Response to Reggie Kidd, part 1

Here is what Dr. Reggie Kidd, and John Frame, Pete Enns, Doug Green, John Armstrong, and a whole bunch of other people think about the PCA’s study committee report and the last GA. (Reggie Kidd wrote the article, and the others commented). A lot of these men I either went to seminary with as colleagues, or had as teachers. It is therefore quite difficult for me to describe what went on in my mind/heart as I read comment after comment in the comment box. But someone needs to answer this post, and I think it will fall to me. Please understand that this post is amazingly painful to me to write. I feel like I am tearing my own heart out.  

Reggie starts with an analogy that basically says that there are bigger enemies out there than the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision. He says that one does not start a civil war in the ranks of the Reformed when there are other enemies deconstructing the text of Scripture, or other such hideous things. He calls for us not to smack down one another. We face Islamic terrorists and Mormon religion on either side, not to mention some very angry atheists. Whereas, what we are doing in the meantime is “head-butting each other.”

By way of answer to this, let me just say that Mormonism, Islam, and all other outside enemies that the church of Christ has are not dividing the PCA right now. The Federal Vision is. The New Perspective on Paul is. It may be folly to have a civil war when common enemies threaten the church. It is quite equally folly to suspect that we can fight a unified war when the ranks are already split, when churches are fighting about these doctrines, when sheep are getting bloodied and bruised by people calling themselves teachers, and when “teachers” are getting trained to be quite efficient wolves.

Narrowing it down, he describes the Federal Vision as people who are asking the question about the corporate nature of Paul’s vision, and about paedo-communion. Of course, this is a summary of many more concerns that could be raised. I find it interesting, and will note in passing two things: Federal Vision authors themselves usually describe their main concern as with the objectivity of the covenant, not necessarily the corporate nature of Paul’s vision. Now, they are concerned with the corporate nature of Paul (I am not issuing a false dichotomy here), but that is not usually the expressed main point. Secondly, both sides agree that paedo-communion is both not a central issue, nor is it a Federal Vision distinctive. There are people out there who are paedo-communion but are not Federal Vision. So, this is not an accurate picture of the Federal Vision, even from the Federal Vision’s own point of view.

The next paragraph needs to be quoted in full:

The answer: a study paper (passed — I note with chagrin — overwhelmingly) not on the biblical merits of the positions considered, but on whether they pass confessional standards (as interpreted by a tendentiously and carelessly written paper). When the point of the positions was never whether the standards were wrong, but whether more needed to be said than the standards say.

I have some questions here for Reggie: on what basis did he decide that the study paper did not consider the biblical merits of the case? There are several issues at play here. First of all, the committee was asked to compare these teachings to the standards. That was their mandate. Second of all, considering the oath that all ordained ministers take in the PCA that the Westminster Standards contain THE system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture (BCO 21-5, question 2, emphasis mine), is it not fair to state that if one is considering the Confession’s teaching on certain issues that one is also considering the Scriptures? Or is Reggie pitting the Standards against the Scriptures by saying that the biblical merits of the case is a completely hermetically sealed category absolutely, completely, utterly divided from the Confessional issues?

Secondly, by what standard does he say that it was a tendentiously and carelessly written paper? I happen to know quite a bit more about the inner workings of the committee than Reggie does. It was not carelessly written, but rather meticulously researched, with each member of the committee reading thousands upon thousands of pages of materials. But, since the critics will say it was a well-written paper, and those opposed will never admit that any part of it was well-written or researched, I guess we are at an impasse. By what criteria could one say that it was tendentious and carelessly written? There is no objective standard that would satisfy either side. I will merely say that saying so doesn’t make it so.

The last issue that needs to be dealt with here is the issue of the “more-ness” of the FV and the NPP. I suspect that every single critic of the FV and NPP out there would freely and joyfully admit that the Westminster Standards do not say everything there is to say either in systematics, ethics, apologetics, exegesis, church history, practical theology, or any other area of concern. That is not, never was, and never will be the issue with the Federal Vision from the standpoint of any critic whatsoever. The issue is whether their “more-ness” contradicts the standards or not.  

The last point I wish to make is this: he wants us not to throw one another out the window. Pray what has he just done with every last critic of the FV and NPP who voted for that report but thrown them out the window, calling them sycophantic? Let me say this: undoubtedly from the point of view of the FV/NPP sympathetic folk out there, Reggie’s post would appear moderate, genteel, bold, and necessary (and some of these words have been used to describe this post precisely). From the point of view of the critics, it appears to be arrogant, unmeasured, vitriolic, dismissive, and patronizing. Let Reggie not kid himself: this post is neither objective nor neutral. This might appear to be revealed truth to one side. But it is absolutely flabbergasting to the other.  

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Pavarotti Dies at 71

One of the world’s greatest tenors died early today. He is most famous for his trademark Nessun Dorma (“No one is sleeping”), easily the most famous opera aria in the world today.