Really? Christians need yet another book on gospel contemplationism? In Perplexity: Bringing My Questions to God, the theses is a very familiar one in our day. As I was reading through the Kindle version while riding in the family car with my wife Susan, intermittently reading aloud, she commented, “It sounds like the same ole’ stuff.” Indeed, the institutional church will continue to relentlessly pound this one simple message into the heads of Christians in different ways, and anyone who comes up with a different version will be lauded accordingly.
It’s ironic, Russ Kennedy, the “pastor” of Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio was at the center of one of the most perplexing seasons of my life. Had this book been published at that time, perhaps I would still be there, and living according to its age-old theses. But I wanted answers, and according to the theses of this religion, a very ancient one, that’s arrogance. Yes, perplexity is a good thing because it humbles us, it reminds us that we can’t know anything except that we are perplexed, and living in the dark cave of life. Hence, see the cover of the book. This is not perplexing at all; you are in the dark cave looking up, and the light seen at the mouth of the cave is the gospel. If you know what Russ Kennedy et al believe, all you need is the cover—it says it all in a visual bumper sticker.
Let me interject something here: that perplexing time of my life was only perplexing at the time. That’s one of the real truths of biblical perplexity; time often reveals exactly how God uses the evil of the world for His divine purposes. In the midst of severe, dark trials, we continue in well-dong and wait for God’s answers (1Pet 4:19). That’s difficult, we will need the love and truthful encouragement of other Christians. Yes, in rare instances, we will have to wait for glory to know the answers, but we can be sure that God is working all things for His divine purposes, and for the believer, that isn’t for the express purpose of showing us how worthless and depraved we are. Conspicuously absent in Kennedy’s book is the following concept:
Deuteronomy 29:29 – The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
According to Kennedy and the long history of those who supply thoughts for him, the only thing that Christians can DO is the same gospel that saved them. We are in the dark cave, and all we can do is contemplate the light outside of the tunnel. Our reality is a subjective dark cave, and according to a former elder that supplied the overall philosophy for the Chapel, “New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality.” Said elder, Chad Bresson, departed from the Chapel, also dubbed “Cloudy Creek Chapel” by many former members, at approximately the same time of a controversy concerning an accusation that the Chapel elders were teaching, “some kind of Christian mysticism.” Go figure.*
So, if Christians can’t really know anything objectively except the suffering of the cross, what’s the point? Well, that answer isn’t perplexing at all: joy. As you look up from the dark cave of life and humanity to the only thing you can know, the light of the glorious cross shining outside of the cave, the result is the stripping away of everything treasured at all other than Christ resulting in joy while in the cave. Joy, regardless of circumstances, is the payoff. Joy in the cave is the payoff. Like Hinduism, the cause and effect of knowledge and the application thereof are toys that we discard as we mature spiritually, IF we come to realize that life is a completely preordained god-narrative that points us to a light that transcends empirical knowledge. As Kennedy states in the book, answers to life’s problems are “shadows.” Right and wrong answers are not the issue; the arrogant assumption that you can know anything except the suffering of the cross is the issue.
Listen, I was perplexed, and paid a price for wanting answers, but I see now that God used those dark circumstances to incite me to seek godly knowledge. I would only change one thing: I shouldn’t have been ignorant in regard to authentic church history and its progression of various soteriologies. My own ignorance and lack of knowledge led me to that darkness. Instead of letting me suffer the full brunt of my lazy Christianity, viz, letting others think for me, God restricted the circumstances to awakening me out of my pathetic slumber. That’s grace in sanctification my friends. When it gets right down to it, I can’t blame Russ Kennedy mysticism for what happened; we live in an information age, I was a know-it-all according to everyone else’s “knowledge.” Christ died to save me from the law, and gave me a “helper” to sincerely love Him with God-given talents. Instead of utilizing that, I did not study to show myself approved—it’s on me. For certain, I do not deserve what God has done to rebuild my life, but be sure of this, I have learned from it.
What have I learned? I have learned that the present-day chaos in the church is not perplexing at all. It is as simple as the cover on Russ Kennedy’s book. Frankly, the audacity of Plato’s cave adorning the cover of this book shouldn’t surprise us. The framers of the American Constitution readily observed that the colonial Calvinist Puritans of that day were followers of Plato. That, coupled with the tyranny that they experienced growing up under the colonial Puritan theocracy of that day inspired them to create one of the greatest experiments of all time—the American ideal, which God has used to wreak more good on the earth since the good news of the gospel. For one example, the Puritans, like the one Kennedy cites in his book, called Benjamin Franklin a devil for inventing the lightening rod. The only thing that saved Franklin from the fate of others who tried to improve the human condition through knowledge was the fact that his lightening rod saved churches from burning down via lightning strikes.
Platonism eventually became Gnosticism which was nemesis #1 for the New Testament church. The Neo-Calvinist resurgence of our day is a return to that Gnosticism in every respect, and the teaching method is no different than that used by Kennedy in his book:
1. Focus on being rightly descriptive about how trials and the rigors of life are experienced. This makes the listener think that you understand where they are at.
2. Exploit the fact trying to do the right thing the right way is very prevalent in the human experience. Then interpret those failures as a misconception regarding the very interpretation of reality. Interpret those failures as part of the overall failures of reason itself: i.e., Plato’s shadows in the cave. Our existence is experienced subjectively via the shadows of the true forms. The Puritans merely changed Plato’s true forms into the gospel/Christ, and our human existence is the cave.
3. Offer the alternative of gospel contemplationism, using proof-texting with verses that only tell half of the story: mysteries that belong to the Lord—which can only be experienced by joy and not known. This is the crux of Gnosticism. All reason and human knowledge are only shadows of the mysteries of Plato’s trinity: the true, good, and beautiful. They merely make Plato’s trinity “the gospel.” Any member at Clearcreek Chapel who is honest with themselves will see this concept woven within all of Russ Kennedy’s teachings sometimes plagiarized from John Piper’s Christian Hedonism which led to his dismissal from a church in Illinois.
Church history tells us that Gnosticism has always had mass appeal and has always been the greatest challenge to true Christianity. This is because it feeds our propensity towards lazy thinking, and enables us to step back from the rigors of life and observe them from afar. It also enables us to escape responsibility, and change by glorying in our ignorance while appearing spiritual. Yes, we are the humble totally depraved who “know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.” Change is hard, and many will exchange it in a heartbeat for the easy way while having the added bonus of looking humble and spiritual to boot. This is the mass appeal that has always been Gnosticism, a kissing cousin to Stoicism.
Wow! Look at his faith in the face of this immense tragedy! If only I had faith like that!
Faith? Or a Gnostic indifference towards reality? Was it faith that led a son to stand up at the funeral of a godly pastor and proudly proclaim that his father was a “wicked sinner”? What of the disdain shared by a Clearcreek elder in regard to his mother-in-law’s grieving because she was terminally ill and would not see her grandchildren grow up? The disdain evolved around her treasuring of her grandchildren more than Christ. Grandchildren are mere shadows.
There is only one false religion: antinomian sanctification. A rejection of knowledge in sanctification under the guise of “knowing nothing but Christ and him Crucified” portrays a certain mindset about justification. It exchanges love in sanctification for fear in justification. If we must keep ourselves justified by a humbleness defined by knowing nothing, we indeed need the Russ Kennedys of the world which is why he wrote the book. But one best ponder the very words of Christ: “Because of anomia, the love of many will become cold.”
Strange, once again I am inadvertently ministered to by tyranny. Susan and I have been considering a change of direction as this ministry is a very lonely ministry that fights the uphill battle against completely unnecessary perplexity in the American church. A recent sermon by Andy Stanley has Christians “troubled” and “perplexed.” In the sermon, Stanley proffered the idea that Christ put people before “his religion” which he made synonymous with the law. Supposedly, the Pharisees did the opposite by putting the law before people. Stanley then defiantly dared anyone to ask for a practical application to the sermon. Stanley then concluded the “sermon” by stating that he didn’t know where the theses would lead, that of course, would be decided by the Lord. As one blogger noted:
With all due respect, I submit that if Andy Stanley did not know the answers to the questions posed above, he should have never delivered the sermon.
With all due respect, Christians need to stop being perplexed in regard to where these antinomian teachers are coming from. We find the same exact concept in this book published by Kennedy. In the difficult questions of life and times of darkness, you don’t look for answers; you only meditate on the gospel and not shadowy reason. In death, you seek more death, so that the joy of the cross may abound in your heart. This is what you do while waiting for the Lord to change your circumstances at a time of his choosing. Of course, this is a counselor’s dream; one size fits all. Every counselee walking in has the same problem: they value life. Don’t be fooled by multiple layers of nuance and careful choice of synonyms, this is the crux of the matter; you either treasure Christ alone, or you treasure all else but Him alone. It’s either the dark cave or the light, period.
So yes, once again I am being tempted to lazy thinking. “I have done my share, I have done my duty. This research is hard, time for something different. Think of all the money Susan and I would have if I didn’t do this full time?” Indeed, Susan and I will pray for, that’s right, wisdom in our decision, but then we will DO something. If God wants to stop us, he is well able. But once again, the Clearcreek elders have jolted me into remembrance…
Their god is the god of confusion, not ours. And perplexity is not a glory; it is the disdain of lady wisdom and a lamp-less dark path to destruction. Lord forgive me of my lazy thinking, may I be totally spent for your truth.
*Incredibly, the Chapel still benefits from the biblical counseling movement started by Dr. Jay Adams in 1970. The movement was a true revival because it called the church back to practical application in sanctification. As a former pastor at the Chapel, I witnessed this doing reformation (at its peak in the early 90s) firsthand because the Chapel was a NANC training center at the time. The movement was neutralized by a Gnostic form of biblical counseling followed by Russ Kennedy and his elders. Nevertheless, they represent themselves as advocates of the original movement and its tenets. As they deceptively allow people to come into membership under this false pretense, controversy arises later due to the contradictions involved. Much of the energies expended by the Clearcreek Chapel elders involve damage control.
…. It finally occurred to me after trying to fight this problem of new Calvinism with doctrine that, for almost six years now, it’s apparent it’s not going any place real quick. So first of all, I’d like to take a look at the fact that everybody functions by philosophy. This is reality. The definition of Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach, and its reliance on rational argument.
Now everybody functions on philosophy. And in fact, if you don’t want to function on a philosophy, you need a philosophy to not function on philosophy. The philosophy of I believe the pronunciation is nihilism or nihilism is the philosophy, and this was very prevalent, prevalent, a very prevalent philosophy just prior to Socrates, which would be sixth, seventh century B.C. Nihilism is the belief that values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. And by the way, this philosophy is making a comeback on our culture right now. So it’s the philosophy that you can’t know anything. There’s no objective truth. But that’s a philosophy. So if you don’t wanna live by a philosophy, it takes a philosophy to not live by a philosophy.
Our philosophy of life would determine our life. I want to make this clear: Philosophy determines life. How we think determines what we do. Now the events that Susan will be sharing throughout this conference today are things that happened in her Christian experience directly related and are driven by a philosophy that determines thinking. And thinking leads to things that happen. I’m very happy that Susan is sharing her experiences and putting with John will be talking about what I’m talking about. Susan will actually – could fit on how that way of thinking and philosophy plays out in real life and her experiences and her Christian experience, okay? So that’s critical. So we’re gonna be able to look at the thinking and how people actually experience these things in real life.
How we think controls us. Our philosophy controls our thinking. And our thinking determines what we do. Nobody but nobody robs a bank because they think they’re gonna get caught, all right? So the predominant philosophy affecting the church today is undoubtedly New Calvinism. That’s the 2009 issue of Time Magazine, and the theme of that issue is Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now. And one of the ten is New Calvinism. In fact, I think it’s rated like third out of all the other ideas changing the world today, and that’s a secular magazine. So even the secular world is taking note of Neo Calvinism and the effect it’s having on our culture.
Like most movements, the catalyst for New Calvinism was and is due to the failure of the prior movement that came before it. That’s a catalyst for New Calvinism. The philosophy of movements, like all philosophies, eventually renders results to say that prior things start happening. And again, Susan will be sharing how that fleshes out in real life.
So what was the prior movement and its failures? What movement preceded New Calvinism and what were the failures that contribute greatly on this New Calvinist, the tsunami that we’re experiencing? And Susan and I have talked to pastors, even pastors who are in very important positions, you know, a month having lunch with a certain guy who is a over a lot of youth camps in the country. This is exactly what he said. He was drawn in to the New Calvinist philosophy because of the failures of the prior movement that was prevalent in the Christian Church.
Before I come back to that, I’m going to take a quick interlude before I move on. Here’s a quick interlude I’d like to take. New Calvinism is a false gospel. I’m going to get into that a little bit more later. And it doesn’t matter, like I said, I had a transition of thinking on this. That’s been me lately. Is the philosophy stupid? It really is. And let me explain this. Let me explain this.
Another gospel was a book that I decided not to publish. And one of the reasons that I decided not to publish it, and here it is, well over two hundred pages. A lot of pastors said this, “This is a real strong doctrinal argument against the New Calvinism.” But in my interaction on my blog and with other people, the doctrinal arguments in here just weren’t going anywhere. In our day and age, the problem that we’re having is that there’s an underlying philosophy that bypasses the doctrinal argument. For years now as a Christian, who has been heavily focused on doctrines especially regarding my contention against New Calvinism, I have seen firsthand attempting and persuading Christians with doctrinal arguments is useless. That book is published online now for free.
Why is this? Why is it? And that’s what where we come to understanding the philosophy of what I call the two gospel waves, the two gospel waves. And this is critical in understanding why this underlying philosophical belief and mentality has to be taken care of before we can start dealing with these problems doctrinally. The two gospel waves are critical in understanding this. The two gospel waves cover the last 62 years of Christianity in America. The first wave covers 1915 to 1970.
And here are the elements of the first gospel wave. One, it emphasized salvation with a much lesser emphasis on discipleship and personal holiness. Two, because of the lack of emphasis on in-depth discipleship, biblical generalities filled the gap. When there’s lack of in-depth discipleship, people were going, “Life still happens irregardless.” So people are going to start putting the bandage on things. Right? Three, the Bible was primarily good for the gospel but was not sufficient for solving the deeper problems of life. That’s three. Four, one of their favorite mottos was, still is, think about this. “I’ve said it myself. We are sinners saved by grace,” which concedes that Christians still sin as a lifestyle. If you look up sinner in the dictionary, it’s somebody who sins as a lifestyle. Huge difference between being born again Christians who sin versus a sinner saved by grace. Big difference.
