Should Federal Visionaries Model the Protestant Future?

Peter Leithart clarifies some of the points he made about Christian unity in the discussion of Protestantism’s future at Biola:

One key difference between us is this: Carl thinks that unity is a “desirable” goal. I think that’s far too weak a way to capture the New Testament’s teaching. Unity is an evangelical demand. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say it is the evangelical demand.

When Paul discovered that Peter refused table fellowship with Gentiles, he didn’t say, “Come, Peter. Unity is desirable. Let’s hope that someday we can share a table. I doubt it, but we can desire it.” Paul’s words, as reported by himself, were: “I saw that they [Peter and the rest] were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14).

I don’t mean to get personal, but if unity is imperative, why did Leithart leave Idaho for Alabama? Why not maintain the unity that had existed at New St. Andrews and the churches there? And what’s up with the Davenant Trust, the institutional affiliation of Peter Escalante, the moderator at the Biola event? I can’t figure out where Davenant Trust is (from the website), but apparently Escalante works in California.

I understand that Leithart doesn’t necessarily mean organizational unity. But in the United States can union mean anything but living in a place with fixed borders under one government? So why are Federal Visionaries all over the map?

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88 Comments

  1. AB
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I really need to get my hands dirty and read this thing. As I’ve followed developments on the internet (CtC et al), I had a suspicion to link FV to the rise of the internet. So when I look under the hood, what do I find?

    A noteworthy feature of current theological debates, including those on justification, is the dynamic of the internet. The internet has produced the opportunity both to disseminate rapidly one’s opinions and to obtain information quickly that was undreamed of until very recent years. While the internet presents exciting opportunities for communicating the gospel and Reformed theology more generally, it also presents dangers and temptations. One temptation is to post opinions without due reflection and without proper accountability to others.
    While the ordinary process of publication requires material to be read and critiqued by others before going into print, internet posting allows material to be circulated without going through these ordinary channels. This increases the danger that material is promulgated in an irresponsible manner, as authors promote their opinions promiscuously without being properly accountable to others and before receiving valuable feedback, as wisdom, humility, and love require. In this environment of internet posting, likewise, readers are less able to judge the competency and qualifications of those who circulate material. It is important to note this for our report, since
    many debates in Reformed circles about justification are taking place in cyberspace.

    I’ll read closely the rise of this movement, as elucidated in our 2006 report. I watched a majority of the talk at Biola, after I hadn’t been planning to. I’ll let others opine, my time is up. Peace.

  2. Posted May 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I suggest the FVers congregate in some garden spot location like — say — Tyler, TX. Oh yeah, that didn’t work so well when their forerunners tried it.

  3. Scott P.
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Curious then why Paul didn’t share communion with the Judiazers if unity was so paramount? Didn’t he mention something about “lopping it off” (my words, not his).

  4. Posted May 8, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Scott P.,
    Well there’s a silver bullet if there ever was one.

  5. Posted May 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    For someone looking to bring about fabled unity, he sure caused plenty of disunity in the PCA.

  6. Nate Paschall
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Paul to Peter, “Your conduct is out of step with the gospel

    Protestants to Roman Catholics, “Your gospel is wrong

    Apples and oranges…

  7. sean
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Protestant sans the protestant reformation. Brilliant. Who pays this guy? Somebody shoot THAT guy.

  8. Zrim
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Nate, not to sound like a fruit inspector, but please explain.

  9. Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    To have Christian unity you first have to agree on what it means to be a Christian. This entails agreeing on what the gospel is. If we can’t agree on this (and we can’t) — no unity.

    We can all be unified in believing very little but we can’t be unified in believing anything that is robust.

    I could have “unity” with all the women in my community if unity consists of agreeing that the clear blue sky is pretty. I can only rightly have unity with one if it involves intimate relations. It’s all about how high we want to set the bar.

    Duh.

  10. Nate Paschall
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Zrim,

    Leithart seems to be implying that Paul sought the same kind of unity for Peter that Protestants ought to seek with Rome. But they are different kinds of issues. It’s one thing for Judaizers to explicitly deny the sufficiency of Christ (as Protestants would say of Rome) and another for Peter, who erred not in any denial but in what could be considered a lapse in faith or deficiency in understanding (complicit though I would argue not deliberate, hence his repentance).

    My point is there’s a difference between our confession of faith and the fruits that follow that confession. Our pursuit of unity looks different in each case. It’s as if Leithart forgot that there was several hundreds of years of Protestants seeking unity with Rome but it was Rome who wouldn’t accept the conditions (hence the council of Trent).

  11. AB
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Achieving Xtian unity, like sinking the 15 foot putt, feels great when actually achieved, and it just a plain bummer when it ain’t. But what’s a bigger bummer is not getting out to the golf course in the first place pretending we are all unified, when the truth is, that we are far from it. Yes, the world will know us by our love, and that includes loving the Roman Catholics in our lives. But, with C. Trueman (surprise), I can’t make heads or tails of what exactly Mr. Leithart is proposing, for the boots on the ground, like for Pastor Trueman. Indeed the visionaries all over the map-ness, geographically speaking, seems to mirror their approach to theology. I’ll be studying the report our denomination put out many years ago on the topic. Fore.

  12. Zrim
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Nate, thanks. If I understand then agreed. Leithart’s appeal to unity seems to be in keeping with what one finds in the NPP–sophisticated kumbaya. And as opposed to historic Protestantism’s view of Rome as false with remnants of truth, Leithart seems to want to say Rome is true with some corruption.

    But I’m not so sure what we have in Peter’s lapse can be put down to a mere deficiency in understanding. Going by Paul’s tenor, what we seem to have is a practical denial of the gospel, which is just as problematic as a theoretical denial.

  13. Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Erik Charter: “To have Christian unity you first have to agree on what it means to be a Christian. This entails agreeing on what the gospel is. If we can’t agree on this (and we can’t) — no unity.”

    GW: Spot on! True Christian unity is unity in the truth of the gospel. Also essential to true unity is a willingness among church officers to be in subjection to their brethren in the Lord, and the faithful exercise of biblical church discipline without respect of persons. When a Presbytery, Classis, Synod or General Assembly develops into a “good old boys club” where certain celebrity church officers are held to a less-exacting standard than other, more “ordinary” church officers would be, such a double standard mitigates against both the unity and the purity of the church.

  14. Greg
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’m not so sure the FV folk haven’t maintained unity between Moscow and Birmingham. The connections are still there. Although it is curious that DW wasn’t made a “fellow” at Leithart’s Trinity House Institute; probably the most notable omission.

    So who is the Davenant Trust? Of the five board members two (Rick and Bradford (M.A., New Saint Andrews College) Littlejohn, father and son, if I recall correctly) are Muscovites; one is (Steven Wedgeworth) a CREC pastor and a fourth, Peter Escalante, co-founded The Calvinist International with Wedgeworth.

    From The Calvinist International website: “Originally the brainchild of Dr. Bradford Littlejohn, the Davenant Trust came together after the completion of 2013 Convivium Calvinisticum. While the Davenant Trust is independent from TCI, it exists in an obvious partnership with TCI, and most of its board members are regular TCI contributors. Most importantly, the goals and vision of the Davenant Trust are wholly complementary with those of TCI….”

    Is Carl Trueman aware of these connections? (He’s an “advisor” to the Davenant Trust.)

  15. Posted May 9, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Trueman an “advisor” — only acceptable advice for these clowns: get right or disband.

  16. Posted May 9, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  17. Posted May 9, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    cw, it is a way to gain credibility, but it also works the other way. If they go wing nut, you alienate or lose your advisors (or you never tell them what you’re doing and they are simply window dressing at the website).

  18. Greg
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Has Carl read Leithart’s Dreams and Visions? http://trinityhouseinstitute.com/dreams-and-visions/

    Excerpt:

    “Trinity House aspires to be a center of ecumenical discussion. Beginning in February 2014, Trinity House will sponsor the annual Nevin Lectures. Nevin lecturers will be theologians from outside our own Reformed Protestantism who will deliver a series of lectures on a contested topic or topics. Baptists will lecture on baptism, Pentecostals on the Pentecostal gifts. We will learn about Luther from Lutherans, and we will hear Catholics argue for Catholic views of the sacraments, Mary, and the Papacy. As Trinity House fellows engage with the Nevin Lecturers, we hope to learn from and correct one another, and along the way to offer a model of vigorous, charitable, and fraternal debate.

    Trinity House will also launch the Metropolitan Project. Denominational loyalties have been weakening, and Trinity House believes that the future lies in cultivating a metropolitan model of cooperative ministry among churches. The Lord works in astonishing ways when leaders from various churches take responsibility together for the health of the whole church in their city and respond to God’s call to seek the shalom of the city in which they live. Trinity House will promote this vision of metropolitan catholicity in cities across the U.S. and around the world.”

    “…WE HOPE to learn from and correct ONE ANOTHER”?!?

    Isn’t this the same Leithart who rejected the PCA’s efforts to correct him? And now he hopes to be corrected by Rome?
    ————
    Also see Jordan’s longing to unite Rome and everyone else: http://trinityhouseinstitute.com/reformational-catholicism-now/

    Notice how in Jordan’s mind, fencing the table against RCs NEVER has anything to do with the gospel. Rather, it seems to be more of a minor spat; tit-for-tat. Effectual calling is not relevant. Baptism is what really matters: “After all, are these people baptized? Yes. Are they “improving” on their baptisms by attending a Reformation church (to use the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith)? Yes. All right, then after all, don’t they belong at Jesus’ table along with all His other children? Surely, yes.”

    Elsewhere on THI: “Alongside the Psalter project, James Jordan has been working on a fresh translation of the entire Bible.” Fresh??? Not sure that would be how I would describe it…

  19. Posted May 9, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    But why? Does Carl think he can handle error erroneously? Like my youngest son, does he have touch much self confidence? “I got this, man.” Yeah, until you don’t.

  20. Greg
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Darryl, I agree completely; however, if you read the list of Davenant’s contributors (not $), the Trinity House “fellows” are all absent. Seems the plan was to set up a more moderate, “kumbaya” public face for the FV, in order to create a popular but controlled platform for marketing their (re)vision of sound Christian doctrine. It seems what Davenant would have the public believe is they are not associated in any way with Leithart & Co. For me that is not credible. But then I cheated and looked behind the curtain.

  21. sean
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Carl is English. They’ve forever thought too much of their abilities.

  22. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    “The Calvinist International”

    Good grief.

  23. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I love 27 year olds who come along presenting themselves as the ones the church has been waiting for. Usually it’s a decade until they and those who have followed them are living in vans by rivers.

  24. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Not that there’s anything wrong with living in vans by rivers.

  25. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    This is all part of the ongoing complex where Christians who pursue an advanced degree at a “prestigious” institution (especially a British one), work on “Wall Street”, obtain a JD, or take up residence in NYC think that their poop no longer stinks and we should all listen to them. Scripture gives qualifications of who should be listened to in the church and none of these things are on the list.

  26. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Greg, all Leithart needs is an emperor and his view of church unity makes a lot more sense.

  27. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Greg, but don’t the visionaries understand there is no market for them. Most OP’s get that we are an acquired taste (which turns out to be vinegary). But the communions that might take the most notice — even with Leithart’s platform at First Things — have rejected FV. Leithart is no Keller. He isn’t even Wilson. So their only route to something worthwhile is academics, which is why Trueman and Selderhuis are important (as well as Jordan Baillor who is a former Muller student and interested in warehousing 16th c. texts on-line). So here again you have the oddity (if not contradiction) of FVer’s wanting to make a mark in Reformation and Protestant scholasticism academic circles while their smartest guy in the room — Leithart — is more interested in Constantine and Eusebius.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  28. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Here’s the secret to getting people to listen to you: Have ideas that don’t suck.

  29. Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The problem that FV has had, does have, and will always have is message discipline. All of these guys are either (A) Mavericks who want to be their own Pope, or (B) Followers of A. That does not make for a unified or even coherent church.

  30. Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    And RC Jr. just tweeted this:

    “I’m not ashamed of my convictions simply because many jerks hold to the same convictions. Me, for instance. #guiltbyassociation”

    Choose your pals carefully.

  31. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Bishop Hart:
    “Greg, all Leithart needs is an emperor and his view of church unity makes a lot more sense.”

    Damn, that’s good.

  32. kent
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Erik: Here’s the secret to getting people to listen to you: Have ideas that don’t suck.

    this ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  33. sean
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    FVers are guilty of being second and third tier intellectuals who’ve found an audience-PCA evanjellyfish, who are gullible enough to buy what they are selling and simple enough to be impressed with their pitch (you get enough CTS products, and everything else is impressive). Most of the regulars on this site are better in their spare time, than the FV guys pulling a paycheck and granted the prime hours of the day.

  34. kent
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Erik, the other piece of advice is when someone tries to honestly talk to you in person, don’t get this look on your face like you have been swept to heaven and say “you just don’t understand” 50 times when it is clear the other person understands and has completely defeated your weak theological point.

  35. Posted May 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Erik: Here’s the secret to getting people to listen to you: Have ideas that don’t suck.

    this ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    You may be confusing DGH with TKNY…or Joel Osteen, or Joyce Meyer, or…<insert wildly popular (read: listened to) ecclesiastico-gooberhead here>.

  36. Posted May 9, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know who everyone is at Davenant Trust, but I do personally (via phone and the medium of the Internet) know Steven Wedgeworth very well. He positions himself vis-a-vis everyone here:

    http://wedgewords.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/the-federal-vision-and-reformed-theology/

    Meanwhile, Peter Escalante is a former Roman Catholic who is more knowledgeable (and more firmly anti-Roman) than most people I’ve seen. Meanwhile, he has given Bryan Cross one of the most severe tongue-lashings (about not knowing history) that I’ve ever seen — and meaningfully so — on their old “Basilica” site.

    I didn’t watch the whole video, but I watched the opening statements and some of the early part of the exchanges. I expected Carl Trueman to be a disappointment, but I was much impressed by his initial 10 or 15 minutes. I heard that Fred Sanders was also very good during the exchange.

  37. Posted May 10, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    John, I know about Escalante’s tongue lashings first hand. His online presence is about as winning as victor delta, tango.

  38. mark mcculley
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Carl Truman—“Fred Sanders stated that we should rejoice that the Eastern Orthodox Church spreads the knowledge of the Trinity… But how much should we rejoice? Rejoicing in word only is not really rejoicing at all. Joyful action must surely be part of it. So do we rejoice to the point that Protestants cease to plant churches in parishes with Orthodox congregations? If not, why not? Or do we rejoice to the point where we even close down established Protestant churches in such parishes? The prioritizing of the doctrine of God over against the doctrine of salvation which seems explicit in Peter’s Nicene proposal and perhaps implicit in Fred’s attitude to Eastern Orthodoxy, is a move that I cannot make without ceasing to be Protestant and giving up all that makes me doctrinally distinctive. But should I nevertheless do so? Are the doctrinal differences over salvation simply not important enough for me to keep my church doors open when there is an Eastern Orthodox church across the street?

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/05/more-questions-than-answers

  39. Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I listened to the whole discussion between Leithart/Trueman/Sanders while working. I could make a lot of comments, but will limit myself to just a few.

    First, the question really boils down to whether justification by faith alone is an essential belief or not. Dr. Leithart clearly thinks it is not. (Clear articulation is another matter which Dr. Trueman brought up; but what if someone clearly *rejects* sola fide, e.g. Rome? Are they still a brother?) We dealt with this back at the original Federal Vision collequium in Ft. Lauderdale, but those documents are all but lost to history.

    Second, at one point, Dr. Leithart openly admitted his baptismal views are Lutheran, but then it was left hanging.

    Third, Dr. Leithart’s program was in the end, incredibly unsophisticated. His paper was well done and presented, and I *love* his style and demeanor, but it basically boiled down to this: 1) Have weekly communion; and 2) meet with the local RC priest and treat him as a brother. And then go from there. He has always tended towards mechanism in my mind, because his priority is not the eternal salvation of souls, but Christendom. I know he would say they are the same thing; but we have to keep in mind that Postmillenial Constantinism is largely what drives the Federal Vision, and once you see that, a lot of their program becomes clearer.

  40. Berman Havink
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Bugay, do you have a link of this Escalante take-down of Bryan ‘the unofficial Roman Catholic web police dog’ Cross?

  41. Posted May 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Chris, you are another welcome voice of no-nonsense reason. And PCA to boot. You don’t know it, but our deacons (when I was one) sent a contribution to your deacons after the Blacksburg incident in 2007 — just a reminder that connectionalism is important.

  42. Posted May 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Charles, for contributing to our deacons in our time of need! I value our NAPARC connections as well. And Trueman was right on target on this — we do need to work for unity within NAPARC. The problem is, in my mind, is that the PCA is no longer unified as to what the Gospel itself actually is, but I may be over stating our internal differences. I am just concerned as I see various trends develop.

  43. Tom Van Dyke
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Carl Truman—But should I nevertheless do so? Are the doctrinal differences over salvation simply not important enough for me to keep my church doors open when there is an Eastern Orthodox church across the street?

    Hm.

  44. Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    D. G. Hart
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink
    John, I know about Escalante’s tongue lashings first hand. His online presence is about as winning as victor delta, tango.

    Won’t defend myself from you, Dr. Hart, but Peter Escalante does more credit to his religion than you do. No offense.

    http://calvinistinternational.com/2012/06/04/clericalism-or-concord/

    Where your blog favors the snide and shallow, he is sincere and serious. Word up.

  45. Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    victor delta, tango,

    Yes, Calvin was such a democrat.

    Rather than Reformed confessionalism, we need a Reformed irenicism. We need to repristinate not the old deformations away from the Reformation, but rather its original flexibility and daring. We must remember that the confessions themselves, reflecting the great humility and wisdom of their authors, claim to be nothing but fallible takes on the Word, not replacements for it. We need to return to Reformed irenicism in the sense of Calvin’s evangelical ecumenism, seeing the whole Christian people as the visible church and seat of the faith, not primarily the ministerium, let alone ministerial collegia. We must be Reformed in the sense of a Bible-driven emphasis on God’s sovereignty and grace, as well as the actual doctrine and tradition of the Protestant Reformation. This means, not a tightly policed set of “club rules,” but rather a clear articulation of basic principles which can then be freely and faithfully applied by individuals and congregations in their various circumstances.

    Whose Escalante?

  46. Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    victor delta, tango,

    don’t you mean “hotelmike”?

  47. Tom Van Dyke
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    D. G. Hart
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Permalink
    victor delta, tango,

    Yes, Calvin was such a democrat.

    Rather than Reformed confessionalism, we need a Reformed irenicism. We need to repristinate not the old deformations away from the Reformation, but rather its original flexibility and daring. We must remember that the confessions themselves, reflecting the great humility and wisdom of their authors, claim to be nothing but fallible takes on the Word, not replacements for it. We need to return to Reformed irenicism in the sense of Calvin’s evangelical ecumenism, seeing the whole Christian people as the visible church and seat of the faith, not primarily the ministerium, let alone ministerial collegia. We must be Reformed in the sense of a Bible-driven emphasis on God’s sovereignty and grace, as well as the actual doctrine and tradition of the Protestant Reformation. This means, not a tightly policed set of “club rules,” but rather a clear articulation of basic principles which can then be freely and faithfully applied by individuals and congregations in their various circumstances.

    Whose Escalante?

    D. G. Hart
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
    victor delta, tango,

    don’t you mean “hotelmike”?

    Snide and shallow, Darryl. I appreciate you so obligingly proving my point, but it pains me more that you should do so.

  48. Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Chris – but we have to keep in mind that Postmillenial Constantinism is largely what drives the Federal Vision, and once you see that, a lot of their program becomes clearer.

    Good observation.

  49. Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Eddie Haskell (echo hotel?) just lectured someone on sincerity. Rich.

  50. Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Tom Van Dyke
    @DykeVanTom
    Businessman, musician, quiz show champ, contrarian, bon vivant
    LA LA LAND · americancreation.blogspot.com

    “bon vivant”?

  51. Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    “bon vi·vant noun \ˌbän-vē-ˈvänt, ˌbōⁿ-vē-ˈväⁿ\
    “a person who likes going to parties and other social occasions and who enjoys good food, wine, etc.”

    They said the same thing about John Maynard Keynes.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=M4an04D09LgC&pg=PA329&lpg=PA329&dq=john+maynard+keynes+bon+vivant&source=bl&ots=qG_CYxVUt-&sig=j1iVuSjg0dk3zrx-z40kw-x1DCs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4eVuU9b1DcmNyASd_YLQAQ&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=john%20maynard%20keynes%20bon%20vivant&f=false

  52. Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink
    Tom Van Dyke
    @DykeVanTom
    Businessman, musician, quiz show champ, contrarian, bon vivant
    LA LA LAND · americancreation.blogspot.com

    “bon vivant”?

    And good sport. Even Thrasymachus turns out to be a good sport, you know. It’s not all torches and pitchforks, Erik. Or doesn’t have to be.

  53. Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never doubted that Tom might not be cool to hang out with. Bryan, not so much. While we’re dropping French terms, I used to work with couple of waitels who I dubbed the joie de vivre brothers.

  54. Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    “wastrels”

  55. Posted May 11, 2014 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    “Berman Havinck”: I did not save it, and the authors of the site have marked it “private”.

  56. Posted May 11, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    victor delta, tango, butch up.

  57. Posted May 11, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    victor delta, tango, woe to you when you speak well of you.

  58. Posted May 11, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Darryl: John, I know about Escalante’s tongue lashings first hand. His online presence is about as winning as victor delta, tango.

    I’d have to say there is a huge difference between the two. Escalante is a former Roman Catholic, and he is firmly aware of the vacuous nature of that institution.

    If I may speak more broadly about this in the context of the “old life” agenda, I am certainly of a mind that Reformed Orthodoxy and the Reformed Confessions are exceptional medicine (maybe the best in the long history of Christianity) for what ails “the church” (broadly speaking of it as “the whole number of the elect”). What it will take for the medicine to be applied, first, will be the recognition that it is indeed medicine. And in that regard, that is the kind of exposure that Wedgeworth and Escalante are giving it. I find it hard to see that as a bad thing.

  59. AB
    Posted May 11, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    John, your comment reminded me of something I read in our Church’s monthly newsletter that I found helpful:

    The second section of the Heidelberg Catechism continues with ecclesiology, including the sacraments (65–68), baptism (69–74), and the Lord’s Supper (75–82). Here we have the first catechetical expression of a rich Reformed ecclesiology. It affirms the real presence of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the sacraments, while avoiding all the errors of Roman Catholicism, which views the sacraments not as means of grace but, idolatrously, as ends. The Roman Church commits such an error because, historically, it neglected the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit. Calvin is, as Warfield said, the “theologian of the Holy Spirit,” but Aquinas and the other medievalists were not, jumping over the Spirit in their theologies and proceeding directly from Christology to ecclesiology. When ecclesiology is not based on a proper doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it yields sacerdotalism—a theory of priestly intermediation in which, practically, the church replaces the Holy Spirit. The Heidelberg Catechism, on the other hand, has an ecclesiology that flows from its doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

  60. Posted May 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    BVVD

    Bon Vivant Van Dyke

  61. Posted May 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    John, I’m not sure that I regard Doug Wilson (or his knock off Federal Visionaries) as giving exposure to Reformed orthodoxy.

  62. Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Andrew: Thanks

    Darryl — well, Wilson wasn’t in the debate. And Leithart is typically the token Protestant for First Things. The Roman Catholic there seeLeithart, and they think they’re seeing a real Protestant. (That was why I stopped reading First Things many years ago). So it was good to give that audience exposure to Trueman.

    And while you may not consider Peter Escalante a Reformed Orthodox either, if

  63. Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    And while you may not consider Peter Escalante a Reformed Orthodox either, it doesn’t seem to me that he was going to permit a lot of BS either.

  64. Posted May 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    John, but your point about Wedgeworth and Escalanet making the Reformed faith attractive doesn’t take into account the much wider following and visibility of Leithart and Wilson. And W and E are in the Wilson/Leithart corner/shadow. Have W or E ever taken on Leithart of Wilson?

  65. Posted May 12, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I think there are natural allies, and then natural adversaries — there are those who are going to help people move in the right direction (i.e., by providing context), and people who are going to present a vision that’s fundamentally different.

    Escalante, whatever you think of his current views (I think he is a fan of Richard Hooker), he is as knowledgeable about Roman Catholicism, and as clear in his thinking about it, as is Sean Moore.

    And Steven Wedgeworth, while not having made a total break from his friendship with Wilson, has made a theological break from the FV:

    http://wedgewords.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/the-federal-vision-and-reformed-theology/

    Steven has gathered a group of folks around himself, “Calvinist International”, that’s discussing all the right issues, and largely in ways that I think we all should approve of.

  66. Posted May 12, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    John, since I am one of those Reformed confessionalists that Wedgeworth thinks dishonest, you may understand my reluctance to jump on board the approval bandwagon:

    So, where does that leave me? I suppose that I really am not Federal Vision in any unique or distinctive way. I do appreciate all of the FV men, and I really do believe that Doug Wilson is one of the most important Evangelical leaders alive and that James Jordan is one of the few authentic geniuses among all Evangelicals.

    But, when the critics of FV use the nomenclature, they mean something specific about systematic theology, and I do not know if I still fit that bill. I am more sacramental than many in the PCA, to be sure, but I affirm the necessity of faith in order to receive the grace offered by sacraments (as do all FVers, but I’m addressing the critics). I am more flexible when it comes to questions of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, but at the end of the day I affirm what the confessions all have to say on this topic. I am definitely not interested in making a point of compromise with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, and I have spent the majority of my recent time in downright apologetics for the Reformed tradition. I like some of N T Wright, but find other parts sorely lacking, all the while maintaining the ability for the traditional “perspective on Paul” to withstand NPP scrutiny.

    In other words, I think that in a fair setting I could pass the theology test of most non-FV presbyteries.

    In the end, it seems to come down to sociology and outlook, and in that regard, I’m pretty happy to be Reformed, and really Reformed at that. I don’t need any extra labels at this point, and I’ll try to field concerns on a point by point basis.

    However, there’s more to the story at present. Opposite the Federal Vision, there is another distinctive theological subset which is very troubling. This is the supposed “traditionalist” or “confessionalist” camp of folks like R Scott Clark and other “TRs.” You’ll find Klineans, Clarkians, and Southern Presbyterians in this group, all claiming to defend the real deal Reformed theology, even while disagreeing sharply with each other. The biggest problem comes in their notion of authority and definition of “Reformed.”

    Scott Clark is an easy whipping boy on this point, since he’s so pugnacious and downright wrong, however the phenomena isn’t limited to him. The basic affirmation of this group is that the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Three Forms of Unity provide the dogmatic and even hermeneutical restrictions for Reformed theology. This does not merely work negatively, stating that anything which would contradict these documents is outside the bounds, but also positively, stating that extra-confessional points of doctrine are also off-limits and that alternative points of departure or different first principles would also place one outside the boundaries of “Reformed.” The basic result is that two Reformed confessional documents become the interpretative grid by which all Reformed ministers must read the Bible and conduct theology.

    There are a number of problems with this position. It actually contradicts the confessions themselves, is authoritarian and clericalist, and the proponents eventually contradict themselves, as they also take certain exceptions and approach theology from different first principles than those of the original Reformers and the confessions which they wrote. . . .

    3. fredwiseThe most irritating part of Clark’s program is the dishonesty of it all. We know that Clark does not actually believe that the confessions are binding by virtue of their historicity (“tradition” in the theological sense) for the very simple reason that he himself takes exception to major portions which he deems no longer important. Clark denies literal six-day creation. This might be a minor point, but we’d need some rule other than the confessions to tell us so! More central, however, is the doctrine of the civil magistrate, where Clark rejects what the entire magisterial Reformed tradition has to say. That this cannot be considered a minor point is due to the fact that all of the Reformed owed their very existence to the power of the civil magistrate and routinely argued that what ecclesial supremacy the Roman Catholics wished for the Pope or his bishops was actually the property of the king. This was one of the most basic foundations of Reformed polity. Without it there simply is no Reformation.

    But Clark does not hold to the original doctrine of the Two Kingdoms at all, nor is he much bothered by his discontinuity on this point. He believes that the Reformed view was misguided and outdated, and today the confessions, in his view, derive their authority from the contemporary body which receives them. This line of reasoning is reminiscent of John Henry Newman, but even beyond that, it effectively reduces the confessions to “club rules” documents. However, one should not be speaking of Christian orthodoxy on the basis of contemporary and somewhat arbitrary denominational moods. We are either talking about a holy tradition or we are not, and it is clear that Clark is not.

    So if the critics are right, the Federal Vision has a Romanizing tendancy when it comes to sanctification, thus jeopardizing the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone. But the “confessionalist” critics have a Romanizing doctrine when it comes to the definition of the Church, which also jeopardizes the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Both ditches are perilous.

    So where does that leave one? Where can you go if you just want to be “Reformed,” all the while maintaining an outward looking mission and a flexible posture for the future? In other words, what should the normal people do?

    You really think I’d be comfortable with that? You really think Wedgeworth’s appraisal of Wilson and Jordan is sound? And do you really think Wedgeworth is doing anything else but following Leithart in making it up as he goes along? Pssshaw.

  67. Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    An Anglican (first cleric on Twitter, he claims — dubious honor) says DGH and RSC need new calendars for their birthdays:

    ‏@wyclif
    @ChortlesWeakly Darryl Hart & Scott Clark apparently don’t know that it’s 2014, not 2007. Weak sauce. These guys need to do their homework.

  68. Posted May 12, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Wedgeworth is correct: Wilson is important, and Lane Keister’s endless debates with him show the proper way to deal with someone like that. And I haven’t read any James Jordan, although I understand that Scott Hahn has picked up a lot of his ideas, and that should tell us a thing or two.

    But time moves on, and people learn. Steven once told me about a lunch he had with Norman Shepard. He said “Shepard was confused”, or words to that effect. It’s hard to get away from the people you grow up with. But it is possible to think things through and come to different conclusions, which is what he has done.

    So no, I don’t think Steven is “following Leithart around”.

  69. Posted May 12, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    “and I really do believe that Doug Wilson is one of the most important Evangelical leaders alive and that James Jordan is one of the few authentic geniuses among all Evangelicals.”

    Yeah, and Bahnsen was, too.

  70. Posted May 12, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    John, where has Steven fit himself into a group of believers where he takes counsel and submits to the brothers? Strikes me that Leithart is a lone ranger who really won’t fit in with his communion. Do I agree with everyone in the OPC? Heck no. But I also know where the boundaries are. Wedgeworth, like Leithart, is playing outside the box.

  71. Mike K.
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Tangent, but I can’t wait to see what comes of this. http://www.mercersburgtheology.org/about-us/

  72. mark mcculley
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Lancaster County is one center of Nevin-mania

    The following is a list of scholars currently affiliated with these projects in some way:

    Dr. Lee C. Barrett
    Rev. Jonathan Bonomo
    Rev. Dr. Linden DeBie
    Dr. William B. Evans
    Dr. Gabriel Fackre
    Dr. Sam Hamstra, Jr.
    Dr. Darryl G. Hart
    Dr. E. Brooks Holifield
    Dr. Michael Horton
    Dr. George Hunsinger
    Dr. David Layman
    Dr. Peter J. Leithart
    W. Bradford Littlejohn
    Rev. Rich W. Lusk
    Dr. Keith Mathison
    Rev. John C. Miller

    the first and the last are here in Lancaster Pa

  73. mark mcculley
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Not all Nevin disciples accuse non-Nevinites of being antinomian gnostics, but most of them worry more about unaffiliated individuals a lot more than they do about membership in a liberal denomination like the UCC..Some of them hate the idea of justification apart from works because they hate the idea of justification apart from the water of “the church”.

    David Yeago, for example, equates being Protestant with being “liberal”. Being Reformed might be ok, you see, but being protestant about it, well for the Leitharts of the world, it’s sin. But there is no reason to take Leithart seriously until he shuts up his own shop and follows Jason Stillman

    http://lutheranspersisting.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/yeagognosticism.pdf

  74. Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Mark, move to Montgomery County, less religiously crowded locale…

  75. James Caldwell
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Notice which side the Old Earthers fell on

    It makes it’s own point

  76. Posted May 13, 2014 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    D. G. Hart
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink
    John, since I am one of those Reformed confessionalists that Wedgeworth thinks dishonest

    Who are the others, Dr. Hart? Or are you kinda the only one he considers dishonest?

    This sort of thing is important to those of us studying Calvinism as a history.

    And it would be OK if you didn’t leave this to your surrogates such as Erik Charter or “sean” or “Robert” or whathaveyou. It’s a fair request to ask you to name names and not hide in the fog.

  77. Posted May 13, 2014 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Chortles weakly
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
    I’ve never doubted that Tom might not be cool to hang out with. Bryan, not so much. While we’re dropping French terms, I used to work with couple of wastels whom I dubbed the joie de vivre brothers.

    Tres honored, sir. Should you ever find yrself in Los Angeles, dinner will be on you and all the drinks’ll be on me. And should I make you chortle strongly–which I think likely–the entire night shall be on you, and you’ll still have got the better of the deal.

  78. Posted May 13, 2014 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Wedgeworth is correct: Wilson is important, and Lane Keister’s endless debates with him show the proper way to deal with someone like that. And I haven’t read any James Jordan, although I understand that Scott Hahn has picked up a lot of his ideas, and that should tell us a thing or two.

    John, Wilson is a chameleon and the collegial front man for the FV zoo out on the back 40.
    You spent some time in Rome, you ought to know how the equivocation routine runs.
    (Jordan is a liar. Remember this one over at GB James Jordan Tells the Truth?)

    But my bad.
    I never got around to doing the legwork.

    Wilson wrote a little tome For Kirk and Covenant (FK&C) in 2000 praising “the stalwart courage – and theology – of John Knox” up one side and down the t’other. (We’ll leave off any mention of the John Frame Worship Children connection other than that Douglas duly acknowledges Knox’s commitment to the regulative principle of worship (pp.39,162,3) – IOW the G&N consequences of the Second Commandment – all the while Steve “What I Don’t Know About the RPW, I Have Yet to Learn ” Schlissel was and for all we know, still is kosher pulpit supply for DW’s congregation.)

    Douglas even acknowledges that John wrote a book on predestination (FK&C, p. 150), though he somehow (egregiously?) fails to mention that Johnnie considered that:

    “(S)uch as desire this Article [predestination] to be buried in silence and would that men teach and believe that the grace of God’s election is common unto all, but that one receaveth it, and another receaveth it not, proceedeth either from the obedience or disobedience of man: such disceave themselves and are unthankfull and injurious to God. For so long as they see not that true faith and salvation . . .springe from Election and are “the gifte of God and come not of ourselves,” so long are they disceaved and remayn in error. (Works V:29, rpt. 1856)

    Yet Wilson has the audacity in his “Reformed” Is Not Enough (2002) to tell us that, ” Election is one thing and covenant membership another. And this is no theological innovation.(p.175)

    Well, yeah. When it comes to Wilson’s external/carnal/objective/walking by sight definition of the covenant he’s correct.

    But if that’s all he can say about election, he ain’t on the same page as John Knox. He’s an innovator and has essentially perjured himself when it comes to the historical record of classical reformed theology.

    Of course you won’t hear that from John Frame or Peter Leithart or Stephen Wedgeworth or Peter Escalante when it comes to our man from Moscow and his friendly version of the FV.
    Which is why you have to come here.
    Good thing you did.

    cheers,

    [we’ll see if we get worse treatment than victor delta tango and this doesn’t go through like last time we tried to post about our fren and pseudo philosofur Bryan C.]

  79. Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    victor delta, tango, the wages of sin is death.

  80. Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Tom (I think) — but if I end up in LA there will probably have been an abduction involved.

  81. Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    “And should I make you chortle strongly–which I think likely–the entire night shall be on you, and you’ll still have got the better of the deal.”

    Whose Calvinism? The few, the proud, the victor delta, tango’s.

  82. mark mcculley
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    John Knox sounds like the Canons of Dordt

    The true doctrine concerning Election and Reprobation having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:

    . Who teach: That the will of God to save those who would believe and would persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith, is the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God’s Word.

    . Who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its incomplete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life. For by this injurious error the pleasure of God and the merits of Christ are made of none effect, and men are drawn away from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture, and this declaration of the Apostle is charged as untrue: “Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.” 2 Timothy 1:9.

  83. Greg
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Going back to the Wedgeworth post to which John referred:

    ” I suppose that I really am not Federal Vision in any unique or distinctive way. I do appreciate all of the FV men, and I really do believe that Doug Wilson is one of the most important Evangelical leaders alive and that James Jordan is one of the few authentic geniuses among all Evangelicals.”

    Notice that Wedgeworth has not abandoned the FV by any means. Rather he states he is not FV “in any unique or distinctive way.” Sounds like Steven is just your normal run-of-the-mill FV proponent. So, is it any wonder then that he remains in the CREC? And also, if he’s not FV and has abandoned their unorthodox doctrines, why has he not publicly exhorted Leithart & Co. to repent of their teachings? Surely it is the same reason that Jeff Meyers does not, despite exhortations by the Missouri Presbytery in the findings set forth in their investigative report in 2010:

    “[W]e have urged TE Meyers to speak out against error in whatever camp he finds it, and to remember that the duty of love lays on all of us the responsibility—and the opportunity— to help others come to a sharper understanding of God’s truth by engaging them in conversation and debate, especially when we believe they may be in, or close to, doctrinal error. This exhortation is in keeping with the wisdom of Scripture: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 ESV); and “Faithful are the wounds of a friend….” (Proverbs 27:6 ESV). We have exhorted TE Meyers to exercise care, since if he does not distance himself in some way from views he himself believes to be in error and contrary to our Standards, then he will only make it easy for others to believe he has sympathy for those views.”

    So what did Meyers do? Did he begin to correct his fellow FV proponents? Did he disassociate himself with them? No. If you go to Jeff’s bio on his church’s website you’ll find he is pleased to be (i.e., right now) the “President” of the board of Leithart’s Trinity House Institute.

    And what did Wedgeworth do? Helped set up a “respectable” platform for Leithart to proclaim FV teachings. Sounds like a parallel to Meyers.

    And also notice the date of Wedgeworth’s post: June 27, 2009. A lot has happened since then including a number of PCA trials that ended favorably to the FV cause (including Leithart’s and Meyers’); a failure of both presbytery and SJC to maintain the peace and purity of the church. Certainly that did much to embolden and encourage the FV proponents and apologists within the PCA.

    BTW, someone ought to ask Leithart what his plans are: to either (1) leave Birmingham for points west or (1) leave the PCA (for the CREC). In November the Evangel Presbytery (PCA) unanimously rejected a request to allow him to operate out of bounds there. So is his home presbytery, the Pacific Northwest Presbytery, doing anything about him (apparently) continuing to operate out of bounds (six months and counting) after Evangel’s rejection?

  84. Greg
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I don’t mean to imply that Carl Trueman in any way supports or is tolerant of FV theology in the following question, but can anyone point me to any meaningful writings by CT on the FV? (I’ve searched online and found none.) So is this a topic in which he is not EXPERT to debate due to a lack of knowledge as to what the FV folk teach?

    Also, if I recall correctly, toward the beginning of the Biola discussion when the speakers were announced (or shortly thereafter), CT stated (correcting his introduction) that he had never publicly criticized Leithart. Again, not try to imply anything about CT; just trying to make a point…

    My point? If someone who was truly expert in FV teachings were to have been included in that panel, Leithart might have been a quite a bit less comfortable. And just who picked the players in this discussion? As we’ve seen before, Leithart has a lot of friends.

  85. mark mcculley
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I am not happy that Carl Truman has taken sides with those who find assurance in their works, but I do like this non FV friendly quotation from Carl–

    The `end of Christendom’ should not fool us into thinking that a form of Christendom does not still exist. Anywhere where Christianity has become a formality, there is Christendom. Anywhere where the belief of the group substitutes for the belief of the individual, there is Christendom. Anywhere the rules of the outward game can be learned and substituted for the attitude of the heart, there is Christendom. And, lest we forget, the form of that formality can be orthodoxy, just as easily as it can be heterodoxy; it can be rooted in the Westminster Standards just as easily as in the tweets of the latest aspiring authentocrat; it can be found in traditional worship styles as much as in the spontaneity of the new.”

    At least Jason Stellman was honest enough to skip being one of the FV “catholic” sectarians before joining himself to the Romish whore

  86. mark mcculley
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/the-crowd-is-untruth.php

    Carl Truman—One does not have to be in a megachurch to see the temptation to sit back and just belong through the formalities of public worship and the vicarious belief of the church as body. But if you take a man and put him on a desert island, or in a place where nobody believes the same things, what will happen to his faith? Will it survive? Was it more than a mere public performance or a function of belonging to a particular community? Stripped of its context, it will stand naked, and appear as it really is.

    CT– To put it in a way of which Luther would have approved, only the one who has truly come to the point of despair in himself as an individual can then truly come to faith in the savior; for he cannot have another to believe on his behalf. The truth he sees is … necessarily involves his very being and identity. One must first believe as an individual before one can belong to the community.

  87. Troy
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Daryl,

    In light of your recent exchange with Matt Tuininga, I thought that I inquire about Matt’s decision to start blogging at the Calvinist International:https://calvinistinternational.com/2015/07/21/the-gospel-liberalism-and-social-hierarchy/

    Given what I gather about the Davenant Trust people from the above comments, it seems to me a bit surprising to find Matt blogging there. (Or perhaps it shouldn’t be?’) Some of his comments about the spirituality of the church seem at home with the people at Davenant Trust, but still, its a bit surprising.

    Troy

  88. Posted July 22, 2015 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Troy, Matt and I are friends (sort of). But I have no idea why he does what he does.

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