Paul's Passing Thoughts

Strange Fire Conference: Exalting Human Suffering is a Reformed Family Tradition

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 17, 2013


“Here is what people don’t understand: the Reformation didn’t just herald a new gospel, it called for a whole new way in interpreting reality.”

“This is clear: He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers ,works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil. These are the people whom the apostle calls »enemies of the cross of Christ« (Phil. 3:18), for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross evil and the evil of a deed good. God can be found only in suffering and the cross, as has already been said Therefore the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are dethroned and the »old Adam«, who is especially edified by works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his »good works« unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s.”

~Martin Luther: Heidelberg Disputation; Theses 21

Martin Luther was a Platonist who despised human existence. The 95 Theses indeed launched the Reformation, but Luther’s Disputation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg six months later laid the foundation of Reformed doctrine. The Heidelberg Disputation argued for the interpretation of all reality through mediation on man’s evil, and God’s holiness. In other words, all reality is to be interpreted by a deeper and deeper understanding of our sin as set against God’s holiness. Like many Eastern epistemologies, anti-types give deeper meaning to each other; light defines darkness, and we wouldn’t know what light is without darkness etc.

This became known as Luther’s Theology of the Cross. Here is what people don’t understand: the Reformation didn’t just herald a new gospel, it called for a whole new way in interpreting reality. It called for reality to be interpreted through a new take on Eastern dualism; in essence, the serpent’s knowledge of good and evil. This is the foundation of the Calvin Institutes stated in 1.1.1.:

Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.

Remember that Calvin believed mankind was the essence of all evil (totally depraved), so the math on this is not difficult. In the very next sentence Calvin posits the Eastern concept of anti-types in this dualist construct:

But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

Incredibly, all of the Calvin Institutes are founded on, and flow from the first sentence. The second sentence is the very first building block in Calvin’s massive metaphysical application. The Calvin Institutes are NOT primarily about the gospel, it is a metaphysical treatise on reality. Again, people don’t get this. We ignorantly wallow in the election debate while functioning in a church world reinterpreted by murdering mystic despots. This must amuse Calvin and Luther, if indeed they are in a place where amusement can be found.

I have come to believe that the kingdom of darkness has not swayed from what first worked best. Adam and Eve only knew good. But Lucifer had brought evil into reality. It was true, as the serpent said, God was keeping half of reality from them; specifically, the knowledge of good and evil both. While the apple may be a befuddling concept, the goal of the serpent to deceive the first couple into disobedience is not. They sinned and therefore became privy to both good and evil. Every false religion following has made that construct their epistemology. Instead of using that wisdom for change in the here and now, it is a method for birthing the spiritual into a horizontal experience. Part and parcel with this dualism is the idea that matter is evil and only spirit is good. The here and now is a waste. Man is utterly incompetent, totally depraved, and lives in a world that is utterly evil. Suffering weakens his evil physical body, and better defines the spiritual which enables him to experience it. What he/she understands is imputed through manifestations that are experienced.

This is the crux of the Heidelberg disputation. It is a treatise that exalts suffering. And this fact can be seen today in John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. It is apparent that MacArthur’s primary beef with Charismatic theology is its assertion of promised blessings, “Your Best Life Now.” In the Heidelberg Disputation, that is the “glory story.” Joel Osteen et al are the antithesis of the “cross story” that embraces human suffering and rejoices in it. Luther considered any self-consideration at all to be subjective and the “glory story.” On the other hand, to the point that we empty ourselves, despise ourselves, and rejoice in the suffering that God pours out on us, we experience the “cross story” and its glory, not ours. In theses 17 of the Heidelberg Disputation, Luther argues that this incessant self-depravation is not cause for despair, but results in a “grace” experience known in contemporary Reformed theology as “vivification.”

Hence, the new poster child for the contemporary Reformed movement is the storied Joni Eareckson Tada. The purpose for inviting her to the conference is made evident via an article written by Tim Challies:

She went on to speak of the chronic pain that lasted for many years and the stage three cancer that followed it and expressed how she has learned to be grateful for the suffering because of the way it keeps her longing for Christ. The suffering that results from sin in the world, God now uses to get rid of sin. There is nothing sweeter than knowing the joy of the Lord Jesus in the midst of suffering and all the while she holds on to the hope and the confidence, that in heaven, the big deal won’t be getting a new body that works, but a glorified heart that no longer twists truth, becomes anxious, manipulates others, and all these other manifestations of sin.

The particular point the conference wants to make was also made by Tada according to Challies:

Even today she often has well-meaning charismatics who come up to her and pray for her healing. Though she never says no, she does always ask them to pray for specific things and then highlights character issues. Will you pray for my bad attitude? Will you pray for my grumbling? She means to show them that she is far more concerned with indwelling, remaining sin than chronic pain and legs that do not work.

Tada, who has embraced Gospel Sanctification at some point in the past, usually gets a pass from me because of the respect her life demands. She will continue to get that pass for the most part here, but let me point out what is missing in her testimony: the goodness within. Is that true or not? Is that biblical or not? Christians have remaining sin, but is that epistemology, or a fact that calls us to put off that remnant of the old self and put on the new goodness within? Is God’s “seed” in us or not? What’s with everything being about the sin within and not the goodness within born of the new birth? Is Tada’s storied life a free pass for presenting this imbalanced view of reality/sanctifcation?

Also missing is conversation regarding the technology that has vastly improved her quality of life and reduced the degree of suffering she has experienced. Is God also not responsible for that? Why would he want to decrease suffering? Furthermore, the Reformers despised the idea of competent reasoning that led to the technologies that greatly improve quality of life. If not for the Enlightenment Era, Europe would be no different than Eastern and Middle Eastern third world countries that are products of the selfsame Platonist ideology.

Charismania? MacArthur et al are merely the other extreme. Like Calvin and company, they do not want to partake in the rigors of a many faceted sanctification. Everything is either the glory story or the cross story. This enables them to push the easy button on everything—especially “biblical counseling.” They do not want to invest in this life because they are not in control of the results. They posit the idea that trusting God is to check out of this life altogether and deem it worthless.

Not so. Trusting God is to never become weary in well doing. And to believe that we are responsible for the sum and substance of our own life. A responsibility for the life that bears our name, the name that God gave it. The Bible never states that Christ will stand in our stead at any judgment. We will be standing there ourselves….

and Christ’s response to those who only return what was originally given because of fearing works is well stated.


11 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on October 17, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. lydiasellerofpurple said, on October 17, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    “Why would he want to decrease suffering? Furthermore, the Reformers despised the idea of competent reasoning that led to the technologies that greatly improve quality of life. If not for the Enlightenment Era, Europe would be no different than Eastern and Middle Eastern third world countries that are products of the selfsame Platonist ideology.”

    I can remember the big aha! moment when I was studying church/political/enlightenment history and thinking….oh my word….the instiututaional church was the biggest inhibitor of making life not only better for folks but saving lives. My guess is that is not for the insitutional church throughout history more lives would have been spared from horrible suffering as more would have been free to search for cures, etc.

    Another example of this that affected half of the population was the idea that women had to suffer in childbirth. (Paul washer was preaching this not long ago that was the purpose to remind her of her sin). Women and even some men were punished, burned or imprisoned for trying to help women alleviate the horrible pain of childbirth.

    It all goes back to devaluing the individual.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM


      Do you have citations for these 2 that i can add to my research files?

      “(Paul washer was preaching this not long ago that was the purpose to remind her of her sin)”

      “Women and even some men were punished, burned or imprisoned for trying to help women alleviate the horrible pain of childbirth.”


  3. Argo said, on October 18, 2013 at 8:07 AM


    This is what I have been trying to say for well over a year now. The concept of good and evil introduced to man by satan was essentially Platonism. It put the VALUE (truth and morality) outside of man’s life/SELF (the physical body/conceptualized self dichotomy). Thus, establishing absolute truth as something which does not include man, by definition. Man can no longer LIVE in service to an EXTERNAL law which is the new absolute. Man can only be destroyed in order to be “reconciled” to that which can only be absolutely true when man’s existence is no longer a limitation to its absolute-ness. Thus, Satan indeed ushered in DEATH by introducing a philosophy of dualism–type/anti-type-which man has been ceding ever since.

    But it wasn’t that man knew “good” without evil. There was no “good” in the dualistic sense. There was LIFE. Life was “good”, and good was ABSOLUTE…so good was nothing more than man’s root existence (the very thing Calvinism calls evil, which is why they contradict God and call Him a liar). Satan didn’t provide the other half of the value coin. There WAS NO other half. Satan introduced the NEW absolute of DEATH (and notice how in Calvinism death is the panacea for all sin…life brings sin and evil, death purifies; this is so satanic), under the guise of the “wisdom” of the “equality” of the values of good and evil.

    For all his power, satan is a merely a rank (and very deft) liar and sought to supplant the absolute value of life which God created with a new absolute value of death.

    But Christ nullifies his wickedness. We worship the God of the living, not the God of the dead.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 18, 2013 at 8:35 AM


      No doubt, I have come to believe that the lie in the garden is the foundation of every false religion in the world. Obviously, the very first statement in the Calvin Institutes is practically a word for word repetition of that lie, followed by the duelist concept of knowledge by antithesis.


  4. anon said, on October 18, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    This fits with what I used to call the “suffering doctrine”, which is a false doctrine of course. They manufacture suffering and inflict it upon themselves just like their catholic fathers who beat themselves in the forest and wore clothes made of intentionally rough material. Some sort of masochistic cult.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 18, 2013 at 8:41 AM


      Right, weakening the flesh gives greater insight into the spirit.


  5. Argo said, on October 18, 2013 at 10:35 AM


    I will say that your systematic approach to the subject, it’s evolution and cohesion, has been and is most impressive. I can get the ideas right, but your ability to organize them in a cohesive, clear linear argument where one idea consistently and reasonably confirms the next is what will present the most effective challenge to the evil which permeates Christian institutional thinking. Well done!

    John was absolutely right about your work…and as usual, his wisdom is practically prophetic.


  6. Argo said, on October 18, 2013 at 11:55 AM


    I wasn’t saying you are organizing MY ideas. I’m meant that I can think things through and discover TRUTH; but that you can also do this BUT with the added benefit of the skills to organize them in a useable, practical, an progressive/rationale/systematic argument.


  7. lydiasellerofpurple said, on October 18, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Paul, I heard Washer mention that in a sermon probably about 8 years ago. Not sure I could find it but if I come across it, I will send it to you. It was something he mentioned in passing about suffering. I wondered if women thought they were in sin for that epidural they begged for. Then I remembered some of those pious women I have met who did it naturally. Better them than me. I started wondering if Washer ever had kidney stones? It might cure him of such silly notions about pain. :o)

    And about the Puritans, I also read that in some research I was doing which is so massive I can hardly remember what I read. But again, as I come across this stuff, I will send it to you.


  8. trust4himonly said, on October 18, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Lydia, I also heard the same thing with Paul Washer. whoo….shudder….


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