Paul's Passing Thoughts

A.B.W.E and the Missionary Kids Back in the News: A Call for Action

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 27, 2013

ppt-jpeg4“Christ did not fulfill the justice of God in order to put an end to justice.”

I received some correspondence this morning concerning (if anybody still remembers it) the ABWE Missionary Kids sexual abuse scandal. Apparently, ABWE has hired another churchy “investigative” organization to replace G.RA.C.E. The whole ABWE thing is very emotional for me, so regardless of what I have going on right now, I am going to pen some initial thoughts before I further evaluate what I can do in light of the request that was received this morning. The email summoned up my frustration with this situation, so I need to get this off my chest before I move on with the day. It will be revisited later.

If there are any GARB pastors reading this right now (GARB is the primary financial supporter of ABWE), I just want you to know I think you are cowards and you make me sick. That’s an intentional generalization—get over it. As far as I know, not one GARB church has dropped its support of ABWE in response to this horrific scandal, and even if a few have, it’s not enough.

Likewise, if you are a GARB parishioner, you remind me of your European Christian descendants who quietly cleaned up the human ash from streets and rooftops during WWII. You have no conscience, and you are pathetic. That’s a generalization based on comparing the handling of the Penn State case versus what’s going with ABWE—get over it. And, I live in GARB country, so if any of you see me at the grocery store or the filling station, please feel free to discuss this with me, it would be my pleasure. Public writing is restrictive as far as expressing what I really think.

After almost seven years of researching spiritual abuse in the church, almost four years as full time thanks to Susan, I am confident that I know why this type of abuse goes on and why there is no justice for the victims. Generally, it speaks to our European religious roots. In that construct, salvation is in the institution.

Secondly, the institutional structure is based on spiritual caste; i.e., the enlightened minority leading the unenlightened masses.

Thirdly, the gospel propagated by the spiritual elite is collectivism. Come now, this isn’t complicated; to get justice for the MKs would hurt the institution that saves us. What’s better? Sweeping the scandal under the rug or “thousands upon thousands of people not hearing the gospel.” Please, please, please, people; how often do we hear that? Justice for the few would threaten “the group.” This is the very gist of a sermon Susan and I listened to last year in a GARB church. This is the selfsame ideology that has filled mass graves since the fall in the garden.

This was the very ideology of the founders of Protestantism. Luther and Calvin believed that salvation was found in the institutional church and nowhere else, period. The institutional church and its collectivist gospel is contra to Christ’s ideal of “the one in 99.” One life is not expendable for “the group.” The Jewish leadership condoned the execution of Christ based on collectivist ideology (John 18:14).

Peacemaker Ministries, G.R.A.C.E et al, and whoever ABWE just hired, are organizations that seek to protect the organization for the sake of “the group” and promote the necessary sacrifice of the few on the altar of  “forgiving others in the same way Christ forgave us.” But my friends, Christ did not fulfill the justice of God in order to put an end to justice. This is why these victims are not able to “move on with their lives.” Be sure of this: G.R.A.C.E got fired because they were not able to convince the MKs to forgive and forget. They didn’t do their job.

So what should be done? I have much to say about this once I calm down, but for now, I want to remind people that the institutional church cannot live without OUR money. Why are we farming out our consciences and paying for it?

Moreover, since it is OUR money, why is it going for organizations like G.R.A.C.E rather than organizations that stand for the victims? It’s high time that ALL of these victims gather together and form such an organization, and it is high time that God’s people fund such organizations.

Tell me where to send the first donation.


The Doctrine of Centralism and the “Cult” Misnomer

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 13, 2012

“Hence, there are only two types of churches in our day: those that promote bondage to pastor kings, and those that promote the priesthood of believers—with the latter being an anomaly in our day. ”

“This Reformation myth—the epic battle for truth between Rome and a lowly monk, is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind.”

Like “legalism,” “gospel,” “grace,” and “Christian,” “cult”  is a loosely used term thrown around in our day. Like “legalism” in particular, I don’t think there is any such thing as a “cult.”

The word is very unhelpful, inaccurate, and enables spiritual abuse and tyranny of the worst sort. And, bibliology, or doctrine, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not an organization is something that doesn’t exist; namely, a cult.

Have you noticed? People still attend and vigorously support what some call the big C. Why is that? Why do they also cover up big C behavior? Why the blind faith? Why do upright law abiding citizens support certain organizations in the face of damning evidence? Why are the victims blamed for the actions of their abusers? What’s going on?

Same Behavior

Observation begins to supply clues. Some years ago, I had a ministry to Jehovah Witnesses. JW’s are commonly accepted as being a cult.  But in case you haven’t noticed, they aren’t going away anytime soon. Why is that? I will answer that question later, but for now, let me state a procedure that JW’s use to neutralize those who contend against them: they set out to end your marriage. I was called into a situation where an individual was meeting with a group of JW elders from a kingdom hall that his wife was a member of. They had been recently married. He wanted to follow God, and considered the Bible to be the authority, and wanted me to attend the meeting to present another perspective on Scripture for him to consider.

But I did something surprising. I wouldn’t discuss doctrine with them. Instead, I brought copies of old Watch Tower theological journals (some dating back to the 1920’s) that clearly showed how JW’s have changed their positions on major theological issues over the years. Until the 70’s (if I remember correctly), JW’s disallowed blood transfusions (based on obscure Old Testament law) which led to the untimely deaths of many of their followers—especially children. Some of the younger elders present were unaware of this fact and didn’t buy the idea suggested at the meeting that I had photo-shopped  the copies.

The next morning, three  ladies from the  same kingdom hall came to visit my wife  after I left for work. They offered to come to our home during the day and have Bible studies with her. Despite my outrage, they were so persistent that I had to consider the obtaining of a restraining order from the local police.

Now enter Calvinist churches that are in contention with individuals. They do the EXACT same thing. The first thing that is going to happen when, and if you are in a contention with Calvinist elders in a local church—they are going to set the wheels in motion to drive a wedge between you and your spouse. I don’t condone it, but in cases that have been brought to our attention, the stalking of wives was only halted when Reformed elders were threatened with physical violence, or confrontation in the middle of Sunday morning services. The latter we do indorse, and many Reformed churches have security teams in place to thwart such confrontation which by the way is biblical. In other articles, I have outlined fourteen cult elements that are aped by Reformed churches. According to “cult” experts, the primary motivating factor is CONTROL. The process aimed at getting control and keeping it is known as centralism.

Now, try to solve the Reformed bully problem by labeling them a cult. Ya, good luck with that one. So, herein is now the problem: by labeling some “cults” and others not cults, the others get a free ticket to act like a cult without being one when the fact of the matter is that they are all CONTROLISTS.


Labeling them all “control freaks” (centralism, or controlism) is much better, and more accurate than “cult,” but still way short of being solution oriented. Why would so many people be concerned with controlling others? People do what they do for a reason. They do what they do because of what they believe or want. “Oh, you mean ‘doctrine,” right?” Wrong. Doctrine is the tool that makes control possible. Something comes before the doctrine. We are going to discuss the primary crux of this issue and lay all of the residual issues aside. This is the big picture.


Philosophy is the theory of being or existence, how we know what we know, ramifications of knowledge, and how we communicate it to others. Western culture is predicated on the idea that philosophers are an elite class that should rule the world. And depending on the philosophy’s doctrine, they are mediators between the masses and the cosmos, nature, various invisible forces, gods, or thee God.

Prior to the sixth century, Western culture primarily functioned on mythology. The fifth century saw a movement towards science, but the study of  human existence and how truth related to life (philosophy) did not emerge till circa 400 BC. The epicenter was the Academy in Athens Greece. This is where the philosophical wheel of Western culture was invented. The primary premise mentioned above, Plato’s philosopher kings, moved out from Athens into history by two roads: secular, and religious. In the religious realm, doctrines and church polity were geared for the ultimate goal necessary to implement the core philosophy: CONTROL.  Though religious wars have raged throughout Europe till this day under the auspices of doctrinal disagreements (going to war over doctrine is not doctrinally sound to begin with), what the issue has always been is that of control.

Even in regard to the doctrinal contentions between the Reformers and Rome, both doctrines were designed to control the saintly masses. That is why the results have always been the same whether Reformed or Catholic: heavy-handed leadership, abuse, and cover-ups. Why are there so many different denominations, doctrines, and beliefs?  Really there isn’t; these are just different theological systems that approach control in different ways.  The doctrine assimilated into the minds of both groups lead to the behavior. Why do pastors feel entitled to abuse? Philosophical indoctrination via biblical proof texting. Why do pastors cover for each other and refuse to confront other pastors? Same reason. Why  are victims told that it is their fault? Same reason. Why do parishioners look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen? Same reason. Want to see this in action? Watch the following video:

And this article:

The primary crux of Centralism in both Reformed doctrine and Catholicism is the emphasis on saintly ineptness. The Reformers relegated the saints to total depravity and a total inability to please God in any way. If you can convince people that they are worthless, it goes without saying that they become docile followers who are hesitant to question anything. Likewise, on the Catholic side, if you can’t interpret the Scriptures on your own and absolution can only be found through the Catholic Church—few are willing to rock the boat. Today’s Baptists of all strips are either one or the other, or a combination of both. While supposedly rejecting both, determinism and weekly absolution can be found at the altar weekly. After all, we are “all just sinners living by the same grace that saved us.”  Sermons are about “forgiving the way we have been forgiven,” and how “complaining is always sin.”

As obedience to the local pastor king is slowly assimilated into the minds of parishioners through various doctrines, followers will ultimately drink the Kool-Aid if they are told to. The infamous Jack Hyles (Independent Fundamental Baptist) demonstrated this to a fellow pastor by saying to one of his deacons: “stand up”; and he did. “Sit down”; and he did, and much to the astonishment of the other pastor. Hyles’ daughter once stated that she was certain that her father’s 50,000 followers would drink the Kool-Aid if he told them to and prefaced the statement with, “I’m not kidding!” Therefore, in her estimation, when it got right down to it, the (at one time) largest Baptist church in the world was no different from Jonestown, and I concur. Hyles and Jim Jones simply had different flavors of doctrine that were geared to obtain the same results.

When Christ came upon the scene proclaiming His good news of the kingdom of God, His message was a head-on collision with Greco-Roman philosophy that had been integrated into Judaism. Christ proclaimed the Scriptures, for all practical purposes, to be the comprehensive metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political,  philosophical statement directly from God, and placed it in the hands of the saints to interpret it for themselves, and supplied everything necessary to do so. The priesthood of believers is the extreme antithesis to philosopher kings. And Christ looked to none of the theologians of that day for credibility—He didn’t cite any of them. He picked twelve uneducated blue-collar workers to build the greatest kingdom of the ages, and made every citizen a priest unto God.  He purchased us with His own blood, and we are owned by no other man.

Hence, there are only two types of churches in our day: those that promote bondage to pastor kings, and those that promote the priesthood of believers—with the latter being an anomaly in our day. Susan and I are visiting churches right now, and we know this: any given church will be geared to control the members through doctrine, polity, and ministry, or will be geared to equip priestly saints full of goodness and competence in spiritual matters—able to minister to each other and the world with all knowledge. There is no in-between; every church will fit into one of these two criteria.

Where Truth Still Matters

Christians are under the illusion that truth matters, and doctrinal disagreements in our day are driven by such. Hardly. Truth is irrelevant; the real crux of the matter is what doctrine best suits to effectively control the masses. Truth is not the epicenter of God’s comprehensive philosophical statement on life and godliness in our day. The prior question (which doctrine best controls) has always led to the marriage of church and state throughout history. The state has always sought to unite with a “unifying belief system,” ie., religion; the state has a vested interest in a docile populous, while religion has an interest in using the state to control the totally depraved zombie sheep from destroying themselves. Rome and the Reformers were in agreement on the marriage of church and state; their disagreement concerned the gospel of centralism under the guise that gospel truth really matters. This Reformation myth, the epic battle for truth between Rome and a  lowly monk, is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. And, read the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel for yourselves, the marriage of  the anti-Christ statesman with the one world religion of the latter days is hardly a mere preface in the scheme of things. The anti-Christ is Plato’s magnum opus of philosopher kings.

1. Exhort with sound doctrine and truth.

But there are still plenty of saints around that care about real truth, and they must be convinced with sound doctrine and sound doctrinal apologetics. This is the first piece of the puzzle that answers the ministry riddle of our day.

2. Save the honestly deceived.

There are saints who love the truth, and have no agenda, but have unwittingly resigned their priesthood to pastor kings, and are owned by them instead of Jesus Christ. They must be convinced with the truth they love, and thereby rescued from throwing away their high calling and casting their pearls before swine.

3. Do not invest in “saints” with itching ears. 

Don’t waste time with those who value what they receive from pastor kings more than truth. Pastor kings offer easy believeism, and ease is a universal temptation.  Whether, this is easy because to do anything in sanctification is works, and not grace; or, obedience is optional—at least we are saved; or, we are totally depraved pieces of crap that couldn’t please God even if we tried, so what could be easier?; or, any effort in sanctification is works salvation because the two are the same; or, the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us—no need to move on to anything else that might be harder than that; or, no need to delve deep into the Scriptures and study hard because the Bible is a gospel narrative only; or, whatever else is the reason—something that people want that they are receiving from the pastor kings is more important than truth. Truth is often hard.

This is why they are willing to compromise and lay almost everything at the altar of the pastor kings. It’s easy. And, victims are a big-time inconvenience. Hence, ignorance is bliss and cover-ups are the first order of the day. Doctrine will condone this in various and sundry ways. Occasionally, these saints with itching ears will contend against truth bearers that threaten their comfort. Be careful to not invest time in them—invest in the honest doubters.

4. Prevention

Saints must be educated and warned not to squander their priesthood under the auspices of the pastor kings, whether of the Reformed stripe, the Arminian stripe, or the misnomer of cultism.


New Calvinist Dr. Devon Berry: Elder Preaching is Infallible

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 4, 2012

Devon Berry, the “elder” at Clearcreek Chapel who delivered this message, is also one of the primary instructors for the NANC training center at CCC. The following is my critique of his message. I apologize for how difficult it is to unravel this clever twisting of God’s word. However, if you try to follow my argument thoughtfully, I think by the end it will come together for you. The title of his message was, “How to Listen to a Sermon.”

