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…)