New Book on the NPP

It looks like this book is a collection of essays. It will be very convenient to have them all in one place.

The Discussion Phase Is Clearly Over

Posted by Andy Webb

When we first commented on the Lampooning of the PCA discipline process at the most recent Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference in a post to the Warfield list, noting the obvious lack of respect it indicated, a few FV apologists were quick to say it was all in good fun. Then Mark Horne a PCA minister and signer of the “Joint Federal Vision Statement” blogged in response comparing the FV men to Jesus and those involved in the process against the FV to Pharisees on their way to hell. Apparently this is why the FV men were right in refusing “to take them and their judgments on him seriously” and for not showing “respect or the love for them.

Now James Jordan, one of the chief architects of the FV and another signer of the Joint FV Statement, in comments he made here has made very clear what the FV opinion of the “gaggle of fools” (the PCA) and its discipline process is, and indicated beyond all possible contradiction that the Rubber Nose treatment was not lighthearted Jovian pranksterism.

Here then are some lowlights from Federal Vision Joint Statement Signer, Recent Auburn Avenue Speaker, and the”godfather of the Federal Vision” Jim Jordan’s opinions of the PCA:

Blogger James Jordan said… The actions of the Star Judicial Chamber of the PCA are so openly wicked and evil, and so totally tyrannical, that is makes the Papacy look like small potatoes by comparison. All Christians in all kinds of churches should be appalled by this tyranny, and it is certainly fine for Armstrong, myself, and others to comment on it.
Blogger James Jordan said… If you men cannot recognize the actions of this Star Chamber as tyranny and evil, you are really beyond help. The presbytery has twice examined Wilkins and said he is not out of accord with the Confession. Since this was not the “verdict” desired by the antichrists of the Star Chamber, they threaten the presbytery! I stand by my words. These actions are nothing less than demonic, and evidence that the PCA is being given over. The very fact that the PCA would set up such a Star Chamber, which is beyond appeal, is more evidence. Not even the Papacy has such power, nor claims such power. And you men cannot see this? You are blind, and need to pray for salvation from bondage. Also, the fact that the ignorant PCA GA blindly voted to accept the distortions and downright lies of the FV Report is only evidence that these men are easily misled and are too busy to investigate matters for themselves. The PCA is now virtually a tyranny, and I’m overwhelmingly happy not to be part of it.
Blogger James Jordan said… This is a joke, right? The PCA committee, stacked from the start, produces a series of easily-provable lies, allows virtually no time for discussion so that not only FV person even gets to the mike, and you want to defend this? My language is not over the top. It is very mild. And if you are offended, good. Those of you who lie repeatedly about the beliefs of ordained ministers of Christ, and who rape and divide His church, are going to hear far worse in time to come.
Blogger James Jordan said… Whenever someone points out liars, he’s obnoxious. Goes with the territory. The PCA committee was a pack of liars. The discussion at GA was a joke. I’m not PCA. I wasn’t there. I saw it online. I saw that clown Sproul lie about the FV, and I saw the cowardly committee try and explain why they did not interview anyone, and I saw them lie and say they had actually read and studied the supposed FV material. All out there for the world to see. No fear of God before their eyes. What I gather bothers you is that people outside the PCA can see this abomination and the tyranny of your evil Star Chamber and can comment on it. Yes, we can. It’s appalling. Luther was treated far better. But I assure you, lying about God’s ministers and tearing up the bride of Christ is far more serious than being seen as obnoxious on some blog.
Blogger James Jordan said… Well, this is now just a joke. If you don’t think Sproul is a clown, you obviously did not watch his performance at GA. I don’t need to interview him. He clowned around quite clearly in front of everyone. For the rest, you chaps clearly are not interested in the Bible and the Reformed confessions, so there’s no point in continuing with you. And, you clearly despise Presbyterian church government, since the LA Presbytery has TWICE investigated Wilkins and found no ground for charges. You are not presbyterians at all. I wash my hands of you. Be offended as much as you want. If you wish to be treated with respect, cease your contemptable behavior.
Blogger James Jordan said… The idiocy continues. Justification by faith alone has nothing to do with the FV matter, since all FV exponents affirm completely and wholeheartedly the historic protestant and Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone. No matter how many times you men repeat your lies, we shall stand up and call you liars and rebuke your wickedness.
As for the Star Chamber, it’s true that the PCA, like a gaggle of fools, set this evil thing in place. It’s the opposite of any kind of Biblical and presbyterian government, as anyone can see, and it’s going to be pointed out as such by many more than Armstrong and myself. You have to be amazed at the morality of the gods of the PCA. Among normal decent people, if you said I was beating my wife, and I said, “No, I’m not,” that would be it. Innocent until proven guilty. Not in the PCA. No, there has to be an investigation. So, the investigation conducted by those nearest to me comes back and says, “Nope, he’s not beating his wife.” Among normal decent people that would be enough.
But not for the gods of the PCA. No, they demand another investigation. The second investigation, by people close to me who know me, comes back and says, “Nope, he’s not beating his wife.” Now among normal decent people that would be more than enough. But not for you evil men, and not for your gods. Your gods come back and say, “Either find this man guilty of beating his wife or we will cut you out of our denomination.” THAT’s the PCA. You regard your sect as a church of Jesus Christ? It is about like the church of Sardis, and EVERYONE CAN SEE IT! You should really step back and take a look at your collective appalling behavior — your misrepresentations, your character assassinations, your lies, and your tyrannies — and do something about it; because if you don’t, the Lord of the Church most certainly will do something about it.

As I’ve said before, the discussion phase is clearly over. These men have nothing but contempt and vitriol and incredibly offensive insults for any denomination or individual that opposes their will and ever-changing theological opinions. Why do they remain in a denomination they brand a Pharisaical “sect” of “antichrists” and a “gaggle of fools”? Still, they seem determined to do so, and to cast their envenomed barbs from within, so there isn’t going to be any other option other than to continue with the discipline process with as much patience and attention to doing things decently and order as possible.

A Review of Michael Horton’s book Covenant and Salvation

(the picture is clickable)

This book is a rare feast. It is sophisticated, scholarly, up to date, and extremely insightful. It is part three of what Horton intends to be a four volume series, the first two volumes being Covenant and Eschatology and Lord and Servant.

This book is subtitled “Union With Christ,” and for good reason. The book intends to overcome (by means of a robust covenant theology) the artificial separation that has existed in many forms of Christian theology today between the forensic aspects of salvation and the participatory aspects. This, however, should not make any Reformed theologian nervous, since Horton is by no means blurring justification and sanctification, or ascribing renovative aspects to justification. His program is thoroughly orthodox.

The first part (consisting of the first six chapters) deals with covenant and justification. His explicit dialogue partner here is the New Perspective on Paul, with a side glance at the New Finnish interpretation of Luther (which receives far more attention in the second part than the first). I also believe that the Federal Vision is an implicit interlocutor. However, I may be wrong about that. The Federal Vision is not once mentioned in the book.

The second chapter is intended to demonstrate that the law/Gospel distinction is exegetically sustainable (pg. 12). What Horton means by the law/Gospel distinction is defined by Turretin’s Institutes, volume 2, pp. 189-192, 205-233. Horton’s position on Sanders’s formula “get in by grace, stay in by obedience” is extremely interesting, and may not satisfy some critics of the NPP. He argues that Sanders’s formulation is basically correct as a description of the law covenant (pg. 14). He will argue that such a description does not fit the covenant of promise, which takes upon itself more of a testimentary grant. His summation is important: “The deepest distinction in Scripture is not between the Old and New Testaments, but between the covenants of law and the covenants of promise that run throughout both” (pg. 17). This leads to a further insight: Christ fulfills the covenant of law so that the benefits of the covenant of promise accrue to the heirs (pg. 24).

The third chapter directly addresses Sanders’s thesis about covenantal nomism. He argues that the NPP conflates the two different types of covenant, and that such a conflation is a “fundamental presupposition” of the NPP (pg. 39). Further, in a deliciously ironic twist, Horton argues that the covenantal nomism that Sanders describes serves as an accurate summary of Medieval theology! In the face of how many NPP advocates have taken Paul (rejecting Luther’s “tortured” soul eventually rejecting Medieval works-righteousness), the idea that covenantal nomism describes the very idea of religion that Luther rejected after all is rather intensely ironic.

Horton demonstrates knowledge of the varying positions in the NPP, refusing to lump advocates together in one basket. For instance, he notes that justification is a transfer term for Sanders, while it is not for Wright (see pg. 45). Furthermore, Sanders advocates an understanding of Judaism of Paul that takes the individual and the group equally seriously, whereas this is a failing among some of the other advocates of the NPP (pg. 46).

The nomistic principle of justification is what unites Trent, Judaism, and many modern supposedly Reformed groups (pg. 49), and it is this very principle that Paul and Luther rejected. The Reformers insisted that one gets and and one stays in by grace (pg. 51).

Chapter four deals with the phrase “works of the law,” a much vexed question when discussing the NPP. Through exegesis of the story of the rich young ruler (pp. 57-59), interwoven with sophisticated historical theology (Horton blasts Wright for his lack of historical theology, especially of the rich covenantal exegesis of the post-Reformation period; see footnote 19 on pp. 60-61), Horton overcomes false dichotomies such as the problem of the one and the many in salvation. His indictment of the NPP is just:

The gospel is not merely about how one is made right with God, we are told, yet at the end of the day NPP proponents do not seem to allow that it might even include that concern. If some interpretations reduce everything to the individual experience of salvation, Dunn, Wright, and others seem so suspicious of this question (which is, after all, explicitly raised in the New Testament) that qualifiers such as “not merely” end up meaning “not at all.” (pg. 63, emphasis original)

I am not going to summarize the entirety of the book, as I do not wish to make reading the book superfluous. I have two criticisms only, and they have to do with the second half of the book, which is on covenant as it relates to participation in Christ. I found the first half of the book to be clearly written and compelling. The second half of the book is also excellent, don’t get me wrong. However, it is far more difficult to read. Horton does not always define the terms he uses. I found it somewhat ironic, for instance, that he felt that he needed to define terminus a quo and terminus ad quem, which are fairly standard terms in scholarship today, but did not feel the need to define “perlocutionary” (which roughly means the consequence of a speech act) and “illocutionary,” (which means roughly how the speech act intends to accomplish the end in view) which are somewhat obscure terms related to speech-act theory, requiring quite a bit more of the reader. One would need quite a good background in philosophy, especially the area of ontology, in order to get the most out of this section of the book.

The other criticism is that Horton failed to engage the Gaffin school directly on the question of the relationship of justification and union with Christ. One gets the sense that Gaffin is in mind in many places where Horton disagrees with Gaffin’s thesis. However, more direct engagement would have been nice. Horton poses a serious challenge to the Gaffin school that union with Christ is the most basic soteriological category. Horton argues that justification provides the judicial ground for the entire ordo salutis. I hope sometime there may be more direct dialogue between Westminster California (which by and large would agree with Horton) and Westminster East, which follows Gaffin’s paradigm. I was not convinced by all of Horton’s theses in this regard, since there seems to be a tension in Horton: sometimes he seems to agree with Gaffin that union with Christ grounds justification. Other times he seems to disagree, arguing that justification grounds union. I was not clear when I finished just exactly where Horton was on this issue. Maybe Horton would be willing to clarify his position in a summary way somewhere (and of course he would be quite welcome to do so on this blog).

These two minor criticisms aside, I found the book richly rewarding, thoroughly orthodox, and mentally stimulating (in the sense of trying to get a drink of water out of a fire hydrant). Tolle lege.