Paul's Passing Thoughts

Smoking Gun: ACBC is a Nationwide Divorce Mill

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 13, 2017

OrigEDMinally published July 13, 2015

For a more detailed discussion on this book, check out Susan Dohse’s book review and commentary here

Christ made it clear that what God has brought together NO man is to separate. Does this mean God predetermines every marriage in regard to particular spouses? I doubt it. This probably refers to God’s covenant of marriage and the theology of vows. At any rate, death, unrepentant adultery, and an unbeliever who abandons their believing spouse are the only exceptions.

How does one live happily with a spouse who has become difficult? For Protestants, that is a hard question because the focus has been on justification for 500 years with little emphasis on the biblical art of godly living (sanctification). When you are supposedly sanctified by a perpetual “return to the gospel afresh”… knowledge on how to repair a marriage is going to be what it is today, practically nonexistent. And of course, living by the same gospel that saves us (not saved us) is a very complex matter needing the ongoing “research and development” of gospel-centered experts.

Add to that: Protestants don’t even have justification right. Little wonder then that the institutional church is a train wreck after 500 years of scholarship and trillions of hard-earned laity dollars. What is the answer? The answer is a laity movement that will reclaim the priesthood of believers seized by Gnostic hacks dressed in biblical garb.

The answers will come through one Lord, and one word interpreted by individuals indwelt by the Spirit who gives all knowledge needed for life and godliness liberally. In case we forget the obvious, “I was only obeying the elders” will not cut it when you stand before Christ and His blazing eyes of fire. The Nazis were very good at being “subordinate,” and many were hanged accordingly. I realize Reformed elders claim God gave them His authority to rule on earth, but you may want to rethink that claim.

As predicted, the biblical counseling movement overseen primarily by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has become a divorce mill via its efforts to build marriages that “look like the gospel.” And the smoking gun is a book written by Leslie Vernick titled The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope that is widely used among ACBC counselors.

The obvious problems here are first seen in the title of the book. As Christians, is it really our goal to, “find our voice”? I thought it was our goal to please God in every circumstance. Secondly, the idea of emotional destruction is subjective at best and a ticket to do anything you want at worst. To make the point here, Google “American Civil Law.” In a culture judging anything that causes bad feelings to be abuse, such an approach to “biblical counseling” should give one pause.

Thirdly, why do Christians need a 240 page book written by a serial regurgitator of other people’s thoughts to FIND hope? You would think that by now Christians would be fairly certain about where hope is found.

Chilling is the examination of the 61-question survey found in the book that supposedly determines if one is in an abusive relationship or not. In the hands of a person that is unhappy in their marriage, the outcome will be a foregone conclusion. It’s like asking a chicken if Colonel Sanders is an emotional abuser.

The lynchpin becomes the ACBC’s loose interpretation of 1Corinthians 7:12-16. If the spouse is already an unbeliever, emotional abuse is tantamount to departing from the marriage even if they have not left physically or filed for divorce. Church discipline takes care of the pesky obstacle of the “abusive” spouse being a believer—they can be declared an unbeliever…actually MADE an unbeliever by elder authority supposedly vested to them by God. This paves the way for sanctified divorce.

It boils down to this: whoever is handed the book by the counselor is coronated as the abused spouse. Be sure of this: if both counselees in a bad marriage were handed the book, both would be guilty of the same thing. This is the smoking gun: it depends on who the ACBC “biblical counselor” wants to label abusive for whatever the motives might be.

I think a present situation that I am involved in says it all. I know enough about the situation to know that if the person I am talking with took the book’s survey, the other spouse would be judged as emotionally abusive hands down. The other spouse was handed the book because of who the ACBC counselor wanted to label “abusive.”

This is the niche service that Leslie Vernick now supplies to ACBC counselors.

paul

How to Sign Away Your Life to a Biblical Counselor

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 19, 2015

We have previously discussed how most “church covenants” in our day state that you must have permission from the elders to vacate membership, and that these so-called “covenants” are legally binding contracts that waive your rights to certain state laws. Hence, your salvation can be cancelled by the elders, and you can be publicly humiliated for “insubordination.” An example can be seen following:

Shawnee membership dismissal cropped

If you’re a person who doesn’t have many skeletons in your closet, they will leave the congregation to their own imaginations. But, if they have the goods on you, that will be announced. And, the primary way they obtain the goods on you is by obtaining your trust through discipleship and formal counseling. Though confidentiality is assumed, biblical counselors certified by ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) do not have to play by the same rules. Following is a video capture of an ACBC counselee data sheet. Basically, if you are a person with a lot of baggage and you fill this out, they own you.

