2013 TANC Conference Update: Conference Will Explore New Calvinism’s Relationship to Biblical Counseling
Perhaps the only book in existence that challenges the Protestant Reformation gospel in regard to doctrinal soundness. This book presents its case that the Reformation gospel is progressive justification, and that its major tenets such as total depravity extend to sanctification as well as justification. The total depravity of the saints? The book also explores the Reformation’s impact in regard to understanding the new birth.
Available on Amazon by these sellers: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1616588438
How do Calvinists reject the Trinity? Basically, they make God the Father and the Holy Spirit lesser forms of Jesus Christ. Their rejection of the Trinity is based on Plato’s theory of forms. This shouldn’t be any big surprise as one of the forefathers of the Reformation, St. Augustine, was a Plato groupie. My wife Susan will address the Plato/Augustine love affair in significant detail at this year’s TANC conference.
Plato’s basic idea of forms led to the Reformed Emphasis Hermeneutic, also known as the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic. Plato’s trinity was the good, the true, and the beautiful, and all other forms, or solid matter if you will, are lesser forms of the true form. In one sense, Calvin believed that Jesus Christ brought the two together, but that is a philosophical angle we will not pursue here because other manifestations of this heresy are more plainly and easily seen. Calvinists merely make Jesus Christ the full expression of the good, true, and beautiful while representing the other members of the Trinity as lesser forms.
Hence, Jesus Christ, and His works become the stargate to all understanding of reality. The “gospel” is a term that encompasses the personhood of Christ and His works—this is the gateway to understanding ALL reality. The saving act (singular) of Jesus Christ is not something done in history as part of the Trinity’s plan to reconcile them to mankind, but is the key to understanding all reality. Therefore, many Calvinists refer to the “saving acts” (plural) of Christ and His personhood as keys to understanding. The Bible is therefore 100% about the gospel i.e., the personhood and works of Christ. More on this further along.
This is abundantly evident via the everything Jesus mentality of today’s churchianity. The books, the sermons, and the music are everything Jesus. This is why; it is a Protestant family tradition set on fire by the Neo-Calvinist movement. And it all begins in a galaxy far, far away known as Western philosophy. Calvin notes the following in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
For this reason Augustine [who he quotes on average every 2.5 pages in the Institutes], treating of the object of faith (De civitate Dei lib. 11 c. 2), elegantly says, “The thing to be known is, whither we are to go, and by what way”; and immediately after infers, that “the surest way to avoid all errors is to know him who is both God and man, It is God we tend, and it is by man we go, and both of these are found only in Christ.
Therefore, supposedly, the “only” sure way to avoid error is to focus on Jesus Christ only, the idea that spiritual reality and physical reality are only seen in Christ notwithstanding. A clearer way to see how this all fleshes out is in the first tenet of New Covenant Theology which is a spinoff of Neo-Calvinism:
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.
Considered to be the foremost authority on Reformed hermeneutics in our day, Graeme Goldsworthy stated the following on page 48 of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics (InterVarsity Press 2006):
If the story is true, Jesus Christ is the interpretative key to every fact in the universe and, of course, the Bible is one such fact. He is thus the hermeneutic principle that applies first to the Bible as the ground for understanding, and also to the whole of reality.
Calvinism concurs. ALL reality is Chrsitocentricity. The gospel is a stargate to the pure form of the good. Geoffrey Paxton, an Anglican theologian and authority on the Reformation, stated the following on page 41 of The Shaking of Adventism (Baker Book House 1978):
Christ alone means literally Christ alone, and not the believer. And for that matter, it does not even mean any other member of the Trinity!
This statement is both shocking and representative of Reformed trinitarian thinking. Paxton is absolutely right, Solus Christus means just that. Another way of understanding this is via the solar eclipse. This is the most popular example of how Christ must be the gateway to pure understanding. Christ is the Sun, the life-giving rays of light. To let anything obscure that light, no matter what it is—is to deprive ourselves of wisdom and life to that degree. When we let objects, even objects that are factual and true obscure Christ, we are “living in the shadows.” This is the theses of longtime John MacArthur confidant Rick Holland’s book, Uneclipsing The Son. The book is a Platonist/Gnostic treatise that is not even ambiguous. On page 11, Holland writes that the book of James presents Christ as the “rule and standard of all spiritual instruction.” On the same page, Holland asserts that Christ is the “one true God” and then cites five Scripture references that say no such thing.
John MacArthur wrote the Forward to Holland’s book being presently considered, and made these statements:
Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.
The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.
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.
Christ, while praying to the Father, referred to the Bible as “your word” and “your word is truth” (John 17:17). We pray to God the Father, not Christ, and we baptize in the name of all three Trinity members. The Bible is not Chrsitocentric. The Bible has many major themes. The father of our faith looked for “a city built by God.” This contradicts the plain sense of Scripture, which brings me to my next point.
The Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic calls for a contemplation on Christ and His works only, or the gospel, and a logical conclusion drawn from the formation of verbs, nouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc., must be disregarded for a Chrsitocentric conclusion or a “truth” that “shows forth the gospel.” In the aforementioned book, on page 39, Holland has the audacity to make the following statement under the heading “When Bad Grammar Makes Good Theology”: “The rules of grammar are intended to be guardrails for communication. But sometimes they prevent it.” Insinuated is the idea that Christ’s greatness transcends mere grammatical rules, and therefore, one must break those rules to communicate how consumed our life must be with Christ.
A good example of this is a statement by Paul David Tripp on page 27 of How People Change (Punch Press 2006). Tripp acknowledges that the Bible in-fact does state that we should apply biblical commands to our life, but to take that literally, and not in its “Christ-centered gospel context” (p. 26) is to “omit” Christ in our life as “Savior.” Therefore, a literal approach to the Bible harkens to works salvation. The results of this can be seen in this approach to preparing Bible lessons:
At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.
Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is (Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).
Another authority on the Reformation, Robert Brinsmead, states this perspective concisely:
That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit even the letter of Scripture (Brinsmead, Robert D. ”A Freedom from Biblicism” in The Christian Verdict, Essay 14, 1984. Fallbrook: Verdict Publications. Pgs. 9-14).
In other words, the meaning of Scripture according to the letter [i.e., logical interpretations from the grammatical construction] must be judged by “that Spirit” which “lives in the gospel.” All bets are off concerning any interpretation that seems to be the plain sense of the text.
Moreover, New Calvinists take this concept dangerously close to disparaging God the Father. In the book here cited by Holland, he suggests that Christ saved the world from God. In fact, the heading on page 23 reads, “Saved—From God.” So, apparently, hell is a God the Father sort of thing. On page 43 and following, Holland presents God as “our most pressing problem.” And, “man’s greatest problem is God, God Himself.” And of course, it’s Christ to the rescue, right?
Though few would reject the idea that Christ saved us from God’s wrath, it’s hardly the whole story and promotes the subtle New Calvinist goal of making Christ more significant than God the Father. Holland gives no Scripture references for this concept of Christ saving us from God because there isn’t any. God was just as involved in the salvation solution as Christ was, and Christ is also a God of wrath just as much as the Father is (Rev. 6:16,17 and 19:11-16). This whole concept is a subtle, but dangerous distortion. At the very least, making a strict dichotomy that associates wrath with God and salvation with Christ is ill advised and smacks of Marcionism.
Holland is hardly alone in this approach among New Calvinists. Paul Washer suggested to an audience of European college students that the goodness of God is man’s biggest problem (Online source: http://wp.me/pmd7S-1A3). At any rate, a standalone dichotomy of wrath versus love associated with Christ and the Father that is unqualified, is a concept that should make Christians very uncomfortable.
Calvinism promotes a Platonist-like distortion of the Trinity. It shouldn’t surprise us as the Plato/Reformed love affair is well documented. New Calvinists in our day even sport ministry subtitles with Platonist themes: “Between Two Worlds,” “Between Two Spheres,” and in regard to Plato believing that pure truth is static, “Truth Unchanging.”
Like all cultic false religions throughout history, they distort and therefore reject the Trinity.
Calvin presented the priority of Christ over the other two Trinity members in the following way as explained by Mark Driscoll associate Justin Holcomb:
According to Calvin, the object of faith’s knowledge is Jesus Christ. He defines faith by proceeding to the center of a series of concentric circles: God’s existence, God’s power, God’s truthfulness, God’s will “toward us” as revealed in Scripture, and finally Christ. All these circles are implied in faith, but only the last is properly understood as the object of faith. Calvin goes so far as to say that those who say that God is the proper object of faith “rather mislead miserable souls by vain speculation, than direct them to the proper mark” (Institutes III.2.i). Christ as mediator is necessary if humans are to know God. Christ is not set over against God. Rather, Calvin asserts, Christ is the means—the only means—by which we can believe in God (Online source: http://theresurgence.com/2009/07/10/calvin-on-faith-christ-and-his-gospel).
One might consider the ruckus that was created over my suggestion that salvation involves all members of the Trinity and not Christ alone. I think this is telling. The following is a reprint of the controversy on Pastor Joel Taylor’s blog that resulted from some comments I had made on that subject:
5 pt salt .com
JUSTIFICATION IS NOT OF CHRIST ALONE
POSTED BY JOEL TAYLOR ON DECEMBER 15, 2011 IN GENERAL | 24 COMMENTS
I’m not even sure I like the title of this post. Not because it’s not true, but because it’s confusing.
Let me explain.
A few days ago I posted this piece promoting the book by Paul Dohse entitled The Truth About New Calvinism: It’s History, Doctrine, and Character. It’s worth reading. In fact, I think his book is an important one, and yes, I highly recommend you get it.
But, of course, not everyone feels that way.
Yesterday, after reading that post of mine, one 5ptsalt reader left this comment to me regarding Dohse and his book:
I’m pretty shocked you are promoting this book. Taking a peak inside reveals some pretty far out stuff. Just one example:
“First, justification is not by Christ ALONE. If God didn’t elect Christ, elect the elect, and draw them to Christ, along with sacrificing His only Son, what Christ did would have been for naught. So, justification is not by Christ alone.”
Buyer beware. This is dangerous stuff.
Well brethren, don’t be shocked that I promote this book. Be glad. And for you buyers, no need to beware.
Dohse is Right
Fact is, Paul Dohse is spot on, and even though he doesn’t need me to defend his statements, this reader’s comment gives us the opportunity to look at Scripture and, hopefully, instruct all of us. As Martha Stuart is apt to say, “That’s a good thing.”
See, it’s always important to look at statements in their proper context, a practice often overlooked and disregarded in the heat of defending what one is doctrinally comfortable with. But we need more importantly to examine all things in light of Scripture, it being – yes, I’m saying it again – the final authority in all things.
This comment by Dohse can be found from this post [link] of his which itself is a response to a series of questions by one of his readers. Here’s the question of the reader, followed by Dohse’s response:
Q: You have raised many issues in the last post that would take a book to answer. If I may, I would like to ask a few questions that might help us to clarify the issues on which we disagree. First, I want to state a couple of points on which I think we agree. Incidentally, I am convinced Piper and others would also agree.
2. Justification is based on the work of Christ alone and our works do not contribute to it at all.
Dohse responds to the second point:
2. First, justification is not by Christ ALONE. If God didn’t elect Christ, elect the elect, and draw them to Christ, along with sacrificing His only Son, what Christ did would have been for naught. So, justification is not by Christ alone.
Now, as I said earlier, Dohse is right. In fact, spot on. Here’s why: In a nutshell, it took all three persons of the Trinity to accomplish our justification. Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. If one dogmatically asserts that the Son alone is responsible for our salvation, including our justification, such a statement is clearly, from the Biblical testimony, an error.
Yes, the basis of our justification is the finished work of Christ alone, apart from our own works. That is true. Yet Dohse is merely pointing out the fact that unless the Father had predestined some to salvation, there would be none. The Father sent the Son to redeem us. The Holy Spirit works in us to make us holy. So Dohse is pointing out the involvement of the Trinity in our complete salvation. Although the basis for justification is Christ alone, there would be no justification without the involvement of all three persons of the Trinity in our redemption.
First, let’s give a simple definition of what justification is. Be sure and learn this, I implore you. When this is learned, hopefully, much confusion will be dismissed altogether.
Justification is a declaration from the throne of God the Father concerning our legal status before His law. It is a single act, occurs one time, is never again repeated and is definitely not a process.
God the Father is the Author and Origin of Our Justification:
since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. – Romans 3:30
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, – Romans 4:5
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. – Romans 8:30
By the way, who predestination the elect unto salvation? Jesus Christ the Son? No! God the Father predestination us, according to Scripture. You see, it is God the Father who makes the declaration of justification, so to think justification is of Christ alone, well, that is simply not a biblical position.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him – Ephesians 1:3-4
Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; – Romans 8:33
When anyone objects to statements like “Justification is not by Christ alone”, I would suggest one needs to pull back, calm down, and search the Scriptures and strive towards of a biblical understanding of precisely what justification is, a declaration from God the Father.
Brethren, I hear far, far, far too much praying for the Holy Spirit to “come down” and manifest Himself. I strongly object to such, and I would encourage pastors, and elders who are allowing such to continue to rethink what they are encouraging.
Listen. The Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, points us to Christ, not to Himself, and does not anywhere in Scripture ask us to ask more of Him! (John 16:13, 14).
Listen again, please. Christ Jesus points us to the Father! He is the way to the Father, not just to Himself! John 14:6.
Look at Ephesians 2:18, 19 brethren, and for all you New Calvinists, contemplate this:
for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household
Now, why do so many focus only on the Son? For you to be redeemed, it took the entire Trinity, the triune Godhead, in perfect agreement together regarding a predestined, glorious plan of redemption of those given by the Father to the Son by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Sonship theology, indeed. Paul Dohse is right, because Paul Dohse is listening to God’s written Word, not the latest guru of truth.
Brethren, in love, I ask you not to ignore two members of the Trinity. Christianity is not wearing a Calvinistic t-shirt, boasting of your reformed views, and getting people to contemplate on the Gospel more.
That is utterly absurd. It is ignoring the whole counsel of God. This business of “Gospel sanctification” and Sonship theology is a dangerous – and exceedingly popular movement. And it is a movement that endangers souls.
So get that book, read it, be alert, and learn and be aware of anything and anyone who, in your heart, trumps the Word of God. May we all strive to better acknowledge the final authority of God’s Word, and rest our beliefs on its veracity alone.
DECEMBER 15, 2011
Did you believe this before Dohse made his statements or did he lead you to this understanding?
DECEMBER 15, 2011
What then are we to think about the following scripture, relating to the reasoning in this post? In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word
was God. John 1:1
JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR
DECEMBER 15, 2011
You should think that Jesus was in the beginning, eternal, and was with God, with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and was/is God Himself, and created all things, and all things are upheld by Him, for Him and through Him.
DECEMBER 15, 2011
I like John 3:16
DECEMBER 15, 2011
I believe that if we are to truly accept the doctrines of grace as being true, we cannot do so sincerely, and yet fail to understand the crucial role that all three Persons of the Godhead play in our salvation.
In covenant theology, there is a sense whereby that which we know as the covenant of grace, flows directly out of an agreement within the Godhead made before creation, known as the counsel of peace, and sometimes as the covenant of redemption.
It was in this coming together of the Godhead to form a plan of creation, redemption and salvation, that each Person of the Godhead took upon their role. (I realise this is a pretty poor description on my part, so please excuse me). Each Person of the Godhead being indispensible to the other, and the faithful work of each Person, utterly vital for the plan of salvation to succeed.
Although I can sort of understand peoples reaction to this post generally, I have to agree that I think it more emotional than intellectual. It is undoubtedly true to say that there is absolutely no sacrifice for sin that is acceptable to God, other than Christ. However it would also be true that without the sovereign election of the Father, giving a people to His Son to redeem through His own blood, His sacrifice would be for nought. And were it not for the Holy Spirit, sealing those who have been chosen and redeemed, acting as the deposit that guaranteed their inheritance in Christ, then none would be brought to glory anyway.
DECEMBER 15, 2011
However it would also be true that without the sovereign election of the Father, giving a people to His Son to redeem through His own blood, His sacrifice would be for nought.
Why would His sacrifice be for nought? The Father knows that some will and some will not believe.
DECEMBER 16, 2011
Why would His sacrifice be for nought? The Father knows that some will and some will not believe.
If you read through John 6:37-44 you will see what I meant more clearly. Christ did not come to the earth to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him. Namely the Father.
It is the Father who elects those who are to be saved and gives them to His Son to raise up on the Last Day, and we are told that ALL those who are given by the Father shall come to the Son.
The willingness of Christ to lay down His life to save us as the redeeming price, can only redeem those the Father has given Him to redeem. Therefore without being given a people by His Father, His sacrifice would purchase nothing.
DECEMBER 15, 2011
I’m a little confused. I want to ask a clarifying question, just to make sure I have read your article correctly. Aren’t you denying a central tenet of the Reformation? I mean, yes, salvation involves all persons of the Godhead but how was that salvation accomplished? Through Christ right?
JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR
DECEMBER 15, 2011
What ‘central tenet’ of the reformation would I be denying? The Father is the one who justifies, according to Scripture.
Pingback: God Making His Appeal Through Us. « Kevin Nunez
DECEMBER 15, 2011
JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR
DECEMBER 15, 2011
Tim, the Father elected those who would be saved, and gave them to the Son to be redeemed, which He did at the cross. That is the testimony of Holy Scripture. We must be careful not to make being ‘reformed’ more important than being biblical. Solus Christus is not about the doctrine of justification brother.
DECEMBER 15, 2011
Thanks. That is why I was making sure I understood what you were saying. Appreciate your answer bro.
DECEMBER 16, 2011
It seems to me that this is the result of a sloppy question/statement followed by a precise answer. I’m not saying that to lay blame on anyone, but merely to say that where matters of doctrine are concerned, precision in our language is essential. All the JW’s do is add one little letter “a” to John 1:1 and it turns the whole Gospel on its head!
The statement made was: “2. Justification is based on the work of Christ alone and our works do not contribute to it at all.” To which the response made was bang on. The intent of the statement maybe obvious enough to some, but it is far from being accurate, and may well lead to wrong doctrine developing if left unchallenged.
DECEMBER 16, 2011
It doesn’t seem to me the statement should be shocking at all (Jam 2:24). I think reformers have placed too much emphasis on “alone” and is so often misleading. Not that it is incorrect but can potentially detract from man’s response and action.
DECEMBER 16, 2011
The real issue is not whether all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the work of salvation, That should go without saying for anyone who has read the Scriptures. The question that I originally asked to Paul Douche concerned the basis of the sinner’s justification before God. Is it the work of Christ alone or is it the work of Christ’s work or Christ’s work plus our obedience. Whether you like it or not, the Father’s work in electing believers was not the basis of our justification; the Spirit’s work in regeneration was not the basis of our justification. Were those works necessary in order to justify us? Of course they were! Were they the basis of our justification? No way! The basis of our justification was the obedience of Christ alone.
JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR
DECEMBER 19, 2011
The basis of our justification is the finished work of Christ, absolutely. However, this post never mentions you, nor is it about you. it concerns a comment left on 5ptsalt in regards to PD.
DECEMBER 16, 2011
“Solus Christus is not about the doctrine of justification brother.”
If it is not about justification. what is it about?
JOEL TAYLOR, PASTOR-TEACHER POST AUTHOR
DECEMBER 17, 2011
Acts 4:12 – and there is salvation in no other One, for neither is there any other name under Heaven having been given among men by which we must be saved.
1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
1Ti 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
DECEMBER 17, 2011
You stated that there is something inaccurate about the statement I made. I would be interested in knowing what part of that statement you find sloppy. Do you think it is inaccurate to say that God’s declaration is based on [not by] Christ’s finished work alone or do you think it is inaccurate to state that our works do not contribute to justification at all? If it is not based on Christ’s finished work, on what basis do you think an absolutely holy God could declare sinners righteous and remain righteous himself?
DECEMBER 17, 2011
Firstly I do fully believe that our justification is based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf. I also believe that the very reason that God is willing to justify sinners, can only be because by faith we have accepted and put our trust in the only acceptable sacrifice that can be made for our sins, and that is the One who God sent as that sacrifice. Our own works have nothing to do with it, apart from maybe fighting against the process.
The thing I disagree with is your initial statement “Justification is based on the work of Christ alone”, which is not fully true. Our justification can only come through repentance and faith, both of which I would consider the works of Father and Holy Spirit, as opposed to Christ Himself.
I only object because unless we are elected by the Father, given the gift of faith and drawn by Him, and regenerated and convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit; then the completed works of Christ alone do not justify us at all. To believe otherwise leaves pitfalls such as universalism wide open for us to fall into.
God bless you, and please excuse me if I have come across harsh in any way. John.
DECEMBER 17, 2011
Thanks for your reply. I don’t think we disagree re: the statement I made. It seems our only areas of disagreement have to do with the difference between the basis of justification and how justification is received. Justification is clearly THROUGH faith which includes repentance, but we are never told that justification is BASED ON, that is on account of or because of the sinner’s faith.
It is important that we distinguish between redemption planned, redemption accomplished and redemption applied. Although the Father and the Spirit were both involved in the offering up of Christ’s obedience unto death, it was his obedience that formed the basis upon which the Father declares us righteous in his sight. It is his righteousness that is put to our account and forms the basis for the Father’s declaration that we are righteous before him. The Father’s primary work in the process of redemption occurred in the area of redemption purposed or planned. He is also involved in the application phase, i.e., effectual calling. The Spirit’s primary work occurs in the application phase. As essential as these works of the Father and the Spirit are, none of those activities on their part form the judicial basis upon which God justifies sinners.
DECEMBER 17, 2011
One additional thought. Part of Christ’s redemptive work is reconciliation that not only effects the putting away of the Father’s holy wrath toward the elect, but also guarantees the putting away of our unholy hostility toward God. It is this redemptive accomplishment that the Spirit applies to the elect in regeneration. If we are believers, we have now received the reconciliation (Rom. 5:11) that Jesus accomplished objectively on the cross. That is, Jesus’ accomplishment has now been applied.
“Diverting the saints away from a many-faceted application of truth to the narrow mystic prism of Redemptive Historical hermeneutics is the focused and intentional blitzkrieg of the Reformed oligarchy. The sole purpose of this hermeneutic is to stifle independent thought and free thinking.”
