Paul's Passing Thoughts

Horton’s Systematic Theology Adds To The Sonship/Gospel Sanctification Massive Subculture: Revised

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on May 30, 2014

[NOTE: This was written before I discovered that New Calvinism is in fact the same gospel that the Reformers taught. The resurgence movement began as COG in 1970, became Sonship circa 1986, Gospel Transformation in 2000, dubbed Gospel Sanctification by detractors in 2007, and finally New Calvinism in 2008. This was also written before I understood that orthodoxy is a part of spiritual caste in general]. 

“Gospel Sanctification,  as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity”  [Note also that I no longer equate “orthodoxy ” with truth per se].

[Further revision: much has been learned since this post, but the general idea is very accurate: the Neo-Calvinist movement is seeking to develop a subculture within American culture that will eventually, if all goes as planned, devour American culture as we know it. This is part and parcel with Calvinism’s dominion theology. This post submits a sketchy framework of useful categories under the general idea. For instance, one college that focuses strictly on the Neo-Calvinist vision is a far cry from the fact that this movement owns (in an intellectual capacity) most of the seminaries in America. Other categories could be added as well, e.g., Christian publishing ].   

The Fix is now in. The false doctrine of the centrality of the objective gospel (COG) which found new life in  Sonship Theology about thirty years ago—now has its own theology, hermeneutic, practical application, defined experience, ecumenical (inclusiveness) movement, history, college, counseling organization, missionary organization, Bible—and now, its own systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification (GS), as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity. It won’t be long; those who we minister to will have to be deprogrammed before we can help them, starting with convincing them that the Bible is to be taken as literal instruction from God as our authority for ministry and life. Not understanding GS beforehand will make any attempt to help people with the word of God—dead on arrival.

GS Theology

The movement started with a very powerful concept in the minds of its perpetrators. Supposedly, we grow spiritually by revisiting the gospel that saved us every day. Proponents were convinced (and still are) that this thesis stands alone as truth; therefore, all other propositions must bow to it.

The GS Hermeneutic

A literal interpretation of Scripture will continually contradict GS. So, the proponents have changed how we read/ interpret the Bible accordingly. The GS hermeneutic is an interpretive prism that will always yield results that make GS plausible. Unlike the rest of the elements (which are very contemporary), the hermeneutic (known as Biblical Theology or Redemptive-Historical hermeneutics) was borrowed from times past. It originated in Germany under the liberal teaching and writings of Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826), who emphasized the historical nature of the Bible over against a “dogmatic” interpretation thereof. Nearly a century later, Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) was instrumental in taking the discipline of biblical theology in a, supposedly, more conservative direction. Graeme Goldsworthy tweaked the doctrine to facilitate COG, and today, Goldsworthy’s “Trilogy” is the pillar of interpretation within the movement.

Practical Application

The GS narrow approach to sanctification must be embellished and applicable to life in some way in order to be sold. This is Heart Theology, and was developed through David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change at Westminster Seminary. In 1996, two former students of Powlison articulated Heart Theology in a book entitled, “How People Change.”

Defined Experience

John Piper seeks to articulate how Sonship is experienced via Christian Hedonism. Because GS makes our works and the work of the Spirit an either/or issue, someone needed to develop a thesis that explained how the difference can be ascertained. John Piper answered the call with the development of Christian Hedonism.

Ecumenical Bent

GS now encompasses any group that agrees with its primary view of plenary monergism and the synthesis of justification and sanctification. All other disciplines are seen as secondary and irrelevant to fellowship and joint ventures. The Gospel Coalition (holding national conferences on odd years, 2011, etc.), and T4G (Together For The Gospel, holding national conferences on even years) work together to promote GS/S while promoting inclusiveness among denominations and religions.


GS proponents claim a historical precedent dating back to Creation, and also claim to be the second part of the first Reformation. Of course, this is laughable. Sonship, the Antioch school, TGC, T4G, NCT, CH, and HT have no historical precedent prior to 1970. Many of the notable proponents of GS are associated in some way with the father of  Sonship Theology, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Tim Keller and David Powlison were followers of Miller. Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane are followers of David Powlison. Jerry Bridges attributes his view of the gospel to Miller as well.


The Antioch School of leadership training has GS as its foundation and basis for training. It is located in Ames, Iowa.

Counseling Organization

The upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition, which seeks to network other counseling organizations as well, is intimately associated with T4G and The Gospel Coalition. The who’s who of Gospel Sanctification sit on its governing board including David Powlison and Paul David Tripp.

Missionary Organization

It’s primary missionary organization was founded by the father of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship—Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Banner of Truth states the  following in The Movement Called Sonship: “Miller encouraged New Life Presbyterian Church into originating the ‘World Harvest Mission’, a non-denominational missionary organization. Sonship became its main teaching vehicle.”


The English Standard Version (ESV) was first published by Crossway in 2001. Its vice president of editorial is Justin Taylor who also authors The Gospel Coalition Blog, the multimedia propaganda machine for GS doctrine. One of the translators was Wayne Grudem, also well known as a major proponent of GS doctrine. The ESV’s GS connection has made it the most purchased English Bible in the past ten years. The latest promotion of the ESV by Crossway, “Trusted: Trusted Legacy [a whopping ten years]; trusted By Leaders; Trusted For Life,” features an endorsement by the who’s who of  GS doctrine.

The Complete Fix

With Michael Horton’s recent publication of “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way” (2011), the total fix is in place. The GS machine will now begin to move forward—rewriting and re-forming orthodox Christianity. I confidently predict that Horton’s book will be widely used in seminaries nationwide. Seminary students will be pumped into the local churches with a skewered view of truth—but using all of the same terminology that was formally orthodox.

What Can Be Done?

This doctrine thrives on the fact that Christians are theologically dumbed-down. If most Christians do not know the difference between justification and sanctification (and they don’t), they are helpless against this false doctrine. If most Christians don’t realize the importance of understanding hermeneutics (and they don’t), they are even more helpless. Local churches need to start in-doctrine-ating their people.


John Piper’s Vine and Branches Conference: A Synopsis of its Heresy

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 14, 2013

“Take note that Calvin is also confirming the Reformed belief that sins in the Christian life separate us from salvation. Therefore, the same repentance and faith that was needed originally continues to be needed as a way to keep ourselves saved. However, according to Calvin, the same gospel that originally saved us must be continually administered by Reformed pastors.”

John Piper states in the promotional video for his Vine and Branch conference that the union with Christ doctrine could be the most important doctrine that you have never heard of. The blogger Alex Guggenheim responded to that notion this way:

Okay, so here we have Neo-Calvinists who have, for the last 15-20 years and certainly the last 10 years, overwhelming their people and those being assimilated, being offered a conference on “the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of.”

Hmmm…so Neo-Calvinists, what have you been doing all this time if this doctrine is central to all things as your promo says? Suddenly you now offer the most important doctrine. I suggest theological and ecclesiastical malfeasance with such an admission.

If it was and is so important, and it is, why haven’t you made it the centrality of your teaching and articulations all this time or…is this just another gimmick to incite spiritual anxiety in people who now believe they have been missing something and cannot miss this?

Good grief.

The Calvin Institutes of the Christian religion is their playbook, and it is a very thick linguistic droning. This is their bible, and they are continually mining it for new ideas. Sometimes these ideas take a while to find in the book of Calvin. However, I believe it is the same document that will hang them because people are starting to read the document for themselves. Piper begins the promotion for the conference with a statement by Calvin, so let’s start with Calvin.

John Calvin

The crux of the Reformation false gospel is the idea that justification is not a finished work. Therefore, they make the separate work of sanctification the growing, or progression of justification. The saint becomes a colaborer in the finishing of justification rather than a colaborer for the kingdom as an ambassador. The saint is not working towards a reward from his Master, he is working towards the final prize of salvation.

Therefore, the saint must obtain that final prize the same way he received it, by FAITH ALONE. So, he must run the race of salvation by faith alone. This is made possible by the “vital union with Christ.” Our “union with Christ” sanctifies our participation in justification. Let me repeat that:

Our “union with Christ” sanctifies our participation in justification.

It makes running the race by faith alone possible. It enables us to gobble up more and more grace in order to keep ourselves saved—by faith alone of course. James addressed the problem of this very notion in James 2:14-26. It hearkens back to the problem of justification and sanctification not being completely separate; one being a finished work and the other being a progressive work. This is the Achilles’ heel of every false gospel that has ever come down the pike.

So, how do we supposedly run the race by faith alone? The same way we started; by faith alone which entails “living by the gospel.” We live to get more grace. If we keep filling up our gas tank at the salvation filling station, we will be able to “stand in the judgment” that we are driving to. In fact, this is exactly how Reformed theologians frame the issue:

We repeat, Justification is not a thing that we pass and get behind us. As Barth rightly said, it is not like a filling station that we pass but once. As we hold to its eschatological implications, justification by faith can never become static but must remain the dynamic center of Christian existence, the continuous present. We are always sinners in our eyes, but we are always standing on God’s justification and, perhaps more importantly, moving toward it. To be justified is a present-continuous miracle to the man who present-continuously believes, knowing that he who believes possesses all things, and he who does not believe possesses nothing. Such a life is only possible where the gospel of justification is continually heard and where God’s verdict of acquittal is like those mercies which Jeremiah declared were new every morning—”great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).[1]


Rather than obsessing through a checklist of necessary Christian behavior, he argued that it is important to get back to the heart of Christianity. Faith, he says, shouldn’t be based on “our performance” but, instead, it should be predicated upon “God’s performance for us in Jesus.”[2]

But there is no “performance” for us by Jesus in the Christian life that maintains justification. That work is done. In regard to justification, “It is finished” and Christ has sat down at the right hand of the Father. We work together with Christ in our sanctification. Again, at issue is the fusion of a finished work with a progressive work. But since the Reformation sees justification/salvation as progressive, we must continually fill our gas tanks with the same grace that saved us. That is the essence of union with Christ; it enables us to receive perpetual fillings of salvation. There are two primary ways that we “keep ourselves in the love of God”[3] or in union with Christ.

1. Mortification and vivification. According to Calvin, mortification and vivification is obtained through the union with Christ.[4] It is a lifestyle of “constant confession and repentance” that avoids the pursuit of a godly life and embraces a life that is “literally Christ himself.”[5] Simply stated, it is perpetual resalvation through the same repentance and sorrow for sin, and belief in the works of Christ only that saved us. By focusing on our depravity (“deep repentance”), a new need for grace is realized and when embraced results in a refreshing of the soul (vivification); viz, a joy experience.

This is the perpetual reliving of our baptism—a “daily dying and rising.”[6] It also results in EXPERIENCING the works of Christ in our life “subjectively,” but it is not really us doing the work—it is a manifestation of Christ’s work that we only experience [7]. This is otherwise known as “new obedience” in Reformed circles. It can be compared to standing in the rain; you experience it, but you are not participating in the work of it or producing it. This enables us to live our Christian lives by the same gospel that saved us, and resulting in being able to “stand in the judgment.”

2. The Sacraments. We get more saving gospel through the Sacraments. Said Calvin:

It is irrational to contend that sacraments are not manifestations of divine grace toward us… We conclude, therefore, that the sacraments are truly termed evidences of divine grace, and, as it were, seals of the good-will which he entertains toward us. They, by sealing it to us, sustain, nourish, confirm, and increase our faith.[8]

God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God’s work for us – the Father’s gracious plan, the Son’s saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit’s work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God’s work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God’s people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God’s Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching the people once again are simply receivers – recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord’s Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven.[9]

3. Absolution through church membership. According to Calvin:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them. Wherefore, as during our whole lives we carry about with us the remains of sin, we could not continue in the Church one single moment were we not sustained by the uninterrupted grace of God in forgiving our sins. On the other hand, the Lord has called his people to eternal salvation, and therefore they ought to consider that pardon for their sins is always ready. Hence let us surely hold that if we are admitted and ingrafted into the body of the Church, the forgiveness of sins has been bestowed, and is daily bestowed on us, in divine liberality, through the intervention of Christ’s merits, and the sanctification of the Spirit.

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ;531 but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers. This Paul teaches, when he says that the embassy of reconciliation has been committed to the ministers of the Church, that they may ever and anon in the name of Christ exhort the people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Therefore, in the communion of saints our sins are constantly forgiven by the ministry of the Church, when presbyters or bishops, to whom the office has been committed, confirm pious consciences, in the hope of pardon and forgiveness by the promises of the gospel, and that as well in public as in private, as the case requires. For there are many who, from their infirmity, stand in need of special pacification, and Paul declares that he testified of the grace of Christ not only in the public assembly, but from house to house, reminding each individually of the doctrine of salvation (Acts 20:20, 21). Three things are here to be observed. First, whatever be the holiness which the children of God possess, it is always under the condition, that so long as they dwell in a mortal body, they cannot stand before God without forgiveness of sins. Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place.[10]

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God. [11]

Take note that Calvin is also confirming the Reformed belief that sins in the Christian life separate us from salvation. Therefore, the same repentance and faith that was needed originally continues to be needed as a way to keep ourselves saved. However, according to Calvin, the same gospel that originally saved us must be continually administered by Reformed pastors.

John Piper

John Piper is the guru of Christian joy. Most Christians find it strange that he puts so much emphasis on Christian joy; that is, until you understand mortification and vivification. If vivification is not taking place; viz, the upside of mortification and vivification, then you are not in union with Christ. This totally explains the following outrageous statements by him:

“Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Desiring God  page 55).

“Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, ‘Believe in the Lord,’ but, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’?” (Desiring God page 55).

“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith” (Desiring God page 69).

“Not everybody is saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners. There is a condition we must meet in order to be saved. I want to try to show that the condition…is nothing less than the creation of a Christian Hedonist” (Desiring God page 61).

“We are converted when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy” (Desiring God page 66).

 “Something has happened in our hearts before the act of faith. It implies that beneath and behind the act of faith which pleases God, a new taste has been created. A taste for the glory of God and the beauty of Christ. Behold, a joy has been born!” (Desiring God page 67).

“Before the decision comes delight. Before trust comes the discovery of treasure” (Desiring God, page 68).

Michael Horton

The following statement by Michael Horton is a good summation of the Reformation’s false gospel:

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.[12]

Paul David Tripp

Lastly, out of necessity, Calvin’s doctrine must depend on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. As Rick Holland has stated, “bad grammar makes good theology.”[13] That’s because this doctrine cannot survive a grammatical examination. Tripp, one of the more viral forms of Calvinism, concedes on page 27 of How People Change (2006) that a literal interpretation of Scripture does call us to “change the way we think” (one of the more passive forms of obedience), but that this approach “omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.” In other words, a literal interpretation that circumvents use of the Bible as a tool for returning to the same gospel that saved us cuts off the progressive justification process.



1. “We” are the authors of the theological journal published by the Australian Forum project that launched the present-day Calvinist resurgence: Graeme Goldsworthy, Robert Brinsmead, Geoffrey Paxton, and Jon Zens. Citation from Present Truth Magazine volume 35—article 3, Righteousness by Faith part 4, chapter 8.

2. The Blaze interview with Tullian Tchividjian: Oct. 15, 2013 9:01am  | Billy Hallowell.

3. CJ Mahaney has used this theme many times and prescribes “preaching the gospel to ourselves” as the prescription. In reality, this is a means of keeping ourselves saved according to Reformed theology.

4. The Calvin Institutes 3.3.9, first sentence.

5. Paul David Tripp: How People Change Punch Press 2006, p.6

6. Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way: p.661

7. Ibid p.661, Ibid note 5, p. 215

8. The Calvin Institutes 4.14.7

9. Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; pp.189-191

10. The Calvin Institutes 4.1.21,22

11. John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4

12. Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62

13. Rick Holland: Uneclipsing the Son; p. 39

Revised Vital Union Chart


Linear Gospel 1

parallel gospel 1

Has a Particular Path Unfolded for TANC?

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 14, 2013

Cross Square


My journey into the “justification by faith alone” doctrine of the Reformation started in 2006. By 2012, I established that it is far from being a justification by faith alone. I believe the Reformation is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind by the traditions of men and the kingdom of darkness. This is a simple matter of theological math. Calvin et al knew the doctrine doesn’t add up, so they implemented a system of orthodoxy to keep Christians dumbed down. I believe Calvinism has become the epic evangelistic mission field of our day.

Thanks to my wife Susan who has been the leading supporter of this ministry for three years, I have been able to devote myself to this ministry fulltime since 2011. I am undoubtedly the idea guy, while Susan and others associated with our ministry help me sort through those ideas and categorize them. We have tossed around numerous ideas in regard to getting the word out that we must repent of fearing man and turn to the Chief Shepherd. Glory to His great name. There is NO mediator between God and man other than Christ. As the Calvinist tsunami intensifies in our day, its leaders are becoming bolder in exemplifying Calvin’s power of the keys. This is a major concern.

I am also concerned with how this movement has turned up the heat recently in regard to aggressively promoting this doctrine through conferences that target the bread and butter of Christianity. These conferences draw thousands from all over America who then go back to local churches with these ideas. And these conferences are funded by God’s people. Most of the pastors who go to these conferences do so on the local church’s coin. Never before in church history has so much money been poured into a false cause.

Though seven years of research has been necessary in order to articulate the problems with this doctrine, our Lord also said to “go.” I was motivated to do just that in regard to the “Cross” conference in Louisville that targets Christian youth. I cannot stand by and let that happen without a fuss. This will be a test in regard to a possible path going forward for TANC; an evangelistic/educational ministry that takes this message directly to where people have gathered for these conferences. It’s a start; to make even one pastor stop and think before he takes these ideas back to the local church. And pastors are usually members of local church fellowships; even one pastor could make a huge difference. When will we begin to plead that Chrsitians start applying the brakes in order to think about where they are going? This takes the message from the blogosphere to the streets.

Furthermore, I am concerned with another upcoming pastor’s conference in February of 2014 that focuses on “the vine and the branches.” I believe this conference will turn up the volume on Calvin’s power of the keys doctrine. It will convince many young pastors that they are key mediators between their parishioners and Christ. This is greatly increasing instances of spiritual tyranny in the church. Consider the mentality being conveyed by notable Calvinist leaders to their younger understudies:

The spiritual life of any congregation and its growth in grace will never exceed the high-water mark set by its pulpit.

~ Steven J. Lawson

TANC receives many encouraging letters from people who stand with us. They rightly assess that it must be “a very lonely ministry.” However, that’s changing. People also write that they “feel powerless” to do anything about the tyranny of this movement. That is changing also. Let us be a voice for you in Louisville and Minneapolis.

The truth is a very powerful thing, and a little of it will bring down any formidable stronghold. We need your support for Louisville; ie., the printing of materials and travel expenses for the missionary team. If we can pull this off, Minneapolis is next.

TTANC, a nonprofit LLC

PO Box 583

Xenia, Ohio 45385



Join the team!


Calvinism’s Platonist Rejection of the Trinity

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on May 7, 2013

conf-logoHow 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:

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: 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:


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



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 Defined

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



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?



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

Solus Christus



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.



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?



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

Hello Andy,

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.


Why Christians Can’t See the Total Absurdity of Total Depravity

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 25, 2012

“One can clearly see here where Powlison wants to take the plain sense of Scripture and apply the Socratic dialectic; ie, start asking questions about the obvious because truth couldn’t be that easy, and if it is, any Spirit indwelled Christian can do truth at home which is a huge problem for the philosopher kings. Empirical Objectivism puts the power of understanding in the hands of the common people. It is enemy number one for the Platonic New Calvinists.”

1. Background: No New Arrogance Under the Sun

This whole philosopher king idea is really getting traction in my mind and begs for a discussion on Calvin’s total depravity.  As I read more and more Socrates and Plato, I keep looking at the cover of the book to make sure it wasn’t really written by some New Calvinist: “Er, did I pick up the wrong book from the stack?” Socrates didn’t like to be questioned with challenging questions. Most of his dialogue was through questions because he believed that was how truth was rediscovered in the mind—through interpretive questions. Socrates didn’t mind inquisitive questions, they were efficacious to the process, but challenging questions in regard to his positions offended him. He had a specific response when he was challenged accordingly: he would sarcastically reverse the roles of teacher and student, and ask questions as the student while making the student the teacher. Sometimes he was very subtle about it to the point that the student was not aware it was going on; apparently, to amuse the gods.

2. Background: No New Interpretation Methods Under The Sun

Before we get to our subject of total depravity, I might mention that this exact same interpretive dialogue schema to determine truth is used by such New Calvinists like Paul David Tripp to discover what our heart idols are. He got the idea from mystic heretic David Powlison who dubs the method, “x-ray questions.” Much of “How People Change” is devoted to this Socratic method. It is also an important part of Neuro Linguistic Programming (used by motivational speaker Tony Robbins) which is a practical modeling application of Neuropsychology (Ed Welch of Powlison’s CCEF holds a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology). Socratism is also the bases of many schools of thought in psychotherapy—especially that of Carl Rogers. As an unbeliever, I was counseled by a Rogerian psychologist and the dialogue was very much like what it would have been with Socrates and one of his students 2500 years ago. This is known as the Socratic dialectic.

3. Background: No New Need For CONTROL Under The Sun

Socrates, and his understudy Plato, taught the governing/aristocratic philosophical class of Athens Greece which was only 10% of the population. Some historians estimate the slave class in that culture as being around 90% of the population. So, the last thing you want is 90% of the population thinking for themselves and coming up with their own ideas. Ideas have a lot of power, and people are inclined to act on them if they think their ideas are really good, or true. Unfortunately, this is the effect that the rulers of Athens were afraid Socrates would have on their society, so they executed him when he refused to go into exile. In case you are curious, executions during that time were boring—they merely brought a cup of Kool-Aid to your jail cell and you drank it.

Later, when Plato founded the first institution of learning in western culture, the Academy in Athens, he made it clear that the philosopher kings were the only ones who had knowledge, and that they should rule over the masses. This was much more acceptable than what Socrates claimed—that the ruling class didn’t know anything because they thought they did. Leveling the playing field to those who simply admit that truth is not definitive, while dissing the ruling class for not knowing anything, was just really a bad idea. There was no middle class to buffer the tipping of the scales.

3A: The Doctrine of Incompetence Necessary for Control

And like the true God, truth was a trinity: beautiful; good; true. However, to claim to know everything about truth would be the same as knowing everything about God. Both Plato and Socrates taught that truth was subjective at best and unknowable in the worst case:

I know not how I may seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with.

I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts [thinking leads to truth apart from observable criteria].

How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?

What truth that the philosopher kings can muster up is societies best shot. Overall, Plato believed that man was inept and should be ruled by philosopher kings who are a little better off because they at least know that truth can’t be known, and if we can ascertain truth at all—it’s not through what can be experienced through the five senses. That leaves the subjective intuition of the mind that is helped in the process (as much as it is one) through the Socratic dialectic. Later, Augustine took these concepts and integrated them with theology. One result of this integration was the idea that man is totally depraved. And that includes saved men as well. Now, by contrast, Plato and Socrates believed man, given a crystal ball, would always choose what’s best, and that his downfall was IGNORANCE (Plato: “Ignorance, the root and stem of every evil.”).  Whether a man was good or evil was irrelevant to their school of thought. BUT, the crux of the issue was transferred: the inability/incompetence of man.

3B: Intuitive Subjectivism Verses Empirical Objectivism   

Why do the saints of our day buy into such doctrines as total depravity when Scripture plainly teaches otherwise? Because a literal interpretation of Scripture is the same as trying to obtain truth through what can be observed—that’s why. To the Platonist, the idea that objective truth can be obtained at all, much less by evaluating the verbs, nouns, subjects, direct objects, etc. in a sentence, is absurd, and will incite sneers every time. And, this same idea can be found throughout New Calvinist teachings in this present day. In the book, How People Change, Paul David Tripp decries a literal interpretation of biblical imperatives that should rather be seen in their “gospel context.” Even in regard to following the biblical imperative to change our thinking (in the same book), Tripp objects by complaining that Jesus comes to us as a person, not a “cognitive concept” that we apply to our lives as a “formula.” Today’s Reformed philosopher kings have access to the higher knowledge of seeing the gospel and the personhood of Jesus in every verse.

Obviously, this can’t be done empirically if the subject of the verse is not the gospel; unless of course, you are gifted with the correct Reformed metaphysics. Coming to conclusions by Interpreting verbs, nouns etc. are merely Platonist shadows of the real form and not the true reality. New Calvinist Paul Washer has complained that evangelicals propagate a reductionist gospel when the truth is supposedly that the gospel is eternal and unknowable. It’s all the same basic philosophy dressed up in biblical terminology.

Incredibly, this very same contention can be seen in David Powlison’s complaints about Jay Adams in our very day. While lecturing at the church of Reformed heretic John Piper, Powlison stated the following:

 I think there’s been a huge growth in the movement in the understanding of the human heart, which is really a way of saying of the vertical dimension.  And I had an interesting conversation with Jay Adams, probably 20 years ago when I said, why don’t you deal with the inner man?  Where’s the conscience?  Where’s the desires?  Where’s the fears?  Where’s the hopes?  Why don’t you talk about those organizing, motivating patterns?

And his answer was actually quite interesting. He said, “when I started biblical counseling, I read every book I could from psychologists, liberals, liberal mainline pastoral theologians. There weren’t any conservatives to speak of who talked about counseling.  And they all seemed so speculative about the area of motivation.  I didn’t want to speculate, and so I didn’t want to say what I wasn’t sure was so.

One thing I knew, obviously there’s things going on inside people.  What’s going on inside and what comes out are clearly connected cause it’s a whole person, so I focused on what I could see.”

In other words, Adams was asserting that since behavior is connected to the heart and motivations anyway, why not focus on what can be objectively observed and apply empirical biblical solutions? The invisible interworking’s of the heart is subjective at best, and risky in regard to being used to help people. Adams wanted to be sure of what he was telling people in regard to solutions for their life problems. But if you believe that objective truth is unknowable anyway, and man’s best hope is the new experimental drug that may or may not help because truth is so far above our knowing (but Plato’s “bright pebble[s]” can be found now and then) then you must find truth beyond observing how the nouns and verbs of Scripture work together empirically to an objective conclusion with solutions following.

So, Powlison answers the Adams’ approach by asserting that the verbs of Scripture have a deeper meaning than what appears objectively. Pretty clever: don’t discount verbs, but add the idea that verbs are also intuitive for the purposes of deeper knowledge:

And that notion that the active verbs with respect to God can do multiple duty for us, they not only call us to faith and love and refuge and hope, but they can turn on their heads and they become questions, what am I hoping in, where am I taking refuge, what am I loving that is not God, that that’s actually a hugely significant component, both of self-knowledge and then of repentance as well.

Emphasis on the positive side of the heart is the whole relationship with God.  And I do think that’s a way where, in the first generation, it looks pretty behavioral, and the whole vividness of relationship with God.

One can clearly see here where Powlison wants to take the plain sense of Scripture and apply the Socratic dialectic; ie, start asking questions about the obvious because truth couldn’t be that easy, and if it is, any Spirit indwelled Christian can do truth at home which is a huge problem for the philosopher kings. Empirical Objectivism puts the power of understanding in the hands of the common people. It is enemy number one for the Platonic New Calvinists.

The proof is in the pudding. I have written extensively on the long, long, long list of New Calvinist ideas that blatantly contradict the plain sense of Scripture. How can they get away with this? And why do they do it? Well, first, because what can be plainly observed are shadows of real truth which must be obtained by loftier methods beyond empirical observation. Secondly, the philosopher kings are the supposed experts on that. It harkens back to the famous Jack Hyles quote: “Now shut your Bibles and listen to me.” Rather than to immediately drag this man from the pulpit and toss him into the street, why did the 10,000 plus in attendance that morning obey him without a whimper or batting of the eye?

Because he was a philosopher king—that’s why.

Interpreting  “Total Depravity” at Home

But if one does interpret the Bible literally, and if God does speak to us individually through his word, the folly of total depravity is plainly seen. In fact, if Christians do have the freedom to interpret the Bible for themselves, a child can even see the foolishness of this concept. First, we only need to observe 2 Peter 2:7,8;

and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Peter calls Lot (not exactly the brightest bulb in the Christian bunch ) “righteous.” Not, “totally depraved.” If God wants to put forth the idea that Christians are totally depraved, many passages like this would only cause confusion. “But Paul, that’s talking about positional righteousness, not the actual righteousness of the person.” Oh really? The passage states that it was Lot’s righteous “soul” that was “vexed.” And how do you vex something that is already totally vexed? Nevertheless, we can also add the Apostle Paul’s commentary on the Christian’s righteousness and ability:

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14).

In case there is any question that Paul is not talking about us specifically and not just an attribute that we have in Christ alone, he doubles the personal pronoun for emphasis: “you yourselves.” In a further attempt to show that Christians are totally depraved and no different than unbelievers, Calvinists make the law the standard for justification. A New Calvinist recently challenged my contention that Christians do not sin as a lifestyle, and therefore shouldn’t be referred to as “sinners.” He challenged my contention with their classic rhetorical question that supposedly ends the argument: “Did you sin today?” Hence, if we sinned once, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:20 [a justification verse not applicable to sanctification]) which supposedly  =’s total depravity.

But the law is no longer a standard by which Christians are judged; so therefore, the repentance is even different—it is a washing of the feet rather than a washing of the whole body (see John, chapter 13). Because we have the seed of God within us and this treasure in earthen vessels, we do sin, but not habitually because we are born again and the power of habitual sin is broken. The law is a standard for our kingdom living, but not our just standing—the whole book of 1John is about this and Romans references the same tenets throughout. Because Reformed theology starts with Platonist assumptions about truth and man’s relationship to it—they must rewrite Scripture in totality to make it work which necessarily dismisses a literal interpretation of the grammatical sort.

And I contend that the unregenerate are not even totally depraved. Romans, chapter 2 makes it clear that all people born into the world have the law of God written on their hearts and a conscience that mediates between their actions/thinking and the natural law of God. This, in my mind, thoroughly explains why unsaved people do good things, and pass judgment on what is “natural/good” and “unnatural/evil.” In most cases, extreme behavior (especially unnatural) is attributed to the mind being “ill.” “But Paul, Isaiah said that all of the righteous works of man are as filthy rags to him.” Right, when they are for the purpose of earning favor with God for salvation, or in other cases, hypocritical. I once knew a serial adulterer who volunteered at the community soup kitchen that fed the poor. Does God see that good work as filthy? Of course. But does He look upon the work of a person, who without thinking (because of the law written upon his/her heart), throws themself in front of a car that is about to run over a mother and her baby in the same way? I doubt it. Will that act earn heaven? No. But is the act filthy in God’s eyes? Hardly.

Furthermore, throughout the Scriptures, we learn that there are different degrees of punishment in hell. For the Reformed mind, that’s gotta hurt. That means that the unregenerate, in the negative sense, are given some merit for not being as depraved as they could be. Therefore, the life of an unbeliever does contain merit—not for salvation, but for responding positively to God’s natural law. In fact, at times, the unsaved put Christians to shame in regard to this because as a man thinks in his heart—so is he, and many Christians have been taught that they are totally depraved. This is one of the very reasons that the world is often not endeared to Christianity: it’s a contradiction to the natural law within unbelievers.

Moreover, we see further contradictions in Christ’s account of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke, chapter 16. What did the condemned man have to gain by exhorting Abraham to warn his living brethren about his eternal demise lest they end up the same way? I’m sorry, but how can this not be seen as a selfless exhortation for the benefit of others? Total depravity? How?

But there is a warning in this for the Reformed as well. Abraham told the rich man that if they would not listen to the Scriptures, neither would they listen to one who had been raised from the dead. So, does that mean to merely “listen” to a gospel story? Or, other biblical truth as well? Does the Bible use a myriad of other truths about God to lead others to the gospel, or just the gospel story itself? And who are the approved narrators? Is the true gospel a gospel story about a call to believe and contemplate the gospel only? Is that a true gospel? The Reformed philosopher kings of our day assure us that they know the answers to these questions, and to just trust them as God’s anointed.

No thanks, Christ told me to “consider carefully what you hear.” And sorry, I think “you” means, “me” as in, Paul Dohse. Plato said, “Those who tell the stories rule society.” And in our day, those who make the whole Bible a gospel story are ruling the church. Well, not in my house.

As for me and my house, we will heed our Lord’s advice and consider carefully what we hear. No matter who is telling the story, and we will pay closer attention in alarm to those looking for deeper meaning in simple verbs.


How Kinky Does it Have to Get? Stuart Scott et al Don’t Care

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 30, 2012

ScottI have never been much for getting into the more bizarre aspects of New Calvinism, but we know that errant theology leads to life getting stranger and stranger. This post is about  well-known Christians and their determination to associate with bizarre sects of New Calvinism. Without a doubt, the best example is my old stomping grounds, Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio.

Clearcreek is still a training center for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselers and is on NANC’s national referral list. The Chapel is frequented by guest speakers such as Robert Jones, Paul David Tripp, Stuart Scott, and Lou Priolo. Apparently, Martha Peace has an ongoing teaching arrangement with Clearcreek as well. PPT has sent most of these folks letters asking them to not grant Clearcreek credibility in this way, but to no avail. Scott’s basic response was, “Not my problem.”

So, what doesn’t matter to these folks? Primarily, it doesn’t matter that one of Clearcreek Chapel’s staff elders (over adult education) is Chad Bresson, a former Christian radio personality. Bresson is one of the charter members of the Earth Stove Society which is a fringe group that promotes New Covenant Theology. Bresson authors the blog, Vossed World which is dedicated to the Bible Theology of Geerhardus Vos.

Vos has a cult following from this group. Literally. NCT fringe groups lead yearly pilgrimages to Vos’ gravesite in Pennsylvania to pay homage to Vos. Bresson led such a pilgrimage last year that was nothing short of a worship service. Bresson himself stood before Vos’ headstone and wept while reading from books written by Vos. Shockingly, Bresson posted the affair on his Facebook page and the information was forwarded to PPT.

“Standing in the midst of the obvious decay that is the hallmark of the already, speaks of the inbreaking ‘not yet’ through lumped throat and wet eyes.”

Just last week, I had the following encounter with an advocate of NCT and  acquaintance of Bresson’s  in the PPT comment section of a post:

My dear anti-Pneumian friend, we are heading there in a few weeks for our winter Pilgrimage . . . we will be sure to light a prayer candle or two for you at his shrine as we offer up prayers on our special new covenant Rosary to our beloved patron Saint Geerhardus. May he grant to you out of his treasury of grace to be spared some time in purgatory. Until then, walk in the power of the Spirit and be filled with the joy and wonder of the Gospel!


I would be inclined to think you are kidding, but I know Bresson all too well, so, I think you are serious about this. If Vos shows up, take good notes and I will let you write a guest piece here.

Also troubling is Bresson’s outright denial of a literal, instructive approach to Scripture. Bresson believes the Holy Spirit only illumines the word when it is approached as a gospel narrative for purposes of Gospel Contemplationism. Any use of the Bible for instructive purposes is to use the Bible in the same way that the Pharisees used the Torah (Vossed World blog: “The Word of God is a Person,” 7/17/2008 archives). As the foremost respected theologian at Clearcreek Chapel, the idea that every single verse in the Bible must be read as concerning Christ and the gospel can be seen in the following post by another Chapel teacher: Clearcreek Chapel Biblical Theological Study Center blog: “Interpreting the Unfolding Drama the Way Jesus Did,” student archives 2/19/2011, by Max Strange. Online source:

The Clearcreek elders are so bent on not implementing instruction in counseling that on at least one occasion, according to a former counselee I talked to, they will draw pictures of the person’s life on a piece of paper and illustrate were the counselee is located in the picture. I witnessed a testimony firsthand in which a Clearcreek elder said a marriage was miraculously transformed before his eyes by merely showing forth the gospel from the Scriptures in the first counseling session. When I confronted the elders about it, the response was, “Oh, that’s just Dan.”

Even by NANC standards, the fact that NANC associates with them and refers people there who have deep problems is unconscionable.

