For those who may have heard of Norman Shepherd but don’t know the problems with his theology, Brandon Adams has provided a helpful summary using quotes from Shepherd’s own lectures. These issues are not restricted to Presbyterianism, however, but have surfaced in the writings of some who claim the 1689 Confession. Adams writes,
Norman Shepherd taught a false gospel of works righteousness at Westminster Theological Seminary in the 70s by arguing good works are instrumental to justification. When asked in their ordination exam how we are justified, graduates were answering “by faith and works”. When asked who taught them that, they said Professor Shepherd. He paved the way for the Federal Vision.
In 2002, Shepherd delivered 4 lectures titled “What’s All the Fuss?” regarding his views on justification:
- What’s All the Fuss? (Part 1): The Biblical Doctrine of Justification
- What’s All the Fuss? (Part 2): The Church Doctrine of Justification by Faith
- What’s All the Fuss? (Part 3): Job Justified by Faith
- What’s All the Fuss? (Part 4): A Parable About Three Men
The thrust of his lectures is to show that the Bible does not teach a works-merit paradigm. He presents his position as the “faith-grace” or “covenantal” paradigm and he opposes this to the “works-merit” paradigm.
In lecture 1 he insists that the biblical doctrine of justification consists in forgiveness of sins only… It does not provide a righteousness not our own, it only forgives our sins. And forgiveness alone is insufficient to eternally save anyone. It merely makes us eligible for eternal life… We are in the same position as Adam in terms of our need to obtain eternal life. The only difference is that when we sin, it is forgiven. But our works play the same role as they did for Adam before the fall. This is contrary to the London Baptist Confession.
With all of that in mind, it is particularly troubling to see people continue to recommend Greg Nichols’ book as a faithful representation of the system of doctrine taught in the London Baptist Confession. Nichols’ book is idiosyncratic and not representative of the confession, nor its signatories (see, for example, here and here). Confessional Reformed Baptists should stop recommending his book as representative of our confessional views.
The similarities between much of what Nichols writes and what Shepherd teaches is striking…
Read the rest of Adams’ post here.