Jeffrey Meyers – The Parable of the Pharisee & Publican, Part Deux

“Personally, I would like to see us out from under the straightjacket of the Westminster standards.” — Jeff Meyers

And Jesus also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

As some might recall, Jeffery Meyers doesn’t see the doctrine of imputation anywhere in the above parable.   As he explained previously on a note posted on the Wrightsaid Yahoo Group (message #274) :

So I don’t understand how one can read into this passage a Lutheran doctrine of justification. Nothing is said about imputation. Nothing is said about an alien righteousness being needed. In fact, the notion of an alien righteousness being imputed to the TC hardly fits with the story. The TC’s righteousness is his humility. In other words, covenantal faithfulness (=righteousness) in this story means humility. When it says that the man is “justified” it means that he has proven his genuine “righteousness” (faithfulness to the covenant). To confess one’s sins and plead for mercy is righteous. It fulfils the terms of God’s covenant with Israel.

For Meyers the reason the TC went home justified was not because of the righteousness of another reckoned or imputed to him;  rather the TC’s “righteousness is his humility.” Notice, it was his actions, and not the actions of another, that “fulfills the terms of God’s covenant with Israel.”

This is an amazing confession of justification by faithfulness. However, in his response to the Letter of Concern and in answer to the MOP investigative committee Meyers confessed to the court:

I do not include “loyalty or faithfulness as an instrument of justification,” as the Letter asserts. That is not what the portion of the JFVP that they quote says. The statement from the JFVP only talks about what kind of faith is true faith, that is, saving faith. To say that the kind of faith that justifies is a “living, active, and personally loyal faith” is simply to define genuine faith over against false or superficial belief.

How do we reconcile this seemingly orthodox statement with those like the one above from the Wrightsaid group? Let me suggest it comes down to a matter of definition. Notice, while Meyers claims not to include “loyalty or faithfulness as an instrument of justification,” he immediately defines genuine faith in terms of personal loyalty.  Meyers wants it both ways, which arguably makes it easier to tailor his answers to his audience (and deceive untold numbers along the way).

In a followup post to the Wrightsaid group Meyers again wants it both ways.   In his attempt to further clarify his (mis)understanding of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector notice how Meyers seemingly affirms justification by belief alone all the while systematically denying it.  It is not that Meyers openly denies the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith alone (if he did one might suspect even the men of the MOP could see Meyers is not the Reformed stalwart he pretends to be),  it is just that there is so much more to it.

Here is Jeffery Meyers’ post #281 from the Wrightsaid group as he explains the rest of the story:


From: Jeffrey Meyers
Date: Sat Aug 31, 2002 8:06 am
Subject: Re: Re: Pharisee/Tax collector

edistobum wrote:

What I would like to ask you is if the occurence of the word  hilasthati that seems to me and in all of my work to carry the idea  of atonement with it. The only place that the same verb occurs is in Heb 2:17 which I always see translate with the make atonement does  have something to do with the idea of substitution. In not inputation then certainly Jesus is certainly recognizing the plea from the man for forgiveness.

I’m not sure what you are saying. You basically say that the Pharisee thought he was righteous and he was not but the tax collector thought he was not righteous and was. What made the difference? Was it something they did? If the man went down  righteous where did it come from? Was it his own? Was his lack of  thinking he was righteous something that made him righteous or was there something else?

Sorry for a quick note. Don’t have much time. I’m not sure about the verb you mention, I’ll have to check it out.

As for what I am saying: I am not denying the reality of imputation or the necessity of an alien righteousness. Nor, of course, the whole structure of “justification” as we have come to define it in systematic theology.  And I DO think that the parable is consistent with these doctrines (obviously).  But I don’t believe that its ALL here in this passage. The rectification of the TC follows upon his being faithful to the covenant.

You ask where the “righteousness” of the TC came from. There’s nothing in the parable to indicate that something was imputed to him. He was rectified because he did what was right. He was declared by God to be in the right.  He was judged to be faithful (=righteous) to the real terms of the covenant. Ultimately, of course, the ability to be faithful came from God. But that’s not what is in view in this parable. You would have to go somewhere else to find that truth.

Here in *this* parable true “righteousness” is being revealed. That is, true faithfulness to God’s covenantal requirements. Who’s really faithful to God’s covenant? The Pharisee or the TC? God declares that it is the TC. God “justifies” the man and his humble posture. *This,* God declares, is
true “faithfulness” (or righteousness).

Jeff Meyers

Reasonably religious Wright reader

Explore posts in the same categories: Heresies, Jeff Meyers

17 Comments on “Jeffrey Meyers – The Parable of the Pharisee & Publican, Part Deux”

  1. lawyertheologian Says:

    Gee, Meyers’ statements seems like pure Arminianism: God accepting faith/convenantal faithfulness in lieu of perfect obedience. It doesn’t matter that he claims that the loyalty/faithfulness is not justifying but is a characteristic of saving faith, he is still claiming that faith itself justifies (which the WCF Xi,1 clealy affirms is not what is counted/imputed as our righteousness: “not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing,or any other evangelical obedience to them,”).

    How much more (clear) evidence is needed to show that Meyers teaches heresy?

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    Deux is french for two (2).

    ‘Hot Shots: Part Deux’ is a comedy starring Charlie Sheen, ironically enough.

    Is Meyers a theological Charlie Sheen?


  3. People need to realize that it is possible for a man to nod his head to both A and Not-A; it is possible for him to say black and white at the same time; it is possible for men to lie about what they believe, when they are backed against a corner. I’m all for charity, but not blind stupidity.

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    >>When it says that the man is “justified” it means that he has proven his genuine “righteousness” (faithfulness to the covenant). To confess one’s sins and plead for mercy is righteous. It fulfills the terms of God’s covenant with Israel.<<

    HORSE-HOOEY! Christ's faithfulness to the cov't of works is the only righteousness for any Publican enlivened by God! Only Christ fulfills the terms of God's cov't w/ Israel!

    Anything else, anyone else's cov't faithfulness falls far short, no matter how sincere, contrite, or tear-filled their confession and pleas.

    BTW: The publican didn't need to go weekly to temple to grovel for fresh forgiveness – he needed to believe the gospel!

  5. kushisaac Says:

    The TC’s righteousness was not filthy rags? Is that what Meyers is saying?

    Any righteousness that is not Christ’s sends men to hell.

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Seems to me that you’ve understood Meyers precisely. The TC’s righteousness was righteousness and on that basis he went home justified.

  7. Ronda Rush Says:

    Sorry, but little side issues interfere with my concentration on the big issues . . so I ask, why are all referring to the tax-gatherer as “TC?”

    Sean, thank you for these insights into Meyer’s and FV error. Invaluable!

  8. Sean Gerety Says:

    Tax collector.

  9. Stephen Says:

    Sean, I wonder if Jeff used his sermon on the parable of the Pharisee and Publican for his “Ash Wednesday” liturgy. This would have been a great occasion to introduce more of his FV heresy to his flock.

  10. The Other Jonathan Says:

    Forgive me for the intrussion but I don’t know what thread this would best fit under.

    Is the OPC considered lost? I left a long time ago because of the FV and was just curious as to if they ever took an official stand against it.


  11. Hugh McCann Says:

    Since Ash Wednesday’s been brought up (w/no apologies to our absent Anglican friend), the collect (prayer) for the season is inherently FV-flawed:

    “Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

    Hence, instead of God’s discriminatory saving love, we have a universal “love.” So, instead of sola fides, we have the road of penitence, contrition, and lamentation: all appropriate in their places and for their purposes – just not for justification!

    Instead of sola gratia, we have groveling for forgiveness.

    Maybe Cranmer napped here…

  12. “God “justifies” the man and his humble posture.”

    Or as Hugh humorously puts it, “groveling for forgiveness” is our righteousness. According to Meyers this fulfills the real terms of the Covenant. But the real terms of the Covenant is personal, perfect, perpetual obedience to God’s law. Acknowledging that you haven’t rendered such obedience and pleading for mercy as the basis of your acceptance is again pure, patent Arminianism.

  13. Hugh McCann Says:

    As I said to some Anglican friends: ‘Basing God’s mercy & forgiveness on the sinner’s supposedly “worthy” lamentation and acknowledgment of his “wretchedness” may make him feel temporarily religious and self-righteous, but in the end such thinking is eternally deadly.’

    The publican had a right posture before he was exonerated by the Judge of all men, but upon being justified (not trying to be), he needed not to endlessly recite Psalm 51 on the hamster-wheel of religious works. He could read it now in the past tense in his new liturgy!

  14. Is this par for the course with Anglicans? Not to be Anglican bashing, but it seems like a lot of the FV type of heresy comes from Anglicans or those with Anglican backgrounds. They tend to speak of the gospel more broadly. And like the RCs, there is similar theological terms defined more broadly, like the atonement referring to reconciliation, and other such things that lead to confusion, and confusing debates.

  15. Hugh McCann Says:


    Yes, I think so. Having been in ECUSA* for 4 years, I have seen both liberal and conservative Anglicans tending toward auto-soteriology.

    Sadly, this blog catalogs the ill-effects of (neo-)legalism upon many Presbyterians, as well.

    Fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, and many Anglicans and Presbyterians veer Romeward when the liturgical rubber hits the doctrinal road…

    *Episcopal Church, USA; now, The Episcopal Church, ‘TEC’

  16. David Reece Says:

    The Other Jonathan,

    I am currently a member of the OPC. I think it may be lost as a denomination. I am dealing with this issue myself now and am deciding if I should leave or not. I think I am in sin by remaining a member, but I am not sure and thinking through the issues with my wife.

    I am seriously and persistently bothered by the lack of any institutions to join.

  17. Max Says:

    Anglicanism continues to be represented by a broad range of ideas. You will find evangelicals both calvinist and arminian, Anglo-Catholics wishing to join Rome, and liberals who seem more pagan than anything else. This is what Anglicanism means. It has always existed as a continuum, but the diversity has greatly expanded in recent years.

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