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
> problems.

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.

Jeff

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19 Comments on “Jeffrey Meyers – The Problem with RUF Guys”

  1. Hugh Says:

    Fascinatingly applicable an ironic, these:

    “According to Meyers righteousness is not something imputed to believers. A person is righteous when he does what is required.

    “…Wright too compared the doctrine of imputation to passing gas.”

    I like the flatulence motif, Sean but that may be the Luther in me (or beans). The irony being that it’s the crypto-papists who are busy doing the passing! ‘Tis a fart most deadly, however.

    While we say that the righteous requirement of the law (the life of obedience) is fulfilled by Christ for all who believe,* these rogues twist Paul inside out, a la 2 Peter 3:15f ~ “…our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Yeouch!

    *”For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” ~ ROMANS 8:3f {NIV}~

    Sounds like Paul believed Jesus lived the life we needed, that which the FV-ers claim to live on their own (Spirit-enabled, of course).

  2. brandonadams Says:

    Thanks Sean, very helpful.

    Just to clarify regarding Meyers’ statements about disciples: Are you disagreeing with his statement that baptism makes someone a disciple, or with his view that one can be a disciple apart from faith, or both? Or are you disagreeing that being a disciple is equivalent to being a Christian?

    I ask because I’m trying to straighten all of this out and a common argument for baptizing infants is that they are by birth disciples of Christ. Ursinus argues in his commentary on the Heidelberg:

    For a proper understanding of this question we shall consider, first, Who ought to receive, and Who ought to desire baptism ? Those who are not yet disciples of Christ, not being of the number of those who are called^ and not believing the doctrine of the gospel, nor obeying the ministry, are not to receive baptism. Nor ought those who feel that they are not the disciples of Christ to desire baptism. And the reason why they ought neither to receive, nor desire baptism, is, because Christ says, first, teach or make all nations my disciples, and then baptize them. Hence all, and only those are to be baptized according to the command of Christ, who are, and ought to be regarded as members of the visible church, whether they be adults professing repentance and faith, or infants born in the church; for all the children of those that believe are included in the covenant, and church of God, unless they exclude themselves. They are, therefore, also disciples of Christ, because they are born in the church, or school of Christ; and hence the Holy Spirit teaches them in a manner adapted to their capacity and age.

  3. Truth Unites... and Divides Says:

    I hope and pray that your eldest daughter is just going through a phase.

    BTW, good article!

  4. Hugh Says:

    Brandon… you scamp!
    (I mean that most benignly)

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    Brandon, is it really your view that Meyers is just repeating Reformed orthodoxy?

  6. Hugh Says:

    CAPSIZING MEYERS…

    …you speak of Joe Freshman as a Christian… If he’s been baptized in the SPIRIT, BORN FROM ABOVE, he’s a Christian. Period.

    …REGENERATION 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 IN THE HOLY SPIRIT. This is the universal testimony of the NT and the entire Christian tradition.

    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.”

    >>SO NOW IT’S TIME FOR “GROWN-UP FAITH”? OR MAYBE JUST AN “AWAY-AT-COLLEGE FAITH”?

    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.
    >PERHAPS SO. IS THAT WHY YOU SAY THAT, “your childhood faith will no longer be enough”? ENOUGH FOR WHAT?!

    …Personally, I would like to see us out from under the straightjacket [sic] of the Westminster standards.
    >PERHAPS SO. LIKE THE TOO-COMMON CONFUSION ‘TWIXT BAPTISM AND REGENERATION?

  7. brandonadams Says:

    No, it’s not Sean. (Though obviously I think Reformed orthodoxy unnecessarily opens itself to Meyers’ view because of its view of covenant membership and baptism.) And I’m not trying to hijack the post. I just want to make sure I properly understand Reformed orthodoxy’s position. Is the difference simply that Ursinus is referring to disciples in name only, “outward” disciples, whereas Meyers denies the idea of nominal disciples?

  8. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ursinus answers the Anabaptists objections to infant baptism and explicates the Reformed doctrine pretty well. I think the WCF and SC and LC do a better job overall than the Heidelberg Catechism. However, whether or not Reformed orthodoxy opens itself up to Meyers views is irrelevant. The question is are Meyers views compatible with Reformed orthodoxy and I would hope even a Baptist such as yourself can see that they are not.

    Infants of believing parents are baptized on the basis of the promises of God and the propositions of Scripture that confirm that regeneration and nascent faith (not faithfulness) in infants, even from the womb, is a reality even if Baptists reject it. Yet, it seems rather than drawing the distinctions that sets the views of men like Meyers apart Baptists seem to latch on to perceived similarities between the Reformed position and the FV in order to discredit both and this is something I find increasingly tiresome. I don’t think you’re intentionally trying to hijack the discussion (although some have on other threads), but is the above post on Meyers really the place to discuss your confusion over Reformed doctrine? I really didn’t think I needed to explain the difference between the Reformed view of Baptism with the swill the FV has been teaching to you Brandon, but maybe I was wrong.

  9. brandonadams Says:

    My apologies. I was simply reacting to a recent discussion I had with someone else arguing for infant baptism from their status as disciples. It’s just all very confusing to me and your answers further confuse me. But I will be happy to sit quiet and learn what I can from your blog without interjecting.

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    Apology accepted and I didn’t mean to jump down your throat either.

  11. Wes White Says:

    The term Christian or disciple can refer either to those who are members of the visible church or the invisible church. The problem is not so much that Meyers wants to use the term “Christian” in regard to all members of the visible church. The problem is that he believes that this is the only way that you can use the term “Christian.”

    Further, he finds it problematic not only that they are asking if they are really Christians but also that they are asking if they are really saved or converted. If Meyers were really using the term “Christian” simply in the Reformed sense of the visible church, then he would not say that they should not ask whether they are really saved or converted. Since not all members of the visible church are not “saved,” then this would be a very good question to ask in the Reformed system. The totality of Meyers’ statements indicates what his other statements indicate, namely, that he holds to a totally different system than the Reformed system and, indeed, that he is sick of hearing about it.

  12. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    You wrote, “Apology accepted and I didn’t mean to jump down your throat either.”

    Are you merely saying that you made a mistake, that you erred?

    Or did you mean to apologize to Brandon?

    Was it meant as an admission of sin, and request for forgiveness?

    It’s rather unclear, brother.

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, I thought I was clear. I was apologizing for laying into Brandon. I was taking out my frustration with Baptists in general on Brandon. After all, you’re the one who posted that video of John Piper asserting that Wilson and Wright do not preach a false gospel. Rather, he says, the problem re Wilson is that he is surrounded by “people who are dumb.” Piper said that Wilson is wrong “but in the way you’d expect a Presbyterian to be wrong.” Talk about dumb. The problem is I’m beginning to think dumb in the way you’d expect Baptists to be dumb.

    As far as doctrine, I agree with Z.U. when he wrote:

    The Anabaptists, therefore, in denying baptism to the children of the church, do not only deprive them of their rights, but they also prevent the grace of God from being seen in its richness, since God wills that the off spring of the faithful should be included amongst the members of the church, even from the womb: yea they manifestly detract from the grace of the New Covenant, and narrow down that of the old, inasmuch as they refuse to extend baptism to infants, to whom circumcision was formerly extended; they weaken the comfort of the church, and of faithful parents; they set aside the solemn obligation by which God will have the offspring of his people consecrated to him from their very infancy, distinguished, and separated from the world; they weaken in parents and children the sense of gratitude, and the desire which they should have to perform their obligations to God; they boldly contradict the apostles who declare that water should not be forbidden those to whom the Holy Ghost is given; they wickedly keep back from Christ infants whom he has commanded to be brought to him; and lastly, they narrow down the universal command of Christ which requires that all should be baptized. From all these things it is clear that the denial of infant baptism is no trifling error, but a grievous heresy, in direct opposition to the word of God, and the comfort of the church. Wherefore this and similar follies of the sect of the Anabaptists should be carefully avoided, since they have, without doubt, been hatched by the devil, and are detestable heresies which they have fabricated from various errors and blasphemies.

    I especially like that last line. 🙂

    My frustration stems from the fact that Baptists seem to think the problem with the FV is that they’re just being logically consistent to underlying Reformed premises regarding baptism and the covenant. Even if they don’t really think that, they seem to want to make that point over and over which, in those cases, is just a cheap shot. Worse, it’s not helpful. The problem with the FV is not that they are paedobaptists nor does it stem from a belief in paedobaptism. One doesn’t need to agree with or believe in infant baptism to see that what the entire system being advanced by the FV men, from their view of baptism to the covenant and beyond, logically implies an alternative soteriological system which logically makes theirs a false gospel (since the Scriptures know of only one soteriological system).


  14. Some thoughts:
    1. I wouldn’t call John Piper a Reformed Baptist. Not only does he reject Covenant Theology, I do not believe he understands Particular Redemption, Perseverance of the Saints, or God’s sovereign decrees, though he may think he does.
    2. Credobaptists simply cannot be lumped together. Rick Warren is a far cry from John Gill is a far cry from John MacArthur is a far cry from Fred Zaspel is a far cry from Zane Hodges. Also, Sean, you may want to check out this post: http://sovereignlogos.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/confessing-the-faith-in-1644-and-1689-by-pastor-james-m-renihan/. Anabaptists and Reformed Baptists may have some things in common, but then again, so do Presbyterians and Romanists. That doesn’t equate them.
    3. The same goes for Paedobaptists. Sean Gerety is a far cry from Jeffrey Meyers, etc.
    4. I, a Reformed Baptist, just recently finished a strong rebuttal of a NCT proponent who accused WCF of teaching Baptismal Regeneration. Do I agree with WCF’s formulation? No. Do I recognize the gulf between WCF and FV/Baptismal Regeneration? Most assuredly.
    5. Let’s not mistake honest inquiries for veiled attacks, and let’s not shoot our allies in the war for the gospel.

  15. Eileen Says:

    I don’t know the history of Hugh and Brandon and Sean, but I think it is important to be a little more precise when we lump paedobaptists with FV or when we lump credobaptists with Anabaptists. Both are errors and are not helpful when distinguishing the real problems and trying to have a meaningful discussion.

    As Sean says, attempting to discredit P&R denoms because they baptize babies *just like* FV adherents do is factually without foundation. Just because they use the same words–like covenant, baptism, and election–doesn’t mean that they are talking about the same thing, although it might seem that way at first glance. If a covenantal particular credobaptist wants to have a discussion on the merits of paedobaptism, they need to have that discussion on the grounds of the nature of the New Covenant and how it should be administered and not by appealing to any similarity with FV (paedobaptism.) As Sean has said, the FV has a parallel soteriological system which is sacramentalist. They functionally deny the effectual call and perseverance and sovereign election, for starters.

    On the other hand, to attempt to discredit credobaptists by equating them with Anabaptists is a similar error. Although they both limit baptism to professing believers, there are many other significant differences. Many covenantal particular credobaptists deny that their view of baptism is even derived from the Anabaptists. So, as above, paedobaptists need to have their discussion with credobaptists on the grounds of the nature and administration of the New Covenant and not because credos and Anabaptists baptize in an outwardly similar manner.

    I totally agree with Sean’s statement that anyone with a grasp of the true gospel and the doctrines of grace should be able to see that FV is a false gospel, regardless of one’s position on the timing and mode of baptism. And FV is not just logically consistent covenantal theology or even hyper- covenantal. It is a sacramentalist religion, and so it is much more like Romanist theology than covenant theology.

    I hope we can keep our focus where it needs to be–opposing the false shepherds–and not be distracted by issues of much less importance.

  16. Jim Butler Says:

    I agree with Patrick and Eileen. “Baptist” is a broad category and as a Reformed Baptist, I have much more solidarity with WCF Presbyterians than many, many baptists.

    jim

  17. Eileen Says:

    Patrick, I didn’t see your comment before I commented, so I’m sorry for repeating basically what you wrote. Thanks for the link. You made me smile thinking about a link between Zane Hodges and John Gill ;o)


  18. Eileen, no problem at all! Dittos to your entire post (and every other comment of yours I’ve read, for that matter).


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