: I recognize that there is fierce debate over what written material means, as well as its implications). The problem is that contact with the FV men has already been tried in the Knox colloquium. FV men seem to forget this fact rather frequently. Clarity was not achieved there to the FV side’s satisfaction. That was a long drawn-out affair, with *thousands* of emails being exchanged. The point is this: if that didn’t “work,” then why would further contact “work?” From the critics’ point of view, what happens is that the FV men see a criticism, and automatically say, “You’ve misunderstood me.” The critic, naturally, rejects such an evaluation of the matter. But it does not seem to matter how carefully the critic chooses his words, or how carefully he aims at accurate representation (and I can tell you that that is a very high priority among the critics), the FV *never* acknowledges it as accurate. Therefore, interaction is oftentimes counterproductive. There are the writings. If they are misunderstood, then the question becomes this: who misunderstood what? Did the critics misunderstand, or did the writer fudge? Of course, FV advocates will always say the former, and will *never* admit (Wilson’s recent admission is a notable exception) that the latter could ever happen. This only fuels the frustration of the critics, and highly *discourages* interaction with the FV men.

  38. April 21, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Well, Gary, sorry. Can’t meet that condition. And it does seems odd to me to stipulate required agreement as a precondition for a debate. But on to other things.

  39. greenbaggins said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Wilson, I can understand why you wouldn’t want to agree to that stipulation before debate. However, Gary is not asking for you to agree with him as a precondition for the debate. One could be in the position of disagreeing with *both* the critics *and* the other FVer’s. It is at least a theoretical possibility, isn’t it?

  40. Xon said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:15 am

    But it’s not just a requirement that Wilson acknowledge that he has disagreement with both groups, Lane. Gary’s requirement is that Wilson actually be equally “concerned” over his disagreements with both groups; that he take both disagreements as being equally serious or equally important. Well, that really IS an odd condition for a debate–requiring your would-be opponent to prioritize or rank his disagreements according to your preferred hierarchy.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Xon, I think you are eisegeting Gary’s requirement. After all, angst is technically unmeasurable. I think that Gary would probably be satisfied if Doug were to turn his rhetorical gunnery away from the critics, for once, and shoot down some of the outrageous statements made by other FV advocates, if Doug would say, “this is dangerous, and we ought not to go there, because it leads to this end, or something like that.” I’m not sure that Gary would *only* be satisfied if Doug were to rail just as long and hard at his friends as he did at his enemies. This would be unrealistic, of course. If there were several posts on Blog and Mablog detailing all his differences with the other FVer’s, and stating how dangerous those errors are, Gary would probably be satisfied. What Gary is concerned with is the “circling the wagons” mentaility that is patently obvious to the critics, but which seems to (deliberately) escape the notice of the FV camp.

  42. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:31 am

    “Xon, I think you are eisegeting Gary’s requirement. After all, angst is technically unmeasurable.”

    No, Gary said that Doug must show “the *same amount* of angst.”

  43. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Gary, why didn’t Doug’s lack of proper credentials keep you from working with him on that earlier book?

  44. greenbaggins said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Whatever, Todd. I’ll let Gary decide who has interpreted his condition correctly. If I am wrong, then Gary will tell me, and I will retract.

  45. R. F. White said,

    April 21, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Perhaps a specific illustration of the differences among DW and his fellow FVers will illuminate the frustration about which Gary wrote above. During DW’s participation in the 2003 Knox colloquium, his papers made it clear that, against some of his FV compatriots, he agreed that the blessings enjoyed by apostates differed from the blessings enjoyed by the elect. DW’s disagreement with his fellow FVers on this point raised a question: would DW break ranks with the FVers over this disagreement, or would he treat it as a matter of doctrinal and ecclesiastical indifference? If I’ve understood DW correctly, he has opted for the latter approach: for him, it is simply an illustration of the multiple positions in this debate, all of which he has viewed as acceptable within the historic stream of Reformed orthodoxy.

    For others of us, however, the disagreement is not si indifferent. Rather, it exposes that fundamentally different soteriologies are at work with the FV school of thought. For us critics, it matters whether we teach that God’s grace to the apostate and his grace to the elect are undifferentiated: if the apostate’s blessings are the same as the elect’s, then there is no accounting in our teaching for the irresistible grace of God that leads to the salvation of the elect. In other words, to teach a doctrine of undifferentiated grace, as some FVers have done, confuses and misleads the Church and the world on the soteriology of the Scriptures. Why DW won’t stipulate to this error by some FVers has proven to be a puzzle and an obstacle to consensus.

  46. Andy Gilman said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    An “Innocent Bystander” said:

    “Why won’t they at least allow their FV targets (in their own denominations) to see if they’re fairly represented before they publish books, speak at conferences, etc.?”

    This might be a reasonable request if the “FV targets” had demonstrated some humility by seeking criticism from widely respected men, and leaders in their own denominations, *before* they began a campaign to disseminate their views far and wide. But the fact is, these men see themselves as modern day “Reformers.” In one breath they are reforming the Reformation, in the next they are returning to the pure teaching of the Reformation. “Here I Stand” they said, and they started writing at a fevered pace and publishing it all over the internet.

