Papists in PCA Clothing

John Otis over at the Aquila Report has stumbled on another Federal Vision PCA “pastor” coming out of closet.   Otis titles his piece, “Roman Catholic Tendencies Among Professing Reformed Churches,” but this is really just understatement.   There is no doubt that men like Leithart, Wilson, Wilkins, Meyers, Horne, Moon, Lawrence, Smith, Cassidy (only 2 of those mentioned are not PCA) and the rest of the FV men are just proto-papists who are all, aside from some minor differences,  as sensate and apostate as the pope himself.  However, their “Roman Catholic Tendencies” are generally kept close to their vestments as they proclaim the virtues of their  “objective covenant” which  is nothing more than the Roman Catholic false gospel of salvation by faith and works.   Of course, even FV men are generally not willing to come that far out of the closet and instead maintain  salvation by “faithful obedience to the demands of the covenant.”   As those familiar with the FV false gospel know, you are ushered into a tentative but very real “union with Christ” through the waters of baptism and the mumblings of some “authorized representative of the church” (read preistling), and you remain in this worthless “photographable” covenant by availing yourself of God’s imagined grace appropriated by faith as you do your best to persevere in good works (non-meritorious of course) in the vain hope that you will one day achieve “final justification.”   As OPC and exonerated Sheperdite pastor John Kinnaird once said, “it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous on that Day of Judgment.”

Yet, while the vast majority of FV and No Perspectives false teachers at least play the game of trying to appear as good P&R men in order to fool the feeble minded washcloths that make up the majority of femminized Presbyteries throughout the PCA, OPC and beyond, Otis came across one particular FV man complete with purple vestments and wearing a mitre.   His name is Craig Higgins of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Rye, New York. You’ll notice on the church’s website that none other than former WTS  professor, Peter Enns,  is listed as their “Visiting Scholar” and who “comes to Trinity Church and teaches several times each year.”  Those poor people.  Enns, some might recall, is infamous for his attack on the doctrine of inerrancy in his book Inspiration and Incarnation (for a good summary of the Enns controversy see here ). Miraculously, even the WTS trustees could see  Enns is selling poison and voted 18–9 to suspend Enns from his position in 2008, which obviously makes him fit to teach “several times a year” in the PCA.  I guess having Enns teach in a PCA church “several times a year” can’t do any harm after the poor souls in the pews have been subjected to Higgins.   You can find a number of articles by Higgins at the wrongly named PCA Conversations website, like his recommending various forms of popish acts of asceticism done all in the service of “Keeping Holy Lent.”  You can also find Higgins’ doctoral thesis here.   I also highly recommend Otis’ Aquila Report where I found this little gem from Higgins:

Therefore, if we are to work toward the visible unity of the Church, we should, I am increasingly convinced, defer to the wisdom of the majority in the Great Tradition and embrace the ministry of bishops.

One last comment: In Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II has invited all the churches to discuss how the Petrine office should function in a reunited Church, and Reformed churchmen should welcome this conversation. Our idea of concentric circles of conciliar accountability would lead us to teach that, if the Church were visibly united around the world, there would need to be an ecumenical council, meeting as necessary to govern and guide the Church. The above argument for a (reformed) episcopacy would also lead us to teach that such a council would need a “presiding bishop,” serving as primus inter pares among his brothers, and historically such a position of honor has fallen to the bishop of Rome.

Can’t you just see Luther, Calvin and Knox spinning in their graves?  Yet this is the PCA today.  Needless to say the P&R world has slid a great distance from the great days of the Protestant Reformation where the Westminster Confession and Christians everywhere once exclaimed:

“There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof, but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.”

As John Robbins wrote in 2003; “The cancer of Neolegalism … has now metastasized throughout Reformed and Presbyterian churches in America.” I think PCA erstaz-“pastor” Craig Higgins is proof that things are a lot worse than even John Robbins could have imagined.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Heresies

46 Comments on “Papists in PCA Clothing”


  1. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals are a bunch of compromisers as well. Check out this gem from the Anglo-Catholic “conservatives”.

    http://www.alliancenet.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID307086_CHID615424_CIID2477196,00.html

  2. Roger Mann Says:

    While I’m sure there are still many good pastors within the PCA, I’m afraid the denomination may be doomed if the following discourse represents the prevailing attitude among PCA ministers. Listen to some of the responses posted over at Greenbaggins blog, under the thread Leithart “potentially” Out of Accord:

    36. I’m no patristics expert, but I’m pretty sure Augustine did not believe in justification by the imputation of an alien righteousness through the instrumentality of faith alone. I’m pretty sure I’ll see him in heaven, though.

    42. Thanks Jeff for posting that link to Augustine. You are right that Luther and Calvin were Augustinian in tradition.

    Alot of (reformed) people make brash statements and throw Galatians 1:6-9 around without having the slightest bit of primary Patristics readings. They usually suffer from a deficient Biblical hermeneutic because of it. When Galatians 1:6-9 is sighted against people, more often than not it is a power play based out of ignorance, rather than a rebuke out of love.
    It is clear that Augustine had a proper understanding of atonement, but for him it was clear from the link that the Spirit played a bigger role is justification than just illumination. It enabled us to be who God calls us to be by grace apart from works. Actually, it wasn’t new to Augustine but Athanasius believed this too as well as countless others. According to some people I suppose, the whole church post Apostolic pre Reformation was damned.

    I just can’t accept that because it smacks ironically of self righteousness and pride.

    43. Jeremy, I skimmed the article, but I didn’t see where it said that either “Augustine believed in justfication through the imputation of an alien righteousness, received by the istrumentality of faith alone,” OR, that “those who don’t believe this won’t go to heaven.”

    I would be surprised to hear Horton say either of these things, since he has explicitly denied the former, and I doubt he’d ever affirm the latter.

    44. It’s fair to say that without Augustine (in God’s providence), there would be no Michael Horton.
    At the same time, Augustine thought that God’s grace was infused into the believer, causing a genuine change of nature (faith + love) into the sinner, and that justification was a result of this change. The grace that caused this change was a work of the Spirit, mediated by faith AND the sacrament of baptism.
    So was Augustine an orthodox Presbyterian? Definitely not. His theology actually puts him outside any Protestant denomination, except perhaps high-church Anglicanism (maybe).

    But was he a champion of the Gospel? Oh yeah.

    48. The thing I was refering to in the article was Horton’s point about the Gospel being “the specific announcement of the forgiveness of sins and declaration of righteousness solely by Christ’s merits” (5th paragraph). If Horton is right about this definition of the Gospel (and I think he is), then those who do not believe this Gospel will be going to hell. Therefore, if Augustine or any other man does not believe in righteousness SOLELY by Christ’s merits (not our own), then God have mercy on his soul. [which is absolutely correct, if he means “Christ’s imputed merits” — RGM]

    55. It is perilous to judge earlier church fathers by later, more precise, doctrinal standards, as I’m seeing some on this thread do. Augustine’s doctrine of grace, while not as precise as later formulations, was nevertheless monergistic. I think it was Warfield who said that the Reformation could be described as Augustine’s doctrine of grace triumphing over his doctrine of the church. [From what I’ve read of Augustine, that is just plain false. Augustine clearly did not believe in or teach justification by faith alone.]

    56. Jeremy, Horton is also on record as sagely saying that “we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone…not by our doctrine.” Which is another way of reminding us that there is such a thing as works-righteousness that comes by way of doctrinalism, which can be very difficult for those of us who place such a high premium on doctrinal formulation to see. It seems to me one thing to get our doctrine right, quite another to speculate on who does or does not reside in heaven or hell.

    62. Andy,

    Are you saying that Sola Fide is not an essential element of the gospel?

    It depends on what we’re talking about. Do I think that the doctrine of Sola Fide is an essential element of a proper understanding of the gospel? Of course. Do I think that the doctrine of Sola Fide needs to be properly understood in order for one to believe the gospel? No, I don’t. Otherwise, pretty much nobody was saved between John and Luther.

    Remember: We’re not saved by our doctrine, but by looking to Jesus in faith (which I’m told people outside our Reformed world sometimes do [GASP!]). [What is this PCA minister saying here? That one can falsely believe in justification by faith and works and still be saved? That’s what it sounds like to me.]

    65. Dabney said Rome had the gospel but that they had a great deal of additional heretical material attached to it, rather like barnacles.

    All I can say to that is, Wow! I’m dumbfounded. And I give props to Andy Gilman for courageously defending the true gospel against such a cacophony of false teaching and outright nonsense. By the way, posts 36, 43, 55, and 62 were all by ordained PCA ministers in good standing.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    All I can say to that is, Wow! I’m dumbfounded. And I give props to Andy Gilman for courageously defending the true gospel against such a cacophony of false teaching and outright nonsense. By the way, posts 36, 43, 55, and 62 were all by ordained PCA ministers in good standing.

    Wow is right. It is truly horrible, especially when Andy again asks: “My question was: Is Sola Fide an essential element of the gospel? and “If Rome preaches that justification is by faith in Jesus Christ, plus water baptism, plus infused righteousness, then is Rome preaching the gospel?”

    The answer from PCA pastors and Greenbaggins moderators like “Reed Here” and Jason Stellman (the man supposedly leading the charge to have Leithart removed from the PCA), is an emphatic YES, Rome is preaching the gospel. They slammed the door pretty hard on Andy. It was; shut up or we’ll shut you up.

    The complete lack of leadership, not to mention an understanding of the Gospel among PCA pastors, is frightening. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone, or salvation by grace alone, faith alone and works alone in sanctification, take your pick, it doesn’t matter because no one is saved by believing a message, even a silly message like the Gospel. We’re all saved “but by looking to Jesus in faith.” It doesn’t matter if we believe Jesus did it all or we must do our part. The finished work of Christ completely outside of us is irrelevant. Imputation is a modern refinement. Leithart’s problem is that he’s just not PCA enough. He’s still a “godly” scholar despite what he believes and teaches.

    So what if we circumcise ourselves, add a little of our own works and efforts just for good measure, the Gospel is negotiable. According to the stalwarts in the PCA we can begin with the Spirit while being perfected in the flesh. No harm, no foul. Needless to say the Apostle Paul would not be welcomed in the PCA or on the Greenbaggins blog. Andy is in good company.

  4. George Says:

    It is sad that while many RCs are disgusted with the behavior of their church state with regard to the Irish and German abuse scandals, that there are some in the PCA that would have us compromise with Rome.

    My Redeemer style PCA church can’t bring itself to accept the clear teachings of 1 Co. 11 and 1 Ti. 2, i.e. women deacons and women teachers. There is plenty of discussion from the senior pastor about Lent and Advent and next to none on the 5 solas. Plenty about church growth experts though. In other words methodism with a small “m”.

    Associate pastoral candidates, I have talked to can’t bring themselves to condemn Rome or the liberalism that comes with women deacons and teachers. I would say, the PCA is pretty much on the highway to hell, but in spite of all, I find myself continuing to attend and give — which means I haven’t given up hope that they might make a U turn.

  5. Roger Mann Says:

    The answer from PCA pastors and Greenbaggins moderators like “Reed Here” and Jason Stellman (the man supposedly leading the charge to have Leithart removed from the PCA), is an emphatic YES, Rome is preaching the gospel… The complete lack of leadership, not to mention an understanding of the Gospel among PCA pastors, is frightening.

    Yes, it is frightening indeed…and very disheartening. Even my own pastor, who clearly teaches justification by faith alone, has recently compromised the gospel by signing the Manhattan Declaration. I publicly let him know what I thought about that here. But at least he openly acknowledges that Rome preaches a false gospel that sends those who believe it to Hell. It’s PCA ministers like Stellman (not to mention FVists) that are truly a disgrace. On his blog he writes:

    Yes, if that were the case [that Leithart’s teaching denies justification by faith alone], then he would clearly be teaching another gospel. Now, whether it is only “another” with respect to the Reformed understanding of the gospel, or further, if it is “another” as in “the kind that gets you sent to hell,” is not the kind of thing I will weigh in on (mainly because I don’t know the mind of God and refuse to speculate on such things).

    Come on now, if Stellman can’t make that kind of basic judgment, then frankly he ought to take off that black robe and stop pretending to be a minister of Christ. The “mind of God” on justification by faith alone has been clearly revealed in Scripture (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:11-21; 3:1-14; etc.). Stellman needs to ask himself the same questions that the Apostle Paul asked himself — but I’m afraid he might get a different answer: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). The truth regarding those who reject justification by faith alone — apart from works of any kind — is quite simple:

    “For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'” Galatians 3:10

    “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4

  6. Lauren Kuo Says:

    In my very first comment on byfaithonline which started all the trouble for our family, I quoted from J.C. Ryle the timeless warnings against the yeast of the Pharisees:
    I believe the most powerful champion of the Pharisees is not the man who
    bids you openly and honestly come out and join the Church of Rome: it is
    the man who says that he agrees on all points with you in “doctrine.” He
    would not take anything away from those evangelical views that you hold;
    would not have you make any changes at all; all he asks you to do is to
    “add” a little more to your belief, in order to make your Christianity
    perfect. “Believe me,” he says,

    We do not want you to give up anything. We only want you to
    hold a few more clear views about the Church and the
    sacraments. We want you to add to your present opinions a
    little more about the office of the ministry, and a little
    more about episcopal authority, and a little more about the
    Prayer-book, and a little more about the necessity of order
    and of discipline. We only want you to add “a little more”
    of these things to your system of religion, and you will be
    quite right.

    1. Beginning with a “little more about the Church”–You may one day place
    the Church in the place of Christ.

    2. Beginning with a “little more about the ministry”–You may one day
    regard the minister as “the mediator between God and man.”

    3. Beginning with a “little more about the sacraments”–You may one day
    altogether give up the doctrine of justification by faith without the
    deeds of the law.

    4. Beginning with a “little more reverence for the Prayer-book”–You may
    one day place it above the Holy Word of God Himself.

    5. Beginning with a “little more honor to Bishops”–You may at last
    refuse salvation to every one who does not belong to an Episcopal Church.

    That was back in 2005 and sadly all those warnings with the exception of a few skirmishes and an anemic study report have gone unheeded in the PCA. There is a reason why the teaching of the Pharisees was compared to yeast; once it gets in, you can’t get it out – it only grows.

  7. Lauren Kuo Says:

    More prophetic thoughts from JC:

    The Federal Vision in the PCA is found in a group of teaching and ruling elders who, wittingly or
    unwittingly, are paving the way to the Church of Rome [Catholicism]– they professes to draw their principles from early church tradition,
    the writings of the Fathers, and the voice of the Church–they teach so much about the Church, the ministry, and the
    Sacraments, that it makes them like Aaron’s rod which swallows up
    everything else in Christianity, a teaching that attaches vast
    importance to the outward form and ceremony of religion, to gestures,
    postures, bowings, crosses, holy water, seats of honor for the clergy,
    altar cloths, incense, statues, banners, processions, floral decorations,
    and many other like things, about which not a word is to be found in the
    Scriptures as having any place in Christian worship. When we examine
    the proceedings of the Federal Visionists, there can be but one conclusion
    concerning them. I believe whatever be the meaning and intention of its
    teachers, however devoted, zealous, and self-denying, many of them are,
    those whom has fallen the cloak of the Pharisees.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Did you notice that Higgins’ Assistant Pastor is on the Standing Judicial Commission? He will be in a good position to help implement the papal takeover.

    http://www.trinitychurch.cc/staff.asp

  9. Roger Mann Says:

    Thanks for the heads up Sean (it looks like we are both being talked about!). I’ve been a little preoccupied this past week, and haven’t really been keeping up with the latest posts. Anyway, it looks like Stellman has just dug himself deeper into a hole in my estimation. For example, he writes:

    “This whole FV issue has hopefully caused me to be a bit more humble about disagreements over doctrine. That’s why I said that my problem with Leithart is that he’s not Reformed. I mean, if we’re going to label ritualism and baptismal regeneration as “heresies,” are we prepared to say label Luther a heretic? (Not to mention just about everyone who came along before him.)”

    To which I would reply, yes. If Luther (or anyone else) taught that regeneration/justification takes place only through the outward sacrament of baptism, then he was a heretic, plain and simple. For Scripture clearly teaches that we are justified through faith alone — apart from circumcision, baptism, or any other external ritual or work of righteousness (e.g., Acts 13:38-39, 48; 15:7-11; 16:14, 31; Romans 1:16-17; 3:28; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:4-10; etc.). I say if only because I have not studied Luther enough on these points to say otherwise. But why should that be a problem? Are we now, as good little Reformed submissives, required to bend the knee to Luther? If he was teaching heresy, then it would be sinful for us to label him as anything other than a heretic. The only issue, then, is whether the doctrine of baptismal regeneration/justification is heretical or not. What does Scripture say?

    “But if we [those claiming to be apostles], or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone [to include Martin Luther] preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

    The specific corruption of the gospel being referred to here is, of course, the teaching that circumcision is required in addition to faith in Christ in order to be justified. But the addition of water baptism (or any other external ritual or work of righteousness) is no less heretical and anathema. Paul wrote of Abraham:

    “How then was it [justification/imputation of righteousness] accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision [the Old Covenant counterpart to baptism], a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also…” (Romans 4:10-11)

    So, yes, Pastor Stellman, we are required by Scripture to label anyone who teaches the “ritualism” of adding water baptism, physical circumcision, or any other external rite as a requirement for justification. We are justified by faith alone — period. That is not merely a “Reformed” doctrine. That is part of the one true gospel of Christ!

  10. Roger Mann Says:

    Stellman goes on to write:

    “Plus, there’s a whole subjective component to all this that I don’t even want to touch. What I mean is, I can’t really tell someone else what they are trusting in. If they’re Catholic, for example, they may say that they were justified in baptism and must do good works to be finally justified on the last Day. Do I agree with that? No. Can I tell them that if they are trusting anything but Jesus to save them, they’ll be lost? Yes, I tell people that every single Sunday. But can I tell them that they’re for sure lost, that they are not trusting Christ despite their insistence that they are? That’s where I draw the line.”

    Is that the Biblical standard? Give me a break. Yes, it sounds quite reasonable and humble and loving to those with itching ears. But it is a sentiment that is nowhere taught in Scripture, and in fact blatantly contradicts the standard set forth in Scripture. Can anyone honestly imagine the Apostle Paul making that type of an argument?

    “What I mean is, I can’t really tell someone else what they are trusting in. If they’re [Judaizers], for example, they may say that they were justified in [circumcision] and must do good works to be finally justified on the last Day. Do I agree with that? No. Can I tell them that if they are trusting anything but Jesus to save them, they’ll be lost? Yes, I tell people that every single Sunday. But can I tell them that they’re for sure lost, that they are not trusting Christ despite their insistence that they are? That’s where I draw the line.”

    Unless Stelmann is using a different Bible than the one I’m using, that sure doesn’t sound like the argument Paul makes in Galatians. Unless I’m mistaken, doesn’t Paul make a straightforward judgment regarding the spiritual state of those who were believing and teaching this false doctrine of justification (Galatians 1:6-9)? And doesn’t he publicly call Peter out for compromising the gospel by aiding and abetting those who were teaching such a damnable lie (Galatians 2:11-21)? I don’t know. Maybe that’s just my own private interpretation, and I should meekly defer to the ordained Reformed clergy and theologians to tell me what Scripture actually means. Perhaps I don’t have the ability to draw rational distinctions and logical conclusions from God’s Word. But I’m more inclined to believe that the above line of “reasoning” is disgraceful and unworthy of a minister of Christ.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    I say if only because I have not studied Luther enough on these points to say otherwise. But why should that be a problem? Are we now, as good little Reformed submissives, required to bend the knee to Luther?

    I think it is safe to say that Luther was consumed by the idea that justification is by faith alone. He said; “Justification by Faith Alone is the doctrine on which the Church or individual stands or falls.” Calvin of course completely agreed saying, “Justification by Faith Alone is the hinge of the Reformation.” For the Reformers justification by faith alone APART from works was the 2×4 they used to completely smash the universal bondage and tyranny of Rome.

    But it’s even more than just a question of JBFA. J.I. Packer said in the intro to Luther’s masterpiece, Bondage of the Will (a book I would highly recommend):

    Whoever puts this book down without having realized that Evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain. The doctrine of free justification by faith alone, which became the storm center of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformers’ theology, but this is not accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed by Augustine and others, that the sinner’s entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only, and that the doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a more profound level still in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration.

    For Luther Roman Catholicism was (as it still is) an “abattoir” or slaughterhouse of souls. It seems that Stellman still hasn’t woken to the fact that many churches in the PCA, some within his own Presbytery, and certainly in the CREC where Leithart teaches and preaches out of bounds, are similarly appointed abattoirs binding the souls of men to the notion that their faithful obedience to some non-existant list of unspecified “demands of the covenant” is instrumental in their justification, or what phony “godly” scholars like Leithart call their “final justification.”

    I realize that Stellman pictures himself as a hero in the effort to rid the PCA of FV men like Leithart. After all he cries:

    You guys whine to me about the PCA being a safe haven for the FV, when I’ve gone to great personal expense (money, time, reputation, friendships) trying to change that.

    However, if the problem with Leithart is that he’s just not Reformed or even Reformed enough, and this is simply a fight over what Sean Lucas calls Leithart’s “high baptismal theology,” then Stellman has indeed wasted his “money, time, reputation, and friendships” for nothing. And, trust me it will be for nothing, because Leithart will not be charged with heresy. He will not be held to account for advancing a “parallel soteriological system” which is nothing more than a politically correct way of saying “false gospel.” Leithart’s crime is not that he is an anti-Christian (a designation I’m sure he’d welcome given his book Against Christianity), it is just that he is not PCA.

    Thanks to all of Stellman’s efforts, Leithart will simply leave the PCA while remaining “a pastor in good standing,” join Wilson’s FV denomination where he already has a home, and will still be praised by men like Stellman and Lucas as a “godly scholar” and a Christian man.

    After all, Lucas, who was one of the committee men who drafted the PCA FV/NPP report said of Leithart:

    I have little doubt that Dr. Leithart is a genuine believer in Jesus. I do not believe that he is a heretic (particularly because, in my understanding as a church historian, heresy would generally be associated with denying key Trinitarian or Christological truths).

    You see, Leithart can’t be a heretic for denying justification by faith alone apart from works. He can’t be a heretic for denying the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, which Leithart calls “redundant” to his tentative, conditional, and utterly worthless covenantal and phony “union with Christ.” Frankly, the Pope himself can’t be a heretic according the PCA historian Sean Lucas because neither the Pope nor Leithart have denied “key Trinitarian or Christological truths.”

    Again, Lucas and Stellman are the “heroes” — the good guys — in the fight to rid the PCA of the FV & NPP. As Stellman says on his blog; “Sheesh. With friends like this….” I couldn’t agree more.

  12. Roger Mann Says:

    I think it is safe to say that Luther was consumed by the idea that justification is by faith alone. He said; “Justification by Faith Alone is the doctrine on which the Church or individual stands or falls.” Calvin of course completely agreed saying, “Justification by Faith Alone is the hinge of the Reformation.” For the Reformers justification by faith alone APART from works was the 2×4 they used to completely smash the universal bondage and tyranny of Rome. J.I. Packer said in the intro to Luther’s masterpiece, Bondage of the Will (a book I would highly recommend)…

    I agree that it’s probably “safe to say that Luther was consumed by the idea that justification is by faith alone.” But other than the Bondage of the Will (an excellent book that absolutely demolished Erasmus’ arguments), I haven’t read anything other than bits and pieces of Luther’s writings. I’m not sure, for instance, how he viewed the sacraments in relation to justification. So I didn’t want to adamantly assert something that I might end up being wrong about. I would be shocked (and extremely disappointed) to find out that Luther wavered on such a fundamental and nonnegotiable doctrine of the faith. However, from what I’ve read of Augustine’s works, it does appear that he believed in baptismal regeneration and the instrumentality of good works in justification. For example, one writer notes:

    “[While Augustine] made the salvation of man totally dependent upon God…there were other teachings that Augustine contributed to the theology of the Church that distorted the Biblical teaching of justification. In the first place, he taught that to justify means to make righteous; a moral change in the person. There is evidence that he rejected the idea that to justify meant to declare righteous or a change in one’s legal status. Augustine’s interpretation of the nature of justification was to have tremendous consequences during the subsequent history of the Church. Augustine also taught that the term justification described the entire course of the Christian life. He did not limit it to the declaration that the individual is righteous due to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Augustine used justification to describe all that took place in the life of the Christian from conversion until his final glorification. This idea was expanded during the Middle Ages and obscured the legal nature of justification.” (Dr. Herbert Samworth, The doctrine of Justification, Part 2)

    However, if the problem with Leithart is that he’s just not Reformed or even Reformed enough, and this is simply a fight over what Sean Lucas calls Leithart’s “high baptismal theology,” then Stellman has indeed wasted his “money, time, reputation, and friendships” for nothing.

    Yep. If this isn’t truly a fight over the nature of the gospel — over justification by faith alone in Christ alone — then what’s he wasting his money, time, reputation, and friendships for? If one can genuinely be a “brother in Christ” and a “godly scholar” while denying justification by faith alone, then what’s the point?

    You see, Leithart can’t be a heretic for denying justification by faith alone apart from works. He can’t be a heretic for denying the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, which Leithart calls “redundant” to his tentative, conditional, and utterly worthless covenantal and phony “union with Christ.” Frankly, the Pope himself can’t be a heretic according the PCA historian Sean Lucas because neither the Pope nor Leithart have denied “key Trinitarian or Christological truths.”

    Indeed. If the these men were being consistent, then the Pope himself must be regarded as a “godly scholar” and “brother in Christ!” Of course his doctrine of justification could be refined a bit, but it certainly doesn’t constitute “another gospel” that “gets you sent to hell.” It’s no wonder the Reformed Church is in such trouble these days. The Roman Catholic Church has metamorphosed from a “synagogue of Satan” to just another Christian denomination, and the Pope has transformed from the “antichrist” into a godly brother in Christ!

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    FWIW in the opinion of Scott Clark Augustine was a “mixed bag” and was “essentially a predestinarian moralist, i.e., he taught justification through Spirit-wrought sanctity.”

    However, he goes on to note:

    We can appeal to the later Augustine against the two-stage scheme inasmuch as most two-stage schemes rely on our cooperation with grace toward sanctification and final justification. The later Augustine was a monergist through and through. We can certainly appeal to him re the FV doctrine of apostasy. The later Augustine doesn’t know anything about two kinds of election. The mature Augustine would have had no sympathy whatever for the FV doctrine of temporary election, temporary union with Christ etc.

    On a similar note Gerstner writes:

    Though Augustine finds justification and sanctification inseparable, they are not indistinguishable. Augustinian justification leads into sanctification, but is not confused with it.

    According to Augustine, man’s faith in Christ justifies him. Confession of Christ is efficacious for the remission of sins. We are justified by the blood of Christ, and we have no merits which are not the gifts of God. Of course, faith is active through love (fides quae caritate operatur), but this does not imply that justification is on the basis of love.

    And, finally, Augustine said:

    Therefore as by the offense of one upon all men to condemnation, even so by the justification of One upon all men unto justification of life.” This “offense of one,” if we are bent on “imitation,” can only be the devil’s offense. Since, however, it is manifestly spoken in reference to Adam and not the devil, it follows that we have no other alternative than to understand the principle of natural propagation, and not that of imitation, to be here implied. [XIV.] Now when he says in reference to Christ, “By the justification of one,” he has more expressly stated our doctrine than if he were to say, “By the righteousness of one;” inasmuch as he mentions that justification whereby Christ justifies the ungodly, and which he did not propose as an object of imitation, for He alone is capable of effecting this. Now it was quite competent for the apostle to say, and to say rightly: “Be ye imitators of me, as I also am of Christ;” but he could never say: Be ye justified by me, as I also am by Christ; — since there may be, and indeed actually are and have been, many who were righteous and worthy of imitation; but no one is righteous and a justifier but Christ alone. Whence it is said: “To the man that believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Now if any man had it in his power confidently to declare,” I justify you,” it would necessarily follow that he could also say, “Believe in me.” But it has never been in the power of any of the saints of God to say this except the Saint of saints, who said: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me;” so that, inasmuch as it is He that justifies the ungodly, to the man who believes in him that justifieth the ungodly his faith is imputed for righteousness.

    Now, Stellman claims that any good Roman Catholic could say the above, but I personally don’t recall the RCC ever making such a clear case for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith alone.


  14. Thanks for the remarks about Augustine’s theology of justification and sanctification, Sean. That certainly clears up certain issues for me. Obviously we have to take into account where Augustine was at different points in his life.

    Charlie


  15. The seeds of compromise are everywhere.

  16. evergreen Says:

    You guys are theologizing way too much. Your thinking about it all too much. If you stuck to simple doctrines, none of this would arise. Your engaging things at such a level of depth that there are bound to be disagreements.

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    You really don’t give up do you Green? What can be simpler than the Gospel?

  18. Stephen Says:

    Sean, Peter Enns is on the session of Trinity along with Higgins. Ironically Skip Ryan, the former pastor of Park Cities in Dallas, preached at Trinity on January 10, 2010. If you listen to his sermon on baptism it smells like FV to me. I fear the slippery slope is already coming down to the other side.

  19. Hugh McCann Says:

    Evergreen: What is the gospel, simply, to you?

  20. ray kikkert Says:

    A coniferous tree said:

    “Your engaging things at such a level of depth that there are bound to be disagreements.”

    Christ did not come to bring peace … but a sword … the Gospel … and it is a sharp two edged sword that does not return to Him void … it is a savor of life unto and a savor of death unto death.

    The simple pass by … and are punished.

  21. starlight Says:

    No, that’s not the issue. What’s happening here is that people are engaging Scripture at such a level of detail that no two people could be alike in their thinking. When you get to that level it becomes that complicated. Once you are on to that kind of theologizing, you’re so deep into it that no one is any longer on the same page.

    Now, this church in question holds to the Westminster standards while valuing independent Bible study. C’mon; you can’t have your cake and eat it too. How are these people going to do all of this reading at home and in groups and then go to church and all be on the same page and conform to all the standards? There is no way that’s going to happen. So either you drop the standards or you restrict Bible reading and study to church services. To have all of those standards and then have people go off and reflect and meditate on Scripture at the same time, well c’mon; your’re asking for trouble. It’s not logical. I honestly don’t know how you managed to be so unified thus far. When people study and investigate the Bible at that level, you start to get diverse opinionjs and outlooks. That’s just simply what happens. Peter Leithart is a brilliant man who reached some different conclusions. When it comes to people who read and study like that (and that’s a large part of your denomination) that’s just what happens.

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    Evergreen or Starlight or whatever name you’re calling yourself this week. I agree Leithart has reached some different conclusions, just not Christian ones.

    Also, this shotgun approach to posting by you is getting annoying. Besides, you seem to be having a conversation with yourself and that kind of thing is better off kept to yourself.

  23. starlight Says:

    I’m responding to Mr. Kikkert’s response. He misunderstood what’s at stake. It is illogical to assume you can be a Bible-reading denomination and then bind yourself to confessional standards. The two elements are in contradiction. You either have to eliminate the doctrinal standards or confine serious Bible-study to church service. You can’t have it both ways. This ought to be evident.

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    “I’m responding to Mr. Kikkert’s response. He misunderstood what’s at stake. It is illogical to assume you can be a Bible-reading denomination and then bind yourself to confessional standards.”

    Fair enough, but your argument doesn’t follow particularly if one’s confessional standards accurately reflect what the Scriptures teach.

  25. starlight Says:

    That is true. However, we have a tendency to systematize Scripture. The Catholics have their Aquinas and we have Calvin; One thing you learn historically is that Calvin tried to do what Aquinas did, albeit in a differnt way. Something gets lost in that process of systematization; you’re forcing things together. I think there should be considerable room for differing interpretations. The Bible may be clear enough on essentials. But our understanding of some of the particulars varies. You don’t want to short-circuit the Word. We want to acknowledge that it’s a living breathing document–so that “more light might break forth from God’s holy Word.”

  26. Sean Gerety Says:

    We tend to systematize Scripture because Scripture itself presents to the mind a coherent and logical system. Jesus said Scripture cannot be broken and Peter said that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.” Truth is therefore evidenced by a harmony of propositions. Scripture is not a collection or aggregate of disjointed and conflicting “truths.” God is not irrational.

    So it would seem that the only ones “short circuiting” the Word are those misologists who would try to remove Scripture from the laws of logic. The God of Scripture is the God of Truth, not confusion and contradiction (even contradiction parading as paradox). This was without question Calvin’s position, who was often accused of being “too logical” if such a thing were possible. So if you take issue with Calvin here, then I think it’s safe to say you don’t have Calvin.

  27. starlight Says:

    Oh, yes I love Calvin! He was a fascinating man! But due to the noetic effects of the fall, our sense of ‘logic’ is fraught with difficulties. We are then in danger of reaching a false sense of coherency based upon our logic–which may in fact be a mirage.

  28. Sean Gerety Says:

    You might find Calvin fascinating, but that doesn’t mean that you share his view of Scripture. And, there is no question that people make mistakes in logic, but it’s only by means of logic can such mistakes even be identified. John Robbins wrote:

    Logic – God’s and man’s – is unaffected by sin, just as arithmetic is. Man’s thinking is affected by sin, so we make mistakes in both logic and arithmetic. But our sin consists precisely in violating the rules of logic and arithmetic, which are the rules of God’s own thinking.

    So, let me just say I don’t accept your God’s logic/Man’s logic dichotomy. At the very least it flies in the face of the biblical doctrine of man who is the image of God.

  29. starlight Says:

    I recognize the following predicament: God transcends us–He is infinite while we are finite. To assume that we and GOd share the same logic on the same level is to fall into the Greek error (often seen in what passes for esoteric wisdom or occult knowledge)of microcosm/macrocosm. This linkage does not exist in reality. A good dose of Barth will cure it!

  30. starlight Says:

    Two other things come to mind. First, Calvin was a lawyer. Then there was a Renaissance style of thinking which prevailed at that time among humanists. (I don’t use the argument that his reasoning was Gallic).

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    I recognize the following predicament: God transcends us–He is infinite while we are finite. To assume that we and GOd share the same logic on the same level is to fall into the Greek error

    So for God the law of contradiction doesn’t hold? That what is true for God is not true for us and visa versa? 2+2 might be 4 for us and 5 for God? Have I got it? And, for the record, good dose of Barth will certainly give you something, so will fornicating with prostitutes. 😉

  32. Hugh McCann Says:

    Didn’t Barth say a dead dog could teach us something about God? Perhaps Slight can too!

    Are these contradictions?:

    “I’m responding to Mr. Kikkert’s response. He misunderstood what’s at stake. It is illogical to assume you can be a Bible-reading denomination and then bind yourself to confessional standards. The two elements are in contradiction. You either have to eliminate the doctrinal standards or confine serious Bible-study to church service. You can’t have it both ways. This ought to be evident.”

    Oh… OK. But whose logic are you using to call someone “illogical”?

    Then: “I recognize the following predicament: God transcends us–He is infinite while we are finite. To assume that we and GOd share the same logic on the same level is to fall into the Greek error (often seen in what passes for esoteric wisdom or occult knowledge)of microcosm/macrocosm. This linkage does not exist in reality. A good dose of Barth will cure it!”

    Who’s claiming to share logic “on the same level” as God? We think God’s thoughts after him, but of course all his thoughts are original and all ours are derived.*

    Here’s a dose of dodgy, doggy theology from KB: “God may speak to us through Russian Communism, through a flute concerto, through a blossoming shrub or through a dead dog. We shall do well to listen to him if he really does so.” (From _Church DOGmatics_)

    {Which Dogmatics we ironically note, the purpose-driven Rick Warren is reading thru in 2010! Maybe he’d appreciate your insights, Ever-slight.)

    * If you refuse to read, understand, and enjoy this article, then you’re hopeless, Slight: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=263

  33. starlight Says:

    The Bible has coherency–but it does not present itself as an air-tight system that is logical through and through.

  34. starlight Says:

    And it is for that reason that we must treat it as the Word of GOd. It is a living, breathing document. It is not a math problem to be worked out. It will not strike you as being clearcut all the time.

  35. starlight Says:

    All of this confusion boils down to misunderstanding concerning the nature of the Word and our position relating to it. It is not a scientific document or some logical philosophical treatise. It is an inspired, God-breathed, life-giving Word or Message. It is God’s Word to us. It is truthful. It does not and can not lie. It speaks today as always. It speaks into every context. We are called upon to live in light of it. But no one’s understanding of it is exhaustive. It in fact poses what WE consider as paradox or mystery. Notice that I am NOT saying it is inconsistent or incoherent in itself. But only God has a God’s eye view.

    Hope that helps.

  36. Sean Gerety Says:

    First, how could you know this? Did you arrive at this conclusion based on “human” logic? And, if so, how do you know you are not mistaken.

    Second, are you saying that the Bible is incoherent in places where it is not “air-tight”? Or, to put it another way, are you saying the Bible is illogical in some places and if illogical would that mean it is false?

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    #2. God in Malachi says “I the Lord do not change.” But, it would seem that according to you God does change and what was true of God, say in the days when Protestants were protestants and actually believed the WCF contains the system of doctrine taught in Scripture, is no longer true which is why we should treat Gospel deniers like Leithart and Wright as our “brothers.” Got it.

  38. Sean Gerety Says:

    #3. No it doesn’t help. The Gospel is the same yesterday, today and forever. Those who deny it while feigning to be “Reformed pastors” need to be held accountable for the errors they teach. Thankfully Leithart will be as will a number of other PCA wolves in sheep’s clothing. God willing should they not repent of their damnable false gospel they will be defrocked and removed permanently from Reformed pulpits. FWIW, I’m sure all of these men will find nice homes in the FV denom, the CREC, or simply make their way back to where they really belong and that is the Roman church/state.

  39. Hugh McCann Says:

    Yep: The Bible “is an inspired, God-breathed, life-giving Word or Message. It is God’s Word to us. It is truthful. It does not and can not lie. It speaks today as always. It speaks into every context. We are called upon to live in light of it.”

    Or, as someone put it:

    “Truth Is Propositional

    “The view of truth that I wish to restate is this: Truth is propositional, and only propositional. To put it even more plainly, truth is a property, characteristic, or attribute only of propositions. This view is in stark contrast to views, both academic and popular, of truth as encounter, truth as event, truth as pictorial, truth as experiential, truth as emotive, truth as personal, truth as mystic absorption into or union with the divine.

    “This last view, that truth is personal, not propositional, has led theologians to substitute the nebulous concepts of ‘commitment,’ ‘personal relationship,’ and ‘union’ for the clear and Biblical concept of belief, thus undermining the Gospel itself.”

    And, “A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence. Interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences do not express propositions. Single words, without context, do not express propositions. Rhetorical questions, ostensibly interrogative sentences, are functionally declarative sentences.”

    And, “John 10:41: ‘Then many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this man were true.”‘ Here it is John’s spoken words that are described as true, the words that John spoke about Jesus. Truth is verbal; it may be spoken or written; and it is always propositional. Truth is never described in Scripture as anything other than verbal, or propositional. Scripture never teaches that truth is encounter, event, picture, emotion, or experience. Truth is always verbal, propositional, intellectual, and received by the understanding alone. Scripture knows no ‘personal truth’ as distinguished from propositional truth.”

    And, “‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life by his name’ (John 20:31). John wants his readers to understand and believe the propositions he expresses. Here the apostle says that truths about Jesus are what we must believe in order to be saved, and he mentions three truths, three propositions, explicitly: Jesus is the Christ; Jesus is the Son of God; you have life by his name.

    “It is important to understand the relationship between propositions and belief, which is the sole instrument of our salvation. The object of belief is always a proposition.”

    And finally, “Only propositions can be true or false.”

    Many more good propositions are found at http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=205 (“The Biblical View of Truth” by John Robbins, 2005)

  40. starlight Says:

    Your responses are very thoughtful and intelligent and deserve such a response in turn. I do understand your line of reasoning. In fact, I see why it makes sense, but the issue is this: Christianity has gotten caught up in a web of things over the course of these past 2000 years. I believe the task of disentangling this web is finally being recognized by people at this time. If you’ve ever surveyed the past 2000 or 2500 years of philosophic thought, you might get a sense of what I mean. One thinker says it goes like this. The next one says wait, it goes rather like this, and so on. Each later one either has to build upon the foundation of the former or start from scratch–but they dance in circles around what’s really meaningful and true. Christians, meanwhile, get caught up in the conversation and work off from what they’re saying, agreeing here and disagreeing there. For the first time we have the opportunity to speak Christianity into a void. I don’t know of any time in the past when this has been a clear possibility. If we sieze upon the moment, we can present the Gospel as just that, free of encumbrances. I don’t mean to say this can be done perfectly, as all things are in some regard contextual in nature–and Christianity is itself incarnational. But we’ve got a pretty good situation and a ready audience. What’s confusing people right now is that they fail to grasp how timely the pure Gospel is. We can now present it outside the context of debates, philosophic assumptions, and the official dialogue we’ve always studied at university. Some have actually spoken of the end of theology and apologetics. This disentanglement is happening in our time. Why would one wish to hold onto a modernist or Enlightenment based worldview in order to present the gospel correctly when we can just speak it into the void? Postmodernism as Christians are realizing, is rather friend than foe. And it is marvelous! Just think how glorious it will be to disengage ourselves from all of the unnecessary baggage! Christians have never had it so good, not in the 19th century, and not throughout most of the 20th either. Just think of what this means for categories such as truth and reality. Christianity is not a philosophic system or some kind of platonic realm. It is what happens through time and eternity–it is what God does and what we do and what he wills in the midst of it all–and it’s wonderfully miraculous. I’m really excited about this opportunity. But we have to let go of the old paradigm. It’s not easy. At first it seems like something bad or heretical. It really isn’t. Once you’ve experienced the gestalt switch it’s breathtaking. You really appreciate the Bible and God and all that’s taking place. And it’s not a dead letter. We’re talking about God and his plan and how our lives intersect with that. Old questions and terms relating to truth and reality become irrelevent in light of this new approach.

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    “What’s confusing people right now is that they fail to grasp how timely the pure Gospel is.”

    I’m not even remotely convinced you, Evergreen, Starlight, or whatever you’re calling yourself have any idea of what the Gospel is. However, it is safe to say anyone thinking that Peter Leithart or N.T. Wright possess it or is preaching it hasn’t the foggiest idea of what *IT* is.

    So, again, I think you’ve made your point and your point has nothing to do with the Christian faith that you pretend to defend. I am happy for your “excitement,” but I think you would be better off taking your “Christian faith” somewhere else. I believe there are plenty of “emergent” churches that share your zeal. I don’t. And, FWIW, I pray that one day you won’t either.

    Evergreenstarlightwhoeveryouare, you have the last word on this thread and then I will close this one too.

  42. Hugh McCann Says:

    After this comment:

    “we have to let go of the old paradigm. It’s not easy. At first it seems like something bad or heretical. It really isn’t. Once you’ve experienced the gestalt switch it’s breathtaking. You really appreciate the Bible and God and all that’s taking place. And it’s not a dead letter. We’re talking about God and his plan and how our lives intersect with that. Old questions and terms relating to truth and reality become irrelevant in light of this new approach”, I guess Barth’s dead dog doesn’t look so bad, after all…

    “…your point has nothing to do with the Christian faith that you pretend to defend.”

    There it is, then.

  43. starlight Says:

    OK, I get the feeling that what I wrote was very misunderstood. It’s time for my chamomile tea. And then I shall never visit this website again.

    Peace


  44. […] Papists in PCA Clothing « God’s HammerMar 20, 2010 … Lauren Kuo Says: March 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm. In my very first comment on byfaithonline which started all the trouble for our family, I quoted from … […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: