FV Safe Haven in the PCA?

From what I can tell, looking in from the outside, the PCA seems to be a quite decentralized. Of course, I guess that no NAPARC denomination is as decentralized as my own (the URCNA) and theology, piety, and practice varies from presbytery to presbytery. Wes White is raising questions, however, about whether one presbytery in particular has become a safe haven for the FV movement and about the connections between the FV and other “progressive” (or non-confessional) ideologies in the PCA.

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  1. The fact that they are not centeralized is a part of the glorious truths of the doctrine of the Reformed Church. Many true churches (judging by the marks) are disctinct and congregational in nature but God grants us unity in diversity by classises, synods, general assemblies and presbyteries when they meet. We can agree with the baptists/congregationalists on the nature of the church while disagreeing on the polity of it. Or am I wrong?

    • Joseph, as a lifelong Congregationalist attending a former URC that is now independent, I’d just love to jump into the opening you gave about church government, but it’s Dr. Clark’s blog, not mine, and he will quite correctly be unhappy about me sidetracking his discussion onto an unrelated subject.

      In a different context where I’m not hijacking the blog of a man who is sworn to defend presbyterial church government, I’d love to argue that being Reformed and affirming the regulative principle doesn’t require centralization, and actually forbids it.

      But that’s not Dr. Clark’s point and it’s not one for which I want to argue on his blog.

      There is a difference between being centralized and being unified. Being unified by a common confession does not necessarily require a centralized denominational hierarchy in Grand Rapids, or Atlanta, or Philadelphia, or for that matter, in Escondido or St. Louis or Moscow, Idaho. The URC is very definitely decentralized but is also very definitely unified around a common understanding not only of the written confessions but also how to “do church.” The same could be said for a lot of other smaller denominations with a very definite history and ecclesiastical culture.

      Where I would differ from Dr. Clark is that I believe the PCA has a different problem: it’s not that the PCA is decentralized but rather that it has a centralized denominational administrative structure combined with very serious disunity from presbytery to presbytery and from church to church — disunity that often proceeds from disagreement and spills over into discord.

      The only way the “powers that be” can maintain control of the PCA with its high level of diversity is to get people to say, “I won’t cause trouble and will support the PCA as a denomination,” pretty much regardless of what they believe.

      The end result of that is something other than Presbyterianism and it is not fair to blame the problems of the PCA on presbyterian church government — it’s not episcopalianism, presbyterianism, or congregationalism but rather bureaucratism that is the real church polity of the PCA.

      • Darrell,

        I’m not sure I agree or disagree with your analysis of the PCA, but it did pique my interest.

        Here’s why: When I was being booted out of the PCUSA I was hauled in front of the equivalent of the Church and Ministerial Welfare Committee to ask how I justified counseling my congregation to withhold the mandated per capita tax imposed by the presbytery and the General Assembly, and to depart the PCUSA for another denomination. It was clear to these men that I had violated my ordination vows.

        I told them that I adhered to a hierarchy of authority. First the scriptures, then the Book of Confessions, and then the Book of Order. The scriptures were the supreme authority and I was forced to disobey the Book of Order and even the Book of Confessions if I decided that they were in conflict with the scriptures.

        One liberal pastor on the committee looked at me and said, “You’ve got it exactly backwards. The Book of Order is the highest authority because it is all that binds us together.”

        Bad theology, perhaps, but a fairly astute assessment of the situation as it actually was.

        I might be starting to get that old, uncomfortable feeling again.

    • I certainly hope they do not. They provide a good balance to some of the more extreme and isolationist elements in NAPARC. I wish the Evangelical Prebyterian Church was still in it.

    • He’s right — it’s in the fine print, but the plan **DOES** propose withdrawal from NAPARC. I read the document and forwarded it to my local elders and deacons for their review.

      I covered the NAPARC fight over whether or not to expel the Christian Reformed Church and watched the PCA leadership defend the CRC up until they realized the CRC wasn’t an ally in fighting the “TRs” and “tiny churches,” but rather a denomination well down the road to liberalism. I watched the PCA push to support the EPC as a NAPARC member. Whatever NAPARC’s problems may be, for the PCA to cut itself off from the conservative Reformed denominations that make up NAPARC is not a good sign.

      Key language: “THEME 3: IN GOD’S GLOBAL MISSION
      Goal: Participate in God’s Global Mission with Exemplary Unity, Humility & Effectiveness
      Means (Specific #4): Partner with national & international ministries with whom we can most effectively participate in God’s global mission
      a. Seek union or appropriate levels of cooperation with Reformed movements making Gospel progress and in harmony with our ethos & goals
      b. Withdraw from organizations with whom we share doctrinal history, but not ministry priorities currently draining our ministry energies (e.g. NAPARC)
      c. Find new ways to give away our knowledge & resources to bodies of believers being spiritually blessed

  2. From what I can tell Mr White makes a lot of accusations based on guilt by association, bare assertion, & other faulty logic. Its one thing to have reasonable critiques but a Mr White’s blog looks like something else.

  3. Something more than the fact that someone is quoting Peter Leithart & NT Wright or that someone list NT Wright as an influence. Or quoting some out of context.

    • Okay, I agree that on their face, taken individually, some of those connections might be a little less than compelling but when taken together, as part of a broader pattern, don’t they mean something?

      You can dismiss all the connections simply because some of them are subject to criticism.

      I recall when I first encountered the FV movement (before it had a name) 10 years ago. No one wanted to pay attention to it back then. I kept saying, “Hey, there’s something going on here” and people told me that I was imagining things. Well, I wasn’t was I? There was a movement and it does have an aberrant covenant theology and a corrupt doctrine of justification and it has done damage to congregations.

      What if Wes is in the early stages of putting the connections together? What if he’s on to something? Might we not regret being dismissive simply because it’s not easy, in the early stages, to put the picture together correctly? What if folk are in denial because they don’t want to do the hard work of facing down this problem in particular cases? I keep saying that casting a voice vote at Synod or GA is fine but it’s only the beginning. The real work is facing down threats to the gospel in concrete church courts/assemblies.

      I for one am grateful that Wes has the courage to look into this. Maybe the affirmations of NTW mean nothing but in my experience that hasn’t been the case.

  4. “What if Wes is in the early stages of putting the connections together? What if he’s on to something?”

    Those are big What ifs? I’ve got another: What if Wes is taring someone b/e of guilt by association? Why does he have to use less “journalistic ethics” than the local newspaper? What happened to not protraying your Christian brother in the worst light possible?
    Who appointed Wes White the judge?

    • Bobby,

      Wes White didn’t write and or pass the 2007 motion at GA to reject the FV/NPP. The entire GA did that with virtually no dissent. Wes isn’t passing judgment. He’s raising questions about public statements and events and connecting them and asking what they mean.

      You haven’t answered the question as to what constitutes the burden of proof?

  5. “what constitutes the burden of proof?”

    Thats up to the courts of the church to decide and guilt by association meets no burden of proof.
    There are ways to attack error or to accuse error and the way Wes White is doing it is not the way. It may be ok for the National Enquirer but not the PCA or any church.
    I am not speaking as a FV enthusist or supporter but believe that as believers we have a higher standard than tabloid newspapers & blogs.

    • Well, Bobby, people said EXACTLY the same thing about and to me when I first starting talking out loud about the FV. If men have said things in public that contradict the explicit doctrine of the church then a minister has right to point that out and to do so in public. People won’t act in the courts of the church until and unless they believe there is a problem. Wes is identifying a problem and you want to shoot the messenger rather than to deal with the actual problem, the continuing advocacy of the FV or NPP or even union with Rome (!) publicly in the PCA.

      It’s perfectly fair of Wes to ask about the significance of the fact that there seems to be a confluence of FV and ecclesiological progressivism in a given presbytery.

  6. There is a difference between critiquing theology and critiquing someone’s associations. There’s also a difference in cutting with a scapel and hacking off an entire limb with an axe. No where does Mr White show advocacy for FV in NY Presbytery except for showing associations and overlap.

    “even union with Rome (!) publicly in the PCA.”

    this is a complete misrepresentation of what Higgins wrote. Mr Otis delibrately edited his quotation of Higgins’ article to cast Higgins in the worst light. At his worst Higgins is an Anglican sympathizer. He was writing one article in a series of others who represnt “orthodox” traditions. His purpose was to explore conditions for dialogue and possible union. His example used was something similar to the Church of South India(probably with Leslie Newbiggin in mind). At no point has Higgins called for the PCA to come under the Pope.

    • Bobby, you’re accusing both Otis and White of violating the 9th commandment? Can you substantiate those charges? Aren’t you under the same burden of proof that you want to impose on White and Otis?

      Here is a piece to which Higgins contributed on ecumenism.


      In this piece, he not only marginalizes presbyterianism (note the lower case p) in favor of episcopacy he argues the true ecumenism is eucharistic, missional, conciliar/episcopal. It’s in this context that he makes a controversial proposal (not that the previous two listed do not want scrutiny):

      Third, the unity we seek should be both /conciliar/ and, yes, /episcopal./ While wholeheartedly agreeing with the position of all the Reformed churches that a corporate episcopate is (at least!) as faithful to the apostolic tradition as is monepiscopacy, and while agreeing that the latter was not practiced universally until centuries after the apostolic age,/21/ we in the Reformed churches must admit that the Church did become near-universally episcopal, and that the historic episcopate is an important witness to the Church’s unity./22/ Therefore, if we are to work toward the visible unity of the Church, we should, I am increasingly convinced, defer to the wisdom of the majority in the Great Tradition and embrace the ministry of bishops.

      Yet we in the Reformed churches will insist that episcopacy does not equal prelacy. Proposals such as “bishops in presbytery”—similar to the order of the Church of South India—should be both studied and, I believe, eventually embraced. As suggested above, the Presbyterian model of the senior pastor, presiding over the council of associate pastors and lay elders in the local congregation, provides a most helpful model for regional and larger bodies within a reunited Church.

      This is, at best, modified episcopacy. He’s correct that, as an ad hoc measure, the Reformation Reformed churches resorted to quasi-episcopal superintendents but we’ve had a lot of years to work out our polity and, for the moment, no one is trying to kill us (at least not in N. America; of course things are different in Nigeria and elsewhere).

      The he continues to address Ut Unum Sint (That we might be one):

      Pope John Paul II has invited all the churches to discuss how the Petrine office should function in a reunited Church, and Reformed churchmen should welcome this conversation. Our idea of concentric circles of conciliar accountability would lead us to teach that, if the Church were visibly united around the world, there would need to be an ecumenical council, meeting as necessary to govern and guide the Church. The above argument for a (reformed) episcopacy would also lead us to teach that such a council would need a “presiding bishop,” serving as /primus inter pares/ among his brothers, and historically such a position of honor has fallen to the bishop of Rome. How would we envision a Reformed(!) Petrine office? /23/ First, as argued above, any such primacy would need to be exercised in a conciliar fashion; the universal episcopate must be seen first as a pastoral, rather than a juridical, office.

      He advocates a rejection of papal infallibility but his proposal is still quite radical and calls for submission to the Bishop of Rome — mutatis mutandis. Well, what else does Ut Unum Sint teach? It is a remarkably conservative document.


      In the catechetical material that follows, it is clear that Ut Unum Sint is at least a partial rejection of the possibly more open stance toward Protestants taken in Vatican II (whether there ever really was any such stance is a matter of debate).

      I note that the one thing Higgins doesn’t call for is theological unity around God’s Word as confessed by the Protestant and Reformed churches. The spirit of Martin Luther hardly breathes in this essay.

      Perusing his DMin project I can imagine why some orthodox, confessionalist readers might be concerned. This is not to say that there’s nothing of value or no truth in the project. I see things I like but I also see difficulties and things that warrant investigation. It also reminds me why the DMin is a poor idea generally. It is neither fish (real academic work) nor fowl (purely ecclesiastical work) and thus it satisfies neither set of demands.

      As to the links between the NPP/FV and progressivism, it’s interesting to note that Pete Enns is listed as a pastoral staff member of the congregation. It appears the page hasn’t been updated for some time (since Enns is still listed as a full-time faculty member at WTS/P which hasn’t been true for several months) but Enns’ progressive credentials are clear and his position in Higgins’ staff is suggestive of deeper, theological, methodological connections.

  7. Why is it that Wes White’s critics think that it’s okay to do to him what they complain he is doing to others? Are they not criticizing him? Are they being charitable in using terms like “complete misrepresentation”, and accusing him of yellow journalism and hacking off things with an axe, while completely dismissing the possibility that he is well-meaning and has legitimate concerns? And isn’t it a coincidence that those who criticize him for his tone or tactics also just happen to disagree with him on the issues.

  8. I don’t believe that I attacked Mr White’s character or theology. I have some ideas about his theology since he a TE in the PCA. But I know little of his character.
    I criticized his arguments and critcisms of others as being based on guilt by association and other logical fallicies. If a nonbeliving news reporter(I realize this is not always true of reporters today) has ethics that will not allow him to put something into print unless he has reliable proof & documentation then how much higher should our standards be as followers of Christ?

  9. Still scanning Higgin’s DMin project.

    His dialogue partners are interesting. He interacts with and quotes favorably several online publications by Joel Garver and a couple of different pieces by everyone’s favorite scholar, Mark Horne. He also quotes favorably Peter Leithart. Yes, he interacts with Turretin favorably but to what end?

    There is a lot of emphasis on the Shorter Catechism’s use of “applied” relative to the efficacy of the sacraments.

    The whole thing needs to be read carefully.

    It looks, at first glance, like a reaction to the quasi-baptistic approach to the sacraments that one finds in segments of the Reformed community (more in the PCA than elsewhere) but one wonders if this isn’t another example of over-reaction in the other direction?

    I searched for a discussion of the internal/external distinction and did not see it. We can and should have a high view of the sacraments but we do so in light of our doctrine of election. Divorce the two (sacraments and election) and one tends to sacerdotalism, which is what has happened in the FV movement.

    • Spot on, Dr. Clark. The FV has utterly missapropriated the historical Reformed (biblical) connection between sacramental efficacy and election. I have been studying and writing about this very topic on Wes’ blog for a while now.

  10. I wrote a lengthy response to Pastor White on his blog, but it has yet to be approved by him. Hopefully it will be posted. If not I will re-post here, but for now I’ll just say that anyone who takes this seriously really hasn’t looked at the primary sources. Pastor White’s “conclusions” are based entirely on citations and web links to FV/NPP people. Never mind that every Metro NY presbytery TE he mentions explicitly repudiates FV. I am anti-FV and anti-NPP, but Wes White’s post is simply laughable. I really can’t believe Dr. Clark, a respected academic, would link to this drivel on his blog.

    • I believe that Wes is traveling today, which explains the delay in posting comments on his blog.

    • Mason,

      Have you read the sources I describe below?

      So there’s no truth in Wes’ post?



      Care to restate your criticisms more carefully?

  11. Mason,

    Do you think that Metro NY presbytery is in the mainstream of PCA thought and practice? If not, why do you think that Metro NY is doing something different and “progressive?” In your opinion, how “confessional” is Tim Keller? Do you think that he is intent on being true to his pastoral oath of being committed to system of doctrine of the Westminster Standards? So you see why it is easy that FV anti-confessionalists might take hold in such a place.

    Jeremy K. Bowser

  12. Also, we might note the PCA Strategic Plan which had beginnings in the NY Metro area and its talk of “safe places” to “discuss and advance Reformed theology.” FVers talk a lot about “advancing” Reformed theology. Confessional Reformationalists speak about going back to and recovering what has been lost, so that we might return to the theology, piety, and practice of the confessions. This is the same document that encourages the PCA to withdraw from its strongest confessional alliance, NAPARC.

    Did the Metro NY pastors pledge to adhere to Westminster’s theology or “advance” it?

  13. Prof Clark:

    You state: “If men have said things in public that contradict the explicit doctrine of the church then a minister has right to point that out and to do so in public. People won’t act in the courts of the church until and unless they believe there is a problem….”

    Sometimes those men, well, sadly they don’t (act) even then. However, this gives me the opportunity to thank you sincerely for your blog. I come as someone who knows more about FV teaching from experience than from formal teaching and I can say with certainty that you DO know of what you speak; and I am very grateful for your voice in these most serious matters. Thank you.

  14. Good for Wes. There’s more than FV going on here. There’s the whole idea of Protestants playing at being Mediaeval. Someone needs to tell these children to grow up, to be Protestants again.

  15. Dr. Clark,

    Yes, it is drivel. The conclusions are just absurd. Here is what I posted at Pastor White’s blog:

    With all due respect, Rev White, this is just laughable. The “scholarship” behind this piece is so bad it’s like some Grade B detective novel where the main characters piece together a string of highly circumstantial and out-of-context evidence to come to a conclusion about whodunit. Here’s a basic summary of the points that lead to your conclusion:

    1. A couple of pastors in the NY Metro Presbytery run a website that links to articles by FV guys.

    2. Two pastors in the presbytery opposed the PCA FV report. [Of course, the reason they opposed the letter isn’t mentioned at all, especially this quote: “We are not FV men.”]

    3. An assistant TE in the presbytery opposed the PCA report on FV. [Pastor Buccheri has publicly (on his blog and elsewhere) and privately (to me) denied being a part of the FV and disagrees with their core beliefs]

    4. Pastor Higgins, NY Metro Presbytery pastor, cites known FV men in his thesis.

    5. N.T. Wright is speaking at Redeemer. [He is promoting his new book, and is not speaking on NPP].

    6. A NY Metro Presbytery pastor lists N.T. Wright as one of his theological influences. [Alongside Calvin – what does that lead us to believe???]

    7. Some of Jeffrey Myers’ former interns, a known FV proponent, have ended up in the presbytery.

    Wow, that’s an overwhelming case! Or not really. You have done nothing to prove that a single TE in the NY Metro Presbytery is pro-FV or even FV sympathetic. You have selected a few pastors who have either cited FV men or have linked to them on their websites. You have done no analysis into WHY they are linked, just as you provided no analysis as to WHY some of these men opposed the PCA report – it had nothing to do with being pro-FV and everything to do with polity and methodology.

    You may disagree with some people linking to N.T. Wright and Redeemer inviting him to speak – fine. But remember that the PCA report on FV and NPP (which you obviously revere) explicitly praises Wright in his work outside NPP.

    Again, this piece is just bad. Honestly, it makes you look silly and only adds fuel to the fire of the argument that there are some PCA men on a modern day witch-hunt against FV and NPP people. I’m against FV and NPP in the way that they differ from the Reformed faith, and agree that we should root out such dangerous theological teachings. But let’s stick to facts and to relevant discussion, not to desperate connect-the-dots rambling that offers nothing more than occasional guilt by association.

    • Your case is as problematic as White’s!

      You don’t offer evidence as much as assurances that what seems to suggest a problem is really nothing.

      I don’t think you are arguing as much as trying to intimidate by shouting (rhetorically).

      1. The questions White is asking do not claim to be scholarship. They questions that arise out of concern for the church. You want to make prima facie evidence go away by personal assurances but this isn’t proper. I’ve already addressed the manifold problems of having NTW speaking at or under the auspices of a confessional Presbyterian church:


      2. Opposition to the PCA FV report isn’t proof but it does raise questions that deserve investigation.

      3. I was concerned by what I read on pastor Buccheri’s blog a few years back. Whether or not someone self-identifies as “FV” isn’t material. The name is just that. What is material is whether the views and hermeneutic that undergird the movement are at work.

      4. I’ve looked at Pr Higgin’s DMin project (in a cursory fashion) but there’s enough to give one pause. I discussed that once today. See above.

      5. The connection to Myers cannot be dismissed out of hand. The FV has operated as a sort of network of relationships. This is the way theonomy operated before it. I saw it first hand back in the 80s. Ideas and doctrines that have been formally rejected by the church continue to find purchase and are promulgated informally by and among and beyond a network of like-minded fellows who share a common hermeneutic and a common set of theological principles and convictions (including a dissatisfaction with the confession).

      6. White hasn’t claimed to make an overwhelming case. He’s not claimed to make a case at all. These are just grounds for further questions and discussion. Attempts such as these to silence the questions do not help to advance the discussion.

  16. Dr. Clark,

    1. If indeed Pastor White is concerned for the church, what positive end does his post accomplish? What’s the point? What possible “good” can come from his post? And I read your post on NT Wright speaking at Redeemer. Your conclusions are as wrong then as they are now.

    2. What questions exactly does opposition to the report raise? The men who opposed it were VERY clear in their letter. What questions do you have that their letter does not answer? Have you read the letter?

    3. Not only has Pastor Buccheri denied being a part of the FV movement, but he has denied sharing their views. Do you have proof to the contrary?

    4. I agree there are some concerning elements of Pastor Higgins’ thesis. Fair enough. But none of those are particularly FV in nature, and his presence in the presbytery does not make it “FV friendly.”

    5. Do you have evidence that any of Meyers’ interns have written or promoted any FV doctrine since joining the NY Metro Presbytery?

    6. I’m not attempting to silence anything. I just feel sorry for men like Pastor White and yourself who, quite frankly, come off looking very foolish with these types of “questions.”

    • Well Mason, I wasn’t ordained to gain the approval of men. I was ordained to shepherd Christ’s flock faithfully. Paul wasn’t approved by the clever people in his day either. The super Apostles and Judaizers tried to shut him up — some of them stoned him several times!

      The point is to note a coalescence of interests, hermeneutical trajectories, and theological principles in and around the presbytery.

      Once again, people made the very same kind of arguments to me in the early (and even later) days of the FV movement, but there was a movement, there was a coalescence of views and practices and attitudes that needed to be documented. It was very difficult. It took years because of closed discussion lists (where one had to affirm NTW as a condition of joining; one of them listed me by name as the type of person who would not be admitted!) and other such things documentation was hard to come by for several years.

      Asking people “what’s going on?” “What does this mean?” Actually helped to bring these issues and problems and questions to light.

      I don’t know the letter to which you refer but at least one person in one ongoing case denies being “FV” but is being reasonably questioned about “FV” views and doctrines attributed to him.

      Did you read my brief, initial analysis of Higgins’ DMin project above? There’s more than enough there to raise questions. Is he unequivocally advocating the FV in the way that the FV Joint Statement does? No, he doesn’t seem to be as obvious about it but it warrants a closer reading. I’m perhaps more troubled by what he doesn’t say than what he does.

      No, I don’t have any evidence that Myers’ former interns are advocating the FV. Isn’t it fair to ask the question however, since their former mentor is a leading advocate of the FV? That seems reasonable to me. I don’t think the FV guys get the benefit of the doubt here.

  17. By the way, Lane Keister links to Doug Wilson on Green Baggins. Does that warrant investigation as well? Is Rev Keister tacitly condoning Wilson and the FV movement?

    Can’t really have it both ways, now can we?

    • I agree. i think that’s a mistake. I’m glad to see that Lane has become more realistic of his assessment of Wilson in recent months.

      I wouldn’t link to unorthodox people on my blog. I don’t think other ministers should do it either. I think we have a duty to be very careful where we send people.

      I’m happy to encourage Lane to remove a link to Wilson from GB.

      That said, I don’t think anyone could reasonably read Lane and conclude anything but that he’s a strong critic of the FV. So there’s formal similarity but a substantial difference.

      • Dr. Clark,

        You say that pastors shouldn’t link to unorthodox people on their blogs. I don’t disagree. Yet you have a link to The Upper Register, Lee Irons’s blog, on your blog. How does this line up?


        Jim Witteveen
        Prince George, B.C.

          • I think he may be referring to the judicial case in the OPC against Mr. Irons in 2003 time frame.
            See some of the following:


            Mr. Irons has all the documents available at

            At the Presbytery the bottom line was

            Charge #2 was presented for Presbytery’s vote.
            On motion it was determined that the order of the day be extended until the vote be taken and the
            results announced.
            On motion it was determined to take the vote by secret ballot.
            The charge was sustained by a vote of 17 to 16

            The motion before the body, that the proposed censure be suspension from office for an
            indefinite period of time. (BD, VI.B.3.a), carried.

            At the GA here is the bottom line:

            The Moderator ruled that the judgment of the lower judicatory has been affirmed.

            • I understand that. My question is, does his disagreement with the OPC, by the slenderest of majorities, rise to the same level as DW’s corruption of the gospel?

              I don’t think so. I’ve expressed my disagreement in the past with some of Lee’s conclusions. I’m not comfortable with where MGK ended up, at very end of his career, on some issues (e.g., on the Sabbath – natural law resolves the problem for me; see RRC) but both teach the gospel unequivocally and Wilson does not.

              There is a material difference.

              I don’t imagine that any of the people to whom I link are without sin.

            • I actually don’t know if that was to what Jim Witteveen was referring. It only seemed to me to be the most likely cause for his point. He’ll have to answer for himself.

              Nevertheless, for something that is just a “disagreement with the OPC, by the slenderest of majorities” and not something that rises to the level of DW’s corruption of the Gospel, is it/was it right to leave the OPC over it, and not rather even if the OPC was wrong remain in subjection according to his membership and ministerial vows? Where do you draw the line between principled dissent and private judgment that trumps all?

              Couldn’t he have agreed to be instructed by his brothers, and in the meantime desist from teaching what was considered out of accord?

              FWIW, I don’t have any problem with you linking to Upper Register.

              • I did think about whether to link to Lee’s blog. Frankly, I’m a little surprised it took this long to come up. I figured that someone, some day would “ding” me for it.

                It’s a question of balancing my ministerial responsibilities with my responsibility as a teacher. It gets to the nature of a blog with the respect to the church. A blog is not a church. So, using Mike Horton’s categories it would be a hallway in which people talk. Okay so far but I’m also a minister with certain obligations and limits on what I can say and recommend to others.

                I decided that, since the decision wasn’t about the gospel and since he’s a member in good standing in a NAPARC denomination, that it was permissible to link the site. I understand if some disagree.

                I think you raise fair questions about principled disset v private judgment. I started to try to tap out a response but I don’t think I or should do so here and now, not with reviewing the particulars of the case and I can’t do that just now. In general I would say that’s why we have confessions. They establish the hierarchy of issues. If a view transgresses what the churches confess then the view has to be suppressed or changed (depending on the nature of the view). At the same time, if confessions are constitutional of what we are and insist on as essential then we should only confess those things that are essential to the church as church. Thus, if one cannot abide that confession and cannot submit to it then he has to leave.

  18. You asked if I believe Wes is violating the 9th commandment. Yes, He continually paints those he opposes in the worst light possible (guilt by association, etc.)while elevating himself.(saying that those he critcizes are accusing him of conspiracy).

    Since when are we allowed to speculate about the sin of others?

  19. A month or two back the Baylys had numerous posts regarding 2K theology in which they attacked WSC and you as well as D. Hart. As the accusations flew you wisely stepped out of the debate while D. Hart stayed and it escalated even more with all kinds of accusations.

    I think Wes White’s posts are of similar type. He’s making all kinds of accusations and connections without any full knowledge. He’s accusing fellow PCA TEs based merely on overlap and association. He may even be right in 1 or 2 instances. But his methods are National Enquirer not Presbyterian & esp not Christian.

    • I quit arguing with the Bayly’s because I produced concrete, documentary evidence that refuted their claims and they denied the existence of the evidence! I can only argue with reasonable people.

      E.g., In response to their claims about WSC I linked to and quoted our Testimony for Our Time. They said “Well, Peter Jones and Bob Godfrey wouldn’t have said that….” and I noted that those two helped draft it and signed it! I was there. (at the time I couldn’t remember if I was on faculty yet or not but I checked later). So they responded by saying “Well, they wouldn’t agree with it now…” or some such silliness. In other words, they had a piori knowledge that is not susceptible to correction by facts. One cannot argue with that.

      I’m quite willing to be corrected by facts and by reasonable interpretations of those facts. I’m not willing, however, to close my eyes and to refuse to look at evidence. Wes may have over-stated things at places but your argument that there’s “nothing here to see, move on” just doesn’t account for all the evidence. If (note the conditional, hypothetical) Wes is over-reacting in some cases, aren’t you also being too dismissive?

  20. Dr. Clark, this statement illustrates the fundamental flaw in your thinking:

    “I don’t think the FV guys get the benefit of the doubt here.”

    The problem is that these men have said nothing – by your own admission! – that would lead anyone to think they are FV. So then how are they now labeled “FV guys?” If they haven’t said anything or written anything FV, why are they not afforded the benefit of the doubt that they are not FV? Are you assuming they MUST be FV because they trained with Meyers? That’s a major leap. Judge them on their own statements – isn’t that the courtesy you would want extended to you?

    The letter in question is the letter Wes White references in his post – the letter the NY Metro guys wrote opposing the PCA report on FV. If you read the letter, you will note that the men support the content of the report, but not the way in which it was written. Their objections were related to procedure, not to substance. If you (or Wes White) had actually read the letter you would realize these men are not supporting FV in the least by opposing the PCA report.

    Once again, I appreciate the work you (an others) have done in exposing the major errors in FV thinking. I have benefited a good deal from your work here on this blog. But Wes White’s premise is that because a few men in a certain presbytery might have ties or have shown respect for FV/NPP guys, the entire presbytery must be a “safe haven” for doctrinal error. Not only has Pastor White failed (and you as well) to demonstrate that ANY of the men noted in the article actually believe and/or advocate FV teaching, but it is absurd to claim that an entire presbytery condones FV/NPP based on such possible links. Logic is utterly absent from such thinking. You are claiming that because a few men link to or cite or admire certain FV/NPP advocates that not only are they presumed to be closet FV/NPP, but that the entire presbytery must be in on it as well.

    Come on, really? You’re much to smart for this…

    • Mason,

      1. I’m not that smart, but when I see a DMin project citing Joel Garver, Peter Leithart, and Mark Horne as authorities on Reformed doctrine even I know that something stinky is going on.

      2. When you see smoke you say “It’s only a campfire.” I think it’s probably more than a campfire.

      3. I’ll read the letter. Where is it? I’ve known FV guys to make procedural objections. The fact that one made a purely procedural objection doesn’t mean one isn’t also an advocate of the NPP or the FV.

      4. The fact that people are sympathetic to or influenced by NTW is sufficient grounds for worrying. Has NTW said some helpful things, sure but it’s nothing one couldn’t have learned from Ridderbos or some other more orthodox writer. What attracts these types to NTW is not the stuff one could have learned elsewhere but the stuff these cats think is novel or some sort of breakthrough. They’re tired of the Reformation and they want to move beyond it. There’s an underlying biblicist method. I’m enough of a historian to know where biblicism leads.

      • I’m asking this because I’m trying to learn and understand more about the role of Bishop NT Wright, not because I want to take a side for (or against) him.

        Is it possible that Bishop Wright is being praised in conservative Anglican circles because in those communities he **IS** taking a stand for basic biblical doctrine against damnable heresies, but that he has some aberrant views that are seriously wrong but which rarely if ever get discussed in Anglican circles because they’re dealing with much worse problems? After all, Rev. Norman Shepherd himself was a defender of numerous conservative positions in the Christian Reformed Church after he joined, and I certainly was grateful for his help in an ultimately failed effort to fix the mess in the Christian Reformed Church.

        I know numerous people in my own Congregational circles who are known as advocates of conservative Reformed doctrine in the UCC or NACCC or 4Cs who, even apart from their views on church government, would never be able to pass an OPC ordination exam, and probably couldn’t pass a PCA ordination exam in most presbyteries, and might even have problems in some EPC presbyteries.

        If that is the case … and again, I’m not saying it is … then maybe what we need to do is tell the people who cite Bishop Wright with admiration because he’s a fighter for historic orthodox Anglo-Catholic positions that there are reasons why the Westminster Assembly decided not just to support the low-church wing of Anglicanism (i.e., Archbishop Ussher in that day) but instead to develop an entirely new confession and break from the Church of England tradition.

        There are numerous Anglicans who are very happy to say, “We are not Protestants; we are what Catholicism was to Augustine and Irenaeus, including bishops and apostolic succession.” That’s fine, and we can thank God for the witness of the Church of Nigeria and of conservative orthodox Anglicans worldwide who are fighting American and Canadian episcopal wickedness.

        But that’s not what the Westminster Confession and Catechisms say, and people who advocate such views need to be invited to leave Reformed Protestantism (or at least its confessional presbyterian version) and go somewhere else. We are Protestants, and we have good reason for being Protestants, and while we can hold hands with Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and even Roman Catholics in fighting many things, we have good reasons for being in different churches.

          • My last name is Italian. I know what the Catholic Church is and what it does to destroy people’s spiritual lives. It is hard to find people more opposed to Roman Catholic doctrine than me.

            I firmly believe that even charismatic and evangelically-inclined parishes must be fled because of the doctrine of the Mass. Even if that were not a problem, they must be fled because of a view of spirituality devoid of biblical content that either lulls people to sleep by de-emphasizing sin and causing people to think they’re “good enough” to at least go to purgatory, or terrifies them by making them trust in their own works. The only good thing about that is a Roman Catholic who is taught by Rome to be terrified about his sin may find the road that Martin Luther found which leads out of Rome entirely.

            Having said that, I have no problem with cooperating with Roman Catholics to fight abortion and numerous other cultural issues outside the church. That’s what I meant.

            In the current American environment we simply have no choice unless we are to abandon the civil realm entirely. I respect people who say we must practice separation from unbelief even in the civil realm, but I simply do not find that in Scripture — and those who take that stance need to acknowledge that they will never get elected to anything and might as well take an Anabaptist position with regard to the civil authorities.

  21. Dr. Clark,

    I’m not saying there’s a campfire. I’m saying I don’t even see smoke. What concerns me is that some people see smoke where there isn’t any, and then make the leap that there must be a fire based on non-existent smoke.

    The letter is linked on Wes White’s original post.

    We can learn from men who may err in some ways. NT Wright has made some very solid contributions, particularly in terms of defending the historicity of the Resurrection. In that regard he led the charge from the Reformed community. I’m not as quick to throw the baby our with the bathwater. Even so, even the PCA report praised Wright. Were its authors wrong for doing so?

  22. Since my pic is right there at the top of Wes’ post, perhaps I might be allowed to chip in a quick thought, and I’ve already sought to make this point to my fellow PCA TE Wes: Mason is correct to note that it is a big stretch to suppose that the men Wes names (Steadman, Galt, and Brown) are FV simply because two (Steadman and Galt) were at Jeff Meyer’s church when they attended Covenant Seminary, or because Brown admires certain aspects of the work of NT Wright. In fact, Brown and others working with him in very challenging circumstances in Brooklyn are certainly not FV advocates. Neither are Galt or Steadman. I have never met Craig Higgins, but have read his paper and was deeply disappointed by the sensationalist headlines Wes gave the Aquila Report’s publishing of Otis’ evaluation of Higgins. As for the other gentlemen, I have met Brown, and was very impressed by his ability, commitment to the Faith, and his dedication to the work of the Gospel. In addition, I stayed with the Galts during my recent visit to NYC. TE Galt was a Youth Ministry Director here in Austin before he moved to St Louis for seminary (this was some years prior to my arrival here), and TE Steadman is the brother in law of our current Youth Ministry Director. These are all very fine men, deeply dedicated to Christ and the Gospel, and together with their families laboring with great humility, love, and effectiveness in circumstances few people might be willing to embrace. They deserve and need our prayers rather than criticism from afar.

    Let me also affirm Maurina’s observation concerning NTW. I lived in the UK during the time that David Jenkins was the Bishop of Durham. This man denied the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and virtually every tenant of Nicene Orthodoxy. He was quoted in Muslim tracts distributed in London to show that ‘Christians’ were coming round to the Muslim way of thinking about Jesus. So while I disagree with NTW on a whole host of matters, I am profoundly grateful to God for his witness to what we would all agree on as non-negotiable essentials of historic orthodoxy, going back to Nicea-Constantinople-Chalcedon. He has also been given a wide hearing – not unlike Keller in some ways – among the academic and media elites of Britain and the US, and seeks to take these opportunities to proclaim Christ. None of this changes on wit the deep concerns I (we) have about his work/project. I might wish that Alistair McGrath had a wider hearing instead! Yet we would no doubt disagree with him too on points.

    I am reminded that the only person I’ve met with whom I completely agreed was me – and I changed my mind!

    Lets pray tonight for the progress of the Gospel in the ‘great city’, and thanks to all here for their helpful comments (and to you Dr Clark for your welcome).

    • David,

      I appreciate this.

      Some brief responses in the same spirit.

      1. There’s no question here about the whether anyone in this discussion loves Jesus or is a good man in the sense of possessing Christian virtues. What is at issue here is what we confess about justification and what the PCA GA said about the FV and NPP.

      2. What is also at stake here is the theological method underlying the progressive approach to theology, piety, and practice across more than one movement in the PCA and beyond. That method needs to be evaluated very carefully.

      3. I stand by my criticisms of NTW’s appearance at Redeemer NYC. It was a very bad idea. I lived in the UK for two years and I have an idea of the church situation there. I don’t accept the idea any longer, long accepted in the USA, that we can hold British evangelicals to a lower standard — a sort of theological affirmative action programme — because we can’t expect much of them. This approach has not give us much fruit. It’s a lowest common denominator approach. The state church is a mess and apparently getting worse by the day. It’s a Faustian bargain. We trade in the Pauline authorship of Ephesians and the doctrine of justification for what? The resurrection? What kind of a deal is that? Barth affirmed the resurrection. That’s just not enough. I know Tom Wright is articulate and winsome — unless you dare cross him; just ask John Piper. How winsome was NTW’s reply to John? — but we have to stop accepting so little from the Brits. We should insist on more. We should insist that a Bishop in the Church of England actually believe the Articles of the Faith and the BCP. Thats not unreasonable and NTW doesn’t meet that test.

      Finally, it’s not about academic disagreements. I’m happy to have merely academic disagreements with Tom Wright. He doesn’t know beans about the Reformation and I’m happy to demonstrate that in print. The church is not an academy. There simply cannot be the sort of latitude in the church that you seem to assume. The history of latitudinarianism is terrible and if the PCA and the rest of NAPARC go that way it will be very dark for the Reformed faith in North America.

      • Was TE Galt the youth minister at Redeemer Pres. in Austin while Rich Lusk was (in my understanding) the Christian Education minister there prior to going to Auburn Avenue Presbyterian? I don’t believe that Redeemer Pres. in Austin made any note of doctrinal problems with Rich Lusk’s teaching when he transferred to Louisiana Presbytery. Apparently the session at Redeemer in Austin was OK with Lusk’s teaching there for a number of years. Perhaps Lusk suddenly changed his views on the efficacy of baptism. Hasn’t Jeff Meyers preached from Redeemer Pres. in Austin’s pulpit on Sunday morning in recent memory? What does common sense lead one to infer about the position of Redeemer Austin’s session?

        I think it is important to note that it is not always necessary to draw bright line linear connections in order to establish a real connection. Sometimes it is more helpful to note patterns, networks, associations, etc. There are just an awful lot of “coincidences” that some claim are insignificant or “guilt by association” for the rest of us to dismiss.

        • Eileen,

          Not sure about the timing on that. Jamison served here for only a short season before heading off to seminary, and it was prior to my arrival here and I think after Rich went to LA. But again, what difference does it really make? Jamison is a godly minister, well-trained, ordained in the PCA, and doing very good work in Brooklyn. Rejoice! Rich was on staff as an Intern while doing a Masters Degree at UT, and was not an ordained TE in the South Texas Presbytery or a member of the Redeemer Session. I am confident he was loved by the people here, and no doubt believed that his future in the ministry was nevertheless elsewhere. I consider him a friend.

          I don’t have any idea at all what the chronology might be on Rich’s theological views.

          Jeff has preached at Redeemer – and we’ve been friends for many years, back to when I lived in Kentucky. Many people have preached at Redeemer – Doug Wilson, RC Sproul Jr, Michael Horton, Ken Meyers (Mars Hill Audio), Jim Bland (MNA), and professors from RTS Jackson as well. In other words, we’re Reformed ecumenists. Robert Godfrey has not preached for us but he visited here with me and I thought we got along very well indeed.

          But here’s a bright line linear connection for you: my associate Pastor is a member of the PCA’s SJC, and neither he nor I nor our Session hold to non-confessional views. Period.



          • Thank you, Pastor Cassidy. I don’t believe that I said that TE Lusk was on the session or an elder at Redeemer. What I did say was that he taught there in at least a semi-official capacity for a number of years after which he left for the Louisiana Presbytery to join the staff of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church. I do not believe that the PCA records any objection raised by either Redeemer Austin’s session or the South Texas Presbytery to TE Lusk being received in good standing by the LAP. I am not an expert on PCA polity, so if I am mistaken about that, please correct me.

            Some of us might find that timing rather curious, and we might wonder about the influence which TE Lusk had on TE Galt at the time that TE Galt was the youth minister at Redeemer Austin, given that both of those men seem to have remarkably similar views, at the very least on liturgical matters.

            I am relieved to find the bright line connection that your associate pastor and you claim to be fully confessional. However, I’m struggling to recall a single Federal Visionist who does not claim to be fully confessional, including Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins. Wasn’t that precisely the problem the LAP had with the SJC? LAP said Wilkins was in conformity, and the “Star Judicial Chamber” begged to differ. I hope that now that your associate minister is on the SJC that it will receive more respect from Rev. Jordan! Isn’t that precisely the issue in question in the PNW and Siouxlands Presbyteries? In short, this seems like a bit of question begging.

            Off topic, I wonder how Rev. Jordan and Doug Wilson would react if our U.S. Constitution or any contracts to which they are a party were read with the “maximalist” hermeneutic which Jordanites advocate for Scripture? I think that there might be an eruption of biblical proportions at Biblical Horizons and Blog and Mablog, not to mention the hilarity which would ensue in our judicial system. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening in the PCA courts! Silly me.

            I understand that you and others would like everyone to dismiss these coincidences and associations. Forgive me, but your lack of curiousity regarding TE Lusk’s spiritual “journey” and your response here seems like an attempt at redirection. I wonder if Dr. Machen might have encountered just such resistance at Princeton, or did the Princetonians not claim to be confessional?

            I’m thankful that, in God’s providence, as a woman I’m not burdened with making these judgments, and I’m thankful that there are men who are paying attention and are pressing the tough questions. Funny, but it seems that before a disaster, the ones who are trying to connect the dots are ridiculed and dismissed, and it’s only after the fact of the disaster that everyone gripes that no one connected the dots beforehand!

            • Eileen,

              Excellent points and very well made – and clear proof that critical thinking isn’t somehow dependent on testosterone…

            • Eileen,

              Under your approach every PCA minister I know is guilty until proven innocent – after all, I think we all do claim to be confessional. I’m not ridiculing you or dismissing your concerns, but it does appear that however I respond to you it won’t satisfy you. I am also sure that Dr Clark can assure you that the SJC of the PCA has hardly been unwilling to maintain sound standards of doctrine when cases have been before it. That is why I noted the proximity of myself and our Session to my colleagues who labor faithfully in that body.

              I also appreciate that upon genuine investigation you may conclude that my colleagues in Brooklyn hold to views with which you don’t agree. What I do think, as I can only ultimately answer for myself, is that my views – upon very good examination in two different Presbyteries – have been found to be fully confessional.

              Here’s what I do find objectionable however – and I’ll leave it at this. First of all, an approach that demands that your enemies must of necessity be my enemies is unhelpful. I have close friends across the spectrum of the Reformed world – a ‘world’ that has frequently proven to be very combative – not to mention in other Christian communions/denominations. I have no doubt I read and appreciate authors you might find unhelpful, and have friendships you would not value. However, for you to assume that the books I read and the friends I have are the determiners of my views would be a radical over-simplification, not to mention insulting. Secondly, you have sought to dismiss GBA concerns, but you do continue to establish suspicion with such argumentation. Let me go the other way – I fully identify with my colleagues in Brooklyn, just as I do with my colleagues in Jackson, Mississippi or in Portland, Oregon: we are all sinful people saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone; not only this, but every single PCA TE I know – in South Texas and elsewhere – is working hard to extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ and the faithful preaching of his word and administration of sacraments. To suspect my colleagues of less – constantly being shaped by the Gospel and constantly seeking to give our lives away for the Savior and his Church – is not a path I would ever choose.

              Your question on Rev Lusk did assume a certain status within this Presbytery for which it would have been viewed as accountable for him in some capacity, which was not the case. It is true that if the Session of Redeemer would have objected to Rev Lusk’s views (and let us recall again that he was an MA student at the time and not ordained), they would have noted this – they made no such objection that I am aware of. I am certain that the Session at Auburn Avenue and the Louisiana Presbytery are more than happy to take full responsibility for Rev Lusk’s ordination and reception into that Presbytery at the time of his move. And let me say again that what I have witnessed of Rich’s ministry here is fruit that glorifies Jesus Christ, and I would testify to that anytime and any place.

              As for your maximalist comment – yes, off topic indeed. But perhaps that’s a topic you or others may wish to pursue.

              All the best,


      • Dr Clark,

        Thank you for those words on latitudinarianism – I could not agree more. My comments on Wright as an improvement on Jenkins are really nothing more than a shattering glimpse of the obvious – its a very good move in the right direction. Might we hope and pray for more than this? By all means. I know several Anglicans/Episcopalians who would completely agree with you on Wright’s knowledge of the Reformation – though I am not certain how much he claims to know about the subject (I’ve not heard him claim expertise on this). I imagine that you and I would disagree about whether or not his work should be commended for study and general reading. While I do disagree with him on important matters, I have nevertheless gained from both hearing and reading him. I could say the same about many of course.

        I am especially thankful for your words about the authentic love for and faith in Jesus together with the virtues of the men sometimes called into question on these issues. This is not an approach which has always been embraced by people on all sides of this conflict.


        • David,

          Tom Wright should know something about the Reformation. He’s had every opportunity but it’s been evident for years that he has chosen to remain ignorant. I have a telling quotation from him in my essay:

          “Olevianus and the Old Perspective on Paul: A Preliminary Report,” /The Confessional Presbyterian/ 4 (2008): 15–26.

          in which he admits that he doesn’t really know much about the history of exegesis and it shows in his work. This hasn’t stopped him from making some strong historical claims that are demonstrably false. Have you seen Carl Trueman’s critique of his use/abuse of Luther?

          Then there is his approach (or lack thereof) to dialogue. He ignored Mike Horton’s patient examination of his work and he was dismissive of Piper’s critique; indeed he’s been fairly arrogant (and without warrant) toward his other critics. Have you seen Steve Baugh’s critique of his work in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry?

          What exactly have we learned from NTW that we didn’t already know from Ridderbos and from Vos before that? We’ve been doing biblical theology for a very long time even before Vos. If you want serious and orthodox biblical theology read Cocceius, Summa de foedere or Olevianus’ De substantia foederis gratuiti inter Deum et electos. At least Cocceius and Olevianus understood what the problem with Rome was. They understood the difference between Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. Honestly, apart from his rhetorical gifts I’m really puzzled as to why people find NTW so persuasive.

          • Dr. Clark, you said: “What exactly have we learned from NTW that we didn’t already know from Ridderbos and from Vos before that? ”

            I think you should be specific. On justification and covenant theology I would have to say nothing.

            His work on Resurrection really is a different matter, especially in regards to the Jewish contextual history of the concept of resurrection. Wright has contributed much that Ridderbos and Vos were not addressing.

            • Jared,

              Okay, I appreciate this. Bringing the new attention on 2nd temple Judaism to bear on objective redemptive acts is helpful but it’s come at a fearful price, has it not?

              Are you sure that his emphasis on resurrection is novel to him? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. As much as I disagree with aspects of Dick Gaffin’s conclusions in Centrality of the Resurrection he was talking about the resurrection (not in light of 2nd temple Judaism) in 1974.

              I think we can find Barthian biblical theologians (e.g., writers like Oscar Cullmann) talking about the resurrection fairly prominently in the 20th century.

          • Dr Clark,

            I have made similar remarks elsewhere – and Vos was one of the first Reformed theologians I read, and he remains one I often turn to first. I think the appeal is Wright’s ability to interact with the current (newest) scholarship (not always of course in ways a Reformed person would find helpful), speak and write in both scholarly and popular ways, and his critique of Dunn and Sanders – initially this was welcomed by many. Yes I’ve read the materials you mention and appreciate these. Do I wish NTW showed a greater grasp of the history of the Reformation? Sure. He has majored on a different time period, and so where he offers help in that area I will be grateful.


            • David,

              You’ve read Cocceius and Olevianus’ (De substantia)? I ask not to be rude but only out of surprise. It’s a short list of people (most of whom I know) who’ve read Cocceius and/or Olevianus. Cocceius’ Latin is extremely difficult and it’s not easy to access the text. The list of those who’ve read De substantia is equally short. His Latin is not as difficult but the text is hard to find and not many take the trouble to read it. Where and when did you study these texts? Have you written anything about your research?

              What exactly have we learned, of real value, from NTW that we didn’t already know?

              Lots of orthodox writers (of which NTW is not, as judged by the Reformed confessions) have interacted with the contemporary literature more completely than NTW.

              Look, his big contribution is to call attention to the corporate aspect of redemption. Okay, but we already knew that. So, what do we get in trade? Justification is redefined in terms of community and we regress toward the pre-Reformation church.

              What sort of a trade is that?

          • Exegesis, schmexegesis. Who needs to go to the bother of exegeting the, umm, you know, text, when we are Really Smart Dudes with Really Big Ideas that you could understand if you were a Really Smart Dude, too. Besides, the text is in Koine, Aramaic, and Hebrew, but Latin is the language of Really Smart Dudes (except if you’re a liberal, and then it’s German.) Lots o’ Latin (LOL). Goes better with our robes, you know.

            • Dr. Clark, in all seriousness, I appreciate you frankly pointing out the lack of solid exegesis on the part of those sympathetic to the Federal Vision movement.

            • Dr Clark,

              No I haven’t read De Substantia in Latin! That isn’t what I meant – so apologies for that confusion: I’m afraid my Latin is far too limited for that undertaking. I have read Bierma’s work and replies to that as well (though its been some time ago now).

              On NTW, do you think his work has served to correct or adjust any of the offerings from Dunn or Sanders? His critique of these was not welcomed in certain quarters; I’d read Dunn long before Wright – as you know, Dunn was the famous scholar in the early 80s.

              Eileen – So are Geneva gowns OK? You just object to white Lutheran style robes? Is that it? Stoles? Church Year observance? Just wondering.



              • David,

                I understand that NTW has criticized Dunn and Sanders but I also know that he has accepted as a given much of what Sanders did. He hasn’t been sufficiently critical of Sanders’ conclusions. He hasn’t criticized or dealt with the criticisms of Sanders’ interpretation of the data that Sanders himself reports. E.g., see Mike Horton’s critique of NTW on this score in his volume published by WJKP. See also Guy Waters work on the NPP. Sanders only knew about two ways of thinking about the rabbis. In fact there was a third category, speaking anachronistically: “semi-Pelagian.” Because they all miss that category they’re in the process of re-interpreting Paul and leading us (at least those who will be lead) back to the pre-Reformation mistakes.

                In by grace, stay in by works or faith and works or grace and cooperation with grace is a good and fair summary of that which the Reformation rejected!

                As I say, NTW hasn’t really helped us substantially. The only real good he’s done is to remind us of stuff we already knew. Fine but does that constitute an advance for Reformed theology? Certainly his work doesn’t constitute the great breakthrough that the young enthusiastic supporters of NTW in our circles think or are being told.

  23. So what if in all of these “hunches” good and faithful men get harmed, does that matter or is that just the cost for pursuing the peace and purity of the church? I think I have seen work done like this before.

    • Jesse,

      These are not mere hunches. To give only one example, NTW’s presence at Redeemer is not a hunch.

      Let’s account for all the evidence.

      Sent from my iPhone

  24. Since the Waltke thing exploded I have visited the Bioslogos site and read extensively the items posted there. Not surprisingly Pete Enns is ubiquitous.Chiefly he has been on a crusade against the historicity of Adam and rather candidly admits that the apostle Paul was a victim of his Jewish context and couldn’t help laboring under the illusion that Adam was created by God and was a historical figure just like Abraham,Moses, and David. In this regard ,Enns celebrates NT Wright for espousing a similar position. Again, no surprises- but in my last visit I saw an endorsement from Tim Keller praising the Biologos people for their work. Most disappointing given the things that I have read.

  25. Scott,

    All the “evidence” apparently leads to “verdicts” like Wes’

    ” I was rather shocked, frankly, to find it so. I thought that they might be on what many call the “Reformed evangelical” side of things, but I was rather amazed the degree to which Federal Vision and the New Perspective were supported and even promoted in the New York Metro Presbytery.”

    Wes does more than just throw out public record and say, “we might want to look at this ‘evidence'”. Wes makes conclusions (prior to his thesis…but sometimes things work this way on backwards day). The conclusion is to some “degree” greater than Wes imagined the FV is both
    1. Supported
    2. Promoted
    in NY Metro.

    You even say that NTW appearance equals evidence but for what conclusion is this evidence? That Tim Keller is clearly supporting the FV? One, that isnt proof. Two, that is a major category confusion (FV=NPP).

    You go on to say,
    “What if Wes is in the early stages of putting the connections together? What if he’s on to something? ”

    Well, is it “what if” or is it, “this is so”? Wes has already made conclusions, and that is the problem. Is there enough evidence, to say “yes” the FV is supported in NYM and that the men listed are the supporters. Or is it rather, we have seen these public things that make us a bit concerned. You talk about “what if he is on to something” after the man has already concluded something. Horse cart before.

    You may want to break the law of niceness, but does that take place at the expense of justice. Wes has made conclusions based on his observations of “possible” connections. And you seem to concur with this way of doing business and say, “well that is they way we do this sort of work. No one believed me either the first and look I was right.” I hope you were right on each man you named, since getting a reputation back is not an easy thing. But I have more than a hunch you werent.

    • Jesse,

      If justice is what you want then you should also proceed very carefully, don’t you think? “Verdict” is a prejudicial word. Wes isn’t trying people. He’s reached conclusions. That’s different. Now, you think that the evidence he’s presented doesn’t hold up. Fine. Show that. Demonstrate that he’s wrong.

      I am wary of guilt by association arguments. GBA is a fallacy. If he’s done that, then he should retract it but where he’s right, he ought to be encouraged.

      In the interests of justice then are you saying that nothing Wes says is true?

      > > >

    • Jesse, guilt by association is a logical fallacy which only speaks to its validity wrt arguments and not to its reliablity as an indicator of reality. That GBA is a logical fallacy says nothing about whether, in fact, in the real world, even in a courtroom, someone’s associations *may* be valuable and reliable indicators regarding someone’s actual viewpoints and sources of influence. Or maybe your mom didn’t care who you played with, and we should not have worried about Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers and who knows who else, right?

  26. Scott,

    You seem to have biblical justice backwards my friend. You basically say, “Wes made conclusions, now you prove he is wrong about questioning these mens fidelity to the confession and church?” Huh?

    Is this the church of Christ or are you working for Child Protective Services. “Well we have come to the conclusion you beat your kids. First, you have kids. Second, we think you beat them.” Well, the first part is a fact…like its a fact NTW is coming to New York.

    Stories are framed in contexts, points are made by how and under what rubric they are presented. The context of Wes’ piece was that these “facts” lead to the conclusion that NYM both supports and promotes the FV.

    Were individual facts that Wes presented true, sure, but that is not the story being told. (It’s like CPS arguing, “Well you do have kids right? You cant dispute that can you?”)

    “I’m concerned about what I’ve discovered …”

    “I was rather amazed the degree to which Federal Vision and the New Perspective were supported and even promoted in the New York Metro Presbytery.”

    “New York Metro, which some consider to be the bright and shining star, the flagship of the PCA, is a safe haven for the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision.”

    “So, let me review how I came to this conclusion.”

    And you say, if the evidence (isnt that word prejudiced?) doesnt hold up then fine!

    Yes, who cares if these are real ministers with real congregations, real wives and families. If we are wrong, oh well. We threw our hot bowl of internet detective work against the wall and we will see what sticks.

    And then somehow my use of the word “verdict” concerns you? Gnat, camel, and all that jazz.

    • Well Jesse if you’re going to invoke strict justice then the sword cuts both ways.

      The point here is to get to the truth. If Wes has sinned against these men and violated the 9th commandment then he should repent of it. If, however, he has told the truth, then we should pay attention.

      Wes’s critics, at least on the HB, have mostly thrown mud at him rather than showing concretely that he has violated the law of God. In that case, the mud throwing seems mostly like partisan politics: “Those are my friends, you can’t say that about my friends, they’re good guys.”

      Whether they are “good guys” is beside the point. Are they promoting the FV? Are they using the FV hermeneutic? Are they promoting FV and NPP authors? Those are the material questions.

      • No Scott, the point is not “only” to get to the truth, we have to get to the truth in a way that is biblical. Getting to the truth is not enough.

        I dont know any of these men in NY. In fact, Wes might be right, they might all be supporters, sympathizers and more. My concern is the way Wes has gone about it and how you have not only supported it by linking to the post but have taken time to defend the method employed. I seem to remember us having a similiar discussion before. Their reputations are already in question thanks to this post because of things that “might” lead to conclusions that “could” be true, I mean they never said they “dont” beat their kids.

        • Jesse thanks for making clear the problem many of us have with Wes’ several post. The problem is not hey stop picking on my friends but the “McCarthy” like tactics that are being used to try to smoke out FV. We as believers should be held to higher standards than the National Enquirer.

  27. This is silly stuff. Horton recommended in WSC own publication NT Wright on the Resurrection. Why all the huffing and puffing about a link on a blog? Something smells. Get Wes on the case immediately.

    • Jesse,

      I’m surprised that you think this is silly. I take my ministerial vows and the well being of Christ’s flock seriously and I assume that you do too.

      Good folks can disagree on things like this. I probably wouldn’t have recommended NTW’s book in that forum because it’s not possible to explain what is useful and what is not in NTW’s work. People may not exercise discernment in understanding what the endorsement means. We’re a school and we deal with authors constantly with whom we disagree but when it touches on what the gospel is I would probably err on the side of caution.

      On the other hand we ought to recognize when NTW does something useful. Mike’s better at that than I am. If we don’t do that then we’re bigots and that’s something of which I have to be careful.

      > >

  28. Scott,

    Spare me the “I am surprised you think this is silly” drama. You know full well it’s not the purity of the church I find silly but the, “Hey he linked to NTW on his website…I know he is a heretic” mentality that I find silly. I find it silly especially when NTW has been recommended in a publication of WSC that GOES OUT TO CHURCH MEMBERS not just academics or students. So yes, the sword of strict justice does cut both ways.

    • Jesse,

      It’s not drama. I’m trying to be faithful. I wouldn’t have done what Mike did. He didn’t ask me. The sem didn’t ask me. The fact that it happened doesn’t make it right but I also understand that some (maybe most) at the sem would disagree with me about this.

      It’s one thing to recommend a book that is orthodox, even if by an unorthodox author. It’s another thing to link to an author/site without qualification. People reasonably infer that a link constitutes some sort of endorsement, don’t you think?

      If I go to a blog and I see links to NTW, Wilson, to Leithart, to Wilkins etc I infer that this cat is probably a Federal Visionist. Am I wrong from drawing such an inference?

      > >

      • What can I infer from your link to Lee’s site? Can I infer things about Prop 8 or about the law or what? I have your permission now dont I?

        • For the record, I think Horton did nothing wrong in recommeding the book and I have gained much from Horton and consider him a huge blessing to the Reformed church.

          My hope was merely to make a point about how we use the guilt by association argument.

          Also, I think WSC is a fine school and God has blessed our congregation with several of her students. Each has been a a wonderful apologetic for the seminary.

  29. Re: the “National Enquirer” and similar complaints — I don’t think anybody is going to disagree that Christians, in our public debates, must use a higher standard than the tests of New York Times v Sullivan which set forth ways newspapers can usually make major errors in facts without being prosecuted for libel, provided that the person being erroneously attacked is a public official, public figure or limited public figure.

    But if we’re going to appeal to the secular standard of the National Enquirer to show what we must not do, can we perhaps appeal to a different secular procedure from the courts, one which distinguishes between the standards of “beyond a reasonable doubt” (required in secular courts to criminally convict) and “probable cause” (required to arrest and file charges)? Even below those standards, police can usually get permission from their supervisors to start an investigation, often including getting a search warrant signed by a judge.

    I would be exceedingly unhappy if somebody tried to prosecute me in a secular or ecclesiastical court on the basis of evidence comparable to some of has been written here, and I don’t think it would be hard to get the charges dismissed.

    But perhaps there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation.

  30. Jesse writes: No Scott, the point is not “only” to get to the truth, we have to get to the truth in a way that is biblical. Getting to the truth is not enough.

    Cliffton: Is the above a true statement?

  31. investigation and questions are one thing but insinuations, judgements and conclusions based on guilt by association, overlapping interests, and are not the methods christians should use.

    • Bobby, have you or anyone you know ever tried to get a security clearance from the FBI? My dad and my best friend’s husband had and have, respectively, high level security clearances including physical contact with POTUS and AF1. Trust me, the FBI thinks that associations and networks are important. They are very interested in finding out who your fourth cousin’s dog walker is (OK, slight exaggeration for illustrative purposes.) Maybe the FBI is onto something when it comes to figuring out what people are all about by looking carefully at their patterns of association.

      Israeli airport and airline security has been very successful by using means which you find objectionable. Maybe they know something, too.

      And I am not equating FV sympathizers with terrorists, for the record. Just trying to inject some common sense into the discussion.

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