Peter Leithart’s 10+ Years of Work on the PNW Candidates & Credentials Committee

How is it that a Presbytery of the PCA could exonerate a man in the face of the General Assembly’s Federal Vision Report, which specifically condemned the teaching of this very man? Perhaps one of the reasons is that for thirteen years, Peter Leithart has been on the Pacific Northwest Presbytery Candidates and Credentials Committee. Peter Leithart has been “specifically charged with examining incoming candidates regarding sacraments.” Here is Dr. Leithart’s testimony on the matter:

COMMISSIONER: Peter, beginning, thank you for being part of this. And I want to express for the record, thanks for – – to your wife as well who is here present with us. The – – In the cross examination yesterday, the prosecution spoke of your relationship to the PCA and this presbytery and distinction from your involvement in another denomination. You’re obviously serving out of bounds. I would like to ask a couple questions about your relationship with us. You’ve been serving in this presbytery, I know it’s part of the record but I don’t recollect, for how long now?
WITNESS [Leithart]: Since 1998.
Q: Since 1998. You’ve been involved heavily in the examination of incoming transfers and presbyters and men coming under care extensively, haven’t you?
A: I have. Yes.
Q: And has that had a meaningful form of impact, do you think, on the presbytery?
A: I think it’s been beneficial to the presbytery. I should say just for the record and for those who don’t know, I’m on the examination credentials committee and that I’m specifically charged with examining incoming candidates regarding sacraments.
Q: And so you are, so that’s been formative to a number of men on their way through right?
A: I think it’s been helpful to a number of men coming into the presbytery who during the course of the examination realize that they have gaps in their training and knowledge that the – – the exam exposes. One of the questions asks concerning the reformed liturgical tradition and ask them to answer question partly in terms of that. And there’ve been a number of candidates who knew nothing, virtually nothing about that and this forced them to do some studies. So, yes I think it’s been (inaudible)” –Leithart Trial Transcript (pp. 235-236).

It Comes Down to This

by Reed DePace

It seems to me that the results of the Meyers, Lawrence and Leithart matters have the effect of focusing the issues involved. In all three situations Presbyteries have concluded that teachings which appear consistent with FV teachings denounced by the PCA Study Report are in fact not out of accord with our doctrinal standards.

The common threads seem to be that each of these men:

1. Affirms the Westminster Standards (WS), and
2. Their teachings in question do not contradict the WS, and
3. [Therefore] their teachings do not conflict with the PCA FV Study Report.

The rationale that seems to logically support these conclusions centers is the claim that the teachings in question are only about the benefits of salvation which the reprobate church member receives. As this is not (supposedly) something addressed by the WS (which only addresses the benefits received by the decretally elect), therefore these teachings do not conflict with our standards. E.g., this is usually heard in the FV claim to be speaking about salvation (or any other ordo salutis benefit) in different way than the WS, but in a way that the Bible also speaks.

I’m thinking that this is pretty much the heart of the rationale rested upon by the presbyters in three presbyteries when they decided to find these men “not guilty” (in the case of Lawrence and Leithart explicitly, Meyers implicitly). That is, this argument for the defense sounds both reasonable and biblical to the men tasked with determining whether or not these men’s teachings are out of accord with the WS.

If I’m right, then it comes down to this,

Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?

If yes, then the FV is not out of accord with the WS? If no, then it is.

It would seem to me that future efforts to demonstrate the biblical errors of these teachings must deal with this dual salvation scheme. It must deal with demonstrating that this is not the biblical teaching. It will not suffice to argue exclusively from the WS, as men teaching these things can simply respond, “amen, and also …” It must be shown that the Bible does not support the FV’ers parallel secondary way of salvation for the reprobate church member.

If this can be shown then the elders having to make the judgments in these matters will be greatly supported.


By Reed DePace