Peter Leithart and the Pacific Northwest Presbytery

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by NaphtaliPress, Oct 3, 2008.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  2. davidsuggs

    davidsuggs Puritan Board Freshman

    If he is ruled in bounds of the Confession, what will that mean to those who disagree but are still in the PCA?
  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I dunno.
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Could someone (i.e., Chris :) ), update this thread when news of the results are posted?
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    To quote one of the commentators at the blog linked above, "The majority report was upheld. Peter Leithart has been found to be within the bounds of the confession."
  6. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Rev. Stellman should make an overture to have this reviewed at G.A.
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I would imagine he will.
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  9. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    It seems the Louisiana Presbytery case, as I understand it, is related to the same topic as this.

    There a complaint was filed to the Standing Judicial Commission that the Presbytery, acting as a majority, did not act to protect the church from doctrinal harm.

    It seems it needs to be determined if the Presbytery followed the guidance laid out in the study committee on this topic at all.
  10. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    I hope there's an appeal to the GA.
  11. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Part of the issue with LaP was that they did not properly examine Wilkins and didn't record the examination. That at least was the reason why they had to examine him again. If I recall correctly it was at that point at which they were charged with failing to deal with teachings that were out of accord with the standards. Judging from what I could glean of the process as it started, I get the idea that the PNW Presbytery was a lot more deliberative and also that Leithart was rather forthcoming in his answers. But I haven't followed this closely and I'm not sure there is that much on the internet about it anyway. Rev. Stellman promises to go into more detail tonight.

    This clearly proves that the FV struggle isn't over by any means in the PCA. And it's not just limited to PNW and Missouri. "Calvinistic" Baptists who suspect that the PCA appears to offer greener pastures should take note. I find that many are completely unaware of the controversy, even those who live in areas in which the FV has considerable influence if not dominance in the Presbytery.
  12. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    If anyone can find the actual majority report, I'd like a link. Thanks in advance.
  13. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  14. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor


    Note to self: note taken.
  15. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

  16. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Also, please note, that every church under heaven is imperfect; is this anything new? I guess for baptists it is. :lol:
  17. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The procedure that will likely follow in this case is that Jason and the rest of the minority report guys will issue a complaint within a certain amount of time. That complaint will be handled at their next stated meeting (and will probably fail, given the vote at this Presbytery). If and when THAT vote fails, the minority will then take that complaint to the Standing Judicial Commission, which will examine the complaint and either uphold it or strike it down.

    Jason has noted that the PNW Presbytery is something of an anomaly in the PCA. In almost any other Presbytery, the minority report would have been the majority report and the vote would have gone the other way. I heard Rob Rayburn speak at GA this year on the topic of the sacraments, and he sounded completely FV himself, setting the confessions against Scripture, and arguing for a mystical view of the sacraments.

    As to Calvinistic Baptists being warned, I think that is fair, but there is no perfect denomination. The PCA is actually working to get rid of the FV'ers, which, in my mind, is a sign of health. We are actually willing to get rid of them. We have gotten rid of Wilkins, and I think Mark Horne and Jeff Meyers will not be too far behind. Leithart will be dealt with in the SJC, which will almost certainly uphold the complaint of the minority. So, the PCA is healthier than some might think on this thread.
  18. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    I hope this is brought to the GA - I just read the majority reoprt and it is equivocal at best. It looks like they don't agree with him, but they don't want to pull the trigger.
  19. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The majority report makes the very same mistake that the LAP made with regard to Wilkins: saying that an explicit denial of the confession is necessary in order to say that someone is out of accord. The PNW should have learned their lesson from the LAP. Now they are going to have to learn that it is not enough to say that someone doesn't explicitly deny something in the confession. It is also whether the entire theology is in fact consistent with the confession. This is where the majority is report is trying to hide.
  20. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree, there is no perfect denomination or church. Actually, that was my whole point. I'm certainly not rejoicing at problems in other communions. My comments were primarily aimed at those former Baptists (or those leaning that way) that have a tendency to minimize the problems in the PCA or similar churches (if not ignorant of them altogether) while seeing no good in Baptist churches and also making the assumption that the SBC or whatever Baptist group they are affiliated with is the only baptistic option. I've had contact with some Baptists in the past who are fed up with their current situation and think they are ready to jump ship to the PCA yet are totally unaware of the FV and similar controversies. Some of these people are "baptisterians" at best anyway, able to get on board with infant baptism because they view it as little more than a wet dedication. Although of course some who have made that move have had the pendulum swing all the way around to the opposite extreme and have ended up embracing something like the FV.

