2013 TANC Conference Update: Conference Will Explore New Calvinism’s Relationship to Biblical Counseling
Perhaps the only book in existence that challenges the Protestant Reformation gospel in regard to doctrinal soundness. This book presents its case that the Reformation gospel is progressive justification, and that its major tenets such as total depravity extend to sanctification as well as justification. The total depravity of the saints? The book also explores the Reformation’s impact in regard to understanding the new birth.
Available on Amazon by these sellers: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1616588438
TANC Prediction: The New Calvinists Are in the Process of Forming Their Own Denomination or the Completed Takeover of the SBC is Imminent
Some recent trends have tempted me to partake in a little prognostication. First, the primer for all of this is the brazen disregard for bad press in light of recent sex scandals among the “Gospel-centered” crowd. Look, I know “Gospel-centered” sounds spiritually generic but it’s not. “Gospel-centered” is indicative of a radical worldview that many in the church don’t comprehend. Two-thousand years later, even in the midst of the Information Age, they are propagating an, “underestimated,” “unadjusted,” “scandalous” gospel. That should be your first clue. And indeed, there is plenty of scandal.
This worldview disregards the concept of justice and has an antinomian pedigree. That is causing a significant pushback between this movement and others in the church. That is perhaps the primary catalyst that will provoke some kind of significant separation. Historically, spiritual tyranny ALWAYS follows this movement, and the chickens have come home to roost. Unfortunately, the church has done a poor job of pinpointing this logic and rejecting it beforehand, but the one thing everyone understands is when bad things start happening.
Again, justice isn’t even on the radar screen, but if you want to pay the bills you act like it’s important. The New Calvinists no longer portend that it is—so something is up in my book. ABWE, which has strong ties to the New Calvinist cartel and its four Dons, “Big Al” Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and CJ Mahaney, just snubbed its nose up at the Evangelical world by firing the feel-good intermediating organization GRACE. The public facts surrounding this scandal, now ten years in the making, has destroyed GARB credibility in the minds of anyone who is not a consummate Kool-Aid drinker. Creditability in the GARB community may no longer be relevant; i.e., a merger with likeminded despots may be in the works. By the way, New Calvinist Dr. William Brown has been fired from GARB enclave Cedarville University. He was the president thereof, and has been temporarily appointed as chancellor to candy-coat the event as much as possible. But there is a serious catfight going on there that is difficult to sort out. Here is one example: http://cedarvilleproblems.com/index-1.htm . But at any rate, it’s not surprising; some kind of fight ALWAYS follows a New Calvinist beast. Always.
The business as usual motif in regard to CJ Mahaney, the Underboss of the Charismatic wing of the New Calvinist cartel, is also striking. As president of SGM, he has been besieged with controversy over sex scandal cover ups and basic run of the mill despot leadership style. His behavior was so outrageous that his cult following at SGM, including his own son-in-law, dismissed him. The cartel bosses in Louisville, Kentucky (home of their front organization, “Together for the Gospel”) partook in an image makeover and had Mahaney reinstalled as president of SGM. The outrageous event squeezed so hard that every bit of integrity oozed out of SGM and several of its member churches jumped ship. Regardless of all of this, including the fact that Mahaney is a defendant in a class action sexual abuse law suit, he is scheduled as the main act in all upcoming cartel conferences. Again, a total in your face- kiss our sanctified booties stance toward the rest of the Evangelical community. This is hard to miss as the Evangelical community at large has launched a petition for CJ to step out of the limelight while the trial flaunts itself in the mainline news media: http://www.causes.com/actions/1730803-an-appeal-to-national-leaders-regarding-c-j-mahaney
But beyond this snubbing of the Evangelical community, take note that Mahaney recently moved the corporate headquarters of SGM to Louisville, Kentucky. This is the home base for Big Al, president of Southern Seminary, and well known as “ground zero” for the New Calvinist movement (Collin Hansen: Young, Restless, Reformed; A Journalist’s Journey With The New Calvinists, chapter four, “Ground Zero: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky”). I mean, I know they are buddies and all, but you just don’t move a whole organization to another city for sentimental reasons. Something is up.
The New Calvinist movement has been hard at work to take over the SBC since 1981. A Presbyterian started Founders Ministries for the express purpose of that agenda. They even printed a manifesto accordingly. Scoff at the conspiracy theory if you must—but it is just plain fact. I document those facts in The Truth About New Calvinism: Its History, Doctrine, and Character. That’s why Southern is “ground zero” for the New Calvinist movement. It is also behind the attempted name change of the convention. If that goes through—it’s over—what the cartel has been working for since a small group of egomaniacs met at the Holiday Inn in Euless, Texas circa 1981 will be complete.
But the Southern Baptist faithful have proven to be a tuff nut to crack. To some degree, the doctrinal illiteracy of Southern Baptists has saved them. It is difficult to deceive people into changing their soteriology when they don’t even understand the difference between justification and sanctification. Southern Baptist New Calvinist heretics like David Platt only end up offending the faithful by dissing the concept of asking Jesus into my heart and reciting the sinner’s prayer. Hence, Southern Baptists don’t disdain New Calvinists because they propagate the false gospel of progressive justification, but because they offend their traditional sensibilities. Perhaps the greatest sin is the New Calvinist absence of Southern Baptist absolution: the alter call that replaced aggressive sanctification long ago.
So, this is down to the wire. The New Calvinist takeover of the SBC is at hand, or these guys are going to start their own gig. They have what’s left of SGM, they have the Passion Movement, they have the Emergent Church for the most part, the biblical counseling culture, and many Presbyterian churches as well. This is a gargantuan mass of time tested Kool-Aid drinking humanity. They no longer need to feed off of the Evangelical community. But what is immensely sad is the fact that we have ignorantly funded the cause while ignoring the muffled cries of those buried alive in the backyard.
I would also like to throw something else into my prognostic stew. John Piper recently “retired” from his pastorate at the Bethlehem temple. Do we really think he is going to retire to a life of seashell hunting in Florida? Yes, I know, he’s not beyond such hypocrisy, but it’s still highly doubtful. Trust me; he’s moving on to something bigger—much bigger. But what? I know where I would put my money if I had to.
This is all going somewhere because history always repeats itself. This movement has died five times since its conception in Geneva, and it will die again. It’s getting more and more difficult to suck the blood out of churches that the movement has covertly taken over because of the internet and those pesky discernment bloggers. For the first time since 1972, New Calvinists are being fingered in the pastoral interview process. The gig is up. There is not much more to pilfer in the Evangelical church at large, so they will separate.
But that will be the beginning of the end. Progressive justification always implodes. Progressive justification is like the lollypop knives Eskimos use to kill wolves. Fitting. Christians do not grow by staying at the foot of the cross. We do not grow by feeding on the gospel of first importance that saved us. Children in adult bodies will eventually devour themselves. It’s already happening: in all major wings of the New Calvinist movement there have been scandals that have made national headlines. It’s time for them to prove that bastard Semi-Pelagian evangelicals are to blame. If only they were not held back by the zombies of synergistic sanctification. If only they were not defiled by those who believe Jesus is a precept and unable to see His astounding personhood! Why, we don’t even know what Jesus’ favorite color is! Away with those who will not be wowed by what Jesus did rather than anything we can do! Ahhmen.
One way or the other, regardless of how wrong or right my prediction is, something is going to give. Every day, the Evangelical community is gaining a clearer picture of what’s going on. But if they do start their own denomination, the scene would be to die for. The Star Wars bar scene could not hold a light-sabre to it.
We must remember that the Dark Ages were a European thing. And we must remember that Greco-Roman philosophy was the source and then it was turbocharged with the integration of European style religiosity. European religion has always been grounded in Plato’s disdain for humanity. Hence, one philosopher stated well that faith and force together are the destroyers of the modern world. One of the most notable historians of our time, K.R. Popper, fingered Plato specifically in regard to the logic that has wreaked havoc on Western culture through Communism, Islam, Catholicism, and Reformed theology. Augustine, one of the fathers of the Reformation, called Plato a pre-Christian Christian, and the juggernaut of faith and force was thus born.
And primarily, American religion was imported from Europe via the Puritans who were a European style religious political sect. They wanted to create a theocracy of their own in the new world. That’s the “religious freedom” they sought in America—a political one. Ironically, this importation of a European pandemic is romanticized by the Thanksgiving holiday. Somehow, deep in our evangelical American psyche, we think the Puritans could have led us to the religious utopia that we all lust for. And in-fact, deep in our evangelical psyches, we think the war still rages between our Puritan foundations and the evils of Enlightenment philosophy. And if Enlightenment philosophy would surrender, all would be well and the heavenly Jerusalem would finally come down to Earth.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Enlightenment thought, even with its many abhorrent shortcomings, launched America to unprecedented greatness as a nation because of three basic principles that God agrees with: man is free; man is capable; and man is responsible for the sum and substance of his own life before God. Men “small and great” will all stand before God. Plato’s philosopher kings do not stand before God in our stead regardless of the priestly garb that the Reformers have adorned them with.
In the movie, Moneyball, based on a true story, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team set all time league records with a meager budget and has-been players by breaking tradition with the ways big league teams have always been built. The player’s manager of the team was against the plan, and was a constant hindrance to its implementation. But when the Oakland A’s became the talk of the sports world because of the plan, the player’s manager got all of the credit. In the same way, the manager of American Christianity, the one of 95 Theses fame, Martin Luther, is given credit for America’s greatness. God has blessed America because of the Puritan missionary children that he spawned. Their roots are the lifeblood of America. We were “founded on their Christian principles.” This is a significant departure from reality.
Luther despised reason. He believed that reasoning was a dangerous stunt that the unenlightened masses shouldn’t try at home. And because they are not capable, they have to be protected from themselves; hence, neither are they free. To the degree that we are free the world is in a spree. Man must be saved from himself; by force if necessary, and for the good of the world. Martin Luther to the rescue. Stalin to the rescue. Muhammad to the rescue. The Moral Majority to the rescue. And on every Thanksgiving Day, deep, deep in our American psyche, a small still voice cries out: “Oh but for the Puritans! What could we be?” It’s all the same logic. You can dress it up in different doctrines, but it’s all the same. Logic comes in many doctrinal forms—both secular and religious.
The founding fathers of this country were children of the Enlightenment era. Until America popped up on the history radar screen, force and faith was the big league tradition. Our founding fathers proposed something different: government as the protector of man’s right to be free, capable, and responsible. And a government that served at the pleasure of the people to do so. It is a testimony to the power that is displayed when merely three ideas from God are implemented in our realty. Three ideas from God made America the envy of all world history. In the end, the motif that any child can perceive in the book of Revelation will fill the world with blood up to the horse’s bridles: force and faith. To what is said here, the proffers of force and faith, the Reformed of our day, answer in all of their Puritan glory, “I beg your pardon! Jesus Christ should be the envy of the world!” But which Jesus Christ? The Puritan Jesus Christ? And enlightened minds want to know: “Are we free to decide that for ourselves?” And: “Are we capable of even knowing that?” We fear that the answer to both of these questions is, “No.” And that is why giving you power in our lives at any level is a really bad idea.
Hence, To the degree that the Reformed Dark Age feigns, darkness in the American church does rein. And we are in that Dark Age. It came in essence as logic stowed away in the Mayflower’s diseased European rats bringing the same plague with it. I could drag out all of the apocalyptic data and its many faceted manifestations, but a recent televised top of the hour newscast introduction will suffice:
Here we go again, another sex scandal in the Evangelical church.
You notice they said, “Evangelical” and not “Catholic.” Anybody that knows the facts knows that sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-ups are just as prevalent in the Protestant Evangelical Church as it is in the Catholic Church. The scandals are the same, and the silence among clergy is the same, along with the same disregard for victims. Different doctrines—same logic—same results. Logic always has an endgame; there are many different doctrines that can get you there.
But the American Dark Age takes on a different appearance than the open fires of European religious wars and unspeakable terrors for it is tempered with freedom, capability, and responsibility. In the same way that God’s spies found refuge with a harlot, the American church has been saved from itself by Enlightenment thought. The result has been Reformed Light, and the carnage has been greatly limited. The European Reformers believed that children should be seen and not heard; American Reformed Light allows their children to play in a sandbox. Children are happier when they have a sandbox to play in, and they can form all kinds of ideas in what they make in the sand. But when it is time for dinner, it’s also time to put our little buckets and shovels away, run to the dinner bell, and obey mommy and daddy. They protect us from truth that can cause division because we are unable to handle truth, and they make truth a storybook that we can understand. They read it to us at night, and we are much comforted. We can pretend in the backyard, and we feel safe because mommy is watching from the kitchen window.
But the children of Reformed Light do not grow up. For certain, the American church is every bit like grown adults playing in a sandbox. The real Reformers now come forward and scoff at the pathetic sight, and say they are the answer. Yes, not playing with ideas at all must be the answer. Adults in a sandbox is not the problem, the sandbox is the problem. Sandboxes tempt people to play with truth. The Reformers to the rescue—those half breed Semi-Pelagian parents be damned.
Children in adult bodies will always rape, hate, pillage and steal. It is what it is: spiritually, they were born slaves, born incapable, and born irresponsible. Reformed theology is a bus of misfits, but all believe that it is the only bus going to heaven—the bus of faith alone in Puritan sanctification. All kinds are on the bus, but the tie that binds is womb to the tomb total depravity.
Some do not persevere in accepting their total depravity and the total depravity of others. Some do not trust God’s anointed to get the bus of misfits to heaven, so an Inquisition is needed. The European Reformers used the gallows and the burning stake (if the victim was lucky), brainwashing, and orthodoxy. The American Reformers can use brainwashing and orthodoxy, but because of the founding fathers, the American Reformers must replace the gallows and burning stake with character assassination, authority to condemn eternally, and false criminality. And all of the aforementioned paints the portrait of the present-day American Dark Age in the church. There is a little medal plate on the bottom of the spectacular painting hanging in the gallery of human history, and it reads:
Here we go again.
The Bible is written for mass consumption. All Bible books save a few were written to assemblies and not leadership. God has also written his word on the hearts of every person ever born into the world (Romans 2:14). We are all responsible before God, free to obey Him or not Obey Him, and obviously, must exercise our minds for understanding. We also live in the information age; so, if man was without excuse in the days of the apostolic church (Romans 2:1) we are certainly without excuse today.
Nations, particularly the USA, have used heavy bombers to drop propaganda leaflets on cities before an invasion or in an attempt to turn the population at large against the enemy leadership. Each bomb usually weighs about 250 lbs. and rains about 60,000 leaflets on a given area. During the Iraq/US war, leaflet bombings resulted in the mass surrender of Iraqi soldiers. In the same way, regardless of what’s going on in the world, God has a message of truth for every person. Invariably, it is man’s responsibility to do what God wants him to do in any given situation.
God has given the truth to all men, and only the truth will set us free. We need to pick up the leaflet and surrender to the Chief Shepherd. The Reformation is responsible for this present Dark Age in the American church. It is a doctrine that must be rejected with prejudice, and we must disdain anything that has touched its filthy garments.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Christian Husbands and Fathers Will Be Held Accountable for Leading Their Families in Calvinism’s False Gospel
I see a significant laxness towards doctrinal issues in regard to where one goes to church, especially from husbands, and fathers. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15)” is now, But as for me and my household, we will follow the elders. Certainly, the church has never been fuller of mindless, man-following, wimpy husbands.
Husbands are supposed to be like Christ. Christ washes His church in the water of truth. Yes, I know the womenfolk can think for themselves. Here at PPT/TANC, it is mostly women who show theological aptitude in our correspondence with friends of the ministry. Nevertheless, Ephesians chapter five makes it clear that men are responsible for leading their families in truth—not alone, but they are certainly to be in the lead or at least a co-lead for crying out loud. And by the way, elders are nowhere to be found in Ephesians five. Men, Reformed elders have NO authority in your home, period! YOU, and you alone are the pastor of your home. And if you are mixing it up with some Reformed elders who do not get that (and few do), take this advice from someone who learned the hard way: go to your local police station and get a restraining order based on stalking laws, and then notify the local press that you have done so.
Christ said that those who learn His truth and apply it to their lives, and teach others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19). But many husbands in our day want to be great in the eyes of pompous philosopher kings. Christ warned that the LEAST of His commandments were not to be “relaxed.” Many pathetic, spiritually effeminate husbands in our day allow their families to attend Reformed churches that teach the following:
1. Progressive justification.
2. Gospel contemplationism.
3. The complete eradication of self-worth and confidence in applying God-given talents to life.
4. Elder absolution.
5. “Community” as the focal point of all life in Christ.
6. Elder intermediate interpretation of the Bible.
Basically, they have relinguished total control of their families to sectarian brute beasts. They would do anything that a Reformed elder told them to do, and often do so accordingly. Look, we deal with this. Even husbands who leave Reformed circles have a sort of Stockholm syndrome. They are full of fear, and their life is in turmoil just because they asked a few questions. I correspond with people who are in these groups and are afraid to leave. They are clearly brainwashed, but a consistent comment is, “The leadership doesn’t like to be questioned.” We have even offered asylum to one person in the form of housing, work, and legal counsel. Huh? Right, these groups, i.e., New Calvinism, use “biblical counseling” to gather data on people and then clearly use that information to control them. This is commonplace in the movement. Unless you want a couple of hundred people knowing about sin that you have repented of when you are “brought up before the congregation”—you will play ball the way the elders want you to. Or else.
Doctrinal discrepancy is reason enough, but many husbands relinquish their responsibility before God to lead their home and support this tyranny with their money. After all, not tithing can get you brought up on church discipline in these churches. This is yet another thing that is becoming commonplace as this Reformed movement grows unhindered and unquestioned.
But I have to believe that there will be a day of reckoning, and doctrinal ignorance will be no excuse.
5:1—Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
I. Calvinism teaches that we are also sanctified by faith alone. The same faith alone that justified us also sanctifies us.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
II. Calvinism teaches that trouble serves to better show us our weakness in order that the gospel be glorified (made bigger while we are made smaller). Verses 3-5 state the opposite. Remember, Calvinism teaches that all reality is the understanding of our sinfulness (as Christians) as set against God’s holiness.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
III. Verse eight clearly states “sinners” in the past tense. This refers to being under the dominion of sin which is synonymous with being “under the law” (Romans 6:14). We are no longer under the bondage of sin as Christians. Calvinists clearly teach that we are.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
IV. Not all, but a large vein of Calvinists believe that Christ’s death alone did not justify us, but He also lived a perfect life that is imputed to our sanctification in order to complete justification. We were justified by His death and resurrection alone (Romans 4:24, 25).
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
V. In Calvinism, the receiving of the atonement must be maintained by faith alone in sanctification. We are not sealed by the resurrection of Christ or the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, Romans 5:10).
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
VI. One reason that Christians cannot be called sinners is because there is no law in which to judge our just standing. We were justified APART from the law (Romans 3:21). In Calvinism, the fact that the law is still the standard for our justification is abundantly clear. The law informs our sanctification, but is APART from our justification (Galatians 4:21). The law is APART from our justification, but it is the truth we obey in sanctification (Galatians 5:, 6,7).
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
VII. This clearly contradicts the Calvinist view that we are also justified by the life Christ lived. Clearly, we were justified by “one act.”
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
VIII. Again, “under the law” only increases sin because we are in bondage to it and death reins accordingly. We are “under grace” were righteousness reins. That doesn’t mean the “old man” that was put to death does not get the upper hand from time to time. But that sin cannot be counted against our justification because we are no longer “under the law” (Romans 6:6), and because we are born again of God’s seed (1John 3:9), it is really not we who are sinning (Romans 7:20).
“In that Disputation, Luther postulates Pope Gregory’s take on the gospel which is the exact same calling card of present-day New Calvinism.”
“Powlison points to Pope Gregory and Augustine as the pioneers of biblical counseling using a ‘Christ-centered,’ ‘full gospel’ approach. And what was that approach?”
Let’s just take one contemporary example: a Presbyterian church that is now a mere shell of what it was; the remains of a war over the arrival of a New Calvinist pastor who exhibited outrageous behavior and leadership style. Today, some parishioners stand dumbfounded that the Presbytery took positive steps to keep said pastor in place.
As TANC, our newly formed think tank that researches Reformed theology continues to journey into church history for answers, the reasons for present-day tyranny in the church become clearer every day. First, it is driven by the gospel that founded the Reformation. Simply put, it is a gospel that does not believe that people change, but are rather called to contemplate the saving works of Christ in order for His righteousness to be manifested in one of two realms. Whether Baptist, Methodist, or whatever, this Reformed seed, the idea that people really don’t change is at the core of their function though they would deny it verbally. The Western church as a whole buys into this basic concept.
Secondly, the basic concept of spiritual elitists ruling over the totally depraved. You know, the they really can’t change crowd. The Reformation clarion call of total depravity—what’s our second clue if we need one? The spiritual is accessed through the chief contemplationists, and since they have the dope directly from God, they should rule over the totally depraved. Look, I have been a Baptist since 1983, and this is how it works. Again, we wouldn’t verbalize that, but to some degree it is true of all Western denominations because we are the children of the Protestant Reformation. What were we protesting? Naughty philosopher kings; past that, not much.
If we don’t change, the church doesn’t either. Think about that. And we wonder why things are a mess. Apparent growth in numbers is being driven by something else other than a true gospel. And the Reformers deny that while pontificating total depravity. It is testimony to the depth of which this Protestant construct has dumbed down the average parishioner; i.e., the totally depraved change. And nobody blinks. The assumption is that total depravity only pertains to the unregenerate, but that’s not the case according to the Reformed gospel and its time for people to start doing the math on that. The “Nones” and the massive exodus from the evangelical church is taking place for a reason.
I’m not ready to declare Pope Gregory the Great the father of the Reformation and present-day New Calvinism just yet, but recent discoveries reveal some things that should be fairly obvious. We aren’t stupid, just trusting, and that needs to end. Christians need to take advantage of the information age and start studying for themselves as the Christian academics of our day refuse to be forthcoming. They didn’t forget to mention that sola fide is also for sanctification. They didn’t forget to mention the total depravity of mankind AND the saints. They didn’t forget to mention that the new birth is a realm and not something that happens in us—it’s deliberate deception because the Reformed gospel is “scandalous.” The totally depraved are not “ready” for what the enlightened class of philosopher kings understand. By the way, many seminary students will testify to the fact that they are told as much by their seminary professors. Seminaries are where you go to be certified for the purpose of ruling over the totally depraved in order to, in Al Mohler’s words, “save them from ignorance.” Sorry, I prefer to let the Bible and Google save me from ignorance. Thank goodness for the Gootenberg press.
Monks. That’s what we are missing here. Martin Luther. Ever heard of him? He was a monk. What is the very premise on monkism? It’s the idea that the spiritual is obtained by contemplationism. And monkism is not unique to the Catholic Church—it is the link from the Catholic Church to the ancient concept of mystic dualism. Though it pans out in various different ways, it’s the idea that matter is evil and spirit is good. In other cases, it holds to the idea that both good and evil are necessary to understand true reality. Good defines evil, and evil defines good. The more you understand both, the more “balance” you have in the universe. Then there is the goal to birth the spiritual into the physical through meditation/contemplationism. Like I said, there are many takes on the basic approach.
Monks believe that the physical or world realm is a distraction from the spiritual realm. In some cases, they believe that all matter is merely a form of the perfect, or spiritual. Hence, monasteries. Traditionally, monasteries have been clearing houses for the dope from God through contemplationism. And since they have the dope, they should rule the totally depraved for their own good. In some spiritual caste systems, the monks rule directly, in others like the Catholic Church, the monks are the Scribes and Prophets for the rulers; i.e., the Popes.
The fact that monkism would be part and parcel to any doctrine formulated by Martin Luther is a no-brainer. Mysticism is simply going to be a significant factor, and so it is with Protestantism. This becomes more apparent when you consider the core four of the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine, and Pope Gregory the Great. Luther’s 95 Theses was a protest against naughty Popes, but he was completely onboard with the Catholic caste system. When his 95 Theses resulted in the unexpected societal eruption that took place, he presented a doctrinal disputation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg. And don’t miss this:
In that Disputation, Luther postulates Pope Gregory’s take on the gospel which is the exact same calling card of present-day New Calvinism. In theses 27 of his Disputation, Luther states the following:
Thus deeds of mercy are aroused by the works through which he has saved us, as St. Gregory says: »Every act of Christ is instruction for us, indeed, a stimulant.« If his action is in us it lives through faith, for it is exceedingly attractive according to the verse, »Draw me after you, let us make haste« (Song of Sol. 1:4) toward the fragrance »of your anointing oils« (Song of Sol. 1:3), that is, »your works.«
There could not be a more concise statement in regard to the New Calvinist gospel. Deeds in the Christian life come from the same acts in which Christ saved us. Secondly, they are not our acts, but the acts of Christ applied to our Christian lives by faith alone. Thirdly, when the works of Christ are applied to our Christian lives by faith alone, it will always be experienced by the exhilarating emotions of first love—this is the mark of Christ’s active obedience being manifested in the spiritual realm through the totally depraved. We “reflect” the works of Christ by faith alone. Even John MacArthur has bought into this nonsense, claiming that obedience to the Lord is “always sweet, never bitter.” Francis Chan states that it always “feels like love.” And of course, poke John Piper’s rhetoric anywhere and this same monkish mysticism comes oozing out.
Moreover, Luther states this same concept from many different angles in his Disputation, and theses 28 is clearly the premise for John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.
No wonder then that New Calvinists of our day sing the praises of Pope Gregory. Here is what heretic David Powlison stated in an interview with Mark Dever’s 9Marks ministry:
Caring for the soul, which we try [try?] to do in biblical counseling, is not new. Two of the great pioneers in church history would be Augustine and Gregory the Great. Even secular people will credit Augustine’s Confessions as pioneering the idea that there is an inner life. Augustine did an unsurpassed job of tearing apart the various ways in which people’s desires become disordered. Gregory wrote the earliest textbook on pastoral care. He pioneered diverse ways of dealing with a fearful person, a brash and impulsive person, an angry person, an overly passive person. He broke out these different struggles and sought to apply explicitly biblical, Christ-centered medicine—full of Christ, full of grace, full of gospel, and full of the hard call of God’s Word to the challenges of life.
Powlison points to Pope Gregory and Augustine as the pioneers of biblical counseling using a “Christ-centered,” “full gospel” approach. And what was that approach? It was primarily contemplationism and dualism. In fact, Gregory practically saw “doing” as a necessary evil. In Roland Paul Cox’s Masters dissertation, Gregory the Great and His Book Pastoral Care as a Counseling Theory, Cox states the following:
The overall theme in Gregory’s dichotomies is balance. It is possible that this comes from Gregory’s own struggles in balancing his desire for the contemplative life of a monk versus his reluctant, but active, service as ambassador to Constantinople and pope.“The Regula Pastoralis was in large part devoted to describing how to reconcile the two types of life. He came to the conclusion eventually that while the contemplative life was the better and more desirable of the two, the active life was unavoidable, and indeed necessary in order to serve one’s fellow man.…There could be no better exemplar of the two lives than Gregory himself, but he would have been less than human had he not from time to time mourned the fact that so much of his time must be given over to the active at the expense of the contemplative” [Jeffrey Richards, Consul of God : The Life and Times of Gregory the Great (London ; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 57.].
Powlison, in true Reformed tradition, invokes the either/or hermeneutic, or the either cross story or glory story hermeneutic of Luther’s Disputation by suggesting that any denial of this “Christ-Centered” approach is a wholesale denial of an “inner life.” In other words, suggesting that doing something should be emphasized as much as contemplationism is paramount to denying that there is an inner life. Such statements by Powlison are indicative of his utter lack of integrity.
In addition, Gregory’s penchant for mystic dualism is seen in the same dissertation:
Gregory’s view of health revolved around balance. In Pastoral Care 34 dichotomies are given. For each one Gregory discusses how either extreme is detrimental. The following are a few examples of Gregory’s dichotomies: poor/rich, joyful/sad, subject/superiors, wise/dull, impudent/timid, impatient/patient, kindly/envious, humble/haughty, obstinate/fickly, and gluttonous/abstemious. Further, Gregory explains how certain traits although they appear to be virtues are in reality a vice. For example, in describing the dichotomy of impatient and patient, Gregory says the following about the patient: “…those who are patient are to be admonished not to grieve in their hearts over what they suffer outwardly. A sacrifice of such great worth which they outwardly offer unimpaired, must not be spoilt by the infection of interior malice. Besides, while their sin of grieving is not observed by man, it is visible under the divine scrutiny, and will become the worse, in proportion as they claim a show of virtue in the sight of men. The patient must, therefore, be told to aim diligently at loving those whom they needs must put up with lest, if love does not wait on patient” [Pastoral Care: pp. 109, 110].
In other words, self-control is a vice. Unless cross-centered love is mystically applied according to Luther’s Disputation (theses 28), the latter evil of self-control is worse than the former sin of being offended since such offences serve to humble us (LHD theses 21).
What goes hand in metaphysical hand in all of this is good ole’ ancient spiritual caste tyranny. As Cox further observes,
Shortly after becoming pope, Gregory wrote Pastoral Care. In addition as pope, he reorganized the administration of the papal states, he maintained papal authority in the face of encroachments from the Patriarch of Constantinople, he established links with the Frankish Kingdoms, and most importantly (for these English writers), he sent a party of monks, led by Augustine, to convert the Anglo-Saxons.
Gregory was very influenced by the Rule of St. Benedict and Benedictine monks who came to Rome after the monastery that St. Benedict founded was burnt. In some letters, Gregory calls his work Pastoral Rule. “There is every reason to assume that Gregory in conceiving the plan for Liber Regulae Pastoralis [Pastoral Rule] intended to provide the secular clergy with a counterpart to this Regula [the Rule of St. Benedict].
….This culture of rulers and emperors also helps explain why Gregory saw Pastoral Care and Pastoral Rule as one in the same. By modern day standards, Gregory would be considered overly authoritarian.
A culture of “rulers and emperors” had precious little to do with it, but rather ancient spiritual caste systems that answered the supposed preordained call of God to control the totally depraved. With the sword if necessary. While many of these systems were based on mythology prior to the 6th century, Plato systematized the idea and gave it scientific dignity. But his trifold theory of soul consisting of king, soldier, and producer called for a sociological counterpart that was a mirror image to fit the need. Sir Karl Raimund Popper, considered the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, fingered Platonism as the primary catalyst for religious and secular tyranny in Western culture. And Plato’s mystic dualism (shadows and forms) added not just a little to the MO of the Reformers. According to church historian John Immel:
Calvin’s Institutes (1530) is the formal systematic institutionalization of Platonist/Augustinian syncretism that refined and conformed to Lutheran thinking and became the doctrinal blueprint for the Reformed Tradition [Blight in the Vineyard: Prestige Publishing 2011].
Christ promised us that He would build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The idea that the Reformers rescued His church from the gates of the Roman Catholic Church is both laughable and the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. The idea that Christ needed, and continues to need the services of Plato’s philosopher kings is arrogance on steroids. Somewhere, God’s church moves forward. Let us shed the Reformed load that hinders and find our place in that true church.
Just a few questions:
1. If you accept the idea that “flesh” and “spirit” refer to parts of regenerate believers rather than to spheres in which people live and by which we are controlled, where does sanctification take place, in the flesh or in the spirit? The same question applies in terms of “old man”/ “new man.” Which of those grows in sanctification?
Answer: This question reflects the fact that the Reformed crowd doesn’t openly discuss what they really believe about this issue, and I commend you accordingly. Authentic Reformed doctrine holds to the idea that the active obedience of Christ is manifested in the “Spirit realm” as a result of what we see in the Bible being imputed to us by faith alone in sanctification (see Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, theses 27). We don’t change. The “Spirit realm” and the “flesh realm” are two forces that put pressure on us, and at any given time, we “yield” to one or the other. This is the position of the elders who are over the NANC training center in Springboro, Ohio according to an email I received from them when they thought I was onboard with their doctrine.
Of course, the take on this varies among those in the Reformed tradition. Another example would be the idea that we are still dead spiritually, and the living Christ within us is the one obeying. What is consistent is the idea that this obedience is experienced in a certain way: joy and a willing spirit (see LHD, theses 27); that’s how we know Jesus is doing it and not us. At any rate, the crux of Reformed theology is that all good works take place outside of the believer; i.e., Luther’s “alien righteousness” for not only justification, but for sanctification as well. Your question is at the very core of debates that took place between heretic Dr. Ed Welch of CCEF and the commendable Dr. Jay Adams.
Jay Adams oversees INS as he was pretty much run out of NANC and CCEF—largely due to the fact that NANC and CCEF are both bastions of evil. I find it utterly intolerable that thousands are sent to these organizations daily with the hope of change when these Reformed organizations in fact don’t believe that God changes them. There are no words for my loathing of such hideous deception while these organizations also take people’s hard-earned money to boot. And some don’t go along with these ideas, but they stand silent and therefore are just as guilty. And my “whole life” is contending against this? Perhaps, but better that than one’s whole life buying acceptance with silence. Moreover, people praise CJ Mahaney and co. for their tireless night and day service to the “gospel” which is really the work of the kingdom of darkness against the kingdom of light. A pity that I would counter that with my own life.
Unfortunately, Adams, who is much more advanced in patience than I am—associates with them, and in my estimation thereby causes confusion regarding the kind of counseling that will change people. Also, the possibility that the only biblical counseling organization left on the face of the earth that is not infected with Trippism and Powlisonism is also a major concern. Nevertheless, Adams and his associate, Donn Arms, are the only ones who have taken a stand against the heretical onslaught taking place in biblical counseling circles which is fraught with mindless followers, lackeys, lovers of filthy lucre, shameless cowards, and lying integrationists. The idea that these people care about any marriage or the wellbeing of any saint is laughable.
But to answer your question completely, I believe the Scriptures are clear that the old self was put to death and no longer has the ability to enslave us to sin. The old self was “under the law” which means that the law provoked him to sin and a final judgment according to the law. As long as we are alive, our mortality has influence over us in regard to the old ways of being under the law, but the enslavement is broken. We are in fact born again, and have a regenerated “law of our mind.” Hence, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The warfare takes place inside of the believer between the law of his mind and the “law of sin.” The apostle makes it absolutely clear: this warfare takes place between my “inner being” and “in my members.” What is clearer? Unless the Bible is a Reformed gospel narrative that isn’t meant to inform our colaboring with God in sanctification. But it is, because we are no longer “under” it for justification, but are informed by it for sanctification. Because the Reformers believe we are still under it, we must continue to live by the gospel that saved us from the law. We are still under it, but Jesus keeps it for us. How this is applied to the Christian life by the Reformers is outright Gnosticism to the core.
Furthermore, the “law of my mind” part of the believer that “delights in the law” in our “inner being” is what grows. Something in us is in fact growing: a host of passages that include 1Peter 2:1-3 make this certain. Really? Jesus isn’t really talking to us when he states, “Well done faithful servant”?
2. Do you believe sanctification occurs completely apart from faith? Do we have everything we need at the point of regeneration, so that further dependence on the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary? It sounds as if that is what you are saying.
Answer: Your question is framed within the confines of the Reformed either/or hermeneutic. Reality is either interpreted through the “glory story,” or the “cross story.” This is the interpretive foundation of Reformed theology as stated in LHD. Because sanctification includes us, it must be by faith alone like salvation or it includes our glory as well. Therefore, where faith is, it must be by faith alone because faith is of God who will not share His glory with another. Therefore, if our doing is involved with sanctification, it must occur completely apart from faith. It must be the glory story, or the cross story. Reformed proponent Gerhard Forde states this in no uncertain terms.
Biblicists reject that metaphysical presupposition with prejudice. We stand with our beloved brother James, whom Luther rejected for obvious reasons, in saying that faith and works are together in sanctification while faith is alone in justification. Luther, and his Reformed minions believe that grace is fused with works apart from our faith when it is faith in the works of Christ alone in sanctification (LHD theses 25).
Also, “Do we have everything we need at the point of regeneration, so that further dependence on the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary?” Again, we see Reformed metaphysics. If any part of our story is in the narrative, it’s semi-Pelagianism and not the cross story. This is a rather simple concept. All of the power that raised Christ from the dead is credited to our account in salvation. The Holy Spirit, our “HELPER” (ESV) “helps” us (that’s what a “helper” does, they “help”) in appropriating the blessings of salvation. He aids us (that’s what a “helper” does, he “aids”). And those blessings are appropriated “IN” (that’s a preposition) the DOING (James 1:25).
3. Do you believe Jesus’ actions are ever to be considered not only as instructional as a pattern for our obedience, but as motivation to imitate him?
Answer: As many have forcefully argued in several articles, especially Presbyterian Pastor Terry Johnson, God uses many different incentives to motivate us other than gratitude and meditating on the salvific works of Christ. This was also Adams’ primary contention against Sonship Theology.
4. Do you see any difference between God’s work in a believer that replaces his need to obey and God’s work in believers motivating them to obey?
Answer: The very question suggests a “need” to “replace (s)” the “need” of a believer to “obey” in sanctification? Of course, a clear distinction is not made regarding….in sanctification or justification? But, NO SUCH NEED EXISTS for sanctification. Our work in sanctification has NO bearing on our justification. The premise of the question is based on faulty Reformed presuppositions.
5. How do you see the Reformed doctrine as teaching that sanctification completes justification?
Answer: They call it a “CHAIN” (The golden chain of salvation-Romans 8:29,30). What’s a “chain”? What happens if you remove the middle links of a “chain” ? It’s not completed—this would seem apparent.
There seems to be some bad news in regard to our “good news” gospel-centered churches: your suffering is good news. The evidence continues to mount: New Calvinism is authentic Reformed doctrine. Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation was/is the foundation of Reformed doctrine. It was the first document after his 95 Theses (six months later) which confronted the bad behavior of his fellow philosopher kings, but his Disputation to the Augustinian Order was his doctrinal theses. By the way, according to Luther himself, his Disputation was heavily influenced by the writings of Pope St. Gregory and St. Augustine.
Like the New Calvinists of our day; no, exactly like the New Calvinists of our day, and according to the Disputation, Luther believed that the laity are not able to draw propositional truth from the Bible. He taught that spiritual knowledge and discernment only serve to inflame the evil desires of people whether they are saved or not. Therefore, God issued the Bible for the sole purpose of self-depravation, or “humbleness.” Knowledge “puffs up,” but what he called the “cross story” humbles—leading to “resurrection.” Luther saw the Christian life as a continual cycle of death and life, or “humbleness” followed by “grace.” ALL other considerations, especially anything to do with ourselves, are the “glory story.” This constant cycle of death and resurrection (humbleness and grace) was his redefinition of the new birth.
Luther defined love as something that seeks need [Theses 28]. Sounds good, no? But that was his only definition of love. Love seeks nothing for itself, but only seeks need. The problem begins in the anthropological fact that the love of good and justice feeds our desires because we desire to see such and experience it. But Luther attributed that notion to Aristotle and rejected it. True life was to be found in the suffering of the cross story only and any other life story that serves to bring us low—leading to resurrection. Any and all suffering in our life identifies us with the suffering of Christ, and leads to His resurrection:
Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53:2, »He had no form of comeliness«, and in 1 Sam. 2:6, »The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.« 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, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.
This depravity, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11:31 says, »If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged by the Lord«. Deut. 32:36 also states, »The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.« In this way, consequently, the unattractive works which God does in us, that is, those which are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit [Theses 4].
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. Thus God »gives grace to the humble« (1 Pet. 5:5), and »whoever humbles himself will be exalted« (Matt. 23:12). The law humbles, grace exalts. The law effects fear and wrath, grace effects hope and mercy. Through the law comes knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20), through knowledge of sin, however, comes humility, and through humility grace is acquired. Thus an action which is alien to God’s nature (opus alienum dei) results in a deed belonging to his very nature (opus proprium): he makes a person a sinner so that he may make him righteous [Theses 16].
The manifest and visible things of God are placed in opposition to the invisible, namely, his human nature, weakness, foolishness. The Apostle in 1 Cor. 1:25 calls them the weakness and folly of God. Because men misused the knowledge of God through works, God wished again to be recognized in suffering, and to condemn »wisdom concerning invisible things« by means of »wisdom concerning visible things«, so that those who did not honor God as manifested in his works should honor him as he is hidden in his suffering (absconditum in passionibus) [Theses 20].
A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
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« (Phil. 3:18), for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross evil and the evil of a deed good. 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 21].
Luther answered the obvious objection to all of this with the following:
Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ [Theses 17].
More and more, this is the Reformed perspective of pastors in evangelical churches. It represents about 90% of the perspective among certified biblical counselors associated with NANC and CCEF. Does it leave any doubt as to why there is so much indifference to abuse and tyranny in our churches?
And excuse me while I shudder—the thought of hurting people being sent to such counselors by the thousands on a daily basis.
Bob is on his way to Jerry’s house for dinner. Bob is the chairman of their church’s elder board. Jerry is being considered for eldership and Bob will be dinning at his house for a pre-interview en lieu of further discussion. Pizza is the cuisine. And apparently, not just on this night—Bob notes that every trashcan in the house is stuffed with pizza boxes. Dishes full of M & Ms also adorn many of the table tops. Bob is taken to the kitchen by Jerry to meet his wife, and Bob perceives no less than twenty-five bags of potato chips staked about in various places. One corner of the kitchen is occupied with a tall stack of Coca-Cola 12packs. Big on taste—small in nutrition.
Precious few will disagree that Bob’s family is headed for serious health problems if they do not change their ways. But yet, Bob is a picture of how the vast majority of Christian husbands oversee the spiritual diets of their families. However, the “Bob” motif falls woefully short of making the point; at least Bob knows what his family is eating for better or worse. Christian husbands of our day don’t even know the difference between Redemptive Historical hermeneutics and Grammatical Historical hermeneutics. In fact, when the subject comes up, a rolling of the eyes follows.
That’s because the preaching/teaching is awesome where they go to church. Uncompromising, and God glorifying. As one pastor exhorted me when inquiring about what hermeneutic he used in his preaching: “Come and see if it tastes good, and if you still want to, we will talk about theology.” But I never doubt it will taste good. Who doesn’t love pizza for dinner, potato chips as a side, Coke to drink, and M&Ms for desert?
Fact is, nearly 90% of preaching/teaching in today’s American church is fundamentally based on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation. This document is the very heart of the Reformation and the engine that drives the present-day New Calvinist movement. Its premise was based on the idea that all spiritual reality, wisdom, and truth comes from the combination of two perspectives, and only these two: the holiness of God, and the wretchedness of all men whether they are Christians or not. Luther called this perspective the “theology of the cross.” It has come to be known as Gospel-Centered preaching/teaching. It is also the foundation of the Calvin Institutes. Everything in the Calvin Institutes, in some way, points to the glory of God “as set against our sinfulness.”
This has become job one: as described in the Heidelberg Disputation; this way of teaching is the “cross story,” and all other spiritual wisdom is the “glory story.” Hence, the contemporary clarion call of the Reformation derived from Luther’s Disputation is, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. Anything at all that has anything to do with us is “subjective,” and part of the “glory story.” Unless it concerns our wretchedness. Therefore, the Disputation ridiculed a negative attitude towards suffering as well for this serves to further reveal our woeful state in life which magnifies the redemptive work of Christ and our utter worthlessness. The whole motif can be visualized by the following Reformed chart:
Yes, you can preach wonderful sermons on those two dimensions. They are both abundantly true. Charles Spurgeon is known as the “prince of preachers.” All of his sermons are based on the “cross story.” All, I repeat “all” of John Piper’s sermons and the (seems like) 600 books he has written are based on nothing but, I repeat, nothing but the “cross story.” Amen, pass the potato chips. In circa 1994, John MacArthur abandoned the “glory story” aspects of his preaching and now focuses on the “cross story.” Amen, pass the M&Ms. And those babies slide down nice with a big swig of Coca-Cola.
“But Paul, what’s so sweet about focusing on our own wickedness?” My dear friend, haven’t you seen any Staples commercials? It’s easy. You totally stink. Nothing is expected of you: “Hey honey! Good news! We don’t change! Our marriage isn’t about a bunch of do’s and don’ts! Our failures make us wiser!” That was easy. In fact, teachers like Michael Horton and John Piper continually espouse the idea that expectations are just, “more bad news.” And regarding leaders? “Alright, time to prepare my message for tomorrow, and all I have to do is look for two things, and two things only in the text: how great God is, and how bad we are.” That was easy. In fact, we find the following on a well-known Reformed blog regarding instruction on how to prepare a Bible lesson:
At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.
Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is.
But as the apostle asked rhetorically, “What saith the Scriptures?” Is there another story other than the “cross story”? Anybody interested in the House on a Rock story?
Matthew 7:24 -“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Learn and do. That’s how we have a life built on a rock. It is the very definition of a disciple:
Matthew 19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, here is my suggestion. When you go to church this Sunday, and other days following that involve sitting under the teachings of your leaders, take a legal pad with you. Draw a line at a downward angle on the bottom labeled, “our sin.” Draw a line at the top with an upward angle, and label it “Christ.” Then draw a line in the middle and label it, “What? Why? And How?” Or, “Not only what Jesus did, but what did He SAY?” Or simply, “Life built on a rock.” If there isn’t a three-dimensional balance—get out of there. You either love your family or you don’t. You will be judged by Christ accordingly.
I was approached by my wife Susan this morning. My son by marriage had approached her asking questions about demonology. Apparently, he had questions concerning some things he had heard about the subject in the secular realm. I was astonished; though both of them have been in church for a combined total of 72 years, they didn’t even know the basics regarding this subject. My wife wanted to know the answers to his questions—other than the usual answers: “Jesus” and “gospel.”
And if we don’t know, the world will gladly inform our children accordingly. Knowledge equals authority.
Men, wake up.
This ministry has made much of the critical importance of separating justification (salvation) and sanctification (growth in holiness, or kingdom living). The Reformed (Calvin/Luther Reformation doctrine/gospel) “never separate, but distinct” doublespeak doesn’t cut it in the arena of truth, and we will see why. “Never separate” =’s false gospel. If you get a little lost in the first part of my argument which gives the lay of the land, don’t worry, when I get into the specific Scriptural argument, it will clear things up and make it all come together for you.
It must delight the ghosts of the Reformation that the argument has always been in the arena of freewill verses predestination. Itis the primary thrust of this ministry to change that argument. This isn’t a quibbling about semantics in the mainstream—this is about the truth of the gospel. As New Calvinist Russ Kennedy once thundered from the pulpit in his mousy voice: “Any separation of justification and sanctification is an abomination!”
I have often argued from the standpoint of this issue. If sanctification is the middle of the Reformed “golden chain of salvation” then sanctification is part of finishing justification. This means that what happens in sanctification determines whether or not justification is properly finished. What’s a chain? John Piper even preached a message about the eternal importance of our contribution to the “links” in just the right way. In essence, sanctification becomes a spiritual minefield.
This is exactly the same thing that the Reformed crowd has always accused Rome of: the fusing together of justification and sanctification. However, as we shall see, they are both guilty of the exact same heresy/false gospel. As we shall see, both teach that sanctification finishes justification.
This is a linear gospel (one unified chain from salvation to resurrection (glorification) verses a parallel gospel with salvation on one plane as a finished work before the foundation of the world, and kingdom living that runs parallel with the finished work and reflects the reality of our salvation until glorification. Typical in the linear gospel is the idea that Christ died for all of our past sins, but we must now finish the work (with the Holy Spirit’s help [sanctified works salvation]) until glorification when we are completely transformed into complete holiness. This is the often heard bemoaning of “Christ PLUS something.”
An excellent example is some strains of Freewill Baptists who teach that Christ died for all of our past sins, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we must confess and repent of every sin we commit until the resurrection; e.g., Christ plus salvation by repentant prayer for sins committed after we are “saved.” My grandparents were saved out of this tradition. When my grandfather asked my grandmother if she thought that God could ever forgive him of all the sins he committed, she answered: “Yes, but you are going to have to pray awful hard!” Praise God that through the ministry of several individuals my grandparents eventually abandoned that gospel for the true one of salvation by faith alone as a finished work.
Likewise, Rome teaches that you must let the Catholic Church finish your justification through ritual; e.g., Christ plus Catholic ritual. The Reformation gospel is also Christ plus something else, but the something else is ever-so subtle. In both cases, sin must be dealt with in sanctification in order for the saint to remain justified until the final judgment. In other words, the righteous standard of justification must be maintained on our behalf. Like all other proponents of a linear gospel, the Reformed crowd contends that anything less than the perfection demanded of the law (“all sin is transgression of the law”) is “legal fiction.” So both Rome and the Reformers agree: justification must be maintained by sanctification, and in the case of the Reformers specifically, they believe that the perfect standard of the law must be maintained until glorification; otherwise, our justification is “legal fiction.”
Here is where Reformed subtlety is uncanny: Christ keeps the law for us in sanctification. He maintains the perfect standard. All the fruit of sanctification (obedience/good works) flows from the life He lived on Earth and His death on the cross. Christ plus the works of Christ to finish salvation. “But Paul, what in the world is wrong with that!” Here is what is wrong with it: works are still required to maintain justification. That is a huge problem, even if it is Christ doing the work. What did the Hebrew writer say about Christ’s work for justification not being complete?
Problematic is the idea that Christ is still working to maintain our justification and worse yet, those works flow from his death on the cross! Again, this has eerily similar elements to what the Hebrew writer warned against.
And even more subtle is the following Reformed idea: believing that the law is no longer a standard for maintaining justification is antinomianism. Antinomianism =’s legal fiction. Their definition of antinomianism is the removal of the law from justification as the standard for maintaining it. Traditionally, among Biblicist, antinomianism is the removal of the law from sanctification, and herein lays even further steroidal subtlety: the Reformed theologians would refute a removal of the law from sanctification as well, not only because they think justification and sanctification are the same thing, but because its perfect keeping is required to maintain a true declaration of the just that is not “legal fiction.” This would have been right down Calvin’s alley because he was an attorney.
However, the Biblicist believes that the law is a standard for kingdom living and is no longer a standard for justification. Therefore, if we attempt to obey it with the Holy Spirit’s help, and to please/serve the Lord, it can have no bearing on our just state. While the Biblicists think they are therefore joint contenders with the Reformers against antinomianism, such is far from the truth. The Reformed mind believes the Biblicist is either a legalist or an antinomian, or both. The Biblicist is supposedly an antinomian because he/she has removed the law from justification as a just standard, or is a legalist because they think they should strive to keep the law in sanctification. Since sanctification finishes justification’s perfect standard of law keeping, our “own” attempts to keep the law in sanctification is an attempt to finish justification. Hence, what the Biblicist fails to understand is the Reformers belief that Christ must maintain the law for us in sanctification because justification and sanctification are not separate. Anything more or less is supposedly works salvation.
On the other hand, because it is vital that Christ obeys the law for us in sanctification, the likes of John Piper and Tullian Tchividjian contend that those who are really preaching the Reformed gospel will indeed be accused of antinomianism. All in all, their position is easy to see if you pay attention. John Piper and many other Calvinists often state that, “Good works are the fruit of justification.” And, “Justification is the root, and sanctification is the fruit.”
Well, the average Biblicist then thinks, “Yes, but of course, our salvation makes good works in sanctification possible.” But that’s not what they are saying. If you pay closer attention, they are saying that justification is a tree that produces its own fruit. Justification is the root, and whatever happens in true sanctification is the fruit of the root of the justification tree. Problem is, justification doesn’t grow. Justification is a finished work. What Calvinists refer to as “progressive sanctification” is really the fruit of the root: progressive justification. Another name for this that they throw around is “definitive sanctification.” The word “definitive” refers back to the definite completion of justification.
This brings us to the Scriptural argument which begins with a question I asked myself just this morning: “Paul, you are always harping about the crucial importance of the separation of justification and sanctification—a parallel gospel verses a linear one. But where does the Bible say specifically that this is critical? The answer to that question exposes the issue in all of its nakedness.
First, the very definition of a lost person in the Bible is one who is “under the law”:
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
1 Corinthians 9:20
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
The unsaved are “under the law” and will be judged by it in the end. This is the very definition of the unsaved. Calvinists define Christians the same way—we are supposedly still under the law and will be judged by it in the end. That’s why Christ must keep the law for us—because we are still under it.
If not this position, why do many in the Reformed tradition hold to the idea that Christ’s perfect obedience is imputed to our sanctification? His death justifies us, and His perfect life sanctifies us. Hence, His death pays the penalty for past sins, and then His perfect life imputed to our sanctification keeps us justified. (But we were justified before the foundation of the earth before we committed any sins, so Christ’s death obviously paid the penalty for every sin we ever committed or will commit). Why would an imputation to our sanctification be necessary if we are no longer under the law? This is known as the Reformed view of “double imputation” and has been called out as heresy by many respected theologians for this very reason: it implies that Christians are still under the law.
In regard to sustaining the law in our stead, why? It has been totally abolished in regard to our just standing:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
The keeping of the law by anybody DOES NOT do anything to justify mankind:
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Here is where the separation of justification and sanctification is vital on this first point: we ARE NOT under the law for justification, but rather UPHOLD THE LAW in sanctification. The two must be separate because of the differing relationships to the law:
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Furthermore, if we are still under the law, whether or not Christ obeys it for us to keep us in a just standing, this means we are still under the power of sin. Being under the law and also under its spell to provoke sin in the unregenerate is spoken of as being synonymous in the Bible. Those who are “under the law” are also under the power of sin and enslaved to it:
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.
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.
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.
But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
If we are still under the law, and will be judged by it, whether or not Christ stands in the judgment for us with His own works, we are still enslaved to sin by virtue of being under the law…. for justification. And Calvinists know this to be true, that’s why they say we are still…. what? Right, even as Christians, “totally depraved.” And, “enemies of God.” Of course, throughout the Bible, Christians are spoken of as being friends of God and no longer His enemies. Our status as enemies of God is stated in the past tense. But the Reformed crew continually state that Christians are vile enemies of God and are enslaved to sin. They realize that this goes hand in hand with being under the law.
To the contrary, dying to the law in the death of Christ….for justification—sets us free to be enslaved to the righteousness that is defined by the law. We are dead to the law for justification and alive to obey truth….for sanctification:
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:3,4 [emphasis by author]
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,….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.
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.
but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
So, that is the separation that must be for the true Christian: Justification has no law for which we are judged, and we live by the law of blessings in sanctification.
This brings us to another important separation in the two: the judgments. Those under the law and sin will stand in a final judgment which will be according to the law. Again, because Calvinists believe that we are still under the law, albeit that Christ obeyed/obeys it for us, Christians will supposedly stand in the same judgment as the damned who are under the law and enslaved to it. At that time, the children of God, according to Calvinists, will be “made manifest.”
But because Christians are not under the law and cannot be judged by it, they will stand in a judgment for rewards and not a judgment that determines a perfect keeping of the law by Christ in our stead. Hence, there will be two different resurrections: one for those under the law and another for those under grace, and two different judgments for the same two groups. One for rewards, and one to determine if those under the law kept it perfectly. That judgment doesn’t go well for any standing in it.
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” [Notice that this is a resurrection for the “just.” They are already determined to be just before they are resurrected].
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Don’t let anyone tell you that eschatology is a “secondary” or “nonessential” consideration. Your eschatology is your gospel. It will state your position regarding whether or not you fuse justification and sanctification together; ie, likening Christians to those under the law.
Yet another vital difference in sanctification and justification is repentance. Repentance for salvation (when you are justified) is different from our repentance in sanctification. Among many in the Reformed tradition where the “same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you,” the repentance is the same. Repentance unto salvation is not a onetime “washing,” but rather a means to continue “in the gospel” through what they call, “deep repentance.” Biblicism holds to repentance in sanctification that restores his/her fellowship and communion with God as His children. They would see repentance unto salvation as differing, and only necessary for salvation—a onetime decision to take one’s life in a new direction by following Christ, and believing in his death, burial, and resurrection.
Reformed repentance, according to the likes of Paul David Tripp and others is a “daily rescue.” Our original repentance was for rescue, and we need rescue today as much as we needed rescue when we were saved. Again, this indicates their belief that we are still under the curse of the law and need to be continually rescued from it while remaining under the bondage of sin.
However, Christ made it clear to Peter (John 13:6-11) that those who have been washed (1Corinthians 6;11, Romans 8:30) do not need a washing.
Lastly, though many other separations could be discussed, why saints can be considered just while they still sin at times is of paramount importance. There is no sin in our justification because there is no law, and where there is no law, there is no sin. Though unfortunate, there can be sin in our sanctification because it is totally separate from justification and can’t affect our just standing with God.
The Bible has much to say about this. And again, because the Reformed error starts with us being under the law for justification because they fuse justification and sanctification together, an “infusion of grace” into the believer is a “subjective gospel.” This is opposed to the “objective gospel” often spoken of in Reformed circles.
Basically, all of the aforementioned makes it of necessity to deny the new birth. If we have God’s seed in us, and we do (1John 3:9), that dispels total depravity, and without total depravity, justification and sanctification cannot be fused together. The new birth is a huge problem for Reformed theology. If the old man that was under the law is dead, and the seed of God is in the saved person, and the sin due our weakness in the flesh cannot be laid to our account for justification, then our justification is not “legal fiction” because we do not exhibit perfect obedience to the law. This is another grave consideration because Christ said, “You must be born again.” Obviously, despite their denials that they deny the new birth—you can’t be both totally depraved and born again.
Reformation doctrine is clearly a false gospel. Its version of justification does not void the law, and denies the new birth while distorting everything in-between. Freewill verses predestination is hardly the issue, the very gospel itself is the issue.
“MacArthur had a choice: the authority of Scripture or Reformed orthodoxy; he chose the latter.”
“And, what exactly are the ‘implications’ that John MacArthur ‘explains’ from the text? If you assume a many-faceted full counsel of God, your assumptions would be dead wrong.”
Progressive justification is the gospel of John Calvin and present-day neo-Calvinists of all stripes. Forget the freewill/election debate; forget all of the haranguing over the residual issues; progressive justification is simply a false gospel.
It teaches that the power for our Christian living comes from our salvation or justification. At first, you may object to my objection on the bases that salivation makes Christian living possible, and I agree, but making Christian living possible and being directly powered by it are two opposing ideas with a crucial difference.
If Christian living is powered by our salvation (justification), and if our salvation does more than change our standing, position, or status, Christian living (sanctification) remains connected to our justification. This makes sanctification a spiritual minefield with endless and sobering implications.
Of which the least is not: preaching. When justification and sanctification are fused together, we are interacting with our justification throughout life; this would seem evident and terrifying to those who understand the implications because we can supposedly do things in our sanctification that can affect our standing before God.
Hence, in this fusion of the Reformed “golden chain of salvation” (what’s a chain?) we must be careful in how we (according to John Piper) participate in the links because we are not home free and there is a danger in sanctification. No kidding. There would be when justification and sanctification are fused together.
Furthermore, because this makes sanctification very tricky, the children of God (according to Doug Wilson) will be manifested at the last judgment. I sometimes receive complaints here at PPT that John Piper et al seem to state that we cannot know for certain whether we are saved or not until the last judgment. I am not surprised by these questions; they would be consistent with the logical conclusions one must draw from the theology.
This now brings us to our discussion about preaching. Obviously, Reformed pastors are going to be very careful not to preach in a way that will lead us in making our sanctification the ground of our justification. Or, leaping from the imperative to obedience. If we do not pre-bathe all obedience in our salvation, it is “making our sanctification the ground of our justification.” In Reformed circles, they call this, “The biblical command is grounded in the indicative event.” The indicative “event” is the crucifixion of Christ—all obedience flows from that event directly as the empowerment thereof—not a possibility that we participate in.
Therefore, all true obedience in the life of a believer is a mere natural flow experienced by joy and a willing spirit IF it is powered by our salvation. This is obtained through using our Bible to meditate on our salvation, and the works of Christ, and then just letting the Spirit take things from there. If the Spirit then instigates the obedience, it’s the Spirit applying justification to our sanctification and not us. Hence, we are safe from “making our own sanctification the ground of our justification.” Again, this is supposedly manifested and verified by joy (which Piper makes absolutely synonymous with saving faith and the struggle thereof dependent on our salvation [When I Don’t Desire God p.35]). Likewise, John MacArthur mimics the same nonsense as documented in the following PPT post:
Hence, creepy similarities to Piper’s theology appear in “Slave,” especially Pipers belief that true Christian obedience is always experienced as an unhesitating, natural response accompanied by joy. Throughout the book, MacArthur describes Christian obedience as “pure delight” and “joy-filled.” On page 208, he describes our experience as slaves to Christ as “not partially sweet and partially sour, but totally sweet.” This, despite what the apostle John clearly experienced as recorded in Revelation. But regardless of the fact that there is nothing sweeter than being a slave of Christ, to suggest that our experience is never mixed with bitterness (taste, not attitude) is just plain nonsense. A believer who has lost an unbelieving relative or close friend would be an example. Also, even though I realize the importance of joy in the Christian life, I make this observation in “Another Gospel” (page 78):
“Only problem is, among many, is the eleventh chapter of Hebrews contradicts everything in Piper’s statement above. Hebrews 11 is one of the more extensive statements on saving faith in Holy writ. The Hebrew writer defines the faith of at least twenty believers in regard to the decisions they made and obedience. Joy or pleasure, even pleasure in God, is not named once as being an attribute of their faith. The only semblance of feelings or emotions mentioned is that of strife and fear of God more than man. The truth of Hebrews 11, as well as many other Scriptures, makes a mockery of Piper’s theory of Christian hedonism.”
According to John Piper, if we find ourselves in a situation where we find no joy in the obedience—go ahead and obey, but be sure to ask God for forgiveness because of your sinful obedience (John Piper: Treating Delight as Duty is Controversial; pdf booklet available on Desiring God .org). Moreover, this paradigm, according to many Calvinists in our day including John MacArthur, asserts that Christians often obey and experience biblical truth that they are unaware of intellectually. A prime example of this would be the following excerpt from an article written by New Calvinist Bill Baldwin:
Give me a man who preaches the law with its terror and Christ with his sweetness and forgets to preach the law as a pattern of the fruit of sanctification and what will result? In two months his parishioners will be breaking down his door begging to be told what behavior their renewed, bursting with joy, hearts may best produce. And when he tells them, they will be surprised (and he will not) to discover that by and large they have produced exactly that. And where they haven’t, take them back to Christ again that they may contemplate him in all his glorious perfection so that they may better understand what sort of God and man he was and is (Bill Baldwin: Sanctification, Counseling, and the Gospel 08/02/1996).
My best information is that MacArthur bought into this nonsense circa 1994. He was persuaded by, among others, John Piper and Michael Horton that the Reformers in fact held to a progressive justification. MacArthur had a choice: the authority of Scripture or Reformed orthodoxy; he chose the latter. Therefore, MacArthur’s preaching will ape that of most Reformed teachers: heavy on the glory of God and very light on practical application or specific instruction. As Baldwin states it: “….the law as a pattern of the fruit of sanctification.”
And even though MacArthur is far more subtle in his anti-instruction/application than most Calvinists (probably due to the habits of his prior preaching which was heavy on sanctification elements), Christians have nevertheless noticed his lack of application (most likely due to the contrast) and questioned him on it. His defense reveals his dastardly selling out of the truth.
In, “Why doesn’t John MacArthur add much application to his sermons?” (Online source: http://goo.gl/P0eR9), MacArthur defends his Reformed Application Light sermons. But for you skeptics, let me get your attention. In regard to my accusation that this paradigm doesn’t require intellectual knowledge for experience or application, MacArthur concludes his defense by stating the following:
So now you know. You’ve been experiencing this. You had no idea what you were experiencing, right? (Applause) Okay.
The “applause” part of the transcript is the barf factor when one ponders the mindless following of philosopher kings such as “Pastor” John MacArthur Jr. Nevertheless, MacArthur continues:
Now let me tell you what happens when you preach effectively. You do explanation. In other words, you explain the meaning of Scripture, okay? The explanation carries with it implication. In other words, there are implications built into this truth that impact us. You add to that exhortation. And I’ve said things tonight to exhort you to follow what is implied by the text. Now when you deal with the text and the armor of God, like tonight, all I can do is explain it. That’s all it does. There aren’t any applications in that text. It doesn’t say, “And here’s how to do this if you’re 32 years old, and you live in North Hollywood.” “Here’s how to do this the next time you go to a Mall.” “Here’s how to do this when you go in your car and you’re driving in a traffic jam.” It doesn’t tell you that. And if I made my message mostly a whole lot of those little illustrations, I would be missing 90 percent of you who don’t live in that experience.
Unfortunately, MacArthur has gone the way of New Calvinist ungodly communication. He makes application of Scriptures the same thing as applying it to petty life concerns; such as, going to the mall. It’s the classic New Calvinist demeaning of biblical application and obedience. What is really behind it is an antinomian spirit. Let me point out MacArthur’s error in regard to the above quote concerning the idea that there is no application in Ephesians 6:16-20, only “explanation.” That text is full of imperatives and applications in regard to the full armor of God: “Put on…., stand against…, take up…, that you may be able…., having done all…., having put on…., Stand therefore…., having fastened…., and having put on…., in all circumstances [what circumstances? It would be wrong to draw examples from our life?]…., with which you can…., to that end…., [etc., etc., etc].” To imply that Ephesians 6:16-20 doesn’t contain instruction for practical application is ludicrous.
Also, adding to the absurdity of MacArthur’s statement is the fact that “putting on” is a major theme of that passage. This refers back to Ephesians 4:20-24, and the Apostle Paul’s discussion of putting off the old nature and putting on the new. So, MacArthur is not only denying application from our life experience, but specific life application specified in Scripture. Dr. Jay E. Adams notes 45 life applications to the putting off/putting on concept that he didn’t deduct from life observation, but are specifically mentioned in Scripture regarding life application (INS Training in Biblical Counseling by Extension: Introduction Principles and Practices; pp.22-24).
Surely, other than what good preachers should be able to draw from life for biblical application, specific biblical applications regarding life are too numerous to list. For example, Paul states in I Corinthians 7:41 that Christians should only marry “in the Lord.” The life application is what Nehemiah stated about Solomon when he didn’t follow that mandate; ie., even a man of his spiritual wherewithal fell into grievous sin by violating said spiritual principle.
Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.
No life application in that? Really?
It’s not for me to do that. Application belongs to the Spirit of God. All I’m interested in is explanation and its implications [What about 2Timothy 3:16,17 and the issue of "instruction" ?]. And the power comes in the implication and the Spirit of God takes the implications of what I’ve said tonight, all these things I’ve said, I don’t need to say all kinds of little scenarios to you and paint all kinds of little individual circumstances. All I need you to know is this is what the Word of God says and the implications are powerfully brought to bear with authority on your life and I exhort you to respond to those implications, it is the Spirit’s work to drive those implications into direct and personal application. That’s why you’re not going to, like so many preachers, you’re not going to hear me create all kinds of practical scenarios about how this all fleshes out in everybody’s world because you may hit somebody, you may hit a person here or there, that’s kind of a rifle-shot approach, the shot-gun approach that sprays everybody is the implicational essence of Scripture. That’s the power. And that’s when everybody walks out and says, “Wow, that hit me!” because you already have a commitment to the authority and the power of Scripture.
So, Reformed preaching merely explains Scripture, and the Holy Spirit applies it. So what do we need “instruction” for? (2Timothy 3:16,17). As we have clearly seen, this is an iffy proposition. If this is the case, why does the Bible command specific life application? Does the Spirit need to inform Christians as to what He may or may not do in their lives? I contend that this is MacArthur’s nuanced way of propagating the whole Reformed idea that the Holy Spirit obeys for us, so that our sanctification will not be the “ground of our justification.”
MacArthur further explains:
You already have a commitment to the truthfulness of Scripture. All I want you to understand is what it means. And in the meaning expanded beyond the given text to other texts so that you build all the theological implications, I leave you with the implications and an exhortation to be obedient and I leave the application to the Spirit.
Obedient to what? Obviously, there can be no specific instruction from the pulpit, only “explaining.” Instruction would imply specific application of the text. So, not only does the Holy Spirit apply the text, does he also teach the Christian how to apply it specifically? Or does that just come as a mere natural flow? Well, since, “So now you know. You’ve been experiencing this. You had no idea what you were experiencing, right?” Answer: like Baldwin, and for that matter, all New Calvinists, the “obedience” is “experienced” (not personally applied) without necessary intellectual understanding or knowledge. Let me reiterate MacArthur’s exact words:
So now [present tense] you know. You’ve been [past tense] experiencing this [experiencing what? Answer: obedience]. You had no idea [this should speak for itself….] what you were experiencing, right?
Right John. Whatever you say.
And, what exactly are the “implications” that John MacArthur “explains” from the text? If you assume a many faceted full counsel of God, your assumptions would be dead wrong. MacArthur makes it clear what should be primarily mined from the Scriptures in his Forward to Rick Holland’s Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing The Son:
As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd….The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.
What MacArthur endeavors to “explain” in every verse of Scripture is Jesus and His works (as stated by many New Calvinists), “not anything we would do.” As can be seen in the above MacArthur quote, he also follows the Reformed tradition of making God the Father and the Holy Spirit of lesser significance than Christ. Sadly, throughout church history, those of Reformed tradition has burned many at the stake for misrepresenting the Trinity while they are in fact guilty of the same thing.
There is certainly no reason to believe that MacArthur has not completely embraced this doctrine which also suggests that the saints can only get an adequate explanation of the Scriptures from Reformed elders. Saints dare not even fill up half of their plate with anything but Reformed elder preaching:
You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul (Elder Dr. Devon Berry: How to Listen to a Sermon; Clearcreek Chapel .org).
MacArthur’s defense of his preaching being discussed here implies the same idea:
But I want you to understand, if you don’t already understand, what I think should happen in effective biblical preaching. You heard a testimony tonight in the waters of Baptism from Juan about how he kept coming to Grace Church. And in spite of the fact that he wanted to be a hypocrite, the power of the Scripture began to overwhelm him.
