The Leithart Verdict

Normally, the Standing Judicial Commission sends a panel to hear a case (usually 3, but sometimes 5 or even 7). In the case of the Leithart trial complaint, the case was heard by the full court. That means that the decision is usually the final verdict, unless a motion (which has to be in order) has been filed to reconsider the case. If that happens, then the verdict will be treated as if it were a panel’s decision. That is what has happened in the Leithart case. The verdict is in, and the verdict is to reject the complaint that Pacific Northwest Presbytery erred in exonerating Leithart. That may be a bit hard to follow. PNW Presbytery exonerated Leithart in the trial. That decision was complained against. The complaint always goes first to the Presbytery, which in this case rejected the complaint. That complaint was then taken to the SJC. The SJC has now concurred with the PNW Presbytery. This is the final decision, since there has been no request for a reconsideration.

To say that I am disappointed in the decision would be a gross understatement. Aghast is more appropriate here. We are not talking about narrow Reformed versus broad Reformed. We are talking about evangelicalism versus what amounts to Roman Catholic teaching. At this point, it will not matter if the SJC decides to try to distance itself from Leithart’s theology. They will have allowed his theology to exist. This decision is completely and utterly wrong. The record of the case should have been enough all by itself to convince anyone truly confessional that Leithart’s theology does not fall within its boundaries. It does not fall within evangelicalism, let alone Reformed theology.

159 Comments

  1. April 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    …and the PCA takes another giant step to the left…

  2. April 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the update Lane. Do you have a source for your information?

  3. baddison11 said,

    April 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Lane,

    In these cases does the SJC make anything other than the decision public? For example, is there an official statement with a rationale or are the “viewing public” only privy to the final decision?

  4. Martin said,

    April 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Truly and deeply troubling.

    Andrew, the preliminary judgment has apparently been sent out to the parties concerned.

    The complainant has the right to request that the verdict be reconsidered. I expect that such right will not be exercised. I believe the minority has the right to issue a minority opinion. If they do it would be included in the final judgment that will be released publicly. I do not know how much of the record of the case, which is quite large, will be included in the public release.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Andrew, yes I have a source for this information, and it is a reliable source.

    I will be posting the decision of the case on this blog. As far as I know, it will be the only place where it will be initially posted.

  6. April 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I, too, grieve over this decision. I can read the pain in your words. I want to read the full decision before saying too much. Together with the National Partnership, this “anything goes” theological standard may be the new direction of the PCA. May God give us wisdom on how to proceed.

  7. Mark B said,

    April 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    As bad as the individual case decision is, if (as I suspect) the rational goes something like “well, I’m not familiar with the doctrinal issues involved, but proper procedure seems to have been followed” the situation is much worse. In that case we have become a Church denomination not governed by higher standards (God, Bible Confession) but a human institution. Just like the Roman Catholic Church.

  8. pduggie said,

    April 2, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Lutherans are the original Evangelicals

  9. jasonpopejr said,

    April 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Lane, thank you for watching stuff this and for keeping us informed. Grateful to serve with you at Lebanon.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Leithart’s theology is way beyond Lutheranism, Paul, and you know it.

  11. April 2, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Paul – perhaps so, but they are not in general acceptable as PCA officers, no more than visa-versa. And Leithart’s abberant views would not be, either.

  12. jasonpopejr said,

    April 2, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Farm Family SC and commented:
    If you are PCA, you should read this

  13. pduggie said,

    April 2, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    No, I’ve always thought at WORST it might be Lutheranism: Losable grace, objective justification, sacraments that really work and ARE gospel so save.

    But leithart very early said to me that I identified a soft underbelly of his work which is that his view of the sacraments actually *lack* the “oomph” of more mystical views: baptism only ‘saves’ and changes a person in the sense that any symbolic action changes a person and ‘saves’ them in the sense they experience the kind of public visible experience of living in a redeemed visible community which is a fruit of salvation and a salvation from a dead pattern of visible life in a pagan world.

    but nobody “got” that. Except the SJC. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Paul, he may have said that to you, but that is not what he wrote in his works. In Priesthood of the Plebs, he says that baptism brings full transformative regeneration, which is then losable.

  15. April 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Lane, please correct me if I am wrong. The SJC is a commission and is it not the case that the court to which it answers must vote to approve the commission’s verdict? It would seem on that basis that the verdict is not final until the GA approves it. I suspect there are some special circumstances with the SJC and the GA, perhaps you could clarify them for me.

  16. April 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Paul – Leithart’s speciality is obfuscation to cover his previous statements. Wash, rinse, repeat. Hard to believe that a majority of the SJC fell for it. Again, it will be interesting to read their justification, pun intended.

  17. pduggie said,

    April 2, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I’m rereading your testimony. (its been a while) I notice you rarely accept his qualifications. They all are “undermined” by something else. So I’ll have to disagree to disagree. If I asked the man “hey seems like you’re REDUCING what we normally say about baptismal efficacy” and he agrees that that may be the REAL issue, it tells me more about the man’s views than your analysis that his qualifications are worthless.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    James, the verdict of the SJC is not correctable by the GA. An objection to the verdict is about the best we can do. But that would not overturn it.

    Paul, the reason I don’t accept his qualifications is that there are rarely qualifications in his writings. I went hunting for them especially.

  19. Robert Marshall Murphy said,

    April 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    It’s so funny that you (Lane) called this “Roman Catholic teaching” because I found this blog from Jason Stellman’s, the prosecutor of the Leithart case. That is high, Alanis Morissette ironic.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Yes, indeed, and have you seen that Jason also believes that Leithart’s teaching is Roman Catholic? The difference is that Jason, when he saw that his views were no longer in accord, left, whereas Leithart refuses to leave.

  21. Mark B said,

    April 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    re#19 Why exactly do you think Jason titled his post “Crap, I Should Have Just Stayed in the PCA!”

  22. locirari said,

    April 2, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    The supposed irony associated with Mr. Stellman lands us again in irrelevancy of personalities, very much like the tactics of the Defense counsel in the PNWP trial.

  23. Tim Harris said,

    April 2, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    We need to nip in the bud this notion that FV is a motion toward Lutheranism even to the extent of an inch. It is not. A few assertions of Lutheranism that are contradictory to FV:

    1. Justification consists in the forgiveness of sins, and the imputation of the righteousness of what we would call the “active obedience of Christ.” In Preuss’ words, “It is the saving righteousness of His obedience to the Father, His obedience under the Law, by which He obeyed the Law as our Substitute, and obeyed the will of the Father to die innocently as our Substitute, and thus to redeem us.”

    2. Justification precedes union with Christ. Thus, there could not be the slightest hint of mingling with elements of sanctification.

    3. Justification is monergistic.

    4. Justification is by faith ALONE.

    5. Baptism saves a baby, but that is because it miraculously causes FAITH in the baby, by which alone one is justified. It is not a “second way” alongside faith. (The fact that we might not think it is possible for a baby to have faith is a totally different question.)

    True, it appears that Lutherans, or at least many, believe one can fall away and lose salvation. But this hardly gives a unique point of contact with the FV. At this nexus, one could equally well call it a move toward the Remonstrants, or semi-pelagians of all stripes.

  24. April 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    Mark,

    The title of my post is just tongue-in-cheek. Of course, I am out of accord with the PCA on other, non gospel-related issues (which is why I stepped down). But if that were not the case, and I held the exact same view of the basic biblical gospel that I do now as a Catholic, I probably could have stayed.

    But as it is, I am disappointed by this verdict, one of the biggest reasons for which is my high regard for Lane, for the labor he put into his testimony, and for the Old Schoolers in the PCA in general, of which I was one myself.

    I guess it’s gut-check time.

  25. Phil D. said,

    April 3, 2013 at 7:00 am

    What a circus the PCA in becoming. Only it’s not at all funny or enjoyable.

  26. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Lane,

    Even in the midst of a defeat, don’t become discouraged. Synods and councils can and do err, it’s just very hard to understand when it comes to such basic things as justification and the core tenants of salvation.

    One thing to bear in mind is that the PCA is not a different church now than it was before the decision. Someone mentioned that is is gut-check time. That is exactly right. You would need to judge the overall reaction to get a good sense of the situation. What you specifically want to try to determine, is how many T.E.s have no reaction at all, even if it is because they don’t know about the case. There is no excuse for any T.E. to be unaware of this case. It is those who have no reaction to this even because of ignorance that you want to be more wary of than even those who agree with this decision.

    GA Reports on Justification are nice things, but the real character of the church is really determined by its judicial decisions. Those who don’t care or care enough to even know that there is a case on something so important as to the nature of salvation are a bigger problem. Seeking the path of least resistance makes one unstable as water, and water that is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm.

    So in many ways your life may have gotten more complicated and for those who see the egregious error in the decision, you have some hard days ahead. However, either way you now have some point of clarity. That is a good thing. Can you live with it? Can you live with the possibility that most T.E.s in the PCA either don’t know or don’t care, if that turns out to be the case?

    As I began, don’t be discouraged, Christ is using even this defeat of the gospel in the PCA to lead His people into all truth, and the Holy Spirit conforming Christ’s people ever more fully into the image of Christ. It is my prayer that God will strengthen you and like minded people in the PCA to not become weary in well doing.

    Andrew

  27. Mike said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Can you provide the names of the SJC members that ruled on this case?

  28. April 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

    […] No longer does one have to be an Evangelical in order to be a preacher and a teacher in the PCA.   As Lane Keister put it on his blog: […]

  29. Julie said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Thanks Lane, I’ll be watching for the link to the decision. I agree with Andrew that God is working His good plan through this situation, but knowing that doesn’t take away the deep saddness and incomprehensibility of what has transpired.

  30. April 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Mike – Who voted, who dissented, and who abstained should be in their final report.

  31. Sean Gerety said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

    @ Bob. God has already given you the wisdom on how to proceed. The only question is will those who profess the evangelical faith do it.

    I hope I’m wrong, but suspect most won’t as even many conservatives have proven their willingness to compromise on just about anything in order to maintain the illusion of peace and unity in the PCA.

  32. Elmer T Lee said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Thanks be to God! May this move the PCA in a more catholic, missional and ecumenical direction.

  33. Jedidiah Slaboda said,

    April 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

    A quibble: the SJC, nor any commission of any kind, can cause or cease to cause a theological position to exist (not even in the PCA). Causing, allowing and refusing to allow things to exist would seem to be the sole prerogative of God, wouldn’t it?

  34. Mike said,

    April 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Bob. The role of Sessions and Presbyters become even more important in protecting the sheep. I wished I could say that I’m stunned but based on the current milieu of the PCA nothing surprises me at this point.

  35. April 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

    […] Lane Keister reported this on his blog GreenBaggins: […]

  36. Steven Carr said,

    April 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I think the days are coming when we NAPARC denominations need to give the PCA the boot.

  37. Jeremy Sexton said,

    April 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

    What’s interesting about what Leithart told pduggie (see #13) is that pduggie first recognized it *in Leithart’s works*. Leithart has never told me this, but it’s always been clear to me from his works. Part of Leithart’s project has been to remove the magic and mysticism that has been poured into the biblical language concerning baptism. He generally accomplishes this for those who read his works sympathetically, which apparently includes his presbytery and the SJC. He obviously has not accomplished this for those who believe his language regarding the sacraments is magical or mystical.

  38. April 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    […] regarding the Peter Leithart heresy trial, and I’m deeply distrubed. You can read about it here and […]

  39. tominaz said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    The SJC decision is horrendous. One wonders about the rationale. GA will certainly be a watershed for me personally, and maybe for the church I pastor. Given the Nominating Committee’s decision to not approve conservative nominees for the SJC and the so-called National Partnership I think conservatives are about to get rolled over by a tsunami of progressivism. The question becomes stay or go; and if go where?

  40. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    “Crap,” indeed, Mr Stellman.

    Lane, I am saddened but not surprised to read the item about Leithart and the Pretty Confused Assembly.

    Dark days indeed for the PCA.

    On a darker note, I tried mixing it up again at Called to Communion with Jason and his Argonuts over his defection.

    I fight authority; authority always wins! >:(

  41. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Elmer @32 – Thank you for the laugh today! :) Brilliant.

  42. greenbaggins said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Jedidiah, I am a bit mystified why you would bring that issue up, when it is irrelevant to my point. My point is that the PCA has allowed this man to continue to preach and teach in the PCA with his aberrant views. That is allowing that doctrinal view to continue to be preached and taught. And that’s what I mean by my statement.

  43. April 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    The elect cannot “lose” regeneration. Although the Reformed Anglicans believed in baptismal regeneration in regards to infants, they did not say that every baptized infant was regenerated. It’s a matter of whether or not the baptized person is elect and manifests that by their faith and obedience. Some grow up to show themselves as utter reprobates and die in their unbelief.

    Lee Gatiss of Church Society says this about regeneration:

    “That being said, baptism is not solely an outward boundary marker. Anglicans assert that it is more than that. It is also a sign, an instrument, and a seal. As a sign it signifies regeneration (it does not, note, produce that new birth!); as Gilbert Burnet wrote, “this is not to be believed, to be of the nature of a Charm, as if the very act of Baptism carried always with it an inward Regeneration.” [39] As an instrument it grafts into the church those who rightly receive it (not, note, automatically as if by magic). [40] This accounts for the Reformers’ clear preference for baptisms in church rather than at home. [41] As a seal it authenticates the promises of forgiveness and adoption, as a visible word from God. “Faith is confirmed and grace increased” says the Article, but not, note, by virtue of the act of baptism itself but by virtue of “prayer unto God” (of which there is much, as we shall see, in the Prayer Book service). [42] Thus we see how carefully the Article makes positive statements about baptism while staying as far away from the false doctrines of Rome on this point as possible.”

    The Anglican Doctrine of Baptism Gatiss is a Reformed Anglican, not an Anglo-Catholic.

  44. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Andrew #26, Good post. May I…?

    “One thing to bear in mind is that the PCA is not a different church now than it was before the decision.” – And this is a sad thing!

    “Someone mentioned that is is gut-check time. That is exactly right.” – It was Jason Stellman in post #24. Indeed, it is. Other anatomical bits might want inspecting right about now, as well, in the PCA clergy!

    “You would need to judge the overall reaction to get a good sense of the situation.” – For the general sense, sure. But to see where the real men are in your clergy, see & hear how they write & preach in the coming weeks.

    “What you specifically want to try to determine, is how many T.E.s have no reaction at all, even if it is because they don’t know about the case. There is no excuse for any T.E. to be unaware of this case. It is those who have no reaction to this even because of ignorance that you want to be more wary of than even those who agree with this decision.” – GREAT point.

    As one said 7 years ago:

    The silence of the shepherds in dealing with the heresies in their own churches stems from their compromised philosophy and theology. They cannot CLEARLY ARTICULATE their differences with Rome, or PRACTICE what those differences require, because at bottom they agree with Rome. They reject Biblical philosophy and accept the Thomism of Rome. That common ground inexorably leads them to seek common ground elsewhere, such as in political action. [CAPS added for emphasis.]

  45. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Phil D. @ 25 – Like scary clowns?

  46. Gage said,

    April 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I guess the OPC could double in size if this keeps up… I don’t know where else to go

  47. April 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    If more churches were actually teaching knowledge of Scripture, instructing in the Larger Catechism, and otherwise educating their elders and communicant members this sort of thing would be way less likely to happen. I recently visited Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida. The pastor there is David McWilliams. He’s an avowed Van Tilian and in no uncertain terms he told me he wouldn’t be reading Gordon H. Clark any time soon. But on the positive side I was deeply impressed with the expository preaching. Also, the Sunday school class was the most informed group I have seen in a very long time. In fact, I didn’t know it at the time but one of the members is a on the Florida Supreme Court. Go figure.

    The down side is that the Larger Catechism is not required for becoming a communicant member. I’m not saying it should be memorized by heart. But I am saying that the theology of the Larger Catechism should be gone over before accepting anyone into communicant membership. Otherwise you’re going to continue to see problems from “ignorance” arising.

    Charlie

  48. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Is there a difference on the one hand between saying that such things [“the blessings that baptism signifies and seals”] can be attributed and applied or addressed to all the baptized and on the other hand saying that all the baptized have by virtue of being baptized in the innermost part of their being all of these saving blessings and identities. Is there a difference between those two things?

    I thought that was an excellent, distilling question asked by Jason of an expert witness. Was the answer to that question fleshed out directly through questions asked of Peter Leithart? I can’t find any such pursuit.

    The Federal Vision is correct that the “the decretally elect cannot apostatize”. But as we well know, by blurring the visible-invisible church distinction and attributing life and union with Christ to those who later outwardly deny the faith (visibly fall away) FV leaves no place for the regenerate-elect to ground their assurance of salvation becasue those elected unto glory and those who deny the faith allegedly share in the same life in Christ and presumably the same witness of the Spirit.

    Also, how was Lane’s forty page submittal to have been used by the SJC other than in how it was employed in the trial?

  49. S. Douglas said,

    April 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Lane,

    So Leithart’s Presbytery and now the SJC have exonerated him and disgaree with your view of his views. If the ruling of these men will not convince you that you are the one in error in calling Leithart out of accord what will convince you? Is your opinion the highest court or does the PCA and its officers have at least some sway over you? I am just curious since I have recently joined the PCA and I am trying to figure out our system of government and how one should best go about dealing with people they disagree with. Dissapointment may be in order for you but at some point it would seem appropriate to stop publicly decrying the views of a man and a Presbytery you have vowed to be in fellowship with.

  50. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Oh yes, Lane I understood the tactic used against your credibility as a witness but such devices have no place in a Christian court. I’m sorry you had to sit through such questioning, but I thought you showed Christian character in how you handled yourself. Also, I thought Jason did a fine job recouping from what could have been a severe set-back. Asking whether you were on trial was a gem.

  51. Chris said,

    April 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you Pastor Keister for getting this information out. I eagerly await the availability of the key supporting documents of the trial. Would be nice if someone could compile a list of links to the key documents in once central repository.

  52. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    “If the ruling of these men will not convince you that you are the one in error in calling Leithart out of accord what will convince you?”

    S. Douglas,

    Is it at least logically possible that Leithart’s writings are out of accord with the Confession but a strong enough case was not made to demonstrate his guilt? Is it, also, possible that Leithart’s writings are not confessional but what he said on the stand was confessional?

    In any case, I would have liked to have seen Leithart asked to exegete and defend exact quotes that the prosecution found objectionable.

  53. lynnie said,

    April 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I don’t understand exactly. Please pardon my ignorance and answer for us less informed.

    What happened to the 35 page paper the PCA put out on FV several years ago? I know it wasn’t legally binding, but it did establish the PCA position that that FV is wrong. So did the court just rule that FV is really OK and disagree with that 35 page paper? Or did they say that they do agree with that paper, but Leithart is not actually saying what the FV teaches according to that paper?

    I guess what I am asking is if that 35 page position paper just got repudiated or upheld.

    My condolences Lane.

  54. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Remember folks, the SJC only deals with the record of the case before them. Any inherent weaknesses in the original trial record carry over. The SJC men are bound to a limited review. often their decisions are based on technical grounds, not underlying theology of the record in question. They may even rule one way due to procedural limits on the, while they hold different doctrinal positions. The critical weakness here might be in our system (how BCO allows the SJC) to function.

  55. April 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I have posted the link to download the SJC’s decision here:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/crap-i-should-have-just-stayed-in-the-pca/

  56. April 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I didn’t see anyone post this here, so here is the article on the final decision from TAR: http://theaquilareport.com/final-sjc-decision-on-the-leithart-case/

    As well as a link the final decision of the SJC: http://theaquilareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/SJC2012-05ProposedSJCDecision.pdf

  57. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Lynne, understandable question. No, this decision does not have that effect, and any who would use it to that end should be cautioned against such an irresponsible use.

    What this decision means, at the nub of it, is that the case Stellman brought against Leithart was weaker than Leithart’s defense. It neither takes a position supporting Leithart’s theology nor does it disagree with the theology presented by Lane.

    All it means, is that given the case made by Jason Stellman and the defense made by Peter Leithart, PNW Presbytery acted reasonably. With no disrespect intended, we might be within bounds to be reading the SJC’s decision as a criticism of the case made by Stellman.Maybe in time this case will be seen as an OJ Simpson moment in the PCA’s history,.

  58. Hugh said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Amen, Reed & Lynne.

    Reed: Was ist? ~ “…the SJC only deals with the record of he teal before them.”

  59. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Stupid iPad.

    Here is the key quote from the SJC’s report:

    “In short, our review in this Case is constitutionally limited to the information developed in the Record dealing with this specific Case. Thus, nothing in our Decision or reasoning should be understood as rendering any judgment on any “school of thought” within or without the PCA. Our review could focus only on: (a) whether the Complainant demonstrated that the Presbytery committed procedural errors in its handling of this matter; (b) whether the Complainant demonstrated that Presbytery misunderstood TE Leithart’s views; and (c) whether the Complainant demonstrated that TE Leithart’s views are in conflict with the system of doctrine.

    The Complainant raised no procedural concerns. Further, it is our conclusion that Presbytery carefully complied with all the procedural steps required by the Rules of Discipline.”

    Note: the SJC was limited to determining if there were procedural errors. They were not tasked with weighing the evidence and reaching a different verdict. Read the rest of this report and this will become clearer.

  60. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    An additional quote: “Finally, we reiterate that nothing in this Decision should be construed as addressing (or thereby endorsing) in general TE Leithart’s views, writings, teachings or pronouncements. The Decision is based on the specific issues raised in the indictment and the Record of the Case as developed at the trial. Our conclusion is simply that neither the prosecution nor the Complainant proved that TE Leithart’s views, as articulated at the trial or otherwise contained in the Record of the Case, violate the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards.”

    In other words, as presented in the record of the trial, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that PNW Presbytery erred. Nothing more, nothing less. Not a great decision in terms of reducing the FV influence in our denom., but not support for that position.

  61. locirari said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    In light of our conclusions, we urge that Pacific Northwest Presbytery continue to encourage TE Leithart to take care that when he uses standard theological terms (such as baptism, justification, sanctification, efficacious, and arrabon) in non-standard ways that he make clear those differences in use and that he continue to clarify how his views in key areas are not in conflict with the Standards.

    Just a humorous nugget from the SJC decision. “Yes, do keep an eye on that Leithart fellow!” After all, PNWP can have another trial if they suddenly cast a suspicious eye on theological revisionism!

  62. Nick said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Even though I’m Catholic, I’m disappointed that this ‘court’ would not be faithful to their own Reformed standards. Leithart is not Reformed. This “decision” is equivalent to a denomination accepting homosexuality when everyone knows it’s wrong.

  63. Tom Troxell said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Given the Nominating Committee’s recent exclusion of certain names for this year’s SJC slate at GA and given the so-called National Partnership one has to question is it time to shake the dust off our feet?

  64. April 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Nick – Very perceptive observation. The SJC’s cop-out as quoted in Reed’s #61 above shows that they clearly didn’t understand their duty in this case. IMO, the SJC just opened the sluice gates for any theological sewage as long as the proponent can sufficiently obfuscate his openly published positions as marginally Reformed when challenged. Very sad.

  65. jedpaschall said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I will have to read the report, but this criteria is where I see the real hang-up

    (c) whether the Complainant demonstrated that TE Leithart’s views are in conflict with the system of doctrine.

    Reading both Lane’s testimony, and his writings submitted as evidence gives me the impression that the SJC did have the power to judge whether or not Leithart’s views were within confessional bounds. It is not as if Lane was not thorough.

    Whether or not it is a good or bad thing, or a mixture of both, I cannot see the PCA sustaining itself in this fashion forever. Maybe the experiment of big-tent Presbyterianism will fall by the wayside. For the sake of peace and conscience for all parties involved, maybe an amicable split is best. I don’t know.

  66. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Bob, not sure I agree it was gutless. You’ve participated in enough parliamentary work to know that foundational to just results from the Church’s work begins with the integrity to abide by the procedures. Yes, one side or the other can “cheat”, but the demand for integrity still stands. I pray in this case God will honor such faith.

  67. April 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    RE#60:

    Reed that is incorrect. BCO 39-3.3-4 said they must also rule according to the Constitution and thus the Standards.

    If this is the case, then why is this ruling different than the ruling with the Wilkins/LAP case?

  68. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Andrew, think you’re argument is with the SJC’s understanding of their parameters, not me. I’m only reflecting what they say in their report.

  69. Warren Hill said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Given the ‘procedural’ rather than ‘substantive’ charactorization of this decision by the SJC, does that mean the SJC can/will still address the ‘substance’ in the Jeff Meyers appeal? Is that still ‘out there’ to be decided and, if so, is there any hope of a different outcome?

  70. rickyroldan said,

    April 3, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Schism ahead

  71. April 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    […] final court of appeals in the PCA, the Standing Judicial Commission. According to Lane Keister at Green Baggins, the full panel of the SJC of the PCA heard the case and voted “to reject the complaint that […]

  72. April 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Reed – I agree with Andrew. The SJC ignored BCO 39-2.4 although they cited it in their report:

    “[A] higher court should not consider itself obliged to exhibit the same deference to a lower court when the issues being reviewed involve the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church.”

    The last I checked, the Westminster Standards were part of our constitution. The SJC could have ruled, and I think was obligated to rule, on Leithart’s views under that clause. A previous SJC did so in the Louisiana Presbytery case involving Wilkins. In this case, the SJC elected to give a pass to aberrant theology while hiding behind non-applicable procedural limitations. That’s my opinion, and I doubt that I’m alone in it.

  73. April 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    If this truly is the end of the road for the Leithart case, then it has serious implications for ecumenical relations between the PCA and other reformed denominations. The message is that the PCA will tolerate Federal Visionism teachings by its office-bearers, or at least key tenets of the system. Whether this is by explicit intention or procedural error makes little difference, toleration is the de facto outcome.

    Currently the URC only has “Corresponding Relations” with the PCA, not Ecclesiastical Fellowship (phase 2) as we do with the OPC. This move won’t help that process. There are already existing issues with transferring our members to PCA churches, especially those that do not require the baptism of the children of its members.

    I also wonder how many churches may leave the PCA (most likely to the OPC) as a result of this decision. Several decisions in the past few years have come down on the FV side (Horne, Meyers, Lawrence), and surely now Leithart is the feather in the FV cap. Surely that will be the straw the breaks the camel’s back for at least a few congregations.

  74. Martin said,

    April 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Reed, there were over 700 pages in the official record of the case, at least some of which included Lane’s expert testimony. The SJC seems to have had everything it needed. And I agree with the contention of others here that per BCO 39-2.4 they could have ruled against Leithart.

    I understand their statement. I just don’t think it holds water. They punted. What’s more – they shanked the punt.

  75. sensusplenior said,

    April 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    How are you guys reading the SJC decision as “procedural only.” The part Reed quoted had two points explicitly relating to the substance of the case. They said they’d be ruling “(b) whether the Complainant demonstrated that Presbytery misunderstood TE Leithart’s views; and (c) whether the Complainant demonstrated that TE Leithart’s views are in conflict with the system of doctrine” Right? What am I missing?

  76. Mike said,

    April 3, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I had a PCA TE that would be considered old school and TR regarding the confession and worship, inform me in 2008 that this FV stuff was “much ado about nothing”. When I inquired deeper, he gave me a confessional response regarding Justification and Sanctification. I believe good men have their pet projects that they are willing to fall on the sword – 6 day creation, exclusive hymondy/psalter, homeschooling, etc- that many of these FV men are in agreement, so they form these back-room alliances to protect each other in the courts of the church.

    How can a denomination with our history be asleep at the wheel on this issue? I believe our seminary has some culpability in this matter as well.

  77. PDuggie said,

    April 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Lane:

    I have a question in reading your testimony

    It seems to me that it your contention that the receipt of circumcision after faith by Abraham makes it clear that Leithart must be wrong in seeing any kind of transition into the visible church by virtue of baptism. Is that correct?

    Some comments

    1. This is a good point you raise. I’d like to see it addressed by Leithart.

    2. The issue of the basis for infants as subjects of baptism is really complex, Particularly when doing defenses with baptists. I noted that in a discussion between Devers and Duncan, Devers got Duncan to continually say that the good covenant pattern is the sign always comes AFTER the thing signified. And then Duncan realized he was trapped by this, as it would mitigate against infant baptism, and he just gestured in the direction of circumcision as a defense. So this is a very tricky topic with a great many pitfalls. Perhaps if we had a good consistent answer w’ed make more headway with baptists.

    3. In your defense you claim everyone in the reformed tradition agrees with your view of “solemn admission” as a qualifier that they’re really admitted already by virtue of mere fleshly descent.

    but Thomas Blake (who was on the committee who wrote it) disagrees

    “the seed of believers, thus by birth-right-privilege baptized, have a large and full right to all the ordinances of God and privileges of the Church appertaining to members… The consequence is evident: They now visibly belong to Christ, they through him are dedicated to God, they have therefore title to all his visible ordinances. They are now of the household of God and of the citizens of the saints orderly admitted. Scripture knows no other admission than Baptism,”

    also Francis Beattie

    “Baptism is the badge of the solemn admission of the baptized person into the visible church, so that those who are baptized are thereby admitted into membership therein….

    It is to be observed, also, that according to this view of baptism, it sustains a somewhat different relation to adults than it does to infants. In the first case, water baptism is simply their solemn admission into the visible church, upon their profession of faith in Christ. But in the second case the ground upon which the infant seed of believers are baptized is the covenant relation of their parents. On this ground the birthright privileges of the infant seed of believers, through the covenant relation of their parents, is recognized by their baptism”

    So Beattie sees infants as having a lawful birthright to receive baptism and admission, but not a pre-existing membership in the visible church of their own standing rather the standing of their parents.

    4. I think a better question to ask than “could Abraham not be accounted a member of the visible church before circumcision” would be “could Ishmael not be accounted a member of the visible church before circumcision” I think his case is not absurd to consider, and has much more bearing on the question Leithart is trying to answer which is the status of children in the covenant.

    5. I actually don’t think its that absurd to question how clear it is that Abraham is in the visible church prior to circumcision, (though I’ll grant you make a good point). He’s about the only visible one around! It isn’t even clear that there is going to be a subsequent church consisting of godly seed. Its at the very start. Yes, its crucial for Paul to point out that Abe’s faith-profession is the same shared qualification (since it is what is ultimately the cause of saving union with Christ) for his circumstance as gentiles and Jews in the NT church. And that answers the visible church question for the issue disputed in the NT

    6. You claim that the faith of the believing parent is explicitly stated to be the basis for the holiness of the children in 1 cor 7:14. That may be an inference, but it is not explicitly stated. And the federal holiness of a child may not in fact be the existence of an already-existing relationship to the visible church

    7. One problem with avoiding Leithart’s perspective may be attributing too much to nature. Can a child born naturally be, by nature, a member of the family and household of God? How can THAT be? circumcision puts the barrier of symbolic castration in between the generations and says NOT by nature. Baptism puts the barrier of symbolic deliverance through drowning waters, and the tomb of Christ between the generations and says NOT by nature. That’s something Peter is trying to address that i think needs to be addressed.

  78. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    To suggest that the SJC should have taken into account any evidence other than the trial itself is to undermine one’s right to a trial. In other words, evidence is never to be considered so incriminating as to allow for an immediate conviction without a trial. Accordingly, it would have been inappropriate 
    for the SJC to arrive at a guilty verdict based upon arguments not formulated by the Presbytery. To have done so would have been for the SJC to try the case without having to undergo rebuttal and cross-examination, a clear violation of Leithart’s rights.

  79. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Lane & Co.,

    We are talking about evangelicalism versus what amounts to Roman Catholic teaching.

    Yeouch! Like the gospel vs. the not-gospel?!

    …This decision is completely and utterly wrong. The record of the case should have been enough all by itself to convince anyone truly confessional that Leithart’s theology does not fall within its boundaries.

    Yeouch #2! This makes it sound like the complaint-rejecters & Leithart-exonerators are UNconfessional.

    It does not fall within evangelicalism, let alone Reformed theology.

    Yeouch #3! Then it’s not Christian?

    Then, PCA men, you have these 3 choices, do you not?

    [1] Do nothing. Let the late Rodney King have his day: We CAN all get along. La la la la la . . . Sleeping at the wheel leads to wrecks, though.

    [2] Stand and fight: Have nothing to do with disobedient brethren but to rebuke them. …withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. {2 Thes. 3:6, NKJV}
    And, to each TE & RE, …holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. {Titus 1:9}
    And, From 1st Tim. 5:19ff ~ Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.

    [3] Flee the evil, per 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 ~

    Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

    Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.
    Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

    Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

  80. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks, David. ;)

  81. April 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Ron, RE #79,

    I cannot see where anyone suggested the SJC use info outside the case file. There was more than enough in the case file to convict Leithart. Lane’s paper was good enough. They chose not to use the info they had in that way. The SJC chose to decide narrowly instead. That’s the point.

  82. April 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Paul,

    What’s the point of rehashing all this again? Lane poured his heart into his paper and testimony. It stands on face value. Let him be. If you like Leithart so much, move west and join him in Moscow.

  83. April 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    David – Great point. The SJC has tarnished the PCA’s brand name. I used to tell folks traveling to find a PCA church for reliable and true worship. I have not done so in some years without researching who that pastor would be. If NAPARC doesn’t distance themselves from the PCA now, it doesn’t say much for NAPARC.

  84. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Musing Grommit @84 –

    If the regenerate Christian clergy in the PCA don’t distance themselves from the PCA now, it doesn’t say much for them, does it?

  85. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    . . . Didn’t think so. . .

  86. Tom Troxell said,

    April 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    The only problem with abandoning ship is where to land.

  87. John McNeely said,

    April 3, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I have listened to Leithart’s the Baptized Body. I have read the OPC’s report on Justification and their critique of his views. I have also interacted via e mail with Dr. Leithart on my confusion of some of his statements. I say all of this to state up front that I do disagree with Leithart on many issues and agree with many of the concerns listed by the prosecution. However, I think the reaction of his opponents on this blog and the approach taken in attempting to prosecute him is also very troublesome. Based on my reading of Lane’s interaction with Doug Wilson and Leithart, It seems when he and those of similar persuasion read theological writing they judge its orthodoxy based on their personal interpretation of the Westminster Standards and reformed theology. If they believe the work to be out of accord with their understanding they dismisses the writing and its author as out of accord with reformed theology. They proceed by publicly denouncing the teaching and if the teacher is in the bounds of their fellowship they attempt to bring the authority of the courts to remove the teacher. This functionally communicates that Lane wishes to submit the church (PCA) to his personal understanding of traditional reformed theology and the WCF. This idea was also substantiated by the prosecutions initial refusal to use scripture as the basis of their case. There was great irony in the prosecution attempting to use a document that excludes itself in its first few pages from being used in the churches of the court to determine faith and doctrine to prosecute a man they viewed as being out of accord with that document. WCF Ch1.X. When you attempt to use a document such as the WCF to prosecute a minster in the church what you are left with is men arguing over the proper interpretation of a fallible document. This appears to be one of the main reason why the Divines attempted to make it clear the confession was not to be used as the authority by which controversies of religion are to be settled. The prosecution’s approach revealed a problem I believe is at least equally as dangerous as Leithart’s teachings. That problem is believing one’s own understanding of a fallible document to be the final rule of faith and worship in the church. I think this claim is substantiated by Stellman’s swimming the Tiber, The authority he hoped to find in the Standards failed so he sought out an alternative. The prosecution would have been better served if they had primarily used scripture as the basis for their case against Leithart. The final issue I have with those who have been so public with their disagreement with Leithart is, to my knowledge, Leithart has never said anything close to something like “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2. When you recoil from statements that do not appear to deny Sola Fide to the level this verse appears to do, it seems you have issue with scripture and wish to elevate WCF higher than the wording of scripture.

    So what you are left with is either submitting to the court of the PCA, staying in the PCA while publicly or privately undermining Leithart’s ministry, or leaving the PCA and forming a denomination where the WCF or an amended one that ommits CH1 section X where it can exert the level of authority you wish to wield.

  88. Luke Nieuwsma said,

    April 3, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Lane,
    I’m saddened to see that you, as a minister of Christ, are unwilling to honor and respect the authority over you. Like an unsubmissive wife who will badmouths her husband’s decisions whenever she dislikes them, you cannot truly bring yourself to honor your own denomination’s ecclesiastical verdict. You are an intelligent man and a capable theologian, but you should learn to apply Hebrews 13:17 and to actually trust their wisdom and judgment. If you cannot follow them, how can your own congregants trust and follow you?

    In Christ,

    Luke Nieuwsma

  89. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Re

    Reformedmusings,

    In your mind were Lane’s written opinions to have been given the same weight as the direct trial-questions asked of PL? In other words, were they, as matter of procedure, to be cross-examined and rebutted in the same manner as Jason’s interrogation? Were there any actual arguments offered in the closing remarks and if so did those arguments resemble Lane’s pursuit? Or was there very little syllogistic argumentation offered and even less used from Lane’s findings?

  90. April 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Ron – Lane was literally disrespected and belittled on the stand during the trial. Of course he testified and was brutally cross-examined. What’s your point? Lane’s based his testimony on a comprehensive review of Leithart’s writings. Leithart’s ability to obfuscate is legendary, but one cannot, or should not be able to, hide from their written work. Again, he never repented of any view. Yet, against the considerable weight of his written words, he was given a pass. Should every trial end the minute a defendant declares that they didn’t do it? Isn’t the point of evidence to provide an objective, factual perspective?

  91. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Reformedmusings,

    With all due respect, I see about as much argumentation in your last post as I read in the transcript. At the very least, when one this difference fleshed out in the trial and put to rest?

    Is there a difference on the one hand between saying that such things [“the blessings that baptism signifies and seals”] can be attributed and applied or addressed to all the baptized and on the other hand saying that all the baptized have by virtue of being baptized in the innermost part of their being all of these saving blessings and identities. Is there a difference between those two things?

    PL essentially denied on the stand what FV has gone on record affirming. All that is left to do at that point is to pepper the defendant with questions regarding inconsistency in view of previously written (or stated) Roman Cahtolic tendencies. That did not happen and that was Jason’s job. Consequently, the SJC was left with too many uninterpreted brute particulars that were not fleshed out with formal argumentation. Again, to have drawn their own conclusions based upon arguments that were never formulated would have been to put PL on trial without the right of a defense attorney. We’re Presbyterian not papists.

  92. Jed Paschall said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Luke,

    What if Machen had respected the ruling of the PCUSA? Would that submission have been godly?

  93. Hugh McCann said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Jed,

    Machen & the PCUSA?
    Luther & Rome?
    Paul & Judaizers?
    Jesus & Pharisees?

    It must be different for the PCA.

  94. April 3, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Ron – Cannot the SJC read and interpret for themselves? Past SJCs have done so. It’s not about popes, but about discernment.

  95. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Reformedmusings,

    If they may read and interpret themselves without their thinking and conclusions being cross-examined then the implication is that trials are superfluous. Trials are not superfluous because the right to defend oneself is judicial. Accordingly, no, they may not just read and render an opinion that overturns the result of the trial. They may evalute the arguments that were offered, no more and no less.

  96. April 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    John, RE #88,

    That’s an old, tired FV argument. Scripture and the Standards must both be interpreted. PCA officers vow:

    Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures;

    There’s no competition between Scripture and the Standards. That’s a dead red herring that’s gotten very soupy laying in the sun. Further, the PCA Federal Vision report observed:

    Moreover, to affirm the Standards, and then redefine the terms used in the Standards, is not to affirm the Standards. For example, to affirm the decretal view of election, and then to say that the Bible teaches that the elect may fall from their election, is to set the Bible over against the Standards. The committee holds that by receiving and adopting the Westminster Standards as containing the system of doctrine taught in Scripture, we are saying that the terms used in the Confession faithfully represent what is taught in Scripture.

