Stuff like this always causes me to have to stop everything I am doing and post. I didn’t know anything of William Birch or his blog before the breaking story this week that he fell into significant sin and has confessed. Apparently, even though I have never heard of him, he was fairly well known in the blogosphere and was a student at Southeastern Theological Seminary. In fact, the sinful act took place on campus, and we are not talking about getting caught smoking in the boy’s restroom.
Of course, Southeastern is stunned and is busily partaking in damage control. Am I here right now? Southeastern is all but totally in the tank for the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification which is the hallmark of, well, “aggressive Calvinism” or New Calvinism, depending from what perspective you are looking at it. Basically, the doctrine teaches that we are (this includes Christians) totally depraved, really don’t change, and either manifest a sin realm or spirit realm depending on how often we use the Scriptures to contemplate the gospel; ie, Gospel Contemplationism. Supposedly, when we contemplate the works of Christ in the Scriptures, his righteousness is imputed to us in the same way it was when we were saved. In salvation, it is a general imputation; as Christians, specific things are imputed to us in the same way when we see them in the Scriptures. Hence, sanctification is still an imputation of righteousness in the same way justification was.
Therefore, the doctrine denies an orthodox view of the new birth, claims that Christians are totally depraved, and also claims that we do not really change, we only manifest one realm/sphere or the other at any given time. A post that is an example of how they see progressive imputation through use of the Scriptures can be observed here: http://wp.me/pmd7S-1lh . An example of how they view the fact that we do not really change as Christians can be read here: http://goo.gl/T1pMg , but the money quote by New Calvinist Terry Rayburn follows:
There are several problems with that essentially Legalistic view of Sanctification, as reflected in the following observations:
1) Our flesh cannot get better. In Romans 7:18 Paul wrote, “For I know that NOTHING good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…” Your flesh cannot be improved. Flesh is flesh, and spirit is spirit.
2) Our new nature, on the other hand cannot get better, because it has already been made new and perfect through regeneration. We have been given a “new heart” (new nature, or new spirit), and not a defective one, which would be absurd. This new spirit has been made “one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17), such that when we “walk according to the Spirit” (i.e., the Holy Spirit), we also walk according to our own new spirit.
3) Those who deal with Sanctification by zeroing in on so-called “Progressive” Sanctification as the main point of Sanctification, are at best in Kindergarten.
So, Southeastern will come forth in dismay and act completely incredulous that this has happened. Meanwhile, Southeastern’s conference schedule is saturated with propagators of this doctrine, including Tullian Tchividjian. On the one hand, it’s a tragedy. On the other hand, they invite leaders to speak to the students who teach that we are totally depraved and can’t change! Can teaching seminary students such things lead to said behavior? Well, forgive me for thinking so! How ironic that Tchividjian has already spoken there this year, and is scheduled to return in the fall. Consider this commentary on a post he wrote on the total depravity of the saints http://goo.gl/Jiu4I , and the following tweets by Tchividjian:
I guess I am the only one scratching my head on all of this, but I also wonder if Southeastern is going to get a “I told you so” from New Calvinist Michael Horton who often warns Christians about trying to “be the gospel” rather than “preaching the gospel.” Like all New Calvinists, Horton teaches that the gospel is “news to be proclaimed” not a list of “do’s and don’ts.” They plainly teach that “law and gospel” are separate. This concept can be found in Horton’s book, “Christless Christianity” on pages 117-119, and also on pages 53-54 of “Family Shepherds” written by Southeastern graduate Voddie Baucham. If the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, and the law and gospel are separate; well, you do the math (the law is separated from sanctification). Supposedly, a deeper understanding of the gospel that saved us must always precede obedience which then is a “mere natural flow” without effort because we are really manifesting a spiritual realm that was imputed to us at salvation.
And the present-day New Calvinist movement got this doctrine from Seventh-Day Adventist Robert Brinsmead, who combined Reformed theology with Platonism to come up with the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. Instead of reality or truth being completely outside of man (Plato), in New Calvinism, the gospel must remain completely outside of us, and nothing of grace may be infused within us. Hence, consider the following quotations by the who’s who of New Calvinism in our day:
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
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)
Of course, the only practical application of Platonism is Gnosticism, and incredibly, some of the most popular New Calvinists of our day have Gnostic themes for their ministries as illustrated by the following two screen shots that clearly illustrate Gnostic dualism.
Then if one googles “Plato Two Worlds,” you get:
And the similarities between the New Calvinist concept of separating law and gospel is eerily similar to those of the 2nd century Gnostic heretic Marcion. In regard to the gospel being completely outside of us like knowledge of reality (Plato), many New Calvinists now teach that the gospel cannot be fully known: http://5ptsalt.com/2012/02/23/grasping-the-gospel/
Lastly, I heard on the news that this brother that fell is going to enter counseling at Southeastern! Right, that’s all this brother now needs—to be taught that he is totally depraved, that he can’t change, and that the primary cure for his problem is a deeper understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection. After all, as Southeastern hero Paul David Tripp often states: applying biblical instruction to this problem would not be seeing the problem in its “gospel context,” and instruction also denies Christ’s saving work on the cross by replacing Christ’s personhood with “a cognitive concept applied to a new formula for life.”
The brother has it bad right now. Counseling at Southeastern will finish the job. I am reading a lot on the blogosphere about all the friends this guy has. Ha! We will see.