Archive for October 2011

Salt Lake City Here We Come

October 26, 2011

By Steve Matthews

“Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.” – Dr. Robert Jeffress

A few weeks back, Baptist minister Robert Jeffress caused a quite a stir when he introduced presidential candidate Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit.  Rather than offering the usual vanilla platitudes in support of his favorite candidate, he made a dreadful gaffe and said something that was actually interesting.  In today’s PC world, this, of course, is strictly verboten.

Jeffress’ offending words in full were,

“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,” Jeffress said. “Mormonism is  not Christianity. It has always been
considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.

In 2007, Jeffress made a similar remark about Romney in a sermon, saying

Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.  Even     though he     talks about Jesus as his lord and savior, he is not a Christian.

Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult. And just because somebody talks about Jesus does not make them a believer.

Now I have to say, none of this terrible upsets me.  Dr Jeffress’ comments about Mormonism and Romney were right on target, admirable even.  Mormonism is not Christianity and Mormons, including Mitt Romney, are not Christians.  Further, given the bizarre history and antitrinitarian doctrine of the Mormon faith, calling it a cult – as the word is popularly understood – is quite accurate.

At the moment, even mainstream conservative Evangelicals feel free to call Mormonism a false faith.  For instance, Al Mohler, a popular Baptist theologian and public figure, has gone on record saying that Mormonism is not Christianity,  thus signaling that it’s still safe to hold this opinion in the SBC.

But it’s fair to wonder just how long this will remain the case.

The history of how Protestants have viewed Roman Catholicism is instructive here.  Evangelicals once were far more open about denouncing Romanism than they are now about criticizing Mormonism, yet the Protestant pulpit long ago fell silent on the sins of Rome. Mohler is a good example of this long running trend.  For while he’ll offer pointed criticism of Mormonism, he has steadfastly refused to speak out decisively against Roman Catholicism.  In fact, he has even gone so far as to yoke with Rome by signing the ecumenical Manhattan declaration.  All in a good cause, of course.

To be fair, Mohler has criticized, if rather tepidly, some of Rome’s practices.  But I’ve never heard him throw the knockout punch against Rome that he’s called to throw in his role as pastor.  He won’t call Rome the Babylonian harlot.  You will never hear him say Rome is the seat of Antichrist.  He can’t even bring himself to deny that Romanism – with its soul-destroying false gospel of faith and works – is Christianity.  To do so, it seems, is not safe.  After all, denouncing Rome in unambiguous terms could make one enemies.  It could get one fired.  Horror of horrors, it could even get one disinvited from the Evangelical rubber chicken circuit.

Today there are two Mormons in the Republican field of presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.  This, as far as I am aware, is a unique development in presidential politics and one that portends a growing Mormon influence in the Republican party and American politics generally.  If the Lord chooses to punish this nation by giving us a Latter-Day Saint for president, it’s going to put the influence-seeking, culture-warrior Evangelical crowd in a bit of a quandary.  After all, Mormons are pro-life and seem generally supportive of the of the sort of political conservatism that’s popular among Evangelicals.  Pastors may one day soon be faced with the choice of speaking the truth about the false faith of a popular Mormon president or falling in line and accepting him as a brother in Christ.

If the long running Evangelical love affair with the seven-hilled Roman harlot is any indication,  my guess is that when “Evangelical leaders” are faced with the choice of defending the truth or defending their political and religious spheres of influence, not a few will suddenly see the light and fall all over themselves to be first in line to lick the boots of their new Mormon masters.

Perhaps we’ll then find ourselves treated to the curious sight of Evangelical big shots forging a coalition with leading Mormons under the banner Evangelicals and Mormons Together: Toward a Common Polygamy.  Maybe they could name ecumenical godfather Chuck Colson as their honorary chairman.  But whatever ecumenical schemes they carry out, no doubt our latter day Luthers will be most sincere in everything they do and say.  All in a good cause, of course.


Antichrist on the Rise

October 26, 2011

Vatican calls for global authority on economy, raps “idolatry of the market.” As my former boss said, gotta love the Vatican complaining about idolatry.

John MacArthur is All Wet

October 19, 2011

Something for my Baptist friends from Sinners and Saints Radio.

I think this will be 45 minutes well spent and the last argument (I won’t give it away) is my favorite.

John Robbins Quick Quote

October 18, 2011

The God who could have not-created is not the God of the Bible. The God who could not-save sinners is not the God of the Bible. All truths are necessary truths. This notion that God is “free” not to create or save makes God completely irrational. Did he hesitate between two alternatives? Robbins

— Yahoo Groups “Clark” list #276

Leithart Trial Highlights

October 14, 2011

Lane Keister, one of the prosecution’s chief witnesses in the Leithart case, has provided a revealing and succinct summary of the trial for those like me who don’t own high enough waders to slog though all the trial documents.  You can read the entire Keister highlight panel here, but here are some of my favorites from his list that are worth repeating if only to further shame the Pacific Northwest Presbytery and the PCA in general for continuing to allow Federal Visionists like Leithart remain a “pastor in good standing.”  Just read through this short list and then explain to me how Leithart can be considered, even remotely, a minister of the gospel?

