Jeffrey Meyers – The Latest Scholarship Demands Westminster Revision

“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:

As someone who subscribes to the Westminster Standards and has promised submission to his brothers in the Lord, explain what you mean by the statement, “The whole bi-polar covenant of works/grace schema has got to go. And if that goes, the whole ‘system’ must be reworked (The Wrightsaid Group, November or December, 2003).” In particular, does the “reworking” that you suggested in 2003 entail denying any teachings in the Westminster Standards? Please explain why or why not.

Meyers replied:

I wrote this statement on an internet discussion list more than 7 years ago (in 2003). It was a quick response to a long series of conversations on that particular internet discussion list. It was not a carefully composed, stand alone, public confession of faith on my part. I can see how my comment “the whole ‘system’ must be reworked” might to taken as a reference to “the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards.” That was not what I intended. I was referring to the systematic implications of construing the covenant of creation as a legalistic, meritorious arrangement and how such a construction has implications for how the rest of the Scriptures are read (e.g., the Mosaic Covenant, the work of Christ, etc.). I meant something along the lines of the critiques of Federalism by John Murray, O. Palmer Robertson, and Wilson Benton that I have quoted in an earlier answer.

Think about this for a moment.  According to Meyers the “system” he was referring to was not  “the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards,”  but rather it was the system of doctrine taught in Scripture.  Yet, Meyers in his ordination vows swore that the Confession contains the very system of doctrine taught in Scripture.  Here he denies a one to one corollary between the system taught in the Scriptures and the one outlined in the Confession.  Meyers states in light of implications drawn from his rejection of the Covenant of Works (what he calls the “covenant of creation”) as “a legalistic, meritorious arrangement,” that our understanding of everything from the Mosaic Covenant to the work of Christ and beyond needs to be reworked.  But if our reading of Scripture needs to be reworked, and evidently quite extensively so that even the finished work of Christ is not immune, then it’s hard, if not impossible, to see how the Confession would not also need to be reworked as well.  It seems it would as Meyers confessed on the Wrightsaid group:

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 … 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.

Meyers rejects the idea that the Confession provides a satisfactory framework by which we can interpret the Bible even calling it a “straightjacket.” We can’t even count on the Confession to correctly explain “covenant, justification, righteousness” to name just three areas where the Confession is at odds with what the Bible teaches.

What is even more amazing is that the MOP investigative committee accepted Meyers answer and concluded in light of the contrast between the biblical system and the one outlined in the Confession that Meyers was simply concerned with doctrines not within the purview of the Confession.  They wrote:

While some have questioned the integrity of TE Meyers’ commitment to the Westminster Standards, the committee believes he has been and continues to be faithful to the doctrines therein, even if, at times, he has disagreed with the idea that the Standards say all that needs to be said and/or say it as best as it could be said.

The blindness of the investigators at this point is profound.  Only a complete rejection of the law of non-contradiction could allow someone to conclude that Meyers is faithful to the doctrines outlined in the Confession while simultaneously confessing that the entire system of doctrine taught in Scripture, starting with the Covenant of Works to the very work of Christ Himself, needs to be reworked.   But why stop there, according to Meyers the doctrines of justification by faith alone along with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers needs to be reworked as well.   Again on the Wrightsaid group Meyers said:

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.

Even more disingenuous is Meyers claim that all he meant by the idea that “the whole ‘system’ must be reworked” was “something along the lines of the critiques of Federalism by John Murray, O. Palmer Robertson, and Wilson Benton….”  First, and as we saw in a previous post, Meyers states that it was the work of James Jordan and not Murray, Robertson or Benton that was  “foundational” in his “own thinking and ministry.”  Beyond, Jordan Meyers cites N.T. Wright, Peter Leithart and Ralph Smith as  “must reading for understanding the biblical theology of the covenants” and are “by far and away the best on the subject.”  Yet, in his answers to the investigative committee none of these men get even an honorable mention.   Even more interesting, according to posts leaked from the secret Biblical Horizion’s Yahoo list run by James Jordan (see the Biblical Horizons Yahoos blog), Meyers had this to say about Wilson Benton:

Wilson Benton was going on and on about how awful this “FV” view of baptism was. Then Barry Henning, the Pastor of NCF, said that he had learned that the children of believers were to be counted as Christian from baptism at Westminster East! This was standard Reformed theology, he said. The opposition, he said, seems Baptist, not Reformed. Wilson Benton then immediately said, “Then I’m a Baptist.” There was some laughing, but also some dismayed looks! He said it to get a laugh, but I don’t think he realized how “true” … it really was.

Given the utter contempt Meyers expresses toward Benton when he thinks no one is watching, even calling him a “Baptist,” one can only wonder what his views of Murray and Robertson really are.   Perhaps they’re really “Baptists” too?

On Wes White’s blog Meyers complained recently that I thought that he was a liar.  The question is why would anyone think otherwise?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

#2429
From: Jeff Meyers <jeffmeyers@…>
Date: Thu Dec 4, 2003 8:44 pm
Subject: Re: Re: Decided it was time to publish this

On Dec 4, 2003, at 10:06 PM, Jeff Hutchinson wrote:
Yes, that would be an accurate assumption.  Isn’t that your  understanding as well?   We who confess the Westminster Standards are  to consider any departure from those Standards as “unorthodox” by  definition, until such time as the church amends the Standards  consistent with the proposed modification, or have I misunderstood  the nature of being a confessional church?

Mostly.  But I certainly don’t consider “any” departure from the Standards as unorthodox. 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.  Every new members class I teach reminds me of this.

We must stop living in the past.

But how can the church amend or correct her standards unless guys have the freedom to discuss possible corrections?  If every time a PCA minister begins to wonder about the appropriateness of confessional language and categories, he is denounced as “unorthodox,” then the church will be immune to continuing reformation.

I do think the latest scholarly work in biblical theology demands that we go back and redo a great deal of the Westminster standards.  They were written when people still thought of the covenant as a contract and believed that “merit” had some role to play in our covenantal relations with God.   The whole bi-polar covenant of works/grace schema has got to go. And if that goes, the whole “system” must be reworked.

Grace and Peace,

Jeff Hutchinson
P.S.  By the way, I think both my brother and I were hoping to hear  back from you on this list about one of your previous posts that  seemed to us to be a bit intemperate.  Any chance of hearing from you  on that?  Thanks.

Whoops.  I honestly don’t remember this, Jeff.  Forgive me.  What was the subject line and I’ll go back and check it out.  Sorry.

JJM

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Heresies, Jeff Meyers

12 Comments on “Jeffrey Meyers – The Latest Scholarship Demands Westminster Revision”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Takes “taking exceptions” to a new level!

    Flashback ~ I recall a late 1990’s OPC Nor Cal presbytery mtg in which taking exception to the WCF language on creation was being discussed.

    When a speaker mentioned possibly looking at how the PCA dealt with this, a presbyter behind me muttered under his breath, “Now we’re going to the PCA to learn how to do things?!” I had to laugh, turn around and say, ‘Ouch!’, as I was then under care in the PCA! 🙂

    Ah, those were the days…

  2. Randall van der Sterren Says:

    This is why the idea of subscribing to a “system” within the Confession is such nonsense. Ministers should either confess the confession or go somewhere else. After all, the Southern Baptists have much lower standards and many more career opportunities.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    I certainly don’t see a problem with having to affirm that the Confession contains, as in accurately reflects, the system of doctrine we find in Scripture. The Scriptures do present to the mind a coherent system that, and as the Confession asserts, evidences that the Bible is the Word of God. IMO most of the current attacks on the idea of system come from the influence of Van Til coupled with the rise of biblical theology. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see how “confessing the Confession” is preferable to vowing that you believe the Confession accurately reflect the truths of Scripture?

  4. Don Freeman Says:

    Some people are just nuts. They can wrap it up in fancy language, but they’re still just nuts. And if they’re Van Tilian you can’t even reason with them as they glory in their insanity.

  5. Hugh McCann Says:

    This morning I read this bit of puritanical satire from John Witherspoon’s ‘Ecclesiastical Characteristics’:

    MAXIM III

    _It is a necessary part of the character of a moderate man, never to speak of the Confession of Faith but with a sneer; to give sly hints, that he does not thoroughly believe it; and to make the word orthodoxy a term of contempt and reproach._

    The Confession of Faith, which we are now all laid under a disagreeable necessity to subscribe, was framed in times of hot religious zeal; and therefore it can hardly be supposed to contain any thing agreeable to our sentiments in these cool and refreshing days of moderation. So true is this, that I do not remember to have heard any moderate man speak well of it, or recommend it, in a sermon, or private discourse, in my time, And, indeed, nothing can be more ridiculous, than to make a fixed standard for opinions, which change just as the fashions of clothes and dress. No complete system can be settled for all ages, except the maxims I am now compiling and illustrating, and their great perfection lies in their being ambulatory, so that they may be applied differently, with the change of times.

    … there is one very strong particular reason why moderate men cannot love the Confession of Faith; moderation evidently implies a large share of charity, and consequently a good and favorable opinion of those that differ from our church; but a rigid adherence to the Confession of Faith, and high esteem of it, nearly borders upon, or gives great suspicion of harsh opinions of those that differ from us: and does not experience rise up and ratify this observation? Who are the narrow-minded, bigotted, uncharitable persons among us? Who are the severe censurers of those that differ in judgment? Who are the damners of the adorable Heathens, Socrates, Plato, Marcus Antonius, &c.? In fine, who are the persecutors of the inimitable heretics among ourselves? Who but the admirers of this antiquated composition, who pin their faith to other men’s sleeves, and will not endure one jot less or different belief from what their fathers had before them! It is therefore plain, that the moderate man, who desires to inclose all intelligent beings in one benevolent embrace, must have an utter abhorrence at that vile hedge of distinction, the Confession of Faith…

    Quoted @ http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/056a-SecretsofChurchPolity.pdf

  6. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Sean,
    I think I understand where Randall is coming from. Anybody can claim to confess the “system” taught by the confession or scripture. It is only when people are pressed on the details that their claim proves to be false. The Jews in Jesus’ day claimed to believe the scriptures. But Jesus told them they didn’t.
    John 5: 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

  7. Lauren Says:

    Isn’t it amazing how some of today’s “theologians” think they possess more wisdom than our spiritual fathers? I guess the Bible is outdated and needs to be reworked too.

  8. business Says:

    The SCR asks the Assembly to affirm that its interpretation of the Westminster standards is the correct one on a number of issues. System subscription is the PCA s standard and the SCR comes close to introducing extra-confessional binding on matters that the Westminster standards do not address.

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sorry to be so dim, but what is “the SCR”?

  10. Zeeshan Says:

    Dear Brother,

    I am Zeeshan Javed from Pakistan. I have studied your web site, and I found it the most wonderful site to get right to the True Word of God. My suggestion for you is to create your material in my language of Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Pashto, Sindhi, Sraiki, and Balochi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani and Indian Urdu and Punjabi and other local languages speaking people. For that purpose, I as a translator will bring your material into my languages and into Indian language as well. I will be printing and distributing your material to my people around me. Although it will take your low expenses as well, as fund for the Word of God to reach out to the deserving people. I my self, work on a local radio station also. Many times it becomes difficult for us to keep doing this because of being minorities and because of the lack of the financial resources. I will wait for your response.

    Sincerely yours

    Zeeshan Javed

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thank you for the offer Zeeshan. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to pay someone to translate my blog. And, I suppose if I did, I would spend the money to translate Clark’s books or at the very least Trinity Review articles.


  12. “System Subscription” is not meant to be a vague claim to believing the Westminster Standards. Rather, in distinction from “full subscription” it allows for disagreement with the Standards on things that don’t necessarily touch on the system of doctrine it teaches. But that is for presbytery and/or the GA to decide. And yet surely a denial of the CoW and/or CoG is a denial of what is central to its system of doctrine. As Hugh said, it takes taking exception to a whole new level. Yes, some like R.Scott Clark push for full subscription to avoid the slippery slope system subscription could become.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: