Archive for April 2013

Clark Quick Quote

April 27, 2013

I travel a lot for work and while I loath the constant violations of my forgotten Constitutional rights at our nation’s airports where rubber gloved blue-shirts are “securing the homeland” by patting down my crotch, the planes themselves provide a great opportunity to catch up on some reading.  On a recent trip I finally decided to wade into Augustine’s tome; City of God.  At first it was interesting how 4th Century Christians needed to defend themselves against those clamoring for a return to idol worship.  I confess after more than 200 pages of this I was ready to quit. I’m told somewhere in the remaining 800 pages it gets better and is even life changing.  However, on my last little hop to Kansas via a quick stop in Memphis, I decided to take with me an old favorite, Religion, Reason and Revelation.  Clark is the first and may be the only Christian scholar that I’ve ever read who views David Hume as an unwitting hero of the faith. On a little side note, while in college I took a course on the history of philosophy. The professor’s opening lecture included the promise that if anyone in the class harbored any belief in God he would rid it from our minds using Hume as his tool. I only wish I had Clark in college:

Therefore, those who defend a cosmological argument without stating what it is must be challenged to answer several objections that would seem to apply to any formulation.  No doubt it is David Hume who, quite apart from his strictures on the principle of causality, has best expressed those objections.  But since Hume was such a vicious antagonist of Christianity, his name is anathema to believers, and they are irrationally inclined to assume the falsity of all he said.  The reverse may be closer to the truth. It may be perfectly correct in arguing that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated on the basis of sensory experience. And if this is so, Christians should thank him for pointing out a procedure that ends only in embarrassment for them.  Hence, Hume’s arguments should be examined without any prejudice that he could not possibly have been right.

. . . The cosmological argument, however, requires that the universe as a whole be an effect.  But no observation of parts of the universe can give this necessary assumption.  To be quite clear about it, no one has ever seen the universe as a whole.

Then next, even if it could be proved that the universe is an effect, there is another extremely serious difficulty, though it is but a particular application of Hume’s first point.  The first point was the principle that no characteristics can be ascribed to the cause beyond those necessary to produce the effects by which alone the cause is known.  Now, the observed effects include many evils, disasters, tragedies  and what the Christian calls sin. These can be listed in terrifying profusion.  They have been so listed and used against Christianity both by Hume and John Stuart Mill, as well as by more cynical writers like Voltaire.  These manifest evils, from congenitally deformed infants to the torture chambers of Nazis and Communists, prevent a conclusion that the cause of the world is good.  The cosmological argument totally fails to prove the existence of a just and merciful God.  To be sure, it allows — though it does not prove — the existence of a good god, but only on the assumption that he is neither omnipotent nor the cause of all that happens.  But the cosmological argument was supposed to deal with the universal cause. As a recourse for Christian theism, therefore, the cosmological argument is worse than useless. In fact, Christians can be pleased at its failure, for if it were valid, it would prove a conclusion inconsistent with Christianity.

It is most unfortunate that a large section of conservative Protestantism is unwilling to discuss the justice of God and its relation to the evils of the world.  There are devout individuals who seem to suppose that a discussion of evil may put wrong ideas into young heads. Any attempt to explain evil, they hold, is unsettling to the faith. In this they are disobedient to their own standard, the Bible; and beyond this, their viewpoint implies that Voltaire, Hume, Mill, and other opponents of Christianity are, and will remain, unknown. These well-meaning individuals do not realize that Hume’s arguments have been public property since 1776; that millions of people have rejected Christianity because of them; and to stop this loss it is a Christian duty to meet them squarely. This, I believe, can be done. The problem of evil is not insoluble. But the solution does not depend on rehabilitating the cosmological argument (39-41).

Last Hurrah

April 25, 2013

leithart 2

Therefore, the undersigned complains that Pacific Northwest Presbytery acted unconstitutionally on April 27, 2012 in denying the October 18, 2011 complaint of RE Wesley Witt versus Pacific Northwest Presbytery, in their adopting the report of the court’s Standing Judicial Commission on October 7, 2011. This egregious and unconstitutional error permits TE Peter Leithart, who is flagrantly out of accord with the Westminster Standards, to teach and publish his false doctrines with impunity. We further complain that this action of PNWP undermines the Westminster Standards and the system of doctrine taught in the Scripture.

Read the preceding here.

Overture asks PCA General Assembly to Direct SJC to Rehear the Leithart Case

April 13, 2013

Illiana Presbytery requests the 41st General Assembly to direct the Standing Judicial Commission to rehear case 2012-05 (RE Gerald Hedman v. Pacific Northwest Presbytery)

You can read the rest here.

Crocodile Tears

April 13, 2013


Now that Jason Stellman is getting comfortable settling into his new home in the Roman church-state, he recently had time to reflect.  He titled his piece “When I Find Myself in Times of Trouble. . .” after the title track from the Beatles Let It Be album.  And, for that one person living under a rock who can’t complete the lyric it goes; “Mother Mary comes to me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.”  Clever, huh?  Well, not really, but Stellman would like you to think so.  Stellman’s piece is really just a long complaint about how mean and nasty Calvinists have been since his rejection of the God of Scripture and the Gospel.  Stellman writes:

In the last ten months (indeed, in the last ten hours) I have been called an apostate and a heretic, guilty of high treason against Jesus Christ for defecting from the gospel (as well as having been called “lacking in common decency” for seeking to explain and defend myself). I have been accused of deliberately losing the Leithart trial to which I dedicated four years of my life, and of soliciting funds for the trial under false pretenses and then stealing them for my own enrichment. And these accusations (and many others) occur on numerous Reformed blogs and are rarely if ever corrected, and the accusers rarely if ever warned, by the pastors and professors who operate those blogs. I’m sure those who say such things (often under the convenient shield of anonymity and pseudonyms) would insist that I deserve this and brought it on myself. Maybe they are right, but it doesn’t change the fact that I feel each of these insults very deeply, and have daily for the last ten months.

I haven’t counted, but I think I have may have accused Stellman of all those thing and then some.  Yet, in his entire victim statement he never once takes any responsibility for how completely he betrayed those who looked to him as even a leader in the cause of the Gospel, particularly given his prominence in the Leithart case, a case he tried while in the process of solidifying his defection to Rome.  Stellman also cried these same crocodile tears on Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog exclaiming:

By the way, it’s equally plausible that the reason the prosecution lost is because Mike Horton sucked, or because the trial commission was biased and rigged from the outset, or because Lane got his degree in piano-playing, or because Rayburn played dirty, or because the PCA doesn’t have the stones to enforce its own FV Report. It could be a combination of those things, or none of them, or something else altogether. We’ll never really know. All I can say is that I conducted the case (to which I was appointed, by the way) exactly how I would have if I had never heard of Catholicism. Those issues were completely sealed off in an airtight compartment and never crossed my mind during the trial or during my prep for it. You can choose to believe me or not, but my conscience is clean.

Again, I find it interesting that Stellman takes absolutely no responsibility for his failure to successfully prosecute the case.  Nowhere does he even do any “arm chair quarterbacking” wondering out loud how he may have done things differently.  For instance, maybe he should have recused himself early one when his first realized the liked having his ears tickled by papists trolls at the “Called to Confusion” website?  Or, seeing he is perfectly content with the job he did during the trial, perhaps he could have reflected a little on how he might have done things differently after the trial?  I was honestly shocked when I learned immediately following the not guilty verdict at the presbytery level that Stellman wasn’t going to file a complaint with the Standing Judicial Commission.  Instead he left that job for someone else.  Is it possible that the complaint would have carried more weight with those on the SJC had Stellman been the one making it?  Besides, I don’t know of one person who thought the outcome of the Leithart trial would have been any different at the presbytery level even if Stellman did the first rate job he thinks he did.  Everyone knew that the real trial wasn’t going to be decided at presbytery, but in the General Assembly.

At the time I wondered why Stellman would leave the battlefield right at the point when the real battle was about to begin. Concerning the complaint that was filed with the GA, Stellman told me;  “with the exception of actually signing the thing, I pretty much did everything else.”   I had no idea at the time that he was already deeply involved in his adultery with Rome, so I couldn’t fathom why he was unwilling to follow through and complete the task before him to the point where he wouldn’t even put his name on the complaint.  At the time I thought it was very strange, even disturbing  but as they say hindsight is 20/20. Sure, the SJC’s complete failure to correctly adjudicate the most important heresy trial in the entire history of the PCA could have been due to some or even all of the things Stellman mentions above.  Yes, the PCA “doesn’t have the stones to enforce its own FV Report.” And, yes, I will even concede Stellman could have kept his whole adulterous affair with Rome “sealed off in an airtight compartment” the entire time. However, I was struck by something Ron DiGiacomo said on Lane’s blog;

[Peter Leithart] essentially denied on the stand what FV has gone on record affirming. All that is left to do at that point is to pepper the defendant with questions regarding inconsistency in view of previously written (or stated) Roman Cahtolic tendencies. That did not happen and that was Jason’s job. Consequently, the SJC was left with too many uninterpreted brute particulars that were not fleshed out with formal argumentation. Again, to have drawn their own conclusions based upon arguments that were never formulated would have been to put PL on trial without the right of a defense attorney. We’re Presbyterian not papists.

As I told Stellman on Lane’s blog, I don’t hate him. Unlike some others, I don’t respect him and feel sorry for him. He has traded true liberty in Jesus Christ for the abject slavery and superstition of Rome. I explained that what bothers me is his complete lack of humility even after he first came out of the closet and confessed his rejection of Christ and His Gospel. If he could be so wrong about the central tenets of the Christian faith, even justification by faith alone, and after spending years as an ordained minister of the Gospel, along with being the lead prosecutor in the most important case in the history of the PCA, what makes him so confident now?  How can he sing Beatles tunes to himself while telling himself and anyone who will listen that everything is alright? Instead of simply disappearing into the woodwork as common decency would dictate, especially given the scandal of his defection, he as become the proud ubiquitous Internet poster-boy for “Called to Confusion” and is now a very public shill for the papacy. So, I confess, this victim game Stellman is now playing strikes me as exceedingly hollow.  I think someone who goes simply by “Robert” in the combox on Stellman’s blog summed it up best:

Surely there is plenty of arrogance to go around. Obviously that is not an excuse, but for Rome to be calling Protestants arrogant and mean is really the pot calling the kettle black.

Your entire post smacks of an “I’m the victim, here,” as if you are absolutely shocked that anyone would think you might have not done a good job with Leithart because of your being pulled to Rome. Quite frankly, I think anyone who accuses you of deliberately throwing the case just isn’t thinking clearly. On the other hand, I also think you are naive to believe that your dalliances with Rome were having absolutely no effect on your prosecution of the case. Try as we might, we never effectively compartmentalize our lives totally and fully.

Right or wrong, the Reformed, especially, see themselves as the guardians of orthodoxy. You better believe you are going to get push back when you leave the Reformed tradition for its traditional “foe” . . . if you have indeed accepted the Roman gospel hook, line, and sinker, then we cannot be true to our theological tradition (not to mention Scripture) except but to say you have apostatized. Historically, Rome said the same thing but in reverse, or have you forgotten the excommunication of Luther and all the bulls against Protestantism. Much of the Roman Catholicism you have embraced is not the Roman Catholicism of the Crusades and the Inquisition but the kindler, gentler, but no less arrogant Romanism of Vatican II that wants to say all Christians are really Roman Catholics but they’re just clueless to know it.

Of course an inclusivistic church is going to seem “kinder and gentler.” That’s because it really stands for nothing. Sure, you have a lot of Roman lay apologists, including yourself, your commenters, and groups like Catholic Answers made up mainly of Protestants who have swum the Tiber for a romanticized Romanism. But it is really difficult to believe the infallible Magisterium cares about truth—or even the primacy of Christ—when it affirms that Muslims, who deny the incarnation and Trinity, worship the same God; when the Roman pontiff kisses the Qur’an; when the Magisterium moves pedophiles around for decades and only stops when the civil authorities take notice; when it does not even try to stop pilgrims from camping out before office buildings where someone has seen the reflection of the Virgin Mary in a glass skyscraper; when Latin American Roman Catholic Churches continue to withhold the cup from the laity; when rank heretics teach theology for decades in Roman institutions; when nothing is done about Roman Catholic politicians who promote mortal sins; and I could go on.

No one is looking for a perfect church. We’re just looking for a church that has some evidence that it believes what it says.

By its very nature, truth is divisive. Jesus came to bring the sword, to separate families and people based on their allegiance to Him. It is laughable that your communion, which believes itself historically to be the one true church, has basically ended up saying in recent years that it doesn’t matter what truth you believe because as long as you are a mostly good person, you can be saved.

Rome is “humble” because its official leaders do not really stand for much anymore. The squishiness of Rome is the perfect fit for the postmodern “your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth” attitude. I can be a hardcore traditionalist or promote birth control and abortion, and I can find a home in Rome. Isn’t that lovely.

Two men went up into the cathedral to pray, one a Roman Catholic . . . . The Roman Catholic, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, proud, arrogant, mean, or even like this Reformed Protestant. I confess my mortal sins to the priest; I make pilgrimmages to see relics; I adore the host; I wear the scapular and recite the rosary; I count on my humility as part of the ground for my justification.’