    They started proclaiming their progressive, or rediscovered, (progressive in one breath, rediscovered in the next) ideas from numerous pulpits, and they started holding conferences to bring the good news to a wider audience. These men did not seek after “peer review,” but when their peers actually started reviewing what they had widely propagated, they complained, in injured tones, that their peers were not being “nice” to men in “good standing,” and that they have been terribly misunderstood. They have written voluminously, and in all that writing, they just can’t seem to bring their critics up to speed. In their minds, their critical peers are either too dull to grasp the fine nuances of the FV argument, or too dishonest and politically motivated to give them an honest appraisal.

    In the mean time, how many people have been blindsided walking into a PCA church unawares like I did, and believing that because it was PCA I could have some confidence that the doctrines of grace would be taught there; how many people were blindsided by a view of the covenant of grace, which tells us we enter it by grace and we maintain it by works? The pastor of this church was singing the FV tune with regard to the “conditionality of the covenant,” and preaching a works righteousness. Of course he would deny that he was teaching and preaching a works righteousness, but after many months of struggling with what he was saying, thinking at first that the problem was merely semantics, it became clear to me that the problem was real.

    When I approached him and asked him to reconcile his views with the Westminster Standards he had sworn to uphold, he refused. I should be satisfied that he had been tested for many hours in his Presbytery examination, he said. He was willing to explain to me how his views were in keeping with the Bible, and he assured me that his views “could be” reconciled with the Standards, but he didn’t want to discuss how he “does” reconcile his views with the Standards, or to discuss what looked to me like glaring contradictions between his views and the Standards. And after all, he said, what he was teaching was the wave of the future. This was the direction the reformed world was moving, he said. This was back in 1999/2000.

    I doubt that the my experience is uncommon.

  47. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    “In one breath they are reforming the Reformation, in the next they are returning to the pure teaching of the Reformation.”

    Andy, can you give a few examples of the former? Thanks.

  48. Andy Gilman said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Are you denying that they have done this Todd?

  49. Andy Gilman said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    There are many examples, but I would have to go dig them up. I don’t want to waste the time unless you are denying my point.

  50. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    I appreciate Dr. White’s post very much. His tone is thousands of times more helpful than Gary’s.

    I remember listening to Doug Wilson’s interview about FV on Covenant Radio. He was asked whether he believed that there was any sense in which Judas’s sins were forgiven before he “fell away.” Doug said no way, and I thought to myself, “I’m almost sure that Lusk would have said yes.” Don’t know if I’m right about Lusk and I haven’t asked him.

    But the precise relationship between Wilson’s views and Lusk’s views is a great question. Don’t forget this conversation between them:

    http://www.canonpress.org/shop/item.asp?itemid=1211&catid=

    I’d like to see more of these, with questions from “the public.”

    This would be interesting: Lusk reviewing RINE.

    One reservation: Dr. White asks, “Would DW break ranks with the FVers over this disagreement, or would he treat it as a matter of doctrinal and ecclesiastical indifference?” False dilemma, right? There must be plenty of options in between.

  51. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Andy, I’m just wondering how often any of these guys really speak in terms of reforming the Reformation. Paedocommunion would certainly fit in here, but I think the other claim–“returning to the pure teaching of the Reformation”–is much, much more common.

  52. greenbaggins said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Dr. White, I really appreciated your comment. What is lacking in this situation is an awareness that it is not enough merely to affirm the truth. One also has to reject the errors. One’s orthodoxy does indeed depend on this rejection of errors. Why else would the Canons of Dort provide detailed refutation sections? The WS have many errors listed in them which are denied. This is one of the relatively few obstacles in the way of considering DW orthodox. Of course, this is only really a restatement of the idea that one’s affirmation of the WS has to be backed up by a theology that is also consistent with the WS. This is a point that is almost completely ignored by FV advocates. The issue never has been whether or not the FV advocates affirm the WS. This is not, never has been, and never will be, the issue. They do affirm it. Many, many complaints by the FV advocates are still directed at this idea that the critics are saying that the FV advocates don’t affirm the WS. The real issue is this: is the theology consistent with the WS? Do they affirm what is there affirmed, and deny what is there denied? This is an important question, yes, but there is much more that must be said. The theology must also conform to the WS, rather than contradicting it.

  53. Andy Gilman said,

    April 21, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Todd said:

    [BOQ]
    Andy, I’m just wondering how often any of these guys really speak in terms of reforming the Reformation. Paedocommunion would certainly fit in here, but I think the other claim–”returning to the pure teaching of the Reformation”–is much, much more common.
    [EOQ]

    You may be right Todd, but that is because they get less criticism if they can persuade people that their views are really the views of the “magisterial reformers.” They will cling to Calvin against the “Calvinists” as long as possible, but when they are backed into a corner with how they are out of accord with the Confessions, they will abandon that strategy, and say “do you believe that all doctrinal development ceased in 1647?”

  54. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Okay. Can you give a few examples?

  55. Andy Gilman said,

    April 21, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    See #49.

  56. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    I guess I’m discouraged when accurately quoting a brother is considered a waste of time. But I’m happy to drop it.

  57. Andy Gilman said,

    April 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Todd, I’m not quoting anyone, I’m paraphrasing, and no particular brother was named; but I suspect it is not far from a direct quote of a number of FV advocates. Are you saying I’m innacurately paraphrasing a brother? Which brother? If not, then are you otherwise denying the truth of my claim?

  58. Todd said,

    April 21, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Like I said, Andy, I’m happy to drop it. But if you’d like to actually demonstrate, rather than merely assert, that there are “many examples” of the FV guys speaking/writing about “reforming the Reformation,” I’d love to see it.

  59. Glenn said,

    April 21, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Actually, I believe that I “interpret” Gary’s condition as fulfilled, unless Gary is asking Doug to publicly sin…

    You see, Gary said: “When Doug shows the same amount of angst over his acknowledge differences with his fellow FVers as he has with the critics of the FV, then I will debate him- until the he can go pound sand in a rabbit hole”

    I believe Doug has shown the proper amount of angst to everyone he disagrees with. The only thing is that there are different types of angst. You are asking Doug to show the same amount of one type of angst to those he differs ‘minorly’ with. But the strong FV critics are calling FVers Heretics and Wolves, etc. Doug’s fellow FVers are not calling Doug a Heretic; therefore it would be UNreasonable to ask Doug to show the same type of angst towards them.

    It’s absolutely ignorant of Godly manors to ask Doug to show the same amount of one type of angst.

    Gary, do you really want to demand that Doug sin before you allow him to engage in a Christian debate???

    I believe you need to either revise your condition or repent of acting like the serpent in the garden.

    FYI, I go to a Baptist Church, so I don’t have a dog in this race. ;-)

  60. Xon said,

    April 21, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    This is a point that is almost completely ignored by FV advocates. The issue never has been whether or not the FV advocates affirm the WS. This is not, never has been, and never will be, the issue. They do affirm it. Many, many complaints by the FV advocates are still directed at this idea that the critics are saying that the FV advocates don’t affirm the WS. The real issue is this: is the theology consistent with the WS? Do they affirm what is there affirmed, and deny what is there denied? This is an important question, yes, but there is much more that must be said. The theology must also conform to the WS, rather than contradicting it.

    I don’t think FV people “ignore” this requirement, Lane, but they do require that alleged contradictions or non-conformities be demonstrated. When someone affirms and denies all the Confession affirms and denies (or takes a few generally-accepted exceptions), you can’t just play some magic trump card called “Ah, but is your overall theology consistent with these affirmations and denials you just made?” If you think there is an inconsistency, then you have to demonstrate it. All this talk about “affirming” vs. “contradicting” is just prologue to the actual demonstration you have to give.

    I’m not saying you haven’t attempted any such demonstrations, you have, but these have been (I would say) far from conclusive. And there is a definitely a general tendency among anti-FV people to not demonstrate these claims at all.

    You accuse me of being pro abortion, say. And I tell you that “I believe the unborn fetus is a human being entitled to all the societal protections against violence we’d give to any other human being.” You respond by saying, “Well, Xon, I know you say that’s what you believe, but in some of your blog posts (or speeches to the Rotary club) you contradict this. Your own system of thought on this issue is contradictory/confused. You say things that entail the denial of the very thing you just affirmed.”

    If this is all you say, then you’ve basically just slandered me (in a particularly insulting way, implying that I am too stupid to understand what my own stated positions on things actually entail). At this point, if the conversation ends here, then you have done nothing to show me to have a problematic position re: abortion. Your taking the time to point out the possibility that what I affirm in one place might not line up with the implications of what what I say in another place has accomplished next to nothing. I could just as easily say the same thing about you, on any topic of my choice.

    Self-contradiction is, rationally and logically, about the most serious charge there is. It also has a very clean and uncontroversial method by which it can be shown. So it needs to be shown, or it needs not to be alleged.

    —————
    Wilkins says: [Insert quote]
    The Confession says: [Insert quote]

    This is a contradiction, because…[insert interpretation of both the Wilkins quote and the Confession quote, taking into account how all the words in both quotes are used in their own contexts.]

    Therefore, the Wilkins quote can be boiled down to P, and the Confessional quote can be boiled down to not P. QED.
    ————————–

    And, while we’re at it, it would be nice if, after giving a successful argument of the above form, the critic of FV went on to explain clearly why this particular matter (the P/notP contradiction just proved) is a matter of “fundamental” or indispensable importance to Reformed orthodoxy. Just becuase you show Wilkins (or whoever) to be in contradiction with the Confession regarding some issue does not mean that he is unworthy of the name “Reformed.” After all, the PCA allows exceptions to the Confession. So the critic also needs to give some explanation as to why the issue in question is so important that it determines Reformed orthodoxy. That is not simply a given, and cannot simpy be assumed.

    (P.S., Lane, my home computer appears to have no troubles posting comments, but as of 5 yesterday evening my office computer still was having “that problem”. Have you heard back anything from the WordPress people about what’s up with that?)

  61. April 22, 2007 at 7:31 am

    My inviting Doug to contribute to ‘Whatever Happened to Th Reformation?’ wil haunt me to my grave ‘Mea Culpa!’ Wilson’s cavalier dismissal of T.D.Gordon’s remark about Lusk as an example of FV overstatement( ” the Mosaic Law was simply the Gospel in pre-Christian form”) which Gordon said ought to embarrass Wilson and FV sympatherizers- Wilson calls harmless-no big deal- it is this kind of thing that I had in mind with my reference to ‘angst’. As I have repeatedly stated, Wilson has turned a deaf ear to the FV critics ( would someone please show me from Wilson’s ‘reveiws’ of the three books that he subjected to scrutiny on his blog just ONE admission on his part that the FV critics got right), going out of his way to defect our criticisms from his fellow FVers,all the while insisting that his own views on the issues ought to be sufficient to show that he has made clear where he differs with them. But this is an inference that we are supposed to draw. At the same time he openly acknowledges that he is the leading representative for the FV and like Goliath issues a standing challenge for any of the FV critics to met him on the field of battle. I find this rather curious-is Wilson going to defend the views of his fellow FVers that he doesn’t agree with or is he going only defend his own views, in which case who defend the views of his friends in the FV? I was on the debate team in college and I have even debated the king of debate himself, James White (as has Doug)- the ground rules typically have a position that will be defended by one party and opposed by the other. So ,I ask Doug are you prepared to defend the views of the other FVers, like Rich Lusk? If not, that is the nature of the debate?

  62. Todd said,

    April 22, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Gary, perhaps you could propose a specific proposition for debate.

  63. April 22, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Todd
    How about this-” That the Federal Vision as represented by the speakers at the first Auburn Ave. conference and as stated by their represenatives in the Knox colloquium on the Federal Vision and the book edited by Wilkins and Garner, ‘The Federal Vision’ are self-contradicting among themselves and that these views taken as a whole (THE Federal Vision, not the various Federal visions) are out of harmony and in conflict with the WS”.

  64. Todd said,

    April 22, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Sounds great. I wonder whether Doug would be willing. Are you?

  65. greenbaggins said,

    April 22, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    I’d be willing to host Gary’s comments. Gary, if you want to do this, then email me what you want to say, and I’ll set it up, so that we can get it going. I assume that DW would probably answer on his own blog.

  66. Todd said,

    April 22, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    But why not a live debate?

  67. greenbaggins said,

    April 22, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Well, you’ll have to ask Gary about that one. Myself, I prefer to have my library at my disposal. Call it a crutch if you want. Gary has debated live far more often than I have, so he’s probably more comfortable with it anyway than I am. But I won’t speak for him.

  68. Tim Wilder said,

    April 22, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Re: #60 Xon says:

    “Self-contradiction is, rationally and logically, about the most serious charge there is.”

    But the pastor at the PCA church I was in said that he had been taught in seminary (Westminster, Philly), following Cornelius Van Til that truth was contradictory and that there was nothing wrong with affirming the Westminster Confession and teaching contrary to it. He liked to say “The Westminster Confession is logical and true, but it is not the Biblical way to think.”

  69. Todd said,

    April 22, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Which church, Tim?

  70. Tim Wilder said,

    April 22, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    #69
    Todd said,

    “Which church, Tim?”

    What do you care? Are you going to press charges so you can clean up your movement?

  71. David said,

    April 22, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Hey Tim,

    I can affirm that that’s certainly not what I got out of my Westminster education. At worst, there was deep misunderstanding between that minister and his professors; at best miscommunication between that minister and you.

    I did, however appreciate the “symphonic” approach made use of at WTS: that there are many perspectives and facets on the truth, and that there can be a danger in dissolving everything into one perspective. (I think that danger would hold for BOTH sides of the debate, not just one side or the other.)

    But don’t get me wrong: the point isn’t that truth is relative, but rather that the mind of God is not fully fathomable by us.

  72. David said,

    April 22, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    I should qualify–perhaps I should have written, “one should be cautious not to dissolve…”

  73. Todd said,

    April 22, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Tim, why didn’t you press charges?

  74. Tim Wilder said,

    April 22, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Re: 73

    Several reasons. First, if the elders and the presbytery were fine with it, what point was there to go through the motions of a charge? When he had been up on charges previously, on another matter, it was dismissed on the grounds that the accuser was in the OPC and thus had no standing to bring charges. I took that to show an unwillingness by the presbytery to examine people’s theology, (which would have been simple in that particular case).

    Secondly, he took precautions. Taping was not allowed, nor would he give people copies of his sermons.

    Third, his claim was that he was working on the definitive defense of the theology of Norman Shepherd, and wanted to get it all worked out right before publishing his view and standing behind it. Then he was going to open an institute and people would come and study under him to be taught the correct way to preach the stuff, and to learn correct counseling methods, etc. I figured, let him write the book. Then everything will be out in the open and clear.

    Fourth, his views were in constant evolution, so it was hard to tell at any point entirely what he did believe.

  75. Tim Wilder said,

    April 22, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Re: 71

    “At worst, there was deep misunderstanding between that minister and his professors; at best miscommunication between that minister and you.”

