The class action law suit brought against SGM has been revised. And with new allegations added, the narrative can now describe SGM as a house of horrors. I will leave the gory details to the Calvinism would be a good thing if not for the Neo-Calvinists crowd and their Reformed versions of the National Enquirer.
In a recent interview, John Piper discussed a few [!] faults that Calvin had; namely, his idea of integrating church and state. Piper then proceeded to propagate the outrageous idea that Reformed Baptists were responsible for reversing that concept. Funny, no matter how many times you read James Madison’s Memorial Remonstrance Against Ecclesiastical Establishments the Reformed Baptists don’t seem to be mentioned. Last year, Piper announced his post-retirement plans to spread “the light” of Calvinism—on location in Geneva as a way of presenting Calvin’s Geneva as a model for the renovation of humanity. If you believe Piper thinks the marriage of Church and state is a bad idea, I have an oceanfront property in Dayton, Ohio I would like to sell you.
CJ Mahaney and company may not think too much of what their pedophile friends have done, but to them, a bigger issue is at hand here: the preservation of their theocratic subculture. Mahaney et al don’t think that they should be subject to civil law. The way they state it: “The church should be free to shepherd their people as they see fit.” And the way they prefer to handle these situations should be evident by now and is directly linked to their Reformed ideology.
I have written on that extensively, and frankly, I am too lazy this morning to rehearse it all. It’s just exhausting: this behavior, though shocking, should not be surprising when their gospel is understood. Calvin and Luther considered the whole concept of Justice to be a joke and part of the “glory story” and not the “cross story.” These are people who function from a total different reality than normative metaphysics. If you believe that you are capable of interpreting your own reality you are living the glory story; if you trust them to interpret your reality for you according to the cross story, you are living in the gospel meta-narrative.
But back to my original point. New Calvinists have simply improvised and built a theocratic subculture. Again, I have written extensively on this and am weary of it. New Calvinist churches are ruled by elder law and have various ways of enforcing that law apart from the state. They would prefer the state, but the likes of James Madison, whom they despise, messed that plan up big-time on this corner of the globe.
Yawn, ugh, let me repeat a few improvisions: in-house security forces; control structure; covenants; church discipline; brainwashing; networking with likeminded government officials willing to operate off the record; etc.
Hence, the New Calvinists see this as an opportunity. If they win this case based on separation of church and state, the implications are staggering. Don’t miss this: that is why the rest of the New Calvinist community is watching this in silent, anxious anticipation. If you think they see this as a bad thing, if you think this puts New Calvinism on the ropes—you are dead wrong—they see this as a grand opportunity to set precedent and further strengthen their theocratic subculture.
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.
Busy and haunted. I received an email from a person in Denmark that is confused about all of the different positions on the gospel floating about today. Our commentary from the first eight chapters of Romans (compiled manuscripts from the Potter’s House) answer the questions in detail. Susan and I have received positive feedback regarding the book. At least one family is using it for their family devotions. So concerning the Denmark person, I offered to send the book and the offer was accepted. That was easy.
And haunting. I once talked to a Christian who was critical of an elder that she sought out for counsel. With an expression on her face somewhere between disgusted and hurt, she stated, “I came to him for help. Do you know what he did? He gave me a book!” Let there be no doubt about it: Christian books have gone way beyond teaching in our day, they are orthodoxy. And by the way, Neo-Calvinism all but completely owns Christian publishing. “Orthodoxy” is a Reformed term. It is the faith repackaged for the unenlightened masses by the preordained Reformed philosopher kings. For the most part, American Sunday Schools teach from Reformed writings and not the Bible. This is a complaint that this ministry hears constantly. These guys have effectively rewritten systematic theology and church history. They have created another standard of Christian reality altogether and speak from that reality as if there is no other reality.
And this is where the confusion comes in. But confusion is good. Confusion is very good. Concern that you are confused is even better. If you are letting other people think for you—you are not confused. Everything makes perfect sense to you even though it is completely illogical. Jesus warned us about letting other people think for us. He referred to it as the blind leading the blind. That rarely turns out well.
So, we may conclude that confused Christians who know they are confused, and are concerned about it, are the top of the crop among Christians in our day. They are the blue chip because they are thinking Christians. We must not merely hand them a book. Besides, others may have the same questions.
1. Who is a true Christian?!
Answer: Those who place all of their hope in God and believe in His way of being reconciled to Him. Remembering that God has promised to reward those who seek Him is also very helpful. Don’t be too concerned with your confusion at this time: He who has promised is faithful. In regard to your residual question, “Should I just then read the Bible and forget about every other theory and just rely on my Bible reading?” The short answer is, ABSOLUTLEY. I am not discarding the need for teachers, but they must bow to the authority of Scripture. The Bible must be your absolute authority for life and godliness.
2. What does a true Christian look like?
Answer: A true Christian doesn’t “look like” anything. That’s the wrong question coming from Reformed metaphysics where verbs are works salvation. The Hebrew writer framed the question this way: what do Christians DO? See Hebrews 11. Aggressive DOING in our Christian life reveals that we really believe that our salvation is a finished work that we cannot contribute to. Fear of doing in our Christian life reveals an attitude that our salvation must be maintained in some way by living a noun life instead of a verb life. Hence, “what does that look like” rather than “how do I do that?” “How do I please God” becomes, “What does that look like” because it really isn’t me doing it. If I am doing it, I am finishing my salvation in some way. Salvation is finished, and it can only be appropriated through faith alone. But the power imputed to us for Christian living must be appropriated through BOTH faith and obedience. In our Christian life, faith and obedience work together and enhance each other (James 2:22). Hence, assurance of salvation grows as our obedience and faith feed each other.
3. Is there such a thing as a wealthy (monetary terms) Christian?
Answer: Yes. Kingdom living is many faceted and full-orbed. God uses a variety of socio-economic types of people in His kingdom.
4. Does being a Christian mean having no money, no career ambitions.
Answer: Only if you are a follower of Martin Luther. We are free from the law and have incredible liberty to pursue the things we enjoy. However, though free from the law’s jurisdiction, we are “enslaved to righteousness.” The balance of liberty and what is pleasing to God is a complex issue, but that is why God gave us a miraculously designed and capable brain. Be patient and wait on the Lord as you prayerfully search the Scriptures for these answers. Even Daniel lived this way. He searched the Scriptures for answers. And many times, the answers we seek will determine the book where we look for the answers (Daniel 9:1,2).
5. How do I please God with my life? For example, how much Bible reading am I supposed to do? Should I wait for the Spirit to lead me? Can I continue reading romance novels or should I stop because Christians say it is wrong, yet I still want to read one?
Answer: No, as Christians, we NEVER wait to do anything that is within our power and abilities to do. To do otherwise is to rob blessings from our Christian life (James 1:25). Granted, we will continually rob ourselves of blessings because we are hindered by our mortality: “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As Christians, we have new desires. But a remnant of the old sinful desires remain. HOWEVER, unlike when we were unsaved, their power to control us is broken because the old us died with Christ. HOWEVER, the old desires wage war against us through feelings, and the argument that we have to obey those desires can be pretty strong. But because of what we know from the Scriptures, those feelings are lying. The strength of the sinful desires’ argument is strengthened through disobedience.
Christians should listen to their conscience. The apostle Paul said to keep a clear conscience before God. However, as our conscience becomes more and more biblically trained, our consciences will give more freedom. Right now, if reading romance novels makes you feel guilty, I would encourage you to stop. Don’t violate your conscience. Don’t allow a desire to lead you into a watered down blessing that you cannot fully enjoy anyway. I know that there is a, well, for lack of a better way of stating it, “need” for Christian romance novels. Some of the content in the novels you are reading could be the issue. Christians are to “dwell” on what is honorable. That doesn’t exclude creative/interesting thoughts provoked by reading.
6. How do I know I am pleasing God from my heart and not as a result of my intellect?
Answer: Learn and do. ALL truthful obedience is from the redeemed heart. Obeying God when we don’t want to or don’t feel like it is the most self-sacrificial. If we have a desire not to obey a clear biblical imperative, it is probably a “desire of the flesh.” Often, when we obey when we don’t want to, we are merely refusing to obey a desire of the flesh. The Bible has much to say about obedience to desires (ROM 6:11,12). ALSO, this is a result of your biblical intellect which is a GOOD THING! I love you, but your thinking is fraught with Reformed morbid introspection that they want to use to control you. Stop reading John Piper.
7. Sanctification, justification, Grace being born again.. right now I am so confused by all of this I am doubting what I believe and whether I am on the right path or am I just lost and not aware.
Answer: I can tell you that you are not lost. Lost people don’t concern themselves with these things. You have great potential to please God because you are a thinker and not a mindless follower of men. A good example of the latter is your everyday Calvinist. There is hope for confused Calvinists. Here is Paul’s justification/sanctification construct in the book of Romans: the lost and saved fall under two categories:
1. Under the law. Definition;
A. Enslaved to sin and the obedience to sinful desires.
B. Provoked to sin by the law.
C. Will be judged by the law.
2. Under Grace. Definition;
A. Released from the law.
B. Enslaved to righteousness.
C. Provoked to please God by the law.
D. Will not be judged by the law.
E. Harassed by sinful desires.
Read Romans carefully line by line. Read it thoughtfully and prayerfully. Take the words at face value. I will mail the book today or tomorrow.
Stay the course. In all, stand immovable in the Lord Jesus Christ our beloved King.
Volume one of The Truth About New Calvinism sought to primarily do one thing: document the contemporary history of New Calvinism and address some of its doctrinal quirks. New Calvinists claim to have rediscovered the authentic Reformation gospel; I didn’t address that question in volume one because much additional research was required to answer that question. Volume two answers that question, and the answer is “yes.” New Calvinists have the authentic Reformed doctrine down pat, and if not for them, we probably would have never known what the Reformers really believed. I believe John MacArthur has adopted New Calvinism because he was rightfully convinced by John Piper and others that this is what the Reformers believed. In other words, MacArthur’s enamoration with the Reformation motif has led him astray.
What makes Calvinism, the articulation of Lutheranism, so deceptive is the emphasis on two metaphysical realities and the interpretation of all reality through that dualism: our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Much can be written and agreed upon in regard to these two points. So, Sunday after Sunday we hear sermons based on these two biblical concepts only, and probably without much complaint and in many cases much praise.
But this isn’t the full counsel of God, and the overemphasis on these two points and the exclusion of all else eventually leads to the unenviable results. The apostle Paul equated teaching the full of God from house to house night and day with not having the blood of men on his hands.
This brings us to the Emphasis hermeneutic. This is THE Reformation epistemology. This is their key to putting the Bible into use. Luther laid the framework in his Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustine Order and Calvin articulated it in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the first sentence of chapter one, Calvin introduces Luther’s dualism, and the rest of the Institutes flow from this concept. All of the Institutes build on the very first sentence that states wisdom is known by knowing us and knowing God more and more. For all practical purposes, the knowledge of good and evil. This is Luther’s Theology of the Cross in his disputation which was written six months after the 95 Theses. The latter was the moral protest; the former is the foundation of Reformation theology. Almost everything that the New Calvinists teach can be found in Luther’s Disputation including John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.
Luther believed that all reality was to be interpreted through the cross story. And by the way, as an aside, this is the first tenet of New Covenant Theology. Luther’s construct was strictly dualist: God’s story, or our story—the cross story or the glory story. A matter of emphasis. Certainly, Luther concurred that many things other than the cross story are TRUE, and to some extent VALUABLE for lesser concerns apart from the Christian faith, but in Luther’s view, any religious matter that distracted from the cross work of Christ diminished God’s glory and in most cases emphasized us instead; i.e., the glory story—our glory, not God’s.
The Emphasis hermeneutic is a Gnostic concept. This shouldn’t surprise us as Augustine’s penchant for Gnosticism is well known and Luther/Calvin were his mentorees. Calvin cites Augustine, on average, every 2.5 pages in the Institutes. Earthly things are a shadow of reality and the “true and the good.” Through education and knowledge one can obtain understanding of the true and the good. In Luther’s construct, Christ was the full representation of the true and the good. Christ is the true and the good; as New Calvinists state it, He is “THE gospel.” The gospel is the true and the good. He is the SUN (Son). The sun/shadows interpretive illustration is key to understanding this Gnostic/Platonist concept.
This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished. Let me repeat that, because it is the crux:
This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished
The diminishing of sanctification: to the extent that we focus on anything else but Christ and the reason for the cross—our wickedness. The focus must be Christ’s crosswork. EVERYTHING points to Christ and interprets Christ. Anything that is true but doesn’t lead to more understanding of Christ casts a SHADOW on reality and wisdom. It is focusing on the shadow caused by whatever is blocking the Sun/Son. Anything that is not seen in a Chrsitocentric reality “ECLIPSES THE SON/SUN.”
Hence, seeing biblical commands in the Scripture as something we should see and do is the what? The glory story. It’s about “what we do, not what Christ has done” a favorite New Calvinist truism. Therefore, biblical imperatives are to be seen in their “gospel context” as a standard that Christ kept for us and imputed to our sanctification. The cross story is then lifted up because it shows Christ’s holiness as set against our inability to uphold the law in sanctification.
To do otherwise is to “eclipse the Son.” Once you know how to look for this, you can see it everywhere in the American church. John MacArthur wrote the Forward to the Rick Holland book, “Uneclipsing the Son” in which this Gnostic paradigm is the very theses. In the Forward, MacArthur states in no uncertain terms that to emphasize “ANYTHING” or “ANYONE” other than Christ is to diminish sanctification. “Pastor” Steve Lawson, in an address at the 2012 Resolved Conference implored young pastors to “come out from the shadows.” Pseudo biblical counselor Michael Emlet framed it as “CrossTalk” in his book that bears that same title. It is a cute play on words that frames any talk other than Christ’s crosswork as crosstalk, a technical communications term that refers to interference from multiple telephone lines transmitting over each other resulting in many jumbled conversations being heard. In this case, shadows and confusion are the same.
Also, another way that this is framed is in regard to our fruits, or good works. By emphasizing anything we do, we are “making a good thing the best thing” or “making the fruit the root.” In other words, to emphasize fruit obscures the root that gives the tree life: Christ. We should focus on Christ only which results in “transformation.” But “transformation” isn’t personal transformation. If we are transformed, that is the what? Right, the glory story. Here, the Calvinistic lingo is very subtle; instead of us changing via the new creaturehood of the new birth, we are transformed “into the image of Christ.” We don’t change, we experience MANIFESTATIONS.
In the recent 2013 Shepherds’ Conference MacArthur used John 3:3 to make a case that our good works are like “the wind blowing.” We feel its effects, we see its effects, but of course, we have no control over the wind. Like Luther, and according to authentic Reformed doctrine, MacArthur believes that these experiences of the wind are rebirths experienced by joy. That’s the Reformed definition of the new birth: a joyful experience of the wind accompanied by joy. This is why MacArthur made the absurd statement in the book “Slave” that obedience is never bittersweet, but always sweet. Right, apparently, Abraham was singing praises while on the way to drive a knife through his son.
This doctrine utterly dismisses any and all work, even by Christ, occurring inside the believer. “Faith” is in us, but according to Reformation doctrine, is not a work. Therefore, anything spoken of as being IN US, is actually, BY FAITH. Which is not a work. FAITH is therefore the conduit that makes ALL works taking place outside of us possible. This is why the doctrine is referred to as “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Anything inside of us is subjective, or shadowy, because it involves the glory story.
Moreover, the work that we see outside of us is also subjective because it deals with wind-like occurrences. And because we are a “reflector” of the image, it will be difficult to know whether the occurrence are through our “own efforts” or the wind. This is why Luther stated in his Disputation that Christians should not be concerned with works or their manifestations. Even when it is the wind and not us, we “see through a glass dimly” and the wind is using a “dull instrument.” New Calvinists call this, “the subjective power of an objective gospel.” We focus on the objective through gospel contemplationism, and leave the manifestations to Christ. This is why John MacArthur has stated that it is his job to explain the biblical text, and then leave the results to the Spirit.
But even in regard to the Holy Spirit and God the Father, they are seen as members of the Trinity that better define Christ. To do otherwise would be to “eclipse the Son.” Remember, MacArthur said, “anything” or “ANYBODY.” It means just that, and is indicative of a large body of Reformed thought.
This undermines and denies the full counsel of God, the new birth, and the Trinity.
Forward to Uneclipsing the Son by John MacArthur:
As Christians we have one message to declare: “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 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. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).
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.
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.
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 (1 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.
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.
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 (1 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 1 Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich, sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure. 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).
The Christian life is Christ—knowing Him in the height and breadth of His revelation, loving Him for the greatness of His grace, obeying Him for the blessing of His promises, worshipping Him for the majesty of His glory, and preaching Him for the honor of His Name: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
No greater subject exists than Jesus Christ—no greater gift can be given than uplifting His glory for another soul to see it and be changed by it. This book will be a wonderful help to anyone who senses the need to orient one’s life and message properly with a Christ-centered focus. It is full of fresh, practical, and memorable spiritual insight that will show you how to remove whatever obstacle is blocking your vision of the Son
and allow His light to blind you with joy.
Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California
John Piper: Don’t Waste Your Life (pp. 58-59).
The sunbeams of blessing in our lives are bright in and of themselves. They also give light to the ground where we walk. But there is a higher purpose for these blessings. God means for us to do more than stand outside them and admire them for what they are. Even more, he means for us to walk into them and see the sun from which they come. If the beams are beautiful, the sun is even more beautiful. God’s aim is not that we merely admire his gifts, but, even more, his glory.
Now the point is that the glory of Christ, manifest especially in his death and resurrection, is the glory above and behind every blessing we enjoy. He purchased everything that is good for us. His glory is where the quest of our affections must end. Everything else is a pointer – a parable of this beauty. When our hearts run back up along the beam of blessing to the source in the blazing glory of the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.
This is no different than the goal of magnifying the glory of God that we saw in Chapter 2. Christ is the glory of God. His blood-soaked cross is the blazing center of that glory. By it he bought for us every blessing – temporal an eternal. And we don’t deserve any. He bought them all. Because of Christ’s cross, the wrath of God is taken away. Because of his cross all guilt is removed, and sins are forgiven, and perfect righteousness is imputed to us, and the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ.
Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ – the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life – the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.
John Piper once stated in an interview that Protestants are not ready for the hard truth of the Reformed authentic gospel. And what is that truth? It is the “truth” that salvation doesn’t change us. They say, “We are transformed into Christ’s image, and “We are sanctified” etc., but they believe no such thing and for our sake lie about it because we are not “ready” for the “hard truth.” This is why the present-day Reformed counseling culture led by the likes of David Powlison is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on Christianity. Christians go to counseling because they think we can change with God’s help and for His glory, and the anticipation of happiness. Powlison has built an empire on allowing Christians to believe that initially like we allow our children to believe in Santa Clause. That way, he can draw them in and “help” them with his superior spiritual knowledge.
What is that knowledge? It is the “centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.” John Piper states it plainly: if any work of grace happens in us at all, it makes sanctification the ground of our justification. I document all of this in much detail in chapter four of The Truth About New Calvinism. Below is a picture that illustrates this. It was published by a Reformed think tank that Graeme Goldsworthy was involved in. Like the following pictures, you can click on it for a larger picture:
Let’s look at other Reformed illustrations that show clearly that they deliberately deceive by pretending they believe that Christians change. REMEMBER, these are their illustrations, NOT mine:
In the first chart, we only grow by the same two things that saved us: knowledge of our sin, and knowledge of God’s holiness. This is why we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” But, in this chart, what is growing? Us? No, the cross. We don’t grow, the cross grows. Besides, if we grow, that circumvents the “growth” process right? If we get better, the other half of Reformed epistemology does not keep going down but becomes more level—making the cross smaller. No?
Look at the other chart that is really the same concept turned up instead of sideways. In the heart shape it claims transformation, but again, a second thought tells us that this couldn’t be what they are really thinking. If we get better, it destroys the Reformed metaphysical centrality of the objective gospel outside of us which is predicated on a deeper and deeper knowledge of how evil we are.
Furthermore, a good demonstration of the deliberate deception afoot is Paul David Tripp’s book, “How People Change.” They don’t believe we change, that’s a lie. Calvin’s total depravity also applies to the saints in Reformed theology. I document this in False Reformation. An illustration from Tripp’s book is integrated into the other illustrations by me to demonstrate this:
So then, what do these guys really believe about change? Well, it starts with gospel contemplationism which leads to “manifestations” of “the true and the good.” See the man in the first picture? See how he is meditating on all of the stuff outside of him? Through contemplationism, it is kinda like standing in the rain. The world sees the gospel, which in this illustration is the rain as a gospel “manifestation,” and as Christians we experience and feel the rain, but it has nothing to do with us or anything going on inside of us. For all practical purposes (in his general session address at the 2013 Shepherds’ Conference), John MacArthur likened it to a manifestation of the wind. You feel it and see its effects, but it is a force that is completely outside of us. He attributed Nicodemus’ later obedience after conversion to a mere blowing of the wind and not anything that Nicodemus could be credited with. We are talking MANEFESTATIONS here and not anything we do. It is similar to the concept of birthing the spiritual realm into the material realm.
In other words, when it gets right down to it—it’s Eastern mysticism. It began with the ancient paganism that saturated early civilization and morphed into Hinduism. Then Plato integrated the philosophy of Socrates with Hinduism. From there, it became Gnosticism which has all of the caste elements of Hinduism, and not by accident. The Reformed connections to Eastern mysticism are really no big secret and well-known among church historians.
Cults all come from the cradle of society and its spiritual caste. That’s why cults are innumerable and predicated on CONTROL. A characteristic not absent from Calvinism by any stretch of the imagination. The Gnostic Nicolaitans wreaked havoc on the first century church and the word means “conquerors of the lay people.” The name Nicodemus comes from Nicolaitans, so before his conversion, Nicodemus was probably guilty of what MacArthur said he wasn’t guilty of,
being a Calvinist.
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.
“You must be born again.”
~ The Lord Jesus Christ
Cultists are all the same. First, they believe they understand a higher knowledge that most Christians are not “ready for.” Example: in an interview with John Piper conducted by someone who asked him what he would say to the Pope if he had two minutes with him, Piper stated in no uncertain terms that most Christians are not ready for the true Reformation gospel of justification by faith alone [in sanctification]. Secondly, this mentality allows them to condone the hijacking of familiar Christian terms/phrases and use them to deceive. Example: when they use the term progressive sanctification they really mean progressive justification and they know it grade-A well. It’s deliberate deception.
“Cult” is a loosely used term and it should be. Cults are defined as any group that seeks to control others through deception. They are also defined by being sectarian; in other words, their false doctrine divides relationships of various kinds. New Calvinism has its roots in ancient spiritual caste systems that are defined by those characteristics. Much of today’s religion finds its origins in those ancient philosophies. So “cult” is going to be a term often used, and rightfully so.
This post was instigated by an email I received from a reader regarding a recent article by David Powlison in the revamped The Journal of Biblical Counseling. I believe Powlison to be, for many documented reasons, an unrepentant, habitual liar. The article that was referred to me, as you can tell, has ruffled my feathers. I’m just fed up with all of the deception. The link was a review written by John Piper puppet Justin Taylor. What is the jest of the article? Powlison is going to explain why being sanctified by justification is only one small part of the full counsel of God that he pretends to proffer. In one promotion for the article we read,
David Powlison challenges the popular views on sanctification that take one strand in Scripture and present it as the be all and end all of Christian growth. He specifically engages the strengths and weaknesses of the view that asserts, “You are sanctified by remembering that you are justified.”
Um, excuse me, but first of all, the idea that Christian growth comes from preaching the gospel to ourselves every day or revisiting the gospel isn’t even “one strand” of Scripture to begin with. That strand isn’t there period. It’s a lie directly from the pit of hell itself. According to Taylor, Powlison will address the following in part 2 of the article:
In an article planned for the next issue of the journal, Powlison plans to look at several related questions:
Is sanctification essentially the activity of remembering and rebelieving that Jesus died for your sins? Is self-justification by your own performance the chief problem that sanctification must deal with? When the Bible says to “make every effort,” is the hard work chiefly the struggle to remember and believe again that we are saved by the achievement of our Savior? “In each case,” he writes, “I will say No, and will seek to widen both our personal approach to sanctification and the scope of ministry to others.”
Powlison chooses his words carefully. He is going to “teach” us how to “widen” our “approach to sanctification.” But the “approach” is still singular, and as this blog has exhaustively documented, his approach is exclusively Christocentric. Powlison’s language is also continually saturated with nuance such as, “I will say no.” Why not just say NO and be done with it? Because the answer is not really “no,” that’s why. That’s the usual Powlison speak for, “It’s kinda ‘no’ but then again it’s kinda ‘yes’”
Let me make my point with this excerpt from Taylor’s blog:
Is self-justification by your own performance the chief problem that sanctification must deal with?
Um, excuse me, but if you are a Christian, self-justification in sanctification is a complete impossibility. But notice that it is conceded that such is a possibility by referring to it as a question of being the “chief problem.” Also note that the concern isn’t those who attempt to be saved by their works which then cannot be called sanctification to begin with, but that self-justification in and of itself is possible in sanctification. The very question verifies what Powlison really believes. Works justification CANNOT take place in sanctification. Where works justification is present, sanctification cannot exist. The very framing of the question shows that Powlison doesn’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive. Moreover, we need them to guide us through the very tricky business of figuring out what is our “own performance” in sanctification resulting in “self-justification” verses what isn’t our own efforts in sanctification. Again, their very premise is a biblical impossibility, but reveals what they really believe.
Powlison is a cultist extraordinaire. That’s what he is. Like all New Calvinists.
“Reformation epistemology must exclude any improvement or grace inside of us; otherwise, by their own definition, reality cannot be known.”
“This brings us to the fact that Reformers, both old and new, seek to create a completely different reality of thought and metaphysics in order to control their followers. They also rewrite church history to match this created reality of their own making.
What John Piper really believes represents the basic principles of the Reformation gospel. The Reformation has always been endowed with those who can sell snow to the Eskimos. The official name of their doctrine sounds so theologically cutting edge: the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. One thinks: “Right, the gospel should be central, no? And, we were not saved by any kind of knowledge that was within us; of course we were informed by the all-knowing God! Salvation wasn’t something that originated within us!” This is something that the Reformers, past and present, are absolute masters of: drawing people in by using terminology that plays on their assumptions. Hence, “total depravity” is assumed to only apply to the unregenerate. Hence, “justification by faith alone” is assumed to apply to, well, justification alone, when it really applies to both justification and sanctification. Luther and Calvin didn’t see this as disingenuous because they believed the two are the same anyway. Hence, “Scripture alone” assumes applicable knowledge rather than Christocentric contemplationism. But that’s the first one: assumptive terminology; terminology that plays on the assumptions of others.
John Piper has been very careful to stay aloof from the progressive Adventist movement that rediscovered Luther’s “justification by faith alone” gospel and spawned the present-day New Calvinist tsunami. The leader of that movement started a Reformed think tank to systemize the doctrine for contemporary consumption. He was joined by Graeme Goldsworthy who wrote several articles for the think tank’s theological journal in the seventies. But when Goldsworthy was invited to Southern Seminary to lecture, Piper couldn’t help himself; someone who really understood the heart of Reformation theology lecturing at Southern approached orgasmic reality.
TANC Publishing, our own anti-Reformation think tank has known since 2010 what this gospel is, in its least common denominator, but were perplexed concerning the big picture. We understood elements and cause/effect, but in essence, our thoughts were: “How in the world does this work in real life?” We came to believe that said think tank, The Australian Forum, had created an image that captured the big picture of the Reformation gospel, but what in the world could the picture really mean? (Click to enlarge if necessary):
As you can see, anything going on within the believer yields bad results. We called this illustration the “fetus” because we knew it captured the essence of the Reformation gospel, but again, what does it mean in real life? How are we changed by God if nothing happens inside of us? This brings us to the day in 2009 when John Piper couldn’t help himself. He wrote an article on his Desiring God blog that concurred with Goldsworthy on why the Reformation was needed. Supposedly, the Reformation was needed because Rome infused the works of Christ inside of the believer. Because Rome and the Reformers both saw justification as a continuous “chain” from eternity past to “final justification,” any “work” by the believer , whether done by Christ within us, or otherwise, makes us participants in justification. Rome is/was ok with this, the Reformers were not. This author uses almost the whole fourth chapter of The Truth About New Calvinism to document Piper’s commentary on this.
So, regardless of the entire “inside of us” lingo used by Piper et al, they don’t believe there is any grace inside us. Christ doesn’t do work inside of us; if He did, that would “make sanctification the ground of our justification.” Again, because sanctification is the middle links in the chain from eternal justification to so-called final justification. If we are involved in the links at all, we are a part of our own justification and are making “sanctification the ground of our justification.” It all must be a work of God by faith alone. I delve into this matter in detail in Sessions two and three of the 2012 TANC Conference, and in False Reformation published this year.
However, we contend that if salvation is a “chain,” EVERYTHING we do in sanctification is a work. Whether thinking, praying, or meditation, we are still involved in the links. Calvinism makes distinctions between what is a work in sanctification and what isn’t a work in sanctification and thereby classifies passive activities as faith and not works. WORKS ARE WORKS, AND ARE NOT DEFINED BY DEGREE OF PASSIVITY. This is why justification and sanctification must be separate.
Once Calvinism categorizes what is of faith in the Christian life and what is of works, these same conduits are used to live by faith alone which equals all of grace staying COMPLETLEY outside of us. Look back at the illustration—it is what it is. However, their thesis is crippled by the idea that thinking is not a work. Nevertheless, we will begin with Luther and Calvin’s dualist approach to understanding wisdom and use it to reveal how contemporary Calvinists use deliberate deception in propagating this false gospel.
Luther and Calvin believed that all reality was understood by a deeper and deeper understanding of God’s holiness as set against a deeper and deeper understanding of our sinfulness. And this is how people are saved as well: by faith (in whom God is) and repentance (from how evil we are). Neither of these change, the key is a deeper understanding on our part in regard to both. When this continues to happen, the works of Christ are continually imputed to us throughout our Christian life in the same way we were saved; i.e., justification by faith because “sanctification” is really the progression of justification. The works of Christ are imputed to us as we “see” them in the Bible. This is indisputable as illustrated by THEIR OWN chart published by a New Calvinist organization (Click to enlarge if necessary).
Therefore, New Calvinists communicate within the context of this dualism: the cross story, or your story. It’s either all you, or all God in sanctification. It is either the Cross Chart illustration or a chart that notes some goodness/grace within you. We call this the Either/Or hermeneutic. New Calvinist preaching /teaching well rarely present a metaphysical balance/middle ground/alternative perspective accordingly. The messages will always, in some way, merely contrast total depravity and God’s holiness.
In regard to believing that justification and sanctification are one and the same, we call this the Missing Transition communication technique. In teaching and preaching, New Calvinists continually transition between elements of justification and sanctification without a transition in subject as if they believe the two are one and the same. And that’s exactly what they believe. This has the effect of Christians functioning as if there is no sanctification due to the proverbial out of sight—out of mind consequence. While rejecting the idea of no sanctification when verbalized, that’s how they function because their mental data lacks sanctification wisdom. And be sure of it: this is by design.
New Calvinists also employ terminology that leads followers into assuming that their doctrine is normal. An example is, “heart change.” The heart speaks of that which is inside of us, right? The following New Calvinist illustration, again, THEIR OWN, illustrates that this is deception (Click to enlarge if necessary):
If we can do no work other than seeing our own depravity more and more, how does the heart on the other side of the chart pertain to us? If we change, would that not prevent us from understanding reality because there is less and less of our own depravity to see? Reformation epistemology must exclude any improvement or grace inside of us; otherwise, by their own definition, reality cannot be known. Obviously, “heart” does not pertain to our “heart” per se. It’s assumptive terminology. It plays on the known assumptions of others.
This brings us to the fact that Reformers, both old and new, seek to create a completely different reality of thought and metaphysics in order to control their followers. They also rewrite church history to match this created reality of their own making. Since reality is Christocentric, and all life must be found in the knowledge of the “Sun,” to the degree that we emphasize anything else other than the life-giving rays of the “Sun” (Son), we diminish true life.
This enables New Calvinists to posit all things true, such as the new birth, “in us” terminology, and the other members of the Trinity while pointing to the whole issue of “emphasis.” Sure, all of those other things apart from Christ are certainly TRUE, but they are forms or shadows of reality (Christ) and to the degree that we focus on them apart from Christ we diminish the life-giving rays. Those things are “good things, but not the best thing.” They are “the fruit, not the root.” “Oh yes, the Holy Spirit’s sanctification is a wonderful truth! But it is a good thing, not the best thing. It is the fruit, not the root.” So, the more you deemphasize the “good thing” for the “best thing,” the better. And obviously, those things are eventually eliminated.
Obviously, the only place left to go from here for New Calvinists is Eastern mysticism. John Piper and other New Calvinists like Tim Keller are not even subtle about their beliefs in such. Neither was the primary forefather of the Reformation, St. Augustine. TANC is presently hard at work unpacking the specific connections between the two and how they function with Reformed theology, especially in regard to realms, manifestations, and spatial birthing. Susan will be bringing an astounding report to the Conference this June. In one of her sessions, she discusses how Augustine thought the Bible was the completion of Platonism.
Let’s conclude with a list of the six communication techniques used by New Calvinists:
1. Assumptive terminology: plays on the known assumptions of others.
2. Either/Or hermeneutic: interprets all wisdom through good and evil.
3. Missing Transition: excludes subject transitions as a way to subtly deny difference.
4. Metaphysical Redefinition of works and non-works.
5. Emphasis: reduces horizontal reality to one life source.
“This is because Western culture has never adequately exposed Reformed theology for what it really is. As long as Protestantism clings to the Reformation myth, it will never completely break free from its bondage to anemic sanctification.”
“If Burleson wants to be an advocate for the spiritually abused he should denounce his Reformed gospel of spiritual tyranny. While he may help some people heal from abuse, he will go back to his pulpit and produce twice as many abusers.”
Last night at our evening Bible study we discussed election. Not election for justification (salvation), but election in sanctification (our Christian life). This is the Reformed idea that God sovereignly elects all of our good works in our Christian life in the same way that he elects some to be saved and passes over others. This leaves them to the choice that is inevitable if God doesn’t intervene; man will never choose God on his own. In the same way concerning sanctification, man is still totally depraved, and unless God intervenes will only do works that are filthy rags before God. In salvation, God only changes man’s position, not his nature. Therefore, in sanctification, God imputes His own good works to our life via intervention and leaves us to our own total depravity in the rest. Choice in justification; works in sanctification; God completely sovereign in both.
Though the application of this is somewhat complex, it boils down to the Reformation’s definition of double imputation: Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us positionally by His death, and the perfect obedience He demonstrated in His life is imputed to our sanctification as a way to keep our justification intact until glorification. Hence, to not believe in sanctified sovereignly elected works in our Christian life is paramount to works salvation. “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.” Sanctification must be a continual revisiting of salvation by faith alone in order to maintain our justification. This is the very heart of Calvinism. Yes, we do something in sanctification: we continually revisit our need for the gospel, and as we do that, the works of Christ are imputed to us by faith alone in sanctification. This is the theses of the Reformation’s magnum opus, Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order, and articulated by John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. This opposes Biblicism which sees double imputation as our sins imputed to Christ and God’s righteousness imputed to us and sanctification being an entirely different consideration.
We discussed how this authentic doctrine of the Reformation has wreaked havoc on the church. When God is seen as completely sovereign in sanctification, ideological conclusions are then drawn from what actually happens in real life. Rape is God’s will, and the perpetrator is seen as one who is acting out expected behavior where God has not intervened. “But for the grace of God, there go I.” We have all said it. No? All of grace in salvation—all of grace in sanctification. The only difference between you and a rapist is grace; therefore, who are you to judge? Even if you are the victim. Luther and Calvin thought righteous indignation a joke, and Calvin called justice, “mere iniquity.” Luther’s theology of the cross deemed suffering as the most valuable asset of the Reformation’s inner-nihilist theology:
He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Heidelberg Disputation: Theses 24).
Note that this constant seeking after suffering and self-deprivation leads to being “raised up” in the Christian life. This constant seeking after death leads to joyful rebirths when Christ’s obedience is imputed to us. This is the basis of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism which also implements Theses 28 of the Disputation. As you can see, it’s what they call the new birth. The new birth is something that continually reoccurs in salvation when Christ’s obedience is imputed to us.
The indifference towards suffering that this theology breeds cannot be overstated. It is such that Calvin’s beseechment of the Geneva counsel to have a detractor beheaded rather than burned with green wood is a supposed act of compassion that is Reformed folklore. And be absolutely positive of this: the roots of authentic Calvinism are %99.99 responsible for the spiritual tyranny in the contemporary church—especially among New Calvinists.
This is why I have a problem with Pastor Wade Burleson being postured as a spiritual abuse advocate. I realize that he is a well-known pastor and therefore a valuable advocate for a cause, but promoting him as a defender of the spiritually abused separates logic from consequences. It encourages a hypothetical idea that because all Nazis didn’t execute Jews, Nazism doesn’t necessarily lead to the persecution of Jews. Right, not in all cases, but for every person Burleson helps his doctrine will produce twice the indifference and abuse in other people. Many members of the present-day Nazi party are seemingly quality people who could be utilized in good causes, but the possibility is remote because Western culture has been properly educated in regard to Nazi ideology. Such is not the case with Reformed theology. While a Nazi might make a good carpenter you would likely not hire one as an advocate for the Anti-Defamation League. There are Nazis who would do a fine job in that role but the ideology would do more harm than good in the long run.
We also discussed how authentic Calvinism dies a social death from time to time because of the tyranny that it produces and then experiences resurgence paved by the weak sanctification left in its wake. This is because Western culture has never adequately exposed Reformed theology for what it really is. As long as Protestantism clings to the Reformation myth, it will never completely break free from its bondage to anemic sanctification.
Burleson strongly endorses one of the core four individuals who helped found the present-day New Calvinist movement, Jon Zens:
One of my favorite theologians is Jon Zens. Jon edits the quarterly periodical called Searching Together, formerly known as the Baptist Reformation Review. Jon is thoroughly biblical, imminently concerned with the Scriptures …. The best $10.00 you will ever spend is the yearly subscription to Searching Together (http://www.wadeburleson.org/2010/09/searching-together-edited-by-jon-zens.html).
Zens, who has also been known as an advocate for the spiritually abused, was a key contributor to the Reformed think tank that launched present-day New Calvinism (The Australian Forum) of which some Burleson promoters refer to as the “Calvinistas.” It’s not meant as a compliment. But yet, Burleson’s theology is one and the same with them:
Those who have read Grace and Truth to You for any amount of time know that this author is persuaded the Bible teaches that the eternal rewards of Christians are those rewards–and only those rewards–which are earned by Christ. It is Christ’s obedience to the will and law of the Father that obtains for God’s adopted children our inheritance. It is Christ’s perfect obedience which brings to sinners the Father’s enduring favor and guarantees for us our position as co-heirs with Christ (http://www.wadeburleson.org/2011/11/therefore-knowing-terror-of-lord-we.html).
Those who have faith in Christ will never appear at any future judgment of God, or be rewarded for their good behavior. Our sins were judged at the cross, and the behavior for which we are rewarded is Christ’s behavior (Ibid).
Obviously, other than the previous points made, Burleson’s statement proclaiming Zens as “thoroughly biblical” and his outright rejection of 1COR 3:10-15 and 2COR 5:9-10 are troubling to say the least. Burleson also holds strongly to the exact same method of interpretation that makes elected works in sanctification possible among the “Calvinistas.” That would be the Bible as gospel meta narrative approach. It uses the Bible as a tool for gospel contemplationism which results in the works of Christ being imputed to our sanctification when we “make our story His story.” Luther got the concept from Pope Gregory the Great who believed that meditating on Christ’s works in the Scriptures endears us to Him romantically and thus inspires joyful obedience. It’s all the same rotten mysticism propagated today by John Piper and Francis Chan. It’s a mystical (actually Gnostic) approach to the Bible that makes elected works in sanctification possible.
As a cute way of propagating this nonsense, Burleson has named his para-church ministry “Istoria Ministries Blog.” His blog subheading noted that istoria is a Greek word that combines the idea of history and story:
Istoria is a Greek word that can be translated as both story and history. Istoria Ministries, led by Wade and Rachelle Burleson, helps people experience the life transforming power of Jesus Christ so that their story may become part of His story.
This ministry called him out on the fact that the word istoria does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures which led him to change the subheading a couple of days later. He then changed the subheading to a citation (GAL 1:18) that is the only place in the Bible where the word appears. Only thing is, even then, it’s not “istoria,” it’s “historeo”:
g2477. ιστορεω historeo; from a derivative of 1492; to be knowing (learned), i. e. (by implication) to visit for information (interview):— see.
This citation has nothing to do with his original point of naming his ministry as such. It’s simply the only reference he could find that proves that the word is in the Bible. Kinda, as I said, even then the word is not “istoria.” Istoria is a more contemporary Greek word that in fact can be used as “history” or “story.” But the earliest use of the word seems to be circa 1300, and is most prevalent in referring to the “story paintings” of medieval times. It’s just a lame, almost adolescent attempt to argue for this approach to the Bible.
If Burleson wants to be an advocate for the spiritually abused he should denounce his Reformed gospel of spiritual tyranny. While he may help some people heal from abuse, he will go back to his pulpit and produce twice as many abusers.
10. David Platt
9. Paul Washer
8. Ligon Duncan
7. David Powlison
6. Albert Mohler
5. Mark Dever and 4. CJ Mahaney
3. Elyse Fitzpatrick
2. Tim Keller
1. John Piper
This blog has always been a tool for working through the best ways to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. For three years this blog has tested theses after theses with an open invitation to be proven wrong on every point by the New Calvinists. And no doubt, adjustments have been made. Though mostly personal attacks and the pointing out of 2-3 grammatical errors in a 2000 word post, acceptance of criticism has been key to where this ministry has come. And it has been a long, hard road. I didn’t just put up a blog and start writing, among many other preparations, I took college courses for the specific purpose of being as effective as I could be.
Some critical emails serve my purpose, and this morning, I received a New Calvinist jewel. It is a wonderful piece of Reformed talking points that exposes their egregious false gospel and the verbiage they attempt to use in the winning of an argument. The email can be addressed in order and point by point. Mighty convenient.
You would have made an excellent Pharisee. Like you, they delighted in law, instead of delighting in Christ. They searched the Scriptures because in them they thought they had eternal life, but Jesus said “they [the Old Testament Scriptures] are they that testify of me, but you do not wish to come to me that you might have life.” Then he makes the bold claim about Moses’ writings, “he wrote of me.”
First, Reformed hacks have fed on the Pharisee lie for a long time. The Pharisees were NOT “legalists” (a word that is not in the Bible), but were rank antinomians (“anomia,” a word that appears throughout the New Testament). They didn’t love the law, they loved their tradition. Christ’s specific indictment against the Pharisees was that they made the law void by integrating it with their traditions (Matthew 151-9, Mark 7:9-13).
Like you, they delighted in law, instead of delighting in Christ.
As we have seen, they DID NOT delight in the law, they delighted in their tradition. But note that although the Scriptures say Christians delight in the law (Romans 7:22), according to the Reformed false gospel, we can’t delight in the law and Christ both. To delight in the law is to delight in the law “instead” of Christ. It’s either the law or Christ—it can’t be both. This should speak for itself, and I have written extensively on the Reformed heresies that this reasoning is founded on. Primarily, Luther believed that reality could only be interpreted through one of two prisms: the cross story (the works of Christ [reality]) or the glory story (anything we do [unreality]). This can also be seen in the first tenet of New Covenant Theology which is the stream of Reformed thought that came out of the Australian Forum via Jon Zens:
New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and redemption. New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality.
It’s Gnosticism—pure and simple. Christ is the “vision of the good” and everything else is evil.
They searched the Scriptures because in them they thought they had eternal life, but Jesus said “they [the Old Testament Scriptures] are they that testify of me, but you do not wish to come to me that you might have life.” Then he makes the bold claim about Moses’ writings, “he wrote of me.”
Of course Moses wrote about Christ, but does that mean that everything in the Old Testament is about Christ only and not what he tells us to do? Part and parcel with being saved is a commitment to follow Christ by obeying the law (“follow me”). When we commit to Christ, we are recognizing that He will (after the commitment) make us slaves (douleuo) to His law (Romans 7:25). In what I call the gospel according to Moses in Exodus 21:3-8, he splatters them with blood AFTER their commitment to obey the law. Peter alluded to this event specifically in 1Peter 1:1, 2. Before the foundation of the world, and according to God’s foreknowledge and our setting apart by the Spirit, we were set apart “FOR obedience to Jesus Christ” and for “sprinkling with His blood.”
Let me be clear: we don’t do anything to be saved, but when Christ makes us new creatures, He also enslaves us to His law and enables us to obey it. Though we can’t do anything to be saved, we should know that when Christ answers our plea for salvation—He makes us His slave. We now seek to “follow” Him in obedience and love Him by keeping his commandments. I can’t state this fact better than the apostle Paul:
Romans 8:1 -There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The Pharisees didn’t search the Scriptures for that purpose. This Calvinist, like all of them, makes the fact that they searched the Scriptures for something other than Jesus synonymous with searching the law for ways to work your way into heaven. Christ didn’t even begin to give them that much credit for being closer to the truth. He stated that they made the law of God “void” altogether. Furthermore, many Jews thought they were saved by virtue of the fact that God had appointed them as caretakers of His word. He could have just as easily been referring to that, but it is clear that Christ’s broader point was the following: while claiming to be experts on the law, they were rejecting Him who is one of the major themes of the Scriptures. The other major themes are the other two members of the Trinity.
A person would have to be spiritually blind to miss the typological relationship between the Old Testament Scriptures and the truth revealed in Christ. You are right to observe “The Bible has built-in rules for interpretation throughout.” Not only did God reveal his truth through Jesus and the Apostles; he also revealed to us through their example how we are to interpret the Scriptures.
You seem to have misunderstood the nature of biblical typology. One of the characteristics of a type is that, unlike allegory, it is based on historical fact. We reject the allegorical method of interpretation, but fully embrace the typological pattern Jesus and the Apostle’s used and taught. If you should try to interpret the Book of Hebrews, for example, apart from typology you would be completely at sea. And what of John’s declaration “Behold the Lamb of God?” and Jesus’ declaration “I am the bread of life.” Typology is not a Greek hermeneutic; it is a biblical hermeneutic.
I don’t misunderstand the Reformed approach to “typology” at all. The following is the 6th tenet of New Covenant Theology:
All of the Old Testament scriptures are inherently prophetic in that the entire Old Testament, the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, point forward to and anticipate the WORD Incarnate, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). New Covenant Theology presumes that Jesus Christ, in his person and his saving acts, is the hermeneutic center of the Bible.
Then, John Piper states that our justification is maintained by meditating on those saving acts alone:
In the first image, the believer has no security or confidence that he will make it to heaven. In the second image the believer has security in the wrong place; a kind of automatic eternal security that can get you to heaven another way than by the chain of God’s saving, persevering acts revealed in Scripture.
Hence, we persevere to the end by God’s “saving” “acts” PLURAL as “revealed” in “Scripture.” It’s salvation by seeing all of Scripture as redemptive acts. Typology is needed to do this because a literal interpretation causes many problems with this approach. The whole Bible must be interpreted by “rich typology.” Meditation on the works of Christ alone in the Scriptures enables us to live by faith alone in sanctification as a means of maintaining our just standing. Again, Christ plus mediation on his works alone as found in the Scriptures to keep our salvation intact. We are doing something (meditation), and not doing something (obeying the law in sanctification) to keep our salvation. That’s a problem.
You wrote, “To take away from this construct by making the Bible a narrative rather than objective law is to drive a stake through the essence of the of the gospel.” For you, law is the gospel. You even stated that “Law” and “gospel” are used interchangeably. It is true to state that on occasions the term “law” is used as a synonym for the revealed truth of God, but that is altogether different from stating that law and gospel are used interchangeably. You would have found full agreement with the Pharisees. The reality is that Law and gospel are founded on two distinctively different principles. The principle of law is “the man who does them shall live by them.” The principle of the gospel is “the righteous shall live by faith.” Those principles are mutually exclusive. If it is of works, it is no longer by grace.
This statement reveals how ignorant Calvinists think the average parishioner is. “Gospel” means “good news.” All of God’s word is “good news.” This Calvinist, like all Calvinists, makes the good news of the blood synonymous with all of the good news in the Bible, and then makes it mutually exclusive from the law. The Sermon on the Mount is the “good news of the kingdom,” but Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is not once mentioned in the sermon. The death, burial, and resurrection is the good news of “first importance” (protos 1Cor. 15:3). The word speaks of the order, or what is before what is next. We are to then add works to the foundation of our faith in sanctification (1Peter 1:5-11).
The reality is that Law and gospel are founded on two distinctively different principles.
How can that be? We wouldn’t know anything about the gospel if it wasn’t for the law. Law isn’t just the Ten Commandments, it’s the full counsel of God (Matthew 5: 18). Instead of the law (word of God) informing us on the gospel, he makes the gospel a separate entity “founded” on a different “principle.” But we are either “under law” or “under grace.” And “under grace” DOES NOT EXCLUDE THE LAW, but in fact ENSLAVES US TO THE LAW (Romans 7:25). A Christian is also defined by his/her ability to keep the law as opposed to those who are under it (Romans 8:7,8). Furthermore, one of the primary purposes for which we were saved was so that the righteous requirement of the law could be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4).
His erroneous Reformed position is further stated:
The principle of law is “the man who does them shall live by them.” The principle of the gospel is “the righteous shall live by faith.” Those principles are mutually exclusive. If it is of works, it is no longer by grace.
This is a clear fusion of justification and sanctification by virtue of the fact that law/works and faith/grace are mutually exclusive. Law is totally separate, rather than having a different relationship to both. Hence, those “under grace” cannot be enslaved to the law which is synonymous with unregeneration. If the law is mutually exclusive—there is no gospel. A saved person is enslaved to the law.
Moreover, his statements lack a context in regard to justification and sanctification because the Reformed see them as the same thing. Hence, “The principle of law is ‘the man who does them shall live by them’”….for justification or sanctification? “The principle of the gospel is ‘the righteous shall live by faith’”….for justification or sanctification? If the Reformed answer honestly, they say, “both” because they see the two as being the same.
I have never encountered an individual who claimed to be a Christian as you do who seemed to delight so much in detracting from Christ. There is no question the Scriptures provide us with moral principles and flesh and blood examples [usually negative examples in the OT Scriptures] of how we should live, but the Scriptures are more than a legalistic manual for life. If you read the Scriptures and miss Christ, you have missed the heart of the biblical message.
You have often stated that we believe “every verse in the Bible is about Jesus.” It is difficult to imagine that anyone could believe 1 Chron. 26:18 “at Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar” for example, could be a reference to Jesus. Your claim, as is usual for you, twists our position. What we do believe is that the Scriptures are not primarily a book about laws, but primarily a book about Christ. Even those passages that report the abysmal failures of prophets, priests, kings, judges, etc. point forward to him who will fulfill these offices perfectly to the glory of God.
I will conclude with the simple truth that these last two paragraphs by him illustrate the Reformed, and very Gnostic Emphasis hermeneutic.
Sure, shadows are true, but to the degree that we focus on the shadows, we detract from the full life-giving powers of the sun Son. Sure, the new birth is true, but to the degree that we focus on a work that is supposedly done within us, we detract from the Son. Hence: “I have never encountered an individual who claimed to be a Christian as you do who seemed to delight so much in detracting from Christ.” Other Reformers warn of “eclipsing Christ” by emphasizing the Father and the Holy Spirit as much as Christ. In Gnostic venues, focus on the material detracts from the “vision of the good.”
Therefore, though I say they believe every verse in the Bible is about Christ to make a point, more accurately, they believe that Scriptures where Christ can’t be seen shouldn’t be “emphasized. ” That would be a problem because Christ stated that man lives by “every word” that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). An example of how this incites the Reformed to approach the Bible follows:
Immediate context is vital; however this is a starting point and not an end. From the immediate context begin to think of the wider contextual range (Sentence, Paragraph, book, whole Bible). At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.
Ever wonder why everything is About Jesus in Reformed churches and the Holy Spirit and the Father are seldom mentioned?
Calvinists often intimidate us with oceans of ink left behind by the brilliant, spiritual, educated children spawned by John Calvin: the Puritans. Calvinists like John Piper display their spiritual swagger by quoting the Puritans and making everyone aware that they read them daily. Of course, this plays on the utter ignorance of present-day Christians. Their authority is no longer the really thick pamphlet dropped down from heaven called the Bible—its orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is an analysis of God’s mass publication to people indwelt by His illumining Spirit by the church’s “Divines” of whom many were Puritans. They repackaged God’s word for consumption for the unenlightened masses.
So, when these brainiacs took the urine of accused witches and made cakes from it, and then fed the cakes to dogs in order to watch their reaction for a verdict, we need to understand that what the Divines do at times is the “foolishness of the cross.” We wouldn’t understand. This is activity that is on another spiritual plane; so, recite Luther’s Small Catechism and keep your mouth shut. The Small Catechism is one of Voddie Baucham’s recommendations for use in family devotions. He is really big on husbands being the “family shepherd” and leading the family Bible studies with….orthodox creeds, not anything that would come from their own brains.
Much could be discussed in regard to the lovely traditions that the Puritans brought with them when they were driven out of Europe as political refugees. But let’s talk about urine. Actually, urine tasting was the state of the art research born of European theocracies during Midlevel times. How the urine of the subject tasted was used to determine what ailed them. Several examples of medical charts are displayed below for your educational enjoyment. Click to enlarge them, but if you are a Calvinist, don’t try this at home—it’s not orthodoxy!
“But Paul, didn’t the Puritans have a lot of awesome things to say about God? Isn’t there much to be learned from them?” No: not in the long run because of their flawed logic. Notice that they aren’t around anymore. Why not? Because Puritanism cannot function without theocracy. Their logic led to the persecution of the Quakers via hanging etc., and when society had enough, an end was forced in regard to their theocracy. No theocracy—no Puritanism. And frankly, the same goes for authentic Calvinism. Calvinism exists today because their logic had to be adjusted for survival. Here at TANC, we call them, “sanctified Calvinists.” Yes, they have done the church some good because they don’t share the same logic.
I really wonder if this latest resurgence of authentic Calvinism will put an end to it because of the Information Age that we are in. Nobody calls themself a “Puritan” in our day. Will the day come when few will call themselves a Calvinist? Authentic Calvinism doesn’t work, and people will only use a clock that doesn’t work for so long; the fact that it is useful twice a day does not end up being enough. Once again, the same old superstitions of authentic Calvinism are showing themselves in the contemporary church. The basis is the idea of spiritual caste: the idea that preordained enlightened mediators should rule over the unenlightened masses. Theocracy comes part and parcel with that logic.
“But Paul, Neo-Calvinism is thriving right now in America and America doesn’t allow theocracies.” Oh really? Many New Calvinist “ministries” in our day are nothing less than Little Geneva. They have their own in-house police stations, and control parishioners by almost every means of the past save the death penalty alone. This ministry is compiling a list of various means that these ministries are using to control people through first-hand testimony. Other than the intimidation of armed in-house security forces, they are using “biblical counseling” to compile information on people that can be used to control them. That angle can be seen in living color via the public transcript of CJ Mahaney telling the cofounder of SGM that confidential counseling records would be made public if he left SGM for doctrinal reasons. Let there be no doubt: this is standard protocol in New Calvinist churches. And if they don’t have the dirt on you, they will fabricate it. That’s just fact.
Getting back to superstition—that is also the inevitable result of caste logic. Many blogs document the weirdness in this movement that gets crazier each month. And dismissal of comparisons due to medieval ignorance doesn’t cut it. Sure, urine isn’t used in counseling today (at least not yet), but instead we have rapists counseling their own victims in the church office!
It’s the logic. And in the Information Age, what happens in Salem doesn’t stay in Salem.
“Don’t misunderstand: the problem of ‘victim mentality’ is not even on the radar screen—they have removed the word “victim” from their metaphysical dictionary.”
“Justice necessarily implies victim. Victim necessarily implies worth. All three are conspirators with the glory story.”
Martin Luther had more on his mind than silly Popes when he nailed his 95 Theses to the front door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That protest launched the Reformation, but six months later Luther presented the systematic theology of the Reformation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation laid the foundation, and John Calvin later articulated and applied its basic principles to the full spectrum of life in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
The Cross Story and the Glory Story
Luther’s cross story, or theology of the cross is the crux of the Heidelberg Disputation and introduced in the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes:
Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.
That’s Luther’s theology of the cross: a deeper and deeper knowledge of our putrid humanity as set against God’s holiness. And NOTHING in-between. All of creation, all events, and all reality contribute to deeper knowledge of one of these two, and then both as a deeper knowledge of each gives more understanding to the other; knowledge of both, and the experience of both. Hence, every blessing, including our good works which are done by the Holy Spirit to begin with, lends more understanding of God’s glory. Every evil event, sin, and tragedy lends deeper understanding in regard to our total depravity and worthlessness. But of course your mother is dying of cancer; I am amazed that God would give anyone as many years as He has given her. Who are we to think we deserve even one year of life? And what a wonderful opportunity for her to suffer the way Jesus suffered for us!
This is the cross story. See the illustration below. This is a contemporary depiction from that camp—this is their assessment:
Anything else at all that gives any credit to humanity—Christian or non-Christian is the “glory story.” That would be our glory specifically, and not Christ’s. To the degree that humanity is considered, the glory of Christ is “ECLIPSED.” This is the theses of a book written by John MacArthur associate Rick Holland: Uneclipsing The Son. Everything is perceived as speaking through one of these two perspectives. ANYTHING coming from what is perceived as the “glory story” is summarily dismissed. Be sure of it: this is how Calvinists think. This is their worldview.
In one of the former Resolved Conferences sponsored by John MacArthur and Holland, in one of his messages, Holland extols a letter written to Puritan Christopher Love by his wife as he awaited execution. Holland forgot to mention to those listening that Love was executed for espionage against the English government while letting the audience assume he was executed for loftier spiritual-like reasons. The following is excerpts from the letter:
O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ…. I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my own unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory…. Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that the spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above. I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.
Justice? That implies that humanity has some sort of value. That implies that life itself has some sort of value. That implies that humanity should be protected through threat of punishment. That’s the glory story. Therefore, Calvin stated the following:
Those who, as in the presence of God, inquire seriously into the true standard of righteousness, will certainly find that all the works of men, if estimated by their own worth, are nothing but vileness and pollution, that what is commonly deemed justice is with God mere iniquity; what is deemed integrity is pollution; what is deemed glory is ignominy (CI 3.12.4).
Death by Biblical Counseling
The church must face up to a sobering reality in our day. The vast majority of biblical counseling that goes on in our day is based on this construct—you will be counseled from the perspective of the cross story, and anything that smacks of the glory story will be snubbed. You are not a victim. There is no such thing as a victim. Christ was the only true victim in all of history. Don’t misunderstand: the problem of “victim mentality” is not even on the radar screen—they have removed the word “victim” from their metaphysical dictionary. “Victim” is part of the glory story; Christ as the only victim is the cross story. I am not a victim. That’s impossible because my sin nailed Christ to the cross. Thank you oh Lord that I was raped. Thank you for this opportunity to suffer for you. Thank you for the strength to forgive the one who raped me in the same way you forgave me. What a wonderful opportunity to show forth your gospel!
Hence, when the leaders of a Reformed church came to inform parents that a young man in that church had molested their toddler, this was the opening statement:
Today, we have before us an opportunity to forgive.
The parents were then counseled to not contact the authorities. Those who do are often brought up on church discipline. Justice necessarily implies victim. Victim necessarily implies worth. All three are conspirators with the glory story. And be not deceived: this is the logic that drives Reformed organizations that are supposed to be mediators in the church; specifically, Peacemaker Ministries and G.R.A.C.E. A major player in the Biblical Counseling Movement is Paul David Tripp. In 2006, he wrote a book that articulates the horizontal application of Luther’s theology of the cross: “How people Change.” Of course, the title is a lie; if he really believed people change, that would be the glory story. Notice also that it is, “How People Change” and not, “How Christians Change.” That’s because this bunch see no difference in the transforming power of the new birth and ordinary Christ-rejecting people.
In the book, Tripp, like all who propagate Luther’s theology of the cross, posits the Bible as a “big picture” narrative of our redemptive life. The Bible is a mere tool for one thing only: leading us more and more into the cross story and away from the glory story. This is accomplished by using the Bible to enter into the cross narrative and thereby seeing our preordained part in the “big picture” narrative of redemptive history. Though Tripp is not forthright about it in the book, this is known as the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic. By seeing our life through the cross story, we are empowered to live life for God’s glory. This is done by seeing ALL circumstances in life (Heat) as preordained in order to show our sinfulness (Thorns) and God’s goodness (Fruit) for the purposes of having a deeper understanding of both resulting in spiritual wellbeing. In other words, all of life’s circumstances are designed to give us a deeper understanding of the cross story: God’s holiness, and our sinfulness. I have taken his primary visual illustration from the book and drawn lines to the cross story illustration to demonstrate the relationship (click on image to enlarge):
Understanding this lends insight to Tripp citations on the Peacekeepers Ministries website:
Paul Trip wrote a great post over at The Gospel Coalition blog all about the need for pastors to pursue a culture of forgiveness in their ministry. Pastors (and anyone serving Christ) have a choice:
“You can choose for disappointment to become distance, for affection to become dislike, and for a ministry partnership to morph into a search for an escape. You can taste the sad harvest of relational détente that so many church staffs live in, or you can plant better seeds and celebrate a much better harvest. The harvest of forgiveness, rooted in God’s forgiveness of you, is the kind of ministry relationship everyone wants.”
Then he describes three ways forgiveness can shape your ministry. I’ve listed them, but you can read how he explains them in detail.
“1. Forgiveness stimulates appreciation and affection.
2. Forgiveness produces patience.
3. Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in relationships grows.”
He closes with this exhortation:
“So we learn to make war, but no longer with one another. Together we battle the one Enemy who is after us and our ministries. As we do this, we all become thankful that grace has freed us from the war with one another that we used to be so good at making.”
And concerning another author, they also stated:
Last week, Steve Cornell at The Gospel Coalition blog posted some really great insight into the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. They also offered up some excellent and biblically sound steps in dealing with a situation where an offending party is hesitant to reconcile.
Here he summarizes a key distinction:
“It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—sometimes, a lengthy one”…. His ten guidelines for those hesitant to reconcile are rooted in scripture and, I think, incredibly helpful.
1. Be honest about your motives.
2. Be humble in your attitude.
3. Be prayerful about the one who hurt you.
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem.
5. Be honest with the offender.
6. Be objective about your hesitancy.
7. Be clear about the guidelines for restoration.
8. Be alert to Satan’s schemes.
9. Be mindful of God’s control.
10. Be realistic about the process.
Notice the overall blurring of distinction between the offended and offender with the subject of forgiveness.
The Cross-centered Anti-justice Pandemic is No longer Exclusively a Reformed Thing
Apart from Calvinism, the redemptive historical cross-centered approach is crossing denominational lines en masse. We at TANC see doctrines that were born of Luther’s theology of the cross in non-Reformed circles constantly; specifically, heart theology (deep repentance), exclusive interpretation of the Scriptures through a redemptive prism, Gospel Sanctification, and John Piper’s Christian hedonism. And we also see the same results. It is not beyond the pale for a pastor who has raped a parishioner to be the one counseling the victim sinner. You know, the “sinner saved by grace.”
God is a God of justice, and throughout the Scriptures He demands that we be people of justice. He demands that we come to the defense of the victim. I close with fitting words from church historian John Immel:
And this is the challenge. This is the challenge that I have as a man who is passionate about thinking: to inspire people to engage in complex ideas that drive tyranny. So here’s my challenge to those who are listening.
Do not be seduced into believing that righteousness is retreat from the world.
Do not be seduced into believing that spirituality is defined by weakness and that timid caution for fear of committing potential error is a reason to be quiet.
Do not be intimidated by vague, hazy threats of failure.
Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality. I’m going to say that again to you. This is good. Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality.
Do not mistake the simple nature of God’s love for a justification for simple-mindedness.
Do not deceive yourself with the polite notion that you are above the fray, that your right to believe is sufficient to the cause of righteousness. There is no more stunning conceit.
Do not pretend that your unwillingness to argue is the validation of truth.
Know this: Virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest–irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice.
Virtues are not estimates to be lofted gently against evil.
Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace.
Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway.
Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action.
Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality.
Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.
The time is now, you men of private virtue, to emerge from your fortress of solitude and demonstrate that you are worthy of a life that bears your name. The time is now, you men of private virtue, to answer Mick Jagger and all the nihilists that insist we are living on the edge and we cannot help but fall. It is time for you men of private virtue to take up the cause of human existence and think.
~TANC 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny: John Immel; session 1, “Assumptions + Logic = Action.”
“Not only that, and don’t miss this, if sanctification ‘feeds on justification,’ and if justification is monergistic, and it most certainly is, then sanctification is also monergistic and not synergistic. So, regardless of Tchividjian’s synergistic-like jargon in regard to sanctification—we should know better.”
Let’s be honest, when the Bible warns us about wolves dressed up like sheep; deep down, we assume it’s a bad costume. But it’s not, and we should assume that we will have to diligently exercise the brain God gave us in order to make sure that “no one deceives you.”
Tullian Tchividjian, hereafter “Mr. T,” is once again answering to fellow Calvinists for his Reformed antinomian ways. Mr. T is a heretic, but he’s spot-on in regard to the Reformed doctrine that he teaches. Unfortunately, rather than calling out men who don’t get what Luther/Calvin really taught, Mr. T continues to hone and adjust his defense of what he teaches in an evangelical way. If he would just say, “Listen guys, I teach authentic Reformed doctrine. You guys call yourselves Calvinists and you don’t even understand his soteriology, so hang it on your beak,” I would come to Coral Ridge and wash his car for free. And as a bonus, I would serenade him with the Christian classic, “Friends.” Yes, let’s get all the Calvinists debating each other with citations from the Institutes and the Heidelberg Disputation. Hint: if you are in that debate; choose sides with Mr.T.
Mr. T’s conclusion to his latest defense makes my first point:
So, I’m all for effort, fighting sin, resisting temptation, mortification, working, activity, putting off, and putting on, as long as we understand that it is not our work for God, but God’s work for us, that has fully and finally set things right between God and sinners. Any talk of sanctification which gives the impression that our efforts secure more of God’s love, itself needs to be mortified. As Scott Clark has said, “We cannot use the doctrine of sanctification to renegotiate our acceptance with God.” We must always remind Christian’s that the good works which necessarily flow from faith are not part of a transaction with God–they are for others. The Reformation was launched by (and contained in) the idea that it’s not doing good works that make us right with God. Rather it’s the one to whom righteousness has been received that will do good works.
There’s so much more that can be said, but I hope this serves to clarify that my understanding of the Christian life is not “let go and let God” but “trust God and get going”–trust that, in Christ, God has settled all accounts between him and you and then “get going” in sacrificial service to your wife, your husband, your children, your friends, your enemies, your co-workers, your city, the world.
AMEN “BROTHER!” But….the devil is in the details—literally. Mr. T writes the following in his introduction:
Pertinent to any discussion regarding justification and sanctification is the question of effort. In my recent back and forth with Rick Phillips on the nature of sin and its ongoing effect on the Christian, some have assumed that when I say there is no part of Christians that are sin free, I’m also endorsing a “why-even-try”, effortless approach to the Christian life–that I’m overlooking or understating the importance of “sanctification.” I suspect that one of the reasons for this is owing to my passion to help people understand the inseparable relationship between justification and sanctification.
Though I understand why—“why-even-try” is between quotation marks, technically, in context, “sanctification” being so indicates a misnomer by the author. In fact, many in the Reformed tradition dismiss progressive sanctification altogether. Dana Stoddard refers to it as “definitive sanctification” which usually refers to the elective setting apart for salvation by the Holy Spirit when we were justified before the foundation of the Earth. As far as I can tell, the Reformation magnum opus, the Heidelberg Disputation, does not contain the word sanctification at all. But perhaps I am missing it somewhere. At any rate, a couple of other details are worth noting in Mr.T’s introduction.
He speaks of “the nature of sin and its ongoing effect on the Christian.” The idea that “when I say there is no part of Christians that are sin free.” Well, that just isn’t so. It’s solid Reformed theology, but it’s not true. 1John 3:9 states, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” The apostle Paul adds to that by saying we delight in God’s law in our “inner being.” Furthermore, Paul stated that the power of sin to enslave us is broken; hence, “it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” To say that no part of the Christian born of God is untainted by sin is just not true.
Mr. T then states that justification and sanctification are “inseparable.” And….
As G. C. Berkouwer said, “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.” So, I think it’s fair to say that sanctification is the justified life.
This is sanctification by justification, and suggests that the law still needs to be upheld to maintain our justification. That is not righteousness “apart from the law.” This is the Achilles heel of the Reformation gospel and I have written on this extensively. Not only that, and don’t miss this, if sanctification “feeds on justification,” and if justification is monergistic, and it most certainly is, then sanctification is also monergistic and not synergistic. So, regardless of Tchividjian’s synergism-like jargon in regard to sanctification—we should know better. Everything else is just window dressing. Impressive window dressing, but nothing more than window dressing just the same.
Furthermore, as Dr. Jay Adams aptly notes, this whole business of sanctification feeding on justification “misidentifies the source of sanctification.” Mr. T then begins to make his case with Luther’s concept of passive righteousness and active righteousness. Right. That’s from theses 27 of Luther’s Disputation and is classic Reformed theological gymnastics. The Disputation eradicates the participation of the Christian in sanctification so thoroughly that Luther suggests in theses 5 that people who do good works in public shouldn’t be brought up on criminal charges. I’m not kidding.
Moreover, Mr. T, in supposedly advocating hard work in sanctification, describes that work as a constant fight against our supposed totally depraved narcissism which constantly clamors to earn acceptance with God for justification:
Also, be aware of the fact that our hearts are like a “magnet” that is always drawing the horizontal (non-saving) plane towards the vertical–we are always burdening our love for others (which fulfills the law) with soteriological baggage. In other words, we see our good works as a way to keep things settled with God on the vertical plane instead of servicing our neighbor on the horizontal plane.
In other words, we should never serve anybody for the sole purpose of pleasing God. Pleasing God always means pleasing God for the sake of justification. This, my friends, is just one of many, many problems with fusing justification and sanctification together. The apostle Paul made it clear that pleasing God is the paramount goal of the Christian’s life.
Mr. T even suggests that efforts to keep the law as Christians will just inflame sin. This is true of unbelievers who are “under the law.” The law has a tendency to provoke them to sin. This also agrees with the Reformed idea that Christians are still “under the law” and therefore need the gospel every day:
This is also why it is important to fight sin and resist temptation. Sin and temptation is always self-centered. It is, as Augustine put it, “mankind turned in on himself.” Failing to believe that everything we need we already have in Christ, we engage in “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21), desperately looking under every worldly rock and behind every worldly tree for something to make us happy, something to save us, something to set us free. The works of the flesh are the fruit of our self-salvation projects…. Real freedom in “the hour of temptation” happens only when the resources of the gospel smash any sense of need to secure for myself anything beyond what Christ has already secured for me. We, therefore, “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” because we forget it everyday.
And, go figure, the cure is dedication to the….right, local church:
It is for these reasons that it is so important for us to exert effort to pray, read the Bible, sit under the preached Word, and partake of the sacraments. It’s in those places where God confronts our spiritual narcissism by reminding us that things between he and us are forever fixed. It’s at those “rendezvous points” where God reminds us that the debt has been paid, the ledger has been put away, and that everything we need, in Christ we already possess. This vertical declaration forever secures us and therefore sets us free to see the needs around us and work hard horizontally to meet those needs.
When justification and sanctification are fused together, sanctification becomes a tricky minefield that can blow-up our eternal security. This is obvious if you read all of the back and forth between Tchividjian and Kevin DeYoung, and now Phillips. But never fear, if you are faithful to the Reformed philosopher kings, all will be well. Just stay at the foot of the cross while the philosopher kings figure it all out. You will be safe feeding there.
Or will you?
“In that Disputation, Luther postulates Pope Gregory’s take on the gospel which is the exact same calling card of present-day New Calvinism.”
“Powlison points to Pope Gregory and Augustine as the pioneers of biblical counseling using a ‘Christ-centered,’ ‘full gospel’ approach. And what was that approach?”
Let’s just take one contemporary example: a Presbyterian church that is now a mere shell of what it was; the remains of a war over the arrival of a New Calvinist pastor who exhibited outrageous behavior and leadership style. Today, some parishioners stand dumbfounded that the Presbytery took positive steps to keep said pastor in place.
As TANC, our newly formed think tank that researches Reformed theology continues to journey into church history for answers, the reasons for present-day tyranny in the church become clearer every day. First, it is driven by the gospel that founded the Reformation. Simply put, it is a gospel that does not believe that people change, but are rather called to contemplate the saving works of Christ in order for His righteousness to be manifested in one of two realms. Whether Baptist, Methodist, or whatever, this Reformed seed, the idea that people really don’t change is at the core of their function though they would deny it verbally. The Western church as a whole buys into this basic concept.
Secondly, the basic concept of spiritual elitists ruling over the totally depraved. You know, the they really can’t change crowd. The Reformation clarion call of total depravity—what’s our second clue if we need one? The spiritual is accessed through the chief contemplationists, and since they have the dope directly from God, they should rule over the totally depraved. Look, I have been a Baptist since 1983, and this is how it works. Again, we wouldn’t verbalize that, but to some degree it is true of all Western denominations because we are the children of the Protestant Reformation. What were we protesting? Naughty philosopher kings; past that, not much.
If we don’t change, the church doesn’t either. Think about that. And we wonder why things are a mess. Apparent growth in numbers is being driven by something else other than a true gospel. And the Reformers deny that while pontificating total depravity. It is testimony to the depth of which this Protestant construct has dumbed down the average parishioner; i.e., the totally depraved change. And nobody blinks. The assumption is that total depravity only pertains to the unregenerate, but that’s not the case according to the Reformed gospel and its time for people to start doing the math on that. The “Nones” and the massive exodus from the evangelical church is taking place for a reason.
I’m not ready to declare Pope Gregory the Great the father of the Reformation and present-day New Calvinism just yet, but recent discoveries reveal some things that should be fairly obvious. We aren’t stupid, just trusting, and that needs to end. Christians need to take advantage of the information age and start studying for themselves as the Christian academics of our day refuse to be forthcoming. They didn’t forget to mention that sola fide is also for sanctification. They didn’t forget to mention the total depravity of mankind AND the saints. They didn’t forget to mention that the new birth is a realm and not something that happens in us—it’s deliberate deception because the Reformed gospel is “scandalous.” The totally depraved are not “ready” for what the enlightened class of philosopher kings understand. By the way, many seminary students will testify to the fact that they are told as much by their seminary professors. Seminaries are where you go to be certified for the purpose of ruling over the totally depraved in order to, in Al Mohler’s words, “save them from ignorance.” Sorry, I prefer to let the Bible and Google save me from ignorance. Thank goodness for the Gootenberg press.
Monks. That’s what we are missing here. Martin Luther. Ever heard of him? He was a monk. What is the very premise on monkism? It’s the idea that the spiritual is obtained by contemplationism. And monkism is not unique to the Catholic Church—it is the link from the Catholic Church to the ancient concept of mystic dualism. Though it pans out in various different ways, it’s the idea that matter is evil and spirit is good. In other cases, it holds to the idea that both good and evil are necessary to understand true reality. Good defines evil, and evil defines good. The more you understand both, the more “balance” you have in the universe. Then there is the goal to birth the spiritual into the physical through meditation/contemplationism. Like I said, there are many takes on the basic approach.
Monks believe that the physical or world realm is a distraction from the spiritual realm. In some cases, they believe that all matter is merely a form of the perfect, or spiritual. Hence, monasteries. Traditionally, monasteries have been clearing houses for the dope from God through contemplationism. And since they have the dope, they should rule the totally depraved for their own good. In some spiritual caste systems, the monks rule directly, in others like the Catholic Church, the monks are the Scribes and Prophets for the rulers; i.e., the Popes.
