Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tortured Churchmen

Every time I tried posting this on Green Baggins it gives me an error message. But since Jeffrey Meyers is dialed into Google, I’m sure he’ll catch it and I’ll keep trying.

Dr. Meyers,

I sincerely apologized to you for misrepresenting your behavior because I hold the Ninth Commandment dearly. And in my apology I made clear that I believe you misrepresented the truth with your self-righteous, self-serving indignation. You see, I can’t bring myself to believe that words such as “injustice,” “irresponsible scholarship,” “the mob,” “lame,” “climate of suspicion that is being cultivated,” “star chamber-like trial,” and “committee was stacked” reflect the heart of a true churchman. To be sure, elsewhere you described your brethren in the PCA as “a Reformed inquisition” who “are ripping out various ministers’ ecclesiastical entrails.” If I’m not mistaken, this casts you as a martyr/victim suffering at the wicked hands of your brethren, the evil persecutors.

Consequently, I believe these accusations betray more than you know, because if the PCA was a corrupt as your describe, then you have an absolute obligation to reform it from within or leave it. Instead, you have chosen to pelt it with insults on the Internet and, incredibly, you describe your behavior (in between torture sessions, I presume) as that of a “good churchman” — “the farthest thing from an individualist.”

Perhaps you think this kind of loaded rhetoric honors your promise of “subjection to the brethren.” I do not. Or maybe you think your incendiary language upholds your vow “to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the . . . purity and peace and unity of the Church.” I do not.

In fact, I think that your conduct represents the complete opposite of the spirit and intent of your vows. You are free to disagree with me, but I don’t know how you account for your “subjection to the brethren” when you gnash your teeth at them. And I don’t know why you think your incessant boohooing advances purity, peace, and unity. As I wrote here, if you were a minister in the CREC and you criticized those ministerial rejects the way you criticize the PCA, they would call a “council” of churches together to oversee your immediate dismissal, in bad standing, from the confederation, for violation of your vows — i.e. “covenant breaking.”

So please don’t let my apology confuse you, Dr. Meyers. Yes, I misrepresented your actions based upon my false assumptions. I am responsible for this and I am truly sorry for it. But don’t think that in apologizing I must vindicate your irresponsible language and behavior. They are two separate issues. And just as I am accountable for my words, so you are accountable for yours.

Thank you.

Happy Halloween

A friend sends this along with a note stating that ministers and serrated edges don’t mix. Given this supposition, it looks like Freddie took off his pastor’s mask and showed his real face for this one.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Disposable Sheep

Douglas Wilson won’t hesitate to dispatch a kirker on a suicide mission, requiring his martyr to strap TNT all around his torso and self-detonate on a street corner. Here is today’s front-page story from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, describing the antics of a rabid Kirk loyalist on such a mission. And for the record, the three City Councilpersons he protests are three of the most liberal, tolerant people in the city, who have done nothing to harm Christ Church, though they have not given a blind eye to Douglas Wilson’s illegal activities, which includes multiple violations of the Zoning Code to keep New Saint Andrews College afloat.

Protest draws questions, counter arguments
Claim of bigotry brings reaction from candidates, families

By Tara Roberts Daily News staff writer

Dave Glasebrook says the sign he carried downtown Monday isn’t political or connected to any political group. “This is a religious protest,” said Glasebrook, whose sign read “Vote for the Bigot Party, Ament, Lamar and Pall.” Incumbent Moscow City Council members Aaron Ament and Linda Pall are up for re-election Nov. 6. Tom Lamar, who was appointed to the council in June, is also running for a four-year council seat.

Glasebrook’s protest took place Monday morning and evening at the corner of Third and Main streets and drew several question-asking bystanders. In the evening, there was a counter-demonstration by Lamar’s wife, Aly, and daughter, Brya.

Glasebrook, a Christ Church member and professional pilot, said Ament, Lamar and Pall are part of a long-running vendetta against Christ Church. He said the City Council’s decisions on issues such as the boardinghouse ordinance and zoning restrictions for Christ Church-affiliated New St. Andrews College are examples of bigotry.

He also carried a copy of a flier that was passed around town in August in protest of the church’s Trinity Festival. The flier states that Christ Church, NSA and other affiliated organizations are “racist, sexist and homophobic.” He said the flier was distributed by people who are allied with Ament, Lamar and Pall.

Glasebrook said his protest was not on behalf of Christ Church as a whole or any other group. He said he chose to use political terms on the sign because people wouldn’t understand a strictly religious protest. Glasebrook said the people listed on his sign are “going to get at (Christ Church Pastor Douglas) Wilson no matter how they can.” “For two years our City Council has focused on fighting Christ Church. Christ Church isn’t fighting back,” he said.

Glasebrook said he did not include the names of other people who have supported issues he views as anti-Christ Church on the sign because he didn’t have room. He said he does not intend to have any effect on the election, and that only God would be able to affect the results.

Aly Lamar said she spoke with Glasebrook on Monday evening before leaving in tears. She returned later with signs in support of Tom Lamar to “offer the other side.” “It’s one thing to be pro-candidates. It’s another thing to be against and name calling. . . . It’s not good politics,” she said. “My feelings are hurt. I don’t think it’s a good way to go about getting his message across.” Aly Lamar said she was not concerned with how Glasebrook’s sign would affect the election. “If anything it will support those candidates (on the sign),” she said.

Brya Lamar, a senior at Moscow High School, later joined the counter-protest. Aly Lamar also added signs in support of Ament. Brya Lamar said she does not believe her father deserved the accusations on the sign. “I don’t think he’s prejudiced about any of that,” she said.

Ament stopped by the demonstrations briefly on his way to another appointment. “(Glasebrook) has the right to express his opinion,” Ament said. “He’s absolutely incorrect. I think his definition of a bigot is anyone who doesn’t agree with him is pretty wrong, but he’s entitled to that opinion.”

Linda Pall said she drove by the protest and felt “profoundly disappointed.” “I would have to say that the last person to be called a bigot in this town should be me,” Pall said. “I was the author of Moscow’s most recent diversity resolution. I was the original mover and shaker to create a Human Rights Commission. I’ve been on the Latah County Human Rights Task Force since we’ve had one.” When New St. Andrew’s and Bucer’s coffee shop were “under attack” for their connection to Christ Church, she supported them against boycotts, Pall said.

Evan Holmes, who is running for a two-year City Council seat, said Pall was one of the least bigoted people in the history of Moscow. He does not believe the protests will effect the elections. “We’re a pretty tolerant town,” Holmes said. “We’re even tolerant of protestors.”

Holmes’ opponent for the two-year seat, Walter Steed, and the other four-year candidates, Dan Carscallen and Wayne Krauss, said they recognize Glasebrook’s right to protest but are not affiliated with his efforts. “I don’t condone it, but I guess I don’t condemn it either,” Carscallen said. He said those who don’t agree with Glasebrook should leave his protest alone and it likely will go away.

“We’ve been civil amongst ourselves through all of this,” Steed said. “I’d like to continue that way.”

Krauss said he thinks the protest “will add to the divisive climate that we now have.” “All of the candidates for City Council have run an honorable race, and I hope the voters will see this is a one-man protest,” he said.

Tara Roberts can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 234, or by e-mail at

Monday, October 29, 2007

“Lying to the Holy Ghost”

This letter is especially timely given all the lip service recently paid to Samuel Miller: Hat Tip PCA Historical Center.

Following is a letter written in February 1833, by the Rev. Prof. Samuel Miller, of Princeton Seminary, on the subject “Adherence to our doctrinal Standards.” — Abridged by the Rev. Morton H. Smith. This article originally appeared in The Presbyterian Journal, 17 August 1960, pages 7–8.

The Vows of Teaching and Ruling Elders
What does the Church expect when it asks: “Do you receive and adopt the Confession of Faith?”

Christian Brethren:

I need not say that the faithful adherence to our doctrinal standards is a matter which stands essentially connected with the peace of the Presbyterian Church. On this subject, it is of the utmost importance that there be a concurrence of sentiment, in favour of some rational and scriptural principles.