“One should note with much ado that ‘sin’ is anything that Reformed elders say it is. Parishioners often assume that Reformed elders define sin worthy of church discipline by a literal biblical definition. While such naivety is adorable, it is far from reality.”
“And ‘church autonomy’ was not intended to protect either church or state from each other. With Reformed history fresh in their minds, the framers of the constitution sought to prevent cooperation between the two for the expressed protection and well-being of the people.”
“The First Amendment has an ‘ embedded theology’? Really? I will say this as lovingly as I can: if you sign a membership covenant with any church, you need your head examined—the Reformed claim that church membership equals being saved notwithstanding.”
TANC, our organization that is in the process of being formed for the purpose of educating the church about Reformed theology, ultimately seeks to have Reformed theology, and Calvinism in particular, labeled as a cult. That is what we will be aggressively propagating with all diligence. And your support is appreciated.
Like all cults, Reformed theology seeks to control their subjects. But why? The reason stems from ancient spiritual caste systems in which an enlightened minority leads the masses. Proponents will include people who merely lust for power along with those with the best of intentions. Initially, governments and religious institutions were one and the same, ruling on earth in God’s behalf. Supposedly. Large numbers of people will buy into this because it offers them some sort of comfort /security, and it is also easy: “I belong to the fill in the blank ; therefore, heaven is guaranteed no matter what I believe or do.”
When these cults are old and survive a long time, they begin to be classified as “religions.” When individuals start religious movements (and ironically) with the exact same elements, they are often labeled, “cults.” Some cults that are poorly managed, and make bad decisions regarding their ancient presuppositions concerning mankind crash with a big bang. Jim Jones’ “People’s Temple” is a good example of this. Others like the Reformed tradition die a social death, but continue on with acceptable adjustments while retaining the same nomenclature. But from time to time the authentic article will resurface as new movements that have “rediscovered” the “true gospel.” This is the exclusiveness claim that is indicative of all cults.
This spiritual caste system always results in tyranny. How cult leaders manage the ebb and flow of comfort versus tyranny determines whether or not their particular brand will reach religious status, or even that of “denomination.” BUT, the same philosophical ideas that drive every cult are always present and operating. In the “success” thereof, the subjects believe that they are receiving something from the religious caste system (cultic religions/denominations) that they otherwise could not receive from God directly. That’s key—direct access to God =’s NO CONTROL.
The proof is in the pudding and John Calvin’s rule over Geneva is well documented and nothing less than Cult 101. The recent “Neo-Calvinism” surge in the church is merely an excellent contemporary study of the same exact elements that drove the tyranny in Geneva. It is a Geneva that the New Calvinists lust for. The only difference is the pesky separation of church and state that exists in many democracies such as the USA. So, they improvise.
Many New Calvinist “churches” pursue close relationships with local authorities with intentionality. A saved policeman that buys into the theology is considered to be a prized possession in Reformed churches. Such individuals can be used to intimidate unofficially, and in some cases, in a construct that is unlawful. For instance, if a Reformed church wants to ban an individual from church premises because of what they know while posing no objective threat to the safety of the parishioners, such a ban may have no lawful merit. And to obtain a restraining order is a due process that may expose the “church” to information that they do not want known. Here is where a phone call from a local police officer, or in my case, someone claiming to be a Springboro, Ohio police detective comes in handy. Churches, in most states, cannot ban members from the premises that do not pose a physical threat to parishioners or create a disturbance (for example, see the Wall Street Journal report here: http://goo.gl/zgf4R). In-house security details are also becoming popular in Reformed churches. They are used to intimidate and escort individuals from church premises making use of assumed authority by those who submit to their intimidation.
The following are the primary elements of a cult and ever present in Reformed churches as well:
I. Control mechanisms.
A. Small groups.
D. Unearned fast friendships.
a. Part of a reporting structure.
E. Time control.
a. Lots of events scheduled.
II. Love Bombing
A. Love is from the heart and transcends propositional truth.
A. The “unadjusted,” “underestimated,” “scandalous” gospel.
IV. Authoritative interpretation of truth.
A. The elders are the final authority on what the Bible teaches.
B. Parishioners have no authority to interpret the Bible for themselves.
C. Spiritual growth must include elder preaching.
D. Thinking for yourself is a dangerous stunt that shouldn’t be tried at home.
V. Authority to proclaim salvation status.
A. If the elders proclaim an individual unregenerate, whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven.
Reformed theologians control independent interpretation of the Bible through academic intimidation and the Redemptive Historical hermeneutic. To say that most parishioners of our day have been brainwashed into to thinking that they are not qualified to interpret the Bible on their own is a gargantuan understatement. But on top of this, the Redemptive Historical hermeneutic (uniquely of the Reformed tradition) demands a redemptive application for every verse in the Bible. Exegetical propositional truth has been replaced with gospel contemplation and an art (seeing the gospel in every verse of the Bible) reserved for the spiritually enlightened Reformed elders. The totally depraved herd should only be concerned with Jesus saving them more and more each day and not drawing any objective conclusions from the Bible that might disagree with Reformed ideas. Diverting the saints away from a many-faceted application of truth to the narrow mystic prism of Redemptive Historical hermeneutics is the focused and intentional blitzkrieg of the Reformed oligarchy. The sole purpose of this hermeneutic is to stifle independent thought and free thinking.
Yesterday, a reader sent me a review of a new book published from the monstrous New Calvinist propaganda machine which has all but completely polluted mainstream Christianity. A vast majority of Christians now depend on para-Bible information as the “subordinate” truth to live by. While recognizing its subordination to the Bible, they also recognize that they can’t understand the Bible. God’s anointed must interpret it for us.
The email heading was entitled, “Geneva Coming?” Probably not, but only because this is America. However, it is more than fair to say that Calvin’s Geneva was cultish to say the least, and New Calvinists will do everything they can to improvise within the present restrictions. It’s who they are—they can’t help it—they are driven by the same philosophy that drove Calvin. And that is what the new book is about: how to control people with church discipline without getting sued, or at least winning the court case if you do get sued as a church.
This is a necessary book for New Calvinists because what drives their church discipline is not based on a literal interpretation of the Bible—it’s based on controlling ideas and free thinking. Furthermore, non-New Calvinistic churches do not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up against the rampant bogus church discipline plaguing the church. Hence, out of frustration, many seek justice in the civil courts—especially because some of the issues are criminal in nature and not merely civil. In many cases, victims are held hostage at New Calvinist churches; elders disallow departure from membership because the reasons for leaving are “not biblical.” Departure would then result in excommunication. Calvinists believe they have the authority to declare someone unsaved, and whether right or wrong, God will honor it. Hence, to disobey the elders could cause you to lose your salvation. Furthermore, in Reformed circles, to be a member of a church is synonymous with salvation; as one Reformed elder has stated: “Since the church is the Body of Christ, a person cannot be “in Christ” unless he is in the church.” Therefore, to be excommunicated for any reason is synonymous with NOT being “in Christ.” In many states the threat of excommunication to control or stop a decision to leave a church is technically kidnapping. Ohio is a prime example:
Route: Ohio Revised Code » Title  XXIX CRIMES – PROCEDURE » Chapter 2905: KIDNAPPING AND EXTORTION
(A) No person, with purpose to coerce another into taking or refraining from action concerning which the other person has a legal freedom of choice, shall do any of the following:
(1) Threaten to commit any offense;
(2) Utter or threaten any calumny against any person;
(3) Expose or threaten to expose any matter tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, to damage any person’s personal or business repute, or to impair any person’s credit;
(4) Institute or threaten criminal proceedings against any person;
(5) Take, withhold, or threaten to take or withhold official action, or cause or threaten to cause official action to be taken or withheld.
(B) Divisions (A)(4) and (5) of this section shall not be construed to prohibit a prosecutor or court from doing any of the following in good faith and in the interests of justice:
(1) Offering or agreeing to grant, or granting immunity from prosecution pursuant to section 2945.44 of the Revised Code;
(2) In return for a plea of guilty to one or more offenses charged or to one or more other or lesser offenses, or in return for the testimony of the accused in a case to which the accused is not a party, offering or agreeing to dismiss, or dismissing one or more charges pending against an accused, or offering or agreeing to impose, or imposing a certain sentence or modification of sentence;
(3) Imposing a community control sanction on certain conditions, including without limitation requiring the offender to make restitution or redress to the victim of the offense.
(C) It is an affirmative defense to a charge under division (A)(3), (4), or (5) of this section that the actor’s conduct was a reasonable response to the circumstances that occasioned it, and that the actor’s purpose was limited to any of the following:
(1) Compelling another to refrain from misconduct or to desist from further misconduct;
(2) Preventing or redressing a wrong or injustice;
(3) Preventing another from taking action for which the actor reasonably believed the other person to be disqualified;
(4) Compelling another to take action that the actor reasonably believed the other person to be under a duty to take.
(D) Whoever violates this section is guilty of coercion, a misdemeanor of the second degree.
(E) As used in this section:
(1) “Threat” includes a direct threat and a threat by innuendo.
(2) “Community control sanction” has the same meaning as in section 2929.01 of the Revised Code.
Effective Date: 01-01-2004
The name of the book that was the subject of the review is, “A Tale of Two Governments” by Robert J. Renaud and Lael D. Weinberger. The review was written by David V. Edling (http://goo.gl/gvPed). Edling is co-author of “Redeeming Church Conflicts”(Baker, 2012) and was the director of church relations at Peacemaker Ministries before his retirement. Peacemaker Ministries was formed to deal with the onslaught of lawsuits resulting from the recent resurgence of authentic Geneva style Calvinism and its tyranny.
The authors and the reviewer bemoan the fact that lawsuits may prevent churches from moving forward with church discipline, and the book apparently offers a clear path to overcoming those fears by implementing protocols that will prevent lawsuits or prevent a negative legal judgment against a church. According to Edling:
While fear of having to interact with the secular courts and fear of man may dampen the zeal to follow the biblical prescription when a church member hardens his or her heart and remains stuck in sin, these authors effectively refute the idea that such excuses hold any validity. The most significant contribution these authors make to life together in the church today is to provide church leaders and members with confidence—confidence that these common fears can be replaced with the knowledge that being biblical is protected by the laws that govern both church and state.
One should note with much ado that “sin” is anything that Reformed elders say it is. Parishioners often assume that Reformed elders define sin worthy of church discipline by a literal biblical definition. While such naivety is adorable, it is far from reality.
Edling continues with the following statement that is chilling to anyone one who knows the real truth about Reformed doctrine and history:
The foundation for their argument is Scripture. They effectively exegete the relevant passages, including an explanation of how Jesus proclaimed he would build his church by giving men “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19), that is, the unique authority both to open the kingdom (through the preaching of the gospel) and to regulate its internal administration (through the practice of church discipline, binding and loosing sin). Using a threefold approach of (1) church history (specifically a “high point” review of 2,000 years of church-state relations); (2) a concise review of the common law and American jurisprudence (the development of the current legal doctrine called “church autonomy”); and (3) practical theology (how to keep your church out of court), Renaud and Weinberger deftly weave together their “tale” that leaves the reader with only one conclusion: if we are wise, we need not fear the courts or the reaction of our church members as we fulfill the call of Christ to love his people and build his church as he has directed using church discipline to restore, protect, and keep pure that for which he died.
Did Christ give Reformed elders a “unique” authority to “bind and loose sin” on earth? The apostles claimed no such “unique authority,” but rather constantly referred to the authority of Scripture and the ability of the saints to interpret it for themselves (Acts 17:11). The apostle Paul called on everyday saints to judge what the true gospel is for themselves (Galatians 1:8), and to only follow leaders AS they follow Christ. Furthermore, you can be certain that the authors only cover the “high point[s]” of Reformed history as it is saturated with the blood of those who disagreed with the Reformers. In the same way that people pick their noses in their cars and somehow think others cannot see them, Reformed elders think that the bloody oligarchy of Reformed history cannot be read. And “church autonomy” was not intended to protect either church or state from each other. With Reformed history fresh in their minds, the framers of the constitution sought to prevent cooperation between the two for the expressed protection and well-being of the people.
The reviewer continues with the following statement that can only be said to reveal how ignorant they believe the saints are:
What does it mean for the church to “be wise” from a secular legal perspective in light of the many court cases that have been decided over the years? As these authors summarize, church leaders must be aware of legal principles that will protect the church in its practice of discipline. Failure to stay within these boundaries may leave the church unprotected. The “church autonomy” doctrine is built on the First Amendment’s embedded theology that God established two separate but equal governments, but the First Amendment doesn’t necessarily bar all claims that may touch on religious conduct. To protect the legal distinction church leaders must understand that their jurisdiction to practice discipline depends on following the law. Central to understand is the “implied consent” that exists in a truly voluntary relationship between church and member (typically through formal membership), that an act of discipline must be grounded in a church’s doctrinal commitments that have been clearly articulated and are supported by recognized religious belief and practice, and that the church must have a clearly stated policy for the practice of biblical church discipline (usually set forth in its constitution or bylaws). Further, church leaders must help members understand the limits of confidentiality because church discipline, by definition, requires others knowing of the continuing sin in the life of one who fails to repent and change.
Here is the assertion that the church and the state are two separate “governments” with the church having its own “jurisdiction.” This mentality should send cold chills running up the back of any thinking person while running to reread the membership covenant they signed. The First Amendment has an “ embedded theology”? Really? I will say this as lovingly as I can: if you sign a membership covenant with any church, you need your head examined—the Reformed claim that church membership equals being saved notwithstanding.
In his conclusion, the reviewer states the following:
Consider whether your church may be failing to obey God’s appointed means of soul care through the faithful and consistent practice of redemptive church discipline.
“Redemptive church discipline”? What’s that? The Scriptures never use the term “church discipline” let alone the former. That term should alert you that something may not be exactly right. I address church discipline issues in detail via a free ebook available on this blog: http://paulspassingthoughts.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/ebook-church-discipline.pdf and for good measure: http://paulspassingthoughts.com/2012/02/09/new-calvinism-and-hotel-california/
Meanwhile, don’t join a little Geneva. And if you’re in one get out. You’re in a cult. A doctrine/philosophy of control equals cult regardless of the nomenclature.
….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
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?
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.
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.”
Paul and paul Phone Interview on Muzzling Thinking Saints: If They Can’t Take Your Life—They Will At Least Get Your Wife; Part 4/Conclusion
“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.
Paul and paul Phone Interview on Muzzling Thinking Saints: If They Can’t Take Your Life—They Will At Least Get Your Wife; Part 3
LOL! The Gang @ http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com Suggest Theme Songs For The Mystic Spiritual Despot Pastors of Our day
Paul and paul Phone Interview on Muzzling Thinking Saints: If They Can’t Take Your Life—They Will At Least Get Your Wife; Part 2
Taped Interview: paul meets “Paul”; If The Philosopher Pastor Kings Can’t Take Your Head—They Can At Least Take Your Wife, Part 1
….and your children, your name, your job, and supposedly your very salvation. In my case, they got all but 1.5. Today’s American church is awash in spiritual tyranny. In the 16th century, the Pastor Kings could cut out your tongue, cut you in half, burn you at the stake, hang you, or cut off your head. Calvin, the pastor king of the Reformation, had people decapitated when he was in the mood to be compassionate, or was having people executed for non-capital offences. Today’s pastor kings can’t do that, so they improvise.
American churchianity needs to be educated, advised, and warned. A new criteria needs to be considered when seeking a church: who owns me? A pastor, or….. In most churches of our day, if you will not be owned by the pastor or elders, it is simply not going to turn out well. “I will just keep my mouth shut and mind my own business” Sure you will, until the elders come calling about how much you tithe. And if you want to keep the peace, you will tithe what they tell you to tithe. And then later, it will be something else, until eventually you are owned to the point where if you are told to drink the Kool-Aid—you will, and many have.
It starts with the preaching/teaching, and then methods for bringing people into subjection accordingly. Ministries are geared to gain control. At a pastor’s conference during a time when I had less understanding, I debated a pastor regarding cash-in-the-plate tithing. Arguing for the con, his concern was “accountability.” Recently as I reflected back on that conference, I now realize the whole conference was about how to control parishioners. In fact, looking back now on my seminary and Christian college experience, I now understand why I was never on the same wave length with most pastors—they saw parishioners as a different class of believers to be controlled. All of my Christian life, when in the presence of other pastors, I always sensed the us against them mentality and the personal disconnect. It explains much:
1. Why pastors don’t teach theology/doctrine to their parishioners ( knowledge empowers).
2. Why they buy into simplistic gospel centeredness as a way of life.
3. Why they don’t counsel—even when they say they do (it’s not really biblical counseling).
4. Why they suggest inviting the lost to church instead of encouraging evangelism outside of the church.
5. Why they make in-depth discipleship the same as works salvation.
6. Why they fuse justification and sanctification together (#5).
We will see these totalitarian elements in “Paul’s” testimony. Much thanks for his willingness to take a stand.
Here is the first part to the interview. There are four 15 minute segments:
Of course, sanctified Calvinists like Jay Adams have always been pioneers in teaching Christians to think biblically. Adams was also the pioneer in advocating the competence of believers to counsel themselves and others from the Scriptures. Adams’ revolution began in 1970 and included themes that embraced the church’s greatest needs at that time and yet today, such as, “Competent to Counsel,” and “More Than Redemption.”
However, in that same year, Robert Brinsmead and the Australian Forum were systematizing the newly rediscovered Authentic Calvinism that dies a social death every hundred years or so. It dies a social death because it is vehemently opposed to major themes that are critical for the Christian life; namely, among many,competence, and the idea that the Christian life is more than “the gospel.”
Let there be no doubt: these two emerging movements clashed continually, and continue to do so today. The Forum doctrine, Authentic Calvinism, found life at Westminster Seminary in the form of Sonship theology. The father of it was Dr. John “Jack” Miller, and he had two understudies named Tim Keller and David Powlison. Powlison formulated the doctrine into a counseling construct known as “The Dynamics of Biblical Change” which is the foundation for Westminster’s counseling curriculum—otherwise known as CCEF.
Powlison himself, while lecturing at New Calvinist heretic John Piper’s church, stated precisely what the contention is between these two schools of thought:
This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification. And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves. I think Jay was wrong on that. I – it’s one of those places where I read Ephesians. I read Galatians. I read Romans. I read the gospels themselves. I read the Psalms. And the grace of God is just at every turn, and these are written for Christians. I think it’s a place where Jay’s fear of pietism, like his fear of speculation, psychologically actually kept him from tapping into just a rich sense of the vertical dimension. And I think Biblical Counseling as a movement, capital B, capital C, has been on a trajectory where the filling in of some of these neglected parts of the puzzle has led to an approach to counseling that is more mature, more balanced. It’s wiser. It has more continuity with the church historically in its wisest pastoral exemplars.
After the Forum got the ball rolling, Authentic Calvinism, dubbed, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us,” became Sonship theology, and eventually exploded into the present-day New Calvinist movement. Interestingly enough, in the same lecture, Powlison also articulated further upon another difference in the two schools of thought:
I had an interesting conversation with Jay Adams, probably 20 years ago when I said, why don’t you deal with the inner man? Where’s the conscience? Where’s the desires? Where’s the fears? Where’s the hopes? Why don’t you talk about those organizing, motivating patterns?
And his answer was actually quite interesting. He said, “When I started biblical counseling, I read every book I could from psychologists, liberals, liberal mainline pastoral theologians. There weren’t any conservatives to speak of who talked about counseling. And they all seemed so speculative about the area of motivation. I didn’t want to speculate, and so I didn’t want to say what I wasn’t sure was so.
One thing I knew, obviously there’s things going on inside people. What’s going on inside and what comes out are clearly connected cause it’s a whole person, so I focused on what I could see.”
In other words, Adams insisted on drawing conclusions from what could be observed objectively and is uncomfortable with “helping” people with subjective truth/facts. And Powlison has a problem with that. Why? Because authentic Reformed doctrine contains two ideas that are the mega anti-thesis: the average Christian is not competent, and the Christian life is not more than the gospel. THINKING, and worse yet, objective thinking, is a dangerous stunt that shouldn’t be tried at home by the average parishioner. The parishioner has but two duties: See more Jesus and our own depravity, and follow the spiritually enlightened gospel experts. They are responsible for saving as many totally depraved numbskulls as possible—despite themselves. Their “knowledge” is the latest “breakthroughs” regarding the eternal depths of the “unknowable” gospel because it is the only “objective” source of reality. And reality is deep.
And this is messy business where there is no time to fiddle with totally depraved sheep who think they can know things, and worse yet, figure something out on their own. And of course, the unpardonable sin: critiquing the teachings of the spiritually enlightened with critical thinking. Calvin dealt with such by the sword and burning stake. His New Calvinist children are deprived of such tools, but substitute with character assassination (because what the totally depraved are really guilty of is much worse anyway), bogus church discipline, and the supposed power to bind someone eternally condemned by heavenly authority granted to the spiritually enlightened on earth. Luther himself said of Calvin’s Geneva, “All arguments are settled by sentence of death.”
This brings me to a comment that was posted here on PPT by a reader who uses the handle, “Lydia Seller of Purple.” It was in response to a Calvinist that had the audacity to suggest that Calvinism is an intellectual endeavor meant for the masses. Her superb observations:
Submitted on 2012/07/20 at 3:21 am
“Calvinism appeals to the intellect because the Word of God appeals to the intellect. ”
LOL!!! This is hysterical. Right. Jesus was really impressed with those learned intellectual Pharisees. That sermon on the mount was meant for the intellectual elite of Israel. Kinda embarrassing, Christianity appealed to so many ignorant peasants, too. But you Reformed guys took care of that for us by going along with the state church because they were so much smarter than the ignorant peasants. Yep, they understood the Word better which is why Reformed comes out of the state church tradition. .
“The proper order is intellect, then emotions, then will. Much of so called Christianity appeals to emotions first, then will and never intellect. God made us rational beings for a reason. He wants us to think. When we think properly about God’s truth, our emotions will invariably be affected if we have a heart for God. Such an emotional response will move us to make right choices. Paul put it this way working backwards from the will to the intellect, “You obeyed (the will), from the heart (emotions), that form of doctrine (intellect) unto which you have been handed over.””