Another example is New Calvinist Mark Driscoll who has been a keynote speaker at such events like CCEF’s 2009 national conference at the behest of David Powlison. The following video in which he claims to see visions is self-explanatory:

Truly, New Calvinists like John Piper and CJ Mahaney must get together and giggle about what they can actually get away with. The following video documents their strange “The Scream of the Damned” concoction. This actually took place at the 2009 resolved conference sponsored by John MacArthur’s church. The fact that Grace Community Church would host such nonsense speaks for itself. Following are quotes concerning the message and then the 2009 resolved promo trailer:

CJ spoke of our Savior’s cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” And though I have contemplated that amazing cry often, never did it hit me as hard as in CJ’s message, when he referred to it as “the scream of the Damned.”

Then there was break and music and announcements, and John Piper stood up to bring his message. Several of us had prayed in a back room that God would anoint John, and pick right up where He left off in the previous message, and wow, did He. John referred repeatedly to the “scream of the Damned,” and then moved into Romans 8.

A flood of tears came as God preached the message to me yet again. That Deity would be Damned. That the God who is called upon righteously by the saints and angels in heaven to damn people, and called upon habitually by unbelievers flippantly and unrighteously to damn people, would in fact damn his Son, would (from the Son’s willingness to drink the cup) damn himself…for us. That it could be said of the Beloved One, “God damned Him,” and that He screamed the scream of the Damned….it was too much for me. It is too much for me this moment. And in the ages to come it will continue to be too much for me.

~ Randy Acorn

Everything exists to magnify the worth of the scream of the damned. That’s the point of the universe. What we will do forever in heaven is magnify the worth of the scream of the damned. Calvary will not be forgotten. It is the most-horrible, most sinful, most agonizing event that ever was – it will be the center of heaven forever. Hell exists, cross exists, sin exists, heaven exists, you exist, universe exists, in order to magnify the worth of the scream of the damned. What is the apex of the revelation of the grace of God? And the answer is the scream of the damned on the cross.

~ John Piper from his sermon on “The Screamed of the Damned.”

An Allusion to Inclusion and “Spiritual Formation”

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 21, 2011

“In other words, their definition of the new birth is the living Christ being formed within spiritually dead believers.”


A reader alluded to the ecumenical aspect of New Calvinism based on the core doctrine of Gospel Sanctification, or COG (the centrality of the objective gospel) or COGUS (the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us). If you believe in COG, you’re in the tribe, and anything else, including things like snake handling, are fair game (“secondary issues”):

And I am picking up on something else with these guys after reading over at an SBC Reformed blog and other Reformed blogs: If you are deemed to have correct doctrine concerning this, you can get by with just about anything. It is one reason they totally ignore the antics of Driscoll and Mahaney. See, they have correct doctrine and that is more important than what they do. But one would think that correct doctrine would bring about doing the right things at some point.

Not by them, because they deny the new birth. And they clearly teach that we are still totally depraved. So, what is their version of spiritual growth? They do have one that would ordinary appear orthodox if you start throwing excerpts around. This is the weakest link in the near complete picture we have of the New Calvinist theological system and its life application. It’s called “spiritual  formation.” Notice that many elders in Reformed churches are being referred to as “elder over spiritual formation.”

Basically, instead of us growing spiritually as persons (which would be supposedly “infusing grace into us and reversing justification and sanctification” [John Piper et al ]), The works of Christ are “formed within us” as we meditate on the gospel.  “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” right? In other words, their definition of the new birth is the living Christ being formed within spiritually dead believers. This is a constant theme throughout the book “How People Change” written by Powlison Kool-Aid drinkers Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane.

This is bringing this ministry into a deep study of the postmodern Spiritual Contemplationism movement. There are many ministries out there that have been griping for some time that the likes of Mark Driscoll  and Tim Keller are guilty of this. Of course, New Calvinism has enjoyed incremental criticism for years without a vetting of the full picture of who they really are. The second volume of TTANC will complete this part of the puzzle. They believe the new birth is a formation of Christ within spiritually dead believers via Gospel Contemplationism.

Incredibly, John MacArthur Jr. criticized the postmodern view of interpreting Scripture as a meta-narrative in “Truth War” while enthusiastically supporting New Calvinists that hold to that same view. The shameful embracing of New Calvinism by Grace to You ministries will be addressed in volume two as well.


The Issue of New Calvinism May Be Simple to Understand After All

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 20, 2011

It has happened more than once until the lightbulb went on a couple of days ago. Susan and I often eat in the same booth at a local restaurant where I proposed to her and where she said, “yes.” In our discussions there on New Calvinism, she often gets a perplexing look on her face and asks questions that seem to indicate that she doesn’t get it. Then the light went on, and I said, “Honey, this point here, they really believe this stuff!”

Yes, often, we don’t connect the dots that lead to understanding because we reject the idea that intelligent people would really believe certain elements of a doctrine. I think that is what gives New Calvinism its cover in many cases. I stayed at Clearcreek Chapel for at least five years after knowing something wasn’t right because I was in denial. “Did he really just say that? Well, I don’t think he meant that exactly, he probably meant to say, you fill in the blank.

Folks wonder why I constantly engage myself in debating mindless, Kool-Aid drinking New Calvinists. The answer is simple; the linguistic exercise creates avenues in my mind that help me better articulate the doctrine. Has the most simplistic formula for understanding this doctrine been right in front of me for months now?  Though the calling card for New Calvinism is “the objective gospel outside of us,” I don’t think that my mind would let me connect the dots that these guys believe that the objective gospel is still “completely” outside of us in salvation. And “completely” is their word, not mine.

Now, when I say “gospel,” think, “justification.” Remember, New Calvinists, like their SDA ancestors, interpret everything through justification. Hence, sanctification can’t be separate, it must be a manifestation of justification in some way. Orthodoxy believes justification makes sanctification possible, New Calvinists (those who know what they believe and are functioning on more than soundbites) believe sanctification is justification in growing form. But justification can’t grow, it is a legal declaration that was accomplished once, and for all those the Father gives to the Son.

When we are saved (because we were justified before the earth was even created), something else happens: “You must be born again.” Justification makes this possible, or better said: it determines it will happen, but the new birth is not justification. At this point, New Calvinists cry, “foul!” And, “You are infusing grace (think, “justification”) into us, and inside of us, making a work inside of us the ground of our justification!”

Ok, what’s going on here? Well, at issue is our ability to participate in our own spiritual growth. Because they view everything through justification like their momma, Ellen White, we can’t be enabled to participate in justification. BUT WE AREN’T BEING ENABLED TO PARTICIPATE IN JUSTIFICATION, JUSTIFICATION IS A COMPLETED WORK.

We are born again, and we are not only declared righteous, we are righteous because we are “new creatures” and, “Behold, all things are new.” Us minus this body we are in, does equal perfection, and we long for the day that Jesus Christ will deliver us from it. But our efforts in sanctification are not an effort to participate in being justified, that’s impossible, we were justified not only before we were born, but before the earth was even created!  But New Calvinists refuse to separate the two, and insist that an inside enablement is an enablement to participate in justification. Let me repeat that: “But New Calvinists refuse to separate the two, and insist that an inside enablement is an enablement to participate in justification.” Which wouldn’t be a good thing.

Therefore, according to New Calvinists (those who know what they really believe, and aren’t mere followers), if we are enabled to participate in justification, that is infusing the righteousness of grace within us—that is making us righteous for the purposes of maintaining justification, or a “righteous standing before God.”  Hence, all righteousness that justifies must be OUTSIDE OF US. And since sanctification is “justification in action,” that active justification has to be fueled by a righteousness that is outside of us lest we be participants in justification. BUT WE CAN’T PARTICIPATE IN JUSTIIFCATION—IT’S A FINISHED WORK!

Also, all righteous works have to be apart from us and are the exclusive works of Christ. Let me repeat that: “….all righteous works have to be apart from us and are the exclusive works of Christ.” Because all righteous works are intrinsically connected to the gospel, or justification, all righteousness points back to justification.

New Calvinists believe that this was the crux of the Reformation. Rome infused righteousness within the believer—they infused the righteous works of Christ within the believer. No, Rome was guilty of the exact same thing that New Calvinists are guilty of, believing that justification has to be maintained through sanctification. The major difference is the following: Rome said that was obtained by ritual and their traditions from an infallible pope. New Calvinists say no to that, but yes to Jesus performing sanctification on our behalf and without our participation. Then they have made that issue “semper reformanda.” But both are guilty of the same thing, fusing justification and sanctification. When you do that, there can only be two results: works salvation (according to ritual and tradition), or let go and let God, or outright sanctified antinomianism (“Oh yes, the law is very, very important, but we can’t keep it, Jesus keeps it for us).

Now, let me pause here and cite some quotations:

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.”

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

~John Piper

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

So what does this objective Gospel look like? Most importantly, it is outside of us.

~ Tullian Tchividjian

The blessings of the gospel come to us from outside of us and down to us.

~ John Fonville

If we happen to say No to one self-destructive behavior, our self-absorption will merely express itself in another, perhaps less obvious, form of self-destruction. Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin. We need help from outside ourselves—and he helps.

~ David Powlison

The saving action of God took place “outside of me” in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

~Robert Brinsmead (Australian Forum)

It robs Christ of His glory by putting the Spirit’s work in the believer above and therefore against what Christ has done for the believer in His doing and dying.

~ Geoffrey Paxton (Australian Forum)

But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?

~ Michael Horton

And the new-birth-oriented “Jesus-in-my-heart” gospel of evangelicals has destroyed the Old Testament just as effectively as has nineteenth-century liberalism. (footnoted to Paxton’s article with above quote).

~ Graeme Goldsworthy (Australian Forum)

In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed 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.

~ John Piper

Geoffrey Paxton convinced Robert Brinsmead that the SDA fusion of justification and sanctification via our participation was not the ticket (works salvation). Instead, they devised a fusion of the two that was not “justification by works.” But the base error is the same, and the brilliant John Piper cartel has bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

But how does it all work in “real life.”

So how is this all packaged to appear orthodox? That is what we refer to as “Gospel Sanctification.”

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? No we can’t, that’s bunk. 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 cannot 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).

Deep Repentance

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.

New Obedience

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” (emphasis added).

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 here 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.

GS Characteristics

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 (I expand on this in the other essays). 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.

This can best be summarized by a statement I make in another essay contained in this book:

“Tripp’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 Jerry Bridges who counsels us to have assurance via “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”


It boils down to this: when we are saved, and born again, is God’s righteousness imparted to us? And if it is—is that working for justification? I believe orthodoxy answers that second question with an unequivocal NO!


Well, Pastors Won’t Preach It so…..[Video pulled down.]

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on September 3, 2011



Did anybody contact her according to Matthew 18 before these comments were made? JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING!

Hi, My Name is Amy—I’m a Sinner

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on September 3, 2011

The opening line of an author under the tab, “about” propagating “gospel-centered” theology (ie., antinomianism, Sonship Theology, New Calvinism, Gospel contemplation) reminds me of the infamous introductions at AA meetings: “Hi, my name is Bob—I’m an alcoholic ‘Hi Bob.’” Amy Engle, the author of A Voice Crying Out blog (apparently because we are desperate rather than those who are much more than conquers through Jesus Christ) states it this way: “I’m Amy. I was born in sin. In sin, my mother conceived me. I have broken every law of GOD and I deserve the full extend of His just wrath against me.” Hi Amy.

I take this approach because after continual hounding by readers and my wife, I have finally seen it. What? Our sinfulness has become reason for boasting in order to make much of God and his grace—not us. Think about it: what is really the difference between that and making much of sin “so that grace may abound”? And if all we talk about is our sin in order to lift God up, It is hard for me to believe that actual sin acts would be seen as any big deal. In fact, seems like they would serve to deepen such convictions. The one that causes Susan to harp (because she is an angel) is what she experienced in her own life. She was saved at an early age and took following the Lord in obedience seriously. Growing up, she suffered through testimony after testimony of converts harping about how sinful they were before Christ saved them. When she was a young girl at youth camp, where such testimonies sing more than the birds, she sought counseling because she wondered if she was ever sinful enough to be saved. After all, take Amy’s testimony for example, she has “broken every law of God.” Woe, I’m not even goin’ there.

This does seem bizarre when you think about it. When I was a young boy, I lived for awhile with my grandparents. My grandfather was my hero and I loved him with all of my heart. I sought to always please him. Before he left for work, he would always assign tasks for me to complete around the small farm they had. I would always do them and more. Around the time for him to come home, I would always meet him in the driveway because I couldn’t wait to show him all that I had done. “Look Grandpa, see what I have done? And look, I did this too!” His beaming approval was my reward. Does it not remind you of the parable of the talents? “look Lord, you gave me five talents and I made five more!” On the other hand, I loathed it when I misbehaved and my grandfather had to punish me. It was by no means anything I wanted to talk about—they were considered bad memories for both of us. But it would seem that the New Calvinist version of the same parable would be a boasting about how evil we were; and apparently expecting Christ to say, “Well done faithful servant.”

My wife and visitors here are right; this is a glorifying of evil. Along with this is the New Calvinist glorifying of helplessness, even though we “can do all things through Him who strengthens us.” God strengthens us, absolutely, but we still “do,” and we should do it well.  Like many New Calvinists, A praying skeleton is Engle’s internet graviator (the last time I remember seeing her comments on another blog). Apparently, nothing but a voice crying out because as Paul David Tripp says of Christians: “When you are dead you can’t do anything.” If you are a Christian, you have been given talents. What’s your strategy for when the Master of the house returns for an accounting? Your call.



Deja vu

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on August 16, 2011

“I may be told, in reply, that no one of course means to disparage ‘works’ as an essential part of a holy life. It would be well, however, to make this more plain than many seem to make it in these days.”

~JC Ryle

The Three Gospels of Our Day Slide Show

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on August 10, 2011

By Request: A Summary Of The New Calvinist Genealogy Chart; Part 1 / Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 13, 2011

The contemporary history of New Calvinism begins with Robert Brinsmead and Jon Zens. They are the fathers of New Calvinism. Between my interview with Brinsmead and an informal document written by Zens I found on the internet—this is apparent. Brinsmead started a project called the Australian Forum (he wanted me to note that it was one of many projects that focused on certain subjects) that sought to articulate a gospel-centered sanctification into a unified, consistent systematic theology. One of the major considerations was a focus on covenant theology in relationship to this endeavor. Jon Zens is the father of New Covenant Theology, but it is clear that Brinsmead had a major influence in the formulation of that doctrine. All of this took place in the 70’s. So, New Calvinism has been around for about 35 years in various forms. It is primarily based on the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel (COG). COG is the very heart of New Calvinism. Though NC has many different expressions, this doctrine is the heartbeat that drives it.

The Forum was having a significant impact on two spheres of Christianity in the 70’s and early 80’s; namely, Reformed Baptist and Westminster Seminary. Zens was a Reformed Baptist and also a student at Westminster. Zens taught a Sunday School class where his ideas on New Testament ethics were being presented, and Westminster students attended those studies. Michael Horton was infatuated with the Forum’s teachings, and COG can be seen in many of his teachings throughout his career. Keep in mind, the Forum’s magazine, Present Truth, and later, Verdict, according to Zens, had the largest readership among all Evangelical publications at that time. Apparently, Zens was initially introduced to the Forum by receiving Present Truth while he was a student at Westminster, and eventually formed a close relationship with Brinsmead.  Also, G. Goldsworthy’s involvement in the Forum as one the AF three is one of the interesting the top is the same as the bottom in the genealogy chart. Till this day, the Goldsworthy Trilogy is a mainstay of New Calvinism’s  Gospel Theology. Again, at the very heart of Goldsworthy’s Trilogy is COG. Goldsworthy was close to Brinsmead, and Brinsmead learned his Hebrew skills from Goldsworthy.

Zens, with the help of several men who are now the who’s who of New Covenant Theology while Zens is in the background (probably because of his connections with Brinsmead), attempted to propagate the doctrine, yet unnamed, via the Baptist Reformation Review . Zens received a very zealous contention from other Reformed Baptist such as Walter Chantry. At that time, Brinsmead wrote several articles defending Zens’ doctrine in the BRR. According to Zens:

“A sort of (unintended) [I doubt that] culmination occurred in the Spring, 1981, BRR. There were lengthy review articles of Walt Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom [a book Chantry wrote to contend against COG, though he saw it as neo-antinomianism, which is also a correct assertion] and Robert Brinsmead’s Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism. The dynamic N.T. approach to law and gospel [“NT approach to law and gospel” is a present-day NC mantra] was stated forcefully by RDB:

‘[Paul’s] appeals on how to live are made on the basis of what God has done for us in Christ. It is in view of God’s gospel mercies that we are to present our lives as a living sacrifice to God (Rom.12:1-3) . . . . Paul virtually never appeals to the law – ‘Thou shalt not.’ When he demands certain behavior of the church, he appeals instead to the holy history of Christ . . . and from that stand point then makes his ethical appeal.’”

Note here, and this is very important: the Forum’s the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event can be seen in Brinsmead’s statement cited by Zens above, which is a pillar of Gospel Sanctification till this day, and originated in COG doctrine by the AF. Chantry and others effectively beat COG within an inch of its life, and the doctrine, coined by Zens one year later as “New Covenant Theology” (in 1981), continued on in a meager existence among Continental Baptist. Most likely, John Piper was introduced to COG among Reformed Baptist and was probably well aware of the controversy. The wherewithal of his injection of Christian Hedonism into the movement is sketchy at this time and needs extensive investigation which I will do Lord willing.

Meanwhile, COG was finding new life at Westminster Seminary. In fact, Brinsmead and the Forum met with the Westminster faculty in the I think early 80’s, I will add references to this summary later. Brinsmead remembers little about the meeting other than he noted that the faculty served pork to him and the other forum members which he suspected was deliberate due to the Forum’s connection with Adventism. I informed him that it was deliberate because they were incited to do so by Jay Adams (a faculty member at the time) who was not a happy camper that the meeting took place. Brinsmead stated that one individual present at the meeting seemed to be an “elder statesman” of Westminster. I’m guessing it was Edmund Clowney.

At this point, COG, as the face of the AF disappears, leaving behind its remnants with Continental Baptist because Robert Brinsmead departed from orthodox Christianity all together. But the heart of COG incited a new movement begun by Westminster professor John “Jack” Miller called “Sonship Theology.” Again, COG met stiff resistance in Presbyterian circles under the new name of Sonship. Leading the charge was Dr. Jay Adams who also knew Jack Miller personally. His contention against Sonship is well documented in his book, “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation Of The Sonship Discipleship Course.” Unfortunately, the book is out of print. One may well note: Some big dogs of the present-day New Calvinists movement; specifically, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller and his Sonship program. Tim Keller’s propagation of Sonship is well known and documented. At a conference conducted at John Piper’s church while Piper was on sabbatical, Powlison specifically cited Miller as his “mentor” and ridiculed Adams for criticizing Miller while failing to mention that the “criticism” was in the form of a book—which I am sure slipped his mind. Miller is the one who coined the phrase often aped by Jerry Bridges: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” Funny, while an elder at a reformed church in the mid-nineties, I heard Jerry Bridges say that without realizing what a profound effect that little phrase would have on my life ten years later.

But with COG again under heavy fire and the Sonship coat of arms being shot full of holes, “Sonship” was replaced with “gospel,” ie., “gospel-driven” this, and “gospel-centered” that. The movement was now underground, but steadily growing while avoiding labels like the plague. Take note: for almost ten years between 2000 and 2009, the movement was nameless. The name “New Calvinism” is very recent and was attached because movements that become massive cannot avoid a label. Meanwhile, David Powlison had been busy for a number of years  integrating  Jack Miller’s form of COG into “biblical counseling” through his Dynamics of Biblical Change which became the basis for biblical counseling at Westminser Seminary. Hence, different players were at work making COG relevant to different areas of Christian theology and life that were important to them in making COG work. Brinsmead conceived the primary foundation (with other Reformed elements not unique with him—what he called “jewels” that contributed to what was important to him) and helped Zens formulate the covenant theology. Goldsworthy integrated COG into hermeneutics and eschatology with a little bit of Gabler and Vos mixed in for good measure. Piper contributed to the experience / emotional aspect, and Powlison was paramount in his contribution to the life application part; otherwise, COG would be more vulnerable to its unbiblical passivity in the sanctification process.

Unbeknown to many in the biblical counseling movement, the integration of  COG into biblical counseling, primarily in David Powlison’s Theology of the Heart that came out of Westminster’s DBC, was at the core of tensions between NANC and CCEF, the counseling wing of Westminster Seminary (other than the integration of Psychology as well, but COG deserves infamous merit there as well). Eventually, CCEF’s influence totally infected NANC with the disease, and NANC advocates act as if the cupbearer, upon realizing he has tested a deadly cup, should use his last words to compliment the superb taste of the drink. Eventually, disciples of David Powlison; Paul David Trip and Timothy Lane, wrote a book that articulated COG’s supposed life application in the book,  How People Change. The centrality of the objective gospel (COG) and all of its elements are glaringly obvious in the book—almost as if it was written by Robert Brinsmead himself.

Starting in, or about 2004, Christians began to realize something was wrong, but because the movement had no label, other than, “gospel” (and who is going to diss the “gospel”?), many simply just remained confused as to what this was all about. However, I was in a unique situation at the time. I was in a church that was on the cutting edge of the movement for many reasons. In NANC’s glory days, this church was a training center for biblical counselors. The church was eventually infected by COG via CCEF’s influence over NANC, and Reformed Baptists  who joined the same afoermentioned church who were of the Jon Zens  persuasion. Once I knew something didn’t smell right, I spent several months researching and interacting with the elders of that church. Their story, which of course I didn’t buy, was that COG has been historically true all along, and a Reformation was afoot. Eventually, after hundreds of hours of conversation / debate with these elders and my own research, I named the movement “Gospel Sanctification” and started a blog called the “Berean Call” which later became PPT. Initially, I thought the movement was confined to those group of elders (who are all men drunk with visions of grandeur), and they were trying to formulate a system that made Heart Theology, Christian Hedonism, NCT, and redemptive-historical hermeneutics work together as  a unified theology. Four years later, I came to realize that they were a mere reflection of a total package.

About a year ago, I received a book from an individual whom I suspect knew that there was a connection between Gospel Sanctification and Sonship Theology, but wanted me to see it for myself. The connection was immediately seen in the first 100 words of Adams’ book. After much more research, it looked like Jack Miller was the father of Gospel Sanctification, but I was haunted by a few things. GS seemed to need NCT’s view of the law to function without contradiction. Also, all elements of  Sonship and the historical connections were easy to match with GS, but NCT theology seemed to be dropped in out of nowhere. Of course, it didn’t surprise me that the elders of the church I was a member of or CCEF never uttered the name, “Sonship” because that would supply Christians with an interpretive prism that could expose them. Then, several months later, by accident, I stumbled upon an article that mentioned the Australian Forum and how it had a profound effect on the theological mindset of Michael Horton. That prompted me to say to myself,  “Oh really?” “What is the Australian Forum?” Well, the rest is history.

Future parts will put veneer on the framework posted here, but any clarifying questions are welcome.


Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” Part 1: John MacArthur Comes Completely Out of the Closet

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 7, 2011

“This is the road now traveled by MacArthur: unlike his preaching of the past, but like other Gospel Sanctification advocates, his preaching will now raise more questions than are answered….”


“I am unmoved by MacArthur’s self-delusions and his musings concerning the ever-morphing neo-Calvinist novelties of our day. Peter said that though he and others witnessed the miracles of that age—the testimony of Scripture is more sure, and Gospel Sanctification does not align with the plain sense of Holy writ.”


“Also, note that he says that we don’t even want to eclipse Christ ‘partially.’ This is like the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which led them to relegate the new birth to a position of insignificance because it involves a focus on us (subjective), and away from Christ / gospel (objective), and therefore ‘eclipses Christ.’”


July 6, 2011 is a day that will live in infamy for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding. My copy of  “Uneclipsing The Son” by Rick Holland arrived two days ago and was on my desk. Susan came and sat in a chair by my desk, observed the book, picked it up, and started reading to me the forward written by John MacArthur Jr. My worst fears were realized. MacArthur’s forward to the book is a clear, concise, mini-treatise that promotes Gospel Sanctification in no uncertain terms. He is now totally out of the closet. As the name, “Gospel Sanctification” indicates, we are supposedly sanctified by the same gospel that saved us. In other words, our spiritual growth flows from a contemplation on Christ’s personhood (whatever that means exactly) and His works. Therefore, the sole purpose of the Scriptures is to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ and His works with everything else in Scripture being a mere picture or description of what Christ has fulfilled for us. One might say that it is a hyper-Calvinistic view of monergism in justification that is also projected onto sanctification. So, if one carries the doctrine to its logical conclusion, the primary, if not sole duty in the Christian life is meditating on Christ and His works which results in the Holy Spirit elevating us to higher and higher levels of sanctification. In fact, MacArthur all but writes exactly that in the forward to Holland’s book.

First, Some Historical Background

This is not the first time in church history that contemplative spirituality using the gospel as the object has been propagated. However, what makes Gospel Sanctification unique is its unified systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification has a theory regarding a favorable method of interpreting the Scriptures, a supposed practical application, an explanation of how it is experienced emotionally, its own eschatology, and a covenant theology. More than likely, Gospel Sanctification as we know it today was conceived by Robert Brinsmead and his Australian Forum project. The clear mandate of that project was to systematize a theology that was gospel-centered sanctification. One of the concepts created by the project was the centrality of the objective gospel. It went so far as to indicate that all reality is interpreted through the gospel (objective), and anything given more priority than the gospel (subjective) was to “eclipse the Son.” The Forum’s writings are saturated with descriptions of various woes that come from “eclipsing” Christ and the gospel. Robert Brinsmead worked closely with Jon Zens (the father of New Covenant Theology) in developing the same kind of theology for a supposed biblical view of law/gospel or “New Testament ethics.” The result was New Covenant Theology and Zens tried to propagate the Theology in Reformed Baptist circles. It was met with fierce resistance, and the movement was relegated to a meager group presently known as the Continental Baptist.

However, the idea found new life through another venue where Forum doctrines were being tossed around via the fact that Zens was a student there, and Michael Horton was greatly influenced by Forum ideas—Westminster Seminary. Primarily, a professor of theology there named Jack Miller took the same ideas and formulated a doctrine known as Sonship Theology. Again, the movement was met with fierce opposition, this time in Presbyterian circles. The Sonship label was then dropped and replaced with “gospel,” ie., gospel-centered this, and gospel-driven that. This led Baptist and Presbyterian protestors to believe that the movement was all but dead for the past ten years. But really, the movement was growing covertly under the guise of the gospel nomenclature, and has recently emerged as New Calvinism—a  gargantuan movement including church networks, missionary alliances, cooperative training conferences, and “biblical” counseling organizations. The doctrine is overrunning the contemporary church like a giant tsunami and its proponents claim that it is a second Reformation.

In fact, I would probably be conceding myself, thinking, “Everyone else, and now MacArthur? It must be me—I’m missing something on this,” if not for a few souls like Walter Chantry and Dr. Jay Adams. In 1999, Adams published a book to refute Sonship Theology in the same way that Walter Chantry published a book in 1980 to refute Jon Zens’ views (and essentially that of the Forum as well). One year later  Zens coined the phrase, “New Covenant Theology.” One of many obvious connections that can be seen in all of this is the fact that two major players in the New Calvinist movement, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller who coined the phrase: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” which is an often-heard mantra within the movement. Another connection is the popularity of “The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Gospel and Kingdom; Gospel and Wisdom; The Gospel in Revelation)” within the New Calvinist movement—written by Graeme Goldsworthy who was one of three major participants in the Australian Forum project along with Geoffrey Paxton and Robert Brinsmead. This speaks to the likeminded beliefs regarding the gospel shared by the Forum and New Calvinist. I strongly suspect Holland’s book will bear more of the same.

On the back cover of Holland’s book, we read this statement in bold print: “Christ, The Son Of God, Has Been Eclipsed, And We’ve Made Ourselves At Home In This New Normal.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Since the 1950’s the church has been inundated with a hyper-grace mentality. This first gospel wave with a lack of emphasis on discipleship paved the way for Gospel Sanctification. Jay Adams started the true contemporary Reformation in 1970 with his book, “Competent to Counsel” which had a very strong emphasis on discipleship and true biblical counseling.  Adams often comments that during that time as he traveled about and spoke, Christians seemed to be surprised that they could actually “do something in their walk with God.” The “normal” in Christianity today is a profound ignorance regarding the sufficiency of Scripture and how to apply it to life in our walk with God. Christ hasn’t been eclipsed—we think He does it all for us. What has been eclipsed is what Jesus says—not who He is. Furthermore, Adams has suffered some significant persecution for his attempt to emphasize doing in the Christian life, especially from the New Calvinist counseling culture and David Powlison who was offended by the book Adams wrote to refute Sonship Theology. New Calvinist like Powlison describe the real contemporary Reformation via Adams (in regard to being used by God) as the “first generation of biblical counseling” in the same way that Luther’s Reformation was first generation. But now, the New Calvinist counseling culture is supposedly part of the second Reformation through the discovery of Gospel Sanctification. Of course, the notion is preposterous and takes arrogance to a new level that has never before been seen.

John MacArthur’s Coming Out

MacArthur’s  forward is fraught with blatant error and contemplative spirituality in the form of Gospel Sanctification. MacArthur begins his forward with the following:

“As Christians we have one message to declare: ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified’( I Corinthians 2:2). ‘For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. I Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).”

Gospel Sanctification follows the way of many other false doctrines throughout church history; specifically, the eclipsing of other members of the Trinity by overemphasizing one over the others. Jehovah’s Witnesses overemphasize the Father. Charismatics  overemphasize the Holy Spirit, etc. Christ Himself, in His mandate to the church, said to baptize in the name of all Three. The Father elects; the Son  atones, and the Spirit sanctifies—but we are to only preach Christ? Christ’s emphasis on the Father in regard to salvation saturates the Gospels, especially in the book of John:

 John 6:44
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:65
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

Christ instructed us to pray to the Father, and according to the apostle Paul:

“Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor. 15:27,28).

MacArthur continues:

“Rick Holland understands that truth.  This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”

No one, or no thing, “deserves” to be the central theme of our private devotions? This follows the Gospel Sanctification tenet that we shouldn’t seek to be instructed from the Scriptures (ie., seeking to know how to love our wives in a way that pleases God, etc). If we meditate on Christ and His works (the gospel), all that Christ commands will happen naturally. Supposedly.  I can only assume NO one and NO thing means exactly what the sentence states. But again, it begs the question: “He doesn’t mean to exclude God from that statement, right? Also note the GS teaching that our message is the same for justification AND sanctification: “….nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”


“Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2).  No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms:  “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).  That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.”

Not exactly. The early church also went about preaching “the good news of the kingdom of God”:

Acts 1:3
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

And what did that teaching by Christ also entail?:

Acts 1:6
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”


Acts 14:22
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

Acts 19:8
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.

Acts 20:25
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.

Also, in other passages, Christ, and the kingdom of God seem to be separate subjects within the gospel:

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 28:23
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Acts 28:31
Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Obviously, to the first-century church, “the gospel” included the whole picture of the Trinities saving work.


“The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.  Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (emphasis added).  We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.”

To this point in the forward in Holland’s book, MacArthur is using all of the proof texts typically used by Gospel Sanctification proponents. But in regard to 2Cor. 3:18, the correlation between gazing or “beholding the glory of the Lord” and spiritual growth has no direct correlation to being the only facilitator thereof. Such a direct cause and effect correlation is assumed. Besides, Macarthur is being disingenuous by quoting the ESV here because all other translations include the word “glass” or “mirror” with difficulty in ascertaining whether we are looking at Christ’s glory in a mirror, or “reflecting” His glory as in a mirror. Either way, mirrors of that day were polished metal and did not have the perfect reflection like modern mirrors made of class. This creates difficulty for those who want to use this text to show that our primary  duty is to gaze on Christ’s glory rather than an understanding of what He’s teaching for the purpose of obedience. However, MacArthur continues to expound on this point with his paramount coming out of the closet statement in the following excerpt:

“As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.  This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.  We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it.  That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.”

In these last two excerpts mentioned, we see MacArthur aping the GS belief that all of Scripture is about Christ and Christ must be seen in every passage. As Jay Adams aptly points out, several books in the Bible do not have Christ as their central theme and plainly say so; for instance, Jude initially intended to write about our common salvation, but instead was led to write an exhortation to contend for pure doctrine. In this statement, MacArthur continues to use 2Cor. 3:18 to make the following point: “As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.” How do you look “clearly”; “enduringly,” and  “deeply” by “see[ing] through a glass, darkly” (1Cor. 13:12)  which  depicts the mirrors of those days? Christ’s instruction on how we become a house that will withstand the storms of life is plainly stated in Matthew 7:24-27, we hear His words and put those words into practice.

In classic Gospel Sanctification form, MacArthur also implements the either / or  hermeneutic in this statement: “This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.” Here we go again with this serving Christ by our own efforts stuff ( when Peter said, “Make every effort to add to your faith…., “ who’s effort was he talking about?!). If we are to exert effort in the sanctification process, which I’m sure MacArthur would concede, how would we know if it is our own effort or that of the Holy Spirit? And why can’t it be both? Why does it have to be either all of us or all of the Spirit? GS advocates have to create a whole theology just to deal with that question, and it’s called Christian Hedonism which is John Piper’s contribution to the movement. This is the road now traveled by MacArthur: unlike his preaching of the past, but like other Gospel Sanctification advocates, his preaching will now raise more questions than are answered; like, “what do you mean when you say that real servitude to Christ will have nothing to do with my own desires? If I am a new creature—are my desires not changed?” Depending on how far MacArthur decides to go with all of this—the answer would be “no” because GS doctrine holds t a total depravity of the saints. The logical conclusion is that Christ does it all for us as a result of contemplating the gospel. In order to say that without saying it, GS proponents have to work hard (presumably in their own efforts) to make it all fit together.


“After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching.  It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (I John 3:2).

Our prayer is that of Paul: ‘that I may know Him!’ (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to I Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich,  sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure.”

I am unmoved by MacArthur’s self-delusions and his musings concerning the ever-morphing neo-Calvinist novelties of our day. Peter said that though he and others witnessed the miracles of that age—the testimony of Scripture is more sure, and Gospel Sanctification does not align with the plain sense of Holy writ.


“Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the ‘full knowledge of the glory of God’ provided by a fervent concentration ‘on the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).”

In context, 2Cor. 4:6 refers to those who don’t recognize Christ as Savior in comparison to those who do, and does not prescribe John Piper’s “beholding as a way of becoming.” Christ’s prescription for loving Him is plain in John 14:15,16; we are to obey what he commands with the HELP of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit HELPS us—He doesn’t obey for us by replacing our “own” efforts with something else as a result of contemplation on nebulous concepts concerning the personhood of Christ. Such nonsense has led to all kinds of mystic speculations by New Calvinist; such as, the supposed truth that Christ experienced a suffering in darkness while in Mary’s womb as part of the atonement. Soon, MacArthur will be espousing such speculation from the pulpit if he doesn’t repent and return to orthodoxy. Also, note that he says that we don’t even want to eclipse Christ “partially.” This is like the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which led them to relegate the new birth to a position of insignificance because it involves a focus on us (subjective), and away from Christ / gospel (objective), and therefore “eclipses Christ.” And unlike the MacArthur of the past, we just have more questions to ask: “How do we partially eclipse Christ? So, other than Christ, what can we talk about? And will it partially eclipse Christ or not?”

In all of this, one should consider what the focus of Peter’s message was to the church when he knew his time of departure was near (2Peter. Ch.1). He plainly said that there was one thing that he wanted them to remember so that their calling and election would be sure. He said he wanted to constantly put them in remembrance of this theme so they wouldn’t forget after he was gone. What was that message? As glorious as it is, was it a laser focus on the personhood of Christ to the exclusion of all else? No, it was a focus on the saints “making every effort” to add certain things to their faith. If  contemplation on the personhood of Christ is singularly paramount to spiritual growth, how could Peter possibly say what he did?

This is certain: The apostle Paul said that even if he or an angel  came preaching another gospel—reject it, and trust me, MacArthur is no apostle Paul,  and I will not follow Gospel Sanctification—even if I am the last person on earth not to do so.


Excerpt From “Another Gospel”: New Calvinist Interpretation

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on June 29, 2011

Two Essays From “Another Gospel”: What JC Ryle Would Say About New Calvinism

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on June 19, 2011

Kevin DeYoung Bagged by the New Calvinist Slither Police, Part 2: Is Special K the Forerunner of the Great Slither?

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on June 18, 2011

Kevin DeYoung, hereafter affectionately referred to as “Special K” (SK), offered a response to officer Tullian Tchividjian’s (hereafter, OTT) “pushback” regarding an article he wrote that sounded too orthodox. You can’t blame him; after all, OTT is one bad dude. Anybody who is privy to OTT’s merciless hostile takeover of Coral Ridge would certainly hesitate to ruffle his feathers. Even James D. Kennedy’s daughter barely got out of there with her hairdo still intact.

In SK’s response to OTT’s response, he mentioned that he is on sabbatical to write a book on sanctification. Funny, just last week, a reader wrote an email to me—asking  what I thought of sabbaticals. I told him they are a joke, with the exception of a pastor doing so to search the Scriptures for himself regarding serious theological issues of our day. Bingo, what’s more important in our day than the whole question of sanctification? Compare SK’s sabbatical with Piper’s last sabbatical where the purpose was to expunge several “species of idols” in his heart. The sabbatical was predetermined to be eight months, so we can only assume that his consultants, Tim Keller and Paul Tripp, identified the idols as those that can always be rectified by deep repentance in an eight-month period—just in time to return on January 1; because after all, like everything else, the new year was all about him.  I almost went myself, video cam in-hand, to document the fawning (complete with glazed-over eyes, perspiration, and weak knees) of his Koolaid drinking followers waiting with bated breath as he walked up to the podium to pontificate his first Sunday morning message after his “sabbatical.”

But, back to SK. I found the interpretive questions he is asking himself during his sabbatical to be very interesting, and leads one to think that his church may be populated with a rare breed of Christians known as homo thinking sapiens:

1. Can the justified believer please God with his obedience? [Yes, du, Paul said, “it is our goal to please Him”]

2. Is the justified believer displeasing to God in some way when he sins? [Yes, du, the opposite of “please” is “displease.”]

3. Is unbelief the root of every sin? [No—read about king David and Jonah] Or is it pride? Or idolatry? Should we even both  trying to find a root sin? [No]

4. How are justification and sanctification related? [Read JC Ryle’s “Holiness”]

5. Can we obey God? [ SK, see John 14:15,16. Why is the Holy Spirit called our “helper”?]

6. Can we feel confident about our obedience, not in a justifying way but that we have done as we were commanded? [Yes, see 2Peter Chapter 1]

7. How does Scripture motivate us to obedience? [Start with Romans 5:13, then read verse 4 in the same chapter, and many other Scriptures like those. It’s NOT either the Holy Spirit  or Scripture—it’s both.]

8. Are most Christians too hard on themselves (thinking they are filthy scum when they actually walk with the Lord in a way that pleases him)? [Not if they have a biblically trained conscience]

9. Or are most Christians too easy on themselves (thinking nothing of holiness and content with little progress in godliness)? [Ya think?]

10. What is the role of union with Christ in sanctification? And how do union with Christ and sanctification relate to justification? [SK: see the Australian Forum archives for a review of what you presently believe on that. It’s called the “centrality of the objective gospel.”]


But stop the presses! DeYoung wrote another article after he capitulated to the fearsome OTT entitled, “Is Sanctification By Faith Alone?” I will just say it plainly: dead on!  With the exception of one whopper in the beginning of the piece, the rest of the post is a masterful articulation of true biblical sanctification. Is this the first time I have complimented a New Calvinist in the two-year history of this blog? Yes! In regard to the whopper: “Though it sounds very Protestant, it is not correct to say ‘sanctification is by faith alone.’” Uh, Special K, it has never been Protestant to say that, but hey, you’re going in the right direction.


This is major. DeYoung’s post is clearly in the face of New Calvinist doctrine, and the ten questions asked in the prior post are intimately connected to the conclusions stated in the latter. I can only pray that his healthy infatuation with JC Ryle will result in a positive outcome regarding the book he is writing on sanctification (and such a book is long overdue). In fact, Ryle’s “Holiness,” a book DeYoung often quotes, was written to refute false doctrines running amuck in Ryle’s day that were evil twins to present-day New Calvinism.

So, will SK take a hard stand and separate himself from the New Calvinism cartel? Or will he stay and be a lynchpin for the Great Slither? (See part 1): “Uh, ya, I agree with SK, absolutely! Yep, that’s been my position all along. In all of those other quotes of mine, I was talking about justification—not sanctification. But I will admit, I should have put a grammatical transition between the two—my bad dude.”

Or, if SK stays the course, will the New Calvinist throw him under the bus? Will the dreaded tweet come from the High Priest of New Calvinism?:  “Bye, bye, Kevin DeYoung.”


Donn Arms Book Review of “How People Change” by Paul Tripp

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on June 7, 2011

Gospel Sanctification and Sonship’s Gospel-Driven Genealogy, Part 4: Spiritually Dead Christians

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on May 20, 2011

As I sort through the history of Seventh-Day Adventism, Robert Brinsmead’s biography, and the teachings of the Australian Forum (AF), my mind is overwhelmed with the theological elements and characteristics that liken to present-day New Calvinism / Gospel Sanctification / Sonship Theology (NCGSS). However, there are two places in our endeavor where we can drive stakes thus far, and with certainty: the centrality and premise of everything gospel (ie., justification), and everything seen, understood, and interpreted through the gospel (justification) prism. In other words, two elements that make up the foundation of these two movements are exactly the same: a dogmatic refusal to let any truth eclipse justification, and a gospel-centered hermeneutic.

In the first, we also see the kinship between the two movements in the either / or interpretive schema. It’s what I call GB theology—you’re either with us—or you’re with the terrorist. In BOTH movements, you are either for justification only in sanctification (of course, that’s not how they would  frame it)—or you are totally against justification by faith alone for salvation as well.

In the latter, the echo between the AF and the likes of Paul David Tripp regarding “all things must be seen in its gospel context” is utterly uncanny. I contend that the aforementioned facts show a historical uniqueness between the two groups that hardly persuade me that one didn’t come from the other.

This post is about NCGSS’s  total depravity of the saints—and AF’s denial of the new birth. Obviously, spiritually dead saints (as Paul Tripp teaches), and born again Christianity is a contradiction. In Present Truth Magazine (the official journal of AF doctrine), archives volume 37, article 4, Paxton (one of the AF three) penned the article entitled “The False Gospel of the New Birth.” Present Truth (PT) had a large readership among Reformed Baptist in the seventies, and many voiced their displeasure at the article. More research is needed, but I have a working hypothesis that the AF, and movements within Reformed Baptist circles that facilitated New Covenant Theology (NCT) played a part in John Piper’s injection into NCGSS.

Take note: Goldsworthy, one of the AF three and the golden boy of NCGSS hermeneutics, affirmed his agreement with Paxton by footnoting the article in “Obituary for the Old Testament.”:

“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”

The footnote as in the same article is the following:

1 See Geoffrey J. Paxton, “The False Gospel of the New Birth,” Present Truth Magazine 7, no.3 (June 1978): 17-22.

Let me save a bunch of ink here. The premise of Paxton’s article is that since the new birth isn’t as important as focusing on Christ’s works in the gospel—the new birth is therefore not relevant. Again, it’s either / or, which characterizes and saturates NCGSS teachings. While Paxton writes, “We [“we” being the AF three] are not saying that the typical evangelical approach to the new birth is an outright denial of the truth,” he then continues to write, “Rather, it is the corruption of the ultimate truth. It confuses a good effect with the best cause. It puts a good fruit in place of the best root. Many who do this are good people whose Christian status and integrity we do not question. But that is the alarming thing about the newbirth craze.”

Stop right there. Let me now introduce another example (characteristic) of how the student looks like the teacher. Like NCGSS, AF writings are saturated with a bias against Evangelicals. Here, Paxton refers to the “typical evangelical approach.” As can be seen in this article, you can even accidentally get two examples of this if you refer back to the aforementioned Goldsworthy quote: “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.


And stop right there again. I am going to introduce another related characteristic that the two groups share: the whole inside verses outside focus  thing. What is that? Well, it dominates NCGSS teaching, especially that of Michael Horton. It is the idea that to focus on something like the new birth is to focus on us, or what is inside of us, rather than what is outside of us, namely, the gospel. This is a major theme of late in Horton’s writings. Paxton writes in the article that is the subject of this post:

“This approach to the new birth is incredibly introspective and self-preoccupied. Such evangelical ‘navel watching’ does nothing to commend robust Christianity to non-evangelicals or to those outside the church. It assaults the tender consciences of believers. 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. It is, in fact, anti-Christ.”

Sigh. Ok, I am really busy today and I can’t remember where I filed some Horton quotes that ape the AF example exactly, so let me take a minute and google “Michael Horton outside of us.” Be right back. Ok—it’s been about 30 seconds, and here is what I have, though not the best examples:

“Each of these themes serves to remind the believer that his or her righteousness is found not within, but outside.”

“It is essential, therefore, to point unbelievers and believers alike to Christ outside of their own subjective experiences and actions.”

I could now get into yet another apeian characteristic of how the two camps interpret  anything to do with us as being “subjective,” while the gospel outside of us is “objective.” Of course, as I have written before: using the objective gospel prism to interpret everything in the Bible leads to gargantuan subjectivity, but I digress. The more one peers into the data, the more it’s like grabbing two handfuls of Jell-O out of the same bowl and comparing them. In fact, I asked my readers to pray about a project I have been working on, but the way the prayers were answered was totally unexpected. The recent discovery of the AF firebombed the project. The project was a workbook that analyzed the writings of John Fonville because the way he writes makes an articulation of NCGSS easy to understand. Not only that—Fonville is a very contemporary up and comer in the movement, which should make my comparison to AF writings very interesting. Fonville wrote in one article:

“Throughout much of my Christian life I was a professing Evangelical but in practice a functioning Roman Catholic…. What do I mean by that? I would habitually turn inward to conduct personal ‘fruit inspection’ and then wallow and mope around for long periods of time in despair, guilt and a troubled conscience. I would beat myself up with self-focused thoughts.”



Interestingly, Paxton says this in the article that we are considering: “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.”

Even more characteristics could be discussed; such as, both camps relying heavily on the writings of Walter Marshal. More to my point, before I even knew of the AF, I wrote this in the now defunct  Fonville project: : “In addition to ill definitions and antithetical exaggerations, Fonville, like other GS teachers, employs an either/or paradigm in interpreting Scripture. There will be many examples of this in his writings, and we observe the first here as he insinuates that the law can only have a plenary role in spiritual growth, or none at all. Fonwell will also deny a colaboring in spiritual growth (1Corinthians 3:9 and 1Thessalonians 3:2) by default—insinuating that both saint and Spirit cannot work in the process—it’s either/or.”

Besides the undeniable, twofold, primary foundation of both camps, everything justification dogma, and the gospel prism of interpretation, the list of identical characteristics and elements continues to get longer with each hour of study: either/or, us against Evangelicals, and outside focus verses inside focus, etc.


Gospel Sanctification and Sonship’s Gospel-Driven Genealogy, Part 3: New Calvinism’s Bad Seed

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on May 19, 2011

In one of the more contemporary blogs dedicated to Christocentric hermeneutics, it happened—Robert Brinsmead appeared, and started a lot of trouble. The blog is Vossed World, authored by Chad Bresson, an elder at Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio. According to a message preached there recently by another Clearcreek elder, the leadership considers Clearcreek to be a “New Covenant Theology” church. They are also very strong on Christian Hedonism (John Piper), Heart Theology (CCEF), and Redemptive-Historical hermeneutics which is the theme of Bresson’s blog. Bresson is also a member of the Earth Stove Society (dedicated to NCT).

Bresson posted an excerpt from the writings of Brinsmead that represented the beliefs of the Australian Forum (see chart in part 2) concerning the use and interpretation of the Scriptures. The Australian Forum (hereafter “AF”) included Brinsmead, Geoffrey Paxton, and Graeme Goldsworthy. The post was brought to my attention by a reader. Though one person who commented on the post was totally unaware of it—Bresson responded to him by launching a defense regarding the relevance of Brinsmead’s apostasy:

“There are two reasons your analogy doesn’t wash: 1. Brinsmead wrote this ditty during a time of his life (as SDA, no less) when he affirmed reformed theology. That this guy is now an atheist is irrelevant. 2. What Brinsmead says here isn’t anything different than what has been posted on this blog for the past three years. In fact, given the recent articles written by the guys at Southern [see bottom of chart in part 2], what Brinsmead writes here could have just as easily have been written by one of them.”

The reader responded this way:

“I didn’t toss an ad hominem attack. I am criticizing the doctrine you are pursuing; I am not attacking you personally at all. I didn’t know this guy is now an atheist. I don’t know anything about him.”

The post and all the comments can be viewed here:

July of 2008 is a long way from what the AF wrote in the 1970’s. Bresson and the Chapel are respected as being on the cutting edge of New Calvinism (hereafter “NC”), and notice that he said, “What Brinsmead says here isn’t anything different than what has been posted on this blog for the past three years.” When I read the Brinsmead excerpt, I immediately recognized the fact that NC, ie., Gospel Sanctification and Sonship Theology (hereafter “NCGSS) needs such a hermeneutic to appear (consistent) and function consistently. My point by point rebuttal of the Brinsmead excerpt posted by Bresson can be read here:

Or here:   Brinsmead

This post is the first that demonstrates that the top of the proposed genealogy chart looks the same as the bottom. Bresson and the Chapel are an excellent specimen representing the NCGSS movement—yet, Bresson states that what Brinsmead wrote some thirty years ago is representative of what has been written on his blog for the past three years. Furthermore, Bresson’s blog is also replete with Graeme Goldsworthy writings, who was one of the original three that made up the AF.

So what? Well, the original doctrine of the AF was a mixture of sanctification by faith alone, Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine, and “Redemptive” Historicism. Also, all facts so far strongly indicate that Brinsmead was the primary visionary and inventor of the doctrine—and he is now an apostate—not good. Most Christians don’t buy into the idea that God used an unsaved person to reveal something “new” to God’s people, especially someone who became apostate after leaving a cult! Moreover, nobody can deny that Goldsworthy is the darling of present-day NCGSS hermeneutics, and that he was also one of the original three that made up the AF.


Horton’s Systematic Theology Adds To The Sonship/Gospel Sanctification Massive Subculter

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 22, 2011

[NOTE: This was written before I discovered that New Calvinism is in fact the same gospel that the Reformers taught. The resurgence movement began as COG in 1970, became Sonship circa 1986, Gospel Transformation in 2000, dubbed Gospel Sanctification by detractors in 2007, and finally New Calvinism in 2008. This was also written before I understood that orthodoxy is a part of spiritual caste in general]. 

“Gospel Sanctification,  as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity”  [Note also that I no longer equate “orthodoxy ” with truth per se].

[Further revision: much has been learned since this post, but the general idea is very accurate: the Neo-Calvinist movement is seeking to develop a subculture within American culture that will eventually, if all goes as planned, devour American culture as we know it. This is part and parcel with Calvinism’s dominion theology. This post submits a sketchy framework of useful categories under the general idea. For instance, one college that focuses strictly on the Neo-Calvinist vision is a far cry from the fact that this movement owns (in an intellectual capacity) most of the seminaries in America. Other categories could also be added.   

The Fix is now in. The false doctrine of the centrality of the objective gospel (COG) which found new life in  Sonship Theology about thirty years ago—now has its own theology, hermeneutic, practical application, defined experience, ecumenical (inclusiveness) movement, history, college, counseling organization, missionary organization, Bible—and now, its own systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification (GS), as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity. It won’t be long; those who we minister to will have to be deprogrammed before we can help them, starting with convincing them that the Bible is to be taken as literal instruction from God as our authority for ministry and life. Not understanding GS beforehand will make any attempt to help people with the word of God—dead on arrival. GS


The movement started with a very powerful concept in the minds of its perpetrators. Supposedly, we grow spiritually by revisiting the gospel that saved us every day. Proponents were convinced (and still are) that this thesis stands alone as truth; therefore, all other propositions must bow to it.

The GS Hermeneutic

A literal interpretation of Scripture will continually contradict GS. So, the proponents have changed how we read/ interpret the Bible accordingly. The GS hermeneutic is an interpretive prism that will always yield results that make GS plausible. Unlike the rest of the elements (which are very contemporary), the hermeneutic (known as Biblical Theology or Redemptive-Historical hermeneutics) was borrowed from times past. It originated in Germany under the liberal teaching and writings of Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826), who emphasized the historical nature of the Bible over against a “dogmatic” interpretation thereof. Nearly a century later, Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) was instrumental in taking the discipline of biblical theology in a, supposedly, more conservative direction. Graeme Goldsworthy tweaked the doctrine to facilitate COG, and today, Goldsworthy’s “Trilogy” is the pillar of interpretation within the movement.

Practical Application

The GS narrow approach to sanctification must be embellished and applicable to life in some way in order to be sold. This is Heart Theology, and was developed through David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change at Westminster Seminary. In 1996, two former students of Powlison articulated Heart Theology in a book entitled, “How People Change.”

Defined Experience

John Piper seeks to articulate how Sonship is experienced via Christian Hedonism. Because GS makes our works and the work of the Spirit an either/or issue, someone needed to develop a thesis that explained how the difference can be ascertained. John Piper answered the call with the development of Christian Hedonism.

Ecumenical Bent

GS now encompasses any group that agrees with its primary view of plenary monergism and the synthesis of justification and sanctification. All other disciplines are seen as secondary and irrelevant to fellowship and joint ventures. The Gospel Coalition (holding national conferences on odd years, 2011, etc.), and T4G (Together For The Gospel, holding national conferences on even years) work together to promote GS/S while promoting inclusiveness among denominations and religions.


GS proponents claim a historical precedent dating back to Creation, and also claim to be the second part of the first Reformation. Of course, this is laughable. Sonship, the Antioch school, TGC, T4G, NCT, CH, and HT have no historical precedent prior to 1970. Many of the notable proponents of GS are associated in some way with the father of  Sonship Theology, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Tim Keller and David Powlison were followers of Miller. Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane are followers of David Powlison. Jerry Bridges attributes his view of the gospel to Miller as well.


The Antioch School of leadership training has GS as its foundation and basis for training. It is located in Ames, Iowa.

Counseling Organization

The upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition, which seeks to network other counseling organizations as well, is intimately associated with T4G and The Gospel Coalition. The who’s who of Gospel Sanctification sit on its governing board including David Powlison and Paul David Tripp.

Missionary Organization

It’s primary missionary organization was founded by the father of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship—Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Banner of Truth states the  following in The Movement Called Sonship: “Miller encouraged New Life Presbyterian Church into originating the ‘World Harvest Mission’, a non-denominational missionary organization. Sonship became its main teaching vehicle.”


The English Standard Version (ESV) was first published by Crossway in 2001. Its vice president of editorial is Justin Taylor who also authors The Gospel Coalition Blog, the multimedia propaganda machine for GS doctrine. One of the translators was Wayne Grudem, also well known as a major proponent of GS doctrine. The ESV’s GS connection has made it the most purchased English Bible in the past ten years. The latest promotion of the ESV by Crossway, “Trusted: Trusted Legacy [a whopping ten years]; trusted By Leaders; Trusted For Life,” features an endorsement by the who’s who of  GS doctrine.

The Complete Fix

With Michael Horton’s recent publication of “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way” (2011), the total fix is in place. The GS machine will now begin to move forward—rewriting and re-forming orthodox Christianity. I confidently predict that Horton’s book will be widely used in seminaries nationwide. Seminary students will be pumped into the local churches with a skewered view of truth—but using all of the same terminology that was formally orthodox.

What Can Be Done?

This doctrine thrives on the fact that Christians are theologically dumbed-down. If most Christians do not know the difference between justification and sanctification (and they don’t), they are helpless against this false doctrine. If most Christians don’t realize the importance of understanding hermeneutics (and they don’t), they are even more helpless. Local churches need to start in-doctrine-ating their people.


Horton’s Systematic Theology Completes The Fix

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 19, 2011


The Fix is now in. What started out as Sonship Theology about thirty years ago—now has its own theology, hermeneutic, practical application, defined experience, ecumenical (inclusiveness) movement, history, college, counseling organization—and now, its own systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification, as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity. It won’t be long; those who we minister to will have to be deprogrammed before we can help them, starting with convincing them that the Bible is to be taken as literal instruction from God as our authority for ministry. Not understanding GS beforehand will make any attempt to help people with the word of God—dead on arrival.

GS Theology

The movement started with a very powerful concept in the minds of its perpetrators. Supposedly, we grow spiritually by revisiting the gospel that saved us every day. Proponents were convinced (and still are) that this thesis stands alone as truth; therefore, all other propositions must bow to it. Though Covenant Theology will work with GS, New Covenant Theology was developed to bolster the Sonship thesis. NCT was developed where Sonship was also born: Westminster Seminary.

The GS Hermeneutic

A literal interpretation of Scripture will continually contradict GS. So, the proponents have changed how we read / interpret the Bible accordingly. The GS hermeneutic is an interpretive prism that will always yield results that make GS plausible. Unlike the rest of the elements (which are very contemporary), the hermeneutic (known as Biblical Theology or Redemptive-Historical hermeneutics) was borrowed from times past. It originated in Germany under the liberal teaching and writings of Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826), who emphasized the historical nature of the Bible over against a “dogmatic” interpretation thereof. Nearly a century later, Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) was instrumental in taking the discipline of biblical theology in a, supposedly, more conservative direction.

Practical Application

The GS narrow approach to sanctification must be embellished and applicable to life in some way in order to be sold. This is Heart Theology, and was developed through David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change at Westminster Seminary. In 1996, two former students of Powlison articulated Heart Theology in a book entitled, “How People Change.”

Defined Experience

John Piper seeks to articulate how Sonship is experienced via Christian Hedonism. Because GS makes our works and the work of the Spirit an either / or issue, someone needed to develop a thesis that explained how the difference can be ascertained. John Piper answered the call with the development of Christian Hedonism.

Ecumenical Bent

GS now encompasses any group that agrees with its primary view of plenary monergism and the synthesis of justification and sanctification. All other disciplines are seen as secondary and irrelevant to fellowship and joint ventures. The Gospel Coalition (holding national conferences on odd years, 2011, etc.), and T4G (Together For The Gospel, holding national conferences on even years) work together to promote GS/S while promoting inclusiveness among denominations and religions.


The Antioch School of leadership training has GS as its foundation and basis for training. It is located in Ames, Iowa.


GS proponents claim a historical precedent dating back to Creation. Of course, this is laughable. Sonship, the Antioch school, TGC, T4G, NCT, CH, and HT have no historical precedent prior to 1970. Most of the notable proponents of GS are associated in some way with those who created Sonship Theology: Edmund Clowney, and primarily, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Tim Keller and David Powlison were followers of Miller. Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane are followers of David Powlison. Jerry Bridges attributes his view of the gospel to Miller as well.

Counseling Organization

The upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition, which seeks to network other counseling organizations as well, is intimately associated with T4G and The Gospel Coalition. The who’s who of Gospel Sanctification sit on its governing board including David Powlison and Paul David Tripp.

The Complete Fix

With Michael Horton’s recent publication of “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way” (2011), the total fix is in place. The GS machine will now begin to move forward—rewriting and re-forming orthodox Christianity. I confidently predict that Horton’s book will be widely used in seminaries nationwide. Seminary students will be pumped into the local churches with a skewered view of truth—but using all of the same terminology that was formally orthodox.

What Can Be Done?

This doctrine thrives on the fact that Christians are theologically dumbed-down. If most Christians do not know the difference between justification and sanctification (and they don’t), they are helpless against this false doctrine. If most Christians don’t realize the importance of understanding hermeneutics (and they don’t), they are even more helpless. Local churches need to start in-doctrine-ating their people.


A Big Fat Lie: “Tripp Has Taken Powlison’s DBC Too Far”

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 15, 2011

No one is better than David Powlison for throwing people under the bus. He will throw you under it, and in some cases, continue to run you over: first forward, then backing up and running you over again. Strangely, he will then publicize (either in print or publicly) his reasons for running you over while flavoring the reasons with compliments—if you’re elderly, apparently, the younger suffer full traction without compliments.

Larry Crabb has suffered Powlison’s wrath since the early 90’s for not being nuanced enough. Supposedly, Crabb and he never agreed on anything, and of course, Powlison was dismayed by Crabb’s book, “Inside Out” which claimed that Evangelicals denied an “inside life,” and all truth is God’s truth. Crabb also said in IO that the church needed Freud’s wisdom to figure it all out. Powlison has no patience for that kind of honesty: you’re supposed to accuse them of denying that the heart has to change first and refer to truth as stuff  in the Bible that the church forgets about. When rediscovered—you never, never, admit that God showed it to guys like Freud; instead, you cite really, really old Catholic bishops.

Apparently, Powlison now finds himself in the same dilemma with Paul Tripp who articulated his “Dynamics of Biblical Change” in a book authored by Tripp and Timothy Lane entitled, “How People Change.” Tripp plainly states in the book, among other things, that Christians remain spiritually dead, and passive endeavors such as changing our thinking to that of Christ is a denial of the gospel. Hence, I heard the rumor again last weekend: “Paul Tripp has taken DBC farther than Powlison intended.” Anybody smell diesel fuel?

However, the rumor must be working because Tripp and Powlison will be sitting on the new board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition together where they can once again giggle (because undoubtedly, the rest of the board thinks they’re orthodox), pass notes to each other, and sip lattés while cursing Moses under their breath. Only problem is—it’s a lie. I went ahead and copied documents for comparison purposes: things Tripp and Powlison wrote together at CCEF that can be compared to “How People Change.” It’s all the same stuff—stuff that the church has forgotten, but now interpreted in its “socio-historical context.” The information is almost identical, and was easily gathered in cursory fashion. It should be self explanatory, but I can produce more information if necessary.

Written by Tripp and Powlison in 2003:

“How people Change,” Paul Tripp, 2006:

CCEF’s  pilot / test  program prior to the release of  Tripp’s “How People Change”:

Tripp’s “How People Change” 2006:

Written by Powlison in CCEF’s Journal of Biblical Counseling:

Tripp’s  “How People Change” 2006:

TGC Part 20: Directory May Give Clue Regarding What GS/S Churches “Look Like”

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 15, 2011

This will be the last part in this series concerning The Gospel Coalition. While looking into the possibility of posting a directory of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship churches—it quickly became evident that such a task would be too time consuming. Unfortunate, because many give testimony to the fact that the average lay person will spend two years figuring out that their leadership has adopted the GS/S doctrine. In all cases reported so far, the eldership of GS/S churches refused to come clean to the very end.

Therefore, the best course of action is to refer Christians to the TGC Network Church Directory:

On the list is a church in Springboro, Ohio named Clearcreek Chapel (hereafter: CCC). CCC, often referred to as “Clearcreek Cult,” and “Cloudy-Creek Chapel” by former members, is one of the most respected churches among the who’s who of GS/S. The church was founded by Dr. John Street, a prominent board member of the upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition which is intimately connected with TGC and T4G. DA Carson, Jerry Bridges, and Robert Jones have done conferences there (CCC), and Paul David Tripp speaks there often. CCC was one of the pilot churches that tested David Powlison’s “Dynamics of Biblical Change” before it was published as “How People Change” authored by Tripp and Timothy Lane. CCC is also a NANC training center.

Therefore, CCC, as one of the first independent Reformed churches to ascribe to the GS/S doctrine, could represent what churches  who follow GS/S doctrine may look like in future years. For expediency, I will use an unpublished (until now) document that expresses concerns regarding CCC—and it also makes a good questionnaire for other churches that hold to this doctrine. The document was derived from actual events and testimonies from former members.

An Open Challenge To Clearcreek Chapel In Springboro, Ohio:

I.  A primary hallmark of a cult is covert doctrine and church policy that is gradually assimilated into the thinking of its members incre­mentally. The organization “CultWatch” states the following: “…if people knew their true practices and beliefs beforehand then they would not join. A cult needs to hide the ‘truth’ from you until they think you are ready to accept it.” Therefore, we challenge the Chapel elders to fully reveal what they believe about the following doctrine and policies to all present members, new members, and visitors:

A.  Sanctification: Please inform them that you believe that sanctifi­cation is purely monergistic in the same way as it is in justification, and that participation by believers in the sanctification process is a false gospel.

B.   The Word of God: Please inform them that you believe that every verse in the Bible is about justification only, and that the Holy Spirit is only active in sanctification when the Scriptures are used to that end only. Affirm or deny that Christians need salvation every day.

C.   Church Discipline: Please inform them that you believe that any member can be placed into your church discipline process at any time, and for any reason, and without prior notice. Please inform them that a verbal repentance from the subject does not end the process, but that true repentance must be determined by elders over time. Please inform them that they are not free to leave the Chapel until they are released from this discipline process by the elders, and that any attempt to do otherwise will result in excommunication. Please inform them that all subjects who enter into formal, or informal counseling, are considered to be in the discipline process, and are not free to leave Clearcreek Chapel until they are released from counseling. Please inform them that you believe that you have the authority to place any individual into your church discipline process regardless of membership status, including those who have never been a member of Clearcreek Chapel in the past.

D.   Divorce: Please inform all present members, new members, and visitors that you believe that your members are free to divorce any spouse that is unbelieving, or declared to be unbelieving by you because of a wide range of perceived failures as a spouse. Also, many of these perceived failures can be considered abandonment even if the spouse has not physically left or filed for divorce. Furthermore, in regard to an unbelieving husband, you believe that he has no authority in the home, but that his authority resides with you instead.

E.  Elder Authority: Affirm or deny that God will honor any decision you make as long as it is according to the single law of love governed by your own conscience (as supposedly formed by read­ing the “gospel narrative” only), and to the exclusion of objective, biblical imperatives, and the authority thereof.

F.   Church Membership: Affirm or deny that members need permis­sion to leave the Chapel for another congregation. Affirm or deny that members can be brought under church discipline if the elders affirm that they are leaving for “unbiblical” reasons.

II.   Cults propagate a strong exclusivism mentality among their members. Clearcreek Chapel members are characterized by a pre­dominant attitude that the Chapel is the only truly relevant ministry within hundreds of miles. This mentality is clearly propagated by the elders of Clearcreek Chapel and would be necessary by default because of your belief that synergistic sanctification is a false gospel, which is far from what most churches consider orthodox.

III.   Cults inflict fear through character assassination and inimida­tion. Character assassination in regard to those who have left the Chapel is rampant, and the elders stand by and give approval by participating or refusing to stop this activity, regardless of the pleadings from those who have left. This is a well documented fact. CultWatch says the following in regard to this third element: “Character Assassination is a sure sign of a cult,” Also, “Cult leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is the same as disagreeing with God.” Fear of leadership at the Chapel is very prevalent and easy to ascertain.

IV.   Information control is a sure sign of a cult. The Chapel elders have specifically told parishioners that observing a particular website critical of the Chapel is “sin.” Because any sin is cause for church discipline at the Chapel; in essence, you are clearly threaten­ing church discipline for anyone who observes the site. A member was instructed by the Chapel elders, in writing, not to study doctrine or attempt to ascertain an understanding concerning your hermeneu­tics. One elder told the same member not to be concerned with the Chapel’s doctrine for “at least two years.” The following is another quote from CultWatch: “If you are instructed by a group not to read information critical of the group, then that is a sign of a cult.” Also, “legitimate groups have nothing to fear from their members reading critical information about them.” We therefore challenge the Chapel elders to encourage the congregation to read material critical of Chapel doctrine and elder behavior, and also assure them that there will be no retribution for doing so.

V.   Love Bombing and relationship control are also signs of a cult. Love bombing is a Clearcreek staple. When an elder was caught having an inappropriate, divisive conversation with a Chapel spouse, he offered “love” as a defense in plain contradiction to biblical instruction. The motivation of supposed love is license to do what is right in your own eyes at the Chapel, regardless of Scriptural guidelines. This also speaks to your antinomian doctrine. The Cha­pel elders seek to drive a wedge between spouses when one spouse challenges your doctrine. This is well documented, and is a staple mode of operation used by Jehovah Witnesses. A constant, and unbalanced emphasis on love also replaces concern for sound doc­trine in dramatic fashion at the Chapel, and is a distinctive mark of a cult. Also, on numerous occasions, members who have left the Chapel have been instructed not to associate with present members, and have been threatened with church discipline accordingly. Cha­pel members have also been instructed not to ever speak to specific members, and others who have left the Chapel. Weekly flock meet­ings are used to disparage individuals who have left the Chapel and to set the table against possible conversations that may take place at a later date. CultWatch says the following: “Beware of a group that tells you who you can and cannot see.”

VI.  Cults will usually have reporting structures. Elders are placed in strategic relationships with people who are perceived as individuals who may question doctrine. Elders will often invite parishioners or visitors to weekly breakfast meetings for the purpose of keeping tabs on what they perceive at the Chapel. A members wife was recruited to feed the elders private information concerning who her husband was associating with and other private information. The elders also recruited a member to be an “encourager” to him during a time when they were concerned that he would confide in others. CultWatch says the following: “Is information you expect to be kept confidential reported to the leadership? If so, then it’s a cult.”

VII.   Cults practice high pressure coercion. To say that members who leave the Chapel to join other churches are made to feel uncomfortable, and threatened, would be an understatement. For members to leave the Chapel without some kind of tension is often a balancing act. In fact, at least one member was held there under threat of excommunication for unbiblical reasons, and against his own wishes, for almost four months.

VIII.  Cults practice time control. The idea is to keep subjects preoccupied with constant events to prevent contemplation in regard to doctrine, personal involvement, or involvement with those out­side of the organization.

IX.  Cult leadership is not accountable to outside organizations or the congregation. We challenge the Chapel elders to repeal changes they have made to Chapel polity in order to implement plenary elder rule.

X.  Cults seek to control their subjects through coercion and fear in regard to finances. We challenge the Chapel elders to repent of teaching the congregation that God curses all of those who do not tithe ten percent of all financial increase to the Chapel.

“The ‘Gospel’ Coalition” Series, Part 15: How Does GS / Sonship Work?

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 6, 2011

Once you bring people to the point where they can wrap their brain around GS, inevitably, this question follows with an incredulous expression on their faces: “How does this supposedly work in real life?” I have developed a visible chart following this post that will hopefully aid in understanding

Remember, GS / Sonship is sanctification by salvation / justification, so, like salvation, you can only implement belief and repentance to effect sanctification. Therefore, under “Gospel Narrative,” you have the “Belief” and “Repentance” circles. If sanctification is by salvation, then the Bible only addresses justification. Hence, at the top of the chart we have the “Gospel Narrative” circle. The Bible, or gospel narrative, helps us with all of the other circles. In fact, in their view, the Bible could actually be organized according to these circles. Paul Tripp has a similar chart in “How People Change.” It’s just a different way to explain the same thing, except I go beyond his primary “change” thesis and implement some of the theology as well. In chapter 6, Tripp explains this GS “big picture” hermeneutic. He specifically states in chapter six that the whole Bible can be organized according to his chart, and more than once cautions his readers that the information is not “a set of directions, but an aerial view of daily life….” Many GS counselors now use such visual tools to avoid instructing counselees with “do’s and dont’s” and “lists.” The goal is to show the counselee where they are in the gospel narrative, and thereby illuminating the gospel to a brighter level in the mind of the counselee. Tripp claims that his model (a redemptive-historical model) is derived from the book of Jeremiah; but of course, that’s ridiculous.

