As reflected in Paul’s inbox, it’s evident that the TANC conferences have played a pivotal role toward educating believers on the Platonic philosophy driving the Protestant bus. Therefore, PPT is introducing a weekly video segment called “Gnostic Watch Weekly” wherein Paul and Susan discuss and decipher readers’ contributions of the many examples plaguing Christianity of every denominational stripe. We welcome contributions from any denomination and all nationalities! Please send articles, posts, and sermon examples to firstname.lastname@example.org, then tune-in to “Gnostic Watch Weekly” every Friday at 7pm.
Gnosticism does not interpret reality in three dimensions. That’s why it is of the Dualism family of philosophy. EVERYTHING is good or evil, material or invisible. This is the “knowledge of good and evil.” ALL of reality is interpreted and defined by one or the other. This also involves Anti-Type epistemology as well: opposites define each other; we would not know light if not for darkness, and evil gives deeper understanding of good and vice versa.
This was the basic hypothesis of the Calvin Institutes (see 1.1.1.) and Protestantism in particular. Martin Luther interpreted ALL reality via the “glory story” and the “cross story.” The story of man and the story of redemption. Luther believed that man cannot reason or know reality, and God sent Christ to marry the invisible to the visible as the only gateway of wellbeing—the only gateway of understanding between the shadow world and the true forms through suffering. This IS the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic so highly touted in Reformed circles. It is behind comments by the likes of John MacArthur Jr. that people doubt their salvation because they have not suffered enough as a Christian.
This worldview has seriously crippled Christianity’s ability to minister to the world because, among many examples, the secular is always defined as being evil. America was founded on secular principles: separation of church and state. The founding fathers saw the secular as a force for good that freed man to pursue life and happiness. This was the first time in history where faith and force were separated.
Other words that are unfortunate Christian synonyms for evil… “flesh,” and “leaven.” The latter often denotes influence whether good or evil; the former, like the secular, can be used for good or evil. The framers recognized that church and secular together, never turns out well. This is why movements such as the Moral Majority are egregiously misguided.
Here is an example of God using the secular for good purposes, and His call to Christians to support such:
Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.
Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”
One popular evangelistic technique is to ask someone, “if you were to die today and God asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?” While this may seem like a clever intellectual excercise, it is erroneous on two levels:
1. The only judgement Believers will stand before is the Bema, which is a judgement for rewards, NOT salvation. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
2. Unbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne. There will be no opportunity for them to testify. All their works are already recorded, they will be judged by them, and their name will not be found in the Book of Life. They will subsequently be cast into the Lake of Fire (the “second death”) where they will experience eternal torment and separation from God! (Revelation 20:11-15)
When we seek to evangelize the lost, we must make sure our message is accurate!
While our ministry will continue to reveal the plenary doctrinal aberration of authentic Reformed soteriology, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the societal impact of New Calvinism.
Be sure of this: New Calvinism has bold political aspirations. The movement is simply a repeat of European church history trying to function under American rule of law. Right now, the movement is using a particular doctrine to gain a following, and once the following is big enough, it will make its move because it has votes to bring to the political big-boy table. In times past, the biggest sword won, but because of America, politics must replace bloodletting.
Also be sure of this: New Calvinism is about world domination, to the glory of God of course. Um, New Calvinists such as Doug Wilson and Albert Mohler have stated that in no uncertain terms.
Also note their reluctance to be critical of terrorism and such groups as ISIS. In fact, New Calvinist Joe Carter recently defended ISIS in regard to “false accusations” under the auspices of setting the record straight…because you know…we Christians should care about getting our facts straight. Yes, perhaps we should form a committee to defend career bank robbers accused of robbing a bank they didn’t rob. Indeed, one should ask Joe Carter why that is a priority, but I am afraid I already know.
Same ideology…different god.
Here is another thing you can be sure of: New Calvinists wouldn’t deem it a horrible thing if the ISIS flag eventually flies over the White House. Why? Well, their metaphysical epistemology is suffering to begin with, but the bigger element is the fact that groups like ISIS are seen as serving a possible benefaction: getting rid of Enlightenment ideology. If terrorism can serve that purpose, the New Calvinists figure they can make lemonade out of the lemons later on. BUT, New Calvinism cannot ultimately reach their utopian goals as saline fish in fresh waters—Enlightenment ideology must go, that is job one for New Calvinism. And hey, if terrorism can do that, it must be god’s will. Yet one more thing you can be sure of: New Calvinists see Enlightenment ideology as the absolute root of ALL evil.
Right now, New Calvinism is building their base; following/votes equal power. They are a political animal. If you think any of this is about God, you are simply naive.
What is prompting posts like this from moi? Because of our educational relationship with John Immel, PPT readers are beginning to understand, resulting in a mass of information being sent my way. They understand the doctrinal aberrations and the relationship to the political. This all boils down to collectivism versus individualism. Church folk only think they are doing church when in reality they are being USED for a broader political motive.
I will use a few recent examples sent to me. This one here (Article pdf) is yet another example of moral equivalency being preached from the pulpits. John Immel has a great post on that here…and here. Folks, please, there is a reason why New Calvinists are not outraged by terrorism. They share the same ideology and their forefathers practiced the exact same tactics to bring people into conformity.
This one highlights the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic which is Platonist epistemology dressed in biblical garb (Article pdf. I have written extensively on this to the point of literal exhaustion. Platonism was the foundation of the Medieval church. Copies of the Bible were not available because rulers believed that the masses were unable to reason (see, “Catholic Church”). And, allowing the masses to reason will supposedly lead to chaos. Due to my research, I have come to believe that the Protestant Reformation was an answer to the inevitable mass distribution of the Bible to the serf populous. Trust me, the Bible is no friend of the Reformation. The Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic is specifically designed to rob God’s people of reasoning intellectually with God, and making it a Platonist epistemology instead.
New Calvinism is a political movement that is using people who think the movement is about Christian discipleship. The results speak for themselves; though New Calvinism posits “new resurgence,” it’s been “new” since 1970. While these Platonist philosophers attempt to save the world from chaos like their Marxist predecessors, in the same way, they create chaos, and then blame the same chaos on “losing our original roots.” New Calvinists have been firmly in control of the American church since 2006, and the results again speak for themselves. Virtually ALL anti-spiritual abuse blogs were authored post 2006.
I didn’t realize the extent to which I functioned as a Christian mystic until I was exposed to Dr. Jay E. Adams. I found his common sense practicality applied to Scripture liberating. His principle of definitive knowledge as a starting point is a principle I have never swayed from. He had simple quips that would fill the hopeless with hope in a matter of seconds:
“I’m having a nervous breakdown—I’m losing my mind! ‘No, you are not having a nervous breakdown. Obviously, your nerves are working quit well, we just need to see what God’s word says about bringing your nerves into proper use.’”
“We can’t go there, that will open up a can of worms! ‘Perhaps, but if we deal with one worm at a time, the can will eventually be empty, and the more empty the can is, the better off you are.’”
…or something like that, close enough.
Christians don’t need more spiritual bumper stickers to live by, they need better definitions of words. We are in a day when biblically specific word use has never been more important. When we read our Bibles, we need to make sure that we really know what the words mean specifically, and we need to be biblically specific in our communication when referring to it.
Until very recently, I always read the word “flesh” in the Bible as synonymous with evil/sin. With that presupposition intact, it led to the conclusion that “weakness” is also synonymous with evil as well.
This is not the case. Let’s think about this. The “’holy’ angels” are weaker than God, no? This obviously does not make them sinful. Being weaker than God is not sin.
This is also the definition of “flesh,” “members,” “body,” etc., in the Bible; it’s “weak” (specifically defined as such many places in the Bible), but not inherently evil. How do we know this? Because our bodies can be used for holy purposes:
Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 6:13 – Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Throughout the Bible, the problem of sin is defined as sin that resides in the body, but the body is not sin. Notice that Paul tells us to not “present” our bodies TO sin. We are to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, not to sin. The body cannot be both. God is a master, and sin is also biblically defined as a master, the body can be used to serve either.
To the degree that we have improper understanding of biblical words, we are blinded to the truth of Scripture. To the degree that we are biblically ignorant, we are enslaved.
The gospel is the proclamation to all people that they have been purchased by God. Before God ordained the plan of salvation, mankind had no choice, they belonged to a master that the Bible calls “sin.” In the Bible, we find that our birth sold us into slavery to this master.
Salvation is all about choice; a choice between two masters. Man can choose because he has been purchased—he has been set free to choose. A purchase is a choice, therefore, God desires that all men be saved, and calls men everywhere to repent as willing servants. They are free to stay with their present master, or choose Christ as their new master.
Salvation is a choice between two masters. Choice cannot be separated from the gospel. Christ did not die for those unable to choose. The five points of Calvinism do not stand or fall on total depravity, it stands or falls on limited atonement. Christ died to set man free from the slavery of sin—He set them free to choose.
Article discussed in pdf format: Is Sanctification a Process or a Position_ _ TGC
This article is the first of what I hope to be a series of articles designed to give believers the tools they need to be able to more effectively study the Word of God on their own. It is a sad reality that most believers over the past 500+ years have not and do not really know what the Bible says. I have been a believer for over 36 years, and I must regretfully admit, that up until about 5 years ago, I was included in that same lot. I was taught ABOUT the Bible. I was taught ABOUT doctrine. And I dutifully towed the line of orthodoxy. This, I think is indicative of most believers; they simply do not read their Bibles.
I think as Christians we intuitively know we should be reading our Bibles, but aside from the fact that the modern day institutional church purposefully seeks to keep the masses dumbed-down, one of the reasons I believe most Christians don’t read their Bibles as much as they should is that they don’t know where to start. And those Christians who do read their Bibles on a regular basis aren’t getting as much out of it as they should be. Their Bible reading time is ineffective because they don’t have a plan. In either case, the results are the same:
Bible reading becomes a chore rather than a delight. Do we simply trudge on ahead dutifully and have faith that the Spirit will work on us? That seems a rather bleak prospect. Or do we just rely on the work that others have done for us and expect them to feed us spiritual nourishment? What hope is there for any maturity whatsoever with that mindset?
