Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I just read a piece from Peter Leithart from the on-line Credenda Agenda called On Not Blackballing. The argument in the piece is that it is the Reformed tradition to be inclusive. His evidence is from a book about the openness of the Westminster Assembly and the English Delegation getting certain condemnations removed from the Synod of Dort. Both showed a willing to be inclusive of certain positions and not have a down the line dogmatism. Thus, the Reformed tradition is one that is tolerant of certain divergent views and it should not use those documents to blackball certain people or at least certain positions out of the Reformed churches. Such action would violate the very spirit that made the documents. Or at least so goes the argument.

This was an interesting piece since Leithart himself is now going to be on trial with the PCA in his presbytery and the SJC has basically already condemned him. This article seems then to be a bit of plea not to go down the road that the PCA appears to have chosen to go down.

However, his argument has one glaring hole. Even if we agree that the documents (Dort and the Westminster) are documents that are open to various positions, what does it mean for those positions that are clearly outside of those documents? If Dort was unwilling to condemn the idea that some people could temporarily enjoy some soteriological benefits, does it then mean that those who teach sacraments convey salvation benefits must be tolerated too, or those who change the definition of election taught in the standards must not be forced out of Reformed churches? Does it mean that everything not specifically condemned in the Canons of Dort are to be accepted? Such appears to be the plea. But, it seems to me that if the Synod was as open as he claims that those things that contradict the teachings of Dort then not only are not acceptable, but must be blackballed. If such an open Synod did not leave room for it then it cannot be tolerated in any way shape or form. The same can be said for his point about the Westminster Confession. If the Westminster was still nice to some who argued for positions that were not in the end adopted, those who outright go against the Westminster cannot be allowed anywhere near a Presbyterian pulpit? If it was so bad that such an ecumenical gathering could not allow it, then it cannot be allowed ever. That seems to make sense to me.

So, I wonder if Leithart has not argued himself into a corner in this article. Clearly Leithart does not believe he has violated the Westminster or Dort for that matter. But, when I think I have not violated the speed limit, it does not get me off the hook when the officer shows me the radar gun. What matters is whether or not I did violate the speed limit, not whether or not I think I did. Ultimately God is the judge of such things, but on earth the church will make such a decision. It is what pastors mutual agree to when they join a denomination.

I am not a big fan of the PCA judicial system. In fact, I think it is a mess. But, I do hope Leithart actually sticks around for the trial rather than running to the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals. I think all sides deserve a day in court.