An Open Letter to Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paul Dohse and I am a member of a Southern Baptist church in the Dayton, Ohio area. I also have the privilege of serving there as director of men’s ministry.
The purpose of this letter is the following: to request that you withdraw your association with Together for the Gospel (T4G) because the organization promotes a particular false doctrine. This letter will be posted on my blog as an open letter because several such letters to individuals and organizations have been ignored. In addition, it will make the continuance of my grievance to others within the Convention expedient as I am a layman with many other responsibilities.
I have no problem with Calvinism, but I cannot express in words how disappointed I am with you and others for turning a blind eye to grievous error from any individual who claims to be a Calvinist. Apparently, Calvinist nomenclature is a license to teach anything that one sees fit. As I continue to research this doctrine (not Calvinism) that is sweeping through Southern Baptist circles, at times it seems surreal that this ridiculous doctrine is being propagated in broad daylight, while you and others lend it your credibility. Because you are President over the “Flagship Seminary” of the SBC, I also fear that you have embraced this doctrine personally.
When I was a student at the WA Criswell Institute of Biblical Studies in the early eighties, we were taught to be leery of any doctrine that had a short history. Such is the case with the “gospel-driven life,” or Gospel Sanctification as some call it. In fact, my research indicates that this whole movement, as we know it today, was conceived by a professor of practical theology (Dr. Jack Miller) at Westminster Seminary, probably around 1980, and dubbed “Sonship Theology.” Yet, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, DA Carson, Tim Keller, and many others promote the idea that this doctrine has been the true gospel from the beginning, and God is using the “New Calvinism” movement to reveal the “unadjusted gospel” in our day.
Many teaching this doctrine today were mentored by Jack Miller; such as, Tim Keller and David Powlison. Jack Miller is the one who coined the phrase, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” In any case, Gospel Sanctification and Sonship are identical. Dr. Jay E. Adams wrote a book to protest the doctrine in 1999. I would like to use quotes from that book as a way to describe the basics of the doctrine:
“This teaching that appeals to Christians who are failing to live as they ought maintains that most of the church has been sadly in error by viewing the gospel merely as the way in which one is saved from the penalty of sin; instead, it ought to be viewed also as the fundamental dynamic for living the Christian life.”
“It claims that a person can change this sad state of affairs by continuing to preach the gospel to himself and by repenting and believing over and over again. It teaches that not only justification, but also sanctification, is by faith [alone] in the good news.”
“The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it.”
“Certainly, all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even an example of this practice, in the New Testament….The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that he left for us to observe-the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).”
Adams also said the following in another publication: “Aberrations of the faith found in such movements as Sonship should be pointed out and rejected. These movements – both large and small – constantly plague the church” (Jay E. Adams, “Hope for the New Millenium,” Timeless Texts, Woodruff, SC, 2000, p.44).
A cursory observation of statements made at the 2010 T4G conference would easily identify Gospel Sanctification (the supposed “unadjusted gospel”) with Sonship Theology. Furthermore, many should be wary of the “unadjusted” gospel’s unorthodox phraseology: repentance is now “deep repentance”; obedience is now “new obedience”; church discipline is now “redemptive church discipline”; and progressive sanctification is really “progressive justification.”
There is a controversy concerning the influx of Calvinism into the SBC, and rightfully so because the soundness of a doctrine is often determined by where it ends up, and in this case, “New Calvinism.” New Calvinist seem to be in a contest to see who can devise the newest / profound angle on this doctrine. Recently, Tim Keller suggested that a sound profession of faith must include “repentance from good works.” Constantly insinuated by others aforementioned, but specifically stated by Paul David Tripp, is the idea of the total depravity of the saints. He plainly states in How People Change that Christians remain spiritually dead. And, ”When you are dead, you can’t do anything.” John Piper has stated that he went on his recent sabbatical to eliminate several different “species of idols” that he discovered in his heart, and mentioned Tim Keller and Paul Tripp as being knowledgeable about these things. In How People Change, Tripp states that these idols of the heart can be discovered by asking ourselves “x-ray questions.”
Dr. Mohler, is this what Southern Baptist believe? That we grow spiritually by reciting the gospel to ourselves everyday? That every verse in the Bible is about justification? That Christians are totally depraved? That we should go idol hunting in our hearts using x-ray questions? That sanctification is by faith alone? And not previously mentioned: that colaboring with God in sanctification is a false gospel because “any separation of justification and sanctification is an abomination”? Like Tullian Tchividjian, should we endeavor to be accused of teaching antinomianism for the purpose of accreditation regarding the “true gospel”? Should we practice redemptive church discipline which often results in the excommunication of Christians for non-attendance and not tithing?
I tell you the truth Dr. Mohler, at times I wake up in the morning and wonder if this is all a dream. After all, you are, according to some, the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” So, obviously, it’s difficult for me to believe all of this is going on. I know some say that the SBC is on life support, but Dr. Kevorkian in the form of New Calvinism is not the answer. I am asking you to stand for the truth, or publicly state that you believe this doctrine without hiding behind the word, “gospel.”
Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),
Paul M. Dohse