Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Calvinist Grand Quandary

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on May 14, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published August 28, 2014

“At any rate, the very attempt by Calvinists to evangelize places them in a twofold grand quandary that requires the abandonment of rudimentary logic.” “But in contrast, if God’s choice over our choice is the crux of the gospel, that crux must be explained in order for the presentation itself to be a true gospel.” 

At the 2008 T4G conference, John MacArthur Jr. officially came out of the closet as a bonafide New Calvinist. He did this because he was convinced by John Piper and others that New Calvinism is Old Calvinism. MacArthur signed up because it’s true, and he was unwilling to reject Reformation tradition. Apparently, only other-than Anglo Saxon can be deceived en masse.

MacArthur’s keynote address was titled, The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability. MacArthur was converted from his Lordship Salvation escapades of the late 80’s by the New Calvinist camp. According to a pastor I knew at the time, Michael Horton and others challenged MacArthur to rethink the controversy he had started. The result is MacArthur still affirming Lordship, but as a manifestation rather than actions of new creaturehood. I recently completed a series explaining all of the confused controversy in regard to the Lordship Salvation issue.

At any rate, the very attempt by Calvinists to evangelize places them in a twofold grand quandary that requires the abandonment of rudimentary logic.

I have written before about the Gospel of Sovereignty. Any ability at all on the part of mankind is a slight against God’s sovereignty. This is the hypothesis of MacArthur’s aforementioned messages. Hence, the “good news” is man’s “absolute” inability and God’s sovereignty. MacArthur’s primary text was John 3:1-8…

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

MacArthur stated during his messages that when the gospel is presented we must make it clear that people can only do one thing in response to the gospel: ask for salvation, and then wait to see if the wind blows or not. So, it is not a decision, often maligned in Reformed circles as “decisionism,” or a choice. Either suggests ability on the part of the individual to make a decision for God or to choose God; ability and God’s sovereignty are mutually exclusive. If man can choose, or make a decision, God ceases to be God.

This qualifies a fair challenge to all Calvinists: “Do you make it absolutely clear in your gospel presentation that people have no ability to choose God?” If they do not do this, if this is not qualified, they are presenting a false gospel by their own definition. Why? The truthfulness of their gospel must be verified by the certainty that the individual does not assume they have a choice or can make a decision.

Most Calvinists get around this by replying that people are being called on to believe only, not make a decision or a choice. However, it also stands to reason that belief itself is a choice. When we are presented with a proposition, we DECIDE to believe it or not believe it. In all fairness, according to their own definitions, Calvinists must make this distinction clear in their gospel presentation. Let’s face it; few do if they evangelize at all. In fact, when Calvinists are cornered with this question, they immediately start acting like a toddler who needs to use the bathroom. Basically, they know that the lack of this distinction in their actual gospel presentation is telling. Their presentation is supposedly purified by the absence of information.

On another wise, Calvinists are also admitting that they are asking for a mere mental assent to acknowledging that God saves people. The Bible states that part and parcel with belief is the acceptance that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Obviously, among the unbelieving, there are those who reject the existence of God altogether, and those who believe in His existence, but don’t want anything to do with Him. Is the wind only blowing halfway in those cases? Are there three different wind advisories? None, moderate, and gale force? Furthermore, if people have no ability to choose, is a decision to choose Buddha over Allah made for them? The logic seems to be that man can indeed choose, but will only choose other gods unless God intervenes—if they understand that they have no ability to choose.

If we give this whole construct merit to this point, we further find that the definition of faith must be a mere mental accent to the facts of the gospel with an intentional non-response; any response must be from the blowing wind. MacArthur stated in the same message that we know  Nicodemus was saved because “the wind blew” referring to his righteous actions.

Hence, if the Calvinist gospel is not false by their own definition, it must be presented as follows:

“God saves people, and you may be one of them and you may not be one of them, but if you are able to choose, God is not sovereign, and you are trusting in your own ability to choose.”