Smoking Gun: ACBC is a Nationwide Divorce Mill

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

EDMChrist made it clear that what God has brought together NO man is to separate. Does this mean God predetermines every marriage in regard to particular spouses? I doubt it. This probably refers to God’s covenant of marriage and the theology of vows. At any rate, death, unrepentant adultery, and an unbeliever who abandons their believing spouse are the only exceptions.

How does one live happily with a spouse who has become difficult? For Protestants, that is a hard question because the focus has been on justification for 500 years with little emphasis on the biblical art of godly living (sanctification). When you are supposedly sanctified by a perpetual “return to the gospel afresh”… knowledge on how to repair a marriage is going to be what it is today, practically nonexistent. And of course, living by the same gospel that saves us (not saved us) is a very complex matter needing the ongoing “research and development” of gospel-centered experts.

Add to that: Protestants don’t even have justification right. Little wonder then that the institutional church is a train wreck after 500 years of scholarship and trillions of hard-earned laity dollars. What is the answer? The answer is a laity movement that will reclaim the priesthood of believers seized by Gnostic hacks dressed in biblical garb.

The answers will come through one Lord, and one word interpreted by individuals indwelt by the Spirit who gives all knowledge needed for life and godliness liberally. In case we forget the obvious, “I was only obeying the elders” will not cut it when you stand before Christ and His blazing eyes of fire. The Nazis were very good at being “subordinate,” and many were hanged accordingly. I realize Reformed elders claim God gave them His authority to rule on earth, but you may want to rethink that claim.

As predicted, the biblical counseling movement overseen primarily by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has become a divorce mill via its efforts to build marriages that “look like the gospel.” And the smoking gun is a book written by Leslie Vernick titled The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope that is widely used among ACBC counselors.

The obvious problems here are first seen in the title of the book. As Christians, is it really our goal to, “find our voice”? I thought it was our goal to please God in every circumstance. Secondly, the idea of emotional destruction is subjective at best and a ticket to do anything you want at worst. To make the point here, Google “American Civil Law.” In a culture judging anything that causes bad feelings to be abuse, such an approach to “biblical counseling” should give one pause.

Thirdly, why do Christians need a 240 page book written by a serial regurgitator of other people’s thoughts to FIND hope? You would think that by now Christians would be fairly certain about where hope is found.

Chilling is the examination of the 61-question survey found in the book that supposedly determines if one is in an abusive relationship or not. In the hands of a person that is unhappy in their marriage, the outcome will be a foregone conclusion. It’s like asking a chicken if Colonel Sanders is an emotional abuser.

The lynchpin becomes the ACBC’s loose interpretation of 1Corinthians 7:12-16. If the spouse is already an unbeliever, emotional abuse is tantamount to departing from the marriage even if they have not left physically or filed for divorce. Church discipline takes care of the pesky obstacle of the “abusive” spouse being a believer—they can be declared an unbeliever…actually MADE an unbeliever by elder authority supposedly vested to them by God. This paves the way for sanctified divorce.

It boils down to this: whoever is handed the book by the counselor is coronated as the abused spouse. Be sure of this: if both counselees in a bad marriage were handed the book, both would be guilty of the same thing. This is the smoking gun: it depends on who the ACBC “biblical counselor” wants to label abusive for whatever the motives might be.

I think a present situation that I am involved in says it all. I know enough about the situation to know that if the person I am talking with took the book’s survey, the other spouse would be judged as emotionally abusive hands down. The other spouse was handed the book because of who the ACBC counselor wanted to label “abusive.”

This is the niche service that Leslie Vernick now supplies to ACBC counselors.

paul

The Only Real Difference Between First and Second Generation Biblical Counseling is Romans 8:30

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on October 28, 2014

PPT HandleOriginally published February 3, 2012

“Are two different gospels operating under the same nomenclature of ‘help can be found here’ acceptable or not? Both are not the truth, and one or the other will help, or add further hurt.”

Heath Lambert recently published the book The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams.  The contemporary motif of our day is the idea that Dr. Jay E. Adams started the biblical counseling movement (first generation), and then others such as David Powlison of Westminster’s CCEF built on the foundation laid by Adams. The ever-morphing result is called “second generation” biblical counseling. Lambert’s book is a lengthy treatise that supposedly informs us of the differences between the two generations.

I am going to bypass all of those issues and focus on the one difference that matters—how each generation interprets the gospel. As the president of the annexed NANC used to say, “Fasten your seatbelts and put on your crash helmets,” because my thesis is that one of these generations is founded on,  and operates by a false gospel.

As many know, especially my wife, I have spent almost five years researching the present-day New Calvinism movement. The movement has its roots in the Progressive Adventist movement fathered by Robert Brinsmead. The magnum opus of that movement was their interpretation of Romans 8:30. I will pause now and quote an individual who witnessed that remarkable movement firsthand:

In 1971, Brinsmead scheduled a flurry of summer institutes to bring us his latest emphasis. There was more excitement than usual; the latest round of tapes had prepared us for something big. Bob had been studying the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith, comparing it to Roman Catholic doctrines. Reading Luther, he saw that justification is not just a means to the end of perfect sanctification. When we are justified by faith, not only does God impute Christ’s righteousness to us but we also possess Christ Himself—all His righteousness and all His perfection. Eternity flows from that fact.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Rom. 8:30).

The same ones he justified he also glorified. We began to realize we had inserted extra steps into Paul’s chain of salvation: sanctification and a final atonement brought about by blotting out sins. Those added steps, in fact, were the heart of the Awakening message—but we had ignored the heart of the real gospel: being justified by faith, we ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Our righteousness is in heaven, said Brinsmead:

“The righteousness by which we become just in God’s sight, remain just in His sight and will one day be sealed as forever just in His sight, is an outside righteousness. It is not on earth, but only in heaven…only in Jesus Christ” (Martin L. Carey: Judged by the Gospel: The Progression of Brinsmead’s Awakening )

Brinsmead further articulated this magnum opus in the theological journal, Present Truth:

Then in the golden chain of salvation, Romans 8:30, justification spans our Christian life all the way from calling or conversion to glorification: “Whom He called, them He justified; whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Here justification, our standing before God, is coterminous with sanctification, our being conformed to the image of God’s Son, in Romans 8:29. In 1 Corinthians 1:30 the apostle mentions Christ as our righteousness or justification before he names Him as our sanctification. But in 1 Corinthians 6:11 the order is reversed: “You are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Accordingly, Luther taught that to accept justification by faith in Christ is our whole work for the whole Christian life. We never learn this too well. For the forgiveness of sins is a continuous divine work until we die. Christ saves us perpetually (Luther’s Works, American ed. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955- ), Vol.34, pp.164, 167, 190) [Present Truth: volume 25, pages 11,12].

Now, the term “golden chain of salvation” did not originate with Brinsmead, but when that term was used by theologians of old, it doesn’t seem to be in reference to Romans 8:30. The term seems to have a contemporary meaning when associated with Romans 8:30, and that is how it will be used in this post. Furthermore, Brinsmead attributes the magnum opus of Progressive Adventism to Martin Luther, and Carey attributes it to Brinsmead who again, states that he learned it from the writings of Luther.

But the need for further research aside, this post will focus on the what. And the what is the following:

[1] Brinsmead’s interpretation of Romans 8:30 combines justification and sanctification, and perpetuates the need for a just standing before God until glorification.

[2] And the need for  a progressive justification until glorification, ie.,“Christ saves us perpetually.”

[3] And sanctification is missing from Romans 8:30 because it is “coterminous” with Justification. “Conterminous” means, 1. having the same border or covering the same area 2. being the same in extent; coextensive in range or scope.

[4] This Romans 8:30 golden chain can be definitively traced throughout the New Calvinism community as a single mainframe that holds the doctrine together and determines its  modus operandi.

[5] The Romans 8:30 golden chain manifests itself as Gospel Sanctification, Sonship Theology, New Covenant Theology, and Christian Hedonism which all dwell in the community of New Calvinism.

Hence, New Calvinists can run, but they can’t hide—their interpretation of  Romans 8:30 identifies them. And it also identifies what they will teach, and how they will counsel.

The Two Romans 8:30 and Their Gospels

Therefore, one version of Romans 8:30 suggests that sanctification is missing from the verse because justification and sanctification are the same, and justification is perpetual till glorification. The second interpretation of Romans 8:30 suggests that sanctification is missing from the verse because justification and sanctification are completely separate; and justification is a finished work that makes sanctification possible, but does not directly power it. This position would hold that sanctification is powered by regeneration, and not justification. Hence, Romans 8:30 is missing sanctification because justification is a finished work that guarantees glorification.

These are two completely different gospels. One is monergistic substitutionary sanctification, and the other is monergistic justification and synergistic sanctification. How the gospel is presented from each of these different viewpoints must necessarily be radically different. Moreover, counseling is necessarily and radically different as well.

And these two views of  Romans 8:30 define the difference between the two generations of biblical counseling. David Powlison says so. In a seminar presented by David Powlison at John Piper’s church while Piper was on sabbatical, Powlison stated the following:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in.  Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that.  I – it’s one of those places where I read Ephesians.  I read Galatians.  I read Romans.  I read the gospels themselves.  I read the Psalms.  And the grace of God is just at every turn, and these are written for Christians (David Powlison: What is Biblical Counseling, Session 4, May 8, 2010. Online source for MP3s; http://www.hopeingod.org/resources/seminars/topic/313).

David Powlison’s mentor, Dr. John Miller, whom he mentions in the above citation, was the father of Sonship Theology. Jay Adams wrote  a book in contention against the doctrine in 1999. By way of reiterating Powlison’s articulation, Adam’s made the following statement on page 34 of Biblical Sonship:

The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through a strong motive for it….On the other hand, regeneration, (quickening, or making alive; Ephesians 2:25) is the true source of sanctification.

The major difference between the first and second generations of biblical counseling is their gospel models. One model will attempt to help people with the reductionist gospel of sanctification by justification. The other will attempt to help people with the full armor of regeneration.

Though CCEF is a lost cause and was wicked from its conception, the realty of how counselors interpret Romans 8:30 is a gut-check for the president and board members of the critically ill NANC. Are two different gospels operating under the same nomenclature of “help can be found here” acceptable or not? Both are not the truth, and one or the other will help, or add further hurt.

Let’s be honest, how important is truth to those who claim to be in the truth business?

paul

Why I Saw Life in Jay Adams’ First Generation Counseling and Why Second Generation Counseling Will Only Lead to Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 6, 2014

ppt-jpeg4“The Reformed gospel therefore circumvents the law of life by keeping the Christian under the law of sin and death, and denies that the Christian can have life, and have it more abundantly through obedience.”

“The law of sin and death is not a schoolmaster that leads the believer back to the cross—the schoolmaster is dead. We are set free to serve the law of the Spirit of life .”

I was saved in 1983, became a pastor in 1986, and found myself sitting in pastor John Street’s office circa 1990 in the throes of deep depression. This wasn’t supposed to happen to a Christian zealot. I was confused, and shell-shocked. I had suffered deep depression as an unbeliever, but this wasn’t supposed to happen to a believer.

John Street was on the cutting edge of Dr. Jay E. Adams’ biblical counseling movement that had begun in 1970 with his controversial book, Competent to Counsel. Street was the founding pastor of Clearcreek Chapel (Springboro, Ohio) which was also a pastoral training center for the movement. Street had some earthshaking assessments in regard to me:

1. My primary goal in life was not to please God.

2. I had changed little as a believer.

3. Hence, I brought the same sinful attitudes and thinking into my life which resulted in

    the same depression I suffered as a believer.

4. I needed to understand that the power for Christian living was “in the doing.”

Because as a new Christian I was stupefied by the open sin displayed in the conservative evangelical church; viz, the first conservative church I joined had members living together out of wedlock, were openly hostile to African Americans, and some were drunkards, I was a rabid fan of John MacArthur Jr and his so-called “Lordship Salvation.” So, Street’s four-point assessment of me was a shocking revelation.

How could this be? Simply stated, I lived by biblical generalities and was woefully ignorant of how to live as a mature Christian. This is a Protestant thing which has traditionally emphasized salvation (justification), and not Christian living/sanctification/discipleship. Stop here for a moment. According to entrepreneur Herman Cain, leadership has three primary principles:

W. Work on the right problem.

A. Ask the right questions

R. Remove obstacles.

W. The problem is lack of emphasis of discipleship.

A. Why is there a lack of emphasis on discipleship?

R. What is the obstacle?

Dr. Adams didn’t ask the right question, but he did work on the right problem: weak sanctification, and a lack of emphasis on obedience to the Scriptures. The results were dramatic. In one year at Clearcreek Chapel, there were twelve solid conversions. Accounts of people being snatched from the jaws of suicide were commonplace. I eventually broke free from depression and discontinued taking anti-depressant medications. But my case needs some additional discussion.

During one appointment with Street, I began by giving a report on how hard I was working on my problem: “I have been in the Scriptures all week and prayed for three hours today! And the reply:

Paul, I am not going to tell you to not do those things, but the power is in the doing.

“Really?” I thought, “I can actually do something about my problem?” The counseling involved homework. I liked to go out to MacDonalds and do my homework, and while doing so one day, I pondered the following: “The Bible does indeed promise blessings (happiness) for being obedient. This is very hopeful, that I can actually do something to get my happiness back.”

Meanwhile, guess who walked in as I was thinking these thoughts? Street. I struggled with posing the question, perhaps due to the radical nature of it, but Street helped me out: “Paul, are you asking me if obedience to God’s word is curative?” My reply, “Yes.” He paused, I waited. I think we both thought that we were in danger of fire being rained down from heaven. Finally, he reluctantly replied: “Yes.”

Let’s ask the right question, shall we? Why is the concept of Christian obedience and the discussion of it so fearful, more taboo than sexual preferences? As a result of a nemesis that comes my way every now and then, specifically the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd, I think I now know. Usually akin to my disdain for Calvinism, they have accused me of works salvation because of my supposed proffering of Lordship Salvation. This is very annoying, but I have never stopped to investigate the logic behind their accusation, until now. My conclusions are applicable to thoughts I have on biblical counseling and are the subject of this post. But first, let’s revisit my fears as a former counselee.

Indeed, the Bible tells us to obey, but that raises a seemingly serious problem. If I obey as a Christian, how do I know for certain that my obedience really isn’t an attempt to justify myself? Until this week, I have always somewhat doubted that my “victory” over depression was legitimate. Let’s ask the right question, “Why the doubt?”

Because during the aforementioned trial, I perceived the law of God as one law, that’s why. I also had a fundamental misunderstanding about what the gospel really is as well. I saw salvation as believing that Christ died for my sins—end of story. Believe that, and then wait and see what happens. Well, in many cases, depression happens. In many cases, suicide happens. In many cases, a falling away from the Christian faith happens. And as poignantly expressed by my wife Susan at the 2012 TANC Conference, we hear, “Oh well, at least he was saved.” Her close to that stunning presentation on sanctification is worth repeating:

So Lovell lived like the devil, but at least he had his fire insurance policy, made effective because he walked the aisle, said the sinner’s prayer, and was baptized in the Big Sandy River. But I will have to agree with my dad. Only God really knows if Lovell was genuinely saved or not and resting in the bosom of Abraham. At my funeral, I hope more will be said about me than “at least, she was saved.”

However, we deem such unglorified testimonies for the Lord a small price to pay in exchange for robbing Christ of glory by thinking we can do something.  Confusion on this issue is absolutely rampant, and I think the time has come for the confusion to stop.

Who will argue that there is not mass confusion in our day on the relationship of the law to salvation? Yes, let’s tell the world that we do not worship a God of confusion. Good luck with that; we don’t even know what the gospel is! The theses of this post lays blame for all of this confusion at the feet of the idea that there is only one law in the Bible. This misunderstanding then leads to confusion as to what people are called to—in regard to the “good news.” We want to work on the right problem by asking the right question and then removing the obstacle. The obstacle is the idea that there is one law, and making that idea consistent with the rest of Scripture is like trying to stick a round peg in a square hole. When the discussion is about how to make that work, good luck with obtaining any solutions—we are discussing the wrong questions.

The Fundamental Problem

…is that the law of God is only seen as death. In Romans 8:2, we clearly have two laws:

For the law [nomos] of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law [nomos] of sin and death.

For certain, the Reformers only recognized one law: the law of sin and death. They saw the one law as a perfect standard that defined justification—righteousness, or justification, is defined by a perfect keeping of the law. Since we cannot keep the law perfectly, it is only good for revealing our sin. According to Protestantism, the law…

1. Shows us our sin, thus ever increasing our gratitude for Christ’s death and obedient life

    which fulfilled the law for us.

2. Will condemn unbelievers at the final judgment who are not “covered” by Christ’s

     perfect obedience.

3. The Spirit gives us ongoing life in response to our continued living by faith alone.

    Christ’s obedience is then perpetually imputed to our lives to keep us saved because a

    continued satisfying of the law is needed. (See The Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11).

What immediately comes to mind is Galatians 3:21;

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

The fact that the law cannot give life for “righteousness” i.e., justification, does not mean that the law cannot give life on any wise. Clearly it can, and does:

Matthew 4:4 – Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Psalms 1:1 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

The fundamental problem is that the law of sin and death is THE standard, or rule for being justified. This is the essence of Reformed thought: Christ not only died for our sins, but He lived a perfect life so that the demands of the law would be satisfied. This makes the law intrinsic with justification. Hence, believers must keep themselves saved by living by faith alone throughout their Christian lives. If they do this, the perfect obedience of Christ (His fulfilling of the law) is continually applied to the Christian life and the saint therefore remains justified. The Reformed think tank that spawned the present-day Neo-Calvinist movement stated it best:

The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck. The whole church must join the confession, “Have mercy upon us miserable sinners.” The witness of both Testaments is unmistakably clear on this point.

No work or deed of the saints in this life can meet the severity of God’s law. Apart from God’s merciful judgment, the good works of the saints would be “mortal sin” (Luther), and nothing is acceptable to God unless mediated through the covering cloud of Christ’s merits. Because of “indwelling sin,” we need mercy at the end as much as at the beginning, for the old nature is as evil then as ever. Growth in grace, therefore, does not mean becoming less and less sinful, but on the contrary, it means becoming more and more sinful in our own estimation.

It is this conviction of the wretchedness of even our sanctified state—which conviction comes by the law—that keeps sanctification from the rocks of self-righteousness. It keeps the Christian’s little bark constantly pointed toward his only star of hope—justification by faith in a righteousness that stands for him in heaven. The refuge of the sinner must ever also be the refuge of the saint.

The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

We say again, Only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.

We are united to Christ in whom we are counted as perfectly righteous because of his righteousness, not ours. The demand for obedience in the Christian life is undiminished and absolute. If obedience does not emerge by faith, we have no warrant to believe we are united to Christ or justified (Matthew 6:15; John 5:28-29; Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13;James 2:17; 1 John 2:17; 3:14). But the only hope for making progress in this radical demand for holiness and love is the hope that our righteousness before God is on another solid footing besides our own imperfect obedience as Christians. We all sense intuitively-and we are encouraged in this intuition by the demands of God-that acceptance with God requires perfect righteousness conformity to the law (Matthew5:48; Galatians 3:10; James2:10). We also know that our measures of obedience, even on our best days, fall short of this standard.

This is the fatal Achilles’ heel of Reformed thought: it makes the law intrinsic with justification when in fact we are justified APART from the law. This is what the apostle  Paul meant when he said there is no law that can give life—it’s a justification issue, not an issue of Christian living. Secondly, it rejects the idea that the believer’s former self literally died with Christ and has been resurrected to new life. The apostle made it clear that the law of sin and death can only condemn those who are living and have not yet died with Christ (Romans 7:1-6). It denies the new birth, which has been a reality for the believer even before the cross (John 3:1-15).

The Reformed gospel therefore circumvents the law of life by keeping the Christian under the law of sin and death, and denies that the Christian can have life, and have it more abundantly through obedience. It denies blessings and cursings, fruits of life versus fruits of death, and the Christian’s ability to choose more life rather than suffering death for no good reason:

Due. 30:11 – “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Nothing has ever changed here. For the believer, obedience to the law brings life. The same law that condemns the unbeliever brings life to the believer…

Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

That’s Paul using an Old Testament command to illustrate a New Testament promise of life through obedience. For the unbeliever, the sins they commit against the law are held captive by the law, but when they believe, that law is ended when faith comes; the law that could only condemn now gives life:

Galatians 3:21 – Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

The idea that “guardian” means a “schoolmaster” who continually leads us back to Christ, and the foot of the cross by showing us our inability to keep the law perfectly is a popular Reformed rendering of this text, but that is not what is in view here. The Old Covenant imprisons all of the sin committed by those under it, and when they believe, that law is ENDED:

Romans 10: 4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Christ didn’t come to cover our sins, He came to end our sins. The Old Covenant covered our sin, it was our guardian. But when we believe in Christ, the law of sin and death is abolished and we are set free to SERVE the law of the Spirit of life. This is the abundant love of Christ who did not come to condemn the world: even the law of condemnation is a guardian beckoning the unbeliever to flee the wrath to come by casting that law as far as the east is from the west—along with all of our sin committed against that covenant. The law of sin and death is not a schoolmaster that leads the believer back to the cross—the schoolmaster is dead. We are set free to serve the law of the Spirit of life.

Jay Adams didn’t ask the right question: “Where did all of this anemic Protestant sanctification come from?” But he did work on the right problem: living by biblical generalities rather than in-depth discipleship through learning and application. The results spoke for themselves.

Furthermore, the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd is probably asking the wrong questions as well as working on the wrong problem. They seem to strongly insinuate that a commitment to obedience within the gospel presentation is works justification because the subject is required to do something (agree to a commitment) in order to obtain eternal life.

This threatens to be the same law problem as Reformed thought; the idea that obedience does not bring life. If unbelievers are still under the law of sin and death, and every violation of that law is fruits for death, and we are calling them to flee that death for life, does that not necessarily include obedience that leads to life more abundantly? This seems to demand that only half of Romans 8:2 be presented in our gospel presentation lest it be a gospel of works justification. The cross sets us free to SERVE another master; Christ as opposed to the kingdom of darkness:

Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

“So that.”  “So that…” what? What is the purpose of calling people from darkness into the light? The purpose is “so that” we SERVE the new way of the Spirit. Consider what the word for “serve” is…

g1398. δουλεύω douleuō; from 1401; to be a slave to (literal or figurative, involuntary or voluntary):— be in bondage, (do) serve (- ice). AV (25)- serve 18, be in bondage 4, do service 3; to be a slave, serve, do service.

The gospel is a call to be set free from enslavement under the law of sin and death, and to enslavement to the law of the Spirit of life. Consequently, a call to a commitment to be enslaved to the law of the Spirit through obedience as a way to love God and others is a gospel of works righteousness? To notify the subject that they are set free from the fruits of death is ok, but to notify them that they will be a slave to righteousness is works salvation? What is the called out assembly called to? Are we called to holiness, or a label that enables us to yet be enslaved to darkness? Is enslavement to the law of the Spirit of life optional lest it be works righteousness? A jingle that we hear often from the Reformed crowd is the following: “When you are justified, you get sanctification in the bargain.” I wonder if it shouldn’t rather be: “When you are sanctified, you get justification in the bargain.” Justification is free, holiness is what we are called to from our former lawless master. What part of, “You cannot serve two masters” do we not understand? Granted, I say this to make a point, but I wonder if the church wouldn’t be better served as it is mostly populated with the unholy, unslaved saved.

And who are we being called to serve? Is Christ savior only? Or is He also a Lord? To inform a salvation candidate that Christ is not only a savior, but also a Lord is works righteousness? To insist that Christ be recognized for who He is—is a gospel of works? Nay, to love Christ is to recognize Him for who He is…

If you love me, keep my commandments.

You can be saved by Christ, but you don’t have to love Him? You can be saved by Him, but abundant life is optional?  You can remain a slave to fruits of death, but enslavement to Christ is optional?

The Metaphysical Anomaly of Non-Works 

I also fear that the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd has a kinship to the Reformed in regard to this whole business of defining what is a work and what isn’t a work. Mankind is created to work, and when people are alive, they are also working. Life is synonymous with work, man never ceases to work in this life unless he is dead. Hence, man is either producing fruits for death or fruits for life. Either way, he is producing. In regard to the biblical command to “repent and believe the gospel,” or to “obey the gospel,” the ALS crowd insists that this is not an action or a commitment to obey, but a mere “change of mind.” Granted, that is what the word means. But since when is a change of mind not a work? In order to have a change of mind, you must ponder and think—that’s not passive. It is simply impossible to get around the fact that something is required of man in order to be saved. At the very least, a choice is required; specifically, choosing life over death. But choosing life necessarily involves a commitment to obedience—there can be no life without it. The choice to choose life necessarily includes a commitment to future obedience and recognition of who Christ is.

Likewise, in the Reformed crowd, works and non-works are divided by “faith” and “obedience.” Since obedience cannot bring life, or produce fruits of righteousness, and perfect law-keeping by Christ must be imputed to our sanctification by faith alone to keep us saved, certain activities are classified as non-works (by faith) and works. Going to church, meditation, seeking to understand how depraved we are, and prayer are classified as faith while obedience is work. If we live by “faith alone,” primarily through gospel contemplationism, the perfect obedience of Christ will be imputed to our Christian life and we will remain justified. This is behind the contemporary mantras, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” and “living by the gospel” etc. Sorry, but preaching to yourself is a work, and in this case, to keep yourself saved because revisiting the cross supposedly imputes someone else’ s obedience to your sanctification. The only problem is…you have to do something for that to happen. Rather, Justification must be a finished work, period. Neither does it, “run in the background.”

In the same way, the ALS camp redefines repentance as a non-work of faith alone. This simply is not reality. Everything is a work. In addition, it would seem that a “change of mind” has nothing to do with what it means to be a Christian moving forward. To acknowledge any future expectations by the Lord, or a recognition of trading one slavery for another is a works gospel. If I tell them they are going to be a slave to righteousness, that’s works righteousness? That’s not a commitment to a new master? And if I tell them that it is, I’m propagating a works gospel? Leaving one master for another isn’t a commitment?

This is barely different than the Reformed gospel that they seemingly reject. In all of this discussion, I often hear that the gospel should be simple. I agree, and I would also ask how much more simplistic could “choose life” be? Ironically, it’s the unbelievers who have no problem with the simple concept of choosing to leave where they are for something else. Things get complicated because of the following idea: suggesting to an unbeliever that they can no longer serve their present master is a works gospel. To suggest that they have to move from point A where death resides, to point B, where life resides, is  works  righteousness.

The Day the Music Died

I witnessed a microcosm of the day that the “first generation” biblical counseling movement died. Pastor Street, with my clueless blessings as a Clearcreek Chapel elder, enrolled in the biblical counseling post graduate program at Westminster Theological Seminary East. The program curriculum was authored by a follower of John “Jack” Miller who was the father of the Sonship discipleship program. The author of the program, and also the director, Dr. David Powlison, is one of the forefathers of the present-day Neo-Calvinist movement.

Street used what he learned there to add a second level to the training program called “Theology of the Heart.” While the first level predicated on the in-depth discipleship principles of Adams was prolific, this second level was a monstrosity of confusion. The consensus of pastors leaving level one was, “Where has this information been all of my life” while no one really knew what to make of the second level. Some years later, a Clearcreek elder told me what Street thought of what he learned at Westminster: “This is where we have been missing it.” I don’t know if this particular elder, who is of ill character, was telling the truth, but  the idea that Powlison’s construct was a better “second generation” version of the first was not a unique mentality in 1998.

Also, first generation biblical counseling leaders naïvely allowed disciples of Powlison to teach in their schools. By 2006, first generation biblical counseling was all but completely discredited. The stories of changed lives that came out of that revival were relegated to narratives about “super Pharisees.” Pastor Randy Patton once described the first generation as a movement that only “made people better Pharisees.” When I heard him say it, all of the saved marriages, saved lives, and salvation testimonies that I knew of, including my own, that came out of that movement flashed before my eyes, and then went up in flames before me. As one who grew up on mean streets, I can tell you that I had never experienced a more insensitive statement that brushed away years of joy with one stroke. Unfortunately, the second generation biblical counseling that now dominates the American church is characterized by this same insufferable arrogance.

What is this “second generation” biblical counseling? It is simply a counseling construct based on the original Reformed gospel stated in this post with emphasis on its denial that Christian obedience produces life, and life more abundantly. In the latter 90’s many, many pastors left Westminster and returned to their local churches proclaiming, “This is where we have been missing it.”

What is really missing is the life produced by the first generation biblical counseling. Life and love through intelligent biblical obedience has been replaced with David Powlison’s fruits of death. This is not complicated, in a seminar taught at John Piper’s church, Powlison plainly stated the difference between the first generation biblical counseling and the second: one promotes Christian living by returning to the cross for a refueling of Christ’s perfect obedience in order to satisfy the law, and the other leaves the foot of the cross for mature Christian living. The one returns to the cross to keep the law of sin and death satisfied—the other fulfills the law of the Spirit of life with acts of loving obedience.

Our Lord prefers obedience over sacrifice—this is something that the second generation purveyors of death will never understand. Mankind is always working. A choice to do nothing is not faith—it’s a choice that will either produce death or life. And it doesn’t matter who obeys the law in our place to keep us justified—there is no law that can give life no matter who keeps it. So, how do we know for certain that we are not trying to justify ourselves by obedience in our Christian life? Because law and justification are mutually exclusive to begin with, and justification is a finished work accomplished by God only. As Andy Young said in this year’s TANC Conference, “The law is for sanctification.” Indeed, especially since we have already been justified “apart from the law.”

Second generation counseling cannot therefore produce life. It can only produce death. All it is doing is making us better antinomians, and the judgment against it slumbers not. Do not be a participant with it on any level. It is only producing wages for death that will be paid in full. Instead, let us forge ahead in learning the Lord’s instruction and applying it to our lives. let us build lives that will withstand the storms of life. Let us meet together apart from vile antinomians and encourage each other unto good works. Let us love the Lord with all of our being.

paul

Addendum

Since everything man does is a work, let me suggest that the biblical definition of works righteousness, or salvation by works, is the idea that justification is not a finished work. If justification progresses into sanctification (the Christian life), or if the work of the cross continues, then our life and works are juxtaposed onto justification. This makes us colaborers in justification by default.

If there is a beginning justification, subjective justification (the experience of being justified), and a final justification, some sort of role in justification for the believer is unavoidable. For the Reformed, it’s the same faith alone that saved you which requires a decision to not do certain things lest it be works which is in fact doing something. As one pastor stated to me: “New Calvinists tell us: ‘Don’t live by do’s and don’ts.’” See the point? If works salvation is defined by unfinished or unrealized justification, definitions of supposed non-works and works become necessary. I contend that differentiating such is impossible.

However, if we are saved by merely believing in a finished work, even though believing could be considered a work, it is believing in a finished work. The work that saved you is finished. Any idea that justification is not finished, or is “running in the background” of our Christian life must be works salvation.

Therefore, works salvation is defined by the idea that justification is not finished. Admittedly, the question of commitment becomes a difficult question at this point. But, a commitment to do something in the Christian life, in no way finishes the finished work. It is merely a commitment to love Him who first loved us.

 

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