Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Doug Wilson - Clearly Upset by the PCA

Doug Wilson, clearly upset by the PCA's condemnation of FV, wrote (link):
But Lane is correct. I was not saying that those Reformed folk who did this thing deny the truth of the Confessions, or that they have embraced heretical doctrines. I am saying that they have adopted a means of defending their Confession that is at odds with the content of the Confession itself, and hence they will not be able sustain a defense of the Confession over any extended period of time. If there are any leading lights in the PCA who are able to defend the truths of the Reformation against those who contradict it (as it is claimed we in the FV do) by means of open debate, relevant interaction, and appeal to Scripture, this controversy has not revealed their names to us. A stacked committee, followed by time for debate on the floor of GA that could be measured in minutes. What a joke.

I respond:

There is no reason to suppose that the PCA should have permitted a lengthy oral debate on the topics identified in the PCA's report. There is also no reason to suppose, and - indeed - it is unfair to suppose that the PCA committee and assembly did not appeal to Scripture. The articles presented in the report were clearly contrary both to the WCF and to Scripture. As far as I can see, the question is not whether the articles presented are wrong (they undeniably are wrong), but whether they accurately portray FV.

It is for that reason that I have provided an open challenge to any advocate or proponent of FV/AAT to identify the FV/AAT distinctives (Link). So far, there have been no takers. The floor of the general assembly is not the place for "open debate" on the subject. There time constraints to be considered, and the parliamentary format is going, inevitably, to leave one side or the other feeling that they did not have a full chance to air their views.



GeneMBridges said...

I too have been perplexed by this reaction, Brother Turretinfan.

A. For starters, there is a mountain of information on the FV from which the statement was taken, so it isn't as if they didn't know what they were discussing. Anybody that would say otherwise is either lying or just naive in my opinion.

B. There are several versions of FVism. The committee seems to have known this, so the statement seems crafted not to deal with every possible permutation but with the broader issues involved. Dealing with every permutation would be something that the presbyteries and sessions could do, based on the broader contours of the statement, the same way, for example, a trustee board at an SBC institution should, along with the administrators of that institution, be able to use the broad Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to determine is Professor Candidate John Smith is fit to serve in an SBC seminary within the bounds of the confessional standards of the SBC and the institution itself.

C. Why should there be a protracted debate in the GA itself? The GA is the place, as I understand it, that assumes that that sort of examination, if necessary at all, has already taken place. The GA is the "final port of call," for a decision in your polity, not a debate hall, right?

Ergo, apropos B on multiple versions, the debate would have to tackle every version on a version by version basis. What is Wilson proposing a 3 day series of debates? The Campbellites used to do that to tie up the Baptists (and often still do!) in debate in the 19th century.

D. And what about all those sessions and presbyteries that weighed in on the issue for the past several years. The drawback to presby polity, at least from my Baptist perspective, is that you have the benefit of bottling up a heresy pretty well, but the tradeoff is the long and drawn out process with multiple courts seemingly taking their own sweet time. It isn't as if the FV people were ignored all along over that time. When I read those other proceedings, I can usually find out either via another link or via an elder friend or two in the PCA or OPC that the FV people have responded, with back and forth between the two parties.

E. And what about the academics? It isn't as if the committee ignored them. Did they not understand the FV too? Doubtful.

F. Finally, it seems to me that the statement, like many Reformed theological documents (like, Turretin's work, with which I believe you are familiar)addressed to the eldership generally don't take time to exegete Scripture afresh every time, because the audience is assumed to have a knowledge of those Scriptures. For example, we find the men writing what we'd call the better or more complex theological volumes of times past very briefly summarizing Scripture proofs or giving lists or just using confessional standards, assuming that the audience (students, elders, other theologians) had the commentaries handy or knew the confessions and the exegetical tradition behind those confessions' Scripture proofs and/or already knew the exegesis in the larger commentaries that was being assumed or to which they could refer, you know, being ELDERS whom you all presumably take a great deal of time (and to your GREAT CREDIT! I might add) educating well, whether teaching or ruling. Wilson, high churchman that he is, should have an appreciation of this, shouldn't he? In short, the document, given its intended audience, doesn't need a roll call of exegetical material for a reason.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Mr. Bridges,

Thanks for your very thorough and well-written comments. In addition, to what you've said, I'd point out that the committee members (according to my recollection) did take time to interview FV-ers.

And Peter Leithart, who is apparently one of the more prominent FV-ers, has indicated that PCA report accurately describes his own work on justification (Source link). (One ambiguous sentence that I wish he had omitted from that post is: "The main thrust of the article was an exploration of what Turretin calls the "improper" use of "justification" language in Scripture." -- for those less familiar with such things, he is referring to my namessake, not me)

In any event, I may be remembering incorrectly. Leithart cites Rayburn as indicating that Leithart cooperated fully with the investigative committee of his local Presbytery (link). One would presume (and perhaps I'm mistaken) that the GA's committee would conduct a similar investigation, or at least interviews of the presbyterial committees.

As to what the GA is ... one thing it is a court. I guess the FV-ers are saying that they did not get a fair trial. But the FV-ers themselves were not on trial. If it was a question of excommunicating Leithart (to take an example, and not to - in any way - suggest that such action would be proper), one would expect a great deal more deliberation and debate than only a few minutes.

Then again, all the FVers currently have open microphones to defend themselves on their own blogs, and in many other forms of media.

Yes, the PCA was certainly using shorthand when it stated that each view was contrary to the WCF. The WCF itself is replete with Scripture proofs.

And, again, it is not clear whether the FV-ers are taking the position that they are confessional, or that the confession needs to be revised.

Only if their claim was the latter, would their complaints at the paucity of Scripture proofs carry much weight. If their claim is that we need to revise the WCF, then of course the doctrinal will be contrary to the WCF.

I don't know how much the academics have weighed in.


Turretinfan said...

After I wrote all that, I thought, maybe I ought to have begun my response, Brother Bridges, so that no one would get the wrong idea from such a formal reply ... nevertheless, this posting of my stream-of-consciousness should fix the problem if it even existed.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you post your challeng on Doug Wilson's site (if you haven't)? Do a lot of FV poeple read your site? If not, what is the point of posting a challenge on your site if no FV people read your site?

I gave you a link to article that gave several reasons why the GA should not have accepted the report. I don't see where you responded to that article by Jeff Meyers. If you're looking to debunk FV or those who disagree with the GA's decision you could start there.


Turretinfan said...

Dear JB,

No, I didn't post the challenge to Wilson's blog. Perhaps I should. I'll think about it.

I've read the 30 page, 30 reasons documents. Not one of the reasons states what the FV position is, and shows from Scripture that it is right.

The vast bulk of the complaints were about procedural matters, whether the standards should be viewed narrowly or inclusively, or alleged misrepresentations. Reason 21, for example, claims that Leithart is mispresented, but Leithart (as noted above) disagrees.

The 30 reasons may have (and there is no need to decide one way or another) provided an excellent argument to defer acceptance of the report; the 30 reasons does not identify any FV distinctives, much less defend them from Scripture. They do not address the challenge.

Therein lies the problem.


GeneMBridges said...

Isn't it rather ironic that in those 30 pages, they themselves didn't appeal to Scripture to justify FV, while one of the chief complaints has been the GA Report didn't exegete Scripture?

Turretinfan said...

Dear Brother Bridges,

Yes, it was unexpected that a 30 point, 30 page list of reasons would not include "don't condemn doctrine "X" because doctrine "X" is Scriptural." And it is especially ironic in view of the complaint that the report is short on Scripture.

Personally, if my teachings were under fire, I hope I would focus my response on defending my teachings (from Scripture and, in this case, the confessional standards).

I should add, there may be specific articles out there (Leithart refers to his own article on justification) that would serve as just such a basis. The thirty-first point could have been simply a list of citations to such articles that defend the doctrines from Scripture, and a call to have those articles considered based on their Scriptural as opposed to merely their confessional strength.


Anonymous said...

Uh... Isn't it funny that those who are complaining about a report for not citing Scripture that is complaining about a report that doesn't cite scripture haven't cited Scripture?

Think about it guys. I suppose I should expect you to complain that my complaint about your non-scriptural complaint didn't cite Scripture.


Turretinfan said...

Dear JB,

With due respect, no.

The criticism of the report is for inconsistency. It is not inconsistent for the non-FV "side" to expect consistency in FV apologetics.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that dpatrickramsey's "Patrick's Pensees" and "The Ball Room" (study of the work of Puritan John Ball) seem to have disappeared into cyberspace?

People who had linked to his Pensees site now get a blog that discusses the poisoning of the Russian Lutvienko. ???

It may be that the OPC and PCA are not on board with FV and the NPP. Some of Patrick's writings smelled strongly of NTWright.

Any info, anyone? Patrick's an OPC pastor in Kentucky.

It may be worth posing as a question on your blog.

Turretinfan said...

I had noticed that Patrick's page was down, and a placeholder was up in place of it.

Pehaps his account got hacked?

I'd hate to accuse Patrick of sympathizing with NT Wright.