I Am Doug Wilson’s Dead Rat Behind the Fridge

Posted by Jeff Hutchinson 

Doug Wilson’s recent post is something I felt should be answered for the record. I do not intend for the tone of this blog post to be inflammatory.  I do ask for your patience and forbearance.

In his post, “Dead Rat Behind the Fridge,” Doug Wilson charges certain men in the PCA with having done certain ugly things.  Who is Wilson talking about; who is he charging?  In his post he charges:

*  the “PCA men who have misrepresented my doctrinal views in their books, articles, reports, and blogs;”
*  the “bureaucratic insiders” and “gatekeepers” in the PCA;
*  the “leaders among the FV critics;
*  the “many established leaders with names among our critics;”
*  the “men in charge of the crusade against the FV.”

With what does he charge this collection of persons?  He charges them with:

*  “citing anonymous attack blogs as credible sources;”
*  “demonstrating that they believe (anonymous attack blogs) sufficiently
*  “demonstrat(ing) in public that they are prepared to accept, and have accepted,
anonymous testimony;”
*  “sneeveling around with slanderous accusations circulated by anonymous and lying
*  producing “crap.”

For the record, let me review what happened last week (see also last week’s post,
“P2: A Peacemaker Speaks, Part Two”).

1. Doug Wilson had been making (and continues to make) comments on the internet about the PCA, her officers, and her Standing Judicial Commission, that some of us believe to be injudicious.
2. Ruling Elder Bob Mattes spoke out publicly against those comments.
3. Bob Mattes and his Session then received a series of communications from an elder of Doug Wilson’s church, Mike Lawyer, which Bob believed represented an inappropriate attack, perhaps intended to silence his speaking out against Doug Wilson’s injudicious comments about the PCA.
4. I decided to write a post here at Greenbagginses exposing this inappropriate attack upon Bob (the post entitled, “And So It Begins,” which has since been removed from the website).  I did this without being asked by anyone, in fact, without getting even one other person’s advice ahead of time as to whether I should write my post.

In retrospect, it would have been wise for me to have run my proposed post by a few trusted folks first.  They would have most likely helped me with the “temperature” of my post.  I do apologize for having unnecessarily inflamed an already tense situation, having gone ahead with a post unedited by anyone else, and I do ask everyone’s forgiveness.  Please forgive me.

5. I wrote the “And So It Begins” post because I thought Mr. Lawyer’s communications with Bob to be vile lies and threats, and because I thought Mr. Lawyer’s action represented an example of a pattern of such attacks experienced by others who have voiced opposition to Rev. Wilson, a pattern that I believe to have been long established by the investigative reporting of journalists from WORLD Magazine, Presbyterian and Reformed News, and even the New York Times, among others, not to mention Doug Wilson’s own words on his own blog about those who have opposed him.
6. In addition, I indicated that other, more questionable, and less easily verifiable reports exist as well, that may also indicate the presence of a pattern.  I then allowed comments (some of which included links to articles and primary documents) to be posted on Greenbagginses, with appropriate warnings, for those who might choose to read the articles and documents, as to reading with godly discernment.

This is the series of events to which Doug Wilson was referring when he wrote his blog post, “Dead Rat Behind the Fridge.”  This and this alone.  This website and my post.

In other words, I am Doug Wilson’s #1 dead rat behind the fridge. 

Except for Bob Mattes, who perhaps was following my lead, no one else among the large group of men that Doug Wilson charges, allowed links to be posted to the internet articles and primary documents that various commenters forwarded to us, on this blog or anywhere else that I am aware of.  No one else.  I and Bob were the only ones who did that. Not Lane. Not Reed. Not David. No one else.  Certainly not anyone in the PCA who has written “books, articles, or reports” about the FV.  And certainly not anyone on the SJC!

There are not scores of dead rats behind the fridge.  There is one dead rat, two if you count Bob (Bob, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t count!).

To conclude, three final things, for the record:

First, I do think it is helpful for Doug Wilson’s charges to be directed, less like a shotgun at scores of men, and more like a rifle at me.  And so, for the record, I think it is important to remind the honest reader that I did not do the sorts of things Doug charges me with.  To him, I am the dead rat behind the fridge, but the facts are not as he represents them.  I did not “cite anonymous attack blogs as credible sources;” I did not “demonstrate that I believe (anonymous attack blogs) sufficiently authoritative” (nor do I believe that, whether or not I “demonstrated” it); I did not “demonstrate in public that I am prepared to accept, and have accepted, anonymous testimony” (nor have I or would I, whether or not I “demonstrated” that); I have not been “sneeveling around with slanderous accusations circulated by anonymous and lying cowards;” nor was my post “crap.”

Second, what I did had nothing to do with some sort of “strategy” against the FV; it had to do with the much simpler matter of defending a friend against a malicious attack.

Third–and I would be glad to be corrected about this one–neither Mike Lawyer nor Doug Wilson have apologized to Bob for their attacks upon him [UPDATE; 12/7:  Bob Mattes’ recent post here reports the good news of Mike’s gracious and humble apology, and Mike’s and Bob’s reconciliation], though I believe they have removed the letter Mike Lawyer wrote from the internet, which is certainly a good first step.

Finally, I feel this provides an adequate conclusion to my dealings with Doug Wilson.  As such, I have turned comments off on this post.  Thank you for your patience and forbearance and prayers.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

“Federal Vision” theology messes with these boundaries. It attempts to follow the lead of Scripture, even when that seems to conflict with Confessional formulae and seems closer to Luther than Reformed orthodoxy. It develops a baptismal theology that is not starkly at odds with Luther.

Peter Leithart, “Presbyterian Identity Crisis.”

A few people have questioned, in the comments section of my last post, whether or not I was fair in my insinuations concerning the Federal Vision’s doctrine of baptism.  First, I’d note that FV seems to be fairly self-conscious about its tinkering with this doctrine, and similarity to the Lutheran scheme, as seen in the above quote from Leithart.  Second, I’d note that my description of FV’s position as “baptismal regeneration lite” would not be contested in the least by at least some FV proponents, as they have in many places explicitly used the terminology of baptismal regeneration, albeit in a qualified manner.