MAN: Can you go back over number three again, gospel?
The Bible was primarily good for the gospel but was not sufficient for solving the deeper problems of life.
MAN: Okay. Good.
All right? The Bible was preached out of generalities and lived out by generalities. Henceforth, we think this is funny in our day, the Hillbilly Ten Commandments. Commandment one, ain’t but One God. Two, honor yer ma and yer pa. Three, no telling tales or gossips. And so on and so forth. Ha ha, very funny. This is guy right here ought to be the poster child for death and despair in the Christian Church. And again, Susan’s going to share with us why that is in her experiences and what she experienced.
So things like this are favorite truisms in the first gospel wave. And there’s an overlapping between the first gospel wave and the second gospel wave. But sixth, theology nor doctrine is taught in the local churches. Theology nor doctrine is taught in the local churches. And going back to the Hillbilly Ten Commandments, counseling looks something like this. So you have problems in your marriage? Well, we have next [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:14:45 commandment number five, ain’t nothing come before the Lord. Now you remember that and get up on out of here. You’ll be fine. And we’ll pray for you.
Now seven, traditionally, though parishioners desire educated pastors, it is a sin that the pastors will not teach what they’ve learned in seminary to the congregations. And I’ve seen this all my Christian life. Pastors don’t teach what they learned in seminary to their congregants. But yet, congregants rarely dream of accepting a pastor into their – leading their church without being educated.
Eight, in contradiction to Matthew 28:19, a strong emphasis on bringing people to the church to hear the gospel rather than going out to preach the gospel. This tradition illustrates the assumed incompetence of parishioners to present the gospel. And my point of the first gospel wave is this. Underlying what happened and what the first gospel wave looks like is this underlying philosophy that of incompetence, that man is incompetent, that Christians are incompetent.
MAN: Can we go back to number five? I totally missed that.
Oh, five is favorite truisms are things such as the Hillbilly Ten Commandments. All right?
What is more representative of living by biblical generalities? We don’t need any in-depth study into the deeper meanings of how the Ten Commandments apply to life and how we learn from that, and as Jesus said, “Put it into practice,” thus forth changing our lives and the world saying that and glorifying God the Father, we don’t need to get into all that deep stuff. You just remember, honor yer ma and yer pa. Okay?
Number eight, quit your foul-mouthing. Generalities, all right? Living by biblical generalities.
Nine, by the latter ’60s, the philosophy of the first gospel wave was causing bad things to happen, and people started looking for something else. Again, Susan is going to have a lot to say how she experienced these things.
The second gospel wave was born in 1970 and continues to present day as the embodiment of New Calvinism. So New Calvinism is the embodiment of the second gospel wave, and that began in 1970. But don’t forget my major point about the first gospel wave. If you look at those elements, underlining these elements is an assumed incompetence on the part of parishioners.
Please don’t miss this. It’s probably the major point of the first gospel wave. Right now, on this day, the reason we cannot persuade Christians by doctrine is because Christians en masse have conceded the fact that they can’t understand doctrine. Underlying the first gospel wave was an assumption of incompetence on the part of parishioners in general.
So one, under second gospel wave, which is what I’m gonna go over now, it not only emphasizes salvation over discipleship like the first gospel wave does, it goes much further than that. It teaches justification and sanctification are the same thing. So the first gospel wave said what’s important is getting people saved because sinners are going to be sinners. There’s only so much you can do with their lives. Yeah, there’s a select few that come to this higher evolution of obeying God, and they actually called that disciple – there was a big movement in this first gospel wave where there two classes of Christians, the saved and the disciples, right?
So the second gospel wave involving the New Calvinism it says, “Ah, not only is discipleship not important, there isn’t any such thing. Everything is about the gospel.” Though they deny this, though they deny this, listen to their very own mottos. Listen carefully. “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.” Right? How about this one? “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” These are their words, not mine.
Secondly, the Bible is presented as a gospel narrative that only serves to give believers a deeper and deeper knowledge of the same gospel that saved them. Like the first wave, using the Bible for instruction and righteousness is horrendously devalued. But the second wave goes beyond that and denies the Bible to be used for discipleship at all. Now they wouldn’t come right out admit this. But if you pay close attention, it’s what comes out in the watch. And in private conversations with New Calvinist pastors, they’ve told me that pointblank. They’ve told me that pointblank. You study the Bible for purposes of learning what it says and applying it to our life. They even have a name for it: biblicism.
The transition between the two gospel waves. Living by biblical generalities was presented to the victims of the first gospel wave as legalism by proponents of the second gospel wave, and offered an alternative to supposedly living by dos and don’ts and living by lists. Guilty as charged, all right? But again biblical generalities replaced in-depth discipleship and in-depth study of the Word of God for purposes of applying it to life’s deepest problems. Because of the lack of doctrinal education and the dumbing down of parishioners en masse during the first gospel wave, Christians were absolutely helpless in seeing through the deceptions of the second wave.
Now nobody denies that Christians in our day are dumbed down. Susan and I have talked to hundreds of people in regard to studying New Calvinism. And Susan, how many people have we met, Christians that know the difference between justification and sanctification?
SUSAN: Very few.
I don’t remember any. Pastors have called us in regard to this conference. At least one pastor I talked to didn’t even know the difference. A pastor! Look, if you don’t know the fundamental doctrinal difference between justification and sanctification, you can’t understand the book of Galatians.
So Christianity was perfectly primed for the second wave, helpless against it because of the gross overemphasis on gospel that was indicative of the first wave. These two movements share that in common. The core philosophy that drives both of these movements is a philosophy, doctrine if you will, of humanity’s incompetence. This is the philosophy that resides deep in the psyche of western culture. This philosophy varies in scope and from secular to the spiritual but certainly in American culture. Though this philosophy is passively accepted in the secular realm, it is most definitely the idea that rules the day in American churches. Again, you can’t contend against false doctrine with doctrine because American parishioners have conceded that they don’t understand doctrine and can’t understand doctrine, and they aren’t the least bit shamed of it. And in fact, it’s a badge of honor. And I’m sure anybody would agree that if you read the Apostle Paul in the New Testament where he emphasizes “the apostle’s doctrine” and holding his exhortations to Timothy about holding a sound doctrine, if the average American parishioner has conceded to the fact and happily said that they don’t understand doctrine, are we not in big trouble?
Blatant examples display themselves in the politics of communism and socialism with things like Rush Limbaugh fight. Ironically, like the secular academic example, most American Christians will not accept this philosophy in the political arena. A dichotomy is made between the secular and spiritual. This is indicative of the dualism that comes from the ancient philosophies that spun this doctrine. Evil matter is fair game for the spiritually incompetent while understanding deep spiritual matters is a dangerous stunt that shouldn’t be tried at home.
Furthermore, many embrace this concept eagerly thinking that natural incompetence, and I think this is one of the motives, that natural incompetence in spiritual matters supersedes responsibility before God. Right? If I can’t understand spiritual things and I can’t understand doctrine, when I stand before the Lord, I can blame it on the pastor. I think that goes a long way.
MAN: Say that sentence again, “Natural incompetence with the responsibility…”
Furthermore, many embrace this concept eagerly, thinking that natural incompetence in spiritual matters supersedes responsibility before God. There’s no doubt in my own mind that’s a big part of this. I’ve had congregants tell me in no uncertain words that, “Hey, I’m following the elders. I’m doing my duty by following. I don’t understand the deep theological stuff. I don’t understand half of what that pastor says. But you know what? I’m following and obeying them per Hebrews 13:17. And you know what? When I stand before the Lord, if they’ve done anything wrong, that’s going to be on them. I’m not culpable.” I have them say that to me. Anybody here buy that?
Let me wrap up my first session. I don’t think I did too bad on time. This is not God’s view of parishioners. It’s not even God’s view of lost people. Let me illustrate. First of all, listen to the Apostle Paul on Romans 15:14. Paul says, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness and filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. Let me read that again. The Apostle Paul speaking to the Romans, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers,” speaking generally to the Christians in Rome, “that you yourselves are A, full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”
MAN: Now where is that? Romans…?
Romans 15:14. Filled with all what? What? Knowledge. Okay? Acts 17:11, do you know it? Now these Jews were more noble. The Holy Spirit calls them noble. Why does he call them noble? Because they shine to the light of their own ability to interpret Scriptures with what an apostle was teaching. And the Holy Spirit called them noble for this. And this is okay because this will be repeated in the introduction to my next session. So that’s Acts 17.
Now let me close with this last verse in Genesis. They chose God’s attitude towards the competence of lost people in my book. Genesis 11:6-7. This is the story of the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11. “And the Lord said, ‘Behold they are one people, and they have all one language. And this is only the beginning of what they will do and nothing that they proposed to do will now be impossible for them.’” It doesn’t sound like an attitude of incompetence to me. Even the Lord God said of these vile, wicked sinners that if we don’t go down there and mess up their language, they’re not limited to anything. This underlying view of the incompetence of man is not shared by God for the lost or the saved.
And I’m not going to make a big theological issue of anything or make a lot hang on this. But you know, when the serpent came to Eve in the Garden, there’s this underlying approach that she was incapable of knowing what God really said, right? The serpent said, “Hey, I’m the expert on what God says here. You’re just Eve. Come on. ‘Cause God really said – in fact, I’ve got this higher knowledge that God’s trying to keep from you. And I’m the expert on that. So listen to me.” Wow, that is so indicative of what I think are ancient philosophies. That’s the underlying crux of where we are today in all this.
With that, I’m going to wrap up my first session. And Susan can come up next and present her part of this. And thanks for your attention.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]
… 1952 the same year the infamous evangelist, Billy Graham, concentrated full time on preaching. He helped to bind together a vulnerable nation through religious revival. Many believe that his success was directly related to the cultural climate of post World War II. He spoke out against communism. In 1954 Graham stated that either Communism must die or Christianity must die because it is actually a battle between Christ and the anti-Christ.
With the advent of nuclear weapons and the demonstrated fragility of life, people turned to spirituality for comfort. And Graham illuminated their path. He helped to bind together a vulnerable nation through religious revival. By glazing over the finer points of Christianity and focusing on more moderate doctrines, he made evangelism enticing, non-threatening, and easy to swallow, and in a lot of ways gave definition to easy believism. His mission to present the gospel and get people say they’re on their way to heaven permeated the focus of many fundamental churches, particularly the Southern Baptist denomination with which Billy Graham was associated.
As a result of the success of Billy Graham, many other evangelists and pastors adopted and adopted his mode of operation in order to bring in the sheep. This is often referred to as the first gospel wave that swept over America in the ’50s and continued on into the early ’70s. People, please, do not misunderstand my remarks. The biographical remarks were taken from an article written of Billy Graham. We all believed that people were genuinely saved as a result of the ministry of Billy Graham. But I want to also say that many thought they were saved as a result of his ministry as well.
Here’s the dilemma his type of evangelism created: A, genuine salvation experiences occurred, and B, professions of salvation made but no outward change in living their lifestyle, and C, lack of assurance of salvation as a result of poor follow up in discipleship. In my neck of the woods, the at least he is saved mentality, which the Billy Graham Association innocently created, helped people rationalize sinful lifestyles, making valid emotional experiences and equate them with regeneration, and issued fire insurance policies, the fire insurance policy mentality amongst churchgoing people. Just say the sinner’s prayer, and you’re guaranteed a home in heaven.
I was born and reared at the mouth of a holler called Owl’s Branch [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:03:06 in Dorton, Kentucky. After World War II, my father attended Berea College, majoring in Science, and returning to the high school from which he graduated to teach Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and coach basketball. Living in Appalachia, we were surrounded by a culture much like the one you would find in a foreign country. We were isolated from big city influences and big city opportunities. Full of traditions, superstitions, and a different way of thinking permeated the area.
It is easy to see how this culture and way of thinking and living evolved into what my dad called the hillbilly mentality. My dad’s definition of hillbilly mentality was this: A, you follow the loudest and most intimidating leader, whether right or wrong. B, education is not important; ridicule those who want to pursue higher learning. C, make the most money you can by honest or dishonest means, whichever may work for you. And D, entitlement. If you have money, you are entitled to special consideration. If you did not have money, you were entitled to special consideration.
Religion was and still is important in that area. The old regular Baptist was the primary established church. An occasional Methodist could be seen. And hark, in the big towns of Jenkins and Pikeville, there were Catholic churches. But my parents and paternal grandparents broke away from the mold and supported a mission established by the Christian and Missionary Alliance called the Beefhide Gospel Mission. My dad told our family that we were not going to be a part of the shenanigans that went on in the regular Baptist churches. My understanding of Baptist church shenanigans was singing every song to the tune of Amazing Grace, exuberant yelling, walking the aisle to get saved, long hair on women, baptismal regeneration, snake handling, the laying on of hands, and preachers who foamed at the mouth.
So I agreed with my dad and thought it was a good idea to stay away from those shenanigans, especially the snake part. The Christian and Missionary Alliance commissioned Margaret Wearley as well as other men and women missionaries to come to Eastern Kentucky and present the gospel to the hill folk and establish bible-teaching churches. Besides the chapel they organized, they ran a camp called Camp Begomi, B-E for Beefhide, G-O for gospel, and M-I for mission. It was every child and young person’s delight from all over Eastern Kentucky to spend a week there. Good food, games, swimming, crafts, bible-teaching, and tabernacle evangelistic services every evening to present the gospel and to get children saved and on the way to heaven.
The difference from other evangelical endeavors in the manner of the established regular Baptist churches was that these men and women attempted to educate their children in the Bible after we returned home from camp. Sunday school with the glorious flannelgraph stories, vacation bible school with the bible lesson and missionary story, arts and crafts, and my very favorite, pioneer girls. The year I remember so distinctly was the year my dear friend, Sandy, this is hard because Sandy passed away at the camp. She was eight. Because I was seven, I had to wait an entire year. She walked forward during one of those evangelistic meetings, got saved, and came home and told me about it. I told her that I wanted to get saved too. And her answer, “You can’t. You have to go to camp to get saved.” Well, that didn’t sit too well with me. And I got upset and I went home, knelt by my bed and prayed my version of the sinner’s Prayer. I don’t know how to get saved, but I wanna be saved. So save me. I went back to my friend, Sandy, told her what I’ve done, and she matter of factly told me that I wasn’t really saved yet.