Unwittingly, some Calvinists say it is alright if people initially think they are able to choose, but later understand that it wasn’t their choice. So, it is alright if they initially trust in their decision in order to receive the gift of salvation from God, but later realize this was not the case at all. So at what point were they really saved? And would not sooner be better than later? Why not tell them from the get-go? This implies a cult-like procedure that misrepresents the truth, and then slowly indoctrinates the individual to a just standing. Others suggest that the evangelist should never state that it is their decision, but rather cite Scriptures that imply such—that way, apparently, it is the Holy Spirit lying instead of you. But nevertheless, what the individual believes about choice is uncertain unless clarified.

In the final analysis, everyone but the recipient of the gospel knows they have no real choice, but thinking they have a choice might be necessary to get them into the kingdom. But in contrast, if God’s choice over our choice is the crux of the gospel, that crux must be explained in order for the presentation itself to be a true gospel.

Add to this the definition of “believe” in the Bible. In the Bible, “believe” is never defined as a mere mental assent to the facts of the gospel; it also involves a knowledge of new creaturehood that will radically change one’s life. More than not, it was the “gospel of the kingdom” that was preached by Christ and the apostles. As I explained in the Lordship series, it is impossible for the execution of the commitment to save you because justification and sanctification are completely separate. But clearly, a response to the gospel must include a decision to leave life A for life B. The follow-through doesn’t save you, the decision saves you. Because of the weakness of the flesh, love for God’s ways will vary in application, but you are not only choosing a savior; He is also Lord. It is a choice to leave one master for another. Remember, everyone is under one master or the other. Choosing Christ who purchased you from the Sin master is hardly works salvation through a “commitment” to change. It’s not really a “commitment” but an acknowledgment that the new birth will bring about change in your life and you will be involved in the effort. Again, that’s not what saves you because justification and sanctification are completely separate; one is a finished work and the other is a progression of applied holiness. When you are born again, you are as saved as you will ever be and are infused with the fullness of the Trinity. The concern of anti-lordshippers that “commitment” is works salvation shows their conflation of justification and sanctification which makes them guilty of progressive justification and subsequently the pot calling the kettle black.

Calvinists insist that repentance be left out of the gospel presentation for this reason—it calls on the individual to choose a different way. In the book of Acts, Christianity is referred to as “The Way” in several places. This is more information that must be excluded from the Calvinist gospel in order to make it true by their own definition. Therefore, in order for their gospel to be truthfully presented by their own definition…

“God saves people. If He saved you, you will live differently. The wind will blow, but it’s not your choice, do you believe this? And by the way, don’t change your life to prove to yourself  God saved you, that’s fruit stapling. If you believe, that’s great, but now you must wait to see if the wind blows. The Christian life is a Sabbath rest.”

Anything more than this in a Calvinist gospel presentation is a false gospel by their own definition.

And let us not forget, in Calvinist post salvation status, the wind keeps on blowing, or not. It is undeniable that Calvin himself believed in three classes of people: the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere. Said another way: no wind at all, those who are temporarily enlightened (the wind stops), and the ones who get a steady wind to the end.

There is only one way Calvinism can be feasible; logic must be completely divorced from the Bible.

paul

Addendum:

In Hinduism, which is the best example, the spiritual strata is Bhramin, Kshatryia, Vaishya, Sudra, and Untouchables. But listen very careful to what Karma is in Hinduism. THIS IS KEY. I am citing Swami Bhaskarananda: Chapters IX to XI from the book “The Essentials of Hinduism,” Heading; “Predestination”:

Karma is the infant stage of Hinduism where saints believe they are responsible for their own actions, but as growth moves forward, the mature saint…

He becomes convinced that God has been doing everything by using his body, mind, energy and the senses. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God, and whatever God has been doing to him is for his ultimate spiritual good. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine to him. To him the doctrine of karma ceases to be a valid doctrine.

Therefore, these two doctrines, even though apparently contradictory to each other, are valid for people at different stages of spiritual growth.

Protestantism: So Many Flavors, but It’s All Ice Cream

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 11, 2015

Protestantism has many different denominations and interpretations of the Bible, and let me explain why that’s the case. Protestantism was founded on the idea that the law of God has a single dimension. That’s the foundation, and that fleshes itself out in one way or the other across all denominational lines.

For purposes of keeping this simple, we will focus on how this applies according to what is in vogue presently: the law can only condemn; the law can only provoke us to sin; the law demands perfection or all bets are off; the standard for being justified is perfect law-keeping.

What to do about law? That fundamental question is what divides all sects of Protestantism. It is what drives all the bickering between Calvinists, Arminians, free grace (Zane Hodges), and the anti-lordship salvation crowd which is mostly made up of the free grace crowd

This is why Protestants can’t seem to get it together on Christian living. Trying to make a single dimension law work in the Christian life causes all kinds of confusion. Staying in the same vein of simplicity, let’s use Romans 8:2 in an attempt to understand the problem:

Romans 8:2 – For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

That’s two different relationships to the same law. To the born again believer, the Spirit uses the law to sanctify the believer (John 17:17). To walk in the Spirit is to learn and obey the word of God which is life. This is a colaboring with the Spirit in the truest sense.

To the unbeliever, the law can only condemn, and sin within uses the law to provoke the unbeliever to sin. To the unbeliever, the law can only bring death. Hence, “the law of sin and death.”

In what way does the law set us free to “serve another”? When we believe its testimony, it sets us free from being condemned by it, and frees us to obey it as a way of loving God and others. This isn’t a difficult concept: if we listen to wisdom we live; if we reject wisdom we die, but it’s the same wisdom.

Again, for purposes of making a simple point in this post, I am not going into how this all fits together with the believer being truly righteous, and able to please God through obedience while falling short of perfection. You aren’t going to understand any of that till you get this basic point anyway.

The following prompted this post: I stumbled upon an anti-lordship salvation kind of guy named Jack Smack who believes Calvinists, Arminians, and proponents of lordship salvation are all going to hell. Again, this all boils down to differences in how you get the square peg of a single dimension law into the round hole of Christian living and the gospel. Note what he states in the video:

 Now what is Lordship salvation? It’s the idea that you have to live a certain way, you have to prove you are saved by your works.  You got to obey God; you got to repent of your sins, and it’s all of this jargon.  And there’s a lot, there’s a few other things they say:  the lot of them will tell you, you know, you can’t live any way you want to and all this, well, they’re trying to control you.  They’re trying to put you under the law.  They’re doing exactly what these Jews were doing.  It says, “why compest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”  Okay…

15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

Now look at this:  Lordship Salvation, they’re people trying to get you to sin – they want you to sin! They teach lawless, that lewd antinomianism, because if you get down to it, they’re trying to put you back under a law.  And all the law can do is cause you to sin.

18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

So actually, in all reality, ironically, a Lordship Salvationist claims like they don’t want people to keep on sinning, but the reality of what they teach, it’s going to make you go on sinning, according to that verse.  So yes, Lordship Salvation proponents are antinomian.  Regardless of whether or not they will admit this, the bible says they are.  Any time you try to put somebody under a law, you are making them into a bigger sinner PERIOD.

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

So, it’s all I have.  Lordship Salvation makes you into a bigger sinner because you’re imposing laws on people that they just can’t obey on their own, and um…that’s exactly what these people are doing.  So I , you know, believe in, I teach Free Grace.  I teach that we’re justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Now you have to understand Free Grace, or you cannot serve God; and you cannot, you know, obey God.  You have to understand what’s been done on your behalf: Jesus Christ died for your sins. He was buried and rose again.  He gives eternal life as a free gift.  So, on the basis of that, we should want to serve God and to live right.  And that’s what I teach.  People that are teaching law, lordship, they’re the antinomians because the reality of what they teach leads to uh..transgression.

In the Bible, there are only two kinds of people: under law (lost), and under grace (saved). But what is missed in Protestantism is that being under grace doesn’t exclude being under law, it’s just not the law of sin and death. The law informs us as to what people need to do to be free from being condemned by the law, resulting in being free to use the law for loving God and others.  If we want to know what to do in order to not die for lack of wisdom, we go and ask Lady Wisdom, right?

When we are saved by believing the law’s testimony about Christ, we are set free from its condemnation in a one time, completed transformation from death to life. We are now free to serve the law unto life more abundantly. Freedom from the law of condemnation is a gift, but obedience to the law as a born again believer yields rewards in the present life and the life to come. Hence, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” But living to God doesn’t exclude the law; Matthew 4:4 couldn’t be clearer on that.

Nevertheless, notice how Smack states that the relationship of the law of sin and death remains the same for the believer. This keeps believers “under law,” which is the very definition of a lost person. He states that a demand for Christians to obey the law only causes them to sin more! Woe! But frankly, this take on law is the same problem with Protestantism in general across the board.

The obvious question becomes: how do I obey the law as a Christian in a way that won’t cause me to sin more or condemn me? Of course, this has caused much confusion among Protestants. The remedy is usually a confusing system of some sort that imputes the perfect obedience of Jesus to our life in the same way His righteousness was imputed to us by faith alone. These systems range from outright denial of the law in the Christians life to a “relaxing of the law.”

Here is what Christians need to come to grips with: the two uses of the law in Romans 8:2. That is the key.

paul

A Doctrinal Evaluation of the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement: Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 7, 2014

Originally published August 14, 2014

The root of all controversy: the golden chain of salvation. 

Before we start part 2, we have a little unfinished business from part 1. The astute observer will ask, “If Jay Adams had the right idea about sanctification while misunderstanding what Calvin really believed, what of his biblical counseling movement that moved from mere generalities to the finer points of Christian living?” Answer: it WAS a revival…probably the only real revival the church has seen since the previous focus on practical application of the Scriptures versus redemptive focus/meditation. And when was that? I have no idea.

You remember my mention of the John “Jack” Miller disciple David Powlison. He started a contra biblical counseling movement against the Jay Adams movement. This is often referred to as first generation biblical counseling versus second generation biblical counseling. The second generation effectively wiped out the first. The crux of that civil war is relevant to this study. One model sees salvation and sanctification as separate. Salvation is completely vertical, but sanctification is mostly horizontal. Jay Adams argued in his aforementioned book against Sonship theology that the source of power in the Christian life is not salvation, but regeneration. In other words, justification is a finished work and a static declaration while the Christian life flows from the “quickening” of the new birth. We don’t return to the cross for power in the Christian life, we learn and obey the Spirit’s instrument for changing us, the law of the Spirit of life. What Adams didn’t realize is that this whole idea of life coming from a perpetual revisitation of our justification is in fact authentic Reformed dogma (see the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11).

Every Christian controversy from the Reformation till the present finds its roots in the golden chain. Reformed pastors wax eloquent in regard to who builds the links in the chain between justification and glorification: it’s either us, or the Holy Spirit using “what Jesus has done, not anything we do.”

From the latter 40’s to 1970, the first gospel wave (Billy Graham et al) ruled the Christian scene via EB. Cogous pushed back with a vengeance from 1970 till the present with the second gospel wave. The first wave saw a commitment to obedience as synonymous with keeping yourself saved because of the golden chain idea. To say that they overemphasized the gospel would be a gargantuan understatement. Obviously, they saw a commitment to obedience as transposed upon the Christian life. The second gospel wave demanded a commitment, and recognition of Christ as Lord, but also demanded a life of faith alone to keep the law satisfied with Christ’s perfect obedience. Again, the ALS camp misunderstands the Reformed on this point. Both camps hold to sanctification by faith alone. This is the very idea that James rudely pushed back against in his epistle.

Golden Chain 2

The issue made simple: Romans 8:30.

In Romans 8:30 we read the following:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Notice that sanctification is missing from this verse even though the context spans the beginning of our salvation to our resurrection. This is the distinction between all golden chain gospels and the real gospel, the kingdom gospel. Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” Hereafter, KG. The golden chain gospel says that sanctification is missing from this verse because justification and sanctification are the same thing. The KG says that sanctification is missing from this verse because justification and sanctification are mutually exclusive. The context is assurance of salvation (see verses 31ff.).

Curiously, the golden chain gospel which includes both ALS and LS/Calvinism, teaches us to remind ourselves of God’s grace alone regardless of anything we do. If our behavior brings doubt, this is evidence of a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s grace and we should therefore remind ourselves of such. ALS says that concern over behavior suggests that you believe behavior finishes justification and not grace alone. With the KG, that consideration is not even on the radar screen because justification and sanctification are completely separate; finishing a finished work is impossible. You can’t have that mentality if you understand it to be an impossible reality. I might also add that simply returning to the same gospel that saved us to cure a troubled conscience instead of changing behavior sears the consequence over time. This is ill advised.

In other words, the KG says it is impossible to unwittingly attempt to please God to gain justification because that work is finished. One is free to aggressively obey God without any fear that they are unwittingly attempting to earn their justification. ALS and LS/Calvinism do not have this convenience because justification is both finished and not finished. The Reformed, already, but not yet construct that relates to predestination cannot be discussed here for lack of room and fear of confusion, but suffice to say for this study that the convenience is not there for either ALS or LS because justification is not finished. You must continue to remind yourself of free grace because you are in a continuum where unwitting works salvation can take place, and the only solution is to disavow good behavior as an evidence of conversion. Obedience must be completely optional. This used to be criticized as “Let go and let God” theology.  According to the KG, such a continuum is impossible and not reality.

Consider some dialogue I have had recently with ALS proponents:

Paul, While you ponder my answer, I’d like to ask you, if you’d identify what you believe you must do, before, during and after, in order to be given eternal life. Thank you, In Him, Holly

“Before, during, and after”? to… “be given eternal life.”? The implied answer is: nothing in justification; nothing in sanctification; and nothing in glorification. But again “during” shouldn’t even be deemed possible.

LS in Cogous form already states that perpetual double imputation is needed, so bad behavior is actually a good thing because it “shows forth the gospel.” In contrast, advocates of the KG are concerned with evidence of the new birth, not the overcoming of a propensity to misunderstand the grace of God because all doing in the Christian life is attached to justification somehow. Advocates of the KG understand that nothing they do in the Christian life has anything at all to do with justification. Much assurance comes from that. However, lazy discipleship forfeits assurance because it violates the conscience, and judgment begins in the household of God regarding consequences for bad behavior in this life. The fear generated from that can get confused with fear of eternal judgment.

But don’t miss my main point here: the solution for a lack of assurance in both ALS and LS are the same: preach the gospel to yourself. Remind yourself that works done by us are completely irrelevant to our salvation which also includes sanctification (the Christian life). Both camps woefully devalue the new birth and its expectations. In effect, we have no righteousness and obedience is not really performed by us, but performed by the Holy Spirit if we are “abiding” in Christ. This is a passive sanctification of our works in sanctification in order to categorize them as living by faith alone. ANY work we do is accredited to the justification process, so it must be sanctified by the right process. In the final analysis, Christians must only EXPERIENCE an obedience imputed to us by Christ. Citations by the Reformed abound, and I can cite one from the aforementioned conversation with advocates of ALS:

We can have righteousness of our own, that is self-righteousness. I didn’t notice, did you answer any of the questions? Do you sin? How much? Or not? Are you sinless?

