Paul's Passing Thoughts

An Open Letter to Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on February 12, 2011

Dr. Mohler,

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

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14 Responses

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  1. Jess said, on February 14, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Thank you, sir, for your website. I have been wallowing in a sea of confusion at my church for three years now, and through much study, have finally figured out that they’re third-wave neo-pentacostalists under the guise of “Presbyterian/Reformed.” I no longer go there (also, I’m now reformed baptist because I couldn’t find any biblical basis for paedobaptism). I was also confused after a discussion with a friend at that church in which she was basically telling me that we are totally depraved even in sanctification. That we can’t obey any part of the law because we’re dead in sin. I thought, “so much for life in Christ!” She suggested we do the sonship study that leaders in our church had studied a few years ago. I agreed, knowing that it will likely be alot of work for me to analyze and point out scriptural errors in the study if I’m capable of discovering any. I’ve had a distrust of bible studies and authors promoted by our church because of doctrine and practices there that don’t seem to jive with what I read in scripture or what I hear from reformed theologians. We have not started our study yet because the books are backordered. In the meantime, I’ve been searching for information about sonship and came across your website via a search regarding Jay Adams’ comments on the subject (which I learned about after listening to a sermon by Joseph Pipa of Greenville Theological Seminary). I’m very grateful that by God’s providence, I’ve discovered your website and your book. Your letter to Al Mohler and your past posts regarding gospel sanctification are extremely helpful. I look forward to reading your book and want to thank you for helping me stand on solid ground. Thank you for your work!
    God be with you, Jess

  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on February 14, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Jess,

    Your story is all too common and is the primary reason I wrote the book and also expanded on it. It seeks to present the whole picture of Gospel Sanctification and let the readers decide for themselves if they are “ready for the whole truth.” The second edition should be ready in 2-4 weeks. While saints “wallow in a sea of confusion,” the likes of John MacArthur and Al Mohler lend their credibility to these men by ministering with them. I find it disgusting, and inexcusable. MacArthur needs to re-read his own book: “The Truth War.” It’s not alright to be an antinomian because your also Calvinist. Jess, your comment reminds me of the Preface from the second edition:

    Preface: The Purpose and Use of This Book
    ______________________

    I could have used this book in 2006. Six years prior, the founding pastor of the reformed church I attended left for another ministry. Not long afterward things changed with the new leadership. Instead of in-depth teaching on smaller portions of text, sermons started covering whole chapters in one message. I assumed it was merely a different style as apposed to a totally different way to interpret the Scriptures. In addition, practical application seemed to be missing as well. Then came odd statements that I found perplexing, like the time a Sunday school teacher opened the class with stating the following in a very forceful way: “The Old Testament is about Jesus Christ.” No Christian would refute that, but his demeanor suggested much more than that simple fact was afoot.

    After several months of googling sound-bites, I was ready to pose a question to an elder of that church: “Are you teaching that we are sanctified by the same gospel that saved us?” He wouldn’t answer. Why would he? He knew I was on my own. Why? There was no apology against this doctrine then, and there still isn’t, until now (see endnote 11). Hence, the purpose of this book; to comfort others with the comfort that I was eventually comforted with. The primary purpose of this book is to supply answers to others much faster than I received them.

    Like all new doctrines that continually plague the church, especially the Gnostic types, they continually morph and borrow other disciplines which make them difficult to articulate. Therefore, I have written essays that focus on the major elements and exclude residual concerns; such as, the doctrine’s inclusion of depth psychology and postmodern thought (see important endnote 12).

    The doctrine’s end result is antinomianism which is of major import while other concerns are more along the lines of symptoms. Therefore, the content (essays) focus on the following: First, to show the doctrine’s antinomian bent, and why that is of major concern. Secondly, to show that trusted teachers of the past have contended against like doctrines. Thirdly, to identify the doctrine’s major elements and to make them easily identifiable. Fourthly, to identify the doctrines phraseology in order to aid in swift detection. Fifthly, to show why we should invest our time in contention against this doctrine; namely, its ill effect on sanctification and biblical counseling.

    In all, it is my prayer that the Lord’s truth will prevail accordingly.

    Blessings Jess, my email is pmd@inbox .com

    Paul Dohse

  3. jayrodfowler said, on February 23, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Mr. Paul M. Dohse,

    With all due respect, this article gives evidence that you don’t know your church history. If you read the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 (C.H. Spurgeon’s revision), and to mention another, the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833, you will find that you are on the side of novelty. I have no interest in debating the issue within your domination as I am not part of it. Your “research [of] this doctrine” appears to be lacking and it would be expedient for you to thorough if you wish to gain any credibility.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Jarod

  4. jayrodfowler said, on February 23, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Mr. Paul M. Dohse,

    I ask for your forgiveness for the previous comment. I misunderstood your letter which clearly states that the novelty you are concerned about is not Calvinism (in and of itself) but that which is called “Sonship theology.” I was reading on the whim. On another note, I’ve never seen “gospel sanctification” as novelty; it seems that the Puritans had much to say about it. I’ll get back with you on that.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Jarod

  5. pauldohse said, on February 23, 2011 at 3:02 am

    Thanks Jarod, no offense taken. Will look forward to your input. paul

    > —–Original Message—– >

  6. Randy Seiver said, on June 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    As I think you can tell from my previous posts to you, I have no affinity with those who deny the necessity of our exertion in the matter of sanctification. However, to employ a hackneyed phrase, you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Consider and please react to the following:

    1. Though Christ’s obedience does not obviate the necessity of our obedience in sanctification, his obedience does guarantee our sanctification since those for whom he died also died in him and with him to the reigning power of sin.

