Jason Stellman, Peter Leithart, and the PCA

So the verdict has come back from the Standing Judicial Committee of the PCA regarding the Peter Leithart heresy trial, and I’m deeply distrubed. You can read about it here and here.

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4 thoughts on “Jason Stellman, Peter Leithart, and the PCA

  1. I admit that I am entirely out to sea when it comes to this one. I followed Jason Stellman’s reception into the Catholic Church from this end, and heard people in all that buzz upset about that, especially in light of his role in the Leithart trial. But I have no idea about this “Federal Vision” theology, only that it apparently must resemble Catholic theology in some way. Could you sum up “Federal Vision” for me in a sentence or two?

    • I wish the whole Federal Vision phenomenon could be summed up in a sentence or two, but it defies that sort of simple explanation. However, despite the dangers, I’ll give it my best shot, with the caveat that it can’t possibly be comprehensive enough, and will take more than a sentence or two.

      The Federal Vision is a movement within Reformed circles that is an overreaction to certain problems that have cropped up due to a low view of the church, the sacraments, etc. For example, subjectivism is rejected by embracing an exaggerated objectivism. The proponents of the whole Federal Vision program routinely seek a theological fix for problems that ought to be addressed pastorally. They have misidentified the problems as being with Reformed theology rather than with Reformed practice.

      Some of the common traits with proponents of the Federal Vision (FV) are:

      • A mono-covenantalism that sees one covenant, originating in the intra-Trinitarian fellowship, into which man is invited, thus flattening the concept of covenant and denying the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
      • Election as primarily corporate and eclipsed by covenant.
      • A denial that the law given in Eden is the same as that more fully published at Mt. Sinai and that it requires perfect obedience.
      • Viewing righteousness as relational, not moral.
      • A failure to make clear the difference between our faith and Christ’s.
      • Defining justification exclusively as the forgiveness of sins.
      • The reduction of justification to Gentile inclusion.
      • Including works (by use of “faithfulness,” “obedience,” etc.) in the very definition of faith.
      • An overly objectified sacramental efficacy that downplays the need for faith and that tends toward an ex opere operato [automatically effective] view of the sacraments.

      My issues with the FV are on three fronts:

      1. Doctrinally, despite the decision of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Committee, they are definitely outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy.
      2. Practically, they are trying to solve a pastoral problem by rewriting Reformed theology, rather than encouraging a consistent practice of what we Reformed actually believe, teach, and confess.
      3. There is a lack of integrity with folks holding to these positions and staying within Reformed churches. If they genuinely believe these things, then they should follow Stellman’s example, and leave their denominations.

      I hope that helps, Joseph.

      • Thanks, Benjamin. That does help. I still don’t fully grasp it — I would probably have to first fully grasp Reformed orthodoxy! I see now why I didn’t find a very good, firm definition to it through googling. It seems perhaps an overly broad umbrella for a certain kind of discontent and heterodoxy, more a case of “what it’s not” than “what it is”? I can definitely see the problem for Reformed people — it is certainly not Reformed orthodoxy.

        At first glance, I don’t see much of a kinship to Catholic theology — aside from Catholic theology also not being being Reformed orthodoxy. Many of these things, if not all of them, would be heterodox to Catholicism also. And rather than a flattening this seems to be, Catholic theology, after the scholastics, is a complexification!

  2. My dear brother Benjamin…forgive me for not feeling too badly here…I do agree on one particular point you stated though, that being if a person truly does not believe what their denomination teaches, then find one that does.

    Or better yet, come home to Rome…just saying. You know I love you right? And you and I are brothers in the same Lord Jesus Christ. But I think the time for demonizing Catholicism is over. Same with demonizing other Christians by Catholics. As Joseph Richardson so aptly stated, the broad spectrum of those who consider themselves “Reformed” or for that matter Lutheran or Assemblies of God, where I was for 12 years a minister as you know, is still based upon the Bible as interpreted by someone. The Heidelberg Catechism is an interpretation of the Bible. So is Luther’s Concord. And, yes, ours as well. And if that is so, then why is it inconceivable that Christ has already given us a place for that to occur, and that within His Church?

    Like you, we as Catholic Christians believe in the early Church Fathers, we believe in Sacraments as tools towards our salvation, we however trust in salvation by Christ alone and by grace alone. But we do not say “faith alone” because as it has been said a faith that is alone is not a saving faith in the first place. We are not that far from each other in reality. I am not saying ignore the differences–but perhaps don’t stress over them so much either. Just some thoughts.

"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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