Scaring Sacred Cows

An interesting thing happened to me over at Scott Clark’s Heidleblog today.  I had listened to an interview Scott had with OPC historian and myth-maker, John Muether, dealing with his biography of Cornelius Van Til.  In the interview Muether repeated his slander that the Clark/Van Til controversy (which he repeatedly called the “so-called controversy”) was due to Clark’s desire to move the OPC away from a distinctly Reformed perspective.  According to Muether, “Clark was a pawn in the agenda of a faction of the church that was discontent with its Reformed identity. Ultimately what was at stake was the question of whether the church’s ecclesiology would be evangelical or Reformed.”

Muether also repeated his outrageous claim that Van Til’s scurrilous and unprovoked attack on Clark was one of Van Til’s finest moments, rather than the low point many of Van Til’s most ardent supporters have heretofore agreed that it was.  So I briefly commented on Scott’s blog saying that I was disappointed that he did not challenge any of Muether’s  claims.  I said he should have at least asked Muether about the charges John Robbins made against him in his booklet, Can the OPC be Saved?, specifically the claim that

Muether’s allegation that what was at stake in the controversy was whether the OPC’s ecclesiology would be Evangelical or Reformed is also unsupported by any documentary evidence Muether cited. The ecclesiological issue in the controversy was whether the parachurch institution, Westminster Seminary, would be subject to Church oversight. It was the WTS faction that opposed such ecclesiastical oversight, making them, not Dr. Clark, the advocates of an un-Reformed ecclesiology.

At first Scott replied asking me if I had read Muether’s book.  I replied asking him if he read John’s booklet.  When I checked his site later in the evening my comments were deleted and I was prevented from posting any further comments.  Interestingly, the exact same thing happened to me on Lane Keister’s blog some time ago when I dared to question the accuracy of Muether’s claims.  After all, and as I mentioned to Scott, John’s claims above are certainly more plausible given  Westminster Theological Seminary’s instrumental role in the rise of the Federal Vision theology and their long and shameful history protecting Federal Visionist Norm Shepherd (even before the Federal Vision had a name) meticulously documented by O. Palmer Robertson in, The Current Justification Controversy.

It makes you wonder, what are these men afraid of?



I was thinking more on this and despite being on completely other ends of the epistemic pool, Scott Clark has generally been, at least in his dealings with me, a very fair and reasonable man.  Admittedly, Scott being a committed Van Tilian and me being an equally committed Scripturalist, we’re not going to be best of friends which is why I keep any criticisms of Van Til to a minimum on his blog.  Up until now I honestly thought, and regardless of our profound differences, that we had a somewhat agreeable  relationship perhaps due to our mutual opposition to the Federal Vision and so-called New Perspectives movements.  However, you would think that John Robbins’ observations and objections concerning Muether above would be received as fair and reasonable by any fair and reasonable person.  I was clearly mistaken.

Then it dawned on me (interestingly it dawned on me at dawn this morning while laying in bed where I generally do some of my best thinking), that Scott Clark too has a vested interest in keeping WTS & WSC autonomous and independent of church oversight and control.  After all, even though the PCA hardly can be accused of exercising any real authority over what’s being taught at Covenant Seminary, the church does have, at least in theory, oversight responsibly of the denomination’s seminary.  But, does anyone believe the powers-that-be at WTS or WSC and those who employ Clark want to have a situation where some elder like PCA pastor Wes White, from God-knows-where in the hinterlands,  poking their nose into what is being taught at WTS or WSC the way White is poking his nose into Covenant? I mean, you have to keep these TR busy-bodies at arms length, further if possible.  Aren’t seminary professors and administrator experts who can swim through the sea of theological nuance far better than any lowly and lone pastor from some podunk town in South Dakota?  Besides, they’re not stupid and if the snoops get too close they can always turn to the pages of Sun-Tzu.  And it seems that they have.  In an effort to keep their friends close and their enemies closer, Covenant recently invited White to spend some time at the seminary to see for himself just how nice and wonderful they all are, despite their filling the minds of their students with works by N.T. Wright and one of Wright’s associates, Richard Hays.

However, even if Scott Clark, who presents himself as “Mr. Reformed Confessionalism,” agreed that sound Reformed ecclesiology is antithetical to the idea of autonomous seminaries that act, as WTS East and West does, independent of church oversight, how could he safely breach that topic without risking his own position and standing at WSC?  After all, if what John Robbins says is correct (and anyone who has actually read the transcript of the Complaint Van Til and the WTS faculty lodged against Gordon Clark in their failed attempt to defrock him, or have studied their shameful behavior in its aftermath, they would know there was nothing “so-called” about that controversy), then the Clark-Van Til controversy remains an effective and enduring tool to keep pastors and professors in line.

Question Westminster Seminary’s independence at your own peril.

