Paul's Passing Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Protestant Legacy of Weak Sanctification 

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. An unfinished justification.

2. Sabbath rest sanctification.

3. Double imputation.

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

How was the Reformation gospel lost?

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

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

This brings us to the crux of the issue.

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

A. Christ obeys the law for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

paul

Jay E. Adams: What Does it Mean to “Grow by Grace”?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 6, 2013

Posted here by Dr. Adams on 11/6/2013

There are all sorts of ideas floating about today in various circles concerning sanctification. If you are getting confused by them, consider the following:

But grow in (by) the grace (help) and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:16).

More often than not, in NT (Koine) writing, it seems that the Greek “en” (often translated “in”) ought to be translated by one of its other possibilities–”by, with,” etc. Here, I am sure that it should read “by,”as I noted in the parenthesis in the quotation. The idea of a “spherical dative” is foolish here (as in many of the translations made of this important preposition).

What Peter was trying to get his readers to understand is that in order to grow in their faith it takes grace and knowledge—both, of course, applied to daily living—in order to grow. And growth, as one learns more about Christ and becomes more like Him, is what sanctification is all about. That grace (here, “help,” the second meaning of the word grace, is also a more appropriate translation).

Growth comes about as a believer learns more of the Christian faith and is helped by God to practice it. More and more he progressively comes to walk as he should (not, in this life without failures, of course). But if one is a true believer, he grows. He will change. He can because he is a new creation. Sanctification is not “on the spot,”as one modern preacher recently said. Nor does it come about without effort: studying and prayerfully applying scriptural truth. It is the result of knowing God’s truth about putting off the old sinful ways and replacing them with new biblical ones that please God. Growth is a sign of life—in this case spiritual life. No growth—no life.

Think about this and refuse to be herded by the crowd that teaches that something other than growth is essential.

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An Example of Why I like Dr. J

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 21, 2013

Correction: The quotation is from Donn Arms, an associate of  Jay Adams at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS).   

Folks let’s get this straight. The mind is not a physical organ. It cannot have a disease or illness except in a metaphorical sense as in a sick economy or a sick joke.

Typhoid fever — disease
Spring fever — not a disease
Scarlet fever — disease
Bieber fever — not a disease

`Dr. Jay E. Adams: father of the one and only valid contemporary biblical counseling model; the first one.

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Dr. Jay E. Adams Reblog: Heresy Hunters?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 4, 2013

One of the few bright spots in the present-day American church is Dr. Jay E. Adams. There are simply no words for the respect that I have for this man of God.  His most recent post follows, and despite being up in years, the sharpness of his theological mind, love for God, and writing skills are indisputable. He is also a living testimony to our responsibility to never be lacking in zeal regardless of our age. May God give him many more years among us as his Christian pedigree is of short supply in our day. The link follows; enjoy, and be sure to check out his new online counseling school as well.

Controversy in the New Testament

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Dr. Jay E. Adams on Cross Congregational Discipline

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 27, 2012

Cross Congregational Discipline

Introduction by paul: How much suffering could be avoided in the church if we would get serious about following Scripture? Consider that even independently autonomous churches, for the most part, belong to a fellowship of churches. Therefore, the following as articulated by Dr. Adams could stop abuse dead in its tracks. A church being shunned by several other churches in a fellowship of churches is no small matter. Think of all the church fellowships who have refused to follow this procedure–even for the sake of the sexually abused. Without further ado, read what this gift to the church has to say on this issue:

So far I have been considering discipline within the local church that involves members of the same congregation. Now it is important to tackle the somewhat more complex questions of how to handle the problem of cross congregational discipline.

Within the same denomination the ways and means for pursuing cross congregational discipline are usually formalized in a denominational book of government and discipline. If they are not, you should work for a common Book of Discipline that provides for such measures.

What I wish to address in this chapter is the more difficult problem of how to carry on discipline among churches that are not related denominationally.

Bob and Phil, members of two Bible believing congregations of different persuasions, have broken fellowship over a business deal. Phil, an automobile mechanic, maintains that all the work he did on Bob’s car was necessary and, though he charged Bob five hundred dollars, that was a good price for the labor and parts provided; indeed, below the going rate. Bob disagrees. He thinks that Phil did unnecessary work on the car and has stuck him with a huge bill, which he refuses to pay. Bob claims that he told Phil to let him know if the cost would exceed two hundred dollars; Phil says Bob gave no such instructions. Rather, Phil maintains that Bob said, “Go ahead and do whatever has to be done,” and indicated no reservations about the cost.

The matter cannot be resolved by going to court (1 Corinthians 6 forbids that-God forbids believers to take other believers to court.), But since they cannot work it out between them, the matter must be settled by the church. Bob has told a number of people at his church what a rotten deal he got and how Phil cheated him. As a result, there is evidence that Phil’s business is suffering. Phil has not yet been paid.

Phil goes to his pastor for advice. The pastor says, “It seems to me that since Bob has made the matter public, it can be dealt with on that level. But why don’t you take a couple of mutual friends and try once more to work out matters? If you do not succeed, go to his pastor and seek help.”

One more visit is made. Phil and those with him get nowhere. Bob says he will not pay a cent more than two hundred dollars, and he refuses to discuss the issue further. Phil makes an appointment with Bob’s pastor, asking him to bring the matter officially before the church. The pastor in turn suggests that all four talk about it; he sets a date for the conference. But nothing comes of their meeting. Both men state and steadfastly maintain their positions. Bob tries to hand Phil a check for two hundred dollars and declares that the matter is over. He wants to hear no more about it. Phil shows the pastor receipts for parts that, apart from extensive labor costs, amount to nearly two hundred dollars in themselves. He refuses to take the check, declaring that to do so is to forfeit his right to a larger sum.

Where does the matter go from here? Regardless of how the issue turns out—which is not our concern at the moment—what steps should Phil take from here on?

Phil has two options. First, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 6:7 he can determine to accept the loss and drop the whole matter. If he does so, he must be sure he bears no resentment against Bob. In particular he must not speak disparagingly about Bob to others. If Phil drops it, it must be dropped entirely (Incidentally, Phil had this option at earlier stages as well.)

But it would seem from his refusal to accept the check that Phil will want to pursue the matter further. Given his rejection of the first option, what is Phil’s second? He may pursue the matter officially before Bob’s church. He should inform the pastor that he is not satisfied to let the matter drop and settle for two hundred dollars, especially since he has lost five customers from Bob’s church because of what he can only call slanderous gossip on Bob’s part. His concern is that the church deal with his charges of theft and slander against Bob.

Before making charges of slander or gossiping, Phil must have evidence to substantiate them. This will consist not only of presenting the bills and receipts that he brought to the first conference, but also being able to call on witnesses to the slanderous statements made to others. If he can produce such evidence, he will be in a position to establish his case. Apart from evidence and witnesses, he should not proceed further (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1).

WHAT IF THE CHURCH DEFAULTS?

All of the foregoing is rather simple and straightforward. But what if Bob’s church refuses to hear Phil? What if the pastor says, “Well, Phil, I’ve done all I can to reconcile the two of you. In our church we don’t do anything more; no, we will not discipline Bob.” This possibility is not at all unlikely today.

There is no direct biblical instruction about this matter because there was no denominational problem in the first century (although there were interchurch dealings such as the council described in Acts 15). But using the approach stipulated by the words of Christ in Matthew 18, it would seem that the following procedure should be followed:

1. Phil (perhaps with the guidance of his own pastor) should gently read Matthew 18:15ff. to Bob’s pastor and urge him and his church to follow the Scriptures in this matter. He should not simply go along with weakness on the part of Bob’s church. Rather, in a kind but firm manner, he should insist that, since they call themselves a Bible?believing church, they are bound to do what the Bible requires. Often this sort of kind but strong pressure will prevail.

2. If that action proves to be fruitless, then (on the basis of Matthew 18) he should take someone with him (preferably his own pastor) to confront Bob’s pastor. Frequently the matter will be settled at this level.

3. But suppose Bob’s pastor refuses to hear them. Then, on the analogy of Matthew 18, he should “tell it to the church.” That would probably mean having Phil’s elders request a meeting with the elders of Bob’s church. If this meeting occurs, Phil’s elders may be able to persuade Bob’s that this is the biblical thing to do and may be able to help them in conducting a fair trial. The issue in points 2 and 3, please note, is not Phil’s losses, but the question of whether Bob’s church will follow Matthew 18. The two issues should not be confused.

4. Let us suppose, as too often is true, that Bob’s elders refuse to meet or, after meeting, refuse to carry the case further. Then, short of Phil’s willingness at this point to drop the whole matter, his church would seem to have but one recourse: again, on the analogy of Matthew 18, Phil’s church should declare Bob’s church to be “as heathen and publicans.” That is to say, they should declare them to be “no church” since they will not draw a line between the world and the church by exercising discipline. (Even if Phil should wish to drop his matter against Bob. the other issue—the dealings between the two churches—should be pursued to its end. A church. declared to be no church. may be restored upon repentance.)

This decision should never be taken unless the most careful and kind attempts have been made to try to effect proper discipline in the other church. But there must come a point at which the matter is set to rest. God will have no loose ends dangling in His church.

5. If Bob’s church is declared to be no church by Phil’s church, then and only then may Phil treat Bob “as a heathen and a tax collector.” If he wishes to do so, Phil may now take Bob to civil court. At times this may be an unwise move, a poor testimony in a community that doesn’t understand, and in some cases, even an unloving act if done in bitterness. But the practical possibility now exists. Sometimes it is wiser to drop the matter here (or earlier), and Phil always has that option.

6. If the act of declaring another church to be no church (because it will not define itself by church discipline) is to be carried out, it is important to keep accurate records, testimony, etc., of all that transpired. Moreover, before doing so, the other church should be warned of the possibility of this action.

Let me suggest two variations on this theme. Where a congregation is part of a denomination, the matter should be taken through the procedures prescribed by the denominational standards before taking the step of declaring it no church. In the case of a nondenominational congregation or one in which the denomination does not function in cases of church discipline, it might be advisable to call in one or two other congregations in the community to intercede; if nothing results from this, have those congregations agree also to declare the contumacious congregation to be no church .

Handbook of Church Discipline

Dr. Jay E. Adams: excerpt from chapter 10

 

 

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