Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Peter Leithart and the Pacific Northwest Presbytery


As you probably all heard, the Pacific Northwest Presbytery overwhelmingly voted to approve the theology of Federal Visionist Peter Leithart this past Friday. I'd like to give a brief snapshot of what went down.

Before I do, however, I would like to say that I have great respect for Peter Leithart and consider him a sincere brother in Christ. He has demonstrated nothing but humble patience and forthrightness during this process, for which he is to be commended. If everyone on both sides demonstrated a similar attitude we would all be better off.

As acting chairman of the study committee, I first moved the recommendations of the Majority Report and then immediately presented a substitute motion consisting of the Minority Report’s recommendations. I then spent about 30 minutes presenting the findings of the Minority Report, which highlighted six areas in which the minority of the committee felt Leithart to be out of accord with the system of doctrine contained in our Standards. These areas concerned: (1) the covenant of works, (2) baptismal efficacy, (3) the imputation of Christ’s obedience, (4) the relationship of justification to sanctification, (5) union with Christ, and (6) final justification.

The case I was attempting to make was that the threads of Leithart’s deviations on these core doctrines, when woven together, form a single cloth that is not recognizably Reformed (see the Minority Report for details). In other words, this is not a matter of a mere slip of the pen or the use of infelicitous language, but a very consistent system of doctrine that bears little resemblance to what is taught in the Standards to which Leithart has vowed submission.

The response of the majority, given by Rob Rayburn, was that if the PCA proceeds to squash theological innovation and refuses to allow the Bible to take precedence over our Confession when the two are in opposition, then we will lose our vitality and relevance as a church and run the risk of sinking into ever-increasing obscurity. Furthermore, Rayburn's contention is that unless Leithart admits to explicitly denying what the Standards affirm, or explicitly affirming what they deny, then there can be no basis for finding him out of accord with the Standards on the matters in question.

From where I sat there wasn’t much by way of substantive response to the case that the minority made. The real concern on the part of the presbyters who spoke in favor of Leithart was that we not become overly narrow and that we do not discourage bold, pioneering theology.The next step will be for some of us to formally complain against the presbytery, which, we expect, the presbytery will dismiss at our January meeting. If/when that happens, our complaint will go to the General Assembly level.

Continued prayers are asked for all involved.

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