Paul's Passing Thoughts

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

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

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

paul

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on August 11, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

paul

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 5

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 30, 2015

Connecting the Dots: Tullian Tchividjian and Luther’s Theologian of the Cross 

Listen to audio or download audio file. 

That’s pastor Tullian Tchividjian…

…welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 5 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potters House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalog can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question”—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

At the beginning of tonight’s program, you heard an excerpt from a sermon via pastor Tullian. It is an example of what drives other Reformed leaders nuts, but they can complain all they want to, pastor Tullian is a Luther purest. His resignation last week from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church brought me to remembrance in regard to what an excellent example he is of Martin Luther’s application of the Heidelberg Disputation in our day. So, tonight, this is an interlude of sorts that we are going to use to solidify what we have learned to this point.

Tullian lends credence to two accusations that the Reformed fear most: the charge of progressive justification, and antinomianism. I don’t know exactly why, but these are the two accusations that set a fire under their rumps, and along with it, a flood of cognitive dissonance. Yes, we are going to examine the arguments used to refute the charge of antinomianism and progressive justification, and as we will see, the arguments are so pitiful they would be deemed ridiculous by an adolescent which should be telling.

But first, I want to unpack the opening excerpt as a segue into the program tonight. Short excerpt, but packed with Luther’s foundational theology. In that short statement, we see the Reformed doctrines of mortification and vivification, Luther’s Theology of the Cross, deep repentance, double imputation, and total depravity.

Tullian stated first that we, as Christians, don’t merely need help with our walk, but we need to be raised from the dead. Let me pause here for a moment. What we are about to discuss are facts about the Reformation and Protestant soteriology in general that Protestants don’t understand. Fact: 98% of professing Calvinists really have no idea what Calvin believed, taught, and propagated. This is why the New Calvinism movement creates so much division between so-called Old Calvinists and New Calvinists; when the original article was rediscovered, by a Seventh-Day Adventist by the way, present-day Calvinists believed it was a false gospel. I was one of them. I set out to expose the New Calvinists and discovered they are the real Calvinists. I also discovered the fact that the Reformation is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. The facts are irrefutable. So, is there hope? Of course there is; stop listening to men, turn on the light switch of the brain God gave you for a purpose, and read the gospels, the book of Acts, and Romans for yourself. Read those books, think for yourself, and just let the words say what they say. When the meaning isn’t apparent, don’t immediately run to a book full of someone else’s thoughts, what we call a “Commentary,” do your own independent research.

Why would Tullian say that Christians continue to be raised from the dead? That’s right out of theses 16-18 of the Heidelberg Disputation (HD). As I have stated before, the HD which came about 6 months after the 95 Theses is the foundational document of the Reformation, and then Calvin articulated and expanded Luther’s foundation in the Calvin Institutes. This progressive justification component of dying and rebirthing ourselves into heaven came to be known as mortification and vivification in the Calvin institutes. This brings us to Tullian’s mention of “Christians” being confessors, or the doctrine of deep repentance; that is the mortification component of mortification and vivification. By continually seeing our sinfulness in a deeper and deeper way, and being brought to the point of despair, or what Luther called “death at hand,” we then experience resurrection, or a revisitation of the joy of our salvation. Reformed scholars such as Michael Horton call this, “reliving our original baptism.” Listen, New Calvinist mantras like “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” do not come from nowhere. This is the source. We get to heaven by perpetually revisiting the same gospel that saved us. Those of you familiar with this ministry are worn out from me citing Michael Horton and Paul Washer on this, so let me change things up a little by quoting a guy that commented on a Tullian article posted on Justin Taylor’s blog over at TGC (The Gospel Coalition).

It’s not that complicated: the ground of all Christian obedience is the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Justification occurs EACH time a believer confesses and receives forgiveness for his sins. The pattern of justification is illustrated by Paul in Romans 4. Abraham believes in the God who justifies the ungodly (in this case gentile Abraham), David is forgiven for his adultery and murder. God’s condemnation for sin has reached into history at the cross, glorification has reached into history at conversion where believers experience a foretaste of glory. Neither Old or New Covenant obedience require moral perfection, they both require obedience of faith….so, having been justified from faithfulness we have peace with God!

Indeed it is not complicated. “Faithfulness” to “confession” continually re-justifies us. And, as a result, we experience resurrection/joy/vivification. The confession is mortification/deep repentance/death at hand, the rising from the dead that Tullian is talking about is vivification and re-justification. Tullian’s emphasis on us being no different from unbelievers is based on the following idea: the ONLY difference between the saved and unsaved is the saved start getting saved by confessional faith alone resulting in perpetual re-salvation. Then, at the final judgement, we find out who lived by faith alone well enough to be saved and who didn’t. That’s authentic Protestantism in a nutshell, and the facts supporting this reality are irrefutable. And of course, it’s an in-your-face denial of the new birth as defined biblically in 1John 3 and many other places.