What a long year it was until the next June. I was ready and waiting for the Camp Begomi bus at seven a.m. and was the first person down the aisle to get saved the first night of evangelistic meetings. When the counselor talked to me about why I came forward, I told her that I wanted to make sure I had done it right. Well, praise the Lord. There is a new name written down in glory, and it’s mine.
Well, I drove my brothers crazy. During the summer, our coal house was empty so I converted it into a tabernacle. I made a podium with benches for my dolls. I preached salvation to them in a variety of ways. I covered my dad’s tools with signs. Sow god into your heart. Hammer Satan out of your life. And the creek was real handy for baptismal services. My parents were concerned that I would end up in Africa as a missionary.
I attended camp for ten straight years. For six of those ten years, I went forward with tears, sincerely wanting to make sure I was doing the salvation thing right. Those blessed missionaries failed in a basic point of discipling me, the teaching of doctrine. First of all, the doctrine of justification, the doctrine of soteriology, which is the doctrine of salvation, which includes assurance of salvation, the doctrine of sanctification, and the how to live not just a saved life but a sanctified one.
When I was 14 we moved to the ends of the earth. Actually, to the other end of the state, Louisville, where my father took a teaching position at Seneca High School, the largest school in the state. My graduating class was 588. I attended a series of revival meetings with a friend. And the first night, the evangelist said, “If you can’t remember the date you got saved and have it written down in the front cover of your Bible, you are not really saved. Because salvation is such a memorial event, you will remember the time, date, month, and year.” Well, it was as if I’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning, and I began to cry. My friend asked me what was wrong. And I told her I thought I don’t think I’m saved. I remember kneeling by my bed, but Lord, what was the date? Was it in June? Was it July? Sandy came back from camp on a Saturday. Was it a Saturday that I knelt by my bed? All this time Lord, if I would have died, I would have gone to hell. So guess what I did again? Walked the aisle, knelt, and prayed the sinner’s prayer just to make sure. Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Again. I wrote the date of that salvation event now.
What’s wrong with this picture? The first evangelical wave, evangelistic wave, preached the gospel. Go forward. Fill out a response card. Walk the Romans Road. Pray the sinner’s prayer like a tsunami. And I was part of that spiritual damage left on the shore. How many other people were feeling the same as I? Getting people saved and on the gospel express to heaven, repeating the sinner’s prayer, walking the aisle, writing down the date on the cover of your Bible, read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow. Now what? Where was I supposed to go from here? This was a form of spiritual insanity.
I returned to camp as a counselor that summer after this new birth experience, and was asked by Ms. Wearley to give my testimony. Well, I stood up in the tabernacle and gave my testimony of how I was saved at the age of 14 on such and such date. After the service was over, Ms. Wearley asked to speak with me in her cabin. I was scared to death. That woman was to be feared. It was there in her cabin that she asked me where I had gotten the notion that I had just recently been converted. Well, the story came out. And it was then she explained to me about justification and assurance of salvation. On my walk back to my cabin, I remember saying, “Lord, why wasn’t I taught that seven years ago? Then all of the grief and heartache I had experienced over the years would never have occurred.” I had kept returning to the cross, preaching the gospel to myself, reliving the salvation experience frequently, and had missed the peace and joy of assurance of salvation, kingdom living, and abundant life in Christ. I was one of those caught in that first evangelical wave and floundering because I lacked biblical education and doctrine.
A family who lived next door to us back in the hills was the Wright family. They were the wrong family to be friends with. We children always thought that Mrs. Wright was possessed because of how she acted when we came on their property uninvited. Her seven children were meaner than junkyard dogs. Henry pushed my brother, David, off a culvert and almost broke his back. Henry stole my father’s entire paycheck. And the twins, Debbie [SOUNDS LIKE] and Tiny [SOUNDS LIKE], pushed me off a cliff. But the oldest son, Lovell, was the one everyone gave space. He was the purest definition of hillbilly mentality. He was loud, intimidating, he quit school at sixteen, ridiculed those who pursued education, and he had a definite attitude of entitlement. Oh, he had walked forward at the old regular Baptist church his parents were members of. He was baptized, and he was on his way to heaven.
Well, Lovell moved to Detroit, and it wasn’t long before the news got back to the family that Lovell will be coming home. In a casket. He was caught stealing a car, drove down a dead end alley, ran from the police, and was shot when he didn’t stop when asked. Back then funerals were held in homes. The living room of the Wright’s house was turned into a funeral parlor. Red velvet curtains were mounted behind the casket. And then the casket rested on a black and gold stand, and electric candle lobbers stood at the head of [UNINTELLIGIBLE] 00:14:39 and it give the room this eerie red glow. All of the smell of flowers mixed with cigarette smoke and it created a sicky sweet smell. It made it almost impossible to stay in the room for very long. Well, the old regular Baptist preacher stood by the casket and he preached his heart out. He foamed at the mouth. He spit into his handkerchief. He mopped the sweat off of his brow as he continued for over an hour expounding upon the goodness of Brother Lovell, how he was resting in the bosom of Abraham. In the background, Mrs. Wright was wailing and trying to climb into the casket to be buried with her son.
Lovell stayed in the living room of the Wright’s home for three days before he was laid to rest in the family cemetery at the head of Belcher Holler. The older women of the church sat together in the amen corner, amening the pastor, waving their fans that have been provided by the funeral home as briskly [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:15:36 as they could. And I heard one elder woman turn to another and say, “Well, Mrs. Coleman, [SOUNDS LIKE] at least, he was saved.”
The next day my dad and I went on an errand. And I asked daddy why the preacher lied. “Lied? Lied about what, honey?” he asked. “Well, he lied when talked about Lovell. He said Lovell was a good boy and that he loved his parents and did good things for people. Well, Lovell hurt us, and he cussed his parents out all the time. He stole from people. And the preacher said he would be waiting for his mother in the bosom of Abraham.” I know that my dad tried hard not to laugh because it took him a while before an answer. “Well, Susan, a preacher sometimes have to say things to comfort the family. Wouldn’t it have been comforting to tell the parents that Lovell was burning in hell because he was a sinful, rebellious son?” “He still shouldn’t have lied, Daddy.” That was my final answer.
“Mrs. Coleman said, At least, he was saved. Can a person be a little bit saved and still go to heaven?” I asked. “Honey, there are all kinds of opinions on whether Lovell was saved. And God has final say in the matter, not the preacher.” I have heard that phrase many times at funerals or when speaking of someone who died. “Well, at least he was saved.” So Lovell lived like the devil, but at least he had his fire insurance policy, made effective because he walked the aisle, said the sinner’s prayer, and was baptized in the Big Sandy River. But I will have to agree with my dad. Only God really knows if Lovell was genuinely saved or not and resting in the bosom of Abraham. At my funeral, I hope more will be said about me than “at least, she was saved.”
The problem of the ’50s and the ’70s, that first evangelical wave, was an overemphasis on evangelism and little or no emphasis on discipleship, doctrine, and kingdom living. The damage left behind as a result of this séance [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:17:58 decade, in doing research for this conference, I ran across many comments and answer to the question why people no longer go to church or associate with an established church. Overwhelmingly, the answer was the church has no answers other than, “Go home and pray about it.” The exodus of young people from the church when they leave home for college was and still is astounding. People leaving the church because there are no answers there. We are not teaching how to discern man’s ideas from God’s truth. We’re not counseling from God’s word to give answers to life’s problems. Church is no longer relevant in this contemporary age. Church is for children. These are reasons given by people who don’t want to give Christianity a nod of their head. When I was a child, I spoke as a child and thought as a child. And when I became a man, I put away childish things–the Elmer Gantry answer when asked why he fell from grace as a tent evangelist.
What I want you to take from my first talk, when leading a person to Christ, whether we use the Romans Road, the ABC’s of salvation or other effective plans, please take the time to explain what happens in the salvation experience. We get so eager to get the decision that helping the person understand his decision is put on the backburner. Salvation is more than one asking Jesus to come into his heart. It’s agreeing to the facts of the gospel. It is repentance. It is trusting Christ and his atoning work. These facts are what the gospel says about the spiritual need of mankind. God’s gracious provision of salvation in Christ and what the sinner must do to be saved. It is to acknowledge the truthfulness of these facts rather than just being an emotional leap into some undefined experience. Salvational faith embraces what God says in his word about Jesus and his atoning work. The presentation of these facts should be accompanied with explanation so that they may be more meaningful to the unsaved heart.
Repentance. Repentance is a change of mind and attitude toward God and the things of which the gospel seeks. This change in mind and attitude is brought about by God. Without repentance, there is no salvation.
Trusting in Christ and his atoning work is more than a general faith in God or Jesus. The devils believe and they tremble. This is to place one’s complete trust in Jesus and his atoning work for the specific purpose of being delivered from sin and receiving God’s gift to spiritual life. It is here that many miss salvation, thinking that they are saved by some physical action like the raising of a hand or walking an aisle. Depending upon an emotional experience, they fail to trust Jesus’ substitutionary work for their salvation. They place their trust in something or someone other than him. But one’s trust must be wholly in Jesus and his atoning work, for he alone is the sinner’s substitute and savior. If any of these are missing, then one does not experience salvation.
Teach assurance of salvation. Upon receiving Christ as our savior, we are making preachers in him, possessing a new kind of life and experiencing the renewal of our inner human nature. It is impossible to have new life and to experience this change in nature without manifesting this in daily life. This manifestation of new life may vary and can be eclipsed by sin. Nevertheless, the signs of this new life will be expressed in them who have it.
There is a logical order to our salvation experience. First, we understand justification, then the new birth, regeneration, new preacherhood, sanctification, a co-laboring with God as we experience kingdom living, and ultimately, glorification.
I encourage you pastors, teachers, and parents to obey Scripture and teach the dreaded D word: doctrine. Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “The Lord spoke to Moses and to us, and you must commit yourself wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down, and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder. Wear them on your forehead. Write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates. It is vital to know and to teach doctrine as we all follow the great commission. Go and make disciples.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]
The Jay Adams Doing Reformation: A Study in Contrast pdf link: TANC ch 9
The Law of Sin and the Law of Faith; Romans 2:12-29 : http://wp.me/pmd7S-1O1
Originally posted on Paul's Passing Thoughts:
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Calvinism is a hopeless belief system. Plainly, there is no assurance of salvation, and it completely devalues life. It posits God as a god that created mankind so that his wrath against sin could bring him glory. He created abject failure in order to bring himself glory. The heroes among the Calvinists are those who eloquently plunge the debts of how evil we are. That would be the Puritans. All of life’s energies are focused on realizing how worthless we are in God’s eyes. The code phrase is “giving all the glory to God.”
Then, at the one last final judgment, you find out if you hated yourself enough to get into heaven by faith alone in sanctification. And if you don’t make it, oh well, you are merely getting what you deserved anyway. The logic follows:
1. God predestined man to sin according to his sovereign design and will.
2. God is glorified by the astounding reality that he would save anybody.
3. God is glorified by the eternal destruction of mankind.
4. Our struggle with the righteousness of this is evidence in and of itself of our wickedness.
The basic logic leads to an inevitable worldview.
It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.
God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.
So God is God! He rules and governs everything. And everything he does is just and right and good. God owes us nothing.
If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92.
God is not beholden to us at all. He doesn’t owe us anything.
~ John Piper
Likewise, Pastor Steve Lawson, one of the who’s who of the Calvinist resurgence of our day, suggests that Christ himself will personally torture people in hell for all of eternity. Plainly, the Bible states otherwise. Eternal judgment is separation from God. Critical to understanding the Bible is a vast dichotomy between justification and sanctification. There is to be no fear of a future judgment for those who trust Christ, but the Bible does call on believers to fear present consequences for actions contrary to God’s counsel. Calvinism calls for a fear in regard to future eternal judgment among Christians because a dissuasion of security is a Reformed tenet starting with Augustine. No distinction is made between fear in justification (which lacks love and therefore fears judgment) and fear of present consequences in sanctification.
It all looks pretty grim, but membership has colossal benefits for this present life. First, you do not have to take any personal responsibility for what you do. Sinners will be sinners, and we are already damned accordingly. Secondly, it supplies an answer for every question of life: good things that happen are grace; bad things happen because we are evil; and we deserve it. Thirdly, it enables us to detach ourselves from the emotional rigors of this life. We can stand back and observe our own life from a distance. Death, failure, injustice, etc. only serve to show us more of our own depravity as “set against God’s holiness.” The only difference between a lost person and a saved person is the saved person knows of their own depravity. The unregenerate are defined by “Phariseeism,” i.e., they think there is some good within them.
So, how can Calvinists be so happy in all of this? Well, they get the benefit of all of the aforementioned, plus a get out of election free card. The key is the Reformed tenet of the power of the keys. Whatever Reformed elders bind on earth, will be loosed in heaven. Reformed elders are mediators between God and man. Yes, fear is a wonderful thing and we can’t be sure we are going to heaven to stay, wink, wink, unless the elders like us. If the elders like us, we are probably in. Membership has its privileges.
I am utterly convinced that this is why there is a church every two miles on the interstate with a 500,000 dollar budget. Listen carefully to what we say: “Such and such is a member in good standing.” Good standing for what? Well, for one, Calvin believed, like all in the authentic Reformed tradition that sins committed in the Christian life “separate us from grace,” viz, salvation. And, forgiveness for that sin can only be obtained through membership in the local church, and by elders who have the authority to forgive that sin. And, only water baptism joins us to the local church. This speaks for itself.
Calvinism is spreading in our culture like wildfire. Any questions as to why? Basically, live by faith alone, and support your local Reformed mediator while living anyway you want to. The fact is, in most Neo-Calvinist churches of our day, people are living in open sin while those who ask questions are the only ones being brought up on “church discipline.” Come now, look around, that’s what is going on. No? This mindset is also responsible for the wildly successful contemporary biblical counseling movement; the good news is that Jesus does everything for you, and if you think you can do anything—you are a Pharisee. A successful marriage is defined as two totally depraved people living together who are on a journey to discover how evil they both are. That was easy!
I believe that we will see huge ecumenical movements in the future that find common ground on the total depravity issue. It will be a common belief that people really don’t change, and that grace defines all of man’s existence. I believe this is the last day’s antinomian blitzkrieg predicted in the Bible, and I believe the hallmark of it will be a reuniting of Protestantism and Catholicism.
Both came from Augustine, and that’s where they will return. The get out of election free membership card will seal the deal. From there, with at least 2 billion votes at its disposal, governments will agree to once again enforce the institutional church’s orthodoxy. This is just a mere repeating of history, and it looks a lot like the book of Revelation. Granted, because of the Enlightenment era and the liberty it exposed humanity to, the final tyranny will not be as ironclad as pax romana, it will be “iron mixed with clay.”
Nevertheless, the freedom offered in antinomianism and its wide easy road will lead to the same bondage experienced throughout human history.
TANC has published a free ebook that is a biblical evaluation of heart and flesh researched by layman Brian Jonson. The idea that the believer’s heart remains sinful/wicked is the core of Reformed soteriology. For free printed copies of this booklet, mail your request to TANC PO Box 583 Xenia, Ohio 45385. Your request may be limited depending on availability. You can download or read the booklet free at the following links:
Other free downloads fro TANC Publishing: http://tancpublishing.com/free-downloads/
Luther on Calvin’s Geneva: “With a death sentence they solve all argumentation.”
The archives are updated: ttanc.com
Originally posted on Spiritual Sounding Board:
Lourdes Torres, alleged victim in sex abuse scandal with Douglas Phillips of Vision Forum, has filed a lawsuit against Douglas Phillips
The victim in the Doug Phillips sex abuse case has filed a lawsuit and in doing so, has chosen to publicly reveal her identity: Lourdes Torres. She is one brave woman. Go, Lourdes!
World Net Daily has the full story and it is a long one with photos and lots of details. In the first link below is the legal complaint:
In the complaint filed in Kendall County District Court in Texas Tuesday morning, Phillips is accused of using a woman named Lourdes Torres, now 29, as “a personal sex object” over a period of five years.
I was alerted on Sunday of another development – that Lourdes Torres (aka Victim) was married Friday evening to a former Boerne Christian Assembly member, Nolan Manteufel.
We first got…
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I am very concerned with knowing the right wisdom that determines how we function as Christians. Another major concern of mine is evangelism. Evangelism has always been a struggle among Protestants, and it would seem that when it does happen the incentive is misguided.
I believe one of the major problems among Christians in our day is lazy thinking. When it gets right down to it, the human condition is predicated on good ideas versus bad ideas. Ideas are extremely important. Faith, by no means, is a license for simplicity. Angels, who need not faith, or trust, or hope, have not been given all of the answers on a silver platter. Yet, being holy, they “desire” to investigate the gospel (1Peter 1:12).
What we think, how we think, and what we believe forms our logic, and our logic will determine what we do. What we do is very important to me. What we do is very important to God. Here is a problem: when we hear someone talk about their “Christian worldview,” we assume this is a generic term that means the same to everyone and I find that assumption chilling. What we believe about predestination is very important. Be sure of this: the premise of every third world country and its misery following is a certain belief about predestination.
Predestination, or election, is in the Bible, I grant that. But I also think we should be sure of what we speak of when we use those terms. I know the prevailing views of our day, and I also know that accepting those views as our own without investigation is a big mistake. That is the journey we are on, and I have chosen 2Peter 3:1-18 as our foundation.
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
I use the English Standard Bible (ESV). It is a Neo-Calvinist translation heavily slanted towards authentic Reformed doctrine. Throughout the Bible, we find that the redeemed part of the believer is their mind (http://wp.me/pmd7S-FH). The KJV states that our Christian minds are “pure.” The ESV tempers that with the weaker idea of “sincere.” The following is the actual word:
g1506. εἰλικρινής eilikrinēs; from εἵλη heilē (the sun’s ray) and 2919; judged by sunlight, i. e. tested as genuine (figuratively):— pure, sincere. AV (2)- sincere 1, pure 1; pure, sincere, unsullied found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light.
What we have here is a sanctification principle stated by Peter. The apostles had taught so much to the believers of that day they forgot much of it, and this exposed them to the possibility of being led astray by false teachers. Note false teachers of that day often led believers astray by misrepresenting Bible prophecy:
4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Let me also note what the standard of truth was for them in that day:
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,
The Scriptures are the standard of truth taught by teachers and confirmed by the saints:
Acts 17:10 – The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
The more I study the Bible, the more I am convinced that the primary strategy of the kingdom of darkness is to lead us away from transforming our mind and lives with the truth of God’s word (Eph 4:20-24). What better way than to teach every verse in the Bible is about justification, and that God has preordained everything? What better way than to teach Christians can only experience the works of Christ without direct participation in obedience? What better way than to teach that our choices have no cause and effect? What better way than to teach we will only be judged on how well we let Jesus do everything for us?
If we had no choices, God wouldn’t motivate us with incentives, and one of those incentives is the imminent return of Christ like a thief in the night. At a time when we think not, Christ will return and a sudden, horrific seven-year judgment will unfold on the earth. This is where we must be careful about biblical words like “salvation.” This word does not always mean eternal salvation for the Christian. Christ, speaking to the assembly at Philadelphia said the following:
Revelation 3:10 – Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Christians in this age have already been saved for eternity, will be saved from coming judgment, will be saved from this weak, sinful and mortal body (Rom 7:24,25), and Christians during the tribulation will be saved alive if they follow the Lord’s instructions (Matt 10:22,23). When we use biblical words, we must be careful to mean what the Bible means. Interpreting salvation as always meaning eternal salvation proffers the idea that salvation is a process that requires our perseverance in order to finish it. That’s a bad idea.
I want to use 2Peter 3:1-18 for our foundation because we learn from it that God prolongs His coming so that more people will be saved. It is not His intention to predetermine people to eternal judgment:
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
As I explained in a post last week (http://wp.me/pmd7S-32O), the ESV uses the pronoun “you” instead of “us-ward” (KJV [hemas]) which means “us” or “we.” The ESV actually uses a word that is second person singular, and only draws a possible plural meaning from the context. It’s obvious that the ESV translators wanted to confine the object of God’s patience to the elect only, or if you will, believers. The KJV rendering could go either way in regard to the idea of mankind in general or just Christians. But as we will see, “us-ward” refers to mankind in general.
Because of the way the sentence is constructed, the “any” or the “all” is determined by “us-ward” or “you.” The idea that God prolongs judgment because He does not intend (g1014. βούλομαι boulomai: stronger than g2309. θέλω thelō which denotes preference) that any perish does violence to the idea of predetermination. If you put this together with 1Timothy 2:1-4 which uses thelo, we can conclude that God prefers that all come to a knowledge of the truth while not condemning anybody with intentionality. He prolongs judgment so that as many people as possible will be saved. However, God will not strive with man forever (Gen 6:3). Indeed, now is the time to be reconciled to God for the time is short (2Cor 6:2).
Who are the “us-ward”?
The predetermination crowd say the text means that God is only patient for the sake of those he has elected beforehand; once the fullness of His elect believe, the judgment will then come because He is not willing that any of the elect parish. If they are to exclude mankind from God’s intent to predetermine condemnation, they must restrict “us-ward” to the elect only:
God is patient to ______→ determines the “any” and “all” that are the object of God’s patience and unwillingness to condemn.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
The only problem is, the preposition “to” is irrefutable in the text. It is the Greek preposition eis and is a primary preposition.
To say that God is patient to mankind for the sake of the elect or because of the elect would require a modification of the sentence structure in regard to adding another prepositional phrase.
The actual sentence:
Also, Peter could have stated definitively that the elect alone are in view:
Therefore, supposedly, the elect are the sole object of God’s patience. However, this makes the elect subjects that need God’s patience in order to dissuade judgment. This makes the elect worthy of God’s judgment; therefore, he must be patient towards them in successive generations for the sake of the elect themselves. This is unavoidable unless you add another prepositional phrase to the text: God is patient towards the judgment-deserving elect for the sake of the elect.
This fits perfectly with Reformed soteriology, Calvinism if you will. The elect are still under the condemnation of the law, and mankind in general, or the non-elect, are not the beneficiaries of God’s patience in the least. God is only patient with the elect, because they are worthy of judgment, for the sake of the elect until they all believe.
So, you are going to interpret this Scripture according to your view of justification/salvation. Making “us-ward” the elect only fits with the idea that Christians are looking for a final salvation:
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation,
Again, this fits because part and parcel with a predestined view of salvation and Calvinism is the idea that Christians, or the elect, still need God’s patience unto salvation. The “salvation” in verse 14 doesn’t pertain to the whosoever will of mankind, it pertains to the elect only. The elect still need God’s patience unto salvation. Why does God need to be patient? Because of sin, What kind of sin? The kind that deserves the judgment to come.
Certainly, God is patient with us, but it is a fatherly patience. If you don’t believe that Christians still need a patience that dissuades the final judgment until the other elect believe, “us-ward” must mean mankind in general. This presents the idea that Christians “hasten” the day of Christ’s coming (they anxiously await for it) while understanding that the Lord’s patience means salvation. Salvation for whom? Well, Christians already have salvation.
The former idea asserts that Christians need God’s patience because they deserve judgment, and God is patient with them because He is not willing that any of the other elect perish.
Unless you interpret this text with a proper view of salvation, “us-ward” is ambiguous. However, assessing the text with a proper view of salvation makes “us-ward” mankind because Christians are not the cause of the coming judgment—God doesn’t need to be patient with Christians in that way.
Once again, we see that eschatology is far from being a “secondary” issue. False teachers have always used eschatology to throw Christians off track (here and 2Thess 2:1-12). We live in an age when the return of Christ is imminent, and we are to be found faithful upon His arrival. This is a time of urgency seen in this text. While we hasten the day of the Lord, we understand that His patience means salvation for many. We are to work while it is still daylight:
Romans 13:11 – Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Ephesians 5:15 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Where is our urgency? It’s missing because we don’t have a dog in the fight, everything is predetermined—there is no cause and effect. Que, sera, sera, what will be will be. Who the “us-ward” are in this passage determines how we will function as Christians. I find the Reformed talking point that evangelism is exciting because it makes us a part of God’s predetermination wanting. You can add to that John MacArthur’s “because God said so” assertion, and God is glorified by people rejecting Him because of the “savor of death.”
Again, the Reformers didn’t even have salvation right, we must be Bereans and see for ourselves what is true about this issue. But in the final analysis, a view of God’s predestination must be tempered with the knowledge that God desires for all men to be saved and does not select people for damnation with intent. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze 18:32, 33:11). God does not seek glory in condemning people to eternal judgment:
As PPT/TANC will invariably move toward a more solution oriented vision while moving away from blogosphere drama that seeks to save the institutional church, which is un-save-able, and founded on the false gospel of Protestantism, evangelism is a very important subject to us. And let’s face it; a Protestant view of predestination/election is a disincentive to evangelize. I have been a Protestant Baptist for many years, and know full well that most Protestants would rather kiss an alligator than witness. I believe this indifference to the Great Commission can be laid at the feet of Protestant orthodoxy.
Don’t get me wrong, my argument isn’t based on a desire to see more evangelism. If predestination is true, so be it. But the fact is—it’s not biblical. It has taken many years for me to come to this conclusion, and there are still a lot of pieces to put together, but in all my research on this issue of late, 2Peter 3:1-13 is the passage that has led me to this foundational conclusion:
God did not predetermine or choose some for salvation and others for hell. Man can be persuaded to believe.
I know that the typical lazy thinking Protestant Calvinists will call me an “Arminian,” but I have never read Jacobus Arminius, nor have I read anything about him. My conclusions come from reading the Calvin Institutes and the Bible. I also find it interesting that Neo-Calvinists find the same angle that I have settled on so intimidating that they changed words in the ESV to hide the meaning of “willing.” That doesn’t exactly dissuade me from thinking that I am on to something.
In 2Peter 3:1-13, Peter is reminding Christians of the following:
3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Notice that men “deliberately” overlook the truth because it is inconvenient to their own desires. That’s a choice. Men are not completely blinded, they are aware of the truth, but they deliberately suppress it (Rom 1:18,19). In this case, they deny the second coming by pointing to how long the earth has been functioning normally for thousands of years. Peter then defines their deliberate and false assertion:
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The first discrepancy is the ESV’s (a Neo-Calvinist translation) use of “you”—but is patient towards you. This implies a second person plural which infers a continuing same salvation for believers as well as unbelievers. The correct translation (KJV) that fits with the context is “us-ward” (third person plural) which implies mankind in general and their need for salvation. The second person plural goes hand in hand with Calvinism’s progressive justification.
More interesting is how the ESV translates the word “willing” as “wishing” in this text—not wishing that any should perish. The actual word follows:
g1014. βούλομαι boulomai; middle voice of a primary verb; to “will,” i. e. (reflexively) be willing:— be disposed, minded, intend, list, (be, of own) will (- ing).
The idea is “intent,” or to “will.” This is what settled the issue for me. It is clearly NOT God’s “will” or “intent” that any parish. If God predestined certain men for destruction, that is clearly His intent and will. But that is not the case. But it gets better: on the one hand, God does not predetermine people for destruction because that is not His will or intent, and on the other hand, he desires all men to be saved:
1Timothy 2:1 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The word for “desires”—who desires all people to be saved is,
g2309. θέλω thelō; to determine (as an active option from subjective impulse; whereas 1014 properly denotes rather a passive acquiescence in objective considerations), i. e. choose or prefer (literally or figuratively); by implication, to wish, i. e. be inclined to (sometimes adverbially, gladly);
Here, the ESV uses a proper word; God desires for all people to be saved, but of course, that’s not going to happen. But on the other hand, he doesn’t will or intend for people to be eternally condemned. That must mean it’s by their own choice, and contrary to God’s desires, will, or intent. Calvinists plainly do not like these renderings in holy writ and consider them a threat to their doctrine of predestination. They replace “will” and “intent” with the idea of thelo, or “wish.” Also, Note how the ESV translates Matthew 11:27.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
The ESV uses the word “chooses”—anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Shockingly, this is the exact same word used in 2Peter 3:9—βούλομαι boulomai. In 2Peter it is wishful thinking according to the ESV, but the same word in Matthew 11:27 is a CHOICE or a choosing, or predestination on the part of the Son. Here is how the KJV properly translates the verse:
All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
If the ESV was consistent with their questionable rendering of the word in Matthew 11:27, here is how 2Peter 3:9 would read:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not choosing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Well then, the long list of Calvinist scholars that endorse the ESV agree with me:
God has not chosen anyone for condemnation.
The word for “choose” follows: “g1586. ἐκλέγομαι eklegomai; middle voice from 1537 and 3004 (in its primary sense); to select:— make choice, choose (out), chosen. AV (21)- choose 19, choose out 1, make choice 1; to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self.” Selecting the English word “choose” for boulomai (“willing”) in one place, and “wishing” in another seems to be a deliberate attempt to skew intended meaning.
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The position that I have taken for some time regarding election is to focus on what I can understand about the more definitive issue of justifcation while waiting to see if that leads to more understanding of the more difficult issue of predestination. I know that the primary authority on predestination is Calvinism which holds to a completely upside down view of law and gospel, but we must be careful because a clock that doesn’t work is still right twice a day. When you throw around a lot of Bible verses, you can hit something that is right. “Election” and “predestination” are in the Bible, so we must proceed with caution.
In regard to the L in TULIP, and the many Bible passages that seem to contradict the idea that God limited salvation to the elect, Calvinists offer a logical argument:
What did Christ accomplish for the non-elect?
Did Christ die for those who would not choose him? Of course, according to Calvinism, that wouldn’t be anybody unless God intervened with the “effectual call.” Therefore, Christ only died for the elect. Many are called, but Christ only died for the chosen.
What comes into question is that of legitimate offer. The gospel couldn’t be offered to anybody unless Christ died on the cross. If the one act of Christ (Heb 10:14, Rom 5;18) made salvation a legitimate offer to everyone, particular redemption is not a necessary question. Certainly, Christ died to bring many to glory, those who believe, but does that speak directly to accomplishment for them only, or the accomplishment of legitimizing the means of being reconciled to God as well? If salvation is not a legitimate offer to everyone, how can people “neglect” it? (Heb 2:3).
More to the point, Christ came to end the law (Rom 10:4) for those who believe. Ending the law is singular; Christ’s death either sufficiently ended the law or it didn’t. Once the law is ended, that makes His death sufficient for all because where there is no law there is no sin (Rom 4:15). What Christ accomplished is the ending of the law which makes the offer of salvation legitimate and sufficient for all men. Christ therefore accomplished a legitimate offer of salvation for all men. This is why it can be neglected.
Furthermore, all sin is imputed to the law that unbelievers are under (Gal 3:19-27, Rom 6:14). It is a ministry of death and condemnation for those who don’t believe (2Cor 3:3-18). Being under it, they are storing up wrath for the day of judgment (Rom 7:5,6).
So, what Christ accomplished for those who don’t believe is definitely the wrong question. And, it is a salvation that can be neglected because it is legitimately offered to all. Christ ended the law they are enslaved to, the “law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
Originally posted on Paul's Passing Thoughts:
I have been watching the “Wide Is The Gate” video series by Caryl Productions. The series addresses “Christianized New Age Spirituality.” The series has many excellent observations. The following are the major ones:
- Eastern Mysticism that teaches creation is God, and that God is in every person, has been integrated into mainstream Christianity.
- Over the years, the integration has been fine tuned to appear orthodox.
- When one aspect of such a movement is exposed, they change the name.
- The Bible predicted that Christianity would be saturated with such false doctrines in the latter days.
There are two major movements right now that are being used by the kingdom of darkness to promote its major agenda: to get Christians as far away as possible from learning and doing God’s word. The folks at Caryl Productions are spot on; the New Age Movement never went away, it is alive and well under…
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At the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference, Pastor John MacArthur gave the opening message titled, “Why Every Self‐Respecting Calvinist Is a Premillennialist.” The message caused a hyper hissy fit among the authentic Geneva style Calvinists that used to associate with MacArthur. Most of the hysterical reviews were whining rants about how the message was an “ambush.” They came to the conference to hear solid fatalistic Reformed doctrine while enjoying sweet fellowship among philosopher kings, and instead were personally dressed down at the very beginning of the conference that they attended with hard earned parishioner money. It just ain’t right.
No doubt, the message left amillennialism naked, and freezing outside in the cold. Well, sort of, depending on your understanding of Calvin’s election construct. This is why the various responses danced around the real issue and were in bondage to MacArthur’s fundamental misunderstanding about what Calvinism is while calling himself one. Paul warned the Corinthians that elitist academia is not the venue that God works from, and this fiasco is just one good example among many as to why that is so. The Geneva popes could not expose the fact that MacArthur’s fundamental premise is wrong—that would expose what Calvin really believed about election—a truth that the totally depraved artisans can’t handle.
MacArthur said this during the message:
But bottom line here, of all people on the planet to be pre-millennialist it should be Calvinists; those who love sovereign election. Let’s leave amillennialism for the Arminians. It’s perfect! [laughter] It’s ideal. It’s a no-brainer. God elects nobody and preserves nobody. Perfect! Arminians make great amillennialists. It’s consistent. But not for those who live and breathe the rarified air of sovereign electing grace. That makes no sense. We can leave amillennialism to the process theologians . . . The irony is that those who most celebrate the sovereign grace of election regarding the church, and its inviolable place in God’s purpose from predestination to glorification, and those who most aggressively and militantly defend the truth of promise and fulfillment, those who are the advocates of election being divine, unilateral, unconditional, and irrevocable by nature for the church, unashamedly deny the same for elect Israel. That is a strange division.
Ok, so MacArthur highlighted one of the assumed positive notes that can be taken from the idea of Calvin’s election: Once saved always saved. And, absolute assurance of salvation because it is God’s work alone—we can’t mess it up. And, how can you proffer election for the individual and ignore the fact that Israel was elected? This put the Geneva popes in a tuff spot because they know that this apparent contradiction fits perfectly with Calvin’s doctrine of election.
Calvin believed in three categories of election: the non-elect, the called elect, and the chosen elect. This necessarily denies assurance because the called elect don’t know for certain whom among them have been chosen. Calvin stated this in no uncertain terms:
Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).
You can be called, and you can have faith, but that doesn’t seal the deal, said Calvin:
The expression of our Savior, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” (Mt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear—viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness (CI 3.24.8).
So, this fits perfectly with Calvin’s eschatology; Israel was temporarily elected just like many individuals are temporarily elected. The logical conclusion of Calvin is that God’s word did in fact fail (Romans 9:6). Moreover, and in direct contradiction to 1John 5:13, authentic Reformed doctrine has always denied assurance. This is reflected in many contemporary authentic Calvinists:
There is danger on the way to salvation in heaven. We need ongoing protection after our conversion. Our security does not mean we are home free. There is a battle to be fought (John Piper: Bethlehem Baptist Church Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Elect Are Kept by the Power of God October 17, 1993).
Words mean things. Piper is clearly saying that our battle in sanctification is a battle for justification. If you really understand the Reformed view of justification, you know: that battle is against our supposed propensity to gain favor with God through works in sanctification (“please/love God” changed to; merit for salvation). There is no separation of justification and sanctification, so works in sanctification must be sanctified with a faith alone formula. It’s salvation by Christ plus not doing any works in sanctification (Christ + antinomianism to maintain our salvation). We must be sanctified the same way we were justified so that we can properly finish justification. Therefore, Calvin believed that sins committed in the Christian life separate us from grace, and a continual repentance, the same repentance that saved us, is needed to maintain our salvation. Unless we live by faith alone in sanctification, Christ’s blood will not be applied to the new sins we commit. This is the battle Piper is talking about. Said Calvin:
…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).
And, guess what? It just so happens that your local Reformed elder, via the Reformed power of the keys, has the authority to forgive those pesky sins that take away your salvation. Whoever would have thunk it?
To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).
Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).
Calvinism is an egregious false gospel being flaunted in broad daylight by academic elitists who are in reality clueless, which brings me to my second point. This is where the vast majority of American Christians are functioning Calvinists…among many other ways while vehemently denying Calvin. Specifically, the whole idea that eschatology is a “secondary issue.” No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Eschatology is gospel; you cannot separate the cross from eschatology. One’s eschatology will be consistent with their view of justification—unless you’re John MacArthur.
The number of resurrections and judgments, and who stands in those judgments, are indicative of a particular view of justification, and election in particular. MacArthur’s dispensationalism coupled with naming the name of Calvinistic soteriology, which really isn’t Calvin’s soteriology to begin with, is a dumbfounding contraction that leaves one without words to fully explain. Calvin’s eschatology calls for one resurrection and one judgment at the end of time where everyone sweats it out while waiting to find out if they were antinomian enough. Some of the books at the Great White Throne Judgment are the books of the law that will be used by God to judge the works of those standing in that judgment. As one aspect of Christian security, we will not stand in that judgment because we are not under the law. Furthermore, we don’t wait to see if our antinomianism sufficiently utilized the “doing and dying” of Christ to cover our sins—our sins have been completely eradicated.
The number of resurrections and judgments speak to our view of what part of Christ’s works on the cross are finished and not finished, the separation of justification and sanctification, the new birth, election, and future Israel. Eschatology is gospel.
That’s why every self‐respecting premillennialist isn’t a Calvinist, and why MacArthur isn’t a Calvinist, but he thinks he is a Calvinist. As stated by Richard Muller,
There is every likelihood that John MacArthur’s “Calvinism” would probably not be recognized by Calvin himself.
It’s all simply pathetic.
1. Total Depravity
As written about often here at PPT, the Calvinist view of total depravity also pertains to the saints. However, total depravity isn’t even true in regard to the unregenerate. All born into the world have the works of the law written on their hearts with a conscience that either accuses or excuses their behavior. Romans 6:20 states that unbelievers are free in regard to righteousness. Total depravity posits the idea that mankind cannot do any work that falls short of condemnation. Works for justification are not the issue entirely; if man can do any good work, one of those good works could be choosing God which Calvinism rejects. Hence, the doctrine of total depravity is essential for them.
2. Unconditional Election
This is not exactly right either, though less egregious than the other four points. God does choose according to some conditions and for His purposes. One example is God’s choosing of the poor and un-noble so that he will get the credit for the power He displays through them (1Cor 1:26-29). His specific purpose for this is to shame the “wise” and the “strong.” He elected Israel because they are the smallest of nations (Due 7:7). The condition is smallness.
3. Limited Atonement
Christ clearly died for all people. The word used in John 3:16 is “kosmos.” “God so loved the world….” I believe this word was used deliberately to circumvent the idea that Christ died for “all kinds of men” and not ALL men.
4. Irresistible Grace
Man can resist the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear on this: Acts 7:51, John 16:8, John 12:32.
5. Perseverance of the Saints
Calvin taught a three-fold election: non-elect, temporary elect (those who lose their election, the “called”), and the final elect, or those who persevere to the end (chosen). In an effort to proof text this error, “perseverance” is always associated with salvation, and rewards are not considered. At any rate, it is clear that believers do not always persevere (1Cor 5:4,5).
Originally posted on Paul's Passing Thoughts:
I have heard of Rob Bell, and have a lot of info about him backlogged to read. So, I know very little about Rob; but I can tell you I already like him. How can this be? And what do I specifically like about him?
1. He’s honest: I know this because Justin Taylor and John Piper were able to make judgments about his book before it was even published. Is he a universalist? I don’t know, I haven’t read the book yet, but he apparently has no bones about being clear as to what he believes, unlike those who pass judgment on him. Indicative of New Calvinism is the nuanced / ambiguous / subjective verbiage that they call “teaching.” Whether Piper or his fawning servant, Justin Taylor, or Keller, Powlison, Tripp, Mahaney, Chan, etc., etc, add nausea, you read their books, page after page after page saying, “I…
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Don’t get me wrong, I am just as disgusted with Arminians as I am Calvinists. The American church is an institution like Hollywood, and with these kinds of institutions, drama is needed. The lifestyles and life issues of the Hollywood elite brings in the cash as much as the movies themselves. And here is the one that gets me: because they can act, they are looked to for wisdom. During a congressional hearing in which a Hollywood actor was testifying, a lightbulb went on and one congressman asked, “What are your credentials? What makes you an expert on this subject?” The chorus of I could have had a V-8 expressions following was priceless. Likewise, today’s pastors are experts because they pay for an education on how to think the thoughts of others. We call that “orthodoxy.”
For more than 500 years now, Calvinists have picked their own detractors. Protestants still do what they do best; they control the reality and premise of the argument for their own outcomes. I was once told by an insurance executive that a cure for cancer could be found, but there was too much money in not having a complete cure. Perhaps, but let me use the same analogy with the whole disgusting Arminian/Calvinist debate: Arminians don’t want to destroy the cancer of Calvinism—there’s too much money in it.
If Calvinists give your argument press, it’s a pathetic argument—you can take that to the bank. It is at that point just more Justin Bieber controversy. Such is the case with a “new” book titled, “Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love and a Journey in and out of Calvinism.” This isn’t a new argument, it is just another spewing of predestination creates a truckload of metaphysical confusion. This debate sends the subtle message to the world that biblical truth is not definitive, and that is not helpful. Basically, like most books of this pedigree, the equation is, that interpretation doesn’t = my definition of love so it must not = God.
Why am I so frustrated with all of this drama and the herd mentality that refuses to miss an episode? Because there is a cure for Calvinism; the theological math is definitive and irrefutable. Calvinism keeps believers under the law, it’s just that simple. Calvin’s definition of a believer is the biblical equivalent of an unregenerate person: under law versus under grace. Calvinists are delighted that all of the pushback focuses on predestination; this is by design because it keeps Christians away from the simple theological math. Why is election being debated with people who don’t even understand justification? It’s the same old song and dance. A philosophical argument is presented from the viewpoint of God’s love and justice, and Calvinists answer with a long list of Scripture verses that seem to clearly proffer predestination.
Having this argument with Calvinists is stupid. At least argue with people who hold to a saving view of justification.
“Because the Reformation is the primary commentary on the subject of election, the subject must be thoroughly revisited with stringent biblical evaluation.”
Everyone must agree the doctrine of predestination came from the big three of the Reformation: Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. The doctrine is Augustinian*; Luther and Calvin systematized and articulated it for the Reformation. From my standpoint, after writing fifteen-hundred articles and four books on the Reformation, the Reformers were not biblically right about anything; particularly justification. So, were they right about predestination? That is, the idea that God selected, or predetermined some for salvation and not others; the idea that man has no will or ability to seek God or flee to Him for salvation—salvation is a total work of God; it’s “monergistic.”
This poses some logical problems, and also makes Christianity akin to Hinduism** and Islam which are also heavily predicated on the idea of predestination, but predestination should not be rejected for those reasons alone. Logically, one is perplexed by the idea that God judges people for not choosing Him when they have no ability to do so. Logically, one wonders why the prophets of God exhorted men with tears to repent when some have no ability to so.
The idea of predestination throws the Bible into confusion for many reasons, for one, God on the one hand states, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Why would God inject reason into the process when men are unable to reason? One of the favorite Bible passages among the Reformed is the resurrection of Lazarus. “See, he was dead, he could do nothing, he couldn’t make a choice, he came to life by God’s calling alone.” Very well, if all men are like Lazarus, why would you try to reason with dead people? Furthermore, Lazarus was already a believer, so what’s the point? Making this resurrection a statement about justification is sloppy hermeneutics at best.
Let me be clear, I am speaking to the problem of confusion here and am not trying to refute predestination with pure logic, but clearly, the confusion of it all is very problematic for Christians. And let’s face it, especially in regard to evangelism, it is paralyzing. Who does not recognize the difficulty in getting people to evangelize in Christian circles? Clearly, the incentive is lacking. The God is going to do what he is going to do mindset is pervasive in both categories of Christian living and evangelism.
The short answer for all of this via the Reformed camp follows: “We evangelize because it illustrates that choice is all of God, and therefore, God is glorified when men repent, and God is equally glorified when men refuse to come to Him. If God saved everybody, the riches of His grace would not be known, it would be taken for granted, which would rob God of glory.” And in fact, there seems to be biblical precedent for this:
Roman 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
Woe! Seems pretty clear, no? Now, instead of breaking down the context of this in order to refute the belief that this passage bolsters the idea that God has predetermined who will be saved and not saved, let me jettison to another aspect of election, the subject of what we just read. But before I do, I think something needs to be said about the apostle Paul. In fact, the apostle Peter said it:
2Peter 3:11 – Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
By the way, it is very likely that these are the last words that Peter wrote to the assemblies of Christ, and he knew that they were his last words (see 1:12-13). This gives a very eerie tone to his “amen” at the end of this letter. Think about that. It’s a short book, and I would recommend it as a bedtime or lunchtime devotional for you as you read this letter with that reality in mind. These are the last thoughts that Peter deemed most important for the assemblies to remember.
But the point I want to make is what he said about Paul. I think Peter is being very gracious here as I will confess that Paul is by far the apostle I look up to the most, but yet very annoying. Paul wrote in a way that demands thinking. In regard to making things simple for the simple, he had no mercy. When pastors talk about “keeping the cookies on the bottom shelf,” you can be sure that they have never met Paul. I know many beloved brothers and fellow teachers of the word who are also often annoyed by Paul—I feel their pain.
But yet, the last three years of my Christian life are pretty much about Paul. Please take note of this: Calvinists want to debate me on all of the Bible verses that seem to indicate salvific predestination, but they don’t want to debate me on what Paul specifically wrote on justification. Paul is the Achilles’ heel for Calvinism. I have been turned down, in regard to public debate, by two respected Calvinists on this wise—they dare not get into a discussion of Pauline law and gospel—they are absolutely dead in the water on this issue.
But note what Peter said: many take the difficulty of what Paul wrote and use it to twist the Scriptures. And in regard to predestination, I believe this is the very case. Now, back to where I am going with this. It is easy to assert the idea that man has no choice and is “elected,” but what about the idea that Jesus Christ is also elected? What’s that all about?
Isaiah 42:1 – Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
1Peter 2:4 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
Isaiah 28:16 – “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”†
The only way this makes sense is if Christ is the chosen means of salvation; in other words, the means of salvation are elected, but man still has an ability to choose the means. There is no salvation in any other name but Christ. Secondly, as a means of spreading the good news among the nations that God supplies a way to be reconciled to Him, he chose Israel as His nation to represent His name among the nations:
Exodus 19:3 – while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
Isaiah 8:8 – But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.††
Though all of Israel are Abraham’s offspring, not all within Israel will be saved. The linage, or offspring God chose was according to the miraculous promise not the conniving of Abraham to help God out (Gen 15-17, 21, Gal 4;21-31). God chose a certain linage within the national kinsmen of Abraham from which Christ would come. In the case of Isaac and Ishmael, Isaac represented God’s means. In the case of Jacob and Esau, Jacob was the chosen one to continue the lineage of promise. As we just read, God hated Esau and loved Jacob before either did anything bad or good.
Or did he? Actually, Rebekah was told “The older will serve the younger” before either of them did bad or well. God later hated the descendants of Esau (Edom) for their austere wickedness.‡ Did God appoint Edom to wickedness, or did he choose Jacob to continue the lineage of promise based on what he foreknew? That passage in Romans 9 is often described as God hating Esau and loving Jacob before they were born, but that is not the case at all. Paul was merely saying that the Edomites were not the nation from which the promise would come.
The point that Paul was making in Romans 9 is that the promise was still through Israel even though God had temporarily turned His back on Israel in favor of the Gentiles. Hence,
Romans 9 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but
Gen 21:12 – “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
This is not about individual predestination at all, this is about making it clear to the Roman Gentiles, and Gentiles in general, that Israel is still God’s chosen people. And indeed, this is not a message that Gentiles have understood well regardless of Paul turning himself into a pretzel to make the point in Romans 9-11. Read these chapters yourself, the election of Israel and its eventual salvation is the clear thesis. As Christ said, “Salvation is of the Jews.”
God’s plan of salvation involves the election of Christ and Israel. I am not going to take room here to expound further on this point, but let me also add that God elected apostleship (the ministry of the 12 apostles) and gifts as well. These are things mankind has NO control over. In John 3, of course the Spirit is like a blowing wind that man has no control over—of course man has no control over the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation, but can mankind choose to believe the truth about those works? I think he can.
Before I move on to why I think this is the case from a biblical perspective, let me mention a few of God’s purposes for election. First and foremost, God’s purpose of election is to completely eradicate works from justification:
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls
Let’s pause here for a moment to think about something. Suppose God did elect certain individuals while condemning others. At least for the elect, they could be completely assured of their salvation because it was completely determined by God before the foundation of the world. How can you mess-up something that was determined by God umpteen years before you were even born? Many, many biblical texts could be cited to give this positive note to the presumed Reformed position on election. Problem is, Calvin believed that there are three forms of election: non-elect, temporary elect, and the truly elected. And therefore, assurance of salvation is not possible.‡‡ Of course, this defies the very purpose of writing 1John as stated by John himself (5:13). Because the Reformation is the primary commentary on the subject of election, the subject must be thoroughly revisited with stringent biblical evaluation.
Let’s look at another purpose of election in regard to Israel:
Deuteronomy 7:7 – It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
God chose Israel to demonstrate His power, promises, and protection through one of the smallest nations in the world. It makes no sense at all that a nation Israel’s size could survive in the midst of so many formidable enemies. This is the very manifestation in our day of God’s future promises for Israel.
God chose the lower classes of people in the world to demonstrate His wisdom through them:
1Corinthians 1:26 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written,
Jeremiah 9:24 – “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
A problem that James confronted in the assemblies as well was the inclination of Christians in that day to capitulate to the rich and powerful. Paul reminds them that God chose their class to confound the pride of the rich and powerful, so a capitulation to the upper class circumvents the purposes of God in that aspect of election. This isn’t saying that the rich and powerful cannot be saved, but it is irrefutable that God chose the lowly in general by virtue of who He targeted in His ministry endeavors. A pattern of means and purposes in election is what we see developing in our study. This doesn’t exclude individual choice by any means.
Let’s begin to look at the individual. Mankind has an intuitive knowledge of God:
Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Furthermore, mankind is created with the works of the law written on hearts along with a conscience that administers that law by either accusing us or excusing us:
Romans 2:12 – For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Romans 1:32 – Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Man knows God, and knows right from wrong. He deliberately suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. Man is judged by God with a giving over to more enslavement to sin. This is a clear progression throughout the Bible. Even though God rose up Pharaoh to display His power and love for Israel, Pharaoh initially hardened his own heart, and that resulted in God further hardening the heart of Pharaoh. See, Exodus 7:3, 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, 9:7, 9:12, 9:34, 9:35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:9 (the purpose), 14:4, 14:8, 14:17 (hearts of all the Egyptians hardened). I don’t believe God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Pharaoh’s own will, I believe God made use of what He knew Pharaoh was going to do, and made Pharaoh more resolute in it via judgment. The Hebrews writer implored the people to not harden their hearts (Heb 3:8).
Clearly, man’s decision to not obey God and His gospel is a well-informed decision, but ultimately, will man always refuse to come to God unless God intervenes? Is his will in bondage unless God chooses to break that will?
As mentioned earlier, the traditional Protestant view of predestination must be rejected because it is fruit from the poisonous tree. The laity must seek out a biblical understanding of predestination because after all, “election” is in the Bible and is a biblical word. We are compelled to do this because it is our calling as the lowly of the world, and we are in darkness because we have capitulated to the academic elite.
We have looked at some of the big-picture aspects of election, and next week, we will bring this down to a more individual level. We will examine several verses in light of the big picture that do in fact seem to indicate that individual salvific fate is predetermined. We will also look at several verses that contradict that idea, and Lord willing, we will see the balance and truth in it.
But let me close with an important note on individual gospel appeal. One of the elements of Protestant predestination is the idea that Christ only died for those God preselected. This is known as “limited atonement.” My concern is that this doctrine greatly dampens the gospel plea of Hebrews 10. The idea there, is that the “Spirit of grace” will be “outraged” if such a “great salvation” is “neglected” (Heb 2:3). This indicates that Christ did die a horrible death in order to offer salvation to all. Hebrews 10 paints a terrifying picture of those who reject this salvation offer secured for them. Certainty, even if individuals are predetermined, we would be contradicting the apostolic office if we downplayed the terror of neglecting this salvation offered to all:
2Corintinthians 5:11 – Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.
Next week, we continue this journey and we invite you to come with us.
The Potter’s House Home Fellowship.
*This is a point widely conceded by the Reformed camp. One source among much conspicuous data is Dave Hunt’s classic work, What Love is This? pp. 56-60.
**Karma is the infant stage of Hinduism where saints believe they are responsible for their own actions, but as growth moves forward, the mature saint…
He becomes convinced that God has been doing everything by using his body, mind, energy and the senses. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God, and whatever God has been doing to him is for his ultimate spiritual good. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine to him. To him the doctrine of karma ceases to be a valid doctrine.
Therefore, these two doctrines, even though apparently contradictory to each other, are valid for people at different stages of spiritual growth.
~ Swami Bhaskarananda: Chapters IX to XI of the book “The Essentials of Hinduism,” Heading; “Predestination.”
†Also see Isaiah 48:14-15, 49:1-6, 61:1.
††Also see Isaiah 43:1, 44:1,2, 45:4, 48:12, 51:16.
‡Paul cites Malachi 1:2,3 which pertains to God’s hatred of Edom because of their wickedness and persecution of Israel. The Edomites were allied with Babylon and took part in the destruction of the first temple.
‡‡ Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).
Calvinism derived its 3 classes ultimately from the 3 classes in Valentinian Gnosticism (see Ireneaus’ five books Against Heresies):
1. Pneumatics (spirituals) – The elect of the elect.
2. Psuchics (soulys) – The average elect.
3. Hylics (carnals) – The non-elect.
Online source: http://wp.me/pmd7S-2LF
Calvin’s 3-fold election:non-elect, temporary elect, final elect. Final e. can’t be known til final judgement(CI3.24.6) Good luck with that
Hesitation in “jumping directly from the command to obedience” reveals a skewed view of justification as an unfinished work.
“Incredibly, and in broad daylight, MacArthur’s kinship to Augustine’s Platonism was eerily on display. This is not a side issue; this is the meat of the total depravity gospel which invariably leads to a Reformed view of election.”
“The idea that people can do no good work is not even true of unbelievers. But the problem for the Reformed is this: if the unbeliever can do good works, though falling far short of God’s glory in totality, one of those good works might be choosing God. That’s a huge problem for the Reformed theologian. Hence, the ability to do any good work must be eradicated; viz, total depravity.”
As anybody who visits here much at PPT knows, I have stayed clear of a specific position on election aside from discussing some inclinations about the subject. This is because I am convinced that most Christians don’t have a solid understanding of justification which is very definitive, unlike the question of election. The following makes sense to me: nail down what we can know definitively first, then perhaps the rest will fall into place.
This has worked for me; I have come to some foundational conclusions about election while knowing there is much more to learn. But the following is what I know at this time. These are difficult questions, but the very difficultly indicates an expectation by God: we are to be zealously involved in the working out of these questions. Granted, at this time, there are some things only God will know, but we are responsible for what we can know (Due 29:29, 30:11-14). Pleading ignorance because of your awareness of God’s greatness can be a cloak for wicked laziness (Matt 25:14-30).
I was inspired yesterday to put together thoughts I have had for some time after stumbling upon John MacArthur’s speech about total depravity at the 2008 T4G conference. Coming to a resolute conclusion about MacArthur’s “Christian” worldview has been a long and hard journey for me. I know Augustine, Calvin, and Luther well as I read them daily—that’s my ministry—that’s what those who support this ministry expect me to do, and MacArthur is in league with that worldview lock, stock, and barrel.
The exception would be his eschatology which doesn’t match his Reformed soteriology, and perhaps that is why there has been a parting of the ways between MacArthur and T4G. Multiple judgments and resurrections suggest a separation between justification and sanctification, and assurance of justification which is an Augustinian anomaly.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
In a court of law, information from a bad source or means is looked upon with much skepticism, and the fact is, the doctrine of election came from the Reformers; this makes the doctrine of election VERY suspect for concrete reasons. While stating that election didn’t come from the Reformers, but rather the Bible, all admit that the Reformers brought it to our attention that election is in the Bible, and then we went to look for ourselves based on the “biblical facts” they pointed to.
Indeed, we caution ourselves because a clock that doesn’t work is right twice a day, but in this case, the clock has no hands. The Reformers brought it to our attention that election is in the Bible, and then also brought it to our attention that we are worthy of death if we don’t agree with their assessment of election. Most Reformed confessions and counsels, including Westminster, included this clause, and Calvin stated it to Francis I in the prefatory address of his Institutes. This lacks Jesus likeness, and a tree is known by its fruit.
Secondly, Reformed soteriology is clearly at odds with biblical justification. First and foremost, the Reformers wanted to make a case for total depravity. If man is totally depraved and unable to choose God, obviously, God must elect. In his introduction at T4G, MacArthur notes that total depravity wasn’t invented by Calvin or Luther, but historically, it went all the way back to the fifth century and Saint Augustine. Apparently, older is better. 2008 was the first year that Neo-Calvinism was dubbed, “New Calvinism,” and I believe MacArthur wanted to make a case that it wasn’t “new,” a word that can make Evangelicals a little skittish. MacArthur et al deem total depravity to be the very bedrock of the Reformed gospel, and clearly, he was making a case for historical precedent. But there are two reasons why this leads to a Reformed Achilles’ heel on both feet.
Augustine was an avowed Neo-Platonist who would have considered the material, including man, as being evil and only the invisible/spiritual as being good. Furthermore, a just society was the paramount goal of Platonism which necessitates the marriage of church and state. And, “just” was defined as “united” by Plato which necessitates unquestionable allegiance to the ruling class, or philosophers. When Augustine, the undisputed father of Reformed soteriology merged Neo-Platonism with Christianity, another assertion that few dispute, Plato’s philosopher kings became the clergy. In the minds of the Platonist Reformed clergy, the state is ordained to enforce “orthodoxy.”
Incredibly, and in broad daylight, MacArthur’s kinship to Augustine’s Platonism was eerily on display. This is not a side issue; this is the meat of the total depravity gospel which invariably leads to a Reformed view of election. In addressing the pastors at T4G, he described them as the most important people in the world—more important than the rulers of nations, and because of their calling, the only ones adequate to proclaim the gospel. He referred to them as those who are “a savor of life to life and death to death.” The idea of elitism could not hold a candle to his address. Consequently, the idea that the lesser important government should enforce “life to life” for the betterment of the collective good could not be far behind, and historically, never has been.
In Augustine’s endeavor to integrate Christianity with Platonism, there was a glitch: mankind seems to perform good deeds from time to time whether saved or lost. This suggests that mankind is endowed with a general competency and ability to interpret reality. The solution? Make a perfect keeping of law the standard for justification and the maintenance thereof. If an act does not conform to the law perfectly, as if that wouldn’t be possible to begin with, it has no merit with God and is worthy of condemnation. And even if it were possible to do one truly good act, it is discredited by James 2:10 because if you break the law at one point, you are guilty of breaking all of it. This is Calvin’s cardinal point in 3.14.9-11 of the Calvin Institutes.
This is where Augustine shot Reformed soteriology in the other foot as well. A careful examination of Pauline theology contradicts this by way of extreme antithesis. God’s righteousness is imputed APART from the law (Rom 3:21). There is NO law that can give life (Gal 3:21). We are deemed sinless because there is NO law in justification. The law that judged our weakness in the flesh was ENDED by Christ (Rom 10:4) “…for righteousness.” If not for the old self and the flesh, we would obey God perfectly, but the old us that was under that law (Rom 6:14) died with Christ. Therefore, being dead, that law cannot judge us (Rom 7:1-6). You can’t bring a dead person to trial.
More Poisonous Fruit
Throughout his speech at the 2008 T4G, MacArthur referred to the “sinner’s” inability to “see the evil in their good…he does not see his sin in his goodness.” MacArthur also complained about the belief that man has a “residual good,” and an ability to “contribute to his salvation.” In true authentic Reformed style, MacArthur was deliberately ambiguous in regard to any distinction between justification and sanctification. Is a “sinner” referring to the regenerate or unregenerate or both? By “salvation,” does he mean a finished work that only pertains to the saved, or an ongoing work that encompasses the saved who are also sinners? When he used the word, “man” and “mankind,” is that mankind in general or just unbelievers?
He never said specifically, but if true to the theology of the camp where he was speaking, he meant both. He meant that believers remain totally depraved and unable to do a work that pleases God. This is indeed Calvin to a T (CI 3.14.11), and is more poisonous fruit as MacArthur, like all authentic Calvinists, talk about sanctification in a justification way. What we are really talking about is the total depravity of the saints though he never stated that outright, but that’s what it is speaking of and he knows it. This is deliberate and deceptive communication. When he spoke of “salvation,” did he mean progressive justification, or the finished work of justification? If Calvin’s title to the 14th chapter of book three (Calvin Institutes) is any indication, he meant the former (progressive justification).
That’s not only Calvin—MacArthur said something in the speech that connects all of these ideas together: salvation/ justification is progressive, total depravity also refers to the saints, and the saints can do no work pleasing to God; i.e., if the believer does not consider all of his/her works to be filthy rags, if he/she cannot see the evil in their good, they are no whit any different than the unbeliever. The only difference between a believer and an unbeliever is their ability to see how evil they are. This is revealed by his citation of a John Bunyan quote during the speech: The best prayer I ever prayed had enough sin in it to condemn the whole world. Elsewhere quoted by others: “There is enough sin in my best prayer to send the whole world to Hell.” Any questions?
That is untrue and reveals the Reformed skewing of biblical justification. The prayers of the saints contain no sin that can condemn—believers are not under the law. Where there is no law there is no sin (Rom 5:13), and the law has nothing to say to us for justification (Rom 3:19). Bunyan was talking about transgressions that can condemn according to the law, but according to James,
The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power
Moreover, when MacArthur complained in the same speech that one who thinks he can do good works also thinks he can “contribute to his salvation”—we must assume that he was speaking of believers as well. This would also be consistent with Reformed thought.
The idea that people can do no good work is not even true of unbelievers. But the problem for the Reformed is this: if the unbeliever can do good works, though falling far short of God’s glory in totality, one of those good works might be choosing God. That’s a huge problem for the Reformed theologian. Hence, the ability to do any good work must be eradicated; viz, total depravity.
As I was preparing for this post this morning, Susan overheard MacArthur’s comments on the mp3 that there is no good in man’s goodness. She immediately became indignant and ratted off several Bible references that clearly contradict that idea. That is one of the many beauties of Scripture; it presents a historic motion picture of metaphysics. It is a history that documents reality in regard to the milieu of life. Men teach certain things that you hear, and you say to yourself,
Wait a minute; I was reading in such and such book and such and such were having a conversation about this, that or the other and that makes no sense in light of what is being taught here.
You don’t need to be a theologian per se, the Bible is a metaphysical truth statement. Often, what is being taught merely doesn’t line up with reality, mathematical-like truth notwithstanding. Jesus said evil men know how to give good gifts to their children. Yes, they are evil, but they can do good works. I am not sure what is more evident. Romans 6:20 states that the unregenerate are enslaved to unrighteousness, but are free to do good. In other words, pleasing God is not the aim of their life, but they can still do good works.
You can’t have it both ways; if believers are enslaved to righteousness and free to sin, and they are (Rom 7:25), then the opposite must be true of unbelievers. Regeneration is a reversal of slavery and freedom resulting in a change of direction, not perfection, but the change of direction is counted as true righteousness. This is because the mind of the believer is a servant of the law while the sins of his/her flesh are not counted against them in regard to justification (Rom 7:17).
MacArthur claims that total depravity is the linchpin of the gospel, but in reality, it is the foundation that makes Reformed theology utterly devoid of truth. If man is unable to choose, and God must elect in that regard, it stands to reason that Christ only went to the cross for the elect, or in other words, limited atonement, the “L” in TULIP. Dying for all men implies that the ball is in their court. Aloof is the point that no one would suggest that man could supply the means of salvation, at issue is choice. Can man choose the means that God has supplied? So, what does the Bible say about limited atonement? Well, in several places it states that Christ died for all men. The Reformed are quick to assert the following in reply: “That means ‘all kinds of men,’ not ‘all’ men.” John 3:16 poses a significant problem for this view as “world” (κόσμος kosmos) would refer to all men period. Titus 3:4 states that a “love toward man” (Baker Interlinear—φιλανθρωπία philanthrōpia) appeared. Curiously, the ESV, a Neo-Calvinist translation, translates “love toward man” as simply “kindness.”
In addition, we cannot implore people to not “neglect such a great salvation” (Heb 2:3) if there is no salvation for them to neglect in the first place. If limited atonement is true, we simply have no way of knowing whether or not that is a valid appeal. Moreover, why would the Spirit of grace be “outraged” (Heb 10:29) that people turn their backs on a salvation that is not theirs in the first place? It makes more sense that He would be outraged because people turn their backs on a sacrifice that was made for them.
Even More Poisonous Fruit
While we are on the subject of TULIP, one wonders if Reformed ideologues like MacArthur have an apt understanding of what Calvin really taught; particularly, the relationship between the “I” and the “P.” Calvin taught that there are the non-elect, the called, or the general elect, which are temporary recipients of “irresistible grace,” and those who are granted the “gift” of perseverance. Ultimately, those who persevere show themselves to be the true elect. It is interesting that Calvin actually taught a temporary illumination/election (see CI 3.24.7,8). Frankly, I think this buffoonery speaks for itself. While MacArthur bemoaned those who worship a god of their own making during said speech, he worships a capricious Calvinistic god that temporarily illumines and is outraged at people who reject a salvation that was never given.
I have examined several “proof texts” that support total depravity and man’s inability/unwillingness to respond to God, or choose God. By and large, the gospel call to repentance and belief, and instances of strong exhortation to believe by God, Christ and the apostles, which assume ability to choose, far outnumber passages that seem to reflect predestination because of total depravity, and the fewer passages do not state specifically that man has no ability to choose. Moreover, one is generally uncomfortable with the idea that God commands us to do things we are incapable of doing. Augustine’s profound unction of “Lord command what you will and grant what you command!” doesn’t pass the reality smell test, and has creepy similarities to the parable of the talents.
And without a doubt, many of the proof texts presented deal with man’s will/ability to participate in the means of salvation, and have little to do with man choosing the means supplied by God alone. In other words, man can believe and choose, but it goes without saying that he cannot summon the Holy Spirit to regenerate him—that is totally out of man’s control, yet a promise for believing.
Total depravity and its Reformed take on election is fruit from the poisonous tree. MacArthur further validated this by his closing comments at the 2008 T4G conference which were very disturbing to say the least. In a show of his Augustinian kinship to Platonism, MacArthur said that the gospel was a “call to the sinner to flee from all that is natural, and run to the cross.” Really? “All” that is “natural”? This smacks of Luther’s theology of cross which asserts that ALL reality is interpreted by the gospel. Also, “Reality is not on the outside—it is on the inside.” Why would MacArthur make a point of insinuating that there is no reality in the “outside” world? Those who are familiar with Platonism will immediately recognize these concepts that are also part and parcel with Plato’s stepchildren, the Gnostics.
MacArthur also closed with two “immutable truths”: “all hearts are the same,” and “all need the same gospel—God’s work is heart work—mind work.” What does he mean by “all”? Is he saying that the heart of the unbeliever is no different than that of an unbeliever? Is he saying that both need the same gospel? Well, that would be authentic Reformed doctrine, so we must assume the answer is, “yes.”
In the final analysis, man does have a choice, but it is not that simple and this is an untapped frontier of study. For example, there is little discussion about God’s activity in our lives that aids our choices. God has promised in His word that He will not allow more in our lives than we can bear etc. As far as man being able to do works that have merit with God, it is clear that he can; for example, those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed. Though a terrible reality in which to make a point, there will be degrees of eternal punishment which clearly demonstrates some kind of merit on the part of unbelievers.
The apostle Paul exhorted and implored people to be reconciled to God, and I believe he did so because he knew of man’s ability to be persuaded. Persuasion indicates choice, and let’s faces it, the belief that man has no choice does dampen evangelistic aspirations—this is unavoidable. And what is the Reformed explanation for that? Evangelism is a “savor of life to life and death to death” for God’s glory. Supposedly, both obtain glory for God.
I reject that because God, according to Him, takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I reject that because Christ wept over Jerusalem.
And I reject that because the doctrine of total depravity is fruit from a wicked Reformed tree. MacArthur et al refuse to acknowledge the reality of Reformation history and are driven by a logic that they refuse to repent of. It is an elitist mentality that calls for “hard preaching” that makes the parishioners “soft” (Ibid 2008 T4G). If not for the almighty Reformed elder, parishioners en masse would be left to their own hard hearts.
And here we go again, the Bible NEVER states that believers have hearts that are bent towards hardness or wickedness. In the Bible, the heart is the regenerated part of the believer that is holy and righteous. If you follow MacArthur’s message closely and draw logical conclusions from his Reformed-like nuanced statements, salvation is a beginning heart work that progresses only in the believer’s ability to “see” the works of Christ without being directly involved in them. Like he said, we can take no credit or gain any merit with God by what we do. These assertions make the Bible a metaphysical train wreck.
And perhaps that is the idea—to keep the Christian masses confused and pliable. MacArthur stated in his speech that the goal isn’t to be cool, but to be clear. This was probably a subtle statement about the YYR New Calvinist subculture, but let me be clear about what MacArthur wants to be clear: the great unwashed masses are confused, and are in desperate need of the “most important men in the world” to do the thinking for them. Preaching must be “hard” to keep parishioners softhearted pliable/controllable through fear of condemnation.
Like all of the Reformed elitists of our day, MacArthur presents himself as an angel of light, but birds of the feather flock together, and the fruit of the Reformation is undeniable, and a tree is known by its fruit.
And if you forget all else, don’t forget this: a position on election/total depravity coming from those who don’t understand the elementary principles of justification is ill-advised.
Originally posted on Paul's Passing Thoughts:
“…we believe that those who teach and preach the word of God are God-appointed agents to save God’s people from ignorance.” 
“’I only created the jinn and mankind that they might serve me’ (Koran, 51:56), i.e. that they might know me. But the greater part of men neglect this duty, except those whom God hath chosen and whose hearts He hath vivified with Himself.” 
~ Data Ganj Bahsh, al-Hujwiri
“† It’s all the same because it all comes from ancient caste. Hence, there is very little difference between the Reformed version of sanctification and Islamic Sufism. Both emphasize experiencing God over participating with God. Both emphasize ‘transcendence,’ ‘manifestations,’ and ‘rebirth.’ Sanctification, in both Reformed and Islamic constructs emphasize, ‘vivification.’”
