The FV – Multiplying by Dividing

Posted by Andrew Webb

On 11/28/2007 Pastor Doug Wilson of the CREC, speculating on the possible outcomes of the SJC’s deliberations over the matter of Louisiana Presbytery’s failure to indict Steve Wilkins, opined on his blog that what the FV men were actually looking for was a trial, where they could finally hash everything out in public. Wilson wrote:

“Wilkins would then be tried in some venue, and he would have the full presumption of innocence in that trial. The prosecution would have to prove that he was not in conformity with the Confession, instead of doing it the Internet way, which is to baldly assert that someone is out of conformity with the Confession, leaving him to try to prove his way back into conformity.

So this would be a real debate, a real confrontation, requiring real arguments. The accused would have the advantage, instead the current slander system, where the prosecution has the advantage. At the same time, genuine theological experts from both sides would be called to testify. It would be the trial of the century. Finally we would have a setting in which we all could define our terms and settle the matter. It would be fantastic. Throw us into that briar patch.”

As most of you already know, on Saturday January 19th the Louisiana Presbytery gave Doug Wilson what he said they wanted when they voted to plead guilty to the SJC’s second indictment to whit that they: “failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that some of the views of TE Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitution, and thus was derelict in its duty under BCO 13-9, 40-4, and 40-5, and has thereby caused much unresolved pastoral confusion and harm.

TE Wilkins’ views, as articulated in the Record of the Case in 2007-8 and in the following examples, clearly constitute a strong presumption of guilt that his views are out of accord with the Constitution and require a fair and impartial court to proceed to trial.”

They also voted to refer the matter of trying Steve Wilkins to the SJC. Thus they threw Brer Wilkins into the very briar patch Wilson had maintained the FV men wanted to be in all along.

This Monday, however, Doug Wilson reported the following on his blog:

“Yesterday the congregation of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church voted (without dissent) to leave the PCA. They also voted to have Steve Wilkins continue as their pastor, and to approach the CREC for membership. They have been adopted as a mission church of Grace Covenant Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, pastored by Randy Booth. Steve was a member in good standing of the Louisiana Presbytery and consequently may transfer his membership according to the PCA BCO (38-3a), with the presbytery simply recording the action. The Louisiana Presbytery has been formally notified of all this. We welcome Auburn Avenue into our fellowship of churches with an odd mixture of grief and joy.”

The Stated Clerk of the PCA was also informed of the decision and that AAPC was no longer part of the PCA on the day after the AAPC congregation voted. To say that these moves occurred at light-speed compared to the slow and deliberate pace of normal Presbyterian deliberation would be an understatement to say the least.

Within nine days of being informed that the very trial they said they wanted would take place, Wilkins and company decamped from the PCA claiming that he was leaving as a member in good standing, despite his Presbytery admitting that there was a strong presumption of guilt regarding his teachings and referring the matter for trial to the SJC (which indicates that proceedings were about to be initiated and charges drawn up against Wilkins himself.) Clearly, we would be extremely naive if we were to believe that plans for leaving in the eventuality of a trial being announced had not already been at least thought out.

The fact is that the FV has indicated once again that the last thing they want is for their theology to go to trial – at least not in any venue they don’t control.

Now they will no doubt protest that the SJC was somehow “stacked” against them, but such protests should be seen for the sham they are. The SJC was not “appointed” by a moderator, nor was it a commission created to deal with the FV problem. It is a body of elders drawn from all the Presbyteries of the PCA elected on the floor of the GA over many years. As almost every observer of the SJC has noted, this body is made up almost entirely of the moderates or broadly evangelical wing of the PCA, many of its members either supported or were also active in the PPLN movement which created “Good Faith Subscription” and struck down the “Full Subscription” that TRs favored. Additionally, the men on the SJC tend to be the “big names” in the history of the denomination rather than “small minded,” unpopular, non-mainstream, theological wonks. In fact a quick review of the actions of the men of the SJC will show that they were overwhelmingly in favor of the “non-TR” position in almost every PCA debate during the 90s and early 2000s.

What we are in fact seeing, is the growth of the CREC as a specifically FV denomination via the division of existing Reformed denominations. Via conferences, books, blogs, and unfortunately in at least two of our seminaries, they mold future CREC pastors who then enter existing non-FV denominations and end up “crash-landing” the particular congregations they go on to Pastor in the CREC. Few, if any, denominations in history have had such a high percentage of pastors who have been deposed from such a wide variety of other orthodox denominations, or who left their original denomination under threat of trial. At this point, their church growth model seems to be almost entirely based on splitting or engulfing existing congregations via FV theology. (As such it might be interesting to compute how much money other denominations have spent to create congregations for the CREC!)

The only way orthodox denominations are going to be able to put an end to this multiplication by division process is by effectively shutting off the stream of FV leaning pastors into their denominations. This will only be accomplished by:

  • Removing FV candidates from coming under care of Presbytery and not taking on new ones
  • Removing existing FV pastors as quickly as possible, before they can affect new candidates for ministry in their denomination (this is especially critical in the churches around our seminaries) – call it filling in the poisoned wells.
  • Removing FV leaning seminary Profs from the Seminaries that feed our denominations

This may sound like strong medicine, but the illness it is designed to treat is extremely serious, if not fatal. If we don’t do these things, I can virtually guarantee you that both the high rate of Tiber swimming (moving to the Roman Catholic Church) by FV infected families and the CREC church growth plan will continue.

Some Recent Books on Baptism

This book has a great presentation of paedobaptism by Pratt; this book is a fantastic collection of essays on paedobaptism; this book is quite simply a classic; and this book is quite simply the best ever.

Justification By Faith Alone, part 1

This is part 1 of a review of chapter 21 of RINE. I do not feel that I can do this in one post, like most of the other chapters. Furthermore, since this touches on what is the single most important doctrine of the Christian faith, we will proceed slowly and cautiously.

Wilson starts the chapter by saying that the Reformers were right, as far as they went. This is not just saying that the Reformers were necessarily limited by their time, since Wilson also says that Rome was wrong on justification (a declaration I certainly appreciate). Wilson wants to say more about justification.

First, he quotes Randy Booth. This quotation leaves me with a question. In the middle of the quotation, Booth says “in another sense we are justified by works…This second sense of justification is a demonstration of the reality, or fact, of the first sense of forensic justification” (pp. 171-172). Then Wilson says “We maintain that we are not justified by our good works, but that we are justified to good works” (pg. 172). My question is this: did Wilson quote Booth to disagree with him or to agree with him? Let me be clear: if by “demonstration” Booth means that the future judgment means that the evidence of our judicial justification by faith alone is our works, then I heartily agree. The demonstrative sense of dikaioun is what James is talking about, whereas the judicial declaration definition is what Paul is referencing. As it is, I agree with Wilson’s statement that we are justified to good works, if by that Wilson means that our justification always results in good works, which I think he does mean.

I further agree with Wilson when he says that good works are the fruit of the tree, not the cause of the tree (pg. 172). However, I am not sure that I would say that good works are the ground of assurance of salvation.  I believe that election, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the inward evidence of grace, the means of grace, and the promises of God are the grounds of our assurance (see WCF 18.2). However, the confession states explicitly that the duties of obedience are the proper fruits of this assurance (18.3). As Wilson has clearly pointed out, fruit cannot be ground. I do not believe that our good works are the ground of our assurance, but are rather the fruit of our assurance. After all, all my good works are inevitably tainted with sin (of course, an unbeliever cannot ever have anything like good works). Even our works need to be justified by Christ’s atoning work.