The Kind Of Stuff You Hate To Have To Say

Reprinted on Federal Schism is the following from Pastor GLW Johnson. I’ve only provided a section to make an uncomfortable point that will most certainly catch the ire of some of those I respect and admire. Pastor Johnson writes:

May I point out that at no time during this controversy have I singled out for criticism (here or elsewhere) Peter Leithart, who all would consider one of the more prominent names associated with the FV. Why, you ask? Peter and I graduated in 1987 from WTS (Phil.) with our ThM degrees. Peter went on to Cambridge and I entered the PhD program at WTS. I have over the years read with much appreciation Peter’s writings in Credenda/Agenda and even though I didn’t always agree with what he was saying I appreciate his tone and the matter in which he wrote. He didn’t make snide or inflammatory remarks about those with whom he disagreed (he was the only FVer who acknowledged that Waters had indeed correctly represented his views and interacted with Guy’s book in a fair and courteous fashion). He didn’t insult them and call them names and he most certainly did not suggest that his views were the only ones that really were true to the Reformed tradition. As such I respect Peter. In this way, and in so many others he stands in sharp contrast to his colleague Doug Wilson, who revels in ridiculing his opponents and delights in heaping derision on any who would dare disagree with him (don’t take my word for it — just pick up practically any past issue of C/A and see for yourself or read his recent response to Andy Webb on his blog where he, the preeminent presbyterian, relishes calling the FV critics “Baptyrians”). Regrettably, Wilson has had far more influence of the FV peanut gallery than has Leithart.

First, let me first say I love Pastor Johnson’s defense of the faith and the directness of his refutation of the FV over at Greenbaggins(es).

Second, why is influencing the “peanut gallery” more dangerous or problematic than training the next generation of pastors, teachers and elders?

Consequently, it does strike me as a bit odd, if not troublesome, that men like Leithart seem to get a pass, or at least the kid glove treatment, because he went to school with men like Johnson and because he’s a winsome character and not at all acerbic as “his colleague” Doug Wilson. Oh, Johnson doesn’t agree with everything Leithart writes of course, but I guess it’s just dandy to read this particular heretic with profit.

What is that supposed to mean?

Is Leithart sort of like the FV version of the Apocrypha? Read it with profit, just don’t make it part of the canon. You can deny and corrupt the gospel with the efficiency and poignancy of a snake, but if your tone is agreeable then you’re not like all the other snakes? Give me a break.

I’ve notice Dick Gaffin gets that same kind of soft-serve treatment by those who call him “Dick” and who had him at WTS. No wonder the PCA and other denoms are blasted as ol’ boy networks. Seems for some truth takes a backseat to personalties particularly if that particular personality is pleasing to the ear. Haven’t we yet learned that something can be pleasing to the senses but still be deadly poison if ingested?

Why wouldn’t those who are more soft spoken, irenic and who are more pleasing to the ears than a Wilson or a Gerety or even a Mark T. be all the more dangerous when they teach errors? Doesn’t Paul tell us that the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrines, but instead will want to have their ears tickled? Well, at least a couple of my kids are still young enough to enjoy a good tickle from time to time. And, as every father knows, the secret to a good tickle is a soft touch.

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11 Comments on “The Kind Of Stuff You Hate To Have To Say”

  1. Machaira Says:

    Consequently, it does strike me as a bit odd, if not troublesome, that men like Leithart seem to get a pass, or at least the kid glove treatment, because he went to school with men like Johnson and because he’s a winsome character and not at all acerbic as “his colleague” Doug Wilson.

    Although I have been learning much from Pastor Johnson, I was a bit surprised by this one comment as well when I first saw it. Maybe I shouldn’t be. The same “buddy buddy” atmosphere was prevalent during the 2003 AAPC. I’m not saying that we/they should necessarily be rude and crude, but I think we need to call a spade and spade when it comes to the truth and what the FV teaches.

  2. magma2 Says:

    FWIW Lane has a no discussion of Gaffin rule on his blog, even though Gaffin endorsed Shepherd’s book, Call of Grace, and has a nice little blurb on the back of the book; his book Resurrection and Redemption is pretty much an endorsement of the FV idea that we are united with Christ at baptism; and he has defended FV men like Shepherd and Kinnaird for decades. Yet, Gaffin gets a pass. Again, for Lane it’s because he had him as a prof and he just thinks of Gaffin as a gentleman and a scholar or something along those lines. Johnson defends Gaffin too. Maybe they just haven’t read O. Palmer Robertson’s history of the rise of the FV at WTS or Elliot’s account of its spread in the OPC in Christianity and Neoliberalism. In the case of the latter where Gaffin gets an entire chapter and is a central player throughout, Elliot, who is a former OPC RE, keeps getting trashed by OPC pastors who have never even read the book. Most recently Elliot was trashed again over at Federal Schism. If I were of a conspiratorial bent, I’d say it seems almost organized.

  3. Machaira Says:

    Since I’m a life long resident of Philadelphia and the congregation I currently serve transferred from the OPC to the PCA in 2005, I should probably know alot more about Shepherd and Gaffin. I guess there’s no time like the present as they say. After I finish reading “Not Reformed At All,” which I just received, I’ll have to read up on them. I listened to Dr. Robbins’ lecture on the NPP a few months ago. Do you recommend O. Palmer Robertson?

  4. Mark T. Says:

    Hi Sean,

    I can’t speak for Dr. Johnson; I’ve never met him and he’s plenty articulate. But I didn’t catch the same inference from his comment as you. Rather, I understood his point in a very limited scope, though in hindsight I can see your take. Nevertheless, I did not understand him in any way to wink at Leithart’s errors or give them a pass. He simply noted that one man in particular has gone out of his way to belly ache, whine, and complain about the anti-FVers, while he regularly abuses them with invectives, which he contrasted with Leithart who has conducted himself civilly in this controversy. However, Dr. Johnson did not confuse civil behavior with orthodox doctrine or the toleration thereof. He simply noted that one man’s reprehensible example has shaped this controversy more than any other, and for such he deserves special attention. I could be wrong, but I didn’t see toleration or “acceptance” there at all. Perhaps you could send him an email to clarify? He seems approachable and he has a good sense of humor.

  5. magma2 Says:

    The Robertson book is an excellent history of the seven years or so the Shepherd controversy raged at WTS starting in 1975. The book gives some perspective on how long this fight has been going on and how badly those who could have and should have done something about early on failed.

    The other interesting thing about the book is that the theological journal of Covenant Seminary, Presbyterion, refused to publish it after first accepting it. They thought it might upset and offend some at WTS if you can believe it.

  6. magma2 Says:

    Mark T., Johnson says that at no time has he ever singled Leithart out for criticism and he explained why. If that’s not giving the man a pass I don’t know what is? If nothing else, my impression is that thank God for the polemics of Wilson or perhaps Johnson would never have gotten into the fray.

    That’s the way I read his comments and I’m at a bit of a loss to see how else they might be understood? If his other friend Guy Waters didn’t come under some fire for his book on the FV, from I assume Wilson, Johnson would probably still be on the sidelines.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have him in the fight and for whatever reason. It just alarms me that if a man teaching and spreading the exact same false gospel of salvation by faith and works, what these men might call covenantal obedience or faithfulness, and who is systematically undermining while he redefines virtually every essential of the faith, yet if he does so civilly and in a scholarly and winsome manner he can proceed undisturbed. You don’t find that troublesome?

  7. Mark T. Says:

    Hi Sean,

    I just reread Dr. Johnson’s comment and I am convinced more than ever that when he used the word “criticism,” it was in the context of criticizing the FVists’ demeanor only, not their doctrine. He has made it abundantly clear on a number of occasions that he has zero tolerance for FV doctrine in any Protestant & Reformed context.

    For what it’s worth, I just checked the index of the book By Faith Alone, which he co-edited, and I noticed Leithart’s name mentioned the same number of times as Wilson’s and Wilkins’ names — once each. I think you should contact him.

  8. magma2 Says:

    Hi Mark,

    You’ll be happy to know I emailed Pastor Johnson using that silly little box at the Redeemer website. FWIW it makes no sense to me for someone to say they’re not going to criticize someone’s demeanor when they’re demeanor has never been an issue. It’s his doctrines that are damnable. Also, so what if Leithart’s name is mentioned X number of times in a book Johnson edited? The question is not will others criticize Leithart, but will Johnson and the answer to that, at least from his remarks above, appears to be no.

  9. magma2 Says:

    I did correspond with Pastor Johnson and he doesn’t think Leithart is in any way less culpable in this controversy, just that he is a more able theologian (which, in my mind, makes him categorically more dangerous than Wilson). You are right, though, he was just using Leithart as a contrast to Wilson and not to give him a pass.

  10. Machaira Says:

    Glad to hear it.

  11. Mark T. Says:

    Ditto. And thanks for making the inquiry.


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