In yesterday’s post, we looked at how most false religion derives from spiritual caste. This was the foundation of false religion found in the cradle…
View original 1,659 more words
Link to test HERE.
1. Definitive Sanctification
3. Progressive Sanctification
5. The Gospel of first importance and the full counsel of God.
6. The Bible
9. Our sins imputed to Christ and God’s righteousness imputed to us.
29. The new heavens and new earth.
Romans 13:12-14 – The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
This will complete Chapter 13 in our Romans series. Today, we take a break from my perpetual drumbeat of justification and focus on the crux of sanctification: overcoming sin. Justification is God’s declaration about who we are—we are righteous—not just positionally, but personally. Sanctification is not a living out of justification; it is a living out of our righteousness that resulted in being justified. While there is no law in justification, sanctification fulfils the law.
As we see in the verses here, sanctification is a call to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The law (all of Scripture), informs our sanctification, and also informs us that it has no part in justification. The law informs us that it is a ministry of death for the unbelieving, but the law of the Spirit—the law of liberty for those who believe. Salvation calls for the death of the former person so the law of sin and death will no longer be valid (Romans 7:1-6). Before we followed Christ, Death was our spouse, and the law was the marriage covenant (Ibid). But we died with Christ so we could be resurrected to new life with Him. Now, we live by the “law of the Spirit of Life” (Rom 8:2).
We must understand that a major affront to salvation is the idea that the “law of the Spirit of life” and the “law of sin and death” are not two different relationships to the same law, but two different realms. Hence, we are merely transformed from the realm of the law to the realm of the Spirit. This is indicative of Protestantism’s Gnostic roots, and makes antinomianism feasible to the unlearned en masse in our day. I myself have heard many in our day teach that sin is a natural law like gravity, and therefore, manifestations of righteousness are a supernatural act of God that we merely experience by faith alone. We remain in the sin realm, keep in mind: the “transformation” of salvation is only the ability to experience the other realm “by faith.” And what is faith? Faith is a gift that is like an eye that only sees outward. To the degree that we “see” the depths of the gospel (our sin as set against God’s holiness), righteousness is manifested in the spirit realm, and we can observe/experience those manifestations from the sin realm that we are enslaved to. Regardless of all of the bemoaning and whining about Rick Warren in Reformed circles, anyone like him who holds to Gnostic Christianity will always be part of the Reformed clan:
This week we’re talking about developing the eyes of faith. When you are spiritually reborn, God opens your spiritual eyes and this enables you to see His work all around you and to see the many opportunities He places before you.
God will also open your spiritual ears, so you will be able to hear what people are really saying instead of what you think they are saying. When Jesus comes into your life, God opens a whole set of spiritual senses that help you see life from His point of view.
Let me give you a simple example of how this works. Have you ever been reading the Bible and, as you read a verse, it just pops out and you think, ‘Wow, I never saw that before!’ Even though you’ve read that verse fifteen times, you’d never seen the truth that just popped out for you.
What happened? God just opened your spiritual eyes.
Now, as I mentioned yesterday, there are some basic steps you must complete in order to develop the eyes of faith, in order to live life by faith, and you need to live by faith or you will never be able to complete the destiny God has planned out for you (Rick Warren: Developing the eyes of faith – Step Two; January 04, 2011 | purposedriven .com).
Notice that the Christian life must be lived “by faith” [“alone” always omitted for purposes of nuance], and is merely a matter of “see[ing]” and not DOING. The “flesh” is also interpreted as the sin realm that we are enslaved to. So, the law as Scripture serves to do nothing but show us our sinfulness as ones trapped and enslaved to the sin realm, and as we see this more and more in Scripture, our gratitude for God’s grace is enhanced and we experience the joy of the spirit realm which we are totally separate from. We cannot walk in it—we can only experience it. The payoff is exceeding joy in the midst of whatever life brings our way, after all, we are enslaved/trapped in this realm, and everything that happens to us is a narrative set against God’s holy realm. Hence, tragedy only brings glory to God. If you google “eyes of faith,” you can find much information about this mystic approach to life. As I have stated many times before, the theological journal of the Australian Forum is invaluable in clarifying these Reformed concepts.
In their illustration the truly spiritual man only looks outward, while believing that we are in a realm that we can participate in leads to a “sea of subjectivism.” The “sea of subjectivism” motto is one of the truisms that launched the present-day New Calvinist movement and that concept was unique to the Australian Forum as noted by John H. Armstrong in his well-traveled essay, Sola Fide: Does it Really Matter?
As teachers and those who communicate God’s truth in Evangelical circles, do we know how people interpret our use of the words, law, flesh, sin, and righteousness? Do they assume we are speaking of realms and the characteristics of those realms? Do they assume the law is a narrative about God’s holiness and the evil of man only?
As people, how do we really view change? It is interesting that Christ primarily framed His gospel call in regard to change. Clearly, His gospel was a call to change—it was the “gospel of the kingdom” Matt 4:23. In Matthew 5:1-7:29 we are shown exactly what His messages were comprised of in the Sermon on the Mount. It was a call to live a certain way—it is a message of change. We do not change for salvation, but salvation is a call to change. Salvation is for people who want to change. It is in the verses at hand here today: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We don’t put on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, we simply believe that faith alone cancels works for justification, but frees us to change. It is a call to use the law lawfully:
1Timothy 1:5 – The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
When Paul wrote of those who teach the law, he never meant to say that this refers to an endeavor to keep the law truthfully along with the spirit of the law. What do I mean by, “the spirit of the law”? Well, it means that we not only abstain from adultery, but we also abstain from fantasizing about adulterous affairs with others, or sins of the heart. God sent the flood on the world because “every intention of the thoughts of his [mankind] heart was only evil continually.” When Paul wrote of those propagating law-based salvation, it always refers to a dumbed down version of the law or a law edited by the traditions of men.
A lawful use of the law refers to TRUTH, or an accurate rendering of the full counsel of God resulting in “sound doctrine.” In John 17:17 Christ states that we are sanctified with the truth, and 2Thessolonians 2;10 reveals the fact that being saved comes part and parcel with loving the truth. Again, this doesn’t save us, but is rather a natural result of the new birth:
understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient…in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted (Ibid)… on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16).
Keeping the law can’t save us, but being saved will result in “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” It will result in keeping the law lawfully. “Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” involves doing so according to the truth.
What does Paul mean by, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand”? This probably speaks to the fact that the Lord’s return is imminent in this age. The next event on the prophetic timeline is the tribulation period, and that time period is marked by specific events separated by days. In this age, the Lord’s return is to be expected at any time, and it is a rapturing up of His people to meet Him in the air. The end of the tribulation is the coming of Christ to establish His kingdom on earth. We are to conduct our Christian lives according to the fact that Christ could return at any time.
What we are to be doing is stated: “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” The armor of light is the whole armor of God:
Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We are in a spiritual warfare, and like all warfare, you must be well prepared to win the battle. Sanctification is a many-faceted endeavor that entails preparation and readiness. We must be about doing “everything” not just, “seeing and hearing” while waiting for whatever Christ might manifest for us in the spiritual realm. We are active and called on to participate in real change: “So then let us cast off the works of darkness.” We will return to Ephesians for some explanation here as well:
Ephesians 4:20 – That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
We are to put off the old “self” and put on the new…what? “self.” What does “new” mean? What does “self” mean? What does, “old” mean? This is real change. This is the putting off and putting on process spoken of throughout the Bible. Obviously, this process brings about change. Of course, the Gnostic naysayers will say, “Yes, but it is not ‘real and lasting change’” while they deny that people can change at all. We can change, and this passage reveals how.
The putting off and putting on dynamic of change is absolutely massive in the Bible. I would like to add to our lesson with a word study that constitutes the first thing I have ever perceived as having value coming out of the Neo-Calvinist camp. It is a word study by Justin Taylor regarding this dynamic.* Of course, it is interpreted via the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event prism.
This is Calvin’s Sabbath rest sanctification where God preordains our good works as manifested in the spirit realm and only experienced by us. This is achieved by gospel contemplationism that merely opens our eyes to what God is manifesting in the spirit realm. The “flesh” isn’t the “old self,” it is a realm that we are enslaved to. Hence, as we have discussed before, it is the Pharisees were really, really good at keeping the law paradigm. Therefore, since we must have a righteousness that exceeds theirs, the perfect obedience of Christ must be manifested to our experience through gospel contemplationism.
This is the very relaxing of the law theology that Jesus warned against. Obviously, if Jesus kept/keeps the law for us, diligence in doing so is not a priority for us. All of the imperatives in the Bible, or in this case putting off and putting on, are meant to frustrate us in our attempts to keep the law. The theory holds that Jesus pummeled us with commands to show us that we are unable to keep them. In Reformed circles this is referred to as holding a counselee’s hand to the fire of the law until they beg for mercy. Nevertheless, Taylor’s word study can be used for our good benefit.*
Next, we have an illustration by Dr. Jay Adams that lists verses that have the put off put on dynamic within the context of a passage.** You can read those passages and ascertain what the put off and the put on are.**
Next, we have an impressive list of put on and put off that are inferred by separate imperatives. This is the dreaded Do’s and Don’ts list so often maligned in our day.***
But the key is knowing the following: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Bingo—sin makes its appeal through the desires, or if you will, emotions. That appeal comes from the old self which resides in our mortality, or flesh. We also see this in the Ephesians passage: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”
Remember that Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lust.” So, I want to add here that older saints do have a change advantage because old age has weakened their bodies. Strong emotions and desires are weaker. But in either case, the strength of the desire measures the strength of the temptation:
James 1:14 – But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Therefore, sinful desires are intensified and strengthened when given “provision” :
g4307. πρόνοια pronoia; from 4306; forethought, i. e. provident care or supply:— providence, provision.
Do you want to hate sin? Do you know that Christians can learn to love and also learn to hate? We will learn to love and treasure what we invest our heart in: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Do’s and Don’ts? No, this isn’t about do’s and don’ts, this is about giving provisions to sinful desires—this is about learning to love good and hate evil—this is about proper investment. Can you now see what the relaxing of the law in sanctification will do? It will, according to James, bring forth fruits of death which is still possible because we are in these mortal bodies.
And in the final analysis, God is robbed of glory (Matthew 5: 13-16). As Christians, we must define who we are and how spiritual warfare is waged. We are righteous, and we can change, and God is behind us with the help of Himself, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
*I’ve been intrigued by Paul’s idea of “putting on” and “putting off,” and wanted to investigate a little further.
The Greek word ἐνδύω is usually used in the Gospels for putting on or wearing clothes (Matt. 6:25; 22:11; 27:31; Mark 1:6; 6:9; 15:20; Luke 8:27; 15:22; cf. Acts 12:21). John uses the term the same way in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:13; 15:6; 19:14), though it’s clear there that the clothing is also symbolic of purity and righteousness. The only exception to the normal use in the Synoptics is that before his ascension Jesus instructed his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.”
The apostle Paul seems to pick up this metaphorical use, and he runs with it in a variety of ways.
Those in Christ have already put on Christ.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
Those in Christ are commanded to put on Christ.
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).
Those in Christ have already put on the new self/man.
“[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10).
Those in Christ are instructed to put on the new self/man.
“[Your were taught] to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
Those in Christ are to put on the whole armor of God.
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. . . . Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:11, 14).
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8).
Those in Christ are to put on love and other virtues.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).
Those in Christ have perishable, mortal bodies that will one day put on imperishable, immortal, heavenly bodies.
“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:33).
“For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:2).
Paul—as well as other NT writers—also express the flip side of “putting off” (ἀποτίθημι), the non-metaphorical use of which can be used of removing clothing (cf. Acts 7:58).
Those in Christ have already put off the old self/man.
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9).
Those in Christ are instructed to put off the old self/man.
“[You were taught] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22).
Those in Christ are to put away all sin and vice.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Pet. 2:1).
~ Jay E. Adams: Principles and Practices of Biblical Counseling; Institute for Biblical Studies, pp. 22-24.
Adultery Marital fidelity
Argumentative/Quarrelsome Gentle Answer/Peace & Accord
Astrology Worship of God
Bad Companions Godly Associations
Bitterness Tender hearted, forgiving
Bodily harm Glorify God in body
Burying talents Developing abilities
Boasting (conceit) Esteeming others
Careless Talk Edifying Words
Carnal Entertainment Please God
Critical spirit Kindness
Depression Hope in God
Disrespect for authority Honor authority
Drunkenness Abstinence, self-control
Easily irritated Not easily provoked
Envious Rejoice with Others
Evil speaking Good report
Evil thoughts Pure thoughts
Feeling Oriented Commandment Oriented
Flirtation Gentle, quiet spirit
Fleshly music Edifying music
Following the crowd God-fearing
Gambling Good stewardship
Gossip Edifying speech
Homosexuality Moral purity
Idle words Bridle tongue
Idolatry Worship God only
Immodest dress Modesty
Inferiority Position in Christ
Incest Moral purity
Irritation to others Preferring in love
Irresponsibility (family/work) Responsibility
Irreverence in church Reverence
Judging Let God search my heart
Left first Love Fervent devotion
Lack of rejoicing Rejoice
Lack of moderation Temperance
Losing temper Self-control
Love of money/greed Love God
Lust Pure desires
Lying Speak truth
Menpleasing Please God
Moral impurity Moral purity
Neglect of Bible study Bible study/meditation
No burden for the lost Compassion/witnessing
Opinionated Slow to Speak
Pleasure Seeker Enjoy God’s Pleasures
Pornography Pure thoughts
Profanity Pure speech
Preferential treatment Love neighbor as self
Presumption on the future Trust God’s will
Retaliation Return good for evil
Selfishness Self denial
Self Pity Faith
Smoking God’s Temple
Status Seeker Servants Heart
Temporal values Eternal value
Unforgiving spirit Heart Forgiveness
Unloving Serve Others
Vindictive Bless Your Enemy
Witchcraft/Horoscopes Worship of God
Worldly entertainment Spiritual pursuits
Wrath Soft answer
Wrong friends Godly friends
Wrong motives Spiritual motives
~ Online source includes links to specific verses: http://www.gatewaybiblicalcounseling.org/resources/putoffputonlist.htm