But more specifically, Xon and Jeff Moss asked me where any FV proponent has claimed that “baptism [is] an instrumental means, alongside of faith, by which we lay hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification.” So I wanted to point out at least a few places where this particular form of “baptismal regeneration lite” (as distinguished from the conveying of regenerating grace) has been articulated by Federal Visionists.  I’ll just pluck out a few examples.

But the concept of instrumentality is a bit fuzzy. We can legitimately ask: Are there other instruments of justification? Paul says we are justified by faith. But James says we are justified by works together with faith. James uses the same preposition for works that Paul uses for faith. He does more than simply qualify the kind of faith that justifies (though he does do that!). He says that works, along with faith, have justifying value. Thus, in some way works are instrumental in justification as well as faith….

There are other complicating factors as well. For example, several NT passages connect baptism with justification (e.g., Acts 2:38: baptism is “for” the remission of sins). In Reformed theology, it has been common to speak of the instrumental efficacy of the sacraments. But how can baptism’s instrumentality in justification be understood vis-à-vis faith’s instrumentality? Do baptism and faith compete with one another or do they work together? I think the solution is easy enough if we remember that baptism is really God’s action, not a human work. God is the Baptizer, ultimately. He may use the minister and the water as his agents, but it is his Spirit who does the work (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13).

The Westminster Standards point in this same direction. On the one hand the Confession says no one is actually justified until Christ is applied to them (11.4). But the Shorter Catechism specifically says one function of baptism is to apply Christ to the believer (92). Putting these two statements together yields this conclusion: Baptism is the instrument through which Christ is applied to us unto justification.

Thus, we can say that faith is the instrument of justification on our end, while baptism is the instrument on God’s side.

-Rich Lusk, “Faith, Baptism, and Justification

Commenting on Acts 2, Lusk also writes of Peter’s audience:

At this point, the word has done its work. The hearers have been aroused and convicted, but, apparently they still aren’t saved. Preaching alone is insufficient to make them participants in Christ’s work of redemption.  Thus Peter tells them what they must do. They must respond to the preached word with repentance and be baptized to enter into the way of salvation. Baptism, not preaching per se, is linked with forgiveness and the reception of the Spirit. Clearly, Peter believes God will give them something in baptism that they have not received through preaching alone. Baptism will consummate the process of regeneration begun by the Word preached.

This article, “Some Thoughts on the Means of Grace:  A Few Proposals,” is no longer available on Mark Horne’s website, but this portion can still be found in the OPC Report.

This is also an implication of Peter Leithart’s teaching:

How can Paul attribute justification and sanctification to baptism when he everywhere attributes justification to “faith, without the works of the Law”? We can go a ways to answering this question by taking more seriously the biblical claim that the church is the “body of Christ.” Because this is true, being joined to the church also means being joined to Christ. Christ is the holy one, and His Body is the holy people, the “saints” (”holy ones”) claimed as God’s peculiar possession. By His resurrection, the Father vindicated or justified the Son (Rom. 4:25), and by union with the body of the Justified Christ, we are justified (ie., counted as covenant-keepers).

-Posted by David Gadbois

Blunting the Serrated Edge

Posted by Bob Mattes

If you missed the dust-up here at GreenBagginses over Thanksgiving weekend, you missed quite a show. I am deeply appreciative of, and indebted to, those who so quickly and freely rose to my defense, as well as that of the PCA and SJC. I had an amazing a post written in my head to right all the many wrongs against the PCA, the personal attacks, and more. But then…

While struggling with how to wrap all this up, I providentially encountered a passage in William Cunningham’s The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. This is a collection of articles that William Cunningham wrote in the mid-19th century. The third essay, written in 1856, is on assurance and refutes an article by Sir William Hamilton. Dr. Cunningham starts out by quoting a very long section of Hamilton’s work, then starts his analysis with this sentence (page 112-113):

We hope to be able to prove that this elaborate statement contains about as large an amount of inaccuracy as could well have been crammed into the space which it occupies; and, if we succeed in doing this, we may surely expect that Sir William’s authority upon theological subjects will henceforth stand at least as low as zero.

OK, that seems to fit into the “serrated edge” mentality. But then I read a footnote added after Dr. Cunningham’s paper was initially presented. My heart broke as I read it:

In the interval between the publication of the former article and the present one, Sir William Hamilton died, and Dr. Cunningham, in his introductory remarks, thus refers to the event: “The knowledge, if we had possessed it, that he was to die so soon, would assuredly have modified somewhat the tone in which the discussion was conducted, would have shut out something of its lightness and severity, and imparted to it more of solemnity and tenderness; and the knowledge which we did possess, that he, as well as ourselves, was liable every day to be called out of this world and summoned into God’s presence, ought to have produced this result.” [italics in original]

“…ought to have produced this result.” Reading this brought home the reality of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s constant reminder that we live our lives Coram Deo–before the face of God. Our Lord could call us to His presence in heaven in the next second. With apologies to Francis Shaeffer, how then shall we blog?

Are we bringing honor and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ with our words and wit, or are we adding our pride and acerbic “peculiar talents” to the offense of the cross? Do we seek to justify ourselves, or to humbly offer the justification of God freely to the lost, even those with whose politics, business, or lifestyle we disagree–becoming all things to all men so that we may bring some to Christ (1 Cor 9:19-23)?

Here’s what God says about the “serrated edge” in Titus 3:2:

…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (ESV)

How about James 1:26 on “peculiar talents”?

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (ESV)

And last but certainly not least, 1 Cor 10:31-33 to tie it all together:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (ESV) [all emphasis added]

How then shall we blog, brothers?

Posted by Bob Mattes

History of “Strong Presumption of Guilt”

Posted by Bob Mattes

The phrase “strong presumption of guilt” in the Presbyterian Church in America’s Standing Judicial Commission’s case summaries for cases 2006-2 and 2007-8 have garnered considerable, if poorly informed, posts and discussions on the blogs in recent weeks. Where does this phrase in the BCO, especially BCO 31-2, originate? Over at the PCA Historical Center, there is a series entitled Historical Development of the Book of Church Order. This has some great information on the history of our Presbyterian Church in America polity.

