The PCA Considering Excluding Followers of N. T. Wright

Lig Duncan has been part of a committee that has been considering the teachings of the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP), and especially N. T. Wright, for several months on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in America.

They have now made a number of clear declarations as listed below, and the closing paragraphs of the report suggest to me that they have concluded that to hold these views should become inconsistent with continuing as a minister or preacher in a PCA church. They make a number of requests of the General Assembly which meets later this year which include

“That the General Assembly recommends the declarations in this report as a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards, and further reminds those ruling and teaching elders whose views are out of accord with our Standards of their obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views.

That the General Assembly reminds the Sessions and Presbyteries of the PCA that it is their duty “to exercise care over those subject to their authority” and “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 31-2; 13-9f).

I am not qute clear what happens next if this report is adopted — will we eventually see some kind of exclusionary process for those who hold to these ideas? (HT Justin Taylor)

The Declarations of the PCA Committee
“In light of the controversy surrounding the NPP and FV (Ed = Federal Vision), and after many months of careful study, the committee unanimously makes the following declarations:

  1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.

  2. The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption, and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  3. The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  4. The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  5. The view that “union with Christ” renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  7. The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, such as regeneration and justification, and yet not persevere in those benefits is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.”

The whole article is well worth a read, but I offer the following excerpts as a taste of the way they strongly criticize N. T. Wright in particular:

  • NT Wright’s “…version of Paul’s teaching on election and covenant stands in stark contrast to the confessional formulation of these themes. Both cannot be right as faithful presentations of the Pauline teaching on election and covenant.”

  • “We often hear proponents and sympathizers of the NPP and FV who are part of confessional Reformed communities say, that while they go beyond the Westminster Standards in what they affirm, they do not contradict the Westminster Standards. But it is evident that the version of covenant and election taught by the NPP and FV is incompatible with the views of the Westminster Standards. In fact, these two approaches to covenant and election are not complementary ways of looking at the biblical data, but irreconcilably contradictory alternative accounts of the biblical data . . .”
  • “The Committee would suggest that the FV proponents have in effect provided an alternative hermeneutic for interpreting Scripture. They have done so 1) by concentrating their efforts on the “objectivity” of the covenant, 2) by stressing the “covenantal” efficacy of baptism, 3) by focusing on the undifferentiated membership of the visible church, 4) by holding the view that the “elect” are covenant members who may one day fall from their elect status, and 5) by highlighting the need for persevering faithfulness in order to secure final election . . .”
  • “To put it briefly, according to Wright, justification is chiefly the status of covenant membership, the status of belonging as a member of God’s people.”
  • “While Wright notes that justification (covenant membership) is a declaration that an individual’s sins are already forgiven, it does not mean that there is a transfer of God’s or Christ’s righteousness to sinners. As he argues, ‘The righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness…God’s righteousness remains, so to speak, God’s own property. It is the reason for his acting to vindicate his people. It is not the status he bestows upon them in so doing.’”
  • “. . .according to Wright, the traditional idea of ‘imputed righteousness, whereby sinners are accepted and accounted as righteous in God’s sight because of the righteousness of Jesus, is incorrect: “If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or gas which can be passed around the courtroom.’”
  • “Thus, the idea of a “gracious transfer” is simply not found in the biblical texts, according to Wright. In dealing with Romans 4:3-5, Wright understands the “book-keeping metaphor” of “counted” (ESV) as referring to the individual’s “status of being a member of the covenant…according to Wright, the language of Romans 4 does not represent “imputation” of “Christ’s/God’s righteousness” to the ungodly.”
  • “The question is then raised, when does this justification occur? For Wright, justification is an eschatological judgment that is applied in the present time “as a proper anticipation of the eventual judgment which will be announced, on the basis of the whole life led, in the future.” This “whole life” includes both the membership badge of “faith” as well as faithful responses by the individual to life among God’s people. The place where Wright argues this most forcefully is in his exposition of Romans 2. There, Wright suggests that t
    he justification of God’s people occurs “on the basis of works” (cf. Romans 2:6). When he describes what this “basis” represents, he suggests that it is not so much the accomplishment of particular works, but rather the “seeking for them”: the godly are “defined in terms of that for which they seek and the means by which that quest is pursued.””

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. His book, Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything was published by Crossway, January 2010. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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