The fact that monkism would be part and parcel to any doctrine formulated by Martin Luther is a no-brainer. Mysticism is simply going to be a significant factor, and so it is with Protestantism. This becomes more apparent when you consider the core four of the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine, and Pope Gregory the Great. Luther’s 95 Theses was a protest against naughty Popes, but he was completely onboard with the Catholic caste system. When his 95 Theses resulted in the unexpected societal eruption that took place, he presented a doctrinal disputation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg. And don’t miss this:
In that Disputation, Luther postulates Pope Gregory’s take on the gospel which is the exact same calling card of present-day New Calvinism. In theses 27 of his Disputation, Luther states the following:
Thus deeds of mercy are aroused by the works through which he has saved us, as St. Gregory says: »Every act of Christ is instruction for us, indeed, a stimulant.« If his action is in us it lives through faith, for it is exceedingly attractive according to the verse, »Draw me after you, let us make haste« (Song of Sol. 1:4) toward the fragrance »of your anointing oils« (Song of Sol. 1:3), that is, »your works.«
There could not be a more concise statement in regard to the New Calvinist gospel. Deeds in the Christian life come from the same acts in which Christ saved us. Secondly, they are not our acts, but the acts of Christ applied to our Christian lives by faith alone. Thirdly, when the works of Christ are applied to our Christian lives by faith alone, it will always be experienced by the exhilarating emotions of first love—this is the mark of Christ’s active obedience being manifested in the spiritual realm through the totally depraved. We “reflect” the works of Christ by faith alone. Even John MacArthur has bought into this nonsense, claiming that obedience to the Lord is “always sweet, never bitter.” Francis Chan states that it always “feels like love.” And of course, poke John Piper’s rhetoric anywhere and this same monkish mysticism comes oozing out.
Moreover, Luther states this same concept from many different angles in his Disputation, and theses 28 is clearly the premise for John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.
No wonder then that New Calvinists of our day sing the praises of Pope Gregory. Here is what heretic David Powlison stated in an interview with Mark Dever’s 9Marks ministry:
Caring for the soul, which we try [try?] to do in biblical counseling, is not new. Two of the great pioneers in church history would be Augustine and Gregory the Great. Even secular people will credit Augustine’s Confessions as pioneering the idea that there is an inner life. Augustine did an unsurpassed job of tearing apart the various ways in which people’s desires become disordered. Gregory wrote the earliest textbook on pastoral care. He pioneered diverse ways of dealing with a fearful person, a brash and impulsive person, an angry person, an overly passive person. He broke out these different struggles and sought to apply explicitly biblical, Christ-centered medicine—full of Christ, full of grace, full of gospel, and full of the hard call of God’s Word to the challenges of life.
Powlison points to Pope Gregory and Augustine as the pioneers of biblical counseling using a “Christ-centered,” “full gospel” approach. And what was that approach? It was primarily contemplationism and dualism. In fact, Gregory practically saw “doing” as a necessary evil. In Roland Paul Cox’s Masters dissertation, Gregory the Great and His Book Pastoral Care as a Counseling Theory, Cox states the following:
The overall theme in Gregory’s dichotomies is balance. It is possible that this comes from Gregory’s own struggles in balancing his desire for the contemplative life of a monk versus his reluctant, but active, service as ambassador to Constantinople and pope.“The Regula Pastoralis was in large part devoted to describing how to reconcile the two types of life. He came to the conclusion eventually that while the contemplative life was the better and more desirable of the two, the active life was unavoidable, and indeed necessary in order to serve one’s fellow man.…There could be no better exemplar of the two lives than Gregory himself, but he would have been less than human had he not from time to time mourned the fact that so much of his time must be given over to the active at the expense of the contemplative” [Jeffrey Richards, Consul of God : The Life and Times of Gregory the Great (London ; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 57.].
Powlison, in true Reformed tradition, invokes the either/or hermeneutic, or the either cross story or glory story hermeneutic of Luther’s Disputation by suggesting that any denial of this “Christ-Centered” approach is a wholesale denial of an “inner life.” In other words, suggesting that doing something should be emphasized as much as contemplationism is paramount to denying that there is an inner life. Such statements by Powlison are indicative of his utter lack of integrity.
In addition, Gregory’s penchant for mystic dualism is seen in the same dissertation:
Gregory’s view of health revolved around balance. In Pastoral Care 34 dichotomies are given. For each one Gregory discusses how either extreme is detrimental. The following are a few examples of Gregory’s dichotomies: poor/rich, joyful/sad, subject/superiors, wise/dull, impudent/timid, impatient/patient, kindly/envious, humble/haughty, obstinate/fickly, and gluttonous/abstemious. Further, Gregory explains how certain traits although they appear to be virtues are in reality a vice. For example, in describing the dichotomy of impatient and patient, Gregory says the following about the patient: “…those who are patient are to be admonished not to grieve in their hearts over what they suffer outwardly. A sacrifice of such great worth which they outwardly offer unimpaired, must not be spoilt by the infection of interior malice. Besides, while their sin of grieving is not observed by man, it is visible under the divine scrutiny, and will become the worse, in proportion as they claim a show of virtue in the sight of men. The patient must, therefore, be told to aim diligently at loving those whom they needs must put up with lest, if love does not wait on patient” [Pastoral Care: pp. 109, 110].
In other words, self-control is a vice. Unless cross-centered love is mystically applied according to Luther’s Disputation (theses 28), the latter evil of self-control is worse than the former sin of being offended since such offences serve to humble us (LHD theses 21).
What goes hand in metaphysical hand in all of this is good ole’ ancient spiritual caste tyranny. As Cox further observes,
Shortly after becoming pope, Gregory wrote Pastoral Care. In addition as pope, he reorganized the administration of the papal states, he maintained papal authority in the face of encroachments from the Patriarch of Constantinople, he established links with the Frankish Kingdoms, and most importantly (for these English writers), he sent a party of monks, led by Augustine, to convert the Anglo-Saxons.
Gregory was very influenced by the Rule of St. Benedict and Benedictine monks who came to Rome after the monastery that St. Benedict founded was burnt. In some letters, Gregory calls his work Pastoral Rule. “There is every reason to assume that Gregory in conceiving the plan for Liber Regulae Pastoralis [Pastoral Rule] intended to provide the secular clergy with a counterpart to this Regula [the Rule of St. Benedict].
….This culture of rulers and emperors also helps explain why Gregory saw Pastoral Care and Pastoral Rule as one in the same. By modern day standards, Gregory would be considered overly authoritarian.
A culture of “rulers and emperors” had precious little to do with it, but rather ancient spiritual caste systems that answered the supposed preordained call of God to control the totally depraved. With the sword if necessary. While many of these systems were based on mythology prior to the 6th century, Plato systematized the idea and gave it scientific dignity. But his trifold theory of soul consisting of king, soldier, and producer called for a sociological counterpart that was a mirror image to fit the need. Sir Karl Raimund Popper, considered the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, fingered Platonism as the primary catalyst for religious and secular tyranny in Western culture. And Plato’s mystic dualism (shadows and forms) added not just a little to the MO of the Reformers. According to church historian John Immel:
Calvin’s Institutes (1530) is the formal systematic institutionalization of Platonist/Augustinian syncretism that refined and conformed to Lutheran thinking and became the doctrinal blueprint for the Reformed Tradition [Blight in the Vineyard: Prestige Publishing 2011].
Christ promised us that He would build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The idea that the Reformers rescued His church from the gates of the Roman Catholic Church is both laughable and the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. The idea that Christ needed, and continues to need the services of Plato’s philosopher kings is arrogance on steroids. Somewhere, God’s church moves forward. Let us shed the Reformed load that hinders and find our place in that true church.
Just a few questions:
1. If you accept the idea that “flesh” and “spirit” refer to parts of regenerate believers rather than to spheres in which people live and by which we are controlled, where does sanctification take place, in the flesh or in the spirit? The same question applies in terms of “old man”/ “new man.” Which of those grows in sanctification?
Answer: This question reflects the fact that the Reformed crowd doesn’t openly discuss what they really believe about this issue, and I commend you accordingly. Authentic Reformed doctrine holds to the idea that the active obedience of Christ is manifested in the “Spirit realm” as a result of what we see in the Bible being imputed to us by faith alone in sanctification (see Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, theses 27). We don’t change. The “Spirit realm” and the “flesh realm” are two forces that put pressure on us, and at any given time, we “yield” to one or the other. This is the position of the elders who are over the NANC training center in Springboro, Ohio according to an email I received from them when they thought I was onboard with their doctrine.
Of course, the take on this varies among those in the Reformed tradition. Another example would be the idea that we are still dead spiritually, and the living Christ within us is the one obeying. What is consistent is the idea that this obedience is experienced in a certain way: joy and a willing spirit (see LHD, theses 27); that’s how we know Jesus is doing it and not us. At any rate, the crux of Reformed theology is that all good works take place outside of the believer; i.e., Luther’s “alien righteousness” for not only justification, but for sanctification as well. Your question is at the very core of debates that took place between heretic Dr. Ed Welch of CCEF and the commendable Dr. Jay Adams.
Jay Adams oversees INS as he was pretty much run out of NANC and CCEF—largely due to the fact that NANC and CCEF are both bastions of evil. I find it utterly intolerable that thousands are sent to these organizations daily with the hope of change when these Reformed organizations in fact don’t believe that God changes them. There are no words for my loathing of such hideous deception while these organizations also take people’s hard-earned money to boot. And some don’t go along with these ideas, but they stand silent and therefore are just as guilty. And my “whole life” is contending against this? Perhaps, but better that than one’s whole life buying acceptance with silence. Moreover, people praise CJ Mahaney and co. for their tireless night and day service to the “gospel” which is really the work of the kingdom of darkness against the kingdom of light. A pity that I would counter that with my own life.
Unfortunately, Adams, who is much more advanced in patience than I am—associates with them, and in my estimation thereby causes confusion regarding the kind of counseling that will change people. Also, the possibility that the only biblical counseling organization left on the face of the earth that is not infected with Trippism and Powlisonism is also a major concern. Nevertheless, Adams and his associate, Donn Arms, are the only ones who have taken a stand against the heretical onslaught taking place in biblical counseling circles which is fraught with mindless followers, lackeys, lovers of filthy lucre, shameless cowards, and lying integrationists. The idea that these people care about any marriage or the wellbeing of any saint is laughable.
But to answer your question completely, I believe the Scriptures are clear that the old self was put to death and no longer has the ability to enslave us to sin. The old self was “under the law” which means that the law provoked him to sin and a final judgment according to the law. As long as we are alive, our mortality has influence over us in regard to the old ways of being under the law, but the enslavement is broken. We are in fact born again, and have a regenerated “law of our mind.” Hence, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The warfare takes place inside of the believer between the law of his mind and the “law of sin.” The apostle makes it absolutely clear: this warfare takes place between my “inner being” and “in my members.” What is clearer? Unless the Bible is a Reformed gospel narrative that isn’t meant to inform our colaboring with God in sanctification. But it is, because we are no longer “under” it for justification, but are informed by it for sanctification. Because the Reformers believe we are still under it, we must continue to live by the gospel that saved us from the law. We are still under it, but Jesus keeps it for us. How this is applied to the Christian life by the Reformers is outright Gnosticism to the core.
Furthermore, the “law of my mind” part of the believer that “delights in the law” in our “inner being” is what grows. Something in us is in fact growing: a host of passages that include 1Peter 2:1-3 make this certain. Really? Jesus isn’t really talking to us when he states, “Well done faithful servant”?
2. Do you believe sanctification occurs completely apart from faith? Do we have everything we need at the point of regeneration, so that further dependence on the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary? It sounds as if that is what you are saying.
Answer: Your question is framed within the confines of the Reformed either/or hermeneutic. Reality is either interpreted through the “glory story,” or the “cross story.” This is the interpretive foundation of Reformed theology as stated in LHD. Because sanctification includes us, it must be by faith alone like salvation or it includes our glory as well. Therefore, where faith is, it must be by faith alone because faith is of God who will not share His glory with another. Therefore, if our doing is involved with sanctification, it must occur completely apart from faith. It must be the glory story, or the cross story. Reformed proponent Gerhard Forde states this in no uncertain terms.
Biblicists reject that metaphysical presupposition with prejudice. We stand with our beloved brother James, whom Luther rejected for obvious reasons, in saying that faith and works are together in sanctification while faith is alone in justification. Luther, and his Reformed minions believe that grace is fused with works apart from our faith when it is faith in the works of Christ alone in sanctification (LHD theses 25).
Also, “Do we have everything we need at the point of regeneration, so that further dependence on the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary?” Again, we see Reformed metaphysics. If any part of our story is in the narrative, it’s semi-Pelagianism and not the cross story. This is a rather simple concept. All of the power that raised Christ from the dead is credited to our account in salvation. The Holy Spirit, our “HELPER” (ESV) “helps” us (that’s what a “helper” does, they “help”) in appropriating the blessings of salvation. He aids us (that’s what a “helper” does, he “aids”). And those blessings are appropriated “IN” (that’s a preposition) the DOING (James 1:25).
3. Do you believe Jesus’ actions are ever to be considered not only as instructional as a pattern for our obedience, but as motivation to imitate him?
Answer: As many have forcefully argued in several articles, especially Presbyterian Pastor Terry Johnson, God uses many different incentives to motivate us other than gratitude and meditating on the salvific works of Christ. This was also Adams’ primary contention against Sonship Theology.
4. Do you see any difference between God’s work in a believer that replaces his need to obey and God’s work in believers motivating them to obey?
Answer: The very question suggests a “need” to “replace (s)” the “need” of a believer to “obey” in sanctification? Of course, a clear distinction is not made regarding….in sanctification or justification? But, NO SUCH NEED EXISTS for sanctification. Our work in sanctification has NO bearing on our justification. The premise of the question is based on faulty Reformed presuppositions.
5. How do you see the Reformed doctrine as teaching that sanctification completes justification?
Answer: They call it a “CHAIN” (The golden chain of salvation-Romans 8:29,30). What’s a “chain”? What happens if you remove the middle links of a “chain” ? It’s not completed—this would seem apparent.
We have taken a short interlude in the book of Romans in order to launch “False Reformation: Four Tenets of Luther and Calvin’s Egregious False Gospel.” Of course, this still relates closely to the apostle Paul’s gospel treatise that we are studying in the book of Romans. The Potter’s House crew has supplied invaluable input, and together we have crafted chapter two. Following is that chapter, and the pdf file will be updated later as PPT readers can watch and comment on the progression. One key thing that we have learned together is the following: the Reformation doctrine posits an election that predetermines some for salvation and others for damnation, but once you are elected you have to do just the right things in sanctification to obtain heaven! It’s almost like being selected for a chance to win a lottery. Certain people are elected, but they can still lose their salvation.
Chapter 2: “False Reformation.” Revised and Updated
The case for progressive justification would normally be almost impossible to make against Luther and Calvin for the following reasons: they were masters of nuance and left a mass of literary droning that would have to be examined to make a case; the Reformation motif is deeply ingrained in our tradition, and would normally require a notable theologian of tremendous stature to gain any traction on the issue.
But we live in unique times. Along with the aid of the Information Age, there is the following reality: The Reformation false gospel eventually produces the bad fruit of progressive justification and dies a social death. From among the ashes, theologians emerge (sanctified Calvinists) with a corrected soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) while retaining the Reformed nomenclature and other less troubling doctrines. This is why many “Calvinists” have a correct soteriology and an eschatology (doctrine of last days) that matches progressive justification (one resurrection, one judgment). It is also why the idea of eschatology being a “secondary” or “non-essential” doctrine is promoted heavily in Reformed circles—eschatology defines gospel. If you think justification and law are separate for the believer, you will hold to separate resurrections and judgments for the saved and unsaved (see Illustration 1, p.24). Christians will not stand in a judgment where law is the standard for righteousness—they have already been declared righteous. Only those who are under the law will be judged by the law, and with guaranteed results (Romans 2:12).
A Short History of Progressive Justification
Eventually, authentic Calvinism (advocates of progressive justification) dies out for the most part and the Calvinist Light (sanctified Calvinists) version becomes the norm. These Calvinists also retain the predestination view of authentic Calvinism as well, and that becomes the major focus of controversy between them and other camps. When authentic Calvinism comes back in the form of resurgent movements that take place, on average, every 150 years, the two camps find themselves at odds with each other. This provides an excellent opportunity because sanctified Calvinists are usually of a scholarly bent and articulate apt theological arguments against the progressive justification of authentic Calvinism. And this book will in no wise pass on said opportunity. This is major: well-known and respected sanctified Calvinists refuting authentic Calvinism; i.e., old Calvinists (sanctified, but thought to be traditional), and “New Calvinists” of the latest resurgence. But who holds to the original Reformation gospel? As we shall see, the New Calvinists.
Furthermore, the last resurgence movement of authentic Calvinism took place in 1970 and has presently all but taken over the contemporary church . The contemporary men who discovered the “lost gospel of the Reformation” surmised that the other resurgent movements had failed because the doctrine needed to be systematized and repackaged to fit socio-historic considerations of any given time. Apparently, they were right. In order to accomplish this, they founded the Australian Forum think tank. Their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine, and it is a treasure trove of commentary on the authentic gospel of the Reformation. Articles that articulate many elements of authentic Reformed doctrine are abundant. The Forum is no longer operating, but a Progressive Adventist group archived the journal .
Between the powerful information tools of our day, sanctified Calvinists, and the Forum archives, the evidence that the Reformers were proponents of progressive justification becomes obvious when you are pointed to the right places among literally mountains of written pontifications. Perhaps the most obvious is the title of John Calvin’s fourteenth chapter of book one in the Calvin Institutes: “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” That chapter will be used to develop the thesis as we progress.
Defined by Linear and Parallel Gospels
The grand crux of Reformation error is progressive justification. This is the belief that our justification, or just standing as declared by God, must be maintained. In other words, we are not justified apart from the law. The righteous demand of the law must be continually satisfied in order for justification to be valid. This demand never ceases for anyone—saved or unsaved. So that there is no confusion here, we are going to take a short interlude and examine an often heard phrase among the Reformed of our day. They often speak of the “ground” of our justification: e.g., “What is the ground of our justification?” It is important to note that the Bible never frames the question of justification in that context. We are chosen, called, set apart, and declared righteous; end of discussion.
This is where we discuss two primary gospels: a parallel gospel (two components side by side), and a linear gospel (everything on the same trajectory or line). Let’s also note two Reformed phrases that are biblical anomaly in this discussion: “the ground of our justification,” and “the golden chain of salvation.” This will form a foundation that we will continue to build on in our understanding.
The parallel gospel sees our justification as a chain from the declaration to glory. Uninterrupted, and guaranteed, and based on the atonement of God’s elect, Jesus Christ. At a point in time, we believe on Christ and are born again. Though we are still in our mortal bodies, the old sinful self died with Christ, and was raised with Christ in resurrection and infused with the righteousness of the Father. Hence, we are in fact righteous because of the new birth. All things are new. So, alongside of the timeless chain of justification and guaranteed glorification, or final sanctification, we live our lives separately from the finished work of justification. Because we are now born of our new Father, there is warfare between us and this mortal body that we are presently trapped in. Though sin’s power over us is broken because the old man is dead, mortality still possesses a life that is able to wage war against us and the indwelling Holy Spirit that has sealed us until the day of redemption. The apostle Paul referred to this warfare as between the “law of my mind” and the “law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-24 [Galatians 5:16,17]). The “law of sin” probably refers to a remnant left in our members from being “under the law” which provoked our sinful nature to sin (Romans 6: 14,15, 7:1, 6, 8-11). This parallel life that operates separately in time apart from the timeless finished work of justification is called PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION As we discussed in chapter one, we grow spiritually as we are more and more “set apart” from the old ways. It is a progressive separation.
This brings us to the authentic Reformed linear gospel. Everything is on a straight line. We are declared just as a onetime declaration by God, but sanctification (what they deceptively call progressive sanctification) operates in-between the declaration and final justification (what they deceptively call final sanctification) that is determined at a final judgment where both the lost and saved stand in judgment. They call this the “golden chain of salvation” (a chain is linear), and base it on Romans 8:30; i.e., this verse is not about justification only, but about the whole spectrum of the gospel from beginning to end . This puts us in the mix between justification and glorification. It’s a chain with two ends, and we are in the middle. Proponents of the parallel gospel say that sanctification is not mentioned in Romans 8:30 because the verse is about justification only and justification/sanctification are totally separate. The Reformation gospel states that sanctification is not mentioned in Romans 8:30 because justification/sanctification are part of the same chain—they are fused together; all chains are made up of links fused together. There should be a line drawn in the sand today that demands, “State your Romans 8:30! Does it include sanctification, or not?” The right answer is, “no.”
Therefore, since our sanctification is supposedly between the two ends of the chain (justification and glorification), one can see that the “ground” of our justification would now be a critical issue. Our sanctified life is now a series of links that connect justification to glorification. So, if we begin by faith alone, the justification links must also be maintained by faith alone as justification progresses towards glorification. “Progressive sanctification” is really PROGRESSIVE JUSTIFICATION as believers build the links of justification by faith alone to the final link of glorification. This concept is what is really behind the Reformed motto, justification by faith alone. It’s that, but it is also justification by faith alone in sanctification as well. Don’t miss that: justification by faith alone in sanctification. Justification has to be maintained.
This concept is commonly taught in Reformed circles. It also smacks of works salvation, and the accompanied idea that we can lose our salvation (and therefore begging the question of what we need to do to keep it). An example of the explanation thus far can be observed in the following sermon by Reformed guru John Piper:
Picture it like this. Your salvation is like a chain that extends back into eternity and forward into eternity. It is an unbreakable chain. Wherever you look on this chain, you find links of iron forged by God himself.
If you look back into eternity as far as you can look, you find election (1:1–2): “To the elect aliens.” “God chose you from the beginning,” Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “for salvation.”
If you look forward into eternity as far as you can on this chain of salvation, you see an inheritance that (according to verse 4) is reserved by God for you, and is therefore imperishable and undefiled and unfading. God took charge of your salvation at the beginning before you existed, and God is securing its great goal before you ever get there in the future.
If you look back on this chain a couple thousand years, you find God sending his Son Jesus to shed his blood for your sin (the sprinkling in verse 2). And then you find him raising Jesus from the dead to conquer death and give you hope (v. 3).
If you look back one or two or twenty or seventy years as a believer, you see that great link in the chain called new birth, and you see from verse 3 that it is not a link forged by you but by God: “Blessed be God who caused us to be born again unto a living hope.”
And if you look now at the chain of salvation being forged this very day in your life, what do you see? If you look at the chain that connects new birth in the past with your inheritance in the future, what do you see? .
Piper then specifies activity that he hopes is not seen as we participate in building the links of justification in sanctification by faith alone:
One image is of the Christian walking along the edge of a great chasm which he needs to cross to get to heaven. He is holding onto one end of the chain leading into the past. Day by day he is forging the links of faithfulness as best he can with some help from the Holy Spirit (not infallible help) so that eventually he can try to connect with the chain of heaven that hangs down from the high cliff on the other side. But he is never sure that he will forge the links well enough or have the strength to finish the chain….
The other image, which I hope you don’t have, errs in the opposite direction. It’s almost the same image as before. The Christian with the chain of salvation leading into the past is walking along the chasm attempting with some help of the Holy Spirit (not infallible help) to forge the links of faithfulness and eventually link up with the chain of heaven on the other side. But in this image the Christian has a safety belt around his waist tied to the chain of heaven on the other side so that even if he lets go of the chain leading to the past or stops forging any links of faithfulness, he will not fall to his death but be drawn into heaven another way than by the chain.
In the first image, the believer has no security or confidence that he will make it to heaven. In the second image the believer has security in the wrong place; a kind of automatic eternal security that can get you to heaven another way than by the chain of God’s saving, persevering acts revealed in Scripture [Ibid.].
Notice this statement specifically: “In the second image the believer has security in the wrong place; a kind of automatic eternal security that can get you to heaven another way than by the chain of God’s saving, persevering acts revealed in Scripture.” Notice that the chain continues towards heaven via “saving….acts.” God justified/saved in the beginning, continues to save in our sanctification (if we participate in the links the right way), and will completely save/justify at the end of the chain. That’s progressive justification. Piper continues in the same sermon:
This is very different from the security of the safety belt. Some people think that, because of some past experience, they have a safety belt and can leave the forging of faith behind, drop off into the chasm of sin and unbelief, and just swing low over to the promised land. Well, there is no safety belt. There is one way to heaven: the way of persevering faith. And this is why verse 5 is so important.
Our security is not in making heaven unconditional. Our security is in God’s infallible commitment to fulfill the conditions of heaven [Ibid.].
Notice that there is still a “condition” for heaven. Certainly, no unrighteous person will dwell in heaven, but Piper is plainly saying that a “condition” must be met to complete the chain. Said another way: justification must be maintained. It’s not finished. It’s progressive. Consequently, part and parcel with the linear approach is the possibility of losing your salvation:
“There is danger on the way to salvation in heaven. We need ongoing protection after our conversion. Our security does not mean we are home free. There is a battle to be fought. And in this battle we need protection and help far beyond what we can supply for ourselves [Ibid.].
The following citation is the crux of this point. The beginning of the chain is by faith alone, and we are kept by the power of God “through” faith alone IN sanctification:
The means God uses to protect us is faith. “We are now being protected by the power of God through faith” [Ibid.].
Bottom line: salvation by maintaining our just standing by faith alone in sanctification—as opposed to seeing justification as a finished work which frees us to pursue biblically informed aggressive obedience in sanctification as a way to love God.
And as stated before, the “ground” of our justification becomes paramount in the golden chain of salvation. Elder Reformed statesman RC Sproul stated the following about the “ground” of our justification:
At the very heart of the controversy in the sixteenth century was the question of the ground by which God declares anyone righteous in His sight….
When we say that the Reformation view of justification is synthetic, we mean that when God declares a person to be just in His sight, it is not because of what He finds in that person under His analysis. Rather, it is on the basis of something that is added to the person. That something that is added, of course, is the righteousness of Christ. This is why Luther said that the righteousness by which we are justified is extra nos, meaning “apart from us” or “outside of us.” He also called it an “alien righteousness,” not a righteousness that properly belongs to us, but a righteousness that is foreign to us, alien to us. It comes from outside the sphere of our own behavior. With both of these terms, Luther was speaking about the righteousness of Christ .
This statement by RC Sproul is a major linchpin in understanding Reformed progressive justification. First of all, he attributes the very issue we are discussing here to being central, or the “heart” of the Reformation. Key is his statement that, “It [a righteousness that makes us just] comes from outside the sphere of our own behavior.” Do not miss this: the righteousness of Christ is completely outside of the sphere of “our behavior.” Why? Because “our” (we can only assume that this is [being in the first person plural] speaking of Christians) must be based on something other than our imperfect behavior. It must be based on an “alien” righteousness; i.e., the righteousness of Christ. And remember, he is talking about our “behavior” which would include sanctification issues. Sproul is fusing justification by faith alone with behavior in sanctification. Therefore, if we think we can please God in sanctification with a behavior that is our own, it could affect our just standing or the ground of our justification. Instead of our behavior in sanctification being a different consideration than works for justification, Sproul, as all the Reformers—makes it the same issue.
We will discuss this whole Reformed issue of a righteousness completely outside of us—even in sanctification, but for now the major concern is a perceived need to maintain a just standing in sanctification, and the idea that we will stand in a future judgment to determine if we properly maintained that just standing by faith alone in sanctification. A clearer view can be lent to this discussion by adding a quote from John Piper:
He’s going to take our place and His righteousness is going to count for me on the last day and that will be my solid ground” .
Hence, there is a standard to be maintained throughout sanctification—the righteousness of Christ alone implemented by faith alone in sanctification. That will be our “solid ground” at a future judgment; therefore, righteousness completely outside of us must be the standard to properly maintain the links in the golden chain.
And RC Sproul attributes these same beliefs to Martin Luther. One of the developing themes of this book will concur with that notion. First, the law remains a standard for justification because justification must be maintained by the righteousness of Christ until “the last day.” let us once again review what Scripture states about the fusion of our just standing with law:
Romans 3:19 – Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
On the cross, Christ proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). What is finished? There is only one part of the gospel that is finished: justification. Christ secured God’s declaration by His death and resurrection. This is why it is said that He was slain before creation (Revelation 13:8, 1Peter 1:20, Ephesians 1:4 2Timothy 1:9).
If God’s righteousness is imputed to our account, nothing in sanctification is needed. The two are completely separate. Justification, in and of itself, is finished and glorification is guaranteed based on God’s justification alone. Glorification may not only speak of final sanctification, resurrection, and redemption, but also the fullness of salvation and the sealing of the Holy Spirit when we believe in Christ. At any rate, justification is a finished work, and sanctification is progressive—the two are completely separate.
Progressive justification comes part and parcel with the idea of justification being maintained until glorification, and it’s why those of the Reformed tradition are sensitive to the charge. And if justification must be maintained, what maintains it? And how is it maintained? And whodoes what in the process? The what, how and who. In the linear gospel, what maintains justification? The law. How? If we don’t work in sanctification, the righteousness of Christ (completely separate from “our behavior”) will be credited to our account. Our only work is to live by faith alone. Who? Christ maintains the law for us if we live by faith alone.
We can conclude that progressive justification manages to combine the worst of both worlds: works salvation because the law is still a standard for justification in sanctification. We work to maintain justification via Christ’s righteousness through faith alone, and if we don’t do that just right, we can lose our salvation. Any doctrine that teaches such is a form of works salvation. Secondly, antinomianism (anti-law of God) because Christ obviously obeys for us, and we have no righteousness in us that could effectively obey God’s word. It’s works salvation by antinomianism. At any point that we stop being antinomian—we lose our salvation. In fact, many in the Reformed tradition state that being accused of antinomianism is a test that determines if you are really preaching the gospel or not:
If you don’t preach in such a way that somebody responds like Romans 6;1, “Let us sin so grace may abound,” you’re probably not preaching the gospel. We’ve got to preach good news, not good advice as the ground of our salvation [John Piper: Ibid.].
Now remember, in the same video , Piper said that the righteousness of Christ was to be his ground for justification in the last day. Here, he is saying that we must preach “the gospel” as the ground of our salvation. Therefore, we maintain our justification throughout sanctification by preaching the gospel to ourselves. And in fact, one of the Reformed clarion calls of our day is, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” , and The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us. If we are justified by the gospel at the beginning of the chain, and that justification has to be maintained by faith alone in the works of Christ until the “last day” it only makes sense that to maintain that just standing by faith alone would require a continual revisiting of the gospel. And many of the Reformed in our day state that in no uncertain terms:
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 .
This is another linchpin statement by a notable Reformed teacher in our day. The same gospel that saved us must continue to sanctify us. This is because we are justified by faith alone, and trust the works of Christ alone for that salvation. But if the beginning of our salvation by faith alone is connected to our resurrection by a linear chain in time—then the original justification must be maintained by faith alone, or the same justification by faith alone that saved us. And obviously, if we don’t live out the “golden chain” by faith alone, “you lose both.” Both what? Answer: justification and sanctification. Therefore, justification must be maintained by the perfect obedience of Christ in what the Reformed deceptively call progressive sanctification. It’s really progressive justification. It propagates a required effort on our part to keep our just standing through faith alone in “sanctification.” Rather than sanctification being completely separate (parallel) with a freedom to work hard at experiencing the power of salvation as testimony to the world concerning our love for God, the Reformed way requires a fretting that we are not living by faith alone because justification is linear from salvation to glorification, and we function in the middle rather than operating completely separate from the finished work of justification. The following touches on one of the results:
New Calvinism, because it fuses justification and sanctification together has a complicated formula for what is works in sanctification and what isn’t works in sanctification, which determines whether or not you make “sanctification” the ground of your justification. But what they’ve done is created a complicated formula that determines what is works in sanctification and what isn’t works in sanctification that might affect your justification. But my brothers and sisters, when the two are fused together, everything that we do in sanctification is a work, whether it’s merely meditation, prayer, or doing jumping jacks. Do you understand what I’m saying here? .
What this actually looks like in the big picture, and supposedly in real life is explained well by the aforementioned Australian Forum:
After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”
We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.
On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31) .
This states it in no uncertain terms. Justification, instead of being a finished work once declared, still answers to the law which demands perfect obedience. Therefore, we cannot measure up, and must continually offer the perfect works of Christ to the Father to maintain our just standing. “Faith” is thereby defined. The Forum further elaborates:
“The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck. The whole church must join the confession, “Have mercy upon us miserable sinners.” The witness of both Testaments is unmistakably clear on this point.
No work or deed of the saints in this life can meet the severity of God’s law. Apart from God’s merciful judgment, the good works of the saints would be “mortal sin” (Luther), and nothing is acceptable to God unless mediated through the covering cloud of Christ’s merits. Because of “indwelling sin,” we need mercy at the end as much as at the beginning, for the old nature is as evil then as ever. Growth in grace, therefore, does not mean becoming less and less sinful, but on the contrary, it means becoming more and more sinful in our own estimation.
It is this conviction of the wretchedness of even our sanctified state—which conviction comes by the law—that keeps sanctification from the rocks of self-righteousness. It keeps the Christian’s little bark constantly pointed toward his only star of hope—justification by faith in a righteousness that stands for him in heaven. The refuge of the sinner must ever also be the refuge of the saint .
Consequently, the law is still a standard for our righteousness. As we have seen previously, the Scriptures make it absolutely clear that we are justified APART FROM THE LAW. The Reformers twist that to mean apart from us maintaining it which requires us to live by a faith that continually offers the obedience of Christ as a satisfaction to the law. And at any point where this is not done, we lose our salvation. Therefore, this is no different than Christ plus something for salvation; in this case, faith alone as defined by the Reformers. And this is exactly why the Reformers, especially Luther, took exception with the book of James—James posited an aggressive sanctification that combines our obedience with faith, but yet separate from justification, and that concept turns the Reformation gospel completely upside down.
Anytime salvation is not “finished,” works enter in. This is why a separation of true progressive sanctification and justification is absolutely essential—NOTHING we do in sanctification can affect our justification. This is the ground of our assurance; and our freedom to aggressively obey in progressive sanctification is the experience of that assurance—we see what God has worked in as we work it out.
One wonders if this is the primary point of election, a dynamic dichotomy between justification and sanctification. God wants us to be so certain that justification is finished that he completes it before we are even born….no, in fact, before the Earth was even created! This seems to be the point rather than determinism. How ironic therefore that the sultans of fatalistic determinism posit a confusing requirement to maintain our just standing by a perpetual reoffering of the finished work of Christ that secured our justification. While propagating the idea that God predetermines who will be saved and who will go to hell before the foundation of the world, it would seem that the predestination is only a choosing that qualifies us for a chance to get to heaven. From there, we must maintain the choosing through a complicated faith alone procedure in sanctification. This is another area where eschatology is gospel. The Reformers concur that Israel was elected, but then promote the idea that the Jews lost their choosing through being unfaithful to the covenant and was replaced by the church. Apparently, the same goes for us as well. This does not encourage a free and aggressive obedience that pleases God, but rather a false assurance in exactly what the brother of Christ the Lord warned us against: “Faith without works is dead, being alone.” Moreover, if James meant the works of Christ and not ours; certainly, one of his stature in the apostolic church would be expected to communicate better than that, and it is doubtful that such sloppy communication would have escaped the divine editor embodied in the Holy Spirit.
So, law is fused with justification as a perpetual requirement, sanctification is fused with justification, and this always encompasses a requirement by us to do something in order to retain our just standing; i.e., works salvation. Again, the Reformers invented something unique: a works salvation by not working. By working (not living by faith alone) you can lose your salvation. Stated another way: salvation by maintaining justification through not working in sanctification, or antinomianism in sanctification. When salvation is linear, we are in the middle between justification and glorification, and can therefore affect our justification. This is the Achilles heel of the Reformation false gospel. When salvation is linear (a chain), there are only two choices: work your way into heaven via raw effort because the standard is my good works outweigh my bad works, or the standard is perfection according to the law, but Christ obeys it perfectly for me via my faith alone. The Reformers picked the latter.
To the contrary, in the parallel gospel, there is NO STANDARD to maintain. The righteousness of God has been deposited to our account in full. There is NOTHING to maintain, it is “FINISHED.” Sanctification operates on a totally different plane albeit a life colored by the reality of the new birth, and becomes one reality with the finished work of justification at the resurrection. We can plainly see from the substantial data presented thus far that the Reformed gospel is not finished—it progresses towards the end of the chain. And, we are in the middle, and therefore a participant in justification in some way or another, and that is not only a really bad idea—it’s a false gospel. Keep in mind that it is the Reformers who call salvation a “chain,” it is their term. And a chain is linear.
The Australian Forum identified with this concept of linear versus parallel and illustrated the point with the following charts (added illustrations by author in brackets) :
Notice that in true Reformed fashion, “Final justification on judgment day” is reworded with “End of Christian life” in order to nuance what is being taught. It is also interesting to note what the Forum wrote about the parallel model:
The Reformed and Arminian streams of theological thought have always had more difficulty maintaining the centrality of justification than the Lutheran stream has had. In the Reformed system justification is regarded as a static, once-in-a-lifetime act followed by sanctification [Ibid.].
Remember, the Forum was the organization that rediscovered the “lost Reformation gospel” and was critical of the Reformed landscape of that day; i.e., Calvinism Light as discussed prior. Their golden chain model doesn’t necessarily depict the linear model to a “T,” but the explanation of the chart certainly does:
In contrast to these two positions, Luther and the Lutheran Confessions regard justification as a present continuous need of the believer, who is always a sinner in his own eyes yet always grasping the justifying verdict of God by faith in Christ’s righteousness Ibid.]
And that’s the problem. The two following illustrations (#s 2 and 3) summarize our discussion thus far:
John Calvin’s Progressive Justification
We have seen how the present-day Reformers continually claim to be of authentic Lutheran and Calvinistic doctrine, or authentic Reformed soteriology. But is that true? The so-called New Calvinists of our day are the most respected theologians in the world. Could so many of them be wrong? It’s very doubtful, especially when the writings of Calvin and Luther are examined. As mentioned beforehand, the title of Calvin’s fourteenth chapter of book one in the Calvin Institutes is entitled, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” It staggers the mind to know that Christians readily reject progressive justification out of hand (those who know what it is, which may be a smaller number than we care to know), but yet, somehow, Calvin has gotten away with propagating it in broad daylight for over 500 years. Even more staggering is the summary dismissal of the outrageous behavior of the Reformers—past and present. Christ’s words, “By their fruits you will know them” do not carry the appropriate weight on this issue. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the root of the fruit is a false gospel which shouldn’t surprise us.
Concerning chapter 14, and in accordance with what we have learned so far, Calvin strongly discourages Christians from making any effort to obey the law in order to please God. Calvin was adamant that Christians should understand that they can earn no merit from God by keeping the law. But merit for what? Obviously, if Calvin didn’t think our justification was at stake—as Christians, this wouldn’t even be an issue, but….
