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. )
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.
This is a shocking statement that unwittingly reveals O’Kelly’s ignorance in regard to the short history of the doctrine he embraces. Dr. John Miller is the father of Sonship theology and coined the mantra that is a hallmark of New Calvinism: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” Luther didn’t coin that phrase—Miller did.
A New Calvinist blogger by the name of Aaron O’Kelly has responded to my open letter to Peter Lumpkin. Among many other accomplishments, Aaron obtained a doctorate degree from Southern seminary which is of particular interest to me as a Southern Baptist.
I will address the title of Aaron’s post first. It exemplifies the New Calvinist motif: us against them; evangelical Catholicism against the children of Luther; the scandalous doctrine of freedom; and partaking with Paul the apostle in being called an antinomian, etc. Though I could cite a gazillion examples, one from New Calvinist guru Tullian Tchividjian should suffice:
“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.”
That’s the mentality—they are set apart from the “vast majority” of professing Christians. Let that sink in. Towards the end of his post, Aaron eludes to their kinship with the great apostle in being called antinomian because they have discovered the long lost gospel:
“Dohse’s open letter is one more indication of how scandalous the gospel really is. When we receive the unfathomable good news that God receives us into his favor on account of Christ alone, and not because of anything in us, we instinctively recoil in an attempt to protect this glorious message from the charge of antinomianism. The pure gospel is too strong for us, and we think we need to mix it with a good bit of law to keep it from becoming too dangerous.”
“But the gospel of the New Testament is the good news of freedom from the law through union with the crucified and risen Christ (Romans 7:1-7). It is a message that Paul was slandered for proclaiming, as though he encouraged sin (Romans 3:8). And those who have proclaimed it faithfully have been slandered ever since.”
O’Kelly also mentions that he considers himself a “Luthero-Calvinistic Baptist, but that hasn’t caught on yet.” Give it time Aaron, I’m sure it will eventually. After all, like Luther, New Calvinists are set apart from the “vast majority” of professing Christians.
I might also mention that the we are like the apostle Paul because he was accused of antinomianism also was tried on Jason Hood when New Calvinist Dane Ortlund responded to his calling out of Tchividjian. I comment on the exchange in another post:
“Moreover, a new one that I hadn’t heard before was mentioned by Hood regarding Ortlund’s original challenge—the whole idea that today’s New Calvinists are being ‘falsely’ accused of antinomianism like the apostle Paul was during his ministry (Rom 3:8). Therefore, if they are being accused of antinomianism, they must be preaching just like Paul was. Oh brother!”
Hood’s theological trouncing of Ortland’s position can be observed here: http://goo.gl/wYTrV .
Much of Aaron O’Kelly’s (hereafter: “A-OK”) post addresses the genealogy chart. Perfect. After likening me to a government worker, he says the following:
“All kidding aside, charts like these have the effect of distorting the character of broad movements by implying that the adherents of the movement are members of a tightly knit group (cult?) who have conspired together to defend the novel teachings of their founder(s), to whom they are staunchly loyal.”
“Genealogy charts” and “family trees” (terms I use often to refer to the chart) in no way infer what A-OK is saying. Theological frameworks often leave behind a long history of people who never knew each other. Besides, the theological journal of the Australian Forum (hereafter: “AF”), Present Truth (hereafter “PT”), had a huge readership in Reformed Baptist circles and places like Westminster Seminary. In fact, Jon Zens was introduced to Brinsmead and the Forum through PT while he was a student at Westminster. To make my point, A-OK states the following concerning the top of the chart:
“I myself have never heard of the majority of names at the top of the list. I have heard of Graeme Goldsworthy, and I think he is an excellent Bible teacher. He is one influence among many (including some other names on the chart, but also including a large number of names that are not) who has played a role in my understanding of the Bible. Does that make me a card-carrying member of the group represented by this chart? If so, I must have missed the meeting where we learned the password and the secret handshake.”
So, A-OK seems to say that he has never heard of Zens or Brinsmead (he implies that Goldsworthy is the only one he knows of at the top of the chart), but it is well documented that Zens is the father of New Covenant Theology with considerable contributions by Brinsmead. Certainly, A-OK has heard of New Covenant Theology. He may even ascribe to it, but that doesn’t mean he’s a loyal follower of Jon Zens; or for that matter, even knew him or heard of him which seems to be the case.
Another indication that one does not need to know of the conceivers of a doctrine (or that my chart would imply a conspiracy) to embrace its elements passed on by various means, is the fact that A-OK parrots the AF’s position on the supposed subjective aspect of the gospel—even using their terminology. Here is what he writes:
“I am not sure why Dohse would consider it controversial to say ‘the gospel is something completely outside of us.’ To say otherwise would be to imply that salvation comes, at least in part, by gazing at our navels.”
Now consider what one of the AF3 wrote (Geoffrey Paxton, who I doubt he has heard of either) on the same wise:
“Such evangelical naval watching does nothing to commend Christianity….” (The False Gospel of the New Birth PT vol.37 article 4). The AF3 continually referred to “naval watching” when discussing the supposed subjective aspects of the gospel verses the objective gospel.
Another example would be Michael Horton who said this: “But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the ‘Good News’ no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own ‘Spirit-filled’ life?” Compared to G. Paxton who said this: “It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.”
Furthermore, A-OK prefaces the following statement in regard to the chart:
“By the way, I am speaking the language of Luther here; I am in no way indebted to the ‘Sonship theology’ that Dohse criticizes, nor have I ever heard of it prior to reading his letter.”
This is a shocking statement that unwittingly reveals O’Kelly’s ignorance in regard to the short history of the doctrine he embraces. Dr. John Miller is the father of Sonship theology and coined the mantra that is a hallmark of New Calvinism: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” Luther didn’t coin that phrase—Miller did. Moreover, the present-day New Calvinist movement is replete with Miller’s spiritual children; namely, Tim Keller, David Powlison, Jerry Bridges, Darren Patrick, Mark Driscoll, and many others.
But now the most important points about the chart: First, it raises questions of integrity. Why does Keller and Powlison avoid the Sonship nomenclature among New Calvinist? You say, “They don’t” Then why do New Calvinist constantly espouse the phrase Miller invented, but yet they have never even heard of Sonship theology? O’Kelley said himself as one who is apparently qualified to write a response to the chart: “….nor have I ever heard of it prior to reading his letter.” I think this also adds to my aforementioned point as well—my chart hardly implies an accusation concerning a conspiracy.
Secondly, New Calvinists can no longer pretend that notable evangelicals have never had a problem with this doctrine. And to a more significant point, notable Calvinist themselves! And I don’t mean secondary disagreements, I mean, “This movement must be exposed and stopped.”
Thirdly, New Calvinist hacks can no longer go to conferences and pretend that all of the keynote speakers are parachuted in from Luther’s compound. Those days are over, and rightfully so.
Well, we have much more work to do on O’Kelly’s post. Lord willing, I will write part two tomorrow.
Peter Lumpkins posted a great find on his blog. It is a link to fourteen copies of Jay Adams’ book on Sonship Theology. The cost of the books reflect the fact that it is unfortunately out of print. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/SPlS6
I write to you as a fellow Southern Baptist.
I think real Calvinism has brought good things to Southern Baptists, but I just wanted to write you and mention that your present contention is not with real Calvinism.
They call themselves Calvinists, but that’s a lie. In fact, real Calvinists contend against them. Let me explain. The present movement you see in the SBC has a Calvinism label, but was really hatched by Jon Zens and a Seventh-day Adventist named Robert Brinsmead. Brinsmead created a project called the Australian Forum to promote the doctrine, and the two other primary contributors were Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy. Their family tree, a work of mine with the help of others, can be seen in the following chart:
The basic frame of the doctrine they created is known as the centrality of the objective gospel (COG), and is what drives the present movement you see in the SBC. Apparently, the movement is now known as “New Calvinism,” and entails the T4G, The Gospel Coalition, and many, many other organizations that promote the movement.
Basically, it teaches that the gospel is something completely outside of us (objective), and that we are transformed by contemplating the depths of the gospel (or as John Piper states it: “Beholding as a way of becoming”). This outside, objective focus supposedly aids us in not being distracted by things that are subjective; for instance, even the belief that we are born again. In fact, the movement denies the significance of the new birth and teaches that Christians are still totally depraved. This can be illustrated by the video circulating on the Web called “John Piper is Bad” which doesn’t mean Piper is a cool guy, but rather that he is still a “T” in TULIP—totally depraved. Unlike real Calvinism, it projects TULIP onto sanctification as well. Piper acknowledged in an interview that he understood the video to mean exactly that and also agreed with it. Certainly, traditional Calvinism does not believe that Christians are still totally depraved.
In other words, the movement only recognizes justification (objective) and not the vital union or the new birth (subjective). We are supposedly transformed by focusing on the historical Christ event alone. This is why CJ Mahaney, one of the “core four” with Al Mohler in the T4G, always presents the gospel in the five-word epigram “Christ died for our sins.” In like manner, Piper presents a justification only gospel in “The gospel in 6 Minutes: “In a sentence….That’s the gospel.”
In 2008, one of the Australian 3, Graeme Goldsworthy, spoke at Southern Seminary (in the Australian Forum’s theological journal “Present Truth,” both Paxton and Goldsworthy declared the new birth a “false gospel”). John Piper reviewed Goldsworthy’s visit/lecture in an article posted on his Desiring God website (Piper is one of the keynote speakers at the 2012 T4G). In that article, Piper affirmed COG, and wrote the following:
“When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis his, not mine].”
This is an interesting statement considering that Southern Baptists certainly change emphasis to our role as new creatures after we are saved. Piper is saying to do so is to put one’s soul in peril, and this is also exactly what the AF3 propagated. Furthermore, Piper seems to be saying that any emphasis on the work of Christ inside of us is a false gospel—also what the AF3 advocated. Peter, trust me, this problem is way bigger than Calvinism.
