An Open Letter

This letter is being written to all TE’s and RE’s in the PCA. Sorry for the alphabet soup there. It is a response to this letter, and to Jeff Meyers’s 30 reasons. If you are a TE or an RE, and would like to show your support for the denomination’s study committee report, go there.



  1. Bill Carson said,

    June 5, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    “We are convinced that the time has come for the PCA to make her mind clear on the fundamental matters of election, assurance of salvation and justification. We agree with the reformers that justification is the article by which the church must stand or fall.”

    Exactly! Please be aware that we in the OPC will be praying for you all. May our Lord give you clear guidance as a denomination, and as individual commisioners. Prov. 3:5.6.

  2. Tim Wilder said,

    June 5, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    I find misleading the claim that these signers of the “FV Report Questions and Concerns” letter opposing the Committee report are “not FV men”.

    Vito Aiuto, Resurrection Presbyterian Church
    Resurrection is a church plant of Park Slope, which features N.T. Wright quotes on its web site:

    Matt Brown is the pastor of Park Slope itself.

    If they escape being FV, they don’t escape being NPP, and are just as much a target of the report to which they object as the FV people themselves are.

    Ray Cannata is from Redeemer in New Orleans. They feature Martin Luther King’s Letter From the Birmingham Jail on their website, which does not make them FV, but neither does it suggest orthodoxy.

  3. J. Climacus said,

    June 5, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    You might also want to look at Joel Garver’s careful analysis of the committee report here:

  4. June 6, 2007 at 6:30 am


    What confuses me about some of the responses coming from your readers is this: They are suggesting (now) that anyone who reads or quotes Wright et al are guilty of being out of accord with our Standards. Is nothing they say useful or helpful? Is there nothing orthodox that can come from the pen of Wright? Hasn’t this gone far beyond what Wright declares about Paul that your readers are now suggesting that even his comments about “worship” are tainted? The narrowness of the minds of some of your readers simply amaze me! Even Augustine (and Calvin) was wrong about this or that! So, do we throw the baby out with the bath water? Do we now start to hunt for people in the denomination that have Wright books in their libraries? Do we appoint an official in the denomination to keep track of the purchases of our pastors (Big Brother) and bring ministers up on charges for purchasing Wright, Dunn and Hays? If you ask me, this kind of thought shows how absurd this matter is being handled by the opponents of the NPP/FV.

  5. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Re: 3
    “They are suggesting (now) that anyone who reads or quotes Wright et al are guilty of being out of accord with our Standards.”

    What sort of church makes the prominent, lead quotation on the web site intended to introduce their church, a quotation from a liberal theologian, most famous for his sustained attack on the Reformers concepts of ecclesiology and justification? This is the church’s statement of who they are. I got the message.

  6. June 6, 2007 at 7:25 am

    It could be worst,Biblical seminary which has morphed into the ’emergent’ seminary, has across the top of its website a glowing endorsement from Brian McLaren ( but after McLaren recently came out raving about Dale Martin’s pro-homosexual book, “Sex and The Single Saviour’, they may scrabble to get that removed). But then again, Mclaren credits Wright with getting him to rethink the Gospel as not being atonement centered-especially in regards to penal substitution.

  7. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Re: 5

    Lately the FV blogs have been exulting over the latest missive from Wright, in which he defends his views on the incarnation and Trinity, taking swipes at such “rationalistic” concepts as justified belief and propositional truth. The orthodoxy which matters to him is left-wing politics, and there is a tendency that way in a a couple of churches who signed the “non-FV men” letter.


    What is especially bad about this letter and Meyer’s 30 points is that they are efforts to muddy the water and confuse people. What is important is to get a vote expressing the mind of the PCA on these matters. Even if it went in favor of the FV because the majority understood the FV and approved of it, we would know how things stood, and that everyone had made up their minds on where they stood. The the FV guys are trying to confuse things, for fear of losing.

    The PCA and OPC, as currently constituted, make no sense. The Evangelical squishes should be in the EPC, the Klinites in the URC, the theonomists in one or another of the micros, etc. What are needed is issues and votes that clarify people’s thinking, and not politically motivated efforts, like those of the FV people, to confuse things.

  8. June 6, 2007 at 8:22 am

    ” Klinites”- I resemble that remark! Where, pray tell, will you set up house?With the star fleet in route to the colony of ‘Robbinites’?

  9. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 6, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Here’s another post from Joel Garver:

  10. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Re: 8

    The question is, do we need to get back before all the 20th century American aberrations? Or is that not enough and do we need to go pre-Kuyper.

  11. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 6, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Garver’s summary:

    I’ve argued that the report interprets both the NPP and FV in ways that cast them in a worse light than warranted by the materials in question. This lack of generosity has the tendency to exaggerate differences in emphasis into differences in substance and to portray dimensions of doctrine that go beyond our Standards as actually in conflict with our Standards.

    In neither case are such exaggerations or portrayals warranted by the report’s arguments and evidence.

    If the PCA embraces this report, it will commend these exaggerations and less than generous portrayals as representative of how we operate as a denomination. Moreover, such tendency towards distortion might well breed a kind of wariness towards anyone who seems at all favorable toward NPP insights or who wishes to explore dimensions of covenant theology or various biblical senses of “election” – even if such a person’s views are wholly consistent with our Standards.

