Paul's Passing Thoughts

TANC 2015, Paul Dohse, Sessions 1-3: Challenging Doctrinal Presuppositions of Orthodoxy

Session 1: Introduction to Biblicism

Who do we think we are? Why would Western culture be immune from populous deception? In fact, history, even recent history reveals the dangers of collective logic whether by tradition or some sort of neo-movement. Moreover, examples of bad fruit coming from collective logic can be taken from the best of what Western culture has to offer.

There is one constant that shapes culture; change occurs as a result of bad fruit. The collective pain threshold begins to surpass the threshold of life value. Society then becomes split into two types of people: those with new ideas and those willing to listen.

Tyranny has always been a foolish endeavor by virtue of God’s design of things. The reason is simple: the people always outnumber the rulers, and the rulers need people to have a government, and you can only kill so many people. This is why controlling the way people think is so important; this taps into the human resource without killing the donor.

From the cradle of society, caste was the norm. Unfortunately, the consensus had always been that bad fruit had nothing to do with the system, but only those running it. The American experiment was the first successful challenge to collectivism. The definition of the words and the understanding of them are a matter of life and death on a massive scale. For example, “individualism” does not exclude cooperation and organization for the common good, but rather, asks who will determine what the common good is and how one reaches that conclusion. The assumption that individualism leads to societal chaos has in fact produced chaos in incomprehensible proportions.

Once again, history is repeating itself in many ways, but the particular aspect that TANC focuses on is Protestantism. Once again, fruit demands reevaluation because of the threshold of pain. But this time of historical reevaluation is utterly unique because it is post American Revolution. For the first time in over 500 years, Protestantism faces a reevaluation without the force of state at its disposal.

Nevertheless, Protestantism has done its job well. It yet has no fear of replacement because those who have given up on it believe there is no alternative. Hence, its utter failure has produced no competitors. The Nones and the Dones are just that, none and done. Yet, lest Protestantism would break from protocol and show mercy to its detractors, the Nones and the Dones are declared damned to hell on their way out to the wilderness of hopelessness because being a member in good standing in the institutional church is synonymous with loving Christ and being a legitimate part of His body.

We at TANC reject such an arrogant notion with extreme prejudice, and believe we understand a legitimate alternative—a return to the assembly of Christ and its priesthood of believers. A return to individual gifts, not spiritual collectivism; fellowship, not membership; leadership, not dictatorship; organization, not institutionalization; not many masters, but only one; a body, not a corporation, and finally, freedom of conscience. Individual saints with one word, one Lord, and one body. It’s a body, not a spiritual caste system, and we have but one mediator—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Biblicism

The alternative to Protestant orthodoxy is Biblicism. What is it? Let’s begin with a definition from Wikipedia. This is by far the best definition of Biblicism that I have ever found, and unfortunately listed under an alternative name for Biblicism, “Biblical Literalism.” And, as rightfully noted by Wikipedia, often used as a pejorative. Don’t you know, any Biblicist that has read Matthew 5:30 has cut off his right hand or feels guilty that he hasn’t. Let’s examine the definition:

Alternatively, the term can refer to the historical-grammatical method, a hermeneutic technique that strives to uncover the meaning of the text by taking into account not just the grammatical words, but also the syntactical aspects, the cultural and historical background, and the literary genre. It emphasizes the referential aspect of the words in the text without denying the relevance of literary aspects, genre, or figures of speech within the text (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, or metaphor).

Let me add that Biblicism starts with literalism and the plain sense of the text first, and then utilizes the elements of the historical-grammatical methods as needed to make the rendering consistent with the rest of Scripture. As one person has said, “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” Let me also add that Biblicists would normally be impressed with a method of interpretation known as Occam’s razor. Again, we are indebted to Wiki for a definition:

…a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347). It states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

In context of the lay person, learning is a jigsaw puzzle. I want to use this example of a jigsaw puzzle that is a map of Xenia, Ohio. Let’s say the map, to the degree that it is fitted together, represents knowledge of Xenia. Until the puzzle is completely fitted together with all of the pieces, what do we do with the pieces that we can’t get to fit into the map presently? Answer: we lay those pieces aside for the time being. Dear layman, you don’t need the scholars. In fact, please remember that we live in the Information Age. Study to show yourself approved as a “workman.”

As a parenthesis regarding interpretation, let me offer all the proof you need to know that every verse of Scripture must be interpreted in context of justification or sanctification; Christians, throughout the New Testament, are referred to as “workman.” If justification is not a finished work, the fact that we are participants in it is unavoidable, either by direct participation or intentional non-participation. Intentional non-participation is doing something. If justification is not a finished work, invariably, religious formulas for work works and faith alone works emerge. The problem here is evident: if you can lose your salvation, what do you have to do, or not do, in order to keep it?

The Dirty Little Secret

What we are talking about here is deductive/inductive study of the Bible that begins with the presupposition that man is able to reason. Here is where we must stop and state a huge historical fact in this matter that is irrefutable. Historically, there have only been two schools of thought on Bible interpretation: the historical-grammatical method, and the historical-redemptive method.

But please, if you don’t take anything else away from this first session, please know the dirty little secret in all of this: these are ALSO two different ways of interpreting reality itself. Listen: the Protestant Reformers started first with their interpretation of reality, and then extrapolated that method onto the Bible as well.

If you have been following our TANC series on the first and foundational doctrinal statement of the Reformation, the Heidelberg Disputation, you know that Martin Luther laid the foundations in that document for the historical-redemptive method of interpreting reality and consequently the Bible as well. Luther believed that all of reality is a redemptive metaphysical narrative written by God. Look out the window right now. See that car driving down the street? The only reason that just happened is because God wrote it into the script of the metaphysical narrative, what many of the Reformed call the “divine drama.” Reality is nothing but a story written by God.

Hence, salvation is only an ability to perceive or “see” the story. The unregenerate are defined by those who think they have ANY measure of freewill. To have freewill is the ability to write your own reality. Luther’s assessment of freewill is therefore called “the glory story of man.” Either one confesses that God wrote the story of history and reality, or man is foolishly trying to write his own reality.

Luther received this idea primarily from Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory, established the Protestant Reformation with its premise, and John Calvin later articulated its supposed life application in the Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion. It called for a repeat of our spiritual baptism throughout the Christian life by progressively seeing/perceiving two things: the depravity of man and the holiness of God. Plunging the depths of our sinfulness supposedly brings about humbleness and self-death resulting in a resurrection of joy regarding our original salvation. Therefore, the joy of our salvation is progressively increased throughout our Christian lives regardless of circumstance. In fact, tragedy only facilitates our ability to see our depravity and the judgement that we deserve. Tragedy is merely a part of God’s prewritten gospel narrative.

Consequently, Spirit baptism is not a onetime event, but is repeated throughout our Christian life. The Bible has one purpose and one purpose only: to aid the “believer” in continually revisiting salvation and the perpetual revisiting of Spirit baptism. This is an official Protestant doctrine called mortification and vivification. Several Protestant organizations use the chart below to illustrate this doctrine and the historical-redemptive use of the Bible:

gospel-grid

Therefore, God uses circumstances and the Bible to help us in the downward trajectory illustrated by this chart. A contrary perspective on reality is illustrated by another chart widely published by Protestant organizations:

shrinking-the-cross

What is behind the popularity of this worldview? Simply, an ability to live a carefree life without fear of unknown circumstances (with the only exception being your eternal destiny). We all know that investing in life can set us up for enhanced disappointments and suffering. This is a worldview that completely separates us from the responsibilities of life and its suffering. Don’t worry, be happy, it’s a just a divine video tape anyway, and what will be, will be. If one of your loved ones dies tragically, don’t sweat it, it’s just part of God’s divine drama prewritten before the foundation of the earth. Besides, God is using this to make the gospel bigger and you smaller. Listen, even Protestants who don’t get this function according to the same worldview: “It’s God’s will.” “I didn’t do it! God did it!” “We are all just sinners saved by grace.” All of these Protestant truisms fit the downward trajectory of the above cross chart.

As far as Biblicism, there is a huge pushback against it. A focal point of the pushback is a book written by Protestant turned Catholic Prof. Christian Smith titled, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. I must credit the Christian Research Institute with the following review of the book which is endorsed by many evangelical heavyweights such as Rachel Held Evans, and will help us further define Biblicism:

Smith asserts that biblicism is the constellation of ten different assumptions or beliefs: (1) The words of the Bible are identical with God’s words written inerrantly in human language. (2) The Bible represents the totality of God’s will for humanity. (3) The divine will for all issues relevant to Christian life is contained in the Bible. (4) Any reasonable person can correctly understand the plain meaning of the text. (5) The way to understand the Bible is to look at the obvious, literal sense. (6) The Bible can be understood without reliance on creeds, confessions, or historic church traditions. (7) The Bible possesses internal harmony and consistency. (8) The Bible is universally applicable for all Christians. (9) All matters of Christian belief and practice can be learned through inductive Bible study. (10) The Bible is a kind of handbook or textbook for Christian faith and practice.

While some evangelicals may downplay or deny some of these points, Smith suggests as long as you hold to some of these points, you are still a biblicist (pp. 4–5).

Before we address these points for a clearer understanding of what Biblicism is, it shouldn’t surprise us that the only alternative in the book is the Christocentric hermeneutic which is the same thing as the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. It sees the gospel or Jesus in every verse of the Bible as a result of interpreting reality itself through the suffering of the cross. It should be noted that this hermeneutic is crossing over into Catholicism as well.

(1) The words of the Bible are identical with God’s words written inerrantly in human language.

A Biblicist believes no such thing. God used fallible humans to write the Bible over 1600 years in many different languages. Because Christ warned that there would be serious consequences for tampering with God’s word, we can assume many have in fact tampered with it.

The key follows: the Bible is God’s statement on being including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. The Bible is not without error in the transmission of these truths, but none of the truths are lost due to God’s oversight and assistance. Included is the way that the Bible was written, or its overall structure of checks and balances. As the “workman” studies to show himself approved, God’s principles become more and more apparent.

(2) The Bible represents the totality of God’s will for humanity.

This point is vague, but one assumes it speaks to the accusation that Biblicists believe the Bible speaks to every detail of life like how to fix our cars etc. While the notion is absurd, the Bible does tell us what kind of car-fixer we should be—not the details of a how-to-manual. The Bible is a manual for how we should love God and others, so while it does not give specific instructions on how to fix our wife’s Toyota, it does convey a principle of love that would prevent us from taking shortcuts on safety issues in order to save money. If it’s our wife’s car, we don’t repair the brake lines with duct tape, etc.

(3) The divine will for all issues relevant to Christian life is contained in the Bible.

This is true, and the reason for the contention is evident: the sole purpose of the Bible should be to show us how wicked we are, not instruction on loving God and others.

(4) Any reasonable person can correctly understand the plain meaning of the text.

True, with the exclusion of the straw man argument that the meaning in every text is always “plain.” The Bible states that individual study is required, and acknowledges that obtaining understanding can be difficult work.

(5) The way to understand the Bible is to look at the obvious, literal sense.

This is true as the primary organizing principle, but gain, the straw man is the assertion that Biblicists believe this is true of every verse.

(6) The Bible can be understood without reliance on creeds, confessions, or historic church traditions.

This is absolutely true because Biblicism rejects spiritual caste systems of all kinds. Teachers are a help, they are a gift to the church for purposes of equipping, NOT an office. But when it gets right down to it, in context of the apostle John addressing the Gnosticism that was wreaking havoc on the 1st century church, he stated, “You have no need for anyone to teach you.” Biblicism is predicated on collective individualism, not group-think overseen by an elite class of those who supposedly possess the “gnosis.”

(7) The Bible possesses internal harmony and consistency.

Absolutely. Again, the complexities of the Bible are used to argue against human reason as a valid epistemology for reasons of selling a redemptive interpretation of all reality.

(8) The Bible is universally applicable for all Christians.

Sure it is. Loving God and others pertains to principles that are universal.

(9) All matters of Christian belief and practice can be learned through inductive Bible study.

In regard to loving God and others, absolutely.

Note the continual distinction being made between love and law. There is a specific reason for that which we will see more of later.

(10) The Bible is a kind of handbook or textbook for Christian faith and practice.

The word “practice” factors in huge here. As previously noted, Protestantism defines salvation as an ability to see/perceive/experience APART from practice. Therefore, the Christocentric approach to interpretation of reality, and consequently the Bible as well, will reject any practice by man to be of any value to God. Therefore, the sole purpose of the Bible is to aid mankind is seeing that all righteousness is an alien righteousness completely outside of man.

So, this is an introduction to Biblicism. In the next session, we will look at the Biblicist gospel, its evaluation of law/gospel, the nature of God, the nature of man, evangelism, and the nature of sin. In the fourth session, we will examine Protestantism and the extreme contrast that it presents. I will conclude this first session with a few more principles of interpretation:

Deuteronomy 29:29 – The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 30:11 – For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Two basic interpretative principles can be drawn from these verses. First, some things we cannot know, but what we can know we are responsible for. Second, we have no need for interpretive mediators between us and God. There is only ONE mediator between God and man—Christ.

Blog TalkRadio Podcast, Session 1 – includes before and after discussion. 

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Session 2: The Good News About God

God is good news. This is perhaps the simplest distinction between Biblicism and Protestantism; Biblicists believe that the gospel, or the good news about God is good news to everyone. It believes that the offer of salvation is a valid offer. It believes that the gift is offered to everyone. This speaks to the pejorative claim that Biblicists are unreasonable wooden literalists; indeed, we believe that words mean things. We believe that “news” informs someone of something that they didn’t know previously, and that God is a good reporter tending towards full disclosure; it isn’t good news to some and bad news to others. How is predetermined eternal suffering for the glory of God good news? How can a promise be a promise to you if you have no way of knowing if the promise is actually for you or not? Biblicists assume different word choices from a God that is not a God of confusion. Biblicists believe words mean things; Protestants don’t, and even say so in no uncertain terms! (Note Rick Holland’s heading on page 39 of Uneclipsing The Son: “When Bad Grammar Makes Good Theology”).

In these sessions, the term “Protestant” refers to the authentic doctrine of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that many have strayed from the original article is noted, but what Protestant gives a waiver to a Buddhist that doesn’t believe everything Buddha believed? It’s still Buddhism.

Consider an apple tree. Apple trees do not produce peaches. However, nor are the branches or the fruit exactly the same. The branches differ, and the apples vary in size and color, but it is still an apple tree. Biblicism is an altogether different tree.

Before we examine the Biblicist gospel, let me take you to the book of Genesis to illustrate the aforementioned elements of Biblicism.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

All kinds of hay is made with these opening statements from God’s word; if this creation account is really about the gospel, or symbolic of it, then outrageous presuppositions can be assimilated into the thinking of people without plainly stating the thesis. If you believe that the creation account is about the gospel, you also concede that God preordained the fall of man, created evil (darkness), and goodness, (light). And in fact, as I think will be ascertained from Susan’s sessions, this very belief, that God created evil and preordained the fall of man for his own glory, is very much a part of Protestant tradition.

There is no doubt that many of the biblical authors used the creation account for metaphors, but that does not speak to the primary purpose or point of the passage. The idea that this creation account is about the gospel is an assumption, and Biblicism chooses conclusions that are plainly stated over assumption in all cases. This is an account of the “first day” of creation and how God brought that about. The rightness of this epistemology can also be seen in the same passage:

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

Hence, from the very beginning, we see that reality is defined by what it is called through using words. If the meaning and science of words are not concrete, reality cannot be known. If this is a metaphysical statement concerning the gospel and good and evil, why wouldn’t God simply state that accordingly?

As far as words interpreting reality, God involved Adam in the process:

Genesis 2:19 – Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

Don’t misunderstand, things don’t cease to exist because they are not named, but there is no way to define existence without words, at least not in our reality, and therefore, the unnamed thing has no meaning. Remember also that people can be manipulated into doing absolutely anything if they are convinced by others that certain words mean certain things.

The definitions of words define reality in the minds of people. Those who control the definitions control what and how people think, and thus control their actions as well. Some call this “propaganda.”

Symbolism is the most often-used communication technique to convince people that certain words mean things they don’t mean. This is very subtle and effective; if creation represents the gospel, then obviously God anticipated the fall of man because it was part of His intended will for mankind.

But mankind did fall, and the recorded account in Genesis gives us insight into the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of Sin, the gospel, evangelism, and the Caste religion.

This shouldn’t surprise us, but the serpent approached Eve with a religion. Well, really, THE religion. If this approach worked, and it did, why would there be a deviation from the original article? Sure, applications will differ, but the basic principles remain the same; it’s a tree of kind. What is it?

Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Let’s focus on the obvious here. The Religion has four basic principles, and the second point is less obvious, but valid: for the most part, ALL religious and political ideologies flow from this religion. Mankind was absolutely hell-bent on functioning by this premise until the Enlightenment Era. Here are the four basic principles of the Caste religion:

1. There is spiritual knowledge that is separate from material knowledge; the knowledge of good and evil.

2. Mankind is unable to comprehend the spiritual; he is enslaved to the material world.

3. Mediators are needed between God and man to understand the spiritual knowledge and apply it to the material realm for the overall well-being of mankind.

4. These mediators are divinely gifted by God and preordained.

The first three points can clearly be seen in Genesis 3:1ff. “Hey Eve, there is a whole body of wisdom that God is keeping from you, and you need me to mediate that wisdom between you and God because I am superior to you and therefore qualified to do so.”

Notice the communication techniques used by the serpent to deceive Eve: he changed the definition of words; “No, no, Eve, you misunderstand what God said, he didn’t mean that you will literally die.” And she ate, and guess what? She didn’t drop dead. The serpent changed the definition of the word, “death” as God meant it in that context, and nothing has ever changed accordingly. When we allow mediators between ourselves and God, we are trusting them to define words for us because we supposedly can’t understand God. Take note: when men speak of “subordinate truth,” this is set against the superior truth that only they and God understand, and we call that “orthodoxy.” When Biblicists are criticized for thinking we do not need creeds and confessions, that ought to make cold chills run up our spine. Creeds, confessions, and counsels are nothing more than mediators penning bedtime stories for the great unwashed who are childlike in their ability to understand realty. Consider this illustration once again:

gospelgrid11

What is this? Right, the knowledge of good and evil. Right? Let me show you something else:

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

That’s the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes. If only God is good, and mankind is totally depraved, how is this not the knowledge of good and evil as the premiere epistemology of all metaphysics? It’s the knowledge of good and evil mediated by those preordained by God for the well-being of society at large. This religion brought death in the garden, and created elitist caste systems that dictate life from the family unit to offices of governors and kings.

We saw it in high school, and we even see it in the Republican primary. The elitist party hacks are beside themselves that the great unwashed are being duped by Donald Trump, but instead of asking “why?” and looking in the mirror, it is chalked up to the total depravity of the masses. Therefore, the party elitists must neutralize Trump in order to save the great unwashed masses from themselves. Though Trump continues to lead the pack in the polls by double digits, he is summarily dismissed by political pundits. One cannot by any means separate this from an elitist mentality that dismisses the discernment of the voters.

SIN: THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION

Something else can be learned here about the nature of sin. What is the biblical definition of sin? It is defined as a master, or slave master. Sin is defined as a separate entity that seeks to enslave.

Genesis 4:5 – So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

In what can be considered the first detailed account of a gospel presentation and that by God Himself, sin is identified as something that has desire, and that desire is to rule over others. God tells Cain that he must instead rule over sin. We also find that sin makes its appeal through desire:

Genesis 3:6 – So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

This is a fundamental definition of sin that is an important building block for additional understanding: it is a slave master that desires to rule over others and makes its appeal through desires, or “sinful desires.” The results of sin are types of death experienced throughout life leading to ultimate death. Sin is also empowered by its ability to condemn:

1Corinthians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we get into the subject of law/gospel in part 3 of this session, the correlation between law and condemnation will be explained, but for now, the main point is that sin is empowered by its ability to condemn. It’s a master who desires to rule over people and bring many faceted deaths into their lives, and makes its appeal through the desires of others. It is empowered by the condemnation that results. In one way, sin rules over people by paralyzing them with guilt and fear.

SIN 1

We see this in the garden. After Adam and Eve sin, they hide from God because they are afraid of God’s condemnation.

Genesis 3:9 – But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Sin and fear of condemnation go together. This also speaks to evangelism and free will. Protestants love to make much of “No man seeks after God” (Rom 3:11). But this is not because man is totally depraved and has no inkling towards God whatever. Man does not seek God because he fears condemnation. Obviously, when Adam and Eve sinned, they did not immediately seek out God for a solution. Instead, they hid from God because they were afraid of His condemnation. This is why man does not seek God, he is afraid—not because he is totally depraved.

In addition, we see the essence of evangelism from the very beginning: God seeks out man with the remedy for sin. Just because God is the one who is proactive does not mean man has no ability to make a choice when confronted by God. Adam and Eve had no ability to come up with a plan that would fix the fall. Obviously, God is the only one who could remedy the problem. Man’s inability is in regard to proposing a plan of reconciliation with God, not an inability to accept the gift of salvation through a plan devised by God when offered.

Blog TalkRadio Podcast, Session 2: Challenging Doctrinal Presuppositions of Orthodoxy

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Session 3: The Gospel of Biblicism

We don’t hear much about one of the primary biblical terms used for “gospel.” The gospel is also known throughout Scripture as “the promise.” A promise made by God; think about that. But who is the promise to?

Acts 2:36 – Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

This is an extraordinary text. Clearly, the gospel is a promise to all men contingent on believing in the promise, and resulting in the “gift” of the Holy Spirt. This is a fundamental principle of Biblicism: when a particular text is absolutely clear, and barring all assumptions, everything else must align logically with the concepts that are clearly stated.

Hence, the Protestant definitions of “election,” “called,” and “chosen” must be completely reevaluated. The gospel is a promise and a gift offered to all men.

…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

And who does the Lord call to himself? Everyone.

Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other (Isa 45:22).

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (Jn 12:32).

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’(Eze 33:11).

Biblicism does not reject mystery, or paradox, but always approaches the latter with extreme skepticism. Biblicists consider paradox guilty until proven innocent. God is not a God of confusion, but be sure of this: the paradox card is more times than not a license for a mystery that only the spiritual elite understand—those who have the rule over you.

If the promise and the gift are verbally offered to all people, but the offer is not legitimate for all, that makes the use of these words completely illogical. Though the issue of election will not be explored in this series, the basic wrongness of Protestants who propagate so-called “sovereign grace” must call their deterministic gospel into question. Those who have the basic gospel completely wrong cannot be trusted with the rest of the story.

However, the fact that salvation is a promise and a gift will be key to exposing the false gospel of Protestantism in simple terms. The Bible defines the gospel with these specific words for good reason – words mean things.

What is the Gospel?

1Corinthians 15:3 – For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

These are the facts of the gospel, but in Paul’s statement much more is assumed rightly because of other texts that further define what is being stated here in 1Cor 15:3-6. Obviously, no one is saved by a mere believing of the facts concerning the gospel. As James wrote, the devils believe also and do tremble in regard to their future condemnation. The facts do need to be believed, but what saves is the following of Christ in these facts. In other words, it’s not a mere believing of the facts, but also the belief of what the results of believing are, and a desire to want that for yourself.

You believe the promise, and the gift, and you want the gift for yourself. The gift is the baptism of the Spirit, and believing in the transaction that takes place. It’s believing the promise and “receiving” the gift.

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

It’s amazing that the unsaved understand this in their own way. It’s just a fact that the unsaved understand the gospel intuitively better than the vast majority of Protestants. Most unsaved people know that salvation involves the loss of who they presently are in exchange for a new life that is in the wind so to speak. This is what Christ was telling Nicodemus as recorded in John 3 and why Nicodemus came to Him under cover of darkness—Christ was a threat to the present life he knew. The fact that Christ told him that he must be born again which would result in a new, and completely unpredictable life correlates with the fact that Nicodemus came to Him under cover of darkness. Nicodemus was afraid of losing his present life, and therefore, Christ addressed the issue forthwith.

“Just believe” and “faith alone” minus the new birth is a Protestant hallmark. It boils down to a mere glorified assent to the facts of the gospel. It is not the losing of present life in order to find the new one. It is not repentance, i.e., a turning from the old life and following Christ in literal death and resurrection. Water baptism is a public confession that you understand this. Now many will protest that we are doing something to be saved other than believe; we are “following” Christ. But it is a decision, not some work of following. The Spirit does the baptizing, not us. We are saved by wanting that for our life and accepting the gift that is offered.

But likewise with any gift, once it is given, the receiver owns it. It is now up to us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12,13). Here, “salvation” refers to redemption (the saving of the body, Rom 7:24, 8:23), not the saving of the soul, and work/fear refers to the new Christian person and life, not our onetime new birth. The Christian life is a process; the new birth is a onetime event.  Before we were saved, our fear regarded condemnation.  Now our fear regards chastisement and sin that leads to unnecessary deaths (consequences for sin). There is no work FOR salvation, but there is a work IN the Christian life, specifically, a work of love (Gal 5:6).

On the flipside, even though there is not a work FOR salvation (justification), there is a work IN being unsaved that has a specific wage paid by a specific master. We met him in the previous session, the sin master. This is how the Bible frames this: there are two masters who pay two different wages: one pays wages for death, and the other pays wages for life. ALL people in the world are earning one or the other in varying degrees. Either group can do bad or good works (Rom 6:20), but one can only be credited for death, and the other can only be credited for life. These are two different wages paid by two different masters.

These two groups, lost and saved, are under two different laws that determine their wages. The lost who belong to the sin master are “under law” and its condemnation, the law of sin and death. Those under this law can only bear fruits of death. In contrast, those purchased by Christ (“you have been bought with a price” 1Cor 6:20, 7:23) can only bear fruits for life. They are identified as “under grace,” or under the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 6:14, 8:20).

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is why Christ came to end the law (Rom 10:4). The law that He ended is the law of sin and death. EVERYONE born into the world is under the law of sin and death and condemnation. This is how we know Christ died for everyone ever born into the world. He also purchased mankind from the sin master; eternal life is the promise, new birth is the gift (if received by faith) resulting in freedom from condemnation and the fruits of death. The believer now “upholds” the law he/she is free to serve: the law of the Spirit of life also known as the “law of Christ” and the “law of liberty.” Salvation is a free gift, but the Christian life is a work that can earn rewards.

Hebrews 6:10 – For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

God would be unjust to forget you labor of love in sanctification because you are earning rewards, and there is no fear in regard to condemnation because that concerns judgement:

1John 4:18 -There is no fear in love, but perfect [mature] love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. [Because they fear condemnation].

This is what is critical about the new birth, or the baptism of the Spirit. The old man that was under the law of sin and death died with Christ, and is now free to “serve another” through being resurrected with Christ:

Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Here is a good place to speak of God’s calling to mankind. This is a good place to talk about how God pushes man to the brink of salvation—to the gates of the kingdom. God, in His calling of man, does everything but make the decision for him.

First, God creates every human being with the works of God’s law written on their hearts, and a conscience that either excuses or accuses them. Those without the word of God will be judged by this internal law, while the religious will be judged by both (Rom 2:12-16). Until a human being develops a conscience, they are not under any law and therefore without sin (Rom 4:15). Man has intuitive knowledge of God’s gospel (Rom 1:18-21).

Secondly, the Holy Spirit uses the law of sin and death to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come (Jn 16:8).

Thirdly, believers use the law of sin and death to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come.

Fourthly, believers testify about God to the world with their lives (Matt 5:14-16).

Fifthly, Christ has purchased all men with His death on the cross. Their sin debt is prepaid. They have already been purchased from the sin master. They themselves choose to remain under the control of their present master, but their contract has been bought out, they are free to choose Christ as their new master.

Sixthly, even the law that condemns unbelievers holds their sin captive. Even the law of sin and death is a “ministry” (2Cor 3:7-11). The first covenant which is passing away (Heb 8:13) held sin captive in the law of sin and death until Christ came (Gal 3:19-27). Christ ended the law for righteousness to those who believe in Him. Our sins are not merely covered—they are ENDED along with the law of sin and death. ALL sin was held captive in the law of sin and death that the old us was under, but upon believing, that man died and is now under the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2). We are now fee to work through love as guided by the Scriptures (Gal 5:6,7). Our obedient love fulfills the law (Gal 5:14, Rom 8:4, Rom 13:8-10, Matt 22:34-40).

Seventh, God increased the law through the first covenant to drive man towards him (Rom 5:20).

Eighth, God made man a living being, but after the fall he made mankind His very family (Gal 3:29, Heb 2:11).

Ninth, in the end, God will vacate heaven and dwell with His family on earth. God Himself comes DOWN to earth to dwell with man (Rev 21:3).

This is some of the good news of God’s love for mankind.

Blog TalkRadio Podcast, Session 3: The Gospel According to Biblicism

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