Please Pray

Please pray for our denomination as it enters the last stage of the Leithart case. The Standing Judicial Commission will meet in early October to discuss the overtures requesting the SJC to assume original jurisdiction. As it looks to this author, the meeting is the last chance for the PCA as a whole to do the right thing. If there is no way of ousting Leithart, then the gospel will be compromised on a fundamental level, and all three marks of the church will be undermined irreparably.


  1. locirari said,

    September 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    This will be a matter of prayer. I’m afraid I anticipate an unfavorable ruling:

  2. Bob B said,

    September 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Aught we pray that you bow to the leadership of your elders in this matter as well – whatever the outcome?

  3. David Reece said,

    September 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Bob B,

    I don’t know if your comment is serious or sarcastic. It would be sin to submit to tyranny in the church. Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.

    If you actually believe that anyone should obey men when those men contradict the commandments of God, then repent. We should obey God rather than men.

    If you are sarcastically mocking anyone who might actually think that they should obey a human tribunal when that tribunal commands evil, then I commend your derision for foolishness.

    Obviously, any church that allows another gospel than the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached and does not administer discipline to notorious heretics is damned as a synagogue of Satan.

    Peter Leithart is a notorious heretic. It is the obligation of every Christian Presbytery, every Christian Congregation, every Christian man, every Christian woman, and every Christian child to come out form among the Presbyterian Church in America if she fails to convict the notorious heretic Peter Leithart.

  4. Christopher Griffith said,

    September 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Mr. Reece

    You said, “Peter Leithart is a notorious heretic.” According to who? his presbytery…? the PCA…? Up until now Mr. Leithart has been cleared of charges. Is your individual judgment the infallible and inerrant Standard?

    I usually don’t comment on this blog (I read it often) but there are many, like myself who have benefited and learned from Mr. Leithart. I know you may intend well in your comment Sir, but your words come across as arrogant. My prayer is that Mr. Leithart will continue to be cleared of those erroneous charges. Peace be upon the Church – who is the Bride of Christ.

  5. Bob B said,

    September 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    @david Reece 3
    It’s both serious and sarcastic. I don’t understand how one can hold up an authority as authoritative in one breath, and then subject that authority to personal interpretation in the next. That’s cognitive dissonance 101.

    If submission is based on THEM agreeing with YOU (or YOUR INTERPRETATION of scripture) – then it isn’t really submission.

    It does sound like you may be a closet anarchist though :) – it is the logical conclusion of resistance based on evil (or your own subjective limit of how much evil can go on un-resisted). Let me know if you want some resources to get you out of these subjective murky waters. Its a fun ride, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.

  6. Jason Loh said,

    September 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    According to Scripture as interpreted by the Westminster Confession of Faith. David Reece is not the only Presbyterian who says that Peter Leithart is heretic according to the WCF.

    I’m sure Leithart is a nice, good and even a sincere person. But we are talking about the Gospel here. It cannot be strongly emphasised enough that the saying that THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS applies most aptly here. NOT that it is necessarily to be taken literally at all — but St James did warn about the greater condemnation that teachers shall receive … St Peter warned about false teachers who twist and turn Scripture to their own destruction … St Paul spoke of the Judaisers with the damned gospel …

    And the Federal Vision is one version of the Judaising/legalistic gospel that at enmity with the true Gospel. The FV may be a good blueprint as a socio-political ideology and vision. But please remember that Jesus did distinguish between theology and politics.

    If we read the Gospels carefully, we see that the theology of Jesus was completely at odds with his politics. The one who ate with prostitutes, publicans and the social outcasts was also the one who warned that our righteousness must exceed those of the Pharisees … who said that we are to perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect … the One Who claim to have come to fulfill the Law breaks the Law for the sake of neighbour …

    IOW, the FV as the confusion between the two kingdoms/ Law and Gospel/ divine and human righteousness/ Old and New Adam/ theological and political uses of the Law, etc. ends up having NO home in either the theology or politics of Jesus.

    The question finally boils down to this …


    If it is the former, then OTOH, the FV can kiss goodbye to BOTH the Reformed & Presbyterian tradition AND the wider Augustinian Succession of western Catholicism. The link between predestination and the Cross is broken for good — which has ALWAYS been maintained by the Augustinian Succession.