    While the nine declarations at the end of the report are, to my mind, unproblematic in themselves, they are nonetheless premised upon the supposed points of conflict outlined in the report. By embracing these declarations in the overall context of the report, the PCA would invite us to pour the content of the report into the declarations, thereby furnishing a tool that might prove detrimental in over-zealous hands.

    In these ways, then, in connection with my first assertion, I worry that the report, if accepted, could prove adverse to the health and culture of the PCA.

  12. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Re: 9

    Garver is saying the the Committee did not lean over far enough backwards in their efforts to pretend that an orthodox interpretation could be forced onto the FV and NPP writers. I think that the Committee did not go far enough in identifying the more serious errors.

    The FV was extended the benefit of the doubt for far too long, but now it is way too late for Garver’s tactic.

  13. June 6, 2007 at 8:57 am

    I am perfectly happy with being a ‘Old Princeton’ presbyterian. As such I have little patience with those in the FV who cast aspersions on the ‘American Reformed tradition’ as personified by the likes of Charles Hodge, BB Warfield and J.Gresham Machen.

  14. Wayne Wylie said,

    June 6, 2007 at 9:18 am

    I second the sentiments of Mr. Carson. We in the OPC will be praying for our brothers and sisters in the PCA. It was also good to see the BPC come out against NPP/FV.

  15. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Re: 13

    I think we have to grant the FV this much: although the FV system is new, the parts it is built out of were cooked up by various seminary boys, mostly at Westminster East and West, but with the Dutch helping (e.g. Hoeksema).

    This causes another problem in that the critics of the FV have a hard time seeing the parts that resemble their own ideas. So the Klinites are blind to Kline’s large contribution to the FV. The Vantillians can’t see their huge contribution (and the OPC in their official report snapped at Calvin Beisner for correctly pointing this out), the Protestant Reformed deny any resemblance despite the FVs ample citations of Hoeksema and stealing his anti-Convenant of Works rhetorical strategy in its entirety, etc.

  16. Austin Bob said,

    June 6, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Why are we in such a rush? There are a huge number of faithful parishoners caught in the corssfire between contenders for the prize of Chief Theologian. A much longer and less public discussion … maybe a generation or so … would be much more likely to have a beneficial effect on the flocks we are called to shepherd.

  17. June 6, 2007 at 9:51 am

    With all due respect for your many helpful insights, but as a former student of Meredith Kline( Who the FV and Norman Shepherd positively loathed) you are out to lunch on you take on Kline.

  18. Jeff Waddington said,

    June 6, 2007 at 10:10 am


    To blame the FV on Van Til, or Kline is to indicate one’s obvious ignorance of either man. This is not to deny that some FVers claim allegiance to Van Til, but this is just to note that they are not in actually following Van Til at this point. And to attribute FV views to Kline is just plain preposterous, plain and simple.

  19. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Re: 17

    “Who the FV and Norman Shepherd positively loathed”

    This is one of the convenient fictions. At the time when the foundations of the FV were being put in place, Jordan could hardly open his mouth without recommending Kline. Everybody was supposed to go read Images of the Spirit and have a mind transforming experience.

  20. Stewart said,

    June 6, 2007 at 10:52 am

    “As such I have little patience with those in the FV who cast aspersions on the ‘American Reformed tradition’ as personified by the likes of Charles Hodge, BB Warfield and J.Gresham Machen.”

    Machen wouldn’t be allowed in the PCA.

  21. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Re: 18

    “To blame the FV on Van Til, or Kline is to indicate one’s obvious ignorance of either man. This is not to deny that some FVers claim allegiance to Van Til, but this is just to note that they are not in actually following Van Til at this point. And to attribute FV views to Kline is just plain preposterous, plain and simple.”

    This sort of denial of plain facts does no one any good.

    Meredith Kline did write God, Heaven, and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos with its mountain/heaven symbolism, even though Kline’s defenders would prefer to pretend that he never wrote such a thing. Kline did write Images of the Spirit. The symbolic interpretations of Scripture in these and other books, and even move the system of symbols uniting heaven and earth that Kline constructed are the foundation of the Federal Vision. The Federal Vision is the application of priestcraft to Kline’s symbol system.

    If there are rituals exploiting the symbols as a sort of hermetic tie between heaven and earth, then theology has to accommodate the continuance of this priesthood today. If a valid levitical priesthood continues, the covenants have to be interpreted in a compatible way. If the covenants are modified, soteriology is altered. It is here, at the third order consequences that the seminary critics, such as the Klinites and Southern Presbyterians, began to catch on that there was a problem. But that is all they saw. They won’t acknowledge the paradigm that leads to this, because the paradigm is erected on the work of their heroes: Murray, Van Til and especially Kline.

    As for Van Til contributions to the Federal Vision:

    1) The introduction of paradox in theology, allowing for views that are contrary to the confession, because this is not bad but a mark of divine truth.
    2) The introduction of Arminian exegesis to produce and buttress the paradoxes.
    3) The use of terms with private, undisclosed meanings in theological controversy and denomination fights
    4) The explicit conflation of faith and works

    But there was something else that Van Til and Kline did. They provided their personal example of wrecking received systems of theology in the name of their own supposedly superior personal insights. This made them heroes to their followers. And if it is OK for Van Til and Kline to do this, why not also Jordan, Leithart, Meyers, et. al.?

    Defeating the Federal Vision in and of itself is not going to solve the problem, because the underlying theological errors of Murray, Hoeksema, Van Til and Kline will come out in other ways. We could add the the list of pervasive errors that of Kuyper in splitting the work of God into a common grace track and a special grace track. This is not part of the Federal Vision but helped provoke it.

    I think that the Federal Vision is a lost cause. I also think that the next thing built on the same principles will be more subtle and harder to beat, but in the end just as bad. I think the next thing will probably come from seminary professors, and not from amateurs as the Federal Vision did, which was their undoing.

  22. Robin Masters said,

    June 6, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I occasionally lurk on blogs like this one and the Bayly’s blog because they’re always good for a few guffaws and giggles. But your opening comment made me cringe! Is this really the best argument that you can muster? That one of the pastors, Vito Auito, has a relationship with Matt Brown, who has a quote from N.T. Wright on his website, and therefore anything he has to say about the FV report must be suspect? Or, even more astronomically obtuse, that Ray Cannata has a MLK quote on his website so his orthodoxy is in question?!?! Maybe we should doubt your orthodoxy because you quote Henry Van Til on your website in Spanish?? What has this debate come to? These men are men with whom you will be worshipping and breaking bread with in a few days at GA! With G.L.W. Johnson, I think you are out to lunch, but on far more than your views of Kline.

  23. R. F. White said,

    June 6, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Tim W.,

    With regard to Kline and the FV, the point that the leadership, to a man (so far as I know), reject is Kline’s view of the Mosaic covenant and of the covenant of works. That’s what Gary had in mind. For what it’s worth, as to Kline’s typological symbolism, I would agree with you that, on that score, there is much more indebtedness and appreciation from the FVers toward Kline.

  24. Tim Wilder said,

    June 6, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Re: 22

    This is where there is a big disconnect. The OPC, PCA, etc. etc. reports, all defend against what they see as an attack on the heart of Reformed theology, the doctrine of justification. Well, this is understandable. The problem comes when these reports give this idea that these same issues are central to the FV as a system. One of the ways in which the FV is different from Reformed theology is that it has a different center, and the doctrines the are criticized and focused on in the whole controversy are derivative ones in FV terms.

    This is why the FV can be built on Kline, and still differ from Kline on secondary matters. The critics of the FV are so locked in their own paradigms that they can’t see that.

    But it also means the the critics of the FV miss serious errors in the FV. By focuses only on justification, or on justification in relation to ecclesiology, they critics miss the big issue of the FV attack on Christ’s central and final place as
    high priest, mediator, and intercessor.

    What I have tried to point out over and over is that the critical parallel between the FV and Rome lies just there. Rome attacks on the finality and completeness of the redemptive work of Christ by repeating the sacrifice of the mass over and over, adding its own institutional role and priestcraft to it. The Federal Vision maintains an ongoing Levitical priesthood which attacks the sufficiency and finality of Christ’s priesthood by adding the mediatorial priestcraft of the weekly covenant renewal rituals, without which the covenant obtained for us by Christ does not get renewed, i.e. it lapses.

    I also find that there is a type of Klinite critic (encountered elsewhere than this blog) of the Federal Vision who, 1) denies that Kline ever wrote his theology of symbols, 2) is fond of the covenant renewal rituals of the FV, and 3) denies that the Federal Vision has a ritual theology based on symbols. These people think that their ridiculous denial of the connection between Kline and the Federal Vision clears Kline of any influence. But it actually underlines how much Klinites have in common with the FV.

    As for Kline’s view of the Mosaic covenant and of the covenant of works, the FV people love to bring it up because they sense a weakness here that they can capitalize on. That is why I prefer to look to older sources on these matters and make no claims for Kline’s views about them. Now if you agree with Kline here, you won’t think it is a weakness, but the FV people think that there is an exploitable weakness.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    June 6, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    As moderator of this blog, I think that we can spend our time more profitably than arguing about Kline’s and Van Til’s relationship to the FV. I think we should move on from that discussion. I think also that there is no need to talk about the motives of anyone writing on the group of ten pastors in their letter, nor about the motives of those writing the open letter referenced in this post. Let’s talk about substance, folks. Let’s argue real theological points.

  26. Vern Crisler said,

    June 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Good point Lane. I have difficulty in seeing the relevance of Van Til and Kline with respect to the Federal Vision (or as someone said, the Ecclesial Vision) or to Shepherd or Tom Wright’s views.

    Perhaps Tim could point us to an online paper where the connections could be made more explicit (i.e., not just friendship, etc.) After all, Kline attacked conditionalist views of justification, and Van Til’s notion of “paradox” was directed against logicism, not justification.

    Anyway, thanks for all the discussion!



  27. Sean Gerety said,

    June 6, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    I can’t speak to Kline, but I do agree that Van Til laid the epistemological foundation from which the so-called Federal Vision grew. It’s not really a coincidence that virtually all defenders and advocates of the FV are self Id’ed Van Tilians. For more by the way of argument, see:

    OK, now moving on . . . . :)

  28. Stewart said,

    June 6, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Sean, could you briefly describe that epistemological foundation for us? What’s wrong with it? And why do so many FVers like it?

