An Important Point

You can read for yourself Illiana Presbytery’s motion to have the SJC reconsider the Leithart case. I had a chance to read it before the Presbytery voted on it, and I thought it was very well done. It brings up a very important point, even an obvious one, which I had neglected to mention so far in the blog posts about the Leithart case, and that is simply this: the SJC decision did not actually address the substance of the complaint. The complaint was about the Presbytery exonerating someone who was not teaching biblically and confessionally. The SJC decision has for its one and only question whether the complainant proved the case. Whether the complainant proved the case is neither here nor there when it comes to the actual basis of a decision on the complaint, which must rest entirely on the record of the case. Therefore, what the SJC needed to do is to read the ROC with the sole purpose of determining whether PNWP did the right thing in exonerating Leithart. In other words, the SJC made the oral and written arguments of the prosecutor the basis of their decision, instead of the ROC.

27 Comments

  1. April 14, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    That’s kinda what I’ve been saying all along. The SJC used an incorrect, IMO, procedural point to avoid the crux of the case, acting like a secular court rather than an ecclesiastical court IAW the BCO.

  2. michael said,

    April 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Seems the Bible is true!

    If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. (Ecclesiastes 5:8 ESV)

  3. Joel S said,

    April 15, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Has the GA approved a similar overture in the past? I see that there is BCO precedent, just wondering if this has happened before.

  4. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    You can expect the members of the SJC to engage in self-defense and self-justification on a grand scale. Remember it’s the cornered animal that has the most vicious bite.

    I’m not making a judgment here on the merits of the SJC’s decision or of the Overture. Just reflecting on human nature.

  5. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Look for the beginning response to be something like, “Our hands were tied. We did all that we could do.”

    Later, as the rhetoric heats up, expect (1) the Appeal to Authority – we’re the experts, and we know what’s best, and (2) the Emotion Card – love demands that we respect our dear brothers, in equal measure.

  6. Jared said,

    April 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    The Statement of Issue in the Complaint:

    III. Statement of the Issues

    A. Are the views of Teaching Elder Peter Leithart out of accord with the Westminster Standards?

    B. Did Pacific Northwest Presbytery act contrary to the constitution of the PCA when it determined following his trial that the views of TE Leithart were within the bounds of the Westminster Standards?

    Now, The statement of the issue in the Provisional Ruling:

    II. STATEMENT OF THE ISSUE

    Did the Complainant demonstrate, based on the record in this Case, that the Pacific
    Northwest Presbytery violated the Constitution of the PCA when it concluded that the
    accused was not guilty of holding and teaching views that are in conflict with the system
    of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards?

    Here’s the challenge, find another SJC case where a ruling was directed towards the complainant rather than to the Presbytery.

    The SJC did not answer the complaint’s question, an issue of the constitution, and in doing so neglected their appointed duty. This is about correcting and instructing the SJC on their duty. I think they tried to be clever and split the baby and make everyone happy with “We don’t agree with Leithart’s view necessarily, but the complaintant didn’t prove it” when the SJC is also under obligation to look at the Record of the Case and decide if saying the following is in line with our Constitution, we need a yes or no answer, not, “well he might be poisoning the sheep, but we don’t want to read the 722 page Record of the case, so we’ll punt”:

    PROSECUTER: is this your view namely that the – – the arrabon of the Holy Spirit, the down payment of future glory is given to all members of the visible church merely by being baptized and can be lost by those members of the visible church who later apostasize.
    WITNESS [Leithart]: Yeah, I – – I would say yes.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 190).

    “Yes we do have the same obligations that Adam and Abraham and Moses and David and Jesus had namely the obedience of faith. And yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ so that our covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the spirit of Christ in us and our covenant faithfulness is about faith trusting the spirit to – – to will and to do of his good pleasure.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 195).

    Q: Do you speak of, in your writings, temporary – – temporary forgiveness of sins?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Does baptism confer justification and, if so, what do you mean by that?
    A: Yeah.–Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 223).

  7. April 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Frank – Perhaps we can buy them some cheese to go with their whine.

  8. Bill Walker said,

    April 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Does anyone think this is going to go anywhere? It’s over. It’s done. You sound like Federal Visionists, saying “You just don’t really understand us.”

  9. Reed Here said,

    April 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Frank and Bob: sorry brothers, but this is unbecoming. Criticize the SJC’s decision, reasoning and rationale. But these comments go too far. It is not funny

  10. Mark B said,

    April 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I chuckled, Reed :) . Seriously though… However misguided the reasoning, the qualifiers the SJC used in their decision do seem to indicate that a number of members were uneasy with this decision and aware that it might be problematic. Perhaps if this motion carries, that will lead them to will reconsider.

  11. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 15, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    I certainly meant no disrespect to anyone on the SJC. And no one would be happier than I to be proved wrong. But my speculation about push-back to criticism is based on long experience with PCA culture. A few years ago, a high-ranking PCA official publicly criticized blogs like these on the floor of the General Assembly. A recent article chastised conservatives but gave “moderates” and “progressives” a pass (at least through silence). It goes on and on. No “troubler in Israel” is likely to be welcome in the Big Tent. That’s just a fact, and we need to learn to deal with it. Our Lord commands us to be as harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents.

    Do not underestimate the intense dislike for strict confessional fidelity, not to mention free discussion, among some in the PCA. I hope that the denominational powers that be will not close ranks and protect the SJC at all costs. But we need to be prepared for hurricane-force winds against those who believe that the SJC has committed a grievous error. Let me revise that: Against those who are willing to *say* it.

    Please excuse my rather dark assessment of the situation. It’s just that I’ve seen too many instances during the past four decades of the church’s coming to terms with one compromise after another. Something or someone happens. Then something or someone is tolerated, A few speak out. Nothing decisive is done. Then a new “comfort level” is reached, and a new line apparently drawn. Until the next incident, that is.

    Remember what Charles Hodge said of the doctrinal laxity of his day: “The question . . . is not what the New-school ministry believe, but what they tolerate” (Andrew Hoffecker, “Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton,” p. 325). You can make the application to the PCA today.

  12. Reed Here said,

    April 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Mark: we ask a brother. We don’t assume.

    Frank, I’m not opposed to to dark assessment. I am against assuming sinful actions in the future. You owe a brother better than that.

    Share your dark assessment with the SJC members. They’re email addresses are easy to find.

  13. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 16, 2013 at 4:55 am

    I shall stand corrected, Reed. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.I meant to be voicing fears, not making predictions, and I should have made that clearer. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That should always be our starting point, not an afterthought. I hardly know where my sinful heart will lead me from day to day (“The good that I would do, I do not do”). I certainly can’t predict the actions of others. In fact,the SJC members I know personally (just a few) are above the kind of petty reactions I’ve seen from some quarters in the PCA. That’s to their credit. Whether their decisions are right or wrong, they let their actions speak for themselves. I hope and pray that this pattern will continue.

    The real test will come, I suppose, with the responses to the Overture from Illiana Presbytery.This Overture strikes deep, down to the very roots of the SJC’s decision. It boldly assert that the SJC did not properly follow the Constitution in this matter, and it employs constitutional arguments to make its case. This Overture is a great example of arguing strictly from principle, It does not attack persons or question motives. That’s a lesson for us all.

  14. April 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Reed,

    With respect, the SJC members may and should also avail themselves of the freedom to engage in open discussion on this site. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and should not be feared by those who live by the Light. Their terrible abdication of their responsibilities in BCO 39-3.4 is public, so should be the discussion. The Illiana overture clearly states the errors made. The SJC members must have the courage to publicly own their votes. Otherwise, they don’t belong on the commission.

  15. tominaz said,

    April 16, 2013 at 11:15 am

    It goes without saying that this year’s assembly will reveal a lot about the character and future of the PCA.In my view the ‘big tent’ might not be so big in the coming years. The undercurrent of discontent is growing; to the extent of perhaps going elsewhere.I have had such discussions with fellow presbyters.
    I happily agree with Frank’s assessment of the issues involved. As an old curmudgeon from the RPC,ES (I might call myself a dinosaur a’ la C.S.Lewis) I wondering whether to retire from the field or take the congregation to a better home.

  16. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Thanks, Bob (#14) for filling in some gaps that I had missed. Silence is better than sniping and recrimination (which, let me repeat, I fear but do not predict). Even better, though, would be for SJC members to “avail themselves of the freedom to engage in open discussion,” here or elsewhere. That would be a most Christian and gentlemanly thing to do. SJC members could “publicly own their votes” and continue to explain their position. We would be kept on our toes to carry on the exchange calmly and graciously. Nothing hidden, nothing under the table. Everyone’s Yes would be Yes, and his No, No, in a “frank and open discussion” (half-apologies for using State Department language). Maybe this is too much to ask. It sure would be nice, though, and a fine witness to the church and the world.

  17. April 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Frank, a better thing would’ve been to reverse their votes…

  18. April 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Andrew – Since the SJC is now reasoning like a secular court, the next step is saving face like secular courts do. That would not involve doing the right thing by admitting their mistake and reversing, but instead either strongly defending their decision while continuing to ignore precedent and BCO 39-3.4 or stone-faced silence and hoping that the storm blows over. So far, it looks like the latter.

  19. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 16, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Some of you young-un’s will have no idea what I’m talking about here. For some strange reason I’m thinking of Sammy Davis, Jr., strutting his stuff in a black robe on “Laugh-In,” c. 1969, saying, “Here come da judge! Here come da judge!”

    It’s been a *long* day. Retirement December 2013, D. V.

  20. locirari said,

    April 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Mr. Aderholdt,

    This young-un definitely got a chuckle picturing Sammy Davis, Jr. playing judge!

  21. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

    Someone posted this at the YouTube clip of “Here comes the judge!”:

    You swore to tell the truth
    and you better come clean
    Cuz here come the judge
    and he look MIGHTY mean
    Here come the judge
    Here come the judge…

    (Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)

  22. April 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Frank – My grandmother may have told me about that one…

  23. Reed Here said,

    April 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Frank, with those qualifications, I can agree with you concerns and hopes.

    Bob, all observations be true, I’m just asking if sniping is a measured response or a bit of flesh-oriented bit of frustration showing? At this point, no need to discuss my concern further. Grateful for your consideration friend.

  24. Mark B said,

    April 16, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for this quote, Frank:
    “Remember what Charles Hodge said of the doctrinal laxity of his day: “The question . . . is not what the New-school ministry believe, but what they tolerate” (Andrew Hoffecker, “Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton,” p. 325).”
    There truly is nothing new under the sun. Nothing gets my ire up more that the “well, I personally wouldn’t put it that way, I don’t believe that myself, but I think there is room for that view in the PCA, we don’t want to be any smaller after all, you’re trying to turn us into the Amish” nonsense that I’ve heard too much of the past few years. The question in regards to orthodoxy is still: What do you tolerate?

  25. April 16, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Can SJC members who ruled on this who remain on the court for future, defend the ruling without having to be required to step aside for any future ruling if a “redo” gets passed by the GA?

  26. April 16, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Chris – Yes, I believe that they can freely comment on the decision process behind a decided case. Indeed, the decision itself records their opinion on the case for all to read. Some have apparently already commented in more detail behind closed doors.

  27. Hugh McCann said,

    April 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Be it here asked,

    whereas the SJC decision did not actually address the substance of the complaint,

    and whereas The complaint was about the Presbytery exonerating someone who was not teaching biblically and confessionally,

    and whereas The SJC decision has for its one and only question whether the complainant proved the case,

    and whereas Whether the complainant proved the case is neither here nor there when it comes to the actual basis of a decision on the complaint, which must rest entirely on the record of the case,

    and whereas what the SJC needed to do is to read the ROC with the sole purpose of determining whether PNWP did the right thing in exonerating Leithart,

    just WHY on earth do ye expect this to now happen with any different outcome?!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: