Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Horrible Protestant Doctrine of Mortification and Vivification

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 13, 2015

Like any other super cult, Protestantism has hijacked and redefined every biblical definition of words and concepts from front cover to back cover. Any denomination that believes the clergy has authority is by definition a cult. The clergy has no horizontal authority, but only appeals to the free conscience of man in regard to the one vertical authority. The clergy has no authority by proxy. Any religious organization that believes the Bible defines an authority that they have by proxy is by definition a cult. Those who appeal to the free conscience of men in regard to the Bible are NOT a cult.

When the grammar is completely co-opted, the group being deceived is divided into two groups: those who know what you mean by the words, and those who think they know what you mean by the words with a slow indoctrination from the latter to the former. That’s how the deception has worked from the very beginning. If you are not a definer of words—you will be misled. In the garden, Eve thought she knew what the serpent meant by the word “death” and so it goes.

A good example is this article posted by the new cult hero among Neo-Calvinists, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. On its face, few evangelicals are going to have any objection to anything written in the article because few evangelicals really know what’s behind the Reformed doctrine she underscores in the article: mortification and vivification. Remember, Reformed academics think they understand things the average parishioner can’t grasp, so Butterfield, like all Reformed philosopher queens, is going to let you assume definitions for the time being—it’s part of the indoctrination process.

So, what is the Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification? Let’s reference two Reformed heavyweights in order to ascertain the formal definition.

“Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety” (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).


“At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. [mortification] Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable.[vivification] This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety” (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

Where to begin? This is a horrible doctrine that turns true biblical soteriology completely on its head. Obviously, the least common denominator of this doctrine is a perpetual re-justification through “participation in Christ.” And how do we participate in Christ? By returning to the same gospel that saved us in a deeper and deeper way in order to keep ourselves saved.

In order for this doctrine to work, we must remain unchanged. Participation in Christ requires a deeper and deeper understanding of our present unchanged being coupled with a deeper and deeper understanding of present sin which supposedly causes deeper and deeper gratitude for the redemptive work of Christ resulting in joy. Our primary work is peeling away the layers of sin and seeing the sin under the sin (mortification) resulting in a deeper joy EXPERIENCE.

So basically, this redefines the new birth as a joy experience only and not a definitive recreation, makes the new birth a perpetual re-enactment rather than a one-time event, and makes the Christian life experience-oriented.

That’s all pretty major, but we are just getting started and an exhaustive articulation of this error would literally take several volumes of work, which we will not attempt in this post.

Mortification and vivification also correlates with the Reformed idea that present sin separates Christians from grace, or justification, and mortification, also known as “deep repentance,” rewashes the Christian and keeps them saved. The original water baptism that makes them official members of the church supplies an overall covering for sin, but if one practices mortification they will experience more of their salvation in a deeper way (vivification). But at any rate, mortification can ONLY be practiced and is only effective for re-salvation and vivification if one is a formal member of the Reformed church. This aspect of Reformed thought makes it the super cult that it is.

“Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered” (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

“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” (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62).

“Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

“To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

“Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place” (Ibid).

“…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God” (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

The Reformed redefinition of law and gospel could also be discussed here if there was room, but let’s move on to the focus of this particular post.

It radically redefines what faith is. Instead of faith being a result of new creaturehood and working through love (Galatians 5:6), faith is narrowed to the work of repentance only to keep ourselves saved rather than endeavoring to take part in many-faceted forms of love.

Add to this the simple fact that it circumvents love in sanctification for the sake of keeping ourselves justified.

The doctrine excludes using our members for holy purposes. According to Washer, “He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety.” This circumvents the clear biblical mandate to use our members for holy purposes (Romans 6:13, 19, Romans 12:1).

It violates one of the primary virtues of love: not delighting in evil (1Corithians 13: 6). In mortification and vivification, focusing on sin leads to joy.

It violates the principle of one baptism (Ephesians 4:5) and replaces it with many baptism experiences.

It redefines the interpretation of reality through the gospel. “Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality.” Reality is only experienced through “this definitive reality”; i.e., the gospel.

It circumvents one of the primary causes of peace: what we dwell on (Philippians 4:8). Obviously, mortification and vivification is a call to dwell on sin, and if it’s not immediately evident, look for it via the “sin beneath the sin” (deep repentance).

In summary, this dastardly, vile doctrine claims that present sin removes us from grace, denies the new birth, empowers the institutional church to forgive sins on earth, reinterprets reality itself, makes the Christian life experience oriented, redefines biblical faith, circumvents Christian love towards God and others, violates the principle of one baptism, circumvents peace, and delights in evil.


9 Responses

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  1. lydia00 said, on June 21, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    There is another aspect to this dreadful doctrine that I have noticed the YRR are pushing in order to make this doctrine look more palitable. Here is an email from a 30 year old YRR pastor from my former church who is making ” perpetual brokeness” a key tenent of a believers life. (I hear about it all the time from folks with one foot in the place and one foot out.

    Here is his email:

    Dear ____ Family,

    There is a dangerous and heretical theology being espoused these days known as the prosperity gospel. It perverts the biblical gospel by taking certain passages of scripture out of context. It teaches that blessings of material wealth, health, prosperity, and power are available to Christians that have enough faith to possess these benefits. Conversely, those that lack wealth, health and prosperity are labeled as lacking genuine faith.

    One of the ways that we safeguard ourselves from theological error is by interpreting scripture with scripture. As we formulate conclusions regarding doctrine and practice, it is important that we consider all of the relevant biblical passages that speak to an issue.

    With that being said, Hebrews 11:29-40 strikes a deathblow to the prosperity gospel movement. The author teaches us that while genuine faith will lead us down pathways of great gain, genuine faith will also take us down pathways of immense pain. In fact,when we remain faithful to God, in the midst of seasons of suffering, we bring even more glory to God and credibility to the gospel than we do when life is affluent and easy.

    I hope you’ll join us on Sunday as we honor our earthly fathers and seek our Heavenly Father for the soul-solace that only he can bring.

    Your Pastor and Friend,


    Do you see what he is doing in order to prop up his doctrine of perpetual brokeness? (He even has brokeness altar calls week after week)

    He is juxtaposing a “prosperity gospel” with his perpetual sinner gospel. The old “either/or” trick. If you are not perpetually broken then you are shallow and like Jesus to get riches such as Joel Osteen. The old “either/or” trick is very popular with the YRR.

    And when I hear someone say scripture must interpret scripture, they are almost always a Calvinist. The bible is made up of books by many different authors.


  2. John said, on January 23, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    MacArthur also juxtaposes and lies and assumes his way through the Bible all mysteriously. “It’s a mystery,” I have heard him say about election of the “saints,” if memory recalls correctly.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on January 23, 2017 at 9:50 AM

      And of course the doctrine of paradox.


      • John said, on January 23, 2017 at 10:03 AM

        Of course.


  3. Susan said, on January 23, 2017 at 2:57 PM

    A year ago, I attended the IF Gathering for women in the Columbus area. I left that conference emotionally overwhelmed. Battered. Broken. Abused. Trampled. And now I know why — mortification and vivification. Every single speaker — and there were some high profile folks like David Platt — zeroed in on “brokenness”.

    The intent of the conference was to raise funds for women in 3rd world countries by setting them up in their own home cottage businesses, to fight sex trafficking, and to encourage adoption. The conference is like the Protestant women’s version of secular social justice causes. Never again.

    It was a veiled marketing and pyramid scheme. What Would Jesus Do? Why he would set up at 501(c)(3) company and sell jewelry, clothing and candles. And he would invite all his advertising and marketing gurus/ friends. Get out your credit cards ladies, we are going to start a revival in Columbus, Ohio. Not!


  4. Susan said, on January 23, 2017 at 7:19 PM

    John, Oh my, I had no idea about the Lighthouse Trails commentary. Oh my, I can’t begin to tell you how very manipulated I felt. Like this (from Lighthouse Trails): “The IF conferences are full of emotional manipulation with videos of heartbreaking stories and impassioned pleas to do something; draw near to God, have more faith, win the lost, help the less fortunate, etc.” Story after story. I had absolutely no idea. I never would have signed up in the first place — but you know the spiel, a good friend invited me and I would at least give it a try.

    I left early: I was emotionally exhausted and I was angry. Very, very angry. I gave the nice folks at IF exactly $1.00 (charged on my credit card) and it was $1.00 too much for that conference. I would never go back and I would jump up and down and warn other women from even thinking about attending. Can we spell “manipulation”? Can we spell, “make merchandise out of you”? And the “church” wonders why people leave?

    The kicker is that I asked one of the organizers about the dollar amount or percentage amount that actually went for those poverty stricken 3rd world women who actually made the jewelry that was being sold at the conference. No answer. Crickets. Not to be cynical or anything, but if you sold that intricately carved cross for $25 USD — did that poor woman in South America or South Africa get $2.50 or 10%. Why do I think not! Live and learn. Revival my #&!@ (insert expletive). Try: how to manipulate friends and make lots of money!


  5. Susan said, on January 23, 2017 at 7:28 PM

    And you couldn’t pay me to buy their stuff — not one item of clothing, not one book or DVD, not one candle, not one piece of jewelry, not one thing. And what I don’t get is the women who walk around with eyes glazed over and smiles plastered on their faces. IF. Awesome. And interdenominational too. Does no one know how to think critically? Does no one recognize Amway under the guise of Church? And my friend who invited me, as I later discovered, is on the “Pampered Chef” tour for the IF jewelry sales. It’s like a home party for IF merchandise — I suspect it is set up as a whole pyramid scheme with sponsors and distributors as well as what is earned from home sales. She has not invited me to anything further — I imagine the question she never answered me about dollar amount/ percentage made by the 3rd world impoverished women probably tipped her off that I had figured out the scheme. Growl. Do I sound hot under the collar? This is Christianity today?


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