  29. Sean Gerety said,

    June 6, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Follow the link Stewart. I fully understand your reticence given your love of the brethren over at Trinity Foundation that you’ve expressed on these blog pages. It will take you into dangerous and uncharted territory, but keep repeating Psalm 23 to yourself and you should make it back safely. :)

  30. pilgrim said,

    June 6, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    This could make for “lively” discussion at GA.
    I’ll definitely be checking that out online.

  31. June 7, 2007 at 5:39 am

    Your remark about Machen and the PCA- what on earth do you base that on?! Given the present of the FV in the PCA he might not want to be in the PCA ( you will remember that it was Rich Lusk who decared that Machen ‘s last message to Murray about the importance of the Active obedience of Christ was wrong. A number of the FV crowd have singled out Old Princeton for criticism, with Wilson going so far as to make reference to Warfield as having embibed gnosticism!) but Machen was a Old School presbyterian-very much a ‘TR’.

  32. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 6:51 am

    Isn’t it also true that FV guys consistently side with Princeton over against Dabney/Thornwell when there is conflict between these two strands?

  33. June 7, 2007 at 7:18 am

    As I stated back in Feb on Scott Clark’s blog, in my post, ” A Question For Federal Visionists Everywhere” . The FV as a whole , and especially their leading represenatives, do not have a very high opinion of any of the great 19th cent Presbyterian theologians, be it Thornwell, Dabney, Palmer, Girardeau in the South, or the likes of Shedd and the Old Princeton men. No one from the FV, as I remember, made any comments to the challenging that. It was Lusk who declared that this tradition was like ” a bad cassette recording of the real thing”. Instead, they draw their insights from Norman Shepherd and NT Wright.

  34. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 7:47 am

    Lusk didn’t say the cassette thing about Princeton, though. Wasn’t he directing this comment at more modern-day, truncated versions?

  35. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 7:57 am

    Here’s more Joel Garver on the weaknesses of the PCA report:

  36. Keith LaMothe said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:03 am

    Re: #30; will there be an oppurtunity for a full-out discussion of these issues at GA? Or will there just be an hour before the vote on the Report?

    Re: #33; Gary, I’ve read a good bit of Wilson’s stuff (notably _Black & Tan_), and he seems to have quite a lot of respect for R.L. Dabney. In addition, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church’s ministerial training program is called the “R.L. Dabney Center for Theological Studies”. Of course, neither of those facts necessarily contradicts what you said, but I’m curious to know if you were aware of them.

  37. June 7, 2007 at 8:04 am

    His exact words were,” American Reformed theology is like a bad cassette recording of the real thing”. Now you may like to nuance that so that it is only in reference to ‘recent’ American Reformed theology ( which is still pretty audacious coming from someone with zero formal theological training), but given the fact that Machen is singled out by Lusk and Wilson and Leithart use Warfield as a foil ( and going back before the FV became all the rage, Wilson was approvingly quoting from Theodore Letis in the pages of C/A. Letis wrote a PhD diss excoriating Warfield for his use of Westcott-Hort, claiming that Warfield single-handly brought down Old Princeton!) and Mark Horne does the same with Samuel Miller, it is extremely difficult not to conclude that Lusk’s remark is far more incompassing than just the contemporary scene

  38. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Re: 35

    “The report isolates particular statements and uses them as lenses through which to portray wider perspectives, thereby distorting them.”

    In other words, the report does not quote all of N.T. Wright’s books in their entirety.

    Of course, this whining about being misinterpreted is one of Wright’s one favorite ploys, for example at conferences when scholars deliver papers critical of his ideas. This is Wright’s own fault because he cranks out great volumes of inconsistent and carelessly worded material. No matter how a interpreter construes it, there will be something contradictory somewhere else and that someone can pull out to claim that everything else is a misinterpretation.

  39. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:18 am

    Gary, it’s his own nuance. He’s talking about popularized American Reformed theology today.

    Here are more of his exact words:

    “For better and for worse, we have numerous popularizers of Reformed theology around today. The result is that what most of us think of as ‘Reformed’ is greatly truncated. American Reformed theology is like a bad cassette recording of the real thing. I’m simply trying to recover nuances that were originally in the tradition, but have been lost. Yes, some of it may seem trying, but in the end it is worth it.”

    Read in context, Gary!

  40. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Re: 36

    Keith LaMothe said,

    “Gary, I’ve read a good bit of Wilson’s stuff (notably _Black & Tan_), and he seems to have quite a lot of respect for R.L. Dabney. In addition, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church’s ministerial training program is called the “R.L. Dabney Center for Theological Studies”. Of course, neither of those facts necessarily contradicts what you said, but I’m curious to know if you were aware of them.”

    What Wilson and Wilkins like about Dabney is his defense of the Southern Confederacy. Wilkins used to host an annual Confederate Ball at Auburn Ave. This, by the way is a HUGE embarrassment to the younger, politically correct members of the FV, such as Barlow.

  41. June 7, 2007 at 8:29 am

    You go back and read it in context. The words “American Reformed theology” is what he wrote, not “Today’s American Reformed theology”. And since he and others in the Fv that I listed, do single out Old Princeton ( and by the way, who do you think has had the most influence on these ‘popularist’ Reformed theologians like J.I.Packer, R.C.Sproul and co.? By their own admission it was Old Princeton) For someone who claims to simply be a ‘neutral’ observer, you constantly come to the rescue anytime the FV is remotely questioned.