PROSECUTION [Stellman]: “Well, my – – my question is. I’m asking you is this your view namely that the – – the arrabon of the Holy Spirit, the down payment of future glory is given to all members of the visible church merely by being baptized and can be lost by those members of the visible church who later apostasize.
WITNESS [Leithart]: Yeah, I – – I would say yes.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 190).

“What would Adam have to do in order to inherit the tree of knowledge, which is I think the sign of – – of the glory that he was going to be given. He would have to trust God. And he would have to obey him. How do we receive eternal life? We trust Jesus and out of that trust we obey him. That’s the point I’m making about the continuity.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 194).

“Yes we do have the same obligations that Adam and Abraham and Moses and David and Jesus had namely the obedience of faith. And yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ so that our covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the spirit of Christ in us and our covenant faithfulness is about faith trusting the spirit to – – to will and to do of his good pleasure.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 195)

Q [Stellman]: But, okay. Let me ask this then. Are we, do we receive the eschatological inheritance by virtue of our perfect, personal and perpetual obedience?
A [Leithart]: Obedience that’s coming out of faith? Yes.
Q: So what the Confession says of Adam that he was to receive life, that life was promised to him upon condition of per- – perfect – – let me finish – –
A: Yeah. I’m sorry. Yeah, I’m sorry. I – I need to change my answer. I didn’t – – I didn’t follow the whole question before. Perfect personal obedience? No. I didn’t – – I misstated. Are we, are we, do we receive the inheritance by a faith that produces obedience that’s what I would affirm.
Q: I fail to see then how I am the one importing this extra-confessional, meritorious, or I forget the exact word that you used, legal structure upon what the Confession says about the covenant of works versus the covenant of grace. Because I just asked you, if that’s the case then, must we walk in, do we receive the inheritance based upon our perfect, perpetual and personal obedience the way the Confession says that Adam would have. And now you’re saying, the answer is no.
A: Correct. The perfect, personal and perpetual obedience is not what is required of us because Christ has done that for us, we trust in him. But do we trust and obey? Again in that level, at that level of generality, Adam’s calling and our calling are the same.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 198).

“COMMISSIONER: Dr. Leithart, [Acts] 2:38. Repent to be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In your judgment, does baptism confer the forgiveness of sins?
WITNESS [Leithart]: That’s what the text says. Yeah.
Q: What does that mean when, when you – – when you say that and by that you mean water baptism confers the forgiveness of sins. What do you mean by that?
A: Right. Again, as was pointed out yesterday, water baptism is one part of, it’s – – it’s the visible portion of an event that involves God’s action. It is God’s action. And I would also point out that I’m, I can – – I can find exceptions, where I would say, you know, did some of these sins actually get forgiven if you have a, somebody who’s a settled hypocrite. If the paradigm is the, an infant of believing parents and they are baptized. Can I say to that infant as he grows, Jesus loves you, you are righteous before him, your sins are forgiven? And he says. How do I know? Can I point him to his baptism as a sign that that’s happened? I think I can, yes. And I think baptism, again, I’m explaining all this, the – – the – – the power of all this, I think, is the – – the reality of baptism as a entry into the visible church, the body of Christ.
Q: Do you speak of, in your writings, temporary – – temporary forgiveness of sins?
A: Yes.
Q: What do you, what do you mean by that?
A: Right. There, there I have in mind, for example, the parable in Matthew 18 where the dead is forgiven and then the dead is reimposed on somebody who’s been forgiven. Jesus ends that parable by saying, so shall my Father do to you all of those of you who don’t forgive your brothers from the heart. So, there’s a statement in Matthew 18 of forgiveness that’s given and then withdrawn.
Q: Does baptism confer justification and, if so, what do you mean by that?
A: Yeah. In the same sense again that I’ve been talking all of these benefits of baptism, I’m arguing, are benefits of being in the body of Christ, being members of the visible church. The visible church is the, and – – and again I’m thinking in terms of our standard experience of baptism which is an infant who is in- -infant of believing parents and a faithful church. Are they right before God? Is baptism a sign of that? Is baptism, in fact, a declaration of that? That God is saying to that child when he is baptized. You are my child and I accept you as right in my sight. That’s – – that’s what I would, that’s what I mean by that.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 223).

