Someone Gets It!

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.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Doug Wilson, Heresies, James Jordan, Jeff Meyers, Peter Leithart, Siouxlands Presbytery, Van Til

22 Comments on “Someone Gets It!”

  1. Justin Says:

    You said:
    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.

    Wow. A FV critique, turned into a Clark/Van Til polemic?

    Please enlighten me, as I am new to the (mostly uncharitable) Clark/Van Til public mudslinging party. I’m neither a “Van Tillian” nor a “Clarkian,” although I have read and appreciate both men. I’m more of a sponge at this point, soaking in what good I can, and leaving what’s not so good. I have admittedly read more of Van Til, but that’s only because there are only so many hours available to a person.

    Please connect the dots between Van Til and Barthianism for me. Based on what I have read of Van Til’s writing, I find this asserted connection almost laughable, but I am teachable and willing to listen.

    Justin

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    Justin, I’d like to think I’ve connected all the dots and then some in Can the PCA be Saved? linked above. Further, the neo-orthodoxy entailed in Van Til’s theory of analogy and biblical paradox is something that has been recognized and documented for years by those far more capable than me.

  3. Justin Says:

    Sean,

    I have not read your book. I’ll check it out!

    I don’t really have a horse in this race, so to speak, as I am over 3 hours from the nearest PCA congregation.

    I obviously have some more reading to do. It’s very hard to find a balanced look at the Clark/Van Til issue online. It seems like all I can find on the subject is venom and uncharitable speech. I don’t know that I’d ever claim to adhere to either man’s ideas, as doing so is the surest way to open oneself up to various ad hominem attacks from “the other side.”

    Can you suggest any other resources (maybe an online one) for looking into this (obviously your book is one…)? In what works can I find writing discussing Van Til’s teachings on analogy and biblical paradox?

    Thanks for your time. Regardless of the Van Til / Clark thing, seeing Romish FV gain a foodhold or a bit of legitimacy is sad.

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    A great place to start Justin is simply downloading the Complaint Van Til and his associates at WTS filed against Clark’s ordination in the OPC and Clark’s Answer I have linked on the sidebar. I would also recommend reading both the Complaint and the Answer side by side and point by point rather than each in one whole bite. Much easier to digest. 🙂

  5. Lauren Says:

    In my complaint against the session, I learned that the presbytery committee assigned to handle my complaint did not even read the ROC. They were not given my objections to the session’s ROC where I cited numerous violations of the BOC. I was told they only read the table of contents. If they had read the whole thing, their conscience might have changed their final decision to write false accusations against me. One committee member did have a stricken conscience and called my husband at a later date to apologize.

    So it doesn’t matter how much convincing proof and research Lane put into the ROC, in the end, the decision of the SJC had more to do with the political ramifications of going after a high-profile FV false teacher. Lane might want to know if the SJC even read past the ROC table of contents.

    To go after Leithart would risk losing at least half of the PCA churches and maybe the seminary to the Doug Wilson camp. The leadership already lost Auburn Avenue; they can’t afford to lose more. Many PCA teaching elders who are making these bad decisions are getting close to retirement; they may not even be thinking about the next generation – only their pensions.

    Last year’s GA was held in Louisville, KY – one of the Federal Vision strongholds. Yet that did not seem to be a problem for anyone attending. But that seems to reveal the true nature of this denomination and her leaders.

    It’s sad but this decision could be the best thing that happens to the PCA. It could be God’s way of purging and purifying His church. FV churches are parasites; they cannot survive on their own for they have no spiritual life. They depend on a healthy host. Well, it looks like the FV is coming close to eating up its host and both could eventually die out. That’s the time when spiritually Biblical churches rise up out of the ash heap. How about it, Mississippi Valley Presbytery? This could be your “Esther” moment!

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    Someone Sort of Gets It!

    These from Lane’s piece don’t sound like a procedural issue.

    The SJC “failed to condemn erroneous opinion.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    What?! Nay! ‘Tis a SIN issue!

    “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.”

    This failure of responsibilty is a sin. Let’s call it what it is.

    Lane also wrote, “The horse is already out of the barn.”
    Better: The fox has a pass to stay in the hen house.
    Best: The wolf has been allowed to stay in the sheepfold.


  7. John Robbins:

    Long before the neo-orthodox theologians thought of saying that faith is an encounter with a divine person rather than assent to a proposition, preachers who ought to have known better taught that faith is trust in a person, not belief in a creed. Years later, this writer, when a teenager, was told that some people would miss heaven by twelve inches — the distance between the head and the heart — because they believed the Gospel with their heads but not with their hearts. Today it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to find a minister — a conservative minister — who does not believe and teach that one must have a “personal” relationship with Christ in order to be saved. But what that “personal” relationship consists of is either not made explicit or, when made explicit, contradicts what the Bible teaches about saving faith. The result is that non-Christians are either needlessly confused or totally misled. Perhaps the world is not responding to our message because the message is garbled. Neither we, nor they, know exactly what they must do to have eternal life.

    Statements such as these about the head and the heart and trusting a person, not believing a creed, are not only false, they have created the conditions for the emergence of all sorts of religious subjectivism, from modernism to the charismatic movement and beyond. No one will miss heaven by twelve inches, for there is no distance between the head and the heart. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The head/heart contrast is a figment of modern secular psychology, not a doctrine of divine revelation.

    From: Introduction to What is Saving Faith?


  8. Charles Canady, a Florida Supreme Court justice, attends Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lakeland, Florida. I talked with him in the hall way of the church briefly a few times. He openly admitted that prior to coming to Covenant he had been involved with neo-orthodoxy. I guess changing from neo-orthodoxy to Van Tilianism is a move in the more conservative direction but it’s still a form of neo-orthodoxy.

    I got into a debate with the teacher of the Sunday school class over the free offer issue. I bluntly told them that God never once desired to save the reprobate. That led to a rather heated discussion on my part.

    No, I’m not surprised that Jeffrey Myers and Peter Leithart were both cleared. It’s because the Van Tilian theology is openly dialectical. Mike Horton’s new systematic theology reads like something straight out of Barth or Brunner.


  9. Canady is actually one of the ruling elders.

  10. Lauren Says:

    I am not an expert at all on the different theologians. I can only judge the fruit, so I will probably step on a few toes. But I think the combination of theonomy, reconstruction, amillenialism, and even the crazy neo-Confederate garbage are the leaven that poisoned the PCA in her early years. My understanding is that when the PCA was forming, the southern presbyterians were interested in coming on board because of the conservative views of the new denomination. But unfortunately, many of them brought the poison with them. And, since the PCA was new and needed the numbers, the leadership chose to ignore the red flags. She became fertile ground for the Federal Vision to eventually rear its ugly head.

    Sadly, as proven in this latest case with Leithart, the PCA leadership has chosen to evade what their consciences know to be the truth with court answers that are not true. In the last few cases when the church courts are pressed to attend to their souls and consciences, they say and determine things which they know are not correct. Tragically, they love the world and their own way and are determined not to give them up, and demonstrate that they are also ashamed to say the truth.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    You had me then you lost me with amillenialism. 🙂 Spot on with the rest though.

  12. Sean Gerety Says:

    Beside, aren’t the theonmy, recon, neo-nazifederates all postmil?

  13. Howard Donahoe Says:

    For more complete context of the Complaint filed against Pacific NW Presbytery, three files can be viewed in a Dropbox folder at
    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kpzd4mjnptyipkm/ApHiA1kiZ9

    The folder includes (1) the 736 page Record of the Case, (2) the Presbytery’s 10-page Brief filed before the Hearing, and (3) the Decision of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (vote was 15-2).

  14. Lauren Says:

    They are amil according to my husband, the talks I have had in the past with them personally, and in their preaching. That’s why they place so much emphasis on the visible church.

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    News to me. Every theonomist/recon/Wilsonista I’ve ever met were all postmil.

  16. Hugh McCann Says:

    Goodness gracious!

    First MacArthur* trashes us as being incipient liberals or crypto-charismatics, and now our eschatology’s guilty by association as the majority report of FV-in’ neo-cons! 😦

    *MacArthur taught in ’07 that all self-respecting Calvinists are premillennialists, bashing us Amills.

  17. Jake Says:

    “Beside, aren’t the theonmy, recon, neo-nazifederates all postmil”

    Yes, these types are definitey postmill. I asked one once why that was and he told me that smaller government (no federal government- confederacy, blah, blah) the easier it will be to overthrow the government, instutute Gods law (theonomy) and usher in the Kingdom (postmill). So yes, these guys are defintiey very postmill.

  18. Bob S Says:

    Thanks Howard, particularly re. #1 or the ROC.
    Only #2 & 3 have been posted previously.


  19. Speaking as an amil studying at a postmil school, I will confirm they are definitely postmil – not amil.

  20. Lauren Says:

    I guess the important consideration in this matter is not whether one is post-mil, pre, or a- but rather to determine what Leithart believes to be the things necessary for salvation. What does he believe and preach about Christ and the meaning of Scripture? Apparently, the PCA leadership has determined through their courts that his views are their views to be promoted and embraced by the denomination.

    Each member and especially each elder now has to decide in their own conscience whether this court decision is an act by those who seek the praise of men or the praise of God. Does the PCA seek to merely wear a cloak of profession or to be real, honest, thorough, and sincere in their Christianity? For, to pretend to have a religion while in reality serving the world is worse than open sin. The “joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment” (Job 20:5). His end will be shame and everlasting contempt.

    The PCA leadership would do well to heed that warning.

  21. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Hugh,
    “*MacArthur taught in ’07 that all self-respecting Calvinists are premillennialists, bashing us Amills.”

    Well, MacArthur once taught that Jesus became the Son of God after/through his Ressurrection, apparently oblivious to John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word..” or “Before Abraham, I am ..” etc etc. The unbelieving Jews understood Jesus to be claiming to be the son of God before his ressurrection and they crucified him for it.
    Also, http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=193
    Between the public education system and seminary, something is not right.


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