Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Interpretation of Reality and the Calvinist Swamis

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 14, 2015
Swami Albert Mohler

Swami Albert Mohler at 2011 FBC Conference: pastors are “God-appointed agents to save God’s people from ignorance.”

The fact of the matter follows when you boil it down to the least common denominator: the Protestant Reformation was a quarrel about how one should interpret reality. In other words, sola scriptura is pure propaganda. Especially in our present day, preaching for the most part uses Scripture to promote a certain view of reality. The specific studies on this are the historical-redemptive hermeneutic and what is known as Biblical Theology. These terms are egregiously misleading. Instead of the Bible being used to develop a theology with a historical-grammatical view of reality assumed, the Bible is used as a mere tool for aiding one in interpreting reality as a story, or metaphysical narrative written by a god or plethora of gods.

The concept finds its roots in good old fashioned mythology. One should not think of mythology as rank superstition; to the contrary, mythological narratives are stories written by “gifted” spiritual leaders who understand spiritual truth that the populous at large are not able to understand. The gifted leaders package these truths in bedtime stories that the totally depraved masses can understand for purposes of life application. In Protestant context, we know it as orthodoxy and “subordinate truth.” One example would be the Westminster Confession which was penned by the “Westminster Divines.”1 Ponder that one for awhile if you think words mean things.

The foundation and historical progression is not hard to follow.2 It began in the garden when the serpent attempted to present himself as a mediator between people and God. The case presented to Eve follows: there are things about God that you can’t understand, but because I am a superior being, I can guide you in them to make you more like God. At issue from the very beginning was additional mediators between mankind and God. The serpent suggested that the direct relationship between God and mankind was lacking. This is the lie that forms the foundation of all false religions. Instead of mankind at large having initial and ongoing direct access to God at all times, false teachers make the case that they are the gateway to God or some kind of utopia.

Almost immediately after the garden, the religion of spiritual caste was off and running. More than likely, Hinduism was the first formal religion of spiritual hierarchy. True salvation is a body with one head—Christ. Because we are literally born of God into His literal family, we love God and are new creatures who think like Him, and have the same mind of His Son, Christ. Unity comes from having the same mind in Christ, and coming to agreement on such.3 If there is only one mind, and there is disagreement, obviously everybody must agree that someone is right and someone is wrong. However, Scripture instructs us to leave room for the members to be convinced in their own minds and according to the development of a biblical conscience.4 Of course, this would exclude the gospel of first order that cannot be compromised.5

In spiritual caste, an elite class understands reality while the masses are unable. This is usually divided between the material and the invisible as two different realities. Fundamentally, the material is evil and the invisible is good. One may suspect that the incarnation of Christ was a direct pushback to that idea. And of course, if the elite know what’s best for the great unwashed, for the best possible well-being of humanity in general, they must rule over those enslaved to interpreting reality through their five senses. This is where authority comes in; supposedly, for the sake of mankind. So, let’s review the primary tenets of most religions:

  1. Two realities divided by truth versus illusion.
  2. Mediators between truth and illusion.
  3. The mediators should have authority for the sake of humanity.

Usually, the invisible realm is represented by virtue or some sort of deity. Mediators are the elitists in the caste system. They can be visiting deities, or those specially gifted in the material realm. And because they are part of the material realm, they are subject to it, but not to the degree that the ungifted are so…do what they say, not what they do. It’s primarily a gift of perception; because they can see things that the common man cannot see. They create understandable teachings that will best serve man in the material realm.

In most of these caste religions, predeterminism is the centerpiece. This is because in the vast majority of these caste religions, reality is a story orchestrated by the truth realm, or invisible realm. And all stories have an author. If reality is a story, the story must have an author. And if reality has an author, of course everything is predetermined by the author—this is unavoidable. So if redemption is a story as academics of the Reformed tradition constantly state as if in a manner of speaking, of course every detail of reality is predetermined because reality is a story, and all stories have an author. In addition, it may be noted that determinism and fatalism are the historical norm in general, and Protestantism is just another player in the same old song and dance.

The progression of caste started in the garden, found its first formality in Hinduism, was passed on to Plato when he studied in India, became Gnosticism, and later dictated the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation. Augustine’s City of God is a remodeled version of Plato’s Republic and Martin Luther, as well as John Calvin, were rabid followers of Augustine. Luther was a friar in the Augustinian Order, and Calvin quotes Augustine more than 400 times in the Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion. In some translations of the Institutes, that’s an average of every 2.5 pages.

In the final analysis therefore, the Reformers, especially Martin Luther, made the gospel a metaphysical story that interprets all of reality. When you go to see a movie at your local theater, you are a character in the movie watching a movie. The movie you are in was prewritten by God like all movies are prewritten by an author. Therefore, in some sense, saving faith is seeing yourself in God’s plot which is totally out of your control and would exclude all freewill. If you have any freewill at all, you are trying to write your own reality; you are writing your own story; you are trying to be your own god. In fact, this is the very primary theses of the founding doctrinal statement of the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order. In that founding document presented to the Order six months after the 95 Theses, Luther presented reality in two parts: the cross story and the story of man. According to Luther a theologian is either a theologian of the cross, or a theologian of glory (the glory of man rather than God).

