Paul's Passing Thoughts

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 8, 2017

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were first and foremost Platonists. They integrated the Bible with Platonism. Plato’s theory of forms posits the idea of two worlds; the mutable material world of illusion where reality can only be partially known, and another world where the immutable objective true forms exist. This material world is a shadow world; everything is shadows of the true forms. Therefore, man can only interpret and experience this world subjectively. The tendency is to interpret reality by observing the shadows. To the degree that mankind thinks the material world is reality according to the five senses, subjectivity and chaos will abound.

Therefore, Plato’s ethic was to improve the subjective experience of this life by accessing the true forms through ideas and mathematics—things that transcend the five senses (he believed math was an unchangeable rule and therefore not part of the shadow world). He believed that those who have the capability and willingness to bring more understanding of the objective into the subjective to be an elite minority. These were Plato’s philosopher kings whom he thought should rule society in order to decrease chaos as much as possible. Without philosopher kings, the world would be awash in a sea of subjectivity, everyone living by their own subjective presuppositions based on the shadows of this world. Hence, the arch enemy of the Platonic ideal is individualism.

Plato’s world of true objective forms was his trinity of the true, good, and beautiful. Experiencing the pure form of goodness in this world is impossible—only a shadow of good can be experienced subjectively. Plato’s social engineering has a doctrine, and to the degree that doctrine is applied, a higher quality of subjective existence occurs.

The Reformers put a slightly different twist on this construct. There is no doctrine to apply, only an orthodoxy that focuses on seeing and experiencing. Their version of Plato’s philosopher kings are pastors who possess the power of the keys. Orthodoxy is mediated truth determined by “Divines,” and passed down to the masses for the purpose of experiencing the objective power of the gospel subjectively. The Reformers made the true forms “the gospel,” and reality itself the gospel, ie., the work and personhood of Jesus Christ in particular.

Therefore, in the same way Plato envisioned a society that experiences the power of the true forms subjectively through ideas and immutable disciplines like mathematics, the Reformers sought a heightened subjective experience through a deeper and deeper knowledge of their own true, good, and beautiful—the gospel. And more specifically, instead of the gateway of understanding being reason, ideas, and immutable disciplines, they made the gospel itself the interpretive prism. So: life, history, the Bible, ie., everything, is a tool for experiencing true reality (the gospel) in a higher quality subjectivity. The Bible and all life events are a gospel hermeneutic. Salvation itself is the interpretive prism. All of reality is about redemption. Salvation itself is the universal hermeneutic.

But both constructs have this in common: Pure goodness and perfection cannot exist objectively in the material world. This is where Calvinism and Platonism kiss. The Bible only agrees with this if it is a “gospel narrative.” But if it is God’s full orbed philosophical statement to all men to be interpreted grammatically and exegetically, contradictions abound. To wit, if man possesses goodness and the ability to interpret reality objectively, Platonism and its Reformed children are found wanting. If Reformation orthodoxy is not evaluated biblically with the very theses of its own orthodoxy as a hermeneutic, even more wantonness is found.

The Apostles rejected Platonism because they believed goodness and perfection could indeed be found in this material world. There is no question of the quality of goodness inside of man that enables mankind to interpret reality objectively, the quantity of goodness notwithstanding.  In contrast, a dominate theme in the Calvin Institutes is the idea that no person lost or saved can perform a good work. Like Plato’s geometric hermeneutics, the Reformers believed the Law lends understanding to man’s inability to do good because eternal perfection is the standard. The best of man’s works are tainted with sin to some degree, and therefore imperfect. Even if man could perform one perfect work, one sin makes mankind a violator of the whole law. The Reformers were adamant that no person could do any good work whether saved or lost.

Why all the fuss over this point? Why was Calvin dogmatic about this idea to the point of annoyance? Because he was first and foremost a Platonist. The idea that a pure form of good could be found within mankind was metaphysical heresy. Because such contradicts every page of the Bible, the Reformers’ Platonist theology was made the hermeneutic as well. Instead of the interpretation method producing the theology, they made the theology the method of interpretation. If all of reality is redemptive, it must be interpreted the same way.

For the Platonist, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh poses a huge problem. He is the truth. He came to the material world in a material body. Platonism  became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the 1st century church. Notice how the first sentences of 1John are a direct pushback against the Gnosticism of that day:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Christ is the true, good, and beautiful, and He was touched, felt, seen, heard, and understood. Game over. This is the paramount melding of Plato’s two worlds resulting in a plenary decimation of his philosophy. Nevertheless, Calvin et al got around that by keeping mankind in a subjective realm while making the material world a gospel hermeneutic. Reality still cannot be understood unless it is interpreted by the gospel—everything else is shadows.

Martin Luther took Plato’s two worlds and made them two stories: our own subjective story, a self  “glory story” that leads to a labyrinth of subjectivism, or the “cross story” which is the objective gospel. Luther made Plato’s two worlds two stories, but still, they are two realms: one objective and one subjective. In the final analysis mankind is still incompetent, and void of any good whether saved or lost.

Whether the Reformed gospel or Platonism, the infusion of objective goodness is the heresy. Man cannot have any righteousness in and of himself, whether lost or saved. The pushback against this idea can be seen throughout the New Testament. A few examples follow:

1John 2:4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

1John 2:20 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

1John 2:26 – I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:29 – If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Christians can know goodness, and perform righteousness objectively. This speaks to the quality of the righteousness when it is performed—it is perfect and acceptable to God. We are not limited to a mere subjective experience in regard to righteousness. When we are resurrected, the quantity thereafter will be 100%, but our present righteousness is acceptable to God when it is performed by us. If it is accepted by God, it is perfect.

Even the unregenerate know good, and can perform it. The works of the law are written on their hearts, and their consciences either accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:12-15). Though enslaved to unrighteousness, they are free to perform righteousness (Romans 6:20). The very goodness of God can be understood from observing creation as well (Romans 1:20).

The only way the Reformers can make all goodness outside of man is to make the Bible a salvation hermeneutic. It is the only way they could integrate the Bible with their Platonist philosophy.

paul

Romans 9:11- God Does Not Choose, He Calls

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

ppt-jpeg4How should we interpret our Bibles? Clearly, Christ set the example. Throughout the gospels He reasoned with many via interpretation based on the technical meaning of words and how they are used in a sentence. We are to interpret the Bible grammatically. Also, the Bible is purposely written in a way that defines certain words according to the plain sense of context; so, while knowing Greek and Hebrew may be helpful, it’s far from being a prerequisite to understanding. The rules of grammar, for the most part, transcend culture. A noun is a noun, and a verb is a verb in any language. To even cite examples of this is to state the obvious, but I will mention Christ arguing for the resurrection based on the tense of “I am” in Matthew 22:31,32.

So, in regard to the question of determinism and the idea that God chooses some for salvation and others for damnation, we find something in the grammar of Romans 9:11 that should give us pause.

…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—(ESV)

If the point of Romans 9 is God’s pre-choosing of some for salvation and not others, why would Paul not have written, “because of him who chooses” rather than “him who calls”? Did Paul have a senior moment? Also peculiar to this passage is the stated purpose of election: the eradication of works from salvation. It seems that election accomplishes this for purposes of God calling all people to accept salvation as a pure gift rather than God’s choosing being the linchpin. Note the following:

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).

Again, why is it not the choosing of God that is irrevocable rather than the calling? This grammatical roadblock to determinism was not missed by John Calvin. If choosing and calling are something different, it could mean that the means of salvation was chosen for a particular purpose and then offered to all people as a gift that they could choose themselves or reject. Hence, Calvin separated determinism into 3 separate categories: the non-chosen, the temporarily chosen (the called), and the truly chosen (those who persevere). But of course, Calvin’s three-fold election construct is rarely discussed in Reformed circles for obvious reasons. You can add this fact to the list of other Reformed dirty little secrets relegated to the closets lest they would incite some sort of chemical reaction of thought within the cranium cases of Reformed Kool-Aid drinkers. And of course, no one is going to challenge me to come up with the specific citations from the Calvin Institutes because they know I can.

Here is my rudimentary hypothesis at this time: “election” is primarily a noun in the Scriptures that denotes a category of people and purpose while “calling” is the action taken by God, or the verb. God calls people, He doesn’t choose them. God chose the means of salvation, and calls all people to accept the means of salvation as a gift. The purpose of election is that salvation would be by PROMISE, and not works. Also, “election” is primarily defined in terms of miraculous new birth into the family of God and something made entirely possible by God alone. Any Bible passages that seem to make a direct connection between election and God’s choosing of individuals are rare, or completely absent at most, and ambiguous at least.

Let’s also remember that those who are not in need of salvation are also considered to be God’s “elect”; namely, the holy angels and Christ. The nation of Israel is elect for a particular purpose, and this is perhaps the best definition of election: it is a chosen means to obtain a particular purpose. God chooses the means of salvation, not individuals. Election makes salvation a pure gift and promise apart from the will of man or his abilities, but mankind is free to choose or reject the gift. True, because man fears the condemnation of God, his tendency is to not seek God, but the loving God seeks out mankind through the gospel. God seeks out man and corners him with the truth of the gospel, but man’s tendency to hide from God does not mean he has no ability to make a choice.

A good example of the ambiguity that surrounds the idea of God choosing individuals is 1Peter 5:13. Depending on the translation, it’s the “sister” that is chosen or the “church.” If the latter, that makes my point, but more interesting is the disagreement in translations concerning “elect” used as a noun or adjective as opposed to “chosen” or “elected” regarding those defined by an action, or verb. While the likes of the ESV translate “elect” as… “elected,” or “chosen,” many other mainstream translations like the ASV translate it “elect” without the ed suffix. In other words, a statement concerning the fact that we are all part of the family of God and His plan of salvation does not necessarily equal determinism, or the idea that “elect” equals those who were predetermined to be in the family of God coupled with total inability on man’s part to choose God.

And, if Christ wasn’t mincing words in His argument for the resurrection, neither is this consideration by any stretch of the imagination. And it’s funny; when I was doing word study on this and initially observed 1Peter 5:13 with the word “elected,” I assumed that if my hypothesis held any water that I would also find translations using the word “elect,” and as noted, that in fact ended up being the case.

If you follow the apostle Paul’s argument throughout Romans 9, 10, and 11, and Galatians 3 for good measure, the concern is that salvation is solely by the promise of miraculous new birth. Whether Sarah, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Mary, or the Spirit’s role described in Galatians 3, salvation is NOT by any will or work of man, but a onetime miraculous new birth. A denial of literal new birth paves the way for progressive justification via determinism which is the number one nemesis of the true gospel.

The new birth is a work of God alone, but that doesn’t mean man cannot choose it.

paul

TANC 2014 Andy Young, Session 1: Anybody Remember Grammatical Historical Teaching?

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on August 15, 2015

Originally published November 13, 2014

Power Points 

Be Ye Holy for I am Holy

Ok, welcome to Session 1 on Understanding Sanctification.

In my opinion, the hardest part about doing any sort of topical study is finding a starting point.  I would much rather take a passage of scripture and teach through that in context, and just let the passage say what it says.  What makes a topical study of the Bible so difficult is that there is always a danger of proof-texting.  We have to always make sure that we are aware that we unconsciously bring a bias with us, wherever that bias comes from, it could be from our parents, what out parents taught us, could be from a particular church denomination that we grew up attending, or maybe our worldview, whatever influenced that.  There are things in our life that shape us and we end up having a particular bias when it comes to interpreting scripture.  So when it comes to studying a particular topic or doctrine, we have this tendency to seek out passages that fit in with our bias.  This is called proof-texting.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with proof-texting.  In fact, many of the scriptural truths we hold dear we can directly site a specific verse or passage that teaches that.  For example, if I were to ask you, what must a person do to be saved, what are some verses that immediately come to mind?

Acts 16:31

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

Romans 10:13

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

John 3:14-18

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Now these are all good verses, and the reason these are good proof-texts is because the context is pretty straightforward.  And the big danger with proof-texting is ignoring the larger context.  For example, if someone were to ask me about how to be saved, one verse I would not use as a proof text is Acts 27:31.  Anyone know that verse?  “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” That’s a good salvation verse, isn’t it?  Now I know that’s a silly example, but don’t laugh, I have heard of people teaching on this passage and making all kinds of metaphors out of the ship and trying to turn this into a salvation passage.  But I use this to show you how easy it is to take a verse out of context.  We have to make sure we are very careful to understand and interpret a verse or passage within the larger context.

So in these sessions dealing with sanctification, we’re going to be turning to a lot of scripture.  We’re going to spend a lot of time looking up verses and passages of scripture dealing with sanctification, and I’m going to be very careful and methodical to make sure we keep the context straight, that we understand the larger theme of where these verses fit in with the rest of scripture, and so hopefully we’ll avoid this danger of proof-texting.

In this first session I want to lay the ground work for the other sessions, so I’m going to spend a lot of time defining terms.  That will become our premise for the rest of the study on Sanctification.  It is important to understand the distinction between Sanctification and Justification.  It is important to keep that distinction.  Sanctification is an act that happens to those who are already justified; those who are already declared to be righteous.  No, not just declared righteous, made righteous by belief in God, belief in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is the Biblical standard for righteousness; belief in God.  So because Sanctification is subsequent to Justification, I am going to be specifically addressing those who are already saved.  If you have already believed in Christ for your salvation, I am speaking to you today.  These sessions will apply specifically to you.  Nothing I have to say applies to someone who is unsaved.  I am speaking directly to believers.  In other word, little to nothing I have to speak about applies to Justification.  Justification has already been accomplished in your life, now we’re moving on to Sanctification.

So having said all of that, I’m going to use this first session to define our terms.  What is Sanctification?  More importantly, what is a Biblical definition of Sanctification?  Then our second session, we’ll explore sanctification in the Old Testament and it’s relationship to the Law, and I want to consider the idea, that if God wants me to be holy, then why do I still sin?  And then in the last session on Sanctification we will examine the question of, is there any merit to good works, and we will even examine the Biblical source of assurance for the believer.