  42. Stewart said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:30 am

    Sean, for once I agree with you. It is about Van Til. And actually, it’s more about Kuyper than Van Til. But my question was a sincere one. I would really like to know what you think FV folks find so attractive in Van Til’s thought, and why it’s related to this controversy.

  43. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Stewart, I would rather we moved on from discussing Van Til’s relationship to the FV. I tried to say this a bit more politely in comment 25. If I need to say it more forcefully, I will. The same goes for Kline.

  44. Stewart said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Gary, you’re right about Machen. I read to fast and thought you invoked Murray’s name. :-) But while we are on the subject, do you think Murray would be able to get ordained in the PCA given our current environment?

  45. Stewart said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Lane, fair enough. Although at some point I’d like to hear your opinion on Van Til’s relationship to the FV, when you have time.

  46. June 7, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Most of them ,especially Wilson, learned their VT from the late Greg Bahnsen, from which they also embibed thier views on theonomy and post millenialism. VT, on the other hand, wanted nothing whatsoever to do with either theonomy or their brand of post millenialism-and he is on record saying so.As I have stated before, VT would be appauled at where Shepherd has gone( as is Gaffin) and would not be the least bit sympathetic to the FV, especially on the sacraments. Finally, read James Dennison’s recent work on the Life and letters of G. Vos. Vos writes to Warfield about Kuyper’s novel views on presumptive regeneration and paedobaptism and Vos is mortified.

  47. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 8:50 am

    Re: 45

    Just go to Doug Wilson’s blog and read James Jordan’s comments. He will tell you.

  48. Stewart said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Gary, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.

  49. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:11 am

    “As I have stated before, VT would be appauled at where Shepherd has gone( as is Gaffin) and would not be the least bit sympathetic to the FV, especially on the sacraments.”

    Lane did say that he does not want this topic breached any more on his blog. However, just for the record, your opinion of VT is pure speculation (and Gaffin has been consistently on the wrong side of this controversy for obvious reason which seem completely lost on his defenders). I would think Frame’s position is probably a better indication of where VT might come down. Also, let’s not forget that VT is on record defending Shepherd during the height of the controversy as it raged at WTS. I would just recommend Reymond’s discussion of theological paradox in his systematics and draw your own conclusions.

  50. Jenny F said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for the link! I am excited to see so many signatures on the letter and I can’t wait to listen to the debate/vote online.

  51. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:42 am

    I see that I am going to have to put a moratorium on Gaffin as well. Sean, I do respect you a lot, but I couldn’t disagree more with your take on Gaffin, as well as the myth that VT defended Shepherd for FV reasons. We have tangled before on this issue (on the Puritanboard), and I would really rather not get into it again.

  52. June 7, 2007 at 9:44 am

    It would be nice to see this discussed with greater depth somewhere. It seems to me more can be accomplished dealing with the root of all these current controversies. I think there are serious epistemological issues that until clearly and definitively addressed the Church will not overcome these difficulties. Of course I only have a sense of the direction this should go given my readings over the past year or so.

    Anyways, would be nice to have another thread where this can be explored!

  53. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:50 am

    The difficulty with doing this, Beth, is that both TR’s *and* the FV are divided on the degree of influence that men like Gaffin, Van Til, and Kline have on the FV. Gaffin is not only a personal friend of mine, but my teacher as well. No one has been more maligned (by people on both sides of this!) than Gaffin. I would venture to guess that it is the reason he has not published more. I know, I know, here I am talking about him. But the point is that motivations and the real position of someone are not always clear at all. And judging motivations is a very dangerous thing. I would prefer, therefore, to stick with the theological issues at stake, rather than attempting to find the roots. I think that the roots discussion can take place. I just don’t want it to be on my blog.

  54. June 7, 2007 at 9:51 am

    I know I sound like a broken record to some who have been following this discussion on the FV, but you simply can jump to that conclusion about VT.At the time this was unfolding Shepherd had not come out and repudiated the covenant of works or the active obedience of Christ- this would not be something he made public for another 20 plus years! Why do you think Gaffin changed his mind about Shepherd? When I was a student at WTS during this period, we did ask VT why he stood by Shepherd. The answer was always,” Norman was one of my students and Bill Bright is not right! That is what Norman is saying”.This is how VT understood Shepherd’s position-he was opposing the ‘easy beleivism’ and ‘decisional regeneration’ that characterized so much of Evangelicalism then(and now). Stewart- John Murray had the theological where- with -all to keep his own reservations in check(cf T. David Gordon’s chapter in the book I edited with Guy Waters, ‘By Faith Alone’) . His views in no shape ,form ,or fashion mirror those of Shepherd. And ,finally, Frame’s take on Shepherd would not have reflected VT. Gaffin is a much better example , and as such is not someone who would be suspect in a presbyterian denomination like the PCA.

  55. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Gary, you know I agree with you on this. However, I have declared a moratorium on this discussion. I think we should move on.

  56. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2007 at 10:42 am

    “I think there are serious epistemological issues that until clearly and definitively addressed the Church will not overcome these difficulties.”

