Thoughts on the ad interim report on Federal Vision theology...

Now that the PCA's Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies has issued its report, debate will be lively. But framing the debate is vital. And to that end Tim and I have several comments we'd like to make.

1. It appears our report a year ago that some within the PCA desire to rid the PCA of 85 Federal Vision (FV) churches was accurate.

2. By choosing to oppose FV theology through the mechanism of an ad interim study committee of General Assembly, opponents of FV views have taken a legitimate path of engagement. This is not, at least on the face of things, a path of backroom politicking.

3. Yet, despite acknowledging the prima facie legitimacy of this report, it is possible that the ad interim process has been unfair to the FV movement in at least two ways:

First, makeup of the study committee may not have been impartial. It's striking that the only study committee member residing north of the Mason Dixon line is a Covenant College professor. We think it's fair to say that if you wanted to find FV foes in the PCA you'd head first to old-line churches in the south.

Second, the committee's report may not characterize FV views to the satisfaction of FV proponents--the old "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" method of engagement. (Yet FV proponents do have a tendency to cry foul at almost any characterization of their views by opponents.)

4. And yet, past our procedural concerns, Tim and I find much that is disturbing in FV views. In particular, we find the sacramentalism exhibited by proponents of FV views deeply troubling--even as we share their despair over contemporary Evangelical and Reformed ecclesiology. To the extent that FV theology is a reaction against modern Protestantism's disdain for the Church we sympathize with it--while remaining opposed to it.

5. We believe that any definition of the Westminster Standards that would cast Doug Wilson outside the orbit of acceptable PCA theological views would impoverish the PCA. We respect Doug's willingness to debate these issues with his foes and we believe that any adjustment of views he has made over the years is a reflection of humility rather than subtlety and should not be held against him. We also believe, based on extensive reading of Doug's work (in particular, Reformed is Not Enough, his blog entries on NT Wright and his answers to presbytery questions) that he is not at the bleeding edge of FV views, but actually has taken a more conservative approach to these issues than he is often credited with. There must be room in the PCA for big men. Doug is a larger-than-life pastor and leader and we believe that envy has played a not-insignificant role in the opposition he has faced over the years.

6. We also believe the FV movement is not univocal, and some of its more prominent proponents have had an unwise tendency to declare unity with younger and less-prominent FV advocates who stand at the bleeding edge of FV views. In the absence of some form of self-policing by FV proponents,  blunt action of the form recommended in the ad interim report is inevitable, and likely necessary.

7. Finally, there is some question in our minds whether the PCA could be ignoring more fundamental battles by engaging FV theology. There are other equally pressing threats within our midst. Over the long haul, the prevalence within PCA churches and presbyteries of egalitarian views is as great a danger as FV theology to our spiritual well-being. When PCA churches are setting apart women to the diaconate in what seems to us to be clear defiance of our Book of Church Order; when any number of congregations are using women to administer the Lord's Supper; and when churches begin to call women holding the M.Div. from Covenant Seminary to serve in staff positions bearing the title of "minister" of this and that, we find ourselves wondering whether the almost-exclusive emphasis on FV theology by PCA conservatives isn't willful obscurantism. But of course, taking on the titans of egalitarian ideology in our denomination would be much more difficult than dealing with the more heterox of the FV men among us, wouldn't it?

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Comments

David and Tim-You are right about point #7. The appearance seems to be to go after one group and let the other group alone. On point #4-One thing I have not seen from the anti-FV proponents is an honest evaluation the effects of the First and more importantly the Second Great Awakening in terms of the view of the church, church membership and the sacraments. If the language of the WCF, LC and SC are correct concerning Baptism and the Lord's Supper then a definite shift in the churches understanding of these sacraments took place during that time. I would like to see more sober thought about what the standards mean when using "sign and seal" and "means of salvation"

My take on this is similar to David's. Look at 1 Tim. 6 for Paul's description of what happens when people ignore basic doctrine (specifically the obligation to serve masters well) and strive for honor, money, and power. Is this being repeated today as people ignore basic issues of church polity in favor of endlessly debating the variants of the Federal Vision?

>Finally, there is some question in our minds whether the PCA could be ignoring more fundamental battles by engaging FV theology.

Absolutely. The PCA seems most keen on engaging in battle away from where the battle actually rages. Not a good sign for their long term health.

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

Brother Martin's words apply here with a vengeance.

With all respect to my brethren in the PCA, I think I'm more than a little happy that the FV thing isn't a tempest in my ecclesiastical teapot. It appears to be such to this bystander: esoteric, dividing theological mint and cumin, and all the rest.

Meanwhile, the egalitarian hurricane is carrying off your church, and the Bayly brothers are doing a good job imitating John in the wilderness. Ach!

Dear Father Bill:

I'm loathe to disagree with you but I must.

Sacramentalism is death to the church. It happened in the church of the first five centuries, it happened in the post-Reformation church and it will happen today.

Those of us who stand against the FV, fear that it is sacramentalism creeping in by a side door, by friends who profess to believe in election and all the doctrines Calvinists love to wax eloquent about.

And they do believe in election. Yet it seems they are willing to modify their doctrine of election to make way for their sacramentalism and that's the Reformation all over again.

There is a well known quote from B.B. Warfield, one of our patron saints. He said that the Protestant Reformation was the triumph of Augustine's doctrine of predestination over Augustine's doctrine of the church. Now I may not have the words exactly correct, but this is the gist of it. I'd check it out but I'm separated from my library by thousands of miles.

Having got that off my chest, you're certainly correct about the serious danger posed by the egal influx into our church. It will also prove death to the church.

But I'm going to fight both of the dangers. One is inisde the camp (FV) and the other is inside and outside the camp (feminism). I'd love for your help on both fronts, but will be glad simply for your leadership on the second.

warm regards,

David

Tom wrote: "The person who I think has said the most on this particular topic is Doug Wilson and as David says in the post above this one, there must be room for people like Doug in the PCA theological orbit."

Actually, Tom, you may remember our post begins with the statement, "Tim and I have several comments we'd like to make." So both David and I think there must be room for Doug Wilson in the PCA theological orbit. Also, that it's likely some of the hits dished out in his direction have been motivated by envy.

It was Augustine who gave us the Reformation. For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace over Augustine's doctrine of the Church. This doctrine of grace came from Augustine's hands in its positive outline completely formulated: sinful man depends, for his recovery to good and to God, entirely on the free grace of God; this grace is therefore indispensable, prevenient, irresistible, indefectible; and being thus the free grace of God, must have lain in all the details of its conference and working in the intention of God from all eternity. -Warfield, "Calvin and Augustine"

Where books are absent, Google suffices.

>Sacramentalism is death to the church. It happened in the church of the first five centuries, it happened in the post-Reformation church and it will happen today.

I'm not sure how I see how the "sacramentalism" of Doug Wilson differs from that of Calvin or the WCF.

David W. et al,

It's been said that FV is the route to Rome, but when I tried to get my arms around it it seemed more like Ft. Wayne in its sacramentalism and seeming move away from the preservation of the saints. Add in a general affinity among many of them for high(er) liturgy (which is one thing I share w/them) and it all reminded me of Concordia more than anything else. Am I all wet?

Baylys, I ditto all your thoughts; its so good to see SOMEone making mature distinctions between NPP, FV, Doug Wilson, even if your common sense and traditional views are unfortunately not shared by the bulk of our leadership.

I am one who reads Wilson regularly and agrees with his distinctions and descriptions of the objectivity of the visible Chuch and covenant while disagreeing with where focus needs to lie for the Reformed church at large. Unlike Wilson, I do not believe we need more focus on the sacraments and being part of the visible church as a diagnostic matter, but rather more attention laid on how membership in the objective Church and covenant (branches of the vine susceptible to being broken off) guarantees nothing, and that we are to be working out our salvation and making our calling and ELECTION (in the invisible church) sure. I believe his crystallizing of the distinction needs more attention and defining as he has done, but then should be taken in an opposite direction for application. But in any case, I would be interested in you stating where, exactly, he has substantively changed any significant views in the past years of defending his FV views, rather than being more careful to define them where they have been mischaracterized.

Dear Jack's Pipe:

From the PCA, Ft. Wayne is a step closer to Rome. Is Lutheranism the final destination or Rome?

My thinking is neither, for most of these guys. I believe they love the Reformed tradition and want to change its direction.

David

P.S. Thanks for the quote, Tim. Why am I not surprised that you found the exact words and that it never occurred to me to check the internet?

David W.,

"Sacramentalism is death to the Church?" I guess it all comes down to how you define that term. Perhaps you could define that for us.

I do find it an interesting turn of phrase though, given Jesus' words in John 6: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." It is also interesting that Calvin fought to put the bread and wine into the mouths of the people so that they might fight the errors of Rome. Now the worm has turned and some with to keep the supper from people so that they do not get to close to the Pope.

Speaking of John Calvin… I was reading his commentary on 1 Cor 11 last night and it struck me how everything was interpreted through the lens of the good fight (and it was a good fight) against Rome. I was thinking as I read, "Boy, I did not see the papacy in that verse." My point being, the FVers (I am a sympathizer) are fighting the good fight against Western individualism, egalitarianism, low church ecclesiology and Anabaptist scant memorialism in the Supper. It is a good fight even if their targets don't wear a pointy hat.

al sends

Al, whatever else the FV is fighting, Western individualism isn't on the list.

Mind, they talk about it a lot, but when PCA and OPC elders take it upon themselves to make what they individually consider to be improvements to their respective denomination's doctrines, that is Western Individualism in full measure, pressed down, and overflowing.

Not respecting one's denomination enough to clear different teaching with it first, prior to preaching it from the pulpit, is scarcely displaying Respect for Eccleciastical Authority.

It's been utterly fascinating over the past few years to read FV'ers waxing eloquent regarding Recovering Respect for Ecclesiastical Authority while at the same time showing their dogged determination that ain't nobody gonna tell them what to teach.

>when PCA and OPC elders take it upon themselves to make what they individually consider to be improvements to their respective denomination's doctrines

They may be right or wrong but I think most of them would consider themselves to be primarily reclaiming reformed doctrine which has been lost to individualist, baptistic and revivalistic error.

You're doubtless correct, David, but a heavy emphasis upon "consider themselves" IS a key component of individualism, is it not?

Hi Anne,

Good point, if that is what they are doing. Unfortunately, I think that is a mischaracterization. They are operating under the WCF and proclaim it loudly. Shoot, they even say they are MORE faithful to the WCF than some of their accusers.

There are some who think FVers are not subscribing faithfully to that confession and there have been trials, which FV elders have submitted to. Don't know of anyone who has said, "Neener, Neener, Neener, you - can't - catch - me." Though I may be wrong about that. Please email me some names if you have them.

In some cases those so charged have asked to be examined. Pastor Wilkins of the PCA is a fine example of submitting to the governing authority. For some justice is not being served or served quickly enough so they formed lynch mobs. In some cases those lynch mobs formed outside the jurisdiction of the responsible sheriff. They have the rope, the tree, concern for the "peace and purity" of the church but the perpetrators hide behind their sessions and presbyteries. Devils and disturbers they say. Bleah!

al sends

Dear Al:

How do our children become Christians?

A sacramentalist answers, through the church and her sacraments. So my four children became Christians at their (infant) baptism, according to this line of thinking.

The Baptist will answer through repentance toward God and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. And they arrive at this conversion at a particular point in time. So my children's baptism didn't help or contribute a bit.

David

David,

Are there only two options -- Sacramentalist or Baptist?

How does your view square with Westminster? See questions 161-167 from the Larger Catechism below and especially notice the wording of question 161.

Question 161: How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

Answer: The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

Question 162: What is a sacrament?

Answer: A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.

Question 163: What are the parts of a sacrament?

Answer: The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ's own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.

Question 164: How many sacraments has Christ instituted in his church under the New Testament?

Answer: Under the New Testament Christ has instituted in his church only two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Question 165: What is Baptism?

Answer: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's.

Question 166: Unto whom is Baptism to be administered?

Answer: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.

Question 167: How is our Baptism to be improved by us?

Answer: The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Dear Tom:

No, those aren't the only two options.

