Paul's Passing Thoughts

Church “Covenants” and How You Should Behave in a Protestant Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published July 23, 2015

https://paulspassingthoughts.com/One endeavor on the long list of objectives here at TANC ministries is to get solid legal insight into what has become protocol in evangelical churches. That process began yesterday during a consultation with a local attorney. As documented here at PPT, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and its network of churches has become a virtual divorce mill. The pattern that this ministry continues to be made privy to is documented in an open letter to the executive director of ACBC, Heath Lambert.

Simply stated, New Calvinism, which is a return to the original church polity of the Reformation, does not have the force of state to compel church members to follow its orthodoxy. So, it improvises. Instead of simply burning heretics at the stake, or burning a hole through the tongues of those who ask questions in a challenging way, they ruin names and finances.

We must remember, the orthodoxy of the Protestant Reformation was tailored for a church state. America was originally founded by the Pilgrims who didn’t like how the Church of England did church-state, so they came to America and founded “New England.” The name is not happenstance. The American Revolution put an end to the Pilgrims’ theocracy that dominated the colonies. Actually, “Pilgrims” is a soft term for “Puritans.” And please, spare me the emails about the differences between the Pilgrims and the Puritans—the differences are insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

That brings us to the discussion of soft terms. First, the original Protestant Reformation was a simple church state, but in reality, the definition of “cult” comes into play when church states had to improvise in order to control people because of the American Revolution. A cult is defined as follows: it is any religious organization that controls people by means other than a church state. The etymology of the word “cult” does not become significant until post American Revolution.

In other words, without the force of the state to compel people to obey its orthodoxy, it must resort to manipulation and brainwashing to control people. Yes, church states also emphasize brainwashing because murdering people is costly in its implementation, and fewer people amounts to less resources, but brainwashing becomes even more important and refined when the final solution has been outlawed in an open society.

So, let’s state a definitive definition of cult: it is any religious organization that controls people by means other than a church state, and combines faith with authority. Like its church state predecessor, it assumes that the nature of man cannot obtain unity for a given cause without being ruled by those with superior knowledge of realty.

After the American Revolution, churches became a hybrid of orthodoxy and enlightenment thinking. It became an alphabet soup with a broad range of attitude concerning the ability of man to rule self. But, this never resulted in the full-blown focus on individual responsibility mirrored by the 1st century assembly of Christ. The concept of “church” spawned in the 4th century has always permeated the American church psyche, i.e., orthodoxy being a storybook form of truth written by church “Divines” that the saints can understand, and enforced for their own wellbeing.

With that said, soft terms become vital to the American church as we know it today. Church polity is a soft term for church government; church discipline is a soft term for Unam sanctam, or John Calvin’s power of the keys that gives church authority to decide someone’s salvation on behalf of God. It goes without saying that you obey someone that can take away your salvation.

And, “church covenant” is a soft term for “church contract.” Basically, when you sign a church covenant church contract, you are signing away your right to be heard. In most of these contracts, you agree to obey the leadership and to be “teachable.” Hence, from now on, when our ministry hears, “Gee whiz, all I did was ask questions and now my life is being destroyed,” the subject will mostly likely hear, “No, what you did is breach of contract so take your medicine.”

Note: in many churches that deem themselves congregational, the parishioners unwittingly circumvent that reality by agreeing to a revised church covenant prepared and presented by the elders. See how that works?

Moreover, these third party contracts often negate rights found under civil and criminal law. This ministry, more specifically I, stands corrected in my assertion that coercion is being used to control parishioners. In fact, it is not coercion, but according to what the parishioner has agreed to and signed, especially regarding permission to leave church membership. It’s a contract—you signed it, so shut up, nod your head, say amen, and put your money in the plate. It’s all good; if the elders like you—you will more than likely “be able to stand in the judgement.”

What are the redeeming facts here, if any? Education: NEVER sign a church contract. It’s NOT a “covenant” bolstered by your signature—it’s a CONTRACT. This is why TANC does what it does; education, then solution/alternative.

Is there a way to get justice after signing our rights away? Perhaps, because apparently, marriage is also a contract. Rather than burning you at the stake and burying you in the church yard under a stone edict condemning you to hell, which of course is against the law presently, they will begin by ruining your name, and then destroy you financially via divorce.

The process goes something like this: you break your contract and stop being “teachable.” This tells the leadership that you no longer see yourself as a sinner, and you have become “insubordinate.” A dozen or so respected leaders and their wives start telling your wife that you are no longer “humble” and whether she realizes it or not, she is married to an “angry man.” And hark, behavior that your wife formerly assumed not to be abusive, in fact is abusive. Yes, she is married to a man who “doesn’t love her like Christ loved the church.” It’s all downhill from there.

Apparently, legally, this is interference with a marriage contract. Damages would be determined by a jury if the situation ends in divorce. Also, the idea that ACBC could eventually be subject to a class action lawsuit is not all that farfetched.

However, this is just more evidence that the premise and foundations of the institutional church is egregiously flawed and was designed for a church state to begin with. The solution is the cooperation of spiritual gifts, not authority, and fellowship—not membership.

Meanwhile, if you do not like the solution, behave yourself in the Protestant church. Stop going to discernment blogs and whining—you signed the contract, shut up and live by it.

paul

Faith and Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on January 21, 2016

We Forgive the Way Our Father Forgives Who Doesn’t Want to Condemn Anyone

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 17, 2015

project-2016-logo-4God doesn’t choose His enemies, he seeks to be reconciled to them.”

We have a severe identity crisis among professing Christians. Who are we and what is our specific relationship to the Father? However, there is one thing we do know that explains why we know little: the Protestant waters we swim in culturally have always been about keeping ourselves saved—not living out our true heritage.

This is why Christians live by illogical truisms. If you pay close attention, discussion and sermons will often be little more than adages strung together to make sentences. The problem with that follows: this will not bring about the righteousness that God desires. The purpose of Christ’s assembly is to create a mature body that impacts the world.

The topic of forgiveness is by no means excluded from the institutional church’s incessant pooling of ignorance leading to decadence of every sort. While stating that we should forgive others “the way we have been forgiven,” something totally different is prescribed. Per the usual with other orthodoxy as well, selected Scripture verses make the case with contradictory verses being the elephants in the room. Moreover, contradictions are trumped by the assumed authority of Protestant academics. How dare thee bring up contradictions and thereby touch God’s anointed? Thou should know that your lack of understanding only makes these deep truths appear to be contradictions!

Here is the normally accepted orthodoxy: he who is without sin throw the first stone; so, if one doesn’t forgive others unconditionally, even without repentance, we are judging ourselves sinless and qualified to judge others. Forgiveness in the church must be the norm and without any conditions. When pressed with biblical contradictions, some will make a defense for “vertical and horizontal forgiveness.” The first being a “forgiveness in the heart,” and the second being “practical forgiveness” IF one repents. The latter is nice when it happens, sort of the icing on the cake, but the former is required lest God not forgive us of our own sin. Again, you can add this to a long list of things that Protestants do to keep themselves saved, ie., forgive under all circumstances or God will not forgive you of “present sin.” This is therefore added to the Protestant Means of Grace which is salvation on the installment plan. This is why this ministry receives vitriolic pushback on this subject, we are spearing one of the sacred Means of Grace.

Presumably, this idea of heart forgiveness comes from Matthew 18:35, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” The problem with this view is the context of Matthew 18 which makes this particular heart forgiveness contingent on repentance. If the offender repents, “you have gained a brother,” ONLY then are we obligated to extend forgiveness and forgive “your brother”… “from your heart.”

Additionally, according to orthodoxy, we forgive others unconditionally because if we don’t, our anger towards the person will turn to bitterness and result in self-destruction. Hence, another popular Protestant adage is, “We don’t forgive others for them, we forgive others for ourselves.” But what is the real framework for forgiveness according to the Bible? If we don’t forgive the other person because they refuse to repent, where do we go from there?

Answer A: We forgive the way God forgives, and it’s contingent upon repentance.

Answer B: If they don’t repent, we do what God does; we seek their repentance for their sake…and ours. We seek to “gain a brother.”

This is exactly what God does. Much could be discussed here about one’s view of God, but let it be said that blank check forgiveness comes from a certain view of God, namely, that it is not God’s will or desire that all people be saved. God does good to His enemies because He wants them to know that it is NOT His desire that they perish. His constant show of goodness towards mankind as set against judgment leads them to repentance. When a professing believer sins against another Christian and refuses to repent, they show themselves as unbelievers. They are now your enemy, and God’s enemy as well. Now listen, this is all based on objective facts, not orthodox opinion.

Herein, we are like God: we now seek the repentance of our enemies. We seek their reconciliation: “be reconciled to God.” This is what God does, and we are to be like Him in the world. God doesn’t choose His enemies, he seeks to be reconciled to them.

Let me pause here and make the case. Romans chapter one clarifies God’s pending wrath against all who defy righteousness. However, let’s also clarify the context of Romans chapters one and two. The mystery of the gospel, as defined by the New Testament, is the joining together of Jews and Gentiles into one body. Jewish attitudes and traditions were mucking that up. The Jews, as God’s chosen people, refused to forgive Gentiles, considered them to be their enemies and the enemies of God as well, and therefore promoted revenge against the Gentiles whenever possible. Jewish tradition promoted “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” The Jewish sages interpreted “neighbor” as someone in good standing with the Jewish community (Luke 10: 25-37). This made the Jews little better than violent sects often found in Islam. But, “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11).

As we will see, much of this hinges on God’s desire to see ALL people saved, and we should have this desire as well (see the historical account of Jonah). True biblical forgiveness hinges on the idea that God doesn’t predestine people for condemnation. This also answers the question of unresolved anger. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but the subjects of the kingdom of darkness that hell was prepared for. While we may be angry at those who have sinned against us, do we really want to see them suffer in hell for eternity because of what they did to us? In most cases NO, but in fact, they will if they don’t repent. This is not to say that they would go to hell simply for offenses against us, but a lifestyle of unrepentant sin is in view here. Therefore, it is our goal to “gain a brother.” The energy produced by righteous indignation is to be used in “gaining a brother.” This means we “overcome evil with good.” This is what God does, and this is what leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). God makes it rain and shine upon the just as well as the unjust, and we are to do the same in a manner of speaking. We hold them accountable because unrepentance puts their soul in peril, but we also treat them as we would want to be treated in that situation; we would want to be reminded that we are under judgment by God who does not wish to condemn us. Because God is love, we should be love.

In the final analysis, be angry and don’t sin. Revenge belongs to God, but He desires reconciliation over judgment. All in all, we should only have two kinds of people in our lives: brothers and those we are trying to gain as brothers. Some are our enemies, most aren’t. BUT, we gain them through repentance which comes through showing God’s desire for mercy. Therefore, we do good to them, we pray for them, we bless them, but true fellowship with the Father and the Son that we enjoy only comes through reconciliation and fruits that show repentance accordingly. Those who have truly repented will want to compensate IF possible, and those who have committed crimes against us will be willing to suffer the consequences. I vaguely remember the last words of a condemned criminal before the victim’s family who reportedly became a Christian while on death row. He said he hoped his execution and the fulfilled justice thereof would give the family some relief and closure to what he had done to them. In my book, that is indicative of true repentance.

Putting feet on forgiveness towards those who have repented is fairly simple, and again, the way God forgives. It is a promise to not bring the sin up to former offenders for purposes of condemnation. Likewise, this includes others, and ourselves. Like God, we “will remember their sin no more.” By practicing this, the initial decision to forgive based on repentance/reconciliation is solidified deeply in the heart. This is the true forgiveness in the heart.

Christians have a difficult time understanding true biblical forgiveness because the debate still rages about who God is and what He wants. If man is totally depraved and unable to respond to God’s call to sinners, moral equivalency demands blank check forgiveness. Who are we not to forgive? The only apparent reason that we are forgiven is because God chose us, and also chose His enemies. Who are we not to forgive others whether they repent or not? Whether they repent or not is God’s choice, not ours. After all, it’s God’s choice to have enemies.

But that’s not God. He desires mercy and not sacrifice. Therefore, worship by those who have circumvented reconciliation is a stench before God. In this case, those who chain the temple doors are commended by him.

And this may apply to those who demand forgiveness without reconciliation as well. Remember, by no means can the idea of reconciliation be divorced from repentance, and we dare not offer at the alter without it.

paul

Gut Check for Evangelicalism: Control, Despair, and Fear IS the Specific Protestant Orthodoxy

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 10, 2015

51nAtlMzT7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOne of the memories burned into my psyche is the big picture narrative book that my dad bought me when I was a young boy about the NFL titled, “The First 50 Years.” One of the subtitles in the book is, “Pain and Injuries are in the Contract.” Of course, those who love the game know that’s one of the downsides of the game, but hardly the focal point. In boxing, pain and injury is obviously the focal point; the objective is to knock the opponent unconscious.

Here is what “Christians” need to start considering: Protestantism is boxing, not football, and that’s in the contract.

There is a book recently written by Dr. Marlene Winell titled, “Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion” wherein she coins the term “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS). In the book, she writes, “I think we can acknowledge we have a subculture now – a group of people who were once religious but have left and are reclaiming their lives. This group is special and identifiable. It’s not just exChristian; it’s exMormon, exMuslim, ex-Jehovah-Witness, ex-cult, and ex-authoritarian.” And, “Religious indoctrination can be hugely damaging, and making the break from an authoritarian kind of religion can definitely be traumatic. It involves a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, the future, everything. People unfamiliar with it, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create and the recovery needed.”

There is perhaps something that Dr. Winell herself does not understand: these very symptoms (at least in regard to Protestantism) qualify these people to be religionists par excellence. Fear, pain, and misery are in the contract. And here is something else many understand not: cultism is defined by authority and subsequent control. Ironically, most people think of cults as loosey-goosey splinter groups lacking authority structure when the opposite is true; cultism and authority ALWAYS walk together. At any rate, a pity so many leave the institutional church when they have finally come to where the church wants them: on the verge of a nervous breakdown or in the spectrum of personality disorders born of orthodoxy. Obviously, they misunderstood orthodoxy from the very beginning.

Protestant orthodoxy states in no uncertain terms that RTS is a description of the perfect Christian. This religion is one of the largest in the world, and fundamentally representative of most, especially regarding the authority issue. The founding doctrinal statement of the Protestant Reformation, the Heidelberg Disputation, insists that all life meaning must be found in suffering and death. I would cite specific theses among the forty, but every thesis in the document states such. As with most of us, it might escape Dr. Winell that the paramount icon of the Christian faith is an instrument of death and torture, the cross. The Heidelberg Disputation’s major theme gave birth to this icon for the ages as Christianity’s foremost representation. But somehow, we find the results profound in some way and in need of much research.

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion articulated the Heidelberg Disputation. In that work, Calvin stated that constant fear of condemnation was efficacious to remaining saved and growing in one’s salvation (3.3.3-7). Furthermore, according to Calvin, if one has assurance of salvation, such fear is of no necessity and puts one’s soul in peril (3.24.6). For both Martin Luther (the author of the Heidelberg Disputation) and Calvin, the redeeming trump card is periodic experiences of joy gifted to us by God for recognizing our depravity, but both warned that these joyful experiences should not give one affirmation of future glory. This is the official Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification. You do the math.

Yes, there is a mass exodus taking place from the institutional church because many misunderstand the premise of their faith…

…fear and pain are in the contract. And it is not just a downside, it is the name of the game.

paul

The Elephant in the Room: The Historical-Redemptive Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 30, 2015

ELEPHANTOriginally published September 3, 2013

How Should We Read Our Bibles?

There isn’t a bigger elephant in the Sunday school room or the sanctuary than the issue of Bible interpretation. The reason for this follows: the method of interpretation that comes natural to us is assumed.

What is that method? This gets into an area of study called hermeneutics (the theory of interpretation), and the two primary theories thereof are exegesis and eisegesis. These are big theological words that the average Protestant is not supposed to know. This is because the Protestant interpretation of the Scriptures is based on authority.

We will get to exegesis and eisegesis, but the crux of the issue is authority. The Reformers came from Romanism and clearly, their interpretive construct was based on authority; i.e., the average parishioner was not free to interpret the Bible and follow it according to one’s own conscience:

Rightfully and nobly did the Protestant Reformers claim religious liberty for themselves; but they resolutely refused to concede it to others. [1]

The very foundation of Protestant interpretation is based on authority; that is, the leaders dictate meaning. Therefore, traditionally, the need for Protestants in general to understand interpretive principles would be unnecessary, and as a result, Protestantism functions that way till this very day. In the early days of the Reformation, private interpretation was outlawed [2]; in our day, education regarding the tools needed to interpret the Bible are merely excluded.

This fact brings us to an interesting word, “orthodoxy.” Traditionally, this word is associated with “truth” as a synonym. This is not the case at all. Orthodoxy is the authority of truth based on counsels of any given sect. [3] The opinions of these counsels regarding the meaning of “truth” are known as “creeds” and “confessions.” These are “truths” (actually, opinions concerning the meaning of any given subject) repackaged for those who have limited understanding, and usually recited and learned through catechisms [4].

Authority Versus Individual Interpretation

Hence, Protestant interpretation is based on authority and not individual interpretation. The structure of this interpretive process is orthodoxy formed through counsels, distributed by creeds/confessions, and practiced through catechisms. In Europe and early Colonial America, it was a matter of civil law, in our day the process is tempered by the freedom to choose your own orthodoxy, but it is still orthodoxy. Once a typical American parishioner chooses who they want to believe, they will follow that leader as an authority. A like tendency caused the Apostle Paul to confront the believers at Corinth (1COR 3:1-9).

Of course, the authoritative method of interpretation is at the root of every cult. Traditionally, when people seek to find God, they begin by finding an authority that they are comfortable with. This is why many people prefer authoritative interpretation in a free society: it allows them to choose their own general truth while leaving the hard task of thinking to others. The Apostle Paul said this would be particularly problematic in the last days (2TIM 4:3-5).

The visible authority structure within the church is known as “church polity” or church government. [5] Again, the whole construct is based on authority. If authority is the interpretive prism, roles in the church are going to be seen as positions of authority rather than gifts. When Christ ministered here on earth, disciples were free to follow Him or not follow Him under their own free volition (JN 6:66-69). Christ made it clear to the disciples that their roles in the kingdom were not that of authority (Matthew 20:20-28).

The word “office” inserted in the English translations when associated with “bishop” or “deacon” were added in to the translations and do not appear in the Greek manuscripts while in other places these roles are spoken of as gifts (EPH 4:11-16). We have been given authority to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom on earth, but that is a vertical authority and not horizontal. Those who protest the gift idea versus the authority idea often cite the following text:

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The word for “obey” in this verse is πείθω (peithō) which means to persuade by argument. The word “submit” is ὑπείκω (hypeikō) which means “to surrender.”  Here is the best rendering according to a heavy paraphrase:

Be persuaded by your leaders’ arguments from Scripture and don’t be stubborn in regard to the truth for this is no advantage to your own spiritual wellbeing. Besides, they have to give an account for how they led you, and let that account be a joyful recital to the Lord rather than a sorrowful report.

Why is this important? Because every person is personally culpable before God for following the truth, not men. Paul was an apostle, yet the Bereans verified what he taught according to their own understanding of Scripture (Acts 17:11). Paul told the Corinthians that he should only be followed as he followed Christ (1COR 11:1). Every individual will stand before God to give an account of the sum and substance of their own lives, not who they followed among mortals.

The Exegesis and Eisegesis of Hermeneutics

The theological word for the science of biblical interpretation is hermeneutics. The first consideration of hermeneutics must be exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis draws conclusions from written text depending on the grammatical meaning and arrangement of words. Eisegesis approaches the text with an interpretive prism. One who uses the exegetical approach will even approach the text to learn how the text itself should be interpreted. Eisegesis assumes one must approach the text with a proper presupposition in order to properly understand it.

Therefore, this takes us right back to the basic question of authority versus the freedom of individual interpretation. Eisegesis will approach the text with a prescribed method of interpretation while exegesis will look for the best way to interpret the text from the text itself. The interpretive prism for eisegesis comes from an authority. The common contention from those of the authority camp is that everybody approaches the Bible with presuppositions, and this is unavoidable; so, it is important to use the right interpretive prism. Since we are supposedly incapable of approaching the Bible objectively, we should bow to their authority in regard to the proper interpretive prism.

Historical-Grammatical Versus Historical Redemptive: The Elephant in the Room

Eisegesis and exegesis really boils down to authority versus individualism, and so does the two major methods of interpretation in the church: historical-grammatical method and the historical-redemptive method. This is where we get into discussion about the elephant in the room. These two devices of interpretation yield completely different results. When we sit under any given teacher, he/she will be using one of these hermeneutics. The two different approaches will sound the same because each uses all of the familiar terms, “gospel,” “justification,” etc., but the terms mean different things in each construct. This is the elephant in the sanctuary and the Sunday school room that no one is talking about.

As suggested by the terms themselves, one interprets the Bible grammatically, and the other interprets the Bible through a Redemptive prism. The latter seems perfectly reasonable: “Isn’t the Bible primarily about Redemption?” The former would judge that assertion by a grammatical evaluation of the text. In other words, conclusions are drawn by the arrangement of words, their meaning, and what those words meant to people in that historical context. This is exegesis.

The redemptive method presupposes that the Bible is a gospel narrative about the works and personhood of Christ. It presupposes that this is the dominate theme of the Bible and everything else in the Bible is secondary and points back to Christ. For example, biblical commands aren’t really meant for us to obey, but rather illustrate the works that Christ has accomplished for us and illustrative of what we are unable to do. This bypasses the normal grammatical interpretation of an imperative expectation, and interprets it as a finished work that God in fact does not want us to do. This is assumed because of the redemptive presupposition. As Neo-Calvinist Paul David Tripp has said, biblical commands must be seen in their “gospel context.” [6]

The Gospel Transformation Study Bible and the Redemptive-Historical Gospel

Dr. Kathleen Nielson, in a promotional video for the Gospel Transformation study Bible, stated that the historical-redemptive theme is not imposed on the text, “it’s actually in there!” This, we by no means deny, but are the works of Christ and His personhood something that every verse in the Bible points to? Nielson, like many from the redemptive-historical camp, use the grammatical approach to determine that something is in the text, and then make that an authoritative interpretive prism.

I have talked face to face with pastors who use this hermeneutic. As one stated to me, “You might have to cover multiple chapters in one sermon in order to see the Christocentric theme God is showing you at the time.”  Others are even more direct:

At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.

Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is. [7]

Again, we see that a “Christocentric exegesis,” something that is in the text grammatically, becomes the authoritative eisegesis. And this elephant is a big one, because interpreting the Bible this way is intrinsically tied to the gospel that comes part and parcel with the redemptive method. The historical-redemptive method is a tool for enabling the believer to live by faith alone in their Christian walk. The historical-redemptive method is actually a gospel in and of itself.  To interpret the Bible grammatically is to conclude that God actually wants us to exert our own will in response to commands in the Bible. To proponents of the redemptive-historical method, this is works salvation because Christ is not obeying for us in our Christian life. This is what the Reformation motto, “Christ for us” means. The Neo-Calvinist John Piper has stated it this way, “[Christ] 100% for us.” [8] Piper has also said that “necessary sanctification” comes from faith alone in the Christian life (Ibid).

Therefore, according to proponents of the redemptive model, a historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture necessarily leads to works salvation and making what we do in the Christian life “the ground of our justification” (Ibid). For all practical purposes, Paul David Tripp has stated such:

….and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think his thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act.” [9]

Here, Tripp concedes that the Bible can be interpreted grammatically, “and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things.” Grammatically, one assumes the commandments are to us and that we are called to do them. Again, Tripp clearly recognizes this fact. But what does he say the results are?

But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.

What happens if we “omit” Christ as “Savior”? Clearly, Tripp is stating that if we interpret the Bible literally and obey it, we are circumventing Christ’s salvific work. Much more than mere semantics are at stake here. The elephant in the room is absolutely huge! This is about the gospel.

The historical-redemptive method of interpretation is all the rage in contemporary Christianity. Projects and programs that promote this method of interpretation and target all age groups abound. Almost all Christian publishers are on board with the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. The latest project that has been unveiled towards this endeavor is Crossway Publishers’ The Gospel Transformation Bible. It will be available 10/19/13.

The subtitle is, “Christ in all of Scripture, Grace for all of Life.” This is typical of those who promote this method of interpretation and its gospel. Christians will assume that the title only pertains to justification by faith alone, but it doesn’t. “Transformation” or change has to do with the Christian life, and in the subtitle, “Grace” replaces “gospel” to veil the real crux of this doctrine. Basically, it teaches that Christians are transformed by continually revisiting the same gospel that saved them. Not only that, we keep ourselves saved by doing such. This is what is behind the Neo-Calvinist mantra, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” John Piper has said that the question is not only how one gets saved, but how one must use the same gospel that saved him/her to keep themselves saved. [10] Piper has also said that we must “see” the same gospel that saved us over and over again as a requirement to enter heaven. [11]

Note: This is what’s so critical about the Reformed historical-redemptive interpretative model according to many Calvinists, it enables us to fulfill what is “required of us” to enter heaven (Ibid). In essence, once saved, how we read our Bible determines whether we keep our salvation or not. So therefore, those who promote The Gospel Transformation Bible actually see it as a resource for maintaining one’s salvation.

The “Gospel-Driven” Life

The question that is invariably raised is, “How do proponents of the historical-redemptive model explain obedience and the Christian life?” Primarily, they say Christians must “experience” obedience, but must not be the ones who perform it in the Christian life. By revisiting the gospel afresh, the works of Christ are “manifested” in our lives. When this happens, the obedience is experienced by a willing, joyful spirit. As we use the historical-redemptive model to see how sinful we are (a deeper realization of our sin, the realization that originally saved us), and thereby gaining a greater appreciation for what Jesus did for us, we experience “vivification.” This is some sort of joyful rebirth. Proponents of this hermeneutic, primarily those of Reformed theology, refer to this as “mortification and vivification.”  A “daily dying and rising,” a “living out of our baptism.” [12] [13]

The Origin of the Historical-Redemptive Hermeneutic

Where did this hermeneutic originate? Even though Martin Luther’s 95 Theses launched the Reformation, the framework of the Reformation’s doctrine and gospel was articulated by Martin Luther six months later. Essentially, Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order in 1518 is the heart and soul of the Reformation. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a greatly expanded treatise of Luther’s framework. However, every fundamental element of Reformation doctrine can be found in Luther’s Disputation, and this by no means excludes the historical-redemptive hermeneutic. [14]

The primary theme of Luther’s Disputation is known as The Theology of the Cross. It was comprised of the glory story and the cross story. Luther believed that salvation must be maintained by an incessant emptying of self. One’s focus must be OUTWARD only. Any semblance of an inward look was the “glory story.” The outward focus on Christ and His works, and nothing about us whatsoever is the “cross story.” A beginning focus on the cross saves us, and a continued focus on the cross story keeps us saved the same way we were originally saved: by faith alone. Sola Fide also pertains to the Christian walk/life. The historical-redemptive model came from Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

Luther believed the outward focus and utter eradication of self leads to a subjective power displayed by the Holy Spirit that we experience. However, we are not to be concerned with it because there is no way for us to distinguish between our own efforts and those of the Spirit. [15] Mortification and vivification can be ascertained in Theses’ 16 and 17 of the Disputation.

Never have Christians been so oblivious to such a critical issue. What we believe about the gospel and how we convey it to the world is at stake. Every Sunday in America, historical-grammatical parents deliver their children to historical-redemptive teachers while clueless in regard to the ramifications. This reality actually creates mixed families and marriages via two different gospels. One spouse buys into sanctification by faith alone while the other one doesn’t. Eventually, you have a mixed marriage.

The issue with these two hermeneutics is not a matter of semantics and preference—these are two different gospels. This issue is the elephant in the sanctuary and the Sunday school room.

ENDNOTES

1. Nabu Public Domain Reprints: The Principles of the Westminster Standards Persecuting; William Marshall, D.D., Coupar – Angus. Edinburgh, William Oliphant & Co. 1873, p. 13.

2. Ibid., pp. 19-22, 28.

3. Bruce Overton: MacMillan’s Modern Dictionary; The Macmillan Co. New York 1943.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. designated as synonymous with “politic” : the science of government.

6. Paul David Tripp: How People Change; Punch press 2006, p. 26.

7. The Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).

8. John Piper: Desiring God .org blog: Video, If you had 2 minutes with the Pope, what would you say?

9. Paul David Tripp: How People Change; Punch press 2006, p. 27.

10. John Piper: Desiring God .org blog; How Does The Gospel Save Believers? Part 2. August 23, 1998 Bethlehem Baptist Church.

11. Ibid, Part 3.

12. Michael Horton: The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way; Zondervan 2011, p. 661.

13. Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance.

14. In its fundamental elements. It was not referred to as the historical-redemptive hermeneutic for many years afterward.

15. Heidelberg Disputation: Theses 24.

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