Paul's Passing Thoughts

Fact: Protestant Orthodoxy Disavows Good Behavior

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 27, 2016

ppt-jpeg4TV Shows have been dissing the integrity of church for years. I am not much of a TV watcher, but one of my clients enjoys watching “ME” TV which highlights TV shows of the past. One such show is “Reba” starring the country music legend Reba McEntire. In the plot, Reba has divorced her husband who was having an affair with “Barbara Jean” who Reba nicknamed “BJ.” Barbara Jean plays a dimwitted blonde who is totally unrepentant for destroying Reba’s marriage, and in the plot, is also a confessing Christian and faithful churchian. BJ offers up most of the punchlines in the sitcom through the character’s totally confused mindset and worldview.

Indicative of the confusion that defines churchianity, Christians wail and moan in regard to recent TV shows that continually denigrate the Christian faith. This is what makes Barbara Jean a truthful representation of Protestantism. While proudly espousing the truism that Protestants are just lowly “sinners saved by grace,” they object to being represented as…well, “sinners.” While proclaiming themselves “sinners,” they also insist on being recognized as civilization’s moral compass in regard to every category of life. While popular Protestants such a Tullian Tchividjian preached loosey-goosey grace for years dissing all things good as “moralism,” he and the many leaders like him are forced to resign when their sinful ways become public. These kinds of ridiculous contradictions highlighted the Barbara Jean motif in the “Reba” sitcom.

What’s up with all of this confusion? Well, a leading Protestant evangelical lauded by the who’s who of the evangelical community, Dr. Michael Horton, clarifies the problem in his book, “Christless Christianity.” He accurately makes the case in the book that Protestantism has never laid claim to good behavior, and in fact, rejects it. In many of his writings, he drives home the point that Protestant orthodoxy is solely a profession and not an action (this is why Martin Luther rejected the book of James as a “straw epistle”).

Salvation is defined as a mere ability to “see” the kingdom with no participation other than proclaiming it. In Horton’s book, pun intended, trying to do well is not preaching the gospel, but an attempt to “be the gospel.” In the book, he continually drives the point home that any attempt at promoting the gospel through good behavior is fruitless because on our best day we fall short of God’s perfection. This is also a favorite talking point of Dr. DA Carson lauded as one of the most “brilliant theological minds of our day.” Another evangelical, Dr. Albert Mohler, also touted as the premier intellectual theologian of our day has stated that the sole purpose of the Bible is to show us our sinful nature, not an instruction book for moralism. Horton, throughout the book, bemoans the fact that Christianity has projected a false precept of good behavior and has therefore misrepresented the true gospel. He even suggests that the idea of change from bad behavior to good behavior is just “more bad news,” not good news.

My friends, in fact, this is authentic Protestantism as stated in the founding doctrinal statements of the Reformation. This is why scandals in the church shouldn’t even be news or fodder for gossip-blogs like The Wartburg Watch. Church is fraught with scandals because the foundational precepts of the Reformation reject change as just, “more bad news.” This is why any attempt to address or confront scandal in the church or any “Cry for Justice” in the church is utterly unfounded—Protestant orthodoxy calls for a resignation to bad behavior lest we try to “be the gospel.”

Supposedly, we are to be judged solely by what we say, not what we do. And if it is God’s sovereign will, one will believe the message regardless of any behavior that goes along with it. In fact, Horton suggests in said book that if one is persuaded by our good behavior, that is what they falsely put their faith in; viz, “our doing rather than Jesus’ doing and dying” another popular refrain of the Neo-Protestant movement.

As stated by this ministry often, the catalyst for all of this is authority. The empowered individual who can really change for the better makes for a weak caste system. The issue becomes the protection of an institution at all cost that God has supposedly ordained to oversee salvation…

…versus the soundness of a body gathered together to spur one another unto “good works.”

paul

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5 Responses

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  1. KB said, on March 30, 2016 at 3:33 AM

    You remind me of something British speaker and author David Pawson has been saying for years. He quotes from There is a Greenhill Far Away – the line ‘He died that we might go to heaven, he died to make us good’. He laments that these last six words have little meaning amongst too many evangelicals who fear good works mean they are trying to be justified by the law. From there you start to think your soundness of doctrine is more important than your behaviour, and this downgrade of behaviour ends in Pawson’s complaint in his extensive itinerant ministry that he rarely if ever visits an evangelical church that is not tolerating known sexual immorality.

