Religious Tyranny: A Case Study; Chapter Three, The Calvinist Civil War Named “Sonship”
Thank you! I am receiving a lot of help through comments and email. Adjustments will be applied later as I am focused on getting the big picture of the book written out.
Protestantism is perhaps the most uncommendable religion on earth because few Protestants really know what a Protestant is. The same can’t be said about Catholics and Muslims; you may disagree with them, but at least they know what they believe and can defend their position with consistent logic. You may disagree with the logic, but the fundamentals are logically consistent. For the most part simply stated; man cannot know reality, so God appoints mediators to rule over the great unwashed to prevent the self-destruction of humanity. This is the basic prism that drives most religion. Once one wades through all of the window dressings blocking the window and looks out, this is the least common denominator that has plagued mankind from the beginning of civilization.
Protestant scholars are very fond of claiming historical precedent, but a contemporary event that took place in the 1990’s proved the following: the contemporary brain trust of the Protestant Reformation had no idea what the Protestant Reformation represented. Obviously, if the scholars of Protestantism don’t even know what it is, neither do the parishioners. So, why does that concern us in regard to this study? Because the tenets of true Protestantism explain all of the interpretive questions presented thus far. Authentic Protestant orthodoxy is founded on tyranny, lack of assurance, a rejection of the new birth, an utter rejection of individualism, and is the propagator of one of the most aggressive caste systems ever developed for religious purposes. Regardless of any outcry against this seemingly outrageous accusation, the evidence will be presented in this chapter.
Tyranny at Clearcreek Chapel came about, and in fact, is still thriving at this writing, because of the resurgence movement previously introduced. This study represents a like narrative that has taken place worldwide in regard to the tenets of authentic Protestantism and how they drive events in the local churches. The Chapel was a forerunner and on the cutting edge of the resurgence movement and is also the same story retold by thousands of other lives and churches. That’s why this study is important for those who really want to know the truth and what to do moving forward.
Until the American Revolution, Protestantism was little different from other caste religions, but for whatever reason, integrated Americanism into its doctrine more than any other religion. However, the authentic tenets (traditions) have always been running in the background. Its tradition predicates its functioning, but the integration of Americanism formed much of its intellect. This is why Protestant scholars are so fond of the word, “paradox.” Authentic Protestantism and Americanism are contradictions made consistent by the magic concept of paradox.
An example, perhaps the best one, is the traditional order of worship in Protestant churches versus their statements of faith. The order of worship typically found in any given Protestant church on Sunday represents the church-state that it was prior to the American Revolution and its institutional salvation—not personal salvation. Protestant intellect says, “Once saved always saved,” but the order of worship represents a continued need for salvation found only in the Protestant institution. Cry out against this accusation if you must, but this assertion represents stated Protestant orthodoxy in no uncertain terms.
This reality is no better demonstrated by examining the Calvinist civil war fought in the 1990’s over the Sonship movement that invaded Presbyterian circles. At the head of the charge against Sonship was Dr. Jay Adams while also presiding over the escalation of the biblical counseling movement during the same time. How relevant was the Sonship debate? It incited several formal public debates, and several books defending positions for and against Sonship. In fact, Adams wrote one such book himself titled, “Biblical Sonship: An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course.” In that book, he refuted the idea that Sonship was of the Reformed tradition.
Nothing could be more polar opposite from the truth; Sonship was, and still is an accurate representation of the Reformation gospel. This debate brought the following fact into the light: contemporary Protestant scholars were clueless in regard to the true tenets of Protestantism. Those who claim historical precedent didn’t even understand the precedent to begin with—a longstanding historical precedent is irrelevant if you don’t even know what it is, and even more irrelevant if it’s a false precedent from its conception.
Where did the Sonship doctrine come from? It came from the Australian Forum which, as previously mentioned, was the think tank that truly rediscovered the authentic Protestant gospel. Its theological journal, Present Truth, was the most widely published theological journal in the English-speaking world during the 1970’s. Key is the fact that this journal was widely distributed at Westminster Theological Seminary, a foremost bastion of Reformed theology in Western culture. Three key figures in the historical scheme being presented here were professors at Westminster; Jay Adams, Dr. John “Jack” Miller, and Dr. David Powlison.
Adams was recruited by Westminster to formulate a biblical counseling curriculum in the 1970’s which eventually became the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). Some time later the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors was initiated (NANC, now ACBC; Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) as an accreditation institution for biblical counseling. Adams is often referred to as the founder of this organization which isn’t true. To his credit, Adams wanted the biblical counseling movement to be a laity affair and resisted professional accreditation.
Adams was a professor at Westminster at the same time that Dr. John Miller was. Dr. John Miller was the father of Sonship theology. Even though folklore claims that Miller devised Sonship during a sabbatical in Spain, it shares the exact same tenets prorogated by the Australian Forum; ie., the idea that one must return to the same gospel that saved them perpetually to maintain salvation. Miller merely put a different twist on it and was the one who coined the mantra, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”
Adams rejected the notion of spiritual growth in the Christian life through returning to the same gospel that saved us perpetually, but Adams also seemed to be oblivious to the much larger point of Sonship; the Christian life is the progression of salvation which means it must be lived out by faith alone in order for salvation to progress towards a final salvation. This is a pillar of the authentic Protestant gospel that Adams rejected with prejudice. Much to the consternation of Adams, the Australian Forum was actually invited to Westminster to meet with the faculty, a meeting that Adams skipped in protest. However, he made sure that someone served pork at the gathering to mock the Adventist connections to the Forum. Also, note that Adams never recognized a connection between Sonship theology and the Forum.
A mentor of Dr. Miller who also taught at Westminster was Dr. David Powlison who became the executive director of CCEF. As a result, another civil war developed in the Reformed community; specifically, within the biblical counseling community. Surprisingly, Adams missed the connection between Sonship theology and the growing contentions over methods of counseling within the biblical counseling movement. Adams missed the fact that Powlison brought Miller’s Sonship with him to CCEF and integrated it into biblical counseling via a program named, “Dynamics of Biblical Change.” This counseling model later became “Theology of the Heart.”
Adams missed the connection because he was the face of a severe pushback against Sonship that seemed to have destroyed it, but this was not the case at all. The Sonship movement merely changed its nomenclature to “Gospel Transformation.” This was a calculated move by Powlison and others mentored by Dr. Jack Miller. Adams thought the movement had been effectively put down, but it really went underground and reinvented itself in the biblical counseling movement. Adams did not recognize the connection and went on to see the biblical counseling civil war as a separate and new issue. The two sides of this conflict have been distinguished by the terms, “first generation biblical counseling” and “second generation biblical counseling.” Of course, most believe this is an argument about counseling method which is a lie. The conflict has always been about two different gospels; the confused evangelical gospel of our day, and the authentic Protestant gospel that proffers a progressive salvation through faithfulness to the church institution.
Eventually, Adams was all but completely driven out from the biblical counseling movement. The reworked version of Sonship theology by Powlison et al was so masterfully nuanced that Adams couldn’t figure out why he was being persecuted by his own counseling community for the better part of seven years. Sonship went underground in 2000, and the biblical counseling civil war raged from the year 2000 to 2007. During that time and to the extent that it was even noted by the secular world, the evangelical community was being transformed against its own will by what seemed to be a phantom force. The best anyone could make of it was the idea that it was some kind of Calvinist resurgence. Shortly before the movement was named “New Calvinism” in 2008, some called it “Gospel Sanctification.”
Ironically, even though this movement has completely taken over the Protestant church in our day, many within the church testify that they have never even heard of “New Calvinism.” This follows the movement’s MO of avoiding interpretive labels. Nevertheless, the vast majority of all evangelical teachers in our day connect themselves to Dr. Jack Miller by vigorously promoting his, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”
Meanwhile, back to Clearcreek Chapel circa 1995. Dr. John Street, before he was a doctor, attended CCEF in order to obtain his Doctorate degree in “Theology of the Heart.” As a sitting elder at the time, this author actually approved of the church paying for his degree. Around the same time, another man mentored by Dr. Miller, Jerry Bridges, was a guest speaker at the Chapel. When I heard him say, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” like everyone else I thought, “Well yes, I agree, we don’t ever want to forget the gospel that saved us.” Behold the use of assumptions to slowly indoctrinate people who are already dumbed down by design. The fix was in, and no one had a clue what was going on.
With that said, Street was more of an unwitting participant in the gradual indoctrination. While his close friend Jay Adams was contending against Sonship, no one made the connection between CCEF, Theology of the Heart, and Sonship. And certainly, the connection between the Australian Forum and Sonship was not even on the radar screen.
Then, during this time of unwitting participation, the Chapel was visited upon by a resurgent purist, an early foot soldier of the movement that fancied itself as the very rebirth of the Protestant Reformation. This man was the effective reincarnation of medieval Protestant tyranny. To know him and the leaders he developed was a unique opportunity to interact with a tyranny of old.
When one believes they are ordained by God to save the church and bring it back to its true gospel, by the way, 200 years later, unfathomable arrogance lingers close by.
Chapter Four: The Arrival of “Ravenous Wolves”