Siouxlands Presbytery Exonerates TE Greg Lawrence (Updated)

As an assistant prosecutor of the case, helping out TE Kevin Carr (TE Art Sartorius was the other assistant prosecutor), I can’t say precisely that I was thrilled to my fingertips when the verdict came out. To tell the truth to my readers, I felt like I had been punched in the gut, run over, shot, and then bombed for good measure. The details of what happened are here. It makes me so very sad, since the Federal Vision divides brothers from other brothers (even those who do not themselves hold to the FV!). I have seen it time after time after time. Men I used to respect I can no longer respect, or I have significantly diminished respect for them.

Update: I was incorrect about the record of this trial being in executive session. I apologize. The commission reported in open session, so the records are open. The charges and the plea are available to read here.

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  1. September 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Watch it, you’ll be brought up on charges of violating the 9th Commandment. :|

  2. Reed Here said,

    September 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I’m sorry Lane.

  3. September 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm


    “Be still, and know that I am God.”

    Sad that this looks like another LAP routine, but God is still on His throne just as he was then. I had the honor of teaching Psalm 73 this past Sunday. May it and Psalm 46 encourage you in this difficult time.

    Deepest thanks to you, Kevin, Art, and other orthodox brothers who stand for the historic Reformed faith under difficult circumstances. Our prayers continue for you and your Presbytery.

  4. Peter Green said,

    September 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    “To tell the truth to my readers, I felt like I had been punched in the gut, run over, shot, and then bombed for good measure.”

    I wonder how TE Lawrence has felt throughout this time.

    Now that he has been exonerated by an official court of the Church, will you feel obligated to defend his good name against any slander with the same vigor that you prosecuted him?

  5. greenbaggins said,

    September 27, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Peter, the process is not finished yet.

  6. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 10:27 am

    And how will you respond when it is?

  7. rfwhite said,

    September 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Peter Green:

    For the benefit of other readers here, could you spell out what you believe the specific obligation of prosecutors in a mid-level court of the church is when that court issues a finding against their case? Could you also spell out what you believe the basis of that obligation is?

  8. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I am not particularly concerned about the obligations of prosecutors. After all, my question concerned Rev. Keister’s obligations *after* the case is/will be concluded. Furthermore, I am more interested in the obligations of ministers in good standing to protect the good name of other ministers in good standing (cf., LC 144-45, which require not just not slandering, but an active defense of others against slander). I am assuming that one’s role as a prosecutor does not invalidate one’s ordination vows to the WS. Am I correct to make such an assumption?

  9. Reed Here said,

    September 27, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Peter: the phrasing of your question strongly implies you expect that Lane (and the other prosecutors) are in some manner not going to defend the reputation of TE Lawrence. Do you expect they will not defend their reputation? Do you expect in some manner that they will rather slander him?

    I honestly cannot fathom why you think your question is fair, unless you are assuming something of this nature. But rather than assume something bad about you, I’d rather ask you to clear up your question brother.

    Why does an expression of conviction in opposition to the finding of this court justify asking a minister in good standing if he will protect his opponents reputation? As if he has acted in some manner to demonstrate he does not care to protect his reputation already?

    E.g., I’m strongly opposed to credo-baptism, believing that professing parents who do not have their children baptized are indeed sinning against them. Does the mere fact that I believe this is what the Bible teaches mean I am therefore uninterested (or worse) in defending their good name?

  10. Stephen Welch said,

    September 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Peter, with all due respect noone, including Lane has slandered anyone. Legitimate charges were filed against TE Lawrence and the Presbytery had the responsibility to try him. If legitimate charges were filed there is still an appeal process, so as Lane said it is not over.

  11. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Stephen Welch, I charged no one, including Rev. Keister, with slander. Though, if you think no one on this blog or other blogs of other ministers in the PCA have not slandered TE Lawrence, then I don’t really know what to say.

    Reed Here, I think it is a fair assumption that a prosecutor of a case who expresses how emotionally distraught he is that a fellow minister has not been defrocked will be *tempted* to be less than vigorous in his defense of the accused. Thus, I asked the question. The sort of vitriol that various members of the denomination have been subject to on this blog (though admittedly, this is better than some) and others, makes the question a relevant one.

  12. Aaron Siver said,

    September 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I second Peter’s comments.

  13. rfwhite said,

    September 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Peter Green:

    I regret that I misunderstood how you were addressing TE Keister. Forbear with me, but I took it that you would have been addressing him specifically in light of the role of assistant prosecutor that he mentioned in the first phrase of his lead post, setting the context of his remarks.

    I certainly agree with you that your questions apply to ministers whether they are prosecutors or not. So, in direct answer to your question in #8, you are correct that one’s role as a prosecutor does not invalidate one’s ordination vows to the WS. I certainly did not intend to say anything to make you think otherwise.

    Allow me to follow up: your response to my question in #7 tells me that you misinterpreted the motive of my question. I believe you raise a legitimate question. So I’d rephrase my question to ask, what are the obligations of ministers in a mid-level court have when an action of that court goes against their personal judgment? Given your response, I’d like to understand more of your thinking lest I be wrong in my understanding of you: is it your contention that those ministers who disagree with a court’s finding are obliged to renounce their disagreement as slander against the party whom the court exonerated?

  14. September 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Is there a way to contact you? (jgrig2 from puritanboard)

  15. TurretinFan said,

    September 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Peter Green:

    a) The concerns some of us have about Lawrence aren’t primarily about whether his friends from the Souixland Presbytery think that the tent should be big enough to include him. The concerns are primarily about whether Lawrence’s teachings are outside confessional bounds. If they are and his friends at S.P. exonerate him nonetheless, that’s worse for them (not better for him).

    b) Some of us are concerned about the use of (apparently false) accusations of violations of the 9th commandment against his critic as an apparent attempt to silence the critics.

    See discussion here:


  16. Reed Here said,

    September 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    So Peter: is Lane’s potential to be less than rigorous in protecting TE Lawrence’s reputation:

    1. Worse than,
    2. Better than, or
    3. The same as

    You’re tarring me and others on this blog with your accusations that we have engaged in slander and vitriol against TE Lawrence?

    If you’d like to ask someone specifically to repent of specific slander, I can provide you with emaill addresses. If you’d like some reasoned discussion, please don’t assume the negative.

    If all you want to do is make “Nyah, nyah, nyah” points, kindly go elsewhere.

  17. Hugh said,

    September 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    the Federal Vision divides brothers from other brothers (even those who do not themselves hold to the FV!). I have seen it time after time after time. Men I used to respect I can no longer respect, or I have significantly diminished respect for them.

    And it separates the men from the jellyfish.

    In some cases, does it not also separate wheat from chaff!

  18. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    RF White, thanks for your kind words. I will attempt an answer to your question.

    It is my understanding, (though I don’t have time to look up the references at the moment), that our BCO makes provisions for censuring a “voluntary prosecutor” against whom the court later rules. I recognize that this does not apply in this particular case, because of the different route by which we got here. However, I note that there are times and places where a prosecutor might be considered in the wrong for having prosecuted the case.

    As far as this particular case is concerned, do I think, if the case ends finally with Lawrence vindicated, that everyone involved must believe that he was and remains innocent? No, I don’t. Rev. Keister and others are still free to think (privately) that he is out of bounds and should be defrocked. However, *publicly* they should be required to defend his good name as a minister and as one who has been vindicated by the denomination (or presbytery). This relates to the nature of authority. You might disagree with the judgment of one who is in authority over you, but you are not at liberty to a) disobey or b) spread dissension and undermine that authority.

    I have stated here and elsewhere that I am a paedocommunionist. My current church (as well as the denomination) disagree with me. Thus, I try to be very careful not to bring the issue up in public church gatherings like Sunday school, etc. I do everything I can to respect and to encourage respect of the elders and pastors, even on this point, even while I still disagree. (Of course, I do it fallibly). I hope that slightly answers your question.


    Believing and arguing that one is out of bounds of the WCF is not “slander” and therefore not what I was referring to.

    Reed Here,

    I didn’t “tar” you. I didn’t accuse you of anything. I apologize if it seemed as though I was trying to implicitly lump you into my generalization–I wasn’t. You and I have our disagreements, but I generally respect the way you conduct yourself and moderate this blog. I personally think that at times you and the other moderators could have been more vigorous in preventing people from disrespecting other ministers, but that is, to a degree, a judgment call.

  19. Reed Here said,

    September 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Peter: I respect your desire for others to not slander TE Lawrence over differences of doctrine. Let me ask you to exercise the same kind of care that you are insinuating that Lane, and stating that others here have not shown.

    Lane has a simple rule for any complaints when someone thinks a comment is out of bounds – report it to a moderator via email. Making generalized and careless comments only serve to poison the conversation.

    Having made such mistakes myself far too many times, I sympathize with your mistake. Hopefully my admonishment will be received as gently as it is intended.

  20. Reed Here said,

    September 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    And Aaron, consider yourself seconded on the admonishment I just offered Peter.

    The old saying disagree agreeably goes pretty far in these conversations. This is true even if/when we think the other is teaching heresy.

  21. Aaron Siver said,

    September 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Duly noted and received. Thanks Reed.

  22. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Reed Here,

    My use of the word “slander” was unfortunate, since what I am concerned about includes slander but includes much more as well. One can speak disrespectfully toward or about another without it being slander.

    As far as insinuating something about Rev. Keister, that was not my intent. I won’t deny that my original posts were “snarky”, but I wasn’t trying to insinuate anything per se–at least not anything that I wouldn’t acknowledge applied equally well to me. If I were in Rev. Keister’s shoes I would certainly fail to live up to my obligations.

    My point was and remains essentially what I said to RF White–that if/when TE Lawrence is finally and completely vindicated, it is incumbent upon the officers of the church (as well as lay people) to support and defend the authority of the church and the good name of TE Lawrence, regardless of any disagreement with the decision.

    As for my generalizations, I truly do not believe they were careless. I believe they were accurate. Whether it was helpful to make them is another question, but I stand by my generalizations. As for making specific complaints, I will try to do so in the future when I see comments that I consider to be out of line. However, I try to avoid the blogs since I end up wasting too much time on that. And with that note, I will return to my work.

  23. Reed Here said,

    September 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Aaron and Peter, I am grateful for your humble responses. I agree that it is incumbent upon us to maintain one another’s reputations, especially in discussions about matters which we find so important.

    Hopefully we will all be able to speak strongly when needed, without making it personal.

  24. Hugh said,

    September 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Where is evidence (testimonies?) in TE Greg Lawrence case?

    Recaps, synopses, and endless opinions abound, but is the prosecution’s evidence (writings, sermons, etc.) available? Thanks.

  25. greenbaggins said,

    September 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Hugh, the entire trial was conducted under executive session, so that evidence will only be made available in case of an appeal, and even then, only to the SJC, if I understand the situation correctly.

  26. K H Acton (a different Hugh) said,

    September 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Lane, will there be an appeal? And what role, if any, do you play now that you have moved to SC?

  27. greenbaggins said,

    September 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I’m out of it, in terms of having any hand in any process. If anyone makes a complaint, it won’t be coming from me.

  28. Hugh McCann said,

    September 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks, Lane. Awfully difficult to know what to think w/o evidence. But the two(?) recommendations of a strong preusumption of guilt are indicting (pun intended).

    From Aquila:

    At its January 22, 2010 meeting, the Presbytery heard the report of a second investigative committee that recommended 6-0 that the Presbytery find a strong presumption of guilt against TE Lawrence. However, before the Presbytery acted on the recommendation TE Lawrence requested that Presbytery appoint a committee to instruct him; this motion was approved. The committee was charged with helping TE Lawrence clarify his statements with regard to and in light of the nine declarations of the PCA General Assembly’s Report on “Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology” (see here and here). The Instructional Committee gave a provisional report on its work at the April 22-23, 2010 meeting but no action taken.

    The Instructional Committee gave its report at September 23-24, 2010 meeting of Presbytery, which was received as information. The second investigative committee also reported and its recommendation that a finding of a strong presumption of guilt against TE Lawrence was approved.

  29. Towne said,

    September 27, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Mr. Green, at post #18, voiced a common misunderstanding of your PCA’s BCO 31-9 when he said “It is my understanding . . . that our BCO makes provisions for censuring a ‘voluntary prosecutor’ against whom the court later rules.”

    Rather, BCO 31-9 states that “Every voluntary prosecutor shall be previously warned, that if he fail to show probable cause of the charges, he may himself be censured as a slanderer of the brethren.”

    In other words, BCO 31-9 does NOT say that the prosecutor is liable to charges if he fails to win his case. Such would be the common misunderstanding. Rather, the prosecutor must demonstrate “probable cause”–he must show that there was sufficient reason for having the trial in the first place. Or from Dr. Smith’s Commentary on the BCO, “To show probable cause means to show that he had probable evidence of the truth of the charges when he undertook the prosecution.”

    The point of the matter is that trials should not be entered into in a frivolous manner. Contrarywise, if the prosecutor were liable of slander for merely failing to win his case, few would dare to exercise discipline.

  30. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Towne, thanks for the legal clarification. I was aware that a prosecutor would not be censured in *every* case that he failed to win, but I hadn’t noticed the “probable cause” clause.

  31. Rick Phillips said,

    September 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm


    Your line of reasoning seems to be if TE Lawrence is ultimately exonerated, then his critics have a duty to declare his views to be sound, regardless of their convictions. I would strongly disagree. They would still have the right to claim that the denomination erred and to continue making their case against the teachings to which they objected. They should do so in a respectful way, of course. But nowadays the 9th commandment is used so as to make the rulings of our courts bind the conscience of accusers, whereas our confession says that only Scripture can bind the conscience.

    Let’s say that a certain person denied the Trinity, then succeeded in being exonerated in his trial (such exoneration might happen for any number of reasons). No sound minister should therefore feel constrained to defend and support his false teachings, but would have a duty to continue to teach against his error and seek available remedies. Those continuing to challenge such a man’s false teaching would not be guilty of slander, so long as they restricted their polemic to the nature and implications of the man’s teaching. Along these lines, I fear that the cudgel of “in good standing” and “slander” is in danger of superseding our commitment to the truth of God’s Word. Now, it might be the case that the critics are themselves criticized and even put to trial. That is fair enough, and it might lead to a split in the denomination.

    In the case of the FV, the chief doctrine in question is justification through faith alone. This truth is worth suffering for and if need be worth splitting over. Our forefathers in the faith certainly believed this and we should believe it as well. Justification through faith alone is more important than ecclesiastical harmony, and if denials of this cardinal doctrine are permitted then its defenders should militate on its behalf, even at the expense of breaking fellowship or being forced out of a denomination themselves. Such matters as “in good standing” are relative trifles compared to the truly pivotal matter of justification. Can we imagine the apostle Paul writing to the Galatians that he was going to criticize them over their denial of justification, but since those who denied it were in good standing Paul felt he had to approve their teaching? Me genoito!

  32. Peter Green said,

    September 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    “his critics have a duty to declare his views to be sound”

    I actually said exactly the opposite. Allow me to quote myself:

    “…do I think, if the case ends finally with Lawrence vindicated, that everyone involved must believe that he was and remains innocent? No, I don’t. ”

    Your post doesn’t seem to interact with the arguments I have made. Perhaps I haven’t been clear, but I would urge you to reread my posts.

    PS No one denies JBFA.

  33. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 27, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    RIck, of course, is right. We are not Romanists who identify the church purely with its outward organization and regard it as infallible. The locus of infallibility for us is the Word of God and we seek ever to be reformed according to it.

    Lane was also, as I took him, lamenting chiefly about FV. All our denominations have taken a stand against it. I am OPC but we and the PCA (and all the other Reformed denominations and seminaries) have taken stands against. Now, perhaps this particular man is not guilty of such. Or, frankly, he could be, but his presbytery declined to adjudge him to be so. It would not be the first time that it has happened in a presbytery and warranted correction in the broader courts.

    And how do we, the wider world, really know what the case is? Doctrinal trials held in camera? What is the justification for that? As I have written on the Aquila Report, it’s historically assumed to be either for the purpose of railroading or whitewashing. I am not saying that is the case here. But It is forbidden to try doctrinal matters in executive session in the OPC. I cannot imagine a good reason for having doctrinal trials that way anywhere. And many of my friends in the PCA agree.

  34. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

    “We are not Romanists who identify the church purely with its outward organization and regard it as infallible. The locus of infallibility for us is the Word of God and we seek ever to be reformed according to it.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I take it, then, Rev. Strange, that you would agree that the PCA committed a grave error when it voted to have its study committee only study whether FV was consistent with the WS and not with the Bible? And that that error was compounded when the PCA adopted that report instead of requiring the committee to engage the FVists biblical arguments?

  35. September 28, 2011 at 12:20 am

    When I consider the ramifications of an ecclesiastical trial’s verdict on those who are joined to the same ecclesiastical court, either as elders or laymen of the presbytery or under the same general assembly, I’d agree that just because a court exonerates a defendant’s views, that doesn’t mean anyone has to agree that they’re properly representative of Scripture’s teachings. But I do think it means all those joined to that court have to agree that those differences are acceptable and not to be a source of schism, whether institutionally or just personally. A man with whom I disagree in matters of theology that fall within this scenario is my brother in Christ first and a man of differing opinions second.

    And when I consider the particular confessional standards we value so dearly, I find a bit of a quandary – not with the standards but with their self-acknowledged limits. WCF 1.10 tells us that the WCF is not and never will be the final and comprehensive word for we Presbyterians. WCF 31.3 tells us that ecclesiastical councils and courts have genuine authority to do what they do, and yet WCF 31.4 tells us that all of those councils and courts are capable of making mistakes, which includes the Westminster Assembly. It seems like a clear acknowledgement by the assemblymen of Westminster that their work had its limitations. Given Letham’s research on the history and inner workings of the assembly, it’s pretty clear that the Westminster Standards don’t represent a tight, uniform, and universal Reformed consensus but a majority opinion on theological matters (and not even the same majority from one point to the next) with room for deviation. The Westminster Standards are a magnificent starting point but not the ending point of theological work. If not, then it seems like Westminster is just a Presbyterian substitute for Trent and the Papacy.

    I’m not entirely sure where I was going with that any more, but it’s a few things to contemplate. Blessings.

  36. Steven Carr said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Peter Green, Rev. Lawrence teaches the Federal Vision. The case against him was so overwhelming that it is hard to fathom how the commission could find him not guilty and even do so unanimously on all charges. I, for one, will not accept an erring court’s decision, nor am I bound to. I have seen the evidence and remain convinced by Scripture and plain reason that he teaches contrary to Scripture and the Reformed Confessions. And I will warn anyone I can to stay away from his Church, until I can be persuaded from Scripture and plain reason that he has repented and turned away from teaching Federal Vision.

  37. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Hi Peter,

    You noted that “the PCA committed a grave error when it voted to have its study committee only study whether FV was consistent with the WS and not with the Bible? And that that error was compounded when the PCA adopted that report instead of requiring the committee to engage the FVists biblical arguments?”

    Someone correct me if I’m mistaken, but it’s my understanding that the 9 statements toward the end of the report were the only portion of the report adopted by the GA. The actual weight of that study report seems to be in dispute. All the same, your questions are intriguing.


  38. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:42 am


    My understanding of PCA polity is limited, but I believe that *no* part of the report has binding authority, including the 9 declarations. I have heard of one or two presbyteries independently adopting the 9 declarations and making them required for ministerial candidates, but that is a decision that the presbyteries must make. The report itself was adopted, but that doesn’t give it any judicial authority. It just represents the opinion and advice of that particular GA. Someone better versed in the BCO can correct me on that point, though.

  39. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:44 am


    Maybe you should fathom the situation again … or just come out and say that you think 80% of SLP elders are incompetent or cowardly or whatever it is you think they must be to reach such a verdict.

    And go ahead and warn all you like. I’ve already “enjoyed” the lovely and warm (i.e. judgmental and suspicious) treatment I’ve received from some other PCA churches on account of the fact that I attend Christ Church in Mankato and consider Greg Lawrence a good pastor and my friend.


  40. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Thanks, Peter. I’ve heard conflicting explanations and appreciate any clarification I can get.

  41. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:29 am

    The Federal Vision controversy has been raging in the PCA for over nine years. It was clear within the first nine weeks that FV is a competing system of soteriology that is incompatible with the Westminster Standards. In this nearly decade-long struggle, numerous church courts and study committees have spoken with a uniform voice. It’s not particularly difficult, gentlemen, and indeed never was. The thorough and, by Reformed standards, relatively swift responses demonstrate this. Either every baptized person receives all the benefits of salvation, including justification, union with Christ, and forgiveness, or he does not. Either the visible/invisible church distinction is Biblical, or it is not. Either the baptized reprobates within the covenant community are in vital union with Christ “in some sense” (a weasel-phrase if there ever was one), or they are not.

    In mid-2002, I asked a minister who advocated FV teachings (then known as “Auburn Avenue theology”) whether the union with Christ received, and finally lost, by those baptized persons who are now in hell is the same as, or different from, that possessed by baptized persons now in heaven. This Teaching Elder (who is no longer in the PCA) replied, “There is no difference.” This point was, and remains, the heart of the matter: According to FV theology, in baptism you “get it all,” but the “decretally non-elect” (I know the buzzwords) can “lose it all.” This view is clearly, absolutely, definitively contradictory not only to the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, but to numerous specific details within that system.

    I wish that FV advocates in the PCA would just “man up” (excuse the overworked phrase) and leave. I have more respect for, and in some cases personal affection toward, a man who departs with a clear conscience than one who continues to trouble the flock by destroying that “peace” of the church he has vowed to uphold. To repeat a truism, it’s a free country, gentlemen. Find youselves another pasture, graze there to your heart’s content, and flourish if you can.

    –Frank Aderholdt, Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, MS (PCA)

  42. Rick Phillips said,

    September 28, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Peter, you say: “PS No one denies JBFA.” You may make that assertion, but you should realize that some of us have spent years and hundreds of hours interacting with and studying the FV teachers and we have concluded that the FV most definitely replaces justification through faith alone with a covenantal nomism system. I was a participant in the Fort Lauderdale colloquium, interacting with Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and most of the other “original” Auburn Avenue guys and came away horrified by the things said to me in persona, detailed conversation about the issues. To the PCA critics of the FV, you add the other NAPARC critics like Cornel Venema and then the D. A. Carson-type Baptist critics of the New Perspective. Long, careful study and personal interaction with the other side have forced us to a sober conclusion that the FV is a false gospel centered on a replacement for justification through faith alone. You writing, “PS No one denies JBFA” is frankly not a very compelling argument. I frankly believe that there will never be peace between the FV and its critics, however much personal affection there may be in some cases. Simply put, the two sides hold to competing systems of salvation (which the FV was plainly intended to be) and one cannot hold to one while holding the other. We can often disagree in peace over other issues, but over justification we cannot.

    *PS: By the way, nothing I am saying about the FV in general is directed towards TE Lawrence in particular. I have not had the liberty of studying his writings and am responding to these posts based on other FV teachers who I have studied in depth. Just want to make clear that I am not leveling accusations about TE Lawrence, since the original post pertained directly to his case.

  43. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 28, 2011 at 7:21 am

    No, Peter, I do not have your criticism of your own denomination’s report on FV, because I do not believe that the Westminster Standards are wrong or in any need of correction with respect to the matters that were under analysis by the FV committee.

    If the Westminster Standards do not have their soteriology right, they don’t have anything right as this was the chief point of contention and is the glory of the Reformation.

    Looking over at the Aquila Report and the actual charges, I am quite perplexed. If the TE teaches these things, he is out of accord with Scriptures and Standards. If he does not, on what basis were charges brought?

    Here’s my point: in the history of the church, when doctrinal charges have been brought, they have customarily been settled at the level of what we in teh OP call the preliminary investigation (PI). Here’s why: the PI determines whether what is brought as charges is actually a doctrinal offense or not. The trial is simply, as always, to apply the law to the facts. Does the accused teach these things? If so, he is guilty, because we’ve already determined in the PI that such charges were true offenses.

    Here’s my question? Were the charges on trial or was the TE? And if the trial was simply a matter of applying the law to the facts, how did the bringers of the charge fail to get this man’s teaching right?

    This is part of the reason that doctrinal judicial proceedings should be open: so that all can see proper procedure occuring. I repeat my question: does the presbytery regard all the charges, if proven true (he actually teaches these things), as offenses in our system or were the charges themselves on trial. If the latter, that is a basic confusion in proper ecclesiastical judicial procedure. I do not know the answer.

  44. Sean Lucas said,

    September 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

    In response to #38:

    Hi, Peter: Actually, the body of the FV/NPP report was “commended” for study and the nine declarations were “recommended.” When the 2007 GA adopted the committee’s recommendations, they approved commending the report and approved recommending the declarations. They went further and adopted the recommendation that urged ministers and presbyteries to use the declarations to examine themselves and make any differences known.

    But you actually raise the interesting and debated point about “in thesi” deliverances and their authority in the church. In enumerating the powers of the GA, BCO 14-6 notes that GA has power to bear testimony against error in doctrine; and BCO 14-7 says that such testimony should be “given due and serious consideration by the church and its lower courts when deliberating matters related to such action.”

    And so, the action of the 2007 GA was not merely pious advice. It actually was a testimony against error in doctrine, adopted by an overwhelming majority of that assembly. As such, it should be given due and serious consideration when similar matters are dealt with in the lower courts.

    Whatever the flaws may be of that particular report, the fact that so much of that report cohered with what every other major Reformed denomination has said on the matter (as Alan Strange has pointed on) should suggest that as a testimony against error, it actually got a great deal correct and should be given respect by the lower courts as a result.

    Hope that helps,

  45. September 28, 2011 at 11:42 am

    […] thought that TE Sean Lucas stated very clearly (on Green Baggins) what the status of the General Assembly’s Federal Vision Report is in PCA Courts: Actually, […]

  46. michael said,

    September 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

    As a member of the Body of Christ, first, novice here with all of you, I can say with glad confidence that you have caused me to greatly tremble at His Word.

    Please excuse my pasting verbatim the verses but several come to mind to paste in here that underscores the trembling of my being right now.

    The first is from Jeremiah. The second from Isaiah. The third out of the book of Acts and the fourth from our dear departed Brother in the Lord, Peter.

    Notwithstanding the curse and the blessings, at the end of the day each of us cannot hide here, only live in Christ in Light:

    Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

    Isa 66:3 “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;
    Isa 66:4 I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.”
    Isa 66:5 Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy'; but it is they who shall be put to shame.

    Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
    Act 20:33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.
    Act 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
    Act 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

    1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
    1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
    1Pe 1:5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    What I have read above among you learned men troubles me!

    What I have read above of those Prophets and Apostles causing my heart and soul to tremble!

    At the end of the day it is our wish that He would say: “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the Joy of Your Master and Lord and Husband and Ruler and King and Savior, the only innocent Lamb of God to Elect man”!

  47. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Rev. Phillips,

    You write that the FV is a “false gospel”. You note that there are “other FV teachers” with whom you have interacted and presumably think they teach a “false gospel”. Let me understand you correctly then–subscribing to the FV is enough to damn one for eternity (barring repentance)? Can you give me the names of those whom you consider to be teaching a false gospel?

    Rev. Dr. Lucas,

    Thanks for the legal clarifications. From what I gather, the 9 declarations are not *authoritatively binding* but should be “given due and serious consideration”. Thus, a presbytery has the right to give due and serious consideration to the declarations and still disagree with them.

    Rev. Strange,

    You wrote…

    “I do not believe that the Westminster Standards are wrong or in any need of correction…”

    “If the Westminster Standards do not have their soteriology right, they don’t have anything right…”


    “We are not Romanists who identify the church purely with its outward organization and regard it as infallible. The locus of infallibility for us is the Word of God and we seek ever to be reformed according to it.”

    Frankly, I don’t see how these statements are consistent. On the surface, it appears as though you are saying that *with regard to soteriology* the WS are inerrant and infallible. I trust that is not what you are saying, but what you said seems to state that. Thus, I really don’t see a difference between what you have said vis-a-vis the WS and the “Romanism” that you rightly reject. I trust that it is clear in your own mind, but it is not clear to me. So are there areas where we do not need to be “reforming”? Have we “arrived” so to speak? Are our formulations of soteriology perfect, without error, and lacking nothing? Nothing more can be added? Nothing more can be said? There are no nuances that might need to be made? Is the confession, on this point, inerrant?

    And as a general comment, I really can’t take anyone’s confessional credentials seriously who voted for or supported the FV study committee report. The WCF 1.X says, “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

    That is a comprehensive statement. There is no wiggle room. It doesn’t say,”all controversies except those relating to soteriology in which case only these Standards are to be used…” It says “all”. A true confessionalist would have considered it a travesty and a mockery of the WS to accept a study report on a “controversy of religion” that did not interact with the biblical arguments. Anything less is just politics.

  48. Steven Carr said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Two key documents of the Siouxlands Presbytery vs. TE Lawrence Case available here for candid readers:

  49. September 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I find it interesting that people often assume that to deny the Reformed sola fide formula is to espouse Romanism, but I for one have found the Bible to teach something quite different from the imputation of alien righteousness, but I also happen to reject the Catholic church.

    I’ve actually been begging for discussion partners from the Calvinist side to engage my biblical arguments on my blog, but so far I’ve gotten very few bites.

    If you guys get tired of talking with people who already agree with you on 99% of everything, then pop by for some discussion and debate. I’ll go easy on you, I promise….


  50. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Steve, both the documents in that link are no longer there.

  51. rfwhite said,

    September 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Aaron/Steven: the docs are there as of 2:50 eastern time.

  52. Steve VW said,

    September 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    In fact, the documents are still there and having read TE Lawrence’s own words and responses to questions in the document entitled “Case Against TE Greg Lawrence”, I understand the reaction expressed by Lane.

  53. Hugh said,

    September 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Thank you, Messrs Carr & White.

  54. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Peter, you’re overreaching quite a bit when you write, “And as a general comment, I really can’t take anyone’s confessional credentials seriously who voted for or supported the FV study committee report.” It strikes me as shocking hubris to write off the overwhelming majority of the Teaching and Ruling Elders in a entire denomination. You seem to imply — actually, I think you state directly — that no church should be allowed to refer to its confessional documents unless it repeats each time all the exegetical work that lies behind those documents. That requirement is not only unrealistic and unworkable; it is also ridiculous.

    Either you are deflecting from the real issue in order to be contentious, or you don’t understand the nature of confessional subscription. Your position is a straw man at best and reveals bad faith at worst. Every officer in the PCA subscribes to the Westminster Standards just because he is convinced that the Confession and Catechisms contain “the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” (At least he takes a solemn oath to that effect before God and man.) Thus, for the PCA officer, the issue is already settled as to whether the Standards are Biblical. We have sufficient evidence to believe that they are. This is what is means to bind oneself to other like-minded believers in a confessional church.

    This is not to argue that the Standards are free from error, or that they cannot be changed. No one holds that position. It is to affirm, however, that in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, to disagree with the fundamentals of the system of doctrine taught in the Standards is to disagree with Holy Scripture. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in every discussion of doctrine. In a confessional church, the burden of proof is always on those who reject the Standards to which they have subscribed, not on those who support those Standards. (It’s different, of course, when we interact with other Christians who do not embrace our Standards.)

    You have also neglected the fact that a massive amount of classic and contemporary exegetical work lies behind the PCA’s report on the Federal Vision. The Report is the tip of the iceberg, as it were, with the great solid mass beneath. The Report succeeded admirably in its intention: To prove that Federal Vision teachings are contrary to the Westminster Standards. It was not designed to present a comprehensive exegetical and systematic study. I have a thick stack of books and articles from just the past decade to support the report’s conclusions. Anyone who runs can read. I know that the members of the Study Committee were thoroughly familiar with the exegetical arguments from Federal Vision writers. They weighed them in the balance and found them wanting.

  55. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Frank Aderholdt,

    With all due respect, your view makes WCF 1.X functionally irrelevant, which is why I call into question the “confessionalist” credentials of anyone who voted for the FV report.

  56. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I should note that by “confessionalist” I mean vis-a-vis “transformationalists” and “pietists” (or whatever the 3rd one is).

  57. Frank Aderholdt said,

    September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm


    Sorry, that argument won’t hold water. WCF 1.X’s use of the phrase “supreme judge” obviously does not preclude appropriate use of confessional documents themselves. Otherwise, the Confession would just swallow its own tail and disappear.

    To use the “catholic” creeds as an example, I’m not about to urge a do-over of several hundred years of study and controversy on the Trinity and Christology. Nor do I need to haul out every single Biblical reference in every discussion. The Nicene and Chalcedonian symbols will serve me just fine, thank you very much. And I’m not uncomfortable reciting them in church, either. They’re precious just because they are a faithful distillation of Holy Scripture.

  58. Reed Here said,

    September 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Peter: respectfully, I have to agree with Frank here. The WS are accurate exegetical summaries of the Scriptures on the points addressed. They are therefore appropriate for the usage they were put to in the PCA’s FV report, exegetical summaries.

    Challenging the accuracy of the report rests on one of two bases: 1) either the report’s findings are not accurate vis-a-vis the Standards and the Bible’s teachings, or 2) the report’s findings are accurate vis-a-vis the Standard’s statements, but not the Scripture’s teachings.

    In either case, the report is behaving confessionally i.e., in its usage of the Standards.

  59. rfwhite said,

    September 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Peter Green:

    I want to understand your (admittedly passionate) claims here, so allow me to solicit your answer to a question about the stated assignment given to the FV study committee.

    It was “to study the soteriology of the Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies which are causing confusion among our churches. Further, to determine whether these viewpoints and formulations are in conformity with the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, whether they are hostile to or strike at the vitals of religion, and to present a declaration or statement regarding the issues raised by these viewpoints in light of our Confessional Standards.”

    Given its assignment, to what extent was the committee obliged to, in your words, “interact with the biblical arguments”?

  60. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Or 3) the report’s findings aren’t accurate because the view of Federal Vision presented therein is very non-representative of reality because it’s inaccurate and/or outdated.

  61. Mark B said,

    September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    At #43 – “Here’s my question? Were the charges on trial or was the TE?”

    I think a look at the response in the Meyers case (one of the few published) is illustrative here. It seems many are unconvinced that FV is a problem. Also, a doctrinal trial held in secret is plain wrong and is a diservice to everyone, including the accused. If he was innocent, would he not want the process that proved it to be made known??

  62. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Mark,

    To whom are your referring in your closing question?

  63. Sean Lucas said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    In response to #47

    Hi, Peter:

    We’ve had these conversations before, so I don’t expect we’ll convince one another of each other’s position. I very much agree with what Frank suggests in #54; in fact, it is a bit ironic that you are using the Confession to try to promote biblical supremacy over the Confession. Isn’t that as circular as anything that the FV/NPP committee did?

    As Fowler White notes in #59, the committee felt constrained by the GA’s directive to write a brief report that examined the views and determined whether said views were in conformity with the Standards.

    Further, the committee’s recommendation #2 asked “the General Assembly [to] remind the Church, its officers and congregations of the provisions of BCO 29-1 and 39-3 which assert that the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms…while ‘subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the Word of God’ have been adopted by the PCA ‘as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.'” This recommendation was adopted by the Assembly.

    And really, that relationship between Scripture and Confession is exactly as it has to be for matters of discipline. Every deviant teacher in the history of the Church has claimed that his or her beliefs were “biblical”; the Arian heresy stood on an exposition of Proverbs 8:22-31. There must be some standard upon which every one agrees to use as a guide for interpretation and for matters of discipline. Hence, the WCF serves that role in our church.

    To question the confessional bona fide’s of those who voted for the report (or in my case, had a hand in writing it) strikes me as an attempt to turn the tables and to claim “I’m more confessional than you.” I’m not so much interested in trying to figure out who is more confessional; all I’m interested in is whether our officers will actually observe their ordination vows: not only #2 (re: “sincerely receiving and adopting the Confession of Faith…and making known when one is out of accord with it”) but also #5 (“promising subjection to your brethren in the Lord”) and #6 (“promising to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the church”).

    That’s ultimately something for the courts of the church to decide. To come full circle in this thread, Siouxlands has spoken; but there is a larger church that may have an opportunity to hear this case through the SJC. If so, there is yet more work to do.

    Best wishes,

  64. Mark B said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Aaron, I was stateing it as a general principal, and one that I would apply to the case under discussion.

  65. mary kathryn said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Peter Green, you say in #11 that you assume that a displeased prosecutor (which Lane is) will be tempted to disobey his obligations as a minister, and not defend his fellow minister. That’s quite an assumption. Lane has given no impression whatsoever that he will do such a thing. Any statements he makes now, while the case is unfinished, cannot be considered slander. Slander is, by definition, a false report. Lane has made no such report. You wrong him in assuming that he will be tempted to do so. And if, as you say, you feel your earlier posts contained unfortunate wordings, and were “snarky,” then perhaps you would request for them to be removed. It is the ultimate in bad form to throw words out there, vaguely retract them, but leave them to continue their damage. It is disingenuous.

  66. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Thank you, Mark. That’s what I figured but wasn’t sure.

  67. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    A couple of comments stick out at me and leave me with a question. It’s been made pretty clear that the ad interim report carries a certain level of respect and authority and that the report was supported by a majority at the general assembly. Yet, as Mark noted (#61), “It seems many are unconvinced that FV is a problem.” Why is that? What’s going on here? Are the men from the GA who in favor of the report not the same men conducting the presbytery trials? Was the report accidently delivered to and voted on by the GA of the wrong denomination? Was the vote for a report that no one had actually read? (Some would say yes.) Have the men of the presbyteries changed their minds? Have they figured out the definition of FV in the report doesn’t exist in reality? Are the particular men being tried genuinely not guilty? There are lot’s of possibilities, and I’m interested in anybody and everybody’s opinion on the subject.

  68. Reed Here said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Aaron, yes lot’s of possibilities. I am reminded of the response to the Council of Nicea’s report. It looked like for a while that the whole Church was going to reject it. Yet in the end it’s accuracy with Scripture won out.

    We can continue to play the game of debating the report’s accuracy back and forth. I for one am persuaded that it is accurate, both regarding the Standard’s teaching and the FV’s positions. I find very little value in re-hashing what is by now confirmed ground for most who’ve been discussing this for quite some time.

  69. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks, Reed. What are you personally inclined to think among all of those possibilities? Obviously, it would be speculation and nothing I’d hold you to. I would just like to hear the speculation be uttered. I feel like it’s out there floating in the background of these discussions, and I think it really needs to be aired.

  70. September 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Reply #47, to Peter. Not on behalf of Rev. Phillips.

    Peter, you stated, “Rev. Phillips,

    You write that the FV is a “false gospel”. You note that there are “other FV teachers” with whom you have interacted and presumably think they teach a “false gospel”. Let me understand you correctly then–subscribing to the FV is enough to damn one for eternity (barring repentance)? Can you give me the names of those whom you consider to be teaching a false gospel?”

    It would seem you already have your answer, don’t you?

    Peter’s Q.1 – A.1 – 2 Jn. 1:9, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God…”

    Peter’s Q.2. – A.2 – Anyone who teaches FV.

  71. Reed Here said,

    September 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Aaron, not sure what your are asking me to comment about.

  72. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Here’s what I’m hearing: 1.) the PCA FV report is accurate, 2.) the PCA FV report condemns FV teachings, 3.) the PCA FV report is to be used in judging FV issues in the presbyteries, 4.) certain individuals are being charged upon a strong presumption of guilty for FV teachings, 5.) those individuals are being acquitted by their presbyteries, 6.) these verdicts are in error because these individual are obviously teaching FV errors. Why are the majorities in the presbyteries acquitting these men? Are the majorities finding a problem with point 1, 2, 3, or 4? And what is the problem they’re finding? Speculate.

  73. Steven Carr said,

    September 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Aaron (72), the interesting thing about the defense of TE Lawrence is that they have been relying upon Missouri Presbytery’s report, and not the GA’s FV report. Go figure.

  74. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    OK I’m going to have to call it quits soon since I’ve already spent too much time on this and since the number of people with whom I am having to interact keeps multiplying! I will try to respond quickly and succinctly to the latest round, but I can’t promise anything after that.

    Reed Here (and others)

    You wrote:

    “The WS are accurate exegetical summaries of the Scriptures on the points addressed.”

    I agree, generally. However, that doesn’t change the fact the at the WCF requires that Scripture be the final arbiter in “controversies of religion”. Is the FV a controversy of religion? If so, then Scripture, not the WCF must have the final say. If not, what the heck is it?

    It seems like a twisted use of logic to nullify the requirement of WCF 1.X by appealing to the nature and meaning of our subscription (which, ironically, are not part of the WS).

    RF White (and Rev. Dr. Lucas),

    My criticism is not against the committee (at least on this point). They fulfilled their mandate. Rather, I am disturbed by the denomination that would give them a mandate without the requirement to look at Scripture and would then vote down the motion to have the committee add Scriptural interaction and adopt the report as is.

    Rev. Dr. Lucas,

    I would use Scripture to support the notion that all controversies should be judged by Scripture. I am merely pointing out that we violated our own laws by adopting a report that did not interact with the Scriptural arguments. What’s the point of subscription and authority if we pick and choose that which to obey and that which we ignore?

    Yes, every heretic claims to be “biblical” but that doesn’t mean that we surrender the Bible to the heretics and attack them with confessions. No, we never, ever, ever, give up the Bible. If they are heretics our Biblical interpretation will win the day. Such has been the case in the history of the church has it not? Athanasius didn’t have a creed or confession to appeal to against the Arians, he used the Bible.

    Mary Kathryn,

    I didn’t accuse Rev. Keister of slander and I didn’t even suggest that he would be tempted to slander. I suggested that he would be tempted to not defend TE Lawrence against slander–an eminently likely temptation and one which no one else has felt necessary to challenge me on, once I made myself clear. You note this at first, but then imply that I have accused or implied that Rev. Keister would engage in slander. You write,

    “You wrong him in assuming that he will be tempted to [give a false report].” I made no such assumption or accusation. Now it is you who have accused me of something I did not do.

    Rev. Barnes,

    I do not have my answer, since I asked for *names*. I am tired of the anonymous FV boogyman. Put your money where your mouth is and give me names. Is Peter Leithart going to hell unless he recants? Is Mark Horne going to hell unless he recants? Is Jim Jordan going to hell unless he recants? Is Jeff Meyers going to hell unless he recants? Is Rich Lusk going to hell unless he recants? Since there are some (yourself included) who are so certain that the “FV” is a “false gospel” and there are people who teach “FV” out there, let’s hear who they are.

    I would also note the irony of the fact that the study committee report was *unambigious* that the FVers are “brothers” (i.e., not damned and presumably not going to hell). Since you think otherwise, did you vote for the report? That’s a rhetorical question.

  75. Mark B said,

    September 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Aaron, #72 Yes, that’s a ok summary. Part of it is, in my opinion, that it it’s easy to support a doctrinal statement, harder to dicipline one in error (after all, he really is a nice guy, he seems very sincere, he’s got a bunch of great kids, ect). The second part is FV proponents use a lot of Reformed words, so they sound ok, the problem is they mean something very different by them (for example, Baptism, Union with Christ, Perserverance, ect). This makes it difficult for someone unfamiliar with this heresy to ask the right questions. For example: “hey Gxxg, I heard someone say you are a monocovantelist. Is that true?” “Of course not, I believe in the octagonal covanent” “Well, see, he’s all right, he believes in 8!!!” However, it might be better to ask, Do you believe that Adam was under a Covanant of Works and how would you relate that to the finished Work of Christ?, and pressure him from there. A third reason is some do not believe in our system of church government. Rather than say “the whole WCF has to be reworked” and starting process from there, they would rather use judicial activism to accomplish their means. In other words, if you can’t avoid notice, let it come to trial in a friendly court that will ok your view (study the Leidhart case a bit). Fourthly, there some out there who have their own (broad)image of what the PCA should be and who work hard make it reality, in other words they would like to define who we are as a church by concensus making rather than by fidelity to our doctrinal standards. I could go on, but hopfully I’ve made my point, there is always more involved in an issue than pure doctrine….

  76. Mark B said,

    September 28, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    And one more thing, some in Presbytery seem to forget that they are a court of the church with a responsibility of elder oversite and seem to want to rather be a friendly assembly of congregationalists. So, when someone brings up a doctrinal issue their response is 1Kings18:17-18 “When Ahab saw Elijah. Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord” Then someone with leadership skills with a broad view can capitalize on that feeling and strive to get rid of the doctrinal issue in a series of executive sessions, and when they are successful, make an empassioned plea in presbytery on Friday morning for everyone to go after the elder who brought the issue up. (this is me feeling Lane’s discouragment and expressing my own irritation…sorry..)

  77. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Peter Green @ #47

    No inconsistency whatsoever. I did not claim that the Westminster Standards are infallible. I claimed that they are correct, particularly with respect to soteriology. “Infallible” means not capable of error. Correct means simply true and not in error. Do you accuse everyone of saying that something is true and without error with claiming infallibility? That’s simply sophomoric.

    You apparently disagree with the Confession’s read of Scripture somewhere here as it pertains to the innovations of FV. Particularly after Arminius was appointed to Leyden (it had begun in the 1590s in his Amsterdam pastorate), he made the interesting dual claim that he did not disagree with the Heidelburg Catechism or Belgic Confession but that he thought that they should be modified!

    Now you may say, “I am not saying that Westminster should be modified, only that we must be open to additional light and to modifying it if such light warrants it.” I am not saying that Westminster is unmodifiable. I am saying that I have seen nothing from the FV boys that has convinced me to modfiy it a whit, but rather I have seen that the system that FV promotes is a different one than our Standards teach. It is another theological paradigm, plainly and simply.

  78. Peter Green said,

    September 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Rev. Strange,

    “You apparently disagree with the Confession’s read of Scripture somewhere here as it pertains to the innovations of FV.”

    On what basis do you make that conclusion? Because I am frustrated that the FV study committee report didn’t interact with Scripture? If that is your assumption, that is simply sophomoric. Presumably, I could think FVers *are* in line with the confession and that the study committee report failed to represent the FVers views correctly.

    I have made no secret about my belief that the WS are wrong with regard to paedocommunion, but that is irrelevant to the current conversation. My concern is not that I thought the study committee accurately interpreted the FVers and the WS, but that if they had interacted with the Bible they would have found the WS to be wrong. That is obviously not the case. We all know what would have happened had the committee been forced to interact with the Biblical arguments. They were already committed to their opinions–most of them even before being appointed to the committee. No, my concern is with the process–we have made a mockery of our claims to subscribe to the WS by ignoring what the WS require us to do in such a situation.

  79. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm


    You did not respond to my point that to claim correctness is not to claim infallibilty. To assert that, as you did, is sophomoric. I will take your silence as assent.

    I have quickly glanced back over your correspondence and there seems to me to be, at several points, the suggestion that the Confession may be at variance with the Scriptures in the FV matters. Perhaps I misread you and if so I am in error and am happy to be corrected (believe me: I don’t want you to differ with the Standards on these matters!). That, however, does not make my mistake sophomoric and it seems churlish and rather “Tu quoque” for you to hurl that back at me.

    In fact, Peter, I find it quite curious that you are so zealous to protect the good name of men in the Presbytery and to uphold the judicial procedures of the Presbytery but have no problem attacking the broadest court of your denomination and calling into question the confessional credentials of men who authored and voted for the FV report.

    Your whole carriage here has seemed contemptuous of how the PCA has handled this, while fiercely protective of a Presbytery whose decision, frankly, is likely not to stand. You may want to think more carefully before tangling with men like Pastors Phillips and Lucas when, in fact, you yourself are still a graduate student. You are obviously a gifted young man.

    You came on this blog to admonish our host, Pastor Kiester. Do you think that was wise, especially as you have proceeded to show the kind of contempt that you have for the proceedings of your own denomination? Do you really believe that your committee, the OP commitee and all the other denominations that have found FV to be out of bounds are incapable of understanding them and have misjudged them? If so many theological professors cannot understand FV, supposedly, how is the man in the pew expected to?

    You are concerned with slandering? Isn’t that what you are doing–look at your last sentence in #79? Peter, this is serious stuff and I urge your serious reconsideration of the approach that you have taken here.

  80. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Steven (73), strange; I thought my pastor’s defense was relying mostly on Scripture and Reformed history materials. I’ll take you word about it on the MOP vs GA FV reports for the time being. I don’t have the info one way or the other, but I’m aware of the two reports. Thanks.

  81. September 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Re: 74,


    I was not at the General Assembly that voted on the NPP/FV/AA Report to vote on it. Scripture is clear concerning anyone who teaches FV teachings. I don’t have to give names, they know who they are (you know who they are, apparently, since you give names yourself). They and all ordained ministers of the Gospel will have to give an account before God. And it is the Lord who makes it clear, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God…” Further, our Lord says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

    The PCA FV Report states, “9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.” See also Recommendation #2 from the Report. If those who hold to FV teachings truly believe this then the Scriptures already quoted apply.

  82. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Mark, thank you for your comments (75 and 76). Blessings.

  83. Aaron Siver said,

    September 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Steven (73), are you aware of any other documents from this particular trial that are currently available to the public other than those that have already been sighted? I’m curious to read more of the details as they become available. Thanks.

  84. John said,

    September 29, 2011 at 6:23 am

    While I appreciate the news and commentary on this blog, sometimes I wish the comments sections were closed. The dual existence of this blog and Google searches is not helpful for the PCA or the Gospel. Its comment boxes give the voices of fools and pastors the appearance of equal weight and authority.

    Speaking of fools, to those interacting with Peter Green. Read Proverbs 26:4. Why give the time of day to such a belligerent troublemaker? Are you going to change his mind? Is he really raising issues that deserve to be addressed? All you are doing is giving him a forum.

  85. Peter Green said,

    September 29, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Rev. Strange,

    “I will take your silence as assent.”

    “Infallible” was obviously the wrong word to use–you are correct.

    “I have quickly glanced back over your correspondence and there seems to me to be, at several points, the suggestion that the Confession may be at variance with the Scriptures in the FV matters. ”

    I’m not really sure where or how you could have come away with that impression since I do not believe that the FV is in variance with the WS. Or, more correctly, I do not think the FVers are in variance with the WS (and neither for the men of the Missouri Presbytery, the Siouxland Presbytery, or–it appears–the men of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery). Except, of course on certain issues to which they take exceptions (e.g., paedocommunion).

    I also don’t consider myself a FVist. I am sympathetic to some of their ideas, especially vis-a-vis the alternatives being offered by their opponents. However, I have some serious reservations about some of the things I have read or heard from them. For instance, I am still trying to understand what exactly they think happens in baptism, though I would note that the WS aren’t entirely clear on this point either.

    “You came on this blog to admonish our host, Pastor Kiester. ”

    I’m not sure “admonish” is the right word. I came to make a point by means of a question, namely that officers of the church, even if they were prosecutors, are under obligation to protect the name of the defendant and the decision of the court.

    Admittedly, I see that my own conduct has not lived up to that standard, though as I noted above, I don’t think one is obligated to agree with a decision.

    As for your question as to whether my last sentence is slander–it’s only slander if it’s not true, and in this case, nothing that anyone on this blog has said has convinced me that it was a legitimate decision not to interact with Scripture. I am still convinced that it was a violation of our own standards and rules. All controversies of religion must be settled by Scripture. This was a controversy of religion. It was “settled” by the Confession. If the logic that some have used here to justify that decision is true, then all controversies of religion can (though not “must) be settled by the Confession and not Scripture. How does this not void WCF 1.X of all meaning? Is that really what the original authors intended? Would they be pleased with the logic being used to defend the PCA’s decision? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I haven’t been convinced yet.

  86. Rick Phillips said,

    September 29, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Let me respond to the consternation I have caused to some here by referring to the Federal Vision as “a false gospel.” As so often happens, the FV advocates want to make this as inflammatory as possible, saying that I am personally consigning FV teachers to hell. I am doing nothing of the sort. I have no ability or authority to judge individual men’s private faith and have not sought to do so. I believe, for instance, that a Roman Catholic may be saved despite his or her outward creed, although only by a private piety that contradicts it. I would say the same of those who profess the Federal Vision doctrine. While I believe that their gospel is false, I am not in a position to say how they personally relate to God while on their knees. I will say that if an individual came before the Session of my church and explained their hope of salvation in Federal Vision terms, we would certainly not accept that person as a believer in the biblical gospel and would not admit them to church membership.

    By referring to the Federal Vision as a “false gospel,” I mean that its content is contrary to the apostolic teaching of the New Testament with reference to salvation. Without rehashing all the well-worn arguments, I would say that the Federal Vision may be summarized as teaching that an individual is saved (partakes of the saving benefits of Jesus Christ) by means of membership in the visible church, which membership is effected by the rite of baptism. A person then retains salvation by being faithful to that baptism in such a way as to remain within the visible church (i.e. neither apostatizes nor is excommunicated). Surely this is the sum of what virtually every FV advocate teaches. This is the very summary given by Peter Leithart in what I think is one of the most candid and helpful pieces written by an FV writer, his chapter, “Trinitarian Anthropology: Toward a Trinitarian Recasting of Reformed Theology,” in Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons. There, Leithart points out the biblical language of the church as “the house of God,” “the saved society,” and “the family of God the Father.” He then treats membership in the visible church, effected by water baptism, as what amounts to the instrumental means of salvation. Let me quote: “If the church is the ‘house of God’ (WCF 25:2), then membership in the church makes the person a member of that household.” He adds, “baptism, by inducting people into the church, makes them children of their heavenly Father” (pp. 70-71) During the debates that produced that book, I gasped and asked Peter, “You don’t really teach that membership in the visible church makes people children of God?” He replied that he meant exactly that. In contrast, the Bible, summarized by the WCF, teaches that personal faith is the instrumental means of salvation. See, for instance, John 1:12: “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The Westminster Confession of Faith, while describing the church with the language that Leithart notes, never makes membership in the visible church through baptism the instrumental means of salvation, but instead insists, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification” (11.2). These are two different gospels and one of them is false.

    I do not say this in order to launch a debate on these statements, but rather to explain what I meant by the term “false gospel.” I would never receive an individual into church membership via the FV teaching on salvation. I would never approve a candidate for ministry who taught the FV. And if the PCA should formally accept the FV doctrine as being acceptable under the WCF, I would leave the PCA as tolerating a false gospel.

  87. Dean B said,

    September 29, 2011 at 8:22 am


    “We all know what would have happened had the committee been forced to interact with the Biblical arguments. They were already committed to their opinions–most of them even before being appointed to the committee. No, my concern is with the process–we have made a mockery of our claims to subscribe to the WS by ignoring what the WS require us to do in such a situation.”

    The defenders of the FV want the curious bystander to believe all the men from nine denominations and seminaries came with preconceived notions about what the FV taught AND came with preconceived notions about what the Confessions taught AND completely ignored Scripture.

    This scenario is so plausible that once anyone opens Scripture it will be obvious to all what is happening and the gig will be up and the FV theology will be openly embraced in Reformed churches.

    What I find particularly disingenuous about your comments is on the one hand you say all the hyper Confessional guys argued ONLY from the confessions to prove their point; however, you are in complete agreement with the Confessions. Either they proved NOTHING from the Confession themselves or the Confessions can be used to prohibit the FV teaching.

    I understand as a defense attorney a good strategy is to avoid arguments about the merits of the case but simply to make assertions which cause reasonable doubt in the jurors mind. This appears to be the strategy you are using and to the vast majority of “jurors” on this board you are not bolstering your case. You have simply fallen victim to the same injustice you originally sought to warn against on this tread.

    (I am not saying the Confession in isolation can be used to resolved issues of controversy, but merely trying to understand the logic of your comments.)

  88. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 29, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Peter Green @ 84:

    You say “I’m not really sure where or how you could have come away with that impression since I do not believe that the FV is in variance with the WS. Or, more correctly, I do not think the FVers are in variance with the WS (and neither for the men of the Missouri Presbytery, the Siouxland Presbytery, or–it appears–the men of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery). Except, of course on certain issues to which they take exceptions (e.g., paedocommunion).”

    I see. That clarifies things for me. I thought that you wanted the Scriptures brought in more explicitly because you believe that, while FV may be at variance with the Confessions, it is in harmony with Scriptures.

    But the Confessions and Catechisms “are accepted by the Presbyterian Church in America as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice” (BOCO 29-1). So how did the PCA fail to judge this by the Scripture? More to say but lecture calls.

  89. Hugh said,

    September 29, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Thank you, Steven & Lane for updated link to Vestergrundt & docs…

  90. Reed Here said,

    September 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

    All, I’m seeing quite a bit of re-hashing going on. To help us not waste time repeating ourselves, if you are not familiar with discussion of the FV that has occurred here at GB, search the archives first. You will find a plethora of posts and comments, more than enough to fill in just about any [blank] one cares to imagine ;-)

    Other than that, if you know the “other side” in a particular conversation, do your best to get to new points in your discussions. No need to open old wounds.

  91. Peter Green said,

    September 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Rev. Strange (and also Dean B.),

    Yes, my frustration with what happened with the FVSC is not because I think a different judgment would have been given had Scripture been included. Rather, my concern is with the process and what it says about us as a denomination.

    “But the Confessions and Catechisms “are accepted by the Presbyterian Church in America as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice” (BOCO 29-1). So how did the PCA fail to judge this by the Scripture?”

    If I can summarize this logic and the other similar arguments…

    1) Controversy is to be decided by Scripture
    2) The WS are faithful expositions of Scripture
    3) Therefore, controversy can be decided by the WS

    Is this a fair summary?

    I have no problem with 1 and 2. As for 3, at times I think it might be appropriate. However, the problem I have with this whole construction is that it could be used to *never* judge controversy by Scripture (or at least, never address issues apparently discussed in the WS). Because, after all, we have the confession.

    I really don’t see how this logic voids 1.X of all meaning. Why didn’t the Divines say, “all controversy must be decided by Scripture, which is, of course, faithfully explained in these Standards, so all controversy can be decided by these Standards”?

    Dean B.

    Sorry, I’m not going to respond to you further. You’re like 10th in the line of people wanting to take their turn in the ring with me. You’ve also over-read me and misread me in countless places. If your points are that important to you, email me and I will respond (

  92. Peter Green said,

    September 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I should note that the very reason WCF 1.X is important is because while we all (myself included) think that the WS are faithful explanations of the teaching of Scripture, *they are not inerrant* (though you seem to think so–at least on the point of soteriology). Just as I think I am right on every point of my belief, I *know* that I am not right on all points–I just don’t know which ones. Likewise, I think that the WS are right on every point (except those to which I would take exception), but I *know* that they are not perfect (i.e., errant)–I just don’t know where. Consequently, controversy must always ultimately be settled by appeals to Scripture. I *think* the WS are right in what they say about soteriology (as do you), but we must always be “reforming” as you yourself noted. This goes back to an extended conversation about the question of epistemological certainty, which I had over at Wes White’s blog. Check there, under his posts about the most recent PCA GA if you are interested.

  93. Sean Lucas said,

    September 29, 2011 at 11:27 am

    re: #92

    Hi, Peter:

    I just wanted to respond to this post, because I think you have said something truly helpful–in terms of understanding the mindset of those who felt that the process over the FV/NPP study committee was wrong or unhelpful.

    What you seem to be saying is, “The Standards have the possibility of error; we don’t know where the errors are; hence, we must be constantly testing the Standards by Scripture in order to determine where the errors are.” Do I have you right?

    And so, the frustration with the study committee, then, is that instead of using that as an opportunity to test our understanding of the Standards by Scripture on the issues of covenant, justification, election, and perseverance, the committee–and the GA–instead insisted that the Standards are not fallible on these points (summarized in the 9 Declarations) and refused to revisit the issue by testing the Standards by the Scripture and the insights of the FV guys. Right so far?

    If I understand you, then I can both understand where you are coming from and why you disapprove of the process and I can understand more fully where we disagree.

    As I said at the time when presenting the 9 Declarations, there are some fixed points in our system of doctrine that are not open for debate. In my opinion, those fixed points are covenant, justification, election, and perseverance. Those aren’t points I want to revisit; those are points where the church has spoken and I want everyone to agree with what the church has spoken.

    If those points are open for debate, then we truly do not have a theological center as a denomination; if we could revise our understanding of justification and imputation–for example–then what is the point of being confessional. We might as well have a book of confessions and promise to be guided by them, as the mainline does; because then there are no fixed doctrinal points to which we all agree.

    I’ve always admired Charles Hodge’s boast that a new idea was not taught at Princeton Seminary during his career. As a Presbyterian minister and theological educator, that’s what I’m trying to do–take what I’ve heard and come to believe and pass it on to the next generation. That’s a different stance from what you’ve articulated and may be the basis for the disagreements within the denomination on this and other issues.


  94. Reed Here said,

    September 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Peter: regarding your point 3 to Dr. Strange, assuming your criticism is sound, it would only apply if the men on the PCA FV study committee did nothing but compare the FV data to the WS. In point of fact, we have sufficient testimony to know this was not the case.

    The committee was directed to find out of the FV is out of accord with the WS because we all have previously agreed that this is the basis upon which we will hold one another accountable for accurate teaching of God’s word. I.e., this is how we as men who believe they will answer for their handling of God’s word have agreed to mutual submission. The committee’s task in this sense, was an expression of humility and respect for our mutual vows to one another. To ask the committee to do further would be to act out of accord with how we’ve agreed to deal with such matters.

    The correct response here is not to complain about either the report or the charge it was given. Instead, your ire should be directed at the very nature of how the PCA functions as a confessional body.

    Bring an overture to change that. Otherwise, what blessing are you to the Church’s peace and purity with how you’re going about issuing your challenges?

  95. Dean B said,

    September 29, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Good afternoon Dr Lucas

    You wrote: As I said at the time when presenting the 9 Declarations, there are some fixed points in our system of doctrine that are not open for debate. In my opinion, those fixed points are covenant, justification, election, and perseverance. Those aren’t points I want to revisit; those are points where the church has spoken and I want everyone to agree with what the church has spoken.

    On the one hand you appear to be sympathetic with Peter’s concern that the Confessions rather than Scripture was primarily used. In the paragraph above you appear to contradict WCF 1.10 and place the Confessions statements on the subjects of covenant, justification, election, and perseverance above Scripture.

    Do I misunderstand your point? If I misunderstand your point please clarify your main point in the above paragraph.

    Thank you

  96. Peter Green said,

    September 29, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Rev. Dr. Lucas,

    Thanks for your response-it was exceedingly helpful. I hope my own response can be as helpful.

    “What you seem to be saying is, “The Standards have the possibility of error; we don’t know where the errors are; hence, we must be constantly testing the Standards by Scripture in order to determine where the errors are.” Do I have you right?”


    As for your next paragraph, you have nailed one of my main concerns namely that it didn’t become an opportunity to “to test our understanding of the Standards by Scripture…” A second concern, though, is with the question of fidelity. Were we as a denomination faithful to the WS, particularly 1.X? I don’t think so, though I am willing to be convinced that what was done was consistent with the WS.

    Moving on to what you said were your concerns, I understand them and share them, much more than it may seem. Now that I am in an “evangelical (i.e., not confessional) context at Wheaton College, I have grown to appreciate the importance of confessionalism much more than I used to (and I was always pretty confessional to begin with). Furthermore, having delved into the scholarly realm, I really see the destructiveness of seeking after something new. So many scholars have gone off the deep end in their pursuit of something new and sensational. I was just having a conversation with a friend the other day lamenting that fact. So I understand and sympathize with your desire to have “non-negotiables” as it were.

    For me, I try to see it as a continuum of issues, from those that remain debatable (eschatology), to those that are more certain (paedobatism), to those that are functionally non-negotiable (deity of Christ, etc.). I would say that all of these issues are worthy of “revisiting”, though what is necessary to warrant revisiting “more certain” issues is much greater than what is necessary to warrant revisiting the less certain issues. For instance, a few months back I was contacted by an acquaintance from college who wanted to run his thoughts by me about the deity of Christ–or in this case, his non-deity. It was hard for me not to get extremely frustrated with the guy and say, “the church settled this 1600 years ago. Get in line or get out.” Instead, I interacted with his arguments, looked at the verses he was pointing to and considered them, did my own study, etc. As it turns out, I became even more convinced that Christ can be nothing other than fully God and fully man. (Side-note: I would have perhaps treated the matter differently if he were a member of a church in which I was an elder–i.e., I would have barred him from the Table until he had worked it out).

    In other words, I would say that everything is open for debate, but some things are more open, and some things have a very high threshold before revisiting them is warranted and they likewise impose a *massive* burden of proof those who would disagree. That is, I wouldn’t suggest that the PCA revisit our doctrine of Christ’s divinity because one person raises questions about it. If half the denomination started to take a different perspective, though, that would be an occasion to revisit it. This seems to be where we disagree.

    I recognize that this presents the opportunity for liberalism or theology-creep. However, if we believe that we are not inerrant, does the danger of straying into errant theology outweigh the danger of remaining in errant theology? How does one make those sorts of decisions. I think any formulaic answer will be mistaken. We must seek wisdom and trust Jesus and his Holy Spirit to guide the Church through our own fallible attempts to know and do what is right. Being a postmillennialist, I can be much more optimistic about this process. :)

  97. michael said,

    September 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    As a novice, I have two questions.

    General question to Presbyterians,

    What process do you go through to correct the Standards when you believe this statement to be true about them? “…“The Standards have the possibility of error; we don’t know where the errors are; hence, we must be constantly testing the Standards by Scripture in order to determine where the errors are.””

    This question is more directed to Peter Green,

    Peter Green, you keep raising the point in the comments above that the process followed did not proceed from Scripture rather from the Standards? You begin this thought provoking review of their process by quoting verbatim from the WCF at comment # 47.: ” The WCF 1.X says, “The supreme judge …” And at your comment # 74, you begin to narrow more succinctly the issue. I wish to proffer the second question this way, when, in answer to Reed, there, you write this: #47, “… If so, then Scripture, not the WCF must have the final say. If not, what the heck is it?…”.

    My question to you is, “what Scriptures” would you use that seem to not have been used as a part of the process they followed that they did not consider during their process that produced their findings”?

    You answered Sean Lucas in the affirmative in response to what he wrote in inquiry to you, here, #93: “… and refused to revisit the issue by testing the Standards by the Scripture and the insights of the FV guys. …”.

    Can you quote the Scriptures you have in mind that should have been used to test the FV position that has created this controversy among the PCA?

  98. michael said,

    September 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    OOOPs, #74 is the correct reference. My error! Sorry.

  99. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 30, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Again, I have been busy all day up to now. It seems that Sean Lucas and others have well-stated most of my concerns.

    I don’t want to make too much, Peter, of terminology, but that continues, it seems to me, to bedevil this discussion. You say that the Standards are not inerrant with respect to soteriology. I say that they are, which simply means that they do not have any error. It does not mean that the Standards as such are incapable of error, which is infallibility.

    If you say that they are not inerrant with respect to soteriology, this means that you think that they are in error. But you do not allege specific error–for which I am thankful– but only that they may be in error (since they are not infallible), though we do not yet know what that error is (subsequent light may/will reveal it).

    I see what you are trying to maintain: in theory,everything in the Standards is potentially revisable since subsequent light may demand it.

    Let me suggest that you do not live this way, however, as no one does, or can. Something enjoys revisionary immunity in your system. It does by the nature of the case in every system. If that thing is discarded or changed, there is a worldview shift and one has converted from one system to another.

    Are you open to the Bible showing that God does not exist? Isn’t his existence a neccesary pre-condition for the intelligibility of the Bible itself? Is the Bible true? You are obviously presupposing that, since you want that to be the standard to evaluate FV and not simply the Westminster Standards.

    Now if the Bible is the Standard and it is true, does it not recognize, and accurately describe, our plight? Does it not provide the sole remedy for such in the person and work of Christ? Does not the entail the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, etc.?

    As I see it, the veracity of the Bible, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and as a part of that, Reformed soteriology enjoys revisionary immunity. The Bible clearly teaches these things and that’s why I believe them, which is the same reason that the church confesses them. The basics of our faith are not something that I need to revisit and prove again all the time.

    To what do you accord revisionary immunity?

  100. Sean Gerety said,

    September 30, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Finding FV “pastor” Greg Lawrence “innocent” is a travesty.

    The Siouxlands Presbytery has once again demonstrated that it is another FV friendly PCA Presbytery. You’re good to be free from it Lane. The question is what will the SJC do in this case? What will they do in the Meyers case? And, what will they do when Peter Leithart, who Rick Phillips quoted at length above, is similarly cleared of all charges (a forgone conclusion in the PNW)? Will the SJC follow it’s earlier precedent following David Coffin’s twisted logic as they did when dealing with the case of Joshua Moon? It’s always possible.

    Rick Phillips could not be more correct when he identifies the doctrines taught and spread by Leithart, Lawrence, Moon, Meyers and countless others in the PCA, as a false gospel. At this very late stage that is beyond dispute and for any man to call it anything less is either willful ignorance or they too are Christ’s enemies.

    I have long thought that the PCA is beyond the point where it can be saved and the only recourse for members who love the Gospel is to leave this dead and dying denomination. Many others have come to that conclusion long before I did and have removed themselves and their families from the roles of the PCA. Others, simply flee the FV infested churches to other remaining faithful churches within their Presbyteries, when possible. However, how the SJC decides in the above cases and what actions it takes, or fails to take, will go along way in helping many of the remaining faithful to decide whether or not it’s finally time to abandon ship.

  101. Sean Lucas said,

    September 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

    @Dean B in #95: I think I answered your question on how Scripture and confession relate to each other in the issues that the GA’s Study Committee considered earlier in the thread. I’ll let you track those down.

    @Peter in #96: Wow, thank you for your very helpful reply. I feel like I have a better grasp both of what your concerns are on this issue as well as the concerns of others on the diaconal issue (not to say that you are addressing that, but I suspect the underlying issue is the same).

    I appreciate as well that you recognize that the great fear that many of us have is that re-opening debate on fixed points such as covenant, justification, or perseverance could lead the denomination toward liberalism or at least an even bigger tent than what we already have.

    Thank you for this most recent exchange; again, very helpful for me. sml

  102. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Sean G: not to stir the hornet’s nest here, but I can think of at least two other reasons why one might not be quite ready to conclude the FV is a false gospel: 1) they’re not quite up to speed in the debate, or 2) they’re not persuaded of the degree of its danger. Your two options are valid, I just think we need to keep these in mind as well.

    And yes, for the record, I’m more or less persuaded as Rick qualified above.

  103. Peter Green said,

    September 30, 2011 at 11:35 am


    I’m not sure how much you know about what happened, but there was a floor debate at the general assembly about whether the study committee should be required to go back and interact with the biblical arguments of the FVists. In other words, the original mandate of the committee was to only measure the views of the FVists against the Westminster Standards. When the committee gave their report to GA, a length debate ensued about whether 1) the committee should continue their work, adding interaction with the biblical arguments of the FVists, and 2) whether a representative(s) of the FV should be added to the committee, which has good precedent (the study committee on the days of creation included representatives of all positions).

    Thus, there aren’t specific biblical passages that I think the study committee should have examined. The problem is that their standard of judgment was the WS, not the Bible (as I have noted before, though, this is a problem of the denomination, not the committee which faithfully executed their task).

    Rev. Strange,

    I have discussed my epistemology elsewhere (Wes White’s blog) where I have tried to make the distinction between epistemological certainty and experiential certainty. The former is an illusion and unattainable with regard to anything. The later is good and important as long as one doesn’t confuse it with the former. In other words, I do certainly live my daily life as if some things were true (and even certain). However, that doesn’t mean that I will never question them or reexamine them.

    You are of course right to say that something in my system involves “revisionary immunity”. I think what I would say, though, is that because all human reasoning is necessarily circular, what involves “revisionary immunity” at any one time might change. For instance, when reexamining the deity of Christ, as I mentioned above, the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture was a certain (i.e., indubitable) presupposition. When reexamining my doctrine of Scripture, the character of God is a certain presupposition, end so on. Now, perhaps even so, there might be some presupposition that I never question–in fact I strongly suspect there is. However, that is not how I try to operate.

    I’m thinking off the top of my head here, so please keep that in mind.

  104. Peter Green said,

    September 30, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Rev. Dr. Lucas,

    I suspect much of my concern is also at play in the deacon debate and that is an instance in which I would say the threshold is quite high due to Church tradition, our own Reformed tradition, and the position of our Standards and BCO. Whether we have reached that “threshold” is a judgment call which I leave to those with the authority to make such judgments (i.e., elders in the PCA–not me).

    Thanks again for your interaction. A soft word turns away anger, and you have been kind to me.

  105. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm


    It’s helpful to remember that whatever enjoys revisionary immunity is at the core of your system and is a sine qua non for your system.

    To say that x is accorded revisionary immunity is not to say that it can not be changed or altered. People alter that which enjoys revisionary immunity and lies at the core of their system. It’s called conversion.

    What enjoys revisionary immunity is that which must remain unchanged at the core of a system in order for that system to retain its integrity and to continue functioning, to use Kuhn’s terminology, as a paradigm that answers and accounts for the facts as perceived.

    So, having said all that, cannot we identify those things, at least in some measure, that are necessary for Christianity more broadly or the Reformed faith more narrowly. For example, can we deny the Trinity and the Incarnation and have anything like orthodox Christianity? I don’t think that anyone would seriously think that we could. Do such doctrines then not enjoy revisionary immunity?

    Think in terms of the Reformed faith. Could we differ with, or scruple at, certain matters within our secondary standards and yet remain within the system? A large majority of Presbyterian office-bearers have said “Yes.” Could we differ with the basic schema set forth in our soteriology and remain Reformed? The answer to that has been “no.”

    You can’t say that you remain open to revising the diety of Christ, because that is something that must be accorded revisionary immunity: to deny his deity would be to deny the faith that we confess. Similarly, if I am Reformed, I have indicated (and taken oaths as a minister; think about where this fits in to what you are saying) that I believe that the Reformed faith is true. That means that certain things are settled because they are definitional to what it means to be Reformed.

    Does that mean then that I can never change these things? You may change them for you what enjoys revisionary immunity. It’s called conversion. And if you do, you are no longer Reformed. You may not change core Reformed convictions and still call yourself Reformed. Being Reformed does not mean I only affirm the Bible but all the rest of doctrine is up for grabs. That is historically more Anabaptist, an ethos that has come to dominate on these shores, to be sure (see Brooks Holifield’s Theology in America).

    I would argue that there are things that are at the core of what it means to be Reformed and if one changes those things, one is no longer Reformed. I would contend, as James Jordan has admitted elsewhere, that FV makes such core changes and it is no longer the Reformed faith as confessionally understood and classically held. It’s a hybrid of sorts, but not confessional Calvinism.

    My study of these matters have strengthened my commitment to the historic Reformed faith. The FV has pushed me to see that our faith is more profoundly biblical than I saw it earllier.

  106. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Dr. Strange, clear and helpful.

  107. Dean B said,

    September 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Dr Strange

    I appreciate your post. I have never heard of revisionary immunity before and struggle to understand when it is used in issues of controversy.

    I understand the idea of revisionary immunity when it relates to the Trinity and Incarnation, but who gets to determine what doctrines get revisionary immunity at a denominational level?

    I also understand how an individual and/or local church would vet out these issues, but who decides them on a denominational level? Having closely observed the PRC go through a horrible situation related to homeschooling where a Pastor ultimately left over a narrow interpretation of the church order. I watched more than 25 men in a room spend more then 8 hours without reading a single verse from the Bible because to the denomination had already decide Pastor Dick “will not draw into doubt those things which the Catholic [Protestant Reformed] church has judged already, things that have passed into usage, rite, and observance…” (Sorry for the quote from Luther the movie.)

    Each of us comes with different background/experienced/baggage I believe the best thing to do is to go back to Scripture almost always because traditionalism is such a grave danger in church history.

    It may seem basic for a Seminary professor to open the Bible and explain it again for the 995th time, but the FV is a controversy which will define most NAPARC church for about 15 years and I think it was short sighted not to interact with Scripture in this case. While I am not sympathetic to the FV teachers at all, I very sympathetic with those who lament the fact that Scripture was not used.

    The church struggles of each generation provide the pew person to understand what Scripture says. I want each church member to confess “[M]y study of these matters have strengthened my commitment to the historic Reformed faith. The FV has pushed me to see that our faith is more profoundly biblical than I saw it earllier.” However, when Scripture is not the primary tool used to defend the truth then that generation is drawn into traditionalism rather than vibrant Confessionalism.

    Maybe there is significantly more to this topic that I am missing because this is a new concept for me. Please help me to understand how a denomination prevents itself from becoming traditionalism when the Confessions rather than Scripture is the primary source.

    PS I am very interested in anyone else thoughts on this subject as well.

  108. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    All: one thing I think we’re failing to take into consideration when examining the PCA’s FV study report is the subscription agreement. As a denomination our decision on subscription has already drawn the boundary lines as to how and when to bring denominational action against particular teachings. Specifically, we’ve set the standard at whether or not a particular teaching strikes at the vitals of our understanding of biblical religion, as defined by the Westminster Standards. It is only when a teaching is deemed out of accords with the Standards that we, as a denomination, have agreed to formally deal with the teachings.

    As I understand the charge to the study committee, it was tasked with determining this very thing, is the FV out of accord with our doctrinal standards? I.O.W., the study committee was not established to clarify and/or define theological constructs. It was tasked only to advise whether or not the teachings are consistent with our standards.

    This might be too narrow a charge. Yet given the history of our denomination, it is understandable why GA wanted to take a minimalist approach. Criticism against the report’s findings, on the basis that it dealt with matters at the level of the Standards, and not the Scriptures,therefore seems unfair to me.

    This is aside from the fact that the report’s written expression is different from the investigative processed used by the committee members. Given its charge, one would expect the report to be written to highlight the comparison between the Standards and the FV. This does not mean that the process used did not interact with Scripture. Indeed, my understanding is that the committee members did indeed interact with Scripture, and not minimally.

  109. michael said,

    September 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Reed, wow! That buttons up the jacket for me! Thanks!!

    You wrote above: “…Criticism against the report’s findings, on the basis that it dealt with matters at the level of the Standards, and not the Scriptures,therefore seems unfair to me.”

    From where I sit, the irony here is that there kind of encapsulates the process squaring and firmly in the teachings of Scripture as I was alluding too with my quote from Isaiah 66, above.

    It seems your discipline, (the PCA process) and those within your denomination tasked with it went forth with utmost care so that these Biblical charges would remain moot against them?:

    Isa 66:5 Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame.

    At the end of the day some one or few will be put to shame!

    This brings me to quote some famous Words of Scripture, in closing my remarks in here:

    Psa 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
    Psa 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
    Psa 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

    Psa 115:16 The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.
    Psa 115:17 The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.
    Psa 115:18 But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!

  110. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Michael: I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble connecting your dots. Might you explain a bit further?

  111. September 30, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Wow, it has taken me the better part of the evening to read through this thread from where I last left off. I especially appreciate the insights of Drs. Lucas, Strange, and White, as well as TE Rick Phillips. Reed and Dr. Lucas have done an excellent job of summarizing the charge to the study committee and deflecting the red herrings. Without trying to be self-serving, the committee faithfully executed its charge from the 34th General Assembly. If somebody wanted something different, then they had the opportunity during the debate at the 34th GA to advocate for something different.

    I think that Dr. Sproul, Sr., stated the case correctly during the debate at the 35th GA. He passionately stated his disbelief that the commissioners would hesitate to act decisively when the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone was at stake. Developments since that debate has proven him (and others) correct about the stakes.

    Dr. Leithart has been quoted above to show that what I call “baptismal regeneration lite” lies at the heart of the FV error. As Steve Wilkins wrote of baptized reprobates in the visible church:

    They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God. (The Federal Vision (Monroe, Louisiana: Athanasius Press, 2004), “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation” on page 62)


    “The elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. If they later reject the Savior, they are no longer elect-they are cut off from the Elect One and thus, lose their elect standing. But their falling away doesn’t negate the reality of their standing prior to their apostasy. They were really and truly the elect of God because of their relationship with Christ. (ibid)

    How anyone can think that such a statement and similar ones made by FVers can be compatible with either the Westminsters or Scripture still amazes me. Yet presbyteries still seem to do so. Compare those statements with these:

    “When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them….

    [NOTE: The linked “first profession of faith” and “baptism” refers to infants as well as adults in the RCC, and is not the SBGTF of the Reformation. The RCC spells out the role of parents and godparents in growing an infant’s faith. See the quote from para 1253 below.]

    On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism [see note above], one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ the baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”

    Those last two quotes are from paragraphs 978 and 784, respectively, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As to the role of faith in RCC baptism, see paragraph 1253 in the CCC:

    Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent [in the case of infants] is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!” (my addition in brackets)

    The role of baptism seems to hold similar significance in the Roman church and Federal Vision theology.

    Providentially, LAP finally repented and Wilkins fled to the CREC while charges were finally being prepared against him. I pray that SLP will do likewise when their mistake is appealed, and that NWP and MP have the courage to stand against these errors so as not to drag out the process and waste resources that could be better focused on the Great Commission.

    I have made the following challenge repeatedly since the 35th GA and have yet to find a taker. If an FV teacher or proponent thinks that the Standards are in error or deficient in any way, especially in the areas of covenant where Meyers has publicly professed to desire major change, or in the efficacy of baptism and benefits given to reprobates in the visible church which figure prominently in FV, they are welcome to bring their desired changes/corrections to the GA for debate. We have a process in the BCO to make changes to the Standards, but no FVer seems to have what it takes to use that BCO process.

  112. Peter Green said,

    September 30, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Rev. Strange,a

    I understand much better now what you mean by “revisionary immunity”. Thanks. My question is similar to Dean B.’s. Who get’s to decide which doctrines are unrevisable? Who defines “Reformed”? What is fundamental to the Reformed tradition. I suppose one could argue that always being “reformed” by the Word is more foundational for the Reformed tradition than a particular view of soteriology, etc.

    Frankly, though, I find arguments about the definition of a particular tradition tiresome. I understand your argument and I even sympathize with it to a degree, but I think there are a lot of unanswered questions that make the situation much messier.

  113. David Gray said,

    September 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Meyers, Leithart and Wilkins were all open FV men. Has Lawrence ever claimed to be such?

  114. Alan D. Strange said,

    September 30, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Every system of thought has that at its core which defines it and makes it what it is and, which, if denied, results in grave cognitive dissonance and augurs a paradigm shift because the reigning paradigm can no longer account for reality as now perceived. This is conversion–a shift of one worldview to another.

    This is just a bit of philosophy: Every system has that which is fundamental to it, that which must enjoy revisionary immunity, without which that system will no longer receive support and must be displaced by another system.

    In the case at hand, the church, in its corporate culture, defines its doctrine. It is not infallible, we agree on that as Protestants, but when you ask, “Who defines Reformed?” do you suggest that the answer be “No one.” This is to promote doctrinal anarchy. Perhaps that is simply the outcome of epistemological agnosticism, which is the cornerstone of post-modernism. Among post-modernists, epistemological skepticism is that which enjoys revisionary immunity, which, of course, deconstructs itself, as is always the case when irrationalism is rationally defended.

    The church, as the body that imposes the oaths on those who take them, acting in its corporate capacity says what it is that comprises, what Hodge called, generic Calvinism. Hodge said that the church could and did know what this is. This is what we mean by the “animus imponentis” (the mind of the imposing body). Hodge cites such over against Newman who advised his followers in the Anglican Church to take their oath in a jesuitical fashion, which is to say, in a personal sense that they knew to be a variance with how the imposing body understood the body of doctrine to which Newman urged them disingenously to pledge themselves.

    Peter, sorry to go on a bit, but all this is to say that the church reads the Bible and expresses its main teaching in its confessions. Not only does it interpret the Scripture, but it interprets what its confessions mean. This is its animus and this animus is always at issue when we talk about who gets to say what is Reformed and what enjoys revisionary immunity.

    You and I as individuals have to decide how we will interact with the church’s self-understanding. I do not believe that Rome’s doctrinal understanding accords with Scripture as I understand it. I cannot be a part of that communion. I do believe that, in the main, confessional Presbyterianism’s doctrinal understanding accords with Scripture and that is why I joyfully am a part of it.

    The PCA report and GA action both expressed and shaped the corporate culture of the PCA, informing the animus imponentis. Part of those actions involved, in essence, a definition of what it means to be Reformed, with respect to certain soteriological and ecclesiological matters. The GA, looking at the Confession, determined, in certain respects, FV to be outside of such. Scripture was certainly in view both through the Standards and more directly, in the work of the Committee (the Commitee did not ignore Scripture, looking at it mainly through the lens of the Confession, which is what a confessional church does) and in the debate at GA.

    If you think that the mind of the PCA is confused as to what the heart of the Reformed faith is–this is really your claim when you say that they wrongly found FV out of bounds–there are avenues open to you to seek to change or influence the mind of the church.

    But as a king who goes to war, you need to count the cost if you want to convince the church that it is wrong in its judgment of FV (and I mean even if you think the wrong was not going about the study in the right way as you understand that it must in terms of WCF 1.9). If you are going to speak to the church as you have, you need to know the cost of that. And you certainly seem certain for someone who seems to spend a good deal of time telling us that we are wrongly certain.

  115. Sean Gerety said,

    October 1, 2011 at 2:07 am

    @Reed. I don’t want to strain gnats, but IMO your additional exceptions, and with little effort, could fall within my two broader categories. The real danger, and this is the flip side of Phillips analysis, is to assume, even for a minute, that even one of these FV men are our “brothers.” That is a luxury that no TE, RE, deacon or even half awake church member has. Yet, the PCA report errantly asserts that those spreading this demonstrably false gospel are our “brothers.” The authors of the report do claim to be “ in a position to say how they personally relate to God while on their knees.” What a crock. This is in sharp contrast to Phillips who would “not accept that person as a believer in the biblical gospel and would not admit them to church membership.” How much more should these men have been opposed when they inhabit PCA pulpits. Instead, Presbytery after Presbytery has found these men innocent of even being outside of the Reformed faith, when not one of them can rightly be called Christians.

  116. October 1, 2011 at 7:37 am

    David Gray, RE #113,

    What difference does it make? A 5 foot individual who thinks of themselves as tall is still short by the statistical norms of the society. A rose by any other name will still stick your finger.

  117. Dean B said,

    October 1, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Dr Strange

    “[T]he Commitee did not ignore Scripture, looking at it mainly through the lens of the Confession, which is what a confessional church does)”

    I am not trying to be provocative at all in the following questions, but just trying to gain a better understanding of this issue.

    When a denomination views Scripture through the lens of its Confessions doesn’t this practically limit its belief that Scripture interprets Scripture?

    My children are learning the Catechism and Confessions not because I want a to provide a grid for who they should view Scripture, but because I believe they are an accurate interpretation of Scripture.

    My goal with my children to to teach them that Scripture interpreting Scripture result is the robust Confessionalism, rather than Scripture through the lens of the Confessions resulting in Confessionalism.

    Expressed differently, I have no desire to protect the Confession’s doctrine in themselves, but to protect the idea that Scripture interprets Scripture and this will lead my children to being confessional. The end result may be the same but I think how it is carried out makes a significant difference.

    I have great confidence the Confessions can stand on their two feet when a denomination enforces the idea Scripture interprets Scripture.

    Full Disclosure: I grew up in a Confessional church. These statements may display a naive understanding of what role the Confessions have functioned in my life to get me to this point.

    Any thoughts?

  118. October 1, 2011 at 8:06 am


    We had an extended discussion of lenses on this blog some time back. If you search for it, you will find a rich exposition of various viewpoints.

  119. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Sean: I recognize your opinion on these things. On this blog we’re abiding by the PCA report’s labeling of these men as brothers. Just a reminder and a request for you to not open that can of worms here. Thanks.

  120. Peter Green said,

    October 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Rev. Strange,

    You have a better grasp of philosophy than I, I think. A few comments, though.

    “…when you ask, “Who defines Reformed?” do you suggest that the answer be “No one.”

    No, my answer would be similar to yours (i.e., the community composed of individuals and guided by the Spirit gives answers to such a question). And I understand your argument that the FVSCR in some way expresses the community’s own self-expression of what it means to be Reformed. My argument, I suppose, would be that in defining “reformed” the community adopted a decidedly unreformed process (i.e., ignoring what the WS say about how one is to go about defining what it means to be Reformed). So in defining “reformed” they became “unreformed”.

    To be reformed is to define “reformed” by the Scriptures as per WCF I.10.

    Dean B.,

    Perhaps ironically, I find myself somewhere between your most recent post and Rev. Strange’s position. Perhaps this will be helpful:

    The WS should, must, and necessarily are the lens through which we view Scripture. There is nothing wrong with this, and in fact it is good. However, it is analogous to the relationship of modern scientific theories about the world and the world itself. Modern scientific theories are necessarily the way we understand the world (gravity, Newton’s Laws, Bernoulli’s Principle, Special Relativity, etc.). However, there is a thing out there that we can call “science” which is “all true things about the created world. This is different from what we normally mean by “science” which is just our present understanding and interpretation of true “science”. Likewise, the WS are our present understanding and interpretation of “theology” (i.e., all true things about God as expressed in the Bible). As in science, we constantly make reference to that which we are trying to understand, in theology we must constantly make reference to that which we are trying to understand. And as in science it is a mistake to appeal to the current scientific (i.e., fallible) understanding when settling a controversy, it is a mistake to appeal to the current theological consensus when settling a controversy, as the WS rightly insist.

    I hope this illustrates both why “lenses” (i.e., confessions) are necessary, and why it is necessary that they be modifiable and not be the basis of solving controversy.

  121. Sean Gerety said,

    October 1, 2011 at 9:48 am

    @Reed. You can abide by anything you want. But if you want to understand why the PCA cannot seem to bring herself — after all this time — to effectively deal with these rank heretics (yes, they are heretics too and first order ones at that – sorry Sean Lucas), then you need to recognize that for many, if not most in the PCA, A is no longer A. Can of worms or not, the FV/NPP report is a superb example.

    But I’ll let it rest here since I wouldn’t want anyone to have to consider root causes.

  122. Peter Green said,

    October 1, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Rev. Strange,

    I should also note that I don’t *think* I have said this, “this is really your claim when you say that they wrongly found FV out of bounds”. I have tried to be careful *not* to say that for a couple different reasons. For one, it distracts from my main point which is that the process was wrong and sets a bad precedent for how we deal with controversies in the future. For two, while I am more confident about the inappropriateness of the process, I am less confident that the SC was wrong in their judgment. I have reason to think they were, but they have read and studied far more FV literature than I have so I would want to be careful about making such claims. Hope that clears things up.

  123. Hugh McCann said,

    October 1, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Is Revs Keister & Phillips’ & Mr Gerety’s contention that FV is a false gospel the consensus of the PCA?

    St Paul called the Galatians “foolish,” but not false brethren. That designation he saved for phony bros who were trying to judaize the saints.

    Thus is begged the question: Are those espousing what has been determined by some to be a false gospel, merely the beguiled (foolish), or also beguiling (bogus bros)?

  124. October 1, 2011 at 10:34 am


    Out of curiosity, at what point would you be willing to no longer consider men as brothers who flaunt our Standards and suck precious resources from the denomination rather than submit to the brothers as they swore to do in their oaths of office? That report was submitted and accepted before prominent FVers displayed (and continue to display) abject defiance of the denomination’s decision.

    I don’t think that we were wrong to acknowledge the FVers as brothers then, but much has changed since then. Now I’m not so sure.

  125. Hugh McCann said,

    October 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

    To borrow from Frank A. (back @ 41) ~

    ‘I have more respect for, and in some cases personal affection toward, a man who departs with a clear conscience than one who continues to trouble the flock by destroying that “peace” of the church he has vowed to uphold.’

    Wow. Apply that to those TEs & REs not extirpating the wolves or leading out the sheep. Are many thus poor overseers, through their neglect, inactivity, or fear of man, actually destroying the peace of the church they once vowed to protect & serve?

    I wish that anti-FV-aries in the PCA would just “man up” (excuse the overworked phrase) and either excommunicate the judaizers, or leave if their church has apostatized.

    That ringing in our ears is the silence of too many shepherds.

  126. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Bob: contact me offline.

    Hugh: take it to your presbytery.

  127. October 1, 2011 at 10:49 am


    Message sent.

  128. Dean B said,

    October 1, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Good morning Peter.

    “The WS should, must, and necessarily are the lens through which we view Scripture. There is nothing wrong with this, and in fact it is good.”

    The benefit of a Confessional church is that the leaders all agree that Scripture actually teaches these truths contained in the Scripture independent of the Confessions themselves. Confessions provide a framework for a group of people to express common unity. The unifying factor is not the Confessions themselves or the lens it provides, but a unifying statement about what we all believe Scripture teaches.

    I do not think an appeal to the Confession is an appeal to Scripture. However, when a group of people who have already agreed that the Confession teach what is contained in Scripture it provides a short hand way to navigate water we have all traveled before.

    On the other hand an appeal to Scripture should not alter what we have already agreed to. If an appeal to Scripture from an individual or group altered what the group has already agreed upon then the group no longer has Confessional unity.

    Someone may ask, who ultimately gets to control what the Confessions teach? My answer would be Scripture without the lens of the Confessions. I think this statement is both Scriptural and Confessional.

    [I feel like nobody agrees with my understanding of what it means to be Confessional. As a result I I do not feel much unity. :) ]

  129. Peter Green said,

    October 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Dean B.,

    I’m not sure I fully understand your position. Are you saying that we should approach the Scriptures without any lens or framework? Or are you saying something different?

  130. October 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

    On the subject of the Standards as a lens through which we view Scripture, Lane wrote an excellent post called Who’s Lens Are You Using. Unfortunately, the comments under that post were hijacked by an unrelated discussion, so I followed up Lane’s post with The Lens of Confessions Revisited. In my post, I quote Robert Shaw from An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith in which he summarizes the case for confessionalism. I highly recommend it as a starting point for discussing confessionalism in general, and especially in the PCA.

  131. Dean B said,

    October 1, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Hi Peter

    “Are you saying that we should approach the Scriptures without any lens or framework?”

    On some level this would be impossible, I guess. My background, life experiences, and people I respect have shaped my understanding of Scripture.

    However, I believe if I was given the Scriptures on a desert island my understanding of the truths contained in Scripture would come close to what is contained in the Confessions. [This statement is not to brag about my inherent theological abilities, but it is confidence that the HS would guide me in the truth of the Bible.] Obviously, they would not be as maturely developed on the desert island because all the opportunities given allow me to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me.

    I do not believe in me and my Bible individualism. I believe we should be proud Biblicist but not be so proud that we do not take advantage of the means and gifts which God gives us. One of these gifts includes the Confessions.

    I hope this helps.

  132. October 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm


    Just a heads-up, I am expecting to receive the PNWP’s commission’s report some time today, which will contain the Leithart verdict and reasoning behind it. Presbytery meets on Friday, at which time we will vote the report up or down.

    After so long, all will soon be revealed!


  133. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Jason, will you be able to report following Presbytery meeting?

  134. October 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Heck yes. This gag-order is getting old.

  135. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Amen brother.

  136. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve read the two documents available from this case. Two questions:

    1) Does TE Lawrence’s defense boil down to a plea that the prosecution has without merit misunderstood him?

    2) Does the finding of not guilty in effect agree with this defense?

    If so, does this not line up with one of the immediate reactions from FV proponents to the PCA’s study report, “we agree with the report’s affirmations. What we’re saying does not contradict these. We’re being misunderstood”?

    If so, is this just a matter of misunderstanding?

  137. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    136 Reed: in your last question (If … misunderstanding?), what is the antecedent of “this”?

  138. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Dr. White: the whole thing. Are we who believe the FV is wrong merely misunderstanding our brothers?

  139. michael said,

    October 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Reed at #110,


    Don’t go bruising me if I don’t meet your expectations in this reply? By the way, this is the second time you have brought my focus to that sort of question that you have asked and I appreciate you doing that. Thanks.

    By way of a bit of historical background, my group have been around since around the late 60’s early 70’s. Most are misfit Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, and so on down the list of religious expressions of Christianity who as teenagers and young adults were drawn together to pick up the Great Commission and go forth for the Lord bringing His message to every creature and then the end would come. We have been a sort of separatist community all the while evangelistic, church planting and business starting in various cities and towns in the United States and to other countries South, North, to Europe, Africa and Asia. Within our communities over time as children came along, we either home schooled or collectively schooled from within. Some years ago the Lord started directing us to a more Reformational bent Theologically. We are still on that trajectory. Because we have “community” schools established within our own framework we have looked outside to those that could help us educate our own better. That’s when we started taking a look at Douglas Wilson and others. Sometime shortly thereafter the NPP and FV thoughts started to emerge. Most within my group haven’t stayed up with it seeing we viewed it as an internal process within one of God’s great movements around the world and in the United States with the PCA. As time went along I started frequenting blogs like the one Wes White produces and TurrentinFan and and and. My interests have been to learn from the PCA just how your internal process works. So when coming in here the other day and reading Lane’s article and the ensuing comments, mostly it was Peter Green’s comments that caught my interests I made a comment using verses from Jeremiah, Isaiah, Acts and 1 Peter. I made another general comment and directed some specific questions toward’s Peter. He replied. (Thanks Pete!) Then you came along and posted at # 108 and within it these words: “…Criticism against the report’s findings, on the basis that it dealt with matters at the level of the Standards, and not the Scriptures,therefore seems unfair to me.” I then posted at #109 what I thought was a good understanding that put things into perspective for me, at least, that Rev. Carr and his assistants, Lane included, did not go off willy nilly to develop the prosecution of Lawrence by not even considering the Scriptures. And then Peter’s question to Lane about what he would do now that the decision was rendered.

    After delving into this matter and reading the various links it becomes clear that you guy have got yourself one dilly of a deal in just how you will move forward from here into the future as Presbyterians wanting to make the simplicity of the Gospel clear within and without? As Lane said in the opener about being punched in the guts by the process, it is as though this whole matter, the NPP and FV, is one big fist that persists in punching a lot of you men of God in your collective body in the guts?

    Oh well, the Holy Spirit did not inspire in vain these words: 2Ti 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
    2Ti 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
    2Ti 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
    2Ti 2:4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

    I am not nearly as emotional now as I first was when I first started reading these comments. There clearly are some lines already drawn and sides already are being taken and some very serious Gospel concerning questions are being asked and reasoned answers given to them that shows me there is a great maturity abiding within your fold, both a maturity of the WCF and the Scriptures.

    I pray for the PCA. I pray that a revival comes into your very heart and soul soon and that a clear trumpet sound begins to blow from your wind bellows anew!

    There is a very dark cloud covering the earth and it has its sights on settling upon the hearts and souls of Godly mankind, the Elect, the Called and the Chosen,young and old alike.

    All I can say about you is it is a great work Christ has down through human history by you; and it would be a shame if Satan is not checked and from within you diminished and cast out of you by some of you. From your Ministerial ranks do rise up and silence him and shatter his schemes against you!

    As I said at the first, it seemed as though maybe the sort of prosecution was going on as is describe at Isaiah 66:5? Now, after the many comments, it doesn’t seem that way anymore. I still tremble at His Word, nevertheless.

    Finally, permit me to close with one verse from Philippians that seems to me is the capstone and the foundation for your Confessions and the good work of the Standards that were framed with and out of the Scriptures as one or so of you have touched on already bringing both to bear upon Peter’s reasoned inquisition. I am more thinking of the comments made by Dean B. though, in publishing the verse: Php 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    We have God. We have His Words. We have Godly men who God has anointed that can teach His Words by example so much so that when one learns from that show and tell living epistle example, the “God of Peace” will be Present and evident with them, too, so that at the end of the day it is to God’s glory not man’s. Psalm 115

  140. October 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Reed,

    I’ve read almost all of what they’ve written in books and on blogs. Though some are worse than others, there’s no misunderstanding. Obfuscation, unwillingness to face the music, and presbyters unwilling to discipline their friends is what passes for “misunderstanding” in the church courts. Wilkins is the model for how that plays out over the entire process.

    Remember that Arius almost won the day at one point and may have done so if not for Augustine and others later who were willing to stand against error.

    Whenever you start to question your understanding of the issue, just read through a few of their essays, not what they obfuscate in the courts. All doubt will vanish very quickly.

  141. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Michael: thanks. (Now you’ve got me real curious as to your denominational background.)

  142. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Bob: well, I’m playing a little bit of the other side here. I’m reserving my own opinion of the Lawrence until more information is available.

    Yet as it stands, I think we’re seeing a repeated pattern of defense and acquittal. It behooves us who believe the FV is an error to humbly and frankly face the challenge posed by it. We’ve got one of two possibilities here: either the defense/acquittal is correct, or those trying these cases are not as up to speed as they need to be.

    This summer I was blessed to make a new acquaintance of a presbyter who was involved in the Wilkins case. He acknowledged that at first he and others were not as informed on all the various facets of the FV as they needed to be in the end. Given what I know of that presbytery’s circumstances, that sounds understandable to me.

    Yet Siouxlands Presbytery seems a tad different. They’ve got quite a handful of rather well informed presbyters. Why have they reached the decision they have?

    (BTW, add the word “equivocate” to obfuscate and you’ve got two key plays in the FV playbook).

  143. October 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm


    Copy all. I haven’t finished reading the SLP documents yet. I’m about 1/2 way through the defense’s pleading and have already found at least two gaping holes. Whoever wrote it did a masterful job of setting up strawmen and red herrings and then shooting them down. It’s not what the defense says, it’s what they didn’t say that really matters. For example, the defense documents say that Lawrence believes that only the elect get saving benefits from baptism. Great, so does the rest of FV. The real question is what SPECIFIC benefits does baptism provide to reprobates? I didn’t see that provided. Maybe I missed it. Apparently, so did SLP.

    My stomach has had enough of it for now. No wonder Lane felt punched in the gut. It’s hard to believe that SLP could fall for that stuff and miss the pertinent issues this far into FV history. JMHO from the outside. Maybe I missed something.

  144. David Gray said,

    October 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    >Though some are worse than others, there’s no misunderstanding.

    It is characteristic of people who misunderstand that they believe there is no misunderstanding. Just My Humble Opinion.

  145. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    David: your comment is meaningless given the amount of effort many of us have put into to sincere listening to the FV. (I’ve been listening since the first Auburn Avenue conference).

    Having spent many years in fuddled theology (dispensationalism), I sympathize with people who hold to confused theology. My conviction is that those who find the FV consistent with the Bible are at best confused.

    If your characteristic is valid (I doubt it), then it is just as characteristic for those who are theologically confused to plead that they are misunderstood.

    Just my humble opinion. ;-)

  146. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Bob: that is an important observation. The problem with the FV is not with what it says the elect receive from Christ, but with what the reprobate receive from Christ. I hadn’t considered that perspective. I think you’re onto something. I do not remember anything in the defense dealing with things from this perspective. It may be there, but …

  147. Peter Green said,

    October 1, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Perhaps one of the most instructive resources toward the question of whether or not there is “misunderstanding” is this examination of Steve Wilkins by Wes White. Sadly, Wilkins was not allowed to cross-examine White, which would have been extremely enlightening.

    As far as misunderstanding is concerned, there seem to be several options.

    1) The FVists are being misunderstood
    2) The FVists misunderstand their opponents, thereby thinking they are being misunderstood
    3) The FVists are lying about being misunderstood
    4) The FVists misunderstand the WS
    5) The Anti-FVists misunderstand the WS
    6) The FVists and Anti-FVists understand the WS but have a genuine disagreement about what constitutes a contradiction with the WS
    7) The FVists, after having received much criticism have adjusted and nuanced their theology subsequently, thereby seeming to be self-contradictory
    8) The FVists, after having received much vitriol and aggression, hardened their stance and became less nuanced

    Obviously, more than one of those might be true. There is most likely a cocktail of those options all at play in the broader debate. In addition, individual FVists and Anti-FVists probably represent different combinations of those issues. For instance, I suspect that some FVists have become more nuanced and careful (Wilson, Leithart), and others have become harder and less nuanced (Jordan).

    Option 2 seems unlikely, as does option 3, though I know there are many who would like to think option 3 is true. Thus, it seems most likely that either the FVists are being misunderstood, or the misunderstanding centers around the WS and what they require. These basic options are further complicated by options 7 and 8.

  148. Peter Green said,

    October 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Oh, and particularly instructive for option 5 is Rob Rayburn’s response to the SJC, in which he suggests that the members of the SJC might need to take an exception to the WS because of their baptistic theology. His response can be found below.

  149. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Peter: I’m a bit astonished that you did not list another valid possibility:

    The Fv’ists are understood by the anti-FV’ists, and the FV’ists are wrong.

    As to option 8, I’m sorry but that is just an abused canard. Sufficiently egregious examples of vitriol can be found on both sides of the debate. Frankly, I found myself almost anathematized by some FV statements, and that before the debate even got under way (i.e., when the FV’ers were staking out territory). Sincerely, I find your assessment quite one sided and offensive. You are being less than objective.

    Ignore the vitrolic voices. Consider only the ones demonstrating consistent humility toward one another. Even within this slice of the conversation, there are clear lines of demarcation. One side thinks the other side is biblically wrong. Both sides have spent considerable time talking and listening.

    To lay my cards on the table, I think the “I’m misunderstoood” defense is a load fit only for growing mushrooms. We’ve got two different, incompatible systems in play. One is biblical and the other is not. I know such strong statements label me. If an opponent can’t find the humility to love me and talk with me in spite of my sincere convictions, their comfort in labeling me is their problem, not mine!

  150. Dean B said,

    October 1, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    If they truly are being misunderstood then they should be defrocked because they obviously are not apt to teach.

  151. Peter Green said,

    October 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Rev. DePace,

    I am frankly shocked at your response to me. I was doing my best to try to be helpful by offering clarity to the discussion. As for option number 8, I wasn’t suggesting that the vitriol was one sided, or even that there was necessarily any vitriol period. I was just laying as many options as I could possibly think of.

    As for this, “The Fv’ists are understood by the anti-FV’ists, and the FV’ists are wrong.”

    You claim that I didn’t include that as an option. Actually, it was included in two options. Both option 2 and 3 assume that the FVists are correctly understood. For instance, “the FVists are laying about being misunderstood” presupposes that they are correctly understood and that they know it, but deny it for their own malicious purposes. Likewise, option 2 assumes that they are correctly understood but that they are confused themselves and so don’t realize that they are correctly understood.

    I did my level best to be fair in all the options I suggested. Considering your earlier kindness to me, to say that I am saddened by your response to me would be an understatement.

  152. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Peter: yeah, I understand and believe you were trying to be reasonable and helpful. Yet what you wrote is one-sided. Please, for example, re-read your no. 8,

    “8) The FVists, after having received much vitriol and aggression,”

    Surely you can see that this is explicitly one-sided. You may have meant to say something about vitriol from both sides, but you only wrote about vitriol received by the FV’ists from those of us opposed to the FV. Surely my criticism here is fair, no?

    As to options 2 and 3 including the assumption that the FV’ists have been properly understood, where in what you wrote is that even a possible inference to draw? The only option available to the reader would be to assume something for which there is not even a hint. Why are you shocked at such push-back? Maybe you had this assumption in your mind. Yet your fingers did not let the rest of us know.

    I’m not sure why you feel the need to reference my earlier kindness, now with doubt. I’m still the same person, yes? I’ve not given you reason to question me. My criticism is not intended as a put down. I don’t see you as my enemy. Why the shock?

    Step back a moment Peter and look at your statements. What you think is obvious at the assumption level is not even hinted at. I can accept you meant better. Yet for some reason you did not state better. The one obvious reason, the one repeated here at GB many times, is the very one you missed. You may not have intended the offense. Yet you missed the one reason we who oppose the FV have given time and time again.

    Can you not appreciate where I’m coming from?

  153. Mackenzie's child said,

    October 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Not a learned scholar or elder but I will say this: As one who has sat under FV teaching and had their ‘eyes opened’ to the gospel, I have no trouble labeling teachers of FV ‘heretical’.

    Sit under it for awhile and you, too, will discover a creepy crazy cult.

    I know what it does to the sheep–ultimately it abuses, confuses and depresses us.

    I thank the Lord for those who speak out. I pray they continue to ‘fight the good fight’.

  154. Hugh McCann said,

    October 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Wow, Reed, ya catch these at it, and they bald-face deny it right after saying it! Beware the fifth column. The first half of Green’s #3 in post 147 is right on.


    Don’t worry, I will not confuse you with any kindness, real or feigned. After our last encounter, I know better than to dialogue with you. But you are in the wrong denomination, per your exchanges above. Goodness! If the WS are so flawed, and their PCA & OPC proponents so erring, go CREC, young man, go CREC.

  155. Reed Here said,

    October 1, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    For some more background on the issues surrounding TE Lawrence, you can go here to start. This blog post references other posts which will give you more input.

    Might I simply ask us all to remember to pray for our brothers in Siouxland Presbytery? Pray for God’s truth to rule the hearts of his shepherds, and so bring peace AND purity to these churches.

  156. Reed Here said,

    October 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    O.k. Hugh, back off now. Thanks ;-)

  157. Hugh McCann said,

    October 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I await the moderator Lane’s censure.
    Otherwise, thanks, but no thanks.

  158. Reed Here said,

    October 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Hugh: o.k. by me.

  159. Reed Here said,

    October 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Someone correct me if I am wrong but there are still some men who’ve opposed TE Lawrence (and Moon?) in Siouxlands Presbytery who are facing potential discipline for their public discussion of these things. If my memory serves me, the argument centers on 9th Commandment violations.

    Not to open that can of worms here, but to bring to your attention the potentially chilling effect this has. Please, pray for your brothers in Siouxlands Presbytery.

  160. rcjr said,

    October 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm


    Remember when I used to take comfort in knowing that somewhere out in the world there was at least one person to my right? I no longer find that comforting. If you had the same passion for your own sanctification as you have for accusing others you would be someone I would look up to. My concern is less your arguments against fv, which view I also find utterly unReformed and unbiblical, but at your lack of respect to my friend Reed. You have been around long enough that you should know that Reed is in fact a moderator here, hand picked by Lane. Your treatment of him is akin to Paul’s of the chief priest. The only difference is that Reed is a fine and godly man. I suggest you follow Paul’s example though and repent.

  161. michael said,

    October 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I agree with that comment directed towards Hugh.

    Remember the severity of the issues here? Not a reality I would want to be carrying as is being carried by this Godly men. This work of God is a fine and decent work, the Presbyterian ministry. That God’s Glory in these discussions would not be utmost, in my view, is a disgrace and reflects poorly on the character of the one who doesn’t respect what is right in the sight of all men, even when there is such divergence of views.

    I come back to those Words from Psalms 115:

    Psa 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
    Psa 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”

    Doesn’t it occur to anyone that novices as I am in here or other outsiders looking in and reading these exchanges might just have a need to ask “Where is their God?” especially when we also read this about Jesus’ Character:

    Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
    Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

  162. October 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm


    I’m also a mod here. You’ve been here long enough to know better. Reed didn’t deserve your response. We’re all a bit frustrated, but this latest result isn’t then end of the story, no more than it was in LAP with Wilkins. As I said earlier, God is still on His throne. Please, let’s stay within our host’s commenting guidelines.

  163. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Rev. DePace,

    I have not doubts about your kindness, I was only surprised by the strength of your response, particularly because I thought I was being helpful. Mentioning your kindness to me was probably unhelpful but it was meant to indicate why I was as saddened by your response as I was. Granted, perhaps the biggest issue here is my own expectations for how “helpful” my own post would be.

    Here was my thinking: In this controversy, both sides have their own unhelpful narratives. From the FV side the narrative goes: Our opponents are schismatic witch-hunters whose interpretation of the WS is dysfunctionally narrow and historically untenable. They have no interest in actually understanding us–they will only be satisfied when we have been kicked out. At best they make no effort to understand us, and at worst they maliciously and intentionally misunderstand us. From the Anti-FV side: The FVers are at best in gross violation of the WS and at worst rank heretics who abuse their sheep and destroy the peace and purity of the Church. They know they are out of accord with the WS, but they pretend like they’re not so that they can stay in the denomination to propagate their poison. They are at best confused to the point of being unfit for office, and at worst are lying with the intention to deceive when they claim their are misunderstood.

    In summary the FVists say, “we are being intentionally misunderstood” and the Anti-FVists say, “they are intentionally deceiving, obfuscating, equivocating.”

    Now, one of these narratives *might* be correct, but they must be the option of last resort. That is, we must exhaust all other possible interpretations before choosing one of them. In that regard, when you posted your original question, “Are we who believe the FV is wrong merely misunderstanding our brothers?” I was very impressed with this question because it showed a rare moment of humility (not rare for you, but rare for the whole controversy. And I apply that to both sides–I know the FVists have had such moments as well, but they are rare). I thought that perhaps we could actually have a constructive conversation about what is going on with the whole controversy, and to that end I tried to propose a comprehensive list possible options. I also tried to include several options that presupposed that the FVists are being correctly understand. Actually, all of my solutions with the exception of no. 1 assume that the FVists direct teaching is being correctly understood.

    The logic of my list goes as follows: 1-3 suggest that the issue is on the level of the FVists direct teaching. 1 suggests the problem is on the AFVist side (they misunderstand), and 2-3 suggest that the problem is on the FVist side (they misunderstand what is being said about them, or they know they are being correctly represented, so they are lying about being misunderstood). You are right that I left some things to be assumed, but they seemed like obvious assumptions. If the FVists are lying about being misunderstood, what does that *necessarily* imply about whether or not they are being correctly understood? 4-6 suggest that the issue is on the level of understanding the WS. 7-8 suggest that the issue has been muddied because of movement on the part of the FVists, for two different reasons. I didn’t include anything about the vitriol FVists have directed toward AFVists because my purpose was extremely narrow–to explain why there is such confusion on this issue–namely to address your specific question. I did not neglect to think about the vitriol of the FVists, I only didn’t think it had bearing on the specific question at hand. That being said, I can see that a 9th option would be possible: “Because of the vitriol of the FVists, the AFVists have hardened in their position and become less interested in truly understanding the FVists.” You may not like or agree with that option, but it is the only answer I can think of to the question to which I am seeking to offer solutions that takes into account the FVists vitriol. Furthermore, there is actually a congruent pair of two options. I included three, but not the fourth. The pair is 1) the problem is a genuine misunderstanding, 2) the problem is a false or intentional misunderstanding. Option 1 is morally neutral, option 2 ascribes sin to a particular party. I included both options with regard to the FVists (2-3, they [genuinely] misunderstand what is being said about them or they lie about being misunderstood). I only included 1 option–the morally neutral one–with regard to the AFVists (they [genuinely] misunderstand). I did not include the option that suggests there is sin on the part of the AFVists (they are intentionally misunderstanding the FVists) even though that is the “go-to” suggestion of the FVists. In other words, my list was constructed to make my assumptions transparent, and it was constructed to actually be *fairer* to the AFV side.

    I am further surprised, though, because you ask a genuine self-reflective question in (136 and 138), but then you write:

    “David: your comment is meaningless given the amount of effort many of us have put into to sincere listening to the FV. (I’ve been listening since the first Auburn Avenue conference).” (145)

    “To lay my cards on the table, I think the “I’m misunderstood” defense is a load fit only for growing mushrooms.” (149)

    Why did you ask the question if you think “the “I’m misunderstood” defense is a load fit only for growing mushrooms”?

    Hugh McCann,

    I have no recollection of direct interaction with you, so I apologize for whatever I did to offend you. I get worked up in these conversations and often say what I shouldn’t. I apologize–please forgive me.

    Also, though, I should note that I have been very careful to insist that the WS are good and don’t need to be changed. I believe that, except on one or two issues that I have not sought to hide (paedocommunion). It is surprising to me then that you would write: “Goodness! If the WS are so flawed, and their PCA & OPC proponents so erring, go CREC, young man, go CREC.”


    Great thoughts, friend. Thank you for your words and reminding us what is most important.

  164. David Meyer said,

    October 3, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I am glad they exonerated Lawrence, and my former pastor Josh Moon. The confession you all subscribe to says all disputes are to be resolved by scripture. That is what everyone here is doing, and you all are doing the best you can. When I read Rev. Dr. Moon, or TE Lawrence, or most of what has been written here in these comments, I think to myself “sounds fair enough”. You all have very good points, and take the scripture at its word as best you are able.
    The obvious problem is you all disagree as to WHAT the scripture is saying.

    That is problem one.

    Problem two comes in when your own authorities decide a matter, and those who are supposedly in submission to that authority decide they will just ignore it in favor of their own! (Comment #36,)

    And all those who disagree with their exegesis are “Christ’s enemies” (#100)!

    Hmm, well, having been someone you would probably accuse of being an “FV” guy myself fro having believed in baptismal regen and paedocom, (although I would have just called myself a bible believing Reformed Christian) and having known Josh Moon and many men like him which you accuse of being FV, all I can say is have fun in your tiny denomination. If you are willing to turn on men like Moon and lawrence and refuse to even call them brothers, and call them “enemies of Christ”, and yet these men agree with you on so very much, much more than most evangelicals certainly, then you will just have to leave the PCA and start your own new micro-denomination I guess (gee that is a new concept). When will it end?

    What do the worker bees in the pew do? I was one of those guys. No theological training beyond bedtime theology reading and R.C. Sproul videos. But I desperately loved Reformed theology. But when someone like me starts to agree with Wilson AND Sproul, Horton AND Leithart, both “sides” sounded biblical to me. Who gets to decide who is right and who is wrong? what do I do then?

    You cannot answer that question. All you will say is “read the scriptures” or on a bad day you will say “listen to me read the scriptures”. But in the end, when I cannot choose who is right or wrong, and both sides sound scriptural, what do I do? Who do I listen to? Who is right and who is wrong? Where is the authority which is supposed to be so solid in the Reformed polity when the GA passes down a verdict and people choose to ignore it anyway? Doesn’t that prove who is really in charge? Doesn’t that prove that that person will only agree with the GA decision if it agrees with their opinion?

    Instead of “semper reformanda” or “sola Scriptura”, I have a new suggestion for the 21st century Reformed motto:

    “When I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.”

    Though I am now a Catholic, I still long for unity with you brothers. Ironically, some here would not consider me a brother as a Catholic OR an FVer. I can’t win.


    David Meyer

  165. David Gray said,

    October 3, 2011 at 8:14 am

    >“When I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.”

    Which is what you did in deciding to go to Rome. An RC convert makes his own decision just as much as someone who converts to Geneva or Wittenberg.

  166. October 3, 2011 at 8:22 am

    David Meyer,

    Though I am now a Catholic…

    Well, at least you’ve followed FV to its logical conclusion. You have understood FV teaching and its implications well.

  167. David Meyer said,

    October 3, 2011 at 8:26 am

    David Gray,
    From your comment I take it you agree with the statement. Thank you for your honesty. In basic epistemology, it does apply to both of us, because we filter everything through our own lens. But that is not the level of Knowing I am talking about. In choosing a book as your final authority, you have chosen your interpretation. In choosing the magisterium’s interpretation of the book and Tradition, I am choosing a living, contemporary authority. Huge difference.

    Show me the Genevan or Wittenbergian Magisterium. Perhaps in Calvin’s Geneva there was something that resembled one, but those days are long gone and turned to dust like Servetus’ bones.

    Also, your Tu Quoque fails for these reasons (I will link to not derail the combox here):

    Peace to you brothers,

    David M.

  168. David Meyer said,

    October 3, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Reformed Musings,

    “Well, at least you’ve followed FV to its logical conclusion. You have understood FV teaching and its implications well.”

    Yes, I believe I have. The decision came with a lot of sweat, prayer, fear trembling. And In God’s mercy I pray that I have come closer to Him. If baptismal regeneration is biblical and imputation is not, as I think is obviously the scriptural case (as did the early Church), then there remains two options, Catholicism or E. Orthodoxy.

  169. Sean Gerety said,

    October 3, 2011 at 8:35 am

    @166 Bingo.

  170. Reed Here said,

    October 3, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Peter: o.k., I see why you wrote the list. Still, it may be me, but what you think is obvious is decidedly less than obvious to me. Chalk that up to my poor reading if you will. I’m sorry, but I remain persuaded that your list gives a distinct impression of a favoritism, one that at least threw me.

    Maybe it would be better to simplify your list. Don’t give so many options (and run the risk of being misunderstood). Instead focus on the one or two (three?) areas where the FV’ers say they are being misunderstood. Then let’s explore the contours of those.

    As to my expression of my position, that should be no surprise. I have been and remain sufficiently convinced that the FV is an egregious error.

    At the same time by God’s grace I am convinced of my own fallibility. Hence, that causes to be willing to continue to listen to men to whom I have a ministerial obligation when they say I’m misunderstanding.

    I do not think the two positions are incompatible, but rather consistent with the calling to Christlikeness in such matters.

  171. Reed Here said,

    October 3, 2011 at 9:29 am

    David MEyer: the stark contrast of your comment in 168 is actually quite refreshing: either imputation (justification by faith alone, ala the consistent Reformed position) or baptismal regeneration (the necessary logical end of the FV). Wow!

    Are you sure you are doing Moon and/or Lawrence any favors here?

  172. October 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Who gets to decide who is right and who is wrong? what do I do then?


    We all get to decide for ourselves. Some decide rightly and others do not.

    You cannot answer that question.

    Answering that question is not the issue as I see it. The issue is whether the answer is palatable.

    All you will say is “read the scriptures” or on a bad day you will say “listen to me read the scriptures”.

    Since 1 Peter 1:23 says the rebirth comes through the “living and abiding Word,” it would seem that “read the scriptures” is sound advice.

    But in the end, when I cannot choose who is right or wrong, and both sides sound scriptural, what do I do?

    If you are one of the Shepherd’s sheep, then you will hear his voice. (John 10:27) Since the Word became flesh, to hear Christ is to hear his word. (John 1:1, 14) So, if you want to hear Christ, you should not only go to the Word, you should continue knocking, for the door will be opened to those who seek in earnest. (Matthew 7:7)

    Who do I listen to?

    Ultimately, Christ alone is who you should listen to.

    Who is right and who is wrong?

    God is right (as well as those who agree with him). Surely you agree.

    Where is the authority which is supposed to be so solid in the Reformed polity when the GA passes down a verdict and people choose to ignore it anyway? Doesn’t that prove who is really in charge? Doesn’t that prove that that person will only agree with the GA decision if it agrees with their opinion?

    Presumably those who disagree with such verdicts do so in fear and trembling and with the intention of submitting to God’s word even over counsels. (Acts 5:29; WCF 31.4) There is nothing unbiblical or not Reformed about having to disagree from time to time.

    “When I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.”

    David, that is a popular caricature, but let’s not pretend – we all must submit to what we believe is authoritative. Reformed Protestants assert that they submit to God’s word. That the mind is engaged does not imply that man retains sovereign authority over himself. That is where your struggle lies, and where your argument breaks down I believe. Christians know whom they have believed, which affords them the Spirit-sent confidence that God is able guard until that final day that which has been entrusted to him. (2 Timothy 1:12) Whereas you, I’m afraid, would like to think that you have relegated all thinking pertaining to life and death to your communion and in turn submitted to their rule without making a personal decision on matters of doctrine. But that is not what you have done lest your choice to submit to your communion was completely arbitrary. You did choose Rome over Islam, after all, and for doctrinal reasons that seemed good to you. Notwithstanding, because you are not basing your decision solely on God’s word, it is no wonder that you say things like: “when I cannot choose who is right or wrong, and both sides sound scriptural, what do I do…” I would suggest you need to keep knocking until God grants you the confirmatory peace that you have heard from him on this matter.

  173. October 3, 2011 at 10:02 am


    Are you sure you are doing Moon and/or Lawrence any favors here?

    Good question. I also wonder whether the godfather of the FV, James Jordan, was doing his movement any favors when he said to his fellow FV-ers:

    “I’ve said for years that paedocommunion and non-pc cannot live together any more than infant and adult baptism. And by returning to pc, we drive back 1000 years, and definitely back before the Reformation….

    “Oh, it’s true enough: We depart from the whole Reformation tradition at certain pretty basic points. It’s no good pretending otherwise. I think the PCA is perfectly within its rights to say no to all types [like us]. We are NOT traditional presbyterians. The PCA suffers us within itself, but we are poison to traditional presbyterianism. We are new wine, and the PCA is an old skin. So, for the sake of the people we are called to minister to, we do our best. But we don’t really “belong” there.

    “I mean, think about it. Would any of you seek ordination in a Baptist denomination? No. Then why do you seek ordination in non-paedocommuning Presbyterian/Reformed denominations? Don’t tell me that these aren’t the same question, because at the practical level, American presbyterianism is just “Baptist light.” That’s what Banner of Truth Calvinism is, and why it’s been Reformed Baptists who most appreciate it…. That’s what the So. Presbyterian tradition is. That’s what American individualist conversionist presbyterianism is: Baptists who sprinkle babies.

    “So, why are you trying to get ordained presbyterian? Why not seek to get ordained Baptist? There are a whole lot more baptists out there. A bigger pond. Larger sphere of influence.

    “Well, it’s because the baptists won’t have us, and so far the presbys will. But there’s no reason why the presbys should receive us, since sacramentally speaking we are NOT Reformed and NOT presbyterian.

    “I’m a little bit sympathetic with Duncan & Co. when they suspect some of you guys are not being honest when you try to show that you’re just good traditional Reformed guys. I guess it’s a good thing I did not make it to the Knox Seminary discussion, because I would have openly said, “I’m not on the same page as Calvin and the Reformation in these regards.” Showing that the Reformed tradition is wider and muddier than Duncan wants it to be is fine, but the fact is that if you believe in pc, you’re not in the Reformed tradition at all in a very significant and profound sense. No more than you’re Baptists.”

    Honesty is refreshing, innit?

    PS – I quoted that bit in my closing argument at trial.

  174. October 3, 2011 at 10:20 am


    Outstanding quote, and apparently well used by you at the trial. Sums it up nicely.

    I also see that he just can’t let his early failures die. Jordan had to take another dig at the Banner of Truth folks. Most people would be happy to let their failures fade into the mist of time. Fascinating.

  175. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Rev. Stellman,

    With all due respect to Jim Jordan, he has a tendency to say idiotic things in public. That was a whopper of an example, and because he is the “godfather” of the movement (an apt description if I ever heard one), few of the FVists are willing to contradict him in public. Jordan is an example of my option 8 above. Because he has been swimming in controversy his whole life the lines have been drawn starkly by him. He has been isolated (while at the same time isolating himself), and so he would rather separate then do the hard work of striving for peace and unity. Ironically, his attitude is very similar to many of the AFVists, but it is an attitude that I repudiate. He doesn’t speak for me and I wish he didn’t speak for the other FVists because he hurts his cause far more than he helps it.

    Rev. DePace,

    Will you suggest a list that you think is more representative? I think there is progress to be made if we can agree on what the possibilities are that have produced this mess (and hopefully get away from the destructive narratives we tell ourselves).

  176. October 3, 2011 at 11:12 am


    My point in quoting him at trial was to ask if he actually might be right. After all, Leithart seems to agree with everything else Jordan says, why not agree with this statement too?

  177. Reed Here said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Peter: I think the two (three) things simply can come from the FV folks themselves. What do they say about our misunderstanding them?

  178. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Rev. Stellman,

    I think that is certainly a fair question. My own opinion is that the answer is ‘no’, but I can’t speak for Leithart, and certainly others are free to disagree.

  179. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Rev. DePace,

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean, but I think from the FV perspective there are ~3 options

    1) They are being misunderstood because of malice
    2) They are being misunderstood because of laziness
    3) They are being misunderstood because of inability

    My point, though, with my extended list was that the issue is much more complex than simply whether they are understood or not. This does not exhaust the reasons for the controversy because there is also the question of understanding them *vis-a-vis* the WS, which raises the question of whether the WS are being properly understood by either party. Furthermore, there is the fact that the FVists have (perhaps) adjusted/nuanced/changed/hardened some of the things they have said. In this way, they have presented a “moving target” which a number of AFVists have noted. The AFVists often suggest that the FVists are a “moving target” because they are trying to be difficult. I am suggesting that there are other options, namely that they may be genuinely been changing their position for various reasons. Thus there are three areas that need attention:

    1) The FVists teachings
    2) The proper interpretation of the WS
    3) The development of the FVists teachings.

    These are the three areas that I tried to deal with in my original list.

  180. Reed Here said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:54 am

    No, no Peter, the explicit areas of misunderstanding, what do the FV’ers say are the things we are misunderstanding. Not “why” are we misunderstanding, but “what” are we misunderstanding. Surely those can be categorized under two or three heads.

  181. David Meyer said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Reed said:
    “Are you sure you are doing Moon and/or Lawrence any favors here?”

    Let me be real clear here. Josh Moon changed my theological opinions ZERO. I was paedocomm and baptismal regen before he even graduated seminary and before I ever met him. So please dont insinuate anything here about him.

    From what I know, I would never call him or his session federal vision. And why would I lie at this point? If they were, it would make me happy, but they aint. So there you go.

    Wilson and Jordan were the primary influences that led me to think of FV as at least a somewhat REASONABLE position. And to see them thrown out as heretics by the likes of you guys is what made me start to boil inside at the disunity of Reformed churches. That disunity is what greased the skid for me to go to Rome, nothing Moon did. Ask your buddy Art Sartorius for the letter I sent to him at his request. I would love for you people to read it.

    Josh Moon actually did his best to stop me from Tiber jumping. And I have never met Lawrence. If you notice, in the same parapraph where I said they sound good, I said all of YOU sound good for your points AGAINST them. My point was it is up to me to decide between you, the scripture can not tell me, as it is A BOOK THAT CANNOT SPEAK. Just me and my bible in front of the fire does not work for Mormons, and it don’t work for you guys either. Youve come a long way guys, even Calvin is rolling in his grave watching this train wreck.

    The sola Scriptura emperor is naked. Open your eyes.

  182. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Rev. DePace,

    That I don’t know.

  183. David Gray said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    >I was paedocomm and baptismal regen

    Presumably if you’ve gone RC you are no longer paedocoummunion.

  184. David Meyer said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    “Presumably if you’ve gone RC you are no longer paedocoummunion.”

    You presume wrong, I am still Paedocommunion. And so is the Catholic Church. The eastern rites of the Church practice it. And in the Roman Rite, it is seen as a practice like priestly celibacy, which is only a discipline, not dogma. It can be changed. In 1910 St. Pius X changed it from teens to 7 year olds, and it is widely thought that it may eventually go down to infants. If I wanted, I could attend the local Byzantine rite Catholic Church and my babies could partake, but that was not the point for me. THE POINT was who decides. Do I get to decide that? My elders? How important is the issue? Well, the Catholic Church has a clear position that it is not as important as I thought it was. They allow Paedocom and non-paedocom, and everyone is cool with it.
    Finally some eclesial [guts].

    On the few issues I have had to change my mind on (Postmillenialism, limited atonement) I have been content to bow my knee to the authority ordained by Christ to guide His Church. The barque of Peter is a big ship, with a strong captain, and they dont make people walk the plank half as much as the Reformed do.

  185. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm


    If you could flip a switch and make all the AFVers understand X about the FV position what would X be?

    BTW. “Be more brotherly” is not allowed on this essay test.

  186. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    David Meyer,

    ‘The barque of Peter is a big ship, with a strong captain, and they dont make people walk the plank half as much as the Reformed do.”

    Pious BS. The Reformed only limit who may be an officer. The RCC limits who may be a member. The RCC is as schismatic as any Reformed denomination.

  187. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Good afternoon David Meyer.

    “The barque of Peter is a big ship, with a strong captain, and they dont make people walk the plank half as much as the Reformed do.”

    If this is true then why did you change your mind on Postmillenialism and limited atonement? Did your church require this for membership?

    If you are content to “bow your knew to the authority ordained by Christ to guide His Church” what odious plank were you being required to walk in your previous church?

  188. October 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm


    Please let’s not let this thread be hijacked by yet another RCC vs. Protestant vs. alien invasion rabbit trail. Feel free to start a new thread on your own blogs for that. Let’s stick close to the original post topic. Thank you.

  189. October 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Hole up, hole up. Are you saying alien invasion is false? That’s it, I’m outta here!

  190. October 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm


    I didn’t say it was false, I just said we wouldn’t discuss it here. If you’re interested, I can start a thread over on my blog after we finish with the zombie apocalypse. :-)

  191. David Meyer said,

    October 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Mmmm. Braaains. I could go for a heaping plate of ‘em. That is the secret of the RCC after all. Were zombies!

    Ok, thats it, im done.

  192. Cris Dickason said,

    October 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Peter in # 174 @ October 3, 2011 at 11:06 am – In responding to Rev. Stellman, you write:

    He [Jim Jordan] doesn’t speak for me and I wish he didn’t speak for the other FVists because he hurts his cause far more than he helps it.

    I am not trying to be “clever,” nor do I seek to twist your words, but that line above sounds like you have just self-identified with the Federal Visionists. Would you mind clarifying your relationship to the Federal Vision movement and its public pronouncements?

    As for Jim Jordan, I knew him at WTS, he was close friend to friends of mine, at least one of which worked for me at the WTS Bookstore. I recall a conversation where Jim Jordan described his admiration for the propaganda techniques of the cold war era. I take away from that bit of knowledge (and his obvious intellectual gifts) that most everything Mr. Jordan says is calculated and weighed to make one or more points or impressions. There’s quite a bit of honest truth in some of these supposedly outrageous statements. Folks roll their eyes at these types of utterances, but the statements are left standing.

    His statements are not repudiated by other Federal Visonists, unless of course, you are herewith the first to do so.

    OPC ruling elder who’s tried to stay out of this, since it’s so intertwined with PCA courts/case.

  193. Tim Wilder said,

    October 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    @Peter Green 186

    “The Reformed only limit who may be an officer. The RCC limits who may be a member.”

    Actually, when I joined Good Shepherd where David Meyer used to be a member they made me subscribe to the entire Westminster Confession. Ironic in the the Session itself is now not confessional.

  194. Tim Wilder said,

    October 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    @Cris Dickason 192.

    “His statements are not repudiated by other Federal Visonists, unless of course, you are herewith the first to do so.”

    But the FV lament the publication of these once secret statements.

  195. Cris Dickason said,

    October 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Tim @ 194 … Ah, but in what lexicon or dictionary, in what dialect or tongue does the semantic range of “lament” overlap with, much less equal, “repudiate?”

  196. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Elder Dickason,

    I see how one could take my statement to be an implicit self-identification, but I certainly didn’t mean it that way. When I said “the *other* FVists” I meant that in reference to JJ. That is, JJ is a FVist and I wish he didn’t speak for the other FVists, *not* I am an FVist for whom JJ doesn’t speak and I wish JJ didn’t speak for the other FVists.

    As for me personally, I’ve said elsewhere that I don’t consider myself an FVist for a number of different reasons, one of which being that I do have some serious questions about how their baptismal theology fits with their/our Reformed soteriology. That being said, I have had opportunities to speak face to face with some of the “FVists”–Jeff Meyers and Mark Horne while I was in St. Louis, for instance (I put “FVists” in quotes because I am not sure they would call themselves FVists, but I acknowledge that others would).

    My over all concern, though, at least in this thread, has not been whether the FVists are right or wrong, but about the process, and what that says about the PCA as a denomination and about the precedent that said process has set.

    Dean B.

    Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not an FVist and I haven’t been promoting FV theology and been misunderstood. I suspect they would say that the AFVists misunderstand what they mean by covenantally elect, especially vis-a-vis the Confession’s use of “elect” (i.e., decreetally elect). I suspect they would say that the AFVists misunderstand the FVists when the FVists are trying to say something *in addition* to what the WS say (i.e., the FVists are saying “more” and the AFVists interpret it as “against” the WS). I think they would also say that they have been misunderstood with regard to the benefits the reprobate receive at baptism, though at least some of them have acknowledged that they have been less than clear and have in fact retracted some of their earlier statements (I think Leithart has done this). I think a good place to start, though, is to read through their responses to some of the official decisions/documents (e.g., Lawrence’s response, Meyer’s response, Rob Rayburn’s response on behalf of the NWP, and the various responses to the FVSCR found at the FV website).

    As I have said, though, my concern is with the process. I was very careful to note that I feel less confident suggesting that the FVSC was wrong in its judgments than I am that the process itself was wrong.

  197. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Tim Wilder,

    That is quite surprising to me and highly irregular for a PCA church, to my knowledge. The PCA membership vows require no such thing.

  198. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm


    Thank you for your response. I did not intend to put you in the FV camp, but just to clarify the main impass as you see it.

    Regarding the issues you highlighted do you believe Scripture supports the disctinctions the FV advocates are making?

  199. Tim Wilder said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    At the time Good Shepherd regarded itself as the one confessional church in a squish presbytery. At the time they still had a sister-church relationship withe CRC and were supposed to accept transfers in, but they took pride in being extra-strict about these things instead of going by the church order. Maybe they were especially strict with me as I had been to seminary and was known for having theological opinions.

    Subsequently, all the time that Good Shepherd was going off the rails they were still claiming to be strict subscriptionist and allowing no exceptions for the elders.

  200. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Dean B.,

    I do think the distinction between covenantally elect and decreetally elect is both good and necessary. I haven’t done a word study on eklektos or it’s related words to say that the Bible uses them in both ways, but from a theological perspective I think the distinction is very helpful in parsing out the theology of the NT. Now, what one does with such a distinction is an entirely different matter and I suppose different people could use that distinction in very different ways and for very different purposes. In my mind, the distinction is helpful because it helps us distinguish between our limited and time-bound perspective (covenantal election) and God’s infinite and a-temporal distinction (decreetal election). I can’t say whether or not you are decreetally elect, but I can certainly say that you are covenantally elect. What benefits one ascribes to those who are covenantally elect is up for debate and that is one of the places in which I have questions with regard to what the FVists teach.

  201. Tim Wilder said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    @Peter Green said, 200

    James Jordan has said the decreetal election is nowhere in the Bible except Genesis 1:1 by implication, and that everywhere else the Bible speaks only of covenantal election.

    Your distinctions sounds like it is verging on the internal/external or visible church/invisible church distinction that the FV is trying to destroy. How can you see the necessity of the distinction and still sympathize with the FV attempt to destroy it as a doctrine found throughout the Bible, as far as they can get away with so doing? (Though they will employ evasions as did the previous pastor at Good Shepherd who said that the decreetal doctrine of the Westminster Confession is logical and true, but not the Biblical way to think, so should not be preached.)

  202. PDuggie said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    “Have they figured out the definition of FV in the report doesn’t exist in reality?”


  203. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm


    “I do think the distinction between covenantally elect and decreetally elect is both good and necessary.”

    What verse(s) would you point to which support the idea of “covenantally elect”?

    “I haven’t done a word study on eklektos or it’s related words to say that the Bible uses them in both ways,”

    Please do the study and find the best example in your opinion.

  204. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Tim Wilder,

    You write, “How can you see the necessity of the distinction and still sympathize with the FV attempt to destroy it as a doctrine found throughout the Bible, as far as they can get away with so doing?”

    Are you serious? Have you been reading my posts? My patience is wearing very thin. I’m not an FVist. I agree with them on some things; I disagree with them on some things. I have not been defending their theology. I’ve said that numerous times. Go grind your axe somewhere else.

  205. PDuggie said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Dean B

    Romans 11:28-29. if there is a covenantal election for the former visible community of the people of God, which accounts them as possessors of “the adoption”, how much more the current visible community (church)

  206. October 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm


    For what it’s worth, I don’t think “covenantally elect” is the happiest of terms when used to include those who will not be saved. One only has to consider that God’s covenant promise was made to the single Seed (the incarnate Christ as the Second Adam) and by extension to those who would truly be united to him by the Spirit, existentially. (Genesis 17; Galatians 3; WLC 31). In that sense, the covenantally elect are the decreetally elect.

    Now of course there is a visible-invisible church distinction. We are to regard those in the visible church as God’s heritage until such time they demonstrate otherwise.

  207. Tim Wilder said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    @Peter Green 204

    Notice I said “sympathize with”. And you have been on the forum blasting everyone who does not sympathize for not sympathizing. You are one of a long line of “I am not FV but” people who show up in these discussions attacking every criticism of the FV.

    I am pointing out a simple thing. The FV has drawn fundamental distinctions between themselves and Reformed theology. If you disagree with them it is disingenuous to decry church discipline against them. If you agree with them, then you are one of them. Get off the fence.

  208. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Dean B.,

    After 10 minutes which is all the time I have to give, I will give a few quick examples:

    Covenantal election:
    Deut 7:7 (the LXX uses eklego)
    Deut 10:15 (the LXX uses eklego)
    Acts 13:17

    Also compare
    John 6:70 and 13:18 Jesus “chose” (eklego) the Twelve (6:70) but one of them he has not “chosen” (eklego; 13:18)

    Most of the verses that talk about “the elect” in the NT are decreetal election IMO.

    I don’t really think the distinction is primarily semantic though–I think it is one of perspective. Covenantal election is how we see the world, decreetal election is how God sees it. It’s more than just one of perspective since there are real benefits to those who are *only* covenentally elect (i.e., present members of the covenant [i.e., those who are members in good standing of the true church]). I really don’t think I’m saying anything substantially different than the historic visible/invisible church distinction. I’m just saying we experience that distinction in time in a finite way. I’m not sure that’s clear, but there it is.

  209. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Tim Wilder,

    “If you disagree with them it is disingenuous to decry church discipline against them. If you agree with them, then you are one of them. ”

    Sorry, this is absurd. I can disagree with someone and still think they are being treated inappropriately. If you can’t see that then I can’t help you.

  210. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Peter

    Thank you for your response.

    Does Rom 9:6 offer a different perspective from “Covenantal election” in Deut 7:7; Deut 10:15; and Acts 13:17?

    “It’s more than just one of perspective since there are real benefits to those who are *only* covenentally elect (i.e., present members of the covenant [i.e., those who are members in good standing of the true church]).”

    It appears you have three levels of God’s love. Love He demonstrates through natural law, Love He demonstrates through visible church, Love He demonstrates through election. Is this correct? If so how does His love differ between what is expressed via natural law and the visible church?

  211. PDuggie said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Dean B:

    here’s D A Carson

    “So how shall we forge ahead? The arguments marshaled on both sides are of course more numerous and more sophisticated than I have indicated in this thumbnail sketch. But recall for a moment the outline I provided in the first chapter on the various ways the Bible speaks about the love of God: (1) God’s intra-Trinitarian love, (2) God’s love displayed in his providential care, (3) God’s yearning warning and invitation to all human beings as he invites and commands them to repent and believe, (4) God’s special love towards the elect, and (5) God’s conditional love toward his covenant people as he speaks in the language of discipline. I indicated that if you absolutize any one of these ways in which the Bible speaks of the love of God, you will generate a false system that squeezes out other important things the Bible says, thus finally distorting your vision of God.

    In this case, if we adopt the fourth of these ways of talking about God’s love (viz. God’s particular and effective love toward the elect), and insist that this is the only way the Bible speaks of the love of God, then definite atonement is exonerated, but at the cost of other texts that do not easily fit into this mold and at the expense of being unable to say that there is any sense in which God displays a loving, yearning, salvific stance toward the whole world. Further, there could then be no sense in which the Atonement is sufficient for all without exception. Alternatively, if you put all your theological eggs into the third basket and think of God’s love exclusively in terms of open invitation to all human beings, one has excluded not only definite atonement as a theological construct, but also a string of passages that, read most naturally, mean that Jesus Christ did die in some special way for his own people and that God with perfect knowledge of the elect saw Christ’s death with respect to the elect in a different way then he saw Christ’s death with respect to everyone else. “

  212. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Paul @ 205.

    Please help me understand what you are trying to communicate by quoting Rom 11:28-29.

  213. John said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    In regards to Peter Green, I once again invoke Proverbs 26:4 and plead with you all to quit putting all this bickering on the internet.

  214. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Paul @211

    I believe DA Carson is wrong! Carson opens the door for the idea that Jesus satisfied God’s justice and anger for some if not all people who will not be in heaven. This is a Fatherly abuse of intra-Trinitarian love ie cosmic child abuse.

  215. John said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Also, as a general comment, it is strange to me that FV folks are always claiming to be misunderstood.

    A handful of them (e.g., Leithart) are pretty sophisticated, but most FV supporters tend to come from uneducated, fundamentalist backgrounds. I wish it would occur to them that maybe THEY are the ones who don’t understand?

    A lot of us agree with the FV that the PCA needs to be more Presbyterian and less Baptist, we just don’t think denying the visible/invisible church distinction or the bi-covenantal structure of the standards is a good way to do it.

  216. Hugh McCann said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Amen, John. Anyone tried v. 5 yet?

    Mr Green appears argumentative and dangerous, in that he has shown contempt for the very system he purports to serve. See his posts here demeaning the PCA report and confessionalism.

    Many gentlemen here have tried to reason with him; to a fault, however, if they neglect Pro. 26:5.

    Messrs Lucas, Phillips, Strange, & Reed Here have exemplified Titus 1:9 & 2 Tim. 2:23ff in their orthodox & patient dealings with him.

    As for the Federal Visionaries, their ‘good news’ is wretchedly bad, and one is well-served in reading the PCA study committee’s declarations and recommendations (‘Report,’ pp 35f), along with Rev Phillips’ post #42, above.

    I think Titus 3:9-11 also apply.

  217. Hugh McCann said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    RCJR @161 & Gromit/Bob @163 ~ Glad y’all are concerned for my progress in the gospel. As for sanctification, RC, I know you are no stranger to controversy in that area, so perhaps you are better able than I to see my blind spots. I have refrained from delving into & commenting upon your reported past unfortunate business; perhaps you might return the favor. But, if you feel the necessity to guage my passion for Christ, & consider yourself qualified to so judge my walk with him, it’s a free country.

    Good reminder, Michael @162, that Christ is to be exalted in all things! May I suggest (as you admit to being a novice) that you read all you can of God’s gospel of grace, be saturated with it, and then dissect heresies like the federal vision? Especially read those who’ve come out from among them and their beguiling ways.

    REED: I did not think I’d sinned against you. Were my interaction with you sinful, I’d expect you to rebuke me. Even if I appear merely unnecessarily disrespectful, please let me know. These other men do not convince me either that I have sinned, or that you have taken offense. But, I meant you no disrespect — merely returned your terse, unsolicited warnings in kind. I was unaware that you are a moderator here. (That, however, and your goodness and godliness as described by Junior are irrelevant, as we are all brethren, and you deserve honor regardless of your title(s) or piety.) Please either post or email me. Thank you.

  218. October 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm


    What about Jn 8:39-47? Clearly there Jesus sets out only two families – the elect whose Father is God, and the reprobate whose father is the devil. Don’t see a lot of intermediates there. I would also offer the wheat and tares. There were no intermediate plants mentioned, and the tares were always tares, not wheat that didn’t persevere.

    I’m not saying that the reprobates in the visible church don’t get benefits. They get those enumerated in WLC Q/A 63. But a special love of God? Not according to Jesus.

  219. Reed Here said,

    October 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    O.k. folks, Lane’s original focus was to reflect on his discouragement at the outcome of a trial in his former Presbytery. If I might be given some grace in summarizing his main point:

    1. His discouragement is heightened to the extreme,
    2. Because he thinks the evidence is clear that TE Lawrence does in fact teach the FV system.

    I’m sure there is more to these things. Yet this should suffice.

    One point Lane notes with dismay is how the FV divides brothers. Someone sent me a link providing an interesting example of this from a sister church in Siouxlands Presbytery. It is the letter David Meyers sent to his church, explaining why he was leaving that PCA church for the church of Rome. I note he does reference division and disunity as a key reason for his leaving, division and disunity prompted apparently by the FV (at least that is how his letter reads).

    With some caution (I pray things have gotten better in our sister church), I’d like to ask a simple question: is such division/disunity,

    > Inherent to the FV (does it by its own nature divide),
    > Inherent in reformed doctrine (is it a systemic weakness), or
    > Merely a consequence of the unfortunate confluence of circumstances at a given church?

    It could be a mix of reasons. But I think we’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence* that the question is reasonable. Was David Meyer’s experience a typical one for church’s struggling with the FV?

    (Remember, my reason for bringing this up is to re-focus on Lane’s key point above. Thanks for considering it.)

    * E.g., David Meyer is not the only FV influenced man to “swim the Tiber,” his church is not the only FV influenced church to struggle with divisions/disunity as a consequence.

  220. Hugh McCann said,

    October 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Reed 219 — If FV is a heresy akin to judaizing, then it is indeed ‘naturally,’ as you say, divisive.

    It is necessarily going to lead Rome-ward.

    As to point three — could be.

    Point two is a massive can o’ worms — and the connection of FV with Reconstructionism/ theonomy must be investigated. One could wish that bright, Recon confessionalists (like Bahnsen) were still with us to comment, and to see whether they’d agree with FVaries or reprove ‘em…

  221. Tim Wilder said,

    October 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    @Peter Green 208

    “Covenantal election is how we see the world, decreetal election is how God sees it.”

    This won’t do at all. There is a limitation in how we see the world, but no limitation in how God sees the world. He sees the world all the ways that it is. Your way of putting the contrast presupposes a highly anthropomorphic idea of God. But one, I think, akin to FV ways of thinking. One of the roots of their theology, it seems to me.

  222. Hugh McCann said,

    October 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Good reminder, Reed @219.

    My condolences to those fighting the fight in the PCA, willing to stand and confront false teachers and their teaching.

    May God give Lane & Co. great grace to continue to stand in the fray not against flesh & blood, but against principalities & powers, & spiritual wickedness in high places.

    And may God cut off those who pervert the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:7-9; 5:12).

  223. rcjr said,

    October 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for your grace in not bringing up my past. You’re a real sweetheart. As for judging your character, all I suggested is that your focus, at least here, seems to be more about correcting the perceived errors of others than looking to your own. That said comment prompted you to cite/not cite my own errors only proves my point. The truth is that you treated a moderator here with contempt, and should be ashamed. The good news is that Jesus forgives sinners, and so do those who belong to Him. Without it I would be lost. If I had the same passion for my own sanctification that I have for correcting others, I too could be someone I look up to.

  224. Reed Here said,

    October 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Hugh: consider it dropped. Consider RCjr and Bob’s comments well intended.

    For all here, I admit (once again ;-)) that my moderating is not as good as others might be able to do. I do, however, routinely strive for one thing, to help folks criticize positions and not persons.

    It is not that criticizing persons is inherently wrong (indeed, it is often biblically called for, at the right time and place). It is simply that this is one rule Lane has instituted for his blog, given his purposes for it. Given that this blog is not in any manner a formal organ of the church, but rather an invitation by a brother to engage in personal conversation with him, he is perfectly right to limit the conversation in this manner.

    If you believe criticizing persons is called for – you have every right before God to exercise that in the best manner you can. Lane simply asks that you also respect his “house” rules and take such comments elsewhere.

    We recognize that abiding by this rule is at times harder than it looks. Accordingly, we strive to give some leeway. That accounts for the appearance of some unevenness at times. We’re trying to be gracious hosts. (Other unevenness comes from simple human weaknesses. Try as I might, staying on top of every comment is not always as easy at it looks.)

    Hope this helps understand better when and why a comment gets a moderator shot. If you ever think we’ve been inappropriate, or maybe we should be moderating something we’re not, feel free to email us. My email address is reed here at that gmail place.

  225. October 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm


    I respectfully offer a fourth alternative – that our sinful nature taints all that we do. I most emphatically believe Charles Spurgeon’s observation that Calvinism is just another name for the gospel. I do not believe that there’s anything inherently flawed in Calvinism outside of the remaining sinfulness in those of us who espouse it.

    I think that FV is prone to division only in that, rather than be honest and move to another, like-minded denomination like the CREC as Jim Jordan suggested, many FVers elected (well, covenentally as opposed to decretally, anyway) to cause division in orthodox Reformed denominations. That misguided effort continues to this day and likely will for some time, although it has demonstrably produced only pain for all involved, including many of the FVers. I don’t know of a single prominent FV proponent who wouldn’t be theologically happier in the CREC. So for all its faults, I don’t think that division is inherent to FV’s aberrant theology.

    The tiny collection of theonomic, radical postmil, paedocommunionists that found no previous home but now dominate the FV bring schism wherever they go. I was warned by a friend several decades ago about this, but only really came to understand his wisdom in the last decade. I could provide a long list of pertinent names and circumstances, but will not on this board. Virtually all denied teaching aberrant theology until they finally left or were driven out of their denominations, only to turn around and actively write and advocate that same aberrant theology after they were safe! These guys have a decades-long history. FV just didn’t pop up out of nowhere.

    The underlying problem here is found in the sinful natures that we ALL fight daily through the power of the Spirit, not theology. That’s my humble opinion. I’ve watched the schisms in the Reformed community caused by FV’s theological ancestors over many decades. I don’t expect to see the end of it until Christ returns in glory.

  226. Peter Green said,

    October 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm


    In light of Hugh McCann and John’s comments, I wish to make some parting remarks. I have at times been intemperate, terse, snappy, sarcastic, and disrespectful. I am a long way from bridling my tongue. If I have said anything to anyone here which was inappropriate, please forgive me for it and thank you for your long-suffering. I have tried to be teachable while still having firm convictions. I am sure I have done so imperfectly, but I hope that you can see that my heart is for Christ and His Church and my guide is the Scriptures to the best of my ability. I thank you all for your interaction and patience with me. Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Lucas and Rev. DePace who have been especially gracious and forbearing. I have already spent far too much time on this thread, and need to put an end to it so that I can spend more time with my wife and son and focus on my studies. God’s blessing to you all in your respective work and ministry, and I hope and trust that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. May God be glorified in all things.


  227. Hugh McCann said,

    October 3, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Junior @224,

    You’re entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to disagree. If you must continue, email or message me @ FB.

    I feel no shame for what you take to be sin. I responded to a terse warning that I took to be unfairly censorious. See my reply @218 to Reed, & his to me @225.

    We appear to be OK. Wow! We’re old enough to handle such matters all by ourselves.

    Please fell your own forest before digging at others’ specks.

  228. pduggie said,

    October 3, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    musings @218

    What about it? You’re not setting Jesus against Paul. who says there is love extended to gospel enemies because of the irrevocable election they posses as part of a corporae body begun by the patriarchs?

    Or how do you understand the ‘election’ and ‘adoption’ advantages that belongs to the circumcision?

    BTW I don’t think Carson is doing anything other than leaving room for the perfectly orthodox “sufficient for all”. If you want to go hyper and deny that, FV is not the issue

  229. Zrim said,

    October 3, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    (FV posts are going to have to work much harder if they want to beat the ongoingness of 2K posts.)

  230. Dean B said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:04 pm


    “If you want to go hyper and deny that”.

    How could it by hyper if it was Calvin’s view?

  231. October 4, 2011 at 6:56 am

    pduggie, re #228,

    Jesus against Paul? Really? How about we read the whole chapter (Rom 11). In verse 4, Paul asks about God’s answer to Elijah who despaired for Israel, to which God replies that He had a REMNANT (my caps) of 7,000 out of that whole nation. Then in verse 5, “Even so then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (KJV) Clearly “election” refers to the decretally elect remnant, not the broader nation of reprobates. And in verse 7, “The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.” So, is Paul now set against Paul?

    Verse 25 and on refer to God’s work at a future time not yet revealed. The exact meaning of verse 28 is unclear. Paul himself calls it a mystery several times in 25-36, observing how deep are the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable His judgments, how inscrutable His ways. So, do you want to base a parallel theological system on what God has not clearly revealed and His Holy Spirit inspired to be called a mystery?

  232. October 4, 2011 at 6:57 am


    Is that a challenge? :-)

  233. PDuggie said,

    October 4, 2011 at 8:43 am

    dean B: It was Calvin’s view that the death of Jesus was not of sufficient value to save every human being on earth?

    RM: What you are saying about mystery is never what I have heard from any reformed preacher. Mystery in the NT means the thing that was in the past hidden but is now being made clear. I also disputethe unclarity of v 28: What is abundantly clear is that the same group of people (they) are hardened but considered elect in some sense. And this is not the remnant of the elect, who like Paul, have put their faith in Christ. Paul can talk of the elect who have obtained, like he has, and talk of the elect who are enemies, but elect because of their inclusion withing the corporate election of israel and the circumcision, who possess great advantages (much in every way) such as possessing the adoption.

    The theological systems are NOT parallel. The one (election of corporate israel) is a visible manifestation of the greater one. That’s all I’m saying. I’d rather profess that those tow exist (as Calvin does) that try to reconcile all into a single theological term.

    Sorry you find that unclear. I doesn’t seem unclear to me at all.

  234. PDuggie said,

    October 4, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Juts realized I asked RM

    “how do you understand the ‘election’ and ‘adoption’ advantages that belongs to the circumcision?”

    and he answered

    “The exact meaning of verse 28 is unclear”

    So in other words, the answer is “I don’t know”. Paul is telling you something beyond your grasp.

  235. David Meyer said,

    October 4, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Someone said (sorry i forget):
    “That is quite surprising to me and highly irregular for a PCA church, to my knowledge. The PCA membership vows require no such thing.”

    In addition to the WCF, Good Shepherd also required a pledge that any babies born to potential members will be baptized. I liked that when I joined, as I did not want my children going to the same church/marrying “Reformed” Baptists. Also, they did require a “profession of faith” from my wife and I (~2002), which a knowledgable Catholic could not have got around. (imputation, JBJA, etc) So the list of membership requirements is getting pretty long.

    As a Catholic all I had to say was one little sentence to join the Church of the apostles:

    “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

    And hey Tim Wilder, were you the guy that sat in the pew in front of my family a lot in the back left? I remember you seemed annoyed alot by the sermons, looking out the window stroking your beard etc. Also not much participation in singing and praying etc? I guess that makes sense if you though they were “going off the rails”. I really liked Pastor Ian however. BTW, say Hi to Andre C. from mission OPC for me. (he just decided he is converting to Catholicism)

  236. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

    @233 PDuggie

    There we have it in a nutshell: The FV does Arminian exegesis, in order to generate it’s covenantal vs. decretal dichotomy.

    But it did not start with them. Herman Hoeksema pointed out long ago that Van Til picked up the Arminian exegesis of numerous passages in order to generate his paradoxes, and portray his Reformed critics as unbiblical. And that is where the FV came from, as much as any other source.

  237. Dean B said,

    October 4, 2011 at 10:51 am


    “It was Calvin’s view that the death of Jesus was not of sufficient value to save every human being on earth?”

    Calvin: “Now we will not permit the common solution of this question to avail on the present occasion, which would have it that Christ suffered sufficiently for all men, but effectually for His elect alone. This great absurdity, by which our monk has procured for himself so much applause amongst his own fraternity, has no weight whatever with me. “

  238. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Dean B @237 (Where be Calvin quote? Institutes?)

    & Tim W @236

    & Gromit @225 & 231

    ~ Y’all are rockin’ it! :)

  239. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Thanks, Dean. Found Calvin quote:

    p.165 of A Treatise of the Eternal Predestination of God

  240. Matthias Martinius said,

    October 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

    David: you claim that Good Shepherd (Rev. Moon’s church) is not FV. Could you help me understand what your statement from the article @ 219 above:

    Over the years at Good Shepherd, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of unity in the Reformed community. After a family recently left our church for Eastern Orthodoxy, I felt a deep sense that something was very wrong with the state of unity among Christians. And at first, I thought they left for similar reasons as the dozens of other families have done over the past 9 years.

    Since my family has been at Good Shepherd, our church has not been able to have children fast enough to replace all the people that have left for this or that picky reason! People left in a mass exodus during Pastor Hewitson’s time with us because of Federal Vision fever. Since then more have left us to form a new congregation of a 11 year old denomination called the CREC for reasons that I would say are anything but central to the Reformed faith.

  241. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

    It is a pitiful case with the poor afflicted church of Christ, that almost all the members cry out against division, and yet cause and increase it, while they speak against it. And that all cry up unity, and yet very few do any thing that is very considerable to promote it; but multitudes are destroying unity, while they commend it…

    ~ Richard Baxter ~

    The papists are adept at this. So too, apparently, Federal Visionaries.

  242. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 11:56 am


    A group of people left Good Shepherd to start a CREC church nearby where they could wear robes and do ceremonies. Ian Hewitson once told me that he was not interested in liturgy and knew nothing about it. For the FV that sort of thing is important. Hewitson was an avid supporter of Norman Shepherd and deeply New Perspectives, but he was not into the FV liturgy thing, and my impression is that on baptism he was also more Schilderite than FV.

  243. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm


    A quote by Richard Baxter, yet especially true of him. He spent his life picking quarrels. If his side won he would switch to the other side to keep the fight going. Yet in his mind it was always someones else’s, even when it was his own bad theology of justification that was the problem. Has Boersma, in his book A Hot Peeper Corn, suggests that Baxter was not really Reformed, as he did not hold to Reformed covenantal theology, but was some sort of late medieval scholastic. So Baxter was really more like an FV precursor.

  244. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    @241 part 2

    See for example:

    “Boersma sees Baxter’s reliance on the twofold view of God’s will. In this case his bifocal view distinguishes between the conditional (revealed) and actual grant of justification (decreed). Faith actively fulfills the condition and gives one a right to Christ. Boersma concludes therefore that strictly speaking Baxter views the covenant as the instrument of justification not faith. After the condition is fulfilled the covenant justifies, as justification is made actual.”

    Notice how a covenantal (revealed and conditional covenant fulfilled by the active obedient-faith of the Christian) vs decreetal dichotomy is being developed by Baxter.

  245. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    A tour de force, WildTim! Well done for pithy terseness!

    Baxter’s a mess (not unlike many of us), but also have some good quotes.

    He HAS to, given the scads of words he cranked out.

  246. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I liked “A Hot Peeper” better. ;)

    But good point!

    Rich needed new spectacles! Thanks for Ref21 link. Will read w/ interest.

  247. David Meyer said,

    October 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Matthias Martinius @241

    I am not sure what you think you see in the quote from my letter. There is nothing different with any of your churches here. And you know I am right. The revolving doors on Reformed churches are no secret, and are not confined to one church in the Twin Cities.

    People left GSPC because they are Protestants. It is what they do. They get itchy, find some picky interpretation to dig their heels on, and form their own church or join one. That was my point. It is all about private judgement and being ones own boss.
    Some of the people I mention in my statement left because Good Shepherd was not federal vision. Let me repeat that:

    They left to form a CREC because Good Shepherd was NOT federal vision.

    Why oh why would they do that if Good Shepherd was FV? Makes no sense. And if you think that somehow reflects badly on Dr. Moon and the GSPC session, I would love to hear how.

    I for one wished while I was there they were more accepting of FV, but alas they were/are not.

    The only reason I did not follow the sola scriptura crowd to the CREC was because I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that disunity was bad. I stewed for years with that bitterness, as should each of you.

    That conviction has led me to leave the perpetual protest of Protestantism altogether for the unity of the Church which our fathers left 500 years ago. It’s good to be home.

  248. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    @247 David Meyer said,

    “That conviction has led me to leave the perpetual protest of Protestantism altogether for the unity of the Church which our fathers left 500 years ago.”

    The Roman church has no unity in the Biblical sense. The apostle Paul calls for unity in the Spirit, and he meant in the truth imparted by the spirit. Rome has no unity of doctrine, but a bunch of crazies running in all directions, and even trying to creating syncretism with pantheistic religions. What they have is a sort of institutional unity created by a bureacratic hierarchy.

    Those who accept this substitute for the Christian unity that Christ commands are those who look only at the outward appearances. They are those who build with wood, hay and stubble, none of which will survive the judgement.

  249. PDuggie said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Dean B: Ok, fine. I learned sufficient for all, efficient for the elect from Dordt (and every reformed I guess, and figured calvin agreed.

    “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world”

    I guess Carson (who has preached at Tenth, my church) is with Dordt on this, and would argue against Rutherford, etc.

    Anyway, I found this really interesting

    “A surviving comment from Scots Commissioner George Gillespie on the opening session of the debate on the following Monday also gives an indication of the spirit in which its predestinarian statements were drawn up. Gillespie advocated studied ambiguity in the confession at this point “soe every one may injoy his owne sence.”‘107 Two days later, as the debate continued, the boundaries of Gillespie’s commitment to studied ambiguity were to be put to the test as the debate moved towards the relationship between the decree of election and the redemption of Christ. Gillespie, along with Samuel Rutherford, John Lightfoot, Thomas Goodwin, Anthony Burgess and various other particular redemptionists, locked horns with the English Hypothetical Universalists Edmund Calamy, Lazarus Seaman, Stephen Marshall and Richard Vines for extensive debates on whether “Christ did intend to Redeeme the elect only.”108″

    read the whole post, as they say. It may go back further than even Van Til.

  250. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    @David Meyer 250

    “My Church has physical succession from the apostles, yours don’t. We can slam each others doctrines all day, but in the end, only one of us has a plausible claim to being the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”

    I’ll comment just briefly. I get emails from Copts and Eastern Orthodox people with the same song and dance, except that they assure me that they have the true tradition, apostolic succession and teaching authority and that that of Rome is bogus. Iglesia Ni Cristo, the Mormons and others also claim an infallible teaching authority.

    You just picked one group based on its having the best dog and pony show.

    Further I know Rome. I grew up in Colombia in a persecuted church where people where murdered, families were driven from their farms and churches were dynamited or burned by the agents of Rome because Rome hates Christ and wants to stamp out the gospel in order to control and exploit the people.

  251. David Meyer said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “Further I know Rome. I grew up in Colombia in a persecuted church where people where murdered, families were driven from their farms and churches were dynamited or burned by the agents of Rome because Rome hates Christ and wants to stamp out the gospel in order to control and exploit the people.”

    Well argued. I am speechless.

  252. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    PDuggie @249, Thanks for heads-up on Dordt — I’m now curious how PRC handles it if it’s not supra.

    A universal atonement is absurd, of course. Why Calvinists (who understand that it is efficacious) veer into even a potentially universal atonement is bizarre. Worse is the theory that God WANTED it to be universal, but alas, decreed otherwise.

    Those who think that God actually decrees things he doesn’t will should read here:

  253. PDuggie said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Dean B: Not sure your quote of Calvin proves what you want it to. He’s not saying the ‘common answer’ is absurd. I think he’s saying what Georgious say is absurd. In his commentary on 1 John, he says the common answer “is true” though not what the text of 1 John is addressing.

  254. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm


    Was Christ’s work to effect the justification/ salvation of a pre-appointed (predestined) people, and them alone?

    Or, what’s your point?

  255. Reed Here said,

    October 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    David Meyer: you are hijacking, and in an offensive manner too. Don’t go bringing up lesbian ministers in denominations most of us here would say have joined your church in apostasy. Especially do not bring it up with your Mother Church’s heritage of serial pedophilia!

    We can be polite and debate doctrine here all day long – on topic of a given thread. Yet when you make such comments as that you force us to sadly remind everyone just where wickedness resides.

    Cease and desist your proseletyzing here. Your Church will be identified with the spiritual harlotry She promotes as long as you do.

  256. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Reed @255 ~ Bravo.

    Along with your many other talents, you’re apparently a mind-reader, too! ;)

  257. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Could someone explain to me what can be meant by an atonement that is “sufficient for all”? It sound so much like the Roman treasury of merit which is like a pile of gold coins in a box that can be added to or spent down.

    How is the atonement quantifiable? I see is as a covenantal act between specific parties, not something “out there” which can then be applied to that or that individual.

  258. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm


    ‘Tis a fantasic doctrine; a fantasy.

    Hope this helps some:

  259. Hugh McCann said,

    October 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Homer Hoeksema explains Dordt on atonement:

    Among many, on Article IX:3 ~ “We gladly concede that this approach of the Canons is abstract and philosophically speculative. The approach of Article 4 is much sounder and is scriptural, when it comes to the value and worth of Christ’s sacrifice.”

    The Synod (unlike those of another ‘church’) was not infallible.

    DORDT IX ~

    Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death

    This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.

    Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value

    This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is -as was necessary to be our Savior– not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God’s anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.

  260. October 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    pduggie RE #233,

    Um, it was Paul who wrote the mystery characterization. You need to take your objection of that characterization to him and the Holy Spirit that inspired him. That’s all that I have time for at the moment. I’ll address the rest tonight.

  261. Matthias Martinius said,

    October 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    David @ 247. I thought you mentioned two departures. There was one departure to the CREC, but there was an earlier departure over “Federal Vision fever.” I understand this to refer to people leaving because they thought Good Shepherd was Federal Vision because, apparently, you stayed and you were Federal Vision. Other Federal Visionists stayed because they left later to form a CREC. This would also seem to fit into what Tim Wilder said @241.

  262. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    261, Matthias Martinius

    The “Federal Vision” fever was a phase after I left. What was too much for me was when the sermons got to be 100% New Perspectives and no gospel. When I was there I never heard anyone talk about Federal Vision, but a few years later I met one of the members I had known and he could not stop talking about Leithart and other FV writers. I don’t think Ian Hewitson was reading the FV guys, as least not then, but he devoured everything he could get from N.T. Wright, his hero.

    But I knew some of the people who went into the CREC from other sources, and got reports of what was going on. These people were very much into the sort of robes and rituals they could not get at Good Shepherd. But even the CREC people said, officially on their church website, that they were made up of people some of whom were Federal Vision and some not, and that a variety of views existed in their church vis-a-vis the Federal Vision.

    But what did the people who left for the CREC and the people who stayed understand by Federal Vision? It is far from clear how they were defining it.

    For example, I noticed that a number of the people who left for the CREC were those who had an interest in activism on such issues as opposition to abortion, what was going on in public schools and so on. My understanding was that they had found Ian Hewitson and Good Shepherd to be too quietist on these things. In their minds was this a Federal Vision issue, or not?

  263. Tim Wilder said,

    October 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    @261, Matthias Martinius

    It should be pointed out that there were a whole series of departures from Good Shepherd. Whenever some church that is vague and undifferentiated takes on a more definite character they are people who perceive that it is not what they want and leave.

    The church was founded as a broad evangelical church. I visited because I was looking for a way out of the CRC. I asked the pastor whether he was Evangelical or Reformed. He said he was Evangelical because “Reformed people are hung up on theology and I am interested in evangelism.” It was only after he left that I went over to Good Shepherd. At that time it was in the later stages of a massive departure. All the followers of the former pastor were leaving, some for liberal churches.

    We were then down to a tiny core. Then some of these left, including some somewhat Arminian types were were alarmed by the increasingly reformed tone, and some people at the other end whose idea of Reformed theology and ecclesiology was not being matched.

    From there it started to grow again. After Ian Hewitson was there for a while a sort of claque, including an elder, left. They sent a circular letter to the congregation explaining themselves, but I was not on the list and was never told what the issues were. One of them subsequently showed up on the internet pushing New Perspectives, and I doubt that this departure was theological.

    Then after considerable more growth there was a departure of a few people over the Norman Shepherd issue. If they left under protest the session try as hard as they could to put them under discipline for contumacy and deny them a transfer. One had to get help from PCA headquarters to get out and get transferred.

    I was probably the last of this group, only for me it was the New Perspectives that did it. I had tolerated the Shepherd stuff fairly well seeing is a basically part of the love of paradox and the infra-emphasis that might be found anywhere Westminster seminary had an influence. I just quietly disappeared figuring, correctly, that as the session didn’t give a fig for the church order unless hoping to take advantage of some provision, they would simply ignore the fact that I wasn’t there and not make trouble for me if I did not make trouble for them. Two years later I got an email asking where they should transfer my membership. I replied by they never did anything.

    The departures that David Meyers is talking about came even later. A very few went over to the OPC.

    At some point in there Ian Hewitson took a leave of absence to go to Scotland and write his dissertation on Shephard vs Westminster seminary now published as a book. He proposed that they take on an assistant pastor, and then he would return and set up a pastoral training institute were people would learn proper covenant theology, pastoral ministry and nouthetic counseling under his tutelage, as in his mind he was the only one had had it all worked out right. This never came to pass.

    Now they have the Rev. Moon, a Jeff Meyers protegee.

  264. Hugh McCann said,

    October 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Lane et. al. in the fray,

    From the Bishop: The Great Shepherd Will Guide You

    “Let us remember this as we look forward to the days yet to come: We know not what our days may be – bright or dark, many or few – but we know that we are in the hands of Him who does all things well. He will not err in any of His dealings with us. He will take away and give – He will move and He will settle – with perfect wisdom, at the right time, in the right way. The great Shepherd of the sheep makes no mistakes. He leads every lamb of His flock by the right way to the city of habitation.” ~ J.C. Ryle

    Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark {7:31-37}, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985], 152.

    Found at

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