In addition, real Calvinist have fought this problem tooth and nail. As you can see from their family tree, the doctrine was repackaged by Dr. John Miller in the form of Sonship Theology while he was at Westminster Seminary. Pastors in the PCA (Calvin’s denomination) have been fighting the doctrine for years, especially Dr. Jay Adams who wrote a book against it in 1999. Tim Keller, a major figure in the New Calvinist movement, as well as David Powlison, were followers of John Miller. During a lecture at John Piper’s church, Powlison called Miller his mentor and chastised Adams for being critical of Dr. Miller for coining the phrase, “We must preach the gospel [justification] to ourselves everyday.” However, the fact that the criticism was in book form seemed to have slipped Powlison’s mind. Moreover, readers of my blog, one of which is taking the Sonship course presently, assure me that Sonship clearly teaches the total depravity of the saints, rejects the new birth, and holds to a New Covenant Theology view of the law. It is also common knowledge that Keller has taught Sonship Theology extensively.
It’s all the same doctrine. If the doctrine hadn’t found new life at Westminster, it wouldn’t have survived the brutal pushback by Reformed Baptist (more real Calvinist) such as Walter Chantry. Chantry and others adamantly called it out for what it is: “neo-antinomianism.” In the same way that COG plagued the Reformed Baptist by splitting churches and families, this doctrine continues to wreak havoc on God’s people.
Peter, worry about the real Calvinist later—these guys must go!
New Calvinist Family Tree in PDF: Geneology Chart
“Like the Emergent Church postmodernism that Dr. MacArthur rebukes in ‘The Truth War’ with all fervor, he has become comfortable with contradictions. Like the postmoderns he ridicules, the Bible is not a superintended document concerning what Jesus SAYS, it is a story / narrative about what Jesus looks like. These are indeed confusing days for the American church, and she has lost one that was once a voice of clarification amidst the crosstalk.”
As one who has had profound respect for John MacArthur over the years, his courtship with New Calvinism and their Gospel Sanctification doctrine has been a major disappointment for me. That aside, by far, the most powerful book Mac has ever written is Saved Without A Doubt. It’s probably why the book has been recently reprinted.
But one can only conclude that there is a really big contradiction by Mac regarding what he wrote in SWD and what he penned in the forward to the atrocious Uneclipsing The Son by Rick Holland ; specifically, what gives you assurance of salvation doesn’t also sanctify you.
I have always said that the first chapter of 2Peter presents huge problems for the New Calvinist movement. First, Peter makes it clear that he wrote the epistle during a time when he knew his departure into glory was at hand (verses 12-15). This was the message that Peter thought to be the most important truth for the saints to remember after his departure so that they could “be able at any time to recall these things.” What things? Peter calls those things “qualities” (verse 12) that are to be ADDED to our FAITH (because obviously, faith is the foundation that we build on in contrast to the New Calvinist proposition to continually rebuild the foundation). If Michael Horton’s “revisiting the gospel afresh” is paramount to sanctification, it is unthinkable that this would not be what Peter would want them to be in constant remembrance of.
Secondly, Peter wrote that he and others saw the very majesty of Christ firsthand, but then refers to the Scriptures as a better testimony that was to be used for direction (a light in a dark place [verse 19] or as Psalm 119;105 says, “a light to my path”).
This same chapter also has assurance as a major theme, so I thought it would be very interesting to go back and revisit what MacArthur wrote about the first chapter of 2Peter in SWD. Throughout chapter 7 where he expounds on 2Peter and its relationship to assurance, the contradictions to what he wrote in UTS are numerous, but I will highlight the most glaring contradictions.
1. In his introduction to chapter 7, Mac writes that he took a sabbatical in 1980 (when New Calvinism was still in its infancy and being nurtured by Robert Brinsmead and Jon Zens) to reevaluate his future at Grace Community Church where he had ministered for eleven years. Mac states on page 127: “I remember feeling I had taught my congregation everything I knew. I feared boring them by going over the same old things.” Here, Mac is clearly talking about a variety of biblical truth and disciplines. Surely, he wasn’t referring to deeper knowledge of Christ (and his personhood) as “the same old things” (and additionally, “things” in the plural). He then states that God called him to a ministry of remembrance that reinvigorated him: “What happened? The Lord taught me the importance of being used to remind believers of truth they already know. I sensed a new commitment and perspective in ministry based on my reading of 2Peter 1.” He then states: “I’ve been at my church for more than forty years now. If I have my way, I’ll be around a lot longer than that, reinforcing the truth just as Peter did.”
But in UTS he writes: “After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching”[as opposed to “truth”]. And, “The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.” So much for a ministry of “remembrance.” If the remembering is anything other than Christ—it hinders sanctification, and one would have to assume assurance as well.
2. On page 128 of SWD, MacArthur was in good company with those who propose that the Lord’s table is what Christ recommended for remembering Him and his sacrifice for us. In his contention against a form of New Calvinism called Sonship Theology, Jay Adams wrote the following: “Certainly, all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even an example of this practice, in the New Testament….The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that he left for us to observe-the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).” Likewise, MacArthur recognizes this same reality on page 128: “Remembrance is a vital aspect of Christian ministry. Celebrating Communion at the Lord’s Table is a prime example—its point is that we might forever remember Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. It challenges us to overcome the indifference bred by familiarity.” And, “God has endowed the brain with the capacity to reinforce spiritual truth. When you continually feed on the Word of God [verses Christ only?], you will respond in a spiritual manner almost voluntarily.”
In SWD, Mac clearly has a variety of biblical truth in mind, but in UTS, Mac says, “Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (emphasis added). We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display [“full display” ?] in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.”
3. By far, the most glaring contradiction is the most important, and is paramount to sanctification that turns out well. In the forward to UTS, Mac makes it clear that spiritual growth comes by gazing on the “face” of Jesus (but what exactly does that mean?! And how do you do that “one verse at a time” which is the motto of his ministry?). But he would then have to say that sanctification that is going well isn’t experienced by assurance because of what he writes in SWD. On page 123 of the new addition and 106 of the first addition, he writes the following: “Perhaps the most obvious reason for lacking assurance is disobedience, because assurance is the reward for obedience.” Not only that, but Mac makes it clear that it is us exerting and striving in the process: “Peter said to expend maximum effort to equip or supply ourselves (GK., epichoregein) with a series of virtues” (p.132 new / p.114 first edition).
However, in UTS, he says the following: “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.” That concept of contemplative spirituality is nowhere to be found in SWD, and is a direct contradiction to “….expend maximum effort to equip or supply OURSELVES with a series of virtues” (emphasis mine).
4. Furthermore, in SWD, Mac clearly contradicts the New Calvinist concept of the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. When he is talking about the necessity of exerting our own energy or efforts in obedience for assurance, and presumably spiritual growth as well, he rejects the notion that Peter’s imperatives in 2Peter 1 flow from the indicates in some kind of effortless experience: “Now that may come as a surprise after hearing in verses 3-4 about all the good things God has already done for us. You might expect the next statement to be, ‘So let go and let God. Relax and wait for Him to do it all.’ Hardly. Peter said to EXPEND MAXIMUM EFFORT to equip or supply OURSELVES….”(emphasis mine). So, Dr. MacArthur, which is it? NOT by our own efforts, or expending maximum effort to supply ourselves? Regardless, Mac is clearly rejecting a cause and effect relationship between contemplating what God has done in verses 3,4 and what Peter commands in the verses following.
5. Mac further contradicts the theme of Holland’s book (which he enthusiastically endorses) by emphasizing in SWD that salvation is a foundation that we build on. UTS rejects that idea and replaces it with the idea that the gospel is not merely the “ABC’s of Christianity, but the A-Z” as many New Calvinists like to state it. Holland states this on almost every page of UTS, but particularly on page 15. On that page, he also states that being familiar with the gospel is what hinders spiritual growth, and the key is to look deeper into the gospel for the purpose of feeling the same way we did when we were first saved (“Do these words move you as they once did?”). Again, in SWD, Mac agrees with Adams in regard to a primary remedy for that—the Lord’s Table, but also writes: “In your faith, your initial believing in Christ, you need to come lavishly, zealously, diligently alongside what Christ has done and do everything you [amazingly, the emphasis here on “you” is MacArthur’s] can possibly do. That’s what will continue to yield the fruit of assurance in your life.” A close friend of MacArthur’s, RC Sproul, who also for some reason enthusiastically endorses New Calvinism, would agree:
““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).
6. As opposed to gazing on the glory of Christ (or his “face” which obviously is not seen in Scripture, nor John Piper’s “pictures of Jesus” that we are supposed to look for) as the primary gateway to spiritual growth as propagated by Mac in UTC, he rather promotes the primary idea in SWD that the gateway of assurance (and one assumes accompanying growth) is obedience and right choices (p.129 first / p.150 new). Again, on those pages, he reiterates that vigorously appropriating what God has supplied is the “balancing” approach, not some kind of effort that flows from the work of God that is not our “own efforts.” In UTS, MacArthur falls into the New Calvinist either/or hermeneutic; it’s either all of us, or all of the Spirit. Jay Adams notes well that such a hermeneutic strips us of a way to genuinely love the Lord according to a biblical prescription.
Additionally, in stark contrast, he describes love and praise of God, joy, contentment, service, gratitude, and fearlessness as flowing from assurance which he says first flows from obedience! (129,130 / 150-152). This completely blows-up the New Calvinist paradigm propagated by Michael Horton: 1. Contemplation on the gospel 2.Gratitude 3. Doxology 4. obedience (#4 flowing from something that is “not in our own efforts” which is what exactly?). Mac makes this absolutely clear on page 147 of the new addition, saying that God knows who he has elected; and, “God is not the issue here; you are.” On page 146 of the new addition and replicated in the first, Mac writes: “Be warned: A failure to diligently pursue spiritual virtue will produce spiritual amnesia. It will dim your vision of your spiritual condition. You may associate some external activity or experience with the moment of you salvation, but you will not feel assured.” This is obviously a gargantuan contrast to what Mac is advocating in UTS.
Like the Emergent Church postmodernism that Dr. MacArthur rebukes in The Truth War with all fervor, he has become comfortable with contradictions. Like the postmoderns he ridicules, the Bible is not a superintended document concerning what Jesus SAYS, it is a story / narrative about what Jesus looks like. These are indeed confusing days for the American church, and she has lost one that was once a voice of clarification amidst the crosstalk.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
I have always been leery of circumstances that supposedly “cause” people to sin. It is very frustrating when you’re trying to help someone from the word of God and you are told that Scripture does not apply to their particular situation because they have been diagnosed with this, that, or the other. Most prevalent when counseling people with rebellious children is the whole ADD / ADHD thing. Game over. Scripture can’t help, and since it’s a mental defect, gee, our only hope is a God-hating drug addict named Sigmund Freud.
Or, the one that cracks me up: the belief that it occurs in children that are ultra intelligent and get bored with us normal folks, and therefore act-out in sinful ways. Being interpreted: my child is sinful because he’s smarter than you are. Often, I suspect, parents go to pastors for “counseling”—not for advice, but so the word will get out that it is nobodies fault that their child is a monster. “Johnny, we know the Munster’s son stabbed you in the eye with a pencil, but it’s not his fault—he has ADHD. And such a pity because the Munsters are such a fine Christian family—we must always remember to pray for them. And of course, we must also remember to pray that God will restore sight to your right eye.”
The newest one I heard last night over dinner is a brain malfunction that causes people to become angry. Because of the brain malfunction (that can be caused by a bump on the head or a “chemical imbalance”), they suddenly feel the urge to “fight or flee.” The person I was dining with is not the victim of this unfortunate disorder, but as we were discussing it, Matthew 5: 29, 30 came to mind; specifically, Jesus’ comment about things that “cause” us to sin.
Jay Adams often teaches that Matthew 5:29,30 refers to “radical amputation.” One should arrange their life so that they have to overcome barriers to partake in a sin. And I concur 100%, but could Jesus have also been referring to excuses? If your right hand “causes” you to sin (which is purposely ridiculous because sinful hearts cause sin, not our members), cut it off. So, if you want to use your right for an excuse, best to cut off the hand to prevent the sin. There is really only one thing that causes sin: a choice to obey sinful desires rather than God. Excuses are as ridiculous as cutting off members to prevent sin; cut off the excuse instead.
How this comes together as a passing thought / question is best summarized in something that Susan shared with me about one of my new stepsons. He has a medical condition that sometimes requires powerful steroids. Apparently, steroids make some people want to eat everything in sight, and my stepson is no exception to that group. The doctor gave him the news right after he had labored vigorously to get in shape physically, so he refused to agree to taking the medication which resulted in the following rebuke by the doctor:
“You will take the medication if I tell you to young man. And by the way, the steroids do not put food in your mouth—you are the one that puts food in your mouth—that’s a choice you make on your own.”
Hmmm. So, let’s put this together. Amputated excuse + Adam’s radical amputation + of course, help from the Holy Spirit (Phil. 4:13) = what needs to be done for a good outcome. Can my stepson rearrange his life to make excessive eating more difficult? For example, should snack foods be amputated from the household? Say yes. Should he pray about the situation? Say yes. Should alternative foods be considered? Say yes. Should other Christians be recruited to help him? Say yes. And keeping with the theme of this blog in mind: should he focus on the same gospel that saved him so that he will be overwhelmed with gratitude which will make food look completely irrelevant in comparison to Christ? Say no, and ask, “What dork came up with that counseling strategy?”
Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son” Part 4: Mr. Holland Was For Obedience Before He was Against It, And The Sonship / AF Connection
On pages 46 through 56 (most of chapter 4), Holland makes a case that the book of Job is all about Christ. Of course, New Calvinist believe every verse in the Bible is about Christ so that’s no surprise. Though I believe his exegesis is a stretch to come to that conclusion, these pages are by far the less ghastly so far and have some merit. In addition to making this point, he seems to slightly redefine the word transcendence as primarily the difference between two things, rather than something that is superior or not confined by immanence. I know, this seems like nitpicking, but Holland seems to use his primary definition to make some sort of strict dichotomy between the Son and the Father that effects how we perceive the Trinity, and such dichotomies tend to make me suspicious. Not only that, it’s eerily similar to the “objective” part of COG (the centrality of the objective gospel) which teaches that gospel reality is completely outside of us. This can subtly set up a prism that requires all realities about the Father to be seen through the Son, rendering the Father as true, but insignificant when compared to Christ; and in fact, our biggest problem—with Christ coming to the rescue. Of course, there is some truth to that, but that approach also makes me uncomfortable with what seems like an unbalanced view of the Trinity that can lead to bad places.
Nevertheless, what follows is much easier to expound on. On page 59, Holland reiterates what makes GS what it is: contemplative spirituality. Holland states on page 59: “In other words, we see Christ now, and the more we know Him and the more we study Him, the more we become like the clear image we see of Him. Looking for [emphasis mine. This is supposedly what job one is for Christians when reading their Bible] and seeing and gazing [my emphasis] at the excellencies, the glories of Jesus leads to greater vision, sharper focus, deeper awareness of Jesus and His permanent abiding presence. It elevates the soul to a higher vantage point of worship. We must learn to stare at the Son of God such that we are blinded to all the allurements of the world! All encumbrances aside, all slack hardeness aside, everything aside but…Him.”
Along with this statement being a superb specimen of how GS instructs followers to read the Bible, looking for Jesus only; and specifically, his “excellencies” and “glories,” the statement shows the kinship between GS and Sonship Theology. In a book Jay Adams’ wrote to warn the church about Sonship, he wrote the following:
“The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it.”
“Certainly, all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even an example of this practice, in the New Testament….The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that he left for us to observe-the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).”
Holland follows this up on page 60 and 61 with the usual GS slight of hand. On page 60, using John 14:21 as a point of reference, he makes several orthodox statements concerning obedience. He seems to be clearly saying that obedience is the gateway to a deeper love for Christ. He seems to be saying the same thing Christ is clearly saying in that text: obedience to Christ is synonymous with loving Him. In other words, obedience is a loving act (John 3:16).
I used to become perplexed by these sudden bursts of orthodoxy after reading page after page of “truth” seasoned with nuance because God’s people are not yet ready to accept that we have been supposedly living under a false gospel for the past 100 years. I calmly read pages 60-61 while enjoying a nice lunch Susan fixed for me. Two all beef patties smothered in pepper-jack cheese and jalapeños. No buns because I’m on a low-carb diet that is working fabulously (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the details). She also brought me a glass of tea sweetened with something other than sugar, but it was really good. Before I finished the last bite, Holland began to explain exactly what he means by “obedience” on page 61. He was for it on page 60, but on page 61, well, you see, what Jesus meant in John 14:21 is love and obedience are the same thing.
But you say: “Paul, that agrees with what you just said was orthodox!” Not exactly. I said that obedience is an act among many that is a demonstration of love. On page 61, Holland makes the point that they are the same thing, but obedience must be defined by love, and now we must ask ourselves what “love” is. Hmmmmm—get you hand on your wallet:
“So what does it mean to love Jesus? Yes, we’ve already seen obedience. That’s a given [I’m sure]. But [just like the “But”Light commercial: “Here we go!”] true Christians are distinguished from unbelievers not only by their obedience, but by their love for Christ. Let this question echo in your soul: Do you love Christ? Is He precious to you, as He was to Peter? Is He the hub of your faith and your life, [and here is the crux:] or have you made Christianity something of a way to live instead of a person to love?”
NOTE, after saying obedience and love are intrinsically connected, he makes a dichotomy that is impossible to distinguish in real life. How can one possibly distinguish Godly obedience from making “Christianity something of a way to live instead of a person to love?” It’s a false dichotomy that forces the reader to decide whether true love is a way of life or a “person to love.” And again, and again, regardless of a calling to live in a new way throughout Holy Writ, Holland does not qualify the statement.
HOWEVER, Holland then defines what this true love is on pages 61-67 after the pesky subject of obedience is relegated to its proper place in the back of the bus. He then breaks down a “biblical” definition of love into three categories: Love And Faith (p.61), Love And Understanding (p.64), and Love And Affections (p.66).
In the first segment, “Love And Faith,” Holland clearly shows this book’s kinship with the Australian Forum. I devote a whole chapter in my book, “Another Gospel” to Robert Brinsmead’s interpretive prism as taught by him and Paxton / Goldsworthy. Following this post, a full copy of that chapter can be viewed. On page 62, Holland describes faith as the “eye of the soul.” He then writes that Scripture is the lens used by faith and the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture for one purpose and one purpose only: “Suddenly the Bible comes alive and we see Christ’s excellence, His splendor!” Hence, this is the EXACT position of the AF: the Bible’s only purpose is to obtain a deeper knowledge of the gospel, and the Holy Spirit will not illuminate anything else but that. Holland writes on page 63: “There must be a faith that engages with God’s Word on Jesus and estimates it to be the most important information in the world” [which then becomes the interpretive mode of operation].
Therefore, the Bible is for the purpose of plunging the depths of seeing the glory of Christ and nothing else. Any other information in the Bible that seems to be contrary to that thesis is descriptions of what Christ has done and should teach us more about Him instead of being an instruction book for a different “way to live.” All of the commands in the Bible are meant to show us what Christ has done for us already, and to humble us because we can’t keep all of them perfectly anyway. As I heard one pastor say from a pulpit about three months ago: “You can’t keep all of God’s law anyway, so don’t even try.” Pondering the volume of commands should also drive us to the foot of the cross and more dependence on Christ. Supposedly.
Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that obedience is a natural result of “Staring At The Son” (the actual title of chapter 5). But how do we know when we are committing the horrible sin of “obeying Jesus in our own efforts?” Well, because it will FEEL like it—that’s how you supposedly know, and Holland emphasizes that point throughout the rest of chapter 5. Throughout the book, Holland reiterates the same worn-out GS points made by Francis Chan (“When it’s love, it feels like love”), John Piper (“Beholding as a way of becoming” and joy is synonymous with faith), Paul David Trip (Christians are still spiritually dead), and Michael Horton (we only grow spiritually when we “revisit the gospel afresh”). The following is the chapter of my future book where the AF view of interpretation is dealt with—which is the same approach propagated by Holland:
The contemporary history of New Calvinism begins with Robert Brinsmead and Jon Zens. They are the fathers of New Calvinism. Between my interview with Brinsmead and an informal document written by Zens I found on the internet—this is apparent. Brinsmead started a project called the Australian Forum (he wanted me to note that it was one of many projects that focused on certain subjects) that sought to articulate a gospel-centered sanctification into a unified, consistent systematic theology. One of the major considerations was a focus on covenant theology in relationship to this endeavor. Jon Zens is the father of New Covenant Theology, but it is clear that Brinsmead had a major influence in the formulation of that doctrine. All of this took place in the 70’s. So, New Calvinism has been around for about 35 years in various forms. It is primarily based on the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel (COG). COG is the very heart of New Calvinism. Though NC has many different expressions, this doctrine is the heartbeat that drives it.
The Forum was having a significant impact on two spheres of Christianity in the 70’s and early 80’s; namely, Reformed Baptist and Westminster Seminary. Zens was a Reformed Baptist and also a student at Westminster. Zens taught a Sunday School class where his ideas on New Testament ethics were being presented, and Westminster students attended those studies. Michael Horton was infatuated with the Forum’s teachings, and COG can be seen in many of his teachings throughout his career. Keep in mind, the Forum’s magazine, Present Truth, and later, Verdict, according to Zens, had the largest readership among all Evangelical publications at that time. Apparently, Zens was initially introduced to the Forum by receiving Present Truth while he was a student at Westminster, and eventually formed a close relationship with Brinsmead. Also, G. Goldsworthy’s involvement in the Forum as one the AF three is one of the interesting the top is the same as the bottom in the genealogy chart. Till this day, the Goldsworthy Trilogy is a mainstay of New Calvinism’s Gospel Theology. Again, at the very heart of Goldsworthy’s Trilogy is COG. Goldsworthy was close to Brinsmead, and Brinsmead learned his Hebrew skills from Goldsworthy.
Zens, with the help of several men who are now the who’s who of New Covenant Theology while Zens is in the background (probably because of his connections with Brinsmead), attempted to propagate the doctrine, yet unnamed, via the Baptist Reformation Review . Zens received a very zealous contention from other Reformed Baptist such as Walter Chantry. At that time, Brinsmead wrote several articles defending Zens’ doctrine in the BRR. According to Zens:
“A sort of (unintended) [I doubt that] culmination occurred in the Spring, 1981, BRR. There were lengthy review articles of Walt Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom [a book Chantry wrote to contend against COG, though he saw it as neo-antinomianism, which is also a correct assertion] and Robert Brinsmead’s Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism. The dynamic N.T. approach to law and gospel [“NT approach to law and gospel” is a present-day NC mantra] was stated forcefully by RDB:
‘[Paul's] appeals on how to live are made on the basis of what God has done for us in Christ. It is in view of God’s gospel mercies that we are to present our lives as a living sacrifice to God (Rom.12:1-3) . . . . Paul virtually never appeals to the law – ‘Thou shalt not.’ When he demands certain behavior of the church, he appeals instead to the holy history of Christ . . . and from that stand point then makes his ethical appeal.’”
Note here, and this is very important: the Forum’s the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event can be seen in Brinsmead’s statement cited by Zens above, which is a pillar of Gospel Sanctification till this day, and originated in COG doctrine by the AF. Chantry and others effectively beat COG within an inch of its life, and the doctrine, coined by Zens one year later as “New Covenant Theology” (in 1981), continued on in a meager existence among Continental Baptist. Most likely, John Piper was introduced to COG among Reformed Baptist and was probably well aware of the controversy. The wherewithal of his injection of Christian Hedonism into the movement is sketchy at this time and needs extensive investigation which I will do Lord willing.
Meanwhile, COG was finding new life at Westminster Seminary. In fact, Brinsmead and the Forum met with the Westminster faculty in the I think early 80’s, I will add references to this summary later. Brinsmead remembers little about the meeting other than he noted that the faculty served pork to him and the other forum members which he suspected was deliberate due to the Forum’s connection with Adventism. I informed him that it was deliberate because they were incited to do so by Jay Adams (a faculty member at the time) who was not a happy camper that the meeting took place. Brinsmead stated that one individual present at the meeting seemed to be an “elder statesman” of Westminster. I’m guessing it was Edmund Clowney.
At this point, COG, as the face of the AF disappears, leaving behind its remnants with Continental Baptist because Robert Brinsmead departed from orthodox Christianity all together. But the heart of COG incited a new movement begun by Westminster professor John “Jack” Miller called “Sonship Theology.” Again, COG met stiff resistance in Presbyterian circles under the new name of Sonship. Leading the charge was Dr. Jay Adams who also knew Jack Miller personally. His contention against Sonship is well documented in his book, “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation Of The Sonship Discipleship Course.” Unfortunately, the book is out of print. One may well note: Some big dogs of the present-day New Calvinists movement; specifically, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller and his Sonship program. Tim Keller’s propagation of Sonship is well known and documented. At a conference conducted at John Piper’s church while Piper was on sabbatical, Powlison specifically cited Miller as his “mentor” and ridiculed Adams for criticizing Miller while failing to mention that the “criticism” was in the form of a book—which I am sure slipped his mind. Miller is the one who coined the phrase often aped by Jerry Bridges: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” Funny, while an elder at a reformed church in the mid-nineties, I heard Jerry Bridges say that without realizing what a profound effect that little phrase would have on my life ten years later.
But with COG again under heavy fire and the Sonship coat of arms being shot full of holes, “Sonship” was replaced with “gospel,” ie., “gospel-driven” this, and “gospel-centered” that. The movement was now underground, but steadily growing while avoiding labels like the plague. Take note: for almost ten years between 2000 and 2009, the movement was nameless. The name “New Calvinism” is very recent and was attached because movements that become massive cannot avoid a label. Meanwhile, David Powlison had been busy for a number of years integrating Jack Miller’s form of COG into “biblical counseling” through his Dynamics of Biblical Change which became the basis for biblical counseling at Westminser Seminary. Hence, different players were at work making COG relevant to different areas of Christian theology and life that were important to them in making COG work. Brinsmead conceived the primary foundation (with other Reformed elements not unique with him—what he called “jewels” that contributed to what was important to him) and helped Zens formulate the covenant theology. Goldsworthy integrated COG into hermeneutics and eschatology with a little bit of Gabler and Vos mixed in for good measure. Piper contributed to the experience / emotional aspect, and Powlison was paramount in his contribution to the life application part; otherwise, COG would be more vulnerable to its unbiblical passivity in the sanctification process.
Unbeknown to many in the biblical counseling movement, the integration of COG into biblical counseling, primarily in David Powlison’s Theology of the Heart that came out of Westminster’s DBC, was at the core of tensions between NANC and CCEF, the counseling wing of Westminster Seminary (other than the integration of Psychology as well, but COG deserves infamous merit there as well). Eventually, CCEF’s influence totally infected NANC with the disease, and NANC advocates act as if the cupbearer, upon realizing he has tested a deadly cup, should use his last words to compliment the superb taste of the drink. Eventually, disciples of David Powlison; Paul David Trip and Timothy Lane, wrote a book that articulated COG’s supposed life application in the book, How People Change. The centrality of the objective gospel (COG) and all of its elements are glaringly obvious in the book—almost as if it was written by Robert Brinsmead himself.
Starting in, or about 2004, Christians began to realize something was wrong, but because the movement had no label, other than, “gospel” (and who is going to diss the “gospel”?), many simply just remained confused as to what this was all about. However, I was in a unique situation at the time. I was in a church that was on the cutting edge of the movement for many reasons. In NANC’s glory days, this church was a training center for biblical counselors. The church was eventually infected by COG via CCEF’s influence over NANC, and Reformed Baptists who joined the same afoermentioned church who were of the Jon Zens persuasion. Once I knew something didn’t smell right, I spent several months researching and interacting with the elders of that church. Their story, which of course I didn’t buy, was that COG has been historically true all along, and a Reformation was afoot. Eventually, after hundreds of hours of conversation / debate with these elders and my own research, I named the movement “Gospel Sanctification” and started a blog called the “Berean Call” which later became PPT. Initially, I thought the movement was confined to those group of elders (who are all men drunk with visions of grandeur), and they were trying to formulate a system that made Heart Theology, Christian Hedonism, NCT, and redemptive-historical hermeneutics work together as a unified theology. Four years later, I came to realize that they were a mere reflection of a total package.
About a year ago, I received a book from an individual whom I suspect knew that there was a connection between Gospel Sanctification and Sonship Theology, but wanted me to see it for myself. The connection was immediately seen in the first 100 words of Adams’ book. After much more research, it looked like Jack Miller was the father of Gospel Sanctification, but I was haunted by a few things. GS seemed to need NCT’s view of the law to function without contradiction. Also, all elements of Sonship and the historical connections were easy to match with GS, but NCT theology seemed to be dropped in out of nowhere. Of course, it didn’t surprise me that the elders of the church I was a member of or CCEF never uttered the name, “Sonship” because that would supply Christians with an interpretive prism that could expose them. Then, several months later, by accident, I stumbled upon an article that mentioned the Australian Forum and how it had a profound effect on the theological mindset of Michael Horton. That prompted me to say to myself, “Oh really?” “What is the Australian Forum?” Well, the rest is history.
Future parts will put veneer on the framework posted here, but any clarifying questions are welcome.
The following letter received by PPT is indicative of why we’re here. Not everybody is buying into this doctrine, but when it comes to getting answers—good luck. Also noted in the reader’s letter is the fact that many know something’s not right about the doctrine, but, “Where else is there to go?” This is the result of two factors: New Calvinist churches deliberately instill that mentality into their people because the movement is cultish, and in fact, this movement has all but totally infested Christianity. As the reader indicates: “And she is right…there is no church here in (a large US city) that does not have the infiltration of these doctrines.” The following letter is published with permission. The reader begins with a quote pulled from a PPT post:
“In fact, I would probably be conceding myself, thinking, ‘Everyone else, and now MacArthur? It must be me—I’m missing something on this,’ if not for a few souls like Walter Chantry and Dr. Jay Adams.”
Your comment above was also my thoughts for along time. I have been researching, and sending emails to various Pastors (omitted), wanting to know: “Exactly what is the New Calvinism?” I knew it had ties to “Sonship Theology” and NPP and Vision Forum, but I could not pull it all together and find the common denominator, that is until I found your blog by typing in “Jerry Bridges and Sonship Theology” into Google.
I started to think that I was what I have been accused of being, “unloving” “attacking my own”, “having evil intent”, etc., etc. I have so much to say and share with you in the bittersweet understandings of the knowledge of just what those teachings are; how they lead to a life devoid of joy and assurance in our hope and faith in Jesus Christ [exactly what New Calvinism promises to the contrary: go figure]; and the sadness of knowing my friends who have denounced fellowship with me are still under the influence to the doctrines mentioned. However, as one of those friends mentioned to me when I was warning her of those doctrines in the church she still attends (it is under the leadership umbrella of SGM), “Where else is there to go?” And she is right…there is no church here in (a large US city) that does not have the infiltration of these doctrines.
It is hard to point out the problems, without also providing the solutions.
I know now that at least I am not alone in thinking as I have been. Thank you, so very much for the time and effort you put into your blog!! I also thank your wife, who obviously is your best encourager! What a blessing!
~Be clothed in the Lord, and wear Him well!
“I am unmoved by MacArthur’s self-delusions and his musings concerning the ever-morphing neo-Calvinist novelties of our day. Peter said that though he and others witnessed the miracles of that age—the testimony of Scripture is more sure, and Gospel Sanctification does not align with the plain sense of Holy writ.”
“Also, note that he says that we don’t even want to eclipse Christ ‘partially.’ This is like the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which led them to relegate the new birth to a position of insignificance because it involves a focus on us (subjective), and away from Christ / gospel (objective), and therefore ‘eclipses Christ.’”
July 6, 2011 is a day that will live in infamy for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding. My copy of “Uneclipsing The Son” by Rick Holland arrived two days ago and was on my desk. Susan came and sat in a chair by my desk, observed the book, picked it up, and started reading to me the forward written by John MacArthur Jr. My worst fears were realized. MacArthur’s forward to the book is a clear, concise, mini-treatise that promotes Gospel Sanctification in no uncertain terms. He is now totally out of the closet. As the name, “Gospel Sanctification” indicates, we are supposedly sanctified by the same gospel that saved us. In other words, our spiritual growth flows from a contemplation on Christ’s personhood (whatever that means exactly) and His works. Therefore, the sole purpose of the Scriptures is to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ and His works with everything else in Scripture being a mere picture or description of what Christ has fulfilled for us. One might say that it is a hyper-Calvinistic view of monergism in justification that is also projected onto sanctification. So, if one carries the doctrine to its logical conclusion, the primary, if not sole duty in the Christian life is meditating on Christ and His works which results in the Holy Spirit elevating us to higher and higher levels of sanctification. In fact, MacArthur all but writes exactly that in the forward to Holland’s book.
First, Some Historical Background
This is not the first time in church history that contemplative spirituality using the gospel as the object has been propagated. However, what makes Gospel Sanctification unique is its unified systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification has a theory regarding a favorable method of interpreting the Scriptures, a supposed practical application, an explanation of how it is experienced emotionally, its own eschatology, and a covenant theology. More than likely, Gospel Sanctification as we know it today was conceived by Robert Brinsmead and his Australian Forum project. The clear mandate of that project was to systematize a theology that was gospel-centered sanctification. One of the concepts created by the project was the centrality of the objective gospel. It went so far as to indicate that all reality is interpreted through the gospel (objective), and anything given more priority than the gospel (subjective) was to “eclipse the Son.” The Forum’s writings are saturated with descriptions of various woes that come from “eclipsing” Christ and the gospel. Robert Brinsmead worked closely with Jon Zens (the father of New Covenant Theology) in developing the same kind of theology for a supposed biblical view of law/gospel or “New Testament ethics.” The result was New Covenant Theology and Zens tried to propagate the Theology in Reformed Baptist circles. It was met with fierce resistance, and the movement was relegated to a meager group presently known as the Continental Baptist.
However, the idea found new life through another venue where Forum doctrines were being tossed around via the fact that Zens was a student there, and Michael Horton was greatly influenced by Forum ideas—Westminster Seminary. Primarily, a professor of theology there named Jack Miller took the same ideas and formulated a doctrine known as Sonship Theology. Again, the movement was met with fierce opposition, this time in Presbyterian circles. The Sonship label was then dropped and replaced with “gospel,” ie., gospel-centered this, and gospel-driven that. This led Baptist and Presbyterian protestors to believe that the movement was all but dead for the past ten years. But really, the movement was growing covertly under the guise of the gospel nomenclature, and has recently emerged as New Calvinism—a gargantuan movement including church networks, missionary alliances, cooperative training conferences, and “biblical” counseling organizations. The doctrine is overrunning the contemporary church like a giant tsunami and its proponents claim that it is a second Reformation.
In fact, I would probably be conceding myself, thinking, “Everyone else, and now MacArthur? It must be me—I’m missing something on this,” if not for a few souls like Walter Chantry and Dr. Jay Adams. In 1999, Adams published a book to refute Sonship Theology in the same way that Walter Chantry published a book in 1980 to refute Jon Zens’ views (and essentially that of the Forum as well). One year later Zens coined the phrase, “New Covenant Theology.” One of many obvious connections that can be seen in all of this is the fact that two major players in the New Calvinist movement, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller who coined the phrase: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” which is an often-heard mantra within the movement. Another connection is the popularity of “The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Gospel and Kingdom; Gospel and Wisdom; The Gospel in Revelation)” within the New Calvinist movement—written by Graeme Goldsworthy who was one of three major participants in the Australian Forum project along with Geoffrey Paxton and Robert Brinsmead. This speaks to the likeminded beliefs regarding the gospel shared by the Forum and New Calvinist. I strongly suspect Holland’s book will bear more of the same.
On the back cover of Holland’s book, we read this statement in bold print: “Christ, The Son Of God, Has Been Eclipsed, And We’ve Made Ourselves At Home In This New Normal.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Since the 1950’s the church has been inundated with a hyper-grace mentality. This first gospel wave with a lack of emphasis on discipleship paved the way for Gospel Sanctification. Jay Adams started the true contemporary Reformation in 1970 with his book, “Competent to Counsel” which had a very strong emphasis on discipleship and true biblical counseling. Adams often comments that during that time as he traveled about and spoke, Christians seemed to be surprised that they could actually “do something in their walk with God.” The “normal” in Christianity today is a profound ignorance regarding the sufficiency of Scripture and how to apply it to life in our walk with God. Christ hasn’t been eclipsed—we think He does it all for us. What has been eclipsed is what Jesus says—not who He is. Furthermore, Adams has suffered some significant persecution for his attempt to emphasize doing in the Christian life, especially from the New Calvinist counseling culture and David Powlison who was offended by the book Adams wrote to refute Sonship Theology. New Calvinist like Powlison describe the real contemporary Reformation via Adams (in regard to being used by God) as the “first generation of biblical counseling” in the same way that Luther’s Reformation was first generation. But now, the New Calvinist counseling culture is supposedly part of the second Reformation through the discovery of Gospel Sanctification. Of course, the notion is preposterous and takes arrogance to a new level that has never before been seen.
John MacArthur’s Coming Out
MacArthur’s forward is fraught with blatant error and contemplative spirituality in the form of Gospel Sanctification. MacArthur begins his forward with the following:
“As Christians we have one message to declare: ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified’( I Corinthians 2:2). ‘For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. I Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).”
Gospel Sanctification follows the way of many other false doctrines throughout church history; specifically, the eclipsing of other members of the Trinity by overemphasizing one over the others. Jehovah’s Witnesses overemphasize the Father. Charismatics overemphasize the Holy Spirit, etc. Christ Himself, in His mandate to the church, said to baptize in the name of all Three. The Father elects; the Son atones, and the Spirit sanctifies—but we are to only preach Christ? Christ’s emphasis on the Father in regard to salvation saturates the Gospels, especially in the book of John:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
Christ instructed us to pray to the Father, and according to the apostle Paul:
“Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor. 15:27,28).
“Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”
No one, or no thing, “deserves” to be the central theme of our private devotions? This follows the Gospel Sanctification tenet that we shouldn’t seek to be instructed from the Scriptures (ie., seeking to know how to love our wives in a way that pleases God, etc). If we meditate on Christ and His works (the gospel), all that Christ commands will happen naturally. Supposedly. I can only assume NO one and NO thing means exactly what the sentence states. But again, it begs the question: “He doesn’t mean to exclude God from that statement, right? Also note the GS teaching that our message is the same for justification AND sanctification: “….nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”
“Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2). No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms: “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.”
Not exactly. The early church also went about preaching “the good news of the kingdom of God”:
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
And what did that teaching by Christ also entail?:
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.
Also, in other passages, Christ, and the kingdom of God seem to be separate subjects within the gospel:
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Obviously, to the first-century church, “the gospel” included the whole picture of the Trinities saving work.
“The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (emphasis added). We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.”
To this point in the forward in Holland’s book, MacArthur is using all of the proof texts typically used by Gospel Sanctification proponents. But in regard to 2Cor. 3:18, the correlation between gazing or “beholding the glory of the Lord” and spiritual growth has no direct correlation to being the only facilitator thereof. Such a direct cause and effect correlation is assumed. Besides, Macarthur is being disingenuous by quoting the ESV here because all other translations include the word “glass” or “mirror” with difficulty in ascertaining whether we are looking at Christ’s glory in a mirror, or “reflecting” His glory as in a mirror. Either way, mirrors of that day were polished metal and did not have the perfect reflection like modern mirrors made of class. This creates difficulty for those who want to use this text to show that our primary duty is to gaze on Christ’s glory rather than an understanding of what He’s teaching for the purpose of obedience. However, MacArthur continues to expound on this point with his paramount coming out of the closet statement in the following excerpt:
“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.”
In these last two excerpts mentioned, we see MacArthur aping the GS belief that all of Scripture is about Christ and Christ must be seen in every passage. As Jay Adams aptly points out, several books in the Bible do not have Christ as their central theme and plainly say so; for instance, Jude initially intended to write about our common salvation, but instead was led to write an exhortation to contend for pure doctrine. In this statement, MacArthur continues to use 2Cor. 3:18 to make the following point: “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.” How do you look “clearly”; “enduringly,” and “deeply” by “see[ing] through a glass, darkly” (1Cor. 13:12) which depicts the mirrors of those days? Christ’s instruction on how we become a house that will withstand the storms of life is plainly stated in Matthew 7:24-27, we hear His words and put those words into practice.
In classic Gospel Sanctification form, MacArthur also implements the either / or hermeneutic in this statement: “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.” Here we go again with this serving Christ by our own efforts stuff ( when Peter said, “Make every effort to add to your faith…., “ who’s effort was he talking about?!). If we are to exert effort in the sanctification process, which I’m sure MacArthur would concede, how would we know if it is our own effort or that of the Holy Spirit? And why can’t it be both? Why does it have to be either all of us or all of the Spirit? GS advocates have to create a whole theology just to deal with that question, and it’s called Christian Hedonism which is John Piper’s contribution to the movement. This is the road now traveled by MacArthur: unlike his preaching of the past, but like other Gospel Sanctification advocates, his preaching will now raise more questions than are answered; like, “what do you mean when you say that real servitude to Christ will have nothing to do with my own desires? If I am a new creature—are my desires not changed?” Depending on how far MacArthur decides to go with all of this—the answer would be “no” because GS doctrine holds t a total depravity of the saints. The logical conclusion is that Christ does it all for us as a result of contemplating the gospel. In order to say that without saying it, GS proponents have to work hard (presumably in their own efforts) to make it all fit together.
“After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching. It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (I John 3:2).
Our prayer is that of Paul: ‘that I may know Him!’ (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to I Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich, sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure.”
I am unmoved by MacArthur’s self-delusions and his musings concerning the ever-morphing neo-Calvinist novelties of our day. Peter said that though he and others witnessed the miracles of that age—the testimony of Scripture is more sure, and Gospel Sanctification does not align with the plain sense of Holy writ.
“Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the ‘full knowledge of the glory of God’ provided by a fervent concentration ‘on the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).”
In context, 2Cor. 4:6 refers to those who don’t recognize Christ as Savior in comparison to those who do, and does not prescribe John Piper’s “beholding as a way of becoming.” Christ’s prescription for loving Him is plain in John 14:15,16; we are to obey what he commands with the HELP of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit HELPS us—He doesn’t obey for us by replacing our “own” efforts with something else as a result of contemplation on nebulous concepts concerning the personhood of Christ. Such nonsense has led to all kinds of mystic speculations by New Calvinist; such as, the supposed truth that Christ experienced a suffering in darkness while in Mary’s womb as part of the atonement. Soon, MacArthur will be espousing such speculation from the pulpit if he doesn’t repent and return to orthodoxy. Also, note that he says that we don’t even want to eclipse Christ “partially.” This is like the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which led them to relegate the new birth to a position of insignificance because it involves a focus on us (subjective), and away from Christ / gospel (objective), and therefore “eclipses Christ.” And unlike the MacArthur of the past, we just have more questions to ask: “How do we partially eclipse Christ? So, other than Christ, what can we talk about? And will it partially eclipse Christ or not?”
In all of this, one should consider what the focus of Peter’s message was to the church when he knew his time of departure was near (2Peter. Ch.1). He plainly said that there was one thing that he wanted them to remember so that their calling and election would be sure. He said he wanted to constantly put them in remembrance of this theme so they wouldn’t forget after he was gone. What was that message? As glorious as it is, was it a laser focus on the personhood of Christ to the exclusion of all else? No, it was a focus on the saints “making every effort” to add certain things to their faith. If contemplation on the personhood of Christ is singularly paramount to spiritual growth, how could Peter possibly say what he did?
This is certain: The apostle Paul said that even if he or an angel came preaching another gospel—reject it, and trust me, MacArthur is no apostle Paul, and I will not follow Gospel Sanctification—even if I am the last person on earth not to do so.
Utter nonsense, my friend? You attack my article in your blog. Why didn’t you send your thoughts to me? You attack it for being directed to laypeople, but if you had bothered to check out my blog you’d see everything on it is directed toward pastors and church leaders. Crosswalk (and others who picked it up from my blog) put the spin on it they chose. In fact they called it “7 things we get wrong about worship” when there are no 7 things in there we get wrong. I had named it something like “Worship: Getting it all wrong.” — There is a mean spirit in your attitude, my brother.
My missionary daughter whom I am very close to sent me the article thinking that I would be impressed with it—I also suffered the wrath of her displeasure as well. But remember, my article is addressed to “WE.” I reread the article, and if there was a place where I said “Joe is ridiculous,” rather than a reference to your statements, I missed it. I do not mean to say that stupid ideas equal stupid people; “we” all espouse stupid ideas from time to time (however, I retract the statement regarding the idea that you are “clueless,” I simply don’t know that about you based on the one article you wrote and would definitely ask your forgiveness accordingly).
Though my use of words reflects my frustration with the lack of practical application that leads to hopelessness in our day—I meant nothing personal toward you. BUT, the fact remains, that in our day, instruction has been replaced with spiritual sounding truisms that only address symptoms and not the core problem. In my own life just the other day, I was counseling with a pastor who was laying the ground work in regard to a trial in my own life. I found myself thinking: “Ok, I feel better, BUT WHAT NOW? Feelings don’t last, but new ways (specifically, God’s way) create a new path that’s perpetual and produces peace. In fact, good instruction did come, and the effects of the application have had a profound and powerful impact in the lives of my family.
Joe, your counsel to Christians who go to a church that has weak leadership is: “You can still bring your offering.” What does that mean? It sounds good, but how do we bring an offering (and what exactly is the offering? Worship? What’s worship? Today’s Christians don’t even have a working definition of what sanctification is—do your own survey) in the midst of a bad church situation?
Dr. Jay E. Adams, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, often shares his experience regarding the reaction of many Christians in our day that come to realize their biblical role in sanctification: “You mean, there is something ‘I’ can do?! I didn’t know, I thought all I could do is pray and hope for the best.” Which “hoping for the best” usually leads to HOPELESSNESS. We live in an age where following God’s instruction is supposedly an affront to the instructor! That is why your implication that all actions
(“Evangelism & Discipleship, Giving & Praying, Grow Out of Worship; Not the Other Way Around”) flow from “worship” is VERY upsetting to me. Joe, what in the sam-heck does that even mean? If we have to do worship before we do truth—we better know exactly what worship is. You are making “worship” something other than doing truth, so what exactly does worship look like? You don’t say—you just throw the term around like an idol that means anything to people that they want it to mean. That’s what idols are all about—they’re nebulous and open to our own self-serving interpretations. This is a HUGE problem among Christians today: spiritual sounding truisms that mean all things to all people and affect a fill in the blank yourself teaching prism.
Joe, as far as going to you privately: you made the statement publicly. With all due respect, you have no problem with the thirty-plus comments that were also public and were not addressed to you privately. I am the only one that had a problem with your post, and that should be private? Forgive me if I am uncomfortable with that. Besides, it’s not a Matthew 18 issue—it’s a 2Cor.10:5 issue.
Joe, I deeply appreciate you referring to me as a brother and I gladly return the same to you, but let us bring in-depth, practical God-breathed instruction that is full of hope back to the church, and not the spiritual neo-novelties of the day.
“I gathered up jewels that others here and there had mined, and just put it together in a way that seemed clear and important to me. If I could, it would be easier to reply that I had copied the package from somewhere in particular, but I am not able to do that. What I was on about impacted others and sharpened others up – like Paxton and Goldsworthy – and Jons [as confirmed later: Jon Zens] and a guy called Edward Fudge and others along the way.” ~ Robert Brinsmead
Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio is a good representation of the kinship between all of the elements in our genealogy chart ( http://wp.me/pmd7S-K7 ). One of the joys of this ministry is reconnecting family members with long-lost relatives. It is intriguing to see how remnants of the genealogy chart are all gathered at the bottom—thirty-something years later, but with family members like Robert Brinsmead and Jon Zens (the original patriarchs) missing. Heartbreaking.
Not only that, credit is not being given where credit is due; for example, Jack Miller’s Sonship Theology, which pumped new life into the centrality of the objective gospel (aka Gospel Sanctification and New Covenant Theology) after it received a brutal beating from Walter Chantry and others on the left side of the chart, is never mentioned at T4G, TGC, and SGM gatherings, even though the primary disciples of Jack Miller (Tim Keller and David Powlison) are major players in those movements. Could it be because the Sonship label was shot full of holes by Jay Adams and Chad Van Dixhoorn on the right side of the chart? It would really do my heart good to see the Sonship label proudly displayed at the 2012 T4G. I mean, we’re talking family here.
Though I will be writing about many of these bottom-of-the chart family reunions, Clearcreek Chapel is an excellent specimen. The “elder” in charge of their “adult education” is Christian radio personality Chad Bresson, who authors a blog dedicated to Geerhardus Vos. Bresson is a member of the Earth Stove Society which promotes New Covenant Theology. Bresson has recently posted a lengthy article on eighty elements of New Covenant Theology followed by four articles on the writings of Graeme Goldsworthy. Also, a post by Bresson that articulates how New Calvinists interpret the Bible using a lengthy excerpt from the writings of Robert Brinsmead drew a lot of heat from some readers: http://goo.gl/qbeS4 .
Bresson was a recent speaker at the John Bunyan Convention which is a yearly conference that fictitiously uses the name of Bunyan to promote New Covenant Theology (NCT). This year’s conference included two primary figures of NCT, Fred Zaspel and John Reisinger. The conference was held at Reformed Baptist Church in Lewisburg, PA and I have not ascertained whether or not it is a Continental Baptist church which are a small fellowship of NCT churches that split from Reformed Baptist circles over the NCT issue. The debate that fueled the split was primarily between the father of NCT, Jon Zens, and Walter Chantry. Reformed Baptist protestants staunchly proclaimed NCT to be Antinomianism and were not the least bit apologetic about the accusation. Jon Zens is now in the background, probably because of his close association with the likable, but controversial Robert Brinsmead.
While Bresson shows Clearcreek’s kinship with Jon Zens, Brinsmead, and Goldsworthy, the Chapel leadership as a group focuses heavily on David Powlison’s Theology of the Heart ( http://goo.gl/8UnBe ) and John Piper’s Christian Hedonism. In fact, the pastor of Clearcreek is a well known rabid follower of John Piper. It is my understanding that Piper’s Christian Hedonism is presented yearly in the adult Sunday school class. Paul David Tripp is a frequent speaker there and the Chapel was one of the pilot churches that “tested” Tripp’s book How People Change, which is based on Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change.
The common thread that ties all of the family members together is the Australian Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel (COG). This core thread (COG) was primarily developed by Brinsmead and Zens. Though it includes what Brinsmead describes (in our interview) as a collection of jewels, there is no doubt that Brinsmead and Zens formulated the basic systematic theology that makes its present-day life possible. In regard to any such system prior to the Forum, Brinsmead stated: “I gathered up jewels that others here and there had mined, and just put it together in a way that seemed clear and important to me. If I could, it would be easier to reply that I had copied the package from somewhere in particular, but I am not able to do that. What I was on about impacted others and sharpened others up – like Paxton and Goldsworthy – and Jons [as confirmed later: Jon Zens] and a guy called Edward Fudge and others along the way.”
COG states that all spiritual growth comes from contemplating the gospel outside of us. Any truth that is placed in the same priority at any given time is said to eclipse Christ. Inside considerations (the inner us [subjective]) would be included, which relegates the new birth to a position of insignificance—paving the way for the total depravity of the saints, “The same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you,” and “we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” (coined by Jack Miller and aped excessively by Jerry Bridges). As this foundational thread (system) has weaved through contemporary church history, it has been endowed with an explanation of how it is experienced (Christian Hedonism); how it applies to life (Heart Theology); its view of covenants (New Covenant Theology); and an interpretive model that enables outcomes that fit together logically (The Goldsworthy Trilogy [research on how the Dutch Reformed movement and Vos may have influenced Goldsworty is still pending]).
In an introduction to a Christian Hedonism class at Clearcreek Chapel, Chad Bresson said, “This is what makes us unique.” While one wonders why the goal is to be unique, we all can agree that it’s family that makes it all so special.
Gospel Sanctification and Sonship’s Gospel-Driven Genealogy, Part 9: Three Men Who Stood Against New Calvinism
“Your writings have provoked a new revolt against the very Biblical idea of righteousness and altered the Biblical understanding of the gospel . . . . With complete distaste for controversy, but with greater aversion to your dangerous and confusing novelties,”
“….they go on like wild bulls propagating their views of classic antinomianism.”
“This movement runs contrary to the Reformation and the Scriptures. It is dangerous and must be exposed and halted.”
A friend referred me to a lively discussion going on at the Pyro blog concerning John Piper’s (Piper is a New Calvinist) ongoing association with Rick Warren. It’s not about Piper’s theology, it’s about who he associates with. I’m I here right now? What is more obvious than the fact that New Calvinism came forth from the womb crying, “anomia”? That was the predominant contention of one of the men who stood against New Calvinism. As we work through New Calvinism’s short history using the Gospel Sanctification/Sonship genealogy chart, let it be noted that the movement ran into two major contentions during its development.
Walter J. Chantry
Chantry occupies much of the subject matter of Zens’ historical essay. During New Calvinism’s early development in Reformed Baptist circles, Chantry launched a fervent offensive against Zensology. And most notably—Chantry called it out as being Antinomianism. Chantry’s first sortie came in 1978; Zens writes the following:
“In 1978 and 1979 the opposition to the articles in BRR accelerated (accompanied also by a number of positive encouragements!). Walt Chantry, a leader among the “Reformed Baptists” in the northeast, wrote a brief letter and accused me (without providing any documentation) of propagating “neo-dispensationalism” and “neo-antinomianism” (July, 1978).
I spent hours at the Vanderbilt Library in Nashville researching ‘antinomianism,’ and documented in my lengthy reply to Walt why I repudiated it. I re-sent Walt my articles that disturbed him, and asked him to underline any sentences that bothered him, and told him that I would be glad to consider any points he wished to make (August, 1978). No reply was ever received.”
Chantry’s second sortie, according to Zens, was in 1979:
“At the Summer, 1979, Reformed Baptist Family Conference Walt Chantry delivered some messages on the ‘Kingdom of God.’ In them he attacked the positions of the Reconstructionist movement and BRR. Walt suggested that our position carried with it a denial that there is only one people of God and one way of salvation, a denial that the O.T. is relevant for now, and a denial that the heathen are sinners (because they are not “under law”). While he quoted from the Reconstructionists, he never once cited anything from BRR to document his strong accusations.
In my reply to these tapes (August, 1979), I tried to show Walt that he had totally misconstrued what I believed. Since Al Martin introduced these tapes by announcing that the substance of Walt’s messages would be put into book form, I pleaded with Walt in my reply to not go into print with these misrepresentations of my position.
Walt replied, but still made no attempt to document his allegations (September, 1979). His displeasure was obvious:
‘It is clear that some major shifts have been made. And your
new categories have sown confusion in our churches — not about what we shall call Biblical teachings. Your writings have provoked a new revolt against the very Biblical idea of righteousness and altered the Biblical understanding of the gospel . . . . What has been put into print has been damaging to the cause of Christ . . . . With complete distaste for controversy, but with greater aversion to your dangerous and confusing novelties,
Walter J. Chantry, Pastor.’”
Interestingly, Zens’ articles defending his position against Chantry were coincided with a series of articles by Robert Brinsmead in Baptist Reformation Review. Zens’ stated it this way:
“A sort of (unintended) culmination occurred in the Spring, 1981, BRR. There were lengthy review articles of Walt Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom and Robert Brinsmead’s Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism. The dynamic N.T. approach to law and gospel was stated forcefully by RDB [Robert D. Brinsmead]:”
Notice that the foremost figure of the Australian Forum, Robert Brinsmead, was used to defend Zens’ position against Chantry in regard to “The dynamic N.T. approach to law and gospel.” Without a doubt, this phrase later became known as “New Covenant Theology” which was coined by Zens in 1981, according to Dennis Swanson.
Pastor Al Martin
According to Zens:
“In February of 1980, Al Martin presented an emotionally charged message on ‘Law and Gospel’ to a pastor[‘]s’ fellowship in Canada. In it he echoed the charges Wa[lt]if Chantry – ‘neo-antinomianism,’ ‘de facto dispensationalism,’ ‘nothing is regulative for the Christian but the N.T. documents,’ ‘Moses no longer has any valid function in the church of Jesus Christ.’
In my reply to Pastor Martin, I had to ask him just how he would document his sweeping charges, and why he had to resort to such high charged emotionalism (e.g., saying that we encouraged people to ‘stop their ears to Moses,’ and ‘they go on like wild bulls propagating their views of classic antinomianism,’ March 25, 1980). I further said:
As Pastor D.M. Canright said, ‘men who are conscious of being in the right can afford to state the position of their opponents fairly.’ . . . You do your position no help by saying that BRR has put a ‘concrete barrier’ between the two Testaments, and that ‘nothing is carried over.’ No, Pastor Martin, such biased sentiments cannot be documented in BRR. If your position is right, then please manifest a Christian, brotherly approach in stating the position of your opponents fairly (3/25/80). No reply was ever received from Pastor Martin. One of the pastors who attended this presentation in Toronto,
James Shantz, wrote a letter to Al Martin in which he said, ‘I continue to be greatly dismayed by your lecture on Law and Grace, as I have continued to study it on tape. Your declaration that BRR . . . is teaching antinomianism reveals that you yourself have not carefully studied all the materials.’ Further, Shantz wrote a lengthy paper, ‘The Puritan Giant and the Antinomian Ghost,’ in which he raised a number of questions about traditional Reformed theology.’”
Dr. Jay E. Adams
One must now look to the other side of our genealogy chart ( http://wp.me/pmd7S-Gm ). The doctrine cooked-up by Brinsmead and Zens had several points of entry into Westminster Seminary. I am in the midst of the research, but: Zens was a student there; both Present Truth and Baptist Reformation Review had a wide readership at Westminster; Michael Horton was infatuated with the Australian Forum, and at least one writer says the Forum framed much of his theology/ministry; in fact, the Australian Forum formally met with the Westminster Faculty; students from Westminster attended a church where Zens was a Sunday school teacher; it is likely that Westminster’s present infatuation with Geerhardus Vos came via the Australian Forum and Jon Zens.
Jack Miller, a professor of theology at Westminster Seminary, took the basic concept of sanctification by justification alone and put his own twist on it: Sonship Theology. More research is needed, but it appears that New Covenant Theology was dieing out on the Reformed Baptist side (thanks to Walter Chantry?). Continental Baptist presently have a very small following. However, New Covenant Theology found new life among Presbyterians via Jack Miller and Westminster Seminary. Notwithstanding, the movement encountered fierce opposition in Presbyterian circles, most notably from Dr. Jay Adams who wrote a book in contention against it: Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course Timeless Text 1999. I must say, the intestinal fortitude of Presbyterians in standing against Sonship Theology is very impressive—if not refreshing.
Which is why the nomenclature was dropped as the movement was forwarded by disciples of Jack Miller: Tim Keller and David Powlison. Therefore, for several years, the movement had no name. Christians knew it was something, and that it was attached to like elements, but there was simply no way to identify it. Worse yet, it seems that “Sonship” nomenclature was replaced with “gospel,” giving it a sort of hands-off protectionism. Finally, the movement was recently named “Gospel Sanctification” by protestants and the label seems to be sticking. The movement itself has recently begun to accept the “New Calvinism” label. But still, identification is a major problem and the movement deliberately hides behind the confusion.
Recently, Jay Adams has added a “Gospel Sanctification” archive to his blog where he writes articles against the movement. In one such article, Adams recently stated: “This movement runs contrary to the Reformation and the Scriptures. It is dangerous and must be exposed and halted.” The fact that Tim Keller and David Powlison are major figures in the New Calvinist / Gospel Sanctification movement speaks for itself. The popular slogans among New Calvinist, “You must preach the gospel to yourself every day,” and, “The same gospel that saves you also sanctifies you” where coined by Jack Miller. But those from the top of the genealogy chart are also present in today’s New Calvinism; for example, G. Goldsworthy, one of the original Australian Three, wrote the “Goldsworthy Trilogy” which is the New Calvinist authority on gospel-centered interpretation.
“That’s his words, not ours. Therefore, our group concluded that even with our limited knowledge of biblical counseling, we could, in fact, help this Christian—and more than the ‘experts’ that he cited in the article.”
An extraordinary article was published in Christianity Today and published online yesterday ( http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/april/schizophrenic.html ). It is the testimony of a Christian struggling with Schizophrenia. The article, printed out, is six pages. I took the article with me to our church’s Wed. night Bible study and used it for open discussion.
After passing out copies to each parishioner, I informed them that we would be reading through the article together and stopping for discussion when warranted. As facilitator, I opened with the following question: “Is God’s word sufficient for just the ‘normal’ problems of life, or is it useful for deeper problems?” I then began reading as the others followed along.
The author writing his testimony opened with the following statement:
“I used my cane to hit the handicapped door opener. My hands shook and shadows danced on the wall. In the back of my mind, I saw train tracks. My head lay on the rail. A whistle blew, and I closed my eyes. It blew again and again. My eyes were shut tight. I was anxious and scared. Do suicides go to heaven?”
The parishioners seemed to be catching-up a little bit on this unorthodox Bible study I sprang on them, so I offered another interpretive / discussion question:
“If you were waiting for your car to be serviced at the auto repair center, and the person sitting next to you saw you reading your Bible, and asked that question, would you have an answer?” One member said “yes” and offered a pretty good theologically sound answer, which prompted my next question: “That’s good, but I’m wondering, should we see this as a divine appointment? Should we ask him, ‘what is going on in your life that would prompt such a question?’ I’m wondering, is this how a lot of people get saved? Is this how churches grow? Isn’t the gospel, if you think about it, problem centered?” The group agreed and suggested that such opportunities should be used to gain involvement in people’s lives. After all, this guy needs hope, right? And what does the Bible say about that? “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1Peter 3:15).
While waiting for his doctor, the author shared what he was thinking:
“I sat in a comfortable leather chair. I thought of the life I could have lived. The life I lost.”
Here was my next question to the group: “If this Christian expressed this thought to the apostle Paul, what do you think Paul would say to him?” A deacon in our church immediately suggested some thoughts on Philippians 3:8 where Paul said he considered his past life rubbish when compared to the gospel—so, “what’s so special about this guy’s past life?” Hmmm, interesting thought, no? The deacon’s wife then pointed to Philippians 3:13,14: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” At this point the group was very engaged and insightful observations from the Scriptures started coming in rapid fire. The group agreed as a whole that this line of thinking was not a helpful focus for our not so hypothetical counselee. We continued to read:
“A small, balding man in penny loafers came to greet me. He wore a Harris Tweed jacket with no tie—a failed attempt to set his patients at ease.”
We did not park long here, but I suggested that our counselee doesn’t know what the intentions of this doctor was in how he dressed. But, let’s say that it was his intentions; how does the counselee know it didn’t work for others? And would that be necessarily wrong? Could this indicate more unbiblical thinking? Probably. I then brought back to mind the author’s opening statement and directed the group to Philippians 4:8,9:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
In light of this passage, should the counselee be thinking (the word is actually more along the lines of “dwelling”) about his head being on a railroad track with a train approaching? In fact, was that “true”? Are those thoughts “lovely”? The group’s response: “Obviously not.” Then came my next question regarding what Paul said the results of right thinking and right doing would be (“And the God of peace will be with you.”):
“We would all agree that this Christian needs “peace,” but does this promise pertain to our counselee even though he’s schizophrenic?” Their answer: “Absolutely!” Hmmmm, interesting.
Then came a very light moment, and a lightbulb moment when we discussed the first question the therapist asked our counselee:
“Well, David, how do you feel?”
My facilitating question was: “In light of what we have discussed, shouldn’t the doctor’s question be ‘How are you thinking—rather than ‘How are you feeling?’ If one knows how this Christian is thinking—wouldn’t his feelings be a given?’”
The group wholeheartedly agreed via laughter. Their smiling faces also seemed to say, as they rechecked the manuscript: “Doctors get paid for this?”
We then continued to read:
“It took me a moment to collect my thoughts. “I still see shadows everywhere. They seem to watch me. Whenever I close my eyes I see myself without a head. Sometimes it feels like invisible knives are swirling around me. The medicine is making it hard for me to walk, and often I feel like I am falling when I am just standing still. The suicidal thoughts are getting better. Just ideas, no actual plans.”
This statement evoked some questions in our minds: Does wrong thinking lead to bad feelings, and do those bad feelings then start to produce further negative thinking, with further negative feelings? The counselee is now using “[it] seems” and “it feels” as if we can almost see the downward spiral right here in this manuscript. Also, can the drugs really do the counselee any good while he is thinking this way?
We continued to read:
“Dr. Stanley nodded and scribbled something on my chart.
‘I see. I think you are doing better than the last time we met. How are you spending your time?’
‘I sleep most of the time. When I’m awake I play my Xbox. Sometimes I read and listen to music.’
‘Do you get out of the house much?’
I directed the group back to Philippians 4:8,9. Is this “doing” (sleeping and Xbox “most” of the time) advisable for this counselee right now? Again, regardless of his condition, does the promise of these verses and James 1:25 still stand? We think it does.
I then directed them to page two and read the following from what the author wrote:
“A little knowledge can be a frightening thing. I soon realized, for instance, that psychiatrists often go to school for 24 years so they can prescribe drugs that, according to some research, are only marginally better than a placebo. Almost all antidepressants increase the recipient’s risk for suicide. Why did I trust these people? Why did I pay $160 an hour to see them?”
That’s his words, not ours. Therefore, our group concluded that even with our limited knowledge of biblical counseling, we could, in fact, help this Christian—and more than the “experts” that he cited in the article.
Others who were reading ahead brought up another important issue from the following excerpt:
“While some members of our conservative church were supportive, it was amazing how often our questions were met with skepticism and hostility: ‘Are you secretly gay?’ ‘Do you have some unconfessed sin?’ ‘Are you possessed by a demon?’ ‘How dare you question God!’ The range of suspicions was staggering.”
Regarding this excerpt—our group’s conclusion: 1. Counseling /discipleship must be done the right way. 2. This is indicative of Job’s three friends: “C’mon job, confess your sins—you will be healed and we can all go back home.” 3. Christians must resist laziness in regard to helping other Christians (i.e., quick fixes and pat answers). 4. Christians must be gentle, humble, willing to sacrifice self, and willing to invest in others.
In, or around 1972, Jay Adams published a book entitled “Competent to Counsel.” The book introduced a radical concept to contemporary Christianity; namely, that the average Christian has what he needs in the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to help others with the deep problems of life. Today, Dr. Adams and Donn Arms offer training that equips Christians to do just that through the Institute of Nouthetic Studies ( www.nouthetic.org ). Our church’s men’s ministry is implementing this training into our curriculum. We trust that it will make us better husbands, better fathers, better ministers of the word, and better evangelist. In Adams’ introduction to the program, he suggests that Christians have more in their discipleship bag than what they think—after Wednesday night, we would have to agree. Also, Dr. Jay’s contention is not looking so radical after all.
What We Don’t Need
We don’t need counseling that taints the “pure milk of the word” ( 1Peter 2:2) with those who ask the wrong questions (“How do you feel” verses “What do you think”). Though feelings in the Christian life are very important, the primary purpose of medication is telling in regard to other counseling disciplines. Neither should God’s word be tainted with those who make feelings the primary discipline through which all other spiritual disciples flow (i.e., John Piper). Nor do we need to solicit ancient philosophers and look for God’s truth in everything that crawls upon the Earth (i.e., CCEF). Furthermore, we do not need to integrate mysticism with the pure milk (i.e., NANC). Moreover, those who cry “Christ-centered counseling, NOT problem centered counseling” miss the point: the gospel itself is problem-centered. The good news addresses two major problems: sin, and separation from God. We are ambassadors on an alien planet, and those in the kingdom of darkness look for relief from their pain, and the happiness Christ talked about in the Sermon on the Mount—but they often do not understand the source of that pain.
Lastly, this excerpt, “Doctor, it has been three years. Will I ever get better?….’you need to accept that you will always be this way’ (the statement by his doctor was never refuted by the Author),” gives us pause because Romans 8:37 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Certainly, Jay Adams is right; we have to believe that Christians have more hope in our bags than that!
“All Scripture is profitable….that the man of God may be complete for every good work.” “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Therefore, eschatology (about 25% of Scripture) is just as important for living the Christian life as anything else in Scripture. How will properly understanding eschatology make one a better Christian, and better enable us to help other Christians? I don’t know yet, but the first step is making sure my present understanding is correct. If my goal is to know this for purposes of change—why not go to the change guru himself, Jay Adams, to investigate his biblical perspective on this issue?
So, I’m pre-everything, and reading “The Time is at Hand” by Adams. His eschatological views are not dispensational—that’s probably an understatement. As I said in part one, I found his initial arguments interesting, but they certainly did not put me in any fear that a change of position might be forthcoming. His argument in chapter three concerning duplication is compelling though I would disagree with him that this argument alone is the coup de grace for dispensationalism. However, in the latter part of chapter three, he presents the argument of what I call “finality.”
If you’re a dispy like me, you see the rapture as giving those who are left behind a second chance, but as Adams points out, Jesus often spoke of his “second coming” as closure for salvific opportunity (“….like the days of Noah, so will be…..”) What makes this argument even more disturbing is Adams’ citing of the wise and foolish virgins parable which embodies the imminent expectancy of pre-rapture. I could also raise him one with my lingering question concerning the “judgment of the nations” at the end of the tribulation period. If during the tribulation period, you can only buy or sell with the mark of the beast, how are a third category of people going to be able to help Christians during the tribulation period? (Matthew 25:31-46). And the life application issue is: the difference between second chance and no second chance with eternity hanging in the balance.
The challenge demands a closer look as I read forward.