Archive for the ‘Doug Wilson’ category

Repenting of Nothing

June 13, 2017

Dragon-Lady

Last night a friend messaged me letting me know that supporters of Doug Wilson are claiming Wilson is no longer affiliated with the Federal Vision and to continue to label him as a Federal Visionist is unwarranted and generally not nice.  I admit that was news to me and frankly nothing could make me happier to learn that Wilson has rejected the central tenets of this aberrant, deadly and anti-Christian theology and has now embraced the unvarnished truth of the Gospel. His scales have been removed, hallelujah!  However, being generally skeptical of sudden conversions, although knowing from Scripture that they can and do occur, I asked for some proof or a link recounting Wilson’s road to Damascus moment.  So my friend sent me a link to a piece on Wilson’s blog titled; Federal Vision No Mas.  Encouraged by the Roberto Durán surrender reference, I read the piece.

Reading it I had the sense that I had read it before.  Turns out I did, albeit secondhand on Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog.  Lane wrote that Wilson “is not retracting his theology. He is retracting what he would call or label his theology.”  The sum total of Wilson’s conversion is that he no longer identifies with the Federal Vision.  Given that we live in an age where a man can “identify” as a woman or even a reptile, Wilson seems to think he can slither away from the Federal Vision while still affirming its theology.  Sorry, Doug, it doesn’t work like that.

Explaining why he no longer wants to identify with the Federal Vision Wilson writes:

Everybody knew (or thought they knew) what that phrase [Federal Vision] represented. Since I certainly owned the phrase, albeit with modifiers, and lots of energetic typing, what happened was that I was thought to be owning what people knew as this. But the more I typed that, the more it made people’s heads hurt. So one of the few things I have been successful at doing is persuading a number of people that I am a sly fellow, and one who bears close watching. Heretics are slippery with words, and since I have spent a lot of time trying to grease this particular piglet, I must be a heretic.

While I can certainly understand why a heretic wouldn’t want to be known as one, and I suspect that particular epithet has started to hurt Wilson’s bottom line hence his feigned mea culpa, the irony is that he continues to use an almost endless stream of slippery words to explain why and how he is no longer a Federal Visionist; none of which are very convincing.  Pay close attention to just some of Wilson’s slippery words:

This is because—I am now convinced—it is not the case that there is this thing called federal vision, with how much of it you actually get wired up to a dimmer switch. I believe it is a false analogy to say that I am a 7 on this switch, and Jim Jordan, say, is a 9.

Coming to this recognition does not mean that I am now disclaiming all commonality with my friends in the federal vision, even over against what many other believers in other traditions believe. Lutherans and Baptists both believe in the deity of Christ and in justification by faith alone—but Lutherans are still Lutherans all the way down. The same goes for Baptists. Baptists are Baptists all the way down. A federal vision advocate is FV all the way down. I am something else all the way down, and I believe that the terminology is getting in the way of making important distinctions.

So the views I hold to are a different kind of thing from what is represented in the common understanding of the federal vision, and the differences involved are connected to everything. They are a different kind of thing, not a lesser amount of the same thing. Thus when I speak of the objectivity of the covenant—which I will still continue to do—this is not a lite version of what someone else might mean by it.

Wilson says he differs from Federal Visionists like James Jordan “all the way down,” but at the same time continues to affirm “commonality” with his FV friends to include his so-called “objective” view of the covenant where the magic waters of baptism in conjunction with the mystical mumbling of some quasi-priestling-pretend-Protestant renders a person “elect” if only for a time.  But that commonality doesn’t stop there. Wilson assures his readers; “I would still want [sic] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement ….”  So, Wilson continues to affirm the Joint Federal Vision Profession but no longer wants to be considered a Federal Visionist?  Huh?  Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

While there are a number of problematic things with the FV statement, including the affirmation of covenantal nomism, the one thing that has always stood out for me was their description of saving faith:

We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active, and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.” (JFVP, p. 6, emphasis mine)

Not to unpack all the slippery words above or revisit how they have been used by defenders of the FV, most proficiently by Wilson himself, PCA pastor Wes White sums up their view of saving faith this way:

Now, notice that last phrase, “personally loyal faith.” Here’s how dictionary.com defines loyalty:

1. The state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. Faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.

They tried to slip one past us by using the word “loyal” instead of “faithful,” but it means basically the same thing. Faithfulness to commitments and faithful adherence, according to the Federal Visionists, is included in the “sole instrument of justification.” This is justification by faithfulness, justification by obedience, and justification by works. This is a rejection of the sola fide of the Reformation.

Rather than affirming the so-called “objectivity of the covenant” and the Joint Federal Vision Profession which was authored by Wilson, he should reject and renounce these things.  That is what he needs to retract and not some nonsense about not taking his “responsible” and “fair-minded” critics like “Rick Phillips, Cal Beisner, and Richard Gaffin” more seriously and apologizing for lumping them in with the “irresponsible ones” (I’m sure he has people like yours truly in mind). Or, complaining that Peter Leithart’s “end of Protestantism” project is something he can’t go along with.  None of that matters and none of that is enough to separate him from the house he built.

God said through Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”  Wilson may not be happy with the long-term (financial?) consequences from his long association and defense of the Federal Vision, but he has no more ability to wipe this stain from his character than the “transgender dragon man” can repair his forked tongue with super glue or remove his tattooed scales with Palmolive and a dish rag.

 

Faith Alive

June 18, 2016

faith aliveLuther rightly maintained that justification by faith alone is the linchpin upon which the church stands or falls.  If this doctrine is lost or even muddied, the semblance of religion remains, but the church fades into nonexistence. That is why a clear and unambiguous definition of faith is essential. If you don’t know exactly what the alone instrument in justification consists of how can it be defended? Further, and in order to avoid equivocation, any definition faith has to apply to all forms of faith whether saving or not.  Seems simple, right?  The problem is that in the minds of the vast majority of pastors and teachers any time the word “saving” precedes the word “faith” it’s the latter that takes on an entirely new meaning. To that end the traditional threefold definition of faith has been shown to be ambiguous at best and outright dangerous at worst providing an open doorway for pernicious and deadly heresies that snake their way into the Church unabated.

While a source of irritation to many modern Reformed pastors, it was Gordon Clark who first identified this gaping crack in the Church’s foundation and correctly argued that the difference between faith and saving faith are the propositions believed.  In contrast, a majority of Reformed pastors and churchmen, who are blindly wed to tradition seemingly for tradition’s sake, maintain that the difference lies not in the propositions believed at  all, but in some nebulous psychological state that when mixed with simple faith makes ordinary faith saving.

Like the secret recipe for KFC or McDonald’s special sauce, today’s Reformed leaders and apologists differ wildly when it comes to explaining what exactly in addition to simple faith in the Gospel is needed to save a sinner. PCA pastor Andy Webb says the secret ingredient is a Harry Potter potion mingling “the emotion of love with trust, inclination, and agreement.”  The self-proclaimed “Reformed Apologist,” Ron DiGiacomo, claims the magic happens when “a disposition of commitment,” whatever that might entail, is added to simple belief.  Alan Strange, who is an OPC minister and professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, says the alchemy that makes simple belief alone in Christ alone saving is a “mystery.”  Strange warns that any attempt to define what it is that makes ordinary belief saving is like peering into the doctrine of Christ’s Incarnation and is “not amenable to rationalistic reduction.”  For Strange what makes ordinary belief saving is beyond human understanding or definition.  According to Strange even the words faith and belief differ, despite being translations of the exact same Greek word in Scripture, and that “justifying faith is something more than merely belief: not something less, but something more.”  The central error in all this is that faith is belief. Nothing more, nothing less. Consequently, and when you come right down to it, none of these men really believe in justification by faith alone.  They just pay it lip service.  No wonder the FV continues to spread unabated and the PCA is now a safe haven for the FV.  Such is the state of the Reformed and Presbyterian church today.

So, Sean, are you saying that the vast majority of Reformed churchmen don’t believe in justification by faith alone? Well, yes and no.  Yes, because they add to saving faith that which is absent from faith simpliciter and end up equivocating, even contradicting themselves, when explaining what exactly the alone instrument of justification is. No, because while confused and mired in meaningless religious jargon, metaphors and word pictures, they don’t add works as that which completes faith making it somehow “saving.”  They at least attempt to draw a distinction between God’s once and for all declaration of righteousness the moment a person first believes with works done as the result of this faith in sanctification.  They differ, albeit ever so slightly, with the FV men who profess  “the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as … a living, active, and personally loyal faith” (admittedly very similar to DiGiacomo’s “disposition of commitment”).

Concerning this idea of “a living, active, and personally loyal faith,” perhaps the best example demonstrating the inability of the defenders of the traditional threefold definition of faith to safeguard against the deadly errors of heretics like those in the Federal Vision (but you can think of the ever encroaching tentacles of Romanism as well), came during the final days of year long debate between Lane Keister and Federal Vision bigmouth, Doug Wilson.  At that point the discussion turned to the nature of saving faith and the questions concerning the “aliveness” of faith in justification.  Keister wrote:

Contrary to the criticisms of FV proponents … I know of NO Reformed scholar who says that we are justified by a dead faith. I know of no Reformed scholar who even hints at this. I know of dozens of Reformed scholars who say the aliveness of faith is not what justifies us. The best way I can put this is to say that the aliveness of faith is a sine qua non, but is not part of the inherent structure of justification. Of course the person who stretches out his arm to catch a ball has to be alive to do that. But his being alive is not an action inherent in stretching out his arm. Maybe I can put it this way: states of being are distinct from actions, just like verbs of being are distinct from verbs of action. We must distinguish then between the state of being alive and the verb of action of what faith does in laying hold of Christ’s righteousness. To put it another way, our aliveness can have no object. It is inherently reflexive. But faith’s action in justification takes a direct object: the righteousness of Christ. I really think this is as clear as I can be. I don’t see any reason why Doug should disagree with this, either.  I suppose I will have to enact a qualification of this, nevertheless, lest people think I am making faith active. When I am referring to “faith’s action” I do not mean that we are doing a work. I mean only that faith is doing something in justification. And this is what it is doing: it is “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification” (WCF 14.2).  https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/one-last-word/

Before unpacking this tragically confused paragraph, the central thing to recognize is that both Keister and Wilson are operating from the exact same definition of saving faith. Both believe that faith can be either “alive” or “dead,” which means, when stripped of its metaphorical trappings, that a person can believe the truth of the Gospel, assent to it, yet still be lost.  In order to be saved and for faith to be effectual, something in addition to belief is needed.  I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve had Reformed pastors tell me that simply believing the Gospel and Christ’s finished work on the cross on account of sin is not enough to save anyone. So much for the idea that the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” But, then, almost in the same breath, they identify Christians as “believers” blissfully unaware of the contradiction right under their nose.  This is also why Reformed Christians who refuse to accept contradictions or so-called “paradoxes” in Scripture are routinely attacked and routinely banned from blogs and discussion groups by men for maintaining that sinners are justified by belief alone.

Keister begins by saying that he knows of “NO Reformed scholar who says that we are justified by a dead faith.”  But, then he says the aliveness of faith is “not part of the inherent structure of justification.”   So, which is it?  If we are not justified by dead faith, wouldn’t it follow that we’re saved by a faith that is “alive” whatever that might mean?  He then adds this “aliveness” is a “sine qua non,” that which is indispensable or essential to something, just not to justification.  Again, how can that be?  If faith is the alone instrument in justification than it would seem it is very much “inherent to the structure of justification.” If it’s not, by what means can a sinner be justified?

The tragedy is that Keister is far from alone and his confusion is endemic to virtually all Reformed pastors today who cannot clearly define the difference between faith and saving faith without equivocating or just speaking nonsense.  This is why they identify faith as something that can be either “alive” or “dead.”  In fact, Keister takes a pointed jab at the late John Robbins writing:

…Robbins and his crowd seem to me to be in danger of denying that justifying faith is alive, which is what the confession says. Now, they may say that assent is alive.

First, as one who identifies with “Robbins and his crowd” I do deny that saving faith is “alive” simply because it is a metaphor that is misapplied to saving faith.  Besides, in order for any metaphor to make sense it has to be first explained in literal language.  Now, it could be said that saving faith is evidence that a person has already been translated from death to life in regeneration, but beyond that it is a completely irrelevant to the question of the role faith plays in justification.  This is an important point because as Dewey Robert’s observers, Federal Visionists like Wilson deny God’s grace in regeneration (see “The Federal Vision and Grace“).  Second, the Westminster Confession nowhere says that “justifying faith is alive.”  Concerning faith in justification the Confession states; “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.” Keister is mistaken simply because that which accompanies something, in this case saving faith, is not part of the essence of saving faith, but rather results from it. That should have been obvious to Keister and the clue is the phrase “works by love,” but more on that later.

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When Doug Wrote To My Father

September 11, 2015

wilsonWhen it comes to Wilson, it just keeps getting worse. Make sure you read the letter Wilson wrote this poor girl’s father. The man is a incorrigible pig. The damage Wilson leaves in his fat wake is simply heartbreaking:

http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2015/09/when-doug-wrote-to-my-father.html?m=1

Doug Wilson’s Failure to Safeguard Children

September 11, 2015

SORRead it here, but not on a full stomach: http://vintage73.com/2015/09/doug-wilsons-failure-to-safeguard-children/

PCA Voodoo

June 13, 2015

Here’s an interesting blog post:  PCA hotly debates delaying formal acknowledgement of racism and the end is EPIC.jay-hawkins I’m not sure about epic, but what do you expect from a denom where the Moderator holds up his tie and explains that it was “made from the  actual material of the elvin cloaks from The Lord of the Rings.” They spend hours in prayer and debate trying to repent for sins that probably not one of them ever committed, yet when formal overtures were made for the GA to direct the Standing Judicial Commission to retry the case exonerating Federal Visionist and false teacher Peter Leithart they are ruled out of order and not one TE or RE lined up to protest the trashing of Christ’s the Gospel. I don’t understand the PCA.

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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