This also speaks to total depravity. Throughout the short excerpt Tullian pounds home the fact of moral equivalency, or the idea that one sinner is not any worse than any other. This comes from justification being defined and based on the law. This is major in the HD, but Calvin articulates this Reformation tenet in 3.14.9,10 of the Calvin Institutes. If you break the law on one point, you are guilty of breaking all of the law. “But Paul, isn’t that what James said in James 2:10?” No, that’s not what James was talking about. James wasn’t proffering a justification based on law as its standard. That concept is really the Achilles’ heel of Reformation soteriology. James was pushing back against the idea that some tradition of some sort replaces the law of love. Only love can fulfill the law. James was pushing back against the idea that justification’s standard is the law. No, there is NO law in justification; law and justification are mutually exclusive. In essence, what James was stating follows:

You can’t live by some orthodoxy devised by men and then live anyway you want to. Whatever your tradition is, it doesn’t fulfill the law. If your justification is based on the law, you break all of the law when you break it at any given point. Only love according to the law fulfills the law. The apostle Paul called this “faith working through love” in his letter to the Galatians. The standard for justification is what? Right, the new birth, NOT law! What is the official Reformed position on justification’s standard? Right, the law. This idea is what Paul spent his whole ministry refuting—this very idea that turns the gospel completely upside down! Clearly, the Reformers redefined justification by replacing its new birth premise with the law. Again, this concept of law/gospel was Paul’s number one nemesis.

This leads us to the question of how we are justified when we are supposedly justified anew. Tullian speaks of this in the excerpt when he alludes to what Jesus has done for us, not anything we do. In the excerpt, he thanks God that the gospel is not about anything we do, but rather only what Jesus has done for us. This is the Reformed doctrine of Christ for us, or, Christ 100% for us, or…double imputation. This is a huge Reformed mainstay.

What is it? This is the idea that Christ not only came to die for our sins once and for all on the cross, but that He  also came to live a perfect life for the fulfilling of the law so that His obedience/righteousness can be imputed to us in vivification. Every time we confess, or according to Luther, “accuse ourselves,” or “visit the gospel afresh” (Michael Horton), the righteousness of Christ obtained by His perfect obedience to the law is imputed to us. Hence, every time we “visit the gospel afresh,” His propitiation and righteousness are both reapplied. This is the exact problem Paul addressed at Galatia. He argued that if the law was the standard for justification, that life is not given by the promise, but by law. He also argued that if law justifies us—there is a law that can give life while only God can give life. Making law the standard for justification is making the law a fourth member of the Trinity. That’s pretty much Paul’s argument.

In contrast, we are forgiven because the old us is dead, and no longer under the law. Look at Romans 7; one who has died is NOT under the law or its jurisdiction. This is why Christ died once: to end the law via us following Him in death. The new us is resurrected with Christ by the Spirit and able to fulfill the law through loving God and others. If perfect law-keeping, even by Christ, is the standard for justification rather than our death and resurrection through the new birth, it is impossible for us to love God and others—Christ must love for us; our love must be substituted by Christ’s love. And that in fact is the meaning of “Christ 100% for us.” Yes, Christ loves for us along with anything else that would be meritorious before God and the “righteous demands of the law.” Consequently, you often see these Reformed written motifs about sinners coming to the law with nothing in their hands but the obedience of Christ. That puts the law on a throne sitting beside the Father and the Son as a co-life-giver. That’s heresy in the extreme and a blatant denial of the new birth.

In concluding on this point, we now come Tullian’s mentioned disdain for “theologians of glory.” What’s that? That’s right out of the HD. It’s the counterpart, or one piece of the two-fold metaphysical theme of the document. The more I learn about this stuff, the more I am annoyed by Protestants who think they know what they are talking about, and we will soon be discussing one of them.

Luther divided the interpretation of all reality into two categories: the cross story and the glory story. Luther saw all of reality as a metaphysical narrative written by God with the cross being the primary epistemology; not only the cross, but the suffering of the cross in particular. Luther believed all wisdom is hidden in suffering. Luther, in keeping with Augustine’s Neo-Platonist worldview, demanded that all invisible things be interpreted through the suffering of the cross. Said Luther in theses 19:

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened«

Thesis 20: He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

The manifest and visible things of God are placed in opposition to the invisible, namely, his human nature, weakness, foolishness. The Apostle in 1 Cor. 1:25 calls them the weakness and folly of God. Because men misused the knowledge of God through works, God wished again to be recognized in suffering, and to condemn »wisdom concerning invisible things« by means of »wisdom concerning visible things«, so that those who did not honor God as manifested in his works should honor him as he is hidden in his suffering.

Thesis 21: This is clear: He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers ,works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil. These are the people whom the apostle calls »enemies of the cross of Christ« (Phil. 3:18), for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross evil and the evil of a deed good. God can be found only in suffering and the cross, as has already been said Therefore the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are dethroned and the »old Adam«, who is especially edified by works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his »good works« unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s.

Thesis 22: That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

This has already been said. Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks, as the poet says: »The more water they drink, the more they thirst for it.« The same thought is expressed in Eccles. 1:8: »The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.« This holds true of all desires.

Thesis 24: He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand.

Luther’s worldview calls for the condemnation of anything that can be perceived by the five senses, and that would of course include any work by mankind, in exchange for the work of faith that seeks death at hand by self-condemnation and the incessant confession of our own sin. All or any good work performed by us must be disavowed. This is the only work of faith that a Christian is to do; deep repentance that results in vivification. This is Luther’s definition of the new birth. Our only task is deep repentance resulting in only experiencing works that God may, or may not perform according to His own will. It is interesting what I am learning from Susan and her research on Jonathan Edwards. He believed that saving faith is a sixth sense that is able to perceive the works of God. That fits with what we are discussing here. Faith only confesses and then experiences the work of Christ following.

Any notion that man, saved or unsaved, can do anything at all that has merit with God is the glory story propagated by theologians of glory; this is what Tullian was referring to specifically in that sentence, no more—no less.

Before we move on, let me say this: to me, the more I study all of this, the more I am incredulous that congregations are forcing these guys caught with their hands in the cookie jar to resign. Why? It plainly shows the disconnect between the average Protestant’s understanding of their own faith and what their leaders teach. It’s totally inconsistent with the doctrine. “They sinned, well duh, so what?”

However, this is not always the case. Tullian has a close friend, also a pastor, who pretty much was fairly impious in broad daylight and never had to resign. In fact, he was the subject of a whole chapter in a book titled Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace  by Cathleen Falsani. This is where we segue into our second part. As I said, the two accusations that the Reformed camp is sensitive about are progressive justification and antinomianism. And especially in the area of antinomianism, the denial is beyond cognitive dissonance. It’s just borderline childish.

Let’s start by asking where Cathleen Falsani got the title for her book. “Sin Boldly,” do you know where she got that? It’s a quote by Martin Luther. Here is the whole quote from his letter to Philipp Melanchthon:

God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.

Here, we see plainly that Luther saw salvation as ongoing for condemning sin. God does not save imaginary sinners. What is the tense there? That is answered in the next sentence: “Be a sinner.” So obviously, it’s a present continuous idea; it’s progressive. And if condemning sin is present continuous, obviously salvation must be present continuous as well. You must continually deem yourself a sinner in need of salvation. Be a sinner, or else you are denying that you need salvation.

Nevertheless, the arguments we hear against the idea that Protestantism is progressive justification sound like this from John MacArthur Jr.: “Justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but are distinct.” So, the two are distinct because one is progressive and the other is not, but yet, they are not separate. This is an attempt to answer the accusation that Reformed soteriology fuses justification and sanctification together which would of course be progressive justification. MacArthur attempts to deny that Protestantism fuses the two together by stating that the two are “distinct.” But this is like saying that a cat is never separate from its catness, but distinct from its catness when it progresses by walking. A cat is never separate from its catness, but distinct when it is walking; the argument is ridiculous.

In an article I wrote on PPT titled The Gospel According to John MacArthur’s Reformation Myth, I deconstruct MacArthur’s position on this in agonizing detail. Along Reformed lines, he states that justification is solely a forensic declaration that doesn’t change the individual. He then makes a distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism. The former infuses righteousness into the individual, and according to MacArthur, that is the fusion of justification and sanctification together resulting in progressive justification. In contrast, Protestantism disavows this infusion and replaces it with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and obedience to the believer for sanctification, or Christian living if you will. So yes, justification and sanctification are not separate, but distinct in the fact that one declares us justified while the other is the manifestation of Christ’s righteousness. They can’t be separate because both are a predication on a single dimension of the law, ie., it’s for condemnation only and can only be fulfilled by Christ in our stead.

I am not going to get into the Protestant misrepresentation of Catholicism, suffice to say for now that it is also progressive justification based on Aristotelian philosophy instead of Platonism, but both are progressive justification. However, we can pause here to define the word “antinomianism” according to the Reformed: it is the absence of law as the standard for justification. In other words, that makes me an antinomian according to them. This is in contrast to the true definition of antinomianism from the Bible: the absence of the law for faith working through love. In other words, the use of the law for love is denied. In addition, the biblical dual perspective on the law is refuted and replaced with a single perspective on the law—condemnation instead of the Spirits twofold use of the law: to convict the world of sin and the judgement to come, and for sanctifying the saints. True antinomianism circumvents the law for sanctification and deprives the saints of their calling to love God and others.

If law is the standard for justification, a perfect keeping of it must be maintained by double imputation which calls on the “believer” to use it for gospel contemplation only rather than using it to love God and others. All obedience points to justification instead of love. This is why Christ said that in the latter days the love of many will wax cold, because of an increase of “anomia” which is “antinomianism” according to the English.

It’s ironic, the Reformed camp recently had a hissy fit over a statement made by Joel Osteen’s wife during one of their services at Lakewood Church—the largest Protestant church in America boasting some 25,000 members. Apparently, she stated that we should not obey God to please God, but should obey God to please ourselves. Pray tell, a single focus on deep repentance to keep ourselves saved through double imputation is better? At least Osteen is propagating a many faceted obedience that might lobe some love at somebody. Moreover, isn’t a single focus on sin for purposes of joyful vivification, in fact, delighting in evil? Sure it is.

As some of you know, I got into a little back and forth on Twitter this week with Janet Mefferd. It started with me pushing back against her assertion in a recent article that Tullian isn’t an antinomian. My contention centered on a tweet by Tullian that read…

tt-tweet1-1

Where does that come from? That comes right out of the HD, and if you are keeping up with this series, you see this plainly. Because Tullian sees all of his works as mortal sin, even stopping the blind grandmother from walking out into traffic, all of his sin is therefore venial and can be forgiven by perpetually revisiting the gospel. Mefferd replied with the same old worn out Reformed responses. I am particularly amused by the classic one I call the cat hermeneutic. If Calvin writes in the Institutes that he saw a cat run across the road, Calvin doesn’t necessarily mean that he saw a cat run across the road. You see, you must read the whole corpus of his writing to really know for certain that he intended to say that he saw a cat run across the road. Really? Am I here right now?

Look, I could make the point very well tonight that Mefferd, like most Protestants, is completely clueless. But I think I will close with another angle. Tonight, I have picked this apart from a doctrinal standpoint, but we must remember that Jesus liked to give folks a really simple rule of thumb while they are in the process of learning the doctrine. Here it is: “By their fruits you will know them.” Yes, I am simply going to close with a comment that was posted on PPT today, and then we will go to the phones:

Sean, and others, do any of you know what Janet Mefferd’s background is? Specifically, what is her education? She obviously does not know that Luther advocated the use of state-sponsored violence, torture and murder against the Mennonites and other Anabaptists, that Luther was an anti-Semite, and had horrible demeaning attitudes towards women. On the latter, here are some quotes:

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.”

Martin Luther, Works 12.94

“Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.”

Martin Luther, Table Talk

“Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for.”

Martin Luther, Works 20.84

“God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error.”

“We may well lie with what seems to be a woman of flesh and blood, and yet all the time it is only a devil in the shape of a woman.”

“No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.”

I could go on and quote his anti-semitic statements too. Oh, and Martin Luther despised reason. Here are some quotes:

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.”

Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.”

Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148

“There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason… Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.”

Martin Luther, quoted by Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic, (Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1963), p. 75

Also, Luther was an advocate of drinking alcohol in excessive amounts. I could go on, but Luther’s quotes make me ill and nauseous. Obviously, Janet Mefferd has studied Christian history well.

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When Church is Spiritual Gangrene: Sanctification by Justification

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 1, 2015

ChandlerWe have recently received our weekly dose of Neo-Calvinist drama. This time, it was Matt Chandler’s turn to give discernment bloggers the gift that just keeps on giving. This recent incident involving Chandler’s Village Church has gone super-viral. Secular news networks are even reporting on the episode resulting in a public outcry.

These incidents are not isolated and will continue to be exposed in both Protestant and Catholic circles because they are the result of a false gospel. As Jesus said, a tree is known by its fruit.

Jordan Root  

Apparently, the constant drama taking place in the evangelical church is not nature’s way of telling us something is wrong. However, the most recent drama concerning former missionary Jordan Root supplies a pretty decent insight into the core problem of progressive justification.

Christ’s called out assembly is a body that depends on individual members. The apostle Paul used a body analogy because it is the perfect analogy of Christ’s called out assembly. Strong individual members make a strong body. Consequently, every member’s role must be identified and nourished. To the degree that members (body parts, not the Salvation Club membership) do not function properly, the body is crippled and falls short of fulfilling Christ’s mandate.

Christ is the only head. The common goal is the one mind in Christ. The advent of Christ’s called out assembly was a monumental event. The monumental event was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a major participant in the plan of salvation. Beware of any doctrine that emphasizes one of the three Trinity persons over the other in the plan of salvation. Salvation is Trinitarian.

the-village-churchThere was a new birth before the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but until that time, salvation was atonement by the law. In other words, according to Moses, obedience to the law could bring both life and death, but at that time the law was a covering for sin. All sin was imputed to the law and the law held that sin captive along with the believer. The believer was blessed by obedience to the law, and their sins that were a violation of the law were held in escrow until the coming of Christ. Of course, the terms of this particular escrow is an eradication instead of a payment.

On the other hand, the sins of unbelievers were not imputed to the law, but rather the law condemned them for every offence. In both cases, life and death according to the law was experienced, but with different ENDS. Whether believer or unbeliever, degrees of life and death occurred, but salvation determined a life end while being unsaved determined a death end with degree of violation determining the wages of eternal death.

When it was the Spirit’s time for His major event, He resurrected Christ from the grave and gave gifts to Christ’s assembly while baptizing Jews and Gentiles into one body. Christ died to end the law by paying the penalty for ALL sins imputed to it. With the ending of the law, all sins committed against it were ended as well except for those who were not covered by it. For unbelievers, the law was not ended and therefore they remain condemned by it.

Hence, the law is no longer an atonement for believers, but only serves as a means to love God and others. Before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it served as atonement and a means of love, now it can only serve as a means of loving God and others. However, for unbelievers in this day, the law has a sort of grace to it; in that sin is still imputed to it. If and when they believe in Christ, every sin they committed against the law (all sin is a violation of the law) is ended with the law and now there is no law that can condemn them in the future. Therefore, the Old Testament atonement is still a “ministry of death” that is “passing away” (From an eschatology point of view, this is why believers were in the abode of the dead until Christ died on the cross. During the three days after His crucifixion, he preached to the “captives” and set others free leading them to heaven in a victory procession).

Nevertheless, through ignorance, the believer can experience as much present death, or even more death than unbelievers who will come to realize a death ending. There is a specific dynamic that figures in. The Bible splits this up into “under law” and “under grace.” Under law is the biblical definition of an unregenerate person and possesses a certain metaphysical dynamic, or state of being. Those under law are free to do good but enslaved to sin. This is primarily because they are under the law’s condemnation or judgement. In conjunction with SIN, the law empowers sin. When the law is ended, sin is stripped of its power because there is no condemnation. Sin finds its power in condemnation.

And death finds its sting in sin. The primary root of all fear is fear of judgment, and mankind, having the “works of the law” written on their hearts and administered by the conscience, knows intuitively that future death means future judgement. But “perfect love casts out fear.” What’s that? That’s “under grace” which is now no longer under the condemnation of the law; the law only serves to inform the believer in regard to loving God and others. There is NOW NO condemnation for those in Christ.

Yet, there is still a death/life dynamic going on that is experienced by the believer and unbeliever alike. The end is different, but not necessarily the life experience. Those under grace are enslaved to righteousness, but unfortunately free to sin. They are enslaved to righteousness because of the baptism of the Spirit. Don’t get too hung-up on the “slave” nomenclature. Under law enslaves the unbeliever to the laws condemnation. That is inescapable. They are crippled and enslaved to constant condemnation and the fear of death. This is where it is vital to realize that the baptism of the Spirit is a literal death of the person who is under law and enslaved to it. They are enslaved to its inevitable endgame of death measured by the degree of life choices regarding law—primarily the law of their conscience, but ultimately the full brunt of God’s specific law of which they are indifferent.

Once a person is saved, they are ”free” from the condemnation of the law also known as the “law of sin and death,” and “free to serve another.”

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.

Note the slave terminology. Through the death of Christ, he purchased all of mankind by ending the law. His death purchased all people from the Sin slave master. Think about that in regard to those under law. Their freedom has been purchased already. If Christ died to end the law, and He did (Romans 10:4), and all unsaved people are under the law, and they are (Romans 8:2, 6:14), those who believe in Christ are now dead to the law and any possible condemnation in the future.

Christ didn’t die for anyone in particular, He died to end the law that all of mankind is under at one time or another. That necessarily demands a conclusion that Christ died for all people unless some are born into the world who are not under law, and that is obviously not the case.

To believe in Christ is to follow Him in the Spirit’s baptism. It is not merely a mental ascent to the facts of the gospel of first importance, it is a decision to follow Christ in that baptism. You recognize that Christ has purchased you from the Sin master, and know that you will not escape if you reject so great a salvation. The judgement is greater in this era because atonement spoke on earth through Moses and none who rejected it escaped, but now the call comes from heaven.

In Romans 7:4, we see both sides of the Spirit’s baptism:

A. Death;

you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another.

B. Resurrection;

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.

This is summarized this way:

Romans 6:3 – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

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

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

We are released from the law (death) in order to be freed to “serve” another (resurrection). The guide for that service is the Spirit’s law. That’s a really good thing to call the Bible: the Spirit’s law; He uses it to convict the world of sin and the judgment to come in regard to those under law, and uses it to sanctify those under grace (John 17:17).

This is all by faith because if we do not live by this dynamic, if we do not take it literally, the metaphysical dynamic of life/death starts to bear unfortunate fruit – the death type. We will practice and apply what we believe to be true. How literally we take this dynamic does not modify the natural effect of the dynamic. If a tree really fell in the forest, that really happened whether we believe it or not. And the life/death dynamic happens whether we believe it or not.

Even though the endgame for every believer is life, they can live a life of death through ignorance. Through ignorance, they can actually be enslaved to the sin they were freed from. How does this happen? The Bible is very clear about how this happens.

It begins with ignorance about desire.

Though the old us/we literally died with Christ, and we are no longer under the law and free to serve Christ rather than serving the law of sin overseen by our old master, our mortal bodies that are not yet redeemed still possess the desires of the old man. The “mind” is redeemed, and we therefore share the same desires of the Spirit, but sin can still harass us through sinful desires. It is important to note that “the flesh” is NOT inherently evil, but rather “weak.” “Sins of the flesh” and “desires of the flesh” refer to when the flesh, or our bodies are succumbing to desires that come from sin via our choices regarding obedience. The body can also be used for holy purposes as well as sinful purposes.

At any rate, one who has died with Christ and has been resurrected to new creaturehood with Christ is able to say “no” to desires that come from sin that still resides in our mortal bodies. One reason among others that we are able to say “no” is due to the fact that sin’s power has been stripped away because it can no longer condemn us (1Corinthians 15:56). Our motives in love are by default pure in regard to justification because we are righteous and justified apart from the law. The law cannot condemn us, so the only venture left is to use the law for loving God and others. Any attempt by a believer to earn justification is completely illogical because that would be an attempt to finish an already finished work (Galatians 3:3 | note the YLT version).

Succumbing to sinful desires as a Christian is a matter of family sin, and not sin that relates to justification in any way. So in regard to justification we are blameless via the new birth that ended the law, but we may be chastised by God in regard to not loving our Father and others as we are called to. Note in the Lord’s Prayer that we ask forgiveness from our Father which is an altogether different matter than seeking salvation from sin that condemns us.

The Bible also teaches us that the intensity of sinful desires is increased if we give “provision” to those desires. In other words, by obeying sinful desires, we increase the intensity of sin’s appeal through the passions and emotions. Furthermore, since we become slaves of the master we obey, Christians can become enslaved “once again” to the demands and desires of the old master. Of course, this is due to extreme ignorance. Nevertheless, obeying sinful desires nourishes the desires, intensifies them, and over time a Christians can be habituated in regard to those desires.

This problem finds its roots in religions that promote progressive justification. Because salvation is supposedly a process that begins at point A and progresses to point B (rather than a onetime, and once-for-all-time transformation that guarantees salvation), the “Christian” life, also known as sanctification, is part of the salvation/justification “progression” from point A to point B. Consequently, the very definition of sanctification, ie., knowing how to “control our own bodies” (1Thessalonians 4:3,4) is egregiously circumvented.

And the idea of being sanctified by justification plays well for existing guilt. True believers feel bad that Christ had to die for our sin, and our lack of ability to grasp the full gravity of Christ’s sacrifice feeds that guilt as well. Far removed from the actual historical event, our lack of identification with Christ’s suffering makes us feel unthankful and indifferent. As a result, we are open to ways that enable us to better identify with Christ’s actual suffering as a way to obtain an acceptable appreciation of our salvation. This idea plays to our natural and logical inclinations.

But there are several problems with this approach. First, the Bible doesn’t call us to continually revisit the same gospel that saved us in order to obtain more and more gratitude for our salvation. This can easily become a way of earning our salvation via acceptable gratitude. Secondly, the guy who would be able to plunge the depths of why Christ had to die for him IS dead. Thirdly, the new creature cannot endeavor to better understand the condemnation that Christ died to end precisely because there is no condemnation. The subject is looking for something that cannot exist apart from the law, and therefore, if he/she finds any, it’s a figment of their misguided imagination.

Unless of course, they are deceived and are actually experiencing real condemnation because belief in a progressive justification gospel did not bring about the baptism of the Spirit. Remaining under law, they are finding ample condemnation that is “making the cross bigger and people smaller.”

In most cases, and due to overall ignorance regarding sanctification because all of the traditional rage is to make sanctification part of the justification process, the new Christian is immediately confused that they are experiencing sinful desires. After 2000 years since the advent of the Spirit’s baptism, EVERY new believer should be able to say:

According to the Bible, I just experienced a sinful desire. God has promised me that I am able to say “no” to that desire, and if I disobey that desire, I am sucking the life out of it more and more and learning to hate it more and more. I am a slave to whatever I obey, and sanctification is putting off the old habits of the old person and putting on the new habits of the new creature. Obedience results in habituation to either godliness or ungodliness.

This dynamic is not operative in those under law because they are not born again and are indifferent to God’s word. Psalm 119 is the heart of a born again individual. Those under law may live a moral life that is part and parcel with being created in the image of God, but every violation of the law is a wage for death. Not being subject to certain desires of the baser sort does not exclude them from being under law—they will just suffer a more tolerable end.

There is something VERY important to understand about the desires that come from sin: they are myriad, of various and sundry stripes, and at times horrifying. They can, and do include a desire to murder people, all kinds of covetousness, and a plethora of unnatural sexual desires.

Nothing is sadder than a Christian who experiences a baser type of sinful desire and doesn’t understand what’s going on. Immediately, in most cases, they will doubt that they were really saved. That will lead to fear of condemnation which is not love. Likewise, a person may profess Christ to escape such a desire, and rightfully so, only to find out that the desire is not gone. Not understanding that the desire is stripped of its power, the individual will be thrown into turmoil because the desire still presents itself. At this point, believing that the sinful desire is still a part of their redeemed being, which it is not, is very unhelpful to the cause of godliness to say the least.

How much better is it that a person follows Christ in death and resurrection, but understands that the desire may present itself after salvation? That should be the case. The individual should be prepared to understand the desire and what to do about it. Believing that sin no longer has “dominion” over the saint is part of believing the truth of the new birth and salvation itself. Others who seek Christ will have lesser struggles and different issues that caused them to seek Christ. Some may be moral persons who put many Christians to shame, but want the hope of eternal life. Even though they are upright persons as far as persons go, they are aware that they still fall short of God’s glory. Such persons will have a lesser struggle in sanctification.

But in all cases, various and sundry desires can be reduced to a whisper through depriving the desire of nutrients (provisions), and practicing selfless love. It’s hard to sin while you are loving God and others.

A sanctification dynamic that is not helpful is the idea of a Christian having “two natures.” No, a Christian only has ONE nature, the new one. The two natures construct gives under law and under grace equal billing, and places them in the ring to duke it out. No, Christian living is not a series of battles lost or won between two natures with equal dominion over the believer. Only one nature has dominion, and love is a choice. James explains the dynamic clearly:

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

All sin, even the family sin of saints that does not condemn brings forth some sort of death albeit very subtle in a lot of cases. For the believer, it is the present consequences of sin. ALL sin brings about some sort of death. Again, the death that is often brought about is very subtle. One consequence of sin that is apparent may actually be the culmination of several other sins. A person may look 15 years older than they should, and that can be the result of years of bad thinking, or the culmination of trillions of bad thoughts. This can even be more scientific; researchers have determined, on average, how much each cigarette smoked shortens one’s life. When a person smokes a cigarette, they don’t drop dead on the spot, but the one cigarette has brought forth death. Furthermore, this same analogy can be used to illustrate how obeying the desire to smoke one cigarette leads to being enslaved to the habit of smoking.

Back to Jordan Root

Let’s suppose that as a young man in seminary, Jordan was afflicted with the very unfortunate desire to have sexual relations with children. Horrible. Like most professing Christians in a progressive justification church culture, he would not have had the tools to deal with this affliction. Many in his shoes are afraid to approach individuals privately about the struggle because they are obviously very ashamed and confused that they have this desire. After all, it doesn’t seem to go well with a Christian profession to say the least. Many go to sermon after sermon after sermon in hopes that the issue will be addressed. In the Protestant church—that would be a pipe dream because sanctification is not the focus, returning to the same gospel that saved us in order to keep our justification moving forward is the focus.

That necessarily brings us to the preaching that Root eventually began to sit under: Neo-Calvinism. For Root to make direct efforts to rid himself of the desire through literal biblical instruction would have been “focusing on his own doing instead of what Jesus HAS done.” And you see, the whole problem with desires is that we “desire something more than Jesus.”

This doctrine would have been, and is presently a death sentence for Root. Typical is the creation of such problems by the nonexistent sanctification of Neo-Calvinism followed by their claim to be the cure for what they helped to create.

Gangrene

This is also exactly why the apostle Paul called false doctrine “gangrene” (2Timothy 2:17). My wife Susan contracted gangrene after a motorcycle accident. The doctor discovered it during a routine follow-up examination after the accident. The condition was completely painless and Susan was totally unaware that gangrene was silently and slowly eating away her leg. Fortunately, the condition was discovered before her leg needed to be amputated in order to prevent its spread to the rest of her body resulting in certain death.

There is not a more apt description of sin’s slow death and the false doctrines that promote it.

Progressive justification is driven by a return to the same gospel that saved us because apparently, as Christians, we still need salvation.  And if we still need to be saved as Christians, as plainly stated by Dr. John Piper and many others including Matt Chandler, we abide in death still. In fact, the Neo-Calvinist doctrine of mortification and vivification calls for a meditation on our sin while only EXPERINCING resurrection—not walking in it. By a deeper and deeper realization of how sinful we are, we experience the joy of “future glory.” Sin is our function, while resurrection is not our function—only an EXPERIENCE. Even the experience is a progression towards the ultimate experience of “final justification.”  Neo-Calvinist Paul Washer stated it this way:

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

Obviously, in this progressive justification process, “Christians” live for the sole purpose of experiencing joy only through primarily focusing on sin. Note that this joy is accompanied by a progressive “resting.” Clearly, this reduces Christianity to an experience only. Moreover, is this not, for all practical purposes, a rejoicing in evil that the apostle Paul warned about in 1Corintians 13? Is this, in essence, the antithesis of love? I believe it is. Justification is a rest; sanctification is a labor of love more and more as we see the day approaching. If we don’t actually do the work, we are not doing the love.

Progressive justification is a doctrine of death, and there are many Jordan Roots rotting away in the clutches of gangrene. Like Root, they at some point start losing limbs, but return to the source rather than new birth. Their end will be certain death.

paul

Bible Interpretation, the Rapture, and the Problem with Salvation

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

Children of the Reformation are crippled in their ability to understand the Bible because of the Reformation’s salvation/justification prism. In other words, we have a very strong tendency to interpret every verse through the prism of eternal salvation. This makes weak sanctification/kingdom living part and parcel with Reformation history. In fact, the Reformation gospel makes sanctification a mere extension of justification. There is justification, and that “experienced subjectively” (sanctification) and then “final justification.” Their words, not mine.

Hence, in the Bible, rewards in context of sanctification are seen as the reward of salvation. The attempt to make the reward salvation while claiming salvation by faith alone becomes a convoluted theological mess. Complicating the matter are many Bible passages that, in fact, seem to say that we obtain final salvation through perseverance. This is because our minds have been trained to interpret Scripture through a singular salvation prism.

“Singular salvation.” That is a point in and of itself. How many Christians think there is only ONE salvation? All save a few. How many think salvation and redemption are the same thing? All save a few. Salvation is the new birth; redemption is the salvation of the body when Christ comes to claim what is His. Seeing the two as the same thing creates a plethora of interpretive problems, and there are many other examples that could be cited.

And far from being the least of these interpretive problems is the idea that salvation is both gift and reward. The Reformed get around this by categorizing works into two categories: faith alone works that aren’t really works per se, and works that are really works. Yes, salvation is a gift, but it is also a reward for doing your part to obtain salvation via faith alone works. Key to understanding this concept is the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. By doing gospel works, or faith alone works grounded in the “salvation event,” the works of Christ are imputed to your sanctification and “subjective justification” is kept properly on track until “final justification.”

Doing your part to keep your salvation isn’t works salvation because it is a prescribed faith alone work. If you do A, Christ will do B, and you get to keep your salvation. In Reformed circles that usually includes partaking in the “means of grace.” Since it is “the means of grace” it is not works. This usually includes formal church membership, “putting yourself under the authority of godly men,” sitting under Reformed preaching, partaking in the Lord’s Table, and “deep repentance” for sins that separate you from grace, etc.

The result is a missing, and massive kingdom living construct. Also missing is an understanding of any kind of gravity concerning kingdom living. How we participate in sanctification has no implications other than salvation. Until the recent resurgence of the Reformed gospel that makes final salvation the consequence of sanctification, kingdom living was relegated to mere fire insurance.

So, what is the point of this post? Christians must relearn and cultivate an understanding of incentives regarding kingdom living. One is present life more abundantly, peace, assurance, and blessings. The eternal ones are a little bit more difficult to understand, but sound pretty cool:

Daniel 12:3 – And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

This is some kind of eternal reward for the soul winner. Other such eternal rewards can be found in the seven letters to the assemblies in Revelation. But like I said, the present rewards are easier to understand and have immediate benefits. At any rate, again, this is a body of wisdom that needs cultivation.

Let me SUGGEST another one. Not that it will do any good, but let me state that this is just an idea I am putting out there for consideration. Here, I will repeat it again, knowing that the attempt is futile, but nevertheless,

THIS IS JUST AN IDEA I AM PUTTING OUT THERE FOR CONSIDERATION.   

con·sid·er·a·tion

kənˌsidərˈāSH(ə)n/

noun

Careful thought, typically over a period of time. “a long process involving a great deal of careful consideration” synonyms:   thought, deliberation, reflection, contemplation, rumination, meditation;

NOT DOGMA.

Here is my thought. The rapture is a reward for suitable kingdom living. When the rapture happens, not everyone left behind is lost. Is that screaming I hear in the distance? Probably. What in the world would give me such an idea? Let me share:

Revelation 3:10 – Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. [Present reward?] 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. [Present reward?] 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. [Eternal reward?] Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Obviously, the hour of trial coming upon the world is the tribulation period. Here, being saved from that hour seems to be a reward (crown) for perseverance. You have two choices here: the reward is either the rapture or salvation. No? What am I missing? It wouldn’t be the first time that rapture was reward and didn’t include all of the saved (see “Enoch”).  Also, Paul spoke of a reward for those “who have loved his appearing.” This is the “righteousness” crown (2Timothy 4:8).

What about all of the indifference among Christians concerning the rapture? What about all of the indifference regarding the New Testament call to be continually looking for the Lord’s unexpected and imminent return? Could this indifference stem from a fundamental ignorance in regard to sanctification?

There are many Christians in our day who reject the rapture, so should they expect to be a part of it? Is it some kind of secondary truth that is optional?

This is an attempt, perhaps a lame one, to get Christians to think more deeply about kingdom living and our present calling. Just food for thought. We need to challenge each other to think beyond orthodoxy. We need to set our kingdom living on fire.

paul

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