Siouxlands Presbytery and the Federal Vision

The Aquilla Report has recently posted a brief description of the very serious issues going on in the Siouxlands Presbytery. You can read it here. Please pray that the Lord will intervene and give the men of that Presbytery wisdom and forthrightness to deal with those found guilty, at the committee level, of teaching doctrines contrary to the doctrinal standards of the PCA. Pray that the truth will be upheld and defended so that God will be glorified in His church. You can read more here.

16 Responses

  1. Bob McDowell

    I am not a Presbyterian (though I am a Presbyopic), so I find the indirect discourse found in the Aquilla report confusing.

    I guess I’ll have to sit down and chart it out so I can figure which “player” did what to whom.

  2. Kevin+

    Who exactly were you thinking of when you refered to “those found guilty of teaching doctrines contrary…” etc.?

    I have only followed this debate from a distence, but I am sure that even I would not have missed a judgement of this magnitude.

  3. Bob,

    The language in the Aquilla report is a bit ambiguous at points. Basically, the Presbytery was asked to consider the views of a man who some believed was teaching a form of Federal Vision theology. The first committee formed to investigate the man’s views came back with a recommendation of a “strong presumption of guilt.” The Presbytery voted against that recommendation. Then a complaint was filed agianst Presbyteries decision not to follow the recommendation of the first committee. A second committee was formed to investigate the man’s views. This committee voted 6-0 with a recommendation that the Presbytery find a strong presumption of guilt “in the preaching/teaching views of [the said member] with respect to doctrines associated with the so-called Federal Vision that are contrary to the doctrinal standards of the PCA.” Instead of dealing with the man according to the recommendation of this investigative committee, the PCA report on the FV, and the standards of the denomination, Presbytery granted the man found guilty by the committee a petition to have a study committee erected to “instruct” him about what he was teaching improperly.

    Wes White sums up the conclusion of the matter:

    “The Teaching Elder who was investigated requested to be “instructed,” so the Presbytery recommended that a committee be formed to instruct him. One hitch. They said that all of those who would “instruct him” would have to be approved by the very Teaching Elder who was being investigated. So, who was nominated? A lot of guys who have supported him from the beginning. When TE Lane Keister was nominated, the TE under investigation said that TE Keister lived too far away. When RE Keister, TE Keister’s father, was nominated, the same TE said no. So, now this TE still under investigation is being instructed primarily by men who’ve supported him, including one who said that he’s in basic agreement with him.”

    I hope this helps! Please do commit this to prayer.

  4. You know, Nick, something similar is going down in my Presbytery and I think the paper Dr. Rayburn wrote to the SJC is extremely enlightening. Most FV guys are reactionary, post-mil, covenant succession and paedocommunionists, which is enough to be hated by most other Presbyterians. But they’re not heretics and they’re even Reformed.
    Too often, Church politics is a black eye on the Bride of Christ. We should all exercise the judgment of charity towards our brothers.

  5. Robert,

    I do understand what you are saying and do not want to make an accusation, as an individual, that someone is a “heretic.” It is not my place as a single individual to make a statement either way. But, I think it is clear enough that proponents of the FV are out of accord with the Westminster Standards on a number of significant points, and that is enough to labor for their removal from the PCA. I wish someone would explain to me why they do not all go into the CREC where they can minister in accord with the denominational standards. Which raises another questions, “Why are we denominated in the first place?” What is it that leads me to seek affiliation and oversight in a denomination? Very simply, it is the doctrinal standards.

  6. I guess I hold a different view of denominations. John 17 is equally as important as Galatians, and the only way I can reconcile the two is to say we should not split except over Gospel Issues. Any other schism is a sin. I think the FV guys detract from Assurance and make speculation the main thing a lot, but the don’t preach another Gospel, like Mormons or Docetists. There should not be divisions within the Body of Christ like PCA, OPC, URC, etc. The CREC has the exact same doctrinal standards as our PCA and the OPC. No wonder unbelievers don’t take us seriously.

  7. Robert,

    I appreciate your love for the church and obvious desire to see Christian unity. This is a very beautiful thing. But we are not talking about schism. We are talking about doctrinal integrity and purity. If you are concerned that denominations destroy essential unity, then you should be a proponent of the “community church” model. This is not what I hear you contending for. What I hear is you calling for doctrinal tolerance within the PCA.

    As far as whether the FV teach another Gospel or not, it is not for you or me to make official declarations. Many of the NAPRC (a unification of like minded denominations) churches formed study committees that concluded that the FV, while not necessarily uniform in their systematic expressions, were nevertheless teaching an unbiblical view of justification. That is a serious charge that borders on saying they teach another Gospel. So, am I to listen to your declaration of their innocence, or the men appointed by the church who have given careful consideration to the Gospel these men proclaim? They are, of course, innocent (before men) until proven guilty. Whether Robert Rayburn or any other defend them is neither here nor there. They may in fact be exonerated in the human courts and be found guilty of preaching another Jesus before the Divine court. So, it is not my intention to argue any specifics here. I was simply giving an update on a verifiable fact of the Siouxlands Presbytery situation at the request of a friend.

  8. Bob McDowell

    we should not split except over Gospel Issues. Any other schism is a sin.

    cf. David Wells in The Courage To Be Protestant:

    The capacity to think doctrinally was being lost as new leaders emerged, as the leadership of the evangelical world shifted from the older pastor-theologians to the newer entrepeneurial organization builders, and as churches began to reflect this change in their attitudes and worship.

  9. Bob McDowell


    Thanks for taking the time to clarify this for me.

    This affair in the PCA reminds me that I shouldn’t idealize/idolize being in a reformed denomination with well-ordered doctrinal standards (and worship standards).

    Reminds me of the words of Carl Trueman:

    Machen discusses how it was a tragedy that Luther and Zwingli fell out so badly over the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, but how it would have been an even greater tragedy had they simply agreed to differ on the grounds that the matter was of no importance.

    Given this doctrinal concern, those who follow Machen in this regard are unlikely to win many friends or influence people in today’s Christian world, where the great doctrines of the faith are often considered less significant than positions on social issues, whether it be the current conservative passion for Christian and home schooling, or the left’s zeal for issues of social justice. Pragmatics—what we do, what results we achieve—has real priority over what we believe and stand for every time. Yet for those who wish to stand within the stream of historic, biblical Christianity, Machen’s book represents a clarion call to action: Christians must realize the essentially doctrinal core of their faith and fearlessly stand upon such without compromise.

  10. Nick, you present good food for thought. I had always thought about Church Judicial decisions that I should abide by them and not publicly disagree with them, but decide in my own conscience what I believed to be right. For example, my Presbytery follows the PCA decision that paedocommunion is incorrect, but allows us to start practicing at age 5. When I taught Sunday School on Covenant Theology and came to 1 Corinthians 11, I presented what I think the passage is teaching (e.g. nothing about paedocommunion) but didn’t mention my belief that Christian children should partake upon weening.
    You say you’re against schism, but you want all those FV-er’s to “go away to their own denomination.” That sounds pro-schism to me. And Bob, one can consider these things to be hills worth dying on without resorting to tearing the Body of Christ apart. Being kicked out of your denomination is a very different thing that leaving or kicking someone else out. Love is staying close, even when it hurts.

    (I hope I am saying this with love in my heart to you too!)

  11. Robert,

    Thank you for the last comment! I know that there are a lot of difficult issues at stake (the age of children at the table being one small matter). But I do humble disagree that it is schismatic for me to want to see the FV proponents leave the PCA. I am not judging whether they are part of the body of Christ or not. I would apply the same criterion to them that I would apply to John Piper, D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo and Mark Driscoll. Can I benefit from things they have written? Absolutely! Do I want to be in a particular denomination with them. Absolutely not! That is the issue. Doctrinal unity, not ecclesiastical exclusivity. I think this is an important distinction to make. The PCA BCO is clear that denominations do not destroy the essential unity of the church. It is a matter of perspective.

    The one request I have from men supporting proponents of the FV is that they define “vitals of religion.” I keep seeing this word bandied about but have yet to see one person give a satisfactory definition of those vitals. Would the covenant of works not fall into that category in this category?

  12. As I am not FV, I don’t know exactly how they would respond to that. Thank you for so politely clarifying your position, though. I enjoy your preaching and appearances on CTC very much and don’t want to be (unnecessarily) rude.
    Didn’t John Murray not believe in the CoW? Personally, I find it indespensible. But don’t a lot of Covenant Theologians today disavow the eternal Covenant of Redemption?
    As far as denominational differences are concerned, are we agreeing than that the OPC, PCA, Bible Pres, etc.’s existences as separate denominations with the same doctrinal standards is sin?

  13. Robert,

    Thank you again for your comments. I understand that this is a difficult issue to approach, especially in a day of doctrinal reductionism. I also am thankful for your faithful support of us on Christ the Center. It is an encouragement to us to have such thoughtful listeners interacting with us.

    As far as John Murray is concerned, he denied the terminology and affirmed the substance of the CoW. I do not think that it is right to say that a lot of Covenant Theologians deny it today. As far as I know, the FV and those in hyper-covenantal circles may deny it, but it is clearly set forth in the Confession and Catechisms under the terminology of “Covenant of Works,” and “Covenant of Life.” It is a fundamental element of the Gospel system. Also, with regard to the notion of the Pactum Salutis, Reformed theologians have vacilated with regard to terminology and not substance. It seems to me that the Puritans of Westminster largely saw an eternal and temporal aspect to the Covenant of Grace. What Cocceius and others did was redefine the eternal aspect (consisting of the command of the Father to the Son) as being a distinct eternal covenant. Edmund Calamy’s Solemn Discourse on the Two Covenant’s sets down what I believe Westminster’s view was, as articulated in the Confession of Faith. We will have to wait until Chad Vandixhoorn published the minutes to see the variations/discussions that ensued at the Assembly. I hope this is helpful.

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