Two Dutch Reformed Churches

If there is anyone out there who is looking for a new call, please consider applying to the two churches I have just left. Thay are located in Hague,ND. They would be looking for someone who is confessional, a good preacher, and someone who loves people. It would definitely be an added bonus if the man were Dutch, and even more so if he came from the Midwest. Anyone interested, please leave a comment (don’t forget that the comments of first time commenters are held for moderation).

Leithart Trial: Barker on Permissible Views of Baptism

Here is a section of the testimony by William S. Barker II, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary, a witness in defense of TE Peter Leithart in his trial in Pacific Northwest Presbytery.

Stellman: Do you think it’s okay to take what our standards call the saving blessings of the covenant of grace such as being in dwell by the Holy Spirit, adopted and constituted inwardly in the most profound sense as God’s son, and being married to Jesus. Is it okay to take those blessings that our standards attribute to the elect and apply them simply by virtue of baptism to every single infant who’s been baptized?
Barker: I would probably not say it that way myself but if I understood it in context I – – as I take it – – Jeff Meyers would have said something like that. I’ve found that to be allowable within the system of doctrine.”

This explains why the defense wanted him as a witness.

Here is the fuller context for reference:

PROSECUTION (STELLMAN): Dr. Barker, first let me thank you for coming and being here and testifying before this court. I’ve got a few questions – –
WITNESS: I’ve not met you before, could you tell me your name?
Q: My name is Jason Stellman.
A: Glad to meet to you.
Q: Nice to meet you too. Got a couple questions for you. You began by talking about the fact that we are not bound to what some call strict subscription but rather need to subscribe in a good faith kind of way. How many system, systems of doctrine are there?
A: You mean in – – in Christianity as a whole?
Q: No. The way we use the term. How many systems of doctrine are there?
A: We subscribe to one system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures.
Q: Okay. Good. I was hoping that’s what you would say. The conf- – We can – – we receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this church as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. Tell me if this is the system of doctrine taught in holy Scripture? Infant baptism, in an ex opere operato fashion unites every single person who receives it to Jesus Christ by which we are married to Christ and adopted by virtue of baptism into God’s family. All of which benefits can be lost. Furthermore, we are placed after baptism in a covenantal situation with God that is not fundamentally dissimilar to that which Adam enjoyed before his fall. We are through baptism justified and which is the same thing definitively sanctified. Faith comes in later on not as the sole instrument whereby we receive the saving blessings of the covenant of grace but faith comes in after the fact, after we’ve received them all by baptism as a response. And if we persevere in faith, then we will stand before God on the last day and receive final justification according to works. Is this the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture?
A: If I understand correctly, you’re quoting from a Federal Vision advocate and I would assume that’s Dr. Leithart.
Q: I’m taking statements of Dr. Leithart’s and putting them into one semi-concise statement.
A: Right. I think – –
DEFENSE: Mr. Moderator?
MODERATOR: Excuse me, Mr. Witness. We have objection here.
DEFENSE: The defense simply wants to reiterate that reasonably our witnesses were primarily prepared to address the quotes in the indictment. So, the defense does not think it’s reasonable for the court to expect the same level of preparation from our witnesses to new quotes.
MODERATOR: Okay, well – – so noted. I’m going to allow the question. You – – If you want to on redirect do (inaudible) —-
DEFENSE: I just wanted that noted.
MODERATOR: Alright. Go ahead.
PROSECUTION: Alright and – – and just for the record, these questions I’m asking you Dr. Barker are things I wrote down while you were talking. And so, I only brought up the issue of system of doctrine because that was the first question that was asked of you. And so the door has been opened and I’m just – –
MODERATOR: Yeah, I think you – – you are permitted to ask the question.
PROSECUTION: Alright and so – – and so, does that describe the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture?
DEFENSE: Are these paraphrases or are these actual quotes and if so what’s the cite?
MODERATOR: I – – I’m going to let him ask the question. If you – – if you – –
MODERATOR: – – if you want to challenge the accuracy of any of those statements as not being representative of the respondent or the respondent’s views, you certainly may in redirect.
WITNESS: As I understand, the general teaching of the Federal Vision school of thought, a statement like that is made to describe somebody as a covenant child who becomes connected to the visible church as a result of that having happened and has some type of relationship then with God, with Christ, with the visible church but it isn’t clear whether that person is among the elect. And as long as we understand it that way, I can see where this could be within our system of doctrine.
Q: Do you think it’s okay to take what our standards call the saving blessings of the covenant of grace such as being in dwell by the Holy Spirit, adopted and constituted inwardly in the most profound sense as God’s son, and being married to Jesus. Is it okay to take those blessings that our standards attribute to the elect and apply them simply by virtue of baptism to every single infant who’s been baptized?
A: I would probably not say it that way myself but if I understood it in context I – – as I take it – – Jeff Meyers would have said something like that. I’ve found that to be allowable within the system of doctrine. It’s a particular understanding of the – – the benefits of being in a covenant relationship, being part of the visible church, which was my own experience as a baptized infant. Just what does that mean? What does that entail? We don’t know whether any of those individuals are really among the elect and whether it will prove out over the course of their life.
Q: But isn’t it the case that there’s a qualitative difference between those who are elect and those who are not with respect to the blessings they receive and their relationship to God and not just a difference of duration?
A: Well, I would, I would think so. The – – It’s very hard to know outwardly what the difference is.

‘Tis the Season

(Posted by Paige)

Last year Reed and I wrote this resource, giving a “God’s-Eye View of Ghosts.” Hope some readers will find it of use this year, too!

Essential New Resource

I have seldom been as excited about upcoming resources as much as I am excited about this one. The access to SO much more Reformation commentary than we have had before will be a tremendous asset to understanding the history of exegesis. I would highly recommend you purchase every one of these volumes, the first one of which is now out.

A Quick Comment on Union with Christ

Posted by David Gadbois

I know there is an avalanche of great Leithart-related material streaming into Greenbaggins at this time, and I don’t mean to distract us too much from the primary issues of substance Lane and Reed have been focusing on, but I did want to slip in a few thoughts on Union with Christ that I made down in the combox of the “It Comes Down To This” post in response to one of the commenters there, and perhaps solicit some further discussion on the matter.  I have slightly modified my comment for posting here.


[previous commenter]:  Are there reprobate within the visible Church, i.e., the kingdom of Christ? So, it’s quite plain that “in some sense” the reprobate within the visible Church are united to Christ.

I keep hearing variations of this argument but, no, it is not “plain” that they are “united” to Christ in any sense. There are logical steps and arguments that are missing to get from the premise that since some reprobate men are in the covenantal community of Christ and outward administration of the covenant of grace to the conclusion that they must be “in some sense” united with Christ. To speak of having unity with Christ – being one with Christ- is a profound thing, and it certainly must mean more than that they simply have a relation or connection to Christ. Even unbelievers outside of the covenant have a relation to Christ, in some sense.

First, it is a disingenuous move on the FV part to have the qualifier “in some sense” operate as a blanket over their formulation to cover their hides, so that it might mean almost anything and they don’t have to actually define what sense that is. For this and other reason FV has earned its reputation for being very weak on systematic theology.

We normally mean several things when we talk about being united with Christ, the union is legal, that is it is federal where Christ is our head as the second Adam, as well as existential (“mystical union”), the subjective sharing in the life of Christ by the operation of the Holy Spirit, wherein Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19). The reprobate clearly do not share in this union.

It is assumed that since the reprobate can be members of the covenant of grace and, indeed can be marked by the seal of the covenant, that this would imply a unity with Christ. But that would only be true if covenant membership in and of itself conveyed the blessing of union with Christ and other salvific blessings, that the covenant was unconditional. But Reformed theology and the WCF clearly see the CoG as conditional, the terms of the covenant state that true faith in Christ is required for the blessings promised. FVers always lose sight of the issue of conditional vs. unconditional promises in their conception of the covenant.

I think part of the problem with the FV is that they make the marriage covenant/relationship into a controlling paradigm for the covenant of grace and covenantal community, and it is the case that even the worst marriages still presuppose a level of existential unity and intimacy.  But the Bible only actually establishes that there are similarities between the two, the analogy does not always hold up due to the discontinuities between them.  The FV try to press this analogy to do the hard work for establishing their conclusions, rather than actually establishing their specific conceptions of the nature of the covenant from Scripture.

All of this reasoning also seems to ignore the fact that the Scriptures paint an adversarial picture of all those who are unregenerate, whether inside or outside of the covenant. In what sense can someone who is at enmity with God, with minds set on the flesh, not things of the Spirit, and that cannot please God (Romans 8) be said to be one with Christ? Indeed, “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Old Saint Berkhof steers us right when he remarks concerning “Erroneous Conceptions of the Mystical Union”:

Another error to be avoided is that of the sacramentarians, represented by the Roman Catholic Church and by some Lutheran and High Church Episcopalians….It makes the grace of God something substantial, of which the Church is the depositary, and which can be passed on in the sacraments; and completely loses sight of the fact that the sacraments cannot effect this union, because they already presuppose it.

Leithart Trial: My Cross-examination by Robert Rayburn and Howard Donahoe (Defense Counsels)

Since I have already put up my own testimony in the Leithart trial, I thought it would be fair to also post the cross-examination of my testimony by defense counsels TE Robert Rayburn and RE Howard (“Howie”) Donahoe. Here it is (HT: Jason Stellman):

MODERATOR O’BAN: Anything else that you want the witness to address, Mr. Prosecutor, in direct?

STELLMAN: No. I’ll have a chance to redirect after the cross-examination?

MODERATOR O’BAN: You will if there’s cross-examination.

STELLMAN: Okay then at this time nothing.


RAYBURN: Yeah, we have cross.


RAYBURN: You’re responding at length in the first part, the largest part of your paper to the first charge, which is that Peter Leithart attributes saving benefits to baptism. Where is the term saving benefits found in the Westminster Confession of Faith?

KEISTER: I don’t have a copy of the confession with me so I can’t say _____.

RAYBURN: Would you be surprised to learn that it is not found in the Westminster Confession of Faith? In fact, that it’s not found in any reformed symbol.

KEISTER: Well, there is, there is a discussion whether the difference here would be between – – What we – – That’s usually a short hand for the things like justification, adoption, those kinds of things.

RAYBURN: Where does the confession say that?

KEISTER: The confession doesn’t have to say that.

RAYBURN: Alright. Explicit mention is made in that first charge, of 1 Peter 3:21 that baptism saves. I’d like to, I’d like to inquire a little bit more about your dismissing of that text as saying what it might at first blush seem to say that baptism saves. The charge reads that it’s not baptism that saves. It’s what baptism signifies that saves. In 1 Timothy 4:16, the Apostle Paul says to Timothy: watch your life and doctrine closely because by them you will save both yourself and your hearers. sozo. Same verb. Does the Apostle Paul mean in 1 Timothy 4:16 that, in fact, Timothy will save himself and his hearers not Christ?

KEISTER: I’m really not prepared to do exegesis from the hip. I would – –

RAYBURN: Well, it’s a standard statement in the Bible and it says: You will save yourself and your hearers. Baptism saves. You will save yourself and your hearers by your life and your doctrine.

KEISTER: Well, let me try to get at the point by saying that Peter in three, in chapter three, goes on to contextualize what he means. That it is not by the washing. [OUT OF RANGE] Using the English Standard Version. Goes on to say: Baptism which corresponds to this now saves you not as removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, if you’ve read the testimony, you’ll know that I don’t intend to separate the sign from the things signified except that they can be temporally displaced as it says.

RAYBURN: So, baptism does save?

KEISTER: If you consider baptism as the whole sacrament and not just the sign or at the time point of the sign, then that sign plus things signified and the sacramental union is the whole picture.

RAYBURN: So in 1 Timothy 4:16 when the Apostle Paul says: Watch your life and doctrine closely or by them you will save both yourself and your hearers. Or when the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he’s all things to all man. That he might save some. Or when James says, if you will recover the sinner, you will save his soul. Or when in Proverbs we read that a parent who faithfully disciplines his child saves his soul from death. In all of these statements there is in fact a sense that some particular thing is instrumental in the totality of salvation. Do you think that’s a fair conclusion from all of those statements, those uses of the word save?

KEISTER: Again I wouldn’t be willing to make a comment like that without – –

RAYBURN: Okay. Would you be willing, Lane, to admit that there are many Presbyterians from the past and many ministers in the PCA today who would say of baptism that in this sacrament “God gives us the grace that he promises in his Word.” That in the sacrament of baptism, “there is a convergence, a meeting of Word and Spirit and Sign and the result [of that convergence] is baptism.” And that through his grace and the word of God, “the Spirit [somehow] connects this washing with water to a real inward cleansing and regeneration”. Would you accept that there are others who hold that view?

KEISTER: The research that I’ve done suggests that the connection and the efficacy lies in the spirit which gives faith. That connects the sign and the things signified. And the efficacy lies in the spirit- given faith. They don’t separate them but they don’t confuse them either. That’s in general what I’ve seen. And they don’t usually say – –

RAYBURN: So you wouldn’t define the sacrament in quite that way?

KEISTER: I would agree with that. What I just said in terms of there is the sign, the things signified, the spiritual union, the efficacy of baptism is in the spirit-given faith.

RAYBURN: But in speaking of baptism, as the Scripture does, to say that in the sacrament, somehow, the Holy Spirit connects this washing with water with real inward cleansing and regeneration.

KEISTER: I would be a little uncomfortable with that way of putting it.

STELLMAN: I object to this, Mr. Moderator. I don’t see the relevance in these unnamed other people out there, who may describe baptism in such and such a way. I don’t understand why my witness is being asked to comment on a formulation by some unnamed source. The issue here is what the confession says and what Dr. Leithart says. Not whether my witness thinks that some formulation of baptism that Dr. Rayburn is putting forth from some unnamed source or sources; whether he agrees with that or not. I don’t see the point.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Do you want to respond?

RAYBURN: Yeah. The point is that the description of baptism I just gave I quoted from Dr. Michael Horton’s paper on baptism. The other witness brought by the prosecution. We’ll move on. I want to go a little bit to the question of your objectivity, Mr. Kiester, and your, and maybe perhaps the perception of some bias. A year into your ministry, you published on your blog a review of Michael Williams’ book, Far as The curse is Found. Did you not?

KEISTER: I think it was more recent than a year ____ – –

RAYBURN: Okay. Perhaps. That’s fine. It’s irrelevant. Irrelevant. And in that review you accused Michael Williams of some of the same things concerning which Dr. Leithart has been accused in the indictment. But in the response to that review Sean Lucas who is one of the writers of the General Assembly Report on Federal Vision, took you to task with regard to your views of Michael Williams’ book and his argument. I’d like you to read if you would please for the record a highlighted portions of those two pages.

STELLMAN: Mr. Moderator, I would want to object and ask what the relevance is here of what my witness may have written on his blog however many years ago concerning somebody else. And what some other third person said about that. How is this pertinent to whether or not Dr. Leithart’s view of baptism is confessional?

MODERATOR O’BAN: Did I understand the defense correctly? You want to go to bias?

RAYBURN: Go to bias and competence frankly.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Okay. Proceed. Overruled.

KEISTER: Before I read this, I would like to say, I am not an objective witness. I am a witness for the prosecution. So, yes, I disagree with Sean Lucas in his interpretation. And this is what he said: I was quite surprised that you have read him this way. First when Mike says that the covenant of creation continues he is saying the same thing as traditional reformed theology. The covenant, the COF, I assume that means confession of faith, doesn’t define covenant beyond the language of condescension. To rule other definitions out of bounds is to create and extra confession to which others must subscribe. I don’t believe that the confession of faith requires one to believe in Adamic merit. Fourth, the charge that really surprised me was that Mike confuses law and gospel. Mike used to get on me for my supposed Lutheran preference for the first use of the law. I’ve always heard Mike talking in terms of traditional Calvinian third use of the law. To read him as though he was talking about covenantal nomism[M1] strikes me as worrisome. If we aren’t careful in the way we stress the continuing need for believers’ obedience we can slide into antinomianism. I’ve never read Mike as suggesting that our obedience will play a role in our final justification. You’ve read Mike more suspiciously than he deserves. Taking into context the traditional reformed theology, Mike’s book holds up quite well. If we aren’t careful in the way we talk about some of these things than well revered teachers of the reformed faith, I’m thinking here John Murray, Wilson Benton, David McWilliams, Dave Gaffin , would suddenly be outside the pale.

RAYBURN(?): Mr. Moderator, my questions are, in a similar vein in the interest of time I’ve tried to frame them succinctly, yes and no format. So – – First, Mr. Kiester, I assume you consider yourself to be an expert witness in theology. Is that correct?

KEISTER: That would not be for me to judge.

RAYBURN: Would the court determine for the defense whether he’s presented as a material witness or an expert witness or is there another category?

MODERATOR O’BAN: Well, let me ask the prosecutor, why, what’s the nature of this witness’ testimony if it’s not expert testimony?

STELLMAN: Well, he has read every single theological piece of literature or writing that Leithart has written. He’s read every single book, every single journal article, every single theological book I should say, every journal article. He probably has read as much of Dr. Leithart’s work as anyone else except perhaps Dr. Leithart himself. And so why his competence is called into question here is an answer I would like to hear.

MODERATOR O’BAN: No, I think the question more narrowly framed is in what capacity is this witness being called. He didn’t overhear a statement made by Dr. Leithart that no one else would know but for this witness and in that sense he would be a fact witness. It seems to me you’re calling him because he is conversant on Dr. Leithart’s theology through his writings


MODERATOR O’BAN: And you’re asking him not just simply to regurgitate those writings, but in fact to render and opinion on the nature of those writings vis-à-vis the standards. Correct?

STELLMAN: Correct.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Well, that, that is, I’ll just simply rule, is the capacity of an expert witness. So the question is, is he an expert witness that, it just simply may be that your witness doesn’t, didn’t understand maybe that fine distinction. So you’re calling him here as an expert witness, correct?

STELLMAN: Insofar as I understood what you just said. Yes.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Okay. So then – –

DEFENSE: I can reframe my question.


RAYBURN: It’s the defense’s understanding that you’re well read on Dr. Leithart’ s writings. In addition to that, do you consider yourself to be an expert in theology? In theological issues, however phrase you wish to put that.

STELLMAN: Well, I would object – – What to we mean, what do we mean expert? How do we define expert? Dr. Kiester is a master of divinity.

KEISTER: I’m not a doctor.

RAYBURN: I am willing to let the witness define the term. Mr. Kiester.

MODERATOR O’BAN: An expert can be qualified through training, education or experience.

STELLMAN: Sure, but the person, a person is much less likely to call himself an expert on something as other people who have evaluated him are.

RAYBURN: I can rephrase the question. Mr. Kiester do you believe the prosecutor considers you to be an expert witness in theology?


RAYBURN: Okay. I also assume you consider yourself to be an unbiased witness in this proceeding. Is that correct?


RAYBURN: So you’re – –

KEISTER: I’m a witness for the prosecution. I’m not an unbiased witness. I have my point of view just like anybody else does.

RAYBURN: Okay. Your undergrad degree was in music. Is that correct?

KEISTER: Piano performance. Yes.

RAYBURN: I’m sorry?

KEISTER: Yes. Piano performance.

RAYBURN: You were ordained in 2004. Is that right?

KEISTER: I think my ordination date was 2005.

RAYBURN: Okay. So you’ve been in the ministry for less than 7 years. Is that right?

KEISTER: Correct.

RAYBURN: Have you had any formal seminary study of theology or biblical studies outside of your M.Div.?


RAYBURN: Have you ever been on a commission of the General Assembly, a commission or any of its study committees?


RAYBURN: You’re the Pastor of two different congregations. Is that correct?

KEISTER: Correct.

RAYBURN: And where are they?

KEISTER: They’re in rural North Dakota.

RAYBURN: These are RCA and CRC churches. Is that right?

KEISTER: Correct.

RAYBURN: Would you hold that these denominations are at least in their confessions reformed churches?

KEISTER: They are slipping confessionally. The particular churches I serve are considerably more conservative than their respective denominations.

RAYBURN: Okay. Is it correct that the RCA subscribes to Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Catechism[M3] , Canons of Dort, and the confession of Belhar

KEISTER: The first three, yes. I think they’re still talking about the Belhar. They may have confirmed that but I can’t remember for sure.

RAYBURN: In any of those do we read of the phrase, covenant of works?

KEISTER: I don’t believe that phrase occurs in those. No.

RAYBURN: In any of those, do we read the phrase, imputation of active obedience?

STELLMAN: I object, I don’t, Dr. Kiester’s – –

KEISTER: I’m not a doctor.

STELLMAN: Sorry. I keep calling everybody “doctor” today and – – So, Dr. O’Ban – –

MODERATOR O’BAN: Good, I like that. Keep going.


STELLMAN: Pastor Kiester, he’s credentialed in Siouxland’s Presbytery of the PCA. And so I failed to see whether or not the churches that he serves out of bounds with permission of that presbytery, confess the, subscribe to confessions or catechisms that have particular phrases in them. I don’t understand why my witness is being, attempted to be discredited.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Do you want to respond?

STELLMAN: And forgive me if I’m misconstruing what’s going on.

DEFENSE COUNSEL DONAHOE: The intent of my question goes to bias, competence and credibility.

MODERATOR O’BAN: You understand where the defense is going with these questions?

STELLMAN: I do. How long must it continue?

DONAHOE: Probably for 15 minutes.

MODERATOR O’BAN: About 15 minutes, it sounds like.

DONAHOE: It’s also worth saying, Moderator, that in his final paragraph, Mr. Kiester recommends that we send Dr. Leithart to some other church. We certainly have a right to explore the other churches with which he is related.

MODERATOR O’BAN: I’m going to allow the testimony.


MODERATOR O’BAN: Or the questions I should say.

DONAHOE: I assume the prosecution reimbursed you for all your travel expenses related to your testimony. Is that correct?

KEISTER: Relevance?

MODERATOR O’BAN: Please answer, please answer the question.


DONAHOE: I assume that.


DONAHOE: Okay. Have either you, or have you or either of your churches contributed money to the prosecution’s fund?


DONAHOE: Is it correct that three months ago, on March 11, you posted on your blog a plea for funds for the prosecution fund in this case?

KEISTER: I posted a link to Jason’s plea for funds. He asked me to.

DONAHOE: Can I read this into the record? March 11, you wrote this on your blog, Jason, it’s not just a link. Jason Stellman is asking for funds to help fly in key witnesses for the trial of Peter Leithart. If you or your church is able willing to do this, it would be a great boon so that the trial can be done correctly. Do you recall writing that and do you agree it’s more than a link?

KEISTER: Something like that. Yes.

DONAHOE: Okay. On your blog, between, in 2007, between June and October, did you write 15 articles critical of Dr. Leithart’s views? 07 June to October.

KEISTER: That sounds about right.

DONAHOE: On your blog three years later in 2010, between January and February, did you write 7 separate articles criticizing Dr. Rayburn’s supplemental brief in the SJC case, Bordwine vs. Pacific Northwest?

KEISTER: That sounds about right.

DONAHOE: Okay. Have you ever met Dr. Leithart or Dr. Rayburn before today?


DONAHOE: Have you ever asked in correspondence with these men if, for instance, you were reading them correctly or charitably?


DONAHOE: In 2006 on your blog, in an article titled, Why is the Federal Vision Heresy? Did you write, “Federal Vision is heretical and utterly to be abhorred[.”]?

KEISTER: I don’t have it before me. I progressed in my understanding and how I was going to describe Federal Vision theology from my initial, that was an earlier post, from my initial to point in engaging the discussion after the debates. I was really only more comfortable in talking about whether it was confessional or not. The word heresy is like an “h” bomb. You know. And people get distracted when that word gets thrown around. So, I stopped using that word after a while because it just got, it got in the way.

DONAHOE: So do you believe that Dr. Leithart is a heretic?

KEISTER: I believe that that is not the issue that we’re dealing with and so I would not comment on that question. I would say that he’s not confessional.

DONAHOE: Ok. Are you aware of the 2006 Missouri Presbytery report on Federal Vision which takes a rather different view than you do on these subjects? It’s defense exhibit 9.


DONAHOE: Okay. Are you aware of the 2010 Missouri Presbytery material with respect to accusations brought against Teaching Elder Jeffrey Meyers? Defense exhibit 10.

KEISTER: Yes, I am aware of it.

DONAHOE: Were you one of the signers of the initial letter to Missouri Presbytery that called into question the credentials of T.E. Meyers?

KEISTER: I think calling the credentials into question is a little bit pejorative.

DONAHOE: Okay. I’ll strike that.

KEISTER: I was a signer, I was a signer of a letter of concern.

DONAHOE: Okay. Did you receive a later letter, I’m sorry. Did you receive a letter later from Missouri Presbytery warning of the violation of the 9th commandment and the accusations taken regarding that letter and its publicity?

KEISTER: Yes, I was given a letter that did not contact me about any possible 9th commandment violations and it did not contact me ahead of time seeing if they had read me charitably or not. Yes.

DONAHOE: Would you agree that the 2006 and 2010 Missouri Presbytery reports take a divergent view from the things you have presented and the stands you have taken in your blogging?

KEISTER: As the Missouri Presbytery report has been interpreted recently in the Meyers case by, for instance, the Study Committee report, I would say yes. At the time when I first saw the Missouri Presbytery report, I wasn’t sure. There was, there were ambiguities in it that I didn’t know what they meant by it, how they wanted to go with it, it was a little bit murky I felt. But certainly, that presbytery has taken a divergent view from mine now on these matters.

DONAHOE: Are you aware that members of the Missouri Presbytery committee for those reports included men such as Drs. David Calhoun, John Collins, Robert Peterson, Steven Esta, Sean Lucas, Michael Williams, Bryan Chapell, Will Barker and Wilson Benton?

KEISTER: Which committee are you referring to now?

DONAHOE: That would have been the study committee, I believe.

KEISTER: The original study committee? I knew some of those names were on it. Yes.

DONAHOE: So, you’re in your early thirties. Is that correct?

KEISTER: Correct.

DONAHOE: Does it give you any pause that such men as these, older and wiser, with better theological training, far more years of experience and service in the PCA, eminently qualified in the biblical and theological questions have come to such different conclusions that you have on this relevant material?

KEISTER: Well, on the one hand it always gives me pause when I see a divergent interpretation from mine. On the other hand, many men just as qualified, just as theologically astute have taken a different tack. So, there isn’t just, you know – – It’s not as simple as saying, well this group of men says this and so why shouldn’t you have listened to them and heard that. I have tried to read them as accurately as I possibly can. But there are other reformed voices that say very differently from that. And I have chosen to trust their judgment and their scholarship which is every bit as compelling in terms of years of scholarship, years of work as the men you’re talking about.

DONAHOE: Can you give me a couple names, of PCA men, for example.

KEISTER: Ligon Duncan, Joey Pipa, Rick Phillips.

DONAHOE: And my question is. Do you have any idea why none of those names were called to sit in that stand and testify at this trial?

KEISTER: I wouldn’t speculate.

DONAHOE: Okay. Would it be accurate to say that your blog index lists 350 posts under the topic of Federal Vision, and another 56 on the so called New Perspective on Paul. Is that sound right?

KEISTER: It’s about right.

DONAHOE: Would it be accurate to say you have more Federal Vision posts than all the posts on the New Testament combined. In fact, would it be accurate to say that you have at least 100 more Federal Vision posts than you have New Testament posts on your index?

KEISTER: It’s a possibility. I haven’t published all my sermons on there.

DONAHOE: I’m just talking about the posts.

KEISTER: I don’t remember what the exact number is.

STELLMAN: Excuse me, objection. Often a post can be labeled under more than one tag. And so a post can be labeled New Testament and Federal Vision.

MODERATOR O’BAN: You’ll have an opportunity for re-direct – want to bring that out.

DEFENSE: Would it be accurate to say your blog site has received over 2 million hits.


DONAHOE: Would you say that these Federal Vision and New Perspective posts tend to be the ones that bring the most traffic to your blog?

KEISTER: Over the course of the history of the blog, they have certainly, especially the debates with Douglas Wilson, those garner the most hits, for sure. There are other issues that I’ve been bringing up such as the doctrine of scripture which have been bringing in a lot of hits too. But it’s, it’s not something I keep really close track on either.

DONAHOE: Do you receive any benefits say from book stores for traffic on your blog?

KEISTER: Yes. Well, only for clicks for the Westminster book store.

DONAHOE: Is it correct that you – – well, if people buy books through your links, do you get bonuses say from the Westminster bookstore for books?

KEISTER: The deal is, I believe, for every 10 clicks on my blog there is a, I think, it’s a $2, a $2 gift certificate. I get it at the end of the month.

DONAHOE: Sometimes you seem to have postings from others on your blog, for example a T.E. Carpenter and T.E. White. Is that correct?

KEISTER: They’ve commented yes.

DONAHOE: Are these two men, are these the two men who are currently either facing trial or possible indictment for allegedly disregarding the reputations of others in their blogging?

KEISTER: T.E. Carpenter is under judicial process. T.E. White is not under any judicial process currently.

DONAHOE: Do either of the or does the one gentlemen blog in question occur in any form on your own blog? The gentleman who is under indictment. Do any of the blog posts for which he’s accused appear on your blog?

KEISTER: I honestly don’t remember.


KEISTER: He’s not a poster on my blog. There might be – – It might possibly be a comment. But its – – I get comments from atheists, agnostics, Roman Catholics all over the map. I don’t generally delete a comment unless I find that it is rhetorically over the top. And I’ve deleted plenty of comments from people I’m sympathetic with on the nature of other people in the Presbytery or things like that. It’s not an easy thing to do. I have help in moderating the blog because there’s simply too many comments. Sometimes there’s as many as 100 or 200 in a single day. And I need help moderating that. So, I’m not the only one moderating the blog.

DONAHOE: In the few years that you have been in the ministry, you’ve been supportive of indictments against at least 2 ministers in your own Presbytery. Is that correct? Supportive of indictments of against at least 2 ministers in your own Presbytery.

KEISTER: Indictment is also not the word I would choose. I have supported the investigation into two members of the Presbytery.

DONAHOE: Were you yourself officially investigated this past year on whether or not your own view of baptism was within the Westminster standards?

KEISTER: At my own request. Yes.

DONAHOE: What was the result of that investigation?

KEISTER: Complete exoneration.

DONAHOE: Was the phrase complete exoneration the language adopted by the Presbytery?


DONAHOE: What language was adopted by the Presbytery?

KEISTER: I don’t remember the exact wording. But it was to the effect that we do not find T.E. Kiester’s views to be out of accord with the standards or something like that.

DONAHOE: Would it be correct to say that the committee made the following motion. The committee asked Presbytery to declare that there is no reason to think 1) The teaching elder Kiester is teaching contrary to the standards in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and 2) that Presbytery adopt the committee’s reasoning as grounds for this decision. Do you recall that being the exact motion from the committee?

KEISTER: It’s probably pretty close to that but I wouldn’t vouch for the exact wording.

DONAHOE: And do you recall that the Presbytery did not adopt that motion but instead adopted a motion that simply said at the present time we find no strong presumption of guilt.

KEISTER: That is definitely reading into the Presbytery’s reasoning. The reason why we did not adopt the reasoning of the study committee was because an adoption would have have the effect of creating extraconfessional standard.

DONAHOE: I’m not asking, I’m not asking, nor am I implying their reasoning. I’m saying in the minutes of the Presbytery, which I can give you to read if you want. The language that was adopted was: at the present time we find no strong presumption of guilt that teacher elder Kiester’s views are out of accord.

KEISTER: That could be. The whole thing arose because of a letter that Roger Dewberry sent to the Presbytery. Roger Dewberry is a minister in Britain. And he accused me of being hypocritical and not qualified to talk about the Federal Vision at all because my views were out of accord with confession. The presbytery did not want to examine me in general. They didn’t want to form a study committee at all. They thought it was ridiculous, most of them. That this – – They thought it was frivolous. Even people I strongly disagree with in the Presbytery thought it was frivolous. I insisted on it because it was a letter affecting my Christian character. I insisted on there being a study committee to look into my views because quite frankly hypocrisy is more than possible for someone like me. It’s very possible. And that my views would be out of accord with the confession is not anything I would want to take for granted. So I insisted on it, on a study committee being formed. And they did form it much against their will. And they found no strong presumption of guilt. To say at this time, and imply that that means that they were going to do more later. This was the end of it for the Presbytery. It’s quite plain.

DONAHOE: I’m simply asking. Was my reading an accurate quote of the action taken by Siouxlands Presbytery? And I have an excerpt of the minutes if – –

KEISTER: Well I can’t make a definitive pronouncement without seeing the minutes but it sounds about right.

DONAHOE: Okay. That’s all I have.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Okay. Any redirect?

STELLMAN: Rev. Kiester. Are you on trial here today?


STELLMAN: What is your opinion about your experience being dismissed and about your age being brought up and about you being the subject of a study committee that you requested to defend your own Christian character in your Presbytery. A study committee that was reluctantly agreed to by the other members of your Presbytery. What is your opinion especially given all of the work you have done to understand Dr. Leithart? What is your opinion of the fact that that all we seem to want to talk about here is that you have a BA in piano performance and you’re 32 years old and you didn’t get ordained until 2004.

KEISTER: They’re complete red herrings. This is – – The truth is not determined by age. It’s not determined by one’s degree. It’s not determined by any of those things. It’s determined by its correspondence. And yes, everyone has a point of view. As I have already admitted, I am a biased witness. I am a witness for the prosecution. I believe that Leithart, while I have benefitted greatly from his work, I do not believe he’s in accordance with the standards. I benefit from many people whose works are not in accordance with the standards. But my age, I am ordained as a teaching elder in the PCA and that accords the same privileges, rights as any other teaching elder even though I acknowledge that I am not as learned as many other people. That’s a given. There’s always somebody else who has better knowledge of something, who has more experience, who has more general credibility than somebody else.

STELLMAN: Do any of these – –

KEISTER: That does not determine truth. It’s not determined by the number of noses that’s a logical fallacy. It’s not determined by age. Paul said to Timothy, Let no one despise you for your age. It’s not determined by any of those things.

STELLMAN: Do any of those people that you mentioned to have perhaps more experience, and more age, and more theological training than you do. Any of them object to Dr. Leithart’s views for the exact same reasons you do?


STELLMAN: In your opinion, why did the defense just subject you to what I consider to be cheap and reprehensible attack on your own character? Why in your opinion would they raise that red herring?

DONAHOE: I have an objection. I would like the court to rule whether or not questioning on bias, credibility, and competency are valid questions on cross-examination.

MODERATOR O’BAN: I think the question probably goes more, counsel, to a lack of foundation for this witness to testify as to the motives for the defense and asking the questions they were asked other than those stated to go to bias, competency, and so forth. So, I am going to sustain the objection.

STELLMAN: In your opinion, what relevance does your own age and duration of pastoral ministry, what relevance does that have to the testimony that you have entered into the record on this day?

KEISTER: It’s irrelevant.

STELLMAN: Are any of these things less true because you’re 32 years old?


STELLMAN: Are any of them less true because you got a B.A. in piano performance?


STELLMAN: Are they less true because you were ordained in 2005?


STELLMAN: What if you had been ordained in 1995 or 1985, would the things you have entered into the record as testimony be more true then?

KEISTER: Not more true. No.

STELLMAN: What if your B.A had been in philosophy?

KEISTER: Irrelevant. Let me, might I answer a little bit further on this question.

STELLMAN: You may.

KEISTER: I received direct, direct confirmation of my experience and knowledge from the men that I have mentioned: Lincoln Duncan, Rick Phyllis, Joe Pypa. Those men for instance and more like them have directly affirmed to me in either speech or anything else that I am qualified to talk about the Federal Vision and or witness concerning it. Men with just as much experience as the men on the covenant faculty – –

DONAHOE: Objection

MODERATOR O’BAN: I’ll allow it. Go ahead and finish your statement.

KEISTER: This is my testimony, not second hand knowledge. I’m done with my testimony. Would that – –

MODERATOR O’BAN: You shouldn’t have been interrupted. Do you want to finish anything further.


MODERATOR O’BAN:Is your thought completed?

KEISTER: That thought was completed.

MODERATOR O’BAN: Alright. Any other questions for the witness?


The Substance of the Leithart Trial: Highlights from Leithart’s Testimony

I would like to provide here a few quotes from the Peter Leithart trial. You can read them all in context here. Here is a portion of the testimony

  1. “As the baptized person passes through the waters he or she is joined into the fellowship of Christ, shares in his body, shares in the spirit that inhabits and animates the body and participates in the resurrection power of Jesus.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 186).
  2. “Through baptism we enter into the new life of the spirit, receive a grant of divine power and are incorporated into Christ’s body and die and rise again with Christ. In the purification of baptism we are cleansed of our former sins and begin to participate in the divine nature and the power of Jesus resurrection.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 186).
  3. “The baptized in the new covenant enters into, is initiated into a community that is the body of the incarnate and ascended son that has received the spirit. And being a member of that particular community, I’m arguing, is – – is never a simply an external matter because of the nature of the community.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 187).
  4. “Baptism into membership in the community of Christ therefore also confers the arrabon of the spirit and in this sense too it a regenerating ordinance. There can be no merely social membership in this family.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 188).
  5. PROSECUTION [Stellman]: “Well, my – – my question is. I’m asking you is this your view namely that the – – the arrabon of the Holy Spirit, the down payment of future glory is given to all members of the visible church merely by being baptized and can be lost by those members of the visible church who later apostasize.
    WITNESS [Leithart]: Yeah, I – – I would say yes.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 190).
  6. “What would Adam have to do in order to inherit the tree of knowledge, which is I think the sign of – – of the glory that he was going to be given. He would have to trust God. And he would have to obey him. How do we receive eternal life? We trust Jesus and out of that trust we obey him. That’s the point I’m making about the continuity.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 194).
  7. “Yes we do have the same obligations that Adam and Abraham and Moses and David and Jesus had namely the obedience of faith. And yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ so that our covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the spirit of Christ in us and our covenant faithfulness is about faith trusting the spirit to – – to will and to do of his good pleasure.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 195).
  8. Q [Stellman]: But, okay. Let me ask this then. Are we, do we receive the eschatological inheritance by virtue of our perfect, personal and perpetual obedience?
    A [Leithart]: Obedience that’s coming out of faith? Yes.
    Q: So what the Confession says of Adam that he was to receive life, that life was promised to him upon condition of per- – perfect – – let me finish – –
    A: Yeah. I’m sorry. Yeah, I’m sorry. I – I need to change my answer. I didn’t – – I didn’t follow the whole question before. Perfect personal obedience? No. I didn’t – – I misstated. Are we, are we, do we receive the inheritance by a faith that produces obedience that’s what I would affirm.
    Q: I fail to see then how I am the one importing this extra-confessional, meritorious, or I forget the exact word that you used, legal structure upon what the Confession says about the covenant of works versus the covenant of grace. Because I just asked you, if that’s the case then, must we walk in, do we receive the inheritance based upon our perfect, perpetual and personal obedience the way the Confession says that Adam would have. And now you’re saying, the answer is no.
    A: Correct. The perfect, personal and perpetual obedience is not what is required of us because Christ has done that for us, we trust in him. But do we trust and obey? Again in that level, at that level of generality, Adam’s calling and our calling are the same.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 198).
  9. “COMMISSIONER: Dr. Leithart, [Acts] 2:38. Repent to be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In your judgment, does baptism confer the forgiveness of sins?
    WITNESS [Leithart]: That’s what the text says. Yeah.
    Q: What does that mean when, when you – – when you say that and by that you mean water baptism confers the forgiveness of sins. What do you mean by that?
    A: Right. Again, as was pointed out yesterday, water baptism is one part of, it’s – – it’s the visible portion of an event that involves God’s action. It is God’s action. And I would also point out that I’m, I can – – I can find exceptions, where I would say, you know, did some of these sins actually get forgiven if you have a, somebody who’s a settled hypocrite. If the paradigm is the, an infant of believing parents and they are baptized. Can I say to that infant as he grows, Jesus loves you, you are righteous before him, your sins are forgiven? And he says. How do I know? Can I point him to his baptism as a sign that that’s happened? I think I can, yes. And I think baptism, again, I’m explaining all this, the – – the – – the power of all this, I think, is the – – the reality of baptism as a entry into the visible church, the body of Christ.
    Q: Do you speak of, in your writings, temporary – – temporary forgiveness of sins?
    A: Yes.
    Q: What do you, what do you mean by that?
    A: Right. There, there I have in mind, for example, the parable in Matthew 18 where the dead is forgiven and then the dead is reimposed on somebody who’s been forgiven. Jesus ends that parable by saying, so shall my Father do to you all of those of you who don’t forgive your brothers from the heart. So, there’s a statement in Matthew 18 of forgiveness that’s given and then withdrawn.
    Q: Does baptism confer justification and, if so, what do you mean by that?
    A: Yeah. In the same sense again that I’ve been talking all of these benefits of baptism, I’m arguing, are benefits of being in the body of Christ, being members of the visible church. The visible church is the, and – – and again I’m thinking in terms of our standard experience of baptism which is an infant who is in- -infant of believing parents and a faithful church. Are they right before God? Is baptism a sign of that? Is baptism, in fact, a declaration of that? That God is saying to that child when he is baptized. You are my child and I accept you as right in my sight. That’s – – that’s what I would, that’s what I mean by that.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 223).
  10. “If you looked at the whole story line of a reprobate person who has temporary faith and then makes shipwreck of faith as Paul talks about as opposed to an elect person who let’s say is converted later in life. Is the – – is the quality of faith different? Yes. It’s not just a matter, it is a matter of duration. That’s true. The temporary faith doesn’t endure to the end, it’s not persevering. But it’s not just that. Again, the analogy that I used yesterday is an analogy having to do with marriage (inaudible) the temporary faith is like a, the relationship of two spouses who are heading for divorce. And their marriage is, doesn’t just differ from a healthy marriage in duration, it differs in all kinds of ways.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 231).
  11. COMMISSIONER: Follow up. Can I ask, continue to ask questions? Regarding your role with the presbytery that you mentioned earlier, does the credentials committee, does everyone on the credentials committee share your view of the sacraments?
    WITNESS [Leithart]: No.
    Q: Does your role as an examiner in a category that you mentioned earlier, is that, does that, does the committee approve of your determination or does it make its own independent determination of the – – of the candidate’s baptismal or other sacramental views?
    A: The committee has always trusted my evaluation of exams and sacraments.
    Q: Where did that test come from?
    A: I made it up.” – Leithart Trial Transcript (pp. 260-261).
  12. “Q [Commissioner]: Do you believe that the people who are concerned about your views, some of them very vocal, are so disrupting the peace of the church that court should encourage them to find another fellowship where they can be more irenic.
    A [Leithart]: Yeah – – I wouldn’t comment on the last part of that. I do believe, though, that there are certainly critics of mine and of other people that I’m associated with within the PCA that I think are disrupting the peace of the church.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 237).
  13. “Q: And so, in that respect, can we say that Christ, not only did but it was necessary for him to, as a human, merit the favor of God by, from birth to death, obeying him perfectly.
    A: If merit is just a stand in for learning obedience and being perfected. Yes.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 244).
  14. Q [Commissioner]: Okay. Let me see what else I have for you here. Your use of union, referring to the elect only in the Confession, you acknowledged that earlier.
    A [Leithart]: I did.
    Q: And, but we’ve established that you use that with relation to those who are not elect.
    A: Correct.
    Q: Do you believe that that should be noted as an, as a, as an exception to the Confession or – – or not?
    A: I wouldn’t think so. I don’t think that by agreeing to the Confession, we’re saying that these are the only uses of these particular terms that we will ever use.” – Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 244).
  15. Q: Is there any, is there any unique characteristic of the Holy Spirit’s union with the elect that is not shared by the baptized reprobate?
    A: There certainly would be and one of them obviously would be duration. I guess, just as an example, a biblical example that I’ve used, when – – when Saul’s conversion is described, when Saul’s reception of the Holy Spirit is described. The Spirit comes on him and the Scriptures say that he became a new man because the Spirit came upon him. And then the Spirit departed from him. So there’s, that’s an example I think of a very strong statement about the Spirit’s work in a man’s life. But the Spirit doesn’t persist with that, because – – because Saul resists the spirit, quenches the Spirit, grieves the Spirit and the Spirit departs. That’s the, that’s the story of Saul and I think that, that seems to me to be similar to what’s going on in – – in Hebrew 6. I think I’ve lost track of your specific question.
    Q: No, I think you’re fine. Let me finish a couple (inaudible) – –
    A: Yeah, so I – – I would say duration obviously is one thing. Somebody could be participating in the Spirit as Hebrew 6 says, tasting the Spirit and then fall away. The Spirit departs from them. I would use the same kind of description that I’ve used about temporary faith that the relation between the Spirit and the reprobate person is one of resistance, maybe not, probably not all the time but resistance and quenching and grieving the Spirit that impenitent sin, unrepentant sin that eventually leads to the Spirit to abandon him – – (inaudible)
    Q: So is that, is that essentially like a dysfunctional marriage in your analogy?
    A: Right, that’s – – that’s the, and I’d use that analogy again.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (pp. 240-241).
  16. “Q [Commissioner]: Let me go on to some – – some more about your views. Thank you for – – for indulging that. As I understood you yesterday, you articulated that definitive san- – , and correct me if I’m wrong, definitive sanctification and justification are one act or essentially one act. Is that your understanding?
    A [Leithart]: That’s right.
    Q: Does that mean that they’re two parts of one act but distinct? Or that we should understand definitive sanctification as a result of justification, the justification act or? Please unpack that. I mean, are they parallel but simultaneous?
    A: Yeah, I would be happy with saying that they are two dimensions of a single act. And again, my main text on this is Romans 6:7. And I’m, as I pointed out yesterday, I’m – – I’m reading that in the context of various passages particularly from the Psalms – – Psalms and prophets that talk about justification as or judgment, favorable judgment as a delivering act.
    Q: So are you – –
    A: But, but I would say that there’s both. I – – I – – I would be happy with saying that there’s a single act in – – Romans 6:7 (inaudible) Paul is talking about a single act that is a judicial act, a forensic act. Something I’ve emphasized in all my writing on this that is, has this other dimension of delivering us from sin.
    Q: So you’re comfortable testifying that they are not identical in every respect and even though they are part of one act, they’re different dimensions?
    A: Yeah. I think that, again, I think that Romans 6:7 to my mind is – – is Paul using the word justify to describe deliverance from sin.”
    Q: Okay.
    A: So, I think it is a single act. But, again, if – – if you wanted to parse it out as two dimensions of a single act, I’d be happy with that.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (pp. 237-238).

Peter Leithart’s 10+ Years of Work on the PNW Candidates & Credentials Committee

How is it that a Presbytery of the PCA could exonerate a man in the face of the General Assembly’s Federal Vision Report, which specifically condemned the teaching of this very man? Perhaps one of the reasons is that for thirteen years, Peter Leithart has been on the Pacific Northwest Presbytery Candidates and Credentials Committee. Peter Leithart has been “specifically charged with examining incoming candidates regarding sacraments.” Here is Dr. Leithart’s testimony on the matter:

COMMISSIONER: Peter, beginning, thank you for being part of this. And I want to express for the record, thanks for – – to your wife as well who is here present with us. The – – In the cross examination yesterday, the prosecution spoke of your relationship to the PCA and this presbytery and distinction from your involvement in another denomination. You’re obviously serving out of bounds. I would like to ask a couple questions about your relationship with us. You’ve been serving in this presbytery, I know it’s part of the record but I don’t recollect, for how long now?
WITNESS [Leithart]: Since 1998.
Q: Since 1998. You’ve been involved heavily in the examination of incoming transfers and presbyters and men coming under care extensively, haven’t you?
A: I have. Yes.
Q: And has that had a meaningful form of impact, do you think, on the presbytery?
A: I think it’s been beneficial to the presbytery. I should say just for the record and for those who don’t know, I’m on the examination credentials committee and that I’m specifically charged with examining incoming candidates regarding sacraments.
Q: And so you are, so that’s been formative to a number of men on their way through right?
A: I think it’s been helpful to a number of men coming into the presbytery who during the course of the examination realize that they have gaps in their training and knowledge that the – – the exam exposes. One of the questions asks concerning the reformed liturgical tradition and ask them to answer question partly in terms of that. And there’ve been a number of candidates who knew nothing, virtually nothing about that and this forced them to do some studies. So, yes I think it’s been (inaudible)” –Leithart Trial Transcript (pp. 235-236).

The Leithart Trial: Dr. Jack Collins’ Defense of Peter Leithart’s View of the Covenant with Adam

The trial documents from the Peter Leithart trial are now available here.

Jason Stellman has begun to post some of the testimony from the trial here. I also want to post some of the testimony of the trial so we can discuss it here. I want to begin with discussing Dr. Jack Collins’ (professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary) testimony in regard to the covenant of works. Dr. Collins said that he found himself basically in agreement with Leithart on the covenant of works:

Leithart Defense: In your view, does Dr. Leithart’s view expressed as – – as expressed in the indictment contradict the teaching of Genesis 2 regarding the covenant God made with man in Eden and that – – that comes with, in a sense, a set of now predicable questions. Was there grace in that covenant? Was the fruit of the tree of life, often said to be the sacrament of that covenant, to be eaten by man in his innocence? Michael Horton, for example, has argued that Adam had to earn his right to the tree of life by his obedience. Comment in your – – on your understanding of the covenant made with Adam in the garden.

Collins: Well, I – – I find myself largely in – – in agreement with Dr. Leithart’s 8 discussion of God’s arrangement with Adam . . .

Since this seemed to be problematic, Jason Stellman asked him about this. I think he did a good job of getting at the heart of the issue, if perhaps relenting too early:

Stellman: Okay. I’m going to move on to the next issue brought up in direct concerning the covenant of works. And you’ve written, I’ve not read your books. Thank you for the plug. I – I – I will add it to my list of, my growing list of books I’d like to read, especially the one on the first four chapters of Genesis. Do you think that the prefall covenant, and I’m not going to use covenant of works, call it a covenant of life, or whatever. But the – – the covenant before the fall made with Adam, was it conditional and based upon Adam’s 14 obedience in a way that the covenant of grace is not? And – – and I’m – – here’s what I’m not asking ’cause – ‘cause – ‘cause when I ask this kind of question, usually the answer is 16 something like this. Well, there’s – – there’s grace before the fall, you know at least broadly defined, and there’s the nece- – necessity for obedience after the fall and those two things characterize all covenants. But – – but I’m not, that’s not what I’m asking. Because I’m going to concede that grace broadly defined was there before the fall and that obedience of the law of Christ is necessary after it. But my question is more narrow. Does the prefall covenant demand as a condition obedience on Adam’s part in a way that the covenant of grace doesn’t on our part?

Collins: Well, you have to be careful in your definition of the covenant of grace. I think the catechism thinks of the covenant of grace as having been made with Jesus as the head. And so there, I mean, there’s a parallel between Adam and Jesus. And so you want – – you want to be very, very careful in – – in your definitions there. And – – and again since 4 these terms covenant of works, covenant of life, whatever, and covenant of grace. These – – these are not terms that you find in the Bible. So that, you know, you – – so you have the – – the opportunity to, to exercise a level of arbitrariness in how you define these things. But the, the – – the reading that – – that I advocate of – – I’m not trying not to answer your question. I’m trying to understand your question, which – – which I’m not sure that I do. The reason the – – the reading that I advocate of God’s arrangement with Adam is that Adam is loaded with benefits, he’s – – he’s in a relationship with God and – – but but he’s not confirmed in that. And – – and the – – the job of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is by his obedience to God, Adam would be confirmed in the right kind of knowledge of good and evil. And so he was, he was seduced from the path of obedience and – – and in him all of us are rendered disobedient. The – – the situation with, with God’s dealings with – – with 15 mankind after that always involves the – – the aspect of redemption, a forgiveness of sins 16 and so forth, which – – which is not a part of the arrangement with Adam. So, I – I – help – – help me to know exactly what – – what it is you’re after?

Stellman: Okay, because there’s nothing that you said that I – – I disagree with. But what I’m asking is something more, more specific. Was Adam’s obedience what our Confession and catechisms call his perfect, perpetual, personal obedience. Did that 21 function as a condition to gaining whatever it we want to call the eschatological reward. 22 Did that obedience function as a condition to gaining that reward in such a way that after the fall our obedience does not function? Was there a condition attached to Adam’s obedience that no longer functions – –

Collins: Yes, there, I mean, there’s a condition attached to his obedience. And – – and so in not fulfilling the – – the condition, I mean, that’s a disaster.

Stellman: Yes. Is that the same arrangement that we’re under now after the fall covenantally?

Collins: Well, it’s, it’s – – I suppose you’d have to say, with respect to what? It’s in some ways there – – there is a similarity. It’s – – it’s a response to the goodness of a creator. But – – but in other way – – in other ways there’s a dissimilarity in that we’re dealing with ourselves as broken creatures that have been redeemed that are in process of being reconstructed.

Stellman: Isn’t that – – so, you’re describing the fall? Is it not true that because of the fall what changes after covenantally, what changes after the fall for us is not just the object of our faith. Adam believed in a loving creator. We believe in a crucified and risen Christ. Certainly there’s a dissimilarity there that nobody disputes. But because of the fall, is it not 15 the case that our obedience functions differently under the covenant of grace with respect to the condition for receiving the reward than Adam’s prefall obedience would have functioned?

Collins: Well, I – – I think that that you can say that there are differences. But there are also similarities. I mean, our obedience is the means by which, I mean that – – that’s a part of our participation in the benefits. And so, you know the apostle Paul will tell the Colossians believers, Colossians 1, that, you know, you will receive glorification provided you continue steadfast and so forth. So that’s, that there – – there are, I’m sure you, – – yes, I mean, there are differences, I think. Well, there – – there have to be. But – – but there’re also similarities and so (inaudible)- – –

Stellman: What are, what are the differences? 3

Collins: I’m sorry?

Stellman: You said several times that there are differences and similarities. And you’ve described the similarities between Adam before the fall and us now. What are – – what are the differences other than the object of his faith being different than the object of ours because now we’re sinners, we trust in a crucified and risen Lord. But with respect to the works and the obedience what’s the difference between how it functioned for Adam and how it functions for us now?

Collins: Well, I don’t come into the world morally innocent for one thing. And so that – – that I – – so I – – I’m just in a totally different condition to be dealt with of – – of guilt, brokenness and so forth. And – – and so the – – the process just looks different.

Stellman: But you’re talking about the difference of my condition as a fallen human born into the world. But I am not talking about our condition as fallen. I’m talking about the conditional nature of Adam’s obedience. Did his obedience function as a condition to gaining the reward in a way that ours does not?

Collins: Well, yeah it would, it would be different because he’s function- – he’s functioning as a head. And – – and so we have a head namely Christ who has functioned. And so that – – that we’re, our obedience isn’t in – – in the – – the department of functioning as a head of a covenant people.

Stellman: Okay. Good. So – – so Christ is the antitype of Adam and not us. Christ is the second Adam. We’re not second Adams.

Collins: Well, in – – in, when biblical writers talk about a second Adam or the last Adam they’re – – they’re talking about Christ. That – – that does not mean that that – – that there isn’t a bearing upon us, you know, from the Adamic situation.

Stellman: Certainly. We are Christians and so we – – there there’s obviously a 6 connection between us and Christ. But given what you just said that – – that Christ, that – – that we’re not federal heads. Christ is. The way Adam was. And so is it not true that the way, the condition for our receiving the benefits, the – – the very eschatological benefits promised to Adam, the condition by which we receive them is not our own perfect, perpetual and personal obedience but the obedience of Jesus Christ and his satisfaction and death imputed to us by faith alone, which is exactly what our standards say.

Peter Leithart actually got to the heart of the issue in his redirect. Here Collins stated that he did not think the Standards addressed the distinction between the nature of Adam’s obedience and the nature of the believer’s obedience:

Leithart: Right. And by the same token, does the Westminster standards, do the Westminster standards to your knowledge distinguish in detail between the – – the nature of Adam’s required obedience and the nature of the believer’s required obedience?

Collins: Not to my knowledge.

Do you agree? Would you say that the Westminster Standards do not distinguish in detail between Adam’s required obedience and the believer’s required obedience?

It Comes Down to This

by Reed DePace

It seems to me that the results of the Meyers, Lawrence and Leithart matters have the effect of focusing the issues involved. In all three situations Presbyteries have concluded that teachings which appear consistent with FV teachings denounced by the PCA Study Report are in fact not out of accord with our doctrinal standards.

The common threads seem to be that each of these men:

1. Affirms the Westminster Standards (WS), and
2. Their teachings in question do not contradict the WS, and
3. [Therefore] their teachings do not conflict with the PCA FV Study Report.

The rationale that seems to logically support these conclusions centers is the claim that the teachings in question are only about the benefits of salvation which the reprobate church member receives. As this is not (supposedly) something addressed by the WS (which only addresses the benefits received by the decretally elect), therefore these teachings do not conflict with our standards. E.g., this is usually heard in the FV claim to be speaking about salvation (or any other ordo salutis benefit) in different way than the WS, but in a way that the Bible also speaks.

I’m thinking that this is pretty much the heart of the rationale rested upon by the presbyters in three presbyteries when they decided to find these men “not guilty” (in the case of Lawrence and Leithart explicitly, Meyers implicitly). That is, this argument for the defense sounds both reasonable and biblical to the men tasked with determining whether or not these men’s teachings are out of accord with the WS.

If I’m right, then it comes down to this,

Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?

If yes, then the FV is not out of accord with the WS? If no, then it is.

It would seem to me that future efforts to demonstrate the biblical errors of these teachings must deal with this dual salvation scheme. It must deal with demonstrating that this is not the biblical teaching. It will not suffice to argue exclusively from the WS, as men teaching these things can simply respond, “amen, and also …” It must be shown that the Bible does not support the FV’ers parallel secondary way of salvation for the reprobate church member.

If this can be shown then the elders having to make the judgments in these matters will be greatly supported.


By Reed DePace

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