Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Federal Vision Will Never Be Successfully Prosecuted in the PCA

From the PNWP SJC Judgment and Reasoning:
What of Dr. Leithart’s statement that the difference between the covenant in the garden and the covenant of grace is not soteriological? (Quotation a, Charge 2) The Court agrees that this was extremely problematic language, and in fact contradicted by Dr. Leithart’s own clear statements that there are very significant differences in the way in which humans maintain or gain favor with God in the garden and since. The Court is happy, therefore, to note that Dr. Leithart has agreed that it was a poor choice of words and has retracted the statement (Defense Brief, p. 4). The Court is heartened by this example of a man admitting a mistake and correcting it; the Court feels this happens far too seldom in our circles and we commend this example to all our brothers.
This statement was not a mere slip of the pen. It's not like he meant to write "hypothetical" and instead wrote "soteriological." That would be what you might call a "mistake" (and a very strangely executed mistake). Rather, this statement of Dr. Leithart's was problematic because it indeed strikes at the vitals of the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession. Maybe someone can answer this question for me - does Leithart's recantation at this point simply erase the statement from the record? It is, after all, part of the reason why the prosecution was led to believe that Dr. Leithart taught contrary to the Standards in the first place. I am as heartened to hear him recant this statement as anyone, but there is still a whole system of doctrine behind it that made it possible and even reasonable for him to make the statement in the first place. Am I the only person whom this strategy strikes as being evasive?

The judgment of the PNWP states the following:
First, as TE David F. Coffin, Jr. recently wrote for the GA SJC in SJC Case 2010-04, Complaint of TE Art Sartorius, et al. vs. Siouxlands Presbytery: “If a view can be interpreted in an orthodox fashion, it ought to be so interpreted until one is forced to do otherwise.” Likewise, “One cannot properly impute implications that are drawn from a position to a person who expressly denies the implication.”
Over at Stellman's blog, Dean has hit the rhetorical nail on the proverbial head:
How many cases in church history had to endure this insurmountable hurdle? How many prosecutors would have won under these terms?
So Leithart (and every other defendant) is always, from the get-go able to wiggle out from under any and every implication which puts him in a difficult corner. Per Coffin's statement, if Leithart denies the implications drawn by the prosecution of one of his views, the Presbytery will have to accept the defendant's assessment of the implications of his own views or else, if backed into a corner, retract the troubling statement.

Talk about an impossible position.

1 comment:

  1. Adam,

    Thanks for all your work in go through these documents and making them available in other formats.

    I am glad that Leithart retracted his statement. So often, as the court pointed out, this is not done. I also wonder if he retracted the theology that lead him to that statement. Theological statements do not occur in a vacum. The are made on the basis of our whole thought. I would be very pleased to hear that Leithart does in fact hold to a two covenant formulation, even if he does not like the term "covenant of works." The term is not important, the substance is.

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