    Amen and you are exactly right to point to questions of epistemology as the source. I also understand why Lane wants to avoid the topic since it is contentious, so I won’t say any more on this thread about either Van Til or Gaffin. I’ll just share a quick anecdote if Lane permits.

    Years ago when I was virtually brand new to the Reformed faith (and coming from a Schafferian background as the only oasis I found while wandering for close to twenty years through the ersatz-Evangelical wasteland), a very bright young man in my newfound PCA church gave me a copy of Frame’s essay,”The Problem of Theological Paradox” from the book Foundations of Christian Scholarship. I remember telling him how appalled I was by the piece and saying that if someone had given me this piece only a couple of years back and told me this was the Reformed faith, I would have immediately seen why Calvinism has become the anemic minority report drowning in the backwaters of American Evangelicalism.

    Fortunately, my introduction to the Reformed faith came through reading Gordon Clark, Martin Luther, Lorraine Boettner and John Calvin. Given that foundation I knew all wasn’t lost, even if seriously disfigured.

    On another note, and since the GA is broadcast online, does anyone know the time and date the Report is supposed to be debated?

  57. June 7, 2007 at 10:54 am


    I agree and


    Due to not expressing clearly I did not mean for the discussion to necessarily take place here but would just be glad it was taking place “somewhere”.

    Schaeffer was an oasis for me as well. :)

  58. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Sean, Wednesday at 2 PM is when the fireworks are going to happen. ;-)

  59. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 10:58 am

    “On another note, and since the GA is broadcast online, does anyone know the time and date the Report is supposed to be debated?”

    Look here:

  60. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Re: 54, 55, 56, 57

    “Amen and you are exactly right to point to questions of epistemology as the source.”

    wordpress is free. Sean Gerety could set up a blog just on this and host a discussion if he wants.

  61. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Sean Gerety could set up a blog just on this and host a discussion if he wants.

    I might do that Tim. Thanks. I’ll let you know. As Clark used to say; “I always enjoy a good brawl.” ;)

    Thanks for the info on when the fireworks begin. God willing it will just be a couple of kids playing with sparklers and the thing passes without too many burnt fingers. :)

  62. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Sean, that is certainly wishful thinking. It is absolutely ludicrous to think that this will be done in an hour. Not with Meyers sending out his letter to just about everyone he can find. What is amazing to me is that some FV’ers have been saying that our response to the 10-pastor letter is political. As if their letter wasn’t political, and as if Meyers’s 30 points wasn’t political. What’s wrong with politics, I might add? Politics is in the church. You cannot get it out. Just don’t tell me that the FV isn’t doing politics. Both sides are using every political tool they can find. Let’s just be honest about this. Machinations are going on behind the scenes on both sides.

  63. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    “It is absolutely ludicrous to think that this will be done in an hour.”

    It is still possible, under this year’s rules to “call the question” and stop debate?

  64. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Great points. Of course it’s political. After all, it all comes down to votes and both sides should be trying to their best to mobilize and lobby for the votes they need for either passage or defeat. Only a fool would say this is about friendly persuasion and not politics at this point. This fight is not going to be decided by either extreme, but by the lukewarm middle. If truth alone were enough, we could do away with voting entirely.

    FWIW I make my living in Conservative grassroots politics so it seems to me the only ones generally surprised by the politics involved in these kinds of fights are the ones who end up losing. Seeing the FV men are already whining that this fight is being “politicized” is perhaps a good sign that they might be anticipating defeat. Of course, it could be just another attempt to obfuscate the issue and smear their opponents? Given their track record, and since I don’t have any way to construct a vote count based on those attending, I’m going with the latter.

    I also agree that the FVer’s are very political. I also think they’re smart too. What they’re doing is what I would do and that is to confuse the issue and put doubts in the minds of those in the middle suggesting that the Committee left too many questions unanswered, was unbalanced, etc. Conversely, I have to say, whoever wrote the above letter did an outstanding job as well. The reassuring tone of the entire letter was really well done. Frankly, if Machen and company did a better job mobilizing early on there probably wouldn’t be an OPC and a PCA.

    Of course, God is sovereign over politics too.

  65. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Tim, yes, it’s possible to call the question. But I hope the TR’s will be a bit leary of that tactic, as it could be seen as railroading. If there comes a time when the wheels start spinning in place, then I think it is a legitimate tool. But yes, that is something that can be done.

  66. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    “But I hope the TR’s will be a bit leary of that tactic, as it could be seen as railroading.”

    I would imagine that it would be the BRs who would do this. Wasn’t it them last year? TRs would be lined up waiting to talk.

  67. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I’m sure you’re right about the early part of the discussion. The BR’s will try everything to railroad a vote so that no one is ready, and the report will fail. However, as time goes on, and many important people speak up for the report, they will be less and less likely to try something like that.

  68. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I’m predicting that as soon as it looks like discussion will be protracted, or it sounds like someone is stalling, the men of Evangel Prebytery will line up to call they question. They will succeed, the motion to accept the Committee’s recommendations will pass, and the GA will move on to the next item on the docket.

  69. anneivy said,

    June 7, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    What’s a “BR” for the uninitiated?

  70. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    BR = Barely Reformed.