“If you looked at the whole story line of a reprobate person who has temporary faith and then makes shipwreck of faith as Paul talks about as opposed to an elect person who let’s say is converted later in life. Is the – – is the quality of faith different? Yes. It’s not just a matter, it is a matter of duration. That’s true. The temporary faith doesn’t endure to the end, it’s not persevering. But it’s not just that. Again, the analogy that I used yesterday is an analogy having to do with marriage (inaudible) the temporary faith is like a, the relationship of two spouses who are heading for divorce. And their marriage is, doesn’t just differ from a healthy marriage in duration, it differs in all kinds of ways.” –Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 231).

Giving the PCA the Bird

October 13, 2011

I do not plan to spend any considerable time combing through and analyzing the various Leithart trial documents.  What’s the point? One PCA presbytery after another have now stated in unambiguous terms that the Federal Vision, which maintains a scheme of salvation premised on faith and works as the direct result of their conditional view of the covenant, is perfectly within the bounds of the historic Reformed faith.  In the case of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery the commissioners charged with adjudicating the Leithart case ( Brad Chaney, Eric Costa, Ron Gonzales, Mike Kelly, Eddie Koh, Dirk Carlson, Mike Pfefferle, Brian Sunderland, and Steve O’Ban) unanimously concluded:

The Court is convinced that a covenantal perspective, such as the defendant’s, which does not contradict the Standards of this Church or their foundation in the Word of God is a legitimate and edifying way of looking at the life of faith, and a very helpful complement to the Westminster Assembly’s largely decretal perspective on our salvation.

Think about that, the Federal Vision, the same Federal Vision which the 2006 PCA FV/NPP report condemned as striking at the “vitals of the faith,” is here commended by these spiritually dead commissioners as “a very helpful complement to the Westminster Assembly’s largely decretal perspective on our salvation.”  What complete and utter hogwash.  These men are as shameful as they come along with every other PNWP presbyter that voted to uphold the commission’s “not guilty” verdict.

I know, calling a bunch of PCA TEs and REs “spiritually dead,” even mentioning these men by name, is over the top, right?  If I were ever stupid enough to return to the PCA fold I’d be brought up on charges, right?  Well, here are just two paragraphs penned by Leithart offered in his own defense before the court and in answer to the charges laid against him:

Adam and everyone since have been called to a faith that works, a faith that produces fruit in good works. Neither Adam nor anyone since has done meritorious works, earning God’s favor. There is “law” and “grace through faith” in every covenant. This is what I meant by my statement that pre- and post-fall, all human beings have been called to the “obedience of faith.”

Adam and everyone since have been called to “covenant faithfulness.” I use this term to describe saving faith because I believe it captures various dimensions of the biblical, and Confessional, portrait of faith. “Covenant faithfulness” as I use it means trust in God the Savior that expresses itself in obedience and loyalty to God and that perseveres until the end. I find the phrase a handy way to summarize the teaching of WCF 14, 16, 17, 33.1.

According to Leithart the “obedience of faith”  is not the simple act of believing the truth of the Gospel, it is the combination of doing the law by “grace through faith” and this, says Leithart,  is the operating principle in “every covenant” (emphasis Leithart’s).  This is the same principle Leithart’s employer, Doug Wilson, affirmed in his shrill polemic against the Christian faith; Reformed Is Not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant.   According to Wilson, “breaking covenant occurs because of unbelief, lack of faith, and because of lack of good works” (134), and fulfilling the conditions of the covenant occurs by faith and good works.  Leithart agrees.  Good works are required in order to be saved both before and after the fall.  Similarly, saving faith is not altogether passive “receiving and resting on him and his righteousness,” but consists in the combination of “trust in God the Savior” along with our ongoing “obedience and loyalty to God.”  Calling works non-meritorious is misleading.  Whether they’re meritorious or not, works are still works.   Further, this combination of works and faith can only save provided they “perseveres until the end,” or in what Federal Visionists call “final justification” according to works.

What saves us, according to Leithart, and how saving faith is defined, is not assenting to the finished work of Jesus Christ alone completely outside of us, but rather it is the combination of good works wrought in us by faith.  Covenant faithfulness, not faith alone, is the way of salvation according to Leithart and his fellow Federal Visionists along with those who found him not guilty.  What could be clearer?  Leithart has been consistent on this point and completely unambiguous in his testimony before the court, yet the commissioners of the PNWP, along with the men who voted in favor of their verdict to exonerate, think this is “a legitimate and edifying way of looking at the life of faith, and a very helpful complement to the Westminster Assembly’s largely decretal perspective on our salvation.”  I think calling these men spiritually dead is perhaps too charitable.

* Pictured above (click to enlarge) are the attendees of the 2008 Auburn Avenue Pastor’s Conference where speakers Peter Leithart, Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins and Jeffrey Meyers all gave the PCA’s highest court  the proverbial middle finger just like the men of the PNWP have done once again in their exoneration of Leithart.         

Leithart Trial Documents

October 11, 2011

You can find them here.

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