    Or my other favourite preacher, Dick Lucas of St Helen’s in London who went through Eph 2 : 1 to 10, detailing Paul’s diagnosis of the human condition, God’s answer to this in grace and faith and life, with the end result For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. The whole power of God and plan of salvation is available – so we might start doing good! How mundane compared to some super-miracle or charismatic conference speaker.

    Weren’t the Corinthians themselves meant to be a recommendation from Paul, a letter from Christ written by the Spirit? It is true that no-one is ever converted by the good works of believers, they need to hear the gospel, but a failure to do good works or conversely to be resigned to on-going failure and sinfulness can put them off so they won’t even listen.

    I assume I have got the gist of what you are getting at in this piece and the general thesis you are arguing for here. Could this be summed up in the phrase ‘for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life’? That however sound evangelicals are in rightly regarding the bible as the word of God, unless the Spirit lifts it out of the book and starts to implement it in our lives, it remains fruitless for want of a better term?

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 30, 2016 at 9:33 AM

      “It is true that no-one is ever converted by the good works of believers, they need to hear the gospel, but a failure to do good works or conversely to be resigned to on-going failure and sinfulness can put them off so they won’t even listen.”

      You are so correct! The Bible clearly states that justification is NEVER obtained by a perfect law-keeping or good works. Justification comes through the New Birth, because of who we ARE not what we DO; the righteous offspring of God. Striving to obey the law and perform good works are part of sanctification and has no bearing whatsoever on justification.

      Throughout the NT believers are exhorted to do “good works” because it fulfills the law of the spirit of life. It is the way in which we show love to God and to others. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” ~ Galatians 5:14

      Moreover, believers will stand before the Bema to receive the wages due to us for our good works while here on earth. The confusion arises when there is no distinction made between justification and sanctification. How you feel about works reveals what you believe about justification. Those who have a problem with believers doing good works immediately give themselves away.

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  2. KB said, on March 30, 2016 at 4:04 AM

    I noticed your reference to Wartburg Watch, being a former commenter there. Do you really think it is little more than gossip these days? The post from Parsons that made further participation there untenable for me bore little relationship to what I actually believe or my actual mode of commenting there imo. I fear if the articles she writes have the same level of accuracy, there is more emoting than thought going on, and just as ‘the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God’, the emoting of woman doesn’t either!

    The occasional insightful comment aside, TWW now strikes me sadly as one group of disobedient Christians criticising other groups of disobedient Christians and their well-known preacher representatives and institutions. They are often the mirror image of what they criticise; not ‘lording it over the sheep’ (a favourite there) is matched with ‘no-one tells me what to do’. The word ‘submit’, however nuanced you make and care you take in preventing its abuse, has been deleted from the vocabulary. But it remains in the NT, and their real problem is with apostolic teaching rather than Mohler and Mahaney.

    There is a marked absence of anything really positive, no article and very few comments along the lines of ‘I was abused, but this is how God set me free/I gradually learnt how to live again without my past dominating my future’. I would be the last person to want to be glib about church abuse, but do we really have to settle for going round in endless circles about this, talking about it over and over and over again, but never getting off the treadmill? I think I ultimately fell out for refusing to be politically correct (or perhaps more accurately emotionally correct) with the group-think. Isn’t group-think in essence what you are criticising institutional churchianity for?

    That’s enought of me for now!!

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 30, 2016 at 9:14 AM

      “The occasional insightful comment aside, TWW now strikes me sadly as one group of disobedient Christians criticising other groups of disobedient Christians and their well-known preacher representatives and institutions. They are often the mirror image of what they criticise;”

      You have pretty much nailed it!

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on March 30, 2016 at 9:24 AM

      “The word ‘submit’, however nuanced you make and care you take in preventing its abuse, has been deleted from the vocabulary. But it remains in the NT, and their real problem is with apostolic teaching rather than Mohler and Mahaney.”

      The Greek word translated “submit” has more to do with persuasion than willful compliance; leadership vs. authority. It is a call for someone to be persuaded by reasonable conclusions. Where authority rules, persuasion is not needed, only force. In other words, we should follow someone’s leadership once we have been convinced that they have presented a reasonable argument. There is never any call to willful compliance to authority for authority’s sake.

      Thank you so much for your insightful comments. You have made the same observations that I and others have made for quite some time. It is encouraging and such a blessing to all of us here when someone else “gets it”!

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