Paul's Passing Thoughts

Protestants: Willing Participants in a Truman Show Reality.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on June 2, 2017

Originally published July 12, 2016

stage liteTruman Burbank lived a seemingly normal life. He was just your regular, ordinary kind of guy. Everybody liked Truman. He had a pretty wife, a nice house, a good job. He had everything anybody could ask for. His life was perfect. Or so it seemed.

Of course, Truman Burbank isn’t a real person. He is the titular fictional character in the 1998 film The Truman Show. Those of you who are familiar with the film well know that while Truman’s story is fictional, the reality of his world in that fiction was fiction as well; a fiction engineered specifically for him. The problem was, Truman did not realize that his reality was fake. Unfortunately, just like Truman Burbank, 99% of Protestants don’t realize that their reality as they know it is just as fake, yet they willingly accept it. Truman Burbank offers a perfect philosophical metaphor, so I am using him to illustrate my point.

At the time we meet him in the movie, Truman is approximately 30 years old. From the time he was born, his entire existence has been in the world of Seahaven, FL. It is the only reality he has ever known. And up until now he has never questioned the truth of his reality. What he does not know is that this world is a carefully crafted façade, and every other person in his reality is nothing more than an actor playing a role. Their sole purpose is to make Truman believe that everything he sees around him and everything that happens to him is real. And as he goes about his daily life, hundreds of tiny hidden cameras capture his every move and broadcast his life to the world 24 hours a day. You could say that Truman was the first reality TV star.

How is it that a person can live his entire existence and not realize that his reality is fake? Because Truman’s reality consists of a very deceptive hermaneutic. Everything that happens in his life is carefully interpreted for him so that his understanding of reality remains consistent with what he observes. On this scale you can be sure that this is a very complicated feat to pull off for thirty years.

Such a task can only be maintained for so long, and eventually, unexpected “glitches” begin to occur. For example, one day a strange object falls from the sky and smashes on the ground just feet from where Truman is standing. It happens to be a stage light that is labeled, “SIRIUS (9 Canis Major)”. On another day, while listening to the radio in his car, his radio suddenly begins broadcasting the director’s instructions to the cast, and Truman realizes that the voice on the radio is describing every turn he makes in his car. Yet another time, Truman enters an elevator only to realize when the door opens that no elevator is there but instead he sees a group of stage hands on break around a snack table.

Obviously, such events would be out of the ordinary in Truman’s reality. Here is a conflict between what Truman thinks to be true about his world and what he observes, and he has no idea how to reconcile these contradictions. At this point a mediator is needed to reinterpret what Truman has observed to reconcile the contradiction and convince him that nothing is wrong, everything is as it should be. No, that wasn’t a stage light that fell from the sky, it was a part that fell off an airplane flying overhead. No, you didn’t really hear a guy on the radio announcing your every move. Our station accidentally picked up police frequencies, ha ha, sorry it sometimes happens.   Oh did you hear? There was a freak elevator accident in the building next to yours, and a woman was critically injured- no you didn’t really see a stage crew taking their break where an elevator should have been.

The producers went to great lengths to discourage Truman from leaving Seahaven, because as a boy, Truman had a longing for exploring. They posted subtle messages around town with outrageous warnings about the dangers of travel. Sometimes, drastic intervention was required. They even created a scenario one day where Truman was out on a boat with his father, and a sudden storm swept his father overboard, never to be found again. Of course, it was all an act, but to Truman it was very real, and it made quite an impression on him as a small boy. So much so that Truman developed an acute fear of the water and never thought twice about leaving Seahaven by boat, or even crossing a body of water. But as things progress, Truman’s suspicion grows. He begins to ask serious questions of those around him, who continue to simply play along with their roles in a vain attempt to deflect his suspicions.

But despite all these obstacles, Truman was determined to find answers to his questions. He discovered that he could make unusual things happen anytime he was unpredictable. Those involved with the show could not react fast enough to his spontaneity, and this would give them away, only furthering his resolve. Truman knew something was not right about his world, but he did not know why. He could not explain it, but he was no longer willing to accept the explanations given to him by those around him.

We could summarize the salient points about Truman’s reality this way:

  • Truman’s understanding of the world was based on a false assumption.
  • From time to time Truman would encounter contradictions in his reality that he could not reconcile.
  • Truman needed mediators in his life to interpret reality for him.

In much the same way, the way that Protestants understand reality is based on a false assumption. Doctrines such as total depravity (total inability), determinism and God’s sovereignty, election, and many others present man with a view of reality where man is evil and therefore cannot know truth. Believers go to church week after week so that they can be told not just what to think but also HOW to think about not just what the Bible says but also how the world itself works.

