Archive for January 2010

More Federal Division

January 29, 2010

There is an ongoing discussion and examination of Robert Rayburn’s widely circulated screed in defense of FV heretic Peter Liethart going on over at the Greenbaggins blog.  I highly recommend Bob Mattes’ excellent retort, Does God Practice Temporary Forgiveness.   Bob’s reply is devastating  and exposes the Romanish heart of  the Federal Vision.  So, while I’m more than happy to let Bob and the rest of those at Greenbaggins continue to dissect Rayburn, I was particularly disturbed by this little bit of sophism:

What is repeatedly revealed in the panel’s argument, alas, is a persistent failure to grasp the real status questionis and, consequently, the lines of argument are not drawn with the precision necessary to ensure a proper solution. This is true in respect to every issue the panel takes under its review. For example, in the matter of justification the panel fails carefully to distinguish between the causa materialis and the causae instrumentalium. Reformed theology does not doubt, for example, that faith is a cause of justification, but it is not its ground, which is alone the righteousness of Christ. The Word of God, the gospel, is a cause of justification, but not its ground (1 Cor. 15:2; Eph.1:13; 2 Thess. 2:14). And, in the same way, the works of a Christian’s life are a cause of the sinner’s final justification (whether as its vindication or its demonstration) while certainly not being its ground or material cause. Without attention to such careful distinctions and without the demonstration that Dr. Leithart’s view has been scrutinized in keeping with these distinctions the panel’s reasoning is an exercise in comparing, as we say, apples and oranges.

The above admission that “works of a Christian’s life” are an instrumental cause in justification  is quite amazing and one that I would think even a half-blind PCA presbyter would be able to discern.  Admittedly, Rayburn has any number of instrumental causes for justification in addition to mere belief alone (assuming he even has that), but the WCF only has one; “faith … is the alone instrument of justification” (WCF 11.2).

My guess is that Rayburn believes the average PCA presbyter is so dim-witted that they will be so wowed by his use of Latin phrases like “causae instrumentalium” that their eyes will simply  gloss over and not see exactly what he’s saying.  He might be right.  But, a denial of justification by belief alone could hardly be any clearer.  For Rayburn, works too are just as much an instrumental cause in justification as is faith.   With all the back and forth about which side is accurately representing “the Reformed tradition,” I have to wonder if either side is really keeping an eye on the Christian tradition, since at no time in the entire history of the Christian faith have the “works of a Christian life” been an instrumental cause of justification either now or in the final judgment.

For those who tempted to think I’m being unfair and that am not reading Rayburn “charitably” (of course to read someone “charitably” in FV Newspeak means to either agree or acquiescence) consider this from the PCA’s FV/NPP report:

The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

If the SJC is really interested in preserving the truth of the Gospel in the PCA, and I’m not at all convinced that they are, when they come back in March instructing the Presbytery of the North West to bring charges against Peter Leithart, they should include Robert Rayburn’s name as well.

One interesting side note for those following the Siouxlands FV Flying Circus, Rayburn is the father-in-law of that other FV cheerleader, Joshua Moon.  While certainly not as impassioned or as much fun to read as the Rayburn, for those interested in comparing the arguments of Rayburn with his son-in-law, since the family resemblance is impressive, I’ll leave the interested reader with a transcript I found of Moon’s public defense of Federal Visionist, Greg Lawrence given on the floor of the Siouxlands Presbytery.  I’d say enjoy, but even for those with strong stomachs,  I’ll say suffer.  (more…)

Siouxland Stooges

January 26, 2010

For those who have been following the laborious maneuverings of the Siouxlands Presbytery of the PCA as they make believe that they’re really interested in dealing with suspected Federal Visionists in their midst, there has been some new, albeit not surprising, developments over this past weekend.  To briefly recap and bring readers up to speed, here is a quick rundown of the chain of events provided by Siouxlands presbyter and pastor, Wes White:

After nearly two years of attempting to get the Presbytery to deal with a man who claimed to me that he is in basic agreement with Federal Vision theology, the Presbytery has still not dealt decisively with the matter. I asked for the original investigation nearly two years ago. The Presbytery refused. I complained. The Presbytery refused. I complained to the General Assembly. The General Assembly sustained my complaint. The Presbytery decided to investigate. The committee came back 4-2 saying that there was a strong presumption of guilt. The Presbytery rejected the committee report by a 24-13 margin. I, along with others, complained. The Presbytery repented of being too hasty in its rejection of the committee report, and erected a new committee.

That new committee was to report at this meeting. They did so. They unanimously recommended that the Presbytery find a strong presumption of guilt. The Presbytery then decided to postpone consideration of this second committee’s report until September.

The Teaching Elder who was investigated requested to be “instructed.” So, the Presbytery recommended that a committee be formed to instruct him. One hitch. They said that all of those who would “instruct him” would have to be approved by the very Teaching Elder who was being investigated. So, who was nominated? A lot of guys who have supported him from the beginning. When TE Lane Keister was nominated, the TE under investigation said that TE Keister lived too far away. When RE Keister, TE Keister’s father, was nominated, the same TE said no. So, now this TE still under investigation is being instructed primarily by men who’ve supported him, including one who said that he’s in basic agreement with him.

You can’t make these things up.

Here we have Greg Lawrence ( the pastor of Christ Church PCA in Mankato, MN) who was investigated by two separate committees appointed by the Presbytery and who both found a “strong presumption of guilt” that Lawrence is in fact a proponent of the neo-legalism of the Federal Vision.  Yet, instead of following PCA Book of Church Order 31-2 which requires that following the finding of “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,” Lawrence will instead be “instructed.”  Instructed in exactly what I have no idea, but according to White he’ll be instructed by one of his own supporters.

Now, I am not an authority on the PCA’s BCO, but I can find nowhere in the PCA’s constitution where “instruction” may replace “process” and where an “instructor” is a suitable replacement for “prosecutor”?  I confess, I am at a total loss to find anything within the PCA’s constitution where a pastor found to have “a strong presumption of guilt” pursuant to complaint lodged against him may request to be “instructed” instead of “prosecuted” and even control the appointment of those who will provide this so-called “instruction”?

But, maybe I’m just being a bit cynical. Perhaps the instruction will include how to use phrases like “forgiveness of sins” and “union with Christ” more ambiguously so as to avoid suspicion when speaking of the imagined covenant blessings the reprobate are supposed to receive through baptism.  Or, perhaps Lawrence will be instructed on new parliamentary techniques in order to buy even more time as the Presbytery finally frustrates the remaining anti-FV trouble makers and they leave the PCA in disgust.  Other instruction might include how to successfully thumb your nose at the PCA while having fun frustrating your opponents by exiting the PCA at the very last moment and by the backdoor as a “pastor in good standing” just like former FV PCA pastor and coward, Steve Wilkins.  Or, perhaps Lawrence will be instructed on the benefits of joining Doug Wilson’s apostate denomination, the Confederation of Phony Evangelical Federal Visionistas, where he can pretend that all the truly Reformed men throughout history have all been Federal Visionists.

Needless to say, there is some funny business going on in the Siouxlands.

But, the funny business doesn’t stop there.  Besides a good hammer to the head and twist of the nose, the suspected Federal Visionists and their enablers in the Siouxlands Presbytery have even provided the classic two-finger poke-in-the-eye by leveling a defamation complaint against one of the anti-FV men causing all this unwanted trouble and discord, Brian Carpenter.  According to White, “the Presbytery unanimously decided to investigate TE Brian Carpenter for breaking the ninth commandment in not taking care to preserve the good name” of Joshua Moon. (more…)

John Robbins Not So Quick Quote

January 6, 2010

The result of two centuries of irrationalism is that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are faced, not with a hopeful prospect, but with an even more dismal prospect than our great grandfathers faced a hundred years ago. The last hundred years has seen the resurgence of medieval Romanism and the emergence of Romanist zealot organizations such as Opus Dei. Medieval Romanism is not just confined to the Roman Catholic Church-State and its thousands of educational institutions, but has gained many adherents among nominal Protestants as well: The prolific authors Norman Geisler and R. C. Sproul, and many lesser known Protestant theologians and philosophers as well, are disciples of the official philosopher of the Roman Church-State, Thomas Aquinas. Their influence has misled most Protestants away from a Biblical and Reformed view of philosophy and apologetics and into a compromise with Rome. Medieval Islam, now usually called “fundamentalist Islam,” and medieval Judaism, with the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948, are on the rise as well. All three religions – Romanism, Islam, and Judaism – are false, militant, and violent. Devout members of each group hate, oppose, and plot against members of the other two. But today the date is 2006, not 1006, and the true believers of each of these medieval religions have access to nuclear, biological, chemical, and electromagnetic weapons.

Barring dramatic divine intervention, such as a new Reformation, or the second coming of Christ, the wars of the twenty-first century will be religious wars. They will be worse than the secular wars of the twentieth century. The three principal protagonists will be the three medieval religions that have warred with each other for centuries. Already the battles have begun. (more…)

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