Paul's Passing Thoughts

It’s All About the “O” – Mohler, DeYoung, Lucas: We Own You

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 10, 2017

ppt-jpeg4Originally posted September 15, 2012

Join an authentic Reformed Protestant Church if you will, but let it be known: they now own you. Newsflash for the husbands: Calvinist elders believe they have the ultimate say and authority in your home. And another thing: the gospel they hold to rejects synergism in sanctification as works salvation. So, guess what? If your wife buys into that, you are now in what they call a mixed marriage. You are now dangerously close to divorce court as the divorce rate in these churches has skyrocketed.

At the TANC 2012 conference, in his third session, author John Immel nailed it—it boils down to who owns man: in the Christian realm, does Christ own you or Reformed elders? In the secular realm, does man own man or does government own man? Recently, our President stated that government owns man. Recently, in a trilogy of articles by three Reformed  pastors published by Ligonier Ministries, it was stated that the church owns Christians, and I will give you three wild guesses as to who represents the authority of the church. That would be the elders.

So it’s all about the “O.” It’s all about “ownership.”

As we shall see, these articles plainly state the Reformed tradition that came from Catholic tyranny. The Reformers never repented of the same underlying presuppositions concerning man’s need to be owned by enlightened philosopher kings. The Reformation was merely a fight for control over the mutton with the Reformers seeing themselves as the moral philosopher kings as opposed to the Romish ones. Their doctrine was just a different take on how the totally depraved are saved from themselves. But both doctrines reflect the inability of man to participate in sanctification.

The three articles posted were: Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Albert Mohler; Where and How Do We Draw the Line? by Kevin DeYoung; and, Who Draws the Line? by Sean Michael Lucas. All linked together for your indoctrination convenience.

Al Mohler states in his ownership treatise that Christians have “no right” to leave one church for another because of preferences. Emphasis by underline added:

Swami Albert Mohler

Swami Albert Mohler

Far too many church members have become church shoppers. The biblical concept of ecclesiology has given way to a form of consumerism in which individuals shop around for the church that seems most to their liking at that moment. The issue can concern worship and music, relationships, teaching, or any number of other things. The pattern is the same, however – people feel free to leave one congregation for another for virtually any reason, or no reason at all.

Church shopping violates the integrity of the church and the meaning of church membership. When members leave for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ.

There is no excuse for this phenomenon. We have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations.  These controversies or concerns should prompt the faithful Christian to consider how he might be of assistance in finding and forging a better way, rather than working to find an excuse to leave.

Where to begin? First of all, while many authentic Reformed Protestant churches will bring you up on church discipline for leaving because of “unbiblical” reasons, those reasons vary from church to church. So, not only do the reasons for leaving vary among parishioners, but so does what constitutes proper “biblical…. ecclesiology” in regard to departure varies as well. Mohler states in the same post that doctrine is a valid reason to leave a church, but yet, one of the more prominent leaders of the Reformed movement (CJ Mahaney), who is strongly endorsed by Mohler, states that doctrine is not a valid reason to leave a church. CJ Mahaney substantiated that Reformed position and clearly indicated what authentic Protestant theologians are willing to do to enforce that position when he blackmailed the cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak:

Transcript of Phone Conversation between C.J., Doris and Larry Tomczak on October 3, 1997 pp. 10-11:

C.J.: Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I.

Larry: C.J., I’m not in sync with any of the T.U.L.I.P., so whether you agree or not, doctrine is one of the major reasons I believe it is God’s will to leave P.D.I. and it does need to be included in any statement put forth.

C.J.: If you do that, then it will be necessary for us to give a more detailed explanation of your sins [ie, beyond the sin of leaving for doctrinal reasons].

Larry: Justin’s name has been floated out there when there’s statements like revealing more details about my sin. What are you getting at?

C.J.: Justin’s name isn’t just floated out there – I’m stating it!

Larry: C.J. how can you do that after you encouraged Justin to confess everything; get it all out. Then when he did, you reassured him “You have my word, it will never leave this room. Even our wives won’t be told.”

I repeatedly reassured him, “C.J. is a man of his word. You needn’t worry.” Now you’re talking of publically sharing the sins of his youth?!

C.J.: My statement was made in the context of that evening. If I knew then what you were going to do, I would have re-evaluated what I communicated.

Doris: C.J., are you aware that you are blackmailing Larry? You’ll make no mention of Justin’s sins, which he confessed and was forgiven of months ago, if Larry agrees with your statement, but you feel you have to warn the folks and go national with Justin’s sins if Larry pushes the doctrinal button? C.J., you are blackmailing Larry to say what you want!―Shame on you, C.J.! As a man of God and a father, shame on you!

This will send shock waves throughout the teens in P.D.I. and make many pastors’ teens vow, “I‘ll never confess my secret sins to C.J. or any of the team, seeing that they‘ll go public with my sins if my dad doesn‘t toe the line.”―C.J., you will reap whatever judgment you make on Justin. You have a young son coming up. Another reason for my personally wanting to leave P.D.I. and never come back is this ungodly tactic of resorting to blackmail and intimidation of people!

C.J.: I can‘t speak for the team, but I want them to witness this. We’ll arrange a conference call next week with the team.

Doris: I want Justin to be part of that call. It’s his life that’s at stake.

C.J.: Fine.

(SGM Wikileaks, part 3, p.139. Online source)

Of course, this example and many others makes Mohler’s concern with the “integrity” of the church—laughable. But nevertheless, Mohler’s post and the other two are clear as to what common ground Protestant elders have on the “biblical concept of ecclesiology.”

sean-lucasBesides the fact that parishioners “have no right” to leave a church based on preference, what do Protestants fundamentally agree on in this regard? That brings us to the article by Sean Michael Lucas :

Because the church has authority to declare doctrine, it is the church that has authority to draw doctrinal lines and serve as the final judge on doctrinal issues. Scripture teaches us that the church serves as the “pillar and buttress of the truth.”

So, even in cases where Protestants believe that doctrine is an acceptable reason for leaving a church, guess who decides what true doctrine is? “But Paul, he is speaking of doctrine being determined by the church as a whole, not just the elders.” Really? Lucas continues:

In our age, this understanding—that the church has Jesus’ authority to serve as the final judge on doctrinal matters— rubs us wrong for three reasons. First, it rubs us wrong because we are pronounced individualists. This is especially the case for contemporary American Christians, who have a built-in “democratic” bias to believe that the Bible’s theology is accessible to all well-meaning, thoughtful Christians. Because theological truth is democratically available to all, such individuals can stand toe to toe with ministerial “experts” or ecclesiastical courts and reject their authority.

Creeped out yet? Well, if you are a blogger, it gets better:

Perhaps it is this individualistic, democratic perspective that has led to the rise of websites and blogs in which theology is done in public by a range of folks who may or may not be appropriately trained and ordained for a public teaching role. While the Internet has served as a “free press” that has provided important watchdog functions for various organizations, there are two downsides of the new media, which ironically move in opposite directions. On the one side, the new media (blogs, websites, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter) allow everyone to be his own theologian and judge of doctrinal matters. But because everyone is shouting and judging, the ironic other side is that those who are the most well known and have the biggest blogs gain the most market share and actually become the doctrinal arbiters of our electronic age. In this new media world, the idea that the church as a corporate body actually has authority to declare doctrine and judge on doctrinal issues is anathema.

Lucas continues to articulate the Reformed tradition that holds to the plenary authority of elders supposedly granted to them by Christ:

For some of us, again reflecting our individualism, such understanding of the church unnecessarily limits voices and perspectives that might be helpful in conversation. But restricting access to debates and judgments about theology to those who have been set apart as elders in Christ’s church and who have gathered for the purpose of study, prayer, and declaration actually ensures a more thoughtful process and a surer understanding of Christ’s Word than a pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all. Not only do we trust that a multiplicity of voices is represented by the eldership, but, above all, we trust that the single voice of the Spirit of Jesus will be heard in our midst.

So, bottom line: the priesthood of believers is a “pell-mell, democratic, individualistic free-for-all.” Still not creeped out? Then consider how they answer the question in regard to elder error:

Of course, such slow and deliberate processes do not guarantee a biblically appropriate result. After all, the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred” (WCF 31.3). Sometimes, entire denominations err significantly as they prayerfully consider Scripture and judge doctrine. Such error, however, does not negate Jesus’ own delegation of authority to the church and set the stage for a free-for-all.

This brings us to another issue that DeYoung propogates in his post: since Reformed elders have all authority, their creeds and confessions are authoritative and not just commentaries. Hence, they declared in the aforementioned confession cited by Lucas that even though they may be in error, they still have all authority. Whatever happened to the Apostle Paul’s appeal to only follow him as he followed Christ?

DeYoung:

deyoungThose who wrote the ancient creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition, were not infallible, but these creeds have served as effective guardrails, keeping God’s people on the path of truth. It would take extraordinary new insight or extraordinary hubris to jettison these ancient formulas. They provide faithful summaries of the most important doctrines of the faith. That’s why the Heidelberg Catechism refers us to the Apostles’ Creed, “a creed beyond doubt, and confessed through the world,” when it asks, “What then must a Christian believe?” (Q&A 22–23).

FYI: If you see something in your own Bible reading that contradicts a Reformed creed or confession, you are partaking in visions of grandeur.

This is the crux of the matter, the question of authority. It is almost crazy that Christians don’t have this issue resolved in their mind before they join a church. You could be in a church that is subtly indoctrinating your family with the idea that they are owned by the government; in this case, church polity.

Let there be no doubt about it, Reformed elders are drooling over the idea of another Geneva theocracy with all the trimmings. And someone shared with me just the other day how this shows itself in real life. “Mike” is a local contractor in the Xenia, Ohio area. He is close friends with a farmer in the area who lives next door to a man and his family that attend an authentic Reformed Protestant church.

One day, his new Protestant neighbor came over to inform him that he needed to stop working on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Day, and the noise of his machinery was disturbing their day of rest. Mike’s friend told him, in a manner of speaking, to hang it on his beak. Mike believes what transpired after that came from the neighbor’s belief that he was a superior person to his friend, and that his friend should have honored the neighbors request by virtue of who he is.

The neighbor has clout in the community, and to make a long story short—found many ways to make Mike’s friend miserable through legal wrangling about property line issues; according to my understanding, 8” worth. It was clear that Mike’s friend was going to be harassed until he submitted to this man’s perceived biblical authority.

Protestants have serious authority issues, and you don’t have to necessarily join in official membership to be considered under their authority. A contributor to Mark Dever’s  9 Marks blog stated that anyone who comes in the front door of a church proclaiming Christ as Lord is under the authority of that church.

It’s time for Christians to nail down the “O.” Who owns you? Are you aware of who owns you (or at least thinks so)? And are you ok with that?

paul

Advertisements

Rick Holland’s “Uneclipsing The Son,” Part 1: John MacArthur Comes Completely Out of the Closet

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 21, 2017

Originally published July 7, 2011

July 6, 2011 is a day that will live in infamy for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding. My copy of  “Uneclipsing The Son” by Rick Holland arrived two days ago and was on my desk. Susan came and sat in a chair by my desk, observed the book, picked it up, and started reading to me the forward written by John MacArthur Jr. My worst fears were realized. MacArthur’s forward to the book is a clear, concise, mini-treatise that promotes Gospel Sanctification in no uncertain terms. He is now totally out of the closet. As the name, “Gospel Sanctification” indicates, we are supposedly sanctified by the same gospel that saved us. In other words, our spiritual growth flows from a contemplation on Christ’s personhood (whatever that means exactly) and His works. Therefore, the sole purpose of the Scriptures is to gain a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ and His works with everything else in Scripture being a mere picture or description of what Christ has fulfilled for us. One might say that it is a hyper-Calvinistic view of monergism in justification that is also projected onto sanctification. So, if one carries the doctrine to its logical conclusion, the primary, if not sole duty in the Christian life is meditating on Christ and His works which results in the Holy Spirit elevating us to higher and higher levels of sanctification. In fact, MacArthur all but writes exactly that in the forward to Holland’s book.