For reference, BCO 31-2 says:

31-2. It is the duty of all church Sessions and Presbyteries to exercise care over those subject to their authority. They shall with due diligence and great discretion demand from such persons satisfactory explanations concerning reports affecting their Christian character. This duty is more imperative when those who deem themselves aggrieved by injurious reports shall ask an investigation.

If such investigation, however originating, should result in raising a strong presumption of the guilt of the party involved, the court shall institute process, and shall appoint a prosecutor to prepare the indictment and to conduct the case. This prosecutor shall be a member of the court, except that in a case before the Session, he may be any communing member of the same congregation with the accused. [my bold emphasis]

The Historical Center article observes that this paragraph has remained virtually unchanged since its first draft of the PCA BCO in 1973. Perhaps even more interesting is that the phrase goes way back to the PCUS Canons of Discipline, V- 5, in 1867:

It is the duty of all church-sessions and presbyteries to exercise a proper care over those subject to their authority; and they shall, with due diligence and great discretion, demand from such persons satisfactory explanations concerning reports affecting their Christian character. This duty is the more imperative, when those who deem themselves aggrieved by injurious reports shall ask an investigation.

If such investigation, however originating, should result in raising a strong presumption of the guilt of the party involved, the court shall promptly appoint a prosecutor to conduct the case. This prosecutor shall be a member of the court, except that, in a case before the session, he may be any communicating member of the same congregation with the accused. [my bold emphasis]

That should sound very familiar. The Historical Center also has an excerpt from F.P. Ramsay’s Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 185-186), on RoD, V-2:

A strong presumption means a belief by the members of the court that evidence as then known to them would indicate that guilt probably exists, unless evidence to the contrary can be produced not then known to them.

The court institutes process by appointing a prosecutor. It is the duty of the prosecutor thus appointed to prepare the indictment and to conduct the case ; that is, the court, after the appointment of the prosecutor, is simply a judge, and the whole responsibility of representing the Church as an accuser is on the prosecutor.

So, the concept isn’t an injustice invented by the PCA to use against hapless Federal Visionists as some blogs seem to tout, but goes back to the very early days of the Presbyterian Church on the North American continent.

Can we trace the concept back further? Indeed, otherwise why would I ask? Check out Barbara J. Shapiro’s “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” and “Probable Cause”: Historical Perspectives on the Anglo-American Law of Evidence. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1991 1991. On page 138, she shows that this phrase dates back at least to 1716:

Hawkins’s authoritative Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown (1716) is particularly important in facilitating and formalizing the transfer of the causes of suspicion from examination to arrest. Unlike the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors of the justicing handbooks, Hawkins places a list of the causes of suspicion in the arrest portion of his treatise, and from that point onward it became a standard part of the arrest canon of the English and the American handbook tradition. Hawkins’s treatise illustrates how concepts and criteria might migrate from one procedure to another. Hawkins’s treatment of the causes of suspicion that justified arrest included the familiar “common fame” and life-style. The former ought to have “some probable ground,” and the latter might be gained from the suspect’s living a vagrant and idle life with no visible means of support. Keeping company with known offenders at the time of the offense, and more generally associating with those of scandalous reputation, was also an appropriate cause of suspicion. Social and economic status thus had an important role in determining the legitimacy of an arrest. Circumstantial evidence that indicated “a strong presumption of guilt” was another cause of suspicion. Here Hawkins employed the famous presumptions that arose from being found with a bloody sword in hand, leaving the house of a murdered person, and being in possession of stolen property. Behavior which “betrays a consciousness of guilt,” for example, flight, was also numbered among the causes of suspicion.[73] These passages were garnered from materials from Crompton, Lambarde, Dalton, Coke, and Hale, with their sources duly noted. When these passages of Hawkins were retransferred to the justicing handbooks and placed in chapters dealing with arrest, the citations were dropped. They thus floated free from their more distant Romanocanon and rhetorical origins and their proximate pretrial examination associations. The most influential justicing handbook of the eighteenth century was that of Richard Burn. Burn, and most of the English and American handbooks modeled on Burn’s work, followed the Hawkins treatment and provided a list of appropriate causes of suspicion which might engender arrest.[74] [my bold emphasis]

Sorry for the long block of text, but that’s the way it appears in the original. I bolded the phrase in question to provide a quick reference.

The bottom line is that the phrase “strong presumption of guilt” and the concept go back to at least 1716. It wasn’t invented by the PCA or even by Presbyterians in general. Some Federal Visionists have touted this phrase in the SJC case reports as a gross injustice hatched against them. Far from it, and now you know the unvarnished, historically accurate truth.

Posted by Bob Mattes, who isn’t a lawyer but has stayed at Holiday Inn Expresses a number of times.

Berkhof and Baptismal Efficacy

I’d like to float another post drawing on various portions of Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, as I find his writings to be not only clear, logical, and orthodox, but also because his insights continue to be relevant to today’s Federal Vision controversy, 75 years after his ST was originally published. His writings serve not only as an antidote, but more importantly as an inoculation against these FV errors. You can call Berkhof boring, and you can call me slavish and uncreative for following him so closely, but hopefully the reader will prefer it to the innovations swirling about the Federal Vision world. Berkhof may not always be right, but he must be contended with. I rarely see evidence that FV writers are aware of the points he raises concerning the controverted topics, much less do they present arguments that overturn his positions. I can only conjecture that this stems from FV’s disdain for the Old Princeton tradition, with which Berkhof walked hand-in-hand (while being more indebted to Bavinck and teaching at Calvin Seminary).

The Reformed have always sought to hold up baptism, as a means of grace, to be more than merely symbolic (as Baptists and Zwinglians hold), while avoiding, on the other hand, the superstitious and Gospel-denying errors of Romanists (holding to an ex opere operato view of the sacrament) and the various inconsistent and compromise positions (held by Lutherans and some Anglicans). We want to say that the sacraments, including baptism, do something, and are not dependent on the subjective response of human sinners to outward symbols or memorials. Rather, God’s Spirit effectively works through the sacraments, as means of grace by which the sinner is ministered to. As good Calvinists, we ought to see the sinner as passive in receiving God’s ministrations through His Church, the preached Word and Sacraments. As we consider the above positions, we see that there are “extremes” on both sides – a ditch on both sides of the road, as it were. But the Scriptural data forces us to steer a path in the middle of the road, between those ditches.

OK, then. How does God’s Spirit work efficaciously through the sacraments? What does, specifically, baptism do? The Reformed have debated this endlessly, and have had a diversity of opinion in answering this question. One thing, however, is agreed on (our confessional symbols bearing witness to it): the sacraments, and therefore baptism, are efficacious in that they are signs and seals of the spiritual blessings in Christ the elect have. Given the paucity of scriptural data that directly deals with the efficacy of baptism, I am surprised that there has been no serious focus in the recent Federal Vision debates (that I have seen) on the exegesis of Romans 4, the passage that we get our “sign and seal” language from:

Is this blessing [righteousness by faith, to the exclusion of works] then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well…

This passage is near and dear to my own heart, not only because it teaches so clearly the doctrine of justification by faith alone, contra the Gospel-assailing errors of Rome, but because this section in particular was the most pivotal text that convinced me of the truth of paedobaptism. Notice: Paul holds up Abraham as an archetypical member of the covenant of grace (indeed, the “father of all who believe without being circumcised”). His example proves that we, as Christians, are also justified by faith alone. Notice the flow of Paul’s argument as you read from the beginning of the chapter. Those who “do not work, but believe in Him who justifies the ungodly” are counted as righteous. How do we know that? Because Abraham was likewise justified, as he had not been circumcised until after he was justified.

Since Abraham’s circumcision was received after his justification, his circumcision could not have been a cause, instrumental or otherwise, of his justification. Yet this passage says that his circumcision was a “sign and seal” of the righteousness that he already had by faith. This situation is paralleled in the Christian church most directly in the baptism of adult converts, where it is both assumed and demanded that the catachumen already be in possession of “the thing signified”, regeneration unto faith and justification (a point frequently ignored by Protestant sacerdotalists). And, yet, at the same time we see (in examining the book of Genesis) that this sign and seal of righteousness was also applied to Abraham’s infant son, Isaac, as well as his son Ishmael.

Since baptism is the sign and seal of the righteousness which we have by faith, taking the place of circumcision, as New Testament saints under the New Covenant administration of that same Abrahamic covenant of grace (which is established by a careful consideration of Colossians 2:11-12), we should conclude that, likewise, baptism cannot be an instrumental means, alongside of faith, by which we lay hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification. Paul excludes works, including circumcision, from having such a role (even as an ordained and commanded sign and seal of God), and by implication the same is true for the sign and seal of baptism. Such an idea would be directly contrary to the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide), which insists that faith is the “alone instrument of justification” (WCF 6.2). In this part of the Westminster Confession, we see that faith’s instrumental causation is, specifically, in “receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness.” Likewise, Berkhof calls faith, in this capacity, the “appropriating organ,” in that “it is the organ by which we lay hold on and appropriate the merits of Christ, and accept these as the meritorious ground of our justification” (ST, p. 522).

This distinction is important, because Reformed theology does not want to deny the efficacy of the preached Word or the Spirit in a sinner’s justification, which can also be said to be “instrumental” causes, but in an entirely different sense. By faith alone the sinner lays hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification, but the Spirit works through the Word into the heart and mind of the sinner, whereby that faith is engendered, cultivated, and strengthened. The Spirit and Word are thus indirect or second-order instruments of justification. They are not co-instruments along with faith.

This consideration should suggest to us a way of understanding the efficacy of baptism. It, like, circumcision, is not something we can do to be justified. I do not understand how it is any improvement to have a doctrine of justification by faith and baptism rather than the doctrine of justification by faith and circumcision that Paul condemns as a false gospel in the book of Galatians. Frankly, one has to be rather dense not to take the hint.

But then what does baptism actually do or effect, as a sign and seal, in the lives of believers? If what we said is not true of signs and seals above is true, why should anyone care about having signs and seals? The answer is that the Spirit works through baptism, as a sign and seal, and thereby engenders, cultivates, and strengthens the faith of Believers various ways, much as He works through the preached Word. On this point, Berkhof’s comments are apt:

But baptism is more than a sign and seal; it is as such [emphasis mine-DG] also a means of grace. According to Reformed theology it is not, as the Roman Catholics claim, the means of initiating the work of grace in the heart, but it is a means for the strengthening of it or, as it is often expressed, for the increase of grace. This gives rise to a rather difficult question in connection with infant baptism. It can readily be seen how baptism can strengthen the work of faith in the adult recipient, but it is not so apparent how it can operate as a means of grace in the case of children who are entirely unconscious of the significance of baptism and cannot yet exercise faith. The difficulty, with which we are confronted here, naturally does not exist for the small number of Reformed scholars who deny that baptism merely strengthens an antecedent condition of grace, and claim that it “is a means for the impartation of grace in a specific form, and for the specific end of our regeneration and ingrafting in Christ” (ST, p. 641).

The Heidelberg Catechism, similarly, makes this connection between the efficacy of the Word and baptism (or, rather, sacraments generally):

Question 67. Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?

Answer: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Ghost teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

I can think of at least 5 more topics that stem from the above discussion, each worthy of their own post. But I’ll stop here for now so that the reader can consider the Federal Vision’s “baptismal regeneration lite” doctrine, especially in light of Berkhof’s comments and, more importantly, Romans 4.

Posted by David Gadbois

Insight into the PCA SJC Process

Posted by Bob Mattes on behalf of Bill Lyle, a Presbyterian Church in America Standing Judicial Committee member.

A commenter suggested that this piece, originally posted as a comment, should be its own post. Mr. Lyle graciously agreed. I did not alter the content or meaning, but merely formatted it in the customary way for clarity. I also added links to the two SJC case reports.


This is about two cases together

First of all, fully understanding the vow(s) I took RAO 17-1 and SJCM 7-1 and 7-2 and also noting that I have not read the blog Mr. Mattes is referring to. I do want to comment on what is public and that which I am able to comment on in this form. From case 2006-02:

“Pursuant to BCO 40-5 the Standing Judicial Commission hereby cites Louisiana Presbytery to appear “to show what it has done or failed to do in the case in question.”

