New Covenant Theology: How Jon Zens Tried to Save Calvinism
The title of this post may seem a little strange as it seems hardly the case that Calvinism needs saving; Calvinism has already taken over American evangelicalism lock, stock, and barrel which includes Arminians that function according to Calvinism while denying some elements of its ideology.
But really, Calvinism does need saving. I was made aware last night of yet another New Calvinist mega church in our area that is dying out. In regard to the recent Mark Driscoll fiasco, is he more wily than we give him credit for? Does he see his recent demise as an opportunity to jump a sinking ship? (You might consider the conferences that he is being invited to). What is going to be more ugly and depressing than the slow death of all of these New Calvinist campus infrastructures?
Don’t be mistaken, the goal of this ministry is to educate God’s people in regard to authentic Calvinism so that it can’t make another comeback in the future. The present resurgence movement will die once again, and it’s in the process of doing so presently. Staying at the foot of the cross and not moving on to maturity can only yield one result: little spiritual babies in adult bodies getting run over by real life.
Actually, New Calvinism is a Godsend. It will finally cause God’s people to come to grips with Protestantism in general and the institutional church in particular. Many of us have known for years that there is something fundamentally wrong with church, but have never been able to put our finger on it. Thanks to New Calvinism, that is no longer the case.
When folks once again find themselves in the vicious cycle of the church caultasack called “new” and its false hope of something finally happening in the institutional church, we hope the simple theological math of Protestantism’s false gospel will be apparent. What is that?
It is the idea that the law is the standard for justification. And since that is the case, a perfect keeping of it must be maintained by Jesus THROUGH faith alone by us in sanctification. That’s the simple math of Protestantism’s soteriology of death. Instead of the law being ENDED for justification paving the way for it to be the guiding instruction of the law of the Spirit of life for sanctification, the law is restricted to the single dimension of condemnation, sin, and death.
Hence, sin maintains all of its power over us because its ENDING for justification, or APART from justification, does not exist in Reformed orthodoxy. Clearly, the power of sin and death is the law’s ability to condemn, and “Christians” are kept under that condemnation with the prescription being a COVERING for sin by institutional absolution and the “active obedience” of Christ.
When those who have sense enough to be disillusioned take another look, this simple fact of law and gospel will be obvious to them. And during the resurgence of real Protestantism in the 70’s, a man named Jon Zens knew that this simple math posed a problem for the Resurgence in the future. He was viciously attacked by Reformed Baptists early on like Walter Chantry, but like all of the rest, Chantry was clueless. Zens was only trying to correct the faulty theological math.
What was his solution? It follows: Christ in fact came to end the law, and replaced it with…depending on which New Calvinist theology (NCT) camp you are referring to…the single law of love. Instead of ONE law with two different applications/perspectives/dimensions, NCT is two different laws: one abrogated, one ushered in. A helpful book that explains the many variants of this viewpoint is “All Old Testament Laws Cancelled: 24 Reasons Why All Old Testament Laws Are Cancelled And All New Testament Laws Are for Our Obedience” by Greg Gibson. Like all of the Reformed, Gibson is confused and fundamentally full of it, but he does an excellent job of explaining all of the variant positions of NCT. However, in the final analysis, all of it is the same old progressive justification song and dance.
Let me also add another caveat here, slightly off point: if I correctly understand NT Wright’s New Perspective on Paul, he asserts that when Paul speaks of “justification by the law,” Paul is primarily speaking to the application of the traditions of men added to and taking away from the truth of the law. I agree with that, though Wright is in the Reformed camp and should therefore be dismissed out of hand in most other cases. When the law is still the standard for justification, it must be dumbed down and fulfilled by some kind of ritual. For the Judaizes, that was circumcision and other traditions. For the Reformed, it is…
If you do this, that, or the other, Jesus will keep the law for you.
NCT, in some rare cases among those who are like a nonfunctioning clock that is right twice a day, the following proposition may be presented: “Wait a minute Paul, if some forms of NCT posit the OT law as the law of condemnation, and its ending, while the New Testament is a new law that doesn’t condemn, and we can actually obey it without condemnation, what’s the difference?”
Well, by far, this is the least egregious of all Reformed heresy. In this construct, justification can also be separate from sanctification making us true colaborers with the Holy Spirit. The problem is that it eradicates half of the law for sanctification and proffers a New Testament only approach to the law; that’s a really, really big no, no.
Furthermore, it denies an interpretive cooperation between the OT and NT other than the NT interprets the OT hermeneutic. Moreover, that assertion invariably leads back to the same progressive justification of Reformed orthodoxy. In the final analysis, it should not surprise us that NCT has demonstrated the Reformed camp’s uncanny ability to add confusion upon more confusion. At last count according to the NCT think tank, The Earth Stove Society, NCT has 82 tenets. Count them: 82. Also note that the first tenet states that ALL reality is interpreted through redemption; i.e., the same old-same old redemptive historical hermeneutic of Reformed theology.
As we will discuss in this Friday’s Gnostic Watch Weekly, the Reformation was just another player in the field of world philosophy with its interpretation of reality. NCT is an attempt to reconcile the glaring contradiction in the theological math for those who have not yet been fully assimilated into seeing reality in an anti-normative Protestant way.