    Been there, done that. The false setting of the Standards against Scripture didn’t pass then and the argument hasn’t improved since then.

  97. Reed here said,

    April 3, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    And that, Bob, is why I hesitate to admonish the SJC here. Their decision offers an opinion on the quality, not of testimony such as Lane’s, but arguments from Jason. I remember reading the trial transcript and being concerned at multiple points that Jason did not seem to have made the best case possible.

  98. April 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Ron – The ROC contains all the arguments and evidence, including Leithart’s obfuscation in its full glory. I don’t see your point.

  99. pduggie said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    83: Reformedmusings

    While there is life there is hope, no? I continue to learn things from this controversy/conversation.

    My point 2 alludes to one guess I have about why the SJC may have ruled in PLs favor: the FV deals with real unresolved tensions in Reformed theology

    People who think there is NO tension, say between the free offer, the basis of the free offer, and election because of simplistic slogans like “when the non-elect get the free offer, its reading someone else’s mail” won’t be impressed with the difficulty of course.

    Some people can discern, for instance, that PL and MH are actually pretty similar in positing a justification that is transformative in its forensitudinousenss. Or they see critics of the FV falling into opposite errors like denying WCF 33.1 that EVERYONE every born will face the judgment seat of Christ and give an account. No, that’s too horrifying for some, since they are sure Jesus would be disgusted and contemptuous toward them if that had to happen.

    This is complex stuff. Worth having a conversation about.

  100. April 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Reed – Sadly, I think that’s what happened in the SJC. The goal is supposed to be discernment of the ground truth, not who won in the debating club. Surely that’s worth admonishing. The SJC isn’t supposed to judge the county fair, but hold officers accountable to their vows.

  101. pduggie said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Crumb, even Muller says Baxter was within within the boundaries established by the major confessions and catechisms of the Reformed churches. Even I find that hard to swallow. But its worth considering.

  102. John McNeely said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Reformedmusings; Your quote of the ordination vow does not undermine the first vow.

    “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?”

    If the WCF is to be used as the standard for faith and practice, it undermines its own content namely, CHAPTER 1 SECTION 10.

    On you quoting,”Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures” as sufficient reason to use the standards as the rule of faith and practice you must overcome what the standards themselves teach. The standards do not let you use them the way Stellman attempted in the trial. Also Leithart does sincerely believe he is in accord with the standards. If you cannot convict him using scripture you are reduced to arguing over personal interpretations over a fallible document.

  103. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    At this point, it will not matter if the SJC decides to try to distance itself from Leithart’s theology. They will have allowed his theology to exist. This decision is completely and utterly wrong. The record of the case should have been enough all by itself to convince anyone truly confessional that Leithart’s theology does not fall within its boundaries. It does not fall within evangelicalism, let alone Reformed theology.

    Lane,

    You truly have my respect. Really, you do. I can only imagine how heart broken you are given you’ve poured your heart, mind and soul into this matter as a churchman and a saint. But I must say that I find that statement maybe a tad reckless and one I think you should consider retracting. I can imagine that in the heat of the moment you might not be able to imagine that the way the evidence was argued was not sufficient to overturn the verdict in the collective mind of the SJC. I can only imagine there was much discussion if not debate. Certainly one even more Reformed than even you could be “truly confessional” yet not have found enough in the trial to be persuaded of a guilty verdict. Maybe they weren’t as up to speed as you on PL, but that isn’t even germane to their task as I see it, but more importantly not germae to their task as they saw it. Or just maybe there were people on the SJC that actually believe PL is a Romanist in Presbyterian clothing (after all his prosecutor was) yet they found the trial-arguments against him lacking. Certainly it would have been easier on them to find PL guilty than not, but something prevented that from occurring. That is what I’d like you and everyone to consider. Unless the members of the SJC had FV leanings or were simply stupid men, neither of which I think anyone believes, I think you should reconsider what you’re putting out here. Again, something prevented these Reformed men from overturning the verdict. What could that have been? FV leanings? Lack of acumen? I say, let’s take them at their word. Let’s give them the judgment of charity. I think they deserve it. They were simply not persuaded by the arguments, which does not mean they aren’t suspicious of PL or even believe from their own research that he is is not Reformed.

  104. Sean Gerety said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    #84 and a bunch of other posts by Bob. Amen.

  105. greenbaggins said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Ron, I know for a fact that many, maybe even more than half, of the SJC members said something like, “I don’t agree with Leithart’s theology, and think it is unconfessional, and yet I don’t think the case was proven.” My comments were directed toward the effect of the vote. I was not trying to read into the motivation of the SJC members as to why they voted the way they did.

  106. Ron said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Lane,

    I’m glad to hear that more than half said that they disagree with PL and that the case against him was not in their estimation proven. Two quick points…

    1. The “effect” of the vote may only be considered a vote for FV by one who is uninformed or not being truthful. Ignorant and careless people, even liars, will always be with us but what was the SJC to do, not rule according to what they believed to be their charter because of such as these?

    2. I hope I did not suggest that you were reading into the motives of the SJC. What I did infer from your statement is that the case presented should have been sufficient to persuade any “truly confessional” person of PL’s guilt. Given that these men were not persuaded by the case presented, the implication of your remarks seems to suggest they aren’t “truly confessional.” I think that runs contrary to what you really think about the men who comprised the SJC, which is why I would like to think that you overstated your point. In other words, I would hope you didn’t mean to say that the case should have been enough to persuade any truly confessional man, for that is to say: If truly confessional-SJC, then Leithart guilty; Leithart not guilty, therefore, not truly confessional-SJC. I don’t think you mean to imply such a thing.

    Again, I think the reason they did not find Leithart guilty was not because they aren’t truly confessional. I must believe these confessional men simply weren’t persuaded by the case, which you seem to (also?) accept.

  107. Jerry Koerkenmeier said,

    April 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Luke @89:

    WCF 31.2: It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.

  108. Jerry Koerkenmeier said,

    April 4, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Note the key phrase there, “if consonant to the Word of God”.

  109. Greg said,

    April 4, 2013 at 6:36 am

    BCO 27.3: Its ends, so far as it involves judicial action, are the rebuke of offenses, the removal of scandal, the vindication of the honor of Christ, the promotion of the purity and general edification of the Church, and the spiritual good of offenders themselves.

    Did the SJC promote or accomplish these ends?

    Matt 23:23 – For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.

    Did they follow the BCO technically and fail to take into account the weightier matters?

    We concern ourselves with not being like the world, but have our courts become like theirs? In our criminal justice system we see the accused protected to the extent that even when guilt is known and proven, if it was established contrary to the rules, then his guilt is set aside and he is freed. And do we then rejoice when a murderer is set free to murder again?

    So if we say we have diligently followed the letter of law, but let the false teacher continue with his false teachings, have we not become like the world. Have we not lost sight of the purpose of discipline?

  110. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 4, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Paul,

    You said this “… the FV deals with real unresolved tensions in Reformed theology.”

    Despite your attempt at legitimization in your next paragraph, that is not really true. There are no unresolved tensions in the Reformed Confessions especially in the WCF, WLC and WSC taken together that the FV deals with. There was and are departures from Reformed Orthodoxy in the 19th and 20th (and now 21st) centuries in which low-church evangelicalism and antinomianism displaced Reformed Orthodoxy. A lot of that has been happening for so long that most contemporary folk think what is taught and done in the reformed churches today is historic Reformed orthodox theology when in fact it is very badly degraded, and in the case of worship a flat out counterfeit.

    The solution is not to jettison the gospel as the FV does. We don’t need a conversation that proposes to solve the sins of the reformed churches starting in the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries by undoing the reformation altogether.

    What is needed is a return to the reformed orthodoxy and practice taught in the WCF, WLC and WSC, without all the qualification and redefinitions. The Federal Vision instead attempts to lure those who don’t really know what it is to be reformed (as actually presented in the confession) into a system similar to Roman Catholicism, and that is no solution.

    Andrew

  111. pduggie said,

    April 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Andrew: my readings of D Patrick Ramsey’s various posts on the neonomian-antinomian controversy indicated to me that, if the neonomians were actually wrong, the WCF lacked the resources to make that clear. There was a real tension.

    Also John Ball is immediately doing some stuff with covenant theology that many today think doesn’t fit their view of what the WCF teaches, but was appreciated by the divines at the time.

    If I thought FV (or PL, or JBJ, of Meyers) jettisoned the gospel, I’d agree with you.

  112. Drew said,

    April 4, 2013 at 8:27 am

    While not intending to impugn either the intelligence or the motives of the members of the SJC, would it be reasonable to raise the issue of whether their expertise is more properly that of lawyers and “denominational men” (with the consequent pressures of such) than theologians and historians?

    If so, is this desirable? If not, what sort of sociological factors lead to the placing of such men on the SJC rather than theologians and historians? And are these factors that can be addressed? How?

  113. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 4, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Paul,

    You wrote:
    “my readings of D Patrick Ramsey’s … indicated to me that … the WCF lacked the resources to make that clear.”

    If your reading of Ramsey is right, then he is simply wrong, and shows how wide spread and how deep the problem I pointed out really is.

    Much of what you call are tensions are questions that are illegitimate. As we learn in Romans 9:19 and 20 (among other places) some questions are simply illegitimate.

    “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” The apostle doesn’t engage the question, but rather condemns the impropriety of asking it.

    Asking an illegitimate question does not actualize a tension in theology it is just another example of violating Deut 29;29. The solution is not to try to resolve your tension, the solution is cease from sinful questions.

    You conclude: “If I thought FV (or PL, or JBJ, of Meyers) jettisoned the gospel, I’d agree with you.”

    Paul I mean this with all love and gentleness, that’s why I used the word “lure” in my previous.

