An Answer to Dr. Bill Evans

Dr. William Evans has written several posts on the Christotelic controversy. I wish to focus on this post. As I see it, the key issues here surround the initial similarity between Poythress/Ferguson/Hodge, on the one hand, and the Christotelic interpretation, on the other. In fact, Evans does not seem to find any difference at all between the two. I beg to differ.

The first thing I wish to point out is that I believe Evans has not quite described Green’s critics accurately. Evans writes:

Green’s critics, however, contend that such thinking effaces the “organic connection” between the Old Testament and the New. They believe that grammatical-historical interpretation is the normative method of biblical interpretation, and that the meaning of the text resides in the human author’s intention. However, the grammatical-historical method is redefined and expanded to include divine influence on the human authors’ psychology as legitimate considerations for interpretation. Thus they conclude that the NT meanings (i.e., the OT Christological content referenced by the NT writers) must have been present in the minds of the OT writers. The OT is, as one of Green’s critics puts it, “christomorphic,” in that references to Christ are objectively present in the text of the Old Testament and were intended by the human author.

This is not quite accurate. The fullness of understanding that we have in the NT need not be completely present in the OT writer’s mind. That is a straw man, and it unfortunately affects the remainder of Evans’s analysis. Now, part of the description is accurate. References to Christ are indeed objectively present in the text of the OT and were intended by the human author. That does not mean, however, that the OT author saw everything as clearly as we see it now. 1 Peter 1:10-12 is immensely instructive in this regard. Indeed, I am not sure that there is any more important passage in the NT about this issue than 1 Peter 1:10-12. What did the OT authors know? They knew about the grace that was coming (verse 10). They knew about the messianic sufferings and glories (verse 11), since the Holy Spirit was indicating it to them. They knew whom they were serving (verse 12). In other words, they knew more than the TRV (two-readings view) folks think they knew, though they did not know as much as we know now through the New Testament. Even more importantly, the Holy Spirit was testifying the messianic sufferings and glories in advance (verse 11). From the same passage, we know that they did not know the circumstances or timing of the events (verse 11).

The second point I want to make is that Ferguson’s and Poythress’s views are NOT the same as the Christotelic interpretation. I will use an illustration that I used in one of my comments on a previous post. The correct understanding of the OT is that it is like an acorn that grows up to full flowering in the New Testament. All along, you can see that it is an oak tree. Branches may come and go, but it is always an oak tree. The TRV believes that the OT grows up like an acorn of an oak tree, and then when it comes to full flowering, we discover that it is actually a unicorn. This illustration might be a bit overblown (and the illustration will certainly disintegrate if pressed too far), but it puts the point clearly, I think. The point is this: merely saying that we need to understand how a passage would have sounded to the first audience, as Poythress and Ferguson do, is NOT the same thing as saying that an acorn grows up to be a unicorn. Poythress and Ferguson are also NOT saying that the understanding of the context and the passage as it would have originally sounded would have resulted in a dead end that did not lead to Christ. Every tributary branch leads to Christ. That is what Poythress and Ferguson believe. That is NOT what the TRV believes. So Poythress and Ferguson are not advocating the TRV at all. I also would agree that it is very helpful indeed to ascertain how something would have sounded to the original audience. What I would go on to say is that the result of that inquiry feeds into a tributary branch that will eventually lead us to Christ. There are no dead ends in the Old Testament.

Dr. Evans believes that there are “careful and considered christotelic approaches that respect the organic unity of Scripture.” This is not true. The Christotelic approach does not respect the organic unity of Scripture. However, the organic unity of Scripture is something that WTS Philly has been known for, and for a long time. It is the heritage of Geerhardus Vos.

Speaking of Vos, I wish to make one last point about the TRV versus organic unity. The TRV is inevitably connected with a scorn of systematic theology. I know of not one single practitioner of the TRV who loves systematic theology. They always believe that ST is a Procrustean bed that chops off the best of exegesis and biblical theology. And in this, they often think that they are the inheritors of Vos. Unfortunately for them, Vos was a practitioner of a unified theological encyclopedia. Vos taught ST at Calvin before going to Princeton to teach BT. His 5-volume ST is now being translated. It is no accident, this despising of ST among the TRV folks. ST tells us that Scripture has a unified message, and that God does not change His mind. The TRV denies both of these things. The TRV is thus the product of the Enlightenment’s fragmentation of knowledge, starting with Kant’s bifurcation of knowledge from faith.


  1. September 26, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Reblogged this on beliefspeak2 and commented:
    Here is a good defense on the organic unity of scripture contra the TRV (Two Readings View) of some.

  2. September 26, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    As a matter of fact, Lane, Volumes 1 and 2 of Vos’s “Reformed Dogmatics” are set to be published in hardback this fall, probably in November. Westminster Seminary East’s bookstore will send out an email ad blast when they have the books available.

  3. Joe S. said,

    September 27, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Lane, for the sake of discussion what is your source for the TRV position? You sate authoritatively that the TRV this or the the TRV that; who or what are you reading to come to those conclusions?

    Thank you….

  4. greenbaggins said,

    September 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Joe, I’ve had almost all of the best-known practitioners for professors. When I was a student at WTS, they were almost all there. There aren’t very many books advocating this, to my knowledge. There are some articles (one written by Enns and McCartney on the use of Hosea 11:1, for instance). There is Enns’s book, also.

  5. Joe S. said,

    September 27, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Lane, have you seen this short article?

    It may be helpful for some to get a handle on Christotelic hermeneutics since there isn’t a lot of writing out there.

    One of the things that I found absent in the article, and perhaps I just missed it, was anything that could correlate to your whole acorn to unicorn illustration. Is it possible you are pulling a Bill Evans here and putting forward something that doesn’t quite grasp the Christotelic position?

    Grace and peace…

  6. Nathanael Johnston said,

    September 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

    A couple of things:

    1) You claim you don’t know any two readings folks who love systematic theology…in a response to a blog defending that view by a guy with a published work in historical theology. Claiming that Bill Evans hates ST is patently false. Jonathan Bonomo loves ST (unless loving Nevin doesn’t count). And I love ST so that makes at least three.

    2) You say there are no books on the TRV and imply that the lack of writing on the subject is why you consistently fail to cite any of its proponents in your critiques. To help you out I did some research. I am posting links to the academia pages of Doug Green and Dan McCartney below. They contain many articles that are free to view and employ the hermeneutic in question explicitly. Feel free to use them in future blogs. Please do not feel free to continue posting critiques without citations; it’s intellectually lazy and unconvincing to boot.

    3) The links in question:

  7. Nathanael Johnston said,

    September 27, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Correction: It appears that only Doug Green’s academia page has free to view articles; McCartney’s page only has citations. If you have access to EBSCO through Westminster they should not be hard to look up though.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    September 27, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Nathanael, first off, historical theology is not systematic theology. Secondly, I was not accusing Dr. Evans of holding the TRV. If you and Jonathan like ST, then let me ask you whether you think God not changing His mind has anything to do with this discussion or not? It is not necessarily liking ST or not liking it that is the point. It is whether or not ST provides boundaries for exegesis, beyond which we should not go. Thirdly, citing class notes is kind of silly. Yes, I know it is done, but not very often, since it is second hand. So, back off, Nathanael, before you accuse someone of intellectual laziness! Of course it will be unconvincing to someone like you, to whom no argument whatsoever would ever be convincing on something like this, if it went against your position. I seriously doubt that citations would change anything in your case.

  9. Nathanael Johnston said,

    September 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Citing class notes? The materials posted on Doug Green’s acadmia page are published articles or book chapters. What are you even talking about?

  10. Nathanael Johnston said,

    September 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    And for the record, I do believe in divine immutability and divine simplicity. I just don’t think those doctrines conflict with OT texts have meanings beyond what their original human authors and audiences would have recognized any more than I think the end of the requirement of circumcision requires that God changed his mind.

  11. Joe S. said,

    September 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Lane, I do not think that you are intellectually lazy. If I was honest then that probably would be me.

    I find the format of an article like the one that Jonathan B. wrote a little more compelling because he is quoting people to make his points instead of make statements that aren’t being supported or drawn out of from something.

    To be honest this is what has bothered me a little since the beginning of this whole ordeal. I hear a lot of TRV this and TRV that. Claims are being slung about. This started with WTS’ follow up statements on Christotelic hermeneutics and it continues to carry on. I want something of substance that goes be on he said she said. How about linking together multiple quotes from Green’s academic work and drawing a point out of them? That would be interesting and would be a welcomed change in the format of the discussion.

    I’m getting confused as to what TRV even means. Per you conversation with Bill Smith in post #76 in the “Why-two-readings-of-the-OT-is-wrong” post Bill pointed out that he used what he considered,

    “the redemptive-historical hermeneutic I learned in the classes of Palmer Robertson at RTS about 45 years ago”

    which he describes as

    “The message had to have some significance to the writer and original audience. What did they hear and what use did they make of it? That message is usually something short of what becomes clearer after the the incarnation and accomplishment of redemption and the apostolic understanding and testimony. So, I consider my work to include asking, “How did the original audience hear this, and what use can we make of that by putting ourselves in their places?” Then to ask, “What more is here that we can learn and use that is made explicitly or implicitly clear by Christ’s coming and work and by the Apostolic testimony?”

    Apparently this two reading view that Bill Smith put forward is acceptable and not truly THE two reading view? This would establish that there are some TRV that are acceptable and some that are not. What is significantly different between Bill’s TRV approach and Green’s or McCarney’s TRV approach? If possible it would be very helpful to have some quotes from their academic work to help differentiate between the different TRV’s.

    It would really help people like Bill and I who are on the sidelines scratching our heads and wondering what on earth is going on… to an outsider it is not particularly clear.

    Thank you…

  12. greenbaggins said,

    September 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Yes, there is a lot of confusion about what the TRV actually is. I will write a response to Bonomo’s article in a bit.

    I believe that it is fairly clear that the issue that I have with the TRV is that they believe that the OT can have a meaning that doesn’t just develop into something that is in the SAME trajectory, but actually changes into something that is on a completely DIFFERENT trajectory. This would be inconsistent with God’s immutability. The development of meaning is not inconsistent, as long as it is along the same trajectory. And just to give a heads up on where I would be going in a critique of Bonomo, his description of the TRV is simply not what I have seen, and it is not what I remembered Green teaching, or the other TRV people. It is interesting to see that this problem is actually evident in Bonomo’s own article, I believe.

    Class notes is the majority of what I have on Green’s views, and the other TRV guys (Taylor, Enns, McCartney). The reason I mentioned them is because that is the majority of what I have on them, but I haven’t cited them, because it is not usually done. I will look through Green’s article and the McCartney/Enns article again, and do some critique of it.

  13. Nathanael Johnston said,

    September 27, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    From pages 1-2 (footnote #7) of Doug Green’s 2003 paper “Psalm 8: What Is Israel’s King That You Remember Him?”:

    “Implicit in this statement is my conviction that biblical texts should be read (by and large) in the context of the unfolding story of redemption. The meaning of a text varies depending on the way relates to the larger story in which it is embedded. All of the parts of the unfolding story (including individual psalms) “make sense” on their own as the story unfolds; they have provisional meanings, which are discerned through grammatical-historical exegesis. But these earlier parts of the story will “make sense” in a different way once the climax of the story is known. The meaning of the parts is shaped by the whole, which, in an unfolding story, means that the parts only “make ultimate sense” in the light of the climax of the story. Now I admit that the Bible is not quite an unfolding story, but it is a book that takes its general shape from the history to which it bears witness. This connection to the great story of redemption means there are (at least) two ways of reading Old Testament texts. The “first reading” can be variously named: reading towards an unknown conclusion, reading without the benefit of the conclusion, or reading a text in the context of the story as far as it has unfolded. It is like the way we read a novel or watch a movie for the first time: we make sense of the individual parts in the context of what we have read or seen so far. But there is also is a second way of reading Old Testament texts, one that is distinctly Christian. It is fundamentally an act of rereading, of reinterpretation of earlier provisional meanings, in the light of the (sometimes surprising) Christ-ending to the story of redemption. Just as scenes from a movie watched or book read a second time can have quite different meanings once the ending is known, the same is true for Old Testament passages re-read in terms of the whole canonical story of redemption.”

    Please notice how Green’s analogy of the movie assumes the coherence and divine authorship of the entire story of redemption. Also notice that on page 9 of the paper he classifies his reading of Psalm 8 as “radically Christocentric” but then says in a footnote, “Or to use the better term: Christotelic . Since I am working in narrative categories, I find it more accurate to speak of Christ as the climax, goal, end, telos (rather than center) of the metanarrative of redemption.” Notice that the term christotelic is used not because Green, et al. are saying something radically new, but rather because he and others felt that the term christocentric was too vague and ambiguous.

  14. Don said,

    September 27, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Green Baggins, I asked on the other post, but since the discussion seems to have moved on here, I’ll repeat:
    Is the acorn-to-unicorn imagery something that Green or some other TRV advocate uses to explain the unfolding of the Old Testament story, or is it your own characterization of TRV?

  15. roberty bob said,

    September 27, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Green’s article on Psalm 8 is good. Not one unicorn in sight; just one Great King!

  16. Bill Smith said,

    September 28, 2014 at 7:43 am

    First, in my comment on the previous piece I wrote that I am most definitely conversant with the scholarly literature leaving out the crucial word NOT. I would guess the rest of what I wrote about being an ordinary working stiff pastor would have made it clear. But, just in case, I am NOT CONVERSANT with the literature. Second, I do, however, have a question. Is it possible for a prophet to say about what he preached and wrote, when he sees the NT fulfilment, to say, “Wow! I never saw that coming!” Or for the original hearers/readers to say, “We would never have imagined that that message would have worked out that way.” The well-known uses to which Matthew puts the OT seem to me to be such cases – even finding prophecy in passages which originally seem not to be predictive at all. Now, if my foggy memories of OTBT and NTBT courses are somewhat reliable, a fair amount of labor went into explanatians why Matthew, for instance, was not misusing the OT – not making illegitimate use of texts by improper exegetical methods. Third, I do believe that exegesis must work in the context of systematics. Systematics does provide the framework and the (somewhat provisional) boundaries for doing exegesis. But is systematics necessarily involved with the subject at hand? Specifically, is divine immutablity necessarily at issue? Two things seem to be to relate to that question. The first is that we do have “apparent” changes in God’s mind that we have to explain – that is explicit instances that seem to indicate God changes. We have to explain those, and we do within the paramaters of “I am God and I change not.” Do these matters of NT understandings of OT prophecies present us with bigger problems than those passage that seem to describe a change in God’s mind our purpose with re to divine immutablity? The second thing is this: Are we necessarily talking about changes in God’s minid at all? That is, God always knew what he meant and how the prophecy woud turn out. But the human author perhaps did not – indeed, given his setting could not – see the way what he said/wrote would turn out. In other words, when the human author/congregation is confronted with the way his prophecy works out, perhaps he has to change his mind about what it meant though God, seeing the end from the beginning, does not. So perhaps Hosea says, “Man! I never would have thought that was I said,” while God says, “I knew it all along, Hosea,”

  17. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    September 28, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Like Bill I am not conversant with all the scholarly literature and before this blew up a couple of months ago I had never even heard the word (to my knowledge at least) “Christotelic” let alone knew anything about it.

    A question I would have is where does the rubber hit the road on this? What fundamentally changes in the preaching of the Word vis-à-vis the Christotelic interpretation vs. the Redemptive-Historical (which is I assume the other pole of this discussion)?

  18. greenbaggins said,

    September 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Don, the illustration of the tree and the unicorn is my characterization of their view, not something I read in their own writings.

  19. roberty bob said,

    September 28, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    In Acts 2:16 the Apostle Peter references the Day of Pentecost event to the Prophecy of Joel [THIS is THAT]. When you read the Prophecy of Joel, you find no explicit mention of a coming Christ. So, you don’t see Christ at the center of Joel’s Prophecy. Joel is not Christocentric. Joel, however, does foretell the rescue of Israel from an oppressive enemy, the return of Israel to the Land, the refreshing of the Land — so that you will know that the Lord your God is in Israel [although Christ is not mentioned, one might infer that the Lord’s presence would be clearly seen in the coming Christ]. And afterward, the Lord will pour out his Spirit on all people. Joel goes on to expound on the particular evidences of that outpouring.

    Does Joel know that this outpouring of the Spirit would wait to happen hundreds of years past the remnant of Israel’s return from their Exile? Does Joel understand that the Christ must come on the scene first — to suffer, die, rise, and ascend to glory — before the Lord can pour out his Spirit upon all flesh? We really do not know what Joel might have known, do we? The Spirit of the Lord was giving to Joel the very words of hope for the returning remnant. When all of the things foretold came true — culminating in the Spirit’s outpouring — then remnant community and their offspring would know that the Lord their God was [once again, as never before!] dwelling among them / in the Land with them.

    To say that Joel’s Prophecy is Christocentric seems a bit of a stretch to me. Listen to Joel as though you are Joel’s fellow countryman, and you are not hearing a sermon centered on Christ. Joel is more Christotelic than he is Christocentric, or [if you like] Christocentrifugal. The events Joel foretells will one day be seen — for now we have seen the glory — in the Christ. It was Peter’s great joy to point out THIS Spirit-outpouring being witnessed on the Day of Pentecost was none other that THAT which Joel had foretold!

  20. September 29, 2014 at 12:05 am

    […] the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

  21. Rick Phillips said,

    September 29, 2014 at 7:42 pm


    As you may know the basic document of record on the christotelic debate is Dan McCartney’s 2003 ETS paper, “Should we employ the hermeneutics of the New Testament Writers.” In it, McCartney argues that if we are going to do grammatical-historical exegesis, we have to admit that on these terms “one cannot really see the gospel” in the Old Testament. He asserts that “the death and resurrection of the Messiah” cannot be found in the OT. He makes this claim, however, only after he has ruled typology out of g-h exegesis. On these terms, Moses had no idea that his redemptive religion, with all the atoning sacrifices of the tabernacle, etc. pointed forward to a Messiah to come, even though Jesus said, “Moses… wrote of me” (Jn. 5:46). This is the controversial issue when it comes to the christotelic hermeneutic. The controversy is not that we must first interpret a passage in its own context before moving to the canonical context — that is a standard principle of r-h interpretation that was and is a hallmark of WTS. The issue is the claim that the OT contains “false leads” and is “surprised” when the New Testament reveals Jesus.

    This is one of the remarkable aspects of Evan’s piece. He describes the christotelic approach as merely practicing a r-h understanding of progressive revelation. He describes the “first reading” merely in this way: “In the first reading we encounter the text without reference to the conclusion of the story.” Well r-h interpretation always does that and every WTS professor I had taught that. What Evans does not say is that the christotelic approach asserts that this first reading contains in itself no revelation of Christ and his gospel. Yet this is where the entire controversy lies. Consider this issue in light of WCF 8.6, which says that “in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices… [Christ] was revealed…” So Evans leaves out the very heart of the objection to the christotelic view.

    Evans then makes claims about the WTS position that are simply untrue. He makes it out that the WTS position is centered on an absolutizing of the human author’s psychological awareness of the full implications of what he was writing. To my knowledge, no one has denied “that the inspired OT writers often spoke better than they knew.” Rather, the WTS position is that of the Confession, which requires our Old Testament exegesis to take note of “promises, types, and sacrifices” so as organically to bear testimony to the coming Lord Jesus. This is hardly a new position for WTS but merely the Confessional stance the faculty vow has required from the beginning.

    Lastly, the two examples cited by Evans in support of the Christotelic approach are indeed curious. Dr. Ferguson taking the standard tack of allowing the an OT text to be first interpreted in its own context and only then in the canonical context is a far cry from the christotelic conviction that Christ is not organically revealed in the OT. This distinguishing tenet of the TRV is most certainly not endorsed by Ferguson. The Warfield example is even more remarkable. Warfield’s point was to show that the doctrine of the trinity was organic to the OT, even though it is never stated as such, which is the very point of those opposed to the christotelic hermeneutic. So neither of these examples are presented in a way that accurately relates them tot he TRV.

    Needless to say, then, I agree with you that the Evans article is not a helpful or responsible take on this situation. He leaves out the controversial element of the christotelic approach, at best skews the WTS position, and then uses examples neither of which are at all to the point.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    September 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks, Rick, for an extremely helpful comment that is more clearly stated than my post.

  23. Rick Phillips said,

    September 29, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Let me expand one point for clarity’s sake. The argument is made (by Evans and Tremper Longman) that WTS insists on the human OT author having a psychological awareness of the full implications of what he is writing. This would indeed be a ridiculous view if we held it. There are any number of OT passages where the author would not likely have perceived the fullness of the redemptive-historical historical fulfillment of what he wrote. While I would agree with Greg Beale that in general they probably did have a pretty good idea — much better than is often stated — of what their writing would come to mean, they need not always have done so.

    But this is not the issue. Rather, as you have highlighted, the point is that the OT writers were not launching a trajectory that later was fundamentally altered in the NT. Rather, the NT presents the fulfillment of the very salvation anticipating and proclaimed in the OT.

    Take Moses for instance, as he is writing Genesis. Are we to believe that this spiritual giant drew no conclusions from Gen. 3:21, when he recorded that God dealt with Adam & Eve’s sin by means of a substitutionary atonement? Or in Exodus 25:22, when God said that he would meet with Moses at the mercy seat, did Moses draw no redemptive-historical conclusions from this? Or when Moses was writing Leviticus, are we to believe that he thought the atoning power was actually in the blood of birds, goats, and bulls, with no awareness at all of the understanding given in Hebrews 10?

    McCartney, in defining the christotelic approach, insists that the gospel is not present in the OT because there are no book of Romans type doctrinal statements of Christ’s person and work. But, as the Confession demands, Christ was present in the OT writings by means of types, sacrifices, and promises. Yes, we believe that through these means not only was Christ actually revealed in the OT but that the OT saints were generally aware of the gospel message presented by these means, the same gospel message we believe and preach today. This is why B. B. Warfield called Ps. 51:7 the spiritual high water mark of the Old Testament, because when David prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,” he was not referring to the blood of ritual animals but the blood of Christ typified by them. Yes, we believe that David was self-consciously putting his trust in the Messiah who would come and fulfill what was ritually performed by the priests.

    This is the issue, not abstract and unprovable theories about the extent of individual OT writers’ psychological awareness of the fullness of what they were writing.

  24. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Very helpful analysis Dr. Phillips. :-)

  25. Jay Ryder said,

    September 30, 2014 at 9:16 am

    From a technical standpoint, both Lane’s and Dr. Phillips’ explanations are quite helpful. However, my real trouble in reading about all of this, is that WTS (a parachurch) exercises a higher bar of censure over the breadth of permissible theological instruction than the denomination in which Dr. Green is an ordained elder will. I’m certainly highly sympathetic to Dr. Beale’s approach to RH interpretation and rejoiced aloud when WTS brought him on board (especially in the aftermath of Enns’ departure!). However, I and many of my colleagues in the PCA are greatly dismayed at their proceedings with regard to Dr. Green, who has been an honorable elder, tenured OT professor over a great many years. We will likely steer our young men toward Covenant and RTS more so in the future.

  26. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Thanks Bill Smith for the link. I can only say that Dr. Evans is simply misinformed. The issue is the organic link between the OT and the NT in such a way that the OT bears testimony to Christ and his gospel in and of itself. The christotelic hermeneutic says that the NT involves an apostolic imposition on and reinterpretation of the OT material. The apostles happen to be correct, given their inspiration, yet Christ is not native to the OT witness in and of itself.

    Dr. Evans treats my reference to McCartney’s article as an “ah-ha!” revelation that the WTS actions are about doctrine and the Confession. Well, of course that is true.

    He also says that I read McCartney uncharitably in describing his hermeneutic as denying an organic unity between the OT and the NT. Yet this is the whole point of the TRV, and I am not aware of any major proponent of the christotelic hermeneutic who would deny this. Now, there are many strong points made in McCartney’s article and it is a significant piece worthy of consideration. But the fact is that:

    1. McCartney rules typology out of g-h exegesis, contra Beale.

    2. Having done this, McCartney asserts that “one cannot really see the gospel itself until one gets to the New Testament.” He admits to “hints” at the gospel, things that “imply” the gospel, and “prophetic expectations of a gospel,” but says that these can only be seen from “our post-resurrection perspective” and could not have been appreciated by ordinary OT believers. He writes that “not a single OT passage, when viewed strictly from its ostensive grammatical-historically determinable meaning,” clearly states the death and resurrection of Christ. Of course, this can only be asserted when one has excluded from g-h interpretation the “types, sacrifices, and promises” by which WCF 8:6 says that Christ “was revealed” in the OT. Hence, McCartney summarizes, “‘Pure, grammatical-historical method in OT study does not give us the gospel.”

    3. As a result, the unity between the OT and the NT is not organic, since one may not derive any Christological content from a first-reading of the OT, but the unity involves a reinterpretation of the OT by the NT writers. I am sorry if Evans is not aware of this — perhaps he should call his christotelic colleagues and ask them. In their own descriptions, they insist that a christotelic first reading of the OT look upon it as “not a Christian text.” This does not reflect organic unity between OT and NT and the christotelic interpreters admit this. The unity comes later, when the OT is reinterpreted by the apostles. Only in this way is Jesus to be believed when he said in Luke 24 that the OT was “about me.” This assessment is not lack of charity but rather about simple clarity. If this misreads the “authorial intent” of McCartney’s article and its avowed supporters, then I will be glad to be corrected. But I am quite certain that it does not misread their intent.

    4. The christotelic approach raises the obvious question: what were the OT saints believing that resulted in their salvation? WCF 11:6 says that “the justification of believers under the OT was… one and the same with the justification of believers under the NT. The question must therefore be asked: if the gospel could not be known in OT times, what was the faith by which believers were then saved?

    One of my biggest frustrations in this matter has been the reliance on sheer speculation that has characterized so many of the WTS critics, Dr. Evans prominent among them. In this respect, it is instructive that he resorts to ungrounded speculation regarding the the DTS backgrounds of several WTS scholars (even directing his readers to Tremper Longman’s facebook page, which consists almost wholly of personal smears and speculative innuendo.) Yet there is an irony here to be enjoyed. These men are suspected of a DTS influence when the whole point of the WTS position is, with the Confession, to insist on the organic continuity between the OT and the NT and the one salvation in Christ by which alone believers have ever been saved. If a DTS background caused these men to become fervent defenders of this most basic tenet of Westminsterian covenant theology, then they should be praised, not maligned. Longman’s point seems to be that their DTS background gives them “fundamentalist” leanings, by which he seems to mean a commitment to biblical inerrancy. Bully for DTS if that is true.

  27. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Jay Rider,

    I do not understand your point. WTS has taken no action respecting the ecclesiastical office held by Dr. Green (which I believe is ruling elder, not teaching elder). Why would you be dismayed that an institution would exercise its duty to oversee its own confessional integrity, whether you agree with the decision or not? Doesn’t this happen all the time? A para-church entity like a seminary (which would include RTS as well as WTS), has no authority over church offices. Nor should a denomination expect to exercise authority over a board-run para-church organization. It may be that a denomination and a seminary may disagree over an interpretation of the Confession (although in this case, it is a session and not a denomination that has criticized WTS. It should be noted that this kind of doctrinal matter is usually dealt with by the presbytery and not by a session for a reason.) But even if there is disagreement, why is it disqualifying that a board of trustees should fulfill its entrusted duty?

  28. Bill Smith said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Rick, would it not be more accurate to say that you and Bill have looked at the same material and come to different conclusions rather than saying that Bill is “misinformed”? And, in one of your earlier posts perhaps you might have said “inacurrate” or “mis” understanding” of the WTS position rather than “untrue,”

  29. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:06 am


    I mentioned above B. B. Warfield’s take on David’s repentance in Psalm 51. It is a chapter in Faith and Life that is titled, “Old Testament Religion.” Warfield exults that in reading Psalm 51 “one wonders… what is left for a specifically Christian experience to add to this experience of a saint of God under the OT dispensation in turning from sin to God.” Warfield notes that scholars reject such a notion, declaring that “David could not have had these ideas.” But, Warfield summarizes, “These are distinctively Christian ideas that the Psalm sets forth.” The psalm, he says, “reveals to us the essentially Christian type of the religion of Israel.”

    Amen. Warfield has taken his stand. Something for his spiritual heirs to embrace and defend.

  30. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:08 am


    Sure. I’m always happy to be helped to use the mildest language possible. I do think that Evans is misinformed and has made untrue charges, but I do not mean to offend.

  31. Bill Smith said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Re Evans, well then you do believe the words “misinformed” and “untrue” are the appropriate words. In the interests of accuracy, it should be noted that what you characterize as untrue are “charges” (against WTS?) but rather “claims about the Westminster position” which is why I suggested “inaccurate” (mistaken) rather than “untrue” (not truthful). Re Dr. Green and the Session’s support after examination of his writing, I was under the impression he is a RE. Is this incorrect? If it is correct, then the Session is the court of original jurisdiction. There are ways to get his views before the Presbytery but it seems no one has pursued those ways. Re WTS and the Session, if you regard WTS as a business with the power to hire and fire, then, of course, Westminster is within its rights. But, when it comes to theological judgment we regular folks out here are faced with the dilemma with re to his views. Do we give greater wait to a Board of Trustees or to a court of the church? That is not an easy one.

  32. Jay Ryder said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Thank you Dr. Phillips for the response and clarification.
    Just to work out my thoughts a bit more, I wouldn’t say that it is “disqualifying that a board of trustees should fulfill its entrusted duty”, but rather just posing a concern for a board of trustees that may be taking a narrower view than what is common among one of the main denominations it supports and is training ministers into. I would hope that WTS would want to avoid drawing tighter and tighter boundaries around itself on hermeneutical matters in which most would prefer a bit of latitude. (but I do realize I’m only commenting as a lay observer here who has and am very appreciative of your response).Thanks for listening.

  33. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:46 am


    Thanks again. I really am not trying to impugn anyone’s motives and I simply disagree with the conclusions that my friend Bill Evans has stated. I think it is true that the christotelic hermeneutic denies the organic connection between the OT and NT. I do not mean to imply a moral judgment in saying that. As for the WTS situation, I need to be careful not to violate any privacy considerations when it comes to a particular employee. (They are real, whether or not people like it.) But when you ask how regular folks are to make a determination, I would direct you to the substance of the matter. Whatever may or not be the case in the handling of an individual faculty member, the most salient issue is that the christotelic hermeneutic has been deemed outside of our confessional bounds. Thus, I have hoped that by clarifying the issues at stake that I have aided the understanding of interested people.

    My contribution here has been to add on to what Lane said in defending WTS from Evan’s critique. I think that Evans was wrong/mistaken/misinformed/non-accurate when he 1) represented the christotelic approach but left out its key tenet of denying the organic unity between the OT and NT; 2) represented WTS’s position as relying on a narrow view of the psychological state of OT writers; and 3) used Ferguson and Warfield as exemplars of the christotelic approach. I wanted to clear that up, and when Bill responded I wanted to point out ways in which I find his argument mistaken.

    As for seminary vs. session, I would point out again that the doctrinal commitments involved with things like seminary standards are normally handled by a higher court of the church than a session, and for good reason. I say that not to disparage anyone. But as you point out, the presbytery and denomination have registered no position. That should not be taken positively or negatively, but should temper claims that “the church has spoken.”

  34. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:49 am


    As per above, I do not think that WTS has taken a position that is narrower than the PCA would allow. The fact is that the PCA has not spoken. I would be very surprised if the PCA studied and accepted the christotelic approach, and quite dismayed. I do not think it wise or helpful to enter into debate with a particular church’s session, which is trying to show support to a close friend they love and support. But I would point out that this is a far cry from representing the denomination’s view. Hope that is helpful, and I appreciate the question you are raising.

  35. September 30, 2014 at 11:53 am

    […] was in the minds of the OT writers is a red herring. It is not relevant to the point at issue. See Rick Phillips’s reply to Dr. Evans’s piece. So, that whole paragraph that I quoted is evidence that Dr. Evans is […]

  36. greenbaggins said,

    September 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Rick, I have corrected one of your sentences. It originally read “I think it is untrue that the christotelic hermeneutic denies the organic connection between the OT and NT.” I corrected it to “I think it is true that the christotelic hermeneutic denies the organic connection between the OT and NT.” If you want it changed a different way, please let me know.

  37. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you Lane. You are right. And thanks, Bill and Jay. Hope I have been helpful, whether people agree or disagree. I doubt I have much to add and I appreciate your new post, Lane.

  38. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Bill and Jay: I urge you to pause and think about what Dr. Phillips is saying regarding your concerns with the actions of WTS.

    WTS is not the Church. Might some of the intensity of your concern be due to loading expectations on WTS that do not apply?

    WTS’s action vis-a-vis Dr. Green does not besmirch his character or reputation in any manner. It carefully and clearly says one thing: we do not think his approach is consistent with the one we want to teach at this school. I admit that this is not the same as Coca-cola suggesting their product is better than Pepsi (its not :P). But surely such action IS NOT a default defamation of either Dr. Green or WTS.

    It is an academic disagreement. Since academics are the essential component of WTS’s mission, we should expect such disagreements will have applications that others will disagree with. This does not necessarily mean we must elevate this to a matter of such dire importance as to infer sinfulness on one or the other parties, does it?

    [Full disclosure, as a former student of Dr. Green, I for one appreciate his Christlike character and his academic integrity. I disagree with some of the direction his teaching was taking, and some of the conclusions he appears to have reached. Those disagreements do mean I interpret somethings differently than him. They do not mean I disrespect or devalue him.]

    Please, to the topic at hand: the nature, shape and quality of the TRV hermeneutic.

  39. greenbaggins said,

    September 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Hear, hear, Reed!

  40. Bill Smith said,

    September 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I will leave my participation at this. The “personnel” and the “theological” elements are intertwined throughout posts on this site (as with others, too) which makes all but impossible to distinguish them. Perhaps that is because the two things are necessarily intertwined in this whole matter. If you should look at my few comments at various places on this site, my first and my primary engagements had to do with theology albeit from the perspective of a working pastor not versed in the literature of this issue. The “personnel” aspect of this, as with so many church and para-church “personnel” decisions entails not just the category of “sin” as such but matters of wisdom, prudence, and such like, and the WTS’ public may inquire about such matters. I have known men in church courts to register protests and dissents and other men to resign from Boards of insitutions and elders in protest against what they saw as unwise, unjust, uncharitable, decision about “personnel” without their leveling charges of sin against those courts or institutions. The “personnel” side of this has been part of the issue from the get-go.

  41. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Bill, just note that the two issues are intertwined by those who commenting, not by Lane, the author of these posts. Lane has only commented on staffing issues to help alleviate those who continue to intertwine them.

    I remain persuaded that they do not need to be intertwined, and indeed that it is unhelpful and unwise to do so. E.g., I don’t serve at WTS in any capacity. The staffing decisions then are not properly my concern.

    But, we disagree. That’s o.k.

    By all means, please feel free to pursue your understanding of the TRV hermeneutic with others here.

  42. elnwood said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    From my understanding, Christotelic interpretation has been taught within the PCA for decades now. Is Douglas Green’s presbytery planning on taking any action against New Life Glenside for affirming Christotelic interpretation? Has there been any action by any presbytery in the PCA against those teaching Christotelic interpretation?

    If not, I think it is accurate to say, at least at this point in time, that the PCA does allow Christotelic interpretation, and it is also accurate to say that WTS has taken a step to narrow the interpretation of the Westminster Standards regarding Christotelic interpretation that is beyond what any presbytery in the PCA has done, to date.

  43. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Elnwood, sigh …

    The point of Lane’s posts so far has been to debate the TRV hermeneutic. All discussion vis-a-vis WTS-Green decision is NOT the subject matter.

  44. Todd said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Seems to me the default position on all this, at least for us outsiders, is to trust the WTS board. Pastors and elders know that whenever they pursue church discipline, someone usually complains about bias, mistreatment, or the process not being fair. I often ask these people, after showing them how the BCO was followed, “since you have known the men on the session for many years, have you known them to be dishonest, political, or purposefully harmful to the people of the congregation.” After they answer, “no,” I then ask, “so why would all of them be like this now?”

    If a board of a large number of Christian men, who have not been found guilty in the past of dishonesty, abuse, etc.; make a very difficult decision, (and non-ministers generally do not like stirring the pot and opening themselves up to criticism as these types of decisions do,) then I have to believe that they had a good reason to do this, and I likely will never know all the details. Add to this the many professors at WTS whose character is beyond reproach who are not crying foul, then I have to believe they know something I do not know and they deserve my trust.

    While I do believe the Cristotelic hermeneutic is troublesome, I also believe the board who has made this decision knows much more about why a certain professor needs to go than I do, and that they do not owe me an explanation, so it seems a genuine application of two or three witnesses agreeing that causes me to trust that the men on the WTS board were either doing the right thing, or at the very least, believing that they were doing the right thing. Wouldn’t Christian charity require such?

    Rev. Dr. Todd Bordow
    Minister – OPC of Rio Rancho, NM

  45. Todd said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm


    Wish I would have seen your last post before posting. Not sure where it belonged.

  46. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    No Todd, it is appropriate. As I voiced elsewhere I do sympathize with the concerns some have (although I’d not characterize it as hundreds) with the WTS decision. Your comment is an appropriate response to kindly acknowledge such concerns and encourage them to leave them aside here.

  47. Don said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Todd 45,

    I also believe the board who has made this decision knows much more about why a certain professor needs to go than I do, and that they do not owe me an explanation

    When the board follows up their personnel actions with fundraising letters that are specifically based on those personnel actions, then it is entirely reasonable and appropriate for potential donors to ask for an explanation.

  48. Todd said,

    September 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm


    Agreed, but if you are a regular contributor to the school, you are not really an outsider, so you would deserve to know more details to know what you are contributing to. A similar ( but not identical) concept applies to members of churches versus non-members.

  49. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Don, yep.

  50. Bill Smith said,

    September 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm


    “But when you ask how regular folks are to make a determination, I would direct you to the substance of the matter. ” It is the substance of the mattter to which I refer. As I consider the substance of the matter, what weight do I assign to the board of a seminary and what to a court of the church? t t

    “Whatever may or not be the case in the handling of an individual faculty member, the most salient issue is that the christotelic hermeneutic has been deemed outside of our confessional bounds.” It has been found “outside confessional bounds” by a seminary board of trustees not by a church bound by the Confession. It is said several times that the decision was a personnel decision, and in another place, that is is an academic disagreement. I would be curious to know if there is the board’s minutes as actual statement that the hermenuetic is outslide confessional bounds. If there is, what is the church supposed to do with that? Would not the church have some obligation to take such a finding, as it regards an individual minister of the church, seriously enough to investigate?

    “As for seminary vs. session, I would point out again that the doctrinal commitments involved with things like seminary standards are normally handled by a higher court of the church than a session, and for good reason. I say that not to disparage anyone. But as you point out, the presbytery and denomination have registered no position. That should not be taken positively or negatively, but should temper claims that “the church has spoken.” This is frankly confusing. The seminary board dealt with a matter because it standards were at stake. But, then when it comes to the church, a session should not deal with the matter because these things should be handled by higher courts. It is not that THE church has spoken, but that the only court of the church so far to take it up has spoken. Its Presbytery is, of course, free to take up the matter is it is brought properly before it. Other Presbyteries and the GA can take erect study committees if they wish. But the court to which Dr. Green is accountable (if indeed he is a RE) has spoken re the case of Dr. Green. That is the court of jurisdiction. There are ways that churches could get the matter before the presbytery or the presbytery could take it up by means of review of sessional records, but for now the court of jurisdiction has spoken about the views of the RE in question.

    “I do not think it wise or helpful to enter into debate with a particular church’s session, which is trying to show support to a close friend they love and support.” I have little doubt the session regards Dr. Green as a close friend, nor that they want to show support, but I would say we don’t know that as a fact, and surely were we to know it as a fact, that would not be sufficient as as one motive to discredit its theological judgment. I would assume that you know that in the tradition of southern presbyterian polity, deference is given to the judgment of the lower courts. That is to say, they are given the benefit of the doubt. The session as the court of original jurisdiction gets first bite at this apple, and that is as it should. The session, had it felt the matter beyond its competence, could have made Dr. Green’s views a matter of reference to its presbytery. It chose not to that, and its judgment is an ecclesiastical judgment and to this point the only church opinion given.

    One of the things this whole sad thing illustrates is that seminaires are are neither fish nor fowl. They are the one sometimes, and then the other, and they to to choose. They are not churches but they are confessional institutions that interpret confessions and establish confessional boundaries.They are not ecclesial bodies but they make ecclesial decisions.

  51. elnwood said,

    September 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Reed, I apologize if my comment (#43) was out of line. I was simply replying to Richard Phillips comments (#34 and #35), which I believe you commended in post #39, and further commented upon.

    I simply assumed that if Phillips was allowed to comment regarding the propriety of Christotelic interpretation within the PCA, I was allowed to comment on that as well. Was that not a good assumption?

  52. Rick Phillips said,

    September 30, 2014 at 4:44 pm


    I started to write detailed answers to all the questions out of a desire to be helpful. But I am not all that comfortable answering questions about the person in question — my interest here has been the hermeneutical ones. So let me try to group them together in order to address the principle.

    A man holds a credential in a church to hold an office in that church. A parachurch organization oversees the man’s doctrine for another purpose, that of teaching its students. The two bodies claim the same confessional standard. Okay. But they are still different jurisdictions where the two are bound to operate more or less independently. The two bodies — session and board of trustees — have different organizations to oversee. Each oversees its matters within its spheres. Where they disagree, they disagree. But the rights and duties of one do not invalidate those of the other. Can you imagine the chaos if a seminary granted doctrinal control of its faculty to all the various sessions of the churches where they were members? It would be impossible to maintain any unity of doctrine or spirit and would undermine the biblically legitimate aims of a seminary. Instead, WTS has a board in which RE’s and TE’s of the supported denominations serve. People, sessions, presbyteries, and denominations may disagree. I myself disagreed strongly with the previous administration over permitting Peter Enns to teach and as a result my church did not give financially and I did not send students there. People will make these choices of course and seminary boards must act before God in keeping with their conscience, trusting him to protect and provide. But as the overseeing body, they have the right to make these decisions, the obligation to do so, and should be accorded respect as such.

    As for the lower court of jurisdiction having precedence, the fact of the matter is that the professor’s church session had no jurisdiction at all over the doctrinal fidelity of the seminary. The lowest court with that jurisdiction was the board of trustees. I would urge that this requires the board to be given the benefit of the doubt of which you speak and deference being made their their decision.

    If your trouble is simply over seminaries not being under denominational oversight, that is another matter. I am sympathetic to the problem. But given the problem, those entrusted with matters like this should be respected in their authority (which to his credit Dr. Green has graciously granted.) But there is no easy solution. Princeton was under denominational control and that is why it went liberal. The need is always for godly men to make wise judgments through prayer, study, and deliberation. People will always then express their opinions.

    I’m not sure how comfortable I am answering more specific questions, since this is likely no the place for them. You will either give respect to those fulfilling an oversight function to which they were called or you will not. (I mean that kindly.) Then you will agree or disagree with the doctrinal questions, and there will always be plenty of people on both sides. I have tried to shed light on the doctrinal issues and on the ecclesiastical principles, but I don’t think there is much more that I can add. Please pray for all those involved, remembering that it is much easier to critique than to have the burden of acting and deciding. It is also easy to assume the ill-will of those who disagree, but one should have pretty good reasons for saying such things. Not that you have, but plenty others have.

  53. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Don, nope. Off topic. I was allowing some response in an effort to be gracious. I have repeatedly reminded at the same time that this is off subject, and therefore not what we should be discussing on this post, as per Lane’s rules for the blog.

  54. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Bill: Lane can over rule me here, but I’m going to invoke thew moderator ruling and call your last series of questions off subject, therefore not appropriate for the subject of this post.

    I’ll allow Dr. Phillips’ last response to you on these matters, as an act of grace. If you wish to discuss these things further kindly contact Dr. Phillips off blog. They simply are not germaine to what is supposed to be a post regarding a question of hermeneutics.


  55. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Bill: I’ve offered grace as one brother to another. Sarcasm is not appropriate. Feel free to take such elsewhere.

  56. Bill Smith said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Just curious here. Who are you?

  57. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    For those of you who insist on asking questions and turning the discussion to questions regarding the propriety of WTS’ actions, I’m pulling the plug at this point.

    Such questions are not germane to the subject of this post. Complaints about moderating can be made via email to the blog owner. These actions are in keeping with the published blog rules. These can be found via the search box to the left.

  58. Bill Smith said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Reed Here, forgive me an older brother here, but I think you are a little too big for your britches.

  59. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Bill: I am a moderator, serving at Lane’s discretion.

  60. Reed Here said,

    September 30, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Bill: thank you for your opinion.

  61. Don said,

    September 30, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Reed Here,
    Think I’m confused by your “yep” and “nope.” Between #50 and #54, are you saying you agree with me, but it’s off topic?

    I’m not sure if you’re saying it’s on-topic for Todd to say we shouldn’t question the board (#47) but off-topic for me to say we should (#54).

    Anyway, will try to stay on topic while awaiting a substantiation of the acorn-to-unicorn illustration.

  62. October 5, 2014 at 12:03 am

    […] Keister, a PCA minister in South Carolina who blogs on the “Greenbaggins” site, has written a response to an earlier post of mine. In it he argues that I have “not quite described Green’s critics […]

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