    2. True “gospel sanctification” means that true believers obey out of gratitude for the grace of God revealed in Christ. For that reason, we do need to remind ourselves “preach the gospel to ourselves” daily. We should do this not because Christ’s obedience makes ours unnecessary, but because his obedience is the grand motivating cause of ours.

    3. God’s people are not glorified yet. We do still have idols that exist in our hearts. What is wrong with asking penetrating [“x-ray”] questions to root out those idols in in our lives?

    4. Though, as believers, we do not continue to be totally depraved since we have been made partakers of the divine nature, we, nevertheless, are absolutely dependent on God’s Spirit for grace and assistance in all our efforts to be more like our redeemer. That assistance flows to us as a direct result of Christ’s finished obedience.

    Please consider the remote possibility that you may be misunderstanding some of what has been written. If you are right about what you think you see, there are corrections that need to be made, but we all need to remember how easy it is to misconstrue the statements of others.

    Randy

  7. pauldohse said, on June 5, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Randy,

    This is good,I love this; this is something we can get our teeth into. I am going to expand on this and post it. For now, I think you are one that would know what scripture references I would use–I will spell it out for others later.

    1.Absolutely not. Christ’s obedience does not, I repeat, DOES NOT, guarantee our obedience.

    2.Absolutely not. I repeat, ABSOLUTELY NOT. “GRATITUDE” is not the ONLY motivation for obedience. Horton is dead wrong!!! God uses reward, punishment,future judgment, promises,blessings,assurance, and many other things to motivate us to good works. Good works WILL NOT save us, but they will bless us as we use them to love our Lord.

    3.Absolutely not. Theology of the Heart is utterly unbiblical. See several articles listed by Dr. Jay E. Adams in the “Infonet Links” section.

    4.I strongly disagree. This one isn’t as absolute; but, the Bible never says that the power to obey flows from Christ’s active obedience while he lived on Earth as a man. He died for our sins; His righteousness is imputed, but He obeyed for the imputation of his obedience to us? Uh, somebodies going to have to show me the money on that one. The Bible says that power comes from the “helper.” I need more study in this area, but I am skeptical that Christ’s perfect life was part of the atonement. I don’t think Christ was the perfect Lamb because he earned the title by living a perfect life–I think He was the perfect Lamb by virtue of who He is and always has been. But more to the point:**It smells like a belief that says that any role or effort on our part in sanctification is adding to justification, so Christ had to impute that to us as well–just our part as born again believers–which is the only thing that makes our role possible to begin with** I am very slow to buy this.

    BUT HERE IS THE REBOUND QUESTION FOR THE GS GANG: IS CHRIST STILL ACTIVELY OBEYING FOR OUR OBEDIENCE? WAS IT ONLY “ACTIVE” FOR THAT TIME WHILE HE WAS ON EARTH AS A MAN? YES OR NO.

    > —–Original Message—– >

  8. Lydia said, on September 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Thank you, Paul. More and more you are proving that their aberrant doctrine does not need a Holy Spirit. And that is the problem.

  9. pauldohse said, on September 1, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Lydia,

    http://wp.me/pmd7S-SI

    > —–Original Message—– >

  10. rseiver1@hotmail.com said, on September 1, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Lydia,

    Can you explain to me why you believe that being sanctified by the gospel obviates the need for the Holy Spirit? In my view, the Holy Spirit leads us more and more to Christ. Jesus said, “He shall testify of me.”

    Randy

  11. Clark Dunlap said, on February 10, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Paul said: 1.Absolutely not. Christ’s obedience does not, I repeat, DOES NOT, guarantee our obedience…
    But randy said His obedience guaranteed our sanctification. Well, you guys seem to be talking past each other. Jesus’ obedience in in this world leading up to and including the cross does guarantee the elect’s sanctification. Rom 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” Rom_5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

    Paul again: 2.Absolutely not. I repeat, ABSOLUTELY NOT. “GRATITUDE” is not the ONLY motivation for obedience…
    OK, now you’re just being picky. I didn’t see him say ONLY. But gratitude is a much higher motivation for obedience than God with a big stick. yes there is room for a healthy fear of the Lord, but Jesus told the Pharisee, who is forgiven much loves much.

    3.Absolutely not. Theology of the Heart is utterly unbiblical. See several articles listed by Dr. Jay E. Adams in the “Infonet Links” section…
    I really appreciate Jay Adams, Strong Calvinist, but the heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it. No, I’m not among the “believers are totally depraved” crowd. Actually this is the first I’ve heard of them. But them I’m not a new Calvinist. I been one for over 20 years. ;-) Anyway, you’re really going to “parse” a confession like Piper’s? Seriously?

    4.I strongly disagree. This one isn’t as absolute; but, the Bible never says that the power to obey flows from Christ’s active obedience while he lived on Earth as a man. He died for our sins; His righteousness is imputed, but He obeyed for the imputation of his obedience to us?
    Jesus actively obeyed in everything including the cross. The power to obey comes from among other things, the indwelling of the Spirit. But why do we have the Spirit? Jesus, and His work on earth.

  12. paulspassingthoughts said, on February 10, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Yawn. Same worn-out arguments defending blatant error/heresy.

  13. Ed said, on August 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    You sir, do not exhibit a Christ-like attitude in your responses to people who were nothing but sincere in their engagement. May the Lord not be as hard on you as you are on them. I am done reading your drivel.

  14. paulspassingthoughts said, on August 24, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Ed,
    Thanks for stopping by with your judgement on judgement. I am yet pondering your holy unction.


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