Update on the Pacific Northwest Presbytery

This decision has been made by the panel of the SJC.



  1. Vern Crisler said,

    December 10, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Hmmm, I wonder if #6 means Gaffin will have to adjust his theology?

  2. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 10, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Do I understand this to mean that they have two weeks to either accept the ruling and appoint a prosecutor or do nothing and automatically have the full SJC proceed with the case next March?

  3. greenbaggins said,

    December 10, 2009 at 11:37 am

    The panel decision will have to be ratified by the whole SJC. The PNW Presbytery does not have to wait for the decision of the whole SJC to come down. After all, it is extremely rare that the whole SJC would overturn the panel’s decision. However, they are not forced to act until the full SJC hearing.

  4. K. H. Acton said,

    December 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    If the whole purpose of our confessional standards is to prevent heresy from being taught, how can the SJC declare, in a matter of fact sort of way, that Leithart is NOT a heretic AND yet out of accord with our standards. I understand the reluctance to pronounce someone a heretic, and I do not think it necessary to do so. But why go out of your way to make a statement that calls into question the whole purpose of our standards. If our standards are narrower than orthodoxy, let’s change them — otherwise we are unlawfully binding men’s conscience. If our standards are our standards for orthodoxy (for what could they be?), then let’s don’t say such silly things as this report. Better to just let it go.

  5. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Pastor K.

  6. December 10, 2009 at 6:34 pm


    Thanks for posting this. Excellent news for the purity and peace of the PCA. I again refer Federal Visionists to Preliminary Principle #2 of the BCO. After reading a lot of TE Leithart’s writings (and blogging about some of them), I can’t believe that any ordained PCA officer can defend his views as within our established bounds. TE Leithart isn’t evil, he’s just wrong. The SJC panel’s analysis once again proved excellent.

  7. Vern Crisler said,

    December 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Strike #6; meant #5.

  8. December 10, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    […] for not indicting TE Peter Leithart for his erroneous Federal Vision views and teachings (HT: Greenbaggins) as a result of their own study committee’s findings. I’d write more about it, but TE […]

  9. Stephen Welch said,

    December 11, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Perhaps this has already been discussed in other venues, but I think it would be helpful, at least for me to see specifically what Leithart teaches that is not in accord with our confessional standards. We often hear about the controversy with the Federal Vision, but it would be beneficial to see what Leithart’s views are. I must confess that I have never read anything by Leithart. I don’t want to create any unneccesary work for Lane, but is there a resource that would give the specifics of his views?

  10. Reed Here said,

    December 11, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Stephen: start with the linked SJC panel report (see Lane’s initial post above.) This provides a faithful boiled down summary of problems in Leithart’s position.

    As well, I think Jason Stellman at De Regnis Duobus has posted some original materials related to this matter (possibly Dr. Leithart’s original submission to PNW.)

  11. Stephen Welch said,

    December 11, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Thank you, Reed. I will check Jason Stellman’s blog.

  12. December 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm


    Two places to look would be my minority report (which you should be able to find by doing a Google search, and if not, let me know and I’ll provide a link), and you can also read the SJC’s report which is linked to at my blog.

    The SJC was more concerned with baptismal issues than I am, and I think I am more concerned with covenantal and soteriological issues than they are.

  13. Stephen Welch said,

    December 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you, Jason. I went to your blog. De Regnis Duobus, so I will look more closely at it. I have looked at Peter Leithart’s blog, but don’t always find that he spells out his position clearly. I have not followed the PNW issue from the beginning, so I will have to go back and look at it.

  14. Scott said,

    December 12, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Jason J. Stellman said,
    “The SJC was more concerned with baptismal issues than I am, and I think I am more concerned with covenantal and soteriological issues than they are.”

    Reading the proposed decision, it seems to address baptism, covenant and soteriology as much as one might expect in a summary judgment and reasoning like this.

    Can you elaborate a bit more on this?

  15. Reed Here said,

    December 12, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Stephen: here is Dr. Leithart’s original letter to his Presbytery.

  16. Stephen Welch said,

    December 12, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Thank you, Reed. I will check out Leithart’s original letters.

  17. December 12, 2009 at 12:09 pm


    While we were before the panel, the vast majority of questions toward the respondant concerned the efficacy of baptism. Some questioned whether we should read Romans 6 with water baptism in view at all. So from where I sat, it seemed like that was their biggest problem with Leithart.

  18. Reed Here said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Jason: interesting. Causes me to wonder about the sacramentalism concerns with the FV.

    Aside, as one coming out of dispensationalism, which reads Rom 6 as only discusing the sign, why more reformed are not conversant with the doctrine of sacramental union. Didn’t I read in the panel’s ruling something about Leithart effective eliminating the sign, making water baptism coterminous in all respects with Spirit baptism?

  19. December 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    […] eyewitness firmly in the anti-Leithart camp says this about the panel: While we were before the panel, the vast majority of questions toward the […]

  20. December 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I think Calvin’s take on Romans 6 is spot on. He says, “Yes, you read that correctly, Paul did say that all who are baptized [in water] will be fully united in the likeness of Jesus’ resurrection. But Paul is not addressing the issue of what happens when baptism doesn’t work, he is talking about the faithful elect whose baptisms issue forth in what they signify.”

    Personally, I would have been happy if the Minority Report omitted any reference to baptism at all (so as to avoid the charge from the FV that we’re all a bunch of “bapterians”). But that’s not how it turned out.

  21. December 12, 2009 at 8:51 pm


    Thank you for that insight into the panel’s questions. That’s interesting. I do think that their defective view of the sacraments, especially baptism, drives some of the other errors to a point. Perhaps that’s what’s behind those particular questions. Then again, perhaps not.

  22. Daniel F said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Stephen, the Federal Vision website, while still in construction, has many resources from both sides: http://www.federal-vision.com

  23. December 13, 2009 at 8:10 am


    The FV website in #21 is overwhelmingly pro-FV, including its blog links. A very few, token non-FV responses have been added to the site. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. The most condemning stuff I’ve read on FV, and I’ve read a lot, was the stuff written by FVers themselves. Just be aware that some are further out there than others.

    If you really want to dig into critical analysis in depth, in addition to Jason’s blog, use the Federal Vision tag search on this blog (Greenbaggins), Scott Clark’s blog, and mine for starters. My blog also has links to all the FV reports by denominations, presbyteries, etc., on the right side panel. It’s all probably more that you ever wanted to know.

    On the book front, I think that the single best resource is The Auburn Avenue Theology Pros & Cons edited by Cal Beisner, which is essentially a written debate on FV from early in the controversy. The next best is The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology by Guy Prentiss Waters.

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Two questions:

    (1) From the report, p. 15:

    If baptism in Romans 6 refers to water baptism, then water baptism has the power to grant newness of life …Leithart is categorically wrong in this interpretation. Paul is speaking not of the baptism of the flesh, but of the baptism of the heart (cf. Rom 2…)

    This is a very surprising blanket statement. I thought it was a standard view that Paul was speaking of both water baptism, which sacramentally represents and effects (WCoF 27.2, 28.6) Spirit baptism in the believer, which accomplishes the results that Paul describes.

    Thus the Confession in ch. 28 cites Rom 6.5 as a prooftext, as well as Gal. 3.27 and Col 2.11-12. The meaning (I thought) was clear: the writers of the Confession regarded these passages to refer to the outward sign that points to the inward reality. Both, And.

    Calvin certainly takes the “both-and” approach (as Jason Stellman points out above):

    What he intimated in the last verse — that Christ destroys sin in his people, he proves here by mentioning the effect of baptism, by which we are initiated into his faith; for it is beyond any question, that we put on Christ in baptism, and that we are baptized for this end — that we may be one with him. But Paul takes up another principle — that we are then really united to the body of Christ, when his death brings forth in us its fruit; yea, he teaches us, that this fellowship as to death is what is to be mainly regarded in baptism; for not washing alone is set forth in it, but also the putting to death and the dying of the old man. — Calv. Comm. Rom. 6.3.

    And again,

    Believers receive what is offered; and if wicked men, by rejecting it, render the offer unprofitable to themselves, their conduct cannot destroy the faithfulness of God, or the true meaning of the sacrament. With strict propriety, then, does Paul, in addressing believers, say, that when they were baptized, they “put on Christ;” just as, in the Epistle to the Romans, he says,

    “that we have been planted together into his death,
    so as to be also partakers of his resurrection.”
    (Romans 6:5.)

    In this way, the symbol and the Divine operation are kept distinct, and yet the meaning of the sacraments is manifest; so that they cannot be regarded as empty and trivial exhibitions — Calv. Comm. Gal. 6.27

    In light of Calvin’s firm “both-and” reading of the baptism passages, I am surprised that (a) the SJC took a “not this, but that” approach, AND (b) made this approach a part of their judgment against Leithart.

    Can someone enlighten me as to whether a “both-and” reading of Rom 6 and Gal 3 is being declared out of accord with the standards here? I would assume and hope not, but the language of the document suggests otherwise.

    (2) I don’t fully understand the issue in section (vi). Leithart had said, “We are united with Christ; Christ is righteous; therefore, God regards us … as righteous. This is imputation, but it is not a distinct act of imputation.”

    What is the significance of having a “distinct act of imputation”, over against “being regarded as righteous”?

    Jeff Cagle

  25. December 13, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    […] This is a very insightful question: I don’t fully understand the issue in section (vi). Leithart had said, “We are united with Christ; Christ is righteous; therefore, God regards us … as righteous. This is imputation, but it is not a distinct act of imputation.”What is the significance of having a “distinct act of imputation”, over against “being regarded as righteous”? […]

  26. Steven Carr said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    So when is Mark Horne going to be investigated by his Presbytery? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  27. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    >So when is Mark Horne going to be investigated by his Presbytery? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    Maybe after Tim Keller and Redeemer gets appropriate attention. Well not if the PCA decides to keep heading down the PCUSA path…

  28. Vern Crisler said,

    December 15, 2009 at 1:20 am

    I went to the site listed by Bob (#23) and listened to the interview with Jim Jordan. Jordan reduces the FV fiasco to a debate between world- and life-view Christians and retreatist Christians. On the other hand he turns around and suggests that Christians need to focus on worship. Supposedly, if that’s done, everything else will follow (butterfly effect).

    It sounds fatalistic — like Nock’s “remnant” idea. Jordan seems to be advocating the idea of an introverted Christianity. So there’s a contradiction between his favorable attitude to world- and life-view Christianity and his recommendation to focus on liturgy and let God take care of the state.

    Note: I criticize the way some people use the butterfly effect (butterfly flapping creates tornado somewhere else). It does not take account of the energy loss over time & distance.


  29. GLW Johnson said,

    December 15, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Jordon ( and Wilson as well) actually does think that this whole brannigan is over amilllennialism vs their ‘theonomic’ postmillennialism . This is very revealing- in this sense: Despite their repeated outcries against ‘systematic theology’ and their doing pure ‘biblical theology’ -the FV is driven by their own need to ‘systematise’ everything around their particular eshatological architectonic paradigm. But people like Joe Morecraft baffles them- and , I might add, so would Greg Bahnsen if he were still with us.

  30. Stephen said,

    December 15, 2009 at 11:04 am

    David, in # 27 you stated, “not if the PCA keeps deciding to head down the PCUSA path.” Would you elaborate on that statement and explain further how you believe we are going the same route? Dr. Morton Smith has said the same thing, so I think this is an important point to be made. I have certainly been concerned about the slippery slope the PCA seems to be traveling.

  31. December 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm


    If Greg were alive and held the positions he held 25 years ago, he would support the necessity of an obedient faith but oppose the sacramentarianism of the FV folks. He was sympathetic with Shepherd’s views but unsympathetic with soteriology closely wedded to ecclesiology. This would have made him an enigma in the present climate, and I agree with his emphases on these controverted issues, which I discussed with him at length.

  32. Stephen said,

    December 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Andrew, many of us who oppose the FV would also support the necessity of obedience and reject the sacramentalism of the FV, so we are in good company with Greg Bahnsen. I would respectfully disagree with your statement that he was sympathetic to Norman Shepherd’s views. Perhaps you could elaborate on this point. What specifically would Bahnsen agree with? He should have been unsympathetic to Shepherd’s views on confusing soteriology and ecclesiology. This is one of the points of contention with the federal vision that violates the teaching of the Westminster Standards. John Otis has clearly pointed out in his book Danger in the Camp, that Bahnsen would not have affirmed the things being promoted by the FV.

  33. GLW Johnson said,

    December 16, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Maybe- but Greg had little patience for the folks in Moscow. Greg spoke here a few months before his death ( of course the FV was not up and running at the time) on VanTil’s apologetics. Shepherd never came up but we did discuss the NPP and he was not the least bit sympathetic towards that!

  34. GLW Johnson said,

    December 16, 2009 at 6:50 am

    One more thing- like Van Til, I can’t imagine Greg castigating the WFC on the Covenant of Works nor jettisoning the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience. As you well know this was one of the reasons Gaffin abandoned his support for Shepherd.

  35. December 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Stephen, I have Greg’s private correspondence re Shepherd, and we have, in any case, his public comments. As a strict confessionalist (as Gary notes), Greg was a stickler for obedient faith — that is to say, he believed that Shepherd’s views were the WCF’s views. For this reason he would not have been supportive of the NPP, as Gary notes. Nor would he have supported Shepherd’s limitation of imputation to Jesus’ death and resurrection (Shepherd, of course, is a strong supporter of imputation, just not the imputation of “active” obedience), and Bahnsen publicly acknowledged that Dan Fuller had forced him to change his mind as support the unity of Gospel and Law.

  36. December 17, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Last sentence should read: ” … Dan Fuller had forced him to change his mind *and* support the unity of Gospel and Law.”

  37. Vern Crisler said,

    December 17, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Andrew, I think Greg was interpreting Shepherd and Fuller from within his own perspective, which was theonomy. Because of this, he missed their conditionalist gospel, thinking they were only saying things that were supportive of theonomy, not realizing the deadly error at the heart of their soteriology. I mea culpa actually introduced Greg to Fuller’s book, and at the time I did not see its conditionalism. I only saw it as supportive of theonomy.

    Things have become clearer in the last few years — so there’s no real excuse for promoting Shepherd, Fuller, or FVism, any more than there is for supporting NPP. Plus, given his hostility to the Tyler church, it’s hard to believe Greg would have been an FV supporter if he had lived when it all came to public notice in 2002.


  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Does anyone have some insight as to the panels’ intent wrt to the two questions I asked above?

    Jeff Cagle

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