Even were it possible for us to perform works absolutely pure, yet one sin is sufficient to efface and extinguish all remembrance of former righteousness, as the prophet says (Ezek. 18:24).
With this James agrees, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all,” (James 2:10). And since this mortal life is never entirely free from the taint of sin, whatever righteousness we could acquire would ever and anon be corrupted, overwhelmed, and destroyed, by subsequent sins, so that it could not stand the scrutiny of God, or be imputed to us for righteousness. In short, whenever we treat of the righteousness of works, we must look not to the legal work but to the command. Therefore, when righteousness is sought by the Law, it is in vain to produce one or two single works; we must show an uninterrupted obedience. God does not (as many foolishly imagine) impute that forgiveness of sins once for all, as righteousness; so that having obtained the pardon of our past life we may afterwards seek righteousness in the Law. This were only to mock and delude us by the entertainment of false hopes. For since perfection is altogether unattainable by us, so long as we are clothed with flesh, and the Law denounces death and judgment against all who have not yielded a perfect righteousness, there will always be ground to accuse and convict us unless the mercy of God interpose, and ever and anon absolve us by the constant remission of sins. Wherefore the statement which we set out is always true, If we are estimated by our own worthiness, in everything that we think or devise, with all our studies and endeavors we deserve death and destruction [section 10].
Notice that the standard is perfection; hence, the law is still the standard in our sanctification. And because sanctification is a series of links connecting justification to glorification, “so long as we are clothed with flesh, and the Law denounces death and judgment against all who have not yielded a perfect righteousness, there will always be ground to accuse and convict us unless the mercy of God interpose, and ever and anon absolve us by the constant remission of sins.” In other words, Christians need a “constant remission” of sins to prevent “death and judgment.” In case you think there is a possibility that Calvin was writing about justification prior to salvation, he follows with this statement:
We must strongly insist on these two things: That no believer ever performed one work which, if tested by the strict judgment of God, could escape condemnation; and, moreover, that were this granted to be possible (though it is not), yet the act being vitiated and polluted by the sins of which it is certain that the author of it is guilty, it is deprived of its merit [section 11].
Though heavily nuanced in context to this point, what Calvin is stating becomes clearer as one reads further in chapter 14:
Hence we infer, according to the reasoning of Paul, that it was not of works. In like manners when the prophet says, “The just shall live by his faith,” (Hab. 2:4), he is not speaking of the wicked and profane, whom the Lord justifies by converting them to the faith: his discourse is directed to believers, and life is promised to them by faith. Paul also removes every doubt, when in confirmation of this sentiment he quotes the words of David, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” (Ps. 32:1). It is certain that David is not speaking of the ungodly but of believers such as he himself was, because he was giving utterance to the feelings of his own mind. Therefore we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives.
Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but “by grace are ye saved,” “not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8, 9) [section 11].
In the first paragraph, Calvin makes it clear that he is referring to Christians in regard to the forgiveness of sins, but the following words make it clear that it is the same forgiveness that saves us; in other words, the blessing of salvific forgiveness must continue: “Therefore we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives.” The problem with this, other than what has been previously discussed at length, is seen in what Christ taught Peter about the difference between the original salvific washing and the repentance/forgiveness that occurs in sanctification:
John 13:5 – Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Obviously, according to Jesus, we do not need a continual washing. The “washing” refers to justification (1Corinthians 6:11). However, the icing on the cake is in the last paragraph of section 11:
Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death….
Calvin is stating that reconciliation to God (justification) is “perpetual,” and that Christ’s death has a “perpetual efficacy” to continually reconcile us to God—“the same gospel that saves us also sanctifies us,” or more accurately, keeps us justified till the “end of life.” Pray tell, what was “finished” at the cross? In sections 10 and 11, Calvin stated for all practical purposes that salvation is continually applied to the Christian life by faith alone, and he prefaces the idea with a strong admonition against any attempt to obey the law—obedience in sanctification is deemed futile and equal to an attempt to be justified by it. This is progressive justification. Also notice that we must “hold fast” this faith alone that avoids any futile attempt to obey the law.
So, are the New Calvinists correct in their assessment that they are promoting the original gospel of the Reformation? Absolutely. But once again, exactly like the New Calvinists of our day, Luther and Calvin wrote massive volumes full of nuance and doublespeak in regard to these issues. Without the digital information age and the theological prowess of the Australian Forum, unraveling the Reformation false gospel would be nearly impossible. Like some sort of super-cult, Reformation doctrine reassigns different meanings to common biblical terms in order to propagate their progressive justification. The whole idea of, in essence, being resaved everyday must be assimilated into the minds of Christians using stealth. Though an unfortunate victim of Reformation doctrine, John MacArthur Jr. stated it best in his assessment of second century Gnostics who launched a massive invasion on the second century church:
Gnosticism was not a single unified cult. Gnostic thinking offered the possibility of “designer” religions, where each false teacher could basically invent his own unique sect. That is why gnosticism as a system wasn’t easy to refute and isn’t easy to describe. The ideas of one gnostic group weren’t necessarily held by other gnostics. It took much labor and diligence to contend against this diverse set of false doctrines. And over several centuries’ of time, gnostics produced hundreds of varieties of counterfeit Christianity.
Every form of gnoticism starts with the notion that truth is a secret known only by a select few, elevated, enlightened minds. (Hence the name, from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge.) Gnostics offered a sinister smorgasbord of ideas, myths, and superstitions, all borrowed from pagan mystery religions and human philosophy. Those beliefs were then blended with Christian imagery and terminology. When the gospel accounts of Jesus’ teaching didn’t fit gnostic doctrines, gnostics simply wrote their own fictional “gospels” and passed them off as mere enlightened accounts of Christ’s life and ministry.
Gnostic teachers accumulated both wealth and followers by promising their disciples the secret knowledge—for a price, of course. Naturally, most gnostic cults claimed to have a monopoly on the secrets of the universe. Because various groups of gnostics did not necessarily agree among themselves about what the secret knowledge was, gnosticism was a highly competitive brand of heresy, and most of its purveyors were therefore skilled polemicists.
Every form of gnosticism was actually pagan to the core, but because gnostics had a peculiar tendency to synthesize Christian doctrine and symbolism with their worldly philosophies, they fooled many Christians. They borrowed biblical terminology and elements of Christian teaching. But they redefined all the terms and revamped all the teaching. Then they masqueraded as Christians and advertised their religion as a more enlightened version of Christianity. Gnostic leaders often aligned with established churches to gain credibility. They aggressively recruited followers from within the church itself. Because the gnostics employed familiar Christian terminology and professed faith in Christ, many in the church were uncertain about whether to embrace them as brethren or reject them as heretics .
There is not a more apt description of the present-day New Calvinist movement based on authentic Reformed theology than this one offered by one of its promoters. In fact, there is no room here to catalogue the mass of similarities. But this should not surprise us. St. Augustine, known as one of the fathers of Reformed theology, integrated Neo-Platonism into much of his teachings. Historically, this is no big secret—no pun intended. One church historian that I was privileged to have a phone conversation with described Gnosticism as, “a poor man’s Platonism.” Regardless of Augustine’s penchant for Neo-Platonism and Roman Catholicism, he was the primary theological influence on Martin Luther and John Calvin. This is painstakingly documented in David Hunt’s contemporary classic work, “What Love is This?” . Calvin quoted Augustine more than 400 times in his Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion which is usually around 1000 pages in most translations. And the first sentence of chapter one in book one is fundamentally a Gnostic statement. Calvin states the following in that sentence:
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.
But Calvin believed that mankind, including the regenerate, were totally depraved. So, basically, his description of wisdom matches many historic descriptions of Gnosticism: the knowledge of good and evil becomes the primary vehicle for knowledge and wisdom.
The willful present-day ignorance of Reformed history and substance is absolutely astounding, but what the church must primarily come to grips with is the fact that the Reformation gospel itself has always been fundamentally false. It is progressive justification with Gnosticism as its “practical application.” This will be expounded on in more detail as we progress.
Martin Luther’s Progressive Justification
Marin Luther’s Cross Theology is really the heart of authentic Reformation doctrine. It’s radical, Gnostic, and brilliantly nuanced. As we shall see, the only place left to go for application from progressive justification is Gnosticism. The basics of Gnosticism will be explained where applicable to Reformed doctrine. This is an aside, but necessary to prevent the kind of logical questions that arise from becoming a distraction.
Though MacArthur rightfully describes Gnosticism as gnosis, or secret knowledge, it is usually an elitist knowledge that is related to dualism. Good and evil, thesis and anti-thesis, etc. Primarily, Gnosticism holds to the idea that the spiritual realm is the knowledge, or vision of the good, and matter is evil. Common in the mix is also the basic idea that opposites define each other; i.e., there wouldn’t be any such thing as light if there wasn’t darkness—there wouldn’t be any such thing as good if evil didn’t exist, etc. And when it gets right down to it, original Reformed theology is definitely based on this same principle.
Luther’s dualist concept is two trajectories that we live by in regard to his theology of the cross which included the glory story, and the cross story. He articulated the theology in his Heidelberg Disputation which was used in an inquiry by the Augustinian Order concerning Luther’s “new theology” . As stated beforehand, the Reformation’s present-day children have digital tools that were not at the disposal of their theological ancestors, so we will utilize a helpful illustration used by a New Calvinist organization. World Harvest Mission is an organization founded by Dr. John “Jack” Miller who was a professor of theology at Westminster Seminary. World Harvest is founded on Miller’s Sonship Theology. Sonship was a spin-off from the Australian Forum and started a huge war between the sanctified Calvinists and the authentic Calvinists in Presbyterian circles. But let there be no doubt about it: Sonship Theology is pure authentic Reformed theology of the cross. Sonship Theology parrots authentic Reformation doctrine to a “T.” And there isn’t a better visual illustration of Luther’s theology of the cross than the World Harvest “Cross Chart.”
Indeed, World Harvest has done an immense service to the church by creating this chart. The two trajectories represent the cross story. Everything else, and that means, EVERYTHIG, is the glory story. Notice that the cross gets bigger. Progressive justification? Obviously. And basically, it’s a theology of death. Luther propagated a sanctification that sought to completely annihilate the individual. Only a reading of the Heidelberg Disputation can enable one to begin to understand the depth of self-depravation that Luther sought. Salvation begins with an understanding that God is holy and we are sinful followed by repentance. In Luther’s theology, that basic understanding must continue to grow—the basic premise of salvation must get bigger. We must immerse ourselves in the gospel, or the cross story, and shun the glory story; i.e., anything at all that’s about us. Self-death is job one; self-death in all respects—a complete emptying of self. This is exactly why this theology of death dies a social death, and then returns.
The Heidelberg Disputation
Luther’s Disputation to the Augustinian Order begins with the following:
Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.
Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, »Do not rely on your own insight« (Prov. 3:5), we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.
Notice that Augustine is put on par with the apostle Paul, and contrast that with Luther’s opinion on the parishioner’s ability to reason and deduct:
This has already been said. Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks, as the poet says: »The more water they drink, the more they thirst for it.« The same thought is expressed in Eccles. 1:8: »The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.« This holds true of all desires.
Thus also the desire for knowledge is not satisfied by the acquisition of wisdom but is stimulated that much more. Likewise the desire for glory is not satisfied by the acquisition of glory, nor is the desire to rule satisfied by power and authority, nor is the desire for praise satisfied by praise, and so on, as Christ shows in John 4:13, where he says, »Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again.«
The remedy for curing desire does not lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it. In other words, he who wishes to become wise does not seek wisdom by progressing toward it but becomes a fool by retrogressing into seeking »folly«. Likewise he who wishes to have much power, honor, pleasure, satisfaction in all things must flee rather than seek power, honor, pleasure, and satisfaction in all things. This is the wisdom which is folly to the world [Thesis 22].
The self-depravation required by the “gospel-centered” life therefore includes all knowledge with the exception of cross knowledge. Of course, Luther wasn’t devaluing practical knowledge that aided society and living in general, but with the exception of the cross story, he truly believed that any theological knowledge on the part of parishioners would promote the glory story of self while diminishing the cross story. One is astounded once he/she realizes how deeply engrained these principles are in the present-day New Calvinist tsunami. It also thoroughly explains the everything gospel mentality in the contemporary church coupled with a woeful absence of doctrinal teaching. Reformed theology has no place nor any tolerance for the faithful Berean who would dare question their version of Pauline theology, or Augustine. The fate of those who dared is well documented. And this same mentality prospers today among many Reformed pastors:
Paul told the Corinthian church that “‘knowledge’ puffs up but love builds up” (1Cor 8:1). So, if you love knowledge and look into the word of God to gain mere knowledge and you absolutely love doing it to the exclusion or ignoring of everything else, you may be “puffed up” and indeed not “building up.”…. Puffiness rips and tears. Puffiness pushes people away. Puffiness divides. Perhaps even more critical is the fact that puffiness portrays a small gospel and devastatingly distorts God’s glory.
To the puffy I say, “Stop studying your Bible.” Go on a quest for Jesus. He is the Word! Study Him, not it .
One may ask, “Why doesn’t this Reformed pastor mention the balanced person who studies God’s word for unselfish reasons?” Other than the fact that there is no room in Reformed theology for the existence of such a person—it isn’t “either/or.” There are only two ways to read your Bible according to the Reformers: cross, or glory. To read the Bible for personal knowledge is to read it according to your own selfish story, and not the cross story. Unbelievably, after this author has sarcastically referred to the Reformed “either/or” hermeneutic for years, it is found to actually exist, and it is even what some respected Reformed theologians call it specifically! . Who knew? All spiritual reality that is according to true wisdom is embodied in the cross story, and the glory story is the enemy of the cross . Keep in mind that this also apes the first sentence of book one, chapter one, of the Calvin Institutes, and is fundamentally a Gnostic statement. This also explains Luther’s attitude towards personal reason:
Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.
Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.
There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason… Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.
Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.
Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason.
To be a Christian, you must “pluck out the eye of reason” .
The Heidelberg Disputation is a complete dressing-down of mankind’s worth on steroids, but that would include Christians as well. Salvation begins in the cross story, and continues in it until resurrection. In fact, the very definition of perseverance in Reformed theology is fighting to stay in the cross story and out of the glory story . It is a fight against our own worth and ability:
It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
The law wills that man despair of his own ability, for it »leads him into hell« and »makes him a poor man« and shows him that he is a sinner in all his works, as the Apostle does in Rom. 2 and 3:9, where he says, »I have already charged that all men are under the power of sin.« However, he who acts simply in accordance with his ability and believes that he is thereby doing something good does not seem worthless to himself, nor does he despair of his own strength. Indeed, he is so presumptuous that he strives for grace in reliance on his own strength [Thesis 18].
Again, one may ask, “What about the person who utilizes their own strength, but in reliance on God?” That would be some other story other than EITHER the cross story OR the glory story. It’s either/or. Therefore, you either depend totally on Christ, or totally on yourself. There is NO in-between. Let it be known: this is how the Reformed mind perceives reality. Also note a key sentence: “Indeed, he is so presumptuous that he strives for grace in reliance on his own strength.” Note that there is a striving “for grace.” In other words, we strive for salvation. Justification is not a finished work resulting in the impartation of salvation’s full power and blessings that we can appropriate in sanctification, but we are rather striving for final justification. In Gerhard O. Forde’s commentary on the Heidelberg Disputation, he acknowledges that,
Theologically and more universally all must learn to say, “I am a sinner” and likewise never to stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true….The fundamental question of the Disputation is how to arrive at that righteousness that will enable us to stand before God [Ibid.].
Again, this is the Achilles heel of Reformed theology because Christians will not stand in a judgment that determines our righteousness; we have already been declared righteous. And again, this is what makes eschatology gospel. The biblical evidence that Christians will not stand in a general judgment to determine a just standing is overwhelming, but I would only point out Psalm 103:11-13;
For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
It is most striking in the way that Reformed theology is always the extreme antithesis of biblical truth. While Luther’s theology seeks a nearness of sin for the privilege to experience God’s love, the Bible states the opposite. God’s love is measured by how far He has thrown our sins away from us by virtue of the fact that we are His children by faith alone. Luther proposed a deep relishing in sin consciousness in order to experience a new birth resurrection:
For a resurrection to happen, there must first be a death. The truth must be heard and confessed; then there is hope. New life can begin….[Ibid.].
So, instead of the Christian dying once (the death of the old man), and then being born again (new creaturehood where “all things are new”), he/she experiences continual death and life until the judgment. In essence, perpetual re-salvation:
God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God’s work for us – the Father’s gracious plan, the Son’s saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit’s work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God’s work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God’s people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God’s Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching the people once again are simply receivers – recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord’s Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven [Ibid 14, pp. 189-191].
No wonder we are to preach the gospel to ourselves every day and believe that the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us; in essence—it’s a daily re-salvation of unchanged sinners who are no different than unbelievers. There really is no “sanctification” per se; the Reformers use the same term, but it doesn’t have the same biblical meaning. The only difference between the lost and the saved is the story they are living in which is marked by….
For in the end we arrive, as we shall see, at the love of God, which creates anew out of nothing. So we begin the journey .
Couple this with the fact that Luther writes in his Small Catechism that the Holy Spirit forgives our sins daily . In essence, the Heidelberg Disputation was a total rewriting of the gospel and method for interpreting the Bible. “Christians” work at staying saved via the same gospel that saved us. We must progress our salvation in our nothingness in order to be found as nothing when we reach the judgment throne of God, and finally seeing His love, will be created “out of nothing.” This whole motif saturates present-day Reformed writing, and we will revisit the following citation to further illustrate the point:
Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both .
The Disputation continually emphasizes justification as a goal, rather than something that has already been obtained, regardless of the fact that much of the document clearly concerns sanctification. For certain, Reformed theology gets a pass on much of its heresy because many assume that “justification by faith alone” is only talking about initial salvation. But as we have observed, such is not the case. The often heard Reformed motto of Sola fide also pertains to sanctification—not just initial salvation. It is a linear gospel that seeks final justification by working to maintain our just standing through the same gospel that saved us by faith alone. Sanctification is not a fight to be separate according to biblical application (Matthew 7:24), but rather a fight to separate from the “glory story.” And if anything is about you at all—it’s that story—there is no in-between. And that includes righteous behavior in particular.
Furthermore, volumes could be taught and preached on the two trajectories of the cross story without any practical application. And that has certainly been the case for over 500 years. Parishioners can sit under said teaching for years without realizing that practical application is missing. What you know about yourself and God is the application—not anything you do. This is central to the doctrine:
He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
For the righteousness of God is not acquired by means of acts frequently repeated, as Aristotle taught, but it is imparted by faith, for »He who through faith is righteous shall live« (Rom. 1:17), and »Man believes with his heart and so is justified« (Rom. 10:10). Therefore I wish to have the words »without work« understood in the following manner: Not that the righteous person does nothing, but that his works do not make him righteous, rather that his righteousness creates works. For grace and faith are infused without our works. After they have been imparted the works follow. Thus Rom. 3:20 states, »No human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law,« and, »For we hold that man is justified by faith apart from works of law« (Rom. 3:28). In other words, works contribute nothing to justification.
Therefore man knows that works which he does by such faith are not his but God’s. For this reason he does not seek to become justified or glorified through them, but seeks God. His justification by faith in Christ is sufficient to him. Christ is his wisdom, righteousness, etc., as 1 Cor 1:30 has it, that he himself may be Christ’s vessel and instrument (operatio seu instrumentum) [Thesis 25].
As we previously discussed in chapter one, the Christian is free to work hardily in order to love God and others because he/she has no fear that such works can affect our just standing which is a finished work. Because the Reformed gospel is linear with us being in the middle of the “chain” that begins with our salvation and ends at resurrection, much concern arises that we can, in some way, break the chain. That this is an authentic Reformed position was clearly shown previously via the John Piper citations. Therefore, “laboring” with God by faith alone is critical. Thesis 25 of the Disputation explains in detail how that happens.
There is no doubt that Luther and Calvin chose their words carefully in explaining these concepts in order to create cover for their progressive justification. You really don’t know for certain whether or not they are speaking in regard to justification or sanctification. This is a perfect storm of deception; by continually talking about sanctification concepts in a justification way, the reality of biblical sanctification dies out on its own. If you never feed it—it will die; yet, preaching on the two trajectories of the cross story and the Christian life in regard to justification only (and using justification verses to make sanctification points) provides excellent cover. Granted, many know something is not right, but they can’t put their finger on it. When they ask, they are deemed as puffy intellectuals who want to dwell in their own “glory story.” They are in fact now the enemy in the war between the cross story and the glory story. Asking questions in a concerned way equals “seeking your own glory.”
Eventually, the hope is the following: as learning and doing dies out for lack of such ingredients being in the delivered “word,” the saints will begin to function according to Thesis 25 of the Disputation. And this does work splendidly. And what does this functioning look like? Basically, as one swims in the ocean of their despair from acknowledging their own wickedness, Christ obeys in our place: “Therefore man knows that works which he does by such faith are not his but God’s” [Ibid.]. So, when Luther states the following in the same thesis, he is not talking about our works, but God’s: “Not that the righteous person does nothing, but that his works do not make him righteous, rather that his righteousness creates works.” But those “works” are not ours. He makes that plain by stating in the same thesis, “Therefore man knows that works which he does by such faith are not his but God’s” You can see that many would not pick up on this deceptive concept. Luther is saying that we work, but we don’t work. We work at doing nothing so Christ will impute perfect obedience to our sanctification in order to maintain justification.
However, he makes it plain elsewhere how this supposedly works: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins….If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us” [Thesis 6]. We function in an earthly realm, and as we live in the cross story by focusing on the two trajectories, some of the works that happen are God’s, but since He is doing them through us and the outward appearance is marred, we really don’t know for certain whether it is us doing them, or God. And, it’s NOT RELEVANT:
He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand [Thesis 24].
Notice also that Luther redefines the new birth. It is some kind of rising up in our despair amidst the continual re-saving of progressive justification. At any rate, ALL righteousness remains outside of us, and any righteousness at all found in us leads to the “glory story” of subjective existentialism. Therefore, in later church history, Luther’s Reformation gospel became known as the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us, and was articulated by this visual illustration by the Australian Forum:
This chart perplexes people, but illustration 2 pertains to the man on the right side. As the man meditates on the works of Christ and believes in them, Christ works and preserves the man’s just standing. The man on the left side coincides with illustration 3.
Moreover, Luther’s Reformation gospel has brought many long accepted evangelical interpretations into question; among them, the traditional understanding of the new birth and the idea that believers have a righteousness that is inside of them and actually belonging to their own being; albeit a gift from God. Authentic Calvinism teaches that the results are the ones listed on the left side of the above chart.
Therefore, today’s Reformation camp teaches that infusion was the crux of the controversy between Rome and the Reformers. Rome believed that “grace” was infused into the believer; i.e., the new birth. And that’s true, but Rome’s view of the new birth was different from that of evangelicals of our day. Rome, like the Reformers, also holds to a linear gospel, and sees the new birth as enabling the believer to finish their justification. Christ plus enablement. The Reformers rightfully argue that it takes perfection for believers to be involved in a linear gospel where law is still the standard. They simply replace Rome’s enablement via the new birth to finish salvation with the idea that Christ obeys for us in sanctification in order to finish the finished work thereof a different way. They proceed to lump evangelicals and Rome together regardless:
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this “upside down” gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants .
Because evangelicals believe in infusion via the new birth, they are supposedly no different than Rome. How can they fairly make this charge when evangelicals hold to a parallel gospel? Remember the either/or hermeneutic? Because the Reformers only see a linear gospel in the cross story with justification in the beginning, sanctification in the middle, and glorification at the end, the completion of the chain can only be powered by justification or sanctification. Obviously, the finishing of justification by empowerment from sanctification is a huge problem, hence:
This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel [Ibid.]
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 [ibid.].
Actually, to call it “upside down” is disingenuous. The issue is really infusing the saint with ability or enablement to participate in the finishing of justification. BUT, the very fact that they posit this argument against Rome, and falsely against evangelicals as well, positively confirms that the Reformers hold to a progressive justification. And, when a gospel is linear, the saints are somehow involved in justification.
And when that’s the case, even faith is a work rather than a gift from God. Living by faith alone becomes something that you do to KEEP your salvation. And that’s a problem. Justification must be finished by God. Faith is a gift for justification (Romans 12:3), but we are to put that gift to work in sanctification (2Peter 1:5-11). A fear of aggressive sanctification suggests that sanctification is part of a process that gets us to heaven that we are involved in. That’s a really bad idea.
“It is finished” is the clarion call of the evangelical, not a continual revisiting of the same gospel that saved us in order to do our part in the process. That is an egregious false gospel.
Martin Luther’s Progressive Justification
“This can be plainly seen in one of the most well-articulated Reformed treatises on the subject of the new birth: it is an article endorsed by the Reformed icon Graeme Goldsworthy, and the article is entitled, The False Gospel of the New Birth. Any questions?”
“This Gnostic paradigm enables those of the Reformed tradition to affirm the truthfulness of the new birth, while denying its significance. The new birth is a mere shadow of the only important thing that can power our lives. Like their Gnostic parents, they are masters of deception in this way. It enables them to dismiss the plain sense of Scripture on a large scale while building their antinomian juggernaut.”
Hopefully, the Reformation will one day take its proper place in history as one of the great cults. Like all cults, it utilizes familiar biblical terminology, but has assigned a different meaning to the terms. Though the Reformers and their offspring frame explanations of salvific elements in biblical plausibility, their words are carefully chosen to deceive those who are not “ready” for their deep Reformation “truth.”
Basic elements of Reformed ideology are a direct affront to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Christ said, “You must be born again,” and this the Reformers deny. The biblical meaning of the new birth is a total recreation of the saved person. The old self was put to death and no longer lives—we are new creatures. “Behold, all things are new.” The old man who was inflamed in temptation by the law is now dead, and the believer is now free via the new birth to pursue freedom in the law, though not perfectly. This is what the new birth does: it changes the relationship of the law to the saved individual. He/she is no longer under it for justification, but upholds it as a kingdom citizen and slave to Jesus Christ. Failure thereof temporarily disrupts the intimate family relationship with the Father and the Son, but can be restored through a repentance that is not a washing, for we are already washed.
This creates an abundance of difficulties for Reformed theology. An actual transformation of the individual that includes the efficacious union of Christ, rather than the life of Christ being the only life in a spiritually dead believer, is the Waterloo of Reformed theology. Are we alive with Christ? Or are we still dead with Christ? Is sanctification by faith alone because we are still dead, or are we creditable colaborers who are able to truly love our Lord through our actions?
In Reformed theology, there is no new birth that makes us new creatures with Christ, the “new birth” is “Christ for us.” Not just for forgivenessof sins, but for EVERYTHING. “You can do nothing without me,” is translated, you can’t do anything at all because you are still spiritually dead.
Reformed theology is a let go and let God doctrine on steroids. And in Reformed theology, to deny that Christians remain spiritually dead is paramount to works salvation because the law remains the standard for justification. Instead of being dead to the law for justification, we are still dead to law for sanctification as well—the relationship has not changed—Christ must keep the law for us to maintain our just standing. This is why, according to most Reformed theology, you can lose your salvation if you do not live the Christian life by, “faith alone.” Trying to obey the law in sanctification is supposedly insanity because the standard is still perfection—we are still under the law. Not only that, we are still spiritually dead to boot. Justification texts are deceptively applied to sanctification and vice versa. It’s all the same.
This is why Reformed theology turns truth completely upside down at every point. It is a gargantuan library of lies that cover for other lies. It started with a false premise, and has spent over 500 years building, refining and crafting its narrative. It uses the same metaphysics that Satan needed to be equal with God. To compete with God, Satan needed to be different—so he created the antithesis of God: evil. Therefore, in Satan’s book, the whole story, or the rest of the story, or the totality of “wisdom,” should have included his creation as well: the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge of good alone is knowledge of God alone—Satan would have none of that.
Hence, the first sentence of the Calvin institutes describes wisdom as primarily the knowledge of God and us (who remain totally depraved). Therefore, according to the same garden metaphysics, we must remain evil in order to have a working epistemology. If we change, if we become more and more like God, the epistemological gateway is diminished. A deeper and deeper knowledge of our depravity can no longer be set against a deeper and deeper knowledge of God’s holiness—leading to more and more “wisdom.” Therefore, the idea of the new birth drives a stake through the heart of the first sentence of the Calvin institutes. The transformation of us just points more to knowledge about God and less about our former condition—this seems to upset Calvin’s epistemological apple cart.
But whether or not you buy my working theory on the deeper issue of metaphysics, the fact remains that Reformed theology clearly teaches that we remain totally depraved as Christians. The only argument is whether or not neo-Calvinism has distorted the original intent of the Reformers. I contend that they have not. And if they have, the Calvin purists can blame themselves because an apt treatise against the neo-Calvinists is nowhere to be found, but rather fellowship. If Calvinists don’t want to wear the shoe that fits, let them come out from among them.
In the Reformed mindset, to claim transformation through the new birth is to make salvation about us, and less about God. Such is not the truth because God doesn’t need evil to better define Himself, nor does He need evil as a contrast to magnify His glory. Therefore, pointing to our own evil does not glorify God. Becoming more like God glorifies God; Christ makes this clear in the Sermon on the Mount. But notable contemporary Reformers state the opposite, saying that emphasizing the enabling power of the new birth (as Christ did with the word, “must”) “eclipses” the glory of Christ:
It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.
~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)
But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?
~ Michael Horton
And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).
~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed…. I would add that this “upside down” gospel has gone away— neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants.
~ John Piper
Another way those of the Reformed tradition explain away plain truth about the new birth is the Reformed Emphasis Hermeneutic which is based on Gnosticism. Truth is beyond what the five senses can ascertain. What the five senses can ascertain are shadows and forms of the vision of the good. So, to “emphasize” what the Holy Spirit is helping us do within is emphasizing what we sense, and what Reformers call “subjective experience.” The only true objective truth is “the objective gospel outside of us” which is a Reformed mantra (http://www.objectivegospel.org/). What they have done is reversed normal metaphysics in the same way Gnosticism does. What we observe is no longer empirical, but deemed subjective; only the true vision of the good is objective; ie, the gospel outside of us. Therefore, to emphasize the new birth is to emphasize the shadows and forms of the higher good, and not the higher good. It is “emphasizing a good thing, but not the best thing,” and, “emphasizing the fruit, and not the root.” This Gnostic paradigm enables those of the Reformed tradition to affirm the truthfulness of the new birth, while denying its significance. The new birth is a mere shadow of the only important thing that can power our lives. Like their Gnostic parents, they are masters of deception in this way. It enables them to dismiss the plain sense of Scripture on a large scale while building their antinomian juggernaut. This can be plainly seen in one of the most well-articulated Reformed treatises on the subject of the new birth: it is an article endorsed by the Reformed icon Graeme Goldsworthy, and the article is entitled, The False Gospel of the New Birth. Any questions?
Reformed theology is in no wise truthful on any point other than some facts that are used as coconspirators in their evil plot to take away from God’s objective truth, and also add to it. Their doctrine drives a stake through the very heart of the true gospel. They boldly deny the words of the Lord of Lords, the glorious Holy King: “You must be born again.”
And their desert will be just.
My daughter sent me some pretty decent articles yesterday. Apparently, everyone is catching on to the fact that John Piper and many other vaunted teachers of our day propagate contemplative spirituality. No kidding? What was our first clue? Maybe the conference with headliners like John MacArthur where Piper preached on the Gospels as being “pictures of Jesus”?
But what drives me absolutely nuts is the fact that even those who are blowing the whistle still don’t get it. Piper, Warren, Tchividjian, Keller et al know their cuts of Reformed theology. Where do folks think they get all of this stuff? In one of the articles my daughter sent me, Ken Silva of Apprising .org states the following (emphasis by underline added):
Unfortunately we live in a time where, in my opinion, a tsunami of apostasy—likely driven by 1 Peter 4:17 judgments—is rapidly heading toward the mainstream of, largely pretending to be Protestant, evangelicalism.
Sadly, we’re watching the Reformation being undone as more and more people embrace corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM); particularly within the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church. As a result, one of the trends developing as the above happens is a neo-Reformed new Calvinism, which I touched upon e.g. in Mark Driscoll And Neo-Reformed New Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality.
As I said in previous AM posts such as Acts 29 Network And Reformed Counter Reformation Spirituality? and Acts 29 Pastor Matt Chandler On Being A Reformed Charismatic, in my estimation, there’s very good reason for concern as these people are rapidly growing in popularity, and in influence within the younger sector of the Reformed Camp; blessed as they are by Dr. John Piper, who’s seen by some as a “pioneer” of this New Calvinism.
Everything I underlined in his statement is basically/fundamentally all the same. Piper et al are not changing anything; they are taking Protestantism back to its original roots of gospel contemplationism. I have never been perplexed about who Piper associates with; ie, Beth Moore etc. Silva’s so-called “Protestant evangelicalism” is a life form that strayed away from the original article through ideas contrived by treating the Bible as propositional truth as opposed to a tool for gospel contemplationism. But now, the real “unadjusted,” “underestimated,” “scandalous” gospel has been rediscovered.
Of late, this occurred in 1970 through the Progressive Adventism movement. A Reformed think tank called the Australian Forum took what those Seventh-Day Adventists started (the Awakening Movement) and launched it into the present-day New Calvinist movement. I document this thoroughly in “The Truth About New Calvinism” (TANC publishing 2011). This movement was the latest resurgence of authentic Reformed doctrine that dies a social death from time to time because of the tyranny that always accompanies it. It enjoys its present success because the AF systematized it. My apologies that a hillbilly such as myself found out about it, but it is what it is. Please excuse me.
Let me give credit where credit is due: Piper et al know their Reformed theology very well. The Reformers were mystic before mysticism was cool. Reminds me of the following song:
I Was Mystic Before Mysticism Was Cool, by John Calvin
I remember burning stakes
Even when they weren’t in style
I remember singin’ at executions
When Geneva was really wild
And I was listenin’ to Augustine
When all of my friends were diggin’ Baptists
And dissing popes
I was Mystic, when Mysticism wasn’t cool
I remember circlin’ the stake, pilin’ up green wood
And turnin’ down Michael Servetus for a way out of town
I remember when no one was lookin’
I was puttin’ peanuts in my beer
I took a lot of kiddin’
‘Cause I never did fit in
now look at everybody tryin’ to be what I was then
I was Mystic, when Mysticism wasn’t cool
I was Mystic, when Mysticism wasn’t cool
I was Gnostic, from my hat down to my boots
I still act, and look the same
What you see ain’t nothin’ new
I was Mystic, when Mysticism wasn’t cool
They call us New Calvinists
For stickin’ to our roots
I’m just sad we’re in a country
Where Arminians are free to choose
I was Mystic, when Mysticism wasn’t cool
Yeah, I was Mystic when Mysticism wasn’t cool
A Response to some of my recent posts is just too juicy to pass up because it helps me make my point. The article was written by one of the early advocates of New Covenant Theology which was a spin on Luther’s law/gospel concept that came out of the Australian Forum via Jon Zens. Zens was one of the core four of the Australian Forum along with Robert Brinsmead, Graeme Goldsworthy, and Geoffrey Paxton. They are the true, and original core four, not those other dorks.
I owe them a debt of gratitude for articulating so well what the Reformers really believed which is going to make the second volume of “The Truth About New Calvinism” much easier to write. I have actually corresponded with Brinsmead who owns a rockin’ fruit farm in Australia. I wanted to go over there and hang with him but Susan said we couldn’t afford it. Oh well. Some say he is an atheist now, but that isn’t true. Actually, what he now believes is much healthier than Reformed Theology.
The title of the post is, “Straw Man Arguments About Justification and Sanctification.” A Reformed definition of a “straw man” is: a man that burns really, really fast on a stake and doesn’t scream at all. That’s why “straw man” has such negative cogitations in Reformed circles.
I will skip the usual Reformed crybaby stuff that prefaces the introductions to Reformed writings about “unity,” “secondary issues” etc, and get to the meat of the issue.
The name of the blog is “Truth Unchanging” which has Platonist cogitations. Plato, the daddy of Reformed theology (as will be documented in “The Reformation Myth”), believed that anything that changes form cannot be truth. That would exclude the material world, and explains the crux of why Reformed hacks are so opposed to dispensationalism, albeit a lot of them don’t realize it. Basically, most of them don’t like dispensationalism because John Piper says it’s naughty.
The author’s first point follows:
In matters that concern the purity of the gospel, it is clear there are mis-statements that are so grave that the very gospel itself is in danger of being lost. For example, if a person denies the concept of imputation, he has denied the heart of God’s good news. If the sinner’s justification depends to any degree on his faithfulness to God’s covenant, the so-called “good news” would become bad news. Not only do the unconverted sinner’s best works of “righteousness” fall short of meeting God’s standard for justification, but the believer’s best obedience also fails to meet that standard. God requires perfect, continual, and internal obedience to his Law. What one of us can claim that we have loved God, perfectly, continually and from the heart? I would like to believe I love God, yet I would never profess that, even as a believer, I love him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
This is a shocking admission, but very indicative of Reformed theology. A perfect obedience to the law must be maintained during the believers sanctification. The apostle Paul went out of his way in his gospel letter to the Romans to refute this very tenet, but it is in fact the crux of the Reformation gospel. A change of standard is counter-intuitive to the Greek philosophy that Reformed theology was founded on. But Paul makes it clear: God imputed a righteousness that is “apart from the law.” This is also why the Reformers were against the dispensationalist idea of two judgments and two resurrections. Two different judgments suggest that one judgment can’t be based on the law because believers are no longer “under the law, but under grace” ….for justification. The Reformed view of imputation then becomes a progressive imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to uphold the standard of the law during our sanctification. This is called “Christ’s active obedience.”
The author continues:
The reality is that God doesn’t declare righteous those who are righteous in and of themselves. Nor, does he justify sinners because through the infusion of grace, i.e., enablement, these sinners have attained a level of faithfulness to God’s covenant that God is now able to declare them righteous, despite their failure to attain the level of perfection the Scriptures teach us he requires.
Though the goal of perfection is required in sanctification, this is another clear-cut statement showing that a perfect keeping of the law is required to maintain the just standing of the believer. The usual argument is that since Christians sin, they have no righteousness in, and of themselves that can maintain the standard. But this is the exact idea Paul was refuting when he wrote, “….because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.”
Notice that in true Reformed tradition, the author denies “the infusion of Grace”; ie, the new birth, of which Christ said we must have for salvation. The key here is the fact that we are considered Holy because there is no law that can judge us for justification, the penalty thereof has also been paid by Christ, we have the seed of God within us, and the old us has been crucified and is dead. And therefore, “….is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” As Christians, we can therefore obey the law in a way that pleases God as opposed to the way we were before we were crucified with Christ.
The author then states a lot of things about justification that no one would disagree with, but then pulls the Reformed missing transition between justification and sanctification communication technique:
What, then, is God’s standard? Paul’s answer is clear. It is perfect, continual and inward obedience to God’s Law. He wrote, “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before, but the doers of the law who will be justified [declared righteous]” ( Romans 2:13).
The author cites Romans 2:13 as a standard for justification regarding believers, but it is not. That verse speaks of the direction of the saved, and not the perfection in comparison to those who are unsaved. This is clear if you observe the preceding text in 2:6-11:
He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
Why would those who keep the law perfectly need “patience” in well-doing? It speaks of the desire of the saved who are hindered by sinful mortality. This is a sanctification verse.
The author continues:
Now, we must ask two questions: 1. What sinner is there among us who has met that standard? Paul’s answer is, “not one!” 2. Who has been subjected to that standard who has met the standard perfectly? The answer is, only one! Paul argues that “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” It is not a divine righteousness our case demands. It is a perfect human righteousness, defined by God’s perfect standard. Our case demands a righteousness defined as unbridled, wholehearted love for God that is manifested in an unswerving commitment to God’s revealed will.
The good news is that believers are given credit for that kind of love for God and obedience to his will that even in our best moments we do not possess personally.
Here is another shocking admission, but again, uniquely Reformed: God’s declaration of His imputed righteousness to the believer, based on their belief in Christ is not enough, it must be a perfect human righteousness! This is exactly why the preponderance of Scripture states that it is God the Father’s righteousness that was imputed to us, and with the exception of one or two verses where it is inferred, not the righteousness of Christ.
Romans 8:30 states specifically that God’s righteousness was imputed to us and our glorification guaranteed before creation. The significance of Christ’s perfect obedience is the fact that He was the only man “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4) that could go on to die on the cross for the world’s sins without being tempted by the law or condemned by it. All other men are provoked to sin by the law, will be judged by the law, and condemned by the law unless they believe on Christ. They are under law, not grace, and enslaved to sin. Christ’s perfect life on earth was not part of the atonement, but was necessary in order not to be condemned as one born under the law like all other people born into the world. He was the only man who ever lived on Earth that could have come in order to pay the penalty of sin for all of mankind because He was able to keep the law perfectly. But His obedience was not then imputed to our sanctification.
The rest of the article is just a bunch of doublespeak with intent to fog the issue. It can be summed up this way: we supposedly work, but our work is not in combination with God for a result in sanctification. We work because God works first, and oh, by the way, Christ’s obedience must be added to it as well. They make it sound like a colaboring, but in the end, remember that they reject a separate resurrection and judgment concerning rewards.
They instead believe in one resurrection and one judgment to determine who is justified….
….by maintaining our justification by faith alone in sanctification.
“It would seem that an aggressive approach to sanctification shows our confidence that our salvation is a finished work. The Reformed gospel seems to be inhabited by servants like the one Christ spoke of that hid his talent in the ground out of fear—giving the Master what was His upon return, and without interest.”
“The same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you.” That is the authentic gospel of the Reformation. In the Calvin Institutes, there is a chapter dedicated to progressive justification: “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense progressive.” Reformation heresy can be plainly seen if someone stops listening to the scholars long enough to think for themselves. A close examination of the doctrine reveals that there is hardly anything right about it—it turns truth completely upside down.
What do I have to say about the freewill/predestination debate? Not much, other than to note that Calvinism came from an egregiously-false doctrine. That is where the argument must refocus.
One day, I will chart all of the various categories in which Reformed theology is anti-biblical, but in this particular post, I will examine how the doctrine makes our faith a daily sacrifice for the remission of sins for justification. Rather than some kind of ritual to maintain justification akin to many other false gospels, faith alone is offered in sanctifiaction. When this is done, the “active obedience” of Christ is then either “manifested” or imputed to our sanctification, or both.
The Australian Forum, a Reformed think tank that researched and defined the tenets of Reformed theology, stated the following in regard to the Reformed gospel of progressive justification:
After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”
We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.
On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31) (Present Truth: “Law and Gospel” Volume 7 article 2 Part 2).
Note that the law is clearly the standard for maintaining our just standing. Romans 3:31 is cited as a proof text, but the question is: is the “upholding” of the law that Paul is writing about….for justification, or….for sanctification? Obviously, if the Forum represented Reformed theology and Luther correctly, it’s the former. But Paul states the following elsewhere in the third chapter of Romans:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify….For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Note that justification is apart from “works of the law.” Who does the works ….for justification is beside the point—justification is “apart” from the law, and works of the law period. ONE act of obedience was necessary for the eternal justification of many minus an ongoing imputation of obedience to the law in our stead for the maintaining of our just standing (Romans 5:18).
New Calvinist John Piper echoes the Forum on law being the standard for maintaining the finished work of justification:
We are united to Christ in whom we are counted as perfectly righteous because of his righteousness, not ours. The demand for obedience in the Christian life is undiminished and absolute. If obedience does not emerge by faith, we have no warrant to believe we are united to Christ or justified (Matthew 6:15; John 5:28-29; Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13;James 2:17; 1 John 2:17; 3:14). But the only hope for making progress in this radical demand for holiness and love is the hope that our righteousness before God is on another solid footing besides our own imperfect obedience as Christians. We all sense intuitively-and we are encouraged in this intuition by the demands of God-that acceptance with God requires perfect righteousness conformity to the law (Matthew5:48; Galatians 3:10; James2:10). We also know that our measures of obedience, even on our best days, fall short of this standard (John Piper: Counted Righteous in Christ, p. 123).
“Standard”? Standard for what? Piper states that “obedience,” not necessarily our obedience, but simply, “obedience” must “emerge from faith.” That would be by faith alone, because perfection is the standard and we “fall short of this standard.” He is saying the same exact thing as the Australian Forum; ie, justification must be maintained by offering the perfect works of Christ to the Father on a continual basis.
This amounts to a daily ritualistic “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” We are progressively saved and kept “in the love of Christ” by the same way we were originally saved: faith alone and repentance, or what is called “deep repentance.” We remain totally depraved and unchanged, and keep ourselves saved by faith alone:
The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck. The whole church must join the confession, “Have mercy upon us miserable sinners.” The witness of both Testaments is unmistakably clear on this point.
No work or deed of the saints in this life can meet the severity of God’s law. Apart from God’s merciful judgment, the good works of the saints would be “mortal sin” (Luther), and nothing is acceptable to God unless mediated through the covering cloud of Christ’s merits. Because of “indwelling sin,” we need mercy at the end as much as at the beginning, for the old nature is as evil then as ever. Growth in grace, therefore, does not mean becoming less and less sinful, but on the contrary, it means becoming more and more sinful in our own estimation.
It is this conviction of the wretchedness of even our sanctified state—which conviction comes by the law—that keeps sanctification from the rocks of self-righteousness. It keeps the Christian’s little bark constantly pointed toward his only star of hope—justification by faith in a righteousness that stands for him in heaven. The refuge of the sinner must ever also be the refuge of the saint (Present Truth: “Sanctification—Its mainspring,” Volume 16, article 13).
Therefore, all law in the Scriptures is not for the purpose of our obedience in sanctification, but to show us what only Christ can do for us to maintain our justification:
Concerning the preaching of the Ten Commandments, the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 44, Q. 115 says this:
Q. Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?
A. First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavor, and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us in a life to come.
Calvinist Paul David Tripp regurgitates this continual revisiting of the same gospel that saved us in How People Change, p. 28:
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.
Notice that Christ fills us in response to the same things that originally saved us: faith and repentance (or, preaching of the gospel to ourselves every day). Doing any more than that could cause us to lose our justification:
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 (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity, p. 62).
This all flies in the face of the plain sense of Scripture, especially the book of Hebrews. Not only does Hebrews specifically call on believers to leave the basics of the gospel and move on to maturity, it condemns a ritualism for the purpose of a perpetual cleansing.
Regarding the idea that the Hebrew writer likened a revisiting of the elementary principles of salvation to immaturity, I am in good scholarly company:
….in Hebrews, 6:1, “maturity” is envisioned as leaving the “elementary principles” and going on, or advancing, to other things (Jay Adams: Biblical Sonship, p.39).
Remember, Horton stated in the aforementioned citation that such a “move onto something else” other than the gospel causes us to “lose both.” Both what? Answer: justification and sanctification. Do the math; it’s salvation by “revisiting the gospel afresh.” We have to do that unbiblical ritual to maintain our salvation.
Christ made it clear to Peter: those who have been “washed” no longer need a bath because they are “completely clean” (John 13:10,11 [1Cor. 6:11, Heb. 10:11, 2Peter 2:22, Rev. 7:14]). Clearly, the Reformed gospel requires a return to what washed us “afresh” in order to NOT LOSE “both” sanctification and justification.
Hebrews 6:1 speaks directly to leaving “cleaning rites” (ESV footnote#3 on Heb. 6:1). This is then associated with “repentance,” “doctrine of Christ,” and “faith toward God.” This is a clear call to leave behind the foundation of salivation for maturity in the faith.
Moreover, the Hebrew writer continues with a warning about revisiting rituals that pertain to washings, or justification:
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Heb. 9).
24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9).
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb.10)
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (Heb.10).
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb.10).
It would seem that an aggressive approach to sanctification shows our confidence that our salvation is a finished work. The Reformed gospel seems to be inhabited by fearful servants like the one Christ spoke of that hid his talent in the ground—giving the Master what was His upon return, and without interest. I even had one proponent of Reformed theology tell me point blank that sanctification by faith alone was playing it safe: “I don’t think the Lord will fault me for letting Him have all the glory.” Again, this is an eerily similar mentality to the “lazy wicked” servant that Christ spoke of in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
Calvinism’s progressive justification continually lays again, and again the foundation of salvation and repentance from “dead works.” And funny, if salvation is a repentance FROM dead works, how can our present works in sanctification be “filthy rags”?
It is time that Reformed theology is exposed for what it is:
This ministry has made much of the critical importance of separating justification (salvation) and sanctification (growth in holiness, or kingdom living). The Reformed (Calvin/Luther Reformation doctrine/gospel) “never separate, but distinct” doublespeak doesn’t cut it in the arena of truth, and we will see why. “Never separate” =’s false gospel. If you get a little lost in the first part of my argument which gives the lay of the land, don’t worry, when I get into the specific Scriptural argument, it will clear things up and make it all come together for you.
It must delight the ghosts of the Reformation that the argument has always been in the arena of freewill verses predestination. Itis the primary thrust of this ministry to change that argument. This isn’t a quibbling about semantics in the mainstream—this is about the truth of the gospel. As New Calvinist Russ Kennedy once thundered from the pulpit in his mousy voice: “Any separation of justification and sanctification is an abomination!”
I have often argued from the standpoint of this issue. If sanctification is the middle of the Reformed “golden chain of salvation” then sanctification is part of finishing justification. This means that what happens in sanctification determines whether or not justification is properly finished. What’s a chain? John Piper even preached a message about the eternal importance of our contribution to the “links” in just the right way. In essence, sanctification becomes a spiritual minefield.
This is exactly the same thing that the Reformed crowd has always accused Rome of: the fusing together of justification and sanctification. However, as we shall see, they are both guilty of the exact same heresy/false gospel. As we shall see, both teach that sanctification finishes justification.
This is a linear gospel (one unified chain from salvation to resurrection (glorification) verses a parallel gospel with salvation on one plane as a finished work before the foundation of the world, and kingdom living that runs parallel with the finished work and reflects the reality of our salvation until glorification. Typical in the linear gospel is the idea that Christ died for all of our past sins, but we must now finish the work (with the Holy Spirit’s help [sanctified works salvation]) until glorification when we are completely transformed into complete holiness. This is the often heard bemoaning of “Christ PLUS something.”
An excellent example is some strains of Freewill Baptists who teach that Christ died for all of our past sins, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we must confess and repent of every sin we commit until the resurrection; e.g., Christ plus salvation by repentant prayer for sins committed after we are “saved.” My grandparents were saved out of this tradition. When my grandfather asked my grandmother if she thought that God could ever forgive him of all the sins he committed, she answered: “Yes, but you are going to have to pray awful hard!” Praise God that through the ministry of several individuals my grandparents eventually abandoned that gospel for the true one of salvation by faith alone as a finished work.
Likewise, Rome teaches that you must let the Catholic Church finish your justification through ritual; e.g., Christ plus Catholic ritual. The Reformation gospel is also Christ plus something else, but the something else is ever-so subtle. In both cases, sin must be dealt with in sanctification in order for the saint to remain justified until the final judgment. In other words, the righteous standard of justification must be maintained on our behalf. Like all other proponents of a linear gospel, the Reformed crowd contends that anything less than the perfection demanded of the law (“all sin is transgression of the law”) is “legal fiction.” So both Rome and the Reformers agree: justification must be maintained by sanctification, and in the case of the Reformers specifically, they believe that the perfect standard of the law must be maintained until glorification; otherwise, our justification is “legal fiction.”
Here is where Reformed subtlety is uncanny: Christ keeps the law for us in sanctification. He maintains the perfect standard. All the fruit of sanctification (obedience/good works) flows from the life He lived on Earth and His death on the cross. Christ plus the works of Christ to finish salvation. “But Paul, what in the world is wrong with that!” Here is what is wrong with it: works are still required to maintain justification. That is a huge problem, even if it is Christ doing the work. What did the Hebrew writer say about Christ’s work for justification not being complete?
Problematic is the idea that Christ is still working to maintain our justification and worse yet, those works flow from his death on the cross! Again, this has eerily similar elements to what the Hebrew writer warned against.
And even more subtle is the following Reformed idea: believing that the law is no longer a standard for maintaining justification is antinomianism. Antinomianism =’s legal fiction. Their definition of antinomianism is the removal of the law from justification as the standard for maintaining it. Traditionally, among Biblicist, antinomianism is the removal of the law from sanctification, and herein lays even further steroidal subtlety: the Reformed theologians would refute a removal of the law from sanctification as well, not only because they think justification and sanctification are the same thing, but because its perfect keeping is required to maintain a true declaration of the just that is not “legal fiction.” This would have been right down Calvin’s alley because he was an attorney.
However, the Biblicist believes that the law is a standard for kingdom living and is no longer a standard for justification. Therefore, if we attempt to obey it with the Holy Spirit’s help, and to please/serve the Lord, it can have no bearing on our just state. While the Biblicists think they are therefore joint contenders with the Reformers against antinomianism, such is far from the truth. The Reformed mind believes the Biblicist is either a legalist or an antinomian, or both. The Biblicist is supposedly an antinomian because he/she has removed the law from justification as a just standard, or is a legalist because they think they should strive to keep the law in sanctification. Since sanctification finishes justification’s perfect standard of law keeping, our “own” attempts to keep the law in sanctification is an attempt to finish justification. Hence, what the Biblicist fails to understand is the Reformers belief that Christ must maintain the law for us in sanctification because justification and sanctification are not separate. Anything more or less is supposedly works salvation.
On the other hand, because it is vital that Christ obeys the law for us in sanctification, the likes of John Piper and Tullian Tchividjian contend that those who are really preaching the Reformed gospel will indeed be accused of antinomianism. All in all, their position is easy to see if you pay attention. John Piper and many other Calvinists often state that, “Good works are the fruit of justification.” And, “Justification is the root, and sanctification is the fruit.”
Well, the average Biblicist then thinks, “Yes, but of course, our salvation makes good works in sanctification possible.” But that’s not what they are saying. If you pay closer attention, they are saying that justification is a tree that produces its own fruit. Justification is the root, and whatever happens in true sanctification is the fruit of the root of the justification tree. Problem is, justification doesn’t grow. Justification is a finished work. What Calvinists refer to as “progressive sanctification” is really the fruit of the root: progressive justification. Another name for this that they throw around is “definitive sanctification.” The word “definitive” refers back to the definite completion of justification.
This brings us to the Scriptural argument which begins with a question I asked myself just this morning: “Paul, you are always harping about the crucial importance of the separation of justification and sanctification—a parallel gospel verses a linear one. But where does the Bible say specifically that this is critical? The answer to that question exposes the issue in all of its nakedness.
First, the very definition of a lost person in the Bible is one who is “under the law”:
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
1 Corinthians 9:20
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
The unsaved are “under the law” and will be judged by it in the end. This is the very definition of the unsaved. Calvinists define Christians the same way—we are supposedly still under the law and will be judged by it in the end. That’s why Christ must keep the law for us—because we are still under it.
If not this position, why do many in the Reformed tradition hold to the idea that Christ’s perfect obedience is imputed to our sanctification? His death justifies us, and His perfect life sanctifies us. Hence, His death pays the penalty for past sins, and then His perfect life imputed to our sanctification keeps us justified. (But we were justified before the foundation of the earth before we committed any sins, so Christ’s death obviously paid the penalty for every sin we ever committed or will commit). Why would an imputation to our sanctification be necessary if we are no longer under the law? This is known as the Reformed view of “double imputation” and has been called out as heresy by many respected theologians for this very reason: it implies that Christians are still under the law.
In regard to sustaining the law in our stead, why? It has been totally abolished in regard to our just standing:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
The keeping of the law by anybody DOES NOT do anything to justify mankind:
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Here is where the separation of justification and sanctification is vital on this first point: we ARE NOT under the law for justification, but rather UPHOLD THE LAW in sanctification. The two must be separate because of the differing relationships to the law:
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Furthermore, if we are still under the law, whether or not Christ obeys it for us to keep us in a just standing, this means we are still under the power of sin. Being under the law and also under its spell to provoke sin in the unregenerate is spoken of as being synonymous in the Bible. Those who are “under the law” are also under the power of sin and enslaved to it:
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
If we are still under the law, and will be judged by it, whether or not Christ stands in the judgment for us with His own works, we are still enslaved to sin by virtue of being under the law…. for justification. And Calvinists know this to be true, that’s why they say we are still…. what? Right, even as Christians, “totally depraved.” And, “enemies of God.” Of course, throughout the Bible, Christians are spoken of as being friends of God and no longer His enemies. Our status as enemies of God is stated in the past tense. But the Reformed crew continually state that Christians are vile enemies of God and are enslaved to sin. They realize that this goes hand in hand with being under the law.
To the contrary, dying to the law in the death of Christ….for justification—sets us free to be enslaved to the righteousness that is defined by the law. We are dead to the law for justification and alive to obey truth….for sanctification:
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:3,4 [emphasis by author]
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,….in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
So, that is the separation that must be for the true Christian: Justification has no law for which we are judged, and we live by the law of blessings in sanctification.
This brings us to another important separation in the two: the judgments. Those under the law and sin will stand in a final judgment which will be according to the law. Again, because Calvinists believe that we are still under the law, albeit that Christ obeyed/obeys it for us, Christians will supposedly stand in the same judgment as the damned who are under the law and enslaved to it. At that time, the children of God, according to Calvinists, will be “made manifest.”
But because Christians are not under the law and cannot be judged by it, they will stand in a judgment for rewards and not a judgment that determines a perfect keeping of the law by Christ in our stead. Hence, there will be two different resurrections: one for those under the law and another for those under grace, and two different judgments for the same two groups. One for rewards, and one to determine if those under the law kept it perfectly. That judgment doesn’t go well for any standing in it.
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” [Notice that this is a resurrection for the “just.” They are already determined to be just before they are resurrected].
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Don’t let anyone tell you that eschatology is a “secondary” or “nonessential” consideration. Your eschatology is your gospel. It will state your position regarding whether or not you fuse justification and sanctification together; ie, likening Christians to those under the law.
Yet another vital difference in sanctification and justification is repentance. Repentance for salvation (when you are justified) is different from our repentance in sanctification. Among many in the Reformed tradition where the “same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you,” the repentance is the same. Repentance unto salvation is not a onetime “washing,” but rather a means to continue “in the gospel” through what they call, “deep repentance.” Biblicism holds to repentance in sanctification that restores his/her fellowship and communion with God as His children. They would see repentance unto salvation as differing, and only necessary for salvation—a onetime decision to take one’s life in a new direction by following Christ, and believing in his death, burial, and resurrection.
Reformed repentance, according to the likes of Paul David Tripp and others is a “daily rescue.” Our original repentance was for rescue, and we need rescue today as much as we needed rescue when we were saved. Again, this indicates their belief that we are still under the curse of the law and need to be continually rescued from it while remaining under the bondage of sin.
However, Christ made it clear to Peter (John 13:6-11) that those who have been washed (1Corinthians 6;11, Romans 8:30) do not need a washing.
Lastly, though many other separations could be discussed, why saints can be considered just while they still sin at times is of paramount importance. There is no sin in our justification because there is no law, and where there is no law, there is no sin. Though unfortunate, there can be sin in our sanctification because it is totally separate from justification and can’t affect our just standing with God.
The Bible has much to say about this. And again, because the Reformed error starts with us being under the law for justification because they fuse justification and sanctification together, an “infusion of grace” into the believer is a “subjective gospel.” This is opposed to the “objective gospel” often spoken of in Reformed circles.
Basically, all of the aforementioned makes it of necessity to deny the new birth. If we have God’s seed in us, and we do (1John 3:9), that dispels total depravity, and without total depravity, justification and sanctification cannot be fused together. The new birth is a huge problem for Reformed theology. If the old man that was under the law is dead, and the seed of God is in the saved person, and the sin due our weakness in the flesh cannot be laid to our account for justification, then our justification is not “legal fiction” because we do not exhibit perfect obedience to the law. This is another grave consideration because Christ said, “You must be born again.” Obviously, despite their denials that they deny the new birth—you can’t be both totally depraved and born again.
Reformation doctrine is clearly a false gospel. Its version of justification does not void the law, and denies the new birth while distorting everything in-between. Freewill verses predestination is hardly the issue, the very gospel itself is the issue.
No doubt, PAM reveals many problems with the biblical counseling movement that one may expect when it is based on a false gospel. But John Street’s real sin is his participation in a mass propagation of a false gospel.
Dr. John Street, founder of Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio has finally made it big in the biblical counseling movement. This is evident from the fact that he has become a target of PAM (PsychoHeresy Awarness Ministries). PAM is directed by Martin and Deidre Bobgan who without a doubt are the most formidable critics of the “biblical” counseling movement.
John Street is an elder at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in California, and the Chair of the graduate program for biblical counseling at the seminary associated with MacArthur’s church. Also, last time I checked, Street is the president of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC).
In the most recent PAM newsletters (http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/street_tmc&s.html and http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/street_tmc&s_2.html) Street is barbecued for practicing counseling methods that the Bobgans deem unbiblical. PAM primarily decries the biblical counseling movement’s “problem-centered counseling” verses “Christ-centered Ministry” (http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/e-books/CCMpcc-ebk.pdf ).
I am not sure what PAM means by “Christ-centered ministry,” but it seems to be a passive approach regarding the disciple’s role in sanctification:
This is why we say that those who minister to one another need to get in the way and out of the way. They need to be available, but they need to let God work rather than push their own agenda.
The idea of pushing our own agenda could mean “let go and let God” instead of pushing an agenda that just so happens to be God’s agenda. The wording is unsettling. Elsewhere the Bobgans write the following:
Christ-centered ministry encourages spiritual growth and depends on the Lord to do the work in each individual through His Word and Spirit. Therefore, one can confidently assure believers that this ministry is more effective, long-lasting, and spiritually rewarding than problem-centered counseling for those who are willing to go this way.
Depend on the Lord to do the work? At the very least, the Bobgans need to clarify their position more thoroughly because by and large, gospel contemplationism is the primary thrust of NANC counseling. One wonders if PAM is accusing NANC of what they are guilty of: an overly passive approach to sanctification.
And, NANC, when they were (past tense) helping many people, encouraged an aggressive role in sanctification by the counselee. Christians are called to “study to show thyself approved,” and then aggressively apply that truth to their lives in order to have a life built on a rock (Matthew 7:24).
This was NANC’s approach in the past, and it did result in massive professions of faith, and real lasting change. I know; I was there; I am a firsthand witness. This was before David Powlison via CCEF and company infiltrated NANC with the gangrene of progressive justification. Unbelievably, in broad daylight, Powlison admitted (during a lecture at John Piper’s church while Piper was on sabbatical searching for different “species of idols” in his heart) that NANC’s “first generation” counseling was in contention with “second generation counseling” over the very definition of the gospel!
And this is my point: PAM is focused on the supposed evil of “problem-centered” counseling (is the gospel itself not problem-centered? The gospel did not come to solve a problem?) while the real issue is that NANC and CCEF both propagate a blatant false gospel. The counseling is based on the fusion of justification and sanctification with gospel contemplationism as its practical application.
CCEF’s counseling is based on Sonship theology. Dr. Jay E. Adams nailed that doctrine specifically as the fusion of justification and sanctification in his book, “Biblical Sonship” published in 1999. Adams, in the book, decried Sonship’s position that regeneration is powered by the finished work of justification. CCEF then effectively infiltrated NANC and took it over with the same doctrine. I use over 200 pages to document all of this in “The Truth About New Calvinism” (thetruthaboutnewcalvinism.com).
Hence, we must assume that NANC counseling yields many ill results, and I will say this: PAM points them out though they are missing the much larger issue. Case in point:
The truth is that counselors and especially counselors with an agenda (their particular approach) too often take credit for successes and attribute failures to the counselees. The trumping truth is that success is primarily in the hands of the counselees….
And worse yet, The counselee’s “failure” ends up in church discipline!
Problem-centered counseling is typically a one-to-one relationship. Sometimes couples and families are involved, but the relationship is generally artificial and restrictive. The counseling relationship itself usually does not extend outside the counseling room. The relationship lasts as long as counseling is being provided and normally does not extend to other involvement, even in most biblical counseling centers. Problem-centered counselors commonly do not involve themselves with counselees outside the counseling room. That is why both psychological and biblical counselors sometimes use intake forms requesting a great deal of personal information. Because this relationship is generally isolated, the counselor and counselee can be selective as to what they want to reveal about themselves. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, research shows that counselees often lie to their counselors and protect themselves by concealing important information.
The great advantage of Christ-centered ministry is that it is not limited to an artificial one-to-one relationship where one has the problem and the other supposedly has the solution. In the Body of Christ all are growing together. there are many opportunities to know one another and to interact in genuine relationships. When a believer is experiencing problems, more than one person may be involved in ministering to that individual. One may be teaching. One may be reminding. Another may simply be extending support and fellowship. Another may be helping in practical ways. Another may be exhorting. Another may be admonishing. And, in a few cases, some may be exercising the responsibility of disciplining a fellow believer for the sake of restoration. But, all can be praying and encouraging the individual in the direction of the Lord. And, through all this, all are growing together and the relationships may deepen with one another as well as with the Lord.
No doubt, PAM reveals many problems with the biblical counseling movement that one may expect when it is based on a false gospel. But John Street’s real sin is his participation in a mass propagation of a false gospel. It reminds me of Eric Clapton’s ode to one who objects to being accused of shooting a deputy when he really shot the sheriff.
“MacArthur had a choice: the authority of Scripture or Reformed orthodoxy; he chose the latter.”
“And, what exactly are the ‘implications’ that John MacArthur ‘explains’ from the text? If you assume a many-faceted full counsel of God, your assumptions would be dead wrong.”
Progressive justification is the gospel of John Calvin and present-day neo-Calvinists of all stripes. Forget the freewill/election debate; forget all of the haranguing over the residual issues; progressive justification is simply a false gospel.
It teaches that the power for our Christian living comes from our salvation or justification. At first, you may object to my objection on the bases that salivation makes Christian living possible, and I agree, but making Christian living possible and being directly powered by it are two opposing ideas with a crucial difference.
If Christian living is powered by our salvation (justification), and if our salvation does more than change our standing, position, or status, Christian living (sanctification) remains connected to our justification. This makes sanctification a spiritual minefield with endless and sobering implications.
Of which the least is not: preaching. When justification and sanctification are fused together, we are interacting with our justification throughout life; this would seem evident and terrifying to those who understand the implications because we can supposedly do things in our sanctification that can affect our standing before God.
Hence, in this fusion of the Reformed “golden chain of salvation” (what’s a chain?) we must be careful in how we (according to John Piper) participate in the links because we are not home free and there is a danger in sanctification. No kidding. There would be when justification and sanctification are fused together.
Furthermore, because this makes sanctification very tricky, the children of God (according to Doug Wilson) will be manifested at the last judgment. I sometimes receive complaints here at PPT that John Piper et al seem to state that we cannot know for certain whether we are saved or not until the last judgment. I am not surprised by these questions; they would be consistent with the logical conclusions one must draw from the theology.
This now brings us to our discussion about preaching. Obviously, Reformed pastors are going to be very careful not to preach in a way that will lead us in making our sanctification the ground of our justification. Or, leaping from the imperative to obedience. If we do not pre-bathe all obedience in our salvation, it is “making our sanctification the ground of our justification.” In Reformed circles, they call this, “The biblical command is grounded in the indicative event.” The indicative “event” is the crucifixion of Christ—all obedience flows from that event directly as the empowerment thereof—not a possibility that we participate in.
Therefore, all true obedience in the life of a believer is a mere natural flow experienced by joy and a willing spirit IF it is powered by our salvation. This is obtained through using our Bible to meditate on our salvation, and the works of Christ, and then just letting the Spirit take things from there. If the Spirit then instigates the obedience, it’s the Spirit applying justification to our sanctification and not us. Hence, we are safe from “making our own sanctification the ground of our justification.” Again, this is supposedly manifested and verified by joy (which Piper makes absolutely synonymous with saving faith and the struggle thereof dependent on our salvation [When I Don’t Desire God p.35]). Likewise, John MacArthur mimics the same nonsense as documented in the following PPT post:
Hence, creepy similarities to Piper’s theology appear in “Slave,” especially Pipers belief that true Christian obedience is always experienced as an unhesitating, natural response accompanied by joy. Throughout the book, MacArthur describes Christian obedience as “pure delight” and “joy-filled.” On page 208, he describes our experience as slaves to Christ as “not partially sweet and partially sour, but totally sweet.” This, despite what the apostle John clearly experienced as recorded in Revelation. But regardless of the fact that there is nothing sweeter than being a slave of Christ, to suggest that our experience is never mixed with bitterness (taste, not attitude) is just plain nonsense. A believer who has lost an unbelieving relative or close friend would be an example. Also, even though I realize the importance of joy in the Christian life, I make this observation in “Another Gospel” (page 78):
“Only problem is, among many, is the eleventh chapter of Hebrews contradicts everything in Piper’s statement above. Hebrews 11 is one of the more extensive statements on saving faith in Holy writ. The Hebrew writer defines the faith of at least twenty believers in regard to the decisions they made and obedience. Joy or pleasure, even pleasure in God, is not named once as being an attribute of their faith. The only semblance of feelings or emotions mentioned is that of strife and fear of God more than man. The truth of Hebrews 11, as well as many other Scriptures, makes a mockery of Piper’s theory of Christian hedonism.”
According to John Piper, if we find ourselves in a situation where we find no joy in the obedience—go ahead and obey, but be sure to ask God for forgiveness because of your sinful obedience (John Piper: Treating Delight as Duty is Controversial; pdf booklet available on Desiring God .org). Moreover, this paradigm, according to many Calvinists in our day including John MacArthur, asserts that Christians often obey and experience biblical truth that they are unaware of intellectually. A prime example of this would be the following excerpt from an article written by New Calvinist Bill Baldwin:
Give me a man who preaches the law with its terror and Christ with his sweetness and forgets to preach the law as a pattern of the fruit of sanctification and what will result? In two months his parishioners will be breaking down his door begging to be told what behavior their renewed, bursting with joy, hearts may best produce. And when he tells them, they will be surprised (and he will not) to discover that by and large they have produced exactly that. And where they haven’t, take them back to Christ again that they may contemplate him in all his glorious perfection so that they may better understand what sort of God and man he was and is (Bill Baldwin: Sanctification, Counseling, and the Gospel 08/02/1996).
My best information is that MacArthur bought into this nonsense circa 1994. He was persuaded by, among others, John Piper and Michael Horton that the Reformers in fact held to a progressive justification. MacArthur had a choice: the authority of Scripture or Reformed orthodoxy; he chose the latter. Therefore, MacArthur’s preaching will ape that of most Reformed teachers: heavy on the glory of God and very light on practical application or specific instruction. As Baldwin states it: “….the law as a pattern of the fruit of sanctification.”
And even though MacArthur is far more subtle in his anti-instruction/application than most Calvinists (probably due to the habits of his prior preaching which was heavy on sanctification elements), Christians have nevertheless noticed his lack of application (most likely due to the contrast) and questioned him on it. His defense reveals his dastardly selling out of the truth.
In, “Why doesn’t John MacArthur add much application to his sermons?” (Online source: http://goo.gl/P0eR9), MacArthur defends his Reformed Application Light sermons. But for you skeptics, let me get your attention. In regard to my accusation that this paradigm doesn’t require intellectual knowledge for experience or application, MacArthur concludes his defense by stating the following:
So now you know. You’ve been experiencing this. You had no idea what you were experiencing, right? (Applause) Okay.
The “applause” part of the transcript is the barf factor when one ponders the mindless following of philosopher kings such as “Pastor” John MacArthur Jr. Nevertheless, MacArthur continues:
Now let me tell you what happens when you preach effectively. You do explanation. In other words, you explain the meaning of Scripture, okay? The explanation carries with it implication. In other words, there are implications built into this truth that impact us. You add to that exhortation. And I’ve said things tonight to exhort you to follow what is implied by the text. Now when you deal with the text and the armor of God, like tonight, all I can do is explain it. That’s all it does. There aren’t any applications in that text. It doesn’t say, “And here’s how to do this if you’re 32 years old, and you live in North Hollywood.” “Here’s how to do this the next time you go to a Mall.” “Here’s how to do this when you go in your car and you’re driving in a traffic jam.” It doesn’t tell you that. And if I made my message mostly a whole lot of those little illustrations, I would be missing 90 percent of you who don’t live in that experience.
Unfortunately, MacArthur has gone the way of New Calvinist ungodly communication. He makes application of Scriptures the same thing as applying it to petty life concerns; such as, going to the mall. It’s the classic New Calvinist demeaning of biblical application and obedience. What is really behind it is an antinomian spirit. Let me point out MacArthur’s error in regard to the above quote concerning the idea that there is no application in Ephesians 6:16-20, only “explanation.” That text is full of imperatives and applications in regard to the full armor of God: “Put on…., stand against…, take up…, that you may be able…., having done all…., having put on…., Stand therefore…., having fastened…., and having put on…., in all circumstances [what circumstances? It would be wrong to draw examples from our life?]…., with which you can…., to that end…., [etc., etc., etc].” To imply that Ephesians 6:16-20 doesn’t contain instruction for practical application is ludicrous.
Also, adding to the absurdity of MacArthur’s statement is the fact that “putting on” is a major theme of that passage. This refers back to Ephesians 4:20-24, and the Apostle Paul’s discussion of putting off the old nature and putting on the new. So, MacArthur is not only denying application from our life experience, but specific life application specified in Scripture. Dr. Jay E. Adams notes 45 life applications to the putting off/putting on concept that he didn’t deduct from life observation, but are specifically mentioned in Scripture regarding life application (INS Training in Biblical Counseling by Extension: Introduction Principles and Practices; pp.22-24).
Surely, other than what good preachers should be able to draw from life for biblical application, specific biblical applications regarding life are too numerous to list. For example, Paul states in I Corinthians 7:41 that Christians should only marry “in the Lord.” The life application is what Nehemiah stated about Solomon when he didn’t follow that mandate; ie., even a man of his spiritual wherewithal fell into grievous sin by violating said spiritual principle.
Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.
No life application in that? Really?
It’s not for me to do that. Application belongs to the Spirit of God. All I’m interested in is explanation and its implications [What about 2Timothy 3:16,17 and the issue of "instruction" ?]. And the power comes in the implication and the Spirit of God takes the implications of what I’ve said tonight, all these things I’ve said, I don’t need to say all kinds of little scenarios to you and paint all kinds of little individual circumstances. All I need you to know is this is what the Word of God says and the implications are powerfully brought to bear with authority on your life and I exhort you to respond to those implications, it is the Spirit’s work to drive those implications into direct and personal application. That’s why you’re not going to, like so many preachers, you’re not going to hear me create all kinds of practical scenarios about how this all fleshes out in everybody’s world because you may hit somebody, you may hit a person here or there, that’s kind of a rifle-shot approach, the shot-gun approach that sprays everybody is the implicational essence of Scripture. That’s the power. And that’s when everybody walks out and says, “Wow, that hit me!” because you already have a commitment to the authority and the power of Scripture.
So, Reformed preaching merely explains Scripture, and the Holy Spirit applies it. So what do we need “instruction” for? (2Timothy 3:16,17). As we have clearly seen, this is an iffy proposition. If this is the case, why does the Bible command specific life application? Does the Spirit need to inform Christians as to what He may or may not do in their lives? I contend that this is MacArthur’s nuanced way of propagating the whole Reformed idea that the Holy Spirit obeys for us, so that our sanctification will not be the “ground of our justification.”
MacArthur further explains:
You already have a commitment to the truthfulness of Scripture. All I want you to understand is what it means. And in the meaning expanded beyond the given text to other texts so that you build all the theological implications, I leave you with the implications and an exhortation to be obedient and I leave the application to the Spirit.
Obedient to what? Obviously, there can be no specific instruction from the pulpit, only “explaining.” Instruction would imply specific application of the text. So, not only does the Holy Spirit apply the text, does he also teach the Christian how to apply it specifically? Or does that just come as a mere natural flow? Well, since, “So now you know. You’ve been experiencing this. You had no idea what you were experiencing, right?” Answer: like Baldwin, and for that matter, all New Calvinists, the “obedience” is “experienced” (not personally applied) without necessary intellectual understanding or knowledge. Let me reiterate MacArthur’s exact words:
So now [present tense] you know. You’ve been [past tense] experiencing this [experiencing what? Answer: obedience]. You had no idea [this should speak for itself….] what you were experiencing, right?
Right John. Whatever you say.
And, what exactly are the “implications” that John MacArthur “explains” from the text? If you assume a many faceted full counsel of God, your assumptions would be dead wrong. MacArthur makes it clear what should be primarily mined from the Scriptures in his Forward to Rick Holland’s Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing The Son:
As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd….The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.
What MacArthur endeavors to “explain” in every verse of Scripture is Jesus and His works (as stated by many New Calvinists), “not anything we would do.” As can be seen in the above MacArthur quote, he also follows the Reformed tradition of making God the Father and the Holy Spirit of lesser significance than Christ. Sadly, throughout church history, those of Reformed tradition has burned many at the stake for misrepresenting the Trinity while they are in fact guilty of the same thing.
There is certainly no reason to believe that MacArthur has not completely embraced this doctrine which also suggests that the saints can only get an adequate explanation of the Scriptures from Reformed elders. Saints dare not even fill up half of their plate with anything but Reformed elder preaching:
You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul (Elder Dr. Devon Berry: How to Listen to a Sermon; Clearcreek Chapel .org).
MacArthur’s defense of his preaching being discussed here implies the same idea:
But I want you to understand, if you don’t already understand, what I think should happen in effective biblical preaching. You heard a testimony tonight in the waters of Baptism from Juan about how he kept coming to Grace Church. And in spite of the fact that he wanted to be a hypocrite, the power of the Scripture began to overwhelm him.
Notice that the “power of the Scripture,” which should be understood in context of what we are discussing here, is not the primary crux of the point, but rather, “….he kept coming to Grace Church.” The “power of the Scripture” coming from the pulpit at Grace Church seems to be the point, and would also fit with the Reformed view of anointed elder preaching. MacArthur’s Bible Commentary is now published in the official New Calvinist translation of the Bible, The English Standard Version. It is published by Crossway, which is totally in the tank for New Calvinism. In the following promotional video clip, MacArthur hails the translation as the best ever: http://youtu.be/L1VxhQqsGXU. Again, MacArthur is now a dyed in the wool New Calvinist in the same order of the ones he supposedly despises like Mark Driscoll. While whining about their view of alcohol use among Christians and other residual issues, he is a believer in the same gospel (progressive justification).
The fact that John MacArthur is one of the most popular preachers in church history should be a chilling realization for those Christians who still love the truth.
He is also an excellent acid test for those who really want to know if they are followers of men or followers of the truth.
….the following transcript of a sermon delivered at a conservative Baptist church that is in the process of being taken over by New Calvinists. Read the “Four Groups” post first, and then read the following manuscript from the aforementioned sermon. This sermon is also predicated on the philosophical (Gnostic/Marxist) ideas that drive camp #2. It is also interesting to note the following fact regarding a Gnostic group that plagued the first century church: “Nico means ‘conquer’ in Greek, and laitan refers to lay people, or laity; hence, the word may be taken to mean ‘lay conquerors’ or ‘conquerors of the lay people’” (On line source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaism).
Hi. Good morning. Let me just add my welcome to those of you who are coming back here for the first time. For those who are coming back, welcome back. For those of you who are leaving, goodbye. No. We’ll be praying for you as you kind of move in new transitions in life.
We are in a transition here at Shawnee Hills. I mean, it’s fairly obvious because I’m up here. And if you’ve been coming the last several weeks/months, we’ve had a lot of other people who have come here and challenged us. And I don’t know about you, but we’ve heard some really great messages over the last several months. And I’ve really appreciated the people who have come from the outside to kind of challenge us and encourage us in this kind of time of transition. But I’m coming to you as one of us. I am a member of this group. And so when I was asked to share this morning, it’s like okay, what can I say to my brothers and sisters in this local body that would be an encouragement to them and how can I do that in a kind of a one-shot type of deal? Which is always sort of difficult ’cause I really like teaching Sunday school because if I’m working through a book, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do. It kind of goes in line. But if I have to pick something one shot, I mean, here I am.
So that’s what I’m gonna try to do this morning, is we’re gonna talk about the concept of worldly wisdom versus godly wisdom. You know, we got this report from the pulpit committee. They have sixty resumes. Wow. Now I’m glad I’m not on the pulpit committee because, you know, I have trouble – when I go to like Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory and there’s so many good things on the menus, like I don’t know how to choose. How many of you have this kind of same issue here? Okay. So I’m glad it’s you guys and not me that’s doing that.
But this morning as we kind of talk about this issue of godly wisdom, worldly wisdom, in the end the pulpit committee is gonna go through these resumes. They’re going to sort people out. They’re gonna do that, and then they’re gonna present someone to us. Ultimately, we make the decision. Ultimately, we call a pastor. It’s not the pulpit committee that calls the pastor. And so as we kind of go into this decision-making process about thinking who will be the next senior pastor of Shawnee Hills, it kind of gives us a chance to reflect on how are we going to choose somebody. And not just as we think about issues of choosing a pastor, how do we choose anything? What is the decision-making process? What is the kind of standard or goal that we sort of use to know whether we’re making wise decisions or not? And so this is really what I kind of wanna address today.
And I also want you to know that in a sense, even though when we’re looking at James chapter 3 in quite a bit of detail this morning, in essence I’m preaching him as well to you. I’m gonna sing that hymn at the end of the service and hopefully, the words of the message, and we’re kind of going through this concept of earthly versus – or worldly versus godly wisdom will kind of resonate when we sing the hymn at the end. Hopefully, you can see the connections between the two.
All right. Now if you think about going to a restaurant, making a big decision, or making a decision off the menu, going to a restaurant I hope is not a big decision for you, but oftentimes we tend to choose things that make us comfortable. If you’ve been to, you know, if we go out to eat, oftentimes depending on where we go, I can predict what Therese is gonna order off the menu. Because there’s certain things she likes, she feels comfortable with, and so she’s gonna choose those things. And so if we go to Los Mariachis, it’s gonna be the Mariachi chicken. It’s like that’s just the way it’s going to be even though there’s a lot of good things on the menu.
So we tend to choose things or we tend to kind of go with things that we’re comfortable with. Now that’s okay when you’re dealing with the Mariachi chicken, I guess, at Los Mariachis. But in a time of transition, it really gives us a chance to kind of think about what are the standards that we’re going to use to choose a pastor or anything else. And a couple of weeks ago, we were kind of given the results of a survey that we took to kind of see what we were looking for in a pastor. And, I don’t know, it’s always good to kind of quantify, I guess, what the attitude of the group is, and it’s good to see whether your intuitions of things kind of match everybody else’s, but I don’t know that there was anything particularly really surprising here. When I looked at this, this is what I thought. We would pretty much pick as – it was good to have that quantified for me, but it kind of begs the question. If that’s what we are saying that we want, is it maybe something that we’re comfortable with? And if we’re comfortable with that, may it also cause us to sometimes miss certain other things that we should be looking for?
And so what I want to do today is look at what are God’s standards for how we should be making decisions of any type, whether it’s a pastor or anything else. And to use the pastor issue just as kind of an example, if you think about what a pastor is for a congregation, oftentimes the pastor is our representative. He embodies what we think we should be as believers. So on our list we wanted someone who preaches well, and we wanted someone who has been to seminary and can discern the Word. And we wanted somebody who is married because we think that’s a good thing, or most of us thought that was a pretty good thing. And so the pastor sort of becomes the embodiment of who we think he should be. He embodies our values. So pastors are representatives.
But pastors are also shepherd. It’s another kind of way of looking at this. And when we think about a pastor as a shepherd, he is to be who Christ wants him to be, and he is help mold us into what Christ wants us to be. And so when we need chastening, the pastor needs to chasten us. And when we need encouraging, he needs to encourage us. And hopefully, those two things are the same. Our values, pastor as our representative, God’s values, pastor as our shepherd. If those things are together, that’s great. Now I’m not suggesting to us that in our case that those are necessarily far apart. But they can have a tendency because our values versus God values, they can have a tendency to separate. And I think many a person has been pushed from the ministry because they could not be all things to all people, because they had to try to embrace everyone’s different image of who they were supposed to be. So as we kind of get into this – we’re in this time of transition, I think it’s a good time for us to kind of examine how do we go about making decisions. And so that’s what I’d like to do here today. Because if you don’t, the result can be a lot of division and a lot of quarreling and a lot of fighting. And churches end up splitting over issues like this. And I’m not suggesting that this is gonna happen to us at all, but I think it’s a good time for us to kind of step back and look at the whole issue.
So we’re gonna deal with this issue of wisdom here today. And normally when we think about wisdom, where do we normally start? The book of Proverbs, don’t we? So turn up to Proverbs chapter 9 because that’s usually where people wanna go when we think about wisdom. And Proverbs is a good place, because in Proverbs there’s the contrast between Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. And as the first several chapters of Proverbs go, the writer keeps contrasting these two views for us. But note, we have this kind of encapsulating statement in Proverbs 9:10. And many of you can quote it, or at least you can quote the first part of the verse. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And knowledge – I lost it. “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
So when we think about this idea of wisdom, wisdom starts with what? It starts with reverence. It starts with awe. It’s the fear of the Lord. Now if you think – and then look at what the writer says here. “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In essence, knowledge is preceded by what? Wisdom. Normally, when we – and this is kind of counterintuitive for most of us. Most of us, when we think about wisdom, wisdom is knowledgeable people taking what they know and applying it well. But know what the author of Proverbs is telling us, that wisdom is really – precedes knowledge. Because if you have wisdom, if you have the fear of the Lord, it is going to guide even what you think is worth knowing. It guides the process of what you choose to learn. If I think that learning to be a triathlete is a good thing, it’s gonna drive my understanding. It’s gonna drive me to look at certain types of magazines and certain television shows and things like that. So my standard of what is good precedes even my understanding of what is good knowledge.
And that really is counterintuitive to us because most of the time we think that wisdom is knowledge applied. Well, what I really wanna suggest that what wisdom really is is knowledge well applied. Well, what does that mean? It means that whenever we approach this idea of wisdom, wisdom must have a target. Wisdom must have a goal. You’re choosing to learn something so that you can progress toward a certain goal or vision of that which is good. So we send people to school, for example, to become more knowledgeable. But what we choose to teach them, or we could teach them anything. But we choose to teach them certain subjects. Why do we teach them those subjects? Because we think that those are the types of subjects that will allow them to get along well in the world. So we have a vision of what is good that drives what we even choose to learn or teach people.
So when we think about this idea of wisdom, we have to start with this idea of wisdom as a vision of the good and not simply that wisdom comes out of knowing something. In fact, if you think about it, we know lots of intelligent people, I mean, very bright people who don’t start with this fear knowledge of the Lord. And what do they do with their intelligence and knowledge? They oftentimes will use it as a tool to sort of continue in their unbelief. They defend their bad ideas or their irreverent ideas or their idea that God doesn’t exist by using their intelligence or knowledge. They have a vision that starts and it guides how they look at knowledge and information.
So when we begin to think about this idea of wisdom, we first have to start with a fear, reverence, awe of God. Now the passage in James, it’s kind of interesting. When you look at the Old Testament, if you particularly look at Proverbs, we’re contrasting Lady Wisdom, Lady Folly. If you look at, let’s say, Ecclesiastes, in Ecclesiastes, the author of Ecclesiastes kind of goes through and talks about all the things that he’s done and all the things that he’s pursued. And in the end he comes to the conclusion that everything was vanity, or everything was folly. And so he then says, “Everything that I try to pursue was not very good. I should have remembered my Creator in the days when I was young.” And he says, “I should have had a different vision for life.”
James on the other hand is gonna be a little bit more nuanced for us. What James is telling us is that there are two types of wisdom. James has kind of laid out that who’s wise among you. And then he talks about the idea that there’s worldly wisdom, and he’s talking about that there is Godly wisdom. Now remember, wisdom is a vision of what is right or what is good. So what James is really telling us is that there are two visions of what is right or what is good. And we choose to pursue one of those visions. You can pursue a vision of worldly good. And the world defines good in a certain way. Or you can choose to pursue godly wisdom or the godly standard of the good. But what we’ll see is you cannot pursue both. So James kind of lays out for us that there really are two types of visions of the good, two competing ideas of virtue, and says that you need to choose between one of them. And he kind of lays out the differences for us. We’ll come back and look at this here in a minute.
But the kind of thing, the interesting thing to note here for me, I think, is that when we begin to think about this idea of virtue and good, we need to kind of understand that there’s a difference between moral ideas and ethical ideas. Normally, we understand those as sort of synonymous. In fact, we use them synonymously, and that’s technically not right. You act morally as an individual, okay? When you act and you do an action, whether it’s a good or bad action, that is an exercise in your morality. But generally, when you do that, you will do it from some sort of ethical standard, which is corporate. So if you are a good member of Shawnee Hills Baptist Church, how do you know you’re a good member? Because there’s sort of a corporate sort of understanding of what it means to be good here. And you live within that corporate idea of goodness. And if you act that way, we kind of applaud you and pat you on the back and say, “Yes, you’re a good Christian. Way to go.” And if you’re kind of outside of that, we sort of have our little ways of letting you know, “No, you’re not quite in there, right? Okay. And hopefully, if you still wanna be part of us, you kind of mold your attitudes back to get within the good.” Makes sense?
Now the same thing operates if you think about the larger society. There is a concept of what it means to be a good American. And if you’re a good American, you hold to certain ideas and you hold to certain values, and we’ll let you know that you’re a good American if in fact you live according to those values and act to the virtues and you pursue life that way. And most of us, because we live within that environment, we sort of tend to respond to that because we are communal beings. And so if we begin to understand that these ideas of ethics are really waters that we swim in, and because they’re waters that we swim in, they do affect us. And so when we go out there and we are in the bigger ethics of the culture, there’s certain attitudes and values that are pressing on us that say you are a good American if you do this. And the tendency could be that we could bring those attitudes, values, concepts of the good and bring them into here where they may not quite align with what God wants us to be and think and act and do. So we begin to kind of – think about James telling us, “Look, there are two types of virtue; there are two types of wisdom; and you need to choose the right one,” he’s really kind of saying choose as a group, as a community, you need to kind of choose the right ethical vision from which to follow.
Now I want you to think about the vision of the good that is out there for a minute. What does our society, what does our world try to tell us? If you think about it, there are competing messages that we get. For example, fairness is more important than justice in our society. And fairness is, “I need to get mine. It needs to be me.” Justice related more toward what’s good for the community. We are much more – we seem as a society, we’re much more interested in things like consuming goods, which is I consume them as compared to creating goods, which would be for the benefit of everyone. We seem to be much more interested in things like fame. Fame is pretty important to us rather than really truly accomplishing something. I mean, why in the world is Ryan Seacrest so famous? What has he done? I mean, he’s got the best job in the world. He gets to be on TV for the simple reason that he’s famous. What have you done? I don’t know but I’m famous. Okay, we’ll put you on. What a great gig to have. Glamour and beauty seem to be more important than character. Image is more important than holiness. There was a tagline for Sprite once: Image is everything.
Just as kind of an example, think about how people get their news now. Most people tend to get their news from sources that agree with their own opinion. We’ve sort of substituted opinion for true knowledge. And what that ends up doing in the end, again, all these, me versus the group, me versus the group, me versus the group, in the end, this becomes very divisive. It tends to pull apart at us. In the end we start treating other people as competitors. It divides us. We see people as the enemy. In many ways we turn – objectify people. Oh, he’s just an idiot for believing that. And what doesn’t happen is we don’t have unity. We tend to end up with division.
Now this is sort of exactly what James predicts. So if you kind of turn to James chapter 3, the passage that we read this morning, note that James really does kind of lay out certain characteristics of what happens if you follow this worldly vision. What are the results of this? And he notes that the first one is bitter jealousy. What he means here is that we seek our own benefit. We’re not willing to share with others. James as he uses this term, he uses it in a sort of a religious context. It kind of leads to a type of religious zeal or zealotry. And if you can think about the history of religion throughout the centuries, there’s been an awful lot of times where religion has been used, whether we’re talking Christianity or other religions, have been used to sort of promote a particular agenda, an us versus them kind of mentality. And he notes that this is one of the characteristics of worldly wisdom.
We are prone to selfish ambitions. We seek to promote our own ends. And we tend to do that at the exclusion of other people. So we start to use people if we can. In fact, I will try to pursue certain ways of gaining power so that I can pursue my agenda over your agenda. And that might need acquiring wealth because wealth gives me power. It might mean gaining position because position could give me power. It might mean cultivating beauty because beauty and sex appeal may give me power over people. But there’s lots of ways that we can go to cultivate power. And all of those kind of come out of this idea of selfish ambition because this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to seek our own end.
Arrogance. Note that James tells us that worldly wisdom leads to a type of arrogance. What it means is that you believe in yourself. You believe in your own vision. James is kind of laying out it’s your sovereignty. It’s your desire for autonomy that comes out, and it makes you arrogant. Now suddenly, your vision of the world becomes the vision for the world. And everyone has this sort of get in line with what you think is the right thing to do.
Self-deception. Notice that sometimes we become unwilling and unable to learn from others. We become unteachable at a certain level. Part of that is because of this arrogance that is cultivated. But part of it is that we are now are unwilling to see things at the way they really are.
In the end all of this leads to division. As worldly wisdom continues to grow and as worldly wisdom sort of becomes the wisdom for a group of people, the end result will always be, as James says, division. It will lead to quarreling. It will lead to fighting. It will lead to everyone – well, it leads to, as Jesus said, a house divided, which will not stand because everyone is now doing, as the author of Judges says, everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. So in the end, worldly wisdom James kind of points out has this divisive, this corrosive, this kind of effect that pulls people apart because now everyone wants to pursue their own end.
Now obviously, when we present this characteristic of worldly wisdom, it doesn’t look too attractive, does it? It’s like, no, I don’t want to be that. In fact, I’m not that anyway. I am more godly in this regard because you can lay out this way, worldly, godly, okay, these people don’t look very nice. And you don’t really wanna be around people like this, which begs the question, might we be people like this? We certainly don’t want to think that we are.
Now James, you have to understand James is probably the first book of the New Testament that was written. And James is sort of – if anything else about James, he’s really a good psychologist. James understands the human heart. He understands what our – in our sin nature what our natural inclinations, what our natural affections tend to lead us. And he’s sort of warning us that be careful of this. Because if you do this, this is what’s going to happen. And so he’s kind of letting us know that there is this type of wisdom that can be corrosive if you let it take hold of you.
Now it’s kind of interesting that James writes this and then several decades later, we find this whole issue coming to fruition in another church. And another writer of a New Testament book, the Apostle Paul, finds that he has to address it. And he has to address it in the book of 1 Corinthians, because the Church in Corinth is actually exhibiting the very things that James warned of in his book. So when we get to 1 Corinthians, we have a church that is highly divided. And if you kind of read through the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, we have the issue of all kinds of things. One of the things that comes out is they’re divided over pastors, or who were their pastors and who they are pledging allegiance to in an essence. Some say well, I follow Apollos and I follow Paul and I follow Cephas or Peter. And there’s this other group, probably the holier than thou group, well, we follow Christ. So there’s all these kinds of factions in the Church. And Paul is now kind of writing to go through this, ’cause there’s lots of quarreling that’s going on here.
Now if you go through the book, you’ll see that there are issues of division, whose teachings are they gonna follow. There’s lack of community around the Lord’s Table because there’s division there. There’s strife in the Church because people are suing one another. There are people who are priding themselves on their liberty in Christ. So there’s moral laxity going on in the Church. There are issues of people pursuing their own ends. Paul has to address the issue of women taking leadership positions. He has to address the issue of people striving for certain spiritual gifts because those gifts are considered of higher status in the church and therefore will give people more power over what’s going on there. So there’s all kinds of divisions, strife, and things, all things that if you notice were things that James talked about in James chapter 3. So this is the church as really into it. They have embraced a sense of kind of worldly wisdom. And Paul, like James, is gonna have to note this kind of stuff because they’re all kind of pursuing the ends that James had said.
Now let me just kind of point out something about Corinth to you. ‘Cause normally, I think sometimes when we think of Corinth, the equivalent that we have of Corinth is Las Vegas. What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth. And that would be kind of a wrong view of Corinth, I think. Corinth was not some sort of Roman or Greek cultural backwater. Corinth was not some place that you went to sort of blow off hedonistic steam. If you think about Athens and Rome as the cultural and political centers, and our equivalent would be let’s say New York and Washington, Corinth would be like Chicago. Corinth had a striving big commercial center. It was a center for the arts. It was a center for culture and intellectual pursuits. Certainly, there was that hedonistic element that went on in Corinth. But if we think about Corinth only in terms of it was like Las Vegas, we’re gonna sort of miss sort of what it meant to be a Corinthian. ‘Cause what it meant to be Corinthian was that you are sort of a cosmopolitan person. A good Corinthian was someone who understood the arts and understood intellectual pursuits. And it’s kinda like, you know, we’re good New Yorkers because these are all kinds of values of living in the city. If you were a good Corinthian, you kind of embraced this intellectual and cultural and artistic and commercial kind of sense of what it meant to be living in the city.
So now when Paul addresses them and he says to them, he turned to 1 Corinthians chapter 3, know what he says to them. He says, brothers – and note, throughout the book he addresses them as believers. He addresses them as their brothers, as his brothers. He acknowledges they’re saved. But he says to them, note, “Brothers, I wish I could speak to you as spiritual men, but I can’t because you are men of flesh; you are babes in Christ.” Now it kind of begs the question then, what does he mean when he says that they are men of flesh? If you have NIV, it probably says worldly or something like that. What does he mean by this idea of worldly? Well, let’s kind of see if we can find out. What does it mean in fact to be worldly? And depending on the translation you have, you may have something like carnal, which I think is in the King James, kind of a Latin word for meat or flesh. If you have the ESV, I think it says something like men of flesh. The NASB says fleshly. I mean, that’s obvious. We are people of flesh and bone, right? But that’s not what he’s getting at. He’s getting at, okay, I’d like to address you as spiritual people, people who have a spiritual vision of the good. But I can’t because your vision of the good is worldly. Your affections are placed in the world, whereas I’d really like to talk to you as if your affections were placed on godly concerns, so that James’ division between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.
All right. So he says to them, “Look, I’d like to talk to you this way, but I can’t because you seem to be worldly.” So what does it mean to be worldly? Normally, when we think about the term “worldly,” it’s kind of this idea of moral decadence. He’s just a worldly guy. But that’s really not what Paul is kind of addressing here, particularly if you can understand this idea of being a good cosmopolitan person as being a good Corinthian. To be worldly is to be practical or shrewd. It’s to have an understanding of human affairs. It’s here’s a vision of what is good in the world, and I know that as I make certain decisions, it brings me closer to that vision. I do things that will bring me close to the vision of the good. So for example, a wise decision is one that helps me achieve a certain end. And unwise decision is one that’s not gonna get me there. It’s actually gonna pull me away from it.
So as Paul is addressing them, he says, “Look, your concerns are worldly. You have a worldly vision. And so when you make decisions, what do you do? You make decisions that will help you to pursue this kind of worldly end.” And know what’s been happening in this church. There’s strife, there’s division, there’s quarrelling, all because they are pursuing an agenda of achieving their own ends. Now in this respect, for example, I would consider my father as a wise person. Now my father is not a believer, and he’s not particularly well educated. But when he gives me advice, he understands this is what you really need to do if you wanna accomplish these goals or these ends. And so he’s pretty good at stuff like that. But it’s not a vision of the good that would be considered necessarily a godly vision. But he’s wise in a worldly sense.
So to be ethical in this regard is to be devoted to in pursuing worldly ends. And so when he says to them, “Look, you guys are worldly because you are pursuing worldly ends,” that’s really what’s going on. Now what that really means, because worldly ends almost always focus on me, note that oftentimes in the Scripture, we get these very black and white contrasting statements. I mean, think about in 1 John where you get some of the best ones. If you love the world, you can’t love God. The love of the Father cannot be in you. You cannot serve two masters. You’ll either love the one or hate the other. We see lots of statements like this in the Scripture. Now why do we see these statements? Because what got is telling us in his Word is that there are very different competing visions of the good. And you need to choose which one you’re going to pursue because they are sort of at ends with each other. Now what we’re gonna see is that sometimes we try to do the really dysfunctional thing of trying to combine the two together, which becomes really weird.
So if we cannot follow this as an idea, one of the things that I think is really interesting is the paradox of worldly wisdom. Now if you think about being worldly, sometimes we, for example, when we travel overseas, that helps us to become worldly because you get a bigger vision of the world. You kind of get out from your little provincial, parochial kind of understanding of the world and then you see things in a bigger way. Hopefully, we send you to school so that you get a broader understanding of the world, so that you can become more sophisticated in that regard. The opposite of being worldly is to be, I don’t know, a hick, a bumpkin, a rube, a yokel, a hillbilly, a hoosier, no, not a hoosier. Sorry, dear. But all those other things. So we when we send you – we don’t wanna be those things, right? So we kind of want you to expand your vision of the world.
The odd thing, the irony, I think, of worldly wisdom is the more you pursue it, actually, the more provincial you become. Worldly wisdom is associated only with this world; whereas godly wisdom broadens out from this world to the spiritual. Worldly wisdom only thinks about a particular time; whereas godly wisdom will always think about things in terms of eternity. So the lie of worldly wisdom, the deception of worldly wisdom is, “Oh yes, I’m more sophisticated. I’m more suave. I’m more cosmopolitan,” but in the end it’s really not. What it really causes you is to become even more provincial because you become focused more and more solely on self.
Now why does this happen to us? What is the heart of this worldly wisdom? Turn back to James chapter 3. ‘Cause James says the reason that it leads to arrogance and jealousy and strife and division and all these things is that there are three characteristics of worldly wisdom. The first one is that it is earthly. And when we think of earthly, all James is really saying here is our heart, our affections are tied to things of this world. We’re not seeing beyond this world. We’re seeing only what we can see in this world.
Which leads to the second one, worldly wisdom is sensual or natural. Depending on your translation, the word will be a little bit different there. And I used the word “sensual” here to kind of underscore the idea that it’s tied to the senses. Normally, when we think of sensual, we think of sexual pleasure or something like that; that’s not what James means. All he’s saying is that it’s sort of tied to the senses or to pursuing certain ends. Most of the time it would be things like pursuing pleasure as a good and avoiding pain. Those seem kind of good. I like pleasure. I like to avoid pain. That seems to be kind of natural to us. Hence, it’s natural. Those kind of end up being the goals. You can put them up there.
And the last one is that it is demonic. And what he means by demonic is that the source of worldly wisdom is the exact same thing that cause Satan to rebel. Satan wanted autonomy. Satan wanted sovereignty over God. Because worldly wisdom is self-oriented, the source of worldly wisdom is autonomy and sovereignty. It’s the exact same thing. And so James says the source of worldly wisdom is always in the end going to be demonic in this regard.
Now this is abnormal. This is an abnormal condition for us. God did not create us to be sovereign, independent beings. He did not create us to declare our independence of him, and He always wanted us to be dependent on him. So this condition of autonomy is one that, if we acknowledge that we’re abnormal, then we have to acknowledge why we’re abnormal. And that would bring us back to God. Well, the world doesn’t wanna do that. So what will the world do? The world is gonna try and take this abnormal, self-focused vision of what’s good and try to normalize it, try to make it sound like this is the only really true vision of how things should be.
So what happens? We have things like, oh I don’t know. Autonomy starts to become things like independence and self-sufficiency. Those sound sort of virtuous kind of ideas. Selfishness becomes ambition and goal-orientation. If we wanna quote from that classic 1987 movie, Wall Street, “Greed is good. Greed clarifies. Greed is,” to continue in the speech where Gordon Gekko is making it in the movie, he says, “Greed has always marked the upward surge of mankind. And that greed will save even this dysfunctional corporation known as the United States of America.” Gekko kind of presents this idea of greed as such a virtuous vision that as I practice it individually. And if we all practice it corporately, what will it lead to? Kind of a good outcome for all of us. So the world really does have kind of a vested interest in normalizing this. And so we get books on the virtues of selfishness. We have books saying that selfishness is a genetic thing. And we have little baby girls that say, “You can’t have any of my dolls.”
All right. Now James contrasts this for us. James contrasts worldly wisdom with godly wisdom. And I want you to note that James does not give us sort of the core of godly wisdom like he did with worldly wisdom. He doesn’t tell us, you know, we said with worldly wisdom, “Look, it’s natural. It’s earthly.” He doesn’t do that with godly wisdom. Because he assumes that we understand that the source of godly wisdom is God, that it’s the character of God. Look at James 1:5 from that. If anyone lacks wisdom, what should he do? He should ask of who? God, not your professors, hopefully, they know, but not of knowledgeable people. But the source of real wisdom is going to be God. So he kind of assumes that we know that ’cause he kind of laid that out early in the book. He says, “If you pursue godly wisdom, this is what happens.”
Now I want you to, as we go through this list, if you’re an astute observer, one of the things that you’re going to note is that the list looks an awful lot like the beatitudes of Matthew chapter 5. And what is Christ laying out in the beatitudes? The characteristics of citizens of the Kingdom. If you’re gonna be a good citizen of the Kingdom, this is how you will act. Here are the moral actions within an ethical vision of community. This is how you’re supposed to respond. So what are they? The first one is they were pure, that we are single-minded. We keep ourselves unstained from the world, but we also work to do the will of God toward others.
Look at James 1:27 for a minute. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Personal piety, while it’s a good thing, if religion is simply defined by personal piety, me keeping my nose clean, that is not godly. It comes from a worldly vision. Because godly wisdom says, “Yes, I will keep myself from sin, but I also work for the benefit of other people.” And we sometimes deceive ourselves when we think personal piety is what being holy is all about. It’s only half of the equation. If it’s only half, it’s not the whole thing. It becomes worldly.
Second one is it is peaceable. It seeks to reconcile others to Christ and to other people. Godly wisdom seeks shalom. It seeks restoration. It seeks to be a peacemaker. And blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God. So there is that part of the vision. They are gentle. Godly wisdom respects the feelings of others. It is not imposing. It does not force people to believe things. It is not bullying in this regard. And sometimes even in our desire, in our zeal, our religious zeal to get people to live a certain way, we can be forcible, we can be bullying in how we go about this. And while we think the goal is good, we are using a worldly way of understanding to try to bring that about, because godly wisdom is gentle in this regard.
It is reasonable, which means that you’re teachable. You’re not arrogant. You’re willing to submit to the teaching and leading of other people. But it also means that as you try to teach others, you try to show them the reasonableness, why position is good for them, good for others, why it fits into the whole community of faith.
It’s merciful and leads to good fruit. This is the only kind of double one in the group, which I think is kind of interesting. It is compassionate. Godly wisdom is compassionate to those people who are in need of practical help. It deals with needs rather than the source of the problem. Now, for example, we sometimes think, “Oh, well. Look at the situation he’s in. If only he had done this…” That would be a statement that comes out of worldly wisdom because we’re saying, “Look, he is experiencing the natural consequences of what he has done. And therefore, we should just kind of let him in that.” Or if you’d only done this … again, that would be a worldly wisdom type of statement. Godly wisdom understands that you know what, people make mistakes. And sometimes people are affected by the mistakes of others that they didn’t even have to make, and we deal with the consequences of need. Why? Because God was merciful to us. If God dealt with us, well, if the natural effect of your sin is you’re going to hell, we’ll all be in hell. So this idea of merciful and good fruit kind of goes together.
It is unwavering. It is not, as James said, double-minded. To be unwavering means that you have a single-minded vision of what the good is, and it’s this godly one. And you don’t keep flipping back and forth between godly and worldly. Because if you keep flipping back and forth, you are double-minded which means that you will be unstable in all of your ways. So James kind of points out we need to have this kind of unwavering view, and it’s not hypocritical, which means it’s not self-seeking. Sometimes, you know, doing the right thing leads to a good outcome. And so I do it for my benefit. It leads to a good outcome for me. That’s why I’m doing it. True godly wisdom is really motivated by love for others and not love for self.
Now the end of all of this, James says, is that it will lead to peace and righteousness. Now I’m sort of running out of time, so I gotta hurry up here. But I wanna kind of point out the parable of the prodigal son here for a minute. Because there’s one way of reading this parable that really can be a parable of sort of two wisdoms. And we can have a look at godly wisdom and worldly wisdom being kind of played out in the parable of the prodigal son. Because remember we said that wisdom, godly wisdom, is the spiritual, mental, and emotional ability to relate rightly to God, rightly to others, and rightly to the culture. If I have a godly vision of things, I am actually in a position to step back and critique the culture and understand whether the culture is moving toward a right goal or not. And we can do that corporately as a body.
Now think about the parable of the prodigal son here for a minute. If you think about the parable of the prodigal son, both of the sons in the beginning of the parable are acting in a worldly fashion. They both have the exact same motivation. The younger son, who’s normally the focus of the parable, says to his father, “Basically, you’re dead to me. I am so self-focused that in my eyes you are dead, and so you might as well just give me the inheritance now because I don’t even consider that you’re alive to me anymore.” And as the story goes, the father does that. And the younger son goes off and does what with it. He lives decadently. He lives riotously. He splurges. And most of the time we think he has lived a worldly life. And he’s now getting the results of his worldliness because he finds himself lying in a pigsty eating pig pods and wishing he was back with his father because his father is rich. And so he comes to his senses and what does he do? He goes back home. And in humility he says to his father, “I’m not even worthy to be considered your son. Just make me a servant.” But the father kind of welcomes him and brings him back into the household. Okay, we know that part of the story.
Let’s consider for a minute the older son, because the older son is also acting from a sense of worldly wisdom. Now granted, he is much more conservative in his lifestyle. He is the good son. He does everything that a good Jewish boy is expected to do. He listens to his father. He works for his father. He does everything that everybody in this little Jewish community would say you are a good kid. And in fact, everybody in the community probably is patting him on his back, “You’re the good son.” And especially as the tales of the riotous living of his brother get back to the village and say, “Look, he’s such a bad kid. You are a good kid.” In the end, what does he begin to think about himself? I’m in fact the good kid. I’m a good person. But why is he doing all of this? His hard issue really comes back when his brother returns. ‘Cause when his brother returns, father welcomes him to the house, has a party for him, the oldest son finds out what’s going on, he won’t even go into the house. The oldest son, he’s angry. He’s angry. He’s jealous. He’s self-justifying. The father comes out to him and he says to him, “All these years, I have worked. I’ve done everything that you’ve told me to do. I have been the good son. Ask anybody in town.” I’m pretty sure that the other people in the village just don’t understand the father. “Your son called you dead. You’re nuts for bringing him back into your house.” And they’re probably telling the good older son, “You know what? You’re right to be angry with your brother. He’s an idiot. You’ve done everything that you’re supposed to do.” And by the standards of the community, by the standards of the world, he has been the good son. And he becomes justified in his own mind. Yes, in fact, I am the good son. Why? Because I’ve done everything that the world tells me to do. So we have to understand that there’s a type of righteousness in the older son. The world gives us a type of righteousness. There’s a way of living in the world that seems right, seems virtuous, but it can be a normalizing of the sin nature. And the Bible talks about this. There is a type of righteousness, but in the end it is nothing but filthy rags. But we can still be convinced it’s righteous.
So the question for us as a congregation, I think, in this time of transition that we have is do we share God’s values? Do we share God’s heart? Do we want to see His will done at Shawnee Hills Baptist as it is in heaven? And we need to somehow avoid becoming like the Corinthians where the values and attitudes and ideas of what’s virtuous in the world somehow work their way into our vision of what’s right and good and virtuous here in this congregation. ‘Cause at the point that we do that, we will become spiritually very schizophrenic. We will become pretty dysfunctional at that point. And so I think it really kind of behooves us to kind of look at these two visions of virtue, of right wisdom, and act in accordance.
Let’s pray. Father, you have said in your Word that if we lack wisdom, we should ask. And we really do desire to avoid this kind of schizophrenic response since it’s our natural tendency. We saw it in our brothers and sisters at the Church of Corinth. And so we don’t want it to produce a type of Christianity that will make us lukewarm, because we know what your response to lukewarm Christianity is. And so we ask Father that as we come before you and as we search our own hearts and go through the process of calling a new pastor, that we would do so with your heart and your mind and that you would bless this endeavor. We ask in thy Son’s name. Amen.
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Humanity in Western culture can be split up into four different groups from two different camps. Think it simplistic if you will, but it explains many things in Christianity that has perplexed me for years.
Camp one believes man is capable, and should be self-dependent as much as possible. The following are the two groups in that camp:
1. Regenerate thinkers. These are saved people who deem themselves capable of knowing truth individually, and are uncomfortable with predominate centrality of control without accountability. They note the fact that we are the only creatures God created upon the earth that can reason, so it stands to reason that God wants us to utilize that capability to the fullest extent in order to improve our environment and help others.
2. Unregenerate thinkers. Like regenerate thinkers, they think man is capable. Their convictions, at least in America, are probably going to be expressed through patriotism and a respect for ideas produced by the Enlightenment era. They are going to be unwilling to trade freedom for supposed guarantees. They are individualistic. Like the regenerate thinkers, they believe strong individuals are better able to help those who really need it.
Camp two believes man is incapable, and should have implicit faith in some sort of elite group or institution. Thinking and reasoning are greatly devalued in this group. The “group” is paramount, and individualism is deemed to be the root of all evil. Following the brain trust of the group is vital for unity and peace. This gives opportunity for the individual to plunge the depths of selflessness—emptying oneself for the sake of the group.
1. Regenerate groupies. This group puts all of its trust in the religious institution or the “Divines.” What they can understand about God and His will is limited. They therefore depend on things like “Daily Bread” short devotionals and creeds. They follow the “polity” (government) of the church to insure they are in good standing with God. Ultimately, God will hold the Divines responsible and not the group—the group is only responsible for following and obeying God’s anointed. The anointed are responsible for determining the deep things of God and presenting them to the group in a way that can be understood. Hence, “orthodoxy” (the authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures by the Divines determined by councils and the confessions that come from them), and creeds.
2. Unregenerate groupies. This group concurs with the governing elite that they are owned by the government. Dependence on the government is paramount, and contribution to its strength the highest form of morality. It is predicated on the basic ineptness of mankind. No big surprise then that after a speech by a politician, political commentators tell us what he/she just said. Again, loyalty to the group is paramount; hence, the group is voted for regardless of many factors because of the fundamental agreement about who owns mankind.
These factors answer questions that I have had for years. Why is church so intellectually unchallenging? Why is it that seminary students don’t teach what they learn in seminary to congregants? Why is empty headed praise music and contemplationism all the rage in today’s church? Why do Christians vote for liberal democrats? Why is the sin of church leaders swept under the rug? Why are people happy to pay taxes? Why are people who ask questions in church feared and ostracized? (they threaten the well-being of the group). What’s up with cults? And why do cult-like denominations and other groups get a pass on being called cults? (Because they manifest the same underlying presuppositions about man in more subtle ways).
This is a paradigm that I plan to develop and expand on, but I believe everyone fits into one of these groups, whether they are aware of it or not. And by the way, which camp were the Reformers in? I will give you a clue:
The following quotes concerning the evil of human reason are from the father of Christian Protestantism, Martin Luther:
Die verfluchte Huhre, Vernunft. (The damned whore, Reason).
Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.
Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148
Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but — more frequently than not — struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.
There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason… Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.
Martin Luther, quoted by Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic, (Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1963), p. 75
Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.
Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason.
To be a Christian, you must “pluck out the eye of reason.”
People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.
Martin Luther, “Works,” Volume 22, c. 1543
John Piper and Doug Wilson Help Us Understand Calvin’s False Gospel of Progressive Justification: Part 2; John
John Piper and Doug Wilson Help Us Understand Calvin’s False Gospel of Progressive Justification: Part 1; Doug
Join a New Calvinist Church if you will, but let it be known: they now own you. Newsflash for the husbands: Calvinist elders believe they have the ultimate say and authority in your home. And another thing: the gospel they hold to rejects synergism in sanctification as works salvation. So, guess what? If your wife buys into that, you are now in what they call a mixed marriage. You are now dangerously close to divorce court as the divorce rate in these churches has skyrocketed.
In our recent TANC 2012 conference, author John Immel nailed it—it boils down to who owns man: in the Christian realm; does Christ own you or Reformed elders? In the secular realm, does man own man or does government own man? Recently, our President stated that government owns man. Recently, in a trilogy of articles by three Reformed pastors published by Ligonier Ministries, it was stated that the church owns Christians, and I will give you three wild guesses as to who represents the authority of the church. That would be the elders.
So it’s all about the “O.” It’s all about “ownership.”
True, elders have authority, but not beyond the Scriptures that call Christians to interpret them according to their own biblically trained consciences. As we shall see, these articles plainly state the Reformed tradition that came from Catholic tyranny. The Reformers never repented of the same underlying presuppositions concerning man’s need to be owned by enlightened philosopher kings. The Reformation was merely a fight for control over the mutton with the Reformers seeing themselves as the moral philosopher kings as opposed to the Romish ones. Their doctrine was just a different take on how the totally depraved are saved from themselves. But both doctrines reflect the inability of man to participate in sanctification.
The three articles posted were: Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Albert Mohler; Where and How Do We Draw the Line? by Kevin DeYoung; and, Who Draws the Line? by Sean Michael Lucas. All linked together for your indoctrination convenience.
Al Mohler states in his ownership treatise that Christians have “no right” to leave one church for another because of preferences. Emphasis by underline added:
Far too many church members have become church shoppers. The biblical concept of ecclesiology has given way to a form of consumerism in which individuals shop around for the church that seems most to their liking at that moment. The issue can concern worship and music, relationships, teaching, or any number of other things. The pattern is the same, however – people feel free to leave one congregation for another for virtually any reason, or no reason at all.
Church shopping violates the integrity of the church and the meaning of church membership. When members leave for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ.
There is no excuse for this phenomenon. We have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations. These controversies or concerns should prompt the faithful Christian to consider how he might be of assistance in finding and forging a better way, rather than working to find an excuse to leave.
Where to begin? First of all, while many New Calvinist churches will bring you up on church discipline for leaving because of “unbiblical” reasons, those reasons vary from church to church. So, not only do the reasons for leaving vary among parishioners, but what constitutes proper “biblical…. ecclesiology” in regard to departure varies as well. Mohler states in the same post that doctrine is a valid reason to leave a church, but yet, one of the more prominent leaders of the New Calvinist movement (CJ Mahaney), who is strongly endorsed by Mohler, states that doctrine is not a valid reason to leave a church. CJ Mahaney substantiated that New Calvinist position and clearly indicated what New Calvinists are willing to do to enforce that position when he blackmailed the cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak:
Transcript of Phone Conversation between C.J., Doris and Larry Tomczak on October 3, 1997 pp. 10-11:
C.J.: Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I.
Larry: C.J., I’m not in sync with any of the T.U.L.I.P., so whether you agree or not, doctrine is one of the major reasons I believe it is God’s will to leave P.D.I. and it does need to be included in any statement put forth.
C.J.: If you do that, then it will be necessary for us to give a more detailed explanation of your sins [ie, beyond the sin of leaving for doctrinal reasons].
Larry: Justin’s name has been floated out there when there’s statements like revealing more details about my sin. What are you getting at?
C.J.: Justin’s name isn’t just floated out there – I’m stating it!
Larry: C.J. how can you do that after you encouraged
Justin to confess everything; get it all out. Then when he did, you reassured him “You have my word, it will never leave this room. Even our wives won’t be told.”
I repeatedly reassured him, “C.J. is a man of his word. You needn’t worry.” Now you’re talking of publically sharing the sins of his youth?!
C.J.: My statement was made in the context of that evening. If I knew then what you were going to do, I would have re-evaluated what I communicated.
Doris: C.J., are you aware that you are blackmailing Larry? You’ll make no mention of Justin’s sins, which he confessed and was forgiven of months ago, if Larry agrees with your statement, but you feel you have to warn the folks and go national with Justin’s sins if Larry pushes the doctrinal button? C.J., you are blackmailing Larry to say what you want!―Shame on you, C.J.! As a man of God and a father, shame on you!
This will send shock waves throughout the teens in P.D.I. and make many pastors’ teens vow, “I‘ll never confess my secret sins to C.J. or any of the team, seeing that they‘ll go public with my sins if my dad doesn‘t toe the line.”―C.J., you will reap whatever judgment you make on Justin. You
have a young son coming up. Another reason for my personally wanting to leave P.D.I. and never come back is this ungodly tactic of resorting to blackmail and intimidation of people!
C.J.: I can‘t speak for the team, but I want them to witness this. We’ll arrange a conference call next week with the team.
Doris: I want Justin to be part of that call. It’s his life that’s at stake.
(SGM Wikileaks, part 3, p.139. Online source: http://www.scribd.com/sgmwikileaks)
Of course, this example and many others makes Mohler’s concern with the “integrity” of the church—laughable. But nevertheless, Mohler’s post and the other two are clear as to what common ground New Calvinists have on the “biblical concept of ecclesiology.”
Besides the fact that parishioners “have no right” to leave a church based on preference, what do New Calvinists fundamentally agree on in this regard? That brings us to the article by Sean Michael Lucas :
Because the church has authority to declare doctrine, it is the church that has authority to draw doctrinal lines and serve as the final judge on doctrinal issues. Scripture teaches us that the church serves as the “pillar and buttress of the truth.”
So, even in cases where New Calvinists believe that doctrine is an acceptable reason for leaving a church, guess who decides what true doctrine is? “But Paul, he is speaking of doctrine being determined by the church as a whole, not just the elders.” Really? Lucas continues:
In our age, this understanding—that the church has Jesus’ authority to serve as the final judge on doctrinal matters— rubs us wrong for three reasons. First, it rubs us wrong because we are pronounced individualists. This is especially the case for contemporary American Christians, who have a built-in “democratic” bias to believe that the Bible’s theology is accessible to all well-meaning, thoughtful Christians. Because theological truth is democratically available to all, such individuals can stand toe to toe with ministerial “experts” or ecclesiastical courts and reject their authority.
Creeped out yet? Well, if you are a blogger, it gets better:
Perhaps it is this individualistic, democratic perspective that has led to the rise of websites and blogs in which theology is done in public by a range of folks who may or may not be appropriately trained and ordained for a public teaching role. While the Internet has served as a “free press” that has provided important watchdog functions for various organizations, there are two downsides of the new media, which ironically move in opposite directions. On the one side, the new media (blogs, websites, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter) allow everyone to be his own theologian and judge of doctrinal matters. But because everyone is shouting and judging, the ironic other side is that those who are the most well known and have the biggest blogs gain the most market share and actually become the doctrinal arbiters of our electronic age. In this new media world, the idea that the church as a corporate body actually has authority to declare doctrine and judge on doctrinal issues is anathema.
Lucas continues to articulate the Reformed tradition that holds to the plenary authority of elders supposedly granted to them by Christ:
For some of us, again reflecting our individualism, such understanding of the church unnecessarily limits voices and perspectives that might be helpful in conversation. But restricting access to debates and judgments about theology to those who have been set apart as elders in Christ’s church and who have gathered for the purpose of study, prayer, and declaration actually ensures a more thoughtful process and a surer understanding of Christ’s Word than a pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all. Not only do we trust that a multiplicity of voices is represented by the eldership, but, above all, we trust that the single voice of the Spirit of Jesus will be heard in our midst.
So, bottom line: the priesthood of believers is a “pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all.” Still not creeped out? Then consider how they answer the question in regard to elder error:
Of course, such slow and deliberate processes do not guarantee a biblically appropriate result. After all, the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred” (WCF 31.3). Sometimes, entire denominations err significantly as they prayerfully consider Scripture and judge doctrine. Such error, however, does not negate Jesus’ own delegation of authority to the church and set the stage for a free-for-all.
This brings us to another issue that DeYoung propogates in his post: since Reformed elders have all authority, their creeds and confessions are authoritative and not just commentaries. Hence, they declared in the aforementioned confession cited by Lucas that even though they error, they still have all authority. Whatever happened to the Apostle Paul’s appeal to only follow him as he followed Christ?
Those who wrote the ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition, were not infallible, but these creeds have served as effective guardrails, keeping God’s people on the path of truth. It would take extraordinary new insight or extraordinary hubris to jettison these ancient formulas. They provide faithful summaries of the most important doctrines of the faith. That’s why the Heidelberg Catechism refers us to the Apostles’ Creed, “a creed beyond doubt, and confessed through the world,” when it asks, “What then must a Christian believe?” (Q&A 22–23).
FYI: If you see something in your own Bible reading that contradicts a Reformed creed or confession, you are partaking in visions of grandeur.
This is the crux of the matter; the question of authority. It is almost crazy that Christians don’t have this issue resolved in their mind before they join a church. You could be in a church that is subtly indoctrinating your family with the idea that they are owned by the government; in this case, church polity.
Let there be no doubt about it, New Calvinists are drooling over the idea of another Geneva theocracy with all the trimmings. And someone shared with me just the other day how this shows itself in real life. “Mike” is a local contractor in the Xenia, Ohio area. He is close friends with a farmer in the area who lives next door to a man and his family that attend a New Calvinist church.
One day, His new New Calvinist neighbor came over to inform him that he needed to stop working on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Day, and the noise of his machinery was disturbing their day of rest. Mike’s friend told him, in a manner of speaking, to hang it on his beak. Mike believes what transpired after that came from the neighbor’s belief that he was a superior person to his friend, and that his friend should have honored the neighbors request by virtue of who he is.
The neighbor has clout in the community, and to make a long story short—found many ways to make Mike’s friend miserable through legal wrangling about property line issues; according to my understanding, 8” worth. It was clear that Mike’s friend was going to be harassed until he submitted to this man’s perceived biblical authority.
New Calvinists have serious authority issues, and you don’t have to necessarily join in official membership to be considered under their authority. A contributor to Mark Dever’s 9 Marks blog stated that anyone who comes in the front door of a church proclaiming Christ as Lord is under the authority of that church.
It’s time for Christians to nail down the “O.” Who owns you? Are you aware of who owns you (or at least thinks so)? And are you ok with that?
“Not only that, Prince et al are kinder, gentler Calvinists who wouldn’t dream of endorsing a serial sheep abuser like CJ Mahaney.”
I have seen something for some time that I just haven’t had time to write on: Joseph Prince, the charismatic prince of Singapore, knows the Reformation gospel to a “T” and does a phenomenal job of articulating it from the pulpit. Really, the big boys, Piper et al, can’t touch this guy when he talks about the Reformation gospel of progressive justification from the pulpit. Check out the video series from when Prince preached at Joel Osteen’s church. It is the Reformed Justification by Faith Alone [for sanctification also] par excellent bar none.
Yes, yes, Prince has a different application of that gospel in some areas of life. He uses progressive justification to promote prosperity. It is not true that Prince promotes a “prosperity gospel”—that’s a red herring to throw folks off the scent—his gospel is the Reformed gospel of Justification by Faith Alone [for sanctification also] to a “T.” In fact, Prince’s application of the gospel is actually less harmful than the New Calvinist spiritual despots. And there are no charges of spiritual abuse or control issues coming from Prince’s camp as yet. Indeed, the prosperity Gospel Sanctification camp seems to be a kinder, gentler Reformed theology (by golly, that’s a tweet).
I was given the opportunity to squeeze this post into my schedule via a Facebook conversation I stumbled into yesterday. Jo Bowyer of The Reformed Traveler blog stated the following on her FB page:
The Resurgence [I am assuming the New Calvinist Resurgence blog] now quoting Joseph Prince? Seriously?????!!!! The quote they used is this:
“The law justified no one and condemned the best of us, but grace saves even the worst of us.” – Joseph Prince
I wasn’t the least bit surprised. It’s the same gospel. The New Calvinist crowd then picks and chooses who they will associate with according to the application thereof and other criteria. Certain biblical anomalies are acceptable because such and such “has the gospel right and the other issue is secondary” while some have “secondary” applications that they deem unacceptable. This not only explains the strong ecumenical flavor of New Calvinism, but exposes it for its pervasive hypocrisy.
What better example than John MacArthur who continually rags on Joel Osteen and the likes of Prince while he believes the same gospel. Gag, his hypocrisy makes me sick! Not only that, Prince et al are kinder, gentler Calvinists who wouldn’t dream of endorsing a serial sheep abuser like CJ Mahaney. Like MacArthur does.
Yes, the internet is a wonderful gift from God. While the European oppression of the Scriptures was cured by Gutenberg’s press, the deep deception of Reformed theology is exposed by Google. As Joseph Prince would say, “Thank you Jesus.” I said to self: “Self, I am very busy, what’s the best infogoog for this?” So I typed in, “Joseph Prince John Piper” and came up with a jewel.
It was a post by some Reformed guy objecting to the fact that many people think Justification by Faith Alone “for the baptized as well as the unsaved” is all of Joseph Prince’s idea. He makes the case that the Reformers had the idea first, and posted two videos by John Piper and RC Sproul to prove it. Too rich.
Now look, I am really busy and must move on, but you bloggers out there, with the help Gootenberg, can have a lot of fun with this. Trust me, the infogoog on this is vast.
“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.
Note: Click on illustrations to make bigger.
Let me state something right out of the gate: the church has never been in a Dark Age. Christ said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Imagine that. Peter wasn’t anybody—he was an everyday Joe—a blue-collar guy in that culture. Then one day God shows up personally and informs everybody that He would oikodomhsw “be building His church,” or some translators, “I shall be home building”….mou (of me)….the ekklhsian (out-called, not “church” which is not a biblical word) on Peter. You can trust me on this one: Jesus has been home building His out-called, and the construction project has never slowed down or stopped. The building project has always been on schedule and within budget—funded by the Blood. And Christ didn’t choose a John MacArthur Jr. of that day—He chose an ordinary Joe.
Right here, two pillars of the Reformation myth are found wanting. There has never been an out-called Dark Age, and Christ doesn’t primarily use renowned scholars like Martin Luther to get things done. Today’s “Reformed” “church” is built on the foundation of lofty creeds and confessions written by men of fleshly renown. The very name, “Reformed” is fundamentally false—our Lord’s building project has never needed a “reformation”—especially at the hands of murdering mystic despots.
But two days ago, Susan and I had the rare privilege of sitting down with four men who exemplify what Christ is using to build His out-called. We held siege at the restaurant for three hours. These men so encouraged me that it is a wonder that the local police were not called accompanied by men in white attire. They bore four marks of God’s true out-called:
1. Ordinary men.
2. Thinkers who constantly wrestle with understanding.
3. Wholly devoted to truth.
4. Sold-out to the sufficiency of the Scriptures as their only authority.
Somewhere in the world since the day Christ showed up and walked into the everyday lives of twelve men, He has been slowly building His out-called. He has been building with those who possess the same spirit of Noah and is in-fact a fifth mark: they will stand alone if they have to. In the present day neo-Reformed blitzkrieg, it is, and will be two or three families who come out from among them, weeping with sorry, often leaving the only church they have ever known while the door is held open for them by the young, petulant Reformers of our day that despise the sweat and blood that built the work that they have covertly sieged. As our brother Jude said of these brute beasts, they slip in “unawares” (v.4).
Basically, the problem is the same as when Christ showed up to found His out-called. The religion of the day was founded on the authority and institutions of self-important men. People where amazed that Christ didn’t check in with the academics before He launched His ministry, nor quoted the spiritual brainiacs of that day. Likewise, if Christ came today, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and the insufferable likes of obnoxious men like Steve Lawson and Paul Washer would watch with incredulities as Christ would ignore them and make a b-line for the ghettos—choosing His workers and confidants from among them.
So how should I view an article sent to me by a reader that was written by John MacArthur regarding the Reformation motif of “Justification by faith.” First, as I am presently teaching my family, ALL ideas presented by men, and I believe that MacArthur fits into that category, will entail a litany of propositions that lead to a conclusion. Therefore, let us examine and wrestle with the propositions presented by MacArthur in this article (Justification by Faith: online source: http://goo.gl/xJyFO).
Proposition 1: “The Reformation doctrine of justification by faith is, and has always been, the number one target of the enemy’s attack.”
The “Reformation doctrine”? Excuse me Mr. MacArthur (hereafter, JM), but we get our doctrine from the Bible, not the Reformers, who, as I have noted, are an oxymoron to begin with. In the first sentence of this article, JM sets up an authority between the out-called priests (that’s us) and the word of God. Therefore, his article is predicated on a proposition by men who are not original authors chosen by God— buyers beware. Hence, if we are discerning, JM has raised the propositional ante to a considerable level. By citing the preapproved authors of the Bible, additional consideration could have been avoided.
JM goes on to state that this doctrine, “….provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man — without that key doctrine, Christianity falls.” This should now incite interpretive questions for the proposition:
1. Could the Reformers have been wrong?
2. Even if they were right, is there a danger in making Reformed epistemology a standard of truth?
3. Is the claim that the church stands or falls on this doctrine establishing Reformation doctrine as a significant authority? And if so, is this wise?
Proposition 2: “Social and political concerns have brought evangelicals and Catholics together in recent years to unite against the forces of secularism. Under the influence of ecumenism, it’s difficult for either group to remember what it was that divided them in the first place.
The pragmatists and ecumenicists are aided in their forgetfulness by new theological movements that redefine justification in more Catholic terms. Under the influence of liberalism and postmodernism, proponents of the New Perspective on Paul, the Emergent Church, and others have so confused and redefined the doctrine of justification that it has become shrouded in darkness once again
The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.”
JM asserts that the Reformation was a marked contrast between Catholicism and the Reformers. Catholic influence is dragging the “church” back into a “Dark Age.” Regardless of the nomenclature of which he frames this proposition, he begins to articulate the Reformation motif in a way that is traditional, and packaged for fairly easy digestion—if you understand the premise of the motif, and we soon will.
The key here is this part of JM’s proposition: “….and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture.” First, throughout his post, JM uses the term “Reformation doctrine” and “Scripture” interchangeably. Hence, he is proposing that the two are synonymous—he is asking that you accept this proposition as fact. But what we want to focus on here as a gateway of understanding is the word “subjectivism” in his proposition. This is key to understanding my counter proposition:
1. There was no difference in Reformation doctrine and Catholic doctrine.
2. Subjective verses objective is key to understanding the Reformed denial of the new birth that predicates its false gospel.
MacArthur begins to propagate the traditional Reformed dogma of subjective verses objective; that is, as I have previously stated, the crux of their doctrine.
And is that biblical? Is Reformed doctrine biblical doctrine? Is the Reformed gospel the biblical gospel?
The History of the Reformation Motif / Myth
We will take an interlude on the way to our understanding to examine the very significant contemporary contribution to understanding Reformation doctrine by its own proponents and advocates. It is true that Reformation doctrine has experienced times of low recognition followed by “rediscovery,” “resurgence,” and “revival” since the Sixteenth century. The last resurgence began in 1970. It was a rediscovery of authentic Reformed theology that launched the SDA Awakening Movement. Until then, the doctrine had never been framed in a subjective verses objective model of understanding. “Subjectivism” was fingered as the root of all evil verses the, and here it is: objective gospel outside of us. More specifically, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Hereafter, COGOUS.
This apt method of framing Reformation doctrine was the brainchild of SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead, who was joined by Anglican theologians Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy, and later by Reformed Baptist Jon Zens. They attributed all contra Reformation beliefs and movements such as the Enlightenment era to “subjectivism.” JM shows his kinship to this contemporary understanding of Reformation theology via his propositions in said article, of which the sender asked, “Does this muddy the waters?” Answer: no, in-fact, it clarifies MacArthur’s participation in the endeavor to save the church from a supposed “Evangelical Dark Age.”
The theological think tank formed by this “core four” was known as the Australian Forum and their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine which was the most publicized theological journal in English speaking countries during the Seventies. They compiled a vast amount of documentation that clearly shows that the Reformation gospel of Luther and Calvin was the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. It contends that if the power of God is infused into the believer, it will enable him/her to, as the truism states, “know enough to be dangerous.”
Because the Reformers saw justification and sanctification as the same thing, they argued that any enablement infused into the believer would automatically contribute to the justification process which they saw as progressive. Please note: this is exactly what JM et al accuse the Catholics of, but as we shall see, they are both guilty of this same thing: the fusion of justification and sanctification together.
Hence, in contemporary lingo, the outcry of the Reformers against Rome was the “infusion of grace into the believer—making sanctification the ground of his/her justification.” In other words, all enablement and spiritual life must remain outside of the believer. All of the power of grace must remain ‘objective” by staying outside of the believer. This Reformed paradigm was brilliantly illustrated by the Australian Four, hereafter A4, by the following pictorial illustration:
Also let me demonstrate by another A4 pictorial that they believed justification was progressive:
I will later explain the application of the two-man chart in this post. I can most certainly read your mind as you look at it: “How in the world does that work in real life?”
We will now further my contra proposition by substantiating some of my sub-propositions. Let’s first establish that one of the elder statesmen of the neo-Reformed movement, John Piper, and a close confidant of JM, agree with the AF’s contemporarily framed assessment of authentic Reformed doctrine, hereafter, ARD. Graeme Goldsworthy, one of the original A4, recently lectured at Southern Seminary on the Reformation. John Piper wrote an article on Goldsworthy’s lecture (Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary: Desiring God blog, June 25, 2009). Piper’s assessment of Goldsworthy’s lecture is a major smoking gun in regard to agreement on ARD:
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….
This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….
When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].
Note, if you think about it, it is impossible to “reverse” justification and sanctification unless they are on the same plane. Nor can you turn a two-part object upside down unless both parts are attached—making either one the “ground” or otherwise. Hence, a careful observation of Piper’s use of words betrays his subtleness in regard to believing in the fusion of justification and sanctification together. Furthermore, Piper’s beef with Catholicism is not the fusion of justification and sanctification together per se, but rather the infusion of grace into the believer. The AF two-man illustration depicts Piper’s contention to a “T.” Note the exact same issue: Christ within, or Christ without. Just grasp that for now, and put the absurdity of it on the back burner—it will come together for you later.
Basically, if God’s grace/goodness is placed within the believer, he/she becomes enabled enough to become dangerous leading to all of the terrible things inside of the guy looking down. Everything must remain outside of the believer, leading to all of the good things listed on the right side of the chart which are listed outside of him. Don’t miss that. Today’s church owes Robert Brinsmead a tremendous debt of gratitude for publishing this chart.
A Major Key to Understanding: John H. Armstrong and SUBJECTIVISM
Now, let’s take yet another sub interlude to further my contra proposition. The following illustration shows how the AF made the objective/subjective / Christ within / Christ without the major crux of ARD:
A theologian named John H. Armstrong eludes to this exact survey in Present Truth to make a point in an article that he wrote (The Highway blog: Article of the Month; Sola Fide: Does It really Matter?). Armstrong was the general editor of a combined work called The Coming Evangelical Crisis (1996 by Moody Bible Institute) that included the who’s who of the neo-Reformed movement: R. Kent Houghs; John MacArthur; RC Sproul; and heretics Michael S. Horton and Albert Mohler Jr. Armstrong stated the following in the aforementioned article:
The sixteenth-century rediscovery of Paul’s objective message of justification by faith [and sanctification also because justification is supposedly progressive] came upon the religious scene of that time with a force and passion that totally altered the course of human history. It ignited the greatest reformation and revival known since Pentecost.
Now, if the Fathers of the early church, so nearly removed in time from Paul, lost touch with the Pauline message, how much more is this true in succeeding generations? The powerful truth of righteousness by faith needs to be restated plainly, and understood clearly, by every new generation.
In our time we are awash in a “Sea of Subjectivism,” as one magazine put it over twenty years ago. Let me explain. In 1972 a publication known as Present Truth published the results of a survey with a five-point questionnaire which dealt with the most basic issues between the medieval church and the Reformation. Polling showed 95 per cent of the “Jesus People” were decidedly medieval and anti-Reformation in their doctrinal thinking about the gospel. Among church-going Protestants they found ratings nearly as high….
I do not believe that the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith can be overstated. We are once again in desperate need of recovery. Darkness has descended upon the evangelical world in North America and beyond, much as it had upon the established sixteenth-century church.
As JM said in our observation of the article at hand:
….the doctrine of justification….has become shrouded in darkness once again. The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages.
Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.
JM, John Piper, Armstrong, Graeme Goldsworthy, and what they call the “Justification by faith” doctrine—all the same camp, and the same belief: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.
How in the World Does COGOUS Work in Real Life?
As far as how this doctrine functions, there are two camps. But in both camps, the believer remains unchanged and totally depraved. The crux of COGOUS is that sanctification is a total work of God because it finishes justification. The doctrine then frames man’s role in regard to Gnostic ideas. In fact, the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is a Gnostic idea. Calvin claims therein that all knowledge is contained in the knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God. Since we already know that Calvin believed in the total depravity of man, this is the knowledge of good and evil.
Calvin, right out of the gate, states that this is the core of all true wisdom. So, what you begin to see when reading the works of various Reformers of old and new, is the idea that change begins with wisdom, and as we see our own depravity in deeper and deeper ways, and the holiness of God in deeper and deeper ways (which the former facilitates as well), a transformation takes place. Not in us, of course, we are totally depraved—we therefore cannot change—we rather manifest a realm. As it was explained to me by a fairly well known Calvinist, there is a Spirit realm, and a flesh realm (not an old nature within us), and both put pressure on us if we are saved, and we either “yield” to one or the other realms at any given time. But again, we don’t change, we merely manifest a realm. Out of this comes terms like, “Pastor of Spiritual Formation,” and “heart formation,” or “spiritual transformation.” Notice that the “spiritual” is being transformed, not us. I am presently doing research to get a more refined understanding in regard to “what this looks like.” Apparently, an exercise of our own will to obey is creating our own reality instead of “His preordained story.”
A rough sketch follows: all reality points to Christ’s glory, and all reality is wrapped up in the gospel and interpreted by it (the first tenet of New Covenant Theology). All history is “redemptive.” Therefore, all historical events, and events period, are preordained by God to show us wisdom; ie, the knowledge of the good (Christ), and the knowledge of the evil (our own depravity), and both point to God’s glory and “show forth the gospel.” So, all events in life are preordained by God to show us our own depravity, and His holiness. That’s the first way we gain wisdom of ourselves and God, and when we see it, our manifestation results in part of the grand gospel narrative preordained by God.
The second way that we manifest the gospel is through seeing historic events in the Bible that represent the same kind of events that happen in redemptive history. The Bible, in the same way that redemptive history does, gives us wisdom in regard to our own evil and God’s holiness, again resulting in redemptive historical manifestations. If we respond improperly to the redemptive historical event (whether good or bad), we reap “bad fruit” (ie., a bad manifestation) which lends further opportunity for deeper understanding of our own depravity and more glory for God. If we participate properly in the gospel story, we are assured peace and joy regardless of our circumstances (because we are in essence detached from reality in my view). Many Reformed thinkers such as David Powlison and Paul David Tripp call this,
The big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot! (Paul D. Tripp: How People Change, p.94).
As I said before, there are two camps: one rejects any kind of work at all by Christ in us, but Tripp is of the other camp that teaches that we remain totally depraved, but Christ does do a work in us, albeit His work in totality. Tripp states that as we gain deeper understanding of our own evil (deep repentance), our hearts are emptied of idols which then results in a filling of Christ resulting in spiritual formations or manifestations (Ibid, p. 28). Others believe that whatever we see in the Bible ( like a circumstance of Christ’s love) is imputed to us as we see it and understand it. Many of Reformed thought call this “such and such ( love or whatever) by proxy.” It is also known as the “active obedience of Christ” or progressive imputation. Following is an illustration of some of these ideas presented here (Ibid, p.100):
But you can also see some of these concepts if you refer back to the two-man chart. The gospel man meditates on “Grace, Justification, Perfection, Security, immortality, Law,” but these things remain outside of him as manifestations of the objective gospel. But the Christ within man has these things inside of him because that is where his focus is (subjective). Following is another Reformed illustration of what we are talking about. Notice that the cross gets bigger—not us. We don’t grow—the cross does. The cross represents grace outside of us; so, the cross is seen as bigger (ie, God is glorified) while we don’t change. These manifestations make God look bigger while not being connected to anything recognized as us being new and improved. Michael Horton refers to this as “preaching the gospel instead of being the gospel.”
MacArthur often conveys ideas that do nothing in regard to separating himself from this absurd mysticism. In writing the Forward to the Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing the Son by former associate Rick Holland, JM states the following:
As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.
Let’s now return to the article at hand and address the more relevant parts. In the section entitled, “Back to the Beginning,” JM sates the following:
In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).
One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life — and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness — and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).
JM then fails to mention that Luther believed that this justification passage also applies to sanctification. Then JM sates the following under the next heading, Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?:
In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life….
Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent — depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.
In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty — fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.
This all looks to be very solid theologically, but I want you to notice that JM fails to mention that Justification is a finished work. That’s key. And it’s key because of what he states next:
Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.
The problem here is the implication that a pardon is not enough, and that our “standing” must be maintained lest we find ourselves “without merit”…. “before God.” This is problematic because any kind of standard that would maintain merit before God for justification is voided (Romans 7;1-4). There is simply no merit or standard left for a Christian to be judged by in regard to justification.
But the smoking gun that convicts MacArthur in fusing justification and sanctification together in this same article follows under “How Justification and Sanctification Differ.” JM starts out well with this statement:
Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:
After stating this, JM, evokes the classic neo-Reformed double-speak sleight of hand for fusing justification and sanctification together without appearing to do so:
Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.
JM also clearly states that progressive sanctification is part of the same “salvation” process that justification is also a part of ; hence, they supposedly can’t be separated. But the Bible authors only speak of sanctification as salvation in a manner of speaking because there are three sanctifications: positional (1Cor. 6:11), progressive/practical (2 Cor. 7:11, 2 Peter ch. 1), and complete (1 Cor. 6:11[those who are sanctified positionally are glorified as well]), but only one justification that is a onetime legal declaration (Romans 8:30).
Furthermore, JM’s use of the distinct but never separate sleight of hand is the exact same mantra constantly used by many in the neo-Reformed crowd:
Though justification and sanctification cannot be separated they must be distinguished.
~ Ernest Reisinger
It would also stand to reason therefore that MacArthur, like all of the neo-Reformed, would not see any role for the believer in sanctification other than gospel contemplationism. This can be confirmed by reviewing the previous excerpt from Holland’s book.
Classic Reformed Kettles Calling the Pot Black
We now observe a trait by JM that was never true about him before he went over to the dark side—blatant contradictions that assume the utter stupidity of his followers. He follows the neo-Reformed protocol for drawing the line of distinction between the Reformers and Rome in this way:
Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification.
So, the two cannot be “separate,” but they can be blended? But what JM states next brings us full circle to what we observed in John Piper’s article on the Goldsworthy lecture at Southern:
Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner — not the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Please note JM’s either/or interpretive prism, (a neo-Reformed distinctive) that eliminates the possibility that the believer is empowered by the Spirit internally for something that is separate from justification; namely, kingdom living. Notice that the issue is specifically “something good” inside the believer verses the “imputed righteousness of Christ.” Obviously, JM rejects the idea that it can be both, and whatever it is, it must point back to justification if it is something “good” inside of the believer.
Rome’s motive for fusing the two together is beside the point, both the Reformers and Rome believe the two cannot be separated. Hence, for Rome it was easy: Christ forgives all of your past sins, but now you must do certain things to complete your justification because salvation is linear with both justification and sanctification on the same plane. Likewise, the Reformers believe in the same linear gospel, but pardon it by making everything that needs to be done to complete justification—totally of Christ alone. This requires us to remain totally depraved in the process and utilizes Gnosticism for whatever application can be surmised. Frankly, this is the first time that I have seen writings from JM that totally remove all doubt that he has bought into this doctrine , hook, line, and sinker.
If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.
The contradictions here are mindboggling. Again, “If sanctification is included in justification….” Is somehow different from, “… . but can never be separated.” Like all in this camp, JM complains about those who combine the two, while at the same time stating that they cannot be separated.
But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this. While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but are distinct, like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two. According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.” Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:
If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.
But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated. Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. In fact, Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in his teaching is truly sad to watch.
What is it going to take to overcome this kind of error in the church? Christians who think, and love truth enough to wrestle with it long and hard. That’s going to be a small percentage of Christians as thinking is also not in vogue.
Nevertheless, they are out there—Christ said they would be in increasing numbers as He continues to build His out-called ones.
There are a lot of Presbyterian pastors that I have much respect for. And I understand their dilemma: Lutheran = Luther, Methodist = Wesley, etc., and Presbyterian = John Calvin. I mean, this is tough: “Hi, my name is Fred. I have been a Presbyterian all of my life, which is a denomination founded on a murdering mystic despot.” Geez, I feel for them—I really do.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the tacit admissions that Calvinism has a history that makes some Calvinists, “uncomfortable.” This is where New Calvinism is like a distinguished family getting a visitation from a long lost relative with a long dark past. It’s like already having several dinner parties planned in a small town where a past relative is new in town, and meaner than a junkyard dog, and starts blabbing about family roots. That’s when you cancel the dinner parties or preplan your responses: “Well, many of our relatives are uncomfortable with that part of our family tree.” It is then hoped the guests will be polite and not mention that it is the root of the tree.
As will be thoroughly documented in The Truth About New Calvinism: Volume 2, New Calvinism has the history, doctrine, and character of authentic Calvinism down pat—they are the incarnation of the original article to a “T.” This is a simple thing; the present-day church being awash in spiritual abuse is merely Calvin’s Geneva: act 2. It is what it is. And thanks to the Australian Forum, all of the heavy lifting in regard to the research has been done.
These thoughts bring me to an article that was sent to me by a reader. It was from The Aquila Report which is “Your independent source for news and commentary from and about conservative, orthodox evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches.” Recently, Aquila reported on a family forum held (I think) in Dallas TX where the Reformed family tried to get some understanding between them and the part of the family tree that showed up again in 1970—wreaking havoc on the rest of the family in the form of Sonship Theology and New Calvinism. Unfortunately, in regard to Powlison, Keller, and Duncan, et al, these are your daddy’s Presbyterians. Presbyterians that have truly grown in grace, but kept the name, are in a quandary to say the least.
The article was reposted on The Aquila Report by Matt Tuininga , a blogger of the United Reformed stripe. It is a commentary on an article written by sociologist Phillip Jenkins who, in the original article written by him, states uncanny parallels between early Reformed clans and Islam. Tuininga begins his post this way:
In a fascinating column in RealClearReligion the famous sociologist of religion Philip Jenkins compares the radical Islam of figures like Sayyid Qutb (author of Milestones and an intellectual father of modern day Islamism) with 16th Century Calvinism.
Well, that’s not good!
But then Tuininga adds this:
Jenkins’s overall point is to demonstrate that a religion often evolves in positive ways only by first passing through dark times.
I’m not sure that’s Jenkins’ overall point, but hey, let’s roll with it. This would then indicate that the “dark” side of the family tree is back with a vengeance in the form of New Calvinism. And be sure of this: the only difference between the behaviors is the filter of American jurisprudence. I have dealt with New Calvinists first hand (some well-known), and trust me, they would light me up with the green wood in a heartbeat if they could get away with it. What they actually did wasn’t much less.
Incredibly, Tuininga then makes the exact same point that author John Immel has been making for years and propagated on Spiritual Tyranny .com and in his book, Blight In The Vineyard. Tuininga quotes Jenkins with conspicuous undisagreement:
In the case of the West, he suggests, the Enlightenment followed the radicalism and iconoclasm of the Reformation; Protestants had to destroy much of what came before them in medieval Christianity in order to forge new ways to the future.
The fact that America’s founding fathers were children of the Enlightenment which was a pushback against European spiritual despotism was a major theme of our 2012 TANC conference. Immel presented the thesis brilliantly, and left little room for denial in regard to the fact that the Reformers were separated from Rome on doctrine (both false, by the way), but not the underlying philosophy that leads to spiritual tyranny. Overall, knowing beforehand that people are not lining up to hear this proposition, we are happy with how the conference turned out and are looking forward to next year.
Hence, “Protestants had to destroy much of what came before them in medieval Christianity in order to forge new ways to the future” focuses on iconic superstition and conveniently leaves out superstitions like the truth test to determine if someone was a witch: if you can swim, you get hung or burned at the stake; if you can’t swim—you drown. Suspicion equaled certain death, so I imagine woman of that era were particularly well behaved. The present-day replacement is the Patriarchy Movement.
In the process of making this argument Jenkins accurately portrays a side of 17th Century Calvinism that most present-day Calvinists would find troubling. Speaking of the Dutch Reformed iconoclasts of the 1560s, he writes,
“Beyond smashing images, the insurgents had other ideas that look strikingly familiar to anyone familiar with radical Islam today, with thinkers like Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Mawdudi.
The Calvinists of the 1560s sought to remodel society on the basis of theocratic Old Testament law strictly interpreted, with the role of the sovereign measured by how far he or she submitted to God’s will. Some thinkers devised a pioneering theory of tyrannicide, justifying the removal of any allegedly Christian ruler who betrayed Christ’s true church. Protestant radicals pursued a harsh policy of reading rival believers out of the faith, defining the followers of images as utterly anti-Christian, deadly enemies of God.…
In the English-speaking world, the heirs of 1566 were the Puritans, the radicals who dreamed of an austere New England. When Puritans seized power in England itself in the 1640s, their agents toured the country, smashing statues and windows in every parish church they could find. By the 1640s, at the height of Europe’s death struggle between Protestants and Catholics, Calvinist ideas that to us seem intolerably theocratic dominated not just the Netherlands, but also New England, Switzerland and Scotland, and were struggling for ascendancy in the whole British Isles. Religious zeal often expressed itself through witchcraft persecutions.”
….To be sure, what Jenkins describes here was not true of all Calvinists. John Calvin himself, living in an earlier century, explicitly rejected the sort of strict allegiance to the Old Testament civil law that Jenkins here describes, and he absolutely rejected the theories of tyrannicide and rebellion articulated by some of his followers. But Jenkins nevertheless accurately describes a strand of Calvinism, and his description of the violence and disorder that was sparked by radical Calvinist notions of what allegiance to God in the public square demanded is truthful, if not representative of the whole tradition.
In regard to Calvin himself, this is blatant denial in the face of historical fact that is not even difficult to find, but he finishes with this head-scratcher:
But Jenkins nevertheless accurately describes a strand of Calvinism, and his description of the violence and disorder that was sparked by radical Calvinist notions of what allegiance to God in the public square demanded is truthful, if not representative of the whole tradition.
The “whole tradition”? Is it a “strand” or the “whole tradition”?
THE DINNER PARTY
….One question we might ask here is to what extent was this old militant Calvinism different from the Islamism with which our nation is in conflict today. If Calvinists today were advocating theories of resistance and revolution, or if they were suggesting that the current U.S. government of Barack Obama is illegitimate such that Christians do not owe it allegiance, would the state have to launch a campaign against them as well? What if they were defending tyrannicide, based on the belief that Barack Obama is a tyrant?
Actually, this is not so theoretical. If there is one thing I have learned since starting this blog, it is that there are a number of Calvinists out there today who would espouse virtually all of these views (perhaps even tyrannicide? I’m not sure …). I don’t think most Reformed Christians give the time of day to these thinkers, but there is a minority that is with them all the way…. But I would like to ask those who find these arguments persuasive, do you really want to go back to the heyday of Calvinist revolution and theocracy? Is it the American project that you reject – with its commitment to religious liberty and the separation of church and state? And if so, how do you distinguish your own cause from that of the Islamists, especially the more respectable groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, or the intellectual followers of Sayyid Qutb? To those who, like me, find this brand of Calvinism profoundly troubling, how do you reject it without some sort of distinction between the two kingdoms, between the kingdom of Jesus, and the political institutions of this age?
Well, obviously, Tuininga has no intentions of cancelling his dinner parties. And hopefully, the guests won’t bring up the new family in town who claim kinship: while the children of other families build snowmen and sandcastles, the children of the new family in town build guillotines and gallows. And the New Calvinist’s constant haranguing of the “American dream” has become a constant drumbeat. The particular video of a New Calvinist stating that “every corner of the Earth belongs to us” is also particularity chilling. Just two weeks ago, Susan and I sat under the teaching of a well-known college professor at a Christian University (who is a New Calvinist). His message was absolutely nothing short of a Communist manifesto. Recently, I have received emails from people who attend a Southern Baptist church that is strongly influenced by David Platt. His social socialist gospel is beginning to give people the creeps big-time.
John Immel is way ahead of the curve on this stuff. I recently heard John Piper say that he didn’t believe in a marriage between church and state; I DON’T BELIEVE HIM. In fact, I am going to attempt to meet with people who have information on this for my upcoming book project. More and more, a formula is emerging that seems to explain everything: a united front of denominations (think: John MacArthur hanging with CJ Mahaney etc) who can all agree on a central theme/doctrine: the total depravity of all mankind including Christians, and the need for philosopher kings to save humanity from themselves with the use of the sword if necessary. And by the way, agreement with a knowing nod from Communists and Muslims lingers not far behind. This formula begins to make sense of perplexing love affairs; such as, MacArthur/Mahaney, Horton/ Warren, Piper/Warren, Piper/Wilson, Obama/Warren, Mohler/United Nations, Dever/United Nations, etc., etc., ect., add cold chills.
A SORTOF ADMISSION
But lastly, to bolster this point, Tuininga’s conclusion is to die for:
Jenkins appreciates the fact that the violence and revolution associated with early Calvinism was an important part of the story of how the democratic liberties and political structures that we take for granted came to exist. Calvinism had its own growing pains, and the best political theological insights from its earlier years need to be extracted from a number of assumptions and applications that were inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. But not every Calvinist views things this way. That’s why we need to keep making the point.
Can we say, I-m-m-e-l? John has shared something with me that I agree with: in my own words; America’s founding fathers were humming Willy Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind” while framing the Constitution, and the “you” pertained to John Calvin in particular. While I think that Tuininga would give tacit merit to that assertion….
The Dinner Party:
….Calvinism had its own growing pains, and the best political theological insights from its earlier years need to be extracted from a number of assumptions and applications that were inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. But not every Calvinist views things this way. That’s why we need to keep making the point.
Guest: Polite silence.
It’s time to get a grip. Susan and I have been visiting many churches and reading a mass of recommended sermons on, “forgiveness,” “judging others,” “humbleness,” and “pursuing peace” that are saturating the internet. These sermons, like the ones we are hearing Sunday, after Sunday, are geared to control people via the following principles; albeit ever so subtle, and of course, by proof texting:
1. In comparison to Christ, everything on Earth, including life in general, is a pile of dung. So, all the bad things that happen are irrelevant. I mean, what do you expect? God allows these things to happen to draw us closer to Him and wean us from our desires for things on Earth. Oh that we would have no desires whatsoever other than “Christ and Him crucified!” That is our goal. No desires at all other than Christ is the ideal.
2. “Justice?” [add sarcastic smirk that begs the question: are you really that clueless?]. “You want justice? If we all got what we deserved, we would all be in hell!” “In regard to everything in life, remember the Puritan who looked upon a marcel of meat that was his only meal for that day and said, ‘What? Christ?? And this also???!’” Being interpreted: any dissatisfaction with life at all directly relates to your unthankfullness for being one of the chosen ones. Yes, I had a sinful thought the other day: I was thinking about how nice it would be to take Susan on a cruise. Just the two of us out on some boat in the middle of God’s vast ocean. How dare me! Those thoughts could have been better expended on the excellency of Christ!
3. The saints are incapable of righteous indignation because of our total depravity. Righteous indignation is arrogance. All anger is sin. We are always angry because we didn’t get our own way.
4. A sense of accomplishment is pride. Jesus does it all for us. We are totally depraved and every good work we do was preordained by God for His glory, and the rest of our life is left to us to muddle through to teach us not to depend on any of our fleshly “strengths” or “abilities.” It’s all good—both what God has predetermined and our own sins point us back to Christ and His works only, “not anything we would do.” “It’s not our doing—it’s Christ’s doing and dying.”
5. The preordained elders of the church must use the law to control the totally depraved zombie sheep. However, remember, every verse must be seen in the context of the historical Christ event, and this takes a special anointing given to those who have been preordained to lead the zombie sheep to heavenly safety despite themselves. “I’m sorry, you who question the elders, it just so happens that your marriage doesn’t ‘look like the gospel’ so we must tell your wife to divorce you. Yes, I know it seems like a contradiction to the plain sense of Scripture, but you don’t have the special anointing that enables you to see the ‘higher law of Christ’ that we can see.”
6. And remember, even though they are God’s chosen and specially anointed, they are still totally depraved like us. See, this is a huge problem—this whole problem with evangelicals wanting Reformed elders to “be the gospel, rather than preaching the gospel.” In other words, trying to manifest our own behavior, rather than manifesting the gospel; ie., Christ’s “active obedience” that is continually imputed to us in sanctification.
7. Conclusion: Keep your stinking mouth shut, buy the books that translate the Bible into “Chrsitocentric gospel truth,” tithe 10% or else, sit under elder preaching as the only way to manifest the historic Christ event, rejoice that all evil in the church makes the cross bigger, and report people who ask questions.
Certainly, the wholesale brainwashing of the saints in this country, and in our day, may be unprecedented. I see it daily in this ministry through correspondence from battered sheep: “Are my elders wrong in their wrongdoing?” How would we know? They supposedly can see things we can’t see. The rest of the congregation is told to “trust the elders who are close to the situation and know all the facts.” Saints stand perplexed and ask, “How can they do that when it is plainly against the Bible?” The answer is simple: they don’t read their Bibles the same way we do. The “gospel” is an objective truth (by the one word only) that is an unknowable eternal truth that the “knowers” can only know.
The Reformers bought into all this stuff, and it is nothing more than a Gnostic perspective that despises life. The statements that vouch for this are everywhere in the Calvin Institutes and Luther’s commentaries, as well as things spoken by contemporary Neo-Calvinists, but we simply don’t want to believe that they are saying what they are saying. Could they be wrong in their wrong? Could they be erroneous in their error? Is their hatred really hatred? Is their law-breaking really a violation of the law? Where do I even begin here? I had a Reformed elder call and tell me that another elder told him that God will bind in heaven whatever elders bind on earth—even if they are wrong. He then added that he didn’t really believe the guy said it. He was standing there, did he say it or not? And if he did, do they really believe that? Hhhheeeellllooo, yes they do!
This is just all a repeat of history. It all boils down to whether men own men by proxy, or whether God owns man. And if God owns man, to what point does He want us to be responsible for ourselves? To what point does our participation in life matter? How are we to think about the full philosophical spectrum of life? Bottom line: we are letting spiritual despots determine these questions and not our Creator. And yes, what God wants to be accomplished in His kingdom is being affected. The world is watching, and they are not impressed, and the answer is not “keeping it all in the family.” And, “What happens in the church, stays in the church because the world doesn’t understand the ‘historic Christ event.’”
“Deb,” or “Dee,” I forget which, over at, I forget, “The Whatburg blog”? or something like that, got it right: the internet is the modern-day Gutenberg press. Yes, there is a lot of pain out there, but there will be a lot more if what is done in darkness is not exposed to the light. This is exactly what God’s word instructs us to do when professing Christians refuse to repent of serious offences against each other: “TELL IT TO THE CHURCH.” Then what? Those who are aware of it are to “stay aloof” from them. It is a fellowship issue. And the willingness of MacArthur et al to fellowship with serial sheep abusers shows what their true love for biblical truth is: not much, if any.
Do you think I am being extreme? Then explain the following to me:
1. The rampant cover-ups by “respected” church leaders.
2. The utter indifference to abuse by the leaders of our day.
3. The blanket acceptance of ridiculous ideas by the who’s who of national religious leaders; such as, John Piper’s “Scream of the Damned.”
4. The wholesale fellowship of leaders with blatant mystics like Tim Keller.
5. Rape and pedophilia swept under the rug and ignored—an atrocity that was once identified primarily with the Catholic Church.
Whether Rome or Reformed, the behavior is the same because the underlying presupposition is the same: the totally depraved must be enslaved to “enlightened” leaders; supposedly, by God’s approved proxy. And there are a hundred different doctrines that seek to reach that goal—we argue over the correctness of each doctrinal nuance, but the goal of all of them is the same: CONTROL. As author John Immel aptly states, these men speak for God, but the problem is….God is not standing there to personally object. Immel states this as a manner of speaking—God is standing there to object, if the mental sluggards of our day would open the Bible and listen for themselves.
But nevertheless, this is way Reformed theologians want to make the Bible a mystical gospel narrative rather than a full philosophical statement on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and interpersonal application to be understood and interpreted by the individual born again believer with the help of elders—not the dictation thereof. The latter is for purposes of control—job one for most churches in this country.
The state’s worst fear is an uncontrolled populous, and religions have always come knocking on their doors offering a belief system that will produce a docile mass, and by the way, “if they won’t believe what we tell them to, you can kill them for us.” Do some historical googling on your own—Rome nor the Reformers have ever been any different on this wise. Oh, and you can add the Puritans to that list as well. They called their place of landing “New England.” New location—same England, complete with witch hunts and persecution of those who disagreed with them. Uh, do you think it is coincidence that their only Bible was the Geneva Bible? Now research the city council archives from Geneva during the time Calvin ruled there. Yes, it really happened. And yes, Rome would do what they have always done if the Enlightenment had not put them in their place. Historically, whether Reformed, or Romish, their tyranny has gone underground when they are contended against. A good illustration of this is the book. “House Of Death and Gate Of Hell” by Pastor L.J. King. Pushed back by the Enlightenment, the Catholic Church merely went underground with the Inquisition. Therefore, all of the whining about the evils of the Enlightenment among the Reformed is no accident. The freedom of ideas has always been the tyrants worst enemy.
“Oh now Paul, you can’t just paint the whole movement with one big brush.” Why not? That’s how Jesus painted the Pharisees. When did Jesus ever say, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, but they aren’t all bad. I can’t just paint the whole movement with a big brush. Some of those guys are ok. We have to take from the shelf what is good and leave the rest where we found it.” See my point on how the Bible is a comprehensive statement on how to live and think for the individual? We can’t use it for that if it is a mystical gospel narrative. And that’s the point: control, by removing our ability to think for ourselves. When we read that Luther despised reason, we don’t think he really meant it just because he wrote it. Oh really?
So, in case you aren’t keeping track, that’s reason number three why discernment bloggers need to keep up the blogging: it’s a call to come out from among them. That’s the biblical model: ducks swim with the ducks and birds fly with the birds. Congregations that support abusive ministries need to be confronted about it, and most certainly, others need to be warned that they shouldn’t support those ministries either. Statistics show that 80% of all parishioners who visit a church will google it—exactly, why should the other side of the story not be told? Because abusive churches are masters of deceit, and centralist doctrine is slowly assimilated into the minds of people like the proverbial frog in boiling water, many people are simply in too deep before they realize what is going on. I deal with people who are simply too spiritually weak (through indoctrination designed to do just that) to do what they have to do to leave a given church. Let me state something in regard to what John Immel calls “private virtue.” If warning a sleeping family that their house is on fire is not a private virtue, which Immel rightly fingers as an oxymoron, neither is blogging about abusive churches. Far from it. There is no place for private virtue in our duty to stand against spiritually abusive leaders.
Another reason that the bogosphere must continue to take a hard stand is because the Bible specifically states that we are to do just that. Consider 2 Corinthians 10:4,5;
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Christians have a duty to contend against EVERY “thought” that is contrary to God’s truth, and they are to use truth to do that. I don’t think much needs to be added to this point.
Like our belief that the Popes of our day wouldn’t repeat the horrors of the inquisition, even though they clearly did up until the early 50’s after being forced underground by the Enlightenment, we imagine that the Neo-Calvinists of our day would never repeat the behavior of the Reformers and Puritans. We are sadly mistaken. The spiritual abuse tsunami that we are seeing in our day is Reformation light. The gallows and the stake stoked with green wood has been replaced by bogus church discipline with excommunication following, character assignation, commanding people to divorce their spouses, ruining people’s careers, and false incrimination. It is now protocol for many New Calvinist church leaders to make a concerted effort to get in tight with local law enforcement in case they would need a “favor.” In my contention with Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio, I received a very inappropriate phone call from a police detective who ordered me to do certain things that were clearly outside of his authority. I immediately contacted an attorney and started compiling data because I didn’t know what was coming next. My life was also threatened via email. Whatever the present abuse might escalate to, I think it prudent to do all we can to end it where it is at.
The present-day Neo-Calvinists are absolutely correct: they have “rediscovered” the true Reformation gospel. Ministry themes like “Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” and “Resolved” are absolutely correct in their assertion that the true Reformation gospel has been recently rediscovered (circa 1970). But where did it go? “The Enlightenment and Existentialism suppressed It.” Hardly. The Enlightenment and Existentialist movements were a pushback against the tyranny that is part and parcel with the Reformation gospel. The Reformation gospel dies a social death every 100-150 years because of the following:
1. The idea of the plenary inability of man leads to a significant decrease in quality of life.
2. The saints eventually discover that said philosophy imposed an interpretation on the Bible regarding the gospel, instead of a gospel understood from exegesis. Another way of stating it: The Reformation gospel is false, fuses justification and sanctification together so that all works are of God only, denies the new birth, is Gnostic, and is accompanied by bad fruit accordingly.
3. The tranny that cannot help but be a part of this doctrine eventually peaks; ie., the saints finally get fed-up.
4. The Gnostic concept of continually recycling a narrow concept that is supposedly the gateway to higher knowledge eventually gets boring. In this case; gospel this, gospel that, gospel the other, gospel driven marriage, gospel driven music, gospel driven child rearing, gospel driven drivers education, gospel driven weight loss programs, and 52 different versions of the gospel a year parsed out on each Sunday. People also get tired of 7/11 music: seven verses about Jesus repeated 11 times.
5. A narrow sanctification dynamic begins to wreak havoc on the saints; ie., ruined lives become the norm.
6. An air of indifference becomes evident. Everybody starts acting like Dr. Spock.
7. Like its kissing cousin, Communism, it just eventually sucks the life out of people, and they start looking for something else. The doctrine simply does not deliver in the long run.
8. The light bulb finally turns on: when the doctor says: “there is nothing we can do,” that =’s no hope. The saints begin to wonder why the Christian life is any different.
And that’s what we are seeing right now. Big time. And regardless of the various stripes of those who are in the fight—we are united on the following: the tyranny and abuse must stop. And what will stop it is the same thing that has always stopped it: the truth proclaimed from the housetops. An incessant, relentless, tenacious proclaiming of the truth hastens the rightful death of tyranny.
It is true, “the keyboard is mightier than the sword.”
“This Reformation myth—the epic battle for truth between Rome and a lowly monk, is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind.”
Like “legalism,” “gospel,” “grace,” and “Christian,” “cult” is a loosely used term thrown around in our day. Like “legalism” in particular, I don’t think there is any such thing as a “cult.”
The word is very unhelpful, inaccurate, and enables spiritual abuse and tyranny of the worst sort. And, bibliology, or doctrine, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not an organization is something that doesn’t exist; namely, a cult.
Have you noticed? People still attend and vigorously support what some call the big C. Why is that? Why do they also cover up big C behavior? Why the blind faith? Why do upright law abiding citizens support certain organizations in the face of damning evidence? Why are the victims blamed for the actions of their abusers? What’s going on?
Observation begins to supply clues. Some years ago, I had a ministry to Jehovah Witnesses. JW’s are commonly accepted as being a cult. But in case you haven’t noticed, they aren’t going away anytime soon. Why is that? I will answer that question later, but for now, let me state a procedure that JW’s use to neutralize those who contend against them: they set out to end your marriage. I was called into a situation where an individual was meeting with a group of JW elders from a kingdom hall that his wife was a member of. They had been recently married. He wanted to follow God, and considered the Bible to be the authority, and wanted me to attend the meeting to present another perspective on Scripture for him to consider.
But I did something surprising. I wouldn’t discuss doctrine with them. Instead, I brought copies of old Watch Tower theological journals (some dating back to the 1920’s) that clearly showed how JW’s have changed their positions on major theological issues over the years. Until the 70’s (if I remember correctly), JW’s disallowed blood transfusions (based on obscure Old Testament law) which led to the untimely deaths of many of their followers—especially children. Some of the younger elders present were unaware of this fact and didn’t buy the idea suggested at the meeting that I had photo-shopped the copies.
The next morning, three ladies from the same kingdom hall came to visit my wife after I left for work. They offered to come to our home during the day and have Bible studies with her. Despite my outrage, they were so persistent that I had to consider the obtaining of a restraining order from the local police.
Now enter Calvinist churches that are in contention with individuals. They do the EXACT same thing. The first thing that is going to happen when, and if you are in a contention with Calvinist elders in a local church—they are going to set the wheels in motion to drive a wedge between you and your spouse. I don’t condone it, but in cases that have been brought to our attention, the stalking of wives was only halted when Reformed elders were threatened with physical violence, or confrontation in the middle of Sunday morning services. The latter we do indorse, and many Reformed churches have security teams in place to thwart such confrontation which by the way is biblical. In other articles, I have outlined fourteen cult elements that are aped by Reformed churches. According to “cult” experts, the primary motivating factor is CONTROL. The process aimed at getting control and keeping it is known as centralism.
Now, try to solve the Reformed bully problem by labeling them a cult. Ya, good luck with that one. So, herein is now the problem: by labeling some “cults” and others not cults, the others get a free ticket to act like a cult without being one when the fact of the matter is that they are all CONTROLISTS.
Labeling them all “control freaks” (centralism, or controlism) is much better, and more accurate than “cult,” but still way short of being solution oriented. Why would so many people be concerned with controlling others? People do what they do for a reason. They do what they do because of what they believe or want. “Oh, you mean ‘doctrine,” right?” Wrong. Doctrine is the tool that makes control possible. Something comes before the doctrine. We are going to discuss the primary crux of this issue and lay all of the residual issues aside. This is the big picture.
Philosophy is the theory of being or existence, how we know what we know, ramifications of knowledge, and how we communicate it to others. Western culture is predicated on the idea that philosophers are an elite class that should rule the world. And depending on the philosophy’s doctrine, they are mediators between the masses and the cosmos, nature, various invisible forces, gods, or thee God.
Prior to the sixth century, Western culture primarily functioned on mythology. The fifth century saw a movement towards science, but the study of human existence and how truth related to life (philosophy) did not emerge till circa 400 BC. The epicenter was the Academy in Athens Greece. This is where the philosophical wheel of Western culture was invented. The primary premise mentioned above, Plato’s philosopher kings, moved out from Athens into history by two roads: secular, and religious. In the religious realm, doctrines and church polity were geared for the ultimate goal necessary to implement the core philosophy: CONTROL. Though religious wars have raged throughout Europe till this day under the auspices of doctrinal disagreements (going to war over doctrine is not doctrinally sound to begin with), what the issue has always been is that of control.
Even in regard to the doctrinal contentions between the Reformers and Rome, both doctrines were designed to control the saintly masses. That is why the results have always been the same whether Reformed or Catholic: heavy-handed leadership, abuse, and cover-ups. Why are there so many different denominations, doctrines, and beliefs? Really there isn’t; these are just different theological systems that approach control in different ways. The doctrine assimilated into the minds of both groups lead to the behavior. Why do pastors feel entitled to abuse? Philosophical indoctrination via biblical proof texting. Why do pastors cover for each other and refuse to confront other pastors? Same reason. Why are victims told that it is their fault? Same reason. Why do parishioners look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen? Same reason. Want to see this in action? Watch the following video:
And this article: http://martybraemer.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/jack-schaap-my-friend/
The primary crux of Centralism in both Reformed doctrine and Catholicism is the emphasis on saintly ineptness. The Reformers relegated the saints to total depravity and a total inability to please God in any way. If you can convince people that they are worthless, it goes without saying that they become docile followers who are hesitant to question anything. Likewise, on the Catholic side, if you can’t interpret the Scriptures on your own and absolution can only be found through the Catholic Church—few are willing to rock the boat. Today’s Baptists of all strips are either one or the other, or a combination of both. While supposedly rejecting both, determinism and weekly absolution can be found at the altar weekly. After all, we are “all just sinners living by the same grace that saved us.” Sermons are about “forgiving the way we have been forgiven,” and how “complaining is always sin.”
As obedience to the local pastor king is slowly assimilated into the minds of parishioners through various doctrines, followers will ultimately drink the Kool-Aid if they are told to. The infamous Jack Hyles (Independent Fundamental Baptist) demonstrated this to a fellow pastor by saying to one of his deacons: “stand up”; and he did. “Sit down”; and he did, and much to the astonishment of the other pastor. Hyles’ daughter once stated that she was certain that her father’s 50,000 followers would drink the Kool-Aid if he told them to and prefaced the statement with, “I’m not kidding!” Therefore, in her estimation, when it got right down to it, the (at one time) largest Baptist church in the world was no different from Jonestown, and I concur. Hyles and Jim Jones simply had different flavors of doctrine that were geared to obtain the same results.
When Christ came upon the scene proclaiming His good news of the kingdom of God, His message was a head-on collision with Greco-Roman philosophy that had been integrated into Judaism. Christ proclaimed the Scriptures, for all practical purposes, to be the comprehensive metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political, philosophical statement directly from God, and placed it in the hands of the saints to interpret it for themselves, and supplied everything necessary to do so. The priesthood of believers is the extreme antithesis to philosopher kings. And Christ looked to none of the theologians of that day for credibility—He didn’t cite any of them. He picked twelve uneducated blue-collar workers to build the greatest kingdom of the ages, and made every citizen a priest unto God. He purchased us with His own blood, and we are owned by no other man.
Hence, there are only two types of churches in our day: those that promote bondage to pastor kings, and those that promote the priesthood of believers—with the latter being an anomaly in our day. Susan and I are visiting churches right now, and we know this: any given church will be geared to control the members through doctrine, polity, and ministry, or will be geared to equip priestly saints full of goodness and competence in spiritual matters—able to minister to each other and the world with all knowledge. There is no in-between; every church will fit into one of these two criteria.
Where Truth Still Matters
Christians are under the illusion that truth matters, and doctrinal disagreements in our day are driven by such. Hardly. Truth is irrelevant; the real crux of the matter is what doctrine best suits to effectively control the masses. Truth is not the epicenter of God’s comprehensive philosophical statement on life and godliness in our day. The prior question (which doctrine best controls) has always led to the marriage of church and state throughout history. The state has always sought to unite with a “unifying belief system,” ie., religion; the state has a vested interest in a docile populous, while religion has an interest in using the state to control the totally depraved zombie sheep from destroying themselves. Rome and the Reformers were in agreement on the marriage of church and state; their disagreement concerned the gospel of centralism under the guise that gospel truth really matters. This Reformation myth, the epic battle for truth between Rome and a lowly monk, is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. And, read the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel for yourselves, the marriage of the anti-Christ statesman with the one world religion of the latter days is hardly a mere preface in the scheme of things. The anti-Christ is Plato’s magnum opus of philosopher kings.
1. Exhort with sound doctrine and truth.
But there are still plenty of saints around that care about real truth, and they must be convinced with sound doctrine and sound doctrinal apologetics. This is the first piece of the puzzle that answers the ministry riddle of our day.
2. Save the honestly deceived.
There are saints who love the truth, and have no agenda, but have unwittingly resigned their priesthood to pastor kings, and are owned by them instead of Jesus Christ. They must be convinced with the truth they love, and thereby rescued from throwing away their high calling and casting their pearls before swine.
3. Do not invest in “saints” with itching ears.
Don’t waste time with those who value what they receive from pastor kings more than truth. Pastor kings offer easy believeism, and ease is a universal temptation. Whether, this is easy because to do anything in sanctification is works, and not grace; or, obedience is optional—at least we are saved; or, we are totally depraved pieces of crap that couldn’t please God even if we tried, so what could be easier?; or, any effort in sanctification is works salvation because the two are the same; or, the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us—no need to move on to anything else that might be harder than that; or, no need to delve deep into the Scriptures and study hard because the Bible is a gospel narrative only; or, whatever else is the reason—something that people want that they are receiving from the pastor kings is more important than truth. Truth is often hard.
This is why they are willing to compromise and lay almost everything at the altar of the pastor kings. It’s easy. And, victims are a big-time inconvenience. Hence, ignorance is bliss and cover-ups are the first order of the day. Doctrine will condone this in various and sundry ways. Occasionally, these saints with itching ears will contend against truth bearers that threaten their comfort. Be careful to not invest time in them—invest in the honest doubters.
Saints must be educated and warned not to squander their priesthood under the auspices of the pastor kings, whether of the Reformed stripe, the Arminian stripe, or the misnomer of cultism.
Great pizza party last night with an author who is writing a sci-fi novel. As I sat and listened to him share his shocking plot designed to invoke terror in his future readers, my recent research for “Reformation Myth” (due to be published in January 2013) made the chilling plot seem mundane in comparison to sexy witches being hung, burned, and impaled with images of Mary fitted with large spikes.
On the one hand, the Reformers were supposedly brilliant for recognizing Plato’s theory that pure truth and beauty is immutable, while on the other hand, their brutality was merely the “mentality of the age.” It is also understandable why Reformed folks are so big on, “all truth is God’s truth” because the Catholic church had a lot of ideas that the Reformers thought were pretty cool; specifically, that because of Eve, women in general are predisposed to evil, or Eveil.
Between sips of mocha that could barely be executed because of my fixated attachment to the narrative, the little angel on my right shoulder kept saying, “Excuse me, this is history, and it really happened.”
Indeed it did happen, and the war declared on witches by the Catholic Church and the Reformers resulted in casualties that surpass many, many wars waged throughout history. And, to say the least, the due process of law that determined who was a witch was, well, shall we say, a little lean. Since it was thought that 90% of all witches were women, if you were a woman, and dragged into court, your gender was a bad start to the process. In at least one case, a particularly pious woman didn’t even take her arrest seriously and was sarcastic towards her accusers—who later executed her. I guess there is only one thing worse than a witch—a sarcastic woman. Then, there was this also:
The climate of fear created by churchmen of the Reformation led to countless deaths of accused witches quite independently of inquisitional courts or procedure. For example, in England where there were no inquisitional courts and where witch-hunting offered little or no financial reward, many women were killed for witchcraft by mobs. Instead of following any judicial procedure, these mobs used methods to ascertain guilt of witchcraft such as “swimming a witch,” where a woman would be bound and thrown into water to see if she floated. The water, as the medium of baptism, would either reject her and prove her guilty of witchcraft, or the woman would sink and be proven innocent, albeit also dead from drowning (Helen Ellerbe: The Dark Side of Christian History,Chapter Eight: 1450 – 1750 C.E.).
It all started with the Catholics first, and the Reformers later joined the campaign that supplemented the inquisition:
Pope John XXII formalized the persecution of witchcraft in 1320 when he authorized the Inquisition to prosecute sorcery. .” Thereafter papal bulls and declarations grew increasingly vehement in their condemnation of witchcraft and of all those who “made a pact with hell.” In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued the bull Summis desiderantes authorizing two inquisitors, Kramer and Sprenger, to systematize the persecution of witches. Two years later their manual, Malleus Maleficarum, was published with 14 editions following between 1487-1520 and at least 16 editions between 1574-1669. A papal bull in 1488 called upon the nations of Europe to rescue the Church of Christ which was “imperiled by the arts of Satan.” The papacy and the Inquisition had successfully transformed the witch from a phenomenon whose existence the Church had previously rigorously denied into a phenomenon that was deemed very real, very frightening, the antithesis of Christianity, and absolutely deserving of persecution.
It was now heresy not to believe in the existence of witches. As the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum noted, “A belief that there are such things as witches is so essential a part of Catholic faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion savors of heresy.” Passages in the Bible such as “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” were cited to justify the persecution of witches (Ibid.).
The following gives us an idea as to the extent that this was going on:
Contemporary accounts hint at the extent of the holocaust. Barbara Walker writes that “the chronicler of Treves reported that in the year 1586, the entire female population of two villages was wiped out by the inquisitors, except for only two women left alive.” Around 1600 a man wrote:
Germany is almost entirely occupied with building fires for the witches… Switzerland has been compelled to wipe out many of her villages on their account. Travelers in Lorraine may see thousands and thousands of the stakes to which witches are bound (Ibid.).
The general mentality of the Eveil motif was part and parcel with the war on witches:
The witch hunts were an eruption of orthodox Christianity’s vilification of women, “the weaker vessel,” in St. Peter’s words. The second century St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.” The Church father Tertullian explained why women deserve their status as despised and inferior human beings:
“And do you not know that you are an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert that is, death even the Son of God had to die.”
Others expressed the view more bluntly. The sixth century Christian philosopher, Boethius, wrote in The Consolation of Philosophy, “Woman is a temple built upon a sewer.” Bishops at the sixth century Council of Macon voted as to whether or not women had souls. In the tenth century Odo of Cluny declared, “To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure…” The thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that God had made a mistake in creating woman: “nothing [deficient] or defective should have been produced in the first establishment of things; so woman ought not to have been produced then.” And Lutherans at Wittenberg debated whether women were really human beings at all. Orthodox Christians held women responsible for all sin. As the Bible’s Apocrypha states, “Of woman came the beginning of sin/ And thanks to her, we all must die”(Ibid.).
And the Reformers were completely onboard with the Eveil rage of that Day:
St. Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 CE). He wrote to a friend:
“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman……I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
Martin Luther (1483 to 1546):
“If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there.”
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 to 1274 CE):
“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”
But the Reformers did way more than stand on the sidelines and cheer. When doing a pdf document search on Witch Hunts In Europe And America, An Encyclopedia by William Burns, “Calvin” got 32 hits including the following:
There are about five hundred recorded witch trials in the 150 years after Calvin’s arrival in Geneva. Given the high rate of survival of Genevan records, this probably represents the majority of cases that occurred. The witch-hunt in Geneva peaked relatively early, in the 1560s and early 1570s. The records show that, outside the witch-hunt of 1571, Geneva had one of the lowest rates of execution in Europe, about 20%. Geneva magistrates seem to have used banishment as an alternative to execution in cases where the guilt or innocence of the subject was in doubt, rather than following the practice of other areas which simply tortured until a confession was obtained. The relatively mild torture practiced by the Genevans kept individual witch cases from developing into large hunts, and in some cases the magistrates were uninterested in following up accusations even when an accused witch named others…
The comparatively small kingdom of Scotland, whose legal system blended English and Continental elements, had from the mid-sixteenth century on a zealous Calvinist clergy intent on creating a godly society. It executed the most witches of any British region. The other British area of high witch-hunting activity was the legally anomalous Channel islands….
William Perkins was Elizabethan England’s leading Calvinist theologian, and his posthumously published A Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft (1608) had an unrivalled influence on subsequent Puritan demonologists in old and New England. Perkins’s approach was intellectually austere. He shunned reference to previous demonologists or actual cases of witchcraft, and based his argument almost entirely on the Bible, particularly Exodus 22.18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Perkins saw the essential nature of witchcraft as the making of the satanic pact, or “covenant,” which inverted the covenant relation between God and his elect that was basic to Puritan Calvinist theology. So closely does Perkins relate the witch’s contact with the Devil to the good Christian’s contact with God that he claims that to deny the possibility of physical contact with devils would be to deny the possibility of covenant with God. Perkins describes the making of the covenant as a simple agreement, without the necessity for the witch to sign in blood or kiss or have sex with the Devil. Other central aspects to the witch stereotype as the sabbat or the Devil’s mark he also ignored. Even maleficia played a minor role. Perkins’s principal target was not the maleficent witch, but the “good witch,” whom he described over and over as even more worthy of death than the evil witch. Perkins believed that all power to perform “magic” could only come from Satan.
William Perkins was the elder statesman of the very same Calvinist Puritans that boarded the Mayflower and landed on Plymouth Rock. John Robinson, their pastor and follower of Perkins, gave an impassioned speech to them before they boarded the ship. The Pilgrims, who were really political refugees, set up a Geneva style Calvinistic theocracy known as the American Colonies and was the spawning grounds for colonial Calvinism.
Go figure, not long after, in Salem Town and Salem Village, the infamous Salem witch trials occurred. The Puritan Cotton Mather was heavily involved and attended the execution of Salem Town’s pastor, George Burroughs, who was accused of aiding and abetting a covenant of witches. An actual account of the sad proceedings follow:
George Burroughs was executed on Witches Hill, Salem, on the 19th of August, the only minister who suffered this extreme fate.
Though the jury found no witches’ marks on his body he was convicted of witchcraft and conspiracy with the Devil. While standing on a ladder before the crowd, waiting to be hanged, he successfully recited the Lord’s Prayer, something that was generally considered by the Court of Oyer and Terminer to be impossible for a witch to do. After he was hung, Cotton Mather, a minister from Boston, reminded the crowd from atop his horse that Burroughs had been convicted in a court of law, and spoke convincingly enough that four more were executed after Burroughs. Below is the original account as first compiled and published in 1700 by Robert Calef in More Wonders of The Invisible World pages 103-104, and later reprinted or relied upon by others including Charles Wentworth Upham and George Lincoln Burr,
Mr. Burroughs was carried in a Cart with others, through the streets of Salem, to Execution. When he was upon the Ladder, he made a speech for the clearing of his Innocency, with such Solemn and Serious Expressions as were to the Admiration of all present; his Prayer (which he concluded by repeating the Lord’s Prayer) was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness as such fervency of spirit, as was very Affecting, and drew Tears from many, so that if seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. The accusers said the black Man [Devil] stood and dictated to him. As soon as he was turned off [hung], Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a Horse, addressed himself to the People, partly to declare that he [Mr. Burroughs] was no ordained Minister, partly to possess the People of his guilt, saying that the devil often had been transformed into the Angel of Light. And this did somewhat appease the People, and the Executions went on; when he [Mr. Burroughs] was cut down, he was dragged by a Halter to a Hole, or Grave, between the Rocks, about two feet deep; his Shirt and Breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of Trousers of one Executed put on his lower parts: he was so put in, together with Willard and Carrier, that one of his Hands, and his Chin, and a Foot of one of them, was left uncovered.
Now, in our day, and unbelievably, the proud children of this Calvinist legacy pronounce themselves the experts on “biblical manhood and womanhood.” Specifically, an organization was formed in 1987 called “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” It is funded, organized, maintained, and directed by the who’s who of the American Neo-Calvinist movement including, Ligon Duncan, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Al Mohler. They formed a statement/declaration on this subject that was so well attended by their forefathers called the “Danvers Statement.” It is called the Danvers Statement because their declaration was finalized in—get this— Danvers, Massachusetts.
So, what’s relevant about that? Well, Danvers is the modern day location of Salem Town, the location of the Salem witch trials. In fact, these guys made it a point to have the meetings there that finalized the document. Ok, I mean, really, if you are a bunch neo-Nazis who want to start a forum on Judaism, would you make it a point to finalize your declaration at Auschwitz?
Furthermore, the Reformers didn’t get up one morning and decide to start burning witches—it all began with their Eveil doctrine. And the proponents of this movement not only swear by the theological genius of Calvin, but what they teach about the fall and Eve’s participation is word for word. Also, in regard to what is actually going on as far as treatment of women, all that is missing is the gallows. Whether it be women locked in basements as punishment, being spanked by their husbands, deprived of education, or their children being held hostage through manipulation of relatives by church elders—it is at least Witch Hunt Light.
Have I read the Danvers Statement? No, why would I? Christ said that false teachers are known by their fruit. The root of the fruit is the doctrine. Good trees don’t bear bad fruit, and Reformed leaders are little more than Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in priestly garb.