Presently in the Protestant evangelical church, the idea of Christianity being a story dominates church media. Consider the following citation by the contemporary father of historical-redemptive hermeneutics and Biblical Theology:

If the story is true, Jesus Christ is the interpretative key to every fact in the universe and, of course, the Bible is one such fact. He is thus the hermeneutic principle that applies first to the Bible as the ground for understanding, and also to the whole of reality.6

Similar quotations among evangelicals in our day are myriad. The Bible is merely a prototype of redemptive reality that describes generalities, or prisms of redemptive reality in which we see our own lives. Our own lives are part of the story, and we are to interpret our lives through the redemptive reality described in the Bible. The Bible describes the redemptive reality of the past (other lives as interpretive prisms/examples) and the future (how the story will end), and we are experiencing the present redemptive reality IF we have “entered into the plot”7 or entered the “Divine drama.”8 This is little less than the Hindu Lila.

The basic recurring theme in Hindu mythology is the creation of the world by the self-sacrifice of God—”sacrifice” in the original sense of “making sacred”—whereby God becomes the world which, in the end, becomes again God. This creative activity of the Divine is called lila, the play of God, and the world is seen as the stage of the divine play. Like most of Hindu mythology, the myth of lila has a strong magical flavour. Brahman is the great magician who transforms himself into the world and then performs this feat with his “magic creative power”, which is the original meaning of maya in the Rig Veda. The word maya—one of the most important terms in Indian philosophy—has changed its meaning over the centuries. From the might, or power, of the divine actor and magician, it came to signify the psychological state of anybody under the spell of the magic play. As long as we confuse the myriad forms of the divine lila with reality, without perceiving the unity of Brahman underlying all these forms, we are under the spell of maya. (…) In the Hindu view of nature, then, all forms are relative, fluid and ever-changing maya, conjured up by the great magician of the divine play. The world of maya changes continuously, because the divine lila is a rhythmic, dynamic play. The dynamic force of the play is karma, an important concept of Indian thought. Karma means “action”. It is the active principle of the play, the total universe in action, where everything is dynamically connected with everything else. In the words of the Gita Karma is the force of creation, wherefrom all things have their life.9

And of course, if reality is a story with an author, hard determinism is the order of the day; stories do not write themselves, nor do the characters in the story have freewill to write the story. Consequently, the notion that Calvinists derive their theology from the Bible rather than metaphysics is a misnomer, and in many cases outright deceptive. The Reformed tradition is really the same worn out deterministic mythology that has always dominated world philosophy and wreaked havoc on historical experience from the very beginning. And invariably, converts to Protestantism in the Reformed tradition will mutate from freewill, to soft determinism, and finally hard determinism. Or from “Pelagianism,” to “Semi-Pelagianism,” to “orthodoxy.”

Karma is the infant stage of Hinduism where saints believe they are responsible for their own actions, but as growth moves forward, the mature saint…

“[…] becomes convinced that God has been doing everything by using his body, mind, energy and the senses. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God, and whatever God has been doing to him is for his ultimate spiritual good. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine to him. To him the doctrine of karma ceases to be a valid doctrine.

Therefore, these two doctrines, even though apparently contradictory to each other, are valid for people at different stages of spiritual growth.”10

In regard to practical application, the parallels become even more vivid. The trichotomy of soul and society in Hinduism and Platonism are identical, and the same principles are mirrored in Gnosticism and Calvinism as well. The soul of each person is threefold, and predetermined by God or some other force/deity. In each person, there is the spiritual, intellectual, and instinctive. However, each person will be dominated by one of these characteristics, and society benefits to the degree that each person lives according to the predetermined dominant aspect of their souls. This is the basis for caste systems, and usually coincides with lineage. In other words, you are expected to stay within the social strata determined by birth for the good of society at large. This is jumping ahead a little, but this idea had deep roots in Puritan beliefs who were theological descendants of Calvin. To not remain in the social strata you were born into was thought to be a violation of the 5th commandment according to the Puritans—it was dishonoring your parents.11

The theory also coincides with the two realities of material and invisible, the material being evil and the invisible being truth. The spiritual are the mediators who are able to see beyond the material while the intellectuals are wise enough to know that the mediators should be trusted. They have a special love for the truth, so they love the mediators as well. Those who have souls dominated by instinct are enslaved to the material world and their five senses. To insert another connection somewhat prematurely, the Puritan Jonathan Edwards believed that salvation required a sixth sense in order to see the kingdom of God. In other words, the five senses that evaluate the material world were all but useless for salvation.12 This sixth sense, according to Edwards, is experienced by “delightful conviction” and “inward, sweet delight in God and divine things.” Well known pastor and Puritan wannabe John Piper borrowed these ideas from Edwards to form his Christian Hedonism movement.

In regard to Plato and the aforementioned metaphysical trichotomy, this is the philosopher king, warrior, and producer classes. This coincides with the Hindu Bhramin, Kshatryia/Vaishya, and Sudra/Untouchables. And, John Calvin had his own construct communicated via his election doctrine with more of a Gnostic flavor. Unbeknownst to most people who actually call themselves “Calvinists,” John Calvin propagated three classes of elect: the elect of the elect (those who persevere, the “P” in TULIP), the temporary elect (the called who do not persevere), and the non-elect. This coincides with Gnosticism as follows:

Calvinism derived its 3 classes ultimately from the 3 classes in Valentinian Gnosticism (see Ireneaus’ five books Against Heresies):

1. Pneumatics (spirituals) – The elect of the elect.

2. Psuchics (soulys) – The average elect.

3. Hylics (carnals) – The non-elect.

Meaning, the Hylics have no chance. As for the Psuchics, they are (as you put it) “entered into the race” but not given “the gift of perseverance.” And the Pneumatics, of course, are elect to the uttermost, meaning nothing they do can damn them.

In Gnosticism, this is natural selection, or election by nature according to Clement of Alexandria in Stromata: 2. 3. More specific definitions follow:

In the gnostic view, hylics, also called Somatics (from Gk σώμα (sōma) “body”), were the lowest order of the three types of human. The other two were the psychics and the pneumatics (from Gk πνεύμα (pneuma) “spirit, breath”). So humanity comprised matter-bound beings, matter-dwelling spirits and the matter-free or immaterial, souls.

Somatics were deemed completely bound to matter. Matter, the material world, was seen as “evil” in the gnostic world view. The material world was created by a demiurge, in some instances a blind, mad God, in others an army of rebellious angels as a trap for the spiritual Ennoia. The duty of (spiritual) man was to escape the material world by the aid of the hidden knowledge (gnosis). *

The pneumatics (“spiritual”, from Greek πνεῦμα, “spirit”) were, in Gnosticism, the highest order of humans, the other two orders being psychics and hylics. A pneumatic saw itself as escaping the doom of the material world via the transcendent knowledge of Sophia’s Divine Spark within the soul.†

They conceive, then, of three kinds of men, spiritual, material, and animal . . . The material goes, as a matter of course, into corruption. The animal, if it make choice of the better part, finds repose in the intermediate place; but if the worse, it too shall pass into destruction. But they assert that the spiritual principles which have been sown by Achamoth, being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls (because when given forth by her they were yet but weak), at last attaining to perfection, shall be given as brides to the angels of the Saviour, while their animal souls of necessity rest for ever with the Demiurge in the intermediate place. And again subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and others by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the [spiritual] seed [and becoming pneumatic]; the evil by nature are those who are never able to receive that seed [and become hylic].—Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I. 7, 513

Calvin held to these same three types of categories except the determinism is by God rather than nature. For Calvin, it is the non-elect, the elect, and those of the elect that are gifted with perseverance:

In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6)

The expression of our Savior, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” (Mt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear—viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness (CI 3.24.8).14

Calvinism is nothing new; it’s the same worn out ancient mythological song and dance foisted on the Bible. Many preaching in Protestant temples in our day think that it all comes from the Bible because Protestant academics told them such. We call that “orthodoxy.” It is mythology’s noble lie of metaphysical bedtime stories for serfs. Sunday church is hosted by two kinds of pastors: those who think orthodoxy actually came from the Bible and therefore think they are teaching the Bible, and those who know what’s really going on. The former is sad enough, but those who sit under the latter are paying good money to be perceived as useful idiots.

_______________________________________________________________________

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Assembly

2 Historical progression will be documented in detail: TTANC volume 3

3 Phil 2:2, 2:5-8, 1Cor 1:10, 2:15

4 Romans 14

5 1Cor 15:1-4

6 Graeme Goldsworthy: Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics; p.48

7 Paul David Tripp: How People Change

9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lila_(Hinduism) Frijof Capra, The Tao of Physics (1975)

10 Swami Bhaskarananda: Chapters 9-11 The Essentials of Hinduism; Predestination

13 https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2014/01/30/predestination-and-the-gnostic-connection/

14 https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2014/01/30/predestination-and-the-gnostic-connection/

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 6, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 2 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potters House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalogue can be found at tancpublishing.com.

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Last week we did pretty well; we began with an introduction and completed the first two theses. Tonight, we begin with thesis 3.

Thesis 3: Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.

Human works appear attractive outwardly, but within they are filthy, as Christ says concerning the Pharisees in Matt. 23:27. For they appear to the doer and others good and beautiful, yet God does not judge according to appearances but searches »the minds and hearts« (Ps. 7:9). For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart. Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The thesis is proven in the following way: If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous. But the just speak in behalf of their works in the following way: »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee« (Ps. 143:2). The Apostle speaks likewise in Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins. In the third place, Rom. 2:21 states, »You who teach others not to steal, do you steal?« St. Augustine interprets this to mean that men are thieves according to their guilty consciences even if they publicly judge or reprimand other thieves.

In this third thesis, Luther declares ALL works of men evil. That includes the works of believers as well. Again, we come to a paramount tenet of the Reformation; total depravity does not only pertain to mankind in general, but also the saints. Even though the works of men appear “good and beautiful” (eerily similar to Plato’s trinity of the good, true, and beautiful), they are evil:

If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous.

By the way, this is synonymous with the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11. Luther hints in this thesis in regard to why all the works of men can be deemed wicked: they are under the law, and no man can keep the law perfectly:

 But the works of men are the works of the law…

This is another way of saying that Christians remain under the law just like unbelievers, and since no person can keep the law perfectly, all bets are off. The Calvin Institutes 3.14.10 is an in-depth articulation of this idea. This is amazing because it’s right here where Reformed soteriology falls completely apart and turns the whole Bible upside down. Right here, you are looking at it. It’s the idea that Christians cannot perform a good work because they are still under the law and the law demands perfect obedience.

Also, amazingly, all of the major tenets of the Reformation gospel are in this one thesis. Let’s begin with Luther’s heart theology that actually laid the foundation for the contemporary biblical counseling movement; at least what came out of Westminster’s CCEF. An illustration can be seen below.

Luther cites Matthew 23:27 and Psalms 7:9 to make the point that the outward works of men are meaningless and God looks upon the heart. In this theology, the “heart” is the seat of faith. Even though the believer can do no good work; the believer’s heart (or faith) can be pure. What Luther proffers as we move along is a purity totally disconnected from works, and purity (faith) that is strictly an ability to perceive, and depending on the Reformed camp, experience the works of God completely separate from anything man does. If we pay close attention, we see these ideas in this third thesis.

For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart.

We must continue to remember that what Luther is saying about the heart is completely disconnected from man’s ability to do a good work. Why? Because everything man does is under the law and no man can keep the law perfectly. Again…

But the works of men are the works of the law…

Everything man does whether lost or saved is under the law, and since no man can keep the law perfectly; all of his works are condemned. The next part is very important:

Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The heart is cleansed by faith alone, and as we will see further along in our study, Luther believed that these cleansings needed to be repeated for ongoing present sin. But a little bit of thinking will reveal it here as well. If we are still under the law, we continue to sin against the law which necessarily demands a repurification. Especially since this sin is “mortal sin.” However,

But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins.

It boils down to this: if one thinks they performed a good work or are able to perform a good work, that’s mortal (subject to death) sin. But a faith that separates itself from works is venial (forgivable) sin which must be continually sought to receive ongoing cleansing. Luther elaborates on this more in the latter theses, but note how he uses Psalm 143:2 in this regard:

 »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee«

To not completely depend on faith alone, and thinking that you can do a good work is being under the curse of the law:

Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins.

So there is no middle ground; one either depends totally on faith or on works. The belief that one can do a good work is tantamount to being cursed.

This third thesis is the very heart of the Reformation: no man can do a good work, and to believe that is pure faith apart from any good works. Again, faith and good works are separated. Now you know why Luther didn’t like the book of James. The premise for this is the supposed fact that believers remain under law which is a glaring contradiction to Scripture. The “heart” is the seat of pure faith apart from any works; faith and works are mutually exclusive throughout the life of the “believer.”

Thesis 4: Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.

That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53:2, »He had no form of comeliness«, and in 1 Sam. 2:6, »The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.« This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

This depravity, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11:31 says, »If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged by the Lord«. Deut. 32:36 also states, »The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.« In this way, consequently, the unattractive works which God does in us, that is, those which are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit.

Here we have the Reformed mainstay doctrine of mortification and vivification. This is a major Reformed soteriological doctrine along with double imputation and the vital union. But in regard to M&V, here it is folks—right here. This is probably where this doctrine is first introduced.

But first, let’s look at the Reformation’s single perspective on the law also in this thesis. Luther makes it clear that the supposed sole purpose of the law is to bring man down into despair because of his total depravity:

This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

Once we use the law, and God uses circumstances to bring us into despair, that is the mortification part, God brings about vivification, or exaltation. As you can see, Luther uses 2Corithians 6:9,10 to make the case for that. This suffering is actually the good works of God as opposed to the evil works that look good to man; ie., good works done by men whether saved or unsaved. Later in this disputation Luther will define that as the story of man, or the glory story, viz, good and beautiful works done by man, versus the cross story, viz, the works of God that look unattractive. As we will see further along, this is Luther’s very definition of the new birth. The Christian life is a perpetual death (mortification) and resurrection (vivification) cycle that continually repeats itself experientially from despair to joy.

This is also the basis of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine. Joy must be part of the salvation experience because it is the upside of the perpetual new birth experience that keeps salvation moving forward by faith alone. If you only experience despair, that’s a half gospel. Many are confused by John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine until they understand M&V, then it all makes perfect sense why joy must be part of the salvation experience. Contemporary Reformers state it this way:

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, or he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (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).

Now, the next thesis is fairly interesting. In the fifth thesis, Luther distinguishes between crimes and mortal sins.

Thesis 5; The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.

For crimes are such acts which can also be condemned before men, such as adultery, theft, homicide, slander, etc. Mortal sins, on the other hand, are those which seem good yet are essentially fruits of a bad root and a bad tree. Augustine states this in the fourth book of ›Against Julian‹ (Contra Julianum).

This is pretty straight forward. Criminal acts are NOT classified as mortal sins. Criminal acts are works that are condemned among men while mortal sins are the good works of man that are really “fruit of a bad tree.” Those of orthodoxy must deny that man does any good work at all that is not condemned by God. The belief that any man can do any kind of meritorious work falls under sin that will not be forgiven. This means that Reformed persons in the know would seek daily forgiveness for every, and all acts performed by them. It pretty much boils down to this quotation cited by a theological journal:

The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck [Reformed philosopher Herman Bavink] (Present Truth: Sanctification-Its Mainspring  Volume 16 Article 13).

At this point it is fairly easy to draw a watershed conclusion in all of this: the lynchpin idea of the Reformation was that salvation can only be obtained and maintained with a righteousness not our own, but also the exclusion of righteous acts performed by us. At this point, there is only one way forward: a mystical manifestation of works performed by deity; Martin Luther’s Alien Righteousness. This necessarily demanded and still demands a discussion of a philosophical ideology to make manifestation and realm birthing feasible. The Heidelberg Disputation not only does that, but articulates the theoretical life application and how these manifestations are experiences in reality. Luther was very concise in that regard while anticipating future objections.

Thesis 6: The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

In Eccles. 7:20, we read, »Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.« In this connection, however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: »There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.« Why does he add »who does good,« as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus (Prov. 24:16), »The righteous man falls seven times a day.« Here he does not say: A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good. This is a comparison: If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.

Luther’s rusty and rough hatchet is an interesting metaphysical illustration. Notice carefully who the “’good’ craftsman” is. That can’t be us, right? Right, we are the rusty and rough hatchet. A hatchet, like all other tools, is a completely passive instrument. It has no life of its own. It only does what the craftsman does with it. Like one Reformed teacher said to me, “The Christian life is done to us not by us.”

Also, the hatchet doesn’t get any credit for the work, but only the good craftsman using the axe. This is Luther’s cardinal point of the thesis. This is a strict metaphysical dichotomy of good and evil with man defining evil and God defining good (The Calvin Institutes 1.1.1.). All manifestations of good on earth must come from above, and no good can be in man or come out of man.

Of course, this makes God the creator of rusty and rough hatchets; ie., sin and evil, but remember, as Luther stated, the good work of the craftsman only appears to be evil to us, right?

Although there is no room in this series to unravel every Scripture text that Luther twisted for his own purposes, I will speak to his use of Ecclesiastes 7:20 to make his point. All that verse is really saying is that man needs wisdom because he is not sinless and is prone to erroneous ways and death without wisdom. It’s not saying that no man does any good work. The idea in the text as noted by translations like NASB follows: no man does only good exclusively.

A thought before we go to the phones for you who are aware of our ministry’s dustup this week with the Wartburg Watch. Some folks from over there came over to PPT claiming that we have no orthodoxed credentials; therefore, apparently, our views are not relevant. Well, two things: if this is not orthodoxy, what is? And secondly, how can people claim to be advocates for the abused when they hold to this doctrine? They are either blowhards that don’t even understand what they are talking about, or they do understand. Which is it? Let’s go to the phones.

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Curing the Protestant Disease of Noanswerosis

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

As one crawling out of the present Protestant Dark Age, a focus on sanctification rather than keeping myself saved by not working has revealed a disease that infects all Protestants: Noanswerosis (pronounced no-anser-osis).

This is a word that joins, no—answer—osis. When a Protestant is “saved,” their brain is immediately infected with this disease. In fact, contemporary terms that refer to the Protestant gospel state such explicitly.

The subjective power of an objective gospel.

Or…

The objective gospel.

Or…

The centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.

Or…

Definitive justification experienced subjectively.

What are these terms saying? Well, these are contemporary terms that define the foundational document of the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustinian Order (1518). Luther’s 95 Theses was a moral disputation, his Heidelberg Disputation defined the worldview of the Reformation and was penned about 6 months after the 95 Theses. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion further defines Luther’s foundational premise.

What’s the gist of it all? First, God is completely sovereign over everything. Reality is a movie produced and scripted by God. History is a meta-narrative, or metaphysical narrative prewritten by God. Also, this movie (reality) is a 3D movie and requires special glasses in order to see it.

In other words, without the 3D glasses the movie (reality) will be blurred and distorted. And, the 3D glasses are…the gospel. All of reality, according to authentic Reformed ideology, is a gospel story. Seeing yourself in the role of how it all plays out as a mere character in a prewritten play is a matter of faith. If you see yourself as in control of anything, you are making yourself God and attempting to write your own reality.

Therefore, the gospel is the only reality that is…objective. EVERYTHING in life that happens is part of the gospel narrative, or… “his-story” (history).

So, how in the world does this supposedly work in real life? Before we get to that, let’s discuss the immense benefits from seeing reality in this way. Basically, there is no use in getting stressed out about anything because it is just all a prewritten narrative by God that you have no control over. In some sense, more accurately, in a big way, you can step back and separate yourself from what is going on in the world. Don’t worry—be happy. There is no need to get upset about an event, it’s all part of God’s gospel narrative that helps us in seeing reality more clearly.

Stop right there. That’s key. The goal is more seeing. There is a reason for this madness; what else but the primary goal of all philosophies? Happiness or joy or wellbeing or peace or however else you want to frame it. “Faith” is defined as SEEING ONLY. In Luther’s construct, ALL doing is part of the material world and inherently evil. If you can see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it, or DO it—it’s evil, period.

Seeing life more and more as a prewritten narrative that glorifies the gospel that you have no role in leads to more and more wellbeing. Hey, no matter what happens, to God be the glory. Every life event says something about the gospel. Actually, there is a specific interpretive paradigm, or if you will, the 3D glasses: “The holiness of God as set against the sinfulness of man.” Every life event lends more understanding to the depths of our own depravity versus the holiness of God. When something good happens to us “worms crawling upon the earth” (Calvin), that’s grace, that’s astounding mercy. When something bad happens, we are merely getting what we deserve.

That’s life, but what about the Bible? The Bible is an aid in seeing our depravity more and more and God’s holiness more and more. The Bible is the script of the gospel narrative. According to the Reformed academics that really understand Reformed ideology, the Bible is a gospel narrative that displays the fundamental narratives that play out in life. When you read the Bible, it is therefore your story also as seen in narrative archetypes.

So, a life of faith is really about seeing only, all of the doing has been predetermined by God. This is how we live our lives by faith alone; life is seeing and not doing. The doing is ONLY EXPERIENCED.

Now we are getting into how this philosophy actually functions in real life, supposedly that is. Pretty much, go ahead and live out your life… and here it comes… “subjectively.” This is an affirmation that everything you do is evil, even your good works, and you really have no way of knowing whether it is you doing the work or God. Take note: in understanding this philosophy, it is important to distinguish between personal works and what happens in reality. Everything that happens is predetermined by God as part of His prewritten historical narrative. But, how we see or perceive life events determines whether we are living by faith or not. There must be a distinction between actual events and perception.

Bible study, or teaching in general is focused on perception, and then we go about living our lives subjectively. Yes, we make an effort to live life, but in our effort to live life we confess that it is a subjective experience. What does that mean? Luther split subjective life into two categories: venial sin and mortal sin. If we believe that we can do a good work, that’s mortal sin. If we confess that even our good works are evil, that’s venial sin. Life is subjective because when we see our works in the world, we have no way of knowing whether it is God doing the work through us or ourselves doing a work…and you hear this often… “in our own efforts.” All of the incessant moaning you hear in church over “works done in our own efforts” is right out of the Heidelberg Disputation.

The Reformed have three schools of thought in regard to how the subjective life works. Theory one states that the subjective life of faith is a combination of manifestation and our actual works. Manifestation is realm manifestation. This is when the invisible realm births an event in the material realm. It is like the rain. You feel the rain, you experience the rain, but you have no control over the rain. The rain comes from heaven—you didn’t make it rain, you only experience the rain. This school holds to the idea that it is impossible to distinguish between our actual efforts and realm birthing, or realm manifestation. As long as the person believes that everything that he/she does is evil, and anything good that happened came from God—that’s venial sin and will be forgiven IF we confess that our good works are evil. It is a subjective life because we have no way of knowing what our works are and what the Spirit’s works are. We only confess that if anything we experience is actually a good work, we didn’t do it.

The second school is John Calvin’s Sabbath Rest Sanctification paradigm. If all of our works are sanctified by contemplation on the gospel, ie., our sinfulness as set against God’s holiness, we will be less tempted by our “good” works. In other words, we will be less tempted towards mortal sin—the belief that we actually did a good work. This is closely related to the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. The more we contemplate the gospel, the more we are able to see that anything in our life that appears to be a good work is a work that flows from the gospel event. This is also connected to the Reformed doctrine of double imputation.  Christ came to fulfil the law so that His obedience to the law during the time He lived on earth can be imputed to our lives by faith alone. So, if we experience any good work in our life and believe it is a manifestation of Christ’s obedience imputed to us—we are under venial sin and not mortal sin.

Venial sin is forgivable, but we must be faithful to the institutional church and return to the same gospel that saved us in order to receive a reapplication of Christ’s penal substitution and righteous obedience. They use 1John 1:9 and other Scriptures as a proof text for this doctrine. A perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us keeps us in the “vital union” with Christ which is yet another Reformed soteriological doctrine.

The third school emphasizes the Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification.  This doctrine encompasses the other two schools as well. Its contemporary expression is John Piper’s Christian Hedonism. This is also the official Reformed definition of the new birth. The new birth is mortification and vivification. Mortification entails a focus on our sinfulness and wormism. This is the death part of our baptism. This results in resurrection, or vivification. This is the resurrection part of our baptism. As we see the gospel narrative more deeply, we experience the joy of vivification in a deeper and deeper way. Seeing the depths of our sinfulness as set against God’s holiness (mortification) leads to a deeper and deeper experience of joy in our Christian lives (vivification). Hence, the new birth is not a onetime event in the Christians life, the Christian must continually return to the new birth process that leads to the ultimate goal of a joyful Christian life. Question. In the final analysis, is this not a rejoicing in evil that Paul stated as an antithesis of love?

Therefore, believing that the new birth is a onetime event assumes Christians move on to something else other than the gospel which also assumes Christians can do good works. That’s mortal sin. Also, a literal interpretation of the Bible assumes that biblical commands can be obeyed by the believer, that is also mortal sin according to Reformed ideology. This means that a grammatical historical view of the Bible is conducive to mortal sin while the historical redemptive view of Scripture keeps the “believer” under the auspices of forgivable venial sin.

This all translates into a dramatic devaluing of wisdom for living life in an effective way. This is what has been going on for hundreds of years. Obviously, answers are not the point or anywhere in the ballpark of life. Answers are not merely in the back seat—they aren’t even in the car. The only answer for an unfixable life is to be “joyful no matter what your circumstances are.”

This is where Noanswerosis comes from. What are the symptoms? When you counsel someone and give them solid answers from the Scriptures, they just sit there and look at you dumfounded. They will actually depart without acknowledging that the conversation actually happened. As Protestants, we are so accustomed to not having answers that the answers are now paralyzing us. It’s Noanswerosis.

Noanswerosis is caused by believing that having answers is mortal sin and applying the answers will condemn you to hell. Now you better understand where the Bible is coming from. Faith is not just seeing—it’s doing (see James). Happiness does not come from mere seeing—the blessing is IN the doing (James 1:25). Seeing only is a life built upon sand, a life of having answers and applying them is a life built upon a rock.

We have the answers, let’s keep learning and putting what we learn into practice while it is still daylight for the darkness is coming when no man can work.

paul

John Piper’s Gospel of Begging for Salvation and Hoping for the Best

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on March 12, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally posted August 6, 2013

The Reformed gospel is really a begging for salvation and then hoping for the best. “Election” only qualifies you for the drawing where “final justification” is determined at a one, final, justification judgment. Calvinist views on assurance are shrouded in an ambiguous “already not yet” terminology. You’re for sure saved, but it will be “confirmed” at the final judgment. By the way, there is clearly more than one judgment and one resurrection in the Bible. This is just another example of Calvinists interpreting the Bible any way they please.

One way of confirming this assertion is an examination of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism theology. In his book Desiring God, Piper makes joy absolutely synonymous with salvation:

“Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, ‘Believe in the Lord,’ but, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’?” (Desiring God page 55).

“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith” (Desiring God page 69).

“We are converted when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy” (Desiring God page 66).

“Something has happened in our hearts before the act of faith. It implies that beneath and behind the act of faith which pleases God, a new taste has been created. A taste for the glory of God and the beauty of Christ. Behold, a joy has been born!” (Desiring God page 67).

But then, Piper continually prefaces that with the idea that joy is strictly a gift from God. He is adamant that we can do nothing to obtain the experience of joy. For those who can’t find joy, all they can do is pray and hope all turns out well because where there is no joy, there is no assurance of salvation. Just one of many examples is in Piper’s book When I Don’t Desire God:

In obedience to God’s word we should fight to walk in the paths where he has promised his blessings. But when and how they come is God’s to decide, not ours. If they delay, we trust the wisdom of our Father’s timing, and we wait. In this way joy remains a gift, while we work patiently in the field of obedience and fight against the weeds and the crows and the rodents. Here is where joy will come. Here is where Christ will reveal himself (John 14:21). But that revelation and that joy will come when and how Christ chooses. It will be a gift.

Throughout the book, on nearly every page, Piper describes methods for seeking the joy that is in fact our salvation:

Heaven hangs on having the taste of joy in God. Therefore, it might not be so strange after all to think of fighting for this joy. Our eternal lives depend on it.

So, those who want to keep their salvation fight for joy. It is all incredibly ambiguous. In contrast, the apostle John wrote that we can “know” that we are saved. “Fighting for joy” is conspicuously missing in John’s instruction. The good John, not Piper.

paul

How and Why “Gospel-Driven” Sanctification / Sonship Theology Creates Cult-Like Churches

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 21, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published January 31, 2011

In all of my writings on gospel-driven sanctification / gospel sanctification, and its apparent mother, Sonship Theology, I have primarily addressed the error, and not its ill effects on discipleship and people’s lives. Basically, refutation of false doctrine has prevention in mind, not theological debate for entertainment purposes.

My firsthand experience with a “gospel centered” church is applicable here because this same church and its leaders are well respected in Reformed circles, and especially among those who propagate gospel-driven sanctification. Paul David Tripp speaks at this particular church often, and others such as Stewart Scott and Robert Jones have recently participated in major events there as well. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that this particular church’s activities are not considered to be abnormal among “gospel centered” persuasions.

The church I am using as an example regarding the “what,” (I will write about the “how” last) would classify themselves as being a New Covenant Theology church. They consider “Theology of the Heart, redemptive-historical hermeneutics, gospel-driven sanctification, and Christian hedonism to be tenets of NCT. What does this church and many others look like as a result of this theology?

Foremost, the leadership is very controlling. Members must have permission from the elders to vacate membership status. Those who attempt to leave membership for “unbiblical reasons” can be placed under church discipline. I have personally counseled former parishioners of said church on how to “get out of there” with minimal stress, and how to leave without being placed under church discipline. At this particular church, leaving for doctrinal reasons is considered “unbiblical.” In one particular case where the elders deemed the reason for departure “biblical,” the parishioner informed me that the chairman of the elders told him, “We would never prevent you from leaving for that reason.”

These elders are also very controlling in the area of thought. In a sermon preached by one of its elders entitled, “How to Listen to a Sermon” the following idea was introduced: Christians are not able to grow spiritually from personal study, but must only learn from sitting under preaching; specifically, preaching by the elders at that church. Here is an excerpt from the manuscript:

“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. [Particularly on the issue of radios]. 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.”

Of course, the first thing that would come to mind for any thinking Christian is the biblical account of the Bereans who studied the Scriptures on their own to determine the truthfulness of Paul’s teaching. But according to this elder, the account in Acts 17 wasn’t referring to that, but rather was illustrating the proper way to listen to a sermon:

“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.”

In other words, personal study alone cannot produce belief; preaching from an elder must be part of the “cycle” that produces belief (notice the emphasis on “belief” rather than increased knowledge per the progressive justification element of gospel sanctification). In fact, he said that personal study only “flavors” the 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”

So, personal Bible study isn’t the food, it’s just the flavoring. And, personal Bible study is for “flavoring,” not discernment. Buyer beware.

In another category under mind control, separate small groups that meet during the week under the supervision of individual elders in homes of members are instructed not to associate, or speak with members who have left for doctrinal reasons. Also, the primary purpose of the meetings is to get feedback from the parishioners on what was taught the previous Sunday, and fielding objections or concerns. In other “gospel centered” churches, these mid-week meetings are closed to outsiders, or non-members. These meetings have also been known to produce weird occurrences like the time an elder unexpectedly produced all of his financial records in plain view of the group for their inspection. A parishioner confided in me that he found the incident to be surreal, and more information than he cared to know about.

Unknown, for the most part, is the gospel-driven use of what’s called redemptive church discipline. It is a staple of these churches, and it is a very broad use of church discipline. Reformed Christians who join “gospel centered” churches assume it is a reference to traditional forms of church discipline. Parishioners can be placed in this process for any sin, and without any prior notice or inclination. It is not the normal process of inquisitive steps to determine a Christian’s willingness to repent, but more like a counseling process in which elders judge when the parishioner has actually repented. Verbal repentance on the part of the subject is not accepted. Members are not free to leave membership while in this process without being excommunicated for supposedly attempting to vacate membership while in the midst of an unresolved sin issue. Those who dispute gospel sanctification are often placed into the process to convert them to a “redemptive” view of sanctification. They either convert, or they’re excommunicated. Accounts of “gospel centered” churches using this process to control parishioners is vast.

However, the major complaint coming out of these churches is the ignoring of clear biblical mandates by their elders. Parishioners are often perplexed by this. But this is because the elders of these churches believe the Bible is solely for the purpose of showing forth redemptive principles (ie., the gospel) and not instruction. Per New Covenant Theology, they are only obligated to a “higher law of love” which replaced biblical imperatives. The idea is the following: all actions done with the motive of love are righteous. As Francis Chan wrote, “….because when we are loving, we can’t sin”(Crazy Love p.102). As in one case when an elder was caught counseling someone’s wife without the husband’s knowledge – his defense was that he did so “in love.” Therefore, just about anything goes in gospel-driven churches, and well published accounts include excommunicating hundreds of members at one time for non-attendance, which is a questionable act when Scripture is considered to say the least.

How does this happen? First, it begins with a niche doctrine. Propagators often admit that gospel sanctification is a “radical departure” from orthodox doctrine. Those are the words of the propagators, not mine. Any movement that begins with a niche doctrine is in danger of becoming a cult, that’s Cult Apologetics 101. My research has made the following evident: the doctrine was conceived by a man named Jack Miller in, or about 1980.

Secondly, the niche doctrine draws leaders who are more interested in being unique than being in the truth. Take note of what one of the elders of the aforementioned church said while introducing a Sunday school class teaching Christian hedonism: “This doctrine is what makes us unique.” Whenever the goal is to be unique, trouble is not far behind.

Thirdly, niche doctrines and a striving to be different leads to subjectivity and confusion because the leaders are constantly striving to make the doctrine fit with reality and orthodoxy. This results in the kind of events mentioned above.

Fourthly, these elements mixed with the fact that most Reformed churches are autonomous in their polity is an extremely dangerous combination. Basically, the leadership is not accountable and the congregation is on their own.

Niche doctrines, the control of members in thought and action, the ignoring of clear biblical mandates, misuse of unbiblical church discipline in order to control parishioners through fear, manipulation, and intimidation; this is how the “gospel centered” leaders of our day adorn their vile doctrine. Therefore, perhaps they should be named with the cult leaders of ages past accordingly.

paul

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