First, Some Historical Background

This is not the first time in church history that contemplative spirituality using the gospel as the object has been propagated. However, what makes Gospel Sanctification unique is its unified systematic theology. Gospel Sanctification has a theory regarding a favorable method of interpreting the Scriptures, a supposed practical application, an explanation of how it is experienced emotionally, its own eschatology, and a covenant theology. More than likely, Gospel Sanctification as we know it today was conceived by Robert Brinsmead and his Australian Forum project. The clear mandate of that project was to systematize a theology that was gospel-centered sanctification. One of the concepts created by the project was the centrality of the objective gospel. It went so far as to indicate that all reality is interpreted through the gospel (objective), and anything given more priority than the gospel (subjective) was to “eclipse the Son.” The Forum’s writings are saturated with descriptions of various woes that come from “eclipsing” Christ and the gospel. Robert Brinsmead worked closely with Jon Zens (the father of New Covenant Theology) in developing the same kind of theology for a supposed biblical view of law/gospel or “New Testament ethics.” The result was New Covenant Theology and Zens tried to propagate the Theology in Reformed Baptist circles. It was met with fierce resistance, and the movement was relegated to a meager group presently known as the Continental Baptist.

However, the idea found new life through another venue where Forum doctrines were being tossed around via the fact that Zens was a student there, and Michael Horton was greatly influenced by Forum ideas—Westminster Seminary. Primarily, a professor of theology there named Jack Miller took the same ideas and formulated a doctrine known as Sonship Theology. Again, the movement was met with fierce opposition, this time in Presbyterian circles. The Sonship label was then dropped and replaced with “gospel,” ie., gospel-centered this, and gospel-driven that. This led Baptist and Presbyterian protestors to believe that the movement was all but dead for the past ten years. But really, the movement was growing covertly under the guise of the gospel nomenclature, and has recently emerged as New Calvinism—a  gargantuan movement including church networks, missionary alliances, cooperative training conferences, and “biblical” counseling organizations. The doctrine is overrunning the contemporary church like a giant tsunami and its proponents claim that it is a second Reformation.

In fact, I would probably be conceding myself, thinking, “Everyone else, and now MacArthur? It must be me—I’m missing something on this,” if not for a few souls like Walter Chantry and Dr. Jay Adams. In 1999, Adams published a book to refute Sonship Theology in the same way that Walter Chantry published a book in 1980 to refute Jon Zens’ views (and essentially that of the Forum as well). One year later  Zens coined the phrase, “New Covenant Theology.” One of many obvious connections that can be seen in all of this is the fact that two major players in the New Calvinist movement, Tim Keller and David Powlison, were disciples of Jack Miller who coined the phrase: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” which is an often-heard mantra within the movement. Another connection is the popularity of “The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Gospel and Kingdom; Gospel and Wisdom; The Gospel in Revelation)” within the New Calvinist movement—written by Graeme Goldsworthy who was one of three major participants in the Australian Forum project along with Geoffrey Paxton and Robert Brinsmead. This speaks to the likeminded beliefs regarding the gospel shared by the Forum and New Calvinist. I strongly suspect Holland’s book will bear more of the same.

On the back cover of Holland’s book, we read this statement in bold print: “Christ, The Son Of God, Has Been Eclipsed, And We’ve Made Ourselves At Home In This New Normal.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Since the 1950’s the church has been inundated with a hyper-grace mentality. This first gospel wave with a lack of emphasis on discipleship paved the way for Gospel Sanctification. Jay Adams started the true contemporary Reformation in 1970 with his book, “Competent to Counsel” which had a very strong emphasis on discipleship and true biblical counseling.  Adams often comments that during that time as he traveled about and spoke, Christians seemed to be surprised that they could actually “do something in their walk with God.” The “normal” in Christianity today is a profound ignorance regarding the sufficiency of Scripture and how to apply it to life in our walk with God. Christ hasn’t been eclipsed—we think He does it all for us. What has been eclipsed is what Jesus says—not who He is. Furthermore, Adams has suffered some significant persecution for his attempt to emphasize doing in the Christian life, especially from the New Calvinist counseling culture and David Powlison who was offended by the book Adams wrote to refute Sonship Theology. New Calvinist like Powlison describe the real contemporary Reformation via Adams (in regard to being used by God) as the “first generation of biblical counseling” in the same way that Luther’s Reformation was first generation. But now, the New Calvinist counseling culture is supposedly part of the second Reformation through the discovery of Gospel Sanctification. Of course, the notion is preposterous and takes arrogance to a new level that has never before been seen.

John MacArthur’s Coming Out

MacArthur’s  forward is fraught with blatant error and contemplative spirituality in the form of Gospel Sanctification. MacArthur begins his forward with the following:

“As Christians we have one message to declare: ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified’( I Corinthians 2:2). ‘For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. I Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).”

Gospel Sanctification follows the way of many other false doctrines throughout church history; specifically, the eclipsing of other members of the Trinity by overemphasizing one over the others. Jehovah’s Witnesses overemphasize the Father. Charismatics  overemphasize the Holy Spirit, etc. Christ Himself, in His mandate to the church, said to baptize in the name of all Three. The Father elects; the Son  atones, and the Spirit sanctifies—but we are to only preach Christ? Christ’s emphasis on the Father in regard to salvation saturates the Gospels, especially in the book of John:

 John 6:44
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:65
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

Christ instructed us to pray to the Father, and according to the apostle Paul:

“Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor. 15:27,28).

MacArthur continues:

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

No one, or no thing, “deserves” to be the central theme of our private devotions? This follows the Gospel Sanctification tenet that we shouldn’t seek to be instructed from the Scriptures (ie., seeking to know how to love our wives in a way that pleases God, etc). If we meditate on Christ and His works (the gospel), all that Christ commands will happen naturally. Supposedly.  I can only assume NO one and NO thing means exactly what the sentence states. But again, it begs the question: “He doesn’t mean to exclude God from that statement, right? Also note the GS teaching that our message is the same for justification AND sanctification: “….nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.”

MacArthur:

“Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2).  No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms:  “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).  That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.”

Not exactly. The early church also went about preaching “the good news of the kingdom of God”:

Acts 1:3
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

And what did that teaching by Christ also entail?:

Acts 1:6
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

And….:

Acts 14:22
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

Acts 19:8
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.

Acts 20:25
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.

Also, in other passages, Christ, and the kingdom of God seem to be separate subjects within the gospel:

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 28:23
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Acts 28:31
Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Obviously, to the first-century church, “the gospel” included the whole picture of the Trinities saving work.

MacArthur:

“The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock.  Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (emphasis added).  We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.”

To this point in the forward in Holland’s book, MacArthur is using all of the proof texts typically used by Gospel Sanctification proponents. But in regard to 2Cor. 3:18, the correlation between gazing or “beholding the glory of the Lord” and spiritual growth has no direct correlation to being the only facilitator thereof. Such a direct cause and effect correlation is assumed. Besides, Macarthur is being disingenuous by quoting the ESV here because all other translations include the word “glass” or “mirror” with difficulty in ascertaining whether we are looking at Christ’s glory in a mirror, or “reflecting” His glory as in a mirror. Either way, mirrors of that day were polished metal and did not have the perfect reflection like modern mirrors made of class. This creates difficulty for those who want to use this text to show that our primary  duty is to gaze on Christ’s glory rather than an understanding of what He’s teaching for the purpose of obedience. However, MacArthur continues to expound on this point with his paramount coming out of the closet statement in the following excerpt:

“As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.  This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.  We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it.  That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.”

In these last two excerpts mentioned, we see MacArthur aping the GS belief that all of Scripture is about Christ and Christ must be seen in every passage. As Jay Adams aptly points out, several books in the Bible do not have Christ as their central theme and plainly say so; for instance, Jude initially intended to write about our common salvation, but instead was led to write an exhortation to contend for pure doctrine. In this statement, MacArthur continues to use 2Cor. 3:18 to make the following point: “As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.” How do you look “clearly”; “enduringly,” and  “deeply” by “see[ing] through a glass, darkly” (1Cor. 13:12)  which  depicts the mirrors of those days? Christ’s instruction on how we become a house that will withstand the storms of life is plainly stated in Matthew 7:24-27, we hear His words and put those words into practice.

In classic Gospel Sanctification form, MacArthur also implements the either / or  hermeneutic in this statement: “This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.” Here we go again with this serving Christ by our own efforts stuff ( when Peter said, “Make every effort to add to your faith…., “ who’s effort was he talking about?!). If we are to exert effort in the sanctification process, which I’m sure MacArthur would concede, how would we know if it is our own effort or that of the Holy Spirit? And why can’t it be both? Why does it have to be either all of us or all of the Spirit? GS advocates have to create a whole theology just to deal with that question, and it’s called Christian Hedonism which is John Piper’s contribution to the movement. This is the road now traveled by MacArthur: unlike his preaching of the past, but like other Gospel Sanctification advocates, his preaching will now raise more questions than are answered; like, “what do you mean when you say that real servitude to Christ will have nothing to do with my own desires? If I am a new creature—are my desires not changed?” Depending on how far MacArthur decides to go with all of this—the answer would be “no” because GS doctrine holds t a total depravity of the saints. The logical conclusion is that Christ does it all for us as a result of contemplating the gospel. In order to say that without saying it, GS proponents have to work hard (presumably in their own efforts) to make it all fit together.

MacArthur:

“After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching.  It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (I John 3:2).

Our prayer is that of Paul: ‘that I may know Him!’ (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to I Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich,  sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure.”

I am unmoved by MacArthur’s self-delusions and his musings concerning the ever-morphing neo-Calvinist novelties of our day. Peter said that though he and others witnessed the miracles of that age—the testimony of Scripture is more sure, and Gospel Sanctification does not align with the plain sense of Holy writ.

MacArthur:

“Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the ‘full knowledge of the glory of God’ provided by a fervent concentration ‘on the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).”

In context, 2Cor. 4:6 refers to those who don’t recognize Christ as Savior in comparison to those who do, and does not prescribe John Piper’s “beholding as a way of becoming.” Christ’s prescription for loving Him is plain in John 14:15,16; we are to obey what he commands with the HELP of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit HELPS us—He doesn’t obey for us by replacing our “own” efforts with something else as a result of contemplation on nebulous concepts concerning the personhood of Christ. Such nonsense has led to all kinds of mystic speculations by New Calvinist; such as, the supposed truth that Christ experienced a suffering in darkness while in Mary’s womb as part of the atonement. Soon, MacArthur will be espousing such speculation from the pulpit if he doesn’t repent and return to orthodoxy. Also, note that he says that we don’t even want to eclipse Christ “partially.” This is like the Forum’s centrality of the objective gospel which led them to relegate the new birth to a position of insignificance because it involves a focus on us (subjective), and away from Christ / gospel (objective), and therefore “eclipses Christ.” And unlike the MacArthur of the past, we just have more questions to ask: “How do we partially eclipse Christ? So, other than Christ, what can we talk about? And will it partially eclipse Christ or not?”

In all of this, one should consider what the focus of Peter’s message was to the church when he knew his time of departure was near (2Peter. Ch.1). He plainly said that there was one thing that he wanted them to remember so that their calling and election would be sure. He said he wanted to constantly put them in remembrance of this theme so they wouldn’t forget after he was gone. What was that message? As glorious as it is, was it a laser focus on the personhood of Christ to the exclusion of all else? No, it was a focus on the saints “making every effort” to add certain things to their faith. If  contemplation on the personhood of Christ is singularly paramount to spiritual growth, how could Peter possibly say what he did?

This is certain: The apostle Paul said that even if he or an angel  came preaching another gospel—reject it, and trust me, MacArthur is no apostle Paul,  and I will not follow Gospel Sanctification—even if I am the last person on earth not to do so.

paul

Escaping Church and its Culture of Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 17, 2017

HF Potters House (2)

Originally published August 19, 2015

Week in, and week out, and days in-between, professing Christians meet at a local institutional church to further indoctrinate their families in the Protestant culture of death. It doesn’t seem like death as families cheerfully socialize together and lift up their hands as the hipster praise bands make a joyful noise to the Lord. In addition, charismatic orators speak of things that are clearly in the Bible.

But let’s talk about good old fashioned theological math found in the Bible. The Bible addresses the only two people groups that exist in the world: the lost and the saved. As professing Christians, we want to be biblically defined as saved people, no? Can a case be made in this post that present-day evangelicals define themselves according to what the Bible defines as “lost.” Yes. All in all I am sure you will agree; any religion that defines itself as unregenerate is a really bad idea.

Here is how the Bible defines the two people groups:

Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Every person living in the world is under law or under grace; lost or saved. Protestants define themselves as under law with under grace as a covering. Romans 6:14 is defined this way:

We are under grace because the righteousness of Christ continually saves us from being under law.

So, with Protestantism, it’s both. Under grace means we are still under law but progressively saved by grace. Under law is who we are, while we “experience” grace. Under law is what we do, under grace is what we experience. Supposedly, when Paul stated that we are “not” under law, what he really meant to say is under law is the absence of grace. The lost are only under law, but the saved are under both.

Hence, we are still under the “righteous demands of the law,” but if we are under grace, Jesus keeps the law for us. This is achieved by focusing on our sinfulness against the law, and returning to the same gospel that originally saved us out of gratitude. Objections to this idea are met with accusations of indifference to Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the “Christian” must live a “lifestyle of repentance” and constantly seek a “greater revelation of self” which is inherently sinful. The goal is to plunge the depths of our supposed total depravity. And if you are paying attention, our sin and the original gospel that saved us are the constant drumbeats we hear in the institutional church week in and week out.

Consequently, our goal is to see more and more of our reality of being under law resulting in an increased joy regarding our original salvation. Mainline evangelical Paul Washer states it this way:

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

This not only turns the Bible completely upside down, but leaves the Christian in a lifestyle of death while rejoicing in it. This is a true celebration of death, and church is the culture thereof. Romans 6 is clear about what it means to remain under law:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, if we believe our formal sinful self has been “brought to nothing,” Paul Washer’s sanctification construct is impossible, and his statement speaks to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation. How do you achieve a greater revelation of your sinful self when your former sinful self has been “brought to nothing”?

You don’t, which leaves the “believer” yet under law and in need of salvation. The “believer” needs to continually return to the same gospel that saved him/her in order to remain saved. Instead of the new birth being a onetime event that brings the former sinner to “nothing,” the new birth is defined as a joy experience resulting from revisiting the gospel afresh for forgiveness of sin that still condemns us.

This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ (Ibid).

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers?… Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (John Piper: Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers”).

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

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

Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62).

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

Therefore, “under grace” is defined as a mere qualification to return to the same gospel that saved us; in other words, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” in order to keep ourselves saved. How prevalent is this idea in the contemporary church? Consider this laundry list from Peter Lumpkins .com:

“As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior” Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network.

“Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day” Jerry Bridges, Reformed author.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves and one another every day” Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Distinctives, Lexington, KY

“The Gospel must be central to our lives and central to our message. Strive to keep the Gospel in the center of your worship ministry. Jerry Bridges tell us that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. It has been said that we never move on from the Cross, only to a more profound understanding of the Cross”

Dr. Greg Brewton, Associate Dean for Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves” Francis Chan, Passion 2011

“Yesterday was a powerful moment in the Word of God as we studied Romans 8:1-4. I challenged those present to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Why? If we do not preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will return to sin, bondage, guilt, the Law, and legalism…You see, this is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily” Ronnie Floyd, former Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

“I’ve been re-reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Discipline of Grace…Bridges reminded me of just how important it is to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” if we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“…I once assumed…that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved… But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved… . This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea” Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday… . As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we should be both encouraged and overwhelmed with gratitude, and both should give us a desire to deal with the sin in our lives” Casey Lewis, student, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves… . …Most gracious Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today…” Scotty Smith, Guest blogger at Justin Taylor’s The Gospel Coalition site and Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“How can we not shift from the hope of the Gospel? By preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily… . “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” is a phrase I first ran across in The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, and have observed for years in the life of my good friend, C.J. Mahaney. C.J. has written persuasively, biblically, and practically on this topic in his new book, Living the Cross Centered Life… . Don’t take a day off from preaching the Gospel to yourself” Bob Kaulfin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and worship leader at Covenant Life Church led by Josh Harris.

“Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy…. What can I do?’ Well, God does not mean for us to be passive. He means for us to fight the fight of faith t he fight for joy. And the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself… . John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p.81, as quoted by Bob Kauflin

I am thoroughly engrossed with Joe Thorn’s personal mediations on preaching the gospel to oneself” Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promoting Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: the Discipline of Preaching to Oneself

“In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I’ve been preaching the gospel to myself” Steve McCoy, SBC Pastor

“This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others” Timmy Brister, SBC Associate Pastor.

“I chose not to include the response to the gospel…but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself” Ed Stetzer, LifeWay

This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. “Under grace” merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!

And the culture that will result is defined in the Bible:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ said, “You must be born again.” This is clearly a doctrine that redefines the new birth by defining the “believer” as unchanged and yet under law. Along with that is an unavoidable conclusion that this also includes a fruits unto death existence that is part and parcel with being under law.

This will, and does make sin and condemnation the focus and theme of church while the Bible emphasizes ADDING virtue to our faith in contrast to a continual re-visitation of our supposed depravity.

1Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

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.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

In the past, Protestants were confused enough about their own soteriological traditions that the fruits unto death were minimal, but during this Neo-Reformed resurgence that we are witnessing presently, such is not the case; the institutional church is a blatant culture of death. And those who would expose their children to it are woefully undiscerning. Ask yourself this simple question: do I leave church better equipped to see something that the Bible states isn’t there or better equipped to love God and others? Am I better at seeing my own depravity, or have I learned new ways to love which covers a multitude of sins anyway?

The remedy for this malady is a return to where the gathering of believers belongs: in home fellowships where believers are equipped to love God and others as a lifestyle, NOT a “lifestyle of repentance.” The institutional church was first called “church” when it was founded in the 4th century, and it was founded on the same idea that believers remain under law. Therefore, an authoritative institution was created that supplied official re-salvation for those under law. The institutional church goes hand in glove with the idea that it supplies a place for re-salvation, i.e., those qualified to receive it by being “under grace.”

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

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

Come out from among them and be separate.

The Gospel According to John MacArthur’s Reformation Myth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 14, 2017

Originally published September 8, 2012

Let me state something right out of the gate: the church has never been in a Dark Age. Christ said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Imagine that. Peter wasn’t anybody—he was an everyday Joe—a blue-collar guy in that culture. Then one day God shows up personally and informs everybody that He would  oikodomhsw “be building His church,” or some translators, “I shall be home building”….mou (of me)….the ekklesian (out-called, not “church” which is not a biblical word) on Peter. You can trust me on this one: Jesus has been home building His out-called, and the construction project has never slowed down or stopped. The building project has always been on schedule and within budget—funded by the Blood. And Christ didn’t choose a John MacArthur Jr. of that day—He chose an ordinary Joe.

Right here, two pillars of the Reformation myth are found wanting. There has never been an out-called Dark Age, and Christ doesn’t primarily use renowned scholars like Martin Luther to get things done. Today’s “Reformed” “church” is built on the foundation of lofty creeds and confessions written by men of fleshly renown. The very name, “Reformed” is fundamentally false—our Lord’s building project has never needed a  “reformation”—especially at the hands of murdering mystic despots.

