Lane Keister: Doug Wilson Denies Justification by Faith Alone!

There have not been many praiseworthy moments in the battle to identify and rid the church of Federal Visionists.    Frankly, all in all, I’d say it is a losing battle, and despite recent movements that seem to be more or less in the right direction, I am of the opinion that it is all a case of too little too late.  However, I am extremely happy to report, and praise be to God, the public retraction Lane Keister has just posted on his blog declaring that Doug Wilson does indeed deny justification by faith alone.   As readers of this blog may recall back in March 2008, and after a year of reviewing and publicly debating Wilson’s defense of the Federal Vision in, Reformed is Not Enough, Lane publicly exonerated Wilson on the central doctrines of the Gospel: justification by faith alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  At that time Lane declared:

Personally, I am willing to believe that Wilson holds to justification by faith alone, although he is too ambiguous on the aliveness of faith and its place in justification. He does hold to imputation.

Well, it looks like on at least one of those doctrines Keister has made an about-face and now declares:

I feel that I need to retract an earlier statement I made about Douglas Wilson’s theology. I have come to the conclusion that the law/gospel distinction is essential to preserving sola fide. Here’s how this worked in my own mind. If there is no distinction in the text of Scripture between law and gospel (that is, if the difference between law and gospel is only in the application, and not in the text), then all the discussion of faith in the New Testament is both law and gospel, which we’ll call Golawspel. This means that, even in the apostle Paul’s most rigorous separation of faith and works, which occurs in his discussions of justification, Paul is not really claiming that law observance is separate from faith within the structure of justification. For the definition of faith itself must fall prey to the Golawspel muddlement. If faith, therefore, is not opposed to works in justification, then justification is no longer sola fide.

Put more positively, the definition of sola fide has always been dependent on the prior distinction between law and gospel, such that when God calls people to faith, this has nothing to do with law observance of any kind. It is pure gospel. Paul does not speak of faith-faithfulness in justification, but of faith as utterly opposed to works in justification. Who are we to turn around and call faith Golawspel?

This means that every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide. They will, of course, claim the opposite. And they will also claim that denying the distinction of law and gospel in the text of Scripture does not mean that they deny sola fide in justification. This will have to be a difference between them and me. For if there is no difference between law and gospel in the text of Scripture, then faith is no longer what the Reformers said it was: which is opposed to works in justification.

And, in case some are wondering who the signers of the Joint Federal Vision Statement are and who it is openly denying sola fide, they include:

John Barach (false teacher, CREC)

Rich Lusk (false teacher, CREC)

Randy Booth (false teacher, CREC)

Jeff Meyers (false teacher, PCA)

Tim Gallant (false teacher, CREC)

Ralph Smith (false teacher, CREC)

Mark Horne (false teacher, PCA)

Steve Wilkins (false teacher and coward, CREC)

Jim Jordan (lunatic at large)

Peter Leithart (false teacher and phony “godly scholar,” PCA)

Douglas Wilson (pope, CREC)

Needless to say, Lane’s  retraction was perhaps not as strong as I would like to see, and there is certainly the question of imputation (although I fail to see how someone can deny sola fide while simultaneously affirming the imputation of Christ’s righteousness which is also by faith alone, but I never try to assume anything when dealing with one of Van Til’s children),  it did take a considerable amount of courage and conviction for Lane to publicly reverse himself on Wilson.  I also have to think this seismic reversal in Lane’s thinking has come about through his discussions with Scott Clark as he’s been a recent and repeated guest on Scott’s  Heidelcast.   Of course, any change in mind and recognition of the truth is ultimately the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.  Yet, regardless of how it occurred,  thank you Lane.

Explore posts in the same categories: Doug Wilson, Heresies

63 Comments on “Lane Keister: Doug Wilson Denies Justification by Faith Alone!”

  1. Praise be to God for this good news! It may seem like we are fighting a losing battle, but thankfully, we know that the battle against the Federal Vision lie, and its father, the father of all lies, is already won in the mind of God.

    I personally cannot fathom how the Federal Visionists, or anyone else for that matter, can confuse Law & Gospel like this. If obedience to the Law is to be understood as the way to Heaven, then it is certainly not “good news” to this wretched sinner!

  2. greenbaggins Says:

    Thanks for this, Sean. And to answer your hunch, it was in discussions I had with Scott that the light-bulb came on, as it were, although we weren’t even specifically talking about DW at the time. What happened was that we were talking about the l/g distinction, and all of a sudden, I connected it to sola fide and realized that they were inseparable. After that, the implications became clear.

  3. Roger Mann Says:

    While this is indeed good news, I have a few simple questions that I think are quite relevant. Does this realization mean that Wilson is teaching another gospel “that get you sent to hell,” or merely another gospel “with respect to the Reformed understanding of the gospel?” Does it make Wilson a “false teacher” who’s leading multitudes to perdition, or a “brother in Christ” who’s simply out of accord with the Reformed Confessions? In other words, does it really matter whether he does or does not believe and teach justification by faith alone? From what I’ve read by many over at the Greenbaggins blog, I’d have to say NO. As I commented in the Papists in PCA Clothing thread:

    If the these men [defending Leithart] 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 been transformed from the “antichrist” into a godly brother in Christ!

  4. Dave Resh Says:

    My local PCA CEO (self proclaimed)/Pastor used the term franchises rather than churches when referring those who celebrate ash Wednesday.  This distinction frees the corporate heads of the 501c organizations from the responsibilty of exposing heretical teachings because after all the Mcdonalds franchise can say their burgers taste better but would never say that Burger King burgers were poisonous. 