    OTOH, the FV can kiss goodbye to an understanding of the Atonement that integrates a christology and triadology that breathes with the Eastern lung – that draws its theological dynamism from the Chalcedonian Definition and Cappadocian tradition, respectively.

    Heads or tails, the FV is neither here nor there … except as a NEW fangled fad — which of course goes AGAINST the avowed profession of FV.

    The FV made the fatal mistake of wanting to reform Reformed & Presbyterian theology and without explicitly admitting to it – maintaining the pretense all this while. This means they are actually CHANGING the very character of the tradition they profess to belong to. Reforming preaching would been entirely different matter altogether — which would be in line with the Reformed & Presbyterian slogan of “‘ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” (“the church reformed, always reforming”).

    Now this means that right-minded or loyal and faithful Presbyterians are entitled to ask this:

    Whether they should demand to have their church back OR maybe they should just leave instead to start anew/ afresh?

    I think there should be placards bearing the slogan, “We want our church back!” with regards to the former OR “We leave or you leave” …

    That is the existential question in the PCA today …

    Ugly I know … but remember WHOSE POLITICS it is/ we are talking about …

  7. Bob B said,

    September 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    @jason 6
    “According to Scripture as interpreted by the Westminster Confession of Faith. David Reece is not the only Presbyterian who says that Peter Leithart is heretic according to the WCF.”

    Here are some issues with this statement
    1. Notice, it isn’t even ‘scripture alone’, it is ‘scripture as interpreted by WCF’ that determines if Leithart is a heretic. On scrpture alone, Leithart isn’t by any reasonable reading. What if the WCF is too narrow in its exposition of scripture? Who decides that?
    2. Who gets to interpret both the WFC and Scripture? You – or those in authority over you (and David).
    3 How does submission fit into this? Objective trueness has to be determined by someone – is it the laypeople or the authorities? At what point do the laypeople get to ‘rise up’ and insist that the authorities are not judging correctly? It seems as though Leithart is willing to be submissive (since he is the one that has actually gone through a trial). What about your side? When do the vows of submission kick in for them? On a 2nd exoneration, 3rd? What about 4th?

    It seems as though your side is really pushing for an ‘us or them’ situation – one or the other side has to leave the PCA. I don’t see any submission in this matter from your side. Perhaps it is best you leave (spoken as an outsider with no dog in the fight but looking for peace).

    Good luck!

  8. andrew said,

    September 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Just a point which may help (or might just complicate things) for those in the PCA opposed to the FV, and wondering what they should do.

    Someone (John Owen, perhaps) argues for the concept of ‘double apostacy’. A church may permit truth and error (which you would see the PCA as doing), but is still church and we can be members. It is only when it not only allows, or even teaches error, but condemns the truth that it is ‘apostate’ (I presume he was thinking of something like Trent).

    On this view, it would be hard to argue a moral necessity for separation: it would have to more practical – as a smaller group we can preserve the truth, it would be better for my family’s/congregation’s spiritual state, etc, there are other denominations were I would be fed more or could serve more.

    And if significant numbers do leave, please, please don’t start another denomination, or led your congregation to independency. This is the addictive and besetting sin of Protestantism.

  9. Bob S said,

    September 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Did somebody say “troll”?
    As in “Boy, do we have trolls”.

    The PCA passes an anti FV statement, but when people who sign the pro FV Manifesto are brought up on charges, the lower courts exonerate them.
    Then the Standing Judicial Commission approves of those decisions.
    And those who question the contradiction are considered out of order/disobedient to authority/rebellious.

    Go figure.

    As in the trolls, who shall remain nameless, would make good little nazis (fascists), romanists and Geo. W. Obamacrat/repuglicans.

    It is also beginning to dawn on folks that a SJC is an unpresbyterian and unaccountable usurpation/centralization of a general assembly’s deliberative and judicial power that is worse than the problem it tries to fix – a GA too big to conduct its business in a timely and efficient manner.


  10. tominaz said,

    September 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Folks, we have been asked to pray. IMHO the snarky comments are not appropriate for this particular post.

  11. Reed here said,

    September 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Bob B: for someone with n dog in the fight, you sure do speak quite, how to say this, presumptuously. Better you not take pot shots, and instead, pray for us?


  12. Reed here said,

    September 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Bob S., maybe not stir the pot right now? ;)

  13. September 22, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Bob B., you are raising the exact same question as I have in the past. IF the SJC has any authority at all, then everyone who is in the PCA is legitimately under that authority.
    The problem here is the same it has been throughout Leithart’s long wrangle with the TR crowd. Leithart has been exonerated repeatedly, but the TR’s will not accept any judicial decision by any judicial authority if they disagree with that decision. In other words, Lane, you really will never submit to authority. Submission is what happens when you *disagree* with that authority but obey it regardless.
    I would respect you if you said, “Here’s the decision. I believe it is completely flawed, but it comes from the highest judicial authority in the PCA, and I am bound to submit to it and respect it” (as your vows said).
    Instead you are in effect saying that your interpretation of Scripture and the FV is supreme, and the fact that thousands of brothers in the PCA have disagreed with you means nothing. You won’t even pause to consider that you may be wrong, that maybe, just maybe FV does not contradict the gospel of grace. You won’t pause for a millisecond, Lane, to heed the counsel of other PCA ministers.

    This is the sort of radical individualism that is both so contrary to Scripture (Hebrews 13:7, 13) and to church tradition that eventually someone who believes that this is Protestantism wakes up, sees the contradiction, and abandons Protestantism for Rome. There’s a reason Jason Stellman is now a Catholic.
    At least the FV acknowledges that the Church and her ministers actually have authority given by Christ and that Hebrews 13 actually means something in real life.
    Seriously, please think again, Lane. I think the real thing driving your crusade here is bitterness, not theology at all (just as some of the FV guys may well be driven by ego).

    In Christ,
    Luke Nieuwsma

  14. Reed here said,

    September 22, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Luke and Bob: enough. The fact is that Lane IS in submission to his vows to our denomination. He’s neither said nor done anything against them.

    Seriously, you’re just being unkind and wrong.

  15. todd said,

    September 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    “Submission is what happens when you *disagree* with that authority but obey it regardless.”

    Then how can you accuse someone of lack of submission when you admit he is allowed to publicly disagree with a court’s decision? What else has he done?

  16. Mark B said,

    September 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    It’s interesting (as in the curse: “may you live in interesting times”) how differing perspectives lead to differing views. In a confessional view, there is a spiritual, invisible church which God, who is sovereign and who clearly reveals Himself to us in His Word, has promised to preserve. We can thus (because it’s clearly revealed) write a systematic summary of the doctrines taught in the Word to use as governing documents of the Church (the WCF). In a confessional denomination like the PCA, we (officers of the church) take vows to uphold that governing standard. Thus, upholding those standards is being in submission to our vows. Despite efforts to the contrary, a clear reading of the WCF isn’t that difficult either. Conceding for the sake of argument that a majority may hold a differing view on Leithart does not change the fact that his teaching is contrary to the standards we have vowed to uphold. The main arguments advanced by his supporters in the trial seem to be: “the PCA is too small already, we need to make sure the boundaries of what’s acceptable are large enough to include Leithart”, and “some reformed person at some time in history held one view similar to one of Leitharts, therefore he’s ok” (never mind the fact that finding someone who held to his system of doctrine would be difficult indeed, and that said view is contrary to the standards), and “our witnesses have more degrees than yours, please ignore the fact that they haven’t actually studied what he has written”. If those who support Leithart were loving of their confessional brothers in a Biblical manner, they would have at the trial demonstrated that a plain reading of Leithart and of the WCF (which we have all vowed is a faithful exposition of Scripture) are similar, rather than making the arguments that they did, and thus convince their confessional brethren of their error. If the authority that we are to submit to is the Word, and the WCF is a faithful summation of that Word (we vowed that we believe that, right?), opposing FV and decisions that support it is the only possible way to uphold our vows of submission to the church. It’s an issue of constitutionality versus democracy. To use a secular example, the US Constitution provides for Freedom of Religion. There are some who are advancing the argument that Churches must be forced to provide homosexual “weddings” or face discrimination charges. If those advancing that argument obtain a majority and pass laws that are clearly contrary to the Constitution, and those laws are enforced, are we still a Constitutional Republic, or are we a democracy (democracy by Plato’s definition)? Answer that analogy for yourself, but in the case of the PCA, the answer is clear. Our constitution is something we view as a faithful exposition of the Word of a Sovereign God, submitting to those who would teach (or allow to be taught) something other would be breaking our vows (and opposing God). Ask yourself this: Who are those decrying those who oppose the FV the loudest? Is it not those who would like to view our standards as something antiquated and restricting, who have to search for ways to show how they are in agreement with the standards, whose list of exceptions is almost as long as the confession, or who think that the WCF needs an update or rewritten, or maybe just CWAGA folk? Who are those who oppose the FV? Are they not those who see the WCF as faithfully summarizing what Scripture teaches? If we are a confessional denomination, how are we faithful to our vows?

  17. jsm52 said,

    September 23, 2013 at 1:28 am

    – Jason Loh… an apt comment.

    – Bob S. says
    The PCA passes an anti FV statement, but when people who sign the pro FV Manifesto are brought up on charges, the lower courts exonerate them.
    Then the Standing Judicial Commission approves of those decisions.
    And those who question the contradiction are considered out of order/disobedient to authority/rebellious.

    Go figure.

    Indeed, go figure…

  18. Mark B. Hanson said,

    September 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    One of the interesting ways folks are talking past each other is that, in the PCA’s anti-FV statement, every possible charge against FV is not only lumped in, but overdrawn more than a little for the sake of differentiating those views from what the average PCA elder believes. This, no doubt, to secure passage at GA. [Oh, the horror! We must nip this in the bud!]

    However, at the time, Doug Wilson said that he knew no one who was even close to matching all the beliefs characterized as FV (including himself – and he laid out the evidence in his own case). Perhaps what we are seeing is cognitive dissonance – the person charged clearly has never taught that condemned thing, so the “teaching FV” charge as a whole doesn’t stick.

    Just because what a person believes “logically entails” some much worse thing doesn’t mean that the person in question doesn’t disagree entirely with the worse thing. And here we must take them at their word. After all, we are not always logical (fortunately!), either in our own reasoning, or in considering what something must logically entail…

  19. Sean Gerety said,

    September 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    @13 – Luke, this isn’t exactly Lane contra mundum. You seem to have forgotten that a super majority of PCA elders voted adopt a document that condemns the doctrines taught by Leithart and his fellow FV heretics as striking at the vitals of the faith.

    No one needs to submit to the SJC’s decision in this case and they would be wrong to do so. I understand why submission to the SJC in this case would be not be a violation of your conscience, but I see no reason why those who disagree shouldn’t be free to leave the PCA should the SJC fail to correct its gross error in judgment.

  20. Mark B said,

    September 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Rather than being ‘overdrawn more than a little”, in reality, said “anti-FV statement” actually had references. I seem to recall that a good number of the troubling statements referenced in it came from Mr Leithart himself….but don’t take my word for it, it’s available for everyone read and see for themselves.

  21. September 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    […] don’t think I could have said this any better so I will defer to a wise comment over at Greenbaggins. Here is an excellent run-down of […]

  22. Mark B. Hanson said,

    September 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    @20 – If Leithart’s works were indeed quoted in the PCA Federal Vision report, and those specific words noted as striking at the vitals of the faith, shouldn’t that be an open-and-shut case unless he recants? I seem to remember that the situation was more complex. I need to read the FV report again.

  23. Mark B said,

    September 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    It’s fairly easy to find in various formats, here for example:
    (just fyi, as I realize no one is probably interested in rehashing this:)

  24. Micah said,

    September 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Luke (#13) is completely correct. Lane and others are quick to point to the courts… until the ruling is unfavorable to their way of thinking. I happen to agree that Leithart’s theology has some serious problems (even while stopping short of the ‘heretic’ charge – that’s laughable).

    I also recognize that men better than me – and closer to the situation – have rendered a verdict.

    If the theology of the PCA isn’t becoming to you, Lane… leave. Isn’t that the counsel you’ve offered to the FV’ers and their incipient Arminian, crypto-Lutheran, sacramentalism?

    There’s the door, correct? Presbytery and now SJC have ruled:he’s OK (for now).

    Move on.

  25. Bob S said,

    September 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Yo, pope Micah.
    There’s the constitution/church order and then there’s the courts which uphold that church order. Capiche?
    It’s not that difficult.
    Even you and Luke as members, no? of the CREC ought to be able to figure that out.
    What if a church in your denom started prosecuting the FV. What would Doug do? You think he would rest easy that the “court” has spoken.

  26. yhwhrohi said,

    September 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Hi Lane,

    Do you know specific dates when the SJC will meet?

  27. Rick Phillips said,

    September 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    To Jason Loh & post #6.

    For clarity’s sake, I hope it will be useful to point out that the issue in the FV is not whether or not the gospel is conditional or unconditional. The fact is that the gospel is conditioned on saving faith. At the heart of the FV is the proposition that the rite of baptism conveys union with Christ and all his saving benefits (except perseverance), which can subsequently be lost if one leaves the communion of the church. This is, in my view, a vital matter. Indeed, it has regard to the most important question: how is the soul saved? The FV states that the soul is saved by baptism, which conveys union with Christ. Or as Peter Leithart has written, “Church membership makes one a child of God.” I agree with the PCA’s FV study committee report in regarding this a false gospel, and I join Green Baggins in praying for this very significant meeting of the SJC as it responds to the unanimous overture of three presbyteries to assume original jurisdiction of this case. If presbyteries cannot overture the General Assembly about actions taken by other presbyteries (in this case, via the SJC), then discipline, the third mark of the church, is made effectively impossible in the PCA. The significance of this issue is thus very great.

  28. September 28, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?

    A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.

  29. September 28, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?

    A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

    Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

    A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

    Augsburg, Article IX: Of Baptism.

    1] Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace.

    3] They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

  30. stuart said,

    September 28, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

    A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

  31. September 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Of course, Stuart. Do you think Leithart believes that baptism is an effectual means of salvation for the faithless? To paraphrase the baptist G.K. Beasely Murray, the same Lord that brings us to faith brings us to baptism.

  32. September 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Sorry, G. *R.* Beasley Murray

  33. Stuart said,

    September 28, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Regardless of what Leithart believes or doesn’t believe, I was pointing out from our Standards what Rick Phillips was saying. Salvation is received by faith. The quotations you provided from the WLC didn’t emphasize that fact, but the SC did. Just trying to make sure we all play fair.

  34. Stuart said,

    September 28, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Oh and one more thing . . . Why quote Ausburg? It has historical value, yes, but for Reformed Presbyies in the Westminster tradition (including PCAers) it doesn’t have the same value or authority as our agreed upon Standards, right? Maybe this is part of the problem we have in these discussions. When we look outside our branch of Christian doctrine to uphold our views, we muddy the waters even more.

  35. Rick Phillips said,

    September 28, 2013 at 11:44 am

    The Westminster Standards often use “salvation” in a broad or general sense. This is why I put it the way I did above. The issue is how does the sinner gain union with Christ and partake of his saving blessings? In answering, the Confession emphasizes, for instance, that “the alone instrument of justification is faith (11.2). When the Confession speaks of this saving faith, it stresses that faith is “ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word,” but then is later “increased and strengthened” by the Word, sacraments, and prayer (14:1). Statements like this necessarily limit the way we may understand statements ascribing “salvation” to the sacraments.

    With this in mind, I view the FV answer to the question, “How is the soul saved?” to be fundamentally in conflict with that of the Confession. With respect to justification, the FV states that the soul is saved via church membership, entered through baptism and maintained by faithfulness. The Confession states that justification takes place through faith alone, which is given by God via the ministry of his Word. These are irreconcilable positions which, in my view, cannot ultimately co-exist in a communion of the church.

  36. Rick Phillips said,

    September 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Sensusplenior asks in 31: “Do you think Leithart believes that baptism is an effectual means of salvation for the faithless?” The answer is that Leithart would not speak in that way. But we have to understand that virtually every element in that statement receives a new definition under the FV. So simply to assert that Leithart would not say that “baptism is an effectual means of salvation for the faithless” (and I don’t think he would say that) does not mean that his doctrine conforms to that of the Confession, which also would not say that.

  37. September 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Having once been pretty close to this situation, my take is that FV-ers believe they can pretty much say anything they want about baptismal efficacy, as long as when someone brings up the Standards they reply, “Oh, we believe that too.”

    And oddly enough, this seems like a perfectly satisfactory position to many non-FV cwaga types in the PCA.

  38. Bob S said,

    September 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Well yes, Jason, that’s a pretty good take on the FV.
    But what about a certain Italian denomination that pretty much says what it wants, but when anybody brings up the Scripture, tells us that “We believe that too”?
    As well that the FV is seen as a stepping stone to that particular riverside destination.
    But Reed has told me not to stir the pot.
    (And just where did all the other volunteers come from?)

    Still if one is supposed to pray with understanding, the rhetorical question that pops into some simple minds is again just how does one read the Joint Federal Vision Profession, Leithart’s views on baptism and union with Christ and the PCA report linked above and then conclude that they all saying the same thing, never mind the Roman ex opere operato.

    Long story short, we await the outcome of this meeting with both a great of interest and trepidation.

    May the Lord bless the cause of his gospel and truth.

  39. Bob B said,

    September 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    How does the WCF mesh with the Nicean creed? “We acknowledge one baptism for the remission (forgiveness??) of sins”

    If one is to be subservient to the other, wouldn’t Nicea take precedence?

  40. John Bugay said,

    September 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Bob B (39) — We shouldn’t put an earlier document ahead of a later document, especially if we can make a better case exegetically for the later document.

    The fourth century church had a number of aberrations with respect to its baptismal practices — for example, in the fourth century, the “converted” emperor Constantine put off his baptism till the end of his lifetime, and many followed that practice. Such a thing would be unheard of today in any denomination.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    September 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Bob, I would understand the Nicene Creed to be using sacramental language, like how Peter speaks in 1 Peter 3, when he says “baptism now saves you.” It is what baptism points to that saves us, not the rite itself. So, one baptism “for the remission of sins” means one baptism that means, points to, signifies the forgiveness of sins that is found in the blood of Christ being applied to us. So, it meshes perfectly, actually.

  42. greenbaggins said,

    September 30, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Jason, you’re definitely correct on your take of how people in the PCA have taken the “confessional affirmations” of FV folk. Never mind the PCA’s study committee report’s acknowledgement that FV folk do this but are not actually affirming the confession. The report says that to affirm the confession but teach contrary to it is NOT to affirm the confession, but to undermine it. The question, therefore, CANNOT be settled on the basis of a mere affirmation of adherence to the confession, but must rather be based on the actual teaching of the person in question as compared to the standards. After all, practically every heretic in history has _claimed_ to be teaching what the church teaches. That does not mean that he is, in fact, doing so.

  43. September 30, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Right you are, Lane. All due respeck to my pal Howie, but the bulk of the defense’s testimony amounted to, “Peter, you affirm the Confession, right? Great, just wanted to clear that up.”

    But it’s not like I did any better. I mean, one of my witnesses has a degree in piano-playing for crying out loud. What meaningful testimony could he possibly give?

  44. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    October 1, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Rev. Keister, when I moved from the Netherlands to Louisiana in 2002, I became a member of a PCA congregation (now ARP) I thought to come in a solid orthodox Reformed/Presbyterian denomination. Before I moved I wanted to be sure there was a faithful Reformed Church to join. The congregation had a website in which was clearly stated that she subscribed to the Westminster Standards and to my great joy (at the time) that they also honored the Three Forms of Unity. Knowing very little about the American church landscape and nothing about the FV, I experienced one shock after another in the first year. I did not have a clue that I really found myself in THE wasp nest of the FV. Besides that fact, by bits and pieces I had to find out that this congregation was actually non-confessional in practice or at least selective. There was only one service in the morning and after a few weeks attending we were friendly asked by one of the elders to go out eating in a restaurant directly after the service on the Lord’s Day (which we friendly objected to). Children participated in the Lord’s Supper, hymnal books were removed without even one announcement, to be replaced by new contemporary “gospel” songs written out in the bulletins. After a year or so the measure was full when the (new, young) pastor from the pulpit unashamedly smiling announced that the whole congregation was invited to stay after the service to watch the Superbowl on a big screen in the sanctuary of the church. That week we asked the pastor and an older elder to come over to share our deep concerns about the congregation and its practice. After we worded our complaints (first and foremost about the desecration of the Lord’s Day) I was literally pronounced “legalist” at the spot by the young pastor and the older and supposedly wiser ruling elder assured me to understand my position, himself having tried to keep the Sabbath in the past, “but it didn’t work” (the ultimate pragmatism!).
    Now, why am I writing all this as a comment on an article (and all the comments of course) wherein you call for sincere prayer about the Leithart case?

    1st. What I experienced in my first PCA congregation stands not on its own. After visiting many churches and research on websites, these and alike practices are far more common than one might think and should make clear that the PCA has to battle with much more than the one front about the doctrine of justification.
    2nd. Why is there so much tolerance in comparison within the PCA about the fourth commandment? Here the “true” confessionalists seem to have lost the battle in almost every presbytery. And if I read my Bible correctly (and if I am allowed to hold the Old Testament to be a part of it, as does the Westminster), this issue has caused an enormous diminishing of knowledge of the Scriptures among the sheep, because while they hopefully are spiritually fed by one 25 minute sermon on Sunday in the morning, that food does not have a chance to be digested in the afternoon because the American idol of sports or other forms of entertainment succesfully demands to be worshipped.
    3rd. Worldliness is rampant in our churches. The sin-sounding term is redefined and what is historically branded as worldliness is now common practice among the sheep, because many shepherds themselves seem to be enamored more by Hollywood than the New Jerusalem. (I cannot tell how many times I hear preachers illustrating their points with scenes from Hollywood productions, naming title and all.)
    To conclude. Last week we read from Jeremiah (7:15) the response of the Lord to Jeremiah about HIS people, ” As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?”
    Would I be totally wrong to consider that these words might be applicable to at least that part of the PCA (not to mention other denominations) that refuses to bow down after so many warnings?

  45. greenbaggins said,

    October 1, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Welcome to my blog, Mr. de Boer. I think your comments are right on target. There are a multitude of problems in the PCA. You can really boil it down to one issue. It is the question that Satan asked in the garden, “Did God really say…?” I noted on another post that the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of justification have the question of God’s Word in common, since justification is a declaration of God, as is Scripture.

  46. Stuart said,

    October 1, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I have a concern about lumping the problems of FV with differences among Reformed folk on things like one worship service vs. two, the types of songs we sing, the use of illustrations from movies, and even certain convictions on how to celebrate and honor the Lord’s Day.

    Maybe I will be charged with belonging to the CWAGA crowd, but to me there is a difference between wrong views of justification, the Sacraments, and the perseverance of God’s elect and the differing views among us on how the Regulative Principle is applied, for example. If a man came before our Presbytery and said he would lead the congregation in singing a contemporary song, that would not raise the warning flags the way a man saying he agrees fully with Leithart on the Sacraments would. The first man might get my vote, the second man would certainly not.

  47. Mark B said,

    October 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    To look at this from a different perspective, I would say that FV isn’t actually the real problem. I think the PCA (thanks to the work of brothers like Lane and others) was mostly successful in eliminating it as an overt movement. Wilkens and congregation left (actually that Presbytery is disbanded now if I recall correctly). How many in the PCA would even remember the name of their former (current?) “pope” that came by the way of Tyler, with his rants about “star chambers” and the like? Did not even Leithart say in his trial that he didn’t know anyone who would identify themselves as FV? Wilson says stuff like that often (and yes, I realize he’s mostly trying to say we still don’t understand what they’re saying after all these years). A statement condemning it was passed overwhelmingly. I may be wrong, but I doubt a PCA church would host a conference to promote the FV today (well, what’s Meyers up to now anyway?).
    The real problem is how far we have drifted from any sort of consensus on what we believe. I suspect there are more TE’s in the PCA that have other serious problematic views (from a Gospel perspective) than there are TE’s who are proponents of FV. The real issue is a lack of consensus on what the heart of the Gospel is. Or, to put it another way, the PCA’s inability to prosecute FV proponents is not really an endorsement of FV, but has more to do with a general ambivalence towards the solas of the Reformation and the system of doctrine laid out in our Standards. We’ve become more like the PCUSA than most would care to admit, while we are more culturally conservative, our Standards seem to often function more closely to their “book of confessions” than as a governing document. Doesn’t that put us on the same slippery slope, just higher up?

    (To be clear, I’m not trivializing the lingering dangerousness of the FV, or the seriousness of the SJC’s failure to act, I’m just saying these are symptoms of a deeper underlying issue).

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