    Andrew

  114. jasonpopejr said,

    April 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

    If I understand this correctly, the SJC was just determining procedural accuracy of the PNW trial, not making a judgement on Leithart’s teachings. If that is the case, so they decided procedure was followed in the trail – great. What is the next step? We have a doctrinal problem, not a procedural problem. What is our denomination to do about a TE teaching doctrine that is clearly not in accord with our standards?

  115. April 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Greg, RE #111,

    I think that’s the case. The FV presbyteries and the SJC are treating these cases in the manner of secular law courts and neglecting the actual wording and expectations of our BCO, which is agreeable to Scripture. I’ve seen this in both the Leithart and Meyers cases, but not at the SJC level in the earlier Louisiana Presbytery (LAP) case involving Wilkins. The contrast between how the SJC handled LAP then and Leithart now is stark and dismaying.

    Ecclesiastical courts are not gov’t courts and should not be conducted as such. Certainly the SJC in this case has failed to give appropriate consideration towards the purity of the church and weight of evidence pointing out Leithart’s heresy, something with which the gov’t court system has no obligation. The SJC had an obligation to consider the peace and purity of the PCA in its decision, but instead have opened up the sluice gates for all manner of theological garbage.

  116. April 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Jason,

    In a word, nothing.

  117. greenbaggins said,

    April 4, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Unfortunately, Jason, as I demonstrated in the last post, the SJC could not avoid giving an implied pass to Leithart’s theology, even though they claim they were not. And there does not seem to be any way of getting rid of Leithart in a way that condemns his erroneous opinions.

  118. hegel267 said,

    April 4, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Lane,
    Is it not possible that another presbytery could file have another trial of a different FV advocate, get a conviction, have it upheld by the SJC and then this would affect PL?
    Michael

  119. Luke Nieuwsma said,

    April 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Jerry @109… good point, but you’re actually confirming my argument. The WFC clearly says church council decisions and creedal statements are subordinate to Scripture… but the WCF itself is one of those creedal documents subordinate to Scripture.
    That’s why I’m appealing not to the WCF, but to the command in Hebrews 13. The Bible clearly requires trust and submission to the spiritual authority above us, and Hebrews 13 doesn’t say, “Obey those who rule over you… when you agree with their decisions.”
    Lane is not being asked to deny the gospel; he is implicitly being asked to accept the judgment of the denomination that Leithart is not contradicting the gospel/the WCF.
    Again, if Lane is not willing to consider that he may be mistaken and the authorities over him correct, or at least to quietly accept their decision, then why should Lane’s own congregation listen to his preaching and trust his judgment as a minister? If the SJC’s authority can be openly shot down by a PCA pastor, then why can’t a PCA member publicly shoot down his pastor’s teachings and decisions?
    Lane’s behavior completely contradicts the idea that ministers of God and presbyteries and GA’s actually have any real authority given to them by God at all.

    In Christ,
    Luke

  120. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Luke,

    Surely, you must be kidding. You seem to be advocating “implicit” faith and obedience to an extent of which the Roman magisterium would be proud. So, any decision of a church court should silence all opposition? Liberty of conscience is only possible until a higher body speaks. May God save us from such tyranny.

    Thank the Lord that the 16th-century Reformers did not hold such a view.

  121. Hugh McCann said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause…

    Dr Luther,

    I’m saddened to see that you, as a minister of Christ, are unwilling to honor and respect our papal authority over you. Like an unsubmissive wife who will badmouths her husband’s decisions whenever she dislikes them, you cannot truly bring yourself to honor the Roman Catholic Church’s rule. You are an intelligent man and a capable theologian, but you should learn to apply Hebrews 13:17 and to actually trust our papal wisdom and judgment. If you cannot follow us, how can your own congregants trust and follow you?

    The Bible clearly requires trust and submission to the spiritual authority above us, and Hebrews 13 doesn’t say, “Obey those who rule over you… when you agree with their decisions.”!

    Luther, you’re not being asked to deny the gospel; you’re only implicitly being asked to accept the judgment of the denomination that Tetzel is not contradicting the gospel/ the ecumenical councils.

    Again, Martin, if you are not willing to consider that you may be mistaken and the authorities over you correct, or at least to quietly accept our decision, then why should your own congregation listen to your preaching and trust your judgment as a minister?

    If the papacy’s authority can be openly shot down by a mere pastor, then why can’t a Roman Church member publicly shoot down his pastor’s teachings and decisions? ALL CHAOS MIGHT ERUPT!

    Luther, your behavior completely contradicts the idea that ministers of God and the magisterium and my Holy See actually have any real authority given to us by God at all.

    In Christian Love and Leadership,
    Leo X, Pope

  122. Hugh McCann said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    The day a church member -PCA or wherever- is not allowed to “publicly shoot down his pastor’s teachings and decisions,” when said pastor has publicly preached error, is the day one must leave his church. Immediately.

    Luke, try Called to Communion’s blog. A very nice assortment of ex-Reformed guys (i.e. apostates) can assist you in the transition from grace to works, solus Christus to Mariolatry, and from biblical authority to papal rule. Gimme a break, man!

  123. billh said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Luke, Are you willing to hold PL to that same standard and same question? Are you aware of his answer when he was asked in presbytery meeting why he would not submit to his brothers and fathers in the GA FV report?

  124. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    @121, Luke,

    You sound as though you are accusing Lane. (@89 and doubling down in 121) You compare him one-to-one with specific sins, how that is not an accusation is beyond me. Are you an ordained elder in the PCA? Even if you are ordained in the PCA, you still need two or three people before you start down that path.

    1 Tim 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

    If you shouldn’t receive such accusations, you certainly should not make them.

    You might try applying Matt 7:3-5 first.

  125. greenbaggins said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Michael, it’s possible, but that would not result in the expulsion of Leithart.

  126. greenbaggins said,

    April 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Luke, if i did not speak out against the SJC decision, and against the FV guys in this denomination, I would actually lose respect from my congregation.

  127. Hugh McCann said,

    April 4, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    More importantly, Lane @127-8, would you be actually violating your ordination vows in NOT fighting heretics and their heresy?

    Most importantly, would you not be doing our Lord disservice by your silence, which would signal approval of –and ultimately complicity with– the heretics’ sinful doctrines?

  128. locirari said,

    April 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    It’s curious that Lane is called on to “shut up” now that the SJC has denied the Complaint. How does that follow since the SJC copped out and focused on “procedure,” and when even their ruling on that score is questionable? You’d think this is Rome and that the Pope made an “ex cathedra” pronouncement. Thankfully, it isn’t so and we are liberty to subject Leithart, the PNWP, and the SJC to a higher standard.

  129. pduggie said,

    April 5, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Andrew: So the Marrow controversy should have been settled by Boston never bringing the Marrow up?

  130. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 5, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Paul,

    I don’t see how the history of the Marrow Controversy is relevant here.

    My follow ups with regard to tensions were more general in nature, Because they (the FV) obviously go way beyond trying to solve the problem of low-church evangelicalism and antinomianism in the reformed churches, since that solution is quite simple, repent and return to Westminster Orthodoxy.

    But to make it more clear

    As you wrote: “if the neonomians were actually wrong, the WCF lacked the resources to make that clear.”

    That is simply not true.

    With respect to the FV. If they are in fact reacting to low-church evangelicalism and antinomianism those things are not the fault of the WCF, but arise out of departing from Westminster Orthodoxy. Rather than a call to return to Westminster Orthodoxy, the FV instead “devised” a Romanesque theology, which as it turns out jettisons the gospel.

    So to sum up, in addition to trying to solve problems in the 20th and 21st century reformed churches, which you claim based on Ramsey arise from a failure in the WCF, (which is not true), but arise instead from a departure from Westminster Orthodoxy, in the process of developing their theology, the FV do ask illegitimate questions and manufacture new tensions which they then need to resolve. There is no good that comes from trying to resolve tensions that arise from illegitimate questions. Instead that effort ends up forcing the jettisoning of the received orthodoxy and in the case of the FV the gospel itself.

    Andrew

  131. p duggie said,

    April 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Sorry I guess I wasn’t clear. I was always restricting my claim based on my read of Ramsey (he may disagree) to the *historic* neonomian-antinomian controversy. And I don’t think that could be settled by appeals to the WCF. Or its very odd that large swathes of guys who were way more committed to the WCF than any current churches (yourself excepted :)) still had a controversy about it, and favored the neonomian side (or at least, opposed the Marrow)

    I’m not just talking about Baxter. See, for instance, Manton on the way the gospel is like a law.

    FWIW i’ve usually been more swayed by critics of the FV who admit that the FV have tried to deal with real ongoing issues and are helpful in some respects. I think Horton says as much in the trial testimony (or was it Lane?)

    What would you ID as an illegitimate question the FV is asking?

  132. April 5, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Dr Leithart is Roman Catholic? On infant communion, he’s with Augustine and the Hussites (pro) and the PCA is with the Council of Trent and the radical Anabaptists in upholding a medieval RC invention (con). FV, I’m not sure–the FV men I know are devout, thoughtful Christians, but I’m not sure the complications matter as much as either side claims–but when we show the Lord’s death, do we show he died for our children (by including them), or show the reverse?
    (Andrew, husband of Wendy)

  133. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 6, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Paul,

    Just one quick example, a lot of what is said about Baptism and its relationship to regneration. There is a lot of implicit questioning of how the Holy Spirit goes about His work with respect to regeneration in effectual calling. Their answer tends to be pretty much through baptism. You can see an exmaple of that in Stellman’s comment over on the “Descision” post.

    Heresy doesn’t only arise from getting answers to theological questions wrong, but from asking illegitimate questions which to which the answers are not revealed in scripture. In order to “answer” those questions, they devise solutions to those tensions that arise from those illegiimate questions, and that only ever ends in heresy.

    Andrew

  134. April 6, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Andrew,

    Heresy doesn’t only arise from getting answers to theological questions wrong, but from asking illegitimate questions which to which the answers are not revealed in scripture. In order to “answer” those questions, they devise solutions to those tensions that arise from those illegiimate questions, and that only ever ends in heresy.

    And therein lies one of the core problems with FV. Leithart’s rampant speculations on Trinitarian anthropology fit squarely in that category. I wrote about that heresy, which Leithart connects to baptismal regeneration lite, here.

  135. Howard Donahoe said,

    April 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Here’s a link to the 10-page Preliminary Brief filed by Presbytery before the Hearing in this case. It might give some helpful context to the decision. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kpzd4mjnptyipkm/ApHiA1kiZ9

  136. Mark B said,

    April 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I have a few thoughts, but it’s been said well already, so an amen to:
    locirari 22
    Bob 65
    Bob 73
    David 74
    Martin 75
    Bob 84
    Jerry 109, 110
    Greg 111
    Bob 117

  137. pduggie said,

    April 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    (surely there are illegitimate questions, I’ll grant, but I’ll risk asking these)

    If God’s inability to look on sin mean’t that he could not have fellowship with sinners, how did Jesus have fellowship with sinners, even reprobate ones?

    And how did the church, after the Spirit visibly inhabited it as a visible body at Pentecost allow *any* potential sinners within it’s fellowship?

    Did God’s inability to look at sin interfere with his ability to lead a mixed multitude from Egypt?

    Does God’s inability to look at sin interfere with his sending rain on the just and the unjust? Does it interfere with letting reprobates drink from the rock that followed them, who was Christ?

    Andrew, BTW, where you see illegitimate questioning in the FV, I actually see a willingness to reason from OT typology: Ethnic Israel possesses a type of adoption (see Murray) as a visible body: why does the visible church have LESS than that type of adoption?

    Mattes writes at his link

    “So Leithart, and the Federal Visionists at large, posit a group of baptized reprobates to whom God grants saving graces and fellowship in the Trinity, welcomes into the saved community for a time, then boots out at some point, thereby not finishing the good work He started in them.”

    If we put that into typological terms, it’s almost the same complaint that the Israelites gave to Moses

    “oh, so you’re saying this supposedly gracious God takes people into a ‘saved community’ and takes them actually all the way out of Egypt and then kills them in the wilderness, and doesn’t bring them into the promised land! What kind of God is that?”

  138. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Paul,

    As Bob pointed out so well in his posting he linked, in the remarks about WLC 63:

    Note that the Catechism specifically says that the reprobate receive the “offers of grace,” not that they are granted any of those graces if they don’t believe.

    I think that is pretty clear.

    As for where do I see illegitimate questioning? Re-read your comment. @139. Every question you asked was illegitimate. Especially that last paragraph. That actually goes way beyond illegitimate.

    Andrew

  139. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 7, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Paul,

    One more thing. Necessarily inherent in your questions is a underlying presupposition that you get to “dictate” terms to God. You get to decide what it means for God to be gracious. You get to impose your own meaning on the words that God uses to communicate to men. It has to be “this” way i.e., the FV way or God really isn’t being gracious. We all have to take God and his salvation that he offers on the terms in which he offers it.

    You do the same thing as the theistic evolutionists do, but with grace and salvation. What God actually says in the Scriptures don’t square with your definition of grace, so you (the FV) invents (re-invents) a theological system of “salvation”, which in the end isn’t. And it’s not even new, its just recycled Romanism, with a classic 20th century American marketing strategy of having a “New and Improved” sticker on it.

  140. CD-Host said,

    April 8, 2013 at 6:36 am

    @Andrew

    This idea of legitimate questions is interesting. Of course it is hard to know the distinction between what you are considering an illegitimate question and all but the most shallow bible study. If statement X implies Y and then Y being false implies X is false. So by drawing implications from statements they become testable. I’m not sure how you would draw any conclusions or doctrine without going through a process similar to what Paul is going through.

    For example… when Calvin asked the question, “if Jesus doesn’t lose any sheep but goats are lost then must it not follow that goats were never sheep” why would that be legitimate. Or going even further back, why was the question “are the father and son truly distinct or apparently distinct” which led to the the crucial separation of trinitarian & Arian christianity from modalism legitimate?

    You are absolutely right those are the kinds of questions Paul was asking that lead people to grok holes in their current theological system, that lead to theological development. But I’m not sure how the standard you propose works.

  141. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

    @CD,

    Well, it really is quite simple, really. God is not an intellectual play thing where men can propose all sorts of questions to which men, at least implicitly, can demand that God answer them. Rather God in Scripture supplies us not only with the answers to the questions necessary for salvation, but supplies the questions we need to ask. He supplies both the questions and the answers. Asking questions that are not raised in the Scriptures themselves is a sinful violation of Deut 29:29.

    I never said it is easy to do,

    Your example about the Trinity and Arianism is actually a very poor example, because the Scriptures are not unclear about the Trinity. The question doesn’t arise from Scripture, but is just a variant of “Yeah, Hath God said?” So the illegitimacy of that question doesn’t arise from the fact that God doesn’t reveal Himself as One God in Three Persons, but rather from disbelieving what God did reveal about Himself and the Arians refused to believe.

    The reason you’re not sure how what I am saying “works” is because you still place yourself at the top as though God owes you answers.

  142. Ben Carmack said,

    April 9, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Friends,

    The claim that the Federal Vision leads to Rome is wrong on several counts. It is particularly telling that the actual convert to Rome, one Mr. Stellman, was Dr. Leithart’s prosecutor. Dr. Leithart, unlike many of the disillusioned faddish converts from evangelicalism to the RCC, understands the original purpose of the Reformation: to reform and renew the historic Catholic Church along biblical lines, not allowing the accrual of tradition to hold court over the inspired Scriptures.

    In this spirit, Dr. Leithart looks to the historic church not as an enemy, but as a friend. He analyzes traditions with an eye to the Scriptures. His work on closed communion and Galatians 2 is brilliant, as is his defense of Constantine. Dr. Leithart better understands why he is Protestant than many of his critics. Which is why his critics bolt for Rome for a variety of reasons real and imagined, and he does not.

    When Jason Stellman figures out the disastrous mistake he has made in going home to Rome, Dr. Leithart I’m sure will warmly welcome him back to the Lord’s Table with the truly catholic Church, as opposed to the goofy sect governed from the Vatican. And Dr. Leithart will do this because he has a better, more gracious understanding of what it means to be catholic and Reformed. Jason, we miss you and can’t wait to have you back.

  143. CD-Host said,

    April 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    @Andrew #143

    Your example about the Trinity and Arianism is actually a very poor example, because the Scriptures are not unclear about the Trinity.

    Lots of smart people over 20 centuries have read scripture and come to conclusions other than the trinity and working through the trinity took centuries. That’s pretty much the definition of unclear.

    I think you would agree the trinity is not explicitly in scripture. And experimentally people don’t seem to come to that belief on their own. For example if I were to randomly intermix 20 statements from various non-trinitarian heretics with 10 statements of trinitarian doctrine I’m not sure the average church goer in a PCA church could separate them out.

    The reason you’re not sure how what I am saying “works” is because you still place yourself at the top as though God owes you answers.

    Let’s grant I have a terrible character. But that doesn’t really answer my question. How is what Paul is doing any different than what Calvin did in coming up with TULIP?

  144. Hugh McCann said,

    April 9, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Ben @144 –

    I thought the problem that Lane & Co. had was not necessarily “that the Federal Vision leads to Rome,” but that the Federal Vision is Romish, Romanesque, Rome-lite, etc.

  145. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    @CD

    It is not correct to say that it took centuries to work though things to arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity. Smart people are not the most qualified when it comes to theology. From Ps 119, part 13 O How I love thy law it is my study all the day. It makes me wiser than my foes, its precepts with me stay. More than my teachers or the old thy servant understands, for in thy truth I meditate and follow thy commands”

    That it took a length of time to put a label on the doctrine we call the Trinity doesn’t mean that it wasn’t believed by the orthodox throughout history.

    Those average PCA church goers might do better than you think if they know their shorter catechism at all, (or read their Bibles) but the veracity and perspicuity of Scripture is not determined by the results of a theological exam of average church goers.

    Scripture is clear on the Trinity (cf WCF 1) The Trinity is taught in scripture from the very beginning, when God said “Let us make man in our image…” Even the fact that God speaks in Gen 1 teaches the Trinity as we learn in John 1.

    Sure we have lots of heretics through the centuries, so what. Even if we don’t get around to labelling the various teachings of Scripture for a long time until heretics come along to lead people astray, doesn’t mean that those doctrines don’t exist until labelled.

    Calvin didn’t invent Reformed Theology. We call Apostolic Biblical Christianity “Reformed” because, after the dearth of the Middle Ages where heresy was more widely believed than orthodoxy, Calvin and the other Reformers including the Synod of Dort (which gave us those 5 points”) and Westminster Assembly merely gave renewed expression to Apostolic Biblical Christianity.

    With regard to your final question I didn’t make a make a character assessment, but rather a spiritual one.

  146. CD-Host said,

    April 12, 2013 at 11:38 am

    @Andrew #147

    I wrote a reply to you that got eaten. I’m going to skip past the history stuff for a moment since we are disagreeing on what it means for scripture to be clear that is perspicuous.

    the veracity and perspicuity of Scripture is not determined by the results of a theological exam of average church goers…. Sure we have lots of heretics through the centuries, so what.

    I’d say that is almost the definition of veracity and perspicuity. If I give a book to two readers and they don’t agree on the basics of the meaning then:

    a) They weren’t qualified readers. That is they lacked the background to understand the book. For example giving an advanced math book to an average person. Or giving a professional chef’s recipe to an average cook.

    b) The are dishonest readers.

    c) The book is non perspicuous on that topic.

    Or to put that another way a disagreement between qualified honest readers constitutes counter evidence of perspicuity on a topic. Lets forget about ancient heretics and use a better example for this point the 19th century American Arian movement. This is a good example because

    1) They speak American English. We can read their writings and they share our culture. They mean by “bible”, “God”, “trinitarianism”, “Arianism” the same things we do.

    2) They were knowledgeable about the American Reformed tradition and many of them had come out of it. Moreover they had to interact with and respond to it.

    3) They were popular at the time. Had huge influences on American religion: the mainline churches, the incipient Adventist movement, the later Unitarians, Christian Spiritualism… And while less popular today the organizations they founded or trace back to them, particularly the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have millions of members.

    Now these people were clearly capable of reading the bible and in point of fact made their arguments for Arianism directly from the bible.
    They were intelligent and interested readers and some were quite educated.
    They clearly understood the Reformed confessions.
    They clearly understood the arguments for trinitarianism.
    etc…

    If the bible were perspicuous on the issue of trinitarianism I would expect these groups not to exist. Or to take the contra-postive the historical existence of these groups proves the bible can’t be clear on the trinity.

    Under your theory: the question why does the bible use El, Yahweh, Elohim, 3 variants on El, 8 variants on Yahweh, Adonai and then in the NT: Theos, Kurlos, Father … was an illegitimate question. I get that. But how would they know it was an illegitimate question vs. the ones that are used to construct the creeds.

  147. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    @CD,

    All of those fall under the headings of unqualified and dishonest readers. Those who teach unitarianism are dishonest.

    Now these people were clearly capable of reading the bible and in point of fact made their arguments for Arianism directly from the bible.
    They were intelligent and interested readers and some were quite educated.
    They clearly understood the Reformed confessions.
    They clearly understood the arguments for trinitarianism.
    etc…

    No they weren’t clearly capable of reading the bible, for if they had they would not have been Arians.

    No they were not intelligent and interested readers. They were wise in their own conceit.

    No they didn’t really understand the Reformed confessions because they didn’t believe them.

    No they didn’t clearly understand the arguments for Trinitarianism, because they didn’t believe.

    You discount the operation of the Holy Spirit in these matters. The veracity of the Scriptures is only dependant on God who spoke them. Since it is not possible for God to lie the Scriptures are true, inerrant, and infallible. That one must first come to faith in Christ before being able to understand that doesn’t negate the objective truth of it.
    I will simply quote the WLC on effectual calling

    Q 67. What is effectual calling?
    A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” Prov 1:7 and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Prov 9:10. and “There is no God the fool hath said within his wicked heart, corrupt are they there works are vile they all from good depart” (Ps 14:1 and 53:1).

    The failure of unitarians to believe the doctrine of the Trinity is not in the scriptures, but in the hardness of the hearts of those that reject it.

    Many of them are both unqualified and dishonest, but all of them are at least unqualified, and for those claiming themselves to be qualified when they are not are also dishonest.

    WCF 1 on the perspicuity of Scripture is speaking to believers not infidels.

  148. April 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Ben,

    First, welcome to Greenbaggins!

    Dr. Leithart, unlike many of the disillusioned faddish converts from evangelicalism to the RCC, understands the original purpose of the Reformation: to reform and renew the historic Catholic Church along biblical lines, not allowing the accrual of tradition to hold court over the inspired Scriptures.

    Unfortunately, what Leithart writes and teaches is not Reformed and at best, is wildly speculative with regards to Scripture. I don’t think that he’s so smart that he’s discerned what 2,000 years of scholarship before him supposedly missed, and I’m far than alone in that assessment. To the contrary, he merely weaves together Romanish and other aberrant theological errors with wild speculations and tries to tie a Reformed bow around them all.

    If you want to learn Reformed theology, read Calvin for yourself. For modern works, read Dr. R.C. Sproul, Sr., Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Carl Trueman, Dr. Michael Horton, and similar. Go back a century and more and read Robert Shaw, William Cunningham, Owen, the Westminster Annotations, and the notes in the 1599 Geneva Bible. I could go on and on. The contrast with Leithart’s (and FVer’s in general) erroneous teaching is stark. If you want to see directly how stark in brief, read Lane’s 30-page testimony from Leithart’s trial. That is a masterful work with countless hours of research behind it. I pray that you find the reading of these authors fruitful.

  149. CD-Host said,

    April 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    @andrew #149

    No they didn’t really understand the Reformed confessions because they didn’t believe them.

    No they didn’t clearly understand the arguments for Trinitarianism, because they didn’t believe.

    There are lots of things you understand but don’t believe. I understand Newton / Galileo’s rules of motion I believe General Relativity.

    _____

    You’ve now created a circle. There are lets say families of Doctrines: D1, D2… D90, who claim to be based on the bible. You happen to believe in D56. Anyone who believes in D1-D55 or D57-D90 isn’t reading the bible properly, and we know that because they don’t believe in D56. Brigham Young used that exact same argument.

    Under your system you are sort of a super pope. The bible means what you say it means. Anyone who disagrees with you can’t properly understand the bible by definition, regardless of all outward appearances. Paul is asking questions which are not clearly indicated by scripture and we know that because you decided what’s clearly indicated by scripture. etc…

    I can’t argue that system. But I don’t see any reason you would expect anyone else to ever care whether you considered their views “heretical” since heretical means nothing more than disagreeing with a subjective opinion not outwardly defendable.

    _____

    Generally when people use language like “Calvin didn’t invent Reformed theology”, “scripture is clear on the trinity”, “these doctrines existed historically” they are talking about objective, externally observable public information not private whim. Statements that don’t depend upon a pre-existing agreement to be found true. I have no idea how to refute the total nihilism VanTil. Call me a hopeless optimist but I choose to believe there is such a thing as public observable reality and that talking about a book means is an objective not a subjective statement.

    Obviously the Arians rejected your personal take on scripture, but when you accused them of rejecting scripture I thought you meant more than that. Something more than a tautology that people that disagree with you disagree with you.

  150. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 12, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    @CD,

    Flattery will get you nowhere. However, I am nowhere arguing my view of scripture, I am arguing what Scripture objectively teaches. (Re read WCF 1) It is objective public information and it is not private whim. Truth while entirely objective is not an abstract concept for man to judge, (read Job) but truth is defined by what God says.

    The fact of the matter is the truth is not discoverable by the natural man in his unregenerate heart and mind. That’s why I quoted the bit on effectual calling. You answer exactly as your nature dictates. You might try repentance unto life instead.

  151. Don said,

    April 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Andrew Duggan #152,
    It seems that CD-Host is responding to your assertions in 149, where the first half of your post basically says, “They are wrong because they disagree with my beliefs” (whether they are your personal beliefs or the WCF is besides the point). You are not “arguing what Scripture objectively teaches,” you are asserting that the WCF is so inerrant that it should be obvious to anyone who is Spirit-led.

    I’m not claiming the WCF is not inerrant, I just find it odd that you think that building an argument around that fact to a nonchristian would get you anywhere. The only thing I’m sure about in 149 is when you say, “You discount the operation of the Holy Spirit in these matters.” Which for all of CD-Host’s education, explains his lack of theological understanding.

  152. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

    @Don,

    Actually 149 (and FWIW none of those preceeding) is (are) not about my beliefs at all, and if you will carefully reread what I wrote you will see I didn’t associate it with what I believe. it’s about what Scripture teaches.

    Consider 1 Cor 2, esp v 14

    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned

    So what I wrote about the unqualified readers is supported by 1 Cor 2:14. One can only understand what the Scriptures actually say if one has been regenerated. (See what I included about effectual calling) So, your characterization that I am not “arguing what Scripture objectively teaches” is wrong and unhelpful. This is particularly so because by this point the “conversation” had moved to well prior to WCF all the way back to the very first creeds of the churches the Apostles and Nicean creeds – Trinitarian vs Arian. The teaching of the Scripture is so clear on the Trinity, that if one denies it one is not a Christian. The reason is because of what 1 Cor 2:14 teaches.

    You accuse me of claiming the WCF is inerrant. Please provide specific example of that from my comments. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have a very traditional usage of inerrant (pre 20th century) so no the WCF is not inerrant. WCF 31 on Synod and Councils doesn’t really allow the possibility that the WCF itself is inerrant. WCF 31:4 “IV. All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err;…” The Westminster Assembly was such a synod/council, so they may err, so therefore their statements necessarily “may err” and therefore are not inerrant.

    Only the Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is inerrant. Remember that I said I have a decidedly pre 20th century usage for inerrant.

    I did however appreciate the fact you did pick up on the most important part of what I did say to him about not taking into consideration the working of the Holy Spirit.

  153. April 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    […] final court of appeals in the PCA, the Standing Judicial Commission. According to Lane Keister at Green Baggins, the full panel of the SJC of the PCA heard the case and voted “to reject the complaint that […]

  154. Thomas Martin said,

    May 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Once again, where the “Canon” is disputed we leave much “Cannon Fodder”, despite being Confessional with a BCO. Thus others now seek justice by what would be called “double jeopardy” for PL in another iurisdiction. If I were PL, I would strongly rethink the benefit of staying with a “band of brothers” that abandons its’ wounded on the battlefield, A prudent person would hesitate to “fall on ones’ sword” for such a group.

  155. Michael Cavanaugh said,

    October 15, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Stumbled onto your blog. Pardon my naivete, but it seems strange to be so devoted to something that only took shape in and after the 16th century. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with your Reformed ideas, but to make them so central to one’s life, and to how one engages others, seems quite mistaken. How did so many human beings in the past (and in present, for that matter) “make it” without knowledge of or commitment to the WC? I don’t get it.

  156. greenbaggins said,

    October 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Michael, thanks for your interest in the blog. If you read the reformers carefully, you will notice that they take great care to root their theology in the early church fathers. In fact, they almost invariably claim that their doctrine is NOT original with them, but originated in the Scriptures themselves, and was articulated with some clarity by the early church fathers, and greater clarity by the Reformers. God has always had His people throughout every age of church history. You will not find me or any Reformed person claiming that church history started with the Reformation. Nor will you ever find me or any Reformed person claiming that Reformed theology originated in the 16th century. We Reformed folk believe our ideas to be BIBLICAL, and that the Bible is the origin of what is central to our lives, and to how we engage others.

  157. Michael Cavanaugh said,

    November 16, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Yes. Everyone claims that their theology is grounded in the Bible and ancient tradition. But I doubt that any of the biblical authors or church fathers would recognize in this discussion anything they were much interested in. But more to the point, I very much doubt that they’d make these issues a “hill to die on,” as those who frequent your blog seem to do. It’s just strange to me … quixotic, actually..


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