On the other hand, if such absolute uniformity in the mode of explaining every minute detail of truth be contended for; if men are to be accused and subjected to discipline for not expounding every doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith, in the same precise manner with every other subscriber who has gone before him — the Church must inevitably be kept in a state of constant mutual accusation and conflict. Quietness and peace will be out of the question.

On the other hand, if all sorts of unscriptural opinion, except the extreme of heresy, should be freely countenanced by any of our judicatories; if that refusal to censure any form of doctrinal error, short of palpable Unitarianism, be adopted as the prevalent policy, it will be impossible much longer to keep the Church together. Or rather, it will not, much longer, be worth keeping together. For it will cease to be what the Church was constituted and intended to be, a “WITNESS FOR GOD,” in the midst of a corrupt and ungodly world; — a witness for the truth as well as the order of His family.

It is well known, that when ministers are ordained in the Presbyterian Church; or when those already ordained are received into our body, they are called upon to give their formal assent, among others, to the following questions:
  1. “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?”

  2. “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?”
Here, it will be observed, the BIBLE is declared to be the Only Infallible Rule of Faith, and the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church is recognized as only a summary or compendious view of the manner in which the members of that Church agree in interpreting the Scriptures. In this sense only are we in the habit of calling our “Confession of Faith” and “Form of Government” our “ecclesiastical standards.” Not ultimate standards of faith and practice; but standards or tests, for ascertaining the manner in which we, as a Church, profess to interpret the Bible.

How is this public subscription, or assent to the Confession of Faith, to be understood? Is it to be considered as precluding all variety of opinion? Is it to secure perfect uniformity in the manner of construing every minute article, as to censure and exclude every possible diversity of exposition on any point? Such perfect uniformity among 3,000 ministers is not to be realized. It is well known that the framers of the Westminster Standards differed on minor points, yet they were all substantial and sincere Calvinists. The same is true of the Dutch Synod, and also of the American Presbyterian Synod of Philadelphia of 1729, who first adopted the Westminster Confession and Catechisms for the American Presbyterian Church. They were all substantial, sincere Calvinists; and, therefore, unanimously, and with good faith, subscribed to the Westminster Standards.

An impartial jury would answer the question of the meaning of the words “the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” in the following manner: “Since the primary object of subscribing an ecclesiastical creed is to express agreement in doctrinal beliefs; since the manifest design of the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church is to maintain what is commonly called the Calvinistic system, and since this has been the universal understanding, every since that Confession was formed, we judge that no man who is not a sincere Calvinist, that is, who does not ex animo (from his heart) receive all the distinguishing articles of the Calvinistic system, can honestly subscribe it.

We cannot resist the conclusion, as fair and honorable men, that unless a candidate for admission does really believe in the doctrine of the Trinity; the incarnation and true Deity of Jesus Christ; the personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit; the fall and entire native depravity of man in virtue of a connection with Adam, the progenitor of our race; the vicarious atoning sacrifice of the Redeemer; the justification solely on account of the righteousness of Christ, set to our account, and made ours by faith; sovereign and unconditional personal election to eternal life; regeneration and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit; the eternal punishment of the impenitently wicked, etc; — unless he sincerely believes all these and the essentially allied doctrines which have been considered as distinguishing features of the Calvinistic system, and believes them in substance, as they are laid down in the Confession, our verdict is, that he cannot honestly subscribe to it.

It appears to me that nothing can be plainer than that a Pelagian, a Semi-Pelagian, or Arminian, to say nothing of more radical errorists, cannot possibly, with a good conscience, subscribe to the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church. To erect a barrier against the encroachment of these errors in England was one of the main objects of the formulation of the Westminster Standards. Again, our own Church, in 1729, in her “adopting act” had the errors of Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism in view.

The question, however, is, how minor differences in the mode of explaining Gospel truth may be decided. No position in morals can be plainer, than those principles which the Confession in language directly proscribes: which it was expressly and specially intended to exclude; and which the actual administration of the Church under it, is known to have again and again condemned and excluded. The advocate of such cannot possibly, with a good conscience, subscribe to its articles. Such a subscription is a SOLEMN PERJURY.

If there be such a thing as “lying to the Holy Ghost,” here it is. It is destroying the very intention of a creed; the object of which, as all allow, is to ascertain and secure concurrence of faith. If the system of doctrine taught in the Confession be wrong, let it by all means be changed. But as long as we profess to hold certain doctrines, let us really and honestly hold them. I would unspeakably rather discard the Confession altogether, than adopt a principle which would render its use a solemn mockery.

I shall close with remarks along this same line made by the late Dr. John Witherspoon:

I cannot forbear warning you against a piece of dishonesty which may possibly be found united to gravity and decency in other respects. I mean a minister’s subscribing to articles of doctrine which he does not believe. This is so direct a violation of sincerity, that it is astonishing to think how men can set their minds at ease in the prospect, or keep them in peace after the deliberate commission of it. The very excuses and evasions that are offered in defence of it are a disgrace to reason, as well as a scandal to religion.

What success can be expected from that man’s ministry, who begins it with an act of such complicated guilt? How can he take upon him to reprove others for sin, or to train them up in virtue and true goodness, while he himself is chargeable with direct, premeditated, and perpetual perjury? . . . I have particularly chosen to introduce the subject upon this occasion, that I may attack it, not as an error, but as a fraud; not as a mistake in judgment, but an instance of gross dishonesty and insincerity of heart. I must beg every minister, but especially those young persons who have an eye to the sacred office, to remember that God will not be mocked, though the world may be deceived. In His sight, no gravity of deportment, no pretence to freedom of inquiry, (a thing excellent in itself,) no regular exercise of the right of private judgment, will warrant or excuse such a lie for gain, as solemnly to subscribe what they do not believe.” (Witherspoon’s Works, Vol. I, pp. 313–4.)

Dr. Miller’s Letter is taken from a volume entitled LETTERS TO PRESBYTERIANS, ON THE PRESENT CRISIS IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES. It was published at the time of tension between the Old and New School elements in the Church in the early 1830s. Since our church today is in many ways faced with similar tensions, and since the question of subscription is again involved, these words of Dr. Miller may be useful for our day.

Bug-eating Cornhuskers

Dr. R. Scott Clark writes,

I rarely miss a Nebraska Football game. I missed most of Saturday’s game at Austin against Texas. I didn’t have high hopes. One of the things I missed was a good play-by-play call by Kevin Kugler on Westwood One. Kevin is a local sports talk show host in Omaha — who ought to be calling the Husker games and is much better than the official play-by-play guy, Jim Rose. Turns out that they almost won. Fans are down to moral victories. The Huskers led, lost the lead, and nearly came back to win. They lost 28-25. They are 4-5. Yikes! More turmoil in Lincoln.

This reminds me of a question and answer I heard a long time ago (which works better out loud rather than reading it):

Question: What does the “N” on Nebraska’s football helmet stand for?

Answer: “Knowledge.”


A special hat tip to Sean Gerety of God’s Hammer for catching Steven Wilkins’ new uniform. Personally, in my opinion, the collar matches the rug too closely, but this is not a fashion site so I shall refrain from further comment. Anyway, the pic piqued my interest enough to surf the church site and I noticed that the Monroe boys have scheduled the Godfather himself — Jacobus Jordanius — the Magister Contradictus, to speak at the upcoming Auburn Ave. Pastors Conference. Interestingly, he too dons a popish choker. I heard a rumor that the CREC actually gives their ministers a clothing allowance for these garbs, but I have not confirmed this. Finally, here’s an excellent site for all of you aspiring CREC ministers to peruse. It’s called Beauty Tips for Ministers. And as you shop, don’t forget the first rule of the Little Man Behind the Curtain, “appearance is more important than substance.”

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Worst Lot of All

Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. — Matthew 26:65

No one knows how to wax indignant better than a self-righteous Pharisee, and the greater the audience, the greater the show. Take Caiaphas, for example, who put on a real-life show before the Lord Jesus Christ and actually tore asunder his priestly garments in righteous indignation when he witnessed the Son of God’s good confession.

Or take Douglas Wilson, for another example, who recently put on an indignant rhetorical spectacle, waxing furious at the PCA for its treatment of Federal Visionist Steve Wilkins:

In the old days, defenders of the faith used proclamation, argumentation, and apologetics. These days, the defenders of the faith use all the bureaucratic levers they have hidden under the desk. If the SJC goes the way I suspect it might, that would mean that Wilkins would be condemned in the PCA despite two vindications by his own presbytery, despite the fact that no charges were ever brought, despite the fact that no trial was ever held, and despite the fact that he was never given an opportunity to defend himself in open court. Don’t talk to me about proof. We don’t need no stinking proof.

In the old days, the prophets of God would thunder the word. These days, they resort to Machinations and Back Room Deals. You don’t think so? Then look at what happens to Wilkins. Look closely. Look at the procedures. Look at what was done, and what was not done. And imagine yourself trying to explain the polity ramifications of all of that to Samuel Miller. The whole thing would be a joke if it were only funny. (“We Don’t Need No Stinking Proof”)

Setting aside Wilson’s obvious ignorance of the issue pending before the SJC, this was not the only time that time he raged furious at the PCA. Consider this one:

To call the determinations of an unpresbyterian entity like the SJC — “where the PCA GA outsources its justice!” — a “final court of appeal” is overstating it a bit. It is certainly a necessary part of the process because the PCA did decide to abandon historic presbyterian polity at this point, and it was all entered into the minutes and everything. (“I Love Analogies”)

Of course, these quotations from the Prince of Blog and Mablog leave the impression that the very thought of dirty back-room deals designed to circumvent presbyterian polity horrifies him. Indeed, these quotes leave the impression that Beelzeblog longs for the old days and that he esteems the historic presbyterianism taught by Samuel Miller so much that he would never violate its principles in such a way that he could not justify it to the Princeton hero.

Unfortunately, Pastor Wilson isn’t as scrupulous as he would have us believe because if you compare his outrage at the PCA in the matter of Steve Wilkins with his treatment of deposed PCA minister Burke Shade, you’ll see exactly where Wilson’s scruples lie.

On April 17, 1999, Illiana Presbytery (PCA) deposed Burke Shade from the ministry after declaring him guilty on three of four charges against him, in a trial that began on November 9, 1998, and lasted six sessions. P & R News covered the whole story.

But while Illiana Presbytery conducted itself pursuant to the PCA’s BCO, which contains a good measure of presbyterian polity, Burke Shade and Douglas Wilson busied themselves working the Machinations of a Back Room Deal. We know this because “it was all entered into the minutes and everything.” Accordingly, the Christ Church Elders’ Minutes state,

Doug described the situation with Cornerstone Reformed Church and Burke Shade. Motion (DW/PB) [Doug Wilson/Patch Blakey] to authorize Doug to make a motion at CRE to receive Cornerstone as a fraternal delegate. All approved. (April 17, 1999)

Admittedly, this doesn’t say much but it shows that Shade made his case to Wilson before the PCA deposed him, and it lays the foundation for this revelation taken from the Christ Church Elders’ Meeting minutes dated July 13, 2000:

Doug Jones reported that the ad hoc committee concerning Burke Shade recommends that we should not send out the current letter, and that we should wait while Chris Schlect and Doug Jones continue to work through the trial materials, before they make a further recommendation. Doug Wilson reminded the elders that we have already agreed this situation is not a barrier to Burke Shade and his church being accepted into the CRE, and that he has communicated this to Burke. The elders agreed that, further review of the material, the burden of proof is on the committee to overturn our previous decisions, which would only happen if new, clear information against Burke appears. The elders would like a report from the committee by July 27. This recommendation considered as a motion passed. (emphasis added)

Now, I know these minutes are legitimate because I know my sources. But don’t take my word for it, take Wilson’s who confirmed it a few months ago at Green Baggins (cf. this comment). The point here, however, is not the minutes’ legitimacy. The point is Wilson’s illegitimacy.

Here is a man who, for all intents and purposes, wants us to believe that he reveres presbyterianism proper and that he abhors back-room deals. But “Look closely. Look at the procedures. Look at what was done, and what was not done. And imagine yourself trying to explain the polity ramifications of all of that to Samuel Miller,” because here is also a man who, like Caiaphas, tears his garments at the PCA for their handling of Steve Wilkins and, just like Caiaphas, thwarts church polity by pulling the levers under his desk with Judas, the covenant breaker.

Yes, indeed, Wilson was right when he wrote, “Don’t talk to me about proof. We don’t need no stinking proof,” because this event took place in the visible church, or as the Federal Visionists would say, in the Covenant. To be sure, this event could be photographed or fingerprinted, for as noted, “it was all entered into the minutes and everything.” Sadly, “The whole thing would be a joke if it were only funny.” But it’s not.

So how do we account for Pastor Wilson’s staggering hypocrisy? How do we reconcile his righteous indignation in one instance with his cunning conniving in the other? — We don’t. Rather, we let his words speak for themselves, because by his own testimony he has the worst lot of all:

The opposing error is that of straight hypocrisy. This is the idea that mere covenant membership can replace covenant faithfulness as the one thing needful. The lips draw near while the heart is far removed from God. But such snakes within the covenant have the worst lot of all. (Douglas Wilson, “Reformed” Is Not Enough, “Judas Was A Christian?” [Moscow: Canon Press, 2003] 21)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Federal Question for Mike Lawyer

A couple of days ago Mike Lawyer commented here that the Federal Vision covenant breakers in the PCA have broken their vows because the findings of the 35th General Assembly of the PCA were “errant.”

Given Lawyer’s supposition, I wonder if Wilson’s monkey boy would explain to us why Peter Leithart honored his vow by informing his presbytery of his differences with the Westminster Standards.

Thank you.

An Important Clarification

UPDATE: Pastor Hutchinson has added an important clarification to his comments at Green Baggins here, which I have appended into the body text below. And since the thread belongs to a post called “On Misrepresentation,” I would like to add that I appreciate his desire to avoid being misunderstood.

I lifted the following comments from Green Baggins (without permission, please forgive me, Lane), because I believe this is front-page stuff regarding the much-anticipated decision from the PCA’s SJC about the Louisiana Presbytery’s exoneration of Steve Wilkins in the matter of his novel doctrine.

Dr. Jeff Hutchinson, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina, points out that the question before the SJC does not address Federal Vision proper, rather, it addresses the Louisiana Presbytery’s exoneration of Steve Wilkins.

For the record, the case before the PCA’s SJC is not about Steve Wilkins’ views directly, but is most directly about the fitness of the Louisiana Presbytery in their exoneration of Steve Wilkins, if you catch that distinction. For a Presbyterian, that is the more important issue. Particular teachers and teachings come and go, but the integrity of a whole presbytery affects a whole region and culture and generation.

If one of the other Teaching Elders of Western Carolina Presbytery (my presbytery) was allowed to teach confusing, erroneous, and pastorally cruel views of Judgment Day, for example, that would be MY fault, both as an individual elder and as a member of the corporate body.

And my best self, my renewed self in Christ, my regenerate self (yes, James Jordan, the Bible plainly teaches such a thing) simply would not want to be part of a denomination (and wouldn’t recommend to my congregation that they remain in a denomination) that wouldn’t hold me and my presbytery accountable for having been asleep on the watch (or complicit, as the case may be).

And so, at this point, with this case, it is not so much the erroneous Federal Vision theology that is at issue, but the more important (and longer looming, predating the infamous Auburn Avenue conferences by years and years — just ask Bob Vincent, the former Stated Clerk of that presbytery who left for the EPC in frustration) issue of the fundamental integrity of a whole presbytery. That presbytery’s integrity has been a question before our GA for years, in other matters (a recent SJC decision overturned a grossly unbiblical excommunication the presbytery had performed at the behest of the Auburn Avenue Session; I would like to make plain that by “grossly unbiblical” I am not referring to motive or malice or anything like that, but to an unbiblical assumption of jurisdiction by the presbytery. In re-reading the record of the case in the minutes of General Assembly, the decision to assume jurisdiction over a member of a particular church does seem to have been well-intentioned, yet erroneous and unbiblical nonetheless, which is why the SJC overturned it.). The FV is just one part of the larger picture as we look to the Lord to reform and renew our denomination around the Reformed gospel, presbytery by presbytery, church by church, member by member. . . .

