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Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by NaphtaliPress, Jan 10, 2007.
I feel like someone's calling me an idiot here!
Well, if I knew then (when you were here) what I know now, and if I knew how attracted you seem to be to the FV, I would have pressed you much harder than I did.
My understanding of this stuff was still developing. We had not held the conference when you were here. I hadn't worked out what they're really saying about baptismal union with Christ. I was focused on justification sola fide and Shepherd. I hadn't read Schilder and hadn't worked out that stuff to any degree. The picture is much clearer for me now.
I'm sorry that I let you down when you were here. There's no question about your intelligence. You demonstrated that in your seminar papers and discussions.
I would question your judgment and Gabe's and anyone's who cannot or will not see the FV doctrine of baptismal union and the rest of it for what it is.
Please read the faculty book and see if your old profs will provide you with sufficient reason to abandon this stuff.
I think I understand why this is attractive. It's an over-reaction to American individualism and antinomianism. Jon Barlow repeated what Norm Shepherd has been saying for 30+ years, that the critics (Godfrey and Palmer Robertson!?) are antinomian because we don't make sanctity a part of the ground or instrument of justification. Norm views this whole thing (as apparently Jon does) through the lenses of the evangelical Lordship debate.
My response has always been: a pox on both their houses! I think MacArthur has improved, but his initial response was as problematic as Zane Hodges' antinomianism. Horton's Christ the Lord had good responses to both sides.
The Reformed view is clear: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. The FV clearly do not accept this scheme, ergo they are not Reformed.
I also think that the FV is seductive because it plays off of fads. "Relational" categories are hip now. So the FV ditches imputation for "relation." Tom Wright is hip, so covenant nomism replaces the outdated, they say, "forensic" doctrine. In general, semantic precision is out and semantic fuzziness is in. The FV thrives in such an atmosphere.
Further, there is, as I try to demonstrate in a forthcoming critique of McLaren, a general evangelical resistance to boundaries. In that essay I was just trying to shore up catholic boundaries, but in our churches we have rather higher boundaries and those are being resisted or redefined too. It's the Zeitgeist.
I'm a little surprised that you give much time to a movement that is so clearly out of touch with the Spirit of your alma mater, to a movement repudiated publicly and repeatedly by your alma mater, and to a movement that seems to be so appalling and willfully ignorant of so much modern historical theology. The live by every word that proceeds from Tom Wright's mouth, but they don't have 30 seconds to read Richard Muller.
Smart people get fooled all the time. Hey, I was a Royals fan for years (before the first strike).
I suppose "smarts" don't have a lot to do with that, so I should withdraw my remark to Gabe. No question about his smarts, but Rich Lusk is smart, Doug Wilson is smart, but they're both very, very wrong. Remember, Arminius was very clever, but our churches said he was also very wrong.
Nobody like Gomarus anymore, but he was right.
I don't think you can rescue Doug from himself. I think you're imputing conceptual clarity to his theology that doesn't actually exist. Did you see his attempt to clarify his view of baptismal union on my blog? I stared at that thing for a long time before I gave up.
If these guys are so orthodox, why are we having this discussion?
I keep saying, and I'm right, this debate is not about nothing.
As to the whole "getting in, staying in" phrase (which is taken from Sanders and which Wilson has rejected), can we admit their distinction between the covenantal, ecclesiological dimension and the eternal and decretal one? One gets into the (visible) church by profession and remains in the (visible) church by bearing fruit (as demonstrated in a continuing profession and good works), and at the end God purifies that church, reveals those who did this truly and those who did this falsely, and those whom he receives boast and rejoice in the knowledge that it was God's sovereign, irresistible grace that worked in them from start to finish.
And a bit difference is that the medieval cooperationist scheme view grace as a thing poured into you by the sacraments, while several FVers I've read say that sacramental grace is external, being concrete favor bestowed by God--and they would say "Believe in those graces" (i.e., the preached Word and the sacraments), not "cooperate with" them.
