It Takes One to Know One

Wes White is a penitent ex-federal visionary. He’s engaged in a serious struggle in his PCA presbytery with Federal Visionists and they’ve pulled out all the stops to try to shut him up by complaining in the courts of the church against him for telling the truth about them. Now the Mullah of Moscow has unleashed the dogs of war

It won’t work. The attempt to muzzle the truth about the FV theology movement will fail because Wes knows what the FV is. He knows why it’s wrong. He knows why a temporary, conditional, baptismal union with Christ etc is not good news. It’s not good news because Jesus didn’t obey and die in order to make it possible for sinners to be justified by grace and cooperation with grace (what the FV calls “doing your part of the covenant”). Jesus obeyed and died in order to accomplish and secure the redemption of all those people whom the Father gave to him from all eternity, for whom he came, and to whom he is sovereignly, graciously, applying that redemption by the Holy Spirit.

The summer of 2007 was D-Day. The ecclesiastical war was one in principle but the battles have yet to be completed. So far at least one minister has fled the URCs for the safe haven of the CREC. A PCA minister has done the same. Now Peter Leithart, another PCA minister, may face a trial in his presbytery. There are other very public ministers (teaching elders) in the PCA, in other presbyteries who are teaching the very same things that were rejected by the GA in 2007, that have been found by the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA to be contrary to the Word of God as confessed by the churches. They have not yet been charged but the handwriting is on the wall. As the likely future ecclesiastical home of these Federal Visionist PCA TEs the folks in Moscow have stirred to the defense of their fellow federal visionists.

Pray for the orthodox, confessional TEs and REs in the PCA (and everywhere). Pray for those men who are either in the midst of the ongoing struggle for confessional orthodoxy in the PCA. There are a lot of folk in the PCA who want this to “go away.” In their minds this was all “dealt with at GA.” There are others who still cannot see what the fuss is all about and there are others who are giving aid and comfort to the FV movement within the PCA, despite the ruling of GA, because they think it salutary for the church. The sad reality is that there aren’t many men who are likely to step up and speak out and write memorials and complaints and the like, i.e., there aren’t many TEs and REs willing to pay the price to see that the PCA remains orthodox. They are afraid of what people will say (and people will talk about them and they will be branded as “trouble makers” and “divisive”).

That’s as it should be: the gospel is worth a little division (see the book of Galatians). Martin Luther was a trouble maker for the sake of Christ. Who remembers the people who clucked their tongues at Luther for being a troubler of Israel? No one. Why not? Because they didn’t matter then and and they don’t matter now. They weren’t really shepherds. They were just hired men. They loved neither the Chief Shepherd nor the sheep enough to risk their reputations (and their lives) for the sake of the gospel, so they kept quiet. But blessed Martin Luther didn’t keep quiet. He spoke up for Christ, his gospel, and his church. God used that corpulent Augustinian monk to turn the church on its head and to set millions free from the very moralism and bondage into which the Federal Vision movement would take the church again.

So, if you love the Chief Shepherd, if you have a care for the future of Christ’s church, pray for those faithful shepherds who are placing themselves between the Federal Vision and Christ’s little ones. Pray for their congregations. Pray for their sessions. Pray for the presbyteries who will be hearing cases. Pray for those TEs and REs who, even at this late date, have yet to acquaint themselves with the rudiments of this controversy. At the end of the day, this is not a battle against flesh and blood but a spiritual battle against principalities and powers. With the apostle, faithful pastors trust themselves to Christ who has won the victory—He is risen!—and thereby his whole, actively passive (suffering) obedient righteousness for us has been vindicated.

Pray also for those congregations who are suffering under the oppression Federal Vision ministers. Brothers and sisters, if you would see and hear what I’ve seen and heard from Christ’s people who are suffering under FV preaching your heart would break. Don’t despair. The light is dawning slowly and men, like Wes White and Lane Keister and Jason Stellman and Jim Bordwine and others are beginning to speak up. The moralists can try to silence the truth but they cannot succeed but the Truth has been raised from the dead.

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  1. Dr. Scott,

    You have referenced the fact that the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has sustained the complaint lodged by members of a minority of Pacific Northwest Presbytery (PNWP) in regard to the findings of a special committee that studied the professed convictions of Dr. Peter Leithart in response to the en thesi declaration of the PCA’s General Assembly (GA) on Federal Vision (FV). [phew — long sentence!]

    Sustaining that complaint may have been completely proper, but in my opinion the PCA GA must not sustain the decision because of serious flaws concomitant to that essential issue.

    I am not a supporter of FV nor have I been since it was first introduced to the American Reformed Church by an erstwhile professor at Westminster Theological Seminary … what? some fifteen or more years ago.

    I should note that I am a former member of the PCA and was a member of the PCA’s no longer existent Sub-Committee on Judicial Business. I have also been a long-standing opponent of the existence of the SJC.

    If this decision is sustained by the GA, it will transfer even more authority and power away from the biblical courts of the church to the SJC.

    I am not prepared in this comment to list the specific flaws of the decision; but if required, I will happily do so.

    • Vaughn,

      Shepherd taught at WTS Phila until 1981 when he was dismissed. He began teaching essentially what know today as the FV theology in 1974.

      Re: polity, I understand, but you’re saying that GA has no authority to establish a court of appeal except GA itself.

      The way to reform polity is to use the channels of church government to persuade officers to change the system. The answer is not ecclesiastical jury nullification. That would be a corruption of justice.

      • Dr. Clark, the GA is still the court of last resort (for the present). It has the authority to reject the findings of the SJC and re-assign the case. Since there is not appeal from GA decisions, my suggestion is not a parallel to civil jury nullification. Moreover, since when is jury nullification a corruption of justice. The practice of jury nullification is a safeguard against bad law.

        PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) paragraph 14-7 says, in part, “…Judicial decisions shall be binding and conclusive on the parties who are directly involved in the matter being adjudicated, and may be appealed to in subsequent similar cases as to any principle which may be decided.”

        It is the second half of that provisions that is at issue in this decision. If the GA sustains this decision, it will have effectively voided the provisions of BCO 15-3 concerning referral of constitutional issues to a study committee.

        Furthermore, this decision elevates the authority of the secondary standards, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, above the Bible.

        I generally have no appreciation for the writings of the younger Reverend Mr. Robert Rayburn, but his response to the SJC’s decision is masterful. Apart from the specific doctrines debated, the fact that the doctrines of the Reformed faith may be articulated differently — compare WCF and the Three Forms of Unity — must not be lost. Furthermore, the WCF is not an exhaustive document. The eminent J. Gresham Machen helped launch the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by preaching on the need of doctrinal advance. Indeed, the WCF and its Catechisms are the doctrinal standard of the PCA. One must subscribe to them; but may a Christian not assert something found in the Bible that is not specifically expressed in the Confession or Catechisms?

        Adopting this SJC decision will do that.

        BTW. forgive an old mind for mis-stating the number of years since the erstwhile professor first advanced his beliefs. I should have taken my shoes off so that I could use my toes as well as my fingers. I think I did say plus.

  2. Dr. Clark,

    I would strongly echo your call for all God’s people to be in steady prayer in this matter. In the end this is, as you so rightly said, truly spiritual warfare.

    Based on the exceptionally strong response by those on both sides of the controversy here, Wes’ practical distillation of how FV teaching as a whole greatly harms and leads God’s lambs astray, has obviously hit the mark dead on.

    I praise the Lord that there are champions of the faith like Wes White, Brian Carpenter, Lane Keister, yourself, and many others who are willing to bravely put themselves on the front lines of this battle. Thank you. The spirits may rage, but the victory assuredly belongs to the Lord of Hosts.

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