Religious Tyranny: A Case Study; Chapter 10, Clearcreek Chapel’s Super-Charged Tyranny Via New Covenant Theology. REVISED
Revision in red print.
In the previous chapter, we examined Protestantism’s law-based gospel in contrast to biblical justification APART from the law. Protestantism’s Covenant Theology is also a backdrop for this law-based gospel as well. The ground of true biblical justification is the new birth (1John, chapter 3).
In keeping with Protestantism’s law-based gospel, Covenant Theology posits the idea that Adam and Eve broke the original law covenant in the garden, and the gospel restores that original covenant. So, the gospel is all about restoring a law covenant between God and man (specifically, a “Covenant of Works”). The vast majority of Bible apologetics refutes this very idea from Genesis to Revelation. It’s almost, as it would seem, too simple; justification is APART from the law. The law is for condemning the world and sanctifying the saints, NOT justification. These are the Spirit’s two uses of the law, but the Spirit justifies through his baptism. (Galatians 3:1,2).
As discussed previously, the Australian Forum led by Adventist theologian Robert Brinsmead rediscovered the lost Protestant gospel of salvation by perpetually returning to the same gospel that saves us in order to keep ourselves saved. In this way, Protestants can claim a salvation by faith alone because the gospel saves by faith alone, but returning perpetually to the gospel to keep ourselves saved merely turns a “faith-alone” act into works. If salvation is not finished, something must be done to maintain it; however, Protestants claim that returning to the same gospel that saved us in order to eventually finish salvation doesn’t count as works because it is a faith-alone re-appropriation of the gospel. Supposedly, our work in returning to the gospel imputes the works of Christ to our account through our faith-alone works. So, Christ is the one working, not us. And of course, this faith-alone work is only effective under the auspices of the institutional church.
Another member of the core four of the Australian Forum, Jon Zens, saw a huge problem with the standard-bearing Covenant Theology. What problem did he see? Basically, the same problem described in chapter nine of this study. In response to his concern, Zens created New Covenant Theology (NCT) which was coined such circa 1981. How does that work? Instead of Christ justifying believers by keeping the law for them, Christ came to end the law completely and usher in a singular law of love.
But is that not what this book advocates as opposed to authentic Protestant orthodoxy? No.
Here is the key: NCT abrogates both biblical perspectives on the law while Covenant Theology maintains a singular perspective on the law that remains unchanged for the lost and saved both. It abrogates both of the Spirit’s uses of the law, and adds a third option: revelatory interpretation through the Spirit and confirmed by one’s conscience; i.e., “love.” In other words, Christ not only ended the condemnation of the law, He also ended the law’s use for love and replaced it with one single law: whatever the Spirit reveals to you when you interpret all reality through the gospel.
Let’s put some feet on this. The Bible, according to NCT, has one purpose and one purpose only: to show forth the gospel, or justification. And, all of life is to be interpreted through redemption. If the Bible is used for practical living, that’s a misuse of the Scriptures according to NCT. Guidance for practical living is to come through the elders who are experts at interpreting reality through the gospel. This is known as “Christocentric hermeneutics.”
But don’t miss the cardinal point here: elder imperatives are based on this single law of love that is unwritten and totally subjective. A mandate by the elders might totally contradict the plain sense of Scripture, but if the elders agree on a certain course of action and their consciences are clear, that is the final word on the issue and tantamount to God Himself speaking on the issue.
Not only is the aforementioned Chad Bresson (a former elder at the Chapel) a charter disciple of NCT, but this is the stated Chapel theology. And, this is exactly how they function. Over, and over, and over again the Chapel elders take courses of action that totally contradict the plain grammatical sense of Scripture.
That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit even the letter of Scripture (Chad Bresson citing Robert Brinsmead on his blog, “The Vossed World”).
[In other words, the grammatical sense of Scripture is completely irrelevant; true interpretation comes from those “apprehended by the Spirit,” viz, the church elders].
Now consider; in addition to the fundamental Protestant principles already discussed, NCT makes elders a virtual law unto themselves with their self-proclaimed stamp of approval from the Holy Spirit.
Protestant tyranny has persecuting principles in the Westminster Confession to begin with; the addition of NCT supercharges the tyranny, and what does that look like? It looks a lot like Clearcreek Chapel.
Before we move on to the final chapter, this study will add one more perspective and clarify what we have discussed so far. The Bible states two uses of the law by the Holy Spirit. He uses it to condemn the lost and to sanctify the saved as they colabor with the Spirit in loving obedience to the law minus all fear of condemnation. The Spirit’s use of the law has changed in regard to the saved because of the new birth (Romans 8:2). The Spirit justifies apart from the law; the new birth is what justifies the believer.
In Protestantism’s Covenant Theology, the law only condemns, and it is the standard for justification. Because of the law’s “righteous demands” being the standard for justification, and no person lost or saved can keep the law perfectly, the law can only condemn. Hence, Christ came to fulfill the law’s, “righteous demands.” Remember, this is the doctrine of “double imputation.” By the way, this is exactly what the apostle Paul argued against in Galatians, chapter 3. In that chapter, he argues that such a view makes the law an additional life-giving seed, but there is only ONE seed; Christ. Regardless of who obeys the law in order to fulfill its “righteous demands,” it is then the law that gives life. As Paul argues in Galatians, chapter 3, this makes the law an additional member of the Trinity.
In NCT, Christ came to end all aspects of the law…period. Granted, NCT does not make the law a life-giver like Covenant Theology and Protestantism in general. The law was “abrogated” in totality and replaced with the “law of Christ” or the “one law of love.” More like the biblical take on justification, one is justified because the law is gone—there is no law in which to judge or condemn a believer. But here is the huge problem with NCT: according to the Bible, there is no real love apart from the law in sanctification. The NCT concept is nothing new; this is why the Bible also states that one is justified by loving obedience to the law. Believers are not justified by loving obedience as cause and effect, but loving obedience shows that they have been justified through the new birth. In fact, NCT’s rejection of an objective grammatical application of the law as a means of love in the Christian life is the very biblical definition of antinomianism.
So then, it could be said that Covenant Theology necessarily relaxes the law because Jesus keeps it for us, but NCT rejects it altogether for everything. But what is the replacement? Answer: the one, single, “law of love.” What’s that? Whatever the anointed elders say it is at any given time as revealed to them by the Spirit and confirmed by a clear conscience. This is why Clearcreek Chapel is so central to this study; they not only designate NCT as their primary doctrine, this is exactly how they function. And, one is justified by “hear ye Him” via the elders of the church. Hearing the elders is synonymous with hearing Christ, and of course, “My sheep hear my voice.” Again, it boils down to salvation by faithfulness to the church and putting yourself “under the authority of godly men.” And what, in reality, defines a “man of God”? Answer: anyone who has the money to get a degree at a Protestant seminary or in some instances, because Protestant elitists confirm someone who may lack formal education. CJ Mahaney would be a good example of that.
Yet, there is one more angle on this that we should consider. Some in the Reformation tradition reject double imputation because of its obvious biblical contradictions, especially in the book of Hebrews. So what do they do with the law? Everything is pretty much the same as Covenant Theology, but the law is defined as a church marriage covenant with Christ. We have all heard this, right? The idea that the church is the “bride of Christ.” Hence, the law is our guide to be faithful to our marriage with Christ which also saves us. If we are not faithful to our marriage covenant with Christ, we are not saved, and again, since the church is Christ’s bride, salvation can only be obtained by faithfulness to the church and membership thereof. Sound familiar?
It’s all the same common denominator; salvation by church membership.
Religious Tyranny: A Case Study; Chapter 11, The Way Home. Family, Not Institution. Body, Not Authority.