Acknowledging the Mess

Fred Greco:

Which is more amazing: that so many theologians, churchmen and seminaries, Presbyteries still after years and several colloquia have failed to understand something that is so important that Wilkins et al have felt it necessary to continue to disturb the church over it, or that a half dozen internet theologians really understand the Reformed Confessions better than all these fathers and brothers?

This reminds me of something from a few months ago…

Rick Phillips writes:

Secondly, as for the “we are misunderstood” plea, this is the refuge of the disingenuous. If one cannot be understood by so large a group of interested people who have devoted so much time to read and interact, it is not likely the fault of the critics. The reality is that the FV side cultivates an obligue approach to theological language and construction that is designed to say one thing and mean another. “We are misunderstood and are being treated uncharitably” is a key tenet of their strategy. (By the way, in light of the FV response to the PCA’s FV/NPP study committee, their pleas for charity have also been exposed as a mere strategy.) Lastly, we do not accept men as in accord with our confessional standards merely because they say that they are. The whole point is that we must examine the doctrine they are teaching and see if it is in accord with our standards. On this basis, the FV and the NPP are rapidly gaining recognition in Reformed and evangelical denominations as out of accord with standards like the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Second point first: Yes when we are talking about PCA ministers in good standing with their presbyteries we do, if we are Presbyterian, accept men as in accord with our confessional standards. When these men are re-examined by their presbyteries in light of scandalous accusations (myself, Leithart, Wilkins) and are exonerated we should all the more do so. The fact that after four years of attempted influence of the jury pool we are only now finding one court case finally occurring, and only through the efforts of a small group of men is itself evidence that the accusations are overblown and preposterous. The make-up of the committee itself shows that Rick and everyone else knows that his targets are well within the bounds of orthodoxy. The president of Covenant Theological Seminary came to far different conclusion than Rick and his activist friends. The main difference I have with Dr. Chappell is that I think the majority of his paper was really devoted to the thought and effect of Norman Shepherd and others who have been labeled as the “FV movement” rather than really “the New Perspective on Paul.” But that makes his actual statements all the more relevant. On the other hand, if one wants purely a view of the New Perspective and Wright, one can listen to the New Perspective on Paul Symposium here:

Orientation to the Conversation and Views on Judaism
Part One by David Chapman
Part Two by Hans Bayer
Paul and the Old Testament
Part Three by Jack Collins
Justification and the New Perspective
Part Four by Robert Peterson

Not all of these men will agree with various aspects, but they don’t see some great threat and evil that must only be renounced. Listen to these men and compare what they say to Rick Phillips reaction. Quite a difference. Then there is Reggie Kidd He too seems to have a view of the New Perspective closer to that of Rich Lusk than that of Douglas Kelly. Bringing up Douglas Kelly’s piece raises another aspect to this question. I’m not refering to the content (though that was disappointingly and incredibly inaccurate–See Daniel Kirk’s paper and my brief reply to him and Rick), but to the fact that it came out of the blue with ready-made instruments for keeping ministerial candidates out of the PCA who didn’t agree with the Kelly-Duncan offical interpretation of Wright as threat. These questions had little or nothing to do with the Reformed doctrinal standards, but were designed to flag anyone who had read any decent recent Biblical scholarship. “Is the Gospel encapsulated in Romans 1:1-4 or in Romans 1:16-17 (or 3:21-28).” This was the level of discernment mandated when the whole issue of the New Perspective first came to light. There was never any “so large a group of interested people who have devoted so much time to read and interact.” There was a minority bent on making sure the next generation matched their extra-confessional convictions. And using all their influence to accomplish this.

And Greco continues the seemingly all-too-Presbyterian tradition. Peter Leithart is vindicated by his presbytery, all Greco’s targets in the PCA are members in good standing in their presbyteries, and he declares in the face of this that all defense of “FV” is merely “a half dozen internet theologians” who are discounted from the outset of ever being fathers and brothers. These fathers and brothers are family and those are outsiders and strangers. This has never been more than cheerleaders putting the nerds in their place for daring to think they might have something to contribute.

30 thoughts on “Acknowledging the Mess

  1. Rob C

    You pretty much crystallized my thoughts there Rev. Horne. It leads to a bigger question though – why aren’t there more scholars/professors like the guys at CTS coming out with carefully nuanced (read: sane and responsible) critiques/defenses of the FV. Guys like Frame, Poythress, Lillback while they may not necessarily agree with everything that the FV has to say would surely do much to advance the conversation by stepping up and give their two cents on the issues. Surely they would be more gracious conversation partners bringing less fiery rhetoric.

  2. Rob C

    That’s reassuring to hear about Frame. He seems like the guy most likely to step up and say something. No slight on the others though, I know there’s a lot at stake for them reputation wise.

    BTW – can you direct me to an article/link where Prof. Frame has addressed the FV/NPP. Thanks!

  3. mark Post author

    I think a lot of these men don’t want the grief and thought it would blow over.

    But Frame has already stepped up to the plate. And he is ignored. The only way he could get a hearing is by blogging or something. At that point he would be accused of “causing division,” I’m sure.

    By the way, he will soon be contributing to an essay in response to some attacks on FV.

  4. Ken Pierce

    Oh, come on Mark. This martyr act gets old. Really, the hip cool kids / poster boys of the PCA right now are far more NPP friendly (Common Grounds, some in the Redeemer orbit, and some of the guys at WTS East) than some of us who are stuck in the confessional mud. I mean, we get to minister in obscure parts of southwest VA, or the deep South, but they get the tony hip college towns, metro New York, etc. etc. Who is really on the “outs” here?

    And, your circular reasoning is very self-serving: you can’t examine the views of a man in good standing because his views have been examined. Isn’t this true of anyone whose views were ever examined? Presumably Jacob Arminius, David Swing and Charles Briggs were examined for their views at ordination, and subsequently. Were they then out of bounds for any sort of critique?

    None of us is above critique.

  5. mark Post author

    “Really, the hip cool kids / poster boys of the PCA right now are far more NPP friendly (Common Grounds, some in the Redeemer orbit, and some of the guys at WTS East) than some of us who are stuck in the confessional mud.”

    Well, without making any pretenses of being hip and cool myself, isn’t my point the one you just asserted? The anti-NPP “movement” (I don’t have time to think of a better word) isn’t a great majority but rather a minority troubling the many who don’t see anything unconfessional or unorthodox. Suggesting this activist minority may be misunderstanding the issues isn’t necessarily “a refuge of the disengenuous.”

    Did any say anyone should be allowed to be exempt from “any sort of critique”? I think your not engaging what is actually going on to pretend that is my claim.

    The bullying is old, Ken. You can put whatever pejorative label you want on the open acknowledgment of what is going on. It won’t change the facts and it won’t fool Jesus on the Day he judges each one of us according to our works.

  6. Ken Pierce

    On the day Jesus judges us according to our works, I plan on crying out for mercy and pleading his blood and righteousness, not my own works.

    What’s your plea, Mark? Are you suggesting your opponents will be weighed and found wanting?

    How, precisely, am I bullying you?

  7. Ken Pierce


    If the majority sees no problem, then why the constant carping (not just here, but across the internet) about FV men not being able to find pulpits, get into presbyteries? It seems to me only a few presbyteries might be closed to such men, at least at this point.

    Would there be negative votes? Of course. But the majority would prevail, wouldn’t it?

  8. mark Post author

    Ken, I was talking about Rick Phillips appraisal of what is going on in the PCA. I wasn’t talking about you.

    Ken and Jeff, the only reason the language of Jesus judging according to works was that I happened to quote him using such language–something I hadn’t remembered when looking it up and that was accidental to my purpose in quoting the passage. The only thing I did different (without giving it much thought) was take what I think was more “realized eschatology” and extrapolate to the Final Judgment.

    We’ll all be changed in the twinkling of an eye, if that helps. Of course, since Jesus’ original statement had to do with judgments in contemporary history (is that debatable?) then I couldn’t say the same for the original meaning.

  9. Jeff Hutchinson

    Thanks, Mark. It doesn’t really answer my question, and though I think it is vital that we be able to teach our folks with crystal clear clarity that the evaluation of our works happens AFTER our glorification, I’m not up for more extensive discussion of this in the blogworld.

    I’m never sure how the blogworld is supposed to work; i.e. if one is allowed to make a comment or ask a question and then NOT stick around to interact much, but since I generally don’t have the time to give to blogworld discussions, I hope I’m not being rude by making a comment or asking a question every now and then!

    Grace and Peace,


  10. Lane Keister

    I was referring to the post. You already backed down in tone on my blog.

    “after four years of tampering with the jury pool

    There was a group of crusaders bent on torturing the next generation of Presbyterian ministers.

    This has never been more than cheerleaders putting the nerds in their place for daring to think they might have something to contribute.”

    These statements are quite inconsistent with PPT, I think. I never saw that last statement about Jesus being judge as a statement needing apology. Perfectly true, and if the accusers of Wilkins are wrong (including myself), then we will answer for it on Judgment Day. If Wilkins is teaching wrong doctrine, then he will answer for that on Judgment Day. Perfectly true.

  11. mark Post author

    Comments or entry? Both?

    On the entry, I was responding to the “refuge for disingenuous” argument.

    Shrill in the comments? Don’t know. Maybe I was to shrill in response to the “martyr act” comment. If so, sorry and I will try to do better.

    As far as appealing to Jesus as judge, that is the Christian response to false accusations. I can’t apologize for that.

  12. Jeff Hutchinson


    (I’m “hitting and running” again!)

    Whoever is wrong (the accusers of Wilkins–of which I am one–or Wilkins himself), will we have to answer for it on Judgment Day before or after we have been glorified?


  13. Lane Keister

    Jeff, that will depend on the salvation of the souls involved. If they are all saved, then the judgment happens after we have our resurrected bodies (I think Scripture is clear that resurrection happens before judgment). But that judgment will determine degrees of reward, etc.

  14. Jeff Hutchinson

    Lane, after we have our resurrected bodies AND after our souls have been made perfect in holiness as well, right?

  15. Garrett

    “They would certainly have diagnosed today’s fixated Christian intellctualists as spiritually stunted, not in their zeal for the form of sound words but in their lack of zeal for anything else;”

    JI Packer, “A Quest for Godliness”, p. 32. (speaking of the Puritans)

    In all seriousness, no one is going to change their minds at this point. Unless there is some “official” chanel of debate or council nothing will happen. What is the point in all this: “I’m more reformed than you!” I frankly don’t give a rip anymore.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, the 3 marks of the church, confessionalism, etc., etc. But when it keeps you from looking your brother in the eye with love, not just “concern” for a “heretic” it just gets blindingly tiresome. There’s a kingdom to build, hungry (literally) people to feed, and the naked to clothe. Lane, I’ve been on your blog, what do you and your church do? You’re still ministering out-of-bounds with the PCA (in CRC and RCA congregations), right? What are you and your church about besides blogging about this stuff. Seriously, you’re a minister of God’s reconcialtion but all I see you engaging in are white hot attacks. I’m sure you do other things but the only thing visible is this.

    Okay, my ranting is done. I love you all and wish we could spend more time on things that won’t, honestly, be meaningless in 20 years and already are meaningless outside our tight little circle.

  16. mark Post author

    Lane, I went back to the post and changed the first two which should never have been in there. This is actually a very old post which, believe it or not, was once worst and which I have toned down and thought about posting from time to time. I find it hard to re-read my own material and I simply did not sufficiently recheck it and re-edit it when I added the more recent material responding to Greco and published.

    But the high school comparison is entirely apt. Greco has decided who matters and who does not among those who are all supposed to count as his fathers and brothers. The cheerleader/nerd analogy is fitting and it points out exactly what is going on.

    I’m all in favor of Presbyterians Together but that will never happen if we are not allowed to deal with obvious party spirit that is so completely at odds with what we are supposed to be as one church.

  17. Fredrick T. Greco


    I am sorry that making a comment about internet discourse in general is actually an attack on the nature of the Church. Next time, I will be sure and specifically condemn by name men and whole Presbyteries in the PCA who hold positions of authority and accuse them without proof of conspiracy, evil motives and wickedness.

    Methinks the pot doth protest too much.

  18. Lane Keister

    Garrett, I simply have a high view of the church and orthodoxy, and recognize that peace cannot exist without purity in a denomination. If you look at my Genesis sermons index, that represents about a factor of a hundred more work than my FV posts. I read over 20,000 pages for those Genesis sermons, and over 30 full commentaries (including many multi-volume ones), and that’s not counting journal articles, and reference works. My congregation hardly reads my blog at all. Furthermore, I type fast. So contrary to your impression, I do not spend nearly as much time on this stuff as you seem to think. But the internet is my one outlet to the outside world when I live in a place like ND. Believe me.

  19. Garrett


    Fair enough. You write:

    “My congregation hardly reads my blog at all.”

    Why not? My congregation reads mine all the time. In fact, when I was more polemical, I actually lost people over my blog. Does this debate really require yet another voice from (from ND no less) to make it complete? The cogs of the study committees are turning, why add more fuel to the fire? Seriously, no ones saying anything new on either side…at all.

  20. mark Post author

    OK, whatever sins may not accrue to my account, appealing to the inherent authority of “fathers and brothers” over against other fathers and brothers who are dismissed with pejorative names, to settle an issue is representative of a deep sickness and it is wrong. The pot’s statement is still true, whatever the pot’s many sins.

    And, whatever allegations may or may not be true of me, I have always voted for the reception of men who insisted that “nothing happened” when a baby is baptized and a host of other things I strongly disagree with. Because if I am a pot, I am a vanilla Presbyterian pot and have acted accordingly in my fellowship and in my recognition of other Presbyterians.

    Statements have been made about how this issue ought to be weighed and about who is disingenuous which are verifiably false and which this post exposes. I’ve had to deal with conflicts before and I am not at all surprised that every accusation is being thrown at me. I can’t do much about vague accusations though I’m sure there are sins to list.

    I am also sure that it is not my sins that are provoking accusations but the thing that I say which are quite obviously in the right.

  21. mark Post author

    OK, Garrett, you’ve made your point. I’ll stop blogging controversy!

    I don’t think Garrett was only talking to you Lane!

  22. Lane Keister

    Well, most of my people don’t have internet at all, actually. A few do have it, and I have just started giving them info on getting to my blog. But most of them are probably too busy to read it anyway. You do have a point about the controversy, certainly. I think I’ll finish the Wilkins exam, and then I’ll be done for awhile.

  23. Jeff Hutchinson


    It is such good news, isn’t it, to know that our works will be judged and evaluated AFTER our souls have already been made perfect in holiness.

    Todd, by “works” I mean all of them, i.e. our thoughts, words, and deeds, in fact, everything we have done in the body.


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