Then I was thinking, what about Lane Keister?  Why did he react the way he did when I breached the exact same topic with the exact same objections on his blog? After all, Lane isn’t a WTS professor so what does he have to lose?  Then I started to think that Lane, if nothing else, is a devoted WTS alumnus.  I mean, I already have a WTS student,  professor or perhaps even an administrator making snide remarks on my combox in reaction to this post ( I guess he thought he was completely anonymous.   Guess again).  Then, let’s not forget, Lane is a young budding scholar, perhaps he feels his talents are being wasted in his current pastoral situation and is looking for something more suited to his intellectual pursuits? After all, he is a PCA pastor serving out-of-bounds in, I assume,  a small CRC church and a similarly small RCA church somewhere in the nether regions of North Dakota (isn’t all of North Dakota the “nether regions”?).  Maybe he secretly longs to have his own little faculty office along that fraternal row of offices located in a single corridor at WSC (something he mentioned recently on his blog)? Maybe he pictures himself daily rubbing shoulders with WSC profs like Scott Clark, Joel Kim, and John Fesko all of whom he recently visited on a recent trip to WSC?   Seriously, who could blame him?   Besides, and let’s face it, if Keister were a Scripturalist he’d be lucky to get the janitor’s closet in the basement.  But, who knows and who cares?  However, it would certainly explain his similar overreaction to even the slightest criticism of Muether and the gall for questioning the party line when it comes to Van Til and WTS.

As Herman Hoeksema said while writing a series of editorials for the Standard Bearer in the 1940’s and during the height of the Clark-Van Til controversy;  “we are still of the opinion that the issues involved in the Clark controversy are matters for discussion by a theological conference rather than grounds for a complaint against the licensure and ordination of a candidate for the ministry.” Indeed.  However, if John Robbins is correct, and I believe he is, and if the behavior of Van Tilians currently suppressing dissent from the new party line being advanced by propagandists like John Muether is any indication, then I think we can all know what the Clark-Van Til controversy was really all about.

Explore posts in the same categories: Theology, Van Til

64 Comments on “Scaring Sacred Cows”

  1. Doug Says:

    Right, the plausible explanation here is that you are a very reasonable, clear-thinking protector of theological orthodoxy, and two public figures with credentials, published material, and a good amount of supporters are afraid of you. Give me a break.

    You’ll have the last word because this blog is worthless.

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    Got it. Thanks for your opinion Doug.

    Interesting, I noticed that you’re posting from an email server. No wonder you think this “blog is worthless.” I can see this is all hitting a little too close to home for you too.

  3. Hugh McCann Says:

    They moo, and Sean says, “Boo!”

    I look forward to reading R.S. Clark (or Keister) quoting the pertinent bits of Muether substantiating the latter’s accusations against G.H. Clark.

    Else, we’d be concerned that the Rome-like quashing of opposing views by Doug’s “public figures” and their “supporters” may be due to their fear of the truth.


  4. Cliffton Says:

    I was wondering where your comments went?

    Opposition to the knowledge of Christ varies, yet it is that which is being opposed which is the constant. On the one hand, you have the men who are proud Federal Visionists. Along with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christians should (as Calvin once said) laugh at these men…and teach our children to do likewise. While on the other hand, you have men who appear to be opposing the FV but who in fact give impetus to the continued “discussion.” I believe these men to be more dangerous, for they are deceitful like the serpent of old.

    I was reading again Robbin’s Current Justification Controversy. He made the point that the root of *all* heresy is the denial of propositional revelation. If Robbins was correct, and I believe he was, it is about time that Christians attack (yes, attack!) those who deny or speak confusedly about the revelation of the Word of God. This, I think, would include men like Scott Clark.

  5. Hugh McCann Says:

    R. Scott saith:

    I’ve given up trying to be reasonable with Sean. I’ve begged and pleaded with him to speak in reasoned tones here and he refuses so he’s gone. I don’t have time to baby sit every comment.

    I would be happy to have a reasoned, thoughtful discussion about these issues with reasoned, thoughtful people but he seems unwilling.

    Speaking theologically, on the key issue between CVT and G. C. see my essay on the Free Offer. At stake is the distinction between the Creator and the creature, which is fundamental to Reformed theology. Do they have much in common on other points? Yes, but the Gordon Clarkian zealots seem unwilling to recognize that and thus they make genuine conversation all but impossible. In this respect they manifest the QIRC. They’re not interested in getting things right but in being right. Their identity rests in being Clarkians. In contrast, I’ve not hesitated to offer criticisms, even strongly worded criticisms of Van Til — so much so that some Van Tillians have accused me of departing from the true Van Tillian faith. I think CVT’s language about God being “one person” was a monumental mistake. It is utterly incompatible with the catholic faith confessed in the catholic creeds and Reformed confessions. CVT made other pedagogical mistakes. I’ve criticized his historical accounts as unreliable in important ways. See RRC where I criticized him in print for this very thing.

    I’ve yet to see one of the G. Clarkian zealots criticize G. Clark for anything. Zip. Zero. Nada.

    So, Slabbert, in this case I do not believe that I’m being unreasonable.

    People should read the Muether bio. It’s very well done. It’s not hagiography, unlike some accounts, and it’s a excellent step forward toward genuine dialog with people who want to do more than to score partisan debating points.

    …From die Heidelblog…

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    RSC: >>…I’ve not hesitated to offer criticisms, even strongly worded criticisms of Van Til — so much so that some Van Tillians have accused me of departing from the true Van Tillian faith.<>I think CVT’s language about God being “one person” was a monumental mistake. It is utterly incompatible with the catholic faith confessed in the catholic creeds and Reformed confessions. CVT made other pedagogical mistakes. I’ve criticized his historical accounts as unreliable in important ways. See RRC where I criticized him in print for this very thing.<<

    A good work, Scott!

    'I’ve yet to see one of the G. Clarkian zealots criticize G. Clark for anything. Zip. Zero. Nada.'

    I could joke & say that it's hard to criticize perfection, but I can say that it's much harder to find stuff to criticize in Clark than in Van Til.

    I note in passing Sean's own criticisms at this very site of Clark in places.


  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Well, what I posted on Clark’s blog was basically what I posted here in the first half of my post above. While not exactly verbatim, I would argue I was being even more careful and circumspect with my wording on Clark’s blog. You be the judge.

    I know how touchy Clark is, but this honestly seems to be more than just the typical Van Tilian thin skin.

  8. Hugh McCann Says:


    ‘I’ve not hesitated to offer criticisms, even strongly worded criticisms of Van Til… I think CVT’s language about God being “one person” was a monumental mistake.’
    +Yep, ‘specially if it misrepresents God. That’d be akin to blasphemy.+

    ‘It is utterly incompatible with the catholic faith confessed in the catholic creeds and Reformed confessions.’
    +Sounds like a charge of heresy!+

    ‘CVT made other pedagogical mistakes.’
    +O.K. we’re waiting…+

    ‘I’ve criticized his historical accounts as unreliable in important ways.’
    +Charges of falsehood here? No wonder the hard core VT fans get worked up! Scott sounds like he works for the Trinity Foundation!+

    ‘See RRC where I criticized him in print for this very thing.’
    +Hope CVT’s fans read it!+

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    Scott Clark @ the H’blog today:

    I think G. Clarkians need to admit to a near fanatical devotion to their hero. This was first signaled when they published _Clark Speaks from the Grave_ while I was in sem. It was a bizarre title for a book. It was in bad taste and it suggested a less than healthy devotion to a personality.

    I admit that I don’t read Sean’s blog so I haven’t his criticisms of Clark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any made by his more well known academic proponents. They may exist (and I’ve not spent a time looking for them).

    I admit that there have been partisan Van Tillians unwilling to concede a single point or to admit that their hero made any mistakes.

    We need to move beyond the old wounds to address the substantive issues. This is what I tried to do in the Strimple Festschrift essay on the Free Offer controversy and in RRC. In class I’ve criticized CVT’s way telling the history of theology.

    Both groups may be criticized from the pov of the Reformed confessions and historic Reformed orthodoxy.

    I don’t recall Muether’s bio making any “charges” against Clark. If you listen to the interview you’ll hear that Muether was very careful about how he spoke about Clark and to stipulate where the disagreements were and were not.

    I’ve appreciated much of Clark’s work. At the end of the day I side with CVT on the question of analogical knowledge and the free offer. I think CVT was with the historic orthodox view on that point because he accepted the basic Reformed distinction between theologia archetypal and ectypal and G. Clark did not. That doesn’t mean that I cannot appreciate the good things Clark wrote. I do and have. I wish that the G. Clarkians could be just as appreciative of CVT as G. Clark was. Since Clark’s death the invective directed by Clark’s epigoni* have not done justice to their teacher’s genuine appreciation for CVT’s life and work.

    * Noun [pl. of epigone], an undistinguished imitator, follower, or successor of an important writer, painter, etc. ~ Hugh (I had to look it up!)

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    One question for anyone interested in doing some homework: Where in all of Clark’s many volumes is their any evidence of Clark’s “genuine appreciation for CVT’s life and work”?

    I can think of many references Clark made over his career to CVT’s life and work and I honestly can’t think of any that showed a “genuine appreciation.” A clear understanding along with a well reasoned opposition to it, without question, but appreciation? Maybe I missed something.

  11. Hugh McCann Says:


    I can only come up with a couple:

    “I really like his hair.” What Cool Presbyterians Believe, p. 176.

    “I don’t always understand him, but he has a cute accent.” October, 1945 OPC Philadelphia Presbytery meeting minutes.

    Apocryphally Yours,

  12. Sean Gerety Says:

    🙂 LOL. I confess, I did miss those. I stand corrected.

  13. Roberto G Says:

    I believe I remember reading that Clark used to refer students to Westminster Seminary and CVT when Clark was at Wheaton. Perhaps in Personal Recollections.

  14. I just came across an interesting note and figured this was good a place as any to share it:

    There is a cult called “Local Church”/”Living Streams Ministries” that follow the teachings of Witness Lee. They have been openly denounced here and elsewhere for their heretical view of the Trinity. I have been looking into them because they are primarily based out of where I live and they have a heavy presence on local college campuses.

    CRI actually came out and said they were wrong about LC/LSM before and there is nothing wrong with their teachings. Normon Geisler wrote a response to CRI, which included the following:

    The use of Cornelius Van Til to justify contradictions in LC thinking about God is questionable for several reasons. First, Van Til never denied the early Christian creeds which define God as having three distinct Persons in one essence. What he did was to say that in some sense God can be also designated as a Person, as well as defined as three
    distinct Persons. To give Van Til the benefit of the doubt, either his insistence on God as a Person should be taken to refer to the Godhead overall as a tri-personal being, or else we must understand that the term “Person” does not mean exactly the same thing when speaking of God as one as it does when speaking of God as three. If not, then Van Til would either be involved in a contradiction (namely, affirming that God is only one Person and also three Persons at the same time and in the same sense) or else it would be
    heretical. If Van Til is orthodox here, then he should not be used to support the unorthodox LC position. If he is unorthodox, then using one unorthodox view to support another unorthodox view is not a good way to defend orthodoxy.

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    What do you think Brandon, was Van Til just unclear about what he believed concerning the Trinity?

    I provided a lengthy quote from CVT’s Intro to Systematics in my review of Anderson’s defense of biblical incoherence and irrationality in, Choosing Paradox — Part One, that included the following:

    It is sometimes asserted that we can prove to men that we are not asserting anything that they ought to consider irrational, inasmuch as we say that God is one in essence and three in person. We therefore claim that we have not asserted unity and trinity of exactly the same thing.

    Yet this is not the whole truth of the matter. We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person . . .We need both the absolute cotermineity of each attribute and each person with the whole being of God, and the genuine significance of the distinctions of the attributes and the persons. “Each person,” says Bavinck, “is equal to the whole essence of God and coterminous with both other persons and with all three”. . . Over against all other beings, that is, over against created beings, we must therefore hold that God’s being presents an absolute numerical identity. And even within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that God is numerically one. He is one person.

    Do you think CVT was just being unclear here and that he was using the term “Person” in some unspecified other sense “when speaking of God as one as it does when speaking of God as three”?

  16. ray kikkert Says:

    Hi Sean … I have been away for a while buddy. See not much has changed though … in light of S. Clark’s comments. S. Clark refutes those of us who deny the free offer and the paradoxial philosophy of Vantil … as Clarkians … as devoters to a man … the charge is lame and expected … as is his whining that we do not question G. Clark’s work … which is false, lame, and expected. Some claim G. Clark held to a form of nestorianism in his dealing with the person/nature of Christ. We have discussed this at length here and elsewhere.

    What S. Clark should maybe try to understand here by us that we like Clark are not interested in memory work like memorizing the articles of the Christian faith/Apostle’s creed … but we are also more interested in that the words involved have meaning … definition. What good is it to memorize the resurrection of the dead if one does not know what ressurrection means and why we confess it?

    That to me is the strength and purpose of G. Clark. The words need to be understood so that like we confess in Lord’s day 7… true faith is a certain knowledge and assured confidence. Appealing to paradox and contradiction will not cut it for G. Clark and those are attributes that Christ in no uncertain terms both in his language and actions advocated and taught.

    By nature… carnal man is prone to use the vanity of contradiction and paradox as sinful creatures to answer the questions that just do not suit one’s fuzzy and weak theology… and what’s worse is that those who use it … know better … but employ it regardless…. case in point … once again S. Clark and his once again feeble attempts at vindicating these tactics.

    I know longer hold him up as a recommendation as one holding firm the distinctively reformed faith … he does more harm than good … he should reread the charges of Christ to the Pharisee’s in Matthew 23 …being more concerned with being “mainstream” where wide is the path …

  17. I think Van Til is often unclear – but I do think he was asserting a contradiction in regards to the Trinity. I commented on this a while ago on the Puritanboard

  18. Sean, not sure if you’ve listened to this or not, but Christ the Center did a show with Lane Tipton on Van Til’s Trinitarian Theology.

    You might want to sit down when you listen. Here’s a quote:

    The real question for us is how the trinitarian theology of Gordon Clark got a pass as ostensibly orthodox in the first place and Van Til wasn’t recognized to be simply the heir of Old Princeton and Old Amsterdam’s trinitarian theology. I’m baffled.

  19. denson Says:

    I listened to Tipton. So van Tilian! It’s just words, words, words and little attention to meaning! The Trinity are said to “interpenetrate”! Huh? Gordon Clark said the Trinity have the same truth in their minds and one will. Is this not more intelligible than undefined “ontological substance” and “interpenetration”. He says Gordon Clark’s Trinitarian theology has an impersonal God, because he defined God as truth(propositions)! It is the Bible that says God is truth, something a Sunday school class can teach him. I found his ignorance of the Bible absolutely shocking, and he is a professor at a seminary!


  20. George Says:

    There is a review of N.T. Wright’s latest book on the OPC website now. The review is partially “favorable” and partially “unfavorable”. It seems to me that if the apostle Paul could review Wright’s book and his take on justification, there would not be too much “favorable” in that review.

  21. Hugh McCann Says:

    Lane Tipton was ahead of me at WSC in the late 1990’s. He and Don Collett of the Van Til Society (I kid you not, there was such a thing!) teased me for being “Clarkian.”

    That, with my penchant for being outspoken on moral issues had Lane (or perhaps Don) brand me a “fundamentalist rationalist,” & a “rationalistic deductivist” (I rather liked that one!)

    I didn’t like being called “Clarkian” only because it smacked of a 1st Cor. 1:12 (“I am of Paul/ Apollos/ Cephas”) kind of thing. Plus I’d read so little of Clark, I couldn’t call him my own!

    Of what I read, Clark made more sense to me than CVT. Sadly, by the time I got to WSC in ’96, Frame was no longer using _Religion, Reason, & Revelation_ in the first year systematic class as he had in time past. Still, he had it on a recommended reading list, but who has time as a seminary student to read extra stuff?

    So grateful for Robbins and Trinity Foundation giving me a foundation prior to my time at WSC.


  22. brandon Says:

    E. Calvin Beisner just posted an interesting paper on Facebook. He said:

    A little over a year ago the Presbytery of the South of the OPC received the ministerial credentials of renowned Reformed theologian Dr. Robert Reymond in transfer from the PCA. The vote to receive was overwhelming, but a small contingent fought vigorously to prevent it. OPC historian John Muether led the opposition and provided a pap…er, titled “Robert Reymond and Cornelius Van Till: Some Reflections,” in which he argued his case. Shortly before Presbytery met, I annotated Muether’s paper with extensive footnotes pointing out errors of fact and logic and arguing the case that Muether’s opposition effectively elevated two idiosyncratic and highly debated elements of Van Til’s epistemology to constitutional status by making them criteria for ordination or transfer of credentials. At the time, I gave my annotations to only a very few people. In the ensuing year, however, I’ve become convinced that the issue needs airing. Here’s a first step toward that–publication, on my personal website, of “Critical Comments onJohn Muether’s (April 9, 2009) ‘Robert Reymond and Cornelius Van Til:Some Reflections.’”

    Whether one agrees with Van Til on the two idiosyncratic points is really quite beside the point. The crucial question is whether the OPC is going to continue to allow extra-constitutional standards to dictate who can and who cannot hold teaching office in the church.

    Here is the paper:

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    Unbelievable. Thanks Brandon. I just can’t imagine how blind someone has to be to try and bar a man with Reymond’s credentials from joining their denomination.

    I wonder if Scott Clark supports Muether’s shameful attempt to bar Reymond’s transfer, although I can hardly imagine why he would object? After all he’s deluded himself into believing the “Creator/creature distinction” is at stake as he and others perpetuate Van Til’s sinful war against Clark by proxy.

  24. Jim Butler Says:


    Thank you for the information. The link, however, does not work. Perhaps you could locate the problem and re-post the correct link?

    Thank you,


  25. brandon Says:

    Well, it seems he has taken it down for some reason. The Facebook post I mentioned is now missing as well. I saved the PDF, but I’ll see if I can find out what the issue is. Maybe he was threatened with ecclesiastical discipline 😉

  26. brandon Says:

    Here’s a recent update:

    Yesterday I posted to my personal website some critical comments I’d written on a paper by John Muether in the OPC Presbytery of the South and linked to them here on Facebook. Today I was informed that Mr. Muether’s paper was considered private to two committees of the Presbytery. I was unaware of that. I apologize for unintentionally breaching that confidentiality and have removed the paper from my website. (If it still opens for you from a link, that’s probably because you need to clear your Internet history and cache.)

    John Muether is commenting on Beisner’s Facebook page about it:

  27. Sean Gerety Says:

    I guess it’s a good thing I have a hard copy.

  28. brandon Says:

    I guess we’ll have to wait until 2069 for the future official OPC historian to tell us what really happened in 2009.

  29. denson Says:

    “…Mr. Muether’s paper was considered private to two committees of the Presbytery.”
    Just what does this mean?
    Is the content of Muether’s paper private opinion … having nothing to do with matters concerning the Church and its functioning(Doctrine and practice)? In which case, what use was Muether’s letter if it had no significance for what should be Church business? Is the business of committees of the Presbytery, in this instance application for membership, “private to committees of the Presbytery” and not a responsibility entrusted to the committees by the Church?
    My guess is that Meuther complained about the appearance of the letter in public. Why did Meuther not object to Robert Reymond personally — like warn him that he(Meuther) will oppose his application for membership and lay out his concerns to him. Writing a paper to Presbytery to be considered by a committee of Presbytery is going public and the public has a right to know how those they have entrusted with responsibility carry out their responsibilities. Of course these are wanna-be-vicar-of-Christ types! They do not think they are accountable to the people they represent!


  30. pat Says:

    I want to let all know that I’ve tried to get R.Scott Clark to be more precise as to his view on analogous knowledge and he refused to be nailed down to coincidence/correspondence of thought between ours and God’s. So I told him he either doesn’t understand the issue or is being deliberately obfuscating. Either way he is off the mark, and of course, so is his claim that G.Clark denied the most fundamental point of Reformed theology.

    Sorry, but sometimes I like to play devil’s advocate.

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    Denson, the paper is a serious matter because in it Muether attempts to raise the peculiarities of Van Til’s epistemological views to a constitutional level and one that should, at least in the mind of John Muether, exclude one from admittance into the OPC (although I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to be in the OPC). In his conclusion Beisner (who is evidently also OPC) states:

    “To put it bluntly, it is schismatic to make doctrines not included in the Confession of the church criteria for holding office in the church.”