We will examine the belief leg first and then move to the repentance leg in explaining how these two effect change. Supposedly. Reading the gospel narrative with, as John Piper says, “an eye toward the cross,” we begin to “treasure” (see Treasure circle) Christ and the gospel more and more which contributes to the endgame (the New Obedience circle). Note the Law Positive circle: all of the commands in the Bible are to be seen as what Christ fulfilled for us—a bunch of laws that we could never keep anyway; so instead of seeing them as laws to be obeyed, or instruction, we are to see them as a way to cultivate thankfulness for the works of Christ, “not anything we do.” Therefore, one of the pillars of faith concerning the gospel narrative is its documentation of all of the laws that Christ obeyed for us.

Repentance is the major component of GS. Almost everything is geared towards removing idols from the heart (anything we love more than Christ). As we remove idols from our heart through confession, the void is filled by Christ which results in New Obedience (HPC p.28). Therefore, all of life is geared toward a warfare with idols of the heart. All circumstances are seen as an opportunity to reveal heart idols through our responses (see Response to Circumstances circle). In “How people Change,” it’s the “Heat” circle on Tripp’s chart. Idols of the heart produce evil desires, i.e., anything we love more than Christ; so, an examination of the desires can reveal what the idol is that is causing the sin. This is done through asking ourselves questions that help determine what we loved / wanted / desired more than Christ (see Interpretive Questions circle). David Powlison and Paul Tripp refer to these as “X-ray questions” (HPC p. 163).

“Law Negative” has to do with using Scripture as law, and not gospel / Spirit. The Bible is used for the purpose of  (as Michael Horton states it speaking of biblical imperatives): “….drive[ing] us to despair of self righteousness.” GS counselors will often do this, especially during redemptive church discipline. Supposedly, it reveals the folly of trying to obey the law / Scriptural imperatives. Paul Tripp calls such an effort on the part of the believer, “Christless activism.” So it also serves in revealing idols of self righteousness as well. The goal of Law Negative is to bring the counselee to the point where, as Bill Baldwin conveys it—the counselee says, “’I cannot keep it! Someone must do it for me!’”

Once idols are identified and the desires that they produce (by the way, Scripture says sinful desires come from the flesh, not the heart), they can be repented of and replaced with a contrary desire produced by the gospel narrative. This whole process is called “deep repentance,” and replacing the sinful desire with a desire spawned by the gospel narrative is called the “reorientation of desires / heart.” By contemplating the gospel and partaking in deep repentance, we are strengthened to make two primary facilitators of change possible: new desires, and in some veins of GS, “yielding.” Many in the GS movement, like John Piper, believe that we are completely driven by desire. So, by changing  the  desires—you change the behavior. Of course, this is eerily similar to Freudian Depth Psychology. Others believe that the flesh and the Spirit are figurative realms, and at any moment we yield to one or the other. They also make a distinction between the Spirit and the law—the law brings death like the flesh realm, and the Spirit brings life. Of course, this is eerily similar to Gnosticism.

This all results in the filling of Christ, which results in “New Obedience,” which is always earmarked by experiencing obedience as a “mere natural flow” accompanied by joy.


The Bridgers of Confusion County and Another Short Narrative

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on March 17, 2011

What’s going on? Christians are becoming confused, if not frustrated. Starting with me. I finally gave in and read a John Piper book some years ago because he was, and still is, all the rave in Reformed circles. The perplexity started on page 16 of “The Pleasures of God” where he writes the following: “The worth and excellency of God’s soul is to be measured by the object of his love.” Huh? But, he loves us! Man is the measure of God’s soul?! “Certainly, I am missing something,” I thought, so I read additional books written by him. I found them nebulous, ambiguous, subjective, non-applicable to real life, grandeurus, nonsensical, to name but a few descriptors. Adding to my perplexity was the fact that John MacArthur Jr. wrote a glowing forward in one of his books.

Then Steve Camp wrote an adorable piece projecting all kinds of frustration and confusion over Piper inviting Paul David Tripp to one of his conferences. Paul Tripp behaved badly at the conference by bragging about having a “S” word contest with his children. Many also found Piper’s relationship with “Mark the cussing pastor” confusing as well. Remember the sixties song, “Buttercup”? It was about a girl that just builds you up to let you down. Could we make that work? “Johnny-cup, (Johnny-cup baby), you build me up (build me up) just to let me down (let me down), and worst of all (worst of all), we even (we even) wrote a book of essays about you (about you) Johnny-cup (Johnny-cup) baby….”

Anyway, Johnny-cup, or the first Pope of New Calvinism, further dismayed many by inviting Rick Warren to his 2010 Desiring God conference. But it gets even worse. I was recently invited to “chime in” on the recent controversy surrounding Michael Horton posing with Rick Warren in a photo op. I clicked on the link and did some snooping around. Apparently, a discernment blogger by  the name of  Ingrid Schlueter posted on the controversy and drew heavy fire as a result, probably along the lines of what I get for criticizing guys who know how to measure the excellency of God’s soul. How dare me. In the process, I learned a new term: “Bridger.” Apparently, it refers to someone who builds bridges between Reformed purity and others like Warren. MacArthur has a huge problem with Warren, but he loves Piper, who loves Warren, and…., uh, anyway, it would appear that Schlueter  threw up her arms in disgust and canceled her discernment blog—not a good thing in our day because intestinal fortitude in regard to defending the truth is in short supply; we can make necessary adjustments later. Also, it would appear that her critics disingenuously presented her protest as her having a problem with Horton merely being photographed with Warren, but it was really much more than that. Furthermore, I perused one blog that seems to be one of her critics that also promotes Paul Washer—a GS hack. Is Ingrid another victim of the silent killer? So, here is part one of  my contribution (“chime”): she needs to dust herself off and remember that those who defend the truth will always be in the minority. We don’t need fewer defenders right now.

Now about the photograph. Horton is posing with Warren who MacArthur says preaches a false gospel, but Horton and MacArthur like each other and have done at least one conference together, and Horton has also been critical of him in the past although he also admires him for many reasons (Warren, not MacArthur), and…. anyway, here is why the photo is such a big deal: Horton is not only in a frame with Warren, the photo projects—bosom buddy; long lost friend; top dawg; thinkin’ of makin’ him leader of my posse (Horton, not Warren); etc. And get this, because it’s just too rich: even though Horton has accused Warren of being an Arminian in the past, there in the picture between them, is a bust of John Calvin! Ingrid, Ingrid, Ingrid; c’mon girl, you gotta learn to laugh about it sometimes. God allows satire.

This brings me to the second tone of my chime. What’s really going on here? Answer: first gospel wave, postmodernism, second gospel wave, or Gospel Sanctification / Sonship theology. In all of the aforementioned events that I cite, folks are just spearing the symptoms. As far back as 1992, I remember a young pastor saying, “My generation is comfortable with contradictions”(if something’s good, it’s “bad” etc.). Right, that’s postmodernism. John MacArthur, who associates with those who hold to postmodern-like thinking, wrote an excellent expose on postmodernism in “The Truth War.” I recommend the book, not his friends. Confused?

Starting in the fifties, a member of the largest denomination in the world, Billy Graham,  started the first gospel wave. Basically, all that mattered/matters is getting people saved. Even as a young Southern Baptist, just beginning to learn God’s word in 1983, I perceived the constant preaching of the gospel at church as antithetical to the Scriptures. A plenary gospel concern clearly replaced discipleship. This led to an all but total inability on the part of Christians to take the word of God and help people with real-life problems—which led to pastors (at least in SB circles) to farm-out counseling to schools of thought conceived by those who admitted that they hated God. When Dave Hunt shook Christianity with “The Seduction of Christianity,” decrying the integration of  Psychology and Christian truth, it addressed a symptom and offered no solution, except “stop it.”

The solution came via Dr. Jay E. Adams’ biblical counseling model. I think the fact that Jay Adams is known as “the father of biblical counseling,” and his ministry started with the book “Competent to Counsel” (1972?) should make my point here: 1972 is a long way from Pentecost which demands some sort of explanation as to why anybody would be called such a thing. An experience I had recently might help to answer that question. I was at a pastor’s conference about eight months ago and witnessed the following firsthand: pastors bragging that they “didn’t allow counseling to distract them from ‘the gahhhhsssfull’” The gospel? I was an elder in a church where twelve people were saved in one year through its counseling program that was based on the biblical model propagated by Adams. When you show people that God knows what He’s talking about, they will also tend to look to Him for salvation as well. Personally, the model had radically changed my own life prior to that.

Nevertheless, this first gospel wave primed the church to fill the void (caused by a limited repertoire of spiritual weapons) with not only psychology, but postmodernism, which rejects propositional truth. The “Christian” form of postmodernism holds to something like this:

“Even some professing Christians nowadays argue along these lines: ‘If truth is personal, it cannot be propositional. If truth is embodied in the person of Christ [my emphasis], then the form of a proposition can’t possibly express authentic truth. That is why most of Scripture is told to us in narrative form-as a story-not as a set of propositions(Page 14, “The Truth War” J. MacArthur, emphasis added).

The combination of the first wave and postmodern thought also primed the church for the second gospel wave, Gospel Sanctifcation / Sonship theology. The fist wave emphasized the gospel, or salvation, to the exclusion of sanctification. The second wave said: “Hey, not only is sanctification not important, it’s the same thing as justification” (gospel salvation). Hence, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” (Jack Miller / Jerry Bridges), and “The same gospel that saved you, also sanctifies you.” The second wave also borrowed the Christian Postmodern[ism] hermeneutic to make this approach plausable: “The Bible is about the person of Jesus Christ, it is His story, not a cognitive concept that we apply to life.” “The word of God is a person.” The GS/Sonship  hermeneutic serves the same purpose as Christian Postmodernism; it’s used to put ourselves into the “gospel narrative,” ie., the Bible. In fact, Michael Horton’s teachings are often flavored with this idea of “entering the gospel drama.” Once the prism from which we interpret the Bible is narrowed to the single theme of the gospel, from there, anything goes. Open your Bible and randomly put your finger anywhere; unless it happens to be a passage that is gospel specific, and if a gospel message must be forced upon that passage, twenty different people will yield twenty different interpretations of that text. But that’s ok, because all twenty interpretations are about the gospel! Follow? You can’t go wrong if your take is “gospel centered.” Final equation: objective ideas that can be drawn from the text are OUT—the “objective” gospel that yields subjective truth about the “personhood of Christ” as opposed to what he objectively commands are IN.

Therefore, regardless of the radical results yielded by the Adams model, his objective approach drew much intense fire from a church already deeply entrenched in schools of thought hostile to propositional truth and imperative-driven behavior. I firmly believe that this simple, contemporary historical perspective forms much of the confused landscape we see today. For sure, doctrine is secondary to Gospel Sanctification. That’s why Charismatics like CJ Mahaney, a GS proponent, are welcomed into the New Calvinist camp with open arms, with many scratching their heads regarding the new label: “Reformed Charsimatic.” As far as the rest mugging together in photo ops and conferences—particular truth held by others is just simply not that important—other things are, while the confused laity are still primarily looking for leaders to stand on particular truth and shun those who don’t.

But if the laity is waiting, they better not hold their breath while doing so. And really, is a whole bunch of this really about selling books? New ideas sell books. I am reading “The Story of the Church” by Charles M. Jacobs—an oldie, but goodie. He talks about how the first century church rejected academia all together, as Jesus did to a great degree. It’s obvious that the elite, religious academians  controlled the information when Jesus came onto the scene—this is a constant theme throughout the New Testament. According to Jacobs, until the second century, the educated elite were barred from eldership.  Sometimes, I wonder if the laity in this country will ever tire of being led around by the nose via the who’s who of the evangelical world. But at the very least, leaders should be held to biblical standards and boycotted when they don’t measure up. As Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”

And p.s.—Ingrid, pray about putting you blog back up.


A Response to a Follower of John Piper

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on March 16, 2011

The following comment is a good opportunity to clarify John Piper’s doctrine:


I will respond line by the line and post it. My responses are in brackets.

“Have you ever even read Piper; his book on missions for instance?”

[Yes, I have read plenty of Piper, but even if I haven’t, what does that have to do with the message he delivered at the 2010 “Together for Gospel Sanctification” (T4GS) conference? Also, I realize that he writes and teaches some really cool stuff, but so does Joel Olsteen.]

“You act as if he is instructing Christians to sit on their thumbs and meditate all day.”

[No, but since I agree with your assessment on what Piper believes on that point:]

‘The point in meditation upon Christ and his gospels is to humble us so we don’t pridefully depend on our works instead of His grace.”

[Right, except for the fact that Piper believes the whole Bible is about the gospel, not just the Gospels. In other words, he believes the whole Bible is about justification. In a very scary interview between DA Carson and Tim Keller, close associates of Piper, and also GS advocates, which I believe was a review concerning the upcoming 2012 T4GS conference, they talked about how they were going to teach pastors to “drive toward Christ and the gospel,” and to show what “Biblical Theology,” ie., the Christocentric redemptive-historical hermeneutic, dubbed BT by Geerhardus Vos, “looks like,” in order to “read the Bible in such a way that you {always} get to Jesus.” Whether Piper, Keller, or Carson, I find their nuanced verbiage sickening. If you are going to teach redemptive-historical hermeneutics, for the love of mercy just say so. Also, I assume all of the fawning pastors at that conference will fail to pick-up on the fact that they are being taught to interpret the Bible with a theology (as in “Biblical Theology”), which is Interpretive No-No’s 101. Of course, they are, in fact, going to teach a hermeneutic; only the terminology should raise a red flag, which it won’t.

Notice in your statement that you correctly identify what Piper believes: ANY works on our part in sanctification will result in prideful works INSTEAD of grace. Of course, evangelicals don’t believe that we “depend” on our own works alone in sanctification, but that doesn’t mean we don’t work. But in the video, “The Gospel in 6 Minutes,” which is an excerpt from one of his (Piper’s) sermons, he says to “never {he repeats “never” like, 20 times} separate the gospel from sanctification.” The gospel is received by faith alone. So this clearly means that Piper, as all GS proponents, believes in sanctification by justification, or sanctification by faith alone. This is what’s behind meditating on the gospel to the exclusion of “….works instead of His grace.” In fact, Piper believes that any effort on our part in the sanctification process is works salvation. Though Piper, like most GS advocates, speaks in nuance, the logical conclusion of what he says in the aforementioned sermon is irrefutable. I comment in another post accordingly:

“Piper begins this section with the following: ‘I know that there are people reading this who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation.’ In context, what does he mean that they are not ‘trusting Jesus Christ’? Well, he continues: ‘Forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God comes freely through him alone, by faith alone.’ So, who is he talking to? I’m glad you asked, he continues in the very next sentence: ‘I plead with you, don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the gospel.’ He is talking about being strong, or strengthened, in regard to ‘us’ (remember the title of the sermon that the video was excerpted from? ‘God Strengthens Us by the Gospel’). In other words, exerting our own effort in the sanctification process, and especially apart from the gospel, will result in ‘condemnation.’ This is a plea for any person who believes in synergistic sanctification to be saved. Also note how he uses expressions of justification and sanctification interchangeably. The topics of his paragraphs in the same general context often look like this: Justification, sanctification, justification, sanctification. Likewise, Piper and many others such as Paul Tripp often use justification verses to make points about sanctification. I have cited many, many, examples of this in previous articles, and a prime example would be pages 64 and 65 of ‘How People Change.’” ]

“His grace motivates us to works.”

[Not exactly. Piper believes in the total depravity of the saints. Therefore, it stands to reason that the totally depraved can’t be rightly motivated to do anything. In fact, he teaches that joy gives all works moral value and that joy is always a gift from God. In essence, Piper calls on us to sin (work in our own efforts while asking God to forgive us—as you said, this keeps us humble) while waiting for God to grant us joy as a gift. This is what he clearly says on page 43 of “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.” Hence, like Paul Tripp and many others, Piper teaches that sin is part of God’s prescription for sanctification. The “fight for joy” is—us necessarily sinning; Piper clearly says so. Also, in the short, three-chapter ebook, “Treating Duty as Delight is Controversial” which can be found on his website, Piper clearly says we are, as Christians, “enslaved to sinful passions” and specifically cites Romans 6:17, which speaks concerning our previous unregenerate state before salvation. Per the usual, the first pope of New Calvinism can say a verse says one thing when it clearly says something else because, well, he’s the Pope.]

“Please stop wasting your time criticizing Christians that you are jealous of and causing divisions in the church.”

[ Why would I be jealous of a false teacher? And why are you following this guy? He is in grave, stark contrast to the likes of JC Ryle, BB Warfield, and many, many, others. And truth doesn’t cause division, error does—truth unifies. And, I have seen the divisions / controversies / confusion that Piper’s teachings cause—first hand. Like the company that split because two of the partners stopped doing their job because: to do certain elements of their job that didn’t give them joy would be sin. Supposedly. Like the guy who prayed for hours begging God to save him, and God supposedly wouldn’t, because he couldn’t experience “the treasure chest of joy” that supposedly always accompanies salvation.

No, I’m not wasting my time. I will fight this hideous doctrine till God gives me my last breath or by God’s decree GS is put out of business: whichever happens first.]


Ultimately, Intentional Active Obedience Cannot Be Denied As Curative in Counseling

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on March 12, 2011

Some weeks ago, I was sent a webinar clip of a presentation by a NANC fellow (as in membership status, National Association of Nouthetic Counselers). The individual presented a counseling model that focused on showing the counselee the magnificence of the gospel. Supposedly, wowing the counselee or “amazing” the counselee with the gospel is curative (whether the counselee is a Christian or otherwise). Furthermore, the other side of this model proffered the idea that intentional obedience or instruction to change behavior was not only ant-curative, but legalism and works righteousness. A focus, or as some (other than the webinar presenter) call it, “moving deeper into the gospel” or “contemplation of the gospel,” results in “reasonable service” or what is known as new obedience. New obedience displays itself as a joyful “mere natural flow” which supposedly identifies the quality of obedience as being pure in motive. Duty no longer stands on its own as a virtue, but must be purified by joy and lack of our effort in the midst.


The NANC minion also referred to a behavioral emphasis in counseling as works righteousness, even when counseling a believer. So, emphasis on behavior in counseling is actually the same as beckoning the counselee to abandon the true gospel for a false one. Of course, this is counseling based on Sonship theology—“the same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you” and “we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” Though I am in the midst of researching this and I’m compiling a list of people I want to interview in regard to Sonship’s history, it looks like the doctrine was contrived by a former prof. of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and further developed by one of his understudies, David Powlison, a prof. at Westminster’s counseling wing: CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation). Unfortunately, Powlison and other associates such as Paul David Tripp were allowed unfettered involvement in NANC as instructors and board members who also infected NANC with said doctrine. Roughly eleven years ago, I witnessed the takeover of  a NANC training center by Sonship advocates firsthand (though I did not know what the doctrine was at the time), and a pastor friend of mine was in NANC training taught by a Sonship advocate in Lafayette, Indiana. Hence, the webinar per my introduction.


Therefore, there is an important Sonship mantra that all counselors and Christians alike should understand: “The imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.” Stop being lazy and start thinking—this is why two counseling organizations have become unwitting (I’m being tentative) partners with the kingdom of darkness, and it’s time Christians start paying attention to this stuff. The indicative event refers to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Therefore, all biblical commands that we would obey flow from Christ’s atoning work and not ours, or, “The imperative command….” Proponents of Sonship and gospel sanctification (what Sonship has morphed into of late) will often cite Bible verses where this is true—Christians obey because of what Christ has already done (you do this because Christ did that), but then they insist that this is the only biblical pattern in Scripture. Conclusion: All present, past, and future real-time active obedience was secured and imputed to us from the atonement just like righteousness. In the same way all of our righteousness comes from Christ, all of our obedience also comes from Christ. In other words, Christ obeys for us. Any effort on our part to obey is works righteousness in the same way we would try to earn our own righteousness with no distinction between justification and sanctification—they are treated as being the same thing. As Francis Chan says: if we work, “it feels like work,” but if Christ is the one working, “it feels like love.” Hence, when Christ is obeying for us (they say “through,” but that doesn’t fit what they really believe and makes it sound synergistic), it’s a joyful “mere natural flow.” This is why the teachings of John Piper are a staple in GS/Sonship circles. Piper’s Christian hedonism answers the, “How do we know when it’s us trying to obey or Christ obeying for us?


However, in Scripture, the imperative often precedes the indicative (if you do this, God will do that). Many Scriptures that emphasize rewards in this present life (Eph 6:1-3), and in the future would be good examples of this. Also, some imperatives are grounded in indicatives that God hasn’t even done yet! (Heb 10:19-25 2Pet 3:11,12 [do this because this is what God is going to do in the future]). By the way, so what if it’s us doing it, and regardless of the difficulty?—we  recognize we are acting by faith because we believe that God will really do what he says He will do, and (that) faith is a gift from Him, but that doesn’t exclude our effort! This is no trite matter—this is two schools of thought that teach Christians what our role in sanctification is, and how it will be experienced in real life! The reality of this hits one in the face when we hear Michael Horton say that biblical imperatives are not “promises.” Sure, doing everything we do for the sole purpose of pleasing God is honorable, but that’s not how God Himself approaches us in every circumstance with His word. This whole subject is also paramount in regard to giving hope in counseling as well. Moreover, the folly of Sonship is exposed when advocates implement a literal hermeneutic when the IND >IMP is present, but switch to a Christocentric / gospel hermeneutic (prism) when the IMP>IND or IMP> future IND is present, aping one of Paul David Tripp’s profundities: “Well, that verse has to be considered in its gospel context.”


But, there is one more thing that exposes the folly of this Sonship/GS element; namely, a denial of intentional active obedience on the part of the counselee, and that is: real life. On this point, the advocates themselves confess. In the ebook entitled, “Treating Delight as Duty is Controversial” (chapter 3, can viewed on his website), John piper concedes the following:


“It is true that our hearts are often sluggish. We do not feel the depth or intensity of affections that are appropriate for God or His cause. It is true that at those times we must exert our wills and make decisions that we hope will rekindle our joy. Even though joyless love is not our aim (“God loves a cheerful giver!” 2 Corinthians 9:7; “[Show] mercy with cheerfulness,” Romans 12:8), nevertheless it is better to do a joyless duty than not to do it, provided that there is a spirit of repentance that we have not done all of our duty because of the sluggishness of our hearts.”


Is obeying whether we feel like it or not really sin?—or a deeper form of  self-sacrifice? After all, self doesn’t want to do what God wants, right? But my main point here is that the reality of intentional active obedience cannot ultimately be rejected because real life comes knocking, as Piper himself concedes, though by writing that it is better to sin in obedience than not to obey. Uh, I think that’s what he’s saying, right?  However, the most striking concession was from a CCEF counselor named Robyn Huck in an article she recently wrote about the passing of her father. Regarding the quality of her parent’s marriage, she wrote:


“My folks were married for almost 52 years. I’m the oldest of their five children and was born in their first year of marriage, so I got to witness a lot of their life together. It was not a picture of paradise all those years, but somewhere around year 20 or so, there was tremendous growth in their relationship, and since then, they have been a wonderful example of a really good Christian marriage. I know it wasn’t always easy and I know it took a lot of work. But over and over in little day-to-day moments, they intentionally gave up self and embraced the oneness God called them to. And they were very happy.”


I think it is a good reminder to many that Christians developed good marriages by applying biblical concepts like self-sacrifice long before CCEF was around, or for that matter, NANC as well. But Paul Tripp’s answer to that would be along the lines of the fellow in the webinar, and also echoed by Larry Crabb in “Inside Out”; even if your walk with Christ is strong, it can be even better when you realize that “you no longer live, but Christ lives in you! We [him and Timothy S, Lane, both prof.’s at CCEF] welcome you to a lifestyle of celebrating just what that means” (“How People Change” p.19). Well, I read the book; it means you are spiritually dead so Christ has to obey for you. You doubt that he wrote that? Here is what he also wrote on page 171: “ It is not enough for Paul to say that the death of Christ made him new. He says that when he died, the old Paul was not replaced with a new and improved version of Paul [being born again isn’t an improved version?!], but with Christ Himself!” [this isn’t true, it’s not one or the other—it’s both].


That’s why these other comments by Huck are surprising as well:


“This ‘path’ through the woods was cleared a long time ago, but it’s still the right path, and can still be found and followed in these wintery times. What I’m trying to say is that God’s provision for my mother began thousands of years ago when he provided these lessons in Scripture. With God’s help, my parents followed that path to the best of their ability, and now my mother is reaping the fine reward of wise, godly living.”




“They also intentionally nurtured their faith, with habits of daily scripture reading and prayer. In each of these areas, my folks sought to live godly lives, and it was good for them. The process was good and now the product is good. God created the provision of Christian community, adequate finances, and strong living faith through their acts of obedience. My folks did not live perfectly, but for the most part, they stayed on the path.”




“And though living in obedience to God’s word doesn’t guarantee an easy or comfortable life, it is the passageway for his promises to be fulfilled and for faith to be built. Now that trouble has come to my family, the blessings of following God’s path and living the obedient life just keep jumping out at me. My mom truly has what she needs, both to live and to get through this difficult time.”


And this last statement is totally astounding:


“This serves as a great reminder to me as I counsel. Though we are right to be focused on the hearts of the people to whom we minister, we must also remember that blessings can come from simply doing what the Word says to do. It’s true that the deepest blessings of obedience happen when it is done out of love, but any act of obedience can be instrumental in turning the heart, and can bring the positive outcomes that so many proverbs describe.”


Yikes! She is saying that “any act of obedience” can be “instrumental” in “turning the heart” and can bring “positive outcomes,” while giving CCEF’s staple doctrine (heart theology) a wimpy, honorable mention: “Though we are right to be focused on the hearts of the people to whom we minister…” This even implies that outward obedience with the right motive, but maybe not joyful, can “turn the heart.” To me, this is a glaring contradiction to the foundation of CCEF’s counseling philosophy.


Robyn Huck, like all counselors who really want to help people, and I definitely put her in that category, eventually come to the conclusion that IND>IMP and IMP>IND and IMP>future IND are all equally true.




Enough With the Puritans Already!

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on March 10, 2011

Why do proponents of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship theology quote creeds and Puritans so much? It’s because they can’t make their case from Scripture; and, the redemptive-historical hermeneutic eliminates the use of Scripture to draw conclusions about truth from the text. That’s why. When the supposed primary purpose of Scripture is to “show forth the gospel narrative” for both believers and unbelievers, rather than a proof text for issues of life—the gap needs to be filled with something, so why not Puritans and creeds? Besides, they are supposedly the last ones in redemptive history to be enlightened enough to know that every verse in the Bible is about justification.

I will soon be launching into some research regarding this issue, but I have already been sent some information suggesting that GS/Sonship advocates routinely misrepresent Marshall, Murray, and Owen to make points. But for now, my preliminary thoughts are as follows:

1. Puritans and creeds are not inspired, and we have the same Holy Spirit they had / have.

2. Puritan writings are available in massive volumes, and even if Owen, Marshall, Murray, etc., did believe that “the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us,” or “we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday,” such a minute portion could not be said to represent Puritan thought in general. And even if it did, so what? They are men, and the “Puritan” label is not a “Proof of Truth” seal. If what they said doesn’t align with Scripture, they can all hang it on their beaks as far as I’m concerned.

3. I have yet to see a Puritan quote, even by the New Calvinists, that resembles anything such as : “The same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us” or, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday,”

4. Puritan writings are translated into modern English by heaven-only-knows who. They are uninspired translations from men, and translated by men.

5. New Calvinists rarely quote the specific Puritan source (for example, title, volume, page, etc.). So the accuracy of the quote cannot usually be verified.


If Space Aliens Visited Westminster Seminary

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on February 8, 2011

I don’t know what’s wrong with me this morning. I sang to PJ and Phillip while taking them to school this morning: “Let the sunshine in, face it with a grin, frowner’s never win…….” Too much coffee or something. Then I guess I made the mistake of checking my FB wall before getting to work. One of my friends posted an item concerning an apparent, or possible paranormal event concerning the pale horse of the apocalypse. At first, my comment was serious:

“ Interesting. It could be paranormal – that does happen. But for Christians the question is always, “So what?” Or, Objective verses subjective. Like when lightning struck the giant image of Jesus here in Ohio: objective; God doesn’t like idols so He struck it with lightning. This [note] is more in the realm of subjective. Subjective paranormal events are sometimes a judgment because they are often a form of idol worship. People like idols because they can draw any truth they want from them; like the giant Jesus here in Ohio – it meant many different things to many different people. Likewise, people can draw all kinds of different “conclusions” from subjective paranormal activity. The apostle Paul said that in the end times God will send “delusions” as a judgment and Christ said they will be so deceptive that they could potentially deceive the elect “if that were possible.” I believe that as the time draws near we will see strong delusions, and Katie bar the door, if the likes of John Piper can fool people, one can only imagine the wholesale plunge into deeper error.”

Then something happened. You see, I have been in a cage while writing the second edition of “Another Gospel” because I made Susan the chief editor of the book. Her credentials for such a task are over the top, and it has been brutal: no sarcasm, no unprofessional statements, no unnecessary statements that don’t contribute to the main point, etc., etc., etc., and etc. Do you know what I mean? Do you hear me knocking? “No, this won’t work,” she says, “the blog is informal [my translation: fun!], this is serious business.” So, I made a second comment to the note on FB that was in jest – something about an end-time delusion concerning space aliens visiting Southern Theological Seminary and presenting a false gospel. Then I thought, “Hey, that would make a good post!”

But then I thought (Susan never lets me start a sentence with “but”), “It wouldn’t be fair to use Southern since they are primarily influenced by Westminster these days, so I will use Westminster for the imaginary scenario instead. So, imagine with me, the spaceship lands on the front lawn of Westminster Seminary, the aliens emerge, and say, “Take us to your leader.” Undoubtedly, since this would be a counseling situation, and even a possible alien abduction (I could only wish), they would summon profs from CCEF, the counseling wing of Westminster. After listening to the new gospel presented by the aliens, one can only assume they would respond this way:

“No, no, we have a much better gospel than that. We believe in change at the ‘heart level.’ You see, we don’t need to evolve, the church has always had the truth, but then it forgot a bunch of stuff. We realized the church did so when we observed people who hate us developing theories of change based on an ‘inside life.’ Unfortunately, first generation versions of ourselves deny this ‘inside life’ because they are obsessed with what can be known objectively. It is important to overcome that because even though we have recovered truth forgotten by the church, ‘it’s different because it’s always in a different socio-cultural-historical movement, and different forces are at work’ ( see David Powlison interview with 9 Marks Blog). However, this shouldn’t bother our first generation friends because the Bible is not a book of objective truth anyway, it’s a gospel narrative.

Now, on Earth we have flowers called the daisy, and if you just cut down a daisy, it will grow back again because what you need to do is get to the roots and dig them up. Likewise, idols in the heart must be found and destroyed by deep repentance. When we do that, change is just a ‘mere natural flow’ via new obedience. Now, idols in our heart take our desires captive, so we locate the idols by asking ourselves x-ray questions, which will identify desires that have been disoriented / misplaced by the idols. This is very important because like Sigmund Freud, we believe ‘Everything we do is shaped and controlled by what our hearts desire’ (How People Change, p.17). Furthermore, we like to quote a great teacher of the past who said: ‘The heart is an idol factory.’ So, as our nasty hearts continue to create these idols, we must eradicate them by deep repentance.”

At this point, the aliens have a question: “So, your gospel is a gospel that teaches a constant cycle of new idols being created in the heart and the cutting down thereof ?” Answer: “Precisely! Because when we sin, it keeps us humble and prevents self righteousness. But when we obey, it’s not really us obeying; when the idol is eradicated, the void is filled by Christ and he obeys for us. So really, it’s a constant cycle of humbleness and rejoicing in what Jesus is doing, not anything we do. This is much better than the first generation of putting off the old self and putting on the full righteousness of Christ granted to us at salvation.”

Aliens: “But isn’t that what Ephesians 4:20-24 says to do? And isn’t it more objective than idol hunting?” Answer: “That’s first generation thinking. We thought you guys are supposed to be more highly evolved than us. The Bible is a gospel narrative, and ‘Christ is a person, not a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life’ (How People Change, p.27). The Bible is a big picture model / story of every believers life, and we are invited to enter into the plot ( How People Change p.94).”

Aliens: “Your concept: the Bible is personal truth embodied in a person [Christ] and expressed in a narrative; therefore, it cannot be applicable truth; isn’t that postmodernism? Another one of your earthly leaders says it is (John MacArthur, Truth War pages 12-14).” Answer: “Guilt by association! Are you guys really blogwatchers posing as aliens?!”

To conclude my narrative, one of the aliens keys his communicator and says the following: “Ground to command, beam us up, there’s no intelligent life down here.”

And once again, CCEF’s research and development team has saved planet Earth!

The end.

(Don’t tell Susan I wrote this).


How and Why “Gospel-Driven” Sanctification / Sonship Theology Creates Cult-Like Churches

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 31, 2011

In all of my writings on gospel-driven sanctification / gospel sanctification, and its apparent mother, Sonship Theology, I have primarily addressed the error, and not its ill effects on discipleship and people’s lives. Basically, refutation of false doctrine has prevention in mind, not theological debate for entertainment purposes.

My firsthand experience with a “gospel centered” church is applicable here because this same church and its leaders are well respected in Reformed circles, and especially among those who propagate gospel-driven sanctification. Paul David Tripp speaks at this particular church often, and others such as Stewart Scott and Robert Jones have recently participated in major events there as well. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that this particular church’s activities are not considered to be abnormal among “gospel centered” persuasions.

The church I am using as an example regarding the “what,” (I will write about the “how” last) would classify themselves as being a New Covenant Theology church. They consider “Theology of the Heart, redemptive-historical hermeneutics, gospel-driven sanctification, and Christian hedonism to be tenets of NCT. What does this church and many others look like as a result of this theology?

Foremost, the leadership is very controlling. Members must have permission from the elders to vacate membership status. Those who attempt to leave membership for “unbiblical reasons” can be placed under church discipline. I have personally counseled former parishioners of said church on how to “get out of there” with minimal stress, and how to leave without being placed under church discipline. At this particular church, leaving for doctrinal reasons is considered “unbiblical.” In one particular case where the elders deemed the reason for departure “biblical,” the parishioner informed me that the chairman of the elders told him, “We would never prevent you from leaving for that reason.”

These elders are also very controlling in the area of thought. In a sermon preached by one of its elders entitled, “How to Listen to a Sermon” the following idea was introduced: Christians are not able to grow spiritually from personal study, but must only learn from sitting under preaching; specifically, preaching by the elders at that church. Here is an excerpt from the manuscript:

“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. [Particularly on the issue of radios]. 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.”

Of course, the first thing that would come to mind for any thinking Christian is the biblical account of the Bereans who studied the Scriptures on their own to determine the truthfulness of Paul’s teaching. But according to this elder, the account in Acts 17 wasn’t referring to that, but rather was illustrating the proper way to listen to a sermon:

“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.”

In other words, personal study alone cannot produce belief; preaching from an elder must be part of the “cycle” that produces belief (notice the emphasis on “belief” rather than increased knowledge per the progressive justification element of gospel sanctification). In fact, he said that personal study only “flavors” the 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”

So, personal Bible study isn’t the food, it’s just the flavoring. And, personal Bible study is for “flavoring,” not discernment. Buyer beware.

In another category under mind control, separate small groups that meet during the week under the supervision of individual elders in homes of members are instructed not to associate, or speak with members who have left for doctrinal reasons. Also, the primary purpose of the meetings is to get feedback from the parishioners on what was taught the previous Sunday, and fielding objections or concerns. In other “gospel centered” churches, these mid-week meetings are closed to outsiders, or non-members. These meetings have also been known to produce weird occurrences like the time an elder unexpectedly produced all of his financial records in plain view of the group for their inspection. A parishioner confided in me that he found the incident to be surreal, and more information than he cared to know about.

Unknown, for the most part, is the gospel-driven use of what’s called redemptive church discipline. It is a staple of these churches, and it is a very broad use of church discipline. Reformed Christians who join “gospel centered” churches assume it is a reference to traditional forms of church discipline. Parishioners can be placed in this process for any sin, and without any prior notice or inclination. It is not the normal process of inquisitive steps to determine a Christian’s willingness to repent, but more like a counseling process in which elders judge when the parishioner has actually repented. Verbal repentance on the part of the subject is not accepted. Members are not free to leave membership while in this process without being excommunicated for supposedly attempting to vacate membership while in the midst of an unresolved sin issue. Those who dispute gospel sanctification are often placed into the process to convert them to a “redemptive” view of sanctification. They either convert, or they’re excommunicated. Accounts of “gospel centered” churches using this process to control parishioners is vast.

However, the major complaint coming out of these churches is the ignoring of clear biblical mandates by their elders. Parishioners are often perplexed by this. But this is because the elders of these churches believe the Bible is solely for the purpose of showing forth redemptive principles (ie., the gospel) and not instruction. Per New Covenant Theology, they are only obligated to a “higher law of love” which replaced biblical imperatives. The idea is the following: all actions done with the motive of love are righteous. As Francis Chan wrote, “….because when we are loving, we can’t sin”(Crazy Love p.102). As in one case when an elder was caught counseling someone’s wife without the husband’s knowledge – his defense was that he did so “in love.” Therefore, just about anything goes in gospel-driven churches, and well published accounts include excommunicating hundreds of members at one time for non-attendance, which is a questionable act when Scripture is considered to say the least.

How does this happen? First, it begins with a niche doctrine. Propagators often admit that gospel sanctification is a “radical departure” from orthodox doctrine. Those are the words of the propagators, not mine. Any movement that begins with a niche doctrine is in danger of becoming a cult, that’s Cult Apologetics 101. My research has made the following evident: the doctrine was conceived by a man named Jack Miller in, or about 1980.

Secondly, the niche doctrine draws leaders who are more interested in being unique than being in the truth. Take note of what one of the elders of the aforementioned church said while introducing a Sunday school class teaching Christian hedonism: “This doctrine is what makes us unique.” Whenever the goal is to be unique, trouble is not far behind.

Thirdly, niche doctrines and a striving to be different leads to subjectivity and confusion because the leaders are constantly striving to make the doctrine fit with reality and orthodoxy. This results in the kind of events mentioned above.

Fourthly, these elements mixed with the fact that most Reformed churches are autonomous in their polity is an extremely dangerous combination. Basically, the leadership is not accountable and the congregation is on their own.

Niche doctrines, the control of members in thought and action, the ignoring of clear biblical mandates, misuse of unbiblical church discipline in order to control parishioners through fear, manipulation, and intimidation; this is how the “gospel centered” leaders of our day adorn their vile doctrine. Therefore, perhaps they should be named with the cult leaders of ages past accordingly.

Is Gospel-Driven Sanctification Really “Sonship” Theology?

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 29, 2011

Two weeks ago, sitting in my office with my feet propped on a bookcase and chatting with Susan, I happened to be looking up at my Jay Adams shelf. Since it had been too long since I’d read any of his material (at least two weeks), I put my feet down on the floor and began perusing what I haven’t lent to other people; and thinking, “Hmmm, wonder what this is: ‘Biblical Sonship.’”

I always read the preface. So you have the cover, cover page, copyright, contents, and preface. I was reading the first page of the preface, and in the third paragraph, when I read the following: “It claims that a person can change this sad state of affairs by continuing to preach the gospel to himself and by repenting and believing over and over again. It teaches that not only justification, but also sanctification, is by faith in the good news.”

Barely a hundred words into the book, and I was stunned. That is the exact same thesis as gospel sanctification, a movement I have been researching for three years. The movement (gospel sanctification, or “gospel-driven sanctification”) is huge and its propagators are the who’s who of the evangelical world that they are supposedly trying to save: DA Carson, Michael Horton, Paul David Tripp, David Powlison, Tim Keller, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Devers, Francis Chan, Jerry Bridges, and many, many others. The theology is also propagated by several missionary alliances and church planting organizations like the Antioch School in Ames, Iowa.

As Jay Adams notes in his book, the Sonship movement was started by Jack Miller, a former professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary who is now deceased. According to other sources, Jack Miller’s epiphany concerning Sonship occurred while he was on an extended trip in Spain with his family. An article I read by Geoff Thomas in Banner of Truth was written in 2003, and he mentions the trip to Spain as being about twenty years prior; so figure 1980, or around that time, for the birth of Sonship theology.

In all of my studies concerning gospel sanctification, I had never heard of Jack Miller or Sonship theology, but it became clear from the Jay Adams book that the two theologies are the same thing with the usual peripheral aberrations from the basic form; and the basic form being, but not confined to, progressive justification, sanctification by faith alone, substitutionary monergistic sanctification, and the total depravity of the saints. There is absolutely no doubt – this theology turns orthodoxy completely upside down while the intestinal fortitude of the rest of the evangelical community wanes. Apparently, big names like Jerry Bridges and others are like GM, they’re just too big to fail. As one brother wrote to me: “How dare you criticize DA Carson, one the greatest theological minds of our day!” Furthermore, as Dr. Peter Masters has noted, it is interesting that doctrine doesn’t matter if you are “gospel-driven” in your beliefs. For example, Charismatic and emergent church leaders are readily excepted into the new Calvinism clan if they are “gospel-centered.”

But what came first? Sonship, or gospel sanctification? Did gospel-driven sanctification come from Sonship? Is Jack Miller the father of new Calvinism? It’s looking that way. Historical precedent for gospel sanctification (GS) cannot be found before (approx.)1980. It is the brainchild of Dr. David Powlison, professor at CCEF, the biblical counseling wing of Westminster Seminary. GS came out of his “Dynamics of Biblical Change” curriculum developed and taught by him at Westminster. Two of his former students articulated the doctrine in the book “How People Change.” This is made clear by Powlison in the forward he wrote for the same book. Shortly prior to the book’s release, the doctrine’s theories were tested in local churches via a pilot program. In the reformed church I attended that was part of the pilot program, the curriculum was taught in a Sunday school class with a limited number of participants.

“How People Change” articulates a theology that is virtually identical to Sonship theology. And, it just so happens that David Powlison himself claims that Jack Miller is his “mentor.” He recently stated this as fact while teaching a seminar at John Piper’s church, and in the midst of fustigating Jay Adams for criticizing Jack Miller for telling people to “preach the gospel to themselves everyday” *see endnote.  I thought this phrase was originally coined by Jerry Bridges, but Jerry Bridges attributes the phrase to Jack Miller in the preface of “The Disciplines of Grace.” Tim Keller, a looming figure in the new Calvinism / gospel-driven / gospel sanctification movement, was teaching GS under the “Sonship” nomenclature as late as 2006. On the Puritan Board, a faint cry for help was uttered by a person saying the following: “ The Sonship theology of Tim Keller has taken a hold of the church I attend. Am I the only one, or does anyone else have a problem with this?”

Furthermore, my research would strongly suggest that the development of other contemporary theologies like New Covenant Theology, (many attribute its conception to Westminster Seminary sometime during the 80’s or 90’s), heart theology (definitely conceived at Westminster during the 90’s), redemptive-historical hermeneutics, and Christian hedonism (latter conceived by John Piper in the 80’s) were primarily driven by the need to validate Sonship / GS doctrine. Sonship needs the NCT perspective on the law, the supposed practical application of finding idols in the heart via heart theology, the perspective of how Sonship is experienced through Christian hedonism, and more than anything else, an interpretive redemptive prism supplied by the redemptive-historical hermeneutic.

But why has gospel sanctification enjoyed freedom from ridicule not afforded to Sonship? They are, for all practical purposes, the same exact thing and encompass many of the same teachers. Probably because gospel sanctification has the word “gospel” in it. In this age of hyper-grace, people will shy away from any appearance of being against “the gospel.” I have to believe that the movement has traded the Sonship label, with its share of bullet holes, for the “gospel-driven” label. Sonship has been besieged by two works, the book by Jay Adams and a lengthy article by Van Dixhoorn, a former student at Westminster. Sonship has also been pelted with its share of the “antinomian” accusation, and rightfully so. In my second addition of “Another Gospel,” I write the following on page 78:

“….if the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, and Christ said that we are sanctified by the word; and certainly He did say that as recorded in John 17:17, then every word in the Bible must be about justification, or what God has done and not anything we could possibly do, being a gospel affair. Furthermore, if we are sanctified by the gospel which is God’s work alone, we may have no more role in spiritual growth than we did in the gospel that saved us. The Scriptures are clear; no person is justified by works of the law. Is that not the gospel? Therefore, when the antinomians speak of obedience, it should be apparent that they are not speaking of our obedience, even though they allow us to assume otherwise.”

At least one book, a lengthy pamphlet, and several articles defend Sonship against Adams and Van Dixhoorn, but the theological arguments are woefully lame. Nevertheless, my point is that gospel sanctification, though the same thing, is enjoying widespread acceptance throughout the church without controversy while unifying camps that are theologically suspect to say the least.

It is what it is; while mad theological scientist concoct all sorts of new potions in the lab and send their minions out to commit first-degree doctrinal felonies in broad daylight, while many who profess to love the real gospel say nothing. I pray that will change, while thanking God for those who love the truth more than the acceptance and praises of men.


Powlison failed to mention that the criticism came in the form of a book that is an apology against Sonship theology. Failure to mention that put Adams in an anti-gospel light as well as depriving him of the ability to contextualize the criticism.  As an aside, Powlison, in the same seminar, criticized “idol hunting”; but yet, he is the inventor of “X-ray questions”(which he also mentioned in positive terms without the “X-ray” terminology, but rather something like “reorienting questions”) which are designed to identify heart idols (see page 163 of “How People Change”). His mentor, Jack Miller, developed a complex system of idol hunting that included twenty different categories of heart idols (Jack Miller, “Repentance and the 20th Century Man”CLC 1998). This kind of disingenuous double-speak is commonplace within the movement.

“Christless Christianity”: Michael Horton’s Lawless Trilogy

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 27, 2011

See no law, hear no law, speak no law. Such is “Christless Christianity,” published by Dr. Michael Horton in 2008. He presents the book as a treatise exposing the supposed fact that the church is awash in a “Christless” evangelicalism. After suffering through page after page of a nuanced semblance of orthodoxy masking his antinomian bent, his real thesis, and what drives his “Modern Reformation” organization, is stated on page 62.

See No Law

On page 62, he states the following:

“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.”

Encompassed in this statement is Dr. Horton’s position on “faith,” “practice,” and how we “communicate” those things to the world. Let’s look at the “faith” part. First, he says that both the unregenerate and regenerate are dependent on the “free grace” of God disclosed in “the gospel” “at every moment.” He goes on to say that the gospel (ie., the free grace of justification) does two things: gives life to the spiritually dead (“unregenerate”) and “continually give[s] life to Christ’s flock (ie., believers).

Secondly, believers only receive this life “every time WE encounter the gospel afresh.” Therefore, the relationship of the gospel to unbelievers and believers is no different. We are raised to life and progressively transformed in the exact same way. Horton says this happens at “every moment”; therefore, people are raised to life by the gospel (justification by faith alone) and transformed by the gospel (justification by faith alone), and only “each time” they encounter the gospel “afresh.”

Thirdly, what gospel gives life to the unregenerate? Well, Horton says plainly that if believers leave that same gospel, “you loose both.” Both what? Answer: sanctification and justification. Horton says you get “both” in the bargain because according to him they are both the same. In other word’s, what orthodox Christians normally consider to be sanctification, is really progressive justification. Ever heard of that? Didn’t think so. Does this mean Michael Horton believes that synergism in sanctification is a false gospel? Sure it does, what else can be surmised? Does this explain why he thinks he is on the cutting edge of a new reformation? I would imagine.

Fourthly, we also see another tenet of antinomian (see no law) doctrine (specifically, gospel sanctification) in this same excerpt: “….but the Spirit working through the gospel.” Note “but.” But what? The giving of life: “….nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life….” In other words, the Spirit only works through the gospel. Therefore, the Scriptures are only used by the Spirit to impart life when the Bible is used in regard to showing forth justification, or the gospel. This is the redemptive-historical use of the Bible. Again, a gospel sanctification tenet. Hence, using the Bible for spiritual instruction is supposedly taboo, and in fact, law-keeping (as though that’s wrong for believers to do in the first place). Like many other proponents of antinomian doctrines, Horton’s teachings will contain a lot of very good what (descriptive information [which the Bible has in glorious abundance]), but rarely any how (prescriptive), and I contend to the detriment of many. They will have a glorious picture of heaven in their minds as they die on the vine, being hearers of the word (they would say gospel) only and not doers, “deceiving themselves.”

Fifthly, we see Horton’s mystical personification of Christ and the gospel in this part of the excerpt: “Start with Christ (that is, the gospel)….” Making the nebulous concept of the person of Christ synonymous with “the gospel,” and also paramount in interpretation rather than what Christ objectively instructs, serves antinomians well. Their writings are often peppered with this kind of subjective rhetoric, but it always has a purpose. An example is making “the gospel” synonymous with “the word” so they can say that every verse in the Bible is about the gospel, and therefore serving that purpose only (progressive justification) for believers and unbelievers alike.

Lastly, If Horton, like the antinomian doctrine that he propagates, sees no difference in justification and sanctification, then the law will play the exact same role for believers as it does unbelievers. In fact, this is what Horton believes. However, the following excerpt from “Creeds and Deeds: How Doctrine Leads to Doxological Living” reveals how difficult it is to nail down Horton on this aspect:

“It might seem controversial to identify doctrine with ‘gospel’ and deeds with ‘law,’ especially since these days we often hear calls to ‘live the gospel.’ However, the gospel is not an imperative but an indicative; not a program to follow, but an announcement to welcome for our own salvation and to herald for the salvation of the world. Does that mean that we do not have imperatives or that we do not follow Christ? As Paul would say, ‘May it never be!’ It simply means that we have to distinguish indicatives and imperatives. The law gives us something to do, and the gospel gives us something to believe. Christians are no less obligated to obey God’s commandments in the New Testament than they were in the Old Testament, but they are commandments not promises. The imperatives drive us to despair of self-righteousness, the indicatives hold up Christ as our only Savior, and then the imperatives become the ‘reasonable service’ of believers ‘in view of God’s mercies.’ There is a lot of wisdom to the order of the Heidelberg Catechism: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. The commandments tell us what we are to do; the gospel tells us what God has done.”

This excerpt reminds me of the John Kerry controversy during the 2004 presidential election: “I was for it before I was against it.” First, because of Horton’s progressive justification view, it is not possible for him to believe that the law has a role in sanctification anymore than it would in justification, other than a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ for justification. Though he makes statements above that seem to indicate that he believes the law has a role in the spiritual growth process, that’s not the case, it’s just not logically possible when his positions are considered. Consequently, we can clearly see the statements that match progressive justification: “The imperatives drive us to despair of self-righteousness, the indicatives hold up Christ as our only Savior….” The law shows unbelievers their need for Christ, but please note that the Scriptures never tell us that God’s commands / imperatives drive Christians to despair; the extreme opposite is true. In fact, Christians are promised blessings for applying God’s word to their life (James 1:25).

Secondly, Horton makes it clear in the first excerpt that the Holy Spirit only imparts life “through the gospel”(“….nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel”) ; then, he says in the second excerpt that “…. the gospel is not an imperative but an indicative [indicative: indicative of God’s work, not ours]….” But throughout Scripture, we see clearly that in fact, the Holy Spirit does use imperatives to impart life. Examples such as Matthew 4:4 and John 17:17 (see endnote number 3) are abundant throughout the whole Bible. Another glaring contradiction to Scripture is Horton’s suggestion in the second excerpt that commands “are not promises.”

Michael Horton’s gospel is a no-Lordship, antinomian gospel because obeying biblical commands is synonymous with works justification. Furthermore, he believes that biblical commands are indicative of God’s work, not ours. I delve into the subject of imperatives / indicatives in two other essays in this same section.

Hear No law

How does all of this effect corporate worship? Supposedly, we are not to see any law in our progressive justification, but what about when we come together to worship? Should we then hear the law? Michael Horton says the following on pages 189 -191:

“ God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God’s work for us – the Father’s gracious plan, the Son’s saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit’s work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God’s work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God’s people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God’s Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching the people once again are simply receivers – recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord’s Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven. As this gospel creates, deepens, and inflames faith, a profound sense of praise and thanksgiving fills hearts, leading to good works among the saints and in the world throughout the week. Having been served by God in the public assembly, the people are then servants of each other and their neighbors in the world.”

As in the process of spiritual growth, corporate worship focuses totally on the gospel. Notice that Horton refers to believers as a “valley of dry bones” who have come to be made alive by the Spirit’s work through the gospel. This is another tenet of the neo-antinomianism of our day, the total depravity of the saints. In a contrasting scenario (or how not to have corporate worship) on page 191, Horton adds the following: “The expectation that God was actually visiting his people to apply the benefits of Christ’s victory to sinners – both believers and unbelievers – was less obvious than the sense that we were primarily regrouping to get our marching orders.” Note that believers are called “sinners,” and also note the construction of the sentence which would indicate that believers and unbelievers are the same kind of sinners who both gather together for the same purpose.

Again, we also see the redemptive-historical application of Scripture as well for the implementation of grace to passive recipients, and the exclusion of any use of Scripture for spiritual instruction. In fact, Horton chides the latter in the second scenario. Hear no law. Though Horton seems to add balance to this perspective by acknowledging that the Bible mentions “exhortations” in worship, I am skeptical in regard to the genuineness of these statements; the fact remains that his major premise is grievous error.

Speak no Law

Regarding evangelism, the following excerpt is taken from pages 117-119 of “Christless Christianity.” Unfortunately, the excerpt is lengthy, but necessary:

“The question for us all is whether we believe the church is the place where the gospel is regularly proclaimed and ratified to Christians as well as non-Christians. Like many Emergent Church leaders, Kimball invokes a famous line from Francis of Assisi that I also heard growing up in conservative evangelicalism: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Kimball goes on to say, “Our lives will preach better than anything we can say. “12 (We encountered a nearly identical statement from Osteen in the previous chapter.) If so, then this is just more bad news, not only because of the statistics we have already seen, which evidence no real difference between Christians and non- Christians, but because despite my best intentions, I am not an exemplary creature. The best examples and instructions—even the best doctrines—will not relieve me of the battle with indwelling sin until I draw my last breath. Find me on my best day— especially if you have access to my hidden motives, thoughts, and attitudes—and I will always provide fodder for the hypocrisy charge and will let down those who would become Christians because they think I and my fellow Christians are the gospel. I am a Christian not because I think that I can walk in Jesus’s footsteps but because he is the only one who can carry me. I am not the gospel; Jesus Christ alone is the gospel. His story saves me, not only by bringing me justification but by baptizing me into his resurrection life.

Conformity to Christ’s image (sanctification) is the process of dying to self (mortification) and living to God (vivification) that results from being regularly immersed in the gospel’s story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Another way of putting it is dislocation (from Adam and the reign of sin and death) and relocation (in Christ). That my life is not the gospel is good news both for me and for my neighbors. Because Christ is the Good News, Christians as well as non-Christians can be saved after all. For those who know that they too fall short of the glory that God’s law requires—even as Christians who now have a new heart that loves God’s law—the Good News is not only enough to create faith but to get us back on our feet, assured of our standing in Christ, ready for another day of successes and failures in our discipleship.

We do not preach ourselves but Christ. The good news—not only for ourselves, but for a world (and church) in desperate need of good news—is that what we say preaches better than our lives, at least if what we are saying is Christ’s person and work rather than our own. The more we talk about Christ as the Bible’s unfolding mystery and less about our own transformation, the more likely we are actually to be transformed rather than either self-righteous or despairing. As much as it goes against our grain, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for justification and sanctification. The fruit of faith is real; it’s just not the same as the fruit of works-righteousness.

Yes, there is hypocrisy, and because Christians will always be simultaneously saint and sinner, there will always be hypocrisy in every Christian and in every church. The good news is that Christ saves us from hypocrisy too. But hypocrisy is especially generated when the church points to itself and to our own “changed lives” in the promotional materials. Maybe non-Christians would have less relish in pointing out our failures if we testified in word and deed to our need and God’s gift for sinners like us. If we identified the visibility of the church with the scene of sinners gathered by grace to confess their sins and their faith in Christ, receiving him with open hands, instead of with our busy efforts to be the gospel, we would at least beat non-Christian critics to the punch. We know that we are sinners. We know that we fall short of God’s glory. That’s exactly why we need Christ. I know that many of these brothers and sisters would affirm that we are still sinners and that we still need Christ, but it sure seems to be drowned out by a human-centered focus on our character and actions.

Kimball writes that the “ultimate goal of discipleship .. . should be measured by what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40: `Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul.’ Are we loving him more? Love others as yourself. Are we loving people more?”13 I was raised in conservative evangelicalism on this same diet of sermons that ended with a question like this one. A truly radical change in our approach would be to proclaim Christ as the one who fulfilled this law in our place, bore its sentence, and now freely gives us his absolution. Only then, ironically, are we truly liberated to love again. For all of the Emergent Church movement’s incisive critiques of the megachurch model, the emphasis still falls on measuring the level of our zeal and activity rather than on immersing people in the greatest story ever told. It may be more earnest, more authentic, and less consumeristic, but how different is this basic message from that of Joel Osteen, for example? Across the board in contemporary American Christianity, that basic message seems to be some form of law (do this) without the gospel (this is what has been done).”

Really, I have to admit the argument is very attractive. It definitely takes the pressure off of us. There is no way we are going to be perfect anyway, so why not emphasize the works of Christ rather than our own? Get people focused on Christ rather than us; why would you want Christ and the gospel represented by our best efforts? However, before I continue, I will take exception to being compared to Joel Olsteen because I believe in an effort on our part to represent Christ by our good behavior. I think a little more than that separates me and others from the likes of Joel Olsteen. But let’s be honest here, in light of what Horton says above; “What does the Scriptures say?”:

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives”(1Peter 3:1,2).

Obviously, Peter is well aware that wives will never have a perfect testimony; but regardless, his counsel to wives is clearly stated. This plainly contradicts Horton’s premise in every way possible.

Also, didn’t Christ say something about letting “your” light shine before men, so that God would be glorified? Furthermore, in regard to our efforts at good behavior according to the Scriptures, is that really some kind of effort to “be the gospel” rather than “adorning” the doctrine of God as Paul also talked about? (Titus 2:10).

The apostles made it clear that the last days would be marked by shrewd attempts to undermine God’s law. Frankly, I am leery of any teaching that seems to devalue the upholding of God’s law by our Christian walk. I also recommend caution towards those who claim to uphold God’s law by saying He (Christ) does all the obeying for us. Even if they don’t come right out and say it, they may talk against everything that would prevent such a conclusion, and therefore teaching it by default.


3. Of course, Michael Horton would say that the “word” is the “gospel” which wouldn’t include imperatives, but only indicatives, being the gospel. Therefore, as Paul David Tripp also says, the imperatives must be seen in their “gospel context” which means they are indicative of what Christ did for us by obeying the law perfectly in our stead. Therefore, biblical commands are “grounded in the indicative event”; namely, atonement, which not only included the imputation of righteousness, but past, present, and future active obedience as well.

“The Power is in the Doing”: Statement by Former Counselor Could Ruin His Career

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 25, 2011

I heard it again yesterday at the end of a pretty-decent sermon; the first of a series on the life of Abraham. Of course, in our neo- everything about salvation church culture, the title of the series is “Abraham:Justified by Faith.” Thank goodness. Between every song on the radio being about justification, every praise song being about the cross, and the words “we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” faintly burned into the background of my monitor from too much web surfing, I had almost forgotten.

That was yesterday, and I had almost forgotten again on the way to take Phillip to school this morning when I heard these words from a song on the radio: “Mercy doesn’t care what you have done.” Though 2Cor 5:10 came to mind the second I heard it, I then saw a calm, smiling, assuring face in my mind’s eye; with a big bushy mustache and glasses on it saying, “Paul, Paul, my precious namesake, such verses must be seen in their “gospel context.” Again, thank goodness, I almost traded in “a treasure chest of joy” for working out my own salvation with trembling and fear.

So, before I forget, what was the “it” I heard at the end of the pretty-decent (because I learned some pretty-cool stuff) sermon yesterday? Well, the end of the sermon was prefaced with a warning that we don’t want to do anything (that I assume we had learned in the sermon), “in our own strength,” or “in our own efforts.” That statement, or qualifier, doesn’t usually incite a lost practice in today’s church: interpretive questions. Like, “How do we, or how would we, know when we are doing it in our “own efforts” or otherwise? However, such questions may not be asked very often, if at all, because it has become taboo in today’s church culture to even ask “how” which could imply verbs that may have to follow in the answer, and thereby plunging many into sin, and worse yet, a denial of the gospel.

Besides, such questions could also incite other troublesome questions in the what category: Is it possible to go to the bathroom in my own efforts? And if I do, is it sin? Or, is there a dichotomy between things we can do wrongfully in “our own efforts”(a spiritual category), and other things where we can’t? (non-spiritual category). And how many categories are there accordingly? And what are they?And once we separate the categories, how do we do the spiritual ones without interjecting our sinful, own efforts? And how does this jive with what the apostle Paul said about doing “all things” to the glory of God?

Oh for the days when sermons answered more questions than they raised. Oh for the days when Christians thought enough to ask questions. Why does it matter? Because we counsel like we preach. Because we tell people to live the way we preach. Because all music we hear on the radio is inspired by what those musicians hear at their own local churches. If you need counsel regarding a deep problem in your life, I can tell you how a pastor and his parishioners will counsel you – listen to his sermons. If all you hear from the pulpit is the gospel, that’s all your going to get in the counseling chambers as well. If the sermon raises more questions than it answers, so will the counseling. And if you don’t ask interpretive questions about life – your well on you way to being a goner for all practical purposes.

And why does all of that matter? Many years ago, I was on my way to see a pastor / counselor, and I was in big, big, trouble. And like all Christians who are in big trouble, or in deep waters, we are looking for a silver bullet; or, at least the secret Bible verse that will end all of our problems in fifteen minutes. Nobody likes pain, and there are no problem pills, just pain pills, which make the pain go away, but not the problem. And at that time, I would have loved to hear the silver bullet solution offered today : the gospel. I can imagine how it would have gone as I eagerly anticipated his entry into the room. Upon his entry, a birth of hope, and the hope escalating with each new event: the greeting; taking his seat at the table; opening his notebook, pen in hand; asking questions like a skillful, knowing doctor; listening to my description of the problem; and then, alas! it’s time! God’s solution! It may have gone like this:

Counselor: “Paul, I have listened to you describe your problems and I have also read the testimony about your life that I asked you to write and deliver to my office prior to this appointment. Paul, there is a topic conspicuously lacking from all that you have said today, and in your testimony as well. Do you know what that is?

Me: “Uh, no.”

Counselor: “Christ”

Me: “But I wrote about how I was saved in 1983!”

Counselor: “So, you only needed grace in 1983?”

Me: “Well, no, of course not, we need Christ every day”

Counselor: “But you have been living like you only needed Him in 1983.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Counselor: “Paul, we don’t just accept the gospel once and then move on to other things, we need the gospel every day”

Me: “Every day?”

Counselor: “Yes. The key to a life of joy is going deeper and deeper into the gospel that saved us, not going deeper into other things. Paul, you know a lot of theology, but unfortunately, your theology is about what you do, NOT what Jesus does for us. Paul, take your Bible and go to Romans 7:24 and read it aloud.”

Me: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Counselor: “You didn’t just need to be rescued in 1983, you need to be rescued every day. All of your efforts right now, many of which you mention in your written testimony, are nothing more than Christless activism being done in your own efforts. Also, your criticism of others that I see in your written testimony is spawned by the very success that you obtain in applying your theological concepts to life; this creates a self-righteous attitude rather than cultivating a spirit that totally depends on Christ, and what He has already done for us, not anything we try to do.”

Me: “I knew it! I knew it! I knew something has always been missing! [the silver bullet! The secret Bible verse! (Rom 7:24)]. What now?! Where do we go from here?”

Counselor: “Paul, look at you- you are full of joy- joy is indicative of true saving faith. How long has it been since you have been happy Paul?”

Me: “Oh my! It has been forever!”

Counselor: “In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul addressed a trap that the Galatians had fallen into. He explained it this way in Gal 3:3; ‘Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?’ By trying to learn imperatives in the Bible and applying them to your life, you are not living by the same Spirit that you supposedly trusted in when you professed your belief in Christ. This is using the Bible for law-keeping instead of looking in the Scriptures for more gospel, and more Christ. That is what the apostle is talking about, in this verse, when he speaks of a ‘receiving by faith’ verses a ‘receiving by works of the law (or Scripture).’”

Me: “Wow! I’ve been fed a bill of goods all of my Christian life! I may not even be saved!”

Counselor: “Well Paul, you come from Reformed theology, which is good, and many great Reformed leaders of our time like Micheal Horton say that if you accept the gospel and ‘move on to something else, you loose both’ both meaning sanctification AND justification. Another awesome Reformed leader of our time, the great, and magnificent John Piper, said that as Christians, a ‘battle to perform’ makes that battle the grounds of our justification. Instead, he says we must make ‘a battle to believe’ our primary focus in the Christian life, or we are making anything more than that (belief only) our grounds for justification. In other words, works salvation.”

Me: [Remember, we’re pretending] “WOW! This is the light bulb moment of my life!

Counselor: “Turn to Galatians 2:20, and read it aloud.”

Me: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Counselor: “Who no longer lives?”

Me: “Us.”

Counselor: “And we live by what only?”

Me: “Faith.”

Counselor: “So Paul, are you now ready to really die to yourself and the law?”

Me: “Absolutely!”

Now, here is what really happened based on true events. It is a paraphrased synopsis that encompasses the major, and most important points:

Counselor: “I have a new goal for you Paul, your new goal is to please Christ.”

Me: “How is that going to get me out of this problem?”

Counselor: “That’s not Biblical thinking. Your primary goal isn’t to merely get out of the problem, but to please God in the midst of the problem and let the problem work to transform you into the image of Christ.”

Me: “That’s hard.”

Counselor: “Who told you that the Christian life is always easy?”

Me: “But how could this happen to a Christian?”

Counselor: “Where would I even start? ‘He causes it to rain and shine on the just as well as the unjust.’ ‘He disciplines those whom He loves.’ We can start there.”

Me: “So he allows this stuff into our life to bring good out of it?”

Counselor: “No, that’s not biblical thinking. He not only allows it, He promises to never allow anything into our life that we cannot endure. This tells us two things: first, he is in total control of everything that comes into our lives. He not only allows it, God is up to something in your life! He is right in the middle of this situation. Secondly, He has promised to see you through till the end of the trial. The trial is for your good, and not your destruction. This is His promise to you, and I am challenging you to persevere accordingly. The trial will end in God’s time, but it will have an end, and you will be more like Christ.”

Me: “So, this is the very hand of God working in my life. Not the way I would have ordered it, but I guess it’s not God’s will that everything goes the way we think it should.”

Counselor: “Exactly.”

Me: “But I don’t understand. I am praying hard and reading my Bible every day. Where am I going wrong?”

Counselor: “You are doing the right thing the wrong way [Stop here for a moment. There is no such thing as “doing it in our own efforts.” The real problem is: “doing it the wrong way” ie., other than God’s way]. I would never tell you not to read your Bible, or pray, but the power is in the doing.”

Me: “I’m not comfortable with that! It sounds legalistic! Could that approach really be curative?”

Counselor: “Read Matthew 7:24-27 aloud.”

Me: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Counselor: “Sure, you read the Bible, but what I can tell from the data I have collected, you do not properly apply what you have read. When that happens, which of the houses in Matthew seven is yours?”

Me: “At this point, and under the circumstances, I think that’s obvious.”

Counselor: “Read James 1:22-25 aloud.”

Me: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Counselor: “Again, our primary goal is to please Christ, but to answer your question, pleasing Christ by practicing His word, the right way, IS curative, especially in regard to the lack of peace you have in your life right now. Regarding peace that comes from right praying, right thinking, and right doing, I have given you homework on Philippians four. Your appointment is for this time next week. Don’t come unless your homework is done.”

Me: “So, do you think I’m saved?”

Counselor: “Well, your profession is sound, and salvation is by faith alone, but if your for real, you will do what God wants you to do.”

I might add that the real counselor would have been quick to qualify his statement with the following: “Our doing — God’s power.” In fact, though I look back at how difficult it was to persevere through that trial, I recognize the fact that even though it took much effort on my part, I couldn’t have persevered without God’s help, empowerment, illumination, and granting of willpower. But it is also very important to remember that He has promised to supply these three in the midst of trials. Notwithstanding, it will still take everything we have in us to persevere; this is how we experience trials, and really, it’s how we should experience our walk with God as well, loving God with “all of our heart, soul, and mind.” If we will do this, God will gladly supply all the will that we need accordingly. The apostle Paul said to never grow weary in well-doing. The Hebrew writer said to lift up the limbs that are sagging because of exhaustion. Do that, because God will supply, as a manner of speaking, the second wind.

First, the Scriptures are clear; we are called on to exert much of our own effort in the sanctification process, and it is our own effort. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be the ones with the sagging limbs and weariness (Heb 12:12). We are strengthened by grace as we obey and “make every effort to add to [our] your faith” (2Pet 1:5). Without our effort, we will be “ineffective” and “unproductive” in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Pet 1:8). And unless we “make every effort,” we will lack assurance as fruits are not prevalent in our lives; because obviously, we aren’t making an effort to do so.

Secondly, it is impossible to obey God, or do God’s will wrongfully “in our own efforts,” Why? Because the Holy Spirit works through God’s word, and according to truth (John 17:17). As my counselor aptly noted, the real problem is attempting to do God’s will the wrong way, or no way (spiritual laziness), NOT correct practice thereof. The fear that believers can be like unbelievers by correctly obeying God’s word “in there own efforts” is untrue because unbelievers cannot have a proper understanding of God’s word,and the proper practice thereof, in the first place. The whole notion is patently absurd.

The Scriptures do more than tell us how to be saved. They also tell us how to make disciples, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.” To say that the Scriptures are solely for the purpose of showing Christians how to be more deeply justified / saved every day is an antinomian lie from the pit of hell. And frankly, I don’t care who propagates the lie, or how well they dress, or how many degrees they have after their name; their counsel is instructing Christians to build their houses upon sand, and not rock. We don’t tell those who “dig deep” (Lk 6:48) to worry about working “by their own efforts,” Their own efforts are certainly involved. Anyone who even makes such a statement from the pulpit is antinomian because the very statement, “obeying God in our own efforts,” begs the next question: how would we know? And….(see all of the aforementioned mess you get into to, like practical dichotomies, etc.).

My former counselor had it right, the power (or at least the blessings [Js 1:25]) is in the doing, and specifically, right doing; but far be it from me to mention his name here, it would ruin his career and he might have to go work at a car wash, or worse yet, an Arminian seminary. The bunch he works with right now would be aghast that he would say such a thing to a counselee, and often malign others publicly for the same offense. However, maybe he’s safe; he could have “repented.” He may now be doing his part in showing hurting people “more Jesus,” or “more gospel,” or how to find what Jesus did in the text, rather than anything Jesus might tell us to do.

If that’s true, let’s close with another counseling scenario:

My former counselor: “So, what have you learned?

Counselee:  “I have to do it by doing it through God. But that seems like I’m doing it by making God do it. But I guess not, because I have to do that by not doing it, but by letting God do it. This is hard because I keep trying to do that in my own strength. I have to work harder at that. I mean, not work, but let God work, that’s what I have to work at. I mean…does that sound right?


“That’s Not True”: Phillip Cary’s Gospel Sanctification Statement

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 7, 2011

I can tell Susan will be a huge help on the second edition of “Another Gospel” which is an apology against Gospel Sanctification. Basically, the doctrine makes sanctification and justification the same thing. However, I never cease to be amazed at how difficult it is for Christians to get their mind around this doctrine and its ramifications. One reason is the fact that the following is true: both sanctification and justification share some of the same progressive elements, but GS makes them entirely synonymous which translates, for all practical purposes, into Antinomianism which has always been deemed heretical by evangelicals.

Susan seems to have a decent grasp on several issues spawned by GS, but like many, she is still working at putting it all together. Then it happened. We were at a basketball game and she picked up a book I had brought with me, opened it, and just started reading. Then, about a minute later, she said the following: “That’s not true.” I then inquired, “what isn’t true?” She pointed me to the Preface where Phillip Carey writes the following in “Good News for Anxious Christians”:

“Some folks may find it odd when I say Christians need the gospel, but this is something I firmly believe. I don’t think you just accept Christ once in life, and then move on to figure how to make real changes in your life that transform you. It’s hearing the gospel of Christ and receiving him in faith, over and over, that makes the real transformation in our lives. We become new people in Christ by faith alone, not by our good works or efforts or even our attempts to let God work in our lives.”

I then replied to her: “Honey, that’s Gospel Sanctification.” Ah, the power of concise statements, and it’s very unlikely this essay won’t be added to the book in revised form. First, most proponents of GS recognize that the doctrine is not orthodox. This can be seen in Cary’s admission via the first sentence: “Some folks may find it odd when I say Christians need the gospel, but this is something I firmly believe.” No Phillip, many of us find it odd, not just “some”. Like another advocate of GS said, “the vast majority” of Christians find it odd (Tullian Tchividjian). Another advocate, Paul David Tripp, described those who find it odd as “hordes of.” This is a characteristic of those who propagate GS – they think they are modern-day reformers. In fact, Michael Horton’s ministry is named “Modern Reformation.” The arrogance that comes with this mentality lags not far behind.

Secondly, we see the GS tenet of justification not being a one time, final act of God in the following two sentences: “I don’t think you just accept Christ once in life, and then move on to figure out how to make real changes in your life that transform you. It’s hearing the gospel of Christ and receiving him in faith, over and over, that makes the real transformation in our lives.” Though advocates of GS deceptively refer to this as “progressive sanctification,” it’s really progressive justification which is totally unorthodox. Another example of this would be Paul Tripp’s belief that Romans 7:24 refers to a “daily rescue” and not glorification. If you think it smacks of a daily re-saving / salvation, consider this comment made on Justin Taylor’s blog:

“It’s not that complicated: the ground of all Christian obedience is the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Justification occurs EACH time a believer confesses and receives forgiveness for his sins.”

Next, we see the GS tenet of sanctification by faith alone in this sentence: “ We become new people in Christ by faith alone…” Again, another tenet that is totally unorthodox. JC Ryle said:

“It thoroughly Scriptural and right to say ‘faith alone justifies.’ But it is not equally Scriptural and right to say ‘faith alone sanctifies.’”

But, keep in mind, according to the GS doctrine, sanctification is justification.

Next, we see the tenet of “the imputed active obedience of Christ”( Another way advocates state IAOC is “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event”) in this sentence from the same aforementioned statement: “We become new people in Christ by faith alone, not by our good works or efforts or even our attempts to let God work in our lives.” So, if we can’t even let God enable us, who obeys? Jesus does, he obeys for us. This is also indicative of the GS tenet that Christians are still spiritually dead, and the only life in us is Christ while we remain “totally depraved,” and “enslaved” to sin. Obviously, if we are still totally depraved, we can’t obey, Jesus must obey for us. This tenet is propagated throughout “How People Change,” a book written by Paul Tripp.

Lastly, we see the GS proclamation that co-laboring with Christ in the sanctification process is a false gospel ( …”not by our good works”). Paul Tripp states this in no uncertain terms when he said that even the passive endeavor of changing our thinking to align with Scripture effectively “denies the work of Christ as Savior.” He has also described any effort of ours at all in the sanctification process as “Christless activism.” In fact, this is also Michael Horton’s thesis for his book “Christless Christianity.”

So there you have it. The tenets of GS: progressive justification (which excludes sanctification); sanctification by faith alone; the total depravity of the saints; the imputation of obedience (Christ obeys for us); and monergistic sanctification (the only true gospel).

The doctrine is propagated by many well known, supposedly mainline evangelical leaders of our day. Primarily, it boils down to being an antinomian, let go and let God theology. How the doctrine articulates the use of the gospel only in the sanctification process is another body of information.


New Years Day 2011: The Second Coming of John Piper

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on January 1, 2011

On John Piper’s “Desiring God” website, he wrote the following on March 28, 2010:

“….the elders graciously approved on March 22 a leave of absence that will take me away from Bethlehem from May 1 through December 31, 2010.”

And in the same correspondence:

“The difference between this leave and the sabbatical I took four years ago is that I wrote a book on that sabbatical”

I have not read the book he mentions, but I have read the manuscript from the sermon he preached upon his first return on August 6, 2006 which summarizes the major premise of the book written while on his first sabbatical. The first sabbatical was ten weeks, and he took that sabbatical to document his fresh insights into the subject of how biblical imperatives relate to justification, and primarily from the four gospels. Much of this same thesis was reiterated in his message at the 2010 T4G conference. More on that later, and how it relates to the subject at hand.

Piper also wrote the following in the aforementioned post:

“I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.”

And, “Personally, I view these months as a kind of relaunch of what I hope will be the most humble, happy, fruitful five years of our 35 years at Bethlehem….”

Piper: a History of New Visions

It is well said that Piper is the elder in charge of “vision” at his church, for he has had several. In fact, one can only stand in amazement to see the pass he gets from the rest of the Evangelical world concerning very questionable events. His first epiphany that gave birth to Christian Hedonism, the doctrine that he is most noted for, is recounted by Piper himself as follows:

“Before I saw these things in the Bible, C. S. Lewis snagged me when I wasn’t looking. I was standing in Vroman’s Bookstore on Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, California, in the fall of 1968. I picked up a thin blue copy of Lewis’s book The Weight of Glory. The first page changed my life….Never in my life had I heard anyone say that the problem with the world was not the intensity of our pursuit of happiness, but the weakness of it. Everything in me shouted, Yes! That’s it!”

In Dr. Peter Masters’ critique of John Piper and his doctrine, he gives credit where credit is due, but his assessment is none-the-less, scathing:

“At times in his books Dr Piper wants us to see this as an old idea, but his claims are not convincing. It does tend to look no older than C S Lewis, (1) whose famous book, Weight of Glory, had an explosive influence on Dr Piper in his younger years….Dr Piper often quotes Jonathan Edwards, who said much about delighting in God and Christian joy. By reference to Jonathan Edwards, Dr Piper effectively says, ‘Look, this is as old as the hills. This is the way our forebears thought.’ Certainly Jonathan Edwards provides choice passages about delighting in God, as did the English Puritan writers, but at no time does he [Edwards] frame a system in which this becomes the key principle of Christian living. Joy in God always sits alongside other equal duties….Dr Piper really knows that he is promoting something novel. He even uses the term, ‘my vision’, and that is what it is, for however well intended, it is Dr Piper’s personal vision. He also calls it ‘my theology’” (“Christian Hedonism: Is it Right?” Sword & Trowel 2002, No. 3 by Peter Masters).

Piper’s Second Vision

Piper’s second vision further defined Christian Hedonism in his book, “The Pleasures of God.” This time, his epiphany came from reading a book by Henry Scougal. In the book “The Life of God in the Soul of Man,” Scougal suggested (in the book) that the excellency of a man’s soul is determined by what he loves. Piper then thought something like this: Hmmm, then could it be that the same is true about God? “Is it not also the case that the worth and excellency of God’s soul is measured by the object of his love?” (p.15, “The Pleasures of God”). Two pages later, Piper had talked himself into swallowing the light-bulb moment hook, line, and sinker. He then decided to take a four-day study leave from his church with a Bible and concordance to confirm this new idea. The following is what Piper said about “The Pleasures of God” on page 17:

“I regard this book as a vision of God through the lens of his happiness.”

The First Sabbatical

In the sermon that marked his first return, Piper said the following:

“Many of you know that I spent a large portion—at least 10 weeks—of the sabbatical immersed in the commands of Jesus, writing a book that is now titled What Jesus Demands from the World. “

Biblical imperatives / commands are a problem for the doctrine Piper advocates, but never mentions by name; specifically, New Calvinism, or Gospel Sanctification, or New Covenant Theology. Whatever you want to call it, it’s an antinomian doctrine. More on that later, but the primary goal of the first sabbatical was to form a treatise on the whole pesky idea that obedience serves a purpose in the sanctification process. Upon his first return, he emphasized the urgency of this new bent to his congregation:

“Bethlehem, this is serious. We are not justified by the righteousness that Christ works in us, but by the righteousness that Christ is for us. Would you receive this, and glory in this, and pray toward this, and stand for this? I summon everyone in the hearing of my voice: Give Jesus Christ his full glory—not half of it. Give him the glory, both as the one who is perfect righteousness for us—which we have by faith alone and the one who, on the basis of justification, works progressive righteousness in us. Don’t rob him of the glory of his role as your righteousness. He is your righteousness. And because he is your righteousness, he can, and will in time, make you righteous. Look to Christ alone, trust in Christ alone—not your righteousness—for your right standing in God’s court and your acceptance with him.”

I must admit, I have a morbid respect for Piper because of his ability as a slick word-crafter. You have to study long and hard to realize that the preceding statement is talking about the GS (Gospel Sanctification) tenet / element of “progressive sanctification” which is really justification extrapolated forward through the (normally understood as orthodox) sanctification process. The GS doctrine sees justification and sanctification as one and the same. Though the topic of his message was justification, if you note carefully, he was also talking about sanctification as if it is the same thing. As I said before, Piper reiterated this position at the 2010 T4G conference, and an excerpt from another post on this particular element (regarding what he said about it at the 2010 T4G) may be helpful:

“While his message was supposedly focused on justification, he makes the following statement in the same message:

‘All the good that God requires of the justified is the fruit of justification by faith alone, never the ground of justification. Let the battle of your life be there. The battle to believe. Not the battle to perform.’

Is that true? Should Christians focus solely on belief only? Isn’t there ever a ‘battle to perform’? According to Piper, and what can be clearly gleaned from this statement, no. Notice how sanctification is not mentioned in regard to what we should be doing now, or a ‘battle’ to please God with our lives. Regardless of the fact that he is speaking in the present tense, he only qualifies the ‘battle to perform’ in regard to justification. He says that everything God requires flows from the fruits of justification, and then we should only ‘battle to believe,’ not battle to perform. Read the statement very carefully as you must with this master word-crafter; if you make a battle to perform [effort in the sanctification process] one of your battles as a Christian, you are also making that the grounds of your justification!”

In other words: monergistic sanctification, and in the same way that salvation is monergistic. And, works in sanctification equals salvation by works; and therefore, the Law has the same role / significance in sanctification as it does in justification (Antinomianism. James Durham: “The antinomains make all sanctification to be justification”). That’s why Piper implored the congregation regarding the gravity of the message, because synergistic sanctification (normally understood as orthodox) is supposedly a false gospel, or works salvation.

Also note, per the GS doctrine, that justification is not seen as a one-time act by God, but ongoing: “And because he is your righteousness, he can, and will in time, make you righteous” Furthermore, it is clearly sanctification by faith alone, which orthodox Christians have never endorsed. Here is what JC Ryle said accordingly:

“It is thoroughly Scriptural and right to say ‘faith alone justifies.’ But it is not equally Scriptural and right to say ‘faith alone sanctifies.’”

In order to make this case, Piper emphasized, in the same message, that all of the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John) need to be seen “in the shadow of the cross,” and therefore, the imperatives therein also. Paul David Tripp, an associate of John Piper, often states it this way: “Biblical commands must be seen in their gospel context.” The GS “gospel” that Tripp is referring to includes the “imputed active obedience of Christ.” This is the belief that Christ’s perfect obedience performed while He was on Earth was not only relevant regarding Him being a perfect sacrifice for sin, but that He obeyed perfectly to fulfill the Law (and therefore disposing of its usefulness), and to impute that obedience to us which also negates the relevance of the Law for New Covenant believers. In short, Christ obeys for us. Therefore, proponents of GS often say, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.” They also believe that commands in the Bible are only useful to be pondered as a way to “go deeper into the gospel” because they (commands) are indicative of what Christ has done for us – biblical commands are not instruction from God to be understood and executed by us. Supposedly. Here is how Piper verbalized it in the message we are discussing:

“Another way to say it is that the cross of Jesus, where he took our place and became a curse for us and bore our sins and completed his obedience, casts a long shadow back over every verse in the Gospels. Every verse is meant to be read under the shadow of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Or to put it still another way, the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are meant to be read backward. Children, remember I said that and at lunch today say to your mommy and daddy, ‘Why did Pastor John say that we are supposed to read the Gospels backward?’ And don’t panic, mom and dad. Here’s the answer. Tell them, he meant that when you start reading one of the Gospels you already know how it ends—the death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins—and you should have that ending in mind with every verse that you read.”

Only problem is, not only is his hermeneutic ridiculous (the end always determines the meaning of every sentence in a text), that’s NOT how the Gospels end! Matthew and Mark end with Christ proclaiming His authority, and a mandate to the church to observe all that He commanded. In other words, the exact opposite of what Piper is saying. Luke ends with the ascension, and John ends with Christ giving Peter final instructions. It’s almost as if Piper thinks people are generally brain-dead. We also see the following in Piper’s nuanced statements: the GS tenet of Redemptive- Historical hermeneutics (every verse in the Bible is about Christ, the gospel, redemption, and justification).

Did Piper Put Himself Under “Redemptive Church Discipline”?

In his most recent sabbatical, Piper disclosed that he hadn’t committed any serious sin that would disqualify him from ministry (how would he know if every verse in the Bible is about the gospel?), but had observed many “species of pride” in his soul. Apparently, the purpose of the sabbatical is to eliminate these creatures, and undoubtedly through what GS proponents call “deep repentance” (another GS tenet). The elders also appointed an accountability team to assist him.

Many are not aware of what New Calvinist believe about church discipline. They don’t believe that church discipline is a four-step process to determine the need for exclusion because of serious sin. GS proponents believe that church discipline, or what they call “redemptive church discipline,” is a tool to fine-tune the saints. Think about it, the traditional view of church discipline requires the subject to respond to objective instruction in order to avoid consequences. This turns New Calvinism completely upside down. Therefore, redemptive church discipline brings salvation / justification principles to bear on the situation which includes meditation on the gospel and “deep repentance.” It’s a complex issue, and there is no room to address it here, but a detailed explanation of this unorthodox procedure can be found in my book, “Another Gospel.”

Piper’s Second Coming

Today is the last day of his sabbatical. If he comes back from this one without a new vision, that will be a first. This is what he wrote regarding this sabbatical:

“ In this leave, I intend to let go of all of it. No book-writing. No sermon preparation or preaching. No blogging. No Twitter. No articles. No reports. No papers. And no speaking engagements.”

Only problem is, reading books written by others, the source of his past epiphanies, is not on the list. God help us (that’s a real request). So, what will it be this time? Who knows other than God Himself, but just for the fun of it, I’m going to make a guess. I believe Piper will come out with a detailed promotion and defense of redemptive church discipline. There is very little doubt in my mind that this sabbatical has been some kind of spiritual expedition for the purpose of articulating something, and that is my best guess. Second to that, before he embarked on this sabbatical, he referenced Paul David Tripp’s view of the GS tenet of deep repentance (which Tripp articulates in the book, “How People Change”) in an interview with a Christian magazine. I surmise that his sabbatical was an expedition to define, by experience, one, or both of these GS tenets. I assume tomorrow, the first Sunday of his return, will also be his appearing before the fawning faithful to reveal what he experienced during his sabbatical.

Piper is a strong proponent of the GS doctrine though he avoids interpretive labels like the Bubonic Plague. Perhaps he will come out of the closet on Sunday. But I can’t help to take notice of when he is returning – the first Sunday of the new year, when Christians really ought to be focused on their own walk with God. And regarding this sabbatical preparing him for the final stretch of his ministry, which he hopes might be five years – I’m surprised he didn’t suggest three.


So, When Did New Calvinism Hijack Westminster? And…

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 18, 2010

I own a couple of online bookstores and enjoy reading some of the older Christian books. As I was entering books the other day, I picked one up from the stack entitled “The Infallible Word” written by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, the one in Philadelphia. The book is a real keeper; It is in very good condition, and is the third revision of a symposium on the doctrine of Scripture. It was written in 1946, and the third revision (the copy I have) was printed in 1967. The forward is written by Dr. M. Lloyd Jones. Apparently, the contributors are from the Westminster faculty of that time (1946) as follows: John Murray; Edward Young; N.B. Stonehouse; John Skelton; Paul Wooley; R.B. Kuiper; Cornelius Van Til.

As Dr. Masters of the Metropolitan has noted, New Calvinism’s claim of historical precedent is far from impressive. And as others have noted, New Covenant Theology (which is joined at the hip with New Calvinism) was probably conceived at Westminster around 1980. So, when I picked up the next data entry and realized what it was, my first thought was, “this should be interesting.” Yes, especially with Paul Wooley stating in the Preface: “It continues to be our conviction that this is the basic position of the divines who made up the Westminster Assembly which convened in 1643…”

There is no room here to state all of the glaring contradictions between Old Calvinism and New Calvinism provoked by the reading of this book, but I will rather focus on what New Calvinism and its tenets (NCT, Gospel Sanctification, Heart Theology, Christian Hedonism, and Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics) should stand on, or fall: its view of Scripture.

First, the faculty didn’t share New Calvinism’s Christocentric view of Scripture. Their view of Scripture was very similar to traditional Evangelicalism, which is disdained by proponents of New Calvinism. Before I continue, I might also add that Geerhardus Vos and his Biblical Theology is not once mentioned in the book, or if it is, I certainly missed it, and he (Vos) definitely appears nowhere in the index of names. Instead of “gospel” being used to refer to Scripture (actually, I remember “gospel” being used once, maybe twice, in the whole book), the term that all faculty members used throughout the book to describe Scripture, seemingly on every page, was “the objective divine authority.” Throughout the book, the emphasis was *objective authority* NOT *gospel narrative.* John Murray states the following on page 29:

“It is precisely in this estimation of the Scriptures and in such illusion to them, as not only prophetic of what took place in the fullness of time but also as having direct bearing upon the most practical and abiding of Christian duties, that the New Testament abounds.”

Got that? The Scriptures are not only about what took place in “the fullness of time” (ie., the gospel), but “also” have a “direct bearing” on practical Christian “duties.” To the New Calvinist, this statement is barley less than heresy. Furthermore, *obedience* to the *authority* of Scripture is a constant theme throughout the book. N.B. Stonehouse further elaborates on page 99:

“It is our conviction that the idea of canonicity has meaning and validity only if Christian theism, the theism of the Bible, is true. Implicit in the idea of a divinely authoritative Scripture is the thought of God as self-existent and self sufficient, the creator and ruler of the universe. His works necessarily constitute a disclosure of his mind and purpose.”

Not only does this make my prior point, but introduces another: this is a far cry from John Piper’s Christocentric assertion that God “entered history through the works of Christ.” No, redemption entered history as a disclosure of God’s mind and purpose. This leaves room for other things God may want to disclose about Himself, obviously. And this was also the position of the Westminster faculty. In fact, Edward Young attributes Luke 24:44 to the idea that Christ was speaking only of those scriptures that He prophetically and historically fulfilled, not New Calvinism’s idea that all Scripture is Christicentric. Here is what he said on page 61:

“What, however is meant by Christ’s use of the word “psalms”? Did he thereby intend to refer to all the books in the third division of the canon, or did he merely have in mind the book of Psalms itself? The latter alternative, we think, is probably correct. Christ singled out the book of Psalms, it would appear, not so much because it was the best known and most influential book of the third division, but rather because in the Psalms there were many predictions about himself. This was the Christological book, par excellence, of the third division of the Old Testament canon.

Most of the books of this third division do not contain direct messianic prophesies. Hence, if Christ had used a technical designation to indicate this third division, he would probably have weakened his argument to a certain extent. But by the reference to the Psalms he directs the minds of his hearers immediately to that particular book in which occur the greater number of references to himself.”

Hence, in the estimation of the Westminster faculty during that time, the whole Bible isn’t a “Christological book, par excellence,” as it is more than fair to say of the New Calvinist mantra, but only the Psalms, which is a “particular” book having a “greater number of references” to himself. “Greater number” of…, obviously implies that their view wasn’t in alignment with a comprehensive soteriology, but rather the latter being among other revelations of God’s will and character, although a major theme.

Secondly, along the lines of Scripture, the faculty did not share the New Calvinist / NCT view that Christ came to abolish the Old Testament Law by fulfilling it, but rather fulfilled it to FURTHER ESTABLISH ITS AUTHORITY. John Murray makes this clear on pages 20 and 21 while commenting on Matthew 5:17-19;

“ The word ‘destroy’ (kataluo) is particularly significant. It means to abrogate, to demolish, to disintegrate, to annul or, as J.A. Alexander points out, ‘the destruction of the whole by the complete separation of its parts, as when a house is taken down by being taken to pieces.’ His emphatic denial of any such purpose in reference to either the law or the prophets means that the discharge of his messianic mission leaves the law and the prophets intact. He utters, however, not only this emphatic denial but also adds the positive purpose of his coming – he came to fulfill, to complete. And so his work with reference to both law and prophets is completory, not destructive. He who can speak in the immediately succeeding context with such solemn asseveration and imperious authority brings all that is involved in such asseveration and authority to bear upon the confirmation of the abiding validity, stability, and authority of both law and prophets. And not only so, but he also grounds his own mission and task upon such permanent validity, and defines his work in terms of fulfillment of all that the law and the prophets provided.”

Murray states here that Christ’s mission was grounded in the permanent authority of the law and the prophets. Could there be a more antithetical statement in regard to New Covenant Theology?

Lastly, Stonehouse makes it clear what the Westminster faculty believed in regard to a centrality of Scripture on page 107:

“ To put the matter in concrete and specific terms, Christianity began as a religion of a divine book, as a religion of authority which definitely acknowledged a book as an objective expression of the divine mind and will. Were it not that so many modern writers have approached the study of the New Testament cannon with the assumption that Christianity is basically not a religion of authority but a religion of “the spirit,” it would hardly seem necessary to emphasize the point that the idea of an inscripturated canon, far from being uncongenial to Christianity, forms an integral element of the Christian faith from the beginning of its life.”

While this statement makes my aforementioned point, let me also ask: what is more indicative of New Calvinism than the claim that it promotes “the spirit” over the authority of Scripture? The Westminster faculty of that time even cautioned against the truth / tension of the illuminating Spirit being set against objective authority: “This doctrine of the inward witness of the Spirit does not sacrifice the objective authority of the Scriptures, as often maintained” (p.101).

Do I have to try to carry all of the water here? Somebody help me out. It seems that these guys (as I gather from my reading) were definitely Covenant theologians. But there is no way that the movers and shakers at the present-day Westminster Seminary are of Covenant Theology. If you believe that, I would like to tell that this book is personally autographed by Van Til with a gel pen, and it can be yours for a modest price of say, 200 bucs. You can’t separate New Calvinism from NCT / Gospel Sanctification, they are joined at the hip. What’s going on over there? It looks like a hijacking to me, and when did it happen? And how do these guys get away with pretending to be on the same par with Westminster tradition? I’m just asking.


Straight From the Antinomian’s Own Mouth: What is New Covenant Theology? Part 7; The “Newfangled” Fifteen

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 16, 2010

Like the Antinomianism of the 19th century, the contemporary version of our day, primarily expressed in New Covenant Theology, is fraught with the same kind of “newfangled phraseology” that JC Ryle complained about. Ryle’s complaint is worth another look before we proceed:

“Finally, I must deprecate, and I do it in love, the use of uncouth and new-fangled terms and phrases in teaching sanctification. I plead that a movement in favor of holiness cannot be advanced by new-coined phraseology, or by disproportioned and one-sided statements–or by overstraining and isolating particular texts–or by exalting one truth at the expense of another– or by allegorizing and accommodating texts, and squeezing out of them meanings which the Holy Spirit never put in them”

Likewise, NCT is not without its own newfangled phraseology. There are primarily fifteen:

1. Rich Typology: It’s so rich, that it doesn’t read like typology, but rather seems to be literal, being so “rich.” Example; “Israel” doesn’t really mean “Israel,” but is always a reference to Christ. God’s word really doesn’t mean “word,” or “Law,” but is also 100% synonymous with “the person of Christ who personifies the Law.” This typology is sooooo rich, that even though Proverbs personifies “wisdom” as a woman, that’s still speaking of Christ also. Wow, now that’s really rich.

2. In-Lawed in Christ: The Law is completely fulfilled in Christ because, He obeyed it perfectly. Therefore, we have no need to obey it, nor does it have any role in sanctification.

3. Deep Repentance: The process in which heart idols are discovered by evaluating desires that the idols produce. When we repent of specific idols, it empties our hearts and leaves a void that is filled by Christ, who then obeys for us.

4. New Obedience: The result of deep repentance – Christ obeys for us.

5. Progressive Sanctification: Ongoing justification, which isn’t a one time act, but is continually applied to us as needed. Some advocates of NCT acknowledge a daily “re-saving.” Paul Tripp says that Christians need a “daily rescue,” and cites Romans 7: 24.

6. Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics: Invented by the liberal theologian Johann Philipp in the 17th century and further developed by Geerhardus Vos. It makes NCT possible by supplying a prism that will always yield redemptive concepts from the text.

7. Christian Hedonism: Invented by John Piper in 1980. He believes that people are driven by their desires. Therefore, change the desires and you change the behavior. Piper believes that we can only change our desires by meditating on the glory of Christ as seen in the Bible. He also believes that biblical imperatives only serve to make us dependant on Christ and cherish Him more, because we are powerless to keep the Law. He cites Romans 6:17 to make this point, and believes Christians are still “enslaved” to sin.

8. The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event: All biblical imperatives illustrate the work of Christ, not anything God expects us to do. As Paul Tripp states it: All biblical commands must be seen in their “gospel context.” If that’s not Antinomianism, what is?

10. Good Repentance: Repenting of good works, or anything we try to do in “our own efforts” as opposed to yielding to Christ and allowing Him to obey for us. Paul Tripp says this will result in “new and surprising fruit.” Tim Keller also suggests that repenting of good works is an essential part of a saving profession. As these people continue to pontificate such lunacy, nobody blinks and they are continually supplied with credibility by the who’s who of the Evangelical community, such as John MacArthur and RC Sproul.

11. The Apostle’s Hermeneutic: A supposed pattern of interpretation that’s patterned after RHH. However, despite numerous challenges from various writers, NCT proponents have never been able to articulate it.

13. New Calvinism: The expression of NCT and all of its tenets; Heart Theology, Gospel Sanctification, Christian Hedonism, and the Redemptive-Historical hermeneutic.

14. Word Pictures: If your pastor starts using this phraseology, it’s a red flag. The insinuation is that the Bible writers were writing a gospel narrative / novel / story rather than a document containing specific ideas / instruction to be drawn from the text by evaluating grammatical construction and historical context.

15. What does that look like? If your leaders start using this phraseology, again, it’s a red flag. It’s an attempt to eradicate the implication that Christians are supposed to participate in the verb world. Instead of: “what should we do?” It’s: “what does that look like when Jesus is doing it for us?”

I don’t suppose this newfangled 15 would arouse any suspicions among God’s people, for I fear that we also “look like” another complaint leveled by JC Ryle:

“There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true.”


New Calvinism: It’s Antinomianism, That’s Why…

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 10, 2010

“The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.”

~ Dr. Peter Masters

Some time ago, I posted an article in an attempt to answer articles written by bloggers who were bemoaning the behavior of John Piper in regard to who he was inviting to his conferences, etc (one example is Steve Camp’s post:  In the post, I say the following: “Let me suggest that Piper’s indifference to this behavior is spawned by his theology. Has that thought ever crossed anybodies mind?” After all, what is our first clue that Piper is an Antinomian when he plainly says that Christians are dead to the Law in regard to sanctification? And, the Law’s only purpose for the believer is to see what Jesus has done for us, period, nothing else (Piper Sermon, “How to Use the Law of God Lawfully to Bear Fruit For God”). The aforementioned post where I attempt to show the source for Piper’s behavior can be read here: .

But what sparked my re-post of this issue is a couple of articles I stumbled upon by Dr. Peter Masters who is the pastor of Charles Spurgeon’s old church. My guess would be that the folks at the Metropolitan don’t let just anybody in there to be pastor. In the article I will cite, he calls out “New Calvinism” for becoming worldly, and names, names. It is my contention that the primary doctrine of New Calvinism is Gospel Sanctification, or, the same gospel that saved us, also sanctifies us. So obviously, if we could not utilize a role for the Law in justification, other than it showing us our sinfulness and our inability to uphold it, neither can we utilize it for any purpose in sanctification either. That’s Antinomianism: Christians are not obligated to the Law because they are powerless to uphold it and Christ already completely fulfilled it for us anyway ( the imputation of active obedience performed by Christ, not us. Some good articles on this can be found here: and here: and here: . These links are 3 of 6 by the same author).

So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that such a movement would become more and more worldly? It should; after all, it’s Antinomianism. Dr. Peter Masters’ article is here:

And some of his concerns with John Piper’s theology concerning sanctification can be found here:


From the Antinomian’s Own Mouth: What is New Covenant Theology? Part 4; Living in a Narrative

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on December 2, 2010

Before I move on to part five which is Bresson’s NCT tenets on “Law,” let me take you into one more creepy interlude. NCT has no practical application for life or counseling; therefore, that void will be filled with abundant creepiness. Once again, I will reference one of Bresson’s readers to make a point.

In response to one of Bresson’s articles ( Abigail post dated 8/6/2008) promoting the idea that using Old Testament historical accounts for life lessons (or instruction) is misguided (a blatant rejection of many Scriptures like Nehemiah 13:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 10:6,11), a reader asked the following:

“I do have a question concerning ‘practical application’, you seem to diss it in the post (because it takes away from the central purpose). I am presently counseling a depressed person and I’m using Phil. 4:4-9. The passage seems to promises wonderful things for those who replace worry with right prayer and erroneous thoughts with true thoughts; namely, that Christ will guard our hearts and minds. Is this approach an improper use of the Scriptures, being practical application?”

Seems like a pretty straight forward question requiring a simple yes or no answer. But Bresson, obviously provoked by the question, responds with another post of 4800 words (Abigail post dated 8/14/2008) in an attempt to answer the readers question, because he couldn’t simply say, “yes, from the NCT perceptive, this kind of practical application of the Scriptures is improper.”

But the 4800 word “answer” led the reader to conclude the following:

“It seems that our primary concern is focus on the glory of Christ and the knowledge of him. This will produce the imperatives naturally. Also, history is still moving toward the return of Christ, by putting ourselves *into* the text, we recognize that we are the ongoing redemptive work of Christ, that didn’t end with the Scriptures. The Scriptures enable us to be part of the history. We are not making our own redemptive history, it is making us. We are between the beginning and the end, but all we need to identify with in Christ is bound in the Scriptures.”

Let me try to unravel that for you. It is the belief that the Bible is a meta-narrative (grand gospel narrative) that interprets our own spiritual life, which is also a predetermined narrative on a microcosmic scale. Therefore, all of reality is encompassed in the grand gospel narrative, or “Christ,” or “the gospel” (see Bresson’s NCT tenet # 1, as well as many other of his tenets in parts one and two). Therefore, the Bible produces a prismatic narrative in which to “see” our own life and interpret it via the gospel. When we understand, “see,” or interpret our life accordingly, it leads to “properly informed” spiritual outcomes, or what Bresson calls a “mere natural flow” regarding obedience, which isn’t obedience at all, but merely watching what Christ has already done for us in the constant unveiling of the “organic” gospel narrative.

So, we are to place ourselves into the narrative; and any attempt on our part to exert effort by following cognitive ideas from the Bible is an attempt to create our own narrative apart from God. Said by Bresson another way in his 4800 word reply: good preaching doesn’t take the text to the parishioner (ie., biblical principles to be learned and applied to life by the believer), but takes the believer to the text. This NCT concept, among many other antinomian / mystic ideas, was also presented by Paul David Tripp in “How People Change” when he said: “The big picture model [historical – redemptive] is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot!” (page 94). Tripp separates the grand gospel narrative (the Bible) into four categories: Heat, Thorns, Cross, and Fruit, which better enables believers to see where they fit into the grand narrative (supposedly).

In the midst of Bresson’s conversation with the first inquisitor, another reader asked Bresson where he could get more information on living life as a “divine drama.” Bresson replied with the following:

“If you’re interested in how we fit into the redemptive-historical *drama* :-), a couple of books that have interesting thoughts in this regard are Vanhoozer’s “Drama of Doctrine” and Horton’s “Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama”.

I don’t agree with everything they have to say, but I did find what they had to say about “participation”, “drama”, and Christ’s Incarnation to be thought-provoking. There are thoughts there compatible with what we’ve said here.”

Regarding the first reader, here is what Bresson had to say about the person’s aforementioned response:

“It looks like you’re understanding what I’ve said (a minor miracle, I know). I’ll get to your other questions shortly.”

There is no confusion of semantics or misunderstanding here, NCT is fraught with antinomian mysticism, and frankly, I find the Evangelical community’s willingness to associate with its proponents sickening.


Gospel-Driven Counseling Part 3: Clouds Without Water, and Nine Reasons Why “Redemptive” Counseling Can’t Help Troubled Christians

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on November 15, 2010

One of Jude’s depictions of false teachers was “clouds without water”(v. 12). Clouds give hope during times of need that the land will finally be revived by rain. Likewise, false teachers appear to offer hope in times of need, but they are actually without the substance to deliver on the promise. Counselors who use the redemptive approach to counseling are not necessarily false teachers, but their approach will not help people; their counseling is clouds without water.


In the first two parts, I used Bill Baldwin’s article published in 1996 to demonstrate how proponents of Gospel Sanctification approach counseling, and will do the same in this post as well. I will make my first point from the following excerpt:


When I tell a man to change his behavior — and he realizes he must — it is the most natural thing in the world that he should do so by relying on his natural strength and the force of his will. It is therefore essential that the counselor solemnly warn him against such a course.”


Here, we observe two reasons in this statement why redemptive counseling will not help people. First, biblical counseling is not just about outward behavior, but also how counselees think. Biblical counseling calls for a change in thinking (ie., biblical thinking), and behavior also with both being curative. The redemptive approach lumps efforts to change thinking into the same category as behavioral change with the following nomenclature: “change by our own efforts” (which is supposedly wrong). Therefore, an emphasis on biblical thinking (which is very critical) will not be emphasized any more than outward behavior, which, as can be seen by Baldwin’s statement, is devalued to begin with. Another example of lumping biblical thinking together with “teeth gritting, pick yourself up by the bootstraps, legalistic, living by lists and do’s / don’ts,” ect., ect., is Paul David Tripp’s statement in “How People Change”:


. . . and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to ‘think his thoughts’ and ‘act the way Jesus would act’”(p. 27, 2006 edn).


Notice also in Tripp’s statement that any effort to align our thoughts with the mind of Christ “omits….[the] work of Christ as Savior.” So, any effort on our part in the sanctification process is also likened to efforts to earn salvation. More on that later.


Secondly, as can be ascertained by Baldwin’s statement cited above, redemptive counseling makes a distinction between our work and the Spirit’s work in sanctification; when in fact, the two are seamless (the fruit of the Spirit is self control, Gal. 5:23). Counselors that suggest an either / or in the sanctification process reek havoc and confusion on counselees. To suggest that a counselee may not be walking in the Spirit even when he / she is obeying Scripture, because it may take effort, is to invite unhealthy introspection and mysticism into the counselee’s life. Besides, it’s a blatant contradiction to many verses such as Galatians 6:9. Jay Adams has stated the same concern this way:


Strangely, there are, today, those who believe that if we do anything to please God, we are acting by ‘the arm of flesh.’ By that they mean we are doing something solely in our own strength. But, by making it an either/or matter, we upset the biblical balance of loving obedience and strengthening grace” (What is Sanctification, Institute for Nouthetic Counseling blog).


These are the first two reasons redemptive counseling will not help troubled Christians – it discourages biblical thinking, and it equates our effort in sanctification with walking in the flesh.


Baldwin continues:


He has heard the law and glibly said “I will do what it says.” He must know of the holiness of that law and the condemnation declared against all who try to commend themselves to God by lawkeeping. The law must drive him to the gospel of Christ.”


The third reason gospel-driven counseling will not help troubled Christians is because it distorts the biblical relationship of the Law to justification verses sanctification. In other words, redemptive counseling makes no distinction between the two and their relationship to the Law. This can be clearly seen in Baldwin’s above statement: the sole role of the Law is to lead the counselee back to the gospel as before he / she was saved, and not for the purpose of instruction as Paul clearly indicated in 2Timothy 3:16. Likewise, Michael Horton apes Baldwin when he wrote the following:


The imperatives drive us [Christians (emphasis by underline mine)] to despair of self-rightousness, the indicatives hold up Christ as our only savior.”


Horton goes on to say in the same article (“Creeds and Deeds: How Doctrine Leads to Doxological Living”) that an emphasis on deeds (ie., obedience) “leaves the sinner in the tattered garment of fig leaves rather than robed in the righteousness of Christ.” The suggestion by Horton is that efforts at good behavior removes the righteousness of Christ from the believers life.


This is the third reason gospel-centered counseling will not help Christians; because it disavows the instructive value of the Law in the believer’s life.


Baldwin’s next statement will be considered for my next points:


And that gospel must long be dwelt upon that it may evoke faith — whether for the first time or as a stirring up and a repeated application of a faith already present. Only works that spring out of such a faith constitute the gospel obedience [emphasis mine] held out in Scripture.”


Hence, instead of learning more and more about how to apply God’s imperatives / wisdom to life, and doing so, which is key to a sound Christian life (Matthew 7:24-27), “faith” is supposedly evoked by a continual revisiting of the gospel. Notice that the primary goal is to evoke faith, via the gospel, just like in justification. Therefore, redemptive counseling is the extrapolation of justification moving forward with no recognition of a sanctification that involves a co-laboring of the believer. In essence, it is sanctification by faith alone in the same way that justification is by faith alone, which, and don’t miss this: results in “gospel obedience.” What is gospel obedience? Simply put, it is often referred to as “the imputed active obedience of Christ.” In other words, when we continually revisit the gospel, the same monergistic results of justification are to be expected in sanctification, and therefore, both are a total work of Christ only. Said yet another way, Christ obeys for us. In case you think Baldwin is some isolated crack-pot, consider this quote by Michael Horton:


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” (Christless Christianity, pg. 57).


The following statement by Tullian Tchividjian should also be considered:


As I’ve said before, I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ‘the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.’ As Tim Keller explains it, the gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.”


Other extremes of this doctrine can be seen in Horton’s statement that, in essence, synergistic salvation is a false gospel. Therefore, since as Tullian Tchividian notes, a co-laboring in sanctification is the orthodox view among Evangelicals, redemptive counselors will begin their counseling relationship with most counselees by assuming they are lost, and will first focus on converting them to said doctrine. Furthermore, in marriage counseling, if one spouse accepts this doctrine and the other one doesn’t – the counseling will continue (erroneously) with a mixed marriage in view.


Another angle by Paul David Tripp can be added for good measure. On pages 171 and 172 ( starting in the last paragraph on page 171) of “How People Change,” Tripp propagates the idea that we are still spiritually dead as believers and are not an “improved version” of our old selves. Therefore, since Christ is the only one in us that is spiritually alive, we have unlimited potential because it is Christ in us that is doing everything (this, of course, is in blatant contradiction to Ephesians 4:20-24).


In conclusion on these points, the following are further reasons numbering four through eight of why redemptive counseling will not help troubled Christians:


4. It tells the counselee that sanctification is by faith alone in the same way that justification is by faith alone.


5. It tells the counselee that Christ obeys for us.


6. It replaces a deeper knowledge of God’s wisdom and its application to life with a mystical “deeper knowledge of the gospel.”


7. It often assumes that the counselee is not saved for erroneous reasons. This is obviously detrimental to a healthy and productive counseling process.


8. It will misinterpret marriages as mixed for erroneous reasons. This is also detrimental to productive marriage counseling.



Lastly, redemptive counseling presents the counselee with an erroneous picture of how sanctification is experienced. The counselee is told that when Christ is obeying for us, obedience will be experienced as a joyful, unconscious reaction. Note carefully what Baldwin says in the same article:


If an act does not spring from a conscious exercise of faith stirred up by gospel truth, we can be almost certain the act does not spring unconsciously therefrom. And whatever is not of faith is sin….Give me a man who preaches the law with its terror and Christ with his sweetness and forgets to preach the law as a pattern of the fruit of sanctification and what will result? In two months his parishioners will be breaking down his door begging to be told what behavior their renewed, bursting with joy, hearts may best produce. And when he tells them, they will be surprised (and he will not) to discover that by and large they have produced exactly that.”


Note, according to Baldwin (and likewise, others such as John Piper), true obedience is always joyful and unconscious, even to the point of obeying Scripture without first knowing what it says (because its not us obeying anyway). Should we teach troubled Christians these things? I think not. Besides, it makes a mockery of Matthew 26:37- 42. Obeying God can often be necessarily difficult for many reasons.


Gospel-driven counseling cannot, and will not help troubled Christians. Furthermore, evangelicals have a duty and responsibility to warn other Christians to stay clear of this counsel that promises to give hope, but cannot deliver. This theology and its counselors are clouds without water.





Gospel-Driven Confusion

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on October 3, 2010

I appreciate Greg Gibson’s blog which will often list a series of relevant articles for “busy disciples” ( Many times, the articles concern “New Calvinism” which also includes those who hold to the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification (or “gospel-driven” sanctification). This is an antinomian doctrine that synthesizes justification and sanctification, covertly nullifying the use of the Law in the sanctification process.

The most recent list (of which are not necessarily the shared view of Greg Gibson) are excellent examples of the confusion GS is unleashing on the contemporary church. The first article is about a church that executed a popular trend among GS based churches: excommunicating non-active members. Gibson posted the link written by Jonathan Leeman of “9 Marks” blog, which is connected to Capital Hill Baptist Church. CHBC became heroes in the Neo-reformed movement when they excommunicated 256 members for non-attendance, so their interest in interviewing the pastor from the latest church to out-perform them is understandable.

But unbelievably, it quickly became apparent from the twenty or so comments attached to the article, and the authors feedback that it is unclear as to whether or not the parishioners were actually excommunicated or not. It all began with the following apt observation in the comment section:

“….membership on a church role is NOT, absolutely NOT, the same as membership in the Body of Christ. The church membership role is a fallible, human attempt to count members and be more efficient in ministry. That’s great. I’m for church membership and church roles. I support regenerate church membership. I also support culling through roles and taking names off the role because they are inactive and unresponsive. But that is distinctly different from the real theological issues behind the labels “excommunication” and “unrepentant sin.” Those two terms need to be used with care and precision. And we are adding to Scripture to justify applauding their use here….It’s STILL assuming leaps and bounds over what Scripture says. Surely this Catholic view of the Scriptures is NOT what 9 Marks believes [hmmm, I wouldn’t be sure of that]. This is labeling something unrepentant sin that Scripture does not label sin. It’s inferring and implying from Scripture with the result of pronouncing EXCOMMUNICATION (a VERY serious word) over people who may just have never gotten the letter. Or people who never in their years of attending that church under leadership with a lesser view of membership were ever taught to embrace. It’s a sloppy use of church discipline [amen brother!!], which is a very needed practice in the church. This undermines the good use of church discipline for every congregation that desires to use it as God intended for the health of the Body. I implore you again, for the health of the churches who read this and are affected by the leadership here, please correct this article or take it down”[you go boy!!!].

I agree, but then things really start getting crazy when another reader notes the following about the same article:

“If those of you commenting would bother to read the article, you would find that the term ‘excommunication’ wasn’t part of the response, but part of a question posed by Mr. Leeman to Mr. King.

Mr. Leeman asks:
“David, I heard that you recently excommunicated 500 members from your church. Can this be right?”

Mr. King responded:
“What you heard is only partly true. We actually removed 575 members”.

Here, this reader corrects the other readers by pointing out that Leeman called it excommunication, but the pastor of the church that removed the members supposedly corrected him by using a different word. But then the other readers rightly correct him by pointing out that the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the interview is that the members were, in fact, excommunicated:

“Well apparently according to the last statement by Mr Leeman of his desire that some of the 575 would ‘repent and attend healthy churches’ so based on this it leads one to assume that all these people are indeed excommunicated to the fullest extent and definition of term, and not just ‘removed from the membership role’….Mr. King did not correct him when Mr. Leeman asked about excommunication. He only corrected the numbers. Mr. King is saying, ‘Well actually we excommunicated 75 more people than you said.’ The point remains that excommunication is an unfortunate term to be used here and this article should be taken down or corrected.”

After this comment, the author of the post then suggested that all of the confusion was merely a matter of semantics regarding the definition of different terms. He was then corrected as follows:

“I agree with your definition of excommunication and am using the term in the same way. I take issue with the assumption of ‘unrepentant sin.’ The process he outlines makes not attending their church an ‘unrepentant sin.’ And if they could not document by people’s responses that they were indeed attending their church or another church (I hope at least that), they were LABELED unrepentant. I don’t mind them removing them from the roles. But it is not sin to stop attending a particular church. I have moved churches several times since college, all but once because I moved cities. I likely wouldn’t have gotten a letter even if they had tried to contact me. If they had labeled me unrepentant, it would have been slander. I’d be much more comfortable with this if either 1) you removed the terms excommunication and/or unrepentant sin OR 2) Mr. King clarifies that people weren’t labeled unrepentant simply because they didn’t respond to his letters to them. Because that is a BIG jump over a number of restraining principles in Scripture.”

The author then responded with the usual, long, tortured GS-type response. This sad, confusing commentary can be read in its entirety here:

Actually, I like Camile’s response the best:

“This is simply appalling. I understand the need to ‘tidy’ a membership list. That happens.

But to ‘excommunicate’ people simply because they moved away or even joined another church? Talk about assigning negative intent.

I hope it’s sobering for you. I do. This has nothing to do with Jesus or the Gospel.”

P.s., Camile, it’s what happens when you think every verse in the Bible is about redemption.

But in another article listed along with the one above, the confusion continues, and this time at the hands of one of the fathers of Gospel Sanctification, the lovable Jerry Bridges. The second article is entitled “ 12 Steps to Identifying Your Functional Saviors” and the author begins the post this way:

“Whatever we direct our affections, energies, and hopes towards is our object of worship. Our heart needs Jesus; our flesh craves idols. This is why growing in love for Christ requires daily execution of idols. But how do we know what our idols are?”

This is the GS belief that we change by emptying our hearts of idols which leaves a void in our heart that Jesus then fills with himself resulting in Christ obeying for us. This was all hatched by David Powlison in the early 80’s and articulated by Paul David Tripp in his book “How People Change.” Powlison came up with a method to determine what those idols are by asking ourselves “X-ray questions.”

The author then shares a sample of 12 primary X-ray questions that can supposedly be used to determine heart idols from the Jerry Bridges book, “The Bookends of the Christian Life”:

1. I am preoccupied with ________.
2. If only ________, then I would be happy.
3. I get my sense of significance from ________.
4. I would protect and preserve ________ at any cost.
5. I fear losing ________.
6. The thing that gives me greatest pleasure is ________.
7. When I lose ________, I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.
8. For me, life depends on ________.
9. The thing I value more than anything in the world is ________.
10. When I daydream, my mind goes to________.
11. The best thing I can think of is ________.
12. The thing that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is ________.

In an unusual display of discernment by readers, some raised questions about such a notion. For example: if I am preoccupied with my daughters wedding the week prior to the big day does that mean I have heart idols? If I am preoccupied with my wife being in labor, does that mean I love her more than I love Christ? The whole goofy notion of determining heart idols through asking ourselves “X-ray questions” brings up more questions by thinking Christians than could ever be answered; like, should “Christ” be written in every blank? Apparently, the propagators of the method don’t even know; Jered, the author of the post, responded this way:

“There’s nothing wrong with cherishing family, wanting to protect family, being sad if someone in our family is hurt of suffering, etc. I don’t think that’s what the list is getting at.

Nor is it saying we should put ‘Jesus’ into the blanks [well then, what should go in there?]

It’s just a general list, taken altogether, that can be diagnostic of where our ultimate treasure is. No need to absolutize each question or over-think it. Let’s just be conscious to have Christ as our ultimate treasure, which means being aware of our natural drift to idolatry.

The cool thing is that this doesn’t mean we stop enjoying or loving good things. This means actually loving our families better and enjoying good things (like work, sex, sports, etc.) more than if they were our actual treasure.”

Huh? So, they’re diagnostic questions, but the answers are not definitive? Welcome to the confused, nebulous world of Gospel Sanctification, and Gospel-Driven confusion.


Charles Stanley now Embracing Antinomian Distortion of Galatians 2:20

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on October 1, 2010

As I was driving down the road this afternoon I was delighted to hear “In Touch” with Dr. Charles Stanley. Yes, I know, there has always been some issues with Stanley, but I still enjoy listening to him. However, I was a bit surprised to hear what he had to say during his “Stages of Our Christian Life” series. If I remember correctly, he was on stage seven, the stage where we supposedly realize the significance of, and here we go again, Galatians 2:20.

Stanley then proceeded to exegete this verse in the same way others of our day do; namely, contemporary Antinomians such as David Powlison, Paul David Tripp, Tim Keller, Justin Taylor, Tim Lane, John Piper, Micheal Horton, DA Carson, Tullian Tchividjian, and Jerry Bridges, to name a few. JC Ryle called it the “Christ in us doctrine,” and such Antinomiam doctrines of his day prompted him to write his “Twenty Letters on Holiness.” I go into this in some detail here:

Basically, the doctrine teaches that we (believers) are still dead in trespasses and sins, and that the only life in us is the indwelling Christ who obeys for us, since we are “dead and can do nothing” (Paul Tripp, “How People Change” 2006). Galatians 2:20 can be interpreted that way via a cursory observation. Stanley clearly stated during the message I heard that the only life in us is Christ. To some degree that is true, but the fact is overstated in a way that refutes the biblical truth that we are “new creatures” and “born again” unto spiritual life. Some proponents of the doctrine, also known as Gospel Sanctification, even promote the idea that we are re-saved on a continual bases because our spiritual condition is no different than our spiritual condition prior to salvation (totally depraved).

Stanley went on to say that this “truth” is liberating because we can finally cease from putting forth effort in the sanctification process. That’s what he plainly said. He shared what his thoughts were after embracing this “truth” and seeing their church building for the first time afterward: “Lord, I don’t have to do anything to build this ministry, you do it all.” Furthermore, Stanley then explained that Christians don’t have to put forth any effort to obey God, but rather passively “yield” to God’s truth / power. JC Ryle contended against this exact same element of “yielding” in the “Christ in us” doctrine, and objected to this concept as a replacement for exertion by us in the sanctification process.

I address this doctrine as it is being taught by those mentioned above in the following post:


Jerry Bridges Proffers Gospel-Driven Bondage

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on September 24, 2010

“….they’re going to show pastors how to *see justification only* throughout the whole Bible. If they were forthright, that’s how they would state it.”

“’Jesus / gospel‘ replaces ‘justification,’ and masks the real intent: to make every verse in the Bible about justification and thereby eradicating the use of the Law in sanctification.”

Let me begin with some groundwork. As John MacArthur said in his book “Truth War,” to fight error in our day takes determination, perseverance, and tenacity. This is because today’s propagators of false doctrine are masters of nuance. In regard to those who propagate the antinomian doctrine of Gospel Sanctification, the goal is to eliminate application of biblical imperatives by referring to such a use of God’s word as “living by lists,” “reducing the Bible to a book of rules,” etc. Of course, they don’t mention that the Bible has “rules” that are often stated in list form. Therefore, they carefully word their presentation so you will assume they are talking about people who use the Bible in a legalistic way. Meanwhile, they ignore practical application of the Scriptures while heavily emphasizing grace. Soon our particular efforts in sanctification will be buried and forgotten (out of sight, out of mind) while subtle / negative references to the application of biblical imperatives slowly throws one more shovel-full of dirt on the hole that obedience is buried in.

This method is also accompanied by synthesizing justification and sanctification. Obviously, if we are sanctified by the same monergistic gospel that saved us, we can’t do anymore with the Law in sanctification than we did with it in justification. After all, one of the Gospel Sanctification mantras is “the same gospel that saved you also sanctifies you.” D.A. Carson, in an interview with Tim Keller concerning the T4G 2011 conference, shared that the main thrust of that conference will be to teach pastors how to “drive toward Christ and the gospel” and to show what “Biblical Theology [ie., Geerhardus Vos hermeneutics] looks like” in order to “read the Bible in such a way that you [always] get to Jesus.” Let me rephrase that. What D.A. Carson really means is they’re going to show pastors how to *see justification only* throughout the whole Bible. If they were forthright, that’s how they would state it. If the “same” gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, then sanctification is monergistic. If it’s not monergistic, then it’s not the same gospel that saved us. They can only have it both ways until people start asking questions. Later in the interview, D.A. Carson disingenuously notes that several perspectives on preaching will be presented at the same conference; supposedly, unlike other conferences (who only present the Grammatical Historical perspective). In saying this, he assumes the listeners will not associate the term “Biblical Theology” with hermeneutics. Let me also add that it’s not really about always getting to Jesus; it’s about always getting to “what Jesus has done, not what we have done” (another GS mantra often used by Micheal Horton). “Jesus / gospel” replaces “justification,” and masks the real intent: to make every verse in the Bible about justification and thereby eradicating the use of the Law in sanctification.

This now brings me to the significance of an excerpt from the Jerry Bridges book, “Transformed by Grace.” Jerry Bridges (who coined the phrase, “we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday”) is not any different from most GS advocates; it’s difficult to find definitive grounds for argument in their nuanced approach. Most of the time you will have to read several pages in order to find clear statements that reflect what they really believe. In this case, another blogger supplied the following excerpt from the above mentioned book. My comments are in brackets:

Paul’s call to stand firm in our freedom in Christ and not let ourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery is just as valid today with our rules as it was in the Galatians’ day with the Mosaic law… God gave us our spiritual Magna Charta.

[Paul’s call to freedom in Christ regards freedom from being justified by the Law. Here, Bridges extrapolates that idea into the realm of sanctification. As I mentioned above in my introduction, we see Bridges slight the idea of applying biblical rules to life, but doing so subtly by calling them “our” rules. But since the Mosaic Law is part of scripture, and he makes that comparison, he is really talking about the application of the Mosaic Law (where applicable, ie., Ephesians 6:1) to life. Also, though Jesus’ yoke is light, we, in fact, are His slaves and were “bought with a price.” ]

Through Paul, He called us to be free: ‘You, my brothers, were called to be free.’ In fact, God doesn’t just call us to freedom, he actually exhorts us to stand firm in our freedom – to resist all efforts to abridge or destroy it.

[Yes, in regard to justification, BUT as Christians, we actually find our freedom in aligning our lives with God’s law:

James 1:25
“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”

James 2:12
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom….”

Furthermore, Jesus said that the “truth will set you free,” and “thy word is truth.” Freedom comes from applying God’s word to life. We are set free by being slaves to Christ’ lordship, that isn’t the same as being in bondage to the Law in an attempt to be justified by it.]

Despite God’s call to be free and His earnest admonition to resist all efforts to curtail it, there is very little emphasis in Christian circles today on the importance of Christian freedom. Just the opposite seems to be true.

[But we are called to freedom on two fronts: freedom from the Law for justification, and freedom from the bondage of sin by obeying the perfect Law of liberty. Bridges only refers to the one. Why? Because in his mind, they are both the same, that’s why. However, in our day, the freedom that is not being emphasized is freedom for the believer by PROPERLY aligning his or hers life with the word of God.]

Instead of promoting freedom, we stress our rules of conformity.

[They’re not OUR rules, they are the Lord’s rules. Please note that a “lord” usually has rules he wants you to follow.]

Instead of preaching living by grace, we preach living by performance. Instead of encouraging new believers to be conformed to Christ, we subtly insist that they be conformed to our particular style of Christian culture. Yet, that’s the bottom line effect of most of our emphases in Christian circles today.

[ Living to love Christ by keeping His Law and striving to please Him accordingly is not “living by performance,” that is a typical GS red herring. Paul said whether in the body or apart, “we make it our goal to please Him,” and obviously, the word of God is the standard for that. Also, notice the *us against them* mentality in the suggestion that supposed graceless living is a “Christian culture” in most “Christian circles today.” This is indicative of the GS mentality that believes they are on a mission from God to save the church from the Dark Ages of synergistic sanctification.]

For example, many people would react negatively to my quoting only part of Galatians 5:12, ‘You, my brothers, were called to be free.’ Despite the fact that this statement is a complete sentence, they would say, ‘But that’s not all of the verse. Go on to quote the remainder: ‘But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.’…

[Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, the Galatians were being tempted to go back to a system that taught you had to keep the Law to maintain your salvation, NOT the idea that you keep the Law to love Christ and to please Him. We believe that we are kept by the power of God, but that does not negate our call to uphold the Law of God!]

The person who reacts this way has made my point. We are much more concerned about someone abusing his freedom than we are about his guarding it. We are more afraid of indulging the sinful nature than we are of falling into legalism.

[Here, Bridges makes the shocking suggestion that being concerned with keeping the Law is not “guarding” our freedom, and that being more afraid of indulging in the sinful nature than guarding our “freedom” is legalism. This troubling assertion should speak for itself.]

Yet legalism does indulge the sinful nature because it fosters self-righteousness and religious pride. It also diverts us from the real issues of the Christian life by focusing on external and sometimes trivial rules.” – Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, pp. 121-122

[ In this last statement, Bridges notes another GS staple often propagated by Paul Tripp and David Powlison; namely, our efforts as Christians to uphold the Law leads to self-righteousness and religious pride, and to make such an effort is “focusing on external and sometimes trivial rules.” Instead, we should supposedly only focus on “what Jesus has DONE rather than our OWN efforts,” which supposedly leads to an automatic kind of obedience earmarked by a willing and joyful spirit / attitude.]

How can bridges talk so strongly about one freedom without at least mentioning the other? Because that’s the freedom (through the Law in sanctification) he doesn’t want to emphasize even though his audience is Christian. Therefore, what Bridges is actually teaching is a gospel-driven bondage that averts Christians away from an effort to apply God’s word to life. Not only that, we now have conferences that are teaching leaders to propagate this approach wholesale throughout the church; true freedom as bondage. Buyer beware.


Jason Gray’s Anthem for Chan’s “Crazy Love”

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on August 30, 2010

“This half gospel that excludes Christ as Lord also begs the question: when we get to heaven, can we call Christ ‘sweety-pie’? Or how about, ‘honey-bunch’?”

I wrote a review the other day on Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.” In the review I state my case concerning the book’s overall antinomian theme. Basically, Chan attempts to make the same case echoed by Paul David Tripp in “How People Change”; namely, that a relationship with Christ isn’t about biblical imperatives being applied to life, but rather a relationship with Him based on “intimate” knowledge derived from creation and seeing Jesus in every verse of the Bible. After all, according to Tripp, “Christ is a person, not a cognitive concept.” This also apes the Postmodern notion that the Bible is a grand narrative and not a book of propositional truths. Supposedly, this deeper knowledge then leads to increased faith, which allows the Holy Spirit to do everything for us. John Piper calls this “beholding as a way of becoming.”

As I also stated, Chan’s book synthesizes Justification and sanctification, narrowing our role in the sanctification process to little more than faith only. Since our limited role in sanctification needs to be embellished, one of the weird concepts that has emerged from this contemporary antinomian doctrine is the idea that our relationship with Christ should be an intimate love affair, resulting in a mushy exuberance of love towards Christ and others. Hence, Chan’s book is replete with what I called “Jesus is my boyfriend” theology.

Well, just this morning I was coming home from being kept out too late by my girlfriend (this comment is just a test to see if she reads my articles; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), and thinking to myself: “did I go too far in the article?” I kid you not, at that moment, a song by Jason Gray came on the radio entitled “More Like Falling in Love.” The words blew me away; the song is a perfect anthem for Chan’s book. When I got home, I googled the song and found the lyrics on a post by a girl named Christy ( In a shocking display of discernment, she said the following in regard to the song: “….when I heard this new song, something gnawed at me. Perhaps I was being cynical, but I felt like the lyrics were emphasizing an antinomian “Jesus is my adorable boyfriend!” (By the way, I was in a church this morning where a praise song referred to Christ as the “Darling” of heaven). Christy then posted the lyrics:

“More Like Falling in Love” lyrics by Jason Gray

Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling, Ohhhh
Its like I’m falling in love

Give me words, I’ll misuse them
Obligations, I’ll missplace them
Cuz all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling
Its like I’m falling in love

Love, Love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling, Ohhhh
Its like I’m falling in love
I’m falling in love

Hey Christy: “ya think?” Lately, this contemporary antinomian doctrine sometimes known as “Gospel Sanctification” is the gift that just keeps on giving; this has to be the easiest post I have ever done on the subject. This half gospel that excludes Christ as Lord also begs the question: when we get to heaven, can we call Christ “sweety-pie”? Or how about, “honey-bunch”?

Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” is Really Antinomian Puppy-Love

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on August 29, 2010

“He is clearly saying that when we love we are free from the Law; in fact, we don’t have to worry about….’commands.’ In other words, love is measured by some other standard than biblical imperatives, presumably, good feelings. Do you think that is unfair of me to say? Well then, look at how he wants you to determine if you are loving or not: ‘Do you feel free in your Christian life?'”

Before I comment on “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan (2008), let me set the table. There is a “let go and let God” theology sweeping through Christianity which is sometimes referred to as “Gospel Sanctification.” Hereafter, I will refer to it as “GS.” Let go and let God theology, for all practical purposes, is antinomianism because it either advocates an inability to uphold the Law by Christians or the view that Christians are not obligated to uphold it in God’s eyes. Either way, use of the Law in the life of a Christian is denied.

Basically, GS teaches that we are sanctified in the exact same way that we are justified, by faith and repentance alone. Therefore, if the Law (by this term “Law” I mean the Scriptures in general and imperatives in particular) can’t save us, neither can it be used or recognized in sanctification either. They use Galatians 3:2,3 as a proof text for this position.

Secondly, it teaches that Christ came to not only die for our sins, but to fulfill the law by obeying it perfectly with His life. In essence, it teaches that Christ obeyed the Law for us, and His perfect obedience and fulfillment of the Law is imputed to us in the same way righteousness is imputed to us in salvation by faith alone. Therefore, we are not obligated to the Law. This is sometimes referred to as “the imputed active obedience of Christ.”

Thirdly, It teaches that Christ not only fulfilled the Law, but replaced it with a new Law that only has one command: love God and others. Furthermore, in only being obligated by this one Law, our proper fulfillment of this one Law is judged by our intentions and conscience, not necessarily biblical imperatives. They use Matthew 22: 36-40 as a proof text for this position.

Fourthly, according to advocates, acts of true love will always be accompanied by a willing spirit and joy. Nothing should ever be done out of mere duty. The old Christian adage “obey God whether you feel like it or not” is considered to be anathema. Acts of true love are often described as a “mere natural flow.”

Fifthly, GS propagates the idea that Christians are still spiritually dead, and the only life in us is Christ working through the Holy Spirit. That’s why true love can always be expected to be a mere natural flow, because it is really Christ doing the work through us. They use Galatians 2:20 as a proof text for this position. This text is also used to advocate sanctification by faith alone.

Sixthly, sanctification is only accomplished through faith and deep introspection for purposes of repentance, which empties our soul of sin, and results in Christ living through us.

Seventh, the Bible’s sole purpose is to aid us in faith and repentance. As we see “pictures of Jesus” in the Bible, we learn more about who He is, and see Him more clearly. Our faith is then increased and we are changed from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18 is the proof text for that). The Bible also aids us in looking deep within our souls to see sin that we need to repent of. In addition, all of the vast imperatives we see in the Bible makes us more thankful for Christ, knowing that we could never uphold all of those commands and He has done it for us. Thank goodness they (commands) have all been abrogated by the love of Christ working through us, according to them, that is.

Eighth, since the primary goal is to know more of who Christ is (as opposed to learning what He has said for the purpose of applying it to our lives), which increases our faith and love for Him, we don’t necessarily limit that knowledge to Scripture. General revelation is seen as being almost as valuable, because the idea is to get to know Christ as a person, “not a cognitive concept that we apply to life” (Paul David Tripp). This is eerily similar to Postmodern thinking.

Obviously, I wouldn’t have gone through all of the trouble to explain the above if I didn’t think “Crazy Love” (hereafter “CL”) propagated Gospel Sanctification. Per the usual, advocates of GS partake in careful word-craft; it goes without saying that my before-stated description would be rejected out of hand by most Evangelicals. Though there are hints of GS in the first half of the book, the doctrine is not prevalent until page 101, thats when elements of the doctrine start becoming obvious.

Somewhat unique in CL is the heavy dose of “Jesus is my boyfriend” theology. Chan pours this on really thick, even by John Piper’s standard, who is also an advocate of GS. Piper, who likens true saving faith to a deep, romantic-like love for Christ, is quoted at least once in CL. Let’s face it, if we can’t love our Lord by obeying “everything I have commanded,” (as in most GS based books, the Lordship of Christ is conspicuously missing) then something else has to fill the gap; such as, a “sincere,” syrupy like romantic love similar to teenage puppy-love. In fact, according to Chan, regarding the account of his grandmother’s relationship with Christ: He was her “lover” (p. 100).

Throughout the book, Chan draws conclusions about how we should experience our relationship with Christ from horizontal relationships; namely, romantic ones. Hence, “Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.” This is indicative of the eighth element, which puts general revelation on the same par with specific revelation (The Bible). There is a very heavy dose of this in the beginning of the book as Chan emphasizes the study of creation in order to understand Christ as a “person.” Chan also uses the GS phrase “word pictures” to describe the Bible throughout CL. On pages 34 and 35, Chan categorizes general revelation and the Bible together as two ways of knowing God as set against what we can’t know about Him: “So far we have talked about things we can see with our own eyes, things we know about creation, and some of the attributes of God as revealed in the Bible. But many facets of God expand beyond our comprehension.”

Besides an overemphasis on general revelation as a matching bookend with specific revelation, there is only a hint of the GS doctrine in the first 100 pages. The first thing I began to notice was the dissing of practical application and obedience, which are both antithetical to GS doctrine. In regard to our supposed paramount goal of knowing Christ as a person rather than what he demands of us (number eight), Chan says the following on page 30: “If the ‘gravest question’ before us really is what God Himself is like, how do we learn to know Him?” Is the “gravest” question before Christians that of who God is? Or, is what God wants us to do of equal importance? I think we know the answer to that, and a balanced perspective by Chan is conspicuously missing throughout the book.

Then on page 101, Chan takes a hard left turn and launches into full-blown GS doctrine. After denying throughout the book (in nuanced fashion) that we are slaves obligated to obey Christ (because that doesn’t fit the gushy *Jesus as boyfriend* prism), and that God would use fear, guilt, or reward to motivate us, he says that Galatians 5:13-14 teaches the following: “When we love, we’re free! We don’t have to worry about a burdensome load of commands, because when we are loving, we can’t sin. Do you feel free in your Christian life?”

Just please stop and think about what he is saying. Words mean things. He is clearly saying that when we love we are free from the Law; in fact, we don’t have to worry about….”commands.” In other words, love is measured by some other standard than biblical imperatives, presumably, good feelings. Do you think that is unfair of me to say? Well then, look at how he wants you to determine if you are loving or not: “Do you feel free in your Christian life?” And: When we work for Christ out of obligation, it feels like work. But when we truly love Christ, our work is a manifestation of that love, and it feels like love” (page 110). Is that true? Does obedience to Christ always “feel (s) like love”?

The whole line of thought here clearly falls under element number three of GS doctrine. Furthermore, let’s be good Bereans and take a look at Galatians 5:13-14, the biblical text Chan cites to make his point:

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Paul is talking about our freedom from the Law in regard to being saved, and then using it as an excuse to live any way we want to: “Hey, I’m saved anyway, and the Law can’t get me into heaven, so why not live any way I want to?” Because it’s self-focused and the antithesis of love, that’s why. But Paul is not saying that love has no standard other than itself because it replaced the Law. That is a classic antinomian misrepresentation of that passage. In the same statement, Chan even comforts his readers by assuring them that they are not sinning by loving apart from biblical imperatives / guidelines: “….because when we are loving, we can’t sin” [that’s why we supposedly don’t need to worry about “burdensome commands”].

Chan reiterates his point by quoting the apostle in verse 6 of the same chapter: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” This doesn’t mean, as Chan implies, that love interprets itself because it comes from an undefined realization of who Christ is via a personal, nebulous, and supposedly intimate relationship. Do you think that is unfair as well? Here is what Chan says on page 104: “Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives. It is a remarkable cycle: Our prayers for more love result in love, which naturally causes us to pray more, which results in more love….” The “cycle” that Chan describes here is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, but rather, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Or, “Peter, do you love me? …. [then] feed my sheep.” At the very least, Chan is propagating a love that always comes naturally through a cycle of prayer only. In the best case that can be surmised, he is clearly in serious error.

Also, Chan forgets to mention that the apostle Paul also said: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1Corinthians 7:19). About a year ago, I counseled a fellow who was having trouble with a church leadership that propagates the GS doctrine. He was utterly perplexed as to why they seemed to completely ignore clear biblical directives regarding his situation. The answer is simple: if their motive was love, they did not deem themselves as obligated to biblical imperatives. Throughout the rest of the book, Chan seems to make strong statements regarding the need to obey, but what he is talking about is obedience to the one single Law of love, not biblical imperatives. This is the type of double-speaking deception that I have come to expect from propagators of the GS doctrine.

Throughout the rest of the book after page 101, Chan draws a tight GS line that propagates spiritual growth by a narrow, passive concept of meditation and prayer only (p. 104, 148, 170, to cite a few), and acts of love always experienced as a mere natural flow accompanied by joy (p. 110, 120, 129, to name a few). It is fair to say that the second half of the book is saturated with GS doctrine in its usual nuanced form. But page 203 is worth mentioning before I close. Chan presents Galatians 3:3 as a Pauline contention against effort in the sanctification process which is also supposedly a false gospel. This is a typical GS stance. Concerning this passage, Chan says the following:

“I think each of us has a strong tendency to attempt to wrestle control from the Spirit and “do” this life on our own. Each of us tends to switch from living the gospel of grace to trusting in a system of works. That’s why Paul brings up this issue with the churches in Galatia.”

So, effort on our part (Christians) to “’do’ this life” is supposedly denying the gospel that originally saved us. This is the most basic element of GS which is the synthesizing of justification and sanctification. Obviously, if we can’t do anything to be saved, neither can we participate in sanctification either except for the same role we play in justification, faith and repentance only. However, Paul is not talking about sanctification in Galatians 3:3. He was talking about the Galatians possibly denying the gospel that saved them by faith alone, and doing so by returning to a salvation by works. Apparently, they were being tempted to consummate this decision by being circumcised, and therefore denying the true gospel by proclaiming a false one. This is absolutely clear by the way Paul summarizes his argument:

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:2-4).

Paul makes it clear that he was talking about justification (“ You who are trying to be justified by law”) and not sanctification. Besides, specifically, Paul is talking about their ultimate goal of being completely transformed (glorification) in 3:3, not sanctification, or their role in the growing process. Paul discuses that in the second part of the book, the first part deals with justification. This can be clearly seen by the fact that Paul uses the word “justification” at least ten times in the book while “sanctification” is not used once, even though it is a biblical word in the same way justification is (1 Corinthians 1:30 and 6:11; both are listed together with glorification).

It is no different than someone who is saved by the true gospel , but then leaves an orthodox community of believers for a community that professes a false gospel. Like Paul, we would “stand in doubt” of them. Besides, specifically, Paul is talking about their ultimate goal of being completely transformed (glorification) in 3:3, not sanctification, or their role in the growing process. I believe the Young’s Literal Translation demonstrates this well:

“so thoughtless are ye! having begun in the Spirit, now in the flesh do ye end? “

In the final analysis, CL adorns GS with some challenges that the church needs to hear, but Chan’s solution is a false doctrine. The first hundred passages were subtle enough to keep me in denial while eating red herrings and ignoring straw men used to diss the conventional hearing of God’s word and the proper application to life thereof. Which is very annoying.


John Piper Pleads for Evangelicals Everywhere to be Saved in His 6 Minute Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 30, 2010

There is a video widely circulated throughout the internet called “The Gospel  in 6 Minutes.” It is excerpted from a sermon by John Piper called “God Strengthens Us by the Gospel.” Apparently, it was delivered in September of  1997, and till this day, the title of the sermon that inspired the video has not even raised a brow. “Strengthened by the gospel”? “Us” would be Christians, “strengthened” would be sanctification, and “gospel” would be the good news that saved us.

That’s what Piper believes. It’s the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification. I could post-up just on the title. Regardless of the apostle Paul saying on numerous occasions that the gospel is the foundation of our faith that we build on (Rom. 15:20, 1Cor. 3:10-12, Heb. 6:1), Piper’s title would suggest that’s not the case. The premise that the same gospel message that got us into the kingdom, now sanctifies us, has very serious ramifications in regard to life and godliness. First, if you extrapolate this concept to its logical conclusions (a lost art in today’s church); the gospel is the message God uses to justify us, so, if we are sanctified by the same, an on-going justification would be required for our everyday walk with God. Sure, you could still call it sanctification because it grows as opposed to being a particular point in time, but what drives it is continual justification. Therefore, and think about this, justification is not a onetime event, it is ongoing.

Secondly, justification is monergistic (a complete and total work of God ALONE), so, that would limit sanctification to the same tenets of justification; namely, by faith alone! Are we sanctified by faith alone?

Thirdly, would a rejection of sanctification by faith alone short-circuit justification? Do we, therefore, have to believe in a monergistic sanctification by faith alone to be saved?

Fourthly, if we could not obey to be saved, and we are sanctified the same way we are justified, then who does the obeying? It couldn’t be us, right?

So, let me sum-up in regard to Piper’s title with five interpretive questions: Is sanctification by faith alone? Is sanctification by faith, and our works, a false gospel? Do we have to be saved daily? (as stated by a proponent of GS in a chapel sermon at SEBTS entitled “Playing With the Box” in which he plainly said that we need daily salvation). Who obeys? How does sanctification by faith alone function? Are these not questions that effect the very core of how we function as Christians? The guy preached this message when? His buddies are who? Am I here right now?

Am I seeing too much in a mere title? Well, let’s see. The video excerpt is divided into four parts:  Let’s start with the first part: “What is the Gospel?”:

“What’s the gospel? I’ll put it in a sentence.
The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.
That’s the gospel.”

See anything missing? It’s the same thing that’s missing in 99.99% of all gospel presentations by proponents of Gospel Sanctification: repentance. Some time ago, I stumbled upon a video of John MacArthur verbally flogging Rick Warren for the absence of repentance in his (Warren’s) gospel presentation. Hmmm. But  remember, Piper and Mac are buddies, and besides, Rick Warren is not a rock star in Reformed circles. But never the less, proponents of GS believe in what they call “deep repentance.” I am not going to stop here to explain it, but suffice to say that it would be very difficult to insert into a gospel presentation because of its complexity. However, I am seeing a movement among some proponents to attempt to implement the concept into the presentation of the gospel. In other words, they pass on mere repentance, but they want to implement deep repentance (sometimes referred to as “intelligent repentance”) instead. Like I said, for now, I’m going to pass on an explanation, but let me at least give you this snippet: it involves repenting of  “good works” in order to be saved. And trust me, they don’t want you doing any good works in sanctification either.

As an aside, let me interject another example that is slightly off-subject. Missing from the transcript (from Piper’s website) that I am using for this article, Piper makes this statement: God entered history IN Jesus Christ [slightly paraphrased]. Is that true? Did God enter history “in” Christ? This is a term that I am often hearing among proponents of GS, this whole “God IN Christ” business. When I ask them to clarify; in every case, they quickly say, “I didn’t mean it exactly that way.” Perhaps, but I am not the only one who is concerned that the Trinity is being distorted by an unbalanced view of soteriology  in reformed circles (see page 192, “Future Isreal” by Barry E. Horner). More than likely, Piper was referring to the Christocentric hermeneutic that is also a staple tenet of GS doctrine, of which Horner also expresses concern on the same page of his book cited above. As we proceed, you will see a major element of my thesis here; to be specific, this doctrine continues to get stranger and stranger, almost daily, while mainline Evangelical leaders seem glibly oblivious.

Now we move to the second part of the video: “You Can’t  Outgrow the Gospel”:

“You never, never, never [actually, he repeats “never” 23 times; think it‘s important to him?] outgrow your need for it. Don’t ever think of the gospel as, “That’s the way you get saved, and then you get strong by leaving it and doing something else.”
No! We are strengthened by God through the gospel every day, till the day we drop.
You never outgrow the need to preach to yourself the gospel.”

I think this statement clearly reiterates my opening description of Gospel Sanctification, but what does he mean by “leaving it and doing SOMETHING ELSE.” What is the “something else”? Well, it’s ANYTHING ELSE but the gospel, obviously. And I do mean anything else. For an Idea, read Paul David Tripp’s (the reining prince of Gospel Sanctification) explanation of what the OTHER THINGS are in “How People Change,” pages 23 thru 36. On page 27, he says that the mere act of changing our thinking to biblical thinking is activity that “omits the person and work of Christ as savior.” Stop right there. This concise statement answers two of my interpretive questions: who does the obeying in sanctification? Well, since the relatively passive activity of changing our thinking omits the “work of Christ,” obviously, Christ is doing the work and not us. Comprender? Also, is sanctification by faith and works a false gospel? Yes, because, according to Tripp, it omits “Christ as SAVIOR.” Right? Also, let me mention that Jerry Bridges, another propagator of GS, coined the phrase “you must preach the gospel to yourself everyday” as Piper eludes to it here. This is often Jerry Bridges’ prescription (and most other advocates of GS, especially Dana Stoddard) for people who struggle with assurance of salvation, as opposed to the obvious biblical prescription of examining behavior / thinking and doing something about it. Is this not a major, ground-level issue in our Christian walk? Why doesn’t anybody care? I am truly perplexed!

We now move to the third part of Piper’s six-minute gospel: “How the Gospel Strengthens”:

“Here’s an illustration, and I use it not because it’s any big deal to speak from my life, but because it’s what I walked through and where I most pointedly in the last year experienced the power of the gospel to make me strong. (Many of you are walking through things much heavier than prostate cancer—much heavier.)
Do you remember the verses that I shared with you back in February that were almighty for me? It was that moment right after the doctor says, “I think we need to do a biopsy,” when this stab of fear comes. It didn’t last long, mercifully.
And then came—what? 1Thessalonians 5:9-10. It’s just as pure gospel as you can get.
God has not destined you for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,who died for you so that whether you wake or sleep you will live with him.
Settled. Peace like a river.”

This clearly demonstrates how the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification has changed biblical counseling. Instead of biblical directives, the attempt is going to be to find the right gospel “picture” (see the transcript from Piper’s address to the 2010 T4G  conference) that fits the individual’s “need” at that time. I have witnessed this reality first-hand in actual counseling situations. I was also in a Reformed church one morning that propagates GS, and heard an elder of that church testify to how God miraculously turned a marriage around in the first meeting when he “showed them the gospel” from a particular Bible text. The couple were Christians who came to that church for counseling. In the transcript that I am working from, which came from Piper’s website; his comment in the same section as follows, was left out: “That’s why  the Bible is so thick, there is a gospel presentation for every need of life” [paraphrased]. The fact that the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification is radically changing what goes on in biblical counseling offices should greatly alarm the Evangelical church. For instance, most Evangelicals who show-up at one of these counseling offices will be dealt with as if they are not even saved; being Evangelicals.

We now move to the fourth and final section of the Piper video: “A Plea to Believe”:

“I know that there are people reading this [edited for written form] who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation. So I’m just going to plead with you here at the end, lay down that rebellion. Lay it down. And simply embrace the gospel that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Righteous One, died for your sins. He was raised on the third day, triumphant over all his enemies. He reigns until he puts all of his enemies under his feet. Forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God comes freely through him alone, by faith alone.
I plead with you, don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the
Don’t put it off. “

Piper begins this section with the following: “I know that there are people reading this who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation.” In context, what does he mean that they are not “trusting Jesus Christ”? Well, he continues: “Forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God comes freely through him alone, by faith alone.” So, who is he talking to? I’m glad you asked, he continues in the very next sentence: “I plead with you, don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the gospel.” He is talking about being strong, or strengthened, in regard to “us” (remember the title of the sermon that the video was excerpted from? “God Strengthens Us by the Gospel”).  In other words, exerting our own effort in the sanctification process, and especially apart from the gospel, will result in “condemnation.” This is a plea for any person who believes in synergistic sanctification to be saved.  Also note how he uses expressions of justification and sanctification interchangeably. The topics of  his paragraphs in the same general context often look like this: Justification, sanctification, justification, sanctification. Likewise, Piper and many others such as Paul Tripp often use justification verses to make points about sanctification. I have cited many, many, examples of this in previous articles, and a prime example would be pages 64 and 65 of “How People Change.”

I only have one plea for myself: among all of my Southern Baptist brothers (Al Mohler etc.), and Reformed guys like Piper, MacArthur, RC Sproul, Michael Horton (if you move on from the gospel to anything else, you loose both sanctification and justification [that means you ain’t saved], see page 62 of “Christless Christianity”), etc; who have been hanging out together, would somebody figure out who’s  saved and who isn’t? I would like to know who I can follow horizontally. Or, are these issues just not important? Or, do I just need to shut-up and be mesmerized by expert pontification?


Sanctification: Where is the Battleground? Heart, or Flesh?

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 29, 2010

Today, there are two diverse theories in regard to where, and how we fight sin in the sanctification (growing process of our redemption) process. To surmise that this issue is not important would be outwardly rejected by any and all Christians, but yet, Christianity is functioning as if the issue is of no import; no one is saying anything. Strange, for if you would ask what God’s primary will for us is, the answer would be: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1Thess. 4:3).

The two diverse views are as follows: One view says that the battleground is in the “heart,” and the other view says that the battleground is in the “flesh.” I will explain (for lack of a better term) the “heart model” first. But before I do, let me say that I intend to keep my discussion of this very “big picture.” I am also going to mention what I think is the real crux of the issue. Over the years in the field of psychology, the raging debate has been between depth Psychology and behaviorism. One says that a working theory of change must come from understanding the inner man (depth psychology), verses the latter that emphasizes theories of change developed through study of behavior. Simply put: what, verses why.

In all honesty, I believe the present-day debate between the heart model and flesh model is the result of that same debate being dragged into the Christian realm. You can actually drive a historic stake right were this began to happen. Around 1980, Dr. Larry Crabb published a book entitled “Inside Out,” in which he bemoaned his belief that psychologist had an “inside” theory of change but Christianity didn’t. Interestingly, he offered no theory per se, but the goal of the book was to confront the church about only focusing on outward behavior without any regard to change from the “inside out.” In the book, he pretty much stated that Freudian depth psychology was better than nothing, and called on the church to develop a “biblical” model of inside change.

I believe that the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) answered that exact call. Specifically, David Powlison answered the call with the conception of his “Dynamics of Biblical Change”; the  theological program at Westminster seminary (CCEF is the counseling wing thereof) that forms the basis of their counseling. In the early 1980’s, it was no accident that Dr. Crabb had a close working relationship with CCEF, but there was a problem: Crabb was too open (truthful) about what he, and many others, thought about the issue at hand; namely, that Christians needed to strongly consider Freudian theories in order to at least jump-start a working theory of inside change, stating that Freud had already done most of the “heavy lifting” in this area. Though he had vast agreement among his peers, they felt that he was spewing out things that most Christians were “not ready for.” Therefore, CCEF threw him under the bus, and continues to run him over with it till this day.

That’s the history, and it’s a short one. Heart theology, as we know it today, had its beginning in the late 70’s to early 80’s. It states that “real change” must start at the “heart level,” since that is the source of sin (Matthew 15:18, 19). Specifically, the mantra of heart theology is “real and lasting” change. This theology  has been roughly 26 years in the making, with the finished product being articulated by two former students of David Powlison in the book, “How People Change.”

The theory further states that the key to change at the heart level is the understanding of misguided, or disoriented desires ( James 4:1). The heart is the battleground; desires are either rightly placed or misguided. This is called the “reorienting of the heart,” or reorientation of desires. According to the theory, desires are neither bad or good, they are neutral, but need to be properly placed. From this, you can rightly surmise that heart theologians believe that desire drives everything, and is the key to change. Whenever we sin, a wrongly placed desire is the source. The theory states that we can discover how the desire is misplaced, and reorient it towards Christ instead through, among other things, “deep repentance.” But here, if I attempt to further explain, this attempted short essay will quickly become a book. Really, I believe Paul Tripp does an excellent job of articulating heart theology in “How People Change,” though I believe the theory is a load of psycho-babble crap.

But before I move on to the flesh model, it must be noted that heart theology has a strong theological thrust in regard to the Law (all of God’s word), and its role in the sanctification process. Like the inside – outside debate in regard to distinguishing the heart model from the flesh model, there is also a major difference between the two in regard to the role of the Law in the sanctification process. The Law, and its role in the sanctification process is really the grand crux of the issue in my estimation. All roads to this argument lead back to the role of the Law in sanctification, period. If you really want to understand this issue, follow the money; in this case, the role of the Law in each. In heart theology, the following of the Law is a result of change at the heart level; the Law really plays no role at all, but is a mere “picture” or demonstration of change that has taken place at the heart level. I believe heart theology is a means to an end; specifically, the elimination of our participation in any kind of Law-keeping. An inside model, or theory of change, makes this theoretically possible (to eliminate the Law in the sanctification process). This can’t be emphasized enough in order to prevent confusion: the role of the Law, and location; heart? Or flesh?

This brings me to the flesh model. The flesh model teaches that the battle ground is in the flesh, or as some state it: “our mortal nature.” The flesh model argues that sin’s enslaving power is broken at salvation, but we still struggle with a remnant of sin that resides in our mortality. The battle is between our regenerate heart ( “the law of my mind,” Romans 7:23.“Heart” is most often an idiom for the “mind” in the Law [Scriptures]), and the sin in my “members” (again, Romans 7:23). Also, the flesh model would teach that desires are not neutral and have their own source. Good desires come from our regenerate heart (“the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”), but evil desires come from the “flesh” (“walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust [desire] ‘of the flesh’”). Therefore, the flesh model would also teach that alignment with “ [living by] every word that come from the mouth of God” is “walking” in the Spirit, or according to the Spirit’s will, as expressed in the Scriptures; therefore, the Law is not merely a picture of heart change, but a tool utilized by us in the sanctification process to overcome the flesh. In fact, The apostle Paul seems to equate abstinence with the very definition of sanctification in 1Thess. 4:3-5 ; “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;”

Seems pretty straight forward. Furthermore, in the very historical conception of heart theology, the admirable (for his transparency) Larry Crabb assumed that depth psychology has helped more people than behavioristic psychology. This is far from the truth and is well documented. Why not, at least, a biblical model of change based on the psychology that has clearly helped more people? In my opinion: because such a concept cannot eliminate the Law from the sanctification process because it focuses on changing behavior. Also, Paul Tripp concedes in “How People Change” that heart theology will have a failure rate; who then is the judge in regard to which model works better? Has someone done a survey?

Lastly, where is all of the discussion in regard to this issue? Do leaders really care about what the true biblical prescription is for “God’s will,” or is it just good conversation while eating lunch with the good ol’ boys at Applebees? Sometimes I wonder. Really, more than sometimes.


Dr. Jay’s Hopeful Post and the Evil Twins

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 22, 2010

On the Institute For Nouthetic Studies blog, the comment option is turned off, so I will have to make my own here. Actually, of all people, I thought about foregoing any reaction to this very unique, if not historic, post (“Contemplation?” second from top) Why? I ain’t tellin’, but I will discuss why I think it is at least unique, if not historic. But, I am going to exercise caution here because Adams does not name any specific doctrine, and it would also seem that it is the policy of INS not to name names (kinda reminds you of my blog, doesn’t it?) so, I want to be careful not to attach any references of my own not intended by the (run-on sentence ahead) father of having a clue of how to help people with the God breathed word and the terminator of the rumor that Sigmund Freud is smarter than God and often the victim of pretentious snot-nosed theologians who are jealous of what God has done through him and who often self-aggrandize themselves at his expense. Ooops, I let that slip, and it also reveals why I almost passed on this post; I have very strong opinions concerning the matter at hand. My conclusion will give you some idea as to why.

As one blogger put it, the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification is a “pet” of mine. Amen brother, and if you don’t like it, be sure to report me to the Humane Society because I mercilessly beat that doggy every day, because it is worthy of the hellish pit that it comes from. However, the subject of the Adams post is synonymous with the primary attribute of Gospel Sanctification; Adams did not say (in the post) that he is talking about Gospel Sanctification, but what he did say is the following: “The problem with the teaching is that it tends to confuse justification with sanctification.” That’s exactly what Gospel Sanctification does (as the title implies). So apparently, if Adams isn’t talking about the same doctrine, there could be  at least one set of doctrinal evil twins running about. Now, this is what’s unique about his post, if not historic: nobody, as far as leaders who have national recognition; have ever discussed, or are talking about, these evil twins. The Adams post is a first. This is amazing because the one twin that I know was born around 1980, at Westminster hospital. Several leaders like John MacArthur, RC Sproul, and others, hang-out at conferences with those who propagate the evil twin I know, but they never talk about the evil twins. Therefore, it has been suggested to me by others that the evil twin I know isn’t really evil. But I don’t know about that, because here is what Dr. Jay said about the evil twin he has seen: “Will this seemingly Romish quietistic mysticism—or, at least, what borders on it help one to grow?” [the question is rhetorical]. Hmmm, maybe the problem is what Dr. Jay also said about the twin he has seen: “….it is ill-defined, and hard for those who don’t believe it to express it in words.” Yep, just like the twin I know; and therefore, I offer my excuses for  Sproul and MacArthur.

Before I go on, let me use this paragraph to further bolster my theory that there are two doctrinal evil twins running about. The following attributes described by Adams are also exactly like the doctrine I have come to know, and therefore, I assume they are twins:

1. “The problem with the teaching is that it tends to confuse justification with sanctification.” Apparently, the twin I know is a little more forceful. Her minions make every effort to synthesize the two, often using Scripture that pertains to justification to make sanctification points.

2. ….”they [the several verses he cites in his post] all emphasize that one must put forth effort in order to grow more like Christ….it [the evil twin he has seen] seems to set forth the opposite.” Hmmm, I must admit, this is a little different from the one I know, which doesn’t “seem” to say that, but says in no uncertain terms that our efforts in the sanctification process is a false gospel. Could my theory be wrong?

3. “While properly emphasizing the cross of Christ as central to our Christian faith, it goes on in one way or another to suggest that contemplation of what Jesus did on the cross is the way to spiritual growth.” Oh yes, this is exactly like the one I know. Her minions say: “the same gospel that saved us, also sanctifies us”; “behold [contemplate] as a way of becoming”; “we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day”; “never, never [stated 21 more times] teach that we are saved by the gospel and then move-on to something else”; “there is a gospel application to every event of life, that’s why the Bible is so big”; [no, I swear, I didn’t make that one up] “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.”

4. “….this method of sanctification seems to be a substitute for effort extended in the process of growth.” Right. The one I know teaches that “we can no more obey the law than we can overcome the law of gravity.” Likewise, not only does it teach that we don’t exercise effort in the sanctification process, it teaches that Christ obeys for us; they call it the “imputed active obedience of Christ.”

Here is a good summary quote from a minion of the evil twin that I have seen:

“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.”

Wow, so if you don’t believe the doctrine of the evil twins, “you loose both” [justification and sanctification]. Soooo, does Mac and RC still believe in synergistic sanctification? They aren’t hanging out with people who think they are lost are they? Hey, I’m just asking!

I promised to tell why this issue is so dear to me. In, or about 1988, I barley got myself to a counseling appointment located in Springboro, Ohio. I had one foot in a mental institution and one foot on a banana peel. I would have made a great poster child for Gospel Sanctification and Christian Hedonism. Though I was a hard worker (career wise), I was spiritually lazy except for studying “the gospel”; and my own joy in the Lord was certainly the goal beyond all else. I arrived at the counseling appointment perplexed as to why my “total dependence” on God found me in such a state. The counselor, In a manner of speaking, was a disciple of Jay Adams. Much to my dismay, he emphasized obedience to the weightier matters of God’s word in regard to life and godliness. I had been to seminary, and was well-schooled in the Scriptures (supposedly), but in fact, was clueless.

But I had a new hope. Instead of only crying out to God on my knees for hours, and from the deepest parts of my soul, I learned that no matter how bad I felt, I could do something; and it would actually please the God of our universe sitting upon his thrown. This seemed to be an awesome privilege to me. “The War Within,” a book by Adams, also supplied a profound help during this time. Furthermore, though it was difficult, I continued to work, and listened to John MacArthur tapes while doing so. The series I was listening to was from the book of Daniel. MacArthur, in the series, strongly emphasized the spiritual character of Daniel as revealed by the Holy Spirit. I remember driving home, encouraged from the tapes, saying to myself: “look at me, look at me, I don’t want to be like this! I want to be like Daniel!” Again, I thank my God that I was not listening to some spiritual guru who thinks that every verse in the Bible  is about the good news (however glorious), relegating the awesome example of Daniel to “pictures of the gospel.”  Additionally, I thank God that I did not instead, end-up in the hands of someone who would have merely shown me a better way to do what I was already doing.

It is time for leaders with national recognition to get a spine, a bag of sand, and a stick. They need to empty the bag of sand between them and others, and draw a line in that sand, thus distinguishing between themselves, and the latter-day antinomians that Paul the apostle said would come.

Adams said the following in the same post regarding the doctrine in question: “People are confused by it, and have begun to ask questions” In regard to people starting to ask questions; I hope this is certainly the case, but the confusion of God’s people still continues to reap the indifference of leaders with national recognition, while applauding those who write books that would be the envy of Timothy Leary.

It is my prayer that we will all hear these words from our Savior: “Well done faithful servant.” But for the love of everything on Earth; it’s a verb phrase and we are the subject. Have we completely lost our minds?


David Powlison’s Eisegesis Kingdom

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on July 15, 2010

“Indeed,  David  Powlison believes  that the church  ‘forgets things’ and  apparently, the most recent thing it forgot about is the true gospel. But never fear, CCEF’s  ‘research and development’ team is hard at work  setting things  straight, until the next discovery that will be ‘tested’  in a local church near you.”

“It’s just no big secret that Powlison believes that everything having breath upon the earth can contribute to  biblical understanding, even psychiatry.”

As a former rabid advocate of  biblical counseling, I now have grave  concerns about where it is going and what it produces. One particular red flag  caused me to start thinking in 1998, and I have been cautiously observing ever  since. What was the red flag?  While the church was barley absorbing the  earthquake caused by two men of diverse theology, Jay Adams and Dave  Hunt, then came the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF)  saying that both of them were wrong. Though Jay Adams was on the scene  making waves before Dave Hunt concerning so-called “Christian psychology” and his contention against it, Dave Hunt was really the one who broke  down the barriers, making a wide road for Jay Adams and his objective,  biblical alternative to the integration of Freudian depth psychology with the  pure milk of the word. But at the time,  I was thinking that when you already  have a reformation of sorts going on and someone comes along saying that  they have one also; “hey! not them, us,” something  just didn’t smell right.  As  I have observed the debate over the years and where it has all ended up, I hear Ozzy Osborne singing “Crazy Train” in the background.

In today’s American church culture, one sits in stupefied bewilderment as  you look at the plain sense of  Scripture in comparison to what the theological  rock stars of our age are teaching and propagating. How did this happen?  Simple, eisegesis verses exegesis;  and the capital city of the Eisegesis kingdom is CCEF,  and its reigning king is David Powlison.  As the most recognized  leader in the CCEF organization (the counseling wing of Westminster Seminary), he passionately proclaims the sufficiency and final authority of God’s  word in counseling,  but I have a few questions. My questions come from an  interview posted on the “Nine Marks” blog; comments by Powlison that are  indicative of his counseling philosophy and often repeated by him:,,PTID314526%7CCHID598016%7CCIID2448362,00.html

He is quoted as follows:

“The church forgets things.  The church rediscovers things. But when it  rediscovers something, it’s different because  it’s  always in a different sociocultural-historical moment, and  different  forces are at work.”

What church is he talking about? Christ said that He would build His church  and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. I assume that Powlison isn’t  speaking for the whole church and all of its history. However, the bigger  question is how Powlison thinks that truth is “rediscovered.”  But first, the  idea that the truth, once rediscovered is “different” because of the “sociocultural-historical moment,” should give one serious pause. What in the Ozzie Osborne does that mean?! The Apostle Peter addressed his primary concern  in regard to what Christians might forget.  As a matter of fact, because he knew  his departure was near, it was the one teaching that he was emphasizing that  he did not want them to forget. If they didn’t forget that teaching, it would  enable them to have a rich entry into the kingdom of heaven (2Peter 1:1-16).  A “rich” entry into the kingdom of heaven? Sounds pretty good to me! If one  is fearful of what the church may have forgotten, they should look where the  Bereans looked to hold Paul’s (the apostle) feet to the fire, the Scriptures.  Also, in regard to some concern over the “socio-cultural-historical moment,”  the Apostle Paul and the Hebrew writer both cited Old Testament Scripture without any additional references outside of Scripture to validate its New  Testament application, saying the very purpose of the prior writings (2-4 thousand years beforehand in some cases) were for that present-day teaching  (1Cor. 10:6, 10:11, Heb. 11:1-12:1).

But it is clear from many of his writings that Powlison believes the study  of general revelation is critical to a correct understanding of Scripture and its  application. By general revelation, I mean anything that  (according to Powlison) “God might have  shown other people.” Powlison’s concept of  “recycling” is well documented  and I am not going to expound on it here. Suffice to say that in the same  interview mentioned above, he said the following:

“Caring for the soul, which we try [try?] to do in biblical counseling, is not  new. Two of the great pioneers in church history would be Augustine and  Gregory the Great. Even secular people will credit Augustine’s Confessions  as pioneering the idea that there is an inner life  [ in essence, contemporary Depth Psychology verses Behavioristic  Psychology].  Augustine did an unsurpassed  job of tearing apart the various ways in which people’s desires become  disordered” [like Freud’s theory that people are primarily driven by desire. Powlisons speech is always saturated with psycho-therapeutic references].


“Gregory wrote the earliest textbook on pastoral care. He pioneered diverse  ways of dealing with a fearful person, a brash and impulsive person, an angry  person, an overly passive person. He broke out these different struggles and  sought to apply explicitly biblical, Christ-centered medicine—full of Christ,  full of grace, full of gospel, and full of the hard call of God’s Word to the  challenges of life.”

Besides not being impressed with Augustine for various reasons in addition  to his anti-Semitism and allegorical approach to Scripture, the only Gregory  the Great that I know of is the former Catholic Pope of A.D 540.  Again, I  would not be comfortable with gleaning “insight” from a Roman Catholic Pope for purposes of  biblical counsel. It’s just no big secret that Powlison  believes that everything having breath upon the earth can contribute to biblical understanding, even psychiatry. We see a hint of this in the same  article from Nine Marks:

“The modern psychologies present a tremendously stimulating, informative, and threatening challenge. These psychologies are stimulating because  they push us to ask questions that we may not have already considered.  They’re informational because they are very observant. They’re threatening  because they are a self-conscious alternative to the church and would love to  take over the care of souls. They’re willing to do our job for us, letting us be  a religious club that does good works while they deal with the deep stuff and  the long stuff.”

It is clear that Powlison believes psychology and many other disciplines of  non-spiritual discernment (notice how he concedes that they deal with the  “deep stuff” while we only partake in “good works”) are indispensable in a  full understanding of the Scriptures. If you doubt that, here is what he is  quoted as saying, again, in the same article:

“CCEF is also unique even within the wider biblical counseling movement  in two more ways. One is what I call “R&D”—a research and development  purpose. We don’t believe that saying “biblical counseling” means that we  have figured it all out. We are a work in progress. We have a core commitment  to push, to develop, to build, to tackle a new problem.”

Powlison then explains further what the strength of this “research and  development” is:

“CCEF has five full-time faculty members who share a wonderful synergy,  in part because you have people who all have a dual expertise—a primary  commitment to Bible and theology, coupled with some other expertise. Our  director, Dr. Tim Lane, was a pastor for years. He brings a sensitivity to how  counseling ministry links to the other aspects of church life. Dr. Mike Emlet  is an M.D. who had a family practice for years. He’s the scientist who brings  an awareness of mind-body issues like psychiatric diagnosis and medications.  Dr. Ed Welch has a PhD in neuro-psychology and a burning interest in the  nuances of actual counseling moments and how counseling actually happens.  Winston Smith stays very current with the psycho therapeutic world. He has  given his life to issues of marriage and family and group dynamics. My  graduate work (besides Bible and theology) was in the history of psychiatry,  history of science, and history of medicine. I am only just speaking of the  faculty and not speaking of various members of the much wider counseling  staff who have various interests. It’s a very rich environment with a common  commitment to biblical counseling.”

Powlison continually admits that CCEF endeavors to test every theory it  can find with Scripture, believing that there is an element of truth in all of it  that will lend more understanding to the Scriptures. While this should scare  the Ozzy Osborne out of every thinking Christian; instead, Christians are  immediately guzzling down everything that comes out of CCEF without any  hesitation whatsoever. When you think of the Apostle Paul himself being  deprived of such (carte blanche acceptance from the likes of the Bereans and  access to “R and D”), it baffles the mind. Furthermore, this approach (R&D)  is what developed the  gospel-driven life movement as we know it today.  Otherwise known as  gospel sanctification,  it has its own concept of the  gospel, its own hermeneutic, its own theory of change, and its own experience. It is the “Christo-centered” approach Powlison speaks of in the same  interview. Let there be no doubt about it, much of the present-day  gospel-driven (or “New Calvinism”)  theology is the brain child of the CCEF eisegesis soup factory  (through Powlison’s “Dynamics of Biblical Change”) and the brand is chock-full of everything that Popes and Sigmund Freud have to offer and deemed  biblical by CCEF “experts.”

So then, In classic CCEF form, and their scientific approach to biblical  truth, it should be no surprise that the book that articulates Powlison’s  Dynamics of Biblical Change, “How People Change,” by Paul Tripp, was   tested in a number of churches before it was published in 2006 via  a  pilot  program of  sorts (“How People Change”, [“How Christ Changes us by His  Grace”] Leader’s guide, pg. F.3. Copyright 2003; published in 2005). Pray tell, why would you need to test a studious work from the word of God? It is  either rightly divided or it isn’t, why would you need to test it?

Indeed, David Powlison believes that the church “forgets things,” and apparently, the most recent thing  it forgot about is the true gospel. But never fear,  CCEF’s “research and development” team is hard at work setting  things  straight, until the next discovery that will be “tested” in a local church near  you.

So are some results in? Yes, I think so. You ever heard of Neuro-linguistic  Programming? Many psychologists consider it to be the most powerful and  effective program for changing people available today. This alone, when  Powlison’s mindset is considered, makes it very improbable that CCEF has  not considered the possibility of some biblical truth to be found in NLP.  Information on NLP is easy to get, a Google search will quickly produce more  material than you could read in a year.

Advocates of NLP have noted the similarities and value of CCEF’s  teachings in regard to NLP, especially the writings of Paul David Tripp,
whose book “How People Change,” as I mentioned before, is based upon David Powlison’s  “Dynamics of Biblical Change.”  Tripp is sometimes quoted by Armand  Kruger, the director of South Africa’s Institute of Neuro-Semantics, because  of NLP concepts that can be found in “War of Words,” a book also written by  Tripp.  This shouldn’t be a surprise because NLP is the study of how words  and communication have the power to bring about change.  Likewise, the  importance of asking ourselves certain questions to evaluate the inner-man is  primarily a NLP concept,  and strongly emphasized as well in Paul Tripp’s  book, “How People Change” (Not to mention many more uncanny paralells).

David Field, a UK theologian and seminary professor who advocates the  integration of NLP with Reformed theology, and especially counseling, quotes  David Powlison extensively. He also confirmed his belief  in the similarities  of  both teachings (CCEF and NLP) in a personal correspondence between the  two of us. Why would this be a surprise?  In the above cited interview, Powlison openly admits that Ed Welch has a PhD in neuro-psychology. NLP  is a major component of neuro-psychology, this is practically common knowl-

edge.  Furthermore, in churches closely associated with CCEF, the NLP  concept of visualizing  possible future events and re-framing them (or in this  case, using the feelings invoked to reorient the desires of the heart),  can be  found in teaching series using Paul Tripp’s “War of Words.” An actual copy  of a study sheet (that advocates visualization) associated with one of these studies can  found here:

(Note how the homework  assignment directly violates Paul’s imperative to think on what Is true [Phil.
4:8] ).

In addition, during a face to face meeting with myself and elders of  a church  closely associated with CCEF, the elders would not deny that NLP was  integrated into their teachings or the teachings of CCEF, of which their  lessons were based on.  They would not even say that they were unaware of  any facts either way.  Let me be clear, they would not even say: “We don’t  know.” “We doubt it.” “no, that’s ridiculous,” or even, “your stupid,” though  I specifically asked them to tell me the latter.

What is in the CCEF soup? Hard telling, but the results are beginning to  show.  As I look out on the present reformed landscape, I have to believe the  infamous Jim Jones would weep with envy. Powlison routinely espouses  concepts that directly contradict the plain sense of Scripture, and nobody  blinks, but rather run to the vat with hoses equipped with motor-driven  suction. Why is it unreasonable to suggest that CCEF be held to the same  standard that Paul was? Furthermore, in the same cited interview, he boldly
proclaims that he wrote a whole book (“Speak Truth in Love”) based on  removing the definite article “the” from Ephesians 4:15. No English translation does that, indicating that the text speaks of Scriptural truth specifically,  not the “big” and “little” truth that Powlison speaks of to build a case for “all  truth is God’s truth” and problem-centered counseling.  This can also be seen  clearly in the context of the text, where just prior to the conjunction, Paul is  talking about false doctrine.

I close with a suggestion for a “research and development” wing within the  church. The apostles had one. You can find it in Acts 6:1-7. It entailed  appointing men to oversee the needs of the church so elders could prayerfully  search the Scriptures while holding each other accountable. I believe that  verse seven speaks to the results. To suggest that the apostles also perused all  the wisdom of that day to aid in the process of the “ministry of the word”  (verse 4), is ridiculous and silly. Peter himself, the rock of the church,  advocated no more than the “PURE” milk of the word (nothing mixed in, in  case you missed the point). Pastors who let CCEF indiscriminately pump  information into the minds of their people are asleep at the switch, and worse.

Again, the Bereans would not even give the Apostle Paul a pass and were  complimented by the Holy Spirit accordingly (Acts 17:11). Additionally, Paul  advocated no less for even himself (1Cor. 11:1); therefore, who in the Ozzy Ozzborn is David Powlison?



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 204 other followers

%d bloggers like this: