Paul's Passing Thoughts

Doublespeak

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 29, 2017

Originally published November 5, 2015doublespeak

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The Secular World Understands Reality Better Than Protestants

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on October 12, 2017

Origandy-profile-1inally published October 12, 2016

In the eight-plus years that TANC Ministries has been researching the vile doctrine of Calvinism and the evil that is authentic Protestant orthodoxy, one fact emerges over and over again – Protestants are the most confused group of individuals that there ever was. I was reminded of that fact once again when an article appeared in my Facebook newsfeed this morning entitled, “Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics”. The article was published in the “Religion” section of a secular news site called “The Federalist”

Here’s the deal. Protestantism is founded in the Gnostic concept that man is totally unable to comprehend true knowledge, and as a result, man must be ruled by the select few who have the “gnosis”, the “knowledge” that man “knows nothing”. This root assumption has been the basis for every form of tyranny and spiritual abuse since the beginning of time. Protestantism is no exception, no matter how you dress it up in Bible verses.

So when I read an article that concludes that the majority of those who call themselves “Christians” have relatively little actual Bible knowledge, it comes as no surprise to me, not only because of what I know with regard to authentic Protestantism and its metaphysical assumptions, but I can recall hearing similar results of “studies” throughout my life. Funny how a system of orthodoxy that depends on a Biblically illiterate laity to maintain its control and authority publishes the results of a survey that bemoans that very thing – Biblical illiteracy.

This article is only the most recent to come to this conclusion in the past 40 years, if not the past 500 or more. Since the time of the reformation and before, “Christians” have always been woefully illiterate in their understanding of exactly what God has revealed to man in His philosophical statement on reality, also known as “The Bible”. But in today’s information age they have no excuse. Knowledge and wisdom are there for those who have the courage to seek it out!

Let’s look at some of the more interesting statements found in this article in question, beginning with one of the opening paragraphs:

“A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself.”

According to their own website, “LifeWay Christian Resources is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian resources, including services, Bibles, Bible studies, research, events, church music and supplies, and digital services.”  The number of books written by the “who’s who” of mostly reformed academia is voluminous, and it grows bigger every month. Just talk to any one of your “Christian” friends and they will be sure to talk about the latest book or “devotional” written by their favorite author/elder/pastor/spiritual guru (read “Philosopher Kings”). And reformed “Christian” blogs such as “Ligonier” abound. Yet despite all of these resources and the countless amounts of money spent in the “Christian” publications industry, this article concludes, “startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions.” Surely this can’t be because people aren’t reading enough John Piper!

Exactly what are these “ancient errors” supposedly condemned by “Christian traditions?” Again from the article:

“Two-thirds admitted that everyone sins a little bit, but still insisted that most people are good by nature, which directly contradicts scripture (See ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,’ and ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’).”

What is probably worse than the false doctrine of “total depravity” is the outright lie that “total depravity” is unique to “orthodox Christianity”.   In fact the exact opposite is true. I need only refer you to the 2015 TANC Conference and speaker, John Immel, who gave us an outstanding survey of deterministic thought throughout history. In those 2015 sessions we learned that in every philosophical system of thought, the one major theme that was consistent over and over again was the concept of the depravity of man and some deterministic force compelling his actions. (View clip here) So to suggest that the idea of “total depravity” is a concept unique to Christianity is beyond disingenuous.

But what I find remarkable is that despite the “Christian tradition” emphasis on total depravity, man (secular, unregenerate man for the most part, but some professing “Christians” as well) still has a propensity to regard man himself as existentially good. I believe that this is the natural and correct assessment of man because it is consistent not only with what man knows to be true in and of himself but also because of what his own senses tell him in simply observing reality around him. Despite the evil that is in the world, it is man who chooses whether or not he can do good things or bad things. This is not a contradiction of scripture, this is a contradiction of a false “orthodox” interpretation of scripture.

Man is not condemned because he is “totally depraved” and cannot “do good”. Man is condemned because he is under law. The remedy is not to have One who “does good for us” so that His obedience can be vicariously imputed to our account. No, the remedy is for the law to be ended so that it can no longer condemn. This is what the New Birth accomplishes. For the one who is born again, the old man has died. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of the Father, and the law has no jurisdiction over him. He cannot be judged by it, and therefore, he cannot be condemned by it. He is truly free to use the law as a means to show love to God and to others. He can love without fear of condemnation.

Furthermore, the Bible never teaches that man has a “sin nature”. The statement in Ephesians, “for all have sinned” is indeed a statement of fact. Yes, all have sinned, but that is not indicative of man’s nature.  Man is not metaphysically evil.  It simply means that the unregenerate man is under law and has transgressed that law and is therefore subject to condemnation. In contrast, the Bible teaches that man (flesh) is “weak”, but that man is able to choose how to use his flesh; to do evil or to do good. Because the unregenerate man is a slave to the Sin-master, he will have a propensity to obey the master who pays his wages. But he still is able to choose to do good. Since the Sin-master only pays wages of death, choosing to do good only results in less death, but death just the same.

This is why “Christians” are so confused. They understand that man, even “Christians”, do wrong things. Orthodoxy labels this as “sin” because all of “Christianity” has a single-perspective on sin, that is, ALL sin is condemning. This is the source of what they perceive as a contradiction. They intuitively know man is good but are taught that even the good they do is evil. And so when they “sin”, the natural response because of what they have been taught is fear of condemnation.

Here is another point from the article:

“They also saw a huge increase in evangelicals (28 percent, up from 9 percent) who indicated that the Third Person of the Trinity is not equal with God the Father or Jesus, a direct contradiction of orthodox Christianity.”

Protestantism teaches the believer to have an ever-deeper understanding of his own depravity (sin) while having an ever-growing awareness of God’s holiness. As he does this, the cross (and what Jesus does for us) gets bigger and bigger. The emphasis is always on, not just what Jesus did, but what He is still doing for the “Christian” every day, living and obeying the law in our stead so that we can have “the imputed righteousness of Christ”.

crosschart

Such orthodoxy not only keeps the “Christian” under law, but it emphasizes the role of Christ at the expense of the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father is regarded as a vengeful monster who is to be feared, and Christ is the only one who stands in the way to deflect the Fathers wrath. The Holy Spirit is simply the agent whom God sends to the “elect” for the purpose of regenerating them to a “saving faith”. He is rarely if ever presented as the Comforter who empowers the born again believer to live a sanctified life through obedience. With the Protestant emphasis on the “Cross-Centered” gospel, or the “Christ-Centered” gospel, is there why wonder why Christians hold a diminished view of the roles of the other members of the Trinity?

The writer of the article goes on to address the issue that “Christians” don’t seem to be very well-read when it comes to the Bible, yet they would cite the Bible as being an important part of their lives, going so far as to refer to it as the primary source of authority for living. He cites the following as an example:

“Former Newsday religion reporter Kenneth Briggs recently told Religion News Service that the faith he finds in ‘mega-type churches’ is a ‘Bible-less,’ ‘alternative version of Christianity.’ Scripture, he says, has become ‘a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.’”

Such is true not only of “mega-churches” with thousands of members, but it also holds true for the smaller community churches with membership rolls in the hundreds or less. This is not a statement on the church size or the “style of worship”. It is a testament to the fact that the Bible itself has become irrelevant when it comes to faith and Godliness. While “mega-churches” might be more inclined to a “pop-psychology” approach to teaching and preaching, in 99% of modern churches, the very truths of scripture have been replaced with orthodoxy presented by mere men who have become the self-appointed mediators between God and man. These are the “divines” who have been ordained by God to reinterpret reality for the great, unwashed masses. When the laity have become followers of men, they have no need to open their Bibles, let alone consider what the Bible itself has to say about things.

Ironic, too, that an organization such as LifeWay, who’s industry includes the publication of “Christian” literature, is incredulous that Christians spend so little time reading their Bibles. I dare say that if more and more “Christians” actually spent more time in the study of God’s word for themselves, rather than relying on someone to interpret it for them, it would be the “Christian” book stores that would eventually become irrelevant.

Christians are uninformed about Christianity for the same reason that people in secular society are uninformed about politics. In both cases the answer is because people have outsourced their brains to someone else. They are much too involved in the comforts of their own existence to care about the larger matters. They leave that for the “experts”. It is much easier to let someone else tell you how you should think about something than to do all that heavy lifting on your own. And the so-called “experts”, whether secular (politicians, pundits, “talking heads”, media) or religious (pastors, elders, academics, scholars, “popes”), take advantage of that reality for their own ends; control over the uninformed masses.

The author proposes a few possible solutions in all of this. While the survey specifically polled those who profess to be Christians, he believes that the study of the Bible is beneficial for unbelievers as well.

“For those who don’t profess Christianity, gaining a basic understanding of the creeds and Scriptures of the religion that built our civilization isn’t a bad idea, either. As Indian Christian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi writes, the Bible created the modern world by making the West a reading and thinking civilization, and by grounding this reading and thinking in the idea that truth is knowable.”

Well, that’s not a completely honest assessment. The notion that “truth is knowable” runs counter to Protestantism and its Gnostic roots, where the only “truth” that is knowable is that you cannot “know” anything. Truth is to be for those in self-appointed authority who have been gifted to bring this “knowledge of knowing nothing” to the rest of us. Yet Protestantism lays claim to this kind of “knowledge” as being the foundational philosophy of western civilization. The reality is that it was this same kind of thinking that kept man in the Dark Ages, and it is what is responsible for our own spiritual dark age in which we presently find ourselves.

The rebirth of thought that ushered in the Age of Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries happened in spite of religion, not because of it. The Bible did not create a world of reading and thinking. It was reading and thinking that enabled man to regard Biblical truth with the right interpretive assumptions. Men rejected the notion of “total depravity” and rediscovered the principles of individualism and man’s ability. These are the very premises that gave rise to “Americanism” and which made our nation the greatest the world has ever seen. Contrary to Protestant orthodoxy, the Bible speaks very highly of man’s ability. Even God Himself values the individual and his ability to reason (after all, we are all made in God’s image), so much so that He made it possible for the condemnation of the law to be ended so that man could be reconciled to Himself as members of His own family!

If Protestants are Biblically illiterate, it is because Protestantism made them that way. I dare say that the majority of “Christians” are more “secular” in their philosophy (without even knowing it) than they care to admit. The results of the survey in this article would seem to support that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If nothing else, it offers a valid explanation for the current mass exodus from the modern institutional church. People can just no longer tolerate the rational inconsistencies they observe between reality and Protestant orthodoxy. And perhaps as a matter of consequence, many of them might actually end up taking that Bible off the shelf, blow the dust off the cover, and start reading it for themselves.

Andy

John Piper Proclaims “Christians” Condemned and in Need of Continued Salvation

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 24, 2017

JohnPiperOriginally Published September 30, 2015

One of the major truths that will be emphasized in the present TANC book project is that the Protestant Reformation was NOT based on the Bible. The Protestant kerfuffle with Rome concerned differences in world philosophy—not theology. Sola scriptura is a blatant falsehood. Martin Luther concocted a contending worldview in opposition to an increased influence of Thomism in the Catholic Church. Luther then dressed up his philosophy in Bible verses. Actually, to be more specific, he dressed up Neo-Platonism in biblical garb. This is hardly some deep, dark secret; a cursory observation of church history reveals this, unless you get your church history from a Protestant seminary.

Since the Protestant Reformation was really based on Plato’s Republic, the necessary theological fit was/is progressive justification for those who are preselected and the last to know if they are really selected or not. They get the news at the final judgment. Until then, EVERYBODY is presently under condemnation and in need of continued justification because we have “present sin.” In order to be perpetually rejustified, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” obey the pastors, and be a faithful church member.

Due to the fact that sola scriptura is a farce, the present-day expression of authentic Protestantism via New Calvinists routinely contradicts the plain sense of Scripture in insane fashion, and nobody blinks an eye. Moreover, cowardly pastors who know better even as confused Protestants allow the New Calvinists to be named and quoted among their sheep.

Let’s talk about one example, the one that prompted this post. On August 22, 2015, John Piper prayed at a Christian anti-abortion rally at a Planned Parenthood location in St. Paul, Minnesota. In that prayer, he stated:

“And we acknowledge in the face of your holiness and power that we are sinners. Everyone standing here in this gathering is a sinner in desperate need of salvation that you offer in Jesus Christ. We know that our conscience condemns us, and if our own consciences do, how much more your holy law. So we have not lived up even to our own standards, let alone to your standards. And we confess our sins corporately before you as individuals.”

In direct conflict to the Bible’s clear definition of a believer, Piper proclaimed everyone at the gathering as condemned under the law; this is the Bible’s succinct definition of a lost person. In addition, Piper clearly proclaimed in the prayer that Christians are still in need of salvation.

How does he get away with this and stand as one of the most beloved evangelicals of our day? Because he supposedly has authority, and we the believers have no real ability to perceive truth. Clearly, if it comes down to what we understand our Bibles to say versus what John Piper says, he will win the day every time.

So then, for all practical purposes, he speaks for God.

paul

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

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

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