Friday, May 18, 2007

A Brief Open Letter to Moderate TEs and REs in the PCA:
Vote "NO" on the New Perspective and Federal Vision Study Report!

There is little doubt in my mind that the report issued by the PCA's study committee on the New Perspective and Federal Vision attempts to sneak the strict subscription issue in the back door. (And let's not forget that that issue was settled three years ago. We have already decided that we are a "good faith subscription" denomination.) I saw this in the Soiuxland Presbytery commttiee report and I see it here too. Let's not be fooled by this move by the "Far-Right."



jedidiah said...

i knew you were a liberal.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Buccheri,

I know for a fact that you are way off base, here. Do you even know if the seven men or the moderator of the GA are strict subscriptionists?

I happen to know that one of them is NOT (from other contexts).

Have you read Sean Lucas' book "On Being Presbyterian?" Does it advocate strict subscription at all? Does it not fairly present both sides of the arguments on most issues facing the PCA?

I myself am a good faith subscriptionist. I hold several exceptions to the Standards.

But I am opposed to any exceptions which strike at the fundamentals of the system or the vitals of religion (BCO 21-4), such as, for instance, election, justification, and infallible assurance.

Many of us sincerely convinced that certain FV teachings strike at those fundamentals or vitals. I know that the advocates don't mean to. I know that. But that doesn't mean they are right about the consequences of their teachings.

FWIW, your post from three years ago when you cited the opposition to the FV arising from *both* major parties in the PCA was much more on target,IMHO.

Anyone who loves both Old School Presbyterianism and Sonship (to name two loyalties) should unite behind this report (granted that they are satisfied about the process, which should always be considered).

If the Law and the Gospel are the same, what Good News do I have to preach to sinners? Or did you not know that this is part of the debate?

The question now is (and I am going to speak as bluntly as I can), will those who do NOT come out of a theonomic or Norman Shepherd supporting background, but are more part of the intellectual urban wing of the PCA, realize that this is NOT about ecumenicism or making nice with Anglican-types?

I am about as ecumenical as they come in the PCA -- if I told you who all I hung out with, it would get me even more criticism from certain quarters. That ain't it.

This is NOT about Southern Presbyterianism trying to dominate (I went to Gordon-Conwell for goodness sake!), but about protecting what we believe is the Protestant understanding of salvation.

So, take the cultural aspects out of it, and the vain speculations and deal with the actual issues.

Moderates love the Gospel. And that means opposing what we believe to be radical rewrites of what constitutes election, justification and assurance.

But by all means, vote your conscience on the matter. Just don't call it a fight against strict subscription, when that is NOT the issue AT ALL.

Chris Hutchinson
Grace Covenant PCA
Blacksburg, VA

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting. (I noticed for years that you like commenting on blogs and lists, so I consider it my privilege that you'd set aside this time to interact with me.

I don't consider my understanding "vain speculation" though. It is my reading of a particular document and that document is bound to a moment in time. It's good to hear that one man on the commission was slightly more moderate that the other six, but that doesn't unstack the deck. I'm sorry to hear that you believe that the current matter is "striking at the vitals" of our doctrine. I guess all I can say is, I don't feel the same way about it. If that's due to my own misreading or "Adam-ness," then I pray that I'll be at a point to recognize that one day. But as of today, I can only disagree with you heartily! But that is allowable , isn't it? I guess my tolerance threshold is less sensitive than others in our denomination. Maybe that a residual factor of my Brooklyn upbringing--I don't know. What I *do* know is that I don't respond well when people try to convince me of and pass off *their* subjective understanding as "fact." We all know that fact and history are not brute!

But do stop by again. I enjoyed reading your response.

Jeff Hutchinson said...

Hey there, Matthew.

Here is a brute fact about my brother Chris and me: Our mother grew up going to Brooklyn Dodger games at Ebbets Field!

Maybe you'll allow yourself the slightest little bit more room in your heart to consider our arguments? Maybe?

Have a joyful Lord's Day!

Jeff Hutchinson
Trinity PCA
Asheville, NC

P.S. If I do get a chance to respond to your helpful response to me at greenbaggins, I'll most likely do it here, if you don't mind. That will be a tad more civil in the mean streets of the blog world.

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...

Do you guys remember Chief Jay Strong Bow and Billy White Wolf? That question shows my age...

Jeff Hutchinson said...

That is funny! (I had to google the names.)

Our Music Director here at Trinity, his first cousins are the Hardy Boys of WWF fame (plastic action figures, faces on cups at 7-11, and everything).

Anonymous said...


Actually, I have been trying to not to do much blog surfing or commenting these past 2 years or so and have only begun to make an exception recently. But now I am getting slammed pastorally, again, so I will have to cut back again, which is probably a good thing.

Well, I do believe in facts and in objective history. Which does not mean that I always get them right which I readily grant.

But here's the thing. You are a Pastor of one of the largest and most influential churches in the PCA. You write an open letter in which you make the claim that the FV Study Report is an attempt to sneak strict subscriptionism in through the back door.

And yet you make this claim without any evidence to back it up. You simply assert that you "see" it and that you have "little doubt" in your mind that this is the case. You also use the undefined label, "Far-Right." This is not argument; it is an appeal to emotion or authority or party, but it is not argument. Now, whose take is subjective?

So, I respond with three little facts (and yes, I dare to use that word!; if we can't, then we can't discuss anything with any certainty!) which show that this is not the case:

1) At least one of the authors was an active advocate of good faith subscription. To respond that he is then "slightly more moderate" misses the point. The point is that he is not a strict subscriptionist, which was your claim about the report!

2) Sean Lucas' flagship book, "On Being Presbyterian," does not show the slightest bias towards strict subscriptionism or anything normally associate with the "far-right" of the PCA.

3) I (and I can throw my brother Jeff in here too if he does not mind) are far from being either strict-subscriptionists are far-righters. We both pastor growing, broad-PCA churches with affinities for different sides of the PCA in different matters.

I might also add these three further points.

4) You ask whether you can be allowed to think that the FV issues do not strike at the vitals. Yes, of course you can. And I must admit that I think some strike worse than others; I am not as troubled by their sacramentology for instance. But by asking the question, do you not grant me my point that this is a "fundamentals" and "vitals" question, rather than a "strict-subscriptionist" issue?

Strict-subscriptionists allow for no exceptions at all (or in another form, that if held, they may never be taught). Very few men hold to this in the PCA, and there is no evidence at all that this report reflects this point of view. If there is, bring it forth.

5) By using the word, "fooled," you imply that there is something dishonest going on here. Again, consider what you are doing by appealing to straight party loyalties without any argument, and consider you are saying about your brothers' motives in this. Now, who is being tolerant and moderate?

6) My prayer is that my own sensitivity towards these matters is truly Gospel-related, and not driven by anything else. I don't enjoy confrontation at all, especially with those way out of my league intellectually. I personally don't think any of these men are gospel-denying per se, but that some of their theology leads to that. In other words, I want to have a huge tolerance threshold myself, on all matters not central to the Gospel. My post is already too long to bring forth evidence of some of the more radical things being said, but we should not be naive at the power of the works righteousness within each of us, and that sometimes, that takes theological expression.

Thank you for allowing me to post my thoughts and arguments. You are gracious host! And that's a fact! :-)

Your brother,
Chris Hutchinson

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...


Thanks for stopping back. Allow me to answer you by asking a few questions:

1. How many people on the committee fairly represented the FV or NPP? Or, to ask it differently, how many people on the committee were sympathetic to the FV and NPP?

2. How many people on the committee fought the fight for strict subscription 3 years ago?

3. Why were the vast majority of people on the committee systematicians and church historians and NOT NT scholars given the fact that the controversy is a NT one?

4. There's undoubtedly a hermeneutical issue that arises when we read the Confession. How is that hermeneutical issue NOT related to the subscription issue. Hint: One person reads the confession one way, while others another.

5. Early on in the debate (some 3 years ago) a handful of men on the committee came out and spoke against the NPP publicly with very little knowledge of the issues. why was that not frowned upon?

Let's talk at GA!

Your bro too,
Matty B.

Taylor Marshall said...

Catholic Perspective on FV:

Anonymous said...

I just stopped by for the first time.

I can't believe you are alleging that this Report is a deceptive way of sneaking in 'strict-subscription.'
Ironically, didn't Steve Wilkins used to be a major proponent of strict-subscription and the Southern view of presbyterianism?

This is about the Gospel: Justification by Faith Alone.

I am also amused at your (and Jeff Meyers') concern that no FV/NPP men were allowed on the study committee. That is just crocodile tears. Unless you polled each member of the committee, there is no way you could know where each man stands on the NPP/FV.
That concern is moot since the report has been written and will be presented at GA.

At the heart of the NPP/FV controversy is a post-modern linguistic that redefines classical terminology with meanings that are far from reality. The NPP/FV crowd is intellectually dishonest and needs to own up to the fact that their views (a) strike at the vitals of doctrine and (b) are out of accord with the Confession of Faith.

I wish them well - in another denomination.

Sola Gratia - Bill Lamkin
Assistant Pastor
First Presbyterian
Panama City, FL

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...


Thanks for stopping by and interacting. Question: Whose reading of the Confession should we (as a denomination) follow? The answer to that question is undoubtedly concerned with the subscription issue. Also, the one single statement in your post that "challenged" me (or should I say bothered me) was your parting comment. It's those kinds of comments that create disunity in my mind (especially since nothing has been determined about this controversy as of yet). Lastly, there is little secret regarding one committee member's (and others may point to more) extremely vocal opposition to the NPP/FV. His/Their inclusion on the committee points to a problem with our process in my mind.

Sola Christus,

Chris Hutchinson said...


Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Long week. I wasn't sure if your questions to me were rhetorical or not, since they were not a direct response to my last post. But let me try to answer them.

1) I think they represented it fairly. I don't know of any who were sympathetic to it beforehand, though perhaps they were to some of the initial concerns which the FV was responding to (i.e. low views of church, sacraments, etc.).

2) I don't know of any who actively fought against the Good Faith subscription. As I said, I know one fought FOR it (against me!; I wanted a more defined position of what GF meant.) Duncan chaired the B&O committee which pushed it through and presented the majority report in favor of it. I think his presbytery later voted against it, but that is all I know.

3) I don't know. Paul Fowler has his PhD in NT, I believe.

4) Here is where I think your argument makes the most sense. I don't buy it, but I see more of where you are coming from, and that is this: "The FV report reflects a narrow way of reading the Standards which is akin to the way strict subscriptionists want our denomination to work -- little freedom to differ or question the traditional way of reading the Standards." Have I understood you correctly?

5) I think a lot of people did frown upon that, but your assertion that they had very little knowledge of the issues must be proven. Right now, it is just assertion.

And so, brother, I *think* I understand the general attitudes and suspicions, if you will, and from where your concerns arise.

But that said, you have still not done anything more to prove that this is a stealth Strict Subscription document. And so I think you should either bring forth real evidence or withdraw your open letter.

Chris H.

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...


Thanks again! Your 4th point represents my beliefs well. That is the gist of what I'm thinking and feeling. I was reading the report again this morning and couldn't help feeling like it was pushing me through a funnel. It is a narrow understanding of the Confession and provides presbyteries with little room for disagreement/exceptions.

chris hutchinson said...

Well, good! Glad to know I can get something right now and then!

Have a great weekend!

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...


More than a good weekend. I'll be in PR with my family all week. Grab me at GA...

Matty B.

Chris Hutchinson said...

Matty B.,

Hope you had a great time in PR.

I'm sorry to say I actually won't be at GA this year. I just don't want you to think I'm being rude by not saying hi.

BTW, Joel Garver calls the Report a "Good Faith Subscription" document on his blog: