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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More Leithart, Confession and the SJC

It is being argued by some that a tactical error was made by the prosecution, that they argued from the Confession more than Scripture. I think arguing from the Confession was the right move.

Peter Leithart vowed to uphold the system of doctrine taught in the Confession. Accordingly, in many ways it is much more efficient (and effective) to argue from the Confession and not Scripture.
Consider, not all who embrace the Confession use the same verses as proof-texts to demonstrate particular confessional doctrines. Yet those doctrines the Confession teaches are to be upheld regardless how one arrives at them. Yet if one arrives at them in an unsatisfactory manner, it weakens his case. Consequently, tactically speaking it’s safer to reference the clear statements found in the Confession.

What became a slightly more tricky part of the case is that although the WLC Q&A 68 mentions common operations of the Spirit that unbelievers may have, the Confession does not say too much about it; yet the writings of the Federal Vision, including Leithart’s, use this slice of doctrine as a kind of launching pad for their confusion over union with Christ. Their tactic has been to weave into the Federal Vision fabric (i) equivocal statements regarding baptism, (ii) the blurring of the visible and invisible church distinction and (iii) the common operations of the Spirit in the life of unbelievers. Yet even with all that to deal with, the Confession is sufficient to argue against such sophistry because the Confession not only does not affirm what Leithart has written it unambiguously denies his writings on these matters. That’s why I think using the Confession as a primary standard in the case was not only acceptable but even the best course of action.

That brings me full circle. I think it’s disgraceful, this Monday morning quarterbacking regarding what the prosecution did not do. The reason being is that it's most of the same people who are blaming the SJC for not upholding for the prosecution. Yes, the whiners want to have it both ways. They want to find fault with the prosecution's case and with the SJC for not agreeing with the case the prosecution delivered. What's even worse is the SJC is not only being faulted for the outcome of the case, but in the process the committee members are being accused for not being confessional and even worse being dishonest for not siding with the prosecution.

I can only wonder if the SJC would have responded differently to another approach, one that didn’t put Leithart’s beliefs on trial (whether intentionally or unintentionally), but instead ended up prosecuting him for his writings. When Leithart interpreted his writings in a very selective way that was more agreeable with the Confession, it should have been argued that the literal interpretation of his writings do not comport with his exegesis of them. That, of course, would have led to an impasse of sorts, unless something extraordinary happened. Then it might have been established that his writings both presupposed and implied that he thought he had discovered or rediscovered something novel for the church, but given that he really hadn’t it could have been proved that he was, therefore, unaware what Reformed theology has affirmed all along, that the visible church is to be regarded as God’s people. So, either Peter Leithart never understood the Reformed faith to begin with or else his writings were not intended to have been in concert with the Reformed faith in the first place (yet he now interprets them as such.) Again, I only mention this Monday-morning approach to the case because I don’t think the SJC was handed Leithart on a silver platter by any stretch, but they are being accused as though he had been.

Finally, after reading the transcripts I can say that I would not have wanted to have been in Jason’s shoes (or on the stand either). I thought some of Jason’s statements were very good and downright clever at times. I have no hard feelings over how the case was prosecuted and I have nothing but respect for the SJC and all those who poured their hearts into this matter these past several years.


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8 comments:

Mike Mihok said...

I’m trying to understand why it is disgraceful to Monday morning quarterback the failed prosecution of the Leithart Case. When I was driving ships in the Navy had I failed to navigate correctly and run aground the Monday morning quarterbacking would have made the response to the SJC look like Pop Warner.

Assuming that the PNWP and the SJC acted as honest brokers and the prosecution simply failed to meet the burden of proof, it seems pretty obvious that the prosecution bears a large responsibility for either bringing the case to trial to begin with or in the failure to bring in a guilty verdict.

I find the argument that the prosecution dumped the case because of a conversion to Rome or out of a desire to keep solicited contributions for personal gain a bit too conspiratorial for my tastes but, a little sound Monday morning quarterbacking, taking the integrity of the PNWP and the SJC for granted, is exactly what is needed.

Jason Stellman’s apostasy to Rome actually provides the opportunity to reexamine his handling of the case excluding personality. He has, by departing the PCA, made himself irrelevant in any of these discussions. There is no reason to question his motives as a failed prosecutor but, we do need to asses why he failed.

laybeforethemast said...

I’m trying to understand why it is disgraceful to Monday morning quarterback the failed prosecution of the Leithart Case. When I was driving ships in the Navy had I failed to navigate correctly and run aground the Monday morning quarterbacking would have made the response to the SJC look like Pop Warner.

Assuming that the PNWP and the SJC acted as honest brokers and the prosecution simply failed to meet the burden of proof, it seems pretty obvious that the prosecution bears a large responsibility for either bringing the case to trial to begin with or in the failure to bring in a guilty verdict.

I find the argument that the prosecution dumped the case because of a conversion to Rome or out of a desire to keep solicited contributions for personal gain a bit too conspiratorial for my tastes but, a little sound Monday morning quarterbacking, taking the integrity of the PNWP and the SJC for granted, is exactly what is needed.

Jason Stellman’s apostasy to Rome actually provides the opportunity to reexamine his handling of the case excluding personality. He has, by departing the PCA, made himself irrelevant in any of these discussions. There is no reason to question his motives as a failed prosecutor but, we do need to asses why he failed.

Reformed Apologist said...

Has any Monday morning QB offered an argument against Leithart? Do they even know what an argument entails? Were these QBs upset with Jason's job prior to the SJC decision? Have the complainers even read the transcript? Yes, it's shameful on all counts.

Mike Mihok said...

I think Ron DiGiacomo has made a number of lucid comments showing a working knowledge of the material and where improvement to the prosecution’s case was needed. I think you have commented on specifics instances where the prosecution needed better cross examination to flesh out ideas.

Maybe my confusion is more semantic, over the term Monday morning quarterback. Where I work in an environment where post event second guessing is encouraged to make sure lessons are learned, constructive Monday morning quarterbacking is seen as a good thing.

I’m not interested in a vast Roman conspiracy. I have a scroll wheel on my mouse. I am also not surprised by a rehashed New Light argument against using the Confession in Church courts. Excluding these explanations there does seem to be the need for post trial examination, even if only to clarify the use of standard theological terms.

R/
Mike Mihok

Reformed Apologist said...

Where I work in an environment where post event second guessing is encouraged to make sure lessons are learned, constructive Monday morning quarterbacking is seen as a good thing.

Yes,operative word "constructive." What I'm seeing is a bunch of bashers showing their backside to Jason. That's no way to win him back with kindness.

I think Ron DiGiacomo has made a number of lucid comments showing a working knowledge of the material and where improvement to the prosecution’s case was needed.

I'll pass on the kind words. :)

Mike Mihok said...

Thank you for taking the time to correct, what is probably just my own idiosyncratic reading of your comments.

I tend to agree that some of the reaction to both the SJC verdict and Mr Stellman’s conversion to Rome have been harsh. It is an unfortunate response to betrayal. Add to that my view that he will never go away as long as he has an audience and we have a self licking ice cream cone.

Reformed Apologist said...

Yes, the fame is not likely to help his repentance.

Tim H said...

Actually, a fellow named John Bugay nailed Stellman to wall on his RC tendencies BEFORE Stellman was ever appointed to prosecute the case. It's quite amazing and you can read the exchange starting with comment #97 at this post:
http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/the-verses-that-changed-luther/