Jeffrey Meyers – The Problem with RUF Guys
For those unfamiliar with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), it is an outreach ministry of the PCA geared, as the name suggest, to college students. I recently contacted an RUF minister because I am increasingly concerned about my eldest daughter’s Christian walk, or, better, lack thereof. I guess it’s not totally unheard of, but since breaking free from her “parental bonds” and going off to college my daughter seems more like a neo-pagan than a Christian. An intelligent, funny and beautiful neo-pagan mind you, but not someone who seems at all enamored by the Christian faith. Admittedly, and with what passes for the Christian faith on television and radio (think Joel Osteen, CBN, words of knowledge, pink hair, pompadours, and TBN in general), or some of the infighting and general anti-intellectualism in the decaying P&R world, there is not a lot to be enamored with. Truth in much of the visible church has taken a back seat to “relational” theology. We’re told that knowing Jesus is deeper than doctrine and what that means no one can say since it’s too deep for words as we spiral into the mystical abyss. Jesus is a person not a proposition they tell us, even if you cannot even begin to know a person without knowing at least some of the propositions he thinks. However, and despite the deplorable shape of the visible church, when you see your child falling away you tend to wonder if they were ever a believer to begin with. I guess I should have called Jeff Meyers instead. He would have set me straight.
Below FV/NPP pastor Jeff Meyers berates an RUF campus minister for simply raising the question of whether or not someone is really a Christian. That is because for Meyers being a Christian does not require actually believing the Gospel. Rather, a Christian is someone who “has been baptized in the church.” The church has the power to make someone a Christian and is something that is accomplished by water and magic words spoken by self-styled ministers like Meyers. Who needs the Holy Spirit when we have the Federal Vision. In Meyers theology there are no Isaacs or Esaus in the church. Baptism is a sign of God’s eternal love and blessing regardless of whether or not a person actually believes the Gospel and the finished work of Christ alone on their behalf. There are no “nominal” Christians in Meyers world. According to Meyers:
Baptism makes one a disciple and disciples are called Christians. One may be a faithful disciple or an unfaithful disciple. But one is a disciple and Christian when one is baptized.
Notice, for Meyers faith is not what is needful, faithfulness is. Since some people are evidently fooled by Meyers equivocation on words like faith and faithfulness, according to the dictionary to be faithful means:
1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker.
2. true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.
3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends.
You want to be justified before the bar of God’s justice you need to be a faithful worker. You want to pass from death into life, you need to be true to your word, or, at least true to the words your pastor mumbled over you while sprinkling water on your head as an infant or as he dunked you in the lap pool behind the pulpit as an adult. You want to be saved, you need to do your part. The fairy tale of Christ’s imputed righteousness, which Meyers calls “the Lutheran mistake,” can avail you nothing. As Meyers told us in a previous post and something he also professed on the Wrightsaid group (even if he was considerably more “close to the vest” in his carefully crafted response to the MOP investigative committee):
“Righteousness” in the Bible means covenant faithfulness. A person is righteous when he does what the covenant requires of him.”
According to Meyers righteousness is not something imputed to believers. A person is righteous when he does what is required. There is nothing alien about that kind of righteousness, which makes sense since Wright too compared the doctrine of imputation to passing gas. Wright wrote:
If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom. What Saint Paul Really Said, p.98
But, rather than fanning away all of his flatulent thunder, here is Jeff Meyers from the Wrightsaid Yahoo group message number 48.
From: Jeffrey Meyers
Date: Tue Aug 13, 2002 9:18 am
Subject: Re: Re: RUF Critique #1
Doug Serven wrote:
> Jeff, John and Mark, your posts have been extremely
> helpful, especially when you take the time (I realize
> we all don’t have unlimited time here!) to explicate
> your disagreements with our mystery author’s thoughts.
> It’s not quite as helpful when you say “Aw, come on”
> but it’s ok to get exasperated at times, especially at
> the end of emails.
Good point. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I say “Aw, come on” when I detect that the person criticizing NTW has really not taken the time to read him thoroughly or sympathetically. When someone says, for example, that NTW doesn’t believe in justification by faith or denies that Jesus is God or some such nonsense, then I say, “Gimmee a break!” So many men are just repeated stock criticisms that they hear others say without taking the time to read NTW themselves. Of course, not everyone must read NTW. But if you are not going to read him then defer judgment to someone else.
> My take on the reason why this is an issue at RUF
> staff training is this: All across the US, campuses
> have Religious Studies departments. OU in fact
> recently started one (and realized they had no classes
> on Christianity so they scurried to find one). Here’s
> what happens: Joe Freshman is a Xian, but has no idea
> anything about the Bible or even why he believes (I
> realize he may not be a Xian afterall, but certainly
> thinks he is one at this point). He either decides to
> get a RS degree or enroll in some classes, thinking,
> hey, I can get credit for reading the Bible. Then he
> gets blasted in class by profs who teach him Jesus
> Seminar stuff, Sanders and Dunn stuff and leave him a
> bloody mess for us to pick up the pieces.
> This is bad, bad, bad.
But surely Sanders and Dunn are not altogether bad, bad, bad. I don’t think you intend to lump Jesus Seminar stuff with stuff from Sanders and Dunn.
What have you read of Dunn?
And as an aside, Doug, you should be careful about how you use the word “Christian.” You guys in RUF could do us Pastors a great service by using the word more consistently. In the scenario you outline above you speak of Joe Freshman as a Christian, but maybe not. Well, he either is or he is not. It’s very open, public, and objective. If he’s been baptized in the church, he’s a Christian. Period. I’m sick of hearing “testimonies” from men coming under care at Presbytery or being ordained that go something like this:
“I thought I was a Christian before I went to college and met up with the RUF minister. I was raised in the church, went to worship and Sunday School with my parents, but I wasn’t really a Christian. . . “
Sorry. That doesn’t work. Baptism makes one a disciple and disciples are called Christians. One may be a faithful disciple or an unfaithful disciple. But one is a disciple and Christian when one is baptized. This is the universal testimony of the NT and the entire Christian tradition.
I don’t want the children of my church– who have been taught that they are Christians by baptism and have been at the Lord’s Table from earliest memory as a full member of the family of God–I don’t want them to go away to college and have some campus minister say to them something like the following: “You may not really be a Christian. You may have thought you were a Christian as a child, but were you really one? Are you really saved? Have you been converted?” etc.
What I want them to say to our children is: “You are a baptized member of the church of Jesus Christ. You bear the name Christian. God has been merciful to you all your life. He has loved you and incorporated you into his family. Wear that name faithfully and not in vain. You are growing up. God is putting you in new situations that demand greater faithfulness. Trust in him. Your childhood faith will no longer be enough. Now you must depend on him in the midst of mighty intellectual and fleshy temptations. Etc.”
And this discussion of who’s a Christian is directly linked with NTW’s perspective on the objectivity of the covenant. This is something that we Presbyterians must recover. We have been overly influenced by Revivalism and Pietism.
> The question is — where does Wright fit in this
> milieu? He’s big news right now and some seem to think
> that he is in the same strain as Sanders/Dunn.
> Obviously, you disagree and that’s fair enough.
> But you seem to come across as thinking it’s
> absolutely ludicrous for anyone to think Wright has
Not at all. Wright does have problems. So does B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge and Berkhof. But we don’t dismiss these men as dangerous simply because we don’t agree with them on every front. NTW problems, however, earn him a prompt dismissal.
>In your interacting with “their”
> interacting, it’s as if you think Wright has freed us
> from the bondage of Reformed theology/WCF.
Well, maybe he will help us do just that. We need to recognize that traditions, even Reformed traditions, may become idols that keep us in bondage. Personally, I would like to see us out from under the straightjacket of the Westminster standards. It has become way more than it was ever intended to be. Some within our circles are in danger of doing what they do in the LCMS–making our confessional standards the hermeneutic by which we interpret the Bible. If NTW rubs our nose in the Bible and helps us see that the categories used in our tradition to explain covenant, justification, righteousness, etc. are not necessarily the best and most biblical, then I say, more power to him.
> I ask you this — think for a second about not
> defending Wright so much. Where do you find him
> unclear and wonder about what he means? Why would
> people be having problems, assuming they aren’t just
> blasting away for fun at him or because they don’t
> like his clothes or Anglican status or something.
Mostly on peripheral issues: women’s ordination (as Mark has mentioned), social ethics (as Barlow has pointed out), etc. I have often had some disagreements with his exegesis of individual passages.
> I’d like to hear from the anti-Wright faction, but
> don’t know if they are going to jump into this fray.
> Hope they will,
Well, I hope we do hear from them too.
Thanks for the good questions, Doug.