There are two key truths found in the Bible itself that must be reconciled.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
2 Timothy 2:15
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
- The Word of God is active.
Hebrews 4:12 uses the words “quick” and “powerful” to describe the Word. The word “quick” is the Greek word ζαω (DZAH-oh), and it means, “to live”. It is alive! It is also powerful. Here the word is ενεργης (en-er-GACE). The idea is that it is full of energy. God’s Word is different from any other written work in the world! As we read it, because it is alive and active, we can expect it to actively work on us. Its cuts are deep and clean, dividing and discerning. It reveals truth to us because it is truth. By it, we are sanctified (John 17:17).
But we don’t simply sit idly by and wait for the Word to work on us.
- Believers are to study the Word
The word “study” is the word σπουδαζω (spoo-DAHD-zoh). It literally means, “to use speed.” The implication is to make an effort, to be prompt or earnest. Study the Word with the result of being able to use discernment (“rightly dividing the word of truth”). The Bereans (Acts 17:10-11) were called “more noble” because they studied the Word. They earnestly and diligently searched the scriptures daily to be able to discern truth from error.
So if we are to be good students of God’s Word, we first need to actually read it so that its life and power can work in us. But we must also study it as well. This places an emphasis that goes beyond merely reading a chapter or passage or verse every day. This must include a dedicated effort to a searching for knowledge. But unfortunately, most believers don’t know how to begin.
Let’s start with the basics. And this is really very simple. Just READ your Bible! BUT…you must read with purpose. A daily devotional book just will not cut it. You are simply consuming someone’s pre-digested, pre-packaged orthodoxy. You are not studying. You must read the actual BIBLE yourself! And you must have a plan if you want your Bible-reading time to be most effective.
Most people will tell you that you need to read your Bible through each year. To some, that may sound like a daunting task, which is why many people will not attempt to undertake it. Also, the Bible is comprised of many different genres of literature: historical, poetic, biographical, instructional, prophetic. For this reason alone, simply reading your Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation is not going to be an effective way to study scripture. Your understanding of a passage is only going to be relevant within that genre.
The key is to include passages from every genre in your study each day. There are many Bible-reading plans available to choose from, but there is one in particular that I use personally, and I highly recommend it. It is called Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System (http://www.challies.com/sites/all/files/attachments/professor-grant-horners-bible-reading-system.pdf). Now, I have no idea who Professor Grant Horner is. I don’t get any kickback for referring his system. No, I do not know what his doctrinal beliefs are. I don’t care. I do, however, think he has devised a very useful tool for Bible reading and study. Here is how it works:
This system divides the 66 books of the Bible into 10 lists.
- Romans-Colossians, Hebrews
- 1 Thessalonians-Philemon, James-Revelation
- Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
With this system you read 1 chapter from each list every day. The next day, you go on to the next chapter in each list. When you get to the end of a particular list, you start again with the first chapter in that list. Since each list varies in length, the combination of 10 chapters you read each day will constantly change as you work your way through. By following this system, you can actually read every chapter in the Bible in just 250 days, less than 1 year!
Now, that still may seem like a daunting task, but reading 10 chapters from your Bible each day actually only takes less than an hour to accomplish. With practice, you will find that it may actually take less time than that. But is 1 hour of Bible reading each day too much to ask of someone who desires to “show themselves approved”, or who wishes to be able to “rightly divide the Word of truth”?
Following this system will result in the scriptures revealing themselves to you in ways you have probably never seen before. The Bible is its own commentary, and as you read through the various chapters each day, you will begin to see patterns emerge; phrases, and expressions repeated over and over again. Themes will develop and will become familiar to you. Prophesies given in the Old Testament will be expounded upon in the New Testament. You will see teachings in one section of scripture clarified and expounded upon in another. You will suddenly see connections throughout the Bible that you did not realize were there before! That is an exciting prospect, and that is a tremendous motivation. You will suddenly find that you cannot wait to get to the next day to find out what you will discover! Consider the words of the Psalmist:
“O how love I thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies:
for they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers:
for thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients,
because I keep thy precepts.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way,
that I might keep thy word.
I have not departed from thy judgments:
for thou hast taught me.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding:
therefore I hate every false way.”
I exhort and encourage every believer to get deep into God’s Word. These are the instructions for life and godliness. You must know and understand them for yourself if you are to become a mature believer who is able to discern truth from error. And these words will equip you to go out and give these same words of life to a lost world!
By Andy Young, Delaware, Ohio
“What! I don’t believe in election! I’m not even a one-point Calvinist!”
See what I mean? Christians believe Calvinism is defined by the sovereign grace issue. No, Calvinism is defined by the plenary inability of man issue. Calvinism completely owns the prism in which Western Christianity interprets reality and the Bible. This was their goal from the very beginning, and I must give them credit for the excellent job they have done.
I catch on slow, but apparently, I eventually catch on. For years I have been sending emails to the who’s who of the Not Reformed among us stating the following:
“Uh, guys, Calvinism holds to a blatantly false justification, and this is simple theological math. If people of your stature start talking about this—they are done.”
Not one reply ever, except from a well-known evangelical that told me what I should have already known:
“We all believe the same gospel.”
Yep. What has become obvious to me is that the academics on both sides feed all of the drama to keep the dumb sheep distracted from the real issue: Protestantism is a false gospel. Arminians and Calvinists have the same gospel at stake and all of the money that goes with it. Catholicism and Protestantism both are institutions that collect a tax, and foundational to any religious institution is the idea of human mediators. In other words, religious institutions must have a spiritual caste system.
This confuses body life with authority, and the purpose of the body of Christ. The body of Christ and institutions are mutually exclusive. This is what all of the academia on both sides of the Calvinism/Arminian debate don’t want the herd to figure out. The called out assembly of Christ was based on the fellowship of likeminded believers in one mind, or one truth. It’s based on conscience and not authority. Get into the New Testament and find an institution construct that resembles what we have today in any regard—good luck. That’s not to say there isn’t organization; there most certainly is, but that’s not the same as institutional caste.
A religious institution must have one particular gospel in order to survive: a linear one; specifically, the “golden chain of salvation” (eerily similar to the “golden chain of philosophers” or the “golden chain of Platonic succession”). It isn’t complicated; justification/salvation isn’t finished and you need the religious scholars to help you make sure you finish it correctly. Come now, look around. We don’t find our own understanding in the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit, we listen to men. Christian academia is a multi-billion dollar a year business. While we say, “The Holy Spirit is my counselor and He uses the Scriptures which I am called on to study,” that’s not how we function at all. The idea that salvation is not finished dominates the American institutional church.
“But I believe that my salvation is finished!”
No you don’t. You believe that YOUR part of it is finished while Jesus is finishing your salvation for you, lest it be by works. This is why Calvinists and Arminians only stop arguing about election long enough to say in unison, “But for the grace of God there go I.” And, “We are all just sinners saved by grace.” Calvinists and Arminians teach the exact same inability in sanctification gospel. Why? Since salvation is an ongoing process in their minds, any ability on our part in sanctification suggests a colaboring in our justification. Martin Luther taught the following: if any good work done by a Christian was “attended to with fear,” God would not consider it a mortal sin. The contemporary version of this is the often heard, “I didn’t do it, the Holy Spirit did it.” Indeed, Christians caught doing a good work even in our day must plead their case.
If salvation is truly finished, and we have ability to pursue our gifts because the only possible motive is love, that obviously decentralizes the need for authority. In contrast, the steroidal introspection continually called for in the institutional church Sunday after Sunday, after Sunday is clearly on display.
The institutional church is that research foundation looking for the latest and best way to work by faith alone so that Jesus will not be angry. You need them, and they need your money to research the best way to let Jesus finish your salvation for you, lest your part is a work that is really a work and you find yourself in hell. People will pay big money for that information, and obviously do. We have a name for all of the theories that come out of this research: Denominations. This is nothing more or less than different theories on how to live our Christian life by faith alone.
The placard below is what inspired this post; it is indicative of the Protestant gospel that encompasses all of the various denominational labels, but what they all have in common is faith alone in sanctification because justification isn’t finished. Note that each statement is a blatant contradiction to many different Bible verses. Rather than the Bible being a tool for aggressive obedience in sanctification, it is a tool for reminding us how weak we are, even in the new birth, and reminding us of how much we still need the same gospel that saved us lest we try to help Jesus finish our salvation.
One of the more valuable lessons taught to us here at TANC was during our first conference in 2012. John Immel demonstrated historically and philosophically that people always believe what they believe and do what they do for a reason, and that reason is logic—logic drives behavior. Find the logic—find the reason for the behavior, or belief.
At the time, I was in good graces with Old Calvinists because I had published The Truth About New Calvinism: Volume One, exposing the dastardly evils of the Neo-Calvinist movement which was supposedly an aberration of Reformed soteriology. They threatened to boycott the conference because Immel hadn’t been vetted by them. At the time, the decision to tell them to hang it on their beaks was based on principle alone while unaware I was trading orthodoxy for knowledge that really gets down to why church looks like it does in our day.
So, why do bosom buddies John MacArthur and John Piper differ on Cessationism (first century miracles ceased after they served their purpose)? MacArthur is very inconsistent because he started out as a grammarian interpreter of the Scriptures. Later, circa 1994, John Piper et al convinced him that New Calvinism was authentic Reformed soteriology, and I don’t think MacArthur was willing to reject the Protestant narrative wholesale. If you understand how the Reformers interpreted reality, you understand how taking the Scriptures at face value is going to cause the mass confusion that we see today.
Hence, one example among many: MacArthur’s dispensationalism is going to drive many New Calvinists nuts because one of the pillars of Platonism follows; truth is immutable. Regardless of what the Bible plainly states literally, viz, that God has used different economies to bring about His will, the Reformers insisted that the Bible had to be reconciled to the great thinkers of old. That would be Plato and company. This is by no means ambiguous history. MacArthur’s unwillingness to reject Protestant tradition makes him what he is: one of the most confused pastors to occupy the pulpit in our day. He can be defined as one who interprets reality using two contrary epistemologies: grammatical and redemptive. This is indicative of most Protestant pastors who must try to interpret truth with two contrary epistemologies in order to hang on to Protestant tradition. This is the very reason for the confused mess that we see in the institutional church. For this reason, the institutional church is intellectually bankrupt.
This ministry is benefiting greatly from information sent to us. A reader sent me a video of John Piper being interviewed at a conference in London. In regard to how Piper answered a question, the reader wanted to know if his answer was related to the whole, We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Answer: yes. And, I believe I have learned something new in regard to Piper being a Continuationist. In his answer, Piper put together Galatians 3:2 and 3:5 to make the case that we are sanctified by the same gospel that saved us. Because the Christian life is supposedly powered by the finished work of justification, Christians must return to the gospel daily in order to be sanctified.
However, take serious note: to the Reformed crowd who know what they are talking about, this isn’t semantics about the best way to be sanctified, this is stating that we must keep ourselves saved by faith alone in Christian living. If we “move on to something else” other than the same gospel that saved us, we “lose both” justification and sanctification. Get this into your head: they make epistemology a salvific matter. Many Calvinists like Paul David Tripp have stated that a literal interpretation of Scripture is equal to works salvation.
In the Conference Q and A, Piper notes verse 2…
Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Then he connects it to verse 5…
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—
Piper uses the adjoining of these two verses to make the case that the Holy Spirit only continues to work in our lives after salvation via the same way we were saved (by faith alone). In other words, Piper makes this verse an issue of sanctification, and not the context: justification. But, to make this point, he must concede that miracles are also a continuing part of His works when people live by faith alone in their Christian lives. This is a good indication of why he is a Continuationist.
It also bolsters the Reformed view of obedience as realm manifestation. Obviously, miracles result when God manipulates the laws of normality; in the same way, the works of Christ can be imputed to us without us actually doing the work. It’s just a lesser miracle. Christians are to live by faith alone and assume that any good works we do are wrought by the Holy Spirit and not us. Martin Luther was very specific about this in the Heidelberg Disputation. For the Christian to think himself able to do a good work is a “mortal sin.” The Christian life is to be lived by experiencing justification subjectively. As long as we “attend good works with fear” of accreditation, our good works are only “venial” and perpetually covered by Christ’s death. This is the Reformed formula for living our lives by faith alone. This is nothing new, and is the exact same thing that James railed against in his epistle to the 12 dispersed tribes.
Paul was making the point that justification is completely out of the control of those who choose to believe. Man didn’t seek out God and collaborate with Him on reconciliation. Man didn’t call for peace negotiations. God pursues man, corners him, and presents the plan and the terms. If man accepts, the Holy Spirit quickens him or her. Even when man believes and accepts the terms, he/she cannot rebirth themselves any more than they can wrought miracles on their own like the Holy Spirit does—they can only believe.
That was Paul’s point; justification is completely apart from the law of sin and death. The Galatians were being taught that keeping a dumbed down version of the law of sin and death kept them saved. Paul said NO, if you want to justify yourself by keeping the law of sin and death, you must keep all of the law perfectly. He added that circumcision did not matter (justification by keeping the ritualistic parts of the law), but only faith working through love (obedience to the law of the Spirit of life).
Paul David Tripp is a leading “Christian” author and well noted in the contemporary biblical counseling movement. Tripp was active in aiding fellow Gnostic David Powlison in hijacking the biblical counseling movement from Reformed grammarians. I use the term “grammarian,” who are few in our day, to differ from redemptive historical interpreters. If a teacher is not identified according to his/her interpretation method of either grammatical or redemptive, it is impossible to know what they are really teaching. You may think you know what they are saying, but you don’t. Depending on which method is being utilized, all basic theological terms, like “new birth” mean different things. To believe you can understand any teacher without knowing their interpretive method is folly. The best way to explain a grammarian is, “words mean things.”
Gnosticism came from Platonism and to state it simply: it is the belief that the material realm is evil and only the spiritual realm is good. In order to find true knowledge, one must obtain it by getting beyond what the five senses can ascertain. Plato believed that the material world is the shadows of the invisible world. Plato also believed that truth is immutable; so, the gateway to truth from the material/evil realm must be something immutable. For Plato, that was math.
The Reformers were not theologians first, they were philosophers first and were embroiled in the debate of that era: Plato or Aristotle? Platonism holds to spiritual caste which proffers the idea that elitist philosophers are preordained to lead the masses who are enslaved to the shadows of reality. They are specially gifted by the force or god of your choice to obtain the “Gnosis.” Determinism is also a major pillar of Platonism.
Hence, Gnosticism can be seen throughout Tripp’s teachings, especially in How People Change. In that book, Tripp attributes a literal interpretation of Scripture to works salvation. He also attributes obedience to something that Christians only experience, but do not really perform; the experience is imputed to the material realm by the Spirit, who is defined more as a realm than a person. Gnosticism can be seen in Tripp’s interpretation of Romans 8:2 and most of Romans 7—“law” is not really “nomos,” a written law, but refers to two different realms: material/evil versus invisible/good.
It’s hard not to stop and think about what’s going on in Ferguson Missouri, especially if you are 50-something like me. I grew up watching American cities burn on TV due to racial unrest, and as a young boy, was perplexed that the offended were burning down their own neighborhoods. I still haven’t figured that one out. However, I have figured this out: people always do what they do, or don’t do, for a reason.
The news media has always seemed to be the experts in regard to why these things happen; these people (not politically correct) they be like, very, very, angry. This is understandable; no one refutes the prejudice that was part of our American culture, primarily in the South, for much of our history. Nevertheless, the cities I watched burn on TV as a young boy were primarily in the North where people of color have risen to prominence as far back as the Colonial era. I haven’t figured that one out either.
So, this whole thing with Ferguson is déjà vu for me. It’s a return to the exact same narrative I watched in black and white, night after night lying on the floor with my palms under my chin propping up my cranium case with perplexity swirling about inside. I am no less perplexed, but all this has me wondering.
Are white people and Jews indifferent? Even with the improvement of race relations in this country resulting in opportunity as well; i.e., our President is a man of color, a far cry from the days when the same be like, unable to vote, any vestige of the old days at all is met with the same intensity as the former days. They be like, burning stuff down and looting their neighbors. Yes, perhaps their righteous indignation is a bit misguided, but at least they are not indifferent!
Synonyms for “indifferent” are uncaring, uninterested, apathetic, unmoved, cold, insensible…Yikes! And consider the turning of the tables that has come about in recent years. According to the well documented book, White Girl Bleed A Lot, unprovoked and random black on white violence in this country is now an epidemic. Unlike the nationally televised episodes like Ferguson and the Trevon Martin case where the event evolved out of some kind of altercation, these situations be like, totally random. Recently, in nearby Dayton, Ohio, an Asian American woman was shot dead for the pure sport of it by a young man of color. Although such cases are presently viral in this country, they go virtually unreported, and the crackers (also pronounced, “cracka”) could care less. Where is the outrage? Such indifference is disgusting!
And besides being a cracka myself, I have some special experience with kikes as well. I was originally born with a Jewish name, but later adopted by a kraut (also known as “German”). I also have an older brother who was not adopted by a kraut, wetback, dago, or any other-than kike. At some point in my life, I moved to Dallas, Texas and spent time with my brother professionally and personally for 12 years. People didn’t know we were related because our last names are different, and that my friends, was an education.
My brother is the quintessential business man. His gig is building things. Certainly he has opinions, but has always been pretty indifferent to any that obscure productivity. As an observer experiencing what people said and did when their guard was down around me, I can assure you that Jews experience daily prejudice in subtle, and not so subtle experiences. An example would be the time when a Texas hick pulled a 38 revolver on us before I could say, “Whoa buddy, I ain’t the kike here, my name is ‘Dohse,’ that’s kraut!”
Never once, in the 58 years that I have known my brother, have I ever heard him complain about prejudice. Never once, in all of my relationships with Jewish people, have I heard them talk about the Holocaust. But I can tell you this: I know well what I have been spared because I have a different last name.
I think it is time that whites and Jews repent of their indifference and follow the example of the courageous people of color. We only now need to figure out the best way to take this stand. Perhaps the great leaders of the Civil Rights movement can counsel us? Surely they know; I have been watching them on TV all of my life. That would be Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Let’s use my hometown of Xenia, Ohio as an example. Should we burn down the east side or the west side? What should we write on our signs? What should our chants be? When we say, “No justice, no peace,” how do we define “no peace,” and how does that equate to “peaceful demonstration.” There is a print shop up the street owned by Christians that I could loot, but is that the proper protocol? They are white Christians, does that make a difference? Not being indifferent is very complicated; I wonder if Jackson and Sharpton could help us?
And this indifference is by no means limited to crackers and kikes. Ragheads, chinks, spics, beaners, pakis, chugs, city-slickers, yanks, rebs, wops, hicks, and even fat people, etc., could also repent of their unrighteous indifference to the plight of their own kind.
Al and Jesse, please help us.
First, it’s Calvinism. Are you a Calvinist? If not, just stop saying that Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us. It was God the Father’s righteousness that is imputed to us, not Christ’s. Does it really make that much difference? Yes, it makes a huge difference.
For the very much most part, the Bible attributes our righteousness to God the Father, a few verses could be cited to imply Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us, but the arguments are weak. Nevertheless, why are we not emphasizing what the Bible clearly emphasizes and instead emphasizing the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us?
The reason is because the contrary emphasis is tied to the false gospel of Protestantism which hinges its gospel on the idea that Christ came to fulfill the law rather than end it. Fulfillment verses ending is the difference between a true gospel and a false gospel.
So, fulfillment posits the idea that Christ not only came to die for our sins, but also had to live a perfect life so His perfect obedience to the law could be imputed to us as well. This turns the true gospel completely upside down and rejects the new birth. The power of sin is death and condemnation, and any violation of the law is sin—that’s why Christ came to end that law, not fulfill it. There is no life in that law even if Christ did fulfill it, and if He did fulfill it for our justification, there is not one seed, but two. Christ came to end that law, there is therefore no condemnation for us and the power of death is broken.
I say “that” law, and not “the” law because there are two laws. John Calvin and his heretic buddies only recognized one law, and that is a huge problem. Yes, it is one law as far as the same words, but with two different relationships to life and death. For the unbeliever, it is “the law of sin and death,” for the believer, it is “the law of the Spirit of life.” When the Bible talks about fulfillment of the law, it is talking about the fulfillment of the law of the Spirit of life “through us” (Rom 8:4).
Also keep in mind that the law couldn’t be completely fulfilled to begin with because of future unfulfilled prophecy. Not only that, when Christ said He came to fulfill the law, the New Testament had not even been written, and most of it, actually all of it, was written after His ascension. Keep in mind that there is unfulfilled Bible prophecy in the Old Testament as well.
Here is where we get into a huge problem: the idea that there is one law and the atonement is two-fold; His death for sin, and obedience to the law by Christ because the one law of sin and death is the standard for righteousness. Think about this, if there is one law, the law of sin and death, and it is the standard of righteousness, then the perfect demands of that law must continue to be satisfied in order to keep us saved. That’s the crux of Protestant heresy—a one law that must be perpetually satisfied in order to keep us saved.
But when we believe, we are no longer under that law because it is ended for us. We are no longer “under law,” but “under grace.” That means that we are now under the law of the Spirit of life. When we sin, we cannot be condemned, but unfortunately, we grieve the Holy Spirt who has sealed us until the day that our bodies are redeemed.
This is where it is necessary for the Reformed heretics to say that Jesus’ righteousness (obedience) is perpetually applied to the law of sin and death in our stead. That law is not ended, it must be perpetually satisfied for us. This is what those heretics are talking about when they verbalize the truism, “Jesus 100% for us.” This keeps “Christians” under law and not under grace in regard to justification. Sanctification fulfills the law of the Spirit of life and is completely separate from Justification. This is why Protestantism calls for a sanctification by faith alone; if we live by faith alone in sanctification, the same way we were justified (“We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day”), the perfect obedience of Jesus will continue to satisfy the law of sin and death in our stead.
The contra Reformation gospel frees the Christian to aggressively obey God in sanctification because the only possible motivation is love because the other law is ended and has nothing to do with our justification. That is a finished work that has nothing to do with our Christian life. We are free to aggressively love without fear instead of being afraid that we are not properly living by faith alone which supposedly circumvents the satisfaction of the law via Jesus.
Learn to interpret your Bible accordingly: “Is this a justification verse, or a sanctification verse, and which law is being addressed?”
Do Christians Have Two Natures?
My belief strata is probably similar to most Christians: A. Dogma, firm on that fact; B. Not dogmatic, sounds logical, going with that for now; C. That’s a bunch of boloney. The idea that Christians have two natures has always been categorized under B for me.
Where do I think a stake needs to be driven most in the arena of Christianity right now? Who we are. We are righteous. We are able. We are good. We are not just righteous positionally, we are in fact righteous in and of ourselves. Righteousness is a gift from God, we cannot earn it, but once we have accepted the gift, we possess it. I fear that most gospels in our day propagate a rejection of the righteousness gift, and I strongly suspect that this is the point of the Parable of the Talents. Clearly, the paramount gospels of our day promote a meditation on the gift in order to keep our salvation. To put the gift into practice is to make His story our own story exclusively.
What is the gift? Is the gift just a gift, or is it also a calling? The “church” is a “called out assembly.” Is answering the call works salvation? And what are we called to? We are called to holiness. In part 2 we have looked at the primary problem with anti-Lordship Salvation. They make answering the call works salvation. How do they rationalize this? As we have discussed, it is the age-old Protestant golden chain gospel. Because justification and sanctification are not separate, a calling to holiness is a declaration that progresses in sanctification; if we commit to holiness in order to be saved, we now have to participate in that progression by obedience to the law.
ALS solves that problem by eliminating the commitment all together and making obedience in sanctification optional—a nice gesture unto the Lord, and it will kinda make your life better. If we doubt our salvation because of behavior, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of grace; so, the solution is to return to the same gospel that saved us and re-preach it to ourselves. Both ALS and the Calvinists they despise proffer this same construct.
Calvinists deal with the progression of justification in sanctification a different way: by all means we are saved by making a commitment to obedience, but the commitment we are making is a commitment to living by faith alone in sanctification which results in the commitment being fulfilled by Christ. In fact, both camps speak of experiential sanctification; viz, we only experience the works of the Spirit being done through us and we kinda really aren’t doing the work. In Reformed circles, even our “good” works are sin, and our demeanor in obedience gives a clue that the work may be executed by the Lord in that instance, but we don’t know for certain. They call this the “subjective nature of sanctification.” It is manifested in Arminian camps via, “I didn’t do it—it was the Holy Spirit doing it through me.” Really, in all Protestant camps, accomplishment and meekness are mutually exclusive; you can’t have both.
And with ALS as well as Calvinism, righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping. When their fusion of justification and sanctification is challenged, both camps retort, “Did you sin today?” In BOTH cases, they make no distinction between sin against the law of sin and death, and sin against the law of the Spirit of life in sanctification—violations that grieve the Spirit. That’s because they see justification and sanctification as the same (though both camps are outraged in regard to the accusation).
Because ALS, like Calvinism, makes perfect law-keeping the essence of righteousness, they cannot not deem the Christian perfect in regard to justification. They posit the idea that the Christian is only positionally righteous and not practically righteous. Unfortunately, that same view of our righteousness is then juxtaposed into sanctification because they fuse the two together. To not continually drive home the idea that we are just “sinners saved by grace” is to suggest that we can keep the law perfectly. But the question is… “What law?” There is no law in justification, and where there is no law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15).
Christ primarily died on the cross to end the law of sin and death. Now there is no law to judge us, and that can be coupled with the fact that we are born again of the Spirit and have the seed of God within us (1Jn. 3:9). The new birth is a reversal of slavery resulting in a change of direction. We were once enslaved to sin and free to do good, resulting in a direction away from God (under law Rom. 6:14), but now are enslaved to righteousness and free to sin (Rom. 6:20). As we will see in Romans 7, we were once enslaved to the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), but now we are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life. In both cases, there is a reverse freedom as well. Unfortunately, the Christian is still harassed by the law of sin and death, which is a law standard by the way, and free to sin against it. We will discuss exactly how this happens.
But, because ALS, like the Reformed only see one nomos (law), and Christians obviously sin, the Christian must be both saint and sinner in sanctification. This is Martin Luther’s Simul iustus et peccator—at the same time righteous and a sinner. But, this means saint by declaration and position only while the Christian remains in the same state. The only change is the recognition of his vileness—this defines faith according to Reformed ideology.
Likewise, since the Christian cannot keep the law of sin and death perfectly, and that is justification’s standard, the ALS has its own version of the Simul iustus et peccator: the two natures. Sure, it’s soft Simul iustus et peccator, or Simul iustus et peccator Light, but it’s the same concept. I am not going to take time here to articulate all of the versions, but suffice to say all denominations are spawned by the question of how we do justification in sanctification. There are only two religions in the world: Progressive Sanctification and Progressive Justification. One is a call to holiness and you get justification in the bargain. The other is a call to be declared righteous while remaining a sinner. The former is a call to be made righteous. Answering the call saves you, following the call sanctifies you, but the two are separate with the demarcation being the new birth—following the call does not justify you. Accepting the gift justifies you—but the gift is a calling to holiness. Seeing the gift and the execution of the gift as being the same is the monster of confusion known as Protestantism.
The idea of two natures is contradictory to the new birth.
There is only one us. The other guy is dead. His nature is not hanging around with us. He is not sort of dead, and we are not sort of under the law. We are not under the law at all. The guy’s death did not merely weaken him, it utterly slaughtered him. You are not kinda the old you, there is no old you, that person is not you at all, he is dead.
So what’s going on? I am going to pull the theses out of the barn from the get-go. Think, “sin.” This all starts with a very simple word that has very deep metaphysical ramifications that will not be investigated here, but it all begins with sin as a master. Sin was originally found in God’s most magnificent angel, Lucifer, “son of the morning.” How did sin get there? Far be it from us to discuss that here, but there are theories.
Secondly, a law that should promise life, but sin uses the law to create sinful DESIRES within the individual.
Thirdly, this is daring, but it is best to think of the “flesh,” also, “members” as neutral. Our members can be used for both good and evil. The “flesh” IS NOT the old nature.
Fourthly, fruits unto death and fruits unto life.
The Theses Articulated
Much more study needs to be done in this area; this study is designed to get the ball rolling, but you could spend a lifetime articulating it.
When man is born into the world, sin is within him and sin is a master. When people are born into the world, they are sold into slavery:
Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
Paul is not saying that flesh =’s evil, he is saying that sin resides in our mortal members. He is saying our birth sold us under sin. Sin is a master. According to the New Testament, this is synonymous with being born “under law” as in… “the law of sin and death.” Christ was the only man ever born under that law who could keep it perfectly. All others are condemned by it.
Let’s look at sin as master:
Genesis 4:6 – The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Sin is a master who desires to rule over the individual. Sin is the problem. This does not mean mankind is totally depraved and his will is in complete bondage to sin, he/she is still free to do good and obey the conscience, but the overall direction is away from God and to sin.
Sin resides in the mortal body, but the mortal body, as we shall see, is somewhat neutral. I am not going to get into anthropological dichotomies and theories, but the Bible seems to say that the mind within the body is what’s redeemed when we are saved. Our thesis here contends that the battle within is between our redeemed righteous minds and SIN, not the old us that is dead. However, we are using the same body that the old man (the former us) used and the body can be habituated to some degree. We are to put off those habits and build new ones into our lives:
Ephesians 4:17 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
The putting off of the old self is the likeness of the old self, not the literal old self. The body is habituated by the old ways, and we can bring those same habits into the Christian life with the same ill results. Note that the mind is being renewed, and we are putting off the old ways and putting on new ways. We are not “sinners” just because we fall short of perfect putting off and putting on, we are righteous persons in the process of renovation. The flesh is not inherently evil because it can be used for righteousness:
Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 6:19 – I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
The flesh is weak, sin resides there, and our bodies will be redeemed; in that sense, “nothing good dwells in me,” but our members are to be used as instruments for righteousness nevertheless. Let me caution in regard to this study. This is not a study that should be approached with sloppy research. For instance, consider Romans 7:24:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
We now hear, “See! See! Paul stated that we are still wretched sinners!” Problem is, the Greek word translated “wretched” in this verse means to persevere in affliction. Paul is longing to be saved from his mortal body where the conflict rages. He is not saying that Christians remain as wretched sinners. Likewise, was Paul really saying elsewhere that at the time of his writing that he was the premier sinner in the entire world at that time? The “chief” of sinners? I doubt it. One may ponder the idea that…it’s obviously not true. Paul was making some other point that will not be addressed here.
So, what is the dynamic that we are really fighting against? We are set free from the law of sin and death because Christ purchased us on the cross:
1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
When we are saved, ownership is transferred to another master. We are no longer enslaved to Master Sin. Let’s look at what that slavery looked like:
Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
As Christians, we are no longer enslaved to sin which used our passions aroused by the law to provoke us to sin. Apparently, the cancelation of the law’s ability to condemn us comes into play here. If we cannot be condemned by the law, sin’s motivation is gone. Being condemned by the law is how sin enslaved us. If Christ died for sin, and the penalty is paid, and there is no condemnation in regard to the Christian, sin is robbed of its power. In addition, I assume it goes much deeper than this, but that is another study. We may assume that the intrinsic power of sin over us was broken as well.
Sin was able to produce sinful desires within us that provoked us to break God’s law; we were enslaved to a lawless master. Hence, and this is VERY important, phrases like, “For while we were living in the flesh” should not be interpreted as flesh=evil; it means that the unbeliever was living in a mortal body that was controlled by the Master Sin dynamic that used the law to condemn us and control us, and destroy us. No doubt, sin uses sinful desires to get even unbelievers to violate their consciences against the works of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:12-16).
This is why many unbelievers will obey their passions in things that are in the process of destroying them. They are enslaved by passions that Sin uses to get them to violate their consciences. In this sense, we were living according to the flesh—our flesh was controlled by the triad dynamic of sin, sinful desire, and the law of sin and death. Now we are controlled by a different triad dynamic: the Holy Spirit, His law, and godly desires. To insinuate in any way that a believer remains the same as before or is in some way marginally different borderlines on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and troddens underfoot the blood of Christ.
We will look at another text to build on our point:
Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
A problem arises when we interpret “flesh” without the full corpus of the subject. When we “walk” we are using the flesh. When we walk according to the Spirit, we are using our flesh (members/body) for holy purposes. The full dynamic of sin’s mastery is then interpreted by one word used in various and sundry ways to make any number of points. And, any idea that the Christian is still under the law of sin and death is particularly egregious. Worse yet, if one believes that the law still condemns them as most teach today, this empowers the Sin Master. The word of God can now be used to provoke even Christians with sinful desires.
Furthermore, since sin still remains in the body, it still attempts to use the law to provoke us with evil desires. I imagine that ignorance of the Scriptures supplies a field day for sin in the life of believers accordingly:
James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 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.
The desire James is talking about are sinful desires provoked by sin. When we are tempted by a sinful desire, we should know exactly where that is coming from; sin is still trying to master us by using the former scheme. A Christian can produce fruits of death in this life by succumbing to those desires. These are temporary death fruits, not eternal. The former you could generate fruits of death in both this life and the life to come, but the believer can only generate temporary fruits of death. Peter referred to it this way: suffering as an unbeliever.
With all of this in mind, let’s look at some verses from Romans 7:
Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Precisely. But note, when Paul writes, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin,” he is not saying that we are still enslaved to the same master or dynamic, he is saying the dynamic is still at work in us, but we are obviously no longer enslaved to it. Hence…
16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So, “Did you sin today?” Well, what sayeth Paul? Unless you take all that we observed in these three parts, this statement by Paul would seem outrageous, but we know what he is saying, and no, we are NOT “sinners.” Note as well, the law is not sinful, our flesh is “weak,” but it is sin itself that causes us to sin. Before we were saved, we desired sin and were ruled by it, but now, we have the desires of the Spirit and love His law…
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Romans 7:21 – So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There remains a rest for God’s people, but it is not now. This is war, but we must know who the enemy is and how he works. Let me also add that simplicity is not the duty of the “learner,” aka disciple. Christians are to study in order to show themselves an approved “worker.” Lazy thinkers make for poor disciples and are the fodder for the wicked. The final analysis is this:
So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
We are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life, and fight against the law of sin and death that sin uses to provoke us with evil desires.
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
We are not fighting against the old us. We are fighting the sin within that is no longer our master. In addition, our battle is not against “flesh and blood” but rather principalities.
We only have ONE nature, the new one.
The root of all controversy: the golden chain of salvation.
Before we start part 2, we have a little unfinished business from part 1. The astute observer will ask, “If Jay Adams had the right idea about sanctification while misunderstanding what Calvin really believed, what of his biblical counseling movement that moved from mere generalities to the finer points of Christian living?” Answer: it WAS a revival…probably the only real revival the church has seen since the previous focus on practical application of the Scriptures versus redemptive focus/meditation. And when was that? I have no idea.
You remember my mention of the John “Jack” Miller disciple David Powlison. He started a contra biblical counseling movement against the Jay Adams movement. This is often referred to as first generation biblical counseling versus second generation biblical counseling. The second generation effectively wiped out the first. The crux of that civil war is relevant to this study. One model sees salvation and sanctification as separate. Salvation is completely vertical, but sanctification is mostly horizontal. Jay Adams argued in his aforementioned book against Sonship theology that the source of power in the Christian life is not salvation, but regeneration. In other words, justification is a finished work and a static declaration while the Christian life flows from the “quickening” of the new birth. We don’t return to the cross for power in the Christian life, we learn and obey the Spirit’s instrument for changing us, the law of the Spirit of life. What Adams didn’t realize is that this whole idea of life coming from a perpetual revisitation of our justification is in fact authentic Reformed dogma (see the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11).
Every Christian controversy from the Reformation till the present finds its roots in the golden chain. Reformed pastors wax eloquent in regard to who builds the links in the chain between justification and glorification: it’s either us, or the Holy Spirit using “what Jesus has done, not anything we do.”
From the latter 40’s to 1970, the first gospel wave (Billy Graham et al) ruled the Christian scene via EB. Cogous pushed back with a vengeance from 1970 till the present with the second gospel wave. The first wave saw a commitment to obedience as synonymous with keeping yourself saved because of the golden chain idea. To say that they overemphasized the gospel would be a gargantuan understatement. Obviously, they saw a commitment to obedience as transposed upon the Christian life. The second gospel wave demanded a commitment, and recognition of Christ as Lord, but also demanded a life of faith alone to keep the law satisfied with Christ’s perfect obedience. Again, the ALS camp misunderstands the Reformed on this point. Both camps hold to sanctification by faith alone. This is the very idea that James rudely pushed back against in his epistle.
The issue made simple: Romans 8:30.
In Romans 8:30 we read the following:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Notice that sanctification is missing from this verse even though the context spans the beginning of our salvation to our resurrection. This is the distinction between all golden chain gospels and the real gospel, the kingdom gospel. Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” Hereafter, KG. The golden chain gospel says that sanctification is missing from this verse because justification and sanctification are the same thing. The KG says that sanctification is missing from this verse because justification and sanctification are mutually exclusive. The context is assurance of salvation (see verses 31ff.).
Curiously, the golden chain gospel which includes both ALS and LS/Calvinism, teaches us to remind ourselves of God’s grace alone regardless of anything we do. If our behavior brings doubt, this is evidence of a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s grace and we should therefore remind ourselves of such. ALS says that concern over behavior suggests that you believe behavior finishes justification and not grace alone. With the KG, that consideration is not even on the radar screen because justification and sanctification are completely separate; finishing a finished work is impossible. You can’t have that mentality if you understand it to be an impossible reality. I might also add that simply returning to the same gospel that saved us to cure a troubled conscience instead of changing behavior sears the consequence over time. This is ill advised.
In other words, the KG says it is impossible to unwittingly attempt to please God to gain justification because that work is finished. One is free to aggressively obey God without any fear that they are unwittingly attempting to earn their justification. ALS and LS/Calvinism do not have this convenience because justification is both finished and not finished. The Reformed, already, but not yet construct that relates to predestination cannot be discussed here for lack of room and fear of confusion, but suffice to say for this study that the convenience is not there for either ALS or LS because justification is not finished. You must continue to remind yourself of free grace because you are in a continuum where unwitting works salvation can take place, and the only solution is to disavow good behavior as an evidence of conversion. Obedience must be completely optional. This used to be criticized as “Let go and let God” theology. According to the KG, such a continuum is impossible and not reality.
Consider some dialogue I have had recently with ALS proponents:
Paul, While you ponder my answer, I’d like to ask you, if you’d identify what you believe you must do, before, during and after, in order to be given eternal life. Thank you, In Him, Holly
“Before, during, and after”? to… “be given eternal life.”? The implied answer is: nothing in justification; nothing in sanctification; and nothing in glorification. But again “during” shouldn’t even be deemed possible.
LS in Cogous form already states that perpetual double imputation is needed, so bad behavior is actually a good thing because it “shows forth the gospel.” In contrast, advocates of the KG are concerned with evidence of the new birth, not the overcoming of a propensity to misunderstand the grace of God because all doing in the Christian life is attached to justification somehow. Advocates of the KG understand that nothing they do in the Christian life has anything at all to do with justification. Much assurance comes from that. However, lazy discipleship forfeits assurance because it violates the conscience, and judgment begins in the household of God regarding consequences for bad behavior in this life. The fear generated from that can get confused with fear of eternal judgment.
But don’t miss my main point here: the solution for a lack of assurance in both ALS and LS are the same: preach the gospel to yourself. Remind yourself that works done by us are completely irrelevant to our salvation which also includes sanctification (the Christian life). Both camps woefully devalue the new birth and its expectations. In effect, we have no righteousness and obedience is not really performed by us, but performed by the Holy Spirit if we are “abiding” in Christ. This is a passive sanctification of our works in sanctification in order to categorize them as living by faith alone. ANY work we do is accredited to the justification process, so it must be sanctified by the right process. In the final analysis, Christians must only EXPERIENCE an obedience imputed to us by Christ. Citations by the Reformed abound, and I can cite one from the aforementioned conversation with advocates of ALS:
We can have righteousness of our own, that is self-righteousness. I didn’t notice, did you answer any of the questions? Do you sin? How much? Or not? Are you sinless?
Park on the fact that both camps assert that the Christian has no righteousness. To have any righteousness is a “righteousness of our own.” It’s either ALL us or ALL Christ. Therefore, we can only EXPERIENCE righteousness imputed to us, but it really isn’t us performing it; hence, in relationship to the same conversation:
This passage has nothing to do with becoming saved or providing evidence through our works that we are saved. The passage is about living experientially in a manner that is consistent with our position on [sic] Christ.
Notice that the Christian lives “experientially” according to “our position [i]n Christ.” In other words, Christians only experience their position, they don’t actually perform obedience themselves. In addition, when talking to either camp, one is challenged with the question, “Did you sin today?” And in both cases, when you qualify the question with, “In justification or sanctification?”…without exception they are thrown for a loop. Why? Because they see sin in justification as no different than sin in sanctification—that’s why they ask the question in the first place. If you believe the Christian is personally righteous as well as positionally righteous, you are immediately challenged by both camps with, “Did you sin today?” Why? Because the same assumption is that righteousness and sin are mutually exclusive. For the world, this is true, but not for Christians.
Another fact of the Reformation gospel is “righteousness” is defined as a perfect keeping of the law. To remove the law’s perfect standard, and its demands for perfection from justification is the very definition of antinomianism according to the Reformers. A perfect law keeping must be maintained for each believer if they are to remain justification.
If you remember, this is a direct quote from part one. ALS and LS/Calvinism both define righteousness by perfect law keeping. Again, why the air of profundity in the terse rhetorical question designed to end the argument on the spot by coup de grace? The very essence of the question reveals a profound misunderstanding of law and grace.
Let’s get a little more full circle now with part one. Because the Christian, according to both camps, cannot be righteous if he/she sins even once (“Do you sin? How much? Or not? Are you sinless?”), the good old Reformed mainstay of double imputation is needed for both of these applications of the same golden chain gospel. From part one:
Thirdly, this requires what is known as double imputation. Christ not only died for our sins so that our sins could be imputed to Him, He lived a life of perfect obedience to the law so that His obedience could be imputed to our sanctification.
The windsock of double imputation is the idea that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our sanctification. He died for our justification, and His perfect obedience to the law was imputed to our sanctification to keep justification rolling forward:
Model A asserts that since we cannot keep the law perfectly, we must invoke the double imputation of Christ by faith alone in order to be saved and stay saved (part 1).
Now let’s look again at the same recent conversation with ALS proponents:
Thanks Mark, I agree. We are qualified as saints, because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, but we still sin,..
Therefore, we only “qualify” as saints because we still sin, in order to keep our sainthood the righteousness of Christ must be imputed to us daily. Yes, that would be daily salvation. In the quote immediately prior, “Holly” was responding to this statement:
Hope you don’t mind me adding a thought, I think Paul is saying we were sinners but we are now saints (forgive me if I am wrong), it is true of course that we are saints but I believe it is also still true that we are sinners saved by grace because the Apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief”, present tense.
So, if Christians are still sinners, because we sin, and Christ came to save sinners, it would only make since that our need for salvation is still ongoing. Direct citations that agree with that point by John Calvin and Martin Luther is abundant low hanging fruit, but granted, such statements from the ALS camp are somewhat surprising. To further the point, I might add that “Holly” referred me to a message taught by a notable figure in the ALS movement who interpreted Romans 7:24 as a daily salvation. This is a very common rendering of that verse by the Reformed as well. The verse obviously refers to the redemption of the body and not a daily salvation.
Both are guilty of the same thing: a false double imputation construct must be applied to the Christian life by faith alone and the subjective experience thereof is optional. Like ALS—like Calvinism.
What is wrong with this gospel?
The golden chain gospel misrepresents the Trinity. The Father is removed from His role in salvation because it is His righteousness imputed to the believer before the foundation of the world. According to Romans 8:30, this guarantees glorification. The Holy Spirit is also misrepresented in regard to His role in salvation. His setting us apart before the foundation of the world is confused with His work in regeneration. Christ’s role is redefined beyond His death for our sins as a onetime act that ended sin. This is not a covering—it’s an ending. Even though the Reformed and ALS both concur that Christ died once, His death is perpetually reapplied to sins we commit as Christians when there is no such need. Neither is there a need to impute Christ’s righteousness to us perpetually. At the Bema event, it will not be God the Father looking at us and only seeing Jesus, it will be Jesus Himself judging His righteous followers. He will not be judging His own righteousness. The golden chain gospel is an egregious distortion of the Trinity.
True double imputation is our sins being imputed to Christ, and the Father’s righteousness imputed to us apart from the law. Christ came to end the law. It is because of this, and the new birth, that we are truly righteous in and of ourselves, but of course not apart from God’s power and plan of salvation. We have God’s seed in us, are no longer under any law that can judge us, and are able to please God with our lives. We are new creatures who are sinless according to justification because even if the old us that died with Christ was exhumed and brought into court, there would be no law to condemn us.
This gospel not only distorts the Trinity, rejects the new birth, and distorts double imputation, it misrepresents sonship. The sins we commit as a family member are considered to be sin against justification: “Did you sin today?” Again, if you ask them, “Sin in justification or sanctification?” all you will here is crickets, or the babblings of confused narcissists.
The golden chain gospel also strips the Christian of ability to love Christ and others by keeping Christians under the law of sin and death that Christ came to end. Said gospel makes that law the standard for righteousness. However, there is no law standard in justification, it is APART from any law—it is God’s righteousness imputed to us. Those under grace serve the law of the Spirit of life which is fulfilled by loving Christ and others:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
It is impossible to love Christ by keeping the law of sin and death. Besides, that law is ended when we believe. All of our sins committed before faith were against that law and in essence imputed to it. Before we were saved, we were enslaved to that law and it provoked us to sin. Consider two spouses: we were the spouse that was under the law of sin and death until we died with Christ, now we are free to serve another. Sins we now commit are against family relationship, not sins that fall short of the law of sin and death.
Said gospel prevents us from making a commitment to God’s kingdom because the commitment would have to be executed perfectly in kingdom living to maintain our citizenship. Said gospel demands that we only recognize Christ in a one-way relation while ignoring His kingdom, its law, and the king. Yea, we can only accept Him as savior in a one-way relationship. This assumes that a decision to flee the present kingdom of darkness for the kingdom of light cannot be a commitment totally separate from the kingdom citizenship. If we make a commitment, the commitment must be executed perfectly in order to remain a citizen. No, the commitment is totally separate from our citizenship in the same way justification is totally separate from sanctification.
I realize that only repentance was emphasized to the Jews, but they were already saturated with the concept of God’s kingdom. From the beginning, Abraham looked for a city built by God. As we see Gentiles coming into the church, they must be brought up to speed on their new Jewishness. We should read the Bible with this in mind and the way it affected the presentation of the gospel, and the very definition of the word “gospel” itself.
The golden chain gospel rejects the new birth by ignoring the difference in slavery between two different laws: the law of sin and death that will condemn the world, and the law of the kingdom; the law of the Spirit of life. It makes the law of the Spirit of life a fulfilment of the law of sin and death that is in fact ended. In essence we remain enslaved to a law of condemnation as “sinners.” This is a rejection of the new birth.
It also adds another seed to the covenant of promise. If the law of sin and death could impart life, it would be a second seed from which life would come to the world. It doesn’t matter who obeys it, it cannot impart life.
The golden chain gospel distorts the Trinity, distorts double imputation, misrepresents sonship, strips the Christian of ability to love Christ and others, rejects a biblical definition of the new birth, keeps Christians under the law of sin and death, distorts the atonement, perpetually reapplies the death of Christ to salvation, replaces the righteousness of God with a law standard, propagates a one-way relationship with God, makes sin as a kingdom citizen the same as condemning sin, enslaves us as a spouse still under the law of sin and death, calls for us to accept Christ as savior in a one-way relationship while ignoring His Lordship.
Do Christians have two natures? This will be examined in part 3.
Introduction and Historical Background Leading up to the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement
Not long after I became a Christian in 1983, the Lordship Salvation (hereafter LS) controversy arose. This was a movement against “easy believism” (hereafter EB). The climate was ripe for the controversy because churches were full of professing Christians who demonstrated little if any life change. Members in good standing could be living together out of wedlock, wife abusing drunks, and shysters to name a few categories among many. Sin was not confronted in the church.
Of course, no cycle of Protestant civil war is complete without dueling book publications. Without naming all of them, the major theme was that of faith and works. John MacArthur Jr. threw gasoline on the fire with The Gospel According to Jesus published in 1988. This resulted in MacArthur being the primary target among the so-called EB crowd.
During that time as a new believer, I was heavily focused on the issue, but was like many others: I rejected outright sinful lifestyles among professing Christians while living a life of biblical generalities. In other words, like most, I was ignorant in regard to the finer points of Christian living. I resisted blatant sin, and in fact was freed from some serious temptations of the prior life, but had little wisdom in regard to successful application.
We must now pause to consider what was going in the 80’s. Christianity was characterized by two groups: the grace crowd that contended against any assessment of one’s standing with God based on behavior (EB), and the LS crowd. But, the LS group lived by biblical generalities. Hence, in general, both groups farmed out serious life problems to the secular experts. This also led to Christian Psychologist careerism.
This led to yet another controversy among American Christians during the same time period, the sufficiency of Scripture debate. Is the Bible sufficient for life’s deepest problems? Again, MacArthur was at the forefront of the controversy with his publication of Our Sufficiency in Christ published in 1991. Between 1990-1995, the anti-Christian Psychology movement raged (ACS). The primary lightening rod during that time was a book published by Dave Hunt: The Seduction of Christianity (1985).
In circa 1965, a young Presbyterian minister named Jay E. Adams was moved by the reality of a church living by biblical generalities. The idea that the church could not help people with serious problems like schizophrenia bothered him. He was greatly influenced by the renowned secular psychologist O. Hobart Mower who fustigated institutional psychiatry as bogus. An unbeliever, Mower was critical of Christianity for not taking more of a role in helping people with serious mental problems.
Mower believed that mental illness is primarily caused by the violation of conscience and unhealthy thinking. His premise has helped more people by far than any other psychological discipline and Adams witnessed this first hand. Mower’s influence provoked Adams to look into the Scriptures more deeply for God’s counsel regarding the deeper problems of life. This resulted in the publication of Competent to Counsel in 1970, and launched what is known today as the biblical counseling movement (BCM). Please note that this movement was picking up significant steam in the latter 80’s and early 90’s.
In 1970, the same year that the BCM was born, an extraordinary Reformed think tank was established by the name of The Australian Forum Project (AFP). Its theological journal, Present Truth, had a readership that exceeded all other theological journals in the English speaking world by the latter 70’s. Though the project died out in the early 80’s, it spawned a huge grassroots movement known as the “quiet revolution” of the “gospel resurgence.” The movement believed that it had recovered the true Reformation gospel that had been lost in Western culture over time, and frankly, they were absolutely correct about that.
The movement was covert, but spawned notable personalities such as John Piper over time. Piper exploded onto to the scene in 1986 with his book, The Pleasures of God which promoted his Christian Hedonism theology. Unbeknown to most, this did not make Piper unique, the book is based on the same Martin Luther metaphysics that the AFP had rediscovered; he got it from them. At this point, the official contemporary name for the rediscovered Reformation gospel, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (Cogous), was taking a severe beating in Reformed circles. This is because contemporary Calvinists didn’t understand what Luther and Calvin really believed about the gospel.
John Piper looked to emerge from the movement as a legend because he had no direct ties to the AFP, but during the same time frame of his emergence, Cogous was also repackaged by a professor of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. His name was John “Jack” Miller. Using the same doctrine, the authentic gospel of the Reformation, Miller developed the Sonship discipleship program. This also took a severe beating in Presbyterian circles. In fact, Jay Adams wrote a book against the movement in 1999. This was a debate between Calvinists in regard to what real Calvinism is. At any rate, Sonship changed its nomenclature to “Gospel Transformation” and went underground (2000). This started the gospel-everything movement. Sonship was saturated with the word “gospel” as an adjective for just about every word in the English language (“gospel centered this, gospel-driven that,” etc.). If anyone refuted what was being taught, they were speaking against the gospel; this was very effective.
If not for this change in strategy, John Piper would have been the only survivor of Cogous. Instead, with the help of two disciples of John Miller, David Powlison and Tim Keller, the Gospel Transformation movement gave birth to World Harvest Missions and the Acts 29 Network. It also injected life into the Emergent Church movement. Meanwhile, most thought the Sonship movement had been eliminated, but this was not the case at all. In 2006, a group of pastors that included this author tried to get a handle on a doctrine that was wreaking havoc on churches in the U.S. and spreading like wildfire. The doctrine had no name, so we dubbed it, “Gospel Sanctification.” In 2008, the same movement was dubbed, “New Calvinism” by society at large. In 2009, spiritual abuse blogs exploded in church culture as a direct cause of New Calvinism. We know now that the present-day New Calvinism movement was birthed by the AFP.
The Protestant Legacy of Weak Sanctification
The anti-Lordship Salvation movement came out of the controversy era of the 80’s. The following is the theses, parts 2 and 3 will articulate the theses. The theses could very well be dubbed, The Denomination Myth. All of the camps involved in these Protestant debates share the same gospel, but differ on the application. The idea that the debate involves different gospels is a misnomer.
The Protestant Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that the Christian life is used by God to finish our salvation. The official Protestant gospel is known as justification by faith. This is one of the most misunderstood terms in human history. Justification refers to God imputing His righteousness to those whom He saves. Many call this a forensic declaration by God. At this time, I am more comfortable saying that it is the imputation of God’s righteousness to the saved person as the idea of it being forensic; it’s something I have not investigated on my own albeit it’s a popular way of stating it. This is salvation…a righteous standing before God.
Sanctification, a setting apart for God’s holy purposes, is the Christian life. The Reformers saw sanctification as the progression of justification to a final justification. In Reformed circles, this is known as the “golden chain of salvation.” So, the Christian is saved, is being saved, and will be finally saved. Christians often say, “Sanctification is the growing part of salvation.” But really it isn’t, salvation doesn’t grow, this is a Protestant idea. The Christian life grows in wisdom and stature, but our salvation doesn’t grow, the two are totally separate. One is a finished work, and the other is a progression of personal maturity.
The Reformers were steeped in the ancient philosophy of the day that propagated the idea that the common man cannot properly understand reality, and this clearly reflected on their theology. The idea that grace is infused into man and enables him to properly understand reality would have been anathema according to their spiritual caste system of Platonist origins. This resulted in their progressive justification gospel. Justification by faith is a justification process by faith alone.
Every splinter group that came out of the Reformation founded their gospel on this premise. John Calvin believed that salvation was entering into a rest from works. He believed that sanctification is the Old Testament Sabbath rest (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.29). Hence, the Christian life is a rest from works. The Christian life must be lived the same way we were saved: by faith alone. Part 2 will explain why we are called to work in sanctification, and why it is not working for justification.
Another fact of the Reformation gospel is “righteousness” is defined as a perfect keeping of the law. To remove the law’s perfect standard, and its demands for perfection from justification is the very definition of antinomianism according to the Reformers. A perfect law-keeping must be maintained for each believer if they are to remain justified. Thirdly, this requires what is known as double imputation. Christ not only died for our sins so that our sins could be imputed to Him, He lived a life of perfect obedience to the law so that His obedience could be imputed to our sanctification. So, if we live our Christian life according to faith alone, justification will be finished the same way it started; hence, justification by faith. For purposes of this series, these will be the three pillars of the Reformed gospel that we will consider:
1. An unfinished justification.
2. Sabbath rest sanctification.
3. Double imputation.
As a result of this construct, Protestant sanctification has always been passive…and confused. Why? Humans are created to work, but work in sanctification is deemed to be working for justification because sanctification is the “growing part” of justification. Reformed academics like to say, “Justification and sanctification are never separate, but distinct.” Right, they are the same with the distinction being that one is the growing of the other. A baby who has grown into an adult is not separate from what he/she once was, but distinct from being a baby. Reformed academics constantly warn Christians to not live in a way that “makes the fruit of sanctification the root of justification.” John Piper warns us that the fruits of sanctification are the fruits of justification—all works in sanctification must flow from justification. Justification is a tree; justification is the roots, and sanctification is the fruits of justification. We are warned that working in sanctification can make “the fruit the root.” In essence, we are replacing the fruits of justification with our own fruit. This is sometimes referred to as “fruit stapling.”
How was the Reformation gospel lost?
To go along with its progressive justification, the Reformers also developed an interpretation method. The sole purpose of the Bible was to show us our constant need to have the perfect works of Jesus imputed to our lives by faith alone. The purpose of Scripture reading was to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of our original need of salvation, i.e. “You need the gospel today as much as you needed it the day you were saved.” Indeed, so that the perfect obedience of Christ will continue to be applied to the law. This also applies to new sins we commit in the Christian life as well. Since we “sin in time,” we must also continue to receive forgiveness of new sins that we commit as Christians. So, the double imputation must be perpetually applied to the Christian life by faith alone. John Piper often speaks of how Christians continue to be saved by the gospel. This is in fact the Reformation gospel.
But over time, humanity’s natural bent to interpret the Scriptures grammatically instead of redemptively resulted in looking at justification and sanctification as being more separate, and spiritual growth being more connected to obedience. This created a hybrid Protestantism even among Calvinists. Nevertheless, the best results were the aforementioned living by biblical generalities. Yes, we “should” obey, but it’s optional. A popular idea in past years was a bi-level discipleship which was also optional.
This brings us to the crux of the issue.
Since the vast majority of Protestants see justification as a golden chain of salvation, two primary camps emerged:
A. Christ obeys the law for us.
B. Salvation cannot be based on a commitment—obedience must be optional.
Model A asserts that since we cannot keep the law perfectly, we must invoke the double imputation of Christ by faith alone in order to be saved and stay saved. Model B asserts that since the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, any commitment included in the gospel presentation must then be executed in sanctification to keep the process of justification moving forward. Therefore, obedience in sanctification must be completely optional. A consideration of works is just fruit stapling. If the Holy Spirit decides to do a work through someone, that’s His business and none of ours, “who are we to judge?”
This is simply two different executions of the same gospel. Model A does demand obedience because it assumes that Christians have faith, and that will result in manifestations of Christ’s obedience being imputed to our lives. Because this is mixed with our sinfulness, it is “subjective.” The actual term is “justification experienced subjectively”; objective justification, subjective justification, final justification (redefined justification, sanctification, and glorification). However, model B then interprets that as commitment that must be executed in the progressive part of salvation.
This is where the EB versus LS debate comes into play. This is a debate regarding execution of the same gospel while making the applications differing gospels. Out of this misunderstanding which came to a head in the 80’s, comes the anti-Lordship Salvation movement (ALS). Conversations with proponents of ALS reveal all of the same tenets of Cogous. First, there is the same idea of a final judgment in which sins committed by Christians will be covered by Jesus’ righteousness; “When God looks at us, all he will see is Jesus.” Secondly, there is the same idea of one law. Thirdly, there is the idea that our sins are covered and not ended.
They do differ on the “two natures.” Model A holds to the idea that Christians have the same totally depraved nature that they had when they were saved. Model B thinks the new birth supplies an additional Christ-like nature that fights with the old nature. Model A, aka Calvinists, actually think this is Romanism/Arminianism. Indeed, authentic Protestantism rejects the idea that any work of the Spirit is done IN the believer. Model B has several different takes on this including the idea that Christians are still dead, but the life of Jesus inside of them enables them to obey.
In part 2, we will examine why this construct is a false gospel, and why both parties are guilty. In part 3, we will examine the new birth and the idea that Christians have two natures.
Quotations from the foundational document of Reformed thought: The Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order by Martin Luther; 1518, about 6 months after he penned the 95 Theses.
Theses 3: The thesis is proven in the following way: If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous.
Theses 4: [Keep in mind he is talking about Christians here] This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell,…that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope…Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity.
Theses 6: however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble?
Theses 7: But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.
Theses 10: For the grammarians call a mortal work one which kills,…Second, the will must do something with respect to such a dead work, namely, either love or hate it. The will cannot hate a dead work since the will is evil. Consequently the will loves a dead work, and therefore it loves something dead. In that act itself it thus induces an evil work of the will against God whom it should love and honor in this and in every deed.
Theses 11: Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work…Since there is no person who has this pure hope, as we said above, and since we still place some confidence in the creature, it is clear that we must, because of impurity in all things, fear the judgment of God. Thus arrogance must be avoided, not only in the work, but in the inclination also, that is, it must displease us still to have confidence in the creature.
Theses 16: Now you ask: What then shall we do? Shall we go our way with indifference because we can do nothing but sin? I would reply: By no means. But, having heard this, fall down and pray for grace and place your hope in Christ in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection. For this reason we are so instructed-for this reason the law makes us aware of sin so that, having recognized our sin, we may seek and receive grace.
Theses 17: [Again, keep in mind that Luther is talking about Christians] t is apparent that not despair, but rather hope, is preached when we are told that we are sinners. Such preaching concerning sin is a preparation for grace, or it is rather the recognition of sin and faith in such preaching. Yearning for grace wells up when recognition of sin has arisen. A sick person seeks the physician when he recognizes the seriousness of his illness. Therefore one does not give cause for despair or death by telling a sick person about the danger of his illness, but, in effect, one urges him to seek a medical cure. To say that we are nothing and constantly sin when we do the best we can does not mean that we cause people to despair (unless we are fools); rather, we make them concerned about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These 18: [Again, Luther is referring to Christian living] The law wills that man despair of his own ability, for it »leads him into hell« and »makes him a poor man« and shows him that he is a sinner in all his works, as the Apostle does in Rom. 2 and 3:9, where he says, »I have already charged that all men are under the power of sin.« However, he who acts simply in accordance with his ability and believes that he is thereby doing something good does not seem worthless to himself, nor does he despair of his own strength. Indeed, he is so presumptuous that he strives for grace in reliance on his own strength.
Theses 20: [Reality is interpreted through suffering] He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross…[All material reality is evil] The manifest and visible things of God are placed in opposition to the invisible, namely, his human nature, weakness, foolishness…Now it is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross.
Theses 21: This is clear: He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers ,works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil. These are the people whom the apostle calls »enemies of the cross of Christ…God can be found only in suffering and the cross, as has already been said Therefore the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are dethroned and the »old Adam«, who is especially edified by works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his »good works« unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s.
Theses 22: [It is evil to believe God can be understood by anything that is material] That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened…This has already been said. Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks,…Thus also the desire for knowledge is not satisfied by the acquisition of wisdom but is stimulated that much more. Likewise the desire for glory is not satisfied by the acquisition of glory, nor is the desire to rule satisfied by power and authority, nor is the desire for praise satisfied by praise, and so on,
Theses 24: He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand.
These 25: Therefore man knows that works which he does by such faith are not his but God’s. For this reason he does not seek to become justified or glorified through them, but seeks God. His justification by faith in Christ is sufficient to him. Christ is his wisdom, righteousness, etc., as 1 Cor 1:30 has it, that he himself may be Christ’s vessel and instrument (operatio seu instrumentum).
Calvinists and the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd make the same mistake: they believe there are two seeds, Christ and a law He fulfilled.
My question is the same for Calvinists and the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd alike: Why would Christ come to fulfill a covenant with Hagar?
I just received news about two hours ago that the famous actor Robin Williams has died in what looks to be a suicide. This has not been confirmed. Williams has been suffering from severe depression of late according to reports. I am not able to write about this tomorrow because of a project, but as a two-time survivor of severe depression, I would like to write a short essay on this before I turn in.
I would not wish severe depression on anyone, not even the most brutal of terrorists like the ones wreaking havoc in Iraq right now—that should put it in perspective for you. Serious depression is one of those experiences that you really have to experience to understand. The tragic news about Williams should turn our attention to those who may come our way. Can we help them? We most certainly can. Please, don’t just talk about this problem and move on. And, I don’t care how great you think the guy was—why does that matter now? While eulogies abound to show people how caring we are, conspicuously absent are questions about the problem itself.
And Williams forgot something: he wasn’t just fighting for himself—his loss does not give hope to others in his shoes.
There is a lot for Christians to learn about this problem, but unfortunately, the present-day church believes sanctification is pretty much the same thing as justification and depression is definitely a sanctification issue. No, preaching the gospel to yourself will not end the depression. No, prayer alone will not end depression; God cares, but you have to participate in the cure.
I wish I could refer people someplace, but I really can’t. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the biblical counseling movement was having great success in helping people with severe depression, but the fundamentals that drove that counseling have been discredited as “not vertical enough.” As far as finding a counselor, sorry to say, you are on your own, but I can share with you what I have learned about this very serious problem.
1. If you have lost interest in everything that gives you joy, feel like you are losing your mind, and are harassed and tormented by horrible thoughts, seek medical help as soon as possible. Depression can be caused by several different medical conditions and bad reactions to certain medications.
2. Be open to encouragement and help from non-Christians. Non-believers and Christians both played an important role in my recovery.
3. Though depression can be a medical problem, in most cases depression becomes a medical problem because of a person’s outlook on life. Specifically, wrongheaded thinking. I have no doubt at all, that depression is caused from chemical imbalance, but the question is, “Can one’s thinking and outlook on life cause those imbalances?” I think the answer is, “yes.”
4. If you struggle with anxiety problems, get the problem under control—anxiety can lead to severe depression.
5. Deal with guilt and relationship problems with others.
6. You are probably going to need medications to get you through the toughest part of your depression while you work on personal issues. Some doctors will say that you will need these medications for the rest of your life, but I know of many situations where this is not the case at all, including my own.
7. Put yourself under the care of a medical doctor and a good counselor. Do not isolate yourself, even if you feel like doing so. It will be necessary to do certain things whether you feel like it or not. Seek out friends that understand your problem.
8. Remember that thoughts invoke feelings and feelings invoke thoughts. Don’t think thoughts that make you feel bad for no good reason. When feelings invoke thoughts, talk back to them. Have a conversation with your thoughts. For me, when oppressed by horrible thoughts, I prayed a lot. Yes, find promises in the Bible and cling to them—by all means. Those horrible thoughts and bad feelings sure do make a strong case that you are helpless against them, but I do not think that is the case. Fight to think other thoughts by getting your mind on something else. Do not leave the thoughts unchallenged. One must ask when he considers what these loud, strong feelings are saying…
“are they telling the truth?”
9. Feelings are VERY important to life, but during a time of severe depression, feelings are your worst enemy. You must temporarily make feelings a lower priority during this time. Whether you feel like it or not, be other-person focused. Whether you feel like it or not, accomplish things. With the help of medications, you can stay productive, and this is important. Right feelings follow right doing, and especially right thinking.
10. This post may help: http://wp.me/pmd7S-Eu
We have much to learn about depression. Suicide is tragic for many reasons, but if people who feel like they are at the end of their rope would just wait one more day, in many cases a new day brings a totally different perspective. I am going to leave you with something very simple if you are a depressed person reading this. In the midst of my struggle, a man who had been through depression himself smiled at me and said, “You are going to be alright.” Oddly, if someone ambushed me with the question, “Right now, name the one thing that was most important in your recovery,” without even thinking about it, I would have to point to that one instance. I would add that life is worth fighting for. I would add that you need to fight because your family wants you to; fight to love them more than you hate your suffering. Win the fight for them. My friend, our great God assures us that trials are only for a time. Death will come soon enough…fight for the joy that will return. When depression wins, hope loses, and the world needs nothing more than hope. And…
“you are going to be alright.”
Originally posted on Paul's Passing Thoughts:
In another recent post by Dr. Jay Adams, he seems to once again allude to the doctrine of the evil twins ( http://paulspassingthoughts.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/dr-jays-hopeful-post-and-the-evil-twins/ ). The most recent post I am referring to can be viewed here: http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?m=201008 second from top.
Let me begin with this quote from his post: “Others are confused because of the recent revival of an old error: confounding Justification by faith with Sanctification by the work of the Spirit. The Spirit works His fruit in us by enabling us to understand the Word, by giving us the desire to obey it, and by enabling us to do so.”
Dr, J further explains: “In the revival of this teaching, passages that speak of justification by faith are related to sanctification.” Yes, there are many examples this. He then relates how this can effect counseling: “As a result, instead of encouraging Christians to obey God’s admonitions in the…
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Originally posted on Paul's Passing Thoughts:
Sigh. The latest novelty among New Calvinist is to teach that Antinomianism doesn’t exist. Elyse Fitzpatrick, who Justin Taylor called the greatest gospel-centered writer among women, posted a hypothetical open letter to an antinomian.
In the letter, she limits the definition of an antinomian to those who use grace as a license to sin, and then insinuates that such a person is a myth:
“Dear Mr. Antinomian,
Forgive me for writing to you in such an open forum but I’ve been trying to meet you for years and we just never seem to connect. While it’s true that I live in a little corner of the States and while it’s true that I am, well, a woman, I did assume that I would meet you at some point in my decades old counseling practice. But alas, neither you nor any of your (must be) thousands of brothers and sisters have…
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