Hermeneutics

Paragraphs 5 and 6 in the FV statement deals with the Bible’s language as compared to systematic/confessional language. These paragraphs were disappointing to me, I have to admit, as well as being non-confessional.

WCF 1.6 specifically states that what can be deduced by good and necessary consequence is part of the whole counsel of God. That is, it has equal weight and authority as what is expressly set down (what is explicit). Of course, the WS do not mean to imply that all systematic formulations are correct. It is only those that can by good and necessary consequence be deduced from Scripture that have equal weight with what is explicit. The FV statement says that such systematic formulations (the statement uses the word “translations”) are not of equal authority as the express statements of Scripture. This marks a clear departure from the WS. This is the precise quotation:

At the same time, we do deny that such translations are superior to or equal to the rhetoric employed by the Spirit in the text…we reject the tendency to privilege the confessional and/or scholastic use of words and phrases over the way the same words and phrases are used in the Bible itself.

This is biblicistic and non-confessional. I actually wouldn’t have had a problem if they just used the language of “superior to.” The ipsissima verba of Scripture have the full weight and authority of God’s declaration. But the inclusion of the words “or equal to” is highly problematic. Systematic formulations that are in accord with Scripture’s teaching have the very same weight and authority as the ipsissima verba. We have to be very careful here. The qualifications are essential: the formulation has to be by good and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture. Secondly, the WS themselves are to be judged by the Scriptures. They are the normed norm, not the norming norm. There is always the possibility that a formulation could be proven wrong by careful exegesis of Scripture. But, positing that the formulation is an accurate summary of Scripture, then, being merely a restatement of Scripture’s teaching, it has the same weight and authority. This is the same thing we talk about when we say that a preacher is bringing to us the Word of God. To the extent that he accurately preaches the Word of God, it is the Word of God that he speaks. The same qualifications apply: what he says must be by good and necessary consequence; his statements are always to be subjected to the ultimate authority of the Word. But if these two conditions are met, then it is the Word of God that is being preached.

such hyper-specialized terminology

I wonder what terminology they have in mind. Maybe “covenantal-but-not-decretal justification, covenantal-but-not-decretal sanctification, covenantal-but-not-decretal election” would all qualify for such hyper-specialized terminology. Are they saying that we should not use the language of the Confessions in our preaching? If they are saying that we shouldn’t preach about supra- versus infra-lapsarianism, I might agree. Of course, the Confession doesn’t speak about that either. I don’t know how fruitful such a discussion would be for parishioners. I have not preached on it yet, and probably will not. It might come up in Sunday School, I suppose. But imputation, propitiation, justification, sanctification, etc. are all words that I explain regularly to my people. So, the upshot is that this FV statement is completely muddy. Without any kind of idea as to what terminology they have in mind, the statement is useless and hopelessly vague.

We deny that confessional commitments in any way require us to avoid using the categories and terms of Scripture, even when the confessional use of such words is necessarily more narrow and circumscribed.

In other words, the WS are not an accurate summary of the Bible’s teaching. There are such serious holes in the WS’s teaching that we have to invent new categories of understanding them. We have to deny “charitable judgment” interpretations of Paul (with a mere wave of the hand, and absolutely NO serious exegesis) in order to invent covenantal-but-not-decretal union with Christ, since the Confession never talks about the benefits that unbelievers receive (WCF 3.6, 10.4).

In line with this, we continue to honor and hold to the creeds of the ancient Church and the confessions of the reformational Church.

In other words, the Confession is no longer sufficient for the church today. Therefore, we don’t really hold to them, having gutted them of any authority they might possibly have.

I have been rather sharp in my criticism of these two paragraphs. The reason for that is that these are two of the worst paragraphs in the whole statement, allowing the FV folk to claim all they want to in regard to the Confession, while denying the Confession with their theology. No doubt Wilson will charge me with the “pot calling the kettle black” thing. I believe I have quite sufficiently proven my confessional position on the Sacraments, Wilson’s charges notwithstanding. I do not propose, therefore, to further that discussion, since he has so completely wrenched it from its original focus, which was the view of Warfield on the Sacraments. And since he did not engage my Warfield quotations directly, I am simply going to move on to the next chapter in RINE.

Advertisements

67 Comments

  1. August 6, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Well done, Lane.

    Our FV friends might have a point about retaining, at all costs, the Bible’s terms if that Bible had been written as a systematic theology text by a single man.

    But when we confront the challenge of many men using similar or identical terms in various ways, the solution cannot be so simplistic as saying, “Well, James does say that we’re justified by works, so I guess we’d better tell our people the same thing without [scholastic, confessional] qualification.”

    The irony is, they’re expecting us to believe that their refusal to engage in systematics actually removes confusion instead of causing it.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    August 6, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks, Jason. Of course, a further irony in all this is that they are introducing their own systematic terms, but are not justifying (!) their use of the terms from Scripture. Whenever it is challenged, they just say “well, that’s the way the Bible is using it.” As if that solves the problem. Where has Wilkins, for instance, exegetically argued that the “judgment of charity” understanding of Paul’s letters is illegitimate? He just dismisses it with a wave of the hand, substituting a view that is contradictory to the WS.

  3. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Perhaps you might apply your own argument to some of your own cherished (although as you would insist non-essentials) dealings with the Westminster Standards. For example the exclusive use of Psalms in worship was at the time of the Westminster Assembly a doctrine deduced by good and necessary consequence. However, most Reformed types no longer believe that, so y’all play a game of “not so good necessary consequence” and the F.V. plays the same game, only now you object because they are doing it with justification. It seems to me that your faulting them looses a lot of power because you do the same for, as you would insist, non-essential doctrines.

    Where do you think the F.V. learned that trick? Maybe one should extinguish his own cigarette before lecturing others on not smoking….

  4. Stewart said,

    August 6, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Would references to Pope as the antichrist qualify as hyper-specialized terminology?

  5. August 6, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    This post is an excellent and needed observation that is key to understanding the FV theology. Great job!

  6. Robert K. said,

    August 6, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    A relevant recent post by Doug Wilson on his blog:

    “The most obvious result is that the one discipline [sic] is refused access to the Lord’s Supper, as well as the general communion which that Supper seals. But the offender is not being denied kindness, courtesy, opportunity to hear the Word preached, the duties owed to him by others, or anything else due him according to the law of love. He is merely denied one thing: the right to define the Christian faith”

    Self-awareness level: minus zero.

  7. August 6, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Andrew,

    You wrote:

    “It seems to me that your faulting them looses [sic] a lot of power because you do the same for, as you would insist, non-essential doctrines.”

    There is a difference between (1) Taking exception to the Standards on some point that all admit is not essential to its doctrinal system (such as exclusive Psalmody), and (2) Using the insistence upon employing only biblical language to obliterate doctrines that are essential to that system (like the graciousness of justification sola fide.

    The argument of the post proper is not that all systematic formulations are true, but they must be held up to the scrutiny of the Word. So the fact that many confessional ministers take some exceptions to the Standards that their presbyteries deem acceptable is neither here nor there.

    Plus, where do the Westminster Standards teach that “only Psalms may be used in worship”?

  8. Alexei Rayu said,

    August 6, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    The problem about the early Reformers is that they were yet anaware of where the idea of the “light of nature” would take them, the humanistic trends placing as much weight on human logic as on the Revelation. But the later developement has revealed human mind to be more deceptive than that. All that seemed “natural” and “deductable by sound logic” by the early Reformers, has been turned upside down. The Reformed today have also redefined some of the Biblical terms, by mostly narrowing the meaning. That is the result of scholastical degeneration of the modern Reformed Theology, when if you hear a certain phrase, like “baptism saves” from 1 Peter 3:21, you raise your finger and go “urghhh” – but then you are told it’s actually from the Bible, and then you suddenly feel you have to bring that stray pasage back into the contents of what the Reformed tradition has become.

  9. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Rev. Stellman,

    I think you missed my point. The fact that you think I am speaking about exceptions is not inconsistent with missing the point. Maybe if I was more blunt. Why is it that all the places you disagree with the WS it’s non essential, but with the F.V. it’s the Gospel is at stake. Your exceptions are OK, but theirs is not. I’m not saying that EP is an essential, nor am I saying that justification is not, what I am saying it’s so convenient to let ourselves off easy, but the other guys, we’re going to smack.

    You let the camel stick his nose into the tent, and now you object that the entire camel is in the tent with you?

    With respect to the the effects on worship practices and the church you might start by thinking about the reason annexed to the second commandment.

    I’m going to assume your question regarding where the WS teach EP was rhetorical, and that you deny that they so teach — right?

  10. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Make that
    “Maybe if I were more blunt…” and “…it’s the Gospel that is at stake…” and “…theirs are not.”

  11. pduggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    7: if the same kind of logical analysis is the analysis that got the divines to affirm psalmody is the analysis that got them to affirm that the moral law was given to Adam as a form of works-righteousness, or that John 3:16 needs to be read to mean “world of the elect” or they won’t be able to avoid Amyraldianism then that is a significant fact.

    I also really doubt that hardly anyone in the PCA “takes exception” to psalmody or Christmas. I’m sure they think that’s not even an issue.

    I will admit to Andrew that part of my ongoing willingness to at LEAST devils advocate for the FV position (finding the PCA report and Scott Clark and most critics wanting) if not adopt such thinking where i feel it is spiritually beneficial (Oh, I AM supposed to improve my *baptism*, not just think harder about the internal Spirit) is that I can see the PCAs commitment to confessionalism is pretty thin in practice.

    It doesn’t do to say we’re against Advent because of the Reg Principle when we have easter and Christmas.

    It doesn’t’ do to say were against the “complexity” of prayerbook liturgy when we have trained musicians playing complex multi-part works.

    I’m personally fond of and to some extent, loyal to what I was brought up in, but my perception of deficiencies there doesn’t make me any happier with the deficiencies elsewhere. But its highly intriguing to me to see the PCA put to the test on her loyalty to the Bible, as opposed to her loyalty to (in Scott Clark’s words) “who gets to determine what the Bible actually says”

    I also think everyone is ignoring the clause “superior to or equal to the rhetoric employed by the Spirit in the text”

    We all will say, theologically, God doesn’t have an arm. But is it SUPERIOR or EQUAL to affirm that to the biblical record to the words of the text that say that “His arm has won the victory”?

    I submit it’s more important for us to think of Hymanaeus as making shipwreck of his faith, than to think he had no real faith to begin with. That its superior to think that John 3:16 means “world” than to think election has to mean it doesn’t. Its superior to think that as surely as I am baptized, the blood of Jesus washes my sins away, than to think “the sign is not necessarily accompanied by the thing signified”. Its superior to think that I and my covenant child are in the One church, bought by God’s own blood, and we share one Spirit, than to think we may only share common operations and he may only have common operations.

  12. August 6, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Andrew,

    It is here that the FV’s claim to “high ecclesiology” can be tested.

    “I” am not claiming that “my exceptions are OK and the FV’s are not,” but rather, I submit my exceptions to the presbytery and accept their judgment. Likewise, the General Assembly of the PCA (not to mention the URC and other denominations) have deemed the distinctive positions of the Federal Vision as being outside the bounds of their confessions.

    So it’s not a matter of private judgment at all. If the FV men have a high ecclesiology, they should submit to their respective presbyteries’ evaluation of their views.

    And to his credit, Peter Leithart has demonstrated a willingness to do just that.

  13. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Rev. Stellman,

    That sounds great, so you think that the F.V. men should just go find a Church where they can all agree with the exceptions, or at least be willing to be a little more expansive with the “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine?”

    Paul,

    Thanks, that was helpful, I think you got my point, our differences notwithstanding :-)

  14. August 6, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Andrew,

    I think the FV men should minister or attend wherever they’d like, provided their denominations allow them to hold their views.

    Like it or not, this is Reformed ecclesiology. We are not synods or presbyteries unto ourselves, nor am I a Sacred Magisterium of One. All members of the PCA have vowed to submit to those who have authority over them, and ministers have made the same promise.

    But submission is not submission if I can disregard it at will, or because “the Bible tells me so.”

  15. Robert K. said,

    August 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Andrew, just as Mormons, JWs, Arminians of all stripes, etc., can set up their own church or denomination so can Federal Vision believers. The thing FVists can’t do is call themselves Reformed and maintain that half-baked (or fully-baked) Romanism is Reformed doctrine. When they do that they get confronted. Vigorously. And will continue to be confronted until the return of the King. After that we’ll let our King take care of it.

  16. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Rev Stellman,

    You wrote

    But submission is not submission if I can disregard it at will, or because “the Bible tells me so.”

    So, did you take exception to WCF 20:2?
    God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

    [Emphasis mine]

  17. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Rev. Stellman,

    As a follow up, to be fair, I completely agree with the first part of you’re statement

    But submission is not submission if I can disregard it at will

    but if you enforce the last part, it seems to me you de-legitimize the entire Protestant Reformation. Was Luther wrong for not submitting, even though “the Bible told him so”?

  18. Vern Crisler said,

    August 6, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    A Christian qua Christian is not bound by anything other than the Bible.

    Vern

  19. August 6, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Andrew,

    RE: 16

    This is a red herring. I addressed this very issue in a post back in June. Preliminary Principle 1 of the PCA BCO follows the line of WCF 20:2 on liberty of conscience. This is followed immediately by Preliminary Principle 2:

    “2. In perfect consistency with the above principle, every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ has appointed.”

    The 35th PCA General Assembly, voted by a 95-98% majority that Federal Vision is contrary to the Westminster Standards, which make up the constitution of the PCA along with the Book of Church Order (BCO). Every FV officer in the PCA accepted these principles when they took their oath of office.

    If the FVers wish to form their own denomination (CREC?), then they are perfectly free to do so. The major Reformed denominations in and out of NAPARC have declared FV out of accord with their standards, be they the Westminster or 3FU. Where’s the FV officers’ “high ecclesiology” and submission now?

  20. August 6, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Vern,

    RE: #17

    The dispensationalists and JWs, to name just two, say the exact same thing. Without an agreed-upon confessional framework accepted as “containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” anybody can say the Bible means anything they want and hide behind the rubric of “the Bible says so.”

  21. August 6, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    I meant RE:#18 in my previous comment. Sorry.

  22. Michael Saville said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    RE: #19
    –“Where’s the FV officers’ “high ecclesiology” and submission now?”

    Who’s not submitting?

  23. Vern Crisler said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    re: #20
    Hi RM

    First, I would not compare dispensationalists (wrong as they are) to JW’s. Second, JW’s do not respond to confessional arguments. One would have to argue the Bible with them, or as much of the Bible as they accept.