Invariably there will come a time when a believer will encounter a contradiction. It may be that he comes across passages of scripture in his Bible that seem to contradict each other. It may be that he encounters something in life that runs counter to what he was taught from the pulpit. Something that he cannot explain, like how can man have a free will if God is sovereign? “Well, you know God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, so we just have to accept that there are some things we just can’t understand and accept as true because God says so.”

Most often, contradictions are handled from a matter of interpretation. This is where the mediator steps in and reinterprets scripture for the believer in its proper “gospel context”. You see, because man is unable to know truth, he needs the authority of a mediator to explain it to him. This is the role of pastors, elders, deacons, bishops, et al.

For Truman Burbank, his mediators were not just a select few in positions of authority. It was the entire cast of characters from the crew behind the scenes, to the actress who played his wife, to the guy who sold him his daily paper at the newsstand. Every person in Truman’s life was a willing participant, regardless of how much they were aware of their overall impact in shaping his life. Extras in the cast, for example, would dutifully play their part all while being totally ignorant of the ultimate level of control the producers sought to wield over Truman’s life.

Truman himself was a willing participant in this ruse. One could argue that he was simply an innocent victim in the whole matter, but consider how much he was willing to overlook in his life for such a long time just so that he could go on living the only life he ever knew. That fact was a major point in the film, when a former cast member called the show and told the show’s creator just how wrong she thought it was the way they were using Truman for their own ends. The creator’s response was profound and powerful. He said that if Truman REALLY wanted to discover the truth, he would find a way, and that whenever that happens, there would be nothing they could do to stop him.   The point being of course was that the mere fact that Truman lived this life for so long was a statement to the reality that he really didn’t want to know the truth.

How much can the same be said of Protestants? To what extent are Protestants willing participants in their own “Truman Show” existence?   How much are we willing to overlook just so that we can be comfortable in our lives? How much abuse and evil are we going to tolerate just so that we can have some sense of security in where we think our salvation lies? Do we blame the cast of mediators who create this charade for us? Their role is obvious, and they play their parts well, wittingly or unwittingly. But the laity are playing a role as well. They shoulder just as much of the blame as those under whose self-appointed authority they have placed themselves. And they will dutifully pay their tithes and offerings each week, and they will warm their spot on the pew every time the church doors are open, and they will sing when told to sing, and they will stand when told to stand, and they will pray when told to pray, and they will outsource their minds to someone standing before them who will tell them what to think about life. And they will never ask a hard question, even when a stage light falls from the sky.

But there is hope! Because if Protestants really want to know the truth, they will find it. If they really want to find a way out of the nightmare that is the institutional church, they will discover it. And when they are determined to do so, there isn’t a thing the church can do about it!

Andy

Redemptive-Historical Interpretation of Reality Makes Presidential Elections Irrelevant

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on October 14, 2016

Those who hold to a redemptive-historical interpretation of scripture also unwittingly hold to a redemptive-historical interpretation of ALL of reality.  Such an interpretation is rationally inconsistent with regard to reality itself.  You cannot on the one hand talk about “God’s redemptive drama” and then on the other hand suggest that you have any say in the matter by any pretense of “choice”.  The cognitive dissonance created by such duplicity is the reason why so many have rejected authentic protestant orthodoxy.

Andy

Addendum 10/17/2016: New comments in the Facebook thread have been added below.

eric-rea-rhh-and-electioneric-rea-rhh-and-election-02eric-rea-rhh-and-election-03 eric-rea-rhh-and-election-04

Helping Tim Challies and Other Calvinists with Evangelism

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published January 29, 2015

ChalliesYesterday, I was sent the following article about Calvinist evangelism written by blogger Tim Challies: How To Offend a Room Full of Calvinists. Miffed by the suggestion that somebody knows better than me how to offend Calvinists, I immediately read the article.

Apparently, according to Challies, Calvinists get offended when people suggest that their soteriology hinders evangelism.  According to Challies, the argument goes like this:

Many people are firmly convinced that there is a deep-rooted flaw embedded within Reformed theology that undermines evangelistic fervor. Most blame it on predestination. After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel. Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Protestants en masse think Calvinism’s greatest sin is weak evangelism, and of course, that makes them very angry because it’s supposedly the last criticism standing. I could start with the fact that Calvinism is works salvation under the guise of faith alone, or progressive justification, or salvation by antinomianism. Pick one; any of the three will work. But I have a mountain of data on that subject already; let’s do something different. Yes, let’s use Challies’ own words in the post to refute his argument. Before we call on Challies to refute his own protest, we will address his take on church history.

We go to history to show that the great missionaries, great preachers, and great revivalists of days past were Calvinists, and that Reformed theology was what fueled their mission… There are only so many times I can point to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, or William Carey and the great missionary movement of the nineteenth century, or Charles Spurgeon and the countless thousands saved under his ministry. Sooner or later I have to stop looking at my heroes and look to myself. I can’t claim their zeal as my own. I can’t claim their obedience as my own.

In the post, Challies argues that we know that a straight line can be found from Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal because of history. Supposedly, Calvinists throughout history were driven directly by this deterministic gospel to reach thousands. It is very interesting when you consider the examples given which will aid in making my point.

The Great Awakening had absolutely nothing to do with Reformed soteriology. We should know this as a matter of common sense to begin with because the Holy Spirit doesn’t colabor with a false gospel. The Great Awakening was fueled by the ideology of the American Revolution and was expressed to a great degree in churches, especially among African Americans. Fact is, guys like Edwards and Whitefield then got on their horses and rode around the countryside bloviating and taking credit for the freedom movement tagged with “The Great Awakening” nomenclature.

Fact is, the Great Awakening was a pushback against the Puritan church state driven by Reformed soteriology that came across the pond as a European blight on American history. I would liken Challies’ assessment to our present President taking credit for things he is against when the results are positive.

What about Spurgeon? That example is just too rich because it makes the last point for me. Spurgeon, who once said Calvinism was no mere nickname but the very gospel itself, was the poster boy for getting people to come to church in order to get them saved. That’s important, hold on to that because it’s our last point.

But before we get to the last point, let’s look at the major point: Challies argues against the idea that fatalism hinders evangelism, and then confesses that he doesn’t evangelize like all of the great Calvinists in history because of…fatalism. Calvinism doesn’t cause fatalism resulting in lame evangelism, but Challies doesn’t evangelize because of fatalism.

After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel… We go to the pages of Scripture to show that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible, but that people truly are both free and bound, that God both chooses some while extending the free offer of the gospel to all.

So why does Challies not evangelize according to him? First, because he just doesn’t, but secondly, he is responsible:

It is my conviction—conviction rooted in close study of God’s Word—that Calvinism provides a soul-stirring motivation for evangelism, and that sharing the gospel freely and with great zeal is the most natural application of biblical truth. But it is my confession—confession rooted in the evidence of my own life—that my Calvinism too rarely stirs my soul to mission. The truths that have roared in the hearts and lives of so many others, somehow just whisper in me. The fault, I’m convinced, is not with God’s Word, or even with my understanding of God’s Word; the fault is with me.

He is responsible, but not often stirred. And what’s his solution? There isn’t one, it is what it is; he is responsible, but not called to evangelism. No corrective solution is offered in the post. Why not? Because, as he said, we are responsible, but unable. Responsibility and inability are not incompatible. So, Calvinism doesn’t hinder evangelism, but if you don’t evangelize, there is no solution. Others did it, and you don’t, the end.  Well, I suppose that approach doesn’t prevent evangelism either!

And funny he should cite Edwards. Susan is doing a session on Edwards for TANC 2015 and is studying his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. She approached me and wanted to discuss something about the sermon that she was perplexed about. Edwards spent the better part of an hour addressing the total hopelessness of man and his likelihood of ending up in an eternal hell, but in the end offers no counsel on how to escape. Why? Because if God is going to do something, he is going to do it, and man is responsible either way.

This now brings us to the final point with a bonus; we are going to help Challies with his evangelism shortcomings. There is, in fact, a solution for Tim’s lack of evangelistic zeal. He doesn’t properly understand Calvinism and its history. This isn’t about saving Tim from the false gospel of Calvinism, this is about being a good evangelist in the context of Calvinism. If I can’t save a Calvinist, I can at least teach them how to be a better Calvinist. Really, it’s disheartening when Calvinists don’t properly understand Calvinism.

This is how we will help Tim Challies. We will bring him back to the historical significance of Spurgeon using some of his own observations. First, let’s get a lay of the land; how does true Calvinistic evangelism work? First, it is the “sovereign” gospel which means the subject must not be told that they have a choice. This is some fun you can have with Calvinists. Ask them if they tell the recipients of their gospel message that they have a choice. Most will avoid answering because they don’t want to admit the answer is, “no.” By their own definition, that would be a false gospel speaking to man’s ability to choose God.

Secondly, if God does do something, if “the wind blows,” that puts the subject in two categories according to Calvin: the called and those who persevere.  The called are those that God temporarily illumines, but later blinds resulting in a greater damnation. Those of the perseverance class are the truly elect. So, the “good news” is that you have a chance to make it. But, if you don’t make it according to God’s predetermined will, your damnation is greater than the non-elect. God has either chosen you for greater damnation or the jackpot, but I guess it’s worth a try if God so chooses.

But hold on, and this is huge: all of that can be bypassed by Calvin’s “power of the keys.” What’s that? If you are a formal member of a Reformed church, and the elders like you, whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven.

Furthermore, according to Calvin, sins committed in the Christian life remove us from salvation, but membership in the local church and receiving the “impartations of grace” that can only be found in church membership supply a perpetual covering for sin. And here is the crux: one of those “graces” is sitting under “gospel preaching” of which Spurgeon was chief. In one way or the other, Spurgeon sold this wholesale and the results speak for themselves.

See, the solution for Challies is simple.  There is a solution for the disobedience he himself is responsible for: simply invite people to church in order to “get them under the gospel.” And that often looks like this…

Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

Problem solved. That’s how Calvinism is a straight line from its theology to evangelism—you are saved by being a formal member of a Reformed church, and your salvation is sustained by remaining a faithful member of that church and obeying everything the elders tell you to do and think. But let’s not call it intellectual rape, let’s call it “keeping ourselves in the love of Jesus.” Let’s call it “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” Let’s call it “being faithful to the church every time the doors are opened.” Let’s call it “putting ourselves under the authority of Godly men.” Let’s call it “trusting God with our finances.”

You’re welcome Tim, glad I could help.

paul

Protestants: Willing Participants in a Truman Show Reality.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 12, 2016

stage liteTruman Burbank lived a seemingly normal life. He was just your regular, ordinary kind of guy. Everybody liked Truman. He had a pretty wife, a nice house, a good job. He had everything anybody could ask for. His life was perfect. Or so it seemed.

Of course, Truman Burbank isn’t a real person. He is the titular fictional character in the 1998 film The Truman Show. Those of you who are familiar with the film well know that while Truman’s story is fictional, the reality of his world in that fiction was fiction as well; a fiction engineered specifically for him. The problem was, Truman did not realize that his reality was fake. Unfortunately, just like Truman Burbank, 99% of Protestants don’t realize that their reality as they know it is just as fake, yet they willingly accept it. Truman Burbank offers a perfect philosophical metaphor, so I am using him to illustrate my point.

At the time we meet him in the movie, Truman is approximately 30 years old. From the time he was born, his entire existence has been in the world of Seahaven, FL. It is the only reality he has ever known. And up until now he has never questioned the truth of his reality. What he does not know is that this world is a carefully crafted façade, and every other person in his reality is nothing more than an actor playing a role. Their sole purpose is to make Truman believe that everything he sees around him and everything that happens to him is real. And as he goes about his daily life, hundreds of tiny hidden cameras capture his every move and broadcast his life to the world 24 hours a day. You could say that Truman was the first reality TV star.

How is it that a person can live his entire existence and not realize that his reality is fake? Because Truman’s reality consists of a very deceptive hermaneutic. Everything that happens in his life is carefully interpreted for him so that his understanding of reality remains consistent with what he observes. On this scale you can be sure that this is a very complicated feat to pull off for thirty years.

Such a task can only be maintained for so long, and eventually, unexpected “glitches” begin to occur. For example, one day a strange object falls from the sky and smashes on the ground just feet from where Truman is standing. It happens to be a stage light that is labeled, “SIRIUS (9 Canis Major)”. On another day, while listening to the radio in his car, his radio suddenly begins broadcasting the director’s instructions to the cast, and Truman realizes that the voice on the radio is describing every turn he makes in his car. Yet another time, Truman enters an elevator only to realize when the door opens that no elevator is there but instead he sees a group of stage hands on break around a snack table.

Obviously, such events would be out of the ordinary in Truman’s reality. Here is a conflict between what Truman thinks to be true about his world and what he observes, and he has no idea how to reconcile these contradictions. At this point a mediator is needed to reinterpret what Truman has observed to reconcile the contradiction and convince him that nothing is wrong, everything is as it should be. No, that wasn’t a stage light that fell from the sky, it was a part that fell off an airplane flying overhead. No, you didn’t really hear a guy on the radio announcing your every move. Our station accidentally picked up police frequencies, ha ha, sorry it sometimes happens.   Oh did you hear? There was a freak elevator accident in the building next to yours, and a woman was critically injured- no you didn’t really see a stage crew taking their break where an elevator should have been.

The producers went to great lengths to discourage Truman from leaving Seahaven, because as a boy, Truman had a longing for exploring. They posted subtle messages around town with outrageous warnings about the dangers of travel. Sometimes, drastic intervention was required. They even created a scenario one day where Truman was out on a boat with his father, and a sudden storm swept his father overboard, never to be found again. Of course, it was all an act, but to Truman it was very real, and it made quite an impression on him as a small boy. So much so that Truman developed an acute fear of the water and never thought twice about leaving Seahaven by boat, or even crossing a body of water. But as things progress, Truman’s suspicion grows. He begins to ask serious questions of those around him, who continue to simply play along with their roles in a vain attempt to deflect his suspicions.

But despite all these obstacles, Truman was determined to find answers to his questions. He discovered that he could make unusual things happen anytime he was unpredictable. Those involved with the show could not react fast enough to his spontaneity, and this would give them away, only furthering his resolve. Truman knew something was not right about his world, but he did not know why. He could not explain it, but he was no longer willing to accept the explanations given to him by those around him.

We could summarize the salient points about Truman’s reality this way:

  • Truman’s understanding of the world was based on a false assumption.
  • From time to time Truman would encounter contradictions in his reality that he could not reconcile.
  • Truman needed mediators in his life to interpret reality for him.

In much the same way, the way that Protestants understand reality is based on a false assumption. Doctrines such as total depravity (total inability), determinism and God’s sovereignty, election, and many others present man with a view of reality where man is evil and therefore cannot know truth. Believers go to church week after week so that they can be told not just what to think but also HOW to think about not just what the Bible says but also how the world itself works.

Invariably there will come a time when a believer will encounter a contradiction. It may be that he comes across passages of scripture in his Bible that seem to contradict each other. It may be that he encounters something in life that runs counter to what he was taught from the pulpit. Something that he cannot explain, like how can man have a free will if God is sovereign? “Well, you know God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, so we just have to accept that there are some things we just can’t understand and accept as true because God says so.”

Most often, contradictions are handled from a matter of interpretation. This is where the mediator steps in and reinterprets scripture for the believer in its proper “gospel context”. You see, because man is unable to know truth, he needs the authority of a mediator to explain it to him. This is the role of pastors, elders, deacons, bishops, et al.

For Truman Burbank, his mediators were not just a select few in positions of authority. It was the entire cast of characters from the crew behind the scenes, to the actress who played his wife, to the guy who sold him his daily paper at the newsstand. Every person in Truman’s life was a willing participant, regardless of how much they were aware of their overall impact in shaping his life. Extras in the cast, for example, would dutifully play their part all while being totally ignorant of the ultimate level of control the producers sought to wield over Truman’s life.

Truman himself was a willing participant in this ruse. One could argue that he was simply an innocent victim in the whole matter, but consider how much he was willing to overlook in his life for such a long time just so that he could go on living the only life he ever knew. That fact was a major point in the film, when a disgruntled viewer called the show and told the show’s creator just how wrong she thought it was the way they were using Truman for their own ends. The creator’s response was profound and powerful. He said that if Truman REALLY wanted to discover the truth, he would find a way, and that when that happens, there would be nothing they could do to stop him.   The point being of course was that the mere fact that Truman lived this life for so long was a statement to the reality that he really didn’t want to know the truth.

How much can the same be said of Protestants? To what extent are Protestants willing participants in their own “Truman Show” existence?   How much are we willing to overlook just so that we can be comfortable in our lives? How much abuse and evil are we going to tolerate just so that we can have some sense of security in where we think our salvation lies? Do we blame the cast of mediators who create this charade for us? Their role is obvious, and they play their parts well, wittingly or unwittingly. But the laity are playing a role as well. They shoulder just as much of the blame as those under whose self-appointed authority they have placed themselves. And they will dutifully pay their tithes and offerings each week, and they will warm their spot on the pew every time the church doors are open, and they will sing when told to sing, and they will stand when told to stand, and they will pray when told to pray, and they will outsource their minds to someone standing before them who will tell them what to think about life. And they will never ask a hard question, even when a stage light falls from the sky.

But there is hope! Because if Protestants really want to know the truth, they will find it. If they really want to find a way out of the nightmare that is the institutional church, they will discover it. And when they are determined to do so, there isn’t a thing the church can do about it!

Andy

The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 22, 2016

Originally published March 22, 2015

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Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, we are going to attack and unravel interpretive abuses of 1John, particularly 1John 1:9 and 2:1. There is only one other text twisted for ill use more than these two verses, and that would be Galatians 2:20 and 3:1-3. Later, In part 2, I will toss in an exegesis of those verses as a bonus.

There may be a lot of different religions and even more denominations, but for all practical purposes they all have one thing in common: this whole idea that salvation is a process with a beginning and an end. This makes salvation a process that includes our present life.

So, the argumentation between religions and denominations involves the correct way of getting from point A to point B. But there is no point A and point B. When you believe God unto salvation, you get the complete package and the salvation part of your life is finished. It is an instantaneous quickening of the Spirit that transports you from one kingdom to another, from one master to another, from being under law to being under grace, from the old person to the new person, and from darkness to light. You don’t become a servant of righteousness on the installment plan, and you don’t become a kingdom citizen on an installment plan.

How is 1 John used to argue for a progressive salvation, and what is John really saying in his epistle? Way back at the beginning of this ministry, I had this nailed down. If salvation is a process, and eternal life as opposed to eternal punishment is at stake, the Christian life is really a minefield. The focus isn’t being the best kingdom citizen; the focus is making sure you don’t mess up your salvation. The focus is salvation, not discipleship. The focus is fear of judgement, not love.

I realize many Christians hold to OSAS, “Once saved – always saved”, but the problem is how they are led by pastors trained in seminaries deeply grounded in Protestant tradition. That tradition looks to the institutional church as the primary way of getting God’s people from point A to point B in regard to their salvation. Whether OSAS or not, they are led to do the same things week in and week out. Be here at this time or that time; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to announcements; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to the special music presentation; put your tithe in the plate; listen to the sermon (always about the gospel just in case there are lost people present, wink, wink); stand up; sing “Just As I Am” until someone walks the isle so you can stop singing “Just As I Am”; pray; be dismissed; be cordial to people and tell them how much you love them; go home, and come back next week and do it again.

Why? Because all of that ritualism “imparts grace” and enables us to “grow in grace.” It enables us to “grow up in our salvation.” After all, discipleship is the “growing part of our salvation.” We have all said it, but salvation doesn’t grow. While believing in OSAS, most parishioners are led by pastors who believe in progressive salvation/justification which was clearly the foundational premise of Protestantism with the progression being overseen by the Protestant institutional church.

Moreover, let’s face it; while believing in OSAS, there is only one reason people put up with all of the nonsense and drama of the institutional church—OSAS means that if someone leaves the institutional church, they were never saved to begin with. Right? In other words, they function according to the idea that they are led by. It’s OSAS as long as you are “faithful” to the institution. Then each church has its own little “faithfulness” caste system. Those who show up for all of the services are the “core members” that run the church. Those “less faithful” that only come on Sunday mornings are a lower class of member in the caste system.

You have the pastors, staff and deacons, then the “faithful” that attend all of the services and tithe at least 10%, the “casual” attenders that tithe, and then the bottom of the caste strata, even lower than the serfs, the putrid “nonmembers.”

Whether Calvin or Luther, the two icons of Protestantism, these beliefs follow after the doctrine they established for the Protestant institutional church. Access to the institutional church was through water baptism, and the critical need according to the Reformers for formal church membership follows: as Christians, forgiveness for present and future sins can only be found in the institutional church, and those sins condemn us. Forgiveness for all sins does not occur at salvation, but only for past sins. Water baptism initiates us into church membership where forgiveness for present and future sins can be obtained through the sacraments; ie., “gospel preaching,” the Lord’s Table, and anything else deemed as acts of faithfulness to the institutional church not to exclude tithing by any means. Calvin states this explicitly in his institutes, 4.15.1.

All in all, you can say that in Protestantism, the status of sin does not change for the believer—it still condemns requiring perpetual resalvation for every sin committed.

Therefore, 1John 1:9 and 2:1 is interpreted in this light: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1).

These verses seem to bolster the authentic Protestant position on justification. Confession of sin in our Christian lives keeps us saved. And if we confess our sins, Jesus is up in heaven as our advocate with the Father continuing His work as a propitiation for our sins.

The problem is that this interpretation stands in stark contrast to what other Scriptures state about justification. Biblically, sin has a different classification after salvation—it can’t condemn; it can bring chastisement and present consequences, but it can’t condemn—its ability to condemn has been taken away. Hence, there is no need to have some institution that prevents future condemnation.

Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why the institutional church not only gets a pass on outrageous behavior, but the money keeps pouring in. What will people pay for their salvation and décor that glorifies the institution that saves them? Apparently, no price or compromise is too large. One can also appreciate the fear of so-called excommunication because the institutional church is the only place where one can receive continued forgiveness for present and future sins.

Before I move on, I will solidify my present point. Romans 8:1 states that there is presently NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. In Contrast, Calvin stated that “even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation” (CI 3.14.9, last sentence). Obviously, the focus is going to be avoiding condemnation, not our freedom to pursue aggressive love in discipleship.

So what are these verses in 1John really saying? Let’s begin to unpack that using the historical grammatical approach to interpretation as opposed to the traditional Protestant means of interpretation, the historical redemptive method. Since Protestantism sees salvation as a process, “redemptive” means that the Bible must be approached with a redemptive prism; ie., the Bible is about salvation. Clearly, this is eisegesis; going to the Bible with a presupposition.

In regard to the history part, this is the belief that history is an unfolding drama about salvation. Hence, all of reality is interpreted through salvation. All of history and the Bible continually reveals the one two-fold redemptive truth/reality: the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. Salvation begins when we see or understand this reality, and the experience of that reality increases until final salvation.

In contrast, the historical grammatical method uses historical facts to bring more meaning to the text, and all truth is determined by what can be concluded by the grammar—this is known as exegesis. All meaning and truth comes out of the text without anything being read into the text except conclusions from other texts.

