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.