But you are totally depraved and unable. That is not rational, Randy. )
The last paragraph is in quotations, so I assume Lydia uses her last statement to comment on that as being from the same guy, but I have some observations on it either way. The only thing that authentic Calvinists want us to think on is the gospel, and with “redemptive” outcomes only, and “redemptive” applications only. And, the emotions always preceding the will, and controlling it, is right out of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism; ie, gospel intellect (gospel contemplationism), then gospel treasure (delight), resulting in joyful obedience which is really a gospel manifestation or “Christ formation” that doesn’t really come from our actions directly. It is also Michael Horton’s Reformed paradigm of doctrine=gratitude=doxology=obedience. I believe my friend, and church historian John Immel has it right: Christian Hedonism was devised to soften the despair and hopelessness that always follows Authentic Reformed theology (leading to its social death) while maintaining Reformed fatalistic determinism.
Such is an insult on the most loving act of all cosmic history. Christ drew deep from truth to overcome his human emotions in obedience to the cross. He endured for the “joy that was set ahead.” His agony preceded obedience in depths that are incomprehensible. Christian Hedonism mocks the very passion of Christ prior to the cross. Hence, the insistence that the totally depraved sheep ignore common sense in exchange for the “gospel context” is the demand of today’s mystical despot abusers. It is also the major ministry theme of Powlison minion Paul David Tripp; this theme can be seen throughout his Gnostic masterpiece, “How People Change.”
I conclude with another apt observation by Lydia regarding the “Reformation”’s tyranny throughout history:
One has to wonder about the Dutch Reformed tradition that made them think making a fortune in the slave trade was Christian. Same with the Presbyterian trained pro slavery Calvinists who were part of the founding of the SBC. Then you have the Calvinist Boers in South Africa and Apartheid. Of course there were no Calvinist slave owners but history seems to show Calvinists have always thought themselves superior to others.
However, I somewhat disagree with the last sentence about Calvinistic slave owners. “The Reformation Myth” will examine the happy Presbyterian slave advocates of the Confederacy, and how their doctrine was an important part of the Confederate machine. And not to mention the roots of Patriarchy that came from the same era as well.
“The whole idea that Christians are unable to obey the law in a way that is acceptable to God is an absurd contradiction of a massive body of Scripture. But yet, this is widely accepted in Reformed circles and key to understanding their doctrine.”
“And moreover, according to Reformed theology, the law is still a standard that must be maintained to get justification home to glorification by driving on a road named Sanctification.”
“However, If you will stay your mind on the reality of the above illustration, and dogmatically assert that all Reformed theology in some way relates to this illustration, you will be given insight into the soul of Reformed theology. Do not let the Reformed academics move you away from this reality with rhetoric.”
“So, in Reformed theology, because the law remains a standard for progressive justification, perfect obedience to the law in sanctification must also be imputed to us.”
Let’s begin by revisiting the original question that prompted this two part post:
Paul, please explain in layman’s terms how Calvinism views justification and sanctification. I am trying to understand this. Does this have anything to do with the saint’s persevering?
What most people don’t understand is the fact that Reformed theology is all but a complete demolition of the truth. The election/free will debate is hardly the issue; this theology barely falls short of contradicting every basic theological point of Scripture.
This starts with the fusion of justification and sanctification….
….this fusion is the leaven that leavens the whole lump. Reformed theology thinks that sanctification links justification to glorification. It believes that sanctification is the growing part of salvation. But, salvation doesn’t grow, it’s a finished work. The chart below from a Calvinist organization should make my point (click to enlarge if necessary).
Also note: the believer doesn’t grow, the cross does. In fact, the believer gets worse! Or at least endeavors to increasingly realize how rotten he/she is. But what about the new birth? Reformed theology denies it regardless of the fact that Christ said, “You must be born again.” I can already hear the cat cries, but I will make my case. There isn’t a theology on earth that is more wrong than Reformed theology for many reasons including the denial of the new birth.
First of all, while denying that they fuse justification and sanctification together, the core element of Reformed theology is based on such. If justification and sanctification are fused together, we abide in the milieu that is between the two. That can make sanctification very tricky, unlike my biblical thesis in part one—we don’t abide in that realm that is a finished work. If we reside in a place where justification progresses to glorification, can we mess it up? According to Calvinists, “yes.” More on that later. But again, they clearly recognize this problem and base their core doctrine on it.
So, what doctrine is that? Well, there is only one way to prevent us from short circuiting justification on the way to glorification: cut us out of sanctification all together and make it a 100% work of God. And I agree, if our sanctification is the link between justification and glorification, we would need to be cut out of the equation all together. This is greatly magnified in Reformed theology by the idea that justification must be maintained by the keeping of the law. So, justification begins, but needs to be maintained until it arrives to glorification via the road of sanctification. This can be seen in a personal conversation I had with the well-known Calvinist Voddie Baucham:
paul: “Do you believe in this Gospel Sanctification stuff?”
Baucham: “I’m not sure what you mean.”
paul: “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us.”
Baucham: “Yes, absolutely!”
paul: “But Dr. Baucham, justification is a finished work, how can it sanctify us?”
Baucham: Nodding toward the window where we were standing; “That road out there is a finished work, but we still use it.”
Is that true? Are we sanctified by justification? Do we still “use” justification to get to glorification? At least in the Reformed view, the answer to all three of those questions is “yes,” and the perfect maintaining of the law to get justification home to glorification is the key. Justification must be maintained by the perfect keeping of the law, or else the legal declaration that we are justified is, “legal fiction” according to Reformed academics. This is the exact term they use to explain why sanctification must maintain justification by a perfect maintaining of a true legal declaration by perfect law-keeping. And moreover, according to Reformed theology, the law is still a standard that must be maintained to get justification home to glorification by driving on a road named Sanctification. As we discussed in part one, the law has been voided in regard to justification. Paving a road from justification to glorification, and naming it Sanctification, and using the law for the asphalt is a gargantuan theological misstep.
Well, that certainly excludes us! No? But don’t worry, Calvinists have a solution to this problem—it’s the doctrine of The Objective Gospel Outside of Us. The gospel gets justification home to glorification on the road named Sanctification, and we don’t have anything to do with it because the road is maintained by the perfect keeping of the law. How in the world does all of this work? I will explain, stay tuned. But first, let me establish that Calvinists believe that the law must be obeyed perfectly to maintain justification. This can be seen clearly in the writings of John Calvin himself. In context of sanctification, Calvin wrote that any attempt by a Christian to keep the law in sanctification was akin to an effort to keep the law….for justification. So, in Reformed theology, whatever is….for sanctification, IS ALSO….for justification because the two are the same. Calvinists use James 2:10, which is a statement….for justification, and apply it….for sanctification as one example, but they also routinely speak as if justification, and sanctification are the same thing with the same standard for keeping the law. Here is what Calvin said on this wise in his Institutes (Book 3; ch. 14, sec. 9,10):
Let the holy servant of God, I say, select from the whole course of his life the action which he deems most excellent, and let him ponder it in all its parts; he will doubtless find In it something that savors of the rottenness of the flesh, since our alacrity in well-doing is never what it ought to be, but our course is always retarded by much weakness. Although we see that the stains by which the works of the righteous are blemished, are by no means unapparent, still, granting that they are the minutest possible, will they give no offense to the eye of God, before which even the stars are not clean? We thus see, that even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation.
Even were it possible for us to perform works absolutely pure, yet one sin is sufficient to efface and extinguish all remembrance of former righteousness, as the prophet says (Ezek, 18:24). With this James agrees, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all” (Jam 2:10).
Notice that there is nothing a Christian does that is considered good or righteous by God. The same is echoed by Calvinists in our day like Tullian Tchividjian (click to enlarge if necessary):
And also notice what the standard for that is: the law….for justification in sanctification. The whole idea that Christians are unable to obey the law in a way that is acceptable to God is an absurd contradiction of a massive body of Scripture. But yet, this is widely accepted in Reformed circles and key to understanding their doctrine. Obviously, the law is still the standard, which is a problem in and of itself if you read part 1. The road named Sanctification that links justification and glorification together is paved with the law, and the asphalt is kept in perfect condition by a perfect keeping of the law. As discussed in part one, the law is not available to progress justification forward. For purposes of progressing justification—the law is void—we are no longer UNDER it….for justification. Therefore, justification can’t progress. It doesn’t get bigger, and it doesn’t grow. But obviously, if we are still on that road, things get tricky.
Therefore, Reformed theology holds to the idea that salvation grows to perfection until glorification, but we must remain OUTSIDE of this process lest the growing process is messed up by our mortal imperfection. This is where the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us comes into play. Reformed academics get a covert pass on this because listeners assume they are talking about justification only—BUT THEY ARE NOT—THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT BOTH JUSTIIFICATION AND SANCTIIFCATION. So, we must be cut out of the growing process of salvation because of our imperfection while being able to lay claim to it. But how? Here is how: THE GOSPEL GROWS, BUT WE DON’T. Remember the cross illustration above?
Ok, so, in Reformed theology, justification and sanctification are the same thing. Sanctification is the growing of justification until it reaches glorification, and in the process, justification must not be “legal fiction.” Therefore, sanctification maintains justification by the perfect keeping of the law until the day of glorification . We can lay claim to it, but because of our mortal imperfection, we can’t be part of justification progressing to glorification. So how does this work in Reformed theology? We will get to that, but first, let me further substantiate my claims thus far. Let me begin by quoting Calvin on the idea that justification is progressive. Really, our first clue should be the title of chapter 14 from the Calvin Institutes: “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin states the following in that chapter:
Therefore, we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives. Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the church (2 Cor 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness that that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, i.e., ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but “by grace are ye saved,” “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8, 9).
Furthermore, a Reformed think tank that was highly regarded in the early seventies, the Australian Forum, published the following illustration that captures the general idea of the doctrine (click to enlarge):
Let me add an additional note:
Obviously, this illustration provokes multiple questions in regard to practical application which will be discussed later (how this supposedly works in sanctification). But the key reality must not leave your mind: Christians cannot really participate in sanctification according to Reformed theology with the exception of one concept, and unfortunately, as we shall see, that one concept can only be works salvation. Not only is our role limited and narrow, the specific role is efficacious to maintaining our own salvation. However, If you will stay your mind on the reality of the above illustration, and dogmatically assert that all Reformed theology in some way relates to this illustration, you will be given insight into the soul of Reformed theology. Do not let the Reformed academics move you away from this reality with rhetoric.
Let’s also illustrate that proponents of Reformed theology fuse justification and sanctification together and speak of the two as being the same thing. In their sermons and teachings, they do this by virtue of the missing transition of subject matter—that being the difference between sanctification and justification. In their messages, they transition between the two without noting any difference as if the two are the same thing—because that is what they believe. Furthermore, this is an excellent communication method for assimilating this idea into the minds of their parishioners victims without them realizing what is happening. Examples of this are strewn about everywhere, but I will cite the following example from The Truth About new Calvinism, page 18:
Regarding the same message in context of who the audience was, in the sermon notes, the top of the page had statements like, “Things Jesus wants us (“us” would presumably be Christians) to know about the law.” The top parts of the notes were also replete with “we” in regard to the law, but the bottom part had statements like: “We live in the Age of Grace; salvation is not of works,” but yet, the whole message clearly regarded the role of the law in the lives of Christians. Therefore, whether unawares or otherwise, the pastor extended the relationship of the law in regard to justification (salvation) into the realm of sanctification (our life as already saved Christians), by virtue of a missing transition in subject matter. Hence, the subject of the law’s relationship to the lost was spoken of as being the same thing as its relationship to those who are saved. Theologians call this a collapsing of sanctification into justification or the synthesizing of the law’s relationship to justification and sanctification. This is most definitely a hallmark of New Calvinist doctrine to keep in mind for later discussion. The communication technique of the missing transition is also a technique used often by New Calvinists.
Next, let’s establish the fact that in Reformed theology, the law must still be the standard for sanctification because sanctification is the growing process of justification; in other words, progressive justification. Again, if law is not the standard for sanctification which is supposedly the progression of justification, then justification (according to Reformed theology) is mere “legal fiction.” Well, justification does not grow, it is based on God’s declaration—not law (as discussed in part one), and there is a reason why sanctification need not be perfect as a kingdom life totally separate from the finished work of justification which will be addressed later. But without further ado, the aforementioned Reformed view can be seen in Calvin’s diatribe in which he thinks it of abundant importance for Christians to know that they cannot obey the law in order to please God:
For since perfection is altogether unattainable by us, so long as we are clothed with flesh, and the Law denounces death and judgment against all who have not yielded a perfect righteousness, there will always be ground to accuse and convict us unless the mercy of God interpose, and ever and anon absolve us the constant remission of sins. Wherefore the statement which we set out is always true. If we are estimated by our own worthiness, in everything that we think or devise, with all our studies and endeavors we deserve death and destruction.
We must strongly insist on these two things: that no believer ever performed one work which, if tested by the strict judgment of God, could escape condemnation (Calvin Institutes: book 3; ch.14, sec. 10,11).
So, though the apostle Paul states that the paramount goal of Christians is to please God (2Cor. 5:10); obviously, Reformed theologians state unequivocally that the law is not the standard for that. Again, it can’t be, because sanctification is growing justification which demands a perfect adherence to the law in order not to be “legal fiction.” Therefore, if not the law, what? This interpretive question is the juggernaut of the subject at hand. The answer: more salvation. According to Reformation theology, our only possible participation in progressive justification is the same thing that justified us to begin with: faith alone. But wait a minute, in Reformed theology, we are not justified per se. Remember the illustration that is the soul of Reformed theology that we cannot be removed from, and the reality thereof. All righteousness , Christ, grace, ect., must remain outside of us. Nothing of grace can be within. So, we have no righteousness that is our own….for sanctification. Like….for justification, it must remain outside of us. In fact, Reformed theologians believe that if grace, Christ, or any kind of valid righteousness is inside of us, that is infusing grace into us while in sanctification. And if we do that, we are making sanctification the ground of our justification. Get it? If sanctification is a road that takes justification to glorification, and it must be paved with perfection, and we are on that road, and grace is infused into us, then we are made part of the progressive justification process. Game over.
We must (according to Reformed theology) walk side by side with justification on the road named Sanctification that takes us to glorification without being a part of the process. Otherwise, our participation is legal fiction because we obviously still sin. An “aberration” that believes that we have righteousness inside of us is called “infused grace” by Reformed academics and is the primary offence to the soul of Reformed theology: The Objective Gospel Outside of Us. Again, reobserve the two-man Christ within/Christ without Reformed illustration that is the soul of this doctrine. All Righteousness must remain outside of us and we must walk the road named Sanctification the same way we were initially permitted to be on the road, by faith only. If we work, or obey the law, we are believing that there is a righteousness inside of us that can participate with progressive justification in arriving at glorification at the end of the road. This is infusing grace into us and making our ability to travel with justification the ground of our justification. At least partially, which is a horseshoe and hand grenade issue in regard to justification anyway. Now, let’s observe the “elder statesman” of New Calvinism reiterating what I have just written. Take note that John Piper’s comments following were in regard to a lecture by Graeme Goldsworthy at Southern Seminary. Goldsworthy was one of the key members of the aforementioned Reformed think tank, the Australian Forum. The following excerpts were taken from The Truth About new Calvinism, pages 41-43:
In the aforementioned article concerning Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern, Piper agrees that the original Reformation sought to correct the reversal of sanctification and justification:
“This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel.”
In case one would think that Piper excludes evangelicals from this concern because of his mention of baptismal regeneration, consider what he said in the same article: “I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away— neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….”
….Piper concurs with Goldsworthy that “infused grace” is the problem. The like complaint is that the completely outside of us gospel empowers us inwardly, subjects us to subjective distractions from the power of the historic Christ event, and makes the natural result of the gospel our power source (the fruit), instead of the outward power of the gospel, the real root. To infuse grace is to suggest that we are enabled to participate in being justified by our own efforts in bringing about the natural results of the gospel.
Nothing shows this kinship between the Forum and New Calvinism more than a Piper quote from this same article and a visual aid used by Robert Brinsmead to demonstrate how “infused grace” supposedly puts our souls in peril. First Piper’s quote:
“When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].”
Now observe Brinsmead’s illustration on the next page: [the two-man Christ within/Christ without chart which was published by the Australian Forum].
This necessarily leads to the Reformed denial of the new birth. Obviously, the idea that Christ lives within us and works within us is part and parcel to the new birth—and a big problem for The Objective Gospel Outside of Us. Reformed theologians know that they cannot blatantly deny the new birth and retain credibility, so they have many cute ways of relegating it to insignificance in order to bolster their staple doctrine. I have addressed how they do this in many other articles including chapter 11 of The Truth About New Calvinism, and will not continue to do so here, but will at least note some interesting quotes that speak to my assertion:
It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.
~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)
But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?
~ Michael Horton
And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).
~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)
One would therefore think that this theology would lead to a view that believers are no different from the unregenerate save belief in the gospel only. Practically, Christians remain totally depraved like the unregenerate. And you would be correct about that. Reformed theology holds to the idea that justification initially recons us righteous in Christ, and without Christ in us, and then continues to recon us clothed with Christ’s righteousness (and none of our own in sanctification) as long as we “live by faith” ALONE….for sanctification. Moreover, only the POSITION of a person is changed in salvation, not the character, personhood, or creaturehood. There is no better illustration of this than the following citation from Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity, p.62:
Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.
The tail end of Horton’s quote brings me to the next point. Notice that Horton states that “we” can “lose,” as in l-o-s-e “both.” Both what? Obviously, justification and sanctification. Which equals = no salvation. “Paul, is he really saying that we can lose our salvation?” Sure he is—IF—we “move on to something else.” Which equals = moving on to something else but faith alone…for sanctification which is the same thing as moving on to something else….for justification. Progressive justification is not the only theological anomaly that Reformed theologians are content with, they must also add sanctification by faith alone. But all of this is necessary in order to stay consistent with their core doctrine: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. Yes, let them squeal all night long; nevertheless, they teach that you can lose you salvation.
I will illustrate this further by revisiting the idea that Reformed theology fuses justification and sanctification together. Reformed theologians are big on the “Golden Chain of Salvation” concept based on Romans 8:30. We discussed Romans 8:30 in part one along with its ramifications for salvation. The Reformed take on this verse is the idea that sanctification is excluded because it is one and the same with justification. The opposite position was presented in part one to some extent. Note the following quotation by John Piper:
This is probably why in the golden chain of Romans 8:30 the term sanctification is missing: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called He also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” When Paul jumps directly from justification to glorification he is not passing over sanctification, because in his mind that process is synonymous with the first phase of glorification and begins at conversion. (God is the Gospel, footnote, p. 93).
Ok, notice that Piper calls justification (“conversion”) “the first phase of glorification.” So, again, we see that justification grows in glory and culminates at complete glorification and sanctification is part of that “process.” Not so. In regard to the fusion of justification and sanctification, what is a “chain”? Reformed theologians clearly refer to the justification “process” as a chain with justification on one end and glorification on the other end, and sanctification in the middle. Moreover, John Piper preached a sermon in which he warns that if we do not participate in the salvation “links” in the proper way, that we put ourselves in great danger—presumably in regard of losing our salvation. The following illustration with a golden chain and Piper’s quotes from the sermon should clearly make my point here (click to enlarge):
Which brings me to yet another point. If we can lose our salvation, what do we have to do to keep it? Whatever that is, it’s a work to maintain justification. And that is works salvation. In the case of Reformed theology, we have to keep our salvation by sanctification by faith alone. Hence: salvation by Christ + faith alone in sanctification. Think about that. To the Reformed, moving on to anything else but sanctification by faith alone will cause us to lose our salvation. Historically, the relaxing of the law in sanctification has always been deemed antinomianism. Is Reformed theology salvation by antinomianism? Yes, I think it is—the fusion of justification and sanctification can hardly end up anywhere else.
This entails the belief that Christ not only came to die for our sins, but He also came to live a perfect life of obedience to the law so that His perfect obedience in the life he lived on earth could be imputed to us in sanctification. So, in Reformed theology, because the law remains a standard for progressive justification, perfect obedience to the law in sanctification must also be imputed to us. In other words, Jesus obeys for us. How our justification must be maintained in our sanctification (according to Reformed theology) is well articulated by the Australian Forum Reformed think tank (The Truth About new Calvinism: p. 101, 102):
After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”
We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.
On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31).
A more contemporary example from the Journal of Biblical Counseling (David Powlison’s CCEF) can be observed in the following citation:
It is by virtue of Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross and resurrection-plus nothing-that we are justified (made and declared right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right in the Lord’s eyes by virtue of His obedience). Christ is our holiness. Christ is our sanctification.
Therefore, our walk with Christ must be a continual reoffering of the works of Christ to maintain our just standing. When we come to the last resurrection, we will be judged accordingly. If we lived sanctification in this way, the righteousness of Christ will be the ground of our justification and we will be glorified. See the following illustration from a John Piper video clip (click to enlarge):
Christians will stand in no such judgment. And via the new birth, we are new creatures that in fact are righteous. Our lack of imperfection, though displeasing to the Lord, has no bearing….for justification. We are new creatures that deplore the weakness of our mortality, but are indwelt and enabled to obey God through our new life in the Holy Spirit. We are declared righteous, and in fact are righteous. We are not colaboring with our flesh like the world, but we rather colabor with God (1Cor. 3:9, 1Thess. 3:2, 2Cor. 6:1). Therefore, Paul could say, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me (Romans 7:20). We will look at the supposed practical application of Reformed theology in part three, and compare it to the truth in light of assurance, spiritual growth, perseverance of the saints, and other sanctification issues.
“Justification is a finished work that guarantees glorification apart from anything that happens in progressive sanctification….Justification is a finished work that guarantees glorification completely apart from progressive sanctification.”
“All bible verses must be interpreted by, verse….for justification, or verse….for sanctification.”
This post is actually in reply to the following question posted in the comment section of this blog:
Paul, please explain in layman’s terms how Calvinism views justification and sanctification. I am trying to understand this. Does this have anything to do with the saint’s persevering?
My initial response was several hundred words which were deleted somehow when I was near completion; I must have hit a wrong key or something, but this time I will be smart and type it on Microsoft Word first.
Let me begin by addressing this part of the reader’s question first: “Does this have anything to do with the saints persevering?” No. Please, let’s just focus on the foundation—you can address all of the many other issues later, but you will be unable to address them definitively until you have an understanding in regard to the first part of your question: “….how Calvinism views justification and sanctification.”