    He is not the first to take that line. Some Canadian Reformed people have taken the same Van Til defense for the fact that they doctrine of the covenant is out of line with the Three Forms of Unity.

    Also, I have read John Frame, and I know that Westminster has taught just what he heard. There is, according to Frame, no criterion for Van Til as to when Biblical passages should be harmonized or when contradictions should be allowed to stand. Further contradictions do in fact extend right into the doctrine of justification.

    Also I have heard even more extreme things about the views of other FV people (such that the Fall in Eden was the use of logic), though second hand, but through very bright and reliable people.

  76. Glenn said,

    April 22, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Awesome! That sounds like a good debate proposal Gary. I hope things can be worked out for a LIVE debate! =)

  77. Xon said,

    April 22, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Nobody’s going to press charges just because you say something happened, Tim, especially if you are not willing to press the charges yourself. But that’s not really “our” problem…

    Recognizing that the word “contradiction” might be open to some different meanings than the way I usually think of it, and so I’d want to talk to the person to get a clearer idea of what he meant, I’ll say for the record that I am opposed to anyone saying the kind of thing this person was allegedly taught in seminary. I am also opposed to interpreting Van Til as endorsing that sort of teaching. And I’ll bet the vast majority (I don’t say “all” only because I want to hedge my best just a bit, since I can’t really speak for everyone) of FV “major lights” would say the same thing.

  78. April 22, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Gary,

    Am I to take it that your proposal of a debate topic means that you are willing to waive your one condition? Because, if so, I think we can work something out. Here would be my edited counterproposal:

    “That the Federal Vision as represented by the speakers at the first Auburn Ave. conference and as stated by their representatives in the Knox colloquium on the Federal Vision and the book edited by Wilkins and Garner, ‘The Federal Vision,’ are in substantive conflict with the system of doctrine taught in the WS.”

    You would take the affirmative, and I would certainly be willing to take the negative. I removed the part about how we are “self-contradictory” because that was contradictory to the following assertion that there is such a thing as THE Federal Vision, and you would have been faced with the uphill challenge of proving that we are saying different things while all saying the same thing. But if you like, we could eliminate the contradiction the other way and simply debate whether or not there are (on substantive issues) multiple federal visions. I would take the negative again.

    I would prefer a live debate, but am willing for other venues as well.

  79. April 22, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    “is in substantive conflict . . .” Sorry.

  80. Tim Wilder said,

    April 22, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    77 #
    Xon said,

    “Nobody’s going to press charges just because you say something happened, Tim, especially if you are not willing to press the charges yourself. But that’s not really “our” problem…”

    Todd is the one who is hot to press charges. Take it up with him.

    “I’ll say for the record that I am opposed to anyone saying the kind of thing this person was allegedly taught in seminary. I am also opposed to interpreting Van Til as endorsing that sort of teaching.”

    But then John Frame and Bahnsen are the authors of the two major interpretations of Van Til, not Xon.

  81. Xon said,

    April 22, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    Yes, and having read Frame and Bahnsen myself, I’d say that neither of them advocate the sort of blatant “self-contradiction” that you are attributing to this unnamed Westminster professor. And the reason I brought up my view is that you had responded to something I said by telling me about what these “official” Van Tillians say. I had said that self-contradiction is a big deal, and not a good thing. You followed up by telling me of this professor who allegedly said it’s not a big deal. I’m pointing out to you that MY position that it is a big deal is still what it is, regardless of whatever anecdote you choose to share about what someone else supposedly said. I’m not claiming to be a major player in VT interpretation, but see you’re the one who brought all that up. I was just telling you my view.

    And, speaking of my view, my point was that some anti-FV folks like to accuse FVers of self-contradiction, but actual arguments demonstrating such are not exactly abundant. Would you care to offer one, Tim?

  82. Tim Wilder said,

    April 22, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    “Would you care to offer one, Tim?”

    And exactly why would you be worth my time?

  83. April 23, 2007 at 5:27 am

    Doug
    Let me get this nailed down- you are going to defend the views of the other representatives of the FV that (1) deny the CoW ;(2) discard the AOoC; (3) discard or made redundant the concept of imputation; (4) incorporate NT Wright’s NPP view of justification; (5) define Union with Christ as something that the NECM actually possess temporarily, and that the only thing that disquinishes the NECM from the elect is the grace of perservence; finally,(6) you are going to do this all the while maintaining your own position, which you admit differs significantly with the above, and nonetheless insist that all of this is fully compatable with the WS? Who is going to moderate this kind of a ‘ debate’- Pete Puma?!

  84. Xon said,

    April 23, 2007 at 6:17 am

    I think Doug would argue, Gary, that a good bit of your (1) – (6) aren’t quite accurate portrayals of even the more “radical” FV positions, and that when these positions are understood, whether DW agrees with them or not, they are not “substantively” out of conformity with the Westminster Standards.

  85. April 23, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Xon
    I can give you chapter and verse for everyone one of those, as can Lane.However, I would hope that even “Pete Puma” as moderator would not allow ‘word-games’ to be played in this ‘debate’, i.e. the way Wilson tried to spin Lusk’s remarks on imputation being ‘redundant’, saying that in the final analysis Lusk’s view on ‘Union with Christ’ preserves what the catagory of imputation does in classic Reformed theology ( Richard Gaffin has recently made very clear in his chapter in the book’ Always Reforming’ that Lusk not only misunderstood him, but is in serious error in the way he formulates the doctrine of Union with Christ) or that the denials by Lusk, Jordon et. al. in the FV of the CoW are not ‘real’ denials but merely ‘reformulations’ along lines similar to John Murray. We saw this same kind of subterfuge with the Open theists- ‘Oh, you misunderstand us -we emphatically do not deny the doctrine of God’s omniscience- we affirm whole heartedly that God knows all that can be known ( but according to us that means He has sovereignly chosen not to know some of the future in respect to the choices of free moral agents, since if He knows theses before hand they really aren’t free)’. The Open theist could use the word ‘omniscience’ as a term to affirm this important attribute of God and yet radically redefine the doctrine in the process.(pun intended).

  86. Todd said,

    April 23, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Gary, all of these sound like matters best taken up in the debate.

  87. April 23, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Tim are you talking about Doug Wilson? :)

  88. Xon said,

    April 23, 2007 at 8:08 am

    You can argue whatever you want about what this or that FV quotation actually means, Gary. Like Todd said, that would be the sort of thing taken up in the debate. What I’m questioning is your incredulousness towards Wilson’s position in the debate. I.e., “are you telling me, Wilson, that you’re actually going to argue such-and-such?” I’m telling you that, no, that’s probably not exactly how he sees his argument going.

  89. markhorne said,

    April 23, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Gary, what Doug says is not subterfuge at all. Rich is a careful theologian and an astute student of Gaffin. I think it is a real blessing that I’ve been permitted to read his work (let alone publish some of it!). There is nothing remotely similar to what has been done by open theists. But if you keep this up, you are going to make people think OTs might not have been so bad after all.

  90. April 23, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Xon
    If you have been following Wilson’s comments on this blog ( and no doubt you have), paricularly in response to me, he has pointed to his own views on these debated points as evidence that he has publically demonstrated his differences as a ‘pale ale’ as opposed toa FV ‘stout’. He has said more than once that this should lay to rest the misguided notion that he is indifferent to the concerns of the FV critics.In his interview with Mike Horton on the White Horse Inn he said that he did not agree with all the various postions of his fellow FVers- and in light of all this, yes, I am a bit incredulous that he does not see the apparent contradiction in his position in this ‘debate’.

  91. April 23, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Mark
    Well obviously Gaffin does not think so.

  92. Xon said,

    April 23, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Because disagreeing with some positions held by fellow FVers does not automatically equate to thinking that those positions are unorthodox or unReformed.

  93. Tim Wilder said,

    April 23, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Re: # 87

    “Tim are you talking about Doug Wilson?”

    Do you mean in regard to the pastor of my former church? No. Not even the same state. In fact, while that pastor is a follower of Shepherd and idolizes N.T. Wright he is not into the robes and rituals things. In fact a splinter faction of Christian Reconstructionists and Federal Visionaries left and founded a fully Dougite church nearby.

  94. April 23, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Xon
    As you may have surmised, I see the Old Princeton theology, especially as articulated by BB Warfield,as the best interpretation of Reformed orthodoxy paricularly in the way they sought to be faithful to the Westminster Standards. As such contemporary expressions of rival schools of ‘Reformed’ thought that Old Princeton viewed with grave reservations-such as the New England/New Haven men and the Mercersburg schoolof Schaff and Nevin, I also look upon with suspicion. Now if you want to argue that the word ‘Reformed ‘ is far more comprehensive that how the Old Princeton men defined it ( or as stated in the WS) so that we must make way for other strands of ‘Reformed’ schools of thought,i.e. Karl Barth- that I am willing to acknowledge-but if we are going to define this debate in terms of the Reformed theology as contained the WS-then I would contend that the doctrine of the CoW cannot be discarded or ‘recasted’ without doing immeasurable damage to the system of theology it teaches.

  95. Todd said,

    April 23, 2007 at 10:10 am

    The debate keeps sounding better and better–just how much can you “tinker” with the covenant of works before you’ve damaged the system of which it is part of the foundation?

  96. April 23, 2007 at 10:35 am

    There is not enough talk here about Peter Leithart, why not talk about his hermeneutic? What hermeneutic does he uphold? Is his hermeneutic in line with the WS?

  97. Todd said,

    April 23, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Andrew, what specifically is on your mind about Leithart?

  98. markhorne said,

    April 23, 2007 at 11:26 am

    “if we are going to define this debate in terms of the Reformed theology as contained the WS-then I would contend that the doctrine of the CoW cannot be discarded or ‘recasted’ without doing immeasurable damage to the system of theology it teaches.”

    But the Westminster West party has always insisted on a meritorious covenant in addition to Westminster standards and in plane contradiction to the mainstream of Reformed orthodoxy from Ursinus to Turretin. The accusation or revisionism and redefinition belongs to Westminster West and the legacy of unending hatred and warfare from Meredith Kline through his disciples as exemplified, Gary, by you and your behavior toward anyone who doesn’t go along with your favorite flavor.

  99. markhorne said,

    April 23, 2007 at 11:28 am

    “plane contradiction” ugh. “PLAIN”

    And I should add I’m referring to trolling comments. I know nothing about anything else and am not judging it in my statements.

  100. Tim Wilder said,

    April 23, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Re: 98

    “But the Westminster West party has always insisted on a meritorious covenant in addition to Westminster standards and in plane contradiction to the mainstream of Reformed orthodoxy from Ursinus to Turretin. The accusation or revisionism and redefinition belongs to Westminster West and the legacy of unending hatred and warfare from Meredith Kline through his disciples as exemplified, Gary, by you and your behavior toward anyone who doesn’t go along with your favorite flavor.”

    But you are also a Klinean. Without his symbolic theology, where is your covenant renewal mountaintop experience?

    The Federal Vision and Hortanism are the two heads of the same Klinean monster.

  101. April 23, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Re: 97

    I was just joking around mostly b/c this is a post on a Retraction and everyone is huffing and puffing, etc. It is funny. But since I started it: I have suspicions that Leithart has a pre-Medieval hermeneutic, and hermeneutic that most PCA presbyteries if they knew what it was would not ordain a man for having it.

  102. April 23, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    Gary,

    Xon and Mark interpreted me correctly. The places where I differ with other FV guys, even in the areas where some of what they say concerns me, are places that I believe to be within the bounds of historic Reformed orthodoxy. I stand with them on the central issues we have articulated, and where we part theological company, we do so as Reformed brothers. So I am willing (for example) to say that Shepherd’s denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ (a doctrine I affirm) does not place him outside the pale of Reformed orthodoxy, and would not have disqualified him from being a voting delegate to the Westminster Assembly.

    If you are good with that, I think we can set up the debate.

  103. April 24, 2007 at 7:05 am

    Doug & Mark
    I detected long ago the guiding hand of Norman Shepherd in the FV, after all he was scheduled to be on the docket at the now infamous AAC.Mark wrote a lenghty paper defending Shepherd and now Doug says he would have been a welcomed delegate to the Westminster Assembly, which is really an amazing claim given the fact that Shepherd has come out and declared that Reformed churches would be better served if they replaced the WS with the Three Forms of Unity. There is a major difference between Shepherd’s position in rejecting the CoW and that of my late esteemed professor, Meredith Kline’s postion on this critically important doctrine.Unlike Shepherd, Kline insisted that the bi-covenantal framework of the WS was the clue that held it together. Kline sought to build upon and accent the role of the AOoC that is implicit in the CoW. To his credit, Shepherd recognizes that the two go hand in hand-No CoW, no AOoC. Kline saw equally well the absolute neccesity of underscoring the concept of Christ fulfilling the CoW by his meritorious obedience. Unlike you two I do have the destinct advanage of having been a student at WTS during the Shepherd controversy, and perhaps more significant, to have been a student of Meredith Kline. I wish you two could have been there with me in his class on Old Testament Biblical Theology. He was a remarkable teacher, a gifted exegete with a remarkable acumen for theological analysis. On top of all of his ,he was a kind and gracious man, a true Christian scholar of the first rank. As such I find Mark’s seething hostility toward Kline ,and by extention towards his disciples like myself and those men at Westminster Calif. most disturbing and unbecoming. I bid you both adieu. I am done with this discussion.

  104. markhorne said,

    April 24, 2007 at 8:16 am

    “As such I find Mark’s seething hostility toward Kline ,and by extention towards his disciples like myself and those men at Westminster Calif. most disturbing and unbecoming.”

    I don’t know what’s “seething” about it. Kline has produce multiple disciples who follow him in making outrageous accusations on the basis of a bunch of personal convictions imputed (quite alien status) to the Westminster documents. That you can’t see you’re own, or Scott Clark’s subchristian behavior for what it is, or that you think that the outrage you produce in others is a sign of their own problem, tells me you are not in touch with reality.

  105. greenbaggins said,

    April 24, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Gary, don’t answer this ridiculous accusation of Mark’s. If Mark is going to be so hypocritical as to accuse others of subchristian behavior, then he doesn’t deserve an answer.

  106. Todd said,

    April 24, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I continue to find it strange to hear Gary criticizing others for “seething hostility” and “scathing personal vedettas.”

  107. Andy Gilman said,

    April 24, 2007 at 9:35 am

    That goes without saying Todd, so why say it?

  108. Todd said,

    April 24, 2007 at 9:40 am

    It goes just as well with saying.

  109. April 24, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Gary, when you say you are “done with this discussion,” does that mean this thread, or is the prospect of setting up a debate also closed?

  110. Gabe Martini said,

    April 25, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Yeah, Gary?

  111. April 25, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Before slipping away to my coffin in the dungeon of that foreboding looking castle on yonder hill( some of you may have notice that my comments are posted very early in the morning-before sunrise) I must address the charge of personal animosity and hatefulness that has been throw at me. I have no problem with a theological debate, especially one that is characterized by elbows in the ribs and other such badinage, I don’t even mind the kind that is confrontational and employs sarcasism from time to time to make a point. There are doctrinal issues that we should take serious and a failure to do so is a sign of decline.What I don’t care for is then one’s opponents decides that it’s time to start name calling and throw personal indignities at you.Case in point: My worthy opponent in this particular fray, Doug Wilson ,has gone on record declaring that the initial critics of the FV were,” ignorant and envious men” ( Joe Morecraft is singled out by name). Doug’s devoted followers , like Mark and Todd, do not have a problem with this kind of rhetoric , after all those guys had it coming! However , I suggested that Doug’s lack of any formal theological training is a real handicap , especially when he ventures into areas where some of us over here a modicum of expertise. Well, Mark and Todd go bananas, ” How dare you call into question our Fearless Leaders theological genius! The only reason for doing this is because you are full of spite and have a personal vendetta aginst Doug!” Double standard here? Here are some other examples: I express bewilderment over Doug saying that he really enjoyed Bishop Allison’s chapter on ‘Imputation’ (in the book I co-edited with the equally villianious Guy Waters-‘By Faith Alone’) because it was a subject that had nothing to do with the FV controversy! Huh?! Or, even more offensive to the likes of Mark and Todd, I am metagrobolized by some of the hubrisic statements from Rich Lusk, i.e. American Reformed theology is like a bad cassette recording of the real thing. “You are full of hate!” they scream as they tear their clothes and throw dirt into the air. Doug has cultivated a finally honed ability as as satirist. Really, I mean this as a compliment. He can take a phrase and make a point that is dripping with sarcasim all the while coming across as a pleasent fellow. So I think he understood my telling him he could “go pound sand in a rabbit hole” as part of the give and take of theological banter. Not so Mark and Todd, “You are a vile, mean-spirited toad!” I guess this is to be expected. People often do take personal offense then their views are subjected to what appears to be ruthless scrutiny. I am reminded of the story of when Karl Barth was dicovered one day walking down the street in Princeton where he had been invited to lecture. A close personal friend of Van Til’s saw him and offered him a ride to his destination. Barth thanked him and got in the car. As they were driving the man told Barth that he was good friend with VT to which Barth grumbled, ” Yah, he hates me!” No he doesn’t ,came the reply. He actually prays for you on a regular basis.For all of you who have read VT critique of Barth it might appear tha VT really disliked Barth personally-but that was not the case. The same is true of the late Meredith Kline. He had strong theological convictions and would express them forcefully-but he was not ‘hateful'( for the sake of you who think I genuflect at the very mention of Kline’s name- as much as I admired him ,I do not follow him in his views know as the framework-hypothesis). This particular theological debate has, as most of them do, flame-throwers on both sides. I for one, do not care in the least, to be associated with the likes of John Robbins. I had the priveldge once to have the great Gordon Clark in our home. Naturally I wanted to hear him on the controversy that swirled around his views regarding the incomprehensibility of God and Van Til. This eventually lead to Clark’s trial and ouster from the OPC. He said that during the whole ordeal the one person that treated him with respect and Christian courtesy was VT. This cannot be said of Clark loyal disciple Robbins. So, yes we have the abrasive Robbins in our camp, but you have the eqaully ill-mannered Mark Horne in yours. Now, Iam done, the sun is starting to peek over the horizon.

  112. Todd said,

    April 25, 2007 at 9:09 am

    What makes your manner so strange to me, Gary, is how scathingly you criticize Wilson for his scathing manner. It’s an irony thing.

    Can you guys still do the debate, though? There are real theological issues at stake here, and I’ld love to see you two go for it.

  113. markhorne said,

    April 25, 2007 at 9:58 am

    “So, yes we have the abrasive Robbins in our camp, but you have the eqaully ill-mannered Mark Horne in yours.”

    You are making things up Gary.

  114. Lee said,

    April 25, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    “So, yes we have the abrasive Robbins in our camp, but you have the eqaully ill-mannered Mark Horne in yours.”

    Wow. I have to say that I have never found Mark to be anything like Robbins in tone. I think that is a big stretch. Although it should also be noted that Robbins can be civil and rhetorically pleasing when he wants to be. Over all I think I will agree with Rev. Horne that this comparison is unfair.

  115. April 26, 2007 at 5:28 am

    Excuse me Lee but if you check out Mark’s earlier comments on this thread you will find him calling the late Meredith Kline, Westminster Seminary Calif. and me hate-mongers.

  116. April 26, 2007 at 5:39 am

    Doug
    I see from the latest census report that the population of your fair city has really taken off.As such the Moscow city limits has also probably expanded, thus you are going to have to drive futher than usual to find suitable habitat for ‘oryctolagus cuniculus’. Once you do ,check under and around the bushes. It shouldn’t take too long to find what you are looking for.

  117. June 22, 2007 at 11:47 am

    […] to the Visible/Invisible Church distinction. This has already been dealt with rather decisively in this post. I would perhaps point out that Wilson now believes that the historical/eschatological distinction […]


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