Park on the fact that both camps assert that the Christian has no righteousness. To have any righteousness is a “righteousness of our own.” It’s either ALL us or ALL Christ. Therefore, we can only EXPERIENCE righteousness imputed to us, but it really isn’t us performing it; hence, in relationship to the same conversation:

This passage has nothing to do with becoming saved or providing evidence through our works that we are saved. The passage is about living experientially in a manner that is consistent with our position on [sic] Christ.

Notice that the Christian lives “experientially” according to “our position [i]n Christ.” In other words, Christians only experience their position, they don’t actually perform obedience themselves. In addition, when talking to either camp, one is challenged with the question, “Did you sin today?” And in both cases, when you qualify the question with, “In justification or sanctification?”…without exception they are thrown for a loop. Why? Because they see sin in justification as no different than sin in sanctification—that’s why they ask the question in the first place. If you believe the Christian is personally righteous as well as positionally righteous, you are immediately challenged by both camps with, “Did you sin today?” Why? Because the same assumption is that righteousness and sin are mutually exclusive. For the world, this is true, but not for Christians.

Another fact of the Reformation gospel is “righteousness” is defined as a perfect keeping of the law. To remove the law’s perfect standard, and its demands for perfection from justification is the very definition of antinomianism according to the Reformers. A perfect law keeping must be maintained for each believer if they are to remain justification.

If you remember, this is a direct quote from part one. ALS and LS/Calvinism both define righteousness by perfect law keeping. Again, why the air of profundity in the terse rhetorical question designed to end the argument on the spot by coup de grace? The very essence of the question reveals a profound misunderstanding of law and grace.

Let’s get a little more full circle now with part one. Because the Christian, according to both camps, cannot be righteous if he/she sins even once (“Do you sin? How much? Or not? Are you sinless?”), the good old Reformed mainstay of double imputation is needed for both of these applications of the same golden chain gospel. From part one:

Thirdly, this requires what is known as double imputation. Christ not only died for our sins so that our sins could be imputed to Him, He lived a life of perfect obedience to the law so that His obedience could be imputed to our sanctification.

The windsock of double imputation is the idea that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our sanctification. He died for our justification, and His perfect obedience to the law was imputed to our sanctification to keep justification rolling forward:

Model A asserts that since we cannot keep the law perfectly, we must invoke the double imputation of Christ by faith alone in order to be saved and stay saved (part 1).

Now let’s look again at the same recent conversation with ALS proponents:

Thanks Mark, I agree. We are qualified as saints, because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, but we still sin,..

Therefore, we only “qualify” as saints because we still sin, in order to keep our sainthood the righteousness of Christ must be imputed to us daily. Yes, that would be daily salvation. In the quote immediately prior, “Holly” was responding to this statement:

Hope you don’t mind me adding a thought, I think Paul is saying we were sinners but we are now saints (forgive me if I am wrong), it is true of course that we are saints but I believe it is also still true that we are sinners saved by grace because the Apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief”, present tense.

So, if Christians are still sinners, because we sin, and Christ came to save sinners, it would only make since that our need for salvation is still ongoing. Direct citations that agree with that point by John Calvin and Martin Luther is abundant low hanging fruit, but granted, such statements from the ALS camp are somewhat surprising. To further the point, I might add that “Holly” referred me to a message taught by a notable figure in the ALS movement who interpreted Romans 7:24 as a daily salvation. This is a very common rendering of that verse by the Reformed as well. The verse obviously refers to the redemption of the body and not a daily salvation.

Both are guilty of the same thing: a false double imputation construct must be applied to the Christian life by faith alone and the subjective experience thereof is optional. Like ALS—like Calvinism.

What is wrong with this gospel?

The golden chain gospel misrepresents the Trinity. The Father is removed from His role in salvation because it is His righteousness imputed to the believer before the foundation of the world. According to Romans 8:30, this guarantees glorification. The Holy Spirit is also misrepresented in regard to His role in salvation. His setting us apart before the foundation of the world is confused with His work in regeneration. Christ’s role is redefined beyond His death for our sins as a onetime act that ended sin. This is not a covering—it’s an ending. Even though the Reformed and ALS both concur that Christ died once, His death is perpetually reapplied to sins we commit as Christians when there is no such need. Neither is there a need to impute Christ’s righteousness to us perpetually. At the Bema event, it will not be God the Father looking at us and only seeing Jesus, it will be Jesus Himself judging His righteous followers. He will not be judging His own righteousness. The golden chain gospel is an egregious distortion of the Trinity.

True double imputation is our sins being imputed to Christ, and the Father’s righteousness imputed to us apart from the law. Christ came to end the law. It is because of this, and the new birth, that we are truly righteous in and of ourselves, but of course not apart from God’s power and plan of salvation. We have God’s seed in us, are no longer under any law that can judge us, and are able to please God with our lives. We are new creatures who are sinless according to justification because even if the old us that died with Christ was exhumed and brought into court, there would be no law to condemn us.

This gospel not only distorts the Trinity, rejects the new birth, and distorts double imputation, it misrepresents sonship. The sins we commit as a family member are considered to be sin against justification: “Did you sin today?” Again, if you ask them, “Sin in justification or sanctification?” all you will here is crickets, or the babblings of confused narcissists.

The golden chain gospel also strips the Christian of ability to love Christ and others by keeping Christians under the law of sin and death that Christ came to end. Said gospel makes that law the standard for righteousness. However, there is no law standard in justification, it is APART from any law—it is God’s righteousness imputed to us. Those under grace serve the law of the Spirit of life which is fulfilled by loving Christ and others:

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

It is impossible to love Christ by keeping the law of sin and death. Besides, that law is ended when we believe. All of our sins committed before faith were against that law and in essence imputed to it. Before we were saved, we were enslaved to that law and it provoked us to sin. Consider two spouses: we were the spouse that was under the law of sin and death until we died with Christ, now we are free to serve another. Sins we now commit are against family relationship, not sins that fall short of the law of sin and death.

Said gospel prevents us from making a commitment to God’s kingdom because the commitment would have to be executed perfectly in kingdom living to maintain our citizenship. Said gospel demands that we only recognize Christ in a one-way relation while ignoring His kingdom, its law, and the king. Yea, we can only accept Him as savior in a one-way relationship. This assumes that a decision to flee the present kingdom of darkness for the kingdom of light cannot be a commitment totally separate from the kingdom citizenship. If we make a commitment, the commitment must be executed perfectly in order to remain a citizen. No, the commitment is totally separate from our citizenship in the same way justification is totally separate from sanctification.

I realize that only repentance was emphasized to the Jews, but they were already saturated with the concept of God’s kingdom. From the beginning, Abraham looked for a city built by God. As we see Gentiles coming into the church, they must be brought up to speed on their new Jewishness. We should read the Bible with this in mind and the way it affected the presentation of the gospel, and the very definition of the word “gospel” itself.

The golden chain gospel rejects the new birth by ignoring the difference in slavery between two different laws: the law of sin and death that will condemn the world, and the law of the kingdom; the law of the Spirit of life. It makes the law of the Spirit of life a fulfilment of the law of sin and death that is in fact ended. In essence we remain enslaved to a law of condemnation as “sinners.” This is a rejection of the new birth.

It also adds another seed to the covenant of promise. If the law of sin and death could impart life, it would be a second seed from which life would come to the world. It doesn’t matter who obeys it, it cannot impart life.

The golden chain gospel distorts the Trinity, distorts double imputation, misrepresents sonship, strips the Christian of ability to love Christ and others, rejects a biblical definition of the new birth, keeps Christians under the law of sin and death, distorts the atonement, perpetually reapplies the death of Christ to salvation, replaces the righteousness of God with a law standard, propagates a one-way relationship with God, makes sin as a kingdom citizen the same as condemning sin, enslaves us as a spouse still under the law of sin and death, calls for us to accept Christ as savior in a one-way relationship while ignoring His Lordship.

Do Christians have two natures? This will be examined in part 3.

paul

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

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 7, 2014

Originally published August 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Protestant Legacy of Weak Sanctification 

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. An unfinished justification.

2. Sabbath rest sanctification.

3. Double imputation.

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

How was the Reformation gospel lost?

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

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

This brings us to the crux of the issue.

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

A. Christ obeys the law for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

paul

The Potter’s House: Law and Grace; Romans Chapter 4

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 5, 2014

Potters House logo 2  Originally published January 2, 2013

We now come to chapter four in our study of Romans. Thus far, Paul has emphasized that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, are saved by faith alone. This salvation is a revelation of God’s righteousness, and is imputed to us when we believe in Jesus Christ. We have learned that the gospel is the full counsel of God which of course includes the death burial, and resurrection of Christ. We have learned that Paul was very concerned with a spiritual caste system that would render the Gentiles as second-class citizens in the church. Though the church is uniquely Jewish, God shows no partiality in regard to race and gives the various gifts of salvation to all men freely.

What we have in the book of Romans is a radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification; or said another way, salvation and its imputed righteousness set against the Christian life as kingdom citizens living on earth as aliens and ambassadors. However, there is NO dichotomy between law and gospel. Why? Because both are the full counsel of God. In the Bible, “law,” “truth,” “gospel,” “Scriptures,” “holy writ,” “the law and the prophets,” and other terms are used interchangeably to speak of the closed canon of God’s full counsel for life and godliness. Christ as well as Paul made it absolutely clear: man lives by every word that proceeds from God and ALL Scripture is profitable to make the servant of God complete in every good work.

Now listen: though the life application of some Scripture changes with time and circumstances, it still remains that all Scripture informs us in regard to our walk with God in the way we pray, think, and act. We do not stone rebellious children in our day. Nay, when we have a rebellious teen in the church, we do not gather the congregation together and stone him/her to death. With that said, does the fact that God at one time instructed the Jews to do so inform us in regard to many applications for teen rebellion in our day? Absolutely. Oh my, the contemporary applications in our day are almost endless. Not only that, Old Testament ritual and symbolism offers a built-in protective hermeneutic for the Scriptures as a whole. What do I mean by that? Well, you can mess with words, but symbolism is very difficult to mess with. If it’s a lampstand, it’s hard to change that to a Honda Civic. Right?

Paul delves into a paramount truth for Christians in the book of Romans: The relationship of the law to the unsaved verses the saved. And here it is: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. Let me repeat that: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. And we can see this right in the same neighborhood of the text that we are in.

Romans 3:21—But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

That verse pretty much says it all. We are justified apart from the law, and as we will see, Paul means totally apart from the law. But we are informed by it. Paul states in Romans 3:28:

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Now note what he states after a few verses following in Romans 4:3,

For what does the Scripture say?

Paul strives to make the point in this letter that law is not even on the radar screen in regard to justification. And this is extremely important to know in our day for many teach that law is on the justification radar screen and therefore Christ must keep the law for us in order to maintain our justification. Not so, there is no law to keep in regard to justification—a righteousness APART from the law, the very righteousness of God has been imputed to our account in full. Paul even writes (and this is very radical) that Christians are sinless in regard to justification because there is no law in justification to judge us:

Romans 7:1—Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

Romans 7:6—But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive….(v.8) Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Now, the law can judge our sin in our Christian life, but that can’t touch the fact that we are “washed.” Therefore, in sanctification, we only need to wash our feet to maintain a healthy family relationship with our Father God and Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me and let’s look at this in John 13:1-11:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Clearly, “washing” refers to salvation, and differs from needing the lesser washing of the feet. The example is set against the unregenerate betrayer among them. Note that Jesus said that even though we needed to wash our feet, we are still “completely clean.” My, my, what a strong contrast to much of the teachings in our day; i.e., the idea of “deep repentance” that is the same repentance that saved us and keeps us saved—as long as we are in a Reformed church where such forgiveness is available. (more…)

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