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    Come on Roger, neither the Pope nor Wilson deny the central “key Trinitarian or Christological truths,” therefore neither man can rightly be labeled a heretic or unbeliever. They’re both our brothers in Christ. Last I checked, they both can still hold hands while reciting the “Apostles” Creed.

    After all, PCA TE Sean Lucas, who was part of the Committee that drafted the FV/NPP report, assured readers on Stellman’s blog that Peter Leithart is no heretic; he just has a “high baptismal theology.” According to Lucas, the problem with Leithart, and by extension Wilson, is that they hold views “contrary to the essentials of the Standards of the PCA” — not views contrary to the essentials of the Christian faith. You really can’t make that logical leap Roger. You’re starting to sound like one of those exclusivists who believe JBFA and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith alone are non-negotiable. You evidently didn’t understand TE Stellman when he said, “Remember: We’re not saved by our doctrine, but by looking to Jesus in faith….” We’re not saved by believing a message, even the message of the Gospel, we’re saved by “looking to Jesus in faith” regardless of the doctrines we might believe even concerning the person and work of Christ.

    Now, and in all seriousness, I don’t know where Lane stands in relation to Lucas or Stellman, but I am sincerely and very thankful that he has finally come to see, regardless of the route it took him to get there, that Wilson denies JBFA.

  6. Roger Mann Says:

    Now, and in all seriousness, I don’t know where Lane stands in relation to Lucas or Stellman, but I am sincerely and very thankful that he has finally come to see, regardless of the route it took him to get there, that Wilson denies JBFA.

    I agree. And praise God for that! But you obviously got the point I was trying to make…

  7. Since none of my posts are showing up at Greenbaggins since I altered my display name, I figured I’d try posting here and see what happens.

  8. greenbaggins Says:

    Patrick, see my most recent comment on the thread.

  9. @greenbaggins: Thanks again, sorry for the confusion. Still trying to figure out different aspects of WordPress.

  10. MikeD Says:

    Perhaps this is the wrong place for this post, but besides monoconvenantalism being at the root of the denial of sola fide, we should also see how the traditional tripartite definition of faith has contributed. It’s a lengthy discussion to be sure with many aspects, but tell your average Reformed Christian (or Lutheran) that justifying faith is assent to the propositions of the gospel and you’ll get a firestorm coming your way regarding personal trust and knowing a person. A favorite text of theirs in rebuttal is James 2 which, oddly enough, has nothing to mention of trust, but rather the outward manifestation of a living faith. In other words the text referred to to defend fiducia and define a necessary attribute of saving faith is really about deeds.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Good point Mike.

  12. Lauren Kuo Says:

    Very happy to read that Lane begins to understand a little more clearly why we have so strongly opposed and warned against the false teaching of Doug Wilson. Now maybe some of his understanding can rub off on a few folks in his brother’s presbytery. The Federal Vision has quite a stranglehold on the Ohio Valley Presbytery. Those who have opposed this majority in any public way have already left both the presbytery and the denomination. The rest just don’t care or think it’s a virtue to keep the peace and get along with these false teachers. I pray that some would begin to understand that they are sacrificing the truth of the Gospel by their inaction or for some false virtue.

  13. Lauren Kuo Says:

    I have been studying the letter to the Hebrews which highlights the distinction between the law and the gospel. The reason the Federal Vision seems to blur or negate this distinction is because of their view on imputation vs. infusion of the righteousness of Christ and His once and for all sacrifice for sin on the cross.

    When our former church moved the pulpit from the center to the side and instead placed the communion table (now considered an altar) as the central piece of worship, the elders were in effect proclaiming that this church was reverting back to the Old Testament system of sacrifices with all its limitations. The Lord’s Supper became a repeated sacrifice in order to “infuse” the members with Christ’s righteousness – enough to enable them to faithfully persevere in the law for at least a week until they returned the following Sunday to receive another weekly infusion.

    What Christ did on the cross was once for all forever. His righteousness is imputed to everyone who comes to faith in Him. For, He puts the law into our hearts and minds. We fulfill the requirements of the law because Jesus now comes to reside in us through His Spirit. When God sees me, He sees Christ for I have been crucified with Christ. Once for all – His full complete righteousness is now in us – our sins past, present, and future are forgiven at the cross. To repeat that sacrifice every week is to say that Christ’s death on the cross once and for all is not effective – not enough. It is to add to the salvation that is perfected – completed ONCE on the cross.

    This grievous error is repeated every week, keeping congregations captive and under bondage to the law. But where is the outrage? Lane should not only be thankful he came to this understanding but he should be infuriated that fellow elders and family members are just sitting by allowing this false gospel to thrive and continue. It’s going to take courage to leave the denomination for the sake of the Gospel. Is the Gospel worth it?

  14. Lauren Kuo Says:

    P.S. Let us celebrate Easter by thanking God for Christ’s once and for all victory over sin and death! The old has passed away – the new has come! Hallelujah!

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    The Lord’s Supper became a repeated sacrifice in order to “infuse” the members with Christ’s righteousness – enough to enable them to faithfully persevere in the law for at least a week until they returned the following Sunday to receive another weekly infusion.

    I remember James Jordan telling someone on, I believe, Greenbaggins that they need to start taking communion weekly because it will “change” them. Of course implying that the ingestion of consecrated bread and wine will magically transform his opponents into Federal Visionists. I’ve been celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly for years and the Jordan voodoo simply hasn’t happened, thanks be to God. 🙂

    As to the question of where is the outrage? I have no idea. I’d like to see some, but I tend to think it may not be in Lane’s nature.

