Paul's Passing Thoughts

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.”

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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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Is New Calvinism Old Calvinism?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 19, 2014

Horton’s Systematic Theology Adds To The Sonship/Gospel Sanctification Massive Subculture: Revised

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 30, 2014

[NOTE: This was written before I discovered that New Calvinism is in fact the same gospel that the Reformers taught. The resurgence movement began as COG in 1970, became Sonship circa 1986, Gospel Transformation in 2000, dubbed Gospel Sanctification by detractors in 2007, and finally New Calvinism in 2008. This was also written before I understood that orthodoxy is a part of spiritual caste in general]. 

“Gospel Sanctification,  as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity”  [Note also that I no longer equate “orthodoxy ” with truth per se].

[Further revision: much has been learned since this post, but the general idea is very accurate: the Neo-Calvinist movement is seeking to develop a subculture within American culture that will eventually, if all goes as planned, devour American culture as we know it. This is part and parcel with Calvinism’s dominion theology. This post submits a sketchy framework of useful categories under the general idea. For instance, one college that focuses strictly on the Neo-Calvinist vision is a far cry from the fact that this movement owns (in an intellectual capacity) most of the seminaries in America. Other categories could be added as well, e.g., Christian publishing ].   

The Fix is now in. The false doctrine of the centrality of the objective gospel (COG) which found new life in  Sonship Theology about thirty years ago—now has its own theology, hermeneutic, practical application, defined experience, ecumenical (inclusiveness) movement, history, college, counseling organization, missionary organization, Bible—and now, its own systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification (GS), as Sonship is now called, will begin to totally rewrite orthodox Christianity. It won’t be long; those who we minister to will have to be deprogrammed before we can help them, starting with convincing them that the Bible is to be taken as literal instruction from God as our authority for ministry and life. Not understanding GS beforehand will make any attempt to help people with the word of God—dead on arrival.

GS Theology

The movement started with a very powerful concept in the minds of its perpetrators. Supposedly, we grow spiritually by revisiting the gospel that saved us every day. Proponents were convinced (and still are) that this thesis stands alone as truth; therefore, all other propositions must bow to it.

The GS Hermeneutic

A literal interpretation of Scripture will continually contradict GS. So, the proponents have changed how we read/ interpret the Bible accordingly. The GS hermeneutic is an interpretive prism that will always yield results that make GS plausible. Unlike the rest of the elements (which are very contemporary), the hermeneutic (known as Biblical Theology or Redemptive-Historical hermeneutics) was borrowed from times past. It originated in Germany under the liberal teaching and writings of Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826), who emphasized the historical nature of the Bible over against a “dogmatic” interpretation thereof. Nearly a century later, Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) was instrumental in taking the discipline of biblical theology in a, supposedly, more conservative direction. Graeme Goldsworthy tweaked the doctrine to facilitate COG, and today, Goldsworthy’s “Trilogy” is the pillar of interpretation within the movement.

Practical Application

The GS narrow approach to sanctification must be embellished and applicable to life in some way in order to be sold. This is Heart Theology, and was developed through David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change at Westminster Seminary. In 1996, two former students of Powlison articulated Heart Theology in a book entitled, “How People Change.”

Defined Experience

John Piper seeks to articulate how Sonship is experienced via Christian Hedonism. Because GS makes our works and the work of the Spirit an either/or issue, someone needed to develop a thesis that explained how the difference can be ascertained. John Piper answered the call with the development of Christian Hedonism.

Ecumenical Bent

GS now encompasses any group that agrees with its primary view of plenary monergism and the synthesis of justification and sanctification. All other disciplines are seen as secondary and irrelevant to fellowship and joint ventures. The Gospel Coalition (holding national conferences on odd years, 2011, etc.), and T4G (Together For The Gospel, holding national conferences on even years) work together to promote GS/S while promoting inclusiveness among denominations and religions.


GS proponents claim a historical precedent dating back to Creation, and also claim to be the second part of the first Reformation. Of course, this is laughable. Sonship, the Antioch school, TGC, T4G, NCT, CH, and HT have no historical precedent prior to 1970. Many of the notable proponents of GS are associated in some way with the father of  Sonship Theology, Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Tim Keller and David Powlison were followers of Miller. Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane are followers of David Powlison. Jerry Bridges attributes his view of the gospel to Miller as well.


The Antioch School of leadership training has GS as its foundation and basis for training. It is located in Ames, Iowa.

Counseling Organization

The upstart Biblical Counseling Coalition, which seeks to network other counseling organizations as well, is intimately associated with T4G and The Gospel Coalition. The who’s who of Gospel Sanctification sit on its governing board including David Powlison and Paul David Tripp.

Missionary Organization

It’s primary missionary organization was founded by the father of Gospel Sanctification / Sonship—Dr. John “Jack” Miller. Banner of Truth states the  following in The Movement Called Sonship: “Miller encouraged New Life Presbyterian Church into originating the ‘World Harvest Mission’, a non-denominational missionary organization. Sonship became its main teaching vehicle.”


The English Standard Version (ESV) was first published by Crossway in 2001. Its vice president of editorial is Justin Taylor who also authors The Gospel Coalition Blog, the multimedia propaganda machine for GS doctrine. One of the translators was Wayne Grudem, also well known as a major proponent of GS doctrine. The ESV’s GS connection has made it the most purchased English Bible in the past ten years. The latest promotion of the ESV by Crossway, “Trusted: Trusted Legacy [a whopping ten years]; trusted By Leaders; Trusted For Life,” features an endorsement by the who’s who of  GS doctrine.

The Complete Fix

With Michael Horton’s recent publication of “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way” (2011), the total fix is in place. The GS machine will now begin to move forward—rewriting and re-forming orthodox Christianity. I confidently predict that Horton’s book will be widely used in seminaries nationwide. Seminary students will be pumped into the local churches with a skewered view of truth—but using all of the same terminology that was formally orthodox.

What Can Be Done?

This doctrine thrives on the fact that Christians are theologically dumbed-down. If most Christians do not know the difference between justification and sanctification (and they don’t), they are helpless against this false doctrine. If most Christians don’t realize the importance of understanding hermeneutics (and they don’t), they are even more helpless. Local churches need to start in-doctrineating their people.


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.

How Christian Hedonism Uniquely Denies the Necessity of the New Birth

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 6, 2012