David Bahnsen on the New Perspective, N. T Wright and Auburn Avenue

I wrote a blog several days ago about the resolution of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery (PCA) presented to the General Assembly in their June meeting (“The New Perspective and the PCA, July 2, 2005). This resolution sought to put the entire denomination on record as opposed to the "heresies" of the New Perspective on Paul and related matters. I expressed my joy that this measure failed. Last week my friend David Bahnsen, the son of the late theologian Greg Bahnsen, wrote a piece that summed up a great number of my own thoughts on this controversy quite well. With David’s permission I share his comments as follows (you can reach David’s web site directly at www.dlbthoughts.com):

(1)  I affirm justification by faith alone in the most traditional and historical way possible.  I believe I am saved by "Christ, plus nothing".  I feel no need to "update" my position, alter its vocabulary, or confuse those who are listening/reading.  My position on justification is identical to that of the Protestant Reformers.  More than being grateful for the historicity of my position, though, I am mostly grateful that my Lord loved me enough to call me to Himself, and sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of a murderer and adulterer like me. 

(2)  If I have any friends, or know anyone, or send emails to anyone, or write checks to anyone, who happens to disagree with the exact wording of paragraph #1, it does not mean I am being hypocritical, and it does not mean they are unbelievers.

(3)  Those who believe in justification by faith alone will not be saved just because they believe in it, and those whose lives constitute a non-living faith (i.e. one without works) are thoroughly discussed in the book of James.  I also believe the book of James does belong in the Bible, and that it is not a book that should be skipped over by Reformed pastors, nor should it be apologized for, and nor should we blush when we discuss it.

(4)  I believe my son was recently brought into covenant with Christ by nature of the faith of his parents, and symbolized in his being baptized into such covenant the 3rd Sunday of his natural life.  I do not believe it guarantees his salvation, but I do believe I am to view him as a Christian, and raise him as a Christian, and remind him of the baptism throughout his life.  I think this view is identical to the historical view on the subject.  I think many contemporary Reformed pastors are very, very spiteful of Calvin on this subject.  I think Steve Wilkins’ has said nothing more than what I have said (as a matter of practical theology).  I think on this one issue, many would be disgusted to read what our confession (WCF) actually says on this issue, and what the Reformers taught.

(5)  I believe I will worship God throughout eternity in heaven, and that Norm Shepherd will hang out with me.

(6)  I believe Christ lived a life of perfect obedience, and that had He not, He could not have been my Savior.  I believe I was justified by His work on the cross.  I believe that the Lord imputed Christ’s obedience to me.  I am confident that Norm Shepherd would not see each one of these points exactly as I do.  I believe this dialogue serves no practical point whatsoever beyond recognizing that Christ is the only reason for our hope, which I fully recognize.  I believe Norm Shepherd thinks so as well.  I believe it is entirely possible that I do not agree with 100% of what Norm teaches on details of this subject, but I am too busy with my career and family to find out.  I also believe that a very large percentage of Norm’s critics would be living better lives of faith if they, too, were too busy with their careers and family to find out.

(7)  I believe that Greg Bahnsen followed in the footsteps of Cornelius Van Til in admiring, defending, and appreciating the works of Norm Shepherd, especially, and unambiguously, as it pertains to his teachings on the book of James, and its implications on our doctrine of justification. I believe those who deny this, have a hard time accepting it, or attempt to twist it, are simply delusional at best, or men of deceit at worse.  I think it is entirely possible that Norm Shepherd is dead wrong on everything he has written, and that Greg Bahnsen and Cornelius Van Til are wrong to defend him, but to deny what was the case based on the overwhelming evidence to the contrary is done because many men are very insecure about what they believe, and are

very shallow in their worship/admiration of other human beings.  I further believe that to publicly state that Van Til only defended Shepherd because he was senile at the end of his life is a preposterous and disgusting lie.

(8)  I consider heresy-hunters far more dangerous than heretics.

(9)  I believe that N.T. Wright’s book on the resurrection is a fantastic delight.  I believe his views on socio-economic ethics are as silly as anything Bono has ever said, and that both of them fall into my age-old belief: Europeans ought not be allowed to ever discuss politics.  With that said, Bishop Wright and I will worship together in heaven.  He is simply too superior intellectually to his critics to let some of their slander bother him.  Additionally, I would say without any hesitation or doubt that much of what he teaches seems problematic, as explained to me by others.  I, however, have only read his resurrection book, and heard handfuls of lectures, and those did not bother me or concern me one iota.  I do not know what the New Perspective on Paul is, and consequently, it is impossible to say that I believe in it. 

(10)  I think it is a sign of tremendous weakness and myopia if we believe that we can not learn gigantically from many, many men, even if they are flawed in one (or more) areas of their thinking.  I am grateful that this psychological condition is not a historical norm, but seems to be a new phenomena occurring mostly in the tiniest of "TR" circles.  I believe that I can likely learn something from anyone God created (even, and often especially, the unregenerate), and I believe that many men who have flawed teachings in one area, can have unbelievably gifted areas in others.  I think that this statement applies to every man I happen to know in this retarded controversy, as everyone of them teaches or believes something I do not believe in, yet I have still been able to be edified by other aspects of their teaching (examples available by request, or by asking my beliefs on dating).  Mostly, what I think though, is the fact that this paragraph even has to be uttered is really, really sad.

BONUS POINT: One of the disagreements I refer to in paragraph #10, is that I think it is wrong to ever respond to something John Robbins says. 

VERY SERIOUS P.S.:  I do know that many men who have concerns over NPP, NTW, and AAPC are God-fearing men who believe they have something legitimate to be concerned about.  My very negative feelings about the loudest of the critics on the other side do not apply to those who conduct themselves in a spirit of genuine love, concern, and integrity.

I do not agree with every single phrase or nuance of David’s own views expressed above. I do agree with the spirit, tone and direction of his thoughts entirely. He is wise and his ten points express an orthodoxy that is both biblical and generous. Combatants in this present conflict would do well to hear David’s counsel.

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