I really don't believe that the particular people I've read or spoken with believe that we are "in by grace, stay in by works." I believe they speak about salvation in a temporal/covenantal aspect, which, if this was not the case, I would agree with this assessment. I'm not saying that it is "right" or "wrong" to do so, I'm just saying that I don't believe that they are preaching the Canons of Trent as the Gospel.
Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, etc. all believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ in Justification, exactly as WCF states. They have both, at least, explicitly stated this to be the case. That doesn't mean they don't talk about Justification from "other angles" at times. Again, I'm not saying this is "right" or "wrong," but it should be taken into account and context should be ascertained before passing any judgment on what they may or may not be denying as far as Justification goes, which is, of course, of the utmost importance, doctrinally speaking.
As far as merit is concerned, I don't believe they use the word, but many of them appear to defend the concept, but under the descriptor of union with Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, propitiation, and so forth. Therefore, if one is united to Christ by faith, they are counted as having fulfillment of the Law, propitiation of sins, and so forth. I could be wrong on this, as it hasn't really been that great of a focus of mine, honestly.
As far as Norm is concerned, he believes what the WCF says about saving faith, i.e.,
Our "eternal" Justification before God is initiated and only by the "principal acts of saving faith" (i.e., accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone); but the other aspect of saving faith (i.e., a change in actions, or works as a result of true saving faith) is still part and parcel of the SAME saving faith. It is not distinguished here by the divines as two different faiths, but the one, same, justifying faith. So, we are truly Justified by faith ALONE initially, and further proof of our Justification before the world and before God at the last judgment is our "change in life" after our being Justified by resting in Christ by faith. I hope that makes sense, I'm just trying to say exactly what WCF says here.
The distinction between Law and Gospel is not abandoned, but, as far as I can tell, is only applicable in certain contexts. There are other ways and cases where this scheme does not make the most sense with Scripture. In other words, Israel wasn't given the Law so that they may receive Gospel... God redeemed them by grace (Gospel) and then as part of that, gave them the Law (which was a gracious act!). I could be confusing the issue, though, so forgive me if that's the case.
I agree with Gabe here mostly, especially with reference to WCF's definition of faith. I'm not sure I'd say that's what Shepherd says--I definitely find more to disagree with in Shepherd than in others.
And DW's distinction between law and gospel is a distinction between how it is received by the hearer: to the one who has faith, everything is gospel, i.e., it all points to the work of Triune God unto redemption, while the one who hasn't faith looks to himself and his own ability and tries to work his way in on his own even when Christ is preached.
You are quite wrong on a number of things.
1. I've seen FV proponents advocate a modified version of "in..stay in" on the web. The whole covenant nomist structure controls their understanding of covenant and justification.
Notice that I didn't say, "stay in by works." I said stay in by cooperation with grace which they really believe. That's the whole point of putting people on the hook by baptismal union with Christ!
They aren't entitled to set up a two-level soteriology! Who gave them that right? Who authorized them to set up a "covenantal" scheme that is effectively Arminian and the to flee, as it suits them, dialectically, to a theoretical doctrine of election -- which has no practical force in their system?
I discussed all this at length in the Conf. Presbyterian article. Did you read it? Have any of the FV folk actually read it?
I will not concede their right to set up a dialectical, bifurcated soteriology. Schilder was dead wrong to do it and so are they. At least Schilder could give orthodox catechetical answers. These cats can't seem to do that, at least Norm Shepherd couldn't.
Not in so many words, but they are resurrecting the condign merit scheme, without realizing that. I told John Barach that at Synod Escondido in 2001. They've also resurrected congruent merit by virtue of their future justification system. Ask Theo Hoekstra about that or John Kinnaird.
Arminius used orthodox words too, but did he mean by them what Dort meant? No. I've seen Doug's strong affirmations of the IAO, but I've also seen him say things that contradicts the same.
The FV want to use orthodox terms and then contradict them and scream when we complain about it. They can't have it both ways.
The FV boys in print routinely deny merit as a category. See John Barach. See Rich Lusk.
You're quite wrong here. In 1974 Norm said explicitly, as I show in the book, that we justified through "faith and works." Then, he revised his language to "faithfulness." That's the language of his 2000 book.
Gabe, in his book he moves from Adam to us, not in re sin, but in re justification! That move is structurally Pelagian.
Norm is past defending on faith in the act of justification. I've read virtually every word Norm has published and he denies what you're affirming here.
For Norm, sanctity isn't just the fruit of justification or something that accompanies true faith, it is a constituent of true faith, part of what makes true faith what it is. In other words, it's "formed faith."
As you know or should know, the Reformation rejected the very notion of formed faith. Faith doesn't function as instrument because it contains our, Spirit-wrought, sanctity but because it receives and rests in Christ's obedience for us. Christ's alien righteousness is the power of faith, not anything in faith, not even anything Spirit-wrought and the confession is absolutely explicit about this.
Norm is part of a movement that is dissatisfied with the Reformation definition of faith in the act of justification. It happened in the 1540's, again in the 1640's, in the 18th century, in the 19th century and again with Shepherd. He's the heir of a long tradition of dissatisfaction with fides formata Christo.
Our eternal justification is grounded in Christ and received through faith alone. Full stop.
In the nature of things, as WCF 11 and BC 24 make clear, that faith is always accompanied by other graces, but those graces are nothing but evidence and fruit of justification. Full stop. Norm won't have this. This doesn't produce the sort of sanctity he wants. It's not fast enough. I don't know, but he and the FV with him, want to find a way to wedge sanctity into faith in the act of justification.
Yes, it's the same faith, but faith only justifies as it rests in Christ. Show me where the FV accepts this.
Your qualification about law and gospel is passing strange since they all repudiate law and gospel as "Lutheran." Sandlin (who says he's not FV?) Frame. The whole lot of them. Norm repudiated the law gospel distinction as Lutheran and Pete Lillback tried to defend the same proposition in his PhD thesis. That's why the FV all love that book.
Gabe, like Josh Smith, you're to fix their theology.
That isn't the Reformed doctrine of law and gospel.
This is what comes of the FV making up stuff as they go along.
There's a whole chapter on this in CJPM.
Point 1 about apostasy only brings back confusion when apostasy is understood according to the FV way of stating it. The little chapter in the Confession on the doctrine of adoption is crucial here. *ALL* THOSE THAT ARE JUSTIFIED are NEVER CAST OFF. The FV must acknowledge that the reformed doctrine of apostasy does not allow for the idea that the apostate was ever REALLY justified.
On point 4, I imagine any aberrant theology could pick out a few statements from the writings of the Westminster divines and think they are striking a note from the tradition. It is probably the case that the fencing of the original statements has been broken down to allow a broader application than the divines permitted. When we look at point 8, it is clear that this is in fact the case. The divines made their statements within the theological categories of the invisible and visible church distinction. One may not obliterate that distinction and then apply their statements about the privileges belonging to the members of the visible church to some invented category of the neo-theologian's choosing. You might very well strike a note from the tradition, but it will be in the service of an opposing tradition's song.
And then there is point 6. "FV is not puritanism." There is the departure point so far as praxis is concerned. The practice of Puritanism is based on the reformed theology of Word and Spirit. Assurance is grounded on the promises of the Word being applied by the testimony of the Spirit to the individual's conscience. The FV grounds assurance solely on the objectivity of Word and sacraments. It provides a practical theology of Word without the Spirit. Sensing that all subjectivity cannot be denied in coming to assurance, they supplement the witness of the church in the place of the testimony of the Spirit. Listen, we are told, to the Scriptures speaking to the church and addressing the church as elect. You are a member of the church; therefore, you are elect. Have they done away with the practical syllogism? Not in the slightest. They have simply adjusted the minor premise to suit their substitution of the Church in place of the Spirit.
As usual, excellent thoughts, Rev. Winzer.
Fixing theology and other comments
I don't see it fixing their theology, but rather reading their theology as charitably as possible, when they also assert their adherence to the confessions. Wilson or Wilkins says, "Yes, I affirm what the WCF says here about this." I take that at face value and try to reconcile their other statements with that. I have so far found that generally the statements are reconcilable when properly qualified, as all of our language must be.
I don't think they are creating a bifurcated soteriology: real salvation, salvation properly so called, is only by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of the full work of Jesus Christ for His specific people, chosen before the foundation of the world, and it seems that Wilkins, Wilson, and most other repeatedly affirm this. But their point is two perspectives on the same reality: how we view it, through history and the church, and how God views it from eternity. Their use of terms like "salvation," etc. are usually qualified by quotation marks or by the phrase "in some sense," by which indicators I take them to be using the language analogically (or perhaps "homonymously" as Aristotle would say, like calling a statue's eye an eye--since the nature of an eye is to see, but the statue's eye cannot, yet we call it an "eye"). Salvation properly so-called belongs now and will belong only to the decretally elect, but those who are chosen and ordained merely to a temporary "faith" (and the quotes mean that in its true nature faith perseveres, so if it's temporary it is not faith properly so-called) do receive some benefits in history that bear a resemblance to those received by the truly elect, and so those temporary "believers" do in some sense participate and receive the blessings of the new creation, i.e., the blessings of "salvation" (viewed as the restoration of all things, not simply on an individual level). This seems to be what is in view in Heb. 6:4-6, or 1 Cor. 10:1-6.
As to the law and gospel issue, DW's framing is not by any means identical with the historic Reformed view, but does that make it heretical? If read in context, his concern is that the Word of God not be divided up by us, but rather than it should do the dividing. I find this a laudable concern in a day of strong dispensationalism--and it seems to fit with Paul's use of Deut. in Rom. 10--the original context of the Deuteronomy passage seems to be entirely law, but Paul takes it as gospel, when seen rightly (cf. Rom. 9:32, where the problem with the Jews seems to be one of perspective: they viewed something as by works which was really by faith). Is Psalm 24:3-6 law or gospel? That depends on how you read it: if you look at it and say, "Well, I'd better get busy washing my hands, and I'll be sure to put a post-it note on the fridge not to follow idols, and I'll..." then, you are receiving it as law and it will be law to you. But if you look at it and move on to vv. 7-10 and say "The Lord of glory Himself, pure in all His ways, gained that blessing for me through His righteousness and salvation (v.5) and is now offered to me here in His Word and in the Supper..." then it is gospel. Same passage, different effect. So I find that there is something in DW's approach here that is helpful and accords with Scripture, even if it is not strictly the usage of the Reformed tradition.
I sometimes wish all criticism was spoken with such clarity because it leaves detractors very little space to disagree. I know, for my part, that I have far less ability to write in a way that is hard to find reproach with. I believe that some (though surely not all) of the rebellion in the FV is caused by men who have their hackles up over words and perceived offenses and have difficulty seeing the substance of the critique.
I feel a little awkward about how this thread began because Jon was responding to me. He actually felt like we had cut, in an honest way, to the core of some of our concerns with the FV. I entered into the comment section of Barlow's blog to try and see if I could sense where some of them were coming from. Now, I admit to being quick-tempered and impatient, but there is some serious baggage with some FV folk who are like cornered animals lashing out at any they don't know. It's simply an analogy and I don't really think they're "animals" but most of their posting is not putting forward positively what they believe but responding negatively to those they view as simply attacking them. The preponderance of FV writing and thought is presented by negation because they seem to spend all their time telling their opponents what they don't believe rather than clearly articulating what they do. That's all said because, when you're on the defensive all the time, I think it makes it hard to view any dialogue that challenges your perspective as anything but a frontal attack.
Thus, at least with Jon, I was trying to lay out clearly what I believed the disagreement was. I'm gratified that he read our interaction on Conditional Election and believed we were at the heart of the issue. What ends up happening with posts like the one on the Warfield list is that it immediately shuts down the listening for some. Why? Because the man is treated as an object of pity, worthy of little respect for his convictions. I hope I don't have to go into the Scriptures to articulate how we ought not to unnecessarily give offense.
For his part, Jon was very gracious to me on his "turf" and I just wanted to extend him the same courtesy here in a forum he cannot respond to. I hold out hope that many who are attracted to the FV for some American excesses that Rev. Winzer and Dr. Clark have articulated in different ways can understand that one does not have to buy into re-definitions of core Reformed doctrines but simply understand them better. Where the dialogue stalls as personal affronts or being overly defensive it has little chance of success. I'm very grateful that I have examples on this Board that have helped me be less offensive so I can be more constructive.
Well stated, Rich. The best defence against error is the faithful exposition of the whole truth.
Notes on Rev. Winzer's comments
The FV do acknowledge that the apostate are never REALLY justified. Wilkins, e.g., says: "It would be unwise to call this 'losing one's salvation,' but it would be unbiblical to say that nothing was really lost." This seems to mean that they did not REALLY have salvation, in the confession's sense, but that really had SOMETHING that looked like salvation. For example, the gifts on Pentecost were the down payment of final, REAL salvation for Peter, etc. But if there was someone who preached on that day who later fell away (at least a hypothetical possibility, cf. Heb. 6:4-6; Matt. 7:22), then they really had the same gift Peter had, but it was not a down payment, because the full reward did not come to them later. Why not? Because of God's fully unconditional decretal election.
They also don't obliterate the visible/invisible distinction in substance. Why not? In substance, isn't this a necessary distinction between church members who are save and church members who are finally lost? I don't see that the FV obliterates the substance here, given the fact that they repeatedly emphasize that mere profession or mere participation in the sacraments without a true Biblical faith do not save, but rather condemn. As to "invented categories of the neo-theologian's choosing," I have heard Mike Horton use the terms "historical" and "eschatological" for the church, so simply using new terms does not mean you've denied the confession (Dr. Clark, I know you don't think that DW and MH mean the same thing, but can you back me up that MH does use the terms?).
In response to Rich, it seems that the FV spend a great deal of time explaining what they are not saying because many of their discussions began with the attack by the RPCUS, which opened the discussion by condemning them, having not spoken to the men themselves nor to their sessions. Moreover, some of their critics use language that the FV themselves do not in order to explain their views (e.g., the language of infusion, or ex opere operato, or cooperation with grace), or less subtly lump them in with Rome, so that they have to explain why those terms do not in fact apply to them or why they don't mean what Rome means. So if you don't think you meant what your critic said you meant, you kind of have to say, "no, that's not what I said or what I meant."
This is the point they simply do not make clear, and it is left deliberately vague. Because it is deliberately vague it tends to excite formalism. Consider the observations of Westminster divine, Richard Vines, in his sermons on Rom. 2:28, 29. Regrettably, those who accept the New Perspective will not regard his use of this passage as pertinent; but the observations will at least demonstrate what the historic position is.
You are left having to say what you think he SEEMS to mean. The reason is, because he does not say it. The FV proponent only needed to say what you have said. It was that simple. What he does say is that SOMETHING has been REALLY lost.
It is the using of these terms in an unconfessional way that is the problem. The members of the "historical" church are described by the FV as receiving benefits which, in Westminster's formulation, belong to members of the invisible church. Meanwhile, some members of this "historical" church shall ultimately be cut off, so that they are not a part of the "eschatological church," whereas the members of the invisible church are members of the eschatological church in the Westminster formulation. The words and the substance are different.
"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,' says the Lord. 'AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' Says the Lord Almighty."
Just God's thoughts.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"
I think it is naive and dangerous to take questionable statements on critical doctrines (which justification really is) at their face value when dealing with an officer of the church. It is a sign and tendency of our speculative, individualistic age that everyone has to have his own specific "take" on this doctrinal matter and that we have to owe that person a lot of charity on this opinion, no matter how strong or weak it may be.
On critical doctrine, I would afford a teacher or pastor almost no charity if he started talking even remotely aberrantly about the Trinity or the Resurrection. While I have no sympathies with the FV movement as I have come to know of it, I do see why some might be drawn to it; nonetheless, when a whole group of teachers and pastors start using ambiguous language about one of the most critical doctrines of the Faith, I as a confessional presbyterian have absolutely no obligation to given them a benefit of the doubt. The burden of proof is on them before my denomination and its confessional standards. The standards stand, and challenges to them (implied or direct) must prove why the confessions should be amended, not why the confessions should just bend to their will. Don't like the inflexible standards of a confessional church? Fine, set up a different denomination or go to a church that is non-confessional, but do not try to redefine the confession to say something it does not say.
This is arguing over the core of the Gospel (Justification and Covenantalism) and indeed what the Christian faith is, and all of this ambiguous and confusing usage of classical doctrines is VERY worrisome to me as a confessionalist coming out of both mainline and more evangelical thought. Both backgrounds used words carelessly and it was unclear what people believed by their speech. Needless to say, doctrinal quality is nonexistent and numerous "sincere" people are wrong to the point of damnable error, especially in the former.
At my grandmother's funeral, I heard that her resurrection was complete (it was a PCUSA service), with no reference ever to a future bodily resurrection. Now, am I going to give these ministers the benefit of the doubt as to their doctrine on resurrection? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Confessions are a hedge against doctrinal error on critical issues, because they require the contesting side to prove its theological case (i.e. the burden of proof is on the innovator). I am extremely grateful my denomination has a confession of faith that requires some measure of subscription for officers, as it at least means there's a set of standards for teaching that *should* be followed. Quoting random chunks of the WCF to prove a particular point is every bit as bad as proof-texting a verse or part of a verse from the Word to prove a random assertion, and it proves every bit as much as the latter.
I've been on the outside - this year is the first of my 21 years that I've spent in an even remotely Reformed church that is based on confessionalism. Every bit of rhetoric I've heard from FV advocates of using these words in unsusual ways smacks of liberalism and doctrinal compromise.
Finally, calling Dr. Clark and other anti-FVers mean is beside the point. These are serious issues, and I really don't care whether someone is acrid or nice about these matters, when talking within the Church. We live in too "nice" of a culture, as a quote mentioned. Machen was called mean and nasty in his day, yet everything he said in Christianity and Liberalism is arguably MORE true now than it possibly was in the 1920s.
very well said.
Scott, the part about the standards standing and not bendiing to the will of individuals is priceless -- wisdom beyond years. Blessings!
So now you're accusing a myriad of committed Christians "unbelievers?"
You just legitimized the point about Puritanical elect-detector-ism.
Simply rediculous, absurd, and detrimental to the movement of this discussion thus far. Uncalled for. Immature. To infinity.
Its like saying there are over 1 Billion Christians in the world. Ok, now how many of those are Roman Catholics? RC are not Christians. FV leads/is (to) RCism.
I would never say, "myriad(s) of committed Christians (are) "unbelievers?"" I would say that proponents of the FV heresy are not Christian at all. There is a chasmic difference.
One can't deny the Gospel and be a Christian. Its biblically and theologically impossible.
For the FV proponents to redefine the church, redefine justification, redefine sacraments, redefine and/or exclude the active/passive obedience of Jesus Christ and His work (!!!), (and subsequently disagree with orthodoxy by redefining the Reformed Confessions in their major points on soteriology, not to mention to butcher historical theology as the church has known it), is to change the Gospel to some other garbage that "sounds good" and lures people in deceptively. Satan is not sitting around with a red suit and pitchfork. He is preaching through those "committed" people that teach destructive heresies.
There is only one Gospel. Regardless how committed one is to a particular "gospel" (little "g"), does not give them the right to be labeled "Christian."
Its certainly not absurd to stand fast to one Gospel, ad infinitum.
Man is not saved by the confession of a doctrine, no matter how accurate one may think it is. You do not know the hearts of men. You don't even know the hearts of RC Christians worldwide. There are elect even among the RCC, as horrible as their theology may be.
This is shameful.
I want nothing to do with this kind of thinking.
But Gabe, if you knowingly deny the active obedience of Christ, then Christ's life has no meaning (which is part of the gospel). Part of the gospel taken away is no gospel at all.
So which divines at Westminster fought to keep the "active obedience" phrase out of the Confession again? I guess they're in hell.
In reading all of these things it causes me to wonder...if what it said is true...why are these men still TE's???
Why haven't they just chosen to leave instead of choosing to stay and create five years of friction?
I will be asking my pastor when I see him