I just set them out as two ends of the spectrum.

David

David W.,

So is your definition of Sacramentalism, an error in your mind, the belief that children become Christians at their Baptism? If you are an elder, subscribing to the WCF, you may be outside the standard.

Who is in the church? Are they Christians?

In a very real way, a visible way if you will, Baptism does make our children Christians. The fact that you ask the question this way is the reason the FVers believe they are more reformed and truer to the WCF than some of their accusers.

al sends

David,

I figured that was the case but thanks for clarifying.

My primary question is -- are the sacraments effectual means of salvation (as Westminster clearly says) or not? OR maybe another way of asking that is more consistent with the WLC wording is -- can the sacraments be effectual means of salvation?

I'm well aware the FV'ers insist they are more than faithful to the WCF, Al.

In their opinion, they are faithful as all git out.

The point is, however, they did not seek the denominational authority's blessing, permission, whatever, prior to teaching their "recovered" doctrine.

It was a well-established tactic used by egalitarians to take over various denominations, i.e. "Better to ask for forgiveness than permission."

It's not an honorable course of action. The honorable course of action would have been to taken their keen new insights regarding various doctrines to the Session (or whatever is the governing body of the PCA), enthusiastically urging their fellows to check THIS out.

Had they done so, the whole situation wouldn't have turned as unpleasant as it clearly has.

Instead they decided all by themselves that their tweakings and changes are in keeping with the WCF and proceeded to teach those tweakings and changes from PCA pulpits.

How anyone can condemn egalitarians for using the precise same rationale ("We're being more faithful to Scripture than y'all!") and strategy ("Better to ask for forgiveness than permission") as the FV'ers have utilized, while smiling benignly upon the latter, absolutely baffles me.

Mind...my focus is strictly upon tactics, not content. Some of the FV stuff isn't as awful as it's often made out to be, and some is not bad at all.

But I deeply resented the egalitarians using this method of getting their heterodoxy into various denominations, and am at a loss as to why so many are willing, nay anxious, to give the FV'ers a pass when they've done the same thing.

Completely illogical, that's what it is.

>I just set them out as two ends of the spectrum.

Which one are you?

>But I deeply resented the egalitarians using this method of getting their heterodoxy into various denominations, and am at a loss as to why so many are willing, nay anxious, to give the FV'ers a pass when they've done the same thing.

Because they are arguing that they are being faithful to the WCF whereas egalitarians are not. They are arguing that they are being faithful to the historic reformed understanding whereas egalitarians are not (and can't hope to claim to be while sober). Read Calvin on the Lord's Supper and you'll recognize a lot of what Doug Wilson has to say on the topic. Read Calvin and you won't find a whiff of feminist or egalitarian thinking.

Egalitarians argue they are being true to Scripture while complementarians are not, and because they're being true to Scripture, they can plow ahead and teach what they like.

Presumably as long as someone is sincere in their conviction that they are being true to whatever standard they're using (WCF, Scripture, etc.), they can teach whatever seems right to them. Is this pretty much it?

If not, I'm at a loss as to why you're putting a frowny face on the egalitarians and a smiley face on the FV'ers, David.

After all, it's surely not outside the bounds of possibility that the FV'ers are, well, *wrong* about their conviction "they are being faithful to the WCF" and "to the historic reformed understanding".

What if they're wrong? I'm not saying they are, ye ken, I'm just trying to figure out how, if by some chance they ARE wrong, the PCA is supposed to be able to stop error from being preached from PCA pulpits, if PCA pastors are free to preach and teach their own private, individual understanding of the WCF and the "historic reformed understanding".

The preaching of the Gospel is also an effectual means of salvation, and yet our PCA Book of Church Order doesn't recommend a warning against an ex opere operato understanding of its administration, but it does of the Sacrament of Baptism. Until men demonstrate a sincere understanding of the danger sacramentalism has always posed to souls, such conversations will be fruitless.

