The True Gospel Verses Calvinism: Part 3
What’s in a name? With “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us,” much. This is the core doctrine of Reformed theology.
Reformed theology puts strong emphasis on the works of Christ to the exclusion of the other Trinity members. In fact, given their concept of “emphasis,” the other members of the Trinity are relegated to insignificance. Reformed theology distorts the Trinity. “Emphasis” is an actual Reformed hermeneutic that has its roots in Gnosticism. Again, let the Reformed scream and cry like alley cats in the night—their theology is deeply rooted in Gnosticism, and if you’re looking for it—it’s easy to see. The very illustration of the two men, one with Christ within, and the other with Christ without, is a Gnostic concept. It’s based on the idea that matter is evil, and spirit is good. That’s why the likes of Piper et al have a problem with “infused grace” as discussed in part 2. The righteousness of Christ (by the way, the Bible always refers to the righteousness of God the Father being imputed to us, not Christ) must always remain outside of us because we are still evil and of the earth. The biblical concept of the new birth flies in the face of Gnosticism. This is at the heart of the recent “Jesus in my heart” controversy of late.
“Centrality” makes Christ (or “gospel”) the key to all truth and relegates all else to insignificance. This clever Gnostic concept enables Reformed academics to agree that something is indeed truth, but insignificant. And in fact, if the insignificant is emphasized, it is an aberration of the truth because a “good thing is being emphasized, but not the BEST thing.” Which is always Christ and the gospel. This comes from the Gnostic concept that reality cannot be seen through the material world, but must be obtained through the spirit world. Matter, and the objects thereof are shadows of reality, or inferior copies of reality and goodness. Life is experienced via the “two worlds” with a minority having insight into the world of reality. Plato, the father of Gnosticism, believed that philosophers who had (through striving) come to see spiritual things, should rule over the masses who function in the shadows of reality.
Reformed theology merely makes “the gospel” that reality, and everything else “shadows.” And they aren’t even ambiguous about it. This concept is a major theme of Rick Holland’s book, “Uneclipsing The Son.” Holland is a former associate of John MacArthur who wrote the Forward to said book. MacArthur’s statements in the Forward are nothing short of shocking:
Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts….The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (emphasis added). We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.
This, of course, is not the truth, and gives license to acknowledging the other two members of the Trinity and the new birth as truth while rendering them insignificant due to “emphasis.” In Gnosticism, emphasizing the shadows over the life giving sun is to emphasize a mere reflection or inferior copy of the truth. Hence, challenges by Holland/MacArthur associates like Pastor Steve Lawson to “come out from the shadows” are no mere coincidental use of words. Major Reformed ministries of our day have “Between Two Worlds” and “Between Two Spheres” (well- known Gnostic themes) as their major themes. Am I here right now? What could be more obvious?
According to Gnosticism, all reality (objective truth) is outside of man, and in another realm. Reformed theology merely makes Christ and the gospel the totality of all reality in the other world. Like Gnosticism, the gospel is deemed a higher knowledge that can’t be obtained by observing the shadows of the gospel, but the gospel itself must be meditated on to obtain the higher knowledge. That is why the importance of “always getting to Christ and the gospel in every passage” is strongly emphasized. On a Reformed website entitled the “Objective Gospel,” there are several videos posted that are lectures from the who’s who of today’s Reformed teachers. In one video, Paul Washer teaches that the gospel is eternal knowledge and can’t be completely known. I am not sure what I can add to that in order to make my point. Reformed teachers are merely Plato’s philosopher kings in my book. The Earth Stove Society, a Reformed think tank for New Covenant Theology, states the following in regard to tenet number one of New Covenant Theology:
New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and redemption. New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality [emphasis mine].
Outside of Us
According to Gnosticism, man cannot possess goodness because he is of the material world. This is why 1st century Gnostics taught that Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh and continually drove the Apostles nuts. The New Testament is replete with contentions against Gnosticism. Hence, Reformation theology rejects the idea that Christians change for the better. The cross illustration in part 2 should make that case. This Reformed concept is articulated well by Reformed pastor/blogger Terry Rayburn:
There are several problems with that essentially Legalistic view of Sanctification, as reflected in the following observations:
1) Our flesh cannot get better. In Romans 7:18 Paul wrote, “For I know that NOTHING good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…” Your flesh cannot be improved. Flesh is flesh, and spirit is spirit.
2) Our new nature, on the other hand cannot get better, because it has already been made new and perfect through regeneration. We have been given a “new heart” (new nature, or new spirit), and not a defective one, which would be absurd. This new spirit has been made “one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17), such that when we “walk according to the Spirit” (i.e., the Holy Spirit), we also walk according to our own new spirit.
3) Those who deal with Sanctification by zeroing in on so-called “Progressive” Sanctification as the main point of Sanctification, are at best in Kindergarten.
Therefore, if one carefully examines the words used by Reformed teachers, they rarely, if ever state specifically that we actually change as born again people. If we are totally depraved, how can we really change? Obviously, we can’t. Therefore, when Reformed academics seem to say that we change, that’s not what they really mean. “Spiritual Transformation” is the term most often used. Or, “Christ is formed in you.” In other words, we somehow manifest a spirit realm without really changing ourselves. Admittedly, I do not have the Reformed details of how this works nailed down completely, but without a doubt, the answer will be found in a deeper understanding of Gnosticism itself. Again, it’s obvious that the totally depraved do not change.
Reformed theology is a form of Gnostic antinomianism that has plagued the church from the beginning when Satan said to Eve, “Has God really said….,” and claimed to have a higher knowledge called “good and evil.” The goal for the believer is justification—not Paul’s imperative to make it our goal to please God. Pleasing God can’t be the goal because we are not free to aggressively obey and apply the word of God to our lives lest we unwittingly, as discussed in part 2, “make sanctification the ground of our justification.” Reformed theology promises to be a greater danger to the church than any cult would ever dream of. It must be exposed.
Anytime that aggressive sanctification is circumvented, lack of assurance fills the void—the Apostle Peter makes this clear in the first chapter of his second epistle. Also, the world is not impressed with a philosophy of incompetence among God’s people—they will not be convinced that he who fathers the inept can save their souls.
I will finish with a last word on the question by a reader that prompted this three-part article. Part of the question concerned the perseverance of the saints. This, of course, is tied closely with the subject of assurance. Unfortunately, false assurance or lack thereof will be rampant in Reformed circles because of the circumvention of free and aggressive sanctification. Like many other aspects of the Christian life, perseverance is a joint colaboring with God. The effort is many faceted. First, God promises to keep us (Jude 24). But that doesn’t mean we have no role in the process. God’s commands are to us, not the Holy Spirit. Secondly, God controls circumstances in order to prevent us from falling (John 18:4-9, 1Cor. 10:13). This indicates that theoretically we could fall away, but He intervenes in circumstances so that we are able to bear it. So, whatever he allows to happen—we can bear it. Thirdly, applying the word of God to our lives builds up our ability to persevere (James 1:2, but especially Matthew 7:24-27). Fourthly, God encourages us by promising rewards for perseverance (James 1:12, Rev. 2:26). But much more could be added here. God’s word and its life applications are deep and rich—not narrow according to Reformed theology.
Lastly, Reformed theology is works salvation by antinomianism, and its practical application, what there is of it, is Gnosticism. The Apostle Paul said that if anyone comes preaching another gospel, “let them be accursed.” And I say amen to that, and I really don’t care what their names are.