Is God a Delusion?

Against what Dawkins and Hitchens are saying, this book will be extremely important in the debate. Indeed, this is one of a very few theological books likely to hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Of course, for some of my readers, that may be a reason to shy away from the book! However, if William Edgar gives it such a ringing endorsement, it ought to receive a fair hearing. Incidentally, I would also recommend Douglas Wilson’s blog on this, as he ripped Dawkins to shreds (figuratively speaking, of course).  

Sam Duncan’s Letter of Resignation

Gentlemen of the Standing Judicial Commission:

Twice, prior to the February 1st Called Meeting of the SJC, I suggested to the SJC that Charge 1 (not recording and dealing with TE Steve Wilkins “differences”) of Case 2007-14 be found to be moot and not brought to trial.  My recommendation was based on Louisiana Presbytery’s guilty plea to the primary theological issue, Charge 2, as well as Louisiana Presbytery’s referral of the (TE Wilkins) matter to the SJC and the departure of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and TE Steve Wilkins to the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. 

Several factors influenced my recommendation.  First, the guilty plea to Charge 2 was a major step for Louisiana Presbytery to take to bring the Federal Vision controversy involving TE Steve Wilkins to a proper resolution.  Second, the action to refer the TE Wilkins matter to the SJC basically removed Louisiana Presbytery from future proceedings involving TE Wilkins views.  Third, the SJC in 2007-8 (TE Jones vs. Louisiana Presbytery), already found Louisiana Presbytery erred in not recording TE Wilkins “differences” pursuant to BCO 21-4 and RAO 16-3(e)(5), which is the same finding and judgement that a trial on Charge 1 would produce.  Fourth, the guilty plea to Charge 2, as well as the departure of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and TE Steve Wilkins, signals a new day and a shift in the leadership structure in Louisiana Presbytery. Fifth, a trial on Charge 1 will be defended by the new leaders of Louisiana Presbytery, who have courageously fought and used the courts of this Church to bring this dispute to the SJC.  Sixth, the new leadership in Louisiana Presbytery needs to devote its time to dealing with the remaining Federal Vision supporters, not to defending a Charge in which they acknowledge wrongdoing, but are conscience bound to not change the plea to guilty. 

At a Called Meeting on February 9th, Louisiana Presbytery took up a motion to change its plea on Charge 1 from not guilty to guilty.  This vote failed by the narrowest of margins because some of the brothers, who do not embrace the teachings of Federal Vision, could not in good conscience, plead guilty to a charge to which they did not believe they were guilty.  At this meeting, Louisiana Presbytery adopted a statement to be submitted to the SJC in order to explain its actions. (draft attached)  Louisiana Presbytery’s statement candidly acknowledges its wrongdoing in connection with Charge 2; however, they believe that “procedurally we followed the instructions given to us in examining TE Wilkins, with due diligence and in good faith, and we therefore feel conscience-bound to plead ‘not guilty’ to count [Charge] 1.”

In its statement, Louisiana Presbytery points out that it was “never specifically directed” to apply BCO 21-4 and RAO 16-3(e)(5) to the examination of TE Wilkins and his views.  A review of the SJC Opinion in 2006-2 (Central Carolina Presbytery Memorial) confirms this fact.  

Louisiana Presbytery goes on to say that “if there was a requirement to classify TE Wilkins’ differences with the confessional standards according to this portion of the ROA [or BCO], it was not pointed out to LAP by the SJC.  Nor does such a requirement arise from a straight forward reading of this portion of the RAO [or BCO], which seems clearly to deal with the ‘trials for licensure and/or ordination.'”

Louisiana Presbytery also states that “while we now see the wisdom in applying the standards of RAO 16-3(e)(5) [and BCO 21-4] in this situation, we cannot see that there was a clear requirement for LAP to have done so in this case.  Had we received such direction, we would have complied.  Acknowledging the desires of the SJC, we also pledge to apply RAO 16-3(e)(5) [and BCO 21-4] in any similar proceedings of Presbytery in the future.”

Louisiana Presbytery concludes by saying “our plea is a matter of conscience in which we wish to show no malice toward a higher court.  Indeed we commit ourselves to following the guidelines outlined in the charge against in any future proceedings.”

I believe these statements are more than enough acknowledgment of wrongdoing to satisfy the spirit of Charge 1 and constitute a credible explanation of why Louisiana Presbytery maintains its plea of not guilty to Charge 1, along with a promise to use the RAO and BCO as specified in Charge 1 in all future proceedings.  Accordingly, it is my firm belief, as the Prosecutor appointed to conduct this case, that Charge 1 should be withdrawn.

As Prosecutor, I am required by BCO 35-3 to prove the charge with the testimony of more than one witness or one witness, plus corroborative evidence.  Pursuant to BCO 35-1, the prosecution can not compel the accused to testify.  Based on the foregoing developments, my witnesses are now either the official representative of Louisiana Presbytery in this case and unable to be a witness for the prosecution, or believe Louisiana Presbytery did all that the SJC instructed it to do, procedurally, in 2006-2 and therefore is not guilty in regard to Charge 1, or no longer wish to voluntarily testify.  With no witnesses, I do not have sufficient evidence to prove Charge 1.  It is my firm belief, as the Prosecutor appointed to conduct this case, that Charge 1 should be withdrawn.

Therefore, I resign as Prosecutor in this case.

In Christ

Samuel J. Duncan