Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by R. Scott Clark, Jan 30, 2007.
On the HB
So many posts...
I'm glad you didn't have a blog when I was at Westminster. How would you ever have gotten our papers back to us on time?
Yes, Dr. Clark appears to be in the blogsphere equivolent of a "cage stage".
Haven't the courts of the OPC already spoken on this matter in the Kinnaird case? Where and when have they conceded their error? It seems to me New Horizons and committee reports are just so much window dressing. A Potemkin village. Business as unusual. Nothing has changed. Now go about your business.
I would love to be wrong, but are you seriously going to argue that because there was a good article in New Horizons that all those teaching the many doctrines they've learned at the hands of Norm Shepherd and others are all of a sudden going to stop? The Neo-Liberalism of the Federal Vision is alive and well in the OPC and the PCA and no article in a denominational magazine or committee report is going to change that.
I agree and would add that there is no mention of Norman Shepherd in the New Horizon articles at all. This omission screams volumes.
Sean and Jim,
And what of what the articles positively say? That means nothing at all? What of what the Justification Report and what it says? That means nothing?
What do you want the OPC to do about Norman Shepherd? Do you not realize that he's a member of the CRC?
I'm rather confused. The title of this thread is: "The OPC is getting the gospel right." Are you saying that the OPC is getting the gospel wrong? Perhaps you don't intend it, but your posts suggest as much.
My experience is this: If you spend a lot of time on the Internet you'll end up thinking every church is in a worse position than it really is. Spend less time on the Internet, go to Presbytery's and GA's and see for yourself.
Really, what do you want? What would you have the OPC do to satisfy you personally?
If you have complaints to register, there are ways to do so. Is an Internet forum like the PB the right place to do it? You are in churches that are in ecumenical relations with the OPC (NAPARC), and if you think the OPC is in so bad a condition as to warrant breaking that ecumenical relationship, then you have the church courts with which to appeal that decision.
Where have the churchmen gone? When you see a member of your church sin, do you immediately question their salvation? With such a broad stroke you paint the OPC . . . The hermeneutic of suspicion is contrary to charity, no?
I think the point that is being made, and needs to be made is that now that the OPC has made such bold (and good as far as they go) statements, it has yet to be seen whether or not they will follow through with discipline. There is at least one example (in the minds of many--I know we could debate this ad nauseum) of the OPC actually clearing someone whose teachings sounded an awful lot like Norman Shepherd and the FV on justification. Please do not take this as harsh or uncharitable but there are other instances in my opinion where the OPC claims to be one thing in its confessional documents and speaks loudly about certain positions in church publications, nevertheless in the actual practice of the church exactly the opposite takes place. It is good to say the right thing but this also needs to be followed by "practicing what is preached".
I applaud those in the OPC who have spoken strongly in favor of the biblical doctrine of justification and the many who sincerely believe it! But it is not unreasonable for those on the outside to reserve judgment until we see how this plays out. Declaring an absolute victory in the OPC is premature in my humble opinion. But I pray that the victory may be won there!
This is the statement that was made: "The Neo-Liberalism of the Federal Vision is alive and well in the OPC and the PCA and no article in a denominational magazine or committee report is going to change that." And yet, you seem to be referring to one individual.
Now, either the "Federal Vision is alive and well in the OPC" or, as you suggest, there is "at least one example (in the minds of many)" that represents FV tendencies.
I see a rather sharp discrepancy between these two sentiments. One is a broad brush, the other expresses a concern over a particular individual case.
I, like you, are concerned about whatever individual cases I am aware of, but I am not prepared to say that "the Federal Vision is alive and well in the OPC." Are you?
Perhaps I would not say that so strongly, no. Nevertheless, I think you are positing too sharp a contrast. I mention the trial of 2003(?) as a well known example of the sort of thing I have reason to suspect is broader than that one individual. I have no intention of providing names or examples since I do not want to get into danger of violating the 9th commandment! Rightly or wrongly the well-known case of which we speak leaves me cautious. Even if it is only a small number of individuals in the OPC who believe like him the fact that the General Assembly did not convict him leaves me wondering how and why all these men who make such wonderful statements about justification did not apply that teaching in what seems to me to be a perfect test case. If men who themselves may be orthodox do not discipline error when confronted by it, there is still grave cause for concern. One can be perfectly orthodox himself, but a toleration of error of this scale does a lot to nullify an orthodox testimony.
Please understand I write these things with no animosity towards the OPC. I am not even accusing them of being "neo-liberals" as a denomination or apostate. What I am doing is waiting and seeing if the OPC will act upon what they have said. I am unwilling to render a final judgment either way now until they "prove it to me". I know that may take some time, but for me, personally, as an outsider to the OPC, the verdict is still out. I would love to be convinced that the OPC means what it says and has indeed won the battle!
Indeed there are, but perhaps you can explain to me what good it would do since the OPC court has spoken on this matter; "Mr. Kinnaird's teaching should not be judged to be out of accord with the Church's Standards . . . ."
Frankly, those who signed the "Protest of the action of the General Assembly in sustaining Specification A of the Appeal of John O. Kinnaird" were exactly right:
I recommend you read former OPC RE Paul Elliot's excellent book detailing the spiritual crisis in the OPC; Christianity and Neo Liberalism.
If I may interject my , all the positive publicity regarding the right view of justification will have a leavening effect. You would not believe how few of the people in the laity in the OPC (even more so in the PCA) had ever heard of Shepherd, or New Perspective, or Federal Vision. Now they are hearing it loud and clear and being taught what is wrong with it. If this doesn't perk up the ears of the laity when they are listening to their pastors and teachers, then I don't know what will. The alarm is sounding. Shepherd supporters will have to either tone it down or start facing tough questions from discerning members of their congregation. It's hard to bring a false teacher to trial if the people don't know he is a false teacher. So I would urge more patience brothers. It's not as if we are ignoring the problem. People must be educated. These things take time, much longer than it takes to post a blog article or debate an issue on the internet.
I, likewise, will not divulge names here, but I can name more than a handful of ministers/elders on several sessions in the Pacific NW who hold these views, and some quite belligerently. in my opinion, it's alive and well until they retract their past statements, statements like, "Baptism saves you - I'm glad to hear that your children are finally in the kingdom, now that they've been baptized - the invisible/visible church distinction is invalid, that's ST not BT - active obedience? Well, that all depends on whether or not you believe there is a covenant of works..." The last time I checked, all of these positions are violations and/or deviations from the confessional vows that these men took as ministers/elders.
That's one of the problems within the OPC right now, they think that they can avoid the need for disciplining erring ministers by doing an administrative shuffle. Do laymen who already believe sound doctrine really need to be educated on the details of the errors that the presbyteries and GA should have already condemned and weeded out for those same people's protection? They've had three decades to deal with the root of the problem, how much longer do you think should be given them?
Maybe we've just crossed posts, but I'm not speaking of Kinnaird. I am speaking of men with whom I have had several conversations about these specific issues. One of them gave a totally pro-FV lecture series at a family camp several summers ago. He was invited by the church's pro-FV session, and he was totally suckering the people by changing terms and trying not to let on that he was giving them FV/NPP teaching in areas such as a final justification by works. He didn't expect to have a WSC seminarian in the audience, and after fumbling several of my probing questions, he quit acknowledging me. We left early, it was a huge sorrow for us that these things were going unchallenged.
SP, what happened to your post that I just responded to did you delete it? You're making me look like I'm just trying to up my post count
Yeah, I deleted it. I figure there's no point in arguing about it. Sorry.
(Did the picture on the top just change?)
I would ask of Adam or anyone else, if you know of any officer in the Church, whether OPC or PCA or any confessional reformed church, who is teaching or preaching counter to the Standards, what have you done about it? Have you filed charges or at least alerted either their Session or Presbytery? The only way this is going to stop is when we say "enough"!! Saying. "Well its not my responsibility. I'm not OPC or PCA. All I can do is complain about them" is not good enough.
