Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 22, 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 4 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

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

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question”—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Ok, so last week we only covered thesis 7, and as discussed, sometimes these Reformed guys are as clear as mud. Where the confusion comes in regards Luther’s position on mortal versus venial sin. Per Susan’s contribution last week, we know that Luther and Calvin never left the Catholic Church, and Susan assessed the Catholic position on mortal and venial sin. With that said, what was Luther’s position?

Look, here is the same advice I gave Susan in regard to her research on Jonathan Edwards: sometimes, there is just no way of knowing what these guys are trying to say, so you have to look for the places that can be defined and draw conclusions accordingly. The way Luther goes about thesis 7 could be debated until the second coming. So what’s he saying definitively? Well, let’s go to thesis 12:

In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.

This becomes sufficiently clear from what has been said. For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26), and according to another (Ps. 141:4), »Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds«.

Bingo. That’s pretty clear. For all practical purposes, according to Luther, the deeds of the saved and unsaved alike are all mortal sins. Even if Luther makes room for sins being authentically venial in the subjective Christian life, it makes no difference because mankind cannot do a good deed or any work that would be meritorious before God. In order to be saved, an individual must disavow the possibility of good works and assume every act is a mortal sin.

Susan is in the midst of some very heavy research, and has been sharing some of it with me. At times she will read excerpts from Edwards and there is no way in hades to know what the guy is saying. But, according to the subject, you can draw from what the guy has said in other places and draw your conclusions. And that’s what we are doing here.

While we are on thesis 12, let’s note this:

For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26).

Bingo—that’s the Reformation gospel in a nutshell. You are still a wretched unregenerate sinner, and a perpetual return to the same repentance that saved you keeps you justified. The saving death of Christ is continually reapplied to your life along with His imputed obedience as well. This is what Paul David Trip et al call “A lifestyle of repentance” echo, echo, echo, echo.

And by the way, if you have any complaint at all about the way your church is run, this is what you will probably hear: “Who are you to judge? You should be busy accusing yourself rather than others lest you fall from grace.” And I don’t have a problem with that and nether should you. Why? Well at least they know what Protestantism is about. They are just being good Protestants, it is what it is.

And here’s another thing; I claim a liberty for myself that I think is biblical. I refuse to pass judgement on who is going to hell and who isn’t. Not only is hell a terrible place of eternal torment that I would not literally wish on anybody, but I choose to leave that assessment where it belongs; in the hands of God. Do you know why people want me to draw the hell conclusion from my assessment of true gospel versus false gospel? Here’s why: they want to use that to shut down discussion and subsequent discovery. See, when TANC ministries comes up, they want to say, “Ya, Dohse believes that Martin Luther and John Calvin are burning in hell.” See, that shuts down discussion. But if they tell the truth and say, “Dohse believes the Reformation gospel is progressive justification,” well, now that induces curiosity and discovery.

Listen, who am I to be going around saying that this guy is going to hell and that guy is going to hell? That’s not my place, but the bigger point is that such behavior becomes the topic and not the substantive discussion of true gospel versus false gospel. The former utilizes a jump from presuppositions to conclusion so that the substantive is circumvented. Don’t fall for that garbage.

Let’s now proceed to thesis eight:

Thesis 8: By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

The inevitable deduction from the preceding thesis is clear. For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God, »for God opposes the haughty. Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.

This thesis supplies a couple of major hallmarks of the Reformation. But I better pause here to head off a danger at the pass. Don’t be tempted to think that this point by point assessment of the FIRST Reformation doctrinal statement is redundant. It’s not. In all of this, I am becoming more and more appreciative of Luther’s genius. Throughout this document, Luther is not only putting forth a foundational doctrinal statement, he is teaching people how to think and what to think about the finer points of life. Luther isn’t saying the same things in a different way, he is redefining the elements of collective thinking that are possible exits out of the foundational premise. At the end of this study, one could put together a counter disputation, and maybe I will.

Here, he defines “pride.” What is that according to Luther, and frankly every Reformer after him? Pride, according to Luther, is the heart of sin: “Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.” Here we see two major epistemologies or metaphysical hermeneutics of the Reformation: First, the common man cannot only do anything that would find favor with God, the common man cannot know reality. Second, every truth has a counter truth. Said another way, opposites define each other. In Plato’s theory of forms, reality descends from the immutable objective to the mutable and shadowy subjective. Ascent to the objective begins by finding those things that are immutable in the subjective shadow world.

plato-forms

For Plato, that was math among other things, but along this same line of epistemology is dualism, or what’s called “co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts.” Do you see this in thesis 8? It’s pride and humility. We also refer to this as the either/or hermeneutic. There is no in-between, it’s either/or. There is no taking pride in what you do without being prideful. There is no taking of satisfaction from a job well done; you are either humble or prideful.

And, this is also key, what is humbleness’ key attribute? Right, fear; specifically fear of condemnation…”For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God.”

Your only chance of getting into heaven in the end is doubts that you will. Luther and Calvin both equated eternal security with damning pride. Tullian Tchividjian once joked that Presbyterians differ from Baptists because Presbyterians don’t call each other “brothers” because no one knows for certain whether that’s the case or not. The joke bought the house down, but as the saying goes, the truth in a joke is what often makes it funny.

Once again, this is also right out of the Calvin Institutes:

Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). 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).

As we have discussed before, Calvin’s election construct has three categories: the non-elect, the temporary elect, and those who persevere. No one knows whether they make it or not until they are revealed as such in the final judgement. This is known as “final justification when the sons of God are made manifest.” Apparently, they are made manifest by their “accompanied good works” which were really performed by Jesus and not them. This aversion to eternal security is also demonstrated by the likes of John Piper:

There is danger on the way to salvation in heaven. We need ongoing protection after our conversion. Our security does not mean we are home free. There is a battle to be fought (John Piper: Bethlehem Baptist Church Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Elect Are Kept by the Power of God October 17, 1993).

Of course, the apostle John’s stated purpose for writing the book of 1John directly contradicts this idea. Let’s move on to thesis 9:

Thesis 9: To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.

For in this way men become certain and therefore haughty, which is perilous. For in such a way God is constantly deprived of the glory which is due him and which is transferred to other things, since one should strive with all diligence to give him the glory-the sooner the better. For this reason the Bible advises us, »Do not delay being converted to the Lord.« For if that person offends him who withdraws glory from him, how much more does that person offend him who continues to withdraw glory from him and does this boldly! But whoever is not in Christ or who withdraws from him withdraws glory from him, as is well known.

Luther here has a problem with the idea that good works can be performed by the unbelieving or believing and such works do not condemn, but are merely dead works that cannot earn merits for justification. This now brings us to what the Reformers believe is the sole purpose for all existence: God’s glory. Any concession that man can do anything good robs God of glory.

Man can indeed do good works, but in regard to the unsaved, it is true that in the end that only results in less condemnation, but Luther isn’t even willing to conceded that. If people can do good works resulting in less condemnation—that robs God of glory. Furthermore, it removes fear of condemnation from some works which also robs God of glory.

This is why Luther’s disputation is said to be the cross story versus the glory story: any glory not given to God is claimed by man; hence, the glory story, or the story of man. It can’t be a story about God and man, All glory must be granted to God. You are either living in the cross metaphysical narrative or the glory of man metaphysical narrative.

Thesis 10: Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

This I prove in the following way: Scripture does not speak of dead things in such a manner, stating that something is not mortal which is nevertheless dead. Indeed, neither does grammar, which says that »dead« is a stronger term than »mortal«. For the grammarians call a mortal work one which kills, a »dead« work not one that has been killed, but one that is not alive. But God despises what is not alive, as is written in Prov. 15:8, »The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.«

Second, the will must do something with respect to such a dead work, namely, either love or hate it. The will cannot hate a dead work since the will is evil. Consequently the will loves a dead work, and therefore it loves something dead. In that act itself it thus induces an evil work of the will against God whom it should love and honor in this and in every deed.

This thesis makes another argument against the idea that good works can be performed by mankind, but they are dead works in regard to justification. If mankind can perform a good deed, if mankind is competent, if mankind has some sort of ability, then why would that not include the ability to choose? This speaks to the Reformed doctrine of total inability. The Reformed continually claim this doctrine as uniquely Reformed and contrary to all other religions throughout history. This is not true; in fact, the total depravity of mankind coupled with determinism of some sort has been the overwhelming norm from the beginning of time. We delved into this historical fact in our Romans series (lessons 55-64).

What I would like to focus on in this thesis is Luther’s mention of grammar and the “grammarians.” What is a grammarian? A grammarian is someone who studies world linguistics. A grammarian also studies the connections between linguistics and the interpretation of reality. By and large, a grammarian is going to take a literal approach to interpreting reality; ie., things are as they appear. Another way of stating it: reality can be understood empirically. Hence, man can reason and understand reality.

This is going to be my subject at this year’s conference. The Reformers did not hold to a literal interpretation of realty. Obviously, St. Augustine was heavily steeped in allegory. This is what most Christians don’t understand: the Reformation was about the interpretation of reality itself, and how the Bible should be used for that purpose.

The Reformers didn’t reject biblical grammarianism, but made it secondary to the redemptive view of reality, or the idea that all of reality should be interpreted by “the gospel.” If the use of grammar leads to a redemptive outcome, wonderful. If it doesn’t, you use allegory to insure a redemptive outcome. The Reformed therefore often claim to be grammarians which is blatantly disingenuous. And look, the Reformed camp is not the least bit shy about all of this. We can see in this thesis how Luther was willing to use the grammar for the outcome he desired. In essence, he is saying: look, if the simpleton grammarians even think that something dead cannot contribute anything to life, how much more should we believe it as well?  

And look, the Reformed camp is not the least bit shy about all of this. In his book, “Uneclipsing The Son,” by John MacArthur confidant and rumored heir apparent Rick Holland, he states that “bad grammar makes good theology” (page 39). The who’s who of American evangelicalism endorsed the book, and John MacArthur wrote the forward. As should be surmised by the title, the book is an in-your-face Gnostic treatise. The whole eclipsing the sun motif is a well-traveled illustration in Neo-Platonist/Gnostic circles. In the forward, MacArthur makes shocking statements that include the following idea: the subordination of God the Father and the Spirit to the Son.

If one does not interpret the Bible as a grammarian, all bets are off. While the Catholics made printing the Bible illegal, the Protestants merely took away individual interpretation and made biblical knowledge “the Gnosis.” Also, here is an aside: why did Christ emphasize the new birth to Nicodemus? The guy was “the” teacher in Israel and had never even heard of the new birth. Why? because Judaism was saturated with Gnostic philosophy and the infusion of divinity into a mortal being was unthinkable. The guy’s very name even reflects the Gnostic politic: nico; victory; demus; people; or, victory over the people. The most prominent Gnostic sect of the day was the Nicolaitans which means “victory over the laity.”

Now, next week, we are going to use theses 11 and 12 as an introduction to thesis 13 and following where Luther gets into the foundational position of free will according to the Reformation. We have heard lots of discussion about freewill for many years; next week, we will define the issue.

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 13, 2015

Blog Radio LogoListen to the audio or download the audio file in separate window.

Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 3 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 catalog can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question”—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Let’s start out with an interpretation prism that just struck me this week. Have you ever thought about this? Think about it: all of Reformed doctrine developed during the Reformation presumed a church state. That means the doctrine itself was tailored for an outcome that required oversight by the state. So, if Luther came back from the dead and visited the church today he would be delighted in regard to the doctrine being taught, but would be absolutely aghast that the church is functioning without the state enforcement of orthodoxy. When Luther is showed the carnage of today’s church in this scenario, he says in the modern vernacular, “Duh, there’s no enforcement of orthodoxy. The patients are running the Psych ward!”

In other words, the doctrine presupposes bad behavior necessarily restrained by the enforcement of orthodoxy, and by the way, that’s exactly how Calvin ran Geneva. So, what we have today is a Protestant doctrine designed for a theocracy functioning in a representative republic. Just a thought, now let’s move on to thesis 7.

Thesis 7: The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

This is clear from Thesis 4. To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

In the second place, it is clear from the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 143:2), »Enter not into judgment with thy servant«, and Ps. 32:5, »I said: I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.« etc. But that these are not venial sins is clear because these passages state that confession and repentance are not necessary for venial sins. If, therefore, they are mortal sins and »all the saints intercede for them«, as it is stated in the same place, then the works of the saints are mortal sins. But the works of the saints are good works, wherefore they are meritorious for them only through the fear of their humble confession.

In the third place, it is clear from the Lord’s Prayer, »Forgive us our trespasses« (Matt. 6:12). This is a prayer of the saints, therefore those trespasses are good works for which they pray. But that these are mortal sins is clear from the following verse, »If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses« (Matt. 6:15). Note that these trespasses are such that, if unforgiven, they would condemn them, unless they pray this prayer sincerely and forgive others.

In the fourth place, it is clear from Rev. 21:27, »Nothing unclean shall enter into it« (the kingdom of heaven). But everything that hinders entrance into the kingdom of heaven is mortal sin (or it would be necessary to interpret the concept of »mortal sin« in another way). Venial sin, however, hinders because it makes the soul unclean and has no place in the kingdom of heaven. Consequently, etc.

Ok, this thesis is about as clear as mud. But in context, this is how I interpret it, and by the way, most Reformed scholars agree: everything a believer does is evil whether it appears good or bad by human standards. Let me get to the crux here: if any person saved or unsaved thinks they can do a good work that God would look upon and say, “That’s a good deed, it won’t save him/her, but the deed in and of itself is a good deed” that’s mortal sin; ie., condemning sin.

Hence, a Christian is in a state of perpetual sin of the mortal type. Believing such, and attending every good work with fear is venial or forgivable sin. Saving faith is the belief that Christians are under condemnation. This is what the Reformed mean by the Christian life being lived out “subjectively.”

Good and bad things happen and we don’t really know what’s really good or bad or who is doing it or what kind of good or bad works they are.

Let me explain: first, as we saw in the other theses, what appears good to man is really evil, and what appears evil is really good. Man can’t even judge good from evil. For example, man sees suffering as bad, but all wisdom is hidden in suffering. Secondly, we have no way of knowing whether God is doing the work or we are doing the work. Remember Luther’s old and rusty hatchet illustration from last week? So, you just kind of live out your life subjectively, and whatever happens is ok just so you realize that anything initiated by you is evil, and what appears to be good might be a manifestation of Christ’s righteousness or one of your evil works by virtue of the fact that you did the work. Either way, you have no way of knowing as you are “living out justification subjectively” or what is known as “subjective justification.” The key is to live your life in fear that you might come to believe that you can do anything that has merit with God.

Do we have examples of this in our day? Sure we do. How often have you heard a professing Christian say, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it! It was the Holy Spirit who did it!” Often, you can even see the fear in them that someone will believe they did the work. This also relates to other people. I once had a congregant (a financially poor single mother) tell me that a person who gave them a car didn’t really give them the car (and I am talking a new car by the way), but rather it was the Holy Spirit who gave her the car. You see, if you concede that someone else can do a good work, that is also saying you can do a good work, and that’s mortal sin. Here is another one: “Jesus did it THROUGH me.” What’s that? That’s Luther’s old rusty hatchet, right? Like a hatchet, you are completely passive and God just picks you up and starts whacking away on stuff.

Where do people get this in our day? Right here—you are looking at it. The Heidelberg Disputation 1518 practically applied in 2015.

We are going to look at thesis 7 in a little more detail, but first, let’s get another big picture; let’s address this idea of perpetual condemning sin and the traditional Reformed remedy. We are going to call on our good friend John Calvin to help us with this. Obviously, if Christians swim in the waters of condemnation, there needs to be a remedy, so let’s go to a trusty Reformed commentary:

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

So, daily we ask forgiveness for mortal sin (that which removes us from grace), and this “ALONE” keeps us in the family of God. But wait, did you know there is only one place where you can get that ongoing forgiveness? Let’s again consult John Calvin to find out where that place might be:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).

This is what the crux of the Reformed gospel is: a perpetual justification for perpetual condemnation. Do we have present-day examples of this? Sure we do; specifically, the interpretation of 1John 1:9 by many in Presbyterian and Baptist circles.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The idea that this verse proffers a continued repentance for “present sin” is fairly common in Protestant circles of all stripes. Of course, this boils down to keeping yourself saved via repentance. How is that not works salvation? But at any rate, it begins with this idea that Christians dwell in constant mortal sin that needs continued forgiveness.

Here is another example from real life: Susan was at the grocery store and ran into an old friend who is a member of a mainstream evangelical Baptist church. Somehow, the subject got onto alter calls, and Susan wondered aloud why churches have alter calls. Here was the lady’s answer: “Well, I guess people have sin in their lives that needs confession.” Why do people need to go to church to get that forgiveness? Again, we may be far away from 1518, but that doesn’t mean the fruit falls far from the tree my friends.

Let’s now look at some of the finer points of thesis 7.

To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

We begin the finer points with misplaced fear. Biblically, there is to be no fear of condemnation; in fact, love and fear of condemnation are mutually exclusive:

1John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Christians do not fear eternal condemnation because there is “NOW no condemnation” for those who believe (Romans 8:1). In contrast, Luther, as well as Calvin, cited fear of condemnation as the primary motivator of the Christian life. Luther has stated it here in thesis 7, but Calvin was a little more to the point:

Certain learned men, who lived long before the present days and were desirous to speak simply and sincerely according to the rule of Scripture, held that repentance consists of two parts, mortification and quickening. By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment. For when a man is brought to a true knowledge of sin, he begins truly to hate and abominate sin… By quickening they mean, the comfort which is produced by faith, as when a man prostrated by a consciousness of sin, and smitten with the fear of God, afterwards beholding his goodness, and the mercy, grace, and salvation obtained through Christ, looks up, begins to breathe, takes courage, and passes, as it were, from death unto life. I admit that these terms, when rightly interpreted, aptly enough express the power of repentance; only I cannot assent to their using the term quickening, for the joy which the soul feels after being calmed from perturbation and fear. It more properly means, that desire of pious and holy living which springs from the new birth; as if it were said, that the man dies to himself that he may begin to live unto God (CI 3.3.3).

This quotation by Calvin also revisits the doctrine of mortification and vivification that we discussed in prior lessons. But the main point for citing this text from the Calvin Institutes is to show that THE primary motivator of sanctification according to the Reformers was, and still is condemnation and fear of future eternal judgement.

Just please let that sink in for a while. You can’t chalk this up to a secondary disagreement with the heroes of the Protestant faith, this is the heart and soul of their soteriology. Granted, biblically, Christians are to fear present consequences in this life, and that is one of the motivators for Christian living. This is Moses’ “blessings and cursings’’ that apply to believers and unbelievers alike. However, for unbelievers, while a moral life does lead to blessings in this life, it only results in lesser condemnation in the end. For the Christian, it’s more and more life unto life. Christ came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. But, also, “judgement begins in the household of God” right? Remember Ananias and Sapphira? That event made the assemblies “fear” which actually spurred growth in the assemblies. But this is not a fear of condemnation. That kind of fear stifles love.

So let that sink in as well. Love cannot thrive in the midst of condemnation and the fear thereof. Why is the institutional church so messed up? Are you beginning to see why? Susan and I were talking about something for our grandchild to do this summer and the idea of VBS came up. I shot the idea down; for better or worse, I have studied all of this long enough to know I do not want my grandson anywhere near an institutional church that considers itself Protestant. What’s the alternative? Well, not a lie because it’s the only game in town. Christians need to get busy building true Christian communities.

But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

We could discuss the fact that the Bible plainly states that it is perfectly ok to take satisfaction in a job well done, but the bigger and finer point is the either/or interpretive prism that is a hard fast rule in Protestant teaching. We sometimes call this the either/or hermeneutic. This concept saturates Protestantism. You can’t please yourself and God, you either totally please yourself or totally please God. You can’t be confident enough to do a job well and take satisfaction in it without being arrogant; you either have NO self-confidence, or you are making yourself God—it’s either/or with no in-between. There is no balance.

Of course, this is the Platonist aspect of Reformed theology and is the natural result of the dualism philosophy that Platonism is based on. Furthermore, I strongly suspect that it all flows from the knowledge of good and evil doctrine first presented to Eve. I think that is a whole wide open frontier of research that hasn’t been explored yet.

So, tonight we only covered thesis 7 and will continue with thesis 8 next week.

It’s Not About Truth and it Never Was.

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 10, 2014

Paul M. Dohse

TTANC L.L.C.

PO Box 583

Xenia, Ohio 45385

To Dr. Walter Price and the Board of Trustees of Southern Seminary:

Gentlemen,

It is no surprise that truth is of low value in our day; the apostle Paul informed Timothy that in the latter days people would not tolerate sound doctrine, and we are in those days. Hence, there are no expectations in regard to this letter, but nevertheless, it is a duty to proclaim the truth.

Southern Seminary now offers academic credits for attending seminars at conferences sponsored by various organizations connected with the present-day resurgence of authentic Calvinism. Though the traditions of men and antinomianism was of primary concern as stated by Christ during His earthly ministry, the evangelical academia of our day follows the crowds in wholesale acceptance of any doctrinal name brand that sells.

This blitzkrieg of resurgent conferences targets youth specifically. The resurgence seeks to turn a whole generation of youth to this doctrine. This represents the future of the American church. Evangelicals, and its academia in particular, seem indifferent to the gravity of future accountability attached to this reality.

Our organization researches the Calvin Institutes, and the trustees of Southern Seminary would do well in following our example rather than the opinions of men like Albert Mohler. Calvin’s gospel, as stated in the Institutes, is a call to keep ourselves saved through the practice of antinomianism, and has a distinctive Gnostic application. It is works salvation by Christ plus antinomianism, and reduces obedience to only experiencing the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to the Christian life. An example of this would be on page 215 in How People Change (2006), a book written by Paul David Tripp, a speaker at the recent Cross Conference endorsed by Southern Seminary. He states the following:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us. In Chapter 11, we introduced some of the fruit Christ produces. We will expand the discussion here.

Calvin, as well as Luther, believed that all reality is interpreted through the works of Christ in the gospel, or the “objective” gospel and the imputation of those works are experienced “subjectively” in order to remove our works from sanctification. Hence, “the subjective power of an objective gospel” and other such mantras often heard among evangelicals today. This necessitates, in a manner of speaking, interpreting every verse in the Bible as a justification verse; i.e., “Biblical Theology,” a buzz word at Southern. This way of interpreting the Bible was introduced by Christian mystic Geerhardus Vos circa 1938.

Calvin also redefined the new birth as an experience of perpetual rebirth in order to keep ourselves saved by the same gospel that originally saved us. So, the new birth is not a one-time event, it is a perpetual cycle of the same repentance and new birth experience that originally saved us—that’s why we must, “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” This is the doctrine of mortification and vivification. It is part of Calvin’s systematic theology. This is factually indisputable. The Christian life focuses on our total depravity and repentance only, leading to the experience of vivification, or a joyful experience.

Therein, the human “heart” is redefined as something that is transformed only by its increased ability to experience vivification. This is why John Piper states that joy is essential to the Christian life; if vivification is not being experienced; perpetual rebirth is not taking place:

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: p. 69).

Likewise, Southern Baptist Paul Washer states the following:

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 (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).

The new birth is redefined as a “cycle” rather than a one-time event like our physical birth. It is redefined as a perpetual rebirth experience as we focus on our saintly total depravity. We are only righteous positionally; regeneration is a mere experience of Christ’s perfect obedience to the law. This not only keeps Christians under law, but inadvertently calls for a rejoicing in our own supposed total depravity.

This is why authentic Calvinism dies a social death within Christianity every 100 years or so. God’s people eventually catch on to the fact that it is a false gospel. Lighter forms of it survive the rejection while maintaining the label. We are presently within the fifth resurgence since Calvin’s Geneva, and the trustees of Southern are mindless participants accordingly.

We had the wonderful privilege of meeting many, many young people at the recent Cross Conference where you promoted this false gospel. We realize that there will only be a remnant that loves the truth enough to reject this latest academic novelty. But this is a generation of young people capable of great things, and smart enough to know that they only need God Himself to accomplish His mission. We believe that American Christianity has become a mission field in and of itself; namely, YOUR resurgence movement, a movement that bears your name, and we are seeking to reach that remnant of God that loves His truth. This is our duty and calling. A gospel promoting a justification that is not finished cannot save.

Meanwhile, as stated by the apostle Paul, let those who teach another gospel be accursed whether they be angels or men of renown.

Because only truth saves and sanctifies,

Paul M. Dohse

John 17:17

Matthew 4:4

Love is a Choice, Hope is a Choice, and so is Salvation

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 23, 2014

Why are we commanded to love others in the Bible? Why are we commanded to be the masters of our emotions? Because love is a choice and right feelings follow right doing. That also gives hope.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Let love be without deceit. Be haters of what is evil; keep your minds fixed on what is good.

These are the words that we do not want to hear from any doctor at any time: “There is nothing we can do.” Why would life be any different?

In a conversation with the father of the contemporary biblical counseling movement, he stated that as he traveled the country speaking in various churches, his assertion that Christians can actually do something was responded to like a “strange new doctrine.”

This is where Christians should come to grips with THE two prisms that interpret reality in today’s evangelicalism. The primary prism is…

The imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.

This method of interpreting the Bible which is uniquely of the Reformed tradition posits the following interpretive method: the Bible is made up of an interpretive duo from beginning to end. The first part of any given body of text describes the salvific works of God, and is followed by the fruits of those salvific works. Hence, the primary purpose of the Bible is to meditate on what God has done, and the fruits that we merely experience that flow from God’s salvific works. Reformed teachers like John Piper have described the Bible as a record of God’s “saving acts” [plural] from beginning to end. As we meditate on those acts, using the Bible, fruits that flow from that mediation are described via biblical imperatives (commands).

So, biblical commands demonstrate what flows from justification, and are meant to demonstrate to us what we cannot do—Christ has already done it for us. Christ died for our justification, and lived for our sanctification. Therefore, according to this tradition, biblical commands are justification’s “fruit catalog” (Paul David Tripp), and must be seen in their “gospel context” (Id). To “jump from the imperative directly to obedience” (Reformed mystic and NCT guru Chad Bresson), is to circumvent the saving works (again, plural) of Jesus. Stated plainly, works salvation.

How does this work according to the Reformed crowd? For example, note that Romans 12:1 states “therefore,” followed by a string of imperatives. Supposedly, the first 11 chapters show God’s saving works (the indicative), and 12:1 following shows the manifestation of works that we should expect to see in our lives as a “mere natural flow” (Id) from the indicative. These manifestations are a subjective experience that give us as much cause for assurance as possible because we are actually experiencing a small portion of the exact same glory that we will experience in heaven.

Know this: 80% of all pastors in the U.S. interpret Scripture in this way, and another 15% function this way without realizing it. This method of interpretation fits with two other doctrines of formal orthodoxy; double imputation, and mortification and vivification.

In other words, the antithesis of cause and effect; in more words, the idea that God will keep promises to us if we do certain things first, is indicted as works salvation. The indicative must always precede the imperative to demonstrate that the obedience is not ours, but a fulfillment of Christ’s righteousness and not our own—that would be works salvation. “What does that look like?” (lest we go to hell for living according to a verb): any obedience that we “experience” is assumed to be flowing from some exposure to the indicative. The primary endeavor for the Christian is to stay connected to the “vital union” through gospel contemplationism; this will result in the righteousness (obedience) of Christ being imputed to our Christian life in order to keep us saved.

By the way, observe a Catholic Mass sometime, it’s the exact same principle.

When it gets right down to the nitty gritty, the vast majority of religions and denominations function on this principle. Hence, choice must be necessarily exchanged for determinism. If we can’t do anything, lest it be works, that only leaves one doer. Moreover, HOPE must then be defined as something that God may or may not do for you. Likewise, PROMISE cannot be contingent on anything we do, it must be qualified by a different “if.” Not “if” you will do this, that, or the other, but rather “if” God has decided to do it for you.

So, our only hope is in what God might do for you or someone else. A “sure” promise or “certain” promise is something that God will certainly do, but as far as you…maybe, maybe not, regardless of anything you do—you have no ability to choose, and if you do, it’s works salvation.

Where there is no real choice there is no real hope. Hope is redefined as a promise that you can only hope was made to you because what you choose has no bearing on receiving the promise. “Reward” must also be redefined as a “prize” that you get for winning a cosmic lottery because God decided to call your number. You do not know for certain that you were picked until the “final tribunal.” The best assurance you can have is experiences that God may, or may not have decided to give you in your Christian life.

But let’s close with one last thought on our subject at hand: interpretation. If  God really meant something totally different from how we normally interpret “choice,” “hope,” “promise,” “reward,” “command,” etc., why wouldn’t He simply state it plainly?

paul

A Doctrinal Evaluation of the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement: Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 13, 2014

Introduction and Historical Background Leading up to the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement

Not long after I became a Christian in 1983, the Lordship Salvation (hereafter LS) controversy arose. This was a movement against “easy believism” (hereafter EB). The climate was ripe for the controversy because churches were full of professing Christians who demonstrated little if any life change. Members in good standing could be living together out of wedlock, wife abusing drunks, and shysters to name a few categories among many. Sin was not confronted in the church.

Of course, no cycle of Protestant civil war is complete without dueling book publications. Without naming all of them, the major theme was that of faith and works. John MacArthur Jr. threw gasoline on the fire with The Gospel According to Jesus published in 1988. This resulted in MacArthur being the primary target among the so-called EB crowd.

During that time as a new believer, I was heavily focused on the issue, but was like many others: I rejected outright sinful lifestyles among professing Christians while living a life of biblical generalities. In other words, like most, I was ignorant in regard to the finer points of Christian living. I resisted blatant sin, and in fact was freed from some serious temptations of the prior life, but had little wisdom in regard to successful application.

We must now pause to consider what was going in the 80’s. Christianity was characterized by two groups: the grace crowd that contended against any assessment of one’s standing with God based on behavior (EB), and the LS crowd. But, the LS group lived by biblical generalities. Hence, in general, both groups farmed out serious life problems to the secular experts. This also led to Christian Psychologist  careerism.

This led to yet another controversy among American Christians during the same time period, the sufficiency of Scripture debate. Is the Bible sufficient for life’s deepest problems? Again, MacArthur was at the forefront of the controversy with his publication of Our Sufficiency in Christ published in 1991. Between 1990-1995, the anti-Christian Psychology movement raged (ACS). The primary lightening rod during that time was a book published by Dave Hunt: The Seduction of Christianity (1985).

In circa 1965, a young Presbyterian minister named Jay E. Adams was moved by the reality of a church living by biblical generalities. The idea that the church could not help people with serious problems like schizophrenia bothered him. He was greatly influenced by the renowned secular psychologist O. Hobart Mower who fustigated institutional psychiatry as bogus. An unbeliever, Mower was critical of Christianity for not taking more of a role in helping people with serious mental problems.

Mower believed that mental illness is primarily caused by the violation of conscience and unhealthy thinking. His premise has helped more people by far than any other psychological discipline and Adams witnessed this first hand. Mower’s influence provoked Adams to look into the Scriptures more deeply for God’s counsel regarding the deeper problems of life. This resulted in the publication of Competent to Counsel in 1970, and launched what is known today as the biblical counseling movement (BCM). Please note that this movement was picking up significant steam in the latter 80’s and early 90’s.

In 1970, the same year that the BCM was born, an extraordinary Reformed think tank was established by the name of The Australian Forum Project (AFP). Its theological journal, Present Truth, had a readership that exceeded all other theological journals in the English speaking world by the latter 70’s. Though the project died out in the early 80’s, it spawned a huge grassroots movement known as the “quiet revolution” of the “gospel resurgence.” The movement believed that it had recovered the true Reformation gospel that had been lost in Western culture over time, and frankly, they were absolutely correct about that.

The movement was covert, but spawned notable personalities such as John Piper over time. Piper exploded onto to the scene in 1986 with his book The Pleasures of God which promoted his Christian Hedonism theology. Unbeknown to most, this did not make Piper unique, the book is based on the same Martin Luther metaphysics that the AFP had rediscovered; he got it from them. At this point, the official contemporary name for the rediscovered Reformation gospel, the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us (Cogous), was taking a severe beating in Reformed circles. This is because contemporary Calvinists didn’t understand what Luther and Calvin really believed about the gospel.

John Piper looked to emerge from the movement as a legend because he had no direct ties to the AFP, but during the same time frame of his emergence, Cogous was also repackaged by a professor of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. His name was John “Jack” Miller. Using the same doctrine, the authentic gospel of the Reformation, Miller developed the Sonship discipleship program. This also took a severe beating in Presbyterian circles. In fact, Jay Adams wrote a book against the movement in 1999. This was a debate between Calvinists in regard to what real Calvinism is. At any rate, Sonship changed its nomenclature to “Gospel Transformation” and went underground (2000). This started the gospel-everything movement. Sonship was saturated with the word “gospel” as an adjective for just about every word in the English language (“gospel centered this, gospel-driven that,” etc.). If anyone refuted what was being taught, they were speaking against the gospel; this was very effective.

If not for this change in strategy, John Piper would have been the only survivor of Cogous. Instead, with the help of two disciples of John Miller, David Powlison and Tim Keller, the Gospel Transformation movement gave birth to World Harvest Missions and the Acts 29 Network. It also injected life into the Emergent Church movement. Meanwhile, most thought the Sonship movement had been eliminated, but this was not the case at all. In 2006, a group of pastors that included this author tried to get a handle on a doctrine that was wreaking havoc on churches in the U.S. and spreading like wildfire. The doctrine had no name, so we dubbed it “Gospel Sanctification.” In 2008, the same movement was dubbed “New Calvinism” by society at large. In 2009, spiritual abuse blogs exploded in church culture as a direct cause of New Calvinism. We know now that the present-day New Calvinism movement was birthed by the AFP.

The Protestant Legacy of Weak Sanctification 

The anti-Lordship Salvation movement came out of the controversy era of the 80’s. The following is the theses, parts 2 and 3 will articulate the theses. The theses could very well be dubbed The Denomination Myth. All of the camps involved in these Protestant debates share the same gospel, but differ on the application. The idea that the debate involves different gospels is a misnomer.

The Protestant Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that the Christian life is used by God to finish our salvation. The official Protestant gospel is known as justification by faith. This is one of the most misunderstood terms in human history. Justification refers to God imputing His righteousness to those whom He saves. Many call this a forensic declaration by God. At this time, I am more comfortable saying that it is the imputation of God’s righteousness to the saved person as the idea of it being forensic; it’s something I have not investigated on my own albeit it’s a popular way of stating it. This is salvation…a righteous standing before God.

Sanctification, a setting apart for God’s holy purposes, is the Christian life. The Reformers saw sanctification as the progression of justification to a final justification. In Reformed circles, this is known as the “golden chain of salvation.” So, the Christian is saved, is being saved, and will be finally saved. Christians often say, “Sanctification is the growing part of salvation.” But really it isn’t, salvation doesn’t grow, this is a Protestant idea. The Christian life grows in wisdom and stature, but our salvation doesn’t grow, the two are totally separate. One is a finished work, and the other is a progression of personal maturity.

The Reformers were steeped in the ancient philosophy of the day that propagated the idea that the common man cannot properly understand reality, and this clearly reflected on their theology. The idea that grace is infused into man and enables him to properly understand reality would have been anathema according to their spiritual caste system of Platonist origins. This resulted in their progressive justification gospel. Justification by faith is a justification process by faith alone.

Every splinter group that came out of the Reformation founded their gospel on this premise. John Calvin believed that salvation was entering into a rest from works. He believed that sanctification is the Old Testament Sabbath rest (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.29). Hence, the Christian life is a rest from works. The Christian life must be lived the same way we were saved: by faith alone. Part 2 will explain why we are called to work in sanctification, and why it is not working for justification.

Another fact of the Reformation gospel is “righteousness” is defined as a perfect keeping of the law. To remove the law’s perfect standard, and its demands for perfection from justification is the very definition of antinomianism according to the Reformers. A perfect law-keeping must be maintained for each believer if they are to remain justified. Thirdly, this requires what is known as double imputation. Christ not only died for our sins so that our sins could be imputed to Him, He lived a life of perfect obedience to the law so that His obedience could be imputed to our sanctification. So, if we live our Christian life according to faith alone, justification will be finished the same way it started; hence, justification by faith. For purposes of this series, these will be the three pillars of the Reformed gospel that we will consider:

1. An unfinished justification.

2. Sabbath rest sanctification.

3. Double imputation.

As a result of this construct, Protestant sanctification has always been passive…and confused. Why? Humans are created to work, but work in sanctification is deemed to be working for justification because sanctification is the “growing part” of justification. Reformed academics like to say, “Justification and sanctification are never separate, but distinct.” Right, they are the same with the distinction being that one is the growing of the other. A baby who has grown into an adult is not separate from what he/she once was, but distinct from being a baby. Reformed academics constantly warn Christians to not live in a way that “makes the fruit of sanctification the root of justification.” John Piper warns us that the fruits of sanctification are the fruits of justification—all works in sanctification must flow from justification. Justification is a tree; justification is the roots, and sanctification is the fruits of justification. We are warned that working in sanctification can make “the fruit the root.” In essence, we are replacing the fruits of justification with our own fruit. This is sometimes referred to as “fruit stapling.”

How was the Reformation gospel lost?

To go along with its progressive justification, the Reformers also developed an interpretation method. The sole purpose of the Bible was to show us our constant need to have the perfect works of Jesus imputed to our lives by faith alone. The purpose of Scripture reading was to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of our original need of salvation, i.e. “You need the gospel today as much as you needed it the day you were saved.” Indeed, so that the perfect obedience of Christ will continue to be applied to the law. This also applies to new sins we commit in the Christian life as well. Since we “sin in time,” we must also continue to receive forgiveness of new sins that we commit as Christians. So, the double imputation must be perpetually applied to the Christian life by faith alone. John Piper often speaks of how Christians continue to be saved by the gospel. This is in fact the Reformation gospel.

But over time, humanity’s natural bent to interpret the Scriptures grammatically instead of redemptively resulted in looking at justification and sanctification as being more separate, and spiritual growth being more connected to obedience. This created a hybrid Protestantism even among Calvinists. Nevertheless, the best results were the aforementioned living by biblical generalities. Yes, we “should” obey, but it’s optional. A popular idea in past years was a bi-level discipleship which was also optional.

This brings us to the crux of the issue.

Since the vast majority of Protestants see justification as a golden chain of salvation, two primary camps emerged:

A. Christ obeys the law for us.

B. Salvation cannot be based on a commitment—obedience must be optional.

Model A asserts that since we cannot keep the law perfectly, we must invoke the double imputation of Christ by faith alone in order to be saved and stay saved. Model B asserts that since the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, any commitment included in the gospel presentation must then be executed in sanctification to keep the process of justification moving forward. Therefore, obedience in sanctification must be completely optional. A consideration of works is just fruit stapling. If the Holy Spirit decides to do a work through someone, that’s His business and none of ours, “who are we to judge?”

This is simply two different executions of the same gospel. Model A does demand obedience because it assumes that Christians have faith, and that will result in manifestations of Christ’s obedience being imputed to our lives. Because this is mixed with our sinfulness, it is “subjective.” The actual term is “justification experienced subjectively”; objective justification, subjective justification, final justification (redefined justification, sanctification, and glorification). However, model B then interprets  that as commitment that must be executed in the progressive part of salvation.

This is where the EB versus LS debate comes into play. This is a debate regarding execution of the same gospel while making the applications differing gospels. Out of this misunderstanding which came to a head in the 80’s, comes the anti-Lordship Salvation movement (ALS). Conversations with proponents of ALS reveal all of the same tenets of Cogous. First, there is the same idea of a final judgment in which sins committed by Christians will be covered by Jesus’ righteousness; “When God looks at us, all he will see is Jesus.” Secondly, there is the same idea of one law. Thirdly, there is the idea that our sins are covered and not ended.

They do differ on the “two natures.” Model A holds to the idea that Christians have the same totally depraved nature that they had when they were saved. Model B thinks the new birth supplies an additional Christ-like nature that fights with the old nature. Model A, aka Calvinists, actually think this is Romanism/Arminianism. Indeed, authentic Protestantism rejects the idea that any work of the Spirit is done IN the believer. Model B has several different takes on this including the idea that Christians are still dead, but the life of Jesus inside of them enables them to obey.

In part 2, we will examine why this construct is a false gospel, and why both parties are guilty. In part 3, we will examine the new birth and the idea that Christians have two natures.

paul

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