“. . . draw an indictment to be served upon Louisiana Presbytery, with the circumstances and specifications therein not being limited to those raised in 2006-02 and 2007-8”

“If Louisiana Presbytery enters a plea of “not guilty,” then Louisiana Presbytery is directed to appear, through its representatives, for trial in this matter before the Standing Judicial Commission on March 5, 2008 (BCO 40-5, 40-6, 31-2, 32-3).”

From case 2007-08:

“Therefore the complaint is sustained; Presbytery’s action of April 21, 2007, to deny the complaint of TE Jones is annulled (BCO 43-10); and the Memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery remains before the Standing Judicial Commission. [See the judgment in 2006-2 for additional amends.]”

TE Steve Wilkins is not on trial. LAP is on trial. The indictment has not been served on LAP, however when it is, TE Wilkins can (if LAP desires) be one of the representatives to defend the actions of LAP before the SJC. In fact any member in the PCA, at the request of LAP can be their representative, if LAP pleads not guilty [to the indictment that has not been served].Again from the case 2007-08

It is the opinion of the Standing Judicial Commission that Louisiana Presbytery (LAP) erred in two crucial and related ways. First, it failed to apply the proper Constitutional standard for dealing with TE Wilkins’ differences. Second, it apparently failed adequately to guard the Church from “erroneous opinions that injure the peace or purity of the Church.” (BCO 13-9(f))

This case, in the judgment of the SJC is about two items:
1. LAP failed to constitutionally deal with stated differences and
2. LAP failed to fulfill BCO 13-9(f).

So in my humble opinion, to state anything else [other than the case is PCA v. LAP] is just factually inaccurate, giving the two rulings 2006-02 and 2007-08.

It will be the role of the prosecutor to prove LAP is in error.

It will be the role of LAP to prove the indictment is in error and LAP can use anyone in good standing in the PCA (including TE Wilkins) to make their case before the SJC, all centered on the two statements above. The indictment has not be drawn up as of yet, nor has it been served on LAP, so what are we really talking about here?

It will be the role of the SJC (me included) to fulfill the following (From RAO 17-1):

I do solemnly vow, by the assistance of the grace of God, in my service as a judge in this branch of the church of our lord Jesus Christ, that
1. I will act as before God, my Judge and the Searcher of hearts;
2. I will judge without respect to persons, and if so tempted, will recuse myself from judgment;
3. I will judge not according to appearances, but judge righteous judgment;
4. I will judge according to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, through my best efforts applied to nothing other than the record of the case and other documents properly before me; and
5. If in a given case I find my view on a particular issue to be in conflict with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, I will recuse myself from such case, if I cannot conscientiously apply the Constitution.”

Please note vow #4 and #5 for every member of the SJC, these vows were approved by the Church at large and the whole SJC takes these vows very seriously.

I hope this brings a little clarity.


Bill Lyle, SJC member

Posted by Bob Mattes on Mr. Lyle’s behalf

Note For PCA Members on BCO Process

Given the false and misleading information being posted elsewhere on the Net, I will clarify the situation with Louisiana Presbytery and TE Steve Wilkins for those who have ears to hear. I have done further study since my last post and offer you the benefit of my additional research.

The PCA Standing Judicial Commission has determined that there is a strong presumption of guilt against Louisiana Presbytery. The Presbytery now has the opportunity to defend itself in a trial setting. The Amends in the Case 2006-2 summary spells out the next steps and the Presbytery’s options. And while this strong presumption of guilt is based on how LAP handled Wilkins’s views, Wilkins himself has not yet been found guilty of any error. The judicial precedent interpretation of “good standing” is tied to an actual finding or pleading of guilt. Under this definition, Wilkins is still in good standing. This does not mean that his theology or teachings are sound, however. Indeed, the SJC pointed out that “presbytery’s own description of TE Wilkins’ statements established that TE Wilkins did state differences with The Confession.” [italics in the original] The SJC went on to list a number of those explicit differences. As a result, the SJC found:

…that the record supported a probable finding that Louisiana Presbytery erred, and thereby violated BCO 13-9.f, 40-4, and 40-5, when it failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that the views of TE Steve TE Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitutional Standards.

In case you missed it, that’s not a ringing endorsement of Wilkins’ views. No one is required to accept or tolerate his views just because he hasn’t been indicted yet.

Given all this plus the BCO process details about which I’ve previously posted, Doug Wilson’s comments about Wilkins being a minister in good standing and therefore that he is somehow being railroaded through a star-chamber court are pointedly false. Obviously, any PCA member who is charged with an offense is in good standing at the time of the filing of the indictment. Good standing has nothing to do with whether a charge can be made against a member as if the good standing somehow is a preventive against a charge. Wilson appears to arguing this: TE Wilkins is a minister in good standing in the PCA and therefore it is improper for any court to inquire, pursue or raise any allegations against his views. If this were true, then no member could ever have any type of inquiry raised against him for any cause since all members start out in good standing.

Wilson is also placing himself in a position to make the final and absolute judgment as to what constitutes proper judicial process in the PCA. His threat that he will be watching, making assessments and drawing “x”s and “o”s to highlight the so-called “plays” of the players is really laughable. Wilson is a non-PCA member claiming that he will be able to judge whether the PCA is treating his buddy Wilkins justly. Actually, he has already declared what has been done unjust because Wilkins is in good standing and therefore nothing should have been done against Louisiana Presbytery or Wilkins. I guess that’s the Federal Vision doctrine of perpetual immunity.

It should go without saying that neither the PCA nor the SJC will march to Wilson’s tune nor be intimidated by what he or his loyal followers think or write. As I continually point out by presenting hard facts, the SJC has been meticulous in following both the letter and spirit of PCA law enshrined in the Book of Church Order. Obviously, the objects of the PCA system are not pleased that it is holding accountable people and views that strike at the vitals of their perspectives (i.e., the Federal Vision), so they cry from the rooftops and the blogosphere that the process is false and unjust.

If Louisiana Presbytery pleads “not guilty” it will receive a fair trial. It will have all the time it needs to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and to mount a forceful defense. It will not be prevented by the system from anything less, and in fact, it will be urged to mount the best defense it can. That’s the nature and guarantee of an orderly and open system. And the trial, if held, will be open to the public; it will not be held behind close doors. Justice and equity will rule supreme.

PCA members may be proud that, regardless of the outcome, their officers and processes proceeded justly in strict accordance with the BCO to preserve the peace and purity of the church. Rule of law is the foundation of freedom, not threats and bullying from the blogosphere.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Posted by Bob Mattes

Answer to Doug Wilson on PCA Polity

Before you read this post, you really need to read this comment by Doug Wilson. I will be excerpting it here, but you need to read the entire comment in context to catch its full glory. I normally don’t go to this kind of trouble to answer folks outside the PCA, but Doug instisted. It would also be helpful to read my comment that explained a bit more about the BCO process and where we are in that process with Louisiana Presbytery.

Reviewing the Bidding
I will start by making a general observation about polity and accountability, using myself as an example. As a ruling elder, I was trained, examined, ordained, and installed over 20 years ago in accordance with the Book of Church Order, taking the appropriate oath of office. When I transferred to the PCA, I was again examined and installed in my new denomination, and again took the appropriate oath. That process is spelled out clearly in the BCO, and requires knowledge and acceptance of the Scriptures, the Westminster Standards, and the system of government and discipline in the PCA. I am accountable to my brothers on my Session, in my Presbytery, and of course at the General Assembly. This is what I expect. In my professional life, I’ve had accountability to a chain of command no matter how high I’ve risen in that chain.

Doug Wilson, on the other hand, in supporting his role as a pastor never earned an M.Div, is self-ordained, self-installed, self-published, and accountable only to himself (humanly speaking). He created his own independent church, then eventually created his own denomination over which he continues to have complete sway. All these are facts. If you don’t believe me, check out Doug’s bio (if you can find one). [UPDATE: Several reference links were edited out here to keep within the posting guidelines. This edit was not done as a result of the laughable attempts at intimidation from Mike Lawyer (Doug Wilson’s personal assistant) or Doug Wilson himself, as those have all been weathered nicely, thank you. This edit is solely to keep within the established guidelines for posting on GreenBagginses.]

Now for my opinion: It seems to me that accountability is a foreign concept to Doug Wilson, so it is not surprising to me that the published and orderly processes such as the PCA’s are completely foreign to him. He can defend his errant friends in other denominations without fear of coming under discipline. What does surprise me is that Doug finds it necessary to trash the PCA and its orderly processes on a frequent and regular basis. In doing so, Doug sets himself above thousands of duly trained, examined, ordained, and installed church elders submissive to and led by the Spirit. I find that shameful.

Now to be clear, I am NOT saying that Doug Wilson is a heretic or worse. I do not believe that and never have. He is, as far as I can tell, the most orthodox of the Federal Visionists, theologically speaking. He has written things, especially on infant baptism, which have helped and favorably influenced many in their Reformed faith. But he has also written things which I consider unfortunate embarrassments to orthodox Christianity and hurtful to the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has never retracted those unfortunate writings, but rather continues to defend them.

The Discussion
In his comment linked above, Doug said:

What I do claim to know is that Steve Wilkins is a minister in good standing in the PCA, and hence his bad standing in the PCA cannot justly be used against Louisiana Presbytery.

I wish that I had a nickel for every time a Federal Visionist used that argument. In Wilkins’ particular case, he has only survived in the PCA because Louisiana Presbytery has failed to do its job correctly. That’s not just Bob’s opinion, but the official position of the PCA as found by our Standing Judicial Commission. Here are their words in Case 2007-8:

2) Does the record support a probable finding that Louisiana Presbytery erred, and thereby violated BCO 13-9.f, 40-4, and 40-5, when it failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that some of the views of TE Steve Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitutional standards?

2) Yes

Now, I don’t know how Doug reads that, but the plain words say that there is “a strong presumption of guilt that some of the views of TE Steve Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitutional standards”. [Updated the following sentence upon receipt of more information.] Although technically TE Wilkins remains in good standing for now, nothing prevents his errant theology (upon which he has written extensively) from being used to hold LAP to account and this was the basis for my comment that:

Wilkins wasn’t and isn’t on trial. Now LAP is technically on trial for violating the BCO. That said, Wilkins’ errant theology does figure prominently in the case. You can read that clearly in the SJC’s decisions.

That’s what the SJC said and what I summarized. It’s that simple. Does the BCO cover such a situation? You bet. From BCO 13-9f says that Presbyteries have the obligation:

To condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church; to visit churches for the purpose of inquiring into and redressing the evils that may have arisen in them;

There is a strong presumption that Louisiana Presbytery has failed to do that in Wilkins’ case, and they now must answer for it. This wasn’t the decision of a pope or any one individual, but the finding of body of properly trained, examined, ordained, and installed church officers elected by the General Assembly and governed by the BCO.

Doug comments further regarding Louisiana Presbytery:

So what are they really on trial for? What is really going on? You gave it away in the next sentence — Wilkins’ errant theology.

Uh, no. Like I have been recommending, read the case summaries. In the summary for Case 2006-2:


In case 2007-8, the Standing Judicial Commission found that the record supported a probable finding that Louisiana Presbytery erred, and thereby violated BCO 13-9.f, 40-4, and 40-5, when it failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that the views of TE Steve Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitutional Standards. As such, the SJC continues to conclude that there is a strong presumption that Presbytery has not met its Constitutional responsibilities, and thus has not adequately protected the peace and purity of the Church (see Part I of this opinion).

So LAP will be on trial (if they don’t plead guilty) because there is a strong presumption that they violated BCO 13-9f, 40-4, and 40-5. To be sure, Wilkins’ errant views lurk behind all this, but it is the Presbytery’s own actions that will be on trial. This answers that entire paragraph of Wilson’s comment, making the rest of it look pretty silly in my opinion.

Doug then comments:

One of the things that you all will have to come to grips with is that many in the Reformed world know exactly what play you are running, and have every intention of watching you do it. The fix is in. Biblical justice and due process are clearly not being honored, and it looks to me like the charade will simply be brazened out.

My, my. I sincerely hope that the rest of the Reformed world does know. If they don’t know what “play is running”, they can just read the BCO and SJC case summaries. No secrets, no star chambers, but a very well recorded accountability process available for anyone to read. I also sincerely hope that other PCA Presbyteries are reading it as well. This IS due process. The only thing “clearly not being honored” here is the peace and purity of the PCA by Doug and his devotees.

The Threat
Here’s Doug’s “scary” conclusion:

But I can assure you that it will not occur without a running color commentary from me. After you run your play, we are all going to watch the replay a hundred times, including the tape of the referee who hath eyes to see, and seest not, and I am going to be John Madden, drawing x’s and o’s all over that thing. And I will have some particularly ripe comments to go with it. It is a subject worthy of my peculiar talents.

Well, anyone who has followed Doug, his blog, or his self-published materials are well acquainted with his “peculiar talents.” By all means, check out Mark T.’s blog for some gory details. Sean also has some related material. Doug’s biting sarcasm and ability to spin stories to ridicule his opponents is well documented. Doug has a number of devotees that eat that stuff up, but the almost unanimous 35th General Assembly vote and the votes of six other orthodox Reformed denominations showed how much influence Doug’s self-published acerbic pen has outside his little circle.

As for me, I and my fellow orthodox elders all swore affirmatively and without reservation to the following at installation:

Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

That included the outrageous slings and arrows fired from Wilson’s pen. There was a time when Doug’s stuff went virtually unchallenged, perhaps because some feared his acerbic pen and manner. Those days are gone when it comes to attacks on the PCA.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Posted by Bob Mattes

Berkhof on Covenant and Union

One of the major themes we find in Federal Vision theology is the supposition that, because there are non-elect reprobates who are baptized into the visible church and therefore into the Covenant of Grace, that these non-elect covenant members (NECMs) must share union with Christ. For example, Steve Wilkins wrote the following in the Knox Colloquium:

…covenant is union with Christ. Thus, being in covenant gives all the blessings of being united to Christ. . . . Because being in covenant with God means being in Christ, those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places.

The reality of non-elect reprobates within the visible church and Covenant of Grace (CoG) should be affirmed by Reformed Christians. I do not think, however, that the Federal Visionists have considered the full weight of what union with Christ is, or that they have even clearly defined it, if they jump to the conclusion that even members of the CoG who are not elect have union with Christ.

The first bit of required reading to help untangle all of this is Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, in the chapter “The Dual Aspect of the Covenant” (pgs. 284-289 in the Eerdmans edition). Here, Berkhof distinguishes between those elect who are in the CoG as a Communion of Life, and NECMs who are in the CoG as a purely legal relationship only. Regarding the legal relationship, he writes:

There is clearly a legal and a moral side to the covenant. The covenant may be regarded as an agreement between two parties, with mutual conditions and stipulations, and therefore as something in the legal sphere. The covenant in that sense may exist even when nothing is done to realize its purpose, namely the condition to which it points and for which it calls as the real ideal. The parties that live under this agreement are in the covenant, since they are subject to the mutual stipulations agreed upon. In the legal sphere everything is considered and regulated in a purely objective way. The determining factor in that sphere is simply the relation which has been established, and not the attitude which one assumes to that relation. The relation exists independently of one’s inclination or discinlination, one’s likes and dislikes, in connection with it.

This should all sound familiar, because it is this aspect of the covenant that the Federal Vision proponents have been trying to emphasize. The objective side of the CoG with stipulations, blessings, and curses. But Berkhof continues:

But if the question is asked with a view to the covenant as a communion of life, and assumes the quite different form, In whom does this legal relationship issue in a living communion with Christ? – the answer can only be, only in the regenerate, who are endowed with the principle of faith, that is, in the elect.

If Berkhof is right in making this distinction (which is simply a more refined way of making the internal/external distinction other Reformed theologians have made with regard to the CoG), then there is no prima facie reason to believe that NECMs are in union with Christ. Normally, we would not speak of someone who has a legal relationship with someone else to be in union with the party they have a legal relationship with. I have a legal relationship with my employer, my bank, and all sorts of different people and entities. But it does not follow that I have been united (made to be in union) with those parties, and have therefore been made one with them in any coherent or meaningful sense. A union relationship is, rather, a subset of covenantal relationships. A covenant relationship may result in a legal relationship only, or it may issue forth a union relation (as part of Berkhof’s “Communion of Life” or “living communion with Christ”) through the terms established in the legal relationship.

The thinking of Federal Vision proponents seems to go something like this: “NECMs are in the CoG, therefore they have a relationship with Christ, therefore they have union with Christ.” But this simply equivocates on the word “relationship”, a word which, left undefined and unqualified, can’t make such a connection. We all have various “relationships”, from casual relationships (like the girl who checked out my groceries at the store) to weighty, intimate, and personal relationships (like my relationship with my fiance), but, again, we must insist that the idea of union cannot be applied indiscriminately. I will only be in union with my fiance. Likewise, as Ephesians 5 tells us, Christ will only be in union with His bride, the invisible church:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies…. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

The driving paradigm behind the Federal Vision applies the parallel of the marital relation (and therefore marital union, many conclude) to the relationship of God with the visible church and, therefore, to all members of the CoG, including NECMs. This is everywhere asserted in their writings, but never proved. And it cannot stand the scrutiny of Ephesians 5, which specifically likens the marital relationship to Christ’s relationship with the invisible church, the elect only.

The next important bit of reading is from the chapter entitled “The Mystical Union” in Berkhof’s ST (pgs.447-453 in the Eerdmans edition). Here I will only provide a thumbnail overview. Berkhof lists four senses in which we are united to Christ: 1. The federal union of Christ with those whom the Father has given Him, 2. the union of life ideally established in the counsel of redemption, 3. the union of life objectively realized in Christ, and 4. the union of life subjectively realized by the operation of the Holy Spirit. And it is in this last sense, the subjective sense, that we are said to have an a) organic, b) vital union c) mediated by the Spirit, d) that implies reciprocal action, and is a e) personal and f) transforming union.

It is only important to note that, in all 4 of these cases, the type of union that is described applies only to the elect. Especially in light of Wilkins’ tendency, as seen in the quotation above, to attribute salvific and ordo salutis blessings to NECMs as a result of an erroneous view concerning the relation between covenant, union, and those blessings, we ought to consider Berkhof’s remarks:

All the blessings of the covenant of grace flow from Him who is the Mediator of the covenant. Even the very first blessing of the saving grace of God which we receive already presupposes a union with the Person of the Mediator. It is exactly at this point that we find one of the most characteristic differences between the operations and blessings of special and those of common grace. The former can be received and enjoyed only by those who are in union with Christ, while the latter can be and are enjoyed also by those who are not reckoned in Christ, and therefore are not one with Him. Every spiritual blessing which believers receive flows to them out of Christ.