I can think of a number of PCA & OPC who are staunch defenders of the FV so what is one to do? Seriously what is the average lay person in the pew supposed to do about it? If you say you read what these people wrote on the internet I doubt you'll be taken seriously. So seriously asking what is the answer?
The responsible action is the bring formal charges against them after contacting them and probably talking to your Session about it.
Then please allow me to rant right back at you. Yes, I believe it is an OPC problem. It’s a problem the OPC has failed to deal with when it had the chance (and more than one I might add for those who can't remember to count).
Frankly, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s certainly the prerogative of the OPC to permit the teaching of both a false gospel and the true gospel side by side since your highest court has already deemed the false one of John Kinnaird (and by extension Norman Shepherd) to be in harmony with your church's standards. That’s your problem. You won’t see me getting into a froth over the CREC, but I’m not going to ever say everything is A-OK in Moscow -- even if they do publish a paper extolling the orthodox doctrine of justification. Given the current situation in the OPC I think there is a proper and biblical response to your current situation and Paul Elliot provides a convincing argument in his book.
However, if you want to try your hand again in your courts, why don’t you start with Richard Gaffin Jr.?
Right now I am inclined to believe that the denominations do not have a proper context within which to handle such objections. I won't say that they are not equipped, but rather that the context is not right. As someone who has been through this, and over something much more obvious than FV or NPP, I see one basic weakness in the OPC: procedure. Too few know what it really is, and what it really is for. It is supposed to serve truth, justice, the Biblical grounding of the ecclesiastical court, and the cause of the Church of Christ. They are rules for the judges to follow, not obstacles for the petitioners or objectors. The onus is upon the Session, Presbytery, or GA to understand and respond to the petitions and objections placed before them, not to cast them aside because of some procedural error. Every procedural error is their own, not that of those who bring forth their complaints. It is up to the courts to actually hear the substance of the complaints, and to deal with them. That is what the procedural rules are meant for.
We have the procedural rules in place; we have the Books of Order and of Discipline. What we lack is the proper context within the assemblies to deal with cases properly. But we don't have unity on what these things are meant for in the churches.
There are some who think that "always reforming" means changing as things come up. So for some there are new orthodoxies which never existed before. Like Presuppositionalism or Postmillennialism as doctrines, as was the case in my instance. But for others, like myself, it means always going back to the Bible, the original treatise of the Christian religion, so that there are never any new doctrines. What we inherited as the Reformed Church is the same teachings that were there at the first, with nothing added. As we go on in history it takes more and more words to describe and defend those truths, for we have a long, long history of those who have tried to get the Church to swerve off that path.
I am inclined to believe that those who think of Reformed as progressing in doctrines are in the majority right now; or, if they aren't, at least they hold the higher ground of influence in the denominations. And that is FV's key position, the ground upon which they stand. They don't even claim, as I understand, to be holding THE Westminsterian position, but rather that their unique position does not fall outside the Westminsterian scope, which they see as wide instead of narrow, as progressive instead of orthodox.
I'm not saying that we should not follow Wayne's advice here. On the contrary, I agree that he is right. But I think that we need to sit down and count the cost first. It won't be just fighting against FV, we can be sure.
Wayne, Chris, and Casey,
That would seem to be the appropriate thing to do, wouldn't it? However, as can be abundantly seen throughout the history of Israel, it doesn't matter that God has set up the system of government, when the corrupt are in power, justice will not be served. Eventually God takes them out, but until that time, His church will always have to suffer under the effects of that false teaching/corrupt behaviour.
Case in point, the first OPC my family attended was/is pro-FV/NPP and had also hosted Norm Shepherd to speak at their church a year or so before we began attending. Shortly thereafter, my wife and I both began to see errors in their teaching on baptism/justification. I spoke with a solid elder of long standing who had just left their church over the effects that the false teachings were having on the congregation (by that point a number of people had left besides him). Even after hearing the problems from him, we decided to stick it out anyway, and I can now say with conviction, "foolishly so". I thought about bringing the session up on charges during those 18mos., but why did I not do so? Answer, they had sniffed me out and refused to let us join, and you can't press charges if you're not a member! We tried for the full 18mos. to gain membership, but they continued to deny us. Why was that so when, according to the OPC BCO, one need only be able to affirm the five membership vows to become a member? We were told by one of the elders, "It's because we don't think that you're Presbyterian enough yet", translated, "We know you're on to what we're teaching here, and your not FV enough yet, so we'll save ourselves the trouble of dealing with you by just refusing your family membership." They refused even to offer us a basic membership class for the duration of the 18 month period!
Clever them. The statute of limitations on a charge (if my memory serves me well) is a maximum of two years. Ignore this fellow until he goes off to seminary, where he won't have enough time to press charges even if he wants to, and by the time he's finished the two years will be up. Not only that, but you must have two or three witnesses to bring charges against an elder of the church, according to the BCO/scripture. All of these conversations only took place in back rooms, never in public; I see why now. My testimony alone would be disallowed, and I sure wasn't going to drag my tired, homeschooling wife into all of this as a second witness.
We haven't heard a good word from those men since we left. I spoke with the pastor on the phone once, but he was so in-my-face rude as to be considered acting as an unregenerate son of the world. Twice, their deacons tried to send us money in support of my schooling, and twice the pastor barred it. He told them that he would have a session member notify me of the denial, but lied to them also, as they later found out.
Why am I bringing all these other issues up? It's to show that dishonesty in doctrine, leads to dishonesty in polity procedures, and dishonesty in keeping your word to others. This is why the FV will not go away easily in the OPC; these men are steeped in a spirit of doctrinal and pastoral dishonesty, and they have buddies to keep them safe. I've seen that at work in the presbytery several times, where communications with FV accusations are made, and the red herring of "Oh, this is a violation of the 9th commandment" is thrown out there, all the pro-FV presbyters nod their heads and say, "hmm, yes, yes, that's right, we can't allow it to be read or admitted", and the procedure that is supposed to protect the people is once again circumvented.
So while I would agree with you all that there is a proper way on paper that should indeed be followed when it can, the reality is that when the system has flaws in the teaching and character of it leadership it is very, very difficult to turn around without some wholesale spine on the part of the entire church. This is a fact of Israel's history, and it is a fact that may be seen throughout the history of the post-apostolic church as well.
That's appalling conduct, but not surprising in the least. I will hand it to that session - they sure know how to keep their power.
That is awful!
[Disclaimer: I have no reason to doubt you and am assuming the situation is accurate as you describe as we are only getting one side.]
They had no grounds to deny you membership. Members do not need to subscribe to the WCF, only officers. You not need to be "Presbyterian enough". If you have a "credible profession of faith", and no moral issues being dealt with, they would have no grounds to deny membership. This is really bizzare.
Did you try to take this up with any one else in the OPC or in the Presbytery? How did that go?
This situation also indicate that they KNOW they are in violation of standards and are waiting until the "power-base" is secure enough to "come out of the closet".
Why is that "liberals" [for lack of a better term] operate this way? Why can't they have the integrity to state/admit their positions clearly and openly, resign if they no longer adhere to the standards [what ever they may be in a given situation] and join in with like minded people? Why must they abuse their power, positions and people and use stealth, subversive and deceitful means to push their agenda?
Had no idea OPC had/has? some FV pastors/elders and that it's been that much of a problem in the denomination itself....
My impression was always that the PCA would be the first to succumb to liberalism and that the conservatives within it would migrate to the OPC as the next most conservative denomination. Of the two, I'd always perceived PCA to be the less strict and less Reformed of the two (especially on officer subscription standards - or are both system subscription oaths?)