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?