There is also warning, in this same chapter, to those who would seek to supplant the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness with a doctrine of union. This is somewhat tangential to my main point, but it is worth including in my post so as to wrap things up:

The mystical union in the sense in which we are now speaking of [the subjective aspect] it (sic) is not the judicial ground, on the basis of which we become partakers of the riches that are in Christ. It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal union [federal union, not “legal” in the sense used above – DG] with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. Justifications is always a declaration o f God, not on the basis of an existing condition, but on that of a gracious imputation, – a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the special grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.

Posted by David Gadbois

2 Cor 5:21 and the Federal Vision

I encountered this whilst cruising the blogs. I had to read it several times because I couldn’t believe it the first few times through. According to the author, 2 Cor 5:21 is not speaking of the Great Exchange on the cross at all.

First, 2 Cor 5:21 says:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)

Here’s Horne’s opening paragraph:

My argument is simple: What Paul means in writing the quotation above in context is the same as what he was telling the Ephesians when he wrote, “take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, … having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6.13, 14).

Huh? After a long and torturous path attempting to tie together unrelated verses through the essay, Horne concludes:

Traditionally, most people have assumed that verse 21 belongs to the second argument. Paul is simply stating his doctrine of salvation-that Jesus identified himself with sinners so that we could be identified as righteous. That is true doctrine. Because our sins were imputed to Christ his righteousness is imputed to us.

But it doesn’t fit real well with the context of verse 20, which is speaking of “we” Apostles who are “ambassadors for Christ” through whom God is entreating, and who beg the Corinthians “on behalf of Christ.” The Apostles’ calling is to represent God’s reconciling message. Thus, Jesus suffered as a sinner in order to give them the vocation of representing God’s righteousness, which spreads salvation. Because Jesus took our curse, Paul is saying, we have received his calling. As the Father sent Jesus so Jesus sends us.

So Christ took on our sins on the cross in order to appoint us as ambassadors? Where would anyone get such an idea? We need look no farther than NT Wright, the godfather of the Federal Vision. Compare Horne’s essay with this from an NT Wright essay on 2 Cor 5:21:

What the whole passage involves, then, is the idea of the covenant ambassador, who represents the one for whom he speaks in such a full and thorough way that he actually becomes the living embodiment of his sovereign — or perhaps, in the light of 4:7-18 and 6:1-10, we should equally say the dying embodiment.

Neither is Wright’s skewed view of “covenant” far from the argument. Speaking of the righteousness of God in the verse, Wright feels compelled to opine:

The righteousness does indeed remain God’s; but this “righteousness” never leaves behind the all-important sense of covenant faithfulness.

In a not-so-shocking parallel, Horne says in his essay:

To sum up what I argue for: God’s righteousness is his faithfulness to his covenant.

For anyone who says that the New Perspective on Paul is totally unrelated to the Federal Vision, they should spend some time comparing Federal Visionist’s writings to those of NT Wright. While there are notable differences, there are also some notable similarities, most of all in the idea of a mythical “objective covenant”. Anyway, it seems extreme to me that one would take one of the most exposited verses in all of Scripture on the double imputation and attempt to turn it on its head.

To bring us back to reality, here’s what some of the Westminster Divines said about this verse in The Westminster Annotations:

V.21. the hath made him to be sinne for us] That is, a sacrifice for sinne, or he hath imputed the sins of the world to Christ (who was most righteous and innocent himself) and hath put upon him all the punishment and malediction due to us, that all the faithful may be reputed before God as holy and perfect as righteousness itself, by virtue of Christ’s righteousness, which is given to them by God, and only is able to stand in his judgment.
who knew no sinne] That is, who knew no sin by himself, who was conscious to himself of no sinne. For other ways he best knew the nature and power of sin, who bare our sins on his body on the tree.
of God in him] In Christ, in regard that we are in him, and that is righteousness is imputed to us.

The 1599 Geneva Bible note on this verse says:

For he hath made him [to be] {q} sin for us, who {r} knew no sin; that we might be made the {s} righteousness of God in him.
(q) A sinner, not in himself, but by imputation of the guilt of all our sins to him. (r) Who was completely void of sin. (s) Righteous before God, and that with righteousness which is not fundamental in us, but being fundamental in Christ, God imputes it to us through faith.

And lastly we excerpt Calvin on 2 Cor 5:21:

Him who knew no sin. Do you observe, that, according to Paul, there is no return to favor with God, except what is founded on the sacrifice of Christ alone? Let us learn, therefore, to turn our views in that direction, whenever we desire to be absolved from guilt. He now teaches more clearly, what we adverted to above — that God is propitious to us, when he acknowledges us as righteous. For these two things are equivalent — that we are acceptable to God, and that we are regarded by him as righteous.

And later:

Sin is here contrasted with righteousness, when Paul teaches us, that we were made the righteousness of God, on the ground of Christ’s having been made sin. Righteousness, here, is not taken to denote a quality or habit, but by way of imputation, on the ground of Christ’s righteousness being reckoned to have been received by us. What, on the other hand, is denoted by sin? It is the guilt, on account of which we are arraigned at the bar of God. As, however, the curse of the individual was of old cast upon the victim, so Christ’s condemnation was our absolution, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5.)

There we read again the classic double imputation. No mention of anyone’s “covenant faithfulness”, but a straight-forward presentation of the gospel in one sentence. That was Paul’s intent, just as it was exposited by orthodox theologians and believers for 2000 years. Now the New Perspectives and Federal Vision came along to say it just isn’t so and those theologians and believers have gotten it all wrong for 2000 years. Really? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you at a great price…

When Federal Visionists cry for more Scriptural exposition, of which the Westminster Divines and those who followed in orthodoxy did in plenty BTW, I somehow don’t see that working in their favor. It ain’t the Scriptures that’s the problem, but the Federal Vision’s underlying expositional framework. This is just another example that jumped out of the web at me.

Posted by Bob Mattes

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