In fact, Protestant tradition holds to the idea that a historical grammatical approach to the Scriptures invariably leads to works salvation. Protestant tradition insists that the Scriptures must be interpreted through the prism of total depravity. In this year’s TANC conference, this is what I am going to be hitting on. Christians, save a few, have no idea that Protestant pastors that are leading them view reality in a totally different way than most parishioners. And this is why church looks like it does. And there is no salvaging it—it’s a completely broken system.

So, if you interpret said verses in 1 John redemptively, it fits right into their narrative, right? You have to continue to repent for new sins in your Christian life in order to not be condemned and to keep your salvation. A good old fashioned Baptist lady who I am sure would hold OSAS stated this to my wife Susan in the grocery store a couple weeks ago. When Susan asked her why Christians need to go forward during alter calls, she answered, “they have sin that needs to be forgiven.” Well, why can’t they get that forgiveness by praying at home? You ought to see the reaction Susan and I get when we suggest her mother was saved even though not a member of a church.

Protestantism and all of its offshoots including the Baptists is nothing more or less than functioning Calvinism. Election isn’t the point, progressive salvation is the point. Protestants think salvation grows—salvation doesn’t grow—you are either forgiven once and for all time or you aren’t. Look, if you are going to stay in the institutional church, it makes absolutely no difference where you go. Please, stop driving 15 miles to the Baptist church when there is a Catholic Church right across the street—it’s a shameful waste of gas. It’s all progressive justification.

In contrast, we have to see 1 John in its exegetical historical context. It must be interpreted according to what was going on during the time that prompted this letter. And what was that?

John was pushing back against the number-one nemesis of the assemblies during that time: Gnosticism. Now, there were many, many different veins of Gnosticism during that time, but like denominationalism, there are basics that are fundamentally the same. Denominationalism quibbles about how to get from point A to point B, but it is all progressive salvation.

When you understand the basics of Gnosticism, it is easy to see that John’s first epistle is a point by point rebuttal of Gnosticism, and NOT the proffering of progressive justification. Protestants can bicker with Catholics all they want to about how to get from point A to point B, but again, it’s all progressive justification. If it’s a religious institution, it’s selling final salvation, PERIOD.

If we follow John’s arguments in this epistle, it also apes the fundamental basics of Gnosticism, and that’s what we are going to do:

1 John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. [KJV].

The Gnostics taught that it really wasn’t the spiritual Christ that died on the cross. Gnosticism holds to the idea that material is evil and only the invisible spiritual world is good. Gnosticism rejected the idea that the spiritual realm, or godhood can be one with the material. You must understand: the biblical concept of God-man is a direct affront to the foundation of all false religions, or the knowledge of good and evil. It is the idea that true knowledge cannot be one with the material. Knowledge is good, material is evil and is only a shadow of true knowledge. Knowledge of the material is enslaved and dependent on the five senses.

Now, stop right there. Let me simplify this for you. All false religion flows from the religion of the knowledge of good and evil presented to Eve in the garden. This is also the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes and all of the Calvin Institutes flow from the foundation of 1.1.1., first sentence, viz, ALL wisdom is the knowledge of man and the knowledge of God; man is inherently evil and God is inherently good.

Also, the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is the primary theses of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation which is the Magnum Opus of the Reformation. All fundamentals found in contemporary evangelicalism can be found in the Heidelberg Disputation and flow from it. Calvin’s Institutes further articulated the former. In contemporary evangelicalism, we hear constantly that true biblical knowledge is “the knowledge of our own sinfulness as set against God’s holiness.” This is also the pronounced fundamental foundation of the contemporary biblical counseling movement as constantly stated publically in no uncertain terms.

Why am I interjecting this? Because even though much of our knowledge concerning first century Gnosticism comes from the writings of the early church fathers and while they railed against Gnosticism, they themselves were also Gnostics. However, in the process of railing against Gnosticism, they confirm unequivocally that John’s letter addressed the Gnosticism of their day; it just wasn’t the Gnosticism that they preferred.

And by the way, according to some church fathers, John was addressing a Gnostic named Cerinthus who was a contemporary of John and a personal nemesis.

Cerinthus was a gnostic and to some, an early Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to proto-orthodox Christianity, Cerinthus’s school followed the Jewish law, used the Gospel according to the Hebrews, denied that the Supreme God had made the physical world, and denied the divinity of Jesus. In Cerinthus’ interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism, guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.

He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture.

Cerinthus taught at a time when Christianity’s relation to Judaism and to Greek philosophy had not yet been clearly defined. In his association with the Jewish law and his modest assessment of Jesus, he was similar to the Ebionites and to other Jewish Christians. In defining the world’s creator as the demiurge, he emulated Platonic philosophy and anticipated the Gnostics.

Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes he was making to the original gospel. All that is known about Cerinthus comes from the writing of his theological opponents (Wikipedia).

At any rate, the teachings of Cerinthus follow the basic fundamentals of 1st century Gnosticism of which there were two schools of thought unchanged from the cradle of society: intuitive knowledge within versus knowledge outside of man. While both schools held to the strict dichotomy of material being evil and the invisible good, and true knowledge being beyond the five senses, they disagreed on where that knowledge is found and whether or not it is intuitive among all men, or a select few preordained by nature or some supreme being.

Cerinthus followed the philosophical school of Idealism which holds to the belief that the one cosmic mind has an intuitive connection within every individual. Finding that knowledge is often a complex mind-numbing epistemology, but curiously, Luther and Calvin had their own angle that built on the Neo-Platonic teachings of St. Augustine.

This Gnostic bent actually allowed for Christ to be human, or at least some form of humanity. Apparently, God became exasperated with man’s penchant for trying to gain knowledge through the material world, and said in essence, “Ok, since you like to think you can know something and try to gain knowledge through the things that are seen, I am going to send my Son to die on the physical cross, and now all knowledge will only be gained through suffering—there mankind, take that!” This is the essence of the Heidelberg Disputation which is a philosophical treatise, not a theological one by any stretch of the imagination. Luther states plainly in the document that ALL knowledge is hidden in the suffering of the cross. Anyone who thinks they can understand Protestantism without a good grasp of world philosophy is sadly misguided. It is one of the historical necessities of historical grammatical hermeneutics.

Hence, in the Gnostic Protestant construct, Christ and His gospel is the only true objective knowledge and is outside of man. Man is not to seek any knowledge within himself, but all knowledge must be sought outside of him in contemplation of the gospel. All of reality is interpreted by the suffering of the cross. The cross is the epistemology from the material to the invisible, or from the evil to the good.

In contrast, other schools believe the epistemology is intuitive within all men because all men have a spiritual being separate from their material being, and the spiritual part of man is nonmaterial and therefore SINLESS. The material body of man is evil because it is material, but his invisible being is good and has a connection to the cosmic spiritual world that must be cultivated by transcending the material. This was key to the drug culture of the 60’s as LSD trips enabled the individual to transcend the five senses and see into the invisible spiritual world. Supposedly.

Other schools of thought believed that even though all men have a material and spiritual aspect, the spiritual anthropology has classifications in regard to who is able to see true knowledge and who isn’t as determined by the cosmos or cosmic mind; ie., determinism. And consequently, if utopia is to ever be achieved, those with the ability to see knowledge must rule over those who have the inability to transcend the material and are enslaved to it.  How do you reason with people hopelessly enslaved to the material? They either understand that they can’t know reality and get with the program, or you kill them.

According to the Reformers, utopia is achieved by understanding that all reality is interpreted through the cross of redemption. This concept was established by Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and is known as being a “theologian of the cross.” Theologians of the cross are able to know the “cross story,” or interpret reality through the cross, and all others are enslaved to the “glory story” or the story of man. This is the dichotomy of the knowledge of good and evil, or material versus spiritual.

Furthermore, the Reformers believed that the new birth entailed the gift of outward seeing only. All goodness remains outside of man. This is the pious distinction they claim over their fellow Gnostics. Unlike Cerinthus, who would be the modern equivalence of existentialism, no good can be in man, because that does not limit knowledge to suffering and the cross. Even though the early church fathers believed that material is evil and only the invisible is good like all ancient Gnostics, they labeled those heretics who believed that the invisible spirit within man was a connection to the good. That was heresy in their minds. And if you really understand what John Piper et al believe in our day, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

The true Christians of that day had a different metaphysical take: the material realm is NOT evil, it’s weak. Something that is weak can still be good. The born again Christian struggles with sin because he/she is weak, not because the material realm is inherently evil. Christ really did come adorned in humanity in every since of the meaning because the material is not evil. This understanding of being fits together with the true gospel.

But what Cerinthus et al was teaching speaks directly to what John wrote in his first epistle, and we have addressed some of it in John’s introduction. John, in essence, said the following: Christ was 100% humanity and 100% God. We saw Him, we heard Him, we touched Him, we saw Him die on the cross, there isn’t two Christs, there is only one.

What Cerinthus et al taught explains everything John wrote in this epistle and why he wrote it. It not only explains why John wrote what he wrote in 1:9 and 2:1, it sheds light on why John wrote what he wrote in the rest of the book as well.

And that is what we will look at next.  We will do a point by point fly over of 1 John while interpreting it according to this historical context of Gnosticism. John will address the definition of sin in contrast, the definition of knowledge and truth in contrast, the definition of the true gospel in context, the definition of love and hate in contrast, and the definition of the new birth in contrast.

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