New Calvinist Calvin Wannabes and How Their Polity Is Modeled After Geneva: Part 1
It is clear that the New Calvinist’s use of the Scriptures is typical of the Reformed tradition: it is a narrative concerning the works of Christ that we meditate on, and as we see these works in the Scriptures, those works in some form are imputed to us as manifestations of the living Christ—Christians still being dead/totally depraved.
Searching the narrative to gain a deeper understanding of our sinfulness while observing Christ’s holy works in contrast to our depravity results in a filling of Christ and an effortless, joyful, “mere natural flow” of His (Christ’s) “active obedience” following. Since the Reformed tradition holds to the idea (like many isms of the world) that sanctification finishes/maintains justification, works “in our own efforts” must be separated from the “active obedience of Christ” that maintains justification for us until the supposed one resurrection and the one judgment that determines fitness for heaven.
Hence, whether folks want to swallow the horse pill or not, the Reformed tradition holds to the same basic premise of the vast majority of religions that are of works salvation: the fusion of justification and sanctification. Though they deny it with clever words, what could make this fact clearer than their much touted concept of “the golden chain of salvation”? John Piper even has a sermon warning of how we can “make sanctification the basis of our justification” by not participating in the “links” in just the right way.
Um, true Christians do not participate in any such chain-building via a complicated system that separates “works in our own efforts” with participating in manifestations of Christ’s “active obedience.” Our “chain” was completed before the foundation of the world, and in regard to justification, I could hang out with dancing girls if I chose to because I am no longer “under” the law. However, I “uphold” the law freely as a way to express my love for Christ from a born again redeemed heart, and one day I will love Him perfectly because my mortality will give way to immortality. My efforts in loving the Lord have absolutely nothing to do with justification—the two are separate—one being finished and the other (kingdom living) being a progression of a changed heart in a mortal body. Our colaboring with God in that endeavor cannot mess-up the answer to His call if we truly answered that call. We will start walking like a duck more and more if God has made us one. Granted, ignorance/distortion of God’s perfect law of liberty can make this progression look messy, if not downright carnal. Certainly, the Reformed viewpoint that Christians cannot keep the law for any significant purpose worthwhile to God is not helpful.
Furthermore, Reformed theology also confuses uses of the law that are mostly common sense issues. No, we do not stone rebellious children, but the fact that at one time God commanded it should clearly indicate what His attitude toward it is, and this should be instructive: take adolescent misbehaving seriously—in contrast to the approach of American culture concerning this same issue. Were clean and unclean foods a living instructive prop for the eventual inclusion of the Gentiles? Acts chapters 10 and 11 seem to suggest that, at least in part.
New Calvinists enjoy a lot of cover in the way they teach law (Scripture). Primarily, it’s for gospel contemplationism. However, there are two other uses of the law that are secondary: determining church polity, and controlling the totally depraved. The totally depraved sheep are to do four things only: endeavor to follow Reformed elders without question who hold the keys to the mystery of the gospel; endeavor to see their own depravity more and more in order to bring themselves lower and lower (humbleness); endeavor to see the glory of Christ more and more; and finally, to watch the works of Christ in our life unfold without us doing anything to bring about such manifestation for fear of “making sanctification the ground of our justification” which is impossible to do to begin with.
But when the totally depraved sheep stray into the realm of reason and their own ideas, this brings about the third use of the law for Reformed elders: controlling the totally depraved zombie sheep. Not doing so could start a totally depraved zombie sheep stampede instigated by ideas.
This is where contemporary Reformed church polity and Calvin’s protocol for ruling Geneva has uncanny comparisons which will be observed in part 2.