* * *

>>>That they are federally holy before Baptism, and therefore are they baptized; That the inward grace and virtue of Baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reaches to the whole course of our life; and that outward baptism is not so necessary, that through the want thereof, the infant is in danger of damnation;

By virtue of being children of believing parents they are, because of God's covenant ordinance, made members of the church, but this is not sufficient to make them continue members of the Church. When they have reached the age of discretion, they become subject to obligations of the covenant: faith, repentance and obedience. They then make public confession of their faith in Christ, or become covenant breakers, and subject to the discipline of the Church.

In these or the like instructions, the minister is to use his own liberty and godly wisdom, as the ignorance or errors in the doctrine of Baptism, and the edification of the people, shall require. (PCA Book of Church Order)

>If not, I'm at a loss as to why you're putting a frowny face on the egalitarians and a smiley face on the FV'ers, David.

See above.

Also PCA pastors are not required to subscribe to the WCF without exception but they must state what the exceptions are when examined (as I understand the procedures). There is no case for arguing that the church, either generally or in its reformed manifestation, has held the egalitarian/feminist understanding. There is a case for holding that Wilson's understanding lies within the historic reformed understanding. If you don't grasp the difference I'm not sure I can help you.

>Until men demonstrate a sincere understanding of the danger sacramentalism has always posed to souls, such conversations will be fruitless.

If we're going to keep using the term "sacramentalism" perhaps it would be useful to define it. Presumably it is different from sacerdotalism or it would not be in use. The WCF places a higher emphasis on the sacraments than is generally observed in PCA churches, in my limited experience. The WCF certainly is not sacerdotal in its understanding of the sacraments. If "sacramentalism" is not sacerdotal, what is it?

Tim,

I'm assuming that by "sacramentalism" you mean an understanding of the sacraments that involves ex opere operato. If so, then I agree with you and so would every FV person I've read. As one example, Rich Lusk, who is considered by many to be one of the FV men who really push the envelope, has been very clear that he rejects ex opere operato. That is not the issue here.

As it relates to the sacraments, the FV men are arguing for a robust WCF understanding of the sacraments. The WLC questions and answers I posted above present an understanding and use language to describe the sacraments that makes most modern Reformed folk uncomfortable. That is the issue.

David, could you perhaps respond to this bit?

"What if they're wrong? I'm not saying they are, ye ken, I'm just trying to figure out how, if by some chance they ARE wrong, the PCA is supposed to be able to stop error from being preached from PCA pulpits, if PCA pastors are free to preach and teach their own private, individual understanding of the WCF and the 'historic reformed understanding'."

So far your responses have assumed the FV is accurate, or at the very least defensible, and that this validates their actions.

What if it wasn't, though? What if whatever it was they were teaching distressed you instead of pleased you? Yet they were insisting their doctrinal improvements are absolutely consistent with the WCF and Scripture, and were preaching it from their pulpits?

I'm unclear as to how you'd think they could be stopped.

>I'm unclear as to how you'd think they could be stopped.

Church discipline. Of course that doesn't answer the question as to whether such action is warranted or not.

Anne,

I don't think you have a firm grasp on Presbyterian polity. A minister does not run his sermons through a vetting process. He does not run his sermons up the chain-of-command, to use a military term. Since all men are fallible there is a government set over them to correct and discipline when required.

If a pastor is accused of teaching contrary to his affirmations and exceptions, viz a vi the WCF, the judicial process then begins to work from the local church (or session) up. Not the other way around.

This is the process many elders in the PCA, for example, are going through. I do not think there is not an attempt to deceive the Church over these matters. Many of these men have expressed the same exceptions to the WCF from the beginning of their ministries. The AA Pastors conference and a couple of declarations of heresy later (by folks not associated with any of the men's denominations) and we have reached critical mass.

I really don't think your charge is valid given the way the PCA has set up the calling and disciplining of the its ministers. I could be wrong since I am not a PCA pastor.

Now, someone asked a second time for a definition of Sacramentalism... If it is the one David W. implied I think some folks are going to have a problem.

al sends

Okay, but wouldn't the denomination need things such as this report for the purpose of evaluating a "new" doctrine?

You're absolutely correct that I'm NOT completely knowledgeable regarding PCA processes. Good eye. ;^p

Are these types of reports unusual for the PCA? I'd gotten the impression they aren't especially.

What if the report had been primarily favorable to the FV, dismissing the current kerfluffle as a tempest in a teapot? If it had, there would not be grounds for judicial action, or church discipline, which would save a lot of time and effort, ISTM.

If the doctrinal differences between the FV and traditional PCA understanding were black-and-white, then yes, one could go straight to judicial action against anyone teaching the former. But since there's not only quite a few people strongly pro or con but a fair number sitting squarely on the fence, I'd think appointing a committee was a reasonable thing to do.

I'll grant you, though, it'd have been prudent to have had at least a couple of FV-friendly committee members. No question.

BTW, gentlemen, I appreciate the discussion.

I don't understand #3.

Louisiana Presbytery, which is in the South, has exonerated Rev. Wilkins twice. Likewise wouldn't the Presbytery that St. Louis is in also be considered 'South'? This Presbytery likewise seems sympathetic to Federal Vision arrangements.

Similarly some of the strongest opponents of FV have come from the North. Guys like R. Scott Clark and Mike Horton and other significant members of the Westminster West Faculty are not Southerners are they?

Is this really a regional issue?

Also I'm not convinced that it is possible to describe the FV position in such a way that the FV would agree with if the intent was to dismantle it once you had explained it. Also, on this score, FV'ism is a moving target as even those in the movement will tell you that there is a great deal of fluidity in the movement since it isn't monolithic.

Touching #4 I see the sacrament issue as an attempt to resurrect the teaching of John Williamson Nevin which itself was an attempt to resurrect the teaching of John Calvin. IMO often those screaming the most about potential sacramentalism in the FV teaching comes from those who are functional Zwinglians. Surely Sacerdotalism exists but it shouldn't be located upon the testimony of Zwinglians. Actually, I find myself in agreement with some of what some of the FV guys write on the Sacraments.

On #5 I don't know how anyone could know that envy plays a part in this. That sounds like it could be speculation. IMO the problem of the 'larger then life Pastor from Idaho' is he won't abjure those who are on the bleeding edge of this movement. His refusal to say that 'so and so who is on the bleeding edge of this movement is wrong' doesn't help his case with those who want to believe that there is not a league of extraordinary gentlemen in this.

I agree wholeheartedly with #7 and said so on my own blog. Secular Humanism is the Theology that drives Egalitarianism as well as the humanistic psychological crutch that the PCA's MTW and MNA rely on in their candidate selection process. One can only speculate why the PCA has decided to deal with its problem children in the order that it has chosen.

Anne,

The question is are the men in view maverick pastors seeking to lead away those with itching ears? I say they are not and that some are loath to give them their day in court as it were. While study committees are useful if you have some in leadership calling you a heretic there should be formal charges at some point.

This seems to me to be death by a thousand cuts. Make it painful enough for them and they will leave on their own. Heck, they say, the CRE is all set to receive them anyway.

Some are calling for a cooling off period. I hope it comes to pass.

al sends

All agree that baptism is a means of grace. If the FV'ers don't have an ex opere operato understanding of baptism and believe that baptism confers grace but saving grace only "to such... as that grace belongs unto" (WCF) i.e. the elect, then what are the FV'ers objecting to? Isn't that what all Presbyterians believe? Similarly, don't all believe that baptism brings a child into the visible church? This talk about the denial of ex opere operato, yet then going on about "objectivity," frankly confuses me, but then I don't claim to be the brightest bulb in the drawer.

Many of you object to David's definition of sacramentalism, but I didn't see a definition acceptable to those of you favorable to the FV. What is it?

You don't think possibly the setting up of a committee to investigate the "suspicious" teachings was meant to see if there's any call for "heretic" to be tossed around?

Presumably it might have happened that the committee would have said it's not as bad as all that, which would forestall charges being made at all.

Here's something I don't understand...if the FV'ers are sure they've found something of value from which all would benefit, why didn't they make an overture (granted, I'm not sure who gets to do that) to the GA years ago?

Wouldn't that be the best way to get doctrinal standards amended, as opposed to the piecemeal method that's been going on thus far?

Never mind the FV. Let's say Pastor Horace Huckleberry of Montana has, together with some other PCA theologians, come up with a variant on an established Presbyterian doctrine that they are convinced is far more Scripturally accurate than what's in place.

They're excited and enthused, naturally!

Should Horace & Co. take it to the GA so as to give as many pastors a chance to hear it as possible...not to mention to have it checked out by others, seeing as how no one's perfect and maybe there's a problem Horace & Co. have missed...or should they spread it via their local assemblies?

If they really think it's God's truth, I'd think they'd be all about trying to get it in front of the GA.

But as you've correctly noted, I'm not Presbyterian, so it's possible that isn't the way Presbyterians do things. ;^)

I like David's polar extremes of the Sacramentalist and the Baptist. The Sacramentalist position helps me make sense of a doctrine I've always thought of dubious value: Perseverance of the Saints.

If you believe that somebody is Saved by baptism, then unless you're *really* extreme, you'd have to believe that he can be unsaved by later events such as backsliding. So if you can get someone to believe in Perseverance, you can get them to avoid crude Sacramentalism.

I should have quoted David Wegener's comment, so I'm reposting it here:

How do our children become Christians?

A sacramentalist answers, through the church and her sacraments. So my four children became Christians at their (infant) baptism, according to this line of thinking.

The Baptist will answer through repentance toward God and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. And they arrive at this conversion at a particular point in time. So my children's baptism didn't help or contribute a bit.

1.) If Horace Huckleberry and co. believes that what they are teaching is consistent with the WCF and with Scripture I don't see why they would need to go through a vetting process with the denomination. I don't agree with aspects of the FV (particularly their massaging [?] of justification) but most of the proponents that I've read insist they are being faithful to WCF and Scripture. In light of this I believe, in a case where a person doesn't believe they are taking an exception to the WCF in their teaching, that the onus is upon somebody else to bring charges against what they might believe is aberrant teaching.

Second, it is possible to be a Christian in the objective sense while not having the essence of what one has in form. What else are we to refer to those who are externally related to the covenant but who are without the internal essence except 'Christian'? The fact is that we do this all the time. How many people have we referred to as Christians for years only to see them later fall into personal declension?

The question is 'How do I become a Christian.'

The options that have been offered are

a.) A sacramentalist answers, through the church and her sacraments.

b.) Through repentance toward God and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. And they arrive at this conversion at a particular point in time.

Perhaps we ought to offer a (c)

c.) In Spirit attended Word & Sacrament, the Church, handling the Keys of the Kingdom, offers a salvation that works in the elect unbeliever who receives the internal call a faith in Christ that is characterized as distinctly receptive, energetically active, resiliently durable and consistently persevering.

We must be careful about rending what God has put together.

"Wouldn't that be the best way to get doctrinal standards amended, as opposed to the piecemeal method that's been going on thus far?"

Again, the point is that they don't want to amend anything -- they believe that they are within the Standards, not in a "squeak by we can persuade others to let us get away with this," but genuinely within that spirit. So from their POV, they're not trying to change anything and there's nothing to be amended. So, from their POV, they're not striking out individualistically doing anything -- they're just preaching Reformed stuff.

Unless you think they're insincere about this, I think you have to follow the logic.

Unless they're dumb as dirt...which they're not...they are well aware that what they're espousing IS different from what the traditional beliefs are of the PCA. Those who espouse something different are going to attract notice.

That is, as they say, life.

They can't have it both ways, for pity's sake. If they're espousing noticeably different doctrine, then they should expect to be noticed. If they can't tolerate criticism, they shouldn't publicly espouse noticeably different doctrine.

What I find most amusing is the "but THEY don't think they're aberrant" angle.

Oh well, then. So long as THEY think THEY are fine and dandy, then by all means, THEY should believe, espouse and teach whatever THEY want.

Being the earnest corporate-Christians they are. ;^)

>Unless they're dumb as dirt...which they're not...they are well aware that what they're espousing IS different from what the traditional beliefs are of the PCA.

Of course how much of the PCA conforms to the WCF? I'd still like to see someone who uses the term "sacramentalist" show me how that differs from sacerdotalism.

But Anne, if they're different from the traditional views of the PCA, they could still be within the Westminster Standards. Two possibilities exist in that case: the FV guys are more in conformity with the Standards than the traditions of the PCA are, or both "traditional" PCA views and FV views are within the tolerable range of views permitted by the Standards. And it is the Standards, not PCA tradition, that PCA ministers are bound to conform to. Whether they are the same thing is for wiser heads than mine.

Now whether either of those is true is beyond me, but being out of conformity with "what most PCA guys have always thought" is not logically equal to being out of conformity with Westminster. Since the FV guys are contending it is not, that is why they are not trying to "change" the Standards.

Given Pentamom's scenario, lets look at what has happened:

Let me ask, when in Presbyterianism do we have a GA committee basically pass a verdict on the orthodoxy of other men in the PCA?

When have he we had a committee formed exclusively by men who were known to be opposed to other men? In other words, why weren't some "FV" men on the Committee? Because they are not orthodox? But isn't that exactly what the committee was supposed to determine? How could these men considered guilty in the formation of a committee which was supposed to investigate the matter? And this brings me back to my initial question, why is this being done in this way?

Finally, how is it that presbyteries across the nation are so unreliable that only a select committee is able to tell the truth of the matter? All these men in the PCA have been examined and found in good standing by their presbyteries. I myself submitted to an unnecessary second investigation just to deal with gossip and rumors circulating in the internet. Why was I found within the bounds of the Westminster Standards?

"You have YOUR interpretation of the Standards and I have MINE" qualifies as a dandy motto for Western individualism, which is precisely what I noted in my first post in this thread.

If one is committed to a Big Tent/YHYIOTSAIHM/I'm-OK-You're-OK denominational philosophy, then by all means, everyone should be allowed to decide for themselves what the Standards say.

Heck of a way to run a denomination, though.

>Heck of a way to run a denomination, though.

When someone advocates that let me know.

Mark makes a good point... What is the nature of Presbyterianism? Is it a top down affair or does life bubble up from the bottom?

al sends

PS - I am asking help in defining sacramentalism over at my blog if anyone is interested. :-) forgive the troll!!!

On further reflection on #4. I find it strange that not one FVer was on the committee until I thought about it. Without a FVer on the committee there is no chance of a minority report. I can't remember a time when at least one person who held to the view that was being studied was not on the committee.

In reading these posts I believe I am right when I said a honest evaluation of the First and Second Great Awakening are needed in understanding the current debate.

Mark's Day #1

Let me ask, when in Presbyterianism do we have a GA committee basically pass a verdict on the orthodoxy of other men in the PCA?

Answer

When the orthodoxy of other men in the PCA is in question.

Let's be honest here... What the FV is doing if successful will completely change the PCA. You certainly can't expect those who are pleased with the PCA to just be mute in the face of this change.

Mark's Day #2

When have he we had a committee formed exclusively by men who were known to be opposed to other men? In other words, why weren't some "FV" men on the Committee? Because they are not orthodox? But isn't that exactly what the committee was supposed to determine? How could these men considered guilty in the formation of a committee which was supposed to investigate the matter?

Answer

Are you suggesting that FV'ism wasn't given a fair hearing? Are you suggesting that the only way to get a fair hearing would be to staff a committee with FV proponents? That would have yielded a Majority / Minority report. Could you ever agree that FV had a fair hearing if the results of any hearing were anything but complete vindication for FV?

Mark's Day #3

And this brings me back to my initial question, why is this being done in this way?

Answer

Because some movers and shakers don't like FV'ism. Would that they likewise didn't like egalitarianism or humanistic psychology in their midst with the same intensity.

Mark's Day #4

Finally, how is it that presbyteries across the nation are so unreliable that only a select committee is able to tell the truth of the matter?

Answer

My understanding is that this report goes to the GA to be decided upon. There representatives from all the Presbyeries will be present and together they will decide whether or not this committee told the truth on this matter.

Mark's Day #5

All these men in the PCA have been examined and found in good standing by their presbyteries. I myself submitted to an unnecessary second investigation just to deal with gossip and rumors circulating in the internet. Why was I found within the bounds of the Westminster Standards?

Answer

I honestly don't know.

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