Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Update From Today's SJC Proceedings

Just a quick update on the SJC proceedings:

We met for just over two hours, during which we (the complainants) presented our case, and Rob Rayburn (the respondant) presented his. The gist of our position was that on a number of points (such as the relationship of imputation to union, the efficacy of baptism, and the distinction between the covenants of works and grace), Rev. Leithart has expressly denied the clear teaching of the Westminster Standards, and that the Pacific Northwest Presbytery erred in failing to recognize this fact and act on it.

The respondant's position is that we (the complainants) are interpreting the Standards to be way more strict than they are (or have been understood to be throughout the history of the Reformed churches), thus "turning our church into a mere sect." If Leithart professes to hold to the Westminster Standards (which he does) and is a godly man who holds to eternal election, the five points of Calvinism, and paedobaptism (which he is), then it is wrong to "try to run him out of the church," especially when we have miserably failed to demonstrate that his views fall under the sanction of even one of the nine points set forth in the PCA's FV Report.

A couple of the eyebrow-raising statements from the respondant include: (1) His insistence that the Westminster Standards do not teach that the covenant of works sets forth a distinct principle by which we receive eternal life from that of the covenant of grace; (2) His encouragement to the SJC that they all read John Frame's review of Horton's Christless Christianity so as to learn from Frame how to avoid the dangers of Westminster Seminary California's sectarianism; and perhaps the most telling of all was (3) seeing firsthand what happens when one flattens out redemptive history so as to take Yahweh's dealings with Old Testament Israel under the conditional, Mosaic covenant as an unqualified, across-the-board paradigm for understanding how God relates to the church today. When asked by the commission, "In what sense are we saved by baptism?", the response was given, "Well, in the same sense that God can pardon his people and then damn them."

(For the record, my point is not that OT Israel has nothing to teach us, nor is it that the writers of the NT never refer us to Israel to learn from their mistakes. I get that. My point is that to read all the Bible's old covenant/new covenant language in purely existential rather than eschatological terms is to do violence to both the newness of the new covenant and the work of Christ as the second Adam and true Israelite who gained for us perfectly what his OT types could not.)

I am told that the SJC has 42 days to make a ruling. And to those of you who love asking, yes, if they find in favor of Leithart and against us, I will submit to that and never bring it up again.