    I think confessional presbyterians need to be careful here, for all such arguments about who defines what the Bible says can be made by Romanists against presbyterians, and they’ve had a lot more practice at it, too.

    Of course, a Christian qua Westminsterian is obviously bound by the WC.

    Vern

  24. Robert K. said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    >Who’s not submitting?

    Mark Horne would be a good case in point. He’s defiant – mockingly so – and apparently not going anywhere.

    This, by the way, gets at the real darkness in the FVists. This game-playing with words and actions. This God comes down hard on. You are well beyond simple ignorance here. You are showing hardened conscience and a mocking of the Words and justice of God. God’s justice comes down hard on false and deceptive teachers.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Vern, that is not logical at all. Just because the Roman Catholics used that argument against the Reformers doesn’t mean that it is illegitimately used here. The context is quite different. The exegesis done is quite different. And the conclusions to which the Reformed came are quite different.

  26. Robert K. said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    >”First, I would not compare dispensationalists (wrong as they are) to JW’s. Second, JW’s do not respond to confessional arguments. One would have to argue the Bible with them, or as much of the Bible as they accept. I think confessional presbyterians need to be careful here, for all such arguments about who defines what the Bible says can be made by Romanists against presbyterians, and they’ve had a lot more practice at it, too. Of course, a Christian qua Westminsterian is obviously bound by the WC.”

    For those who aren’t following this is another Alice-in-Wonderland comment by an FVist who is pretending that the WCF stands on a foundation of tradition alone, and hence is no more biblically on-the-mark/off-the-mark than the Romanists confession or any other confession. By implication he is also insinuating that people who hold to the WCF do it out of allegiance to tradition rather than the Word of God. This is the pomo liberal nonsense that is at the foundation of FVism not only showing itself but in this case asserting itself of necessity to be able to continue playing this game of nonsense.

  27. Michael Saville said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    RE: My post at #22. I meant to write:

    “Bob (ie Reformed Musings), who’s not submitting?”

  28. Vern Crisler said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    re: 25
    Hi GB
    How is the context different? How is the exegesis different? RC’s says they are the only one’s who have final interpretative authority. Why don’t you submit to their claims?
    Vern

  29. tim prussic said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Pastor Lane, you seem to engage in the analysis of your own analysis in this post. It goes a little somethin’ like this: The FV say X, that really means Y, and our anlysis of Y is Z. That kinds of stuff leaves me a bit cold, as it tends to presume knowledge beyond X (that is, when they say X they REALLY mean Y). This is helpful to whoopin’ up the troops, but is exceedingly weak in engaging the opposition. All that has to be said is, “Well, I don’t mean Y when I say X, thus Z don’t even apply.” What’s worse, maybe Z actually does apply, but because you’re arguing from Y, your opponent won’t have them benefit/blessing of your insight, because they honestly don’t thinking in terms of Y when they say X.

    Don’t worry.. I barely passed algebra, too!

  30. Vern Crisler said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Robert K, are you blind or something? Calling me an FVist? Sheesh! Here Jordan calls me a fool and a child because I reject it. Wow.

    Robert, I think you need to read more carefully before you comment.

    Vern

  31. greenbaggins said,

    August 6, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Vern, are you seriously suggesting that I enumerate the millions of ways that the RC’s interpret the Bible differently from the Reformed?

    Tim, you need to recognize the rhetorical ploy going on here. So, when I say what they really mean, I am saying these are the consequences of these particular statements.

  32. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Mr. Reformedmusings:

    Did you read #17? It’s not the submission that is a problem or the freedom of a denomination to determine its own constitution and basis of union, but rather it is the idea that submission should be required even when it would be contrary to scripture. (That was my point in #16 and clarified in #17)

    However, one of the points I was trying to make is that the PCA (although it is true for nearly every presbyterian church) wants to say the Westminster Standards are the basis when it’s really something a little less well defined (even less so than your BCO), such as submission to the presbytery. (See #14)

    Your constitution and basis of union is the will of the presbytery or SJC (if someone objects). You all use the WS and your BCO as a guide, but at the end of the day you submit to nothing more than the will of the presbytery ->SJC. To use your language your “terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ has appointed” is not fixed, but floats with the a majority vote of the presbytery->SJC->GA.

    I agree you have the right to even make whatever constitution you want and to enforce it, but when you keep redefining the essentials down to a smaller and smaller sub-set of doctrine, you’re already in big trouble. If you look at the PCUSA in the early 20th century, you’ll see they issued some “doctrinal deliverances”, to help sure up the eroding doctrinal “basis” of the church’s constitution. Rather than strengthening that basis, it actually weakened it because it re-enforced the idea that every annual GA was a law to itself, so by 1936 or so, they were still acting exactly as they had been for at least 40 years, but by then things like the “Virgin Birth” of Christ and His physical Resurrection were non-essential. Even then, you have some churches that didn’t think those were enough of a big deal, but only left when something really essential was compromised (male only elders). Sorry, but one has to wonder about those who can compromise on the Resurrection, but not on male only elders).

    Being in subjection to one’s presbytery (and SJC) is good, but what when they fail? What then? That can’t happen to you though, right? You just voted 98% for the Gospel so you cannot be moved – (or so your argument comes across to me)

    Tell me, how did the PCA come to be? Was it because the PCUS failed? Please don’t think it can’t happen to you…

    I am addressing the fact that you all do theological gymnastics, you just don’t like their chosen apparatus (justification). You should eschew all theological gymnastics not just the apparatus you don’t like.

    My point is that your attack vector is flawed because you do the same thing, but just not with justification (that and only that should be protected from such maneuvers). You’re making many of the same mistakes the PCUSA made in the early part of the 20th century and you think that you won’t suffer the same fate?

    I doubt you consider this anything less than another school of red herring, but I had to try. There was a quote my dad had up on the wall on a tiny index hard I don’t recall it exactly, or who it was by, but …

    We are ready to ascribe the cause to our low spiritual condition to any cause rather than to admit the possibility that God may be angry with us.

    I don’t want to go all Job’s friends on you, but do you every consider that a possibility? (Also don’t forget that Job really got himself into trouble when he started defending himself. Sure his friends unjustly accused him, but he went way past self-defense of his good name right into self righteousness.)

    None of this is directed to you personally Mr. Reformedmusings, but rather to the church as whole. Like the Laodiceans, it’s easy to think ourselves theologically rich, when in fact we might just be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

  33. tim prussic said,

    August 6, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Pastor Lane, you maybe correct, but you’ve missed the import of my critique completely. That kind of rhetoric only convinces the convinced. Silent bloggers who are thoughful folks may understand what you’re saying, but you’ve merely asserted that X = Y, you’ve not proven anything. Thus, said thoughtful folks will probably just think you’re using a neat little rhetorical trick. You, however, may have something quite a bit more substantive to say, but it’s missed both by your interlocutors and by the observers because of the rhetorical sleight of hand.

    I’m not saying that FV guys have or have not engaged in a rhetorical ploy with the symbols. Maybe you’re dead right and they have. I am saying that you’ve engaged in one and I don’t think it’s helpful.

  34. Vern Crisler said,

    August 6, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    No GB, I’m just saying that the Roman Catholic sect claims final interpretive authority. Why don’t presbyterians submit to that sect’s authority? Or to that of the Anglican sect? Does it have something to do with the final authority–the Bible? Hmmm. Vern

  35. tim prussic said,

    August 6, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Vern, I’m honestly confused about the opposition to different (complementary, not contradictory) categories than that which are found in the confession. The confession is a MERE summary, not an exhaustive matrix through which every word of Scripture MUST be understood. I’m quite happy thinking of the confession as a general theological matrix through which I approach the Scripture. But to say that we cannot operate outside of it seems radical and truncated. I don’t find such an understanding of the functioning of the symbols in any of my readings of the Reformed symbols or divines. It seems to make the requirement that the Scripture conform to the confession and the confession to the Scripture, doesn’t it?

  36. August 6, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Michael,

    RE: #27

    I’m having difficulty getting links to post correctly in the comments. I recommend the following posts for background on my thinking:

    http://reformedmusings.wordpress.com/2007/06/18/god-is-on-our-side/
    http://reformedmusings.wordpress.com/2007/06/21/god-is-on-our-side-maybe-not/

    Bottom line is that any PCA officer who cannot accept the 9 declarations of the study committee as approved at the 35th GA without quibbling over the language and definitions must, by their vows, submit their views to their presbytery for consideration and possible action. To the best of my knowledge, only 2 FV TEs in the PCA have written to their presbyteries. Their presbyteries will have to judge on the quibbling part.

  37. pduggie said,

    August 6, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Andrew.

    Its a scary thought.

    Amen.

  38. Vern Crisler said,

    August 6, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    re: #35

    Hi Tim,
    You guys really need to read more carefully. You make it sound as if I’m supporting the idea that you can’t operate outside the WC, whereas, in the last few posts, I’ve said the opposite. Again, a Christian qua Westminsterian is obligated to the Westminster standards. A Christian qua Lutheran is obligated to the Luthern standards, etc. By the same token, a Christian qua Christian is only obligated to the Bible. What am I saying that is causing confusion?
    Vern

  39. August 6, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Andrew, RE #32:

    You raise some good questions. I’m not sure what your church background is. I was raised Roman Catholic, wandered all over the map for years, landed in the PCUSA for quite a while, worshiped in the RCUS for 1.5 years, then PCA to the present day. In military chapels, I’ve seen everything from Four Square Gospel to a variety of Baptists to Missouri Synod Lutheran and OPC. Each had some theological framework through which they interpreted the Scripture. Some were more interesting than others. :-) Also, each had their own view on church government.

    I say all this for two reasons. First, every denomination or even non-denomination has a creedal framework whether they acknowledge it or not. Those who cry most loudly that they “have no creed but Christ” usually have the narrowest acceptable doctrines. The question isn’t “do you have a theological framework” but “what is your theological framework?” That framework then determines who can teach and/or preach.

    Second, the form of church government almost certainly follows from the theological one. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that in play. Do they vary a bit around a point? You bet, but rarely vary widely.

    The PCA believes in a representative form of church government. This comes partly from our acknowledgment of the total depravity of man and therefore that all men should be held accountable. We have checks and balances, never giving absolute power to anyone or any body, except Jesus Christ as the head of the Church. The Westminster Standards make up our constitution along with the Book of Church Order. Neither is considered perfect or inspired, but in about 350 years no Spirit-led body has found the Westminster Standards to fall short in “containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture.”

    It would be great if everyone operated perfectly in conformity with those documents, but that’s not real life. It falls to the lowest court of original jurisdiction to resolve issues that arise in the membership. Being constituted of sinful men saved by grace, they are overseen by the next level of court until you get to the General Assembly. There, the collective wisdom of the brothers from all over the denomination, guided by the Holy Spirit, ultimately decide matters if necessary.

    The SJC doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor is it all-powerful. It can and has been overruled by the GA as a whole. It is a commission of the GA with its members elected by the GA. The SJC is strictly governed by the SJC Manual, which is created and maintained by the collective, Spirit-led wisdom of the General Assembly.

    So, presbyteries interpret the Standards as necessary in adjucating individual cases, but their word may not be final. It is subject to appeal to the SJC, which is subject to the oversight of the General Assembly. That provides some level of uniformity of justice across the denomination. Could the collective wisdom of the brothers at the GA be in error at times? The obvious Reformed answer is of course. Counsels can and do err. But the clearer the standard against which controversies are measured, the less chance for error.

    The PCUSA officially holds 11 confessions at last count. Some of those conflict markedly with others in the collection. Some are period pieces like the Barman Declaration or had specific political goals like the Confession of 1967. I submit that when you believe in everything, you believe in nothing. The PCA, in contrast, holds simply to the Westminster Standards, which provides clarity without contradiction. Therefore, I believe that the PCA will not go the way of the PCUSA anytime soon-as long as we continue to hold tightly to that which binds us. I believe the same for the Three Forms of Unity for the denominations that hold to that standard.

    Which brings us back to FV. Could ~7 confessional Reformed denominations’ national bodies and several seminaries be wrong? Its possible. But on the other side there are a handful of folks who want to rewrite Reformed theology and its history. The question is not who, but what do you believe? Do you believe in the Spirit working collectively in large bodies of accountable church officers? Or do you believe that an anointed few have be raised to straighten out the benighted Reformed masses? Hebrews 1:1-2 and the whole of Reformed history argues against the latter. So have ~7 confessional Reformed denomination…so far.

  40. tim prussic said,

    August 6, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    just for the record, Vern, I was appealing to you as something of a sympathetic ear.

    however, you’re correct, I need to read more carefully. ;)

  41. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Mr. Reformedmusing:

    I’ve been in the OPC for almost 45 years now, at least as soon as I turn 45 later this year. My ancestors on my mother’s side have been Presbyterians (mostly Covenanters) for centuries.

    Phrases like “collective, Spirit-led wisdom of the General Assembly.” makes me very uncomfortable. It would better to be governed by scriptural principles. Church counsels can and do err, so we need to be constantly vigilant that they are ordered according to the Word. The word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. (WSC 2).

    The PCA believes in a representative form of church government. This comes partly from our acknowledgment of the total depravity of man and therefore that all men should be held accountable. We have checks and balances, never giving absolute power to anyone or any body, except Jesus Christ as the head of the Church.

    While there are certain similarities between presbyterian church government and republic government in the state, presbyterian government is not representative, at least not in the same sense as it is in the state. It’s not the will or consent of the governed but the will of God. Specifically troubling is the “We have … never giving absolute power to anyone … except Jesus Christ”. You probably didn’t mean that the way you wrote it, since the church doesn’t give power to Christ, but Christ rules his church by means of his ordained elders who are called of God to that office and confirmed by the vote of the members, and the laying on of hands by those ordained in apostolic succession.

    More properly on topic…

    Adopting resolutions, and receiving or adopting reports as those 7 confessional Reformed denominations have is all well and good, but how many judicial cases have there been? Sure the PCA has a case, but what about the presbytery? Suppose (for the sake of argument) the SJC rules against that one minister, do you think that will really just end all the unpleasantry? What about the presbytery that exonerated him? How many cases have there been in any of those others. Do people really believe this is a PCA/CREC only problem? I don’t really buy the numbers argument, as the confessional Reformed community is minuscule compared to the larger Modernists “main-line” churches, not to mention Rome or the Orthodox.

    Westminster is the best doctrinal standard yet produced, and I am one of those few oddballs that claims it as my confession. Westminster is not inerrant nor infallible, but nevertheless one I really do agree with in the plain meaning of the words it uses. It’s the best summary of the teaching of Scripture on all the subject with which it deals. Once one goes down the system-of-doctrine path (see Charles Hodge treatment of the subject in the TheConstitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, especially chapter 3, “Presbyterian Church from 1729 to 1741” which nicely handles the Adopting Act) you are left with the Presbytery or Synod or GA to determine whats in the system and what’s not. As you pointed out with the PCUSA everything and nothing is in the system, which is how they can have such divergent documents in their book of confessions.

    Bottom line is you are fighting a battle in a larger ecclesiastical conflict that’s been going on for centuries. In every age of that conflict both sides of each sub-conflict have played the same “what the system of doctrine means to me” game, and the best outcome the “confessional party”, whether you call it the “Old Side”, “Old School”, Fundamentalists, Conservatives or now the “Anti-FV”, has achieved is stalemate. The Old Side achieved a stalemate; the Old School lost. The Fundamentalists lost in 1936 (OPC) (or 1973 for the PCA). The Anti-FV confessionalists are still trying the same tactics that led their forefathers to nothing better than stalemate. Hardly evocative of the victorious Church against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail.

  42. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 6, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    For the record, I should state the Hodge’s treatment of the Adopting Act is what I think the American Presbyterians have been struggling with since then.

    I am not suggesting that Hodge was in agreement with me on this (he is not) , but it is a good historical reference.

  43. August 7, 2007 at 7:20 am

    Andrew,

    Of course the Scriptures are the only rule for faith and practice. Both the Confession and the BCO say so. I didn’t say nor did I mean to imply that the presbyterian form of government operates like any national government. I did not say anything about the consent of the governed, nor did I intend to do so. Even a cursory look will show significant differences between our church government and political structures both in design and aim. What I DID say was that a denominations form of church government follows from their theology more often than not.

    While, along with our Standards, I clearly stated that councils can and do err, a collection of brothers are less likely to err than any individual if they meet in prayer and in submission to the Word. Christ promised the Holy Spirit to guide us. If we prayerfully submit to our Lord and rest in Him alone, studying His Word and seeking His wisdom therein, leaning not on our own understanding but prayerfully relying on the Spirit, then surely that’s the best we can do in this fallen world (Pro 2:6-8; 3:5-7 for instance). We are held accountable to one another and submit to each other in the Lord in accordance with our ordination oaths, with our faith and practice based on Scripture illumined by the Holy Spirit.

    The Standards themselves, along with the BCO and the nine declarations, clearly state that they are subordinate to Scripture. That “issue” is only a misdirection by the FV folks. All officers take an oath that the Standards contain the system of system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. If FV folks seriously believe the Standards are in error or fall short, then the honest thing to do is seek to amend them within the processes of the church. To the best of my knowledge, not one has been honest enough to do so. The alternative is to leave for a denomination that doesn’t care.

    Given the fallen world in which we live, it shouldn’t be surprising that error seems to triumph at times. Wasn’t that a common lament in Scripture? Take Habakkuk for instance. We know, though, that God’s eternal purposes are being served even when things look bleakest to us. But that doesn’t mean that we should sit back passively and just watch the show.

    As I’ve said elsewhere in comments and in posts on my own blog, it looks like this will indeed play out in the church courts. Charges will have to be filed in individual presbyteries and work their way through the system. As I argue in the links provided in #36, there is a better way if officers holding to FV will be true to their oaths.

    Which takes me back to my last paragraph in #39. I suppose that you can debate what the numbers mean if you want, but the numbers themselves are a matter of record. Federal Vision has been overwhelmingly declared out of accord with both sets of Reformed Standards. Now, do we really believe these handful of Federal Vision men are somehow specially anointed to straighten out their benighted, confessionally Reformed brothers who overwhelmingly declared their theology in error? Again, the vast majority of officers in the highest church courts of at least 7 confessional, Reformed denominations have clearly answered that question in the negative. All that remains is for the existing and coming church court cases to play out to their inevitable end.

  44. pduggan said,

    August 7, 2007 at 10:09 am

    “As I’ve said elsewhere in comments and in posts on my own blog, it looks like this will indeed play out in the church courts. Charges will have to be filed in individual presbyteries and work their way through the system.”

    That could have happened without a study committe.

    And the committee could have practiced “accountability” and “mutual submission” by actually talking to FV men. But it didn’t

    Which makes it seem like the committee report is a merely political maneuver designed to poison the well and make sure any judicial cases get the “right” result.

    sad.

  45. Robert K. said,

    August 7, 2007 at 10:40 am

    pduggan, you repeat things that have been answered (by the owner of this blog for one) over and over. This android style of debate doesn’t speak well for what you are trying to sell.

  46. Sean Gerety said,

    August 7, 2007 at 10:58 am

    I have been rather sharp in my criticism of these two paragraphs. The reason for that is that these are two of the worst paragraphs in the whole statement, allowing the FV folk to claim all they want to in regard to the Confession, while denying the Confession with their theology.

    Excellent points Lane. Necessary inferences from Scripture are Scripture and a denial of this principle is an open denial of WCF 1:6. It won’t be long before you’re tagged with the name “rationalist” Lane. :) However, what these FV men are asserting is a view of logic and Scripture that has a long and distinguished history in P&R churches. John Frame made this clear back in 1976 that, the Confession aside, faith curbs logic:

    “Van Til holds that we use logic under the guide of Rom. 3:4: “[L]et God be true, though every man be found a liar.” We adopt what can be deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence unless our inferences force us to deny other Biblical teachings. (Van Til: the Theologian )

    Notice, per Frame, Van Til affirms that necessary inferences from Scripture are permissible, except when one deduction contradicts another. But if these men understood what truth is, they would know that it is non-contradictory, and one valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition. If an inferred conclusion contradicts Biblical teaching, the inference must be invalid. Biblical teaching is non-contradictory. But according to Vantilianism – which has dominated Reformed apologetics and epistemology for more than 40 years – assures us in advance that even valid inferences from Scripture will eventually “force us to deny other Biblical teaching.”

    Could the rejection of the Confessional affirmations that all the parts of Scripture “consent” together and logically cohere, and that all valid inferences from Scripture are Scripture, be any clearer?

    I realize this is an area of recent Reformed theological history you have studiously avoided Lane, but you must realize that your sharp criticism of the FV men on this point puts you in the minority camp as their view has some widely accepted philosophic precedent advanced by men with significant prestige and pedigree in Reformed circles. As I’ve said before, the FV didn’t spring up in a vacuum.

  47. greenbaggins said,

    August 7, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Sean, I agree that the Bible does not contradict itself. But I deny that Van Til was ultimately irrational. I don’t really want to argue the point here, just to make my position clear. I have read quite a bit of Van Til. I think what has often been taken as some kind of ultimate irrationality is actually Van Til making sure that there remains a Creator/creature distinction. I have not found Van Til to be irrational. So, I am extremely unwilling to place the blame of the FV on Van Til’s shoulders. Gary Johnson would definitely agree with me here, as would Lane Tipton, Jeff Waddington, and Richard Gaffin. As Gary has pointed out here before, the only reason Van Til “supported” Shepherd was that he thought that Bill Bright was wrong, not because he really understood where Shepherd’s theology was leading him. Gary has a very good angle on this. I realize that people on both sides would disagree with this position, but I believe it to be the true position. I think that Schilder and Shepherd have far more to do with the origins of the FV than Van Til ever thought of having. And by the way, I have no axe whatsoever to grind against Gordon Clark, since he was my father’s best friend at Covenant College (and my father wrote a chapter in the book of recollections about Clark). I respect Clark enormously. My brother is named after him (middle name Clark). But I at least am living proof that one can be Van Tillian to the core and not be FV in the least little bit (and by the way, I feel no schizophrenia about this in the slightest). Many FV proponents have claimed Van Til to be their forbear in the faith. But that does not mean that the FV distinctives are to be found in Van Til. On these points I have seen all assertion and no proof. How, pray, would Van Til’s ideas about epistemology be the foundation for the FV’s covenant theology? Surely, it must be admitted that the link is somewhat tenuous. I would counsel the Clarkians here to be careful about labelling Van Til an FV’er just because that gives someone one more reason to hate Van Til, or just because the FV guys claim him. They claim Gaffin, too, who has thoroughly repudiated that theology (I would argue he never had it). Gaffin has never been a monocovenantalist, nor has he ever held to the objective view of the covenant. These distinctives must be laid at the door of Shepherd and Schilder, not Gaffin, and not Van Til.

  48. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 7, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Re #43 and #44,

    #44
    And the out come is still hardly certain. I think the main thrust of the report was try to show the F.V. they are unwelcome in the PCA, and then hope they left. The OPC report on the other hand was demonstrate, see, no FV in the OPC, everything is OK.

    #43

    As I argue in the links provided in #36, there is a better way if officers holding to FV will be true to their oaths.

    The trouble you face is that they all think they are being true to their oaths. You might not think so, but they do.

    There is a difference between knowing history and learning something from it.

  49. Tim Wilder said,

    August 7, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Re:

    “As Gary has pointed out here before, the only reason Van Til “supported” Shepherd was that he thought that Bill Bright was wrong, not because he really understood where Shepherd’s theology was leading him.”

    But how did Van Til support Shepherd? He supported Shepherd by arguing for the identity of faith and works. If Van Til did not think that Shepherd was confusing faith and works, why did he think that arguing for the identity of faith and woks would support Shepherd?

  50. pduggan said,

    August 7, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    unhelpful overspecialized language includes

    “merit” “condign merit” “congruent merit” “improper merit” “proper merit” “pactum merit”

    “typological covenant of works”

    “non meritorious conditions”

    “mediate vs immediate assurance”

    “assurance versus faith”

    “covenantal-but-not-decretal justification, covenantal-but-not-decretal sanctification, covenantal-but-not-decretal election”

    And the issue in the denial was that it was denied that it was helpful to use such specialized terms in the *preaching of the church* on sunday. Wilkins doesn’t want to get up and say

    “The Lord Be with You, you covenantally but not necessarily decretally elect person”

    He wants to say “Welcome, Elect of God, followers of the Elect One, Christ”

  51. pduggan said,

    August 7, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    “Church counsels can and do err, so we need to be constantly vigilant that they are ordered according to the Word.”

    Yeah, we need a civil magistrate enforcing our by-laws :-)

  52. Andrew Duggan said,

    August 7, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Paul, funny, very funny ;-)

    I could almost be a Jeopardy clue:

    A: According to the Westminster Standards, this was given the duty to ensure that church counsels were ordered according to the Word
    Q: Who is the civil magistrate?

  53. Vern Crisler said,

    August 7, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Tim, where does Van Til equate faith and works? As far as I can tell, he may have been muddled in his understanding of what Shepherd was teaching, but I find nothing in Van Til that is anti-Reformational. The same cannot be said for Shepherd.

    Vern

  54. Sean Gerety said,

    August 7, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    So, I am extremely unwilling to place the blame of the FV on Van Til’s shoulders. Gary Johnson would definitely agree with me here, as would Lane Tipton, Jeff Waddington, and Richard Gaffin.

    You miss the point Lane, and, no offense, but I honestly don’t care who agrees with you, especially Richard Gaffin who has done more to further the teaching of the FV in Reformed circles than arguably has Wilkins and Wilson combined.

    This also has nothing to do with Van Til’s public support for Shepherd. What it does have to do with is a view of Scripture which inherently paradoxical and where logic must be curbed. Frame writes:

    [W]e are in a strange state of affairs: we have two propositions (“God is good” and “God foreordains evil”) which we can show to be logically interdependent in one sense; yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible except by an appeal to faith…. This balance of interdependence and paradox is in the interest of thinking in submission to Scripture. Scripture must be followed both in its assertions of interdependence and in its refusal to reconcile all doctrines to our satisfaction. Thus, a paradox remains for us, though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God. Faith is basic to the salvation of our knowledge as well as the salvation of our souls.

    Notice the role “faith” plays when confronting an apparent contradiction in Scripture. According to Frame, and by way of example, we cannot show through the use of logic how God’s goodness and his foreordination of evil can be harmonized; instead, we appeal to “faith.” According to Frame, “We must not simply push our logic relentlessly to the point where we ignore or deny a genuine biblical teaching” [emphasis is Frame’s]. Logic fails, and we are unable to harmonize a particular set of Biblical teachings. That’s where “faith” comes in. We are not to wrestle with these “contradictory” teachings and attempt to logically harmonize what might seem to us to be conflicting truths, for, it is assumed at the outset, all such wrestling is futile and is a prideful violation of the Creator/creature distinction.

    I confess for a man who has just strongly defended the notion of the logical coherence of Scripture and necessary consequence from Scripture IS Scripture against those FV men who reject this idea, it is a mystery to me why you cannot seem to see where their view of Scripture came from?

    Do you really deny what I’ve provided was Van Til’s position and that Frame failed to understand him at this point?

    I would counsel the Clarkians here to be careful about labelling Van Til an FV’er just because that gives someone one more reason to hate Van Til, or just because the FV guys claim him.

    I have not labeled Van Til an FVer, but virtually ALL Fvers ARE Vantilians and most militantly so. This isn’t a fluke Lane and you being an exception doesn’t make a rule. I would encourage you to take some time and go back and read (or re-read) Frame’s piece “The Problem of Theological Paradox.” There Frame gives many examples of so-called “apparent contradictions” in Scripture, which, we are told, are impervious to logical harmonization (divine foreordination and human responsibility, the unity and diversity of the Godhead, God’s foreordination of sin while not being sin’s author, to name a few), it must be remembered that this paradoxical and contradictory view of Scripture extends to all teaching of Scripture and to all our knowledge, including our knowledge of the central doctrine of the Christian faith, justification. Frame writes,

    “Thus, the doctrine of justification by faith incorporates the paradox of divine sovereignty. The doctrine of justification by faith – when fully explained in its relations to the rest of Scriptural truth – is just as paradoxical as divine sovereignty.”

    I honestly don’t know how thing can be clearer Lane? The doctrine of justification is just as paradoxical and contradictory as every other Biblical doctrine in the Vantilian (anti-)system. Also, note how it is that we come to a paradoxical view of justification. Paradoxes arise precisely when we attempt to explain a doctrine in relation “to rest of Scriptural truth.” For the Vantilian, the doctrine of justification is as resistant to logical harmonization as are all other Biblical doctrines. This is the connection between Van Til’s doctrine of revelation and the heresies you’ve been fighting here, yet you remain unable to see it.

    How, pray, would Van Til’s ideas about epistemology be the foundation for the FV’s covenant theology?

    It is simple Lane and Robert Reymond makes it painfully clear in his systematics under a discussion of biblical paradox. Once men accept in principle that the Scriptures do not cohere and that necessary inferences from Scripture will also necessarily contradict other biblical teachings, even if only apparently so, then it is not much of a step to embrace other paradoxical and “apparently contradictory” doctrines like those advanced by the very FV men you oppose.

    The fact that you and a few other Vantilians have come out on the right side of this debate is in spite of Van Til’s epistemological framework, not because if it. It is a testimony of God’s mercy toward you, not an endorsement of what Van Til taught.

  55. Sean Gerety said,

    August 7, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    please excuse the typos in the above. I was writing and working faster than unusual.

  56. Tim Wilder said,

    August 7, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Re: 53

    “Tim, where does Van Til equate faith and works?”

    Here’s a thought: do a Google search on

    faith and works are identical Van Til

  57. Tim Wilder said,

    August 7, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Re: 54

    “What it does have to do with is a view of Scripture which inherently paradoxical and where logic must be curbed.”

    To support his claim that theology was irrational, Van Til began to do Arminian exegesis in order to adduce contradictions in Scripture. See The Clark-Van Til Controversy, by Herman Hoeksema for a discussion of this. It is hardly surprising that his followers in the FV would do the same thing.

  58. August 7, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    […] Clark treated the joint statement’s section on covenants separate from the previous sections. Green Baggins and I combined it in a grouping on hermeneutics. Dr. Clark’s separate treatment is excellent […]

  59. Vern Crisler said,

    August 8, 2007 at 9:32 am

    It seems to me that some posters are using this FV stuff in an opportunistic manner to score points against their bete noir, Cornelius Van Til. For shame.

    Vern

  60. Vern Crisler said,

    August 8, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Here faith and works are identical. Not similar but identical. The work is faith; faith is work. We believe in Jesus Christ and in His salvation, that’s why we do not tremble. He died for us, in our place, and the Scotsmen would say, “in our room and stead,” for that substitutionary atonement, on the basis of which we are forensically righteous with God and are now righteous in His sight and shall inherit the kingdom of heaven in which only the righteous shall dwell. And I’m going to ask John Frame if he will quote the Greek of this particular passage.

    [Frame works through it reading both the Greek and English.]

    I thank you. Well now, you see faith alone is not alone. Faith is not alone. Faith always has an object. The faith, your act of believing, is pointed definitely to God in Jesus Christ, and by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and conversion, it’s all one, it’s not a “janus face” proposition, but it is not possible to give exhaustive statements in human words, human concepts. And that’s why we have to be satisfied merely to do what the Scriptures and Confessions of Faith say that they [i.e. we] ought to do, and that then we are on the way, and I think that Norman Shepherd is certainly in the line of direct descent of [i.e. on the topic of] faith. Thank you.

    —————-
    I think Van Til is being hyperbolic. Van Til accepts what the Bible and Confessions say on the topic. FVists reject the Confession on this point, as you’ve said.

    Vern

  61. greenbaggins said,

    August 8, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Sean, is paradox the same thing as a contradiction? You seem to assume that it is. This is where I think Frame and Van Til come out on this: the Creator-creature distinction means that *our* logic is limited (not that logic in general is). In other words, there are things in the Scripture which we cannot understand. Even Clark would acknowledge this. What this means is that there are things in the Bible which we cannot explain (such as the Trinity: we can say many things about the Trinity, but we cannot fully understand it). These things can be called paradoxes (not contradictions: I believe, as I also thing Van Til and Frame did, that nothing in the Bible is a contradiction in the Aristotelian sense). Is it not a paradox that God can be One and Three at the same time? Of course, we say that they are not one and three in the same way. But each person of the Trinity is %100 God, and yet %100 plus %100 plus %100 equals %100. Mysterious math. Everything is ultimately logical in God’s mind. God does not contradict Himself. But when Frame and Van Til argue for the existence of paradoxes, they are talking about our own human, frail, finite logic. Our minds are not big enough to grasp everything in the Bible. We can grasp everything we need for life and godliness, and the Bible is clear on those things. But there are things in the Bible difficult to understand. I think that is where Frame and Van Til net out on this.

    As to Gaffin, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this. I know many Gaffinites who are against the FV. And in regard to the distinctives of the FV, Gaffin simply doesn’t agree with them. Gaffin holds to the bicovenantal structure of Scripture, whereby the principle of inheritance in the CoW was works, not faith. He holds to the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience in justification, which is by faith alone, not by works. He does not hold to the objective view of the covenant. He does not hold to baptismal regeneration. He holds that God regenerates in His appointed time, and that faith is the time-point of salvation. I took four classes with the man. So, if in regard to all the distinctives of the Federal Vision he doesn’t agree with them, how can he be said to have furthered the cause of the FV more than Wilkins and Wilson? I know you don’t like Gaffin. You don’t have to like him, Sean. But to ascribe that much influence on the FV from Gaffin, despite the fact that he has publicly and emphatically repudiated all FV doctrine, when he was on the floor of the OPC GA, goes beyond the evidence, surely. I have talked with him personally about this many times, and the clear unambiguous message I get is that he thinks the FV out of bounds.

  62. Sean Gerety said,

    August 8, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Sean, is paradox the same thing as a contradiction? You seem to assume that it is. This is where I think Frame and Van Til come out on this: the Creator-creature distinction means that *our* logic is limited (not that logic in general is).

    No, a paradox is not the same as a contradiction, but an insoluble paradox is indistinguishable from and functions exactly the same as a contradiction regardless of what you call it. That’s the point. The job of theologians, or at least theologians who even deserve the name, is to harmonize these paradoxes of Scripture and continually compare spiritual things with spiritual things and propose solutions. However, given the Vantilian view of paradox and the nature of Scripture this is not only impossible, it’s impious.

    This is something you fail to grasp Lane, despite your glowing admiration for Van Til.

    In other words, there are things in the Scripture which we cannot understand. Even Clark would acknowledge this.

    Indeed Clark would, but with a major difference that you’re missing. As I noted in Trinity Review:

    Two questions that arise are these: What is the difference between the “really contradictory” and the “apparently contradictory”? and, Is there any method by which we can tell one class of contradictions from the other? If there is no such method, what are the meaning and purpose of asserting that all Scripture is “apparently contradictory”? Does not such an assertion encourage laziness in Bible study, commend ignorance, and elevate clerics and academics, especially those of the Vantilian stripe, into a new priestly class who alone can peer into the Biblical stew of apparent contradictions, antinomies, tensions, analogies, and insoluble paradoxes and demand assent to their contradictory view of truth on the basis of nothing more than their own authority?

    According to Van Til and his followers, the “apparent contradictions” of Scripture arise primarily as a result of our “creatureliness” or “finitude,” and, as creatures before the Sovereign Creator, we are to accept these “apparent contradictions,” not try to reconcile them, and to believe that for God there are no real contradictions. This is the explanation offered by John Frame . . . . If Frame were interested in affirming his own “creatureliness” at this point and were merely confessing his own inability, one could hardly object. We certainly can’t expect everyone, particularly a new Christian, to know how all the pieces of the Christian system fit together. Frame, of course, is not a new Christian. He has been a seminary professor for forty years. Frame is not humbly admitting his own limitations; he is arrogantly asserting that if he cannot reconcile these doctrines, no one can, and anyone who claims he can, or even tries to reconcile them, is impious, lacking “faith” [Clark you might recall was attacked as a “Rationalist” by Van Til for claiming to harmonize another of these paradoxes surrounding the problem of evil]. It is this refusal to try to harmonize apparently contradictory doctrines of Scripture that Frame calls “thinking in submission to Scripture.” Surrendering the mind to the “apparently contradictory” becomes for the Vantilian a divine duty and a sign of true Christian humility. But where in Scripture are we commanded to submit ourselves to contradictions, real or imagined? Nowhere, of course.

    What this means is that there are things in the Bible which we cannot explain (such as the Trinity: we can say many things about the Trinity, but we cannot fully understand it). These things can be called paradoxes (not contradictions: I believe, as I also thing Van Til and Frame did, that nothing in the Bible is a contradiction in the Aristotelian sense). Is it not a paradox that God can be One and Three at the same time?

    Fully understanding something and logically explaining something are two different things even though Vantilians will generally confuse the two. I know you know this, because you’ve said as much in reply to the FV men. The point is that for Van Til, Frame, et.al., the Scriptures are impervious to logical harmonization and systemization, and logic, in the name of the Creator/creature distinction, must be curbed when confronted with biblical paradoxes. The paradoxes Scripture, at least the ones Vantilians affirm, are not to be solved or harmonized, simply because they can’t be.

    That is why asserting that the Trinity consists of both one person and three persons, i.e., one and three in the same sense as Van Til does, provides no understanding of the Trinity whatsoever. Further, such a formulation is not a paradox at all. It’s a contradiction which ought to be apparent to everyone. Also, a paradox usually means something which appears to be contradictory, but that on further examination turns out to be no contradiction at all. Clark called a paradox a charley horse of the mind which is only assuaged by vigorous mental massage. However, in the Vantilian lexicon paradox means something which will always appear contradictory to us, but we are to have faith that for God there is no contradiction.

    Other Vantilians propose that the Scriptures are impervious to logical harmonization (and systemization) because God simply hasn’t provided us with enough information to resolve these biblical antinomies. Hardly the “prefect” or complete revelation which Paul had in mind per 1Cor. 13.

    The point is Lane, you fail to see that Van Til provided the necessary intellectual and epistemic climate that has been a conduit with very little resistance to these FV men who, like Wilson, can affirm justification by faith alone out of one side of their mouth while denying it with the other.

    There is a reason so many (particularly seminary trained) follow these false teachers and IMO it is because they already possess the epistemic foundation which says contradictory ideas are signs of piety and Christian humility and pointing out such contradictions is the pride of rationalism.

    Everything is ultimately logical in God’s mind. God does not contradict Himself.

    Nor has He revealed himself in Scripture in a contradictory manner. He gave us His Word so that we, with the help of the Holy Spirit who promised to lead us into all truth, might understand it. That is the point of WCF 1:6 and the nature of necessary inferences from Scripture ARE Scripture. Truth is not manifold, but one. But that is not Van Til’s position.

    But when Frame and Van Til argue for the existence of paradoxes, they are talking about our own human, frail, finite logic.

    Come on Lane. Frame and Van Til were not professing ignorance. They were closing the door and asserting that the Scriptures do not cohere because their own theology did not cohere. There was a reason they viciously attacked Clark and continue to attack anyone for attempting to harmonize doctrines which they assert cannot be harmonized. This is why WCF 1:6 is rejected by FV men and why you picked up on it. What you fail to see is that these FV men are merely overlaying an epistemology on the Confession which they’ve received from Van Til.

    As to Gaffin, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this. I know many Gaffinites who are against the FV.

    That’s fine. I’m happy to let Gaffin’s long and well document record of defending men like Norm Shepherd and John Kinnaird speak for itself. I’m also happy to let his view of the necessity of works (done by faith and by God’s grace of course) in future justification speak for itself as well. While we’re at it, his placing existential union with Christ above or at least on par with imputation stand on its own as well.

    You don’t have to like him, Sean. But to ascribe that much influence on the FV from Gaffin, despite the fact that he has publicly and emphatically repudiated all FV doctrine, when he was on the floor of the OPC GA, goes beyond the evidence, surely. I have talked with him personally about this many times, and the clear unambiguous message I get is that he thinks the FV out of bounds.

    This is nothing personal against Gaffin. If he has repudiated all FV doctrines as you say and is no longer attempting to replace the ordo with existential union, then where has he recanted his own doctrines not to mention his public support for men like Shepherd and Kinnaird? Name one FV man who has been driven out of the OPC because of Gaffin’s “new” recognition that the FV is “out of bounds” (actually, name one FV man who has even left the OPC for anywhere other than Rome)? Where has he ever repudiated even Shepherds Call of Grace which he glowingly endorsed? Don’t you think he has a duty to his students and his reading public and not just to you in private conversations over the phone to publicly repent of his public defense of these false doctrines? Citing the OPC report which completely fails to address Romans 2:13 (a verse key to men like John Kinnaird) is not enough Lane. Former OPC elder Paul Elliot has plenty to say about that report which you should at least take under consideration (see The Orthodox Presbyterian Cover-up )

    I guess, and at best, Gaffin is a man who we can say with friends like these . . . .

    Thank you anyway for giving me a listen.

  63. Sean Gerety said,

    August 8, 2007 at 11:56 am

    It seems to me that some posters are using this FV stuff in an opportunistic manner to score points against their bete noir, Cornelius Van Til. For shame.

    This isn’t about personalities Vern and if you can’t see that then perhaps you should learn to keep your mouth shut.

  64. August 8, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    […] is definitely important enough to start off with. This section has also received attention over at Green Baggins and I would commend his comments as additional reading on this if you haven’t seen it […]

  65. Vern Crisler said,

    August 8, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    #63
    I would Sean, but my jaw has been dropping too much of late. :-)
    Vern

  66. June 30, 2008 at 11:49 am

    […] 30, 2008 at 11:48 am (Federal Vision) Last time I went through the FV Joint Statement, I dealt with paragraphs 5-6 together. A word on the rhetoric of that post: what I mean when I say “in other words” is that […]

  67. markhorne said,

    June 30, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Unbelievable.

    “We deny that it necessarily unprofitable to “translate” biblical language into more
    “philosophical” or “scholastic” languages in order to deal with certain problems and
    issues that arise in the history of the Church. At the same time, we do deny that such
    translations are superior to or equal to the rhetoric employed by the Spirit in the text, and
    we believe that the employment of such hyper-specialized terminology in the regular
    teaching and preaching of the Church has the unfortunate effect of confusing the saints
    and of estranging them from contact with the biblical use of the same language.”

    Had I signed a document that denied “that such translations are superior to or equal to the content revealed by the Spirit in the text…” There might be something to this. Instead it is nothing more than wishful thinking. Whatever you cannot deal with can always be misrepresented.

    This post and its supporters are beyond the possibility of charicature. Monty Python’s duck/witchcraft trial looks like sober reality next to this point. It is entirely false.

    Gee, so strange no presbytery’s been able to prosecute such obvious error. I wonder why that is? Must be a pro-FV conspiracy.

    I really can’t even say this post rises to the level of deception, because deception would require someone who cared enough about reality in order to misrepresent it.

    I didn’t think I would ever say this Lane, but I am actually disappointed in you and this post. Truly you have surpassed all your previous records.

    And you get kudos from people I still had hopes were capable of rational thought. I didn’t know things could get darker than they already were.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: