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).


  1. John Knox said,

    October 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    It seems that I don’t have so much a problem with how he describes the work of the spirit in baptism assuming, only, that the efficacious nature of the sacraments is to be joined with the elect person by faith. Doesn’t baptism just given to a non-elect person just bring more condemnation on them much like the eating of the Lord’s Supper? The sign and the thing signified are joined in reformed thought, to the best of my knowledge, but the catalyst to receiving the benefits of the sign is not the water but is faith (past present or future). When he starts to describe those who are, what seems like born of God and then later unborn, so to speak…how is that reformed theology? Faith and faithfulness are related, sure, but they’re related as cause/effect. To make the effect the cause of eternal salvation, and leave open some type of temporary salvation just seems not only un-confessional but also seems Catholic. It is fundamentally salvation by works with different paint. *sigh*

  2. Andrew McCallum said,

    October 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I would love for a proponent of FV to defend #2 above as being in accord with the WCF. On ecclesiology, justification, regeneration, and other doctrines FV often sounds like a step towards Roman Catholicism. But as I read #2 it’s much more than a step. Actually I’m not sure that any Roman Catholic would have issues with it. Isn’t he arguing for baptismal regeneration and initial justification from baptism as a Roman Catholic would? Or am I being unfair here?

  3. chris nazarczuk said,

    October 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Sorry, but I need something more powerful than what Peter is peddling to save me. None of this sounds like good news to a wretched sinner like myself.

  4. Jack Bradley said,

    October 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Lane, please permit me an extended excerpt from the trial–over 500 words fewer than yours above :) I appreciate trial transcripts, but the articulations is never as clear as a position paper: :

    . . . my dissertation attempted to work through questions of baptismal efficacy using the model of the ordination rite of priests (Exodus 29; Leviticus 8-9). Baptism, I argued, is efficacious in the way that the ordination rite is efficacious. That is still my position. This analogy opens up a way of thinking about baptismal efficacy that avoids two extremes: It avoids the view that baptism has little or no effect, and it avoids the view that
    baptism invariably and permanently confers grace. Aaron received a set of gifts in his ordination – the gift of ministry in the Lord’s house, the gift of access to Yahweh, the gift of a standing within the community of Israel. But those gifts could be forfeited, as they clearly were in the case of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). Like ordination, baptism confers
    benefits – “graces” in the original sense – and these are truly conferred by baptism. Baptism marks the baptized with God’s favor and grants favors, but baptism does not guarantee that the baptized will remain in God’s favor forever.

    My recent book on baptism, The Baptized Body, is organized around three
    propositions with regard to baptism. First, when the New Testament uses the word “baptism,” it normally refers to water baptism. The word group is used metaphorically, but these metaphorical uses have to be shown from the context. Thus, I argue that Paul is talking about water baptism in Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 10, and that Peter is talking about water baptism in 1 Peter 3. Second, when the New Testament writers use the phrase “body of Christ,” they are referring to the visible church. Further, this visible church has all the characteristics that the New Testament ascribes to the body of Christ. Members of the visible church are members of “Christ” and partakers of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12).
    This second claim is the key to my argument about baptismal efficacy. Third, I argue that apostasy happens. Some people enjoy various benefits of the new covenant and then lose those benefits. This is not a threat to the Reformed doctrine of election and reprobation, since God ordains both the end point (election or reprobation) and the whole story arc along the way. Some reprobates come near to God for a time and then drift or turn away. In fact, the doctrine of reprobation in Romans 9 is a doctrine of apostasy, an explanation of why the chosen people has turned from her Messiah.

    The conclusion of these affirmations is this theology of baptismal efficacy: Baptism is the rite of entry into the visible church; since the visible church is the body of Christ, baptism engrafts the baptized into Christ and His body, and sharing in the body of the incarnate and glorified Son brings benefits of various sorts; but this engrafting is no guarantee of final salvation, since some who are baptized into Christ and His body fall away. Baptism is a gift of grace that bestows other gifts, but it is effective to salvation only for those who have persevering faith.6

    6 An aside: Some are suspicious of my baptismal views because they think they tend toward Rome. I have always thought they actually tend in the opposite direction, toward Zwingli. There’s no “magic” in my
    baptismal views; in some senses, my view of baptism is very immanent.” Baptism’s efficacy is like the efficacy of an ordination, a circumcision, an inauguration to the Presidency. Baptism’s chief effect is to unite the baptized to the visible church, and to give the baptized a position in that community.

    . . . my basic affirmation about baptismal efficacy is the affirmation of the
    Confession itself: “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ. . . for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church” (28.1). I also agree with the
    Confession’s description of the “visible church,” though I believe it has limitations: “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (25.2). When we put these statements together, we conclude that a baptized becomes a subject of the kingdom of Christ, a member of God’s household and family, and is put on the way of salvation. Since a baptized infant becomes a member of God’s household, he is a child of
    God. That is saying quite a lot.

    . . . more controversially, I am drawing on the Reformed notion of
    temporary benefits and temporary faith. The Confession alludes to this reality only in passing, speaking of the “common operations of the Spirit” enjoyed by some of the nonelect (WCF 10.4).9 The Confession hastens to add that the reprobate who share in these works of the Spirit “never truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved” (10.4). I agree that reprobates cannot be saved. If, however, the phrase “never truly come” implies that no reprobate has ever had any real connection or communion with Christ, I disagree.

    Is that what “never truly come to Christ” means? My reading of the history of Reformed theology suggests differently. Reformed views on temporary benefits are more complex than this Confessional statement indicates, and Reformed theologians have regularly debated and discussed the nature and extent of the temporary benefits enjoyed by some of the reprobate. Given that history, I do not believe that the WCF intended to
    dismiss the notions of temporary faith and temporary benefits.

    Temporary Faith.
    First, Reformed theologians have long recognized the phenomenon of temporary faith, and have frequently distinguished temporary faith not only from saving faith but from mere historical faith. Calvin distinguished the faith and experience of the reprobate from the elect in various ways, but he made it clear that some of the reprobate enjoy what he calls the
    “inferior operation of the Spirit.”

    . . . Whatever we conclude about the Westminster Standards or the Reformed confessional tradition, it is clear that the Bible indicates that some are united to Christ and are later cut off. Even the Minority Report admits as much: “TE Leithart is certainly correct to highlight the covenantal nature of the relationship between the Vine and the branches in John 15, and he is also correct in pointing out that even reprobate members of the visible church experience certain common operations of the Holy Spirit.” Their objection is that this “relationship” should not be described as “union with Christ.” That, it seems to me, is merely a quibble over words.

    Does this leave me with a “parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards”? No more than the New Testament does, because the New Testament speaks both of people who are “in Christ” and cut off, and of people who are “in Christ” and can never be lost. As I understand the New Testament, this does not imply wo
    parallel “soteriological systems.” There are not two streams of salvation. There is only one. The elect have been in the stream since eternity and are, from their personal incorporation into Christ, in the stream. The reprobate may move in and then out of the same stream.

    Temporary saving benefits in the PCA Constitution.
    The GA Federal Vision Report condemns the notion that some receive saving benefits of Christ and later lose them. As I see it, the Report itself runs contrary to our Standards. That is to say, the notion of temporary benefits is part of our Constitution. Children of believers, we confess, are covenant children. At PCA baptisms, Acts 2 is often read: “The promise is to you and to your children.” According to the BOCO, the following statement is to be read at baptisms: “For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after
    thee. Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. (Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7; Acts 16:31)” (56-5). Based on such Scriptures, we say, quite rightly, that God is a God not only to us but to our children.

    This implies, if read straightforwardly, that we can say to every child in a PCA church, “God has made promises to you. God is your God. You are a covenant child.” Head-for-head, we can say those things to our children, every infant in the PCA. Is being a “covenant child” a saving benefit or not? Is having God as our God a saving benefit or not? Yes of
    course it is: Having God as my God is the saving benefit. Yet, no Presbyterian on earth (including me) believes that everyone who is baptized will end up sharing in the new heavens and new earth. When a baptized child has God as his God, he has a saving benefit that he
    may someday lose. That is what the BOCO says.

    And we can push this further. If God is God to our children, does that not imply that God has forgiven and accepted them? Does it make any sense to say that God is God of our children, and yet also to say that they are children of wrath, piling up sins until they exercise personal faith? Do we say to our children, “God is your God, but He holds all your sins against you”? Do we say, “God is your God, but you are also a child of wrath”? The PCA constitution does not support this kind of double-speak. BOCO 56-4, alluding to 1 Corinthians 7, says that children of believers are “federally holy before Baptism, and therefore are they baptized” (BOCO 56-4, h). This federal holiness mentioned in 56-4,
    doesn’t depend on baptism; it is the gift to the children of believers, and according to the BOCO is the basis not the result of baptism. If they are holy, they are accepted, cleansed; if they are holy, they have access. What else does “holy” mean? And is that not a “saving benefit”?

    . . . What are we allowed to say to our children? May we tell them that their sins are forgiven? May we tell them that God accepts them and counts them righteous? Should we assure them that they are beloved? Can we tell them they belong to Jesus and are united to Him? On the Minority Report’s position, it appears that we are not allowed to say any of these things with assurance. Union with Christ, justification and forgiveness are special benefits of the invisible church, and we have no way of knowing that our children are members of that community. But the promise is to us and to our children. They are covenant children, and God is their God.

  5. Josh Walker said,

    October 14, 2011 at 8:18 am


    Could you spell out for us your thoughts on point 6? Do you agree with it, disagree with it and why? That would be helpful for me.

  6. Tim Wilder said,

    October 14, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Isn’t Leithart’s answer in 8: the old medieval “facere quod in se est”?

  7. October 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

    […] waders to slog though all the trial documents.  You can read the entire Keister highlight panel here, but here are some of my favorites from his list that are worth repeating if only to further shame […]

  8. October 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Baptism is the initiation rite into the visible church, but it is not baptism that makes a covenant child a member of the visible church, either in God’s eyes or in the eyes of the WSC.

    Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered?
    A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

    Infants of believers are to be baptized because they are members of the visisble church.

    Even I accepted wrongly the FV tenet that baptism joins us to the church. It is the outward sign that signifies our union with the visible church as the external body of Christ and covenant community. However, only those persons who already have a claim of membetrship in the church can be baptized. You can make a claim of membership either by profession of faith or by being the child of believers.

    The WLC #166 is even clearer: “infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.” Infants of believersd are within the covenant not because they are baptized but because they descend from at least one parent who professes faith in and obedience to Christ. Because they are within the covenant they are to be baptized.

    Leithart’s theology is very Lutheran and not very Reformed or Biblical.

  9. Reed Here said,

    October 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Very good catch Jason. Does Leithart believe baptism make a child a part of the covenant community, or does he believe a child has a right to it when he is a part of the covenant community (via his parents)?

  10. October 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

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

    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 “As the baptized person …

  11. Jack bradley said,

    October 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Reed, if you read the entire section of the document I linked above, you’ll see that it is the latter.

  12. October 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    He talks out of both sides of his mouth, saying one thing and then taking it back with the next thing he says. Some of what he says is an absolute mess, in a Lutheran-Anglican-Catholic direction, and then he pulls back and tries to explain why what he said isn’t what it sounds like- redefining terms, etc. Mess!

  13. October 16, 2011 at 7:50 am

    If you read Acts 2:38-39 children should be baptized because they are under the covenant “promises”. God promises to save the children of true believers. However, this promise is by faith and the fact is that all children without exception do not actually show themselves to have true faith. Only elect children show forth the inward grace of the Spirit. So baptism does not save. It is the outward sign of an inward grace. Where there is no inward grace and no inward faith baptism is merely an empty sign. The cause of faith and perseverance is God Himself, not the sign nor the person himself. Thus, Leithart’s emphasis, like that of the Arminian, is not on the sovereignty of God in salvation but on the efforts of the believer to believe of himself and persevere of himself.

    If Leithart had said that baptism is only effectual for the elect–in the sense of a union of the sacrament as outward sign and inward grace–then it wouldn’t be a problem. However, he insists on giving the sacrament an Arminian twist based on Romans 6:7 and Hebrews 6. Calvin would never agree with Leithart’s view. Temporary faith was never truly united with Christ. There is only a temporary partaking of the divine nature in an outward sense only.

    As Calvin puts it:

    The knot of the question is in the word, fall away. Whosoever then understands its meaning, can easily extricate himself from every difficulty. But it must be noticed, that there is a twofold falling away, one particular, and the other general. He who has in anything, or in any ways offended, has fallen away from his state as a Christian; therefore all sins are so many fallings. But the Apostle speaks not here of theft, or perjury, or murder, or drunkenness, or adultery; but he refers to a total defection or falling away from the Gospel, when a sinner offends not God in some one thing, but entirely renounces his grace.

    And that this may be better understood, let us suppose a contrast between the gifts of God, which he has mentioned, and this falling away. For he falls away who forsakes the word of God, who extinguishes its light, who deprives himself of the taste of the heavens or gift, who relinquishes the participation of the Spirit. Now this is wholly to renounce God. We now see whom he excluded from the hope of pardon, even the apostates who alienated themselves from the Gospel of Christ, which they had previously embraced, and from the grace of God; and this happens to no one but to him who sins against the Holy Spirit. For he who violates the second table of the Law, or transgresses the first through ignorance, is not guilty of this defection; nor does God surely deprive any of his grace in such a way as to leave them none remaining except the reprobate.

    If any one asks why the Apostle makes mention here of such apostasy while he is addressing believers, who were far off from a perfidy so heinous; to this I answer, that the danger was pointed out by him in time, that they might be on their guard. And this ought to be observed; for when we turn aside from the right way, we not only excuse to others our vices, but we also impose on ourselves. Satan stealthily creeps on us, and by degrees allures us by clandestine arts, so that when we go astray we know not that we are going astray. Thus gradually we slide, until at length we rush headlong into ruin. We may observe this daily in many. Therefore the Apostle does not without reason forewarn all the disciples of Christ to beware in time; for a continued torpor commonly ends in lethargy, which is followed by alienation of mind.

    Commentary on Hebrews 6:4. John Calvin

  14. Reed Here said,

    October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Just one observation. Contrary to my suggestion of a parallel soteriological system, Leithart says that there is one soteriological stream that the reprobate move in and out of, the same one the decretally elect move into and stay in. He argues mostly that the redemptive benefits the reprobate are exactly the same benefits as the elect.

    The mostly difference involves a few key things:

    1. The reprobate do not experience decretal election.
    2. The reprobate do not receive perseverance.

    One final qualification, it appears that Leithart’s description of temporary faith is that it is the same faith the decretally elect receive, yet without the addition (infusion?) of the grace of perseverance. Thus it is not a different type of faith, but defective form of the same faith the decretally elect receive.

    Is this kind of system nothing more than an updated Arminian scheme? Is there really room for this in the Westminster Standards? No pejorative manipulation here – this really sounds like an Arminian variation.

  15. Wes Reynolds said,

    October 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    It seems like in #1 above, Dr. Leithart is saying that the person who is baptized receives, at that baptism, the Holy Spirit. And “…participates in the resurrection power of Jesus.”

    2 Cor. 1:22 would seem to say something else. The Holy Spirit is said to be an “earnest” of our salvation. A down payment. A pledge.

    So it seems like Dr. Leithart is saying that God gives all baptized persons a pledge of their salvation, but then later takes it away from some.

    Earnest money is non-refundable, right? An earnest is … an earnest. It’s permanent. So I don’t see that this view of baptism is compatible with the Scripture.

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