    Edit: Part of the problem is that someone who isn't very familiar with Reformed Theology will listen to or read R.C. Sproul or see something on the PB and just assume that everyone in the PCA, for example, believes that way. I've also seen the reverse lately, where in the Aquila Report a PCA pastor broad brushed all Baptists as believing in decisional regeneration i.e. that faith precedes repentance and also with holding to what amounts to the Chafer/Ryrie view of eternal security. Of course the majority of Presbyterians are PCUSA and that's the only kind of Presbyterian many Baptists are familiar with. Surely that pastor wouldn't think it fair to impute the errors of the PCUSA to all Presbyterians the way he did with Baptists.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2008
  21. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I think we can all, including Pastors from other denominations who might be migrating toward Reformed theology and the PCA, be thankful the denomination is dealing with the serious error of Federal Vision and the often defiant attitude of its proponents.

    From what I can tell, the Louisiana Presbytery majority has very conscientiously repented or left and a real work of restoration of good doctrine is going on there. That is always the ultimate purpose of discipline.

    Nobody expected the several year dissemination of this to be eliminated overnight but the process is ongoing. We have a very useful study report to help sessions and presbyteries dealing with these complex issues discern it. There is judicial precedent to remove it.

    We want to try and keep our Ninth Commandment duties in view (cf Larger Catechism 143-145, Scripture proofs) and hold a charitable view toward toward others and not engage in undue cynicism, particularly to those of the household of faith. This includes a denomination showing good faith intention to deal with this.

    The PCA is contending to protect God's people from the harm of these teachings, and we can be thankful for that.
  22. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior


    I was going to post a thread on this yesterday, but my son and I didn't get back from Everett, WA till around 1230am - I slept in (I couldn't handle the chocolate malts and salsa chip combo that he had us eat on the way home) :lol: I see that discussion has been going on for a bit already.

    The presbytery meeting was a shame, and if I had somewhere else to go at this moment I would leave the PacNW presbytery without much of a second thought. I have never seen such theological ineptitude, and or intentional smokescreens being thrown up by the guilty parties (and accepted by the majority) as I did there yesterday. My session officially knows my displeasure.

    Stellman did an excellent job presenting the minority report. Rayburn, speaking for the majority report, did nothing but dismiss the conclusions of the minority out of hand, and then went on to monologue for about 40min using red-herrings and threats to the effect of "if we prosecute Leithart on this issue, we'll end up destroying our denomination and becoming completely irrelevant, just like denomination "X". All the while receiving various "amens" from the puppets in the presbytery.

    [BTW, if Andy Webb, aka "Seagoon" still posts around here, someone should let him know that Rayburn unilaterally made the decision neither to read nor to distribute copies of his communication to the presbytery regarding his concern over some of Leithart's recent postings on his blog. No surprise though, as Rayburn is one of the biggest FV defenders in the PacNW.]

    Thoughts on the meeting in no particular order:

    1. The PCA (in as much as she is represented in the Pacific NW) is much, much, much more concerned about image, influence, and the golden calf of "relevance" than she is about being a confessional church. That was the common note throughout the whole debate. God forbid that the PCA should ever be seen as narrow, irrelevant, intolerant, bigoted, rigid, mean, "not nice", or anything else that might slow our growth - no matter how serious a theological error others in confessional churches might deem it to be.

    2. A majority of the presbyters in attendance seemed neither to care about, nor even engage, the basic theological and exegetical points that were being raised by the minority. Basic, basic exegetical fallacies were being made in defense of Leithart's theology, and were left almost completely unchallenged. I'm talking about all of the fallacies that WSC drilled out of us as first year students - that basic.

    3. One of the few men who did challenge Rayburn/Leithart with any sort of clarity on the issue was an old RE, who although he admitted that he was unlearned, and that many of the details of the report were over his head, nevertheless picked up a copy of the Trinity Hymnal, read from the shorter catechism in the back regarding the issues of baptism and union, and said "Peter says baptism is "X", our confession and catechisms say that baptism is "Y", how is he not out of accord with our confessions?" Thank God for men like him! Those are the lines along which a debate over confessional compatibility should have been moving. However, he was ignored, and the debate went back to avoiding any discussion of the confessional standards.

    4. In light of the fact that the committee was tasked to compare the views of Leithart with the nine points put out by last years GA, and to see whether or not he was out of accord with them, my presbytery failed miserably. In fact, it wasn't until about 2/3 of the way through the debate that someone actually noticed that the presbytery wasn't even quite sure what we were supposed to be debating. The continued conversation by most of the men did anything but evaluate the confessional fidelity of Leithart's views. It was all red-herrings and smoke screens.

    5. John Frame's theology has had a very detrimental impact on the PCA, and his denigration of the confessions, false positing of ST against BT, and "multi-perspectival approach" were all specifically and repeatedly invoked (Frame's name even being brought up several times) against sane, confessional theological debate. It was astounding how many times the "bible vs. the confessions" was bandied about, and how many times the threat of becoming a "dead and rigid confessional church" was seen as the end of the argument. I did not see any difference whatsoever between a broad-evangelical disregard of confessions, and what went on in the PacNW presbytery yesterday.

    6. Rayburn continued to argue (adopting Frame's perspectival approach to theology) that even if we use the confessions as a standard, we can never really get to the bottom of the issue, because there are so many "perspectives" and "paradigms" for interpreting the confessions - even "competing paradigms within paradigms". It was very post-modern of him. The confessions then become completely useless, because they cease to have any intelligible and authoritative voice, since, as Rayburn would emphasize, "We all read the confessions in different ways." He never proved it, just asserted it. It was really nothing less than a post-modern hermeneutic being applied to the undermining of confessional orthodoxy.

    7. It was amazing to me that Rayburn and others were still trying to defend "final justification", and do so by using repeatedly discredited exegetical foundations (like invoking Romans 2:13 without finishing Paul's line of thought through the end of Romans chapter 3).

    8. Others can call it what they'd like, but there is no doubt in my mind that Leithart's theology is nothing less than an RCC/Arminian approach to sacramental efficacy/election, respectively, (although RCC sacramentology also includes a semi-pelagian soteriology) being slipped under the door in a pretty, new envelope. "But remember, we in the PCA want to be innovative and vital in our theologizing!" If that is the case, why are we just repristinating old errors?

    Our brothers out there in broader PCA-land need to take this presbytery to task, and get things cleaned up out here with Leithart in a decisive way (and, I would also argue that this will need to be the case eventually with Rayburn, if he continues on his trajectory) before things get anymore out of hand. This presbytery is a zoo right now.
  23. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    Exactly. And it is clear that Leithart's theology is a consistent and unified system in opposition to the confession. Stellman pointed out that to require wording that is an exact and explicit denial of an affirmation, or affirmation against what the confession denies, would make it virtually impossible to convict almost anyone on anything. There are many ways of stating theological error, without having to use the language of the confessions. However, this point of the majority report actually seemed to be persuading a majority of presbyters.

    I think that they already had their minds made up, and were looking for a loophole in their defense.
  24. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    That's true from what I can tell as well. Would that other presbyteries do the same and that it could happen without SJC action.

    Do you find that I have violated the Ninth Commandment and engaged in "undue cynicism?" I completely disagree, but the admins and mods will have to be the judge. No one can deny that the FV is a significant factor in some presbyteries, and men with these views are still being brought under care and ordained in some presbyteries. I agree with the statements of Lane and others that efforts at rooting out the FV continue and will likely be successful in the end. My point was that some seem to have thought the FV controversy was basically over with after the adoption of the FV report and with Wilkins leaving. (Now those events may well be the "handwriting on the wall" but to borrow a phrase from Churchill, it may also only be the end of the beginning of dealing with the issue.) Those of us familiar with Presbyterian church government in general and the PCA in particular knew that it wasn't that easy, but that fact may not be so clear to someone from the outside looking in who is generally unfamiliar with PCA polity. You may recall that even some within Presbyterian circles didn't understand why the GA in the OPC and PCA couldn't just lay down the law, call FV/NS/NPP heresy and immediately eject those who hold those views. But I'll shut up about it now since it isn't my fight anymore and I've got plenty of other things on my plate at the moment. :)
  25. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    Lane, my post was mostly tongue in cheek. As you know, I am wrestling with the whole "Baptist" thing and have mentioned to friends that my next church membership may very likely be a PCA one (depending on where I end up on the whole baptism issue).

    After having battled and borne the scars of a first class ecclesiastical/theological fight over scriptural authority and human sexuality(including departure with 150 congregations to start a separate ecclesiastical organization), I am well aware of the "diversity" within American congregations AND their ecclesiastical parent denominations. Actually, even before you offered your reassuring words, I figured that the FV folks are outliers in the PCA (now anyway). But, vigilant confessionalism is one hedge against the corrosive effects of American hyperindividualism, the toxic residue of modernist epistemology, and the hubris of thinking that everyone has a right to rewrite the book to their own liking.

    The need to recoceptualize and contextualize theology for our own age must never become an excuse for translating the Bible into the faddish idiom of the contemporary moment. A vigorous confessionalism is one way of trying to prevent that.
  26. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Dennis, I was aware that you were being tongue in cheek. :) I was mostly responding to the other post that was a warning.
  27. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    NOW where do I go to church?
  28. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm pretty sure you are aware of the general characteristics of the PCA and also painfully aware how denominations can fall away from truth and standards.

    Any fair characterization of the denomination would not say the serious error of "federal vision" is dominant or that it is gaining. In my presbytery almost nobody had heard of it until recently and as far as I am aware, as my Pastor said, "it's not even on the radar screen."

    I have come to understand that our Presbyterian processes are designed to be slow and deliberative but they are working.

    Now what I have learned from Puritan Board is that there are a couple pockets of theological problems in a denomination with 340,000 members. This will almost always be the case in a fallen world, and I know you know that as well as anyone.

    Let me chartitable and truthful. The PCA is not perfect- no visible church is. Reverend Keister and others have done faithful, heroic work contending for Scripture and the confession which we hold is a faithful summary of the doctrine of Scripture. Frankly, there are many, many such people in the denomination. While we may discuss amongst ourselves the finer points of "federal vision" here, it is not dominating or advancing in the PCA. It is a real threat, but it is being dealt with.

    Something else that is a cardinal characteristic of reformed theology- the unity of the church must be grounded in doctrinal unity. This is not true in many Christian denominations, some may view variety of doctrinal ideas and opinions a good thing, but not for reformed theology. We have a time tested 350 year Confession developed by some of the greatest godly divines ever assembled who staked their lives on summarizing the doctrine of Scripture to have a "true church." By God's grace, it's not going away until the Lord returns.
  29. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    From a non-theologian's perspective, it is so clear from Scripture that Christ's righteousness is imputed to sinners to justify them before God and that that is so central to the Westminster Standards.

    The minority report brings this out. I did not see this in the majority report, but I have only perused both reports. The bolded section below jumps out to me. I find it hard to believe that a minister of the gospel, let alone someone who subscribes to the Westminster Standards does not understand this.

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