So let’s get started on some terms.  What is Sanctification?  What does it mean to be Sanctified?  Before we can address those questions, we need to understand what Sanctification has to do with relation to holiness.  We know that God is holy.  The Bible teaches that holiness is one of God’s attributes.  So as creatures made in the image of God, can we exhibit holiness?  Are believers really holy?  The verse that I’ve chosen to use, sort of as the theme for these sessions on Sanctification is 1 Peter 1:16.  Why don’t we start there.  Go ahead and turn to 1 Peter.  And actually I want to start with verse 14.

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [way of life, how you conduct yourselves]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

And this last part here in verse 16 like I said is what I have chosen as the theme for these sessions.  Peter uses the esxpression, “because it is written,” he is actually making reference to the Law.  Peter is actually quoting the exact phrase found in Leviticus 11:44, 45.

Now some things I want you to notice about the grammatical structure of this passage here in 1 Peter.  Please notice all of the verbs in this passage, all of the action words, they are all in the imperative mood.  Imperative mood means it is a command.  An order.  Holiness is not optional.  It is a command.

Secondly, not only are all the verbs, all the actions, not only are they commands, they are in the active voice.  Active voice means that the subject performs the action.  The opposite of active voice is the passive voice.  In passive voice, the subject is the recipient of the action, or the subject has the action performed upon him.  Notice the active voice in all of these commands

do not fashion yourselves – you don’t fashion

be ye holy – you be holy

Notice the subject performs the action.  You.  You are performing the action.  This is different from passive voice.  If these commands were in the passive voice it would read something like:

do not be fashioned – do not allow yourself to be fashioned. Or;

be made holy – allow yourself to be made holy.

Taking this even one step further, if we look specifically at this phrase, “be ye holy”.  This phrase in the Greek looks like this.  It’s pronounced:

αγιοιγενεσθε “hag-ee-oy gin-ess-theh”

The word I have underlined here is the imperative form of the word:

γινομαι – “gin-oh-my” –  to cause to be; to become (reflexive)

This is a linking verb that is the equivalent to our English word “is”, and all the forms it takes- am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.

So not only is this verb in the active voice, the word itself is causative in its very meaning.  This phrase could actually read, “cause yourself to become holy.”  Or, “make yourself holy.”

The third thing I want you to consider from this passage is, who is the audience?  Who is to perform this command to be holy?  Let your eyes go up to the beginning of the chapter.  To whom is Peter addressing this letter?  Who is supposed to be holy?

King James says – the strangers scattered throughout all these regions of Asia Minor.  Who would that be?  In the Greek this would read as pilgrims of the dispersion.  That is an expression that is used other places in scripture to describe displaced ethnic Jews.  These are Jews who did not return to the land of Israel following the Babylonian and Assyrian captivity.  They dispersed, and settled here and there throughout this region.  We also know from reading the books of Acts and from Galatians chapter 2 for example, that Paul’s ministry focused on the Gentiles, and Peter’s ministry focused on the Jews.  Galatians 2 uses the expression the gospel of the uncircumcision vs. the gospel of the circumcision.

So what we have here is Peter writing this letter addressed to these Jews of the dispersion, but what’s more important is that they are believers.  And that is what I really want us to see here.  Peter is writing to believers.  More than that, these commands here in verses 14-16 are issued to believers.  He is exhorting believers to not fashion themselves after their former life.  The believer is commanded to be holy.  The believer is to cause it to happen, actively, make it happen, not to passively wait for it to happen to him.  And I want this to be our underlying theme of these sessions.

As we go through these sessions, keep this in the forefront of your mind at all times, this is what we as believers are commanded to do.  We are not to live our lives the way we used to.  Not fashioning ourselves after the former life.  And by the way, that is the exact same word the apostle Paul uses in Romans 12:2, where he says be not conformed to this world, “soo-scheme-ah-tid-zo”.  This is where we get the word “schematic”.  You’ve probably heard of a schematic diagram.  For electrical engineers a schematic is a pattern to follow.  And that’s what the word means, having to do with a pattern.  We don’t pattern our lives after this world, we don’t follow the pattern of our old behaviors.  As believers we are to be holy as God is holy.

And if God in His word is commanding us to do it, then we must be able to do it, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in a God who would tell us to do something that we can’t do.  And if you don’t believe that, then I’m sorry, then you and I don’t believe in the same God.

Believers are called to holiness.  Now what is holiness?  That’s a word that has a lot of mystique about it.  Very ethereal.  We hear it, we think we know intrinsically what it means and we throw it around, but we have a hard time explaining it.  Well, let’s define these terms.  How does the Bible define holiness?  Let’s start at the beginning.  Surprisingly, the word “holy” doesn’t even appear in the book of Genesis.  The first occurrence of the word “holy” in the Bible appears in Exodus 3:5.

Exodus 3:5

“And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

קדשׁ – qôdesh – ko’-desh

Strongs dictionary defines it as a sacred place or thing.  Ok, well, that doesn’t tell us very much.  There is a parallel word for holy in the New Testament.  The first use of the word holy in the NT is

Matt 1:18

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

A couple more places where this is found, and I’m not going to look all of these up, but

Matthew 4:5

“Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,”

Matthew 7:6

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

This word in the Greek for holy is

αγιος – “hag-ee-oss” – sacred.

Again, still a pretty abstract concept.  Let’s set out to de-mystify these concepts.  Bring it from the abstract to the tangible.   Let’s see if we can nail it down a little more.  To better understand what holiness is, let us examine the opposite of holiness.  In scripture, the opposite of holy is profane.  Now profane carries with it a different meaning than what we understand in our modern usage of the word.  When we hear the word profane we usually think of profanity, like foul language.  So in the modern usage of the word, profane has the idea of evil, or foul, or sinful.  But that is not what the word means as it’s used in scripture.  In scripture profane simply means, common, ordinary, or everyday.  Run-of-the-mill.  No-frills.  Just like all the rest.

Now when you consider profane in this aspect, scripture presents all kinds of contrasts between that which is holy and that which is profane. The Old Testament is full of these contrasts.  Here are just a few of them:

Holy vs. Profane

Leviticus 20:3

And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.

Leviticus 21:6

They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.

Leviticus 21:7

They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.

Leviticus 22:2

Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 22:15

And they shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they offer unto the Lord;

Leviticus 22:32

Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord which hallow you,

Ezekiel 22:26

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference [discernment] between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

Ezekiel 44:23

And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.

Amos 2:7

That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:

Over and over again we have this contrast presented to us.  So if we understand then that profane is that which is common, or ordinary, or just like all the rest, and we understand that holy is the polar opposite of profane, then holy would be that which is not profane; that which is not common, that which is not ordinary, that which is not every-day, that which is not just like all the rest.

God said to Israel, when you profaned My name among the heathen, you made Me to be just like all the other gods.  When you profaned my temple, you made it like any other ordinary building.  I am no longer holy.  You caused me to be patterned after just like everything else.  I am no longer in that place where I deserve to be, because I am God, I am Jehovah.  I am not like all the rest.  I am higher than all the rest.  In fact, there are no others.  I am the only one.  I am that I Am!  I am the self-existent One!  That’s what My name means.  Do not profane it!  Do not make it just like all the rest!

This distinction between holy and profane is very helpful when it comes to us understanding why holiness is important in the Christian life.  Because if we are believers, then we are the adopted children of God.  If we are believers then we have identified with Christ.  We are righteous as He is righteous.  Sin has been taken away.  So then why would we live a life that profanes our Father?  Why would we live a life, why would our behavior be common, ordinary, why would our behavior be just like everyone else?

God is out of the ordinary, and He wants His people to be like Him.  In fact, He made it possible when He saved us.  Sin was taken away.  Our old man was crucified with Christ, and now we live in newness of life.  Our lives should be out of the ordinary.  Our lives should not be characterized by that which is just like everyone else in this world.

So, after we have gone through all of that, do we have a Biblical definition of holiness that we can work with?

Holy – a place or thing which is distinct from that which is common, ordinary, or just like everything else.

Now those are words we can understand.  Those are words we can wrap our minds around and sink our teeth into.

Now that begs the question, what determines if something is holy?  What is it that makes something holy?  And this is where the relationship with sanctification comes into play.  If we as believers are commanded to be holy, our holiness then is effected through the process of sanctification.  In fact that could be a good starting place to define Sanctification.  We could say that:

Sanctification – the process whereby the holiness in the life of the believer is effected.

But let’s not leave it there.  Remember, our goal is to have a Biblical understanding of these concepts.  So let’s go back to God’s word and see how the scriptures define Sanctification.

Now while the word holy did not appear until the book of Exodus, the word sanctify appears early on in the book of Genesis.  The first instance of “sanctify” appears in

Genesis 2:3

“And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

קדשׁ – qâdash – kaw-dash’ – to be clean; to make, pronounce, or declare clean.

Notice that, the basic definition of sanctification has to do with cleansing.  If you wanted to substitute the word clean for the word sanctify in Genesis 2:3 it would read:

“And God blessed the seventh day, and cleansed it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

Now let me put our word for holy back up here for a moment.

Holy – ko-desh

Sanctify – kaw-dash

There is a great similarity between these two Hebrew words.  In fact they are both taken from the same root word.  What we have here is a very close relationship between cleansing and holiness.  The fourth commandment is what, remember the Sabbath day to keep it, holy.  Remember our definition of Holy?  Why was the Sabbath day holy?  Why was the Sabbath day distinct from that which is common, ordinary, or just like everything else?  It was holy because God cleansed it.

Ok, how about the New Testament?  The first instance of “sanctify” in the NT is found in

Matthew 23:17

“Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?”

αγνος – “hag-noss” – clean

Now just like I did in the Hebrew, let me put up the word for holy in the Greek.

Holy – “hag-ee-oss”

Sanctify – “hag-noss”

Again, look at the similarity of the two words.  And just like in the Hebrew, these two words in the Greek are taken from the same root.  The same relationship appears in the Greek between these ideas of cleansing and holiness.

So now that we understand this relationship between holiness and cleansing, we can take the meaning of the word Sanctify, and combine it with the meaning of holiness, and we can come up with what I believe is an accurate, Biblical definition of Sanctification.

Sanctification – the process of cleansing for the purpose of making a place or thing distinct from that which is common, ordinary, or just like everything else. (or the purpose of making something holy)

So we have our definitions.  We’ve established the ground work, the foundation from which we can build.

If you remember at the beginning of this session I asked the question, as creatures made in the image of God, can we exhibit God’s attribute of holiness?  I would say that according to scripture, the answer is a resounding, YES!  We are able to.  We are able to be distinct from that which is common, ordinary, or just like everyone else.  We are able to behave that way.  We are able to pattern our lives that way.

So, now that we have a premise to build on, in session two, we’ll take a look at how this all worked out in the Old Testament under the law, and the relationship of Sanctification to the law.  We’ll expand on this idea of cleansing and the relationship between cleansing and Sanctification and holiness in the life of a believer.

Do we have time for any questions or comments?

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on August 11, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were first and foremost Platonists. They integrated the Bible with Platonism. Plato’s theory of forms posits the idea of two worlds; the mutable material world of illusion where reality can only be partially known, and another world where the immutable objective true forms exist. This material world is a shadow world; everything is shadows of the true forms. Therefore, man can only interpret and experience this world subjectively. The tendency is to interpret reality by observing the shadows. To the degree that mankind thinks the material world is reality according to the five senses, subjectivity and chaos will abound.

Therefore, Plato’s ethic was to improve the subjective experience of this life by accessing the true forms through ideas and mathematics—things that transcend the five senses (he believed math was an unchangeable rule and therefore not part of the shadow world). He believed that those who have the capability and willingness to bring more understanding of the objective into the subjective to be an elite minority. These were Plato’s philosopher kings whom he thought should rule society in order to decrease chaos as much as possible. Without philosopher kings, the world would be awash in a sea of subjectivity, everyone living by their own subjective presuppositions based on the shadows of this world. Hence, the arch enemy of the Platonic ideal is individualism.

Plato’s world of true objective forms was his trinity of the true, good, and beautiful. Experiencing the pure form of goodness in this world is impossible—only a shadow of good can be experienced subjectively. Plato’s social engineering has a doctrine, and to the degree that doctrine is applied, a higher quality of subjective existence occurs.

The Reformers put a slightly different twist on this construct. There is no doctrine to apply, only an orthodoxy that focuses on seeing and experiencing. Their version of Plato’s philosopher kings are pastors who possess the power of the keys. Orthodoxy is mediated truth determined by “Divines,” and passed down to the masses for the purpose of experiencing the objective power of the gospel subjectively. The Reformers made the true forms “the gospel,” and reality itself the gospel, ie., the work and personhood of Jesus Christ in particular.

Therefore, in the same way Plato envisioned a society that experiences the power of the true forms subjectively through ideas and immutable disciplines like mathematics, the Reformers sought a heightened subjective experience through a deeper and deeper knowledge of their own true, good, and beautiful—the gospel. And more specifically, instead of the gateway of understanding being reason, ideas, and immutable disciplines, they made the gospel itself the interpretive prism. So: life, history, the Bible, ie., everything, is a tool for experiencing true reality (the gospel) in a higher quality subjectivity. The Bible and all life events are a gospel hermeneutic. Salvation itself is the interpretive prism. All of reality is about redemption. Salvation itself is the universal hermeneutic.

But both constructs have this in common: Pure goodness and perfection cannot exist objectively in the material world. This is where Calvinism and Platonism kiss. The Bible only agrees with this if it is a “gospel narrative.” But if it is God’s full orbed philosophical statement to all men to be interpreted grammatically and exegetically, contradictions abound. To wit, if man possesses goodness and the ability to interpret reality objectively, Platonism and its Reformed children are found wanting. If Reformation orthodoxy is not evaluated biblically with the very theses of its own orthodoxy as a hermeneutic, even more wantonness is found.

The Apostles rejected Platonism because they believed goodness and perfection could indeed be found in this material world. There is no question of the quality of goodness inside of man that enables mankind to interpret reality objectively, the quantity of goodness notwithstanding.  In contrast, a dominate theme in the Calvin Institutes is the idea that no person lost or saved can perform a good work. Like Plato’s geometric hermeneutics, the Reformers believed the Law lends understanding to man’s inability to do good because eternal perfection is the standard. The best of man’s works are tainted with sin to some degree, and therefore imperfect. Even if man could perform one perfect work, one sin makes mankind a violator of the whole law. The Reformers were adamant that no person could do any good work whether saved or lost.

Why all the fuss over this point? Why was Calvin dogmatic about this idea to the point of annoyance? Because he was first and foremost a Platonist. The idea that a pure form of good could be found within mankind was metaphysical heresy. Because such contradicts every page of the Bible, the Reformers’ Platonist theology was made the hermeneutic as well. Instead of the interpretation method producing the theology, they made the theology the method of interpretation. If all of reality is redemptive, it must be interpreted the same way.

For the Platonist, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh poses a huge problem. He is the truth. He came to the material world in a material body. Platonism  became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the 1st century church. Notice how the first sentences of 1John are a direct pushback against the Gnosticism of that day:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Christ is the true, good, and beautiful, and He was touched, felt, seen, heard, and understood. Game over. This is the paramount melding of Plato’s two worlds resulting in a plenary decimation of his philosophy. Nevertheless, Calvin et al got around that by keeping mankind in a subjective realm while making the material world a gospel hermeneutic. Reality still cannot be understood unless it is interpreted by the gospel—everything else is shadows.

Martin Luther took Plato’s two worlds and made them two stories: our own subjective story, a self  “glory story” that leads to a labyrinth of subjectivism, or the “cross story” which is the objective gospel. Luther made Plato’s two worlds two stories, but still, they are two realms: one objective and one subjective. In the final analysis mankind is still incompetent, and void of any good whether saved or lost.

Whether the Reformed gospel or Platonism, the infusion of objective goodness is the heresy. Man cannot have any righteousness in and of himself, whether lost or saved. The pushback against this idea can be seen throughout the New Testament. A few examples follow:

1John 2:4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

1John 2:20 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

1John 2:26 – I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:29 – If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Christians can know goodness, and perform righteousness objectively. This speaks to the quality of the righteousness when it is performed—it is perfect and acceptable to God. We are not limited to a mere subjective experience in regard to righteousness. When we are resurrected, the quantity thereafter will be 100%, but our present righteousness is acceptable to God when it is performed by us. If it is accepted by God, it is perfect.

Even the unregenerate know good, and can perform it. The works of the law are written on their hearts, and their consciences either accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:12-15). Though enslaved to unrighteousness, they are free to perform righteousness (Romans 6:20). The very goodness of God can be understood from observing creation as well (Romans 1:20).

The only way the Reformers can make all goodness outside of man is to make the Bible a salvation hermeneutic. It is the only way they could integrate the Bible with their Platonist philosophy.

paul

A Clarification on my Anti-Reformation, Anti-Protestant Stance

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 23, 2015

AdamsIt is true, I have totally written off every Calvinist that has ever lived in regard to having any value for sanctification or justification except for two, one being Dr. Jay Adams. After all, I don’t want to be extreme.

So, what’s my excuse for excusing Adams? He brings something to the table that isn’t Reformed. Sure, he may argue that it is Reformed, but nevertheless the results are the same: people find a measure of real help in a contemporary church where there isn’t any help. In fact, the consensus is in: people are better off after they leave church. This ministry has witnessed several marriages on their way to divorce court until the couple simply stopped going to church. In fact, I dare say their marriages are getting better.

We are in a Protestant Dark Age. A movement is needed where the wisdom of God found in the Scriptures is rediscovered in Western culture. What needs to be rediscovered specifically? It starts with the knowledge that the Bible is written for the able individual. That’s first.

Secondly, the issue of how we interpret reality must be addressed. The Reformers did not interpret reality literally, and that tradition was passed down to all that followed them. In the church today, by and large, the pastorate does not interpret state of being in the same way that congregants do. The Reformers reinterpreted every word and term according to their own worldview. For example, “God’s glory” really means “God’s self-love.” Stated simply, John 3:16 in reverse.

The Reformers devised an ingenious indoctrination system of sliding metaphysics. They redefined every word and term, and allowed the listeners to assume what they meant by each word and term. In the process of using these words and terms in a certain way, listeners are slowly indoctrinated in accordance with the primary goal of the Reformers: a desired functionality albeit foggy understanding.

Let me give some specific examples. Total depravity. From the beginning in Reformed thought, this included believers. So, while assuming total depravity pertains to the unregenerate only, many are eventually indoctrinated into the original Reformed idea that this also includes believers.

Sola scriptura. The assumption is Scripture alone, but the Reformers knew that few would ask the following question: “What exactly did the Reformers believe about the Scriptures?” Sure, Scripture alone, but for what purpose?

Election. The assumption is that this argument focuses on man’s ability to choose God for salvation, but it goes much, much deeper than that and is directly relevant to what the Reformers believed about reality itself. Few know that Calvin believed in three classes of elect: non-elect, temporarily elect, and the final elect, or those who persevere.

The Reformers believed that reality is a narrative written by God in which mankind is written into the script. Reformers such as Jonathan Edwards believed that man has no will per se, but God preordains every thought that precedes every act of man which makes it seem as if man has a will. My wife Susan will be doing three sessions on Jonathan Edwards at this year’s TANC conference. Many will find her research fairly shocking.

Sola fide. The assumption is faith alone for salvation/justification. By far, this is the one that the Reformers get the most mileage out of. Using this assumption, they continually talk about sanctification in a justification way. Eventually, sanctification becomes justification. Eventually, the Christian life becomes perpetual re-justification which is the Reformation gospel in a nutshell.

Protestantism is truly the super-cult of the ages.

And the institutional church finds itself in a huge dilemma. Traditional institutional worship beginning with the Reformation was tailored for perpetual re-justification down to the alter call routine. The Lord’s Table is a solemn ceremony where additional grace is imparted through repentance. In reality, the first century assemblies met for dinner, and the fellowship meal was supposed to remind them of their fellowship with God and His Son. It was all very informal and not for the purpose of imparting additional grace.

The gatherings were an extension of worshipful living specifically designed for private homes and nothing more. The institutional version is an extension of two pillars of Reformed theology: the doctrine of progressive justification, and the politics of church-state. Hence, traditional institutional worship necessarily circumvents the original intent of Christ’s mandate for His assemblies.

With all of that said, Adams supplies a little help that can be found right now in the institutional church, and at least for the time being, we need to seize upon everything we can get. I am not talking about those who think they are helped by adopting a Reformed worldview of zero-sum-life (viz, “second generation” biblical counseling). I am not talking about those who seem to stand strong in the face of adversity because they see all of life as nothing but a divine prewritten narrative for the sole benefit of a divine self-love. No, here is my reasoning in regard to Adams per a comment I posted yesterday:

God used Jay Adams to save my life. How? Jay emphasized the need for biblical counseling using a grammatical approach to the Scriptures. This approach proffered the idea that seizing upon the literal promises of God in the Bible is curative. Of course, this would seem evident. That gives hope; if I follow God’s instruction on this, God will do that.

In the midst of the hell I found myself in, I could begin to please God. Nothing could keep me from doing so except myself, and in God’s timing, and in God’s way, it would be curative as well.

As someone who prided himself as a knowledgeable, objective evangelical, Jay’s teachings exposed the fact that I was really a functioning mystic that used all of the orthodox verbiage. While I disagree with Jay on many things, this is the powerful approach that he brings to the table.

“Christians” have a choice to make in regard to how they will interpret the Scriptures and reality itself: grammatically, or according to Christocentric Gnosticism. I am not talking about pseudo grammatical interpretation used for a purely redemptive outcome, I am talking about authentic exegetical interpretation, not cross-centered eisegesis leading to the antinomianism of “second generation” biblical counseling.

And, Jay is an example to all of us in practicing our gifts faithfully to the end. There is no retiring from a love for the ministry that you are called to whatever it is.

May the Lord give God’s people many more years of his living sacrifice.

Am I willing to give a Calvinists credit where credit is due? Yes, if he brings something to the table that can give life. If we were in a time when the laity has retaken its rightful place in Christ’s mandate supplying ample sanctification wisdom, would I recommend Adams in any regard? I am not sure, my due to him in this particular age notwithstanding.  But for the time being, we must scrape up everything we can get until the laity obeys its calling, as long as it is truly worth scraping up.

The Reformation has failed. A resurgence of it commenced in 1970. By 2008, it dominated American evangelicalism and continues to do so today. But, the chickens are coming home to roost. Its leaders are dropping like flies. The damage control is now unmanageable. The institutional church is a train wreck while the Nones and the Dones are laying about everywhere on the landscape. The latest trail blazer of the neo-resurgence to fall at the hands of his own gospel sanctification Reformed doctrine is Tullian Tchividjian. He is one of seven of the most visible leaders of the movement to resign for misconduct in less than two years. Others have been the focus of controversial bully-like conduct in the same time frame, along with numerous Neo-Calvinist mega church pastors who have resigned for sexual misconduct, three in the Orlando, Florida area alone.

The answer is NOT Reformation—the answer is a laity revolution. The laity has been conned into investing huge sacrifice in Reformed academia, and to what end? Who will deny that the laity understands less about Christian living than we ever have? Rather than seeking God’s face on our own, we run to orthodox sand boxes like The Warburg Watch and play with the same regurgitated Reformed talking points. This only serves to help the failed Reformation with its damage control. It only serves to send the message that being confused is acceptable.

But we do not serve a God of confusion. It’s time for the laity to stop worshiping Reformed academia and give honor to the one who sanctifies us with truth—not the traditions of mere men.

paul

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