Paul's Passing Thoughts

Calvinism’s Gnostic View of the Trinity; 17 minutes

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 20, 2014

Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” Part 3: Mr. Holland’s Theological Train Wreck Has A Destination

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 19, 2011

There isn’t much new thus far in Mr. Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” other than being the usual theological train wreck one expects from the New Calvinist crowd.

On pages 4-7, Holland expounds on the whole how Ephesus lost their first love routine. They supposedly lost their first love by not focusing on seeing Jesus in deeper and deeper ways as a person (ie., contemplative spiritually). However, Christ makes it clear how the Ephesians were to repent and find their first love again: “….do the works you did at first.” Holland begins the book by butchering Scripture and does not relent moving forward.

On page 8, Holland connects “think[ing] of Christianity as behavior modification” with “effectively estrange[ing] ourselves from Christ.” Regardless of the fact that many verses in Scripture are concerned with behavior modification, Holland doesn’t qualify the statement. In fact, consider 1Thess. 4:3; “For this is the will of God,your sanctification:that you abstain from sexual immorality….” Neither does he qualify what being “estrange[d] from Christ” means. The statement strongly insinuates that behavior concerns in sanctification will separate us from Christ. This is run of the mill Gospel Sanctification stuff.

On page 9, things get a little creepy: “After all, Christianity is the worship of Jesus Christ. It’s the worship of Jesus Christ exclusively, and it’s the worship of Jesus Christ comprehensively. He alone is worthy; He alone is God….” Uh, what about the Father? In many instances, GS proponents hint at some kind of skewed view of the Trinity, and Holland is no exception. There is very little doubt that GS theology often eclipses the other two members of the Trinity.

On page 10, Holland again takes a jab at obedience by saying biblical books “….are not a mere directive for a new way to live, but a manifesto of the amazing greatness of Jesus.” The focus is the greatness of Jesus, not what Jesus says (….”teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”). Holland’s thesis seems to clearly contradict Luke 11:27, 28 which records the reaction of a woman who realized the greatness of Christ: “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”

On page 11, Holland writes that the book of James presents Christ as the “rule and standard of all spiritual instruction” (in other words, as Paul David Tripp says: “All commands must be seen in their gospel context”). This is simply not true, and again, what about the Father?! The Father has no part in spiritual instruction? What standard did James use to “serve” God AND the Lord Jesus Christ? Holland plainly contradicts James’ opening statement of the book.

On page 12, he reiterates the thesis of the book; primarily, conjuring up a heightened “value” of Christ in our minds as the key to emerging from the eclipse which he assumes most Christians are in because after all, like all New Calvinists, he is on the cutting edge of the great Reformation that wasn’t finished by Luther et al. All and all, it reduces the Scriptures to a tool for contemplating the greatness of Christ exclusively for the purpose of being motivated by emotions, as we will see later.

On page 14, obedience is again devalued by describing it as a “treadmill” of engagements, polite conversation, and good behavior. Yet, Peter exhorted Christian wives to win their lost husbands through their “good behavior.” Once again, Holland does not qualify any of these statements regardless of the fact that they contradict the plain language of Scripture.

On page 15, he toe’s the usual GS line by indicting Christianity for considering the gospel to be “Basic/Christian /Truth,” and reiterates the need to see the gospel “afresh.” This contradicts 2Peter 1 and Hebrews 5:11-6:3, as well as many other Scriptures that speak of the gospel as a foundation of faith that we build on. In addition, and on the same page, he makes feelings the standard for whether or not the gospel is once again stirring our hearts: “Do these words move you as they once did?”

In the previous post, I eluded to Holland’s butchering of Romans 5 starting on page 18 and following where he speaks of Christians as being presently in a pre-salvation condition. In other words, it is strongly insinuated that Christians are still spiritually dead as they were before salvation. This idea is often promoted by other New Calvinists such as John Piper, Paul David Tripp, and Michael Horton by citing pre-salvation texts that are clearly in the past tense as pertaining to Christians presently. On page 39, Holland has the audacity to make the following statement under the heading “When Bad Grammar Makes Good Theology”: “The rules of grammar are intended to be guardrails for communication. But sometimes they prevent it.”

At that particular place in the book, Holland uses that point to speak of the apostle Paul’s supposed “awkward” grammar. His idea is that Paul used the phrase “to live is Christ” to communicate the idea that true spiritual life only comes from contemplating the person[hood] of Christ. Also insinuated is the idea that Christ’s greatness transcends mere grammatical rules, and therefore, one must break those rules to communicate how consumed our life must be with Christ. But in what context? Who Christ is as a person (whatever that means) only, or what Christ teaches about our role in sanctification? But in his relentless onslaught of distortion, he claims that Paul’s grammar is “awkward”; no it isn’t, Paul is using a simile to communicate the idea that Christ should be first priority in our lives—it’s not awkward or “bad grammar” at all. But first priority doesn’t equal a nebulous contemplation that supposedly results in a passive obedience earmarked with a joy that gives all obedience moral value. That isn’t biblical truth, and Paul didn’t distort grammar guardrails—it’s the New Calvinists that do the distorting based on their version of the gospel interpreting all reality. And if grammar gets in the way, they do what all good antinomians do—change the rules.

On page 23, Holland addresses one of the newest challenges to New Calvinism—that being the subject of hell and the New Calvinist paranoia that somebody might think that hell is an incentive to confess the gospel rather than the pure unadulterated motive of seeing Christ in His full glory and the accompanying treasure chest of joy that validates the confession. The story line that seems to be emerging from New Calvinists is that hell is good news because it shows how Christ saves us from God. In fact, the heading on page 23 reads, “Saved—From God.” So, apparently, hell is a God the Father sort of thing. On page 43 and following, Holland presents God as “our most pressing problem.” And, “man’s greatest problem is God, God Himself.” And of course, it’s Christ to the rescue, right? Though few would reject that premise, it’s not exactly right and promotes the subtle New Calvinist goal of making Christ more significant than God the Father. Holland gives no Scripture references for this concept of Christ saving us from God because there isn’t any. God was just as involved in the salvation solution as Christ was, and Christ is also a God of wrath just as much as the Father is (Rev. 6:16,17 and 19:11-16) This whole concept is a subtle, but dangerous distortion. At the very least, making a strict dichotomy that associates wrath with God and salvation with Christ is ill advised.

On page 25 and 26, Holland espouses the well traveled indicative / imperative GS paradigm. This is the idea that all commands in the Bible are always preceded by a description of what Christ has done through the gospel, which incites gratitude and awe, which in turn incites joy, and the joy incites us to do whatever the following verses describe in the way of imperatives. Michael Horton describes it as a formula (formulas are ok if they are NC approved): Gratitude + (leads to) Doxology = (leads to) Obedience. Of course, the notion that the Scriptures always follow that grammatical pattern is patently absurd, but yet, New Calvinists now realize that our dumbed-down Christian culture will drink anything you put in front of them. This is especially crippling for Christians to buy into because the Bible often presents the exact opposite: obedience + (leads to blessings) doxology = gratitude (for example: James 1:25). To refute this, New Calvinists will refer back to a text several chapters prior and claim that the indicative there is linked to the other pattern in question, which is ridiculous.

On pages 29 through 41, chapter 3, Holland toes the GS line on the desire = value paradigm. This entails using the Bible for the sole purpose of contemplating  the greatness of Christ and the gospel (as Piper describes: “always reading with an eye for the gospel”) with the result of our desires being changed, which in turn changes our value, which in turn changes our behavior. It’s based on the premise that we are controlled by our desires, and therefore, change the desire, and you will change behavior and what you worship. This also coincides with the supposed purity of feelings with the action that gives obedience its moral value. In fact, throughout chapter three, Holland suggests that feelings are an acid test for how we are progressing in uneclipsing the Son: “Do you seek to enjoy and honor and feel the fellowship of the risen, living Jesus?” And, “What does that feel like? It’s all about appraising Jesus as infinitely and personally precious. It’s all about a conscious, deliberate enjoyment of His worth.” Oh really? Is that what it is “all about”? I thought it was all about “make[ing] it our goal to please him.” What’s so complicated about the word “goal” and the fact that it is God’s pleasure being the focus, not ours?

To drive this point home, Holland uses “Gollum” of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to make his point. Gollum called the ring “precious” because that was his focus. In the same way, Christ will be precious to us if we focus on just Him, and our lives will be consumed with Him like the ring consumed Gollum’s life. But this is not the biblical paradigm of fighting desires of the flesh while putting off the old man and putting on the new creation. Christians are to withhold provisions from the flesh that bolster sinful desires while walking in the Spirit. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to change our desires through spiritual contemplation as the singular discipline from which all other disciplines flow as a natural result. Rather, “walk by the Spirit (according to the Spirit’s will as revealed in the Bible), and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

In order to make his points in this chapter, Holland blatantly distorts several texts. According to Holland, when Christ restored Peter with the three questions, He only wanted to know if Peter loved Him, not “Do you have your philosophy of ministry down?’ Not, “do you have church strategy ready?’ Not, ‘have you practiced your sermon for the day of Pentecost?’” Holland’s point is that “affection” is the issue, not anything we do. However, Holland completely excludes the fact that Christ followed-up each question with three imperatives that cover three different aspects of ministry—all but a total contradiction of how he exegetes that particular text. Does Holland think his audience is biblically illiterate? To conclude the chapter, Holland summarizes the main point: “If there’s anything in your faith that isn’t anchored in the person of Jesus, you’re living in an eclipse. You are not enjoying the eternal life made available by the gospel.” Note the focus of all biblical truth, according to Holland (and all other New Calvinists as well) is the nebulous “person of Christ” rather than the objective “….teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” which was Christ’s mandate to the church.

What a theological train wreck! But yet, it has a destination: away from the law; and to let go and let God theology.


Gospel Sanctification and Sonship’s Gospel-Driven Genealogy, Part 10: A Strong Finish For “Dr.” John MacArthur Not Looking Good

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 9, 2011

“Where did this ‘eclipsing Christ’ standard of truth come from? And does it add anything to the genealogy hypothesis?”

When I saw the advertisement, my heart sank. In my wrestling with proponents of Gospel Sanctification over the years, one of their mantranized mottos has been whether or not something “eclipses Christ” as a primary standard for determining truth. As others will attest who witnessed the hostile takeover of Clearcreek Chapel by the Chad Bresson cartel, “I have a problem with that view because it eclipses Christ” was a phrase that was constantly heard.

Back to the advertisement: MacArthur has written the forward to a new book written by one of his close ministry associates, Rick Holland. The title of the book is, “Uneclipsing The Son” by “Dr.” (a title that more and more is becoming a sign of danger more than respect) Rick Holland. Even from the standpoint of this (me) Evangelical peasant, “Dr.” MacArthur’s forward to the book raises troubling questions:

“This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our heart.”

I asked the Sultana of Optimism, my wife Susan, to evaluate the statement. She immediately pointed out that the second part of the statement concerning private meditation was biblically untrue for many reasons. As far as Christ ALWAYS being the CENTRAL theme of the gospel, I will address that in future parts. Granted, Christ must always be part of a gospel presentation, it’s not the gospel without Him, but is He always the one and only central theme of the presentation as MacArthur suggests? Is Christ the only one who “deserves” to be a central figure of the gospel? Phil Johnson’s (the Executive Director of MacArthur’s ministry) endorsement of the book is even more disturbing as his statement mirrors John Piper contemplative spirituality:  

“We become like whatever we worship (Psalm 135:15-18). So the key to sanctification and spiritual maturity is a simple principle: As we set our affections on Christ and keep Him at the center of all our thoughts, activities, desires, and ambitions, we are transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).”

Barry E. Horner also echo’s concern on page 192 of  Future Israel when he writes: ‘This is not an insignificant point since it is common today, especially within Reformed Christianity as Thomas Smail pointed out in The Forgotten Father, for an incorrect prominence to be given to Jesus Christ (as though impossible to challenge) that results in biblical distortion.’”

As far as meditation on Christ alone being the one “simple” principle for sanctification as stated by Phil Johnson above, Dr. Jay E. Adams states:

“The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it.”

“Certainly, all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even an example of this practice, in the New Testament….The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that he left for us to observe-the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).”

Where did this eclipsing Christ standard of truth come from? And does it add to the genealogy hypothesis? ( ) (Revised: ). You be the judge. The following are excerpts from the Australian Forum archives, one excerpt per article:

When the law is emphasized so as to eclipse the glory of the gospel, the church falls under the bondage of legalism.

…faith and never want to lose it, and may even fear that if any other truth is emphasized, it will eclipse the wonderful message of salvation.

From “The Centrality of the Gospel”: evangelical preaching has contributed more to the eclipse of the Bible than we would ever dare to imagine.

They are used to eclipse or displace Christ’s imputed righteousness! “That glory cannot be taken away from Christ and transferred to either our renewal or …[same statement used in at least three other articles].

They are used to eclipse or displace Christ’s imputed righteousness!

When the law is emphasized so as to eclipse the glory of the gospel, the church and rapturous experience) of having Christ come into the heart—and then

When the law is emphasized so as to eclipse the glory of the gospel, grace alone, on account of Christ’s obedience alone, and received by faith alone

truth is emphasized, it will eclipse the wonderful message of salvation. …. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the

Church history may be seen as a struggle to keep law and gospel in proper tension. When the law is emphasized so as to eclipse the glory of the gospel,

Because they are put in the very room of the gospel! They are used to eclipse or displace Christ’s imputed righteousness! “That glory cannot be taken away

any other truth is emphasized, it will eclipse the wonderful message of salvation. …. Similarly, non-believers may reject the gospel because of their

Tavard explains that when Luther began his work as a Reformer, the gospel was in “partial eclipse.” The Council of Trent, however, “reformulated” the gospel

These sample statements were gleaned from the AF archives by a cursory search. Uneclipsing the Son (or his works) is a dominate theme that saturates AF doctrine.

Legacies are usually determined by how we end. This brings to mind something that we may want to meditate on often: the call to persevere. Christ didn’t say meditating on Him makes perseverance easy or guarantees that He will do it for us. MacArthur may not believe that, but he certainly lends credibility to those who do. Will the last leg of his ministry be remembered as lending creditability to Antinomians and even embracing their doctrines? I think it’s very likely.

If I had to bet, would I bet that I will find uncanny parallels between Holland’s new book  and the AF archives? Absolutely. I am working on several side-by-side quotation charts, I trust that “Dr.” Holland will have a significant contribution to the comparisons.