Archive for the ‘Peter Leithart’ category

Arrivederci PCA

June 25, 2016

tomb_3I was shocked to learn that there is a real pastor in the PCA who believes a compromised gospel is no gospel at all. After all the hand wringing and posturing from the so-called TRs, particularly after the PCA GA failed to right the wrongs made by the lower courts in the Jeff Meyers and Peter Leithart cases, I thought pastors like Phelps were a myth. I think when deciding whether or not to leave a denomination, particularly one like the PCA, there is always some denial mixed with the belief, no matter how misguided, that things still might get better.  There is also the belief that heresies like the Federal Vision are just a minority position and it really doesn’t matter to the big picture … or the big tent.  Look at all the great work people like Tim Keller are doing.  I mean, the PCA is now relevant and even trendy. So what if Kellerite churches are de facto ordaining women just as long as they don’t call it an “ordination.” Erosion is just as effective as revolution and progressives are expert at biding their time.

There is also the idea that the “purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error” and that Presbyterianism has a theoretical mechanism for righting theological wrongs that make reading the signs of apostasy difficult. Some things are just easier to see in hindsight.  I also think there is some TR pride involved too and the notion that things will just get worse if they leave.  No doubt they will, but the cost of staying in the PCA has become too high except, I suppose, for the hopelessly self-deluded or the seriously prideful.  As for me, I’m very much with Phelps. I was a PCA holdout a lot longer than, say, John Robbins. It took the GA’s decisions to allow the lower courts decisions to stand in the Meyers and Leithart cases that finally did it for me. But who am I?  I’m not an elder. I have no flock to protect. Yet , there were plenty of very public TR elders in the PCA who publicly threatened to leave if the Leithart case went south and none of them has.  In Phelps’ case it’s better late than never. Besides, now the PCA is in the middle of a denominational wide struggle session against the imagined sins that virtually no one in the denomination has committed.  TRs can use that to assuage their misplaced guilt for their very real failures to protect their flocks and preserve whatever purity the PCA had left.

The PCA isn’t just dead; its corpse is starting to stink.

You can read Tony Phelps’ farewell to the PCA here.

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.

Coffin Nails

May 7, 2013

StellmanLeithartOne man’s coffin nail could be the hinge pin keeping the PCA from going over the abyss.

Jason Stellman’s flirtation with the Roman church-state right in the middle of his halfhearted prosecution of fellow closeted Roman Catholic, Peter Leithart, could be the means by which the PCA reverses its decision affirming Leithart’s gross heresy as being within the bounds of the Westminster Confession, even his rejection of justification by faith alone and imputation.

Three PCA presbyteries that still believe that the Gospel is worth fighting for have “approved an overture requesting the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction over TE Peter Leithart, a teaching elder member of Pacific Northwest Presbytery.”  This means that the PCA’s GA could retry the Leitheart case on the basis that there was a “conflict of interest” given the fact that Jason Stellman was a virtual Romanist while he was prosecuting another virtual Romanist.  No kidding.

Now, I have little hope that the PCA will come to its senses, reverse itself, and turn things around.  After all, the OPC’s GA made a similar error declaring Shepherdite and Federal Vision heretic John Kinnaird to be within the bounds of Westminster orthodoxy and refused to reverse itself despite similar protests.  The funny thing is that those in the OPC view themselves, even to this day, as stalwarts of the Reformed faith.  The blemish of the Kinnaird decision is simply ignored as OPC TEs tell themselves, and anyone dumb enough to listen, that they did the right thing given the “circumstances.”   Hogwash.  That might be enough for a small, even micro, Presbyterian denomination like the OPC, but the PCA has a bigger tent to protect.

My guess it is that overtures such as these calling on the PCA’s GA  to reverse the miscarriage of justice when it exonerated Leithart are nothing more than spitting in the wind.   But, sometime what sounds like death rattles are actually gasps for breath.  Besides, I have to think that Peter Leithart, assuming he has even a remote sense of decency and is not as amoral as he is heretical, would simply leave the PCA for his current home in the proto-papist CREC where he labors.  I have to think being such a despised man by those he wants to pretend are his “brothers” has to be, at the very least, uncomfortable.  Let’s hope he comes to his senses first and leaves the PCA as the PCA GA has already proven itself incapable of correctly identifying a man that is not even a Christian.

You can read the complete overture here, but if you’re content just with the meaty stuff here it is:

Whereas, the chief prosecutor in the Pacific Northwest case, former TE Jason Stellman, has subsequently tendered his resignation from PCA ministry and has joined the communion of the Roman Catholic church;

Whereas, the chief prosecutor admits publically, that “in the midst of this process,” (referring to the prosecution of Mr. Leithart and the appeal to the SJC) he started considering the claims of “the gospel and justification and the covenant from the perspective of Catholics…and this was the nail in the coffin that slew me.”

Whereas, the charges brought against Mr. Leithart by the chief prosecutor specifically deal with gospel and justification from the perspective of the Westminster Standards (which teach that sola fide is the material principle of the Protestant Reformation);

Whereas, the chief prosecutor’s shift toward the very doctrines that he attempts to prosecute TE Leithart for holding creates an astounding conflict of interest, despite his best efforts at objectivity;

Therefore, be it resolved that Calvary, Gulf Coast and Mississippi Presbyteries overture the 41st General Assembly to:

Assume original jurisdiction and direct the Standing Judicial Commission to hear “Pacific Northwest Presbytery vs. Peter Leithart,” because PNWP has “refused to act,” per the provision found in BCO 34-1, by not declaring a mistrial in this case because of its chief prosecutor’s conflict of interest, stemming from his transition into membership of the Roman Catholic church.  SJC not fail to take into consideration the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms in hearing the case.

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.

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.’

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.

Fading Lines in the Sand

April 27, 2012

Dr. Paul Elliot of Teaching the Word Ministries, and author of Christianity and Neo-Liberalism, has some harsh but timely words for  those in the PCA who consider themselves among the “Truly Reformed.”

Will they listen?

Here’s a sample:

The Federal Vision controversy is but the latest in a series of issues on which PCA “conservatives” have, for more than a decade, kept drawing lines in the sand and saying, “If the liberalizers are permitted to cross this line, it will be the last straw.” But always, when the liberalizers cross the line or simply obliterate it, the “conservatives” quietly step back and draw a new one….

The SJC to the Rescue?

Many professed conservatives insist that the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission will come to their rescue and, in time, restore orthodoxy. But among its membership one finds men who are a long-standing part of the problem. Dr. Brian Chappell, president of the PCA’s heresy factory at Covenant Seminary, is a member of the SJC. Ruling Elder and SJC member Howard Donahoe has advocated permitting women to preach [10] and was a defense counsel for Peter Leithart at his heresy trial. Ruling Elder Terry L. Jones is a member of the Missouri Presbytery which virtually unanimously acquitted the heretic Jeffrey Meyers. Ruling Elder Bruce Terrell is a member of the session of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, where theistic evolutionist Timothy Keller is the pastor.

We could go on. Many other present and former members of the SJC have been men of the same ilk. They can hardly be called staunch guardians of orthodoxy. They would more appropriately be called foxes guarding the hen house. The bitter irony is that self-described conservatives, who claim to be guardians of Biblical truth, serve collegially with such men on the SJC.

You can read all of Dr. Elliot’s comments here, although I suspect many PCA conservatives will simply cover their ears (Acts 7:57).

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.         

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