The root of all controversy: the golden chain of salvation.
Before we start part 2, we have a little unfinished business from part 1. The astute observer will ask, “If Jay Adams had the right idea about sanctification while misunderstanding what Calvin really believed, what of his biblical counseling movement that moved from mere generalities to the finer points of Christian living?” Answer: it WAS a revival…probably the only real revival the church has seen since the previous focus on practical application of the Scriptures versus redemptive focus/meditation. And when was that? I have no idea.
You remember my mention of the John “Jack” Miller disciple David Powlison. He started a contra biblical counseling movement against the Jay Adams movement. This is often referred to as first generation biblical counseling versus second generation biblical counseling. The second generation effectively wiped out the first. The crux of that civil war is relevant to this study. One model sees salvation and sanctification as separate. Salvation is completely vertical, but sanctification is mostly horizontal. Jay Adams argued in his aforementioned book against Sonship theology that the source of power in the Christian life is not salvation, but regeneration. In other words, justification is a finished work and a static declaration while the Christian life flows from the “quickening” of the new birth. We don’t return to the cross for power in the Christian life, we learn and obey the Spirit’s instrument for changing us, the law of the Spirit of life. What Adams didn’t realize is that this whole idea of life coming from a perpetual revisitation of our justification is in fact authentic Reformed dogma (see the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11).
Every Christian controversy from the Reformation till the present finds its roots in the golden chain. Reformed pastors wax eloquent in regard to who builds the links in the chain between justification and glorification: it’s either us, or the Holy Spirit using “what Jesus has done, not anything we do.”
From the latter 40’s to 1970, the first gospel wave (Billy Graham et al) ruled the Christian scene via EB. Cogous pushed back with a vengeance from 1970 till the present with the second gospel wave. The first wave saw a commitment to obedience as synonymous with keeping yourself saved because of the golden chain idea. To say that they overemphasized the gospel would be a gargantuan understatement. Obviously, they saw a commitment to obedience as transposed upon the Christian life. The second gospel wave demanded a commitment, and recognition of Christ as Lord, but also demanded a life of faith alone to keep the law satisfied with Christ’s perfect obedience. Again, the ALS camp misunderstands the Reformed on this point. Both camps hold to sanctification by faith alone. This is the very idea that James rudely pushed back against in his epistle.
The issue made simple: Romans 8:30.
In Romans 8:30 we read the following:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Notice that sanctification is missing from this verse even though the context spans the beginning of our salvation to our resurrection. This is the distinction between all golden chain gospels and the real gospel, the kingdom gospel. Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” Hereafter, KG. The golden chain gospel says that sanctification is missing from this verse because justification and sanctification are the same thing. The KG says that sanctification is missing from this verse because justification and sanctification are mutually exclusive. The context is assurance of salvation (see verses 31ff.).
Curiously, the golden chain gospel which includes both ALS and LS/Calvinism, teaches us to remind ourselves of God’s grace alone regardless of anything we do. If our behavior brings doubt, this is evidence of a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s grace and we should therefore remind ourselves of such. ALS says that concern over behavior suggests that you believe behavior finishes justification and not grace alone. With the KG, that consideration is not even on the radar screen because justification and sanctification are completely separate; finishing a finished work is impossible. You can’t have that mentality if you understand it to be an impossible reality. I might also add that simply returning to the same gospel that saved us to cure a troubled conscience instead of changing behavior sears the consequence over time. This is ill advised.
In other words, the KG says it is impossible to unwittingly attempt to please God to gain justification because that work is finished. One is free to aggressively obey God without any fear that they are unwittingly attempting to earn their justification. ALS and LS/Calvinism do not have this convenience because justification is both finished and not finished. The Reformed, already, but not yet construct that relates to predestination cannot be discussed here for lack of room and fear of confusion, but suffice to say for this study that the convenience is not there for either ALS or LS because justification is not finished. You must continue to remind yourself of free grace because you are in a continuum where unwitting works salvation can take place, and the only solution is to disavow good behavior as an evidence of conversion. Obedience must be completely optional. This used to be criticized as “Let go and let God” theology. According to the KG, such a continuum is impossible and not reality.
Consider some dialogue I have had recently with ALS proponents:
Paul, While you ponder my answer, I’d like to ask you, if you’d identify what you believe you must do, before, during and after, in order to be given eternal life. Thank you, In Him, Holly
“Before, during, and after”? to… “be given eternal life.”? The implied answer is: nothing in justification; nothing in sanctification; and nothing in glorification. But again “during” shouldn’t even be deemed possible.
LS in Cogous form already states that perpetual double imputation is needed, so bad behavior is actually a good thing because it “shows forth the gospel.” In contrast, advocates of the KG are concerned with evidence of the new birth, not the overcoming of a propensity to misunderstand the grace of God because all doing in the Christian life is attached to justification somehow. Advocates of the KG understand that nothing they do in the Christian life has anything at all to do with justification. Much assurance comes from that. However, lazy discipleship forfeits assurance because it violates the conscience, and judgment begins in the household of God regarding consequences for bad behavior in this life. The fear generated from that can get confused with fear of eternal judgment.
But don’t miss my main point here: the solution for a lack of assurance in both ALS and LS are the same: preach the gospel to yourself. Remind yourself that works done by us are completely irrelevant to our salvation which also includes sanctification (the Christian life). Both camps woefully devalue the new birth and its expectations. In effect, we have no righteousness and obedience is not really performed by us, but performed by the Holy Spirit if we are “abiding” in Christ. This is a passive sanctification of our works in sanctification in order to categorize them as living by faith alone. ANY work we do is accredited to the justification process, so it must be sanctified by the right process. In the final analysis, Christians must only EXPERIENCE an obedience imputed to us by Christ. Citations by the Reformed abound, and I can cite one from the aforementioned conversation with advocates of ALS:
We can have righteousness of our own, that is self-righteousness. I didn’t notice, did you answer any of the questions? Do you sin? How much? Or not? Are you sinless?
Park on the fact that both camps assert that the Christian has no righteousness. To have any righteousness is a “righteousness of our own.” It’s either ALL us or ALL Christ. Therefore, we can only EXPERIENCE righteousness imputed to us, but it really isn’t us performing it; hence, in relationship to the same conversation:
This passage has nothing to do with becoming saved or providing evidence through our works that we are saved. The passage is about living experientially in a manner that is consistent with our position on [sic] Christ.
Notice that the Christian lives “experientially” according to “our position [i]n Christ.” In other words, Christians only experience their position, they don’t actually perform obedience themselves. In addition, when talking to either camp, one is challenged with the question, “Did you sin today?” And in both cases, when you qualify the question with, “In justification or sanctification?”…without exception they are thrown for a loop. Why? Because they see sin in justification as no different than sin in sanctification—that’s why they ask the question in the first place. If you believe the Christian is personally righteous as well as positionally righteous, you are immediately challenged by both camps with, “Did you sin today?” Why? Because the same assumption is that righteousness and sin are mutually exclusive. For the world, this is true, but not for Christians.
Another fact of the Reformation gospel is “righteousness” is defined as a perfect keeping of the law. To remove the law’s perfect standard, and its demands for perfection from justification is the very definition of antinomianism according to the Reformers. A perfect law keeping must be maintained for each believer if they are to remain justification.
If you remember, this is a direct quote from part one. ALS and LS/Calvinism both define righteousness by perfect law keeping. Again, why the air of profundity in the terse rhetorical question designed to end the argument on the spot by coup de grace? The very essence of the question reveals a profound misunderstanding of law and grace.
Let’s get a little more full circle now with part one. Because the Christian, according to both camps, cannot be righteous if he/she sins even once (“Do you sin? How much? Or not? Are you sinless?”), the good old Reformed mainstay of double imputation is needed for both of these applications of the same golden chain gospel. From part one:
Thirdly, this requires what is known as double imputation. Christ not only died for our sins so that our sins could be imputed to Him, He lived a life of perfect obedience to the law so that His obedience could be imputed to our sanctification.
The windsock of double imputation is the idea that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our sanctification. He died for our justification, and His perfect obedience to the law was imputed to our sanctification to keep justification rolling forward:
Model A asserts that since we cannot keep the law perfectly, we must invoke the double imputation of Christ by faith alone in order to be saved and stay saved (part 1).
Now let’s look again at the same recent conversation with ALS proponents:
Thanks Mark, I agree. We are qualified as saints, because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, but we still sin,..
Therefore, we only “qualify” as saints because we still sin, in order to keep our sainthood the righteousness of Christ must be imputed to us daily. Yes, that would be daily salvation. In the quote immediately prior, “Holly” was responding to this statement:
Hope you don’t mind me adding a thought, I think Paul is saying we were sinners but we are now saints (forgive me if I am wrong), it is true of course that we are saints but I believe it is also still true that we are sinners saved by grace because the Apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief”, present tense.
So, if Christians are still sinners, because we sin, and Christ came to save sinners, it would only make since that our need for salvation is still ongoing. Direct citations that agree with that point by John Calvin and Martin Luther is abundant low hanging fruit, but granted, such statements from the ALS camp are somewhat surprising. To further the point, I might add that “Holly” referred me to a message taught by a notable figure in the ALS movement who interpreted Romans 7:24 as a daily salvation. This is a very common rendering of that verse by the Reformed as well. The verse obviously refers to the redemption of the body and not a daily salvation.
Both are guilty of the same thing: a false double imputation construct must be applied to the Christian life by faith alone and the subjective experience thereof is optional. Like ALS—like Calvinism.
What is wrong with this gospel?
The golden chain gospel misrepresents the Trinity. The Father is removed from His role in salvation because it is His righteousness imputed to the believer before the foundation of the world. According to Romans 8:30, this guarantees glorification. The Holy Spirit is also misrepresented in regard to His role in salvation. His setting us apart before the foundation of the world is confused with His work in regeneration. Christ’s role is redefined beyond His death for our sins as a onetime act that ended sin. This is not a covering—it’s an ending. Even though the Reformed and ALS both concur that Christ died once, His death is perpetually reapplied to sins we commit as Christians when there is no such need. Neither is there a need to impute Christ’s righteousness to us perpetually. At the Bema event, it will not be God the Father looking at us and only seeing Jesus, it will be Jesus Himself judging His righteous followers. He will not be judging His own righteousness. The golden chain gospel is an egregious distortion of the Trinity.
True double imputation is our sins being imputed to Christ, and the Father’s righteousness imputed to us apart from the law. Christ came to end the law. It is because of this, and the new birth, that we are truly righteous in and of ourselves, but of course not apart from God’s power and plan of salvation. We have God’s seed in us, are no longer under any law that can judge us, and are able to please God with our lives. We are new creatures who are sinless according to justification because even if the old us that died with Christ was exhumed and brought into court, there would be no law to condemn us.
This gospel not only distorts the Trinity, rejects the new birth, and distorts double imputation, it misrepresents sonship. The sins we commit as a family member are considered to be sin against justification: “Did you sin today?” Again, if you ask them, “Sin in justification or sanctification?” all you will here is crickets, or the babblings of confused narcissists.
The golden chain gospel also strips the Christian of ability to love Christ and others by keeping Christians under the law of sin and death that Christ came to end. Said gospel makes that law the standard for righteousness. However, there is no law standard in justification, it is APART from any law—it is God’s righteousness imputed to us. Those under grace serve the law of the Spirit of life which is fulfilled by loving Christ and others:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
It is impossible to love Christ by keeping the law of sin and death. Besides, that law is ended when we believe. All of our sins committed before faith were against that law and in essence imputed to it. Before we were saved, we were enslaved to that law and it provoked us to sin. Consider two spouses: we were the spouse that was under the law of sin and death until we died with Christ, now we are free to serve another. Sins we now commit are against family relationship, not sins that fall short of the law of sin and death.
Said gospel prevents us from making a commitment to God’s kingdom because the commitment would have to be executed perfectly in kingdom living to maintain our citizenship. Said gospel demands that we only recognize Christ in a one-way relation while ignoring His kingdom, its law, and the king. Yea, we can only accept Him as savior in a one-way relationship. This assumes that a decision to flee the present kingdom of darkness for the kingdom of light cannot be a commitment totally separate from the kingdom citizenship. If we make a commitment, the commitment must be executed perfectly in order to remain a citizen. No, the commitment is totally separate from our citizenship in the same way justification is totally separate from sanctification.
I realize that only repentance was emphasized to the Jews, but they were already saturated with the concept of God’s kingdom. From the beginning, Abraham looked for a city built by God. As we see Gentiles coming into the church, they must be brought up to speed on their new Jewishness. We should read the Bible with this in mind and the way it affected the presentation of the gospel, and the very definition of the word “gospel” itself.
The golden chain gospel rejects the new birth by ignoring the difference in slavery between two different laws: the law of sin and death that will condemn the world, and the law of the kingdom; the law of the Spirit of life. It makes the law of the Spirit of life a fulfilment of the law of sin and death that is in fact ended. In essence we remain enslaved to a law of condemnation as “sinners.” This is a rejection of the new birth.
It also adds another seed to the covenant of promise. If the law of sin and death could impart life, it would be a second seed from which life would come to the world. It doesn’t matter who obeys it, it cannot impart life.
The golden chain gospel distorts the Trinity, distorts double imputation, misrepresents sonship, strips the Christian of ability to love Christ and others, rejects a biblical definition of the new birth, keeps Christians under the law of sin and death, distorts the atonement, perpetually reapplies the death of Christ to salvation, replaces the righteousness of God with a law standard, propagates a one-way relationship with God, makes sin as a kingdom citizen the same as condemning sin, enslaves us as a spouse still under the law of sin and death, calls for us to accept Christ as savior in a one-way relationship while ignoring His Lordship.
Do Christians have two natures? This will be examined in part 3.
“Jay Adams has often pointed out that people are clueless in regard to the fact that there are about 200 different counseling theories in Psychology. Think about that; when people go to a psychologist for help they are no doubt clueless in regard to the perspective that they will be counseled from. Nevertheless, if biblical counseling is about sanctification, and it is, there are at least as many different theories on how justification ‘runs’ with sanctification.”
The fact that our justification is a finished work is critical to the gospel. If justification is not finished, its proper maintenance by faith alone without works becomes a balancing act between works and faith in sanctification. You have an integration of two things where one calls for faith alone and the other calls for a faith that works.
Therefore, when justification and sanctification are fused together, the Christian life will be marked by confusion, fear, introspection, and a paralyzed, stagnant Christian life. Sound familiar? A radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification frees the believer to aggressively love without fear that anything they do in sanctification will affect their justification. There is no fear in our justified position.
A false gospel cannot help people. All in all, the contemporary biblical counseling movement is saturated with the idea that justification is progressive. Point in case; biblical counseling superstar Lou Priolo believes that justification, “runs in the background.” In a guest post written for Jay Adams’ Institute for Nouthetic Studies, Priolo stated the following:
To my way of thinking, the place of the doctrine of justification in the believer’s life is much like the operating system on a computer. I’m a PC guy. My personal computer operates under a Windows operating system. Windows is always up and running, but most of the time, it runs in the background. I don’t see it. I can go for days without looking at it (although I know it is functioning as long as the other programs are operating properly). Occasionally, I have to go to the control panel to troubleshoot a problem, make some minor adjustments, or defrag my hard drive, but I don’t give it another thought because I have faith that it is doing what it is supposed to do. So it is with my justification. It is always up and running. Though I am not always consciously thinking about it, everything I do flows from it.
If one carefully examines this statement by Priolo, many disturbing anti-gospel ideas could be pointed out, and oddly, Jay Adams himself has written against these very ideas. Particularly, the idea that “everything” we do is powered by, or “flows” from justification. This is no whit different from what Tullian Tchividjian, John Piper, or even Joseph Prince believes.
Justification cannot be both finished and “running.” If justification runs in sanctification, what do we have to do to keep it running properly? That’s a huge problem by virtue of the very question itself. If the race we run as Christians, the one Paul talked about, is powered by justification, and we can be disqualified from that race; well, the ramifications in this issue speak for themselves.
No wonder that confusion, chaos, controversy, and a civil war between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling are the order of the day in those circles.
Jay Adams has often pointed out that people are clueless in regard to the fact that there are about 200 different counseling theories in Psychology. Think about that; when people go to a psychologist for help they are no doubt clueless in regard to the perspective that they will be counseled from. Nevertheless, if biblical counseling is about sanctification, and it is, there are at least as many different theories on how justification “runs” with sanctification.
Who will finally stand up and say, “Enough of this madness!”? Who will finally stand up and say one is finished and one is progressive. Come now, are we saying that one runs in a race that is finished? Indeed, I stood dumbfounded when Voddie Buacham’s answer to that question from me was, “yes.” Is this nonsense the very reason that the world does not take us seriously? We are unable to clarify the gospel we proclaim. Call the world totally depraved if you will, but they are not stupid.
I have been getting emails that suggest the present-day Neo-Calvinist movement has peaked, is imploding, and will soon be on the decline. This would be a repeat of history. The only problem is, what is left behind of the authentic Reformation still yields weak sanctification which leaves the door open for the authentic Reformation gospel to return.
This is because the Neo-Platonist political goal of the Reformation gospel sought to keep the masses under the one law of sin and death. The practical application of the Reformation gospel wasn’t a new method for interpreting the Bible, it was a new method for interpreting reality itself through the redemptive works of Christ. Man lives in the shadows of the true forms; Jesus Christ and His works. Reality is a gospel metaphysical narrative that glorifies God through the history of sinful man, and every event is completely pre-authored by God’s pen down to the smallest detail.
This isn’t a natural way to interpret reality or literature, and as history moved further away from Calvin’s Geneva, Christians began to gravitate more and more towards a grammatical interpretation of Scripture. This made Christians more than mere characters in a prewritten metaphysical narrative, and spawned the antinomian controversies throughout church history.
Even though the European idea of living a preordained life of slavery under preordained masters was eventually rejected in America, the significance of that idea in regard to the European gospel has never been fully dealt with. There has never been a complete reevaluation of the foundations laid by the Reformation regardless of its abhorrent historical fruit.
In 1970, the American church was languishing in anemic sanctification after the first gospel wave of the 50’s and 60’s produced massive converts with very little power in the Christian life to show for it. Christianity had few answers for life’s difficult questions. Billy Graham saved you, and Oprah Winfrey counseled you. Even in our day, a disciple of Winfrey’s, Dr. Phil McGraw, helps people with real-life problems more than the institutional church would ever dream of.
And what is the church’s Neo-Calvinist answer to that? “It’s not about your life, it’s about Jesus.” “It’s not about anything you do, it’s about what Jesus did.” “Is the gospel about Jesus, or your Spirit-filled life?” “We preach the gospel, we don’t try to be the gospel.” And yes, that was the answer for concerns raised in the 70’s about powerless Christianity. You see, supposedly, what little bit of sanctification and practical application that was being practiced at the time was the problem. The first gospel wave circa 1950-1970 was strong on getting people saved and emphasized sanctification little; the Neo-Calvinist gospel wave came along and said, for all practical purposes, that sanctification is not needed at all—what we need is more Jesus—“Jesus is our sanctification.” “Sanctification isn’t you—it’s Jesus.”
In the same year that the Reformed lager once again came to save Protestant Light, 1970, a Presbyterian by the name of Jay Adams ignited the biblical counseling movement with the groundbreaking and controversial book, “Competent to Counsel.” In my opinion, being a part of the movement during its peak in the 90’s, it was one of the true revivals in church history that was strictly a church affair minus European political intrigue, if not the only one.
The reason for this is simple: Adams focused on walking in the Spirit. This wasn’t a walking in the Spirit that prescribed working hard at gospel contemplationism, this was a walking in the Spirit that prescribed learning and hard work on the part of God’s people with the Holy Spirit as counselor and helper. Adams separated justification and sanctification, and claimed that the power for Christian living came from the new birth, not justification. The cross saves you, but it doesn’t sanctify you. The resurrection sanctifies you.
There is only one reason for being sanctified by justification: Christians remain under the law of sin and death. Hence, the cross must continue to save us from that law—more cross. Adams prescribed walking in the law of the Spirit of life, and rejected the idea that the law of the Spirit operated in the power of the cross; Adams insisted that obedience to the law of the Spirit of life was a colaboring between us and the Spirit who raised Christ from the grave.
And the Neo-Calvinist resurgence went to war against Adams and won. Adams’ primary nemesis was the propagators of Sonship theology who are alive and well in the present-day Neo-Calvinist movement and own 95% of all biblical counseling. Adams’ Institute for Nouthetic Studies is the last vestige of the revival standing, and is unfortunately staffed with some who want to be friends with both camps even though at issue is the very gospel of Jesus Christ—because the crux is, are we still under law, OR under grace and the law of the Spirit of life?
Though the “second generation” counseling movement has managed to stay clear of the ongoing implosion, they are in the Neo-Calvinist camp and if history repeats itself, and that is what seems to be happening, they will likewise die the same social death that monergistic substitutionary sanctification always dies. That is, unless it can get in bed with the government and compel its orthodoxy by force, but historically, that only buys it some additional time prior to its inevitable demise.
But since I am a nice guy, I hereby propose a plan to save Calvinism with first generation biblical counseling. It is said of Adams’ first generation biblical counseling that it is to be commended for paving the way and laying a foundation, but now the “second generation” of biblical counseling is the real solution. Oh really? They have been running the show completely for twenty years now in the American church, and are we better off? Hardly! They have created mediating organizations that keep churches out of court, or at least try to, as a solution for cleaning up the bad fruit that their false gospel has created. When in American history have we ever needed mediating organizations to keep Christians from suing the institutional church? 2009 brought a nuclear explosion of discernment blogs, not against the familiar isms of church history, but against the same old spiritual tyranny that this doctrine has produced for over 500 years leading to its own periodic social deaths.
The key to saving Calvinism in all of this is the general ignorance and doctrinal illiteracy that has always been part of Calvin’s tyranny. As the framers of our constitution stated, an informed people is a free people. Calvinists can now use this ignorance to save the movement, and take credit for the future fruits born by instructing people to walk in the Spirit of life through obedience to everything Christ has commanded.
Because we Christians are generally stupid, the same ploy used by David Powlison (one of the forefathers of second generation biblical counseling) against Jay Adams can now be employed to save Calvinism. On the one hand, Powlison et al call Adams a Pharisee, but on the other, they commend him for laying the foundation of biblical counseling, by far the most formidable catalyst for Neo-Calvinism in our day. In the same way, since God’s people have apparently bought into this oxymoron of helpful flawed foundations and false premises that bear good fruit, the same could be said of Calvin.
Yes, even though Calvin kept God’s people under the law of sin and death, it could be said of him, “Well, Calvinists don’t believe everything Calvin believed.” I know, it’s stupid, but hey, it works. In our day, it enables folks to call Jay Adams a Pharisee while at the same time commending him. And David Powlison is so nuanced in what he says, if he slithers back into first generation counseling, no one will know the difference.
Hence, a return to the real revival of the 90’s, while giving Calvin all the credit. Hey, people also buy into all of this Old Calvinist/New Calvinist stuff; Tullian Tchividjian could be labeled the father of New Calvinism and all of the blame for misunderstanding Calvin could be placed on him. There is already a head start on that play. I am telling you, this plan is coming together in my mind and is examplitory of my compassion for Calvinists. After all, we are all just sinners saved by grace.
Now, what would this new plan, “look like.” Well, it would look like Calvinists standing around a bonfire holding hands on a clear summer night, actually, a book burning, while singing… “trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus…trust and obey.”
…. It finally occurred to me after trying to fight this problem of new Calvinism with doctrine that, for almost six years now, it’s apparent it’s not going any place real quick. So first of all, I’d like to take a look at the fact that everybody functions by philosophy. This is reality. The definition of Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach, and its reliance on rational argument.
Now everybody functions on philosophy. And in fact, if you don’t want to function on a philosophy, you need a philosophy to not function on philosophy. The philosophy of I believe the pronunciation is nihilism or nihilism is the philosophy, and this was very prevalent, prevalent, a very prevalent philosophy just prior to Socrates, which would be sixth, seventh century B.C. Nihilism is the belief that values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. And by the way, this philosophy is making a comeback on our culture right now. So it’s the philosophy that you can’t know anything. There’s no objective truth. But that’s a philosophy. So if you don’t wanna live by a philosophy, it takes a philosophy to not live by a philosophy.
Our philosophy of life would determine our life. I want to make this clear: Philosophy determines life. How we think determines what we do. Now the events that Susan will be sharing throughout this conference today are things that happened in her Christian experience directly related and are driven by a philosophy that determines thinking. And thinking leads to things that happen. I’m very happy that Susan is sharing her experiences and putting with John will be talking about what I’m talking about. Susan will actually – could fit on how that way of thinking and philosophy plays out in real life and her experiences and her Christian experience, okay? So that’s critical. So we’re gonna be able to look at the thinking and how people actually experience these things in real life.
How we think controls us. Our philosophy controls our thinking. And our thinking determines what we do. Nobody but nobody robs a bank because they think they’re gonna get caught, all right? So the predominant philosophy affecting the church today is undoubtedly New Calvinism. That’s the 2009 issue of Time Magazine, and the theme of that issue is Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now. And one of the ten is New Calvinism. In fact, I think it’s rated like third out of all the other ideas changing the world today, and that’s a secular magazine. So even the secular world is taking note of Neo Calvinism and the effect it’s having on our culture.
Like most movements, the catalyst for New Calvinism was and is due to the failure of the prior movement that came before it. That’s a catalyst for New Calvinism. The philosophy of movements, like all philosophies, eventually renders results to say that prior things start happening. And again, Susan will be sharing how that fleshes out in real life.
So what was the prior movement and its failures? What movement preceded New Calvinism and what were the failures that contribute greatly on this New Calvinist, the tsunami that we’re experiencing? And Susan and I have talked to pastors, even pastors who are in very important positions, you know, a month having lunch with a certain guy who is a over a lot of youth camps in the country. This is exactly what he said. He was drawn in to the New Calvinist philosophy because of the failures of the prior movement that was prevalent in the Christian Church.
Before I come back to that, I’m going to take a quick interlude before I move on. Here’s a quick interlude I’d like to take. New Calvinism is a false gospel. I’m going to get into that a little bit more later. And it doesn’t matter, like I said, I had a transition of thinking on this. That’s been me lately. Is the philosophy stupid? It really is. And let me explain this. Let me explain this.
Another gospel was a book that I decided not to publish. And one of the reasons that I decided not to publish it, and here it is, well over two hundred pages. A lot of pastors said this, “This is a real strong doctrinal argument against the New Calvinism.” But in my interaction on my blog and with other people, the doctrinal arguments in here just weren’t going anywhere. In our day and age, the problem that we’re having is that there’s an underlying philosophy that bypasses the doctrinal argument. For years now as a Christian, who has been heavily focused on doctrines especially regarding my contention against New Calvinism, I have seen firsthand attempting and persuading Christians with doctrinal arguments is useless. That book is published online now for free.
Why is this? Why is it? And that’s what where we come to understanding the philosophy of what I call the two gospel waves, the two gospel waves. And this is critical in understanding why this underlying philosophical belief and mentality has to be taken care of before we can start dealing with these problems doctrinally. The two gospel waves are critical in understanding this. The two gospel waves cover the last 62 years of Christianity in America. The first wave covers 1915 to 1970.
And here are the elements of the first gospel wave. One, it emphasized salvation with a much lesser emphasis on discipleship and personal holiness. Two, because of the lack of emphasis on in-depth discipleship, biblical generalities filled the gap. When there’s lack of in-depth discipleship, people were going, “Life still happens irregardless.” So people are going to start putting the bandage on things. Right? Three, the Bible was primarily good for the gospel but was not sufficient for solving the deeper problems of life. That’s three. Four, one of their favorite mottos was, still is, think about this. “I’ve said it myself. We are sinners saved by grace,” which concedes that Christians still sin as a lifestyle. If you look up sinner in the dictionary, it’s somebody who sins as a lifestyle. Huge difference between being born again Christians who sin versus a sinner saved by grace. Big difference.
MAN: Can you go back over number three again, gospel?
The Bible was primarily good for the gospel but was not sufficient for solving the deeper problems of life.
MAN: Okay. Good.
All right? The Bible was preached out of generalities and lived out by generalities. Henceforth, we think this is funny in our day, the Hillbilly Ten Commandments. Commandment one, ain’t but One God. Two, honor yer ma and yer pa. Three, no telling tales or gossips. And so on and so forth. Ha ha, very funny. This is guy right here ought to be the poster child for death and despair in the Christian Church. And again, Susan’s going to share with us why that is in her experiences and what she experienced.
So things like this are favorite truisms in the first gospel wave. And there’s an overlapping between the first gospel wave and the second gospel wave. But sixth, theology nor doctrine is taught in the local churches. Theology nor doctrine is taught in the local churches. And going back to the Hillbilly Ten Commandments, counseling looks something like this. So you have problems in your marriage? Well, we have next [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:14:45 commandment number five, ain’t nothing come before the Lord. Now you remember that and get up on out of here. You’ll be fine. And we’ll pray for you.
Now seven, traditionally, though parishioners desire educated pastors, it is a sin that the pastors will not teach what they’ve learned in seminary to the congregations. And I’ve seen this all my Christian life. Pastors don’t teach what they learned in seminary to their congregants. But yet, congregants rarely dream of accepting a pastor into their – leading their church without being educated.
Eight, in contradiction to Matthew 28:19, a strong emphasis on bringing people to the church to hear the gospel rather than going out to preach the gospel. This tradition illustrates the assumed incompetence of parishioners to present the gospel. And my point of the first gospel wave is this. Underlying what happened and what the first gospel wave looks like is this underlying philosophy that of incompetence, that man is incompetent, that Christians are incompetent.
MAN: Can we go back to number five? I totally missed that.
Oh, five is favorite truisms are things such as the Hillbilly Ten Commandments. All right?
What is more representative of living by biblical generalities? We don’t need any in-depth study into the deeper meanings of how the Ten Commandments apply to life and how we learn from that, and as Jesus said, “Put it into practice,” thus forth changing our lives and the world saying that and glorifying God the Father, we don’t need to get into all that deep stuff. You just remember, honor yer ma and yer pa. Okay?
Number eight, quit your foul-mouthing. Generalities, all right? Living by biblical generalities.
Nine, by the latter ’60s, the philosophy of the first gospel wave was causing bad things to happen, and people started looking for something else. Again, Susan is going to have a lot to say how she experienced these things.
The second gospel wave was born in 1970 and continues to present day as the embodiment of New Calvinism. So New Calvinism is the embodiment of the second gospel wave, and that began in 1970. But don’t forget my major point about the first gospel wave. If you look at those elements, underlining these elements is an assumed incompetence on the part of parishioners.
Please don’t miss this. It’s probably the major point of the first gospel wave. Right now, on this day, the reason we cannot persuade Christians by doctrine is because Christians en masse have conceded the fact that they can’t understand doctrine. Underlying the first gospel wave was an assumption of incompetence on the part of parishioners in general.
So one, under second gospel wave, which is what I’m gonna go over now, it not only emphasizes salvation over discipleship like the first gospel wave does, it goes much further than that. It teaches justification and sanctification are the same thing. So the first gospel wave said what’s important is getting people saved because sinners are going to be sinners. There’s only so much you can do with their lives. Yeah, there’s a select few that come to this higher evolution of obeying God, and they actually called that disciple – there was a big movement in this first gospel wave where there two classes of Christians, the saved and the disciples, right?
So the second gospel wave involving the New Calvinism it says, “Ah, not only is discipleship not important, there isn’t any such thing. Everything is about the gospel.” Though they deny this, though they deny this, listen to their very own mottos. Listen carefully. “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.” Right? How about this one? “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” These are their words, not mine.
Secondly, the Bible is presented as a gospel narrative that only serves to give believers a deeper and deeper knowledge of the same gospel that saved them. Like the first wave, using the Bible for instruction and righteousness is horrendously devalued. But the second wave goes beyond that and denies the Bible to be used for discipleship at all. Now they wouldn’t come right out admit this. But if you pay close attention, it’s what comes out in the watch. And in private conversations with New Calvinist pastors, they’ve told me that pointblank. They’ve told me that pointblank. You study the Bible for purposes of learning what it says and applying it to our life. They even have a name for it: biblicism.
The transition between the two gospel waves. Living by biblical generalities was presented to the victims of the first gospel wave as legalism by proponents of the second gospel wave, and offered an alternative to supposedly living by dos and don’ts and living by lists. Guilty as charged, all right? But again biblical generalities replaced in-depth discipleship and in-depth study of the Word of God for purposes of applying it to life’s deepest problems. Because of the lack of doctrinal education and the dumbing down of parishioners en masse during the first gospel wave, Christians were absolutely helpless in seeing through the deceptions of the second wave.
Now nobody denies that Christians in our day are dumbed down. Susan and I have talked to hundreds of people in regard to studying New Calvinism. And Susan, how many people have we met, Christians that know the difference between justification and sanctification?
SUSAN: Very few.
I don’t remember any. Pastors have called us in regard to this conference. At least one pastor I talked to didn’t even know the difference. A pastor! Look, if you don’t know the fundamental doctrinal difference between justification and sanctification, you can’t understand the book of Galatians.
So Christianity was perfectly primed for the second wave, helpless against it because of the gross overemphasis on gospel that was indicative of the first wave. These two movements share that in common. The core philosophy that drives both of these movements is a philosophy, doctrine if you will, of humanity’s incompetence. This is the philosophy that resides deep in the psyche of western culture. This philosophy varies in scope and from secular to the spiritual but certainly in American culture. Though this philosophy is passively accepted in the secular realm, it is most definitely the idea that rules the day in American churches. Again, you can’t contend against false doctrine with doctrine because American parishioners have conceded that they don’t understand doctrine and can’t understand doctrine, and they aren’t the least bit shamed of it. And in fact, it’s a badge of honor. And I’m sure anybody would agree that if you read the Apostle Paul in the New Testament where he emphasizes “the apostle’s doctrine” and holding his exhortations to Timothy about holding a sound doctrine, if the average American parishioner has conceded to the fact and happily said that they don’t understand doctrine, are we not in big trouble?
Blatant examples display themselves in the politics of communism and socialism with things like Rush Limbaugh fight. Ironically, like the secular academic example, most American Christians will not accept this philosophy in the political arena. A dichotomy is made between the secular and spiritual. This is indicative of the dualism that comes from the ancient philosophies that spun this doctrine. Evil matter is fair game for the spiritually incompetent while understanding deep spiritual matters is a dangerous stunt that shouldn’t be tried at home.
Furthermore, many embrace this concept eagerly thinking that natural incompetence, and I think this is one of the motives, that natural incompetence in spiritual matters supersedes responsibility before God. Right? If I can’t understand spiritual things and I can’t understand doctrine, when I stand before the Lord, I can blame it on the pastor. I think that goes a long way.
MAN: Say that sentence again, “Natural incompetence with the responsibility…”
Furthermore, many embrace this concept eagerly, thinking that natural incompetence in spiritual matters supersedes responsibility before God. There’s no doubt in my own mind that’s a big part of this. I’ve had congregants tell me in no uncertain words that, “Hey, I’m following the elders. I’m doing my duty by following. I don’t understand the deep theological stuff. I don’t understand half of what that pastor says. But you know what? I’m following and obeying them per Hebrews 13:17. And you know what? When I stand before the Lord, if they’ve done anything wrong, that’s going to be on them. I’m not culpable.” I have them say that to me. Anybody here buy that?
Let me wrap up my first session. I don’t think I did too bad on time. This is not God’s view of parishioners. It’s not even God’s view of lost people. Let me illustrate. First of all, listen to the Apostle Paul on Romans 15:14. Paul says, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness and filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. Let me read that again. The Apostle Paul speaking to the Romans, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers,” speaking generally to the Christians in Rome, “that you yourselves are A, full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”
MAN: Now where is that? Romans…?
Romans 15:14. Filled with all what? What? Knowledge. Okay? Acts 17:11, do you know it? Now these Jews were more noble. The Holy Spirit calls them noble. Why does he call them noble? Because they shine to the light of their own ability to interpret Scriptures with what an apostle was teaching. And the Holy Spirit called them noble for this. And this is okay because this will be repeated in the introduction to my next session. So that’s Acts 17.
Now let me close with this last verse in Genesis. They chose God’s attitude towards the competence of lost people in my book. Genesis 11:6-7. This is the story of the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11. “And the Lord said, ‘Behold they are one people, and they have all one language. And this is only the beginning of what they will do and nothing that they proposed to do will now be impossible for them.'” It doesn’t sound like an attitude of incompetence to me. Even the Lord God said of these vile, wicked sinners that if we don’t go down there and mess up their language, they’re not limited to anything. This underlying view of the incompetence of man is not shared by God for the lost or the saved.
And I’m not going to make a big theological issue of anything or make a lot hang on this. But you know, when the serpent came to Eve in the Garden, there’s this underlying approach that she was incapable of knowing what God really said, right? The serpent said, “Hey, I’m the expert on what God says here. You’re just Eve. Come on. ‘Cause God really said – in fact, I’ve got this higher knowledge that God’s trying to keep from you. And I’m the expert on that. So listen to me.” Wow, that is so indicative of what I think are ancient philosophies. That’s the underlying crux of where we are today in all this.
With that, I’m going to wrap up my first session. And Susan can come up next and present her part of this. And thanks for your attention.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]
… 1952 the same year the infamous evangelist, Billy Graham, concentrated full time on preaching. He helped to bind together a vulnerable nation through religious revival. Many believe that his success was directly related to the cultural climate of post World War II. He spoke out against communism. In 1954 Graham stated that either Communism must die or Christianity must die because it is actually a battle between Christ and the anti-Christ.
With the advent of nuclear weapons and the demonstrated fragility of life, people turned to spirituality for comfort. And Graham illuminated their path. He helped to bind together a vulnerable nation through religious revival. By glazing over the finer points of Christianity and focusing on more moderate doctrines, he made evangelism enticing, non-threatening, and easy to swallow, and in a lot of ways gave definition to easy believism. His mission to present the gospel and get people say they’re on their way to heaven permeated the focus of many fundamental churches, particularly the Southern Baptist denomination with which Billy Graham was associated.
As a result of the success of Billy Graham, many other evangelists and pastors adopted and adopted his mode of operation in order to bring in the sheep. This is often referred to as the first gospel wave that swept over America in the ’50s and continued on into the early ’70s. People, please, do not misunderstand my remarks. The biographical remarks were taken from an article written of Billy Graham. We all believed that people were genuinely saved as a result of the ministry of Billy Graham. But I want to also say that many thought they were saved as a result of his ministry as well.
Here’s the dilemma his type of evangelism created: A, genuine salvation experiences occurred, and B, professions of salvation made but no outward change in living their lifestyle, and C, lack of assurance of salvation as a result of poor follow up in discipleship. In my neck of the woods, the at least he is saved mentality, which the Billy Graham Association innocently created, helped people rationalize sinful lifestyles, making valid emotional experiences and equate them with regeneration, and issued fire insurance policies, the fire insurance policy mentality amongst churchgoing people. Just say the sinner’s prayer, and you’re guaranteed a home in heaven.
I was born and reared at the mouth of a holler called Owl’s Branch [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:03:06 in Dorton, Kentucky. After World War II, my father attended Berea College, majoring in Science, and returning to the high school from which he graduated to teach Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and coach basketball. Living in Appalachia, we were surrounded by a culture much like the one you would find in a foreign country. We were isolated from big city influences and big city opportunities. Full of traditions, superstitions, and a different way of thinking permeated the area.
It is easy to see how this culture and way of thinking and living evolved into what my dad called the hillbilly mentality. My dad’s definition of hillbilly mentality was this: A, you follow the loudest and most intimidating leader, whether right or wrong. B, education is not important; ridicule those who want to pursue higher learning. C, make the most money you can by honest or dishonest means, whichever may work for you. And D, entitlement. If you have money, you are entitled to special consideration. If you did not have money, you were entitled to special consideration.
Religion was and still is important in that area. The old regular Baptist was the primary established church. An occasional Methodist could be seen. And hark, in the big towns of Jenkins and Pikeville, there were Catholic churches. But my parents and paternal grandparents broke away from the mold and supported a mission established by the Christian and Missionary Alliance called the Beefhide Gospel Mission. My dad told our family that we were not going to be a part of the shenanigans that went on in the regular Baptist churches. My understanding of Baptist church shenanigans was singing every song to the tune of Amazing Grace, exuberant yelling, walking the aisle to get saved, long hair on women, baptismal regeneration, snake handling, the laying on of hands, and preachers who foamed at the mouth.
So I agreed with my dad and thought it was a good idea to stay away from those shenanigans, especially the snake part. The Christian and Missionary Alliance commissioned Margaret Wearley as well as other men and women missionaries to come to Eastern Kentucky and present the gospel to the hill folk and establish bible-teaching churches. Besides the chapel they organized, they ran a camp called Camp Begomi, B-E for Beefhide, G-O for gospel, and M-I for mission. It was every child and young person’s delight from all over Eastern Kentucky to spend a week there. Good food, games, swimming, crafts, bible-teaching, and tabernacle evangelistic services every evening to present the gospel and to get children saved and on the way to heaven.
The difference from other evangelical endeavors in the manner of the established regular Baptist churches was that these men and women attempted to educate their children in the Bible after we returned home from camp. Sunday school with the glorious flannelgraph stories, vacation bible school with the bible lesson and missionary story, arts and crafts, and my very favorite, pioneer girls. The year I remember so distinctly was the year my dear friend, Sandy, this is hard because Sandy passed away at the camp. She was eight. Because I was seven, I had to wait an entire year. She walked forward during one of those evangelistic meetings, got saved, and came home and told me about it. I told her that I wanted to get saved too. And her answer, “You can’t. You have to go to camp to get saved.” Well, that didn’t sit too well with me. And I got upset and I went home, knelt by my bed and prayed my version of the sinner’s Prayer. I don’t know how to get saved, but I wanna be saved. So save me. I went back to my friend, Sandy, told her what I’ve done, and she matter of factly told me that I wasn’t really saved yet.
What a long year it was until the next June. I was ready and waiting for the Camp Begomi bus at seven a.m. and was the first person down the aisle to get saved the first night of evangelistic meetings. When the counselor talked to me about why I came forward, I told her that I wanted to make sure I had done it right. Well, praise the Lord. There is a new name written down in glory, and it’s mine.
Well, I drove my brothers crazy. During the summer, our coal house was empty so I converted it into a tabernacle. I made a podium with benches for my dolls. I preached salvation to them in a variety of ways. I covered my dad’s tools with signs. Sow god into your heart. Hammer Satan out of your life. And the creek was real handy for baptismal services. My parents were concerned that I would end up in Africa as a missionary.
I attended camp for ten straight years. For six of those ten years, I went forward with tears, sincerely wanting to make sure I was doing the salvation thing right. Those blessed missionaries failed in a basic point of discipling me, the teaching of doctrine. First of all, the doctrine of justification, the doctrine of soteriology, which is the doctrine of salvation, which includes assurance of salvation, the doctrine of sanctification, and the how to live not just a saved life but a sanctified one.
When I was 14 we moved to the ends of the earth. Actually, to the other end of the state, Louisville, where my father took a teaching position at Seneca High School, the largest school in the state. My graduating class was 588. I attended a series of revival meetings with a friend. And the first night, the evangelist said, “If you can’t remember the date you got saved and have it written down in the front cover of your Bible, you are not really saved. Because salvation is such a memorial event, you will remember the time, date, month, and year.” Well, it was as if I’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning, and I began to cry. My friend asked me what was wrong. And I told her I thought I don’t think I’m saved. I remember kneeling by my bed, but Lord, what was the date? Was it in June? Was it July? Sandy came back from camp on a Saturday. Was it a Saturday that I knelt by my bed? All this time Lord, if I would have died, I would have gone to hell. So guess what I did again? Walked the aisle, knelt, and prayed the sinner’s prayer just to make sure. Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Again. I wrote the date of that salvation event now.
What’s wrong with this picture? The first evangelical wave, evangelistic wave, preached the gospel. Go forward. Fill out a response card. Walk the Romans Road. Pray the sinner’s prayer like a tsunami. And I was part of that spiritual damage left on the shore. How many other people were feeling the same as I? Getting people saved and on the gospel express to heaven, repeating the sinner’s prayer, walking the aisle, writing down the date on the cover of your Bible, read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow. Now what? Where was I supposed to go from here? This was a form of spiritual insanity.
I returned to camp as a counselor that summer after this new birth experience, and was asked by Ms. Wearley to give my testimony. Well, I stood up in the tabernacle and gave my testimony of how I was saved at the age of 14 on such and such date. After the service was over, Ms. Wearley asked to speak with me in her cabin. I was scared to death. That woman was to be feared. It was there in her cabin that she asked me where I had gotten the notion that I had just recently been converted. Well, the story came out. And it was then she explained to me about justification and assurance of salvation. On my walk back to my cabin, I remember saying, “Lord, why wasn’t I taught that seven years ago? Then all of the grief and heartache I had experienced over the years would never have occurred.” I had kept returning to the cross, preaching the gospel to myself, reliving the salvation experience frequently, and had missed the peace and joy of assurance of salvation, kingdom living, and abundant life in Christ. I was one of those caught in that first evangelical wave and floundering because I lacked biblical education and doctrine.
A family who lived next door to us back in the hills was the Wright family. They were the wrong family to be friends with. We children always thought that Mrs. Wright was possessed because of how she acted when we came on their property uninvited. Her seven children were meaner than junkyard dogs. Henry pushed my brother, David, off a culvert and almost broke his back. Henry stole my father’s entire paycheck. And the twins, Debbie [SOUNDS LIKE] and Tiny [SOUNDS LIKE], pushed me off a cliff. But the oldest son, Lovell, was the one everyone gave space. He was the purest definition of hillbilly mentality. He was loud, intimidating, he quit school at sixteen, ridiculed those who pursued education, and he had a definite attitude of entitlement. Oh, he had walked forward at the old regular Baptist church his parents were members of. He was baptized, and he was on his way to heaven.
Well, Lovell moved to Detroit, and it wasn’t long before the news got back to the family that Lovell will be coming home. In a casket. He was caught stealing a car, drove down a dead end alley, ran from the police, and was shot when he didn’t stop when asked. Back then funerals were held in homes. The living room of the Wright’s house was turned into a funeral parlor. Red velvet curtains were mounted behind the casket. And then the casket rested on a black and gold stand, and electric candle lobbers stood at the head of [UNINTELLIGIBLE] 00:14:39 and it give the room this eerie red glow. All of the smell of flowers mixed with cigarette smoke and it created a sicky sweet smell. It made it almost impossible to stay in the room for very long. Well, the old regular Baptist preacher stood by the casket and he preached his heart out. He foamed at the mouth. He spit into his handkerchief. He mopped the sweat off of his brow as he continued for over an hour expounding upon the goodness of Brother Lovell, how he was resting in the bosom of Abraham. In the background, Mrs. Wright was wailing and trying to climb into the casket to be buried with her son.
Lovell stayed in the living room of the Wright’s home for three days before he was laid to rest in the family cemetery at the head of Belcher Holler. The older women of the church sat together in the amen corner, amening the pastor, waving their fans that have been provided by the funeral home as briskly [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:15:36 as they could. And I heard one elder woman turn to another and say, “Well, Mrs. Coleman, [SOUNDS LIKE] at least, he was saved.”
The next day my dad and I went on an errand. And I asked daddy why the preacher lied. “Lied? Lied about what, honey?” he asked. “Well, he lied when talked about Lovell. He said Lovell was a good boy and that he loved his parents and did good things for people. Well, Lovell hurt us, and he cussed his parents out all the time. He stole from people. And the preacher said he would be waiting for his mother in the bosom of Abraham.” I know that my dad tried hard not to laugh because it took him a while before an answer. “Well, Susan, a preacher sometimes have to say things to comfort the family. Wouldn’t it have been comforting to tell the parents that Lovell was burning in hell because he was a sinful, rebellious son?” “He still shouldn’t have lied, Daddy.” That was my final answer.
“Mrs. Coleman said, At least, he was saved. Can a person be a little bit saved and still go to heaven?” I asked. “Honey, there are all kinds of opinions on whether Lovell was saved. And God has final say in the matter, not the preacher.” I have heard that phrase many times at funerals or when speaking of someone who died. “Well, at least he was saved.” So Lovell lived like the devil, but at least he had his fire insurance policy, made effective because he walked the aisle, said the sinner’s prayer, and was baptized in the Big Sandy River. But I will have to agree with my dad. Only God really knows if Lovell was genuinely saved or not and resting in the bosom of Abraham. At my funeral, I hope more will be said about me than “at least, she was saved.”
The problem of the ’50s and the ’70s, that first evangelical wave, was an overemphasis on evangelism and little or no emphasis on discipleship, doctrine, and kingdom living. The damage left behind as a result of this séance [SOUNDS LIKE] 00:17:58 decade, in doing research for this conference, I ran across many comments and answer to the question why people no longer go to church or associate with an established church. Overwhelmingly, the answer was the church has no answers other than, “Go home and pray about it.” The exodus of young people from the church when they leave home for college was and still is astounding. People leaving the church because there are no answers there. We are not teaching how to discern man’s ideas from God’s truth. We’re not counseling from God’s word to give answers to life’s problems. Church is no longer relevant in this contemporary age. Church is for children. These are reasons given by people who don’t want to give Christianity a nod of their head. When I was a child, I spoke as a child and thought as a child. And when I became a man, I put away childish things–the Elmer Gantry answer when asked why he fell from grace as a tent evangelist.
What I want you to take from my first talk, when leading a person to Christ, whether we use the Romans Road, the ABC’s of salvation or other effective plans, please take the time to explain what happens in the salvation experience. We get so eager to get the decision that helping the person understand his decision is put on the backburner. Salvation is more than one asking Jesus to come into his heart. It’s agreeing to the facts of the gospel. It is repentance. It is trusting Christ and his atoning work. These facts are what the gospel says about the spiritual need of mankind. God’s gracious provision of salvation in Christ and what the sinner must do to be saved. It is to acknowledge the truthfulness of these facts rather than just being an emotional leap into some undefined experience. Salvational faith embraces what God says in his word about Jesus and his atoning work. The presentation of these facts should be accompanied with explanation so that they may be more meaningful to the unsaved heart.
Repentance. Repentance is a change of mind and attitude toward God and the things of which the gospel seeks. This change in mind and attitude is brought about by God. Without repentance, there is no salvation.
Trusting in Christ and his atoning work is more than a general faith in God or Jesus. The devils believe and they tremble. This is to place one’s complete trust in Jesus and his atoning work for the specific purpose of being delivered from sin and receiving God’s gift to spiritual life. It is here that many miss salvation, thinking that they are saved by some physical action like the raising of a hand or walking an aisle. Depending upon an emotional experience, they fail to trust Jesus’ substitutionary work for their salvation. They place their trust in something or someone other than him. But one’s trust must be wholly in Jesus and his atoning work, for he alone is the sinner’s substitute and savior. If any of these are missing, then one does not experience salvation.
Teach assurance of salvation. Upon receiving Christ as our savior, we are making preachers in him, possessing a new kind of life and experiencing the renewal of our inner human nature. It is impossible to have new life and to experience this change in nature without manifesting this in daily life. This manifestation of new life may vary and can be eclipsed by sin. Nevertheless, the signs of this new life will be expressed in them who have it.
There is a logical order to our salvation experience. First, we understand justification, then the new birth, regeneration, new preacherhood, sanctification, a co-laboring with God as we experience kingdom living, and ultimately, glorification.
I encourage you pastors, teachers, and parents to obey Scripture and teach the dreaded D word: doctrine. Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “The Lord spoke to Moses and to us, and you must commit yourself wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down, and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder. Wear them on your forehead. Write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates. It is vital to know and to teach doctrine as we all follow the great commission. Go and make disciples.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]
The Jay Adams Doing Reformation: A Study in Contrast pdf link: TANC ch 9
The Law of Sin and the Law of Faith; Romans 2:12-29 : http://wp.me/pmd7S-1O1
Calvinists, Arminians, and Discernment Bloggers: Why they Will Not Accept the Truth About John Calvin
The Christian community continues to belabor the symptoms resulting from the false gospel of Calvinism. This is a doctrine that is no different from any other works salvation and should be categorized with Adventism, Mormonism, and all of the other isms. Election isn’t the issue; the 5 points are not the issue, at issue is another gospel.
A couple of articles written this week are good examples. Dr. Jay Adams wrote a good article about the pervasive lack of practical application in contemporary preaching. But that is a symptom of the problem: Calvin believed that Christian living is the New Testament expression of the Old Testament Sabbath. Hence, to do works in the Christian life is the same as violating the Old Testament Sabbath by working. According to authentic Calvinism, we are saved by faith alone, but since salvation is not a finished work in the believer, we must continue to live by faith alone to keep ourselves saved. Therefore, authentic Calvinism expressed in New Calvinism is a complicated theology that enables us to live the Christian life by faith alone. This is nothing new, James had to refute it and it is why Martin Luther rejected the book of James.
That’s why there is no practical application in today’s preaching: it is deemed as works salvation. I have cited John MacArthur in previous articles who has repented of preaching practical application and has stated such plainly. He has stated that we do not apply Scripture to our lives—the Holy Spirit applies it and in most cases we do not even realize that we are obeying. Why? Because it is not us doing the work. He has plainly stated his belief on this. This is the mysticism of realm manifestation that is part and parcel with authentic Calvinism. It enables the living by faith alone in the Christian life by replacing our works with gospel manifestations of good works.
In another post this week, Joel Taylor of 5Point Salt suggested that Christians should show New Calvinist Mark Driscoll more mercy because we all “make mistakes.” Mistakes? Driscoll preaches another gospel. The apostle Paul proclaimed a curse on those who preach another gospel.
Why is Christianity refusing to deal with this problem? The reasons follow:
1. Calvinists are in-between a rock and a hard place because the resurgence of authentic Calvinism in the form of New Calvinism has brought to light what Calvin really believed. They don’t want to look stupid because they have been calling themselves Calvinists all of these years and didn’t know what he really believed.
2. Arminians are in-between a rock and a hard place because they have been preaching for all of these years that the issue with Calvinism is the election issue. They too do not want to look stupid because the real issue all along has been a fundamentally false gospel.
3. Discernment bloggers want to deal with the behavior (the symptoms) and not the gospel because they are Protestants, and by design, they are theologically dumbed down. These are the least guilty of the three. They are attempting to do something about the problem via what they can understand: behavior, but in doing so, they are focusing on symptoms and not the decease. They need to get beyond Hospice care and find the cure. Unfortunately, and perhaps wisely, they treat the New Calvinists as misguided because they don’t have the theological wherewithal to make the case for a false gospel. But again, it is kinda not their fault as they have been deliberately dumbed down by Protestant ecclesia. This has been a Reformed tradition for more than 500 years and is grounded in Augustinian Neo-Platonism.
But, looking stupid shouldn’t be the issue; a love for the truth should be the issue; the eternal future of people should be the issue. What a difference it would make if notable Calvinists would admit that they missed it. What a difference it would make if Seminaries would preach the truth about New Calvinism.
I have received some significant pushback for posting the following quote by Jay Adams:
Correction: The quotation is from Donn Arms, an associate of Jay Adams at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS).
Folks let’s get this straight. The mind is not a physical organ. It cannot have a disease or illness except in a metaphorical sense as in a sick economy or a sick joke.
Typhoid fever — disease
Spring fever — not a disease
Scarlet fever — disease
Bieber fever — not a disease
Most of the pushback pertains to a rejection of the idea that the brain is not an organ, but Adams isn’t saying that the brain isn’t an organ; he is saying that the mind isn’t an organ.
I haven’t done a lot of study in this area, but I have done enough to know that some solid conclusions can be drawn from such a study because the Bible, as well as medical professionals make a distinction between the mind and the brain.
Everyone agrees that the mind, unlike the brain, is not observable; hence, the field of Psychology. This is a whole different matter than brain malfunctions that are physical. The fact that there are at least 200 different Psychology theories should speak to the fact that this enters into the realm of theory. One may also note that the most popular theory, Freudian Depth Psychology, perceives the human conscience in a very negative way. And that is very dangerous.
Here we have yet another area of wisdom where Christians are far too ignorant. It is also another fusion debate; in this case, the fusion of medical science and psychology. In other words, the fusion of science and theory. Psychology is mostly theory; psychologists barely agree on anything.
I am not going to preach out of school here, but Christians need to think carefully in regard to the idea that the mind can be sick. Certainly, the mind can be hindered by the brain, but is the mind susceptible to sickness like physical organs? Can the mind catch a cold? The reason we need to think carefully about this is because the Bible explains the mind as that part of the Christian that is redeemed.
Not only is this an area that is biblically defined with many dots that can be connected, it is a paramount consideration with vast implications for the Christian. Another huge elephant in the sanctuary is whether or not the Christian mind is actually redeemed. Our Protestant fathers said, “no.” 90% of all biblical counseling in our day is predicated on the idea that the mind cannot be renewed. Therefore, actions that please God cannot flow from the inner self to outward action.* Many pastors, while not understanding these trends and issues, attempt to counsel parishioners from a contrary mindset. The pastor speaks, and the parishioner hears something totally different because of indoctrination by parachurch organizations like NANC and CCEF with secular psychology as science to boot. Any pastor who doesn’t deem these issues worthy of focus and understanding is functioning in ineptness.
The Bible in fact states that the “mind” of the Christian is regenerated and is the engine behind new creaturehood. Christians are promised that with proper cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the mind can be “renewed.” This is not only a biblical promise; we are commanded to renew our minds with the study and application of Scripture. If the medical model regarding the mind is true, all bets are off—every vestige of spiritual growth is now ambiguous. And look at the contemporary church if you want to see the results of biblical ambiguity.
Christians error woefully by letting the theories of “experts” inform their lives on this issue. And the church owes Adams an immense debt of gratitude for bringing this issue to the forefront.
*The fundamental thesis is that faith can only look outward to goodness outside of us, resulting in experiencing the obedience of Christ imputed to us while not being a participant in goodness that pleases God. This formula enables the Christian to live by faith alone—the same faith that saved us. So, faith is like an eye, it can only look outward to what isn’t inside of us. Any inward look is the dreaded, “existentialism” that is the unpardonable sin in our day.
And the results? Consider the following quote by “Pastor” James MacDonald:
“Why spend your life doing something neither required by the Lord, nor welcomed by others? Frankly, I gave up the job a while back, but felt constrained to make my decision known to all who read this blog. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see me at my post, I am really done this time. Yes, for me it’s over. No more fixing people—I resign ” (James MacDonald: My Resignation; April 30, 2013, The Vertical Church blog. Online source, http://jamesmacdonald.com/blog/my-resignation/).
MacDonald then goes on to explain, in essence, that it is his job to primarily show forth more Jesus, and as folks gaze on that, Christ will either change them or not change them according to His sovereign will. Like the vast majority of pastors in our day, MacDonald has merely returned to Luther’s radical construct that often brought the charge of antinomianism from his contemporaries (Martin Luther wrote down the following disturbing sentence in one of his letters to Melancthon in 1521: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more strongly, who triumphed over sin, death, and the world; as long as we live here, we must sin.”).
Last week we published an article on our blog explaining why, even though it grieves us, we were in favor of the name change the NANC board was asking us to ratify at our annual conference next month. If you have not read that article it might be helpful for you to read it before proceeding here. I came to that position only after assurances that the name change is in no way intended to be a repudiation of Dr. Adams and what he has taught about nouthetic counseling, especially in his foundational books on counseling.
Then, this past weekend, a communication appeared in my inbox from NANC promoting this change. My heart sank as I read the explanation for dropping the word “nouthetic.” It contradicted the assurances I had received about not repudiating nouthetic counseling as taught by Dr. Adams and revealed a lack of understanding of what nouthetic counseling is. It did, however, confirm me in my opinion that we should indeed change the name so as to conform to what is indeed the reality—that NANC is no longer nouthetic.
Here is that paragraph:
First, the word nouthetic is a perfectly good Greek word, which most people simply do not understand. Most of us in NANC spend more time explaining the meaning of a Greek word than we intend to when we mention the name of our organization. Once people understand the meaning of the term it does not help us that much. The term means “to confront or admonish,” and this only describes a narrow slice of the kind of counseling endorsed by NANC. Of course biblical counselors admonish people in their sin, but at NANC we also encourage our counselors to comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, pray, encourage, instruct, take care of their physical bodies, and 101 other things the Bible says to do. In its precise meaning the word nouthetic is a truncated expression of the many and varied counseling styles that God communicates in Scripture.
Let’s unpack this. First we have this statement:
the word nouthetic is a perfectly good Greek word.
No, “nouthetic” is an English word coined by Dr. Adams in the late 1960’s and explained carefully in his bookCompetent to Counsel. Its etymology is Greek and it is derived from the Greek word that can be transliterated “noutheteo” in its verb form or “nouthesia” in its noun form. But it is an English word. The email defines it like this:
The term means “to confront or admonish.”
Because the English was confused with a Greek word it is unclear which is meant here. While “confront” and “admonish” are two possible translations of the Greek word they do not explain the robust and colorful nature of the word and neither translates it literally. Noutheteo is a compound word blending nous (“mind”) and tithemi(“to place” or “to lay”) producing a word that literally means “to place (or lay) on the mind.”
In Competent to Counsel Dr. Adams goes to great length to demonstrate that Paul uses the term to communicate how he gently and compassionately counseled those to whom he ministered. In Acts 20:31 it is something he did “with tears.” In 1 Cor. 4:14 he did it as though his readers were his “beloved children.” In 2 Thess. 3:15 he did it in a serious situation “as a brother.” In Ephesians 6:4 it is what fathers are to do with their children.
Anyone curious about the definition of the Greek word can consult any number of reference works for help. TheTheological Dictionary of the New Testament (Kittle) has a thorough discussion that is quite helpful. Better still, one can read Competent to Counsel pp. 41 – 56 where Dr. Adams does the research for us. Long before Dr. Adams became well known for his work in the area of counseling he had become an accomplished Greek scholar having studied Koine and Classical Greek under the foremost scholars of the day at Johns Hopkins University.
But none of this is the point, however. The issue before us is the English word “nouthetic,” not the Greek word from which it was derived. Before casting this vote we should be sure we understand what exactly this word means that we are discarding. At about the same time NANC was founded Dr. Adams wrote a short book entitled What About Nouthetic Counseling in which he sought to set straight many of the canards his critics had devised. This is how Dr. Adams says he used the word:
I have used the word nouthetic . . . simply as a convenience by which the biblical system of counseling that has been developed in such books as Competent to Counsel and The Christian Counselor’s Manual might be identified most easily.
So while Dr. Adams derived the English word “nouthetic” from the Greek word “noutheteo” it was understood by him, and each of the men who founded NANC, to be shorthand for that system of biblical counseling taught by Dr. Adams in his foundational books. Adams was concerned that supporters would attach some awkward adjective like “Adamsonian” or “Adamsian” to it so he preempted them with the word “nouthetic.” The assertion that the term “nouthetic” means “to confront or admonish” is spurious.
So let’s get this clear:
Nouthetic counseling is that system of counseling that is defined by and flows from the foundational books written by Dr. Jay Adams.
Continuing from the NANC email:
Most of us in NANC spend more time explaining the meaning of a Greek word than we intend to when we mention the name of our organization.
Every form of counseling practiced on the planet has an adjective attached to it—Freudian, Adlerian, Rogerian, Humanistic, Existential, Jungian, Cognitive, Behavioral, et al. Each requires that the practitioner be able to explain his method to those who inquire. Pity the poor counselor who has to explain his Gestalt therapy! Why is it a burden too great to bear for us to explain Nouthetic Counseling?
Listen again to Dr. Adams from page 52 of Competent to Counsel:
I have no great zeal for the label “nouthetic” beyond its obvious advantages. However, since every school of thought eventually must be identified by an adjective, I should prefer to choose that adjective for myself. The importance of the word, however, as describing a regulative central activity involved in the ministry of the Word should not be missed.
The name of our organization (The Institute for Nouthetic Studies) includes the word “Nouthetic” as well and I have it stitched onto the polo shirts I wear. Several years ago at Christmas my daughter gave me a vanity plate for my pickup bearing the word “nouthetic.” I get questions about it everywhere I go and I have never considered it a burden. It has opened the door to a number to wonderful conversations. I even had one person pull up beside me at a stop light and ask what it means. I gave a two sentence explanation before the light turned green!
If you find explaining the term difficult let me help. Next time you are asked try this:
It is derived from the word the Apostle Paul used in the Greek New Testament to describe the kind of counseling he did. We use it to communicate that our counseling flows from our understanding of what Paul and the other biblical writers taught.
Now if that quick explanation elicits more questions, GREAT! I have a two minute version, a five minute version, and a ten minute version. If there are still more questions I can launch, with great glee, into my 30 minute lecture! If, however, one does not himself understand what it means, it would indeed be difficult to explain it to others.
But regardless of how heavy a lift it may seem for some to explain positively what we mean by “nouthetic” counseling it is a far lighter load than explaining negatively what we are NOT when we use the term “biblical.” With this change it will become necessary to clarify that we are NOT like the scores of others who use the term “biblical” promiscuously. That will be true, of course, only if we really are different and want to be seen as different.
The paragraph continues:
. . . this only describes a narrow slice of the kind of counseling endorsed by NANC. Of course biblical counselors admonish people in their sin, but at NANC we also encourage our counselors to comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, pray, encourage, instruct, take care of their physical bodies, and 101 other things the Bible says to do.
This is a sad and unfortunate assessment. To claim that nouthetic counseling does not “comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, pray, encourage, instruct, take care of their physical bodies, and 101 other things the Bible says to do” is inexcusable and dishonors Jay Adams. This “more compassionate than thou” attitude must end. Even a cursory reading of Competent to Counsel, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, or More Than Redemption should convince any skeptic these are spurious charges. In these books there are entire chapters about prayer and comfort. Adams has written entire books about instruction and encouragement.
In its precise meaning the word nouthetic is a truncated expression of the many and varied counseling styles that God communicates in Scripture.
This is just not true. Again, because the English and the Greek words have been confused it is not clear what is meant. The English word does indeed encompass all “the many and varied counseling styles that God communicates in Scripture.”
It is in the final paragraph that we get insight into the real issue here:
Because “NANC” is in our constitution it cannot be changed without the approval of our membership.
It seems clear that if the word “nouthetic” was not a part of our constitution the board would have made this change unilaterally and merely announced it to the membership. In my naïve desire for peace and unity in NANC circles I have not come forward widely with my concerns about the actions of our board. As a result the board has become confirmed in their direction and we have come to this place. Let me now correct what I should have reported more widely before now.
A little over three years ago the NANC board was “confronted and admonished” because they were not following the constitution. This was manifest in two important areas. First was in the makeup of the board. In the previous two years three veteran men retired from the board—Jay Adams, Wayne Mack, and John McConaughy. The constitution required that these men be replaced unless there was a vote of the general membership not to. Yet the board decided they would not be bound by the constitution and refused to replace them. This had the effect of concentrating decision making into the hands of a fewer number of men.
Second was the matter of finances. The constitution required that an annual budget be submitted to and approved by the general membership each year and that a financial report for the previous year also be submitted. Neither was done and all financial matters were handled behind closed doors. Thus, when one influential board member asked NANC to help fund a Biblical Counseling Coalition the board considered themselves free to give him $30,000 for this project. The constitution required that such an expenditure be part of a budget approved by the general membership. It was not. Nor was it ever reported to the general membership.
Rather than conform to the constitution when confronted about these irregularities they decided instead to ambush the general membership with several amendments to the constitution at the next annual meeting. I use the word “ambush” purposefully as there was no advance notice given that there was to be a vote on amendments. The amendments were not made available prior to the meeting. Members were not even given a copy at the meeting. Instead they were flashed on an overhead screen. When I asked to see a copy one day before the meeting I was refused. Because the general membership desired to trust and follow the board’s leadership the amendments passed and the board became a completely autonomous, self-appointed, self-perpetuating entity that no longer had to answer or report to anyone outside of itself on any matter. Thus NANC is now an organization in which the general membership has no voice or input on any issue—save this one.
We are poised on the precipice of a slippery slope. Others have lost their footing and plummeted down the hill before us. One well known example should be instructive. CCEF was founded by Dr. Adams in 1968 to serve as a kind of laboratory as he developed his counseling model. Today, CCEF has so far distanced itself from Adams that Ed Welch can “shamelessly” write that CCEF has “never identified itself as Nouthetic but steered a more moderate course” (Transformative Encounters, IVP, 2013).
Let me reiterate what I said in my last article. I love NANC. I am grateful for the ministry it has had to me and that I have been able to have through it. I continue to count our new Executive Director as a friend and I know, in spite of these differences, he will continue to befriend me. I know he desires the best for NANC and is burdened to see positive changes in the days to come. I do believe, however, this proposal is an unfortunate distraction at a time when at least a dozen more pressing issues require attention. I am glad, however, that it has given me an opportunity to clarify what exactly is meant by “Nouthetic Counseling.” Understand also that what I have written here are my views. Even though I work closely with Dr. Adams he has not contributed to this article. He has endured far more slings and arrows in his lifetime than those I report here. Sadly, in the past those projectiles have largely come from his integrationist critics. These days they are launched by his friends.
In light of this you may ask, “OK, so what should we do now?” Well, my advice is that you should come to Alabama in October, enjoy the conference, and vote. If you are happy with the direction NANC is going and have confidence in the board you should, of course, vote yes on their motion. If these things concern you and you believe there remains the possibility that NANC can be steered back to its nouthetic roots you can vote no.
It is my view that NANC’s orientation is irremediable. I would love to be proven wrong. From my own selfish and self-serving perspective, this change will help us at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies preserve the integrity of the term “nouthetic.”
Finally, I believe this proposal lays open an undo concern many of our leaders have about what our critics think of us. We can reassure each other as we talk among ourselves that nothing is changing with this vote and how much we appreciate our founder. But regardless of how many press releases we issue about this change, these critics will see it as a repudiation of Dr. Adams and the stand those who founded NANC took supporting him. It will be difficult to refute them.
A Chapter Theses for Clouds Without Water: The Biblical Counseling Movement; It’s True History and Doctrine
In the Beginning, Plato, and then Augustine.
During the first century, the upstart assemblies of the risen Christ suffered a viral affront from Gnostic sects. The first century church was made up of people from all socioeconomic strata, and the Gnostics infiltrated Christianity for that purpose. Those in the first century church well-endowed with money were a valuable resource, and this is who the Gnostic sects primarily targeted with their false doctrine.
Gnosticism has always been about elitism, power, and money. If you want to see an immaculate mural of the American church, read Philip J. Lee’s “Against the Protestant Gnostics.”
Gnosticism finds its roots in the philosophy of Plato. Every American born into the world should be thoroughly apprised of Plato the man and his philosophy. To understand Plato is to understand Western culture politically and spiritually. All the philosophers agree on this point. From there, the math is easy: Augustine was the father of Reformation doctrine, and a rabid follower of Plato. Augustine had little use for the Bible without Platonist insight, and considered Plato a Pre-Christianity Christian.
Of course, the favorite red herring is that Plato is not agreed with on every point, but the fact remains that his primary construct founded Reformed theology: the incompetence of man, and the need for a select few (the enlightened) to rule over the masses. Those with gnosis know how society best functions, and they know how the masses can find individual peace from the desires that rule over them.
The Age of Enlightenment (circa 1630) produced men who were the first to confront Plato’s construct successfully. The most formidable product of that movement was the American experiment which obviously turned out quite well. It was founded on the competence of the individual. The competition was the Platonist Puritans who unfortunately survived the voyage from Europe and wreaked havoc on the East coast. But fortunately, their worldview kept them from settling further inland. “Go west young man!” is hardly the motivational words of competence found among the purer forms of Reformed thought.
Let there be no doubt about it, the idea of merging church and state is grounded in the religion of man’s incompetence. The masses need the state to take care of them. Plato’s philosopher kings contrive orthodoxy, and the soldiers enforce it. This concept did not find its way into the Westminster Confession by accident. Even those who think the state should be separate from the church think a utopia would arise if the church ran the state. “Separation of church and state” doesn’t mean no theocracy, theocracy would be a good thing, supposedly. The state has always had an interest in ruling over religion because ideas are dangerous, and the church has always been a willing participant if the state agrees to enforce their orthodoxy. The battle between the two for the upper hand of control is the political intrigue that is European history in a nutshell. And that is how the world as we know it will end: the zenith of church statecraft as described in the book of Revelation.
This is Western history, and the children of the enlightenment would have no part of it on American soil. Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, James Madison successfully stopped a European style push for a church state in A Memorial in Remonstance Against Religious Assessments. For all practical purposes, it was an indictment against the fruits of European Reformed doctrine.
The Reformation’s Historical Cycle of Social Death and Resurgence
The Reformers, being children of Plato, didn’t interpret reality with a normative epistemology. Plato’s Achilles’ heel has always been the application of Eastern mysticism. Instead of reality being interpreted empirically, and a course of action being determined by discovery, conclusions are drawn by using interpretive gateways to the “pure” form of reality that is hopefully good. Plato thought it was good, but his interpretive gateway to reality rejected the five senses out of hand. Gnosis was the key.
The Reformers merely replaced gnosis with the personhood of Christ as a sort of stargate to reality. That reality was predicated on the difference between the unchangeable pure form of Christ, and the inherent evil of man dwelling in a world that constantly changes. Plato equated the pure forms with immutable objectivity, and evil matter with mutable subjectivity. Hence, today’s Platonist Reformers speak of the “objective gospel experienced subjectively.” This is clearly Plato’s metaphysical construct based on the incompetence of man in regard to interpreting reality. Like Plato, the Reformers of old and new alike bemoan man’s attempt to understand reality “in the shadows” of all matters that “eclipse Christ.” While donning the persona of Biblicism, pastors like Steve Lawson call for pastors to “come out from the shadows.”
This is the theme of books like “Uneclipsing the Son” by John MacArthur confidant Rick Holland. In his book, he hints at why purest Reformed theology gets lost in the minds of Christians from time to time and therefore needs periodic resurgences and rediscoveries. He notes in his book that good grammar makes bad theology. The mystic heretic Paul David Tripp makes the same assertion in “How People Change,” noting that a literal interpretation of Scripture circumvents the personhood of Christ and His saving work. What’s in an interpretation method? According to Tripp—your salvation.
This is the paramount point at hand: the Reformers did not interpret the Bible grammatically, objectively, exegetically, or literally at any point; they interpreted the Bible through the dual prism of “reality” seen in God’s holiness and our evil. The only objective truth is the person of Christ leading to a mere subjective experience of His power and grace manifestations. Hence, many Reformed purists in our day embodied in the New Calvinist movement speak of, “spiritual growth in seeing our own evil as set against the holiness of God.” Therefore, commands in the Bible become part of the narrative that helps us see what we are unable to do rather than commands to be obeyed. We merely seek to see, and wait for the subjective experience of “vivification.” The seeing is the “mortification.” Reformed theologians like Michael Horton explain this as a continual re-experience of our original baptism as we perpetually revisit the same gospel that saved us “afresh.”
This reduces the Christian life to experiences of perpetual rebirth found in Eastern concepts Plato borrowed for “practical life application.” This is the foundation of Historical Redemptive hermeneutics born of Reformed purism. This is also the interpretive method that is all of the rage in our day through programs like BibleMesh.
This is not the natural bent towards interpreting truth. We are wired to interpret truth objectively, and grammatically—tools like allegory and parables notwithstanding. This is why Reformed purism dies a social death from time to time throughout history. Thus, this metaphysical anomaly experiences “rediscovery” and “resurgence” movements. Be certain of the following: this is the New Calvinist movement in our day, and in essence, a return to the exact same viral Gnosticism that plagued the New Testament church with this caveat added: we by no means possess the doctrinal intestinal fortitude of the first century church.
Ground Zero: The 1970 Resurgence
1970 is ground zero for the present landscape of American Christianity. In that year, two movements emerged. Since colonial times, the third resurgence of Reformed purism was born through a project called the Australian Forum. In that same year, Dr. Jay E. Adams, a hybrid of Calvinism and Historical Grammatical interpretation, launched the biblical counseling movement. His movement was predicated on the competence of enabled congregants to counsel each other through the deepest of human problems. Adams also recognized the simple concept of anthropology and its relationship to helping people. Because all humans are created by God, what works well for the unsaved should work even better for the saved. If unsaved people who don’t violate their consciences are happier, this should also aid Christians in their walk with God. Bad ideas are simply bad for everyone, the ultimate need for eternal salvation notwithstanding. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the unsaved baby with the bath water of practicality. And in addition, does practicality show forth the wisdom of God and thereby point people to God? Should God not know what makes people tick? Moreover, what is the authority for interpreting human existence? Philosophy, or the Bible?
Adams’ biblical construct produced astounding conclusions, especially in areas where a medical model covered for escape mechanisms that create another reality for realties one may not like. If Bob is in big trouble, he merely becomes Ted, or maybe even Jane. This is a bad idea for Christians. Adams created a dichotomy between salvation and the Christian life. He believed in the utter incompetence of man to save himself, but abundant competence in colaboring with God for a victorious life over sin. With Adams, it is about CHANGE for the glory of God and the happiness of His people.
Thus, with the resurgence of Reformed purism at the same time, the battle lines were drawn, and a confusion of conflict emerged in the biblical counseling movement. The one predicated on the utter incompetence of man whether saved or unsaved, and the other predicated on the competence of the Spirit-filled Christian. The one predicated on Christians only being righteous positionally, and the other predicated on the idea that Christians are also practically righteous. The one predicated on contemplationism, the other predicated on obedience. This is the civil war that has raged in the biblical counseling movement from its conception until this day. It is for the most part a civil war of servility, lest two different gospels be separate, and careerism maimed.
The Forum doctrine quickly found footing at Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania where Adams was a professor. The initial vestige of relevant infection was found in Dr. John “Jack” Miller, also a professor at Westminster Seminary. True, Westminster was founded by Reformed purists that believed the many acts of Christ’s righteousness were part of the atonement, not just His one act of death on the cross, but for the most part, the Reformation’s metaphysical anomalies had reduced Westminster to moderate Reformed ideology. If you will, a hybrid Calvinism that interpreted reality grammatically.
Miller changed that. While the doctrine was in the process of suffering a brutal death in Reformed Baptist circles by moderate Calvinists, being labeled as antinomianism, it found resurgent life at Westminster in Miller’s Sonship Theology incubator. The forerunner of this doctrine in Reformed Baptist circles, Jon Zens, discovered the doctrine in the early years of the Forum while he was a student at Westminster. He actually became heavily involved with the Forum in the 70’s, convincing them that everyday Covenant Theology would be a hindrance to infecting Christianity with the newly rediscovered disease. From that conversation came the birth of New Covenant Theology circa 1981. It was a significant addition to the present repertoire of elements that confuse the real crux of the issue. Till this day, few moderate Calvinists make this historical connection between New Covenant Theology and New Calvinism.
But it was a particular mentoree of Miller’s that saw Adam’s construct as a threat to the successful spread of the Forum’s rediscovery: Dr. David Powlison. Powlison, working closely with Miller, developed the Dynamics of Biblical Change which is a counseling construct based on Reformation purism. This became the counseling model for Westminster’s biblical counseling wing known as The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Later, there was a proposal for an organization that would certify counselors for CCEF. Adams was opposed to it as it smacked of the kind of elitism that he was trying to avoid. Remember, Adams was all about the competence of the average congregant to counsel. But Purist Reformed ideology is all about elitism because Gnosticism is all about elitism; the two go hand in glove.
Show Me the Money
Gnosticism rejects the average man’s ability to understand reality. So, assimilation for purposes of functionality is the main concern; ie., that the masses are controlled by indoctrination that is not necessarily understood, but invokes behavioral goals. But another primary goal is the spiritual caste system that provides millions of dollars for elitist educators. In essence, these are the professional Sophists produced by Platonism. This is why Gnosticism always dwells in the upper socioeconomic strata, as Phillip J. Lee notes in the aforementioned book, Gnosticism is a rich man’s game. CCEF certified counselors are extremely rare in zip codes of average incomes less than $80,000 per year, and nowhere to found in zip codes of $50,000 or less. This of course, is very telling. Their conferences require registration fees of $300.00 per person or more.
Meanwhile, NANC Happens
Powlison followed a classic mode of Gnostic deception by seeking to be identified with the persona of Adams’ successful counseling construct while despising the doctrine as a supposed false gospel. To be more specific, he wanted to gain ground by being identified with Adams’ success, and with a deliberate long-term goal of destroying the historical grammatical approach to biblical counseling.
Unfortunately, and to the chagrin of Adams, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors was born (NANC). “Nouthetic” counseling was a Greek term introduced by Adams and often associated with him. Therefore, Powlison et al were able to be identified with the tsunami like personal transformations of the Adams reformation as a jump start for their own construct, and with a long-term goal of destroying the competition. They did this so effectively that Adams was often thought of as the founder of NANC, which was never true.
Consequently, Adams experienced an increased persecution from within the contemporary biblical counseling movement that he founded. His counseling was dubbed “first generation” biblical counseling and referred to as nothing more than “producing better Pharisees.” I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.
The fallout in our day is indicative of the spiritual carnage that has always been left in the path of Gnosticism. While the spiritual peasantry cries out in hopes that the elite will police their own, the Nicolaitans of our day laugh all the way to the bank. After all, subjective reality is messy business and peasants just don’t understand. The biblical counseling community has founded organizations who seek to keep them out of court and prevent the obscuring of cash flow. The New Calvinism movement is intrinsically connected by a complicated and massive network of associations—in many cases disagreeing with each other on “secondary issues.” A prime example is the G.R.A.C.E mediatory organization headed by Boz Tchividjian. While playing the part of advocates for the spiritually abused, they are professionally networked with serial abusers of the worst sort.
The biblical counseling movement embodied in New Calvinism is nothing more or less than a return to the exact same Gnosticism that plagued the first century church. The fact that Eastern mysticism is often the application can be seen by what happened at a Passion Conference where the who’s who of New Calvinism led the audience in a form of Transcendental Meditation. Tim Keller, a co-mentoree of Miller along with David Powlison in the early days, is a staunch advocate of Eastern mysticism as a practical application for Christian living.
CCEF, and NANC are the epitome of false advertising. They advertise the gospel and change, but believe in neither. Like the father of their faith, St. Augustine, it is Plato they trust. The banner over them is not love, but a sense of elitist entitlement to be paid and supported by the unenlightened masses for their own good. Sheep that don’t get it are more than expendable; the one in 99 is expendable for the 99 who know their place and pay the Shamans their tax deductible dues.
They invent and sell orthodoxy, the layman’s manual for experiencing perpetual rebirth. On the one hand, there is a Christianity that posits the living water that is received once, the onetime washing, and the moving on to maturity from the beginning principles of baptisms, and then there is the gospel of our day that posits the perpetual rebirth of Eastern mysticism.
But this is not a mere disagreement about how to live the Christian life. How we see the Christian life reveals the gospel that we really believe. When our salvation is not a finished work, something must be done by us to finish it—even if that means doing nothing with intentionality. NOT living by a list of do’s and don’ts is the work that keeps us saved. It is playing it safe by hiding our talents in the ground and giving the Lord back what He originally gave.
Christians would do well to choose which gospel they will live by in our day. At this point, that conversation has not arrived yet. And to be sure, many do not want the conversation to be clarified to that point. The gospel itself has become the elephant in the room.
One hundred years ago our forefathers in the faith were finally waking up to the fact that the machinery of their denominations and conventions had been taken over by theological liberals or “modernists” as they were called then. The denominational seminaries, funded by the Rockefeller fortune, had also fallen—due in large part to the inattention given them by the conservatives or “fundamentalists.” Under the leadership of men like W. B. Riley, T. T. Shields, and A.C. Dixon the conservatives began to organize pastors in the Northern Baptist Convention with mixed results. Finally, in 1922 they came together with a plan to smoke out the liberals and defeat them on the floor of the convention which was to be held in Indianapolis. They concluded that the adoption of a well-defined doctrinal statement which spelled out exactly what the convention believed would paint the liberals into a corner and require them to declare publicly what they believed about the “fundamentals” of the faith.
At the convention W. B. Riley made a motion that the Northern Baptist Convention pledge itself to the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833). The conservatives were lined up to vote in favor and they believed they were finally poised to have their victory over the liberals. The liberals were not to be out maneuvered, however. Cornelius Woelfkin, liberal pastor of the Park Avenue Baptist Church in New York City, stood and offered a substitute motion “that the New Testament is the all sufficient ground of our faith and practice, and that we need no other statement.” His clever defense of his motion convinced a number of conservatives that a vote against his motion would amount to a vote against the New Testament itself! Conservatives were not going to vote against the Bible so Woelfkin’s motion passed 1264 to 637.
The deflated conservatives never again came even that close to success in making the liberals clearly declare what it meant for them to be “Biblical” and subsequently began their exodus from the convention to form new associations and schools.
This thin slice of church history came to mind when I learned that the powers that be at NANC (The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) would be asking the membership to vote to remove the word “nouthetic” from the name of the organization. No, I don’t mean to insinuate that those who propose this name change are theologically like those liberal Baptists a century ago, and while it was probably not their intention to use the word in the same way our liberal ancestors did, that fact remains that “biblical” is a much broader term than the word “nouthetic” and allows for a far greater number of counselors to camp under its banner.
Now, of course, we all want to be biblical in our counseling, our theology, and our practice. Being biblical is noble—it is Berean! But while we all want to be biblical, the term itself is nebulous. It gives no precise indication as to what exactly we believe the Bible teaches on any given subject. It only communicates that we agree with it—whatever it is.
As we look over the Christian counseling landscape today we see that almost everyone who is a Christian and does counseling claims to be biblical in what they are doing. Integrationists like Larry Crabb, Gary Collins, Eric Johnson, Tim Clinton, Archibald Hart, and Paul Meier all say that what they are doing is “biblical.” Neil Anderson, who finds demons under every rock, claims to be “biblical.” Charles Solomon avows that hisExchanged Life approach is “biblical.” Gary Chapman claims his Love Languages are “biblical.” Tim LaHaye has pronounced his temperament analysis to be “biblical.” Kevin Leman believes his birth order nonsense is “biblical.” James Dobson is confident his pronouncements about self-esteem are “biblical.” Openly and aggressively integrationist institutions such as Liberty University and Dallas Seminary shamelessly label their degree programs “Biblical Counseling.”
There is no such ambiguity about the word “nouthetic.” It is a term that has fences around it—well defined by the foundational books written by Dr. Adams. It is confused only by those who are too lazy to read Competent to Counsel, those who would willingly be confused, or those who desire to confuse others.
This is not to say that the term “nouthetic” encompasses everything Dr. Adams teaches or practices. No Lutheran believes everything Luther believed. The term “Calvinist” applies to a system of doctrine, not everything Calvin believed. Methodists do not follow in lockstep behind all that John Wesley believed. I have worked closely with Dr. Adams for over 15 years and after countless long conversations I still can’t land where he has landed on eschatology, church polity, and infant baptism. Upon glorification one of us (or perhaps both) will learn we had misunderstood what the Scriptures teach on each of these issues. Still, when NANC was founded in 1975, the term “nouthetic” was almost unanimously adopted by the founding board in order to clearly identify what they meant when they claimed to be “biblical” counselors. The only dissenter was Dr. Adams himself who was concerned that the use of his term would make the movement more about him than it would the Scriptures.
The move away from the specific term “nouthetic” to the more general term “biblical” does not clarify, it obfuscates. It allows for greater inclusiveness. It reduces to a lowest common denominator. It enables NANC to identify with, and perhaps even attract, those who cannot or would not embrace Adams’ “nouthetic” view of sanctification, what he means by the “sufficiency” of the Scriptures, his exegetical precision, or his insistence upon orthodoxy on the important theological issues that intersect with biblical counseling such as the sovereignty of God, the cessation of supernatural gifts, and a rejection of all things mystical.
For all of these reasons we at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies are in favor of this proposed name change. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t if you are familiar with NANC these days. We favor this change because it is honest. The current NANC board has led the organization away from its well-defined nouthetic roots and has remolded it into a wider, more inclusive organization that is better described by the broader and less definitive term “biblical.”
Again, my conclusion may come as a surprise to many reading these words so let me make my case with just a few brief bullet points:
The orthodox doctrine of progressive sanctification, a cornerstone of nouthetic counseling, is no longer essential. Many NANC members have replaced it with a doctrine commonly labeled as Gospel Sanctification which teaches that loving Christ and contemplating all that He has done for us on the cross is sufficient for our sanctification.
NANC membership now includes counselors who are members of churches in charismatic and liberal denominations.
NANC has held “On the Road” training conferences in charismatic churches.
The training requirement for NANC certification has become insignificant. Several years ago John Street, the NANC president speaking at a Shepherd’s Conference, taught that pastors should require a minimumof 115 hours of training before allowing people to counsel in their churches. Yet all NANC now requires is attendance at three weekends of classes or a one week conference.
The NANC board gave $30,000 to help establish a coalition of biblical counselors whose stated goal is to “foster collaborative relationships” among all who call themselves biblical counselors.
We are told that this name change is not an indication that NANC itself is going to change. We have no way of knowing what will happen in the future but the fact remains that NANC has already changed.
We love NANC. We are thankful for what has been accomplished through NANC to introduce and promote biblical counseling to thousands. We have high hopes for the leadership of our new Executive Director, Heath Lambert. We wish, however, we were not being asked this question. Instead, we wish we were being asked if NANC should be nouthetic—that would be an interesting vote. Since that is not the question being put to us, we believe it is best to make this name change so as to preserve the integrity of the term. You see, at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies we want to preserve the word “nouthetic” as an accurate description of what it means to be truly biblical in our counseling.
Meanwhile, to our friends on the NANC board, we would do well to concern ourselves less with what our critics think of us, less with the growth and prosperity of our organization, and more with the well-being of the counselees we are commending to the counselors we certify.
Dr. Jay E Adams on DISCERNMENT: preached Sunday, July 28, 2013 at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, SC.
There is a link immediately following this post that is my story of what brought about PPT and TANC. In that story is a pastor named Rick Wilson. Just two days ago, he died suddenly at age 52. Rick’s role in the drama was mostly positive I think, but I also think he stopped short of what should have been done. Nevertheless, the reality of our 20-plus- year friendship remains. That friendship was a deep one fueled by the fact that Rick was a goodhearted man. The world is not a better place without him.
Rick and I were involved in ministries together that helped people. Some of the ministries we started still exist today; for example, Iron Sharpeners at Clearcreek Chapel. Rick and I were the beginning, meeting every Friday morning at 6:30 am for prayer and Bible study more than 20 years ago. Rick was different; there are things about him that I will never forget.
I will never forget the time that I was helping out at a NANC conference and little ole’ me walked past Rick while he was talking with someone important. Actually, if I remember correctly, it was either Jay Adams or Bill Goode. When Rick saw me walk past, he immediately interrupted the conversation and excitedly stated, “Hey, hey, I gotta talk to this guy, I will catch up to you later.” Need I expound on that any further? Rick not only perceived all people as equal, but that mindset seemed to come naturally to him.
My journey separated Rick and I, but that was probably more to do with me than Rick as I am not sure anybody knows what it would have taken for him to hold a grudge against someone. But after all he was a Reformed guy, and I am not sure how our conversations about Luther and Calvin would have gone. He adored Luther. Yuck.
So, when word of his death came, I immediately assumed that I would not go to the funeral. The place will be swarming with New Calvinists that know who I am and do not send me Christmas cards. But for two days now, memories of our meals together (he always paid), and rich conversations fill my mind. And one memory in particular. His father, a professing Christian, and faithful church member, did something that ended the life of his mother and father both. Rick spoke at the funeral. After talking mostly about his mother, he stated that his father’s action would not wipe away all that his father had done for the Lord in his mind. Rick refused to judge his father by the one action alone and honored his father’s life as a whole. That was Rick. Not charismatic, far from it, but always doing something subtle that built an immovable mountain in the minds of others. Like that day, I never saw him cry once in more than 20 years, but his tears of compassion could always be heard in his words and seen in his eyes.
“Sectarian,” “sect,” “heretic,” and “fractious” are all Bible words used interchangeably to communicate the idea of dividing relationships with false doctrine. Truth unites, untruth divides. Only the one mind of Christ and agreeing in Christ unites. New Calvinism, a return to authentic Reformed doctrine, is a super-sect. Since it sprang forth from the Australian Forum in 1970, it has divided innumerable churches, friendships, families, and marriages. The awkward situations that are created by these divisions are massive. Awkward funerals, awkward graduations, awkward memories, awkward birthday parties, etc.
But you know what? I didn’t do anything wrong—they did. It shouldn’t be awkward for me, it should be awkward for them. What Rick did for me far outweighs how the situation turned out—I will honor his memory and our friendship. And you know what else? I am going to dig up all of those family pictures that are tainted with the memory of what happened and I am going to frame them. Why should those memories be taken from me because of what they did? I didn’t do anything wrong—they did. And don’t give me that load that they aren’t responsible because nobody was perfect in the situation. God doesn’t operate on legal loopholes.
So I will frame the pictures and enjoy them, and Rick is even impacting my life from the grave. No surprise. I suppose a Reformed guy will be doing his funeral and will therefore be reluctant to call Rick a “good man.”
A pity, because he was the best of them.
Last week, the father of the competent discipleship movement returned to the pulpit in an amazing display of God’s goodness. What a privilege it would have been to be there to see this elder statesman put real preaching on display. In the message, he expounded on one basic, but very important principle of biblical thinking. The fact that he was standing there delivering the message also added a living dimension: don’t believe there is a practical/sensible season of retreat from our mission in the here and now.
Jay Adams will go down in church history as the founder of the most significant discipleship movement to ever occur in Western culture. The remnant of that movement that survived a demonic onslaught is embodied in the Institute of Nouthetic Studies. A certificate from that institute should be required for any church to consider a pastoral candidate. Pastors who are able to give people real hope are the only answer to present-day dysfunctional churchianity ruled by mystic despots.
Our thanks to God precede. Here is the mp3: http://www.nouthetic.org/resources/podcast/psalm-11
2013 TANC Conference Update: Conference Will Explore New Calvinism’s Relationship to Biblical Counseling
New Calvinism will die again. For the fifth time in church history. There has been five resurgences and four deaths. That is why the primary agenda of TANC is to educate the church concerning every nuance. Lack of information is what enables this evil beast to come back into the church from time to time. The goal is to educate as many Christians as possible who will hopefully see this coming the next time. The following is an excerpt from the upcoming 2013 TANC Conference. In this first session, the five reasons New Calvinism will die are stated.
Perpetual Death and Resurgence of the Authentic Reformation Gospel
As we have noted, as the Reformation moved forward in history, many did not realize that it spoke from its own reality. As Christians read their Bibles from the normative reality, the true gist of the Reformation gospel is lost over time. The Reformers were mostly responsible for the printing of English Bibles, but how they wanted the Bible to be read was mostly misunderstood despite their massive commentaries.
The natural tendency is to read literally and take the meaning of verbs, nouns, and prepositions at face value. This will draw one away from the Reformed gospel in general, but will retain the Reformation’s lack of emphasis on aggressive sanctification. Let me give you an example of this. In the book, “How People Change” by New Calvinist Paul David Tripp, he discusses the issue of Christians endeavoring to change their thinking to biblical thinking. This is a pretty passive consideration as far as human activity goes. In fact, changing the way we think is probably the most passive human activity we can think of. Yet, note what Tripp states on page 27 of said book:
….and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.
~ Paul David Tripp: How People Change Punch Press 2006, p. 27
This statement encapsulates the totality of Reformed metaphysics perfectly. First, we see the clear indication of what we will dissect in my second session; the Reformed gospel of progressive justification. Christians NEED the ongoing work of Christ AS SAVIOR in our lives. To not do Christianity in a certain way OMITS that saving work in sanctification. This statement by Tripp is a damning indictment of Calvinism.
Secondly, we see that although the Bible calls us to change the way we think, to read that in a normative reality is to misinterpret the “true” meaning, and unless those passages are understood via Reformed epistemology, the ongoing salvific work of Christ in our Christian lives will be circumvented. Elsewhere in the same book, Tripp states that biblical commands must be seen in their “Christ-centered gospel context” (Ibid p. 26). Throughout this same book, and like all Calvinists, Tripp speaks of “heart change,” but as we shall see in my second session, this is a term that DOES NOT mean that we change. The title of the book is a Calvinist lie. It is condoned by Gnostic arrogance that doesn’t think the common Christian is “ready” for the hard truth of the authentic Reformed gospel. John Piper made this specific notation in an interview:
I think Rome and Protestantism [the Protestantism that fell away from Reformed metaphysics] are not yet ready. I don’t think the Reformation is over (Online source: http://youtu.be/lQvtAd7WEOY).
The second reason that the authentic Reformed gospel dies a social death from time to time is because it is simply boring. It is driven by a narrow concept; everything is about the gospel. This was the major complaint that Dr. Jay E. Adams received while he was writing Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course (Timeless Texts 1999). Concerned Christians told Adams that they were hearing the same things from the pulpit every week and the doctrine seemed “vague.” Susan and I have visited churches recently that were very exuberant about New Calvinism a couple of years ago, but follow-up visits reveal a marked decrease in enthusiasm. To be more specific, in protest regarding the possibility that we would ever return to one of the churches, our teenage son remarked, “That place isn’t very interesting.” Susan and I were also overwhelmed with the sense of deadness that was present.
A third reason is the fact that this doctrine does not produce spiritual growth which results in a plethora of negative issues that arise from spiritual immaturity.
A fourth reason is the spiritual tyranny that is ALWAYS part and parcel with this doctrine. Remember, it is basically a spiritual cast system that puts a high premium on control.
A fifth reason is the fact that God’s people eventually figure out that it is a false doctrine.
These are the five reasons why these resurgences die out. The hybrids that emerge are still predicated on weak sanctification which lays the ground work for the next resurgence. The following illustration shows how authentic Calvinism has oscillated between tyranny and weak sanctification throughout church history.
Those of you who have been a part of PPT since its beginning in 2009 are aware of who X-Ray the Idol Hunter is. She is kind of the Big Foot of New Calvinism. Her possible existence surfaced in 2010 during John Piper’s sabbatical. Piper said he was taking the sabbatical because he had observed several “species of pride” in his soul. According to other statements he made, he had consulted Tim Keller and Paul David Tripp on how to peel away several different levels of idolatry in order to find these “species.” Piper never identified the different species with biblical nomenclature.
Piper shared these things prior to beginning his sabbatical which had a predetermined length of eight months. The question soon became the following: how did Piper know that the eradication of these “species,” and all of the peeling away of many levels of idolatry in the soul, would take exactly eight months? If the species where wreaking enough havoc on his soul to cause him to step down for eight months, one must assume that eliminating these creatures would be efficacious.
Well, sure enough, Piper returned to the ministry eight months later. That’s when the rumors started. Obviously, Piper had an ace in the hole. It is doubtful that Sonship theology, the primary doctrine that promotes idol hunting in the heart would have been enough to guarantee such a victory. The doctrine was concocted by Dr. John “Jack” Miller in the 80’s and articulated by David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. David Powlison oversees a research and development team at Westminster Seminary that endeavors to come up with better and better ways to hunt down idols in the heart. Miller was able to identify twenty-five species of idols to get the ball rolling.
Powlison and Tripp devised what they call “X-Ray questions” that help people detect these idols which manifest themselves in our desires. All and all, Powlison has devised around 135 such questions. The questions reveal desires, and the desire leads to the species.
But after the return of Piper, people started asking questions, and strange manifestations began to be noticed at New Calvinist conferences where Piper, Powlison, Keller, and Tripp appeared. Powlison and Keller are self-proclaimed mentorees of John Miller. One such manifestation was seen on a conference website and appears below:
Furthermore, the following spears were found at yet another conference:
Putting it in a way that David Powlison would, X-Ray is kinda, perhaps, like a parody, but then again, kinda not to demonstrate the mindless New Calvinist following of mysticism on the issue of change. As Jay E. Adams well noted in his treatise against Sonship theology, idol hunting seems to be a kissing cousin to species of demons that supposedly cause Christians to sin. Hence, a different demon for each sin, and as Piper noted just prior to his last sabbatical, Tim Keller informs us that some levels of idol hunting are only obtained by fasting and prayer. Yet, someone had to know that the extraction of the “species” that were hounding Piper would only take exactly eight months to extract. PPT was sent a top secret picture of X-Ray, and we neither vouch for this picture nor deny it. Like Big Foot, the jury is kinda still out:
With Powlison, Keller, Tripp, and Piper all coming to this year’s Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando, a manifestation of X-Ray is very possible. As Powlison brings the latest findings from Westminster’s research and development team on idol hunting, it only makes sense that X-Ray would want to be briefed.
“If you haven’t received ‘proper training’ don’t try to counsel; you will do more harm than good.” Really? And many laymen buy it: “I don’t try to counsel people; if I told them the wrong thing I could do more harm than good.” How? Have you looked around at the mess called American Christianity in this country? After more than thirty years of an unprecedented biblical counseling movement spearheaded by David Powlison’s “research and development” center at Westminster Seminary, the American church has never been more unimpressive and disrespected. It’s so bad that there are at least three organizations that try to broker reconciliation in order to keep churches out of civil and criminal courts, and it is my understanding that business is booming. The country is saturated with “trained” biblical counselors and training centers, albeit mostly in upper income areas—to the tune of just under 100% according to our research. NANC and CCEF counselors are virtually nonexistent in lower income areas.
Moreover, NANC and CCEF (these two organizations comprise 90% of contemporary biblical counseling) are predicated on progressive justification. This is a gospel that posits the idea that people don’t change. In 1970, the father of the biblical counseling movement, Dr. Jay E. Adams, founded the movement on the idea that Christians can change and are competent to counsel each other. Though the results where dramatic, heretic David Powlison hijacked the movement with Westminster’s version of progressive justification, Sonship Theology. It is perplexing to me that many counselors who saw the results of Adams’ revival now refer to the movement in its present form as a “second generation” biblical counseling that is more “mature.” But where are the results? We now “need” Peacemaker Ministries and G.R.AC.E more than ever.
An example of that is Powlison comrade Pastor Mark Driscoll who claims to see visions regarding those that he counsels. Trust me, we can do better. And the time is ripe because we cannot possibly do worse. Granted, not all are inept, but where ineptness lacks, cowardliness and cronyism fills the void. Said another way; for the most part, they are either heretics or cowards. While the cowards don’t hold to the false gospel of progressive justification, they stand by silent as thousands of people are referred to these counselors daily. Plainly, the gospel really doesn’t matter. Plainly, they lack a deep love for the truth. While they sell their souls to the god of peer acceptance, they preach to others about not having idols in their heart.
Since the Scriptures teach that the average parishioner is competent to counsel, and the clergy have had their chance and completely blown it, the laity needs to get back to “encouraging one another unto good works.” Let’s start there. We are able. Here is what the apostle Paul said about our ability to counsel one another:
Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
In contrast, the spiritual brain trust of our day teach that we are still totally depraved, and for some reason, people are perplexed that the totally depraved are acting like they are totally depraved. This has been pounded in the heads of American Christians for almost forty years now. The present-day biblical counseling movement is completely indifferent to this reality because, “It’s not about us being better, it’s about what Jesus has done—not anything we do.” Contrary to this, Paul stated that we are “full of goodness” and able to instruct on one another. It’s all there, when you were saved, you didn’t get a portion of the Holy Spirit—you got all of Him. You have His mind. You have His wisdom. You have His love. You have His goodness. You must appropriate it. That’s our role: learn and apply.
1. You are able.
2. You must learn and apply.
You must trust God’s word as being sufficient. You must never waver from that:
Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
We have two kinds of counsel here and the results. Where is the third option? Where is the pure milk cut with something as good as Scripture? (1Peter 2:2). Where is the alternative foundation in Matthew 7:24-27? Why is the word “alone” in Matthew 4:4? What great counselor of the day did Jesus cite apart from Scripture? If you have resolute confidence in the word of God—you can help people.
4. You won’t have all of the answers readily available in the beginning. It’s a process. You will lay the foundation, and then work together in the new way. This is discipleship. This is a vessel for building deep friendships. Here is what James stated in regard to this:
James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
There can be no thought that there is another way other than God’s word. This is double mindedness. This is hedging your bets. As you pray together, there must be confidence that God shows the way, and that it is the only acceptable way. No answer to prayer for wisdom in the situation should be expected without complete confidence in God’s word. All the other ways are instability in “all his [different] ways.” There are not alternate paths to God’s way.
5. You must know that the trial will end:
James 4:4 – And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…. 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
6. You must know that your friend will benefit from the trial, or be separated from the faith. Here is where formal counseling is a great evil in our day. An appointment is made with the uppity pastor’s “counseling secretary.” Your session will be an hour, and then you are sent home till next week’s appointment. Few in the congregation, if any, will be involved in the situation. They aren’t “experts.” They aren’t “trained.” But by and large, the “experts” don’t really take God’s word seriously.
Any Christian who is in a trial is in grave danger of being separated from the faith. While God wants to use the trial to mature you (James 1:3 – for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness), the kingdom of darkness wants to use it to separate you from the faith: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). This doesn’t mean we can lose our salvation, but it means that we could end up on a path with an uncertain eternal future:
2Peter 1:9 – For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our goal is a rich entry, not one shrouded with doubt and fear concerning an uncertain eternity. This will cripple us in our faith. Before Peter’s trial of denying Christ after He was taken into custody, Christ told him that Satan had sought permission from God to separate Peter from the faith (a Job-like event). Trials will either make you a stronger Christian, or separate you from the faith. The words “trial” and “temptation” are therefore used interchangeably in the Scriptures. Hence, one should not be confused by what James stated in context:
James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
7. You must know that your friend will desire to get out of the trial quickly, and even though God’s wisdom often ends a trial quickly, and circumvents some trials altogether, the world’s way of ending a trial will be crouching at the door:
“…. let steadfastness have its full effect” (James 1:4).
You must stand with your friend against the world’s shortcuts in the midst. Why does it take an expert to understand these things? The last thing a Christian in trial needs is a professional motif with an uppity secretary, a bunch of formal paperwork, and contemporary décor. They need real friends full of goodness. They need real friends who know what’s at stake. This is where true discipleship is set on fire. This is where the rubber of love meets the road.
8. You must not be surprised at the trial type. Christians can find themselves in any kind of trial:
“….when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
1Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
9. You must not doubt God. The most astounding trials must not be allowed to shake our confidence in God’s purposes and trust in His wisdom to resolve the trial. We must consider doubt an affront to God’s power, promises, and purposes. We must not have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof.
10. You must joyfully anticipate the deepening of relationship between all involved and God:
“….Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (Ibid).
Go. Go to your friend. Work together with them in encouragement. Discuss what you know, and pray together for wisdom in the rest. Wait on God together. Obey together. Cry together. Trust together, and defend God’s sufficiency together. Study the word together. Make a friendship deeper, and look forward to the day when you can comfort others with the comfort you have been comforted by. These are deep waters. This is where Christ comes in power. This is no place for outsiders.
This is no place for bloviated academics propagating a false gospel.
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.
“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.
“No Steve. Let me repeat that. ‘No Steve’: the issue isn’t the ‘simplistic’ verses the wider field of knowledge, the issue is which gospel are we going to use to minister to other Christians; progressive justification or progressive sanctification? And who is competent to counsel? Please do not be a part of the big lie in our present day.”
Thanks for the response because I am a busy person and our conversation provides an easy framework to post something that needs to be said. My response is primarily provoked by your comment following and will be the subject of a post on my own blog:
Jay Adams and nouthetic counseling are familiar to me. Jay has contributed much to biblical counseling, but his perspective is only one in a field containing hother highly-reputable Christians such as Larry Crabb and Dan Allender. I have found Jay’s approach simplistic and—when used by someone without proper training or grace—combative and even abusive.
“Nouthetic” means “admonishing,” which, though a biblical term, can often devolve into simply berating someone with a Bible verse and telling them to deal with their sin. While scripture is always the grid to evaluate truth claims in this world, not all truth is found in the Bible. Rather, God has given some truth to the realms of science, engineering, medicine, psychology, and others, for the benefit of all people everywhere. Christians must think critically about any truth claim, compare it with scriptural principles, and then proceed accordingly. I prefer an integrated approach to Christian counseling.
First of all, Jay Adams doesn’t need me to defend him, but your portrayal of contemporary history concerning the biblical counseling movement is very much in vogue and happens to be a lie first propagated by David Powlison, and furthered by the insufferably arrogant likes of Heath Lambert.
People like Lambert who is a prototype of many in our day accept any proposition espoused by the men they mindlessly follow as truth. And the truth is my concern here, not necessarily a defense of Jay Adams. However, though I enjoy defending Jay, he would probably prefer that many of his “friends” in Christian academia would defend him, but unfortunately, most of them are cowards and only pretend to love the truth for monetary gain and notoriety. I despise both, and have way too many Facebook friends (62). Therefore, the following is the true historical/biblical facts of the matter:
In circa 1970, American Christianity was feeling the pain of a skewed attitude and understanding of sanctification. The previous twenty years had been an easy believeism/hyper-grace approach. The focus was getting people saved, and not “making disciples.” There were several reasons for this, but suffice to say that “the gospel” was grossly overemphasized. As I type that, I can now hear the shrill cat-cries: “IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO OVEREMPHASIZE THE GOSPEL!” Right.
However, in order to fill the void, a variety of biblical generalities were thrown around (along with let go and let God theologies) as damage control, plus pastors farmed sanctification out to psychologists. Deeper problems of life were labeled “sickness,” and the idea of pastors sending their parishioners to mind/spiritual doctors was sanctified with “Christian Psychology.” Your everyday pastor was who you went to if you got bubble gum in your hair, but the really deep problems of life needed a “Christian Psychologist.”
Adams was the first in our day to say “NO” to this assertion. The theme of his sanctification reformation was “Competent to Counsel,” and was based on Romans 15:14. Moreover, this one verse powerfully destroys much of the errant philosophy of our day.
But something else was happening at the same time. Another reformation. This other reformation that was emerging at the same time that Adams began to challenge the church is the dirty little secret that is the foundation of your whole proposition that Adams is a mere contributor to a wider field of counseling wisdom. In fact, in a rare episode of truth-telling by David Powlison while lecturing at John Piper’s “church,” he specifically stated the difference between Adams’ biblical construct and the present-day “wider field of knowledge.” Two gospels. That’s right. A wider field of knowledge is not the issue, which gospel that you are going to use to minister to the saints is the issue—so stated the most prominent one in the “wider field.” Powlison dropped his usual nuanced verbiage as it is no longer necessary among the vast majority of Christians who are utterly unable to think for themselves. He stated the following:
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 cover this in more detail in chapter 9 of “The Truth About New Calvinism,” but this statement by Powlison while lecturing at Piper’s church is the crux. Even in that rare episode of truth-telling by Powlison, he left out the following detail concerning Adams’ “attack” against his “mentor” for telling people to preach the gospel to themselves every day: the “attack” was in the form of a book and devastating treatise against Sonship Theology. Adams’ thesis was that the power for sanctification comes from regeneration and not justification.
No Steve. Let me repeat that. “No Steve”: the issue isn’t the “simplistic” verses the wider field of knowledge, the issue is which gospel are we going to use to minister to other Christians; progressive justification or progressive sanctification? And, who is competent to counsel? All who are “full of goodness,” or just the Christian experts? Again, I hear the alley cats screaming in the night’s full moon: “Progressive justification? Nonsense! Miller didn’t teach that!” Oh really? Have we become so postmodern that “preaching the gospel to ourselves” as a way to be empowered in sanctification is not progressive sanctification? Have Christians really become that mindless?
What is the source of our power for change, and who can counsel? The answer to those questions is the difference between light and darkness. Here is the reality and the line in the sand: choose which gospel you will follow according to truth or according to what man butters your bread.
The key to discussing what significant movement emerged at the same time as Adams’ biblical construct is Powlison’s mention of Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Miller was a professor at Westminster approximate to the time that the theological journal Present Truth was all the rage. The journal, in magazine form was published by the Australian Forum theological think tank headed by SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead. Much to Adams’ consternation, Brinsmead and company were invited to Westminster to chat with the theological big boys. Brinsmead had rediscovered the authentic Reformation gospel that launched the SDA Awakening movement and led to a concerted effort to get Progressive Adventism recognized as a valid denomination.
The Australian Forum argued that the true Reformation gospel was monergistic substitutionary sanctification, or in essence, progressive justification. From that, Miller contrived his Sonship Theology scheme. Tim Keller and David Powlison were rabid followers of Miller, and Powlison used Miller’s Sonship Theology to develop his Dynamics of Biblical Change counseling program that is the foundation of CCEF’s counseling model. Like the father that gave birth to Sonship Theology and CCEF ( the Australian Forum), Miller, Powlison, and Keller felt called to save America from this present Dark Age that supposedly resulted from the lost Reformation gospel. Powlison was then compelled to take over NANC with said doctrine, which he has effectively done.
Hence, Adams was obviously a threat and had to be neutralized. The failings of the movement that Adams came to fix were pinned on Adams; ie, all of the things that filled the void: living by biblical generalizations; legalism; and, “Take a Bible verse and call me in the morning”; etc. Meanwhile, the new gospel of progressive justification was guilty of the same thing that the previous hyper-grace movement was guilty of: devaluing aggressive sanctification and the new birth. The so called second generation “biblical” counseling construct made sanctification the same thing as justification rather than merely devaluing it.
But again, this necessitated a replacement for the real article, and I think the replacement is well articulated by the Powlison understudy Paul David Tripp in How People Change which is really not about biblical change at all. Progressive justification advocates the manifestation of realms, not real change within the individual Christian. Tripp makes this absolutely clear on pages 64 and 65 of HPC by describing Christians as still being enslaved to sin and enemies of God.
Therefore, Powlison is guilty of thwarting the real model for real change in our day. He has marketed the contra product well, so many follow and trade the truth that sanctifies for a bowl of soup; ie, invitations to conferences, recognition, book promotions, friends, etc.
While thinking of themselves as on the cutting edge of change, which doesn’t include changing people, but rather making the cross bigger, they do not even realize that God doesn’t approve of lying.
So Steve, I would recommend that you not promote the fictitious storyline concerning first generation biblical counseling. It’s a lie, and God doesn’t approve, even if it somehow supposedly makes the cross bigger—which trust me—it doesn’t.
“Ok, I am really, really busy, so I am just going to let one Bible verse speak for me: Romans 15:14. Regardless of how the key word is translated, “comfort, instruct, or counsel,” it all points back to counseling. As I state clearly in chapter 9 of my book, Jay E. Adams has done all of the heavy lifting on this subject and that is why he was, and continues to be persecuted by the New Calvinists. They, for the most part have won so far, and hence, 90% of the counseling out there in the church is based on Reformation Gnosticism. There is NO abundance of reputable counselors out there.
There should be, but David Powlison and others took care of that and replaced the Adams’ biblical counseling revolution with gospel contemplationism. Bottom line: I have seen the radically changed lives that resulted from Adams’ biblical counseling construct.
It is time for Christians to tell the philosopher kings to get real jobs, pick up a copy of God’s comprehensive philosophical treatise for life: THE BIBLE, Barackman’s systematic theology of practical Christian living PRIOR TO THE 1990 EDITION, all of the Adams stuff you can buy for discipleship, and start our own churches.
God has not left His children without remedy. ” Comment made here.
“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. :o )
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.
There is no grater joy for me than seizing the opportunity to encourage others. A brother I will refer to as “John Doe” sent me the following message which I will reply to in this post, and with permission. First, the email:
I know you don’t know me, but I’ve posted several times on your blog. I’ve got a problem–actually, probably a few intertwined problems. My chief problem, the one that’s bothering me the most, is loneliness. I’m [thirty something] years old and single. I have a lot of friends, but the trouble is most of them aren’t Christians. A lot of these guys/girls I’ve been friends with for years, since I was a kid, and I’ve always enjoyed their company. I know them well, I know their families, and I love them dearly. But it has been becoming more and more apparent to me throughout the past year or so how very different our values are and how differently we look at life. The whole bar scene has grown cold on me. That’s where we’ve always gone to hang out. It never used to bother me, but now it’s starting to sicken me. I’m realizing that I really have very little in common with these people save for in a superficial way: I can talk to them about the ball game, or a song that we both like, or crack some jokes with them, but that’s about it. I’m getting so fed up with it all…. But the trouble is, I really don’t know what else to do. The life I’ve built for myself (stupidly, I now realize) does not involve many Christians. When I do try to talk to my friends about Jesus they don’t want to hear it, and it commonly ends in an argument.
I’m also finding an increasing desire to get married, but I don’t know any available Christian women. I’m actually afraid to look for one cause I’m not sure I have what it takes to be a good Christian husband. I feel like I have so much work to do, and I hardly know where to begin. Deep down I know that I should leave my old friends and get involved with other Christians, but I feel so bad about doing that… Not only would I feel extremely lonely, but I know I would hurt them also. I hardly know where to begin there, either. It’d be almost like building my life again from scratch. Is that what I should do? I don’t like where I am, but I’m scared to change. I HATE admitting that, but that’s where I’m at right now…
I know that you have biblical answers that you can give me, that’s why I’m writing you. I want to change the way I live, but it seems so hard and I need biblically-grounded counseling/encouragement… Any help you could give along those lines would be very appreciated!
I have good news for you: you can do something about your problems, and God will help you. He won’t do it for you, but He will tell you what to do and strengthen you accordingly. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
I say “problems,” but in your case, I am not sure I want to look at them that way. The fact that you see them as such is actually very positive. Your changed heart is running contrary to some spiritual wisdom issues. This is all very good news, and the bigger the problem, the more opportunity to show how big our God is.
You will need to be patient and start with one bite at a time; by and by, the whole elephant will be devoured. And you must not underestimate the influence of sin that resides in our flesh while remembering that we have the same power that raised Christ from the grave (Eph. 1:15-20). The first half of Ephesians is our resources in Christ; the second half of Ephesians is our part. But the pivotal truth is Ephesians 4:17-24: we are to put off the old man (and remember that the flesh’s ability to enslave us to sin is broken), and put on the new man in Christ. We have been gifted the resources, but it is up to us to put off and put on. All of the truth concerning this is many faceted and will be experienced in many different ways—there is much to learn about being a disciple of Christ from the Scriptures. Ephesians with this outline in mind is a good place to start.
God doesn’t dwell on our past sins. Ask for forgiveness and move on to what God really cares most about: CHANGE. When your goal is change for God’s glory (salt and light), He is totally on board and completely on your side. Don’t dwell on your failures because that is not dwelling on truth—look at yourself according to the whole picture. Failure is rarely the sum of any person.
God uses emotions to help us. Fear, sorry, joy, sense of accomplishment, etc. are all from God and can be used for positive ends. These can also get out of hand and become negative forces in our life. I insert this thought because many leaders in our day seek to abolish our self-confidence. Self-confidence is extremely important. We like it when our surgeons possess it, no? Like all emotions, self-confidence is very important and must be put to work biblically while keeping it in its proper perspective.
As Jay Adams rightly asserts (http://wp.me/pmd7S-mA), marriage is a covenant to solve the problem of loneliness. I recommend Christian Mingle.com , it is a great system, and that is how I scored big in finding Susan. My Christian friends had access to my account and gave me advice accordingly (and had a blast doing it!).
I know, brutally practical. Get married. I’m giving you 6 months to get it done.
No doubt, marriage is a big responsibility, but remember, “I can do ALL things through Him….” Not only that, Jay Adams also makes the biblical case that if singleness is a gift, then marriage must be a gift as well. I can’t remember if I get into that in the cited post, but he makes an excellent biblical case for it. So, God will help you, plus it is your gift—what are you waiting for?
You see loneliness as your biggest problem, but in our day, I see quality Christian fellowship/leadership as your greatest nemesis. It is fine to have unbelieving friends barring any compromise and a diminished focus on the primary purpose, but fellowship with those who are sold out for truth in our day is really tuff territory as the apostles predicted it would be. The right wife is a good start; primarily, look for a mentality that is persuaded by the truth of God’s word. If you detect any indifference to the authority of God’s word—bail. Your marriage will stand or fall on having the same mind in Christ. But be encouraged, most of the people who contact this blog that are impressive from a discernment perspective are women. They also tend to be more indignant toward a fear of man posture.
Where to start? Ratchet back from hanging out with lost friends and invest in looking for a wife. The dating process will supply Christian fellowship and open up opportunities to meet other Christians. The great thing about Christian Mingle.com is that the first date can be meeting her at her church for services. Who knows, you could score a wife and a decent church both. On the rest, remember our Ephesians discussion, and that different areas of our life are not isolated. When we strengthen one area, it helps others.
That’s enough for now, go with God’s promises,
As The Coalition Against New Calvinism is forming, one of my goals as a member is to publish a pdf report to be distributed among churches en mass. The first is almost complete and will be an introduction, but the second will address what is now apparent. David Powlison and the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation have perpetrated a huge fraud upon the church. In the early 70’s many evangelical leaders adopted the doctrine and motif of the Australian Forum, a project that systematized Progressive Adventism. The base doctrine was the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us, and its primary focus was a call to semper reformanda. This was the idea (and still is) that the Reformation didn’t end with Luther, and the Forum had rediscovered the lost gospel of the Reformation (documentation on this and what follows is now ample and convincing).
Church leaders bought into the frenzy wholesale, especially many at Westminster Seminary where the Forum’s theological journal was widely distributed. One of those leaders at Westminster was the mentor of David Powlison and Tim Keller (Dr. John Miller). The movement spawned a massive takeover mentality among its proponents which sought to “reform” the American church with this new rediscovered Reformation gospel. Powlison is on record saying that the fundamental difference between CCEF and NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) was a traditional view of sanctification verses John Miller’s theology (which he got from the Forum). Therefore, it is no surprise that CCEF sought to assimilate the semper reformanda into NANC, which they have been very successful in doing.
One of the major themes promoted by Jay Adams when he was involved with NANC was the idea that counseling was about biblical change. Though unclear at this time whether the following came directly from the Forum or was added later, a significant portion of the NANC/CCEF counseling culture believes no such thing. Rather, they believe that people do not change (but remain totally depraved whether believers or not), and that the primary goal of counseling is to teach Christians how to manifest one of two realms or spheres. We don’t change, but we can experience and manifest the realm of the Holy Spirit or the flesh/worldly/law realm. This prism enables them, as you can imagine, to use orthodox sounding verbiage to promote this doctrine. In fact, they do just that. Spiritual growth is now, “spiritual formation.” Repentance is now, “deep repentance,” etc.
CCEF has been a lost cause from the beginning, but it is unfortunate that the leadership of NANC shows no intestinal fortitude in dealing with this problem. In fact, they refer hundreds of people daily to these counselors with complete indifference. Daily, hundreds of troubled people seek to be helped by these counselors while totally unaware of what they believe.
It is the coalition’s duty to change that. The second newsletter will be aggressively circulated to churches worldwide. It is our goal to be servants of those who struggle with full disclosure.
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.
Susan and I had a glorious fellowship with another Christian couple this afternoon. They are in a ministry of significant influence and will be unnamed. At some point, the conversation turned to New Calvinism. As Susan and I sat and listened to the husband’s testimony concerning what he valued in John Piper’s teachings, I was filled with an understanding in regard to why Piper’s teachings are so attractive. I might add that I was very impressed with his calm, articulate answer immediately following my comment that I believe Piper to be one of the premier heretics of our day.
What this brother described was the fact that serious Christians were looking for an alternative to the fallout from the first gospel wave in contemporary Christian History: raise your hand, sign a card, don’t drink, smoke, chew, or hang out with girls that do. Christianity had been reduced to living by a list of do’s and don’ts by people who didn’t have any life to show for it. Fair enough. Guilty as charged.
But the fact of the matter is that Jay Adams did offer a viable alternative. It was based on hearing the word of God and applying it to our lives according to the whole counsel of God’s wisdom and not just, “stop doing that.” I saw firsthand how this “first generation” biblical counseling movement changed lives in radical fashion, including my own. And the movement continues to do so today even though the fact of that matter is covered up by a whole lot of New Calvinist noise.
To me the crux of the matter is in this brother’s testimony. New Calvinists have effectively sold the idea that they are offering the only alternative to easy believeism in our day. That’s only true because they got rid of the other alternative through slander and persecution, and they know it. Jay Adams’ “first generation” biblical counseling was a threat to the emerging New Calvinist tsunami. Why? 1) Because it worked and God used it to change lives. 2) It was/is the antithesis of New Calvinism because the latter fuses justification and sanctification while first generation counseling doesn’t. Furthermore, this is what New Calvinist David Powlison said was the fundamental difference between the two while teaching at John Piper’s church:
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.
If we associate justification with “conversion,” and we do, Powlison’s statement can be reworded as follows for clarification:
Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for justification (justification cannot be separated from conversion). And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.
Second generation counseling/New Calvinism is sanctification by justification, and that was also propagated by his mentor that he mentions. New Calvinists choose their words carefully. Imagine how far the movement would get if they didn’t replace “justification” with “gospel”:
The same finished work of justification that saved you also sanctifies you. Or, we must preach justification to ourselves every day. Or, sanctification is the finished work of justification in action.
I explained to the brother that the other alternative was relentlessly persecuted, and that’s why it would seem that there is only one alternative. He concurred that he perceives criticism of Adams taking place on a continual basis. Why? Because the truth he teaches is the competition. It’s a threat.
This is an approach that I have never used before: 1) Powlison admits a fundamental difference between first generation and second generation counseling; ie, sanctification by the cross (justification) verses sanctification by the Spirit apart from the finished work of justification. 2) An alternative is confirmed. 3) You only have the New Calvinists’ testimony that they are the only alternative. 4) Why not investigate and find out for yourself?
He agreed, and was sent off with a copy of The Truth About New Calvinism. Please pray for the situation. Christianity doesn’t need a second gospel wave. The first wave devalued sanctification by focusing on justification only; the second devalues it as well by making it the same thing as justification. Both are just as deadly, and when the novelty of New Calvinism wears off, the results will be worse.
10.5 Richard Barcellos
Contribution: “In Defense of the Decalogue.” Confronts New Covenant Theology.
Denomination: Reformed Baptist
10. Sam Waldron
Contribution: Contends against New Covenant Theology.
Denomination: Reformed Baptist
9. Mike Fabarez
Contribution: Aggressive Sanctification blog. Church has strong view of exegesis/(8) distinctives.
8. Chad VanDixhoorn
Contribution: Wrote a notable treatise against Sonship Theology when most were asleep at the switch.
7. Timothy F. Kauffman
Contribution: Trinity Review; Jan-Mar 2012 Sanctification, Half Full: The Myopic Hermeneutic of the “Grace” Movement (Maybe the best article ever written on the subject).
6. Jason Hood
Contribution: Writings against sanctification by justification/Gospel Sanctification
Denomination: United Methodist
5. Terry Johnson
Contribution: Strongly opposes Sonship Theology. Seems to care more about the truth than keeping friends.
4. Dr. Peter Masters
Contribution: Has been very outspoken against New Calvinism specifically and names the names.
Denomination: Calvinistic Baptist
3. Cynthia Kunsman
Contribution: Spiritual abuse/cult specialist. Researches theological movements. Under Much Grace blog
Denomination: Non-Denominational Evangelical Reformed
2. Donn Arms
Contribution: Director of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Gatekeeper of the truly orthodox “first generation of biblical counseling.”
Denomination: Calvinistic Baptist
1. Dr. Jay E. Adams
Contributions: “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course.” Opponent of Gospel Sanctification and author of the INS Gospel Sanctification archives. Author of over 100 books on the subject of sanctification.
February 17, 2012 by Jay Adams
http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=3190Most people who ask the question—whether in distress or out of simple puzzlement—don’t really want an answer. They turn their attention to something else as you open your mouth to answer.
WHAT THEY ARE DOING INSTEAD OF REALLY ASKING A LEGITIMATE QUESTION IN SEARCH OF AN ANSWER IS COMPLAINING. AND THAT’S NOT GOOD!
Have you ever stopped such a person in the middle of his next comment or question to say, “Did you really want to know the answer to your question?” Try it sometime. It’s not impolite—just startling to him. People have gotten so used to others with no answers that they don’t expect them.
The answer you give may be something like this: “You asked why? I’d like to tell you.”
If your startled companion encourages you—even slightly—“Uh . . .yeah, sure,” then tell him something like this:
“What happened, about which you were wondering “why” was an act of God’s providence. You know He’s actively at work in this world. And what He does for His children is always for their good (quote Romans 8:28). Even though we don’t know what He’s up to in the problem, nevertheless, we can be sure of several things since you are a Christian:
God is in the problem
God is up to something in the problem
God is up to something good.
You may or may not find out what that is soon, later, or in the life to come.
But, since you asked, that’s “why” it happened.
Now, you can look for some good to come from the outset. But you must look!
If you do, you may discover that this is the beginning of something exciting.
Sure hope so. And I certainly hope you don’t miss out on it.
Now, of course, you may want to say it your own way—eliminate the list (as such), or leave out a line or so. But one thing must be certain—you need to make it clear that GOD IS INVOLVED IN WHAT IS HAPPENING, BRINGING ABOUT GOOD IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, IN HIS TIME.
Give it a try and see what happens—it may open up a conversation that will be a blessing for both of you. But if you say the wrong things, in the wrong ways to the wrong person—well, don’t blame me!
“Are two different gospels operating under the same nomenclature of ‘help can be found here’ acceptable or not? Both are not the truth, and one or the other will help, or add further hurt.”
Heath Lambert recently published the book, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams. The contemporary motif of our day is the idea that Dr. Jay E. Adams started the biblical counseling movement (first generation), and then others such as David Powlison of Westminster’s CCEF built on the foundation laid by Adams. The ever-morphing result is called “second generation” biblical counseling. Lambert’s book is a lengthy treatise that supposedly informs us of the differences between the two generations.
I am going to bypass all of those issues and focus on the one difference that matters—how each generation interprets the gospel. As the president of the annexed NANC used to say, “Fasten your seatbelts and put on your crash helmets,” because my thesis is that one of these generations is founded on, and operates by a false gospel.
As many know, especially my wife, I have spent almost five years researching the present-day New Calvinism movement. The movement has its roots in the Progressive Adventist movement fathered by Robert Brinsmead. The magnum opus of that movement was their interpretation of Romans 8:30. I will pause now and quote an individual who witnessed that remarkable movement firsthand:
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” (Martin L. Carey: Judged by the Gospel: The Progression of Brinsmead’s Awakening )
Brinsmead further articulated this magnum opus in the theological journal, Present Truth:
Then in the golden chain of salvation, Romans 8:30, justification spans our Christian life all the way from calling or conversion to glorification: “Whom He called, them He justified; whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Here justification, our standing before God, is coterminous with sanctification, our being conformed to the image of God’s Son, in Romans 8:29. In 1 Corinthians 1:30 the apostle mentions Christ as our righteousness or justification before he names Him as our sanctification. But in 1 Corinthians 6:11 the order is reversed: “You are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Accordingly, Luther taught that to accept justification by faith in Christ is our whole work for the whole Christian life. We never learn this too well. For the forgiveness of sins is a continuous divine work until we die. Christ saves us perpetually (Luther’s Works, American ed. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955- ), Vol.34, pp.164, 167, 190) [Present Truth: volume 25, pages 11,12].
Now, the term, “golden chain of salvation” did not originate with Brinsmead, but when that term was used by theologians of old, it doesn’t seem to be in reference to Romans 8:30. The term seems to have a contemporary meaning when associated with Romans 8:30, and that is how it will be used in this post. Furthermore, Brinsmead attributes the magnum opus of Progressive Adventism to Martin Luther, and Carey attributes it to Brinsmead who again, states that he learned it from the writings of Luther.
But the need for further research aside, this post will focus on the what. And the what is the following:
 Brinsmead’s interpretation of Romans 8:30 combines justification and sanctification, and perpetuates the need for a just standing before God until glorification.
 And the need for a progressive justification until glorification, ie.,“Christ saves us perpetually.”
 And sanctification is missing from Romans 8:30 because it is “coterminous” with Justification. “Conterminous” means, 1. having the same border or covering the same Area 2. being the same in extent; coextensive in range or scope.
 This Romans 8:30 golden chain can be definitively traced throughout the New Calvinism community as a single mainframe that holds the doctrine together and determines its modus operandi.
 The Romans 8:30 golden chain manifests itself as, Gospel Sanctification, Sonship Theology, New Covenant Theology, and Christian Hedonism which all dwell in the community of New Calvinism.
Hence, New Calvinists can run, but they can’t hide—their interpretation of Romans 8:30 identifies them. And it also identifies what they will teach, and how they will counsel.
The Two Romans 8:30 and Their Gospels
Therefore, one version of Romans 8:30 suggests that sanctification is missing from the verse because justification and sanctification are the same, and justification is perpetual till glorification. The second interpretation of Romans 8:30 suggests that sanctification is missing from the verse because justification and sanctification are completely separate; and justification is a finished work that makes sanctification possible, but does not directly power it. This position would hold that sanctification is powered by regeneration, and not justification. Hence, Romans 8:30 is missing sanctification because justification is a finished work that guarantees glorification.
These are two completely different gospels. One is monergistic substitutionary sanctification, and the other is monergistic justification and synergistic sanctification. How the gospel is presented from each of these different viewpoints must necessarily be radically different. Moreover, counseling is necessarily, and radically different as well.
And these two views of Romans 8:30 define the difference between the two generations of biblical counseling. David Powlison says so. In a seminar presented by David Powlison at John Piper’s church while Piper was on sabbatical, Powlison stated the following:
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 (David Powlison: What is Biblical Counseling May 8, 2010. Online source for MP3s ; http://goo.gl/Dumep).
David Powlison’s mentor, Dr. John Miller, whom he mentions in the above citation, was the father of Sonship Theology. Jay Adams wrote a book in contention against the doctrine in 1999. By way of reiterating Powlison’s articulation, Adam’s made the following statement on page 34 of Biblical Sonship:
The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through a strong motive for it….On the other hand, regeneration, (quickening, or making alive; Ephesians 2:25) is the true source of sanctification.
The major difference between the first and second generations of biblical counseling is their gospel models. One model will attempt to help people with the reductionist gospel of sanctification by justification. The other will attempt to help people with the full armor of regeneration.
Though CCEF is a lost cause and was wicked from its conception, the realty of how counselors interpret Romans 8:30 is a gut-check for the president and board members of the critically ill NANC. Are two different gospels operating under the same nomenclature of “help can be found here” acceptable or not? Both are not the truth, and one or the other will help, or add further hurt.
Let’s be honest, how important is truth to those who claim to be in the truth business?
Special thanks to Donn Arms for these clear and concise articles:
As I work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, I find that Jay is right: strengthening one area of your life contributes to the other areas in strengthening them as well. So, be encouraged, one area isn’t isolated among a long list of others—it all works together.
Jay has done some significant heavy lifting in regard to sanctification principles, and for our day, his materials are a vital help to God’s people. Any pastor or church that does not tap into his studies is passing on a vital gift to the church.
In the past thirty years, if there has been any kind of a reformation at all, it was born from the book, “Competent to Counsel.” Let go and let God, or meditate harder and longer and hope God will do something because it would be better if nothing happened rather than God not getting all the glory—is a message of hopelessness. I could also argue that keeping our own salvation intact by doing nothing other than meditation is a form of works salvation and a false gospel. Jay’s teachings accentuate the precious promises of the Bible that we are NOT helpless in our situations if we will do things God’s way. We can do something! And God will help us!
Jay is a master encourager. There is one of his books that I think defines him as a person. The title is, “The Case of the Hopeless Marriage” Jay delights in the opportunity to show what God will do if we obey him. The bigger the problem, the more glory for God.
I am now well past what I was originally going to write, but another thing that is indicative of Jay’s ministry is his desire that the saints have their questions answered. Yes, I know, it’s blaspheme in our day—to not believe that “what should I do?” is the wrong question. Supposedly, the right question is always, “what has Jesus done?” That’s why his recent book, “Fifty Difficult Passages Explained” is so Jay-like (and I have a hunch that they are not all about the gospel).
In my own life, my divorce situation was an over-the-top bizarre situation. Pastors flippantly told me that I could remarry, but couldn’t back it up with definitive biblical wisdom. I read Adams’ “Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage In The Bible” without any hope that the 100-page book would address my situation specifically. Wrong! I was amazed that such a definitive answer could be obtained in my situation.
Frankly, any pastor or church that is not utilizing the INS program in totality is missing the boat in a big way, and passing on a powerful resource for helping God’s people.
The Core Four of the Australian Forum
In1970, a think tank was initiated to systematize the “lost Reformation doctrine of justification.” The project was the brainchild of Robert Brinsmead, a Seventh-day Adventist theologian. Their theological journal was “Present Truth Magazine.” Brinsmead came from a family of respected Adventist theologians, and was active in the “justification debate” within Adventism.
He was joined by two Anglican theologians, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy. Clearly, Paxton was enamored by an Adventist motif that presented Adventism as the gatekeepers of Reformation doctrine. This is a major theme of his book, “The Shaking of Adventism.” Goldsworthy was a proponent of “Biblical Theology,” or “Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics” which has deep roots in neo-orthodoxy and modernist theology. Neo-orthodoxy and Modernism are the products of liberal, philosophical theology that was born among European philosophers and theologians (primarily in Germany). Biblical Theology was invented by the liberal theologian Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826), and was later remodeled by philosopher/theologian Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949). Many consider Graeme Goldsworthy as the one who has taken the torch forward from Vos.
The clear, stated goal of the Forum was to systematize Reformation doctrine to prevent it from being lost again (ref. p. 34 The Truth About New Calvinism). The Forum was later joined by Jon Zens who discovered the Forum through Present Truth which was widely distributed at Westminster Seminary where Zens was a student. Zens was deeply concerned with the relationship between law and gospel and how the two related to covenants.
The Unifying Central Crux
And all agreed on one thing: the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone had been lost because of subjectivism, ie., the Bible being interpreted through personal experience. They all agreed that Soren Kierkegaard’s existentialist theology was indicative, and at the very crux of what caused Reformation doctrine to be lost. Existentialism teaches that truth becomes truth for an individual when he accepts it as such according to his/her own experience (very subjective, iffy, fuzzy). The Forum believed that Rome/Protestantism set a tsunami of subjectivism into motion through emphasizing the new birth which supposedly encouraged existentialism-like doctrines. The Forum believed that ALL doctrine can be divided into two categories: Reformation or Romanism, and most of Protestantism ended up following Rome’s subjective gospel based on personal experience. Volume 25 of Present Truth Magazine dealt with the Forum’s view on this and included an article written by Zens on Existentialism.
The Cure: Tenet One; COGOUS
Brinsmead’s first theological frame that launched Progressive Adventism (the “Awakening” movement) taught that Christ stands in the judgment for us as opposed to the traditional Adventist view that Christians are enabled by God to obtain perfection in order to stand in the judgment. For lack of a better way of stating it; subconsciously, many Adventist weren’t buying it. The whole idea that Christ stands in our place and presents His righteousness for us in the judgment was exceedingly good news.
Brinsmead was afforded credibility across denominational lines because he supposedly came to this conclusion by studying Reformation doctrine, and the results seemed to speak for themselves. Everybody, especially Reformed folks, wanted to jump on the Brinsmead bandwagon. Present Truth was the most publicized theological journal of that time, and at least one edition printed one million copies.
Of course, the basic defect in comparison to orthodoxy is the view that there will be a future judgment for Christians in regard to maintaining our justification, which is already a settled matter. As an aside, one wonders if this defect is by design—if our justification is already a settled matter, what do we need pricy theologians for? A judgment to determine our rewards lowers the bar considerably.
But Brinsmead’s second theological frame (a tweaking of the first in regard to some eschatological issues, ie., when does the judgment occur in redemptive history?) settled the subjectivism issue as well as being found truly righteous at the judgment: the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (COGOUS). This taught that we have NO righteousness in, and of ourselves for purposes of justification, and that all truth must be based on the gospel that is outside of us without regard to personal experience. But remember, just like the Romanism it despised (and the Adventism that it was enamored by), the Forum saw sanctification as a process that maintains and completes justification, or a road that links justification and glorification. So, COGOUS applied to both justification and sanctification. The doctrine was illustrated by the Forum using the following visual aid in volume 21 of Present Truth:
Therefore, the gospel was the measure of all truth, and all objective truth had to come from outside of us. All change had to come from outside of us as well. Christ does NOT do His work INSIDE of us. All New Calvinist thought begins with this premise. If Christ works within us, this makes us colaborers in justification so that we can be found righteous at the judgment. It is also seen as “emptying ourselves” and “dying to self.” It is anti-existentialism on steroids. But not really; as we will see, this objective puritanism leads to a hyper-subjectivism that characterizes New Calvinism.
Element One of COGOUS: Gospel Sanctification
The term “Gospel Sanctification,” was coined by this ministry in 2004 and picked up by others. COGOUS split into two notable theologies in the 80’s: New Covenant Theology and Sonship Theology. Both endured a violent push back among Baptists and Presbyterians to the point of going underground. “Sonship Theology” became “Gospel Transformation.” The movement functioned for ten years without a name; and in fact, experienced astronomical growth during that time. Based on the slogans, “The same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you,” and “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” slogans that show its undisputable kinship to COGOUS, “Gospel Sanctification” became a useful tool for identifying the doctrine. Gospel Sanctification is the subject of “Another Gospel” which was never published. The movement was dubbed, “New Calvinism” in 2008.
Element Two of COGOUS: Gospel Contemplationism
Spiritual contemplationism is certainly nothing new. Spiritual growth via contemplating the works of Christ, and using the Bible to do so can be found among the earliest Adventist theologians, especially Ellen White (according to citations noted by Paxton in The Shaking of Adventism). White was always in the thick of trying to reconcile Adventist perfectionism with grace and law. Sanctification by Gospel Contemplationism has always been an apt companion for doctrines that want to reduce the role of the Christian to the lowest common denominator. Most of these ideas came from European philosophers posing as theologians. Gospel Contemplationism, like Gospel Sanctification, puts feet on the doctrine.
Tenet Two: Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics
Starting with Gabler, this hermeneutic (method of interpretation) makes the Bible a historical narrative about the gospel. Through deeper and deeper knowledge of the gospel, we are “wowed” and “motivated by gratitude.” This makes the Bible a perfect tool for contemplationism rather than instruction and propositional truth. Redemptive Historical hermeneutics, or “Biblical Theology” has its origin in Modernism and neo-orthodox theology. This may seem contradictory to New Calvinism’s supposed stance against existentialism, but this method actually leads to all kinds of subjectivism because a gospel interpretation is forced upon the whole Bible.
Tenet Three: New Covenant Theology
Jon Zens coined the phrase “New Covenant Theology” in 1981. Brinsmead and Zens worked together closely on how law and covenants relate to COGOUS. New Calvinists usually stay aloof from any association to NCT because of its direct link to Zens and the Forum. Though New Calvinists are not shy about playing the “all truth is God’s truth” card, they would rather not have to explain how their doctrine was contrived by a Seventh-day Adventist who is now purported to be an atheist. DA Carson is a good example of a New Calvinists that gives hefty support to NCT while pretending to be merely sympathetic to some of its tenets. Founders Ministries, a SBC organization founded in the early 80’s for the sole purpose of taking over the convention via COGOUS (and falsely associating the doctrine with a well-known Southern Baptist theologian), even claims to be anti-NCT. Founders Ministries has also been challenged to explain their claim that they published “In Defense of the Decalogue” which is a treatise against NCT.
Tenet Four: Heart Theology
This theology was developed through David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change which forms the basis of counseling curriculum at Westminster Seminary. The doctrine is based on Sonship Theology—Powlison specifically stated that as fact while giving a presentation at John Piper’s church. Powlison also stated that Gospel Sanctification (not the exact terminology he used) was the primary difference between his counseling philosophy and that of Jay Adams. In other words—a fundamental difference in how they interpret the gospel. See chapter 9 of “The Truth About New Calvinism.” How People Change, written by Paul David Tripp (an understudy of Powlison), is a treatise on Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change, and practically a word for word recital of COGOUS.
In the tradition of New Calvinism’s takeover mentality, CCEF now controls almost all of the major counseling organizations, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition was recently organized to aid in that purpose.
Tenet Five: Christian Hedonism
This was concocted by John Piper in the 80’s as an important addition to COGOUS. Though Piper avoids any connections to the Forum like the Bubonic Plague, he showed his hand and specific allegiance to COGOUS when he wrote an article on a series of lectures that Graeme Goldsworthy did at Southern Seminary. See chapter 4 of The Truth About New Calvinism.
Before Piper attended Fuller Seminary, which advocated neo-orthodoxy during the time he attended there (they even hosted appearances by Karl Barth, the contemporary father of neo-orthodoxy), he majored in philosophical literature. Immediately upon graduating from Fuller in 1971, he went to Germany to study under modernist/neo-orthodox theologians. Piper’s theological upbringing is extremely suspect and warrants surprise in regard to his present popularity in Christian circles.
After jumping on the Brinsmead bandwagon, he saw a deficiency in COGOUS. It is best explained by somebody who witnessed the unfolding of the Awakening movement firsthand:
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.
John Piper to the Rescue
COGOUS was in danger of instigating the same kind of response that prompted existentialism: a pushback regarding indifference to the human experience. COGOUS supplied a theological frame that supposedly demolished the root of all false doctrine, but still didn’t deal with the human experience angle. This would explain why Piper is such a hero in this movement—he probably saved it. Christian Hedonism strongly emphasizes how COGOUS is experience (joy) while staying true to its strong emphasis on monergism. And, joy is a result of what we contemplate, not anything we do.
COGOUS is the doctrine/backbone of New Calvinism; Biblical Theology (RHH) is its hermeneutic; New Covenant Theology articulates COGOUS’s relationship to law and gospel; Heart Theology is its practical application (as far as that goes); and Christian Hedonism is how COGOUS is experienced. It’s the complete package. It is the first complete theological system for let go and let God theology ever devised in church history. It is powerful, and is a latter-day antinomian blitzkrieg of biblical proportions.
But the gigs up. Few Christians will buy into the idea that God used Robert Brinsmead to rediscover the lost Reformation doctrine. Trust me, it was never lost to begin with. I will conclude with a statement by John H. Armstrong that describes the New Calvinist motif, and a Piper video that contains subtle illusions to what they believe:
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.
A visual illustration of the issue Armstrong is talking about follows:
And here is the Piper video:
Thanks to the reader who sent me a recent article by “counselor” Rick Thomas—a Fellow with the annexed National Association of Nouthetic Counseling. The article utilizes a wide body of New Calvinist theology and thought which originated with a Seventh-day Adventist who is now an atheist (the doctrine is presently known as “New Calvinism”). NANC, which is now an embodiment of false doctrine, and unfortunately under the auspices of counseling, continues to thrive on the neo-evangelicalism that godly pastors warned the church about in the latter sixties. Neo-evangelicalism is an attitude/philosophy promoted by neo-orthodoxy for purposes of promoting itself.
It goes something like this: “You can’t change something unless you remain a part of it.” “The way to bring about change is through infiltration.” “Be careful what you judge: all truth is God’s truth.” Neo-evangelicalism rejects the biblical concept of protecting the church by separation and cutting off provisions. CCEF used the neo-evangelicalism mentality to take over NANC, and today NANC thrives as a sinister network where pastors unwittingly send flock members to be slaughtered by ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Henceforth, this article by Thomas is an excellent insight into the black heart of NANC counseling, and a firsthand look at how NANC counseling points thousands of sheep down a road of slow spiritual death on a daily basis. But not only that , this post will explain how we got here.
Thomas begins his article (I’m not kidding: “The Danger of Trying to Please God”) with a description of “Sandra’s” problem:
Sandra has struggled all her life with people pleasing.
She said she could not remember a time when she was free from thinking about what others thought about her.
The way she dresses, the car she drives, the technology she carries, and the house she owns are all controlled to some degree by what others think of her.
A peek into her life
- She is fanatical about working out because of her keen awareness of what a “nice looking body” should look like.
- On a few occasions she has caught herself stretching the truth. She says she spins her stories because the real story doesn’t seem as interesting.
- She is fearful of bringing a bag lunch to the office because everyone else goes out to a local restaurant to eat. She’d rather go into debt than feeling like the odd man out.
- She has a low-grade anger toward her boyfriend because he pressured her to have sex with him. She believed he would leave her if she didn’t have sex. She needs to be loved by someone. Having a boyfriend is one of her ways of feeling significant.
Her biblical counselor quickly discerned that her problem was fear of man (Proverbs 29:25). The counselor told her she needed to be more concerned with pleasing God rather than others.
From there, the counselor laid out a plan of prayer, Bible study, and service oriented activities in order for her to practice a lifestyle of pleasing God.
The mistake the counselor made was not carefully unpacking what pleasing God meant to an idolater like Sandra. Sandra is an idolater who has been living a performance-driven, people pleasing lifestyle.
When she was told that she needed to be more willing to please God than man, it was not a difficult thing for her to do. People pleasing was what she knew best. Unfortunately, she was not told what pleases God so she did what she has always done–she ratcheted up her obedience.
First, Thomas sets the table with the whole first generation/second generation of biblical counseling motif. Supposedly, first generation NANC counselors solve every counseling situation by whipping out a legal pad and giving the counselee a list of do’s and don’ts. Well, I was counseled by the President of NANC, Dr. (unfortunately, the “Dr.” part came from CCEF’s version of Sonship Theology which is banned in many Presbyterian churches) John Street in the late 80’s and at the time he was definitely “first generation.” And trust me, that was NOT his approach. Presently, I do not know if John is a neo-evangelical, or a New Calvinist. Obviously, I would prefer the prior. But as President of the NANC monstrosity, he is at least that on steroids.
Thomas, aside from setting up a false scenario for interpretation, plays a card often exploited by New Calvinist counselors: First generation counseling solved a problem that was extremely prevalent in the church before Jay Adams came along. I call it, “stupid obedience.” Christians were trying to function on biblical generalities which led to the sheep not getting help for real problems. This led to the church turning to the world to get answers. The Adams reformation brought what I call “intelligent obedience” to the table, and the results speak for themselves. It also gave the counselee hope as opposed to, “There is nothing we can do for this patient but pray for a miracle.” We don’t like to hear that from a doctor, do we? Second generation counselors were not smart enough to figure that out, but nevertheless think they are the saviors of the contemporary church.
But specifically, what they do is to assign the problem that first generation counseling solved, to first generation counseling, and that’s a lie. Here, Thomas refers to it as “ratcheting up obedience.” What it really is—is more stupid obedience on top of stupid obedience. He exploits this misconception throughout his article, and in the end, Sandra thinks the poor counseling she got (if it was genuinely presented to begin with, which I doubt) is first generation, rather than what first generation solved. And of course, stupid obedience is still prevalent in the church today because CCEF interfered with the first generation reformation while aided by the mentality of neo-evangelicalism.
Let us now take a trip back into history to find out how we got here, and then we will deal with Mr. Thomas. The vast majority of today’s “biblical counseling” is based on a doctrine known as the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. Thomas’ article is a mini treatise on that doctrine. As Susan and I continue to research how this all came about, we are continually amazed. In volume one of The Truth About New Calvinism, we focused on the basics of the doctrine and conceded to a second volume in favor of more research. Granted, the really big picture is drawn on the fact that antinomianism will be an ever-increasing reality as the Lord’s return grows closer. That was heavily emphasized in the first volume, but there is also a contemporary dynamic that is part of the picture.
For hundreds of years, theologians have sought to solidify a doctrine that is a middle ground between philosophy and fundamentalism. Or, if you will, “a happy medium between dogma and appreciation of human experience.” Or, between literal interpretation and interpretation that lends itself to other possibilities. You get the picture.
First, neo-orthodoxy sought to do that. Hence, it has always been a hybrid of orthodoxy and liberalism. That is why most of its tenets contain orthodox terminology with unorthodox ideas. This has always been the major accusation and complaint against neo-orthodoxy: it’s very subtle and resides in the mainstream. It’s an inside job.
At some point, neo-orthodoxy created a masterpiece called “Biblical Theology.” This is a hermeneutic (method of biblical interpretation) that is “truth as myth.” It promotes a truth as revealed in history, ie., the whole Bible is a historical narrative that contains the truth of salvation and reveals the works of redemption via that narrative. While that truth is literal dogma (appeals to fundamentalism), it doesn’t necessitate a literal interpretation for the purposes of dogmatic instruction (appeals to liberals). Whether or not the details of the story are to be taken literally or not, and whether or not the Bible is perfectly inerrant or not, is not the point—the truth that the passage conveys about the truth is the point.
Somewhat like Jesus’ parables. Is the purpose of those parables to convey truth? Absolutely. Are all of those stories necessarily actual events that really happened? No. That’s not the point, the truth conveyed by the parable is the point. And the crux of that truth is the gospel. Can the whole Bible really be a meta-narrative about redemption? Well, as the reasoning goes, would the Bible have been written if sin had not entered the world? No. Then for what other reason would it have been written? One must admit, it’s clever, and you can see how it caters to those who are concerned about literal truth as well as those who want to maintain the intellectual freedom of the individual. But in essence, you have them both agreeing on the gospel! Supposedly. And as a result, discussion on how to interpret gospel truth through that narrative is a huge playground where everyone can play nicely together; after all, we are all after the same gospel truth, right? Look, just go to any website dedicated to Redemptive Historical hermeneutics and these ideas are stated throughout. One example is Vossed World, a blog authored by an elder at one of the most well-known NANC training centers in the country.
But neo-orthodoxy, despite its masterpiece of unity, has always been fragmented and has experienced up and down success. In the US, it experienced a surge in the 40’s and 50’s, and then was nearly snuffed out in the early 60’s by doctrinal apologists. Therefore, there has always been an effort to discover the specific weakness that has plagued neo-orthodoxy from the beginning.
And the prize goes to Robert Brinsmead. He was the product of debate that came from a longstanding theological journey within the realm of Seventh-day Adventism. The crux of the debate within Adventism was justification, and first surfaced at their 1888 convention, then again in 1952. Brinsmead blew the whole debate wide open with his first theological frame that gave birth to the “Awakening” movement which turned Adventism on its head.
This led to a second theological frame invented by Brinsmead that answered contentions presented by E. Heppenstall and Desmond Ford. That theological frame was the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us which had a huge appeal for Reformed theologians enamored by various philosophies. Brinsmead, an Anglican named Geoffrey Paxton, and a Biblical Theology buff named Graeme Goldsworthy went to work in 1970 to develop Brinsmead’s doctrine into a consistent theological system that would stand the test of time. The project was called the Australian Forum, and it launched neo-orthodoxy into outer space. Neo-orthodoxy and its bosom buddy, Redemptive Historical hermeneutics, now had a skeleton to hold the flesh on: the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. Hold on and don’t think ahead too far. Let me explain this a step at a time.
This doctrine is hard to get your mind around, but for the most part, it took the justification concept of the gospel’s alien righteousness completely separate from us and applied it to sanctification. Therefore, the doctrine denied the significance of the new birth (as do many New Calvinsts). But it had a basic flaw in its premise that forms the basis of understanding for the rest of what I am about to explain. I will get to how this doctrine works itself out as we progress.
The basic flaw is the fusion of justification and sanctification. Adventist debate always tried to work this problem out from that standpoint. Sanctification was seen as something that completes justification until we arrive at glorification. In other words, sanctification is not seen as something totally separate from justification that happens in a space of time between justification and glorification, but rather a connecting road between the two. That’s a huge problem. If sanctification is the “growing part of salvation,” (I have said this myself) then what is our part? But salvation (justification) does not grow! It is a finished act by God that takes place before creation! This was the Adventist dilemma: what can we do to maintain our just standing before God in order to be ready for the judgment? I triple-emphasize “just standing before God” for a reason. Don’t lose sight of that phrase.
Please note: 99% of all false doctrine is based on this misconception. The Adventists primary model stated that we are declared righteous at the point of our salvation, and all of our past sins are forgiven, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that we are born again as new creatures, we could obtain perfectionism and therefore be ready to stand righteous before God in the judgment. Of course, with all doctrines that are founded on the fusion of justification and sanctification, it is believed that you can lose your salvation. If you can lose your salvation, what do you have to do to keep it? The necessity of the question itself reveals a salvation by works. However, this is why many false religions dumb-down the law and mix it with the traditions of men, or reduce it to mere ritual—it makes its keeping for salvation plausible. The fact that Adventists stood on the authority of Scripture didn’t make that Catholic-like option possible.
When you begin with the fusion of justification and sanctification which is completed with glorification, you can only have two results: forgiveness for all past sins and a role for us in maintaining a righteousness that will stand in the judgment (Christ plus works/ritual), or the maintaining of our just standing before God without our participation (antinomianism/let go and let God). Brinsmead opted for the second approach. But though these two options have been stated, really, as we shall see, BOTH are really works salvation. In real Christianity, our justification is a settled matter. We can do NOTHING in sanctification to add to our justification or take away from it. Sanctification is concerned with kingdom living and our walk with God. The concern that what we do in sanctification could unwittingly affect the “grounds of our justification” is an oxymoron using a red herring to mislead a straw man. That’s my way of trying to say that it is ridiculous times three.
So, Brinsmead’s doctrine stated that all righteousness for justification and sanctification was completely outside of us. He had to concede that we can have no role in the maintaining of justification. One of the primarily tenets of the doctrine also held that any work done by God inside of us was the infusion of grace within us, “making sanctification the grounds for our justification.” The Australian Forum also taught that if God did any kind of work inside of us—that was imputing His righteousness within us and involving us in the maintaining of justification. They believed that this was a fundamental error that was at the root of all false doctrine and was the very crux of the Reformation. They believed that this was the fundamental error of Romanism—that righteousness was imputed to us via the new birth and that Christ worked in us. Again, this supposedly infused grace within us and made us a part of the justification process. For salvation to be by grace alone, all righteousness and grace had to remain outside of us.
This is key because it enables justification and sanctification to be fused without the possibility of losing your salvation because you don’t have anything to lose. No righteousness was ever imparted to you to begin with, it’s salvation by faith alone in the strictest sense of the meaning—faith and absolutely nothing else. Hence, it is the imputed righteousness of Christ that maintains our justification in sanctification, not our own, and a righteousness that is also outside of us. Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to us personally, it is imputed to our sanctification.
So by now you are certainly incredulous, and want to ask the following: so what in the world do we do? Answer: live by faith. According to New Calvinism, sanctification is to be lived by faith alone. How in the world do we do that? Answer: by offering the perfect works of Christ by faith. Let me repeat that: by offering the perfect works of Christ by faith. That is the New Calvinist definition of faith.
How do we do that? Answer: gospel contemplationism. This is where neo-orthodoxy and it’s intimate lover, Biblical Theology come together with the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. Though there are aberrations and slight variations, we partake in ‘beholding as a way of becoming.” Therefore, the Bible is a historical narrative that enables us to meditate on the works of Christ in redemptive history—a tool for gospel contemplationism—not to be taken literally for instruction purposes. All of the obedience that occurs as a result is the ”active obedience of Christ” and not our own. And this work is not taking place inside of us, it is “spiritual formation” or a “manifestation of Christ.” These manifestations are validated by effortless obedience accompanied by joy. Though variations of how this works with the central doctrine is allowable, all that is required is to stay faithful to the “Reformation” doctrine of the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us—anything else that fits with the primary frame is fair game and acceptable, and a virtual neo-orthodoxy love-fest.
With all that in mind, let’s now revisit Rick Thomas’ counsel to Sandra where we left it and see if we detect any parallels.
Who can please God?
And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. – Mark 1:11 (ESV)
Christ pleases God. Anything the Son does pleases the Father. Jesus came to do the will of the Father and He completed that task perfectly. The Father received the finished work of the Son and now a way has been made for us to please the Father by accepting the Son’s work.
Without faith it is impossible to please him. – Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
A Christian, who is living by faith in the works of the Son, is pleasing God. Pleasing God is not about what we do, but about believing in the only One who could authentically please the Father. Even on our best day, with our best works, we would not be acceptable to God.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. – Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)
Sandra is a Christian. However, she is not seeking to please God by trusting (faith) in Him. She is still performing, but this time she is performing for the Father, hoping to get a good grade.
Rather than accepting what is pleasing to God–the works of the Son, she tries to please Him by her obedience.
Here, we see clearly the Australian Forum’s doctrine of offering the works of Christ in sanctification as a definition of living by faith alone. Also, “Who can please God?” is a rhetorical question. This is the Forum’s position that we have no righteousness within us that can affect actions that please God. It must be done with the works of Christ offered by faith.
What about obedience?
Obedience is obviously hugely important to any Christian. However, the key is to make sure that your obedience is not an effort to please God, but a response to your faith in God. This is the context when Paul told the Corinthians that:
We make it our aim to please him. – 2 Corinthians 5:9 (ESV)
Paul was trying to get the Corinthians to understand that pleasing God was a walk by faith rather than by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The context for the passage was Paul’s appeal to get them to trust Christ rather than the things that they could see. (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
If the Corinthians were trusting Christ in the way that Paul was outlining, then they would be pleasing God too. Pleasing God is about faith. Obedience is another matter. Obedience is the biblical response from a person who is trusting Christ.
Don’t you think it pleases God when you trust (faith) Him? And because you trust Him, you obey Him. The logic would flow like this:
- I trust God.
- God is pleased that I trust Him.
- Because I trust Him, I obey Him.
Sandra needs to start over. She needs to understand what pleasing God means. It means to trust Him, which she is not doing. If she trusted Him she would not be trying to please Him. Contrariwise, she is trusting her works and if her works are satisfactory, according to her estimation, then God is pleased with her.
God has a good opinion of her if she is trusting His Son for salvation. This truth must be inculcated into her brain. Because she is a Christian she is in Christ and she cannot be any more in Christ.
Being more obedient does not make her more in Christ. When she was regenerated God was pleased with her and His pleasure in her does not ebb and flow.
She must guard her heart from the subtle deception that what she does through obedience can merit a better standing before God. For Sandra this is amazingly huge. She is an insecure, people pleasing, co-dependent, performance-driven person.
Warning: If you are not daily affected by Christ’s finished work on the cross you can subtly slip into an obedience lifestyle thinking that what you do pleases God as though there is some kind of merit you can achieve through your obedience.
Other than restating the previous point of what faith in sanctification is, this excerpt is pregnant with the Forum’s fusion of justification and sanctification, and the idea that any effort in sanctification by way of obedience is an attempt to participate in ones STANDING before God: “She must guard her heart from the subtle deception that what she does through obedience can merit a better standing before God.” And again: “Sandra was relieved and encouraged to know that she did not have to please God to gain His good opinion. She began to understand that her standing before God was as secure today as it was when He first acted upon her.
Also notice the emphasis that any effort in sanctification is an attempt to be MORE IN CHRSIT which is a justification/salvation concern:
God has a good opinion of her if she is trusting His Son for salvation. This truth must be inculcated into her brain. Because she is a Christian she is in Christ and she cannot be any more in Christ.
Being more obedient does not make her more in Christ. When she was regenerated God was pleased with her and His pleasure in her does not ebb and flow.
She must guard her heart from the subtle deception that what she does through obedience can merit a better standing before God.
Regarding what Thomas says about obedience—this is disingenuous; obviously, if we cannot please God as he plainly states prior to this, it is obviously not our obedience. Remember, he quotes Isaiah 64:6 to make that point, which by the way is a verse that concerns justification. But if not our obedience, whose obedience is it? He says right in the same post: “Rather than accepting what is pleasing to God–the works of the Son, she tries to please Him by her obedience.”
How Thomas thinks Sandra should read her Bible is also evident towards the end of the post and aligns with the whole idea of using the Bible as a tool for gospel contemplationism:
For the first time in Sandra’s life she was beginning to make Gospel-connections to her practical life. She was understanding that the Gospel was not just for salvation (Justification), but the Gospel was the power she needed to live for Christ (Sanctification).
Today, she reads her Bible with a new pair of glasses as she recently said. Sometimes she gets frustrated when she thinks of all the years of cross-less Bible reading and cross-less living, but she quickly recovers by reorienting her heart back to the finished work of Christ. Sandra is free in Christ!
My last comment is for Sandra. Sandra, don’t count your chickens before they are hatched. Thomas has led you to believe that justification and sanctification are the same thing. You must continually (as the Forum stated it) “offer the perfect works of Christ to the Father by faith” so that the works of Christ can maintain your just standing before God. But that’s still works salvation. It’s working at maintaining your justification by doing nothing. Did Thomas not state in this post:
Warning: If you are not daily affected by Christ’s finished work on the cross you can subtly slip into an obedience lifestyle thinking that what you do pleases God as though there is some kind of merit you can achieve through your obedience.
And because justification and sanctification are fused, that merit would have to be for justification purposes. Slipping back into an “obedience lifestyle” circumvents the “finished works of Christ” that powers your sanctification. Gee Sandra, how often can this happen before you lose your salvation? Once? Twice? Are you maintaining your justification by faith alone? How many times are you allowed to offer your own faithless works instead of the works of Christ by faith? Are you actually in a works salvation by faith alone? When you are in a situation that requires obedience as a duty, will that cost you your salvation?
Maybe you better give Rick a call and ask him. I would actually like to know the answer to that myself.
A reader sent me the latest post by Tullian Tchividjian. Go figure, he wasn’t able to pass on criticizing a concept that involves the possible use of verbs: New Year Resolutions. Susan and I had just finished working on a resolution of our own to begin the new year. We were not excited to partake in the endeavor. We knew it would reveal the necessity to make hard choices together. It was difficult not to focus on that rather than the glory that could be brought to God through the process. Afterward, while somewhat moody about the task, I checked my email, clicked on the link, and read it. So, hide the children.
Tullian Tchividjian is an icon among the Young, Reckless, and Rebellious that are presently tormenting the church. His followers are those who the apostle Paul said would come in the last days with itching ears—wanting to hear that the Christian life is a “mere natural flow.” According to Tchividjian, the acid test for determining if you are preaching the true gospel is to be accused of antinomianism. And while many of this bunch applauded the Queen of Anomia, Elyse Fitzpatrick, for stating that there is no such thing as antinomianism, others like New Calvinist/Super Yuppie Dane Ortlund claim that the apostle Paul was accused of being one; so hence, it is their goal as well. Even more detestable is the way that library theologians like John MacArthur lend credibility to these enemies of righteousness. In his ignorant ramblings about how the Young, Restless, and Reformed need to “grow up and keep reforming,” he is stupidly incredulous that antinomians are acting like antinomians.
And their arrogance is without boundary, having reverence for nothing but their own visions of grandeur. For example: yes, I realize that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had some issues in regard to orthodoxy, but I won’t even go there. Why? Because he left a cushy ministry in the States to take a stand against Nazism in Germany. He observed that like the pastors of this day, they wouldn’t take a stand in Germany, but rather emphasized the positive of what Hitler had to offer. Bonhoeffer was eventually hanged while naked with piano wire. But as ones who talk like those who have taken off their armor before putting it on and standing before the razor thin noose, they constantly rag on him for saying things like, “ One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.” Another example that is almost equally disgusting is the book written by the pretentious and puerile Heath Lambert, passing judgment on the likes of Jay Adams. If the book is ever produced in audio, it would be an excellent complement to ventriloquist David Powlison.
And of course, Tchividjian wasted no time speaking for Susan and me regarding our New Year Resolution for the Lord. His message? Like all things that we try to do for the lord, it will fail. And gee whiz, isn’t it great that our acceptance before the Lord doesn’t depend on our performance?
I have some theological news for this vile antinomian and his fiend friend that sent him the quote that he thought was so special. That would be the friend who delights (like all New Calvinists) in bringing elderly saints up on bogus church discipline (I told you to hide the children. I am fed-up with this bunch and the cowards that cover for them). Here is the news flash: Susan and I don’t claim to be the brightest bulbs in the house, but we know at least this much; we cannot do anything to gain favor with God for purposes of justification. That’s impossible because He chose us to be completely justified before the Earth was created. Therefore, He also chose us, and the guaranteed result is glorification at a time of His choosing and good pleasure. Susan and I believe this with all of our hearts and it is the basis of this belief that gives us assurance of our salvation. But unlike these brute beasts, Susan and I have a King that we want to please for many reasons—reasons that He states, not mere men. We long to stand before Him and hear, “Well done, faithful servant.” And guess what? We actually believe He is talking about what we actually do. Excuuuuuse us for taking that literally and not embracing Tchividjian’s Gnostic-like approach to the Scriptures (also known as Redemptive Historical hermeneutics).
But what really torques me off about these men is their HOPELESS message. When I went to a biblical counselor some twenty-four years ago in the midst of a serious trial, I was a New Calvinist before New Calvinism was cool. I read Scripture and prayed for hours “seeking the Lord’s face.” In 1994, MacArthur explained what that means; in essence he said, “We don’t really mean like, you know, looking for a face in the Scriptures like something mystical. We mean like, you know, looking for Jesus in the Scriptures.” Ya, got it, except for the part about what Jesus SAYS, not what he looks like. MacArthur seems to have bought into the New Calvinist hermeneutic that is primarily concerned with who Jesus is as a “person.” It’s almost as if none of them can wait to meet Jesus face to face so they can ask him what His sign is and His favorite color. “Is fish really your favorite food? Or was it because that was the staple food of the day?” Oh to know who Jesus really is! The perfect complement is Francis Chan’s Jesus is my boyfriend theology. Meanwhile, Steve Camp and others have no clue where all of the Jesus is my boyfriend music comes from that they constantly lament. Antinomians acting like antinomians and those seeking to fall in love with Jesus singing Jesus is my boyfriend music, and no one is apparently able to connect the dots. What in the world is going on?
Thank goodness my counselor wasn’t Tchividjian . And thank goodness my counselor had not yet become the president of an evil empire. He told me that I could actually do something about my problem; specifically, what the Lord instructs. “Oh, you mean nothing’s happening because Jesus also wants me to do things? “ Profound.
This ministry is a witness to how New Calvinists counsel: “We are helpless creatures who have this treasure of Jesus in clay vessels. Embrace the pounding of the trial as it breaks apart these vessels of clay and allows the glory of Jesus to shine out!” Meanwhile, New Calvinists play on the results of an existing epidemic of our day: Christians functioning on biblical generalities and trying to do the right thing the wrong way. THAT IS WHY THEIR CHRISTIAN RESOLUTIONS FAIL, not for lack of a Tchividjian false gospel. Thank goodness I didn’t know him. It would have been one New Calvinist leading another into a ditch.
So I am trying to figure out # 23-24 & 27 (a couple of others too). Could you explain in further detail? Number 27 particularly seems to contradict James 2:10-11
James is talking about those who willfully disobey certain parts of the law but perceive themselves as those who uphold God’s law. In this case, showing socioeconomic partiality. They didn’t take the law seriously in regard to that sin. Murder isn’t optional, but favoritism is a “little” sin that is no big deal. Such sin in their minds was a footnote in God’s law. The Pharisees had a particular problem with this, seeing outward behavior as what mattered, but thoughts of the mind didn’t. Then on top of that, they redefined God’s law to make it easier to obey even in the outward arena. The Bible states specifically that they were anti-law both inwardly and outwardly.
Christians are born again. If we weren’t in this flesh, we could keep the law perfectly. And guess what? For salvation purposes, it doesn’t matter because we are not under the law for justification, we are under the law for kingdom living. This is where New Calvinists miss the boat via SDA theology. When you fuse justification and sanctification, the law remains a standard for justification WITHIN sanctification. Let me repeat that: “When you fuse justification and sanctification, the law remains a standard for justification WITHIN sanctification.” Paxton convinced Brinsmead that COOPERATION/COLABORING with God to MAINTAIN JUSTIFICATION was not the ticket. So how could the law be presented to God in sanctification perfectly? That’s when they founded the think tank named “The Australian Forum.”
To develop a consistent theological system that answered this question was the stated goal of the Forum, and the result was “the centrality of the objective gospel.” And shazaam! They discovered in the process that COG was the very crux of the Reformation, and had been lost to an evangelical “subjective gospel.” This also was a perfect fit for Paxton and Brinsmead’s shared disdain for Charismatic theology. Of course, the primary tenet of the doctrine has paved the way for their inclusion which would undoubtedly make both of them cringe. So, what was the formula for their dilemma? How can perfection be presented in sanctification? They developed an orthodox sounding theology that supposedly answered that question and such is the core doctrine of New Calvinism.
Now my point: You can see why New Calvinists want to interpret James that way; “See, see, Christians can’t obey the law perfectly (which is the standard for justification, but we have already been declared righteous), and if you disobey at one point, you are guilty of disobeying the whole law.” But hello, in regard to justification, we CANNOT be declared guilty for anything! Our obedience to the law for kingdom living is a whole separate issue. This is why Piper et al are constantly talking about how we can unwittingly make “sanctification the ground for our justification.” EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED TO JUSTIFICATION. Really, Jay Adams nailed this whole problem back in 1999. He has been harping for thirteen years that the crux of this problem is “the fusion of justification and sanctification.”
“INS is now a true light of God’s truth in this dark age of New Calvinism.”
I don’t like to talk about it, much less write about it. In, or about 1989, I sought counseling from a biblical counselor for serious depression. Though stunned that it could happen to a Christian, I knew better than to go to the psychiatric community that was never much help to me or others I knew that suffered from depression before I was a Christian.
Funny, back then, I would have scoffed at the idea that I believed in let go and let God theology, but the depression, when confronted with real truth, revealed that I functioned that way in life:
“Hi Paul, did you get your homework done?”
‘Sure did, and I also read Scripture and prayed all day on my day off!’
“Paul, I’m not going to tell you not to do those things, but the power is in the doing.”
‘Wha, what do you mean? You mean doing things will get me out of this mess?’
“Paul, your goal isn’t to ‘get out of this mess,’ your goal is to please God. That’s your new goal Paul. Also, according to the book of James, you are to work with God to let this trial do its perfect work.”
‘[Speechless, though a pastor at the time].’
“Look, I’m not saying that obedience isn’t curative, it is, that just can’t be your primary goal. Your primary goal is to please God and let the chips fall where they may.”
As I was driving home, this revelation filled me with hope. I knew medication wasn’t the answer, so when my mind was racing, I could put that energy to work to please God, and only take medication if I absolutely had to. I went to work to please God with a new perspective spoken by the apostle Paul: “We make it our goal to please Him.” I immediately started taking half of whatever my medical doctor told me to take.
With the help of that counselor who modeled his ministry after the counseling taught by Dr. Jay E. Adams, I learned more in that one year about the Christian life than I had in the five years I had been saved. And Frankly, I don’t think I have ever learned that much, that fast, since.
And today, my wife tells me that she has learned more about being a Christian in the year that we have been married than the fifty years that she’s been a Christian. By the way, it’s because we have been studying through the INS correspondence course authored by Adams. Not only that, Susan and I held hands and walked into what was perceived to be an impossible mixed family situation. Pastors and Christians looked at Susan like she was nuts when she told them what direction we were taking in our situation from what we had learned, but the results speak for themselves.
INS is now a true light of God’s truth in this dark age of New Calvinism. CCEF, NANC, and the upstart, “Biblical Counseling Coalition” are all based on Sonship Theology. Don’t deny it, unless you want to deny that David Powlison is the major figure behind CCEF, which infiltrated NANC, and then started BCC. Unless you want to deny what Powlison said himself concerning who his “mentor” was (Dr. John Miller, the undisputed father of Sonship theology). Unless you want to deny what Powlison said himself concerning the fundamental differences between him and Jay Adams. Gospel differences. See chapter 9 of TTANC.
Every day, while thousands are referred to gurus of Gospel Contempaltionism masquerading as biblical counselors for their real problems, few seem interested in maintaining Dr. Adams’ legacy, except Donn Arms. Many others who have seen the results of what Adams says the Bible teaches about life problems are strangely silent lest they lose a few friends and some speaking invitations. New Calvinists reward their cowardly Koolaid drinking yes-men well.
Think about it. Please, think about. We are talking about how real Christians get real help for real problems. We are talking about the blessed truth of God’s word. I will now share the opportunity INS has before them, and I plead with everyone who may read this: be a part of something that really helps our precious brothers and sisters in Christ. It will help more people in more ways than you will ever realize this side of home.
THE OPPORTUNITY LINK: Click on this link to help God’s people.
Because only truth sanctifies,
“This issue couldn’t be clearer; there are two gospels among us, and New Calvinist David Powlison plainly said so accordingly. He even admitted that the notable Jay Adams doesn’t agree with his gospel. This should incite serious questions among God’s people….Southwood must choose their gospel and stand for it. What else is there?”
It plays out daily in the American church from coast to coast:
Therefore, the pattern is the same: new pastors assume leadership in a church that doesn’t know what New Calvinism is, and the church takes it for granted that their theology is orthodox. Then once in, they replace present leadership with those of like mind, and begin to make vast and rapid changes because they see that church as a bastion of falsehood that has sent many to hell. Then, dissenters are mercilessly mowed down and muzzled, usually via church discipline. In most cases, the dissenters don’t have a full understanding of what they are dealing with, they just know something isn’t right (The Truth About New Calvinism [TTANC] p. 134).
I don’t know any inside details concerning the present controversy at Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Some or all of the elements cited above from TTANC might be evident, but one thing is clear: a New Calvinist “pastor” recently assumed leadership, and the congregation has realized that he isn’t what he seemed to be. Less than a year after assuming leadership, we read the following on their website:
November 17, 2011
To the members & friends of Southwood Presbyterian Church,
Last evening the Session of Southwood Presbyterian Church met again to consider the matters before the church. After much prayer from both the members of the Session and members of the congregation the Lord provided a decision with no dissension or abstention. The UNANIMOUS motion reads as follows:
“With repentance and conviction over our own personal and corporate sin, particularly for having stirred dissension with a premature motion delivered after Monday night’s meeting, the Session has met and deliberated further on the issues before our church. Having considered the breadth of the situation and our unified desire for the peace and purity of the church, the Session does hereby revise the purpose of the called congregational meeting to begin addressing the myriad of issues brought before us, including Jean F. Larroux, III, but we are not recommending the dissolution of the pastoral relationship with him at this meeting. Furthermore, we are in need of, thankful for and desirous to have further prayer from the congregation in all our deliberations. Submitted by Bob Greenman, Clerk.”
The Session will meet again on Monday evening, November 21st and greatly desires your prayers and support for a continued spirit of unity and peace as we begin to make plans for addressing the myriad of issues before us. The called congregational meeting will be held on Sunday, December 4, 2011, in the sanctuary of Southwood Presbyterian Church commencing at 12:30pm.
God is at work. His Spirit is moving to bring forgiveness and healing. I personally urge you to work toward, pray for and labor after unity, charity and peace. Let your love be known among all men.
Yours and His,
Jean F. Larroux, III
Larroux is the pastor in question. A perusal of their website confirms that he is the epitome of New Calvinism. When the congregation brought him in to assume leadership, did they know what a New Calvinist is? No. Did Larroux know what a New Calvinist is? Yes. Did he know the congregation didn’t know what a New Calvinist is? Yes. Could I be wrong about these assumptions? I doubt it.
What Does Jean F. Larroux, III Represent?
So what’s a New Calvinist? As we shall see, they are legends in their own minds. The movement originated in 1970 when a Seventh-day Adventist named Robert Brinsmead met an Anglican theologian named Geoffrey Paxton in Australia. Brinsmead was attempting to reform Adventism through his studies in Reformed doctrine. Together, they formed a theological think tank named the Australian Forum project. They were later joined by Graeme Goldsworthy who wrote the Goldsworthy Trilogy which is presently the New Calvinist standard for Bible interpretation (TTANC chapters 3 and 4).
The Forum’s magazine became the most widely publicized theological journal among English speaking people (one edition had over one million copies printed), and caught the attention of a Westminster graduate by the name of Jon Zens in the early 70’s. He joined the Forum’s efforts to formulate their central doctrine into a consistent systematic theology. Their primary doctrine that was the hub of everything they taught was called the centrality of the objective gospel (COG). The doctrine fused justification and sanctification together into a progressive justification that replaced sanctification. Zens helped to form a systematic theology that would attempt to make the issues of law and covenants fit with COG doctrine. Today, that doctrine is known as New Covenant Theology (TTANC chapter 5).
The Forum had vast influence at Westminster Seminary during the 70’s and early 80’s. A professor there by the name of Dr. John Miller adapted COG into a doctrine that emphasized more of a counseling model. He dubbed it “Sonship Theology.” His understudies were Tim Keller and David Powlison. Powlison used Sonship/COG to mold his Dynamics of Biblical Change which is the counseling model for Westminster’s CCEF. Two of Powlison’s understudies, Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane, articulated the doctrine in How People Change, published by Punch Press in 2006. The book fits the Forum’s COG doctrine to a “T.” Donn Arms (M.Div.) of INS recently wrote an unfavorable review of the book and pointed out its disturbing elements.
However, the doctrine experienced a heavy pushback among Presbyterians in 1996-1999, so the Sonship name was dropped and replaced with “Gospel Transformation.” Jay Adams, who wrote a book in contention against the doctrine when it was known as Sonship, thought the doctrine had faded away. Under its stealth era between 2000 and 2008, the movement’s growth exploded. In 2004, a small group of protestants which included Jay Adams dubbed the movement “Gospel Sanctification.” Jay Adams has a GS archives on his blog and has written against it extensively. In 2008, the movement stumbled; it accepted the label “New Calvinism” which was coined by journalist Collin Hansen. New Calvinism is: COG, NCT, GS, and Sonship. It’s all the same doctrine
Visions of Grandeur
As stated in TTANC:
And New Calvinists are no exception, starting with their primary deception that must necessarily lead to arrogance. They believe they are a new Reformation and have the true gospel, and evangelicalism at large has been propagating a false gospel for the past 100 years. This line of thought and the specific differences in the two gospels can be seen in the following statement by New Calvinist Tullian Tchividjian:
“As I’ve said before, I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ‘the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.’ As Tim Keller explains it, the gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.”
Notice that Tchividjian refers to the other camp as the “vast majority” of other Christians who don’t believe in New Calvinism’s sanctification by justification gospel. The Major themes of a New Calvinist biannual convention, Together for the Gospel (T4G) have been “the unadjusted gospel” and “the underestimated gospel.” A popular phrase among them in the blogsphere has been the “scandalous gospel.” Regarding the thesis of this book, their gospel makes much of God and little of Man by reducing our role in God’s work to the least common denominator, but they have done that so well, that much is being made of the men who have done such a good job of making much of God. The four men who founded T4G, a Presbyterian, two Southern Baptists, and a Charismatic, have been dubbed the “core four” and have a cult following that approaches creepiness.
This whole Reformation motif was started by the Forum which taught that all doctrines either fall into the objective gospel or subjective experience. Subjective spirituality was supposedly spawned by Rome and resulted in a reversal of justification and sanctification. Therefore, the Reformers rediscovered the objective gospel which ignited the Reformation, and also taught that the job wasn’t done (semper reformanda), and you can imagine who contemporary New Calvinists think that duty has fallen to. This is all covered in chapter four along with documentation concerning the fact that John Piper, one of the “elder statesmen” of the New Calvinist movement agrees with that scenario. This us against them mentality was passed down from the Forum and blossoms in the movement to this very day. They are the children of the Reformers—we are Rome.
And this arrogance translates into a predominant characteristic of New Calvinism: heavy-handed leadership style. As far as New Calvinists are concerned, evangelicals have been leading people into hell for the past 100 years (their estimation of when semper reformanda was lost) and any interference with the “unadjusted gospel” will be dealt with—no holds barred. The weapon of choice is church discipline (pages 130, 131).
The Two Gospels of Our Day
There are two gospels afoot in our day, and those doctrines can be defined by the contention between two notable men:
The crux of the matter can be further ascertained from Powlison’s message at Piper’s church as mentioned before:
“ 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.”
At the core of a longstanding contention between Jay Adams and the CCEF clan, and later NANC also because of CCEF influence, was disagreement on the gospel. The distinction cannot be clearer—Adams believes that the gospel is for salvation, and then we move on in making disciples by teaching them to observe the whole counsel of God. Powlison, according to Westminster’s version of the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which is Sonship Theology, believes the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us. Powlison also mentioned the phrase that Miller coined that is the motto of contemporary New Calvinism: We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day (TTANC pages 81, 82).
What’s at Stake?
The truth and many other issues are at stake here, but one of the major concerns is the fact that New Calvinism has a tendency to create cult-like churches:
All this leads to many New Calvinist churches taking on cult-like tendencies. Exclusiveness (new Reformation), an attitude that some higher knowledge is a part of the movement that many are not “ready” for (the scandalous gospel), and a subjective view of Scripture (a gospel narrative, not instruction) is a mixture that will have bad results, and is the perfect formula for a cult-like church (TTANC p. 134).
And endnote 104:
Many New Calvinist churches fit all eight descriptive points published by cultwatch.com: 1. Deception 2. Exclusiveness 3. Intimidation 4. Love Bombing 5. Relationship Control 6. Information Control 7. Reporting Structure 8. Time Control (p. 145).
And Larroux is no exception. The Southwood website and blog is saturated with examples of how New Calvinists control parishioners with their doctrines of deep repentance and the total depravity of the saints. Donn Arms addresses these doctrines in some detail in his book review of How People Change. Frankly, Larroux’s writings on this site are so saturated with this doctrine—I don’t even know where to start. That’s why this post will be a series until their December meeting.
Unlike Coral Ridge, perhaps Southwood parishioners can at least know the details of why they are being ravaged rather than being led to the slaughter like oxen. I can at least do that for them. One can toss a dart onto the Southwood website and nail verbiage by Larroux that is designed to control and manipulate—it’s everywhere, whether putting God’s stamp of approval on everything he does or this: “Would you trust him to determine whether or not you were in sin EVEN IF you didn’t think you were?” Notice that the authority here is what an elder or someone else sees in your life and not Scripture. Sonshippers call this “speaking life into you,” a phrase that I saw being used on the site at least once by Larroux. I also noticed that those who questioned Larroux’s fitness to lead Southwood are the ones who are now repenting. This is typical. I warn the Southwood parishioners, I know of New Calvinist congregations that will barley even buy new cloths without consulting with the elders first.
Southwood Must Choose a Gospel and Contend for It
It is evident, based on what I have read on their blog, that Larroux is controlling the agenda in this situation:
God is at work. His Spirit is moving to bring forgiveness and healing. I personally urge you to work toward, pray for and labor after unity, charity and peace. Let your love be known among all men.
Oh really? Per the usual, New Calvinist “pastors” have a direct line to God’s throne. Southwood better wise-up, this isn’t a time for peace and unity at Southwood, this is a time to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. This is like one of the seven letters; if anything, Christ has something against Southwood because they are tolerating false doctrine.
This issue couldn’t be clearer; there are two gospels among us, and New Calvinist David Powlison plainly said so accordingly. He even admitted that the notable Jay Adams doesn’t agree with his gospel. This should incite serious questions among God’s people. Between Jean F. Larroux, III and Jay Adams, I can tell you where I would put my money; that’s a no-brainer. Southwood must choose their gospel and stand for it. What else is there?
The present-day church is saturated with the gospel, and that’s not good news. It’s not good news for the church because the church doesn’t need more and more justification; we are already justified in full because we believe in what Christ did for us on the cross. The gospel is for the lost, not the church. We are ministers of the gospel. Our message is, “Be reconciled to God!” (2Corinthians 5:18-21). We are already reconciled, this would seem evident. Have Christians become so mindless that they have actually bought into the idea that the saved still need salvation?
We are justified in full. It is a onetime declaration by God. It’s done. In fact, it is so done that we were already considered to be glorified before the Earth was even created (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:30). How much more done can you get? Nothing that happens in sanctification can change that declaration. But today’s Christianity is saturated with a doctrine that teaches that justification must be maintained by good works. To be specific, it’s salvation by antinomian good works. Let me explain.
If justification must be maintained by good works, the works would have to be perfect, right? That excludes us. So who must do the good works to maintain the justification? Right. Jesus obeys for us. They deceptively call this “justification by faith alone,” while deliberately omitting the rest of what they believe: justification and sanctification are the same thing. They believe sanctification maintains our standing with God until glorification. They deceptively call this “progressive sanctification” when it is really progressive justification. Therefore, any effort on our part to keep the law would supposedly be an attempt to maintain justification. That’s where this doctrine becomes antinomian.
Who’s “they”? They are the New Calvinists and they are everywhere. And they are in the process of drowning the ABWE scandal (concerning the former Bangladesh missionary children [FAMC]) with the gospel. They will keep feeding this issue with “gospel” until it goes away and the raping of children will continue in the name of the gospel. As illustrated in chapter 14 of The Truth About New Calvinism, this is exactly what went on in the world’s largest Baptist church for years. The victims were shamed for wanting justice because of reasons like the following: “We are all sinners saved by grace.” “Justice? That just means you’re self-righteous.” “We are all totally depraved and in need of daily salvation. Besides, if this ministry folds just because sinners sin, the message of the gospel will be silenced.” “Real Christians forgive the way Christ forgave them, and move on with their lives. That’s the gospel.” “You’re a glutton, and brother Bob likes little boys; so what? We all need the gospel everyday just as much as we did the day we were saved.” “What happened is irrelevant; we aren’t here to be the gospel, we are here to preach the gospel. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what Jesus has done.” Sound familiar?
According to the New Calvinists, the answer to everything is the supposed practical application of New Calvinism which is Gospel Contemplationism. By contemplating the gospel and coming to a deeper and deeper appreciation/understanding of what Christ did for us, and continues to do for us, “gospel transformation” takes place. In their book, this is what all parties need in order to make this go away in the name of Jesus. More gospel for Donn Ketchum and more gospel for the FAMC. A deeper understanding of the gospel would lead Ketchum to repentance and lead the FAMC to forgive, and all would be well. In my own personal situation, I was told by New Calvinists that my continual effort to hold them accountable for what they did to my family was proof that I didn’t really understand the gospel. I was also told that I valued myself more than “a whole ministry.” Others who stood with me were threatened. One church told my son-in-law that they would ruin his ministry and his name if he stood with me.
In light of the Penn State allegations and the comparison to the ABWE scandal, the articles that have been held up as revelatory and edifying make my point. Each had its own thesis regarding the symptom, but all concluded with the same solution: the gospel. The first article was from pastor Daniel Darling. His thesis was that insular communities are the cause of such behavior. Then he concluded with these thoughts:
So what’s the cure? For churches and Christian organizations, the gospel is the only medicine. Our sinful condition and helpless state before God, our need of the redemption of the Cross, and our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit should all serve as a constant reminder that nobody is above the worst kinds of sins.
So in these situations the only cure for churches is more salvation? More redemption? Do you believe that? I hope not. The Bible is very specific in regard to what the church is to do in these situations, and more salvation is not included. Here is how Darling concluded:
We should pray for the gospel to penetrate that campus during this dark hour. This is more than a story. There are souls at stake. And, yet those of us who live thousands of miles removed from Penn State should pray that God would use this to sharpen our leadership in creating open, authentic, gospel-saturated communities of faith.
Gospel saturation? Is that the answer? No.
The second post was from the Practical Theology for Women blog. The author’s thesis in this second post was that Christians often overemphasize authority over advocacy. The solution? Again, the gospel:
If the gospel is truly our foundation in Christian ministry, we have hope for redemption and transformation when we choose humble responses that seek to correct our mistakes. Humble repentance, not defensiveness, is the absolute key to dealing with past failures, and meditation on God’s strong admonition to do justice for the oppressed is key for the future.
Notice the emphasis on Christians seeking more redemption. She also alludes to the New Calvinist/Gospel Contemplationism tenet of deep repentance which I will not delve into here. In another post, she further defines how she perceives the gospel:
Be wary of the “gospel-centered” teacher whose gospel ends at penal substitution, for they have nothing for life after salvation except pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. The gospel becomes the source of OBLIGATION instead of the source of EQUIPPING. You’re exhorted to stop gossiping or sleeping around or overeating because it makes the gospel look bad. That’s gospel obligation that misses completely the value and power of imputed righteousness. The true gospel doesn’t obligate you to do good. No, it EQUIPS you to do good. There is a profound difference. That battle with your weight, the temptation to gossip, anger with your children—the gospel equips you to do battle with sin with the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. You have a lavish spiritual bank account, and this is integral to the very good news of all Christ’s life and death has accomplished for you.
Notice that sanctification is either all pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps or all of Christ. The fact that it is both is excluded.
The Third post was from Tim Henderson who I believe is a chaplain for Campus Crusade for Christ at Penn State. His Thesis was that lack of true love was the cause of what happened there. The cure? Again, the gospel:
He loved radically, gave himself away. Not just figuratively, but literally. He laid down his life as a sacrifice on the cross to protect us from the punishment our sins deserve. He loves you just as much as he loves himself.
To the extent that this penetrates your heart [the gospel] it will transform you and make you love better. It will give you not just the affection of love, but the courage of love. A love that moves to protect. That moves into danger. A love that doesn’t measure obligation, but that suffers so that the beloved won’t.
Also notice that Henderson excludes obligation (or duty) from being an element of love or at least a catalyst for love in some situations. True love is a narrow concept that comes only from contemplating the gospel. And in all three of these articles, accountability and justice is excluded and replaced with everybody, perpetrators and victims alike, embracing the shame of it all as common sinners saved by grace. This is not the biblical prescription for dealing with these situations.
In our day, there are two major schools of thought concerning sanctification, and the difference can be best defined by a longtime persecutor of Jay Adams, David Powlison. These two men represent the two schools of thought in our day. During a lecture at John Piper’s church, Powlison said the following:
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.
In all of this, the FAMC will be hearing many voices. They would do well to determine which camp the voices are coming from. Each camp will yield radically different solutions to their endeavor.
Most NC are synergistic in their understanding of sanctification, therefore, most believe we participate in it. The doctrinal contention is, what “motivates” our post-conversion walk of faith? A wrong understanding of justification will contaminate the motive for sanctification. Hence, good works are the necessary fruits of justification, never causal to it. The Galatians were falling back into an understanding of lawful compliance (faith in Christ…plus works), as the grounds for their salvation, and for this reason, they had redefined justification and distorted the proper foundational understanding of sanctification.
Probably the biggest reason why NC’s view sanctification as being Gospel centered and “finished work of Christ motivated” primarily is because it takes a genuine gospel conversion, true work of the HS, for one to experience saving faith and conversion. All other professors of the faith, they are not motivated by the finished work of Christ. Their default motive in all of their life continues to be motivated by any/everything other than Christ and his glory. Some of these individuals, as Saul of Tarsus, retain an outward moral self-discipline that is quite impressive to the natural man, but filth and rags as when measured up to the motive that stems from a gospel centered, Christ centered motive. For this reason, it is a humanistic “walk of faith” to believe one can grow in their faith, apart from the gospel centrality of Christ, his glory and his grace.
Q: Is this not where New Calvinism and traditional evangelicalism part ways? In theological terms, evangelicals do not see sanctification as intrinsically related to justification. They see justification as a onetime legal declaration that guarantees glorification, and makes sanctification possible, but does not feed it. Along with justification comes the new birth, which enables the believer to participate in kingdom life and separation from this fallen world. But works in sanctification do not relate back to justification at all. Justification does not progress, only the spiritual life in sanctification progresses. New Calvinism teaches that sanctification must look back to justification and is given continual life by justification. Evangelicals reject that. They see justification as a guarantee and foundation to be built on. Evangelicals believe that works in sanctification have no relationship at all to justification because nothing done in sanctification can do anything to sustain it. Again, it’s a completely done deal, and everything it has to offer has been credited to our account in full.
….in other words, justification isn’t on an installment plan, it’s been paid in full. It’s not progressing forward and building toward glorification through sanctification. Again, can we agree that this is the fundamental difference? Not to debate the issue at hand, but to clarify what the debate actually is in all honesty. Again, the goal of this series is clarification, not persuasion.
I agree. We are clarifying, not persuading right now.
That being said, can you provide historic/fundamental predominant teachings that would concur with where you believe NC have departed?
Historically, NC’s view the sacraments not much different than the Jews viewed many of their Old Covenant rituals. Passover was to be used as a motivating memorial for the Jews to remember the freedom they were given. Because of the trust placed in the blood, salvation (justification) was secured. Type and anti-type for you and me. We are to reflect the joy and liberation of our justification as continual grounds for our sanctification. No different is the eucharist; proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. It is not a mere symbolic exercise so much as it is designed to remind us in order that it would motivate us towards holiness, via glory and grace.
What evangelicals would assert what you are saying? I’ve been a Christian for 38 years, “reformed” for over 20, but I have never once heard the concept that “justification…makes sanctification possible, but does not feed [motivate?] it.” What classical “reformers” who you would not classify as NC, have stated what you just said? I’m not saying they don’t exist, just that I’ve never heard/read anything like that.
Q: Good clarifying response. Let me therefore answer. First, because New Calvinism is relatively new on the scene and unique in its tenets, there wouldn’t be an abundant need for such a clarification, the former being assumed. But yet, there are examples. Secondly before I give an example, evangelicals don’t look to the Reformers as authority for truth. Jay Adams is considered to be a contemporary Reformer (and also a rabid Calvin buff), being known as “the father of the contemporary biblical counseling movement,” and he stated the following:
“The problem with Sonship [what New Calvinism was called in the 80's and 90's] is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it. As a declaration of forgiveness, pardon, and adoption into the family of God, it is (remember) a legal act. It changes the standing, but not the condition, of the person who is justified.
On the other hand, regeneration (quickening, or making alive; Ephesians 2:5) is the true source of sanctification. Justification deals with guilt; regeneration and sanctification deal with corruption. Regeneration, the true source of sanctification (growing out of sinful living into holy living)….”
Though Adams is Reformed, I would strongly contend that this is the traditional evangelical view of justification and sanctification. I would also add Floyd Barackman’s definitions of justification and regeneration. Again, Reformed, but agreeing with traditional evangelicalism:
“Justification is the act of God whereby He acquits the gospel believer of the divine verdict of condemnation and declares him to be righteous….Regeneration is the act of God whereby He cleanses the gospel believer, renews the immaterial part of his human nature , and imparts to him spiritual life. “
After we are done with this part, I think another question worthy of investigation is the following: Is New Calvinism the same as Old Calvinism?
This video clarifies the fact that there is a line in the sand. The church cannot continue to pretend that both philosophies will help Christians—that’s not true. Also, New Calvinists cannot continue to call the biblical prescription “legalism” unfettered and without contention. How Christians live is at stake.
I was struck by a post written by Jay Adams the other day. The idea that being filled with the Spirit is the Spirit being at work in all areas / categories of our life because one area effects another. This of course requires us to learn what the Bible instructs in regard to those areas and applying it to our lives. This is what builds a life that will withstand the storm (Matthew 7: 24-27). And furthermore, how to think, do, and pray in regard to all areas as well.
His example was a guy who has a problem with alcohol who fell off the wagon. He got into a fight with his wife and then, as a result, went to the local watering hole and got drunk with his buddies. We would not tell him to just stop drinking. His relationship with his wife, how he responds to challenges and choices (in this case: lost friends verses saved friends) all played a part in the transgression. All areas of our life contribute to how we think and what we do. This isn’t just a matter of obedience; I think alignment with God’s word in all areas of life is the way of peace and joy. Moreover, Christ promised the Holy Spirit will help us, counsel us, illuminate us, and empower us to accomplish God’s will. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us, but note who is also doing—we must do our part, and it won’t always be easy. To look at this concept as “living by a list,” “a bunch of do’s and don’ts,” “moralism,” “legalism,” or “Phariseeism” is a lie from the pit of hell and will lead to a life of misery.
In the following video, Piper, Carson, and Keller teach that the key to overcoming pornography is contemplation on the gospel. If we come to grips with how horrible our sin is and what Christ had to do about it, and what He did do about it, we will realize how much Christ loves us on the one hand, and learn to loath the sin on the other. Keller also mentions that realizing how much Christ loves us (because of the cross) will lead to us not hating ourselves which he notes as a major contributor to sin. Of course, the Bible states the opposite: a primarily source of sin comes from loving ourselves more than we love others.
Furthermore, the biblical prescription for learning to hate sin is not contemplation on the gospel, but rather investment. We learn to hate something by not investing in it, but instead investing in something else. People unwittingly learn to hate their spouses in this way. Lack of investment verses other things and a dwelling on their negative aspects only which is not truthful thinking to begin with.
Yes, after Piper advocates spiritual contemplation and Keller adds to the error by adding self esteem psycho-babble, Carson mentions accountability, but be not deceived and listen carefully—he is saying that accountability is only a temporary stopgap until gospel contemplation kicks in. In other words, practical measures as instructed by Scripture are not curative, only gospel contemplation is. In the end, they all agree that accountability lingers close to legalism, and the absolute necessity that those holding one accountable are also gospel centered.
The following video clarifies the fact that there is a line in the sand. The church cannot continue to pretend that both philosophies will help Christians—that’s not true. Also, New Calvinists cannot continue to call the biblical prescription “legalism” unfettered and without contention. How Christians live is at stake.