Archive for January 21st, 2010

Dr. Robert Rayburn (pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington) has sent a “supplemental brief” to the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission regarding the case of Dr. Peter Leithart and Pacific Northwest Presbytery (Judicial Case 2009-6). It states eloquently the problem with the PCA’s theological and biblical reasoning and explains the inability to comprehend the point(s) being made by those of us who have been labeled “Federal Vision” advocates.

What Dr. Rayburn points out are the same problems some of us have been seeking to call attention to over the past few years. It’s encouraging to see that he and others also recognize the dangerous nature of the PCA’s theological position (and, of course, what is true of the PCA is also true of every denomination that has agreed with them in this discussion). Read this brief, it’s well worth the time.

SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEF [to the Standing Judicial Commission]
Judicial Case 2009-6
Pacific Northwest Presbytery
[Presbyterian Church in America]
Robert S. Rayburn

Presbytery has received the Proposed Decision of the SJC Panel in Case 2009-6 and respectfully offers this supplemental brief in protest of the decision and its reasoning. To be frank the respondent offers this brief with no expectation of it being read with sympathy. At no point in this process has there been any indication of an intention to give Dr. Leithart or the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest a sympathetic evaluation, to examine his statements in context, or really to enter into the exploration of the issues raised in this discussion. Nor has there been any acknowledgement that Scripture provides us with data for which the Standards provide us no specific explanations and that is it chiefly this material that comes to the fore in Dr. Leithart’s explorations. I regret to say this brief is offered more as an effort to satisfy the demands of conscience than in any expectation of provoking serious reflection upon the part of the SJC. To that end I protest the decision of the panel and plead with the entire SJC to think again on the following grounds.

The Make-up of the Panel

When the case was first assigned to a panel, Presbytery noted that one of its members had been part of a panel that had heard a case involving similar issues in the Siouxlands Presbytery. Presbytery inquired of the Stated Clerk and the SJC Chairman whether the rules by which panels were appointed had been observed in our case (RAO 17-3) as it seemed doubtful to us that between the spring and the middle of the summer all other members of the SJC would have been selected to serve on panels and the names in the pool been completely turned over (17-3c). The new chairman appointed a different panel, suggesting to us that the roster of the original panel had, in fact, been rigged. But Presbytery now learns that RE Sam Duncan, who authored the panel’s opinion in the present case, was not only a member of the Siouxlands panel, but its chairman. We are trying very hard to believe that this was not an intentional violation of the rules with a view to ensuring that the panel’s judgment would be what it has proved to be. Surely in highly politicized cases such as these, great care should be taken to ensure that the SJC’s conduct of its affairs be above reproach. Has it been? One remembers Herman Bavinck’s melancholy observation – the observation of a politician and a churchman – that while politics are often seamy, church politics are always so.

The Impression of a Prevailing Bias

I simply note the fact that in the panel’s reasoning (C iv) not only is Dr. Leithart cited as writing “The baptized are implanted into Christ’s body, and in Him share in all that he has to give,” but emphasis is added to the last six words. The panel knows very well – it is in the record of the case and was further brought to the panel’s attention during the discussion – that Dr. Leithart retracted that statement as overreaching and unhelpful. To have it used against him in the panel’s report is unconscionable and heightens the overall impression that no effort was made really to extend to Dr. Leithart the courtesy of dealing fairly with his words.

Or, take another illustration. Dr. Leithart’s statement, cited under C vi, that “justification and definitive sanctification are not merely simultaneous…” becomes in the panel’s evaluation a failure to distinguish between justification and sanctification, as if Dr. Leithart were speaking of sanctification in the customary sense of its definition in the Confession and Catechisms. Everyone knows that the distinction between definitive sanctification, a theologoumenon now widely embraced in our circles, and sanctification as a life-process of renovation in righteousness does not appear in the Standards and that definitive sanctification is a dimension of the biblical doctrine that is not clearly represented in their definitions. This failure to extend to a brother the ordinary courtesy of faithfully representing what he actually writes seriously undermines the credit of the panel’s report.

Or, once more, take the statement in the panel’s reasoning that “The Standards teach that faith is the proper response to the Gospel – not to baptism.” [C v] Not only is it an egregious misrepresentation to suggest that Dr. Leithart does not think that faith is the proper response to the Gospel, it is passing strange that a Reformed Christian would not think that faith is the proper response to one’s baptism. Am I not to believe that by baptism I have been enrolled in the church of God? Am I not to believe that being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit I have a calling to fulfill? Am I not to believe that great and precious promises have been sealed to me in the sacrament and that is my privilege to base my life and hope upon them? Paul certainly seems to feel that faith is the proper response to one’s baptism (e.g. Romans 6:3-4). This kind of argument by false disjunction betrays a spirit and it is not a spirit we should commend. (more…)

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Happy birthday, Stonewall

“I hope to have the privilege of joining in prayer for peace at the time you name, and hope that all our Christian people will; but peace should not be the chief object of prayer in our country. It should aim more specially at imploring God’s forgiveness of our sins, and praying that He will make our people a holy people. If we are but His, all things shall work together for the good of our country, and no good thing will He withhold from it.”

Thomas J. Jackson, in a letter to his wife, 1862

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