Short answer: It views them as being the same thing, and that’s a false gospel, and I will explain why (the forthcoming long answer). But first, know this: election does not necessarily mean that God predetermined before creation who was/is going to be saved and not saved. How God weaves His sovereignty together with our choices is a mystery. For example, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).” Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother planning because the Lord has already determined our steps? Hardly. Proverbs 16:9 is speaking of the mystery/paradox of God’s weaving together of what we do and His sovereign will. Does prayer change things? Certainly it does. When we present the gospel to someone, do we say, “I am just here to find out whether you are one of God’s chosen or not. So, I am going to present the gospel to you, and if you believe and repent, you are one of the chosen, if you don’t, you are toast for eternity.” No, we persuade with all diligence and knowledge (like the apostle Paul did) as if it depends on us, because to some degree, it does. Bottom line:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14).
God’s offer of salvation is a legitimate offer.
Justification 101 (For now, forget about sanctification, this concerns justification only!)
Nevertheless, when they/we believe, we know it’s because of Romans 8:30, which will be the focus of my explanation/long answer. Let’s now observe Romans 8:30:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Done deal. Finished before the creation of the world. He predestined us, then called us, then justified us, and finally, glorified us. The word “justified” is dikaioo. It is a legal declaration of innocence that sets one free. Christians are declared righteous before creation, and glorification (when we will be instantly transformed completely at the resurrection) is guaranteed. We cannot mess that up. It’s a finished work by God before we were born. How can we possibly mess that up? We can’t.
Also, the law can’t touch us. Why? We are already declared righteous, that’s why. Stop everything you are thinking about and take note of this: the law is no longer the standard for maintaining our salvation/justification. Do not turn your mind off here because of familiarity—this is not what you think it is. Pay attention! The difference between Calvinism and the true gospel is a fine line of distinction with eternal consequences. Caution: this is a concept that it so simple that it escapes us. We are no longer ….key word alert,….UNDER the law. In the book of Romans, Chapter 7, Paul compares our relationship to the law as a marriage covenant that is no longer valid because one of the spouses died:
Do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Now, I will slightly digress and bring danger of confusion, but will then quickly return to the subject of justification. Paul is talking about justification in this passage, and then finishes the thought with a mention of justification’s purpose; sanctification: “….in order that we might bear fruit to God.” BUT, as we shall see, other than the fact that justification makes sanctification (our kingdom living) possible, the two are totally separate, and the separation of the two is the key to understanding the issue at hand, and the true gospel in general.
We, as Christians, are dead to the law. It can’t touch us. We are no longer UNDER it:
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
But not us. The law can’t judge us, we are no longer under it:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
Note that the world is under the law, but we are not. We have no regard for the law whatsoever, ….for justification.
Paul also described our relationship to the law in regard to not being enslaved by it. To be evaluated by the law is to be in bondage to it:
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
In fact, Paul said for us Christians, ALL things are lawful!
1 Corinthians 6:12
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
But not expedient, or profitable….
….for sanctification. Sanctification 101
There are two kinds of sanctification, but only one kind of justification, and the two sanctification are totally separate from justification. If not, we are eternally doomed. Justification must be a finished work that we have no part in except for showing others how they can be justified like we are; saved, if you will. Note: Romans 8:30, the epic verse of justification, does not include the subject of sanctification because the two must be separate. One is a finished work (justification), the other, sanctification (or, kingdom living) is progressive. In fact, Dr. Jay E. Adams states well that sanctification (our Christian life) does not in any way draw it’s life or power from justification because justification is a legal declaration that determines our POSITION:
The problem with Sonship™ [same thing as New Calvinism prior to 2008] is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it. As a declaration of forgiveness, pardon, and adoption into the family of God, it is (remember) a legal act. It changes the standing, but not the condition, of the person who is justified.
That’s because justification is a finished work, and discipleship (sanctification) is not; it’s progressive. But, there is also a positional sanctification that is also a finished work that even preceded justification. But like justification, it is a finished work and cannot produce progressive life, because for crying out loud, a finished work doesn’t continue to produce a progression. This would seem evident. Remember this: sanctification is a word that merely means, “to set apart.” So, sanctification is a progressive separating from the world. As we progress in our sanctification, we look more like Christ, and less like the world. But there is also a positional separation from the world that is also a finished work that includes predestination, election, calling, justification, and a setting apart:
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1Corinthians 6:11).
Notice the past tense of the verse. Our position is a finished work. We were washed, set apart, and justified. Peter asked Jesus to wash him. But Christ told him that there was no need for him to be washed because it had already been done, he only needed a daily washing of his feet:
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean (John 13:2-11).
Justification and the New Birth
Though justification is a finished work, it passes the torch to something that is a mark of true salvation. This is where sanctification draws its power. This element of sanctification is a Proof of Purchase Seal that you and I have been purchased by God with the price of His Son. It is the new birth. We are born of the Holy Spirit into new creatures. Our spiritual growth is now a colaboring with the Holy Spirit who indwells us. He also colabored with saints of old, but His permanent indwelling of New Testament believers is probably related to the engrafting of the Gentiles. But whatever the reasons, remember that the saints of old were also justified by faith alone, and like us, they were not UNDER the law….for justification.
Paul makes this point in Galatians 3:13-18:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
Hence, the law CANNOT be our standard…. for justification. Paul makes that clear by pointing out that the law didn’t come for 430 years after Abraham was justified according to the covenant of promise. Nevertheless, we must be born again (new birth). Again, the new birth is proof of Justification, but is not powered by it. The new birth is the indwelling Holy Spirit colaboring with His new creatures. Theologians call this, regeneration. We, like the saints of old, MUST BE BORN AGAIN. Before the cross, and before Pentecost, Christ made this clear to Nicodemus in the present tense, and expressed surprise that he was ignorant of the new birth (John, chapter 3).
And this is very, very important: regeneration does not work towards/for glorification. Sanctification (the progressive type) is NOT a link to glorification. Remember, glorification is a finished work. Romans 8:30 speaks of it in the past tense. It is the guarantee of our justification. Both happened before the creation of the world. Some theologians call glorification, “final sanctification.” Perish the thought! Glorification is the manifestation of positional sanctification (both are final, finished works), NOT the completion of progressive sanctification. Though the completion of progressive sanctification happens at the same time as glorification—glorification is a finished work, and therefore is not the culmination of progressive sanctification’s progressive work; it is rather, redemption. Redemption is the manifestation of glorification when God cashes in on his purchase:
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21: 25-28).
Though the Bible speaks of glorification as a future event, Romans 8:30 refers to it in the past tense. This is because it does not need progressive sanctification to complete it (again, progressive sanctification is not included in the list of Rom. 8:30), and the past tense usage points to the guarantee that accompanies justification.
Justification and progressive sanctification are totally separate. Progressive sanctification DOES NOT link justification to glorification. Justification is a finished work that guarantees glorification apart from anything that happens in progressive sanctification. This is why progressive sanctification is excluded from this paramount justification verse….for justification, and speaks of justification and glorification in the past tense. Justification is a finished work that guarantees glorification completely apart from progressive sanctification.
One Law; Three Relationships/Standards
Hence, the law, which includes all of Scripture (see Matthew 4:4, 2Timothy 3:16) must always be read in this context: ….for justification, or….for sanctification. The standard/relationship…. for [our] justification is ZERO LAW. The standard/relationship….for [our] sanctification is….100% law! Why not? It’s not related to our justification anyway! Therefore:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).
The word for “set aside” is lou. It means to “relax” or loosen. That is, in regard to the “least of these commandments.” So, do we interpret this way: “Whoever practices and teaches these commands”….for justification; or, ….for sanctification ? The framing of a house and the rightness of its foundation will determine its quality. Are the frame and the foundation going to be perfect? No. But is that the standard? One would hope so. We should strive for perfection in sanctification for many reasons, but most of all, because it has no bearing on our justification which is a settled issue. However, Christ links a poor attitude towards the law in sanctification to an absence of the new birth/ new creaturehood:
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Unfortunately, the relationship/standard in regard to the unregenerate is perfection ….for justification because they are UNDER the law and in bondage to it. Christians are free from the law for justification and “uphold” (Romans 3:31) it…. for sanctification. That is why James refers to it as the “perfect law of liberty” in James 1:25. All Bible verses must be interpreted by, verse….for justification, or verse….for sanctification.
Eschatology and Justification
This is why in the study of biblical last things (eschatology), we find two resurrections and two judgments. One resurrection and judgment for the saved, and a separate resurrection and judgment for the unsaved. Unfortunately, the standard for the second set will be perfection, and nobody will measure up (Revelation 20:4-6; 11,12). We will be a part of the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14) and will not stand in such a judgment because we have already been declared just. Our judgment will be for rewards:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Obviously, we can’t do this: 2Cor 5:10…. for justification. That would be a huge problem.
I will conclude with a visual chart to help clarify the above. In the second part, we will examine the difference between this and Calvinism.
New Calvinism is a resurgence of authentic Calvinism. Since its conception during the so called “Reformation,” authentic Calvinism dies a social death from time to time because of the spiritual tyranny that its basic philosophy produces. Most of the rediscovery/resurgence movements of the past since authentic Calvinism died out after the Reformation have made little impact on Christianity. However, Calvinism Light (sanctified Calvinism) is left behind to live on after these movements die. When resurgence happens, the sanctified Calvinists actually take offence, not realizing that they are not really authentic Calvinists. Authentic Reformation theology in the vein of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, is gross heresy. It is a works salvation with Gnosticism as its practical application. This also contributes to its eventual demise, but this takes a while because Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were masters of nuance and using familiar terms to articulate their doctrine.
The rediscovery movement that has become New Calvinism is different. Robert Brinsmead, the father of contemporary New Calvinism, argued that the recovery movements of the past failed due to a lack of systemization. Three other Reformed theologians agreed, and they started a theological think tank (the Australian Forum and its theological journal, Present Truth Magazine) to prepare the doctrine for a proper launching. That was in 1970, when the doctrine was originally known as the centrality of the objective gospel completely outside of us and New Covenant Theology. NCT took a brutal beating in Reformed Baptist circles and caused a split in at least one convention. Eventually, the doctrine was only represented by about twenty churches in those circles. However, the doctrine found new life in Presbyterian circles as Sonship Theology. Nevertheless, Sonship experienced a severe pushback by sanctified Calvinists in Presbyterian circles and was forced underground in circa 2000. It was renamed, “Gospel Transformation” and experienced massive growth between 2000 and 2004.
In 2004, the fallout from its tyranny became more evident, but no one could identify the doctrine. It was coined “Gospel Sanctification” by a small group of protestants including Dr. Jay E. Adams. But its influence and controversy continued to expand and the whole world started taking note when it was dubbed “New Calvinism” in 2008. Like the prior rediscovery movements, it has spawned a massive wave of spiritual abuse in the church under the auspices of several different sub movements such as Patriarchy and the Shepherding Movement. New Calvinists have also reached back into history and revived movements that were based on authentic Calvinism and brought them back into the fold. The whole thing is a perfect storm of mystical despotism dressed in orthodoxy. Robert Brinsmead was right; the movement needed the systematic touch.
In 1981, a Presbyterian started an organization for the sole purpose of taking over the Southern Baptist Convention with this doctrine, and today that organization is known as Founders Ministries. Until last week’s controversy concerning one of the speakers at the annual SBC Pastors Conference, authentic Calvinist heretic David Platt, I was convinced that the SBC was doomed to be taken over by this doctrine. But the response by 80% of the pastors who attended has given me great comfort. Per the normal, my beloved Southern Baptist brethren are too theologically illiterate to be led astray by a false doctrine. Their utter incompetence is demonstrated by the fact that heretics such as Platt could even be invited to speak at such a conference, and the additional fact that the flagship seminary of the SBC is run by New Calvinist “Big Al” Mohler.
Platt dissed the Sinner’s Prayer in his message, calling it “superstitious and unbiblical.” His particular beef with the prayer is the concept of “accepting Jesus into our hearts.” Platt’s message was full of nuanced and peculiar use of the English language, including the misidentification of subjects and objects, and turning verbs into adjectives, which should have begged the question: “What is this guy’s particular beef with the Sinner’s Prayer?” But my beloved Southern Baptists didn’t even blink, and did what I can always count on them doing lest they think below the surface of anything leading to possible deception; they focused on the ridicule of one of their sacred traditions. Thank goodness for that ole time religion. My dumbed down faithful brethren moved quickly to submit a resolution to the convention to confirm the validity of the Sinner’s Prayer. The resolution passed by more than 80%. Whew, that was a close one! Platt, apparently amazed at his inability to deceive them, responded to the clamor by saying that he wished he would have presented it differently. In other words, I think he meant that he wished he would have simplified it more. Platt need not worry; it wouldn’t have made any difference. I am now totally assured that my brothers are safe.
Actually, Platt’s problem with “asking/accepting Jesus in our hearts” is directly related to authentic Calvinism’s rejection of the new birth. Classic: one of the rising stars in the SBC, like Big Al, rejects the new birth, but how dare them diss the Sinner’s Prayer! You see, authentic Calvinism borrows the Platonist concept of emphasis. Though shadows are true, they are only a result of the sun’s true reality. Therefore, to emphasize shadows is to reject the only thing that can truly give life—the sun. Shadows can’t give life, only the sun’s light can. Since authentic Calvinism believes that life only comes from meditating on the works of Christ outside of us, an emphasis on the new birth, which is inside us, is to emphasize the result of Christ’s works and not Christ himself. So, to the degree that we focus on regeneration, we take away from the only things that gives life: the personhood of Christ and His works. That is exactly what Platt’s beef is in regard to “accepting Jesus in our hearts.”
The crux of what Platt is really after was articulated by the Australian Forum. They dedicated a whole issue of their theological journal to The False Gospel of the New Birth. One article was titled as such. I will quote two members of the Australian Forum on this wise and throw in other quotes by contemporary New Calvinists as well:
“The false gospel of the new birth” imagines that the new birth refers primarily to what happens in the believer and that this is the greatest news in the world. This is classical Roman Catholicism. It teaches that a good thing is the best thing, that the work of the Spirit is greater than that of the Son. It takes the fruit of the gospel and elevates it over the root, which is the gospel. It confuses the effect of the gospel with the gospel itself.
~Geoffrey Paxton: Present Truth; The false Gospel of the New Birth Volume Thirty-Seven — Article 4
How can my life, my doing, be fruit and not root? The fruit of the tree of justification and not the root of justification? The fruit of God being on my side rather than the root of making God be on my side? How can it be the fruit of the Holy Spirit so that I’m acting in the power of another and not in my own power?
Bultmann’s existential gospel led him inevitably to a negative view of the Old Testament. 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.1 [Goldsworthy’s footnote #1] (1 See Geoffrey J. Paxton, “The False Gospel of the New Birth,” Present Truth Magazine 7, no.3 (June 1978): 17-22).
~Graeme Goldsworth: Present Truth; Obituary for the Old Testament Volume Forty-One — Article 2
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
As my lovely wife said in her first session at last week’s conference on spiritual tyranny:
By glazing over the finer details of Christianity and focusing on more moderate doctrines he [Billy Graham] made evangelism enticing, non-threatening, and easy to swallow, and in a lot of ways gave definition to easy believeism.
His mission to present the “gospel” and get people saved and on their way to heaven permeated the focus of many fundamental churches thereafter, particularly the Southern Baptist denomination with which Billy Graham was associated.
As a result of the success of Billy Graham, many other evangelists and pastors adopted and adapted his mode of operation in order to” bring in the sheaves.” This is often referred to as the first gospel wave that swept over America in the 50’s and continued on into the early 70’s.
Please do not misunderstand my opening remarks. The biographical remarks were taken from an article written of Billy Graham. We all believe that people were genuinely saved as a result of the ministry of Billy Graham; but I want to also say that many thought they were saved as a result of his ministry as well. Here’s the dilemma his type of evangelism created: a) genuine salvation experiences occurred and b) professions of salvation made but no outward change in living or life-style and c) lack of assurance of salvation as a result of poor follow-up and discipleship.
In my neck of the woods the “At least he is saved mentality” which the Billy Graham Association innocently created, helped people rationalize sinful lifestyles, make valid emotional experiences and equate them with regeneration, and issued “fire insurance” policy mentality amongst church going people. Just say the sinner’s prayer and you are guaranteed a home in heaven.
So, at least some people get saved, and they’re too doctrinally illiterate to be taken over by a movement that is completely of the devil.
Maybe it’s not all bad!
Frustrating. Once again, we are focused on symptoms and not the disease. New Calvinism and its doctrine/philosophy is the disease, Beaverton is a symptom. Beaverton what? Beaverton as in Beaverton Grace Bible Church in Beaverton, Oregon. Here is their website: http://www.beavertongracebible.org/. And here is the scandal: http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com/2012/05/anticipation.html.
Another survivors website to add to my blogroll. But it is the same old story: 1; New Calvinism comes to a church. 2; Members start asking questions. 3; New Calvinists use the techniques they learn at conferences to dissuade concerns. 4; But most churches have at least a few people that can think for themselves which = trouble/possible exposure that the leadership is slowly assimilating the “unadjusted gospel” into the minds of the people. 5; Since one of the tenets of this doctrine is that the (usually newly appointed under the new system) elders can bring someone under church discipline for ANY sin, and contesting the “underestimated” gospel is paramount to propagating false doctrine, the pesky member is disciplined and thereby neutralized as a threat to the authority of the elders. And, to discuss why the “sinner” is under discipline would be, but of course, gossip. The pesky member can now scream, squawk, or anything else they would like to do to no avail; their credibility is history. It’s the same old, worn out, five-step story being played out over and over again while rolling up the body count on the landscape of American Christianity.
This has been going on now for 42 years. The sharp increase in church discipline reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2008 is directly related to the New Calvinist movement which was launched by the Australian Forum think tank in 1970. It is a return to heavy handed Geneva style Reformed leadership—the days when Calvin had “heretics” burned and beheaded. Here in America, the scarlet letter of church discipline and lawsuits are the next best thing for those who dare contend against the “scandalous gospel.” Granted, many who contend against it don’t understand the theology per se, but have concerns about the results they see: control issues; fast changes without regard to the feelings of others; unbalanced preaching; and troublesome ideas like our total inability as believers to please God. That’s too close for comfort for most New Calvinist spiritual despots. This movement is also the primary supporter and catalyst for other movements like Quiver Full, Patriarchy, Vision Forum, SGM, Shepherding, etc. These movements comprise easily 90% of the spiritual abuse that takes place in American Christianity.
But yet again, even though it would seem like New Calvinists are on the ropes with the embarrassing revelation in the Beaverton situation concerning John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, they win. Why? Because once again, symptoms are the issue, and not the movement’s doctrine/philosophy driving the behavior. Ronald Reagan knew how to get rid of a problem. He didn’t focus on the naughty behavior of communism—he sought to destroy the beast. And for certain, many bloggers don’t want to see the demise of New Calvinism for they would have nothing to write about anymore. In the same way, the National Inquirer dreads the idea that movie stars and politicians would start behaving.
This is a nasty philosophy: a play scripted with three primary characters; the enlightened totally depraved chosen by God to contain the total depraved peasantry until the day of apocalypse, and using the law and government for guardrails. Phil Johnson’s response to the Beaverton situation is beyond disingenuous. He knows grade A well that once a parishioner is excommunicated, they can be “treated like an unbeliever.” I can confidently say that his reference to the defendants as “believers” is not what he believes about them. With this doctrine, authority = truth which is why MacArthur will once again entertain with CJ Mahaney at this year’s Resolved Conference despite the fact that CJ has never repented of his criminal activity. Stuff happens in the messy business of controlling the totally depraved in order to present them to God as those who excepted the fact that Jesus has always obeyed for them (and any obedience on our part rejects the atonement). CJ’s behavior is unfortunate collateral damage in a war where the one in 99 is expendable for the Geneva commune. By the way, while New Calvinists pontificate about the virtues of separation of church and state, this ministry receives information regularly about their consorted effort to get in bed with the government, especially through the U.N.
I guess my only question is how high does the destroyed family body count have to get before people wake up?
As James Carville said in the four words that got Bill Clinton elected: “It’s the economy doctrine stupid.”
I love working from other people’s framework of thought to write articles because the outline is usually the most difficult to develop. The following comment (for all practical purposes an open letter) offers an opportunity for this sanctified laziness, and some long overdue clarification. First, the comment:
I understand your frustration with New Calvinist theology, which you believe to be fundamentally erroneous. I can also make sense of your indignation with regard to your excommunication from Clearcreek Chapel, which you believe to be unjust. These are sensitive and provocative issues that naturally lend themselves to strong emotions. What I do not understand is the vindictive nature of your blog. Keeping in mind that there is always going to be a wide range of disagreement, even among genuine believers, about matters of doctrine and practice, can you honestly say that you doubt the very salvation (that is, the basic belief in the atonement of Christ) of this particular church’s members and elders?
If not–if you cannot deny that at the very least, the membership and leadership of Clearcreek Chapel PROCLAIM to believe in the gospel of Christ–then I must urge you to be mindful of the manner in which you discuss the men and women who so profess. Even if the leadership at that church has wronged you in the way they administered discipline, it is not your place to seek vengeance through the use of this blog. I anticipate that you will cite a desire to protect fellow believers from doctrinal error as a primary reason for your writing, and it may be so. Only God knows the heart. But whether that is your intention or not, I would strongly encourage you to transform the purpose of your blog from one of accusation and refutation to one of Spirit-enabled, Christ-centered, God-glorifying, constructive writing that seeks to edify others in all that it proclaims. Such an endeavor would leave little room for the derision that seems to characterize many of your posts.
As I said, perhaps you are entirely correct in your assessment of your dealings with the elders of Clearcreek Chapel. Let us assume that you are. Even still, because it is a church of professing believers, I urge you to remember that, as I’m sure you know, Ephesians calls us to practice “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4)
Even among our enemies, this exhortation applies. I pray that the Spirit may persuade you to set aside grievances and instead to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them”, “live in harmony with one another”, “never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God”, and, “if it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom. 12)
Please consider my encouragement.
Peace of God be with you.
Let me take these well-organized/stated thoughts and reply to them:
I understand your frustration with New Calvinist theology, which you believe to be fundamentally erroneous.
Actually, New Calvinism is more than “fundamentally erroneous.” It is a false gospel that fuses justification and sanctification together making sanctification a virtual minefield for Christians to walk through on the way to a supposed judgment to determine a righteous standing. In sermons on “the golden chain of salvation,” John Piper speaks of participating in the “links” in just the right way. If we don’t, we are “making sanctification the ground of our justification.” Um, this is clearly works salvation by what New Calvinists would call “justification by faith alone.” But keep in mind, it is really sanctification by faith alone. And in essence, works salvation by faith alone because the two are fused. Their formula makes faith alone a WORK that maintains our justification—this is what makes it so deceptive, but deadly in every way.
The pastor of Clearcreek Chapel has said: “A separation of Justification and sanctification is an abomination.” What is an “abomination” is the New Calvinist formula that identifies certain things as works and non-works for use in sanctification, as if faith/belief is not human activity. When justification and sanctification are fused together, everything we do in sanctification relates back to our justification, making it works. In essence, we are maintaining our just standing by NOT making this, that, or the other a “ground for our justification.” This is a very clever false gospel. In fact, so clever, I must surmise that it was hatched from the pit of hell itself.
What I do not understand is the vindictive nature of your blog. Keeping in mind that there is always going to be a wide range of disagreement, even among genuine believers, about matters of doctrine and practice, can you honestly say that you doubt the very salvation (that is, the basic belief in the atonement of Christ) of this particular church’s members and elders?
No, and I say again, “no,” we should not “keep in mind that there is always going to be a wide range of disagreement, even among genuine believers, about matters of doctrine and practice…” What we need to keep in mind is the fact that such “wide range of disagreement” is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. This plays into the New Calvinist Emphasis hermeneutic. Many things are true, but the only thing that brings about meaningful results is what you “emphasize,” ie., the gospel. This is Platonist to the core. All other realities are shadows of the truth and inferior to the gospel, which as Clearcreek elder Chad Bresson has said: “is the measure of all reality.” Let me repeat that; the gospel is the “measure of ALL REALITY.” Add to that the following: Paul Washer has said that the gospel is a deeper knowledge that cannot be fully known, and never will be. New Calvinists have made themselves the gatekeepers of the higher knowledge—the only “objective truth completely outside of us.” This is Gnosticism on steroids.
Unity, I repeat, unity, ONLY comes from having the “one mind,” and that being the one mind of Christ, our Savior and Lord. A “wide range” of disagreement is to be avoided like the Bubonic Plague. Christ said to make disciples by observing “all that I have commanded.” If making disciples is only through the gospel, I am sure our Lord could have made that point. In fact, observe in the Gospels how often Christ talks about His own walk to the cross as compared to other subjects. The New Calvinists know this, which is why John Piper states that the only theme of a narrative is determined by its ending. Oh really? What a lame assertion in an attempt to make every verse in the Gospels about justification!
In regard to your next point, I strongly suspect that New Calvinist leaders are unregenerate false teachers. I believe John Piper is the premier false teacher of this day, with many following. And I have no reason to believe that the Clearcreek elders are regenerate, but have much reason to believe otherwise. I believe that Clearcreek parishioners who follow them (while not making any definitive judgment) should be treated “like” unbelievers. The whole Clearcreek assembly was confronted according to Matthew 18, but they continue to refuse to seek my forgiveness for a litany of gross sin against my family. Not owning sin is the mark of an unbeliever. For instance, they stand behind the Clearcreek elders in their written statement that is full of outrageous/untrue statements about me. This document was used to counsel my wife to divorce me. But yet, a copy of the document obtained by me includes my former wife’s copious notes which at various places clearly contradicts the accusations made by the elders.
Note in the below jpeg of the document that her copious notes contradict the most serious accusation: that I was not supplying for the basic needs of my family for a three-year period. She corrects that accusation by saying that we were not increasing our savings, or reducing debt (company debt that had nothing to do with personal debt), and that she had to help at times (from part-time cleaning jobs as she did an excellent job running our household full-time for 20 years). Furthermore, for any Clearcreek parishioner who has the guts to look at the evidence, I can supply financial records pertaining to the same three-year period that clearly shows the following: $700.00 dollars a week was direct deposited into Shirley’s personal checking account weekly by my company. This also included 100% medical coverage, and the company supplying all of my automobile and living expenses while I was traveling on company business (which was pretty much most of the time). In fact, as court documents show, Clearcreek’s attorney tried to contend against a motion made by my attorney to cancel alimony payments by claiming that I made $100,000.00 dollars in 2005.
I am not arguing that I was sinless, or that my family never struggled financially; I am arguing that a formal document giving my wife the green light to divorce me should be the epitome of truth in every word, and if it isn’t, they should be as big as the gospel they confess and make that right. They should at least confess indisputable sloppiness in this grave matter, not withstanding the casual mention of “misreading records” in the matter of my excommunication. A “misreading” attended by two elders who were supposedly counseling me!
Furthermore, the elders propagated the false accusation that I abandoned my family and moved to Fort Wayne Indiana while continually refusing to put the accusation in writing. This outrageous accusation was then furthered by many Clearcreek Parishioners such as Veronica Gelvin. Moreover, none of their accusations were repeated by my wife in her testimony before the guardian ad litem ordered by my attorney. Massive documentation that has been complied and archived reveals their accusations to be patently false. The refusal to repent of these outrageous sins committed against my family clearly reveals the utterly black heart of the Clearcreek assembly.
The Clearcreek elders and their following assembly pose a grave threat to God’s people. I have a duty to warn others with all zeal. In the future when it fits into my list of priories (and Lord willing), each and every Clearcreek parishioner will be entered into the Matthew 18 process, and if they do not repent, I will tell it to the church, and I will name names Publication1. I do not believe that Clearcreek parishioners bear the right to hide behind their vile leaders (each will be presented with this document).
Clearcreek is indicative of a huge problem that is growing in today’s church: the return back to Calvin’s Authority = Truth paradigm, and his heavy handed Geneva style leadership. Folks better wise up; the election/free will debate is not the major issue: spiritual tyranny and the philosophy/doctrine that drives it is the major issue. Whether the Southwood story, ABWE story, or my story, cries for justice fall on deaf ears Grace Partners 2. But yet our God is a God of justice. He warns us to take up the cause of those who are trodden down by oppressors. Until Clearcreek offers the slightest whimper of regret for the deep pain they have unrightfully inflicted on many people—here I stand, and I will not relent as long as the lover of our souls gives me breath. To Him be all glory, and I confess that I love Him with all of my heart. And thank you my dear friend for your concern, I pray that God will abundantly bless you.
And to you who stand silent and fellowship with Clearcreek as though they are innocent: shame on you. Shame.
1. Never, never contend with elders in a Reformed church concerning doctrine because:
A. To them, Authority = Truth so you are totally wasting your time.
B. If things go south, other pastors, and other churches will not help you. I repeat: they
will not help you because:
a. Authority = Truth.
2. Never, never agree to any kind of counseling in a Reformed church because:
A. Change is NOT the goal, because:
a. you can’t change the totally depraved.
B. There must be some other goal that couldn’t be good such as:
a. getting dirt on you for future use.
3. Never, never underestimate what totally depraved leaders will do to totally depraved
A. When everybody is totally depraved, stuff happens.
B. You deserve it because you are totally depraved, and:
a. who can dish it out better than the totally depraved?
Folks around the Southern Baptist Convention can laugh all they want to about sarcastic comments regarding a planned takeover by “aggressive Calvinists,” but that is exactly what’s going on. And by the way, it’s documented. Moreover, election verses freewill is not the issue, a faulty interpretation of justification is the issue. The following pdf link is an addendum to the book, “The Truth About New Calvinism: It’s History, Doctrine, and Character.”
The Truth About New Calvinism pdf: pages 147-161: TANC Addendum
It couldn’t be clearer, after all, we can assume Christ is the master communicator. He created us; obviously, He knows how to communicate with us. If you really want to know God’s intentions for communicating to His people, it can be observed in the Sermon on the Mount.
Christ didn’t preach that sermon at some institution of higher religious learning; He preached it to the blue collar class of that day on a hill in the countryside. The key hermeneutic, or how Jesus expected the crowd to hear His sermon is in Matthew 5: 2; “And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying….” It can be said of the particular verb here “taught” (didasko) that it means, “to cause learning.” To suggest that this crowd was already up to speed on a redemptive historical hermeneutic is of course preposterous.
New Calvinists point to the writings of Paul and the road to Emmaus in an attempt to establish this, but somehow, Jesus didn’t think this crowd needed to get that memo. It is also clear that the term “gospel,” or simply “good news,” can include more than contemplating the works of Christ and what he accomplished (hence, when Paul said he wanted to preach the gospel at Rome [supposedly speaking strictly of believers], many things are implied). Just prior to Matthew 5:1, we read this in Matthew 4:23;
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
The Sermon on the Mount is the prime example of what that message was exactly, and by the way, doesn’t include the gospel of His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus preached another gospel in addition to that one: if you do what I say, your house will be built on a rock. That’s good news, no? The Sermon on the Mount is instruction on kingdom living from beginning to end. It is a sermon about discarding bad information and replacing it with God’s wisdom, for “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” which by the way includes the law. Jesus stated the following in His summation of the Sermon on the Mount:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And what was the gospel that Jesus was preaching prior to the Sermon on the Mount?
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Nothing is possible without God. Obviously. Even the unbeliever depends on God for everything whether he knows it or not. But the Bible reveals a character trait of God: He desires that His creatures colabor with him. Sometimes simplicity is utterly profound because of familiarity. While attending a K-12 school seminar with my son Phillip, an instructor that didn’t even seem to be a Christian said the following while holding out her hands as an illustration: “We were created to work.” No kidding? Look at our bodies. They are designed for work. But it makes one wonder what we would look like according to many of the Reformed theologies propagated in our day. Think of a legless and armless SpongeBob. Let’s use our brains here; is there really any danger of God not getting all the glory when he is the one who powers the atoms that hold matter together? As long as we know that, there is no danger of stealing God’s glory by using the brain, hands, and feet that He has given us. Jesus’ very mandate to the church is:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
For sure, we are saved by faith alone, but unless we exercise that faith, we will not have a house built on a rock, and the message of gospel life will not be displayed to others. To not exercise our will according to our faith is to hide the light of the gospel:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
We often like to say that “Jesus is the light of the world.” And though that is true, the following is also true; that is not what Jesus is saying here; He is saying that YOU are the light of the world. “But Paul, the Apostle Paul said that God gives us the will to do what is His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). So, it’s a gift, right? When you have been given a gift, it’s yours to use, right? This isn’t a call to let God do it all for fear that we will rob Him of His glory, this is telling us we have no excuse! “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “I CAN DO….” I like the Jay Adams adage often used by biblical counselors that are of his school of thought when told by a counselee that they “can’t” do something that God wants them to do: “You can’t, or you won’t?” No doubt, the just live by faith; you have to believe that God has really given you everything you need to obey Him, but let there be no doubt, kingdom living is not by faith alone.
A life built on a rock is by faith and doing (Matthew 7:24), shows forth the gospel (Matthew 5:14-18), results in happiness (James 1:25, Luke 11: 27,28), and gives assurance of salvation (1John 3:17, 2Peter 1:10). Bottom line: faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8), but that faith cannot be shown to ourselves and others unless a decision is made to mix that faith with an exercise of the will according to God’s word (James 2:26). When Christ fed the 5,000, He didn’t do everything. The feeding was not possible without the Lord, no meal is, not even the ones that feed unbelievers, but the disciples helped. They instructed the crowd to sit, they distributed the food, and cleaned up afterwards. Did the Lord need their help? No. Did He want their help? Yes. This isn’t really rocket science. God has designed salvation and kingdom living for our participation while preserving all of the glory for Himself. To colabor with His creation is one of His attributes. The fact that Adam did not create the world is a no-brainer, but God’s desire to involve him in the maintenance thereof is rather obvious.
And let’s talk about this whole fear of putting to work what God has given us because of some misunderstanding about who He is. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus tells of a Master who goes away on a journey and entrusts his various servants with his property, and this is interesting, “according to their ability.” So, each servant is entrusted with a sum of the master’s property in proportion to what he is able to bear. In other words, the master is fair and doesn’t expect too much. Note: the servants could not do anything without that which is granted by the master.
You know the rest of the story; the servants that received the five and two talents produced double what they were originally given responsibility of. Apparently, the masters business was one of investment, and the servants that had received the five and two talents began trading soon after the master left for his journey. But because of fear, the servant of whom the least was expected played it safe and made sure he didn’t lose any of the master’s money in risky investments. The goal was not to lose anything, so he buried the one talent and gave it back to the master when he returned.
This is eerily similar to what I hear from New Calvinists. They seem to fear that doing the wrong thing in sanctification could cause them to lose their salvation or whatever it is that they perceive the Lord has given them. A young New Calvinist told me in no uncertain terms that she was certain that the Lord wouldn’t fault her at the judgment for not trying too hard so that He would get all of the glory. By not trying too hard, she was playing it safe. Making little effort in sanctification or not doing anything “in her OWN strength” is supposedly erring on the side of caution. But wait a minute. To begin with, Christians will not stand at a future judgment to determine their justification by what they have done in sanctification/kingdom living.
Christians don’t have to play it safe, they can live the kingdom life full throttle, and whatever the Lord has granted them according to talent will come to bear on what happens. But the Lord called the servant who had been given the one talent, “lazy.” He should have at least done the minimum. If he had deposited the money in a savings account, it would have at least gained a little interest. The fear that he couldn’t measure up to God’s harsh expectations was just an excuse for laziness, and a misrepresentation of who God is. One might also note that the master said to the other two servants who had worked hard at investing his talents, “Well DONE faithful servant.” Obviously, the servant did something and was even rewarded for it. And the purpose of this parable seems to be a motivation for us as well.
Moreover, the proof is in the pudding. On a website that promotes a gospel perspective on every verse of Scripture, an article was posted concerning a “gospel-centered” perspective on Matthew 18:15-20. The author states the following:
If there is one thing my students might get weary of hearing me say, it is this: “You have not rightly handled or interpreted a text unless ultimately you can clearly identify its relationship to the Gospel.”
As an aside, it is amazing how this approach to interpretation is blatant Gnosticism. How can one see the larger scope of the gospel in every verse of the Bible? The author further explains:
Every text has two contexts in which it must be interpreted, namely, its micro (i.e. the immediate context) and macro contexts (i.e. the larger context of the particular book and of Scripture as a whole). It is not enough merely to interpret a text in its relationship to its micro-context. As important as it is to understand a text in its immediate context, to do so does not mean that you have identified its relationship to the Gospel, that is, its relationship to what God has done in Christ to accomplish salvation. The failure to understand a text in its macro or redemptive-context is tantamount to the failure of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to understand that the entire OT testifies to Christ in his suffering and subsequent glory (Luke 24:21).
The dualist method of interpreting the cosmos through the macro/micro is a Gnostic concept that came from Platonism:
Macrocosm and microcosm is an ancient Greek Neo-Platonic schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale (macrocosm or universe-level) all the way down to the smallest scale (microcosm or sub-sub-atomic or even metaphysical-level). In the system the mid-point is Man, who summarizes the cosmos.
The Greeks were philosophically concerned with a rational explanation of everything and saw the repetition of the golden ratio throughout the world and all levels of reality as a step towards this unifying theory. In short, it is the recognition that the same traits appear in entities of many different sizes, from one man to the entire human population.
Macrocosm/microcosm is a Greek compound of μακρο- “Macro-” and μικρο- “Micro-”, which are Greek respectively for “large” and “small”, and the word κόσμος kósmos which means “order” as well as “world” or “ordered world.”
Today, the concept of microcosm has been dominated by sociology to mean a small group of individuals whose behavior is typical of a larger social body encompassing it. A microcosm can be seen as a special kind of epitome. Conversely, a macrocosm is a social body made of smaller compounds (Online source: http://goo.gl/7m4Ds).
In this approach, the person is only excommunicated as a way to show forth the gospel in the text. Getting the person to see the gospel context will transform him/her. Hence, when confronted by others, they are only to remind him/her of how church discipline shows forth the gospel. The author explains:
Question Three: What must we do with the individual who has been expelled in order that we might see him restored?
Answer: Keep lovingly facing him (1) with what it means to be cut off from the community of faith, namely, you are cut off from the presence of God; and (2) with what Christ has done in his place that he might be restored. The cross is the one place where both of these truths are seen most clearly. Why must we bring this two-fold message of the cross to bear upon the expelled individual? (1) That he might be awakened to the sinfulness of his sin and its terrible consequences. (2) Because it is this very message of what Christ has done in his place that is the very power of God unto his restoration. (Online source: http://goo.gl/nm8uv).
Therefore, instruction from the Bible regarding the specifics for kingdom living is not the focused use of the Bible, regardless of what passages like 2Timothy 3:16,17 state:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
I have a good example of how God honors obedience and attention to His word with displays of power. My son in law is a missionary in Puerto Rico but he oversees church plants in Kenya. He recently returned from there after leading several Bible conferences. After he returned home, he received the following letter from a pastor who attended one of the conferences:
Greeting in the great name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I thank God so much for this New day that He has given unto me and all of us. I thank Him and give Him all the glory
I also want to thank God for the conference. It was powerful. I was so much blessed especially by the message about the Christian Liberty. Just as I said when we were in Kisii that I learned a lot from you brother David the message blessed me so much that when I reached Mombasa first Sunday after conference I shared this message with my church members and people were so amazed. This is powerful message after the service people wanted to know more and to learn. We decided to start a follow up to go and visit those who were out of our church because we chased them away.
We thank God we restored many of them back to Christ and now there is a lot of Joy in the house of God. The Bible says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free, we were set free by the truth that you brought us in that conference . May Almighty God Bless you so Much. ~Sammy Mayienga ~ N.D.C.M Shanzu Mombasa
Indeed, no wonder the great commission is a charge by Christ to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. God’s power is in the doing. He desires obedience more than sacrifice, and the blessing is IN the doing, not contemplationism that does not mix doing with faith.
“So, if we don’t use the Bible as instruction for applying deadly words to our life, but instead use it to discover what Jesus’ favorite color is, we are transformed into His image from “glory to glory.” The former is living by do’s and don’ts, so don’t do that, do the latter.”
You hear it every hour of the day if you are a Christian that partakes in Christianized venues of Twitter, Facebook, radio, and especially church. I don’t like to type, so let me run over to Twitter and get it via copy and paste, I will be right back.
Ok, I’m back, here is one of the versions:
Knowing God does not come through a program or a method. It is a relationship with a Person.
Sounds spiritual, doesn’t it? Yes, as Christians, we want to partake in more spiritual endeavors than things like, say, biblical instruction. Yes, biblical instructions by the Lord are a “method,” “a step by step program,” and other things that reek of cold, hard, tablets of stone. After all, we don’t want to live by don’ts. Christ is not a precept, He’s a person. He’s not a formula, He’s a Father. Well, you get the picture.
But what does it mean? Just grab your Bible, flip it open, and put your finger anywhere on the page and read; it’s probably going to be about God telling us to think a certain way, love in a certain way, act in a certain way, or illustrate what happens when people don’t. So where are all of the verses regarding this Jesus as person motif as if that’s not a no-brainer to begin with? Notice the strong either/or prism that suggests the following equation: seeing imperatives in the Bible = you’re so stupid that you don’t know Christ is a person. Right. Supposedly, here is what the Great Commission really states:
Go to all of the ends of the earth and make disciples, teaching them to observe my personhood.
So what does it mean to know that Jesus is a person? Let me give you the thumbnail version. This truism was propagated by New Calvinists and their Gnostic approach to sanctification. Matter is evil; spirit is good. Or as they state it specifically, “The letter kills (law written on things made up of molecules), but the spirit gives life.” So, if we don’t use the Bible as instruction for applying deadly words to our life, but instead use it to discover what Jesus’ favorite color is, we are transformed into His image from “glory to glory.” The former is living by do’s and don’ts, so don’t do that, do the latter.
The bottom line is the following: opting for a subjective personhood of Christ rather than focusing on what Jesus says is sanctified idol worship. Let me illustrate. Here in Ohio, just outside of Dayton, there is a Charismatic church that built a 60 foot tall statue of Jesus along Interstate 75. Recently, it was struck by lightning at night and the flames could be seen for miles in a spectacular apocalyptic-like demise. According to interviews conducted by the local press in regard to that event, it was discovered that the image meant many different things to many different people.
That’s the subjectivism problem with idols, and without a doubt why God doesn’t want any made, whether of things in heaven or Earth. They are subjective and everybody comes up with their own truth. It’s the same with using the Bible to gain a supposed deeper and deeper knowledge of Jesus’ personhood rather than reading to ascertain what He would have us think, say, and do. I have to wonder if this issue isn’t the crux of Jesus correcting the woman in Luke 11 who proclaimed His mother blessed because she had given birth to Him. Jesus made the sharp point that blessings don’t come from merely being closely related to Him, but by doing what He says.
Sanctification is a critical issue. We will run the race well or we won’t and it matters to God (Acts 20:24, 1Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, 2Tim 4:7, Heb 12:1). He saved us for the purpose of running the race of sanctification to please Him: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Cor 5:9). “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn 3:8). Gospel sanctification claims to be the only right way to run the race of sanctification, but is that really the case?
What is Gospel Sanctification?
First, let’s look at a traditional view of sanctification. The Scriptures make it clear that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves; it is a work of God alone. But once we are born again we are new creatures set apart and enabled by God to dependently work with him in the sanctification process. Sanctification is the spiritual growth process that takes place until God brings us home. Most evangelicals would agree with that definition. However, proponents of gospel sanctification would say: “No, no, no, God alone saved us but now you say we can work for our sanctification? The gospel saved us and it also must sanctify us, both are a work of God alone. We are saved by the gospel and sanctified by the gospel.” Hence the term gospel sanctification. As Jerry Bridges often says: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Therefore, we are saved by the gospel and must live by the gospel every day (there is some element of truth to this; for instance, everyday repentance likens somewhat to our original repentance at salvation, but in fact, is not exactly the same [Jn 13:10]). The next logical question is: how does that apply to our everyday walk with God? As a friend of mine often says, “Put feet on that.” Well, think salvation. The main key to gospel sanctification is that you couldn’t do anything to be saved and you therefore cannot do anything to be sanctified. Dana L. Stoddard, in his treatise on gospel sanctification in the Journal Of Biblical Counseling entitled, “The Daily Christian Life,” put it this way:
It is by virtue of Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross and resurrection-plus nothing-that we are justified (made and declared right with God) and sanctified (set apart, kept, and viewed as right in the Lord’s eyes by virtue of his obedience). Christ is our holiness. Christ is our sanctification.
Therefore, according to Stoddard in this article which is an excellent representation of the gospel-driven life, both justification and sanctification are brought about by the life and death of Christ “plus nothing.” Stoddard further drives this point home by quoting John Murray who calls this view definitive sanctification (sanctification by virtue of the indicative alone): “Being made and declared holy is a definitive act of God alone in Christ” (emphasis mine). Therefore, gospel sanctification by virtue of its definition alone is necessarily a passive approach to sanctification. It seeks to synthesize justification and sanctification as much as possible making everything a total work of God alone. Is it biblical? And if it isn’t, what are the ramifications?
But first, let me say that proponents of gospel sanctification would be very quick to answer a charge of let go and let God. Gospel sanctification does have a practical application. But again, it is necessarily limited by its passive definition and attempts to make sanctification as monergistic as justification (or otherwise as passive as possible). In other words, our contribution to the sanctification process is limited and narrow. Paul David Tripp, a propagator of gospel sanctification, even refers to biblical thinking as a, “technique that is not sufficient for real change.” For all practical purposes, he says in one of his books that 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 is unbiblical:
But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior, Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to think his thoughts and act the way Jesus would act (How People Change pg. 27).
When you warn readers that even our own efforts to change our thinking to the mind of Christ is a work that eclipses the person and work of Christ, that is excessively passive. Also, note that the crux of the matter in Tripp’s mind is “omitting the person and work of Christ as Savior” (emphasis mine). This is a very defining statement in regard to gospel sanctification; we can exclude Christ as Savior from the sanctification process. Any effort on our part, even an attempt to align our thinking with the mind of Christ is to exclude the person of Christ from the sanctification process. Proponents of gospel sanctification make no distinction between justification and sanctification; both are monergistic and obtained by the gospel. Of course, this approach would be a really hard sell to Christians at large if there was no real-life application. So then, what are the primary working dynamics of gospel sanctification, if any? In other words, is there a practical application? As one person asked me, “So what are we supposed to do?” (GS proponents often say that very question is indicative of a grave spiritual problem).
Remember, think gospel. What did you have to do to get saved? Believe and repent. The sanctification process is then no different. Daily repentance is the primary thrust of gospel sanctification because it is the lowest common denominator of passivity that proponents can come up with. Remember, we are dealing with a narrow concept, so whatever elements they have must be greatly embellished. So, we have deep repentance as opposed to regular everyday biblical repentance. This is a process in which the heart is emptied of any desire that exceeds our desire for Christ. This can be done through our recognition of daily sin but not stopping there, we must determine what desire led to the sin (good luck).
Theology of the Heart
This is the process that is used to determine the sinful desires of the heart (see “How People Change,” chapter 6). It involves a knowledge of how the heart supposedly works in the milieu of life and often explained through visual charts. Besides outward sin and response to circumstances, desires can be evaluated by asking ourselves x-ray questions. Paul Tripp supplies a list of thirty-four with two or three phrases in each that ask additional questions in each separate question on page 163 of “HPC” for a total of about 100. The most popular one that you will hear often is: “What did you want?” Imagining possible future circumstances of life and thinking about how we might respond while asking ourselves the right x-ray questions is yet another way to determine desires of the heart that cause sin. We empty our heart of idols that distort our desires by confessing them daily, and then Christ fills our hearts with himself resulting in an effortless flow of obedience. Supposedly.
Belief and Identity
Once we have emptied our heart of idols, we then “rest and feed” on the living Christ who then fills our heart with Himself, replacing the idols of the heart (idols that create desires that exceed a desire for Christ, “HPC” pg. 28). We also focus and learn about who we are, and what we have in Christ to fill the void left by the eradication of sinful desires / idols effected by deep repentance.
The result of this process is new obedience. Or as Tripp explains it in “HPC”: “New and Surprising Fruit” (chap. 14). Or as others explain it, obedience is always a “mere natural flow” (The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event, “Vossed World” blog). In other words, we are walking along and holy fruit just starts popping up everywhere without any effort and to our surprise. However, Philippians 2:8 says Christ was obedient to the cross. Now go to Matthew 26:36-46 and read about the struggle Christ experienced as he faced the cross. Hebrews 12:3,4 says: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
Nevertheless, according to proponents of gospel sanctification, Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins and justify us before God, but also lived an obedient life in order to obey for us as well (remember what Stoddard said about us being justified and sanctified by the “life” and “death” of Christ with His active obedience being imputed to us, not just righteousness). To accept anything less is to exclude the person of Christ from the gospel, so they say. Some call this belief monergistic substitutionary sanctification. Christ was not only a substitute for the penalty of sin; but was also, and presently is, a substitution for all our works in sanctification as well.
So how do we know when we are obeying God in our own efforts or when it is the work of Christ through us? Easy, our obedience is accompanied by joy and all willingness, that’s how we know according to proponents of the gospel-driven life. Joyless obedience is always in our own efforts and not pleasing to God. Please do not misunderstand me, I realize there is much obedience in the life of a believer accompanied by joy and complete willingness, but sometimes that joy comes as a result of the obedience at a later time. Knowing this often helps us to endure accordingly: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Here I must pause and interject a very important note: Paul Tripp is the guru who has articulated the supposed practical application of the gospel-driven life via “How People Change.” John Piper is the guru who has articulated the experience of gospel sanctification via Christian hedonism and other such writings. Much of the theory in regard to how the gospel-driven life is experienced is through the writings of John Piper.
What does that look like?
This is a gospel sanctification (GS) buzz question / mantra that replaces “how do we do that?” How, is now the wrong question to ask because it indicates there is actually something we can do to participate in the sanctification process, a crime worthy of death. If you doubt the wide spread influence GS has today, take note of how often you hear that phrase. Even the terminology must be changed to discourage some kind of effort on our part in the sanctification process that might imply some verb to follow.
The GS Hermeneutic
But what about all of those pesky Bible verses that seem to contradict gospel sanctification’s passive approach? Like say for instance, 1 Corinthians 9:27; ”No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” No problem. GS has its own process for interpreting the Bible through the lens of a gospel perspective so everything comes out redemptive. It’s called the redemptive-historical hermeneutic, or the Christocentric hermeneutic, or the cross-centered hermeneutic; so you have the theology of GS doing the interpretation.
Gospel sanctification is well suited for American culture. It’s new, It’s easy, and claims to have a low failure rate. It also has a strong intimidation factor. To speak against GS is to be against Christ and his gospel. To be against GS is to propagate the “legalism” of self-discipline and hard work in the sanctification process. Worse yet, if you believe that obedience is an exercise of the will to please God, you are supposedly engaging in works salvation. First of all, any Christian knows that we cannot please God apart from His life giving Spirit, but neither are we merely potted plants in the process:
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith (1 Thess 3:2, emphasis mine. Some translations: “coworker”). Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15, emphasis mine).
GS is destructive error for the following reasons:
It takes away from the word of God in regard to elements of biblical sanctification.
Our resources and guiding truth concerning sanctification in the Bible are many faceted and numerous. GS is a narrow approach that excludes or ignores key truths of sanctification such as satanic strategy and our battle with the flesh. According to GS proponents, these kinds of considerations, and many others distract us from “owning our own sin.” They say that the flesh is not our problem, the heart is the problem, the flesh is a realm. As only one example among many, most GS teachers do not see Satan as being in the loop of spiritual warfare, regardless of clear warnings from the Scriptures. This is no trite matter.
The following quote concerns John Piper’s Christian Hedonism which is the articulation of how gospel sanctification is experienced. But, the same concerns expressed by Dr. Masters below can also be applied to gospel sanctification as a whole. Gospel sanctification applies, and confines sanctification to the same elements of justification which are much fewer; namely, by faith alone.
But Dr. Piper’s formula for its use undoubtedly alters the understanding of sanctification long held by believers in the Reformation tradition, because it elevates one Christian duty above all others.
Delighting in God, we repeat, is made the organizing principle for every other spiritual experience and duty. It becomes the key formula for all spiritual vigor and development. Every other Christian duty is thought to depend on how well we obey this central duty of delighting in the Lord. The entire Christian life is simplified to rest upon a single quest, which is bound to distort one’s perception of the Christian life and how it must be lived. Whatever the strengths of Dr. Piper’s ministry, and there are many, his attempt to oversimplify biblical sanctification is doomed to failure.
Because the biblical method for sanctification and spiritual advance consists of a number of strands or pathways of action, and all must receive individual attention. As soon as you substitute a single ‘big idea’ or organizing principle, and bundle all the strands into one, you alter God’s design and method. Vital aspects of Truth and conduct will go by the board to receive little or no attention.
It denies specific biblical instruction.
GS denies that the Bible includes specific instruction. The hit list of GS includes: living by lists; do’s and don’ts; put off and put on; biblical thinking; discipline; and a traditional view of obedience among many others. Yet 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
It redefines obedience and the gospel.
It makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it. Is it therefore a half gospel that presents Christ as Savior only? Yes.
It redefines spiritual warfare.
Gospel sanctification’s battleground location would suggest a totally different form of warfare as opposed to warfare with sin that abides in the flesh. For one thing, warfare with the flesh is much more defined as opposed to the subjective nature of what the Bible calls the heart. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah suggested that we cannot know the heart to begin with. These are two separate paths of sanctification. Saints would do well to choose their path carefully.
The church for the most part defines spiritual warfare as Scripture describes it, a warfare between our regenerate heart and the flesh. Disciplines that feed our spirit God’s pure milk and deprive the flesh of provisions is not merely an outside warfare verses an inside warfare, it is the biblical prescription.
It robs Christians of assurance of salvation.
Throughout Scripture, striving in obedience to the word of God is said to result in assurance of salvation. Most notably, 2 Peter 1:5-11. This is a far cry from the prescription for assurance by New Calvinist Jerry Bridges who counsels us to have assurance via “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”
Once a rabid respecter of John MacArthur, I now have absolutely no respect for him. I am keeping some of his books in my library for reference purposes, but that’s about it. And as one who actively promoted financing/support for Christians to attend his college, I now consider him a danger to the wellbeing of Christianity in general. I have watched his decline (due to bad company with the likes of mega-heretic John Piper) for some time, but his willingness to support and associate with CJ Mahaney reveals the true heart of John MacArthur Jr.
I am almost finished reading “Blight In The Vineyard” by John Immel, and I’m looking forward to writing a review on it, and I’m taking this review very seriously as I believe this book is one of the most relevant books of our day. I have made the book required reading for all in the Dohse household. Immel, among the other hefty services rendered to the church in said book, provides Cliff Notes (in a manner of speaking) for SGM Wikileaks.
I have gone to Wikileaks and read, primarily because Reformed despots say it is gossip to do so (and thereby doing my duty), but have really been unable to ascertain any great evil on the part of CJ Mahaney because of the massiveness of the documents. Well, Immel clears that all up by pointing out a few atrocities and the page numbers. The only one I had to see follows: the transcript of a recorded conversation between CJ Mahaney and SGM cofounder Larry Tomczak. CJ Mahaney, according to the transcript by anybody’s measure, is trying to blackmail Tomczak who left SGM for doctrinal reasons (Calvinism).
Ok, look, what happened to Tomczac plays out over, and over, and over again in churches daily because of the new resurgence of Geneva style true-blue Calvinism. Aka, New Calvinism. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Calvinism is the Gospel.” Therefore, as CJ said to Larry, “Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I” (People of Destiny International—later renamed SGM). If I only had a nickel for every time we see this played out here at TANK/PPT. It goes like this:
- The elders are informed someone is leaving for doctrinal issues.
- They are immediately confronted with “unrepentant, longstanding sin” in their lives. Like Calvin, they believe (out of necessity for control) that ANY sin is fodder for church discipline.
- They are placed in a church discipline “process” that includes counseling. When you have shown forth “fruits meet for repentance” as judged by fruit inspecting elders, you are released from the counseling (ie., you convert to Gospel Sanctification).
- If you try to leave the church without being released from “counseling,” the assembly is told that you are jumping ship in the middle of the Matthew 18 process. The congregation usually assumes the victim was confronted with an issue or dispute, and left before the offended party could come back with witnesses. The anti-gospel (synonymous with anti-Calvinism per Spurgeon) individual is then excommunicated which totally discredits him/her from blowing the whistle or challenging the doctrine of God’s anointed.
Apparently, in Tomczak’s case, that wasn’t going to fly, so CJ threatened to reveal sins committed by Tomczak’s (at the time a minor) son. Tomczak’s wife, who was on the line, called Mahaney out in regard to the fact that it was pure, unadulterated blackmail. Also consider that the son had confessed the sin and was granted forgiveness thereof. Unbelievably, when CJ is reminded of that, he tells the Tomcsaks that he wouldn’t have promised to keep the forgiven sins confidential if he knew at the time that they were going to leave for doctrinal reasons.
Immel also points out (according to Wikileaks documents) that Mahaney and SGM cronies had their attorneys review a proposal for revealing the sin/sins publically. Their attorneys strongly advised against it because Georgia law protects the rights of minors in such cases. But in a brilliant observation, Immel asks what would have happened if the church and the state of Georgia were the same! (as propagated by the Reformers for the necessary control of the totally depraved zombie sheep). Game over. Tomcsak submits or SGM reveals the information.
And this is the crux. Because Reformed leaders of the John Calvin Geneva Theocracy club cannot evoke the state to enforce their authority (not yet, anyway), they all stick together. MacArthur, Dever, Mohler, Piper et al, see a huge lack of respect in the church for the authority that they think they should have among God’s people. How they choose to save the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves is none of our business. They have no time to be concerned with the necessary fallout that accompanies the John Calvin gospel of the enlightened ones leading the totally depraved through the fabricated spiritual minefield they call sanctification.
This explains why the cries of abused sheep fall on the deaf ears of other leaders, time, and time again. I have become convinced of this unequivocally. Nevertheless, and while one also wonders what else might be in the Wikileaks documents, MacArthur’s willingness to associate with CJ Mahaney is deplorable. But this is who John MacArthur really is. My God fearing grandmother said it well, and often: “Birds of the feather flock together.”
“If the Platonist monster is hiding in the church’s big closet, there is no priesthood of believers and pastors/elders are the enlightened ones who must tell us who to marry, what to eat, and what to wear. They must also do whatever it takes to protect the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves. And look around, we are almost there right now. The mega-church is behaving like Rome and Geneva’s theocracy more and more every day.”
“So now we have this core element of all righteousness remaining outside of the believer. Where do we go from here? What about the new birth? What’s ‘new’ about us if all righteousness remains outside of us?”
“Though New Calvinist elders talk of the new birth and Christ being ‘in’ us, you must understand they’re using earthly language that the totally depraved zombie sheep can understand. They do not believe Christ works in us (which can be clearly seen from the aforementioned Piper quote), or that we are born again enabled people.”
This post will demonstrate that Reformation theology called for grace/righteousness to remain completely outside of us. In fact, Reformation theology even rejects the idea that Jesus is doing ALL of the work IN US as Christians. The Reformers, primarily Luther and Calvin, taught that the primary difference between Romanism and true Christianity was this whole idea that Jesus did a sanctifying work INSIDE of us verses a sanctifying work OUTSIDE of us. They decried the former as an “infused grace” that enabled us to partake in the finishing or participation of our justification. Problem is, that’s why it is important that justification and sanctification are seen as being separate. Justification is a finished work, and sanctification doesn’t finish justification. Once that is established, the conversation gets interesting: “Where do we go from there?”
This Reformation concept and everything it leads to, also leads to a social death at various points in history. Other forms of Reformation theology sanctified by spiritual common sense carry the Reformation motif forward, while the pure Reformation gospel dies out. Jay Adams is a good example of a Sanctified Calvinist. But from time to time, a resurgence of the pure Reformation gospel comes about via rediscovery, and that is exactly what is going on with the New Calvinist Movement. Hence, Sanctified Calvinists are not the original article—that’s why so many of them oppose “New Calvinism.”
But why does the original article die a social death? Primarily because of the basic philosophy that led to the doctrine. Plato was a religious philosopher. He believed that man cannot know reality, and lives in a world that is a shadow of truth. He also believed that there are people who can endeavor to know truth and become enlightened, but in doing so, cannot be enslaved to what their senses can understand according to physical matter. Truth is something completely outside of the human realm. He then asserted that the enlightened needed to rule the unenlightened, and that the purpose of government should aid the philosopher king in controlling the unenlightened masses to protect them from themselves. Augustine was greatly influenced by these teachings, and Augustine’s development of these ideas were passed on to Luther and Calvin.
This is really no big secret if one does some research and stops listening to what others tell them. Plato was the father of Gnosticism, which embellishes the “practical application” of Reformed theology in its purest form. Hence, the spiritual tyranny that comes out of this philosophy causes it to be rejected socially from time to time. In other words, the fallout from the resurgence begins to manifest itself; or, the chickens come home to roost. That part dies out, while Calvinism by name, primarily (supposedly) representing the sovereignty of God issue (its sanctifying element) continues to live on until the next rediscovery movement. The New Calvinist Movement is now shining a light on what Calvin really believed. The Calvin Institutes are a brilliant systemizing of Augustinian theology, but Sanctified Calvinists don’t hold to the whole package which explains contradictions in their soteriology and eschatology.
But on the other hand, a need develops in the remaining theological systems that fuse justification and sanctification together. Since sanctification is said to finish justification, how can a person be found truly righteous at the one, final judgment? In theological systems where the two are separate; this isn’t a problem, we are declared righteous and our living in sanctification will show that, but has no bearing on the declaration and our guaranteed glorification. However, if the two are fused, that is, justification and sanctification, we must not only be positionally righteous, but must indeed be perfect in order for God’s declaration not to be “legal fiction.” So, the question becomes: “How can we be truly perfect in order to stand in the judgment?” In the theological system that separates justification and sanctification, the answer is: “I don’t have to be found righteous at a future judgment because I will not stand at any such judgment. I have already been declared righteous, and would be perfect if I wasn’t still in this mortal body. But in reality, I am a born again holy one hindered by this mortal, sinful flesh.”
This doesn’t bode well in the Platonist mindset, for now we have a whole race of enlightened ones who are capable of knowing truth on their own (and as I note in The Truth About New Calvinism, this denotes the idea that the law of God can be used to please Him and to live an abundant sanctified life with the help of the Spirit). Not only that, it makes us participants in the “Golden Chain of Salvation”; ie, we are “ENABLED” to participate in the finishing of our salvation/justification. This is a problem because the results are still imperfect, and thus God’s declaration is still “legal fiction.” If your mindset is that salvation is a continuous chain that links justification to glorification with sanctification being the middle links (an exact illustration used by John Piper), then the work must be all of God in order for it to be sufficient for us to stand in the future judgment. “Infused grace” only enables us enough to be dangerous and makes us participants in an imperfect endeavor which would make God a liar at the final judgment.
But nevertheless, it is what it is and gives rise to a reintroduction/need of purest Reformed theology: since Christians function in the “Golden Chain of Salvation,” we must find a way to be in the sanctification links while making our perfection true reality. How is this done? Theological systems of all stripes that fuse justification and sanctification together are left to languish in this question on their own until the collective peacelessness of the people cry out for another way. An infused enablement (in the justification endeavor) and pseudo perfectionism doesn’t fill the bill.
This exact scenario gave rise to the present-day New Calvinist Movement. One of the languishing theological systems that views sanctification as the completer of justification is Seventh-Day Adventism. Since 1884, this movement, trapped in the context of the Golden Chain of Salvation, has struggled to answer the question of how one stands righteous in the judgment. In 1970, a SDA theologian named Robert Brinsmead blew the lid off of the whole debate. In The Truth About New Calvinism, I cite the writings of someone who was involved with Brinsmead’s movement at that time:
In 1971, Brinsmead scheduled a flurry of summer institutes to bring us his latest emphasis. There was more excitement than usual; the latest round of tapes had prepared us for something big. Bob had been studying the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith, comparing it to Roman Catholic doctrines. Reading Luther, he saw that justification is not just a means to the end of perfect sanctification. When we are justified by faith, not only does God impute Christ’s righteousness to us but we also possess Christ Himself—all His righteousness and all His perfection. Eternity flows from that fact….
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
The same ones he justified he also glorified. We began to realize we had inserted extra steps into Paul’s chain of salvation: sanctification and a final atonement brought about by blotting out sins. Those added steps, in fact, were the heart of the Awakening message—but we had ignored the heart of the real gospel: being justified by faith, we ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Our righteousness is in heaven, said Brinsmead:
“The righteousness by which we become just in God’s sight, remain just in His sight and will one day be sealed as forever just in His sight, is an outside righteousness. It is not on earth, but only in heaven…only in Jesus Christ.”
True sanctification looks away from self and flows from the finished, objective work of Christ…. For many Christians, the glory of the crucified Christ is not their focus; instead they seek internal experiences that eclipse the cross. The Awakening rightly opposed the subjective, human-centered emphasis found among some groups within Christianity. Wrongly, they reacted with a cerebral, spiritless gospel. Brinsmead strongly opposed the Charismatic movement’s emphasis on experiences as a return to the theology of Rome. However, going to another extreme, Present Truth magazine decried “the false gospel of the new birth,” and offered a new birth that was merely a corporate, objective blessing, not an individual experience. (pp. 33, 34).
This concept that Brinsmead claimed he got directly from the Reformers launched the Awakening Movement and turned the SDA completely upside down. Because of the supposed fact that the true Reformation gospel of justification by faith alone had been all but lost in evangelical circles, Brinsmead, along with two Anglican theologians formed the Australian Forum think tank to systematize the theology into a contemporary understanding. And they were dead right: what they developed was in fact the true Reformation gospel; righteousness and grace remains completely outside of the believer—justification cannot be completed by an infused ability to participate in the completion of justification because our participation results in falling short of perfection. This rediscovery was perhaps the most significant rediscovery movement since Colonial Calvinism, and a book written by one of the Australian Forum 4, Geoffrey Paxton (“The Shaking of Adventism”), would lend merit to that idea. An illustration from the Forum’s theological journal captures the essence of the doctrine:
Freeze that thought. Don’t try to connect the dots yet. It is what it is. No righteousness can be inside of us (meaning Christians). In fact, Christ doesn’t even really do a work inside of us either. Yes, I know they use that terminology from time to time, but that’s not what they mean. It is critical that we establish that fact right now, and then we will build understanding. Let’s first demonstrate that one of the primary figures of the New Calvinist movement, John Piper, believes this exactly, and also believes that it was the crux of the Reformation. Piper wrote an article about a series of lectures that one of the Australian 4 conducted at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. The following is from my book, The Truth About New Calvinism:
In March, 2008, Graeme Goldsworthy of the Forum delivered a lecture at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary entitled Biblical Theology and its Pastoral Application. Part of the thesis concerned why the Reformation was needed. The purpose of Goldsworthy’s lecture was affirmed by pastor John Piper in an article he wrote on his Desiring God blog on June 25, 2009 entitled Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary. The lecture, and Piper’s response shows an uncanny kinship between the Forum and New Calvinism. Examples in the present Christian landscape are myriad , but this particular combination shows agreement on all of the Forum’s major, and unique tenets….In the aforementioned article concerning Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern, Piper agrees that the original Reformation sought to correct the reversal of sanctification and justification:
This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel.
Note his words carefully. At issue is any kind of infusion of grace into the sanctification process. In case you think he is talking about wayward Catholicism, here is what he adds to these thoughts:
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants (pp. 41-43).
So whether or not the belief is infused grace for the new birth or some abhorrent variation of evangelicalism is not the point; the point is the infusion of grace within the believer for sanctification or any other reason. To do that is to supposedly make us a part of our own justification. But how in the world would this work in real life? This seemingly leaves us without any spiritual arms or legs—virtual paraplegics in a spiritual sense. How can a feasible role be introduced while staying faithful to Platonist ideal?
Enter Reformed theology. But before I do, let me reiterate that this everything good outside of us ideal is the calling card of the New Calvinist Movement and what they understand to be the crux of the Reformation. The following are several quotes from key figures in the New Calvinist movement. Keep in mind that these statements are in regard to Christians:
The blessings of the gospel come to us from outside of us and down to us.
~ John Fonville
We need help from outside ourselves—and he helps.
~ David Powlison
So what does this objective Gospel look like? Most importantly, it is outside of us.
~ Reblogged by Tullian Tchividjian
Thus, it will inevitably lead not to self-examination that leads us to despair of ourselves and seek Christ alone outside of us, but to a labyrinth of self-absorption.
~ Michael Horton
When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel
And from my interview with Robert Brinsmead:
Author: What do you think the unique theological findings of the Forum were in light of history? Robert Brinsmead: “Definitely the centrality and all sufficiency of the objective gospel understood as an historical rather than an experiential event, something wholly objective rather than subjective – an outside of me event and the efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness.”
Brinsmead’s last statement is a powerful description of this doctrine: “…something wholly objective rather than subjective – an outside of me event and the efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness.”
All righteousness being outside of the believer is in my estimation where the line is drawn in the sand between Reformed theology and the rest of Christianity—not the election/free will debate per se. If the argument is there, then at least debate it in regard to the born again Christian having no real spiritual life, and no free will. Let’s start there, and leave the free will to choose God in salvation fight for another day. If the Platonist monster is hiding in the church’s big closet, there is no priesthood of believers and pastors/elders are the enlightened ones who must tell us who to marry, what to eat, and what to wear. They must also do whatever it takes to protect the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves. And look around, we are almost there right now. The mega-church is behaving like Rome and Geneva’s theocracy more and more every day.
Sure, when you corner them, they are going to deny this, but there is simply too much circumstantial evidence/theology to back this claim. How can the total depravity of the saints not add up to this “efficacy of an outside-of-me righteousness”? You say, “Now Paul, where have any of these guys said that we are ‘totally depraved’? Look, I am not going to play word games here. If Isaiah 64:6 applies to born again believers, as many in Reformed circles contend, then the accusation is fair and apt for illustration purposes. Besides, many are now using that term specifically to describe Christians. Moreover, Calvin himself stated the following:
There can be no doubt that Paul, when he treats of the Justification of man, confines himself to the one point—how man may ascertain that God is propitious to him? Here he does not remind us of a quality infused into us; on the contrary, making no mention of works, he tells us that righteousness must be sought without us; otherwise that certainty of faith, which he everywhere so strongly urges, could never stand; still less could there be ground for the contrast between the righteousness of faith and works which he draws in the tenth chapter to the Romans….( (From Kenneth A. Strand, ed., Reform Essentials of Luther and Calvin: A Source Collection [Ann Arbor: Braun-Brumfield, 1971], pp.219-222).
Please think about this: it is a debate concerning our very identity as Christians. If we don’t even know who and what we are: God help us. This total inability and all righteousness being outside of us profoundly effects the following hallmark elements of the Christian faith:
- The new birth.
- Use of the law in sanctification.
- The very definition of the gospel itself.
- The relationship and authority of elders to the saints.
- The relationship and authority of the church to the saints.
- The authority of the Word in relationship to saints/elders.
- The proper use of God’s word in counseling.
- The proper use of God’s word for preaching.
- The difference between justification and sanctification.
- The roles of justification and sanctification in the life of the saint.
- The difference between repentance for salvation and sanctification.
- The very definition of biblical obedience.
- Eschatological truth.
- Future judgment of mankind.
And frankly, the present-day church is showing symptoms of misunderstanding in these areas that approaches fallout in the realm of biblical proportions.
So now we have this core element of all righteousness remaining outside of the believer. Where do we go from here? What about the new birth? What’s “new” about us if all righteousness remains outside of us? Here is where Platonism, and its twin sibling, Gnosticism, partner with Reformed theology, at least the Plato—Augustine—Luther—Calvin strain. We don’t change; we are merely transported into a different realm (darkness/light) where we can determine which realm we manifest by what we contemplate or meditate on. New Calvinists have even developed a way to determine how that is experienced: John Piper’s Christian Hedonism. The Scriptures then serve the following primary purposes:
- A contemplation tool for the totally depraved zombie saints.
- A polity structure guide for Reformed elders.
- A book for preaching the gospel to the totally depraved.
- It makes Reformed elders the experts on seeing Christ in every verse of the Bible, and therefore relegating believers to a pope-like reliance on Reformed elders.
In speaking of the Bible’s function in the scheme of things, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Since all righteousness remains outside of the believer, the “practical application” of this theology is the continual resaving of the saint; or, a continual manifestation of a grace completely outside of us. The Bible then becomes the tool for doing that. Reading the Bible for learning and doing is strongly discouraged. Everything in the Bible is to show forth grace. The imperatives show us what we can’t do, but what Christ has done for us. It also shows us how other totally depraved zombie sheep have experienced grace manifestations throughout redemptive history. In the latest rediscovery movement (New Calvinism), this Platonist, metaphysical approach is not hard to see. Two of the most popular New Calvinist websites have Gnostic themes: “Between Two Worlds,” and “Between Two Spheres.” The number one tenet of New Covenant Theology (New Calvinism’s approach to law/gospel), as described by the Earth Stove Society (a NCT think tank) is:
New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and redemption. New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality [ALL reality?].
Though New Calvinist elders talk of the new birth and Christ being “in” us, you must understand they’re using earthly language that the totally depraved zombie sheep can understand. They do not believe Christ works in us (which can be clearly seen from the aforementioned Piper quote), or that we are born again enabled people. Hence, they need to keep us away from the truth of the new birth in ways that can be understood by us. One may also note the lack of teaching on the new birth altogether in New Calvinist churches. Their only alternative is to come right out and say that we really don’t perform any works, but rather manifest works already accomplished by Christ from another realm. Good luck with that; the adolescent Sunday school gang will not even buy that when stated forthrightly.
So what do they teach? Answer: “EMPHASIS” as the only relevant truth. This is blatant Platonism. Plato taught that what we experience on Earth (what the senses can detect) are shadows of truth. Sure, shadows are real, but they aren’t truth/reality. Likewise, there is a sense in which the Holy Spirit does a work in us, but it’s not really relevant to the blazing truth of the objective gospel which deals with the works of Christ, and not subjective works by us via help from the Holy Spirit. Anything short of focusing on the “Sun” eclipses the Son and causes us to focus on the shadows of lesser, irrelevant truth. This is a primary theme of Rick Holland’s book, “Uneclipsing the Son.” The Australian Forum (the aforementioned rediscovery movement) published an article entitled “The False Gospel of the New Birth” which was based on the Platonist concept of emphasis (shadows verses what the sun revealed about the objects casting the shadows). This concept can be seen by them in quotes from the article, but also echoed by contemporary New Calvinists:
It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.
~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)
But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?
~ Michael Horton
And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).
~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)
Did an overzealous attempt to give God all of the glory for all works create the fusion of Justification and sanctification with a need for Gnosticism to be the “practical application”? Or did Platonism create the theology which dealt redeemed mankind from the sanctification process? Hard to say, but it is clear that this is what the Augustinian line of Reformers believed. And for all practical purposes is a perpetual justification and daily resaving by faith alone to maintain a just standing before God. From the archives of the Australian Forum:
The present continuous nature of justification was the genius of Luther’s emphasis. In
“The Disputation Concerning Justification” (1536). He says:
. . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead. — Luther’s Works(American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: concordia, 1955), vol. 34, p. 163.
. . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ. is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners. — Ibid., p.164.
On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous. — Ibid., p.167.
For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually. —Ibid., p.190.
Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured. — Ibid., p.191.
This quote can be added by Calvin as well:
Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us. — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).
Another way to think of this is: we are sanctified the same way we are saved—by faith and repentance only. Salvation and sanctification are both completely monergistic. As New Calvinists say, “The same gospel that saves you also sanctifies you,” and “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Hundreds of years later, the doctrine and its Gnostic applications are not even ambiguous.
“Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us.” — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).
“But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ–that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (JC Ryle, Holiness: Introduction).
From the archives of the Australian Forum:
The present continuous nature of justification was the genius of Luther’s emphasis. In “The Disputation Concerning Justification” (1536). He says:
. . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead. — Luther’s Works(American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: concordia, 1955), vol. 34, p. 163.
. . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ. is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners. — Ibid., p.164.
On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous. — Ibid., p.167.
For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually. —Ibid., p.190.
Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured. — Ibid., p.191.
Devon Berry, the “elder” at Clearcreek Chapel who delivered this message, is also one of the primary instructors for the NANC training center at CCC. The following is my critique of his message. I apologize for how difficult it is to unravel this clever twisting of God’s word. However, if you try to follow my argument thoughtfully, I think by the end it will come together for you. The title of his message was, “How to Listen to a Sermon.”
In his message, “How to Listen to a Sermon, the elder strays away from the main point to strongly emphasis the idea that spiritual growth comes primarily from preaching and teaching, and is an absolute, paramount necessity accordingly:
You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul. I know that some are kept from services for legitimate reasons which are out of their control, but I doubt that is the case for most. I beseech you, change your ways for the good of this people and for the good of your own selves. Give the Word its rightful place. As I have often said, there is no better place you could be than here, under the preaching of the Word.
Actually, I believe “devotions,” “quiet times,” and “radio programs” are added in to mask the disturbing part of this statement: “personal study.” Nowhere , but nowhere, does the Scriptures ever say that personal study is expendable when compared to preaching or teaching. In fact, IF I wanted to make the case that preaching and teaching could be done without, I would cite the following:
1 John 2:27
”As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
This verse clearly teaches that when it gets right down to it, the indwelling Holy Spirit is our teacher, and that human teachers are not an absolute necessity as this elder is clearly saying. At the very least, he is in grave error concerning the level of importance between the two.
But even more disturbing is the logical conclusion that must be drawn from this assertion. If personal study is expendable (please note; in his list of examples, he names devotions, quiet times, and radio programs in the same list. One can only assume that if they are in the same list to make his point, they share the same level of importance. Surely then, no one would deny that Christians could do without radio programs or devotionals), then how could it (personal study) be sufficiently empowered to discern the truthfulness of the sermon? The conclusion must necessarily be that personal interpretation is always at the mercy of preaching. Do you think my statement is a subjective conclusion in regard to what he is saying? Think again. He actually uses Acts 17:10,11 (a text that clearly states the importance of personal study to confirm truthfulness) to imply that preaching is a critical link in the learning process, with personal study being secondary:
In addition to coming with anticipation, we must come to a sermon prepared. Coming to the hearing of the Word prepared is both a matter of our hearts and our behaviors. I think the example of the Bereans in Acts 17 is helpful. Verse 11 says, ‘Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.’ We can note from earlier in the chapter what exactly it was the Bereans were responding to – verses 2-3 tell us that Paul’s pattern was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ. What made the Jews in Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica? Well for one, they did not run Paul out of town, and secondly, they took Paul’s preaching seriously enough to go to the Word to test it [he is not talking about a test in regard to the truth, but rather, a nebulous concept of testing the Christocentric interpretation in everyday life. He covers this idea in another part of the same sermon. Note that "it" in his statement refers to God's word, not Paul's preaching]. The text here implies that there was an interactive nature between three entities: The preacher, the hearers, and the Word. Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word. An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word. The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching. So a good preparation for the public preaching of the Word is the private consumption of the Word. It will be the seasoning that brings out the flavor – salt on your French fries, if you will.”
Where to begin in the unraveling of this hideous twisting of God’s word! First of all, I had to actually draw a diagram to unravel what he is saying in regard to this part of the quote:
“Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word.”
Read the quote carefully. Think about it. God’s word goes through the “preacher” first, before getting to the “people,” making the preacher’s words synonymous with God’s words. Also note that he cites 17:1,2:
“We can note from earlier in the chapter what exactly it was the Bereans were responding to – verses 2-3 tell us that Paul’s pattern was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ.”
Let me cut to the chase here: what he is saying is that all Christocentric and gospel-centered preaching is infallible. Hence, any preacher teaching from a Christocentric perspective is also infallible. He also emphasizes this in his conclusion (emphasis mine):
On to our last point, then. It is simple. The lens set forth by Christ himself on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24, is the lens through which we should hear every sermon. Here it is from the text: …everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled… You should always listen to a sermon looking for Christ and the redemptive plan that God has set out in history to accomplish through his Son. We must be Christ-centered listeners.
In other words, when the Scriptures are being taught from the Christ / gospel perspective, error is impossible, and likewise, neither can the preacher teaching from that perspective be in error as well. If the mere intention is to present Christ from the text, the Holy Spirit then becomes involved, making error impossible. Another elder at the same church (Chad Bresson) projected this same idea in an article entitled “The Word of God is a Person.” He quotes Robert Brinsmead to make his point:
That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit even the letter of Scripture.
Said another way, the Holy Spirit “lives in the gospel,” so when your doin’ gospel, your doin’ truth, end of discussion.
Going back now to the elder’s use of Acts 17 and the original sermon of interests here, he completely ignores any sort of basic grammatical rules at all to draw his conclusions. He gives the following reasons for the nobility of the Bereans:
What made the Jews in Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica? Well for one, they did not run Paul out of town, and secondly, they took Paul’s preaching seriously enough to go to the Word to test it.
But the excerpt he speaks of is a compound sentence:
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
In a compound sentence the ideas must be related, this is a hard-fast rule. Therefore, the specific reason for their nobility is obviously in the second independent clause, which does not include anything mentioned by the elder. Furthermore, in the second clause, the proving of what Paul taught is obviously the (purpose) object of both verb phrases, both directly and indirectly. Clearly, the reason for their nobility was the fact that they proved what Paul was teaching to be true through personal study. Not only that, the elder also said the following:
“An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word.”
But this is clearly an improper correlation. “Daily” in this sentence refers to “examining the Scriptures” and not Paul’s preaching (which is not even in the compound sentence which begins with “now“—introducing a separate idea). The elder is suggesting an inseparable correlation (“cycle”) between preaching and personal study that cannot be separated from the word for proper understanding. Instead of personal study proving the truthfulness of preaching or teaching, he is making preaching an absolute necessity to understanding truth, with personal study supplying a mere “seasoning” to the preaching, instead of testing its truthfulness. Besides this, he also assumes that the Bereans knew what Paul was going to teach before he came:
“The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching.”
Not only is this an assumption, given the technology of the time, it is also highly unlikely. What tense in the text even remotely suggests that the Bereans “examined” the Scriptures before Paul preached? Clearly, the intent of this elder is to discourage a proving of truthfulness in regard to Chrisocentric preaching after the fact, but rather a prior, personal study that merely “flavors” the preaching instead of proving its truthfulness. At any rate, it is a complete bastardization of the biblical text.
I might also mention that another elder in this same church, and previously mentioned, preached a sermon entitled “Adam’s Insurrection, Man Jettisons God from the Educational Process,” in which he argues that the essence of Adam’s fall was a rejection of Christocentric teaching that was outside of himself (Adam). The theme of that sermon seems to be similar to the sermon that is the subject of this post; namely, and at the very least, it strongly discouraged a mentality that elevates personal discernment to the same level of teaching outside of ourselves.
So, it now begs the question that is the subject of this post; in regard to elders teaching from the Christocentric perspective, does Christocentric theology teach that they are infallible? I suspect that this belief is more than likely to be prominent among churches that hold to Sonship / GS theology.
The author of Borrowed Light blog has written a multi-part theses on why the following happens:
Two years ago Podunk Baptist Church sent a bright, energetic, and humble young man off to the seminary. This little gathering of believers has for over two-centuries housed some of the dearest saints. But Mark was different. Though young and a relatively new believer he stood out because of his marked brilliance, passion, and dedication.
Then, when he was invited back to preach:
Time went by and Podunk Baptist heard less and less of Mark. Finally, two long years later Mark accepts an invitation to come back to Podunk to preach a revival. The community is buzzing, in a way that only a small-town can buzz. Even people that darken the door of the church only on Santa’s birthday are considering coming to see if this kid’s fancy book learnin’ may have a remedy for their hurt….
Mark is introduced by the pastor; still the same guy that had shared the gospel with him years ago. After the glowing introduction the now-bearded Mark swags into the pulpit. It only takes a few sentences for Podunk Baptist to realize this is a different Mark than the one they sent away.
And it’s not good.
This revival will not be about the beauties and excellencies of Jesus. It will not be a passionate gospel exposition. This revival meeting will be five nights of Mark setting his old church straight. Each night he will put together a finely crafted sermon filled with three points addressing everything that the church erroneously taught him two years ago. Mark is in the “know” now.
What happened to Mark?
The author then wrote several more parts that presented his theses on what the root of this recent phenomenon is in the SBC, but here is the crux of what I think is up to like, six parts:
Really all of these posts is only backing up what Joe Thorn noted as the three reasons for angry and divisive Calvinists. In his interview with Ed Stetzer (which you should real all of including the comments, here) Thorn notes three principle reasons that I will summarize.
1. Over-zealous and excited about a new found truth. “Some of us, and I was one of them, would benefit from being locked up in a cage for a few years until our heart can catch up with our head.”
2. Anger at being denied this in the past. “They feel as if they’ve wasted years of their life, or the church has let them down. So, they’re angry about that…”
3. A short-circuit between the head and heart. “When we Calvinists are ungracious, unnecessarily combative, proud, and arrogant, we are not being true Calvinists. We are posers.”
So how do you disciple a young Calvinist whose either angry, over-zealous, or simply has a short-circuit between his head and heart? Apart from patient plodding and let the gospel take deeper roots one particular thing I do with young Calvinists (including myself) is introduce them to John Newton–and that will be what we do in Part Five and Part Six.
Note: According to the posts, Calvinism isn’t the problem, youthful indiscretion is the problem. Not.
I, myself, have undergone a transformation of thinking on this issue. I once thought that New Calvinism was the problem, and not Old Calvinism. And that’s right, well, sort of. True blue Calvinism that came directly from the man himself is a serious problem, but Old Calvinism as we know it today has undergone some transformations that have aligned it with most of evangelical Christianity except on issues of election. Determinism or foreknowledge? But traditionally, Old Calvinists and Arminians agree on the relationship between soteriology and sanctification—leading to, for the most part, an uneventful cohabitation.
But the New Calvinism in the SBC is a return to the original doctrine of John Calvin himself. Fogging the issue is the whole predestination / free will debate. Until recently, I only knew that my five years of research traced contemporary New Calvinism back to the Progressive Adventist Movement. The founder, Robert Brinsmead, claimed that he had rediscovered the true Reformation gospel of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Brinsmead labeled the doctrine, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. The doctrine is clearly progressive justification and sanctification by faith ALONE. I didn’t know for sure, but I sort of assumed that Brinsmead was full of it, or read into Luther / Calvin what he wanted to, and contrived the doctrine on his own.
Then it was brought to my attention by author John Immel that in fact, progressive justification is exactly what Calvin believed. And if you read Immel’s book, “Blight In The Vineyard,” you will learn the following: that particular brand of Reformed theology brought about the exact same kind of spiritual tyranny that we see in present-day New Calvinists. And besides that, it’s a false gospel that also denies the new birth and replaces it with various forms of mysticism. I confirmed what Immel shared with me by reading in the Calvin Institutes, and have written a couple of articles about it here and here.
Moreover, the “divisive” nature of the movement comes from the fact that New Calvinism fits the biblical definition of a “sect” to a “T.” A biblical “sect” is: a movement or group of people who divides with false doctrine. I wrote an article on that subject here.
Youthful indiscretion is not helpful, but the doctrine is the problem.
New Calvinists say: “Don’t live by do’s and don’ts.”
Read this post: deliteralizing-the-bible-from-plato-to-peterson
The following is what it “looks like”:
We can rest assured that our Father doesn’t want us to be confused. He gave us a brain and is honored when we use it, but know this: He doesn’t want us to use it to vet every theory running amuck in the world regarding the meaning of life. His word to us is clear: we have His Spirit; we are not to be deceived; test every spirit; and we have all that is needed to be fully equipped for every good work. But according to New Calvinist David Powlison, the church forgets stuff. Therefore, it needs a research and development purpose to rediscover lost truth and apply it. Buyers beware; you only need to follow the money.
As stated in The Truth About new Calvinism, it all boils down to the enemy’s agenda: 1) keep people out of the kingdom 2) deceive kingdom citizens into living spiritually anemic lives 3) which leads to a lack of testimony and thereby facilitates purpose number one. If the kingdom of darkness couldn’t keep you out, it can at least use you to keep others out. And we only need to examine that in context of what worked so well: “Did God really say….” The apostle Paul warned us many times in regard to being led away from the truth by vain philosophies.
New Calvinism is a reductionist theology. Reductionism is two-fold. First, in an attempt to make much of God’s grace and little of man’s efforts, the role of man is reduced as much as possible in theological systems. Secondly, this entails diminishing the primary instrument for man’s participation in God’s work—the law. Therefore, something needs to be done about the new birth because it implies the ability to participate in upholding God’s law in sanctification. New Calvinists have several different ways of denying the new birth; this post is about what they replace it with.
The primary tenet of New Calvinism is the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us as developed by the Australian Forum, a think tank for the Progressive Adventist Movement. One reader commented in regard to part 5 of the New Calvinism for Dummies video series:
One of the things that popped into my mind when you were talking about “objective” and it occurring outside ourselves. It also seems like the NC is inviting the person to stepoutside themselves to be an observer of themselves. Like they are being invited to emotionally remove themselves from who they are, becoming the unemotional observer, which would also lead to some coldheartedness. With the emotions corralled, as such, it just sort of reminds me of Spock on Star Trek.
That’s a good assessment, and speaks to the fact that New Calvinists are very coldhearted and indifferent, also lacking in having a sense of justice about them. That’s one of the bad results of partaking in anti-word philosophies:
….and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of anomia, the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:11,12).
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law (Psalm 119:70).
The centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (COGOUS) is the mainframe that holds all of the various movements within New Calvinism together and gives it a hyper-ecumenical flare. The various groups within New Calvinism all have their own way of making this doctrine work with real life, but the overall goal of the doctrine is the same: gospel contemplationism leading to a passive manifestation of a realm. This is merely a device of the only primary goal of the kingdom of darkness from the beginning of redemptive history; specifically, “Has God really said.” It is meant to divert God’s people from Christ’s simple counsel:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).
If every verse in the Bible is about what Christ has done and not what he SAYS; ie, “these words of mine,” biblical wisdom for kingdom living is circumvented. Secondly, if our only “do[ing]es” is a passive yielding to a realm, the kind of intentional application of God’s word necessary for a life built on a rock is also circumvented. This will lead to the circumvention of Christ’s goal stated in Matthew chapter five:
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Therefore, the simple biblical approach of learn/hear>>>obey>>>God glorified, must be replaced with a more passive formula. Opponents of the biblical model would say they only want to exclude man’s efforts so God will get all of the glory, resulting in contemplation/meditation>>>_________>>>God’s works manifested, not ours. The blank is filled in by various and sundry techniques which New Calvinists point to. This often confuses the real issue. But getting back to the main point, the new birth must be refuted because it makes the contra formula possible. And because the latter formula is reductionist and narrow, it must be embellished. Hence, Christian Hedonism, Heart Theology, unbiblical forms of prayer, Neuro-Linguistic-Programming, reorientation of desires, etc, etc. This is vital in selling the product because we were created for work (you know, feet, hands, stuff like that), and passive theologies therefore contradict the conscience. So the blank between meditation and work must be filled in with some plausible stuff that sounds good. Please note: I am stating all of this in context of sanctification. COGOUS>>>life application>>>manifestation of works verses new birth>>>learn and apply>>>obedience.
Furthermore, the application must not only supply a feasible life application, but must also appeal to human desire. This brings us back to the astute comment by the aforementioned reader. This whole idea of COGOUS giving one the ability to step outside of themselves and be an observer of their own life. Some would call this Nature/Freedom philosophy; this is the freedom from the laws of nature, and in the case of New Calvinism, God’s written law as well. There is no better way to demonstrate this than by a quote from one of the most popular New Calvinist articles ever written:
What, then, is the subjective power of this message? Firstly, we find that there is real, objective freedom, the kind that, yes, can be experienced subjectively. We are freed from having to worry about the legitimacy of experiences; our claims of self-improvement are no longer seen as a basis of our witness or faith. In other words, we are freed from ourselves, from the tumultuous ebb and flow of our inner lives and the outward circumstances; anyone in Christ will be saved despite those things. We can observe our own turmoil without identifying with it. We might even find that we have compassion for others who function similarly. These fluctuations, violent as they might be, do not ultimately define us. If anything, they tell us about our need for a savior.
Secondly, this freedom gives us permission to confront and confess our pain. We can look our self-defeating and regressive tendencies in the eye for once. We no longer have to pretend to be anything other than what the Gospel tells us we are: hopeless sinners in need of mercy. Honesty and repentance go hand in hand – freedom puts us on our knees, where we belong. A subjective Gospel turns repentance into a frightening affair, evidence that God is far away from us. An objective Gospel provides the assurance that actually produces repentance, forging the pathway to the place where we find forgiveness and redemption. We can finally grasp hold of the truth that it is always better to be sorry than to be safe. The pastoral implications for marriage alone are staggering
(David Zahl and Jacob Smith: Mockingbird blog, “The Subjective Power Of An Objective Gospel”).
I think this quotation says it all. It is a freedom from obedience to the law (because we are totally depraved sinners that can’t keep it anyway), freedom from consequences, and supplies a mentality that we can use to detach ourselves from the burdens of life. It is Nature Freedom philosophy to the max and could be accompanied by the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin:
Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……
Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
Look at me I am happy
Don’t worry, be happy
Here I give you my phone number
When you worry call me
I make you happy
Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got not girl to make you smile
But don’t worry be happy
Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy (now)…..
There is this little song I wrote
I hope you learn it note for note
Like good little children
Don’t worry, be happy
Listen to what I say
In your life expect some trouble
But when you worry
You make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……
Don’t worry don’t do it, be happy
Put a smile on your face
Don’t bring everybody down like this
Don’t worry, it will soon past
Whatever it is
Don’t worry, be happy
….because everything that matters is outside of you—the cross. Just sit back and let life make the cross bigger; stop trying to be the gospel instead of living the gospel by faith alone. That’s one of the many allurements of New Calvinism, but primarily, it’s a theological framework that allows us to fill in the practical application line in any way we would like to. And we like that.
Another New Calvinist Lie via Chad Bresson: We Aren’t Postmodern and the Emergent Church is Bad and We are Good
I guess it goes along with being antinomian; New Calvinists constantly lie about many things. In fact, I wonder if they ever tell the truth about anything. New Calvinism dominates the present evangelical landscape because their theological framework invented by a Seventh-Day Adventist (who is now an atheist) is a powerful concept that sells. Robert Brinsmead claimed that he discovered the lost gospel of the Reformation and Reformed folks saw what the supposed finding was doing to the SDA: reforming it. Brinsmead’s Awakening movement via his centrality of the objective gospel (COGOUS) doctrine was turning the SDA upside down. The results were therefore evident, and it had a Reformed label, so the masses have been jumping on the new reformation bandwagon ever since. Many of the elements that make this doctrine attractive to our present culture will be discussed in the second volume of The Truth About New Calvinism.
New Calvinists avoid historical dots that could connect them back to Brinsmead like the Bubonic Plague, and one way of doing that is pretending like you oppose certain dots. Therefore, The dots that they disparage the most are New Covenant Theology (NCT) and the Emergent Church (EU). New Calvinists such as DA Carson stay aloof from NCT, but support it behind the scenes. Brinsmead was a close friend with the father of NCT, Jon Zens, and Brinsmead contributed significantly to the formation of the doctrine. Therefore, pigs will fly before any NCT guys will be invited to one of the big New Calvinist dances, but Carson regularly speaks at NCT conferences.
Likewise, Sonship Theology which was founded on Brinsmead’s COGOUS intermarried with the EC family, so the EC, like Jon Zens, is only one step removed from Brinsmead and his theological think tank that launched present-day New Calvinism: the Australian Form. The Forum may have also influenced the EC which originated in Australia/UK in 1992 and arrived in the US around 1998. Even though New Calvinists such as John Piper associate with EC proponents like Mark Driscoll on a continual basis, and both groups function by the same doctrine (COGOUS, also known as Gospel Sanctification), New Calvinists continually fustigate the EC. The Piper/Driscoll relationship is condoned because Driscoll is supposedly a different kind of Emergent species (http://wp.me/pmd7S-16r).
One New Calvinist “church” that partakes in this deception at every opportunity is Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio. A staff elder, Chad Bresson, wrote an article on his blog (a blog dedicated to NCT ) entitled, “The Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation because the resurrection is of such” (Vossed World blog: archives; July 19, 2006). Bresson begins the post with the following:
A supporter of the emergent church posted over at Steve Camp’s blog the following comments:
1. Revelation does not refer to the Bible, it is rather God’s activity in history.
2. Revelation is dynamic and personal, not static propositional.
3. Scripture is a meta-narrative, and by this nature is not a propositional document for us
to pin down all the rules to obey and doctrines to believe.
4. Passages are not always easily discerned for God’s desired message for the Church.
5. Texts may simply indicate direction, not neat and orderly systematic doctrine.
All of these points are either outright false or are only partly true. They represent what is of major concern to many who have observed the development of the emerging church.
These five tenets of EC interpretation, for all practical purposes, are the like hermeneutics of New Calvinism despite Bresson’s disingenuous harpings. Bresson, usually accustomed to linguistic drones of ten-thousand words or more, writes a paragraph or two for each proposition that disputes propositional truth, and I will rebut his deceptive rebuttal of his theological kissing-cousin’s comment. Bresson begins by addressing the first tenet:
God[‘s] activity in history through Christ *resulted in* the Bible. The Bible is God’s *written* revelation to man, and thus the sixty six books of the Bible given to us by the Holy Spirit constitute the plenary (inspired equally in all parts) Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:7-14; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 2:13), verbally inspired in every word (2 Timothy 3:16), absolutely inerrant in the original documents, infallible, and God breathed. They are fully self-authenticating, not relying on any external proof for their claims. Since all of Scripture is spoken by God, all of Scripture must be “unlying,” just as God himself is: there can be no untruthfulness in Scripture (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Because God is the Bible’s author, we are to accept its authority and submit ourselves to it in faith (2 Pet. 1:19,21, 2 Tim. 3:16, 1 John 5:9, 1 Thess. 2:13).
As I will demonstrate, New Calvinists end up in the same place as the EC on this issue. And remember, the staple doctrine of New Calvinism and the EU is one and the same: Gospel Sanctification. This is plainly irrefutable. The EU is most prevalent in American church culture through Acts 29 and World Harvest Missions which were both spawned by the father of Sonship Theology, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Dr. Miller originally coined the New Calvinist slogans, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” and its accompaniment, “The same gospel that saves you also sanctifies you.” The former understudies of Dr. Miller and the gatekeepers of Sonship theology after Miller’s passing, David Powlison and Tim Keller, are major figures in the New Calvinist clan.
Regardless of how orthodox Bresson’s opening statement is, his fingers are crossed behind his back with the first ten words: “God[‘s] activity in history through Christ *resulted in* the Bible.” Though the more fringe elements of the EC may think specific revelation can be found outside of the Bible, note that Bresson also states that the Bible is primarily a historical document about Christ. Specifically, a meta-narrative about the gospel, and the gospel only for meditation purposes. All of the rest affirming the accuracy of the Bible is regarding its accuracy for that purpose only. The pastor/teacher of Clearcreek states the following on this point:
May we be transformed by seeing the glory of Christ all through the Bible. The transforming power of beholding Christ emerges from the pages of the whole Bible. We are transformed from glory to glory as we see Him there. Want to grow and change? Want to reflect Christ to others? Gaze on Him in the pages of your Bible (Russ Kennedy: The Fading Glory, 2Corinthians 2:14-3:18).
Furthermore, Bresson posted an excerpt from Robert Brinsmead on his blog to make the point that the Holy Spirit only illumines when the Scriptures are seen through the prism of the gospel and used for that purpose alone (Vossed World blog: archives; July 17, 2008).
Bresson continues to use orthodoxy to deceive:
God’s Word is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness, because Christ, THE WORD, is sufficient (Eph. 1:3, 23; Deut. 8:3/Matthew 4:4/John 6:48-51; John 1:14,16). Because THE WORD is life himself (John 11:25, 14:6; Colossians 1:15-20), The Word is living and active in discerning and judging the actions and thoughts of men (Hebrews 4:12). Christ, as THE WORD, is Wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30), which is *why* the word is sufficient for all of life (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 2:6, 3:18; Colossians 3:16). Christ’s sufficiency for all of life is best summed up by the covenantal promise/fulfillment: Christ is our God and we are His people (Revelation 21:3,7). As THE WORD, Christ himself is the grace that is sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12:7-10; John 1:14, 16, 17).
After all of the unarguable truth and citation of Scriptures, Bresson once again has his fingers crossed behind his back with the last thirteen words: “As THE WORD, Christ himself is the grace that is sufficient for us.” Hence, Bresson parrots the same EC hermeneutic he claims to be refuting. Note tenet number two: “Revelation is dynamic and personal, not static propositional.” In fact, on the aforementioned post where he cites a long excerpt from a Brinsmead article, Bresson made the following comment:
John 1:1 tells us that Christ incarnated the very Word of God. Thus, the text… the Word… is both witness to and emanates from THE WORD. I should add that John 1:1 is also telling us that Christ *was* the very Word of God from the beginning. So… to draw a distinction between text and Person is a false dichotomy.
Exactly, and the EC crowd agrees, stating that the word is a person and not for the reason of determining propositional truth. I like to state it a different way for clarification; it’s about who Jesus is (or his “personhood”), and not about what He SAYS. Christ warned against such a mentality in Luke 11:26, 27. Clearcreek’s close relationship with Paul David Tripp should also be weighed in this discussion as well. Tripp, who has close ties to Clearcreek and speaks there often, stated the following on page 27 of How people Changed (2006):
Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept that we insert into a new formula for life.
As noted in another post (http://wp.me/pmd7S-hc) here on PPT, Dr. Carol K. Tharp accuses Tripp of having a kinship to the emergent church because of his teachings in Broken Down House:
In these assertions, Tripp reveals his kinship with the emergent church. A belief held in common by emergent church leaders is their “eschatology of hope.” For example, Tony Jones says, “God’s promised future is good, and it awaits us, beckoning us forward … in a tractor beam of redemption and recreation … so we might as well cooperate.” Emergents Stanley Grenz and John R. Franke declare, “As God’s image bearers, we have a divinely given mandate to participate in God’s work of constructing a world in the present that reflects God’s own eschatological will for creation.”‘ Elsewhere, emergent church advocate Doug Pagitt claims, “When we employ creativity to make this world better, we participate with God in the re-creation of the world.”
In regard to tenet number three, Bresson embarks on the following diatribe:
All the words in Scripture are God’s words. To disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. The essence of the authority of Scripture is its ability to compel us to believe and to obey it and to make such belief and obedience equivalent to believing and obeying God himself. The word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures is the only rule of knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship of God, and is the only rule in which is contained the whole duty of man. The Scriptures have plainly recorded whatever is needful for us to know, believe, and practice. God’s word is the only rule of holiness and obedience for all saints, at all times, in all places to be observed (Col. 2:23; Matt 15:6,9; John 5:39, 2 Tim. 3:15,16,17; Isa. 8:20; Gal. 1:8,9; Acts 3:22,23).
In Bresson’s supposed rebuttal, he admits that the Scriptures are a meta-narrative, but argues that the narrative yields objective truth to be obeyed: see above and following:
While the scriptures inherently contain meta-narrative, the various narrative forms, using various Jewish literary genre, are themselves propositional in nature and scope…. And, because there is a common meta-narrative inherent to the whole of scripture (the redemptive story pointing forward to and fulfilled in Christ), it necessarily follows that there is a logical analogy to the whole of scripture which is to be exegeted and preached.
In other words, the concept is objective (the narrative is true and objective), but obviously yields subjective results because one has to interpret every verse of Scripture in a way that shows forth the gospel. But New Calvinists think that this approach is acceptable as long as the point made is a valid gospel outcome. The EC believes that both the narrative and the outcomes are subjective; New Calvinists claim that objective truth is possible while torturing every verse for a gospel outcome, which is highly doubtful. In other words, the results from both camps are the same: subjective.
In addition, the “obedience” Bresson refers to is New Calvinist “new obedience” (Christ obeys for us or obedience is the mere yielding to the evil realm or the gospel realm) which teaches against what Bresson seems to be saying. Where would I even begin to document New Calvinist teachers in regard to their devaluing of obedience as stated by tenet three? “Scripture is a meta-narrative, and by this nature is not a propositional document for us to pin down all the rules to obey and doctrines to believe.” Consider what the New Calvinists themselves write along these same lines:
DA Carson: “In this broken world, it is not easy to promote holiness without succumbing to mere moralism; it is not easy to fight worldliness without giving in to a life that is constrained by mere rules.”
John Piper: “So the key to living the Christian life – the key to bearing fruit for God – the key to a Christ-exalting life of love and sacrifice – is to die to the law and be joined not to a list of rules, but to a Person, to the risen Christ. The pathway to love is the path of a personal, Spirit-dependent, all-satisfying relationship with the risen Christ, not the resolve to keep the commandments.”
Tullian Tchividjian: “A taste of wild grace is the best catalyst for real work in our lives: not guilt, not fear, not another list of rules.”
Lastly, Bresson mentions another New Calvinist substitution for orthodox obedience that I haven’t fully put my mind around—this whole idea of Christians putting ourselves in, or participating in the gospel narrative: “These historical contexts presume an original audience with whom we participate in the same redemptive story.” Again, postmodern emergents (EC) take the same approach with a slightly different application. Note what John MacArthur writes in The Truth War: Quoting Brian McLaren, another proponent of the Emerging Church:
Getting it right’ is beside the point: the point is ‘being and doing good’ as followers of Jesus in our unique time and place, fitting in with the ongoing story of God’s saving love for planet Earth.’ All of that is an exemplary statement of the typical postmodern perspective. But the thing to notice here is that in McLaren’s system, orthodoxy is really all about practice, not about true beliefs (page 36).
So, on the one hand (New Calvinism), we supposedly put ourselves in the gospel narrative in a passive endeavor to manifest a redeemed realm. On the other hand (EU), we put ourselves in the subjective narrative as a form of obedience. What’s the difference? The bottom line: New Calvinists use an objective means of interpretation that leads to subjective, if not mystical results, though they lamely argue that the results are objective because only objective results can come from seeing the gospel in every verse of the Bible. The emergents are at least honest about the means and the results being subjective.
And honesty in and of itself is a good thing; those who follow you at least know what they are following. But the New Calvinist cartel will continue in pretending to be orthodox while confusing the issue by contending against other camps that really believe the same things.
“The Southwood parishioners only plead to be taught how to do that, but instead are scolded for clinging to the hope that we are not helpless in the sanctification process—that we can seize upon the promises of God by following him.”
A series by Paul and Susan Dohse
This will begin a new series on Southwood Presbyterian Church. I have perused the website that parishioners have constructed and received some messages as well. The picture is so graphic that I am compelled to go ahead and get this series started. It is a picture of why New Calvinism must be destroyed. I use that word, “destroyed” because that is the word that the apostle Paul used:
2 Corinthians 10:5
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
More information is coming out and there is much to write about, and Lord willing, I will because this situation is New Calvinism in action. The carnage left behind by this doctrine has been bulldozed into landfills long enough. The series will examine the fact that Larroux, like most New Calvinist pastors, is a classic antinomian. It will also discuss why the movement is spreading unabated, and what must be done to stop it. Happenings at Southwood are the why. Susan and I will also examine what the Presbytery could have done to stop the situation and enquire as to why they didn’t.
One thing becomes evident from the letters posted on Southwood info .com and examination of the sermon archives; like all New Calvinist pastors, Larroux incessantly presents the motif that all of human history continues to be awash in mankind’s attempts to please God by working hard. So called, “legalism,” a word that does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures. First, the Pharisees of the New Testament were antinomians; Christ said Himself that they were “lawless” on the inside and the outside, not just the outside. And legalism was hardly the problem in the Old Testament, and Satan certainly didn’t come to Eve as a legalist. Furthermore, the problem at Corinth was hardly “legalism” as well.
Moreover, the Whitney Houston funeral is indicative of the real problem: freebie grace on steroids. For more than a year, Larroux has insulted the intelligence of Southwood parishioners by proclaiming the mega-lie that the whole world lies in the lap of legalism and that he is the great one that has come to set them free. The truth of the matter is that the whole world already lies in the lap of what he teaches at Southwood weekly. The cries heard in the Southwood letters only plead for one of the apostle Paul’s definitions of sanctification:
1 Thessalonians 4:4
that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,
The Southwood parishioners only plead to be taught how to do that, but instead are scolded for clinging to the hope that we are not helpless in the sanctification process—that we can seize upon the promises of God by following him. But no, instead, they hear that Christian walk Christianity denies the cross. In essence, Larroux wants Southwood to become postmodern and stop believing that words mean things.
And no doubt, one of the goals of this series is to find out who the Presbyterian cowards are who have turned their back on these dear people. These people don’t even know me, but yet, I receive messages that are concerned for my own spiritual wellbeing in the midst of discernment ministry. These godly, loving people deserve better. When the information has been compiled, maybe a “PPT’s Top Ten Presbyterian Cowards” is in order.
10.5 Richard Barcellos
Contribution: “In Defense of the Decalogue.” Confronts New Covenant Theology.
Denomination: Reformed Baptist
10. Sam Waldron
Contribution: Contends against New Covenant Theology.
Denomination: Reformed Baptist
9. Mike Fabarez
Contribution: Aggressive Sanctification blog. Church has strong view of exegesis/(8) distinctives.
8. Chad VanDixhoorn
Contribution: Wrote a notable treatise against Sonship Theology when most were asleep at the switch.
7. Timothy F. Kauffman
Contribution: Trinity Review; Jan-Mar 2012 Sanctification, Half Full: The Myopic Hermeneutic of the “Grace” Movement (Maybe the best article ever written on the subject).
6. Jason Hood
Contribution: Writings against sanctification by justification/Gospel Sanctification
Denomination: United Methodist
5. Terry Johnson
Contribution: Strongly opposes Sonship Theology. Seems to care more about the truth than keeping friends.
4. Dr. Peter Masters
Contribution: Has been very outspoken against New Calvinism specifically and names the names.
Denomination: Calvinistic Baptist
3. Cynthia Kunsman
Contribution: Spiritual abuse/cult specialist. Researches theological movements. Under Much Grace blog
Denomination: Non-Denominational Evangelical Reformed
2. Donn Arms
Contribution: Director of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Gatekeeper of the truly orthodox “first generation of biblical counseling.”
Denomination: Calvinistic Baptist
1. Dr. Jay E. Adams
Contributions: “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course.” Opponent of Gospel Sanctification and author of the INS Gospel Sanctification archives. Author of over 100 books on the subject of sanctification.