But two days ago, Susan and I had the rare privilege of sitting down with four men who exemplify what Christ is using to build His out-called. We held siege at the restaurant for three hours. These men so encouraged me that it is a wonder that the local police were not called accompanied by men in white attire. They bore four marks of God’s true out-called:

  1. Ordinary men.

  2. Thinkers who constantly wrestle with understanding.

  3. Wholly devoted to truth.

  4. Sold-out to the sufficiency of the Scriptures as their only authority.

Somewhere in the world since the day Christ showed up and walked into the everyday lives of twelve men, He has been slowly building His out-called. He has been building with those who possess the same spirit of Noah and is in-fact a fifth mark: they will stand alone if they have to. In the present day neo-Reformed blitzkrieg, it is, and will be two or three families who come out from among them, weeping with sorrow, often leaving the only church they have ever known while the door is held open for them by the young, petulant Reformers of our day that despise the sweat and blood that built the work that they have covertly sieged. As our brother Jude said of these brute beasts, they slip in “unawares” (v.4).

Basically, the problem is the same as when Christ showed up to found His out-called. The religion of the day was founded on the authority and institutions of self-important men. People where amazed that Christ didn’t check in with the academics before He launched His ministry, nor quoted the spiritual brainiacs of that day. Likewise, if Christ came today, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and the insufferable likes of obnoxious men like Steve Lawson and Paul Washer would watch with incredulities as Christ would ignore them and make a b-line for the ghettos—choosing His workers and confidants from among them.

So how should I view an article sent to me by a reader that was written by John MacArthur regarding the Reformation motif of “Justification by faith.” First, as I am presently teaching my family, ALL ideas presented by men, and I believe that MacArthur fits into that category, will entail a litany of propositions that lead to a conclusion. Therefore,  let us examine and wrestle with the propositions presented by MacArthur in this article (Justification by Faith: online source: http://goo.gl/xJyFO).

Proposition 1: “The Reformation doctrine of justification by faith is, and has always been, the number one target of the enemy’s attack.”

The “Reformation doctrine”? Excuse me Mr. MacArthur (hereafter, JM), but we get our doctrine from the Bible, not the Reformers, who, as I have noted, are an oxymoron to begin with. In the first sentence of this article, JM sets up an authority between the out-called priests (that’s us) and the word of God. Therefore, his article is predicated on a proposition by men who are not original authors chosen by God— buyers beware. Hence, if we are discerning, JM has raised the propositional ante to a considerable level. By citing the preapproved authors of the Bible, additional consideration could have been avoided.

JM goes on to state that this doctrine, “….provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man — without that key doctrine, Christianity falls.” This should now incite interpretive questions for the proposition:

  1. Could the Reformers have been wrong?

  2. Even if they were right, is there a danger in making Reformed epistemology a standard of truth?

  3. Is the claim that the church stands or falls on this doctrine establishing Reformation doctrine as a significant authority? And if so, is this wise?

Proposition 2: “Social and political concerns have brought evangelicals and Catholics together in recent years to unite against the forces of secularism. Under the influence of ecumenism, it’s difficult for either group to remember what it was that divided them in the first place.

The pragmatists and ecumenicists are aided in their forgetfulness by new theological movements that redefine justification in more Catholic terms. Under the influence of liberalism and postmodernism, proponents of the New Perspective on Paul, the Emergent Church, and others have so confused and redefined the doctrine of justification that it has become shrouded in darkness once again

The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.”

JM asserts that the Reformation was a marked contrast between Catholicism and the Reformers. Catholic influence is dragging the “church” back into a “Dark Age.” Regardless of the nomenclature of which he frames this proposition, he begins to articulate the Reformation motif in a way that is traditional, and packaged for fairly easy digestion—if you understand the premise of the motif, and we soon will.

The key here is this part of JM’s proposition: “….and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture.” First, throughout his post, JM uses the term “Reformation doctrine” and “Scripture” interchangeably. Hence, he is proposing that the two are synonymous—he is asking that you accept this proposition as fact. But what we want to focus on here as a gateway of understanding is the word “subjectivism” in his proposition. This is key to understanding my counter proposition:

  1. There was no difference in Reformation doctrine and Catholic doctrine.

  2. Subjective verses objective  is key to understanding the Reformed denial of the new birth that predicates its false gospel.

MacArthur begins to propagate the traditional Reformed dogma of subjective verses objective;  that is, as I have previously stated, the crux of their doctrine.

And is that biblical? Is Reformed doctrine biblical doctrine? Is the Reformed gospel the biblical gospel?

The History of the Reformation Motif / Myth

We will take an interlude on the way to our understanding to examine the very significant contemporary contribution to understanding Reformation doctrine by its own proponents and advocates. It is true that Reformation doctrine has experienced  times of low recognition followed by “rediscovery,” “resurgence,” and “revival” since the Sixteenth century. The last resurgence began in 1970. It was a rediscovery of authentic Reformed theology that launched the SDA Awakening Movement. Until then, the doctrine had never been framed in a subjective verses objective  model of understanding. “Subjectivism” was fingered as the root of all evil verses the, and here it is: objective gospel outside of us.  More specifically, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Hereafter, COGOUS.

This apt method of framing Reformation doctrine was the brainchild of SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead, who was joined by Anglican theologians Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy, and later by Reformed Baptist Jon Zens. They attributed all contra Reformation beliefs and movements such as the Enlightenment era to “subjectivism.” JM shows his kinship to this contemporary understanding of Reformation theology via his propositions in said article, of which the sender asked, “Does this muddy the waters?” Answer: no, in-fact, it clarifies MacArthur’s participation in the endeavor to save the church from a supposed “Evangelical Dark Age.”

The theological think tank formed by this “core four” was known as the Australian Forum and their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine which was the most publicized theological journal in English speaking countries during the Seventies. They compiled a vast amount of documentation that clearly shows that the Reformation gospel of Luther and Calvin was the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. It contends that if the power of God is infused into the believer, it will enable him/her to, as the truism states, “know enough to be dangerous.”

Because the Reformers saw justification and sanctification as the same thing, they argued that any enablement infused into the believer would automatically contribute to the justification process which they saw as progressive. Please note: this is exactly what JM et al accuse the Catholics of, but as we shall see, they are both guilty of this same thing: the fusion of justification and sanctification together.

Hence, in contemporary lingo, the outcry of the Reformers against Rome was the “infusion of grace into the believer—making sanctification the ground of his/her justification.” In other words, all enablement and spiritual life must remain outside of the believer. All of the power of grace must remain ‘objective” by staying outside of the believer. This Reformed paradigm was brilliantly illustrated by the Australian Four, hereafter A4, by the following pictorial illustration:

Also let me demonstrate by another A4 pictorial that they believed justification was progressive:

I will later explain the application of the two-man chart  in this post. I can most certainly read your mind as you look at it: “How in the world does that work in real life?”

We will now further my contra proposition by substantiating some of my sub-propositions. Let’s first establish that one of the elder statesmen of the neo-Reformed movement, John Piper, and a close confidant of JM, agree with the AF’s contemporarily framed assessment of authentic Reformed doctrine, hereafter, ARD. Graeme Goldsworthy, one of the original A4, recently lectured at Southern Seminary on the Reformation. John Piper wrote an article on Goldsworthy’s lecture (Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary: Desiring God blog, June 25, 2009). Piper’s assessment of Goldsworthy’s lecture is a major smoking gun in regard to agreement on ARD:

In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….

This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….

When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].

Note, if you think about it, it is impossible to “reverse” justification and sanctification unless they are on the same plane. Nor can you turn a two-part object upside down unless both parts are attached—making either one the “ground” or otherwise. Hence, a careful observation of Piper’s use of words betrays his subtleness in regard to believing in the fusion of justification and sanctification together. Furthermore, Piper’s beef with Catholicism is not the fusion of justification and sanctification together per se, but rather the infusion of grace into the believer. The AF two-man illustration depicts Piper’s contention to a “T.” Note the exact same issue: Christ within, or Christ without. Just grasp that for now, and put the absurdity of it on the back burner—it will come together for you later.

Basically, if God’s grace/goodness is placed within the believer, he/she becomes enabled enough to become dangerous leading to all of the terrible things inside of the guy looking down. Everything must remain outside of the believer, leading to all of the good things listed on the right side of the chart which are listed outside of him. Don’t miss that. Today’s church owes Robert Brinsmead a tremendous debt of gratitude for publishing this chart.

A Major Key to Understanding: John H. Armstrong and SUBJECTIVISM

Now, let’s take yet another sub interlude to further my contra proposition. The following illustration shows how the AF made the objective/subjective / Christ within / Christ without the major crux of ARD:

A theologian named John H. Armstrong eludes to this exact survey in Present Truth to make a point in an article that he wrote (The Highway blog: Article of the Month;  Sola Fide: Does It really Matter?). Armstrong was the general editor of a combined work called The Coming Evangelical Crisis (1996 by Moody Bible Institute) that included the who’s who of the neo-Reformed movement: R. Kent Houghs; John MacArthur; RC Sproul; and heretics Michael S. Horton and Albert Mohler Jr. Armstrong stated the following in the aforementioned article:

The sixteenth-century rediscovery of Paul’s objective message of justification by faith [and sanctification also because justification is supposedly progressive] came upon the religious scene of that time with a force and passion that totally altered the course of human history. It ignited the greatest reformation and revival known since Pentecost.

Now, if the Fathers of the early church, so nearly removed in time from Paul, lost touch with the Pauline message, how much more is this true in succeeding generations? The powerful truth of righteousness by faith needs to be restated plainly, and understood clearly, by every new generation.

In our time we are awash in a “Sea of Subjectivism,” as one magazine put it over twenty years ago. Let me explain. In 1972 a publication known as Present Truth published the results of a survey with a five-point questionnaire which dealt with the most basic issues between the medieval church and the Reformation. Polling showed 95 per cent of the “Jesus People” were decidedly medieval and anti-Reformation in their doctrinal thinking about the gospel. Among church-going Protestants they found ratings nearly as high….

I do not believe that the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith can be overstated. We are once again in desperate need of recovery. Darkness has descended upon the evangelical world in North America and beyond, much as it had upon the established sixteenth-century church.

As JM said in our observation of the article at hand:

….the doctrine of justification….has become shrouded in darkness once again. The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages.

And,

Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.

JM, John Piper, Armstrong, Graeme Goldsworthy, and what they call the “Justification by faith” doctrine—all the same camp, and the same belief: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.

How in the World Does COGOUS Work in Real Life?

As far as how this doctrine functions, there are two camps. But in both camps, the believer remains unchanged and totally depraved. The crux of COGOUS is that sanctification is a total work of God because it finishes justification. The doctrine then frames man’s role in regard to Gnostic ideas. In fact, the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is a Gnostic idea. Calvin claims therein that all knowledge is contained in the knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God. Since we already know that Calvin believed in the total depravity of man, this is the knowledge of good and evil.

Calvin, right out of the gate, states that this is the core of all true wisdom. So, what you begin to see when reading the works of various Reformers of old and new, is the idea that change begins with wisdom, and as we see our own depravity in deeper and deeper ways, and the holiness of God in deeper and deeper ways (which the former facilitates as well), a transformation takes place. Not in us, of course, we are totally depraved—we therefore cannot change—we rather manifest a realm. As it was explained to me by a fairly well known Calvinist, there is a Spirit realm, and a flesh realm (not an old nature within us), and both put pressure on us if we are saved, and we either “yield” to one or the other realms at any given time. But again, we don’t change, we merely manifest a realm. Out of this comes terms like, “Pastor of Spiritual Formation,” and “heart formation,” or “spiritual transformation.” Notice that the “spiritual” is being transformed, not us. I am presently doing research to get a more refined understanding in regard to “what this looks like.” Apparently, an exercise of our own will to obey is creating our own reality instead of “His preordained story.”

A rough sketch follows: all reality points to Christ’s glory, and all reality is wrapped up in the gospel and interpreted by it (the first tenet of New Covenant Theology).  All history is “redemptive.” Therefore, all historical events, and events period, are preordained by God to show us wisdom; ie, the knowledge of the good (Christ), and the knowledge of the evil (our own depravity), and both point to God’s glory and “show forth the gospel.” So, all events in life are preordained by God to show us our own depravity, and His holiness. That’s the first way we gain wisdom of ourselves and God, and when we see it, our manifestation results in part of the grand gospel narrative preordained by God.

The second way that we manifest the gospel is through seeing historic events in the Bible that represent the same kind of events that happen in redemptive history. The Bible, in the same way that redemptive history does, gives us wisdom in regard to our own evil and God’s holiness, again resulting in redemptive historical manifestations. If we respond improperly to the redemptive historical event (whether good or bad), we reap “bad fruit” (ie., a bad manifestation) which lends further opportunity for deeper understanding of our own depravity and more glory for God. If we participate properly in the gospel story, we are assured peace and joy regardless of our circumstances (because we are in essence detached from reality in my view). Many Reformed  thinkers such as David Powlison and Paul David Tripp call this,

The big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot! (Paul D. Tripp: How People Change, p.94).

As I said before, there are two camps: one rejects any kind of work at all by Christ in us, but Tripp is of the other camp that teaches that we remain totally depraved,  but Christ does do a work in us, albeit His work in totality. Tripp states that as we gain deeper understanding of our own evil (deep repentance), our hearts are emptied of idols which then results in a filling of Christ resulting in spiritual formations or manifestations (Ibid, p. 28). Others believe that whatever we see in the Bible ( like a circumstance of Christ’s love) is imputed to us as we see it and understand it. Many of Reformed thought call this “such and such ( love or whatever) by proxy.”  It is also known as the “active obedience of Christ” or progressive imputation. Following is an illustration of some of these ideas presented here (Ibid, p.100):

But you can also see some of these concepts if you refer back to the two-man chart. The gospel man meditates on “Grace, Justification, Perfection, Security, immortality, Law,” but these things remain outside of him as manifestations of the objective gospel. But the Christ within man has these things inside of him because that is where his focus is (subjective). Following is another Reformed illustration of what we are talking about. Notice that the cross gets bigger—not us. We don’t grow—the cross does. The cross represents grace outside of us; so, the cross is seen as bigger (ie, God is glorified) while we don’t change. These manifestations make God look bigger while not being connected to anything recognized as us being new and improved. Michael Horton refers to this as “preaching the gospel instead of being the gospel.”

MacArthur often conveys ideas that do nothing in regard to separating himself from this absurd mysticism. In writing the Forward to the Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing the Son  by former associate Rick Holland, JM states the following:

As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next.  This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds.  We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it.  That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.

Let’s now return to the article at hand and address the more relevant parts. In the section entitled, “Back to the Beginning,” JM sates the following:

In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).

One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life — and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness — and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).

JM then fails to mention that Luther believed that this justification passage also applies to sanctification. Then JM sates the following under the next heading, Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?:

In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life….

Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent — depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.

In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty — fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.

This all looks to be very solid theologically, but I want you to notice that JM fails to mention that Justification is a finished work. That’s key. And it’s key because of what he states next:

Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.

The problem here is the implication that a pardon is not enough, and that our “standing” must be maintained lest we find ourselves “without merit”…. “before God.”  This is problematic because any kind of standard that would maintain merit before God for justification is voided (Romans 7;1-4). There is simply no merit or standard left for a Christian to be judged by in regard to justification.

But the smoking gun that convicts MacArthur in fusing justification and sanctification together in this same article follows under “How Justification and Sanctification Differ.” JM starts out well with this statement:

Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:

After stating this, JM, evokes the classic neo-Reformed double-speak sleight of hand for fusing justification and sanctification together without appearing to do so:

Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.

JM also clearly states that progressive sanctification is part of the same “salvation” process that justification is also a part of ; hence, they supposedly can’t be separated. But the Bible authors only speak of sanctification as salvation in a manner of speaking because there are three sanctifications: positional (1Cor. 6:11), progressive/practical (2 Cor. 7:11, 2 Peter ch. 1),  and complete (1 Cor. 6:11[those who are sanctified positionally are glorified as well]), but only one justification that is a onetime legal declaration (Romans 8:30).

Furthermore, JM’s use of the distinct but never separate sleight of hand is the exact same mantra constantly used by many in the neo-Reformed crowd:

Though justification and sanctification cannot be separated they must be distinguished.

~ Ernest Reisinger

It would also stand to reason therefore that MacArthur, like all of the neo-Reformed, would not see any role for the believer in sanctification other than gospel contemplationism.  This can be confirmed by reviewing the previous excerpt from Holland’s  book.

Classic Reformed Kettles Calling the Pot Black

We now observe a trait by JM that was never true about him before he went over to the dark side—blatant contradictions that assume the utter stupidity of his followers. He follows the neo-Reformed protocol for drawing the line of distinction between the Reformers and Rome in this way:

Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification.

So, the two cannot be “separate,” but they can be blended? But what JM states next brings us full circle to what we observed in John Piper’s article on the Goldsworthy lecture at Southern:

Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner — not the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Please note JM’s either/or interpretive prism, (a neo-Reformed distinctive) that eliminates the possibility that the believer is empowered by the Spirit internally for something that is separate from justification; namely, kingdom living. Notice that the issue is specifically “something good” inside the believer verses the “imputed righteousness of Christ.”  Obviously, JM rejects the idea that it can be both, and whatever it is, it must point back to justification if it is something “good” inside of the believer.

Rome’s motive for fusing the two together is beside the point, both the Reformers and Rome believe the two cannot be separated. Hence, for Rome it was easy: Christ forgives all of your past sins, but now you must do certain things to complete your justification because salvation is linear with both justification and sanctification on the same plane. Likewise, the Reformers believe in the same linear gospel, but pardon it by making everything that needs to be done to complete justification—totally of Christ alone. This requires us to remain totally depraved in the process and utilizes Gnosticism for whatever application can be surmised. Frankly, this is the first time that I have seen writings from JM that totally remove all doubt that he has bought into this doctrine , hook, line, and sinker.

JM continues:

If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.

The contradictions here are mindboggling. Again,  “If sanctification is included in justification….” Is somehow different from, “… . but can never be separated.”  Like all in this camp, JM complains about those who combine the two, while at the same time stating that they cannot be separated.

But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this.  While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated,  but are distinct,  like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two. According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.”  Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:

If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.

But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated.  Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. In fact, Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in his teaching is truly sad to watch.

What is it going to take to overcome this kind of error in the church? Christians who think, and love truth enough to wrestle with it long and hard. That’s going to be a small percentage of Christians as thinking is also not in vogue.

Nevertheless, they are out there—Christ said they would be in increasing numbers as He continues to build His out-called ones.

Addendum:

But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this.  While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but are distinct, like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two.  According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.”  Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:

If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.

But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated.  Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in MacArthur’s teaching is truly sad to watch when one considers what he once was.

paul

John Piper’s “One Judgment” False Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 25, 2017
%d bloggers like this: