Paul's Passing Thoughts

Rick Phillips and Reformation 21 on the Law/Gospel Controversy: Liars? Or Just Confused?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 30, 2014

ppt-jpeg4Neither. After seven years of researching Neo-Calvinism and its historical roots, the proponents are what we call noble liars. They think they are gifted, educated, and preordained to understand things that the common parishioner is unable to understand, so they lie about “truth” that the pathetic totally depraved zombie sheep are not able to handle. It boils down to what Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruz in A Few Good Men: “Truth! You can’t handle the truth!”

And that’s the problem with double T (Tullian Tchividjian); he plainly teaches the practical implications of good ole’ fashioned Geneva style Calvinism. TT has his own niche and following in a unique culture and doesn’t need the massive cash flow that feeds the Neo-Calvinist subculture. Really, it’s a massive institutional network that is building a church/state wannabe subculture within American culture. Its mega churches, or “campus” networks are anywhere from a couple to twenty campuses in a given geography. These are mini communities within the communities at large, and most have their own police departments posing as in-house “security.” These departments, often manned by former law enforcement professionals, are used to intimidate people who ask questions. In my own personal experience, a police detective church member of a community police department was called on to intimidate me by phone.


At any rate, T4G, TGC, or the GRN and their state affiliates (you heard that right; the sheer massiveness of this network would indeed be an interesting study) can’t afford to have the likes of TT throwing around verbiage that raises red flags and makes the herd pause in their grazing. He must be neutralized.

So,  Rick Phillips and the Gospel Reformation Network have published yet another Reformed catechism to calm the herd and keep‘em grazing. I will address each point by point.

Gospel Reformation Network Affirmations and Denials

Article I – Legalism is a Real Problem

•We affirm that legalism is a dangerous problem that the church must always address.

•We deny that legalism is the primary enemy of the gospel to the exclusion of spiritual bondage, moral rebellion and a love for sin.

Comment: There is no such thing as legalism in the Bible. The word does not appear anywhere in Scripture. Notice what is missing in the above list of concerns, what the Bible emphasizes from front to cover: antinomianism. It’s absent because when it all boils down to a proper understanding of law/gospel—that’s what Calvinism is.

Article II – The Gospel and Total Depravity

•We affirm that unregenerate man, being totally depraved, is unable to obey or please God unto salvation.

•We deny that the believer, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, remains unable to obey and please God, by grace and in Christ.

Comment: This is a classic and longstanding Calvinist noble lie. Calvinism holds to the total depravity of the saints and they know it. I have documented this extensively in two books and on my blog. Suffice to say that Article II is prefaced with… “by grace and in Christ.” “by ‘grace’” is a replacement word for “justification.” “In Christ” is a replacement for the “vital union” which enables the realm manifestation of Christ’s obedience “through faith [ALONE].” This is all doublespeak; they do not believe anything different from what TT does.

Article III – The Gospel Includes Sanctification

•We affirm that the gospel provides salvation for the whole man, including man’s need for both imputed and imparted righteousness.

•We deny that the gospel provides freedom from the guilt of sin in justification without deliverance from the power of sin in regeneration and liberation from the practice of sin in sanctification.

Comment: They all speak of the Christian life being “the subjective power of the objective gospel.” Obedience is a manifestation of Christ’s righteousness that we EXPERIENCE only—it is done to us and not by us. Luther stated it this way:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him (Heidelberg Disputation Thesis 24).

As TJ Jakes has said concerning the Trinity: he has no problem believing in three distinct persons as long as you are talking about “manifestations,” but, “I am not crazy about the word person.”

Article IV – Union with Christ and Sanctification

•We affirm that both justification and sanctification are distinct, necessary, inseparable and simultaneous graces of union with Christ though faith.

•We deny that sanctification flows directly from justification, or that the transformative elements of salvation are mere consequences of the forensic elements.

Comment: Again, this is a longstanding Reformed metaphysical two-step. Justification and sanctification are “distinct” but “inseparable.” They deny that the “transformative” elements are exclusively of the static or “forensic” reality of justification. It’s like saying that the life of a cat doesn’t come from its fur only, but it’s still a cat. Also notice that the two are “simultaneous graces.” This is Calvin’s “double grace” in which he taught that sanctification is a mere amplification of justification; ie, everyday progressive justification.

Also, all of these transformative manifestations happen within the “vital union” which is ONLY maintained by faith alone. In other words, while saying they deny that works flow from forensic justification alone, they are saying that works flow from the vital union which is only maintained through faith alone in forensic justification. It’s deliberate deception.

Article V – Gratitude and Motivation

•We affirm that gratitude for justification is a powerful motivation for growth in holiness.

•We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic.

Comment: They affirm everything else, but remember, everything else is experienced only through the vital union which is maintained by faith alone in sanctification. This is the clear teachings of New Calvinism’s elder statesman, John Piper.

Article VI-Good Works not Merit

•We affirm that believers are not under the Law as a covenant of works, where the believer is required to merit his or her own righteousness before God.

•We deny that Christ has freed the Christian from the moral Law as the standard of Christian living.

Comment: Uh, what Calvinists believe is that we are still under the law of sin and death, their standard of righteousness, and Jesus’ obedience will be imputed to it in order to maintain our salvation if we live by faith alone in the vital union. When have you ever heard any of these guys say that we directly uphold the law of the Spirit of life through learning and obedience? Right, that’s what I thought.

Article VII – Adoption and Sanctification

•We affirm that through the finished work of Christ believers are adopted by God as sons and now relate to God as their loving heavenly Father.

•We deny that our adoption precludes God’s fatherly displeasure when His children rebel, or that God’s Fatherly love prevents Him from disciplining Christians who stray from the path of righteousness.

Comment: The justifying work of Christ is finished, but they believe that the “finished work” must be perpetually reapplied to the Chrsitian life by faith alone in order to maintain our salvation (Calvin Institutes 3.14.10-11).

Article VIII – Effort and Sanctification

•We affirm that God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered effort to put off sin and put on righteousness is necessary for Christian growth in grace.

•We deny that all practical effort in sanctification is moralistic, legalistic or that the only effort required for growth is that Christians remember, revisit, and rediscover their justification.

Comment: Note, “only,” “the only effort.” They still agree that revisiting our justification is a part of the sanctification process, if not of primary importance. The fact of the matter is, justification has NO part in sanctification other than the fact it makes sanctification possible and must preceded sanctification. The two are not “inseparable,” in regard to being empowered in our Christian life, they are mutually exclusive. This was Jay Adams’ very contention against Jack Miller’s Sonship theology of which Reformation 21 finds its contemporary historic roots.

Article IX – Faith and Sanctification

•We affirm that growth in the Christian life comes through faith, which believes and acts on the promises of God in the Scriptures.

•We deny that faith is wholly passive in sanctification or separated from good works in the same sense that justification is by faith alone.

Comment: But again, notice his wording very carefully: WE, or US, is excluded as the specific subjects. The Christian “life” grows (ie, realm manifestation), and it is the “faith” that acts, and “faith” is a what? Right, a gift from God that is done to us and not by us. Also notice: “We deny that faith is wholly passive.” Again, notice the continual replacement of personal pronouns for the noun “faith.” I am not parsing words here, in the following chart indorsed heavily by the GRN, what’s growing? US, or the cross? What is our role in the chart?


Article X – Preaching the Imperatives

•We affirm that faithful preaching of the Law for use in the Christian life must always be done in the context of God’s provision through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.

•We deny that preaching the Scripture’s indicatives without the imperatives is a healthy model for Christian ministry because such preaching fails to conform to the pattern seen in Scripture and is dangerous to the life and ministry of the church.

Comment: Mercy. Sigh. They are still propagating the preaching of a mere “pattern” and not specific application performed by us. Even John MacArthur has stated plainly that he does not preach application because that is the Spirit’s job—not ours.

Article XI – Sanctification and Assurance

•We affirm that Christians gain assurance of salvation by cherishing the promise of the gospel and by the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer’s life.

•We deny that assurance gained through growth in godliness amounts to a performance-based religion or necessitates an unwholesome spiritual pride.

Comment: This is an easy one. They are saying the same thing TT says: assurance comes from a mere remembering of the gospel and observing the work performed by the Holy Sprit apart from us. TT would agree here 100%

Article XII – Sanctification and Victory

•We affirm that Christians can and should experience victories over sin, however limited and partial, and that these victories bring glory to God and bear testimony to the power of His grace.

•We deny that rejoicing in victories over sin amounts to spiritual pride or performance religion, although Christians may and sometimes do sin in this way.

Comment: This states my case; victory in the Christian life is a what? Right, “experience.” And where does the power come from? Right, “grace.” Any power or ability vested in us by the new birth is excluded.


5 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on May 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on May 31, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      Yep, more verbiage to keep’em confused. Nobody knows, so they will pick the one that sounds best and go back to grazing–business as usual.


  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on May 31, 2014 at 11:43 AM


    Basically, they have to concede that REALITY is a prewritten narrative by God in which everything down to the last detail is predetermined to give glory to God. This is irrefutable, and the very basis of redemptive historical hermeneutics. God wrote the history for His glory and self love. That’s per John Piper.


  3. Carmen S. said, on June 19, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Even more clarification on sanctification:


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