Archive for April 2011

Richard Gaffin, Jr. – Missing the Mark

April 27, 2011

With the publication of The Emperor Has No Clothes: Dr. Richard B. Gaffin Jr.’s Doctrine of Justification, author Stephen Cunha has provided another excellent example of how the central mission of the Trinity Foundation is being fulfilled.  When the first issue of the Trinity Review first appeared in 1978 they began by boldly stating their reason for existence in “The Trinity Manifesto – A Program for Our Time.”  For those of you who may have purchased any of the books published by the Trinity Foundation over the years, you probably are already familiar with the Trinity Manifesto as it can be found, at least in a slightly modified version, in the back pages of every one of their  publications and which includes the following thought from the late Dr. Gordon Clark:

To echo an early Reformation thought, when the plough man and the garage attendant know the Bible as well as the theologian does, and know it better than some contemporary theologians, then the desired awakening shall have already occurred.

While I would not presume to claim that the desired awakening has already occurred.  If it has I must have missed it.   I can say that Cunha, who states up front that he has no seminary degree and is not an ordained officer in the church but rather toils “in the business world,” clearly knows the Bible as well, if not better, than most (not some) contemporary theologians.  In addition, his book is a much needed piece in the puzzle exposing Richard Gaffin’s false gospel demonstrating that Gaffin has more in common with Norman Shepherd (the granddaddy of the Federal Vision) than anything remotely approaching the historic Reformed and Christian faith. This is important, because Gaffin, now retired, was professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and taught there from 1965 until 2007.

For more than forty years Dr. Gaffin has trained would be pastors and budding theologians and scholars in his unique brand of neo-legalism that he helped forge with Shepherd.  According to Dr. Mark Karlberg Gaffin along with Shepherd is the “co-father of the new, anti-Reformational teaching at Westminster Seminary” (see “The Changing of the Guard,” Trinity Review, March-April 2001).  Not surprisingly Gaffin has never publicly distanced himself from Shepherd, much less repudiated him or his false gospel.  Which could explain his glowing endorsement of Shepherd’s horrendous, The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism (a book where Shepherd restates the doctrines that got him dismissed from WTS) and is something that continues to be a cause of embarrassment for many of Gaffin’s most ardent supporters.  (Lane Keister claims that in a private telephone conversation with Gaffin he “admitted that Shepherd’s theology is imbalanced” and “that Shepherd considers the inseparability of faith and works to the exclusion of the distinctness between the two.”  Hardly the appropriate response when they Gospel is at stake and from a man who openly defended Shepherd during the entire time the Shepherd controversy raged at WTS).   As Cunha notes:

In this writer’s judgement, Dr. Gaffin’s endorsement of Mr. Shepherd in general, though it does not necessarily imply agreement with Mr. Shepherd on all points of doctrine, is fully consistent with Dr. Gaffin’s own view on the role of works relative to justification. (93)

It is this consistency that Cunha demonstrates throughout his book as he pulls material primarily from Gaffin’s By Faith, Not By Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation along with recorded lectures.  Combined with Mark Karlberg’s devastating The Changing of the Guard which focuses on the Shepherd-Gaffin nexus at WTS (both East and West), Paul Elliot’s handling of Gaffin’s own New Perspective on Paul along with his shameful defense of Shepherdite and neo-legalist John Kinnaird in Christianity and Neo-Liberalism, John Robbins article “In Christ” where he examines Gaffin’s erroneous and anti-Christian “existential” theory of union with Christ via the waters of baptism, and now Cunha’s new addition dealing with Gaffin’s anti-Christian doctrine of justification, and the similarities between Gaffin and the false gospel of Norman Shepherd and the Federal Vision become impossible to deny.

Consider the following “modification” (or more properly nullification) of the Law/Gospel distinction from By Faith, Not By Sight as cited by Cuhna:

From this perceptive, the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself.  It is not a theological ultimate.  Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer [emphasis Cunha].  (38)

Or, consider this from Gaffin’s recorded “Lectures on Romans” and his discussion of Romans 2:13:

As that judgement decides, in its way, we’re going to wanna (sic) qualify that deciding, but as it decides the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. That is, death or life. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works.  The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers.  In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works.  Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law. (55-56)

As Cunha correctly notes “Dr. Gaffin holds to the view that Romans 2:13 is referring in a positive sense to a final justification for believers according to imperfect works produced through faith.” (56)  Now compare Dr. Gaffin’s teaching with the PCA’s FV/NPP report’s concluding point #9:

The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

Further, and as Cunha carefully demonstrates:

Given the context of Paul’s argument, it is not so surprising that Calvin would say regarding Romans 2:13, “they who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children.”  Give the context, it is extremely unlikely that “the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13) refers in a positive way to believers . . . Dr. Gaffin’s reading would have the practical effect of directing sinners to endeavor to obtain their justification through faith plus works.” (57-59)

I should say so. Every step of the way Cunha takes Gaffin at his word.  But, more importantly, he carefully contrasts Gaffin’s word with God’s Word and in every instance Gaffin comes up short.  More importantly, Gaffin’s gross mishandling of Romans 2:13 cannot be easily dismissed as former OPC elder Paul Elliot explains in “The Orthodox Presbyterian Cover-Up“:

Strangely, the [OPC] Justification Study Committee deliberately chose not to address Romans 2:13 head-on. It said only that “this report does not have the space to explore“ the “many current exegetical debates” concerning the passage. In light of the OPC’s history and facts that have come to light since the conclusion of the 2006 General Assembly, this is a serious – and revealing – omission.

Norman Shepherd misused Romans 2:13 in his Thirty-Four Theses on Justification and elsewhere. It is a linchpin of his false gospel. He uses this verse to say that  law-keeping by the individual believer is required in order to be justified before God. As noted earlier in this book, the OPC’s Presbytery of Philadelphia had repeated opportunities to condemn this teaching in 1979 and 1980; but through the efforts of Gaffin, Tyson, and other neo-liberals, it failed to do so. The Presbytery said, in fact, that Shepherd’s teaching on Romans 2:13 was in accord with the OPC’s ordination vows.

Following Shepherd’s example, John Kinnaird also misuses Romans 2:13. Kinnaird teaches that “it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous on that Day of Judgment.” Kinnaird consistently adds the last five words to his personal paraphrase of this text of Scripture, thus changing its meaning entirely. In context, the Apostle Paul is teaching that no one but Christ is capable of keeping the law, and that His perfect law-keeping righteousness is imputed to believers. But by adding his own words to the end of the verse whenever he mentions it, Kinnaird changes Romans 2:13 to mean that lawkeeping is required of believers themselves in order to be declared righteous on the Last Day. Dr. Peter Lillback, now president of Westminster Theological Seminary, defended Kinnaird’s twisting of Romans 2:13 in testimony at his heresy trial. Federal Visionists such as Richard Lusk and New Perspectivalists such as N. T. Wright also twist Romans 2:13 to invent an un-Biblical “second justification” at the Last Day.

Sadly, Gaffin’s mishandling of Paul is in no way limited to Romans 2:13. Consider Gaffin’s take on Paul’s use of the phrase “obedience of faith” found in Romans 1:5 and 16:26:

In this expression “of faith,” is best taken as intentionally multivalent.  In relation to “obedience,” it is both appositional and indications source or origin. In other words, in view is faith itself as an act of obedience (cf. Acts 16:31), as well as other acts of obedience that stem from faith.

Talk about trying to have your cake an eat it too.   It this kind of deceptive analysis and faulty exegesis where Gaffin’s doctrine of justification by faith and works (or what Wes White calls the doctrine of sola fidelity) really comes into view.  As Cunha explains:

In other words, Dr. Gaffin believes that when Paul used the phrase “obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5 and 16:26, he meant both “faith itself as an act of obedience” and “the obedience that comes from faith.” Dr. Gaffin uses this interpretation of Romans 1:5 and 16:26 to help bolster his view that, within the context of justification, “there is a positive or synthetic relationship between faith and works, a constructive bound between faith and what it does.” (77)

By dissecting Gaffin’s doctrine of justification and holding it up repeatedly to the light of Scripture, Cunha’s careful analysis inexorably leads to the conclusion that Gaffin has taught, and arguably continues to teach, another gospel.  Cunha concludes in part:

The heart of the problem is Dr. Gaffin’s view that works in some sense play a causal role in justification.  This view destroys the classic Protestant Law/Gospel antithesis and is inimical to the teaching that justification is by faith alone.  This teaching ultimately leads men to look, at least to some degree, to the production of good works in order to secure justification before God.

Dr. Gaffin qualifies his teaching by saying that works are not (co-) instrumental in justification, but it is clear from his writings and support of Mr. Shepherd that Dr. Gaffin believes that works have a non-meritorious, causal role in justification.  Non-meritorious causality with respect to justification equates to instrumental causality in the language of those who subscribe to the Westminster Standards. (95)

The Emperor Has No Clothes: Dr. Richard B. Gaffin Jr.’s Doctrine of Justification is an important new addition in the study of the false gospel of faith and works that continues to plague the church.

Exciting New Book

April 22, 2011

Just received my copy today from the Trinity Foundation.  For a little preliminary reading see The Gaffin Question.

A Note on Faith – By John Robbins

April 21, 2011

Hugh McCann posted the follow short piece by John Robbins in one of my comment boxes.  I thought I’d reprint it here as well.  Thanks Hugh.

The traditional analysis of faith and saving faith into three components – knowledge, notitia; assent, assensus; and trust, fiducia – has been shown to be false by Clark in his books The Johannine Logos and Faith and Saving Faith. Faith consists of two elements, knowledge (understanding) and belief (assent). His arguments are presented at length in his books, and I shall not repeat them here.

 There is another argument against the traditional three-element view of faith that I do not believe Clark presents. It also is conclusive, and one would hope that theology and theologians a century from now – especially if Christ returns before then – recognize the error of the three-element view of faith.

The argument that I wish to offer is this: If faith consists of three elements – knowledge, assent (or belief), and trust – and if a person does not have faith unless all three elements are present, then unregenerate persons may understand and believe-assent to–the truth. In fact, those who advocate the three-element view insist that unregenerate persons may understand and believe the truth – their prime example of such persons is demons. But if unregenerate persons may believe the truth, then the natural man can indeed receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are not foolishness unto him, contrary to 1 Corinthians 2 and dozens of other verses. Belief – and the whole of salvation – is not a gift of God. Natural men can do their own believing, thank you very much.

The three-element view of faith leads straight to a contradiction – faithless believers – and therefore must be false.

When a Sunday school teacher was espousing the three-element view of faith and supporting the analysis from his own experience, he said that when young, he knew what the Bible said about sin and salvation; he believed that what it said was true; but he still did not have faith and was not a Christian because he did not trust Christ. That view, of course, destroys the Biblical order of salvation (ordo salutis) for in the Biblical order, regeneration precedes belief. When questioned about this, the Sunday school teacher began talking about regeneration by stages and referred to the miracle of the blind man receiving his sight by stages – first seeing men as trees.

This, of course, is equally unbiblical – regeneration is instantaneous, not a process, and it occurs once, not several times or in stages. Faith – belief – is an effect of regeneration; the regenerate mind must believe the saving propositions; the unregenerate mind cannot believe the saving propositions. What occurs in stages is sanctification, not regeneration, and that is what the miracle of the blind man illustrates.

In conclusion, the three-element view of saving faith cannot be true because it implies a logical contradiction, faithless believers; and because it violates the Biblical doctrine that regeneration must precede belief. The teaching of the Bible is clear: “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15); “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23); “The devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12); “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13); “But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you” (John 10:26); “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, lest they should turn….” (John 12:39-40); “by him everyone who believes is justified from all things” (Acts 13:39); “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31); “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9,11)

Not only have the theologians failed to understand what the Gospel is, teaching that Christ died for all men and desires the salvation of all, they have failed to understand what saving faith is, turning it into something that a person must “work up” within himself, rather than a gift of God. It has been a long time since true Christianity has been preached widely in America – too long. May God raise up men whose minds and voices are true and clear.  The Trinity Review – September/October 1989

Surprise, Surprise

April 21, 2011

Federal Visionist and PCA “pastor” Jeffrey Meyers has been exonerated once again by the Missouri Presbytery.  The Complaint filed against the Presbytery for their spiritual delinquency and bankruptcy for their first exoneration of Meyers has been denied.  Now it moves to the General Assembly’s Standing Judicial Commission for review.  While I hope to comment more in the future you can read more on these recent developments here, here and here.

Jeffrey Meyers – The “Full Corpus” of His Theology

April 13, 2011

For those who have been slogging their way through the wave of Jeffrey Meyers’ Wrightsaid posts, here is a quick summary of the “full corpus” of his theology:

“The key is to understand what “righteous” means. It does not refer to moral purity or conformity to a legal standard (the “Lutheran” mistake). “Righteousness” in the Bible means covenant faithfulness. A person is righteous when he does what the covenant requires of him.”
Watching Car Crashes

“[James] Jordan’s works have been foundational in my own thinking and ministry.”
Covenant Theology Bibliography

“Baptized children are Christians. They are disciples. They belong to Jesus. They are members of his body, of his Church. They don’t grow up and “become” Christians in high school or college when they have a particularly powerful experience of God’s love or grace. They can and should have these experiences as they mature. But for baptized Christian children these experiences are not “conversion.” Baptism seals to our children all the promises of God in Christ. They are forgiven, justified, adopted, etc. by means of their baptism into the church.”
Justified by Means of Their Baptism

“The WCF and the bi-polar Cov of Works/Grace scheme needs to be subjected to some careful scrutiny by men who do not worship at the idol of Westminster. Maybe [N.T.] Wright is just the one to do that, not being a part of our tradition.”
Defense of What Saint Paul Really Said

“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 . . . Personally, I would like to see us out from under the straightjacket of the Westminster standards.”
The Problem With RUF Guys

“Read Richard Hays wonderful commentary on Galatians side by side with Luther’s and be amazed at the difference.  Once you understand the *historia salutis* issues in Galatians, it’s hard to go back and appreciate a commentary that is driven by an alien and abstract law-gospel dichotomy.”
On the Alien and Abstract Law/Gospel Dichotomy

“Israel, the bride, is to cling to Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, in faithfulness. What is this but salvation by faith? How is that wrong? . . . NT Wright’s point is that these [Reformed] confessions could be (and probably are) wrong. His argument is that the Lutheran law-gospel dichotomy is not particularly helpful in exegeting passages in Paul (to put it mildly).”
Faith is Faithfulness

“The rectification of the [Tax Collector] follows upon his being faithful to the covenant . . . 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.”
The Parable of the Pharisee & Publican, Part Deux

“Furthermore, how can we read Paul’s opposition of “faith” and “works” as an abstract dichotomy between “passive trust” and “active working” when he describes what the Galatians are being deflected from (by the Judaizers) as “OBEYING the truth” (Gal. 4:7)?”
Faith Works

“The W. standards are 17th century documents composed by committees.  They were never designed to function as a once-for-all formulation of the faith.  We must confess our faith afresh to our own generation.  The Westminster Standards don’t do that every well anymore . . . We must stop living in the past . . . I do think the latest scholarly work in biblical theology demands that we go back and redo a great deal of the Westminster standards . . .  The whole bi-polar covenant of works/grace schema has got to go. And if that goes, the whole “system” must be reworked.”
Latest Scholarship Demands Westminster Revision

“After Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, Pastor Ananias says to him, “Arise, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”  It’s pretty certain that the reason baptism was offered immediately is because the forgiveness of sins is attached to the action.  When were Paul’s sins forgiven?  When was he “converted”?  On the road to Damascus or in Damascus when Ananias poured water over his head in the name of the triune God?  The text is pretty clear.”
Baptism and the Forgiveness of Sin

Baptism, The Washing Of Regeneration

April 12, 2011

Those entranced by the Federal Vision like to insist that “something happens” in baptism.  According to these men what makes a person a Christian is not the divine propositions believed, but holy water which “confers grace and salvation.”  As we saw in the last post, Jeffrey Meyers shares this belief that “the forgiveness of sins is attached to the action” and that through the waters of baptism we are united to Christ.  This is also explains why Federal Visionists have a warm spot in their hearts for forced baptisms.  That’s because Federal Visionists liken baptism to marriage and salvation is accomplished on the basis of our own faithful obedience to our spouse.

The problem is that many cannot see that the FV view of baptism is not Reformed, much less biblical. Many Baptists too, some of whom periodically comment on this blog, routinely confuse this FV doctrine of baptism with the Reformed one. Well, yesterday on Wes White’s “Johannes Weslianus” blog Wes provided one of the clearest and most concise summaries of the Reformed and biblical view of baptism I’ve probably read anywhere.  He was writing in response to a man, Aaron, whose defense of Meyers is pretty typical in what I see coming from FV circles.  Now, I’m not sure if Aaron could be classified as a Federal Visionists, but he has certainly incorporated many of their false premises and beliefs into his thinking.  Interesting too, and for those who may not know, Wes was himself a former Federal Visionist so he is someone who has come at this issue from both sides.

The following is Aaron’s defense of Meyers and Wes’ response in their entirety.  Note carefully how closely Aaron, and by extension Meyers, parallels the Reformed doctrine of baptism and I think you can understand why so many have been fooled: (more…)

Jeffrey Meyers – Baptism and the Forgiveness of Sin

April 11, 2011

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

In their Letter of Concern (LOC) to the Missouri Presbytery calling for an investigation of Federal Visionist Jeffrey Meyers, the signers of the LOC concluded, among other things, that Meyers “affirms that baptism effects a saving, covenantal union with Christ.”  Some of the evidence they provided in support of their conclusion were: (more…)

Jeffrey Meyers – The Latest Scholarship Demands Westminster Revision

April 5, 2011

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

In our continued examination of the theology of PCA pastor and Federal Visionist Jeffrey Meyers we turn again to his disdain for the Westminster Confession and its growing irrelevance in light of contemporary scholarship provided by N.T. Wright, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, and others.  Now, I really don’t care if Meyers thinks the Confession is irrelevant as I think most people outside of the small confines of the confessionally Reformed world would agree.  The problem is that as a pastor in the PCA Meyers publicly vowed that he “sincerely receives and adopts the WCF and the catechisms as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture.” So any admission that he now rejects the WCF as accurately reflecting the system of doctrine taught in Scripture would have serious ramifications to his future as a PCA pastor, or at least it should.  What is interesting is that in reference to direct questions by the MOP investigative committee Meyers emphatically denied that his unguarded remarks calling for the “whole system” to be reworked were directed at the Confession.

Concerning the Wrightsaid post reprinted below, the investigative committee asked: (more…)

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