Thursday, October 13, 2011

Comparison: 2007 FV Report vs. PNW SJC Leithart Ruling

Point 7 of the FV Report says:
The view that one can be ‘united to Christ’ and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards. (Emphasis Added)
Now look at this section from the SJC’s Leithart Ruling:
The Court finds Dr. Leithart’s views on union with Christ and apostasy to be in accord with the Standards (SJC Ruling, p. 25.4ff.)...Dr. Leithart does believe that some who are united with Christ will not persevere in faith and so will not be saved (Trial Transcript, p. 178.12ff.).

49 comments:

  1. If you want good comparisons go to the SJC Wilkins case SJC 2007-08 (read in entirety and compare with Leithart trial):

    Pg. 113 of http://www.pcahistory.org/GA/2008/2008-074-140.pdf

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  2. Note also that the Leithart trial moderator (Steve O'ban) was on the SJC at that time and voted with the rest of the SJC on the wilkins matter... Very interesting.

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  3. So if Steve O'ban transferred from LAP does that mean that Leithart, as presbytery examiner, also examined and approved O'ban when he joined NWP?

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  4. The quote from the FV report is specifically identifying "effectual union" - which in the language of the WCF is the effectual union that by definition is a result of election and results in perseverance. That one can be united to Christ in *some* sense and not persevere to the end (per SJC quote) should be patently obvious to anyone with a Bible.

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  5. O'Ban was on the SJC of GA (he was and has been a RE in PNWP in both instances).

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  6. Daniel,

    In what "sense" are those who will spend eternity in hell united to Christ while here on earth?

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  7. United in 'some' sense for Leithart means forgiveness of sin. Tell me how someone can have forgiveness of sin via this not as good union and not persevere? Where in Scripture or the Standards is there a temporary forgiveness of sin?

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  8. I should say that by 'means' in the first sentance, I mean as a result of some kind of union there is forgiveness of sins that can then be lost.

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  9. Also notice, Daniel, the part which I emphasized in the FV report: "and not receive ALL the benefits of Christ’s mediation." Leithart does not believe that ALL who are united to Christ receive ALL the benefits of Christ's mediation. This is not even a controversial claim on my part. Take the emphasis off of the perseverance doctrine in that sentence and reread it, and you'll see that his disagreement with the FV report is deeper than you might think. This is not just about his denying perseverance for those united to Christ by baptism. Leithart has ALL in the visible church being united to Christ and he freely admits that not all of them receive ALL the benefits of His mediation.

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  10. "In what 'sense' are those who will spend eternity in hell united to Christ while here on earth?"

    *They're a vine in the branch (or a vine in the vineyard, depending on how you translate, John 15:1ff, Rom. 11:19-22).
    *They can share in the Holy Spirit (heb. 6:4).
    *You can be sanctified by the blood of the covenant (Heb. 10:29).
    *You can escape the defilement of the world through the "knowledge" of Christ (2 Pet. 2:20).
    *Etc.

    I don't understand the ontology of it, and I am aware of John 6. In what "sense" do you think a vine that is cut off and burned was in Christ before being cut off?

    Andrew,
    I don't know how Leithart is understanding "has forgiveness of sins." There is apparently such thing as temporary forgiveness according to the parable of the unforgiving servant, but I don't know how that relates to union with Christ, or lack of it, or whether union is even in view in the unstated background of that parable (I kind of doubt it). I do think a way to understand a baptized person "having" a forgiveness that can be lost is along the lines of Romans 9:1-5. To Israel "belong" the covenants, the promises, etc. And a baptized person likewise has the promise of forgiveness, and they ought to improve on their baptism by laying hold of that forgiveness in faith. If they don't, forgiveness "belonged" to them, as theirs by "right" as a child of the covenant, and they rejected it for themselves, "judging themselves unworthy of eternal life." I don't know if that's how Leithart is understanding it though.

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  11. Page 223 of the Trial Manuscript is where Stellman asks him about temporary forgiveness of sins. He does not explain how a sin can be temporarily forgiven, he merely points to the same parable where the person appears to be forgiven and then have it revoked. He also appears in the same section to believe in temporary justification.

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  12. Ok, well I'm not sure anyone can explain how sins can be temporarily forgiven. But there it is in the parable, and you can't just accuse someone of false doctrine for simply acknowledging what's on the face of the text.

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  13. If the Westminster Confession teaches a system which says there is no such thing as sins being temporarily forgiven, Daniel, THEN can you accuse him of violating the Confession which he claims to uphold?

    I mean, read Chapter 8 of the Confession. Christ stands in as mediator for "all those whom the Father hath given unto him" (8.5). Does Christ stand in as temporary mediator of those who have not been given to him? Leithart may say yes to that, though I don't want to put words in his mouth.

    Or temporary justification?

    "God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sin, fall under God's fatherly displeasure...until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance" (11.5).

    So the confession literally teaches the opposite of temporary justification. Since justification is the instrumental ground of God's forgiveness of sinners, it is very fair to accuse someone of false doctrine if they don't interpret the text in light of the system they profess to believe.

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  14. Daniel,

    Well, in fact you can "accuse someone of false doctrine for simply acknowledging what's on the face of the text." (*Disclaimer* I am not in any way comparing Leithart to this view. I am only illustrating.) Those who deny the deity of Christ look at passages that "on the face of the text" seem to say that Jesus is not divine. Yet, this is a false teaching and we can call it that.

    As far as lossing forgiveness, I think it is very weak to base a whole doctrine on one parable *that was not intended to teach the point you are making*. The point of the parable in question is that as those who have been forgiven, we ought to forgive. The point is not, if you do not forgive you will not be forgiven. We are not to look to ever single aspect of the parable to find out how we are forgive. For example, is our sin before God simply a financial debt? No, it is not. Thus, we ought not look at every aspect of the parable as a one-to-one correspondence with the way we are forgiven, especially in light of the fact that no one knows that temporary forgiveness looks like or what it is.

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  15. Josh,
    Your example is not a parallel. There are no texts that say Jesus is not divine. And affirming the text is never wrong anyway. What's wrong is denying the full biblical witness. To say that the "Father is greater than the Son" is true. It's would be wrong if it's understood in a way that runs contrary to the full biblical witness. But if you can't affirm something that the Bible affirms - in the proper context, sure - the problem is with you, not with the Bible.

    You said, "The point of the parable in question is that as those who have been forgiven, we ought to forgive. The point is not, if you do not forgive you will not be forgiven." But the conclusion in 18:35 is precisely what you say it is not.

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  16. Adam,
    "If the Westminster Confession teaches a system which says there is no such thing as sins being temporarily forgiven, Daniel, THEN can you accuse him of violating the Confession which he claims to uphold?"

    Sure. But that doesn't answer the biblical question. If there is no such thing as a forgiveness of some kind that cannot revoked after being possessed in some sense, Jesus could have been more careful with the story he told. Are you ok with the analogy I made from Romans 9:1-5?

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  17. Daniel,

    There are plenty of texts that "on the face of the text" seem to point that Jesus is not divine. For one example, see the fact that Jesus did not know when he would return. My simple point is this, the "plain" or "surface" or "on the face" reading of a text is not the way exegesis is done and if someone affirms the "plain" reading of a tet, we can say they hold to false teaching.

    Further, you are right, about the parable, I needed to word that more carefully. The point of the parable is not, if you do not forgive you will be unforgiven. In other words, this parable, contra the FV, does not teach that a person can lose their forgiveness. Rather, the point is we ought to be forgiving people if we have been forgiven and if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven.

    Again, the point still stands, it is very dangerous to build a whole doctrine that goes against your entire tradition on one parable. The Bible only knows of one kind of forgiveness from God, the kind that brings about peace forever.

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  18. Daniel,

    Just to be clear, do you think that the idea of temporary forgiveness of sins goes against the PCAs standards?

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  19. Yes, but I think there is room for the kind of thing I said above about Romans 9:1-5, and there has to be room for the parable, or else Jesus should have told the story a lot more carefully.

    I am not convinced Leithart is in line with the WCF. He probably shouldn't minister in the PCA, and evidently he agrees, because he isn't. But I am even less convinced he teaches a false gospel. And he's now the third "fv guy" who's been exonderated, and I think the people who have been conducting these trials are in a better position to judge than bystanders like us.

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  20. Daniel,

    That is not exactly correct, Leithart is a minister in the PCA, but the congregation he serve in is not PCA.

    I think in some ways these people are "in a better position to judge." But is someways they are not. For example, they personally know Leithart and their like or dislike for him as a person can color the way they view his theology. Thus, someone from the outside might be in a better position to judge his theology.

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  21. Isn't that partly why they brought in Letham?

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  22. Daniel,

    I think it is, but I did not see anywhere where Letham said Leithart was within the bounds of the Westminster Standards on all account. Did I miss that?

    Also, I think the point is still out there as to the main point of the parable in question. I would like to see your explanation as to why you think we out to over turn the Reformed tradition (i.e. the Bibles teaching) on forgiveness based on this one parable.

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  23. Josh, Yes you missed it. It was the first 'real' question they asked him.

    Defense: Let me begin with a general question. Do you think any of Dr. Leithart’s views as represented in the indictment and when properly understood stand outside the boundaries of Westminster Calvinism?
    Letham: No.

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  24. Pg. 348 of trial transcript:

    Defense: Do you think any of Dr. Leithart's views as represented in the indictment and when properly understood stand outside the boundaries of Westminster Calvinism?

    Letham: No

    So, there's that.

    I don't think we ought to overturn the Reformed tradition based on this one parable. I would understand it the way I explained above with regard to Romans 9:1-5. Or, as with most of the parables, there might be a redemptive-historical angle to it, but I haven't explored that possibility.

    My point was that for Leithart to simply say that when he talked about "losing" forgiveness or "temporary" forgiveness he had this parable in mind, and left it at that, I think that's fine, because it's what the parable says.

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  25. Mike,

    Thanks for pointing that out. I wonder if there is any particular reason they said "Westminster Calvinism" instead of the Westminster Standards.

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  26. Daniel,

    There are two issues hear, first, you said "it's what the parable says." That is the point of the disagreement. I have been arguing that that is not what the parable says. Nowhere in the parable does anyone lose forgiveness from God. Both Leithart (and you) and I are interpreting the text. It is his (and your) view that the parable does teach temporary forgiveness and it is my view that it does not. Can you explain what you mean by "I would understand it the way I explained above with regard to Romans 9:1-5."

    Second, even if it does teach a temporary forgiveness and Leithart agrees, it still could be outside the boands of the confession (and if this is in fact the case, the Standards ought to be changed). However, for the sake of the trail it is kind of irrelevant what the Bible says because the issue is not whether Leithart is right or wrong (or biblical), but rather is he within the bounds of the Westminster Standards, which you and I both agree does not teach a temporal forgiveness. Thus, on this fact alone Leithart should not be a minster in the PCA.

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  27. I said above:

    I do think a way to understand a baptized person "having" a forgiveness that can be lost is along the lines of Romans 9:1-5. To Israel "belong" the covenants, the promises, etc. And a baptized person likewise has the promise of forgiveness, and they ought to improve on their baptism by laying hold of that forgiveness in faith. If they don't, forgiveness "belonged" to them, as theirs by "right" as a child of the covenant, and they rejected it for themselves, "judging themselves unworthy of eternal life."

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  28. In the parable, the king forgives the servant's debt, and as a result the servant is in a position where he doesn't have to pay it. The debt was taken away. When the king finds out that the servant has been a douche, he re-instates the debt so that the servant is imprisoned until he can pay it.

    "Interpret" it how you will, but that's the parable's plot.

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  29. Daniel,

    Is our deb before God a monetary debt?

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  30. Daniel,

    But the text says that the debt that is forgiven is a monetary one, right?

    I think that point is clear enough now. We cannot just read the text and apply all of it straight across. We have to interpret the text and part of this is looking at the text in light of the canonical context.

    Also, having forgiveness promised to you on the condition of faith and repentance is very far from saying that they had forgiveness and lost it.

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  31. I'm not just reading the text and applying it straight across. I'm saying that we need a category to account for what the parable says. You can't just brush it off and say that the "point" is that if you've been forgiven you need to forgive. Fine. But the implication is still that Jesus was not very careful in how he told the story.

    And I agree that forgiveness promised on condition of faith is different than having forgiveness and then losing it. But in light of your last sentence above, do you see any difference between a baptized child who hasn't come to conscious faith and a non-baptized child? Both are promised forgiveness if they repent and believe. So, what is the profit in being a covenant child, or what is the value of baptism? Much in every way? Or nothing? I think the benefit is - as Paul goes on to say - that the people of God are given the oracles of God, as well as the benefits listed in Romans 9:1-5. Which is what I said to begin with. I do think, that according to Hebrews 6 and 1 Corinthians 10, there is a partaking in the Spirit and an eating and drinking of Christ and a legal relationship that without the grace of perseverance does not issue in eternal salvation. It's the difference between the elect and the reprobate. Call it the difference between "common" and "saving" operations of the Spirit, I won't quibble with that, but the Spirit is the Spirit. I guess that's getting off topic.

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  32. You know, Daniel. I think you're right. We need to create a new theological category that shows that that our debt before God is not just moral, but monetary. Otherwise we can't account for the plain reading of this story!

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  33. Adam,
    Ok. I concede this point. Maybe if we have to translate the "rescinded forgiveness" of the parable into non-parabolic terms, we can see it as God's continually expressed kindness and patience to the wicked (sending rain on the unjust, etc), which is real kindness and real patience, but which finally ends in wrath if it does not lead to repentance. Fair?

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  34. In other news, here's this:
    http://www.leithart.com/2011/10/14/imputed-verdict/

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  35. A larger point to keep in mind, Daniel, is that the parables are a poor place for us to find our soteriology.

    The purpose of parables is to make a point about kingdom living, and often Jesus' point was singular and did not touch on everything in his parables. An example of this would be the parable of the dishonest manager. The point of that story is that believers do whatever possible to ensure they get into the Kingdom. It was not to actually endorse dishonest business practices. Not to bring up a whole other discussion...

    I followed your link. I just posted the Kindle book of Dabney's Systematic Theology here at the blog, so I'm probably partly responsible for Steven getting his hands on that quote. ;-)

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  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  37. BTW, the Dabney quote does not fall out of thin air. Dabney's context is one in which, during the 19th C., there was much discussion over the 'nature' of imputation among Presbyterians. Not least of which had to do with Adamic imputation, but that question of course, inevitably carries over into Christological soteric imputation. An interesting case to look at, e.g., is Charles Hodge's dealing with James Richards (a conservative new school theologian) on the nature of imputation:

    http://digital.library.ptsem.edu/default.xqy?id=dmd008&action=view-src&uri=/METS/BR1846184.xml Pages 597-600

    Richards' essay(s) can be found here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=J-muawJZxzgC&lpg=PP1&ots=CAiHrPgW5l&dq=mental%20philosophy%20richards&pg=PA380#v=onepage&q&f=false

    One of the central questions in the 19th C. over the nature of imputation was: Is imputation an actual giving or removal of something or rather is it a mere judicial treatment *as if* someone had done x or y. That is why Dabney says: "it is not the attribute of righteousness in Christ which is imputed, but that which is the exact counterpart of guilt--the title to acquittal"

    Further that is why the New School's Auburn Declaration (not Auburn Affirmation) says on Justification:

    "All believers are justified, not on the ground of personal merit, but solely on the ground of the obedience and death, or, in other words, the righteousness of Christ. ***And while that righteousness does not become theirs, in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities and merit, yet from respect to it God can and does treat them as if they were righteous.***"

    Thus, is it proper to say that I have been given Christ's righteousness? The New School guys et al wanted to say that imputation doesn't allow for a transfer (credited or otherwise) rather, imputation in its nature is "being treated as" not "being given something" like an attribute which is personal.

    BTW, just as an aside, this does have profound implications on the nature and extent of the atonement as well.

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  38. Mike,
    In other words, if Leithart (and Wright for that matter, as far as I understand him) agrees with Dabney here - they are within Reformed Orthodox bounds when it comes to imputation?

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  39. Daniel,

    It needs to be pointed out that "Reformed Orthodoxy" is not defined by this or that Reformed theologian, but rather by the confessions, creeds, and catechisms that the Reformed churches have adopted.

    As the Leithart trial illustrates, just because a man claims to be Reformed, does not in fact mean they are on every point.

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  40. Josh,
    So Dabney, Mr. Southern Presbyterian himself, wouldn't be allowed to teach in the PCA?

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  41. Daniel,

    I did not say that. In fact, that is not even close to what I said. There are plenty of men in the PCA today who do not hold "Reformed Orthodox" views. The Sabbath issue comes to mind or the paedo-communion issue could be sited as well.

    The only point I was making was that to cite this or that Reformed theologian who holds this or that view, does not make that particular view a Reformed view. Reformed theology is defined by the confessions, creeds, and catechisms that the Reformed churches have adopted.

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  42. But charges were brought against L. partly over this issue. It's debatable whether it's confessional, but that there was a trial over it implies that it was seen as beyond acceptable deviation.

    Maybe I'm just overly sensitive. I wasn't allowed to teach in any capacity at all this Summer at the Reformed Baptist church that I'm from because I'm a Presbyterian now.

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  43. Sorry, I got into the conversation late. I am not going to comment on Leithart's view, because I don't feel I am sufficiently knowledgeable re his own view.

    Second, I agree with what Josh is saying...it is best to define RO by a the general consensus of the 16th and 17th C. Reformed confessions; and the PCA by its BCO and the Westminster Standards.

    Third, there is the issue of confessionalism...like Josh said, you can hold to a non-RO position (e.g. paedocommunion; or what I noted on my other blog two days ago--covenant not a testament) and still be within the system of doctrine of the WCF and catechisms.

    Fourth, I think it would be very difficult to argue that Dabney (or *some* of the New School theologians) would have to take exception to a statement like, "[God] freely justifies...by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them." (WCF XI:I).

    But even if Dabney did need to take some sort of exception to the statement, is what he saying all that objectionable? What Dabney says is surely not outside a general *protestant* doctrine of justification and certainly within the realm of RO even if it is not as *precise* or is *nuanced* differently than the WCF.

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  44. There is a tendency on the part of FVers to quote isolated fragments from theologians who may have shared their exegesis of a passage here or a doctrine there. But they cannot find anyone who teaches them in combination, such that one can recognize any precedent for Leithart's system as a whole. In other words, maybe John Murray does share Leithart's view of Romans 6:7, and maybe so-and-so does think that water baptism is in view in a certain passage just as Leithart does. But they would never dare turn to Murray to see if he supports their system which seeks to eliminate the visible/invisible church distinction or teaches that there is a such thing as union with Christ without also receiving perseverance from Christ. The reason Federal Vision looks like such a novelty is because it IS such a novelty without precedent as a system.

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  45. Adam--

    I am in general agreement, but you write,

    "But they would never dare turn to Murray to see if he supports their system which seeks to eliminate the visible/invisible church distinction"

    Murray actually wrote an article arguing against that distinction, visible/invisible, in his Collected Writings !:231-236; and believe me, they do appeal to him.

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  46. Oh, and by the way, I am no way claiming that when the FV appeal to Murray on the visible/invisible distinction, they are in a proper position to do so. Some have suggested that though both dislike the distinction, they do not agree on *why* the distinction is unhelpful.

    Again, I am in no position to judge the FV position, but just because Murray and FV agree that the distinction is unhelpful, that in no way suggests that they agree on their other views of the church...

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  47. Foot in mouth. I was just trying to be random. Did I say Murray? I meant to say Vos.

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  48. HAHA.

    "Foot in mouth." I never have been known to say something wrong, right Josh?

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