  71. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Re: 69,

    BR stands for Barely Reformed, although they are euphemistically referred to as “Broadly”. TR is Truly Reformed, i.e. Confessional. RB is Reformed But, the ones who say, “I’m Reformed, but….” and then object to whatever Reformed view is being put forward.

  72. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Funny. :-0

  73. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Re: 69

    If you want the locus classicus BR, TR, etc. go back to Roger Schultz GA reports from the days when Contra Mundum covered General Assemblies. See:

    starting on page 24.

  74. Austin Bob said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Re: 58

    I am appalled by the use of a smiley-face in conjunction with “fireworks” at GA. Even if all of the anti-FV rhetoric is correct (both with respect to its characterization of the FV writings and to its declaration that FV is out of accord with WCF), I would hope that this situation would be greeted with a deep and genuine mourning. Regardless of the outcome of the GA consideration, this is a sad day for the PCA.

  75. June 7, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Is there a reason why the “1. Procedure” document still has no active link?

  76. anneivy said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Ah. Thanks, Todd. ;^)

    I’m not terribly deedy with acronyms, I fear.

  77. anneivy said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    And thanks to you, too, Tim! :-)

  78. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Joel Garver on the PCA report, part 4:

    We all look forward to Tim Wilder’s careful summary of Joel’s approach.

  79. Tim Wilder said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Re: 78

    “The report cites statements that have been either retracted or significantly qualified by their authors.”

    Traslation: “We are not responsible for the errors that we have already been caught on, only the latest spin on our website!”

  80. greenbaggins said,

    June 7, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Austin Bob, if the report is approved by the margin that I hope it will have, then the PCA will have gained a great victory for the truth. The sad day is in the past, when the FV started propagating new ideas without first submitting them to their betters. This subversion of the standards was the sad thing.

  81. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks, Tim. That’s the stuff.

  82. Todd R. Harris said,

    June 7, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Don’t miss the good dialogue between Joel Garver and Andy Webb on baptismal efficacy here:

  83. Sean Gerety said,

    June 8, 2007 at 8:36 am

    I don’t know why Webb wastes his time. Garver like other FV men are only consistent in being Janus faced.

  84. June 8, 2007 at 11:24 am

    on #79- Garver still does not address the position that Wilkins and Lusk put forth in the book that Wilkins and Garner ed. ‘The Federal Vision’ in which the two of them maintain that the NECM, by virtue of their baptism are brought into ‘union with Christ ‘and actually do come into possession of such redemptive benefits as -justification, the forgiveness of sins, adoption- this is THE Federal Vision, and if they are prepared to now step up to the mike and admit that they jumped the gun, they spoke too soon,” mea culpa,mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” then that would go along way towards healing the breech. If they had done this 5 years ago much of this turmoil could have been avoided- but they are not going to admit any such thing and so there is probably going to be some kind of blood-letting and parting of the ways in both the OPC and the PCA.

  85. Tim Wilder said,

    June 8, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Re: 84

    There has been considerable bleating over the past year, especially by Horne, that the criticisms of Lusk are not confined to the lastest version of his papers on the web. That was what I was alluding to. It like, “OK, you caught me. Now I only defend a toned down view, at least while the heat is on.”

    Garver has backed away from some of Lusk’s historical fantasies, due to his having done some reading of his own. He seems to be in motion, and where he will be a year from now and where he will stop, I wouldn’t venture to predict.

    This turns into the “Because we change our minds all the time, it is unfair to hold us accountable for anything we taught in the past” defense.

  86. Austin Bob said,

    June 8, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Re: 80

    If the report is overwhelmingly supported, then there would certainly be a case to be made for a “victory” of sorts. Although one continues to wonder how narrowly the bounds of Christian fellowship and discourse ought to be drawn. Is the FV “worse” than the Baptists? Or are they also heretics?

    The real concern I was expressing, though, was the attitude of spoiling for a fight. If men on both sides are still deserving of the term “Christian”, it hardly seems right to relish the “fireworks”.

  87. Xon said,

    June 8, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    “This turns into the “Because we change our minds all the time, it is unfair to hold us accountable for anything we taught in the past” defense”

    And it sounds like a good defense to me, against the charge of being a heretic. If I once used the “vapor water ice” analogy to explain the Trinity to a Sunday School class, and then someone pointed out to me that this is really modalism and unorthodox, and so I then stop using that analogy, only the most stubborn polemicist would insist on calling me a modalist.

    Now, perhaps you want to shift the charge. Maybe you want to stop accusing the FV of being heretical, and just rest on the claim that it is confusing and sophistic. They say one thing, then another, and don’t seem to know what they themselves believe. I disagree with this charge, but I can certainly agree that anyone who has this problem is not really fit to be a minister of the Gospel. But their unfitness does not come from them being a heretic in this cae, but simply from their poor communication/reasoning skills.

    In this discussion, the theology (not the clarity) is what is first and foremosts brought against FV men. When those sympathetic to FV ideas try to launch a defense by looking closely at how various words are used in different contexts, the frequent comeback is to say “Well, this sure is unclear.” But what these critics who use this comeback don’t seem to realize is that they have just retreated by offering it.

    If you want to accuse me of being a generally confusing person, then the fact that I have changed my mind or retracted previous statements will not be a very good defense. Circumstantially, changing one’s mind is just what a generally confusing person might do. (But not necessarily–the law of charity always applies, and we should be slow to level these sorts of accusations because it is okay to change one’s mind from error to truth, and none of us would like to be held to a standard of strict and unwavering consistency throughout our lives.) But if you want to accuse me of being a heretic, then the fact that I changed my mind or made retractions is a good defense.

  88. Xon said,

    June 8, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    And, also I should add the likely obvious point that you can’t really accuse all FV people of being confusing in the same way that you can accuse them of being heretical. If the “confusing” line of approach is to become the new flavor of FV’s critics, then you have to level accusations at specific people. (For instance, you can say that Wilkins is confusing and quote his writings and speakings to that effect but you can’t then say that Joel Garver is confusing simply because he agrees with Wilkins on such-and-such and Wilkins is confusing. You would have to accuse Garver from his own speakings and writings, or not at all.)

  89. Sean Gerety said,

    June 8, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Per #82 I will say after reading Garver’s exchange with Webb, I think La Salle ought to give the man a significant raise and immediate move him from lowly assistant prof of phil to a department head. He is serving his employers very, very well.

    FWIW I have yet to see any of these men really repent of any of their positions. Equivocation is much more effective. Every sentence they write can be deconstructed to mean anything they want depending on the audience. It’s a house of mirrors. I think their constant refrain warrants a reworking of an old B.B. King tune even at this late stage; “nobody understands me but my momma, but I think she’s jivin’ too.”

  90. June 8, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Xon said “And it sounds like a good defense to me, against the charge of being a heretic. If I once used the “vapor water ice” analogy to explain the Trinity to a Sunday School class, and then someone pointed out to me that this is really modalism and unorthodox, and so I then stop using that analogy, only the most stubborn polemicist would insist on calling me a modalist.”

    I think I’d have to challenge that defense if you 1. dug your heels in on the issue under a presbytery exam or 2. had your buddy keep even the craziest, most heretical and indefensible things you’ve written hosted on his internet site and 3. if you did not go out of your way to make your public repentance as prominent and accessible as your initial errors.

  91. Xon said,

    June 8, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Fascinating, substantive interaction, Sean.

  92. Sean Gerety said,

    June 8, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    And, tell me Xon, what would be the purpose? Shadow boxing is more productive.

  93. June 8, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I guess since FV considers this a “conversation” that this exempts them from biblical repentance when they get caught saying heretical things. Instead, “revision” or just an ad hoc “well, that was my old article, read my new article” seems sufficient. The problem is that this “conversation” has made it into published books, been preached from pulpits, and been defended in presbytery exams. Funny thing, eh?

  94. Xon said,

    June 8, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    So, David, you are accusing FV of the unrepented sin of saying heretical things, but not of heresy itself?

  95. June 8, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Both, Xon.

  96. June 8, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Garver has shredded the report to pieces! I mean, no one here has the !@##$ to take him on. More than that, none of the anti-FV and anti-NPP guys in the whole denomination have interacted with him at all. The committee report, I pray, will crash and burn next week at GA like a gasoline saturated paper airplane headed for a campfire!

  97. June 9, 2007 at 5:52 am

    Re: 96:

    Rev. Buccheri,
    I apologize for my youth and non-elder position in the Church, but I think this is highly uncalled for. Your comment is very immature and the consequences of your statement are not thought out (nor logical for that matter).

    From your comments above, you don’t even understand what ‘good-faith subscription’ is. You think it means you can believe whatever you want to believe, when that wasn’t the intention at all. You desire no form of unity or peace. Does it matter if no one has interacted with Garver? Do Garver’s statements even need to be looked at? It is like asking, do Andrew Malloy’s statements deserve to be looked at by PCA elders? Is Garver an elder (I actually don’t know this)? A week before GA, do good and faithful elders in the PCA have time to interact with him? Shouldn’t they be preparing their sermons, caring for their congregation, and preparing faithfully for their denomination next week? I would imagine a very busy time for ‘most’ elders. So who cares if no one has interacted with him. They have already interacted with all the other FV advocates and sympathizers, it is starting to get ridiculous, and it is starting to get old. The PCA Report interacts enough.

  98. greenbaggins said,

    June 9, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Andrew, I do think Matthew’s comments are quite premature, and that he doesn’t know the PCA nearly as well as he thinks he does. However, Joel is a genuine scholar who is not a whiner. He deserves to be answered. I would suggest that you take Joel seriously. He is not an RE or a TE as far as I know, but is generally reckoned as one of the more careful writers who have ever been associated with the FV (I would hesitate to actually call him FV, since he differs on quite a few points from other FV advocates).

  99. June 9, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Lane et al,

    I admit that my !@#$ was uncalled for. I do like, however, blowing off steam and having a little fun with my old friend Lane (who, by the way, was my dorm mate at WTS). Maybe it’s my Brooklynese that rubbed “yous guys” the wrong way, but it’s all in fun. I don’t consider the comments section of this blog, or any other for that matter, to be a place of scholarship. So, forgive me for me !@#$$ and we’ll see you in Memphis.

  100. June 10, 2007 at 8:26 am

    Pastor Keister,

    Thank you for taking the time to put together this letter and for your concern for the church’s faithfulness to God. You might be interested in a memorandum I wrote about the FV Report from a church order perspective, which you can find at my blog: Hope you are well.

    Jordan Mark Siverd

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