Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Skeleton Reformation: Parts One and Two

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 13, 2010

“The skeleton is now the new colors of the Christian clan”

Life can be really interesting. Some people I know are infatuated with all the nuances of nature that they discover; for example, a type of butterfly they had never seen before and so forth. Me? I just love to watch all of the new “discoveries” found by propagators of the antinomian doctrine known as the *gospel driven life* or *gospel sanctification.* Gospel sanctification is a tenet of New Covenant Theology, and can best be described as plenary monergism in every aspect of salvation, whether justification or sanctification.

As with most false doctrines, the advocates are primarily focused on the novelty of it. So when the novelty wears off, some new twist , or a “deeper” understanding must be brought forth to recharge the faithful as they wait with bated breath at the doors of the Church Of The Potted Plant. There is nothing new in regard to this. J.C. Ryle contended against a very similar doctrine in the 19th century and had this to say accordingly:

“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.”

While I am still looking for new and exciting trends to come out of this movement like the anticipation of daily baptisms for believers (since we are saved by the gospel everyday), one has come forth that I never saw coming: the depiction of Christians as skeletons. Man! How could I not see that coming? It is a perfect picture of their theology; Christians are dead and can do nothing. From blog handles to Facebook status pictures, the GS faithful are proudly presenting themselves as empty skeletons, humbly praying, unlike those arrogant, hateful skeletons we often see in Hollywood movies. In Micheal Horton’s book “Christless Christianity (pg 189),” he presents Sunday worship as a valley of dry bones event; a reference from Ezekiel, chapter 37:

“ 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.”

So in other words, Sunday worship, like the rest of the Christians life, is a passive event in which dry bones are brought to life on a continual bases. No doubt; I would think this would be essential for believing skeletons. Christians are therefore just a valley of dry bones and unable to do anything but wait for God to give us life on a continual bases. And even if he does, we are only then able to get on our skeleton knees and pray for more life. The skeleton is now the new colors of the Christian clan. Hopefully, the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang will not sue for copyright infringement.

But there is only one thing missing. They forget to put their favorite Bible verse (slogan) over the praying skeleton, Galatians 2:20;

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

It would be perfect (even though the context of this passage is clearly a contention against  justification by works): a black leather jacket with the praying skeleton, and an arching, fancy font of Galatians 2:20 over the praying skeleton. Then you could have a sub-title / slogan underneath like “Ride to Live. Live to Ride”; except we would say, “Live to Do Nothing. Do Nothing to Live.” Would that seem offensive? Why? Christians are more and more like motorcycle gangs these days; nether care very much for the Law of God.

Part Two: “Yes my friends, a skeleton reformation is at hand!”

Just when I thought I had heard it all, a Facebook friend sent me a link to a gospel-driven blog. When I read the link, I could only sit and shake my head in disbelief. But before I get to that, let me backup and explain what “gospel driven” is.  It is also known as gospel sanctification, gospel-driven sanctification, gospel-centered (add just about everything; parenting, marriage, counseling, etc., etc.,). In the following, I will refer to it as GS.

It is a doctrine that eliminates key distinctions between justification and sanctification,  leading to an unbiblical view of sanctification;  namely, an overly passive form of sanctification. Basically, it teaches that “the same gospel that saved us, also sanctifies us.” So, think with me for a moment: indicative in the gospel message is the fact that we cannot do anything to be saved; likewise, if we are sanctified by the gospel as well, neither can we do anything to be sanctified.

So also, before we were saved, we were dead, and according to proponents of GS, you still are. They interpret Paul’s (the apostle) statement in regard to being “dead to the Law” as an inability on our part to keep the Law, even though we are born again. As Paul Tripp said concerning believers in How People Change, “when you are dead, you can’t do anything.” Likewise, John Piper quotes  Romans 6:17 to make the same point:

“Yes, it becomes increasingly evident that the experience of joy in God is beyond what the sinful heart can do. It goes against our nature. We [Christians] are [present tense] enslaved to pleasure in other things (Romans 6:17 [a justification verse that is clearly in the past tense] ).”

You then will ask: “If we can’t obey, who then obeys?” Answer: the Christ in us. We are dead, Christ is the only thing in us living, so he is the one obeying, not us. Their primary proof text for this is Galatians 2:20;

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

You then may continue the dialog with the following question: “Well then, how do we know when it is Christ obeying, or us trying to obey without Christ?” Answer: whenever you obey without hesitation, and full of joy, that’s when it is Christ obeying for you. It’s called Christian hedonism.

Let’s pretend you continue to ask questions: “Can’t we do anything in regard to obedience?” Answer: Yes, two things, and two things only; using the Bible as a gospel narrative only, and “deep repentance.” I am not going to delve into deep repentance here, but suffice to say for now, that in my opinion, it is a mystical concept that supposedly identifies idols of the heart in detailed fashion. It falls under the auspices of  heart theology, a brainchild of David Powlison hatched in early 1980 via his “Dynamics of Biblical Change” program at Westminster Seminary. In regard to the gospel narrative (the Bible), we are changed from “glory to glory” by  “gazing on the gospel narrative (the Bible),” or as John Piper says: “beholding as a way of becoming.” Their text for this is 2Corinthians 3:18;
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord [the gospel narrative], are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

I know, I know, this passage doesn’t say “the gospel narrative,” it says, “the Lord,” but John Piper’s answer to that would be: “God is the Gospel.” The point here being, that if we use the Bible as a gospel narrative only, we are able to “yield” our bodies so that Christ can obey for us, and through us. Dana Stoddard calls this, “new obedience” (Journal of Biblical Counseling, Westminster Seminary).

But let’s keep pretending. You then ask: “Paul, how in the world can you see the whole Bible, and every verse, as being about the gospel?” Dude, that’s a great question. Answer: the redemptive historical hermeneutic, as articulated by Geerhardus Vos. This hermeneutic views the Scriptures through a gospel prism, and according to some, more than likely, is based on  tenets of Historicism, which includes its share of ancient pagan philosophy. It paves the way for the whole GS scheme to fit together as a whole [“ignoring textual ideas”; Ted Black, The Hermeneutics of Geerhardus Vos].

But it gets better. If you think the gospel saves you, and then you “move on to something else” (according to Tripp, this would be: practical application of the Scriptures, biblical thinking, imperatives, ect.), “you loose both.” In other words, if you don’t believe in a plenary monergistic sanctification, but instead believe in a synergistic sanctification ( a dependent colaboring with God in sanctification), you believe in a false gospel; and your lost; and you unregenerate; and you were never saved.  Did I leave anything out? Michael Horton states it this way:

“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, emphasis / underline by me [the actual title of the conference recently held at Grace Community Church; good grief!] ).

No wonder then, that John Piper also said: “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, say that we are saved by the gospel, and then we move on to something else” (emphasis / underline by me). Also, no wonder that Jerry Bridges often says: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.”

Furthermore, no wonder that some proponents of this neo-reformed movement like to represent themselves as mere skeletons, as some do in blog handles and logos, like the praying skeleton featured at the beginning of this post. Yes, it’s a miraculous work of God that a skeleton can even get on its knees, and then all we can do is pray; for as we know, skeletons are “dead and can do nothing.” And as you might imagine, these humble, loving skeletons wish to save the church, which is totally unaware that only skeletons are saved. Yes my friends, a skeleton reformation is at hand!  Besides that, these praying skeletons, in their endeavor to save the church, are continually finding new “truths” that the anti-skeleton, Papal minions are totally unaware of; for instance, did you know that you cannot be saved unless you have asked God to forgive you of your good works?

That’s right, the skeletons have once again raised the stakes as they plead for evangelicals everywhere to be saved. This now brings me to the link my friend sent me. It is a quote from Tim Keller’s book,  The Prodical God:
“What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things. It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord—lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness—that you are on the verge of becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything—how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, you sins, your virtue. It’s called the new birth because its so radical”

Bless their hearts, for being skeletons who cannot do anything, they sure are good at coming up with higher standards of righteousness for the purpose of salvation. You might also recall, Tim Keller is the one that Piper mentioned, along with Paul Tripp, to the (The) Christian Post, in regard to the type of repentance that he needed to focus on  during his  eight-month sabbatical. This should really scare us out of our skins, no pun intended. By the way, just in-case you think that this is a blog authored by hyper-Calvinist fanatics, think again. The excerpt was posted by the successor to James D. Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and visiting authors who post on this blog include D.A. Carson and Tim Challies.  Let me ask anybody reading this post in regard to themselves and any Christians that they know; how many of us asked God to forgive us of things we did as unbelievers that were honorable, or according to the Law that He writes on every heart (conscience)? Look, there is no room here to address that theological debate, but here is my point: even if I had, in a time past, “repented” and embraced their goofy doctrine, here I would be, once again, being re-saved as these arrogant mystics continually come up with new stuff every week.


2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Ed said, on August 23, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    I don’t know who you are, since you hide behind the anonymity of the net. You have misunderstood everything these men have taught and you are spewing garbage. No one should listen to you as you are not worth the time …


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on August 24, 2013 at 7:06 AM

      I hide behind the net? I’m an author; are you on meds? Nevertheless, thanks for the encouragement. Comments like this are a sure sign that I am on the right track.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s