Reflections on a Senior Pastor Search

(Posted by Paige)

We are well into our search for a new senior pastor at my PCA church, and as the meeting schedule is easing a bit to accommodate the holidays, I thought I’d take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and what has gone very well, in case these notes might be helpful to others. Like most search committees, we are laypeople and RE’s (Ruling Elders) who have never either hired a pastor or been a pastor looking for a pulpit, so we have cobbled our process together with advice and wisdom and prayer and some good guesses. Maybe there’s something here worth passing along.

First, I have to say that I regret that we can’t hire ALL of the excellent people who have applied, because we have seen some really terrific men among these applicants. In fact, if any of you are in a search situation soon at your church, whether for a senior or an associate pastor, I’ll be happy to give you the names of some fine possibilities (with their permission). Ours is a particularly “special needs” church at this time in our history, so we have had to pass by some otherwise qualified people in order to zero in on the gifts and experience that we feel will fit our unusual situation. But our eyes have been opened to God’s good work among our brothers both inside and outside our denomination, and we are very grateful for the depth we’ve seen in this pool of applicants.

When we started off in the late summer we had the advantage of the counsel of Tucker York, a TE from Westminster Presbyterian (PCA) in Lancaster whose doctoral project is focused on the pastoral search process (and he is willing to act as a consultant in your case, too, as his time permits, so get in touch – see first comment below). Tucker walked us through some resources provided by the PCA for search committees as well as some of his own observations. He stressed the importance of confidentiality, balanced by clear communication to our congregation at regular intervals, and warned us about the common pitfall of choosing a pastor who is a full pendulum swing away from the personality and style of our previous minister.

I’m also really grateful to all of my pastoring brothers whose first charge to me, when I asked their advice, was to RESPOND PROMPTLY to applicants (many of them having had their own submissions fall into a black hole when they applied for a position somewhere!). Add to this our committee’s desire to be candid about our church’s baggage (at least at a certain stage in the process), and we seem to have startled and impressed most of the men who have applied. Our team also adopted Lane’s suggestion to me that we make a connection by phone with any man whose application we decide to pursue, in order to quickly personalize the process for them and gain an initial sense of each pastor’s style of interaction that we could not get from their written application materials.

Like the Roman roads and the lingua franca of the Early Church era, the common-grace advantage of the internet and email has smoothed our way, making promptness a real possibility in this 21st-century quest. Along with an independent gmail account for correspondence, we created a stand-alone informational site at WordPress for our search process, which you can check out at faithprespastorsearch.com. (It’s missing the applicant instruction part because we are no longer accepting applications.) One of our techie team members introduced us to Teambox (www.teambox.com), which has been just a fabulous (and private) way to store and share applicant information, coordinate meetings and interviews, and keep track of our “homework” in between meetings. It’s well worth the couple hundred budgeted bucks to have this venue.

Most of all we’ve been blessed to be a team of diverse but compassionate people, wise in listening and diligent in digging through the information we’ve received to get at the hearts of the men who are applying. As we went through our latest season of panel telephone interviews, I was impressed by the variety of questions thought up by my fellow travelers: each of us seems to have our own area of interest or expertise that neatly complements the other eight. And again, one of the perks of this work is getting to read about and talk to the interesting people who have applied from all around the country, each one a fascinating, historied individual and a testimony to God’s grace.

Here’s a link to the original questionnaire that we created for applicants. We were delighted to see how well our fairly simple chosen questions accessed the individuality and the heartbeat of the pastors who shared their stories with us. You are welcome to use or alter what we made if it would be helpful to you.

Finally, one small note to future pastoral candidates: a really, really unusual and winsome thing to do, if you are applying to a church with other staff who preach, is to take the time to listen to some of their recorded sermons so that you can comment knowledgeably about the men you might be working with whenever you begin interviewing. (Such a degree of unprompted care for our church and staff startled us when one applicant did this, probably as much as we’ve startled our applicants with our promptness!)

Looking to God’s good grace and provision in this unusual adventure. It has definitely felt at times like we are collectively trying to locate a particular tree in a forest while blindfolded. Soli Deo Gloria!

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Is the Name “Jesus” Anti-Semitic?

It has been argued by some people in the HRM that the English name “Jesus” is Anti-Semitic. I intend to show that this is false. It is not inherently any more Anti-Semitic than the name would be translated into any other language on the face of the earth. To illustrate the point, I will use a word completely on the opposite end of the spectrum of attractiveness: “nigger.” Some people, for instance, would probably call me racist even for bringing up this word. However, what if I used the word this way: “Anyone who uses the term ‘nigger’ today to describe an African-American is a racist.” I’m using the word, yes, but how am I using it? I am using the term to encourage people not to call African-Americans by that term, which they tend to find offensive. The word is not the same thing as how it is used, and it does not inherently convey a clear meaning all by itself. The word could be used in a racist way by one person and in a non-racist way by someone else.

To use a less charged word, take the word “lie.” There are two main definitions for this word possible, and they are not even remotely related to each other. I could lie down on the sofa, or I could tell a lie. The word is spelled exactly the same in both cases. But it changes meaning completely based on its usage.

These two examples illustrate a common fallacy making the rounds today: the word-concept fallacy. This fallacy (see the excellent discussion in D.A. Carson’s book Exegetical Fallacies) makes words equal ideas and ideas equal words. For instance, just because the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible doesn’t mean that the idea is absent also. Conversely, just because the Greek word “dikaioo” is being used in a text doesn’t mean that the text is talking about justification. Words have a semantic range, and do NOT always mean the same thing everywhere they are used. To argue otherwise shows a lack of understanding of how language works.

In the New Testament, the word “nomos” (law) is an excellent example of semantic range. When Paul says (Romans 7:23), “I see another nomon at work in the members of my body, waging war against the nomo of my mind and making me a prisoner of the nomo of sin at work within my members,” we can see easily that if Paul means Torah in all three uses of the word “nomos” (the differences in ending are only differences in case endings) then Paul is setting the Torah against itself. It would make the passage absolute gibberish. Words cannot possibly mean the same thing in all contexts. This fact makes it exceptionally dangerous to say that we are going to build our theology based on a concordance. If we say that our theology of law is going to be based entirely on the word “nomos” we would be screening out passages that DO talk about the law and including passages that may NOT be talking about the law. It would be to commit the word-concept fallacy. Meaning is not just in words, but in how words are used.

The arguments concerning the Anti-Semitism of the name “Jesus” that I have seen make this word-concept fallacy. That there are many incorrect ideas about Jesus out there is undeniable. He was a Jew, not a Caucasian. This means that He almost certainly did NOT have blond hair and blue eyes, and look like a girl with a beard. This is one (among many) reasons I am opposed to pictures of Jesus. If He was a Jew (and He certainly was), then He almost certainly had black hair and black eyes, and quite possibly swarthy skin. The long hair one usually sees on pictures is also a misrepresentation, since the point about Nazareth is not that He was a Nazarene, but that He was from Nazareth, the town. We do not know how long His hair was. The Bible never tells us.

Be that as it may, the misconceptions referred to in the previous paragraph cannot possibly be attributed to the fact that people use the English name “Jesus.” That would commit the word-concept fallacy. That, in short, is my argument. That some people have such an Anti-Semitic conception in their heads when they use the term “Jesus” is quite likely. The solution is education, not panning the name “Jesus” and labelling those who use it as Anti-Semitic.

We must go further, however, and speak of the nature of translation. Some HRM proponents believe that the NT was originally written in Hebrew. The only book of the NT about which this can reasonably be argued at all is the book of Matthew, and the arguments are slim when set against the vast manuscript collections of Matthew in Greek that we have (in addition to the fact that all the Hebrew manuscripts are much newer than the Greek). The manuscripts support a Greek original. There are no Hebrew manuscripts of the NT surviving in the first ten centuries A.D., to my knowledge, compared to thousands of Greek manuscripts. Almost all NT scholars today agree that the entire NT was written in Greek, even Matthew (notwithstanding the testimony of a very few early church fathers). Are there Semitisms in the NT? Of course. Lots of them. For most of the authors of the NT (being Jewish!), Greek was a second language. They spoke Greek with an accent, if you will. Some, like Luke, have very few Semitisms in their writing at all.

The reason I bring up this issue is that if the NT was originally written in Greek, or any part of it that uses the Greek name “Iesous” (which is a direct transliteration of the Greek letters), then “Iesous” cannot be inherently Anti-Semitic, since then the accusation would have to be levelled against God Himself for inspiring authors to use the Greek instead of the Hebrew name for Jesus.

Lastly, I simply note that older English translations usually translated Greek iota with a “J.” Witness “Jehovah” instead of the more correct “Yahweh.” That gets us to “Jesous” if we use the older transliteration style. It is quite simple to see that only the omission of the omicron gives us the English name “Jesus.” Folks, this is a matter of translation and transliteration that goes back hundreds of years (and therefore predates modern evangelicalism’s misunderstandings about Jesus’ appearance!).

One last word. I have zero problem with anyone saying “Yeshua” instead of “Jesus.” It still communicates to me perfectly well the Person about whom we are conversing. I wouldn’t expect native Hebrew speakers to use any other name than “Yeshua,” unless it be “Yehoshua.” I sometimes wonder if it not used in an effort to be “holier than thou,” but I make no assumption that such is the case. People can come to use that name for a variety of reasons, some better than others. I have a real problem with people accusing users of the name “Jesus” of Anti-Semitism. That is not likely to gain a sympathetic audience, especially among those who, like myself, know that they do not use the name “Jesus” in an Anti-Semitic manner. For just as surely as people can use the name “Yeshua” for a variety of reasons, so also can people use the name “Jesus” for a variety of reasons (just witness taking the Lord’s name in vain for a very negative example!).

Illness and Assurance

I am currently sitting at my parents’ dining room table, hacking away at a cough that has plagued me for about four weeks. I have had the flu now for a couple of days as well. In addition to this, just about everyone in my family is or has been sick, with my wife being the latest casualty, though most of the children seem now to be getting better. If my thoughts seem a bit delerious to you all today, you will know why. No one is in any danger, though prayers would of course be appreciated. The nature of such prayers should be determined by the following paragraphs.

I got to thinking about illness today, and was cogitating particularly on one of John Piper’s famous dictums: “Don’t waste your cancer.” It is, of course, quite difficult to think of illness as an asset in one’s Christian walk (James, did you HAVE to write that in chapter 1 about considering trials pure, unadulterated joy? There you have it: one of the passages that most strongly confronts my sinful idolatry of comfort). In my misery, I was concentrating on trying to be a good patient, and not being demanding of other people. Today I realized that this was far too low a goal (though it was not a bad one). How can I glorify God through having the flu? Now that is a better question. And it is surely the most important question.

However, there is a fringe benefit that comes along with focusing on God’s glory in the midst of trials: assurance. Surely the unbeliever would never consider seeking God’s glory through illness. If that is so, then it is a great comfort to me when God is working through me in such a way that I seek His glory. It means I am one of His children. Just a thought to brighten your day, especially if you have a sickness right now.

A Nail in the Coffin of the Hebrew Roots Movement

I came across a very curious passage in 1 Corinthians that I thought shed a lot of light on Paul’s relationship to the ceremonial law. Here it is in the ESV (1 Corinthians 9:19-23):

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that be all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

The first curious point to notice is this language “I became as a Jew.” The word “ginomai” can mean “be” or “become” depending on the context, but “be” seems unlikely in this context, since Paul’s point is that when he was with Jews he looked like a Jew, and when he was with Gentiles, he looked like a Gentile. He therefore “became” one of them in order to win them to Christ (N.B., he wanted to win them to Christ, not to the OT ceremonial laws).

The second point to notice is the phrase in verse 20 “though not being myself under the law.” There is a textual variant at this point. The Byzantine manuscript tradition does not have this phrase, while the rest of the manuscript tradition has the phrase. It is almost certainly original, when one considers the age, weight, and geographical distribution of the manuscripts that have the phrase. We will proceed on the textual conclusion that it is original. The question is this: what does Paul mean by that, especially when one considers verse 21’s description of not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ?

The answer is that there must be a distinction between various parts of the law operating here (verse 21 is quite clear about this: there was some way that Paul could be as someone outside the “law” without being outside the law of God. If law means the same thing in that sentence all the way through, then Paul is declaring nonsense, for he would be saying that he was both outside and inside the law at the same time). There are aspects of the law that are non-negotiable (this is what verse 21’s “the law of God” is talking about, the moral law, the Ten Commandments). Then there are parts of the law that are definitely negotiable depending on the group of people he is with (this is what verse 20 is talking about, the ceremonial aspects of the law). It is just here that the verb “became” is important. Paul does not regard the status of being like a Jew as something that he normally is! This is what is so odd about the verse. Paul was a Jew by ethnicity! The answer to this conundrum is Philippians 3: all those things such as his ethnicity are skubalon (dung) compared with the glories of Jesus Christ. Being united to the Messiah is Paul’s new way of being human that is far more important than ethnicity or anything else (Galatians 3:28). What things are skubalon in Philippians 3? Being a Hebrew of Hebrews, being a Pharisee, being zealous for the law, having confidence in the flesh, and even being blamelessly righteous under the law! See Philippians 3:2-6. For our purposes, the things that Paul counts as skubalon are the things that the Hebrew Roots Movement prizes above Jesus Christ.

This is the particular hideousness of the HRM: the Old Testament is more important than Jesus Christ and does not point to Jesus Christ despite John 5:45-47 and Luke 24:13-49. Jesus (they will always call Him Yeshua regardless of what the entire GREEK New Testament calls Him, because somehow Hebrew is more sacred than Greek. It was really rather stupid of the New Testament authors to call Him “Iesous” of which “Jesus” is simply a transcription into English. It’s a good thing that the HRM folk are smarter than God at this point) always recedes into the background in the HRM. Just ask a HRM person why there are no sacrifices anymore. They will invariably answer that there is no temple. That’s their reason. Not that Jesus Christ was the once-for-all sacrifice that ends all other sacrifices (as the book of Hebrews makes abundantly clear all the way through the book). No, it’s because there is no temple. So why don’t they go build one and finish their denial of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for sins by starting up the sacrifices again, which Hebrews tells us never took away the guilt of sin anyway? The fact of the matter is that God had the Temple destroyed precisely because Jesus had ended the sacrificial system of the law by being the one perfect sacrifice to which all the OT sacrifices always pointed.

The juxtaposition of verse 20 with verse 21 indicates that there are things in the law that are regarded as negotiable for Paul, depending on the people he is with, and the possibilities for evangelism. Those aspects of the law are not what Paul usually does. When he does do them, it is for evangelistic purposes only, and even then it is only when he is seeking to reach Jews, and needs to avoid offense. These things that are included are things that distinguish Jews from Gentiles, such as dietary laws and feast-days.

Paul only did those things around Jews as a concession so that no one would be distracted from the gospel of Jesus Christ. But when people started insisting on these things, as in the book of Galatians, Paul fought back tooth and nail. He berated Peter for forcing the Gentiles to live like Jews (Galatians 2:14), something the HRM is most definitely advocating. In chapter 3, Paul says that the works of the law do not justify anyone. For anyone who relies on the works of the law (and the HRM definitely relies on the works of the law) they are under a curse, for perfection is required (Galatians 3:10). The law was a guardian until Christ came (3:24), which is no longer required as a guardian (3:25) because Christ has come. In chapter 5, Paul says that if they accept circumcision as a requirement, then Christ is useless to them.

It is important to notice here that when Paul is saying these things about the law, he is not abrogating the Ten Commandments. After all, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, quite clearly states their continual application. Paul himself in chapter 5 will go on to list a bunch of sins on the one hand, and a bunch of virtues on the other, that are required to be walking in the Spirit. They all have to do with the moral law, and none of them have to do with the ceremonial law.

In Galatians 6, Paul says that the real motivation for these ceremonial law-keepers is that they want to boast in the flesh (6:13). Paul says that he wants to boast in something different: the cross of Jesus Christ. He explicitly says that circumcision counts for nothing (6:15). If there is never any change whatsoever in the OT law (which is what the HRM claims), then why is circumcision declared by Paul to be counting for nothing? Is circumcision the only thing that counts for nothing? Or is circumcision the symbolic issue that stands for the ceremonial law of the OT? Surely it is the latter.

Part 2 of the interview with one of the prosecutors in Meyers’ Federal Vision Trial

Posted by Bob Mattes

Dr. R. Scott Clark has posted Part 2 of his excellent interview of TE M. Jay Bennett on the TE Meyers’ Federal Vision trial. In case you missed Part 1, you can find it here. As you might expect, the two flow together.

Part 2 delves a bit more into the unseemly manoeuvring by TE Meyers and his friends in Missouri Presbytery (MOP) to limit the prosecution’s ability to function in accordance with the PCA Book of Church Order. The actions explained by TE Bennett severely hampered the prosecution, whilst providing easy avenues for the defense to “run out the clock”. The transcripts make the tactics obvious even after the fact. Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, the prosecution should have been given both adequate time to prepare and present its case. It was not.

I commented in this post about my involvement as a prosecution witness in the case. In light of TE Bennett’s comments on his cross-examination of TE Meyers, I need to point out that I was not present for that cross because I had to catch my flight home. So, I want to make it clear that my previous post should take nothing away from TE Bennett’s observations about his cross-examination of TE Meyers.

So, where does all this leave us in the PCA? Certainly, there are presbyteries like Missouri, Pacific Northwest, Siouxlands, and perhaps a few others in which faithful officers cannot recommend churches to inquirers without personally knowing individual pastors who are orthodox and confessional. It also means that transferees from said presbyteries must be carefully examined in detail for their views. We saw that with Lusk when he tried to transfer to Evangel Presbytery a few years ago, and Leithart most recently. Though Leithart has not yet been examined, his work out of bounds teaching Federal Vision doctrine in Evangel’s geographic area has been rejected in accordance with the BCO. Faithful presbyteries must be on the watch and guard their flocks from FV wolves.

Dr. Clark’s excellent post on the parallels between Federal Visionists today and Arminians in the Reformed church centuries ago captures this watchfulness issue well. While the Federal Visionists deny on one hand that they hold aberrant views, they openly teach them outside of the view of the PCA courts. Although Meyers, Leithart, et al, remain “in good standing” in the PCA just as James Arminius did in the Dutch church in his day, they would not and should not be welcome in many if not most pulpits in the PCA or should they be permitted to spread their poison at General Assembly seminars. If confessional elders would not invite Arminius or Pelagius into their pulpits, then how could they in faithfulness to their vows invite a Federal Visionist? They cannot.

Confessional, orthodox Reformed elders in the PCA must stay diligent and informed in these trying times until we can change the BCO to correct these recent travesties. In the meantime, although we cannot at this moment directly treat the cancer in some presbyteries, we can and must contain the disease.

Posted by Bob Mattes

Great interview with one of the prosecutors in Meyers’ Federal Vision Trial

Posted by Bob Mattes

Dr. R. Scott Clark, church historian, pastor, and Westminster Seminary California professor, interviewed Rev. M. Jay Bennett for the Heidelcast. Jay was the lead prosecutor for the TE Jeff Meyers’ Federal Vision trial in Missouri Presbytery. The interview comes in two parts, with the second part slated for next week. In the first part that’s posted now, Dr. Clark covers Teaching Elder Bennett’s background, a bit of Federal Vision (FV) background, and the timeline leading up to the Meyers trial. The latter provides some insight into how the discipline process in the PCA proceeds. As usual, Dr. Clark conducts an informative and engaging interview which I highly recommend. Scott and Jay discuss a few anomalies in the case history, but so far haven’t mentioned the big one in my opinion.

In the trial record of case, on page 872, you see that Missouri Presbytery (MOP) was basically pushing TE Bennett out of the presbytery, which would, of course, make him unable to complain against the decision in the Meyers case. In the end, MOP succeeded and the PCA Standing Judicial Commission apparently let MOP get away with this ploy without even reading the record of the case. The bigger story is that MOP had kept men like TE Mark Horne, another Federal Visionist like Meyers, without call for over 3 years. Yet, TE Bennett, who opposes the unreformed FV, was being bounced almost immediately. The politics is pretty clear when looking at the bigger picture.

To be totally up front, I signed the original letter of concern mentioned in the interview and was a witness for the prosecution in the Meyers case, flying to St. Louis on my own nickle (i.e., at no cost to MOP) for the trial. I worked with Jay on my testimony, and found him a fair, honorable, and confessional teaching elder who deeply loves the Reformed Faith and understood the unconfessional nuances in the Federal Vision. The PCA owes TE Bennett a great debt of gratitude for standing firmly for the gospel in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Don’t miss part 1 of the interview, and check back next week for part 2. And you could benefit greatly by following Dr. Clark’s Heidelblog as many of us do.

I would be remiss without adding that Jeff Meyers, after being acquitted by MOP, now teaches with all the FV heavyweights at an FV school. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Posted by Bob Mattes

Horton Vs. Keister?

In the Leithart trial transcript, Rayburn, in his closing arguments, argued that since I was “confused” about a statement that came from Michael Horton’s writings, and that I wound up disagreeing with Horton, that therefore I was “biased” and my testimony was worthless. There are quite a few other charges levelled against me in the closing arguments by Rayburn (the comments about me start on page 401 of the transcript and continue through page 403 line 5). Those will be dealt with as we get to them. For now, let us examine the trick that Rayburn played on me (which can be found on page 119, line 7, and continues to the next page). Rayburn quoted something that belonged to Horton’s writings, and asked if I was comfortable with it. Then, after stating that was I uncomfortable with that way of putting it, Rayburn said that it was Horton’s writings. In the conclusion, Rayburn uses this as an example of why my testimony is “virtually worthless.”

I have emailed Mike Horton about this particular quotation. Horton agrees with me that Rayburn took the statement out of context, and Horton affirmed that he said the same thing about baptism that I said. I fell for the trick because I naively thought that a Presbytery would treat a member of another Presbytery (who was in good standing) with a modicum of respect. I was obviously wrong in that assumption. The quotation was delivered by Rayburn anonymously and out of context. In other words, it was a lie. This is a trick that many FV advocates and defendants have tried on me over the years. You’d think I would have been ready for it! I had been meaning to address this point long before this, but had never gotten around to emailing Mike about it.

I will now address some of Rayburn’s statements concerning me in the closing arguments. I had admitted to bias in the cross-examination. Of course I was “biased.” I was a witness for the prosecution, and thought that Leithart was guilty. But then Rayburn put a construction on the term “biased” that I had never agreed to. He says, “Bias suggests the failure to put the best construction on what a man says or writes, a determination to find fault and a lack of even handedness in the evaluation of evidence.” He did not mention this definition of bias when he cross-examined me. I do not agree that I am biased according to this definition. Instead, as Rayburn himself says, “It is not biased to believe to be true a certain opinion regarding the facts of the case.” That is where I was and where I still am. I was interpreting the term “bias” to be equivalent to “non-neutral.” In that case I was biased, just as Leithart was biased. But Rayburn put a construction on those words that I never intended. On the first page of my testimony, I explicitly said that I owed Leithart all the charity and care of reading possible. Rayburn just assumed that I was incapable of achieving that.

Then Rayburn says, “Along with competence, the objectivity of an expert witness is his most important recommendation.” Objectivity is absolutely impossible. Is there anyone in the PCA who is objective when it comes to FV issues? Now Rayburn shifts the ground entirely to say that the only witnesses worth anything are those who don’t actually have an opinion.

Rayburn claims that the defense read my testimony. That is seriously misleading. I watched them during the entire 15 minutes (which was all that the defense counsel requested to examine my testimony). All they did was flip desultorily through my testimony. They didn’t read it. Not so as to be able to interact with it. It was not interacted with by the defense counsel in any way, shape, or form. The court asked one or two questions about the substance of the testimony, and then jumped on my statement about Leithart leaving for the peace of the church. The court did not interact with my testimony on any kind of thorough basis either.

Then Rayburn brought up this comment on my blog by Sean Lucas. That Sean Lucas and I would disagree about the import of Michael Williams’s book is taken as evidence that my testimony is worthless. Not sure how this follows. Even if Sean Lucas was were correct in every point of his critique of my review, that would be irrelevant as to whether my testimony in the Leithart case was accurate or not. If Rayburn takes it that therefore I am reading people uncharitably, again it doesn’t follow. Even if I were reading Williams uncharitably (and Lucas’s comment did not convince me of that), that does not mean that I am reading Leithart uncharitably. Every single quotation from Leithart in my testimony I attempted to set in its immediate and broader context so that I was not misreading him.

Rayburn also claims that I am a known controversialist, and that I am known by many as someone who relishes conflict. I do not relish conflict. I only engage in it because I feel I have to contend for the gospel, as Jude directs me to do. This is a blatant attempt at reading my motivation, and I will say flat out that it is a lie. Rayburn had never met me once before the trial. He doesn’t know me at all. He made a lot of statements about me that assumed a greater knowledge of me than he in fact had. To be blunt, he lied about me multiple times in a very public way.

In his sermon (always interesting to be preached about!) Rayburn says that I only pretended to scholarship. I never pretended to anything other than what I actually own. At one time, Jason Stellman slipped up by calling me “Dr. Keister,” and I corrected him on the floor of the PNW Presbytery. When asked whether I was an “expert” witness, I debated in my mind how to reply to that. On the one hand, I did not want to toot my own horn and appear like I was an expert in all theological fields, which I certainly am not. On the other hand, I had read all of Leithart’s theological writings, and about 80% of all the original source FV writings, which put me in a position to say something about the FV, and about Leithart. I can say without fear of sounding too grandiose that I am an expert in FV matters. I have since learned that Rayburn has accused me of being “obsessed” with Leithart. I had read exactly 2 books written by Leithart before Stellman asked me to be a witness in the case. I did almost all my reading of Leithart after being asked to be a witness in the case. No obsession there, unless you want to say that I was obsessed with accurately describing Leithart’s theology, which I most certainly was.

I debated a long time whether to post this or not, because it has a rather defensive tone about it. These accusations that have come my way are very public in nature. The main reason I wished to set the record straight on these matters is, again, the wrongness of the SJC decision. I have written before on how the SJC did NOT need to show great deference to PNW’s decision. This post adds more arguments to that post.

A Hidden Assumption in the Paedo-Communion Position

I wrote a blog post last year on how many places in the Westminster Standards (and the PCA’s BCO) that are contradicted by the paedo-communion system. Paedo-communion is contrary to our system of doctrine and strikes at the vitals of religion. Sacraments are not adiaphora. They proclaim the gospel. Issues about the sacraments are gospel issues, therefore. The Reformers understood this much better than we do today, probably because of the implicit Zwinglianism (and worse) infecting the church at large. Most of the Reformers did not agree with Zwingli on the nature of the Lord’s Supper.

What I wish to do in this post is to examine a usually quite well-hidden assumption in the paedo-communion position concerning the benefit of the Lord’s Supper to those who do not participate. The assumption is implicit in the title of Leithart’s book, Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated? The hidden assumption is that (in the credo-communion position) the Lord’s Supper has not only no benefit for those not old enough to participate, but actually causes harm to children when they do not participate on the basis of their age. The harm caused is usually phrased in terms of the exclusion they feel when they see others participating but they cannot.

I want to challenge this assumption rather strongly. The nature of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the gospel of our Lord’s death until he returns (1 Cor. 11:26). Anyone who sees it without participating can potentially benefit from it, because it is gospel proclamation. It has been known to happen that people are sometimes converted by seeing what they are missing. Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is a great opportunity for teaching people. Everyone who hears that teaching can benefit from it. So, not only is minister preaching the gospel through the sacrament, but he is also teaching the congregation about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

What effect will that have on the young child who cannot yet participate? Well, he will have the gospel preached to him such that conversion might happen. Further than that, he will learn about the Lord’s Supper. Both of these things should help create a longing for that communion. This creation of a longing for deeper communion with the Lord can be the very thing that prepares him to receive the Lord’s Supper properly. So, far from excommunicating our children, we are preparing them for that communion.