Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 18, 2016

Originally published December 29, 2014

Introduction

    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

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” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.

History

    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source: faithbyhearing.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/macarthur-why-every-self-respecting-calvinist-should-be-a-premillenialist/

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.

Conclusion

    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)

The Reformation Counter-Reality

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 15, 2016

project-2016-logo-4The Reformers claimed, sola scriptura (truth based on Scripture alone). But in every case of any claim made by the Reformers of old or new, what they mean by any given word must be clarified. How did the Reformers define Scripture?

Here we begin to examine the Reformation’s redefinition of almost every word imaginable while allowing the masses to assume the normative definitions during indoctrination. If the people assume “nine,” but you want to bring them to “five,” you only talk about the “two” and the “three.” The nine is out of sight and out of mind. But also, during the process of bringing them to five, you allow them to assume two really means “two” and three really means “three.” In Reformed reality, the two and three really mean something different than the normally excepted grammatical definitions of two and three. Otherwise, both together would not equal nine which really means five in their reality. The goal is to get the masses to agree that nine really means five.

That’s a crass simplification, yet, the general idea. It may also be stated from the onset that this is a classic cult indoctrination technique. The technique deliberately excludes facts detrimental to the thesis and redefines words to collaborate a contrary truth. Nevertheless, this is a staple mode of communication among Reformed academia. Words mean what the Reformed academics deem them to mean, and you are the last to know until you see the world their way and it no longer matters. Those who define the words control how reality is perceived, and perception determines behavior. People act according to their logic.

How do people normally interpret information? And how do people normally process the reality that they are experiencing? Most people find their way in the world through natural assumptions. Few of us are taught anything different. As we grow up and mature, we assume that the world we live in is really as we perceive it, and we accumulate conclusions about life accordingly. When we went to grade school and learned words, we assumed that “cat” really means “cat” according to what we perceive a cat to be. We learned sentences such as, “The cat walked across the street,” “See Johnny run!” etc. When we read a newspaper or magazine and see sentences, we assume reported events really took place whether we were there or not. If the writer is telling the truth, a cat really walked across the street. Perception or understanding of the event is increased with more words; the color of the cat, the breed of cat, the name of the street crossed by the cat, etc. Relevant knowledge is what we use to negotiate the world we live in. This also assumes cause and effect, ability to comprehend reality, and some degree of control over our environment. Some call this, “free will.”

If you are being taught by someone who rejects these normative assumptions in a church venue, it is safe to assume that you have little or no mutual agreement in regard to the words being communicated. The words “two” and “three” are being used, but you assume those words do not add up to nine. The someone is allowing you to assume that they interpret reality in the same way you do. And, this description is the commonplace occurrence in most present-day Protestant churches.

Without getting into the realm of metaphysical theory, the Reformed principle will be stated simply, and then it will be confirmed as the standard mode of operation widely practiced in our day. It will also be established that this mode of operation flows from the historic roots and traditions of the Protestant Reformation.

The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event

The Reformed principle is sometimes expressed as, “The imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.” The question now following is… “What in the world does that mean!” It begins by understanding that the Reformed use words that mean things to teach that words don’t always mean things. Let’s parse the statement with words that mean things. “Imperative command” simply refers to commands found in the Bible.1 The “indicative event” refers to Christ’s life and death as a historical event.2 Few realize the gravity of the cute play on words with the definition of the word, “history” as “His-story.” This is, in fact, a thumbnail phrase that expresses a vast metaphysical/philosophical body of thought and theory. It suggests that ALL reality is interpreted through the life of Christ. It suggests, as the only objective presupposition, that all of history and reality are interpreted through the one historical event. It is history as reality, and the Christ event is the lynchpin of the story. History is a story, and the story is reality. This is NOT difficult to understand; the danger is letting the simplicity of it escape you because of presuppositions that assume complexity. What the Reformed have done is used thousands of different sub-concepts to teach this one, simple, primary concept.

The key to understanding this view of reality is a focus on perception. In the Reformed worldview, humans are only able to truly perform one function: they are able to perceive things, or see things. Everything else is mere experience. Again, just follow the meaning of the words used here and put them together for a logical conclusion, this is very simple to understand. Again, the danger is being confused by the simplicity of it due to presuppositions.

According to the Reformed worldview, reality is divided into two categories; active and passive. In other words, there is active reality and passive reality. Humans belong to the passive reality, or realm. The passive reality, or realm, includes things like water; until water is acted upon, it is dormant. Items in the passive realm only operate according to the actions of the active realm. In essence, we are dealing with two realms, and NOTHING happens in the passive realm unless it is acted upon by the active realm. Please note: according to this principle, those things in the passive realm that perceive that an action is being initiated in the passive realm are only experiencing the action, but are not performing it. Though the action is very much experienced as something initiated by the will of the being dwelling in the passive realm, it is an illusion—the action is only being experienced and not performed. Free will, and cause and effect within the passive realm are illusions. Cause and effect is split between the two realms: cause is only possible in the active realm, and all actions in the passive realm come from the active realm.

So, what is the purpose of this seemingly futile worldview? Answer: well-being. Simply, happiness. Isn’t that what we all want? To the degree that we properly perceive the reality of the passive realm, we have well-being; no circumstance can disturb our soul, all events are the will of the active realm which is always good and true regardless of how mankind perceives it. And this brings us to the Reformed/Protestant definition of saving faith: it is a true perception of reality apart from any free will, and the belief that nothing of the active realm exists within. It is like an eye that only perceives outwardly. The perception itself in no way enables anything within to act upon the passive realm, but only perceives and experiences what the active realm accomplishes in the passive realm. Faith alone is perception alone apart from any work. If water freezes, it didn’t decide to freeze itself, and did nothing to contribute to the freezing, it was acted upon by a change in temperature. Hence, as many Reformed teachers are fond of saying: “Sanctification is not done by you, it is done to you.”

Where the confusion exists in attempting to understand this worldview is demonstrated by a question such as this: “But when I am doing something, am I not really doing it?” Answer: no, the doing is also an experience. Let’s say that you are standing in the rain. You can feel the rain and experience the rain and everything that comes with standing in the rain and getting wet, but you have no control over the rain. You did not make yourself wet, you are passive; you are only now wet because you were acted upon by the active realm. However, let’s say that you decide to run from the pouring rain and into some sort of shelter. The assumption is that this act occurred because your own will decided to activate your body for purposes of using shelter. Not so, you are a purely passive being who must be acted upon. The active realm acted upon your thoughts and will. Even though you cannot experience the rain’s active motion, you can experience your own, but in either case, it no more you acting upon yourself than the rain is acting upon itself—in both cases the active realm is commanding the effects seen in the passive realm. A tree does not move itself; the active realm uses the wind to move the tree.

We are now one more simple step closer to understanding the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. Let’s review the critical elements that make up our understanding: passive realm; active realm; history; story; faith; Bible. The active realm acts upon the passive realm to effect a story as expressed in history. Faith is the ability to see the story for what it is, and to understand that you are a passive character in the story. Of course, the story is predetermined by God, and your role is also predetermined. The Bible is a prototype of the story, or a general pattern of the story. It is a tool for helping your faith see your own life reflected in the gospel narrative. Some of the Bible narrative tells the story of other humans who dwelt in the passive realm as a way to understand your own existence in the passive realm, while other parts of the Bible tell the end of the story, what is referred to theologically as eschatology, or end-time prophecy. So, some of the Bible is history specific, and other parts are patterns of understanding exhibit reality and an understanding of it. It may be stated this way: reality is a motion picture exhibited and executed by the active realm and observed by us in the passive realm.

Now, let’s describe what the story is. It is the redemptive story of Christ, and its purpose is to glorify God. Hence, God decided to write this…what we may call a metaphysical narrative, and for the express purpose of His own glory and “self-love.” Also, EVERYTHING in the narrative glorifies God. And consequently, to the degree that we see ourselves as nothing more than characters penciled into the metaphysical narrative plot by God as either vessels of wrath or vessels for glory, we find peace and happiness. After all, reality is just a gospel narrative written by God. Why get uptight about things that we have no control over, or things that ultimately glorify God whether good or evil? And even if your prewritten destiny is eternal destruction, the Bible can help you get so lost in the splendor of God that you would, in fact, rejoice in the opportunity to suffer eternally if it glorifies God. The primary purpose of the Bible is to lift God up, and bring mankind “down to hell.” To the degree that “believers” use the Bible to do this aided by the Holy Spirit, well-being is experienced.

This brings us to a conclusion in understanding the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. There are obviously many commands in the Bible. According to this way of understanding the Bible, ie., according to a redemptive interpretation, God presents many commands to men in order to demonstrate the futility of man obeying any command without fault and to the pleasure of God. According to this narrative prewritten by God in the active realm and displayed in the passive realm, Christ performed a passive obedience and an active obedience in what is known as the “Christ event” (His death and life). Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, and lived a perfect life in obedience to the law for those preselected by God to receive the salvation supplied by Christ according to the narrative.

According to the narrative: the law, or the commands read in the Bible, are designed to show all people how evil they are. This shows them their need for Christ, but that need doesn’t cease with salvation. Remember, faith is merely a perception, and faith grows as the perception grows. The perception of what? Answer: the depths of, or an ever-increasing understanding of how much we need salvation. Therefore, the imperative commands are not meant for us to obey because we are not able to, but are rather designed to give us an ever-deepening understanding of how much we needed salvation. Said another way, “the law reveals our evil as set against God’s holiness.” Or…they are based on the indicative Christ event.

The imperative commands are NOT grounded in an expectation of man’s ability to obey them, or for some purpose of man’s co-laboring with God, or some means of people loving God and neighbor, but rather they are grounded in the Christ event for the express purpose of God’s glory. Using the Bible/law in this way supposedly increases understanding of our own evil leading to a gratitude for God’s infinite mercy, and subsequent happiness and well-being. This is what the Reformers really meant by sola scriptura. It is perhaps one of the most egregious misrepresentations ever perpetrated on mankind.

It is not surprising then that this use of Scripture is known as the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. Of course, presenting it as an interpretive method, or hermeneutic, when it is really a way of interpreting reality itself, is yet another flagrant deception. Consequently, what would normally be a contrasting hermeneutic, namely, the historical-grammatical hermeneutic, must now be recruited as a contending alternative to the historical-redemptive method of interpreting realty. What is this saying? It is saying that words mean what we normally understand them to mean. It means that the word “command” assumes that the person giving the command did not already obey the command for the person to whom the command is directed. It also assumes that the one giving the command assumes that the subject receiving the command has the ability to obey it. This is in contrast to the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.

As we will see as we progress, these Reformed ideas are very ancient. They are actually grounded in ancient mythology. The imperative command is grounded in the indicative event is a more contemporary term that was borrowed from like views of secular metaphysics. For example:

It is often said that one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”; that is to say, the imperative and the indicative deal with two radically different realms that do not intersect. The realms of fact and duty are like oil and water; they do not mix.3

This is also known as Hume’s law4 and slightly differs from the Reformed imperative/indicative in that the Reformed concur that good can be known in the passive realm, but is not able to be practiced in the material realm by passive beings. Really, it’s the same difference.

In this chapter, the principle elements of the indictment have been presented. In the next chapter, the proof will be presented that authentic Protestantism is guilty of this worldview and its fraudulent presentation. Protestant ideological cross-breeding and confusion can be measured by ignorance regarding the original worldview that the Protestant Reformation was founded on; usually expressed in various and sundry denominations. However, remnants of its ancient principles can be seen in things like let go and let God theology that are eerily similar to…

Be perfectly resigned, perfectly unconcerned; then alone can you do any true work. No eyes can see the real forces; we can only see the results. Put out self, forget it; just let God work, it is His business (Swami Vivekananda (12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902) was a teacher of Vedanta philosophy, and one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of Hinduism).

No significant understanding of our present-day church experience can be ascertained without understanding the ideology that produced Protestant orthodoxy. Any suggestion that Reformed tradition and thought was birthed by an exegetical interpretation of the Bible is absurd.

Moreover, it is an ideology that hates life, and will invariably lead to a culture of death, and apparently, happily so. True believers must grasp this, and as a result see what is really behind the lofty sounding theological doctrines it espouses.

3 The Void Within: An Inner Quest for Wholeness, By Arnold C. Harms, Ph.D.

Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 14, 2015

Originally posted December 29, 2014

Introduction

    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

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” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.

History

    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source: faithbyhearing.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/macarthur-why-every-self-respecting-calvinist-should-be-a-premillenialist/

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.

Conclusion

    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)

Bible Prophesy is Directly Linked to Assurance of Salvation: Part One

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 4, 2015

https://paulspassingthoughts.com/One of the many Protestant myths that we hear often is that Bible prophesy, otherwise known as eschatology, is “secondary” truth. Yes, having a definitive understanding of its corpus which is about 25% of Scripture is optional.

Among the many disturbing insinuations in regard to this mentality is the idea that God prophesies about things that we can’t really understand. In other words, God is glorified by telling us things we can’t understand to prove some kind of point whatever that might be.

Not unlike many other Protestant mentalities, this particular one is warned against in Scriptures, and to the contrary promises blessings for those who study prophesy which assumes possible understanding.

One of the blessings of studying Bible prophecy and having a proper understanding of it is assurance of salvation. Much could be discussed on this wise, but the focus of this post will be the number of resurrections and judgments.

A Humble Faith is Confused and Uncertain?

There are many confused Protestants in the land because supposedly, being confused gives glory to God. One of myriad examples is a book written by Puritan wannabe Russ Kennedy of Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio titled “Perplexity.” The primary thesis of the book is about how unanswered questions are a form of worship. But this is typical: the Bible states that God is not a god of confusion, but Protestant orthodoxy can always be counted on to set the Bible straight. My point here is that there are many Protestants that believe the Bible teaches about multiple resurrections and judgments, But that’s NOT Protestantism. Most Protestants do not know what a Protestant is…which of course in not commendable.

At any rate, confusion never walks with surety.

Justification by Faith: One Resurrection; One Judgment

What is Protestant orthodoxy on this matter? Answer: one resurrection and one judgment immediately following. And why does this matter? It matters because this view of eschatology is tied directly to the Protestant position on justification; or in other words, the essential doctrine of Protestantism known as justification by faith.

In that doctrine of salvation (soteriology), there is no assurance of salvation until your salvation is confirmed at the one final judgment at the end of the ages. In that one final judgment, God “separates the sheep from the goats.” This is the judgment of the nations and NOT the great white throne judgment, but articulating the differences is not the subject of this particular post; our subject is justification by faith and its necessary eschatology that supports its authentic soteriology.

Orthodoxy: Obedient Faith Not OSAS   

Most Protestants also believe that once saved always saved (OSAS) is Protestant orthodoxy, but this is something else you can add to the long (very long) list of things that Protestants think Protestants believe. Protestant orthodoxy holds to salvation as a process. It is the idea that the process has a beginning point, a progression, and a final confirmation. A good snapshot of this is how Protestant orthodoxy interprets Philippians 2:12,13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

First, “obeyed” is the Protestant “obedient faith” or “obedience of faith.” What’s that? It is the idea that Christians only perform one act of obedience, living by faith…alone. How do you live by faith alone? It’s a good question because our culture defines faith as purely mental. Therefore, how do we “live” actively by faith alone? As homo sapiens, we not only sit around and think—we do things.

The answer is in… “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Here, orthodoxy interprets “salvation” as justification, or the saving of the soul by Divine decree. Therefore, salvation needs to be worked out through faith alone.

“The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event”

Also, and this is a BIG also, our working out of our salvation by faith alone, or faith-alone work, should be motivated by the supposed fact that “Christians” remain under the condemnation of the law, and should live in constant fear of condemnation which motivates us to live by faith alone lest we fall into “works righteousness [justification].” Because justification is seen as a process, and its end acquired by faith alone, one must not “jump directly from the command to an act of obedience.” Instead, everything we do must be “grounded in the historical Christ event” via faith alone, or by faith-alone works. This is how orthodoxy categorizes works in the Christian life: works, or a “righteousness of our own,” jumps from the command to obedience which is not of faith while faith-alone works operates on all obedience being grounded in the cross event.

In our Heidelberg Disputation series, mainline Protestant evangelical Phil Johnson is cited in regard to orthodoxy’s very definition of faith: it is returning to the same historical Christ event that saved us over and over again. By doing this, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our Christian life (sanctification, or a process of increased setting apart for God’s purposes), and the justification process continues to move forward. This is important to note because said imputation continues to satisfy the law, and remember, our primary motivation is fear of condemnation from being under law.

So, to clarify, our primary faith-alone work is to continually return to the same gospel that saved us, otherwise known as “preaching the gospel to ourselves” in order to keep the law satisfied. A perfect law-keeping is imputed to us as we live by faith alone in “what Jesus has done, not anything we do.”

The Preeminence of the Law in Protestant Soteriology  

Let’s tally all of this up in regard to the subject: Protestant orthodoxy makes law preeminent in salvation, and there is only one judgment that deals with the law; the great white throne judgment at the end of the ages. Orthodoxy rejects any judgment that excludes the condemnation of the law. Their gospel calls for a judgment that confirms those who “live by the gospel” well enough to be covered by Christ’s fulfillment of the law through His perfect law-keeping.

Judgments for rewards apart from the law and its condemnation are rejected by orthodoxy. The reward for living by faith-alone well enough is salvation. Because we are saved by faith alone, we must begin by faith alone, live by faith alone, and will be judged according to how well we did that. When we stand AT the judgment, if God only sees the works of Christ and not anything we did, we will “stand IN the judgment.”

Though Christ is said to have preeminence among Protestants, that’s only because Christ paid the penalty of sin under the law, and supposedly fulfilled its demands in our stead. The law is what really has preeminence in Protestant orthodoxy.

And this is why only one judgment is accepted; because all other judgments are for reward APART from the law’s condemnation.

What Saves a Protestant at the Judgment?

In the rest of Philippians 2:12,13 we read, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” If you have been following our Heidelberg Disputation series, you know that authentic Protestantism interprets this through Martin Luther’s bondage of the will. Luther believed that man was created with a passive will. Like water, it is only active when it is acted upon from outside of itself. Water doesn’t move unless gravity pushes it—it doesn’t change temperature unless the environment acts upon it from the outside. Likewise, the Christian does not work, he/she only has the will to act if acted upon from the outside. God is the only one who has an active will, and He created man with a passive will.

Luther framed this in context of death. According to Luther, death is not a nonexistent state, but merely a passive state. The dead exist, but they are in bondage to passivity unless acted upon. Luther also believed that this is illustrative of the Christian life. Christians are still dead in trespasses and sin, and only perform good works when acted upon from the outside by God. This is in fact central to the Protestant ideology that drives its soteriology.

Conclusion  

Assurance of salvation cannot be a reality in authentic Protestantism because surety removes the condemnation of the law regardless of anything we do. The goal is not the obedience of love, but the so-called obedience of faith that satisfies the “righteous demands of the law.” If we live by faith alone, the obedience of Christ will be imputed to us. This belief is what saves the Christian at the final judgement.

In part two, we will examine what Philippians 2:12,13 is really stating, and its relationship to eschatology. Moreover, we will examine why Christians can have doubtless assurance of salvation accordingly.

paul

The Protestant Road to Salvation; Gaining Salvation with More and More Salvation by Using the Bible to be Brought Down to Hell

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 1, 2015

Church 2The Heidelberg Disputation Series: Theses 15-18.

Listen to audio or download audio file. 

Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio.com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul Dohse. Tonight, part 10 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 15 ff. The Protestant Road to Salvation; Gaining Salvation with More Salvation by Using the Bible to be Brought Down to Hell 

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Tonight, we continue in our sentence by sentence evaluation of the HD (Heidelberg Disputation) starting with thesis 15. Yes, tonight, we really get into the meat of the Protestant gospel, and it ain’t pretty.

Due to the fact that I can’t decide where to stick this with a fork first tonight, let’s begin by reading the 15th thesis:

Thesis 15: Nor could free will remain in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in its passive capacity (subiectiva potentia).

The Master of the Sentences (Peter Lombard), quoting Augustine, states, »By these testimonies it is obviously demonstrated that man received a righteous nature and a good will when he was created, and also the help by means of which he could prevail. Otherwise it would appear as though he had not fallen because of his own fault.« He speaks of the active capacity (potentia activa), which is obviously contrary to Augustine’s opinion in his book ›Concerning Reprimand and Grace‹ (De Correptione et Gratia), where the latter puts it in this way: »He received the ability to act, if he so willed, but he did not have the will by means of which he could act.« By »ability to act« he understands the original capacity (potentia subiectiva), and by »will by means of which he could,« the active capacity (potentia activa).

The second part (of the thesis), however, is sufficiently clear from the same reference to the Master.

We discussed the two primary elements of Martin Luther’s bondage of the will in part 7. They are active will and passive will. Man has no active will, his will is passive. It’s like water; it just sits there until it is acted upon by something from the outside. In Luther’s bondage of the will construct, man is dead as a passive being. We normally think of death as a termination of life, but according to Luther, death is a realm where works can be performed, but they are dead works.

As often pontificated by the Reformed, their favorite illustration in regard to this is the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. Supposedly, this is illustrative of sanctification (the Christian life). From there, the Reformed put metaphysical feet on it in various and sundry philosophical ways, but the major premise is the same.

A caution when studying Reformed ideology/philosophy: separate the major premises from the various applications or you will drive yourself nuts. The major premises such as the total inability of mankind are consistent, but the so-called life applications are not. Let me give an example.

Some of the Reformed believe that man is not active in any regard as far as the will. Everything that happens is because God acted upon man. Others believe man has a free will to do dead works in the material realm, but all manifestations of good works are the result of God acting upon man’s passive will. So, one view sees all human events as a result of God’s active will while others see the distinction in only good or evil acts. Man is passive in regard to good works, but has an active will in regard to all things evil.

Hence, it’s fine to go about your business and live life as it comes just so you believe that everything you do is evil. That qualifies you to be forgiven on Sunday. In the other application, you have no active will at all, but ALL things are preordained by God for His glory. Your goal is only to SEE and EXPERIENCE what God is doing. In the final analysis, these varying applications are not going to cause much of a rift in Reformed circles; the tie that binds is the total inability of man.

But here is another tie that binds: the idea that God created evil for His own glory. Most Protestants think that Protestants believe that Adam and Eve were sinless/holy/pure before the fall and they are just dead wrong in that idea, no pun intended. Authentic Protestant soteriology holds to the idea that Adam and Eve were created with passive wills as clearly stated by Luther in the thesis at hand. Either they had a propensity to do evil and God acted to prevent it until the appointed time, or God actively incited their fall as well.

It can be demonstrated clearly that the creation of evil by God is a Reformed mainstay, but the various philosophical applications make it possible for the Reformed to play all kinds of metaphysical shell games in order to keep people confused and controlled.

As stated before, the Reformation was first and foremost about philosophy and NOT theology. Clearly, the Reformation was about the integration of Dualism with the Bible. One aspect of Dualism insists that nothing can exist without a counterpart to define it. Without darkness, there can be no light, etc. When we get to thesis 28, we will see that Luther’s counterpart to love is evil. Since God is love, the only logical conclusion, other than the fact that Jonathan Edwards and many others have stated it directly, is that God Himself cannot exist without evil because He is the defining counterpart. Some suggest that God existed, but for all practical purposes was nonexistent until He created evil. This is nothing new. This is a resurgence of the exact same Platonist/Neo-Platonist/Gnostic doctrines that plagued the first century church. Take note of what James was pushing back against in that day:

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.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Of course, the Reformed deny that they teach such things; specifically, that God created evil for His own glory, and dance around the fact with their shell-game communication skills. An example is the following excerpt from an article written by John MacArthur:

Evil originates not from God but from the fallen creature. I agree with John Calvin, who wrote,

. . . the Lord had declared that “everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good” [Gen. 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity-which is closer to us-rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination. [Institutes, 3:23:8]

~ Is God Responsible for Evil? Grace to You catalogue #A189.

Ok, so it originates from the creature and not God as if that has nothing to do with how God created man. The only alternative is the idea that God created man in His holy image, and with a free will, but don’t hold your breath and wait for them to ever agree to that.

Note Calvin’s language very carefully. It wasn’t one, then another individual deceived by the serpent; it was a propensity inherent in the kind. Also, in the same section of 3.23.8, Calvin attributes the fall to God’s predestination for His glory. It is unclear if Calvin would have agreed with Luther’s bondage of the will via man’s passive will, but Calvin clearly believed that man was created with a level of integrity that could not obtain full fellowship with god even if man had not fallen:

Even If man had remained in his integrity, still his condition was too base for him to attain to God. How much less could he have raised himself so far, after having been plunged by his ruin into death and hell, after staining himself with so many defilements nay, even stinking in his corruption and all overwhelmed with misery?

~The Calvin Institutes 2.12.1. Henry Beveridge translation varies slightly.

Shockingly, the Henry Beveridge translation has it that man’s condition was too base to attain to God “without a Mediator” note capital “M.” Clearly, Calvin is saying that man needed a mediator before the fall.

Thesis 16: The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

On the basis of what has been said, the following is clear: While a person is doing what is in him, he sins and seeks himself in everything. But if he should suppose that through sin he would become worthy of or prepared for grace, he would add haughty arrogance to his sin and not believe that sin is sin and evil is evil, which is an exceedingly great sin. As Jer. 2:13 says, »For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,« that is, through sin they are far from me and yet they presume to do good by their own ability.

Now you ask: What then shall we do? Shall we go our way with indifference because we can do nothing but sin? I would reply: By no means. But, having heard this, fall down and pray for grace and place your hope in Christ in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection. For this reason we are so instructed-for this reason the law makes us aware of sin so that, having recognized our sin, we may seek and receive grace. Thus God »gives grace to the humble« (1 Pet. 5:5), and »whoever humbles himself will be exalted« (Matt. 23:12). The law humbles, grace exalts. The law effects fear and wrath, grace effects hope and mercy. Through the law comes knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20), through knowledge of sin, however, comes humility, and through humility grace is acquired. Thus an action which is alien to God’s nature (opus alienum dei) results in a deed belonging to his very nature (opus proprium): he makes a person a sinner so that he may make him righteous.

This thesis is a good summary of the Reformation gospel. Man remains unchanged accept for the ability to see how evil he is and his continued need for the same gospel that saved him. Any notion that there is anything in man that could choose God is double sin and hewing out cisterns for himself that cannot hold water.

Also assumed in the rhetoric is efficacious good works to maintain the law as a standard for justification.

Luther then states what “saved” sinning lost people are to do since they can do nothing but sin. One is to focus on their sin as a way to see a continued need for salvation resulting in more grace…for salvation and continued justification. Instead of being indifferent to sin, embrace it as a means of seeing your need for continued “grace,” herein a more nuanced word than outright “justification” or “salvation.” Again, this nuancing of words incessant with the Reformed began right here in the HD. Following is a contemporary example:

In the following video trailer from the 2011 Resolved Conference, Al Mohler states that the only purpose of the law in the life of a believer is to show us our ongoing need for salvation. Of course, he doesn’t word it that way. He states that believers have an ongoing need for Christ (which no Christian would refute), but note carefully: he is speaking in context of our initial salvation. So, instead of saying plainly that Christians need to be continually saved, or continually justified, he replaces that wording with “Christ.” However, again, the context is clearly salvation. He is saying that we need Christ in the same way that we needed Him for salvation.

Mohler is also saying that the law has the same relationship/purpose to unbelievers as it does believers: to show us our need for Christ. So, obviously, this is in contrast to any ability on the part of the believer to keep it. All the law can do is show NEED. Need for what? Well, what’s the context? Mohler also presents an either/or choice in regard to the law: it either shows us our need for Christ (again, what need specifically?), or we are using it to “rescue ourselves from sin.” Hmmm, what does it mean to “rescue ourselves from sin”? I believe Mohler deliberately uses the word “rescue” instead of “save” in order to add nuance to his point. “Rescue” is less direct, and could refer to a believer trying to overcome sin on his own. This is the same reason he replaces “salvation” with “Christ” in his prior point. It’s deliberate deception. Excluded is any mentioning that the law can be used by the believer to please God and glorify Him in all we do by “observing all that I have commanded.”

~Paul’s Passing Thoughts.com: Why Al Mohler is a Heretic; April 10, 2012

Thesis 17: Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

This is clear from what has been said, for, according to the gospel, the kingdom of heaven is given to children and the humble (Mark 10:14,16), and Christ loves them. They cannot be humble who do not recognize that they are damnable whose sin smells to high heaven. Sin is recognized only through the law. It is apparent that not despair, but rather hope, is preached when we are told that we are sinners. Such preaching concerning sin is a preparation for grace, or it is rather the recognition of sin and faith in such preaching. Yearning for grace wells up when recognition of sin has arisen. A sick person seeks the physician when he recognizes the seriousness of his illness. Therefore one does not give cause for despair or death by telling a sick person about the danger of his illness, but, in effect, one urges him to seek a medical cure. To say that we are nothing and constantly sin when we do the best we can does not mean that we cause people to despair (unless we are fools); rather, we make them concerned about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ok, so not much commentary needed here—this is pretty plain. As believers we are still sick, and hey, telling someone that they need a doctor continually is not bad news, but good news. All of the Christian life is seeking to be concerned about “grace.” Again, that means salvation. As we have discussed many times before, “grace” is a biblical word that has broad meaning including, for the most part, “help.” Though Luther calls any assertion that this would instill despair in people “foolish,” historical facts beg to differ.

Thesis 18: It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.

The law wills that man despair of his own ability, for it »leads him into hell« and »makes him a poor man« and shows him that he is a sinner in all his works, as the Apostle does in Rom. 2 and 3:9, where he says, »I have already charged that all men are under the power of sin.« However, he who acts simply in accordance with his ability and believes that he is thereby doing something good does not seem worthless to himself, nor does he despair of his own strength. Indeed, he is so presumptuous that he strives for grace in reliance on his own strength.

Here we have it again. The sole use of the Bible is to show us our worthlessness so as to be brought down to hell in order to prepare ourselves to receive more salvation/justification. As Dr. Michael Horton has said, the sole Purpose of the Bible is to “drive us to despair of self-righteousness.” This is, of course, the mortification part of the Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification.

With that, let’s go to the phones.

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