Help with Norman Shepard's Theology

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Parsifal23

Puritan Board Freshman
This is porbablly old hat and been answerd many times before. But I am curentlly involved in a discuson with my Pastor over the Theology of Normon Shepard. We have exchanged many Emails I have sent him numrous critcal articles on Shepard's theology the Reformed Church of the United States report on Shepard. And numrous other articles and he constintlly says I see nothing wron gwith Shepard's theology I even agree with him. My pasotr just sees this as some provencal debate inReformedTheology about Covenant. I know this is a serious issue but I dont know what to do or what I could say or do to show him how dangirous Sheperd's theology isbecuse he sees nothing wrong with it any advice or sources I could use or whatI could say thanks in Advance
 

BuddyOfDavidClarkson

Puritan Board Freshman
Yeah, listen to The Dividing Line podcast with James White. Dr. White is all over Norman Shepard and spends whole broadcasts analyzing lectures given by Shepard. Get the last couple of weeks and start listening.

This is porbablly old hat and been answerd many times before. But I am curentlly involved in a discuson with my Pastor over the Theology of Normon Shepard. We have exchanged many Emails I have sent him numrous critcal articles on Shepard's theology the Reformed Church of the United States report on Shepard. And numrous other articles and he constintlly says I see nothing wron gwith Shepard's theology I even agree with him. My pasotr just sees this as some provencal debate inReformedTheology about Covenant. I know this is a serious issue but I dont know what to do or what I could say or do to show him how dangirous Sheperd's theology isbecuse he sees nothing wrong with it any advice or sources I could use or whatI could say thanks in Advance
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
If the congregation has confessional standards then your pastor should be appealed to on the basis of said standards (presumably those standards would be of the Protestant variety). This would also apply if some form of subscription (or other document) has been signed by your pastor in order to hold him to the Protestant faith.

If not, then you need to appeal to him on the basis of the Protestant faith which declares that we are justified apart from works. Mr. Shepherd says we are justified by a living, active obedient faith. The two are mutually exclusive.

It is instructive that Mr. Shepherd, in the "Call of Grace" never refers to the confessions for his formula of a “living, active obedient faith” because they never speak of justifying faith in that way. It is also instructive that Mr. Shepherd never uses the term ‘faith alone’ in reference to justification, even though the confessions use that term.

The following links, if you have not read them already, outline some of the main differences between Mr. Shepherd and Protestant doctrine.

The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and E
“Justification by Faith Alone” by Norman Shepherd
http://www.rcus.org/main/pub_synodreportShep3.asp

I want to say, however, on a more personal level, that I sympathize with the man. When I first read Mr. Shepherd I thought: what is wrong with this? I didn't understand why so many of my colleagues and professors at seminary objected to him. It took some time and some exploration on my part but I finally got it.

The reason for my confusion was due to the fact that Mr. Shepherd does not come right out and say: 'justification is not by faith alone' or 'I disagree with the Protestant position on justification'. (though some of his followers and students over the years have). The danger in his position is that he undermines justification in his formulations and causes confusion in the churches. Ultimately then, he is more dangerous to the church than, say, liberal scholars who reject God's Word outright.

For we need to be aware of the fact that he has had thirty years in which he could have simply cleared up any misconceptions, misquotations and misunderstanding of his thought but has never done so. This is rather disconcerting to say the least, since he is a bright and gifted man who taught systematic theology and Westminster East for many years and has contributed many articles and a book to the subject of justification. But for many in the Reformed world, Shepherd has only made it clearer and clearer that he seriously disagrees with the Protestant understanding and articulation of the doctrine of justification.
 

Parsifal23

Puritan Board Freshman
Yeah, listen to The Dividing Line podcast with James White. Dr. White is all over Norman Shepard and spends whole broadcasts analyzing lectures given by Shepard. Get the last couple of weeks and start listening.

This is porbablly old hat and been answerd many times before. But I am curentlly involved in a discuson with my Pastor over the Theology of Normon Shepard. We have exchanged many Emails I have sent him numrous critcal articles on Shepard's theology the Reformed Church of the United States report on Shepard. And numrous other articles and he constintlly says I see nothing wron gwith Shepard's theology I even agree with him. My pasotr just sees this as some provencal debate inReformedTheology about Covenant. I know this is a serious issue but I dont know what to do or what I could say or do to show him how dangirous Sheperd's theology isbecuse he sees nothing wrong with it any advice or sources I could use or whatI could say thanks in Advance
Wich podcast brodcasts exactlly what dates of what shows? Also our church isnt really confessonal it's just influnced by the 1689 Londen Baptist Confession and even then only parts that are sutible to our Church i.e. no Covenat Theology/Covenat of Works or Sabatranism. So referingto The Confessions is kind of a moot point.

-----Added 11/5/2009 at 01:37:58 EST-----

If the congregation has confessional standards then your pastor should be appealed to on the basis of said standards (presumably those standards would be of the Protestant variety). This would also apply if some form of subscription (or other document) has been signed by your pastor in order to hold him to the Protestant faith.

If not, then you need to appeal to him on the basis of the Protestant faith which declares that we are justified apart from works. Mr. Shepherd says we are justified by a living, active obedient faith. The two are mutually exclusive.

It is instructive that Mr. Shepherd, in the "Call of Grace" never refers to the confessions for his formula of a “living, active obedient faith” because they never speak of justifying faith in that way. It is also instructive that Mr. Shepherd never uses the term ‘faith alone’ in reference to justification, even though the confessions use that term.

The following links, if you have not read them already, outline some of the main differences between Mr. Shepherd and Protestant doctrine.

The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and E
“Justification by Faith Alone” by Norman Shepherd
http://www.rcus.org/main/pub_synodreportShep3.asp

I want to say, however, on a more personal level, that I sympathize with the man. When I first read Mr. Shepherd I thought: what is wrong with this? I didn't understand why so many of my colleagues and professors at seminary objected to him. It took some time and some exploration on my part but I finally got it.

The reason for my confusion was due to the fact that Mr. Shepherd does not come right out and say: 'justification is not by faith alone' or 'I disagree with the Protestant position on justification'. (though some of his followers and students over the years have). The danger in his position is that he undermines justification in his formulations and causes confusion in the churches. Ultimately then, he is more dangerous to the church than, say, liberal scholars who reject God's Word outright.

For we need to be aware of the fact that he has had thirty years in which he could have simply cleared up any misconceptions, misquotations and misunderstanding of his thought but has never done so. This is rather disconcerting to say the least, since he is a bright and gifted man who taught systematic theology and Westminster East for many years and has contributed many articles and a book to the subject of justification. But for many in the Reformed world, Shepherd has only made it clearer and clearer that he seriously disagrees with the Protestant understanding and articulation of the doctrine of justification.
I have read those articles sent them to my Pastor and his response is basiclly "nothing wrong here why do the Reformed have to be so punctilous" he came out of Covenant Theology many years ago and is basicly a big proponent of NCT now (not to try and arm chair psychoanalyize him) but then He will say things like "Faith is a work" or something like that and red flags just shoot up but I dont know how to respond being so young in the faith and not wanting to trample over my Pastor's athourty becuse he is my Pastor after all and I took an oath to honer and respect his athourity and submit to that ahourity when I joined the church so I am in a real pickel
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It doesn't sound like you can do more than you have. Pray for him and continue to submit to his leadership and guidance until you cannot continue to in good conscience.

I say that because it may be that he himself does not deny justification by faith alone. However if you truly believe or know that he does deny it then your only recourse is to speak to your elders. If you have no elders and there is no oversight by a board or some other supervising/authoritative body then you will have to leave.
 

Parsifal23

Puritan Board Freshman
It doesn't sound like you can do more than you have. Pray for him and continue to submit to his leadership and guidance until you cannot continue to in good conscience.

I say that because it may be that he himself does not deny justification by faith alone. However if you truly believe or know that he does deny it then your only recourse is to speak to your elders. If you have no elders and there is no oversight by a board or some other supervising/authoritative body then you will have to leave.
Oh he doesnt deny Justification by Faith alone he just thinksthe wholething is a "tempest in a teapot" (his words) it's just exasperateing becuse the evdence I have presented seems so clearbut he just cant see it that wayso I dontknow ifI have hit a brickwallbut sometimes you have to know when discretion is the better part of valor before things start becmeing rankrours and un Christ like soobviousllythis ha been going on for weeks and if there's no convinceing himit might be best to drop the subject for now and regroup untill I can marshial more information.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
This is a PB thread with links to two good articles greenbaggins wrote (a mod here)

http://www.puritanboard.com/f77/shepherds-new-book-49735/

What you MUST understand, and most people don't, is that NS makes statements that are fully acceptable to the TRs, and then later makes statements that appear to imply including our obedience resulting from saving faith as part of justification, and depending on what you read and when you read it and how vague it is, it can appear totally fine or unacceptable.

When he is addressing the apparent antinomianism of certain people whose position on justification and salvation seems to have zero place for fruit of faith, he'll sound almost FV. But put him up next to a FV who thinks infused righteousness gives us merit before God, and he'll come off in his book -clearly- that NO MERIT OF OUR OWN at all gives us any standing with God. Perfectly orthodox.

Lynnie, in my opinion, Shepherd's theology is not internally consistent. He has many statements that reject human merit in justification. His supporters are quick to point out this feature in his presentation. However, he has just as many statements indicating that obedience is part of the structure of justification. ( greenbaggins)


I think you should give your pastor the benefit of the doubt until your pastor should happen to actually start teaching justification by works, which pray never happens. If your pastor read older defenses of NS by Frame and Gaffin he has every good reason to react the way he does.
 

Parsifal23

Puritan Board Freshman
This is a PB thread with links to two good articles greenbaggins wrote (a mod here)

http://www.puritanboard.com/f77/shepherds-new-book-49735/

What you MUST understand, and most people don't, is that NS makes statements that are fully acceptable to the TRs, and then later makes statements that appear to imply including our obedience resulting from saving faith as part of justification, and depending on what you read and when you read it and how vague it is, it can appear totally fine or unacceptable.

When he is addressing the apparent antinomianism of certain people whose position on justification and salvation seems to have zero place for fruit of faith, he'll sound almost FV. But put him up next to a FV who thinks infused righteousness gives us merit before God, and he'll come off in his book -clearly- that NO MERIT OF OUR OWN at all gives us any standing with God. Perfectly orthodox.

Lynnie, in my opinion, Shepherd's theology is not internally consistent. He has many statements that reject human merit in justification. His supporters are quick to point out this feature in his presentation. However, he has just as many statements indicating that obedience is part of the structure of justification. ( greenbaggins)


I think you should give your pastor the benefit of the doubt until your pastor should happen to actually start teaching justification by works, which pray never happens. If your pastor read older defenses of NS by Frame and Gaffin he has every good reason to react the way he does.
He's read Frame (this whole thing started with Frame's review of Mike Horton's Christless Christianity)and I know for a fact he would never teach works salvationin any sense.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
As to the significance of Shepherd's errors, ask your pastor whether the Reformation was picking nits or whether it about something significant. After all, Trent teaches salvation by grace, and justification by grace. Trent teaches faith. Faith, grace, what's the big deal?

Calvin thought it was a big deal. Maybe he had too much time on his hands?

Westminster Seminary California clark

There are a lot of resources here:

Westminster Seminary California clark

esp.

Banner of Truth Trust General Articles

Ferguson: Review of Shepherd

http://www.grebeweb.com/linden/word6docs/shepherd_review_venema_w6.doc

See also:

The Bookstore at WSC: Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry by Clark, R. Scott

The Bookstore at WSC: By Faith Alone by Johnson, Gary, Guy Waters

The Bookstore at WSC: The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis by Waters, Guy Prentiss

Guy Waters has a nice essay in this volume analyzing the development of Shepherd's theology:

The Bookstore at WSC: The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson by Penny, Robert, ed.
 

Parsifal23

Puritan Board Freshman
As to the significance of Shepherd's errors, ask your pastor whether the Reformation was picking nits or whether it about something significant. After all, Trent teaches salvation by grace, and justification by grace. Trent teaches faith. Faith, grace, what's the big deal?

Calvin thought it was a big deal. Maybe he had too much time on his hands?

Westminster Seminary California clark

There are a lot of resources here:

Westminster Seminary California clark

esp.

Banner of Truth Trust General Articles

Ferguson: Review of Shepherd

http://www.grebeweb.com/linden/word6docs/shepherd_review_venema_w6.doc

See also:

The Bookstore at WSC: Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry by Clark, R. Scott

The Bookstore at WSC: By Faith Alone by Johnson, Gary, Guy Waters

The Bookstore at WSC: The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis by Waters, Guy Prentiss

Guy Waters has a nice essay in this volume analyzing the development of Shepherd's theology:

The Bookstore at WSC: The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson by Penny, Robert, ed.
Thanks but most of that stuff I have already sent him and he's dismissed it out of hand as a bunch of punctilious Reformed guys. But I guess that makes me a punctilious Baptist:lol: it's strange because I don't treasure controversy but this seems just too important to negate to a "tempest in a teapot".
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Yeah, listen to The Dividing Line podcast with James White. Dr. White is all over Norman Shepard and spends whole broadcasts analyzing lectures given by Shepard. Get the last couple of weeks and start listening.
I think that's Norm Geisler he is addressing, not Norm Shepherd.
 
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