The NW Presbytery of the BPC sides with the OPC and Kinnard against the Gospel

September 2008

Dear Friends,

A committee of the Northwest Presbytery of the Bible Presbyterian Church investigated the John Kinnaird case in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and drafted a report on July 18, 2008. In their report they agree completely with the 2003 OPC General Assembly’s acquittal of John Kinnaird. The following are excerpts from their report:

The following report was adopted without dissent by the NW Presbytery of the Bible Presbyterian Church meeting near Kalispell, MT, on July 18, 2008, with the addition of this introductory and qualifying statement:

The Northwest Presbytery of the BPC goes on record as stating that the doctrine of justification is so vital to the faith and its doctrinal clarity and purity so essential that we urge the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to guard the doctrine by acting swiftly in matters of unclear or irregular statements of justification within their body.

None dare call it heresy! “Unclear or irregular statements of justification” but not heresy. The doctrine of justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls – there is no place for equivocation or a lack of clarity on this doctrine. But the OPC has equivocated by overturning the charges against John Kinnaird. In the OPC, one can teach both justification by faith alone and justification by faith and works, as long as heretical teaching is unclear.

Under Committee findings the report asks the question “Is Elder Kinnaird teaching false doctrines regarding justification?” Their response:

It is the opinion of this committee that Elder Kinnaird did not believe or teach false doctrine regarding justification, nor does he now. Based on the study of the documents, the committee agrees that the 2003 decision of the OPC GA was correct.

The report then has a Discussion of accusation of heresy.

Elder Kinnaird was charged with teaching a doctrine of justification by faith and works, contrary to the Word of God and the Westminster Standards. Six specifications were presented (OPC GA Minutes 2003:372-373). Several expressions in these specifications, taken in isolation, may be taken to mean that our justification depends on and is based on faith plus good works, that justification is a consequence of faith and good works, that our justification is not certainly attained until God examines these works at the final judgment. This is how the plaintiffs understood him, and how many of his critics understand him. This belief certainly would be contrary to Scripture and our Standards.

However, the committee is convinced, when looking at the totality of his teaching, that this false doctrine is not what Elder Kinnaird believes or teaches. Taking his work as a whole, there are several places where he extensively sets forth his beliefs concerning faith, good works, justification, and the final judgment. The isolated quotations used as specifications of error, can be and should be interpreted consistently with this larger context.

These were the same reasons the OPC gave as their justification for acquitting John Kinnaird. Both Paul Elliott and John Robbins have dealt with this in Christianity and Neo-Liberalism, Denomination in Denial, and Can the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Be Saved? Next in the report the NW Presbytery discuss “the main items in Elder Kinnaird’s teaching that have caused the controversy.”

The word sanctify in the Bible includes all infused subjective righteousness, including regeneration, Christian sanctification, complete total sanctification at death, and final glorification. Since regeneration is included as a part of sanctification, and since it precedes faith and justification, technically it is improper to say that sanctification flows from justification; rather both sanctification and justification flow from our union with Christ in the electing purpose of God.

Here, following Richard Gaffin, they make justification subordinate to union with Christ. Next they move to discuss Kinnaird’s teaching on final judgment.

In order to reside forever in heaven, we must be really and actually righteous. God cannot admit sin in heaven in the eternal state. This is the perfect righteousness we receive at death; it is not the same as the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is the basis of our justification. It is real, personal righteousness or holiness, infused into us by God. We are totally conformed into the image of Christ.

There should be little controversy about this teaching.

The implication is that the imputed righteousness of Christ is not sufficient, neither is it real or personal. At the judgment I am not going to plead my works, even my works done in faith. Rather, I am going to plead the works of my Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness. For the best of my works are tainted by sin – “Thy works, not mine, O Lord.” Here are John Kinnaird’s words:

It is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous on that Day of Judgment. Those who teach that the purpose of the Day of Judgment is not to reveal Gods righteousness in His judgments (judgments that will be unto eternal life or death in accord with what men have done on this earth), but rather only to determine types and degrees of rewards to be given to Christians, are in error. These good works are a required condition if we would stand in the Day of Judgment and they are supplied by God to all His people. Who are these people who thus benefitwho stand on the Day of Judgment? They are those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Neither the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, which all believers receive at justification, nor the infusion of righteousness of the righteousness of Christ (a false and non-existent concept taught by the Roman Catholic Church) can suffice for that purpose. Christ does not have an imputed righteousness. His righteousness is real and personal. If we are to be conformed to His image, we too must have a real and personal righteousness.

Next, the NW Presbytery comments on Romans 2.

The flow of thought in Romans 2 shows how even the zealous Jews are still lost in sin, since they are not keeping the law that they are relying on for their justification. These self-righteous Jews are contrasted to believing Gentiles, who, because of the new covenant promise, have the law of God written on their hearts (v. 15). These believing Gentiles are described throughout this section as persisting in doing good, seeking glory, honor, and immortality, doing good, obeying the law, and doing by nature the things required by the law (vv. 7, 10, 13, 14). The obedience of the law spoken here is evangelical obedience, that obedience which springs from faith. It is the same as that spoken by Jesus (he who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice [Matt 7:24]) and by James (do what [the Word] says, look into the perfect law of liberty, and continue to do it [Jas 1:22-25]). The judgment of the last day will manifest those who obey the law from the heart because their faith is genuine; God will declare them righteous openly at that time (v. 13, 16).

We note that many interpreters understand Rom 2:13 as speaking not of evangelical obedience to the law, but rather of perfect obedience to the law, which no one can accomplish. They consider the Gentiles being spoken of as unbelieving Gentiles, who have the law in their conscience but do not keep it. Both interpretations can be defended exegetically and are in accord with biblical teaching elsewhere. Orthodox expositors have supported each of these interpretations of the passage. Neither interpretation should be labeled as heretical.

The NW Presbytery of the BPC has engaged in the equivocal hermeneutic of trust – both interpretations are valid, even though they are opposed to one another.

The BPC has lost many godly pastors, who have left because of this entangling relationship with the OPC and its teaching of justification by faith and works. The South Atlantic Presbytery of the BPCGS left by a vote of 72%.