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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45 Comments

  1. September 6, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    One cannot avoid the conclusion that the church will be troubled from the inside as well as from the outside. Acts 20, to mention just one passage, calls for vigilance in watching for attacks from within.

    Doubtless it is true that we ought to be concerned with the challenege by sects, atheism, Islam etc. We ought to be concerned, and able, to meet these apologetic challenges. But I cannot see how we can avoid the painful reality that gospel churches will face movements, from within, that will compromise and alter the nature of the message the church exists to proclaim. This calls for discernment. But we ought to expect that it will go this way.

  2. Mike Gore said,

    September 6, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    I posted a question about this on puritan board. I don’t know how ordinations work or what RTS makes their professors subscribe to, but it does not make sense why they always seem to pit the Scriptures against the Confession. If minsters are abscribing to the confession then it only seems logical that the minsters believe the Confession to be teaching exactly what the Scriptures present. If someone disagress with the Confession no one is forcing him to sign the dotted line. A man does not have to be confessional if he believes the Scriptures to teach something that is not in the Confession. So for the FVs and NPPs they do not have to be confessional, and they do not have to be in confessional denominations (a.k.a the PCA or OPC) But if these men say they are confessional and in all reality they are not, then they need to either seek to be corrected or leave the denomination. What these professors seem to be wanting is a different form of what took place with PC U.S.A. and liberalism back in Machen’s day. Which will eventually lead into another denominational split. Men in the PCA need to be honest, and if they honestly disagree with the confession…well… maybe its time they seek a safer harbor.

  3. Mike Gore said,

    September 6, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Rev. Lane Keister,

    I wanted to add I really do enjoy reading your blog. Some may not think so but I always feel you handle these sticky issues with a very humble, but firm hand. Thanks for setting a great example for us younger and future pastors in presbyterian and reformed churches.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    September 6, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Are you really younger than I am? I am only 29, you know.

  5. September 6, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Mike,
    As an RTS JACKSON student, I would like to add that professors have to subscribe to the Westminster Standards to teach at RTS. However, I would also ask that you would not lump RTS Orlando into other campuses. One campus can be very different than another. RTS Orlando seems to be more ‘liberal’ (if I could possibly use that term; i.e. just look at the professors who teach there) than other campuses.

  6. Paul B. said,

    September 6, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Can we declare a moratorium on making plays on our opponents’ names — be they Wright, Kidd, or Keister? Please.

  7. Mike Gore said,

    September 6, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    hahaha…. I am 21…but I may act younger than my age some of the time…at least my roomates, girlfriend, and parents would say so…lol…and to correct myself earlier…I think I meant subscribe…I was busy emailing and got distracted…

  8. Mike Gore said,

    September 6, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    Andrew,

    Brother I am sorry if my comment lumped all the RTS campuses together. I know a friend of a friend at Charlotte who sings very high praises of both his campus and your campus in Jacksonville. As always it seems many steer clear of Orlando.

  9. Mike Gore said,

    September 6, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    and not be a blog hog…but my blog is xanga.com/goretorade

  10. chris hutchinson said,

    September 6, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Yeah, the whole enemy at the gates thing is getting old.

    That’s what Schlissel argued in the Knox book several years ago (in the essay to which I responded). It seems to me that I Cor 5 argues for exactly the opposite approach — don’t judge those on the outside, but rather those on the inside. (Not that I am equating FV with the sins of Corinth, but the principle is the same I think.)

    Our job in this is to make sure that the Church has a doctrine of free justification to offer to our enemies, and not allow it to be ruined by those who want to bring corporate responsibilities into the doctrine of justification itself, rather than as the fruit of justification.

    FWIW, Chris H.

  11. Troy Greene said,

    September 6, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    The FV doesn’t contradict the Westminster Standards. Thank God for men like Reggie Kidd and others like him who, at the very least, point out the injustices at GA and who want the Scriptures to be “the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined.” (WCF 1.10) Blogs like this have yet to deal with the modern philosophical presuppositions that determine the hemeneutics that make up the very foundation of your interpretations and, therefore, can never accurately represent the FV or their writings. I commend Reggie and others like him.

  12. philip said,

    September 6, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Lane,
    Is it safe to infer from your statements that you had any knowledge of the paper writing process as it was being written? Or does you assertion that you know a lot more about the research of the paper than Reggie based on conversations with the members of the committee after the “main event”?

    I don’t think there are any prima facie reasons why chatting with Ligon or someone during the process would be awful…I’m just curious.

  13. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    RTS got way too big for its britches when it started a second campus in Orlando. In a scramble for money, students, and professors, they sacrificed the principles and truth that has made the Jackson campus such a great seminary for the Reformed faith.

    Thanks, Lane, for your honest and heartfelt assessment.

  14. Dave H said,

    September 6, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Pastor Lane

    Thank you for having the stuff to bring Dr. Kidd’s site to our attention. His words were bold, necessary, and very encouraging to many, on both sides of the issue. My only wish is that many of the (PCA) respondents on his site (in support of the FV issues) had been as vocal on the floor of the GA. Though I suppose that fear of the masses has that effect.

  15. Anne said,

    September 6, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    What fries my bacon is how some PCA elders are taking the position that the FV/NPP isn’t a big deal, and everyone should concentrate on stamping out nascent egalitarianism. Surely the FV’ers and non-FV’ers can manage to co-exist for the sake of unity, they plead.

    My, my, my. I recall several years ago hearing a talk by a strong complementarian who pointed out with some force that the egalitarians had taken over the PCUSA, the Methodists, the Lutherans (barring the Missouri Synod), and others by pleading that they merely wanted to co-exist in their respective denominations.

    That state of affairs didn’t last long. Mutterings about tents and camels’ noses was oft heard from the now-marginalized complementarians.

    How anyone who is determined that egalitarianism not get a firm, immovable foothold in the PCA can – with a straight face – take the stance that FV’ers and non-FV’ers should make nice for the sake of denominational unity while simultaneously insisting egalitarianism cannot and will not be tolerated in their denomination, I can’t imagine. Once a denomination gets into a “for the sake of unity we should be willing to compromise what we believe to be true about key doctrines” mindset, it’s swiftly Katie-bar-the-door, and one fine morning everyone wakes up and discovers they’ve somehow wound up in a ECUSA clone.

    Can egalitarians be saved even though they’re egalitarians?

    To be sure, yes.

    Can FV’ers be saved even though they hold to FV doctrinal distinctives?

    Absolutely.

    If the fact that FV’ers are “brothers in Christ” should be used to permit the FV to exist and flourish in the PCA, then for the life of me I fail to see why egalitarianism should be treated any differently, since they, too, are also believers. Believers with a wretched, incorrect view of important doctrine, but believers all the same.

    If the PCA shows itself to be unwilling to draw a line in the sand regarding justification and the ordo salutis, then it’s foolishly optimistic to expect it to hold firm against egalitarianism.

  16. Andrew Compton said,

    September 6, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    While a part of me is sympathetic to the call to be concerned about our enemies “out there,” a bigger part of me recognizes that it isn’t just about tearing down the worldview of non-Christian opponents, it is also about offering something in its place.

    As long as there are people saying that the Reformed faith is something other than what the Reformed confessions state, we really don’t have much with which to fight the enemies out there. The comment about not being able to fight a war when the ranks are split seems very appropriate. There is an important place for debating Mormonism, Islam, the new atheism, etc.; but we must never be so worried about what’s going on “out there” that we forget to take care of what’s going on here at home.

  17. Morgan Farmer said,

    September 7, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Pastor Lane writes:
    “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.

    As one of the bloody bruised survivors I can certainly attest to the truth of this statement.

  18. September 7, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Re #16

    Excellent point, Andrew. Some folks might be aware of the fact that I and some folks from my church have been meeting for over five years with the local abortion providers and enablers (the Feb. 16 cover story of Time Magazine featured our work at the end as the “redemptive conclusion” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1590444,00.html), reasoning with them as friends and neighbors and sharing the gospel with them.

    Some of the enemies to whom my friend Reggie refers in his jeremiad are “at our gates” each and every day here in Asheville. My church responds by guarding the gospel so that we actually have one to give them. We tell them that Christ died to give Himself and his perfect record of righteousness to those who believe in Him, to those who do not work, but trust (Rom 4:4f).

    Jeff Hutchinson
    Senior Pastor, Trinity PCA
    Asheville, NC

  19. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 7, 2007 at 9:29 am

    As Paul Harvey says, Dr. Kidd needs to read “the rest of the story” of the history of Greece – one of the greatest civilizations of the world fell into ruins. Why? Because they had Dr. Kidd’s version of unity without the truth. They had their chariots and horses and mighty warriors along with their philosophers. But what destroyed them was their assimilation of a whole host of pagan gods. They even assimilated the one true God with an altar inscribed with the words “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). Is this the example you want us to follow?!? I also think it is interesting that the side that is in error defines unity as the surrender of the side who holds to the truth.

    You would think a seminary professor would have us learn the lessons from Biblical history and not follow in the footsteps of pagan societies. Let’s take the example from 1 Kings 22. The king of Judah was asked by the king of Israel to join forces against their “common external” enemy Syria. What was the result? Well, in order to maintain unity, Ahab had to rally all of his lying prophets to say good words. But when Micaiah spoke the truth, he was blasted and put in prison for trying to break the unity. End result? Israel was scattered, the king of Judah was almost killed, and Ahab’s blood was licked up by dogs while the harlots bathed in it. Is this where you want to take the PCA, Dr. Kidd?

    We have two professors and PCA elders from the same seminary speaking with two voices – Dr. Ligon Duncan from RTS Jackson and Dr. Kidd from RTS Orlando. And, then there is the lukewarm voice of Covenant Seminary somewhere in the middle. Which voice are PCA members supposed to listen to? If the leadership is speaking with a “fork-ed” tongue, the denomination will be scattered. As I stated in an earlier blog, due to failure in leadership, the PCA right now is delivering a message of theological confusion.

  20. September 7, 2007 at 9:32 am

    […] war history.  Follow the conversation in the comments.  Lane provided two great responses (Part 1, Part […]

  21. jared said,

    September 7, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Anne,

    The problem isn’t egalitarianism. Obviously many in the confessional denominations are saying (and “declaring”) that FV/NPP isn’t confessional. I will happily grant that the NPP (and Wright’s “fresh” perspective) isn’t confessional and I’m still undecided about whether FV is or not. The problem is that these confessional denominations are (largely) not “officially” calling FV/NPP advocates non-Christians while a great number of individuals (including those who worked on the “official stance” doccuments) are calling them non-Christians. Moreover, these individuals are calling FV/NPP advocates false-teachers and wolves even though their denominations aren’t doing this. I think that FV/NPP critics are right in saying that those who advocate views which are (or even on the surface seem to be) at variance with traditional confessional views need to make themselves known to their sessions (as Leithart and, I’m sure, others have done). To be out of conformity with the confessions according to some denominations is not to be a false teacher, or a wolf, in spite of what some [obnoxious] voices here are saying.

    Even Lane, while doing a mostly bang up job in his interactions, has tagged all of his FV/NPP posts with “heresy”, generally a term which implies that the accused is not to be considered a brother in Christ. It seems that not only are FV/NPP advocates “damned-if-they-do” stay in the PCA (or OPC or whichever) until they are “kicked” out, they are “damned-if-they-don’t” stay the PCA (or OPC or whichever). Those who are departing the denominations are supposedly “high tailing it” because, clearly, they are guilty of being false teachers and they need to find a place that will accept their false teachings. What are they supposed to do in order to be considered Christians and brothers again? Well they must repent from their deceitful ways! But, not officially of course since officially they are Christians and brothers…

    I can’t imagine what would happen if people like Sean G., Robert K. and Mark T. (and even like S.R. Clark and G.L.W. Johnson) aimed their vitriolic tongues somewhere useful instead of at people their own denomination(s) consider brothers. I know that my denomination’s (PCA) report doesn’t say that FV or NPP teaches a different gospel and that’s good enough for me as far as their testimonies are concerned. Whatever disagreements (or agreements) I have with them, I don’t believe that the FV/NPP isn’t “out” achieve the dissolution of any denomination or any of the Reformed confessions, and it certainly isn’t “out” to harm or alter the gospel (at least in my estimation).

  22. greenbaggins said,

    September 7, 2007 at 9:49 am

    I do not tag all my FV and NPP posts with the tag “heresy.” I have avoided that every time DW is the subject of discussion.

  23. greenbaggins said,

    September 7, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Nor is “not a brother” the implication of how I have used the term when I have tagged a post that way. I have explained this before. I am using the term to mean “out of accord with the WS” and *only* that.

  24. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 7, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Mike Gore,

    I think you are making a mistake commonly made in thsi debate in saying, “If minsters are abscribing to the confession then it only seems logical that the minsters believe the Confession to be teaching exactly what the Scriptures present.” That’s only true in one direction.

    Subscribing (talking about strict subscription to avoid confusion) means saying that what the Confession teaches is contained in Scripture. It does NOT mean that everything in Scripture is contained in the Confession. Saying “Isaiah had a son named Mahershalalhashbaz” is Scriptural, and not contrary to the Confession; it’s perfectly OK for a minister to teach that, and strictly subscribe to the Westminster Confession which does not mention it.

    In the debate with the FV, the FV guys are saying that what they are teaching is like saying “Isaiah had a son named Mahershalalhashbaz”–compatible with the confession, but not contained in it. The debate is over whether that is true, not over whether there are things that Scripture teaches and the Confesison does not; everyone agrees that there are such things.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    September 7, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Actually, Sam, that is not the debate. The debate is over whether the “more-ness” of the FV/NPP agrees with the Confession or not. I made this point in the post. ***Every critic*** agrees that there are plenty of things in Scripture not contained in the Confession. What the critics will not acknowledge is that the Scriptures contain a *parallel soteric system* to the Westminster Standards. What is needful for salvation is clear in Scripture and in the Confessions. And the vow states **the** system of doctrine taught in Scripture (the WS themselves acknowledge that there are other things not taught in the Confession that are in Scripture; it’s talking about the system of doctrine of salvation). So the issue is ***not***whether there are things taught in Scripture that are not taught in the Confessions. The issue is whether the teachings of the Federal Vision are in accord with the Standards. Please get this straight.

  26. Rick Phillips said,

    September 7, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Lane,

    I want to highlight a point that you made. The critics look on the FV with alarm precisely because we are persuaded that its teachings are contrary to our confessional standards. The pro-FV or pro-NPP side may argue that they are merely saying things that the confession does not say. But the fact is that the critics are persuaded otherwise. So it is simply false to argue that the controversy is over whether or not more can be said than what the confession says. The controversy is over whether these movements are speaking in contradiction to the standards. There may be and is disagreement over this issue, but this is the matter at hand.

    I also want to echo Jeff Hutchinson’s comment. Many critics of the FV critics try to give the impression that this controversy is impeding us from our gospel mission in the world. “All the TR’s do is attack their brothers who are trying to minister the gospel,” they say or suggest. But this is simply a cheap smear. As one who has been pretty involved in criticizing the FV and NPP, it remains true that the vast amount of my time and energy is devoting to preaching and spreading the gospel of our Lord Jesus. But I also have a duty to uphold our confessional standards within the communion in which I am ordained. The two — spreading the gospel and defending the faith — are not in conflict, as the Scriptures will readily attest. The kinds of characterizations frequently made about the motives and intentions of those who have opposed the NPP and FV are deeply offensive and fly in the face of their “courageous” calls for charity in discourse. Reggie Kidd’s blog piece is a classic of the genre. In a piece calling for us to stop attacking one another, much of the content was directed to maligning and impugning others with whom he disagrees.

  27. Sam Steinmann said,

    September 7, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Lane,

    I must have spoken unclearly, because I agree with you.

    The FV is teaching things that not in the Confessions.

    The FV guys maintain that those things are not contrary to the Confessions–that they are more, not different.

    You (and the other FV critics) maintain that they are contrary to the Confessions.

    All I was intending to point out is that NOBODY disagrees that there are true, Scriptural statements that aren’t in the Confessions.

  28. September 7, 2007 at 10:28 am

    To echo Rick Phillips’ comments is it not the case that the norm is to involved in a proclamation and polemic ministry? Like Paul in Ephesus there is the admonishing night an day with tears as well as going from house to house testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

  29. Lizenby said,

    September 7, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Since great efforts are under way to open a window in order to throw others out, could not the consternation felt on reading the comments on the Reggie Kidd blog have been the realization that while attempting to throw others out of the window, some are tripping and are in danger of falling out of the window themselves?
    Those who dig pits are in danger of falling into it themselves.

  30. Dave Rockwell said,

    September 7, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Jared,
    A denomination can be wrong – just take a look at the cacophony of voices coming out of the PCA leadership right now. As for me and my house, we choose to listen to the voice of the Shepherd.

    And I beg to differ on who is leaving the PCA. It’s not the false teachers. False teaching can never survive on its own. Like cancer, it has to invade and live off a healthy church. That is why the Federal Vision is fighting so hard to stay. The ones who are leaving are the ones that believe the truth of the gospel is more important than Dr. Kidd et. al.’s unity.

  31. KBennett said,

    September 7, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Dave H,

    What evidence do you have of the “fear of the masses” which you cite?

    Could it not be that the NPP and FV really are opposed overwhelmingly by the PCA?

    Why must there be another, nore cynical motive?

  32. September 7, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    […] and Federal Vision theologies, saying that outside enemies need to be fought, not inside allies. Some just say no, claiming divided forces necessarily can’t be united. I’m with the Kidd. Posted in […]

  33. Fred Greco said,

    September 7, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Re: #26.

    Amen, Rick.

    I find it especially troubling how the FV advocates try to paint their critics all with the “nasty TR brush.” It simply is not true, although it makes for a good campaign commercial (not unlike the LBJ “Daisy” ad). The critics of the FV come from an incredibly wide spectrum of the PCA. From founding fathers such as Kennedy Smartt, to long time pastors such as Frank Barker, to seminary professors such as Guy Waters, to young pastors, to Ruling Elders and deacons. All one has to do is remember the broad variety of signatories to the Open Letter supporting the PCA Study Committee.

    The FV advocates have nothing to say that the ordinary elder or man in the pew wants to listen to. That is why they must resort to assistance from men such as Dr. Kidd in giving pleading Rodney King-isms, and scare tactics such as “Once they get us, the nasty TRs are coming after you!!!”

    My task of preaching the gospel, building up marriages, strengthening relationships, ministering in the community and all the other vital tasks of the ministry would be much easier if the FV and NPP never existed. But if I ignore the gospel, and agree (for example) that “ecclesiology is more important than soteriology” or that the Pharisees really weren’t concerned about works righteousness, and Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Romans were more about who is in the club than how to be right with God, then it is a waste of my time to worry about our next church rebuilding project in the blighted area of town. I may as well leave that to the Kiwanis Club.

  34. Anne Ivy said,

    September 7, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Jared, are you saying there IS no problem with egalitarianism in the PCA? What I’ve read is there is some creeping egalitarianism, and the argument’s been made that – along with the commonly heard warning from the FV that “Once they get us, the nasty TRs are coming after you” (to quote Pastor Greco) – the FV is a strong line of defense against egalitarianism, so jettison it at the PCA’s peril.

    IOW, “Once they get us, the nasty egalitarians will grow unimpeded.”

    My point is that’s false, for both the FV and the egalitarians urge “Can’t we all just get along for the sake of unity?”

    Being willing to compromise on doctrine for the sake of “unity” is scarcely an effective way to guard the gospel.

  35. jared said,

    September 7, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Lane,

    I didn’t know about the Wilson FV posts not being tagged with “Heresy” and, now that you’ve pointed it out (again) I do recall you saying that you mean “Heresy” as in “out of accord with the Westminster Standards.” Unfortunately very few (including much of your readership, obviously) take your definition of heresy in these matters. I would even say that often your tone belies your stated definition as well.

    David Rockwell,

    A cacophony of voices in one room is a choir in another. I enjoy the various perspectives from those who are most prominent on the PCA scene, I just wish the right hand wasn’t trying to smash the left hand with a hammer. I don’t think FV/NPP advocates are false teachers at all, or at least not knowingly and maliciously. I was pointing out the irony that those who dispise FV/NPP advocates want them to leave and want to make fun of them for leaving (“Look at those FV guys crying back to their home in the CREC!” or, perhaps, “Hi, I’m an FVist and since this denomination won’t accept my corrupted confessional views I’m going to flee to that denomination where they will welcome me with open arms!”). People who view FV/NPP advocates in this manner see them as deceitful if they stay and deceitful if they go. Their only recourse is to repent which, of course, they most likely aren’t going to do because it would be going against their conscience and the leading of the Spirit and the Word in their lives (or the leading of Satan, according to the much of the “anti” crowd).

    I like my denomination and the number of its leaders I’ve had the pleasure of reading, meeting, learning under, etc. I think they made a mistake in adopting the Study Report right away without giving it more time. I understand that these are pressing matters that can (and do) cause confusion amongst the ranks, but no souls are being lost or are in danger here, at least according to the report itself (and in contrast, apparently, to the proceedings in which the report was approved). In other words, there would have been no harm in giving it another year and even putting a couple of FV’ers on the committee. Also, just because a teaching is contrary to, or conflicting with, the Westminster Standards that doesn’t automatically make it a false teaching nor does it make its teachers purveyors of a false gospel.

    Anne,

    I’m not saying there isn’t a problem with egalitarianism in the PCA, rather I’m saying that the problem isn’t egalitarianism.

  36. Steven Carr said,

    September 7, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Wow,

    The only word I could think of when I read Kidd’s post was “ignorance”.

  37. Andrew Webb said,

    September 8, 2007 at 12:29 am

    Hi Lane,

    As you are probably aware Lee Irons has taken a strong exception on his blog to your statement that “the Westminster Standards contain THE system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture (BCO 21-5, question 2, emphasis mine)” even though that is precisely what we are supposed to vow – “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures” etc.

    I’ve posted an answer to his comments on the Puritanboard, but I thought he deserved to have a reply in the context of the original post.

    Lee Irons and I agree on many things but this is not one of them. His post removes all meaning from Confessional Subscription and reduces it from the level of a solemn vow to a limited agreement on certain principles. Additionally, it reduces the Confession to the level of a commentary on the bible which we can privately agree and disagree with as we see fit. Ultimately, not only would this view have little or no value in conforming ministers to a uniform testimony and practice, it would actually bind ministers not to a relatively unchanging constitution but to the ever changing theological opinions of the majority in the GA and thus remove the value of a constitution in safeguarding the rights of the minority. This is because whenever there was a doctrinal disagreement, we would need to form a study committee, have them create their own theological study of the subject and then we’d decide the matter based on what the majority at the moment thought of the study. Under this system, discipline cases would become few and far between simply because of the enormous effort involved with each case (not to mention the arguments afterwards).

    Instead, the greater wisdom of our forebears was that we should have a Constitution that we agreed was an accurate summary of the doctrines taught in scripture. Thus, in a matter of discipline all we had to do was compare the teaching of the officer to our fixed standard. If we come to feel that the Confession was no longer accurate on a point, we change the Confession, not have a Confession that we hold to be no more binding on officers than say a copy of Calvin’s Institutes.

    Or as Thornwell put it:

    FROM – Thornwell On the Subject of Subscription
    From: The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, D.D., LL.D. Richmond, .VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1871-75

    “But it seems [some say] that our Standards are only inferences from the Word of God. This, we confess, is news to us. When we assented to them upon our admission to the ministry, we verily thought within ourselves that we were assenting to the very doctrines and precepts of the Word, and not to the ratiocinations of men. We should like to know what are the original doctrines and precepts, if these are only inferences at second hand. If these are not the identical things which the Scriptures teach, but only conclusions which our fathers deduced from them, we would like to have the premises in their native integrity . . . The Constitution is, with Presbyterians, the accredited interpretation of the Word of God. It is not an inference from it, nor an addition to it, but the very system of the Bible . . . That Word has to be interpreted. If the Constitution is what we profess to believe, we have the interpretation to our hand – we have already wrought out for us the only result we could reach, if we made the interpretation anew in every instance. . .

    [T]he very reason why the Church exacts an assent from Ministers and Elders to these formularies of faith, was that she might have a reasonable guarantee, that in their public instructions they would teach nothing inconsistent with the Word of God. We have always heretofore regarded subscription as a security for the sound dispensation of the Word of God. It is for the sake of the people, whom the Church wishes trained to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not simply for the sake of the officers, that she inquires so particularly into their life and doctrine. The things which they profess to believe she requires them to impress upon the faithful. Hence, our Standards are obviously a guide, a rule, a measure of their teaching. They contain exactly what the Church wants all her children trained to understand and to practice. Hence, she reduces them to a form in which they can be most conveniently used in the offices of instruction. We do not require young Christians, upon their admission to the Church, to adopt them, for we regard them as pupils to be taught, and pupils are not ordinarily supposed to be familiar with the science which they are appointed to learn. But we do require, and peremptorily require, that all the teachers shall teach only according to this summary, and we do expect that the knowledge in which their hearers are to grow will be precisely the knowledge embraced in these symbols….”

    – Andy Webb

  38. Andrew Webb said,

    September 8, 2007 at 12:30 am

    Whoops, sorry about the formatting above, which I could edit it to remove the irritating continuing indent…

  39. Andrew Webb said,

    September 8, 2007 at 12:31 am

    And the above to replace “indent” with “italics”…

  40. GLW Johnson said,

    September 8, 2007 at 5:29 am

    Jared
    If memory serves me right, the only time I have seen terms like ‘Satanic’ or ‘the Evil one’ used in any context to describe people involved in the debate over the FV was from one of well known flamethrowers on the FV side of the fence-in fact he has repeatedly use such language in reference to Lane on this blog. Thanks for linking me to Scott Clark. I consider him a first-rate scholar and a friend-despite the fact that he is a Cornhusker and I am a Sooner.

  41. jared said,

    September 8, 2007 at 7:55 am

    GLW Johnson,

    I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to you (or Clark) and I definitely didn’t want to include you amongst the ranks of Sean, Robert and Mark, hence the parenthesis. Many of the critics have a “show-no-mercy” sort of mentality and that isn’t very becoming. Of course, this goes both ways and I think those ambitious FV/NPP supporters need to be recognizing the brotherhood as well.

  42. September 8, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Andrew… maybe I’m missing the issue but I don’t read Lee as denying that the Confession must be received as an accurate summary of the doctrines of scripture. His concern as I read it is that in practice the Confession not be taken to the extreme as if it were merely a perfect restatement of scripture without an intermediate process of human interpretation (which would give it logical equivalence in infallible authority to scripture, as much as a perfect translation of scripture). Accurate interpretations are still subject to scrutiny and that’s why the Westminster divines provided scriptural proofs: for future generations to evaluate their summary in the light of scripture itself. It’s an implicit nod to the role of scripture as a primary authority to be more tightly bound to our conscience than the Confession itself.

    There must be room for two dynamics at work: submitting to the wisdom and authority of confessional tradition especially in all the central tenets of the faith, and yet also exercising the liberty of individual conscience which must be more strongly bound to scripture itself than even what we deem are accurate sum interpretations. By holding to both dynamics in a wise manner, the two extremes are avoided – (a) RCC-like view of the infallible authority of councils, confessions, and creeds, and (b) viewing councils creeds and confessions as mere opinion that has no more or no less weight or authority than any particular individual’s opinion.

    just some thoughts

    j

  43. C. Fonville said,

    September 8, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    As a fairly new member of the reformed faith community and striving to understand what it is that this “faith system” is all about, it appears to this somewhat bewildred layman that the current “masters” of the faith, while obviously learned, elloquent and passionate are, by profession and writings, determined to undermine, by means of obfuscation, the very Gospel they profess to try to make plain. Perhaps, like TV and for others in my situation, these blogs should be required to have a reading rating system.

  44. pduggie said,

    September 8, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    It it possible to call people to stop attacking each other without making SOMEBODY feel maligned?

    “What do you mean ATTACK? I’m just defending myself?”

    What would an irenic call for FV critics to lay off look like?

  45. September 9, 2007 at 9:04 am

    […] post and the comments that follow. I know ‘Green Baggins’ has responded at length (here and here) and has probably pointed out a lot more worth thinking about than what I’m putting […]


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