Notice that the “power of the Scripture,” which should be understood in context of what we are discussing here, is not the primary crux of the point, but rather, “….he kept coming to Grace Church.” The “power of the Scripture” coming from the pulpit at Grace Church seems to be the point, and would also fit with the Reformed view of anointed elder preaching. MacArthur’s Bible Commentary is now published in the official New Calvinist translation of the Bible, The English Standard Version. It is published by Crossway, which is totally in the tank for New Calvinism. In the following promotional video clip, MacArthur hails the translation as the best ever: http://youtu.be/L1VxhQqsGXU. Again, MacArthur is now a dyed in the wool New Calvinist in the same order of the ones he supposedly despises like Mark Driscoll. While whining about their view of alcohol use among Christians and other residual issues, he is a believer in the same gospel (progressive justification).
The fact that John MacArthur is one of the most popular preachers in church history should be a chilling realization for those Christians who still love the truth.
He is also an excellent acid test for those who really want to know if they are followers of men or followers of the truth.
….the following transcript of a sermon delivered at a conservative Baptist church that is in the process of being taken over by New Calvinists. Read the “Four Groups” post first, and then read the following manuscript from the aforementioned sermon. This sermon is also predicated on the philosophical (Gnostic/Marxist) ideas that drive camp #2. It is also interesting to note the following fact regarding a Gnostic group that plagued the first century church: “Nico means ‘conquer’ in Greek, and laitan refers to lay people, or laity; hence, the word may be taken to mean ‘lay conquerors’ or ‘conquerors of the lay people’” (On line source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaism).
Hi. Good morning. Let me just add my welcome to those of you who are coming back here for the first time. For those who are coming back, welcome back. For those of you who are leaving, goodbye. No. We’ll be praying for you as you kind of move in new transitions in life.
We are in a transition here at Shawnee Hills. I mean, it’s fairly obvious because I’m up here. And if you’ve been coming the last several weeks/months, we’ve had a lot of other people who have come here and challenged us. And I don’t know about you, but we’ve heard some really great messages over the last several months. And I’ve really appreciated the people who have come from the outside to kind of challenge us and encourage us in this kind of time of transition. But I’m coming to you as one of us. I am a member of this group. And so when I was asked to share this morning, it’s like okay, what can I say to my brothers and sisters in this local body that would be an encouragement to them and how can I do that in a kind of a one-shot type of deal? Which is always sort of difficult ’cause I really like teaching Sunday school because if I’m working through a book, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do. It kind of goes in line. But if I have to pick something one shot, I mean, here I am.
So that’s what I’m gonna try to do this morning, is we’re gonna talk about the concept of worldly wisdom versus godly wisdom. You know, we got this report from the pulpit committee. They have sixty resumes. Wow. Now I’m glad I’m not on the pulpit committee because, you know, I have trouble – when I go to like Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory and there’s so many good things on the menus, like I don’t know how to choose. How many of you have this kind of same issue here? Okay. So I’m glad it’s you guys and not me that’s doing that.
But this morning as we kind of talk about this issue of godly wisdom, worldly wisdom, in the end the pulpit committee is gonna go through these resumes. They’re going to sort people out. They’re gonna do that, and then they’re gonna present someone to us. Ultimately, we make the decision. Ultimately, we call a pastor. It’s not the pulpit committee that calls the pastor. And so as we kind of go into this decision-making process about thinking who will be the next senior pastor of Shawnee Hills, it kind of gives us a chance to reflect on how are we going to choose somebody. And not just as we think about issues of choosing a pastor, how do we choose anything? What is the decision-making process? What is the kind of standard or goal that we sort of use to know whether we’re making wise decisions or not? And so this is really what I kind of wanna address today.
And I also want you to know that in a sense, even though when we’re looking at James chapter 3 in quite a bit of detail this morning, in essence I’m preaching him as well to you. I’m gonna sing that hymn at the end of the service and hopefully, the words of the message, and we’re kind of going through this concept of earthly versus – or worldly versus godly wisdom will kind of resonate when we sing the hymn at the end. Hopefully, you can see the connections between the two.
All right. Now if you think about going to a restaurant, making a big decision, or making a decision off the menu, going to a restaurant I hope is not a big decision for you, but oftentimes we tend to choose things that make us comfortable. If you’ve been to, you know, if we go out to eat, oftentimes depending on where we go, I can predict what Therese is gonna order off the menu. Because there’s certain things she likes, she feels comfortable with, and so she’s gonna choose those things. And so if we go to Los Mariachis, it’s gonna be the Mariachi chicken. It’s like that’s just the way it’s going to be even though there’s a lot of good things on the menu.
So we tend to choose things or we tend to kind of go with things that we’re comfortable with. Now that’s okay when you’re dealing with the Mariachi chicken, I guess, at Los Mariachis. But in a time of transition, it really gives us a chance to kind of think about what are the standards that we’re going to use to choose a pastor or anything else. And a couple of weeks ago, we were kind of given the results of a survey that we took to kind of see what we were looking for in a pastor. And, I don’t know, it’s always good to kind of quantify, I guess, what the attitude of the group is, and it’s good to see whether your intuitions of things kind of match everybody else’s, but I don’t know that there was anything particularly really surprising here. When I looked at this, this is what I thought. We would pretty much pick as – it was good to have that quantified for me, but it kind of begs the question. If that’s what we are saying that we want, is it maybe something that we’re comfortable with? And if we’re comfortable with that, may it also cause us to sometimes miss certain other things that we should be looking for?
And so what I want to do today is look at what are God’s standards for how we should be making decisions of any type, whether it’s a pastor or anything else. And to use the pastor issue just as kind of an example, if you think about what a pastor is for a congregation, oftentimes the pastor is our representative. He embodies what we think we should be as believers. So on our list we wanted someone who preaches well, and we wanted someone who has been to seminary and can discern the Word. And we wanted somebody who is married because we think that’s a good thing, or most of us thought that was a pretty good thing. And so the pastor sort of becomes the embodiment of who we think he should be. He embodies our values. So pastors are representatives.
But pastors are also shepherd. It’s another kind of way of looking at this. And when we think about a pastor as a shepherd, he is to be who Christ wants him to be, and he is help mold us into what Christ wants us to be. And so when we need chastening, the pastor needs to chasten us. And when we need encouraging, he needs to encourage us. And hopefully, those two things are the same. Our values, pastor as our representative, God’s values, pastor as our shepherd. If those things are together, that’s great. Now I’m not suggesting to us that in our case that those are necessarily far apart. But they can have a tendency because our values versus God values, they can have a tendency to separate. And I think many a person has been pushed from the ministry because they could not be all things to all people, because they had to try to embrace everyone’s different image of who they were supposed to be. So as we kind of get into this – we’re in this time of transition, I think it’s a good time for us to kind of examine how do we go about making decisions. And so that’s what I’d like to do here today. Because if you don’t, the result can be a lot of division and a lot of quarreling and a lot of fighting. And churches end up splitting over issues like this. And I’m not suggesting that this is gonna happen to us at all, but I think it’s a good time for us to kind of step back and look at the whole issue.
So we’re gonna deal with this issue of wisdom here today. And normally when we think about wisdom, where do we normally start? The book of Proverbs, don’t we? So turn up to Proverbs chapter 9 because that’s usually where people wanna go when we think about wisdom. And Proverbs is a good place, because in Proverbs there’s the contrast between Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. And as the first several chapters of Proverbs go, the writer keeps contrasting these two views for us. But note, we have this kind of encapsulating statement in Proverbs 9:10. And many of you can quote it, or at least you can quote the first part of the verse. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And knowledge – I lost it. “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
So when we think about this idea of wisdom, wisdom starts with what? It starts with reverence. It starts with awe. It’s the fear of the Lord. Now if you think – and then look at what the writer says here. “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In essence, knowledge is preceded by what? Wisdom. Normally, when we – and this is kind of counterintuitive for most of us. Most of us, when we think about wisdom, wisdom is knowledgeable people taking what they know and applying it well. But know what the author of Proverbs is telling us, that wisdom is really – precedes knowledge. Because if you have wisdom, if you have the fear of the Lord, it is going to guide even what you think is worth knowing. It guides the process of what you choose to learn. If I think that learning to be a triathlete is a good thing, it’s gonna drive my understanding. It’s gonna drive me to look at certain types of magazines and certain television shows and things like that. So my standard of what is good precedes even my understanding of what is good knowledge.
And that really is counterintuitive to us because most of the time we think that wisdom is knowledge applied. Well, what I really wanna suggest that what wisdom really is is knowledge well applied. Well, what does that mean? It means that whenever we approach this idea of wisdom, wisdom must have a target. Wisdom must have a goal. You’re choosing to learn something so that you can progress toward a certain goal or vision of that which is good. So we send people to school, for example, to become more knowledgeable. But what we choose to teach them, or we could teach them anything. But we choose to teach them certain subjects. Why do we teach them those subjects? Because we think that those are the types of subjects that will allow them to get along well in the world. So we have a vision of what is good that drives what we even choose to learn or teach people.
So when we think about this idea of wisdom, we have to start with this idea of wisdom as a vision of the good and not simply that wisdom comes out of knowing something. In fact, if you think about it, we know lots of intelligent people, I mean, very bright people who don’t start with this fear knowledge of the Lord. And what do they do with their intelligence and knowledge? They oftentimes will use it as a tool to sort of continue in their unbelief. They defend their bad ideas or their irreverent ideas or their idea that God doesn’t exist by using their intelligence or knowledge. They have a vision that starts and it guides how they look at knowledge and information.
So when we begin to think about this idea of wisdom, we first have to start with a fear, reverence, awe of God. Now the passage in James, it’s kind of interesting. When you look at the Old Testament, if you particularly look at Proverbs, we’re contrasting Lady Wisdom, Lady Folly. If you look at, let’s say, Ecclesiastes, in Ecclesiastes, the author of Ecclesiastes kind of goes through and talks about all the things that he’s done and all the things that he’s pursued. And in the end he comes to the conclusion that everything was vanity, or everything was folly. And so he then says, “Everything that I try to pursue was not very good. I should have remembered my Creator in the days when I was young.” And he says, “I should have had a different vision for life.”
James on the other hand is gonna be a little bit more nuanced for us. What James is telling us is that there are two types of wisdom. James has kind of laid out that who’s wise among you. And then he talks about the idea that there’s worldly wisdom, and he’s talking about that there is Godly wisdom. Now remember, wisdom is a vision of what is right or what is good. So what James is really telling us is that there are two visions of what is right or what is good. And we choose to pursue one of those visions. You can pursue a vision of worldly good. And the world defines good in a certain way. Or you can choose to pursue godly wisdom or the godly standard of the good. But what we’ll see is you cannot pursue both. So James kind of lays out for us that there really are two types of visions of the good, two competing ideas of virtue, and says that you need to choose between one of them. And he kind of lays out the differences for us. We’ll come back and look at this here in a minute.
But the kind of thing, the interesting thing to note here for me, I think, is that when we begin to think about this idea of virtue and good, we need to kind of understand that there’s a difference between moral ideas and ethical ideas. Normally, we understand those as sort of synonymous. In fact, we use them synonymously, and that’s technically not right. You act morally as an individual, okay? When you act and you do an action, whether it’s a good or bad action, that is an exercise in your morality. But generally, when you do that, you will do it from some sort of ethical standard, which is corporate. So if you are a good member of Shawnee Hills Baptist Church, how do you know you’re a good member? Because there’s sort of a corporate sort of understanding of what it means to be good here. And you live within that corporate idea of goodness. And if you act that way, we kind of applaud you and pat you on the back and say, “Yes, you’re a good Christian. Way to go.” And if you’re kind of outside of that, we sort of have our little ways of letting you know, “No, you’re not quite in there, right? Okay. And hopefully, if you still wanna be part of us, you kind of mold your attitudes back to get within the good.” Makes sense?
Now the same thing operates if you think about the larger society. There is a concept of what it means to be a good American. And if you’re a good American, you hold to certain ideas and you hold to certain values, and we’ll let you know that you’re a good American if in fact you live according to those values and act to the virtues and you pursue life that way. And most of us, because we live within that environment, we sort of tend to respond to that because we are communal beings. And so if we begin to understand that these ideas of ethics are really waters that we swim in, and because they’re waters that we swim in, they do affect us. And so when we go out there and we are in the bigger ethics of the culture, there’s certain attitudes and values that are pressing on us that say you are a good American if you do this. And the tendency could be that we could bring those attitudes, values, concepts of the good and bring them into here where they may not quite align with what God wants us to be and think and act and do. So we begin to kind of – think about James telling us, “Look, there are two types of virtue; there are two types of wisdom; and you need to choose the right one,” he’s really kind of saying choose as a group, as a community, you need to kind of choose the right ethical vision from which to follow.
Now I want you to think about the vision of the good that is out there for a minute. What does our society, what does our world try to tell us? If you think about it, there are competing messages that we get. For example, fairness is more important than justice in our society. And fairness is, “I need to get mine. It needs to be me.” Justice related more toward what’s good for the community. We are much more – we seem as a society, we’re much more interested in things like consuming goods, which is I consume them as compared to creating goods, which would be for the benefit of everyone. We seem to be much more interested in things like fame. Fame is pretty important to us rather than really truly accomplishing something. I mean, why in the world is Ryan Seacrest so famous? What has he done? I mean, he’s got the best job in the world. He gets to be on TV for the simple reason that he’s famous. What have you done? I don’t know but I’m famous. Okay, we’ll put you on. What a great gig to have. Glamour and beauty seem to be more important than character. Image is more important than holiness. There was a tagline for Sprite once: Image is everything.
Just as kind of an example, think about how people get their news now. Most people tend to get their news from sources that agree with their own opinion. We’ve sort of substituted opinion for true knowledge. And what that ends up doing in the end, again, all these, me versus the group, me versus the group, me versus the group, in the end, this becomes very divisive. It tends to pull apart at us. In the end we start treating other people as competitors. It divides us. We see people as the enemy. In many ways we turn – objectify people. Oh, he’s just an idiot for believing that. And what doesn’t happen is we don’t have unity. We tend to end up with division.
Now this is sort of exactly what James predicts. So if you kind of turn to James chapter 3, the passage that we read this morning, note that James really does kind of lay out certain characteristics of what happens if you follow this worldly vision. What are the results of this? And he notes that the first one is bitter jealousy. What he means here is that we seek our own benefit. We’re not willing to share with others. James as he uses this term, he uses it in a sort of a religious context. It kind of leads to a type of religious zeal or zealotry. And if you can think about the history of religion throughout the centuries, there’s been an awful lot of times where religion has been used, whether we’re talking Christianity or other religions, have been used to sort of promote a particular agenda, an us versus them kind of mentality. And he notes that this is one of the characteristics of worldly wisdom.
We are prone to selfish ambitions. We seek to promote our own ends. And we tend to do that at the exclusion of other people. So we start to use people if we can. In fact, I will try to pursue certain ways of gaining power so that I can pursue my agenda over your agenda. And that might need acquiring wealth because wealth gives me power. It might mean gaining position because position could give me power. It might mean cultivating beauty because beauty and sex appeal may give me power over people. But there’s lots of ways that we can go to cultivate power. And all of those kind of come out of this idea of selfish ambition because this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to seek our own end.
Arrogance. Note that James tells us that worldly wisdom leads to a type of arrogance. What it means is that you believe in yourself. You believe in your own vision. James is kind of laying out it’s your sovereignty. It’s your desire for autonomy that comes out, and it makes you arrogant. Now suddenly, your vision of the world becomes the vision for the world. And everyone has this sort of get in line with what you think is the right thing to do.
Self-deception. Notice that sometimes we become unwilling and unable to learn from others. We become unteachable at a certain level. Part of that is because of this arrogance that is cultivated. But part of it is that we are now are unwilling to see things at the way they really are.
In the end all of this leads to division. As worldly wisdom continues to grow and as worldly wisdom sort of becomes the wisdom for a group of people, the end result will always be, as James says, division. It will lead to quarreling. It will lead to fighting. It will lead to everyone – well, it leads to, as Jesus said, a house divided, which will not stand because everyone is now doing, as the author of Judges says, everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. So in the end, worldly wisdom James kind of points out has this divisive, this corrosive, this kind of effect that pulls people apart because now everyone wants to pursue their own end.
Now obviously, when we present this characteristic of worldly wisdom, it doesn’t look too attractive, does it? It’s like, no, I don’t want to be that. In fact, I’m not that anyway. I am more godly in this regard because you can lay out this way, worldly, godly, okay, these people don’t look very nice. And you don’t really wanna be around people like this, which begs the question, might we be people like this? We certainly don’t want to think that we are.
Now James, you have to understand James is probably the first book of the New Testament that was written. And James is sort of – if anything else about James, he’s really a good psychologist. James understands the human heart. He understands what our – in our sin nature what our natural inclinations, what our natural affections tend to lead us. And he’s sort of warning us that be careful of this. Because if you do this, this is what’s going to happen. And so he’s kind of letting us know that there is this type of wisdom that can be corrosive if you let it take hold of you.
Now it’s kind of interesting that James writes this and then several decades later, we find this whole issue coming to fruition in another church. And another writer of a New Testament book, the Apostle Paul, finds that he has to address it. And he has to address it in the book of 1 Corinthians, because the Church in Corinth is actually exhibiting the very things that James warned of in his book. So when we get to 1 Corinthians, we have a church that is highly divided. And if you kind of read through the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, we have the issue of all kinds of things. One of the things that comes out is they’re divided over pastors, or who were their pastors and who they are pledging allegiance to in an essence. Some say well, I follow Apollos and I follow Paul and I follow Cephas or Peter. And there’s this other group, probably the holier than thou group, well, we follow Christ. So there’s all these kinds of factions in the Church. And Paul is now kind of writing to go through this, ’cause there’s lots of quarreling that’s going on here.
Now if you go through the book, you’ll see that there are issues of division, whose teachings are they gonna follow. There’s lack of community around the Lord’s Table because there’s division there. There’s strife in the Church because people are suing one another. There are people who are priding themselves on their liberty in Christ. So there’s moral laxity going on in the Church. There are issues of people pursuing their own ends. Paul has to address the issue of women taking leadership positions. He has to address the issue of people striving for certain spiritual gifts because those gifts are considered of higher status in the church and therefore will give people more power over what’s going on there. So there’s all kinds of divisions, strife, and things, all things that if you notice were things that James talked about in James chapter 3. So this is the church as really into it. They have embraced a sense of kind of worldly wisdom. And Paul, like James, is gonna have to note this kind of stuff because they’re all kind of pursuing the ends that James had said.
Now let me just kind of point out something about Corinth to you. ‘Cause normally, I think sometimes when we think of Corinth, the equivalent that we have of Corinth is Las Vegas. What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth. And that would be kind of a wrong view of Corinth, I think. Corinth was not some sort of Roman or Greek cultural backwater. Corinth was not some place that you went to sort of blow off hedonistic steam. If you think about Athens and Rome as the cultural and political centers, and our equivalent would be let’s say New York and Washington, Corinth would be like Chicago. Corinth had a striving big commercial center. It was a center for the arts. It was a center for culture and intellectual pursuits. Certainly, there was that hedonistic element that went on in Corinth. But if we think about Corinth only in terms of it was like Las Vegas, we’re gonna sort of miss sort of what it meant to be a Corinthian. ‘Cause what it meant to be Corinthian was that you are sort of a cosmopolitan person. A good Corinthian was someone who understood the arts and understood intellectual pursuits. And it’s kinda like, you know, we’re good New Yorkers because these are all kinds of values of living in the city. If you were a good Corinthian, you kind of embraced this intellectual and cultural and artistic and commercial kind of sense of what it meant to be living in the city.
So now when Paul addresses them and he says to them, he turned to 1 Corinthians chapter 3, know what he says to them. He says, brothers – and note, throughout the book he addresses them as believers. He addresses them as their brothers, as his brothers. He acknowledges they’re saved. But he says to them, note, “Brothers, I wish I could speak to you as spiritual men, but I can’t because you are men of flesh; you are babes in Christ.” Now it kind of begs the question then, what does he mean when he says that they are men of flesh? If you have NIV, it probably says worldly or something like that. What does he mean by this idea of worldly? Well, let’s kind of see if we can find out. What does it mean in fact to be worldly? And depending on the translation you have, you may have something like carnal, which I think is in the King James, kind of a Latin word for meat or flesh. If you have the ESV, I think it says something like men of flesh. The NASB says fleshly. I mean, that’s obvious. We are people of flesh and bone, right? But that’s not what he’s getting at. He’s getting at, okay, I’d like to address you as spiritual people, people who have a spiritual vision of the good. But I can’t because your vision of the good is worldly. Your affections are placed in the world, whereas I’d really like to talk to you as if your affections were placed on godly concerns, so that James’ division between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.
All right. So he says to them, “Look, I’d like to talk to you this way, but I can’t because you seem to be worldly.” So what does it mean to be worldly? Normally, when we think about the term “worldly,” it’s kind of this idea of moral decadence. He’s just a worldly guy. But that’s really not what Paul is kind of addressing here, particularly if you can understand this idea of being a good cosmopolitan person as being a good Corinthian. To be worldly is to be practical or shrewd. It’s to have an understanding of human affairs. It’s here’s a vision of what is good in the world, and I know that as I make certain decisions, it brings me closer to that vision. I do things that will bring me close to the vision of the good. So for example, a wise decision is one that helps me achieve a certain end. And unwise decision is one that’s not gonna get me there. It’s actually gonna pull me away from it.
So as Paul is addressing them, he says, “Look, your concerns are worldly. You have a worldly vision. And so when you make decisions, what do you do? You make decisions that will help you to pursue this kind of worldly end.” And know what’s been happening in this church. There’s strife, there’s division, there’s quarrelling, all because they are pursuing an agenda of achieving their own ends. Now in this respect, for example, I would consider my father as a wise person. Now my father is not a believer, and he’s not particularly well educated. But when he gives me advice, he understands this is what you really need to do if you wanna accomplish these goals or these ends. And so he’s pretty good at stuff like that. But it’s not a vision of the good that would be considered necessarily a godly vision. But he’s wise in a worldly sense.
So to be ethical in this regard is to be devoted to in pursuing worldly ends. And so when he says to them, “Look, you guys are worldly because you are pursuing worldly ends,” that’s really what’s going on. Now what that really means, because worldly ends almost always focus on me, note that oftentimes in the Scripture, we get these very black and white contrasting statements. I mean, think about in 1 John where you get some of the best ones. If you love the world, you can’t love God. The love of the Father cannot be in you. You cannot serve two masters. You’ll either love the one or hate the other. We see lots of statements like this in the Scripture. Now why do we see these statements? Because what got is telling us in his Word is that there are very different competing visions of the good. And you need to choose which one you’re going to pursue because they are sort of at ends with each other. Now what we’re gonna see is that sometimes we try to do the really dysfunctional thing of trying to combine the two together, which becomes really weird.
So if we cannot follow this as an idea, one of the things that I think is really interesting is the paradox of worldly wisdom. Now if you think about being worldly, sometimes we, for example, when we travel overseas, that helps us to become worldly because you get a bigger vision of the world. You kind of get out from your little provincial, parochial kind of understanding of the world and then you see things in a bigger way. Hopefully, we send you to school so that you get a broader understanding of the world, so that you can become more sophisticated in that regard. The opposite of being worldly is to be, I don’t know, a hick, a bumpkin, a rube, a yokel, a hillbilly, a hoosier, no, not a hoosier. Sorry, dear. But all those other things. So we when we send you – we don’t wanna be those things, right? So we kind of want you to expand your vision of the world.
The odd thing, the irony, I think, of worldly wisdom is the more you pursue it, actually, the more provincial you become. Worldly wisdom is associated only with this world; whereas godly wisdom broadens out from this world to the spiritual. Worldly wisdom only thinks about a particular time; whereas godly wisdom will always think about things in terms of eternity. So the lie of worldly wisdom, the deception of worldly wisdom is, “Oh yes, I’m more sophisticated. I’m more suave. I’m more cosmopolitan,” but in the end it’s really not. What it really causes you is to become even more provincial because you become focused more and more solely on self.
Now why does this happen to us? What is the heart of this worldly wisdom? Turn back to James chapter 3. ‘Cause James says the reason that it leads to arrogance and jealousy and strife and division and all these things is that there are three characteristics of worldly wisdom. The first one is that it is earthly. And when we think of earthly, all James is really saying here is our heart, our affections are tied to things of this world. We’re not seeing beyond this world. We’re seeing only what we can see in this world.
Which leads to the second one, worldly wisdom is sensual or natural. Depending on your translation, the word will be a little bit different there. And I used the word “sensual” here to kind of underscore the idea that it’s tied to the senses. Normally, when we think of sensual, we think of sexual pleasure or something like that; that’s not what James means. All he’s saying is that it’s sort of tied to the senses or to pursuing certain ends. Most of the time it would be things like pursuing pleasure as a good and avoiding pain. Those seem kind of good. I like pleasure. I like to avoid pain. That seems to be kind of natural to us. Hence, it’s natural. Those kind of end up being the goals. You can put them up there.
And the last one is that it is demonic. And what he means by demonic is that the source of worldly wisdom is the exact same thing that cause Satan to rebel. Satan wanted autonomy. Satan wanted sovereignty over God. Because worldly wisdom is self-oriented, the source of worldly wisdom is autonomy and sovereignty. It’s the exact same thing. And so James says the source of worldly wisdom is always in the end going to be demonic in this regard.
Now this is abnormal. This is an abnormal condition for us. God did not create us to be sovereign, independent beings. He did not create us to declare our independence of him, and He always wanted us to be dependent on him. So this condition of autonomy is one that, if we acknowledge that we’re abnormal, then we have to acknowledge why we’re abnormal. And that would bring us back to God. Well, the world doesn’t wanna do that. So what will the world do? The world is gonna try and take this abnormal, self-focused vision of what’s good and try to normalize it, try to make it sound like this is the only really true vision of how things should be.
So what happens? We have things like, oh I don’t know. Autonomy starts to become things like independence and self-sufficiency. Those sound sort of virtuous kind of ideas. Selfishness becomes ambition and goal-orientation. If we wanna quote from that classic 1987 movie, Wall Street, “Greed is good. Greed clarifies. Greed is,” to continue in the speech where Gordon Gekko is making it in the movie, he says, “Greed has always marked the upward surge of mankind. And that greed will save even this dysfunctional corporation known as the United States of America.” Gekko kind of presents this idea of greed as such a virtuous vision that as I practice it individually. And if we all practice it corporately, what will it lead to? Kind of a good outcome for all of us. So the world really does have kind of a vested interest in normalizing this. And so we get books on the virtues of selfishness. We have books saying that selfishness is a genetic thing. And we have little baby girls that say, “You can’t have any of my dolls.”
All right. Now James contrasts this for us. James contrasts worldly wisdom with godly wisdom. And I want you to note that James does not give us sort of the core of godly wisdom like he did with worldly wisdom. He doesn’t tell us, you know, we said with worldly wisdom, “Look, it’s natural. It’s earthly.” He doesn’t do that with godly wisdom. Because he assumes that we understand that the source of godly wisdom is God, that it’s the character of God. Look at James 1:5 from that. If anyone lacks wisdom, what should he do? He should ask of who? God, not your professors, hopefully, they know, but not of knowledgeable people. But the source of real wisdom is going to be God. So he kind of assumes that we know that ’cause he kind of laid that out early in the book. He says, “If you pursue godly wisdom, this is what happens.”
Now I want you to, as we go through this list, if you’re an astute observer, one of the things that you’re going to note is that the list looks an awful lot like the beatitudes of Matthew chapter 5. And what is Christ laying out in the beatitudes? The characteristics of citizens of the Kingdom. If you’re gonna be a good citizen of the Kingdom, this is how you will act. Here are the moral actions within an ethical vision of community. This is how you’re supposed to respond. So what are they? The first one is they were pure, that we are single-minded. We keep ourselves unstained from the world, but we also work to do the will of God toward others.
Look at James 1:27 for a minute. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Personal piety, while it’s a good thing, if religion is simply defined by personal piety, me keeping my nose clean, that is not godly. It comes from a worldly vision. Because godly wisdom says, “Yes, I will keep myself from sin, but I also work for the benefit of other people.” And we sometimes deceive ourselves when we think personal piety is what being holy is all about. It’s only half of the equation. If it’s only half, it’s not the whole thing. It becomes worldly.
Second one is it is peaceable. It seeks to reconcile others to Christ and to other people. Godly wisdom seeks shalom. It seeks restoration. It seeks to be a peacemaker. And blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God. So there is that part of the vision. They are gentle. Godly wisdom respects the feelings of others. It is not imposing. It does not force people to believe things. It is not bullying in this regard. And sometimes even in our desire, in our zeal, our religious zeal to get people to live a certain way, we can be forcible, we can be bullying in how we go about this. And while we think the goal is good, we are using a worldly way of understanding to try to bring that about, because godly wisdom is gentle in this regard.
It is reasonable, which means that you’re teachable. You’re not arrogant. You’re willing to submit to the teaching and leading of other people. But it also means that as you try to teach others, you try to show them the reasonableness, why position is good for them, good for others, why it fits into the whole community of faith.
It’s merciful and leads to good fruit. This is the only kind of double one in the group, which I think is kind of interesting. It is compassionate. Godly wisdom is compassionate to those people who are in need of practical help. It deals with needs rather than the source of the problem. Now, for example, we sometimes think, “Oh, well. Look at the situation he’s in. If only he had done this…” That would be a statement that comes out of worldly wisdom because we’re saying, “Look, he is experiencing the natural consequences of what he has done. And therefore, we should just kind of let him in that.” Or if you’d only done this … again, that would be a worldly wisdom type of statement. Godly wisdom understands that you know what, people make mistakes. And sometimes people are affected by the mistakes of others that they didn’t even have to make, and we deal with the consequences of need. Why? Because God was merciful to us. If God dealt with us, well, if the natural effect of your sin is you’re going to hell, we’ll all be in hell. So this idea of merciful and good fruit kind of goes together.
It is unwavering. It is not, as James said, double-minded. To be unwavering means that you have a single-minded vision of what the good is, and it’s this godly one. And you don’t keep flipping back and forth between godly and worldly. Because if you keep flipping back and forth, you are double-minded which means that you will be unstable in all of your ways. So James kind of points out we need to have this kind of unwavering view, and it’s not hypocritical, which means it’s not self-seeking. Sometimes, you know, doing the right thing leads to a good outcome. And so I do it for my benefit. It leads to a good outcome for me. That’s why I’m doing it. True godly wisdom is really motivated by love for others and not love for self.
Now the end of all of this, James says, is that it will lead to peace and righteousness. Now I’m sort of running out of time, so I gotta hurry up here. But I wanna kind of point out the parable of the prodigal son here for a minute. Because there’s one way of reading this parable that really can be a parable of sort of two wisdoms. And we can have a look at godly wisdom and worldly wisdom being kind of played out in the parable of the prodigal son. Because remember we said that wisdom, godly wisdom, is the spiritual, mental, and emotional ability to relate rightly to God, rightly to others, and rightly to the culture. If I have a godly vision of things, I am actually in a position to step back and critique the culture and understand whether the culture is moving toward a right goal or not. And we can do that corporately as a body.
Now think about the parable of the prodigal son here for a minute. If you think about the parable of the prodigal son, both of the sons in the beginning of the parable are acting in a worldly fashion. They both have the exact same motivation. The younger son, who’s normally the focus of the parable, says to his father, “Basically, you’re dead to me. I am so self-focused that in my eyes you are dead, and so you might as well just give me the inheritance now because I don’t even consider that you’re alive to me anymore.” And as the story goes, the father does that. And the younger son goes off and does what with it. He lives decadently. He lives riotously. He splurges. And most of the time we think he has lived a worldly life. And he’s now getting the results of his worldliness because he finds himself lying in a pigsty eating pig pods and wishing he was back with his father because his father is rich. And so he comes to his senses and what does he do? He goes back home. And in humility he says to his father, “I’m not even worthy to be considered your son. Just make me a servant.” But the father kind of welcomes him and brings him back into the household. Okay, we know that part of the story.
Let’s consider for a minute the older son, because the older son is also acting from a sense of worldly wisdom. Now granted, he is much more conservative in his lifestyle. He is the good son. He does everything that a good Jewish boy is expected to do. He listens to his father. He works for his father. He does everything that everybody in this little Jewish community would say you are a good kid. And in fact, everybody in the community probably is patting him on his back, “You’re the good son.” And especially as the tales of the riotous living of his brother get back to the village and say, “Look, he’s such a bad kid. You are a good kid.” In the end, what does he begin to think about himself? I’m in fact the good kid. I’m a good person. But why is he doing all of this? His hard issue really comes back when his brother returns. ‘Cause when his brother returns, father welcomes him to the house, has a party for him, the oldest son finds out what’s going on, he won’t even go into the house. The oldest son, he’s angry. He’s angry. He’s jealous. He’s self-justifying. The father comes out to him and he says to him, “All these years, I have worked. I’ve done everything that you’ve told me to do. I have been the good son. Ask anybody in town.” I’m pretty sure that the other people in the village just don’t understand the father. “Your son called you dead. You’re nuts for bringing him back into your house.” And they’re probably telling the good older son, “You know what? You’re right to be angry with your brother. He’s an idiot. You’ve done everything that you’re supposed to do.” And by the standards of the community, by the standards of the world, he has been the good son. And he becomes justified in his own mind. Yes, in fact, I am the good son. Why? Because I’ve done everything that the world tells me to do. So we have to understand that there’s a type of righteousness in the older son. The world gives us a type of righteousness. There’s a way of living in the world that seems right, seems virtuous, but it can be a normalizing of the sin nature. And the Bible talks about this. There is a type of righteousness, but in the end it is nothing but filthy rags. But we can still be convinced it’s righteous.
So the question for us as a congregation, I think, in this time of transition that we have is do we share God’s values? Do we share God’s heart? Do we want to see His will done at Shawnee Hills Baptist as it is in heaven? And we need to somehow avoid becoming like the Corinthians where the values and attitudes and ideas of what’s virtuous in the world somehow work their way into our vision of what’s right and good and virtuous here in this congregation. ‘Cause at the point that we do that, we will become spiritually very schizophrenic. We will become pretty dysfunctional at that point. And so I think it really kind of behooves us to kind of look at these two visions of virtue, of right wisdom, and act in accordance.
Let’s pray. Father, you have said in your Word that if we lack wisdom, we should ask. And we really do desire to avoid this kind of schizophrenic response since it’s our natural tendency. We saw it in our brothers and sisters at the Church of Corinth. And so we don’t want it to produce a type of Christianity that will make us lukewarm, because we know what your response to lukewarm Christianity is. And so we ask Father that as we come before you and as we search our own hearts and go through the process of calling a new pastor, that we would do so with your heart and your mind and that you would bless this endeavor. We ask in thy Son’s name. Amen.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]
Humanity in Western culture can be split up into four different groups from two different camps. Think it simplistic if you will, but it explains many things in Christianity that has perplexed me for years.
Camp one believes man is capable, and should be self-dependent as much as possible. The following are the two groups in that camp:
1. Regenerate thinkers. These are saved people who deem themselves capable of knowing truth individually, and are uncomfortable with predominate centrality of control without accountability. They note the fact that we are the only creatures God created upon the earth that can reason, so it stands to reason that God wants us to utilize that capability to the fullest extent in order to improve our environment and help others.
2. Unregenerate thinkers. Like regenerate thinkers, they think man is capable. Their convictions, at least in America, are probably going to be expressed through patriotism and a respect for ideas produced by the Enlightenment era. They are going to be unwilling to trade freedom for supposed guarantees. They are individualistic. Like the regenerate thinkers, they believe strong individuals are better able to help those who really need it.
Camp two believes man is incapable, and should have implicit faith in some sort of elite group or institution. Thinking and reasoning are greatly devalued in this group. The “group” is paramount, and individualism is deemed to be the root of all evil. Following the brain trust of the group is vital for unity and peace. This gives opportunity for the individual to plunge the depths of selflessness—emptying oneself for the sake of the group.
1. Regenerate groupies. This group puts all of its trust in the religious institution or the “Divines.” What they can understand about God and His will is limited. They therefore depend on things like “Daily Bread” short devotionals and creeds. They follow the “polity” (government) of the church to insure they are in good standing with God. Ultimately, God will hold the Divines responsible and not the group—the group is only responsible for following and obeying God’s anointed. The anointed are responsible for determining the deep things of God and presenting them to the group in a way that can be understood. Hence, “orthodoxy” (the authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures by the Divines determined by councils and the confessions that come from them), and creeds.
2. Unregenerate groupies. This group concurs with the governing elite that they are owned by the government. Dependence on the government is paramount, and contribution to its strength the highest form of morality. It is predicated on the basic ineptness of mankind. No big surprise then that after a speech by a politician, political commentators tell us what he/she just said. Again, loyalty to the group is paramount; hence, the group is voted for regardless of many factors because of the fundamental agreement about who owns mankind.
These factors answer questions that I have had for years. Why is church so intellectually unchallenging? Why is it that seminary students don’t teach what they learn in seminary to congregants? Why is empty headed praise music and contemplationism all the rage in today’s church? Why do Christians vote for liberal democrats? Why is the sin of church leaders swept under the rug? Why are people happy to pay taxes? Why are people who ask questions in church feared and ostracized? (they threaten the well-being of the group). What’s up with cults? And why do cult-like denominations and other groups get a pass on being called cults? (Because they manifest the same underlying presuppositions about man in more subtle ways).
This is a paradigm that I plan to develop and expand on, but I believe everyone fits into one of these groups, whether they are aware of it or not. And by the way, which camp were the Reformers in? I will give you a clue:
The following quotes concerning the evil of human reason are from the father of Christian Protestantism, Martin Luther:
Die verfluchte Huhre, Vernunft. (The damned whore, Reason).
Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.
Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148
Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but — more frequently than not — struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.
There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason… Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.
Martin Luther, quoted by Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic, (Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1963), p. 75
Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.
Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason.
To be a Christian, you must “pluck out the eye of reason.”
People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.
Martin Luther, “Works,” Volume 22, c. 1543
Join a New Calvinist Church if you will, but let it be known: they now own you. Newsflash for the husbands: Calvinist elders believe they have the ultimate say and authority in your home. And another thing: the gospel they hold to rejects synergism in sanctification as works salvation. So, guess what? If your wife buys into that, you are now in what they call a mixed marriage. You are now dangerously close to divorce court as the divorce rate in these churches has skyrocketed.
In our recent TANC 2012 conference, author John Immel nailed it—it boils down to who owns man: in the Christian realm; does Christ own you or Reformed elders? In the secular realm, does man own man or does government own man? Recently, our President stated that government owns man. Recently, in a trilogy of articles by three Reformed pastors published by Ligonier Ministries, it was stated that the church owns Christians, and I will give you three wild guesses as to who represents the authority of the church. That would be the elders.
So it’s all about the “O.” It’s all about “ownership.”
True, elders have authority, but not beyond the Scriptures that call Christians to interpret them according to their own biblically trained consciences. As we shall see, these articles plainly state the Reformed tradition that came from Catholic tyranny. The Reformers never repented of the same underlying presuppositions concerning man’s need to be owned by enlightened philosopher kings. The Reformation was merely a fight for control over the mutton with the Reformers seeing themselves as the moral philosopher kings as opposed to the Romish ones. Their doctrine was just a different take on how the totally depraved are saved from themselves. But both doctrines reflect the inability of man to participate in sanctification.
The three articles posted were: Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Albert Mohler; Where and How Do We Draw the Line? by Kevin DeYoung; and, Who Draws the Line? by Sean Michael Lucas. All linked together for your indoctrination convenience.
Al Mohler states in his ownership treatise that Christians have “no right” to leave one church for another because of preferences. Emphasis by underline added:
Far too many church members have become church shoppers. The biblical concept of ecclesiology has given way to a form of consumerism in which individuals shop around for the church that seems most to their liking at that moment. The issue can concern worship and music, relationships, teaching, or any number of other things. The pattern is the same, however – people feel free to leave one congregation for another for virtually any reason, or no reason at all.
Church shopping violates the integrity of the church and the meaning of church membership. When members leave for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ.
There is no excuse for this phenomenon. We have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations. These controversies or concerns should prompt the faithful Christian to consider how he might be of assistance in finding and forging a better way, rather than working to find an excuse to leave.
Where to begin? First of all, while many New Calvinist churches will bring you up on church discipline for leaving because of “unbiblical” reasons, those reasons vary from church to church. So, not only do the reasons for leaving vary among parishioners, but what constitutes proper “biblical…. ecclesiology” in regard to departure varies as well. Mohler states in the same post that doctrine is a valid reason to leave a church, but yet, one of the more prominent leaders of the New Calvinist movement (CJ Mahaney), who is strongly endorsed by Mohler, states that doctrine is not a valid reason to leave a church. CJ Mahaney substantiated that New Calvinist position and clearly indicated what New Calvinists are willing to do to enforce that position when he blackmailed the cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak:
Transcript of Phone Conversation between C.J., Doris and Larry Tomczak on October 3, 1997 pp. 10-11:
C.J.: Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I.
Larry: C.J., I’m not in sync with any of the T.U.L.I.P., so whether you agree or not, doctrine is one of the major reasons I believe it is God’s will to leave P.D.I. and it does need to be included in any statement put forth.
C.J.: If you do that, then it will be necessary for us to give a more detailed explanation of your sins [ie, beyond the sin of leaving for doctrinal reasons].
Larry: Justin’s name has been floated out there when there’s statements like revealing more details about my sin. What are you getting at?
C.J.: Justin’s name isn’t just floated out there – I’m stating it!
Larry: C.J. how can you do that after you encouraged
Justin to confess everything; get it all out. Then when he did, you reassured him “You have my word, it will never leave this room. Even our wives won’t be told.”
I repeatedly reassured him, “C.J. is a man of his word. You needn’t worry.” Now you’re talking of publically sharing the sins of his youth?!
C.J.: My statement was made in the context of that evening. If I knew then what you were going to do, I would have re-evaluated what I communicated.
Doris: C.J., are you aware that you are blackmailing Larry? You’ll make no mention of Justin’s sins, which he confessed and was forgiven of months ago, if Larry agrees with your statement, but you feel you have to warn the folks and go national with Justin’s sins if Larry pushes the doctrinal button? C.J., you are blackmailing Larry to say what you want!―Shame on you, C.J.! As a man of God and a father, shame on you!
This will send shock waves throughout the teens in P.D.I. and make many pastors’ teens vow, “I‘ll never confess my secret sins to C.J. or any of the team, seeing that they‘ll go public with my sins if my dad doesn‘t toe the line.”―C.J., you will reap whatever judgment you make on Justin. You
have a young son coming up. Another reason for my personally wanting to leave P.D.I. and never come back is this ungodly tactic of resorting to blackmail and intimidation of people!
C.J.: I can‘t speak for the team, but I want them to witness this. We’ll arrange a conference call next week with the team.
Doris: I want Justin to be part of that call. It’s his life that’s at stake.
(SGM Wikileaks, part 3, p.139. Online source: http://www.scribd.com/sgmwikileaks)
Of course, this example and many others makes Mohler’s concern with the “integrity” of the church—laughable. But nevertheless, Mohler’s post and the other two are clear as to what common ground New Calvinists have on the “biblical concept of ecclesiology.”
Besides the fact that parishioners “have no right” to leave a church based on preference, what do New Calvinists fundamentally agree on in this regard? That brings us to the article by Sean Michael Lucas :
Because the church has authority to declare doctrine, it is the church that has authority to draw doctrinal lines and serve as the final judge on doctrinal issues. Scripture teaches us that the church serves as the “pillar and buttress of the truth.”
So, even in cases where New Calvinists believe that doctrine is an acceptable reason for leaving a church, guess who decides what true doctrine is? “But Paul, he is speaking of doctrine being determined by the church as a whole, not just the elders.” Really? Lucas continues:
In our age, this understanding—that the church has Jesus’ authority to serve as the final judge on doctrinal matters— rubs us wrong for three reasons. First, it rubs us wrong because we are pronounced individualists. This is especially the case for contemporary American Christians, who have a built-in “democratic” bias to believe that the Bible’s theology is accessible to all well-meaning, thoughtful Christians. Because theological truth is democratically available to all, such individuals can stand toe to toe with ministerial “experts” or ecclesiastical courts and reject their authority.
Creeped out yet? Well, if you are a blogger, it gets better:
Perhaps it is this individualistic, democratic perspective that has led to the rise of websites and blogs in which theology is done in public by a range of folks who may or may not be appropriately trained and ordained for a public teaching role. While the Internet has served as a “free press” that has provided important watchdog functions for various organizations, there are two downsides of the new media, which ironically move in opposite directions. On the one side, the new media (blogs, websites, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter) allow everyone to be his own theologian and judge of doctrinal matters. But because everyone is shouting and judging, the ironic other side is that those who are the most well known and have the biggest blogs gain the most market share and actually become the doctrinal arbiters of our electronic age. In this new media world, the idea that the church as a corporate body actually has authority to declare doctrine and judge on doctrinal issues is anathema.
Lucas continues to articulate the Reformed tradition that holds to the plenary authority of elders supposedly granted to them by Christ:
For some of us, again reflecting our individualism, such understanding of the church unnecessarily limits voices and perspectives that might be helpful in conversation. But restricting access to debates and judgments about theology to those who have been set apart as elders in Christ’s church and who have gathered for the purpose of study, prayer, and declaration actually ensures a more thoughtful process and a surer understanding of Christ’s Word than a pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all. Not only do we trust that a multiplicity of voices is represented by the eldership, but, above all, we trust that the single voice of the Spirit of Jesus will be heard in our midst.
So, bottom line: the priesthood of believers is a “pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all.” Still not creeped out? Then consider how they answer the question in regard to elder error:
Of course, such slow and deliberate processes do not guarantee a biblically appropriate result. After all, the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred” (WCF 31.3). Sometimes, entire denominations err significantly as they prayerfully consider Scripture and judge doctrine. Such error, however, does not negate Jesus’ own delegation of authority to the church and set the stage for a free-for-all.
This brings us to another issue that DeYoung propogates in his post: since Reformed elders have all authority, their creeds and confessions are authoritative and not just commentaries. Hence, they declared in the aforementioned confession cited by Lucas that even though they error, they still have all authority. Whatever happened to the Apostle Paul’s appeal to only follow him as he followed Christ?
Those who wrote the ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition, were not infallible, but these creeds have served as effective guardrails, keeping God’s people on the path of truth. It would take extraordinary new insight or extraordinary hubris to jettison these ancient formulas. They provide faithful summaries of the most important doctrines of the faith. That’s why the Heidelberg Catechism refers us to the Apostles’ Creed, “a creed beyond doubt, and confessed through the world,” when it asks, “What then must a Christian believe?” (Q&A 22–23).
FYI: If you see something in your own Bible reading that contradicts a Reformed creed or confession, you are partaking in visions of grandeur.
This is the crux of the matter; the question of authority. It is almost crazy that Christians don’t have this issue resolved in their mind before they join a church. You could be in a church that is subtly indoctrinating your family with the idea that they are owned by the government; in this case, church polity.
Let there be no doubt about it, New Calvinists are drooling over the idea of another Geneva theocracy with all the trimmings. And someone shared with me just the other day how this shows itself in real life. “Mike” is a local contractor in the Xenia, Ohio area. He is close friends with a farmer in the area who lives next door to a man and his family that attend a New Calvinist church.
One day, His new New Calvinist neighbor came over to inform him that he needed to stop working on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Day, and the noise of his machinery was disturbing their day of rest. Mike’s friend told him, in a manner of speaking, to hang it on his beak. Mike believes what transpired after that came from the neighbor’s belief that he was a superior person to his friend, and that his friend should have honored the neighbors request by virtue of who he is.
The neighbor has clout in the community, and to make a long story short—found many ways to make Mike’s friend miserable through legal wrangling about property line issues; according to my understanding, 8” worth. It was clear that Mike’s friend was going to be harassed until he submitted to this man’s perceived biblical authority.
New Calvinists have serious authority issues, and you don’t have to necessarily join in official membership to be considered under their authority. A contributor to Mark Dever’s 9 Marks blog stated that anyone who comes in the front door of a church proclaiming Christ as Lord is under the authority of that church.
It’s time for Christians to nail down the “O.” Who owns you? Are you aware of who owns you (or at least thinks so)? And are you ok with that?
“Not only that, Prince et al are kinder, gentler Calvinists who wouldn’t dream of endorsing a serial sheep abuser like CJ Mahaney.”
I have seen something for some time that I just haven’t had time to write on: Joseph Prince, the charismatic prince of Singapore, knows the Reformation gospel to a “T” and does a phenomenal job of articulating it from the pulpit. Really, the big boys, Piper et al, can’t touch this guy when he talks about the Reformation gospel of progressive justification from the pulpit. Check out the video series from when Prince preached at Joel Osteen’s church. It is the Reformed Justification by Faith Alone [for sanctification also] par excellent bar none.
Yes, yes, Prince has a different application of that gospel in some areas of life. He uses progressive justification to promote prosperity. It is not true that Prince promotes a “prosperity gospel”—that’s a red herring to throw folks off the scent—his gospel is the Reformed gospel of Justification by Faith Alone [for sanctification also] to a “T.” In fact, Prince’s application of the gospel is actually less harmful than the New Calvinist spiritual despots. And there are no charges of spiritual abuse or control issues coming from Prince’s camp as yet. Indeed, the prosperity Gospel Sanctification camp seems to be a kinder, gentler Reformed theology (by golly, that’s a tweet).
I was given the opportunity to squeeze this post into my schedule via a Facebook conversation I stumbled into yesterday. Jo Bowyer of The Reformed Traveler blog stated the following on her FB page:
The Resurgence [I am assuming the New Calvinist Resurgence blog] now quoting Joseph Prince? Seriously?????!!!! The quote they used is this:
“The law justified no one and condemned the best of us, but grace saves even the worst of us.” – Joseph Prince
I wasn’t the least bit surprised. It’s the same gospel. The New Calvinist crowd then picks and chooses who they will associate with according to the application thereof and other criteria. Certain biblical anomalies are acceptable because such and such “has the gospel right and the other issue is secondary” while some have “secondary” applications that they deem unacceptable. This not only explains the strong ecumenical flavor of New Calvinism, but exposes it for its pervasive hypocrisy.
What better example than John MacArthur who continually rags on Joel Osteen and the likes of Prince while he believes the same gospel. Gag, his hypocrisy makes me sick! Not only that, Prince et al are kinder, gentler Calvinists who wouldn’t dream of endorsing a serial sheep abuser like CJ Mahaney. Like MacArthur does.
Yes, the internet is a wonderful gift from God. While the European oppression of the Scriptures was cured by Gutenberg’s press, the deep deception of Reformed theology is exposed by Google. As Joseph Prince would say, “Thank you Jesus.” I said to self: “Self, I am very busy, what’s the best infogoog for this?” So I typed in, “Joseph Prince John Piper” and came up with a jewel.
It was a post by some Reformed guy objecting to the fact that many people think Justification by Faith Alone “for the baptized as well as the unsaved” is all of Joseph Prince’s idea. He makes the case that the Reformers had the idea first, and posted two videos by John Piper and RC Sproul to prove it. Too rich.
Now look, I am really busy and must move on, but you bloggers out there, with the help Gootenberg, can have a lot of fun with this. Trust me, the infogoog on this is vast.
The serial spiritual abusers of our day all function by the same gospel. That gospel is Gospel Sanctification; or progressive justification. It teaches that justification is a finished work for justification (effected by Christ’s passive obedience to the cross), and also a progressive work for our sanctification (effected by Christ’s perfect obedience to the law and imputed to us for our sanctification). So, “double imputation” is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness for justification, and the imputation of His obedience for our sanctification. Instead of God’s righteousness being imputed to us and our sin being imputed to Christ, “double imputation” is redefined as Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us while His perfect obedience to the law is substituted for our obedience in sanctification. In other words, Christ’s obedience to the law while he was on earth was part of the atonement just as much as His dying on the cross.
Moreover, we stay in our sinful state because our sins have not been imputed to Christ, but rather His obedience has been imputed to our sanctification, or the progressive part of the legal declaration. Any belief on our part that we can do any kind of work that pleases God is paramount to works salvation. The new birth which enables us to colabor with the Spirit in sanctification is denied, and relegated to the manifestations of a realm.
How does this gospel lead to abuse? It is predicated on the idea that even the regenerate remain in their sinful state and are incapable of doing good or pleasing God. This idea is coupled with the belief that God has appointed men to rule over the spiritually ignorant masses, and should rightfully be able to compel by force if necessary. This fundamental principle is the root of all cults and spiritual despotism of every kind.
If this is not the logical conclusion, how then are the totally depraved to be led? You certainly can’t counsel the totally depraved, so when something is going on under the nomenclature of counseling, what is really going on?
In the present-day blogosphere spiritual abuse wars, many so-called advocates of anti-spiritual abuse hold to this same doctrine embraced by Mark Driscoll, and CJ Mahaney et al. Some even throw in the vigorous defense of women’s rights, but how far can that really go when the doctrine holds to the total inability to do anything pleasing to God? What dignity is retained for women in such a worldview?
This post is a primer. In later articles I will be more specific and name names, but many in our day that are being touted as the answer to the likes of spiritual despots like Mahaney and Driscoll in fact hold to the exact same gospel. Again, as stated in this other post, I think cumulative facts that lead to a proposition are confused with truth, and only a true gospel can ultimately set us free.
Note: Click on illustrations to make bigger.
Let me state something right out of the gate: the church has never been in a Dark Age. Christ said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Imagine that. Peter wasn’t anybody—he was an everyday Joe—a blue-collar guy in that culture. Then one day God shows up personally and informs everybody that He would oikodomhsw “be building His church,” or some translators, “I shall be home building”….mou (of me)….the ekklhsian (out-called, not “church” which is not a biblical word) on Peter. You can trust me on this one: Jesus has been home building His out-called, and the construction project has never slowed down or stopped. The building project has always been on schedule and within budget—funded by the Blood. And Christ didn’t choose a John MacArthur Jr. of that day—He chose an ordinary Joe.
Right here, two pillars of the Reformation myth are found wanting. There has never been an out-called Dark Age, and Christ doesn’t primarily use renowned scholars like Martin Luther to get things done. Today’s “Reformed” “church” is built on the foundation of lofty creeds and confessions written by men of fleshly renown. The very name, “Reformed” is fundamentally false—our Lord’s building project has never needed a “reformation”—especially at the hands of murdering mystic despots.
But two days ago, Susan and I had the rare privilege of sitting down with four men who exemplify what Christ is using to build His out-called. We held siege at the restaurant for three hours. These men so encouraged me that it is a wonder that the local police were not called accompanied by men in white attire. They bore four marks of God’s true out-called:
1. Ordinary men.
2. Thinkers who constantly wrestle with understanding.
3. Wholly devoted to truth.
4. Sold-out to the sufficiency of the Scriptures as their only authority.
Somewhere in the world since the day Christ showed up and walked into the everyday lives of twelve men, He has been slowly building His out-called. He has been building with those who possess the same spirit of Noah and is in-fact a fifth mark: they will stand alone if they have to. In the present day neo-Reformed blitzkrieg, it is, and will be two or three families who come out from among them, weeping with sorry, often leaving the only church they have ever known while the door is held open for them by the young, petulant Reformers of our day that despise the sweat and blood that built the work that they have covertly sieged. As our brother Jude said of these brute beasts, they slip in “unawares” (v.4).
Basically, the problem is the same as when Christ showed up to found His out-called. The religion of the day was founded on the authority and institutions of self-important men. People where amazed that Christ didn’t check in with the academics before He launched His ministry, nor quoted the spiritual brainiacs of that day. Likewise, if Christ came today, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and the insufferable likes of obnoxious men like Steve Lawson and Paul Washer would watch with incredulities as Christ would ignore them and make a b-line for the ghettos—choosing His workers and confidants from among them.
So how should I view an article sent to me by a reader that was written by John MacArthur regarding the Reformation motif of “Justification by faith.” First, as I am presently teaching my family, ALL ideas presented by men, and I believe that MacArthur fits into that category, will entail a litany of propositions that lead to a conclusion. Therefore, let us examine and wrestle with the propositions presented by MacArthur in this article (Justification by Faith: online source: http://goo.gl/xJyFO).
Proposition 1: “The Reformation doctrine of justification by faith is, and has always been, the number one target of the enemy’s attack.”
The “Reformation doctrine”? Excuse me Mr. MacArthur (hereafter, JM), but we get our doctrine from the Bible, not the Reformers, who, as I have noted, are an oxymoron to begin with. In the first sentence of this article, JM sets up an authority between the out-called priests (that’s us) and the word of God. Therefore, his article is predicated on a proposition by men who are not original authors chosen by God— buyers beware. Hence, if we are discerning, JM has raised the propositional ante to a considerable level. By citing the preapproved authors of the Bible, additional consideration could have been avoided.
JM goes on to state that this doctrine, “….provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man — without that key doctrine, Christianity falls.” This should now incite interpretive questions for the proposition:
1. Could the Reformers have been wrong?
2. Even if they were right, is there a danger in making Reformed epistemology a standard of truth?
3. Is the claim that the church stands or falls on this doctrine establishing Reformation doctrine as a significant authority? And if so, is this wise?
Proposition 2: “Social and political concerns have brought evangelicals and Catholics together in recent years to unite against the forces of secularism. Under the influence of ecumenism, it’s difficult for either group to remember what it was that divided them in the first place.
The pragmatists and ecumenicists are aided in their forgetfulness by new theological movements that redefine justification in more Catholic terms. Under the influence of liberalism and postmodernism, proponents of the New Perspective on Paul, the Emergent Church, and others have so confused and redefined the doctrine of justification that it has become shrouded in darkness once again
The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.”
JM asserts that the Reformation was a marked contrast between Catholicism and the Reformers. Catholic influence is dragging the “church” back into a “Dark Age.” Regardless of the nomenclature of which he frames this proposition, he begins to articulate the Reformation motif in a way that is traditional, and packaged for fairly easy digestion—if you understand the premise of the motif, and we soon will.
The key here is this part of JM’s proposition: “….and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture.” First, throughout his post, JM uses the term “Reformation doctrine” and “Scripture” interchangeably. Hence, he is proposing that the two are synonymous—he is asking that you accept this proposition as fact. But what we want to focus on here as a gateway of understanding is the word “subjectivism” in his proposition. This is key to understanding my counter proposition:
1. There was no difference in Reformation doctrine and Catholic doctrine.
2. Subjective verses objective is key to understanding the Reformed denial of the new birth that predicates its false gospel.
MacArthur begins to propagate the traditional Reformed dogma of subjective verses objective; that is, as I have previously stated, the crux of their doctrine.
And is that biblical? Is Reformed doctrine biblical doctrine? Is the Reformed gospel the biblical gospel?
The History of the Reformation Motif / Myth
We will take an interlude on the way to our understanding to examine the very significant contemporary contribution to understanding Reformation doctrine by its own proponents and advocates. It is true that Reformation doctrine has experienced times of low recognition followed by “rediscovery,” “resurgence,” and “revival” since the Sixteenth century. The last resurgence began in 1970. It was a rediscovery of authentic Reformed theology that launched the SDA Awakening Movement. Until then, the doctrine had never been framed in a subjective verses objective model of understanding. “Subjectivism” was fingered as the root of all evil verses the, and here it is: objective gospel outside of us. More specifically, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Hereafter, COGOUS.
This apt method of framing Reformation doctrine was the brainchild of SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead, who was joined by Anglican theologians Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy, and later by Reformed Baptist Jon Zens. They attributed all contra Reformation beliefs and movements such as the Enlightenment era to “subjectivism.” JM shows his kinship to this contemporary understanding of Reformation theology via his propositions in said article, of which the sender asked, “Does this muddy the waters?” Answer: no, in-fact, it clarifies MacArthur’s participation in the endeavor to save the church from a supposed “Evangelical Dark Age.”
The theological think tank formed by this “core four” was known as the Australian Forum and their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine which was the most publicized theological journal in English speaking countries during the Seventies. They compiled a vast amount of documentation that clearly shows that the Reformation gospel of Luther and Calvin was the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. It contends that if the power of God is infused into the believer, it will enable him/her to, as the truism states, “know enough to be dangerous.”
Because the Reformers saw justification and sanctification as the same thing, they argued that any enablement infused into the believer would automatically contribute to the justification process which they saw as progressive. Please note: this is exactly what JM et al accuse the Catholics of, but as we shall see, they are both guilty of this same thing: the fusion of justification and sanctification together.
Hence, in contemporary lingo, the outcry of the Reformers against Rome was the “infusion of grace into the believer—making sanctification the ground of his/her justification.” In other words, all enablement and spiritual life must remain outside of the believer. All of the power of grace must remain ‘objective” by staying outside of the believer. This Reformed paradigm was brilliantly illustrated by the Australian Four, hereafter A4, by the following pictorial illustration:
Also let me demonstrate by another A4 pictorial that they believed justification was progressive:
I will later explain the application of the two-man chart in this post. I can most certainly read your mind as you look at it: “How in the world does that work in real life?”
We will now further my contra proposition by substantiating some of my sub-propositions. Let’s first establish that one of the elder statesmen of the neo-Reformed movement, John Piper, and a close confidant of JM, agree with the AF’s contemporarily framed assessment of authentic Reformed doctrine, hereafter, ARD. Graeme Goldsworthy, one of the original A4, recently lectured at Southern Seminary on the Reformation. John Piper wrote an article on Goldsworthy’s lecture (Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary: Desiring God blog, June 25, 2009). Piper’s assessment of Goldsworthy’s lecture is a major smoking gun in regard to agreement on ARD:
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….
This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….
When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].
Note, if you think about it, it is impossible to “reverse” justification and sanctification unless they are on the same plane. Nor can you turn a two-part object upside down unless both parts are attached—making either one the “ground” or otherwise. Hence, a careful observation of Piper’s use of words betrays his subtleness in regard to believing in the fusion of justification and sanctification together. Furthermore, Piper’s beef with Catholicism is not the fusion of justification and sanctification together per se, but rather the infusion of grace into the believer. The AF two-man illustration depicts Piper’s contention to a “T.” Note the exact same issue: Christ within, or Christ without. Just grasp that for now, and put the absurdity of it on the back burner—it will come together for you later.
Basically, if God’s grace/goodness is placed within the believer, he/she becomes enabled enough to become dangerous leading to all of the terrible things inside of the guy looking down. Everything must remain outside of the believer, leading to all of the good things listed on the right side of the chart which are listed outside of him. Don’t miss that. Today’s church owes Robert Brinsmead a tremendous debt of gratitude for publishing this chart.
A Major Key to Understanding: John H. Armstrong and SUBJECTIVISM
Now, let’s take yet another sub interlude to further my contra proposition. The following illustration shows how the AF made the objective/subjective / Christ within / Christ without the major crux of ARD:
A theologian named John H. Armstrong eludes to this exact survey in Present Truth to make a point in an article that he wrote (The Highway blog: Article of the Month; Sola Fide: Does It really Matter?). Armstrong was the general editor of a combined work called The Coming Evangelical Crisis (1996 by Moody Bible Institute) that included the who’s who of the neo-Reformed movement: R. Kent Houghs; John MacArthur; RC Sproul; and heretics Michael S. Horton and Albert Mohler Jr. Armstrong stated the following in the aforementioned article:
The sixteenth-century rediscovery of Paul’s objective message of justification by faith [and sanctification also because justification is supposedly progressive] came upon the religious scene of that time with a force and passion that totally altered the course of human history. It ignited the greatest reformation and revival known since Pentecost.
Now, if the Fathers of the early church, so nearly removed in time from Paul, lost touch with the Pauline message, how much more is this true in succeeding generations? The powerful truth of righteousness by faith needs to be restated plainly, and understood clearly, by every new generation.
In our time we are awash in a “Sea of Subjectivism,” as one magazine put it over twenty years ago. Let me explain. In 1972 a publication known as Present Truth published the results of a survey with a five-point questionnaire which dealt with the most basic issues between the medieval church and the Reformation. Polling showed 95 per cent of the “Jesus People” were decidedly medieval and anti-Reformation in their doctrinal thinking about the gospel. Among church-going Protestants they found ratings nearly as high….
I do not believe that the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith can be overstated. We are once again in desperate need of recovery. Darkness has descended upon the evangelical world in North America and beyond, much as it had upon the established sixteenth-century church.
As JM said in our observation of the article at hand:
….the doctrine of justification….has become shrouded in darkness once again. The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages.
Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.
JM, John Piper, Armstrong, Graeme Goldsworthy, and what they call the “Justification by faith” doctrine—all the same camp, and the same belief: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.
How in the World Does COGOUS Work in Real Life?
As far as how this doctrine functions, there are two camps. But in both camps, the believer remains unchanged and totally depraved. The crux of COGOUS is that sanctification is a total work of God because it finishes justification. The doctrine then frames man’s role in regard to Gnostic ideas. In fact, the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is a Gnostic idea. Calvin claims therein that all knowledge is contained in the knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God. Since we already know that Calvin believed in the total depravity of man, this is the knowledge of good and evil.
Calvin, right out of the gate, states that this is the core of all true wisdom. So, what you begin to see when reading the works of various Reformers of old and new, is the idea that change begins with wisdom, and as we see our own depravity in deeper and deeper ways, and the holiness of God in deeper and deeper ways (which the former facilitates as well), a transformation takes place. Not in us, of course, we are totally depraved—we therefore cannot change—we rather manifest a realm. As it was explained to me by a fairly well known Calvinist, there is a Spirit realm, and a flesh realm (not an old nature within us), and both put pressure on us if we are saved, and we either “yield” to one or the other realms at any given time. But again, we don’t change, we merely manifest a realm. Out of this comes terms like, “Pastor of Spiritual Formation,” and “heart formation,” or “spiritual transformation.” Notice that the “spiritual” is being transformed, not us. I am presently doing research to get a more refined understanding in regard to “what this looks like.” Apparently, an exercise of our own will to obey is creating our own reality instead of “His preordained story.”
A rough sketch follows: all reality points to Christ’s glory, and all reality is wrapped up in the gospel and interpreted by it (the first tenet of New Covenant Theology). All history is “redemptive.” Therefore, all historical events, and events period, are preordained by God to show us wisdom; ie, the knowledge of the good (Christ), and the knowledge of the evil (our own depravity), and both point to God’s glory and “show forth the gospel.” So, all events in life are preordained by God to show us our own depravity, and His holiness. That’s the first way we gain wisdom of ourselves and God, and when we see it, our manifestation results in part of the grand gospel narrative preordained by God.
The second way that we manifest the gospel is through seeing historic events in the Bible that represent the same kind of events that happen in redemptive history. The Bible, in the same way that redemptive history does, gives us wisdom in regard to our own evil and God’s holiness, again resulting in redemptive historical manifestations. If we respond improperly to the redemptive historical event (whether good or bad), we reap “bad fruit” (ie., a bad manifestation) which lends further opportunity for deeper understanding of our own depravity and more glory for God. If we participate properly in the gospel story, we are assured peace and joy regardless of our circumstances (because we are in essence detached from reality in my view). Many Reformed thinkers such as David Powlison and Paul David Tripp call this,
The big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot! (Paul D. Tripp: How People Change, p.94).
As I said before, there are two camps: one rejects any kind of work at all by Christ in us, but Tripp is of the other camp that teaches that we remain totally depraved, but Christ does do a work in us, albeit His work in totality. Tripp states that as we gain deeper understanding of our own evil (deep repentance), our hearts are emptied of idols which then results in a filling of Christ resulting in spiritual formations or manifestations (Ibid, p. 28). Others believe that whatever we see in the Bible ( like a circumstance of Christ’s love) is imputed to us as we see it and understand it. Many of Reformed thought call this “such and such ( love or whatever) by proxy.” It is also known as the “active obedience of Christ” or progressive imputation. Following is an illustration of some of these ideas presented here (Ibid, p.100):
But you can also see some of these concepts if you refer back to the two-man chart. The gospel man meditates on “Grace, Justification, Perfection, Security, immortality, Law,” but these things remain outside of him as manifestations of the objective gospel. But the Christ within man has these things inside of him because that is where his focus is (subjective). Following is another Reformed illustration of what we are talking about. Notice that the cross gets bigger—not us. We don’t grow—the cross does. The cross represents grace outside of us; so, the cross is seen as bigger (ie, God is glorified) while we don’t change. These manifestations make God look bigger while not being connected to anything recognized as us being new and improved. Michael Horton refers to this as “preaching the gospel instead of being the gospel.”
MacArthur often conveys ideas that do nothing in regard to separating himself from this absurd mysticism. In writing the Forward to the Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing the Son by former associate Rick Holland, JM states the following:
As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.
Let’s now return to the article at hand and address the more relevant parts. In the section entitled, “Back to the Beginning,” JM sates the following:
In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).
One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life — and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness — and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).
JM then fails to mention that Luther believed that this justification passage also applies to sanctification. Then JM sates the following under the next heading, Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?:
In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life….
Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent — depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.
In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty — fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.
This all looks to be very solid theologically, but I want you to notice that JM fails to mention that Justification is a finished work. That’s key. And it’s key because of what he states next:
Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.
The problem here is the implication that a pardon is not enough, and that our “standing” must be maintained lest we find ourselves “without merit”…. “before God.” This is problematic because any kind of standard that would maintain merit before God for justification is voided (Romans 7;1-4). There is simply no merit or standard left for a Christian to be judged by in regard to justification.
But the smoking gun that convicts MacArthur in fusing justification and sanctification together in this same article follows under “How Justification and Sanctification Differ.” JM starts out well with this statement:
Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:
After stating this, JM, evokes the classic neo-Reformed double-speak sleight of hand for fusing justification and sanctification together without appearing to do so:
Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.
JM also clearly states that progressive sanctification is part of the same “salvation” process that justification is also a part of ; hence, they supposedly can’t be separated. But the Bible authors only speak of sanctification as salvation in a manner of speaking because there are three sanctifications: positional (1Cor. 6:11), progressive/practical (2 Cor. 7:11, 2 Peter ch. 1), and complete (1 Cor. 6:11[those who are sanctified positionally are glorified as well]), but only one justification that is a onetime legal declaration (Romans 8:30).
Furthermore, JM’s use of the distinct but never separate sleight of hand is the exact same mantra constantly used by many in the neo-Reformed crowd:
Though justification and sanctification cannot be separated they must be distinguished.
~ Ernest Reisinger
It would also stand to reason therefore that MacArthur, like all of the neo-Reformed, would not see any role for the believer in sanctification other than gospel contemplationism. This can be confirmed by reviewing the previous excerpt from Holland’s book.
Classic Reformed Kettles Calling the Pot Black
We now observe a trait by JM that was never true about him before he went over to the dark side—blatant contradictions that assume the utter stupidity of his followers. He follows the neo-Reformed protocol for drawing the line of distinction between the Reformers and Rome in this way:
Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification.
So, the two cannot be “separate,” but they can be blended? But what JM states next brings us full circle to what we observed in John Piper’s article on the Goldsworthy lecture at Southern:
Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner — not the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Please note JM’s either/or interpretive prism, (a neo-Reformed distinctive) that eliminates the possibility that the believer is empowered by the Spirit internally for something that is separate from justification; namely, kingdom living. Notice that the issue is specifically “something good” inside the believer verses the “imputed righteousness of Christ.” Obviously, JM rejects the idea that it can be both, and whatever it is, it must point back to justification if it is something “good” inside of the believer.
Rome’s motive for fusing the two together is beside the point, both the Reformers and Rome believe the two cannot be separated. Hence, for Rome it was easy: Christ forgives all of your past sins, but now you must do certain things to complete your justification because salvation is linear with both justification and sanctification on the same plane. Likewise, the Reformers believe in the same linear gospel, but pardon it by making everything that needs to be done to complete justification—totally of Christ alone. This requires us to remain totally depraved in the process and utilizes Gnosticism for whatever application can be surmised. Frankly, this is the first time that I have seen writings from JM that totally remove all doubt that he has bought into this doctrine , hook, line, and sinker.
If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.
The contradictions here are mindboggling. Again, “If sanctification is included in justification….” Is somehow different from, “… . but can never be separated.” Like all in this camp, JM complains about those who combine the two, while at the same time stating that they cannot be separated.
But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this. While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but are distinct, like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two. According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.” Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:
If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.
But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated. Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. In fact, Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in his teaching is truly sad to watch.
What is it going to take to overcome this kind of error in the church? Christians who think, and love truth enough to wrestle with it long and hard. That’s going to be a small percentage of Christians as thinking is also not in vogue.
Nevertheless, they are out there—Christ said they would be in increasing numbers as He continues to build His out-called ones.
“One can clearly see here where Powlison wants to take the plain sense of Scripture and apply the Socratic dialectic; ie, start asking questions about the obvious because truth couldn’t be that easy, and if it is, any Spirit indwelled Christian can do truth at home which is a huge problem for the philosopher kings. Empirical Objectivism puts the power of understanding in the hands of the common people. It is enemy number one for the Platonic New Calvinists.”
1. Background: No New Arrogance Under the Sun
This whole philosopher king idea is really getting traction in my mind and begs for a discussion on Calvin’s total depravity. As I read more and more Socrates and Plato, I keep looking at the cover of the book to make sure it wasn’t really written by some New Calvinist: “Er, did I pick up the wrong book from the stack?” Socrates didn’t like to be questioned with challenging questions. Most of his dialogue was through questions because he believed that was how truth was rediscovered in the mind—through interpretive questions. Socrates didn’t mind inquisitive questions, they were efficacious to the process, but challenging questions in regard to his positions offended him. He had a specific response when he was challenged accordingly: he would sarcastically reverse the roles of teacher and student, and ask questions as the student while making the student the teacher. Sometimes he was very subtle about it to the point that the student was not aware it was going on; apparently, to amuse the gods.
2. Background: No New Interpretation Methods Under The Sun
Before we get to our subject of total depravity, I might mention that this exact same interpretive dialogue schema to determine truth is used by such New Calvinists like Paul David Tripp to discover what our heart idols are. He got the idea from mystic heretic David Powlison who dubs the method, “x-ray questions.” Much of “How People Change” is devoted to this Socratic method. It is also an important part of Neuro Linguistic Programming (used by motivational speaker Tony Robbins) which is a practical modeling application of Neuropsychology (Ed Welch of Powlison’s CCEF holds a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology). Socratism is also the bases of many schools of thought in psychotherapy—especially that of Carl Rogers. As an unbeliever, I was counseled by a Rogerian psychologist and the dialogue was very much like what it would have been with Socrates and one of his students 2500 years ago. This is known as the Socratic dialectic.
3. Background: No New Need For CONTROL Under The Sun
Socrates, and his understudy Plato, taught the governing/aristocratic philosophical class of Athens Greece which was only 10% of the population. Some historians estimate the slave class in that culture as being around 90% of the population. So, the last thing you want is 90% of the population thinking for themselves and coming up with their own ideas. Ideas have a lot of power, and people are inclined to act on them if they think their ideas are really good, or true. Unfortunately, this is the effect that the rulers of Athens were afraid Socrates would have on their society, so they executed him when he refused to go into exile. In case you are curious, executions during that time were boring—they merely brought a cup of Kool-Aid to your jail cell and you drank it.
Later, when Plato founded the first institution of learning in western culture, the Academy in Athens, he made it clear that the philosopher kings were the only ones who had knowledge, and that they should rule over the masses. This was much more acceptable than what Socrates claimed—that the ruling class didn’t know anything because they thought they did. Leveling the playing field to those who simply admit that truth is not definitive, while dissing the ruling class for not knowing anything, was just really a bad idea. There was no middle class to buffer the tipping of the scales.
3A: The Doctrine of Incompetence Necessary for Control
And like the true God, truth was a trinity: beautiful; good; true. However, to claim to know everything about truth would be the same as knowing everything about God. Both Plato and Socrates taught that truth was subjective at best and unknowable in the worst case:
I know not how I may seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with.
I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts [thinking leads to truth apart from observable criteria].
How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?
What truth that the philosopher kings can muster up is societies best shot. Overall, Plato believed that man was inept and should be ruled by philosopher kings who are a little better off because they at least know that truth can’t be known, and if we can ascertain truth at all—it’s not through what can be experienced through the five senses. That leaves the subjective intuition of the mind that is helped in the process (as much as it is one) through the Socratic dialectic. Later, Augustine took these concepts and integrated them with theology. One result of this integration was the idea that man is totally depraved. And that includes saved men as well. Now, by contrast, Plato and Socrates believed man, given a crystal ball, would always choose what’s best, and that his downfall was IGNORANCE (Plato: “Ignorance, the root and stem of every evil.”). Whether a man was good or evil was irrelevant to their school of thought. BUT, the crux of the issue was transferred: the inability/incompetence of man.
3B: Intuitive Subjectivism Verses Empirical Objectivism
Why do the saints of our day buy into such doctrines as total depravity when Scripture plainly teaches otherwise? Because a literal interpretation of Scripture is the same as trying to obtain truth through what can be observed—that’s why. To the Platonist, the idea that objective truth can be obtained at all, much less by evaluating the verbs, nouns, subjects, direct objects, etc. in a sentence, is absurd, and will incite sneers every time. And, this same idea can be found throughout New Calvinist teachings in this present day. In the book, How People Change, Paul David Tripp decries a literal interpretation of biblical imperatives that should rather be seen in their “gospel context.” Even in regard to following the biblical imperative to change our thinking (in the same book), Tripp objects by complaining that Jesus comes to us as a person, not a “cognitive concept” that we apply to our lives as a “formula.” Today’s Reformed philosopher kings have access to the higher knowledge of seeing the gospel and the personhood of Jesus in every verse.
Obviously, this can’t be done empirically if the subject of the verse is not the gospel; unless of course, you are gifted with the correct Reformed metaphysics. Coming to conclusions by Interpreting verbs, nouns etc. are merely Platonist shadows of the real form and not the true reality. New Calvinist Paul Washer has complained that evangelicals propagate a reductionist gospel when the truth is supposedly that the gospel is eternal and unknowable. It’s all the same basic philosophy dressed up in biblical terminology.
Incredibly, this very same contention can be seen in David Powlison’s complaints about Jay Adams in our very day. While lecturing at the church of Reformed heretic John Piper, Powlison stated the following:
I think there’s been a huge growth in the movement in the understanding of the human heart, which is really a way of saying of the vertical dimension. And I had an interesting conversation with Jay Adams, probably 20 years ago when I said, why don’t you deal with the inner man? Where’s the conscience? Where’s the desires? Where’s the fears? Where’s the hopes? Why don’t you talk about those organizing, motivating patterns?
And his answer was actually quite interesting. He said, “when I started biblical counseling, I read every book I could from psychologists, liberals, liberal mainline pastoral theologians. There weren’t any conservatives to speak of who talked about counseling. And they all seemed so speculative about the area of motivation. I didn’t want to speculate, and so I didn’t want to say what I wasn’t sure was so.
One thing I knew, obviously there’s things going on inside people. What’s going on inside and what comes out are clearly connected cause it’s a whole person, so I focused on what I could see.”
In other words, Adams was asserting that since behavior is connected to the heart and motivations anyway, why not focus on what can be objectively observed and apply empirical biblical solutions? The invisible interworking’s of the heart is subjective at best, and risky in regard to being used to help people. Adams wanted to be sure of what he was telling people in regard to solutions for their life problems. But if you believe that objective truth is unknowable anyway, and man’s best hope is the new experimental drug that may or may not help because truth is so far above our knowing (but Plato’s “bright pebble[s]” can be found now and then) then you must find truth beyond observing how the nouns and verbs of Scripture work together empirically to an objective conclusion with solutions following.
So, Powlison answers the Adams’ approach by asserting that the verbs of Scripture have a deeper meaning than what appears objectively. Pretty clever: don’t discount verbs, but add the idea that verbs are also intuitive for the purposes of deeper knowledge:
And that notion that the active verbs with respect to God can do multiple duty for us, they not only call us to faith and love and refuge and hope, but they can turn on their heads and they become questions, what am I hoping in, where am I taking refuge, what am I loving that is not God, that that’s actually a hugely significant component, both of self-knowledge and then of repentance as well.
Emphasis on the positive side of the heart is the whole relationship with God. And I do think that’s a way where, in the first generation, it looks pretty behavioral, and the whole vividness of relationship with God.
One can clearly see here where Powlison wants to take the plain sense of Scripture and apply the Socratic dialectic; ie, start asking questions about the obvious because truth couldn’t be that easy, and if it is, any Spirit indwelled Christian can do truth at home which is a huge problem for the philosopher kings. Empirical Objectivism puts the power of understanding in the hands of the common people. It is enemy number one for the Platonic New Calvinists.
The proof is in the pudding. I have written extensively on the long, long, long list of New Calvinist ideas that blatantly contradict the plain sense of Scripture. How can they get away with this? And why do they do it? Well, first, because what can be plainly observed are shadows of real truth which must be obtained by loftier methods beyond empirical observation. Secondly, the philosopher kings are the supposed experts on that. It harkens back to the famous Jack Hyles quote: “Now shut your Bibles and listen to me.” Rather than to immediately drag this man from the pulpit and toss him into the street, why did the 10,000 plus in attendance that morning obey him without a whimper or batting of the eye?
Because he was a philosopher king—that’s why.
Interpreting “Total Depravity” at Home
But if one does interpret the Bible literally, and if God does speak to us individually through his word, the folly of total depravity is plainly seen. In fact, if Christians do have the freedom to interpret the Bible for themselves, a child can even see the foolishness of this concept. First, we only need to observe 2 Peter 2:7,8;
and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
Peter calls Lot (not exactly the brightest bulb in the Christian bunch ) “righteous.” Not, “totally depraved.” If God wants to put forth the idea that Christians are totally depraved, many passages like this would only cause confusion. “But Paul, that’s talking about positional righteousness, not the actual righteousness of the person.” Oh really? The passage states that it was Lot’s righteous “soul” that was “vexed.” And how do you vex something that is already totally vexed? Nevertheless, we can also add the Apostle Paul’s commentary on the Christian’s righteousness and ability:
I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14).
In case there is any question that Paul is not talking about us specifically and not just an attribute that we have in Christ alone, he doubles the personal pronoun for emphasis: “you yourselves.” In a further attempt to show that Christians are totally depraved and no different than unbelievers, Calvinists make the law the standard for justification. A New Calvinist recently challenged my contention that Christians do not sin as a lifestyle, and therefore shouldn’t be referred to as “sinners.” He challenged my contention with their classic rhetorical question that supposedly ends the argument: “Did you sin today?” Hence, if we sinned once, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:20 [a justification verse not applicable to sanctification]) which supposedly =’s total depravity.
But the law is no longer a standard by which Christians are judged; so therefore, the repentance is even different—it is a washing of the feet rather than a washing of the whole body (see John, chapter 13). Because we have the seed of God within us and this treasure in earthen vessels, we do sin, but not habitually because we are born again and the power of habitual sin is broken. The law is a standard for our kingdom living, but not our just standing—the whole book of 1John is about this and Romans references the same tenets throughout. Because Reformed theology starts with Platonist assumptions about truth and man’s relationship to it—they must rewrite Scripture in totality to make it work which necessarily dismisses a literal interpretation of the grammatical sort.
And I contend that the unregenerate are not even totally depraved. Romans, chapter 2 makes it clear that all people born into the world have the law of God written on their hearts and a conscience that mediates between their actions/thinking and the natural law of God. This, in my mind, thoroughly explains why unsaved people do good things, and pass judgment on what is “natural/good” and “unnatural/evil.” In most cases, extreme behavior (especially unnatural) is attributed to the mind being “ill.” “But Paul, Isaiah said that all of the righteous works of man are as filthy rags to him.” Right, when they are for the purpose of earning favor with God for salvation, or in other cases, hypocritical. I once knew a serial adulterer who volunteered at the community soup kitchen that fed the poor. Does God see that good work as filthy? Of course. But does He look upon the work of a person, who without thinking (because of the law written upon his/her heart), throws themself in front of a car that is about to run over a mother and her baby in the same way? I doubt it. Will that act earn heaven? No. But is the act filthy in God’s eyes? Hardly.
Furthermore, throughout the Scriptures, we learn that there are different degrees of punishment in hell. For the Reformed mind, that’s gotta hurt. That means that the unregenerate, in the negative sense, are given some merit for not being as depraved as they could be. Therefore, the life of an unbeliever does contain merit—not for salvation, but for responding positively to God’s natural law. In fact, at times, the unsaved put Christians to shame in regard to this because as a man thinks in his heart—so is he, and many Christians have been taught that they are totally depraved. This is one of the very reasons that the world is often not endeared to Christianity: it’s a contradiction to the natural law within unbelievers.
Moreover, we see further contradictions in Christ’s account of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke, chapter 16. What did the condemned man have to gain by exhorting Abraham to warn his living brethren about his eternal demise lest they end up the same way? I’m sorry, but how can this not be seen as a selfless exhortation for the benefit of others? Total depravity? How?
But there is a warning in this for the Reformed as well. Abraham told the rich man that if they would not listen to the Scriptures, neither would they listen to one who had been raised from the dead. So, does that mean to merely “listen” to a gospel story? Or, other biblical truth as well? Does the Bible use a myriad of other truths about God to lead others to the gospel, or just the gospel story itself? And who are the approved narrators? Is the true gospel a gospel story about a call to believe and contemplate the gospel only? Is that a true gospel? The Reformed philosopher kings of our day assure us that they know the answers to these questions, and to just trust them as God’s anointed.
No thanks, Christ told me to “consider carefully what you hear.” And sorry, I think “you” means, “me” as in, Paul Dohse. Plato said, “Those who tell the stories rule society.” And in our day, those who make the whole Bible a gospel story are ruling the church. Well, not in my house.
As for me and my house, we will heed our Lord’s advice and consider carefully what we hear. No matter who is telling the story, and we will pay closer attention in alarm to those looking for deeper meaning in simple verbs.
Of course, sanctified Calvinists like Jay Adams have always been pioneers in teaching Christians to think biblically. Adams was also the pioneer in advocating the competence of believers to counsel themselves and others from the Scriptures. Adams’ revolution began in 1970 and included themes that embraced the church’s greatest needs at that time and yet today, such as, “Competent to Counsel,” and “More Than Redemption.”
However, in that same year, Robert Brinsmead and the Australian Forum were systematizing the newly rediscovered Authentic Calvinism that dies a social death every hundred years or so. It dies a social death because it is vehemently opposed to major themes that are critical for the Christian life; namely, among many,competence, and the idea that the Christian life is more than “the gospel.”
Let there be no doubt: these two emerging movements clashed continually, and continue to do so today. The Forum doctrine, Authentic Calvinism, found life at Westminster Seminary in the form of Sonship theology. The father of it was Dr. John “Jack” Miller, and he had two understudies named Tim Keller and David Powlison. Powlison formulated the doctrine into a counseling construct known as “The Dynamics of Biblical Change” which is the foundation for Westminster’s counseling curriculum—otherwise known as CCEF.
Powlison himself, while lecturing at New Calvinist heretic John Piper’s church, stated precisely what the contention is between these two schools of thought:
This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification. And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves. I think Jay was wrong on that. I – it’s one of those places where I read Ephesians. I read Galatians. I read Romans. I read the gospels themselves. I read the Psalms. And the grace of God is just at every turn, and these are written for Christians. I think it’s a place where Jay’s fear of pietism, like his fear of speculation, psychologically actually kept him from tapping into just a rich sense of the vertical dimension. And I think Biblical Counseling as a movement, capital B, capital C, has been on a trajectory where the filling in of some of these neglected parts of the puzzle has led to an approach to counseling that is more mature, more balanced. It’s wiser. It has more continuity with the church historically in its wisest pastoral exemplars.
After the Forum got the ball rolling, Authentic Calvinism, dubbed, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us,” became Sonship theology, and eventually exploded into the present-day New Calvinist movement. Interestingly enough, in the same lecture, Powlison also articulated further upon another difference in the two schools of thought:
I had an interesting conversation with Jay Adams, probably 20 years ago when I said, why don’t you deal with the inner man? Where’s the conscience? Where’s the desires? Where’s the fears? Where’s the hopes? Why don’t you talk about those organizing, motivating patterns?
And his answer was actually quite interesting. He said, “When I started biblical counseling, I read every book I could from psychologists, liberals, liberal mainline pastoral theologians. There weren’t any conservatives to speak of who talked about counseling. And they all seemed so speculative about the area of motivation. I didn’t want to speculate, and so I didn’t want to say what I wasn’t sure was so.
One thing I knew, obviously there’s things going on inside people. What’s going on inside and what comes out are clearly connected cause it’s a whole person, so I focused on what I could see.”
In other words, Adams insisted on drawing conclusions from what could be observed objectively and is uncomfortable with “helping” people with subjective truth/facts. And Powlison has a problem with that. Why? Because authentic Reformed doctrine contains two ideas that are the mega anti-thesis: the average Christian is not competent, and the Christian life is not more than the gospel. THINKING, and worse yet, objective thinking, is a dangerous stunt that shouldn’t be tried at home by the average parishioner. The parishioner has but two duties: See more Jesus and our own depravity, and follow the spiritually enlightened gospel experts. They are responsible for saving as many totally depraved numbskulls as possible—despite themselves. Their “knowledge” is the latest “breakthroughs” regarding the eternal depths of the “unknowable” gospel because it is the only “objective” source of reality. And reality is deep.
And this is messy business where there is no time to fiddle with totally depraved sheep who think they can know things, and worse yet, figure something out on their own. And of course, the unpardonable sin: critiquing the teachings of the spiritually enlightened with critical thinking. Calvin dealt with such by the sword and burning stake. His New Calvinist children are deprived of such tools, but substitute with character assassination (because what the totally depraved are really guilty of is much worse anyway), bogus church discipline, and the supposed power to bind someone eternally condemned by heavenly authority granted to the spiritually enlightened on earth. Luther himself said of Calvin’s Geneva, “All arguments are settled by sentence of death.”
This brings me to a comment that was posted here on PPT by a reader who uses the handle, “Lydia Seller of Purple.” It was in response to a Calvinist that had the audacity to suggest that Calvinism is an intellectual endeavor meant for the masses. Her superb observations:
Submitted on 2012/07/20 at 3:21 am
“Calvinism appeals to the intellect because the Word of God appeals to the intellect. ”
LOL!!! This is hysterical. Right. Jesus was really impressed with those learned intellectual Pharisees. That sermon on the mount was meant for the intellectual elite of Israel. Kinda embarrassing, Christianity appealed to so many ignorant peasants, too. But you Reformed guys took care of that for us by going along with the state church because they were so much smarter than the ignorant peasants. Yep, they understood the Word better which is why Reformed comes out of the state church tradition. .
“The proper order is intellect, then emotions, then will. Much of so called Christianity appeals to emotions first, then will and never intellect. God made us rational beings for a reason. He wants us to think. When we think properly about God’s truth, our emotions will invariably be affected if we have a heart for God. Such an emotional response will move us to make right choices. Paul put it this way working backwards from the will to the intellect, “You obeyed (the will), from the heart (emotions), that form of doctrine (intellect) unto which you have been handed over.””
But you are totally depraved and unable. That is not rational, Randy. )
The last paragraph is in quotations, so I assume Lydia uses her last statement to comment on that as being from the same guy, but I have some observations on it either way. The only thing that authentic Calvinists want us to think on is the gospel, and with “redemptive” outcomes only, and “redemptive” applications only. And, the emotions always preceding the will, and controlling it, is right out of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism; ie, gospel intellect (gospel contemplationism), then gospel treasure (delight), resulting in joyful obedience which is really a gospel manifestation or “Christ formation” that doesn’t really come from our actions directly. It is also Michael Horton’s Reformed paradigm of doctrine=gratitude=doxology=obedience. I believe my friend, and church historian John Immel has it right: Christian Hedonism was devised to soften the despair and hopelessness that always follows Authentic Reformed theology (leading to its social death) while maintaining Reformed fatalistic determinism.
Such is an insult on the most loving act of all cosmic history. Christ drew deep from truth to overcome his human emotions in obedience to the cross. He endured for the “joy that was set ahead.” His agony preceded obedience in depths that are incomprehensible. Christian Hedonism mocks the very passion of Christ prior to the cross. Hence, the insistence that the totally depraved sheep ignore common sense in exchange for the “gospel context” is the demand of today’s mystical despot abusers. It is also the major ministry theme of Powlison minion Paul David Tripp; this theme can be seen throughout his Gnostic masterpiece, “How People Change.”
I conclude with another apt observation by Lydia regarding the “Reformation”’s tyranny throughout history:
One has to wonder about the Dutch Reformed tradition that made them think making a fortune in the slave trade was Christian. Same with the Presbyterian trained pro slavery Calvinists who were part of the founding of the SBC. Then you have the Calvinist Boers in South Africa and Apartheid. Of course there were no Calvinist slave owners but history seems to show Calvinists have always thought themselves superior to others.
However, I somewhat disagree with the last sentence about Calvinistic slave owners. “The Reformation Myth” will examine the happy Presbyterian slave advocates of the Confederacy, and how their doctrine was an important part of the Confederate machine. And not to mention the roots of Patriarchy that came from the same era as well.
“The whole idea that Christians are unable to obey the law in a way that is acceptable to God is an absurd contradiction of a massive body of Scripture. But yet, this is widely accepted in Reformed circles and key to understanding their doctrine.”
“And moreover, according to Reformed theology, the law is still a standard that must be maintained to get justification home to glorification by driving on a road named Sanctification.”
“However, If you will stay your mind on the reality of the above illustration, and dogmatically assert that all Reformed theology in some way relates to this illustration, you will be given insight into the soul of Reformed theology. Do not let the Reformed academics move you away from this reality with rhetoric.”
“So, in Reformed theology, because the law remains a standard for progressive justification, perfect obedience to the law in sanctification must also be imputed to us.”
Let’s begin by revisiting the original question that prompted this two part post:
Paul, please explain in layman’s terms how Calvinism views justification and sanctification. I am trying to understand this. Does this have anything to do with the saint’s persevering?
What most people don’t understand is the fact that Reformed theology is all but a complete demolition of the truth. The election/free will debate is hardly the issue; this theology barely falls short of contradicting every basic theological point of Scripture.
This starts with the fusion of justification and sanctification….
….this fusion is the leaven that leavens the whole lump. Reformed theology thinks that sanctification links justification to glorification. It believes that sanctification is the growing part of salvation. But, salvation doesn’t grow, it’s a finished work. The chart below from a Calvinist organization should make my point (click to enlarge if necessary).
Also note: the believer doesn’t grow, the cross does. In fact, the believer gets worse! Or at least endeavors to increasingly realize how rotten he/she is. But what about the new birth? Reformed theology denies it regardless of the fact that Christ said, “You must be born again.” I can already hear the cat cries, but I will make my case. There isn’t a theology on earth that is more wrong than Reformed theology for many reasons including the denial of the new birth.
First of all, while denying that they fuse justification and sanctification together, the core element of Reformed theology is based on such. If justification and sanctification are fused together, we abide in the milieu that is between the two. That can make sanctification very tricky, unlike my biblical thesis in part one—we don’t abide in that realm that is a finished work. If we reside in a place where justification progresses to glorification, can we mess it up? According to Calvinists, “yes.” More on that later. But again, they clearly recognize this problem and base their core doctrine on it.
So, what doctrine is that? Well, there is only one way to prevent us from short circuiting justification on the way to glorification: cut us out of sanctification all together and make it a 100% work of God. And I agree, if our sanctification is the link between justification and glorification, we would need to be cut out of the equation all together. This is greatly magnified in Reformed theology by the idea that justification must be maintained by the keeping of the law. So, justification begins, but needs to be maintained until it arrives to glorification via the road of sanctification. This can be seen in a personal conversation I had with the well-known Calvinist Voddie Baucham:
paul: “Do you believe in this Gospel Sanctification stuff?”
Baucham: “I’m not sure what you mean.”
paul: “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.”
Baucham: “Yes, absolutely!”
paul: “But Dr. Baucham, justification is a finished work, how can it sanctify us?”
Baucham: Nodding toward the window where we were standing; “That road out there is a finished work, but we still use it.”
Is that true? Are we sanctified by justification? Do we still “use” justification to get to glorification? At least in the Reformed view, the answer to all three of those questions is “yes,” and the perfect maintaining of the law to get justification home to glorification is the key. Justification must be maintained by the perfect keeping of the law, or else the legal declaration that we are justified is, “legal fiction” according to Reformed academics. This is the exact term they use to explain why sanctification must maintain justification by a perfect maintaining of a true legal declaration by perfect law-keeping. And moreover, according to Reformed theology, the law is still a standard that must be maintained to get justification home to glorification by driving on a road named Sanctification. As we discussed in part one, the law has been voided in regard to justification. Paving a road from justification to glorification, and naming it Sanctification, and using the law for the asphalt is a gargantuan theological misstep.
Well, that certainly excludes us! No? But don’t worry, Calvinists have a solution to this problem—it’s the doctrine of The Objective Gospel Outside of Us. The gospel gets justification home to glorification on the road named Sanctification, and we don’t have anything to do with it because the road is maintained by the perfect keeping of the law. How in the world does all of this work? I will explain, stay tuned. But first, let me establish that Calvinists believe that the law must be obeyed perfectly to maintain justification. This can be seen clearly in the writings of John Calvin himself. In context of sanctification, Calvin wrote that any attempt by a Christian to keep the law in sanctification was akin to an effort to keep the law….for justification. So, in Reformed theology, whatever is….for sanctification, IS ALSO….for justification because the two are the same. Calvinists use James 2:10, which is a statement….for justification, and apply it….for sanctification as one example, but they also routinely speak as if justification, and sanctification are the same thing with the same standard for keeping the law. Here is what Calvin said on this wise in his Institutes (Book 3; ch. 14, sec. 9,10):
Let the holy servant of God, I say, select from the whole course of his life the action which he deems most excellent, and let him ponder it in all its parts; he will doubtless find In it something that savors of the rottenness of the flesh, since our alacrity in well-doing is never what it ought to be, but our course is always retarded by much weakness. Although we see that the stains by which the works of the righteous are blemished, are by no means unapparent, still, granting that they are the minutest possible, will they give no offense to the eye of God, before which even the stars are not clean? We thus see, that even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation.
Even were it possible for us to perform works absolutely pure, yet one sin is sufficient to efface and extinguish all remembrance of former righteousness, as the prophet says (Ezek, 18:24). With this James agrees, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all” (Jam 2:10).
Notice that there is nothing a Christian does that is considered good or righteous by God. The same is echoed by Calvinists in our day like Tullian Tchividjian (click to enlarge if necessary):
And also notice what the standard for that is: the law….for justification in sanctification. The whole idea that Christians are unable to obey the law in a way that is acceptable to God is an absurd contradiction of a massive body of Scripture. But yet, this is widely accepted in Reformed circles and key to understanding their doctrine. Obviously, the law is still the standard, which is a problem in and of itself if you read part 1. The road named Sanctification that links justification and glorification together is paved with the law, and the asphalt is kept in perfect condition by a perfect keeping of the law. As discussed in part one, the law is not available to progress justification forward. For purposes of progressing justification—the law is void—we are no longer UNDER it….for justification. Therefore, justification can’t progress. It doesn’t get bigger, and it doesn’t grow. But obviously, if we are still on that road, things get tricky.
Therefore, Reformed theology holds to the idea that salvation grows to perfection until glorification, but we must remain OUTSIDE of this process lest the growing process is messed up by our mortal imperfection. This is where the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us comes into play. Reformed academics get a covert pass on this because listeners assume they are talking about justification only—BUT THEY ARE NOT—THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT BOTH JUSTIIFICATION AND SANCTIIFCATION. So, we must be cut out of the growing process of salvation because of our imperfection while being able to lay claim to it. But how? Here is how: THE GOSPEL GROWS, BUT WE DON’T. Remember the cross illustration above?
Ok, so, in Reformed theology, justification and sanctification are the same thing. Sanctification is the growing of justification until it reaches glorification, and in the process, justification must not be “legal fiction.” Therefore, sanctification maintains justification by the perfect keeping of the law until the day of glorification . We can lay claim to it, but because of our mortal imperfection, we can’t be part of justification progressing to glorification. So how does this work in Reformed theology? We will get to that, but first, let me further substantiate my claims thus far. Let me begin by quoting Calvin on the idea that justification is progressive. Really, our first clue should be the title of chapter 14 from the Calvin Institutes: “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin states the following in that chapter:
Therefore, we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives. Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the church (2 Cor 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness that that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, i.e., ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but “by grace are ye saved,” “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8, 9).
Furthermore, a Reformed think tank that was highly regarded in the early seventies, the Australian Forum, published the following illustration that captures the general idea of the doctrine (click to enlarge):
Let me add an additional note:
Obviously, this illustration provokes multiple questions in regard to practical application which will be discussed later (how this supposedly works in sanctification). But the key reality must not leave your mind: Christians cannot really participate in sanctification according to Reformed theology with the exception of one concept, and unfortunately, as we shall see, that one concept can only be works salvation. Not only is our role limited and narrow, the specific role is efficacious to maintaining our own salvation. However, If you will stay your mind on the reality of the above illustration, and dogmatically assert that all Reformed theology in some way relates to this illustration, you will be given insight into the soul of Reformed theology. Do not let the Reformed academics move you away from this reality with rhetoric.
Let’s also illustrate that proponents of Reformed theology fuse justification and sanctification together and speak of the two as being the same thing. In their sermons and teachings, they do this by virtue of the missing transition of subject matter—that being the difference between sanctification and justification. In their messages, they transition between the two without noting any difference as if the two are the same thing—because that is what they believe. Furthermore, this is an excellent communication method for assimilating this idea into the minds of their parishioners victims without them realizing what is happening. Examples of this are strewn about everywhere, but I will cite the following example from The Truth About new Calvinism, page 18:
Regarding the same message in context of who the audience was, in the sermon notes, the top of the page had statements like, “Things Jesus wants us (“us” would presumably be Christians) to know about the law.” The top parts of the notes were also replete with “we” in regard to the law, but the bottom part had statements like: “We live in the Age of Grace; salvation is not of works,” but yet, the whole message clearly regarded the role of the law in the lives of Christians. Therefore, whether unawares or otherwise, the pastor extended the relationship of the law in regard to justification (salvation) into the realm of sanctification (our life as already saved Christians), by virtue of a missing transition in subject matter. Hence, the subject of the law’s relationship to the lost was spoken of as being the same thing as its relationship to those who are saved. Theologians call this a collapsing of sanctification into justification or the synthesizing of the law’s relationship to justification and sanctification. This is most definitely a hallmark of New Calvinist doctrine to keep in mind for later discussion. The communication technique of the missing transition is also a technique used often by New Calvinists.
Next, let’s establish the fact that in Reformed theology, the law must still be the standard for sanctification because sanctification is the growing process of justification; in other words, progressive justification. Again, if law is not the standard for sanctification which is supposedly the progression of justification, then justification (according to Reformed theology) is mere “legal fiction.” Well, justification does not grow, it is based on God’s declaration—not law (as discussed in part one), and there is a reason why sanctification need not be perfect as a kingdom life totally separate from the finished work of justification which will be addressed later. But without further ado, the aforementioned Reformed view can be seen in Calvin’s diatribe in which he thinks it of abundant importance for Christians to know that they cannot obey the law in order to please God:
For since perfection is altogether unattainable by us, so long as we are clothed with flesh, and the Law denounces death and judgment against all who have not yielded a perfect righteousness, there will always be ground to accuse and convict us unless the mercy of God interpose, and ever and anon absolve us the constant remission of sins. Wherefore the statement which we set out is always true. If we are estimated by our own worthiness, in everything that we think or devise, with all our studies and endeavors we deserve death and destruction.
We must strongly insist on these two things: that no believer ever performed one work which, if tested by the strict judgment of God, could escape condemnation (Calvin Institutes: book 3; ch.14, sec. 10,11).
So, though the apostle Paul states that the paramount goal of Christians is to please God (2Cor. 5:10); obviously, Reformed theologians state unequivocally that the law is not the standard for that. Again, it can’t be, because sanctification is growing justification which demands a perfect adherence to the law in order not to be “legal fiction.” Therefore, if not the law, what? This interpretive question is the juggernaut of the subject at hand. The answer: more salvation. According to Reformation theology, our only possible participation in progressive justification is the same thing that justified us to begin with: faith alone. But wait a minute, in Reformed theology, we are not justified per se. Remember the illustration that is the soul of Reformed theology that we cannot be removed from, and the reality thereof. All righteousness , Christ, grace, ect., must remain outside of us. Nothing of grace can be within. So, we have no righteousness that is our own….for sanctification. Like….for justification, it must remain outside of us. In fact, Reformed theologians believe that if grace, Christ, or any kind of valid righteousness is inside of us, that is infusing grace into us while in sanctification. And if we do that, we are making sanctification the ground of our justification. Get it? If sanctification is a road that takes justification to glorification, and it must be paved with perfection, and we are on that road, and grace is infused into us, then we are made part of the progressive justification process. Game over.
We must (according to Reformed theology) walk side by side with justification on the road named Sanctification that takes us to glorification without being a part of the process. Otherwise, our participation is legal fiction because we obviously still sin. An “aberration” that believes that we have righteousness inside of us is called “infused grace” by Reformed academics and is the primary offence to the soul of Reformed theology: The Objective Gospel Outside of Us. Again, reobserve the two-man Christ within/Christ without Reformed illustration that is the soul of this doctrine. All Righteousness must remain outside of us and we must walk the road named Sanctification the same way we were initially permitted to be on the road, by faith only. If we work, or obey the law, we are believing that there is a righteousness inside of us that can participate with progressive justification in arriving at glorification at the end of the road. This is infusing grace into us and making our ability to travel with justification the ground of our justification. At least partially, which is a horseshoe and hand grenade issue in regard to justification anyway. Now, let’s observe the “elder statesman” of New Calvinism reiterating what I have just written. Take note that John Piper’s comments following were in regard to a lecture by Graeme Goldsworthy at Southern Seminary. Goldsworthy was one of the key members of the aforementioned Reformed think tank, the Australian Forum. The following excerpts were taken from The Truth About new Calvinism, pages 41-43:
In the aforementioned article concerning Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern, Piper agrees that the original Reformation sought to correct the reversal of sanctification and justification:
“This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel.”
In case one would think that Piper excludes evangelicals from this concern because of his mention of baptismal regeneration, consider what he said in the same article: “I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away— neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….”
….Piper concurs with Goldsworthy that “infused grace” is the problem. The like complaint is that the completely outside of us gospel empowers us inwardly, subjects us to subjective distractions from the power of the historic Christ event, and makes the natural result of the gospel our power source (the fruit), instead of the outward power of the gospel, the real root. To infuse grace is to suggest that we are enabled to participate in being justified by our own efforts in bringing about the natural results of the gospel.
Nothing shows this kinship between the Forum and New Calvinism more than a Piper quote from this same article and a visual aid used by Robert Brinsmead to demonstrate how “infused grace” supposedly puts our souls in peril. First Piper’s quote:
“When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].”
Now observe Brinsmead’s illustration on the next page: [the two-man Christ within/Christ without chart which was published by the Australian Forum].
This necessarily leads to the Reformed denial of the new birth. Obviously, the idea that Christ lives within us and works within us is part and parcel to the new birth—and a big problem for The Objective Gospel Outside of Us. Reformed theologians know that they cannot blatantly deny the new birth and retain credibility, so they have many cute ways of relegating it to insignificance in order to bolster their staple doctrine. I have addressed how they do this in many other articles including chapter 11 of The Truth About New Calvinism, and will not continue to do so here, but will at least note some interesting quotes that speak to my assertion:
It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.
~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)
But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?
~ Michael Horton
And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).
~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)
One would therefore think that this theology would lead to a view that believers are no different from the unregenerate save belief in the gospel only. Practically, Christians remain totally depraved like the unregenerate. And you would be correct about that. Reformed theology holds to the idea that justification initially recons us righteous in Christ, and without Christ in us, and then continues to recon us clothed with Christ’s righteousness (and none of our own in sanctification) as long as we “live by faith” ALONE….for sanctification. Moreover, only the POSITION of a person is changed in salvation, not the character, personhood, or creaturehood. There is no better illustration of this than the following citation from Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity, p.62:
Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.
The tail end of Horton’s quote brings me to the next point. Notice that Horton states that “we” can “lose,” as in l-o-s-e “both.” Both what? Obviously, justification and sanctification. Which equals = no salvation. “Paul, is he really saying that we can lose our salvation?” Sure he is—IF—we “move on to something else.” Which equals = moving on to something else but faith alone…for sanctification which is the same thing as moving on to something else….for justification. Progressive justification is not the only theological anomaly that Reformed theologians are content with, they must also add sanctification by faith alone. But all of this is necessary in order to stay consistent with their core doctrine: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. Yes, let them squeal all night long; nevertheless, they teach that you can lose you salvation.
I will illustrate this further by revisiting the idea that Reformed theology fuses justification and sanctification together. Reformed theologians are big on the “Golden Chain of Salvation” concept based on Romans 8:30. We discussed Romans 8:30 in part one along with its ramifications for salvation. The Reformed take on this verse is the idea that sanctification is excluded because it is one and the same with justification. The opposite position was presented in part one to some extent. Note the following quotation by John Piper:
This is probably why in the golden chain of Romans 8:30 the term sanctification is missing: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called He also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” When Paul jumps directly from justification to glorification he is not passing over sanctification, because in his mind that process is synonymous with the first phase of glorification and begins at conversion. (God is the Gospel, footnote, p. 93).
Ok, notice that Piper calls justification (“conversion”) “the first phase of glorification.” So, again, we see that justification grows in glory and culminates at complete glorification and sanctification is part of that “process.” Not so. In regard to the fusion of justification and sanctification, what is a “chain”? Reformed theologians clearly refer to the justification “process” as a chain with justification on one end and glorification on the other end, and sanctification in the middle. Moreover, John Piper preached a sermon in which he warns that if we do not participate in the salvation “links” in the proper way, that we put ourselves in great danger—presumably in regard of losing our salvation. The following illustration with a golden chain and Piper’s quotes from the sermon should clearly make my point here (click to enlarge):
Which brings me to yet another point. If we can lose our salvation, what do we have to do to keep it? Whatever that is, it’s a work to maintain justification. And that is works salvation. In the case of Reformed theology, we have to keep our salvation by sanctification by faith alone. Hence: salvation by Christ + faith alone in sanctification. Think about that. To the Reformed, moving on to anything else but sanctification by faith alone will cause us to lose our salvation. Historically, the relaxing of the law in sanctification has always been deemed antinomianism. Is Reformed theology salvation by antinomianism? Yes, I think it is—the fusion of justification and sanctification can hardly end up anywhere else.
This entails the belief that Christ not only came to die for our sins, but He also came to live a perfect life of obedience to the law so that His perfect obedience in the life he lived on earth could be imputed to us in sanctification. So, in Reformed theology, because the law remains a standard for progressive justification, perfect obedience to the law in sanctification must also be imputed to us. In other words, Jesus obeys for us. How our justification must be maintained in our sanctification (according to Reformed theology) is well articulated by the Australian Forum Reformed think tank (The Truth About new Calvinism: p. 101, 102):
After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”
We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.
On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31).
A more contemporary example from the Journal of Biblical Counseling (David Powlison’s CCEF) can be observed in the following citation:
It is by virtue of Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross and resurrection-plus nothing-that we are justified (made and declared right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right in the Lord’s eyes by virtue of His obedience). Christ is our holiness. Christ is our sanctification.
Therefore, our walk with Christ must be a continual reoffering of the works of Christ to maintain our just standing. When we come to the last resurrection, we will be judged accordingly. If we lived sanctification in this way, the righteousness of Christ will be the ground of our justification and we will be glorified. See the following illustration from a John Piper video clip (click to enlarge):
Christians will stand in no such judgment. And via the new birth, we are new creatures that in fact are righteous. Our lack of imperfection, though displeasing to the Lord, has no bearing….for justification. We are new creatures that deplore the weakness of our mortality, but are indwelt and enabled to obey God through our new life in the Holy Spirit. We are declared righteous, and in fact are righteous. We are not colaboring with our flesh like the world, but we rather colabor with God (1Cor. 3:9, 1Thess. 3:2, 2Cor. 6:1). Therefore, Paul could say, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me (Romans 7:20). We will look at the supposed practical application of Reformed theology in part three, and compare it to the truth in light of assurance, spiritual growth, perseverance of the saints, and other sanctification issues.
Folks around the Southern Baptist Convention can laugh all they want to about sarcastic comments regarding a planned takeover by “aggressive Calvinists,” but that is exactly what’s going on. And by the way, it’s documented. Moreover, election verses freewill is not the issue, a faulty interpretation of justification is the issue. The following pdf link is an addendum to the book, “The Truth About New Calvinism: It’s History, Doctrine, and Character.”
The Truth About New Calvinism pdf: pages 147-161: TANC Addendum
“So, if we don’t use the Bible as instruction for applying deadly words to our life, but instead use it to discover what Jesus’ favorite color is, we are transformed into His image from “glory to glory.” The former is living by do’s and don’ts, so don’t do that, do the latter.”
You hear it every hour of the day if you are a Christian that partakes in Christianized venues of Twitter, Facebook, radio, and especially church. I don’t like to type, so let me run over to Twitter and get it via copy and paste, I will be right back.
Ok, I’m back, here is one of the versions:
Knowing God does not come through a program or a method. It is a relationship with a Person.
Sounds spiritual, doesn’t it? Yes, as Christians, we want to partake in more spiritual endeavors than things like, say, biblical instruction. Yes, biblical instructions by the Lord are a “method,” “a step by step program,” and other things that reek of cold, hard, tablets of stone. After all, we don’t want to live by don’ts. Christ is not a precept, He’s a person. He’s not a formula, He’s a Father. Well, you get the picture.
But what does it mean? Just grab your Bible, flip it open, and put your finger anywhere on the page and read; it’s probably going to be about God telling us to think a certain way, love in a certain way, act in a certain way, or illustrate what happens when people don’t. So where are all of the verses regarding this Jesus as person motif as if that’s not a no-brainer to begin with? Notice the strong either/or prism that suggests the following equation: seeing imperatives in the Bible = you’re so stupid that you don’t know Christ is a person. Right. Supposedly, here is what the Great Commission really states:
Go to all of the ends of the earth and make disciples, teaching them to observe my personhood.
So what does it mean to know that Jesus is a person? Let me give you the thumbnail version. This truism was propagated by New Calvinists and their Gnostic approach to sanctification. Matter is evil; spirit is good. Or as they state it specifically, “The letter kills (law written on things made up of molecules), but the spirit gives life.” So, if we don’t use the Bible as instruction for applying deadly words to our life, but instead use it to discover what Jesus’ favorite color is, we are transformed into His image from “glory to glory.” The former is living by do’s and don’ts, so don’t do that, do the latter.
The bottom line is the following: opting for a subjective personhood of Christ rather than focusing on what Jesus says is sanctified idol worship. Let me illustrate. Here in Ohio, just outside of Dayton, there is a Charismatic church that built a 60 foot tall statue of Jesus along Interstate 75. Recently, it was struck by lightning at night and the flames could be seen for miles in a spectacular apocalyptic-like demise. According to interviews conducted by the local press in regard to that event, it was discovered that the image meant many different things to many different people.
That’s the subjectivism problem with idols, and without a doubt why God doesn’t want any made, whether of things in heaven or Earth. They are subjective and everybody comes up with their own truth. It’s the same with using the Bible to gain a supposed deeper and deeper knowledge of Jesus’ personhood rather than reading to ascertain what He would have us think, say, and do. I have to wonder if this issue isn’t the crux of Jesus correcting the woman in Luke 11 who proclaimed His mother blessed because she had given birth to Him. Jesus made the sharp point that blessings don’t come from merely being closely related to Him, but by doing what He says.
Sanctification is a critical issue. We will run the race well or we won’t and it matters to God (Acts 20:24, 1Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, 2Tim 4:7, Heb 12:1). He saved us for the purpose of running the race of sanctification to please Him: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Cor 5:9). “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn 3:8). Gospel sanctification claims to be the only right way to run the race of sanctification, but is that really the case?
What is Gospel Sanctification?
First, let’s look at a traditional view of sanctification. The Scriptures make it clear that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves; it is a work of God alone. But once we are born again we are new creatures set apart and enabled by God to dependently work with him in the sanctification process. Sanctification is the spiritual growth process that takes place until God brings us home. Most evangelicals would agree with that definition. However, proponents of gospel sanctification would say: “No, no, no, God alone saved us but now you say we can work for our sanctification? The gospel saved us and it also must sanctify us, both are a work of God alone. We are saved by the gospel and sanctified by the gospel.” Hence the term gospel sanctification. As Jerry Bridges often says: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Therefore, we are saved by the gospel and must live by the gospel every day (there is some element of truth to this; for instance, everyday repentance likens somewhat to our original repentance at salvation, but in fact, is not exactly the same [Jn 13:10]). The next logical question is: how does that apply to our everyday walk with God? As a friend of mine often says, “Put feet on that.” Well, think salvation. The main key to gospel sanctification is that you couldn’t do anything to be saved and you therefore cannot do anything to be sanctified. Dana L. Stoddard, in his treatise on gospel sanctification in the Journal Of Biblical Counseling entitled, “The Daily Christian Life,” put it this way:
It is by virtue of Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross and resurrection-plus nothing-that we are justified (made and declared right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right in the Lord’s eyes by virtue of his obedience). Christ is our holiness. Christ is our sanctification.
Therefore, according to Stoddard in this article which is an excellent representation of the gospel-driven life, both justification and sanctification are brought about by the life and death of Christ “plus nothing.” Stoddard further drives this point home by quoting John Murray who calls this view definitive sanctification (sanctification by virtue of the indicative alone): “Being made and declared holy is a definitive act of God alone in Christ” (emphasis mine). Therefore, gospel sanctification by virtue of its definition alone is necessarily a passive approach to sanctification. It seeks to synthesize justification and sanctification as much as possible making everything a total work of God alone. Is it biblical? And if it isn’t, what are the ramifications?
But first, let me say that proponents of gospel sanctification would be very quick to answer a charge of let go and let God. Gospel sanctification does have a practical application. But again, it is necessarily limited by its passive definition and attempts to make sanctification as monergistic as justification (or otherwise as passive as possible). In other words, our contribution to the sanctification process is limited and narrow. Paul David Tripp, a propagator of gospel sanctification, even refers to biblical thinking as a, “technique that is not sufficient for real change.” For all practical purposes, he says in one of his books that 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 is unbiblical:
But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior, Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to think his thoughts and act the way Jesus would act (How People Change pg. 27).
When you warn readers that even our own efforts to change our thinking to the mind of Christ is a work that eclipses the person and work of Christ, that is excessively passive. Also, note that the crux of the matter in Tripp’s mind is “omitting the person and work of Christ as Savior” (emphasis mine). This is a very defining statement in regard to gospel sanctification; we can exclude Christ as Savior from the sanctification process. Any effort on our part, even an attempt to align our thinking with the mind of Christ is to exclude the person of Christ from the sanctification process. Proponents of gospel sanctification make no distinction between justification and sanctification; both are monergistic and obtained by the gospel. Of course, this approach would be a really hard sell to Christians at large if there was no real-life application. So then, what are the primary working dynamics of gospel sanctification, if any? In other words, is there a practical application? As one person asked me, “So what are we supposed to do?” (GS proponents often say that very question is indicative of a grave spiritual problem).
Remember, think gospel. What did you have to do to get saved? Believe and repent. The sanctification process is then no different. Daily repentance is the primary thrust of gospel sanctification because it is the lowest common denominator of passivity that proponents can come up with. Remember, we are dealing with a narrow concept, so whatever elements they have must be greatly embellished. So, we have deep repentance as opposed to regular everyday biblical repentance. This is a process in which the heart is emptied of any desire that exceeds our desire for Christ. This can be done through our recognition of daily sin but not stopping there, we must determine what desire led to the sin (good luck).
Theology of the Heart
This is the process that is used to determine the sinful desires of the heart (see “How People Change,” chapter 6). It involves a knowledge of how the heart supposedly works in the milieu of life and often explained through visual charts. Besides outward sin and response to circumstances, desires can be evaluated by asking ourselves x-ray questions. Paul Tripp supplies a list of thirty-four with two or three phrases in each that ask additional questions in each separate question on page 163 of “HPC” for a total of about 100. The most popular one that you will hear often is: “What did you want?” Imagining possible future circumstances of life and thinking about how we might respond while asking ourselves the right x-ray questions is yet another way to determine desires of the heart that cause sin. We empty our heart of idols that distort our desires by confessing them daily, and then Christ fills our hearts with himself resulting in an effortless flow of obedience. Supposedly.
Belief and Identity
Once we have emptied our heart of idols, we then “rest and feed” on the living Christ who then fills our heart with Himself, replacing the idols of the heart (idols that create desires that exceed a desire for Christ, “HPC” pg. 28). We also focus and learn about who we are, and what we have in Christ to fill the void left by the eradication of sinful desires / idols effected by deep repentance.
The result of this process is new obedience. Or as Tripp explains it in “HPC”: “New and Surprising Fruit” (chap. 14). Or as others explain it, obedience is always a “mere natural flow” (The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event, “Vossed World” blog). In other words, we are walking along and holy fruit just starts popping up everywhere without any effort and to our surprise. However, Philippians 2:8 says Christ was obedient to the cross. Now go to Matthew 26:36-46 and read about the struggle Christ experienced as he faced the cross. Hebrews 12:3,4 says: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
Nevertheless, according to proponents of gospel sanctification, Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins and justify us before God, but also lived an obedient life in order to obey for us as well (remember what Stoddard said about us being justified and sanctified by the “life” and “death” of Christ with His active obedience being imputed to us, not just righteousness). To accept anything less is to exclude the person of Christ from the gospel, so they say. Some call this belief monergistic substitutionary sanctification. Christ was not only a substitute for the penalty of sin; but was also, and presently is, a substitution for all our works in sanctification as well.
So how do we know when we are obeying God in our own efforts or when it is the work of Christ through us? Easy, our obedience is accompanied by joy and all willingness, that’s how we know according to proponents of the gospel-driven life. Joyless obedience is always in our own efforts and not pleasing to God. Please do not misunderstand me, I realize there is much obedience in the life of a believer accompanied by joy and complete willingness, but sometimes that joy comes as a result of the obedience at a later time. Knowing this often helps us to endure accordingly: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Here I must pause and interject a very important note: Paul Tripp is the guru who has articulated the supposed practical application of the gospel-driven life via “How People Change.” John Piper is the guru who has articulated the experience of gospel sanctification via Christian hedonism and other such writings. Much of the theory in regard to how the gospel-driven life is experienced is through the writings of John Piper.
What does that look like?
This is a gospel sanctification (GS) buzz question / mantra that replaces “how do we do that?” How, is now the wrong question to ask because it indicates there is actually something we can do to participate in the sanctification process, a crime worthy of death. If you doubt the wide spread influence GS has today, take note of how often you hear that phrase. Even the terminology must be changed to discourage some kind of effort on our part in the sanctification process that might imply some verb to follow.
The GS Hermeneutic
But what about all of those pesky Bible verses that seem to contradict gospel sanctification’s passive approach? Like say for instance, 1 Corinthians 9:27; ”No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” No problem. GS has its own process for interpreting the Bible through the lens of a gospel perspective so everything comes out redemptive. It’s called the redemptive-historical hermeneutic, or the Christocentric hermeneutic, or the cross-centered hermeneutic; so you have the theology of GS doing the interpretation.
Gospel sanctification is well suited for American culture. It’s new, It’s easy, and claims to have a low failure rate. It also has a strong intimidation factor. To speak against GS is to be against Christ and his gospel. To be against GS is to propagate the “legalism” of self-discipline and hard work in the sanctification process. Worse yet, if you believe that obedience is an exercise of the will to please God, you are supposedly engaging in works salvation. First of all, any Christian knows that we cannot please God apart from His life giving Spirit, but neither are we merely potted plants in the process:
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith (1 Thess 3:2, emphasis mine. Some translations: “coworker”). Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15, emphasis mine).
GS is destructive error for the following reasons:
It takes away from the word of God in regard to elements of biblical sanctification.
Our resources and guiding truth concerning sanctification in the Bible are many faceted and numerous. GS is a narrow approach that excludes or ignores key truths of sanctification such as satanic strategy and our battle with the flesh. According to GS proponents, these kinds of considerations, and many others distract us from “owning our own sin.” They say that the flesh is not our problem, the heart is the problem, the flesh is a realm. As only one example among many, most GS teachers do not see Satan as being in the loop of spiritual warfare, regardless of clear warnings from the Scriptures. This is no trite matter.
The following quote concerns John Piper’s Christian Hedonism which is the articulation of how gospel sanctification is experienced. But, the same concerns expressed by Dr. Masters below can also be applied to gospel sanctification as a whole. Gospel sanctification applies, and confines sanctification to the same elements of justification which are much fewer; namely, by faith alone.
But Dr. Piper’s formula for its use undoubtedly alters the understanding of sanctification long held by believers in the Reformation tradition, because it elevates one Christian duty above all others.
Delighting in God, we repeat, is made the organizing principle for every other spiritual experience and duty. It becomes the key formula for all spiritual vigor and development. Every other Christian duty is thought to depend on how well we obey this central duty of delighting in the Lord. The entire Christian life is simplified to rest upon a single quest, which is bound to distort one’s perception of the Christian life and how it must be lived. Whatever the strengths of Dr. Piper’s ministry, and there are many, his attempt to oversimplify biblical sanctification is doomed to failure.
Because the biblical method for sanctification and spiritual advance consists of a number of strands or pathways of action, and all must receive individual attention. As soon as you substitute a single ‘big idea’ or organizing principle, and bundle all the strands into one, you alter God’s design and method. Vital aspects of Truth and conduct will go by the board to receive little or no attention.
It denies specific biblical instruction.
GS denies that the Bible includes specific instruction. The hit list of GS includes: living by lists; do’s and don’ts; put off and put on; biblical thinking; discipline; and a traditional view of obedience among many others. Yet 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
It redefines obedience and the gospel.
It makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it. Is it therefore a half gospel that presents Christ as Savior only? Yes.
It redefines spiritual warfare.
Gospel sanctification’s battleground location would suggest a totally different form of warfare as opposed to warfare with sin that abides in the flesh. For one thing, warfare with the flesh is much more defined as opposed to the subjective nature of what the Bible calls the heart. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah suggested that we cannot know the heart to begin with. These are two separate paths of sanctification. Saints would do well to choose their path carefully.
The church for the most part defines spiritual warfare as Scripture describes it, a warfare between our regenerate heart and the flesh. Disciplines that feed our spirit God’s pure milk and deprive the flesh of provisions is not merely an outside warfare verses an inside warfare, it is the biblical prescription.
It robs Christians of assurance of salvation.
Throughout Scripture, striving in obedience to the word of God is said to result in assurance of salvation. Most notably, 2 Peter 1:5-11. This is a far cry from the prescription for assurance by New Calvinist Jerry Bridges who counsels us to have assurance via “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”
Once a rabid respecter of John MacArthur, I now have absolutely no respect for him. I am keeping some of his books in my library for reference purposes, but that’s about it. And as one who actively promoted financing/support for Christians to attend his college, I now consider him a danger to the wellbeing of Christianity in general. I have watched his decline (due to bad company with the likes of mega-heretic John Piper) for some time, but his willingness to support and associate with CJ Mahaney reveals the true heart of John MacArthur Jr.
I am almost finished reading “Blight In The Vineyard” by John Immel, and I’m looking forward to writing a review on it, and I’m taking this review very seriously as I believe this book is one of the most relevant books of our day. I have made the book required reading for all in the Dohse household. Immel, among the other hefty services rendered to the church in said book, provides Cliff Notes (in a manner of speaking) for SGM Wikileaks.
I have gone to Wikileaks and read, primarily because Reformed despots say it is gossip to do so (and thereby doing my duty), but have really been unable to ascertain any great evil on the part of CJ Mahaney because of the massiveness of the documents. Well, Immel clears that all up by pointing out a few atrocities and the page numbers. The only one I had to see follows: the transcript of a recorded conversation between CJ Mahaney and SGM cofounder Larry Tomczak. CJ Mahaney, according to the transcript by anybody’s measure, is trying to blackmail Tomczak who left SGM for doctrinal reasons (Calvinism).
Ok, look, what happened to Tomczac plays out over, and over, and over again in churches daily because of the new resurgence of Geneva style true-blue Calvinism. Aka, New Calvinism. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Calvinism is the Gospel.” Therefore, as CJ said to Larry, “Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I” (People of Destiny International—later renamed SGM). If I only had a nickel for every time we see this played out here at TANK/PPT. It goes like this:
- The elders are informed someone is leaving for doctrinal issues.
- They are immediately confronted with “unrepentant, longstanding sin” in their lives. Like Calvin, they believe (out of necessity for control) that ANY sin is fodder for church discipline.
- They are placed in a church discipline “process” that includes counseling. When you have shown forth “fruits meet for repentance” as judged by fruit inspecting elders, you are released from the counseling (ie., you convert to Gospel Sanctification).
- If you try to leave the church without being released from “counseling,” the assembly is told that you are jumping ship in the middle of the Matthew 18 process. The congregation usually assumes the victim was confronted with an issue or dispute, and left before the offended party could come back with witnesses. The anti-gospel (synonymous with anti-Calvinism per Spurgeon) individual is then excommunicated which totally discredits him/her from blowing the whistle or challenging the doctrine of God’s anointed.
Apparently, in Tomczak’s case, that wasn’t going to fly, so CJ threatened to reveal sins committed by Tomczak’s (at the time a minor) son. Tomczak’s wife, who was on the line, called Mahaney out in regard to the fact that it was pure, unadulterated blackmail. Also consider that the son had confessed the sin and was granted forgiveness thereof. Unbelievably, when CJ is reminded of that, he tells the Tomcsaks that he wouldn’t have promised to keep the forgiven sins confidential if he knew at the time that they were going to leave for doctrinal reasons.
Immel also points out (according to Wikileaks documents) that Mahaney and SGM cronies had their attorneys review a proposal for revealing the sin/sins publically. Their attorneys strongly advised against it because Georgia law protects the rights of minors in such cases. But in a brilliant observation, Immel asks what would have happened if the church and the state of Georgia were the same! (as propagated by the Reformers for the necessary control of the totally depraved zombie sheep). Game over. Tomcsak submits or SGM reveals the information.
And this is the crux. Because Reformed leaders of the John Calvin Geneva Theocracy club cannot evoke the state to enforce their authority (not yet, anyway), they all stick together. MacArthur, Dever, Mohler, Piper et al, see a huge lack of respect in the church for the authority that they think they should have among God’s people. How they choose to save the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves is none of our business. They have no time to be concerned with the necessary fallout that accompanies the John Calvin gospel of the enlightened ones leading the totally depraved through the fabricated spiritual minefield they call sanctification.
This explains why the cries of abused sheep fall on the deaf ears of other leaders, time, and time again. I have become convinced of this unequivocally. Nevertheless, and while one also wonders what else might be in the Wikileaks documents, MacArthur’s willingness to associate with CJ Mahaney is deplorable. But this is who John MacArthur really is. My God fearing grandmother said it well, and often: “Birds of the feather flock together.”
“If the Platonist monster is hiding in the church’s big closet, there is no priesthood of believers and pastors/elders are the enlightened ones who must tell us who to marry, what to eat, and what to wear. They must also do whatever it takes to protect the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves. And look around, we are almost there right now. The mega-church is behaving like Rome and Geneva’s theocracy more and more every day.”
“So now we have this core element of all righteousness remaining outside of the believer. Where do we go from here? What about the new birth? What’s ‘new’ about us if all righteousness remains outside of us?”
“Though New Calvinist elders talk of the new birth and Christ being ‘in’ us, you must understand they’re using earthly language that the totally depraved zombie sheep can understand. They do not believe Christ works in us (which can be clearly seen from the aforementioned Piper quote), or that we are born again enabled people.”
This post will demonstrate that Reformation theology called for grace/righteousness to remain completely outside of us. In fact, Reformation theology even rejects the idea that Jesus is doing ALL of the work IN US as Christians. The Reformers, primarily Luther and Calvin, taught that the primary difference between Romanism and true Christianity was this whole idea that Jesus did a sanctifying work INSIDE of us verses a sanctifying work OUTSIDE of us. They decried the former as an “infused grace” that enabled us to partake in the finishing or participation of our justification. Problem is, that’s why it is important that justification and sanctification are seen as being separate. Justification is a finished work, and sanctification doesn’t finish justification. Once that is established, the conversation gets interesting: “Where do we go from there?”
This Reformation concept and everything it leads to, also leads to a social death at various points in history. Other forms of Reformation theology sanctified by spiritual common sense carry the Reformation motif forward, while the pure Reformation gospel dies out. Jay Adams is a good example of a Sanctified Calvinist. But from time to time, a resurgence of the pure Reformation gospel comes about via rediscovery, and that is exactly what is going on with the New Calvinist Movement. Hence, Sanctified Calvinists are not the original article—that’s why so many of them oppose “New Calvinism.”
But why does the original article die a social death? Primarily because of the basic philosophy that led to the doctrine. Plato was a religious philosopher. He believed that man cannot know reality, and lives in a world that is a shadow of truth. He also believed that there are people who can endeavor to know truth and become enlightened, but in doing so, cannot be enslaved to what their senses can understand according to physical matter. Truth is something completely outside of the human realm. He then asserted that the enlightened needed to rule the unenlightened, and that the purpose of government should aid the philosopher king in controlling the unenlightened masses to protect them from themselves. Augustine was greatly influenced by these teachings, and Augustine’s development of these ideas were passed on to Luther and Calvin.
This is really no big secret if one does some research and stops listening to what others tell them. Plato was the father of Gnosticism, which embellishes the “practical application” of Reformed theology in its purest form. Hence, the spiritual tyranny that comes out of this philosophy causes it to be rejected socially from time to time. In other words, the fallout from the resurgence begins to manifest itself; or, the chickens come home to roost. That part dies out, while Calvinism by name, primarily (supposedly) representing the sovereignty of God issue (its sanctifying element) continues to live on until the next rediscovery movement. The New Calvinist Movement is now shining a light on what Calvin really believed. The Calvin Institutes are a brilliant systemizing of Augustinian theology, but Sanctified Calvinists don’t hold to the whole package which explains contradictions in their soteriology and eschatology.
But on the other hand, a need develops in the remaining theological systems that fuse justification and sanctification together. Since sanctification is said to finish justification, how can a person be found truly righteous at the one, final judgment? In theological systems where the two are separate; this isn’t a problem, we are declared righteous and our living in sanctification will show that, but has no bearing on the declaration and our guaranteed glorification. However, if the two are fused, that is, justification and sanctification, we must not only be positionally righteous, but must indeed be perfect in order for God’s declaration not to be “legal fiction.” So, the question becomes: “How can we be truly perfect in order to stand in the judgment?” In the theological system that separates justification and sanctification, the answer is: “I don’t have to be found righteous at a future judgment because I will not stand at any such judgment. I have already been declared righteous, and would be perfect if I wasn’t still in this mortal body. But in reality, I am a born again holy one hindered by this mortal, sinful flesh.”
This doesn’t bode well in the Platonist mindset, for now we have a whole race of enlightened ones who are capable of knowing truth on their own (and as I note in The Truth About New Calvinism, this denotes the idea that the law of God can be used to please Him and to live an abundant sanctified life with the help of the Spirit). Not only that, it makes us participants in the “Golden Chain of Salvation”; ie, we are “ENABLED” to participate in the finishing of our salvation/justification. This is a problem because the results are still imperfect, and thus God’s declaration is still “legal fiction.” If your mindset is that salvation is a continuous chain that links justification to glorification with sanctification being the middle links (an exact illustration used by John Piper), then the work must be all of God in order for it to be sufficient for us to stand in the future judgment. “Infused grace” only enables us enough to be dangerous and makes us participants in an imperfect endeavor which would make God a liar at the final judgment.
But nevertheless, it is what it is and gives rise to a reintroduction/need of purest Reformed theology: since Christians function in the “Golden Chain of Salvation,” we must find a way to be in the sanctification links while making our perfection true reality. How is this done? Theological systems of all stripes that fuse justification and sanctification together are left to languish in this question on their own until the collective peacelessness of the people cry out for another way. An infused enablement (in the justification endeavor) and pseudo perfectionism doesn’t fill the bill.
This exact scenario gave rise to the present-day New Calvinist Movement. One of the languishing theological systems that views sanctification as the completer of justification is Seventh-Day Adventism. Since 1884, this movement, trapped in the context of the Golden Chain of Salvation, has struggled to answer the question of how one stands righteous in the judgment. In 1970, a SDA theologian named Robert Brinsmead blew the lid off of the whole debate. In The Truth About New Calvinism, I cite the writings of someone who was involved with Brinsmead’s movement at that time:
In 1971, Brinsmead scheduled a flurry of summer institutes to bring us his latest emphasis. There was more excitement than usual; the latest round of tapes had prepared us for something big. Bob had been studying the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith, comparing it to Roman Catholic doctrines. Reading Luther, he saw that justification is not just a means to the end of perfect sanctification. When we are justified by faith, not only does God impute Christ’s righteousness to us but we also possess Christ Himself—all His righteousness and all His perfection. Eternity flows from that fact….
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
The same ones he justified he also glorified. We began to realize we had inserted extra steps into Paul’s chain of salvation: sanctification and a final atonement brought about by blotting out sins. Those added steps, in fact, were the heart of the Awakening message—but we had ignored the heart of the real gospel: being justified by faith, we ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Our righteousness is in heaven, said Brinsmead:
“The righteousness by which we become just in God’s sight, remain just in His sight and will one day be sealed as forever just in His sight, is an outside righteousness. It is not on earth, but only in heaven…only in Jesus Christ.”
True sanctification looks away from self and flows from the finished, objective work of Christ…. For many Christians, the glory of the crucified Christ is not their focus; instead they seek internal experiences that eclipse the cross. The Awakening rightly opposed the subjective, human-centered emphasis found among some groups within Christianity. Wrongly, they reacted with a cerebral, spiritless gospel. Brinsmead strongly opposed the Charismatic movement’s emphasis on experiences as a return to the theology of Rome. However, going to another extreme, Present Truth magazine decried “the false gospel of the new birth,” and offered a new birth that was merely a corporate, objective blessing, not an individual experience. (pp. 33, 34).
This concept that Brinsmead claimed he got directly from the Reformers launched the Awakening Movement and turned the SDA completely upside down. Because of the supposed fact that the true Reformation gospel of justification by faith alone had been all but lost in evangelical circles, Brinsmead, along with two Anglican theologians formed the Australian Forum think tank to systematize the theology into a contemporary understanding. And they were dead right: what they developed was in fact the true Reformation gospel; righteousness and grace remains completely outside of the believer—justification cannot be completed by an infused ability to participate in the completion of justification because our participation results in falling short of perfection. This rediscovery was perhaps the most significant rediscovery movement since Colonial Calvinism, and a book written by one of the Australian Forum 4, Geoffrey Paxton (“The Shaking of Adventism”), would lend merit to that idea. An illustration from the Forum’s theological journal captures the essence of the doctrine:
Freeze that thought. Don’t try to connect the dots yet. It is what it is. No righteousness can be inside of us (meaning Christians). In fact, Christ doesn’t even really do a work inside of us either. Yes, I know they use that terminology from time to time, but that’s not what they mean. It is critical that we establish that fact right now, and then we will build understanding. Let’s first demonstrate that one of the primary figures of the New Calvinist movement, John Piper, believes this exactly, and also believes that it was the crux of the Reformation. Piper wrote an article about a series of lectures that one of the Australian 4 conducted at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. The following is from my book, The Truth About New Calvinism:
In March, 2008, Graeme Goldsworthy of the Forum delivered a lecture at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary entitled Biblical Theology and its Pastoral Application. Part of the thesis concerned why the Reformation was needed. The purpose of Goldsworthy’s lecture was affirmed by pastor John Piper in an article he wrote on his Desiring God blog on June 25, 2009 entitled Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary. The lecture, and Piper’s response shows an uncanny kinship between the Forum and New Calvinism. Examples in the present Christian landscape are myriad , but this particular combination shows agreement on all of the Forum’s major, and unique tenets….In the aforementioned article concerning Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern, Piper agrees that the original Reformation sought to correct the reversal of sanctification and justification:
This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel.
Note his words carefully. At issue is any kind of infusion of grace into the sanctification process. In case you think he is talking about wayward Catholicism, here is what he adds to these thoughts:
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants (pp. 41-43).
So whether or not the belief is infused grace for the new birth or some abhorrent variation of evangelicalism is not the point; the point is the infusion of grace within the believer for sanctification or any other reason. To do that is to supposedly make us a part of our own justification. But how in the world would this work in real life? This seemingly leaves us without any spiritual arms or legs—virtual paraplegics in a spiritual sense. How can a feasible role be introduced while staying faithful to Platonist ideal?
Enter Reformed theology. But before I do, let me reiterate that this everything good outside of us ideal is the calling card of the New Calvinist Movement and what they understand to be the crux of the Reformation. The following are several quotes from key figures in the New Calvinist movement. Keep in mind that these statements are in regard to Christians:
The blessings of the gospel come to us from outside of us and down to us.
~ John Fonville
We need help from outside ourselves—and he helps.
~ David Powlison
So what does this objective Gospel look like? Most importantly, it is outside of us.
~ Reblogged by Tullian Tchividjian
Thus, it will inevitably lead not to self-examination that leads us to despair of ourselves and seek Christ alone outside of us, but to a labyrinth of self-absorption.
~ Michael Horton
When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel
And from my interview with Robert Brinsmead:
Author: What do you think the unique theological findings of the Forum were in light of history? Robert Brinsmead: “Definitely the centrality and all sufficiency of the objective gospel understood as an historical rather than an experiential event, something wholly objective rather than subjective – an outside of me event and the efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness.”
Brinsmead’s last statement is a powerful description of this doctrine: “…something wholly objective rather than subjective – an outside of me event and the efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness.”
All righteousness being outside of the believer is in my estimation where the line is drawn in the sand between Reformed theology and the rest of Christianity—not the election/free will debate per se. If the argument is there, then at least debate it in regard to the born again Christian having no real spiritual life, and no free will. Let’s start there, and leave the free will to choose God in salvation fight for another day. If the Platonist monster is hiding in the church’s big closet, there is no priesthood of believers and pastors/elders are the enlightened ones who must tell us who to marry, what to eat, and what to wear. They must also do whatever it takes to protect the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves. And look around, we are almost there right now. The mega-church is behaving like Rome and Geneva’s theocracy more and more every day.
Sure, when you corner them, they are going to deny this, but there is simply too much circumstantial evidence/theology to back this claim. How can the total depravity of the saints not add up to this “efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness”? You say, “Now Paul, where have any of these guys said that we are ‘totally depraved’? Look, I am not going to play word games here. If Isaiah 64:6 applies to born again believers, as many in Reformed circles contend, then the accusation is fair and apt for illustration purposes. Besides, many are now using that term specifically to describe Christians. Moreover, Calvin himself stated the following:
There can be no doubt that Paul, when he treats of the Justification of man, confines himself to the one point—how man may ascertain that God is propitious to him? Here he does not remind us of a quality infused into us; on the contrary, making no mention of works, he tells us that righteousness must be sought without us; otherwise that certainty of faith, which he everywhere so strongly urges, could never stand; still less could there be ground for the contrast between the righteousness of faith and works which he draws in the tenth chapter to the Romans….( (From Kenneth A. Strand, ed., Reform Essentials of Luther and Calvin: A Source Collection [Ann Arbor: Braun-Brumfield, 1971], pp.219-222).
Please think about this: it is a debate concerning our very identity as Christians. If we don’t even know who and what we are: God help us. This total inability and all righteousness being outside of us profoundly effects the following hallmark elements of the Christian faith:
- The new birth.
- Use of the law in sanctification.
- The very definition of the gospel itself.
- The relationship and authority of elders to the saints.
- The relationship and authority of the church to the saints.
- The authority of the Word in relationship to saints/elders.
- The proper use of God’s word in counseling.
- The proper use of God’s word for preaching.
- The difference between justification and sanctification.
- The roles of justification and sanctification in the life of the saint.
- The difference between repentance for salvation and sanctification.
- The very definition of biblical obedience.
- Eschatological truth.
- Future judgment of mankind.
And frankly, the present-day church is showing symptoms of misunderstanding in these areas that approaches fallout in the realm of biblical proportions.
So now we have this core element of all righteousness remaining outside of the believer. Where do we go from here? What about the new birth? What’s “new” about us if all righteousness remains outside of us? Here is where Platonism, and its twin sibling, Gnosticism, partner with Reformed theology, at least the Plato—Augustine—Luther—Calvin strain. We don’t change; we are merely transported into a different realm (darkness/light) where we can determine which realm we manifest by what we contemplate or meditate on. New Calvinists have even developed a way to determine how that is experienced: John Piper’s Christian Hedonism. The Scriptures then serve the following primary purposes:
- A contemplation tool for the totally depraved zombie saints.
- A polity structure guide for Reformed elders.
- A book for preaching the gospel to the totally depraved.
- It makes Reformed elders the experts on seeing Christ in every verse of the Bible, and therefore relegating believers to a pope-like reliance on Reformed elders.
In speaking of the Bible’s function in the scheme of things, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Since all righteousness remains outside of the believer, the “practical application” of this theology is the continual resaving of the saint; or, a continual manifestation of a grace completely outside of us. The Bible then becomes the tool for doing that. Reading the Bible for learning and doing is strongly discouraged. Everything in the Bible is to show forth grace. The imperatives show us what we can’t do, but what Christ has done for us. It also shows us how other totally depraved zombie sheep have experienced grace manifestations throughout redemptive history. In the latest rediscovery movement (New Calvinism), this Platonist, metaphysical approach is not hard to see. Two of the most popular New Calvinist websites have Gnostic themes: “Between Two Worlds,” and “Between Two Spheres.” The number one tenet of New Covenant Theology (New Calvinism’s approach to law/gospel), as described by the Earth Stove Society (a NCT think tank) is:
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 [ALL reality?].
Though New Calvinist elders talk of the new birth and Christ being “in” us, you must understand they’re using earthly language that the totally depraved zombie sheep can understand. They do not believe Christ works in us (which can be clearly seen from the aforementioned Piper quote), or that we are born again enabled people. Hence, they need to keep us away from the truth of the new birth in ways that can be understood by us. One may also note the lack of teaching on the new birth altogether in New Calvinist churches. Their only alternative is to come right out and say that we really don’t perform any works, but rather manifest works already accomplished by Christ from another realm. Good luck with that; the adolescent Sunday school gang will not even buy that when stated forthrightly.
So what do they teach? Answer: “EMPHASIS” as the only relevant truth. This is blatant Platonism. Plato taught that what we experience on Earth (what the senses can detect) are shadows of truth. Sure, shadows are real, but they aren’t truth/reality. Likewise, there is a sense in which the Holy Spirit does a work in us, but it’s not really relevant to the blazing truth of the objective gospel which deals with the works of Christ, and not subjective works by us via help from the Holy Spirit. Anything short of focusing on the “Sun” eclipses the Son and causes us to focus on the shadows of lesser, irrelevant truth. This is a primary theme of Rick Holland’s book, “Uneclipsing the Son.” The Australian Forum (the aforementioned rediscovery movement) published an article entitled “The False Gospel of the New Birth” which was based on the Platonist concept of emphasis (shadows verses what the sun revealed about the objects casting the shadows). This concept can be seen by them in quotes from the article, but also echoed by contemporary New Calvinists:
It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.
~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)
But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?
~ Michael Horton
And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).
~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)
Did an overzealous attempt to give God all of the glory for all works create the fusion of Justification and sanctification with a need for Gnosticism to be the “practical application”? Or did Platonism create the theology which dealt redeemed mankind from the sanctification process? Hard to say, but it is clear that this is what the Augustinian line of Reformers believed. And for all practical purposes is a perpetual justification and daily resaving by faith alone to maintain a just standing before God. From the archives of the Australian Forum:
The present continuous nature of justification was the genius of Luther’s emphasis. In
“The Disputation Concerning Justification” (1536). He says:
. . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead. — Luther’s Works(American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: concordia, 1955), vol. 34, p. 163.
. . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ. is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners. — Ibid., p.164.
On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous. — Ibid., p.167.
For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually. —Ibid., p.190.
Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured. — Ibid., p.191.
This quote can be added by Calvin as well:
Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us. — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).
Another way to think of this is: we are sanctified the same way we are saved—by faith and repentance only. Salvation and sanctification are both completely monergistic. As New Calvinists say, “The same gospel that saves you also sanctifies you,” and “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Hundreds of years later, the doctrine and its Gnostic applications are not even ambiguous.
“Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us.” — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).
“But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ–that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (JC Ryle, Holiness: Introduction).
From the archives of the Australian Forum:
The present continuous nature of justification was the genius of Luther’s emphasis. In “The Disputation Concerning Justification” (1536). He says:
. . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead. — Luther’s Works(American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: concordia, 1955), vol. 34, p. 163.
. . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ. is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners. — Ibid., p.164.
On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous. — Ibid., p.167.
For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually. —Ibid., p.190.
Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured. — Ibid., p.191.
Here we go. The lonely lovers of the truth are already singing the praises of Kevin DeYoung for “getting it right” at the T4G. Gag. Actually, I have more respect for Tullian Tchividjian because he causes me to work less. Messages like this one from I was born sitting on a fence post DeYoung have to be meticulously unraveled and explained. But here is the easy part via my I was born with good ole’ fashioned horse sense grandmother: “Birds of the feather flock together.” At the beginning of the message, DeYoung identified himself as a New Calvinist. It is what it is. His theses that New Calvinists just need a little tweaking in regard to the relationship of obedience to sanctification, doesn’t fly with me. He runs with a bunch that believes in perpetual justification, and mere tweaking doesn’t fix heresy.
DeYoung began his message with about fifteen minutes of humor which I found both annoying and out of place when one considers the gravity of this subject in our day. Finally, when he got into some substance, he reiterated the fact that New Calvinism is a “resurgence” (because everyone else is out to lunch spiritually). He also said that the “centrality of the gospel” is the primary concern of the movement. That is, central in sanctification. This is just the same old song and dance; preaching reconciliation to the already reconciled is just as important as the reconciled preaching reconciliation to the unreconciled. From there, and throughout the message, DeYoung flips back and forth between toeing the New Calvinist line and the importance of putting forth effort in sanctification. At some points, he is actually theologically correct in the sermon, stating that we must “work out what God has worked in,” but then flips back to the contradictory New Calvinist position throughout the message. It’s pathetic.
In his introduction to the main points of the message after almost 30 minutes of foolishness, he starts out strong by saying that sanctification requires both hard work by us and the grace of God. Amen, but then he listed the four points of the message: growth in godliness requires Spirit powered, gospel-driven, faith fueled effort. Even though he describes “effort” as one of the four points, it isn’t, the message is really a three point message about the three different things that drive effort in sanctification. This is a grammatical twisting. Effort does not stand alone as one of the points because the other three points are modifiers. And, effort in sanctification is not, “gospel-driven”; that’s blatantly false.
New Calvinists trade the word “justification” for “gospel” so that this error is not completely obvious; ie, “justification-driven” or perpetual justification. Our effort in sanctification is not driven by justification because justification is a finished work and a legal declaration. We are not sanctified by justification, nor is justification the power source for our sanctification—regeneration is. Though there is agreement with orthodoxy on the other two, it must be assumed that all three are needed to power sanctification, so his premise is dead on arrival. Moreover, the fact that DeYoung states that justification (gospel) is needed in sanctification speaks to his like belief with all New Calvinists that justification and sanctification are linked together, and that sanctification must derive an efficacious element of its power from the gospel of justification. Game over. He can now dress this up any way he wants to, but that dog won’t hunt.
On his first point, “Spirit powered (effort),” even though no one would disagree that sanctification is Spirit powered, DeYoung uses this point to once again toe the New Calvinist/Gospel Sanctification line. He states that the Spirit’s role is to empower, show us “sinners” our sin, while mentioning that we as Christians run from our sin and want darkness (oh really?). He states this as a primary purpose of the Spirit’s work in sanctification: to illumine “sin/truth.” Deyoung primarily speaks of illuminating sin, but slips in “truth” along with it (“sin/truth”) to insinuate that sin is not the only thing he is talking about. But then he follows with the third role of the Spirit in sanctification which is to glorify Christ. Again, this is the same old New Calvinist line that restricts the use of Scripture for showing us two things only: our sin and Christ’s glory. He prefaces “sin” with “truth” to insinuate a general, or multiplicity of truth, but never specifies anything other than “sin.” This is deliberate deception. It’s the same old making the cross bigger as we see the depths of our sinfulness more and more, and the glory of Christ more and more. He then cites the staple New Calvinist Bible verse for this, 2Cor. 3:18 to make his point and refers to the “beholding as a way of becoming” truism.
In the second point (gospel-driven effort), he notes that “everyone agrees” that holiness flows from the gospel and good works flow from “good news.” Again, this, for all practical purposes is an admission that he believes in the fusion of justification and sanctification. And if justification is monergistic, well, you do the math. From here, DeYoung is simply trying to convince people that the horse is really a camel. He continued in the message to invoke the same old worn out all obedience flows from gratitude formula. You first contemplate the gospel and your sin which creates gratitude, then obedience flows from that. In real life, gratitude does not always walk with obedience, but often comes after. DeYoung at this point hints at orthodoxy by saying that there are “many other” motivations for obedience other than the cross, but of course, doesn’t mention them specifically or talk about them.
DeYoung finished the message by making many good statements about obedience in the Christian faith, but he was simply talking out of both sides of his mouth. He also prefaced those concluding statements with the same old “we can’t obey in our own strength” without any mention that it is not our strength only. If our strength is not involved in any way, who is doing the work? When we exercise, is it our own strength? And aren’t we supposed to do all things to the glory of God? So, if we are exercising to the glory of God, is the Holy Spirit lifting the weights for us? DeYoung criticized confusing cliché’s in this message while using the mega confusing New Calvinist cliché about “obeying God in our own strength.”
DeYoung lectured the audience about how Christians are confused by the way many are trying to make New Calvinism seem plausible in real Christian life. He acted as if his message was a clarifying voice among the background noise. What a joke. Everything about the message, especially the delivery, was a train wreck.
DeYoung is one of them. Birds of the feather flock together. He is trying to sell himself as a voice of reason among penguins. But he did make some troublesome, isolated statements about obedience. Though made out of one side of his mouth, I wonder, will he be invited back next year? I learned a lesson when I was in college: I tried to date three girls at the same time and ended up losing all of them. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for DeYoung. The penguin singing in the midst of the flock: “I just got to be me.”
David Powlison is the major figure representing the counseling wing of Westminster Theological Seminary: the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). Powlison was mentored by Dr. John Miller who was a professor at Westminster. Miller was the father of Sonship Theology which was his own twist on the rediscovery of the doctrine of perpetual justification (Gospel Sanctification) via the Australian Forum think tank formed in 1970.
Powlison took the concept of progressive justification and used it to develop his Dynamics of Biblical Change project which is the foundation of counseling education at Westminster. Two former students of his, Paul David Tripp, and Timothy Lane, wrote a book entitled “How People Change”(HPC) which is a treatise on the “practical application” of Gospel Sanctification (the doctrine of the present-day New Calvinist movement). The title of the book is a lie; as we shall see, New Calvinists do not really believe that people change.
This is most evident when one reads pages 64 and 65 of HPC. Tripp and Lane describe Christians as “powerless,” “enslaved,” and “dead.” They further elaborate by writing, “When you are dead, you can’t do anything” (p. 64, HPC). How do dead Christians change? Obviously, they don’t. Hence, this is why the vast majority of present-day biblical counseling controlled by the CCEF machine is a farce: the counseling is not about change.
So what’s going on? Basically, it starts with Plato and what was later known as Gnosticism. Some refer to Gnosticism as “Platonism for Dummies,” but the basics are easier to explain through fundamental Platonism. Plato believed man was unable to know reality. The following excerpt is a good explanation of Platonism 101:
Plato, the most creative and influential of Socrates’ disciples, wrote dialogues, in which he frequently used the figure of Socrates to espouse his own (Plato’s) full-fledged philosophy. In “The Republic,” Plato sums up his views in an image of ignorant humanity, trapped in the depths and not even aware of its own limited perspective. The rare individual escapes the limitations of that cave and, through a long, tortuous intellectual journey, discovers a higher realm, a true reality, with a final, almost mystical awareness of Goodness as the origin of everything that exists. Such a person is then the best equipped to govern in society, having a knowledge of what is ultimately most worthwhile in life and not just a knowledge of techniques; but that person will frequently be misunderstood by those ordinary folks back in the cave who haven’t shared in the intellectual insight….the Allegory also attacks people who rely upon or are slaves to their senses (Analysis of The Allegory of the Cave by Plato Online source:123helpme.com/view.asp?id=135077).
Because the common man is enslaved to his own senses and can only comprehend what he can sense from the material world which is merely shadows of reality, Plato devised what we now call a cybernetic loop. This is a process that evaluates the outcomes of experience/circumstances/data for the purposes of making adjustments or reaching goals. Since the common man is not enlightened, the next best thing is to devise a system that gives him guidance from the criteria that he can experience with his senses. The enlightened ones, who should lead and govern the common man, develop these cybernetic loops to help guide mankind in their world of dark shadows. Plato believed in a world ruled by philosopher kings. Below are some illustrations of cybernetic loops:
These loops can be complicated and may involve loops that evaluate other loops. Below is another illustration in regard to Plato’s philosophy:
Plato had a vast influence on Augustine who is primarily responsible for the total depravity of the saints tenet found in Reformed theology. This prism had a profound influence in the forming of the gospel of perpetual atonement, or the idea that the effects of Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t a finished work, but was progressive for the purpose of maintaining a righteous standing for the saints. See illustration below:
This is opposed to the gospel that rejects the total depravity of the saints and propagates an enablement through the new birth:
In the second model, the believer has the responsibility to learn and apply the word of God to their lives. But the first model, because it relies mostly on Platonist philosophy, also borrows the cybernetic loop for its “practical application.” Therefore, New Calvinists merge progressive justification into various cybernetic loops for “practical application.” Since the saints are supposedly unable to keep the law because they are still totally depraved, there has to be a way for the saints to continually partake in the same gospel that saved us. In order to come up with a way to do this, the New Calvinists went back to the basics: Plato. The first illustration of this is from CCEF’s The Journal of Biblical Counseling vol. 18, number 1, Fall 1999:
The following are illustrations from HPC and Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change:
In the following excerpt from Dr. Devin Berry’s “How to Listen to a Sermon,” Berry uses a C-loop concept to explain the New Calvinist theory on how the saints receive the word of God. The illustration following the excerpt is mine:
Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word. An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word.
The goal of all of this is not change in the believer which is impossible anyway according to their theology because Christians are still totally depraved. The goal is to make the cross (or, the works of Christ) bigger by a deeper and deeper knowledge of how totally depraved we supposedly are. This is illustrated by the following chart produced by a New Calvinist organization:
I have been watching the “Wide Is The Gate” video series by Caryl Productions. The series addresses “Christianized New Age Spirituality.” The series has many excellent observations. The following are the major ones:
- Eastern Mysticism that teaches creation is God, and that God is in every person, has been integrated into mainstream Christianity.
- Over the years, the integration has been fine tuned to appear orthodox.
- When one aspect of such a movement is exposed, they change the name.
- The Bible predicted that Christianity would be saturated with such false doctrines in the latter days.
There are two major movements right now that are being used by the kingdom of darkness to promote its major agenda: to get Christians as far away as possible from learning and doing God’s word. The folks at Caryl Productions are spot on; the New Age Movement never went away, it is alive and well under a different name, and in a local church near you. The video series addresses one of the major movements: the I am divinity crowd, and the practical application is various formulas for discovering one’s own inherit godhood. A mass of Christian thought, in various forms, falls under this category: “I am my own god.”
The host of the video makes a good point that in contrast, true evangelicals believe God to be outside of man, as opposed to mankind being inherently one with deity. Of course, the host is speaking in regard to the need for salvation. Now comes the evil sibling claiming, “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.” The contenders in the video make the point (and rightly so) that Christianized mysticism focuses on subjective “truth,” and the goodness within instead of God’s objective truth, and His goodness outside of us. But again, like they state well in the video, the movement continually retools in order to slip in unawares.
Enter New Calvinism. Their the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (group A) would seem to be the perfect storm against the centrality of the subjective gospel inside of us (group B). This bunch are not amateur deceivers by any means. They introduce themselves as the extreme antithesis, while the goal is exactly the same. In fact, the practical application of both are identical: contemplationism. A primary theme in the video is the spiritual contemplationism of Christianized New Age Spirituality. And New Calvinism is no different.
I will now explain how both movements attain the exact same goal, but with different means. New Calvinists point to the means as a way to distinguish themselves from the other camp and to appear as contenders for a true gospel. New Calvinists believe that ALL reality is interpreted through “Christ” and His works. It isn’t about what Jesus SAYS to us, per se, it’s about who he is as a “person.” In the words of Paul David Tripp: “He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept that we insert into a new formula for life” (How People Change, p.27). Tripp then proceeds (in the same book) to explain a complex Gnostic concept for replacing the learn and do “formula” propagated by Christ in Matthew 7:24-27.
Hence, rather than to say, “Truth is subjective and is found inside of us and we make truth whatever it is to us,” New Calvinists say, “Truth is found completely outside of us and is interpreted through a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ and His works.” That’s supposedly an objective truth, but what does it mean? How do we gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ as a person? By learning His word and doing it? No, because that’s not learning more and more about Christ, that’s doing what Christ commands, and since all objective truth is outside of us, we are still totally depraved and are unable to obey Him anyway.
Furthermore, New Calvinists believe that any doctrine indicating an infusion of Grace into the believer at salvation is a false gospel, and was the very crux of the Reformation; true spiritual life must remain outside of the believer. They concur with the new birth, but the new birth, to the New Calvinist, means that we are still spiritually dead and totally depraved; we have life in us (Christ), but we are still spiritually dead.
So, how do Christians change? According to New Calvinists, they don’t, but rather manifest the active obedience of Christ—the active obedience of Christ while He lived on Earth is imputed to us in this life as we “manifest” that obedience via Christ who indwells us by the Holy Spirit. How does that happen? It happens as we gain deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ through the Scriptures. To the New Calvinist, the Bible is an “objective” book about Christ only, a tool for gaining deeper knowledge about Christ. If we use it for that purpose only, the Spirit is involved, but if we use the Bible for the purpose of learning God’s imperatives for the purpose of obedience, that is using the Bible in the exact same way that the Pharisees used the Torah. Supposedly. According to New Calvinists, one is of the Spirit, the other is the “dead letter of the law.”
The final equation is simple: gospel contemplationism. Group A, and group B end up at the same place: seeking God through meditation and contemplationism. The only difference is the object of the meditation. And both are subjective. When New Calvinists have to see Jesus in every verse of the Bible, the results are bound to be subjective. Besides, New Calvinists believe we are still totally depraved, and anything that is inside of us is subjective; ie, we really can’t know anything—we are incapable of applying cognitive truth. What’s the difference between that and the new age idea that real truth is unknowable? Nothing. The New Calvinist way to spiritual life is meditation on Christ, and then sit back and watch what Christ might do. Paul David Tripp calls this, “New and surprising fruit.” Whatever we see in the Bible is imputed to us in the same way that righteousness was imputed to us when we were saved, resulting in “manifestations of Christ.”
The following exercise may lend some understanding on this. Find a passage in the Bible that has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel. For instance, God telling Adam to name all of the animals He created. Then, ask ten different Christians to draw a gospel meaning from the verse (ie, what does the passage say about Christ, His works, and the gospel). You can be sure that you will get ten different observations. But New Calvinists would say that all ten interpretations must be correct because they concern the gospel, and gospel interpretation is always attended by the Spirit. The subjective is therefore true because it came from a narrow, supposedly objective prism (even though a gospel result is always to be assumed). However, New Calvinists do recognize a structural aspect to the Scriptures that instructs them on how to organize church polity, but this is seen as a practical necessity for organization, not sanctification.
There is simply no difference between the two. They both seek to draw Christians away from the application of cognitive truth by replacing it with contemplationism.
Devon Berry, the “elder” at Clearcreek Chapel who delivered this message, is also one of the primary instructors for the NANC training center at CCC. The following is my critique of his message. I apologize for how difficult it is to unravel this clever twisting of God’s word. However, if you try to follow my argument thoughtfully, I think by the end it will come together for you. The title of his message was, “How to Listen to a Sermon.”
In his message, “How to Listen to a Sermon, the elder strays away from the main point to strongly emphasis the idea that spiritual growth comes primarily from preaching and teaching, and is an absolute, paramount necessity accordingly:
You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul. I know that some are kept from services for legitimate reasons which are out of their control, but I doubt that is the case for most. I beseech you, change your ways for the good of this people and for the good of your own selves. Give the Word its rightful place. As I have often said, there is no better place you could be than here, under the preaching of the Word.
Actually, I believe “devotions,” “quiet times,” and “radio programs” are added in to mask the disturbing part of this statement: “personal study.” Nowhere , but nowhere, does the Scriptures ever say that personal study is expendable when compared to preaching or teaching. In fact, IF I wanted to make the case that preaching and teaching could be done without, I would cite the following:
1 John 2:27
”As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
This verse clearly teaches that when it gets right down to it, the indwelling Holy Spirit is our teacher, and that human teachers are not an absolute necessity as this elder is clearly saying. At the very least, he is in grave error concerning the level of importance between the two.
But even more disturbing is the logical conclusion that must be drawn from this assertion. If personal study is expendable (please note; in his list of examples, he names devotions, quiet times, and radio programs in the same list. One can only assume that if they are in the same list to make his point, they share the same level of importance. Surely then, no one would deny that Christians could do without radio programs or devotionals), then how could it (personal study) be sufficiently empowered to discern the truthfulness of the sermon? The conclusion must necessarily be that personal interpretation is always at the mercy of preaching. Do you think my statement is a subjective conclusion in regard to what he is saying? Think again. He actually uses Acts 17:10,11 (a text that clearly states the importance of personal study to confirm truthfulness) to imply that preaching is a critical link in the learning process, with personal study being secondary:
In addition to coming with anticipation, we must come to a sermon prepared. Coming to the hearing of the Word prepared is both a matter of our hearts and our behaviors. I think the example of the Bereans in Acts 17 is helpful. Verse 11 says, ‘Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.’ We can note from earlier in the chapter what exactly it was the Bereans were responding to – verses 2-3 tell us that Paul’s pattern was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ. What made the Jews in Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica? Well for one, they did not run Paul out of town, and secondly, they took Paul’s preaching seriously enough to go to the Word to test it [he is not talking about a test in regard to the truth, but rather, a nebulous concept of testing the Christocentric interpretation in everyday life. He covers this idea in another part of the same sermon. Note that "it" in his statement refers to God's word, not Paul's preaching]. The text here implies that there was an interactive nature between three entities: The preacher, the hearers, and the Word. Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word. An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word. The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching. So a good preparation for the public preaching of the Word is the private consumption of the Word. It will be the seasoning that brings out the flavor – salt on your French fries, if you will.”
Where to begin in the unraveling of this hideous twisting of God’s word! First of all, I had to actually draw a diagram to unravel what he is saying in regard to this part of the quote:
“Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word.”
Read the quote carefully. Think about it. God’s word goes through the “preacher” first, before getting to the “people,” making the preacher’s words synonymous with God’s words. Also note that he cites 17:1,2:
“We can note from earlier in the chapter what exactly it was the Bereans were responding to – verses 2-3 tell us that Paul’s pattern was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ.”
Let me cut to the chase here: what he is saying is that all Christocentric and gospel-centered preaching is infallible. Hence, any preacher teaching from a Christocentric perspective is also infallible. He also emphasizes this in his conclusion (emphasis mine):
On to our last point, then. It is simple. The lens set forth by Christ himself on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24, is the lens through which we should hear every sermon. Here it is from the text: …everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled… You should always listen to a sermon looking for Christ and the redemptive plan that God has set out in history to accomplish through his Son. We must be Christ-centered listeners.
In other words, when the Scriptures are being taught from the Christ / gospel perspective, error is impossible, and likewise, neither can the preacher teaching from that perspective be in error as well. If the mere intention is to present Christ from the text, the Holy Spirit then becomes involved, making error impossible. Another elder at the same church (Chad Bresson) projected this same idea in an article entitled “The Word of God is a Person.” He quotes Robert Brinsmead to make his point:
That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit even the letter of Scripture.
Said another way, the Holy Spirit “lives in the gospel,” so when your doin’ gospel, your doin’ truth, end of discussion.
Going back now to the elder’s use of Acts 17 and the original sermon of interests here, he completely ignores any sort of basic grammatical rules at all to draw his conclusions. He gives the following reasons for the nobility of the Bereans:
What made the Jews in Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica? Well for one, they did not run Paul out of town, and secondly, they took Paul’s preaching seriously enough to go to the Word to test it.
But the excerpt he speaks of is a compound sentence:
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
In a compound sentence the ideas must be related, this is a hard-fast rule. Therefore, the specific reason for their nobility is obviously in the second independent clause, which does not include anything mentioned by the elder. Furthermore, in the second clause, the proving of what Paul taught is obviously the (purpose) object of both verb phrases, both directly and indirectly. Clearly, the reason for their nobility was the fact that they proved what Paul was teaching to be true through personal study. Not only that, the elder also said the following:
“An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word.”
But this is clearly an improper correlation. “Daily” in this sentence refers to “examining the Scriptures” and not Paul’s preaching (which is not even in the compound sentence which begins with “now“—introducing a separate idea). The elder is suggesting an inseparable correlation (“cycle”) between preaching and personal study that cannot be separated from the word for proper understanding. Instead of personal study proving the truthfulness of preaching or teaching, he is making preaching an absolute necessity to understanding truth, with personal study supplying a mere “seasoning” to the preaching, instead of testing its truthfulness. Besides this, he also assumes that the Bereans knew what Paul was going to teach before he came:
“The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching.”
Not only is this an assumption, given the technology of the time, it is also highly unlikely. What tense in the text even remotely suggests that the Bereans “examined” the Scriptures before Paul preached? Clearly, the intent of this elder is to discourage a proving of truthfulness in regard to Chrisocentric preaching after the fact, but rather a prior, personal study that merely “flavors” the preaching instead of proving its truthfulness. At any rate, it is a complete bastardization of the biblical text.
I might also mention that another elder in this same church, and previously mentioned, preached a sermon entitled “Adam’s Insurrection, Man Jettisons God from the Educational Process,” in which he argues that the essence of Adam’s fall was a rejection of Christocentric teaching that was outside of himself (Adam). The theme of that sermon seems to be similar to the sermon that is the subject of this post; namely, and at the very least, it strongly discouraged a mentality that elevates personal discernment to the same level of teaching outside of ourselves.
So, it now begs the question that is the subject of this post; in regard to elders teaching from the Christocentric perspective, does Christocentric theology teach that they are infallible? I suspect that this belief is more than likely to be prominent among churches that hold to Sonship / GS theology.
The author of Borrowed Light blog has written a multi-part theses on why the following happens:
Two years ago Podunk Baptist Church sent a bright, energetic, and humble young man off to the seminary. This little gathering of believers has for over two-centuries housed some of the dearest saints. But Mark was different. Though young and a relatively new believer he stood out because of his marked brilliance, passion, and dedication.
Then, when he was invited back to preach:
Time went by and Podunk Baptist heard less and less of Mark. Finally, two long years later Mark accepts an invitation to come back to Podunk to preach a revival. The community is buzzing, in a way that only a small-town can buzz. Even people that darken the door of the church only on Santa’s birthday are considering coming to see if this kid’s fancy book learnin’ may have a remedy for their hurt….
Mark is introduced by the pastor; still the same guy that had shared the gospel with him years ago. After the glowing introduction the now-bearded Mark swags into the pulpit. It only takes a few sentences for Podunk Baptist to realize this is a different Mark than the one they sent away.
And it’s not good.
This revival will not be about the beauties and excellencies of Jesus. It will not be a passionate gospel exposition. This revival meeting will be five nights of Mark setting his old church straight. Each night he will put together a finely crafted sermon filled with three points addressing everything that the church erroneously taught him two years ago. Mark is in the “know” now.
What happened to Mark?
The author then wrote several more parts that presented his theses on what the root of this recent phenomenon is in the SBC, but here is the crux of what I think is up to like, six parts:
Really all of these posts is only backing up what Joe Thorn noted as the three reasons for angry and divisive Calvinists. In his interview with Ed Stetzer (which you should real all of including the comments, here) Thorn notes three principle reasons that I will summarize.
1. Over-zealous and excited about a new found truth. “Some of us, and I was one of them, would benefit from being locked up in a cage for a few years until our heart can catch up with our head.”
2. Anger at being denied this in the past. “They feel as if they’ve wasted years of their life, or the church has let them down. So, they’re angry about that…”
3. A short-circuit between the head and heart. “When we Calvinists are ungracious, unnecessarily combative, proud, and arrogant, we are not being true Calvinists. We are posers.”
So how do you disciple a young Calvinist whose either angry, over-zealous, or simply has a short-circuit between his head and heart? Apart from patient plodding and let the gospel take deeper roots one particular thing I do with young Calvinists (including myself) is introduce them to John Newton–and that will be what we do in Part Five and Part Six.
Note: According to the posts, Calvinism isn’t the problem, youthful indiscretion is the problem. Not.
I, myself, have undergone a transformation of thinking on this issue. I once thought that New Calvinism was the problem, and not Old Calvinism. And that’s right, well, sort of. True blue Calvinism that came directly from the man himself is a serious problem, but Old Calvinism as we know it today has undergone some transformations that have aligned it with most of evangelical Christianity except on issues of election. Determinism or foreknowledge? But traditionally, Old Calvinists and Arminians agree on the relationship between soteriology and sanctification—leading to, for the most part, an uneventful cohabitation.
But the New Calvinism in the SBC is a return to the original doctrine of John Calvin himself. Fogging the issue is the whole predestination / free will debate. Until recently, I only knew that my five years of research traced contemporary New Calvinism back to the Progressive Adventist Movement. The founder, Robert Brinsmead, claimed that he had rediscovered the true Reformation gospel of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Brinsmead labeled the doctrine, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. The doctrine is clearly progressive justification and sanctification by faith ALONE. I didn’t know for sure, but I sort of assumed that Brinsmead was full of it, or read into Luther / Calvin what he wanted to, and contrived the doctrine on his own.
Then it was brought to my attention by author John Immel that in fact, progressive justification is exactly what Calvin believed. And if you read Immel’s book, “Blight In The Vineyard,” you will learn the following: that particular brand of Reformed theology brought about the exact same kind of spiritual tyranny that we see in present-day New Calvinists. And besides that, it’s a false gospel that also denies the new birth and replaces it with various forms of mysticism. I confirmed what Immel shared with me by reading in the Calvin Institutes, and have written a couple of articles about it here and here.
Moreover, the “divisive” nature of the movement comes from the fact that New Calvinism fits the biblical definition of a “sect” to a “T.” A biblical “sect” is: a movement or group of people who divides with false doctrine. I wrote an article on that subject here.
Youthful indiscretion is not helpful, but the doctrine is the problem.
Hero Heretic: John Calvin Believed in Progressive Justification and the Total Depravity of the Saints
Maybe the title to volume two of The Truth About New Calvinism should be “The Truth About Old Calvinism.” I will be darned if Robert Brinsmead wasn’t right; he did rediscover what at least three of the Reformers really taught about the gospel. I realize that many “Calvinists” of our day don’t hold to everything Calvin taught, but after all, it is his name. I’m sure other people knew it, but Brinsmead and company repackaged it in a way that launched it into present-day New Calvinist mania. Bottom line: I could never understand New Calvinism until I read several issues of Present Truth and interviewed Robert Brinsmead; however, I wasn’t totally convinced that he got it from Luther and Calvin.
And here is the kicker: this is a “truth” that New Calvinists think they have to assimilate into their victims slowly—when they are “ready.” Only recently, New Calvinists like Tullian Tchividjian have finally stated in a clear way that they believe in the total depravity of the saints. Even Old Calvinists have come out against New Calvinists on these issues, but the fact is, New Calvinists are correct about what Calvin taught. Gosh, that feels good, finally being able to say that they are right about something. They are absolutely right: Calvin and New Calvinists are both heretical.
Progressive justification is a no-no. But yet, on page 502 of John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion edited by Henry Beveridge, we find the following title for chapter 14: “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Then, Calvin, after six pages of wordiness on steroids, begins to be clear on what he means by this title. On page 508, Calvin introduces the subject of righteousness in context of believers:
Let us now see what kind of righteousness belongs to those persons whom we have placed in the fourth class. We admit, that when God reconciles us to himself by the intervention of the righteousness of Christ, and bestowing upon us the free pardon of sins regards us as righteous, his goodness is at the same time conjoined with mercy, so that he dwells in us by means of his Holy Spirit, by whose agency the lusts of our flesh are every day more and more mortified, while that we ourselves are sanctified; that is, consecrated to the Lord for true purity of life, our hearts being trained to the obedience of the law.
The point of that citation is to establish who he is writing about, but as an aside, notice that he doesn’t really make the attributes of a believer specifically personal. He could be referring to us specifically, but he could also be referring to manifestations of the Spirit. This is significant because of what follows:
Still, however, while we walk in the ways of the Lord, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lest we should become unduly elated and forget ourselves, we have still remains of imperfection which serve to keep us humble: “There is no man who sinneth not,” says the Scripture (1Kgs 8:46). What righteousness can men obtain by their works?
With Christians, if they believe the right things unto salvation, that question isn’t even on the radar screen in a sanctification context. But, as we shall see, Calvin is clearly talking about a “perpetual efficacy in his death” for “reconciliation.” Calvin continues on page 508:
First, I say, that the best thing which can be produced by them is always tainted and corrupted by the impurity of the flesh, and has, as it were, some mixture of dross in it. Let the holy servant of God, I say, select from the whole course of his life the action which he deems most excellent, and let him ponder it in all its parts; he will doubtless find in it something that saviors of the rottenness of the flesh since our alacrity in well-doing is never what it ought to be, but our course is always retarded by much weakness. Although we see that the stains by which the works of the righteous are blemished, are by no means unapparent, still, granting that they are the minutest possible, will they give no offense to the eye of God, before which even the stars are not clean? We thus see, that even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation.
Here is where Calvin gets into the total depravity of the saints, but in addition, this is just simply a blatant contradiction to the plain sense of Scripture:
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10).
Obviously, the saints are capable of working for God, and loving Him, and His people, in a way that would make it unjust for Him to not remember. This kind of exegesis by Calvin is completely unacceptable. Calvin continues on page 508 to make the point that even if believers could obey the law to some degree, that a violation of one point would make us guilty of breaking the whole law. He then cites James 2:10 to validate this view. This angle to establish a total depravity of the saints is a staple approach by proponents of Sonship Theology and New Calvinism. And it comes from Calvin himself. And it is just dead wrong!
On page 509, Calvin propagates the idea that a perfect righteousness as judged by the law must be maintained until (what one can only assume is) a judgment to determine justification. I haven’t read far enough to validate the judgment part yet, but at the very least, Calvin is stating on that page that a perfect righteousness in our stead must be maintained throughout sanctification. And of course, that implies an ongoing imputation of Christ’s active obedience.
Also, throughout, Calvin makes NO distinction between works for justification and works to please God in sanctification. The only logical conclusion is that works of any kind equal: for justification.
It’s late and I wanted to get this much in print, but I will expound on this more in the following days. Let me conclude with this final statement by Calvin on page 509:
Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the church (2Cor 5:18,19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, i.e., ablution, satisfaction expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, “but by grace are ye saved,” “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8,9).
This is New Calvinism’s sanctification by justification to a “T,” complete with justification verses being applied to a sanctification context. New Calvinists got it from Calvin, Luther, and Augustine. And Augustine got it from Plato.
The journey continues.
Read this post: deliteralizing-the-bible-from-plato-to-peterson
The following is what it “looks like”:
By Paul M. Dohse Sr.
TANC: Truth About New Calvinism.com; a discernment ministry under the accountability of Germantown Baptist Chapel in Germantown, Ohio.
“This movement runs contrary to the Reformation and the Scriptures. It is dangerous and must be exposed and halted.”
~Dr. Jay E. Adams
The American Church certainly has its problems, but is it really awash in the supposed false gospel of co-laboring with God in sanctification? New Calvinism is operating on the false premise that it is saving the church from a theological dark age; the work of the original Reformation is ongoing and unfinished. The arrogance that necessarily follows this motif lingers not far behind. And according to the Scriptures, young leaders do not lack propensity towards such attitudes. As New Calvinist Mark Driscoll has noted: “You get the young men….you get everything. If you don’t get the young men, you get nothing.”
The movement has also seen itself as, above being identified. To be called anything except a term all Christians are familiar with, “gospel” is to deny their mission and categorize them as just another flash in the pan theological movement. This has led to innumerable hostile takeovers of churches and parachurch organizations. Until now, victims were helpless in stopping these takeovers because New Calvinism’s specific doctrine and source was unidentifiable; you can’t contend against a danger that you cannot define.
That is changing fast. More and more with every week that passes New Calvinism’s covert mode of operation is no longer working. This is a major advancement in the cause to earnestly contend against this false doctrine. Though we will not cite numbers specifically, the following chart illustrates the sharp increase in visits to this website by people who want to know what is going on with this movement. Takeovers are being prevented, and many churches now know what to look for in order to keep New Calvinist leaders out of their churches.
And this is extremely important because New Calvinism is a false gospel. It clearly fuses justification and sanctification together. When sanctification is a “chain” or “road” to a final judgment in which we must be found just, the propagation of a false gospel can be the only result. This also leads to an unhealthy dependence on spiritual leaders who must supposedly lead us through the very critical pathways of a sanctification that is really justification in action. The gargantuan dependence and worship of spiritual leaders in our day is now evident accordingly. And for this reason, New Calvinism is a religion of fear. Hardly anything is more evident than the pervasive fear of leaders that dominates this movement.
This ministry will continue to aggressively educate and improve in how a contention against this movement is communicated. We will communicate this through the big picture, and the dismantling of every detail of the movement. For almost five years now, I have attempted to merely get the ball rolling in hopes that others would pick up the ball and run with it. This has not happened, so I will fully embrace the duty. Lord willing, and in His strength, and with the help of God’s people, we will earnestly contend against this gangrenous blight upon the church.
And “gangrene” is a key word here. While discussing the Apostle Paul’s use of the word gangrene with my wife Susan, she reminded me that she has been afflicted with gangrene in the past. The apostle used that particular word with intentionality. When Susan had gangrene in one of her legs, she felt no pain and was totally unaware of it. Gangrene is a silent killer of the body’s limbs. If it goes undetected for too long, limbs must be amputated. That is exactly how false doctrine infects the church: silently, covertly, and subtly, but with fatal results.
Paul’s Passing Thoughts and Truth About New Calvinism.com will be editing two of my unpublished books and offering them for free on our websites in pdf format. These books deal with the various elements of the movement. The Truth About New Calvinism addresses the major tenets and the doctrine’s history. Volume two will be published in the near future. We will use the following to sound the alarm: blogs, books, conferences, speaking opportunities, our newsletter, and networking with other Christian ministries. We also look forward to working with other organizations that address the spiritual abuse created by this movement. Right now, the movement itself has created organizations that supposedly minister to the fallout that the movement itself has created. An example of this would be the upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition.
This movement is so pervasive that in many cities across our nation, there are only New Calvinist churches. We get emails and letters from those who testify to this. They go to church week after week and hear about how they are totally depraved and hate God as much as any unbeliever. Therefore, I am very excited that TANC will be starting a forum to create a shovel ready church polity for those who would like to start a fellowship in their homes. We plan to work with Bible colleges to start non-New Calvinist churches across the nation (The Noah Forum). This will give God’s people an alternative. Secondly, we plan to start a publishing company that will empower the laity and others to promote what God has taught them in the Scriptures (The Berean Laity Press). Right now, New Calvinists control ALL of the major Christian publishing companies. This is completely unacceptable.
Big plans, but we have a big God. And this is needed and long overdue, because only truth sanctifies.
Paul M. Dohse
Author: Paul’s Passing Thoughts blog, The Truth About New Calvinism: Berean Laity Press, 2011.
Member: The Coalition Against New Calvinism
“Actually, down through the years it has been the vague stuff like this that has captured the minds of the untaught and unlearned (2 Peter 3:16). That’s why mysticism stills holds a large segment of the Roman church in its clutches, why liberalism with its vague neo-orthodoxy still affects the thinking of many, and why post-modern anarchism is in vogue.”
~Dr. Jay E. Adams
TANC Doctrinal Statement
All Scripture is God-breathed, and is sufficient to make the believer adequate for every good work pleasing to God. God used man to write the Scriptures as they were born along by the Holy Spirit. No iota or dot of Scripture has ceased to benefit the believer in some way. Scripture’s truth and accuracy has always been superintended by God. The Scriptures have been completely delivered to the saints, and terrible woe will come to those who add to it or take away from it (2Timothy 3:16,17; Matthew 4:4; 2Peter 1:19-21; Matthew 5:18; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18,19).
Authority of Scripture
The authority of Scripture supersedes that of elders and the Presbytery. Our first allegiance is always to the Chief Shepherd and all that He has commanded. We only follow men when they follow Christ (Acts 17:11,12; 1Cortinthians 4:6; 1Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 1:8,9 Matthew 28:18,19).
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, but also three distinct persons who are the fullness of all deity in, and of themselves. God is sovereign over the affairs of men, pure and righteous in all of His affairs, loves those who seek Him, and hates evil doers. The Son will return to execute judgment on Earth at a time like the days of Noah, and will establish an everlasting kingdom of righteousness ruled by the Father and Son. Until then, God’s people are to be holy as He is holy, glorify His name by the way they live, and be ever watchful and ready for His Son’s return. All of redemptive history is moving toward God the Father being “all in all” (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1Timothy 2:5; John 1:1; Acts 5:3,4; 2Corinthians 3:17,18; Habakkuk 1:13; Malachi 1:11; Matthew 5:8; Philippians 2:15; John 3:16; Psalms 5:5; 11:5; Hosea 9:15; Malachi; 1:2,3; Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 24:37; Revelation 22:1; 1Peter 1:15; Matthew 24:42; 1Corinthians 15:25-28).
The Trinity created the heavens and Earth in six solar days. Light and darkness were created as one in the first day amidst water. God then separated the darkness and light in the first day also. (Genesis 1:1-31).
Salvation is Trinitarian. God the Father justifies, the Son saves, and The Holy Spirit regenerates. God retains all glory for salvation unto Himself. Those whom the Father has elected, He has also called. Those whom the Father has called, He has glorified. God has done this before creation, and His election guarantees glorification. All that the Father has elected, he will lead to the Son. All that He leads to the Son are justified. Therefore, glorification is secured before the foundation of the Earth for all of God’s children. Hence, sanctification has no bearing on the Father’s justification.
All who come to the Father must come through the Son by believing in His death, burial, and resurrection. He is the only mediator between God and mankind. With the aid of the Holy Spirit and the power that raised Christ from the grave, and obedience to the word of God, the believer can experience the full assurance of the Father’s election. The Holy Spirit will illumine believers and counsel them with the word of God. He will actively work with the believer to be set apart for God’s glory (Romans 8:30; Ephesians 1:3-10; John 17:17; John 14:15-17; 1Timothy 2:5; 2Peter 1:3-21; Ephesians 1:15-20; John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:1-8).
People are not saved without the preaching of the gospel. God’s offer of salvation to all people is a legitimate offer. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. It is God’s desire that all people come to repentance and be saved (Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16-19; Acts 17:30; 1 Timothy 2:3,4; 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 10:14; Matthew 23:37).
The New Birth
We affirm the new birth. There is no salvation without it. We are created into totally new creatures, and the old self has been put to death. Therefore, sin’s ability to enslave us has been broken, and we are free to obey God with the aid of the Holy Spirit and instruction from the Scriptures. A robust effort in sanctification through the new birth will be richly rewarded in this life and the life to come according to the promises of God, and with no ability to add or take away from justification.
We reject all teachings that present the new birth as a realm or manifestation of the Spirit without the co-laboring of the believer. Christians are declared righteous, and in fact are righteous through the new birth. Christians continue to sin because of the flesh and mortality. Sinfulness resides in the flesh of the believer, while the heart of the believer is redeemed. We are washed, but need forgiveness for our failings while walking in the world. This is not forgiveness to maintain justification, but forgiveness to maintain a harmonious relationship with our Father. Jesus Christ will reward us for our holy works and loving accomplishments while on Earth, and destroy the works of the flesh by fire (John 3:3-15; John 1:12,13; 2Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:9,10; Ephesians 5: 20-24 1Corinthians 3:9; 1Thessalonians 3:2; 2Corinthians 6:1; Philippians 4:8,9; John 13: 6-11; 1Thessilonians 4:3 Romans 7:23; Mark 13:48; Galatians 5:16).
The church is the universal body of Christ with local expressions. Local assemblies should be guided by a group of pastors. The other offices of the church are deacon and deaconess. These are individuals, both female and male, who have all the qualifications of “elder” except, “apt to teach.” They are to handle the affairs of the church in order to free the elders for prayer and the “ministry of the word.” The local assembly should be led by elders, and confirmed by the congregation in regard to their decisions and calling. Elders are not to lord it over the flock. The office of elder and deacon/deaconess is a spiritual gift, and therefore a lifetime appointment. However, the privilege of practicing these gifts can be halted by the congregation for dereliction of duty and other sins.
Elders who sin are to be rebuked before the entire congregation so the other elders will fear. Elders are to equip the saints for ministry, and the saints/congregation are the ministers. The elders are not the ministers. The saints are to be equipped with the full counsel of God. The attempt to fully equip the saints with the same gospel that justified us is a false gospel. It should also be noted that elders have no authority in the Christian home outside of the church. The authority structure in the home is clearly stated in Ephesians 5:22-27. The husband is the pastor of his home, not the elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 15:1-29; 16:4,5; 20:17; 20:28-32; 21:18; 1Timothy 5:17-19; 1Peter 5:1-5; 1Timothy 4:14; James 5:14,15 Acts 6:1-6; 1Timothy 3:1-13 1Timothy 5:20).
The Bible instructs regarding “self-discipline” and the “Lord’s discipline” but states nothing about “church discipline” Church discipline is a misnomer. The Bible teaches separation that results in the discipline of the Lord and other practical consequences. This is both local and universal, and is critical in regard to purity of doctrine and practice. This is a practice that should be implemented, when applicable, between individuals and churches, churches and other congregations, and between denominations/organizations. The lack of this practice is greatly responsible for the rampant error of our day. Unity is based on truth. Truth is the life substance of unity, not the avoidance of confrontation. Biblically, division is always framed in context of false doctrine.
The Bible calls for this separation after several different procedures have been applied to the correct situation. We reject a Matthew 18 grid for every situation that occurs in the church. Separation is intended for sins of the baser sort, and is not a tool for fine-tuning God’s people; for instance, counseling, etc. Lastly, involvement of the whole congregation should always precede separation to insure that all in the situation and their actions are vetted. ([Note differences. Sins against brothers: Matt.18:15-20; false teaching that causes division:1Tim.6:3-5, 2John:10,11 Titus 3:10, Rom.16:16,17; sinning Elders:1 Timothy 5:19; broken fellowship between parishioners: Phil. 4:2,3; Idleness: 2Thess. 3:6-15; gross Immorality: 1Cor. 5:1- 13] 1Corinthians 5:6; Revelations 2:1-3:22; Hebrews 12:5-11; 1Cor. 11:30; 1Cor. 11:31-32).
The coming of Jesus Christ to secure the Father’s salvation through His sacrifice, and His return, mark the beginning and the end of the last age of the ages. It will be an age marked by deception and an unprecedented onslaught against God’s truth. The primary falsehood of this age will be antinomianism. In fact, the antichrist will be a consummate antinomian. The coalition believes that New Calvinism could be a latter-day antinomian blitzkrieg as the Scriptures predict will come in the last days (Hebrews 1:1,2; Hebrews 9:26; 2Peter 3:3-10; 2Timothy 4:2,3; 1John 2:18; 1John 4:1; 2Corinthians 11:13; 2Thessalonians 2:1-3; 2Timothy 3:1-5; 2Timothy 3:13; Matthew 24:3,4. The following refers to how the last days are framed in regard “anomia”: love, Matthew 24:11,12; Judgment, Matthew 7:23; 13:41; fellowship, 2Corinthians 6:14; mystery of anomia, 2Thessalonians 2:7; antichrist is called the “anomia one” or “man of anomia” three times in 2Thesslonians chapter two. Redemption, Titus 2:14).
I had other plans this morning. Then I thought I would visit http://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/ to see what was going on over there before I began my day. The first thing I saw was a question from “Rachel” and an invitation by the author of the blog for somebody to answer her question. Rachel framed her question in regard to the subject of depression; you know, the kind where you wake up in the morning and everything in you doesn’t want to get out of bed and face another day. Why? Because it’s hard to function in life when your soul is stripped of joy on the one hand, and full of torment on the other. Sleep with narcotic (medication) induced dreams are the only relief—at least the horrible dreams are being observed and not experienced in real life.
Yes, I will answer the question because this is deeply personal and plunges the depths of why I hate the doctrine of New Calvinism. Yes, I hate New Calvinism because I love hope, and hope has no greater enemy in our day than New Calvinism. Rachel’s inquisition follows:
Can someone answer this question for me? (I’m trying to fit some puzzle pieces together about NC)…
I see from the example in the post (that of a woman being abused “partaking in Christ’s suffering”) that NCs can come off as ambivalent about helping/stopping suffering when it rears its ugly head.
Do they take it a step further and actually emphasize suffering as a goal/way of life?
In other words, it’s one thing to tell a suffering person that they shouldn’t seek to change their situation. It’s another thing to tell a happy person that they should actively aspire to be suffering.
I am starting to see this attitude in my church and it really bothers me. For one thing, I know very few well-adjusted people who actually aspire towards suffering as a way of life (plenty of people who give lip service to that, mind you, but I see them out having fun and smelling the roses just like everyone else). Also, as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I’ve had to hold onto God’s promise of mercy, joy and hope in order to get myself to a place of health and healing…and I see people in my church who have never struggled with these things decreeing quite confidently that trying to escape suffering is not what we want. (I wonder if any of them have ever found themselves truly unable to get out of bed in the morning, and how they justified that this was necessary for them to serve God….don’t know about you all, but I always serve God better when I get up, go about my day, and interact with other humans).
Yes Rachel, I have some thoughts. Let me use these comments by you to begin:
Do they take it a step further and actually emphasize suffering as a goal/way of life?
In other words, it’s one thing to tell a suffering person that they shouldn’t seek to change their situation. It’s another thing to tell a happy person that they should actively aspire to be suffering.
No, they don’t do that, but they clearly teach that it is wrong for you to rectify your condition “in your own efforts.” As one depressed follower of New Calvinism said to me: “It’s not about anything that I can do, It’s about what Jesus has done.” Sounds spiritual, no? But let me tell you my precious sister, those are words of death. Put another way by a New Calvinist friend of demons:
Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.
Note the subtle devaluing of obedience with the words, “a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.” Elsewhere, this vile false teacher states:
Along with deep repentance, Scripture calls us to faith that rests and feeds upon the living Christ. He fills us with Himself through the person of the Holy Spirit and our hearts are transformed by faith.
And that is the counsel that the depressed will receive from today’s New Calvinists: “rest and feed.” Rachel, compare the statement above with the New Calvinist illustration I posted in the article that provoked your question. And remember, this is their illustration, not mine:
New Calvinism’s answer to troubled people is a continual revisiting of our salvation which results in, note carefully, a transformation. New Calvinists don’t believe that we change, they believe that through a continual revisiting of salvation, we manifest one of two realms; flesh or spirit, but I will stick to the basics for now and not delve too deeply into their denial of the new birth. What they call the new birth has nothing to do with real personal change. This should be evident from the visual illustration. But the concept enables them to deceive with doublespeak. Hence, another quotation by the aforementioned satanic minion who poses as a biblical counselor:
Instead, even the Christian version of this approach [following biblical commands] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context.
In both phases of his Christian life, the work of Christ on the cross was radically minimized by Andy’s own efforts. The first three years evidenced a Christ-less activism that produced pride and self-sufficiency.
This whole concept can also be observed if you note carefully the words of this New Calvinist:
Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.
New Calvinism’s Onslaught Against the Hope of Obedience
“Andy’s own efforts” are the difference between life and death in our Christian life. As I continue to state, New Calvinism got its doctrine from Robert Brinsmead and the Australian Forum. The Forum was established in 1970-71, and roughly the same time, a problem occurred named Jay Adams. In his book, “Competent to Counsel,” he offered an alternative to the hopelessness left by the hyper-grace theology of the first gospel wave. Proponents of the Forum’s new twist on hyper-grace considered Adams a threat. But if you talk to Adams, he relates his experience in churches across the land as he answered invitations to speak: “They were surprised that someone was teaching that we could do something in the Christian life. They thought it was some kind of new teaching [paraphrase from memory].”
Exactly. New Calvinists teach that obedience must always flow from an exultation induced by gospel contemplationism. Hence, a depressed person shouldn’t do anything that is not motivated by a gratitude for their original salvation. And it’s not really us doing it—it’s a manifestation of the Spirit (or the spirit realm verses the flesh real). In other words, it’s a sanctified obedience since “totally depraved Christians” cannot really obey in and of themselves. The New Calvinist born again individual is one who merely manifests one realm or the other at any given time. At a time in my life when I was almost drawn into this theology and it was thought that I could be spoken to openly, a fairly well-known New Calvinist concurred with this realm approach in an email to me. However, you can only see it in his writings if you know what to look for. I have never read the debates between Jay Adams and Dr. Ed Welch on the heart/flesh issue, but I assume this philosophy could probably be seen in Welch’s response. At any rate, one must ask: “If we are still totally depraved, where does the obedience come from?” Again, look at the New Calvinist illustration, our goal is to make the cross bigger by plunging the debts of understanding in regard to our own depravity. This approach can also be seen in the writings of New Calvinist 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.
What could be clearer? We, in and of ourselves as born again believers, do not change, we manifest one realm or the other, and anything more than that is “legalism.” This is what is often meant by the New Calvinist slogan, “between two realms, “ or “between two worlds,” or “between two spheres.” In fact, I couldn’t remember one of the exact phrases, so I went to a New Calvinist blog to check, and behold, there was a newly posted article by New Calvinist Elyse Fitzgerald that states exactly what I have said here about gospel contemplationism. The following screen shot encompasses all of my thoughts on this one point:
These New Calvinists are exactly the same as the imposters before them. As one author said of the 4th century heretic Arius:
More important, the unfavorable ruling of the council provoked Arius to alter his strategy in a significant way. Without actually modifying his views, he worked hard to refine his language to make himself sound as orthodox as possible. He insisted that he had been misunderstood and misrepresented. He continued to profess his adherence to all the major creeds and apostolic doctrinal formulae. He even occasionally claimed that he had no major disagreement with the Nicene Council’s position. The actual difference between them was very slight, he insisted.
This reminds me of a written response by Dr. Albert Mohler in which he ignored all of my specific concerns, said he didn’t know anybody that believed what I was stating, and made a general statement about holding to all of the beliefs contained in the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith. Which is a lie, and you can quote me on that.
There is no doubt that all of salvation is of God. But there is something very evident about God that he makes clear in his word. He delights in colaboring with his children. We can see this in the creation account and in specific statements throughout the New Testament (1Cor.3:9, 1Thess.3:2, 2Cor.6:1). God delighted in letting Adam name the animals, and it was really Adam that named them. And it is really us doing the work in sanctification. For crying out loud, we will even be rewarded for our work! Words mean things, and Christ knows how to communicate with His created beings. When He will say, “Well done faithful servant,” He didn’t mean to say that we really won’t be doing what was “well done.” A beautiful picture of how we colabor with our Savior can be seen in John 14:12-16. Christ said He was going away to the Father so that He could do greater works, or us? We are here working in greater numbers, but the Lord said He would be with the Father so that if we asked anything in His name, He would do it to glorify the Father. He also said to love Him by keeping His commandments, and in the NEXT sentence, Christ said he would send us a “HELPER.” What’s a “helper”? Get it? He “helps” us. If Christ does it all, why do we need help? Our efforts and the Holy Spirit’s help is seamless. It’s not either/or. This can be seen throughout the Scriptures: “The fruit of the Spirit is…. self –control.” Who is doing the controlling? Answer: self (that would be you). Who’s fruit? Answer: the Holy Spirit. We are to “pursue” the Holy Spirit’s fruit, but if we don’t pursue—no fruit. And no reward. And no blessings. RC Sproul said it best before he was afflicted with New Calvinist dementia:
Sanctification is cooperative. There are two partners involved in the work. I must work and God will work. If ever the extra-biblical maxim, “God helps those who help themselves,” had any truth, it is at this point. We are not called to sit back and let God do all the work. We are called to work, and to work hard. To work something out with fear and trembling is to work with devout and conscientious rigor. It is to work with care, with a profound concern with the end result (Pleasing God p. 227).
The only time we work in a way that displeases God is when we work according to arrogant ideas that do not align with God’s word, like the New Calvinesque woman who said that Mary was blessed because she gave birth to the Savior. Did anybody know the personhood of Christ better than Mary? Yet, Christ rebuked the woman publicly and said that it was the ones who hear His commands and obey that are blessed (Lk. 11:27). In 2Samuel chapter 7, king David assumed that it wasn’t right that he lived in a palace and God dwelled in a tent. God rebuked him, and for all practical purposes asked him where he found such an idea in the Scriptures. Likewise, New Calvinists assume that anything we do in sanctification is a slight against God getting all the glory. God is the judge of what gives Him glory, not man.
The apostle Paul’s counsel
So what would the apostle Paul say about all of this? Well, do depressed people need “peace”? Say yes. They need it in the worst way. In Philippians 4:9, Paul wrote the following:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
That’s what you call a promise. And trust me, if God is with you, all is well. And Paul makes it a point to state that he is the God of “peace.” But the promise is contingent on what? Answer: doing our part, and doing it the right way. What we have “learned,” and “received,” and “heard,” and “seen,” implies more than the gospel and what Christ did to save us. If that’s what Paul wanted to say, he would have simply stated it. Prior to this statement in verse 9, Paul said that the pathway to “peace” is putting off worry and replacing it with specific prayer (verse 6), and right thinking (verse 8), and right doing (verse 9).
Christ promised the same thing in the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. A house built on a rock hears the word of God and “puts it into practice” with the Holy Spirit’s help. And remember, Christ said that the Spirit would help, that’s a promise also.
New Calvinists are the servants of the Quietist Grinch that steals hope. They are clouds without water. They serve a false God that supposedly only wants to be gazed upon rather than obeyed as Lord. Be not deceived. Chooses life instead. Choose hope.
We can rest assured that our Father doesn’t want us to be confused. He gave us a brain and is honored when we use it, but know this: He doesn’t want us to use it to vet every theory running amuck in the world regarding the meaning of life. His word to us is clear: we have His Spirit; we are not to be deceived; test every spirit; and we have all that is needed to be fully equipped for every good work. But according to New Calvinist David Powlison, the church forgets stuff. Therefore, it needs a research and development purpose to rediscover lost truth and apply it. Buyers beware; you only need to follow the money.
As stated in The Truth About new Calvinism, it all boils down to the enemy’s agenda: 1) keep people out of the kingdom 2) deceive kingdom citizens into living spiritually anemic lives 3) which leads to a lack of testimony and thereby facilitates purpose number one. If the kingdom of darkness couldn’t keep you out, it can at least use you to keep others out. And we only need to examine that in context of what worked so well: “Did God really say….” The apostle Paul warned us many times in regard to being led away from the truth by vain philosophies.
New Calvinism is a reductionist theology. Reductionism is two-fold. First, in an attempt to make much of God’s grace and little of man’s efforts, the role of man is reduced as much as possible in theological systems. Secondly, this entails diminishing the primary instrument for man’s participation in God’s work—the law. Therefore, something needs to be done about the new birth because it implies the ability to participate in upholding God’s law in sanctification. New Calvinists have several different ways of denying the new birth; this post is about what they replace it with.
The primary tenet of New Calvinism is the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us as developed by the Australian Forum, a think tank for the Progressive Adventist Movement. One reader commented in regard to part 5 of the New Calvinism for Dummies video series:
One of the things that popped into my mind when you were talking about “objective” and it occurring outside ourselves. It also seems like the NC is inviting the person to stepoutside themselves to be an observer of themselves. Like they are being invited to emotionally remove themselves from who they are, becoming the unemotional observer, which would also lead to some coldheartedness. With the emotions corralled, as such, it just sort of reminds me of Spock on Star Trek.
That’s a good assessment, and speaks to the fact that New Calvinists are very coldhearted and indifferent, also lacking in having a sense of justice about them. That’s one of the bad results of partaking in anti-word philosophies:
….and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of anomia, the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:11,12).
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law (Psalm 119:70).
The centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (COGOUS) is the mainframe that holds all of the various movements within New Calvinism together and gives it a hyper-ecumenical flare. The various groups within New Calvinism all have their own way of making this doctrine work with real life, but the overall goal of the doctrine is the same: gospel contemplationism leading to a passive manifestation of a realm. This is merely a device of the only primary goal of the kingdom of darkness from the beginning of redemptive history; specifically, “Has God really said.” It is meant to divert God’s people from Christ’s simple counsel:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).
If every verse in the Bible is about what Christ has done and not what he SAYS; ie, “these words of mine,” biblical wisdom for kingdom living is circumvented. Secondly, if our only “do[ing]es” is a passive yielding to a realm, the kind of intentional application of God’s word necessary for a life built on a rock is also circumvented. This will lead to the circumvention of Christ’s goal stated in Matthew chapter five:
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Therefore, the simple biblical approach of learn/hear>>>obey>>>God glorified, must be replaced with a more passive formula. Opponents of the biblical model would say they only want to exclude man’s efforts so God will get all of the glory, resulting in contemplation/meditation>>>_________>>>God’s works manifested, not ours. The blank is filled in by various and sundry techniques which New Calvinists point to. This often confuses the real issue. But getting back to the main point, the new birth must be refuted because it makes the contra formula possible. And because the latter formula is reductionist and narrow, it must be embellished. Hence, Christian Hedonism, Heart Theology, unbiblical forms of prayer, Neuro-Linguistic-Programming, reorientation of desires, etc, etc. This is vital in selling the product because we were created for work (you know, feet, hands, stuff like that), and passive theologies therefore contradict the conscience. So the blank between meditation and work must be filled in with some plausible stuff that sounds good. Please note: I am stating all of this in context of sanctification. COGOUS>>>life application>>>manifestation of works verses new birth>>>learn and apply>>>obedience.
Furthermore, the application must not only supply a feasible life application, but must also appeal to human desire. This brings us back to the astute comment by the aforementioned reader. This whole idea of COGOUS giving one the ability to step outside of themselves and be an observer of their own life. Some would call this Nature/Freedom philosophy; this is the freedom from the laws of nature, and in the case of New Calvinism, God’s written law as well. There is no better way to demonstrate this than by a quote from one of the most popular New Calvinist articles ever written:
What, then, is the subjective power of this message? Firstly, we find that there is real, objective freedom, the kind that, yes, can be experienced subjectively. We are freed from having to worry about the legitimacy of experiences; our claims of self-improvement are no longer seen as a basis of our witness or faith. In other words, we are freed from ourselves, from the tumultuous ebb and flow of our inner lives and the outward circumstances; anyone in Christ will be saved despite those things. We can observe our own turmoil without identifying with it. We might even find that we have compassion for others who function similarly. These fluctuations, violent as they might be, do not ultimately define us. If anything, they tell us about our need for a savior.
Secondly, this freedom gives us permission to confront and confess our pain. We can look our self-defeating and regressive tendencies in the eye for once. We no longer have to pretend to be anything other than what the Gospel tells us we are: hopeless sinners in need of mercy. Honesty and repentance go hand in hand – freedom puts us on our knees, where we belong. A subjective Gospel turns repentance into a frightening affair, evidence that God is far away from us. An objective Gospel provides the assurance that actually produces repentance, forging the pathway to the place where we find forgiveness and redemption. We can finally grasp hold of the truth that it is always better to be sorry than to be safe. The pastoral implications for marriage alone are staggering
(David Zahl and Jacob Smith: Mockingbird blog, “The Subjective Power Of An Objective Gospel”).
I think this quotation says it all. It is a freedom from obedience to the law (because we are totally depraved sinners that can’t keep it anyway), freedom from consequences, and supplies a mentality that we can use to detach ourselves from the burdens of life. It is Nature Freedom philosophy to the max and could be accompanied by the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin:
Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……
Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
Look at me I am happy
Don’t worry, be happy
Here I give you my phone number
When you worry call me
I make you happy
Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got not girl to make you smile
But don’t worry be happy
Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy (now)…..
There is this little song I wrote
I hope you learn it note for note
Like good little children
Don’t worry, be happy
Listen to what I say
In your life expect some trouble
But when you worry
You make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……
Don’t worry don’t do it, be happy
Put a smile on your face
Don’t bring everybody down like this
Don’t worry, it will soon past
Whatever it is
Don’t worry, be happy
….because everything that matters is outside of you—the cross. Just sit back and let life make the cross bigger; stop trying to be the gospel instead of living the gospel by faith alone. That’s one of the many allurements of New Calvinism, but primarily, it’s a theological framework that allows us to fill in the practical application line in any way we would like to. And we like that.