A few other thoughts, anticipating the line of argument that has been made countless times, together with an imagined dialogue at no extra cost.

It is certainly true that there have not yet been any JUDICIAL judgments AT THE GA LEVEL in the PCA ruling the Federal Vision as out of accord with our Standards (or “heretical,” in Lane’s technical use of the word) — but there may well have been at either the Presbytery or Session level (I was on the GA’s review of presbytery records committee for a number of years and seem to recall a relevant case or two that never needed to rise beyond the presbytery’s ruling).

Unfortunately, it is very possible, then, for both proponents AND opponents of the FV to misinterpret this fact (and misinterpret the fact that even after this particular SJC ruling we still won’t have a GA-level judicial ruling with regard to the FV proper).

It is very possible, as well, for both proponents and opponents (not to mention fence sitters) to misunderstand the current state of things in the PCA (leading proponents to crow and continue to invest their efforts in “reforming” the PCA along their lines, while perhaps leading opponents to lose heart and “wash their hands” of the PCA).

So, the lack of a GA level Judicial ruling on the FV proper aside (again, that will be the case HOWEVER the SJC rules in this particular case), what is the “current state of things”? It is obvious and as plain as the nose on your face.

The most recent issue of our denomination magazine says it plainly, in its article on the Federal Vision controversy, calling it “The Issue for Our Generation.” The article recaps this past summer’s General Assembly, saying that “the final vote was a nearly unanimous approval of the Study Committee’s report, and a rejection of the Federal Vision. . . . As a result of that study, the PCA has now officially rejected the theological concepts behind (the) Federal Vision.”

The PCA has now officially rejected the theological concepts behind the Federal Vision.

Some might say, “No they haven’t! It wasn’t official, it wasn’t a judicial ruling.”

That is true in one sense, but misses the point. You do have a nose on your face despite your protestations. There is “Official” (Judicial) and there is “official” (incredibly broad — in fact near unanimous — consensus as captured by an official vote by real flesh and blood commissioners to a real national assembly of a real denomination). Your point doesn’t change the fact that the PCA has now officially rejected the theological concepts behind the Federal Vision.

“That’s just some stupid reporter’s opinion, writing at the behest of the powers that be that control our denomination and its magazine.”

I am sorry for how upset this has made so many of you (screaming at windshields and whatnot). A pastoral aside — your level of frustration might be indicative of an “inordinate desire,” i.e. an idol in your life. But now, granting your premise for the sake of argument, why in the world would you want to stay in a denomination controlled by the stupid and corrupt? Your complaints about our characters and capacities don’t change the fact that the PCA has now officially rejected the theological concepts behind the Federal Vision.

“Well, maybe that’s the way things are now, but I have postmillenial hope in a great and sovereign God, and I have taken vows, so I’m not going anywhere, but am going to stay and fight for the reform of my beloved denomination out of love for my Savior.”

Well, you are certainly free to do that. But I believe a judicial case will eventually find you, and you will eventually be deposed from the gospel ministry. I don’t think you have any real possibility of changing us. It is pretty apparent (from your point of view) that the entrenched and stubborn no-nothings aren’t going anywhere, and aren’t going to let up on disciplining all FV officers in the PCA until the leaven has been purged. (It is also . . . interesting . . . how your “love for your Savior” directs you in the exact opposite direction of how “love for our Savior” seems to be directing us.) At any rate, your protestations not withstanding, the fact remains that the PCA has now officially rejected the theological concepts behind the Federal Vision.

To steal a phrase, “Thank you.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Update From the Land of DUMB

After accusing multiple men of false witness (without evidence), Douglas Wilson took a moment out of his busy blogging schedule to divine the mind of Lane Keister, writing,

Lane, just for the record, I was talking about the list of men you named, many of whom have misrepresented me. I was not talking about you — I believe that you have labored to understand what I am saying. You are an Elihu among the FV critics, exasperated by the way the argument from the older guys is staggering along, and quite decently pretending not to be exasperated.

Remarkably, he wrote this despite this affirmation from Lane:

Secondly, would Wilson really say that there has been no debate on these issues? Or does each denomination have to spend 40 or 50 years hashing it out with every single FV advocate? What was the Knox Colloquium and the thousands upon thousands of emails exchanged surrounding that Colloquium? Please don’t tell me that was just shooting the breeze. If the FV cannot be legitimately clarified by such debate, then exactly how helpful is it for the Church? Also, I fervently hope that the FV is not here assuming that their blogs have not been read by the critics. Because that would be a really, really stupid thing to say. The difficulty here is that (for both sides) open debate (unlike Knox) has invariably produced much more heat than light.

Memo to Lane:
You have to do a better job hiding your exasperation. It’s not a good idea to let Wilson and his fellow Federal Visionists see your frustration with the “older guys.” You give too much away.

PS: “DUMB” stands for “Doug’s Universe of Make Believe.” Read more here.

Thank you.

Fat as Grease

Douglas Wilson’s personal assistant Mike Lawyer (who is also an elder at Christ Church) has commented here, which I cut and pasted below, to explain why the Federal Visionist covenant breakers in the CREC have not called upon their fellow covenant breakers in the PCA to keep their vows and honor their baptisms. Lawyer’s explanation may also explain why the PCA covenant breakers have refused to fulfill their obligation to inform their presbyteries that their doctrinal views are out of accord with the Westminster Standards. Lawyer wrote,

The answer to your question is that none of the FV proponents who are members of the PCA are out of step with the Westminster Confession. Steve Wilkins has been examined twice and Peter Leithart has been examined at least once. The truth is that the finding of the GA was in error. . . . The PCA GA needs to go back and re-examine their errant findings and start all over. (emphasis added)

Therefore, when the PCA GA adopted — by an overwhelming majority — the ad interim committee’s report affirming this statement:

That the General Assembly recommend the declarations in this report as a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards, and further reminds those ruling and teaching elders whose views are out of accord with our Standards of their obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views.

Mike Lawyer unilaterally declared the findings of the 35th General Assembly of the PCA “errant.” He may call himself “Fat Souls,” but other texts come to mind — “They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. . . . Their heart is as fat as grease.” (Ps. 17:10; 119:70).

You said:

I wonder why CREC founder Douglas Wilson has not berated his fellow Federal Visionists in the PCA for “despising their baptism the way they do!” Indeed, I wonder why CREC moderator Randy Booth has not called upon the PCA to honor the baptisms of his fellow Federal Visionists in the PCA by excommunicating them from the Church for covenant breaking? These inquiries are fair enough given how much the Federal Visionists hector us about “covenant keeping.”

The answer to your question is that none of the FV proponents who are members of the PCA are out of step with the Westminster Confession. Steve Wilkins has been examined twice and Peter Leithart has been examined at least once. The truth is that the finding of the GA was in error.

There is no need to “excommunicate” those who are not in error. The PCA GA needs to go back and re-examine their errant findings and start all over.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Agree That You Might Understand

I struggled with the best title for this post between “Catholics Reclaiming Evangelical Churches” and the one I gave it. They’re both winners. Regardless, I think DaFedSez is the FOREMOST authority on the Federal Vision, and he’s one brilliant writer as well. By the way, I grabbed the Randy Booth pic from Cultists in Hats, so I can’t take the Photoshop compliment.

DaFedSez said. . .

Dear Mark,

While I am impressed at your attempts at attaining to true smugnanity and your impressive photoshopping skilz, you still appear to badly misunderstand the FV. I know this for certain because you do not yet appear to agree with us, and when it comes to the FV the rule is “agree that you might understand.” I would invite you once again to join us, and have been authorized to tell you that if you do so, I can offer you some of the benefits that come with the FV anointing:
  1. The ability to actively tinker with core doctrines of the Christian faith that have been accepted for centuries, and reshape them at will. No prior experience or even formal theological education is necessary. We also have an assortment of adulatory blurbs already drawn up that you can sprinkle like sugar on the back of your first book as well as at least 4 conference appearances in 2008 alone! I regret to inform you that the Trinity and Justification and the Sacraments have already received the silly putty treatment at length, but a friend assures me that there are several other doctrine thingees to tamper with. I suggest you get on board soon though before the good ones get snapped up.

  2. Your own sacerdotal garment and minister’s uniform designer. No aspiring visialogue is complete without a dog collar and an extensive wardrobe of polyester robes, sashes, and what we affectionately call the pointy hat. These garments have the magical power to add gravitas and divert attention away from even the worst goatee or otherwise total lack of physique. They also instantly transform tedious self-contradictory revisionist goobledegook into liturgical masterpieces. Nothing says, “I’m #1 around here and you aren’t,” like FV couture (TM).

  3. A set of fill-in-the-blanks letters that will give you the power to excise and intimidate members of the church without recourse to any irritating sort of “book of so-called church order.” Also included is a copy of our new Praying Through the Imprecatories devotional.
I can also give you one of the secret keys to understanding the CREC (Catholics Reclaiming Evangelical Churches) movement. Our great hero of the Reformation is actually King Henry the Eighth. You see he recognized that the only thing really wrong with the Roman Catholic church was that the Pope had all the power (that continuing problem still keeps many of us away from our true Alma Mater.) You see what we need today is that good old medieval Romanism but with an individualized system of congregational papacies. Join us and you too can be a miniaturized version of Leo the Tenth! (Oh, and I checked about the ceiling thing but I was told Michelangelo is dead, bummerisimus eh?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


After the PCA adopted the Ad Interim Committee’s report on the Federal Vision, I remember reading this post, “Of Wolves, Wildfires, and Combat: What Members Can Do To Encourage Their Ministers,” by Dr. R. Scott Clark on The Heidelblog:

Members, in the Federal Vision our congregations face wolves and wildfires. The FV spreads like a wildfire. It is blown by the wind and devours all it touches.

This witness is true. As I write a pack of CREC wolves meets here in Moscow for their third Triennial Church Council of the Most Holy Confederate Presbytery of Saint Anselm. Or something like that. And as I write wild fires rage out of control in Southern California, burning everything to the ground in their paths. The blazes are so huge and propelled by such fierce winds that firemen look like children holding garden hoses as the put their lives on the line to extinguish the flames.

Think of your home, with all of your possessions that you collected over a lifetime — including those items dear to your children — and tell yourself you have less than an hour to get out. What would you grab? How would you pack it? Why this article and not that one? Then tell yourself that in three hours the fire will reduce your home to ashes and you will have to find new living arrangements when the day is over: first temporary living, then permanent. Hopefully you have insurance. But insurance or not, you have lost everything in minutes, and there’s nothing anyone could do except run. Now magnify your loss by thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands. How do you quantify tragedy of this magnitude?

Natural disasters are terrifying events, and in Southern Cal this is the “shake and bake” season. But at least one of these fires is manmade — i.e., arson. Someone deliberately set a fire, in the Santa Ana winds, intending it to destroy something (we don’t know if the arsonist had entire neighborhoods in mind), which brings us back to the Federal Vision.

The Federal Visionists are bad men with bad intentions. They are theological arsonists. When they see a church animated by lively faith, they want to hijack it to the Federal Vision and ultimately to the CREC. If it opposes, they will try to split it. When they see an upright minister of the gospel, they want to corrupt him with perverse doctrine. And if he opposes them, they put fire to his reputation with innuendo or abusive ad hominems.

These are lawless men who know no authority but their own, which they centralized in one man. Confessions, creeds, and constitutions are documents without meaning to them. They have no concept of submission, unless you submit to them. They ransack decency and order to impose FV on peace and purity. They have defied the courts (or “councils” to use their parlance) of seven Reformed denominations, because they are the men and wisdom will die with them. They are self-willed reprobates who revel in chaos and they are determined to wreak havoc in the Church of God. These men don’t even possess the virtue of honor among thieves, if there is such a thing. Don’t forget what Wilson did to Sandlin’s church and how the CREC covenant breakers sanctioned his wicked, subversive conduct.

So, now that the Federal Visionists have refused correction and hardened themselves against the truth, what should the Church do with them? Now that we know they intend to pillage the household of God, if not burn it down, what is the next step?

Reject them. Put them out. Isolate them. Drive them into the Federal Vision’s natural habitat — the CREC — and let it continue in its cultic agenda. But fence the Church from them and warn the flock against them. Protect the house of faith from these arsonists; let them not come near. Indeed, leave them alone and let them prepare themselves for eternity, for God has prepared a special place for them — He calls it the Lake of Fire.

Finally, pray for the poor souls burnt by Federal Vision and the homeless souls in California. These are awful tragedies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faces of Schism

My self-appointed mentor, DaFedSez, has criticized my blog for its deficiency in snide and smug. Hopefully this post will remedy that want, with a hat tip to the sick flick Faces of Death.

Here are the faces of the men who signed “A Joint Federal Vision Statement.” These are the men bent on disrupting the peace and purity of the Reformed church because they believe they understand better than anyone the true meaning of the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Confession of Faith. They claim they are teachable, but they refuse to learn. Seven Reformed denominations and a host of micro-denominations have repudiated Federal Vision for error, but the men behind these faces know better.

John Barach appeared out of nowhere when he was a last-minute replacement for Norm Shepherd at the 2002 Auburn Avenue Pastor’s Conference, landing him in the middle of the Monroe Four and the worst doctrinal disruption to disturb the Reformed church in years. Barach received his training at MARS, which recently joined the swelling ranks of Reformed seminaries repudiating the Federal Vision, and he held his ministerial credentials in the URC until January 2006, when he found safe haven with the covenant breakers of the CREC.

Jon Barlow did not sign the Joint Federal Vision Statement, but you’ll notice his name on the pdf in Acrobat under “File”, “Document Properties”, “Description”, which means he served in a monkey-boy capacity for the Federal Visionists by generating their joint statement on his software. Additionally, Barlow runs the Reformed News — a lame attempt to put FV in a favorable light.

Randy Booth is the moderator of the CREC, most likely because Wilson has more dirt on him than on any other CREC minister (let’s just say the word “joint” carries special meaning for Booth), and dirt in this case translates into strings. According to Wilson in Mother Kirk, “Randy and I got to know each other by phone as we fell down the paedo staircase together, hitting our heads on every step” (page 95). This being interpreted means that when Wilson successfully split his church (CEF) in 1993, Booth failed in his attempt to split his church. Consequently, his elders sent a letter to the congregation identifying him as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” probably because he didn’t sport a habit then.

Tim Gallant cut his teeth with John Barach in the URC and, like Barach, he attended MARS. This means that, while the FVists insist that no one in the Reformed world understands them, it’s safe for everyone else to insist that at least two FVists did not understand what they learned in seminary. From his bio, it looks like Gallant ditched the URC in April 2006, seeking refuge in the CREC. (Note to Tim: take heed to what you heard one week ago; it is a cult and there’s still time for you to get out.)

Mark Horne is an ordained elder in the PCA, but no one knows why.

Jim Jordan is a minister in the ARC, holds his membership in the CREC, and is identified as “the Godfather of Federal Vision.” However, I think DaFedSez got much closer in his analysis when he called him Magister Contradictus, and “big river” or “flumen magnus.”

Peter Leithart is a Roman Catholic who has not figured out that the PCA is a Protestant & Reformed denomination. Currently, he practices theology in the CREC where they have no standards, while the PCA contemplates how to uphold theirs.

Rich Lusk executed the Federal Vision agenda with perfect precision by hijacking a church out of the PCA and crash-landing it into the CREC.

Jeff Meyers spent a night in morbid introspection and discovered the offensive nature of “Reformed snobbery.” Now he’s a FV snob, which apparently is better. Recently he mistook theological defiance for “FREEEEEEDOM!” citing the movie Braveheart as his inspiration. Unfortunately, Pastor Braveheart had no courage at the PCA GA; he never screamed “FREEEEDOM” to the appropriate audience when it really mattered.

Ralph Smith got sucked into the CREC from Japan, where he pastors a church and writes books that tamper with the Trinity for Canon Press. Apparently he believes that his heretical position on justification by faith alone qualifies him to cast new light on the Godhead.

Steve Wilkins . . . well, I heard the man speak once at UI and it’s clear to me that he’s dumber than a sack of wet mice (I know, I know, everyone calls him “a gentleman”), and then I read “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation” in Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons and I realized that the sack could be empty.

Douglas Wilson, also known as Beelzeblog or the Little Man Behind the Curtain, is the founder of the CREC, a sower of discord among the brethren, and a son of Belial (“SOB” — a primary subset of “NECM”). If he repented today or dropped dead tomorrow, the Federal Visionists would perish for lack of vision because the answer to the prophet’s question — “Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?” — is “Yes.”


Last night I dreamed that Elton John released a two-disc set of all Bruce Springsteen songs. And then I woke up.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, after Brett Favre broke Dan Marino’s record for most TD passes in the NFL, they interrupted the game to a play a prerecorded hat tip from Marino to Favre. Personally, I thought it was an inappropriate gesture that placed too much importance on Favre’s accomplishment

Anyway, last week Brett Favre broke George Blanda’s NFL record for most interceptions (277), and it only took him 16 seasons, whereas Blanda needed 26, and Marino only threw 252 pics in 17 seasons. But the thing I noticed was that no one interrupted the game to show a prerecorded video of George Blanda congratulating Favre for shattering his record. I mean, it’s all part of the mix, isn’t it? The touchdowns didn’t come without throwing a few too many pics, did they?

Honestly, if I had my druthers, I’d take Marino or Blanda any day over Favre. At least Blanda could kick.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Federal Covenant Breakers

The Federal Vision places enormous emphasis on “the Covenant,” and consequently members of the Federal Vision sect (known as Federal Visionists) pay great lip service to those who “keep covenant” and, likewise, they heap tremendous contempt on “covenant breakers.” For example, the Federal Vision manifesto states:

We therefore receive all baptized individuals as covenant members. “[Y]et it must be emphasized, that until the Church acts to formally remove someone from the covenant by way of excommunication, all baptized persons are to be considered full covenant members.” (FN: Randy Booth, “Covenantal Antithesis” in The Standard Bearer: A Festschrift for Greg Bahnsen, ed. by Steve Schlissel (Nagadoches: Covenant Media Press, 2002), 40.) When we do this in the case of covenant breakers, we are treating their baptisms with greater respect than they do. . . But we are saying that baptism provides the faithful covenant member with the means to exhort disobedient Christians in terms of their baptism: “Why do you despise your baptism the way you do?” (Douglas Wilson, “Reformed” Is Not Enough [Moscow: Canon Press, 2003] 106, 107)

Now, I don’t buy the premise, so I reject the argument. In fact, whenever you read anything by Wilson, it behooves you to sniff once and think twice before you proceed. But that said, let’s just apply his conclusion to the Federal Visionists in the PCA.

According to the PCA’s “Questions for Ordination,” found in BCO § 21-5, all PCA ministers must take the following vow:

Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

And all over RINE Wilson badgers us with the principle of how a marriage vow makes a husband and how breaking that vow makes a covenant-breaking husband, which brings us to those ministers in the PCA and their vows. Four months ago, the PCA GA voted by an overwhelming majority to adopt a report condemning the Federal Vision as not conforming to the Westminster standards. Moreover, the same overwhelming majority voted to remind all ministers

That the General Assembly recommend the declarations in this report as a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards, and further reminds those ruling and teaching elders whose views are out of accord with our Standards of their obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views.

In other words, PCA ministers who hold the Federal Vision have an affirmative responsibility to uphold the vow they made at ordination and inform their presbyteries that they no longer “receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” or else they are “covenant breakers” according to the Federal Vision. To be sure, they have an absolute obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views, or else by their standards they disdain their baptism. This brings us to Wilson’s declaration about “covenant breakers.”

I wonder why CREC founder Douglas Wilson has not berated his fellow Federal Visionists in the PCA for “despising their baptism the way they do!” Indeed, I wonder why CREC moderator Randy Booth has not called upon the PCA to honor the baptisms of his fellow Federal Visionists in the PCA by excommunicating them from the Church for covenant breaking? These inquiries are fair enough given how much the Federal Visionists hector us about “covenant keeping.”

And I suspect the reason we don’t see any CREC dignitaries howling about their fellow Federal Visionists’ flagrant covenant breaking in the PCA has more to do with their subversive agenda than their professed high ecclesiology. Either that or they are the men described by Ambrose Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary:

One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.

Thank you.

Some People Laugh While Others Don’t Cry

Earlier this week at the dinner table I read this exchange to my family and when I got to Pastor Hutchison’s question, “Did anybody else read my comment #6 above to be teaching any (or all!) of these things? I can’t imagine that anybody else did,” my wife shot milk out her nostrils — “And what did he expect?”

This brings me to Green Baggins’ analysis of Wilson’s interpretation of Pastor Hutchison’s comments. Lane says that Wilson committed the “word-concept fallacy,” but I think this is an example of Lane applying generous portions of the judgment of charity instead of sound logic. Most folks who’ve ever called Wilson to account, as Pastor Hutchison did in this instance, know that he relies on distortion, misrepresentation, and deceit to stand his ground. And he deploys these rhetorical tools without compunction.

Put another way, for him to commit false witness is tantamount to spilled milk — no use crying over it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Federal Flashback

A couple of years ago R.C. Sproul made the mistake of inviting Douglas Wilson to speak at the Ligonier big jamboree. Of course this was less than a year after the RPCUS unanimously adopted its resolution, not “charges,” declaring the Monroe Four heretics (whatever else is true, the RPCUS got the ball rolling and essentially every Reformed denomination has followed in their footsteps to one degree or other).

After the conference ended, Wilson sent the following email to the Christ Church membership, to assure them that his Reformed bona fides were still intact and that he “got along famously” with all the major players. Please note, however, that whenever there’s bad news for Wilson in the Reformed world, such as this summer’s PCA General Assembly disaster, the master of PR never notifies the congregation (most of whom are too busy or ignorant to follow these events closely). Regardless, I wonder how many of these names Wilson could drop today as men who share his convictions.

From: Christ Church
Date: Monday, March 17, 2003, 9:03 AM
Subject: Conference

Dear kirkers,

Thank you for praying for the trip to Orlando, and thanks to the many people at church yesterday who asked about the conference there — with particular reference to the implications for the heresy charges of the RPCUS. The trip was greatly blessed in a number of ways, but I just wanted itemize some of the answers to prayer with regard to this issue.
  1. The conference was a great conference in its own right. The other speakers — RC Sr. & Jr. John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, Al Mohler — gave outstanding talks. I believe there were about 4,000 people there. It was hard to tell.

  2. In my talk I had the opportunity to make a passing reference to the controversy, in order to affirm my commitment to sola fide, and to urge some Presbyterians to do what the pagan magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker do (in their employment of fact-checkers to review articles) before they go into print.

  3. This caused the subject to come up in the Q & A, and I was able to summarize how off base the charges had been. One gentleman from Ligonier told us that they had gotten quite a number of emails about my appearance there, and they would now be able to simply say, “Get the tape.”

  4. Behind the scenes, there was no tension or weirdness from the other speakers. We all got along famously.

  5. Some time ago I had been asked to contribute to a festschrift for RC Sproul Sr. The book was a surprise to him, and was presented to him at the conference. The book is entitled After Darkness Light, and is subtitled Distinctives of Reformed Thought. The book is structure around the five solas of the Reformation and the five points of Calvinism. I contributed the chapter on Irresistible Grace. Other contributors included Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Jay Adams, Keith Mathison, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, O. Palmer Robertson, et al. Given the nature and subject of the book, and even with the differences between the contributors (which are not insignificant), it is now going to be very difficult to charge us here at Christ Church with being outside the Reformed pale.

  6. The end result of all this, it appears to me, is that the charges of the RPCUS, marginal from the beginning, are now way out on the periphery. This does not mean controversy will disappear — it looks to be taking other forms in other places — but I do think it means that the attempt to settle the issues by means of a papal fiat from a tiny denomination in the South is an attempt that has failed.
We still have a lot of work to do, but it is work from within the Reformed world.

Thanks again for your prayers,

Cordially in Christ,

Douglas Wilson

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Chris LaMoreaux, Administrative Secretary
Christ Church - Anselm House
205 East 5th Street P.O. Box 8741
Moscow, ID 83843
Voice: (208) 882-2034 Fax: (208) 892-8724
Credenda/Agenda: (208) 882-7963

Thank you.

Federal Vision Discipline With a Hint of Postmodern Simony

I have plugged the local listserv a couple of times now, and it occurred to me that someone might read this post and arrive at the wrong conclusion. The post was written by Dr. John Brown, who used to be a member of Christ Church, Moscow, and who used to practice medicine at this clinic.

However, things have changed and it’s safe to say that Dr. Brown has had two epiphanies since then. First, he converted to Roman Catholicism and, second, he now holds an entirely different impression of his former pastor than he had in October 2003.

The first epiphany: Dr. Brown has told me and many others that Douglas Wilson’s Federal Vision theology led him to Rome. This is not a rumor, it is a well-known fact in Moscow. To be fair, though, anyone who knows Brown knows that he always had a soft spot for Rome in his heart, so leaving the Kirk wasn’t a huge leap. What most people don’t know, however, is the reason why the Kirk elders did not discipline Brown when he left Christ Church for Roman Catholicism. They didn’t discipline him because his two partners were both members of Christ Church and one of them was an elder who begged Wilson not to excommunicate Brown because it would hurt the business. Wilson, who is always negotiable, conceded because he understood that Brown was the most popular doctor in the office and that if they put the big X on his forehead it might damage public relations. So Wilson sent the Browns a nasty gram by mail and told them to their faces, “You are the dupes of Satan.” (And this fact is interesting in light of Wilson’s comments on this thread.)

The second epiphany: John Brown has told me and many others that his opinion of Wilson has changed significantly since his monkey-boy days. I will not write too much on this point, but he uses the adjective “evil” quite freely, and for good reason. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he penned the words “I think I am in a good position to judge the charitable nature of Christ Church and its leadership” a tad bit prematurely. Wilson knows too well how to exact retribution against those who spurn his authority, for as his sister-in-law says, “No one thinks Doug is capable of doing it, until he does it to them. And then it’s too late.”

Finally, John Brown no longer practices medicine with the two kirkers. In fact, the three men dissolved their partnership at no small cost to two of them. But if we learn anything from Dr. John Brown, we learn that when Wilson calls you a “dupe of Satan,” you better make cocksure you don’t get duped by Wilson.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Feeding Habits of Covenant Squirrels

Commenting on the booklet Southern Slavery As It Was, which Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins co-plagiarized about 10 years ago, Bob Mattes notes:

Slavery, including in the imaginary lost paradise of prominent Federal Vision leaders Steve Wilkins and Doug Wilson, is based on kidnapping people and selling them to other men, and the Bible clearly requires that the sellers and buyers be put to death. Hardly sounds like God condones this activity, but with some Federal Vision magic exegesis, I’m sure that Ex 21:16 really means that we should feed the covenant squirrels on Wednesdays. I see no caveat in Ex 21:16 or surrounding verses concerning how the kidnapped individuals are treated, which real historians say wasn’t nearly as ideal as Wilkins and Wilson’s publications let on. . . To this day, neither Wilkins or Wilson have retracted one word of their writings on this subject.

While I am not an authority on the feeding habits of covenant squirrels, the following quote from Douglas Wilson should terminate any expectation to see Wilson or Wilkins retract one word of their hillbilly revision of Southern history. On Monday, October 27, 2003 (two weeks after the scandal broke), Wilson posted this to Vision 20/20:

Bill says I have been stepping away from my little booklet. Here comes the level of debate to which we are all acccustomed [sic]. Have not.

When this fracas broke out, I went back and read it again, and still agree with everything in it. We still publish it, still sell it. Backing away?

There it is. He agrees with everything in it. But this is beside the point. Wilson is smart enough to know that Southern Slavery As It Was should embarrass anyone whose mother and father don’t enjoy a brother-sister relationship. He’s also smart enough to know that when he repackaged SSAIW into Black and Tan, he had to revise some of his revisions in order to save face, which brings us to Dr. William Ramsey’s observations about Black and Tan:

Behind his public intransigence and propaganda, however, Wilson knew the booklet was flawed and, worse, that the obvious nature of the flaws made the core argument more difficult to sell to a mainstream audience. He discontinued publication of it (easily done since he published it himself) and privately sought the advice of scholars who were sympathetic toward his religious views and his classical school movement in order to revise it. . . . the revisions in the new work are telling. . . Gone from Black and Tan, for instance, is the claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races.” (38) Gone are all references to the beneficial effects of slavery on the “black family” and the raw denunciations of “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Wilson ignores the WPA slave narratives altogether in the new book and has even taken our advice with respect to the edition of Robert William Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s Time on the Cross that should be used: the 1989 as opposed to the 1974 edition. Gone also is his original co-author, Steven Wilkins, whose role in founding a secessionist hate group might have raised concerns about his objectivity in discussing the history of southern slavery and race relations. Cognizant of mainstream observers, Wilson no longer contends that “there has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (24) Aside from the obligatory ad hominem attacks on me and my colleagues at the University of Idaho, I could hardly have asked for more under the circumstances. It represents a serious capitulation to the obvious.

What remains is mostly an attack on the empirical evidence that forced him to make those concessions. . . There are no such things, Wilson now claims, as “neutral facts.” “Believer and unbeliever alike,” must abandon all hope of finding “the pristine data.” Pastor Wilson thus urges us to regard “objectivity as a false God,” and declines to provide evidence for his positions on the grounds that it would be like pulling a thread from a “tightly knit sweater.” (6) “One thing will always lead to another,” he explains, “and answering one objection will always lead to another objection.” (66) Nevertheless, in a sly nod to the Neo-Confederate audience still fond of his former unabashed defense of racial slavery, he expresses the hope that sympathetic readers will “weigh charitably the possibility that I have not manufactured all these opinions ex nihilo.” (67) In this and other ways, I feel, he effectively “grandfathers” many of his previous contentions, which recent controversies have taught him are too outrageous for public scrutiny, into his new work even as he dismisses the need to prove them. Obviously, such an attitude toward the very idea of evidence makes the violent misrepresentation of it a matter of only passing concern for Wilson and his admirers. . . .

So while out of one side of his mouth, Douglas Wilson absolutely positively affirmed he agreed with every word of Southern Slavery As It Was, out of the other he backed away from the book’s most preposterous, indefensible claims without ever admitting that he committed any mistakes, which is the one common denominator in all of Wilson’s controversies. Douglas Wilson lacks the moral ability to concede error of any magnitude on any platform and this moral failure inevitably paints him into a corner where he must turn Scripture, logic, common sense, historical facts, and anything else on their heads in order for him to escape. It is really quite a remarkable phenomenon.

And we see this same dynamic at work today in the Federal Vision controversy, where Wilson has turned Holy Writ, logic, Reformed theology, and Church history completely upside down because he and his fellow scoundrels have cornered themselves and they would rather disrupt the peace and purity of the church than humbly confess they stepped out of bounds while on a sacramental binge. And the end will be no different. Wilson will continue to harden himself against reality; he will continue to divide the Church; and he will not be satisfied until everyone agrees with him — even when he secretly changes his mind.

A history of rope, and shame

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

This will be a history of rope.

It strikes me that such a history is desperately needed just now. It seems the travesty in Jena, La., has spawned a ghastly trend. Remember how white students at Jena High placed nooses in a tree last year to communicate antipathy toward their African-American classmates? Now it’s happening all over. . . .

Southern Schism As It Is

I have taken the following article from Presbyterian & Reformed News (volume 4, issue 1). You should read it in conjunction with this article by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

PCA Founding Congregation and Its Pastor Leave for EPC
Toleration of Theonomy and Views of Political Secession Given as Reasons for Departure

Grace Presbyterian Church of Alexandria, LA, voted on December 7, 1997, to leave the denomination it helped to found, in order to become a part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). The reasons for the departure, according to the Pastor, revolved around the toleration of theonomy in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Also cited in Rev. Robert Vincent’s statement was that at least some theonomists are advocates of political secession from the Federal Union.

At a December 29, 1997, called meeting of Louisiana Presbytery (PCA), Mr. Vincent, who was the Moderator of the court, immediately yielded the chair to the Moderator-elect for the entire meeting. During the discussion of his dismissal to the EPC, Mr. Vincent read the following statement orally and into the record:

Dear Fathers and Brothers:

As I come to make this petition to be dismissed from you into the Presbytery of the Central South of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, I do so with grief. Having served the Presbyterian Church in America for the past twenty-two years, I continue to hold it in high esteem and deep affection.

I first encountered Theonomy from a fellow student, the late Greg Bahnsen. By the time that I finished seminary I had substantially formed the views that I hold today and concluded that what he and Drs. Rushdoony and North espoused was contrary to Scripture. However, being committed to a measure of diversity within the banks of Reformed orthodoxy, I was an advocate of toleration for Theonomists. Not only did I examine and approve each of you, my Theonomic brothers, but I once served on an Assembly judicial commission and voted to censure one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in America for his circularizing his presbytery against a young Theonomist. That tolerance has been repeatedly affirmed by the General Assembly (cf. M7GA, 1979, pages 194–195; M10GA, 1982, page 107; M11GA, 1983, page 96.), but I now find myself out of accord with the Assembly’s position.

What is the issue?

All of us, Theonomists and Non-Theonomists alike, affirm that we are saved by grace alone, received through faith alone. We all agree that saving faith is never alone but is always accompanied by a changed life, increasingly godly but imperfect until we go to be with the Lord Jesus. We all agree that the entire Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and life. We all agree that God’s Moral Law, summed up in the Ten Commandments, is part of the abiding standard for determining what constitutes godly living. None of us is an Antinomian; none of us teaches justification except by faith alone. That is true for the teaching elders of Louisiana Presbytery, and it is true for the ruling elders of my congregation as well.

Where we differ has to do with the issue of the continuing validity of the civil laws of Israel and whether or not the state is obligated to enforce those Old Testament judicial laws and their penalties. My view is that Israel as a nation with its political and legal structure served a unique function in the purpose of God. That purpose has been fulfilled in Christ. Under the overarching unity of the covenant of grace, there is diversity in its administration. Where Dispensationalism errs in its failure significantly to grasp the overarching unity, I believe that Theonomy errs in its failure significantly to grasp the diversity between the two Testaments.

That failure leads to a concern with politics and materialistic dominion. In my opinion, that error has led some Theonomists into involvement with organizations such as the League of the South. That organization states: “We see no way of reforming the corruption within the present system; therefore, The League of the South shall seek to spread acceptance of the idea of secession among the people of the South.” (“The League of the South Position On Secession” under “LS Position Papers” at

To be active and supportive of presbytery, one must agree with its mission. A presbytery with a Theonomic vision is frightening to me. When Christian men believe that their position is biblical, they will inevitably seek to make it the dominant and controlling view. Inasmuch as I perceive this to be the direction of Louisiana Presbytery, and inasmuch as the issue of Theonomy has been adjudicated by the General Assembly contrary to what I now believe is wise, I can no longer participate in good conscience without rupturing the peace of Presbytery and therefore believe that it is in the best interest of the church that I seek affiliation in another communion.

As I go, I commend you to God. May the Holy Spirit guide you in your understanding of biblical truth.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Benn Vincent, Sr.

Bob Vincent, a native South Carolinian, graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary for two years before transferring to Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. He was ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), serving for two years at the Covenanter congregation in Wichita, KS. (The RPCNA still maintains the Presbyterian practice of a capella exclusive psalmody. It also has an historic egalitarian emphasis, as seen in its advocacy of abolitionism and its ordination of women to the diaconate.)

When called to the Alexandria church in 1975, Vincent held to traditional Presbyterian worship. Over the years, his views evolved, as did those of the congregation.

Not everyone in the church was happy with those changes, including “contemporary worship” practices and what was regarded as a charismatic flavor to the service. A decade ago, a number of people left Grace Presbyterian Church in order to found an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in neighboring Pineville.

Since the mid-1980s, the leadership at Grace Presbyterian has practiced anointing with oil in conjunction with prayers for healing and for fruitfulness in child-bearing. Two years ago, one of the officers anointed with oil a computer that had crashed: after the anointing and prayer, the information on the hard-drive which had not been “backed-up” was able to be retrieved.

Originally known as Jackson Street Presbyterian Church, the Alexandria congregation was pastored from 1969 to 1975 by A. Michael Schneider, a conservative who identifies himself as a theonomist. In 1973, the church was a member of Mississippi Valley Presbytery, and later helped to organize Louisiana Presbytery. At least one of its ruling elders had served at the General Assembly level: Dick Ayres, who was on the Committee on Administration from 1977 to 1981.

At the end of 1973, the church listed a total membership of 156. At the end of last year, its membership (communicant and non-communicant) totaled 294. Although the loss of almost 300 members is significant for a presbytery the size of Louisiana, there may not be any loss felt financially. According to the denominational Yearbook, in 1996 the church contributed nothing to the Presbytery, which had a total income of $36,505. (In 1994 and 1995, the church contributed $565 each year.)

On December 29th, Louisiana Presbytery voted to dismiss the church and its pastor to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The EPC, formed in 1981, is widely perceived as “looser” in its theological practice than the PCA, as in being more tolerant than the PCA on such matters as the charismatic movement. Although apparently not an issue in this transfer, the EPC and the PCA differ with regard to female ordination: the EPC allows for the ordination of women to all ecclesiastical offices (minister, elder, deacon), while the PCA allows for male-only ordination.

The Rev. Dennis Flach, Stated Clerk of the Central South Presbytery of the EPC, confirmed that that court voted at its meeting in Katy, TX, January 23–24, 1998, to receive Grace Presbyterian Church and its pastor; as well as to receive a group in Opelousas, LA, which had withdrawn from the local PCA church. According to an informed source, three elders had left Westminster Presbyterian in the early 1990s. Those same men and their families came back to that church for a time; one of them eventually left for a Baptist Church in Lafayette, while the other two became involved in Atchafalaya Presbyterian Church, a small PCA congregation in Melville, LA. At the October 18, 1997, meeting of Louisiana Presbytery, Grace Presbyterian announced its intention to establish a mother-daughter relationship between itself and the group in Opelousas, with Bob Vincent to preach at public worship there starting the next day. In response, Louisiana Presbytery established a committee to study the matter and report back at the next stated meeting-an issue that is now moot. Meanwhile, the EPC Central South Presbytery, at its January meeting, gave oversight of this “mission project” to the New Church Development Committee, which serves as a temporary governing body.

In an e-mail communication in late January, Mr. Vincent expressed his regret over any questioning of motives he may have made in his actions with regard to the separation from Louisiana Presbytery. He wrote: Our presbytery has enjoyed a very peaceful existence throughout its twenty-three years of existence. Recently, that peace was disturbed. I had a major part in that, and it was over my perception of trends in our presbytery related to Theonomy.

Other presbyters’ perception differs from mine. No charges were filed by me or by anyone else, partly because the General Assembly has taken positions on the issue, and partly because there was significant disagreement as to what various men actually believed. Apart from solid corroboration, it would be wrong for me to impute views to others that they deny holding. I am reminded of Saint Paul’s words: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3–5)

I do not want to stir up more strife. I explained our actions to Louisiana Presbytery, and I have tried to do the same to some folk in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Knowing that I am a sinner and that apart from grace I cannot even know my own heart, I shudder at the thought of publicly judging other men’s motives.

The people of Louisiana Presbytery love the Lord Jesus and are committed to the Reformed faith. I do not want to violate Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

The Stated Clerk of Central South Presbytery (EPC) also recently reflected on these transfers to his denomination. According to Mr. Flach, the decision by Mr. Vincent to leave the PCA and join the EPC was not a hasty one, as he wrestled for about six months with the question of denominational affiliation and what he should share with his congregation. Mr. Flach believes that the EPC is a legitimate option for a PCA minister to consider, in that he could feel free to maintain theological positions on a variety of subjects (such as the ordination of women and the charismatic gifts) that might be “stricter” than those required by the denomination as a whole. In the Clerk’s view, the move by Pastor Vincent and Grace Church to the EPC could be characterized as a realignment for the sake of peace.