Cornelius Van Til, Karl Barth, and The Federal Vision

April 5, 2013

janusI recently mentioned that Jim Cassidy on Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog nailed it when he wrote concerning the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission’s failure to defend the Gospel in the Peter Leithart case:

. . . the SJC has been duped by Leithart’s distinctly dialectical methodology by which he can say the same thing in two contrary ways. Asking him to be more clear and precise, along with providing clarity and nuance, is to ask a leopard to lose his spots.

While this comment is both insightful and zeroes in on the underlying problem explaining why men in the PCA have been hamstrung and unable to condemn the erroneous opinions and Christ denying false gospel of the Federal Vision, Cassidy and others like him are unable to identify the elephant in the room.  While Cassidy attributes Leithart’s snakelike ability to speak out of both sides of his mouth to the influence of Karl Barth, he is blind, as are others, to the influence Cornelius Van Til.  Van Til is well known for his belief that the Scriptures are riddled with logical paradoxes along with his theory of analogy where all the so-called “apparent contradictions” of Scripture are mystically harmonized in the hidden mind of God.  

Further, this belief that these biblical paradoxes cannot, and even must not, be resolved at the bar of human reason is the heart of Van Til’s Creator/creature distinction and is the core of his theology and the theology of every Federal Visionist along with the vast majority of their opponents.  On this score the connection between Barth and Van Til is unmistakable, even if men educated in most Reformed seminaries are too enamored by personalities to notice, much less care.  Concerning Barth John Robbins wrote:

His theology itself is dialectical. It prides itself on the assertion of contradictories. It sees contradiction as essential to theology. Barth is always saying “Yes” and “No” to the same things. His theology involves theses and antitheses, with no resolution of the two. God is “wholly other” than man. In Christ God is “wholly hidden” and “wholly revealed.” There is an “infinite qualitative difference” between time and eternity, God and man, but yet we cannot speak of God in the abstract. In this respect, Barth remained indebted to Kierkegaard all his life. And in this respect, Barth’s dialectical theology must remain opaque to any reader. No person can believe contradictions, knowing them to be contradictions. But contradictions and dialectical theology are useful, not only for confusing one’s readers, but for allowing one to accomplish a purpose without clearly stating what the purpose is.

Barth’s dialectical theology permitted him to use old words and phrases – Biblical words and phrases – while giving them new, and quite un-Biblical, meanings. What the liberals had done partially with phrases such as the “divinity of Christ” and what the Roman Catholics had done with terms such as “justification,” “church,” “saint,” and “grace,” Barth was able to do with the entire theological discourse of the Reformation. His equivocation was not occasional and partial, as in liberalism, but throughout and complete. Barth made Protestant theological equivocation systematic and systemic. – Karl Barth

How far is this from Van Til who said; “Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical,”  and “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.”  When faced with seeming contradictions in Scripture Vantillians have been instructed to simply believe — in the face of all reason — that there are no contradictions for God.  As John Frame explains concerning the so-called insolvable paradox of the problem of evil:

[W]e are in a strange state of affairs: we have two propositions (“God is good” and “God foreordains evil”) which we can show to be logically interdependent in one sense; yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible except by an appeal to faith….

This balance of interdependence and paradox is in the interest of thinking in submission to Scripture. Scripture must be followed both in its assertions of interdependence and in its refusal to reconcile all doctrines to our satisfaction. Thus, a paradox remains for us,  though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God. Faith is basic to the salvation of our knowledge as well as the salvation of our souls.

Consequently, when someone like Peter Leithart or Jeff Meyers come along and say both “Yes” and “No” to the vitals of the faith, even the Gospel, those trained in Van Til’s theology of paradox chalk up the contradictory statements of these unrepentant heretics to just another apparent contradiction.  As Dr. W. Gary Crampton explains:

Once one asserts (with Barth and Brunner) that truth may come in the form of irreconcilable contradictions, then, “he has given up all possibility of ever detecting a real falsehood. Every time he rejects a proposition as false because it ‘contradicts’ the teaching of Scripture or because it is in some other way illogical, the proposition’s sponsor only needs to contend that it only appears to contradict Scripture or to be illogical, and that his proposition is one of the terms…of one more of those paradoxes which we have acknowledged have a legitimate  place in our ‘little systems’” (ibid.). This being the case, Christianity’s uniqueness as the only true revealed religion will die the death of a thousand qualifications.

What is our conclusion? Simply this: The Bible does not contain logical paradox. Clark is correct; any so-called logical paradoxes found in Holy Scripture are little more than charley-horses between the ears that can be removed by rational massage; they are the result of faulty exegesis, not God’s Word. Any stumbling in this area will lead to (at least) a fall into neo-orthodox nonsense.  – Does the Bible Contain Paradox?

Someone Gets It!

April 4, 2013

Federal Vision Figure Heads

Lane Keister, who was the lead witness in the most important and decisive case against the Federal Vision, has written a stinging rebuke of the Standing Judicial Commission’s failure to correctly adjudicate the most notorious Federal Visionists in the PCA, Peter Leithart. You can read his piece here, but I just want to highlight a couple of points.

First, Keister takes aim at what has become known as the Coffin rule (you can read about the Coffin rule here):

…the great deference normally shown to a lower court does not equally apply in matters concerning the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church. Does the Leithart case involve matters relating to the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church? It certainly does. The relationship of Leithart’s views with the Westminster Standards is most certainly a matter involving the interpretation, not only of Leithart’s views, but also of the Standards. So, in this case, the great deference normally shown to a lower court does not apply. There is clear error on the part of PNW Presbytery, and the case involves the interpretation of the Constitution, both very good reasons why the court should not defer to PNW Presbytery.

Next, Keister blasts the SJC for not holding Pacific Northwest Presbytery accountable for their failure to condemn the erroneous opinions of Peter Leithart:

One procedural error that is not mentioned in this decision, but which should have been addressed is the failure of PNW Presbytery to condemn erroneous opinion (BCO 13-9f). This is a procedural matter. Even though the wording is that it has power to condemn, in context all the actions noted are actions that Presbytery is responsible for doing. So it is not just that it has the authority to do so, but also that it has the responsibility to do so, especially when it involves views that endanger the peace and purity of the denomination, and there are few opinions more dangerous to the peace and purity of the denomination than the Federal Vision. I have never seen anything so divisive.

Finally, Keister reflects on his own study of Leithart’s errant and heretical theology and concludes:

But I do believe that my testimony alone is sufficient to prove the case. There were no holes in my research. Their conclusion is that there are no proofs anywhere that Leithart teaches anything contrary to the Standards, since my research, included in the ROC, brought together ALL the problematic quotations of Leithart. That constitutes no proof, according to this judgment.

Notice, you can study every nuance and doctrine of the Federal Vision from the writings of its chief proponents and if you find their doctrines wanting, even heretical, it can never be enough according to the SJC.  This is exactly what Federal Visonists have been saying all along and that their opponents, no matter how carefully they study their written words and no matter how many discussions and debates they have in order to clarify and understand the Federal Vision, they are forever unable to understand them correctly.  That’s because to understand the Federal Vision requires you accept the Federal Vision’s scheme of justification by faith plus works as an acceptable expression of the Reformed Christian faith.

Peter Leithart and the Federal Vision have won.

However, in the discussion following Keister’s excellent critique of the SJC’s complete failure to adjudicate this case correctly, Pastor Jim Cassidy made the following observation:

The judgment of charity here, I think, is that the SJC has been duped by Leithart’s distinctly dialectical methodology by which he can say the same thing in two contrary ways. Asking him to be more clear and precise, along with providing clarity and nuance, is to ask a leopard to lose his spots. Its nice of them to think Leithart can do better, and the only problem is that he was not as clear as he could be. But he’s a big boy who’s pretty smart – he knows what he’s doing. And this is precisely why the PCA remains wide open to the infiltration of Barthianism. It will succumb to the influence of modern theology, unless God intervenes in his grace. The SJC meant well – that is the charity. But, unfortunately, it was duped.

If we’re going to charitable at all to the men on the SJC, and I don’t know why anyone would be, Cassidy nailed it. Of course, this is something I have been saying to mostly deaf ears for nearly 20 years and is what John Robbins and Gordon Clark were both saying long before me.  Cassidy’s observation is why the answer to my little book Can The PCA Be Saved? has now been officially answered. The only difference I see is that the infiltration of Barthianism was not at all under the radar; it was wide open and being taught by one of the most revered and influential dialectical thinker in the history of modern Reformed thought; Cornelius Van Til.

The Verdict Is In

April 3, 2013

The false gospel of the Federal Vision is now an acceptable and protected expression of faith in the PCA.

No longer does one have to be an Evangelical in order to be a preacher and a teacher in the PCA.   As Lane Keister put it on his blog:

To say that I am disappointed in the decision would be a gross understatement. Aghast is more appropriate here. We are not talking about narrow Reformed versus broad Reformed. We are talking about evangelicalism versus what amounts to Roman Catholic teaching. At this point, it will not matter if the SJC decides to try to distance itself from Leithart’s theology. They will have allowed his theology to exist.

I’m sure there will be plenty more to say on this matter, but for now I think Lane has said it all.

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