    FWIW Muether’s reasoning for barring Reymond from the OPC is the exact same reason Scott Clark banned me from his blog and it’s the belief that the Creator/creature or archetype/echtype distinction is at stake and is something that pertains equally to both ontology and epistemology, a dangerous notion Beisner soundly refutes.

    The claim that the paper is somehow a private matter is complete hogwash. If you’re interested in a copy email me and I’ll send you one.

    Also, I might add that my blog is referenced in Muether’s letter. Muether states “A recent example of how Dr. Reymond’s criticism has been used to slander Van Til Can be found here:

  32. denson Says:

    I am definitely interested in the paper and Beisner’s refutation, which unfortunately he has removed from the web! My email is ddube95 AT gmail DOT com


  33. Cliffton Says:

    Sean, could you also email me a copy? My email is clifftowne2003ATyahooDOTcom.


  34. Paijo Says:

    Hi Sean,
    I am an Indonesian Christian but always follow what happen with great interest as I see that the debate between Van Tillians and Clarkians is likely to come to Indonesia as well in the future. Most of Reformed theologian in Indonesia are by and large Van Tillians but I see that there is a small number of theologian and lay people interested in Clark. I am being one of them.

    Can you please also send me a copy of the paper.


  35. Paijo Says:

    My email is paijo.budiwidayantoATgmailDOTcom


  36. denson Says:

    I almost missed this one!
    “…. although I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to be in the OPC). ”
    If I knew Reymond’s email adress I would send him this one …. let him know his move is baffling!!!!
    It would be interesting to know why he did so given his published beliefs!!


  37. pat Says:

    Well, I’m still in the OPC. That is, I am still a member and attend an excellent congregation, the best (Reformed) teaching I’ve ever sat under. Despite what Sean and the late Robbins thought, the OPC (and the PCA) are not done for.

  38. Sean Gerety Says:

    Pat I never suggested the two denominations were in exactly the same boat. Beside a long and ugly history of attacking GHC (most notably by the official historian of the OPC) and actively advancing CVT’s epistemic position even in its official recommendations for prospective pulpit candidates, the OPC has GA precedent of affirming the central doctrines of the FV as being within the bounds of the WCF in the Kinnaird case.

    The OPC is considerably further down the road to complete apostasy.

  39. pat Says:

    Sean, I wasn’t implying that you suggested that the two demoninations were exactly in the same boat. I wish you would learn to read (not read in )what I write more accurately.

    I’m fully aware of all the things you mentioned re the OPC. But I cannot agree that it (nor the PCA) is on the road to apostasy. I think both the OPC and the PCA have been moving in the right direction against the FV and NPP movements.

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m afraid you are the one who needs to learn to read Pat. First, neither John nor I have said either the OPC or the PCA are “done for,” but rather that the slide into deeper and deeper apostasy does seem inevitable. That’s not to say that the Lord may not intervene at some point to reverse the trend, but I don’t hold out much hope, less so for the OPC.

    Second, you clearly have your head tucked deep in a hole if you think the OPC and PCA have been “moving in the right direction” re FV & NPP. The OPC & PCA continue to actively protect FV/NPP pastors as not one FV/NPP elder has been disciplined in either denomination and in the OPC there was one high profile FV man who was officially cleared of teaching heresy by the OPC’s highest court. In this case your blindness is simply your choice.

  41. pat Says:

    “I’m afraid you are the one who needs to learn to read Pat. First, neither John nor I have said either the OPC or the PCA are “done for,” but rather that the slide into deeper and deeper apostasy does seem inevitable.”

    Really Sean. What do you think is meant by “done for?” I would think sliding into “deeper and deeper apostasy” is being done for. Certainly in the context of my reply, it should have been clear that was what I meant. After all, I was responding to yours and Denson’s comment that one shouldn’t want to be in the OPC.

    Who in the FV or NPP are the OPC and PCA actively protecting? From what I recall reading recently the PCA is actively responding against an FV proponent.

  42. denson Says:

    How is your membership of the OPC, proof that what Sean and Robbins “think” on these organisations’ accomodation of the world i.e. “FV is within the bounds of Reformed Faith in the Kinniard Trial”, van Tillianism, etc etc are not serious and detrimental to the health and well being of a biblical faith and will eventuate in the demise of those organisations as true churches?
    Is Ratzinger’s being Pope Benny XVI proof that Roman Catholicism is a biblical faith?


  43. pat Says:


    I don’t understand your question. My membership in the OPC doesn’t prove that the denomination is Reformed, nor was I claiming any such thing. I was speaking mainly regarding my particular congregation, which, if it ever came about that the OPC did become overrun by heretics it would leave the denomination, though I hardly think that the OPC is going in that direction, and it is certainly precipitous for congregations to start seceeding from the denomination, especially given it’s official position against FV and NPP in the OPC Report. BTW, the OPC did not rule in the Kinnaird case that FV is within the bounds of the Reformed faith. The OPC never looked favorably on Kinnaird (nor Shepherd). But it failed to come down strong against such teaching (only later known as FV). The OPC (and I think the PCA also) want to put the FV scandal behind them and move on in espousing the Reformed faith as it has traditionally done, according to the Westminster Standards.

  44. Sean Gerety Says:

    This is my last reply to you Pat. “Done for” would suggest that the situation is hopeless. I’m a Christian, I always hold out hope. OK, maybe not always, I have no hope for the PCUSA or for the RCC for that matter.

    As to who are the OPC and PCA protecting, while I have seen a number of names listed of known FV men in the OPC aside from Kinnaird who was exonerated, I am more familiar with the PCA and there I can list Peter Leithart, Jeff Meyers, Mark Horne, Bill Smith, Joshua Moon, Greg Lawrence just to name a few. And, don’t forget the LA Pres protection and twice exoneration of Steve Wilkins.

    So, in short, keep your head in that hole Pat, you seem much more comfortable there. 🙂

  45. pat Says:

    Sean, of course, we always hold out hope. But being on an inevitable road to apostasy sure seems to me as being “done for.” That seems exactly what the phrase suggests. I don’t understand why you would make an argument over your understanding of a phrase. Why can’t you simply admit you mistook my meaning? It’s not like I used a phrase and gave it some bizarre meaning. Again, in the context, it should have been clear what was meant. But you read something into it not intended, and then you try to hold me to your understanding of what I wrote. You need to stop doing that.

    You’re bringing up ancient history of the OPC and PCA. None of this is going on today.

  46. Cal Beisner Says:

    Sean, as I asked you before (on my Facebook page), I would appreciate your not continuing to distribute my annotations on Muether’s paper.

    John has also informed me that he was asked not to distribute his paper to the full Presbytery and that he complied. That is commendable.

  47. Hugh McCann Says:

    If possible, could you send me an email of Muether’s Reymond-bashing and the Beisner retort?

  48. speigel Says:

    Beisner, through his facebook account, has asked Gerety to not pass out Beisner’s paper.

  49. Hugh McCann Says:

    Dear Dr Beisner,

    Since I am here and not on Facebook, would you please consider writing a critical article on this subject?

    I note that you initially said that you’d “become convinced that the issue needs airing.” Does it not still?

    Perhaps an article recapping your thoughts would not violate Dr. Muether’s inordinate sensitivities.

    Hugh McCann

  50. Cliffton Says:

    Just a few comments concerning Beisner’s statements and his request for Sean to cease distribution.

    Beisner stated:

    “Yesterday I posted to my personal website some critical comments I’d written on a paper by John Muether in the OPC Presbytery of the South and linked to them here on Facebook. Today I was informed that Mr. Muether’s paper was considered private to two committees of the Presbytery.”

    My first reaction is, so what? So what if Muether and/or the two committees of the Presbytery consider the paper private? Does this therefore make it private? If Muether and/or the two committees determined that it was not private, does this then mean that it is not private. It is either private or not, and that prior to Muether and/or the committees judgment on the matter.

    In addition, there is implied in this type of thinking that the authority of the Presbytery is magisterial, not ministerial. That is, they stand in a position to legislate, and in this case, to make something private or public rather than deliver (or minister) the already established judgment that God has revealed in the Scriptures.

    Further, with respect to the private/public distinction consider Matthew 18. Let me first say that I acknowledge the circumstances MAY be a little different, nevertheless I believe the erroneous assumption of Beisner, Muether, and the two committees originate from an equally erroneous inference from Matthew 18:17. Following Matthew 18:15 (“between thee and he alone”) and v.16, we are to tell it to the church, which I understand to be the ruling body. When it gets to this point of telling it to the church, it is by definition public. The announcement from the pulpit to those in the pews does not make it public. It is only the delivering over of information to which the “peons in the pews” have a right. Likewise, the determination of Muether and/or the two committees (and it appears of Beisner as well) that the issue is not public does not make it private. In the very least, a determination must be established on other grounds and not simply because they, the church, the ruling body, says so? This is not the Dark Ages…or is it? Any other way to consider it would be an implicit denial that the elders are servants of the church, and that the office is an instrument of the church.

    I must also say, I find myself in agreement with Robbins when he said that he thinks that all these assemblies should be open to its members. That way, we can all be in the know…immediately! This provides the members of the church to know what THEIR servants are doing…or not doing. This way, we can quickly get rid of those “lame ducks” in office who refuse to fulfill their supposed calling, which calling is supposed to be manifested (though not always) by the election of the members of the church and ordination of the elders.

    Scaring Sacred Cows is indeed a good title to this thread.

  51. speigel Says:

    I wonder what Robbins’ reaction to Cliffton’s response would be as Robbins has complied in the past to remove articles and letters that were considered “private.” Perhaps Robbins also didn’t understand Matthew 18 either.

  52. Sean Gerety Says:

    Speigel, I think if Robbins had written a hit piece with the intent of distributing it to an entire Presbytery, even if it was later distributed only to members of a certain committees, and then when the piece was more widely distributed after the fact, if he complained that the piece was “confidential” and should not be distributed I think we could all conclude that Robbins was a hypocrite.

    Matthew 18 doesn’t even enter into it. Muether trying to smear Reymond and block his transfer is not a private matter. Although it is sinful.

  53. speigel Says:

    Ditto. But Robbins respected when something was considered private. Anyway, Beisner is checking the rules as to whether Muether’s letter is really private or not.

  54. Cliffton Says:

    Speigel: But Robbins respected when something was considered private.

    Cliffton: If Robbins respected when something was considered private and it was in truth private, then his “respect” was his moral obligation. In fact, not to “respect” it would be a form of intellectual theft. Is anyone charging Beisner with theft?

  55. ray kikkert Says:

    Good call Cliffton … it’s a little too late for those to be whining about how a certain letter should have been private … nothing happens by chance … and as one who strongly advocates the office of believer as distinctive reformed theology… such whining should stop … and whimpy men like Meuther should get the boot and take up basket weaving.

  56. speigel Says:

    Apparently Beisner thought it was his moral obligation to no longer distribute his comments on the article. Does Beisner think he committed theft?

    I’m not arguing for Muether nor am I arguing for his view. I’m only stating that Beisner is actually looking into the rules as to what is considered private or public. Maybe you should all help him look at the rules instead of telling him how wrong his interpretation of Matt 18 is. In fact, Beisner has asked for help in regards to the rules.

  57. ray kikkert Says:

    I am not a member of the OPC or the PCA … but regardless… Meuther’s little rant is public … even if he whines that it should be private … too bad … he wants it back in the closet with the rest of his skeleton collection … for some rational …logical reason we hopes 🙂 … it’s embarrassing him … or it should.

  58. Bob Suden Says:

    Have to admit (tongue in cheek) that I never thought I would have anything good to say about John Frame, who singlehandedly has done more to undermine the reformed doctrine of worship in our day than anybody else, but Beisner does quote his comments regarding the obscurity, imprecision and vagueness of Van Til’s language in the controversy(p.5fnx).

    Further Beisner refers to VT’s “proclivity to use terms in nonstandard ways(p.8fnxix)”.

    Now I am not calling VT a proponent of FV, but have Wilson, Leithart et al done anything but use nonstandard definitions of the classic terms in reformed theology, when they don’t discard them altogether?

    Also a particular “wog” site receives honorable mention in Meuther’s endnotes. FWIW congratulations.

  59. Cliffton Says:

    Speigel: I’m not arguing for Muether nor am I arguing for his view.

    Cliffton: I did not perceive that you were.

    Speigel: …I’m only stating that Beisner is actually looking into the rules as to what is considered private or public.

    Cliffton: I have already spoken on Matt 18 and the implications of this text with respect to the private/public distinction. Thems are the rules. The only thing that Beisner must “do” is give his assent.

    In addition, Beisner’s statements expressed here on this blog already indicate that he is “looking into the rules” in all the wrong places. He stated:

    “Today I was informed that Mr. Muether’s paper was considered private to two committees of the Presbytery.”

    This is informative. For it manifests precisely what I believed the thinking to be. That is, not only is the committee (or someone wearing a large hat) standing in a position to determine what is private or what is public (as public servants no less), but they (or the man with a large hat) also stand in a position to tell Muether himself whether the thoughts that he has are public or private.

    Now I suppose one could claim that it was Muether himself who considered the information private, and, that he wished the committee(s) to reckon it as such (the illegitimacy of this request not withstanding), and this is what made it a private matter. However the fact that John “was asked not to distribute his paper to the full Presbytery” would contradict the claim that Muether’s consideration is the determining factor.

  60. Eric Says:

    An hitherto silent observer of your blog (good work by the way) I would also like to get a copy of Beisner’s annotation of Muether’s hogwash.

  61. Eric Says:

    A somewhat related question, where can one find the transcript of the complaint against Gordon Clark by Van Til and company?

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think Trinity Foundation has been looking into publishing the complaint and the answer as a booklet at some point. Don’t know where that is at this point? I have a practically unreadable copy of the answer, although the complaint is clean.

    I’m trying to find a clean copy of the answer. So if you come across one let me know. I haven’t tried them, but I would think the PCA Historical Center might have copies or perhaps the OPC.

  63. Stephen Says:

    This is something that I have only learned of very recently. This may explain why Dr. Reymond has now retired from the ministry and left the OPC congregation in Ft. Lauderdale? I think it is a shame that a man like Robert Reymond had to endure opposition because of a point of difference with the patron saint of the OPC. It is difficult for any pastoral candidate to come into OPC if he does not affirm his allegiance to Van Til. I guess the OPC is more interested if you can spew venom at Gordan Clark and quote the intricate points of Van Til’s magnum opus. The OPC does not deserve a man like Robert Reymond, whom I am indebted to for teaching me Reformed theology as a young seminarian.

  64. Reading this post in retrospect of what has transpired since, particularly Horton’s new systematic theology, leaves me with little optimism for saving the Reformed denominations. Both WSC and WSPA have gone off the deep end. Scott Clark and Mike Horton are closet sympathizers with neo-orthodoxy–only their sympathies are fairly obvious to anyone who has read Dr. Clark to any extent. Unfortunately, even Sproul is more sympathetic to this sort of irrationalism than to traditional Reformed theology. The prospects for a reversal of this situation are pessimistic at best–except for the promise of God in Scripture that He will keep a remnant.

    Unless the LORD of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9 NKJ)

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