    Also, I think some believe the PCA is still salvageable and that efforts now underway in Siouxlands and with letters being sent to the Missouri Pres asking for Jeff Meyers to be investigated for teaching FV doctrines will make a difference. IMO it’s all too little too late. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are FVist teaching at Covenant.

  16. ray Says:

    Sean … I have a question … are you familiar with Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sulphur, LA or know if they belong to the OPC or the PCA or the CREC?

    I ask because John Barach mentions that he is pastor elect of this congregation over at the CO-URC forum.

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    No,never heard of it.

  18. Lauren Kuo Says:

    The church in Sulphur, LA was previously pastored by Bill Smith (now pastor of Community Presbyterian. It started out as a Baptist Fellowship because Bill Smith was formerly a Baptist. He bought into the Federal Vision hook, line, and sinker and became ordained in the PCA through the LA presbytery. The congregation voted to join the PCA in 2001, I believe. He then came on board at CPC and transferred his credentials in 2005 to the Ohio Valley Presbytery. Thus, the spread of the Federal Vision leaven.

  19. MRWBBIII Says:


  20. ray Says:

    Thank you Lauren …. thus John Barach previously a minister within the CREC and an advocate of FV has joined with a PCA congregation who obviously cares little of his credentials and are thus FV themselves as a congregation.

  21. Richard D. Chelvan Says:

    I walked out of the Park Cities Presbyterian Church here in North Texas because of elders teaching from Norman Geisler’s “Chosen But Free” and their adherence to NT Wright’s New Perspectivalism. The PCA is beyond help. After all most of them were Southern Baptists who wanted a more conservative denomination!

  22. Hugh McCann Says:

    Love the Piper/ Warren jam.

    We’re at 3:55-4:04 on this clip, the BUNS brigade:

    Brittle, Ugly, Narrow, & (appropriately) Separatist!

  23. J.F. Says:

    “Now maybe some of his understanding can rub off on a few folks in his brother’s presbytery. The Federal Vision has quite a stranglehold on the Ohio Valley Presbytery. Those who have opposed this majority in any public way have already left both the presbytery and the denomination.”

    I have no words. Just ridiculous.

  24. Jack Says:

    I’m a reformed baptist in South Africa, so I don’t really have a stake in the FV debate, but I have been following it. I am really shocked at the ungodliness that has been displayed by Presbyterians on this issue (by both sides but mostly one one). Doug Wilson does not deny any of the five solas or the 5 points. He’s made clear distinctions in what I’ve read (and listened to) him say (including his debate with James White). I’ve also listened to the examinations and discussions he and Wilkins have had with their detractors… The other side cannot give ANY concrete accusations, so they resort to the accusation of manipulation and deception- what a blick!

    Greg Bahnsen was right when he noted how ridiculous christian scholarship is, and how understandable it is that the world doesnt take us seriously. This becomes most evident in the midst of controversy… slander, false accusations, and straw men ABOUND when the fool cannot prove his case. Fortunately there will be a day when all will be revealed

  25. bsuden Says:

    But that’s just it, Jack. If the FV doesn’t deny irresistable grace and the perseverance/preservation of the saints, they sure do a good job of needlessly confusing it.

    And Doug Wilson as the titular head of the CREC should know better than to be operating it on the basis of a sanctuary/safe haven for the likes of JJordan who has openly admitted in private, what the rest deny all along; that the FV’s insights including paedo communion leave the reformed faith behind in the dust.

    I say fine. Leave. But no, Doug and the rest want to play footsie and pretend that nothing’s wrong all the while they get a pass for enabling the more egregious specimens of the FV.

    IOW it’s not enough to not have a stake in the debate. We need to know what it is really about. An objective external carnal covenant ain’t the covenant of grace, nor does the sociology of the church or even baptism, trump the spirituality of the same.

  26. Jack Says:

    I’m sympathetic to the anger induced by FV members who seem to relish in rubbing in their semantic differences. There will always be bad apples in every basket. But the way the reformed world handled this one was just as rashly and senselessly as when Bahnsen brought out His “Theonomy and Christian Ethics”. There was discussion (ridiculously little), but his points could not be answered, and every one who stepped into the ring received a beating (which is why no one faced him- they simply made accusations of unorthodoxy from a distance). Back then, the recon movement also attracted people less concerned with clarity and unity- but all the big objectors hid in their libraries, refusing to debate or engage- and thus leaving the movement to grow.

    Since 2002, all the big objectors to the FV have been in hiding, writing only one sided attacks, but refusing to debate… I’ve listened to all the interchanges I could find (only Wes White and M.Horton) and in each instance Wilkins and Wilson answered their concerns clearly and to the satisfaction of any objective 3rd party… In both cases their objectors could not show that their opponents were unbiblical. The others simply continue to write up straw men (that are answered by the FV) without any dialogue happening- and what bugs me about this is that we now dont get to hear the dialogue on their truly valid objections- since they all poison their own wells with a refusal to discuss and misrepresentations. This has become a political thing, where they were forced to start their own camp in a different denomination, rather than handling it personally (Matt.18).

    I was disgusted to see R.Scott Clark say on the puritan board that he didn’t want to debate Wilson because he didnt want to give the impression that there was any debate at all- according to him, there’s nothing to debate… How putrid.That is an almost verbatim quote of what Richard Dawkins said when asked why he doesn’t debate Creationists!!! Dawkins is ignored by the majority of real scholars on both sides, and this kind of statement is why. Well done, Mr.Clark.

    You guys shouldn’t be so confused about why you’re losing the “battle”…. you were all throwing blog-pebbles from your windows while they walked into your citadel and kicked in the castle door. Challenges were issued to your knights, but no one stepped outside to face them. So they walked off with your queen.

  27. Jack Says:

    Though I’m not a presby, this whole thing grieves me. The FV guys made some really good points- like the covenant community being a real thing that can be forsaken by those who have non-elect and unsaving faith. There’s also a lot of nonsense (active imputation issue, among other). Anf Jim Jordan is way off the deep end of almost every pool. But that is NO worse than the liberal and arminian infection in the reformed world…. This should have been dealt with intramurally, not by trying to exclude them the same reformed category that you welcome arminians into. That is shocking…

    One more thing- you SHOULD as reformed christians re-examine you language- both in light of the historical significance, as well as our contemporary context. A lot of the FV terminology is technically more historically faithful to your forefathers, and yet they also want to further develop and “reform” things in some aspects. That is what we are all doing anyway (and should do), you are just coming at it from the opposite end that the FV is (that is, which parts to retain and which parts to reform historical expression).

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents from an outsider’s view.

    In Christ,

  28. Hugh McCann Says:


    Am I right to assume that you are NOT an objective third party to these debates?

    You certainly have thrown a gauntlet, here. We will see how it’s handled.


  29. Hugh McCann Says:

    Don’t theonomists have the Puritans (specifically the Westminster Divines) on their side?

  30. Hugh McCann Says:

    And, just for fun,

    Theonomists against FV:
    (I mean, they even have a Facebook page and all!)

    Theonomists against D. Wilson:
    (This very blog is favorably quoted!)

  31. bsuden Says:

    Jack your response is pathetic.
    The FV has been playing the ‘nobody wants to debate’ jazz since time immemorial.
    Meanwhile the books have been written on both sides and everybody pretty much knows where everybody else stands even if they haven’t met them in person standing on a stage under the klieg lights. And regardless if they want to lie about it.
    IOW there’s no substance to the charge. Rather somebody’s drinking the FV kool aid. Any idea who that might be?

    And as far as Bahnsen goes, poke around over at the Trinity Foundation site and do some reading up.

    Oh yeah, the technical historical terminology.
    That explains why the FV only wants to quote half of Turretin and the PRC’s the other half. But last time I checked my copy of the Institutes it wasn’t torn in two.


  32. Jack Says:

    That’s the spirit, bsuden. By the way, if you have an accusation against Bahnsen, raise it coherently.

    There is some truth to what you say. I cannot call myself an objective referee from start to finish. What I meant was that I ventured upon the subject as an outsider with no stakes in the game, and I tried to listen to both sides. At some point it became clear that with regards to discussion, the one side was openly issuing challenges (to the point of monotony) and the other side was answering in monologue among themselves – for the most part. There were many brothers on both sides trying to keep the bond of unity by digging to the bottom of things so as to reach the answers, and I don’t wish to implicate them. The parties I dislike are the “big-boys” who are considered the heavyweights in the reformed world (those who- to quote the philosopher Fred Durst- write cheques with their mouths that their rear ends cannot cash), as well as their minions who drink down their every word religiously.

    Take a look at the title for this article, for example: “Doug Wilson denies Justification by faith!”….. What a stupid thing to say.

    The fact that this is referred to as a “battle” shows that you guys dont think its over yet – and rightly so. My concern is that so many of you think the FV has nothing valid to bring to the table in terms of validity or challenge… that would be a mistake. Clearly God is chastening our reformed world with the FV, Babylon-style.

    BTW, not sure what your point is regarding theonomy (I’m a theonomist too)…

    Sorry my response is a bit muddled- just a little rushed right now.

    In Christ,

  33. bsuden Says:

    Movin on are ya, Jack?
    I would too if I thought an assertion was an argument.
    More than a few people have engaged with Bahnsen’s issues whatever the fanboys think, in SA or elsewhere.

  34. Jack Says:

    Dude, what are you talking about?? You make these snide comments that I assume you find amusing but they have nothing to contribute to the topic.

    And I’ve spent 3 years hunting down the best material I can find against theonomy and the other (TR) distinctives defended by Bahnsen, so if there is something substantial I’ve missed- please do enlighten.

    And be specific. Fideistic confidence in rumours that somewhere out there at some time someone has successfully “engaged” with Bahnsen’s theses is not very persuasive to those who’ve taken a minute to think… If you wanna talk Bahnsen, then we can open it up somewhere else (not relevant on this blog post), but unfounded remarks in passing shouldn’t go unchallenged… And please do- I’d love to see what you’ve got for me… maybe you can open a facebook discussion or something…

  35. bsuden Says:

    For starters.
    It’s called due diligence, pal.
    Get up to speed before bothering us with your opinion.
    This is a Trinity Foundation related website after all.

  36. bsuden Says:

    FTM this all reminds one of how the FV conducts their business.
    Show up and start making accusations. Enough of them and they stick.
    But read the old authors and the old theologies, not a chance.

    Case in point, D Wilson’s Reformed is Not Enough. Somehow the likes of Lusk, Garver and other light weight internet theologians are who we should be listening to.

    Not to mention that Robbins and Gerety’s Not Reformed At All already pointed that out.

    Yeah, we’re preaching to the choir, but would you show up at Wilson’s blog to argue, Jack, without any Canon Press books in your library?
    That’s the point.

  37. bsuden Says:

    [in lieu of my first comment under moderation]

    It’s called due diligence.
    ‘Nobody has interacted with Bahnsen’?
    Yet we fail to see any with Robbins regarding Bahnsen.
    Go figure.

  38. Jack Says:

    Are you seriously citing John Robbins as your authority against Bahnsen?? That is astounding. Mr. Robbins is notorious for ignoring criticisms against his clarkian anti-empiricistic rationalism (not to mention their amazing understanding of the Johanine Logos referring to a Cartesian concept of “Logic”). Robbins inherited the obnoxious and contentious spirit of his master, and they both shared the obvious tenancy to misrepresent anyone remotely connected to Van Til… (Clark was the first reformed teacher I had- I read all the TrinityReview articles, so I know what I’m talking about. e founded an entire school of like minded contentious loose canons).

    It truly is a fideistic confidence you’ve been clinging to. By the way, check out Bahnsen’s response to the Robbins review (you’ll also find a couple of other letters to/about the guy on the site)…


  39. Hugh McCann Says:


    Oh my dear Jack, do you know this blog whereon you now write? Oh my. ~sigh~

    I am fan of those you decry, and I hope you can read them without prejudice. Much truth there.

    I was lovingly called a ‘fundamentalist, rationalist deductivist’ by Van Tillian classmates @ Westminster in CA.

    We had Kline, so I know anti-Bahnsen rhetoric! We also had Frame, who did his best to parse all perspectives.

    I find it interesting that Bahnsen, Clark, Kline, Robbins, and Van Til were all fairly strictly subscribing Presbyterians.

    I got to hear Greg Bahnsen @ his day-long apologetics course, and he was gracious when asked about R.C. Sproul, with whom he disageed at points. Comportment does count.

    I appreciate the Bahnsen-Robbins banter, and will look at the link you’ve given.

    Neither Bahnsen nor Robbins were ‘illogical morons,’ nor was either infallible.

    BTW: We’re loose cannons, not canons.

  40. Jack Says:

    I’m in agreement!

    And there was lots of stuff in Clark I appreciated- he was a wolf when it came to dismantling non-Christian worldviews (and the guy loved chess). Robbins I’m not so happy about- he might not have been an idiot but he often acted like one. I was wondering why the blog was called “God’s Hammer”… I guess I’m on Clarkian territory;-)

    Anyway, I’m sorta in a halfway house between the credo and presby view… I’ve been racking my brain over it for 2 years now, and though I’m closer to a paedo view, the end doesn’t seem to be in sight. It’s been the most difficult thing to hammer out for me.

    ……Typo, my friend. I just graduated- BA in English Studies.

    Bottom line… there hasn’t been as much grace from both sides as there could have been. Accept it. I scanned many arenas on the issue and found a general a priori rejection.

    It was Doug Wilson who pushed me to take serious the Presbyterian position…


  41. bsuden Says:

    Nope, still a fail, Jack.
    You start off here telling us that the FV doesn’t attack the five points or anything substantial in the reformed faith, with the Bahnsen remark an aside and opine that there has been a lot of unnecessary and overly harsh rhetoric against it from the anti side.

    No mention or acknowledgment that it is precisely/essentially because some reformed think that the FV does meddle with the five points that they have differed – mind you we are talking about the majority of NAPARC who have reprobated it ecclesiastically and synodically. You no like? Simple. Don’t join or attend a NAPARC church.

    But to return to your minor, did Robbins blow it regarding Bahnsen? Maybe so, but you asserted no one had addressed B before you backed it up, which in light of the major faux pas and pass re. the FV, you didn’t earn the benefit of the doubt.

    I’m not really happy with equating the Word of John 1 with logic; I know John Owen wasn’t, but that is pretty much immaterial to your attack on Clark and Robbin’s character, as overly contentious etc.
    And just where in did Clark misrepresent Van Til’s views. I have Van Til on three persons in one person and if Homer nods, well, let’s just say, Homer really drove it into the ditch.

    Robbins had his faults as we all do, but if you think the FV is just a tempest in a teapot, you would do well to read him on the same. He was one of the first to talk about it and those who came after are loath to admit it.

    ciao (not chow)

  42. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jack, Wilson is not a Presbyterian nor is he Reformed in the slightest. As for Robbins, he was miles ahead of the curve on exposing the FV while Van Tililans like you had their heads buried deep in the sand as these dogs trampled over JBFA and the finished work of Christ. But you do make my point that Van Tillianism provided the epistemological grounds for this particular false gospel to flourish. Thank you.

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Bob. I don’t know why your post ended up in moderation. WP is squirrelly sometimes. That said, you are spot on and Robbins nowhere misrepresented VT’s view of the Trinity, a view that was again affirmed by Van Tillian James Anderson in his latest book (which I reviewed extensively on this blog). You should read The Johannine Logos and I’m sure you’ll come around on John 1. 🙂

  44. Jack Says:

    Wilson not reformed?? That’s the misrepresentation I was referring to. You’re simply redefining the heritage to exclude those within with whom you disagree… Your denomination(s!) should have dealt with the FV biblically. If you cannot successfully sustain a cross examination with the FV guys and demonstrate their error, you shouldn’t resort to name-calling.


    Bahnsen was my example of how the previous generation in the reformed world dealt with controversy- pathetically. Which is how the FV issue was dealt with as well. It was a valid insertion. Contentiousness came from both sides. Period.

    Nobody has successfully engaged with Bahnsen. That is why you are hard-pressed to provide the requested material, and that is why all the cockroaches waited till his death to unveil their “refutations”.

    Don’t know what “NAPARC” is.

  45. Jack Says:

    I only just realised this was a Clarkian blog- I honoustly didn’t know there existed such a thing- he was quite an obscure ol’ fella (granted, he was my INTRODUCTORY material into solid theology- him and Robbins).

    It was their “refutations” of van till that introduced me to Van Till and Bahnsen- where I then found the very meat that truly biblical philosophy and thought was made of. Once I understood what van Til was saying (regarding the trinity and analogous epistemology), I thumbed my nose at Clark and Robbins for their knavish misrepresentations. But this is what categorised their ministries- they even straw manned each other with the same contentious and ungodly spirit (cf. Crampton vs Robbins)!.

    If I’d known this was his shrine, I would not have raised the contentious issue of his philosophy and his issues with Van Til – honestly. Haven’t I kicked the bee hive!

    So I might as well add before I leave that in my opinion the pet hate of this Clark-VanTil – I’m-of-Paul/I’m-of-Apollos controversy is clearly the result of jealousy on the part of Clark and his progeny: Both regarding the Machen connection, as well as the undeniable fact that Van Till’s presuppositionalism reigned supreme in comparison to the “axiomatic” kiddie games given by Clark (Clark is in heaven right now, still trying to figure out Van Till’s TAG, since he’s supposedly “never seen the argument produced”).

    Chow (= South African verbal slang… I’m not Asian, nor was I referring to the mobile lingo of the illiterates- or whatever ciao means)…

    Hope the non-contentious will accept my apology for any strife caused.

  46. Hugh McCann Says:


    Your shorthand attacks and knavish misrepresentations of Clark & Robbins certainly have “kicked the bee hive,” as you put it. I am not calling on you to repent or be nice, but that you please try to read the materials sans horns.

    Did you mean: “[The mishandling of] Bahnsen was my example of how the previous generation in the reformed world dealt with controversy- pathetically”? Certainly you are not calling Greg B. “pathetic”?

    Don’t let others’ preceived acrimony deter you from searching for truth. I think if you can soberly detach from the arguers, and attach deeply to Scripture, you’ll find better clarity and presuppositionalism in Clark, IMHO.

    But I refuse to say, “I am of Clark.”

    Ciao = Italian for ‘bye.

    NAPARC = No. American Presbyterian & Reformed Churches,

  47. Hugh McCann Says:


    1. Facilitate discussion and consultation between member bodies on those issues and problems which divide them as well as on those which they face in common and by the sharing of insights “communicate advantages to one another” (Institutes IV, 2, 1).
    2. … study matters of common interest and concern.
    3. … perpetuation, retention, and propagation of the Reformed faith.
    4. Promote cooperation … in such areas as missions, relief efforts, Christian schools, and church education.

    Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC)
    Reformed Church of Quebec (ERQ)
    Free Reformed Churches of North America (FRCNA)
    Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC)
    Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC)
    Presbyterian Reformed Church (PresRC)
    = 12 in all.

  48. Richard Chelvan Says:

    If I may be allowed to interject. Is there and can anyone here give a succinct explanation of Cornelius Van Til’s conception of Analogical Reasoning?
    On another note, I found Geerhardus Vos’s doctoral dissertation, its about 89 pages and written in Arabic. I was wondering what Vos’s influence was on Van Til’s philosophical theology.

  49. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jack writes:

    Wilson not reformed?? That’s the misrepresentation I was referring to. You’re simply redefining the heritage to exclude those within with whom you disagree… Your denomination(s!) should have dealt with the FV biblically. If you cannot successfully sustain a cross examination with the FV guys and demonstrate their error, you shouldn’t resort to name-calling.

    There is nothing remotely Reformed about Wilson’s doctrines and, assuming you’re interested, I co-authored a book with Dr. Robbins (the man you seem to think you can malign with impunity) explaining exactly why and in great detail. Actually, I would be hard pressed to call Wilson a Christian since he denies the Gospel, denies justification by belief alone, and denies the doctrine of imputation (again all well documented in our book),

    As far as calling Wilson and the other FV men like Peter Leithart (just to name one near and dear to Wilson) dogs, would you prefer wolves (seemed a little hackneyed, but would have been still accurate)? Besides, I’m guessing you missed the TR piece, “The Virtue of Name Calling,” when you were busy doing all your extensive reading Clark and Robbins. ;0)

  50. Sean Gerety Says:

    Richard, have you read Van Til’s complaint against Clark and Clark’s answer I have linked in the sidebar?

  51. Hugh McCann Says:


    From Van Til: the Theologian, by John M. Frame
    found @

    “….many critics are unaware of the fact that Van Tit’s favorite professor at Princeton was Geerhardus Vos, the brilliant biblical theologian. The influence of Vos upon Van Til is profound, though rarely seen on the surface of Van Til’s writings. There are places in Van Til’s works, however, where the influence of Vos is unmistakable to anyone who reflects on the matter.106”
    106. Note particularly the emphasis on “taking history seriously” in Common Grace and the Gospel (passim), the discussion of the kingdom of God in Christianá Theistic Ethics, the frequent references to the “Adamic consciousness,” etc., as in An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 25ff., and the discussion of modern trends in terms of God’s covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc., in The Great Debate Today (Nutley, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971).

  52. Hugh McCann Says:

    sorry about that typo – it’s the website’s 🙂

    NOT MINE! 😦

  53. Hugh McCann Says:

    Jack – What of the PCA’s report on FV?

    What of Greebaggins? (PCA pastor Lane Keister’s blog ~ Examples:

    The above-mentioned “Retraction” March 29, 2010

    “Jesus and the Believer” March 30, 2010

    And an excerpt from “One More Time” March 31, 2010, by Rev Keister:

    “Let’s try to clarify once more what we are talking about, because I feel that the third use of the law is not what we are talking about here.

    “I’ll ask the question this way: if there is no separation of law and gospel anywhere in the text of Scripture, then how is faith itself (speaking about the definition of it, now) not Golawspel? Douglas Wilson claims to hold to sola fide, faith alone. However, if faith is defined as both law and gospel, this gives away sola fide. On what biblical basis could one exclude law from justifying faith? On what exegetical or systematic basis could Douglas Wilson exclude law from justifying faith, in terms of how we appropriate Christ’s righteousness? We are not talking here about Jesus Christ, per se, either. We are talking about our appropriation of Christ’s righteousness in justification. So what exegetical justification (pardon the pun) is there for excluding law from our justification if there is no distinction in the text between law and gospel? How can the Bible be said to exclude law from our faith if there is no law/gospel distinction in the text? One can say sola fide, hoping that works are excluded. But if the law/gospel distinction is not present in the text, then faith itself is turned into Golawspel, by the Bible’s own definition. Faith becomes not mere grace, but also a work, since it would partake of both law and gospel. This is the nub of the issue. The Bible’s own definition of the nature of justifying faith is what is at stake here.

    “To head off another possible rabbit trail, we are not talking about sanctification here, only justification. Everyone in this discussion (including the infamous WSC faculty!) agrees with the third use of the law. Incidentally, not even all Lutherans deny the third use of the law. Witness article 6 of the Formula of Concord (see Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom, volume 3, pp. 130-131). Tomorrow, I will, Lord-willing, post a specific answer to Doug’s concerns, which are a caricature of my position, in my opinion.”

  54. Hugh McCann Says:

    Richard, More Frame:

    ‘While at the seminary, Van Til became a close friend of Professor Geerhardus Vos, like himself a Dutch immigrant who had left Grand Rap­ids for Princeton. Vos brought to Princeton the discipline of “biblical theology,” which sought to understand Scripture as a history of redemption. Van Til himself was more philosophically than exegetically inclined, but one can find echoes of Vos in Van Til’s writings. Van Til’s preaching and much of his classroom teaching also contained a great deal of biblical theology; he would, for instance, trace the human epistemological predicament from the Garden of Eden to the judgments of Revelation.

    ‘The philosophical influences upon Van Til are a bit harder to define. At Calvin his most famous teacher was W. Harry Jellema, described in my hearing by a well-known non-Christian philosopher as “the best teacher of philosophy in the United States.” Jellema himself had studied with the Harvard idealist Josiah Royce, and may have motivated Van Til to study idealism at Princeton. Van Til’s dissertation advisor at Princeton University was Archibald A. Bowman, whose sympathies also were with idealism and with the developing personalist movement. As did James Orr, with whose writings Van Til’s apologetics shows some affinity, Van Til made liberal use of the idealist vocabulary (the philosophical use of the term presupposition originated in idealism). Nonetheless, Van Til always in­sisted that he rejected the substantive con­tent of idealism, which identified the cre­ator with the creature and made them subject to one another within an imper­sonal universe.

    ‘The most important philosophical influ­ences on Van Til were distinctively Chris­tian rather than idealist. Kuyper himself had urged that all human thought be gov­erned by a Christian worldview derived from Scripture. To Kuyper, this worldview was antithetical to every secular ideology, whether philosophical, political, economic, aesthetic, or whatever. Kuyper’s disciples sought to bring the Christian worldview to bear on politics, education, and journalism; naturally, some sought to express it in phi­losophy as well. Thus in the 1920s Herman Dooyeweerd, D. H. Theodoor Vollenhoven, and others in the Netherlands founded a school of thought called the “philosophy of the idea of law.” It is unclear whether this school influenced the initial formulations of Van Til’s apologetic, or whether he had developed his approach before his contact with the Dutch philosophy. Certainly there are many similarities, but also important differences. At any rate, Van Til wrote fa­vorably about the early work of the Dutch school; and they, in turn, named Van Til as an editor of their journal, Philosophia Reformata. Though Van Til later became crit­ical of this group, he was always aware of the developments among them. Surely, then, in a broad sense at least, we must list the Dooyeweerdian school as one signifi­cant influence on Van Til’s thought.’

  55. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Richard. Thinking about this further, probably the most succinct explanation (and critique) of Van Til’s theory of analogy was from an unpublished paper by Dr. E. Calvin Beisner:

    What are we supposed to think the two circles represent? Knowledge content (that is, truths known), or knowledge mode (that is, the processes by which truths are known)? If the latter, then an overlap of the circles would indeed seem to imply a denial of the Creator/ creature distinction. But if the former, it would not, at least not in the judgment of Reformed theologians who don’t subscribe to Van Til’s idiosyncratic development of that distinction.

    It is clear why overlap or intersection would deny the archetypal/ ectypal (and hence the Creator/ creature) distinction if what the circles represent is ontology, but it is not clear that it would do so if what the circles represent is epistemology, for then it must be asked whether, in epistemology, they represent truths known or the process (mode, manner, way) by which truths are known. If the latter, then the overlap would indeed jeopardize the Creator/creature distinction, since only God knows all things by knowing Himself, and hence the assertion that the creature knows things by the same mode God does would imply that the creature is God. But if the former – if the circles represent truths known (the content, not the mode, of knowledge) – then the overlap would not jeopardize the distinction, and indeed the lack of overlap would imply precisely the skepticism [Gordon] Clark said Van Til’s language implied, and that indeed some of Van Til’s language at least colorably could be understood to imply (e.g., Van Til’s denial that God’s knowledge and man’s “coincide at any single point”).

  56. Richard Chelvan Says:

    Thank you all for your gracious replies. The reason why I ask is that Geerhardus Vos’s dissertation was on a 14th century Sunni thinker Ahmad Ibn Ali Maqrisi who belonged to the Shafii juristic/theological school.
    I had already done some initial research on a contemporary of Maqrisi named Ibn Taymiyya(h), Taqi ad Din from Damascus Syria who is know among the Wahabbis today. He belonged to the Hanbali juristic school. He wanted a return to the original strict Sunni vision of Islam which eschewed the veneration of saints and the visitation of graves etc.
    Ibn Taymiyya wrote a book “Against the Greek Logicians” in which he reacted against syllogistic reasoning and especially logical demonstration or demonstratio as in Aristotle’s Prior and Posterior Analytics. The Muslim Arabic word for it (demonstratio) is al-burhan.

    Ibn Taymiyya was a champion of Analogical Reasoning as opposed to deductive reasoning. His contention was that the Qur’an already contained a means of reasoning, thinking Allah’s thoughts after him – called Qiyas – analogy. He questioned the wisdom of using an external Greek logical construct in the process of valorizing the revelation contained in the Qur’an.

    So there you have it. A fascinating area of research for those who (like me) have looked at the contributions made by the Muslim mutakallimun to Catholic scholastic theology.
    William Lane Craig has debated with Muslims using middle knowledge or scientia media not realizing that the Muslims had already debated the issue of God’s absolute foreknowledge in the 9th century prior to the Jesuits like Molina, Suarez, and Bellamine and the Dominicans like Baius and Banez.
    Sorry, I had to get this off my chest. You see while members here are polemicizing against each other in a strident manner, no one has bothered to look at the intellectual challenge of Islam today. Our churches are shrinking but Islam is the fastest growing religion out there.

  57. Hugh McCann Says:


    Thank you! I was utterly unaware of Vos’s thesis, much less that it’d be in Arabic, no less! How fun it no doubt was to find a reader. (Or proof-reader!)

    Part of the reason that “Our churches are shrinking” is b/c of “precisely the skepticism Clark said Van Til’s language implied.”

    Oh, and this:

  58. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sorry, I had to get this off my chest. You see while members here are polemicizing against each other in a strident manner, no one has bothered to look at the intellectual challenge of Islam today.

    It sounds like you have. I certainly hope you get more off your chest and perhaps draw some of these threads together in a more substantial way (i.e. have them published).

  59. Richard Chelvan Says:

    Because of where I am, I was unable to get much help – no intellectual mentors or generalists who could understand what I wanted to do. I took Greek (so I could look into Aristotle’s works with commentary by Ross), classical and Koine, and Latin (from Augustine to Prosper to Gottschalk and onwards), classical and ecclesiastical, and then modern standard Arabic – I had to teach myself medieval Arabic juristic terms, theology, and jurisprudential theory in order to understand Ibn Taymiyya and the earlier traditions which had a such an impact on European Catholic medieval studies. I got to the point of being exhausted and so for my Ph.D. decided to go into early modern European history – the Long Eighteenth century – Britain, the British East India Co., and the India. It’s all in English! 😉

    For fun I read Francis Turretin and Richard Muller’s work on Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. 😉 So much to do, so little time.
    James White is one of the few Christian polemicists willing to engage with the Roman Catholics (I was brought up one in Singapore), the Molinists, the Mormons, and the Muslims. He’s a Baptist but we won’t hold that against him will we? 😉

    In the study of history, we get a better understanding of why, ecclesiastically, the Presbyterians failed to hold the line against the C of E. The English State’s republican experiment failed because of the bickering among the Presbyterians. Not only that but they were willing to support the return of Charles II and were silent when those who justly tried Charles I and executed him on the grounds that he made war on the English people and that his claim to impunity could not be supported by common law, the Magna Carta and Holy Scripture, were themselves rounded up and hung, drawn, and quartered. Not the best showing for Presbyterians in England.
    But this is all academic as they say. 😉

    This will be my last rambling comments.
    I just hope this thread becomes more civil and the realization that even though we cannot allow error to go on, nevertheless we must find a better way, because the world that is antithetical to Christ is not best served by Presbyterians that continue to bicker in an un-Christlike manner. I too am guilty of this and I repent of it. The Muslims are gaining ground everywhere and we need to take stock. I believe that the Muslim resurgence is God’s judgement on His church.

  60. bsuden Says:

    “Bahnsen was my example of how the previous generation in the reformed world dealt with controversy- pathetically. Which is how the FV issue was dealt with as well. It was a valid insertion. Contentiousness came from both sides. Period.”

    Whatever, Jack.
    You’re entitled to your opinion, but that’s all it is.
    You’re not the pope and neither am I.
    Neither do you see to be aware of the FV’s background and their typical m.o.
    For those of us stateside, they had been making noise and agitating long before re. the RPW with a surreptitious propaganda campaign consisting of false dichotomies, red herrings, straw men and outright incompetence, if not willful ignorance of what the confessions said.
    When they moved on to JBFA and the sacraments in the FV it was no surprise. They weren’t happy unless they could play the part of heroic agents provocateur who circumvented the courts in the first place, and then fled jurisdiction, when prosecuted. For crying out loud, I have met Wilson and Leithart when I visited Moscow in ’98 and considering moving there. They squandered a lot of good will in the reformed community which is why the same was so loath to move against them in the first place. Read Beisner’s editorial comments in the Auburn Ave. Theology Pros &Cons to that end.

    But again, whatever. That is neither here nor there as far as you are concerned.

    Still when a guy leads off by telling us that the FV hasn’t touched even one of the five points – well, enough said.

    The historic reformed position (Geneva Bible 1599 for one egs.) is that Muhammed is the eastern antichrist as the Pope is the western, both sent in judgement to the church.

  61. Richard Chelvan Says:

    My M.A. thesis is being translated into Arabic and will be published from out of Beirut by an Arabic academic publisher.

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