In his message,  “How to Listen to a Sermon, the elder strays away from the main point to strongly emphasis the idea that spiritual growth comes primarily from  preaching and teaching, and is an absolute, paramount necessity accordingly:

You think, perhaps, that [you] can fill up the other half of the plate with personal study, devotions, or quiet times, or a radio program. Beloved, you cannot. Scripture is relatively quiet on such practices. But on preaching, the case is clear and strong. Neglect preaching and neglect your soul. I know that some are kept from services for legitimate reasons which are out of their control, but I doubt that is the case for most. I beseech you, change your ways for the good of this people and for the good of your own selves. Give the Word its rightful place. As I have often said, there is no better place you could be than here, under the preaching of the Word.

Actually, I believe “devotions,” “quiet times,” and “radio programs” are added in to mask the disturbing part of this statement: “personal study.” Nowhere , but nowhere, does the Scriptures ever say that personal study is expendable when compared to preaching or teaching. In fact, IF I wanted to make the case that preaching and teaching could be done without, I would cite the following:

1 John 2:27
”As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

This verse clearly teaches that when it gets right down to it, the indwelling Holy Spirit is our teacher, and that human teachers are not an absolute necessity as this elder is clearly saying. At the very least, he is in grave error concerning the level of importance between the two.

But even more disturbing is the logical conclusion that must be drawn from this assertion. If personal study is expendable (please note; in his list of examples, he names devotions, quiet times, and radio programs in the same list. One can only assume that if they are in the same list to make his point, they share the same level of importance. Surely then, no one would deny that Christians could do without radio programs or devotionals), then how could it (personal study) be sufficiently empowered to discern the truthfulness of the sermon? The conclusion must necessarily be that personal interpretation is always at the mercy of preaching. Do you think my statement is a subjective conclusion in regard to what he is saying? Think again. He actually uses Acts 17:10,11 (a text that clearly states the importance of personal study to confirm truthfulness) to imply that preaching is a critical link in the learning process, with personal study being secondary:

In addition to coming with anticipation, we must come to a sermon prepared. Coming to the hearing of the Word prepared is both a matter of our hearts and our behaviors. I think the example of the Bereans in Acts 17 is helpful. Verse 11 says, ‘Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.’ We can note from earlier in the chapter what exactly it was the Bereans were responding to – verses 2-3 tell us that Paul’s pattern was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ. What made the Jews in Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica? Well for one, they did not run Paul out of town, and secondly, they took Paul’s preaching seriously enough to go to the Word to test it [he is not talking about a test in regard to the truth, but rather, a nebulous concept of testing the Christocentric interpretation in everyday life.  He covers this idea in another part of the same sermon. Note that “it” in his statement refers to God’s word, not Paul’s preaching]. The text here implies that there was an interactive nature between three entities: The preacher, the hearers, and the Word. Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word. An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word. The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching. So a good preparation for the public preaching of the Word is the private consumption of the Word. It will be the seasoning that brings out the flavor – salt on your French fries, if you will.”

Where to begin in the unraveling of this hideous twisting of God’s word! First of all, I had to actually draw a diagram to unravel what he is saying in regard to this part of the quote:

“Note this cycle: Paul, from the Word, delivers words. The Bereans, from Paul’s words, go to the Word. The Word cycles from God, through the preacher, to the people, back to the Word, and this, verse 12 tells us, produced belief in the God of the Word.”

Read the quote carefully. Think about it. God’s word goes through the “preacher” first, before getting to the “people,” making the preacher’s words synonymous with God’s words. Also note that he cites 17:1,2:

“We can note from earlier in the chapter what exactly it was the Bereans were responding to – verses 2-3 tell us that Paul’s pattern was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ.”

Let me cut to the chase here: what he is saying is that all Christocentric and gospel-centered  preaching is infallible. Hence, any preacher teaching from a Christocentric perspective is also infallible. He also emphasizes this in his conclusion (emphasis mine):

On to our last point, then. It is simple. The lens set forth by Christ himself on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24, is the lens through which we should hear every sermon. Here it is from the text: …everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled… You should always listen to a sermon looking for Christ and the redemptive plan that God has set out in history to accomplish through his Son. We must be Christ-centered listeners.

In other words, when the Scriptures are being taught from the Christ / gospel  perspective, error is impossible, and likewise, neither can the preacher teaching from that perspective be in error as well. If the mere intention is to present Christ from the text, the Holy Spirit then becomes involved, making error impossible. Another elder at the same church (Chad Bresson) projected this same idea in an article entitled “The Word of God is a Person.” He quotes  Robert Brinsmead to make his point:

That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit even the letter of Scripture.

Said another way, the Holy Spirit “lives in the gospel,” so when your doin’ gospel, your doin’ truth, end of discussion.

Going back now to the elder’s use of  Acts 17 and the original sermon of interests here, he completely ignores any sort of basic grammatical rules at all to draw his conclusions. He gives the following reasons for the nobility of the Bereans:

What made the Jews in Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica? Well for one, they did not run Paul out of town, and secondly, they took Paul’s preaching seriously enough to go to the Word to test it.

But the excerpt he speaks of is a compound sentence:

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

In a compound sentence the ideas must be related, this is a hard-fast rule. Therefore,  the specific reason for their nobility is obviously in the second independent clause, which does not include anything mentioned by the elder. Furthermore, in the second clause, the proving of what Paul taught is obviously the (purpose) object of both verb phrases, both directly and indirectly. Clearly, the reason for their nobility was the fact that they proved what Paul was teaching to be true through personal study. Not only that, the elder also said the following:

“An important thing to note is that this happened daily – suggesting a regular interaction between preaching, personal study, and the Word.”

But this is clearly an improper correlation. “Daily” in this sentence refers to “examining the Scriptures” and not Paul’s preaching (which is not even in the compound sentence which begins with “now“—introducing a separate idea). The elder is suggesting an inseparable correlation (“cycle”) between preaching and personal study that cannot be separated from the word for proper understanding. Instead of personal study proving the truthfulness of preaching or teaching, he is making preaching an absolute necessity  to understanding truth, with personal study supplying a mere “seasoning” to the preaching, instead of testing its truthfulness. Besides this, he also assumes that the Bereans knew what Paul was going to teach before he came:

“The Bereans eagerly prepared by paralleling their own Bible reading and study with Paul’s preaching.”

Not only is this an assumption, given the technology of the time, it is also highly unlikely. What tense in the text even remotely suggests that the Bereans “examined” the Scriptures before Paul preached? Clearly, the intent of this elder is to discourage a proving of  truthfulness  in regard to Chrisocentric preaching after the fact, but rather a prior, personal study that merely “flavors” the preaching instead of  proving its truthfulness. At any rate, it is a complete bastardization of the biblical text.

I might also mention that another elder in this same church, and previously mentioned, preached a sermon entitled “Adam’s Insurrection, Man Jettisons God from the Educational Process,” in which he argues that the essence of Adam’s fall was a rejection of  Christocentric teaching that was outside of himself (Adam). The theme of that sermon seems to be similar to the sermon that is the subject of this post; namely, and at the very least, it strongly discouraged a mentality that elevates personal discernment to the same level of teaching outside of ourselves.

So, it now begs the question that is the subject of this post; in regard to elders teaching from the Christocentric perspective, does Christocentric theology teach that they are infallible? I suspect that this belief is more than likely to be  prominent among churches that hold to Sonship / GS theology.


Another New Calvinist Lie via Chad Bresson: We Aren’t Postmodern and the Emergent Church is Bad and We are Good

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 8, 2012

I guess it goes along with being antinomian; New Calvinists constantly lie about many things. In fact, I wonder if they ever tell the truth about anything. New Calvinism  dominates the present evangelical landscape because their theological framework invented by a Seventh-Day Adventist (who is now an atheist) is a powerful concept that sells. Robert Brinsmead claimed that he discovered the lost gospel of the Reformation and Reformed folks saw what the supposed finding was doing to the SDA: reforming it. Brinsmead’s Awakening movement via his centrality of the objective gospel (COGOUS) doctrine was turning the SDA upside down. The results were therefore evident, and it had a Reformed label, so the masses have been jumping on the new reformation bandwagon ever since. Many of the elements that make this doctrine attractive to our present culture will be discussed in the second volume of The Truth About New Calvinism.

New Calvinists avoid historical dots that could connect them back to Brinsmead like the Bubonic Plague, and one way of doing that is pretending like you oppose certain dots. Therefore, The dots that they disparage the most are New Covenant Theology (NCT) and the Emergent Church (EU). New Calvinists such as DA Carson stay aloof from NCT, but support it behind the scenes. Brinsmead was a close friend with the father of NCT, Jon Zens, and Brinsmead contributed significantly to the formation of the doctrine. Therefore, pigs will fly before any NCT guys will be invited to one of the big New Calvinist dances, but Carson regularly speaks at NCT conferences.

Likewise, Sonship Theology which was founded on Brinsmead’s COGOUS intermarried with the EC family, so the EC, like Jon Zens, is only one step removed from Brinsmead and his theological think tank that launched present-day New Calvinism: the Australian Form. The Forum may have also influenced the EC which originated in Australia/UK in 1992 and  arrived in the US around 1998. Even though New Calvinists such as John Piper associate with EC proponents like Mark Driscoll on a continual basis, and both groups function by the same doctrine (COGOUS, also known as Gospel Sanctification), New Calvinists continually fustigate the EC. The Piper/Driscoll relationship is condoned because Driscoll is supposedly a different kind of Emergent species (

One New Calvinist “church” that partakes in this deception at every opportunity is Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio. A staff elder, Chad Bresson, wrote an article on his blog (a blog dedicated to NCT ) entitled,  “The Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation because the resurrection is of such” (Vossed World blog: archives; July 19, 2006). Bresson begins the post with the following:

A supporter of the emergent church posted over at Steve Camp’s blog the following comments:

1. Revelation does not refer to the Bible, it is rather God’s activity in history.

2. Revelation is dynamic and personal, not static propositional.

3. Scripture is a meta-narrative, and by this nature is not a propositional document for us

to pin down all the rules to obey and doctrines to believe.

4. Passages are not always easily discerned for God’s desired message for the Church.

5. Texts may simply indicate direction, not neat and orderly systematic doctrine.

All of these points are either outright false or are only partly true. They represent what is of major concern to many who have observed the development of the emerging church.

These five tenets of EC interpretation, for all practical purposes, are the like hermeneutics of New Calvinism despite Bresson’s disingenuous harpings. Bresson, usually accustomed to linguistic drones of ten-thousand words or more, writes a paragraph or two for each proposition that disputes propositional truth, and I will rebut his deceptive rebuttal of his theological kissing-cousin’s comment. Bresson begins by addressing the first tenet:

God[‘s] activity in history through Christ *resulted in* the Bible. The Bible is God’s *written* revelation to man, and thus the sixty six books of the Bible given to us by the Holy Spirit constitute the plenary (inspired equally in all parts) Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:7-14; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 2:13), verbally inspired in every word (2 Timothy 3:16), absolutely inerrant in the original documents, infallible, and God breathed. They are fully self-authenticating, not relying on any external proof for their claims. Since all of Scripture is spoken by God, all of Scripture must be “unlying,” just as God himself is: there can be no untruthfulness in Scripture (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Because God is the Bible’s author, we are to accept its authority and submit ourselves to it in faith (2 Pet. 1:19,21, 2 Tim. 3:16, 1 John 5:9, 1 Thess. 2:13).

As I will demonstrate, New Calvinists end up in the same place as the EC on this issue. And remember, the staple doctrine of New Calvinism and the EU is one and the same: Gospel Sanctification. This is plainly irrefutable. The EU is most prevalent in American church culture through Acts 29 and World Harvest Missions which were both spawned by the father of Sonship Theology, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Dr. Miller originally coined the New Calvinist slogans, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” and its accompaniment, “The same gospel that saves you also sanctifies you.” The former understudies of Dr. Miller and the gatekeepers of Sonship theology after Miller’s passing, David Powlison and Tim Keller, are major figures in the New Calvinist clan.

Regardless of how orthodox Bresson’s opening statement is, his fingers are crossed behind his back with the first ten words: “God[‘s] activity in history through Christ *resulted in* the Bible.” Though the more fringe elements of the EC may think specific revelation can be found outside of the Bible, note that Bresson also states that the Bible is primarily a historical document about Christ. Specifically, a meta-narrative about the gospel, and the gospel only for meditation purposes. All of the rest affirming the accuracy of the Bible is regarding its accuracy for that purpose only. The pastor/teacher of  Clearcreek states the following on this point:

May we be transformed by seeing the glory of Christ all through the Bible. The transforming power of beholding Christ emerges from the pages of the whole Bible. We are transformed from glory to glory as we see Him there. Want to grow and change? Want to reflect Christ to others? Gaze on Him in the pages of your Bible (Russ Kennedy: The Fading Glory, 2Corinthians 2:14-3:18).

Furthermore, Bresson posted an excerpt from Robert Brinsmead on his blog to make the point that the Holy Spirit only illumines when the Scriptures are seen through the prism of the gospel and used for that purpose alone (Vossed World blog: archives; July 17, 2008).

Bresson continues to use orthodoxy to deceive:

God’s Word is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness, because Christ, THE WORD, is sufficient (Eph. 1:3, 23; Deut. 8:3/Matthew 4:4/John 6:48-51; John 1:14,16). Because THE WORD is life himself (John 11:25, 14:6; Colossians 1:15-20), The Word is living and active in discerning and judging the actions and thoughts of men (Hebrews 4:12). Christ, as THE WORD, is Wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30), which is *why* the word is sufficient for all of life (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 2:6, 3:18; Colossians 3:16). Christ’s sufficiency for all of life is best summed up by the covenantal promise/fulfillment: Christ is our God and we are His people (Revelation 21:3,7). As THE WORD, Christ himself is the grace that is sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12:7-10; John 1:14, 16, 17).

After all of the unarguable truth and citation of Scriptures, Bresson once again has his fingers crossed behind his back with the last thirteen words: “As THE WORD, Christ himself is the grace that is sufficient for us.”  Hence, Bresson parrots the same EC hermeneutic he claims to be refuting. Note tenet number two: “Revelation is dynamic and personal, not static propositional.” In fact, on the aforementioned post where he cites a long excerpt from a Brinsmead article, Bresson made the following comment:

John 1:1 tells us that Christ incarnated the very Word of God. Thus, the text… the Word… is both witness to and emanates from THE WORD. I should add that John 1:1 is also telling us that Christ *was* the very Word of God from the beginning. So… to draw a distinction between text and Person is a false dichotomy.

Exactly, and the EC crowd agrees, stating that the word is a person and not for the reason of determining propositional truth. I like to state it a different way for clarification; it’s about who Jesus is (or his “personhood”), and not about what He SAYS. Christ warned against such a mentality in Luke 11:26, 27. Clearcreek’s close relationship with Paul David Tripp should also be weighed in this discussion as well. Tripp, who has close ties to Clearcreek and speaks there often, stated the following on page 27 of How people Changed (2006):

Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept that we insert into a new formula for life.

As noted in another post ( here on PPT, Dr. Carol K. Tharp accuses  Tripp of having a kinship to the emergent church because of his teachings in Broken Down House:

In these assertions, Tripp reveals his kinship with the emergent church. A belief held in common by emergent church leaders is their “eschatology of hope.” For example, Tony Jones says, “God’s promised future is good, and it awaits us, beckoning us forward … in a tractor beam of redemption and recreation … so we might as well cooperate.” Emergents Stanley Grenz and John R. Franke declare, “As God’s image bearers, we have a divinely given mandate to participate in God’s work of constructing a world in the present that reflects God’s own eschatological will for  creation.”‘ Elsewhere, emergent church advocate Doug Pagitt claims, “When we employ creativity to make this world better, we participate with God in the re-creation of the world.”

In regard to tenet number three, Bresson embarks on the following diatribe:

All the words in Scripture are God’s words. To disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. The essence of the authority of Scripture is its ability to compel us to believe and to obey it and to make such belief and obedience equivalent to believing and obeying God himself. The word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures is the only rule of knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship of God, and is the only rule in which is contained the whole duty of man. The Scriptures have plainly recorded whatever is needful for us to know, believe, and practice. God’s word is the only rule of holiness and obedience for all saints, at all times, in all places to be observed (Col. 2:23; Matt 15:6,9; John 5:39, 2 Tim. 3:15,16,17; Isa. 8:20; Gal. 1:8,9; Acts 3:22,23).

In Bresson’s supposed rebuttal, he admits that the Scriptures are a meta-narrative, but argues that the narrative yields objective truth to be obeyed: see above and following:

While the scriptures inherently contain meta-narrative, the various narrative forms, using various Jewish literary genre, are themselves propositional in nature and scope…. And, because there is a common meta-narrative inherent to the whole of scripture (the redemptive story pointing forward to and fulfilled in Christ), it necessarily follows that there is a logical analogy to the whole of scripture which is to be exegeted and preached.

In other words, the concept is objective (the narrative is true and objective), but obviously yields subjective results because one has to interpret every verse of Scripture in a way that shows forth the gospel. But New Calvinists think that this approach is acceptable as long as the point made is a valid gospel outcome. The EC believes that both the narrative and the outcomes are subjective; New Calvinists claim that objective truth is possible while torturing every verse for a gospel outcome, which is highly doubtful. In other words, the results from both camps are the same: subjective.

In addition, the “obedience” Bresson refers to is New Calvinist “new obedience” (Christ obeys for us or obedience is the mere yielding to the evil realm or the gospel realm) which teaches against what Bresson seems to be saying. Where would I even begin to document New Calvinist teachers in regard to their devaluing of obedience as stated by tenet three? “Scripture is a meta-narrative, and by this nature is not a propositional document for us to pin down all the rules to obey and doctrines to believe.” Consider what the New Calvinists themselves write along these same lines:

DA Carson: “In this broken world, it is not easy to promote holiness without succumbing to mere moralism; it is not easy to fight worldliness without giving in to a life that is constrained by mere rules.”

John Piper: “So the key to living the Christian life – the key to bearing fruit for God – the key to a Christ-exalting life of love and sacrifice – is to die to the law and be joined not to a list of rules, but to a Person, to the risen Christ. The pathway to love is the path of a personal, Spirit-dependent,  all-satisfying relationship with the risen Christ, not the resolve to keep the commandments.”

Tullian Tchividjian: “A taste of wild grace is the best catalyst for real work in our lives: not guilt, not fear, not another list of rules.”

Lastly, Bresson mentions another New Calvinist substitution for orthodox obedience that I haven’t fully put my mind around—this whole idea of Christians putting ourselves in, or participating in the gospel narrative: “These historical contexts presume an original audience with whom we participate in the same redemptive story.” Again, postmodern emergents (EC) take the same approach with a slightly different application. Note what John MacArthur writes in The Truth War: Quoting Brian McLaren, another proponent of the Emerging Church:

Getting it right’ is beside the point: the point is ‘being and doing good’ as followers of  Jesus in our unique time and place, fitting in with the ongoing story of God’s saving love for planet Earth.’ All of that is an exemplary statement of the typical postmodern perspective. But the thing to notice here is that in McLaren’s system, orthodoxy is really all about practice, not about true beliefs (page 36).

So, on the one hand (New Calvinism), we supposedly put ourselves in the gospel narrative in a passive endeavor to manifest a redeemed realm. On the other hand (EU), we put ourselves in the subjective narrative as a form of obedience. What’s the difference?  The bottom line: New Calvinists use an objective means of interpretation that leads to subjective, if not mystical results, though they lamely argue that the results are objective because only objective results can come from seeing the gospel in every verse of the Bible. The emergents are at least honest about the means and the results being subjective.

And honesty in and of itself is a good thing; those who follow you at least know what they are following. But the New Calvinist cartel will continue in pretending to be orthodox while confusing the issue by contending against other camps that really believe the same things.


New Calvinism’s Extreme Makeover of Scripture

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 11, 2012

This Ministry has focused primarily on the fact that New Calvinism is blatantly unorthodox in salvific matters. Originally, the focus was on what was perceived as merely weakening Christians in their walk with God. Continued investigation reveals that New Calvinism also has the gospel wrong and distorts the very core of salvation: the doctrine of justification. Pastor Joel Taylor, a charter member of the long overdue Coalition Against New Calvinism makes this point well in the organizations inaugural post at

The clear picture that has emerged is a movement that leaves no aspect of orthodoxy turned upside down, including Bibliology. I have stumbled across and recognized their approach to Scripture before, but have had bigger fish to fry in this endeavor. Though the complete picture has not yet emerged, I have been spurred to touch on what I do know because of statements made by Cindy Kunsman in her review of The Truth About New Calvinism.

New Calvinism approaches Scripture as a historical gospel narrative in its totality of purpose. Therefore, whether or not there is error, or whether or not events like creation are literal or not, isn’t the point—what the historical narrative is showing about the gospel is the point. Undoubtedly, this is why John Piper has elders on his staff that are theistic evolutionist—whether or not God literally created the Earth in six days is not the point—what the creation event shows us about the gospel is the point.

How some of them integrate this approach with more orthodox forms of interpretation varies, but this element of interpretation has a profound effect on how they approach the Scriptures and use it to “feed” the sheep. One can ascertain what I am talking about if they listen and read carefully. Michael Horton continually speaks of the “divine drama.” In fact, Horton wrote a book entitled, “Covenant and Eschatology: the Divine Drama.”

And where is this coming from? We get a clue if we visit Vossed World blog authored by New Calvinist and NCT theologian Chad Bresson. He wrote a post bemoaning the use of Old Testament events for instruction purposes and practical application to the life of New Testament believers. Of course, such a concern is in contradiction to 1Corinthians 10:6, 10:11, and 11:1. A reader using the name “Kippy” instigated a follow-up post:

In the comments section of the “Abigail” post, Kippy has asked a good question that is asked pretty consistently of the redemptive-historical hermeneutic. Kippy wants to know if practical application is a “wrong approach” to a text such as 1 Samuel 25, especially in the area of counseling. These are good questions. I’ll answer the application question first and the counseling question last.

Actually, Bresson didn’t directly answer Kippy’s initial question, but smothered it in a 10,000 word post. Yet, his response is telling to some extent. Here is Kippy’s intitial question:

Wow, heavy stuff. I do have a question concerning “practical application”, you seem to diss it in the post (because it takes away from the central purpose?). I am presently counseling a depressed person and I’m using Phil 4:4-9. The passage seems to promises wonderful things for those who replace worry with right prayer and erroneous thoughts with true thoughts. Namely, that Christ will guard our hearts and minds. Is this approach an improper use of the Scriptures?—being practical application?

Thanks for your hard work.


Though Bresson never directly answers the question, New Calvinist Paul David Tripp does in How People Change, page 27. He states that changing the way we think to biblical thinking is insufficient, and “omits the person and work of Christ as Savior.” Why? Because it does not first see how a particular situation in our life fits into the historical gospel motif presented in Scripture. When we see our redemptive life story IN the biblical narrative, transformation takes place. Bresson’s post further elaborates on this point:

Few have spoken more clearly to the entire subject of “application” than brothers Charles, James, and William Dennison (the “Dennisons 3”). Dr. William Dennison writes, “Good Biblical preaching draws the congregation into the event…As Paul preaches to the Corinthians, his presentation of the saving event of God’s activity in Christ’s work precedes his interpretation of that work to the people. Event precedes interpretation, while interpretation draws the congregation into the event.” (Reformed Spirituality, ed. Joseph Pipa, pp. 148-150)


Why is this? This is true because the application (how we live out the imperatives of the text) is generated by a historical event, the Christ event, or more specifically the cross and resurrection. As Dennison says, “In the Biblical text, morality is grounded in history, or more precisely, the moral life of the believer is grounded in the redemptive-historical work of God in Christ’s death and resurrection.”


As Dennison points out, this has huge implications in terms of how we think about “practical application”. He says, “God engages His people as participants in the event of His activity; He places them in union with the event. Or, to put it another way, God draws His people into His redemptive-historical work as a participant in the event, not as a spectator of the event (One must not view the indicative-imperative grammatical construction in abstraction from its theological and revelational-historical content. The content is what gives the construction its rich supernatural relevance and meaning).”


How does the fact that the listeners are participants impact how we think about application? Dennison quotes his late brother Charles when he says, “The Biblical model is simply this: “’Good preaching does not apply the text to you, but good preaching applies you to the text.’ To put it another way, ‘The preacher does not take the word and apply it to you, but the preacher takes you and applies you to the word.’”

Then Bresson concludes on this point:

So, it’s not that anyone is dissing application. There is certainly application in the text, including the passage that prompted the question, 1 Samuel 25. The question isn’t whether there is application, but what kind of application. And the kind of application found in the text tends to be quite different than the kind of application that is popular today. The application found in the text revolves around an event and is itself an application tied to history. That kind of application has a direct bearing on the 24/7/365 of our “mundane” lives.

As Dennison notes, “The Biblical theologian sees application as that which truly comes from the text because he draws the believer into the redemptive-historical and eschatological drama of the Biblical text. The struggles you face in the Christian life are the same struggles that the church recorded in the Biblical text faced. You live between the two comings of God, just as the people of God in the Biblical text live between the two comings of God. Their history is your history. As their redemption and application was grounded in the promises and the accomplished work of Christ, so your redemption and application is grounded in the promises and accomplished work of Christ. You are living in the same life pattern that the church lived in the Biblical text, and thus, the Bible is God’s document of application.”

Kippy then poses the following statement in the comments section of the follow-up post:

It seems that our primary concern is focus on the glory of Christ and the knowledge of him. This will produce the imperatives naturally. Also, history is still moving toward the return of Christ, by putting ourselves INTO the text, we recognize that we are the ongoing redemptive work of Christ that didn’t end with the Scriptures. The Scriptures enable us to be part of that history. We are not making our own redemptive history, it is making us. We are between the beginning and the end, but all we need to identify with  Christ is bound in the Scriptures.

To that, Bresson answered:


It looks like you’re understanding what I’ve said (a minor miracle, I know). I’ll get to your other questions shortly.

Bresson latter added:

If you’re interested in how we fit into the redemptive-historical drama :-), a couple of books that have interesting thoughts in this regard are Vanhoozer’s “Drama of Doctrine” and Horton’s “Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama”.

I don’t agree with everything they have to say, but I did find what they had to say about “participation”, “drama”, and Christ’s Incarnation to be thought-provoking. There are thoughts there compatible with what we’ve said here.

(Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Abigail was “motivated” by a future eschatological hope that God would accomplish his purposes in a throne for David

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The application: We, like Abigail, rest in our Avenger).

Hence, this approach makes the Bible a perfect tool for Gospel Contemplationism. In the aforementioned book written by Tripp, four primary applications are given as aids in seeing our own gospel story in the historical gospel meta narrative: Heat; Thorns; Cross; Fruit. Tripp asserts that the sum of the Bible is composed by these four prisms that enable us to place our life story in God’s story as a way of transformation (p.96). On pages 102-105, Tripp attempts to show that the apostle Paul used Scripture in this way for transformation in his own life. On page 94, Tripp states, “This big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot!” Unbelievably, Tripp commits a first degree theological felony by admitting in the book that Jeremiah 17:5-10 is the only proof text that can be found to substantiate this hermeneutic, and his mentor David Powlison eludes to that same apology in the Forward. Despite Powlison’s glowing affirmation in the Forward and noting that the book follows after his own Dynamics of Biblical Change, Powlison disavows the book in private conversations because a testing of the book by CCEF in local churches didn’t reveal the fallout that is now rearing its ugly head. This kind of disingenuous communication has been a hallmark of Powlison’s ministry.

This now brings us to statements made by Cindy Kunsman in her review of  The Truth About New Calvinism. In my present research for volume two, I am investigating the influence of neo-orthodoxy on SDA theology. My thesis so far is that SDA contributed the fusion of justification and sanctification in New Calvinist theology, and SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead added  the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. I then lean towards the idea that neo-orthodoxy filled in the blank spots to make it run, including the kind of hermeneutic which is the subject of this post. But hold the fort. Kunsman states the following in the review:

J. G. Vos became very interested in the significance of Christ’s history and participated a movement that encouraged people to find a message of redemption in every Bible passage, relating it to the history of Christ. Goldsworthy, an aberrant Anglican, developed a whole esoteric sounding theology about the “holy history of Christ,” he worked alongside Brinsmead, a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA), and it resulted in most of the errors and controversies we’ve seen among the Reformed in the past decade or two. Most of what Jon Zens teaches came from Brinsmead, and most of what Piper teaches sounds just like Goldsworthy. (See addendum note below.)  Piper’s preaching quietism through his “beholding as a way of becoming,” a form of Christian mysticism enjoining passive contemplation and the beatific annihilation of the will…. In some shared disdain for Lutheran theology [Brinsmead and company], they explain how salvation really happens [linked to Present Truth volume 46, art. 2, part 4] in their old publication called “The Present Truth” which was once staggeringly popular at Westminster. (Take note that “the present truth” is a doctrine in SDA church, invented by the Whites [linked to several references regarding early SDA publications by the Whites]. It was also the name of their first SDA publication in the 19th Century.) In a discourse that switches back and forth from Catholic Theology into Protestant statements so many times that I gave me theological whiplash, they explain the process. First, the believer is “caught up in the holy history” of Christ and “replaces his history” with Christ’s. As a result of the change in the person who has been assimilated or has assimilated Jesus and is changed, it is then that God decides to bestow the grace of justification on a man because he’s suddenly become acceptable to God. Sorry, folks. This just became justification by works, and sanctification and justification become the same thing…. This is the more subtle reason why Piper and Keller and Bridges and Tchividjian and others preach the gospel to themselves every day which I personally consider to be different than morning devotions or contrition over sin as a New Creation in Christ. This is why Piper and Mahaney do all of their histrionic weeping over their poor, sinful state, because they are still subject to it, giving it power. New life in Christ for them is dependent on daily infused grace and justification…. Piper’s teachings argue against an inner transformation which bestows a believer with the Spirit’s power and discernment to resist sin.

Kunsman embeds several links that do not show up in my citations here, but I would like to focus on her citation of the Australian Forum’s theological journal, Present Truth vol.46,art.2, pt.4. I have reposted the whole article as an addendum to this post. All of Kunsman’s review can be read here: Kunsman’s review of TANC

Present Truth was the theological journal of the think tank known as the Australian Forum which was founded by Brinsmead, Geoffrey Paxton, and Graeme Goldsworthy. They were later joined by Jon Zens. The issue Kunsman cites is dripping with the present-day New Calvinist motif, including the SCANDALOUS GOSPEL sloganry.

Also, match Bresson’s cited post with Kunsmans citation—the theology/hermeneutic is identical, and accentuated with the same phraseology. This bolsters the conclusion that I have come to time and time again throughout my five years of research on this issue: Present Truth might as well be the theological journal of present-day New Calvinism, and it would be if Robert Brinsmead wasn’t a Seventh-day Adventist gone bad.

Then I would ask you to note Kunsman’s citation of the SDA doctrine that is actually named, “Present Truth.” She also notes that it was the name of SDA’a first publication. In my present preparation for volume two of The Truth About New Calvinism, I am reading The Shaking of Adventism by Geoffrey Paxton, one of the core four of the Australian Forum. He presents SDA as the gatekeepers of Reformation theology, and insinuates that the Australian Forum was the “Shaking” predicted by SDA theologians of days gone by.

So what is the point here for now? One, New Calvinists completely bastardize Scripture. Two, it’s looking more and more like New Calvinism is up to its ears in SDA theology.


ADDENDUM; Present Truth volume 46, article 2, part 4:

The Need for a Correct Biblical Framework

The centrality of justification by faith and its forensic character is the raison d’etre of the Lutheran Reformation. It is under massive attack today. Prominent Lutheran scholars are leading this assault on the Reformation faith. But that is not the only feature of the current crisis among Lutherans. Many of those trying to defend the old faith are not convincing. They appear to be losing ground in the struggle. They are repeating many of the old arguments (such as the meaning of words), but their theological framework is too abstract and rationalistic. This plays into the hands of those who advocate a theology of dynamic experience as an alternative to “dry old orthodoxy.”

The abstract scholastic dogmatics of the old Protestant orthodoxy is not adequate for the present crisis. What is needed is a theology with a truly biblical framework. The apostles preached the gospel of Christ out of the Old Testament background. Yet there has always been a tendency in the church to cut the Christian message loose from its Old Testament roots.

When this happens, the Christian message is placed in either a rationalistic or a mystical framework and is consequently distorted. What is needed is a return to biblical faith, which is not just Christian but Judeo-Christian. Biblical faith is historical, covenantal and eschatological.

The want of a theology which has a historical, covenantal and eschatological framework is the real issue behind the issues in the current justification-by-faith debate.

The Historical Framework

The first thing that must be said about biblical faith is that it is historical faith. “The uniqueness—the ‘scandal’—of biblical faith is revealed in its radically historical character.”1

The Bible has a historical framework. Man is essentially a historical being.

Biblical faith understands human existence and human destiny in irreducibly historical terms. If the question is asked, what is the real reality of man?—what is it the actualization of which constitutes the fullness of his being?—the heathen (turned philosopher) would say nature; the Greek metaphysician and the Oriental mystic would say that which is timeless and eternal to him; but the biblical thinker would say his history. History is the very stuff out of which human being is made: human existence is potential or implicit history; history is explicit or actualized existence. And it is not very different on the corporate level. In attempting to explain to someone who really does not know what it means to be an American, it would be futile to try to contrive some conceptual definition of “American-ness.” Would it not prove more appropriate to tell the story of America and rely upon that story to communicate the fullness of what it means to be an American? “The human person and man’s society,” Reinhold Niebuhr has profoundly observed, “are by nature historical. . . [and] the ultimate truth about life must be mediated historically (emphasis added) . . .

But he who understands the reality of human being in biblical terms will find no difficulty in understanding that the ultimate truth about human life and destiny, about man’s plight and man’s hope alike, is truly and inexpugnably historical, and can be expressed in no other way. (Hence the Bible is composed so largely of stories, recitals, histories.) The structure of faith is a historical structure, because being, living, and acting are, in the biblical conviction, radically historical in character.2

This means that true preaching about the sinner’s justification before God is not an abstract theory of imputed righteousness which sounds too much like salvation by celestial bookkeeping. Nor is it explaining the technique of moral transformation. It is the preaching of something historical. Alan Richardson has expressed this point beautifully:

Biblical faith, however, is not at all concerned with asking in what salvation consists or in recommending techniques, whether mystical or ethical, by which salvation may be attained. It is concerned rather with the proclamation of the fact of salvation, and thus it differs from all “religion” by being kerygmatic in character. The Bible is concerned with the fact that God actually has in concrete historical fact saved his people from destruction.3

The principle is the same in both Testaments. In the Old Testament God’s saving act took place in the Exodus-Sinai event, which becomes the type of God’s great saving act in the death resurrection event. Biblical preaching, however, is not preaching about some dead history which is past and gone. Though the event may have happened years or even centuries ago, it lives on as it is continually rehearsed by Word and sacraments.

For the Old Testament believer the Exodus was a history that was part of his existence. He may have lived long after the Exodus took place. But as the event was rehearsed by holy days, feast days and the story of the fathers, he was caught up in that history. He identified with it in such a way that it became his history. Therefore the Exodus was something which really happened to him as a member of the people for whom the redemption was wrought. When he made his confession of faith, he told the story of the Exodus using the first person, as if he had actually crossed the Red Sea with Moses. “‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt. . . and the Lord heard our voice [note the first person pronoun] and saw our misery, toil and oppression. . . . So the Lord brought us out of Egypt'”(see Deut. 26:2-10).

So it is with the New Testament believer. In the gospel and the sacraments, the holy history of Jesus Christ is recited, rehearsed and represented. This is more than a memorial of a past event which is dead and gone. In the proclamation of the event in the power of the Spirit, the past is rendered present (Rom. 1:16, 17). The believer is caught up in this holy history—he identifies with it, participates in it, is baptized or incorporated into it. Just as the Old Testament believer embraced the Exodus as his own personal history, so the New Testament believer embraces the holy history of Christ as his own personal history. And like the Old Testament believer, he makes his confession of faith by speaking of this history in the first person. “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). “Our old self was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6). Or as Luther said, “Christ died. I too. He rose from the dead. I too. “Let us now consider what light this historical faith throws on some of the disputes about justification:

Since the believing sinner is justified by the holy history of Christ and by that alone, justification must be forensic.

2. Justification is central in Christian teaching since it is wholly concerned with what is central—namely, the holy history of Christ. On the other hand, the presentation of an abstract theory of justification not vitally grounded in Christology will not be regarded as central.

3. If God justifies on the basis of this new history of Christ which is pleasing to Him, then forensic justification is no legal fiction. It is not a matter of God waving a wand over the sinner, declaring him righteous when he possesses no righteousness at all. The believer possesses righteousness good enough and big enough to stand before the tribunal of God. He is identified with the holy history of Christ. It has become his own history. This is no make-believe. This history is real. The believer stands with a good record. It justifies him before God.

Proponents of forensic justification have sometimes given occasion for the Reformation faith to be impugned because they have separated justification from history so that the imputation of righteousness sounds almost like an abstraction. This has happened because soteriology has not been seen in its vital relationship to Christology.

Osiander said that forensic justification makes God appear to be a liar because He calls a man righteous when he is not righteous at all. Osiander was not wrong when he said that God must make the sinner righteous before He can declare him righteous. But the believing sinner has already been made righteous in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Why should not the righteous Judge justify the man who stands before Him with the holy history of Christ?

Furthermore, when Christ identified Himself with our history, was He not cursed for our sake? (Gal. 3:12,13). Surely we are not going to say that His condemnation was based on what He was in Himself! So why should not God justify those who are identified with Christ’s history? This justification is no more “analytical” than Christ’s condemnation was analytical. The substitutionary atonement of Christ and justification by a forensic righteousness are merely two sides to one great truth.

Let us also look at Newman’s argument in the light of historical faith. He used the analogy of creation to prove that God makes what He declares (“‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”). By doing this, Newman made God’s creative act depend on justification. But God’s new creation took place in His redemptive act in the holy history of Christ. The faith which justifies does not bring the new creation into existence; it confesses its existence. The conception, birth, sinless life and resurrection of Jesus from the dead were the recapitulation of Genesis 1 and the fulfillment of those Old Testament prophecies which spoke of God making all things new. The justification of the sinner springs from this creative act of God and not the other way around, as Newman and the proponents of “effective” justification contend.

Furthermore, is it correct to take the analogy of creation (“‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”) and apply it to the matter of justification? Justification is an indicative verdict, not an imperative command, so the creation analogy is inappropriate. A better analogy would be God’s verdict, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This declaration was not made in order to make Christ pleasing to God but because He was pleasing to God. So it is with the believer. He is declared righteous before God’s judgment seat because He has been made righteous in the holy history of Jesus Christ.

4. One of the most serious criticisms raised against forensic justification is that it leaves the sinner without moral renewal and therefore has antinomian tendencies. A doctrine of justification presented in the rationalistic framework which has characterized too much of the old Protestant orthodoxy cannot adequately meet this charge. It may correctly say that justification is distinguished from regeneration but is never separate. However, the critics are always suspicious that the link between justification and the new birth is too artificial—as if ethical renewal had to be attached to justification like an afterthought. Certainly the endless discussions on the ordo salutis in seventeenth-century Protestant scholasticism were too abstract and artificial.

However, when justification is preached in the framework of history, it appears in vital and inseparable relationship to the new birth. We have seen how the sinner is justified by participating in the holy history of Christ. The same inclusion into Christ’s history also means that the sinner is born again.

A person does not become born again by rummaging around in his psyche. The new birth is not preoccupation with one’s spiritual navel. Man is a historical being. I am the story of my life. My history determines who I am and what my destiny shall be. The only way I can become a new man is to have a new history.

In His discourse on the new birth, Jesus directed Nicodemus’ attention to the first Exodus under Moses (John 3:14). Nicodemus knew very well that it was the Exodus event which gave birth to the nation of Israel. But the prophets had also spoken of a new exodus under a new Moses at the end of the age. In this new redemptive act God would make all things new. There would be a new covenant with a new Israel. Nicodemus was not altogether ignorant of these things. The book of John presents Jesus as that new Moses of the new exodus. The imagery of the Exodus appears everywhere in the Gospel of John. Jesus tells Nicodemus—this representative of Israel—that his identification with the history of old Israel will not entitle him to enter the kingdom of the new age now being inaugurated. He must now look to the Son of Man and identify himself with the Son of Man’s new redemptive history (John 3:14, 15). Just as the first Exodus gave birth to the nation of Israel, so the new exodus at Calvary would give birth to the new Israel.

What we identify with historically has the most profound effect on our lives. For instance, in order to become an American in the deepest sense, I would need to know the story of the birth of this great nation and then to identify myself with that history so that it became part of my existence. I would thereby become caught up in the spirit of America. Its history would then govern the way I think and act. So it is when the Spirit of Christ comes to me clothed in the gospel of Christ. The Spirit incorporates me into the holy history of Christ. This brings about a change which is far more profound than a change of earthly citizenship and political philosophy. It means that my whole life has a new center. The holy history of Jesus Christ determines my entire existence—the way I think about everything as well as the way I act. “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Incorporation into Christ’s new history will therefore give me both a new standing (Justification) and a new state (new birth). My new history changes God’s estimate of me and my estimate of God. Thus, the justification which is grounded in history is inseparable from the new birth, which is grounded in the same history. There is really no point to the artificial ordo salutis of Protestant scholasticism. If we say that justification comes first, it is not a temporal order but only a theological order. How I stand in God’s sight must always be given first consideration.

Moreover, the new birth is the sinner’s apprehension of forensic justification. To look away to a righteousness found wholly in Another and in what Another has done, to stake one’s all upon the history of Another, is the negation of human pride and self-centeredness. To exercise saving faith is surely an essential element of the new birth. Thus, John simply says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). True to the Hebraic rather than the Grecian way of thinking, the Bible describes the new-birth existence more by what it does than by what it is in itself. And true to Hebraic thinking, the biblical content of the new-birth doctrine is historical rather than rationalistic or existential.